Friday, January 17, 2020

{In Case You Missed It}: 2019 Highlights

Happy New Year! How amazing is it that we have crossed the threshold not only into a brand new year, but a brand new decade?!  And, as always, wrapping up a year gives way for my reflection on many of the moments that made it special, indeed.

2019 was not without its ebbs and flows, and despite some of the bumps, bruises and downright difficult moments I encountered, there was undoubtedly so many more special moments that I was blessed to experience and/or create--and I'm excited to recap some of my favorites here for you, as a part of my now running annual highlights.  From food, to travel, to lifestyle and fashion, media collaborations, and sharing with you, it was another very good year for me and D.M.R. Fine Foods.  And considering we're heading into the 10th anniversary of the blog this year (I launched it almost three years after starting my brand and business), I'm thrilled to say that it keeps getting better and better.  And the best is still yet to come!

So to get us going, I'm kicking things off with a fun slideshow round-up. (*Recommended: watch in full screen mode.)

Food ~
My food escapades once again included being a featured blogger in the 3rd annual Black History Month Potluck, which showcased my Spice Roasted Chicken, along with 27 additional recipes from fellow bloggers for a one-of-a-kind expose of the best in black cuisine and culture.  There were additional new recipes brought to life in my kitchen, like my now favorite Hasselback Butternut Squash with Maple Butter, Egg Muffins and more, and favorite sips, including this travel-inspired Spritz and this festive, grown-up twist to apple cider.  From my travels (more on that in a moment), to home cooking, restaurant weeks, local dining experiences, and more, 2019 was a delicious year.

Travel ~
2019 was an epic year of travel for me.  From taking in never-before-visited continents, countries, cities, and states, to revisiting long-time favorites, and making memories all along the way, 2019 kept my wanderlust in full gear.  The lineup included New York City, Florida (Orlando and Destin), Chicago, Thailand (Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket), London, Paris, Arkansas (Little Rock, Bentonville, and El Dorado), and last, but certainly not least, Maui, Hawaii.  Travel is truly life for me, and I'm so grateful to have amassed such amazing experiences and lifetime memories, once again.

But it didn't stop there.  I did a thing and launched my very own travel boutique, to boot.  Taking my expertise and love for travel and extending that to help others explore and create postcard-worthy memories now lines my travel purpose and goals.

Fashion and Lifestyle ~
I started the year with the privilege of indulging my inner fashion bug during the NYFW-adjacent MAN/WOMAN Autumn/Winter 2019 Man Show in NYC.  Can you say my element?! It goes without saying that it was great to be back in the thick of it all.  From a little extra fun with Mac Cosmetics for National Lipstick Day, donning tribal braids for a new look and life lessons, necessary self care, and more, the year brought more of the lifestyle flair that I love.

Media/Collaborations ~
2019 proved to be another exceptional year on the media/collaboration fronts.  From my running monthly column in Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine (which wrapped its 8 year stint!!! last year), to my absolute favorite Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, to ADAC, Slutty Vegan, Candytopia, more phenomenal restaurants (SEAR/Marriott Hotels, Aziza, Mission + Market, Fogo de Chao, Henri's), Diptyque, Home Depot Backyard Night Market, Scotch & Soda, Miracle Atlanta, ESSENCE (dream collaboration!!!), and one truly unforgettable press tour hosted by Arkansas Tourism, I couldn't have asked for a better extension of my bringing my talents and passions to bear across so many phenomenal brands and experiences.  Truly. blessed.

I'm thankful for every experience and opportunity to live and share my passions and expertise.  I thank you for remaining connected and appreciate your ongoing support and interest in my corner of the world.  I love having you along for my journey and look forward to sharing more as 2020 continues to unfold.

Happy Living!



Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hasselback Butternutsquash with Maple Butter

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! If you've been taking my advice ;), you're probably well along the path of Thanksgiving prep by now.  But, if I may, I have to share a recipe that really should land a spot on your Thanksgiving--and beyond--menu. Why? Because it's the quintessential perfect dish (translation: comes together easily, is stunning, and tastes ah-mazing!)

If you're like me, then you can't get enough of butternut squash, especially during this time of the year.  And since I've always admired the beauty of the hasselback technique (namely on potatoes), when I saw it done on butternut squash, I knew I had to finally try my hand.  And if my virtual oohs and ahhs are any indication, this one's a definite keeper.  Need more convincing?  This dish now ranks as one of my all-time favorite side dishes. 

