Certified

My first time to Maui was in 2008. With H. I don’t remember much from that trip with the exception of snorkeling at Molokini Crater. The visibility was fantastic, but the water was really rough at the surface which made snorkeling a bit challenging. I took in a good amount of water, which really dampened the experience (no pun intended).

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So when CT initially asked to go to Maui together, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity. One, because I had already been. And two, I had already been with H. I know there shouldn’t be a problem with returning to a place that you had been with an ex, but I don’t know… it just always felt weird to do so. I was able to hold him off for about a year and a half by going to other places like Canada, Peru, and Italy. But it got to a point where I couldn’t ignore his request any longer. And besides, it would have been unfair to keep doing so.

To differentiate from the past, one of the things I thought we could do together on this trip was get PADI certified. This has been on my bucket list and it just made sense to check this off in a beautiful location with exotic marine life such as Maui. Luckily, CT was interested too!

I was considering two dive shops: ProDiver Maui and Maui Dive Shop. I ended going with ProDiver because it was cheaper and just had great reviews across all platforms (yelp, google, tripadvisor). ProDiver was $369/person for 3 days, while Maui Dive Shop was $499/person. E-learning is paid separately to PADI and the cost was $190/person.

The open water course spanned across 3 days so much of our vacation was dedicated to scuba. The first half of Day 1 consisted of taking a short quiz of the E-Learning material, practicing assembling and disassembling our gear, and then moving to the pool for the swim and float tests. These tests involved swimming for 200 meters without touching anything and floating/treading water for 10 minutes. This is non-negotiable – you must know how to swim in order to proceed. We were told that there are have been people that have signed up for the course thinking otherwise, which honestly blew my mind. People… DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?

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After the swim and float tests, we put on our gear and started practicing skills in the shallow end of the pool. That first breath underwater through the regulator was such an awkward experience for me. I kept panicking and thinking, this is NOT normal. It took a while for me to feel completely comfortable underwater, but once I did, I had no issues completing skills with the exception of mask/snorkel skills. As a contact lens wearer, mask skills were THE WORST. I was always afraid that I would lose my contacts in the water.

We then moved to the deep end of the pool where we practiced additional skills such as 5 point descent/ascent, proper weighting to achieve neutral buoyancy, hover, BCD oral inflation, etc. The first day felt a little bit overwhelming, but we were really excited to take what we learned into open water.

Day 2 was the first of our open water dives. The dive site was Makena Landing, which is about a 20 minute drive from Kihei.

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We set up and put on our gear, performed buddy checks on one another (CT and I) and then headed off into the water for OW Dive #1. I still panicked initially and it didn’t help that I seemed to have a difficult time descending down (our instructor had to check that I was weighted properly), but after I got over the initial descent, everything felt so natural and effortless.

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the first of many turtle sightings

After about 45 minutes or so, we headed back to our dive flag, ascended and swam back to shore. Once back on land, we switched out our tanks and discussed the dive plan and skills for the next dive. We performed buddy checks again and headed back into the water for OW Dive #2.

Once again, I was having trouble descending so our instructor tried to help by adding more weight to adjust my buoyancy. He started getting concerned when I had more weight than he did so he checked my BCD and lo and behold, the left weight that was supposed to be clipped into my BCD was missing. BUDDY CHECK FAIL, CT! Good thing one of the snorkelers near the shore found it and a ~9 lb. piece of lead wasn’t lost on the ocean floor!

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🤷

The last day of OW certification was our designated boat dive. We hopped onto a boat at the Kihei Boat Ramp and headed out to Molokini Crater.

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kihei boat ramp, taken in 2008
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same ole kihei boat ramp, taken in 2019
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Before we could have “fun” and explore, we had to knock out a few skills. One of which was to hover via BCD oral inflation. This means I had breathe in through my regulator, switch to the BCD, blow into that to inflate my BCD (and become more buoyant), but save enough air so that when I switch back to my regulator, I can clear it with another breath out before resuming normal breathing.

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oops! too much air

Another skill was the mask removal. This involved removing my mask completely, putting it back on and clearing it. I honestly thought I was going to have a panic attack, but I somehow managed to stay calm. I kept having to remind myself to only breathe through the regulator in my mouth and not through my nose. Sounds easy, but it really did take a lot of focus. And surprise, surprise, I also had trouble clearing my mask this time and ended up opening my eyes while I still had water in my mask. Ugh. THE WORST.

After completing our skills on OW Dive #3, we spent the rest of the dive exploring around Molokini Crater before heading to another dive site, White Rock, for OW Dive #4.

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The highlight of the dive was seeing a manta ray. What a great way to finish our certification!

Aaand just like that, we became PADI Open Water Certified. Bucket list ✔️

This was another great trip in the books, not only because of what we achieved but because it helped me get over my anxiety about returning to a place that I had been with an ex. Wonderful new memories of Maui have now replaced the faded old ones and I am actually looking forward to sharing the places that I love with CT and creating more memories together.

Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part III)

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Tupananchikkama (until we meet again)

That’s what we whispered as we peered over our shoulders to catch a glimpse of Huayna Picchu one last time.


…continued from Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part II)

After Machu Picchu, we headed to back to Lima and spent the last couple of days there. Our main objective was to EAT. And that we did. From a high brow tasting menu to a simple chicharron sandwich, we definitely had all of our food bases covered as we explored the city.

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El Chinito
had to get the signature sandwich
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Anticucheria El Tio Mario
this was surprisingly bland
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La Lucha Sangucheria
winner: El Chinito
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el beso in parque del amor
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La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
when in lima, we eat ceviche

And about that high brow meal at Maido (#8 on the World’s Best 50 Restaurant list of 2017)… so creative and delicious! I really appreciated the modern gastronomic showcase of Nikkei cuisine, which is a combination of Peruvian ingredients with Japanese techniques.

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beautiful interior of Maido
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cute glasses for our wine pairing
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an amazing meal from start to finish

Besides the food, I also loved the incredible street art in Lima, especially in Barranco, where our B&B was located. Here are some of my favorites that I captured while taking a stroll down to Playa Barranco.

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One of the things I wanted to do before we headed home was to watch the water show at Circuito Magico del Agua and explore the many water fountains in the park so that is what we did on our last night. The water show at the Fuente de la Fantasía (Fantasia Fountain) takes place 3 times a night, beginning at 7:15 pm, 8:15 pm and 9:30 pm.

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Fuente de la Fantasía (Fantasia Fountain)
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watching the show
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Fuente Mágica (Magic Fountain)
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Fuente de la Ilusión (Fountain of Illusion)
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Túnel de las Sorpresas (Tunnel of Surprises)
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Laberinto del Ensueño (Maze of the Dream)

This trip was short but amazing. We explored two very different cities in Peru, hiked around one of the new world wonders, tried various local ingredients, and ate at one of the world’s 50 best restaurants. I could not have asked for any more.

Where to next?

Verdicts:
Anticucheria El Tio Mario 3.5/5
El Chinito, 4/5
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, 4/5
La Lucha Sangucheria, 3.5/5
Maido, 4.5/5

Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part II)

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Tupananchikkama (until we meet again)

That’s what we whispered as we peered over our shoulders to catch a glimpse of Huayna Picchu one last time.


…continued from Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part I)

The next day, I had booked us what I thought would be an casual bike ride through the Sacred Valley of Peru. Boy, was I wrong! Why did I not learn from the last time I did any sort of physical activity at 11,000+ feet?! I usually love biking uphill because I’m all about working out that bootayy, but man, even biking the slightest incline was extremely difficult at this altitude. Our lungs were NOT prepared for this shit.

There were two stops on this tour. The first stop was Moray, an Incan ruin believed to have once been used as an agricultural laboratory of sorts. Each level of the circular terraced bowl exhibited a different micro climate, allowing the Incans to experiment with various vegetation.

While we did not bike to Moray (thank goodness), we did bike to our next stop: Maras. The path went from wide open and fairly flat to narrow, downhill, on the side of the mountain.

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Scary AF

The town of Maras is known for the salt ponds that sit on the slopes of the Qaqawiñay mountain. Some 3,000 shallow pools are filled with the hypersaline water that flows through an intricate network of channels from the Qoripujio spring. Once full, the water in the ponds is left to evaporate and the remaining deposits are raked into a basket to be sorted, bagged and sold. An admission fee of 10 soles and a short hike from the small parking lot take you down to the salt mines. We bought a few bags of salt to take home for ourselves and as gifts for our foodie friends. Based on what we purchased, the grain size is a bit more coarse than I’m used to so I would definitely recommend for use as a finishing salt rather than a salt to cook with. The taste is more salty, for the lack of a better description.

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And (drum roll) for the main event, we traveled to Machu Picchu bright and early the next morning aboard the Vistadome train. This train was an upgrade from the normal Expedition train, but the panoramic windows and food service offered both ways were well worth the extra cost.

all aboard!

Our journey began with 20 min car ride to the Poroy Train Station and from there, it took 3.5 hours to get to Machu Picchu by train (~ 4 hours one way). The Poroy Station is only open from May through December so for those considering traveling from January through April, the trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu consists of a long BUS ride to the Ollantaytambo Station and then taking a train from there (~4.5 hours one way).

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Great views on the train – those gray things on the side of the mountain are the Skylodge pods
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Given the limited vacation days we had for this trip, we decided against trekking to Machu Picchu. Although now looking back, I probably would have given up one day in Lima for a day trek to Machu Picchu.

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You can see people hiking the trail

The last stop of the train was the Machu Picchu Train Station, located in Machu Picchu Town aka Aguas Calientes. From the train station, we walked 10 min into town to the bus station and after a 30 min bus ride, we were finally at the entrance. FINALLY. After almost 5 hours. FIVE. CINCO.

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We met up with our tour guide and got to exploring this new wonder of the world.

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Bucket list √

Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part I)

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Tupananchikkama (until we meet again)

That’s what we whispered as we peered over our shoulders to catch a glimpse of Huayna Picchu one last time.


The plan:

  • Cusco, 4 days
  • Lima, 2 days

The activities:

  • Mountain biking to Moray and Salt Mines
  • Machu Picchu tour
  • Chocolate making class
  • Horseback riding
  • EAT

Like Canada, this was another short notice trip, by my standards anyway. We finalized travel plans in March for our trip in May. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time planning because there are so many things we didn’t get to do. But that’s why we have to go back, right?

This being my first international trip (to another continent), the travel time to Cusco was almost unbearable. We took a red eye to Lima, with a layover in Panama City, and then a domestic flight to Cusco. All in all, the total travel time including layovers was 17 hours. I am so so so thankful for airport lounges because we were able to relax, take a nap, stay hydrated or caffeinated, use wifi, and have access to clean restrooms.

When we finally arrived in Cusco, we were too tired to deal with having to negotiate a cheaper taxi fare so we just took an official taxi offered inside the airport. The ride to our hotel in the San Blas neighborhood cost us 50 soles (~$15). You can definitely get a cheaper fare (~15 soles) if you bargain with one of the many taxi drivers waiting outside in the airport parking lot.

Fair warning: taxi drivers here are CRAZY. I’m pretty sure I saw my life flash before my eyes a few times so I’m still amazed how we were not involved in any accidents nor did we witness one.

The best thing about our hotel, Pension Alemana, was this amazing view of Cusco…

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Having this view did come at a price, physically. Since it is situated higher than the main part of town, walking to and from our hotel was a real workout. While we didn’t suffer from any symptoms of altitude sickness (we took medicine beforehand), our lungs felt even the slightest bit of incline.

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our daily walk… so. many. steps.

The other pros of the hotel included continental breakfast and having water/tea/coffee/fruit available all day near the front desk. The continental breakfast is offered with made to order eggs in the restaurant upstairs (not just hard boiled eggs yay!). Tip: the wifi is actually MUCH better in the restaurant than in the room so make use of the free drink coupons provided or just grab a beer during whatever downtime and use the wifi there. 

The cons included thin walls and poor wifi. Our room (#303) was close to the stairs and we were able to hear people walking up and down. And even though our itinerary didn’t allow for us to sleep in much, we were still woken up fairly early due to construction on the building across the street.

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After checking in and freshening up a bit, we headed to dinner at Pachapapa, known for their cuy (guinea pig). YAAAAAS, WE TRIED GUINEA PIG! AND ALPACA!

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We enjoyed our meal with some live entertainment…

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when in peru… cuy horneado con huacatay y aji panca (roasted guinea pig) / pachapapa (alpaca) / ceviche de trucha (trout ceviche)

I was not a fan of the cuy. I’ve heard people say that it is too “gamey” but it wasn’t that for me. There was just so little meat! Despite the skin being nice and crispy, I honestly felt like I was just eating skin and fat, and if it was just that, why am I paying so much (72 soles!)? The alpaca, on the other hand, was delicious! The tenderness of the meat reminded me of veal and the flavor was very mild and not distinct. It was hard to pinpoint what it tasted like… chicken? beef? mixture of both? The ceviche, although good, was my least favorite ceviche we had during this trip.

The next day was spent exploring Cusco.

We started by heading down to Plaza de Armas, where there was a parade going on.

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Next we created our own foodie tour of San Pedro Market

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Our game plan was to not get full off one thing and try a little bit of everything. We also targeted booths that seemed to be filled with locals, not tourists.

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first stop: jugos de frutas! i had naranja con mango y cherimoya
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second stop: some damn good caldo de gallina
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third stop: seco de cordero (lamb stew)

We tried our best, but by this time, we were pretty stuffed. We couldn’t pass up tamales though. We even bought a few extra in case we needed a snack later on.

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SO GOOD!

We finished our tour of San Pedro Market by perusing through the merchandise area for souvenirs to bring home. Afterwards, we set out in search of a local coffee shop for a pick me up and wifi.

As we were walking around, we passed by ChocoMuseo. While I was in the midst of planning this trip, I had considered booking a truffle making class, but held off since I wasn’t sure if we would have enough time. Now that we were actually there, I caught a major case of FOMO and didn’t want to leave Peru without taking a class. Unfortunately, the truffle class wasn’t available, but we were able to snag spots for the chocolate class later that day! But committing to the chocolate class meant that we had only 2.5 hours to get to and explore Sacsayhuaman, about 1 mile away. It would be a 30 minute walk, which didn’t sound too bad, so we decided we would walk there and take a cab ride back. Within 5 minutes, I regretted our decision…

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When we got to the first gate, I was so out of breath! To give you some perspective on the steepness of the walk up to Sacsayhuaman, this view is only half way up…

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Our exhaustion made us susceptible to hustlers. When we were approached by men offering us horseback riding to Sacsayhuaman with stops at other sites in between, we were basically like, JUST TAKE OUR MONEY.

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We stopped to check out Temple of the Moon while our “guide” (he really didn’t do much besides keep the horses in line) took a nap.

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While at the top of Temple of the Moon, CT was told about another temple nearby, Temple of the Monkey. We followed the general directions provided and even tried using GPS, but after 15 minutes of searching, we gave up and headed to Sacsayhuaman.

When we first agreed to horseback riding, we thought that we would be riding horseback to Sacsayhuaman. This turned out to not be the case. We had to get off our horses and walk down the main road for about 15 mins to get to Sacsayhuaman. This was pretty annoying since we were short on time. We essentially paid 40 soles each for an hour of riding, which isn’t bad when you think about it in US $ (~$13), but it probably wasn’t the best deal. However, I definitely would recommend horseback as a means to see the various ruins around Cusco!

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Sacsayhuaman, a fortress-temple complex made of stone, is one​ of the many sites included in the boleto turistico. There are a few options in purchasing the boleto turistico:

  • A complete ticket (130 soles) gives you access to all participating sites and is valid for 10 days
  • A partial ticket (70 soles) is broken up into circuits:
    • Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara. Valid for 1 day.
    • Museum of Regional History, Museum of Contemporary Art, Koricancha Museum (but not Koricancha itself), Museum of Popular Art, Native Music and Dance Centre, Pachacutec Monument, Pikillacta & Tipon. Valid for 2 days.
    • Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero & Moray. Valid for 2 days.

Since we had planned to visit Sacsayhuaman and Moray, we purchased the full boleto turistico.

By the time we got to Sacsayhuaman, we really didn’t have much time explore. We walked around for about 15 mins, took some pictures, and headed back to town for the chocolate class.

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Was I sad that we didn’t have more time to explore Sacsayhuaman? Sure. Did I regret booking the chocolate class? Not for a second! I’m really glad we were able to take the class. It was informative, hands-on, entertaining, and most importantly, tasty! We sampled chocolate from various regions of Peru/South America and went through most of the steps of the chocolate making process. I say most because the class skips the step of melting chocolate for the sake of time. We also learned to use ingredients for other purposes: shells of the roasted cacao beans for tea and and paste we grinded from the beans into hot chocolate.

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At the end of class, we made our own chocolate molds and added whatever ingredients we wanted.

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We ended the day with a delicious dinner at Barrio Ceviche, one of the many restaurants that line Plaza de Armas.

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This was one of my favorite meals of the trip. We ordered the El Trio which is essentially a taster of the restaurant’s most popular dishes: classic ceviche (fish only), seafood fried rice, and fried seafood.  It was very reasonably priced and the portions were a good size. We also ordered an additional ceviche that included other seafood (octopus, calamari, shrimp).

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(left) ceviche clasico; (top) arroz con mariscos; (right) jalea
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ceviche arequipa

This meal was a delicious end to our jam-packed day. We headed back to our hotel after dinner since we had an early start for our mountain biking tour the next day.

to be continued…

Verdicts:
Pachapapa, 3.5/5
San Pedro Market, 4/5
Barrio Ceviche, 4.5/5

O Canada!

My first trip of 2017 was to the beautiful Canadian Rockies: Banff/Lake Louise. Banff has been on my radar for quite some time now. I actually intended to visit during summer so I could hike and canoe on Lake Moraine, but when I found out that there are a couple of popular ski resorts in the Banff area (included in the Mountain Collective Pass btw), I decided to stop waiting and persuaded CT to go.

The plan:

  • Fly into Calgary + 1 night
  • Drive to Banff/Lake Louise + 4 nights

The activities:

  • Peyto Lake lookout
  • Ice skating on Lake Louise
  • Ice Magic Festival
  • Banff Snow Days
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling

Prior to boarding our Air Canada flight, we relaxed in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX. I’ve never actually been in a lounge before – it was always rush to the airport and wait by the gate. The lounge offered free beverages (middle-shelf alcohol and wine included), free food, clean bathrooms, comfy chairs. sweeeeeeet!

