Chattanooga Getaway

chattanooga getaway
Last week—after more than a month with a Nashville address and over 30 days filled with the pure luxury of seeing the one person I want to see most every single day—I told Tim it was about time I started carrying a little more of the weight in this relationship. He, you have to understand, is the same man who handed me flowers and a homecooked meal when I tried to surprise him last November; who made me chocolate-covered strawberries last month, on a holiday he doesn’t even like; who regularly sits and talks to me because he knows how much I love it; who has given me everything from killer fried eggs and delicious sandwiches to long afternoons working side-by-side at our computers.

chattanooga arts district

So Tuesday morning, I whisked him off to Chattanooga—a city neither of us had ever been to before—for an entire day of midweek vacationing just for us. (As a side benefit, it turns out nothing makes a city feel like home faster than planning a day trip away from it.) He didn’t know where we were going, just that he’d need a change of clothes and the ability to leave all work behind. I didn’t know much about Chattanooga, just that it was conveniently two hours away and filled with natural beauty.

Now, after a practically perfect day there, I know firsthand they don’t call it “scenic city” for nothing. Here is what we did:

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Sunday at the Christkindlmarket

My friend Elizabeth and her husband, Josh, are the kind of people who love street fairs. They’ve been to a strawberry festival in their home state of Florida, a spam festival (yes, spam!) on vacation in Hawaii and, of course, there was that kumquat festival Elizabeth and I toured back in January.

So when they said they’d be in town Thanksgiving weekend, you can probably guess where we planned to meet. Because when it’s late November in Chicago, there may not be fresh produce, but there is an annual tradition built around tents of German food and imported shopping: We spent the afternoon at the Christkindlmarket.

Yesterday afternoon, the weather was unusually warm (40s, I think?) and there was no snow, but there was a lot of food. Boy, was there. Bratwurst, potato pancakes, goulash, Bavarian pretzels, fried dough, spiced nuts, mulled wine, imported beer, candy, chocolate…. If you’re from Chicago, the market’s open through December 24 right outside Daley Plaza, so there’s still time to check it out; if you’re not, well, get comfortable—I’m taking you with me through a photo journey of what it offers:

german christkindlmarket

chicago christkindlmarket

people at market

Inside a booth

free taste of stollen

bite of stollen

drinks

josh's sandwich

kim and scott's pretzel

snowballs

pecan praline strudel

people eating

ornaments

hand-crafted wood ornaments

german gifts to buy

christmas tree daley plaza

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Seattle Recap! (+ Pumpkin Muffins)

Fresh from four days in Seattle, I can tell you the city was both everything and nothing like I expected, the way most things we envision tend to be, the way you could also describe a certain pumpkin recipe I’d tried before I left.

trees in seattle

I mean, I liked Seattle. But before I went, I envisioned thick forests, days of rain, majestic mountains, lots of coffee, something called a Space Needle—and, I don’t know, people wearing lots of flannel or North Face jackets. In fact, it was all of those things. Despite our trip’s unending sunshine, the effects of rain were all around us: in the canopies of green over city streets, the fall leaves scattered on street corners, the fresh and wet smell throughout beautiful Bainbridge Island. We saw mountain peaks off in the distance, we ate soup with a view of the Space Needle, we passed more Starbucks coffee shops than I could count.

seattle fall leaves

seattle ships

wooded seattle

Indeed, Seattle is Pikes Place Market and the smell of the sea and a need for a jacket everywhere you go. But it is also something else. It is a city, like any other city, filled with tall buildings, urban architecture, the familiar retail shops. It’s hilly, like San Francisco, with steep sidewalks leading up ascending street numbers. It’s a place that makes it easy to eat organic or local or vegan or gluten-free.

seattle pines

organic ice cream

parfait ice cream

delancey pizza

Seattle is a gorgeous farmers market, a crowded Friday morning, a great dinner at Delancey—the Neapolitan-style pizza place I (and every other Orangette lover) watched develop online and now can say I’ve dined at.

