2016: My Year in Review

2016 was full of changes and adventures. I’m not going to write about the losses of the past year (ie Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, to name a few), nor will I talk about our president-elect, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Instead, I want to review, mainly for myself, the amazing things I was able to do because of the life I’m lucky enough to have.

So, here goes…

I started off the year living in my parents’ basement while getting my affairs in order for a great upheaval of my life, that would include putting most of my belongings in storage and heading to Minneapolis, MN for a travel contract job. I’m now self-employed and, though that causes stress at times, it allows me the freedom and flexibility to go on month-long adventures without anyone telling me I don’t have the vacation time to use. It’s lovely.

With that freedom, I spent 3 weeks traveling around the US with Kathryn Budig supporting the release of her 2nd book, Aim True.

fullsizeoutput_f6d

I took a month off and traveled to Western Australia (Perth, Yallingup, and Margaret River), Cambodia, and Vietnam with my platonic life partner of Burning Man and Iceland “fame.”

I saw kangaroos in the wild, which is like seeing deer in the US, but to me it was AWESOME!

IMG_1714

 

I saw some of the most stunning wine country in Margaret River.

IMG_1663

IMG_1703

 

I visited Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in Siem Reap.

 

img_1915

 

I kayaked and sailed around Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

img_2080

 

As if that isn’t enough, I was one of the extraordinarily lucky people to have seen (mostly) the original cast of Hamliton: An American Musical on Broadway. This “luck” was due to the well-connectedness and generosity of my friend Kate Fagan. Seeing Hamilton was not just a highlight of the year, but of my life, I think. Look at our seats! I mean, feel free to hate me…

 

I made my first visit to Duluth and Lake Superior with my lovely friend Becka and, all I can say is that it’s totally worth the trip. If you’re looking for a charming B&B in a great location, look no farther than Solglimt.

More Lake Superior vistas…

 

No travel list is complete without a little exertion and effort… to that end, I took a backpacking trip with fabulous friends to and around Havasu Falls (shout out to the super company Wildland Trekking). I highly recommend the trip and definitely the trekking company. If Dara Kelly happens to be your guide, you’ve won the lotto.

 

After close to 40 years, my parents left the state of Virginia, rendering me somewhat homeless officially nomadic. The upside is that I’ve been calling the frozen tundra of Minneapolis “home” and my ‘rents moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, which, as it turns out, is so charming and lovely… and is a nice warm free escape from the Minnesota winter.

 

In addition to travel, I had the great fortune to dine at some of the best restaurants in the country. If you love food as much as I do, this was a highlight.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~Virginia Woolf

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” ~Julia Child

My list includes St Genevieve, Corner Table, and Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, Pineapple and Pearls and Rose’s Luxury in Washington, DC, and Giant and Alinea in Chicago.

If I learned anything about my dining preferences, it’s that I’ll take delicious, casual, and friendly over fancy ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Because of that, my favorite restaurant experience was Rose’s Luxury x 2, with Giant coming in second place. Though Giant’s food was every bit as fabulous as Rose’s, they didn’t serve up happiness as well–part of Aaron Silverman’s (the chef and owner of Rose’s Luxury) goal is to make people happy and if you aren’t happy at Rose’s, you’re the problem… no matter how long you waited to get in. 

I’m also obsessed with Corner Table and St Genevieve in my newly adopted home of Minneapolis. The wine guy, Nick Rancone (and co-owner), of Corner Table seriously impresses me with his truly unique pairings, which go so well with the positively scrumptious food of chef Thomas Boemer. St Genevieve is a charming French bistro style restaurant with delicious food and a top notch champagne selection (my reason for existing).

Here are some photos from a few of these places:

Alinea

 

Rose’s Luxury

So fabulous you may just lick your plate and worth a possible 2 hour wait (made easier with bourbon in a purse). They may say “fuck perfect,” but they’re pretty fucking perfect.

 

Pineapple and Pearls

Rose’s Luxury’s  2 Michelin-starred, fancier (and not as good, in my opinion) sister.

 

Needless to say, I’ve had a great year, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the heartbreaking loss of my beloved Bailey–the cutest, sassiest, most easy-going corgi in the world. We went through life side by side for more than 15 years and he crossed the rainbow bridge on October 6, 2016. Cheers to you, sweet Bailey! I miss you terribly.

img_1831

Bring it, 2017!

My Continuing Love Affair with Minneapolis

I’m here to tell you that Minneapolis is an AMAZING city!!

Travel is my passion. Whether it be to lounge on a gorgeous beach and do nothing, hike to some secluded destination, eat my way across France, do yoga while peering into Santorini’s caldera, or jump off a bridge in New Zealand, I’m in. I don’t claim to be the most well-traveled person out there, but I’ve done my fair share of exploring. With that in mind, I want the world to know that Minneapolis (and St Paul, for that matter) is winning me over with each passing meal. And each street festival. And each walk around a lake. And each wonderful person I meet. The city has just enough hipsters, just enough trendy people, just enough tattoos to make me feel at home, all the while being friendly, gorgeous, clean, and full of fantastic activities. I may never leave. Seriously. Yeah, yeah, I know I haven’t lived through a winter, but that’s the beauty of being an independent contractor–I’m pretty sure I could take off one week a month to go somewhere warm, but I digress.

