Saturday, July 23, 2016

A few good meals in Arlington

A quick trip to the D.C. area for work called for a few meals along the way, of course. We landed and headed for lunch in Arlington, VA at Kapnos Taverna, the chef was on Top Chef, Season 6. I had this amazing king salmon tartar with grilled avocado, cucumber, romaine and harissa vinaigrette.
A light, healthy lunch called for a cupcake and iced latte at Buzz Bakeshop, and the wifi to work our way through the afternoon. The smores cupcake looked so good and then I discovered it was full of fluffy marshmallow cream, so yummy!
After work, we walked to Water & Wall for a hand-crafted cocktail and some dinner. I had this interesting and delicious cocktail - The Oaxacan Dead (mezcal, grapefruit, ipa syrup, poblano, draft beer.
Since the weather has been so hot in KC and DC, a light and refreshing dinner of gazpacho and a tomato (cucumber, asian pear, yogurt, habanero, roasted corn) and watermelon salad with creme fraiche sounded perfect, and they were.
This summer has been a bit hectic, but it has inspired me with flavors - mostly making their way into homemade cocktails. I'm trying to eat at home, when I am home, which means I eat mostly fruits and veggies that are so fresh, they barely need any preparation. What have you been eating and cooking this summer? I'd love to hear and might even share a recipe or two that I've been enjoying in an upcoming post. Hope you're staying cool, wherever you are!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Austin: A few good meals

An early flight called for proper sustenance upon landing in Austin last week. The South Congress Cafe had me covered with a brunch menu served well into the afternoon. I enjoyed this delicious plate of huevos rancheros with fresh avocado and a yummy iced latte.
After a team-building yoga session at Practice Yoga Austin, dinner was served at Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya. I had the most amazing meal of tempura green beans with a cilantro miso aioli and sushi (amberjack, yellowtail, king salmon).
Lunch the next day was an unbelievably hot mile and a half round trip walk, but it was worth it. We left the comfort of the a/c for tortas at Austin Daily Press - thank goodness for the fresh squeezed Arnold Palmers! I had the Edward - edamame fritter, ginger peanut sauce, avocado, pickled peppers, cilantro and mint.
For dinner, I wandered down South Congress and found Perla's, an upscale seafood restaurant. Since the prices were slightly outside of my per diem, I opted for a fresh and spicy melon, pistachio and burrata salad and a side of oak grilled corn with serranos, cotija cheese and lime zest. I will definitely be back with a bigger budget and Brian in the future.
Say what you want about the cupcake craze going out of style, but no trip to Austin is complete for me without a stop at the Hey Cupcake! truck. And, of course, this trip was no exception. I enjoyed the double dose - chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream - one of the freshest cupcakes I've ever had, yum!

Thanks for stopping by, y'all!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Trip Planning Made Simple(r)

Over the years, my trip planning methods have included travel books read cover to cover, meticulous spreadsheets of activities and budgets, Yelp and OpenTable searches for the perfect restaurants, themed regional movie marathons, travel blog scouring (especially for our upcoming trip to Japan) and conversations with other travelers near and far. I've heard lots of people say that the planning part is half the fun, which in most cases, it is. However, sometimes you're lucky to just be getting away, let alone have the time to scheme and plan the perfect getaway. Which is why this new website I found, and am sharing with you now, is so great.

WhereFor allows you to enter in your budget, departure location + date, number of travelers and minimum hotel level you prefer (budget, standard, luxury) and will give you recommendations for flights and hotels that would fit your inputs. If you want a little more control, the Advanced feature even let's you set the geographic area to choose from (or the exact city you want to visit) and your general interest in a trip type (food, family, beaches, mountains, wine, nightlife, pet-friendly). While the budget you provide doesn't include meals, in-town transportation costs or admission fees to places you might visit, it's still a pretty terrific starting place for where your money might be able to take you.

Speaking of budgets, and I know they may sound like the least fun part of a trip, but when made in advance and split into monthly increments of what you should set aside, it makes returning home that much more fun. This is if you have done a good job of properly estimating how much you're really going to spend, which may require you keeping track along the way. (There are plenty of apps that can help you do this pretty painlessly.) Knowing that you spent money you already saved will help you extend your post-vacation glow a little longer. Hope you get to travel soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Side Trip to Nederland

