Seashells and Sand-Reckoner by the Seashore


There is something about the beach that makes you want to write bad poetry about waves being metaphors for life, have a clam bake, and drink copious amounts of wine or coffee while plucking up seashells. The sound of water and gulls, the smell of sweet salty air, the waves crashing and rolling up to engulf your feet and the sand squishing between your toes.

I’m not a sun-worshiper. Being fair and freckled doesn’t make for good sunning. But hitting the beach at the tail-end of the season, is perfect. Less crowds, cooler weather, lots of long walks on the beach with Mr. PC, seashell hunting, and tumblers of wine sipped sitting in the sand, watching the water.

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Mr. PC signed us up for his family vacation to Corolla, North Carolina on Duck Island. In past years, when his aunt and uncle rent a beach house for a week, we have been unable to attend. This year, knowing my business is picking up and that he has some big projects that will prevent us from traveling, we made the trek to the east coast.


I baked a bit on this trip, stowing away a baking pan, scale, measuring spoons and microplane in my luggage. Cinnamon rolls, a German chocolate cake, and pineapple mojitos. It’s actually a lot of fun to go into a kitchen and not know what is in there, and then figure out how to make what you need without the typical tools. Some of the best restaurants or coffee shops I’ve worked at have been those that don’t have large budgets and where we have to get creative when it comes to tools or baking vessels. It pushes you to be inventive.

Everyone contributed a little. Paella was whipped up one night, someone brought BBQ from a restaurant in Memphis, others picked up pizzas and champagne. As each bottle of alcohol was emptied, they were placed up on window ledge in the living room, over the sliding doors – a remembrance to the good times had by all while partaking.


Mostly, this trip let me recharge a little. I read magazines and cookbooks. Daydreamed new pastry and cooking class ideas. Walked on the beach with my hubby. Drank (we brought Sand-Reckoner, Pillsbury, Dos Cabezas, and Arizona Distilling Co. with us, so everyone could try some Arizona goodies. Well, and some Pistol Whipped Pastry of course!) and ate a massive meal of clam chowder, shrimp, and crab cakes. Slept. Climbed to the top of an old lighthouse. Realized after said climb what poor shape we are in. It was just the break we needed before coming home and diving into work.


On this trip I met Mr. PC’s extended family. His cousins and their families were unable to make it to our wedding. Completely understandable, since everyone has busy lives and with a country between us, it can be challenging for all of us to get together. I was happy to finally meet everyone and have the opportunity to get to know his aunt, uncle and cousins better.

At the end of our journey, we ate the best soft pretzel and mustard (Lusty Monk) we’ve ever had at a brewery called Weeping Radish on the road back to Norfolk, Virgina. Unbeknownst to me, Mr. PC stashed a portion cup of the mustard into our carry on, which I found when unpacking later that night.

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Now we are home and the weather is becoming beautiful again here in Phoenix. Our suitcases are still laying on the floor half unpacked. My seashell collection is stilled wrapped in Mr. PC’s tshirts and stuffed inside the alcohol travel tubes. Mr. PC is busy with work, and I am knee-deep in lots of Pistol Whipped Pastry plans. The beach was fun, but back to the grind of work and life. It helps that I also have a case of Lusty Monk mustard coming our way. And I am still finding sand everywhere, even in the pockets of my favorite hoodie.


Macallan Scotch Dinner, Talavera, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is hidden in the desert landscape of north Scottsdale, creating a quiet retreat. On a rainy, cool night, we (My fabulous friends Rhonni Boss Moffitt and Christina & Ernesto Barrueta) sat down, tucked into their softly lit, warm dining room. Each table has so much space around it, you feel like you’re eating in a private dining room.

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A hot skillet of house-made rolls appeared, beginning our torrent of food and scotch about to pour-forth from the kitchen. In a haze of crumbs, nods of approval at each other and the vanishing rolls, Jason, master of cocktails, came to our table to give us an in-depth tutorial on each cocktail.

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Of the four scotch drinks, my favorite was the first, a Macallan 12 year, one cube, fig and lavender. Not too sweet and not too burning alcohol. Refreshing with homemade fig and lavender syrups, I could have sat there and sipped a few for happy hour. Unfortunately, we were starving, so bring on the food.

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Our first cocktail was paired with stuffed quail, black mission figs, blue cheese, salsify and local greens with cranberry-vanilla vinaigrette. Crisp skin, tender quail, rich blue cheese, fresh greenery with a light, zingy vinaigrette.

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Next course, a cocktail with Macallan 15 year fine oak, Up, Orange bitters, Cynar. Jason told us that he added some vinegar to this drink to help cut the richness of the next dish. This was my favorite dish of the night, called “Cheek to Cheek.” Braised veal cheek ravioli, halibut cheek, brussel sprouts, bacon, and porcini broth. The veal check meat was so tender and flavorful. Pasta skillfully made and perfectly cooked. Halibut cheek light and flaky. Finished off with a vivid porcini broth, a sprinkle of julienned brussel sprouts and bacon, it is, in my opinion, the season of fall in a dish. Solo, the cocktail was quite bitter and acidic, but paired with the dish, it balanced beautifully.

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The third scotch was a Macallan 18 year with an ice ball, which was visually much more interesting than on the rocks with plain ice. After tasting this, I would love to be able to sit down with someone like John, from Macallan, and sip each scotch on it’s own, to taste the differences and learn how each is made, in order to understand the flavors.

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This scotch was paired with lobster and wild boar sausage “paella.” I could not believe how much seafood was in this dish. Lobster, mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp and then the wild boar sausage (my new love), a top a generous serving of saffron spiked risotto and splashed with lobster stock. I want to swim in the lobster stock. It’s rich and heavenly, and I’m willing to bet money it has some magical healing properties. At this point, I slipped into a mild food coma or it could have been my pants becoming increasingly tighter and cutting off my circulation. Either way, I was happy.

