Lilia Write Now

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Gather ’round the table August 8, 2012

“The fondest memories are made when gathered around the table”

At least that is what the quote on the dining room wall at Gatherings Kitchen says.  And I would have to agree.

Back on July 20, Todd and I, along with a couple of my co-workers, had our first Gatherings Kitchen experience. What is Gatherings Kitchen? It is “a warm, friendly and interactive cooking experience. It’s part restaurant, part cooking class, and part home.”

They pick a new menu every month, with a different theme.  For our experience in July, we worked with the “American Road Trip” menu.  They offer supper club cooking classes on Friday nights that accommodate 16 people. You can make reservations ahead of time, either for yourself or a group of friends.

We got there at 6:15 on a Friday night.  We were lucky enough that despite how hot this summer has been, that particular night felt downright fall-like with temperatures in the high 60’s.  I loved it.  Especially since I was going to be in a kitchen cooking.

When you walk in off the street, you walk right into the beautiful dining room with a huge table set to match the theme of the menu.  There is a beautiful chandelier that originally hung in Cowell & Hubbard back when it was a jewelry store.

You walk through the dining room and into the large commercial kitchen.  There, they have stations set up with the different components that make up the meal.  All the ingredients are pre-measured and the recipe is printed out next to the supplies.

Our menu for the evening was to be as follows:

  • Mini Lobster Rolls
  • Kansas City Barbecued Chicken Thighs
  • Cedar Plank Salmon with Wild Mushroom Pierogi and Dill Cream
  • Peach, Goat Cheese and Blueberry Molasses Vinaigrette with Candied Bacon
  • Grilled Ribeye with Walla Walla Onion Rings, Warm Potato & Corn Salad and Steak Sauce
  • Berry Crisp with Honey Whiskey Ice Cream

   

Todd and I walked around the kitchen and scoped out all the stations.  Since my husband is not a huge fan of cooking and I was shocked that he had even agreed to this activity, I didn’t want to overwhelm  him, so we chose the grilled peach salad station.  I had also been told that if you select one of the less involved recipes, you would be done earlier and that would free us up to walk around and observe as everyone else was making the other dishes.

Gatherings Kitchen provides all the food as well as soda and water, but beyond that it is BYOB.  Many people that night brought wine.  As we all started cooking, people were drinking their wine and chatting and there was a general convivial atmosphere in the kitchen.

Once we finished cooking we started to make our way into the dining room.  First up were our appetizers, the Kansas City barbecued chicken thighs and the mini lobster rolls.  There are no set rules as to how many servings you are entitled to per se, but I will tell you that I more than ate my share of the lobster rolls.  I couldn’t help it.  Sweet, succulent chunks of lobster with fresh tarragon and lemon, on a buttered and grilled mini hot dog bun…There was no way I could stop at one.  However I only had half of one of the chicken thighs, so I figure it all balances out.

After the appetizers, the chefs plate the entrées and start serving us one course at a time.

First we had the arugula salad with goat cheese and peaches. Mr. Lipps and I opted to slice the peaches and grill them which produced a lovely caramelized end result.  This was paired with goat cheese and bacon crumbles.  The dressing, which we also made, was odd but tasty.  It consisted of white wine vinegar, shallots, dijon, blueberries, molasses and olive oil.

Next up was the cedar plank salmon with wild mushroom pierogi.  The salmon was brushed with dijon mustard followed by a sprinkling of brown sugar.   Having just made some cedar plank salmon at home, I found that the brown sugar in this recipe was unnecessary.  It made the fish a little too sweet, in an artificial way and I didn’t feel that was needed.  The pierogies, maybe because they were not made by professionals, were a little thick, the dough should have been rolled out a bit more.  However, the filling was delicious.

