A Blueprint to Success

Everyone has dreams. Things that they want to accomplish in their life.

Graduate High School.

Graduate College.

Get a Job.

Get Married.

Have Children.

Okay. So this list is pretty generic. But you have to admit that these are on most people’s lists of things to do in their life. Their bucket lists. Of course, everyone’s is unique in their own way.

Get a Tattoo.

Join the Peace Corps.

Travel the World.

But how many people actually complete these lists? Probably not many. It’s sad to think about. It’s sad to think that there are dreams out there in this world that won’t be accomplished because of time, money, etc. It sucks that there are constraints to our lives that we have absolutely no control over. Opportunity and luck are sometimes a very important part of the journey. Of our ability to strive for more and fulfill our biggest hopes and ambitions.

I have dreams. I have aspirations. Just like everyone else.

To Start My Own Food Shop. Cafe. Restaurant. Deli. Diner. What have you.

It’s obtainable. People do it every day. People also fail at it every day. You can’t just do something because you want to do it. There needs to be a plan. An outline. A blueprint to success.

I’ve started this blueprint. I’ve finally put pen to paper. I’ve drawn that first line.

I’ve had a conversation. I’ve gotten the ball rolling.

Hopefully it doesn’t stop.

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Happy Weekend, Everyone!

This post is different than most, I know. But I enjoyed writing it. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading it.

As most people know, opening up any sort of food business requires recipe testing and what not. That’s the stage I am at right now. One recipe at a time. Perfection is the goal.

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I believe I’ve started at the hardest one. Croissants. So many elements go into making the perfect croissant. My first go around was pretty successful. It’s a good starting point. Once I have them perfected, I’ll share the recipe with you all, but for now you’ll just have to wait in anticipation.

Until next time…

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Well, What Happened Was…

I have a confession.

Some recipes are more difficult to make than others.

Shocking, I know. You can pick your jaw up from the floor now.

I’m the type of person that gets really excited to try something new (in the kitchen that is). Especially when it’s something I’ve never attempted to make before in some shape or form. I go all out. I go buy wine because let’s face it, you can’t cook without wine. Plus, when it all goes south, you have something to drown your sorrows in right then and there. But, moving on…

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I sometimes even go to the expensive grocery stores like Whole Foods because the first attempt at a new dish needs the best ingredients you can get. You don’t want to set up the dish for failure before you actually begin cooking. (Confession: I didn’t actually go to Whole Foods for this particular dish because it didn’t need super fancy ingredients. I’m just informing you that I do it sometimes. But…oh, maybe that’s why it didn’t work out to my liking…Now, I’m going to have to go Whole Foods for every first try on a dish for the rest of my life. Goodbye, all future paychecks. I miss you already.)

Anyways, some dishes just don’t work out for you the first time. Happens to me more often than I would like to admit to myself. I’m trained, dammit. I should be able to read a recipe and execute it to perfection!

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“The freakin’ recipe must be flawed,” I think to myself in frustration.

That’s true sometimes. A recipe can be flawed, but not every recipe has something wrong with it. Let’s take into consideration one of my favorite sayings about relationships and apply it here: If you mess it up once, maybe it’s the recipe’s fault. If you give it another go and mess it up again, maybe it was a fluke. But if you give it a third try and everything goes awry, it’s just straight-up you. You’re the reason it didn’t work out. (Yup, someone told me this once as a joke concerning my relationships during my late-teens and early twenties…I didn’t find it very amusing at the time, but hey, it works here!)

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** I mean, really…look at it! **

So, what’s the point of this long and drawn out introduction? Well, what happened was…I tried to make tortillas for this particular blog post. I was feeling pretty confident (read cocky). I’ve never tried to make tortillas before and, by damn, I was going to nail it on the first try. Never mind that people learn this particular skill from their grandmothers (great-grandmothers and mothers, too) and the recipes have been passed down from generation to generation..but it’s like four ingredients so how difficult could it be?