My platonic soulmate/life-partner-who-lives-on-the-other-side-of-the-earth/travel mate (See here, here, and here for prior adventures) came for a visit and left “loving it large,” as he’s known to say. We checked out a festival called Art a whirl

 

IMG_1256

Also a rosé tasting event (my second since coming to the Twin Cities), put on by my new favorite wine shop–Cork Dork–but held at Italian Eatery.

Basically our friendship revolves around laughter and booze.

IMG_1237

We even ventured over to a St Paul Saints game. The stadium is great and we had a fabulous time.

IMG_1209

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and a few other adventures, and although I was getting over a deathly illness, I found myself at yet another festival called Northern Spark. This one started with the launch party in the ruins of an old flour mill on the most gorgeous night.

IMG_1362

They had a great jazz hip hop band called Doks Robotiks, small bites from several local restaurants, and (of course) a bar.

IMG_1340

After the party, the festival opens and runs all night. It was full of really cool stuff and really weird stuff that, collectively, add to the splendor that is this city.

 

My first stint here is about to come to an end, yet I love it so much I will be returning in August. I even went from a complete lack of interest in riding a bike to feeling like I MUST own one to ride around the Twin Cities. I mean, look at what it’s like…

My trip to Western Australia, Cambodia, and Vietnam is up next, but in all honesty, I’ll be ever-so-slightly missing Minnesota while I travel.

I’ll leave you with a little collage from pride weekend:

Minneapolis, I totally heart you!

Minneapolis restaurants. Oh, the restaurants!

I came here with exactly 1 friend in the Twin Cities. That beautiful woman has managed to see me about 10 times already, despite the fact that she has a toddler, infant twins, and works full-time. At the recommendation of my amazing friend and her husband, my mom and I made reservations at Spoon and Stable. I have since found out that we were incredibly lucky to get said reservation since most people book weeks in advance. It was either meant to be or someone cancelled at the last minute–probably the latter, but the end result was the same.

I’ve lived in some foodie havens–New York City, Charleston, SC, even Washington, DC is catching up–but I am so impressed with what Minneapolis/St. Paul has to offer. Like, seriously impressed.

Everything about Spoon and Stable makes it worth the trip. Each morsel that touched my lips was delicious. The One of the most important things to me about a meal is the wine that accompanies it, and they have many great options, as well as craft cocktails.

The restaurant is truly beautiful and has top notch service. I am anxiously awaiting my opportunity to return.

IMG_1136

IMG_1147

IMG_1144

delicious endive salad

IMG_1132

my pot roast was so good I forgot to take a picture

IMG_1133

for “special” occasions there is cotton candy

 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Spoon and Stable, but I really LOVED Corner Table. I’m on a constant mission for restaurants that can be my place–ones in which I can go frequently and kind of be known. Corner Table is definitely more that than Spoon and Stable. It’s neighborhood-y, friendly, and completely fabulous. Unfortunately, I have no photos of my trip there, but I shall snap some on my next visit… and there will be many more visits. When I went, we asked one of the owners to pick our courses and pair the wine. OMG, was it fabulous! Not all of the wine pairings were what you’d traditionally receive. For instance, he paired a lamb dumpling with a really funky white wine (versus a red that you may expect with lamb) and it was glorious perfection. If I lived in their neighborhood, my waistline and wallet would be in big, big trouble.

You need reservations (unless going at some odd time and hedging your bets), so plan ahead. I have so many restaurants left to try, so bear with me. As of now, I absolutely love this place!

 

**Online dating update: The 1 guy, out of 4, that I liked, that I didn’t hear from after meeting, finally did reach out…

I’ll leave you with a pre-debauchery photo of my friend and me at the Solo Vino wine tasting event in St Paul.

aforementioned beautiful friend at the Solo Vino Rosé tasting

Minneapolis, City of Lakes

It’s been a long time since my last post and, like with most tasks, the larger-looming the more likely I am to procrastinate. So, instead of posting chronologically, I’m going out of order and jumping right into Minneapolis–my current residence. I’ve been living here for a little more than 3 weeks and although it has rained an awful lot, she’s really shown me a lovely side.

I arrived the day after Prince died, which sucks on several levels. The first being that I was just sure he and I would become friends and I would get to attend all the Paisley Park parties. So, for that reason, and that we lost yet another musical genius it was quite sad. Most people loved Prince, but the people of Minnesota, particularly the greater Twin Cities area, really loved him; he was one of them–having grown up and continued to maintain a residence here.

Naturally, I went to Paisley Park to pay my respects to the artist known once again as Prince.

