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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Visiting Richmond: A Blogging Dream Come True

Last week I shared a recipe for my dear friend Courtney’s virtual baby shower.  This week I’m excited to share a little bit more about the real life shower we were able to throw for her.  Some bloggers dream of fame and fortune.  Some dream of attending special workshops or conferences.  Some of us just want to get together and have a good time.  Yep, that’s us.  Through daily emails and texts, a group of us have become best friends who happen to live hundreds of miles apart.  Hardly a week goes by when one of us doesn’t say, “I wish we could all get together and cook, bake, and just have fun!”  Unfortunately, living so far apart and all having busy schedules, it’s not a simple thing to arrange.  Finally, with the impending birth of Courtney’s baby girl, we decided it was time to make this dream a reality.

We began coordinating plans with Courtney’s wonderful husband Eric so we could pull off a surprise of epic proportions.  After months of planning and what seemed like hundreds of emails and texts, Josie, Tara, and I arrived in Richmond.  (Elly, even though you couldn’t be there this time, you were very much missed!)  We arrived early at Julep’s, a favorite restaurant of Courtney and Eric’s known for its inventive Southern cuisine.  Finally Courtney arrived with Eric for what she thought was a date night, only to be shown to a table where the three of us were waiting.  Needless to say, she was quite surprised (though she was very composed).  At last we could all breathe easy and start enjoying this weekend we had been planning for so long!   The meal at Julep’s was truly fantastic.  We started with the fried green tomatoes and cheese plate.  I can’t remember what everyone else had but my entree was the pork shank with barbecue cheese grits, caramelized onions, and broccolini.  For dessert I enjoyed the strawberry moscato sorbet.  I would go back in a heartbeat.

Since Courtney and Eric recently moved into a new home, we opted to stay in a nearby hotel and we took Courtney with us!  Boy, was that ever fun.  It reminded me of sleepovers I had in high school, staying up all night talking.  (No exaggeration – I think I had maybe 10 hours of sleep the entire weekend.  We just could not settle down!)  Saturday morning we enjoyed brunch at a fun restaurant called Lulu’s, and turned it into a mini baby shower for Courtney.  It was so much more fun to be able to give her our gifts in person than to mail them.  We skipped any shower games and just continued our constant stream of excited chatter.  The food was spectacular.  I had shrimp and pimento cheese grits with poached eggs and hollandaise.  It may sound like an unlikely combination but it was actually the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had.  I would love some right now!

After brunch we explored Richmond a bit more.  We took Josie for her first trip to Penzey’s Spices.  Then we walked down the street a bit to For the Love of Chocolate, a place I will always think of as the most chocolatey chocolate shop ever.  I feel fairly certain that they carry almost every single type of chocolate, chocolate candy, chocolate anything that is marketed anywhere in the world.  I have never experienced anything like this!  Since it was the weekend before Valentine’s Day the store was shoulder-to-shoulder packed full of people the entire time.

There was a wall full of different flavors of malt balls, a section for chocolate-covered espresso beans, a huge case with nearly a hundred varieties of fudge.  Josie found the biggest peanut butter cups any of us had ever seen (and let out quite the dramatic gasp when she spotted them – haha!)  I found a bunch of little novelty gum tins with funny sayings on them – very sassy, just like me.

The truffle case was absolutely overwhelming.  I had to make my way past it about four times before I was able to eye the flavors and make an order (coconut creme pie, tiramisu, creme brulee, dark chocolate raspberry, and vanilla latte, if you wanted to know).  Ordering was kind of intense because of the crowds and the huge number of employees, everyone shouting orders, etc.  There was a whole other side to this case off to the left, but I couldn’t get the entire thing in my picture.  Who knew I’d need my camera AND a wide angle lens?

It was a mad house in there.

After a very brief break at the hotel, we headed over the Courtney and Eric’s house.  You see, the thing that we talk about the most when we pine after these dream get togethers is not just being together but cooking and baking together.  So, we blocked off Saturday night for making dinner and dessert together.  First we had to decide what exactly we were going to make.  You might think it would be easy but it actually took us a really long time to choose.  We don’t get to do this every day, so we wanted it to be good!

We finally made our meal selections and then we were off to Whole Foods to shop for ingredients.  I’ve been to a lot of Whole Foods, but this was the nicest I’ve seen.  We had a lot of fun browsing and people probably thought we were nutty.

Then we headed back to the house for the best part of all – finally cooking together!  It was such fun to be in the kitchen all together, and it was kind of amazing how each of us took on different tasks, each popping in and out of the action from time to time to take some photos.  It was all quite seamless – we made a great team!  The phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” definitely does not apply to us.  Tara and Courtney prepped a fabulous appetizer for us to snack on while we cooked the rest of the meal.  (I plan to post about all of these recipes eventually, and soon!)  Anything involving lots of melted cheese is good.

