This weekend we welcomed our dear friends from Chicago for an Atlanta-style Staycation. After a long week ending with travel for me, I landed at the same time our friends were scheduled to arrive on Friday night. It was off to King + Duke, one of the hottest new restaurants in Atlanta, for a late meal. We had a great time catching up, but we were all happy to hit the hay around midnight.

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Saturday morning the boys worked on building a proper window frame in one of our bottom-floor side rooms where we will soon be laying down carpet and painting the walls while the girls caught up on RHOBV 🙂 While the weather was not the best Atlanta could offer in the fall, we made the most of it. Saturday afternoon we visited Chateu Elan for a wine tour & tasting. It was our first time there and it made for a fun adventure not far from home. How could I forget that first we had some good southern BBQ at Stonewall’s BBQ in Braselton, GA? Mmmm, BBQ and Georgia wine. Sounds like a winning combination. Afterward, we got to do what we do best – lay around and watch football.

Saturday night we visited our favorite restaurant in Atlanta – Abattoir. We each ordered different things – oxtail, duck, cornish hen and scallops – and luckily everyone was in a sharing mood so we all got to try everything. Unfortunately, Ormsby’s was packed and we didn’t feel like fighting the crowds to get a table after dinner so we decided to make our own game night back at the house. Blanka murdered us at gin rummy to the point that we almost gave up, but we stopped just in time to give us some more rounds on Sunday.

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Staycation 3_111813

On Sunday I cooked a big breakfast of cheese eggs, sausage, bacon, a few pancakes and bagels. Exercise was calling soon afterward. We pulled on our rain jackets and took on Kennesaw Mountain. Cal took some awesome photos in the fog and rain. We couldn’t see any views of Atlanta but the chill in the air and fog made it a really fun hike.

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Staycation 5_111813

Sunday afternoon and evening was filled with football watching and cooking. (Guess who was doing what.) I thought it would be fun for Blanka and I to re-make a dish we just had in Europe over the summer, so we tag-teamed seafood paella, reminiscent of Cinque Terre. This Cooking Light recipe from 2000 was spot on, but of course we made some minor adjustments. It was definitely worthy of a special occasion. It takes a lot of prep work but the actual cooking part is minimal. I must give props to my husband for actually doing the grocery shopping for the whole weekend. Because I worked late nights and was not able to go to the store, he had to come through with a major shopping trip on Friday. It took 1.5 hours and he had to ask 10 people where things were, but in the end, he got everything on the list but one thing, saffron. He did, however, find rice with saffron in it, which I think greatly contributed to the success of the dish. From here on out I would recommend substituting flavored rice if you can’t make a special trip to a farmer’s market or other specialty grocery store to find saffron. The original recipe is posted below with our adjustments in red. We celebrated the weekend with the bottle of Chardonnay I smuggled home from Italy and called it a night with the final rounds of gin rummy, which ended with Blanka beating Cal by 5 🙂

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All the prep work.
Letting the dishes rest for 10 minutes with towels on top
Letting the dishes rest for 10 minutes with towels on top.
The recipe made so much that we had to transfer half to a dutch oven. A little soupier in this type of pot but it still worked.
The recipe made so much that we had to transfer half to a dutch oven. A little soupier in this type of pot but it still worked.
Our seafood paella with Cinque Terre wine
Our seafood paella with Cinque Terre wine.

Cooking Light: MAY 2000


  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads (We did not have saffron so we subbed in saffron flavored rice)
  • 2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice

Herb Blend:

  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced


  • 1 pound monkfish or other firm white fish fillets (We used fresh tilapia)
  • 16 unpeeled jumbo shrimp (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper (Forgot to write this on the grocery list so we omitted it – oops!)
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice (Subbed in Alessi brand saffron flavored Arborio rice)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas (Don’t like peas – didn’t use them!)
  • 16 littleneck clams
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar sliced pimento, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. To prepare broth, combine the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  2. To prepare herb blend, combine parsley and next 4 ingredients (parsley through 2 garlic cloves); set aside.
  3. To prepare paella, trim connective tissue from monkfish; cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and shrimp; saute 1 minute (the seafood mixture will not be cooked through).
  4. Remove seafood mixture from pan, and keep warm. Add onion and bell pepper to pan, and saute 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, paprika, crushed red pepper, and 3 garlic cloves; cook 5 minutes. Add rice, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, herb blend, and peas. Bring to a low boil, and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add clams to pan, nestling them into rice mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until shells open; discard any unopened shells. Stir in the seafood mixture, and arrange shrimp, heads down, in rice mixture. Arrange pimento slices spokelike on top of rice mixture; cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Remove from heat; cover with a towel and let stand 10 minutes.

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