Feeding the eyes

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending an entire afternoon with a dear friend at the Denver Art Museum. I had only been once and it was a quick stop during a "Night at the Museums" tour, which took a group of us around to many museums in the city (which there is a plethora of in this brilliant city, I must say). The Denver Art Museum was just one.

We met at noon. I'll admit, I thought we'd roam around, chat and catch up, and be in and out in a couple of hours. When it was time to say our goodbyes, it had been four hours. Lovely. Just lovely. It was my friend, Harriet's, first time to the museum, so we were both up for exploring every nook and cranny. Beginning with fashion inspiration and moving on to sculpture, modern design, global works from Africa to Asia to Europe and America, we were in awe with admiration.

One of the last floors we viewed was the photography gallery. The museum is currently running an exhibit called "Women are beautiful" by photograph Garry Winogrand. The exhibit consists of a myriad of images of women living their every day lives. Quite nice.

I was also looking forward to this particular gallery as I've been thinking a lot about photography lately. More specifically, food photography. Photography has always been an art form that I've admired very much. I never thought I would be one to have the patience to learn it, however. But I keep talking about it. And admiring it. And so it is now very high on my list of skills to possess.

Great food photography is something that I've always believed is missing from this blog. Well done photos of food and drink always catch my attention, and time can quickly pass me by when I find a site or a photographer who captures food so beautifully. Remember TasteSpotting? Pages and pages (over 5,000!) of great photos. And now Pinterest. It can get addicting.

But it's so essential, I believe, as part of sharing the love of food that we food-obsessed do. The majority of the time, it begins with the image. The one that feeds the eyes with the flavors, textures and aromas that are to come.

Below are a few I've come across on Pinterest lately that I've looked at more than once. It is such an art, and I hope to join the ranks of those who capture the culinary world so well. I've never considered myself a very creative person. As Harriet and I left the art museum on Saturday, we both agreed that food is definitely an art and a form of creativity. It's absolutely where I can get creative when I focus on it. And now I look forward to learning the tips and tricks of capturing it.

Some food photos that have caught my eye as of late:

from blissfulbblog.com

from mylittlefabric.com

from BS' In the Kitchen

Come on. I don't care how anyone feels about beets. This sandwich looks divine, darling.



Super Simple Shredded Chicken

Chicken is, by far, a regular for me when it comes to getting in some protein. It can get a bit boring, though, yes? At times I can be lazydo a quick and dirty salt, pepper, grill action and be done with it. I can cut it up for a salad in a flash and I'm usually good to go.

Recently I've been craving a little variety and I'm pretty certain I've found what my mouth's been searching for. Instead of the grill I've opted for the oven. And though I've always thought baked chicken is nothing to twirl around in the kitchen about, baking then shredding it up, and tossing in a bit of spice for kick can yield something different that can be used in multiple ways.

When it comes to spices, my current favorites are garlic sea salt, ground chipotle pepper, and curry. Of course you can use whichever spice is your go-to in you repertoire, but below is a basic recipe to get you going. I'm loving using this shredded chicken a few ways:
  • For homemade shredded chicken tacos with corn tortillas, avocado, and pico de gallo
  • A south-of-the-border-style Benedict: corn tortilla, shredded chicken, sliced avocado or a dollop of guac, sliced roasted bell peppers, hot sauce, and a poached egg
  • Tossed in a salad, or served along skinned and chopped cucumber for a light and refreshing dinner (which I did tonight)
Whichever you decide, I hope this gives you a little variety in your standard weeknight chicken dinners. Enjoy, and be sure to let me know how you're savoring yours. 

Simple Shredded Chicken

4-5 ea. thinly sliced chicken breasts
1 teaspoon ground chipotle peppers
1 teaspoon ground curry
1/2 teaspoon garlic sea salt
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lay chicken breasts on plate and coat each on each side with the spices as desired.

Either line a baking sheet with foil, or spray lightly with the olive oil spray. Place the chicken on the baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (This is for "thinly sliced" chicken breasts. For whole chicken breasts, 22 minutes should do).
When the chicken is finished baking, remove from the oven and let it cool slightly. With two forks, or a fork and your clean hands, shred the chicken lengthwise. Place in a bowl, and if you want to spice up the insides of the breasts, add more spice to the shredded pieces as desired.

Really...how simple is that? Enjoy.



Food Explorations: Tampa

Entering into my sixth month residing in the sunshine state, I realized that I haven't talked much about the eating explorations I've done since I've been in town. I know, for shame! I am slowly but surely getting out, and below are a few spots that have caught my eye.
  • Datz Deli. I admit: this one is the highest on my list. And the fact that it's virtually around the corner from where I live makes it even better. From the outside, Datz doesn't look like it can hold much inside its venue on S. MacDill. But rest assured: those who stop and venture inside will enter a two-story foodie heaven. With a market, bar, prosciutto bar and two-story restaurant that greets patrons, a market with unique specialty items and a remarkable dessert case to the left that will make any food lover swoon, the spot has something for everyone. For me, at first bite it was the homemade chips with a drizzle of blue cheese aioli, as well as the blue cheese wedge salad--one of the best I've ever had. For some, it may be the prosciutto tasting bar and the venue's bevy of beer and wine selections (including a bottle from Solena cellars in Cartlon, OR, which I know I saw at the restaurant, but am not seeing it on the menu online. Hm.). The bottle of Solena coupled with my spotting a block of Tillamook cheddar cheese and I knew this place wasn't messing around. Go for a visit and tell me what you think. Datz Deli, 2616 S. MacDill Avenue, Tampa, FL 33629, http://www.datzdeli.com/
  • Cru Cellars. A girl has got to have a wine bar of choice on her radar when a glass at home, or in a big noisy restaurant, just won't do. For this wine girl, that wine bar/wine shop is Cru Cellars. Located actually just a block next to Datz Deli (how lucky am I?!) The wine shop which was formerly Gianpiero's Pick of Vine, was purchased by Sommelier Jennifer Bingham and her husband, Torrey, in August of 2010. Transplants from Chicago, the Binghams proudly took over the shop and added on a sweet little wine bar in the back with a modern but cozy flair. The wine bar serves a plethora of cheeses and charcuterie dishes, as well as chocolate sweet treats that are all meant to be paired with the wine, of course. And if you're simply looking to get in and out with a perfectly selected bottle of vino, the shop has rows and rows of wines that will have you covered. Cru Cellars, 2506 S. MacDill Avenue, Tampa, FL 33629, http://www.crucellarstampa.com/.