Following that, we had the grilled ribeye with warm potato corn salad and walla walla onion rings.  The chefs asked all of us how we wanted our steaks done and grilled them to order.  As someone who does not enjoy her steak still mooing at her (go ahead, tell me I am a hillbilly for liking my steaks medium to medium-well) I appreciated this.  Normally I have experienced that when meat is being cooked for a group, it is generally all made rare to medium-rare and I always find myself missing out.  This was a welcome change.  Also, at the risk of sounding like a snot, I usually only eat filet mignon.  This is not because I am some sort of meat elitist, I just really cannot stomach the fat that comes with other cuts of meat.  However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this ribeye.  There must have been some kind of voodoo.  The warm potato corn salad was unremarkable and needed to be seasoned a bit more.  The walla walla onion rings were amazing.  They were light and crispy and although they had been fried, they were not heavily battered and did not have that deep fried taste.

By now we were all holding our stomachs and moaning and groaning about how full we were.  But, we still had one last course.

This is the one that I knew, as a dessert professional, I would be most critical of.  For our final treat, we had berry crisp and honey whiskey ice cream.  The crisp was baked in individual ramekins.  The oat crumble topping was a little hard to push my spoon through and overall, I didn’t love it.  The ice cream however, was absolutely delicious.  I would have gladly traded in my crisp for a bowl full of ice cream.

By the time we were done, it was about 10:30 and we had been there for 4 hours.  To me, the time flew by.  We were eating, chatting and laughing.  At one point my friend Molly even got down on the floor to show my other friend’s husband how to do frog pose.  You can’t buy that kind of entertainment.

                                             

I will definitely be going back to Gatherings Kitchen again for another culinary experience. If you would like to see additional pictures from this night, including the delicious food, click here.

Although the menus have not yet been published, here are their themes through November:

  • August – India
  • September – Spain
  • October – Octoberfest
  • November – Italy

I will definitely be doing Italy and may be interested in Spain as well.  Who wants to go?

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Maybe I Can Get Misny To Make Them Pay August 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 6:15 pm

Disclaimer: I am writing this blog post before knowing the results of the contest.

I acknowledge that sometimes I may take myself too seriously.  I try not to.  But sometimes it is just too hard to change the fabric of who you are.

Before I continue with any editorial comments, I will tell you about the event in which I participated today.

My sister’s friend, who works at Hillcrest Hospital, told her about this and asked her to pass the info on to me.

The Cleveland Clinic was hosting their second annual Cupcake Wars to benefit the American Heart Association. bit.ly/LIdbxW 

There were five categories you could enter in:

  • Heart-healthy
  • Specialty
  • Anything Goes
  • Youth
  • Professional

I of course chose to enter in the professional category.  After some deliberation I elected to enter with Salted Caramel Cupcakes, my most popular flavor.  After making them, I had a debate with my husband over which decoration to go with.  Here were my two choices.

The husband convinced me to go with the one on the left, so trusting his opinion, I did just that.  I finished decorating my 24 cupcakes, boxed them up and stowed them in the fridge for the night.  This morning, bright and early, I transported those cupcakes to Hillcrest Hospital to enter them in the contest.

This is the point at which I will stop giving you just the facts, and will give you my review of the event.

Remember at the beginning of the post when I said it is hard to shake the fabric of who you are?  Well, I have had a lot of professional experience as an event planner.  Naturally, any time I attend or participate in an event, I cannot help but to analyze how well it is done.

There seemed to be a lot of disorganization to this event.  The flyer boasted Cleveland celebrities as judges but I didn’t find out who the actual judges were until this morning when I got there.  I asked several people when the judging would take place and when the winners would be announced.  No one had an answer.

The judges all arrived at random times.  They took their seats at the judges’ table but seemed more concerned about posing for pictures and signing autographs (if you knew the control I am exerting right now over the snark that is threatening to spill out of me, you would be so proud) than they were with actually focusing on the cupcakes placed in front of them.

Because there were over 40 cupcakes to try, the panel of 6 judges were split into two groups of 3, with each group sampling half of the cupcakes.

