Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Girls Night In Serves Up Fun with Amazing and Delicious Local Eats

The table is ready! Pretzels, cupcakes, savory sides!
I recently did a feature with my media affiliate Explore-Philly, where we worked with UK company Butlers in the Buff, a new twist on bachelorette parties. For the evening, we had our very own butler in the buff, Daniel, serving us all night.

I mean, it’s research, people. I am a writer, (and actually half the small guest list was writers) and we all work very hard.  We quite enjoyed the eye candy and being served all night long, as well as mixing fabulous drinks and serving excellent food.

We began with cocktails from Hangar vodka- I had bought a cherry juice to try, and Daniel got creative in the kitchen, mixing excellent cocktails. 
We also enjoyed Barefoot and Cupcake wines, and Diet Cokes.

Smoked Bacon Bruschetta from KoP Magganio's

A pretzel tray from the generous Philly Pretzel Factory in Collegeville was sent along with a huge amount of Rivets and delicious honey-mustard dip, cheese sauce, and cinnamon dip, which were just delicious. This was perfect as everyone enjoyed pretzel rivets and a glass of champagne as they arrived. Don’t forget to bring these yummy pretzel trays to any holiday party!

We then enjoyed appetizers-  Smoked Bacon Bruschetta-  from King of Prussia Maggianos- soft warm goat cheese on a round of warm French bread, topped with thick-cut delicious bacon and a sprig of arugula. These were so appealing and tasty! Daniel then served us small plates of Magganio’s famous baked ziti and sausage- warm, savory pasta with a marinara sauce and parmesan cheese was just what we needed for a cold November night.

The Smoked Bacon Bruschetta is part of the new Features Menu, where each month a new chef is highlighted at Magganio’s. All of the dishes are authentic using the highest quality seasonal ingredients. Here are features that will be in Magganio’s restaurant starting December.

After such a savory meal, we needed something sweet to close out our meal, and ICED by Betsy of Royersford delivered- delicious, sweet cupcakes such as Pumpkin Spice, Banana Nut, Cookies n’ Cream, PB & C, Pure Cupcake (my favorite) and Caramel Apple kept us quite happy all evening, and everyone went home with a cupcake as well. Thanks to ICED by Betsy in Royersford!

ICED by Betsy cupcakes are so delightful!
To top off our evening, we chatted and enjoyed the newest Godiva holiday truffles. Milk and dark chocolates in bite-size morsels with delicious flavors such as white chocolate, gingerbread, cranberry, milk, caramel, and dark chocolates were delightful; also check out Godiva’s season’s offerings of a 32-piece Limited Edition Chocolate Gift Box featuring milk and dark chocolate creations, as well as chocolate snowflakes, inside a chic red gift box. 
Other excellent gifts for the holidays include the Hot Cocoa Gift Set, and the Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Truffles Gift Box.

Daniel, our buff butler, chats with the ladies.

Daniel was an absolute blast, making us giggle and chat all night long- we definitely needed a party night! Butlers in the Buff is a perfect addition to any party- nothing naughty, just good clean cheeky fun and no one felt uncomfortable. 

We loved being served all night and playing Cards Against Humanity and just having a blast. Having a cute guy serve us ladies is something I must do for all my girls’ nights!

Please visit these great sponsors for your holiday needs and gifts!

Special Thanks to King of Prussia Magganio’s and Aisha Fletcher of Brinker International, Inc.

Special Thanks to Marissa Laudati of M Booth and the Godiva Team.

Special Thanks to Mike and his team at the Philly Pretzel Factory in Collegeville.

Special Thanks to Hangar Vodka.

Special thanks to Daniel, our Butler in the Buff, and Director of Butlers in the Buff, Stacey Bramhall. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Food Quote Friday- Happy Thanksgiving!!

"My most memorable meal is every Thanksgiving."

"I love the food: the turkey and stuffing; the sweet potatoes and rice, which come from my mother's Southern heritage;
the mashed potatoes, which come from my wife's Midwestern roots;
the Campbell's green-bean casserole; and of course, pumpkin pie."

- Douglas Conant

#FoodQuoteFriday by Engchik

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Serious Pantry Challenge Weeks 3 and 4

Pantry Challenge Week 3

So I skipped last week because I was out so much, I did manage to make eggs one morning, and have some oatmeal the next. And Friday night Stephen and I were out covering the tasting menu by Chef Mark at Cantina Laredo. And then we had the Harvest Party and Daylight Savings and yeah. Not much pantry-ing going on here.

But now it is November and I’m fresh in my resolve to get things cleaned, cleaned up, and moving out! Spent most of November 1 purging the closet and consolidating. I recently got married and got a lot of great tea towels and kitchen items, so off they went into the Goodwill bag. The other thing I was ruthless with this year was clothes. 

