Category Archives: Travel

Top Things to do in Burgundy

For our first wedding anniversary the Englishman and I decided there would be no better place to celebrate than in France.  We had both been to Paris before, so we decided to check out some other regions in France and our first stop was Burgundy, which is about 3 hours southeast of Paris, right in the middle of France. And while I am no expert on the region at all, here some top things to do in Burgundy.

nuits st georges wineBurgundy consists of three provinces with one of them being Cote-d-‘Or which is where we spent our time.  We stayed in the small town of Nuits St. Georges, which was about 22 miles south of Dijon and 15 miles north of Beaune.  Nuits St. Georges was great because it was right in the middle of everything, and was a small enough town to navigate quite easily by foot.  I highly recommend staying in Nuits St. Georges for a few nights if you find yourself in Burgundy.

les halles market dijonAnother must do is visit the Les Halles Market in Dijon.  It’s a large covered market that has food stalls selling everything from fresh produce to meat and cheese.  The Englishman and I had a kitchen in our place in Nuits St. Georges, so we took advantage of all the fresh food at our disposal in the market.  This was also the place where I bought the best goat cheese of my life (no joke) and proceeded to eat it with everything over the course of two days.  Dijon is also known for their mustard, so be sure to stock up on a few jars when you are in the city.

dijon mustardThe small town of Beaune is home to numerous wineries and the famous Hospices de Beaune.  To be honest, the Englishman and I weren’t sure if we would like the hospices, but they ended up being really interesting and the architecture was amazing.  My only regret is not taking more pictures.

BeauneCourtyardBeaune also hosts a weekend farmer’s market, and we spent a Saturday afternoon sampling some food before settling in for a picnic in one of their many gardens with baguettes and fruit.  It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon in my opinion.

When you visit France, it’s pretty much a requirement that you hit up a boulangerie or two.  The French are definitely not afraid of carbs, and the croissants melt in your mouth like butter.  I was only able to indulge in boulangerie fun for one day before my stomach got other ideas, but having a freshly baked croissant was SO worth it.

boulangerieOf course, you can’t come to Burgundy and not go wine tasting.  Admittedly we didn’t get to taste as much wine as we would’ve liked (but made up for it in Epernay) largely due to the fact that many of the tasting rooms require that you purchase a bottle with your tasting, which is quite different than in the US.  The key is to look for the degustation rooms, where tastings are often complimentary, albeit the pours are pretty small.  Our favorite winery by far was Dufouler Pere & Fils in Nuits St. Georges.  The people who worked there were lovely and the wine was affordable and quite good!

wine tasting nuits st georgesIf you get a chance, bike through a vineyard or spend time hiking in some of the nearby hills.  We unfortunately ran out of time so we didn’t get to do either of these activities, but the countryside is so lovely that you need to take advantage!

Next up: Epernay.

2014 Year in Review

I know it sounds cliché to say this, but seriously, where did 2014 go?  Weren’t we just toasting the end of 2013?  If I had to sum up this year it would be crazy busy, but awesome.  I feel like SO much happened in 2014 and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.  So without further adieu, here is the 2014 year in review:

I started 2014 off by visiting Canada for the first time ever (thanks to work), and immediately fell in love with Vancouver, and their food.

Lupo restaurant braised short ribs

The spring was a whirlwind of wedding planning, including another trip up to Santa Ynez to finalize our cake and wine decisions – both very important.

Wedding Cake Tasting Flavors

And no trip to Santa Ynez is complete without dinner at Trattoria Grappolo (seriously, GO THERE).

Trattoria Grappolo Antipasto SaladMy fabulous maid of honor planned my bachelorette party in San Diego, complete with a fab brunch at Searsucker the next day (perfect for after a night out on the town).

Brunch at Searsucker McPuffinThe Englishman and I got married in May, and it was pretty much the best day/weekend ever.

life lately wedding edition aviatorsSeriously, so much love for our friends and family who shared in our day.

wedding group shotWe honeymooned in Maui in June, and I ate all the pork, all the time.

Koa's Seaside Grill Kalua PorkThe two of us also went on a pineapple tour which was educational and quite delicious.

Maui Pineapple Tour CoupleMore of our wonderful friends got married in June and July so we spent our time party hopping throughout LA.

wedding trioAnd when we weren’t doing the wedding thing, it was all world cup, all the time.

world cup

I randomly set a 5K PR on the 4th of July, which was quite unexpected but still a lot of fun (and nope, still haven’t bought the pictures).

Surf City Run Finishing

The Englishman threw me a surprise 30th birthday party in August and we got to celebrate with our favorite people in life.