(Here is a link to their FB album from the event: http://on.fb.me/RgRZj2 as well as a link to mine http://on.fb.me/OLPB5M)

    

Tim Misny was one of the judges and I noticed one of the contestants talking to him at length, telling him her story, which cupcakes were hers, etc.  It occurred to me that maybe the contestant should not be allowed to talk to the judges while judging was taking place.  It just seemed maybe it would be most fair if they weren’t biased by getting to know the contestants.

Close to the end,  I realized that it was the other group of judges that was getting mine to taste.  I walked over to watch them.  One of the judges on that side was former Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano.  My cupcake was placed on a plate in front of him. A “fan” came up to talk to him and knocked over a placard, causing it to fall onto my cupcake, smashing the top and the lovely decorations.  He also spilled a little coffee.  After he apologized and walked away, I watched Sam take my cupcake, place it in a box at his feet, and mark my score sheet with a 6, 6, and 7.

HE NEVER EVEN TASTED IT.  Not even a lick of frosting.

Now I understand that this is the point in this post where it may sound like sour grapes.

But here’s the thing.  If he had tasted it and scored it that way, then fine.  Everyone has their own preferences.  You win some, you lose some.  But to not even taste it and arbitrarily score it a 6 felt a bit like a slap in the face.

None of the judges took it very seriously, but at least the rest seemed to taste the cupcakes that were placed in front of them.  If you are going to have a Professional category, maybe you should have people that are qualified to judge.  Or who are at least willing to taste everything.

At the end of the day, I realize this is a small silly contest that doesn’t amount to a whole lot.  But, it is the principle of the matter.

The silver lining to all this is that the American Heart Association is the winner in all of this.  The cupcakes that were not used for judging were sold to the public, with proceeds benefiting the AHA.  And the public came out in droves.  It was a feeding frenzy.

So, bad contest, good fundraiser.

What do you think?  Am I overly bitter?  Would you feel the same way if you had entered the contest?

 

My Happy Place July 30, 2012

Wow, what a weekend.  This was one of the better ones in a while. UPDATE: I started this post last week, to describe the weekend of 7/20 – 7/22.  Through a combination of being busy and lazy, I am just now getting around to finishing it.

It started Friday night at Gatherings Kitchen.  But I will do a separate post on that later.

On Saturday, Todd and I drove out to his parents’ house in Concord.  His mother and I had to go to a baby shower in Jefferson.  After the shower we came back to their house, lounged around being lazy and had a light dinner.  We were early to bed and feeling more relaxed than we had in a while.

The next morning we went to the club (Quail Hollow Country Club) for breakfast.  Then we changed and went back to the club to enjoy the pool. (Can I just take a quick aside to say how much I am enjoying typing “the club” because we are so not those people.)

This was the highlight of my weekend.

You often hear people offering this pearl of wisdom to people who are stressed: “Go to your happy place”

Well, let me describe to you my happy place.

To me, there is nothing like floating on my back in a pool.  I ease my way in and transition to the float.  I lay my head back so that just my ear are underwater.  I feel the sun warm and comforting on my face.  My limbs are loose, almost detached. And with my ears underwater, all the noise disappears.  There are no children crying, no teenagers laughing, no ladies gossiping.

There is only this. The sound of my own breath. The warmth of the sun.  The looseness of my limbs.  The feeling of complete and utter relaxation.

This is truly my happy place.  I just need to remind myself to “go there” when someone says something stupid on Twitter or cuts me off in traffic.

Where do you go when you imagine your happy place?

 

A foodie by any other name… July 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 6:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Would not seem nearly as pretentious. So here is my rant. Ever since I became more active with Twitter, and especially after doing the Corks and Cupcakes event for Emerging Chefs, I have found myself surrounded by self-proclaimed foodies.

That’s all fine and good, but I think the definition is a very subjective matter.