The flight to Calgary was about 3 hours + 1 hour for the time change. I had the window seat and was excited to see what Calgary looked like from the air and all I saw was…

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brown.

We breezed through Customs, grabbed our luggage, picked up our rental and headed into the city where we booked an AirBnB for the night.

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The location of the condo was fantastic. It was walking distance from bars, coffee shops, stores, restaurants. We even walked to dinner at Ox and Angela!

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stuffed squid in its own ink / salt cod and potatoe croquetta / jamon croquetta / paella

The paella, which I was most excited for, turned out to be most disappointing. Such a shame! The rice was overly salty while the calamari had absolutely no flavor. It was as if the calamari was an afterthought, just sprinkled on top instead of being incorporated into the dish. Everything else was really good, especially the jamon croquettes (not pictured). CT was not a big fan of the stuffed squid. I enjoyed them; they reminded me of the Vietnamese stuffed squid that I LOVE.

After dinner, we went to get ice cream. Because… I’m always down for ice cream. Even in 30 degree weather!

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The next day, we checked out and brunched at OEB.

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super cute decor!

I picked this place because of their expansive menu, which, for someone as indecisive as myself, doesn’t quiet make sense. It turned out to be surprisingly easy for me to order. My eyes honed in on two words: truffle and cheesecake.

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“gold digga” / “sweet dreams are made of these”

Underneath the beautifully poached egg of the “Gold Digga” were duck fat fried potatoes, pork belly, cheese curds and black truffle, all smothered in Hollandaise. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we ordered the “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These”, which is essentially a slice of NY cheesecake sandwiched between two pieces of french toast.

After this delicious meal, we rolled ourselves out and headed to Lake Louise. I’m not sure how I managed to keep myself awake during the 2 hour trip there. I’m a notorious car napper. Maybe it was because of the beautiful scenery…

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We stopped in Lake Louise to rent snowshoes. I had planned to hike to Peyto Lake lookout and from my research, I knew we would be walking in snow. I just wasn’t sure how deep it would be so I wanted to play it safe. Plus, now I could say that I’ve snowshoed!

Peyto Lake, the infamous wolf headed lake, is about a 40-50 min drive north of Lake Louise on Hwy 93 (Icefields Parkway). As you can see (below), in contrast to the Trans-Canada Highway (above), Icefields Parkway is not regularly plowed or maintained. The road was labeled as being in “poor condition” while we were there. If you’re planning to travel on the Icefields Parkway during winter, I would strongly suggest inquiring about snow tires. I’d also like to note that cell service is spotty at best in this area so plan accordingly.

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{Bow Summit And Peyto Lake Lookout In Winter } – this website was a great resource for me while planning this hike. I was able to recognize the trail head and the trail to the lookout based on the pictures posted.

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start of the trail: walk past the wooden washroom…

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then walk past the trees and turn right…

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continue up the road…

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you’ll pass a speed limit sign on your left, which could be covered depending on the amount of snow (this pic was taken looking down to the start of the trail) …

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continue until you see this sign…

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follow the path to the right and you will find…

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Gorgeous, right?!

If we didn’t have to return our snowshoes by 5pm, we would have hiked around the area. Instead we just lingered a bit to eat our packed lunch.

Back in Lake Louise, we essentially traded our snowshoes for ice skates

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bucket list: ice skate on lake louise √

Again, gorgeous right?!?!

I loooooove ice skating, but ice skating on natural ice, surrounded by beautiful views, with snow falling was just unreal.

We happened to be in Lake Louise during the annual Ice Magic Festival so we decided to check out the sculptures after ice skating.

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The festival is held outside Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, between the hotel and the actual lake. The first time we visited (after ice skating), the participants had just started working on the sculptures. We came back to see the finished products a couple of days later. Here are just a few of the amazing creations!

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Afterwards, we drove to Banff, checked into our hotel, Fox Hotel & Suites, and ended the day with a nice dinner at Three Ravens Restaurant.

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amuse bouche; smoked elk tartare with dehydrated bison; green eggs and ham duck breast; beef tenderloin; tonka bean creme brulee

Three Ravens is one of the more upscale restaurants in Banff. It is located in the corner of a large dining hall (cafeteria) on the 4th floor of the Banff Centre. With tall glass windows overlooking Banff, I’m sure the view is amazing. Unfortunately, we had dinner at 8PM, well after sunset.

The food and service were excellent. My duck and CT’s steak were cooked to perfection! I was less impressed with the creme brulee, but overall, it was a great meal. I would definitely recommend if you’re looking for a nice evening out in Banff.

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We spent the next couple of days snowboarding at two popular ski resorts in the Banff area: Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. My personal favorite is Lake Louise, but here are my general observations of both…

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Sunshine:

Pros (1) more runs (more variety), (2) better/more snow

Cons (1) more flat areas, (2) must take loooong gondola ride from base to mid mountain lifts

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Lake Louise:

Pros (1) longer runs, (2) consistent weather, (3) easier access from base (lifts or gondola take you mid mountain)

Cons (1) Farther drive from Banff (additional 30-40 mins)

So, Peyto Lake was gorgeous. Ice skating on Lake Louise was amazing. Snowboarding was fun. But what was the highlight of this trip?

Snowmobile tour. Hands down.

We woke up early and took a 2 hour bus ride to Panorama, BC for a full day snowmobile tour with Toby Creek Adventures.

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After checking in and gearing up, we met outside to pick our snowmobiles.

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I ended up being the first one in the group, which gave me a lot of anxiety. Given that this was my first time on a snowmobile, I was afraid that I would slow every one down! Thankfully, this was not the case. We did about 4-5 laps around a practice course and I quickly got the hang of accelerating and turning.

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And then we were off!

We rode up the mountain, stopped a few times to check out the beautiful views and got a brief lesson on avalanche control.

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Our destination was Paradise Mine/Basin, an old mining town located at about 8000 ft. elevation. When we arrived, we warmed up in small cabin with some hot chocolate and cookies.

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And then it was play time!!!!

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Our guide showed us the perimeter of the designated play area (the basin) and then we had about 40 mins to ride around. It could have been more or less, I’m not exactly sure, I was having way too much fun to keep track of time. I can assure you that there was definitely enough time to ride your heart out.

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The feeling of flying downhill was exhilarating. Also a bit scary, not gonna lie. But I never felt unsafe! However, we did hear about an accident in another group: a lady, who was riding as a passenger, fell off of the snowmobile. It didn’t seem too serious since she didn’t need medical attention. When I booked the tour, I contemplated whether to book two drivers or driver/passenger. Obviously, I ended up booking two drivers and I’m so glad I did because (1) riding as a passenger would have been boring and (2) either of us would have probably fallen off given how fast we were going off the hills.

Our tour included lunch which consisted of burgers or hot dogs. Nothing fancy, just enough fuel to get us back down the mountain. We took a different route descending and stopped for a short hike to a frozen waterfall.

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smith falls

I actually wasn’t expecting to see this waterfall. The site that I booked the tour through didn’t mention it or maybe I just didn’t pay attention, but it was a nice surprise. And a good prelude to the following day.

Our last dinner in Banff was at Block Kitchen + Bar. To be honest, I was hesitant to dine here at first. As evidenced from the menu, I would classify this restaurant as Asian fusion and my experiences with these kinds of restaurants have not been good. But I gotta say, Block Kitchen was GOOD. I legit could not stop eating the curry!

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asian lettuce wraps with duck / panang curry with prawns / red devil calamari

The dishes were so well executed and the flavors seemingly so authentic that we had to ask, who the heck is the Chef? We were told that Chef Stephane Prevost lived in Japan for a number of years and Asian influences helped refine his cooking style.

It would have been a great last night of our trip if I hadn’t developed some kind of stomach illness during the middle of the night. I highly doubt it was food poisoning since CT did not experience the same symptoms. But interesting enough, he did have some stomach pains a couple nights before. Maybe our stomach pains were related. Maybe not. Who knows? All I knew was that I wanted to die.

I had planned to hike to the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon the next morning and I was determined to not let my stomach pains get in the way. So I sucked it up and we made the short hike to the lower falls.

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The path was icy at times. I had bought Yaktrax specifically for this trip but was too lazy to put them on. Instead, I just walked slowly and carefully with my winter boots.

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The trail continues onto the upper falls, but I only had enough strength for the short hike to the lower falls. When we got back to the car, I immediately knocked out and napped all the way back to Calgary.

We were on our way to a quick meal before heading to the airport when we passed the Peace bridge. Of course we had to stop for a quick photo op with this amazing piece of architecture.

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This trip was everything I had hoped it would be (minus the stomach illness). And it made me miss the whole trip planning process. CT had a great time as well so I can proudly say that in terms of trip planning, I still got it! I can’t wait to plan our next trip.

Verdicts:
Ox and Angela, 3.5/5
Village Ice Cream, 4/5
OEB, 5/5
Three Ravens Restaurant, 4/5
Block Kitchen + Bar, 4/5
Noodle World Restaurant, 3.5/5

I Left My Heart In Seattle

For b‘s vacation before lactation (credit: g), I suggested Seattle. I could not think of a better place for a quick girls getaway. Thankfully, my suggestion was warmly welcomed! I was so so so exited to show them why I loved Seattle so much. And in true kc fashion, I detailed planned our trip, by the hour, in an excel spreadsheet. That’s how I do.

b had a few requests, which were happily obliged:

  • Sushi Kashiba (at sushi bar)
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass
  • Hike

We arrived in Seattle late Wed night and tried to make it to Toulouse Petit for a late night snack. Unfortunately, they had already made their last call for food so we walked down the street to Mecca Cafe. We legit demolished their corned beef hash and chicken fried steak. When it’s 1am, you’re super hungry, and you find yourself in Lower Queen Anne, head to Mecca!

After our first pig out of the trip, we headed to Gas Works Park, my favorite spot to see the Seattle skyline, especially at night.

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absolutely gorgeous

By the time we checked into our AirBnB in the Fremont neighborhood, it was almost 3am! We settled in right away and knocked out. The cozy, affordable studio was just perfect for the three of us. I would highly recommend and would definitely stay there again.

We started the next day with coffee at a local coffee shop before heading to the Fremont Troll. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s just something you have to see!

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selfie inception game strong

After the troll, we stopped by Paseo for some sandwiches. Paseo has always been my top recommendation for anyone vising Seattle. The prawn and scallop sammies were so freakin’ delicious! In the days leading up to the trip, I craved them. I dreamt about them. There might have been some drooling involved. But when I actually got my hands on the sandwiches, I was disappointed. The prawn was overly salty. Almost to the point where I didn’t want to finish it. There was also less meat than I remembered. I thought Paseo was pretty generous before, but this time around, I got more lettuce and sauteed onions than anything else. Hopefully this was just an off day…

To work off our lunch, we rented kayaks and paddled out to Lake Union. I absolutely love water sports so this is one of my favorite activities in Seattle.

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One of b‘s requests was to eat at the sushi bar of Sushi Kashiba. Reservations aren’t offered for the sushi bar so in order to secure a seat, I booked a reservation at 5:00pm, right when the restaurant opens. But being natural laggers and not accounting for the terrible parking sitch at Pike Place, we got there around 5:15pm and the sushi bar was already full. Luckily, we were told that the second seating for the sushi bar would start around 7pm so we had to option of either sitting at a regular table right away or waiting for the sushi bar. Of course we chose the latter.

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I’ve never had omakase before and I’m so glad my first time was at Sushi Kashiba. The fish was so fresh, the selection and progression was perfect for my tastes, the service was outstanding, and to top everything off, this delicious meal + sake was only $120! What a steal!

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The last piece was blue-fin collar, my favorite of the whole meal. Talk about saving the best for last!

We followed up an amazing dinner with an amazing sunset down at the waterfront.

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The next day, we started with a quick visit to Snoqualmie Falls. It’s been 7 years or so since I last visited and there must have been some renovations because I remember the lookout point very differently.

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We then proceeded to the highlight of our trip, an 8 mile hike, or in this case, more like strategic walking on jagged rocks.

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If it wasn’t for the rocks, I would classify the hike as moderate

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The view was definitely worth it. All the pain, the exhaustion, the hunger, the thirst. EVERYTHING. Our only regret was not starting sooner so we could play in the water.

By the time we started heading back to the trailhead, it was already late. We hauled ass so we could make it home in time to get ready for a night out. Our poor feet.

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The promoter that g was talking to told us that we had to be at the club by 11pm, otherwise, there would be a really long wait. Well, we got there at 10:50pm (which btw we’ve probably never done, like ever) and it was COMPLETELY EMPTY. Not one single soul. So we just took a few shots and went to the lounge next door to drink some more.

Best. Decision. Ever.

It was so much more fun! One of the funnest nights I’ve had in a long while. Best part of the night? Witnessing a former male stripper twerk in a handstand. WOW.

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my loves

The next day, we ended the trip with a visit to Chihuly Glass and Garden, as b requested. And of course, we couldn’t leave without indulging in oysters!

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10 years ago, Seattle was just this mysterious place that was known to be rainy and depressing and the only significance it had was that he lived there. Seattle now has my heart for completely different reasons than it initially did, and I have all the wonderful memories from my numerous visits in the past 10 years to thank. From living in a treehouse to kayaking Lake Union to taking in the beauty of Mt. Rainier as I hit mile 10 of my first marathon, Seattle will always have a special place in my heart.

We Run SF, We Eat SF

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Ready, Set, Go!

I’ve wanted to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in SF for a few years now. The first year, I seriously considered it. Like, seriously. The second year, I actually signed up for random draw, but was rejected! The third year… well, I guess it’s true, 3rd time’s the charm! I had 14 weeks to prepare for my goal of sub-2, but unfortunately, life got in the way as it always does. Given that I only trained for about 3 weeks, my time of 2:14 isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s actually a PR! The view was not as beautiful as RnR Seattle’s marathon, but overall, I still liked the course.

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That last hill though…

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All for this blue box!

My preparation in the days leading up to the race involved a lot of eating. I shamelessly took full advantage of the necessary carbo-loading by stretching it over a couple of days. All for the race, guys. All for the race.

First stop off the plane was Limon Rotisserie for some Peruvian food.

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Ceviche Mixto… SO GOOD! One of the best ceviches I’ve ever had

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The infamous Pollo a la Brasa (half)
This dish comes with 2 sides… if you’re planning on ordering the Lomito Saltado, I would suggest not picking Papas Fritas and Vegetales Salteados for your sides like we did

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Lomito Saltado

Even though we were already stuffed from ordering too much food, we had to have dessert. Next stop: Bi-Rite Creamery.

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The usual… salted caramel and some kind of coffee, this time being Blue Bottle

For early dinner, we headed to Fort Mason Center for Off The Grid, a gathering of local, mobile vendors.

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From top left:
(1) Lobsta Roll from Lobsta Truck
(2) Tender Pork Belly Bao from The Chairman
(3) Lemongrass Chicken w/ Garlic Noodles combo from An The Go
(4) Boom Plate w/ Shrimp from Hula Truck
(5) Vanilla Creme Bizmark from Johnny Doughnuts
(6) Golden Ticket from The Creme Brulee Cart
Everything was really good except the Boom Plate. I found it unappetizing. Sorry, not sorry. What a waste of $9!

The following day we met up friends in San Mateo and had some bomb bruschetta at B Street and Vine.

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From left:
(1) Fresh mozzarella with tomato and basil
(2) Salami with feta and pesto
(3) Prosciutto with figs and mascarpone
(4) Hummus, tomato & avocado

And for my official carbo-load dinner, we had roasted garlic crab and garlic grab noodles at PPQ Dungeness Island. I know, I know… this isn’t your traditional carbo-load dinner but whatever, I do what I want. The crab was delicious, but I preferred the garlic noodles from An The Go.

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Best meal of the trip!

When I ran the marathon in Seattle, Atlas Genius’ When It Was Now carried me through the last few excruciating miles. This time, it was Chvrches’ new album Every Open Eye and the lady at mile 11.5 with the “bRUNch” sign. Not gonna lie, all I could think about was what I was going to eat afterwards…

First stop post race was Mr. Holmes Bakehouse for some pastries followed by Hong Kong Lounge for dim sum.

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Mr. Holmes Bakehouse was already sold out of the their infamous cruffins by the time we got there. Lame! Of the six pastries we ended up choosing, my fave was the ham and cheese danish

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The XLBs were so plump and juicy!!!

Stuffing my face with dim sum sent me into a food induced nap and when I woke up, it was time for my celebratory dinner at State Bird Provisions.

Getting a reservation at this place was almost as difficult as getting one at French Laundry, Alinea, etc. Seriously, WHY?! I went on Open Table, 60 days in advance, at 12:00AM ON THE DOT and I almost wasn’t able to secure a rez.

2015-10-23_09-48-28I’ve actually been enjoying dark beer. Stouts are delicious!

State Bird Provisions has a standard menu consisting of small bites (Toasts & Pancakes), main dishes (Commandables), and dessert. The provisions come on trays/carts and you select whatever you want and they mark it down at the bottom on your menu based on price, dim sum style. I remember the prices ranging from $3 to $15.

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From top left:
(1) Kung pao beef tongue and sweetbreads (Commandable)
(2) Rabbit meatball (Provision)
(3) Pork belly pluot salad (P)
(4) Hog island oyster (P)
(5) CA state bird with provisions, half (C)
(6) Miso glazed cod collar (P)
(7) Guinea hen dumpling (P)
(8) Duck liver mousse with almond biscuit (P)
(9) Charred octopus (P)

Overall, I enjoyed the meal but left underwhelmed. My favorite was the kung pao beef tongue and sweetbreads – the beef tongue was so tender and I’m just a sucker for sweetbreads! Besides this, nothing really stood out. The state bird, although flavorful, had too much breading. Perhaps I expected too much based on the 4.5 star rating on Yelp.

We ended the night with ice cream at Swensen’s and a night time view of Coit Tower.

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‘Till next time, SF ♥

First

This is officially my first real post of 2013. I’ve been trying to finish my Foodcation 2012 posts for like the last 3 months. FAIL.

Since my vacation in September, I’ve started a new workout schedule, come to the realization that I no longer want to live in NYC, gone to Mammoth twice and attended a funeral.

