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Underground Kitchen Debuts in Baltimore

May 2, 2017

Back in March of this year, Danielle and I found ourselves in matching outfits, drinking tequila in a bar in Station North at 2am on a Monday. Just like you, we were wondering…how did this happen? Like so many great mysteries, it started with an invitation to a secret club. Even better, a secret foodie club; Underground Kitchen had invited us to attend its maiden voyage to Baltimore.

Sneaky shot of CEO of UGK, Micheal Sparks (behind the table to the right) in the yellow sweater

Kitchen, Underground

Founded in Richmond, Va., Underground Kitchen (UGK) is an ultra luxurious, pop-up style, dinner club that gives off an air of “secret society.” Everyone is welcome to register for an invitation to the event, however tickets are extremely limited (25-40) and typically sell out within minutes. Disclosing the details of each individual dinner only in the 11th hour, UGK features top chefs in unconventional locations, deviating from the idea of a traditional dinner party and pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity. From their press release, “Dinners are based on themes in keeping with the season or the chef’s culinary direction, with theming woven throughout the atmosphere…Previous pop-up locales including art studios, cultural centers, historic homes, warehouses, urban squares, and farms.”

The historic 1840s Ballroom, part of the 1840s Plaza

Secrets Revealed

Danielle and I were told the date and theme of March’s dinner and nothing more. We were given the location two days before the event. It wasn’t until we showed up at 6:30p for cocktails at the historic 1840’s Ballroom off of Front St. in downtown Baltimore, that we were privy to the menu and name of the chef. The theme of the evening was Spring Fling, coupled with Executive Chef of Heart & Table, Tim Delling’s personal theme, In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb. (Sidenote: it was this Spring theme that lead to Danielle and I both wearing the same floral shirt in different colors to the event. *insert Miranda Priestly quote about florals for spring* )

Here we are in our matching Free People tops on a tour of the 1840s Ballroom

Cocktail hour kicked off with a fabulous rosé and mingling with other attendees. Approximately, a half hour later, CEO of UGK, Micheal Sparks, took the floor to welcome us, say a few words about the evening and encourage us all to sit next to someone we did not know in order to enhance the magic and mystery of the evening. Micheal also explained that each quarter, UGK partners with a nonprofit to receive partial proceeds from the events. This particular evening supported the Carol Adams Foundation which works to provide emergency assistance to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

The Real Reason You are Reading This (Food Pics)

An Underground Kitchen dinner ranges from five to seven courses, each paired with a glass of wine (bless). Chef Tim Delling prepared a five course meal for us, plus a palate cleanser between courses three and four. The first course, burrata and crostini with dandelion greens (In Like a Lion), was delicate and full of flavor, with raisins adding bursts of sweetness to an otherwise savory dish.  The crostini was a tad chewy, but despite this, it was my favorite course of the evening.

Burrata Crostini. dandelion greens, golden raisins, pistachios.

Beef. pickled potato, asparagus, lemon, raspberry, maple.

Impeccable steak with crisp and fresh asparagus (I’m normally not a big fan of this vegetable but could have eaten a whole plate) served over pickled smashed potatoes followed the crostini.  What we thought was goat cheese, turned out to be powdered butter, which held up better and looked much more refined than regular butter as a part of the plating.

Cured salmon made for an unexpected pairing with rhubarb, beet rounds and goat cheese (for real this time). Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to eat all of these ingredients together… that didn’t stop me though. The smokey salmon balanced well with the tart rhubarb and earthy beets making for quite the play on ‘surf n turf.’

Cured Salmon. beets, rhubarb, goat cheese.

Chilled Mint Pea Soup. herb salad.

In between the salmon and soup was what Chef Delling dubbed “Butterfly Tea ‘Snow'” which resembled a blue granita.  The “snow” turned violet when an acid was introduced and all the guests had a blast squeezing lemon juice into their glasses and swirling the mixture together. (Shout out to everyone at my table and our server putting up with me as I fought to get the perfect boomerang of this chemistry at work.) This kind of food performance art, coupled with the intimate setting, really separated UGK’s dining experience from any other dinner club or high-end restaurant (pop up or no) I have attended in the past.

