Limoncello

Lemons

With the Texas summer hanging on for dear life, a batch of limoncello is a nice break from all the Rosé, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc we have been drinking the last few months. Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur typically served as a digestivo, an after dinner drink. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Sorrento lemons steeped in grain alcohol and mixed with simple syrup. It is especially nice to sit outside on warm summer nights and sip a cool, fresh, lemon treat!

Limoncello base recipes are all fairly similar so I modified a recipe from Gabriele Corcos from the show Extra Virgin. I love that show! I like a strong lemon liqueur so I used more lemons and less grain alcohol. If you like sweetness you can always add more sugar and/or use meyer lemons.

Limoncello is a wonderful drink on its own, but you can also use it to make infused cocktails and desserts. What is your favorite limoncello infused recipe?

Limoncello

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Steep Time: 6 weeks

Ingredients:

  • 16 lemons
  • 1 liter grain alcohol (Everclear or equivalent)
  • 1.5 liters water
  • 2.3 lbs. granulated sugar

Directions:

Using a potato peeler, peel the skin of 16 lemons. You can use meyer lemons if you like a sweeter limoncello, but I used lemons I found at Costco.

Place lemon peels in a large container and add 1 liter of grain alcohol. Seal container tightly.

Place container in a cool, dark place and let steep for two weeks.

After two weeks, strain the limoncello liquid and discard the lemon peel.

Bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil. Once the boiling point is reached, remove water from heat and add 2.3 lbs. of granulated sugar. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Let simple syrup cool completely.

Once simple syrup has cooled, add to limoncello mixture. Stir to combine. Seal tightly and place in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks.

After 4 weeks, limoncello is ready to enjoy!

A Food Lovers Guide to Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores signWhat makes a destination truly special? I believe the truth lies in the holy trinity: food, wine, and the best dessert in town. You can tell so much about a place from the establishments that support the community. I learned the Gulf Coast call to arms was “Give me seafood or give me death!”

Once I arrived in Gulf Shores, I immediately started looking for restaurants, food markets, shops, cafes, wine bars, and beach side grills. Because I was on the beach I was determined to take full advantage of the fresh Gulf seafood! Fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, baked shrimp, shrimp gumbo….Sorry, I couldn’t resist the classic Bubba monologue. It was required!

Below is a list of Gulf Shores restaurants that I think any foodie will love.

King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant

After driving 12 hours, the first place I went to eat was King Neptune’s. Featured on Bobby Flay’s Food Nation, I knew I had to try their seafood. King Neptune’s is known for “royal red” shrimp. The small restaurant was completely packed when I arrived, but the service was excellent. I ordered a plate of grilled mahi-mahi, shrimp, rice, and toast along with two glasses of wine for about $30. The seafood was outstanding!mahi mahi fish

The Original Oyster House

The Original Oyster House was featured on Man vs. Food, but it was around the corner from the condo so I thought I would try it. The restaurant is located in a small boardwalk area overlooking a lagoon. My parents and I went to lunch very early so the place was empty. I ordered a broiled seafood platter featuring shrimp, oysters, small crab claws, and flounder for $13. My parents ordered fried shrimp baskets for $11. Overall, the food was very good, but I should have stuck with oysters since that was their specialty. Good drinks and very friendly wait staff!Original Oyster House

Bahama Bob’s Beach Side Cafe

Bahama Bob’s sits on the Gulf Shore beach front and was about a quarter-mile from our rental. It looks like a typical beach side cafe–relaxed and unobtrusive. Nothing fancy on the outside, but good food on the inside. Bahama Bob’s offers a small seating area inside with surfboards on the ceiling and an outside patio. Still on my seafood kick, I ordered coconut shrimp and my Dad had a cheeseburger. I have to say that was the best shrimp I had the entire trip. The breading was light and crispy without being too greasy. It was served with a sweet and spicy pineapple dipping sauce. Yum, yum, yum! Both lunches with drinks cost about $20.

Hope’s Cheesecake

I wasn’t able to visit Hope’s storefront, but I had the original cheesecake at Nolan’s restaurant. Most restaurants that I visited in Gulf Shores offered Hope’s cheesecake for dessert. It was wonderful! I love cheesecake, but sometimes it is over cooked, chunky, or too sour. I thought Hope’s was a perfect combination of smooth, creamy texture and light sweetness.

Nolan’s Steakhouse

Nolan’s Steakhouse is considered one of Gulf Shore’s fine dining establishments offering steak and seafood. The main dining room was spacious and seemed to be on par with Bob’s Steakhouse in Austin. Because I was by myself, I opted to sit in the lounge at the bar and chat. Nolan’s is definitely the happenin’ place for retirees. I was, by far, the youngest person in the restaurant besides the wait staff! Boy, can they boogie!

Nolan’s has a decent wine list and offers a “Captain’s List” of reserve wines. I ordered the filet mignon which was served with sautéed veggies and a side of pasta for $30. The entrée, dessert, and three glasses of wine was $78. Overall, I thought they had good food and would visit again.Steak

The Sunset Cork Room

The Sunset Cork Room is a wine bar/restaurant/wine store located in Gulf Shores. They feature a more eclectic menu using locally sourced produce, cheese, and seafood. Sunset also features weekly farm-to-table menus. The small bar seats about 20 people and offered a nice wine selection. My sister ordered a local cheese plate and I opted for the grilled lamb lollipops. Because I was drinking Cabernet and my sister wanted Riesling, we ended up with six glasses of wine and food for about $120. I would consider Sunset a fine dining establishment for this area, but it is quiet, cozy, with good food and wine.Red and White Wine

Seafood Markets

There are an abundance of seafood markets in the area. If going out to eat isn’t your thing or you just need a break, go to a local market and grab some peel-and-eat shrimp, crab claws, or fish. Blalock’s and S&S Market offer fresh and cooked seafood, wine, and all the fixings. I made shrimp and saffron risotto!Seafood RisottoCosmo’s

Unfortunately, I was not able to try Cosmo’s, but it got great reviews online and I heard several locals talking about the restaurant. The Orange Beach Wine Festival is also hosted by Cosmo’s (as well as Sunset Cork Room). The menu offers traditional items with a twist such as banana leaf wrapped fish, duck and sausage gumbo, and BBQ crab claws. Prices are very reasonable at $10-$20 per entrée and they have an extensive wine list. I will make sure to try Cosmo’s next trip!

Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar

If fancy dining doesn’t float your boat, why not try a biker bar? Flora-Bama is located on the Florida/Alabama state line and offers a no-frills dining experience. Just beach, burgers, oysters, and beer. My whole family went for burgers and the food was excellent! Cheap drinks too! The crowd was more family oriented during the day, but it gets more diverse in the evenings. I would like to go back when they have live music.Flora-Bama bar

For those that have been to the Gulf Coast, what is your local favorite?

Bad Days and Chocolate Soufflés

Chocolate souffleEvery once in a while, a perfect shit storm plows into my day derailing my projects, knocking out my patience, and shutting down my ability to function. Today was one of those days. It was a day where I questioned everything and wondered why I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. It was a day where chocolate was my version of smack.

On shit storm days the best thing for me to do is go home and bake. Chocolate soufflé sounded like a redemptive and restorative task. And for the record, I have NEVER made chocolate soufflé in my life. I don’t know why I was enamored by the idea today, but I just had to have it. I even listed “make chocolate soufflés” on my yearly bucket list of things I wanted to accomplish. Chocolate soufflé was going to turn my day around!

I used a modified version of Giada De Laurentiis’ Gianduja Soufflé recipe. I did not make the chocolate filling used in Giada’s recipe, instead opting for Ukrainian dark chocolate that I received as a gift. I also halved the recipe so I didn’t make too much.

How was it? Take a look. I’m still licking the ramekin. Chocolate really is a religious experience! Now, where’s the wine…Souffle Dessert

WineDownAustin goes to France–Food!

Final MBA project almost complete and wedding pictures are done! After almost 3 wonderful weeks in France I had to return to reality.  I have only been back for a few weeks, but I have been dreaming about the food! 

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My favorite restaurants in Angers and Paris…

Chez Remi

Chez Remi is a tiny, closet restaurant with roughly 12 tables. A group of 10 of us walked in and took most of the restaurant! I am sure we provided amusing entertainment for the evening. The menu is chalked on the wall and offers a selection of traditional meals. The wine list is diverse and offers something for every price point and palate.

The menu changes daily and offers fresh, farm-to-table food. Everything was perfectly cooked (you never have to worry about that in France!) and so full of flavor! I started with salmon on a bed of mushrooms and carrots, lamb for a main course, and chocolate cake for dessert.

Le Relais

My favorite meal in Angers was at Le Relais. The food was more sophisticated than other restaurants in Angers and the service was amazing. I received personal attention and they were very patient with me as I struggled through the menu. The waiter explained the entire menu, how the food was cooked, what wines he recommended for the pairing, and went as far to educate me on regional food. I learned so much! I had a salad with proscuitto and melon, white fish cooked in beef broth and potatoes, and a fruit tartlet.

When I return to the Anjou region I will definitely stop by Le Relais again!

Les Plantagenets

Les Plantagenets was the hotel restaurant. I ate there twice as I was too tired to venture out after work. It was nice. I ordered the three-course tasting menu both times and tried different dishes. The first visit I had escargot in pastry shell, white fish with vegetables, and a chocolate something was just amazing. The second time I ordered the eggplant and goat cheese, artichoke ravioli, and of course the chocolate something!

Auberge du Champ de Mars

Auberge du Champ de Mars was near our hotel in Paris. We were staying a block from the Eiffel Tower which can result in poor food for crazy prices! We found Auberge while out walking around one evening. It was small, quiet, and intimate so we decided to try it. What a treat! The chef, Philippe Excoffier, is an award winning chef offering a diverse menu.

My fiancé and I started with the eggplant lasagna then moved on to the veal chop and the roasted duck. We could not get enough of the desserts in France so I had chocolate cake (shocker!) and Mr. D had the cheesecake with strawberries.

 La Fontaine de Mars

La Fontaine de Mars was a fun experience. Not the best food in the world, but certainly an experience. I read about the place online and it was highly rated. Apparently, President Obama ate there as well. So, what the heck? We adopted the French lifestyle and went over at 9pm for dinner, but it was packed! The hostess was wonderful and worked us into the schedule. While waiting, she also brought us a plate of sausage and two glasses of Bordeaux to enjoy before dinner. Very sweet! We both had the steak and fries which was enjoyable. It wasn’t the best value for the type of food we ordered, but it was a lively square with tons of people watching. We also discovered we loved Bordeaux!

O’Chateau

O’Chateau is a wine bar/restaurant that offers wine tasting and wine dinners. We opted to do the wine tasting dinner our last night in Paris. It was very entertaining! The wine dinner was held in the cellar room downstairs. We enjoyed  a three-course meal and TONS of wine. The sommelier teaching us about the wine was very funny. I would recommend this place to anyone going to Paris. It is relaxed and offers high quality food and wine for a decent price.