Fiction Faith & Foodies

Fiction Faith & Foodies: February 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

For this edition of Excited about Eating we travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Why Puerto Rico? Because I judged the Smoking Hot BBQ event and then took some time off for a 7 day cruise.

It’s a challenge sometimes to find a good restaurant in an unfamiliar location but after some research, we selected Ropa Vieja Grill in the Condado area of San Juan.
Ropa Vieja Grill in San Juan
It was a thirty minute walk from our hotel but we were up for some exercise. The streets were clogged and sidewalks crowded, and a policio (police) told us that there was a large festival going on a few blocks away.

We found Ropa Vieja Grill to be very casual and a place where the locals eat. Since I had been judging BBQ all afternoon we decided to share an appetizer and meal. For our appetizer we ordered the Carne Frita con Tostones Peseteros which is Fried Pork Chunks with Fried Green Plantains.
Fried Pork Chunks with Plaintains
The fried pork was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with just the right amount of seasoning coming from the marinated onions. Plantains are starchy and must be cooked before eating (usually fried or baked) and are very popular in the Caribbean, as well as Florida where I lived for the first 49 years of my life. Many people confuse plantains with bananas, but plantains are longer and have thicker skin. The plantains tasted fresh and were sliced a little thicker than potato chips. The one thing that would have put this dish over the top would have been a dipping sauce.

For our main dish, we ordered the Canoas de Ropa Vieja, plantain “canoes" filled with Shredded Flank Steak and blanketed with an unidentifiable cheese. The sweet plantain and the shredded flank steak were a perfect match for each other. The sweetness and firmness of the plantain with the hearty savory taste of the shredded flank steak kept you coming back for more. The white rice and black beans were a great complement. Dora here. I wasn't a huge fan of the fried pork chunks, but the canoas hit a homerun! 
Canoas de Ropa Vieja
This is a small restaurant and as the crowd increased, the noise level did also. If you are looking for a quiet dining experience, I would suggest you try another restaurant. Dora here. I enjoyed the food, but definitely noise overload. If you’re like me and find it difficult to tune out background noise, you’ll find conversation a challenge. Not a romantic dinner for two kinda place. :) 
I would rate this establishment 4 forks out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving great food.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

Terrace Cafe
This edition of “Excited about Eating” takes us to the Terrace Café located in the Piedmont Town Center in the heart of SouthPark. This multi-use Town Center features shops, restaurants, offices, and residential properties arranged in a walkable community.

We arrived at 12:10 on a Saturday to a 75 minute wait. Honestly, we debated leaving but decided to wait and that was a great decision because it turned into a manageable 40 minutes. We had a great view of the industrial style loft area and the charm that comes with this type of structure. 

Terrace Café offers a wide variety of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While waiting, we noticed that most of the dishes coming out of the kitchen were breakfast. Although they looked appetizing, we opted for lunch.

We started with an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes served with a warm pimento cheese dip. 
Fried Green Tomatoes

The Fried Green Tomatoes arrived quickly and were crispy outside and tender inside with a slight vinegary taste. They were great. Even my wife, who really doesn’t like tomatoes, enjoyed them. I think they could serve the cheese dip on anything and it would be great.

I ordered the Nashville Fried Chicken tossed in hot sauce and served over braised collard greens and mashed potatoes.
Nashville Fried Chicken
The chicken was outstanding, crispy and tender, but the mashed potatoes took the prize as the best component of this dish. They were light and creamy with just enough lumps to let you know they were freshly made. The collard greens were a combination of sweet and vinegary, and tasted great. The portions were huge, and definitely not for someone who doesn’t like heat as the Nashville hot sauce lived up to its name. Dora here. Definitely a "forehead slicker." lol.

My wife ordered the Chicken Salad Croissant, a Hawaiian version of chicken salad on a fresh croissant served with lettuce and tomato and sweet potato waffle fries. 
Chicken Salad Croissant
The chicken salad, made with cream cheese instead of the normal mayo, included grapes, pineapple, pecans, and mandarin oranges. The sweet potatoes waffle fries were a first for us, but something we'd definitely order again.

I finished off my meal with a Peanut Butter Cup Latte and my wife chose the Tiramisu Latte. Both were excellent and a great way to cap off our meal. Dora here. Lip-smacking yummy!
Tiramisu Latte
Overall I would highly recommend this restaurant for someone looking for a unique restaurant offering exceptional food. I would rate this establishment 5 forks out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving outstanding food.
Terrace Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What's in your Bible?

