Reviews, Travel

The Butcher and Barkeep – Harleysville, PA

The Butcher and Barkeep |

The Butcher and Barkeep is the type of establishment every town needs.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town, a big city, or even suburbia. There’s not a community on the planet that wouldn’t support a place like this.  A place that takes their beer as seriously as their cocktails and their cocktails as seriously as their food. The menu is thoughtful and interesting, yet the portions are generous for a reasonable price. The cocktail menu makes the joint sound fancy, but it’s plenty casual. You could come here to celebrate a promotion, or stop by for a beer after a rough day at work. It’s hard to peg The Butcher and Barkeep to a specific identity, because it has broad appeal, yet when you visit, you realize they’re doing something so specifically enjoyable that it’s as if they created the atmosphere just for you.

Shrimp & Grits | The Butcher and Barkeep |

Shrimp & Grits | cheesy grits, Carolina shrimp, andouille-bell pepper cream

In a time where many restaurants and bars are turning towards a specialized focus, it’s nice to have a place with the culinary cahonas to try to do everything well.

So, what’s the secret?

Food-wise there are no gimmicks. They have southern staples like Shrimp & Grits and Gumbo; albeit with their own interpretation. I suppose the Sexy Fries might sound like a gimmick, but you won’t give a damn. They’re so satisfying because they combining a bunch of comforting flavors, you can eat them by hand, and they go great with a brew. And drizzle truffle oil and Hollandaise on anything and it’s going to be sexy, but that ain’t no secret.

Sexy Fries | The Butcher and Barkeep |

Sexy Fries | hand cut fries, fresh herbs, parmesan, hollandaise, truffle oil

Having a huge beer selection definitely helps. And by huge, I mean they’re basically a restaurant attached to a bottle shop and draft house. Ask the bartender for a recommendation and you’ll realize he knows the ins and outs of everything they serve. Had a bad day slogging through 9-to-5? Try a Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager. Grabbing a brew after hitting the golf course with a buddy? Hardywood’s The Great Return IPA. Killing time while the wife works and you’re partial to the art of stout? Yards Love Stout. That’s all well and good, but being an excellent brewhouse is hardly some magic secret to success.

If a restaurant excels in food and is also well versed in its selection of craft beer, there’s no way they’d be able to present a cocktail program that lives up to the already high expectations, right? Wrong. House-infused liquors and homemade syrups fuel libations such as the Matcha Maker (matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup), Country Pie Old Fashioned (brown butter infused bourbon, luxardo, honey liquor, angostura) and the Winter Mule (black pepper infused vodka, lime, ginger beer, winter spice syrup, nutmeg). The cocktails are complex–not complicated–and so precisely balanced that you can only assume they were designed in a laboratory.

Matcha Maker | The Butcher and Barkeep |

Matcha Maker | matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup

If the secret isn’t the food, or brews, or cocktails, then it’s easy to say that the secret has to be the people. Attentive servers and knowledgeable bartenders can only be the result of a trickling down of great leadership from the owners Gerard Angelini, Cody Ferdinand, and Jeffrey Sacco. 

The simple truth is that there is no one singular reason and that The Butcher and Barkeep is far greater than the sum of its parts, where the sum equates to a place where you want to go to simply be happy. When was the last time you had a meal that made you truly happy? Content without feeling trendy. Comfortable, despite being surrounded by strangers. Satisfied, without feeling like a glutton.

If you’re ever in Harleysville, PA–which is a suburb of Philadelphia–make the effort to stop by The Butcher and Barkeep for a great meal, cold drinks, and an unlimited supply of happiness.

The Butcher and Barkeep
712 Main St, Harleysville, PA 19438
Butcher and Barkeep Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

11 Questions, Series

11 Questions with Mark Overbay of Big Spoon Roasters

Mark Overbay - Big Spoon Roasters |

To say that Big Spoon Roasters‘ nut butter is better than the smooth or chunky peanut butters found on the shelf of most super markets is not only an understatement in flavor, but an epic understatement in inspiration.

Our first encounter with the small-batch nut butters was simply seeing a jar of Chai Spice on the shelf of one of our favorite local shops, Red Truck Bakery. And, yes, that Chai Spice jar was quickly devoured because it was nothing like any of the other peanut butters I had ever had, but it wasn’t until I started learning a bit about the company that it became clear why it was so good.

It’s easy to claim to practice ethical standards for food sourcing. It’s easy to boast about how valuable employees are. It’s easy to slap a label on your product that lists every popular industry catch phrase. But the company’s founder, Mark Overbay, practices what he preaches. From sourcing quality, sustainable ingredients, to paying employees fair wages and treating them with respect, Mark’s obsession with doing what is right is reflected in each jar of Big Spoon Roasters nut butter (I highly recommend checking out this Bon Appétit article for the full story on how Big Spoon Roasters came to be).

Mark Overbay - Big Spoon Roasters |

Photo courtesy of Mark Overbay – Big Spoon Roasters

We’re quickly working our way through Big Spoon Roasters’ flavors with a pace of about a jar per week, but so far the Chai Spice has been wonderfully addicting. The Peanut Cocoa is also a great afternoon snack and I’ve heard good things about the Espresso. My personal preferences include eating it with tart Granny Smith apples, atop vanilla ice cream, and–more often than not–by the spoonful straight outta the jar. My only piece of constructive criticism would be a shallower container, so that I could lick the bottom.

Mark Overbay - Big Spoon Roasters |

Photo courtesy of Mark Overbay – Big Spoon Roasters

We’re really excited to share this month’s 11 Questions with Mark Overbay, because just like his jars of nut butter, the answers are filled with delicious inspiration.

