The air was crisp and clean. The sky was sunny. This was the kind of day that makes you feel energized and happy to be alive.
The afternoon started with delicious drinks around 4:30 pm. They had wine and beer, but the Huckleberry Juice Punch called my name. Similar to cranberry, this punch was tart and and refreshing, made with infused herbs and vodka.
During the cocktail hour, you were encouraged to walk around the farm, admire the sights and say hello to the chickens!
Because they started running out of the Huckleberry punch, I switched to champagne, which I enjoyed while sampling oysters and trays of passed appetizers.
Soon, we all sat down for dinner at a long family style table, and feasted on 3 scrumptious courses of meats and vegetables.
Everything served was local, either grown on this exact farm or nearby.
There were so many delicious courses like Thai style beef salad and fried okra, but my favorite course of the night was the roasted pork with tomatillo sauce.
This dinner was a true indulgence, and it was made better by all the fun conversations with people nearby.
As the afternoon sky slowly turned from golden to lavender, the moon come out overhead.
That meant it was soon time for DESSERT!
They served a trio of little sweet bites including cardamom shortbread, mint meringues, and butternut squash cake. (I might have snuck a few of these home in a napkin!)
This day was the perfect welcome to fall.
And guess what I learned, ya’ll?
While I absolutely cannot wait until I can attend this dinner again next October, I found out Arcadia Farm hosts a summer dinner harvest too.
I’ve got my sights set on the next Farm dinner in May 2018!
October already… I can’t believe it. Things have been a little quiet here on the blog.
I had a whole line up of posts about Puerto Rico, but as the island continues to recover, it just doesn’t seem right to be like “Look at all my vacation pictures in Puerto Rico, ya’ll!”
Of course, I will post more from PR when things settle down there, but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.
A few weeks ago, I went to Uncensored DC, a fundraiser held at an old underground metro station. The event was all about books with themes of censorship, and the night was meant to honor our freedom to read.
When my husband suggested we go, I imagined people awkwardly standing around wearing brown grandpa sweaters (I know, active imagination here).
But as you can see, this event was actually really hip… no grandpa sweaters in sight! It helped that there were 5 stations of different cocktails, provocative art on the walls, and a fun band playing.
Another fun highlight in the past few weeks was Pizzalapooza at the MGM National Harbor. Thirteen chefs from all over the country (and even one from Italy) showcased their pizza creations, like this one with thinly sliced beef and a dollop of ricotta cheese.
There was also a dessert table where you could sample mini-desserts like creme brûlée, tiramisu, biscotti, fresh berries with cream, and pistachio cannoli. This was sugar heaven. (Why? Why do I love sweets so much?)
Finally, this month had lots and lots of walks around the lake with the dog. The leaves started to turn colors in the last few days, and it’s getting to be Autumn around here.
Two other fun things happened this month including a special Farm Dinner I attended and a 3 day trip to Nashville. I’m going to write about those in my next posts soon.
A few days before Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean and Florida, my husband and spent a long weekend in Puerto Rico.
We weren’t affected by the hurricane (made it back home safely before landfall) and Puerto Rico didn’t suffer widespread catastrophic damage like St Thomas or St Martin and other nearby islands. However, the news coverage is still so unsettling about how many people are struggling.
This makes me feel uncomfortable writing about the trip. But I hope I can share what we appreciated this lovely part of the world.
We stayed in an AirBnB in a neighborhood called Ocean Park. It had a relaxed local feel, and our stay was absolutely delightful.
The owner of the Airbnb created several beautiful spaces in her own home, and you can see from the sign outside her house, her warm positive outlook on life.
I loved the eclectic decor which combined modern and classic Spanish influences, collected from vintage stores and flea markets.
Our room was built as a sort of tree house attached to the top of the house, and this was our very narrow spiral staircase leading to it.
The most notable aspect of our room was the outdoor shower. There is something so relaxing about taking a shower outdoors in the early evening, listening to the birds and crickets in the trees around us.
Of course, you have to get comfortable with the idea that you’re- you know- outside without any clothes on. But once you do, it’s cool.
This outdoor shower ended up being one of my favorite things are the trip (my husband not so much!) He kept thinking people could spy on us, even though there were pretty high barriers around the shower.
Each morning, we’d stumble down our spiral staircase to have breakfast with the other guests in the garden. This AirBnb had an outdoor communal kitchen, and each morning, she’d place bread, nut butters, fresh jams, granola, hot coffee, coconut water, and homemade beet juice.
It was such a fun way to interact with the other guests.
Perhaps the absolute best thing about this location was the beach, which was literally across the street!
There’s lots more to share about Puerto Rico coming up, including a wonderful dinner we had one night, all the tasty local dishes we tried on a food tour, our day spent in Old San Juan, and our snorkeling trip.
How do you feel about the outdoor shower? Would you be comfortable with it?
So, this is my VERY LAST POST about New Zealand. I’m kind of sad about it, but you’re probably thinking Finally!
We spent our last day in Rotorua.
Rotorua is a rather interesting place. It’s what I imagine Earth must have been like during Dinosaur times.