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Part of my workout schedule consists of Pure Barre classes Tue, Thur, Fri-Sun. I started Pure Barre classes when I saw a friend post on FB about how great of a workout it was. At that time, I hadn’t worked out consistently in a very, very long time. I would run on sporadic occasions, but was never able to maintain a schedule. This really all changed with Pure Barre. One class and I was hooked. I’m about to finish my 5th month and be part of 100 club (100 classes completed)! I’ve made it this far and plan to continue because I absolutely love the workout and the class schedule just fits perfectly with my work schedule. And though I’ve taken classes for a while now, the exercises are still challenging. They haven’t gotten any easier. TRUST. If you take a class and don’t feel the burn, you’re probably not doing it right or you’re not working hard enough!

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In addition to Pure Barre, I’ve been taking Turbo Kick classes on Mon and Wed at 24Hr Fitness. I used to take these classes like 3 years ago, but stopped because of my work schedule. Now, 3 years later, the class schedule has changed and I’m back! I loved it then and I still love it now. The best part is that Turbo Kick doesn’t feel like a workout, but I always leave the class DRENCHED in sweat!

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J, A and I visited V in NYC this past December. It was a great trip filled with delicious food and late night talks. It was also an eye opening experience for me. I was in love with the city after my first few visits. I was in tourist mode. Everything was new and exciting. I loved the fast paced nature of NYC. I wanted to move there! But my love has waned after subsequent visits. This last visit made me realize that at this point in my life, living in NYC is not for me. First, I don’t think I could afford to live comfortably AND enjoy the finer things in life. I don’t want to share an apartment with anyone and I don’t want to live in tiny studio apartment. I do want to go out and try all the fantastic restaurants and maybe catch a Broadway show, hockey game or the Opera sometime. Living in NYC and not being able to enjoy it is pointless. Second, I’ve always thought that NYC public transportation was really great. And to a certain extent, it is. But from my last visit, I realized that it’s not as fast as I previously thought. On my last day I went to Laduree in the UES and round trip from Stuyvesant Town with a stop at Halal Cart took over an hour and half. Third, Henry hates NYC. So yea, for now, I’m fine with just visiting NYC and delicious food like…

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Uni at Soto

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Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai

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SmokeShack and Frozen Custard at Shake Shack

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Miso Black Cod at Gotham Bar & Grill

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Halal Cart!! We had this twice during our trip and I even brought two orders home!

Right before my trip to NYC, Henry and I had our first Mammoth trip of the season. And seriously, what a difference a season makes…

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It was early December, but coverage was great since it dumped the weeks before. I’m happy I rekindled my love for Mammoth’s backside!

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Our 2nd trip to Mammoth was during MLK weekend.

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We were fortunate to stay with our new snowboarding pals, B and P. They’re great to ride with because they’re fast and they have endurance! And they have the cutest, most well-behaved dog ever!

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Henry doesn’t want any dog besides a Husky or Chow Chow so for now, I’ll just have to obsessively lurk on Instagram for Bulldog or Corgi pictures. 🙂

And onto the sad news. Last week, I attended Henry’s grandma’s funeral. She lived a full life, for sure, passing away at the age of 100. It’s really sad to think that she won’t be at our wedding, I mean, if we decide to have one that is. Henry’s cousin liked to joke that I was grandma’s favorite. And while that probably isn’t true, it was nice to feel the love from her when she would hold my hand while we watched TV. RIP ♥

Foodcation 2012: R&R

…continued from the 3rd leg of Foodcation 2012

The last destination of Foodcation 2012 was Mont Tremblant, a beautiful mountain resort about an hour north of Montreal. We came here for some R&R… well, our form of R&R anyway.

Mont Tremblant offers a variety of summer and winter activities for adults and kids. We really had trouble narrowing down the list, but we ended up picking two: Via Ferrata and Go Kart!

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I would describe via ferrata as… assisted rock climbing. A steel cable, in which you hook yourself onto, runs throughout the entire route. There are also iron bars, steps, ladders and bridges that aid in your ascent, or descent. No rock climbing experience is necessary, but I would suggest that one be in good physical condition.

There are three options available at Mont Tremblant:

1. The Excursion – 500 meters, approx 3 hours including 20 minute walk back to departure point
2. The Excursion (family) – same length and time as above, but allows for younger children
3. The Grande Virée – 1000 meters, approx 5 hours including 40 minute walk back to departure point

We went with the Grande Virée!

The tour started with a short walk from the activity center to our first obstacle (below). After a brief introduction of via ferrata and explanation of the basics, we climbed up and crossed the wooden plank bridge.

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On the other side of the bridge, we were given additional instructions and had an opportunity to get more comfortable with hooking and unhooking our carabiners.

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Then we were pretty much on our own … eeeekkkk!!

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My legs felt kind of wobbly after the climb, which made the hike back to the activity center a little difficult. I slipped and fell a couple of times!

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We did it!!!!!

Via ferrata at Mont Tremblant was a really cool activity. It was fun AND safe! Sure, I got nervous a few times, but I’m just a wuss 😉 The one time I did seriously panic was when I was trying to climb up a rock wall and my bungee lanyards got twisted up with an iron bar. This prevented me from hooking my carabiner onto the next iron bar and I was sort of stuck in limbo. I spent so much energy trying to sort everything out that I was too exhausted to climb up any further. Luckily, a man in the tour group was able to help me to the top of that wall.

Speaking of my tour group, there were 4 couples (including us) and we were definitely the youngest! All were French-Canadian and spoke French most of the time (even our tour guide) except when speaking to us. At the beginning of the tour, our guide apologized in advance for her English. You could definitely tell that English was her second language, but I didn’t have any problems understanding her.

A tip: Rock climbing gloves aren’t listed on the “What to Wear” list, but I definitely recommend them or whatever gloves that will protect your hands without compromising on grip.

The next day, we went go karting!

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I ain’t gonna lie. This activity was more for Henry. I mean, racing is fun and all, but I’m definitely NOT a speed demon. Quite frankly, I was terrified of fish tailing out of control or crashing or some combination of the two.

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We paid for 2 sessions and I think it was about 5/6 laps per session. But I was so slow, I had 1 less each time. 😦 I was very timid and hesitant during the first session so it was no surprise that I finished last. Well.. ok, so I still finished last in the 2nd session, but I improved my fastest lap by almost 30 seconds!

A tip: Layer up! Even when sunny, it could get cold since it’s outside.

Since go karting didn’t take up that much time, we had the rest of the day to explore Mont Tremblant.

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Fun activities right outside our balcony

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Such a cute mountain town

We took the gondola up…

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… and hiked to the panoramic lookout. Taking the panorama picture below was actually pretty painful because it was EXTREMELY WINDY AND COLD at the top of the lookout. I could barely breathe. After a quick picture, we continued hiking until we reached the next lookout point.

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We didn’t hike for too long since during the summer the gondola closes around 5PM so we made sure we got back in time for a ride down. It was still bright outside and I didn’t want to end the day so I convinced Henry to squeeze in one more activity: Skyline Luge!

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I first noticed the Skyline Luge the day we arrived; the luge course was right outside our balcony. I became more interested when we passed by on the way to the gondola. It looked like so much fun! Henry, on the other hand, wasn’t really interested because he thought it looked too childish. But after a bit of whining from yours truly, he caved and you know what… he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s so glad he did!!!!

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Taking the lift to the beginning of the course

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Luges

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Oh, hellooooo

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Luge course

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Skyline Luge’s tagline is spot on: Once is NEVER enough!

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The next day, we set out for a SEVEN hour drive back to Buffalo. We didn’t leave as early as we should have so we barely made our flight. I was so so so stressed out!!! Note to self: no more long ass drives!

Foodcation 2012 was wonderful. All the food we consumed was delicious, but I especially enjoyed our time outdoors at Mont Tremblant. Instead of Foodcation 2013, I’m considering a trip to Banff or going back to Mt. Rainier. Any tips or hiking trail recommendations for Banff are appreciated! 🙂

Foodcation 2012: Gluttony

…continued from the 2nd leg of Foodcation 2012

Our next destination was Montreal. Flights were really expensive between Toronto and Montreal ($700+ roundtrip for 2) so I had decided that driving would the best option. However, I didn’t realize, or rather, I didn’t think to check how much gas cost in Canada.

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Yikes

With the exchange rate at the time, this came out to about $5.26 or so for regular! This was when I thought $4.20 for regular at home was crazy!! As far as total cost was concerned, it was definitely still cheaper to drive, but I’m sure Henry would have rather flown than drive 5 hours to Montreal and 7 hours back to Buffalo at the end of our trip.

When you drive through Ontario, Canada, you will find these cool, modern rest stops with gas, food, restrooms and free WiFi! The best part… they were CLEAN!

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ONroute… get it? hehe 🙂

After about 5.5 hours on the road, we finally checked into our room at Hotel du Fort. This was probably the most dated hotel we’ve ever stayed in.

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Exhibit A

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Somebody please explain this to me…

Now, this doesn’t mean we had a bad experience. Our room was really big, the location of the hotel was great, the bed was comfortable, the towels and linens were clean… I mean, you really shouldn’t need much else right? Anyway, we got a great deal that included parking so I was happy with our experience. My only issue with Hotel du Fort was that the hallway seriously smelled like ASS. Only the hallway!

The main reason we came to Montreal was Au Pied de Cochon and this is where we had dinner our first night.

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We wanted to order so many things, but our waitress put her foot down and said no. It’s a good thing she did. Everything was rich and heavy, even the clams! It was really difficult to finish our meal.

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Clams (appetizer special of the night)
Foie Gras Poutine
PDC’s Melting Pot
Duck in a Can

Given the foie gras ban in California, I wanted to consume as much foie gras as possible at PDC. So obviously, I was a little disappointed when we finalized our order and I knew we would only have a couple of pieces (in the Poutine and Duck in a Can). Turns out, it was more than enough.

For first timers to PDC, I definitely recommend the Melting Pot since it gives you a little bit of everything: pork belly, pork loin, pork sausage and boudin noir served over creamy mashed potatoes. Man, I love me some blood sausage! The Foie Gras Poutine was just how I imagined: cheesy, creamy, melt in your mouth goodness.

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By the time we were served, Duck in a Can (the can is opened table-side), I was already stuffed. So stuffed, in fact, that I actually found it to be unappetizing after a couple of bites. Blasphemy, I know. First of all, I’m not a fan of fat that isn’t rendered down so the huge slab of fat on top of the duck breast? Yuck. Second, the duck breast itself wasn’t as tender as I thought it would be. And lastly, I prefer my foie gras pan seared. Apparently, I was the only one that felt this way because Henry really enjoyed this signature dish. To each his own.

Because we felt extremely guilty after eating this overly indulgent meal and also because I wanted some coffee, we rented bikes from BIXI and rode to a cafe that was open late.

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Umm yea… no English option 😦

It’s a good thing we rode bikes in DC because had I not been familiarized with the rental process, I would have no idea what was on the screen. And by the way, not only are the BIXI kiosks in French, the street parking signs are as well AND IN MILITARY TIME!

The next day was a mixture of eating and exercising. We rode our BIXI bikes to lunch spot #1, Resto La Banquise.

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La Petite vie (ground beef, onions & corn)
La T-Rex (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon & hot-dog sausages)

When in Canada, right? 😉 I ♥ poutine!

I used to think that Henry and I had big appetites, but watching everyone around us finish their poutine while we struggled to finish half of ours made me think otherwise.

After checking delicious poutine off our list, we rode our bikes to lunch spot #2: Schwartz’s.

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There was absolutely no way we could each eat a sandwich, so we decided to share. Sharing is caring.

At Schwartz’s, you have three options for your smoked meat: lean, medium or fatty. We left it up to our waiter and as you can see above, we got fatty. Personally, I would have ordered either lean or medium, but Henry likes the fattyness so I compromised. The meat was flavorful and tender and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the fattier cut. Now, I have to say, Schwartz’s smoked meat > Katz’s pastrami. I would’ve thrown Langer’s into the mix, but I’ve never had a plain pastrami there so it wouldn’t be a fair comparison. Another thing in Schwartz’s favor is the price! A sandwich at Schwartz’s only sets you back $6.30 CAD while a sandwich at Katz’s is more than double at $15.95.

To fight off food coma, we rode our bikes to Mount Royal and hiked up to the summit. There are quite a few trails you can take up to the summit and I’m pretty sure we took the most difficult way up.

We started at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Monument…

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… followed random trails…

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… until we reached Camilien-Houde Lookout…

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See Olympic Stadium in the distance?

We thought this was it and started our hike back down when a local informed us that we hadn’t actually reached the summit and that there was another lookout. So, on we went. Once at the summit, we were rather disappointed to find that it didn’t offer any views so we started our trek down to the famous Mount Royal Cross via Ch. Olmsted…

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So so so pretty at night when illuminated

… from the cross, we hiked through what seemed to be a forest…

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… until we found the Chalet and Kondiaronk Lookout…

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Much better view!!

I’m really glad we continued from the first lookout because at that point, I wasn’t impressed and pretty much felt that the hike wasn’t worth it. But taking in Montreal from Kondiaronk Lookout totally made up for it!

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Hiking down Mount Royal towards the Rue Peel entrance was so much easier with the stairs. If you’re OK with stairs, this is definitely the fastest way to and from the Kondiaronk Lookout. The leisurely way would be to follow Ch. Olmsted all the way around.

Check out Henry’s shirt after our hike…

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A new deadmau5 shirt! hahahhahahahahahhahahhahaa

Our last dinner in Montreal was at Joe Beef. Unfortunately, it was so damn dark in there, we left without any good food pictures 😦

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So, here’s my beef with Joe Beef. The menu is written in French on a chalkboard and only the chalkboard. This meant that before we could even sit down (in cramped quarters, nonetheless), we had to stand behind people eating at the bar, look up at the chalkboard and try to translate the menu so that we could have an idea of what to order.

It is dark.
The chalkboard is small.
The menu is extensive.
I DON’T KNOW FRENCH.
WHY SO DIFFICULT!?!?!

We were able to make out some foie gras items (ie. Foie Gras Double Down, Parfait de Foie Gras), but PDC foie gras’d us out so we kept looking. After 5 minutes or so of cranking our necks to look at the chalkboard, I gave up and we took our seats. I was really hoping our waiter could help us out with a recommendation, but unfortunately, our waiter wasn’t much help. Like, AT ALL. When we asked for his recommendation, he actually said he didn’t like giving recommendations. WTF?!?!?! Instead, he referred us to the specials for 2 that night: suckling pig and lamb shank. We got the lamb shank. It was… OK…

After a disappointing dinner, we walked down to the Starbucks on the corner for some coffee and to get a Montreal Starbucks Cup. Yes, I collect them!!! 😀

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Tip: half and half is Creme 10%

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The next morning, we prepared for the last leg of Foodcation 2012. I didn’t know if we would find any markets near our last destination so we picked up some groceries a block away from our hotel. As we were walking back to the car lugging several heavy bags, a bottle of olive oil somehow fell out of one of the bags, shattered right by my feet and showered my legs with oil.

Awesome.

… to be continued.

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Montreal Eats (+our verdict):
Au Pied de Cochon, 3.5/5
Resto La Banquise, 4/5
Schwartz’s, 4.5/5
Joe Beef, 3/5

Foodcation 2012: Lobsta, eh?

… continued from the 1st leg of Foodcation 2012

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Crossing the border into Canada was pretty much a breeze (in contrast to returning to the US). It could have gone even more smoothly if Henry was able to answer the border agent himself when she asked, “What is your business in Canada?”. Sure, Henry can easily remember lines from Predator, Commando, and every Rambo and Rocky movie, but simple vacation plans? No, that’s crazy.

The first thing we did in Canada was stop at Tim Horton’s for some coffee and donuts. I’ve always thought that Tim Horton’s was exclusive to Canada, but I was wrong; they do have locations in the US, just nowhere near me. And I ain’t gonna lie guys, Tim Horton’s coffee > Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (but this really isn’t saying much… :P).

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Decent coffee, Boston Cream donut

After our coffee and donut fix, we continued our drive into the Toronto area. It was a little frustrating that we could see Toronto on the other side of Lake Ontario but could only get there by driving all the way around! Instead of staying in downtown Toronto, we booked a room at Monte Carlo Inn & Suites in downtown Markham, about 30 minutes north of Toronto. Two reasons: 1) save money and 2) eat at Omei Restaurant, a Chinese restaurant that serves lobster 4 ways! Residents of Markham and neighboring Richmond Hill are predominately Asian. Being from SGV, I felt right at home. Henry and I even spent an hour or so in an Asian market stocking up on snacks and candy 😀

Well, I’m not ashamed to say that my favorite part of visiting Toronto was NOT the Hockey Hall of Fame… it was eating LOBSTER!!!!

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1. Steamed
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2. Sauteed
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3. Deep Fried
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4. Fried rice (with the innards/liver)

6 pounds, 4 ways. 2 people. YESSSSSSSSSSSSS. My favorites were the steamed claws and fried rice.

Our agenda for the next day was packed! We only had 1 full day to check out Toronto so that meant a lot of stuff to do and a lot of stuff to eat. Henry hates this, but sometimes, I just can’t help it!

For lunch, we picked up from two places… killing two birds with one stone, I guess?

Porchetta sandwich at Porchetta & Co.

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The fatty pork belly layer just melts in your mouth. We added truffle sauce (+ $0.75) which made the sandwich extra special.

Haddock, halibut and poutine at Fresco’s

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For each fish, one piece was fried with regular batter while the other piece had Miss Vickie’s (the chips) extra crisp batter (+ $1). I really liked the crunch from Miss Vickie’s batter so I would recommend spending $1 more for that. And of course we substituted poutine for regular fries (+ $2)…I ♥ poutine!

We pretty much ate our lunch in the car on the way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Limited time, you know.

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During the Fall, the Hockey Hall of Fame closes at 5:00PM on weekdays. I was sad at first because we were only going to have about 3 hours or so to visit, but it turned out to be just the right amount of time.

Main floor:

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Luuuuuuuuuuccccccccc ♥
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We sat in this theater for a while and relived the Kings 2012 Playoff run… yes, I cried, again.

Esso Great Hall & NHL Trophies:

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NHLPA Be A Player Zone:

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Here, you can test your goalie or shooting skills (no slap shots). Henry was really good at blocking shots while I was better at shooting.

After a fun afternoon at the HHOF, we stopped for coffee at Second Cup before making our way to dinner at Hoof Raw Bar. Initially, I had planned to eat next door at The Black Hoof, but it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and unfortunately, our final plans had us in Toronto on a Tuesday. As a reference (for those from LA), Hoof Raw Bar is to The Black Hoof as Son of a Gun is to Animal.