My name is Dora Hiers, and I'm a hoarder. A bible hoarder, that is. I'm loathe to part with a bible. My last one is at least fifteen years old. The carry case is perfect to stuff journals, pens and highlighters. Inside, all my notes and highlights provide an easy way for me to look up a favorite passage quickly. Of course, the better way would just be to memorize it. :)

But that also means potentially I skim over passages that might otherwise jump out at me, right? Also, it's NIV, and for quite a while now, I've been considering making the switch to a chronological bible. This year I finally did it!

Since I'm a bible hoarder, that took a lot, trust me. lol. Every time I stand in front of my bookshelf, I steal a glance at my comfortable and worn bible, but I force myself to stay the course and reach for the new one. Before long, this pretty baby will be full of notes and highlights, too. If you hate marking up your bibles, you're probably cringing about now, but I just love reading my notes from past years and pondering my spiritual journey. One person I know reads a bible each year, and then when she finishes, gifts it to a grandchild as a spiritual legacy. That's a cool idea, don't you think? Maybe one day, but for now, I'm happy with my baby steps.
What about you? Do you hang onto bibles forever? What prompts you to switch?

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

This edition of “Excited about Eating” has me stepping out of my comfort zone as we visited Hazelnuts Crêperie.  
Now, I wouldn't consider myself a crepe-type guy. I tend to steer toward BBQ and chicken wings, but I am willing to try anything once. If you have never had a crêpe, it is a very thin pancake, usually made from wheat or buckwheat flour and is cooked on a crepe griddle. Their consumption is widespread in France. 

Hazelnuts Crêperie is tucked inside the lobby of a skyscraper in downtown Charlotte. 
Their menu offers a variety of sweet, savory, and vegetarian options. I chose a breakfast crepe, “The Mariachi”, which incorporates scrambled eggs, black beans, bacon, tomatoes, mozzarella, red onions, avocados, and Jalapeno cream inside of a perfectly cooked crepe. 
My wife also chose a breakfast crepe, the “Chevre & Mozz”, which integrates scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, olives, red onions, and goat and mozzarella cheese. 

As for my first crepe ever, “The Mariachi” was surprisingly good. I can truly tell you that I was not expecting the depth of flavor that melded together. If fact, I have never really liked avocados, but mixed with the Jalapeno cream, the taste was exceptional with just the right amount of kick.
The Mariachi
My wife’s “Chevre & Mozz” also had very deep flavors. For the most part, I do not like mushrooms or olives, but this combination was outstanding, and the goat cheese definitely was the star of the show.
Chevre & Mozz
For dessert we shared “The Chunkster” which consists of peanut butter, bananas, chocolate chips, trail mix and maple syrup. As a peanut butter lover, this crepe was a little on the sweet side. 
One dessert crepe cut in half
My wife, not being a peanut butter lover, felt that the peanut butter overwhelmed the crepe and for the most part, it tasted like a warm pb&j minus the jelly. Not one she would try again.

Overall I would highly recommend this restaurant for the crepe connoisseur or for anyone that has never tried a crepe. I would rate this establishment 4 spoons out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving great food.

Dora here, adding my two cents. Although I was excited to try a crepe, I really thought I'd be raiding the pantry by mid-afternoon, but that wasn't the case. The Chevre & Mozz and half the dessert crepe were hearty enough to last me until dinner. The fridge and pantry were safe. :)

Unlike last week, we left Bruiser at home, but still, parking was an issue. We ended up parking in a nearby garage and forking over $5. So, if you're heading here, make sure you factor in the cost to park.
Have you tried crepes? What fillers do you enjoy in your crepes? Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Hazelnuts Crêperie on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On My Kindle ~ BETTING ON HOPE by Debra Clopton

Pre-Order Link
The Cover Story~
A bet gone wrong. A small town’s meddling. And a cowboy intent on saving his ranch.
Maggie Hope is an advice columnist whose background leaves her with little advice to give . . . and it’s beginning to show. When Maggie fills in at an interview with champion horse trainer Tru Monahan, the on-camera chemistry between them is undeniable. Maggie’s bosses know this is the opportunity she’s been looking for to launch her career—and their bank accounts. In order to save her column, Maggie takes Tru up on the bet that he can teach her to ride a quick-stepping cutting horse like any cowgirl, despite the fact that she has never been on a horse. And in the meantime, she can get the scoop on the man under the cowboy hat.

Tru has been on the competition circuit for longer than he’d like, but he knows it’s the only way he can afford to keep the Four of Hearts Ranch that means so much to his ailing grandfather. So when his sponsors see the opportunity for Tru’s fans to get to know the star on a more intimate level, he knows he must oblige. To his dismay, Maggie not only invades his small town of Wishing Springs, but she also invades his heart, and that is something he cannot let any woman do—for her own good.