For instance, http://www.dictionary.com defines it as:

food·ie

[foo-dee]  Show IPA

noun Slang .

a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking.
Origin: 
food  + -ie,  perhaps in part extracted from junkie

I enjoy food.  I think meals should be events.  I look at food as more than just essential sustenance. (this is not the place to get into the discussion that this attitude towards food leads to obesity. )

This alone, might qualify someone to designate themselves as a foodie.

But not to the foodie snobs.  The elitist foodies.  No, for you to be allowed to group yourself with them, you must put all forms of unmentionable and unpalatable things in your system.

Here’s the thing, and I will put it in all caps so you understand:  THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT WILL NEVER. EVER. GO IN MY MOUTH! EVER. NEVER.

For instance:

  • brains
  • kidneys
  • hearts
  • tongue
  • feet
  • ears
  • cheeks
  • blood
  • marrow

The fact that I don’t want to eat an animal’s vital organs should not disqualify me from being a foodie.  Consider the definition for offal (and really, is it a coincidence that it sounds just like awful?)

of·fal

   [aw-fuhl, of-uhl]  

noun

1.the parts of a butchered animal that are considered inedible by human beings; carrion.
2.the parts of a butchered animal removed in dressing;viscera.
3.refuse; rubbish; garbage.
Seems to me, I am on the right side of things.
Also, why are so many restaurant menus so contrived these days?  With chefs trying to out-innovate or out-gross each other, the overall dining experience seems to be a bit diluted.
How about cooking something simple but doing it exquisitely well.  Showcase your technique and your skill, rather than concerning yourself with chasing the newest trend.  Classics are classics for a reason.  I am not saying that ingenuity is bad, but it should be done in moderation.
So, I hereby stake my claim that I am a foodie.  Awful offal will never pass my lips. But I will enjoy each and every morsel secure in the knowledge that my love of food is deep and lasting.
 

Supersize Me July 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 5:27 pm

I am sure I will feel like a supersized version of me by the time I am done with this list.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Here is a novel idea, why don’t I start at the beginning.

So, remember my new co-worker/BFF Molly? (If I call her my BFF enough times she will either start to believe it or will take out a restraining order.  In one scenario I end up with a BFF, in the other with a really good story.  Either way, win-win.)

Anyway, Molly and I both like to eat.  With me, you can tell.  With her, she crossfits away the evidence.

Delighted that we have found a kindred inner hungry girl in one another, we set about creating a list of all the places we would like to visit.  This list is comprised of places neither of us has ever been to as well as places that one of us has been to that we would like to share with the other.  Here is the list:

Soho (http://www.sohocleveland.com/about.html)
Osteria (http://osteriacleveland.com/)
Amp150 (http://amp150.com/)
Barrio (https://www.facebook.com/Barrio.tremont)  – have to say, I am a little annoyed that they don’t have a website
Momocho (http://momocho.com/)
Spice (http://spicekitchenandbar.com/)
Luxe (http://luxecleveland.com/)
Quince (http://www.quince-restaurant.com/)
Dante (http://www.restaurantdante.us/dante-index.html)
Ginko (http://www.restaurantdante.us/ginko-index.html)
DC Pasta Company (http://www.restaurantdante.us/dcPasta-index.html)
DBA (http://www.restaurantdante.us/dante-akron-index.html)
Velvet Tango Room (http://www.velvettangoroom.com/)
Touch Supper Club (http://www.touchohiocity.com/)
The Greenhouse Tavern (http://thegreenhousetavern.com/)
Sweetie Fry (http://sweetiefry.com/) – what is the point of a website with no menu?
L’Albatros (http://albatrosbrasserie.com/)
Table 45 – private table (http://www.tbl45.com/)
Chianto (http://chinatocleveland.com/menu/)
Parallax(http://parallaxtremont.com/)
Prime Rib Steakhouse (http://primeribsteakhouse.com/)
Washington Place Bistro (http://www.washingtonplacelittleitaly.com/)
Tyfun Thai Bistro (http://www.tyfunthaibistro.com/)
BAC (http://www.bactremont.com/)
La Bodaga (http://www.labodega-tremont.com/)
Cafe Isabella (http://clubisabella.com/index2.php)
Lola Bistro (http://lolabistro.com/)
Lolita – Sunday (http://lolitarestaurant.com/)

It is going to take us quite some time to work our way through all these, but it should be fun. I may or may not post impressions/reviews after dining at these establishments.  If I can remember the outing.  Molly’s main goal here is to find cocktails that I, the non-drinker, will enjoy.

