Making Plans, Taking Names

Next week. It’s on.

It just so happens that the same week Jay will be out of town for Appalachia Service Project with his youth group, Lady Amelia Rose will be livin’ it up with her Grandma…which means, Mama gets a week to herself. A whole entire week.

I truly love my people — our little tribe of 3 — but it’s in my DNA (and all of ours, really) to relish in a little dose of “me time” every so often. Jay’s all about it. He, too, knows the power of “off time” where we can catch up on dreaming, scheming and all the things we tend to push aside in lieu of the daily routine. We don’t get to do it often, but when we do, it’s magical. It’s my official #SelfCare week. Lots of cleaning, lots of organizing, lots of meditating and exercising, lots of facial masks and even treating myself to a deep tissue massage.

Last year’s #SelfCare week with my girl, MK ❤

I’m starting to plan my week, and so far, it includes a little bit of work, a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of catching up with friends and a LOT a bit of eating delicious food around the QC.

Amelia’s heading out of town on Friday, so Jay and I will have some much needed US time before he leaves on Sunday. I’m catering a Spanish Tapas-themed graduation party on Saturday (woot, woot! pictures to come!), celebrating some dear friends’ retirements on Monday and then it’s ON.

So far on the agenda, I think I might go on a quest to find the BEST DANG cappuccino in Charlotte. I plan to try a different coffee shop each morning (Looking at you: UndercurrentHexNot Just CoffeeQueen City GroundsTrade & LoreCoco & The Director…anyone else I should add to the list??)

I’m also planning to visit some of the the newer restaurants in the QC that are on my bucket list…The Stanley, Fin & Fino, and more. And maybe even venture to dinner by myself.

But first, a story. A few years ago when I traveled to San Francisco for my National Geographic Photography Workshop, I had one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I arrived in San Fran, checked into my AirBnB and then walked around the Mission District to find dinner. Being alone, I shyly planned to grab something quick to bring back to the apartment. Fate had other plans, instead I found myself in an adorably quaint pizza shop around the corner. As I was about to inform the hostess of my takeout plans, when I was overcome with this need to stay for dinner. To sit, by myself.

I had never done that before. I was turning 30yrs. old later that year, and in this particular journey of self-discovery at the time, I was led me to take a seat at the bar, alone. I made a conscious decision NOT to pull out my phone to aimlessly scroll the interwebs while I sat in isolation, and it was the BEST decision. Instead of shutting out the world with my phone,  I watched the chefs handcraft every pie, meticulously and intentionally arranging each ingredient. We chatted as they cooked. The waitress and I talked for the longest time about traveling and how this was my first trip traveling alone. Next thing I know, the owner of the restaurant was pouring a glass of the most incredible red wine from their neighbors in Sonoma. I stayed for what seemed like hours. We talked and laughed, drank wine and shared stories of food, traveling and life. The chefs started experimenting and creating random dishes, insisting I taste-test each of them. As the night wound down and I asked for the check, the only thing listed was my salad….everything else was “covered.”

You guys, it was incredible. It was an experience I would have missed out on had I A.) gotten take-out or B.) taken the introverted route with my phone in my face.

So, here I am in my own City, and I am looking for THAT kind of experience again. Sure, I’ll spend some of the week catching up on practical matters like work, cleaning, etc., but more than that, I want to take advantage of this gift of time.

Yes, I could eat this entire platter by myself. ❤

Time to slow down.
To slow down and notice.

I don’t want to just “eat food”, but experience the richness of an incredible meal shared with friends or even shared with just myself.

I’m on the lookout, I’m making plans. Send any and all suggestions my way!! Any places that you’ve been wondering about? I’ll try them and report back…OR you can even join me.

Shoot me a message or leave a comment. I can’t wait. I’ll report back next week:)

❤ Jess


It’s been almost 10 years since I first heard of Sunday Suppers. Karen Mordechai began hosting these gorgeous dinner parties in her Brooklyn apartment, and the idea of a simple, beautiful dinner party where guests would gather to collectively cook a multi-course meal and then share stories around the table was one that I SO longed to be a part of.

Despite the dates never lining up for me to attend one of the New York gatherings, I’ve always wanted to host something similar in Charlotte. Cooking and breaking bread with people you know (or don’t know) have grown to be a passion of mine over the years. So when Sunday Suppers announced in January that they were launching a global dinner series and were looking for hosts in cities around the world, I applied without hesitation!

What is Sobremesa??

— It’s that time after a meal when the food is gone, but the conversation around the table continues.

Last week, I received the wonderful news that I was chosen to host for Charlotte:

*NEW DATE* Thursday, June 21, 2018
7pm, Historic Oakhurst Neighborhood

If you’re in the Charlotte area, I invite you to join me for what will be an incredible communal cooking & dinner experience. Please click here to purchase tickets. Space is limited, so get your ticket before they sell out.


