Local Love: The Special Projects Social

As a my one-year-blogging-anniversary is approaching (July 2012), I want to introduce a new chapter for Defining Delicious.  It’s called Local Love. As you know, I love supporting Mom n’ Pop shops, perhaps it’s the small town gal in me. Local Love is dedicated to the women, mothers, girls and feminine goddesses out there beating eggs and beating the odds in the food world.  This new chapter is about the inspiring women at local eateries who are shaping our food culture. First, I’d like to share about someone who exudes collaboration and culinary creativity in San Antonio, TX. A wonderful friend of mine, Tim-The-Girl McDiarmid the story speaks for itself and the moral is:  whether you live in San Antonio, San Fransisco or San Juan Puerto Rico, I highly recommend attending A Special Projects Social. It is truly a marriage of the minds.


(Tim McDiarmid taken by Xelina Flores-Chasnoff)

Many of us can relate, planning a wedding is an absolute hair-pulling task. While the allure of the perfect white dress beckons, the stressors rise like Mount Rushmore in the background.  Doesn’t your jaw tighten at the thought of where to seat the relatives you haven’t seen in years? How about creating a set-list for the band, or the bridesmaids loving their you-can-wear-this-again dresses? And let’s not forget the food. We yearn for our guests to rave about how un-wedding our chicken oscar tastes, right? Our spectrum of hopes ranges from marrying the love of our lives to pleasing our mothers.

If you’re Tim McDiarmid, owner of Tim-The-Girl Catering, planning a wedding is a monthly event. No, she’s not wedding planner.  Rather, McDiarmid is the wildly creative catalyst to a monthly marriage of the minds.  She is one of the visionaries behind San Antonio’s premier pop-up dining experience, The Special Projects Social.  Although pop-up dining is very chic in LA and New York, you’re not alone if you have no clue what a pop-up restaurant is. Essentially you buy a ticket for a sit-down dinner at an undisclosed location.  Currently there are only around 50 tickets sold at each event. Although, The Special Projects has gained much popularity, the vision remains to keep the events intimate despite demands for more seating.  24 hours before you are due to arrive you find out where you will be dining via email.  All you do is show up and everything, maybe even the unique artisan plate that you dine on is included.

“We have created a home-spun web of talent,” McDiarmid comments.  The Special Projects is a collaborative gathering of talented artists combining forces to create an evening of escape.  It is the most blissful stress-free wedding you’ve never attended. At the May event we were welcomed with cocktails, beer and wine from local afficianados.  Our eyes were tickled with local art peppering the walls, homemade wooden tables, an extraordinary fashion expo and handcrafted dinnerware. Our tastes were delighted with hors d’oeuvres made by Partridge in a Pie Tree. We experienced a seasonally savvy dinner crafted by Tim-The-Girl McDiarmid herself and we indulged in desserts made by Ayons Bakery.  A talented musical duo enlivened our ears.  One guest commented, “these are the fascinating people you never imagined lived right here in San Antonio.”  McDiarmid explained, “What I kill myself doing is getting people to work together who may never do so in any other circumstance.” It’s a chance to get out of your comfort bubble and step into a world inspired by Tim’s vibrant cohesive vision.  All while enjoying a delicious artisan meal.


Juggling 50 hungry guests is not the only thing on McDiarmid’s plate. She is also the founder of Eat Smart, a local non-profit teaching healthy eating habits. As well as teaching cooking classes, catering private parties and planning a culinary adventure to Italy this summer.

McDiarmid’s culinary roots began on her family farm in Vancouver Canada. “I grew up picking food from my backyard and learning how to make it taste amazing from my mother,” she comments. McDiarmid moved to New York City where she spent 17 years refining her culinary technique and honing her palette. “I rarely rely on recipes but rather I become inspired by the ingredients themselves,” she says. Her culinary influences are global. Her travels and city dwellings have fashioned a woman who is a wholesome chef.  McDiarmid comments, “Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Spain and Morocco influence me heavily.  I only work with fresh ingredients. Fresh is more than a buzz word to me, it is a necessity.”

McDiarmid landed in San Antonio in 2009. As a single mother she began searching for a great school for her son.  Her co-operative personality found solace at The Circle School.  She enrolled her son in the school and she began to volunteer with her free time.  She met Peter Zubiate while rebuilding a fence for The Circle School.  In 2011 this duo created Special Projects and the May event was the pop-up’s one-year anniversary.  They wanted to intermingle Peter’s woodworking skills with Tim’s culinary talent. Zubiate crafts the beautiful pecan tree tables showcased at each event.  These long beautiful tables have Zubiate’s signature feel to them. McDiarmid adorns the woodwork with farm-fresh foods creating a welcoming centerpiece for the evening.  Peter added, “Tim and I have similar ideas about work and getting things done. We never say no to any crazy idea but we may rein each other in when needed.”


The Special Projects Social events are an opportunity to break bread with the most wildly creative and talented people in San Antonio. Whether you’re a refined foodie or you yearn to expand your artistic horizons you will be in good company.  If you can get your hands on a ticket that is.  http://thespecialprojectssocial.com for dates, photos of past events and ticket sales. To find out more about Tim McDiarmid  or set up a cooking class, check out http://www.timthegirl.com and Vegetarian Cooking in Italy.

All the gorgeous photos above were taken by the talented,  Xelina Flores-Chasnoff and posted with permission. Xelina is an artistic photographer, artist and doula. She owns and operates Luz Doula Service in San Antonio, TX.