Josie and I started in on the main dish, but we all ended up helping with various steps.  The meal was wonderful as expected.  The only hiccup in the weekend came after dinner when we made dessert.  We chose a seemingly simple cake that sounded wonderful with gorgeous photos.  Unfortunately though the recipe looked enticing, it was highly flawed.  It ended up being the biggest kitchen fail I have ever experienced!  (Consequently there are no photos of this because I didn’t want to remember it.  Ha!)  We were pretty discouraged but after reading many, many reviews of others who had had the same experience as us, we at least knew that we were not to blame.  Thankfully Courtney happened to have some of this triple chocolate mousse cake in the fridge because she’s fabulous like that, so we did not go without dessert.  (In case you were wondering, I have made it my personal mission to make the fail cake again, as a reliable and useable recipe, so that I can share it with all of you.)  We enjoyed our dessert and stayed up late late late talking and watching Lonely Island videos (this is our favorite – NSFW warning!)  Eventually we knew we either had to get to bed or just stay up the rest of the night.  Since Tara had a long drive home the next day, we opted for sleep.  And then suddenly in the morning, just as soon as it all had begun, our awesome weekend was over.  Josie and I were back to the airport and Tara drove home.  Major sadness.

It’s impossible to even think of highlights from the weekend because truly, the whole thing was one giant highlight.  We laughed SO, SO much that my face almost hurt from smiling.  I really never even wanted to go to sleep.  It was all over far too quickly but at least now that we’ve done it once, we solidified a commitment to do it again, and often!  I have to give huge thanks to Courtney’s wonderful husband Eric who helped make the weekend so perfect.   And to you, Tara, Josie, and Courtney: You girls mean so, so much to me I can’t even express it.  I know I don’t need to say it because the feeling is mutual, and that – that is awesome.  I love how it seems we all share one mind, finishing each other’s thoughts and understanding each other better than we could ever imagine.  You make me smile, make me laugh, and have given me support at a time when I have needed it the most.  Courtney and Eric, I am so thrilled about your baby girl’s upcoming arrival, and this was the best possible way we could have celebrated.  I feel very blessed to have been even a small part of it.

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  • Kat

    Sounds like an excellent time! For The Love Of Chocolate might be my most favorite food place in Richmond (I live about an hour away from there, but visit frequently). You really can’t pick just one of *anything* in there, and part of the reason I love the store is the smell. I think I spent over an hour just wandering around and inhaling!

    I’ll have to put Julep’s and Lulu’s on my radar for my next couple of visits. Glad you had a great time in Richmond – isn’t it a fun place? Cheers!

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    So fun! You girls look like you had such a blast! :)

  • Marilyn

    SO SWEET, being intentional about gathering together, celebrating each other’s lives, marking milestones, cooking and eating! Inspiring! Wonderful photos. Wonderful faces!

  • Amy Bortnick

    This is very touching! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://tideandthyme.com/ Laura

    What a fabulous weekend get-together for you girls. Would have loved to see Courtney’s face! Glad you enjoyed Richmond, great town.

  • http://twitter.com/I_heart_kale Mia

    Your weekend looks like so much fun! What a great way to celebrate a baby shower and be able to get together with such wonderful ladies. :)

  • Emilie @ Emilie’s Enjoyables

    Awww I loved reading about your trip! It seems like finding connections with other is probably the best part of blogging.

  • Katharine

    Being a former Richmonder (18 years I lived there), you went to some pretty awesome places. For the Love of Chocolate is the BEST! My parents always bring me stuff from there when they come to visit me :)

    So glad to hear you had a nice trip!

  • http://cookingformykids.com/ Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids

    What an incredibly sweet post. I love it when dreams come true!

  • Joi Delaney

    Oh, Annie! What a fun post to read this morning! I live in Richmond, and I’m so happy you had a chance to spend a fun girls weekend here! Julep’s is one of our favorite restaurants – next time you have to save room for the bananas foster flambeed tableside :), and how cool is Carytown? Spices and amazing chocolate all in one quaint little area. You all will have to come back soon… there’s lots more to see!

  • Cambria washington

    We love Lonley Island, lol. But I think our favorites of all time are Like A Boss and I Threw It On The Ground :)

  • Mummy1859

    So fun! That Jack Sparrow video is hilarious!

  • http://anniescookinglab.com/ Annie @ Annie’s Cooking Lab

    It sounds like you all had such a wonderful time together! I’m excited to see what recipes you ended up making together :)

  • Kelly

    This weekend sounds like SO much fun and activities that would be enjoyed by any group of girlfriends. Thanks for giving us a little glimpse! Annie, you seem like such a sweetheart. Thanks for having such a great blog! I always turn to it first when I’m looking for an impressive and delicious recipe. :)

  • annieseats

    YES! I’m glad you watched it :)

  • annieseats

    Ben is OBSESSED with “Threw It On the Ground”. Haha!

  • http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/ Julie @ Table for Two

    awww this is awesome!! looks like such a fun trip :) I’m 1.5 hours from Richmond so you were close to me!!

