Tequila, Sunsets, and a Mexican Feast in San Diego
I just got back from an amazing trip to Mission Beach in San Diego with a group of friends, filled with plenty of tequila, sunsets and a Mexican feast I cooked (among other endless feasts we cooked and ate). Check out the link below to read the story and get the recipes for my Mexican night dinner and see all the photos I took of this gorgeous beach town. Can’t wait for next year with sunsets like these!
Roadtrip! Food & Fun in Boston/Martha’s Vineyard
I took the most amazing trip to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard over Labor Day holiday and fell in love. Boston is one of those places that feels like a big city but is actually pretty small and low-key if you ask me. I loved the slower pace, the still quietness of the South End on a Saturday night. The views of the harbor, the blue and white hues of sailboats and water surrounding the city’s edge. The amazing Italian food in the North End, the historic architecture all over the city and along the Freedom Trail, and the beautiful campus of Harvard University.
Watching the sunset at dusk over the Charles River. Amazing lobster and seafood on the harbor with views to match…and for a big city girl like me, I think I could live here one day.
We stayed at the amazing Colonnade Hotel (with a rooftop pool and bar!) in Back Bay.
The next day, we headed to Newbury Street in Back Bay for shopping…
then we wandered through the Public Gardens, heading to historic Charles Street to see all the beautiful old homes in Beacon Hill
before we stopped at The Hill Tavern for drinks and lunch.
We spent most of the day hiking the Freedom Trail to see all the old historic buildings and sites around town.
That night we had amazing dinner in the South End at Sibling Rivalry and had some delicious seafood.
Our last day there, we made our way to Harvard University and trekked around Cambridge! Boston is definitely small enough to see in a few days, but the views and slower pace will make you want to stay a lot longer.
Here’s a few places I went to that you don’t want to miss on your next trip to Boston:
North End (Boston’s Little Italy): If you are in the mood for Italian food and pastries, this is the place to go. Just head straight to Hanover Street and you’ll find a multitude of shops, restaurants and cafes, delis, pizzerias, bakeries, pubs and taverns. Many have lines out the door on a Friday night so reservations are highly recommended!
We had an amazing dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant called Lucca on N. Hanover Street (Grilled Veal with Truffled Mash and Asparagus) and Lobster Tagliatelle!
Then we hit Mike’s Pastry for amazing cannolis and gelato. Um, YUM!
Back Bay/South End – These are two of Boston’s nicest neighborhoods in my opinion. Back Bay is the best place for shopping, art galleries, gardens, cuisine and culture in Boston. There are gorgeous historical homes and churches, clothing boutiques, spas and salons and fabulous restaurants to explore. Head to Newbury Street and make your way to the Public Garden to check out the Swan boats or just hang out in the park. The Charles River Esplanade is a great place to get a gorgeous view of the harbour and stroll along the river on a sunny day.
The South End is a tree-lined neighborhood known for its fine dining, art galleries, open market, restaurants and high end martini clubs and jazz bars. Head to Tremont Street and check out Sibling Rivalry, Stella, Tremont 647 for a nice dinner.
Then hit 28 Degrees for some great martinis..
and The Beehive for amazing live jazz and blues.
Waterfront/Seaport District – If you want a great view of the Boston Harbor, then you need to go to Waterfront and Seaport District. You can start in the North End near the Bunker Hill Bridge and then continue around Atlantic Ave to Christopher Columbus Park and view the harbor islands. From here you can walk to the Aquarium where there are several cruise lines that take you around the harbor. Head down to Rowes Wharf to check out the show cruise ships and Boston Harbor Hotel and Towers and then cross the old Northern Bridge to the Seaport District.
(we ate at LTK and I had the most amazing Shrimp Cocktail
and Truffled Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese – to die for!)
For casual dining and terrific cocktails on the harbor, there’s no other place than Tia’s Restaurant and Bar on the Waterfront! Closer to the North End than the Seaport, but awesome place for happy hour and watching the sunset..
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
If there is ever a place I would like to go after retiring myself from the hustle and bustle of New York City, Martha’s Vineyard has to be top of my list. This charming island is the epitome of beautiful architecture, history, charm, quietness, tree-lined streets, locals, antiques and oh, seafood.
We took a train to Woods Hole from Boston and then took a ferry to Vineyard Haven, a lovely area of the island full of shops, restaurants, beautiful homes and even more stunning views of the ocean.
We strolled the streets for awhile and then made our way to the famous Black Dog Tavern, a restaurant and pub established in 1971,
famous for their Quahog (Clam) Chowder. Read my full review and get the recipe here!
Then we made our way to Edgartown, a quiet, beautiful little village on the island to check in to our Bed & Breakfast, The Edgartown Inn.
We decided to hit the beach immediately, so we headed to South Beach, the smaller, quieter beach on the South side of the island.
