Supper Club: February 10, 2010

Appetizer: Late Summer Tomato Bruschetta. This recipe calls for canned tomatoes and I would definitely go with that when you’re making this dish in the winter, when tomatoes are not in season. But during the height of tomato season, though, always go fresh.

Entree: Baked Salmon with Lemon Caper Butter. This was a simple, yet flavorful dish that is quick and easy to make. I really enjoyed the salmon, especially since it incorporated capers, yum. You can definitely whip up this recipe on a weeknight, easy-peasy.

Side Dish: Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Rind. A solid asparagus dish.

Dessert: Linzer Bars. A fun little dessert but I thought it was a bit too sweet for my tastebuds. If you are in the mood for a sugar injection right into the veins, then this is the dessert for you.

Supper Club: February 3, 2010

Appetizer: Three-Fruit Salsa. A refreshing fruit salsa that incorporates vegetables as well. I really enjoyed it. Kate isn’t a fan of cantaloupe and substituted kiwi instead and it worked well. And you definitely need to get the chips with a hint of lime to go along with the salsa.

Entree: Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones. Whenever I think of calzones, I usually think of red sauce encased in bread. This was a different take on that, instead of red sauce, it was pesto. I thought it was okay, but I’m a St. Louis girl, next time, serve it with a side of red sauce.

Side Dish: Israeli Cauliflower with Panko. I thought this dish came out on the dry side and a bit bland. Maybe I didn’t steam the cauliflower long enough or maybe the panko made it dry, either way, it tasted dry. Weird, huh? I think next time, I’ll find a roasted cauliflower dish.

Dessert: Apple Turnovers. Loved the apple turnovers, especially a la mode. The turnover had a slight tartness to it which is great because that cuts some of the sweetness. And just to let you know, it warms up great the next day in the microwave.

Our Trip to the DR

Jen and I had decided that we were overdue for a vacation. And not just any old trip to see friends and family. No, we were going to go someplace warm, with a beach, just the two of us. Checking our calendar, we found the perfect excuse: if you combine Valentine’s Day with Jen’s 30th birthday (just 4 days apart), you can throw in President’s Day to save Jen a day of vacation. We made our plans and shipped off early on Saturday, the 13th for an all inclusive at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The Peimannses (Peimenn?) and Lakes both honeymooned in Punta Cana and loved it, so we completely bit their style. Jen did the legwork and found a deal at Royal Suites Turquesa through Apple Vacations and we were on our way.

Upon arrival, we were struck by the natural beauty of the resort. We found our way to the Sports Bar to get some food, as it was in between mealtimes, and got a good tour of the grounds in the process. After filling our tanks, we chilled on the beach and ordered room service for dinner, as we were tired from the early morning and looking to unwind completely.

On Sunday morning, we met with the Apple Vacations rep who explained the tours and gave us valuable information about the island. We registered for two tours and then proceeded to laze around on the beach, reading, sleeping, eating and swimming for the rest of the day.

The resort had beach beds and chairs with a variety of sun and shade options. I was very diligent with the sunblock and the shade seeking, so while I did get some sun, I managed to avoid the vacation-altering sunburns that so many of our fellow travelers were sporting throughout the week. Sunday night we had a romantic dinner at the Royal Gourmet, a restaurant reserved for guests at the Royal Suites, and enjoyed the night air from our patio.

A quick word about the Royal Suites. We chose this particular hotel for a couple reasons. One, it was recommended by Stephanie, who stayed there on her honeymoon. They enjoyed it and we figured we would as well. Two, it was adults only. Now, the Palladium resort was actually four resorts on one large property. The Royal Suites was the most “exclusive”, not allowing kids and allowing us access to the Royal Gourmet, probably the best restaurant on the property. This might sound trivial to you, but when we ventured to other restaurants or walked down the beach, the running and screaming little shits just drove us crazy. We definitely preferred the option to relax in peace and quiet.

On Monday, we got on a bus and headed to a snorkeling tour. We got on a boat and went out into the ocean, sunning ourselves on the top deck along the way.