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Raw Scallops
Smoked Mussels
Ceviche
Shrimp & Toast
Smoked Octo & Grits

Everything we ordered was delicious! From the light and refreshing scallops topped with apple to the incredibly tender octopus and deep fried grits, we LOVED every bite. My favorite was the Shrimp and Toast because the juicy shrimp and sous-vide egg reminded me of my favorite childhood dish, scrambled eggs with shrimp.

While we were finished with dinner, we weren’t quite done with Toronto yet.

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Even though both Henry and I had been to the CN Tower as kids, it was so long ago and I wanted to go back… together.

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Yes, we’re lying on the dirty glass floor 😀

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You have no idea how long it took me to grow a pair and walk out onto the glass. SO SCARY!!!

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Before we left the Toronto area for our next destination, I had to pay a visit to one last place: Pacific Mall.

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Pacific Mall holds a special place in my heart because I came here with my grandparents during one of my summer breaks. It was just as I remembered and walking down past all the different shops made me feel close to them again ♥.

… to be continued.

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Toronto Eats (+our verdict):
Omei Restaurant, 5/5
Porchetta & Co., 4.5/5
Fresco’s Fish & Chips, 3.5/5
Hoof Raw Bar, 4.5/5

Foodcation 2012: Crabby

Even before the start of the 2011-2012 NHL season, I had planned to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Obviously, when the Kings won the Cup, this trip meant a hell of a lot more. And though the presentation cup wasn’t on display while I was there (since it was still traveling with the Kings organization), it was nice to see the case dedicated to the 2012 Champs and to relive the Kings 2012 playoff run in the Hartland Molson Theatre (aka Stanley Cup theater). More on this later…

Our trip began with a weekend in Washington DC. We were fortunate enough to have a friend house us and take us around. We arrived late Friday afternoon and after settling in a bit, Henry and I went to dinner at Blue Duck Tavern while our host and his brother went to a ballgame. They totally missed out on an AMAZING meal.

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UntitledOpen kitchen on the way to the fanciest bathrooms (inside Park Hyatt Hotel)

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Wood Oven Roasted Bone Marrow, Creamed Corn
Muscovy Duck Breast, 12 Hour Roasted Suckling Pig
Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Goat’s Milk Caramel

The bone marrow with truffle shavings and roasted garlic was TO DIE for. BEST. EVER!!! I also LOVED the creamed corn side. The jalapeno added a refreshing aspect to the dish without the heat (surprisingly). I thought the presentation of our sweet corn ice cream dessert was so so so cute. Our waitress was kind enough to give us the goat’s milk caramel on the house so our dessert became caramel corn ice cream! 😀

After devouring our meal, we decided to take a post-dinner walk to the Lincoln Memorial.

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Apparently, the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial had been out of commission for a couple of years due to renovations and was just reopened 2 weeks before our trip! Woooooooo!

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There’s just something about seeing these famous monuments and memorials at night… so so beautiful!

While we were sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, our friend CN called us up. He was back from the ballgame and wanted to take us to the infamous Ben’s Chili Bowl. We’re not ones to turn down food and besides, we just walked off our dinner 😉

At first we took the car, but parking in DC is seriously impossible so we dropped off the car and took the Metro.

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Luckily, the line at Ben’s Chili Bowl at 1:30AM wasn’t too long since we beat the bar crowd. The four of us shared 6 Chili Half-Smokes and Chili Fries.

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There’s no denying that the chili dogs were deeeeeelish, but the price for one is a little ridiculous… $5.70 for one chili dog!!! whattttttt the whattttttttt??????????!!!!!!!! Still… I would recommend visiting this landmark if you’re in DC and you’ve never been.

The next day, our friends led us on a bike tour of DC.

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We used the Capital Bikeshare system, which for those familiar with BIXI is pretty much the same thing. For those not familiar, here is a brief guide for travelers:

* Membership fees: 24 hr = $7, 3-day = $15
* For 24 hr or 3-day memberships, a security deposit of $101 per bike will be held on the card you used for the rental. 2 bike maximum on 1 card.
* To complete rental, an unlocking code can be viewed or printed. Pick a bike and enter the code.
* The first 30 minutes is included with each bike that is rented. Extra time with the same bike is at an additional charge (see website for rate table). In other words, for the most affordable experience, consult the station map and plan accordingly. No matter where you want to go, I assure you, there will be a station on the way. If your destination is clearly more than a 30 minute bike ride away (and you really want to use Capital Bikeshare), just check in the bike at a station along the way and rent out a new bike.
* Downsides include 1) not having an empty bike dock available to return a bike and 2) not having bikes available for rent. The fix for both is to find another station – for returns, if you come across a full station, you can add 15 minutes free to your rental to avoid additional charges.

Despite the downsides above, I think these bike systems (Capital Bikeshare, BIXI) are a great alternative to walking, driving or public transportation. You get to exercise, sight see and have fun, all at the same time!

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We rode the bikes along the Potomac River to the Jefferson Memorial.

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Another view of the Washington Monument

We were supposed to stop at Maine Avenue Fish Market to snack on some crabs, but CN wanted to show us Washington Nationals Park first. The day started out bright and sunny, but as we rode towards the ballpark, I noticed dark clouds and thought to myself, geez, that can’t be good. And it wasn’t…

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… we were caught in a crazy storm!!!

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People running for their lives!!

Luckily, the high winds and rain started right after we checked in our bikes and ran across the street to take cover.

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The storm passed relatively quickly, but it held us back enough so that we weren’t able to get crabs. Our friends had another ballgame to go to and we had dinner reservations at Rasika, a swanky Indian Restaurant.

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I’ve always tried to steer away from fancy schmancy Asian restaurants. I’m spoiled because I live in an area where I have access to yummy Asian food ON THE CHEAP! So why would I want to pay a 100% mark-up for essentially the same thing just dressed up? Well, with almost 1000 reviews on Yelp confirming Rasika as the best Indian restaurant in DC, of course I had to try. And honestly, I didn’t know it was upscale until I arrived. Sure, the prices listed online seemed a bit high, but weren’t to the point of being ridiculous (FYI, $$$ on Yelp).

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We ordered the dishes that our waitress highly recommended and added an appetizer because we wanted some lamb. For starters, we had two barbequed items.

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Mango Shrimp – fresh mango / cashew nut / ginger / coriander / mint chutney

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Seekh Kebab – minced lamb / garam masala / mint chutney

The shrimp was good, but at $12 for 4 pieces, not good enough. Our waitress warned that the minced lamb was really spicy, but when I took a bite, it wasn’t too spicy at all. I actually liked the amount of heat and it had good flavor.

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Palak Chaat – crispy baby spinach / sweet yogurt / tamarind / date chutney

This baby right here is Rasika’s signature dish. As I browsed through reviews on Yelp, I noticed that almost every review mentioned the Palak Chaat. Even after reading these reviews, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, how could fried spinach be that good? But man, it was. It really was. The Palak Chaat was unlike anything I’ve ever had. Crispy, light, a mixture of sweet and spice. So simple and delicious!

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Black Cod – fresh dill / honey / star anise / red wine vinegar

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Chicken Makhani – broiled chicken / tomato / fenugreek

The best dish of the night came next: black cod. OMG, I DIE. It was MELT IN YOUR MOUTH AMAZING. The only other experience I’ve had with fish that matched this was when I tasted Roy’s Misoyaki Butterfish (Black Cod) for the first time (subsequent experiences have been sub-par).

One of my favorite Indian dishes is butter chicken and Rasika’s Chicken Makhani was pretty damn good. The chicken was incredibly tender and the sauce had a nice balance of tomato, butter and cream. I only wish the dish had more heat.

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Date & Toffee Pudding

I love sticky toffee pudding, but many restaurants make it way too sweet. This is usually masked by serving it with ice cream. Rasika’s sticky toffee pudding was moist and not too sweet. Just… perfection.

As with the night before, we took a walk after dinner. This time we made our way to the opposite side of the National Mall, the Capitol.

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To get home, we were going to walk back to the Metro stop by the restaurant, but Henry was struggling with a sore calf. The night before we flew to DC, Henry thought it would be a good idea to run a couple of miles, ya know, so that he wouldn’t feel as bad for all the food we would be consuming on our trip. The problem was, Henry hadn’t run in a very long time. So yea, instead of walking back to the Metro, we biked back. Good thing for Capital Bikeshare! 😀

Our last full day in DC was museum day. I’ve been to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, USS Midway in SD and Intrepid Air & Space Museum in NYC. So, of course I had to visit the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum while I was in DC. For those on a budget, the Smithsonian Museums are great because they’re FREE! Sure, the Air & Space Museum was dated and didn’t have the “cool” aircraft that the other museums have, but I still enjoyed the few hours that I spent there.

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Since we had a few hours to kill before dinner, we went to get crabs with CN. The crabs usually take some time to prepare so instead of just waiting around, we stood in line for oysters thinking that we would snack on them while we waited for the crabs to cook. Well, we were STILL in line when the crabs were ready and ended up waiting an additional 20 minutes for the oysters. There was only one shucker and the people ahead of us probably ordered 10 dozen oysters combined!

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Appetizers 😉

After indulging in a seafood feast, we reluctantly cleaned up and headed to dinner. I had high expectations for our last dinner in DC. Not only because we’ve had delicious meals the nights before, but because this was the only dinner CN could make and we wanted to treat him out for being such a great host.

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Amuse Bouche, Eggplant w/ Lamb Shank
Pappardelle w/ Smoked Duck Breast, Raviolini w/ Braised Veal Shoulder

Unfortunately, dinner at Siroc turned out to be one of the worst in recent memory. Hopefully this was just an off night because I don’t see how Siroc is deserving of a 4 star rating on Yelp. Even though the restaurant was not busy, service was lacking and the food was mediocre at best. My dish, the raviolini, seemed to be the only one that turned out as the menu described. There was definitely something wrong with the eggplant w/ lamb shank and we all think it was the cheese; it tasted and smelled rotten! At first I thought, perhaps this is a type of cheese that I’m not familiar with, but when I looked at the menu again, I was surprised to see, “Pecorino Romano”. I’ve cooked with pecorino romano! The pappardelle was overloaded with mushrooms and had very little duck. I don’t understand how this pasta with mushrooms and duck bits cost $20 while the fabulous Muscovy Duck Breast at Blue Duck Tavern cost $28!

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We had a great weekend in DC with great company. I wish we could have stayed longer!

The following day was a travel day. We took the subway to Union Station and caught the MARC train to BWI Airport (Baltimore). All this to save money because flights from BWI to BUF (Buffalo) were much cheaper 🙂 The ride on the MARC took about 40 minutes.

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From BWI, we flew to BUF and then drove to our next destination, Toronto 😀

… to be continued.

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DC Eats (+our verdict):
Blue Duck Tavern, 4.5/5
Rasika, 4.5/5
Ben’s Chili Bowl, 3/5
Siroc, 1.5/5
Captain White’s Seafood City, 4/5

Utah, Day 7: Time Flies

The Bird had been good to us so that’s where we spent our last full day in Utah.

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We knew we weren’t going to take the tram so we parked at Creekside (parking lot 1) instead of parking near Snowbird Center (parking lot 2).

The conditions had become spring-like as the week progressed so we stuck to the top half of the mountain where the snow wasn’t completely slush. In fact, there were still great stashes of powder in upper Gad Valley and Mineral Basin. For the first part of the day, we were in search of fresh lines in upper Gad Valley, which proved to be difficult because of the rocks that were in the way.

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Little Cloud Lift

After a quick lunch at the Birdfeeder, we took Peruvian Express lift up and then took the Peruvian Tunnel to Mineral Basin. Yes, I said tunnel. SNOWBIRD HAS A TUNNEL.

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Awesome, right?!?!?! 😀

It took about 4 minutes to go through the tunnel. We spent the rest of the day in Mineral Basin.

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I tried to get a picture of Henry jumping over rocks, but I didn’t bring my DSLR and my phone camera is too slow. FAIL.

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Even though it was another great day at the Bird, I started getting bummed out because I knew we would be going home the next day. Time flies when you’re having fun.

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Our last dinner in Utah was at The Copper Onion.

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I was nervous because we didn’t have a reservation, but there happened to be two spots available at the counter when we arrived. I love watching chefs in action so I thought we lucked out. An interesting thing I noted was the number of gloves the chefs blew through during our time there. One of the chefs wore a glove over a glove and kept changing the top glove after prepping certain foods. Is this standard food safety protocol?

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Looking over the menu, I saw bone marrow, pork belly and mussels offered as appetizers; three of my favorite things! How could I say no?

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Pleasant Creek Ranch Wagyu Bone Marrow: Parsley, Caper, Fennel salad, Charred baguette, $13

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Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly: Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parsnip, Preserved Cherries, $11

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Mussels: Creamy Black Pepper Sauce, Toast Points, $15

The bone marrow and pork belly were AMAZING, probably the best I’ve ever had. The mussels were perfectly cooked, but the pepper sauce was a little overwhelming.

We decided not to be complete fat asses this time around and only ordered one entree. 😀 It was tough because I was really interested in the poutine!

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Lamb Riblets: Warm Cauliflower and Potato Salad, $18

The riblets were fall off the bone tender and less gamy than I’ve experienced elsewhere. I really enjoyed the side salad.

For the first time in a long while, we actually had room for dessert. Usually our buttons are popping off and still, we would order dessert.

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Special of the Day: Strawberry, Grapefruit and Basil Sorbet, $3

The sorbet was definitely light and refreshing. I first tasted the strawberry and the slight bitterness of the grapefruit came through at the end.

After dinner we went on a night walk around the State Capitol Building, which is just a few blocks away from our condo.

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If you look closely, you’ll see people sitting on the front steps and on the surrounding wall. I guess it was prom night or something because we saw lots of kids in fancy dresses and tuxes. Damn, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I graduated high school. 😥

After a week in Utah, Henry said he still prefers Colorado. Given how horrible this season has been, I don’t think a fair comparison can be made. I really do hope this season is an anomaly and I’ll get a chance to come back and fully experience why Utah has “the greatest snow on earth”. So for now, I’ll just say that I ♥ Utah as much as I ♥ Colorado.

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SLC Eats (+our verdict):
The Copper Onion, 4/5

Utah, Day 5 & 6: The Other Side

Day 5

After 3 days of good to great conditions (at the end of March, GASP!), it was due time for a reality check.

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Bluebird skies, HOT (60°), SLUSH

Adult Half Day = $76
Adult Full Day = $96

$96?! Damn. The cost of half day at Canyons is as much as a full day at Snowbird! I learned, after the fact, that the local Costco sells discounted tickets to Canyons.

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To get to the base of the mountain from the parking lot, take a ride on the Cabriolet lift, which is basically a small, standing only gondola. The view up from the parking lot got me totally pumped up…

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This pic is from winter, I swear.

We started our day with the Orange Bubble Express. This lift is pretty famous because it’s the only one with heated seats and a sun/wind visor. Ballin! I guess it’s kind of cool, but seriously, do you really need these things? Don’t be a pansy.

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This must be why my ticket cost $96!

OK, so maybe if it was like 10° and windy, I totally would’ve raved about it 😉

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I heard great things about Canyons while I was planning this trip, but I knew I had to lower my expectations a bit given how horrible this season has been. Then we came to Utah and was totally blown away by Snowbird so I figured we would get more of the same at Canyons. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. AT ALL.

Mid-mountain was slushy where the sun hit and icy in the shade. Stop and go, stop and go, was no fun. We tried to make the best of it, but it seemed like all runs leading back to the mid-mountain lifts were catwalks and slushy catwalks are pretty much the worst things EVAR. We hoped the top of the mountain would be better, but before we headed up, we had to re-energize with a waffle break.

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The waffle was OK. I was confused because some of the sugar was still crystallized inside the waffle – that’s not how it’s supposed to be right? Eating chunks of sugar was strange.

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After our quick break, we took the Ninety-Nine 90 lift to the top of the mountain. I didn’t understand the name of the lift at first, but then I realized DUH, 9990 ft is the elevation. The top wasn’t much better than mid-mountain since it was all icy. We did one run and didn’t bother going back up. I’m not sure what I hate more, ice or slush.

Based on my one day experience, I’m pretty sure I won’t be coming back to Canyons in the future. For a ticket price that is almost as much as Vail/Breck (and more than Mammoth!), I just don’t see how Canyons is worth the money, even in good conditions. Anyone who disagrees, please let me know what I am missing!

Although Canyons was a bust, dinner at Himalayan Kitchen partly made up for it.

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Himalayan Assorted Meat Platter, $12.95
Lamb Kabab, Chicken Tikka, Shish Kabab and Chicken Tandoori with Lamb Samosa

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Fish Curry, $16.95
Traditional dish made with wild Mahi-Mahi, onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and curry spices

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Lamb Vindaloo, $15.95
Boneless lamb cooked with potatoes, onion, tomatoes, vinegar and spices in a tangy sauce

We ordered “medium” spicy for the curry and vindaloo and man, they were SPICY, but good spicy, not uncomfortable spicy… though… I did contemplate ordering a mango lassi after we started eating. 😉 Everything was delicious and the lamb and fish were especially tender. My only complaint, as with Mazza, is that the prices are steep. I understand the curry was made with Mahi-Mahi, but $17 for a small bowl of fish curry is a lot.

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Day 6

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Park City’s famous Eagle Superpipe

When we checked the ticket prices for Park City, the website wasn’t updated so the prices were the same as Canyons. Not wanting waste another $96, we decided to ride a half day and then go back to Snowbird for our last full day in Utah.

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Partly cloudy – snow (mid afternoon), spring conditions

When we arrived at the ticket booth, we were quoted different prices:

Adult Half Day = $65
Adult Full Day = $80

First of all, thank you, Park City, for being reasonable and adjusting ticket prices based on conditions and late season. Having to pay only $65 was a nice surprise and guess what??? If I had paid $96 for Park City, it still would have been WAY more worth it than Canyons.

For the most part, the coverage was decent.

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There were some areas, especially near the bottom of the mountain, that had limited coverage.

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Silverlode lift

Since we didn’t have a lot of time, we rode mainly in the King Con and Silverlode zones. Park City is divided into 7 zones: Crescent, Jupiter, King Con, Silverlode/Bonanza, Motherlode/Thaynes, Payday/Town and McConkey’s. The runs in the King Con and Silverload zones were wide blues and reminded me a lot of Breck’s Peak 9 area. Despite the conditions being what they were, I actually had a good time and wished we could have spent a full day here instead of Canyons. I would definitely come back to Utah and ride Park City again 🙂

So yesterday was bad day at Canyons, but good dinner. Today was good day at Park City, but bad dinner.

