I woke up on New Year’s Day 2017 in New York City. My first meal of the year was Steak Frites at Le District by the waterfront in Lower Manhattan. Little did I know that 2017 was going to take me to some places I had never been and encounters that I could never have imagined. And I’m not talking about traveling. I decided to review my year of food by picking 10 experiences/themes, in random order:
I embraced Instagram this year and have loved it. Yes, I’m that obnoxious person that posts food photos. I love it! It’s fun and I have drawn endless inspiration from other foodies along the way. After my Breast Cancer diagnosis this summer, one of the first things I thought about was: what could I take control of during treatment and in the future? One evening, whilst grasping for inspiration, I found it on Netflix in the form of the documentary Forks Over Knives. I was sold. It all made so much sense. Control what you put in your mouth and you can tackle what ails you. It became my mission alongside the necessary medical treatments. I found it fascinating to change the whole concept of what food meant to me. Me….a vegan??!!! Good grief. A few months later, I can report that I’ve had lapses but ultimately it’s a lifestyle that works for me, in my unique way. I kind of see a “Pesce-vegan” thing working. I just can’t give up oysters. They are just such a huge pleasure in life, right? And lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels……. I used Instagram as a method of expressing my creativity, but also my accountability. So for all of you who encouraged and acknowleged that, I thank you. It meant an awful lot
TWO & THREE: DATE NIGHTS
Breast Cancer aside, 2017 also brought some romance into my life. While it didn’t stay the course, I’ll be forever thankful that this lovely man came into my world. We had been dating just four months when I received my diagnosis. When I called to tell Andy the news, I told him that I absolutely didn’t expect him to stick around because it was too much to ask. He was horrified and showed up at my appointment with the Surgeon the next day. Yes, he is that kind of guy. He breathed life into me while it momentarily felt like I was losing it. We ate in lovely places, had some fabulous experiences and I think I can speak for us both when I say we learned a lot from each other. The way to this girl’s heart is to make dinner reservations and that he did many times! He even tolerated me taking pictures of our food. There are many to choose from but I think my two favorites were these two. The first was dinner at The Boathouse in Rockett’s Landing where we had a table on the deck overlooking the river. We ate our oysters, the AMAZING Burratta Salad and perfectly Seared Scallops while watching a huge storm roll in.
The second restaurant was Dutch & Co, which I already dedicated a whole blog piece to, but it bears repeating. Beautiful, innovative food in a great space.
FOUR: Eating and sipping on my Porch
Despite being pretty gregarious and loving to entertain, I treasure my alone time on my porch. During warmer months, I’ll sit there with a cup of tea in the morning and often I’ll come home for lunch and enjoy some quiet time. As it’s west-facing, the evening sun hits it, which in the summer makes it brutal but on cooler spring and fall days, it’s perfect. Below is a picture of a bowl from Local Vibe Cafe, a new favorite of mine that I plan to write about in more detail soon. The food is delicious, healthy and so beautifully colorful. Eating it in the sunshine on my porch was just a delightful experience. Also pictured is a glass of bubbly I enjoyed one warm Friday evening, the perfect way to start the weekend.
Andy Howell, my longtime friend and catering partner is the owner of Camden’s Dogtown Market, so I feel a little bit like I’m a part of the place. He has created beautiful food for many years in various different restaurants that he has owned. I ate here a number of times this year, but one of my favorite dinners was the pre-Valentine’s Wine Tasting. Another meal that already has a piece on here in its own right. I had two truly “aha” moments when I drank two wines that I don’t normally care for on their own, but paired with the food, sprung to life for me. That moment when you get schooled in the most fabulous way….yes! The first wine was Complicated Chardonnay which he paired with a Crab Quesadilla with Peach Salsa, a glorious marriage of flavors. The second was Rosa Regale which he paired with a dark chocolate pate, ricotta cheese and a pine nut cookie. Quite possibly one of the loveliest dessert combinations I’ve ever had.