Turns out a lot difficult. Okay, so it’s not like I blew up the stove or anything. They were tortilla-esque, but not really. Were they edible? Sure, if dry and crunchy around the edges is edible to you as a tortilla. I’m a perfectionist, so in my eyes they were a complete-and-utter failure. If you ask Michael, he says they were great, but he’s kind of required to say that to prevent the next tortilla from being thrown at his face…(which totally didn’t happen, by the way…)

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Like with a lot of traditional dishes cherished by their people, a recipe is sometimes just no good. It will never be helpful. Especially concerning tortillas. I just didn’t know what the dough was suppose to look like or feel like. As it turns out, my dough was too dry. It needed more moisture for the inside to steam open as it cooked on the griddle in order to make a soft and tender finished product. But hey, you can’t truly appreciate success unless you’ve failed a couple of times before that, right?

I’ll give it another go this week. Hell, I bought enough Crisco to give it a go once a week every week for the foreseeable future.

Until next time…

 

The Holt Christmas and New Year’s Wrap-Up

**Recipe posts will continue next week!**

The holidays are officially over. Everyone is officially back to work. I think that’s the worst part about all of this. Sure, we are all sad that the holidays have come and gone, but the most depressing thing of all is that we are sitting in an office as opposed to enjoying time with our friends and family. There isn’t another break to look forward to for quite some time. But we do have the memories of the past couple of weeks to get us through this tough time…

I, personally, celebrated Christmas in Tennessee as well as New York. Lots of traveling and meeting of new faces. You see, Michael and I got engaged (thank you…thank you…) earlier in the holiday season and it was time for us to endure all of the “Congratulations” and “Best Wishes.” He flew out the 23rd and I followed the 26th. We purchased separate tickets prior to the engagement for any of those people who find it weird we spent the actual Christmas holiday apart. So off he went to the Big Apple and I stayed to enjoy some holiday fun here at home.

My family has our traditions, of course. After all, what kind of Southern family would we be without our traditions? To start, there is the Christmas Eve Cocktail Party at my Grandmother’s house. It’s hard to imagine a holiday without this particular event since I’ve been attending it for as long as I can remember. The food is great and the company is even better. With my engagement as well as my brother’s (last Christmas), I’ve really begun to cherish these moments because the traditions may be changing as new additions to the family are made.

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FullSizeRenderThe cocktail party is followed by Christmas morning, of course. It is filled with gift giving and receiving as well as brunch that always consists of breakfast casserole, potato casserole, sausage balls, and sausage pinwheels. Screwdrivers and Mimosas’ are also flowing at this point (it makes it easier to graciously accept that ugly sweater your Aunt gave you…)

The rest of the day is full of movies and dinner preparations on my part. You see, I make Beef Wellington every year for dinner (for the last several years, that is) and lots of prep is involved, but it’s always worth it because it’s a wonderful addition to the celebration.

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After good times with my immediate family, the traditional Christmas was over because I was off to New York the next day to see Michael’s family and attend their annual Christmas party, which was a blast. It also gave me an opportunity to eat some delicious pizza and NY bagels (trust me, no bagel down here comes close to what they have up there).

Oh, the holidays were far from over, though. We flew home the following Monday and went up to the mountains of North Carolina to celebrate New Year’s on Wednesday. The rest of the week was filled with football games, fattening food, and cold champagne. Then, suitcases were packed and goodbyes were said. It was time to get back to our normal lives. 😦

So, here I am writing this from my couch in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It finally feels like Winter as there is quite the chill in the air. Christmas decorations have been put away and the pine needles that fell from the tree have been vacuumed up. I have a feeling this year will be one for the books. My baby brother is getting married in June, my older sister and her husband are officially house hunting, and Michael and I will be married be years-end. 2014, you were spectacular, but 2015 will be the year to beat.

Cheers and I wish you a wonderful New Year!