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Bayou supposedly has a great beer selection, but we didn’t go there for the beer, we went for the food. Perhaps that was our mistake.

We started with two appetizers: popcorn shrimp ($5.99) and seafood balls ($6.99).

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The popcorn shrimp were OK. It was interesting that they were so lightly breaded and I don’t quite understand why the shrimp were placed directly over the sauce. According to the menu, the seafood balls are a mixture of salmon, crawfish and shrimp. The mix must have been 80% salmon because that’s all I could taste.

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Crawfish Etouffee, $12.99

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Gumbolaya (+ shrimp), $16.68

Our entrees weren’t much better. The etouffee had no flavor and the few crawfish in the dish were overcooked. The gumbolaya, on the other hand, was sooooooooo salty! The shrimp that we added to the gumbolaya were flavorless so it was pretty obvious that they were just thrown in right before the dish was plated. I could also tell they were frozen shrimp since they had a rubbery texture. Yuck.

——–
SLC Eats (+our verdict):
Himalayan Kitchen, 3.5/5
The Bayou, 2/5

(to be continued…)

Utah, Day 3 & 4: Bird Is The Word

Day 3

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Bird bird bird…

Today was one of the best powder days OF MY LIFE!! Though visibility was poor, the amount of powder definitely made up for it.

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POWDER, windy, zero/low visibility

The forecast called for snow, and snow it did. The Snowbird website reported 4 inches, but it felt like a lot more.

Half day Tram & Chair (12:30 – 4:00) = $68
Full day Tram & Chair = $78
Full day Chair Only = $72

After we purchased our tickets, we headed straight to the Tram, which is basically a huge, standing only, gondola. It fits about 100 people and takes 10 minutes to get to the top of the mountain (Hidden Peak). If you don’t care to have direct access to the top, save $6 and purchase a Chair Only ticket.

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At the top, we strapped in and could not see SHIT. Since it was white out conditions, we decided to ride the “easy” blue run down. Well, this blue run from the top (Chip’s Run) is relatively narrow and flat; it reminded me of Heavenly’s Skyline trail. I ride regular so I tend to freak out when my back faces the edge of the mountain. It didn’t help things AT ALL that I couldn’t even see where the edge was!

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Chip’s Run on a clear day (Day 3)

We rode a few runs on the Peruvian Gulch side, taking the Tram up every time. Another advantage of the Tram is not having to battle cold and wind during a snowstorm.

For lunch, we at Forklift, which is a serviced restaurant on the top level of the Snowbird Center. Henry ordered the Pastrami Burger ($13.75) and I had the Halibut Fish & Chips ($15.75). I thought fish & chips came standard with fries because… oh, I don’t know… the name?… but apparently at Forklift, the Halibut Fish & Chips comes with a choice of fries, cottage cheese OR side salad. UM OK. I ended up paying extra for a side salad ($5.50) because I got confused. The food was expensive but good. There are two other options if you are at the Snowbird Center and want to save a few bucks: Birdfeeder (outdoor grill) is right next to Forklift and Rendezvous (cafeteria) is located one floor down.

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Awesome name!! 😀

After lunch, we explored the Gad Valley side. At first it seemed like a bad idea since the top area was pretty icy with only a thin layer of powder. But we traveled a bit further down and found paradise. Every trail was covered with powder. I felt like I was gliding on clouds the entire time. And the tree runs in this area rivaled those at Vail! We didn’t want to leave the area so we kept riding down to the same lift (Gad 2).

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Ahh Heaven.

———————————–

Day 4

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The next day, we were blessed with partly cloudy skies. Since the storm prevented us from riding the backside (Mineral Basin) and the upper bowls of Gad Valley, we spent Day 4 in these areas.

Mineral Basin can be accessed from Hidden Peak via Chip’s Run/Lupine Loop and Path to Paradise. The name Path to Paradise should be renamed to Going Through Hell to Get to Paradise because it was another narrow trail where my back faced the edge mountain. OK, it wasn’t that bad, I’m just chicken shit. 😦

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Path to Paradise (Left to Mineral Basin) and Road to Provo (Right to Gad Valley)

If riding Path to Paradise to Mineral Basin, you can actually drop in mostly anywhere on the trail, but we tried and found that some areas near the top were icy so we stuck with groomed runs: Junior’s Powder Paradise, White Diamond and Silver Dipper.

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Two lifts service Mineral Basin (see left in picture above): Mineral Basin Express, which takes you back to Hidden Peak, and Baldy Express, which skiers can take to access the adjoining skier-only mountain, Alta.

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Henry gettin’ cray

We took a quick lunch break at Rendezvous, the cafeteria on the second floor of the Snowbird Center, and then took the Tram back up to Gad Valley.

Remember what I said about narrow trails? So I had NO problems with Road to Provo since my back was not facing the edge. GEEEEEEZ. What’s my problem?? 😦

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Anyway, as with other areas, you can drop in pretty much anywhere, but we followed Road to Provo to Mark Malu Fork. And…… Wow. Just WOW.

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Sorry, Mineral Basin, I’mma let you finish, but Gad Valley has the bestest runs of all time. Riding the upper bowls of Gad Valley was like riding down from the Summit of Peak 8 (Breck) without having to hike up and almost die from exhaustion. Win-win.

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Our last run of the day and not a person in sight. I love that feeling ♥

(to be continued…)

Utah, Day 2: Solitude

Day 2

Waking up early certainly didn’t happen. It was a half-day kind of day. Our excuse was that we only slept a couple of hours the night before 😉 We finally left the condo at 12:50 and arrived at Solitude at about 1:30.

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Half day ticket (12:30 – 4:00) = $56
Full day ticket = $68

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Partly cloudy, packed power, borderline slushy

Despite several days of high temps after a storm that dumped a couple of feet of new snow, the coverage was still decent. The first thing we tried to do was go to the summit, but unfortunately, the most direct route was closed off for avalanche control. Bummer! We decided to just stay on the right side of the mountain. Solitude is not a big mountain; I thought it was about the size of Big Bear and Snow Summit combined. The runs and lifts are short, which was fine given our limited time. Our favorite run was Eagle Ridge (off Powderhorn II Quad) to Challenger (can also be accessed by Eagle Express Quad).

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Powderhorn II Quad

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wwwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!

On our last run, I smiled to myself, thinking about how we lucked out with the conditions. But as we headed towards the bottom of the mountain, we encountered sticky slush! TOTAL LEG BURN! It was such a drag to have to expend so much energy just to finish our run. Perhaps using all-purpose/all temperature wax could have helped us. I don’t know. I think we’ve only used winter wax.

(to be continued…)

Utah, Day 1: Food Network

No matter how great a season is, I consider taking an out of state snowboarding trip at the end of March as somewhat of a gamble. Spring conditions are not unbearable, but when you spend that much money, you expect to get something better than slush. I didn’t really have a choice this time around since this was the only time Henry could take off – this trip was a belated birthday gift for his dirty 30! 😀

Day 1

The flight to SLC is pretty easy, about an hour and half flight time. We took a taxi from the airport to the Hertz downtown because non-airport locations usually cost less. We probably could have taken the bus, but with all our luggage, spending an extra $25 for a taxi was well worth it. While my reservation was being processed in the store, I was offered the option of dropping off the car at the airport with no extra charge. SWEET!!!! As for our car, we were given a newer SUV with lots of cool features, none of which I have in my own car so now I totally know what I’m missing.

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Since we had a few hours to kill before check in, we stopped by Les Madeleines to try their famous pastry. The Kouing-aman was featured by the Neelys on The Best Thing I Ever Ate and also on their own show, Road Tested. The outside of the pastry is caramelized and the inside is fluffy and flaky; it’s like… caramelized croissant bread pudding! To me, it’s too sweet when eaten alone, but perfect between sips of coffee. My only complaint is the price – $6+ is a bit steep for these little babies.

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Limit 6 (without 72 hour pre-order), about $6 each

So you can’t visit Salt Lake City and not check out Temple Square, right? I’m not a member of LDS, but I can appreciate the beautiful buildings and grounds.

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Right across from Temple Square is the City Creek shopping center. Apparently it was grand opening weekend and we were entertained with a performance of 2 Legit 2 Quit (no joke) followed up with a mash-up of current popular songs.

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I still don’t know who this group is…

Walking around for a couple of hours got us hungry so we headed to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. I know, I know.. Mexican food in SLC?! But this place was highly rated on Yelp (currently 4.5 stars with 437 reviews), so we had to try it.

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Red Iguana is known for their various moles. I had a hard time choosing which to order so our server let me sample all 7.

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A: Amarillo
B: Coloradito
C: Poblano
D: Verde
E: Negro
F: Red Pipian
G: Lomo de Puerco en Mole de Almendras

The Mole Amarillo had the most kick, but I fell in love with the Mole Negro because of it’s smoky, nutty flavor. We always try to order a variety of dishes so instead of another mole, Henry ordered the Poblano Plate. Red Iguana serves legit Mexican food, but I think we both agree that the mole was the better dish.

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Mole Negro – The king of moles…dried chile mulato, negro pasilla, Mexican chocolate, raisins, peanuts, walnuts & bananas – tossed in chicken or turkey, $15.70

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Poblano Plate – One sour cream chicken enchilada, Taco a la Iguana, beef tostada and a side of guacamole, $12.45

I didn’t even realize it until we left, but we were on a mini Food Network food tour; Red Iguana was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!

After lunch, I was food coma status so good thing it was time to check in.

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I loved everything about our condo. The Energy Solutions Arena (Utah Jazz) and Temple Square are just a block away, good restaurants (like Red Iguana) are close by, and you can drive to the new Harmons grocery store in a matter of minutes. There is a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, washer/dryer in the unit and secured parking. At $95/night, WHAT A STEAL! The only negative, as other reviewers have noted, is that the unit is right next to a gas station so noise could be a problem. But overall, it was a great base for our snowboarding trip since the mountains (Snowbird, Solutide, Brighton, Park City, Canyons) were an easy 40 minute drive away. If anyone is interested, I found the condo through VRBO.

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I loved the big sink and big stainless steel fridge (not pictured)

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Huge jacuzzi tub and TWO shower heads!

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We finished our first day in SLC with Middle Eastern cuisine at Mazza. The food was delicious, but overpriced. Chicken, potatoes and rice for $18? Ouch.

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3 sides Sampler Plate: Baba Ganooj, Lamb Sfiha, Fried Kibbeh (not pictured), $11

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Lamb Skewer with Basmati Rice, $11.50

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Mazza’s Chicken and Potatoes Mutabbak

——–
SLC Eats (+our verdict):
Les Madeleines, 3.5/5
Red Iguana, 4/5
Mazza, 3/5

(to be continued…)

Is It Winter Yet?

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Mammoth Mountain, 1/6/12-1/8/12
Conditions: Spring, icy patches, minimal coverage

This is what January is looking like, folks…

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No bueno

I’m pretty sure these conditions are the worst I’ve seen and experienced at Mammoth. We tried to make the best of it, but it was difficult given all of the browns spots, rocks and ICE. My board is seriously tore up! 😦

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This is usually one of favorite runs – I love to bomb it down to Canyon, especially at the end of the day. So I’m riding down and everything was OK until I turned the corner. I, along with everyone else, was surprised by large patches of ice. People were breaking. People were falling. People were breaking and then falling. @#$*&@%. Icy crowded runs = accidents waiting to happen. I’m glad I survived with bruised knees.

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I eat: Traif

Our experience at Traif could not have started out any worse. We arrived 30 mins late because I thought our reservation was at 8:30PM – it was actually at 8:00PM. The hostess offered us the bar since our table had obviously been given away and we accepted. As we were settling in and figuring out what to order, the hostess came by and said she would be able to move us to a table (outside in the patio area) if we didn’t mind waiting about 10 minutes. Even though it actually turned out to be more like 20 minutes, we were so delighted and grateful! The hostess was more than awesome 🙂 .. too bad I can’t say the same for our waitress.

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Amuse bouche – Moroccan lentil soup

Delicious and oh so comforting on a cold, rainy night.

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Seared scallops, butternut squash, huckleberries, pistachios, sage

The scallops were perfectly cooked and I loved the sweet and nutty aspect of the sauce.

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Crispy pork belly, cauliflower, peperoncini, romesco, parsley-garlic

Hmm, honestly, I don’t really remember this one. Not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. The dish was just not memorable either way.

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Butterfish carpaccio, grapefruit, avocado, mint, sesame, soy

The avocado enhanced the creaminess of the butterfish and the grapefruit brought a refreshing element to the dish. YUM!

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Gemelli pasta, blue crab, fresh black truffles, braised leeks

I’ve read many complaints about this dish, specifically regarding the lack of crab. While I agree that there could have been more crab (who doesn’t want more crab?), this dish was one of my favorites. The crab was not the star of the dish, but I couldn’t have cared less because I’m a sucker for truffles.

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Joe’s chopped chicken livers, balsamic-bacon toasts, rosemary & shallots

LOVED. LOVED. LOVED this! The balsamic drizzle added a bit of sweetness and paired well with the chicken liver pate.

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Salt & pepper spicy white shrimp, golden pineapple, sweet potatoes

When I read salt & pepper spicy shrimp, I didn’t expect to see this; I was thinking more along the lines of Asian salt and pepper shrimp. Although I liked the shrimp itself, the combination of pineapple and sweet potatoes didn’t work for me.

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Seared foie, fingerlings, ham chips, sunny egg, maple, hot sauce

This dish reminded me of the foie gras loco moco at Animal (one of my favorite dishes EVER). It wasn’t as good, but certainly isn’t far behind. How can a dish with foie, potatoes and egg not be good?

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Sautéed veal sweetbreads, roast mushrooms, green garlic, spinach

By this time, we were so damn full, our buttons were about to pop off. I liked the earthiness of the mushrooms and green garlic, but the dish would have been much better had the sweetbreads been accompanied with something that would have provided a contrast in texture instead of spinach. Henry isn’t a big fan of sweetbreads because of the texture so even though I was already extremely stuffed, I basically finished the dish myself. oof.

We definitely learned the hard way that 8 dishes is wayyyy too ambitious! No regrets though, we had a great meal.

Verdict: 4/5
Traif
229 S 4th St
Brooklyn, NY 11211

It’s My Birthday And I’ll Do What I Want To

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I knew exactly where I wanted to celebrate my 27th birthday.

NYC.

I purchased our plane tickets 4 months ago and had been counting down ever since. Now that it’s over, I feel empty inside and have nothing to look forward to until our snowboarding trip to Utah next March. Le sigh. #firstworldproblems

To save money, I took a chance and booked a room for Henry and I at the Verve Hotel. The hotel received great reviews on both Yelp and Trip Advisor so it made my decision a little easier to make. The Verve Hotel is located across the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City and is within a 5 minute walk of 3 subway stations: Queens Plaza (E, M, R), Queensboro Plaza (7, N, Q) and 39th Ave (N, Q). By staying in a hotel one subway stop from Manhattan, I saved us about $600. Awesome, right? I saved us even more money since we took the AirTrain/Subway instead of a taxi from JFK. The AirTrain cost $5 and took us to the E line (Sutphin Blvd/Archer Ave). From there, we used our unlimited 7-day Metro pass and took the E line to Queens Plaza. A taxi ride would have easily cost $50+.

As with all the trips I plan, this one revolved heavily around food. I shouldn’t even say that anymore since it’s basically a given.

Our first meal in NYC was chicken and rice at halal cart (53rd and 6th). It has NEVER, EVER disappointed me. I love it so much. We even picked up two plates on our last night to bring home!

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mmMmmm… white sauce

We also had a delicious brunch at Shopsin’s, a little shop located in the Essex Street Market.

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Tip: The menu is HUGE so look it over online and have a general idea of what you want before you arrive at Shopsin’s. Oh, and taking pictures is frowned upon (yes, the cook actually shook his head at me), but I did it anyway.

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Oyster scramble (CS10) and Blisters on my Sister (Mexican)

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Mac and Cheese Pancakes w/ Bacon .. UHHHMAZING

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was ride a bike around Central Park. I guess the 4th time’s the charm since the weather finally cooperated with me!

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We rented bikes from Bike and Roll (Columbus Circle location). A full day rental costs $44 and a “day pass” costs $49. With a day pass, you are allowed to return the bike at another Bike and Roll location. This was a great option for us since I wanted to bike down to Battery Park City.

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A quick pit stop at Luke’s Lobster for lunch…

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… before riding along the Hudson River and finding this …

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I really thought the obstacle course was drawn by Bike and Roll! It was actually for a kid’s event the previous week. LOL! 😀

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After a 14 mile bike ride, we treated ourselves to gelato from L’arte del Gelato. SOOO GOOD!

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Mokaccino, Mascarpone, Pistacchio

Since we’ve already visited the Met and AMNH, we decided to check out the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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Our day passes from Bike and Roll were also good for $5 off the All-Access Pass ($35) at the Intrepid, which included general admission, audio tour and 1 simulator ride (general admission itself is $24). Head sets were not provided with the audio tour. Instead, you held up the device to your ear and listened as you would with a cell phone. Some would probably find this tiring and annoying, but I didn’t really care too much. I only felt inconvenienced when I wanted to listen and take pictures at the same time.

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Did I mention that I love planes?

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TBM-3E Avenger and FJ-3 Fury

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Flight Deck

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F-9J Cougar and F-11F Tiger

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F-14 Tomcat and A-12 (precursor to SR-71 Blackbird)

A birthday trip wouldn’t be complete without a birthday dinner, right? Well, make that two.

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Marea and Eleven Madison Park

Thanks, Henry! ♥

——–
NYC Eats & Activities (+our verdict):
Verve Hotel, 4/5
Halal Cart, 53rd & 6th, 5/5
Shopsin’s, 4/5
NYC Bike & Roll, 4/5
Luke’s Lobster, 4/5
USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, 4/5
L’arte del Gelato, 4/5
Doughnut Plant, 4/5
Laduree, 4.5/5
Shake Shack, 4.5/5

I eat: Burma SuperStar [1],[2]

The first time I dined at Burma SuperStar, I waited 2 hours for a table. The meal ended up being worth the wait, but I was determined to not let that happen again. Unfortunately, I wasn’t more prepared my second time and it was another 2 hours spent waiting around. Sorry guys! 😦

Tip: Burma SuperStar allows you to call in and place your name on the list – when a table is ready for you, they’ll give you a call to let you know. Make sure you’re around the area.