30th birthdayThere was also some Peanut Butter and Co. action complete with these delicious frozen honey peanut butter bites.

Frozen Honey Peanut Butter Bites PinKarla, the Englishman and myself signed up for half marathons in November so the Saturday long run ritual began.  (note to self: training for a half marathon in the summer is rough).

running trioI found myself up in Canada again in September, only this time in Toronto and had kind of the best short ribs ever.

Dinner at brassaii ribsOctober included the first ever OC cake club, and my attempt to make gluten-free carrot cupcakes that tasted great but looked a little sad.

gluten free carrot coconut cupcakes OC cake clubPost-long run brunches were had, including this fab one at Sealegs Wine Bar.

brunch at sealegs wine bar wafflesI met Dr. Andrew Weil at a special event at True Food Kitchen, and he got me all excited about trying new recipes in the kitchen again.

superfoods with dr andrew weil demoI set a new half marathon PR in November, the Englishman set a new PR, and Karla rocked it out for it being her first half ever.

big sur half marathon garminAnd to end the year we had a paella party.  And ate lots of delicious things like bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese (ask Karla for the recipe).  So good.

paella party tapasI’ll be the first to say that I had a LOT of fun this year.  This year was filled with milestones, great memories and new friends.  2015 has some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’m up for the challenge.

What was your favorite moment (food or otherwise) from the past year?

Big Sur Half Marathon

So my running page hasn’t been getting a lot of love lately.  And that’s not due to lack of running!  In fact. I’ve been running more than ever and ran the Big Sur Half Marathon just over a week ago.  I’ve been training pretty hard for this race for the past few months and it’s taken me awhile to put my incredible experience into words.  So here’s the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay race recap.

big sur half marathon medalAt the beginning of summer i knew I was ready to train for a race again.  We had gotten through our wedding and honeymoon, and now was the perfect time to dive back into training.  Karla had signed up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon that was taking place November 22nd, so the Englishman and I decided to run the Big Sur Half the week before on November 16th.

I should preface too that this race does not run through Big Sur, but rather old town Monterey and out along the bay – it’s still a beautiful course, but if you want the sweeping Big Sur views, you need to run that one in April.

We drove up to Monterey Bay on Saturday and arrived at the expo around 3pm.  I contemplated getting a half marathon sweatshirt, but at $50 a pop, I decided against it.  We grabbed our bibs and then headed to our hotel to get settled.

big sur half marathon bibI was nervous about the dinner situation since at home my pre-long run dinner had always been pretty textbook: pasta or potatoes + eggs and toast.  I found an Italian place a short walk from our hotel and when I called them they said we could just walk in as they weren’t that busy.

Only that wasn’t the case.  The restaurant was PACKED with an over 2 hr wait.  I frantically began searching other places to eat and might have had a small meltdown where I declared that I was going to “poop my pants” during the race tomorrow (which I’m sure my husband appreciated).  We ended up at the Sardine Factory which cost an arm and a leg, and I ended up ordering short ribs, mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Not ideal, but I figured the potatoes couldn’t do too much damage.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and were ready to race!  The race conditions were perfect – upper 40s at the start and gradually warming into the 50s.  I brought a throw away cover up to wear at the start and then wore compression sleeves for a little extra warmth.

Our hotel was about a mile from the start so we walked over there to warm up and loosen our legs a bit.  Soon enough we were placed in our corral, I gave the Englishman one last kiss goodbye and we were off. I was running my 2nd half marathon!

My main goal for this race was to break two hours, but my “A” goal was to go sub-1:55.  Based on my training, I figured I could do it, and the plan was to stick in 8:45 min mile range and progressively get faster.  Well I started the race a bit faster than intended but my legs were feeling great so the first 6 miles were more in the 8:15-8:30 range, as evidenced by my splits below.

big sur half marathon miles 1-6

The course had rolling hills with one big incline on mile 4, but since I had been training on hills all summer and fall they didn’t phase me at all.  In fact, I found myself passing people on hills more often than not.  We weaved through Pacific Grove and then found ourselves along the coastline which was beautiful.  Nothing beats the sound of splashing waves while you are running.  This was before I began to throw down the gauntlet.

big sur half marathon on monterey bay pic

I was feeling really good at this point so I started to kick it up a notch.  Mile 8 was the turnaround point so I tried to keep my splits as close to 8 minute miles as possible.

big sur half marathon on monterey bay splits 2

After the turnaround we started to hit a nasty headwind and I started doing some calculating in my head.  If I could pick up the pace a bit, I’d come in under sub-1:50, which was something I never thought was possible.  It was around this point I started looking for the Englishman as I knew we would cross paths.  Sure enough I saw him, we exchanged high fives and it was just the boost I needed to get through the final miles.