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

**I apologize, but due to Thanksgiving there isn’t going to be a recipe post this week. But I’ll be back at it next week with a delicious dish involving butternut squash! Yum!**

My favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving, is officially over. Sad day. But, I was able to spend most of the week with my wonderful family, which was pretty much the most amazing thing ever. With my younger brother and sister living in Alabama and South Carolina, respectively, I don’t get to see them that often. Thankfully, they both arrived by Wednesday and the good times started.

Why Wednesday? Well, we celebrate Thanksgiving-Eve. Yup. You read that correctly and the traditional Thanksgiving-Eve meal in our home is chili. Why? I don’t know, really. You’d have to ask my sisters because I don’t really remember it being a tradition, but don’t tell them that because they get a little touchy when traditions aren’t remembered. My best guess is that it’s a really easy meal to throw together the night before all hell breaks loose. I’d personally vote for no meal the evening before because there is so much food at our Thanksgiving celebration. So. Much. Like, it’s kind of ridiculous. We only have at most 11 people at our home, but we cook for 44. You got your 10 pound turkey, dressing, green been casserole, squash casserole, fried corn, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, apple and cheese casserole, some sort of gelatinized salad, cranberry sauce, and rolls. Oh, don’t forget the desserts…Sweet potato pie, Coca-Cola cake, ambrosia…Is it all delicious? Of course, but it’s getting out of hand. We’ve tried to take some of the dishes away, but believe it or not, each of them is someone’s favorite. You can’t go taking away someone’s favorite Thanksgiving dish. We also add a dish when a new member of the family is added. My sister’s husband gets sweet potato pie (which actually took the place of my favorite chocolate chess pie, but let’s just pretend that didn’t happen…). My brother’s fiancé is responsible for the mac & cheese addition (no complaints from this girl). I think we have a problem as a family…I really do…

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So, we ate dinner and then watched Home Alone. Yet another tradition. My family is just full of them…but, we usually watch Christmas Vacation. It’s hilarious. You can’t go wrong with that movie. Some folks decided that we needed to change it up and so Home Alone it was. It’s a great movie, but not as great as Christmas Vacation…

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And because spending the previous two days together isn’t enough, we had a siblings dinner Friday evening at a new Italian restaurant in town, IL Primo. Good food, good wine, and great conversation made for an excellent time. But the family time wasn’t over yet…

Saturday was Rivalry Weekend in College Football. We all attended SEC schools and, thus, have a specific rivalry to watch. You’ve got the Iron Bowl, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, and South Carolina vs. Clemson (there could possibly be an actual name for this one, but I don’t know it. Sorry, Anne). And wouldn’t you know it that every single one of our football teams lost. All of them. It was a terrible day for football in the Holt house. Just terrible.

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The family fun still wasn’t over. You’d think we would have spent enough time together by this point in the week, but you would be wrong. We all met for brunch on Sunday at Chato Brasserie. I mean, you have to send everyone off in the proper manner. Plus, it has the added bonus of being that one family event that sends everyone over the edge. Everyone goes back to their lives and you don’t even miss them for the month of December because you got your fill at Thanksgiving. It’s really great. Just as Christmas is upon us, we are all ready to see each other again. Simply perfection.

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A Rant

**DISCLAIMER** The following post is a rant and is not meant to offend anyone. It is for entertainment purposes only. 

So, you think since I love food and love cooking that I would probably enjoy going to the grocery store. I mean, it’s an entire room full of ingredients so what’s not to like? …Wrong. You actually couldn’t be more wrong. It’s the worst. The people. The lines. The ridiculous way they “organize” the aisles.

“Black beans are Mexican, right? Probably, in the Mexican ingredient section…”

“NO! Black beans are BEANS. They can be found in the canned BEAN section! The can in the Ethnic food aisle might say ‘Frijoles Negros’, but guess what? It’s the same thing as black beans. Shocking, I know.”

There is no need to segregate ingredients, people. They have feelings, too.

The golden one is Zoe and she's my baby. The spazzy one is Millie...why the picture of the dogs? Well, why not?

The golden one is Zoe and she’s my baby. The spazzy one is Millie…why the picture of the dogs? Well, why not?

