Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Rest of Costa Rica

After waffles, Sunday was a lazy day spent by the pool, enjoying the animals around the property and a massage at the on-site spa.
Our second meal at Ostra (I spared Brian one meal without picture taking) was just as delicious as I remembered from last year. The chef's signature tuna ceviche was impeccable, the cucumber/tofu gazpacho refreshing, the salmon delightful and the 60/80 chocolate dessert with orange sorbet amazing.
Of course, the highlight of Sunday was watching the Kansas City Royals clinch the World Series!! We did our best to celebrate from afar.
On Monday we rented a car and drove down to Tamarindo (which is where I first visited in Costa Rica for a surf camp with my friend Stef) for some shopping and beach-going (middle photos). It was as beautiful as I remembered but has developed a lot since I'd last visited. We also went to Playa Avellana (pictured top and bottom), which was an interesting dirt-road drive and great for surfer watching.
Tuesday was our last full day and we spent it by the pool - swimming, reading, beer drinking perfection. We had the adults-only pool to ourselves all day and then walked down to the beach for a little while. After showers, we went to our one scheduled activity for the day - an arepas cooking class. Just corn flour, water and salt, we made a bunch and the cook fried them up and served them with fresh guacamole and pico. The chef was impressed with Brian's perfectionist technique and asked if he cooked at home. They weren't too bad but we made enough for a small army.
It was a wonderful trip, full of lots of relaxing. Pura Vida! Thanks for stopping by and hope you find yourself relaxing somewhere soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chilling in Costa Rica

If you know me, you'd know that I rarely visit the same place more than once, unless the place contains people I love. While Costa Rica lacks any people I know personally, it is full of wonderful people, food, scenery, and animals with an undercurrent of calm. Nothing is hurried, you just let go and see where each day takes you. My last trip a year ago was solo, but this time around Brian Beard came along, so we stayed at the same resort so he could see it too. Since I have been too busy relaxing, I bring you half the week in review today.

Sights from around the resort: a coati on our balcony (who we've also observed stealing sugar packets from the breakfast tables in the morning), Brian in the pool, Costa Rican sashimi - tuna and fresh mango, and a plumeria bush.
On Friday morning we waited a while for our ATV tour guide to pick us up at the hotel. Then they told us that the tour had been booked for a different day but that they were on their way and we'd still go, 90 minutes later than planned. As an apology, they offered to buy us lunch after our tour at a 'soda'.

Our tour was a lot of fun, we rode through villages, rivers and back alleys. While we didn't get as dirty as the brochure indicated, I still had a smudged face when we were done. We headed to lunch after two hours of riding, and had a delicious meal of local fare. It started pouring on the little tin shack when we were about halfway through our meal. During a small break in the rain, we made a mad dash to the car and were driven back to the hotel.
That evening, we took a mixology class. The bartender explained all elements of making drinks and each person presented a cocktail selection of their choice and he showed them how they could change some of the main ingredients to make something else they might like. Shockingly, I made my own suggestion to make a blackberry/basil/black pepper mojito and he went along with it. Brian made a variation of a Manhattan.
Saturday was wide open for fun and relaxation. We played in the pool and lounged on the beach, took pictures of hermit crabs, and ate yummy tomato/cucumber salads.

Saturday was also Halloween, which isn't really celebrated here but they make an effort for the tourists. I enjoyed the pine-o-lantern (one of many cute decorations at the bar) and the custom cocktail menu, featuring libations that had dry ice in the bottom. As we walked to dinner, we watched the monkeys swinging in the shadows overhead, which is what I am pointing to in the upper right-hand corner.
Watching the sun set over the cove - the colors are unreal.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Eatin Dallas

