A vegetarian BBQ menu for Labor Day

Back with another Labor Day menu.  If you missed the antipasti-themed menu, here it is.  As with before, this menu is a mix of some of our own recipes and ones I’ve seen floating around other blogs that have caught my attention.  I haven’t made them all yet, but I hope to…maybe this weekend?


corn, cucumber and tomato salad

Salt and Vinegar Potato Salad (with green beans!) from Joy the Baker

Heirloom tomato and peach salad from A Couple Cooks

Here’s some more corn recipes, because if you’re anything like me, you want to eat A LOT of corn before the summer is up.  This recipe sounds awesome:  Roasted corn with manchego and lime from the Wednesday Chef. Or, if you prefer your corn to stay on its cob, I love the idea of making different flavored butters: Corn butters from A Muse in my Kitchen.


BBQ tempeh burger with jalapeno slaw

Portobello and Peach Burger from Green Kitchen Stories on Design Sponge (I think I’d sub blue cheese for the guacamole)

And I’m really digging on the concept of feta or haloumi (/halloumi/halumi) skewered on veggie kebobs.  Apparently it doesn’t turn into a melted puddle.  I haven’t tried that yet, but can’t wait to give it a shot.  Here’s a bunch of veggie kebob recipes from The Kitchn.


Cobbler is always a favorite of mine.  And naturally I love my own recipe (though, make the desserty version of it, with 1/2 c of sugar on the fruit).

stone fruit cobber with a yummy almond topping

But, much as I love cobbler, I will admit that right now, for this BBQ menu, I might prefer an ice cream cake or pie. Still something fruity and fresh.  Or maybe citrusy?  I’m thinking something like meyer lemon ice cream in a gingersnap crust topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries.  But…I haven’t found a recipe for that yet…


Finally, the drinks.  Here’s a few that get me excited (and some other people, I guess — the blackberry bourbon lemonade was our most popular post of the summer):

blackberry bourbon lemonade

the john daly: sweet tea, lemonade and vodka

the chelada: light beer and lime juice

What’s your Labor Day style?  Which menu calls to you more, the antipasti menu or the BBQ menu?  Do you have any Labor Day or BBQ favorites?

An antipasti themed menu for Labor Day

Now that Irene has mostly come and gone and people seem to be doing generally well, I think it’s time to start talking about what to cook for Labor Day.  I can barely believe it’s next weekend.  As I was hemming and hawing over what I wanted to make, I put together this menu.  It’s buffet style and based on an antipasti theme.

Lots of small plates with fresh ingredients is probably my favorite way of eating, though I suppose that’s not totally reflected yet in the recipes I’ve put together on this blog (…we’re working on it slowly but surely…).  So, in addition to calling out a few of our own recipes (just click on the picture to open the recipe), I’m also linking to several recipes from other sites that are speaking to me.

Clearly making all of these recipes would be a little crazy, but if you do, could you invite me over?


Start with a couple types of olives and a few nice cheeses.  Maybe a big bowl of hummus.  Then add a few more salads/side dishes and possibly a soup.  Here’s some recipes that are current favorites:

simple white bean salad

summer split pea soup


Shaved fennel salad from 101 Cookbooks

Roasted peppers with capers and mozzarella from Smitten Kitchen (maybe replace the mozzarella with burrata?)

Tomato salad with olives and coriander salad from Yummy Supper

Now would also be a tremendous time for bruschetta with a caponata or mushroom topping to provide a bit of an anchor for all of the salads, but I’m not finding any recipes I’m totally in love with online (anyone? anyone?).  So, let’s go with this Roasted Eggplant and Zatar pizza from Sprouted Kitchen.


