Sunday, August 29, 2010

days of contrasts

Almost every morning I wake up with yoga. When I can, I pair it with Exhale Core Fusion Pilates Plus. When I can't, I follow it with some brewing coffee. Afterwards, I make my bed, get dressed and prettified (you know it's a word), and have breakfast. It's always oatmeal, banana, almond butter, and, then, if I'm lucky, berries. Raspberries are my favorite. The only exception is a vegetable omelette with buttered toast, like this past Saturday's brunch, for instance. I don't hold myself to this habitual routine for any other reason other than the fact that it works for me. In another week, however, I have no idea what my AM routine will look like, and it will probably change each and every morning. 
My days are usually undefined. In the past they contained class schedules and working hours. For the next seven days they will be filled with last minute cleaning, pending errands, and intelligent packing sessions. And in the weeks that follow? More concrete planning is in the works, but for now: driving, walking through downtowns, driving, cultural venue exploring, driving, museum-hopping, sightseeing, driving, making new friends, and more driving. There will be a few local cuisine tastings too, you can count on that. 
Assuming that you're interested, here's the most updated Road Trip USA list: Philadelphia, Raleigh, Savannah, Montgomery, New Orleans, San Antonio, Salina, Oklahoma City, Denver, Santa Fe, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Eureka, Portland, Seattle, Coeur D'Alene, Bozeman, Rapid City, Sioux City, Madison, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. Please let me know if you're going to be out and about at any point along the way!
If I could, I'd end each day with either wine or chocolate... or possibly both. That's not always the case though. When the evening is preceded by a day an afternoon of beer, for example, I willingly pass. (Somebody please tell me those kinds of days occur following college graduation). Then again, when I make happy hour plans with an old friend, a rare but much appreciated mixed drink is preferred. What you see above is a Leninade (citrus vodka, lemon juice & fresh mint) from Pravda, a sophisticated underground Russian bar.
I've never claimed to be perfect. I'm not. I do like to eat healthfully and exercise regularly but that doesn't necessarily translate to my daily reality. I savor my independence but letting go scares the s*** out of me. I've prepared myself quite well for a successful career but I have doubts about how ready I am to have a real job. I thoroughly enjoy wine and chocolate (and good beer and quality liquors) but I don't always consume them for the taste. I am excited and unnerved by the wide, open road ahead of me (literally and figuratively). And yet, I wake up each day with high hopes for what's to come. My smile may not always be authentic but my optimism sure is. We're hitting the road, jacks, and we're hitting it soon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

quirky through and through

Good morning afternoon all! It's been a while, hasn't it? I was tying up loose ends at Quirky HQ, the amazing place I've been interning for the past three months. On average, it has taken me at least 10-15 minutes to explain, in-person, what exactly I did there... and now I'm going to try with the virtual world. Whether you know it or not, you should get excited :).
My primary one-liner has become the following: Quirky is a social product development company that works directly with inventors and a creative online community to turn their dreams into a reality through production, promotion, and distribution of whatever the product may be. Or, they're a bunch of the coolest fairy godmothers out there with a ton of innovative expertise, talent, and passion.
During my personal experience there, I was one of the people that helped to foster that process as I also learned a great deal about brand management, social media, public relations, and customer service. But the absolute best part about it? It was fun. Like really, really fun. I am going to miss every part of working with them, including the impromptu 3-hour lunches, business brainstorming sessions, coffee breaks, and inside jokes, rants, and sarcasm via IM.
I wuv 'em, if it isn't already obvious, and so I'd additionally like to promote some of their fantastic products. Please note that I'm not just saying these great things because I worked for them, or because I think they're doing a spectacular thing, I just think these are some awesome products and I don't doubt that you will too.
1. MugStir: This portable tea spoon is just adorable hanging on the side of a mug, and prevents wasting regular spoons or disposable stirrers. For $12.99, you can get a pack of three (in super cool colors) to keep at school, work, and home. 
2. FitKit: I'm no gym rat but I am familiar with how difficult it can be to juggle my phone, keys, towel, ID, head phones, and all other gym essentials, especially when I have to bring it all with me to class or work first. This $25 compact carrying case fits around water bottles, yoga mats (the one above belongs to my former boss!), or your arm if you happen to be doing an outdoor workout. Pretty darn convenient if you ask me.
3. Waffler. Sunday brunch, please! You can always make Belgian waffles, but, the mold plates also allow you to create what Quirky has deemed as "waffle shots," cup-shaped waffles with room for fruit, extra syrup, yogurt, or even whipped cream. For $68 I will be the weekend hostess with the mostest ;).
And that's just three of the dozens of phenomenal product ideas brought to life. I went into my last day yesterday bogged down with melancholy. I know, I'm dramatic and sentimental, but I can't help it. Then the lovely Shirley Chan walked in with sunflowers and mini-cupcakes for yours truly. I am a lucky, lucky girl.
Adios, Quirks. See ya on the flip side. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

