About AmandaD

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Five Favorites: New York City Eateries

AmandaD lists the best places to eat that she discovered on her recent trip to New York City.

1. Molly’s Cupcakes, located on Bleeker Street in Manhattan, won the season finale of “Cupcake Wars.” After eating one of their cupcakes, I can tell why. The décor in the store is modern and fun  — they have swings!

2. Lombardi’s Pizza in Manhattan’s Little Italy claims to be the first pizzeria in the U.S.A. They serve a traditional Italian-style pizza … and it’s AWESOME!

Ryan, Kim and I enjoyed the signature margherita pizza at Lombardi's Pizza.

3. Bare Burger in Astoria, Queens, serves fresh burgers made from locally farmed grass-fed meat. They have everything from veggie burgers to ostrich burgers! You pick the type of burger you want, then choose the toppings.

The Western grass-fed beef burger at Bare Burger.

4. Big Gay Ice Cream, located off East 7thAvenue in Manhattan, is totally fun and DELICIOUS! There’s a sparkly rainbow painted on the wall when you walk in and the ice creams are listed on a chalkboard to your right. I had the Salty Pimp and it ROCKED!

Big Gay Ice Cream's Salty Pimp has caramel, nuts and chocolate.

5. S’MAC in Manhattan’s East Village is a macaroni and cheese restaurant = OMG!!!!

The buffalo chicken mac 'n' cheese with blue cheese crumbles was my favorite dish at S'MAC.

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Road Food: Un-Belize-Able Food is Found in Belize

In February, I was in desperate need of a vacation so I convinced my Mom, Dad, and boyfriend, Ryan, to buy a Living Social deal to Belize. We spent a week in Hopkins, Belize, and loved it! Belize is the perfect combination of adventure, tropics and relaxation. Plus (this was a key part in convincing my Mom and Dad), the people speak English. Unlike its surrounding countries, Belize has a Caribbean flair, which makes the food AWESOME!

Hopkins, where we stayed, is a small, remote fishing village, so it didn’t take us long to find the good places to eat. Note: The food prices in Belize are higher than what I had expected. On average, it cost us $15 a person per meal. So if you are traveling on a strict budget, plan ahead and do your research to find the lower-priced restaurants.

Hopkins is a Garifuna village on the east coast of Belize.

The following are a few of the best and unique places we ate at in Hopkins, Belize.

You have to travel all the way to the north end of Hopkins until you feel like there is nothing left to find, and there you will find Driftwood Pizza. You’ll park your car as close to the beach as possible, then walk through the sand to the restaurant. You will then be greeted with warm smiles and Caribbean music. We had the most amazing fresh conch fritters as an appetizer, with pizza to follow. The small kitchen is open, so you can see the cooks making your food. It took a while to make, but it’s well worth it! The ingredients are all fresh and the dough is delicious. With this being said, if you could see how much of a trek it is to get to Hopkins, you would truly appreciate the freshness of this pizza. Driftwood is a fun place for delicious, casual, fair-priced food.

Driftwood Pizza serves great slices.

Chef Rob’s is located right on the water, so you can see and hear the ocean as you eat an amazing four-course meal. Chef Rob, a trained French chef, prints a new menu each day based on what is caught that day. We had the four-course meal (you can order items separately if you want) for about $30 a person, which included appetizer, soup or salad, entrée and dessert. Aside from the food being delicious and beautiful, Chef Rob came out to every table and made sure the guests were pleased — something I have NEVER experienced.

Love on the Rocks also is owned by Chef Rob. The concept is one I’ve never seen. It’s based on the Mayan technique of using hot lava rocks to cook food. At Love on the Rocks, you sit outside and wait for your lava rock to heat up. The food is brought out to you raw, then you cook it on your lava rock and apply sauces as desired. I had chicken with a peanut sauce; it was great and a lot of fun!

A fun meal at Love on the Rocks.

Innie’s Restaurant offers traditional Garifuna food in a homey atmosphere. The prices are really reasonable and the food is outstanding. I had the grouper fingers. The grouper was caught that day, and it was out of this world. Not one ounce of grease and so fresh. The prices at Innie’s are very reasonable compared to surrounding restaurants. If you are in Belize on a budget and want a great place to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Innie’s is the place!