SO many items I pull out every year, wash, hang up, don’t wear, put back in the storage container to sit out the summer. This year I looked at items I hadn’t worn in 3 years and donated some to Goodwill and gave some away. Many things are in good condition, but my tastes have changed, I’ve gained weight, or otherwise just don’t feel it’s me.

Because you know I have the 10 favorite items I wash and wear every single week. If I would just lose 5 pounds, I’d fit back into many pairs of pants...that’s my aim with all this.

Monday November 2-
Breakfast: Oatmeal and a Perfect bar from home.
Lunch: Chicken quesadillas with mushrooms from the café.
Dinner: Pasta and sauce from the PANTRY!
Tuesday November 3-
Breakfast: Noosa yogurt and an apple
Lunch: Taco Tuesday, some ground beef & chicken and cheese, corn, tomatoes and salsa, plus strawberries
Dinner: I got lazy again, we ordered in sandwiches and I watched Project Runway and Stephen and I caught up on writing our blogs. Passed out early! Yay for sleep! Plus veggies from the CSA.
Also, I prepared chili for the crockpot on Wednesday with sauce from the freezer (and threw out a portion of sticky freezer-burned sauce), chilis and spices, plus a half a bag of soaked black beans and the last half cup of lentils I found in the pantry. I also found 2 jars of lime curd and 4 jars of frosting. Plus pudding mix, scone mix, and more jam. Something tells me I’ll be baking this weekend!
This is also a root of my problem…some people like shopping for clothes, jewelry, or art..I like shopping for foodstuffs. Williams- Sonoma, Crate & Barrel…yes please. But then I have to remember to USE these items. I redid my kitchen in March and got a long deep pantry. Before I had a shallow wide cabinet. I tend to push things in the back and forget there are there, so I need to keep rotating and using items up!

Wednesday November 4-
Breakfast: Belvita breakfast cookies and a small pumpkin yogurt
Lunch: Other half of (dinner) sandwich and half of steamed broccoli from our CSA.
Dinner: Out with the girls! Oyster night at the Pour House!

Thursday November 5-
Breakfast: A Perfect Bar, Almond Butter this time. So good and filling! Plus an apple.
Lunch: A portion of the chili I made- its delicious! Steve took some for his lunch too! Yay!
Dinner: Out again with friends, and I drank coffee before bed. This caused an important repeat of dinner. No more coffee with dinner at night- too acidic.

Friday November 6-
Breakfast: Oye exhausted today. Need a good night’s sleep. Breakfast was a bagel and strawberries from the café, but that’s prob all I’m going to eat til dinner. We have a party tonight and after being up half the night I hope we can swing it.]
Survived the weekend! I don’t even remember what I ate, I was all over the places with parties, seeing a new baby, family time, dinner with friends- oh yes, that was Red Lobster!

Monday November 9-
Breakfast: Perfect Bar with an apple and coffee
Lunch: ounce of Cheese curds and a tomato
Dinner: Williams Sonoma pasta with WS truffled mushroom pesto, and some baked chicken nuggets

Tuesday November 10-
Breakfast: Belvita bar w coffee
Lunch: Left over pasta with mushroom truffle pesto, 2 chicken nuggets, and a banana.
Interesting…this week, shopping and cooking in the pantry was easy. Last week it was a struggle. This week we def went to bed earlier, had less diet coke, and less sugar. I seriously wonder if that made a difference!
Dinner: Stephen’s turn to make dinner! He made pork stir fry in our giant awesome wok which was a wedding present, with organic meat, green beans, water chestnuts, and Thai noodles, with peanut sauce. And a side of a small shot of fine single malt scotch. This dinner was ahhhh-mazing. My honeypie can cook quite well. We each then had a cookie from the farmer’s market, a small maple iced cookie, and that was it. Then bed!

Breakfast- Skinnygirl bar, coffee, tea, and a banana
Lunch- leftover stir fry. YUM!
Dinner- ooh I’m hosting book club! On the menu is:
·         Organic cheeses from the farmer’s market, and wine
·         Pepperoni and cubed cheeses, and wine
·         Roasted squash, eggplant, tomatoes, onion, turnip, and carrots, and wine
·         Crock-pot honey mustard pork loin w garlic and onion, and wine
Dessert:  Cupcakes. And everything was a hit! Plus, leftovers for lunch!

Thursday November 12
Breakfast- Coffee and pumpkin yogurt
Lunch- Leftover roasted veggies and pork
Dinner- Out at Marly’s with my ‘little sister’ Suz!
Friday- Monday: Going off the grid to our log cabin in the mountains!

Less sugar, less buying lunches, less Diet Coke less fat, more sleep!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Food Quote Friday on Friday the 13th- Oysters

Today is Friday the 13th! Awesome!