So without further delay, here's the recipe for Hasselback Butternut Squash. I finished these with a generous pour of maple butter, chopped walnuts (for a bit of crunch and texture) and sage, for added color and freshness.  Confession: I shared "the making" of these on my instastory feed on yesterday evening (you can watch it in my 'The Holidays' highlights once the stories expire) and took a poll on whether I should share the full recipe in time for Thanksgiving.  The overwhelming majority said they wanted it, so here we are.

Blessings for a Happy Thanksgiving and, as always, Happy Eating!

Hasselback Butternut Squash with Maple Butter

1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeds removed  
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Chopped walnuts, toasted
Fresh sage, torn in small pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel and prep squash.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with oil.  Season liberally with salt and bake in the preheated oven for twenty minutes.  Remove from oven and slice the squash in 1/8 in. thick slits without cutting all the way through to keep squash intact.  Cook's Note: place butter knives on either side of the squash to help with the cutting precision.

Sprinkle squash with cinnamon, nutmeg and more salt, to taste.  Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  While waiting, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add in the maple syrup.  Stir to combine and set aside to cool slightly.

Take squash from the oven and generously pour maple butter over it (you can do this on the baking sheet or move it to the serving dish first and then dress with the butter.)  Finish with a garnish of walnuts and sage.  Enjoy!

Dish can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to reheat and serve.  

Recipe adapted from How Sweets Eat



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Postcard From Bentonville: A Guide to the Top Sights, Scenes and Tastes

Imagine my delight upon arriving in Bentonville, Arkansas and discovering that it was more (much more, to be exact) than the Walmart capital of the world.  My discoveries traversed art, culture, inspiring insights into the Walmart legacy, and, without question, scrumptious cuisine.  To say my time there was anything other than indulgent would be to grossly under-represent how, from start to finish, this booming destination wowed me again and again.

The star in the North, Bentonville showcases its bucket list-worthiness across multiple spectrums, and today's postcard installment from my recent travels in Arkansas delivers my guide on what to see, do and taste, to ensure you experience the best of what the Natural State's Northwest has to offer.

See and Do

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
After a morning drive in from Little Rock, I landed at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for an afternoon immersed in art, architecture and exploration--nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape.  And if you're anything like me, and known to spend half, or even full, days in a museum, then you can imagine my excitement around it all.  Founded by Alice Walton, her vision and philanthropy ensure the doors to this premier art museum are open to all and admission is complimentary.

Lunch Views
After a welcome lunch (more on that later), we embarked on a tour of the Bachman-Wilson House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, tucked away along one of the several nature trails.  From there, we returned to the main museum grounds enjoying self-guided tours of the Crystals in Art exhibition and, gasp, Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room.  It's fair to say that my visit was made then and there, having recouped the opportunity to take in this amazing artist's work after missing her exhibit in Atlanta.

From the Crystals in Art Exhibit
Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room
And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, a personalized, docent-led tour rounded out the visit and revealed another favorite installation by Kehinde Wiley, of Presidential National Portraiture acclaim and beyond. Without question, a day and/or night at this museum is a must-see and do.  Learn more and plan your visit here.

Kehinde Wiley's Signature Is Unmistakeable

Thaden Fieldhouse
How often does your day begin in the middle of a hangar, admiring a collection of helicopters and planes that will make you swoon and contemplate enrolling in the onsite flight school?  Probably not often, but a visit to Bentonville will change that when you take in a tour at Thaden Fieldhouse.  I couldn't resist a photo op inside the 'chopper before leaving.  I mean a girl needs proof of the awesomeness, no?!

The Clubhouse
Museum of Native American History
Culture runs deep at the Museum of Native American History where Indian history, spanning five different periods, is on full display in exhibit rooms designed in chronological order.  The gorgeous artifacts, and audio wands providing narration throughout the self-guided tour, brought this essential history to life in a powerful way that is not to be missed.  Admission is complimentary.

Walmart Museum
If you thought you knew most of what there is to know about Sam Walton, Walmart, and the Walton legacy, think again.  A morning touring the Walmart Museum not only astounded me regarding the phenomenal business empire that is now the number one retailer, Walmart, but the equally humble beginnings of founder, Sam Walton.  This legacy was brought to life with interactive exhibits and ended on a high note at the original Walton dime store, where ice cream, a 50s-style soda fountain, and more, give you the full 'way back when' aura of the early days.  Situated in the heart of downtown Bentonville, this family-friendly museum is worth exploring.

Special mention goes to The Scott Family Amazeum, perfect for kids--and kids-at-heart--and the 8th Street Market, a community-focused food hub in the heart of the Market District.

