Digesting 2011

2011 went by in a blur and while the year had so many wonderful moments and meals, my one regret is that I did not get to post to Minced as much as I would have liked.   While one of my goals for 2012 is to post more regularly, I’d thought that you might enjoy a quick overview of my 2011 year in food.  I consider these things the culinary highlights of the past year although there are so many other meals, recipes, and tastes that are certainly worthy enough to be included here.

To be honest, I had plans for many of these to become blog posts and pictures were taken in preparation.  Yet when intoxicating aromas filled the house and concoctions started to bubble, I forgot about work, poured a glass a wine, and concentrated solely on the pleasures of the good life.  Bon appetit and may your 2012 be just as tasty!

Duck, Duck…GOOSE!   A week before Christmas, this article in the Wall Street
Journal upended my plans for Christmas dinner.   While traditionally my family enjoys beef tenderloin on the holiday, this roasted goose recipe filled with Armagnac-soaked prunes stuffed with foie gras seemed too good to be true.  It’s classic French, ridiculously rich and wildly fun to make.   Nothing will get you more excited for the holidays than an order of mousse de foie gras arriving from D’Artagnan.  And licking foie gras off your fingers while cooking with your husband on Christmas Eve is a treat in and of itself.

Turkey: Smoked Out.   This dish certainly doesn’t win any best of the best awards, but when Thanksgiving dinner requires your husband to stay up all night to tend to a smoker, one has to document it.  We had high hopes for this turkey that we injected with a garlic, olive oil and beer brine before cooking.   Our Weber smoker has turned out some great meals before, but alas this one was not to be.  We’ll talk about the final product for years to come.  Beautiful on the outside, but oh-so-dry inside.  We plan to try frying for next year’s dinner with the big bird.

I’ll take your order.  Over the past year, my husband and I have eaten out more and enjoyed some really delicious meals.  A home cooked meal wins out over a restaurant meal any day, but a night without dishes is a treat indeed.  While it certainly doesn’t fall under the gourmet category, this fried grouper sandwich with key lime mayonnaise at B.O.’s Fish Wagon  in Key West ranks among my favorite dishes of 2011.   Eaten on a street corner in a restaurant that might best be defined as a shack, it marked the first time I’ve ever taken a picture of my food at a restaurant.  I’m typically totally against the practice due to the simple fact that while you snap away dinner is getting cold.  However this sandwich looked so good that I threw out all my “rules” to get a picture for posterity.  Let the record state, that I also had to hold myself back from ordering seconds.

Good eats reads.  I’m an avid collector of cookbooks, but often they sit on my bookshelf for weeks before I’m able to test out the recipes.  Two of my favorite cookbooks this year were Momofuku and The Food of Morocco.  After reading David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku cookbook cover to cover, I made the pork belly buns with homemade pickles.  They were out of this world.   A Christmas gift of a tagine and Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco has resulted in many a spice hunt and lots of delicious dishes.  Her recipe for braised chicken with apricots and pine nuts will make you want to throw out all your pots and pans in deference to the mighty tagine.  Both books are evidence that you can never know everything about cooking.  Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter and Grant Achatz’s Life on the Line, while not cookbooks, were some of my favorite page-turners from the past year.


A Place to Eat.   Dining is so much more civilized when all your  guests can sit down.  My in-laws gave my husband and I our first dining room table several years ago.  Beautifully re-finished this small oval table got us through many a small dinner party, but was a little cramped if the numbers went higher than four.  This year we graduated up to a larger table when my parents gave us my great-grandmother’s dining room table and chairs.  My mother taught me how to re-upholster the chairs earlier this year and we’ve passed out more dinner invitations in the months since (with the leaves in the table it can seat 10-12!).

What’s that smell?  My husband really outdid himself and I received a truffle (make that two small ones) for Christmas this year.  For days, I acted like I had the crown jewels in my refrigerator.  We enjoyed a truffle sandwich with butter, added a few shavings to our scrambled eggs on Christmas day, and then I carefully poached the rest to be saved for a special dinner in 2012.   We also spent lots of time unscrewing the jar where the truffles were kept just to smell them.  In case you’re wondering, yes, they are worth all the fuss.

Better Briskets.  My husband hails from Texas and the man loves his meat.  His personal obsession is brisket and I have to admit I’ve caught the fever.   While I swear he’ll never be satisfied, I’m personally enjoying the journey.  He’s slowly perfecting his recipe for smoked brisket and we are branching out in our brisket cookery.  Nach Waxman’s braised brisket recipe was a big hit to close out the year.


FOOD LOVE.  My business and one of my biggest loves had a fabulous 2011.  I taught over 120 cooking classes, catered many events, and continued to enjoy working with corporations for team-building activities.  I added kids classes to my offerings and in collaboration with Cooking Uptown started the Kids Cooking Adventure and Escoffier’s Young Chefs courses for kids and teens.  I continued appearing on WCNC’s Charlotte Today show finishing out the year with recipes for pumpkin pancakes and pork chops with a cranberry-orange sauce.  FOOD LOVE  also received some great media coverage in 2011 with articles in Southpark Magazine, the Davidson Journal, and The Charlotte Observer and  the Kids’ Cooking classes got great press on local stations.

So with that I bid 2011, adieu.  As 2012 kicks off, I hope you approach it with an empty belly and a hearty appetite.  From my kitchen to yours,  happy cooking and cheers to 2012!


  1. What a smashing way tio end a delightfully delicious 2011! Congratulations on your VERY successful year! Love, Co


  2. What a wonderful post from you. Your writing is so clear and makes me feel like I was there with you. Your passion for this work is contagious and continues to inspire me. I look forward to trying more brisquet with you guys. I am a great guinea pig or recipe tester participant. I can’t wait to see what you come up with related to the tagine. I love Morrocan flavors and lots of spices.


  3. Thanks for all the nice comments! 2011 was indeed a tasty year and I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store!


  4. Hey Nikki!
    Just got back from the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Saw lots of good new products coming out on the market and showed our new line of Earth Family Products.
    If you go to SF anytime I have a restaurant for you to try. Allegro Romano. Your truffles reminded me of it. They brought a bowl of truffles
    out to the table sitting in risotto (dried) for us to see. We ate family style and the food was incredible. The place is tiny, 32 seats.

    Great to see you on here again, I figured that you have been very busy.
    The table is beautiful, by the way! Hope you have many many good eats in the future! J


  5. Julie,

    The Fancy Food Show in San Francisco sounds like great fun. How many days were you out there for? As for Allegro Romano…a whole bowl of truffles!!! That has to be my heaven.

    How is recipe testing going for you? Come up with anything tasty recently?

    As always, thanks for reading!


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