Once we reached our destination, we got out and explored a coral reef with lots of tropical fish. It was beautiful. Probably not as beautiful as Captian Cook’s Cove in Kona, but we have very high expectations for snorkeling spots. What can I say? We’re spoiled. After exploring the reef, we went into this penned-in area where they have nurse sharks and stingrays to swim with. It was really neat. Even though you know that nurse sharks are vegetarians and bottom feeders, it’s still a jolt to look down and see a six foot shark just below you. After that, the boat took us to a natural pool — a shallow, wave-protected area well off the coast where we could swim and enjoy drinks from a floating bar. After returning to the resort, we staked out a couple of beach chairs and chilled for the rest of the afternoon and evening (starting to see a pattern?).

Afterwards, we headed to dinner at the steak and seafood restaurant. Dinner was good, but the highlight was a quiet stroll along the beach back to our room. Along the way, we saw an impressive sand pyramid with accompanying sphinx.

The next day we got up early and piled into a rugged truck for a trip up a mountain. It was a windy, hilly, bumpy ride that made the rest of the Americans sound like over-protected ninnies, but once we finally got to our destination and put on our gear, we knew it was all worth it.

That’s right: Zip Lines!

Doug and Stephanie did zip lines and loved them, so we figured it would be fun, but really, I had no idea it would be this awesome.

Look at that shiteating grin!

The longest zip line was almost half a mile over a valley and a river. It was incredible. You literally felt like you were flying. Just go experience it yourselves. It was great.

Afterwards, we came back and (surprise, surprise) laid on the beach for the rest of the day.

Our dinner that night was at the Italian restaurant. Afterwards we came back to the room and pretty much just went to bed. One thing that cannot be overestimated is just how exhausting it is to lay in the sun all day. I don’t think there was a day that we went to bed after 11.

Since we went to bed so early on Tuesday, I was up naturally around 7AM on Wednesday. We had blocked this entire day out for shopping and chilling on the beach, so I wanted to make sure we got good chairs. Since I was up anyway, I decided to partake in the Towel Game (aka the MFing Towel Game). This “game” is one where you sprint out the beach at the ass crack of dawn and toss a towel down on the best possible beach chairs to call dibs on them. Then, you can go back to bed, eat breakfast, whatever, and you still have a good seat on the beach. We had lucked into good spots the previous days, but I didn’t want to risk it.

After breakfast, we did some shopping with the various vendors along the beach and then laid on the beach for the rest of the day. Shocking, I know.

Now, you may be wondering how we can spend so much time on the beach. Jen went through three Matthew Riley books, a bunch of magazines, and half of a sudoku book. I powered through Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball (easily my new favorite non-fiction book) and the new Chuck Klosterman book. Also, we had many opportunities to hit the swim-up bar in the pool, frolic in the ocean, and take naps. I’m not usually a sedentary person, but I definitely see the appeal of the beach bum lifestyle.

On Thursday, we celebrated Jen’s birthday (I won’t say which one, but her age rhymes with “dirty”) at breakfast with some great French Toast. We went back to the room and packed, preparing for our long journey back to the cold and snowy States. It certainly was a letdown to come back, but we learned a few things:

  1. All-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean are awesome.
  2. We really can lay on the beach all day.
  3. Five nights really isn’t enough (but what is?).

We had a great time, and we’re definitely not waiting that long to take a vacation again. Click here for all the pictures.

Hello, From Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!

That’s right, Bob and I are here, soaking up the Caribbean sun, frolicing in the clear, turqouise waters, avoiding the St. Louis snow. We thought we would like to let all you guys know that so you can be jealous. :-) Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about our trip when we get back!

Have fun at work on Monday! (Shoot, even if I wasn’t here, I would still have Monday off. Go President’s Day!)

Super Bowl Party: Get Ur Pork On!

If you know our group of friends, you know that if there is one thing that we love to do, it is eat. Last year, we had a Chili Cook-Off for our Super Bowl party. This year, we decided to go with pulled pork for our competition element, as pulled pork is friggin’ awesome.

Our spread was mighty, with five people competing for the pulled pork title. Additionally, we had Andrew’s soup, Kevin’s homemade spaghetti, Yao’s spare rib sandwiches and assorted veggies, fruits, and desserts. The judging was tight, with 5 close contenders. While all of the porks were tasty, one chef emerged as victor: Colin. Congrats, and remember: Respect Thy Swine!

In addition to the food and the company, the game was pretty good as well. The Saints won and everyone was pretty OK with that. Woooo!!!!

Click here to see all the pics. Next year, we’re thinking a dip-off, so get your dip recipes perfected, you’ve only got a year until D-Day (dip day)!