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Once the “paella” was placed before me, I pretty much forgot about the scotch that went with it, so I can’t say if it paired well or not. I drank my Macallan 18 year with my dessert course, as I preferred it to the final cocktail.

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Our final course, was pear bread butter pudding with Macallan scotch raisin ice cream, maple pecans and scotch caramel. The bread pudding was light and cream, a perfect bread pudding in my book. The best part of the dessert was the Macallan scotch raisin ice cream. Unique and well executed. The maple pecans were good and the caramel was good, but I have to say, the caramel wasn’t boozy enough for me. If it had been a little stronger with the scotch flavor, it would have knocked the whole thing out of the park. The final cocktail was Macallan 10 year fine oak with chipotle, maple, and nux. This wasn’t my favorite cocktail. It was definitely interesting, with a little heat, which paired well with the sweetness of the dessert, but it was heavy and being so full, it wasn’t what I wanted to sip on at the end of the meal.

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In lieu of mints, some mint mousse cover chocolate pops ended the night of scotch indulgence.

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Chef Mel came to speak with each table that ordered the Macallan menu that night, which for an executive chef in a busy kitchen, was an exceptional treat. He spoke with us about what he wanted with the menu and how much he enjoyed working with Jason, cocktail maestro.

We rolled our plumped bods to the car and drove home in the beautiful desert rain. I truly believe that it’s the small details that set a restaurant apart and I was impressed with every aspect of Talavera and their staff.


Talavera, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

10600 East Crescent Moon Drive

Scottsdale, Arizona 85262



*Please note: I pay for my own meals, unless otherwise noted. I do not write pieces about restaurants for free meals. The views are my own.

Hank’s Frozen Custard, Meadville, PA


My hometown of Erie, PA is not a culinary mecca. The glass gems in our cheap tiara would be the concord grapes (grown for Welch’s) that perfume the air in the fall, Smith’s hotdogs (costs more to ship them to my house in Arizona than for the hotdogs themselves), sponge candy, and pepperoni balls (we used to pimp them for school fundraisers in grade school and often ended up eating most of them). Perhaps not valuable to anyone but me, nonetheless I keep that cheap, old tiara next to the real diamond earrings I got for my 18th birthday.


But just a bit south, and on the route to the Pittsburgh airport, is Hank’s Frozen Custard, a true hidden diamond in the Pennsylvania countryside. Old school frozen custard, rich and creamy. Hand packed onto the ice cream cone. The good stuff people used to eat before the proliferation of fat-free frozen yogurt.


I can’t write anymore. I’m busy licking.

Dinner at Cibo, Phoenix, AZ

Cibo reminds me of a small east coast restaurant tucked into the neighborhood. The huge outdoor space with fountains and grape lights strung through the trees, is chatchke done right (I know, I didn’t think there was such a thing, but it works). The only thing that bugged me was our flimsy patio table. If the food falls in my lap, I can still eat it…off the floor is frowned upon.

A light red to drink. I honestly don’t know a whole lot about Italian wines, but this was prefect for an alfresco meal in May.


Burrata and bresaola were flawless. I hate burrata when it’s too tough (aka overworked) or too watery inside. Not the case with this burrata. Creamy with a drizzle of balsamic. Bresaola is one of the most beautiful cures meats. Sliced thinly over a bed of arugula with shavings of aged parm, extra virgin olive oil and lemon slices. The bresaola reminds me of the leather of an expensive handbag, marbled and mahogany colored. Edible handbags, my new venture?




Pasta specials: gnocchi, fettuccine, or orecchiette. All in butter sauce. We got the fettuccine and orecchiette. The pasta was a little tough, and I was bummed that they were essentially the same sauce on all three pastas. Simply seasoned with cracked black pepper, they were good, but the texture prevented me from eating more.




Totally off the food topic, the couple sitting at the table behind me were on a first date. Yes, eavesdropping is wrong, but after being on so many horrid first dates recently, it was nice to see two people enjoying a first date. As I later found out, Cibo was voted best place for a first date in 2009. Just a little hint for any people heading out on first dates, apparently, Cibo is the lucky first date spot.

I think their pizza is stellar. Great crust. Nicely charred on the bottom. We tried La Noce, tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, arugula, and walnuts. I was so full, I only managed to eat one slice.


Lastly, a crepe. A little weird with the whole Italian food vibe, but they had me hooked at Nutella. Sliced banana and nutella crepe topped with vanilla ice cream.


I waddled to my car and managed to drive home before a full food coma set in. Sum it up: Order burrata and bresaola and you’ll definitely be winning. Skip the pasta. Pizza is fab. Dessert is all crepes, all the time.

603 North 5th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Dinner at Pane Bianco


My new favorite salad: housemade mozzarella, warm fava beans, sautéd spinach, speck, warm toasted bread with olive oil. I’m in love. Can you crave something you just ate? I’m already jonesing for a fix.


Veg roasted in the wood oven. Sweet potato, peas, squash, carrots, garlic, cauliflower. Delicious, love the smoky flavor and a little char from the wood oven, but needed a dash more salt for my taste.


Crepes with oven roasted tomatoes and ricotta. This dish didn’t do anything for me. It was a good dish and came out burn-my-mouth hot, I just was underwhelmed after the amazing fava bean salad.


My second favorite dish of the evening. Schreiner’s sausage on top of wood oven charred green onions and a large dollop of creamy polenta.

Stay away from the crepes and you’ll score.