Grouper fingers at Innie's Restaurant.

Innie's is a great place to grab an inexpensive meal.

Lastly, for my fellow food lovers, when you go to Belize you must have Marie Sharp’s hot sauce. It’s made only in Belize, and it’s awesome! It comes in many levels of heat, with warnings like “do not use to play tricks on the weak or elderly” — hah!

Everything from the food, people, and natural beauty make Belize a place worth visiting. If you ever get the chance to go, let me know. I’d love to hear about your great finds — food and adventure!

Santa Hat Brownies Are a Holiday Hit

Four days before Christmas, a friend told me about Santa Hat Brownies and I instantly went on a search for the recipe and directions! The holidays are my favorite time for baking because I have a reason to make ridiculously cute desserts like Santa Hat Brownies and  there are enough people around to eat the stuff I bake. After a quick Google search I came across Erica’s Sweet Tooth. Her blog is totally cute, great for amateur bakers like myself, and she had just posted a recipe and directions for Santa Hat Brownies!

The Santa Hat Brownies were super easy to make and everyone loved them! All you do is bake brownies, top with strawberries, and melt white chocolate to decorate. On Christmas Eve I made the brownies, then on Christmas morning my dad, yes my dad is awesome, helped me get the Santa hats assembled.

Santa Hat Brownies are a huge hit at holiday gatherings and very easy to make.

Santa Hat Brownies
Recipe adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth

Ingredients
1 box brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix)
24 small strawberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease one mini-muffin pan.
Prepare brownie mix according to box’s instructions and fill muffin cavities 3/4 of the way full.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Let brownies cool, then cut into squares.
Place one strawberry upside down onto each brownie.
Melt white chocolate chips in a double boiler and transfer into a piping bag.
Pipe a ring around the base of each strawberry and add a small dot on top. Work quickly, the white chocolate can dry fast and clog up your tip!

Happy Holidays!

Chili Cook-off Victory is Sweet … and Spicy

On December 3, Ryan (my boyfriend) and I won first place at Andrew and Heather’s 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off! Our friends Andrew and Heather have a serious chili cook-off every year, so we were prepared to compete. They decked their house out in chili decorations, had t-shirts made and gave out chili-themed prizes. Last year, Ryan and I came in second place, so we felt the pressure, and wanted to beat it! *Side note: Ryan and I are both really competitive.

Our first-place pot of chili.

There were eight different types of chili entered into the contest. Everyone left the kitchen and each pot of chili was given a number. Heather, the host, handed out small cups of every chili and all the guests tasted them, then ranked each chili from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) on their scorecards. After each chili was tasted and ranked, Heather tallied up the rankings. The results are as follows:

3rd place: Chris Lowery

2nd place: Manuel Bermudez, Rachel Henry, and Alberto Bermudez

1st place: Amanda Doumanian and Ryan Reeves

After the contest, everyone enjoyed chili, chili dogs and chili cupcakes. The sweet and spicy chili cupcakes were made by Candace aka Cakes by Candace. This fun night ended with a win and has left us pondering what to do for next year.

Chili cupcakes made by the local baker behind Cakes by Candace.

If you want to learn more about hosting a chili cook-off of your own, email me at tlhbitebybiteAD@gmail.com for more details. If you want to know our chili recipe, too bad — it’s top secret 😉

Sweet Caroline’s Bakery is So Much More Than Sweet

Sweet Caroline’s Bakery in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Whether you live in Palm Harbor, Fla., or not, you need to go to Sweet Caroline’s!

Sweet Caroline’s does everything from wedding cakes to bread, and it’s all amazing. In October, I traveled down to Palm Harbor for my future sister-in-law’s baby shower. This is the first baby of our family, so both soon-to-be grandmas and I had so much fun planning the shower —which of course included getting a cake!