And oh, the people… (granted, I’m not really a “people person”), but it’s like they forget the rules of common courtesy once stepping inside a grocery store. Some stop in the middle of the aisle and just stand there staring at the rows of ingredients. Your cart won’t move itself out of the way, lady. Ketchup is ketchup is ketchup, okay? It honestly doesn’t matter if you buy Hunt’s or Heinz. You see, they taste the exact same. Yes…yes, they do. (Some crazy people actually purchase their ketchup based on their political beliefs. For those of you who don’t know, Teresa Heinz is married to John Kerry…Yes, because you refused to purchase that $3 bottle of ketchup, you ruined their day.)

Have you ever gone to the store and every aisle you go down there is the exact same person coming the opposite way. And you continue along this path down Every. Single. Aisle. You now know more than you ever thought you’d know about a stranger based on their food choices…

“Oh, she bought organic granola…must be one of those people. Oreos, too? Huh…Interesting…”

Did I mention the lines? They have 15-plus checkout lines, but only ever have one or two open. What the hell’s the point of investing in the other thirteen lines? Would the front of the store look weird without all of this wasted equipment? Do the higher-ups enjoy seeing the look of frustration in the eyes of their customers? The reasonings are almost endless…

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Adorable aren’t we…

I go to the grocery store because I love food and love cooking. Very difficult to find food anywhere else. Trust me, if I could get all my ingredients elsewhere, I would. It would save me from the frustration of walking through those sliding doors and ALWAYS picking the cart that has the bum wheel on it. (I’ve often thought that maybe all of the carts have a bum wheel, but when I’m walking around the store with my bum-wheeled cart, mine is the only one walking to the beat of its own drum…or wheel really…Anyone else have this problem?)

I know my rant is pointless. I know that on Sunday morning (possibly the worst time ever to go) I will wake up and go to the grocery store where I will incur the wrath of all of these things I’ve mentioned above. It simply wouldn’t be a trip to the grocery store without these issues arising, of course. Also doesn’t hurt that the beau absolutely loves going to the grocery store. Publix to be exact and specifically on Sunday mornings….No other store or time will do. The deli section, the free samples, and the brightly lit aisles call to him every weekend. I usually ignore these particular calls, but the things you do for the ones you love, amirite?

Oh! And one more thing…concerning those self-checkouts…the item is in the FREAKING bag!

The end.

Who’s a Snob?

© 2011 Just Shooting Memories

© 2011 Just Shooting Memories

I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s not big, but it’s not small, either. I guess you could call it medium-sized. It’s a city that is definitely on the up-and-up. I’m beginning to see it on “Top 10 Cities” to visit, to live, etc…There is also a lot more traffic around than when I grew up. It’s no Atlanta or New York, but the situation is still annoying, nonetheless.

Chattanooga is an outdoors-y city. Hiking, rock climbing, camping. You name an outdoor activity and the people who live here probably love it. It’s turning very “green”, as well. Everything is constantly changing. Other than the traffic, most of the changes are good.

What I’ve noticed the most is that the city is getting better food and better wine. But better in no way means excellent. Let’s just say we’re getting there. We’re on our way. One morning, I’ll wake up and realize that Chattanooga restaurants are on par with Atlanta, Charleston, or Nashville. At least I hope so. I really, really hope so. Because I miss good food. I miss good wine. I’m tired of being let down. I’m tired of always wanting more from the dishes, the chefs, the restaurants as a whole. Potential. That’s what Chattanooga has…Potential…

IMG_2345If you ask my sister (perhaps my entire family), I’m a snob. Food snob, wine snob, maybe even a life snob. Who knows. I never understood why, though. Why does wanting better food, better wine, better restaurant experiences make me a snob? I went to Culinary School. I worked at Five and Ten. I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in Athens, Charlotte, and Charleston. I’m trained. I know what good food is and I’m not ashamed to say when it’s not. What kind of chef and food-lover would I be if I accepted that undercooked snapper or oily calamari is as good as it gets? Because it’s not.

