Colorado Honeymoon

It has been about three weeks since Kyle and I returned from our honeymoon in Colorado, so I figure it’s about time that I share some pictures. We had such an amazing time and we felt so fortunate to take a weeklong break, surrounded by beautiful scenery, after all the excitement leading up to the wedding. I forgot to pack my phone charger so I was actually almost completely unplugged for the first two days of our trip. It was absolute bliss! I learned that I definitely need to unplug more often. We spent time in Denver, Breckenridge, and Boulder during our six day trip. This post is a long one, for your long holiday weekend. I hope you enjoy these highlights from our action-packed week!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Denver, CO

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We flew into Denver on day one. Unfortunately due to some extremely frustrating flight delays (grrrr. . .), we were about four hours late getting to Denver that first day. After a long day of travel, we gave up on our plans for a romantic dinner and opted instead to check into our hotel and order in some pizza and beer while watching one of the Presidential debates. Not the most luxurious way to spend the first day of our honeymoon, but it was actually really nice to just decompress together.

The next morning we headed downtown to the 16th Street Mall, which is a long stretch of stores and restaurants right in the middle of Denver. We stopped into a few stores and did some people watching while having coffee and breakfast. From there we took a long walk to the Denver Bicycle Café, which is a combination bicycle repair shop and bar that serves espresso, coffee drinks, beer, and light fare. We enjoyed looking at all the vintage bikes around the shop and the espresso was excellent. I wish our bike shop at home had an espresso bar in it!

We also checked out Watercourse Foods for lunch. We were very impressed with the 100% vegetarian menu at Watercourse. There were also several vegan and gluten-free options available. It was so exciting to be presented with a several-page menu full of things we could eat. We are so used to going to restaurants and having just one or two vegetarian choices, so it is always a real treat to have a lot of options. I don’t have photos of our food because my phone was dead at the time and I hadn’t figured out our new camera yet (I know, I’m such a grandma sometimes when it comes to technology). That was a real shame because these plates were gorgeous. I had one of the best salads of my life, and Kyle had a Buffalo tempeh dish. I have a feeling we could have eaten every meal of the whole trip at Watercourse Foods and would have been happy.

In the afternoon, we strolled around the neighborhood a bit more, did some sightseeing and shopping, then spent a ridiculous amount of time at Great Divide. True story: we got a little turned around while trying to find the Great Divide tap room. We were just two blocks away and could not figure out how to get there when we picked up on the faint smell of mash in the air. We literally followed our noses to the brewery and tasted several beers when we got there. The bartenders were super friendly and helpful. They were also extremely entertaining the entire time, as they engaged in such shenanigans as playing one of my favorite games from childhood: “the floor is lava.”

We only spent the day in Denver to acclimate to altitude, so that evening we hit the road for a two hour drive to Breckenridge. We were a little sad to leave Denver because we had a lot of fun there in just under 24 hours. Kyle and I were not expecting much from Denver, so we were pleasantly surprised to find such great people and places there. We felt like we fit right in in the mile high city.

Breckenridge, CO

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The main event was Breckenridge, where we stayed in a one bedroom condo for four nights. It was a much slower pace than Denver, which was very relaxing. We had sweet accommodations a few blocks from town, with a gorgeous view and many nice amenities like hot tub access, an adorable fireplace in the living room, and a full kitchen. Yes, I did cook dinner while on vacation. . . twice! We got a great deal on this trip because it was the off season: too cold for summer activities like kayaking and not cold enough for winter activities like skiing. Our goal was to do some hiking and cycling, so with a forecast of clear skies and temperatures in the fifties all week, we were excited to explore the town like locals during the seasonal lull in tourism.

One of my favorite places to eat in Breck was Amazing Grace Natural Eatery. We went here for breakfast on one day and lunch on another. They have a beautiful wood stove that heats up the whole café.

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For breakfast on the first day, Kyle ordered a breakfast burrito.

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I ordered “The Opus,” scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato on a homemade biscuit. The biscuit was out of this world amazing!

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While flipping through the local daily newspaper, I discovered this.

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Say what?! It turned out that the forecast had changed overnight, and Breckenridge was expecting snow the whole week. In a hurry to get our outdoor activities in before we got snowed in, Kyle and I found a bike rental shop and got advice on some local rides. We decided to bike from Breckenridge to Frisco, a 9-10 mile ride, have lunch in the tiny former mining town of Frisco, then bike back to Breckenridge. We lost 500 feet of elevation on the way down to Frisco, which meant our ride back was mostly uphill. Oh, and we were riding back into the wind as well. You better believe I had a huge bowl of soup for lunch to keep me warm for the return trip.