A small confession: my notes on the final courses became shorter and shorter as the evening progressed, and more significantly, the wine kept flowing. I simply wrote ‘sea salt’ and ‘cool’ about the chilled pea soup, but I can assure you it was both of those things in addition to being light and delicious.  The final course was a most inventive take on dessert, given that it wasn’t sweet at all.  Cleverly resembling a biscuit and cup of coffee, the lamb jus in a mug with a cheesy, herb biscotti was Delling’s cheeky and savory sign-off to the meal (Out Like a Lamb).

Lamb Jus. herb biscotti.

Oh, and the bit in the beginning? About the tequila at 2am? I confess it was a hook to pull you in, but it all happened too. Taking Micheal’s words to heart, we got chummy over the meal with the folks seated at our table. In fact we enjoyed the camaraderie and conversation so much, that we decided to venture out together afterwards to continue the evening….hence the bar in Station North.

We have to thank UGK not only for the foodie’s paradise they’ve created, but for the engaging and stimulating atmosphere they have provided. As a person who leans more towards being Type A than Type B it was actually refreshing to walk into the unknown and allow a situation to surprise me. You can catch Danielle and myself at Underground Kitchen’s return to Baltimore on Monday, May 22nd. We don’t know what to expect from UGK this time around… but then again, that’s the point.

 

To register for the Underground Kitchen invitation list click here or try your luck with a ticket purchase here. There is a two ticket limit for members and pricing includes the meal, wine (a different one for every course. every. course.) and gratuity.

This post was sponsored by Underground Kitchen. All opinions belong to 30th & Weldon.
Look Good

One Look Three Ways: mywalit Blogger Bags

January 3, 2017

Hello Internet friends!! We are back from our hiatus sabbatical and can’t wait to share some of the things that have been happening in our lives! Danielle completed her barre teaching training certification, Julie moved to California AND started a new job in a new field (she made it out of the #retaillife and Danielle and Shae are so jealous) and Shae ended her daily commute to Bethesda by switching store locations (go say hi to her at the Free People in Harbor East).

We thought the perfect way to get back into the swing of things was to share a post all three of us have been working on for a little while now. A few months ago, mywalit asked us to partner with them and review some of their beautiful leather handbags. We’ve been testing functionality, durability and the ease of styling of three different kinds of bags from the Italian leather company. The three of us have unique styles and taste in hangbags but mywalit has enough variety to suit all of us (we also admired their line of wallets and the men’s collection). The quality of the leather is superb – Julie and Shae’s are soft and buttery, Danielle’s structured bag is sturdy and all three have worn well through daily use. The bags have proven to be practical and easily incorporated into our on the go lifestyles #bloggerlife.

 

Danielle – New York Medium Work Bag in Black

I like its classic shape that can go from work to happy hour with friends to a publicity event for the blog. My super portable laptop fits right in the side sleeve, and it has an optional long strap I can use when I need free hands for taking pictures for the blog – or holding a drink! Perfect #sidehustle bag.

 

 

Julie – Copenhagen Shopper in Sahara

When zipped, it’s perfect for going between meetings at work, when I’m bringing a folder/notebook/maybe ipad around etc. When it’s open it’s a perfect weekend bag, it’s big enough to carry a small makeup bag, wallet, v light sweater, etc. so it’s good for weekdays and weekends alike.

 

Shae –  Santa Monica Backpack in Black

I’m all about the perfectly sized backpack (not too mini but not the kind you had in school either). It’s ideal for keeping both hands free to hold my camera/phone/coffee/flowers/a loaf of bread or all of the above. In the rare occasion I’m not carrying anything else, I love that I can grab it by the loop handle on the top which also makes it easy to hang up when not in use.

 

You can get your own mywalit bag (or wallet) from their website or, if you are local to Baltimore, from The Store Ltd in The Village of Cross Keys shopping center off of Falls Road. You can find mywalit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Bags provided by mywalit. All opinions are our own.

Life Hack

Level Headed Leadership in Crisis

August 1, 2016

Staying level headed and calm in tense, frustrating and/or stressful situations can be difficult to say the least. Maybe you’ve had a disagreement with a coworker or have to mediate workplace drama.  Perhaps an awkward and potential throw down is occurring over politics at a family gathering.  Maybe your business was just robbed and it was scary and now you have employees and customers to calm down.  Perchance your wife forgot every college professors’ warning regarding plagiarism and very publicly stole someone else’s speech. Crisis management nightmares come in all shapes and sizes and always have the potential to spiral out of control quicker than Grandma can punch Uncle Ben in the nose.