1. Big Spoon was inspired by the fresh peanut butter you enjoyed in Zimbabwe while serving as a volunteer for the Peace Corps. Are there any other products or flavors that you’ve experienced during other trips around the world that you would like to bring to back home with you?

Definitely! Food is a thread that connects all people, and experiencing other food cultures is one of the best things about traveling. You don’t necessarily have to travel around the world to experience other food cultures, though. Ask anyone in the American South for a cornbread recipe and you’re likely to get a different answer from each person. I’ve been lucky enough to do a bit of international travel, though, and food highlights include grilled beef with perfect avocados and chunky salt in Chile; tender smoked octopus and Basque wine on the Mediterranean coast of Spain; venison stew thick with carrots and parsnips in St. Andrews, Scotland; falafel in Paris; and the pizzas of Bologna, Rome, and Naples.

2.  Do you have a target number of new products that you try to launch each year, or do you release new flavors as you discover them?

We do not set targets for the number of new recipes we’d like to release per year. I do not judge those who do set such targets, but our new recipes are driven more by inspiration than dates on a calendar. That said, I have dozens of nut butter and bar recipes in the hopper, so to speak, and we usually end up introducing at least one new nut butter per year. In fact, I’m working on a new recipe now that we hope to roll out this spring. We also occasionally make one-off, super small-batch, seasonal nut butters for special events in our region. Examples include Pecan Sorghum Butter, Almond Walnut Butter, Peanut Pepita Butter, and Vanilla Cashew Brazil Nut Butter.

3.  What’s the most unconventional way that you’ve seen people use your nut butter? (Either in a dish, or even a non-food use).

A lot of folks have used our nut butters to make sauces–sweet, savory, and spicy. For instance, our Peanut and Peanut Cashew Butters are excellent bases for a Southeast Asian style dipping sauce like this one. The most unconventional use I can recall is when someone wrote in that they were using our Chai Spice nut butter as the base for carrot cake frosting, instead of cream cheese. Sounds good to me!

4.  You’re based in Durham, NC; what restaurant is one of your go-to lunch spots and what do you order?

For so many reasons, starting with the number and quality of local farms, the food community in this part of NC is AMAZING! I don’t eat out for lunch often, but when I do, my go-to Durham list includes Toast, Pizzeria Toro, Scratch, Rose’s, Dos Perros, and, if near Chapel Hill, The Pig and Neal’s Deli.

5.  Durham is turning out to be quite a strong community for food, ethical food production, and innovation. Are there any other lesser-known food cities/communities that you’ve discovered since forming Big Spoon?

Gosh, I feel like with social media taking over the world, it’s difficult for any community producing quality products to be “lesser known” any more (that’s not necessarily a bad thing), but there are some somewhat unheralded gems out there. This was long before starting Big Spoon Roasters, but I used live on Bainbridge Island, WA, and the communities on and around the Olympic Peninsula have wonderful pubs, cafes, and farmers’ markets that remind me of Scotland and Wales. Tiny Hillsborough, NC, has one of the best restaurants in the Southeast in Panciuto.

6.  Have any of Big Spoon’s nut butter flavors been more popular than expected?

Honestly, all of our recipes have exceeded any expectations I’ve had in terms of popularity (knock on wood). You make something that you think is delicious and hope that others will, too. We do quite a bit of palate training and development here among our small staff of employees, so are all pretty well calibrated, but you never know how the public at large will react to something you make.

7.  The blog portion of your website is full of stories, anecdotes, and quotes relating to inspiration and positive energy. Did you ever hit a point early on in the process of starting (or shortly after starting) Big Spoon that made you question whether or not the business would work out?  If so, what inspired you to keep going?

Thanks for noticing that! We just launched the blog in October 2015 because I felt like we needed another form of communication that could articulate more of who we are and what we do beyond typical website “about us” content, social media, and our physical packaging. Sure, there have been doubts and inner debates about the livelihood of the business, but I’ve always believed that the business would survive if we kept our primary focus on the quality and integrity of our work, i.e. our recipes and products.

8.  What is one quote or mantra that you consistently tell your employees to keep them motivated?

Thankfully, we don’t need a mantra or quote to keep members of our team motivated. It’s an old adage, but employees truly are our most valuable assets, and I believe in treating employees in ways that make that evident to them. In other words, employees should know that they matter, that their work matters, and that one of our goals as a business is to provide them with a living wage and the resources they need to lead an inspired, fulfilled life. The closest thing we have to a mantra might be, “how we do anything is how we do everything,” which to us means that we strive to be present in every moment, to devote our full attention to creating quality, and that no detail in our process–from measuring salt to taping up a box–is too small to ignore.

9.  Clearly you work incredibly hard to achieve nut butter perfection; if you have an entire day off–let’s say you’re not allowed to work–what do you do to relax and unwind?

I love spending time with my wife, Megan, and our Vizsla, Rioja, more than anything. When I’m with them hiking in the woods, playing on the beach, or simply relaxing on the couch at home, the rest of the world disappears.

10.  I know quality sourcing is important to your business; are there any other nut varieties that you would love to incorporate into a nut butter, but haven’t been able to find the quantity or quality required to meet your standards?

Sourcing is incredibly important to us. I tried more than 20 types of almonds before settling on the heirloom Mission variety, which we exclusively use in our nut butters and bars. I’ve actually experimented with every type of nut that I know in test recipes, and even though I don’t work with many of them, I’ve researched farm-direct sourcing for walnuts and hazelnuts. Walnuts are toxic to dogs, so I’m not keen on introducing them into our nut mills for fear of cross contamination, and while I often like the crunch and aroma of hazelnuts, they are probably my least favorite nut in terms of flavor (I find them astringent).