Food is no longer just nourishment. It is no longer something to shove down your throat to keep you going throughout the day. It’s an art. It’s something that should be appreciated and enjoyed. It has an uncanny ability to make everything better.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I love nothing more than going out to dinner with family and friends. The experience of dining out…the food, the wine, the atmosphere, the conversation…you just can’t beat it. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do. I love to be so absorbed in the experience and the stories that we stay until closing. The better the food and the better the wine that is served is what creates these moments. Who wants to stay and order coffee or a digestif after their entree completely bummed them out? No one. They want to go home. They regret the $150 they spent on the evening because it just wasn’t worth it.

© Boccaccia  Chattanooga, TN

© Boccaccia in Chattanooga, TN

Yup. You guessed it. I have no problem spending $200 on an evening out if my standards are met. It’s money well spent, in my opinion because it wasn’t just dinner. It wasn’t just food. It was a moment. A memory. I still remember eating at Good Food in Charlotte, NC with some friends from Culinary School. A wonderful memory was created that night, one that I can recall just as well as that lunch I had at Husk in Charleston, SC. A bottle of wine has the same domino effect, too. At Boccaccia, an Italian restaurant here in town, I remember the bottle of Sangiovese I ordered for my 23rd birthday, which allows me to remember who was there, what table I sat at, and the dish I ordered. You see, when I travel, I don’t remember the stores that I visited or the carriage tours I took. I remember everything based off of the food I ate, the wine I drank, and memories that I’ll never forget. It’s how I personally function. I won’t change. In fact, I don’t want to change.

So, call me a snob if you want. A food snob. A wine sob. A life snob. I’ll just have to take it as a compliment, I guess.

 

Eating Out Provides Much Needed Inspiration

I love to eat out. The food. The wine. The atmosphere. The conversation. All of these things fuse together to create an experience that is difficult to mimic elsewhere. I never go out to experience just one of these. I always go to experience all of them because if just one of the above mentioned topics is missing, then it’s forgettable, which is the worst thing that can occur when I go out to a restaurant to enjoy myself. I want to remember every restaurant I walk into, but, unfortunately, that isn’t the case for all of them. Maybe the wine and conversation were good, but the atmosphere left something to be desired. Or the atmosphere was great, but the food was lackluster. It’s during these occurrences that the restaurant fades away to the back of my brain to a place where I can no longer locate it.

But why am I droning on and on about eating out? Because when I eat out, I am introduced to new flavors, ingredient combinations, and cooking techniques. Sure, you can read about these things on various food blogs or in magazines, but it’s when you can use all five of your senses to experience it first hand that you truly understand and grasp the concepts.

Example…

farm-255When I was living in Athens, GA, I ate at Farm 255 (a local restaurant that is no longer open) with a friend. The concept was farm-to-table, which is very popular today. The layout went along with this theme and was very open with wooden tables and chairs. The kitchen was visible to the diners, which can be a nice touch, but isn’t necessary to be successful.

We ordered a bottle of red wine that was probably French in origin because that was my preference during those years. (I don’t remember the name of it because while I was dining there, I didn’t know I would one day be writing a piece on the experience. Just a reason that whenever you eat out, you should bring a pen and paper to write things down that you never want to forget). I’m thinking it was a Cote du Rhone, which is a favorite wine region of mine. Regardless, it was delicious.

For an appetizer, we ordered the cheese plate, which consisted of small-batch cheeses from farms in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. All ingredients were sourced from Southern states, something that quite a few restaurants down here have started to do. You know, staying local.

Anyways…the accompaniments for the cheeses included spiced nuts, fruits, honey, and bread. Each addition was paired with a particular cheese much like wine is paired with food. One of the local cheeses was of the blue variety and if you know me at all, I was never much for blue cheese. It’s pungent and overpowering. Not something I usually liked to indulge in, but the chef paired this blue with a local honey. I began the evening stating that the blue cheese was all his, but the foodie inside convinced me that I should always try new things. I ate beef tongue once and enjoyed it, for heaven’s sake. I should be able to muster up the courage to try the damn cheese. And I did.