Did we forget any?  Do you want to join us for any of our outings?

Also, and I am certain she will kill me for this, but…Molly is a striking, tall, blond beauty.  She is bright, funny and in shape.  And single.  Please send recommendations for handsome, single, age-appropriate, non-drug using, gainfully employed, eligible men my way.  I will be weeding through these for her as we have determined her judgement cannot be trusted.

Anyway, back to food.  Tell me if we missed any or if you would like to join us for any.

 

I am back on the market July 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 9:05 pm

To my husband who may be a tad concerned after seeing the title of this post: it will all make sense as you keep reading.

I recently had lunch with a new friend.  She and I were discussing a shared acquaintance, particularly this person’s somewhat desperate approach at trying to establish friendships.  We both agreed that it was a bit off-putting.  My lunch companion stated that by our age, we should already have pretty good friendships established.  We either have our high school friends or our college friends or work friends, or combinations of all the above.

I agree with her. To some extent. And while I certainly don’t want to come off the same way as the acquaintance we were discussing, part of me kind of gets where she is coming from.

As human beings (particularly of the female persuasion) we have this need to feel connected to people. We seek out people to act as confidantes, as distractions from the drudgery of life, as people who can validate our fabulousness.

Throughout high school and college I don’t think that I was ever really lacking in friendships.  I am a pretty outgoing person and have been described as fairly charming, so meeting people was never a problem.

Then I got married.  My husband is a bit anti-social, and that hindered me a little bit from meeting people because now, we needed “couple friends”.  Also, we noticed another thing changing.  As more and more of our friends started having kids, we noticed a shift in those friendships as well.

So, I am at a place now where I do find myself looking for opportunities to develop new friendships. And it feels a lot like dating.

Hey, I Just Met You, And This is Crazy…
Much like I met my husband online, the abundance of social media channels has also allowed me to meet some lovely new ladies. But just like when you meet a boy at a club, how do you take that step from flirting at the bar, to exchanging numbers and suggesting you get together?  At least with the meat market club scene, everyone there has pretty much the same agenda.  The boys might be looking for a quick hook-up while the girls may be looking for ever-lasting love, but at the end of the night, everyone is pretty much looking for a connection.
This is not necessarily true when you meet fellow tweeters at an event.  You’re all there because of the event, but not necessarily because you are looking to bond with someone.  So if you meet someone and hit it off with them, how do you make that transition to suggesting a lunch or drinks date?

But Here’s My Number, So Call Me Maybe
OK, so let’s say you connected with this boy at the bar, and somehow have fumbled through the exchange of phone numbers.  Do you wait for him to call you?  Do you call him?  And do you even talk on the phone at all?  Or do you text?  It has been a while since I have had to give any consideration to things of this nature, but in the far recesses of my mind, I do seem to recall that these types of games were definitely played.
Well, I think the same thing applies to meeting new potential friends. You meet at an event.  Maybe you exchange numbers.  Do you call this girl or do you wait for her to call you?  Or do you just tweet her? Like “Hey, @maybemynewbestfriend it was awesome to meet you! Lunch soon? #totallynotastalker” Really?  Then you are putting yourself out there in front of the whole twitterverse, not just one person.  And how long do you wait before taking some kind of action?  Oy. My head is starting to hurt.