11.  If you could teach any one person (living or passed) how to make nut butter; who would it be and why?

My great-grandfather, Woodrow Wilson Williams–who passed away just before my high school graduation–absolutely loved peanut butter, and he often told the story of the first time he tasted it, sold from a country store in rural Appalachia in the 1930s. He was a natural in the kitchen and it’s ironic to me that he could make so many even more laborious foods from scratch, and yet, like so many of us, he just accepted that peanut butter came in a jar from the local grocery store. If he knew how to make his peanut butter, his version would have been amazing, I know.

Thanks to Mark for the insightful and inspirational look into his passion-filled business of quality nut butters. Now go out and get your own jar!

Big Spoon Roasters
Durham, NC
Buy jars and bars online or find a retailer here.
Instagram:  @bigspoonroasters
Twitter:  @bigspooners


Offensively Rich Brown Butter Frozen Custard

Brown Butter Frozen Custard |

This Brown Butter Frozen Custard is so unapologetically rich, it might run for president.

It ain’t humble, either, using any excuse it can to remind of us of how rich it is. It’s a co-signer on my car loan. It started a college fund for my future children. And it always picks up the check when we go to dinner, making a big scene about leaving a 35% tip…

It’s so freaking annoying.

I hate this stupid custard…




…we can’t stop eating it.

Brown Butter Frozen Custard |

We’ll eat it in secrecy, closing the blinds while turning up the volume on the TV. The nutty brown butter holds hands with all those rich egg yolks, intimidating our tastebuds into submission. It hurts so good.

And when it melts, it doesn’t turn into a watery former ice cream. No, ma’am. It essentially melts into a thick custard, a la a crème minus the brûlée.

The ego with this frozen custard is so big, that we recommend not eating it alone, as it truly needs to be paired with other, less rich foods.

So, if you do decide to make some annoying, offensively rich brown butter frozen custard, here are a few suggestions on what to serve it with:

Brown Butter Frozen Custard |



  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • Heavy Pinch of Salt
  1. First, brown your butter.  I’ve found BuzzFeed’s post, “How To Make Perfect Brown Butter” exceptionally helpful. Once your butter is brown and your house smells nice and nutty, set the butter aside to cool.
  2. In a 4-quart saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, and egg yolks until smooth; stir in cream and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat, until the mixture thickens. The trick is to heat slowly and stir A LOT, so you avoid any scrambled yolks.  If there is some minor scrambling, no worries, as you’ll also be blending and straining later, just in case. I like to start the heat on low, stirring constantly, and gradually increasing the heat every minute, until you hit medium. You’re looking for a consistency that is almost as thick as a custard, but can still easily be poured.
  3. In a blender, blend the warm custard and the browned butter for about 30 seconds. This is important to emulsify the butter; skip this step and your frozen custard will be gritty.  Make sure the top of the blender is vented to allow hot air to escape–we normally cover with a towel, to prevent any splatters.  After blending, strain through a fine siev or strainer to remove any clumps.
  4. Next, cool the mixture – You can do this by letting it hang out in the refrigerator for an hour or so, or if you’re in a hurry, transfer the mixture to a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and submerge in an ice water bath for about fifteen minutes.
  5. Once the mixture is cool, make according to the instructions on your home ice cream maker. We use the Ice Cream Maker attachment for our KitchenAid Stand Mixer. We’ve found that it works best (and this may be the case for other ice cream makers as well) when we freeze the attachment at the freezer’s lowest setting.  The colder you can get the Ice Cream Maker, the faster it will freeze the mixture and the smoother and creamier the results. If it’s not cold enough, you’ll end up with icy ice cream. We’ll even go so far as to insulate the top with foil, to keep the cold air in, while mixing the ice cream. If it’s winter and really cold outside, feel free to make ice cream on your porch.


More Brown Butter stuff…

11 Questions, Series, Travel

11 Questions with Trang Hammond of Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

Trang Hammond - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Whenever it gets cold here on the east coast, we quickly begin to dream of all the warm, sunny fun we’ve had on the west coast. Specifically, San Diego. And it might seem counter-intuitive, but one of the foods we begin to crave the most during the winter is ice cream. But, not just any ice cream. Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream.

Thanks to my buddy, Mike from The Flying Peanut, we were introduced to Hammond’s a few years ago at their first location in North Park. They serve the Hawaiian-made Tropical Dreams ice cream and the flavors range from classics (Butter Pecan and Cookies & Cream) to more unique tastes like Peanut Butter Guava Jelly, White Chocolate Ginger, and Azuki Bean. With a ton of interesting flavors to try, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of their ice cream flights, where you’ll have a chance to try out up to 32 (yes, thirty-two) flavors at once. You don’t believe it’s thirty-two? Fine, check out this proof on Instagram:

You’re booking a ticket to San Diego now, aren’t you? Our personal favorite ice cream flavors include Lychee, Brown Sugar, Toasted Coconut, and Chocolate Orange. Only 28 more flavors to go!

Hammond’s recently opened up a second location in Pacific Beach, so for any one who doesn’t like to travel too far inland, you now have a solid super premium ice cream option near the beach. And a third location is in the works in Point Loma, too!

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

One of the owners, Trang Hammond, was kind enough to take time out from building an ice cream empire to answer 11 questions about ice cream, Hawaii, San Diego, and all the fun stuff that goes into running your own shop.

1.  Hammond’s serves a ton of unique flavors; are there any that have turned out to be more popular than you expected?

Every flavor is unique and has its own fan base, so to speak. I guess the Vanilla Rose, a new flavor we just debuted, is going pretty fast and is really popular. And of course our Ginger Cream, which I think is absolutely amazing–but I was worried it could be too strong–has been such a fan favorite as well since it perfectly captures the ginger taste while maintaining a creamy base.

2.  Your North Park location is a natural extension, since you and the other owners were already North Park residents – Why choose Pacific Beach for your second shop?

