A Night on the Town

Almost 10 years ago, Jay and I started exploring new cities by exploring new food places by way of what we have affectionately referred to as the “Team M Progressive Dinner.”

Progressive dinners are not a new concept. In fact, they’ve been around for quite a long time, but usually refer to a dinner party with successive courses prepared & eaten in different homes. For Jay and I, we discovered that most of the time when we travel, we are typically in a new city or place for only 2-3 days at the most. So, really, that’s only 9 opportunities to try the locale cuisine…and that’s just NOT enough. 🙂

It all started years ago when we were day-tripping up to Asheville, North Carolina. It’s one of our favorites places on earth (especially because it was the birthplace of our daughter<3). A city like Asheville presented the common problem we are faced with…too many incredible food places and not enough meal times!?

So our solution was to start with breakfast #1, where we would split something (most likely the most recommended menu choice, etc.) and then move on to breakfast #2, and do the same. We would walk around, explore the city and then come back around for an earlier lunch #1, split & share, walk to lunch#2, and repeat for dinner #1 and #2. We typically save the most expensive, decadent places for the lunch options because most places have a more affordable lunch menu, but with the same high caliber of food. Thus, the Masanotti Progressive Dinner.

 

This is the way we’ve explored almost every city we’ve traveled to: New York City, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Sonoma, Charleston, Wilmington, Asheville, Black Mountain, Chicago and more.

Living in a thriving and growing city like Charlotte, this is even our preferred method of exploring our OWN ‘hood as well. Date nights are few & far between with a 2yr. old at home (#babysittersareexpensive) and there are SO many great restaurants — new & old — in Charlotte that it would take FOREVER for us to try all of them. So, the progressive dinner is the way for us to go try the latest & greatest a few at a time.

Here are some my tips for planning a super fun progressive dinner:

  • Pick the Right Places: A typical progressive dinner includes one course at a different location: appetizers & drinks at one place, main course at another & dessert/after-dinner drinks at a third.

    It’s easiest to pick a food theme to explore or places with a similar cuisine so it’s not completely random. I mean, I can eat all the food, all the time…but I typically don’t start with sushi, move on to lasagna and then finish with fried mochi ice cream…or do I? No. Kidding. Don’t do that, just pick places that have a similar thread.

  • Location & Travel Time: Try to plan the progressive dinner locations to be within walking distance or no more than a 10min. drive in between. As long as the 1st & 2nd places are close and the 3rd is near or on the way home, that works too!

    If you’re pulling an all-day affair in an uber-walkable city like New York and plan for the breakfast #1, breakfast #2, etc., combo I mentioned above…THEN it’s probably better to space out the various food establishments a little more to allow for more digestion time.

  • The Funds: Unless you’re #moneybags, you might want to space out the $$$$ places in between the $ or $$ places. Typically it’s cheaper to do apps or shared plates at the more expensive places and then you can get an entree at the cheaper ones. Or flip it around, just don’t go all 4-$ on all three stops, that’s just crazy…or if you do, invite me:) Eating the progressive dinner way should be easier on the wallet because you can split & share smaller plates at more places to try the best dishes!

We actually JUST walked in from our latest Date Night/Progressive Dinner in Charlotte, and it was good, but not great. We started at RockSalt for their $1 Oyster Happy Hour and it was SO. DANG. GOOD.

They never disappoint and have the best oysters. Then we walked across the parking lot with grandiose plans to do dinner at the new HOT spot, Flourshop, before ending with drinks at Dot Dot Dot or Amelie’s. BUT when the restaurant doesn’t take reservations or use the NoWait App, you usually end up with a wait. Ours was 45min. which typically wouldn’t be a problem, but 30 of those minutes we watched a 4-top sit EMPTY…the same 4-top that we were then sat at around the 45min mark. Something went down, I have no clue what…but we STARED at that empty table and it was pretty disappointing. The food was pretty good from what I could tell, but we had to order & eat SO fast (#babysitterproblems) that we really didn’t get to enjoy it…nor did we get to do dessert. But c’est la vie, we enjoyed the night with friends (ALWAYS the best part) and the food.

Which brings me back to the biggest point I made earlier…when you do a progressive dinner you HAVE to be able to roll with the punches. If you need help picking places for your own progressive dinner, shoot me an email! I really would LOVE to pair different places together for you to try…date night, girls’ night, family night, whatever!

Happy Eating & Happy Weekend <3

 


Foodie Friday | National Strawberry Month

Happy National Strawberry Month!

May is ALMOST over and I just realized that it’s National Strawberry Month! Without even knowing that, we’ve been consuming strawberries at a probably alarming rate…all month. We actually went strawberry pickin’ at a local farm at the beginning of May.

 

That day we picked 2lbs. of strawberries for $4…and they were divine! Red all the way through, none of that  crispy white center crap you get in the grocery stores. Speaking of grocery stores, we did get strawberries from Harris Teeter last week (buy 1, get 1 free!) and they were actually REALLY good…red and juicy…who knew?!

