Category Archives: things to eat

Craft Cocktails: BTB Speakeasy

Craft cocktails are the hottest thing in entertaining these days. Beyond the handcrafted bitters touted by beguiling bearded hipsters lays a storied tradition of revival.  In the heart of Old Town Leonardtown, Maryland a nod to some of that history can be found behind an unassuming bookshelf in a charming little coffee shop – welcome to BTB Speakeasy.

BTB SpeakeasyThis quaint little cocktail stop lets you step back in time to an era when the Volstead Act had Americans crafting cocktails in bathtubs and whispering passwords through sound dampening doors.  As you slip past the bookshelf in the bright at cheery coffee shop (grab a one of their cookies to go – so good) the tones, seemingly even the time changes. The room is dark, the tables and chairs a hodgepodge, the bar lit with flickering candlelight.  The feel is decidedly clandestine. 

Bustling behind the bar are some gifted Mixologists – no bathtub gin here. Top shelf spirits come together with handcrafted syrups, bitters and unique techniques developed by co-founder and cocktail genius Brad Brown. Sitting next to a fresco of Al Capone himself, Penny, Brad’s wife and BTB co-owner, regaled me with stories of cocktail history and the inspiration that transformed a coffee shop into an homage nightlife under the eighteenth amendment. 

On a trip to New York Penny found her way into a speakeasy. Impressed by the immersive, fun, cloak-and-dagger feel of it she walked away inspired to bring that to life in Leonardtown. Helped along the way by Brad’s years in the bar/restaurant business and the artistic talents of a close friend who painted period murals for the walls, the duo brought a bygone era back to life. 

The space inside the speakeasy is snug with just a handful of tables that must be reserved in advance. Call ahead to reserve one and get the password of the day. Whisper that to the staff at the coffee shop counter or pickup the old fashion phone on the wall to connect directly to the back. You won’t get in without this information – after all you could be the Fuzz!

Dotted with antique shops, a wonderfully dusty used book and record store, vintage car museum, craft chocolate factory and historical landmarks, the Old Town section Leonardtown, Maryland feels as though it is frozen in time as well.  A stop at BTB Speakeasy (and Coffee Shop) is a great way to cap off a visit to Old Town. 

 

Ever been to a Speakeasy? Tucked behind a false bookcase in a quaint little coffee shop in Leonardtown Maryland is a hoppin’ joint where Capone graces the walls and they make the best smoked Old Fashioned since the days of bathtub gin.

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola ✈ (@dipaolamomma) on

BTB Speakeasy’s Smoked Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • 1 1/2 ounces Top Shelf Bourbon
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • water
  • Slice of orange and cherry to garnish
  • Maple Wood Plank

Brad’s twist on this classic cocktail is the smoking of that maple wood plank. You can find these at most big box or stores like Lowes. Light the wood and blow it out. Turn your highball glass over on top of it to capture the smoke. Put the sugar in a cocktail shaker, add bitters and bourbon. Muddle until the sugar is crushed. Top with water to your liking and shake. Turn your smoke-filled highball glass over and quickly add ice, pouring the cocktail over the ice. Garnish with cheery and orange. The flavor is incredible!

note: pay special attention to the “House Rules” at BTB Speakeasy. Also, if you wear a fedora you’ll get half off your first cocktail.

24 hours in philadelphia

24 hours in PhiladelphiaSometimes you just don’t have the tip time for that epic trip to Tahiti. Don’t let lack of time keep you from exploring. This year we’ve added quick trips of 12, 24 and 48-hours to our itinerary of larger expeditions. It’s a great way to feed that wanderlust and get to know a few places you might never have considered. We kicked things off in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), followed that up with a fun 24 hours in Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love with all its history, art and yes… cheesesteaks, is just a short two-hour drive away from our homebase. Honestly, proximity was the first factor in choosing this destination — that and a weekend binge watching session of the Rocky film.

24 Hours in Philadelphia a city rich in history and unique architecture Figuring out to do with just twenty-four hours was a bit harder. Philly is a city with over twenty neighborhoods and districts, each with their own distinct personality. We decided to start with a small bite and focus our first 24 hours in Philadelphia on the Center City district and some of the historical charm of the City of Brotherly Love.

Historically Speaking

philadelphia secrets of the liberty bell
Independence National Historical Park
Go see the Liberty Bell. It may sound cliche but it really is a pilgrimage every American should take. We were surprised at how close you can get to it, like “NO! don’t touch the Liberty Bell” close. The Park Rangers onsite are like your own personal tour guides, ready with all sorts of information on how your third grade teacher got the whole story wrong.