It was a tough year at Camden’s though, as Alix, the front-of-house manager, tragically passed away. I spent many an evening at the bar, chatting to her, trading advice and gossip. She loved fashion, hair, make-up, art, music and relished giving me dating advice over the couple of years that I knew her. She even persuaded me to dye my hair red. I like to think I was the older, wiser one dispensing words of advice, having more years behind me, but in retrospect, she was wiser than me in many ways. She lived for the moment, spoke freely (often punctuated with profanity) and charmed everyone she served. She made me laugh! When she was suddenly taken from us, it was so shockingly sad and left such a painfully huge void. So much so, that Andy stopped serving dinner for a few weeks. You never know who might have a big impact on you and sometimes we sadly don’t realize it until they are gone. Alix mattered, she touched many lives and I know I’m certainly the better for having known her.
SIX: LOBSTER AT CHAUNCEY CREEK Kittery, Maine
I have been here many, many, times over the years. So many great memories. This time, it was just Polly and I, on a perfect warm Fall day. Steamers, hardshell pound-and-a-quarter lobsters, a bottle of Chardonnay…..sitting on the dock. Always my favorite culinary experience. What a treat.
SEVEN: BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS
My birthday fell right in the middle of my radiation treatments, but I celebrated nonetheless with my lovely friends. I turned 45. Moving into the latter part of this decade, I know I’ll continue to face more challenges but hope that perhaps they may be a little less dramatic than those I’ve faced in the first half! Ladies Night at home, then a weekend involving dinner at the The Brickhouse Run then a recovery brunch at Ammo with guava mimosas in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, was a great way to celebrate!
SEVEN: BREAST CAKE EVER!
Radiation was a little more challenging than I thought it would be. I’m still working on a blog piece about the experience as a whole. My last treatment fell on Wednesday 1st November, our usual Ladies Night. I had vowed to drink Veuve Cliquot to celebrate and that I did! I was surprised with another delicious vegan chocolate cake from Buttermilk Bakery, decorated in the most appropriate way, with one red boob. We drank plenty of good champagne and it was warm enough to sit on the porch. Despite being exhausted, sore and so ready for healing, I felt buoyed once again by the love and support of these incredible women. A night I’ll never forget!
When in the throes of divorce, it’s kind of strange to be involved in working in at least a dozen weddings a year! But each is always different, lovely and interesting in its own way. Andy and I catered three this year; a large outdoor wedding at Glenward Gates in Carson on a gorgeous Saturday in May, a lovely intimate small Fall wedding at Folly Castle, and last, but not least, our friends Kate and Mark’s party to celebrate their recent nuptials. I have known Kate since she was a baby so to be part of this was really special. No gifts, no formalities, they just wanted friends and family to gather and celebrate with them. They had a couple of specific requests for food but otherwise left it to Andy and I to come up with a menu. It’s always fun when you are given creative and artistic license. It snowed that day but it was cosy, warm and festive inside the house. Joan and Lawrence have traveled the world so we used a lot of the gorgeous pottery that they have collected. A joyful occasion that was an honor to be a part of.
NINE: PIZZA NIGHT CHEZ JOYAUX
Our friends Alain and Aimee have, without a doubt, the coolest abode in Petersburg. Alain built a pizza oven this year and on a unusually warm evening a couple of weeks ago, they invited us over for pizza. Just being in their house is an adventure but they are truly dear friends. My cousin Georgia, Geoff and Jake had arrived for Christmas and so we all walked over there and were in for a treat.. I think what made this experience particularly memorable was the interaction with the youngest members of our party. Jake at age 8 just loved the pizza making process, as did Rory and Ben. But it was our conversations whilst eating it that really made an impression. The emerging of powerful personalities with opinions and plenty to contribute. I loved that Jake kept whispering to me, asking when and if the subject had changed. He desperately wanted to keep up. A delicious evening.
Having family join us from England for Christmas was the best gift ever. My mother would tell you that Geoff taking over the cooking was the icing on the cake. He produced a gorgeous dinner of Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Leeks in Bechemel Sauce, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Peas. Finished off with Traditional Christmas pudding, of course! There’s nothing like family and to have them here with us, especially after a tough year, made it joyful indeed. The addition of dear friends, plenty of wine, Christmas Crackers and Charades by the fire completed our festivities. I felt the most at peace this Christmas than I have in years.
It was a huge year! But once again, I’m reminded of the pleasure of sitting around a table with great company eating fabulous food. I’m grateful for the many wonderful experiences I had doing just that in 2017, with the host of phenomenal people I am surrounded by. Here’s to a great 2018, cheers!