Seattle was and wasn’t what I thought it would be, and that was exactly right, which is precisely the story of these muffins.

pumpkin muffins

See, just like you can have visions of a place you’ve never visited, you can have expectations of a recipe you’ve never tried.

whipped cream

And sometimes you bake something, say a cookie, expecting what a cookie recipe normally yields, be it a hard and crunchy biscuit you can dunk in tea, a large and cracked dessert speckled with powder sugar or a crumbly and mouthwatering morsel you can hold in your hand, but when you go to the kitchen, follow a recipe, make some adaptations and bake, you find surprise. What you’ve made aren’t the cookies of your imagination; they’re something else entirely—more like muffins, dense and fluffy, spreading and flattening into wide, round cakes on the baking sheet.

pumpkin muffins with whipped cream

So you pour them into muffin molds as you embrace the reality of what is, accepting and appreciating it. And you realize pumpkin muffins are exactly right.

I guess these are the preconceptions and surprises that make up our lives—be they new cities or new recipes or new faces that become friends. They’re everywhere. They’re worth noticing. I just hope they always involve such good things to eat.

pumpkin muffins

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Interview with Honey Cafe

Back in February, when Jacqui and I first stepped inside Honey, on an afternoon where there was muddy snow on the ground and we wore winter coats, I knew right away we’d found something special. It was either that visit or our next where this café filled with Amish chicken, grass-fed meat and organic greens had me fully won over, slapping the table and saying, New life goal! I’ll try every single item on this menu, just wait!

Seven months later, after more visits with Jacqui, several lunches with friends, weekend breakfasts, random takeouts, a great dinner date and a quiet birthday brunch, would you believe it, I am more than halfway there.

Honey sign

In fact, since I last told you about it, Honey’s become a part of my regular life, that place where I celebrate and enjoy conversation and always want to bring friends. We’ve now spent three seasons getting to know each other, the way you want to do when something (or someone) has really caught your fancy, and I’m happy to tell you this: we’re still going strong. In fact, yesterday, you could say we hit a new milestone, because yesterday is when I sat down with Honey’s lovely owner, Elizabeth Janus.

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Meet Me in St. Louis!

hello, saint louis arch!

Don’t you think that with just a month or so left of summer, now’s a great time for weekend getaways? I do. And for those of you from Chicago, did you know Saint Louis is only a little over four hours away?

In the just over 24 hours I spent there last weekend, I learned Saint Louis has some pretty cool things to offer—things like:

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3 Days in North Carolina

june is for traveling

Hello there, blog friends. It has been a while.

So how have your last two weeks been? Good? Mine too. Between Ohio and Tennessee and North Carolina, I’ve been getting to be a pro at vacation. A pro, I tell you. I’ve eaten well, in the homes of friends and in quality restaurants; I’ve seen new places, from Nashville parks to Durham campuses; I’ve, mostly, spent time with great people, all over the country, and I’ve loved every bit of it.

Now, while I work on getting good at other things—namely, the everyday tasks of working and cooking and so on—why don’t we talk about my last trip, the one to the Research Triangle of North Carolina, a destination chosen for, what else, the food. It was the most relaxing vacation I’ve taken in years, one which we did little else but eat and lounge around, a practice that has seriously opened my eyes to what vacation is supposed to be like.

So in true Food Loves Writing form, here are all the details:

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Afternoon in Madison

state street in Madison

Every now and then, someone asks me what I like about blogging: Is it the pictures? the food? the travel? And I always say the same thing, that while it is, of course, partly those things, it is much more something else. I like blogging for the people.

People like Jacqui and Caitlin. The three of us met up in Madison Saturday, because it’s only a 2.5-hour drive from Chicago and because Caitlin finds herself there every other weekend, visiting her fiance.

outside of capitol building

We did important things together—you know, like talk photography, both at brunch and at a local shop with the super nice staff that chatted with us about meeting famous people and calling 1970s cameras vintage and seeing the beauty of film:

jacqui with camera

caitlin and camera

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