One Year Already!

I can’t believe it’s been a year already.

While we’ve been together for 10+ years already, and it kind of already felt like we were married, it seems like it was just yesterday that we were cheesing our faces off on our wedding day.

Laughing Wedding

I have no idea what was so funny, but we were pretty much smiling that hard for the entire day!

It’s been a pretty crazy year full of lots of fun, laughter, support, [stress], food, wine, beer, and of course, lots of love.

Acetaia Pedroni di Modena Italy Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Lunch 2

Funky Buddha Brewing Co

Oriole Park at Camden Yards Baltimore

San Francisco California CA

Pacifica Beach

Bear Republic Cheers

Sliver Berkeley California

Jilly Bean

Addendum Fried Chicken Pork Barbecue Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that I could not have made a better decision. Nathan is my best friend, even after having to live in a hotel with him for almost 2 months! If you want to put your marriage to the test, try moving cross-country 😉 I couldn’t have asked for someone more supportive, understanding, and loving in my life.

So as we run around wine country touring vineyards, tasting wine, chomping away at some cheese, and soaking in the sunshine, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have such an amazing person to stand by me, enjoy each bite of food and sip of beer with me, and put up with all of my crazy [just as I put up with his!]

Cheers to 1 year and forever more!

Lake Como Cheers Italy Nathan

Lake Como Cheers Italy

Happy 1st anniversary, Nath! I love you.

Link Love #18: My Top 5

Happy New Years Eve!! Wow, I can’t believe the year is over.. it seems like it just began. It’s time to wrap this baby up and look forward to creating new goals [and achieving them!], new experiences, and new memories. I usually use my link love posts to share some of my favorite posts from the blogosphere, but in the spirit of wrapping up this year, I thought I’d share my top 5 most popular posts and my top 5 favorites from this past year.

Most Popular

5. What I Ate Wednesday #4 – 5 Day Slim Down Edition!

What I Ate Wednesday WIAW 5 Day Slim Down Tone It Up TIU

That’s a tasty pineapple protein pancake!

I most certainly have some Tone It Up ladies to thank for this being up there in numbers! People seriously want to know about that slim down. It’s no joke.. you need to be really dedicated and if you are, it really works!

4. Spaghetti Squash Kugel

Spaghetti Squash Kugel Passover Recipe Barr & Table

Definitely making this again soon!

Between Passover and all of the Paleo and low carb diets, it’s no wonder this recipe was a hit! And have you ever had kugel? YUM! Give me my kitchen!

3. Recipe Remix: Carrot Cake Protein Pancakes

Barr & Table Carrot Cake Protein Pancakes About Time Cinnamon Swirl Whey Protein Powder Flax Cottage Cheese Egg White Cinnamon Almond Milk Agave Nectar Salt

Ooh baby! I almost forgot about these.

I love my sweet breakfasts and anyway I can sneak a little veggie in there makes it that much more perfect.

2. Foodie Friday: Peanut Butter Wonderful Powerballs

Peanut Butter Co White Chocolate Wonderful Powerballs Perfect Fit Protein Coconut Flax Chia Hemp Barr & Table

Everything is better with peanut butter!

My first attempt at protein bites and they were a delicious success! I definitely recommend this recipe.

1. Minty Irish Powerballs

Barr & Table Minty Irish Powerballs Cashew Butter Perfect Fit Protein

The perfect mix of chocolatey, nutty, and minty!

How do you make a protein bite better? Use your homemade nut butter 😉

My Top 5 Recipe Posts

Barr & Table Link Love Top 5 Recipes
Eggy Quinoa Stuffed Squash
Coconut Flour Pancake Variations
Homemade Cashew Butter
Buddha’s Feast
Chipotle Lime Sweet Potato Tofu Burgers

My Top 5 Life Posts

Barr & Table Link Love Top 5 Life

Hitched
Dealing With Doubt
I’m grateful for…
The “S” Word
Baltimore Bucket List and Big News!

My Top 5 What I Ate Wednesday Posts

Barr & Table Link Love Top 5 What I Ate Wednesday WIAW

#44: Wine in Italy
Quick Honeymoon Update
#45: The Wedding Food
#59: Ten Years Gone
#64: The First Weekend

Food for Thought

Do you have an all-time favorite post from this past year?
Any big plans for NYE?

