First Holiday Outfit of the Season

 

I know, I know. Bright yellow lace is not what you’d typically consider holiday party attire.

But I REALLY wanted to wear this dress ONE MORE TIME before the weather officially changed to winter.

Last weekend, the Torpedo Arts Factory in Alexandria, Virginia hosted their annual holiday arts party.

This former ammunitions warehouse (yes, it was used to build torpedoes during World War II) is now a giant arts center, where painters, sculptors, and craftsmen display their creations.

And this party seemed like the perfect place to wear this unusual color rather than more traditional red or green.

I figured that a black leather jacket and black suede boots would help transition the dress to something less spring garden party and more festive and winter appropriate. I actually like the way the whole look came out.

Now, I can officially retire this dress until Spring!

 

Are you a traditionalist when it comes to Holiday party wear? Or like me, do you try to get as much wear as you can out of a spring or summer favorite?

 

Late Fall in Paris

Paris… Virginia, that is.

There’s nothing I love more in autumn than clear blue skies and crisp fall air. You too?

It’s the perfect atmosphere for a leisurely afternoon drive into the countryside.

And this time of year is absolutely full of autumn color.

Once you get out of the busy DC metro area, there is wide open country in Virginia and Maryland, where you can explore little historic towns dating back 300 years.

Last weekend, we decided to take a short trip to Paris, Virginia, a tiny town in the foothills of Shenandoah Mountains.

This town is literally one main street long.

There’s a church, a school house, an apothecary, a few old houses, and the historic Ashby Inn and Tavern.

Drink. Food. Education. Religion. Medicine. Rest.

Everything you could want or need, really.

We stopped for lunch at the Ashby Inn and enjoyed some traditional country cooking (rich cornbread and banana pudding!)

I loved the ambience here. There were old creaky floors, a big veranda, old stone pathways leading though a garden, and gorgeous views of the mountains.

Because this is also Hunt country, there were horse motifs everywhere inside too.

It was a little bit too chilly to eat lunch outdoors this day.

So, I can’t wait to come back here in the summer time and eat outside in the sunshine.

How’s the weather where you are? Are you well into Fall now and gearing up for Winter?

 

24 hours in New York City

 

“So lucky to be alive today… in the greatest city in the world”

“In New York… in New York” – Hamilton

New York City. It’s one of those places that stimulates me and exhausts me at the same time. You know what I mean?

Just got back from a quick trip anniversary trip, and I’m still so wired from the whole experience.

Seriously, you don’t even need caffeine there.

The streets, the people, the atmosphere. It’s all enough to keep you alert and bright eyed for hours, if not a day or two afterwards.

Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary by heading from DC to NYC for a day.

Here’s how our 24 hours unfolded.

After taking the train, then checking into our hotel, we freshened up and headed to lunch.

We chose Carbone for a long leisurely lunch before our show later that night.

Carbone is a Michelin rated retro style New York Italian restaurant. If you watch the Netflix Aziz Anzari show, Master of None, it was featured in the second season. Aziz is a big pasta fan in real life, so we were sold!

 

The Decor: Big beautiful florals in vases. Pink tiger lilies. Bright blue walls. Tiled floor. This is a HAPPY place.

The Food:  The food is Italian-American, so think big platters meant for sharing. Meatballs. Pastas. Italian salads. That kind of stuff.

The meal begins with a basket of garlic bread, a plate of salami, and a warm fresh ball of gooey mozzarella that they cut with scissors right in front of you. We also ordered the caesar salad, which was the best I’ve ever had. Big garlic croutons with a creamy dressing, and lots of anchovies. (of which I could only eat one… thought I could handle more, but guess not).

We also couldn’t resist the penne al la vodka, lobster ravioli, and veal parmesan.

The Atmosphere: This restaurant is very old-school with waiters who are a bit bossy and brash. It’s the New York experience, really.

Our waiter rolled his eyes at me for looking at my cell phone when he was explaining the menu. (I couldn’t help it. I got a text from my brother, who NEVER texts me. Thought it might have been emergency.)

It’s also very noisy here. The tables for two are pushed together quite closely, so you hear everyone’s conversation around you, and see exactly what everyone else is eating too.

The people next to us, practically in our laps, were also celebrating their anniversary and we chatted with them few minutes, which was fun

Overall impression: This lunch was really enjoyable, and I feel fortunate that we got to eat here. A few groups got turned away as they moved out of the lunch hour, and supposedly it’s impossible to get a reservation here for dinner. While the food was certainly tasty, the whole experience of food + service didn’t quite measure up to Michelin-quality, in my opinion.

I don’t think I would go back there again on my next trip, but I’d recommend to others for a fun NY Italian meal.

Hamilton on Broadway

Okay, so I have to preface this part by saying that while I do enjoy musicals, I’m really picky about them.

I once fell asleep during the musical Camelot and slept through the entire intermission.

Anyway, believe the hype about Hamilton!

It’s really good! As in, your head can’t stop bopping the entire time.

You can’t wait to see what they’re going to do in the next scene.

Every song is better than the last.

This show is so creative. It’s educational. It appeals to a large audience.

And the songs have been stuck in my head for days.

Breakfast

So, after a late nightcap after the show at a rather lame speakeasy (it’s not awesome when the same waitress takes your same order and doesn’t remember)  my husband and I were looking forward to our breakfast ritual in NYC.