  • Kelsey

    I am so completely jealous and so happy you had this time together. You are all an awesome group of ladies. I hope a repeat get together will happen sometime soon!

  • dek2711

    Ok i had to comment asap….i live in Richmond and i was at for the love of chocolate the weekend before valentines…the same day i think.i wish i had seen you guys…but i realize that would be impossible because of all the crowd there at that time.It was just crazy.I had asked you recently where you bought your Dutch cocoa from..and you recommended Penzeys….i was there last weekend.Though i live on the other side at Shortpump, I was so excited to read this post Annie..my fav blogger was in MY city ;) !!!!

  • http://www.thekickboxingwriter.blogspot.com/ StoryTeller

    That sounds like such an incredible weekend, Annie. I’ve “met” some great people through blogging, but nothing like the deep friendships you describe. I’ve found it impossible to cultivate a close-knit group of girlfriends since I left high school, so I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been for you. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Susan Atkins

    Annie,

    So glad you had a blast with your girlfriends in Richmond. I live in Richmond and at first read, I thought you meant Richmond, Illinois! I quickly realized you meant Richmond, VA. Next time you must try Can-Can’s creme brulee with strawberry sorbet. The secret ingredient in the sorbet is balsamic vinaigrette, and it is DEE-VINE!

  • Caitlyn

    that’s my town! i’m glad you had fun in RVA–and enjoyed those fried green tomato beignets from julep’s–so amazing! :)

  • http://www.madeinsonoma.com/ Kelli H (Made in Sonoma)

    This looks so fun! That’s what I love about blogging, all the friends made.

  • http://www.pink-parsley.com/ Josie

    Awww, I have totally gotten teary-eyed reading all of these posts. It really was the best weekend ever – I miss you girls sooo much!! Also, I just spent 20 minutes watching Lonely Island videos :)

  • annieseats

    I know, I miss you like crazy. And please tell me you watched “Threw it on the Ground”.

  • Angela

    I have to watch “I just had sex” and “I’m on a boat” at least once a week.

    This sounds like the best weekend. I’m so glad you all could get together. Girlfriends are the best.

  • http://www.pink-parsley.com/ Josie

    Happy Birthday to the ground!

  • http://suchgreatblog.com/ Mayalaurent

    Love this so much! Isn’t the blogging world wonderful in bringing in new friendships?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paula-Braman-Duarte/100000682511378 Paula Braman-Duarte

    Your excitement really came through in your descriptions, sounds like a pretty memorable weekend, what fun! Looking forward to the infamous cake post.

  • http://twitter.com/ellysaysopa elly

    I love this post so much. :) I’m so glad you guys had such an amazing time, and I can’t wait to join you next time around. :)

  • http://twitter.com/JenatPBandP PB and Peppers

    That is so sweet! Thats why I love blogging. Food blogging is so much funny and everyone respects each other and I have met so many nice people. I love it!

  • Mon

    What a great post, thanks for sharing! I live in Richmond and I am in my fourth year of med school here. I have been following your blog for a few years now and look to it daily for inspiration and I have made many of your recipes! I am so glad you had the chance to experience some of my favorite places to eat in the city with some of your closest blogging friends. Next time you come you must try Mezzinine in Carytown. Delish!

  • Sarah DK

    Omg I was so excited to read that you made it all the way to Richmond, the city I live in and love! Wish I had run into you (not that you know me….i just love your blog!) Hope you make it back again one day.

  • http://www.cooklikeachampionblog.com/ Courtney

    Reading this makes me miss you so much! My weekend with the three of you was seriously the best weekend ever, and it means so much to me that you all took the time to plan such an elaborate surprise. I had such a fantastic time, especially cracking up at Lonely Island videos together. ;) I can’t wait to see you again. Thanks for being such a wonderful friend. I love you!

  • Tara

    Am I missing something? What did you make in that green creuset pot? Looks like chicjken soup – YUM, anyway, why isn’t the recipe being shared?!?!?!

    thanks,
    tara

  • Lucy

    What a wonderful experience. Five years ago, I met four great girls online. We, too, all share a common passion! We hail from three different countries and have managed a yearly get-together each of those five years. We’ve been to London, Paris, LA, Boston and Cincinnati! We spend a week doing much the same as you did on your great weekend – talking, cooking, eating, talking, eating, talking, talking, talking! When we go our separate ways, we still check in with each other every day and never did I think I’d have best friends half a world away, but they are and I love them. I’m so happy for your adventure – hope you all have many more in the years to come! Nothing better than girlfriends! Special props to Eric! What a great guy!

  • Tina

    I think that’s great! So nice!

  • Ellen Graf

    I love Richmond! We used to live there and it’s such a quirky, great town.

    I was bummed that you didn’t go to Millie’s for breakfast, then I saw on Lulu’s website, “LuLu’s [owned by Paul Keevil of Millie’s fame]…” So you got a little taste of the BEST breakfast in Richmond!

  • annieseats

    “(I plan to post about all of these recipes eventually, and soon!)”