  • Bamboozle Café. At times (many for me) the craving for some good eats from a far away land come to life and it's time to scope out good ethnic cuisine in the area. I'm beginning to branch out and know I haven't even come close to what's out there. On a recent outing in Tampa's downtown district, I had lunch with a new friend at Vietnamese hot spot, Bamboozle. I love me a good vermicelli noodle bowl now and again, and Bamboozle delivered on my hopes and cravings that day. A heaping serving of white noodles, fashioned with what looked like a garden that lay atop it (green leaf lettuce, pickle, daikon & carrots, mint, bean sprouts, roasted chilis and crushed peanuts), chicken and a side of Bamboozle's zesty chili dressing sent me into heaven. And the best part about it was not feeling overly stuffed or guilty about what part I had eaten (and what part I had to take home). The venue prides itself on bringing its customers a healthy culinary adventure, and I do believe it's food that you can feel good about devouring. Bamboozle Café, 516 N. Tampa Street, Tampa, FL 33602, http://www.bamboozlecafe.com/.
I have much more exploring to do, but it will take some time. Do you live in Tampa, or have you visited and have any favorite foodie spots? Do tell. I'd love to continue to add to my list of haunts to try.


Cru Cellars on Urbanspoon


Culinary Travels

When I think about exploring different parts of the U.S., or the world for that matter, I believe food can play such a huge part in the adventure. Come on, what's better than embarking on an unknown destination to not only see what's buzzing there day in and day out, but to also taste the area's food? It's one way to really understand different regions, cultures, and just people in general by what they eat, how they prepare it, and what foods are special to them.

The now defunct Gourmet magazine used to showcase a series called "Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth". It was a cooking show in which Gourmet's editor at the time, Ruth Reichl, would travel around the globe, often times with a chosen celebrity in tow, and really get deep into the food of that destination. The series is no longer running, but its episodes can still be found on YouTube (of course). Below is one of my favorites. I hope Ruth finds some way to bring it back. We do seem to have oodles of these types of shows on the Travel Channel and Food Network, but there is something about listening to Ruth actually speak her words vs. put them down on paper that, I think, make these so special: she's got a great voice for narration.

Does it inspire you to dive deep into the cuisine of a specific culture? Are you now thinking your next travel adventure will have a foodie twist?

Happy travels and exploration!



The Season for Cinnamon

Is it just me, or have you noticed that cinnamon appears to be a hot topic these days? It’s no wonder. The unmistakable aroma and flavor of the ever-popular spice isn’t just something that is synonymous with the holidays. The use of cinnamon is highly popular during all winter months (and year round). And what’s even better for cinnamon lovers? The health benefits of cinnamon are becoming unveiled every day.

Cinnamon is, literally, the dried inner bark trees in the tropical Asian genus called Cinnamomum. This layer of the bark carries a good amount of nutrients within it. When it’s cut from the tree, it curls into its signature long stick form.

Aside from flavor, cinnamon has many health benefits. To name just a few:

  • It’s an excellent antioxidant source. This is great news for keeping our immune systems strong during these cold months.
  • Cinnamon has been known to keep you fuller longer, and it helps control blood sugar levels.
  • Cinnamon has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.
  • Studies have found that smelling cinnamon can boost cognitive function and memory.
  • It’s an excellent source of fiber, iron, manganese, and calcium.
  • Studies have shown that ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • It acts as a food preservative, inhibiting bacterial growth and food spoilage.
  • Cinnamon has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
An added bonus of the spice is its versatility. Cinnamon’s myriad uses allow you to utilize it in just about any dish you choose, from savory to sweet. Some ideas, as well as some of my favorite uses of cinnamon:

  • Start the morning off with a cup of hot water, freshly squeezed lemon, honey and a dash (or two) of cinnamon.
  • Kick up your morning bowl of oatmeal with a few sprinkles of cinnamon. To incorporate the flavor even more, I like to add a few dashes of ground cinnamon to the pot just as the oatmeal is finished cooking.
  • Add a little spice to your afternoon bowl of fresh-cut fruit and yogurt.
  • Marry it with your marinades in meat dishes.
  • Do you reside in one of the 49 states that were draped in snow this week? Heat up a delectable cup of hot cocoa and sprinkle it with cinnamon for an extra cozy treat.
Are you a fan of cinnamon? What’s your preferred way to enjoy its flavor and benefits?

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