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Four Favorites in July

July 31, 2015

Four Favorites July: A book, blog, brand and break| Fake Food Free

My Four Favorites series is back and I’m introducing a new theme to these monthly installments of my favorite finds.

The four Bs. A book, a blog, a brand and a break.

These are a few things I’ve come across this month that I’ve enjoyed so much that I must share. 

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Blackberry Scofflaw Cocktail

June 18, 2015

I like cocktails that have a seasonal twist. When Templeton Rye sent me a bottle of their whiskey to try in celebration of Father’s Day, it gave me the perfect opportunity to add a touch of summer with this Blackberry Scofflaw Cocktail. 

Blackberry Scofflaw Cocktail | Fake Food Free

I grew up with more blackberries in a single summer than most people eat in a lifetime.

For as far back as I can remember, at least one side of the property of my parents home was lined with blackberry plants that would produce buckets all season long. These then turned into bag after bag of berries that filled our freezers throughout the rest of the year. 

And not those puny berries that are so tart you can barely eat them. These were berries that grew to the size of a cherry tomato. They were so plump that if you squeezed a little too hard while picking them, splatters of juice could find their way from your forehead down to your ankles. 

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Shrubs and Shims from SHED in Healdsburg

May 28, 2015

Shrubs and Shims from SHED Healdsburg. Pouring the Apparent Sour. | Fake Food FreeTruth be told, I had no idea what a shim was.

A shrub? Yes. I’d actually made some shrubs at home. 

So when I was invited to a shims and shrubs workshop, I jumped at the chance, assuming that the shrub I knew had to be somewhat related to a shim that I was unfamiliar with. 

Plus, this workshop was at the Healdsburg SHED. I literally had just discovered this place no more than a month before this media workshop invitation arrived in my inbox. The moment I saw it in some of my travel research, it immediately went on my must-visit list. This seemed like the perfect excuse to take the short drive up to California wine country.

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Cinnamon Cardamom Hazelnut Milk

May 21, 2015

    Cinnamon Cardamom Hazelnut Milk | Fake Food Free
I wasn’t quick to jump on the nut milk bandwagon.

It’s not that I don’t like almond milk, but when everyone started going crazy for it, seeing it as the new health drink, all I really saw was another processed food. I’m not a fan of all the thickeners and fillers in the ingredient lists on most labels. That’s not to say, I haven’t found a few varieties I enjoy, it just never became a wonder drink for me. 

It took a while for me to realize that I could make my own. And not only almond milk, but milk from just about any nut out there. Still, even with that knowledge, I’ve failed to give it a try, despite my DIY attitude in the kitchen. 

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Meyer Lemon Bourbon Winter Warmer

February 8, 2015

This Meyer lemon bourbon cocktail is the best way to get through a cold winter night! It combines the fresh flavor of seasonal citrus with warming spices and Kentucky bourbon. 

 Meyer Lemon Bourbon Winter Warmer | Fake Food Free | A warm cocktail made with spiced, fresh lemonade and Kentucky bourbon.

Let’s be clear. It’s not cold here. If I were to utter the phrase, “I’m cold,” I’m certain it would be met with a bless-her-heart chuckle and an eye roll from just about everyone Colorado and eastward. Those being pounded with snow would likely close the browser window, never to return. 

So it’s not cold, but it does get cool and there are distinct differences between winter, spring, summer and fall here in the Bay Area. Thank goodness, because I do love the four seasons. They just aren’t nearly as extreme as other places I’ve lived. 

That being said, I still love the comfort foods and drinks of winter — a steaming bowl of soup, rich pot pies, and a warm bourbon drink — just as much as a person digging out from the snow. 

We might not have freezing temps, but one thing we do have in the winter is citrus! And you are probably well aware of my love for it.

When we moved into our apartment here in 2012, I immediately purchased a small dwarf Meyer lemon tree from the local farmers market. I read up a little on growing them in pots and this tree already had a few lemons on it when I bought it so I thought, this is going to be too easy. 

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Visiting Vienna Christmas Markets

December 8, 2014

If you have ever been tempted to visit Christmas markets in Europe, I hope this post will convince you to finally book the trip. We spent time in Vienna last December and the experience left me speechless. After a year to gather my thoughts, I’m sharing the highlights with what to drink and eat when visiting Vienna Christmas Markets.

Visiting the Vienna Christmas Markets | Fake Food Free

I haven’t fully decided how I feel about the term bucket list. I’m not a huge fan, but that might just be because it is so popular and overused. At the same time, I lack an appropriate name for my list of places to see in this world.

Must-go, must-see, travel list? They all feel rather boring. Especially with the places that I have on my list. I feel like the name needs to match the magnitude of the experiences.

So while I’m searching for a name, I’m slowly progressing through my list (whatever it is called).