The main meal is light and bright and I think dessert should feel equally fresh.  A nice stone fruit sorbet would be perfect to me.  But, I’d also like a fresh fruit galette (which would feel as rustic and casual as all the salads…and I think galettes look gorgeous on a big table of food) or these beautiful roasted apricots.

pluot sorbet (please mentally replace the book with wine)

Blueberry galette from Lottie + Doof

Simple roasted apricots from Joy the Baker (or maybe peaches would be better this time of year…)


Last but not least, drinks!  There’s definitely wine.  Which will be wonderful.  But, I think it would be nice to add a little extra sparkle to pre-dinner and post-dinner chatting.  So, here’s a few cocktails that would work well.

rosé sangria with peaches and cucumber (this one won an editor's pick at food52!)

tom collins (classic and wonderful)

cucumber-ginger-lime slushies

I’m going to share a BBQ-themed menu in a couple days…and then I’d love to hear which one you like better.  But for now, what are your Labor Day favorites?  Do you have any traditions?  (Other than buying, say, back to school supplies…let’s not talk about school!)

Drinking civet coffee

A little over a year ago, I stumbled across this article from the New York Times and forwarded it to a couple people (check it out to see the picture of the coffee-packed civet dung…awesome).  A little email chain ensued, where one person wrote “Gross! Poop coffee!” and another wanted to give it a try.  I was interested, but I wasn’t going to order any.  It sells from $100-500/lb.

Then we found ourselves in Chiang Rai, in a coffee shop called Doi Chaang @ Art.  As I mentioned, several of the hill tribes in northern Thailand grow coffee, including the Akha farmers living in Doi Chaang village.  They have a partnership with a company called Doi Chaang Coffee, which distributes their coffee globally and runs a couple really nice shops.  While Alex lounged in a big arm chair, geeking out on his iPad and charting our scooter route for the day, I poked around the coffee beans in a display case.  I was looking through the different blends when I spied some bags of Wild Civet Coffee.  Whaat??!

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Scooters and agriculture in northern Thailand

This is a post that comes a bit more from the PhD side of me than the cook. I’m excited to write about the food and drink we encountered during the last leg of our trip, but first I thought it was best to bring up a couple of the issues surrounding agriculture in northern Thailand. Before we get going, here’s some shots of our really cool Thai motorcycle helmets.

After I last wrote, Alex and I rented a couple scooters and headed out from Chiang Mai, the biggest city in northern Thailand, up to a smaller town called Chiang Dao.

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Thai green curry

While I was in the middle of writing about the best vegetarian green curry of all time, Alex and I boarded a plane and then a ferry, trading Bangkok for Koh Phi Phi.

In Koh Phi Phi, my blog plans were thwarted.  Our hotel didn’t really have internet.  So, we focused on SCUBA diving, hiking  and a bit of lounging on the beach…

One of the fun things about going to the beach in Thailand is that the beach-side restaurants sell Thai food (shocker!).  After a snorkel, we’d crawl out of the water, land on some chairs in the sand, and order up soups and curries. Continue reading

Thai spring roll wrappers

Back at home, Alex and I go out for Thai food pretty regularly. We don’t order spring rolls as often, but when we do, they’ve always come in a thin, transparent rice wrapper. Yesterday I learned that the rice wrapper is a Vietnamese-style spring roll and Thais traditionally use a wheat-based wrapper. Who knew?

Our first order of business in cooking school was to stop by the local store that makes spring roll wrappers for all the neighboring restaurants. Actually, “store” is a bit of an overstatement. It’s a one-woman show that includes a big vat of a flour-water-salt dough mixture and a heavy cast-iron griddle over propane. She steadily cranks out spring roll wrappers from sun up until sun down to meet the local demand. I really like this short video Alex took of the action (I couldn’t sit in that position all day…and I would definitely burn myself!):

Our incredible instructor, May, wrapped spun sugar in the still-warm , crepe-like wrappers and passed them around for us to munch on.

Alex and I debated whether or not the wheat ones are better than the rice wrappers. He prefers them. I like them better for sweet dishes (like, with bananas), but I think I prefer the rice wrappers for spring rolls. One thing that’s nice about the wheat wrappers, though, is that when they’re fresh they’re very easy to work with.