Since my little rental cottage was not yet available, I spent my first night at an absolutely lovely hotel downtown called The Ivy.  Upon arrival, Bailey (my scrumptiously cute corgi) was greeted with a plush bed and bowls already in our room.

IMG_1074

If you want to win over a dog person, suck up to her dog.

We had drinks and delicious snacks in the hotel at Constantine Bar–the decor, ambiance, and abundance of real candles everywhere makes it worth checking out. The food, though really good, is definitely bar fare and not the best option if looking for something remotely healthy… like us after 2 days of the junk that a road trip provides.

Prince’s music was the only thing in the rotation for the evening and there was a small altar set for him. In the immortal words of Vivian (aka Julia Roberts), “Don’t ya just love Prince?” More than life itself, Vivian, more than life itself.

IMG_1097

IMG_1095

 

I’ve started drinking eating my way through the Twin Cities and I have several restaurant recommendations coming your way. Stay tuned.

If you’ve been considering a trip to this part of the world and are a foodie, into biking, water (lake-type) activities, enjoy being outside (this time of year, anyway) and men with beards, you should definitely come here. Even though it’s 46 degrees right now, and 75 back in my native land of Virginia, I love it.

 

**Online Dating Update**

Just so my millions handful of followers can have a good chuckle, my aforementioned plan to “online date the shit out of the Twin Cities” has been quite amusing so far. I came here as an online dating virgin and decided to jump in with both feet. I’ve had a profile in the past, but have always been able to talk myself out of going out with anyone who contacted me. I’ve had 3 dates so far… 1 was terrible and I actually think I hate him, 1 was bad and lasted WAY too long, and 1 was good. 1 out of 3 isn’t so bad except the one that was decent never contacted me again. Perhaps my comment about our next meeting being somewhere with booze led him to believe I drink too much. Oh well, it’s probably for the best. I spent no less than 3 hours with any of these guys, so I’ve learned that I truly can talk to anyone, my instincts are usually correct, and online dating is exhausting.

To close, I’d like to leave you with a picture of Bailey in his new wheels (my guy likes to be out and about, but can only walk a block or two at his advanced age).

IMG_1139

 

 

Rose’s Luxury IS all it’s cracked up to be

There’s nothing like a lot of hype to ruin an experience–be it a movie, restaurant, or a helicopter ride over Kauai. That is not, however, what I experienced at Rose’s Luxury the other night.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing about Rose’s (a fabulous and critically acclaimed restaurant in Washington, D.C.). Bon Appétit wrote about it (here) and it’s been open since 2014. Bearing that in mind, my experience was so fabulous that I just HAVE to say something.

Aaron Silverman, the owner, strives to, and fully achieves, his goal of providing fabulous food and happiness–yes, happiness–to his patrons. The combination of delectable cuisine, ambiance, top-notch service, and great music really does promote happiness. Everything about Rose’s is cozy and comfortable and joy-inducing.

Reservations are possible for groups of 6 or more (plus a private, rooftop, price-fixed option for 10), but most diners show up and wait in line. My friends and I came from the suburbs and were NOT going to mess up our opportunity, so we arrived at 3:10, and were the first ones in line (cue jazz hands). Two nameless members of our 5 person group tend to be anxious in these situations and, therefore, opted to stay in the yet to form line while the others went to a nearby bar. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t suffer…there was Jameson in my HydroFlask, and it was a gorgeous day for standing outside, dreaming of what was to come… in approximately 2 hours.

 

Yes, the entire block is also waiting to get in

Shortly after 5, the doors opened, we were warmly greeted, and shown to our table. As a group of serious eaters, we ordered every item on the menu and could not have been happier. Seriously.

Rose’s is the thing of which foodie dreams are made. Though the prices are quite reasonable, what really drove up our bill (despite ordering the entire menu) were the 2 bottles of wine from the premium list. SO WORTH IT, by the way! Our server recommended a white Burgundy that was fabulous and complimented the food perfectly.

I’m not going to describe all the food as I truly believe that, with the guidance of the staff, you cannot go wrong. Everything is delicious, but there are 2 things that have sort of become their signature dishes, remaining on the menu since the beginning–the pork sausage, habanero, peanuts and lychee salad and the family style brisket with white bread, horseradish, and slaw–so if you’re a meat-eater, order them both and maybe throw in the citrus salad as well for something on the lighter side. With the exception of the veal (for moral reasons), I would eat everything on the menu again and again and again.

Since I left, I can’t stop thinking about when I’ll return. It’s worth the line. It’s worth the wait. It’s worth everything. GO!

 

Happiness courtesy of Rose’s

**They are opening a fine dining restaurant next door called Pineapple and Pearls. You make a reservation up to 4 weeks in advance and pay $250 per person, including alcohol and gratuity. P and P is currently open as a coffee bar but I’m eager to try that restaurant based on how much I loved Rose’s.

For additional DC spots and tourism info, look here.