when electric violins fly

Don't ask about the title quite yet :). I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Too much actually. I was beyond ready to go to sleep but I haven't yet been able to because of it. Boo those thoughts swimming around in that head of mine! In an attempt to put my mind at ease, I will blog. I will also say this once, and only once, boys are bothersome. Now to continue with the alliteration: Zappa & Zin...
Tuesday night, Leslie and I had yet another one of our wine tasting adventures at City Winery. This lofty wine bar was unlike any other we had ever been to in Manhattan. It is the first full-service winery that the city has seen in quite some time now... but that's not even the half of it. "City Winery's 21,000-square foot houses a wine bar, Murray's Cheese bar, a wine-focused restaurant, and a stage for musical talent from Philip Glass to Joan Osborne." Basically, our fortunate antioxidant-rich cup runneth over. Thank you New York Magazine.
We didn't just venture in on a whim, either. Oh no. We reserved seats on one of the summer's last music and wine pairing. In a large yet intimate setting we sat with men and women and countless glasses as we listened to the rock, jazz, electronic, and orchestral melodies of the late Frank Zappa. Please note that although the glasses in the photo above appear to be empty, they hosted not one, not two, but three wine flights at various points throughout the night.
I often wonder when I became such a "wino." I was convinced that it could be traced back to my year abroad, although focusing on it more closely, I can't be so sure. Not that it really matters at all :). One thing I do know is that I am so glad to have had the opportunity to explore it more thoroughly in a little known wine country like Chile and a classic veteran like France. I was once living the dream, my friends, living the dream.
Anyway! Each flight was thoughtfully paired with the musical selection. The wine tastings ranged from homegrown California Zinfandels to their probable origins like the Austria Zwiegelt or Italian Primitivo. Although pours were inconsistent (I really hope they were understaffed because I do not want to have to give such a negative review of their services) they were sinfully generous. So much so that Leslie and I had no other choice but to order food.
Our selection? Their organic whole wheat flat bread topped with ricotta, spinach, and oven dried tomatoes. Please trust me on this one: it was phenomenal. The sauce was more than incredibly flavorful and fresh. And, now that I'm thinking about it, the night was actually quite stellar overall. It was filled with good wine, good food, good music (the band had an amazing electric violinist who has quickly become my rebellious idol), and after the show ended, good conversation with one of the best of friends. Life can be so uncomplicated sometimes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

unchartered territory, again

Hi chicas (and chicos?), Happy Travel Tuesday! Guess what? We've reached the end of Road Trip USA, or at least my overview plan of it. In less than two weeks it'll really all begin. I can hardly believe it myself.
Stop number 23 will be in the funky college town of Madison, Wisconsin. I'm looking forward to some major Everythingitarian face time while crunching on healthy green meals, sampling the fabulous cheesy curds of the dairy state, and drinking the local brews. Although not all at once ;). I also hope my crazy wonderful host will take me the gardens at U.Wisconsin, or I obviously can venture there myself. Either way, foreseeing a great time is an absolute understatement.
From there I'm off to the city of Indianapolis. To do what? I have not yet decided. Anything you could recommend would be much appreciated! The NY Times (source of these pictures) suggests a run along the Canal Walk for views of fountains, gardens, and sculpture exhibitions. I've done this before, all throughout South America and Europe as I discussed in a guest post for Geek Turned Athlete, and it became one of my favorite ways to explore a city literally by foot.
Afterwards, I'll head into the City of Bridges. Touted by the Forbes as the U.S.'s most livable city, I don't doubt that it'll also be quite enjoyable for a visit... if nothing else, then for the chance for some art, food, and fun with none other than Rose, and possibly Betsy too. By the way, did you know that Pittsburgh has about 89 distinct neighborhoods? I will be one busy tourist, hopefully not too burnt out though because there's just one city left:
Syracuse, New York. Alright, I admit, it might not be the most unfamiliar of cities, but I will conveniently make the visit just in time for SU's Homecoming Weekend. There, I'll reunite with fellow graduated friends, my 5th year architecture gals, and a couple of favoritist young folk ;). If this trip is going to go out with a bang, (and boy, is it) that bang is bound to happen with this crowd. And once that is over?
I have not a clue! I feel like life is this insane maze, an Inception-worthy maze, and every time I think I've got the hang of the route to take, I suddenly turn a corner and I'm just as lost as I was when I started, maybe more so. By now maybe I should be used to the thrill of adventurous uncertainty... but I'm not at all. Once again, I'll come home from a trip that'll change my life, albeit my perspective on living, and be back at square one. Opportunities will be as seemingly endless as they are limited. Will I be happy and thankful for the experience? Sure, but it's also quite likely that that is the only thing I'll be sure of.
Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Nomadic Matt for dinner. If you don't already know the guy, he is a self-professed vagabond who's regularly been on the road since 2005. Now, perhaps I should've prefaced this entire post  with one simple fact: dining with food bloggers is pleasantly satisfying, whereas dining with travel bloggers (at Café Asean, in this case) is enticingly dangerous.
You see, my dears, travel bloggers (like my new blend, Matt,) travel, inspire travel, and literally open up an entire world of personal travel possibilities that can lead one very impressionable food/travel/health blogger to consider a next move that extends beyond the cubicle. 'Tis the art of wanderlust seduction, I suppose ;). It was all such a treat though, including my plate of Halia Tofu stir-friend with Asian mushrooms, lotus root, and vegetables in a ginger wine sauce.
Wine? Did I hear wine? Oh yes, we had quite a few generous glasses of wine as well. More than enough actually to make me come home at midnight and break into my Japanese dessert stash. And yet even in my tipsy state, my ever-picky sweet tooth could not stand to finish the chocolate snack cake. There are sesame and green tea flavors, amongst others, as well but I'm waiting to try 'em. In the mean time, I'd rather focus on that I know, like music and wine, and Miss Leslie too. You'll be able to find us at City Winery for the rest of the night. And after that? Oh, please... as if I ever really know...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

