A Revolutionary Dinner for Two

This past week, Coach and I took a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. If you have never been, it is well worth the trip, as you step back in time to explore the history of our Founding Fathers and the American Revolution as it unfolds. It was a long drive (well, a lot shorter and less harrowing than I imagine it was on horseback in the 1700’s!) with only one pit stop, but the anniversary dinner gifted from our children was worth the 600 mile drive alone!

At A Chef’s Kitchen on Prince George Street, Chef John Gonzalez treats his guests to a memorable evening of great food paired with great “find” wines. His “revolutionary” concept: one meal, one seating each night, menus varied with the seasons. Brilliant! That whole “teach a man to fish” concept makes for dinner classes that are fun, entertaining and absolutely delicious. In his adjacent shop, he sells wines, along with many of his favorite ingredients, so you can re-create his fabulous recipes at home.

The five course meal, paired with some of his favorite wines, is prepared in front of a “studio audience”-lucky us!- while Chef Gonzalez and his sous chef provide full instructions, valuable cooking tips and the recipes as well. 

As we entered the kitchen/studio, we were greeted with starters of Goat Cheese rolled in Macadamia Nuts and Figs and Prosciutto

paired with a glass of Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc from France.  

Below are the five amazing courses, each one yummier than the previous (it may be the wine talking, but I have to say this was one of the best restaurant meals we have had for quite some time). For this blog, I am providing photos and descriptions, but no recipes (I don’t have enough room!) However, if you wish to email me @ countrydesignhome@gmail.com for a specific recipe, I will be happy to send it to you.

First Course: Roasted Sweet Corn and Vidalia Onion Soup with Chive Oil and Rosemary Sour Dough Croutons.

Paired with Josef Bauer Gruner Veltliner 2011.

Second Course: Summer Squash Salad with Grilled Romaine, Lavender Infused Honey and Mustard Dressing  with A Chef’s Kitchen Skillet Baked Corn Bread (Well, apparently I was so excited about WHAT I was eating that I neglected to take a photo!) This is the sous chef explaining how to grill Romaine Lettuce without burning it.

Third Course: Shrimp Wrapped Cheaspeake Jumbo Lump Crab with Toasted Macadamias and Vodka-Spiked Watermelon with Red Onions.

Paired with Chateau de Valcombe Syrah-Grenache Rose 2011

Fourth Course: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Kurabuta Pork Tenderloin with Pepper-Cured Bacon, Braised Leeks, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce and Oven-Fried Sweet Potatoes.

Paired with Campos de Luz Old Vine Grenache 2010.

Final Course: Raspberry Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Crumble Crust and Lewes Dairy Soft-Whipped Cream.  The Chef created these beautiful plates for us and several other diners who were celebrating anniversaries and birthdays!! Took a few moments, but well worth the wait.

So, if you ever find yourself in Williamsburg, Virginia, and looking for a way to spend an entertaining and delicious evening, make sure to stop by A Chef’s Kitchen for a fantastic dining experience! Now it’s on to the Duke of Gloucester Street! Susan

Finding Finland

On this week’s editon of Wanderlust Wednesday, we are headed for Helsinki, Finland! I have to admit that, prior to our Baltic Sea Princess Cruise, I had no inkling of the beauty of these capital cities. This the the downtown market square where locals sell lovely hand-crafted items along the waterfront.

Helsinki, Finland is a port city founded in 1550, that became the capital in 1812. It is resplendant in ancient architecture,

museums and spectacular churches. We happened upon this photo shoot at the steps of the cathedral. Does the bride’s dress not appear as if it could float away on one of those clouds!? So pretty!

We disembarked from the cruise ship, and headed into town (well, at least that’s where we thought we were headed.) We ended up taking the long way around, finally making our way to the market square, thanks to a lovely local lady…but we did see some nice boats, so there was that! 

Once Coach and I actually found the dock area, we then took the ferry to Suomenlinna Fort  one of the main attractions of Helsinki. Now Coach, being a history teacher, really does appreciate a good fort. But I do have to say, this one was quite extraordinary. The architecture and the views were nothing short of spectacular. Built in the 18th century, the military fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to approx. 900 Finns who live and work there. The fort is (naturally) surrounded by water, and has spectacular 360 degrees of views of the inner harbor area.

