Coming soon: The Supper Letters

Exciting news!

Without further or due, I’d like to welcome to my new Substack newsletter, The Supper Letters — a newsletter about this midwest-dweller’s exploration of cooking, living, loving, and eating well. The first issue launches in May 15th!

If you feel so inclined, read more about the newsletter and subscribe.

With the combination of the numerous photos I take of my food (see my Instagram story highlights 🙃) and my itch for writing about my experience in the kitchen… this newsletter was inevitable. (It’s just taken me a really long time to come up with a name!) If you enjoy my the little vignettes of food writing, “What’s on My Plate,” and “My Week in Meals” posts here, you’ll love what I have to share over on The Supper Letters. Come and join me on this journey!

I hope these letters can be a soothing, cozy addition to your inbox. I hope they can inspire you to eat well and love well. They are honest reflects of me figuring out life through cooking and sharing conversation around good food… 

I hope to see you in your inbox soon!

What’s On My Plate: Takeout Food and Deviled Eggs

I haven’t been in the kitchen too much these past few weeks. My days have been filled with work, travel, and being present for the ones I love.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t eaten good food, though.

There are a few dishes that have held rich flavors and have brought together good conversation.

The first one being this Chinese food when my Love and I were in Madison, Indiana, last weekend. We drove down to the little river city city for a couple of days to get some R&R post- and pre-busy weeks. We stayed at the lovely new hotel called Fairfield, that was constructed in Madison’s Historic Eagle Cotton Mill. It was right by the river, with a beautiful view of the waterfront and the bridge that connects Indiana to Kentucky. Saturday night, we decided to order take-out and bring it back to the hotel to enjoy the view. And I’m so glad we did, because the food and the view was better than any sit-down returned we could have chosen. We got Chinese taken-out from Hong Kong Kitchen. It was the richest, most delectable Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. I got the Orange Chicken, a favorite of mine. But instead of being a fast-food like glazed, nuggets of fatty chicken, this was chunks of white meat with a thick sauce that was flavored with real orange peels and zest. I also got the fried rice, which wasn’t to oily or yellow. I could tell it was freshly cooked and fried.

My Love and I enjoyed the view while the sunset. We also got a little bit of (overpriced but delish) wine from the hotel’s little kiosk. We delved into good conversation and questions for each other the rest of the night. It was exactly what we needed between bouts of busy life. I can’t wait to go back to Madison again soon. For the food, the views, and more rest and good conversation.

Another place where I’ve had good food is in my Love’s new apartment. After a big day of moving, we sat down around his dinning room table and had Greek’s meatlovers pizza. The pizza crust was delightfully fully and thick (my favorite kind of pizza crust) and, being the Midwestern I am of course, I dipped in it ranch sauce. It was the perfect moving day feast. Earlier that day, I also got the chance to make a wonderful salad, which included chopped Roman lettuce and kale, quinoa, a few grape tomatoes, roasted chickpeas coated in lemon, cumin, sesame seeds, and a lemon dressing.

And finally, Easter. My family had our traditional celebration a few weeks back, because we couldn’t all be together today. We cooked family recipes and enjoyed a lovely easy spring celebration. I contributed two things to the meal: deviled eggs and hot cross buns. Deviled eggs are a holiday staple that we make for almost ever major holiday, but this was the first year I baked hot cross buns. I used a traditional English recipe, but instead of sultanas (I couldn’t find them at any local grocer) I used chocolate chips (because I don’t like raisins). These little buns where warm and decadent. I used an apricot glaze on them, which gave them a wonderful little sheen and melted nicely with with the warmth of the cinnamon and allspice. They were rose to perfection, opening up to be nice and fluffy inside, which made be giddy. I’ve always had trouble proofing bread. Overall, I think my first time making hot cross buns was a success.

I’d also like to mention that my mom made these lovely little confetti cupcakes that just made me so happen when I bit into them. They even had little rainbow sprinkles on top.

For the actual celebration of Easter today, my siblings and Love got together and had a little feast, which one of my siblings provided the food, I brought one dish: deviled eggs. If I could only bring one dish of a family holiday gathering, it would be deviled eggs — forever and always. Although next year, I want to attempt dying the eggs pink first and then deviling them, like this.

Even though I haven’t been in my kitchen much because of busy week on top of busy week, with little a R&R vacay in between, I’m glad to capture these little moments where food had brought together good conversation and memories.