I decided to combine the pictures I took from my two trips to showcase a variety of dishes.

My FAVORITE items were:

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Braised Pork Belly

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Tea Leaf Salad

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Garlic Chili Shrimp

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Garlic Noodles with Duck

The pork belly was melt in your mouth UHMAZING and I loved the different textures in the salad. Being such a big garlic lover, the garlic shrimp and noodles were perfect choices.

The other dishes I’ve tried were delicious as well!

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Moh Hinga (catfish chowder)

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Nan Gyi Dok

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Spicy Chicken with Mint

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Burmese Style Curry with Beef

You must order rice with your meal! It’s totally necessary.

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Half Tan Poi and Coconut Rice

And if you still have room (which I highly doubt), I recommend this for dessert:

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Banana Spring Roll with Coconut Ice Cream

I have a love/hate relationship with Burma SuperStar. I really love the food, but the wait is ridiculous. I’ll make sure to follow my own tip next time.

Verdict (1 & 2): 4/5
Burma SuperStar
309 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118

Save Me, San Francisco

Just like NYC, I never intended to visit SF every year, but things just worked out that way. Last Thursday, Henry and I packed some clothes and snacks and made the 6.5 hour drive up north. We spent the weekend in the city by the bay (+ side trip to Napa, OF COURSE) with a couple of good friends.

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GOOD FRIENDS + GOOD FOOD = GOOD TIMES 🙂

In SF, we stayed at our usual spot: Coventry Motor Inn. Upon checking in, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the room was completely renovated (new carpet, new memory foam beds, tv, etc)! And the best part was the price remained the same as before! I LOVE this place for being budget friendly, having FREE parking, and for its great location.

Our first night was spent eating dinner at Leopold’s and getting drinks at Horseshoe Tavern. Not only was the food at Leopold’s delicious, the co-owner Albert is totally awesome! I spoke to him briefly on the phone and since we were staying close by, he graciously offered to put my name on the list and provided an approximate time a table would be ready. Doing just that would have been good enough for me, but after dinner, Albert thanked us personally for dining at his restaurant and even remembered my name!

We tried to wake up early on Friday to avoid waiting a long time for brunch at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Unfortunately, I suck at waking up early when I don’t have work so we got in line at about 10:30AM and waited a little more than 1.5 hours for a table. BRUTAL. By the time we were seated, we were starving, thus …

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yea buddyyyy 😀

Yes, the food was worth the wait.

After stuffing our face, we tried to fight off food coma by walking around Union Square. We then took the F train to Justin Herman Plaza for some urban zip lining!

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The only downside is that you pay $29 for an experience that lasts less than a minute. It’s pricey, but it’s a cool thing to do if you’ve never zip lined before. It runs only in the summer and will shut down by the end of September. Hurry!!

After zip lining, we slowed things a bit by taking a leisurely hike at Land’s End.

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The next day, we headed up to Napa for some wine tasting. I don’t like wine so that made me the designated driver and photographer.

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Domaine Chandon

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Paradigm

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Alpha Omega

And that was that. Another great trip up north.

——–
SF Eats & Activities (+our verdict):
Leopold’s, 4.5/5
Dottie’s, 4/5
Zip Trek, 3/5
Philz Coffee, 5/5
Ferry Building, 4/5

Napa Wineries (+Henry’s verdict):
Domaine Chandon, 3/5
Paradigm, 4/5
Rubicon, 4/5
Alpha Omega, 1/5

Not So Heavenly

I ain’t gonna lie.

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On a clear day, the views of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly are spectacular, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that Heavenly is horrible mountain.

I hate Heavenly.

I thought I didn’t give it a fair chance in 2007 so I visited again this past weekend. Big mistake. This trip just reinforced my hatred.

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On Friday, about 75% of the mountain was closed due to high winds. I know I can’t fault the mountain for high winds, but give me a fucking break. The highest lift (CA side) we were able to take was Powderbowl, thus we were basically confined to a small area the same size as the West side of Mt. High!! Good thing Henry and I both have Epic Passes because if we had paid full price, we would have been PISSED.

Saturday was A LOT better, but only because there was a foot of new pow. The weather conditions in the morning were basically the same as Friday and yet most of the lifts were actually open. I just don’t get it. Anyway, we had a really good time on the Nevada side. We went down some nice tree runs below the Stagecoach lift and I didn’t even mind the skier tracked pow because it was soft enough to carve through.

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After a quick lunch at East Peak Lodge, we wanted to go to the top of the mountain so we went up Dipper Express and made our way to Sky Express. As we were about to get in line for Sky, the staff announced that they were closing the lift. WTF, seriously? Sky being closed meant that we were stuck on the California side AGAIN. This is exactly why I hate Heavenly so much; it truly is a bitch to traverse the different areas. From NV to CA, you have to take a few lifts and you can bet your ass that there will be catwalks involved. From CA to NV, you better pray to the Heavenly Gods to keep Sky open, otherwise, just forget about it – YOU’RE STUCK!

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Can’t take this guy anywhere

AND why is it that Heavenly doesn’t rope off areas that don’t lead directly back to runs? We went down into the trees off of Cat Track (CA side), got stuck in more than knee deep powder and had to hike over a snow covered trench and up to Maggie’s run! Damnit!

I’m usually sad when snowboarding trips end, but I was eager to leave Tahoe on Sunday. Since it had been snowing, we spent the morning shoveling snow and putting on chains. I had been checking the road conditions since the night before and decided that taking the 50 would be the best way home (instead of the 395) because chains were required for a shorter distance.

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Our drive home started innocently enough. It was snowing, but we had chains on so we were fine. After driving a mile down the street, we came to a complete stop. I kept checking the road conditions for the 50 to see what the deal was, but there was no mention of any accidents or road closures. And because we were slowly inching along (no joke, 9 miles in 4 hours), we stayed put. After 5 hours or so, it was finally announced that there was a traffic hold for avalanche control. I seriously wanted to punch something!!! It was so fucking frustrating to realize that not only did we waste 5 hours FOR NOTHING, we still had a good 10 hour drive ahead of us.

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I just want to go home!!

So we back tracked on the 50, took off the chains and headed to the 395. This began the scariest drive of our lives.

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We just couldn’t catch a break. We were constantly battling Mother Nature whether it was snow and zero visibility or heavy rain and high winds. After 15 hours of HELL, we were finally home.

So yea, Henry and I won’t be coming back to Tahoe anytime soon, that’s for sure.

To end on a good note, check out what we made for dinner: juicy lucy with pepper jack and caramelized onions. So damn good!

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I eat: Bottega Ristorante [2]

My first time dining at Bottega was SO AMAZING, I couldn’t wait to go back! I had to try the Egg and Pork Belly Confit, which Tyler Florence showcased on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. We weren’t able to order this dish the first time around because it’s seasonal; it appears on the menu starting in July.

Good thing I didn’t have to wait too long.

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We started off with one of Henry’s favorite wines (Buehler ’05 Cab) and a few appetizers: Polenta Under Glass, Monterey Calamari and of couse, Egg and Pork Belly Confit.

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The polenta was just as delicious as last time, but the calamari, though tasty, was nothing extraordinary. Unfortunately, I wasn’t blown away with the Egg and Pork Belly Confit either. I LOVED the runny soft boiled egg, but unfortunately, the pork belly was overcooked. Oh well. I prefer braised pork belly over pork belly confit anyway.

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Next up was pasta: Pappardelle Bolognese. The fresh pasta was cooked perfectly, but the meat sauce fell a bit flat. I expected it to be more flavorful.

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We shared two entrees between 3 people because we didn’t want to over-stuff ourselves (which we ended up doing anyway). Since Henry and I had duck last time, we went for the Wood Grilled Lamb (with local figs and polenta). The polenta was delicious and the figs added a subtle layer of sweet that balanced out the gaminess of the lamb.

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We also ordered the Smoked and Braised Short Ribs (with preserved Meyer-lemon spinach). The meat was very tender and the lemon lightened up the dish.

So even though our buttons were popping off at this point, we couldn’t leave without having dessert. I don’t remember the name of the 1st one, but who cares. Focus on the 2nd dessert: Zeppole al Lemoni – Italian donuts served with Meyer-lemon curd and Earl Grey infused jam. Hot damn, these were delicious!!!! I preferred the jam because the lemon curd was a little too tart.

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I had put Bottega on a pedestal after my first time dining there. My second time brought Bottega back down to earth. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the restaurant and would recommend it to anyone. I just know that, other than the Confit of Half Duck and the Polenta Under Glass, most dishes aren’t the best I’ve ever had.

Verdict 2.0: 4/5
Bottega Ristorante Napa Valley
6525 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1300

Bigger Is Better?

I was really excited to board at Vail. And why wouldn’t I be since Vail is so often described as “Epic”, “Amazing” and a “Big Mountain”?

My first impression of Vail was that it is a skier’s mountain. There were LOTs of catwalks and moguls, which as a snowboarder, I found very annoying. Vail is indeed a very big mountain and because of this, it seemed like 75% of their runs were ungroomed or skier tracked; Practically every run that we went on, regardless of the “groomed” signage, was very bumpy. Vail says that they have “the most groomed terrain on this planet”, but based on my experience, I would have to disagree with that claim.

To me, Vail’s saving grace was the abundance of awesome tree runs and Blue Sky Basin. For great tree runs on the front side of Vail, check out Game Creek Bowl. We spent an entire afternoon in this area!

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If it weren’t for Game Creek Bowl, I would tell everybody to skip the front side entirely and go directly to Blue Sky Basin, where it truly is “like nothing on earth”. Riding through fresh untouched pow definitely made me love Vail.

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See you next year, Colorado ♥

Loved

The highest lift at Breck (Imperial Express) takes you to about 12,840ft. Think this is the top? Think again. To get to Peak 8 Summit, you have to hike up a vertical distance of 160ft!

The easiest way to get to Imperial (for a snowboarder who doesn’t want to use the T-bar :P) is to get to Peak 8 Base and ride up Colorado SuperChair.

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Then take Frosty’s Freeway to Chair 6.

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From the top of Chair 6, ride down to Imperial Express.

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And voila!

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Hiking to the top was seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do IN MY LIFE. Not only did I have to battle the elevation (it was hard to breathe up there), I also had to withstand the force of 30 mph winds. I almost flew off the mountain 3 times!

About half way up, Henry gave up and said he couldn’t make it. Even though I really wanted to give up too, I kept on going. I was determined to make it to the top!

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And I did it! Once I made it to the top, I basically just threw my snowboard down and collapsed from sheer exhaustion. I got myself together and sat for about 5 minutes looking out into the distance, just taking in the whole experience. I was really happy that I made it to the top, but also sad that Henry wasn’t there with me. Before I could sulk too much, I saw Henry walking up. 🙂

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Flowers die. I don’t wear jewelry. Chocolates are meant to be eaten every day. The only gift I wanted was to be together at 13,000ft on Valentine’s Day ♥

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Oh, Colorado!

This year’s Colorado trip started the same way as last year’s.

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We flew into Denver International Airport (DIA), picked up our gear/luggage and hopped on the Colorado Mountain Express (CME).

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After the two hour shuttle ride, we arrived in Breckenridge and checked into Pine Ridge Condominiums. So, why do I like Pine Ridge? Well, mostly because of this…

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Riding down to your condo after a long day is HEAVEN.

Pine Ridge may not be “ski-out”, but the Snowflake Lift, which takes you to Peak 8 Base Area, is just up the street. You can either walk there, or if you’re lazy like us, you can wait for the bus at the bus stop right outside the complex.

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Besides the excellent location, Pine Ridge also has reasonable/budget-friendly rates and helpful staff. I was able to use their meeting room while waiting for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to Vail.

Anyway, once we settled in and unpacked, we took the bus (Gray Line) to City Market. Since I planned our meals before we left for Colorado, shopping for ingredients was a breeze. Carrying our groceries home, on the other hand… well, this is what saving money by not renting a car looks like…

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If you’re considering not renting a car and you need to go to the market, rolling duffel bags (or any kind of rolling luggage) are your best friends!

During our stay in Breck, we made:

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a. Chicken Enchiladas
b. Chipotle Turkey Chili
c. Rib-eye Steaks w/ Mini Cheddar Potato Skins

I made sure to pick tried and true recipes that were quick and delicious. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day of snowboarding was slave in the kitchen.

Last year, Henry and I suffered the symptoms of altitude sickness: headaches, nausea, light-headedness and shortness of breath. This time around, I was more prepared. I made sure to keep myself hydrated and didn’t experience one single symptom. As for Henry, he didn’t listen to me when I repeatedly told him to drink more water and guess what? He felt like shit the first night/second day. Doesn’t he know by now that I’m ALWAYS right? Damn!

Our first snowboarding day was spent at Keystone. It was not a very good day. The snow was a bit sticky, the runs were bumpy and they also closed the base gondola due to high winds. And we missed the bus back to Breck so we had to wait an hour and half for the next bus. And when we finally got home, I noticed that the knob on one of my BOA boots was missing and without it I had no way of tightening that boot. Good thing Josh at Mountain Wave was able to fix my boot in less than 2 minutes for only $10.

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After a lousy first day at Keystone, we hit up Breck and man, the snow was SO MUCH BETTER. We spent much of the first day around Peak 8. My favorite runs on the bottom half of Peak 8 were Spruce, High Anxiety and Rounders.

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During the next few days, we pretty much covered all of Breck. Surprisingly, my favorite area was Peak 10! I say surprisingly because last year, I hated Peak 10 because the runs were icy – we did one run and then headed back to Peak 8/9. This year, we went down almost every run on the front side of Peak 10 and they were all so fun and fast.

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I also liked the runs at Peak 7. They weren’t as challenging as Peak 10, but still fun nonetheless. My favorite run was Wirepatch.

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We usually don’t go out and explore the town during snowboarding trips, but since we didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day (it’s overrated anyway!), Henry and I went on a date on our last night in Breck.

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Downstairs At Eric’s was perfect for us because we were in the mood for pizza and I was able to catch the end of the Kings game. We ordered the sweet chili wings, “garbage” pizza and chicken fried steak.

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I really loved the chicken fried steak; it was so moist and tender! The crust of the pizza was interesting. When I ordered the garlic wheat crust, I really didn’t expect actual minced pieces of garlic in it – what a nice surprise since I LOVE GARLIC!

We passed up dessert at Downstairs at Eric’s because I wanted to see what else Breck had to offer. About 2 or 3 blocks down the street, we found this cute ass place: Crepes a la Cart. The smell was so damn intoxicating, I just had to order a dessert crepe. There were many choices, but I finally decided on the Turtle Sunday.

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SOOOOO DELISH! My only complaint was that they didn’t give us enough ice cream! But in retrospect, maybe this was a good thing since it was really cold outside.

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So, after 5 days in Breck, we left for Vail. We were really sad to leave, but we were also excited to check out Vail and see what all the hype was about.

To be continued….

Board Meetings

Mammoth Mountain, 1/20/11-1/23/11
Conditions: packed powder, spring-like, bluebird skies

First meeting of the year! 🙂

Executive Board:
Cherry
Doug
Kat
Henry
Art
Gertie
Mark

Agenda:
We pretty much covered the entire mountain during our 3 days of boarding. By this I mean we spent equal time at Eagle, Canyon, Mill and Main. Usually, Henry and I like to stay on the Eagle side because
– we usually rent condos in that area
– one of my favorite runs happens to be (Upper) Goldhill to Slot to (Lower) Ricochet – via Cloud 9 Express Chair
– Canyon and Mill are usually way too crowded
– it takes a lot of effort to get to Main unless you start there

I found some new runs that I really love on the backside of Mammoth! Either start at the top (via Panorama Gondola) and take Upper Road Runner or start at the top of Chair 23 and take Skyline to Upper Road Runner. From here you can cut across to go down Arriba to Chair 14. Or you can board Upper Road Runner to Santiago/Santiago Bowl and down to Chair 14. Both are fun speed runs! LOVE THEM!

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Noteworthy Items
Check out this creepy picture. I know I’m short, but damn, I look like a little kid here…

Subsequent Events:
I will be heading to Colorado in TWO WEEKS (5 days in Breck, 5 days in Vail)!!!!!!

Ay Bay Bay

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My Nor Cal trip was way too short; we were only there for about one whole day. Our home base was Fremont, but we took a day trip to San Francisco.

During our 8 hours in SF, we browsed and ate lunch at the Ferry Building, walked around the Golden Gate Bridge area, shopped in the Marina District and ended with dinner at Okoze Sushi. It was a tiring day with lots of walking!

My favorite part was the Ferry Building. Despite visiting SF multiple times, the Ferry Building never made it onto the itinerary. I don’t think I ever even considered going there, which is really surprising given my love for public marketplaces.

[Continue reading here]

Nor Cal

Since I’ll be heading up to Nor Cal later today, I thought this would be a good time to finally write about my last trip to Napa/SF (in October 2010).

Henry’s brother, David, is now teaching abroad in Korea. I planned a trip to Napa/SF as a last hurrah before he left. As with my trips of the past couple of years, this was heavily based on food and being a fellow fatass, David did not mind at all.

We started out in Napa and had some great burgers + yummy pumpkin milkshake at Gott’s Roadside.

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We also lunched at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen during our stay. I was really excited about the duck burger, but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. The best item was the rabbit tostada appetizer.

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Going to Napa can’t be all about food. We visited a few wineries, of course.

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Duckhorn
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and Henry’s favorite, Trefethen
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After our wonderful time in Napa, we headed down to SF to eat some more. I swear I would have gained a gazillion pounds if it weren’t for us getting some exercise by biking across the GG.

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No matter how many times I’ve seen/driven/biked over the Golden Gate Bridge or whether it’s cloudy or sunny, I am still amazed by its beauty. It is definitely my favorite bridge in the world!

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As you can see from the picture below, we clearly were not dressed properly for the bike ride over the bridge. The day started out cloudy with temperatures in the high 50s/low 60s. Because we exerted a lot of energy biking over some big hills, we weren’t really cold until we got closer to the bridge. The strong winds made it feel like the temperature was in the 20s! Good thing the sun finally came out in the afternoon or else we probably would have frozen to death on the bike ride back.

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I always have a great time in the Bay. This weekend will be no exception 🙂

——–
Napa/SF Eats & Wineries (+our verdict):
Gott’s Roadside, 4/5
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, 3/5
Ceja, 3/5
Duckhorn, 3/5
Trinchero, 4/5
Trefethen, 5/5
Firefly Restaurant, 3/5
Fish, 4.5/5
Just For You Cafe, 3/5

Snow Days

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My Epic Pass arrived in the mail today! Woohooo!!!!