All that seeing and doing was punctuated by some of the best eats you could hope to get your taste buds around.

Eleven at Crystal Bridges
My arrival to Bentonville and the Crystal Bridges Museum began on the high note of lunch at the resident restaurant, Eleven at Crystal Bridges.  Labeled as High South cuisine, or elevated Southern home cooking, the dining experience at Eleven will satiate those home-cooked cravings, and the gorgeous, accompanying views will astound.

The Hive
Refined country cuisine is what's on the menu at The HiveSituated within the 21c Museum Hotel, the cuisine and beehive decor make for memorable dining. Executive Chef Matthew McClure has been acclaimed by FOOD + WINE and is a six-time James Beard Foundation Best Chef semifinalist (translation: you're in good phenomenal culinary hands.)  And if you know a great photo op when you see one, you won't miss the chance to get up close and personal with the green penguins hanging around. 

Louise Cafe
As if indulging my aviation dreams wasn't enough, my morning at Thaden Fieldhouse was made all the more special with breakfast at the in-house Louise Cafe, a modern all-day cafe that serves diner-style breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner.  With both indoor and outdoor seating facing the runway, Louise Cafe provides incredible views of planes taking off and landing as you enjoy a great meal and dining experience.  The restaurant is named in honor of Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden; a proud Arkansan and one of the greatest aviators of her time. 

The Preacher's Son
Inevitably there's always a favorite in the bunch and The Preacher's Son was it for this seasoned foodie. As much for the gluten-free, sustainable and supremely delicious cuisine (I'm talking the best cornbread ever), the story behind this restaurant is equally endearing. As it goes, inspired by Chef Matthew Cooper’s background – as the son of a preacher, the restaurant is located in a beautifully restored, historic church, across the street from where Chef Matt’s father taught his first sermons over 40 years ago.  And during his visit with our party, Chef Cooper elaborated on his commitment to the farmers and other food purveyors that supply his restaurant and the broader food community.  Good eats + good deeds + gorgeous interiors make this restaurant a hallmark on the Arkansas dining scene and not to be missed when in Bentonville.

Special mention goes to Tusk & Trotter, where you'll find the best pork rinds and good BBQ in abundance; The Holler for cheers and games; and Undercroft (the speakeasy counterpart to The Preacher's Son) for an after dinner wind down with mellow vibes.

After my stay, it's clear that Bentonville is a destination filled with depth, commitment to the arts and history, a no-brainer playground for the outdoors lover, and a culinary bastion.  I trust you'll find my discoveries--and your own--to be more than worth the trip.

Happy Travels!



Monday, November 18, 2019

Toast With This!: Cider Mimosas

When it comes to stress-free entertaining, one of my hallmark tips is to serve a signature drink--be it a mocktail, cocktail, or whatever suits your sipping fancy. It does the double duty of marking the occasion, while keeping the effort level low, freeing you up to spend more time with your guests--the ultimate reason we gather, no?

So just in time for your Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, and all around holiday soirees, I've created a delicious, festive sip that's a grown-up twist on one of my favorite seasonal beverages, apple cider.  And with only four ingredients, it couldn't be easier to make--and toast with--my cider mimosas.

Happy Sipping!

Cider Mimosas

1 part Chilled Prosecco
1/2 part Apple Cider
Fresh thyme and rosemary

Pour prosecco and top with cider.  Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy!


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Postcard from Little Rock: What to See, Do & Taste in Arkansas' Capital

Sometimes you just want a getaway that involves minimal fuss and major upside.  One which kicks off almost immediately after leaving home (read: a one hour flight) and lands you in the heart of scenic views, natural beauty, cultural excursions and, best of all, some of the most scrumptious cuisine there is to be found.  And when you wrap all of this together, all roads lead to Arkansas.

If you've never had the Natural State on your travel radar, you're probably not alone.  But that changes for good after today, because I'm here to expose this well kept travel secret. Only a week or so back from my recent time there experiencing so much of what this southern gem has to offer, I'm offering up the 'best of' this destination for what to see, do and taste, to make sure your visit is as memorable (and delicious) as mine.  From the heart of the capital in Little Rock, to a journey southward in El Dorado, and culminating in the north's star, Bentonville, there is something for every traveler to relish.

I'm kicking things off with this first Arkansas installment (because there's just too much goodness to fit into one post), and I'm sharing my Little Rock guide for your weekend (or longer) getaway!

Little Rock ~
From national treasures, to a budding entertainment district, and superb dining from fast-casual to fine cuisine, this capital town is not to be missed.