Pockets of steams rising all over the place, volcanic craters, molten hot springs, neon green bodies of water, and a noticeable sulphur smell.
In fact, you can visit the Waitopo Geothermal Park park to see a concentration of all these ancient wonders in one place.
Walking around the park, you are greeted by many scenes of this…
It was hard to get a good shot of this lake which would do it justice.
The wind kept blowing steam into the picture. So, I’ll just describe it to you.
A two tone pool. A body of emerald green water surrounded by a bright orange ring, colored by the minerals in the water around the rim.
It wasn’t all just sulphur and steam though. The park also has beautiful walking trails through trees like this.
My favorite place in this park though was this bright neon green lake. Yes, it really is that color. Did you ever guess that hue existed in nature?
After walking around and contemplating prehistoric environment, we headed to our very special resting place for the night, the Hamurana Springs Lodge.
When researching this inn, I didn’t pay too much attention to the description. It just sounded like a decent place to stay.
But it ended up being my favorite stay of the entire trip.
This lodge was a bit out of town in the country side, sitting on its own estate surrounded by fields of horses. Once you turn into the road leading to the inn, you see the lodge perched up on a hill.
Then you drive down this wonderfully long path to the inn
Finally, you reach this cute old inn.
Once you’re inside, you’re greeted with all kinds of lovely views of the countryside
as well as portraits of local Maori tribespeople on the walls
Being there on a Thursday night, we had the random luck of being the only guests.
Not only did we have the run of the place, but we got so much specialized attention from the staff.
In fact, we joked that we felt like we were in an episode of Downtown Abbey. The staff tended to our every need, building a fire for us and stoking it through the evening, offering nice drinks, and so on.
We took advantage of all the lodge’s amenities including this beautiful fire place in a sitting room where we read books and drank wine for a few cozy hours. They piped in old fashioned jazz music and we felt like we had gone back in time to a different era.
Though I’m not skilled at pool at all, we also enjoyed playing a few games
That night, we slept so well, probably the best I slept the entire trip.
And the next morning, we went down to the dining room and were greeted with this nice breakfast. Fresh croissants. Cheeses and meats. Berries with yogurt.
After eating seconds and drinking a few cups of coffee, we spent a little time in our room just enjoying the view and feeling grateful that our trip to New Zealand ended on such a high note.
Well, here’s another reason to spend some time here.
Nelson is home to so many great wineries that you could visit a different one every day for three weeks and still not hit them all.
We paid a visit to Neudorf Vineyards on a sunny warm Wednesday afternoon and had the place to ourselves. I loved the comfortable ambiance of the winery, and my glass of the Moutere Chardonnay was so delicious. They even ship their wines worldwide.
After a few hours here, we were hungry and headed to the Grape Escape on the way back to our AirBnB in Nelson.
We just made it before closing in late afternoon, and while they weren’t serving lunch anymore, we did snag a delicious piece of hazelnut and kahlua merengue cake.
This cottage cafe was so charming. I’m always taken in when greeted by a lazy cat sunning itself on the front steps!
A fun quick breakfast from the Auckland area was this egg salad and bacon bagel from Best Ugly Bagels. The name is strange, right? But ugly is fine by me when the bagels are so tasty.
Perhaps the most indulgent things we ate in Auckland were the creative ice creams from Giapo (the Afghan cookie version is pictured above). This one below is hazelnut and toasted merengue. The selection changes every few months and I’d love to see what new versions are concocted each season.
Moving on to Queenstown, we loved the burgers there including the famous Fergburger and Devil Burger, both of which I recommend.
However, everybody goes to those places, so I want to highlight two other great meals we had. The first was this giant steak and fries platter with herbed garlic butter from Atlas Beer Cafe. Yes, that slab of butter melts all over the meat and fries… and it’s a bargain for less than $20 New Zealand dollars. (NZ beef ain’t cheap, ya’ll).
The other was this halloumi cheese avocado toast and ice milk from Vudu Cafe and Larder. The ice milk has all the components of a milk shake, but it’s not blended.
Everything is plopped put in a glass and then time works it wonder, gradually melting the ice cream into the milk and chocolate syrup.
I already talked about our wonderful road trip day through Otago region and our stop at the Cardrona Hotel. This garlic knot was recommended by some people we met and it came out of the oven piping hot and salty and buttery.
Nelson, New Zealand was home to some of our best dishes on our trip. First up was this giant turkish food platter at Paasha. We thought there’d be no way we could finish this much food. Um… it was inhaled in about 10 minutes.
I also discovered hazelnut merengue cake with kailua frosting from the Grape Escape. Turns out these merengue style desserts are popular in Australia and New Zealand, so there’s lots of great recipes for them online. I’ve since researched how to make this exact version at home.
Finally, in Rotorua, we visited the Wednesday night Night Market and enjoyed a whole range of things including this pita with venison, couscous, greens, and spicy sauce.
Our last special meal of the trip was our breakfast at the Hamurana Lodge. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Warm croissants. Charcuterie. Cheeses. Fresh berries with cream.
Incidentally, we were the only people at the inn on this day and we got such fun service and attention. There’s a lot more to say about this place, so stay tuned for my upcoming Rotorua post.