Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Hotel Concierge: A Savvy Travelista's Best Ally

Hotel Life at Sanderson London
The hotel concierge.  Outdated?  Non-essential?  Think again.  A good hotel concierge is worth his or her weight in gold…and can become a Travelista’s best ally for making the most out of what your destination has to offer.

After check-in and settling into my digs, the concierge desk is typically one of my first stops for embarking on my travel adventures.  Not recommended to displace your own research, local foraging and adventure, a concierge, instead, can serve as an added resource in your travel arsenal.

The best concierges have an exceptional network and well-rounded grasp on the local area—from the best restaurants, to entertainment venues, to sporting events, shopping, local tours—or whatever it is that you have a desire to experience during your journey.
For instance, when I traveled to London for the first time, I knew that my first meal upon arrival would be fish and chips.  However, to ensure I was going to enjoy the best fish and chips London has to offer, I consulted my concierge and within minutes was on my way to experience an authentic and delicious meal—that didn’t disappoint.   Along with recommending places to nosh, concierges will usually make reservations for you and your party.  It works because there’s an obvious vested interested for all parties involved (you, the hotel brand and the restaurant) to ensure your experience is second-to-none.

Beyond dining options and assistance, concierges are great for helping to secure tickets to sporting and entertainment events.  This was a big bonus when I wanted to attend the French Open during one of my trips to Paris.  My wish became my concierge’s command—and the rest was history.  Hassle-free travel at its best, I like to say.

I also typically prefer to book local tours and excursion packages through the concierge desk, rather than in advance.  I find the additional “insider knowledge” that a concierge brings to guests to be a welcomed plus in choosing from the myriad choices presented by local operators.  There’s just something reassuring about having the input of someone who does it day in and day out.

If you’ve already mapped out the majority of your travel agenda and related details prior to arrival, a concierge can still be invaluable for assisting with the best driving and/or public transportation routes, private cars, maps and other lesser travel matters.  They’ve even been known to provide an umbrella when needed! 

In essence, a hotel concierge represents an extension of your travel savvy resources, which makes experiencing a destination in its fullness a true delight, without any extra heavy lifting.   So the next time your accommodations include a hotel stay, remember to keep your concierge top of mind and make the most of your newfound ally!

Happy Travels!

This article originally appeared on TravelistaTV.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

{Style Files}: All Things Trench Coat

For those who know me, they will attest that having a sharp outerwear wardrobe ranks high on my style aesthetic.  From capes, to vests, to coats, to blazers, and more, the right pieces can totally make your look--or even be your look.  (Yes, I ascribe to the 'wear your coat' philosophy.)  Even the most casual and mundane looks can be instantly elevated into style perfection with the right outerwear.  And nothing could be truer when it comes to the world of trench coats.  I like to think of them as quintessential style pieces that belong in everyone's (especially every style maven's) closet.

From my earliest days romping around in my London Fog trench (anyone remember those?), until now, I've seen the trench maintain its long-held--and rightful--place in the fashion and style arena as a classic wardrobe staple.

And with the Spring season just around the corner, there's never been a better time to bring this style favorite to the forefront of your wardrobe.  To further rouse your inspiration in that direction, I've rounded up a few helpful tips and tutorials to take your trench wearing savvy to next level fabulosity.

 How To Tie a Trench Coat (Instyle)

Trench Coat 101: Details (Popsugar)

16 Ways to Style Your Travel Trench (Travelista) 

Parisian Chic Trench Style Tips 

Happy Styling!

Photos (excepting 1st image) courtesy of Pinterest

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Let's just say that my affinity for chocolate and peanut butter combined knows few, if any, bounds.  From childhood, peanut butter has always been one of my absolute favorite tastes.  (I actually have a family member or two who find it totally distasteful, and every so often I have to insert the incredulous side-eye/eye roll to this madness. 😏) 

As I was saying, PB (with, or without, the J) is a delicacy I find scrumptious from cookies (it's my favorite kind and perpetual "go to"), to candies, and beyond.  And while I'm not the world's biggest chocoholic, chocolate peanut butter cups--or any variation of those ingredients--squarely amount to confectionery delights of the grandest proportions.  Translation: it's not safe to keep them around for long...or my hips and waist may be impacted.