After relaxing and watching the sunset, we decided to head over to the Edgartown Lighthouse
and take in the views of the beautiful old homes,
harbors and the Harbor View Hotel.
That night we hit The Seafood Shanty for some delicious Lobster Bisque, Seafood Pasta, and Grilled Scallops and Shrimp. Situated right on the harbor, this is a great place for fresh seafood and great waterfront views. The prices are pretty reasonable too! After we stuffed our faces, it was time to have some fun.
We headed down to a fun area near the harbor and stopped at a local pub, and ran into a wedding party who pretty much took over the whole center of town. To top off the night, we went to the Atlantic Fish & Chop House for a drink and headed back to crash out!
The next day it was raining so our plans to hit Aquinna Beach on the other side of the island were ruined, but we had an amazing “Vineyard Breakfast” at our B&B with homemade apple cinnamon coffee cake,
scrambled eggs and bacon and some juice and coffee. Such a cute place!
We walked off breakfast by strolling around on N. Water Street for awhile..
and then we took a stroll down Main Street to check out more beautiful old homes, bookstores, shops and antique stores before we had to leave.
One of my favorite finds was Murdick’s Fudge – delicious creamy fudge in about 10 different flavors! Who can resist that?
The Vincent House was also really cool – the original home built in 1672 was actually transported into Edgartown and you can tour the house to see the classic Vineyard architecture and antique furnishings.
Imagine cooking in a big old fireplace like this–Love the cast iron pots!!)
This was definitely one of the most fun trips I’ve taken in a while..and I’ll most definitely be back (maybe for good!)
Austin, TX: Sparks of Culinary Creativity & Inspiration at IACP Conference 2011
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS FROM THE AUSTIN TRIP!
So I finally had a chance to come back down from cloud nine and get back to reality after an awesome week-long conference in Austin, Texas with the International Association of Culinary Professionals. What an incredible time spent with amazing and talented professionals in the food industry! If you haven’t been to Austin before, its a must see foodie destination, full of Texas Barbecue and Food Trailers (not trucks like we have in NYC), and the perfect spot to host this year’s conference with a focus on Culinary Excellence and Innovation. I spent five incredible days meeting other food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, food bloggers, food stylists and photographers, agents and publishers – and was creatively inspired by all the incredible speakers and new foodie friends I met!
I flew in on Tuesday night with Rachel (The Fabulous Foodie) and Marie (Food Nouveau) and after arriving at the Hilton Austin, we decided to hit the infamous Sixth Street to try out a few of the hot spots in town. We made a new friend with a bartender who bought pickles to make us Pickleback shots with Jameson and Pickle Juice (per Rachel’s artful persuasion – don’t ask) which clued me in to what was ahead for the next five days in this town!
Day 1 Conference
We had a few hours before the conference started on Wednesday so Rachel, Marie, Nikki and I went to grab breakfast at the infamous Juan in a Million restaurant. We ordered some delicious Migas – platters made with scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes with tortillas and fresh salsa and guacamole,
a delicious Chicken Fajita Salad with Jalapenos and Guacamole..
and had the opportunity to meet Juan himself who was more than willing to get a snapshot with us!
My first session, DIY Video Production for Food Bloggers, was hosted by Daniel Klein of The Perennial Palate, John Mitzewich of Food Wishes, and Sara O’Donnell of Average Betty. We learned video production techniques, equipment and editing tips and saw samples of all the incredible video work that these video bloggers have produced as they told us how they got started and secrets of the trade.
Next we went to the IACP New Member Orientation, led by IACP Board Members including Author Kathleen Flinn and Lia Huber of NourishNetwork.com who gave us tips on how to get the most out of the conference and networking.
We headed over to the Host City Opening Reception at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where we were greeted by cowboys and armadillos and cows, and sampled delicious Tex Mex food and cocktails from some of Austin’s finest restaurants in town.
Of course I couldn’t pass up the Late Night Club Crawl, where a small group of us went to East Sixth Street (led by Wendy Brannen of Vidalia Onion Committee and some other local Austonians who knew the hotspots!) – East Sixth Street is Austin’s funky part of town with groovy lounges, food trailer parks and low key outside bars.
and ended up at Liberty for some late night grub in a trailer park, munching on crispy Korean Chicken bites and Tempura Fried Beets. Weird? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!
Day 2 Conference
The next day was full on with amazing sessions by Shauna Ahern, Gluten Free Girl, who led the Blog to Book breakout session focused on in-depth discussions with other talented food bloggers and food writers such as Marge Perry and Dixie Caviar, from around the country as we shared our goals and tips for success in the blogosphere.
We went on a search for some BBQ and ended up at The Ironworks Barbecue,
where we loaded up on plates of fat, juicy Ribs, Beef Brisket, Sausage, Beans and Pickles washed down with huge Iced Teas to quench our thirst in the midst of the heatwave!
