Macarons and More

Today should be Style Sunday. Should being the operative word there, because it is not actually Style Sunday. Although I had every intention of dressing someone up in something trendy, doing their makeup, and photographing it, I actually spent most of the weekend doing anything but looking cute. It was a tee shirt and yoga pants weekend as I thrift shopped for plates and cups for my food photography, took my brother too and from a County Fair, and met up with a friend to discuss our upcoming plans for our Disney trip.

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This is the face of an exhausted but happy spoonie who has discovered the perfect place to meet for serious travel discussions. While some people might suggest a library, a coffee shop, or even a Panera, I have a bit of a different idea. In my mind, there’s no better place to get some work done or have a serious discussion than the local chocolatier.

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Yeah, hot chocolate is fantastic. It was finally cold enough to have an actual hot chocolate (with cinnamon and hot peppers, just the way I like it.) Before this, I was having to make do with frozen hot chocolate, which is great but definitely not the same.

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But let’s cut to the chase. There’s a real reason I chose this place, and it has nothing to do with their namesake sweet. I am here for one reason, and one reason only: macarons.

Macarons are the standard by which I judge any bakery or restaurant that has them. The best are from Rice and Noodles Vietnamese restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The worst won’t be named, but if you’re at overpriced French bakeries in St. Louis, Missouri- look out.

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I know I shouldn’t judge too harshly. Macarons are notoriously difficult to make. But if we’re speaking truthfully, while the best macarons taste like slightly crispy pillows around a creamy center, the worst ones taste like styrofoam Oreos. And that’s just not acceptable.

Every restaurant has the traditional flavors, like pistachio and strawberry. I give big points for any restaurant or bakery that goes above and beyond the usual offerings while still providing some quality, adorable desserts.

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So when I stumbled through the door of the chocolatier today and neon purple macarons greeted me, I couldn’t help but get excited. Recently, this chocolatier has had some delicious Earl Grey macarons, so I had high hopes. These turned out to be blackberry goat cheese.

I know what you’re thinking. “Goat cheese? In my macarons? That sounds absurd.” You’re right. It does sound absurd. But this was done right. So right. This was delicious.

So while these aren’t ready to knock Rice and Noodles out of the running just yet, I’m glad I have a solid place to snack on some macarons while I write blog posts like this one. I’ll take all of them, please.

Where’s your favorite place to get macarons?

Zoodles

I’ve spent the summer wondering just what zoodles are, anyway. I’ve seen them on twitter, on Instagram, and on Pinterest for months now. It turns out zoodles are zucchini used as pasta. It also turns out you can use crookneck squash for noodles as well. I’m an adventurous eater, but zoodles weren’t really on my radar. Well, they weren’t on my radar until Aldi ran a great sale on produce. I went a little zucchini crazy and wound up with more summer squashes than I knew what to do with. There was only one solution to this problem: zoodles.

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Now, all of the pretty zoodles you see online are made with a spiralizer. I can’t afford one of those gadgets, so I might have made mine with a cheese grater instead. I used the side with the three big holes. I grated the squash, patted them dry with a paper towel, and dunked them in salty boiling water for two minutes.

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The verdict: delicious, even if they’re not as pretty as I hoped. My husband immediately asked if he could take the leftovers to work with him as a change from his normal junky snacks. (He can still eat gluten, and does very often when he’s away from me.)

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With my homemade tomato sauce, it was a nice healthy change up! I’ve been sick for the past month with a POTS flare, so my diet has mainly consisted of milkshakes, tea, and powerade. This was the first thing I’ve really been able to eat in a while and I’m glad I tried it. I guess the zoodle trend isn’t so weird after all!

Grocery Bar, Chattanooga, TN

Southside in Chattanooga, Tennessee, used to be a food desert. To fight the influx of fast food restaurants and convenience stores moving in to take advantage of the lack of healthy food, Enzo’s Grocery was born. Enzo’s enjoyed moderate success as a neighborhood grocery, but attracted few customers outside of the area. In June, it was announced that my favorite grocery was closing it’s doors. Luckily for Enzo’s- and for me- a group of investors stepped in and Enzo’s rebranded itself as Grocery Bar.