My Mom knows my desire to shop local, so she did some research and found Sweet Caroline’s. The entire experience from start to finish was great. Not only was the cake delicious and gorgeous, the service was impeccable! Executive Pastry Chef Michael Ostrander worked with my Mom on the design, flavors and fillings. Chef Michael has more than 40 years of professional baking experience, and he truly cares about his customers. Plus he uses all natural ingredients!

On the day of the shower, I couldn’t wait to see this cake. My Mom had really been talking this place up, so I had high expectations. Upon our arrival, the store smelled and looked amazing! Chef Michael personally came out to greet me and took me in the back to show me the cake! It was gorgeous! He cared so much that my mom was pleased with it that he asked me for permission to put gold spray on it. (He wanted to get my permission since my Mom hadn’t requested that). I figured gold makes everything better, so I gave him the okay. This was not your typical baby shower cake —it was a three-layer, chocolate-and-vanilla, raspberry-filled cake, topped with gold spray, and DELICIOUS!!!

The baby shower cake made by Sweet Caroline’s Bakery.

After our amazing experience with the cake, we ordered rolls from Sweet Caroline’s for our Thanksgiving dinner. These rolls were awesome. The first thing my Dad told me to do when I walked into our house in Palm Harbor was to eat a roll. Ha!

Sweat Caroline’s also offers baking classes on Sundays. You can learn how to make everything from bread to pies to cupcakes. For a full class schedule and more information, visit the Sweet Caroline’s Bakery website.

Just the facts
Sweet Caroline’s Bakery
3347 Tampa Rd., Palm Harbor, Fla.
(727) 781-1888

Farm Fresh: Tomato Land

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

This past Saturday, I visited Tomato Land. I’ve taken food to go from Tomato Land (I’ll save that deliciousness for another post), but never shopped for produce. A few weeks ago when a Tallahassee Groupon was offered for Tomato Land produce, I figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to give their produce a try. So this Saturday, I had $10 to spend, and believe me, it went far! I purchased: 2 local grapefruits, 5 tangerines, 1 bell pepper, 4 ears of corn, 1 yellow onion, 1 mango, 2 tomatoes and 2 green apples!

Tomato Land’s selection of tomatoes.

With the fresh corn, I tried a new slow cooker recipe, Corn on the Cob with Garlic Herb Butter, and it was amazing!

Corn on the Cob with Garlic Herb Butter
A recipe from “Crock-Pot The Original Slow Cooker: Recipe Collection”

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
4 ears of corn, husked
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Thoroughly mix butter, garlic and parsley in small bowl.
2. Place each ear of corn on a piece of aluminum foil and generously spread butter mixture on each ear. Season corn with salt and pepper and tightly seal foil.
3. Place corn in 4 1/2 quart slow cooker; overlap ears if necessary. Add enough water to come 1/4 of the way up each ear. Cover; cook on low 4 to 5 hours or on high 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Tomato Land on Thomasville Road.

I found the selection, customer service and prices at Tomato Land to be great. I’ll definitely go again for produce. Also, if you are looking for fresh wreaths and Christmas trees, they have quite a selection!

If you want to send Florida citrus to friends and relatives up North, Tomato Land has gift baskets ready to go.

Just the facts
Tomato Land

1847 Thomasville Rd., Tallahassee
(850) 425-8416

Farm Fresh: Keeping it Simple

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

Thanksgiving week = crazy busy. With that being said, my cooking and veggie-centric recipe was kept simple. I picked up two ears of corn at Earth Fare for only 89 cents each! Fresh corn can be made into many things, but in my “keep it simple” state, I threw the corn on the grill. After about 15 minutes the corn was done, I put some butter and salt on it, and it was the perfect side dish!

Grilled corn

P.S. Since I was using the grill, I grilled two pieces of free-range chicken breast – also purchased at Earth Fare. I like getting my chicken from Earth Fare because they disclose the farm it came from as part of their 100 mile radius commitment, which means they are committed to purchasing from farmers within 100 miles of the store and will not label anything “local” unless it came from within 100 miles of the store location. I marinated the chicken in soy sauce, garlic and honey for one hour prior to grilling … it was delicious!!