This sentinel holds watch over the incoming ships.

Taking the ferry back to the mainland, we strolled through the streets and marveled at the gardens, (I always wonder what the views are for a pigeon perched on the head of a statesman?)

the statues and fountains in the city center.


Apparently it is a yearly tradition to add soap bubbles to this fountain (a protest to the suggestive pose). The sea lions find this quite amusing : )


Saying goodbye to beautiful Helsinki!  

On to our next port… Happy sailing! Susan

L’Italia Con La Familia

“Italy With My Family” in Wanderlust Wednesdays

The first time I saw the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun“, I immediately added a stay in Tuscany to my bucket list. Longing became a reality the summer of 2010, when we rented suites in a rustic villa  Il Castello di Fulignano located on the hilly outskirts of the medieval town of San Giminano.

The living room…

The pool at sunset…The view from our villa…a gathering storm over San GiminanoThe streets of San Giminano were lined with shops and cafes, a feast for the eyes and the palate…this is me and coach having dinner in an outdoor cafe… 

We ventured out to see the tuscan countryside, with trips to Lucca

and Pisa…who could go there and not assume some crazy pose with the Leaning Tower??!

We enjoyed fabulous wine tastings (not quite as enjoyable at one villa, as we were shown the door by the somelier, whom we apparently insulted.) However, this wine came from a  farmhouse winery, Fattorio Poggio Alloro, where we enjoyed a delicious local lunch : )

We made day trips to Siena, home of the spectacular Duomo Di Siena (Cathedral of Siena) a Gothic marble treasure dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries and  Il Palio, an annual horse race through the city square harking back to medieval times.

 We toured Florence, the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy, and home of Michelangelo’s David (sorry, no picture-taking allowed)

and the Ponte Vecchio bridge, lovely at sunset.

Lovely vacation, spectacular scenery, amazing food and wine, beautiful people…next stop…Venice!!!  But that’s a blog for another day. Ciao! Susan

Wanderlust Wednesdays

Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world…give me a plane ticket and rolling suitcase and I am off!!

Springtime each year I get a serious case of “itchy feet”. Having worked very hard since our last trip (August, 2011!!), we are looking forward to some vacation time this summer, but where to go?! Over the years, we have had the opportunity to visit some amazing places, both in the US and abroad. Still have a lot of the earth left to cover, but would like to share some of my favorite pics with you…so introducing…Wanderlust Wednesdays! (I realize today is Thursday, but I didn’t get to finish this post until this morning : ) Inspired by my daughter’s upcoming trip to Sweden, today’s travel pics will be about one of my favorite places, Stockholm.

Entering the Harbor by Ship

Downtown Shopping and Pubs…cobblestone streets, outdoor cafes, loads of “tourist” shopping

Searching for a place to enjoy the local pub culture, instead found this place! O’Leary’s Pub- completely decked out in Boston Sports Collectibles, while the Celtics were playing on the telly.

Colorful Architecture..even on the dreariest day the downtown is alive with people!

Phone Booth…don’t see these in the States

Hot Air Balloon…floating overhead between the buildings…breathtaking!

Ice Hotel…The Ice Bar in Stockholm. Everyone said “don’t bother, it’s just a tourist trap”…and it was. But it was very cool.

Where else could you get Vodka in the rocks?!?! And I got to wear this awesome fur cape. Pretty stylish, huh?

Fishing boats lined the harbor

This is our Princess Cruise Ship from the Alleyway

The Vasa Museum– the building was constructed around the Vasa ship that sank on its maiden voyage! The master boat builder thought it would be fun to add an upper deck, not factoring in that whole side to side balance thing. The ship was launched with much fanfare, two gusts of wind knocked it over and it sank to the bottom of the harbor! Early 1900’s, they figured out how to bring it back up, and with most of the ship’s carvings intact, they built the museum around it.