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Grocery Bar is a neighborhood grocery driven and directed by chefs. Although they still have a grocery section, the real focus here is on prepared foods. Between a sushi bar, a sandwich and pizza bar, a juice bar, and cold and hot deli selections, there appears to be something for everyone at this new Southside staple.

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I’ve been to Grocery Bar twice since it opened under the new name, and I’ve been impressed both times.

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My husband and I stopped at Grocery Bar to pick up some food for a date night picnic. We were short on time, so we didn’t order from the kitchen, although I want to check out the juice bar soon. We headed straight for the hot and cold deli foods. Grocery Bar has the ingredients of each dish labeled and indicates if the item is gluten free, vegan, or vegetarian. It also indicates which, if any, of the ingredients are local.

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Food at the Grocery Bar is $8.99/lb from any of the self-serve stands, which is the same as the Whole Foods across town. However, Whole Foods doesn’t source their food locally, which is always a source of contention when the store is surrounded by so many great farms.

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Isn’t that beet salad gorgeous? We left with four pounds of food and devoured all of it.

If you’re into deli style food, or are looking for something to grab for a picnic, check out the Grocery Bar. While you’re there, try the samples of local produce and cheeses that are set up around the store.

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I look forward to seeing where Grocery Bar goes in the future and I wish it continued success. However, wishing is not enough for small groceries like this, so I will be spending my money here as well.

Good Dog, Chattanooga, TN

One of my favorite places to grab a bite to eat during mine and J’s weekly date day is Good Dog on Northshore. I’m not sure if it’s the fun menu- seriously, gourmet hot dogs?- the funky decor, or the fact that it just tastes pretty good. No matter what the reason is, whenever we’re not feeling adventurous enough to try out a new place, Good Dog is our safe bet. They’re gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian friendly, so there’s something on the menu for everyone.

Image We go to Good Dog a lot, so we’ve picked up one of their reward cards to save up for free drinks, free fries, or even a free Good Dog Made Fresh sausage! Other than filling up our rewards quicker than other people might, the guys behind the counter know us now. They’re already getting out the gluten free buns when we walk in the door at this point.

This week, we decided to try something different. J got the Dutch Frite Dog, which was loaded with fresh frites, fritesaus, and onions. I got the BLT dog on a gluten-free bun. It has tomato, arugula, and bacon along with mayo. We also split a small order of frites. I know, you’re thinking one hot dog and half an order of fries apiece is totally not enough, but you would be wrong! I’m not sure if it’s the toppings or what, but after a hot dog and some fries, I’m always stuffed. It’s the perfect amount of food for lunch. 

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Other than hot dogs and sausages, Good Dog offers meal frites, which is a cone of fries layered with toppings. They also have a few sides, such as baked beans, potato salad, slaw, salad, and tomato soup. You can round off your meal with soda, Velo coffee (locally roasted!), or a selection of beers- both canned and bottled. They even have a gluten free beer, although the guy behind the counter advised me against it. “It doesn’t taste bad,” he said, “but it’s only like 3% alcohol. Might as well have an O’Doule’s.”

Image Anyway. So, when you walk in to Good Dog, you order at the counter, then sit down and wait for them to bring you the food. It’s always piping hot when they bring it to you, but since it’s made to order, you may have a bit of a wait, especially if it’s busy. While you’re at the table waiting, you may notice a variety of ketchups sitting on your table. They’re housemade! Along with traditional ketchup, Good Dog also offers Curry Ketchup, Wasabi Ketchup, and a Honey Mustard sauce. If none of those strike your fancy, you can grab some fritesaus from a shelf loaded down with hot sauces, malt vinegar, and other sauces that you might happen to need. Fritesaus is essentially a fancy European mayo for fries, and dang, is it good. 

Image Actually, all of their sauces are good. So good, in fact, that you can usually buy them by the bottle for all your homemade fries and hot dogs. You can also order Good Dog shirts, boxers, and bumper stickers. I bought a bumper sticker for my car the last time we were there.

Good Dog has something for everyone, which is surprising from what is essentially a fancy hot dog joint. It will surprise even your most diehard hot dog haters, and I know, because I used to be among them. If you’re looking for a quick lunch on Northshore, consider checking out Good Dog for a quick bite or a picnic in the park.