What I Ate Wednesday #60: The. Best. Pizza.

This is not a joke. We found the best pizza in Baltimore. Saturday night Nathan and I decided to knock another restaurant off of our bucket list and headed over to Verde Pizza. This is another relatively new spot in town and we had pretty high hopes after seeing some amazing-looking pictures on their facebook page.

Margherita Pizza Verde Canton Baltimore Maryland MD

Margherita Pizza

Verdura Delizia Verde Pizza Canton Baltimore Maryland MD

Vedura Delizia – smoked bufala mozzarella, roasted butternut squash cream, zucchini, roasted red peppers, basil & evoo

Hard to argue with the looks of those pizzas, right? Right. So we made our way over.

The kitchen was pretty open and there were 2 chefs making the pizzas right up front. I always love watching the food being made!

Verde Pizza Kitchen

Open kitchen

I sipped on a glass of Nero D’Avola as we waited for our appetizers. It was a great choice; very easy drinking, light tannins, and a little bit fruity. I loved it!

Nero D'Avola Red Wine

In case you don’t know what a glass of red wine looks like..

Appetizers

Tre Porcellini Foccacia Roasted Red Pepper Eggplant Mushrooms Verde Pizza

Tre Porcellini – Roasted vegetable trio of red pepper, eggplant, and mushroom,
served with homemade foccacia

The Tre Porcellini consisted of three roasted vegetables—that night they offered mushrooms, red peppers, and eggplant—served with homemade foccacia. They were all great, but the slightly-sweet red pepper was my favorite. The eggplant, however, had a little extra olive oil on it that was perfect for dipping the bread in!

Insalata Mista Spring Mix Grape Tomato Balsamic Glaze Extra Virgin Olive Oil Verde Pizza

Insalata Mista – Spring mix with grape tomatoes, EVOO, and balsamic glaze

We also split the Insalata Mista. Such a simple salad but all of the ingredients were so fresh. The grape tomatoes were like candy and the balsamic glaze was just sweet enough. We also got a little parmesan on the side to sprinkle on top. I would highly recommend that!

Pizza

The best way to test a pizza place is to get their margherita pizza. That was our original plan, but when my pizza-loving husband set his eyes on the menu, it was quickly decided that we would be ordering 2 pizzas. Another night to take home leftovers! [It’s kind of our thing now.. ;)]

Margherita Tomato Sauce Homemade Mozzarella Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil Verde Pizza

Margherita – Tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella, basil, EVOO

As soon as Nathan took his first bite he said he was immediately transported back to Gusta Pizza, our favorite pizza in Italy. The crust is so light and perfectly crisp. We loved the char on the outer edges from the brick oven, there was the perfect amount of the rich, flavorful tomato sauce, and the homemade mozzarella was so creamy.

Salsiccia e Funghi Tomato Sauce Homemade Mozzarella Sausage Wild Mushrooms Ricotta Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil Verde Pizza

Salsiccia e Funghi – Tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella, sausage, wild mushrooms,
fresh ricotta, basil, EVOO

When I asked the waitress how the Salsiccia e Funghi pizza is, she replied “you know, standard awesome.” She was spot on. The sausage was just a little bit smokey which paired well with the meaty mushrooms. The dollop of homemade ricotta cheese in the middle might have been my favorite part. I don’t think I’ve ever had such creamy, melty ricotta before and I could have gone for more on top!

I know I said we made this bucket list so we could get to a bunch of restaurants before we head to California, but we are seriously considering heading back to Verde again. Can’t you see it in Nathan’s face? 😉

Pensive Nathan

So pensive.

Food for Thought

Have you ever tasted a dish that transported you back to another time in your life?

What’s the best pizza you’ve ever had?

We Took a Little Trip

Well, maybe we didn’t take a trip for real, but we tried our hardest to have a honeymoon-style date night. And I’d say it was a huge success!