The first time my husband moved to San Diego from Georgia, he moved to Pacific Beach (like any twenty-something male would, I guess). But he lived there for many years and naturally I hung out there with him a lot, so we really got to know the community. We like the area and the community and we just wanted to provide it with a gourmet ice cream scoop shop.

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

3.  My first experience at Hammond’s included an ice cream flight (as everyone’s first visit should), which allowed me an opportunity to sample six different flavors. Were the ice cream flights always part of the original plan when you all decided to open up the shop, or was it a happy accident that was realized along the way ?

The ice cream flight was a happy accident. We offer so many different flavors that my husband, Ryan, actually thought it would be a great idea to be able to try a lot in individual, smaller portions just like a beer flight. And so, I did the research on cone sizes, and flight holders and the Hammond’s Flight was born.

4.  If you could go back in time and give yourself and the other owners one piece of advice about opening up Hammond’s first location, what would it be?

It gets easier. Especially the first location–we opened up right in the middle of summer. None of us ever owned a business before, so we thought we were ready, but we definitely had some growing pains. The community was so warm and welcoming and forgiving that it was crazy, but fun. The first few months before and after opening up is always going to be intense, so looking back, I would tell all of us that it gets easier.

5.  What were some of the challenges that you faced when opening up the second location in Pacific Beach? Was it any easier than opening the first store?

The only challenge I would say with the second store, as opposed to the first store, is that because I knew so much more, there was more to do. With the first store, I was still doing start-up things after the Grand Opening, because I was still learning about everything it took to open an ice cream shop. With the second store (and soon third) I started out knowing everything I needed to do and to have, so the list of things to do, make, and buy was enormous.

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

6.  You’ve mentioned in other interviews that Hammond’s is inspired by you and your husband’s vacations to Hawaii in which you discovered this super rich, unique ice cream that you couldn’t find anywhere in San Diego. Are there any other Hawaiian foods that you wish you could find on the mainland?

Yes, pretty much any poke sandwich, nacho wrap, burger, salad, or appetizer I ever ate in Hawaii I wish we had here in the mainland. As for desserts, I just love the Hershey’s Macadamia Nut Kisses you can only get in Hawaii.

7.  Do you have any go-to restaurants that you always visit when you’re in Hawaii?

Our favorite island is Kauai. We loved going to a sports bar called Backyards for their Ahi Poke Nachos. The Shrimp Station is always a must for us as well. We liked the low key ambiance on vacation. My best memories involve getting a poke burger at a little shack and heading over to the beach with Ryan and just enjoying the moment.

8.  What are some of your favorite North Park restaurants and bars that you frequent? 

North Park is full of amazing restaurants and bars. For bars we really like WayPoint Public, because it has great food and a nice little play area where we can watch our toddler play safely while we enjoy our meal. When I was in college, (many years ago) I studied and hung out at Claire de Lune Coffee Shop all the time. They have great pastries, teas and coffees. There is a new restaurant that just opened called Encontro, which I have been dying to try, but haven’t had the chance. They actually make amazing shakes using our ice cream! And we like going to Lefty’s Pizza for a solid slice of pizza with no fuss. While we’re talking about pizza, our North Park neighbor, Urbn Pizza has really good pizzas as well. And they actually created a drink using our waffle cones. Lastly, when we have friends in town, we like taking them to Urban Solace, it’s got great food and a very nice ambiance. And then after dinner I like going to Hammond’s for ice cream, haha. I can go on and on about North Park, but I think this should suffice 🙂

9.  For people visiting San Diego, what is one attraction (touristy or non-touristy) that they absolutely must check out?

Well, Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream, of course! The tidepools in Cabrillo are always refreshing to hang out around. I grew up loving tidepools, so this is a must do for me. There are many many nice hiking trails in San Diego as well. Really, everyone should check out the diversity and charisma of all the neighborhoods in San Diego: North Park, Hillcrest, Little Italy, Gaslamp, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Golden Hills, etc. Each area is unique in its own way offering different cuisines and experiences and I think this would be the best way for someone to truly experience San Diego.

10.  What’s your personal preference for holding ice cream: cup, cake cone, or waffle cone?

It depends on the flavor. For example, I love the fruity flavors in a cup, the chocolaty flavors on a Waffle Cone and some of the classic ones like Butter Pecan or Tahitian Vanilla on a cake cone. When I am eating ice cream with someone else, I pretty much always get a waffle flight to share.

11.  Let’s say the President of the United States of America visits your store and wants a six-flavor ice cream flight, but he wants you to choose the flavors. Which six do you serve him?

Oh man, your questions really get into the heart of things! Tahitian Vanilla (something ordinary, easy to please everyone, yet satisfying), Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Nut (it really brings out the Hawaiian flavors and President Obama IS from Hawaii), Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreos (a total guy’s flavor, and really really delicious), Blueberry Cheesecake (Fruity, yet still savory with chunks of cheesecake), Birthday Cake (because his job is so stressful, ice cream with tons of yellow cake, frosting and sprinkles might help lighten the load), and POG (Pineapple-Orange-Guava) Sorbet (everyone needs to try our sorbets–they are dairy free, but bursting with all natural fruit flavors). I think the President would like this, as it would bring him back to his days in Hawaii.

Huge thanks to Trang for chatting with us! If you’re in San Diego, definitely stop by Hammond’s for an ice cream cone…or thirty-two.

Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
North Park:  3077 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104
Pacific Beach:  1418 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Point Loma:  Coming Soon!
Twitter: @HammondsGIC
Instagram:  @HammondsIceCream

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

11 Questions, Travel

11 Questions with The Dining Traveler

Jessica van Dop Dejesus - The Dining Traveler

Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop Dejesus

If you’re a food and/or travel blogger in the Washington, DC area, you probably already know Jessica van Dop Dejesus aka The Dining Traveler. If you don’t, well you’re missing out on a generous blogger and local influencer who pays-it-forward more than any person we’ve ever met. Seriously, almost every cool trip, blogger-friendship, and restaurant relationship that we’ve established over the last year can in some way be traced back to her.

