Eating Through the Weekend

Pasta Carbonara is a classic Italian quick dinner to put
Pasta Carbonara is a classic Italian meal that goes together quickly.-

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

As the weekend draws to a close, I am reminded that I did a fair amount of cooking, which is something I love to do. In a sense, though, we rather ate our way around a part of the world.

On Friday night we dined on Shepherd’s Pie, which is quite out of character for an Italian, but periodically, I like to eat outside of the box. There is something lovely and comforting about a British Isle food that is smothered with mashed potatoes on its top. Saturday morning I made Julie Child’s Quiche aux Oignons for brunch with fresh blueberries on the side. Delicious, if I do say so myself! Her Mastering the Art of French Cooking is one of my favorite cookbooks in my collection.

Much later that day we would up at O’Rourke’s Pub. It was overflowing with people, but we managed to snare table. After watching the servers carry plates of food past us several times, we settled on Angus beef burgers. I chose smoked Gouda cheese and sautéed mushrooms on mine. My daughter opted for Cheddar cheese on hers and the sautéed mushrooms. A post-hockey game crowd was drawn to the pub. It was loud, with music blaring, and multiple screens showing different games nationwide. After a couple of hours, I was ready to vacate the premises since I wanted to unbutton the top of my jeans from the effects of garlic-laced French fries and pretzel bun cheeseburger overload.

This sunny Sunday morning, I made buttermilk and honey pancakes because we apparently didn’t ingest enough carbs the previous day. I worked on book revisions yesterday and today, finally deciding we needed to partake of UV rays in the great outdoors. Tonight’s dinner consisted of Pasta Carbonara with Whole Foods’ as-pure-as-one-can-get bacon, half and half, Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon, and olive oil. On the side we had spinach with olive oil and fresh lemon. All in all, we feasted on British, Irish [beer, anyway], French, and Italian food over the weekend.

I’m thinking we may need to order sushi for tomorrow….or Panda Express.

Ciao for now.

Root Beer Par Excellence

This new A&W in Ottawa, Canada, is much nicer than the one in my
This new A&W in Ottawa, Canada, is much nicer than the one in my

By Mary Anna Violi | @maryannavioli

Several evenings ago, as I drove around talking on my blue tooth wireless in the car, I came across an A&W Root Beer “All American Food” emporium. Ignoring the fact that it was connected to a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food drive thru, I pulled in to read the A&W menu. Images of foot long Coney Dogs immediately sprung to mind. Visions of large frosty mugs of root beer wetted my appetite. Car hops in jaunty caps atop their pony tails greeting patrons as the car hops fastened trays of orders to slightly raised driver side car windows danced across my mind. Eagerly I scanned the A&W menu.

The first dramatic change I made note of was the absence of the foot long Coney Dog. The menu displayed a traditional Coney Dog of standard length only. There was also a cheese-topped Coney Dog. Masking my disappointment, I ordered the shortened Coney Dog combo with French fries, and, of course, A&W’s legendary root beer. Fearful of an alteration in taste of both the Coney Dog and the root beer itself, I hastened home to quietly taste test the age-old favorites.

Carefully putting the warm food on a china plate, for one should always dine elegantly, even when it is fast food, I sat down at the table in trepidation. Would this nouveu version of the beloved A&W Drive-Ins be of the same quality of those of yore? Might this smaller version of the iconic Coney Dog taste as good as the foot long ones of memory? Could imbibing A&W root beer in a paper cup with a plastic lid possibly bear a resemblance to the frosty mugs of the cold beverage I cherished?

The answer was Yes! The abbreviated version of the Coney Dog burst with flavor of depth and heartiness. The fries were all right, as were those that used to appear in the basket with the original Coney Dog years ago. The A&W root beer tasted as good as I remembered, albeit minus the chilliness of the frosty mug. Suffice to say, the only sad part of the gustatory experience was the lack of the foot long Coney Dog to increase the savory meal.

Then too, I know full well that if I crave a foot long version of A&W’s Coney dog, I am able to order one at Sonic. Or, I suppose, I could always order two short A&W Coney Dogs. This food for thought I shall mull over on my next visit to A&W, while I drink a root beer.

Ciao for now.

A Most Unholy Tooth


The vegetable tagine was delicious, except that I could not eat the cauliflower and
The vegetable tagine was delicious, except that I could not eat the cauliflower and carrots. My daughter share her humus with

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The Evil Tooth Fairy has been vested upon me. Had I neglected regular dental care throughout the years, I would admit that I deserved what my tooth fate of the past months, but I have not, and I do not. As the obedient patient of my darling periodontist, I followed his verbal and written instructions to the letter. Thus, the extensive oral surgery, including bone grafting, he performed has been healing nicely. Finally, ten days ago, he gave me the green light: I could partake of my evening glass of vino rosso with dinner, and eat crunchy food and something other than baked seafood.