Is it a crack or was it a repair? Is there more than one break in it? Get all your burning bell questions answered. Warning: your kids might know more than you do.

Lest you think it’s all about the bell, it isn’t. The bell is housed behind velvet ropes in a small museum that features artifacts and interactive exhibits chronicling the American journey toward liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from the revolution to today.

6th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | Monday – Sunday 9:00 am through 7:00 pm | Free | website

24 hours in philadelphia city hall

Independence Hall
Across the cobblestone road from the Liberty Bell is Independence Hall, also a must see. Do note though that entry into the complex requires a ticket. These tickets are limited daily and grant entry on a timed-entry basis March through December. While you wait for your entry time take a look at the building right next door that housed our first Supreme Court.

520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 | Monday – Sunday 9:00 am through 5:00 pm | admission – free | website

The Franklin Institute

Befitting its namesake this place is packed with ways to discover through science, history and art. It is an interactive, hands-on wonder of enormous proportions. So big in fact, that we choose to save exploring here for another visit and opted instead to visit the Benjamin Franklin Memorial which is housed here.

The Memorial is open to the public when The Franklin Institute is open and visiting it is free. There is a multimedia show – Benjamin Franklin Forever – that is a great start for getting to know this founding father and his impact on the world.

222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | Monday – Sunday 9:30 am through 5:30 pm | $19.95 adults, $15.95 ages 11-3, under 3 – free | website

24 hours in philadelphia pubsWhich Hotel?

Few things can turn a trip into a nightmare quite as quickly as like a lousy hotel where your family doesn’t feel comfy and taken care of. While I’ve no problems with ‘sleep and go’ hotels, when it comes to bringing the kids I’m willing to pay a bit more in hopes of ensuring we all sleep happy – hello, room service. Having stayed at well over a thousand hotels around the globe – with and without kids– I’ve found that mid-to-upper level hotels are best with the kiddos in tow. Why? To put it simply, you get what you pay for.

Hotel Palomar

This chic, upscale hotel made Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the top 20 Mid-Atlantic hotels. Impressive, but little guests are far more impressed with the fact that they can request a companion gold fish to keep them company in the room during your stay. Oh, and they also have a nightly wine reception – for free.

117 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | website

 

Loews Philadelphia

Located inside the nation’s first skyscraper, the Loews Philadelphia Hotel has got some great views of the city. Walking through the lobby and common spaces is like getting a mini history lesson. That said, the rooms themselves are updated and modern. The pool and excellent room service from the on-site restaurant make for an all around great stay. Kids love the fact that they get their own welcome goodies at check-in and can have even snag board games and toys from the kids’ cabinet to use while they visit. You can even bring along the family pet – they’ll get a goodie too!

1200 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 | website

Beyond the Cheesesteak

Philly is paradise for the adventurous Foodie and their family. In fact, there is such a cornucopia of delight to be dug into that we may just have to do an entire feature on food alone. For now though here are some mouthwatering places to fuel your historical rediscoveries.

Reading Terminal Market

A crowded, loud, garishly lit slice of Foodie paradise. So much more than an indoor Farmer’s Market this historical building houses an endless array of fresh, local, artisianal, ethnic and just plain yum.

24 hours in philadelphia reading terminal market

Despite its porcine name, Tommy Dinic’s Roast Pork makes a mean cheesesteak. Not in the mood for Philly’s signature sandwich? No worries. Roam the rows of stalls featuring the heady aromas of everything from Jamaican Jerk to Indian spice. Dig into some Dutch, Polish, Mexican, Italian, Irish…. you get the picture, this place is packed with flavorful adventure.

51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA | website

Marathon Grille

This locally owned group of eateries started out as a 10-seat burger joint and has grown into the ultimate spot for casual comfort food with a modern twist. The owners have a passion for supporting local by both buying from urban farms around the city and operating there own.

Have a Thanksgiving Dinner plate, some house-made Moroccan meatballs or treat yourself to decadent french toast stuffed with marscapone and berries. They serve breakfast all day and make a mean organic cocktail that pairs perfectly with a laid back brunch.

1818 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA | website

Where, When and What to Avoid

Tour Buses – Though it may seem tempting to grab one of those hop-on-hop-off bus passes you’ll find being promoted on nearly every corner, don’t. You’ve only got 48 hours in Philadelphia’s Center City District and this is a city that features more public works of art than any other. You’ll miss so much of it – including dozens of murals — if you whiz by on a bus rather than stroll the streets and discover.

Chain Restaurants – Philly is so much more than a cheesesteak. There is a blossoming farm-to-table movement that lives alongside small Mom and Pop eateries that have been serving up flavor for decades. Seek them out, they aren’t hard to find. Taste the adventure!

