Setting the Scene: Perly’s

Perly's

As I mentioned before, I chose to set Neverending Beginnings in Richmond.  When I first started writing, I debated whether or not to create fictional restaurants for my characters to frequent.  When I was writing the original draft, Sex and the City was in the height of its poularity and I didn’t want it to seem like I was copy-catting the restaurant name-dropping trend.  Ultimately I decided that it was infinitely easier to use places I already knew and that as long as I didn’t overdo it, readers wouldn’t be annoyed.  So far I’ve been happy with the reactions from Richmond readers.  Many people have mentioned that it is fun to see places they have eaten at featured in a novel.  Occasionally  it even prompts someone to share their story or memory of the place with me (which I love).

Perly’s is one of my favorite restaurants.  Recently at a conference I attended, one of the out-of-town presenters mentioned having breakfast there and went on the say that you know a restaurant is good when you are already planning your next meal there before you finish the first.  I couldn’t explain it any better myself.  The banana chocolate chip muffins featured in my novel are amazing, as is the curried split pea soup, the baked apples, the fried potatoes and the biscuits.  Ah . . . the biscuits . . .  there could be a whole blog post on those perfect homemade biscuits*.  Seriously.

Here’s a scene featuring Perley’s:

When I first arrived at the restaurant, I felt relieved that this large group might somehow provide insulation from Amy’s mother, until I realized that the only two seats left were right next to her.  Even though I was on time, the other guests had all come together from the hotel and arrived en masse.  I hadn’t gotten a room, since I lived just a few blocks away and didn’t see the point.  Until now.

“Katherine, how nice of you to join us,” Mrs. Moore greeted, somehow making it seem as if my on time arrival was late.

“Glad to be here,” I greeted and waved back at Amy happily seated at the other end of the table.

“Mimosa?”  Amy’s sister asked, holding out a pitcher.

I took the pitcher from her.  Here’s to taking one for Amy, I thought as I filled my glass.

“Now girls, it really is a little early for champagne, don’t you think?”  Mrs. Moore commented.

“That’s why they mix it with orange juice,” Amy’s sister shot back, rolling her eyes at me.  I’m pretty sure I saw Mrs. Moore tense, but she didn’t say anything.  At least I had an ally. 

I ordered my favorite banana chocolate chip muffin, which was just out of the oven according to the waitress, a side of fruit and a coffee so I wouldn’t be tempted to have a second mimosa.  Not so bad.  Fresh muffins, good coffee.  Lots of things to keep my mouth occupied.

“No eggs or bacon or sausage?”  Mrs. Moore asked.

“Nope.  The muffins are absolutely amazing here.”

“Plus, aren’t you a vegetarian?”  Amy’s sister chimed in.

Since far less-opinionated people than Amy’s mother had opinions about my diet I just sipped my mimosa, took a deep breath and waited.

“I just don’t understand that at all . . .” she started and I just shrugged and sipped. 

She was quiet for quite some time, and I started to think that by some miracle I was going to get off that easy.  But I knew better.  She finally added, “I think there is something to be said for balance.  Too much of anything, even vegetables, can’t be good.”

*If you plan to visit Perly’s for a biscuit, get there early – they show up on the 86’ed list quickly!

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A Love Letter to 5 Guys & 3 Ladies

     It all started with a weekend getaway with my husband.  Heading to a mountain cabin after work one Friday night, we stopped off at a 5 Guys Burgers and Fries  to grab a quick dinner.  While the getaway was much-needed and relaxing,  the meal selections didn’t get much better over the next two days (trending towards fried and greasy and processed).  I have always prided myself on being a healthy eater and so despite the awesome scenery and even better company I wasn’t in a  great place physically or mentally.  That weekend was a tipping point: I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired!
     As always in life, when the student is ready the teacher appears.  In this case the teacher was Hayley Hobson.  I  first encountered Hayley when she followed my blog (thank you!) and was intrigued by her three-day cleanse.  I had always been skeptical of the “cleanse”, imagining deprivation, starvation and all sorts of scary things.  But Hayley’s plan actually included eating food and I was ready.  I approached my husband about doing the cleanse and, feeling much like myself about the previous weekend,  he was enthusiastically on board.  At the end of the three days we both felt amazing and wanted to incorporate more plant-based meals into our diet.  It was through Hayley, that I discovered Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy Kitchen which I have been working my way through and enjoying all the plant-based goodness contained within (and to think it all started with a hamburger).
     I was a Crazy, Sexy convert and immediately signed up for Kris Carr’s weekly newsletter, which is where I first heard about Marie Forleo.  Marie’s passion for helping women succeed in business is infectious.  The free videos posted on her site really opened my eyes to the fact that my writing wasn’t just a hobby, but an actual business!  Even after all I went through to publish my book, Neverending Beginnings, I had never really considered myself a businesswoman.  She asked probing questions which made me reevaluate what I wanted from my writing and how to get it.  I know my second novel, and my approach to marketing my writing will be a better as a result of the insights I gained.
     Even though we have never met, I feel a connection with these women. They have helped me on my journey.   So on this lovely St. Valentine’s day I offer a heartfelt thanks to these ladies and a commitment to keep the goodness and connections going!  And to the 5 Guys that started it all . . . well, here’s to inspiration in the oddest of places.