A big, and I mean huge, destination for me, became a reality last December. We’ve been to Vienna a few times now and it remains one of my favorite places in the world, but I’ve always wanted to go in December to see the Christmas markets.

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Ginger and Black Peppercorn Hot Tea Recipe

October 8, 2014

This hot tea combines ginger and black peppercorns for a slightly spicy drink that will warm you up. A recipe I learned from friends while living in Brazil, it is a non-alcoholic twist on the Quentão we used to drink there during the winter.  

Ginger and Black Peppercorn Hot Tea Recipe | Fake Food Free

During one of the Julys we spent in Brazil, I helped a friend host a party for her English students and she made this tea. I know what you are thinking — hot tea in July? But remember, U.S. summer = Brazil winter, and where we were in the south, it did get pretty fall-like.

It is a non-alcoholic version of the warm wine drink, Quentão, that is enjoyed during Festas Juninas celebrations. This drink, often described as a mulled wine, was made in large volumes with very, um, affordable wine and often cachaça so it’s surprising that I liked it, but the spicy flavor of the fresh ginger won me over. 

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Frozen White Russian Cocktails

September 12, 2014

Turn your White Russian cocktail into a spiked frozen treat with this recipe!

Frozen White Russian Cocktail | Fake Food Free

I like to keep my desserts and my cocktails separate. I’m rarely tempted by the spiked dessert shakes or fancy frozen drinks that show up on restaurant menus.

But that is when I’m dining out. This? This is when I’m at home. No way am I passing up a frosty combination of spirits and ice cream at home. It’s a lot more fun to be creative with frozen cocktails in your own kitchen than to pay someone else to do it for you. At least that is how I feel about it.

I love both Black and White Russians, which is no surprise considering that I am a huge coffee fan. So with some coffee ice cream in the freezer and a few warm days lingering from summer, I thought a frozen cocktail would be a welcome addition to a rather long week.

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Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos

July 16, 2014

 

Las Vegas | fakefoodfree.com
Las Vegas — you either love it or hate it. After about 11 years of traveling there, I’ve given up on arguing with anyone in the hate it category. I just enjoy the fact that we love it. We take it in small doses. I only want to be there a couple nights at a time, but I still want to be there.

Knowing that I’m not anything close to a high roller, everyone always asks — what do you do?

First, we walk.

As touristy as it is, I love the Bellagio fountains and the botanical garden. I like to see what gorgeous flower arrangements the Aria and Palazzo have on display. We’ve seen the majority of the Cirque de Soleil shows on the strip. This time we went downtown to the new Smith Center to see The Book of Mormon. We’ve also taken a drive around the area on the trips that we’ve rented a car. Then we each sit down at our favorite machines — an animated bonus slot for me — and spend barely $20 in a night while drinking a few (free) cocktails.

 

It’s always a nice break from my day to day reality. Yes, you have to deal with lots of tourists, but you get to do it while carrying around a beer to help ease the frustration.

 

This trip we booked Spirit airlines for the first time. We took the extra charges for overhead baggage as a challenge and each packed a shoulder bag for the weekend that fit snugly under the seat.

 

That meant no camera, but it turns out that we had some really great food and food experiences this visit. So I committed to taking the best iPhone photos I could manage to ensure I could share the highlights of our food and drink adventures.

 

The good thing about coming from the Bay Area is that we arrive by 7:30 am, so after checking in, we went straight to breakfast. Like most tourists, we’ve visited Serendipity 3 for the frozen hot chocolate. This time we learned that you can have a very pleasant, calm and delicious breakfast there before 9:30 am.

 

The menu said that the Fried Eggs Benedict was two poached eggs that had been rolled in cornmeal and fried (I know!) on top of biscuits and Canadian bacon with hollandaise AND sausage gravy. It sounds so heavy, right? But you are probably thinking of a loaded diner version, like I was, and not this.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos | fakefoodfree.com
 Yeah, I had to order it and I am so glad I did. The flavors were beautifully balanced and now I have a new project – fried poached eggs.

 

Oh and I love their coffee, too. They add cinnamon and nutmeg!

 

We’re big on dropping in the ABC store or a drugstore for an inexpensive beer and we were pleased to find some craft options this trip. Namely, Oskar Blues that we just visited in Colorado a few weeks ago.

 

Earl of Sandwich in Planet Hollywood is our go-to place for cheap eats and they are open 24 hours. As a result, I had my favorite sandwich for breakfast on our second morning — the Holiday Turkey. Yes, everything is on there that you are thinking — turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy. But like my meal at Serendipity 3, it’s well done. Just a little of everything so it’s not too filling or a big mess. Okay, it looks like a big mess, but it’s so good!