We headed for Nederland, CO for dinner at Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse - it was so good! We started with Wood Fired Brussels Sprouts (polenta, pine nuts, balsamic, pecorino toscano) and a Caesar salad. We then had the Artichoke Fontina pizza (spinach, oregano, fontina, bechamel) and homemade ice cream - I had blueberry and Brian had the maple walnut.
After dinner, and picking up lunch for our hike the next day, we headed to Brian's aunt and uncle's cabin for the night.
We stopped into Salto Coffee Works for some java and pastries before heading up to the Roosevelt National Forest. I had a latte and a raspberry scone.
When we started our hike to Blue Lake, I said I wanted to see a moose. A mile in, this little guy crossed in front of us on the trail, along with another that passed by before I could pull out my phone. So cool - my first non-Maine moose!
The day was perfect for our 8-mile, roundtrip hike to Blue Lake (pictured at the bottom left). The temperature ranged between the mid-50's to the low 70's. As you can see, the snow had yet to melt in several places and the trail was quite muddy. With it being a holiday weekend, the trail was also pretty busy but it was a great hike.
There was a point along the trail where you had to cross a stream using some log bridges. Brian was trying to take my picture and a guy came along and offered to take one of both of us.
This was the scenery in front of the log, just beautiful. We finished our hike, stopped for some Colorado beers and ciders to take home (the novelty of driving vs. flying!) and headed back to Brian's grandparent's house for dinner. It was a wonderful day, and a great week exploring Colorado for work and pleasure. Thanks for following along!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Exploring Estes Park

On Saturday we drove up to Estes Park to see Brian's brother, sister-in-law and nephews, along with some mutual friends from Kansas City. We all happened to be in Colorado at the same time, so we met up for a day of hiking and picnicking in Rocky Mountain National Park. We walked on (and off) the Sprague Lake trail with five kiddos and six adults. The weather was a bit overcast at times but the rain held off until after lunch when we were headed out of the park.
Brian's brother, Andrew, took better photos of us but I liked this one the most.
Thanks to Andrew's Apple Watch, we were able to get the whole crew into one shot - actually there were several shots but one of the silly ones made the cut. We all went back to the cabin and visited for the rest of the afternoon, after a stop at Kind Coffee. And then, it was time for Brian and me to leave for our final stop in Colorado, which I'll share tomorrow. Thanks for checking in!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Eating Denver, Boulder and Erie

The last day of the conference (Wednesday), my co-worker and I met up for breakfast at Sam's No. 3. The menu was gigantic but I was able to settle on a short stack of pancakes with fresh strawberries and bananas pretty easily. They were really good!
Brian drove out to Denver from Kansas City to meet me for an extended weekend. We kicked off our mini-vacation with dinner at Rioja on Larimer Street. The lighting was a little hard, but nonetheless, clockwise from upper left: the ceviche special; fines herbes gnocchi butter poached lobster, saffron-fennel compote, asparagus, lobster nage; fresh sugared mint leaves; variations of chocolate dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate mousse, gianduja mousse, hand painted white chocolate, chocolate miroir, candied hazelnuts; knife and fork salad bibb lettuce, pea shoots, fava beans, shoestring potatoes, caciocavallo affumicato cheese, yuzu vinaigrette; lemon quencher house-made limoncello, gin, ginger ale, cava. We left stuffed and happy and headed to Brian's grandparent's house in Broomfield, CO.
Thursday we laid low and went for walks and took naps - the perfect way to start a vacation! On Friday, Brian and I headed to Boulder, CO to explore the Pearl Street Mall - an outdoor shopping area. Brian got a massage to recover from the long drive and we wandered around the shops and watched some of the many street performers, you can check out my Instagram to watch what happened with the pole in the bottom right corner.

For lunch, we went to West Flanders Brewing Company. I had a delicious ginger cider by C Squared Brewery - I didn't make the ginger connection until after I saw the bottle, too funny. We shared the pretzel bites which came with stone ground mustard and homemade beer cheese. I had the Ferment plate of the day which was a collection of pickled fruits and veggies including coffee'd beets, bourbon jalapenos, champagne-mint cantaloupe and bread + butter pickles. It was good but eventually was way too much vinegar for one sitting.
We headed back from Boulder just in time for another great meal - this one with Brian's grandparents at 24 Carrot Bistro in downtown Erie, CO. The downtown was having a block party so we parked and walked in through the locals setting up for their festival. We enjoyed a drink - mine a Bull's Blood (pisco, organic beet juice, cabernet, cointreau, peppercorn syrup, orange oil), middle right photo. I started with the calamari, which was delicious, and then moved onto the seared ahi (sweet potato & poblano hash, grilled asparagus, lime beurre blanc, cilantro) for my main. Brian and I shared the "liberty cup" (berries, fresh whipped cream, cookie cup, vanilla custard) for dessert.

Tomorrow we're off to Estes Park for some hiking and mountain photos - so you can see that I do more than just eat my way around the world. Thanks for stopping in and have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!