We always devour fresh bagels and then buy a dozen to bring back with us to DC.

Before you think that’s weird (because there are bagel shops in DC after all), when I lived in California, I once knew someone from Long Island who would bring BAGELS and NEW YORK style pizza back on the plane with her.

Anyway, a bagel is pretty much my idea of heaven.

I’m pretty sure if I have the opportunity to choose one of my last meals, it would probably be a New York Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese.

Until next time, New York!

 

 

Arcadia Farm Fall Harvest Dinner

In early fall each year, Arcadia Farm hosts a special Fall Harvest dinner benefitting Veteran farmers. This kind of food event is one of my favorite ways to transition to Autumn here in DC.

See my two previous farm dinners, Feast in the Forest and Arcadia Farm to Table Dinner.

This particular afternoon was PERFECT.

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!

A Few More Scenes from Nelson

Enjoying an afternoon at Neudorf Vineyard

I already gushed about the Abel Tasman National Park and lamented the fact that many New Zealand visitors don’t seem to make it to Nelson.

Well, here’s another reason to spend some time here.

The wine!

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!

Queenstown. NZ

I’m excited to share with you our time in Queenstown, New Zealand.

In recent months whenever I mentioned this trip to friends and colleagues, they always said, “You have to go to Queenstown!”

Mountains. Fresh air. Beautiful views. Outdoor adventures.

And I’m so glad we followed their advice. This mountain village has it all.

We stayed at the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside with views facing Lake Wakatipu. All this beauty was literally steps away.

The first afternoon we spent leisurely walking around the lake and soaking up the beautiful winter sun. Queenstown is on the southwestern side of the South Island, so it was quite a bit cooler here than Auckland. It was bright and sunny, but a down coat was definitely needed!queenstown-5

The next morning, we took the gondola up to the peak overlooking the city. We were lucky that the clouds lifted and we were able to get these panoramic views looking down on Queenstown.

It was still early in the season, so no skiing was available yet. But year-round, you can all do all sorts of other activities from there including hiking, paragliding, and the luge!

queenstown-luge

Zip down the side of the mountain and take in the views as you go. Not bad, right?

After spending a few hours at the peak, we decided to hike down instead of taking the gondola again.

It only took us about one hour and we appreciated getting the fresh air to stave off the jet lag. 
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We spent 4 days in Queenstown, so it became our home base for lots of other outings and adventures including day trips to the famous Milford Sound, Lake Wakana, and Otagu region wineries.

We thought the natural scenery couldn’t get much better than here, but we were wrong. I’ll be sharing so much more soon!

Hello New Zealand!

I just got back from a two week trip to New Zealand!

Though I’m still so jet-lagged (NZ is 16 hours ahead), I’m still riding high from this trip.

Ya’ll, I’ve never seen such a concentration of natural beautiful landscapes in my life. If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit films, you know what I’m talking about.

And in case you’re wondering, those rugged mountain landscapes, wild forests, and electric blue mountain lakes you’ve seen in pictures and movies are all REAL.

Here are some shots from gorgeous Waiheke Island, a quick 45 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

On this day, a wine tour called our names and we could’t have asked for a better day. Can you believe that ocean and greenery?

Incidentally, Waiheke island has its own special microclimate, so even though it’s early winter there, the temperatures stay mild year round. It was in the mid-60s and sunny while we were there.

The first stop on the wine tour was Casa Miro, where we tried so many delicious wines paired with special taste enhancers like a piece of cheese, a candied walnut, or olive spread on bread. Such a fun way to sample wines and I really wish more wineries did it this way. 

Tasting wine while gazing out at the ocean on the horizon. The vacation of my dreams…

This winery is a labor of love for the owner, a medical doctor by day, who grows grapes and runs this winery totally in his free time. He also has something of an obsession for Gaudi as you can see by his Guell Park inspired bar, which had us reminiscing about Barcelona.

We could’ve stayed here all day, but soon it was time for the second stop, Obsidian winery, a tiny place tucked away in the middle of nowhere on Waiheke.

It was here we got to chatting away with some friendly New Zealand ladies, who ended up giving us so many good “insider” recommendations for places to see and most importantly, restaurants to dine at. In fact, it was so fun and I got so into talking with them that I don’t even really remember the wines here.

When it was time to part ways, all four of the ladies gave me kisses on both cheeks ( I thought that was a French thing, but apparently, they do that in New Zealand too) I wasn’t expecting that, but I really do think it’s a nice custom.

The final stop was Te Motu Winery with its award winning restaurant, “The Shed”. This rustic winery was simple and beautiful and it was here that we stopped for lunch.

We feasted on lamb shoulder, sliced beef with mushrooms, roasted potatoes with tarragon aioli, bean and fennel salad, and a special dessert. 

This dessert was a “deconstructed” cheesecake made with kumara, which is the Maori word for pumpkin. It had a sort of autumn vibe to it, which struck me as odd in June, but then I remembered that the seasons are reversed here. In any case, I’ll be trying to recreate this at home.

All in all, the first day in New Zealand was spent gazing at the scenery, drinking wine, and enjoying these wineries. Perfect start to a fun trip.

And there’s so much more of it to share with you!