In Wishing Springs, Maggie finds what she has always been looking for: a community and a home. But when her past catches up to her, it threatens everything, even the tender hope that this town holds all of her heart’s desires.

My takeaway~ 
Horse Trainer Tru Monahan's life is more public right now than he'd like, but those endorsements help pay off the staggering debt on his beloved Four of Hearts Ranch. Advice Columnist Maggie Hope longs for a family, but that would involve trusting a man, something her father taught her not to do from an early age. It wouldn't be a Debra Clopton book without town matchmakers, and Reba and Clara Lyn, co-owners of the Cut Up and Roll Salon, fill that role nicely. Also, just like the Mule Hollow series, Wishing Springs becomes the new "dating destination."

Betting on Hope packed in plenty of real life issues like Alzheimer's, teen pregnancy, adoption, sterility, and a main character hoping to keep an unsavory past hidden. While I cared about the three-dimensional characters and the story kept me turning pages, I would have preferred more, um, sizzle in the actual romance, but that's just me. I bet (lol, pun intended) fans of the popular Mule Hollow series will enjoy Betting on Hope, available 2/15/15 with Thomas Nelson Fiction.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from NetGalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction for the purpose of sharing my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I received no monetary compensation.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Happened to All My Peoples?

Our four-year-old grandson calls his daycare friends "his peoples." His accent is so cute with that North Carolina twang, that I admit to asking him about his "peoples" every time I pick him up from daycare just to hear him say it. :)

Whenever we talk about his "peoples," my mind wanders to my "peoples" or my friends all over the world on social media. In case you didn't know, I'm a big fan of Twitter, second favorite only to Pinterest. I appreciate that Twitter allows follows without the obligatory follow back, unlike Facebook's friend policy. Also, the 140 character limit and the list option makes for quick scrolling at different intervals throughout the day.

Recently, I was using to purge followers who immediately unfollow me or folks I follow who choose not to follow back for whatever reason. But, I must confess that I have never cleaned out my "inactive" followers, those people who haven't been active on twitter for three months or more.

Yowza! The list was so long. I probably spent an hour "unfollowing" and I hadn't made it to the bottom. Crazy.

Some didn't surprise me. Maybe they just decided that Twitter was one too many distractions, or they'd only tweeted a few times and Twitter just wasn't for them. But what did surprise me was the number of inactive users who had ten or twenty thousand or more followers.

What happened to all my peoples? 
Image Courtesy of Pixabay
Why would they abandon a Twitter account with such an impressive platform? I could only conclude that something traumatic happened in their lives, whether it was death, illness, or job loss. Who knows, but this process made me sad, and I found myself praying over the profiles.

Finishing that task will have to wait for another day. And it just might take me four more years to get it under control.

How do you feel about Twitter? How often do you purge your inactive followers or have you put that off like me? What's your favorite social media hangout?

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Excited about Eating by Ernie Hiers

So today we kicked off our sampling of restaurants in and around Charlotte, North Carolina. Today’s choice was Big Ben British Restaurant and Pub. Located in Atherton Mill on the south side of Charlotte, this pub had great food in a sports bar environment. 

When we arrived only a few tables were taken, but unknown to us, a Chelsea vs. Manchester City soccer match was about to start and the place was buzzing with people within 15 minutes. We started with the Bubble & Squeak appetizer. This traditional English dish consists of mashed potatoes and sautéed brussel sprouts, but here they substituted cabbage. The dish had a great consistency and was very tasty. For our meal, my wife went with the Famous Southend Haddock N’ Chips and I took our waiter's suggestion, the Chicken Pot Pie.

The Chicken Pot Pie was definitely a unique dish. Rather than the traditional pot pie served in some universal type of container, this pot pie was formed inside of an exceptional puff pastry type shell which held in all of the goodness of the dish. It was served with fluffy mashed potatoes, fresh steamed vegetables, and topped with chicken gravy. 

The Haddock N’ Chips was far larger than most persons could eat at one sitting. Luckily, my wife was willing to share. It consisted of flaky haddock, cooked to perfection, crispy pub fries, cole slaw, and a pickle that they call a Wally which in England means a “dill pickled baby cucumber”. The fish was great, not greasy nor overly fishy. The pub fries were cooked flawlessly, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and the average cole slaw complemented the dish.
So, our takeaway...if you're not a soccer fan, ask to be seated outside the viewing area of the huge screen or you'll feel like you're at the game. And go early. We snagged a parking spot right in front, but when we left, vehicles were lined up, circling. Oh, and if you like a coffee after your meals, be sure to stop in Not Just Coffee, located on the back side of Icehouse right next door and wander around the indoor farmer's market.

