Thursday, July 23, 2009

Adventure Key West: Laid-Back, Luscious, and Lovely

Florida has not been my number one travel destination—it’s muggy, buggy, and my family's primary vacation spot every year of my life since I was four. When we recently had the opportunity to tour Key West, images of Jimmy Buffet and spring breaking college students stumbling, screaming drunk, spilling their beer in tow flooded my thoughts (drinking on the street, after all, is legal in Key West). The five-hour drive from Miami to the Keys is not what I would call scenic, either—it's desolate, swampy, and, quite frankly, a little depressing. Do I have you dying to go yet? With all that being said, the state does hold many unexpected treasures and Key West is one of those most-precious gems.

Recently, we took a week-long vacation to Florida, beginning in South Beach (another love of mine) and ending up in Key West—I was more than pleasantly surprised about how much I ended up liking this remote vacation destination. Somewhere in between Jimmy Buffet’s drink machine, jalapeño popper Margaritaville, the 90 miles to Cuba monument, and the congested cruise ship dock at Mallory Square are historical landmarks, artistic haunts, and culinary delights. The people who live and work there are some of the most hospitable, laid-back, and friendly folks you will ever meet. The views are spectacular and the food (especially the fresh Atlantic Ocean seafood options) is really wonderful. (I also have to admit that I even drank a couple beers while walking down the street.)


Louie’s Backyard: Culinary delights abound at this ocean-side eatery. Everything was phenomenal—fresh shrimp and mango appetizer, perfectly cooked scallops and chilled limoncello for dessert. The entire outdoor seating area extends over the ocean. The restaurant is geared towards adults but they were incredibly kind and accommodating to my two-year old. So much so that they brought him a pillow for his chair and made him a special entrée for his finicky palette. Details:

Blue Heaven: Nestled on a quiet street in an area called Bahama Village is the best southern breakfast I have ever had. Blue Heaven is an outdoor destination where you sit amongst roosters crowing while listening to a guitarist singing Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. Sounds dreamy? Wait ‘til you taste the food. Traditional French southern cuisine including shrimp and grits and five different Benedict's served in hearty portions. The homemade breakfast sandwiches are mouth watering, too. Details:


Besame Mucho: This store is an apothecary, clothing, and jewelry boutique all rolled into one small, wonderful package. It is located in an old Key West cottage house next door to Blue Heaven. Filled with simple, breezy linen shirts, one-of-a kind- jewelry pieces, small leather goods, and terrific perfumes and creams. Their philosophy, "old-world, tried and true, pure and simple," is all of those things and just about as close to perfect as a stop can get. Details:

Voltaire Books: This intimate, independent book store located in the heart of downtown Key West is a great destination for your vacation reading needs. They specialize in the authors who resided in the area over the years like Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. But they also have thousands of other titles that range from cooking to politics to teen literature (Judy Blume was scheduled for a book signing the day after we left). The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and incredibly helpful. Details:

Email this article!

Obsession: Summer Sake Peartini

It's hot, it's steamy, and there's nothing to cure the dog days of summer like an evening outside with great music, good friends, and a refreshing cocktail. This recipe is light, fruity, and delicious.

Sake Peartini

2 oz sake
2 oz pear juice
1 chunk crystallized ginger

Combine sake and pear juice in cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously. Pour into a festive glass; drop ginger into glass. Cheers to summer!

Email this article!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Style: Righting Russel Wright Dinnerware Designs

For Mother's Day this year, I was presented with a gift from the modern master, Russel Wright. Wright's dinnerware made its first appearance in the late '30s; brought simple, unpretentious pieces to the masses; and became the most widely sold ceramic tableware of all time.

Although Wright passed away in the '70s, his ideas continue to live on. Wright's daughter has recently collaborated with Bauer Pottery in LA to recreate his dinnerware designs. Wright's water pitcher is still a beautiful example of streamlined perfection; the salt and pepper shakers, an exercise in stout playfulness; and the colors, vibrant, warm, and rich. Using these new gifts on a daily basis remind me that easy, informal living never has to be ugly. Details:

Email this article!

Obsession: Cinema Under the Stars

Since moving, we've hungered for the old movie houses. The ones where you're greeted with a pipe organist, opening shorts sporting a marching hot dog reminding you to purchase a snack, an old-school candy selection, and, most importantly, a classic film. This year, we decided to stop reminiscing and start acting by hosting our own Cinema Under the Stars. After a quick e-mail invite and an afternoon making homemade carmel corn and a screen constructed out of a white sheet, we invited neighbors and schoolmates to join us at our pad for an outdoor movie. I can't think of a better way to spend time than sitting on a blanket under the stars, imbibing on fun snacks and drinks, and enjoying time with friends and the Marx Brothers.

Email this article!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gastronomy: Bolognese, it's NO Beef-A-Roni

Growing up, I thought Bolognese equaled a can of tomato sauce plus a pound of semi-fatty grisly, ground beef. The only version that I was familiar with was not a far cry from canned Chef Boyardee Beef-a-Roni (my saliva production spikes just thinking about it). Somewhere in my culinary awakening (a journey that will continue for the rest of my life) I discovered that Bolognese (meaning Ragu) has many different interpretations—none of which are red, soupy tomato sauce paired with puréed ground beef.

This slow cooked dish is a layering of flavors that begins with finely chopped celery, onion, and carrots sautéed in olive oil. A combination of ground veal and beef (sometimes pork or sausage are used as well) is then added to the pan. Some people add milk, others cream, and depending on what region of Italy you are from, some argue for the addition of several other ingredients, including mushrooms, ricotta cheese, or chopped pancetta. But, no matter which ingredients you use, the dish is cooked ever-so-slowly until all the vegetable flavors and rich textured meats blend together making it other-worldly. Deglaze the pan with a heavy dowsing of wine and your palate will think it went to heaven and back.

Veal Sirloin Bolognese

1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground sirloin
2 15 oz cans whole tomatoes
2 15 oz cans chicken stock
1 c heavy cream
4 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
3 large carrots
5 celery ribs
1 c white wine
1 lb linguine or tagliatelle
10 oz ricotta cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano (for top)
Olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Finely chop onions, celery, and carrots. Mince garlic. Place large pot over medium-low heat with olive oil; add onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté until veggies are soft, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, stirring constantly to avoid burning, about 5 more minutes. Add meat and a little bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook until meat is browned and sweating liquids have dissipated. Deglaze with white wine and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan. When the wine is completely evaporated, add drained tomatoes and chicken stock. Cook over medium heat 2-2 ½ hours. When liquids are almost gone, stir in cream and ricotta. Serve over pasta with a sprinkle of cheese and a glass of crisp white wine. Salute!

Serves 8.

Email this article!

Obsession: Peloton Cellars

We recently discovered that old, family friends have their fingers in a wine venture, Peloton Cellars. After my in-laws had a reunion with these friends, they brought back a rich bounty of Peloton Cellar beauties.

Peloton Cellars, located in California's Paso Robles region, creates high quality wines at an affordable price. We were able to enjoy their full bounty, including a crisp and invigorating Sauvignon Blanc, deep and intense Cabernet Sauvignon, and a full-bodied Zinfandel.

Join their wine club, order individual bottles, or take adventage of their newly announced "Economic Stimulus Package" to stretch your wine-purchasing power a little further. Either way, it's easy to raise a glass to our new-found Peloton-obsession! Cheers! Details:

Email this article!

Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
Questions? Comments?

Is Mod City Mom loading incorrectly? Try upgrading your browser of choice.