Jessica is currently in the last leg of a Kickstarter campaign to fund her Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico, a photo book and travel guide that portrays the island from a Puerto Rican perspective. Take a moment and check out her campaign video below, then channel some holiday spirit and make a donation to help her close in on her goal. And “donation” is a loose term, since you’re basically pre-ordering the guide along with some other cool perks at different pledge levels (including a home-cooked Puerto Rican meal made by Jessica herself!).

Despite being insanely busy with the campaign, as well as traveling, and finding time to enjoy the holidays, Jessica was kind enough to answer 11 questions about Puerto Rico, traveling, and (of course) food.

1.  What’s the one food dish that you recommend people try while in Puerto Rico?

Where do I start? My favorite places on the islands are the panaderias (bakeries). I love a medianoche sandwich. It’s similar to a panini; a soft baguette filled with roasted pork, ham, and Swiss cheese.

The Dining Traveler - Jessica |

Medianoche | Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop Dejesus

2.  If someone wanted to stay away from touristy areas in Puerto Rico, like San Juan, what area(s) would you tell them to check out?

The west coast of Puerto Rico. Cabo Rojo in the southwest coast has beaches to die for, like Playa Buye and Playa Sucia. The town of Mayaguez for the food; they are known for their artisanal sangria and the guava jelly roll (Brazo Gitano).

Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico | Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop DeJesus

3.  What is the one thing that you’d like to share about Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture that people might not know?

That Puerto Ricans are very welcoming and open people. Don’t get weirded out when people tell you their whole life story after five minutes of meeting you!

4.  On average, how many days do you spend traveling each year?

This past year I have been on the road over 100 days so far.

5.  You seem to have already traveled almost everywhere, but what’s one country or city that you haven’t visited yet, but would like to?

Peru. It’s my dream destination. We’ve been trying to go for the last two years but something always happens. Hopefully in 2016.

6.  Do you have any travel rituals that you follow before a big trip?

I always wait until the last minute to pack. Does that count as a ritual?

7.  Do you remember your first plane ride?

I was five. We flew Eastern Airlines (dating myself here, LOL). We moved from Rochester, NY to Puerto Rico. I was super excited. The whole family, including our German Shepherd, was on the flight!

8.  When you’re back home in DC, what are some of your hobbies and other activities that you like to do to relax?

I love exploring DC. I enjoy going for a run along the Mount Vernon Trail and admiring the monuments across the Potomac. I also love checking out the new exciting restaurants that continue to pop up in the city.

9.  Okay, it’s late at night and you’re craving a sweet and/or salty snack. What do you make or grab from your kitchen to satisfy your late night hunger?

Well… this food blogger is trying to lose weight! I’m trying to be disciplined! However, my downfall is cheese. We always bring tons of cheese back from Holland, where my husband is from.

10.  You currently live in Washington, DC; what other U.S. city or cities do you think you would enjoy living in for an extended period of time? 

I lived in Miami for three months and truly enjoyed it; there are so many cultures converging in this area. Wouldn’t mind returning. I would be open to living in Chicago or San Francisco. However, I love DC. It will be hard to get me out of here.

11.  If you could have one person from any time period, dead or alive, be your tour guide in any city in the world, who would you choose and why?

I would have loved for Pablo Neruda to show me his native Chile. I studied his poetry in high school and college. His words made me feel as if I was already in the country.

Many thanks to Jessica for taking time out of her non-stop travel schedule to chat with us. Don’t forget to check out her Kickstarter, Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico, before the campaign ends on December 10th!

Holiday, Recipes

An Evening with a Spiced Pecan

Spiced Pecans | Get in My Mouf

Our Spiced Pecan recipe (at the bottom of this post) has become an MVP of our holiday season, playing a role in multiple dishes both savory and sweet. From green beans, to cookies, to binge eating at midnight whilst watching Netflix, these pecans really are team players. We had an opportunity to get to know one of deez  these nuts a bit more intimately and to try and figure out what makes them such a solid classic.

Get in my Mouf:  Really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us–I realize this is a busy time of year for you.

Spiced Pecan:  Not a problem. I’m happy to be here. Prefer to keep it short, though. Already a bit behind this year…

GIMM:  Absolutely–I want to start with a question, an old debate that’s be around for a while. What do you prefer to be called. Pe-con or Pee-can?

SP:  Well, I don’t go by either, since that’s not my name. It would be like me calling you “Human.”

GIMM:  Oh, I’m sorry… What’s your name?

SP:  Charles. Friends call me chuck.

GIMM:  Pleasure to meet you, Chuck!

SP:  Charles.

GIMM:  Right… [awkward pause]

Egg Whites | Get in My Mouf Spiced Pecans

GIMM:  Anyway, you’ve seen quite a bit of success over the years–You’re a very traditional holiday staple–Is it hard to stay consistent? There are a lot of food fads that take hold and I could see that becoming a distraction.

SP:  Not really. I grew up in a family where tradition and work ethic were really important. You do your job. I do my job. It’s just what we do. I watched a lot of our friends get mixed up with Wasabi and Sriracha. Sure that’s popular now and I get it, I really do. Commercials, prominent shelf space at Target, features on FOOD BLOGS. There’s definitely an allure that’s hard to turn down. But at some point the fame will fade and at the end of the day, people always go back to the classics.

Pecan & Egg Whites | Get in My Mouf Spiced Pecans

GIMM:  I’m not sure if anyone picked up on the tone you had about food blogs, but it did take a bit of persuasion to agree to sit down with us. Why were you so hesitant?