I would rate this establishment 5 spoons out of 5 for a family friendly restaurant serving outstanding food.

Dora here, adding my two cents about this first experience. 

1. Check the times/days that the restaurant is open. Yes, we neglected to do that and our first choice wasn't open. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Bring the list. Since we didn't bring our list, we had to switch gears. With a little help from Yelp, Big Ben Pub ended up being a fabulous alternative. 

3. Don't wait until hunger pangs strike. Charlotte is a thirty minute drive from our house and after factoring in the time it took to navigate one-way streets and to snag a parking spot, let's just say I could've faced down a bear and won. Those of you who deal with sugar challenges might want to bring a snack. :)

4. Leave the dog at home. In the cooler months, Bruiser enjoys tagging along with us. So long as we have a container of water and leave the windows cracked, he's happy. We didn't think it would be a problem to find a parking spot in downtown Charlotte on a Saturday, but we were wrong. Rather than park in a garage a few blocks away, we chose to drive a bit farther out of downtown where parking was more accessible and Bruiser was close. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed our first Excited about Eating venture. 

Big Ben British Pub & Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Do you enjoy experimenting with new restaurants? 
Or do you prefer to frequent the same ones?

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adding a VIP to my blog!

Yesterday, I blogged about how my husband encourages me to step out of my comfort zone to prepare you for some exciting news.

I am THRILLED to announce that my husband, Ernie Hiers, will be contributing to this blog on a regular basis. He'll be sharing foodie events and adventures along with reviews of eateries in a new series, Excited about Eating, on Saturdays. Journey along with us as we visit eateries around Charlotte and all over the world.

With over thirty five years in the fire service, Fire Chief Ernie Hiers looks forward to the next phase of his life, cruising and cooking. Besides being a huge NASCAR fan, Ernie also enjoys judging Kansas City Barbeque Society competitions, smoking barbeque on the back deck, hanging out in a mountain cabin, and his latest hobby…eating through Charlotte.

You'll still find devotionals and book reviews here, but as my writing evolves, so must my blog. In the past I've limited my reviews to primarily inspirational romance, but soon I'll be featuring reviews of other genres as well.

My life is so much more than books and writing, and I want this blog to reflect that. And a major shift like this deserves a new name ~ Fiction, Faith and Foodies.

Are you excited about this change? Weigh in and let us know! I hope you'll stick with us and make yourself right at home here.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

It may come as a surprise to you, but I’m a routine kinda gal. I eat the same cereal for breakfast and wake up and go to bed every day about the same time. Wait staff from our favorite restaurants don’t bother asking for my order; they just confirm it. I write only from my quiet office, and I take breaks in regular intervals. Interruptions throw me off kilter, and it takes a while to regain my balance.

But being a writer is slowly eroding my routine. That, or my husband is. :)

He’s always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. He prodded me to write my first book, even when I doubted, and encouraged me to join a writers group. When our local librarian invited me to address their readers, hubby rattled off a list of possible topics and practically shoved me into the public speaking arena when I would have been perfectly content to hide out in the obscurity of my office, pecking away at my laptop. Eventually, readers would find my stories, right?

Now, he’s at it again. Prodding me to expand my horizons. Travel. Food. Where does it stop?

Three years ago, he convinced me that a European cruise was cheaper than some of our US vacations, and we’ve cruised there every year since. We’ve craned our necks to stare up at the Eiffel Tower, climbed the Colosseum in Rome, and explored ancient walled cities in Tuscany and volcanoes in Iceland. We devoured pizza in Belfast, gobbled down granitas and cannoli’s in Sicily, guzzled espresso in Barcelona, and tasted authentic fish and chips in London.

And you know what? I actually enjoyed it. Not necessarily every new meal or city, but the experience. He doesn’t have to sell me on it anymore. When he mentions a European cruise, I’m totally on board.

We all need someone like that, don’t we? A friend or spouse to push us to achieve more, to reach for our dreams, to fill a hole with something that we’re passionate about, or to force us to face our fears. For me, it was fear of the unknown.     

What are you afraid of?

Embrace life. Surround yourself with people who love you enough to shove you out of your comfort zone. Give your dreams wings to become reality and discover yourself.

Just wait until he starts messing with my bedtime. Or leaving brochures for Antarctica on the kitchen counter…

“Risk, then, is not just part of life. It is life. The place between your comfort zone and your dream is where life takes place. It's the high-anxiety zone, but it's also where you discover who you are.” ~Nick Vujicic

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