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I had never biked more than 10 miles in a day before, so logging 20 miles on our first day at high altitude was quite an accomplishment for me. Most of the ride was breathtakingly beautiful. I am sure that the diminished oxygen content of the air at 10,000 feet and my exercise-induced asthma were also contributing factors. Seriously, breathtaking. Some parts of the ride were extremely difficult for me, but I was determined to finish. The bike path was the nicest I had ever ridden, and even though the ride was a bit of an endurance test, I would do it again if I had the chance. I can’t put into words the feeling you get while biking a winding path over rolling hills in the majestic Rocky Mountains, with the crisp breeze in your face and the smell of snow in the air.

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As we biked back into town, the wind smacked into us and made my cheeks sting. When we arrived at the bike rental shop, the snow started softly coming down and it did not let up for a few days. When we woke up in Breckenridge for the first time, we looked out the window and saw the town covered in white.

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We decided it was unsafe to attempt hiking Mohawk Lake in the snow and ice, so we hung out in town instead.

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One of the highlights was our private tour of the original Breckenridge Brewery, which I will explain in further detail in a separate post.

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One of the vegetarian friendly places in Breckenridge is Lucha Cantina, which has delicious burritos and great happy hour specials. The prices are really reasonable and most of the dishes can be made vegetarian. I particularly enjoyed trying their four different homemade salsas.

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One of our dear friends bought us a couples massage at one of the spas in Breckenridge, which we thought was one of the coolest wedding gifts ever! After playing around in the snow all day and enjoying a few Breckenridge Brewery beers, we headed over to Ambika for a therapeutic couples massage. I wonder if the masseuses could tell we were just a little tipsy. . . It was a very relaxing experience.

 

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Another one of our favorite places in Breckenridge was Clint’s Bakery and Coffee House. This place has some awesome breakfast food, including a parmesan pepper bagel that will knock your socks off. One of the house specialties is a steel cut oatmeal with granola and dried fruit that was once featured in Bon Appetit magazine. The whole place smells like cinnamon, and there is always something baking. The coffee is pretty good too. It comes from a roaster in nearby Vail. This place seemed like the most popular coffee shop for locals but they were friendly to us out-of-towners too.

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Boulder, CO

On our third day in Breckenridge, we decided to drive to Boulder to visit Avery Brewing Company and check out the town which we had heard so many great things about. Hiking was still out of the question, as the snow was still falling and we didn’t want to become lost hikers out in the wilderness. Boulder supposedly draws a lot of active people and outdoor enthusiasts. We had also heard that it was pretty vegetarian friendly.

We were shocked at how many different beers Avery had on tap. We ordered ten different beer samples and still had not tried everything on the menu. I had to order the Lizzie Lee’s Riverside Ale; how could I not order a “wedding ale” on my honeymoon?

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After Avery, we headed downtown to Mountain Sun (another brewpub!) for tempeh reubens and some more local beer. We explored the downtown area for a few hours and visited some great stores. I was getting used to having the mountains on the horizon and I realized in Boulder that it would be really weird to return to Richmond, where everything is flat, in just a few days.

We wished we had had more time in Boulder because we really wanted to check out the Celestial Seasonings tour that we couldn’t fit in, rent a tandem bicycle from Bikesmith, and do some hiking near the flatirons. The snow was beautiful and persistent. While I was disappointed that it prevented us from doing some of the more active parts of our trip, I think the unexpected snowfall helped us get the rest we needed after a few very busy months. The winter wonderland was pretty magical, and the roads were maintained so well while we were there that we did not feel trapped at all. We were really free to explore and wander without a plan, which is pretty foreign to me, but it was exactly the break I needed.

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We are looking forward to visiting Colorado again in the future. For our first trip to the state and just 4 full days to work with, I think we did and saw a lot of the things on our list. On the drive back to the Denver airport on our last day, we even had time to stop at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a little while.

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Colorado was absolutely gorgeous and of course after visiting, Kyle has decided that he wants to move there. I say “of course” because he also felt that way about Charlottesville, Asheville, and New York City after we spent time in each place. I would like to think that, while we have visited some amazing places, it’s not just the towns that he wants to revisit, but the experiences. I think the nostalgia has something to do with being in good company, if you know what I mean. I am thankful for the opportunity to begin our marriage with such a beautiful and inspiring trip, and I am excited for all of the adventures we have yet to embark on together.

