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?

Friday Five

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for me to gush about my favorite things of the week again! This week I’m excited, because I have a lot to talk about with you guys.

1. Covergirl Foundations

I have tried a lot of foundations. From high end to drugstore, they all work for a while, then irritate my skin to no end. We’re not talking acne here. We’re talking full on rashes, hives, and horrible itching. This is generally considered “not good” by the majority of the population, so that leaves me with skin that looks funky and no way to cover it.

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Enter my three new best friends in the makeup world. Covergirl NatureLuxe liquid foundation in 305, and Covergirl Sensitive Skin powder and liquid foundation in 210 (powder) and 205 (liquid).

I’m not sure why my face color varies so widely in these three foundations, especially two of them seem like they should be identical, but I really don’t care. These aren’t breaking me out, they look flawless, and they’re cheap too! Seriously, nothing better.

2. Beet Salad

I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve fallen even more in love with this, if that’s possible. Each week I get to pick out one “treat” at the grocery store. This week I picked out a pint of local beet salad!

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Goat cheese, mandarin oranges, and local root veggies. What could be better? Well, not eating all of it at once and freaking out that your pee turns neon pink, probably. (Am I allowed to talk about that on a blog? Well, I just did.) Other than the unfortunate side effects of consuming large amounts of these bright veggies, this has probably been the highlight of my week.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar.

Great for digestion. Great for your skin. Apparently great in fresh juices with a little bit of ginger, too. Need I say more?

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(Speaking of juice, I just found out that my watermelon juice habit is actually good for me. Watermelon has a ton of iron, which is great because I am always lacking iron. Plus it’s pretty, too!)

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4. NYX matte lipstick in “Nude.”

I’m almost ashamed to admit is, as someone who talks about makeup as much as I do. Out of all the fabulous lipsticks I have collected over the years, I did not previously own a true nude.

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I cleaned out my makeup drawer earlier this week, which meant a lot of swatching and a lot of “keep or ditch” conversations with friends. During my total overhaul of my lipstick collection, I noticed that I had a ton of fun winter colors, but nothing to transition into fall! I had to fix this.

So I am now the proud owner of Nyx’s “Nude” matte lipstick. I’ve worn it twice since I got it this week and I’ve gotta say, it’s fantastic.

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5. Desserts.

Okay, this is a broad category, but let’s be real. When I was little, sweets were the last thing I wanted out of a meal. Now? This is my first time admitting it, but I love sweets. Macarons, cheesecake, frozen hot chocolate, I love it all. Which is why it made my week when my husband surprised me with this treat:

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Yep, you’re seeing this right! Frozen hot chocolate from a local chocolatier, and macarons that combined two of my favorite things- dessert and Earl Grey! Do I have the best husband or what?

So what are you loving this week?

Juices: my latest obsession.

I have to drink a lot of liquid every day. I’m pretty good about it, really! I have about two liters of water a day, sometimes more if I’m feeling especially POTSie. The only problem I have is my undying hatred for plain water. I just don’t like it! I drink it, sure, but I’m always looking for some other ways to get my liquid intake up.

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I allow myself one glass of earl grey or green tea a day, because I can’t handle very much caffeine. Sometimes I add in an herbal tea, like Chamomint Moon by Higgins and Burke. It’s a nice change from plain water, and I’ve already talked about how warm beverages make me concentrate better. (It’s a mental thing, I know.)

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Lately though? I’m loving these fresh juices from Grocery Bar. This week, lemonade with cucumber was on sale for two dollars, as was watermelon juice. That’s a great price for fresh, cold-pressed juices, so I picked a few up. They were awesome, and I might have replaced breakfast with them a few times when my stomach just wasn’t feeling up to real food. After I finished them, my husband and I headed back to pick up a few more while they were still on sale.

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While we were there, I saw the Juice of the Day and knew I had to try it out. It was a mix of carrot, apple, orange, and ginger. I’ve been a fan of carrot-apple juice for years, so this was right up my alley. It was $7, which still fit in my budget, so that was pretty neat.

I love the packaging of these juices. The glass jars and minimalist logo are absolutely adorable, and I’ve repurposed them in my house as flower vases. A single long stem daisy in each of the bottles in a row in the window is a cute look and a great way for me to recycle!

If you’re in the Chattanooga area, and you want fresh juice, check out The Grocery Bar! I’m also looking for the guy who does juice from a bicycle, which seems like a really cool concept even if I can’t remember the name of his business right now.

Since I hate smoothies, juice is the next best thing when it comes to nutrients! I’m loving fresh juice as a water alternative, and just in general. Who’s with me??

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.

Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, STL

One of my favorite things about St. Louis is the abundance of awesome chain restaurants. I’m not really into chains, but pre-celiac, I could really go to town on some Imo’s or Lion’s Choice. Although I’ll never see another Imo’s bacon pizza (unless they come out with a celiac medication. Can someone hurry up with that?), there is still one chain that I can enjoy…as long as I ask for a clean spindle.

Can you guess where it is? You should, because it’s up there in the title! Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, a St. Louis tradition, is gluten free. Obviously a lot of their toppings aren’t gluten free, but asking for a clean spindle isn’t too weird, because plenty of people not only ask for gluten reasons- you also need a clean spindle to take part in Ted Drewe’s if you’re kosher. This is apparently a big deal at some locations, because they have a huge list of kosher ingredients and combinations right on the window. Remember to tip well and be nice to employees for using a clean spindle! It is their job, but a little kindness goes a long way when you come back for yet another delicious concrete.

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Also remember, Ted Drewe’s is better enjoyed if you’re with a large group of friends. Nothing makes a concrete taste better than sharing it with friends and family. (Except maybe making them order their own and having one all to yourself.)

Meskerem, St. Louis

If there’s one thing that I love, it’s trying new food. I love finding new restaurants, dishes, and cuisines to taste. When on a trip to St. Louis this week, my husband and I could not think of anywhere to eat. We’d tried the tourist attractions, restaurants off the beaten path, and St. Louis traditions. But nothing looked good.

So while we were driving around near Tower Grove Park, we spotted an Ethiopian restaurant. Neither of us had tried Ethiopian food before, and the place we had planned to go was closed on Mondays. (Is everything in St. Louis closed on Mondays? It always seemed that way when I went to college there.)

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When we walked into Meskerem, there were about three other families there. The waitress took our drink order almost immediately, and brought out our waters quickly. I noticed that the menu (which was listed as gluten free friendly on Urbanspoon) offered gluten free injera, made entirely of teff. Much of the food is gluten free as well, but be sure to ask. We ordered a platter for two and it was out, hot and fresh, in only a few minutes.

Ethiopian cuisine is eaten with the hands and pieces of injera, which was a new experience for us. The food was flavorful, slightly spicy, and definitely interesting. The platter we ordered contained two beef dishes, a chicken dish, and two vegetarian dishes made with lentils. I really enjoyed all of it, but was especially fond of the lentil dishes. My husband preferred the chicken dish, but we finished all the food, which is pretty unusual for us.

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After the meal, I checked out the drink menu and ordered a glass of “Ethiopian Honey Wine.” The waitress said most people can’t drink more than one glass of it, and I can see why. It tastes nothing like any other wine I have ever tried. It’s very sweet, with a bitter aftertaste, which was really interesting. The wine was almost “earthy.” I probably won’t order it again, but I’m glad I tried it.

Next time we are in St. Louis, we plan to try the Somalian restaurant we saw down the street, but when we get a chance we will definitely check out Meskerem again.