SP:  Honestly, recipes should be shared between family members on faded scraps of paper. This whole internet blogging thing is just too impersonal. For example, when you want to make a pumpkin pie, what do you do?

GIMM:  I Google a recipe. 

SP:  Exactly! Now how many choices are there?

GIMM:  Who knows…hundreds of thousands? A million?

SP:  How do you know which one is a good recipe?

GIMM:  I’ll try and find a site that has reviews or find a recipe that’s on a blog I trust.

SP:  Basically, you’re outsourcing your pumpkin pie recipe and basing your decision on a stranger’s who may or may not have a similar flavor profile as you.

GIMM:  Sure, but–

SP:  Meanwhile, you could have just called up your mother and asked her if she had any secret family recipes. AND during which you could engage her in an actual conversation. A real human to human interaction. Why is that important? Food is at its peak enjoyment when it’s connected to memory or tradition. Would you rather eat a pie that you found online from a stranger, or eat a pie that has roots to your family?

GIMM:  If given the choice between two pies, I would prefer to sample each before making a decision.

SP:  When was the last time you called your mother?

GIMM:  Speaking of…my mom is actually VERY allergic to pecans.

SP:  Her loss.

GIMM:  Agreed. You are delicious.

[Another awkward Pause]

GIMM:  I’m not going to eat you.

SP:  I think we better wrap this up.

Spiced Pecans | Get in My Mouf

Well, that was fun. A big thanks to Charles for joining us. Though, to be honest, I’m not sure who was interviewing who. He might be stuck in his old fashioned ways, but man he was, er is–from what I’ve been told–delicious. Want to give him and his friends a try? Don’t bother your mother, as she’s probably busy planning your Thanksgiving dinner. Instead give our recipe a try, ’cause we’re sort of like family at this point, right?



  • 3 Cups Pecan Halves
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Mix together the sugar and spices and set aside.
  2. Combine the egg white and water and whip until stiff peaks form.
  3. Fold the pecans into the egg white mixture. Once completely moistened, add the sugar and spice. Mix well.
  4. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread pecans into an even single layer. This single layer may not sound important, but it is. Crowded pecans mean too much moisture and, in the words of Alton Brown, definitely not good eats.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 300°. Remove from oven, carefully stir, and reduce oven to 250°. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Let cool on a wired rack – we keep ours on the parchment paper so they don’t fall through the cracks – until they come to room temperature.
  7. Try not to eat all of them in one sitting. They are seriously addicting. Sorry, Charles.

Spiced Pecans | Get in My Mouf


Potomac Point Winery – Stafford, VA

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA

Thanks to DriveShop and Mazda, we had a 2016 Mazda CX-5 to play with for a week (check out our car review here). Its nimble handling made for a fun drive on some winding roads to Potomac Point Winery.

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA

Our handsome +1 to a winery wedding.

Question:  When you’re driving up and down I-95, stuck in a swell of cars commuting from parts north and south in Virginia, do you ever wish you could take a quick detour and find a happy place filled with nature, wine, and good food?

If so, Potomac Point Winery is that happy place.

We recently attended a wedding at Potomac Point Winery (Congrats Dianna and Gregg!), so our detour to happiness included a night filled with good company, wine, fine food, and plenty of my off-rhythm dancing.

Tucked away in the woods, it all starts with the drive leading up to the entrance where you’ll soon forget that you were just on a major highway. This is where the happiness begins. Rather than describe it, just take a look at our first impression of the winery:

Not a bad way to start a wedding, eh?

Sweeping views of vineyard, surrounded by woods. It’s truly a serene escape from the traffic-filled highways of Northern Virginia and a romantic getaway for not only a wedding, but even a short day trip or date night.

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA


We’ll definitely be going back to try their full array of wines, but the Abbinato was clearly the hit of the wedding selection with our table. It’s an easy to drink Chianti-style blend with fruit and vanilla flavors and pairs well with most Italian meals, barbecued chicken, tomato-based entrees, and pizza. Though, to be fair, what doesn’t pair well with pizza?

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA

There was very little deviation from the Abbinato, but I also enjoyed the Coyote Cave Red, which was also a light smooth red blend that pays homage to the coyote cave in the winery’s cellar–named after a mother coyote and her cub, who took an “unguided tour” of the cellar before the winery opened to the public.

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA


You’re welcome to bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks for a picnic at the winery, or you could dine at the attached Le Grand Cru Bistro. The menu focuses on local and seasonal ingredients, and ranges from cheese plates, to tapas, and even full entrees like a Brined and Smoked Pork Chop with Sweet Potato Mash and Sage Butter.

Fortunately for us, Le Grand Cru Bistro also catered the wedding, so we were well fed during our visit. All around, the food was solid and included mini crab cakes, mountains of cheeses, meats, and pickles, along with main courses of Pan Seared Sea Bass with Sorrel Butter Sauce and a perfectly cooked Beef Tenderloin with Caramel Sauce.

Our personal favorite was an appetizer that brought out our inner childs: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Shooter. It’s everything an appetizer should be, lighthearted, comforting, fun, tasty. It was also a cool October night, so throwing back some warm soup hit the spot like a can of emergency Campbell’s on a snow day.

Potomac Point Winery - Stafford, VA

We had a really enjoyable time at Potomac Point Winery and look forward to heading back with our pup (yes, they are dog friendly) to revisit this new happy place.

Potomac Point Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

If you want to know more about the winery, including tasting notes on their wines, then check out “Field Trip:  Potomac Point Winery” from The Armchair Sommelier. Lots of good, in-depth wine knowledge and plenty of pictures!

Car Reviews

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Review

2016 Mazda CX-5 Review

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at DriveShop and Mazda, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMazda.