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24 Hours in San Francisco, CA

I decided to stay in San Francisco an additional 24 hours after the official end of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival so I could engage in a little sightseeing and shenanigans with my non-blogging friend Jess. There are a lot of ways you could spend 24 hours in San Francisco; here is one of them. If you’re looking for an “experience it like a local” itinerary like my post about Asheville, NC, you will be disappointed. However if you want to get in a little sightseeing, a little wandering, and a great deal of mayhem, I suggest you go down this path with me.

We started our day at La Boulange Bakery in the Financial District. That thing in the photo that looks like a bowl of espresso soup? That’s a soy latte. A soy latte that was larger than my head. I would show you a photo of that latte in front of Jess’s face to prove it to you, but I’m afraid that I would consequently lose a friend. Jess looks like she hasn’t had her coffee yet in that photo and it’s a little scary. She would never forgive me for posting that on the internet. (Scroll down to the kimono picture to see another photo of us that I’ve posted against my better judgment)

We had egg sandwiches for breakfast, hers with bacon on a croissant and mine with avocado on multigrain bread. The fresh fruit on the side was delicious and the sandwiches kept us full for hours of walking around the city.

Which is why a purchase of macarons was completely unnecessary. But we did it anyway. How could you pass up a pumpkin spice macaron on a brisk and beautiful day? So we picked up two, a pumpkin spice and a coconut, and held on to them for later.

Full of coffee and breakfast, we set out on a long uphill walk towards Chinatown. I struggled a little on the hills because I was still in a walking cast for my foot/ankle injury. We just took it slow and snapped photos along the way.

Finally we made it to Chinatown and immersed ourselves in the sights, sounds and smells of the Northwest corner of the neighborhood. Here there was less English being spoken and fewer tourists. There were a lot of locals picking up their groceries and perusing row after row of dried seafood products and countless varieties of exotic herbs like ginseng.

We walked eastward to a more crowded section of the neighborhood and ducked in and out of small gift shops and peered in the windows of Chinese restaurants.

My favorite discovery was the Wok Shop, a small store crammed full of inexpensive kitchen tools and equipment, cookware and tableware. I picked up ten pairs of acrylic chopsticks for $4 and a few tea strainers and accessories. If I hadn’t been limited by the size of my suitcase, I probably would have left with much more.

 


We continued to walk North and back West towards North Beach, the neighborhood that Jess’s family is from. Several generations of her Italian American ancestors lived and worked in this vibrant neighborhood between Downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf. We were in search of another tourist attraction: clam chowder by the bay. However we were sidetracked by a fortuitous discovery.

Tucked into a corner of North Beach is a Rogue Nation Ale House! One of only two Rogue Meeting Halls outside of Oregon, the San Francisco Rogue bar is a hidden gem that we had not planned on finding. Needless to say, we enjoyed a liquid lunch. I sampled Dead Guy Ale, John-John Whiskey Barrel Dead Guy Ale, Brutal Bitter IPA, Double Chocolate Stout, Mocha Porter, and Morimoto Soba Ale. The vibe was very laid back and the selection was incredible. Onward we stumbled marched in search of real food.

We finally made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we were assaulted by seagulls, tripped up by tourists, and nearly knocked over by the smell of fresh seafood and sourdough bread.

At Boudin Bakery, I had a personal pizza on sourdough crust and Jess had clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. This place is crawling with people and birds and the food is mediocre but I recommend a visit anyway. The sights are so unique that, if you’re lucky enough to get to San Francisco, it’s just something you have to experience at least once.

From Fisherman’s Wharf we walked along the water towards the Presidio and took some photos of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we went up to Ghirardelli Square to check out Ghirardelli’s flagship chocolate shop. This is a great place to pick up souvenirs for friends back home. Jess and I picked up an 80-count bag of chocolate squares for our office. They lasted two days.

After all that walking, we decided to take a cab to our next adventure: 21st Amendment Brewery. I have been a fan of 21st Amendment since I first reviewed their watermelon wheat beer, Hell or High Watermelon. I have since become a fan of their Fireside Chat and Kyle enjoys their Brew Free or Die IPA. At the Foodbuzz Festival tasting pavilion, I tasted their brand new beer Allies Win the War. I wanted more. You may recall that the first time I had 21st Amendment’s beer, I drank it out of my Baltimore Ravens pint glass. So this was the natural choice for a bar to watch the Ravens beat the Steelers last Sunday night. It was a great bar and a beautiful experience.

