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A Southern Sendoff; on friends and brisket

29 Jul



This is weekend I hosted a house full of friends to wish my very good friend Jessica best wishes on her adventure north to Michigan. When Jess broke the news a couple months ago that she was taking a new job at Michigan State, I said “you gotta do what you gotta do.” No doubt, I was ignoring the fact that my friend was actually moving away. It may have taken the preparation of fourteen pounds of southern slow cooked brisket for a large crowd of Jessica’s friends for the reality to really settle in. Four hours of standing by a 325 degree oven leaves room to account for late nights at College Hill, paddle boarding adventures, hikes to Hanging Rock with Winston in tow, marathons of Law & Order, latkes parties, truffle popcorn and countless gossip sessions at the nail salon.

I’m a believer that places are really only spaces without people. So it is my hope that the house full of  friends on Saturday night will leave a reminder to Jessica that Greensboro will always be home . Our friendship has been filled with much laughter, a few tears and many adventures, both significant and insignificant. Without a doubt, you’ll be missed on Mendenhall. Come back and see us soon – I’ll probably still have leftover brisket.

Atlanta Brisket, Cooks Illustrated

  • 3 1/2 lbs beef brisket, flat cut fat trimmed to 1/4 inch thick
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 lb onion, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 cups cola
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Using fork, poke holes all over brisket. Rub entire surface of brisket with 1 T salt. Wrap brisket in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 or up to 24 hours.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325. Pat brisket dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat 2 t oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over med-high til just smoking. Place brisket fat side down in skillet; weigh down with dutch oven or heavy cast iron skillet and cook til well browned, about 4 minutes. Remove dutch oven, flip brisket and replace dutch oven on top and cook til other side is well browned,about 4 minute Transfer to platter.

Heat remaining 2 t oil in same skillet over med til shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 10-12 minute Transfer to 13×9 inch baking dish and spread into even layer

Combine cola, ketchup, onion powder, sugar, garlic powder, thyme, 1 t salt, and 1 t pepper in a bowl. Place brisket fat side up on top of onions and pour cola mixture over brisket. Place parchment paper over brisket and cover dish tightly with foil. Bake til tender and fork slips easily in and out of meat, 3 1/2 – 4 hours. Let brisket rest in liquid, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Transfer brisket to carving board. Skim any fat from top of sauce with large spoon. Slice brisket against grain into 1/4 inch thick slices and return to baking dish. Serve with sauce.


Cheers to Five Years!

29 Jun






This weekend marks the 5th anniversary of Mod Meals on Mendenhall! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I was sitting bored in my new house, without dog, on a hot summer day. At that point, I had no idea what the adventure would hold. But it’s included new friends, great learning experiences, many opportunities and lots and lots of fun.

This weekend I celebrated by relaxing and spending time with friends. With the holiday coming up with weekend, I’m planning lots of cooking that I can’t wait to share. Stay tuned!

Cheers to many more years!




Stock up. Summer Starts Now

2 Jun



The weekend is already feeling distant at this point in the day on a Monday afternoon but the start of the summer felt great while it lasted. I spent my weekend drinking wine (obviously), doing some cooking and taking paddle boarding lessons! Just when you think there is nothing new to do in the area, you stumble on a unique adventure that changes all perceptions. Check out SUP Paddle Boarding lessons with Soraya! It couldn’t have been more fun.

With lots of t time seeking adventure, I love an appetizer that take almost zero time. A sweet peppadew pepper stuffed with salami and parmesan cheese was suggested on a couple weekends ago. It’s a charming bite sized appetizer that is a punch of color and flavor. Just like all things summer should be. Stock up on staples and you’ll always have time to host.


Spring Menu with Mom!

7 Apr


This weekend, my Mom and her best friend Debbie came to visit Greensboro. They lucked out again with a beautiful weekend to spend digging in my yard. I’m always grateful for their time and energy. Not only do they seasonally spruce up my garden – they also bring laughter, great food and wine to Mendenhall. We had three great meals this weekend. But as a thank you to them, I prepared this fancy Sunday supper for them to celebrate Springtime on Mendenhall. I’ll post the recipes this week.

Spring Menu with Mom(s)!

  • Spring Mustard and Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chops with Goat Cheese Polenta and Port Raspberry Sauce
  • Roasted Spring Carrots and Asparagus
  • Ina’s Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes



Dumplings, Doughnuts and Dion

10 Mar



What do you do when your friends are out of power? You invite them over for hot showers, cell phone and iPad charging, homemade dumplings, donuts and a little Celine Dion karaoke. That’s right, Dumplings, Donuts and Dion.

After a very unexpected and dreadful ice storm, the party was just the ticket. We made two types of dumplings – Mushroom & Tofu and Pork & Cabbage with a spicy dipping sauce. They were easy, it was interactive and terribly delicious. Additionally, I picked up some super trendy doughnuts from Monuts in downtown Durham. Lemon green tea, blueberry and chocolate, Ginger and original were the perfect treat.

Sometimes parties take absolutely no preparation. They are impromptu, interactive and shockingly wild and crazy. It’s the spice of my life these days.

Girls Movie & Pizza Night

2 Mar


The busier life gets, the more grateful I am for weekends with friends. This weekend was full of spontaneous adventures and laughter. From serendipitous moments of humor late night at the neighborhood bar to a quiet evening at home with girlfriends in the kitchen.