And so I debuting my latest project Photographs of Food quotes. I am not the first to coin #FoodQuoteFriday, but I am making it work for my newest venture.

Do you like oysters? These delicious gems are from the Pour House in North Wales, PA.
And yum! Oyster Night is Wednesday night!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sizzling Fun and Focused Flavors at Cantina Laredo

Walking into the year-old Cantina Laredo restaurant situated in the King of Prussia mall about 30 miles west of Philadelphia is a pleasant if unremarkable experience. Furnished in rich browns and cool grays, with semi-circular banquettes set into the walls and a large bar situated to one side, the place is appealing without being overwhelming. Nothing particularly screams “Mexican fusion”—any type of cuisine might lie in wait.
All that changes once you sit and have a look at the menu. Arranged traditionally, with appetizers, soups and salads; specialties; entrees; and desserts, the menu is focused and clean—the mark of a restaurant that knows exactly what it is.

The general manager and proprietor, Mark Watson, came out to greet us, and informed us that we were in for a treat—a four-course tasting menu prepared especially for us.

To start, he had the bar send us two specialty drinks: A pineapple margarita, and a mango mojito. Both were excellent, if sweet (especially the mojito), with fresh fruit, and in the case of the mojito, freshly muddled mint and a sugar-cane stick.
We also enjoyed chips and two varieties of excellent homemade salsa, one fiery-hot and served warm, and one on the milder side.

Our knowledgeable and friendly waiter, Abraham, then prepared our first course tableside—the homemade guacamole. This should be ordered just for the freshness of the ingredients and the spectacle at your table.

Fresh avocados were crushed with the zip of lime and jalapenos, cilantro, salt, and other fresh ingredients. Paired with Laredo’s whisper-thin homemade tortilla chips, this is a must-have.
My dining companion and I both found it a trifle salty, but otherwise excellent.

Next came our appetizers—a trio composed of two tuna tartare tacos, two carnitas tacos al carbon, and two shrimp and chorizo empanadas. My favorite was the carnitas taco; its meaty, sour flavor combined perfectly with the homemade soft corn tortilla.

It reminded me of the authentic Mexican street food I enjoyed in Houston. My wife enjoyed the tuna taco, made with sushi-grade tuna. The empanadas was doughy and delicious, yet the shrimp was a trifle scarce.

Our main course was ready just as we were finishing our appetizer. The house specialty, Camaron Poblana Asada, stopped us both in our tracks. Two thin slices of flank steak, each bearing diamond-shaped grill marks, wrapped themselves around a roasted poblano pepper, which was stuffed with melted Monterey Jack.

Gorgeous—and delicious. Served with excellent jasmine-lime rice and roasted asparagus, the steak was fork tender, perfectly seasoned, and tremendously addictive. It was easily our favorite of the savory courses.

Yet we couldn’t ignore the other two main offerings—a wonderful vegetarian enchilada with tender artichoke hearts, and two bone-in carnitas, or braised pork shanks. The latter, tender and smother with chipotle-wine sauce, were melt-in-your-mouth succulent and worth the price of admission.

But hang on folks—the best was yet to come. Another tableside treat, our dessert was something out of a gastronomic fantasy. Abraham first slid a large wedge of homemade apple pie onto a hot cast-iron plate. To this he added cool cinnamon ice cream.

And then, the piece-de-resistance:

A generous scoop of warm, sweet brandy butter that instantly bubbled to life on the hot metal. Delicious smells of apple, cinnamon, and warm brandy filled the air, and we dug in. Easily the best part of the night, the sweet, hot apple pie combined succulently with the butter and ice cream, and though we were stuffed to the gills, we couldn’t stop eating had our lives depended on it.

The service at Cantina Laredo was nothing short of excellent from the time we were welcomed inside to the time we walked out to our car, and we will certainly be back many times in the future.

Don’t let this laser-focused, authentically inspired restaurant’s suburban look fool you—this place knows exactly what it wants to be, and it achieves that goal with aplomb.

4.5 Stars out of 5.

We ended our night with a stay at the Hyatt House, in a tower suite overlooking the mall, with a fantastic breakfast in the morning.


  • Tequila Dinner- An exclusive four-course dinner with Don Julio Tequila pairings on November 11, beginning at 7 PM. The cost is $49.99/person and space is limited. 
  • Veterans Day- All veterans and active military personnel can enjoy a complimentary meal (up to $15) on Veterans Day as a small thank you for their service.
Pictures by christine tarlecki and Stephen trimble. They may not be used, reproduced or reused for any reason. Please contact with any questions. 

By Stephen Trimble, guest blogger
Stephen Trimble is a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area.

Special thanks to:
Mark Watson and his team,
Ariel Vegotsky at Vault, and
Natalie McCrea at the Hyatt!