And then it was time to celebrate.

At this point in our adventure, the details get a little fuzzy. Going out in San Francisco was weird. The bars close at strange times, the locals can’t seem to hold their liquor, and finding a decent place to have a drink and chat felt oddly like an episode of the Amazing Race. Or Survivor. We were in a foreign land, surrounded by strange intoxicated people (way too early for intoxication to be an acceptable physical state), in a race to get to the bars before they close. What resulted: closing three bars an hour apart each, and making friends with other out-of-towners who were equally perplexed by the social situation.

Here is my advice:

  1. Get ready in your brand new silk robes from Chinatown. You will feel pretty. Oh so pretty. Then change out of them into real clothes so as not to make it too weird.
  2. Create a gameplan and look up bar closing times before heading out.
  3. Do not follow the advice of the hotel concierge, who will send you to a strange dark bar with a live band playing Billy Joel’s greatest hits that is filled with men twice your age who want to watch you creepily.
  4. Head out early and pace yourself. Don’t be like a local.
  5. Find a group of people who are not native to San Francisco and are good at drinking without getting sloppy. A good place to find other people who can hang is kitschy touristy places like the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. (We found a group of Swedish pharmaceutical salesmen and executives that had not yet adjusted to the time difference. I think we should get extra points for that.)
  6. Make the most of the situation. If you are with awesome people, you will find a way to make a terrible bar situation an epic adventure.

I can’t recommend any good nightlife spots to you based on my lack of preparation on the subject. Maybe someone can point me in the right direction for next time. Although having wonderful bar and restaurant recommendations and a strict itinerary probably would not have been nearly as much fun as the 24 hours of spontaneous wandering that we experienced on this trip. Maybe the laid back west coast mentality rubbed off on us and led us on this adventure of randomness. I’m not really sure how it happened but I am glad it did.

If you would like a little more structure on your trip, maybe you could take some of my recommendations below. Here are all the places we hit in 24 hours (minus the margarita-driven ones that I’d rather not share with you).

La Boulange Bakery 222 Sutter Street, Financial District, Open Daily 7AM-7PM

The Wok Shop, 718 Grant Ave, Chinatown, Open Daily 10AM-6PM

Rogue Ales Public House, 673 Union Street, North Beach, Open Sun-Thurs 12PM-12AM, Fri-Sat 12PM-2AM

Boudin Bakery, 160 Jefferson Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Open Sun-Thurs 8AM-9:30PM, Fri-Sat 8AM-10PM

Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chocolate shop open Sun-Thurs 9AM-11PM, Fri-Sat 9AM-12AM

21st Amendment Brewpub, 563 2nd Street, SOMA, Open Mon-Thurs 11:30AM-12:00AM, Fri-Sat 11:30AM-1:00AM, Sun 10:00AM-12:00AM

Foodbuzz Festival 2011

This weekend I attended the 3rd annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, CA. It was a whirlwind adventure and I am so happy to have met many warm, creative and inspiring bloggers. I also enjoyed samples from some wonderful food brands and benefited from excellent programming through the breakout sessions.

I arrived on Friday at noon local time. After a delightful lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, I went to the festival registration and picked up my SWAG bag and credentials. I enlisted the help of a large cappuccino from Bread and Cocoa in order to unpack and organize my belongings and get settled in.

Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee

The blogger gift bag was a little heavy on the chocolate, but I’m not complaining.

After organizing my things, I freshened up and headed to the Welcome Dinner at Terra Gallery, where we mingled over Sabra hummus appetizers and Bonny Doon Vineyards wine. I especially enjoyed the light and refreshing albariño. At the main event, we helped ourselves to buffet style dining. There were several Foodbuzz blogger-inspired dishes. My favorite was the beet ravioli, and the lentil salad was a close second.

The desserts were all created by Yigit Pura, winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts season one. My favorite was the mulled wine macaron with spiced blackberry cream.

For the rest of the evening, I chatted with new friends and enjoyed a local brew.

By the way, this show is brought to you by the letter Alcohol.

Say hello to Sarah, Laura and Karen! These creative women have unique voices in the blogosphere and their sites are worth checking out. I had a lovely time getting to know them.