There have been a few early storms so I’m seriously stoked to get out there and board. I’m hoping to head out to the local mountains this weekend. As for the rest of the season, my Colorado trip is booked and Mammoth in January is pretty much set, but everything else is tentative. Check out my schedule:


I can’t wait!!!!

I eat: The Purple Pig

I looked at the Purple Pig’s menu multiple times when planning Foodcation 2010, but I didn’t get the “OMG, I have to eat here” feeling so the restaurant never made it onto our itinerary.

Fast forward to our last night in Chicago.

We didn’t have time to eat before our fireworks cruise so by the time it ended (around 10:30PM), we were starving. Using our fabulous new phones (HTC Evo), we searched for the closest place to eat. Well, what do ya know. The first restaurant listed was the Purple Pig. The food gods must have wanted us to eat here.

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The Purple Pig, whose tag line is “Cheese, Swine and Wine”, is located on Mag Mile, two blocks north of the Michigan Ave. bridge. The Mediterranean inspired dishes are served tapas style so we ordered 5 + dessert.

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(1) Shrimp & Clams with Rosamarina
(2) Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs
(3) Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes
(4) Scallop Spiedini with Chickpea Aioli
(5) Jamon Serrano with Duck Egg, Asparagus, Grilled Bread

I can’t really say one dish was my favorite; they were all so delicious!!!! The shrimp and clams were so light and refreshing, the bone marrow was rich and decadent, the pork shoulder and scallops were perfectly tender and oh my gosh, you all know how much I LOVE runny eggs!

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(6) Butterscotch Bodino

What a great ending to a fantastic meal! The butterscotch pudding was thick, smooth and had just the right amount of sweetness. YUM!!

Fate works in funny ways. I’m really glad it led us to the Purple Pig.

Verdict: 5/5
The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

I eat: Alinea

When Alinea calls you and tells you that they have a 5:45PM seating available, you scream at the top of your lungs, jump up and down on the sidewalk before calming yourself to say, “Yes, I’ll take it”.

As I was planning Foodcation 2010, I didn’t think there would be much of a chance of us dining at Alinea given the huge wait list, but I prepared myself nonetheless; I didn’t make concrete dinner plans for our first two nights in Chicago, just in case.

Our flight from Philly arrived in Chicago at 3:30PM and we checked into our hotel by 4:30PM. This meant that we only had 45 minutes to settle in, change and get ready for dinner! I was really stressed, but like I said, whatever it takes! The hotel concierge recommended that we take a taxi to Alinea since we would be dressed up for dinner, but we decided to take public transportation instead. I see no shame in taking the subway/bus while dressed up, although, I would NEVER do that in LA.

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Alinea is located in a gray, nondescript building in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. If not for the valet parking sign outside, you would not know that this gray building with big windows houses one of the best restaurants in world.

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Behind the big black doors is a fuchsia lit, narrow hallway. You begin walking down the hallway, entranced by the bright color, but all of a sudden, sliding doors open to your left and you are pulled back to reality. Welcome to Alinea.

Keep in mind, menus were given to us at the end of the meal, not the beginning. We were to interpret the dishes on our own, with all of our senses.

English Pea: Iberico, Sherry, Honeydew
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We started our journey with a manipulation of English Peas. The peas were blanched and pureed with cream and then freeze-dried and shaped into free-form shards. Accompanying the peas were powdered Iberico ham, honeydew spheres and drops of sherry vinegar. With each bite, we got a different combination – peas with ham, peas with honeydew, or all of the above. The peas proved to be a great canvas for the distinct flavors of the other ingredients. This was one of my favorite dishes overall.

Shrimp: Fermented Black Bean, Cinnamon Aroma
Yuba: Shrimp, Miso, Togarashi
Chao Tom: Sugar Cane, Shrimp, Mint
Distillation: of Thai Flavors

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Next, we took a trip to Asia. Even without knowing what exactly was in each dish, you could recognize such Asian ingredients as miso, fish sauce and black bean.

Tomatoes: Pillows of Fresh Cut Grass Aroma

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Our sense of smell was put to work during the heirloom tomatoes course. The plates were placed on top of deflatable pillows filled with the aroma of fresh cut grass. With the help of gravity, the aroma escaped from the pillows as we ate the tomatoes and for a few minutes, we were transported out of the restaurant and into a garden after springtime showers.

Pork Belly: Curry, Cucumber, Lime

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The pork belly spring roll course gave us an opportunity to be “hands on”. After making our own stand with metal prongs, the servers placed a sheet of spring roll paper on the stand and topped it with delicious pork belly. What we wanted in our pork belly spring rolls was totally in our control; we had 11 different ingredients to choose from. Henry being adventurous, used everything. I, on the other hand, do not like cilantro or mint so I opted out of those items. This course was very refreshing and fun. I liked the idea that fine dining wasn’t limited to using proper silverware.

King Crab: Plum, Lilac, Fennel

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The next course offered three variations of King Crab combined with three ingredients: plum, lilac and fennel. With each variation, the temperature of the dish and the level of richness increased. This was a great stepping stone to the more rich and savory courses of the meal.

Hot Potato: Cold Potato, Black Truffle, Butter

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“Eat this right away” was what our server instructed us to do for the hot potato course. I kind of freaked out a little bit because I notoriously take forever to get the perfect shot, but this time I just had to let it go. We pulled the pin out, letting the hot potato/truffle/butter fall into the cold potato soup and knocked all of it back. Delicious. I can see why people rave about this course.

Lamb: Reflection of Elysian Fields Farm

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The first of our meat courses was to be a reflection of Elysian Field Farms, Alinea’s long standing supplier of lamb. The lamb loin was cooked sous vide and skewered with a spruce branch to represent the trees on the farm. Served alongside the lamb were ingredients that represented the lamb’s diet (corn and oats) and surroundings (grass).

Black Truffle: Explosion, Romaine, Parmesan

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In between the two meat courses was an explosion in your mouth, literally. A black truffle explosion, to be exact. I love truffles so this course was absolute heaven.

Tournedo: A la Persane

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The second of the meat courses, referred to as an antique concept, was an interpretation of August Escoffier’s “Tournedos a la Persane” recipe. Notice how the beautiful china adds to the antique feel; Alinea is all about the details. This course brought us back to the basics: simple plating, great combination of flavors and textures. Perfect.

Bacon: Butterscotch, Apple, Thyme

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So, how do you transition from savory to sweet? With a dehydrated slice of bacon dipped in butterscotch of course!

Lemon Soda: One Bite
Transparency: of Raspberry, Yogurt
Bubble Gum: Long Pepper, Hibiscus, Creme Fraiche

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Our dessert courses began with a trio of fun dishes that were reminiscent of candy such as lemonheads (Lemon Soda not pictured), fruit roll-ups and bubble gum.

Earl Grey: Lemon, Pine Nut, Caramelized White Chocolate

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A play on tea and cookies, the earl grey course was my favorite dessert. Loose tea leaves were finely ground and combined with crumbled shortbread dough. The innovation didn’t stop there, of course; the other elements of this dish really helped elevate it to a whole other level. The lemon curd spheres brought out the citrus component of earl grey while the white chocolate strands masked some of the bitterness.

Chocolate: Coconut, Menthol, Hyssop

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Now for the dessert finale. I’ll let the video speak for itself. Excuse my “Oooohhs” and “Aaaahhhs” 😛

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The perfect ending to this extraordinary meal would have been to meet Chef Grant Achatz. Unfortunately, the stars did not align as he was on vacation. The end of August seems to be a popular time for Chefs to take vacation. We did, however, get the opportunity to tour the kitchen. I guess we’ll just have to come back and dine again in order to meet the great Achatz 😉

The End.

Verdict: 5/5
Alinea
1723 North Halsted
Chicagom Illinois 60614

Foodcation 2010: Second City

It’s been three months since we returned from Foodcation 2010 and I’m finally getting around to posting about our last stop: Chicago. That’s some serious backlog! (Read about NYC and Philly)

We only had one reason to go to Chicago and that was Alinea. So imagine my disappointment about being put on a 20+ person wait list. We had booked all of our travel/lodging months beforehand and I thought calling one month before to make a reservation at Alinea would be enough, but it wasn’t; Alinea begins taking reservations two months prior to the month you plan to dine. For example, if you want to dine on August 24th, you better start calling on June 1st! More about Alinea in another post.

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We booked a room at Allerton, which is located on Mag Mile. To me, the location was the best aspect of the hotel. I love how lively and vibrant Mag Mile is! It reminds me a lot of NYC and you all know how much I LOVE NYC! 🙂

As with NYC and Philly, the public transportation in Chicago is very efficient. We purchased a 3-day pass (available at CVS) for $14 each, which we used to go to Hot Doug’s, of course.

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After about 50 minutes on public transit and another 50 minutes waiting in line, we were finally standing in front of Doug, himself, ordering:

– 2 “Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel”
– 1 “Red Wine and Demi-Glace Venison Sausage with Fig Goat’s Butter and Raclette Cheese”
– 1 “Saucisson Alsacienne: Bacon Sausage with Creme Fraiche, Caramelized Onions and Tomme de Savoie Cheese”
– order of DUCK FAT FRIES

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One word: AMAZING.

To burn off the 3000+ calories we consumed at Hot Doug’s, we walked around the city.

First up on our walking tour was Millennium Park. We were in town for “Chopin in the Park”, a bi-centennial birthday celebration of Poland’s greatest composer, Frédéric Chopin. Perfect timing! Chicago is Warsaw’s sister city, which is why it was part of the celebration. We stopped to listen to a little boy play Waltz in D Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 (aka Minute Waltz) and Waltz in C Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2. I recognized both pieces instantly – anyone who started playing piano at 4 years old and practiced 3 hours a day would.

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After Millennium Park, we made our way to Buckingham Fountain (cue: love and marriage, love and marriage :)) …

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… and ended our walking tour at Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower), where my camera battery ran out after my first shot inside! BURN. Thank goodness for back-up point and shoot!

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We also used our metro passes to visit the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.

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While Chicago is certainly beautiful during the day, it is even more so at night. Chicago has the most breathtaking skyline I’ve seen so far. Even better than NYC. YES, I said it!

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The above is my best attempt at a panorama. Taking pictures at night without a tripod is hard enough, but on a moving boat? Forget about it 😦 Anyway, we were on a boat for a fireworks cruise. During the summer (~Memorial Day through Labor Day), there is a fireworks show every Wednesday and Saturday night at Navy Pier. Sure, you can experience the fireworks show for free at Navy Pier, but with a cruise, you can sit back, relax and soak in some history, all while enjoying a breathtaking view of Chicago. At ~$30/pp, Lake/River boat tours may seem like a tourist traps, but I highly recommend them!

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Trivia time!

In what direction does the Chicago River flow?
a) West to East, towards Lake Michigan
b) East to West, away from Lake Michigan
c) Both directions

Well, according to the research of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, the answer is c) both since it is believed the surface flows away from Lake Michigan while deep, deep below, the flow is in the opposite direction because of a density current. Anyway, the original flow of the river was West to East, towards Lake Michigan, but engineers reversed the river flow in the 1900s due to concerns regarding the pollution of the city’s water source.

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Between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan lies the Chicago Harbor/River Lock. This device allows boats to easily transition from the lower water level of the river to the higher water level of the lake. That’s right! I got my learn on 😀

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Ok so, you can’t go to Chicago and not have a deep dish pizza, right?! Right. Since I’ve never had deep dish pizza before, we went to Giordano’s for lunch, waited about an hour for a table, and guess what? After one bite, I decided: I HATE DEEP DISH PIZZA! It’s really an abomination to the pizza I grew up with and love. The crust in the middle of the pizza was mushy, there was too much sauce that wasn’t seasoned properly and worst of all, you can’t eat this kind of pizza with your hands. Yea, I know I’m being Captain Obvious with my last point, but seriously, how awful is that?! There’s a time and place to be prim and proper and eating a pizza is not one of those times.

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Well, this trip was certainly different than our past trips since it was heavily based around food. And while I loved this food tour of ours, I did find myself missing the outdoor activities. For our next annual trip, I’m going to try to have more of a balance between food and the outdoors. Life is all about balance 🙂

——–
Chicago Eats (+our verdict):
Hot Doug’s, 5/5
Giordano’s, 2.5/5
Blue 13, 3/5

I eat: Amada

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Biggest.Disappointment.Ever.

Right off the bat, I found the food unappetizing. We started off with the garlic shrimp and the dish was overly salty. Usually when we order shrimp, I’m all over it, but this time, I couldn’t get myself to eat more than two pieces.

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I tried to rationalize that the garlic shrimp was the exception; the next dish had to be better right? Wrong. The chefs in the kitchen went to town with the salt that night. By the third dish, I starting feeling a little sick.

We held on to hope that the saving grace of this meal would be the $38 Paella Valenciana (House Specialty). Wrong again. This dish was just as salty as the tapas, if not more. I tried to eat as much of it as I could since it was pricey, but I really couldn’t stomach more than a couple of bites.

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I’m not sure if this was just an off night for Amada; according to Yelp, Amada is one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. But based on my experience, it’s not likely that I’ll return to Amada. Ever.

Verdict: 2/5
Amada
217-219 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Foodcation 2010: Flip Flip Flipadelphia!

Stop #1 was NYC.

Stop #2? Philadelphia.

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Three reasons propelled me to visit the city of brotherly love:
1. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of my favorite shows, EVER
2. Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant, Amada
3. Tony Luke’s cheesesteak

Philly is about a two hour drive from NYC. Instead of flying, which would have cost a couple hundred dollars PER PERSON, we took the Boltbus. The price of a one way ticket usually ranges between $8.00 to $20.00, however Boltbus offers $1.00 fares for whoever purchases the first ticket for each time slot. My ticket cost $1.50 ($1.00 + $0.50 service charge) and Henry’s cost $10.50.

We took a taxi from the Best Western Bowery Hanbee Hotel to the New Yorker Hotel (34th St and 8th Ave). For Boltbus trips to Philadelphia and Boston, the meet up location is right outside of Tick Tock Diner, which is located on the ground floor of the New Yorker Hotel.

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The bus was right on time and to my surprise, we basically shared the entire bus with 10 other people! We had ample leg room and though we didn’t take advantage of it, WiFi was available for us to use. I ♥ Boltbus!

Two hours later, we arrived in Philly and checked into Penn’s View Hotel. Besides having jacuzzi tubs in most of their rooms, the location of Penn’s View was a huge selling point for me. There is a bus stop literally right outside and the subway station is just around the corner. The historical sites AND Amada are only a few blocks away and the hotel has a great view of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Though the decor might not appeal to some (I didn’t mind it at all), our Standard King room (w/ jacuzzi tub) was a delight to come back to after a long day of walking and eating. Continental breakfast was included with our stay and we certainly took advantage of that. And even though we did a great deal of walking each day, we also took advantage of the fitness room on the 4th floor to burn off some extra calories.

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During out first day in Philly, we checked out Reading Market Terminal. I instantly fell in love with the place right as I walked inside. If you think the Farmer’s Market in LA is cool, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The meats and seafood looked so fresh…

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… and so did the produce.

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There were also vendors that sold sweets and various home products…

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… and the intoxicating aroma from the prepared food vendors lured us to one in particular: DiNic’s.

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We sat down at the counter and ordered their famous Roast Pork w/ provolone and broccoli rabe. My excitement for this popular sandwich quickly faded when our server told us that they had run out of broccoli rabe AND spinach (at 1:00PM) so only sweet peppers were available. I found it ironic that they ran out of produce and yet, they are located in a public market where fresh produce is sold.

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After taking one bite of the sandwich, I was confused as to why so many people swear by it. The roast pork was not only tough, but flavorless as well. I’m not sure if the broccoli rabe would have made any difference.

At least the coffee from Old City Coffee didn’t fail me 🙂

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Since our hotel was located near the historical sites, we decided to tour that area before our dinner at Amada. So deeply rooted in history, Philly reminds me a lot of Boston. I love that there is still a small town feel to both cities, even though they are among the most populous cities in the United States.

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Many of the popular sites in Philly are located within Center City. The boundaries of Center City are South Street to the South, the Delaware River to the East, the Schuylkill River to the West and Vine Street to the North. Like NYC, Philly (Center City) is very walkable. Also like NYC, Philly’s public transportation system (SEPTA) is very efficient as well. We bought a One Day Convenience Pass for $7.00/pp – valid for 8 rides on any bus, trolley or subway route in one day. For those who want more flexibility, there is also a One Day Independence Pass available as well ($11/pp for unlimited travel in one day). With our pass, we visited many locations where It’s Always Sunny was filmed…

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Love Park fountain: Anti Smoking Rally in “Charlie Goes America Over Everybody’s Ass”

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Philadelphia Java Company: where The Waitress works (and is stalked by Charlie)

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Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle: “Walking in Charlie’s Shoes”

From Logan Circle, we walked passed the Rodin Museum as we made our way to the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, where we ran up the steps like Rocky.

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As for food, Tony Luke’s was my favorite of all the places we ate at in Philly (I’ll write about my bad experience at Amada in another post). When I was planning Foodcation 2010, I thought about going to Geno’s or Pat’s, but I was less than thrilled to see that reviewers gave them 2.5 and 3.5 stars, respectively, on Yelp. I was interested in Tony Luke’s, but didn’t jump on-board initially because I was short on time and Tony Luke’s is farther away than the other two. However, after reading Gastronomer’s take on the whole cheesesteak battle, I changed my mind. I’m so glad I did because she was right, Tony Luke’s is the real deal.

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After 20 minutes on the 57 Bus and a 5 minute walk, we were standing in line at Tony Luke’s.

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We ordered a cheesesteak with whiz, roast beef italian (broccoli rabe w/ sharp provolone) and curly fries. I would have ordered the roast pork, but I was still traumatized by DiNic’s. Both sandwiches were DELISH, but I actually liked the roast beef more than the cheesesteak (Henry thinks I’m crazy).

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I wish we had more time in Philly; I felt a little rushed at times. So much to see, so little time! I didn’t get a chance to check out UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Eastern State Penitentiary or the Mütter Museum . What this means is… I’m going back to Philly, Philly, Philly…♥

Oh yea…

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HIIIIIYAHHHHH 🙂

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Night time shot FTW!