Regardless, it was fun to learn about a new type of spring roll and see them being made! The outside of the shop is so understated that I would have never wandered in on my own. It was fantastic that May brought us by. Loved cooking school so much — more tomorrow!

Tropical fruit

During the day, it’s about 90 degrees and 90% humidity in Bangkok. While loads of Thai people seem comfortable lounging around in jeans (I’ve even seen a few sweatshirts), Alex and I are wilting. I think it’s going to be a little while longer until we get used to the steam room-esque conditions.

In the mean time, as we wander the streets we’ve been stopping by fruit vendors and juice shops to keep us going. The array of fruit is amazing! There are plenty of fruits that we’re accustomed to seeing (mango, pineapple and carrots) and some that I’ve seen a few times before (dragonfruit, mangosteen and rambutan — Trader Joe’s carried those last two dried). But, there are some that are new to me, like the green one below.

The guy selling the green fruit told me it’s called something like wu wu. We haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like we’re going to have to pick up a bunch of these different fruits and cut into them before the trip is over. I’m so intrigued!

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A weekend at Blackberry Farm

Last weekend, two close friends got married in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  The wedding was gorgeous, but we were also so, so lucky to have a chance to spend the weekend relaxing and eating at their wedding venue, Blackberry Farm.

Blackberry Farm is an exquisitely run Relais & Chateau hotel known for their food.  They have a strong farm-to-table ethic and  grow a good amount of their produce on site.  They also have chickens and a dairy.  Most everything served was in season and, if not from the farm, locally sourced.  The nicest thing, though, was that Blackberry Farm never hit us over the head with their approach.  On the menus I never read any words like house-made or foraged.  Instead everything was just fresh and brilliant tasting.

So, we ate.  We ate and ate and ate – formal dinners and casual BBQ lunches.  And we loved every minute of it.

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Food and Fleury in Napa

After our recent trip to Tres Sabores and Buehler, we couldn’t wait to follow it up with another trip to Napa. Alex happened to be working in the area (and staying in a nearby hotel), so it was almost by accident that we ended up spending a full day in Napa. Unlike other weekends in wine country, we had no plans, didn’t really feel like drinking much wine and felt great about taking it easy.

We woke up and rolled into town to grab coffee and cupcakes breakfast at Oxbow Public Market. Ritual Coffee Roasters has a storefront there (the same Ritual Coffee that I tried out in the Mission) and Alex wanted to give their coffee a go. He ordered a pour over coffee, begrudgingly paid ~$4, but loved the coffee. I focused my efforts on a latte and a carrot cake cupcake from Kara’s.

After Ritual, we got sidetracked by Whole Spice. I’m pretty sure they aren’t affiliated with Whole Foods, but I think that is the association they might be going for.

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A springtime day trip to Napa: Tres Sabores and Buehler

Now that I’m in the final throes of the semester, it seems difficult to believe that just a few weekends ago we were running around carefree in Napa.  But, we were!  As I was suffering through a round of papers today, I thought I’d look back over pictures from two recent Napa trips and pretend that we were still out in the sunshine among the budding vines with glasses of wine in hand (nevermind my advisor peering over at me from his office).  Here’s some pictures from our first trip.  I’ll have a post from our second trip later this week.

Our springtime adventures in Napa started on a chilly and beautiful day a couple months back when my friend, Christina, was visiting.  Alex, Christina and I drove up to check out a few vineyards recommended by our friend Phoebe (I was so happy to have recommendations — I always feel a little lost in Napa).  Based on Phoebe’s tips, we ended up scheduling tours at Tres Sabores and Buehler.  She knew we love having a good tasting experience (read about our wine preferences here) and she assured us both would be loads of fun.  She was right!

Tres Sabores

Tres Sabores is an organic vineyard that uses sheep to mow the weeds between the vines and guinea hens to eat the pests from both the ground and the sheep.  Sheep = extremely cute.  Especially when they nuzzle together.

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