Saturday morning began with a delicious breakfast spread and the beginning of group sessions.

After the Taking Your Blog to the Next Level panel discussion, I was lucky enough to get one of Mama Pea’s dough balls. How sweet was it that she brought gifts for everyone and had dozens of dough balls on her at all times? I think she’s a genius.

I attended two sessions after the panel discussion: The DSLR-Free Zone: Taking Gawk-worthy Photos with Lo-tech Equipment, and Beyond the Written Word: Making the Most of Audio and Video. Warning: there might be another video on the way soon. But hey, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s my worst nightmare too! I just feel that I have to test what I’ve learned.

But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

After the sessions I took a long walk to the Ferry Building.

The Saturday farmers’ market was packed with people. I tasted some juicy, sweet Frog Hollow Farm pears and bought some jarred jams and chutneys from the farm table. I also found some beautiful persimmons!

After the Ferry Building Marketplace, I took another long walk to the taste pavilion, where I sampled a plethora of goodies from the festival sponsors.

Dry Creek Valley wine. I probably shouldn't start with this on an empty stomach... Or should I?

 

Mission Mini Cupcakes

Judy's Breadsticks

OXO Good Grips, of which I am SUCH a major fan.

21st Amendment Brewing, which I visited the very next day.

Special tasting of their brand new Allies Win the War

Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics

After working the room (of course), I rested my liver a bit by relaxing at the hotel for an hour or so, and then I got ready for the Gala Dinner, featuring a cooking demo by Tyler Florence.

My favorite comment of the night was T-Flo’s point that these days a blogger can post a recipe or an editorial and get the same amount of attention (in the form of page views, likes, etc.) that a major national publication can, which illustrates that blogging is democracy. I like that notion.

I loved how everywhere I went, people were taking photos of their food. I wasn’t the only one! For dinner I opted for the vegetarian entree, which was decent.

The dessert trio consisted of a sad little cold bread pudding, flanked by two delectable confections: a Scharffen Berger chocolate mousse and a Cowgirl Creamery cheesecake.

I bid my new blogger friends farewell and headed back to my hotel to curl up with a book and a hot tea before bed. I prepared myself for a crazy adventurous final day in San Francisco with one of my best friends. There were giant lattes, Chinatown shopping sprees, impromptu beer tastings, kimono fashion shows, and a whole lot of other things that I wouldn’t dare post (or even mention) on the internet.

And there were dozens of fluffy macarons. I promise I’ll tell you all about them next time.


Table for One at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA

When I booked my flight to San Francisco for the annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, I decided to treat myself before the official festival began. I expected a hectic work week followed by an early morning flight and a jam-packed weekend of what can only be described as food blogger bliss. I wanted some quiet time and I deserved to have it at Alice Waters’ iconic Berkeley, CA restaurant, Chez Panisse. So I made a lunch reservation for one at the Chez Panisse Cafe.

When Chez Panisse opened its doors forty years ago, Alice Waters, the executive chef and owner, started a movement to build a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” She is a pioneer of the American cooking philosophy that promotes fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. She is an advocate for sustainable farming practices and food production. Alice Waters testified to the power of local sustainable food long before it became the fast-growing trend that it is today. Because this is a philosophy that guides my food choices, I was thrilled to go to the place where it all began and enjoy a delicious meal upon my arrival in San Francisco.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy for making the trek out to Berkeley to dine solo. When I told people about my plans, I received a few looks of pity, that I would have to endure the lonely experience of sitting at a table for one for an hour that would inevitably be a string of uncomfortable experiences: where to look? what to do? can these people tell I’m eavesdropping on their conversation just to satisfy my desperate yearning for human interaction?

Let's try a half-full mentality, shall we?

I experienced none of these things. Instead I nestled into my corner table, read every word of a beautiful menu, and took in every decorative element of the simply elegant cafe. I was not distracted by gossip from my tablemate. I was not rushed into a menu selection based on someone else’s readiness to order. Surrounded by people enjoying simple, fresh, seasonal food, I did not feel alone.

The meal began with bread and water, served in a beaker-like carafe, delicately engraved with the restaurant logo.

I selected the rigatoni alla Norma. I almost went for a salad because I felt that the pasta would be better for dinner. However as I watched other people’s plates come out, I noticed that several people had ordered full entrees and they all looked amazing. Besides, when will I ever be back at Chez Panisse for dinner? So as not to miss my opportunity, I just went for it. While I waited, I read Holly Hughes’ Best Food Writing 2011 and took in the decor.