Even if we don’t know each other that well (or even at all), my hope is that we can all gather, cook together and break bread (squid ink tortillas to be exact!) over lively conversation around the table. Surely there will be no strangers after the meal is finished! These dinners will be held four times a year around the globe and anyone can participate.


The menu has just been released and it sounds amazingly bright and festive — celebrating summer and all its glory:

  • Frutas, Sumac and Lime
  • Sopa de Lima
  • Communal Tacos squid ink tortillas, curried cauliflower, green crema, cilantro, pickles
  • Chocolate Avocado Pudding cream, cinnamon and hazelnuts

On the table

  • Coconut + cacao black beans
  • Charred jalapeno guacamole
  • Lime pickled vegetables / Cilantro + onion / Cojita

But wait, there’s more…

A portion of the proceeds from each dinner will go to The Hunger Project, a global program based on an innovative, holistic approach, which empowers women and men living in rural villages to become the agents of their own development and make sustainable progress in overcoming hunger and poverty.

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If you have any questions or want to attend, please shoot me an email or click here for ticket information.

Cheers ❤

Poke Wars in the QC

I’m a devout sushi lover. If I’m being honest, I’m actually borderline obsessed. My sweet husband no longer asks me where I want to grab a spur of the moment meal because he knows the answer is ALWAYS sushi. It’s not just rolls either, I actually prefer sashimi style and usually am pretty adventurous when it comes to trying all the raw fish options.

My mild obsession with sushi began in college when I was a wee bright-eyed, extremely naive southern gal. I had recently befriended one of the most incredibly creative people I have ever met, Shigeharu Kobayashi…or affectionately known as Shige. His family owns one of the oldest and BEST sushi restaurants in Columbia, SC, and Shige was quite dismayed when he learned that I had NEVER tried sushi before. He sat me at the sushi bar, made me try everything and THEN told me what they were. 🙂

It was the best introduction to sushi because I was able to tell what I liked by the flavor, the taste, the texture without being turned off by any preconceived biases I might have had toward certain seafood just by the name. Fast forward through the past 16 years of a blossoming love of all things sushi. I’m forever in debt to Shige for introducing me.

But this post isn’t about sushi. That was a long a## introduction to bring me to the point of this post which is all about POKE. Insert another raw fish obsession (and one I would not have ever tried if it weren’t for Shige.)


Poke is a raw fish salad in Hawaiian cuisine, and served as an appetizer or sometimes (all the time in my opinion) as a main course. Pronounced POH-KEH, not poke (just in case you were still confused.)

You had me at raw fish salad. Poke really started to pick up some restaurant real estate in Charlotte starting back in 2017. While there are some asian restaurants that also serve poke bowls (or added to their menus when the trend started to get legs), the QC now has quite a growing list of Poke-dedicated establishments.

Last I saw, there were already 15+ places you could get a poke bowl. I’ve been to a few, but here are my current rankings for the growing Poke-dedicated establishments in Charlotte:

Poke Wars

  1. Best All Around: Hi Tide Poke & Raw Bar
    It was my first, so maybe that’s why I hold it near and dear as the best so far, but I also think it’s because if you stripped it all down to the core of the cuisine…JUST the meat, their fish is the BEST. Fresh & sustainably caught. Without all the spicy mayo, toppings and other hoopla you add on there, the meat needs to be able to stand out on it’s own, right?!My favorite dishes from Hi Tide include the Poke Nachos (crispy wonton chips topped with ahi tuna & avocado deliciousness) and the Poke Rainbow (seasoned milky queen rice topped with fresh cuts of salmon, hamachi, ahi tuna and all the toppings…come on.) So good.
  2. Best Toppings (& Best Combinations): Seoul Poke Bowl
    This would be my second favorite so far. It’s definitely pricier, but the variety of toppings is really nice, and I like the Korean spin on the menu options as well. My go-to is the Seoul Poke Special ($15.95!), but recently they launched their $3 Poke Tacos on Tuesdays. Yes, they are as good as they sound…and yes, they might be stealing my heart away from Hi Tide…one taco at a time:).
  3. The New Kid on the Block: Poke Bar
    Definitely a chain and you get that feel when you walk in, but for the newbie in town, I thought the bowls were pretty good. For less than $10, you can get 2 proteins, a wide variety of toppings, sauce combinations and more. The portion size was pretty large I thought, especially for the price.

Still on the list for me to try, Umami Pokerito in Pineville. I’ve heard really great things, but to be honest, it might take me awhile to get here because I’m TOTALLY spoiled being within a 10-minute radius from all the others. If it takes me more than 10-15 minutes in the car, I usually punk out. We will see:)

Looking forward to….Pokeatery…this will be the first East Coast location of the rapidly-growing Bay Area restaurant from husband and wife duo Derek and Joann Chung. They are currently scouting areas to open in Charlotte and I, for one, vote for MY amazing neighborhood…Oakhurst. We desperately NEED more restaurants and FAST. Our incredible Common Market can’t be all by it’s lonesome anymore and don’t even get me started on McBonie’s. No.

What’s your favorite Poke in Charlotte and why??