Also, one of the cool things about testing out this Mazda, was that upon receiving the vehicle, we were provided with a $25 charitable gift card redeemable at to donate to the charity of our choice. The Mazda Drive for Good charitable program has helped raise more than $7.6 million and has resulted in over 120,000 charitable service hours pledged since 2013.

Mazda Drive for Good

Given that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and this is a food blog, we chose Food & Friends. The organization is dedicated to helping men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling. What does that entail exactly? They deliver meals year-round, six days a week (including holidays) and since inception have delivered 18 million meals to over 26,000 individuals. Thus, the impact is huge, but they can’t do it without volunteers and generous donations! To learn how you can help, visit their website for more info.


2016 Mazda CX-5

Full disclosure: I owned a Mazda for almost a decade. Does that create bias? Maybe. Does that also create some higher-than-normal expectations. Maybe. So, everything should balance out…


MSRP (as tested):  $32,340
MPG Estimate: 24 city – 30 highway
Engine:  2.5L Skyactiv, DOHC 4 cylinder
Power:  184 hp @ 5,700 rpm  | 185 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
Transmission:   6-Speed Automatic
Color:  Titanium Flash Mica
Options:  Grand Touring Technology Package (Navigation System, Smart City Brake Support, LED headlights with auto leveling, Adaptive Front-lighting System, LED fog lights, LED daytime running lights, LED combination tail lights and auto-dimming mirror)

For more info, click here to view the 2016 CX-5 Brochure.


The entertainment system works really well, keeping in mind it does take some time to get familiar with navigating through everything. So, it’s not quite as initially intuitive as others, but I easily learned what I needed within a few days of driving. No biggie for a car you’ll keep for a decade.

2016 Mazda CX-5

Voice commands also worked easily for making calls and entering addresses for the navigation system.

In my opinion, a huge plus is the fact that the Grand Touring comes standard with a Bose sound system (it’s also optional in the Touring trim). I love me some Bose. I’ve got a pair of Bose computer speakers that can shake our house. So, needless to say the system in the CX-5 is plenty good enough to rock out, hip hop, or blast whatever your preference is.


Although the seats were comfortable, the ride is a bit harsh, but that’s the trade off you get for some of the zoom zoom that’s discussed later.

2016 Mazda CX-5

The A/C was decently cold and I only bring that up, because my old Mazda’s only fault was its air conditioning. Quite the testament to how much I enjoyed that car, as I spent nearly a decade enduring long, sweat-filled summer commutes. This car was a sweat-free zone. Except when I took that one hairpin turn at 80 MPH. Kidding. Or am I?

Oh and not sure if you’re into safety, but the 2016 CX-5 was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, which means this car could save your life. Especially during those 80 MPH hairpin turns. KIDDING. Drive safely.


This is quite a deceiving little SUV. First impressions would likely lead one to believe that this little go-getter is a suburbanite’s dream, ready for trips to big box warehouse stores, home improvement shops for weekend warriors, and carting the little ones (two and four legged) around town. But honestly, all that stuff seems to bore the CX-5. Not that it won’t do all that stuff well, but it seems to do the chores almost begrudgingly.

2016 Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 yearns to stretch its legs and search for winding roads, rural scenary, and areas where there might not be a road at all. During our time with the CX-5, the most fun we had was exploring the curvy roads on our way to visit Potomac Point Winery, and soaring across a grassy field, escaping the hellacious parking situation of a just ended Renaissance Festival.

I really wish we had some snowfall to play with like in this video.

Oh, and the gas mileage. Was it good? Well, for an AWD compact utility vehicle, I was pretty happy with our average of 26.8 MPG. That included five days of commuting to and from work (32 miles round trip) along with two longer trips with mostly highway.

Because of the nature of this car, my only complaint on the performance is the lack of a little more umph. And sure it might be gratuitous, especially for those who want to retain the solid gas mileage, but oh the fun you could have with a turbo-charged MazdaSpeed CX-5…

Smashing Good Looks

Co-workers and neighbors were happy to compliment the looks of the CX-5. The light Parchment color interior was noted on more than one occasion to be sexy. Also, the Titanium Flash Mica exterior made the car look almost like a mini-tank, which was cool. B-Y-O-Rocket Launcher.

cx5 (10)

And personally, upgrading to the Grand Touring model is worth it for the wheels alone.

Who Should Buy This Car

This might be the car for you if you need a little more suburban hauling capacity, but you’re not ready to sacrifice the handling of a smaller vehicle. You might want to check this car out if you enjoy taking weekend trips off the beaten paths and you’d rather take the long way versus a highway. And in all honesty, I was very close to purchasing this vehicle a couple months ago. Had it not been for our dog’s extreme fear of change and anything remotely resembling an SUV, I might own one right now.

cx5 (6)

Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions remain our own and I seriously almost bought this vehicle. 

More care reviews…


McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich: Surprisingly Not Awful

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we had a 2015 Kia Optima SX to play with for a week (check out our car review here). It’s a really comfortable car, so I figured it would make for a great lunch escape. Sure enough, it was provided a calm, comfortable, place to enjoy a Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich from McDonalds.

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Now, on to the sandwich…

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

I tried this sandwich twice. The first time, my expectations were so low that I also simulataneously picked up a Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich from Wendy’s as a back up lunch. Yes, I was prepared to hate McD’s new “food truck worthy” sandwich. And yes, I was prepared to throw it in the garbage and eat the ol’ faithful from Wendy’s.

Fortunately, I did not have to throw out any chicken.