48 hr in Philly - Em at National Guard buildingPhilly is a city of celebrations. From Independence Day to their famed Flower Show, there is almost always something going on. Check the Visit Philly website before you go to be sure you won’t be headed there along with a few million others. Ugh, traffic.

Been to Philly? Live there? What are the ‘can’t miss’ sites we should see on our next visit?

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the Globe

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the GlobeThis year in preparation for cold and flu season, I decided to get ahead of the germs and cook my own penicillin. Okay, maybe it was more a Pinterest endeavor than a petri dish thing, but I think that soup might have it’s own curative cultures. I’m not alone in that theory. Turns out soup is “prescribed” rather universally. Here is a sampling of chicken soup recipes from around the globe. 

Cilantro is one of those flavors that you either love or hate. I’m no hater. So this Peruvian recipe – from Nutrients, You Fools {best. food. blog. name. ever}  which is packed with the stuff really appealed to me.  The pungent aroma is great for the sinuses too. I substituted olive oil for the butter though and tossed in a bit more garlic. 

Chicken Soup Recipes from around the globe
photo credit: nutrientsyoufools.com


Over the last couple of years I’ve been exploring Persian cooking. I love the heady aroma this spice-laden cooking and the vibrant colors that come from the use of turmeric, paprika, and saffron. Fittingly this next recipe comes from a blog called, Turmeric & Saffron. 

Barley is the surprise ingredient in Soup-e Jo, a Persian chicken soup that is rich, hearty, colorful and has just a bit of tang to it.

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the Globe
photo credit: turmericsaffron.blogspot.com

No proper post on chicken soup would be worth it’s salt without some “Jewish Penicillin” better known as Mazto Ball Soup. This soup is an art form, as such there are many shades and variations.  

Some prefer their Mazto in a dainty bite size, others {me included} like to dig into a giant ball of yum floating in a sea of flavor. There are those that shun the dill and some who simply won’t stand for anything other than a crystal clear broth. One thing we can all agree on though, is if you’re sick a good Mazto Ball soup is as necessary as rest and a warm blanket.  

I’ll admit that I’ve never mastered the art of making the stuff, sad to say. I do have masterful ordering skills though and luckily the famed Chick & Ruth’s Annapolis delivers! I may have to give this recipe from Girl and The Kitchen ago. It as everything I consider high-art in a Mazto Ball soup. 

Chicken Soup Reicpes from Around the Globe
photo credit: girlandthekitchen.com

One of the things I loved most about Greece is the abundance of lemon. If tooth enamel were not a necessary thing, I think I could just live off lemons alone. While Greek seafood will always been my favorite, this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup from A Family Feast is sunshine in a bowl – the perfect pick-me-up for when you’re feeling under the weather. 

A bonus here, the stock recipe included in this post is phenomenal. I made two batches of it last month, canned and froze some. Having homemade stock for cold and flu season is like adding to your medicine cabinet. Do it. It is well worth the time and effort.

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the World
photo credit: afamilyfeast.com

While I was putting together this post…

I. Got. Sick.

Isn’t that just how it works, eh? One stroke of luck though, I found some of my dad’s famous Albondigas Soup made with chicken meatballs in our deep freezer.  I credit the spicy soup filled with squash, carrots, potatoes, and rice with my quick recovery. Maybe we can all guilt him into revealing his secret recipe.

Have a favorite chicken soup recipe with a global twist? I’d love to add it to this list. 

One Pan Spanish Roasted Chicken (Recipe)

What happens when you post a yummy picture on Instagram? You get tons of requests for the recipe. This weekend I posted a photo of my One Pan Spanish Roasted Chicken – with a twist. Guess what… people wanted the recipe. So this is for them, maybe you’ll like it too!

One Pan Spanish Roasted ChickenOne of my favorite things about fall is that you can turn the oven make on. Nothing like coming home to a house filled with the aromas of slow cooked food or baking – man, now I want brownies!

I’m working on cutting salt from our diets here at Casa DiPaola, and this recipe was the first one of our favorites that I revamped. I learned to make it back when I was living in Spain and recalled that the original recipe had very little salt in it. I thought that made it a perfect candidate for a makeover. 

I punched up the flavor with a spicier paprika that I typically use, and added in some whole Fenugreek and Grains of Paradise.   Fenugreek {which you can find in most spice shops or at places like World Marketone} has a slightly sweet flavor, when roasted it develops a warm nutty profile.  You might recognize a bit of its flavor from your favorite curry.