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
We swung in Grand Lux Cafe in the Palazzo for a light lunch. This is usually a safe bet for good food and their portions are massive so we always split something. We went for the Asian Nachos and they were so much better than I was expecting! Fried wontons with chicken in a peanut sauce. I already have the wheels turning in my head for a version with homemade wontons.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
We have yet to have a bad meal or bad service at Mon AmiGabi in Paris. Both are always excellent, which keeps us coming back when we want a high quality, mid-priced meal (for the Strip). I’m not a huge fan that they like to serve grain-fed beef as I prefer grass-fed, but the food is always delicious. One of my long time favorites is this warm brie with honey, black pepper, roasted garlic cloves and hazelnuts.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
Now on to one of our most fun and memorable meals in Vegas. I always go on about how great blogging is for introducing me to outstanding people, and it’s happened again with Tracey of Salty Sweet Life. We met online and ended up taking Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s photography course in Orange County in May where we met in person.

 

She and her husband live in Las Vegas so we met up with them for drinks, dinner and dessert. They took us to the The Lady Sylvia for drinks and while I didn’t snap any photos, trust me, this is one cool bar. It has a relaxing lounge-slash-library feel and we both had delicious beer cocktails. I had the The Dapper Don with Hendricks Gin and Ballast Point IPA.

Dinner was at Lotus of Siam. This is one place off the Strip that we had actually been to before. It was five years ago and before I had such a strong interest in Thai food and before we’d traveled to Thailand. That was long before I’d heard about the Northern Thai menu from both Tracey and by watching the Vegas episode of Parts Unknown.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
We ordered a selection of Northern Thai treats and every bite was delicious. My favorite was the Sai Oua (pork sausage) — nice and spicy and packed with the flavor of Kaffir Lime.

 

When our hosts told us they were going to take us to a new place for dessert, I thought okay, cool, we’ll grab frozen yogurt or something.

 

Um, not quite. Wow, were we in for an experience.

 

We headed to Sweets Raku. A dessert bar with the creations of Japanese dessert artist, Mio Ogasawara. We were greeted with the option of a prix fixe menu or ordering ala carte, all printed on an edible menu of rice paper and a candy ring. We were later given a raspberry sauce for dipping the menu.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
Needless to say, we did the prix fixe. The first course was pre-set, a refreshing pineapple sorbet with white wine jelly.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
For the second course, Tracey and I chose the Carib. A coconut panna cotta that included so much good stuff that I won’t be able to remember it all. Here’s what I do recall — cantaloupe sorbet, kiwi and a brûléed banana slice. A white chocolate disk was set on top of the glass and just before serving a warm mango sauce was poured through it to melt it. Outstanding.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos
My husband had the Stella (strawberry tiramisu), a mix of fresh strawberries and cream over cake. We also had a great seat for the action to watch its intricate construction before serving.

 

Las Vegas Eats and Drinks in iPhone Photos

 

The final course was a cream puff with our choice of cream and fruit sauce. I chose vanilla with black currant. The puff was served with two gelled cube, one of which was passion fruit, my favorite.

 

As you would expect, it was an unforgettable experience and more proof to support my argument — visit Las Vegas. Stay on the Strip and get off the Strip. There is good stuff to be found just about everywhere.

 

12 Favorite Kentucky Derby Recipes

April 30, 2014
12 Favorite Kentucky Derby Recipes | Fake Food Free

You don’t have to live in Kentucky long to catch the Derby bug. We were there for about ten years, but I was hooked after our very first Derby celebration.

Did I mention that I’ve never actually been to the Kentucky Derby?

Everyone seems shocked when I tell them this. It’s a bit of a long story, but you basically have two choices – the infield with loads of intoxicated folks having a good time where you can’t even get a clear view of the race (or so I’ve been told), or tickets for the Grandstand side which, if you can even get your hands on some, are a bit expensive. Add to that, all the people I know who have gone (on the Grandstand side) and had a less than stellar time to see the big, but very short, race.

Compare that to hanging out at the local race track, Keeneland, in Lexington and watching the race on the big screen or having your own party at home. No traffic, no hot sun, you can still wear a hat if you want and there are plenty of bourbon-based beverages and good food.

What can I say? The latter won out for us every year.

Over those ten Kentucky Derbies, and within the past year, I’ve made a few favorite recipes that are perfect for celebrating the big day. Most with bourbon, some with mint and others with Kentucky classics in mind. There will be more to come in the future, but these should give you plenty of ideas for your own Derby celebration whether you need breakfast, brunch, drinks or dessert.

(Click on the recipe name to go to the recipe.)

Cornmeal Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce from Jonathan’s Bluegrass Table

Bourbon Sweet Potato Waffles with Maple Cinnamon Butter

Mint Julep Scones

Bourbon Banana Scones with Walnuts

Wild Ginger Mint Julep

Kentucky Bourbon-Vanilla Soaked Cherries

Kentucky Bourbon Dogs

Pimento Cheese Dinner Rolls

Maple Bourbon Budino with Spiced Pecans from Bakeless Sweets

Mint Julep Blondies

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies with Coconut Oil

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Pretzel Caramels