Still, everyone deserves a special indulgence (or two or three or more) every so often.  And these homemade goodies more than fit the bill of indulgent, undeniable goodness.   And served to someone special?  There's no denying the love that's involved.  

So for all my fellow chocolate-peanut butter lovers, this one's for you.

Happy Eating!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
9 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Set 18 mini paper baking cups on a baking sheet. Melt 4 ounces of the chocolate either over a double boiler on the stove top or in short bursts in the microwave. Spoon 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate into each cup. Use an offset spatula or a small spoon to spread the chocolate slightly up the sides of each baking cup; make sure you have an even chocolate base at the bottom of each cup. Let cool at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes until mostly solid.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt. (Make sure the peanut butter is well-combined in the jar before you measure it.) Transfer the peanut butter mixture to a resealable plastic bag and seal it tightly.
  3. Cut one corner of the plastic bag and pipe 2 to 3 teaspoons of peanut butter mixture into the center of each cup. With a very lightly moistened finger, tamp down the peanut butter and make it flat and even, but leave a bit of space between the peanut butter and the edge of the paper cup (you should be able to see a ring of chocolate peeking from below the peanut butter).
  4. Melt the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate. Spoon 1 teaspoon of chocolate onto the top of each cup. Use an offset spatula or a small spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the top and down the sides of the cup. Refrigerate until solid, about 30 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of New York Times Cooking

Monday, January 30, 2017

Curry Chicken Pot Pie + BHM Virtual Potluck

Food, family and memories have always gone hand-in-hand for me.  From the earliest age, I can trace the family gatherings, sleepovers, holiday celebrations, and Sundays at my grandparents' home, in particular, to special meals and favorite dishes.

Chicken pot pie was one of those dishes that typically represented a quick weeknight meal (the frozen variety, to be clear) or, even more fun, a sleepover with my cousins at my grandparents, with my grandmother superbly strategizing on how to feed the lot.  It was an easy 'go-to' to satiate our hungry little bellies, and we loved it--largely because it represented family and love and shared memories.

Those memories continue to linger all these years later and recently inspired me to make a Curry Chicken Pot Pie (equally as perfect for a weeknight or feeding a crowd) that brings back all the comfort and delight that the little frozen pies, in the mini aluminum pans, provided years before.

In a similar spirit of personal history and tradition, this post is a part of a Black History Month Virtual Potluck among 28 black food bloggers from around the world, celebrating the undeniable place that food has always held within our culture and contributions to American history at large.  As Black History Month launches on February 1st, you can anticipate a new recipe from a participating blogger for each day of the month, culminating in a one-of-a-kind (and scrumptious) food journey!  See the full list of fellow bloggers below to take in the amazing recipes.

So here's to family, childhood memories, tradition...and Happy Eating!

Curry Chicken Pot Pie
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons mild curry
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste as desired
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 egg, beaten
Flaked sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place chicken and carrots in a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook for 12-13 minutes.  Add peas and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan and saute onion over a medium-high heat until soft and translucent.  Stir in flour, kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, curry, and cook to combine.  Stir in broth and coconut milk and simmer (stirring throughout to avoid sticking) until thickened.  Taste for seasoning and adjust, as needed.

Place chicken mixture in the bottom of a 2-quart round dish and pour curry mixture over the top.

Roll out pastry sheet and layer over the top of the baking dish.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with flaked sea salt (if using) and more ground pepper.  Make slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape while baking.

Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until pastry is golden brown.  Remove, serve hot and enjoy!



Saturday, January 21, 2017

{Taste of Paris}: Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Recently back from my winter getaway, the memories are still quite vibrant.  So much so, it feels like I can reach out and touch them.  And my travels are as much a food diary, as they are cultural and recreational indulgences.

It's no secret that Paris is one of my most favorite places (if not the) in the world.  And spending time there again this month only cemented this sentiment further.  It was the last leg of an amazing mini European tour of sorts, beginning in Rome, followed by Florence, and finally culminating in the City of Lights.  The holiday spirit was still very much alive in each city making for an extra special bonus aura.