Vasa Ship Cherubs

Nightime Along the Docks…time to sail away to our next port! Hope you enjoyed my pics (taken with my Iphone : ) Happy Sailing… Susan

Old Cape Cod

“If you’re fond of sand dunes, and salty air, quaint little villages, here and there, You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod”- so the song goes.

We are fortunate to live only a little more than an hour’s drive away from our National Seashore, and equally as fortunate to have children who generously gifted us a weekend away at the Chatham Bars Inn. For those of you who have never ventured over the bridge to “The Cape”, Chatham is the quintessential Cape Cod town. Picture a quaint little village sitting on the ocean’s edge, cedar-clad homes and shake shingle roofs, the village lighthouse with it’s beacon lighting the way home for incoming sailors.Winter on the cape is calm and quiet, devoid of the thousands of tourists who flock there in the summer months to take advantage of miles of sandy shores and magnificent beaches. This time of year, solitude reigns, and while walking the beach with a few hardy souls, you may encounter a seagull or two, or the occasional pawprint in the sand, but this is the best time to enjoy all the beauty that the cape has to offer without fighting the crowds.

The perfect place for a weekend getaway, the Chatham Bars Inn has a long and storied history. Construction of the inn began in 1912, when wealthy Bostonian Charles Hardy purchased several parcels of waterfront land, with the intent of building a hunting lodge. Over the years, the inn has undergone additions, renovations and refurbishings, and what stands today is a spectacular historic resort with buildings scattered over 25 acres, all facing the Atlantic Seaboard.

Now this is not going to be a Hotels.com or Tripadvisor.com review, but I will tell you that the service was impeccible, the room was lovely, breakfast was delectable and the main inn was breathtakingly, simply elegant. Not lavish and overdone, our room was so “Country Pretty”- white trim, soft blue accents, heavenly plush bed and a view of the ocean. A perfect place to unwind and reconnect before heading home for another work week.

Country Design Home Unplugged

I know what you were thinking, that you were going to be treated to some soft, acoustic country music while you read my latest blog. Yeah….no. Today’s topic: how to unplug your toilet. When you live in a house built in 1857 (Click here for quick History 101), there are always ongoing repair and restoration projects-old wood, old wires and old pipes make for a constant drain on the pocketbook and the patience. Recently we have noticed that our toilet was running very slowly, and taking two to three flushes to clear it out. Could it be due to our recent brush with a stomach bug? Not to be indelicate, but a lot of time was spent on the “throne” in the past couple of weeks- let’s just say we should’ve had stock in Charmin’.

Speaking of thrones-nice segue, huh?- while we were in Paris a couple of years ago,we were fortunate to be paired with an incredible tour guide named Thierry. He educated us about all things French while we strolled through the palace and grounds of Versailles , entertaining us with anecdotal stories about King Lous XIV & Marie Antoinette. One of everyones favorites: back in the day, toilettes were placed in plain sight of everyone, so you could do your “business” while you were doing business! The king had several highly stylized toilettes, think Kolher by Elton John- decorated as if they were “thrones”, where he perched throughout the day. Not sure if this is true or not, but it made for an enjoyable afternoon of pondering the inner plumbings of the king while visiting the city of lights.

OK, back to modern day plumbing. We tried plunging it and flushing it repeatedly, with little result. So, rather than call the plumber, I turned to the internet (thank you, Al Gore) for the solution to my dilemma. I read several articles about how to clean it out naturally, and this seemed logical, and cheap, so I gave it a shot. For complete instructions, click the toilet. Essentially, you pour a generous amount of dishwashing soap into the toilet, add a large pot of boiling water (do NOT do this with bare feet!) poured from high above the toilet, wait a minute, then flush. Rinse, repeat, if necessary-which it was. I hated wasting that big bottle of Dawn Hand Renewal infused with Oil of Olay, but I figured it was a lot cheaper than the plumber’s bill, and it made the bathroom smell amazing! And guess what-it worked!! But only for a short time, so now we are back to square one. Anyone know a good plumber I can call? I know it won’t be Joe the Plumber-remember him from the last presidential campaign? Apparently he just won the Ohio Congressional Primary- too bad he wasn’t from Flushing, NY. Now that would have been great blogging material.

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