My last session of the day was on Networking – run by Mark Bitterman, Author of Salted and professional Selmier. In the session I had the pleasure of meeting Dianne Jacob, author and food writer, Tara Wilson, Event Planner and owner of Savvy Southerner, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Jessica Merchant of How Sweet It Is. Great conversation, great networking tips and great people to get to know!
The evening ended with an Awards Gala and Ceremony at the beautiful historic Driskill Hotel and Paramount Theatre, where some of the most accomplished food writers, editors, photographers, stylists, cookbook authors, chefs and food personalities were accoladed and awarded for their culinary excellence.
My friends and I headed out for drinks and dinner afterwards to Annie’s Cafe & Bar for a delicious meal of Shrimp Creole, Watermelon Blush Martinis and Sauteed Spinach and Garlic. After all the festivities I still mustered up enough energy to attend the Food Styling session by master Denise Vivaldo – who is super talented and hilarious — perfect ending to a perfect evening!
Day 3 Conference
The next day was jam packed with superstar talent speaking about Crafting a Great Story led by Penny De Los Santos, Daniel Klein and Kim Severson from the NY Times. Penny is an amazing photographer and told us heartwarming stories about her trip to Mexico on her last photoshoot for Saveur Magazine with food writer Molly O’Neill – true passion and talent that shined straight through in her storytelling! Daniel showed us more of his fun food adventure videos and Kim Severson led the panel with wit and charm – she is the funniest person known to man!
The Culinary Expo and Culinary Book Fair was incredible – food artisans, vendors and gourmet products were on display including some amazing French Chocolate
..and tons of food samples to accompany our delicious Tex Mex lunch!
I met Dorie Greenspan outside at the Culinapp Trailer and got some amazing cookies and checked out the cool new iPad app she is featured in. I also bought two cookbooks at the Cookbook Fair – Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar (winner of the Cookbook Award!) and Good Food to Share by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of thekitchn.com (whom I both met at dinner that very same night..how cool is that?!)
One of my favorite sessions was a French Cooking Demonstration with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser – Jacques made some of his delicious recipes – Mini Savory Cheesecakes, Chicken Supremes with Tapenade and Mushroom Sauce, and Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons, as Amanda interviewed him about his life as a celebrity chef. Talk about a treat!
After the demo, I was able to meet him and sample more of his goodies up front afterwards which was an eventful part of the conference and a true honor to meet such a culinary legend as Jacques.
We ended the day in our Committee Breakout Meetings and I joined the IACP Food Styling and Photographers group for some inspiring ideas for our group and networking amongst talented peeps such as Jamie Tiampo, Derek Richmond, Nader Khouri and LeeAnn Wright.
Friday night I went to an amazing dinner at Fonda San Miguel, a longtime favorite Mexican restaurant in a gorgeous neo-Colonial building
with a backyard herb and vegetable garden full of corn stalks, lavender, cilantro, parsley and more.
The establishment was vibrant with color, charm and character – wood carved doorways and Mexican folk art on the walls,
and the food was outstanding – Zucchini Gazpacho Soup, Mini Shredded Beef Tacos , Carne Asadas with Black Beans and an Enchilada Mole.
Of course there were plenty of Mango Margaritas floating around to accompany homemade chips and fresh salsa, and a mesmerizing caramel Flan for dessert!
Day 4 Conference
Our last day of the conference was studded with food stars – I watched Dorie Greenspan talk about her new digital cookbook on the newly launching Culinapp along with Lorena Jones of Chronicle Books and Rux Martin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I couldn’t pass up Dorie’s cookies on the way out!
Next up on the line up was the dynamic trio of Food Bloggers: Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Lisa Stone of BlogHer.com discussing the ins and outs of food blogging, offering sage advice to the audience.
Last but not least, and one of my favorite sessions was on Light and Photography with White on Rice couple Todd and Diane Cru – I was truly inspired by their beautiful and simple photography, their sheer talent, passion for their work and amazing presentation and offering of advice.
The party we were all waiting for was the Up in Smoke BBQ at Boggy Creek Farm – talk about crazy fun! A full on BBQ bash was awaiting us with Ribs, Brisket, Smoked Pig, and all the dressings: corn, beans, cole slaw, german potato salad and some fine Handmade Texas Vodka cocktails..
..as we sat outside listening to jamboree musicians on the big white southern back porch of the farmhouse.. Nothing better than this!
On our last night out, Rachel, Marie, Dave and I went out on East Sixth Street (again!) and hung out at Liberty –
a groovy dive bar with an awesome dirt patio in back with a food trailer, picnic benches and amazing food (same place we got the Korean Chicken Bites and Tempura Fried Beets).