We’ve been wanting to try Cinghiale, a Cindy Wolf restaurant, since we got back from Italy. Hearing repeatedly that it is the best Italian restaurant around, it sounded like we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to taste-test and compare to the real deal we experienced just a few months ago. Luckily for us, restaurant week was coming up; reservations were made and we had a date night upon us!

About two hours before our reservation, we decided go big or go home. Cocktails before dinner at Wit & Wisdom, another restaurant we had yet to check out, and these drinks definitely did not disappoint!

Pisco Punch Wit Wisdom Tavern Four Seasons Baltimore Maryland MD

Pisco Punch – pisco porton, pineapple, fresh lemon, sage syrup

I started with the Pisco Punch. It was perfect for a summer night; the pineapple gave it a little bit of sweetness and the sage syrup gave it just the right amount of savory. Nathan ordered a classic Old Fashioned. It had the perfect mix of ingredients and was possibly the tastiest Old Fashioned he and I ever had.

Sticky Wicket Wit Wisdom Tavern Four Seasons Baltimore Maryland MD

Sticky Wicket – jim beam, fernet branca, smoked maple syrup, soda

Nathan’s drink inspired my next decision to go with the Sticky Wicket. I wanted something with a little more punch and this drink was perfectly balanced with the punch of whiskey, bitters, and smokey syrup. The soda added a little fizz to lighten it up. A definite repeat next time we go!

We saddled up and made our way over to dinner. When we walked in, we immediately noticed the charcuterie and cheese station over to the right. I loved seeing that right as we walked in; if we even questioned ordering a plate of charcuterie, that settled it! As far as atmosphere goes, it was definitely a far cry from the tiny restaurants we experienced on the honeymoon, though it was nice to not be seated on top of other people!

I joked that I hoped the bread would be better here than in Italy; thank goodness it was! We tore through the first little basket of bread while figuring out our orders. I went with the 3-course restaurant week menu and Nathan opted for a pasta dish, knowing that we would be sharing the charcuterie and cheese, my first course, and dessert.

Cinghiale Italian Baltimore Maryland MD Sourdough Foccacia

Fresh focciacia and grilled bread

Cinghiale 75 Cocktail Italian Baltimore Maryland MD

Cinghiale 75 – Hendricks gin, prosecco, fresh cucumber

I rarely get cocktails, but I was really feeling them the other night! [Maybe it’s all of Caitlin‘s fun cocktails I’ve been reading about..] I couldn’t say not to this one; I’ve recently discovered that I love gin. And anything with prosecco and cucumber is alright in my books! The bubbles hit the spot 😉

Cinghiale Italian Baltimore Maryland MD Porchetta Fontina Toma Malga

Porchetta, Fontina, & Toma Malga

Nathan’s quest to find the best porchetta in the states has continued and I’m pleased to say that this was definitely a hit! It didn’t look like much, but it packed a flavorful punch full of rosemary and other herbs. The cheese was great too; the fontina was nice a creamy and the toma malga was a bit firmer. Both had great flavor and complimented the porchetta nicely.

Cinghiale Italian Heirloom Tomato Salad Baltimore Maryland MD

Local heirloom tomato salad, gorgonzola, basil, arugula, Sportoletti extra virgin olive oil

And this is what happens when all the sudden you realize you’ve forgotten to snap a pic.. whoops! I just couldn’t wait to dig in. I love the vibrant colors of heirloom tomatoes and they’re nice and sweet right now. The accoutrements perfectly complimented the tomatoes and I was glad to see that the portion size was just right. I didn’t want to fill up on salad before my entree!

Tagliatelle Lamb Bolognese Cinghiale Italian Baltimore Maryland MD

Hand cut tagliatelle, lamb bolognese, & pecorino

Along with the porchetta, we’ve been on the lookout for fresh, homemade pasta. In Italy, the pasta melted in your mouth; there’s nothing like it and this came pretty darn close! Nathan’s lamb bolognese was more of what we learned to be a ragu, which was just what he was hoping to find.

Bronzino Eggplant Tomato Mushroom Cinghiale Italian Baltimore Maryland MD

Grilled bronzino, eggplant purée, hen of the woods mushrooms, & tomato vinaigrette

My grilled bronzino took me right back to our first dinner in Italy. It was a nice, full portion and was perfectly seasoned and cooked. I love a good, crispy skin! The pairing of the earthy flavor of the mushrooms with the sweetness of the tomato, and the creaminess of the eggplant was right on par.

