Showing posts with label travels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travels. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Sometimes you have a few too many photos and too few words. So here's a snapshot of last weekend, when we set out for an epic road trip from LA to Monterey for the First City Festival. It was a magical trip full of many of my favorite things - live music, stunning scenery and of course, good eats. This is the true story of two couples, one car, 650 miles, thirty bands, several cups of coffee and too many laughs to count.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could survive a two-day music festival at 29 years old. The gorgeous Monterey weather was certainly a huge help.  After the fest, we set out for 17-Mile Drive and then down the Pacific Coast Highway back to Los Angeles, enjoying all the beautiful views along the way.

Is there a more beautiful drive in the country? 

One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the chance to eat at Big Sur Bakery. This spot is very popular in the foodie world and I somehow missed it the last time I drove up the PCH to Big Sur. This time we enjoyed sandwiches on fresh baked bread and some of the best lattes and mochas we've tasted.  

There also might have been an almond croissant that had me exclaiming,  "This croissant is the best decision I've ever made in my life." Much to my husband's dismay... It now tortures me that there's a four and a half hour drive between me and that perfect pastry. #foodieproblems

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Vacation

I apologize for the silence around here while I've been enjoying some much needed summer vacation. Even though I've been taking it easy for the most part, I haven't forgotten about my 30 Before 30 to-dos. One such item on the list involved my vacation - A trip to Michigan to visit Justin's family lake house. We spent a gloriously relaxing 4th of July with Justin's family, full of fishing, boating, fireworks and delicious meals. Justin and I flew to Chicago first, where his brother and wife have just purchased a beautiful house.

The last time I was in Chicago was for their wedding over a year ago, and I somehow never had a famous Chicago hot dog. Our hosts took us straight to Hot Doug's, the "encased meat emporium," to remedy that situation.


Hot Doug's makes all kinds of creative sausages, but I felt like I should try the classic while in the Windy City. I got a Chicago-style to share and The Norm Crosby, a garlic, beef and pork dog. The Norm Crosby was delish! Even with all the accoutrements, the Chicago-style just couldn't hold a candle to the full flavors of that juicy, garlicky dog. Also, I learned that it's considered criminal to put ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago. You just don't do it. My friend Jane would be very pleased with that policy ;)

Next stop was Goose Island Brewery to sample some local beers, which is one of my favorite things to do when exploring a city. A few Goose Island beers make an appearance in Los Angeles bars and restaurants so we've been wanting to visit the brewery for some time now. They had a really wide selection and we each sampled various flights in addition to a summer special, the Cherry-Mint Wit. Refreshing!


Later in the trip we enjoyed a really lovely meal at Maude's Liquor Bar, where I had the BEST vodka smash of my life. Prior to this cocktail experience, my favorite adult beverage might have been the blackberry smash at BOA Steakhouse. Maude's smash was just so simple and uncomplicated, full of fresh citrus and mint and not overly sweet. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. It's a problem, really...

The dimly-lit, speakeasy vibe at Maude's nicely complimented the French menu, from which the boys shared a large platter of oysters and we all devoured ricotta gnocchi, a massive cassoulet and crispy pomme frites.


From Chicago, we drove to Michigan for a few more days of food and fun.

Since the day I met Justin, he's talked non-stop about his parent's cottage on the lake. I think it might be his favorite place in the whole world. I've always looked forward to eventually seeing this place with my own eyes, so it made an appearance on my 30 Before 30 list to make certain that we'd get out there sooner rather than later.


As you can see, the cottage is primed for relaxation and once you're there, it's really hard to leave. Jobs, deadlines, bills, etc. just cease to exist for a magical few days while you're disconnected from the rest of the world. 

While we didn't eat any of the fish we spent the days catching (thank God), we experimented with smoking a brisket on the grill as demonstrated by Bon Appetit. Jessica made cottage cheese and dill bread from scratch to accompany the meat, and we all had a truly memorable lakeside meal. 

Vacation is the best. It's been hard adjusting back to a work schedule and less indulgent meals since we returned, but we have a few more fun things on the horizon. I will not let go of summer just yet!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Father's Day Surprise

Pssst - I was in Austin this weekend! It was a surprise for my parents that my sister, brother and aunt helped me coordinate and execute to perfection. It went something like this: (Warning - It's loud)


As you can see, my parents were completely caught by surprise and luckily, very happy about it. There were times over the last few weeks when I thought they suspected I would be coming home, but I'm so glad they were actually clueless. It made for a much more epic moment and memory that I'm so thrilled we caught on video. Thanks Jen!

The surprise idea has been marinating for a few months since it's an item on my 30 Before 30 list. I've always made a habit out of visiting Austin at least once or twice a year (I can't stay away!) but this year I didn't have any trips to Texas planned and no openings for when we might take another trip there. I knew I wanted to at least take a weekend to get out there this summer, so I started to think "well what if they had no clue?" I got my sister and aunt to come in to town under the guise of Father's Day and upcoming family birthday celebrations and my brother already lives in Austin. Jennifer picked me up from the airport and brought me to the house where I secretly waited in the garage for her to go inside and get my mom and dad in the kitchen. Then she snuck a call to my phone which was my signal to come in. I crept through the garage door with a bottle of wine in hand and waltzed in saying, "Who wants some wine?!" What happened next was captured in the above video and was the start to a great weekend on the lake with my family.

We celebrated Father's Day with brunch at home and a spin on the jet skis, followed up with lunch at Hopdoddy, probably my favorite burger spot in Austin.

I first visited Hopdoddy a mere two years ago and have been back about five times now. We didn't have Hopdoddy when I lived in Austin so I'm making up for lost time.