We eventually moved on back to main Sixth Street to find some Flaming Dr. Pepper shots (aren’t those illegal now? The last time I had one of these was in college in Upstate NY!) and hit the pizza truck on the way home. Definitely a colorful street and colorful crowd – now I know where they got the saying “Keep Austin Weird!”
Heading back home to NYC
After four full days of talking and eating and networking and eating and talking and drinking – I had to get one last Mexican meal in. Rachel and I headed to SoCo (South Congress) to visit the legendary Guero’s Taco Bar.
The tortillas were handmade and grilled in front of our eyes as we watched with anticipation..
We noshed on Chips and Guacamole and Salsa, a few Pulled spicy pork and chicken tacos with beans and rice, and some Iced Tea to diminish the slight hangover from the Flaming Dr. Pepper shots the night before! (Not my idea, thanks)
My head is still spinning from all the sights and sounds, amazing food and amazing people I met, and I have to say that my trip to Austin will stay close to my heart forever. The new friends and talented culinary professionals I met have inspired me to do my best work, to follow my heart, to pursue my dream of a food writing and photography career – and I thank all those I shared it with for making this an incredible event I will never forget. Can’t wait for next year’s event in New York City – see you all then.
Austin – I LOVE YOU! Stay Weird.
Santorini – A Little Slice of Heaven
I went on the most amazing trip of my life to the Greek Islands for a birthday celebration with my girlfriends. We flew into Mykonos, then into Santorini and topped it off with a 2 day excursion to Athens. Not only is Greece the most beautiful place known to mankind, but one of the most amazing destinations for food-obsessed types such as myself with its fresh, healthy and delicious cooking.
These ancient Mediterranean islands are so beautiful they almost seem surreal; as they look in the paintings you would imagine: vibrant hues of white and blue, pastel houses lining the sea that resemble a box of Jordan almonds: pink, yellow, white, green and blue. The sunlight sparkling on the ocean, and sunsets so brilliant you’ll never be the same once you experience the radiance and warmth of them as they light up the entire sea. My favorite place of all was Santorini, truly a slice of heaven on earth.
My friends and I took a day trip to Oia (pronounced ee-ya) which is the most beautiful place to experience shopping, dining, and of course the magnificent sunsets from the highest point of the island, overlooking the volcanic implosion in the sea. We started our adventure in this quaint little island town, through the stone streets and alleyways for sightseeing and shopping, but soon bee-lined straight to an amazing restaurant overlooking the sea to experience the sunset accompanied by a few bottles of local Santorini wine, and eat our hearts out with some delicious Greek food.
The restaurant we went to was called Pelikanos, a quaint little place with a covered roof deck, angelic music playing in the background, vibrant red and pink flowers planted in ancient pottery urns lining the spiral staircase to the roof, and a gorgeous waiter that served us as if we were the only people dining in the entire restaurant. The view had the sea and sunset on one side, the moon and a statuesque Greek temple on the other. The brilliant red sun slowly diminished into the horizon as the sky lit up into a purple, red and orange palette that took my breath away!
We started out our meal as per usual, with our Greek staple appetizers: tzaziki (thick and creamy Greek yoghurt dip with cucumber, dill and garlic), hummous (thick and delicious mashed chickpeas, garlic and lemon dip), stuffed vine leaves, grilled pita bread and Bessara, a fava bean dip (mashed fava beans, olive oil and lemon, almonds and mint pureed into a tasty, bright green bowl of goodness) and Insalata Caprese – Mozzarella and Tomato Salad with fresh pesto and balsamic reduction. All topped off with a crisp, white wine to start our feast.
For the main course, I ordered a flaky Sea Bream (a la Spetsiota) sautéed with wine, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs (parsley and oregano), accompanied by a side of roasted beets and pesto green beans, and a Greek Country salad (Horiatiki Salata) with enormous purple kalamata olives, tangy, crumbly feta, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (no lettuce!), all tossed in a light olive oil and vinegar dressing with fresh herbs. The entire dish was so light and tasty and full of flavor that I couldn’t put my fork down for even a second! I was so immersed in the flavor explosion in my mouth that I didn’t even notice the absolutely gorgeous wild mushroom risotto my friend ordered next to me. OK, here we go.
The risotto was thick and creamy, with a beautiful rich texture and perfect chewy bite. The fresh buttery porcini mushrooms were sautéed and sprinkled on top and throughout the rice, which was covered in a gorgeous mushroom wine cream sauce that had a velvety consistency to die for. The flavors intermingled beautifully, as the chewy texture of the rice, balanced by the silky smooth cream sauce and flavorful, juicy mushrooms melted in my mouth. From that moment on, my life changed. Game over. It was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my entire life.
If you have ever thought about going to the Greek Islands, I highly recommend Santorini and the quaint town of Oia, and this amazing restaurant. The view, the fresh sea air, the sun, the moon and the sky will blow you away. The wild mushroom risotto? It will change your life forever. Opa!