I decided to celebrate this gustatory comeback with a juicy cheeseburger and French fries on Mardi Gras. This way, Friday abstinence throughout Lent would bother me not. How wrong I was.

Settling in the comfy green leather chair, balancing the aromatic cheeseburger, a double no less, and fries, and wine on a small tray, I began watching one of my favorite movies: The Thin Man, with William Powell and Myrna Loy. About three bites into my heavenly cheeseburger, I felt a crunch and sharp pain. At first, I deduced it was a one-off. Alas, it was not. For when I sunk my teeth into another bite, searing pain erupted. Valiantly, I forged ahead, chewing the cheeseburger and fries on the right side of my mouth, for waste not, want not, as the old adage goes. After waiting almost two months to eat a treat like this again, and imbibe my pinot noir, I refused to concede defeat.

The next day I had a scheduled teeth cleaning on Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence. After x-rays and exploration, my dentist decreed that the tooth on the upper left side had fractured. “What?” I cried in despair. This was a tooth unsullied by a filling. Back I trekked to the periodontist, antibiotic prescription in hand. Had I not been in agonizing pain, wild horses would not have dragged me out into the snowstorm the next morning. Barely getting out of the garage and onto the side street, for no snowplow had yet passed this way. I crept along at twenty miles an hours in a whiteout, headlights on, praying the SUV stay on the road. Since the periodontist had several cancellations due to the weather, he could see me.

“That tooth is a goner. It’s got to come out. I’ll do a bone graft,” he smiled, trying to bolster my flagging spirits. “Let’s rock and roll!” he chirped. The only good news I saw in any of that morning, was that he plays Adele, Taylor Swift, and Death Cab for Cutie over the sound system.]

It was déjà vu. So far, 2015 had gotten off to a rocky start in my world.

He came at me with That Needle, the one that reminded me of the one used on me for amniocentesis when I was with child. This was followed by three more injections, albeit with smaller needles. Ironically, Taylor Swift was singing, “Shake It Off” on the radio at that moment, and I tried to do just that. It failed to work.

The bright spot on the horizon was yesterday. I felt better. It was above zero and not snowing so that I could travel out-of-town and visit my daughter in between her trial advocacy practices and brief writings. We laughed as we ate warm dolmades and thinly sliced red beets at our favorite Middle Eastern bistro. We celebrated a belated Valentine’s Day with small gifts and chocolate cupcakes. Spending an afternoon with my daughter made me feel better.

Today, as I gaze out the window at the falling snow, I tell myself it could be worse. It looks like I am forsaking vino rosso and meat for Lent, I can feast on crab cakes. Mea culpa.

Ciao for now.






The Fish of Lent

By Mary Anna Violi |@Mary Anna Violi

fish & chips
fish & chips (Photo credit: David Ascher)


Friday night dinners in our household consisted primarily of fish.  Good practicing Roman Catholics my parents were, Fridays throughout Lent were peppered with hearty portions of dried cod, a’la` Calabria, with a generous portion of olive oil, onions, fresh lemons, a handful of fresh parsley, a hearty portion of potatoes, all covered with water.  Mama used to explain that to cook baccala, the aforementioned cod dish, “First, you soak the cod for a week, and then you cook the cod for a week, and then you throw it out!”

She had a point.  Dried cod smelled like a dead fish that had been floating on its side for an undetermined length of time.  I incurred Daddy’s icy stare whenever I held my nose to take a bite of this Southern Italian “delicacy”.  Baccala was, however, a most economical Lenten repast, for in those years, cod was cheap [before upper-middle-class folks decided fish was “hot” and meat was “not”]. Years later, I concocted a way of making baccala with fresh cod that tasted delicious and lacked the appalling bouquet of dried cod.  My parents were proud of my culinary baccala achievement.

We also feasted upon filleted blue gills, courtesy of relatives who liked ice fishing; tuna fish and noodles; tuna casserole; shrimp cocktail; and my brother’s favorite:  Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.  If we were lucky enough to be served fish sticks on a Lenten Friday, that also meant made homemade French fries and another relative’s coleslaw recipe, which I could have dispensed with.  I enjoyed simply noshing on lemon-saturated fish sticks while chasing ketchup around my plate with chunky French fries.

I thought about those Lenten dinners of yore last Friday night as I prepared linguine with shrimp scampi for dinner.  Admittedly, I abstain from meat on most Fridays beyond Lent.  Fish and Fridays just go hand in hand in my Italian world.

Ciao for now.