Review: Here & Abroad Bistro + an Avocado Panini


Tucked behind a row of restaurants on William Street is a tiny cafe that you might miss. I did for the first two years I lived here, but it immediately bumped its way to the top of my favorites list. Enter its door and you’re greeted with the delightful aroma of freshly baked croissants and cookies, a mouthwatering display case of desserts, a surprisingly large menu of sandwiches and salads considering the size, and one of the friendliest cafe owners you may meet.

Here & Abroad Bistro – Bakery is a “hidden gem” by all accounts in downtown Fredericksburg, perfect for a quick lunch date, a mid-morning snack, or a takeout lunch for the office or nearby park. Always behind the counter, chef/owner Purna Shrestha is eager to please, and will remember your name, where you work, and any other tidbits you’ve chatted about. Ask for suggestions and he’s quick to answer.

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Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole


Just because Thanksgiving and all the leftovers have come and gone shouldn’t mean we can’t reminisce about our favorite dishes, let our mouths water and plan ahead for Christmas.

This sweet potato casserole is at the top of my list for holidays meals, rich and creamy, with a nutty crunch on top. It’s almost dessert before the actual dessert. After years of counting on this dish being on the table with my aunt, uncle, cousins and their children, for me, Thanksgiving isn’t right without it. When I wasn’t home with my family a few years back, I was thankful for this taste of home that I took to a friend’s.

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Salad with grapes, blue cheese and pecans


Rushing through a trip to the grocery store, I didn’t pay close attention to which bag of grapes I picked up–just selecting one in the front with giant red-purple grapes. A new episode of “How I Met Your Mother” was waiting on my DVR at home, so obviously, I had to get back quickly. Into the cart went the grapes, then the shopping bag, and then the fridge, and onto the couch I plopped.

The next night, rinsing off a few to eat discreetly during a late meeting, I popped one in my mouth to be sure they were sweet. And they were. But yikes–seeds! Who actually buys seeded grapes? They seem to be a danger to the casual grape-snacker who likes the convenience of the bite-size fruits. No snack bag was packed in my purse for that meeting, but the challenge was on–I knew I had to find some other way to use up the grapes aside from just tossing them back, and I certainly didn’t want them to go to waste.

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Review: Foode + my favorite cheesy black bean burger

The cheesy black bean burger at Foode might just be the best burger you’ll ever have–meat or not.

Such was the sentiment of my parents during a visit to Fredericksburg last year, and one I share that hasn’t wavered for the two years that I’ve been enjoying the downtown farm-to-table restaurant. That $10 veggie burger remains the top item I order at Foode, and one of the most popular every day.


You’ll find salads, sandwiches, “pizettes” and bowls all around $10 during lunch, while dinner features more complete dishes like roast chicken, shrimp and grits, and risotto (in the range of $15-$24), along with smaller salads ($5.50) for starters. Vegetarians will find more options at lunchtime, such as my favorite burger and a few other vegetable sandwiches. Dinner choices are more limited to a harvest plate, occasional risotto and a variety of small plates. Menus change slightly each week and are posted at

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White Beans and Wilted Greens, a nourishing power couple from Alice Waters

Last week was rough. A soothing pot of rice pudding ordinarily is my ultimate comfort food, and could have eased some heartbreakingly difficult decision-making. Instead, a giant bunch of kale–yes, kale, quite opposite from milk+rice+sugar+cinnamon–stared at me from the overpacked refrigerator. I came upon Alice Waters’ recipe for White Beans and Kale in Chez Panisse Vegetables, and the power couple’s effect was magical. The white rice stayed put in the pantry, and instead, this healthy and hearty bowl filled me up, fortified my mind and heart, and soothed a few bittersweet edges. The dish offered nourishment for the incredibly exciting, warm and sunny adventure ahead. It’s a lot to ask for a bowl of beans and greens.


Not the prettiest, but satisfying, nonetheless. Toast with a good slather of local got cheese completed the meal.

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Angel hair with burst cherry tomatoes


Dinner this week should be something warm and comforting, like soup, macaroni and cheese or chili, to keep us going through this lingering, wet cold front. We need the rain, certainly, but four days in the forecast seems too much. Of course, the pup doesn’t mind one bit, and we must still trudge through the neighborhood morning and night, with waterlogged shoes and hair that looks like it just came from the shower.

If you’re looking for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal, this isn’t it. Because this pasta is instead light and healthy, and yet it’s still satisfying, invoking feelings of summer contentment and sunshiney happiness, even in the five minutes you may have to down a bowl before heading off to a meeting. A thin but flavorful sauce coats the angel hair, and is full of garlic-tomato-herb-cheesey goodness. For my produce-loaded countertop’s sake, this pasta makes good use of some of the cherry tomatoes I picked up last week, and best of all, it comes together in just about 15 minutes. Continue reading “Angel hair with burst cherry tomatoes”

Tomato, chickpea and feta salad with za’atar

Tomatoes picked from my parents’ garden weren’t the last of the year. Fittingly, with this summer-like heat hitting the East Coast this past weekend, Roberto’s stand at the farmers market had a stunning display of cherry tomatoes. Pints of yellow, pink, purple and red tomatoes–some round, some oblong, all beautiful–covered one of the tables.


I wasn’t the only one trying to cling to summer (despite having a bag full of apples, pears and acorn squash from Clyde), and one woman said that her kids would eat the tomatoes like candy. That’s encouraging to hear–especially since I didn’t like tomatoes until a few years back, despite promising my mother, at the age of three, “I’ll like tomatoes when I’m four!” It’s a running joke in my family, but now, when tomatoes are good, they’re GOOD. And the rest of the year, they’re best avoided. Continue reading “Tomato, chickpea and feta salad with za’atar”

Pizza with fresh ricotta, pesto and summer’s end cherry tomatoes


For three summers in a row, I’ve planted tomatoes. Pots and dirt were purchased, weeks of ritual watering followed, and then I waited.

And for three summers in a row, I’ve picked a single, though beautiful, tomato. The pots didn’t work in the shady yard; bigger pots didn’t work either in another house’s sunny yard; and the holes in the ground just look like Rachel’s fault now. Cages and twine tying the vines to the fence didn’t help. Nutrient dense compost did squat. Vacationing–and not watering–during the hottest weeks in July and August certainly wasn’t ideal. Squirrels and birds also feasted on the green fruits. Nothing worked.

Apparently, I just didn’t inherit my father’s and grandfather’s green thumbs. Even basil and lettuce struggle under my not-so-watchful eye. Continue reading “Pizza with fresh ricotta, pesto and summer’s end cherry tomatoes”