Girlfriend, girlfriend, you could be my girlfriend
So here’s the thing, I fall hard and I fall fast.  By now, we have probably hung out a few times and I feel like we are on our way to something real.  If we were dating, I may even be pretty close to sleeping with you.
This translates in the friend world too.  No, I will not sleep with you.  But I do feel pretty comfortable with you at this point, and barring any psychotic breaks on your part, we are probably on our way to being friends.

I recently told a new girl at work that she may not realize it yet, but I am going to make her my BFF.  Not long after that she told me she loved me (for having an extra pair of headphones.) This is pretty much the friendship equivalent of getting married.  In the next month or two, we are going away together for the weekend (like a honeymoon).

Sure, things are moving fast.  But it just feels right, you know?

Also, unlike dating, I can have more than one.  I don’t even have to live in Utah for it to be legal.  So, I am officially accepting all applications for new friends.  Knowledge of Carly Rae Jespen and  Justin Bieber lyrics not required.

 

My partner in crime June 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — llipps @ 2:27 pm

Here’s the thing.  My husband cracks me up.

People always ask how you will know when you have met THE ONE. And the answer is usually, you will JUST KNOW.  I don’t know about all of that.  I do know that what convinced me that Mr. Lipps was my happily ever after was that we always have fun together.  We always laugh, we always enjoy each other, and together we can make the best out of even the most mundane experience. That’s the kind of person you want to go through life with.

So, again, in the spirit of using this blog to be able to tell some of my favorite stories, that he is sick of hearing, here are a few gems about my beloved.

He Bit Me!
One night, Todd and I were sleeping after having friends over for a lovely dinner party. (The following events happened very quickly although it felt like an eternity)  I woke up with a crazy pain on my head. Not a headache. This was definitely external. Anyway, I woke up, crazy pain and I cried out, OWWW!!! Almost instantaneously Todd woke up and started crying (he denies this part, but I was there. I know the truth) and said “oh my god, I’m so sorry!”

So what had happened is this: he was dreaming and in his dream he was apparently in some sort of fight. His cunning opponents had his arms and legs pinned. Not one to be outdone, he fought back with the only thing he could – his mouth. Which in reality, manifested in him biting the top of my head like it was a big tasty apple.

He gave me a black eye
We were sleeping. Both on our backs, side by side, with our arms down at our sides. He jerked or twitched or convulsed. Doesn’t matter how you say it. End result was  his arm flying up and his fist connecting with my eye.

I may be exaggerating a bit about the black eye.  But he definitely made contact and it smarted.

He pinched more than an inch
We were sleeping. Yep, a lot of my stories about him start this way. So, we were sleeping. Again, I woke up in excruciating pain. I looked down and he was  clutching my stomach as if he was trying to rip it off my body.  Not even an explanation for this one.

You may be noticing a slant towards the violent. Which is hilarious because Mr. Lipps is anything but.  I think sleep brings out his inner fight club member.

He also has a habit of attempting conversation when he is half asleep.  Most of which he doesn’t remember.  All of which is entertaining.

Being the good wife I am, I like to celebrate his milestone birthdays.  I threw him a lovely 35th surprise party, complete with professional blackjack and poker dealers. For his 40th, we had a bowling party. I wanted to make this extra special so I went about putting together a video for him.

I don’t want to get away from the point of this blog or bore you with details of the party.  It is really about the video.

My directorial debut ended up being more of a feature film than a  digital short, as it comes in at 45 minutes.  It is made up of a number of different things.  And while I enjoy the whole video, I wouldn’t expect any of you to watch all 45 minutes. But, if you let it load and then go to minute 34:50, you will see the bloopers and outtakes section.  This is made up of funny pictures and more importantly, funny videos.  See, I got hip pretty quickly to the fact that my husband’s incoherent mumblings were pretty funny and started recording him in the mornings.  And now, it is in the video for all to enjoy.

https://vimeo.com/18310782  Again, if you just want the funny, go to 35:40.  If you are all caught up with the Bachelorette and anything else on your DVR, feel free to watch it all.  It really is delightful.

 

 
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