This spring, I’m looking forward to writing more about the local foods I’m picking up as they start to become available. Along with that I want to start a mini garden in my apartment and learning about preserving and pickling, something that I have been wanting to experiment with for a long while.

Feast in Franklin 2022

Feast in Franklin 2022

For the past two years, a group of restaurants in Franklin, IN, have come together each spring to create specials and unique menus to celebrate the local food scene. They call it Feast in Franklin. This year, the feast took place from Monday, March 14, through Sunday, March 27. As a person who loves to eat good, local food — and since most of the restaurants were within walking distance from my home this year — I was excited to try my favorite group of cafes, pubs, and diner’s fresh eats. I visited four out of the nine participating restaurants during these two weeks. I wish I could have made it around to all nine restaurants, but I would give the ones did visit solid A+. I hope to have more time next year to taste the special menus of the places I didn’t cross off my list this year.

Here’s a recap of some of the food on my plate during Feast in Franklin 2022.

We’ll begin with Main and Madison Market Cafe

A classic cafe, Main and Madison is my go-to cafe for decadent pastries, silky lattes, and rich entrees. Their Feast in Franklin menu was no short of these three rules. I usually sit in the cafe with my laptop or a book, but this meal was worth my whole attention.

What we got: An impossible breakfast sandwich, vanilla latte, and a blueberry scone.

Then comes Richard’s Brick Oven Pizza

Richard’s Brick Oven Pizza is a cozy, eclectic restaurant that is my favorite to visit on a late, balmy night. The garage doors let the ambient light leak onto the sidewalk and pull you in from the darkening evening. Along with having a great bar featuring many local hops and vines, their brick oven is the centerpiece of the room, where you get to see the pizza baking while sitting at your table and sipping on something delightful. Richard’s pizza is probably my favorite in the entire town — hence the reason I didn’t get a good photo of the whole pizza; we dived before I got a chance to take a good photo!

What we got: A house salad; brick oven pizza with pesto, bacon, and garlic; and chocolate truffles with blueberries for dessert.

Next up, The Willard

While the food is similar to any classic American pub fare — burgers, pizza, combo baskets, and craft beer — The Willard is unique because it is housed in an 1860s home with a long history. In the 1920s, it was known as The Willard Hotel — a neon sign that graces the dining room states so boldly. You can feel the Willard’s extensive history as soon as you walk up the front steps and into the door. Often, it’s busy on the weekends, so my group and I sat a the bar and ordered our food before we hopped over to The Artcraft to see the movie Caddyshack on 35mm film. 

What we got: The ranch pizza; a combo basket that included poppers, breaded mushrooms, cheese cubes, onion rings, celery sticks, and ranch dip; and a basket of breadsticks.

Last but not least, The Garment Factory

The Garment Factory was the last stop of the Feast in Franklin tour for me — and it did not disappoint. This building’s rich history and beautiful event space overlook Youngs Creek. The Lounge at The Garment Factory serves traditional American food every Tuesday and Thursday evening. It’s one of my favorite spots to dine in the evening after a long day. After a bit of wine and a three-course meal, I can say from first-hand experiences that you can walk back home with a full stomach.

What we got: Chili soup; a fajita burger with fries; a lemon raspberry cake (his desert); a chocolate brownie with vanilla; and a chocolate drizzle (her desert).

Overall, this year’s little Feast in Franklin adventure was a success. Even though I didn’t make it to all the restaurants for their unique menus, I still visit them frequently… and they are amazing! I’ll list them here so you can check them out yourself the next time you’re visiting want a bit to eat.

Bon Appétit!

The comforts of bread

Is herbed oil and bread a meal? According to the wisdom of Tamar Adler, it can be.

“Bread can be the thing you’re eating, not a prelude to the meal, or an afterthought. It is not bad for you. Whether as piles of toast, generously buttered, or thick slices rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, eating bread with intention is a good dietary strategy.

I can think of no better way to get good, healthy vegetables, lush, ripe, and in season, to the middle of your plate than to let them balance on freshly toasted bread. Instead of worrying about lots of ingredients with which to trot around, buy a loaf of bread with a hard crust. Pick it based on how enticing it looks, and on how good it smells. Pick something that is round and fat or, if it is oval, that still had good girth at it send, so you can get a lot of big, healthy pieces out of it. Make it a loaf that will require slow, deliberate chewing.”