lessons from a week's end

Hello my friends, I hope you've had a fun yet relaxing weekend! I finally was able to sleep in, relax, catch up on freelance work, and completely unpack from the Healthy Living Summit trip to Chicago. I also did a great deal more, and from those experiences learned a few things worth sharing:
Scout Mob is my new best friend. Yes, this is me strongly suggesting that you join.
 North African countries serve the perfect balance between their cultural influences. So does L'Orange Bleue.
Crunchy Granola Gal is a fabulous Friday dinner date.
 Dinner #2s are sometimes necessary to supplement a shared appetizer.
 Folk-influenced blues music results in a wonderful ambiance and dance floor.
 I'm really going to miss having my daily breakfast oatmeal on Road Trip USA.
 There is no place like home, or the amazing people that I know and love there. 
Pure Food and Wine, now serving lunch, truly is all it's hyped up to be.
  Sea vegetable salads are worth ordering, each and every single time.
 No matter how often you actually see each other, bloggers, like VeggieGirl, make amazing real life friends... or blends :).

 A Cacao Latte (banana, almond milk, cacao, vanilla) should always be the dessert response to a chocolate craving. I wish this were possible.
South Street Seaport has an incredible Sunday farmer's market. Crashing Leslie, Sofia, and Katie's date is less thrilling when they invite you to crash it ;). Ice cream tastings are far more fun in cute little mini-cones (or so I've heard).
 And, simplicity, plus a nearly bare fridge, creates beautiful solo Sunday night dinner meals... especially when paired with a glass of Pleasantville Red.

P.S. Last night I threw together a salad and a zucchini scramble. The eggs I used were fresh from Saturday's farmers market but please be aware and cautious of the current egg recall. Thanks and stay safe!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

america's wine country

Good morning! Thank you for your wonderful insight yesterday. I was going to form some sort of response this afternoon but then I realized this is my real weekend day in two weeks, and it's been over a month since our last Plates from Around the World post. Don't recall what those even are? I don't blame you :) they are a part of a series that is run on Saturdays and describe a contributor's incredible travel experiences with food. Today I'd like to welcome a wine lover with a thirst for travel (yep, my kind of girl). Meghan, take it away...

I have been incredibly blessed over the years to have many opportunities to travel both in the US and abroad and in the past year to start sharing those travels in my blog, Travel Eat Love. My husband is from Ireland, so many of our trips are based around visiting family there, and I definitely look forward to visiting Europe a few times a year.

However, my recent travel obsession is Northern California, and because it is a food and wine loverís dream come true, knew I had to focus on our trips to Napa and Sonoma for Plates from Around the World. I made my first wine country visit in September of 2009, and this past summer I returned for the 4th time in about 10 months. Love it much? Yes. :)

There is so much to say about Napa and Sonoma that I could probably write a book or two just based on the little time I have spent there. So I thought that rather than get too into detail about one particular place, I would share an overview of some delicious moments.

A trip to Napa and Sonoma is a dream come true for a food and wine lover.
Whether you are sipping bubbly and looking out over the valley at Gloria Ferrer. . .
Or eating pillowy perfect gnocchi at Chef Michael Chiarelloís Bottega. . .
Or tasting wine at Castello di amorosa, a wine country castle. . .
Or eating a multi-course lunch at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone. . .
Eating chocolate bouchon AT Bouchon, the Yountville bistro of the famed Chef Thomas Keller. . .
Befriending a happy-go-lucky wine country puppy at Zichichi, my favorite spot for a good Zinfandel. . .
Or eating a birthday dinner at Scopa in Healdsburg. . .
A foodie is bound to find something he or she loves in Northern California. There are probably more wineries and restaurants than I could visit in a year, much less a long weekend, so for now, it looks like I will be returning often!

Thanks so much Danielle, for letting me share my love of the food and wine of California with your lovely readers. Have a great summer, everyone, and whether at home or traveling somewhere amazing, enjoy great food!

Alright, change of plans. I am headed to Northern California for the weekend... who's coming with? Meghan, please be our tour guide :) Oh how I wish. Anyway, if you'd like to participate, please email a description of your favorite place & it's foodie memory along with photos to Thank you, and á bientôt.