On Saturday night, I had a couple of friends over for homemade pizza, cookie making, wine and a movie. We ate in the kitchen and experimented with a complicated Martha Stewart recipe before watching a last minute Oscar nominated movie. It was fun, laid back and left enough time to get a good nights sleep for Sunday activities – which was beautiful.

I’ll post the recipes this week! I hope you had a nice weekend too.

Homemade Pizza Night Menu:

  • Spring Strawberry, Orange and Almond Salad
  • Truffled Fontina and Mushroom Pizza
  • Homemade Brandy Snap Cups with Sorbet


25 Feb






These days, my office is no fantasy suite. We’re moving after thirteen years of life on Elm Street and it’s a big old mess. So, my days have been filled with mayhem, meetings and way too many Jimmy Johns sandwiches. No disrespect intended, Jimmy, but there is a sweeter world.

Between all the turkey sandwiches I’ve had a little off-time to have fun with friends and quiet time at home. Including, a very fun Name That Tune fundraiser for the Greensboro Symphony (with Mod Meals & The Fresh Market auction item!), a hike up Hanging Rock, some pecorino and spinach eggs and a great weeknight steak salad.

After the big move this week, I’ll have a little time this weekend to actually cook! Stayed tuned, I’ve got a list of recipes to test this weekend.

Sunshine State Christmas 2013

31 Dec


Before we we all ring in the New Year, I must share a few photographs from my Sunshine State Christmas with family. This year we had thirteen friends and family gather in North Florida for a traditional holiday celebration with wacky gifts, authentic Melrose BBQ and garden cole slaw, fried oysters on Christmas afternoon followed by my Dad’s famous shrimp creole and my avocado and grapefruit salad. So many classic family recipes that are seasonal and authentic to my homeland roots.

Between all the cooking and eating (and drinking) there was much laughing and storytelling. It is always heartwarming to be home with friends and family. I hope you had as special of a holiday as we did.

I’m back in North Carolina ringing in the new year in the mountains. Many festive recipes to come later in the week! And then, you know, some salads. Xoxo




Andrew’s Famous Egg Nog

23 Dec





While I was hoping to share Andrew’s most famous eggnog recipe with all of you – I must tell you that he is keeping it a secret! Some things are best kept a mum, I suppose.

The eggnog might have been the biggest hit of the party… And knocked many socks off. Hince, these funny photos!


A Local Holiday Gift Guide

18 Dec


Whether you are counting your blessings, regrets, hopes, wishes or calories – tis the season for lists – we’re making lists, checking them twice and wondering where we misplaced them. If you’ve found yourself without a gift list a week before Santa’s scheduled to arrive, here is a local list of my favorite things. Cue the Oprah!?

A wise woman once told me that gifts are best when recyclable or consumable. When I look back, indeed the best gifts throughout my life have not been first-generation Palm Pilots or Furbees but handwritten IOUs from my late Grandmother for quail dinners around the table with family, hugs and kisses, and homemade apple pies.

I’m of the belief that most of the people in my life buy things for themselves when they need or want them. To me, the best gifts come in experiences – meals shared around a table, trips taken near or far, and words and thoughts exchanged.

So here I propose a local, recyclable, and consumable list of holiday gifts: 

  1. For the friend who thinks a holiday party consists of a bowl of cashews and a bottle of wine – embrace it and give a gift card to our locally-grown grocer, The Fresh Market. Perhaps they’ll surprise you with a taste of cheese from their delicious selection.
  2. For the transplant, nothing beats an authentic Italian Salami and Cheese Gift Box from Giacomo’s. I recommend the hot sopressata and locatelli cheese.
  3. A bottle of White Truffle Olive Oil from the North Carolina owned MidTown Olive Press. A drizzle of this divine oil will turn any popcorn into a fabulous hors d’oeuvre.
  4. Are your friends more sweet or spicy? Spice up a friend’s life with a personalized selection of spices from Savory Spice Shop.
  5. A date to Zeto’s Wine downtown complete with a Zeto VinoMatic Card for a wine tasting from their “wine wall.”
  6. What do you do for the vegetarians, pescatarians, paleo and gluten free? A membership to Deep Roots Market Co-Op will set them free to indulge for a lifetime.
  7. For the adventurer, nothing beats a local international exploration to Super G Mart or Li Ming’s Global Mart. Once you’ve walked the stores and gazed longingly into the eyes of a dried squid – stop by Banh Mi Saigon Sandwiches & Bakery for a snack to keep up your stamina.
  8. Continue your foodie education with an adult or children’s cooking lesson at the Edible Schoolyard. Learn to make foods from seed to table from their vast roster of local culinary educators.
  9. A selection of sweet and savory goat cheeses from the local Goat Lady Dairy. No one can turn down one of their signature chocolate goat cheese truffles.
  10. One with nature? How about a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription from one of our many local farms or a plot of land at a community garden?
  11. The workaholic won’t start 2014 without a good caffeine buzz. How about a pound of local beans from Piedmont Coffee Roasters or a gift card to their favorite local coffee house?
  12. With a growing economy of craft beers, hop on over for a date to Bestway’s Beer Wall for shop til you drop exploration.

This is just a sample of the many savory treats and experiences you can consider gifting this season. Most importantly, keep it personal, consumable and most importantly, local. They’ll sure to remember it.


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