Located directly above the main dining room (dinner only, prix fixe), the Chez Panisse Cafe offers a more casual environment with an a la carte menu. Mirrors around the room reflected the warm sunlight and the walls are papered with a collection of past daily menus. A few caught my eye, like Lunch for the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. I mused on what I would serve for lunch of Hillary Clinton was coming over, or Michelle Obama. I suppose you would serve what you do best and hope that she liked the selection.

The housemade rigatoni was incredible. I learned earlier this year what a difference fresh ricotta salata makes on a dish and experienced it again here. I was also struck by the uniformity of the vegetables in size and shape and made a mental note to work on my knife skills. I ate every bite on the whole plate and didn’t apologize for it. The servers were very attentive and offered coffee and dessert. I was really impressed with how friendly they were; sometimes when you visit an iconic restaurant such as this one, there is a hint (or a deluge) of snobbery from the waitstaff. Not the case at Chez Panisse. They were delightful.

Yes, I was stuffed but of course I didn’t pass up dessert. I ordered the Frog Hollow Farm pear crisp with toasted almond ice cream. The pears were so fresh and the crisp was exactly what it should be: light and crispy. The ice cream was to die for – how did they achieve the perfect toasted almond flavor? It was warm and smoky and nutty and everything I had hoped it would be. I couldn’t finish the whole thing because I was so full, but I had several perfect bites before I pushed the plate away.

After lunch I strolled through Berkeley and reflected on the meal. Dining alone is not all that bad. I felt way more present in the moment. I saw, smelled, tasted, and heard so much more than I would have if I had dined with a companion. I enjoyed every fresh, local, seasonal bite and was inspired by the dishes I tried. I love sharing food experiences with friends and family, but I will definitely do this again sometime. When I returned to my hotel forty minutes later, refreshed and inspired, I noticed the one downfall of dining alone. There is no one there to tell you when you have fresh, local, seasonal basil in your teeth. Oh well.

NYC Foodie Date: Planning a Picnic in Central Park

Kyle and I went on a trip to New York City recently and we filled our days with food and fun. I recapped one of of our foodie dates last week and here is another. On this day we decided to sleep in and have a leisurely tour of some of New York City’s finest food shopping and most beautiful outdoor scenery. We started our day with a couple of bagels at La Bagel Delight in Park Slope.

Hola, avocado cream cheese

Stuffed with the heavenly combination of dense crusty bagels and flavor-packed cream cheese, we got on the F train and sipped our iced coffees. We took the subway to Chelsea, a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan. Soon we were in Chelsea Market, a gigantic food emporium filled with trendy gourmet specialty shops. This is one of my favorite places in Manhattan and I was so excited to show my good-eats-loving companion around.

While in Chelsea Market, we visited a large kitchen supply store, a very cool wine shop, a brownie bakery, a cupcake bakery, a dairy bar and more. We were planning a picnic for later in the day, so we picked up some essentials along our trip. For example, bon bons from Jacques Torres. Totally essential.

We also visited One Lucky Duck, a juice bar created by the same folks who are behind Pure Food and Wine. I ordered a Thai green juice that included greens, pineapple, cilantro and lime. It also tasted very strongly of celery. We loved it!

The guy on the right is making our juice. He kept putting more and more vegetables in there; I could tell it was packed with nutrients.

From the Chelsea Market we took a little walk towards the water and did some shopping in fancy designer stores (not buying!). Kyle loved seeing the limited edition reproductions of vintage clothing and accessories at Levi’s, and I enjoyed admiring the beautiful patterns and silhouettes at Diane von Furstenberg. After getting our shopping fix, we hopped a train to Columbus Circle and picked up the core picnic items at Whole Foods. Then we headed to a nearby wine shop that agreed to open and recork a bottle for us to take into the park. It is not legal to consume alcohol while in Central Park, so I’m not going to tell you that we did.

Also on the menu: a veggie wrap, a wedge of aged mahon, and a bag of organic Ranier cherries. And bon bons of course, how could I forget? We dined near Strawberry Fields on the west side of the park, in a small clearing between the trees. We could see other people walking by on the paths just twenty feet away from where we sat, but they never saw us due to the bushes and trees around our picnic spot. It was a great balance of liveliness and solitude.