© Foodspiration

© Foodspiration

Let me tell you something, this combination was the most divine flavor I had ever tasted in my entire life. It made me forget about all my preconceived notions concerning blue cheese because it does have a place and it can be utterly delicious.

The creaminess, saltiness, and tanginess were mellowed by the sweetness of the honey. The two ingredients came together to create a flavor that I’ve continued to crave to this very day. (It’s been two years just to keep you up to date on the timeline here).

It’s experiences like these that make dining out worth it. They make the bad experiences fade further from my memory while also making the good ones even more memorable. Maybe these memories have been pushed to the back of my mind while day-to-day tasks and stress have remained at the forefront, but I don’t worry. I know that the next time I try something new, a concept that I can’t seem to wrap my head around, it will bring a rush of these wonderful memories that allow me to re-live all of these experiences. Maybe this will happen to you. Who knows, it might inspire you to write your own piece on the experience.

 

What Happened?

I went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in 2011. Graduated in 2012. Started working at Five and Ten during my final trimester.

But what happened before 2011 and after 2012?

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I went to Auburn University after graduating from high school to major in Food Science. It was a lot of fun. There were parties, bars, football games, and, of course, classes. I enjoyed my studies and my social life, but I overloaded myself with courses Fall 2010. I was dating a guy that was a douche. I was stressed out. Suddenly, life wasn’t nearly as fun as it once was. I had to make a change.

I always wanted to go to culinary school. While I was in middle school, my class made a “dream ladder.” I didn’t have a clue what my dream job at that age was, but the ladder was placed in the lounge when we were seniors and I located my dream: Become a Famous Chef. You gotta remember that I was 12 years old and I had every intention of being famous because, at that age, it seemed like an easy feat. I remember being obsessed with the Food Network and Top Chef. While I was home alone, I would make pancakes as if I were filming my own cooking show (I seriously loved pancakes). It’s what I loved to do and I spent a lot of my time searching the internet for different types of recipes and cooking gadgets. So when my life turned upside down during my time at Auburn, applying for culinary school was the only thing that I knew to do. I dropped out of college after Christmas Break in 2011 and secretly applied to Johnson and Wales before I even consulted my parents. Imagine their surprise if you can, that is.

So, that was that. Goodbye, Auburn and Hello, Johnson and Wales.

You better believe I had the time of my life. Class consisted of learning cooking techniques and eating as we did. Braising, roasting, frying, baking…the list goes on and on. I woke up every day excited to go to class, but who wouldn’t when they knew that it was wine and cheese tasting day. Drinking wine at 7:30 in the morning? The 21 year old in me thought “hell yes”! The 25 year old that I am now is more like “hell to-the no…” Who wants a hangover by noon? Not this girl.

The opportunity at Five and Ten came about for my internship. I simply made a phone call, drove down to meet Dean Neff (the head chef at the time), and was hired. After all, no one turns down free labor. I quickly learned that what you’re taught in school doesn’t apply to what you need to know in life. There is simply no way to replicate the fast-paced environment that a Friday night in a high profile restaurant creates. You learn quickly, though. It’s fun, stressful, and hotter than you could ever imagine.559153_3604429678687_1014888367_n

It’s a hard life. Long hours. Little pay. Lots of drinking. Did I really want my life to be like that? No. I love food. I love cooking. I don’t love 80 hour work weeks. I don’t love getting home at 2 AM every night.

I left. My parents offered to pay for me to finish my Bachelor’s degree back at home. So I went. It wasn’t an easy choice. I was in the perfect place to start my culinary career, but I also knew that I wanted more in my life than to live and work in a kitchen. It just wasn’t for me.

But I learned a lot and I have a lot of knowledge to share. I’ve now officially graduated and looking to start the next phase of my life. What is it, you may ask? Not a clue, but it sure as hell is going to involve food.