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

In other reviews of the sandwich, there have references to dry, stringy chicken. The first sandwich’s chicken was burning hot, moist, and–dare I even say it–perfect. The second sandwich wasn’t completely dry, but was just okay. So, it seems like consistency might play a role in everyone’s individual experiences. For the best chance, you’ll definitely want to go during a busy lunch hour, or else you may end up with a chicken fillet that has been hanging out a little too long.

As the name would suggest, it was also quite crispy. Actually, crunchy might be more accurate. Yes, it was very crunchy, which was nice.

Flavor-wise, I definitely tasted some of that tang of the buttermilk, along with a healthy dose of black pepper. It reminded me a little bit of the flavor of Wendy’s fried chicken sandwich. No need to reinvent the wheel.

The bun? Impressive. Soft, buttery…brioche-y. It’s a good bun.

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Even the vegetation was better than most of McDonald’s other sandwiches, with a thicker slice of tomato and crisp lettuce, which also seemed fresher than the usual lettuce suspects.

The Mayonnaise Situation

The only flaw, which is also a flaw for many sandwiches at McDonald’s, is the mayonnaise. I rarely shy away from a good, creamy mayo. I spent the better part of my teenage years surviving off Subway subs with extra mayo. So, as a big supporter of the pro-mayo movement, it takes a truly awful mayonnaise to make me angry (and don’t get me started on that disgusting Miracle Whip stuff).

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

And with McD’s, there is always way too much mayo. It’s too thick, almost gelatinous. I feel like I should be using it to grease up car engine parts of my 2015 Kia Optima loaner rather than underside of a brioche bun.

McDonald’s, you need to fix your mayo situation.

Final Verdict

Mayo-hatred aside, this is actually a really good chicken sandwich from Mr. McDonald. I’d definitely order this again. I would recommend ordering this one sans the white goo and “fixing it” with a few packets of Chic-fil-A mayonnaise. You keep extra Chic-fil-A mayo in your car, right? Good.

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Want another opinion? Then check out these other reviews:

GrubGrade |Review: Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich from McDonald’s

DanimalCrossing | McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich Review


Disclaimer:  No free chicken sandwiches or money were provided by McDonald’s for this review. 

Car Reviews

2015 Kia Optima SX Review

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at DriveShop and Kia, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveKia.

I didn’t really know much about Kia before driving this Optima. I did notice that a ton of people in our neighborhood have Kia Optimas. Like, a ton. And after getting to know this car for a week, I completely understand why.


MSRP (as tested):  $31,310
MPG Estimate: 23 city – 34 highway
Engine:  2.4L Gas Direct Injection, 4 cylnders
Power:  192 hp @ 6300 rpm | 181 ft-lbs @ 4250 rpm
Transmission:  6-speed Sportmatic Transmission
Color:  Remington Red
Options:  SX Premium Technology Package (power folding mirrors, Infinity audio system, UVO Service w/ Telematics, HD radio technology, Navigation with SiriusXM, rear camera, blind spot detection system, driver’s seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, power front passenger’s seat, heated outboard rear seats, and back-up warning system)

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia


The seats are really comfortable. REALLY comfortable. Surprisingly comfortable, even. Here’s a challenge: Put on a blind fold and go sit in this car along with three other luxury brands. I bet it’ll be tough to tell which one’s the Kia.

And on top of seats that are luxury-quality comfortable, they’re also cooled. Yes, cooled seats. On a hot day, they’re basically like an ice cold lemonade for your back and butt. Weird metaphor, but accurate.

Ventilated Seats Kia Optima Review #DriveKia


The UVO entertainment system is a really well-designed and user-friendly system that looks good, is intuitive, and WORKS. I’ve come to expect most voice-comand functions in cars have a 50% success rate. I was able to easily add a new destination to the navigation on the first try. You’ve been warned, Siri.

And the mirrors fold in and out automatically. Which I suppose is functional for tight parking spots, but it just also looks cool and made me feel like I was driving a spaceship.


190 horsepower and 181 ft-lbs of torque provide plenty of get-up-and-go to get you around, but aren’t so much that you’ll be living at the gas station. Our average gas milage over the course of the week was 25.5 MPG, which isn’t that bad (if you want better milage, then check out the hybrid version). Personally, I’d take the extra juice if it meant spending a bit more at the tank.

Steering feel and handling are a tad looser and not quite as responsive as I prefer, but others may take that sacrifice for the softer ride. I missed some of the nimbleness that my 2006 compact car has, but the Optima is quite a bit larger.

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

Food Friendliness

Often an overlooked aspect of vehicles, a lot can be said for a car that is really comfortable to eat in. Sometimes you need a quick, quiet, and comfortable place to escape from the insanity of work/school/your own children. Enter the Kia Optima.

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

With the seat reclined and moved back, the center console made for a nice counter to hold a sandwich. In fact, I recommend using one of the memory seat positions for “lunch mode”. Did I mention the seats were comfortable?

(BTW – You can see more interior car/eating pics in our review of McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich.)

The cabin is also spacious, so I’m sure that somehow prevents you from accidentally bumping your elbow on something and spilling ketchup on your white button-up shirt.

Who Should Buy This Car

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

This is definitely going to sound like standard commercial copywriting, but if you want luxury amenities at an affordable price, then you should give a hard look at this car. Although the MSRP tops out at about $31k, nobody actually pays MSRP. In fact, internet prices for the same version of this car, WITH THE TURBO ENGINE (274 hp and 269 ft-lbs of torque) is about $27,000. That’s almost ridiculous, especially when comparable luxury vehicles would easily double the price tag. Overall, this was a fine car. A fine car, indeed.

And for what it’s worth, Kia ranked #2 in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study. Yup, Kia was right behind Porsche and just ahead of Jaguar.

Gratuitous Dog Pictures

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

Kia Optima Review #DriveKia

Disclaimer:  As noted above, we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Kia. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. As always, all opinions remain our own.