See and Do
If you've ever wanted to visit a National Treasure, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site gives you that opportunity.  Visitors can elect a guided tour which offers a first-hand immersion into the historic civil rights events surrounding this site, namely the brave integration of the school in 1957 by nine black students (known as the Little Rock Nine), following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.  This was, without question, one of the most touching highlights of my time in Arkansas and a definite must-see/do.  Along with the guided tour, the visitor center also offers exhibits and interactive programs--and you can round out your tour with a visit to the bookstore and gift shop for takeaway keepsakes such as books, t-shirts and more. 

A self-proclaimed "bag lady", I indulged my travel and girly-girl inclinations with a morning tour of the Esse Purse Museum and Store. From low to high-end purses and leather goods, to creative exhibits featuring everything from fancy hats to suitcases, with nods to women's history tossed in, it's no wonder that this museum hails as a favorite, as it showcases owner Anita Davis' dream of exploring the concepts of art, history and the feminine.  You won't come across another place like this easily given that it's one of only three purse museums in the world--and the only one in the U.S.

Mild temps and sunshine made for the perfect afternoon outdoors strolling the River Market Entertainment District (RMED), while listening to live music, taking in panoramic views from the Junction Bridge, and joining the local goers in relishing the down-to-earth entertainment and fun to be had along the riverfront. 

*Additional Top Attractions: Explore more of American presidential history at The Clinton Presidential Center and see how efforts to end world hunger and poverty are being championed at Heifer International/Urban Farm.

Within the very first hours of my arrival, I quickly learned that to eat, or not to eat, is never the question when in Arkansas.  From my first meal to my last, Little Rock brought total satiation to this food-loving girl.

When your meal begins with a deliciously prepared starter of Bone Marrow, Escargot, Grilled Octopus and Foie Gras Croutons, you know you're in for a good night of noshing.  And nosh we did at Table 28, a modern, organic restaurant.  Executive Chef Scott Rains won me over with his southern hospitality, coupled with his exceptional menu.  And I still blame him for the extra scoop of Praline Gelato that I couldn't resist. :)
Bone Marrow, Escargot, Octopus and Foie Gras Croutons
Chilean Sea Bass
Mouth-Watering Short Ribs
One of several decadent desserts
As festivals go, can you imagine one more indulgent than the Arkansas Cornbread Festival?! Me, either.  Tasting my way through the creative and traditional amateur and professional cornbread servings (red velvet cornbread, anyone?) and side-dish renditions such as collard greens and chili, to vote for an ultimate favorite, is my kind of fun. Recognized by Forbes Magazine in September 2019 as one of the top 5 Food Festivals for Food Lovers, this is a must-attend event worth marking your calendar for next year.

If you're planning to splurge on just one meal in Little Rock, then the six-course tasting menu at One Eleven at the Capital has to be it.  Starting with a delectable amuse bouche of Oyster Rockefeller and Blood Sausage, to the first course of Shrimp Ceviche, second course of Mushroom Tortellini, third course of Scallop with Vegetarian Risotto, fourth course of Pork Chop with pork cheek, confit shallot, roasted potato and pork Ju, fifth course of cheese, sixth course of Parisian Chocolate Cake and Tiramisu, and final compliments of Pistachio Macarons and Hazelnut Chocolates, it cemented the meaning of fine dining in the best way possible.  And did I mention that each course had a perfectly matched wine pairing? So you now understand my opening line--and why a trip to Little Rock for this dining experience, alone, would be understandable. :)

Scallop Perfection
Mushroom Tortellini

Cheese Plate
Chocolate Cake Decadence
Special mention goes to Jones Bar-B-Q located in Marianna in the heart of the Delta.  We were treated to a special tasting of this barbecue, that is deemed a state treasure, during our time in Little Rock.  And here are some of the reasons why: Jones' barbecue has been a part of the food culture in Arkansas for more than century. Talk about amazing! And as the only James Beard award-winning restaurant in the state, it is also believed to be the oldest African-American owned restaurant in the South and possibly the nation.  So if you're ever so fortunate to get your lips on this, it's a must-eat. 
*Additional Good Eats: Sunday Brunch at acclaimed Petit & Keet was an indulgent delight and a casual Sunday dinner at The Fold gave me just the fix I needed for my never-ending taco hankering.

Without question, Little Rock deserves a spot on your travel bucketlist for all the reasons mentioned above--and more!  So pack your bags and prepare for...
Happy Eating and Travels! 

P.S. Take in some of the behind-the-scenes fun and shenanigans here!


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