My last full day in Paris found me in the well-regarded Saint-Germain-des-Pres of the 6th arrondissement (how Paris classifies its neighborhoods).  Emerging from the Metro, I walked the short block to settle in at the famous Cafe de Flore for some lunch vittles.  Sips of warm cappuccino, friendly banter, a few obligatory photo opps, and a scrumptious warm goat cheese salad later, I was satiated and ready to take on a quick stroll along the cobblestone streets.

The salad was a simple, yet elegant, bite that makes for French food at its best.  Almost immediately upon my return home, I took to my kitchen to recreate it with my own twist.

I was introduced to warm goat cheese salad many years ago by Ina Garten, and it instantly became a favorite of mine. I've even served it at dinner parties to wow friends and guests.  That preparation is slightly different, so perhaps I'll share it in a future post.  Either way, this salad will forever remain a staple in my cooking and entertaining repertoires--and a cherished taste of Paris.

Happy Eating!

Warm Goat Cheese Salad
4 oz. herbed goat cheese
4-6 slices of sourdough bread
Mixed salad greens
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Honey, for drizzling
Fresh thyme, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice the goat cheese log into individual rounds.  Place the bread on a baking sheet and season lightly with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Place a slice of goat cheese on each piece of bread and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is warm, soft and gooey to the touch.

To serve, toss the salad greens with some of the vinaigrette to moisten.  Divide the greens among lunch plates and place the goat cheese toasts on each.  Finish with freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of honey, and sprig of thyme.  Enjoy!

Adapted from Ina Garten

Monday, January 16, 2017

{In Case You Missed It}: 2016 Highlights

Happy New Year!  I hope that your new year is indeed off to a great start and already shaping up to be your best one yet.

Before we go much further, however, in keeping with my recent tradition, I want to pause and share on some of the most special highlights from 2016.  If you follow me on social media, then you're likely aware that I was fortunate to end last year and begin the new year indulging in my passion for travel with a vacation in a few of my favorite European countries and cities--hence the recent quietness on the blog and much appreciated break and rest from my usual routine. (More highlights from that to come in the days and months ahead...!)

Now that I'm back in the saddle, so to speak, my first order of business here on the blog is to share a brief capture of some of the moments--in food, travel, fashion and style, lifestyle, inspiration, and more, that made last year exceptional on its own terms.  Six plus years and counting, and I am more thankful than ever for this outlet and the opportunities you afford me to share my passions with you.

From dining at the James Beard House, to being featured in Vinings Lifestyle Magazine, to recurring media coverage and collaboration for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Taste of Atlanta Festival, as well as local restaurants, working with amazing brands like Groupon and Warby Parker, sharing my recipes in Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine, increased collaboration with PopSugar, a fabulous Holiday Pop Up Shop, wonderful travels from New York to Miami to Mexico to Italy, and more, 2016 was once again super sweet and special for D.M.R. Fine Foods.  I feel truly blessed by it all.
As always, I hope DMRFF continues to inspire you to live and embrace "the good life" in all its facets. 

Here's to the happiest new year yet....

xo, Dawn


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas & Happy Eating!

Where has the time gone? Sitting here this Christmas Eve morning it seems almost surreal that we are basically a week away from the start of a brand new year.  Since childhood, the Christmas season has always been my favorite.  Then it was more about the anticipation of what I was expecting to receive.  In my adult years, I am equally, if not more, thrilled by the joy that comes with what I give.  There are few things that compare to the jubilance of bringing a smile, acknowledgement, and blessing to the lives of others.

That being said, I also happen to relish the delicious fare and festive cheer that abounds more during the holiday season.  I wish you your own load of merry making in the ways that are most meaningful to you. 

And in case you're in need of last minute inspiration, we're always here to serve it up whether you're talking food, entertaining, travel or tradition.  There's no need to stress, when we've done the heavy lifting (well, maybe not heavy :)) for you.

Merry Christmas....and Happy Eating!

© D.M.R. Fine Foods. All rights reserved.