We went to Dallas last weekend for our annual Labor Day weekend visit-the-nephews trip. They are three and almost-two years old. Both of them are blond and spirited. We like seeing them regularly so we can have a good aunt and uncle bond with them - not having to be reminded who we are at each visit. It's also nice to spend time with their parents too, Brian's middle brother and his wife - the whole family pictured above.
After a morning visit, we headed to Whiskey Cake in Plano for lunch. Our youngest nephew fell asleep in the car and slept through most of the meal - he's nice and snuggley when he's sleeping. We had delicious cocktails - my Texas Bluebonnet is in front of me (blueberry infused veev acai spirit, lemon, egg white, prosecco). Sarah, my sister-in-law, and I shared the citrus & watermelon salad and the Texas gulf shrimp grain bowl - both were incredible.
We all shared this giant piece of signature whiskey cake for dessert (this photo does not accurately represent size) and rolled out of there.
I swear we did more than eat all weekend, but playing Legos, reading books and playing in the park is a little more hands-on and a little less snapping photos every two seconds, like I am conditioned to do at mealtimes.

For Sunday brunch, we met Andrew, Brian's brother, and the boys at Buzzbrews (the original location). I had the veggie veggie (two wheat tortillas filled with crumbled veggie sausage, tossed with scrambled eggs, melted cheddar and mozzarella; served with garlic marbles, pico and a whole jalapeno) and a delicious vanilla latte with cinnamon on top.

After church and a drive to Fort Worth, we hit an outdoor food truck court (not pictured) and Melt Ice Creams for a tasty treat. I had the boozy buccaneer ice cream (pineapple cinnamon rum caramel).
Our last night in Dallas, Brian and I went out for a date at Blue Sushi Sake Grill. It was SO good! Clockwise from top left we had the: yellowtail serrano sashimi, Pacific rim martini, chocolate springroll with raspberry ice cream, and the crunchy L.A. roll, toro salmon, the roja roll and tuna nigiri. If you are ever in Dallas, you need to check this place out. Great happy hour specials, friendly staff and yummy food - a great combo!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Finding What You Need

In a recent issue of GOOD magazine, I poured over an entrancing photo essay by a photographer who took pictures of the way his hotel rooms looked when he checked in and the view outside his window. While I can't locate my copy (yes, I love old school paper versions of magazines), I did copy his style of my recent hotel room in St. Louis at the Hyatt by the Arch. Especially since it was a good one and I remembered before messing up the bed.
The weather was perfect the full four days I was in town - like in the 70's perfect. I had to find a couple of patios to enjoy the sunshine and the temperature. My first find was Three Sixty at the top of the Hilton at the Ballpark. The views were incredible, although the safety glass made it difficult to capture anything worth sharing here. I had a cocktail (a Been There Done That) and the crispy fish tacos - both were delicious!
My second patio find also came a couple of days later with a side of nostalgia. Peacemaker Restaurant was like walking down the sidewalk in my hometown, except for the chives in the lobster roll. I even had a blueberry wheat Sea Dog Brewing Co. beer in a can! The albacore crudo, while not something I remember from my childhood in Maine, was to die for -- the odd combination of jalapenos and smashed Corn Nuts on top just right.

The lobster roll, while flecked with a cousin of an onion (I HATE onions), had the most delicious housed-baked hot dog bun than more than made up for it. I somehow found room for a tart slice of lemon meringue pie that had a creamy, almost marhmallow-y, meringue on top, because there's always room for dessert. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Napa - Day 3

Okay, technically this was the end of Day 2, but I was saving this for today's post. On my birthday eve, we ate at Morimoto - Napa. If you are a scholar of my blog (which I realize is probably just me), you may remember another post about the original Iron Chef's restaurant in Mumbai a year and a half ago, you can read it here. I love Japanese food, so when I saw that he had a new restaurant in Napa, I had to try it and share it with Brian, who wasn't there the first time.