Over 6 years of working in customer service and 26 years of dealing with people in general, has helped me hone the craft that is crisis management. During stressful situations the burden of leadership often falls to one person or a small group of people. Don’t be caught unprepared for your next crisis! Below are a few take aways on how to navigate a crisis like a true boss.

  1. Recognize the importance of your actions: It’s in those crucial moments of crisis that we define ourselves as a leader. Recognizing that everything you say and do in this window of time can directly escalate or deescalate the situation you have found yourself in.
  2. BREATHE: basic but important!
  3. Take it slow: Jumping to conclusions, moving too quickly, not gathering all the information first are rookie mistakes. You run the risk of looking like a real ass if you don’t get all your facts straight before approaching a scenario. Additionally, speak slowly. When tensions run high I often find myself  rushing through my words, letting my feelings take over and speeding through my sentences as if the faster they get out the quicker the whole thing will be over. Think about your words as they come out of your mouth and speak as calmly as possible.
  4. Be honest: Be upfront about what you know, what you can share with your team or parties involved, and what you can do to rectify the problems at hand. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t talk out of your ass in an attempt to make something go away. If you don’t have the answers, it’s okay to say “I’m not sure, but let me find out. I’ll get back to you.”  And then make sure to figure it out and get back to them.
  5. Keep a brave face: If you are in a leadership position or get thrown into one, remember that you are there for a reason! Someone trusted you and is looking to you to lead them out of Egypt. This means you do you best to keep a calm exterior and lead the way for those behind you.
  6. Don’t take it personally: Shit is gonna happen. Rude words are going to fly, feelings are going to be hurt, someone is going to be upset and not everyone can win in the outcome. This doesn’t mean you have to dwell on it forever. In the words of Queen Elsa, “let it go.” Once a problem is done and dusted it’s best to keep it that way. If you continue to harp on things it’s only going to hurt more.

Damage control is never a fun task but I encourage stepping up to the plate and dealing with it like a boss rather than stepping to the sidelines. Not only does it build character (like eating your vegetables) but it also helps you build a skill set that is invaluable in family and friend circles, the workplace and during personal crisis.

Eat/Drank

Cake Day Coca-Cola Cake

July 21, 2016

Don’t let the “cake” label fool you. This basically a big brownie pretending to be a cake.  In my recent trip to Charleston, SC., I got to enjoy this decadent dessert at one of my favorite Charleston restaurants, Jestine’s Kitchen.  Known for serving up southern favorites, this homey and humble restaurant often has a line of eager patrons wrapping around the corner, just to get a table.  This visit got me hankering for Coca Cola cake once I returned to Baltimore so I did a quickly google for recipes and landed on this one from Coca Cola’s website. It’s fudgey, rich and oh so sweet. And since today is my birthday, what better way to celebrate my cake day than by baking myself a cake?

Coca Cola cake from Jestine’s Kitchen

I left out the vanilla extract (I don’t own any) and if I make this again I will leave out the marshmallows (they added weird pockets of texture that I could do without). Other than that it was very reminiscent of the one I had in Charleston and satisfied my craving for this dessert. It also gave me the idea to try variations of this cake with other kinds of soda. Root beer float cake? Cherry Pespi cake? Candied Ginger ginger ale cake? Creamsicle Fanta cake?  I digress. Please enjoy this recipe for Coca Cola courtesy of Lee Avery Catts and the Coca Cola Company.


Ingredients

Cake:

2 Cups sugar

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 Cup Coca-Cola

1 ½ Cup small marshmallows (optional)

½ Cup unsalted butter or margarine

½ Cup vegetable oil

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 Teaspoon baking soda

½ Cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Icing:

½ Cup butter

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

6 Tablespoons Coca-Cola

1 box (16-ounces) powdered sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1 Cup chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 13 by 9 in baking dish.  In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour and marshmallows (optional) and mix well.