I love their black angus beef burgers, but lately I've been addicted to the Continental Club, which is a turkey burger with apple-smoked bacon, arugula, provolone and pesto. Not everyone can do a good turkey burger, as they often turn out dry and devoid of flavor. But this one is perfection every time. Especially with some fries and two types of queso on the side (chile con queso and green chili queso).

Dad's day success!

Later in the evening my parents had friends over to watch game five of the NBA Finals while grilling up some fajitas. Go Spurs! One of these friends was asking me for a list of my favorite places to eat in LA and it got me thinking. Why don't I have a list? Introducing the "Best of" series! I'll pop in now and again with my "Best of" lists in my favorite categories like burgers, beers, sandwiches, etc. The locations of my favorite eats are spread across the globe, from jerk chicken shacks in Jamaica, gnocchi in Italy and cheesy Tex-Mex in my home state. But the absolute best meals are those shared with loved ones. I'm so glad I made it home to share some delicious meals with my family this summer and look forward to some epic family meals with Justin's side of the family in a few weeks.

Monday, April 15, 2013


I just love a good jaunt, don't you? Over Easter weekend I traveled up to San Francisco to visit my college roommate and spend a few glorious days indulging myself in one of my favorite foodie destinations. Even though it was a quick excursion, I managed to brunch every day of the trip. Yes, brunch is most definitely a verb.

Brunch is one of my favorite things because if I'm enjoying brunch it's either the weekend or I'm on vacation. When you work full-time, brunching during the week just isn't an option. Though it should be, dang it.

Our brunch destinations included The Grove, Fred's Place and Sweet Maple. On previous trips to NorCal, Fred's Place in Sausalito won my vote for top breakfast with their fluffy omelets, crispy hash browns and killer fried french toast. You heard me. Deep fried french toast glory. But on this trip, Shannon introduced me to Sweet Maple's Millionaires Bacon, which is like the bacon the royal family would eat, I imagine. It's thick, glazed with some brown sugar, and spiced ever so slightly. It's perfection is what it is. I had an asparagus omelet filled with said bacon, parmesan and topped with rich hollandaise. It was so flavorful but somehow not at all too heavy, which is important because a girl needs to save room for wine.

We had our own TCU reunion going on up in Sonoma and visited Korbel, Arista, Mazzocco, Hop Kiln and Francis Ford Coppola between spurts of rain. My partners in the wine country have been my friends for nearly 11 years. We've all changed so much since we first met our freshman year of college, yet we maintain a close friendship despite our differences and always manage to make epic memories when we're together.

(Celebrating new bottles of wine)

Even when greeted with a downpour of rain on Easter, we took our party to the Ferry Building and sampled chocolate, cured meats and cheeses and of course, more wine. It was the most perfect weekend catching up with friends over good food and wine and exactly what I needed before my big work event.

Until next time, San Francisco...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My 29th Year

In addition to unveiling my 30 Before 30 list earlier this month, I celebrated my 29th birthday with drinks and cookie cake in LA...

And then a quick road trip up the coast to a tiny little beach town called Cayucos for the weekend. 

Anytime I travel far enough North on the 101, I have to stop at Avila Valley Barn in San Luis Obispo. My bestie and I found this magical spot purely by accident on the drive up to Hearst Castle a few years ago. We were in need of a bathroom break when we took the first exit we saw and happened upon Avila Valley Barn. We pulled into the dusty dirt parking lot to see if they had a bathroom and then almost completely forgot our potty mission as we took in all the barn had to offer. There was an ice cream shop, a petting zoo, a farmer's market, gift store and the smell of baking pies and fudge filled the air. We were like children running around and shrieking at each new discovery. I've been back a few times since and every season offers new bounty. On this trip, I got a cup of oatmeal chocolate chip ice cream, Justin got some salted caramel dark chocolate fudge, and we scoped out the new baby calf at the petting zoo.

With a few purchases from the gift store, we were on our way to Cass House in Cayucos. I stumbled upon Cass House on the interwebs while I was planning my wedding over the last year. At the time I was browsing a lot of wedding related blogs and had seen some beautiful photos of a tiny and intimate wedding held in the garden at Cass House. I was intrigued by the picturesque house and garden and especially the locally and seasonally inspired restaurant at the inn. I bookmarked it for a future special occasion and my 29th birthday became just the right time to pay a visit.

We were greeted so warmly when we arrived to the inn and everyone on staff was so friendly and accommodating that we felt we were worlds away from the hustle and bustle of LA. There was even a birthday gift for me from the hotel waiting in our room! It was soap :)

We really liked how casual the inn was, like you were staying in some one's home, and the rooms that weren't in use were open so you could peek inside. Our room was our favorite since it came with a cozy patio and view of the town's main street and beach.

The hotel's complimentary wine and cheese that evening didn't hurt our spirits either.

Since it was just before Christmas, the town was having holiday celebrations the night we visited, including a gingerbread contest at our inn. In addition, every business on the main street opened their doors and served cookies and hot chocolate or soup and tea. It seemed like everyone in town was out to celebrate, including pets. 

When dinnertime rolled around, we headed back to our hotel for my birthday treat, a four course tasting menu at the Cass House Restaurant. 

Our meal was truly a culinary experience and the type of dinner that lasts two hours with time between each course to breathe, discuss and just enjoy your company. While I loved the courses, my favorite part about the restaurant was that they brought you tiny house-made breads between each course. We had mini versions of probably four or five types of breads and rolls instead of one big bread basket, which just made for a much nicer presentation. Unfortunately I ate the little breads before I could photograph them.

Our stay and meal at Cass House certainly made for a 29th birthday to remember. Just a three hour drive from LA, we found a sleepy town with a sophisticated inn and restaurant that made us feel right at home.

I have made some small progress on my 30 Before 30 list since then so I promise to fill you in next!