Monday, April 30, 2012

Food With Friends

There are moments and times in our lives that are positively packed with magic. Where you are is a factor, but people are the wand that makes the ordinary extraordinary.  Take last weekend. Marti and I set off together for a day-long Saturday escapade in Annapolis.  I might mention here that Marti and I enjoy a friendship that spans decades and is based in food and fun…and our roots of Pittsburgh. We were off for a day of cooking with friends we had never met.  What?  Here’s how it happened. 

Donna, who lives in Annapolis, saw a post I made on the Food Network FB page and invited me to be her FB friend.  Am I ever glad I accepted that invitation…it was an invitation to a group of online friends who are amazingly talented and funny as hell who are fellow food adventurers.   This group consists of chefs, pastry chefs, food bloggers, avid cooks and people who are just fans of good food from all over the country and all over the world.  The core group lives in Maryland which is how Marti and I ended up in Annapolis for one of the group’s regular cooking get-togethers. 

An early start to have brunch before hitting Donna’s wasn’t well planned at all.  In our haste to start the fun, we got there way too early for brunch - no brunch spots were open yet, but Chick & Ruth’s Delly was open for breakfast. 

Chick & Ruth’s is a famous spot in “Naptown” and one of my favorite lunch places from the days we lived in Maryland.  They have the BEST corned beef!  So Chick & Ruth’s it was for breakfast.  We were lucky to be taken to a table overlooking the back of the counter where we could watch the cooks.  Awesome!  They couldn’t have made 2 foodies happier! Or could they....

We picked up our menus just as we saw the owner pick up a microphone.  He announced that it has been Chick & Ruth’s tradition every morning to honor those who have fought for our country’s freedom by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and asked everyone to rise and join him in the Pledge.  As you see in the photo, a large American flag hangs from the ceiling.  It brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat to see and hear every person rise and every voice join together to honor our country and our heroes.  Serendipity brought Marti and I at that moment to that place to experience that magic.  Teddy, the owner, and I shared a hug before heading out when I told him how deeply the Pledge had touched me and my appreciation. The story doesn’t end there.

Our view of the flag and the floor at Chick & Ruth's.

A while later Marti and I arrived at Donna’s excited to meet friends that up to this point, I had only chatted and laughed with online.  After hugs and smiles and chatter at finally meeting in person, I shared the Chick & Ruth’s moment with Donna.  She smiled.  She said to tell the story to Iris when she gets there.  I did.  Iris is Teddy’s sister and the daughter of Chick and Ruth!  Magic moments.

The rest of the day continued with just such moments.  Marti and Donna, who had never met, lived in adjacent buildings in Columbia at the same time.  Neighbors who had never met back then, but were destined to meet…just decades later.  Just as Marti and I lived in Pittsburgh at the same time as children, but didn’t meet until the time was destined.  Timing, and magic, is everything.

What would my advice be to fall into your own magic moments?  Take a chance.  Open your heart and mind to all the adventure, all the friendships and all the magic that is out there.  Look for the magic in every moment.  It is everywhere. 

Oh, what does the tzatziki photo have to do with the day?  That's what I contributed to the day of international cooking (the tzatziki recipe was posted here recently - check it out) - and I made the mochaccino Chex mix that I posted in December, too.  Those and cocktails to coordinate with some of the cuisines.  

Ouzo lemon shots went with the Greek dishes of the day.  Donna grilled a boneless spinach-stuffed leg of lamb on the grill - succulent!  Cat made galatabourekos (forgive me if I misspell any of these dishes!), tiropita, spanakopita, honey BACON donuts(!) and a fabulous Italian rum cake filled with both chocolate and vanilla cream, frosted with whipped cream and dusted with a praline crumble for Tommy's birthday (Donna's sweet husband - although apparently, "we can't handle the truth!" lol)  
My Tzatziki with all the dippers.

Bonnie and Brian making the Dim Sum.  Tedious, but worth it!

Marti's Roasted Tomatoes and Parm-crusted fennel.

Cat with the bottle of Pink Cat wine that Brian brought!

At one point there was to be Caribbean food so I created a mango hibiscus and ginger daiquiri...but there was no jerk (chicken) after all.  Somehow, nobody minded drinking the daiquiris!  Imagine that.  

Brian, who drove from Virginia for the event, made a myriad of Asian dishes.  Dim sum, fried rice, Asian meatballs, shrimp chips...for I made a matcha (finely ground Japanese green tea), Buddha's Hand infused vodka, St. Germaine, ginger simple syrup and lemon cocktail.  It's a vile green, but delicious and refreshing. I'll be posting the cocktails recipes sometime soon.  Speaking of green, Wendy brought a lovely green Indian palak paneer...also known as "drek"  

There were too many dishes to count or mention, just let it be known that Donna (she of the incredible heart and soul...not to mention, humor!), Leslie (who makes me laugh and smile), Carole (it's all about Carole....and rightfully so, sweetie!), Bonnie (whom I will forever picture grinning from ear to ear and dancing!), Brian (the man and his harem), Cat (the fabulous!  I have so much to learn from you...), Tina (such racy stories! thank God), Elva (sweet, smiling Elva), Kerry (gorgeous, talented designer with some Kerry/Donna stories to tell!), Iris (kind, adorable and efficient scribe that she is!), Wendy (I'll never forget that toast!)...if I've forgotten anyone, it's because of this aging brain....and maybe the cocktails? Forgive me.

Food With Friends....thanks for the magic.

Our magical dining view of the Severn at Donna and Tommy's.

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