In a medium saucepan combine the butter, vegetable oil, Coca Cola, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the dry ingredients. Dissolve the baking soda into the buttermilk just before adding it to the batter. The baking soda/buttermilk mixture should froth up. Add this and the eggs and vanilla extract to the batter and mix well.


Pour into the baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes (baking time will vary by oven)



While the cake is baking, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar, pecans and vanilla extract (optional) in a large bowl. Combine the butter, cocoa powder, and Coca Cola in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the sugar/pecan mixture and blend well.

Ice the cake immediately after it’s done baking. Allow to cool before serving. Enjoy!

Travel

Style Guide: A Week of Vacation Outfits

July 11, 2016

Currently sitting poolside, I’m wrapping up my family vacation in Charleston, SC. It’s been a very enjoyable #liangfamilyminivacation and although it was a short trip, we packed a lot in. We took the ferry to Fort Sumter, toured historic downtown Charleston via Old South Carriage Company, shopped the Charleston Farmers Market, hit the beach on Sullivan’s Island (where I became a sandy human churro), and got a taste of the nightlife at Stars Rooftop & Grill Room and 492.  Per Danielle’s recommendation in her Charleston Weekend Getaway, we had dinner at Five Loaves Cafe and had one too many Moscow Mules at The Rarebit‘s stellar happy hour.

I hate looking like a tourist but when you are one it’s hard to find the balance between style and practical. While we were here temperatures clocked in around 95 degrees while the sun was out. This made for a lot of sweating profusely and trying desperately to maintain some semblance of looking put together. I used to be a big outfit planner but when I arrived at my destination I would realize I had over packed and didn’t need half of the things I had brought. This time around, I had packed lightweight pieces that could be paired together and layered as the sun went down (or if the restaurant was chilly).  We were only here for four days but it would have been easy to rotate through the clothing to generate unique looks for every day of the week.

What to Pack:

White tee

Oversized muscle tank

Half cami or cute bra you don’t mind showing off

Gauzy button up maxi dress

Small backpack

Harem pants

Graphic tank

Denim shorts

Black shorts

Sunglasses and a couple of layering necklaces (should be the same metal or metals that mix well together)

DAY 1 

IMG_5103

Travel days call for loose fitting clothing. A soft graphic tank and loose harem pants is the perfect outfit for a long car ride/flight/bus trip/etc. It’s basically pajamas pretending to be day wear and doing a damn good job at it.

DAY 2

IMG_5101

Take those comfy pants, pair it with a white tee and grab your tourist-y back pack and take to sightseeing! This is a pretty simple look so feel free to layer on your necklaces or knot the side of the shirt to make things a little more interesting.

DAY 3

IMG_5104

Dress up your white tee and denim shorts with a gauzy unbuttoned maxi dress as a duster. This makes for a dramatic look that can easily be worn into the evening.

DAY 4 


A minimal short and half cami pairing is perfect for those really hot days. If you are like me and tend to quickly get too hot or too cold, bring along that maxi dress as a scarf or tie it around your waist for easy access.

DAY 5


Break up your monochromatic minimal look by throwing an oversized muscle tee on top. Give yourself a waist by tying a knot with some of the excess fabric (can you tell this is my favorite styling trick?).

DAY 6


Layer, layer, layer. This is the easiest way to keep your outfits feeling fresh as you recycle your pieces throughout the week. The maxi dress is a duster again and worn over shorts, the half cami and oversized muscle tank.

DAY 7 


By the last day of vacation, I’m usually at my laziest point. Trying to be fashionable is the last thing on my mind as I’m trying to cram as much vacation into those final hours. Throw that maxi dress over a swim suit and call it a day.

All of these pieces can be rotated for a few more days. The graphic tank can be paired with both the shorts. The tee and tanks can be layered over the maxi dress and tied at the waist to give the impression of a maxi skirt. If your vacation is longer than a week, throw a few more items in your bag and add to the rotation. For a more casual look, a long jersey dress can be layered with tees and tanks, and then worn solo to dinner. A short slip dress would also be good to throw in your bag. Layer it over tees for sightseeing and wear it alone or with the maxi dress duster for a night out. Remember that the key to making this work is to pick a color scheme and make sure your individual pieces will all pair well with one another. If you need help with packing light you can read my guide here. Happy vacationing!