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.

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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!

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

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

 

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I kayaked and sailed around Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

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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:

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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.

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Bring it, 2017!

The Beauty of Western Australia

So, yeah, I’ve been embarrassingly lax about posting lately. Of course, I have many excuses involving travel without a computer (it’s hard to write a blog on a phone), jet lag, work, illness, and romance.Β  But I’m back now and better late than never, right?

The first of my adventures on the other side of the world was in Western Australia, home to my travel soulmate who you’ll know from many posts past (see here, here, here, and here).

After 33 hours, I landed in the beautiful city of Perth, WA, was scooped up by Sava and whisked to Fremantle for brunch and bloody marys at Bib and Tucker. I was a bit dazed and have zero pictures, but it’s right on the beach, totally lovely, and has yummy breakie.

We walked around Fremantle and despite my haze, I did take a photo of a cool old hotel.

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In an effort to kick jet lag’s ass, we stayed out most of the day and walked through King’s Park in Perth next. It was such a gorgeous day to take in the views.

 

This trip was prompted by the fact that Kathryn Budig would be making her maiden voyage to Perth to teach a weekend of yoga workshops. Many of my trips have been instigated by Kathryn and her travel schedule, and I’ve acquired a few lovely friends who live in WA, so I jumped at the opportunity to go.

 

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sometimes she makes me demo (please note the 3 layers of shirts as they aren’t all fat rolls)

 

Once Kathryn’s work was done, we headed south toΒ Smith’s Beach Resort for some R & R, with a side of wine tasting. The views from our rented condo were quite stunning.

 

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a few of my favorite things: bubbles and beautiful views

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Now, my friends in Napa and Sonoma may revoke my card for saying this, but the Margaret River wine region may be one of the most beautiful wine countries I’ve ever seen (of California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Chile). Perhaps it’s just that the landscape and flora are so different, or maybe the hundreds of kangaroos swayed me. I don’t know.

We visited Wills Domain, Clairault, and Vasse Felix and I truly cannot say which was the most beautiful.

 

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Fabulous wine and delicious lunch (Aussie sandwich not on the menu) at Clairault.

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Aussie sandwich at Clairault

 

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A Wills Domain vista

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Though my wine heart will always belong to California, Australia has certainly found its way in as well. I guess I’ll have to plan another trip to visit my Perth friends… in the summer, they tell me.

I’ll leave you with this bit of humor…

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Time spent in wine country often has it’s price, but when your girl needs her B12 shot, you rise above your hangover illness, put your metaphorical nurse hat on, and help.

Stay tuned for Cambodia and Vietnam!

 

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 AppΓ©tit 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.

My Ideal Day in Napa

Anyone can tell you to go to Opus One and The French Laundry. I certainly do not discourage that, but it’s not what I’m going to do. Places like Caymus and Opus One make great wines. In my opinion though, the soul of Napa and is in the smaller, boutique winery, many of which do not have tasting rooms. So here’s my favorite mix.

I like to stay in downtown Napa when I head west–it’s quaint, walkable, and has many eating and drinking options. La Casita Bonita is an adorable little cottage where I’ve stayed several times. On my most recent trip, I stayed at The Westin and loved it! They have a salt water pool and it’s within walking distance of my favorite Napa haunts.

Without further adieu, here is my ideal day, or two:

From the Westin, the Oxbow Public Market is a short walk away and filled with goodies. As a gluten free person (I know, I know, but I do have good reasons), I can grab a positively scrumptious breakfast sandwich from Cate and Co. Bakery and a perfect chemex brew from Ritual Coffee.

What could possibly come after a nice breakfast and caffeine? Well, sparkling wine, of course…

I celebrate days that end in “y” with sparkling and Mumm Napa is definitely one of my happy places. For starters, it’s picturesque and stunning, but it also has delicious bubbles and a charming gift shop, full of knickknacks for the taking.

ahh, Mumm

ahh, Mumm

Next, head over to Palmaz Vineyards to explore their beautiful property. Built into the side of a mountain, the unique winery is also partly underground/in the hillside. The wines are never pumped, but propelled by gravity all the way through to bottling, so as not to bruise the wine. It’s pricey to tour/taste and even pricier to buy, but those wines sure are delicious! A gigantic cab sauv is good right out of the bottle. Seriously.

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While I adore the idyllic setting of a vineyard, I’m also a fan of the tasting room. They introduce you to wines you may not otherwise discover and have such variety from which to choose, all while sitting in one spot. My absolute favorite wine expert in Napa is Andy Renda at The Wine Thief–also conveniently located across from Oxbow and down the street from the Westin. Andy is beyond knowledgeable AND fun. The Wine Thief is a new business and isn’t it human nature to enjoy saying, “I went before it was famous.”?

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one of the private tasting rooms at The Wine Thief

one of the private tasting rooms at The Wine Thief

If you’d like to get the most bang for your buck (and have an idea what you’ll be eating), take a bottle of wine and bring it to dinner with you. Many restaurants have a reasonable corkage fee, so bringing wine saves you the massive up-charge.

Dinner options:

Kitchen Door– back to the wonderful Oxbow Market for this casual, delicious, and beautifully affordable restaurant. When in Napa, the wine seems to flow, making driving an unfortunate experience, so I LOVE a walkable option.

Angele– again, walking distance from my beloved Westin and more white table cloth than Kitchen Door. Amazing food, great ambiance, quaint location. Oh, and white table cloths.

Ad Hoc– another favorite, not walking distance, but located in beautiful Yountville (yes, Napa has Uber). This is another of Thomas Keller’s wonderful restaurants, but more casual and MUUUUCH cheaper than The French Laundry. Ad Hoc is a family style restaurant that serves one entree each night. I’ve been 3 times and have yet to be disappointed. I believe Monday is still fried chicken night… perhaps, don’t go that night, for you can go to Addendum Thursday thru Saturday 11 am – 2 pm for boxed lunches of either fried chicken, pork ribs, or pulled pork. The fried chicken is ah-mazing! Side note: the last time I dined at Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller did as well.

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*I get nothing for recommending these places, but would be happy to receive freebies*