Brooklyn, Brooklyn Take Me In

There are train tickets and a hotel confirmation on my kitchen counter. Date: early March. Destination: Brooklyn.

Last year, right around this time we travelled to New York with friends for a birthday celebration. It was an amazing experience. The “main” birthday event was a trip to Brooklyn Brewery, but we stayed in Manhattan and caught the train over for the day. This time we’ll reverse that pattern. Spending the majority of our trip diving deeper into the borough that peaked our curiosity in a matter of hours. The one that whet our (figurative and literal) appetite for more. The one that felt a bit like home, away.

Here’s what I’m already excited about:

  • a return visit to Brooklyn Bowl (which I think I have now shamelessly linked to about 5,000 times on this blog . . .)
  • visiting Brooklyn Brew Shop and finding someone to personally thank for the amazing spent grain recipes on The Mash (holy Barley & Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars, Batman)
  • Checking out some of the coffee shops and restaurants documented here
  • Checking out more of the amazing-ness in Trust Neely’s Guide (which served us so well the first time)

Also, I can’t stop singing this in my head.

And it’s just the beginning – I have a whole month to plan. If you’re from Brooklyn or have spent more time there than me (*easy, since I was there less than 8 hours) leave me a comment and let me know what it is essential that I add to my list!

Tagine

tagine

We got a new cookbook recently.  I knew on my first flip through it that I wanted to make this one particular recipe.  I called it Tangine up until a few days ago.  I also really knew nothing about it, except that in it’s picture it looked like an awesome winter meal; all chickpeas and sweet potato and broth and warmth.

So even thought I didn’t know what it was (or what it was correctly called) I couldn’t have been more right about how amazingly delicious it was.

In case you’re curious, Tagine is of  North African origin and named for the pot it was traditionally cooked in.  I learned this and got the awesome recipe from Kris Carr’s, Crazy Sexy Kitchen – which we’ve been cooking our way through for the last couple weeks.  Nothing has disappointed.  Seriously, nothing.  Love that!

Listing

Mullys

‘Tis the season of year-end lists.  And boy do I love a good list. (I’m currently making my way through Blue Ridge Outdoors’ “Essential 2012 Albums from the South”).  I got super excited about making my own list . . . movies and books and albums and restaurants – oh, my!  Except  I couldn’t think of more than a handful of movies I had seen or books I had read.  Somehow The 5 Movies I Saw This Year just doesn’t have the same ring as The Year’s Most Fabulous Movies Ever.  I was momentarily discouraged, feeling the dream of year-end list making slipping through my fingers.  But then, in a flicker of inspiration I realized there didn’t need to be such a standard theme.  There are lots of people, (probably more expert than I) counting down the best of the words written, songs sung and dishes prepared; so instead I give you my 2012 superlatives (in no particular order):

Album Played on Repeat for the Most Consecutive Days: a tie between I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers; and  The Lumineers, self-titled. (And yes I know The Avett Brothers have a new album this year – but this was the one I couldn’t get enough of.  That’s the beauty of this being my very own list!)

Best Place to Pick up that Skirt/Dress/Shirt  that will Make You Smile Every Time You Wear It: Ashby

Best Concert of the Year: Aquanett (Talk about smiling!  If you don’t leave this  show hoarse from singing along – you probably weren’t alive in the 80’s).

Best Random Yelp Recommendation: – The Pony Bar 

Most Unusual Beer I Drank: Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (just click the link, you know you want to know)

The Saddest Restaurant/Bar Closure: the deck at Mulligan’s (it’s the end of an era, folks)

Most Awesome Place to Celebrate a Birthday: Brooklyn Bowl (40 or 4, they’ve got you covered)

Coolest “Found” Object: my parent’s 1970 KLH turntable (now resting comfortably in our living room, so lovely)

The Best Way to Eat Your Veggies: Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen 

The Far-Away Bar I Wish was in My Neighborhood: Euclid Hall (and not just because of the awesome poutine) (*poutine defined*)

All the best to you in 2013, my friends!