So for today’s Foodie Friday, I wanted to feature some fun strawberry recipes and leave you with one that I am going to try this weekend (perfect for the wilting on-the-way-out berries):

FRUIT PIZZA

This was actually a go-to recipe for me in high school! Anytime our classes would have parties, I would bring this delicious dessert pizza. Don’t let the name gross you out, it really is yummy:

This recipe is SIMPLE!! Sugar Cookie dough, rolled out and cooked according to the package (10-12min). Mix together 1 8oz. package of cream cheese and 8oz. of whipped cream (I try to make homemade whipped cream instead of the cool whip stuff). Let cookie cool and then spread topping evenly on top. Arrange fruit of choice…kiwis, strawberries and blueberries are my favorite and VOILA!

Strawberry Avocado Salsa
from Cooking Light

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr

 

Strawberry, Pistachio & Goat Cheese Pizza
from Cooking Light {this is another one I am trying THIS week!}

 

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr

and lastly, for those wilted berries in your refrigerator…this recipe comes from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. Remember back when I gave away a copy of her beautiful Super Natural Living Every Day cookbook? Well today’s super special recipe feature comes from that book. I can’t tell you the number of hours I’ve already spent oogling the food photography and delicious in that book…and I think it might be my summer challenge book (still deciding). So enjoy:

Roasted Strawberries

Photo credit: Heidi Swanson © 2011 via design*Sponge

Ingredients
8 ounces / 225 g small to medium strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon port wine
A few drops balsamic vinegar

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the middle of the oven.

It is important to use a rimmed baking sheet or large baking dish for this recipe—you don’t want the juices running off the sheet onto the floor of your oven. If you are using a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper.

Cut each strawberry in half. If your strawberries are on the large side, cut them into quarters or sixths. Add the berries to a mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt. Pour this over the strawberries and very gently toss to coat the berries. Arrange the strawberries in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast for about 40 minutes, just long enough for the berry juices to thicken, but not long enough for the juices to burn. Watch the edges of the pan in particular.

While still warm, scrape the berries and juices from the pan into a small bowl. Stir in the port and balsamic vinegar. Use immediately or let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

makes about 1/2 cup / 5 oz / 140 g

Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. via design*sponge.

 


Backlog…Foodie Friday, Mother’s Day & More!

It is officially the end of what I’ve dubbed “The MOST Busiest of my Entire Year and It’s Only MAY” week! I have two major events at school, Girls on the Run Awards and my GOTR team’s season culminating party AND the 5k race this morning. To top it all off, it is Mother’s Day weekend! What a sweet way to end this crazy week. Jay and I will head down to the wonderful town of Blythewood, SC to visit and celebrate my mother and grandmothers.

I apologize for missing yesterday’s Foodie Friday and for being a little MIA this week, I’ll do better next week…hopefully:) Today I wanted to dedicate this post to my mother. My mom and dad have the sweetest marriage. They just happen to be two of my most favorite people in the world and they are HILARIOUS. I wish you all could meet them because they will make you smile and most likely have you rolling with the greatest “pee-your-pants” laughter you’ve ever experienced.

My mom is the most beautiful woman I know. She is firm and sensitive, funny and sweet…she is loving and fiercely loyal. She had me at a young age and was and is one of the MOST servant-hearted women I’ve ever met. She ALWAYS put others before herself. She is hilarious when it comes to shopping. She’s getting better, but she is one of those…”well it’s on sale, so I must buy 5 of them” kind of shoppers. She is secretly creative and has so many skills…of which gardening is NOT one:) She is a wonderful cook and loves to play games, watch (or fall asleep during) movies, loves to dance (my mom LOVES some hip hop) and is seriously the most generous person I know. I love her for all her good, all her bad and for every freckle on her face. I take a huge, huge amount of pride when family and friends tell me how much I am like her, because if I had my choice of mentors and influences, she would be my pick.

I can only hope that some day soon I can be a mother so that my mom can be the AMAZING grandmother I know she will and wants to be. She is super special and today, tomorrow and everyday I am thankful that she is mine.

My mother…Myra Branham Boulware

 

told you she's got mad skills

 

thank God for freckles

my family...this is what we do

 

she dyed my hair pink...looks pretty proud about it too...

I can’t leave you hanging with NO Foodie Friday recipe…so I’ll leave you with a quick, simple recipe that my MOM made me all through high school:

Myra’s Breakfast Burrito

2 Eggs
1 Tortilla (I used whole wheat tortillas)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Salt & Pepper
Bacon (cooked and crumbled)
Mayonnaise (DUKE’s…DUH!)

1. Scramble the eggs in a skillet over med-high heat.
2. When cooked through, sprinkle cheese and bacon on top.
3. Heat tortilla (covered) in microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften it up.
4. Spread mayo down the middle of tortilla (about a tablespoon worth)
4. Place egg mixture on mayo and roll tortilla like a burrito

Delicious! So if you hate mayo, you can use your favorite salsa…and if you’re feeling really sassy, throw some onions and green peppers into the egg mixture with the cheese and bacon. That’s the way we do in the COUNTRY…:)

Have a great mother’s day weekend!!