The weather couldn’t have been better. As the sun started to set, we chatted about all kinds of things, while spitting the cherry pits into the bushes and savoring the last few crumbles of Mahon and sips of Monastrell. It was a very relaxing end to an exciting day, full of new experiences and flavors. If you are looking to expand your culinary horizons while maintaining a romantic cozy vibe, I would recommend this date for you. Throw yourself into the hustle and bustle of the gorgeous Chelsea Market and the busiest Whole Foods I have ever visited, and then relax in a hidden picnic spot in the park while you reflect on all you have learned. Possibly under a young cherry tree near Strawberry Fields.

NYC Foodie Date: Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Kyle and I went on a summer vacation to New York City last week, and I’m excited to show you all the fun foodie dates we went on while we were there. Some were budget friendly and some were splurges, but all of them were a great time. On our first morning in New York, we went for a budget option. This was one of my favorite days of the whole trip because it was filled with miles of walking and exploring and a lot of great food.

We started with bagels at Montague Street Bagels in Brooklyn Heights. This was Kyle’s first NYC bagel!

These weren’t the best bagels I’ve ever had, but they’re better than anything I’ve tried in Richmond, VA. They were delicious, and you can’t beat the location. Montague Street Bagels is just a few blocks away from this beautiful view. . .

Call me sappy, but it’s true: I never get tired of seeing the Statue of Liberty.

From the bagel shop, we walked through Cadman Plaza Park and entered the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path from the stairs on the Washington Street underpass. Together we walked the 1.3 miles across the bridge, stopping to read the bronze history plaques and to take some pictures along the way. The pedestrian path is divided with cyclists on the right and runners and walkers on the left as you travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

The views are incredible and the walk is fun! This is an activity you can enjoy in the cooler months as well as the warmer months, although the winter walk is a bit breezier.

March 2008

Hey there, Melissa!

When you enter Manhattan from the bridge, you are near the NYPD headquarters. From there you have easy access to the financial district, TriBeCa, and Chinatown. On this trip, Kyle and I headed north towards Chinatown and stopped in at RBC NYC on the way. RBC has amazing espresso from a super fancy machine called the Slayer. One of these machines will set you back $20,000. The java did not disappoint.

Kyle traveled to France once and started every morning with an espresso and a pastry. He said that this espresso was the closest thing to European espresso that he has had in the United States. It was rich and oily, which sounds gross but it was actually really tasty.

I started talking coffee with the guys behind the espresso bar and they told me all about what makes the Slayer so special. This machine applies the pressure to pull the shot on a curve, gradually increasing and then decreasing the pressure from the beginning to the end of the extraction. Most espresso machines only have two pressures: on and off. The theory behind the Slayer is that the pressure curve pulls a better shot. The barista can also manually control the rate at which the pressure changes while the shot is being pulled.

After a little cawfee tawlk, they let me behind the bar to take some pictures of their fancy machine!

The barista controls the pressure by sliding the brown lever above the portafilter from left to right during the extraction. It was really cool to get the behind-the-scenes tour of how everything worked. After coffee, we took a walk through Chinatown. We found this vegetarian market that had rows and rows of vegetarian food, some dry goods and some frozen.

After walking around crazy Chinatown, we landed at Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Streeet for lunch. I had heard great things about this place, and all the reviews were right. The food tastes fantastic and it’s a great value for the money.

We started with complimentary tea and then had five amazing dishes. . . for eighteen dollars! Wow, we ordered way too much food. We could only eat half of it and took half home to snack on over the next couple of days. This is definitely a pick that you should not miss if you are a hungry vegetarian wandering around lower Manhattan.

To conclude our budget friendly date, we hopped on a train to Midtown and did some window shopping before heading home to freshen up. We had a pull-out-all-the-stops super fancy date that night at Candle 79. The mood lighting was not conducive to food photos so you’ll have to take my word for it. It was an amazing meal.

Whether you go over the top with a fabulous date at Candle 79 or you go budget-friendly with a make-your-own fun value date, there are plenty of places in Manhattan to have a tasty foodie date. Check back later this week for some more of my favorite spots for delicious dates in NYC.

NYC Eye Candy

Kyle and I just got back from our whirlwind vacation in New York. Here is a quick peek at what we did and saw on this trip. More details later!

And while we are reviewing the highlights, did I mention that I met Rachael Ray?

It was an unbelievable trip and I look forward to sharing all my favorite NYC dining picks with you soon!