Panna Cotta Fresh Fruit Cinghiale Italian Baltimore Maryland MD

Vanilla panna cotta with fresh local fruit

Finally, we finished with a vanilla panna cotta. I’m usually one to go for a richer dessert, but when I asked the server for her suggestion, she didn’t miss a beat and I was happy to have a lighter end to the meal. I, of course, stole all of the figs and Nathan all of the nectarines.. at least we know what we like! The fruit was a great addition to the creamy panna cotta and we left feeling satisfied but not overly full.

All in all, it was a great night; the service at Cinghiale left a bit to be desired, but the food was on point. I would definitely make my way back to try some more dishes.

Food for Thought

Are there restaurants around you that you’ve been dying to try?

What is your drink of choice when going out?

What I Ate Wednesday #44: Wine in Italy

Did you see my guest post today on Eating Bird Food? So glad to share some of my honeymoon experiences while she’s away on her honeymoon!

Maybe it should be what I drank Wednesday..? But let’s be honest, you can’t drink in Italy without being fed some amazingly delicious home-cooked food!

When we were at Pedroni for the balsamic tasting, we met another group of people that were also tasting and touring a la Anthony Bourdain recommendations. They told us about a biodynamic, organic winery called Cosimo Maria Masini where we could have a similar experience. Wine tasting with a multi-course meal? Done!

Not only were we in for good food and wine, but also for incredible views of Tuscany. I kept snapping pictures and telling Nathan that no matter what I did, the pictures could never do any justice for the breathtaking sights.

Cosimo Maria Masini Tuscany Italy Wine Tour

One of the managers gave us a tour of the grounds and each of the buildings where they age and harvest their wine. He went into great detail about the biodynamic process; it is a chemical-free process that “tries to regenerate the soil and the plants, through organic activators which help plants to find their own nutrients in the soil.”

After the tour, it was time to eat! We sat down with the manager and his father, who was visiting from Naples. It was just the four of us enjoying a homemade meal.

Cosimo Maria Masini Tuscany Italy Wine Food Tasting

First Course
Charcuterie of sopressata and 2 kinds of salami paired with the Daphne, an unfiltered white wine that is processed with the skins to give it an orange tint. The process gives this wine a bit more flavor than a typical white.

Second Course
A delicious ragu paired with the Cosimo. Still in love with the ragu and totally missing it everyday. Again, this just melted in your mouth and light meat sauce was the perfect accompaniment.

Entree
Braised beef and potatoes paired with the Nicolo; this was a more robust red wine that stood up to the stronger flavor of the beef. The beef had great flavor and fell apart the second the fork touched it. No knives here!

Dessert
Blackberry tart. It had the perfect crumbly crust and wasn’t overly sweet. I can almost taste it now..

BONUS!
I didn’t snap any pictures, but apparently up until this point, we had been missing out! To finish off your meal in Italy, you are supposed to have a small glass of Trebbiano wine and cantuccio—an almond cookie, similar in shape and texture to biscotti. You dip the cookie into your wine and sip slowly as you’re eating the cookies. It is the perfect way to end a meal.

We walked out of there with two bottles of Nicolo and two bottles of the Trebbiano. And incredibly full stomachs! When people ask what my favorite part of the honeymoon was, I tell them I don’t have one, single favorite. I just can’t choose. Visiting Cosimo Maria Masini was just one more of my top experiences that I adored. And speaking of adoring something, I leave you with the sign below found at the winery.

Wine is the most beautiful gift from the gods.

Wine is the most beautiful gift from the gods.

Food for Thought

What was one of your favorite experiences that you’ve had on vacation?

Foodie Friday: Balsamic Tasting in Modena

You think you know balsamic vinegar? Think again.

One of my most favorite meals and overall experiences from the honeymoon was in Modena, Italy. It was another recommendation from Anthony Bourdain and it was absolutely worth every calorie!

