Speaking of collaboration, I am pumped to share these pictures from my recent #cookbookroadtrip dinner party in Austin, Texas, at the beautiful home of Jeanine Donofrio & Jack Mathews of Love & Lemons. To be honest, I didn't know really Jeanine before this trip - we had "met" on Twitter, and had admired each others' blogs from afar. I love everything about her blog, from its clean design, gorgeous photography, and healthy, delicious recipes – it's no surprise at all that it won the 2014 Saveur Readers' Choice Award for the Best Cooking Blog. (Woot woot!) Jeanine is not just talented, though, she's super nice - so much so that when I reached out to her several months ago about co-hosting a dinner, she not only said yes, but she asked if I needed a place to stay!
So Elise and I had the privilege of spending three days in Austin with Jeanine and her husband Jack, a video game developer who's also Jeanine's co-conspirator on the blog. Though she's the cook and the voice behind the blog, Jack is the chief taste-tester and programmer, and he and Jeanine shoot all of the photography together. (Case in point: they took all these photos, and are therefore sadly not in them.)
We had so much fun with them – they took us to some of their favorite food spots in Austin (like La Condesa, Tacodeli, Contigo, and the very cool Austin Farmer's Market) and even brought us warm chocolate croissants one morning from the nearby Elizabeth Street Cafe. They have a gorgeous all-white kitchen that was a dream to cook in, and the perfect backyard pool setting for a summer dinner party. Though Jeanine is clearly a great cook, she let me handle the food (a summery menu from my cookbook) and she created a gorgeous ambiance outside, with strung lights, mismatched chairs, striped napkins, vintage plates and glasses, and pretty menus that she designed herself. We put bright orange marigolds in little milk bottles to make simple (and heat-resistant) flower arrangements for the table.
Elise and I bought a bunch of produce at the Farmer's Market (like heirloom tomatoes for the gazpacho, peaches for the cobbler, and rainbow carrots for the salad), and did the rest of the shopping at the flagship Whole Food's Market. The place was gigantic (80,000 square feet to be exact), and had everything from an in-house smoker (of course we had to sample their pulled pork, which was divine), to a top-notch juice bar, an excellent wine shop and HUGE beer selection, a local honey bar, and a bulk spice section where you can buy one recipe's worth of spices - brilliant. I could have easily spent all day in there!
There were 12 guests at dinner – a mix of Jeanine and Jack's good friends (including fellow foodies Emily Wylie, a healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market, and blogger Elizabeth van Huffel) and my dear college friend Betsy (Dupree) Nowrasteh and her new husband Mark, who live in Austin as well. It was so fun to mix old and new friends, and as is usually the case at my dinner parties, everyone was exhanging numbers by the end of the night.
Given the steamy weather, I started off with a chilled tomato gazpacho (with mangoes and cucumbers) which I paired with a crisp 2013 Les Hauts Bel Air Sauvignon Blanc. For the main course, I made grilled cumin-rubbed skirt steak with a roasted red pepper chimichurri sauce and my favorite baby kale salad with quinoa, avocado, red cababbage, and carrots with a lemony vinaigrette, and served it with a 2013 Cotes de Ventoux Soleil des Garrigues (an earthy blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault from the southeastern Rhone). And for dessert? A peach and blackberry pecan crumble (inspired by my Austin-turned-New York friend Kelyn Mock), made from local fruit, and topped with a vanilla Bourbon ice cream. Lord have mercy, it was good.
Despite the humidity (and mosquitoes the size of fruit flies), I'll never forget that perfect Austin night, the talk and the laughter and the wine and the stories going late into the night. Everyone had babysitters to relieve, and yet nobody was looking at their phones or watches. It was so relaxed and fun and genuine. A huge thanks to Jeanine and Jack for being THE most amazing hosts (and for taking these gorgeous photos), to Whole Foods Market for supplying the wine and the food, and to VW for making it possible to drive across the country. Cheers!
(All photos were taken by Jack Mathews and Jeanine Donofrio of Love & Lemons)