This meal, although very different from my first experience, was very good and laid back. We had delicious cocktails (I traded Brian for his - I like whiskey, what can I say?), yummy himachi tacos, a tempura calamari and quinoa salad, amazing sashimi - yellowtail, o-toro tuna, and salmon, and a trio of light sorbets - lavender peach, plum, and raspberry basil.
For my birthday breakfast, we headed back downtown to Model Bakery, which has the cutest sign of succulents (don't you think?). My veggie breakfast sandwich was to die for, as was my Blue Bottle Coffee latte and a shared cinnamon twist. Definitely a "must visit" if you're in Napa.
The last stop on our Napa adventure was the organic, dry vineyard, Frog's Leap Winery. I wanted to move into the house that was built for tastings, offices and retail - it was like walking into a Restoration Hardware, only a house version. We had a lovely tour guide who told us about all the thoughtful ways the owner takes care of and celebrates the staff. The owner's dog walked the tour route with us as we tasted five wines along the way.

Since they don't water the grapes, they are smaller and the wine produced is very drinkable. The best part about this place is that they distribute to all 50 states in the U.S., so we can all buy a bottle, or two. They have a lovely chardonnay, which is only aged in oak barrels for 7-10 days and has a very light oak flavor. Thanks for checking out my latest adventure!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Napa - Day 2

The owners of the loft we're staying in recommended Ritual Coffee Roasters for breakfast, but they didn't mention that it was inside the Oxbow Public Market which is chock full of gourmet food and shops. In addition to a delicious latte from Ritual, I also enjoyed a strawberry almond waffle from Five Dot Ranch and Cookhouse, amazing!
Next up was the rose tasting at Domaine Chandon, if only every morning could start this way. The property was beautiful, the tour guide knowledgeable, and the sparkling wine delicious.
We then headed to Chef Thomas Keller's original Bouchon Bakery for some yummy macarons - mocha, chocolate and pina colada. Probably not the best lunch, but we were celebrating my birthday eve!
After some amazing nachos from La Luna (not pictured), we headed to the Francis Ford Coppola-owned winery, Inglenook. The history of this property is quite fascinating - you can read about it on their website - and the scenery is beautiful. We enjoyed a guided tour and an estate tasting of four wines paired with cheeses. There is also a museum onsite which houses many of Coppola's cameras and other artifacts from the last 135 years of the winery.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Napa - Day 1

We turned my cousin Mike's wedding weekend into a anniversary/birthday trip and headed to Napa after the nuptials in Sacramento. We headed to Reynolds Family Winery first. It was a quiet and beautiful setting for a private tasting. We sat with a guy who explained all the wines and the sourcing of the grapes.
After a quick lunch, we headed to the Regusci Winery, a fourth-generation family ranch and winery. Our favorite wine here was the Patriarch, but there were so many other beautiful things about the property, that I didn't get a picture of that. Greeting you was a sun-dappled, self-service farm stand and a golden retriever lounged on the stairs up to the main tasting room. Out on the veranda, the view of the vines and the hills was peaceful. The centerpiece of flowers attracted bees and butterflies as we sipped wine and nibbled chocolate truffles.

The property is the third oldest in the region and we were allowed to peek inside the cellar. It was refreshing and cold inside. If you're ever in Napa, this place should definitely be on your list!
As with most spa experiences, it's hard to take pictures without risking the safety of my phone and/or people's privacy. After our second winery, we headed north to the Golden Haven Hot Springs in Calistoga for a mud bath and massage. Warning that this might gross you out, the mud bath experience was like climbing into a concrete bathtub full of 103 degree cow manure. It smelled slightly better than that, and was actually a mud, peat moss and mineral water mixture, but it was bizarre. We cracked up laughing as we tried to sink ourselves in the porridge.

After we rinsed off with a garden hose shower, we had a jacuzzi in the mineral water, a hot towel-induced nap in a dark room and a half-hour massage. It was worth the trip but we agree that we probably wouldn't do it again.
We finished off our day with a delicious meal at Mustards Grill. Although everything was delicious, as the menu warned it would be, the calamari and the heirloom tomato starters stole the show. I also had the halibut special and finished the meal off with a double butterscotch pot de creme. We rolled out of there tired and happy to our Airbnb loft.