Pedroni. It’s the only name you need to know. We drove from Florence to the Osteria in Modena. As we walked in, we were greeted by the owner; an older, 80-something man, who speaks strictly Italian. And when I say we were greeted, I mean Mr. Pedroni yelled at us in Italian for a few minutes, picked up a rotary phone, dialed a few numbers, hung up, and then continued to yell at us. If you could only see the stunned look on our faces.. Luckily a woman came out speaking English and was ready to take us on a tour.

Acetaia Pedroni di Modena Italy Balsamic Vinegar Tour

We learned all about the process of making balsamic vinegar from start to finish, which, in their case, is sometimes over 25 years! At Pedroni, they do everything in-house, all the way down to the bottling, so while they are making large batches, they only produce 80-100 bottles per year. The rest of the vinegar gets to sit in the wood barrels and continue to age. After the tour was over, it was time to taste!

Aceto Balsamic Tradizonale di Modena

We started small; balsamic vinegar jam. Holy moly, that stuff was so tasty! The first thing Nathan and I both noticed was that we didn’t get that pucker in the backs of our mouths that we often get from vinegars that we buy at home. It was very smooth and as we continued down the line, it got even better! We tasted four different vinegars; we started with the Italo, aged for 12 years, it was like nothing we had ever tasted before. Followed by the 15-year aged Umberto, this vinegar was aged in oak and juniperwood barrels giving it more of a spicy flavor. The Giuseppe, or the “Extra Old” vinegar, is aged 25 years in oak and chestnut woods. And finally, the Claudio. This cream of the crop “Extravecchio” is aged over 25 years in chestnut and cherry woods. It is so silky, smooth and has a slight fruity flavor. If only it weren’t so pricy, we would have taken home a barrel! 😉

We did, however, bring home a bottle of the Italo and a few jars of the jam. We just couldn’t leave without it; there is nothing that we’ve ever tasted before that could compare. And we will definitely be ordering more when we sadly finish this bottle!

Happily, the tasting didn’t end there. It was lunch time! We started with a bottle of their homemade sparkling red wine. YUM! [We will also be adding that to our online order.] The pasta was served family-style but it was just for the two of us so we had no problem digging right in!

Acetaia Pedroni di Modena Italy Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Lunch

First Course
Fresh ricotta tortelloni drizzled with the Italo vinegar. Have you ever had fresh pasta? It completely melts in your mouth. I could have eaten the whole plate myself!

Second Course
Tagliatelle with ragu sauce drizzled with the Umberto vinegar. Northern Italian ragu is completely different then what you’d expect. It’s more of a meat sauce with just a touch of tomato. Pasta ragu was definitely one of my favorite meals to get on the entire trip. We added a little extra vinegar for those last little bites 😉

Third Course
Chicken with onions, a couple ribs, and frittata drizzled with the Giuseppe. To say that this frittata was the best I’ve ever had would be an understatement. Nathan, who never ate eggs before, asked me if I would kindly follow the recipe and make him one at home. He devoured it!

Dessert
Crema gelato drizzled with the 25+ aged Claudio. Good golly! We practically licked all of our plates and bowls clean, which is a very good thing because Mr. Pedroni does not let you leave without finishing everything on your plate!

And if that wasn’t enough, they brought about 9 or 10 bottles of different liqueurs, one being their homemade grappa. Being the polite guest that I am, I promptly began tasting! I might have had 1/10th of a shot of each.. I don’t think I could handle any more but I sure am glad I tried all of them.

Acetaia Pedroni di Modena Italy Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Lunch 2

Nathan and I wrapped up our amazing [and incredible filling!] two-hour meal and concurred that this was one of our top experiences of the trip. If we do make it back to the Tuscany area, you can bet we’ll be heading to Pedroni for lunch!

Food for Thought

What is the best experience you’ve ever had at a restaurant?

When you return to a travel destination, do you go back to the same places, or do you try something new?

What I Ate Wednesday: Quick Honeymoon Update

Pizza.

I just ate a whole pizza for lunch.

image

I can’t tell you the last time I had pizza, but damnit, I’m in Italy and it was lunch time. And it was absolutely incredible.

Now excuse me while I pass out. It is almost time for more wine, biscotti, pasta, and gelato after all 😉