She goes on about bread for the rest of the chapters, and it’s a scrumptious few pages to read… but I’ll get back to my lunch now. On this February Monday afternoon, I’m letting myself divulge in some bread and oil with Rosa Maria seasoning and not letting myself feel guilty about it. I also made some kale chips, which I may say that I never thought I’d like, but my palate has come around to. While I scarf down this delectable yet simple meal, the family pup sits beside me, opening her big eyes and begging for a bit of herself. (I give her a few nibbles.)

Bread is often a symbol for food, eating, and life: “Breaking bread” means to eat. “Our daily bread” refers to food. “It is also called the staff of life, which I like: bread there, all life leaning against it,” says Adler.

I’m eating bread in my mom’s kitchen today. I have a long to-do list yet a strong desire to go for a walk in the balmy, late-winter, 60-degree weather outside and ignore all my responsibilities.

I’m starting a new job soon. It makes me simultaneously nervous and excited. It will be nice having the stability of a 9-5, a steady paycheck, and insurance. Yet I’m nervous. I often question myself — Is the job meant for me? Will I have the work/life balance I crave, or will I be up late on weeknights finishing up work? I’m really good at what I do? Will I disappoint my new co-workers? Will they second guess if they made the right decision in hiring me? Can I learn everything I need to in the first 90 days and show competence? Can I do this?

Thus far, I’ve changed jobs more than I expected too. My career hasn’t really gone in the way I expected. But do careers really go the way as expected anyway? No. They surely don’t most of the time. Which is why I’m here, with a new job.

At the end of 2021, I stepped away from my job. (My company was being acquired, and I chose to not continue with them.) It was a risk, I know. I decided to start this new year with a blank slate. I took the jump into the unknown and said “no thank you” to a salary with benefits. But in saying no, I got to keep my intellectual property. I chose to have ownership over my work outside of the 9-5 workweek.

I did not expect this to happen in my career. Once I found a full-time job, I thought I’d have time to get really good at it and settle into the rhythm for the next five to six years before moving onto a company of my own creation. Instead, I was back working part-time at the beginning of the year, but with the right to own anything I create.

Since making that decision, I’ve realized if I’m going to make anything of my own, I better start now. But when starting now, my biggest question has been the same that I’ve found throughout my entire career: am I really good at what I do? Can I be good at writing regularly? Do I live a life worth writing about? Are my thoughts and viewpoints on life interesting enough for people to follow along?

Within the next week, I’ll be starting a new full-time job soon. I’m genuinely looking forward to it, but I also want to make room for my own projects in my own time. And I’m here, in this intersection of opportunity and potential, and I’m questioning myself if I can do it all. Do I have what it takes to be good at a new job and be a writer? Am I good enough? Am I strong enough? The questions can feel like heavy bricks on my chest.

I realize that these are all these questions that pivot on self-doubt — and no one can reassure me more than myself. I also know I’m just ranting about my worries and endless internal dialogue at this point. But these are the constant questions that plague me into never getting any work done. Instead, they fester and leave me staring at a blanket screen while precious time passes along.

My fears of not being good enough or worthy enough for any of my hopes and dreams can feel crushing. Maybe if I give these questions and insecurities time on the page, they will leave me alone long enough to actually write something worth reading. Nevertheless, I will eat the bread beside me for lunch. I will let all my impending questions on life and doubt lean on its hard crust and soft, gluten center. I’m going to let this bread fill my belly. At the same time, I muddle around in the process of creativity — finding what I am meant for, what my doubt can say about me, and ultimately reaching for those words that, in my heart, I know I need to say.

A Week in Meals – seven warm dishes in winter

The temperatures have dipped down into the single digits and I have been spending most of my days in either two place – wrapped up in a blanket while typing away at my computer or in my kitchen cooking warm and hearty dishes to keep away the shivers.

These are a few dishes I have cooked (or order from a cafe) recently that have kept me warm and cozy on these bitter January days.

What have you been cooking?

An ending note: during my social media break this month, I read seven books! I plan on writing a post on the titles that kept me company over these last few weeks, but until then, I’ll leave you with the cover of the gorgeous book: Five Tuesdays in Winter (the inspiration for the title of this post).