50 Ways To Feed Your Lover, Part 2

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking for quick, easy, and Delicious when it comes to dinner. I’m not a meal planner. I’m more like a ‘feel planner’ and mostly I ‘feel’ like a stress-free glass of wine and a hot meal that doesn’t take longer then 20 minutes. When I’m at home I don’t need the fancy schmancy stuff. I’ve surrendered to the fact I’m a mama with two kids under the age of four and a husband with a grueling schedule. Life is crazy and when the time’s right (in 15 years), I can let my true creative juices flow and make recipes from my  French Laundry cookbook.  I posted the first 25 ways to feed hungry goddess’ on Mother’s Day and here is the rest of that list. Either give the list to your hubby as a “hint-hint” or keep it for you to use when the going gets tough, and the tough get hungry. Enjoy

26. Baked Quesadillas.  Cheese, black beans, tomatoes, spinach, fold over the tortilla and put them in the oven.  Drizzle with salsa and dollop with sour cream and a sprig of cilantro.

27. Pancakes for dinner. Make them with the kids and dazzle with some fresh fruit on top. Even though I’m not on a gluten-free diet, I just love Pamela’s Gluten- Free Pancake Mix.

28. Make a picnic, even something as simple as PB & J with fresh fruit. Grab a bottle of wine and find a shady spot in the backyard. Remember connecting with your family is sometimes the best meal in and of itself.

29. Have a potluck with the neighbors and make a fruit salad. Sprinkle some fresh mint leaves on top of the fruit salad.  This will earn you props from all of your fans. Again, make sure your partner isn’t left with the clean up and you will score big!

30. The Bachelor Burrito.  My husband is famous for these. Whatever you find in the pantry or fridge that looks edible, throw it in a tortilla, add some salsa or bbq sauce and the meal is served.

31. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. Add some avocado, roasted red peppers or something in there that says I went a little above and beyond.

32. Stuffed Peppers or Tomatoes.  You can use either. All you do is hollow out the insides and add some leftover rice and some readymade pasta sauce. Cover with grated cheese ( I like Tillamook) and bake at 350 degrees, until soft. This dish is a real standout in my book.  Fast, easy, healthy and delicious.

33. Make the kids butter noddles and save some for you. Add marinated artichokes, top with pine nuts, fresh basil and some feta and you have a 5 minute-two-for-the-effort-of-one, gourmet meal.

34. Homemade baked chicken tenders. Homemade is so easy HERE is a great recipe. Make your own bbq sauce (ketchup, vinegar, honey, spices) or honey mustard dip (dijon mustard and honey) and serve with some sweet potato fries and you have healthy, fast food.

35. Chicken or Shrimp Kabobs. Serve with some white or brown rice.

36. Chicken Nachos and Margarita night (my personal favorite). You can use some of the leftover chicken from the kabobs and add some fresh tomatoes, onions, avocado and grated cheese.  For your margos, I love adding a few sprigs of fresh mint.

37. Stir Fry. Use any goodies from the fridge, sautee up some onions, red peppers, and any other colored object you can find. Add some zucchini, garlic and soy sauce.

38. Spa Dinner. Feed the kids early then let them watch a movie. Turn the lights down low, light a candle, serve some spa water (just throw some sliced cucumbers, lemon and oranges in a caraffe of water) Serve a simple, light dinner like salad and add some fresh corn.


39. Turkey chili with white beans. I like the epicurious recipe HERE

40. Love Shack Pasta.  A great friend of mine, Eddie made this for me once. It’s so simple and it looks and tastes gourmet. All you need is shrimp, peas, angel hair pasta, olive oil and a hellava lot of garlic. Boil some water (while you’re boiling the water steam the peas) then cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking sautee the shrimp in drizzle of olive oil, add A TON of garlic. Mix all the ingredients together and top with shaved parm and serve with your favorite white wine.  My personal favorite bottle to accompany this dish is La Marca Prosecco Di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene (AKA wine sparkling wine). Also, check oursommlife.com for other budget-friendly wine pairings.

41. This eggplant. click HERE (thanks, Pinterest). (photo credit: The Year in Food.com )


42. Go to the store and get a random vegetable that you never cook with, like kale, leeks, or mustard greens. Go home and sautee it with some olive oil and garlic and surprise the family with something green and new.

43. Crab Cakes. Click HERE for a recipe. Serve with saffron rice and a mixed green salad.

44. Upgraded Sloppy Joes. click HERE for Mario Batali’s 11-year-old son Leo’s recipe.  If an 11-year-old can make these you can too. Serve with some sweet corn and your favorite slaw.

45. “The best meatballs you’ll ever have.”  I saw these on pinterest too and cannot wait to try. click HERE for the deets. (Photo credit: A cup O jo blog).


46. Stuffed Chicken (way easier than you might think). Click HERE for my favorite Rachel Ray recipe.

47. Beets. Roasted. Beets.

48. Try making your own homemade pasta sauce. click HERE for a wonderful recipe.

49. Pork chops and homemade applesauce (this was my husband’s suggestion). Marinate your chops in soy, honey, and a bit of ketchup and bbq on the grill. Try making this simple, homemade, kid-friendly recipe for applesauce HERE.

50. Take out your spouse as soon as you get home. Be spontaneous (even if there’s something on the stove already). Be outrageous.  Get everyone, even the kids, dogs and pet fish in the car and go somewhere. Anywhere. I promise the thrill of breaking the ordinary is just what we all need sometimes.


A few ground rules for you beautiful mamas, if you use this list as a “hint-hint” for your partner. If he burns it, please don’t run him over with your minivan. At least he tried. If he doesn’t make it exactly how you would want it, still give him a juicy kiss. If there is a tiny bit of a mess, still give him a huge hug. Honor the thoughtfulness and you might just get some more where it came from.  Be sure to communicate in advance that leaving a big mess for you undoes the thoughtfulness of cooking a special meal.  Our mates cannot read our minds and they like to know the ground rules before getting in the game.

Be well and if you are what you eat, be Delicious.

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