——–
Philadelphia Eats (+our verdict):
DiNic’s, 2/5
Tony Luke’s, 4/5
Pho 75, 3.5/5

I eat: Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin wasn’t part of our original plan for Foodcation 2010, but when I called to make a reservation at Alinea and was put on a 20+ person waiting list, I immediately made a reservation at Le Bernardin as plan B. I knew I wanted to have one fine dining experience during Foodcation 2010 and if Alinea wasn’t meant to be, then Le Bernardin would have to work… I guess 😦

I know, I sound like a spoiled brat, but who likes settling for “second best”? I was never truly excited for Le Bernardin. Even while I was dining, I was just reminded of why I was there in the first place. Le sigh.

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In all fairness, we had a fantastic meal at Le Bernardin and I would recommend it to anyone visiting NYC. My favorite dishes from our 4 course tasting ($112) were the Lobster (warm lobster carpaccio; hearts of palm, orange vinaigrette) and Langoustine (seared langoustine; mache and wild mushroom salad, shaved foie gras, white balsamic vinaigrette). Delicious! I’m glad we didn’t go with the more expensive 7 course tasting ($138) since only the Lobster was on that menu. And besides, I liked having a choice too.

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It’s easy for me to compare Le Bernardin to Providence since both restaurants specialize in seafood and both Chef Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin) and Chef Michael Cimarusti (Providence) are strong advocates for sustainable seafood. Foodwise, I think they’re pretty much neck and neck. As for service, based on my recent visits, I would have to say that I experienced better service at Le Bernardin.

It would have made my night to meet Chef Ripert. Unfortunately, he was not in the kitchen; he was on vacation for the week. Little did we know, this chefs on vacation thing turned out to be the theme of Foodcation 2010.

Verdict: 4.5/5
Le Bernardin
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019

Blazing Saddles

The first time I biked across the Golden Gate Bridge was in 2008. Two years later, with less muscle and more fat on my body, I biked the bridge again.

Yes, the hills are as brutal as I remembered, but biking the bridge this weekend has made me realize how severely out of shape I am! Snowboarding season is only about a month away so I NEED to start working out. I definitely don’t want to be all winded on the mountain 😦

GG is such a beauty isn’t she? My fave ♥

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View from Presidio, SF

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View from Horseshoe Bay

Blazing Saddles
2715 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109

I eat: Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

The most anticipated restaurant of the NYC leg of Foodcation 2010 was Mario Batali’s Babbo. Since reservations are accepted one month prior to the calendar date requested, I made sure I called on July 21st at 7AM, ON THE DOT (the restaurant reservation line opens at 10AM)!

1-212-777-0303 … BUSY.

Instantly, my heart sank. For the next 20 minutes, I was in agony. If Saturday night didn’t work, I only had 2 more nights in NYC to eat at Babbo! SHIT SHIT SHIT!

I redialed and redialed, and redialed and redialed. I was so used to the dial and hang up routine that I almost didn’t notice when I finally got through. A lady with a British accent picked up and asked me to hold some more. I waited and waited, and waited and waited. Finally, the lady picked up again and I told her the date and time that I wanted. “No problem,” she said. Really? That’s it? I almost had a heart attack for nothing. Awesome.

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Babbo is located in Greenwich Village, a couple of blocks away from another beloved restaurant of mine, Harold Dieterle’s Perilla. Lodged between two brownstones, Babbo would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the large contrasting letters that adorn the front of the building and the small crowd that usually forms outside, waiting for a table. Luckily for us, we were seated promptly upon arrival.

Having already studied the menu beforehand, I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to order. I decided to forgo the tasting menus and order a la carte. But since my list was pretty long (I was interested in 2 antipasti, 6 primi pastas and 3 secondi), I asked our waiter for his advice. “Is this too much food?” seems to be a question I ask at every restaurant :). He suggested that we order one or two antipasti, cut our primi pastas down to three and the secondi down to one or two. Even though it was difficult to eliminate dishes, it was good advice. The portions at Babbo were pretty generous so had we ordered what I originally intended, they would have had to roll us out of the restaurant.

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The antipasti dishes were great. The “Grilled Octopus” was perfectly tender and the limoncello vinaigrette lightened up the intense charred flavor. Comparing Babbo’s grilled octopus to the grilled octopus at Bottega Ristorante (Napa, CA), I would have to say that Babbo has the upper hand, primarily because of the refreshing vinaigrette. As for the “Steamed Cockles”, the spicy tomato based broth that they were bathing in was sooooo delicious – definitely give me more bread so I can sop it all up, delicious.

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Next up was the highlight of the night: Babbo’s infamous “Black Spaghetti”. I can’t even describe in words how amazing this dish was; I can only drool as I think about it. Best pasta I’ve ever had, HANDS DOWN.

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The other two pasta dishes we ordered were delicious as well, my favorite being the “Gnocchi” (with braised oxtail). Though the “Lamb’s Brain ‘Francobolli'” had great flavor and the pasta was perfectly al dente, I couldn’t really tell that I was eating lamb’s brain; the filling was a lot more ricotta cheese than lamb’s brain. Francobolli means stamps in Italian and as you can see, the edges make the ravioli look like such. Cute right?

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Lamb or duck? That is always the question. This time we chose duck. Remember when I said that Bottega‘s duck confit was the best I’ve ever had? Well, it still is in my book, but Babbo’s “Duck” (with endive marmellata, Babbo pancetta and cherry vinaigrette) is a very, very close second.

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We ended our meal with a “light” dessert. We actually saw the table next to us order the “Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti” and thought it looked pretty good. My favorite gelato turned out to be the one that I thought I would like the least: Olive Oil. (Side story: So about the table next to us… guess who? Julianna Margulies, her husband and two friends! Apparently it was one of the friends’ birthday and EVERY DESSERT on the menu was ordered as a birthday surprise!)

So, did Babbo live up to the hype? Assolutamente!

Verdict: 5/5
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
110 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10011

Foodcation 2010: My Never-Ending Love Affair With NYC

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been to NYC, the city never ceases to amaze me and I find myself falling even more in love.

For our annual trip (last year was the Pacific Northwest, read here and here), I decided to create our own US foodie tour. First stop? NYC, of course.

We took an early morning flight to JFK on JetBlue. This was the first time I’ve flown JetBlue and if it weren’t for the cheap airfare (in comparison to other airlines) and no charge for the 1st bag, I probably would never fly JetBlue again. The terminal at LAX is HORRIBLE – the line to get to TSA was a total disaster. Before flying JetBlue, I had envisioned it being comparable to Virgin, given the TV screens and radio channels, but it’s not; JetBlue kind of reminds me of Southwest.

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After landing at JFK, we took a taxi into the city ($60 including tip: $45 flat fee + $5 toll + $10 tip). We booked a room at the Best Western Bowery Hanbee Hotel located at the edge of Chinatown. For those who are budget conscious, this is a great hotel, if you don’t mind the stench of the streets as you walk outside (don’t worry, you can’t smell anything inside). The hotel is conveniently located a block away from Grand St. Station (B, D) and a couple of blocks away from Bowery Station (J, M). From these two stations, you can get/transfer to anywhere in the city! The hotel offers complimentary continental breakfast (served until 10AM), but the selection is very limited: hard boiled eggs, make your own waffles, various pastries and fruit. To save money, the breakfast is sufficient, but NYC has so many good breakfast/brunch places to offer so go on, splurge a little!

[Source: Website Photo]

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So besides eating, you can’t go to NYC without doing some touristy things right? Right. Since we were in NYC during the summer, I thought it would be cool to check out Coney Island. A 50 minute train ride down to the south end of Brooklyn, Coney Island is home to Nathan’s, where they hold the annual July 4th international hot dog eating contest, and the world famous Cyclone roller coaster.

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If you’ve ever ridden on Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and thought, wow, this ride hurts… well, let me tell you, the Cyclone at Coney Island is 100 times worse. Basically we paid $8 each to experience the roller coaster OF DEATH. Not only was it extremely jerky, but at every drop, I thought I was going to fly off and die. Now, I consider myself a thrill seeker; I’ve been sky diving and this experience was way more terrifying than jumping out of a plane. TRUST.

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Being that it was a Saturday, there were many people walking on the boardwalk or laying out on the beach. As we strolled along the boardwalk, we came across a large gathering of people and dance music blasting. Apparently, a dance circle formed in the middle of the boardwalk. There were only a few people with enough balls, or alcohol in their system, to get their groove on in the middle. The half-naked man in the blue pants and the boy in the red definitely stole the show.

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Coney Island was an interesting experience. Yes, it’s “dirty” and a little “run down”, but so is the pier in Santa Monica. If you’ve never been to Coney Island, it’s definitely worth a trip. But remember, Cyclone = ROLLER COASTER OF DEATH.

We took the train back and stopped at York station just so we could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

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After so many failed attempts, I can finally say that I did it! But honestly, it wasn’t that impressive. Having biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge just pales in comparison.

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Walking from end to end took approximately 40 minutes, and that’s with stops to take a few pictures. If you want to walk across the bridge, I suggest starting from Brooklyn since you will be facing the skyline instead of having it behind you.

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During our time in NYC, we also visited the Met. Although the “suggested” admission price is $20/adult, you can actually pay whatever you want since it’s more like a donation, but please don’t be cheap; the Met is worth every penny. And by the way, the museum is HUGE. If you’re interested in visiting the Met, you should really plan your way around beforehand – look at the museum floor plan and map out which exhibits you want to see. As for me, I headed straight for the Egyptian exhibit…

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I passed through the American Wing and Medieval Arts…

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… to make my way to the Greek and Roman art exhibit.

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All this took about 4 hours and I didn’t even get to hit the SECOND FLOOR! 😦

What about shopping? Well, instead of shopping for clothes, I went shopping for a knife! I’ve been itching to buy another knife since it makes so much more sense for Henry and I to each have a “good” knife to use while we’re cooking. Not having to wait for each other and rewash makes all the difference!

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Korin is a distributor of exquisite Japanese chef knives, beautiful tableware and restaurant supplies. Their showroom/store in located in downtown NYC. Many chefs refer to Korin as a candy store and that’s exactly how I felt when I ventured inside.

With the help of the resident Knife Master, we purchased a Misono 440 7” Santoku. It is just as sharp as our Wusthof, but a bit lighter, which I’m starting to really appreciate.

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And that was that. Sadly, 4 days just flew by so quickly. Next stop: Philly.

I’ll end with 2 things that I must have in NYC…

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Shake Shack

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Halal Cart (53rd and 6th)

——–
NYC Eats (+our verdict):
Ippudo, 4/5
Russ & Daughter’s, 5/5
Katz’s, 4.5/5
Nathan’s, 3/5
The Stanton Social, 3.5/5
Shake Shack, 5/5
Halal Cart 53rd and 6th, 5/5
——–

I eat: Bottega Ristorante Napa Valley

Michael Chiarello.

I never thought much of him. I would occasionally watch his show, “Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello”, but he never held my interest for an entire episode. It wasn’t until he appeared on Top Chef Masters that I truly started appreciating his culinary expertise.

Michael Chiarello is currently the Chef and Co-owner of Bottega Ristorante, located in Yountville, CA, where worthy competition such as Redd, Ad Hoc and The French Laundry are just right down the street. He was previously the Executive Chef/Founder of Tra Vigne in St. Helena. He has published numerous cookbooks, owns a small family winery as well as a catalog/retail store, NapaStyle. Even with all his success, Chef Chiarello has still managed to stay humble. When I told him that I LOVED his food, Chef Chiarello was quick to point to his Chef de Cuisine, Nick Ritchie, and teasingly said, “It’s his food. I just take credit for it.”

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We started off the night with two appetizers: “polenta under glass” and “wood grilled octopus”. The polenta was highly recommended by Page Buehler (of Buehler Vineyards), and well, THANK YOU Page because the polenta was absolutely AMAZING! It arrived in a glass container (hence the name “polenta under glass”) topped with a parmesan crisp and caramelized wild mushrooms. Drizzled with a little balsamic game sauce, this dish was to die for! The polenta was rich, creamy and very well flavored. The caramelized mushrooms added a sweet, earthy element and the balsamic sauce complimented the mushrooms in sweetness while asserting its own presence with a bit of tartness.

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The octopus was amazing as well. I loved the grilled flavor and I can’t believe how tender the octopus was!!

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When our waiter took our order, we decided to have a “regular” entree and a “lighter” entree since we were also eating two appetizers. The “lighter” entree we chose was the Adriatic Seafood Brodetto (monkfish, mussels, rock cod & fresh Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil crouton, paprika-saffron rouille). As you can see, brodetto is a fish stew similar to cioppino or bouillabaisse. One difference I noticed right off the bat was that the tomato broth of the brodetto was more rich and dense than a cioppino (which usually tends to be more thin and watery). All of the seafood was perfectly cooked, but the broth was by far the star of the dish.

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Ok, everybody knows I have a thing for duck. I just can’t help myself from ordering it when I see it on the menu. So… what did we order for our “regular” entree”? Yup, Confit of Half Duck (mostarda di frutta, Forni Brown green, red win duck jus). Now, I’ve eaten duck confit at many restaurants and I can say, without a doubt, THIS WAS THE BEST DUCK CONFIT I’VE EVER HAD! The skin was brown and crispy while the meat was fall of the bone tender. Mostarda di frutta is a traditional Italian condiment of candied fruits bathed in a mustard flavored syrup. The duck was great on its own, but even better when eaten with the fruit; the sweetness of the fruit helped cut the saltiness from the duck. This was truly perfection on a plate. If I ever appeared on the TV show, “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate”, I would be raving about the duck confit at Bottega. LOVE.

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We were already pretty full at this point, but pass up dessert? No way! We ended our meal with Chocolate Bourbon Tortino (banana brulee, roasted banana gelato, milk chocolate peanut butter bar). Basically, this was a high class Reese’s sundae! Though I found the tortino a little rich by itself, eating everything together in one bite was delicious! Henry loved the chocolate peanut butter bar!

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At the end of the night, our waiter led us to the kitchen where Chef Chiarello was nice enough to sign our menus and take a picture with us. I can’t wait to come back to Bottega.

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Verdict: 5/5
Bottega Ristorante Napa Valley
6525 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1300

I eat: Ad Hoc

Perhaps I visited Thomas Keller’s restaurants in the wrong order; starting off with the best was probably not a good idea, tactically.

Last October, we made our way to the Foodie Mecca of the West, The French Laundry, and it was one of the best and most expensive dining experiences we’ve ever had.

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This past March, I ate at Keller’s less expensive, more casual restaurant, Bouchon. The cooking techniques exhibited were superb; my duck breast was beautifully seared. The flavors, however, did not come together for me. So overall, the meal wasn’t necessarily bad, but I left unimpressed.

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With these two restaurants down, that only left one more Keller restaurant to try on the West Coast: Ad Hoc.

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Ad Hoc is located in Yountville, along with a few of my favorite restaurants: Redd, Bottega and of course, The French Laundry. Opened Thurs-Mon, Ad Hoc offers a daily changing 4-course dinner menu, served family style; brunch is also offered on Sundays.

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Now, listen carefully folks!! Each night there is only one menu, only 4 courses offered, so if you don’t like what’s on the menu, you’re shit out of luck. I already knew that this was the concept of Ad Hoc, having done my research, and I was actually excited about going to dinner and not having to fuss over what to order. However, there were many people dining at Ad Hoc that night that just didn’t have a clue. I can’t believe how many times I overheard the waitstaff having to explain to diners that there was only one menu offered and that they would be happy to call another restaurant to help secure a reservation if the menu wasn’t to the diners’ liking. Moral of the story: do your research!

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The appetizer of the night was a white shrimp and cucumber salad, dressed with a tomato vinaigrette. The dish was very refreshing and I would have raved about it, if it weren’t for the shrimp. I don’t think I’m being ridiculous by saying that peeling shrimp is a basic skill that every cook/chef should have, especially when you’re a chef at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants! It was very disappointing to have to pull out pieces of shrimp shell as I was chewing. This just shows poor execution and attention to detail, something I’m sure Keller would have disapproved of. What a bad start!

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For our entree, we were served steak with onion rings and roasted broccoli rabe in an All-clad braiser pan along with a side of grits. I was surprised by the tenderness and juiciness of the steak considering it was a hanger steak. The onion rings were perfectly fried with the right amount of batter and I especially loved the crispiness of the broccoli rabe. Not only did the grits have great flavor because of the bacon and parmesan cheese, it also provided a great contrast in texture from the steak, onion rings and broccoli rabe.

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At Ad Hoc, the third course is always a cheese course. We had Cowgirl Creamery’s St. Pat. The edible green rind comes from the cheese being wrapped in stinging nettle leaves (the stinging hairs are removed prior to wrapping). The cheese was soft and creamy with a mild flavor. I usually like stronger cheeses so I wasn’t too fond of St. Pat, at first. But when I paired it with the red onion marmalade, it was delicious! The sweetness of the marmalade really brought out the natural sweetness of St. Pat. Henry didn’t like the taste of the cheese so I basically ate everything!

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Our final dish was a tres leches cake. Moist without being “soggy” and just the right amount of sweetness, this was a perfect end to a meal that started out imperfectly.

Even though the meal recovered from the shrimp mishap, I had to decrement Ad Hoc’s rating from 4 stars. It wasn’t something I could easily forgive or forget.

Verdict: 3.5/5
Ad Hoc
6476 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

I eat: Gary Danko

Currently on Yelp, Gary Danko has an overall rating of 4.5 stars with 2075 reviews. And yes, it’s really THAT good.

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Our first visit to Gary Danko was in August of 2008 and it’s been on top of our list of favorite restaurants ever since. Our second visit was just as wonderful. Everything was cooked to absolute perfection and I was reminded of how great Danko’s sauces are; the only reason we kept eating our bread was to dip into the sauces of each dish! At Gary Danko, you can either order the prix-fixe tasting menu, or you can create your own tasting menu consisting of 3 ($68), 4 ($85), or 5 courses ($102). Last time, we ordered 5 courses each and though a very enjoyable meal, we were overly stuffed. So, we learned from our past experience and ordered 4 courses each this time around.

I’m going to keep the words short and make this more of a picture post. I thought it would be interesting to show side by side pictures from both visits to Gary Danko (left = 1st time, right = 2nd)

Amuse-bouche:

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Appetizers:

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Fish & Seafood:

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Meat & Game Birds:

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Desserts:

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Verdict: 5/5
Gary Danko
800 North Point Street
San Francisco, CA 94109