Grains of Paradise are… well… paradise. These tiny little pods pack a spicy, nutty flavor with earthy hints of an almost morel mushroom taste. When you roast with them, they bloom into something that reminds me of hiking in the truffled forests of Aragon.  Which is funny for a spice that hails from West Africa. When they mingle with the juices from pan, the saffron and thyme, then get embedded in a cube of bread that is both crunchy and chewy… well again, paradise.

Do you have favorite spices that can take the place of salt? I’d LOVE to hear about them!

One Pan Spanish Roasted Chicken
Serves 4
An easy one pan dinner packed with bold flavor. Toasty bread soaked in the juices makes it a meal. Easy to adapt to nearly any protein.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 4 Chicken Breasts (skin on, bone in) - can also use legs and/or thighs
  2. 1 Head of Garlic (large)
  3. 1 Leek
  4. 1 Spanish Onion
  5. 5 Sprigs of Thyme
  6. 1 Loaf of Crusty Bread
  7. 5-8 Threads of Saffron
  8. 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  9. 1 tbsp Black Pepper
  10. 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika (mild or spicy)
  11. 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  12. 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  13. (optional)
  14. 1 tsp Grains of Paradise
  15. 1 tsp Fenugreek
  16. 1 tsp Sea Salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.Tear bread into bite-sized cubes. Peel onion, and quarter leaving stem on to help the pieces together. Remove dark green portions of the leek, and the stem end. Half then quarter. Slice entire head of garlic in half. Place all into your roasting pan. Mix half spices with olive oil, pour over ingredients in pan and toss to coat.
  2. Arrange items in pan, intersperse chicken among them skin side up. Take remaining spice mixture and rub into the chicken skin. Place on center rack in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Notes
  1. Yes, salt is intentionally omitted from this recipe. The flavors are so bold, that I've found salt unnecessary. Feel free to salt to your taste if so desired.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Summer Squash White Pizza

Easy Summer Squash Pizza

Aaaah, summah! I simply adore this time of year when the days are longer, schedules flexible, and our garden is laden with delicious dishes just waiting to be plucked. 

Admittedly part of this adoration comes from the fact that I can cook outside and leave the clean-up to the hubby – the yard is his job. Something about growing your own food also lets itself to picky eaters actually consuming vegetables. It’s MAGIC!

Then again it could be the pizza rather than the garden. My whole family scarfs down pizzas cooked in our outdoor oven like they’ve been paid to do this. (for a blog post or something) I use this to my advantage – conducting endless culinary experiments on them.  The latest big hit was a super simple, scrumptious pie topped summer squash, bell peppers, garlic and just a little cheese.

What You’ll Need

The first thing is a good pizza dough recipe. I’ve found that this one by Liza over at (cool) Progeny is easy and very versatile.

 

Summer Squash Pizza
Serves 8
Summer squash takes center stage on a pizza that leaves out the heavy cheese and overly rich sauce.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. Pizza Dough (see link in post for recipe)
  2. 1 Summer Squash - medium
  3. 1 Bell Pepper - orange
  4. 1/4 c Shallot
  5. 1 Clove Garlic
  6. 1/2 tsp Thyme
  7. 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  8. 4 tbsp Cotija Cheese
  9. Sea Salt
  10. Cracked Black Pepper
Tools
  1. Pizza Peel
  2. Spiral Slicer or Mandolin
Instructions
  1. Measure out dough into a ball approximately the size of a large grape fruit. Shape dough into a sphere by pulling the sized down and under the ball, turning a quarter of an inch as you work. Place onto a floured surface, cover loosely with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a cool dry place for 20 minutes.
  2. If using an oven, place pizza stone on center rack. Preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The stone will need at least 30 minutes to heat through.
  3. Slice shallots into thin, half-moon shapes. Cut bell pepper into long, thin strips. Finely chop garlic and remove thyme leaves from their stalks. Using a spiral slicer or mandolin, thinly slice squash and pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Once dough has risen, flour your work surface and turn dough out onto it allowing the flour to coat. Add extra flour as needed to avoid sticking. Press dough ball into a disk shape using your fingers. Roll dough out with rolling pin into a circle approximately 12-16 inches round.
  5. Sprinkle pizza peel with corn meal. Place dough on peel. Brush with olive oil, leaving a 1/4 inch edge. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Place vegetable toppings, drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, garlic; salt and pepper to taste. Top with remaining cheese.
  6. Place pizza on stone in oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toppings are as well.
Notes
  1. Dough should be refrigerated prior to starting this recipe. Cold dough is easier to work with. If using a wood-fired pizza oven, cook time is approximately 3 to 5 minutes depending upon temperature.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/