I’m not going to lie, those last miles were HARD.  We had a strong headwind, my legs were getting tired, and I knew I had to stay under 8 minutes if I wanted to break 1:50.  I started thinking about all my friends and family who had sent me good luck wishes before the race (and were subsequently tracking my run). I thought about my running partner in crime Karla who stuck it out with me throughout all of the long runs.  I thought about my wonderful husband, the Englishman who put up with me and all my crazy training antics (and who ran the race with me even though long distance isn’t really his thing).  I wanted to do this for them, and more importantly, for myself.

big sur half marathon miles splits

We finally made our way out of the headwind and headed back down Cannery Row towards the finish line.  When I saw the final marker that said 1/4 mile to go I just went for it and sprinted my way across the finish line.  It was all such a blur at that point.

big sur half marathon on monterey bay pic 2

I looked at my garmin in disbelief, got my medal, and then cried.  I could not believe I broke 1:50.

big sur half marathon garmin

The Englishman finished in 2:05, which was a 10 minute PR for him and we made our way through the food tent collecting bananas, apples, cookies and everything else the wonderful race volunteers were handing out.  We then hobbled our way back to our room and enjoyed the Sidecar Doughnuts we brought from home as a post-race victory treat.

I’m still in shock that I broke 1:50 which is why it’s taken me so long to write this recap.  I only really started running in 2009, and even then I never thought I’d ever run a half marathon under 2 hrs, let alone 1:50.  I’ll write a separate post on my training and how I prepped for this race, but I truly believe that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything.  This was a race that I ran with my heart more than my head, and it’s something I’ll cherish forever.

If you ever get the chance to run the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, do it!  It’s one of the most well-executed races I have ever been to and the course is just stunning.  There was a ton of entertainment and crowd support along the course as well which was just icing on the cake.  We spent the rest of our day celebrating and checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

big sur half marathon aquariumSo what’s next? I currently don’t have any races on the horizon right now and I’m just going to enjoy my PR.  BUT now that I’ve had my taste of sub-1:50, sub-1:45 is definitely next.

Dinner at Brassaii

This past week I traveled to Toronto for work.  Since I was only there for roughly 48 hours I didn’t have much time to explore the city, but I still managed to have quite the delicious dinner at Brassaii.

dinner at brassaii platesWhen I traveled to Vancouver in January I had a couple of great dinners, so I was hoping that my experience in Toronto would be similar.  I had read mixed reviews about Brassaii, but saw that it was one of the hot spots for the Toronto International Film Festival, so I figured if the food was sub-par at least I’d maybe get some stargazing.

I have to say that my dinner at Brassaii exceeded all expectations.  The service was superb, the food was on point, and my coworkers and I were able to chat with executive chef Marcus Monteiro and pasty chef Mark Cheese which was a nice bonus.

After ordering a bottle of wine, we decided to start our evening off with a few appetizers to share amongst the table which included the crispy ribs, popcorn shrimp and the house cut-fries.

Dinner at brassaii ribsI normally don’t eat a lot of gluten because it doesn’t sit well with me, but crispy ribs were too good to pass up.  They were coated in panko breadcrumbs and came with a Moroccan glaze and mint chutney on the side.  The ribs were definitely a highlight of the night and I’m determined to recreate the Moroccan glaze at home.

Dinner at brassaii friesThe house cut-fries were also quite good, but really when are fries not good?  I enjoyed the parmigiano-reggiano sprinkled on top as well.  I didn’t get a shot of the shrimp, but it was tasty as well.

Dinner at brassaii tomato soupA couple of people ordered the tomato soup which I managed to steal a bite of.  It was creamy with a nice kick at the end.  One of the better tomato soup dishes that I have tried.

For my entree, I decided to go with the pan-seared halibut which came with cucumber stewed vegetables and micro-greens.

dinner at brassai halibutLast time I had fish in Canada I was quite impressed and this halibut did not disappoint.  It was light, flaky, and the fish melted in my mouth.  I LOVE cucumbers, so the cucumber stewed vegetables complimented the fish nicely.

dinner at brassaii mushroomsI also had a side order of wild mushrooms and garlic which was also very tasty.

My coworker got the chicken stuffed with breadcrumbs, sundried tomato and mint and came with a side of couscous.  The chicken was juicy and prepared perfectly.

dinner at brassaii chickenA couple other people got the striploin which I did not try, but I heard nothing but good things.

Then it was time for dessert.  Pastry chef Mark Cheese was kind enough to treat us to a dessert sampler platter which was out of this world.

dinner at brassaii dessertEverything was so good that it was hard to pick a favorite, but the standout for me was the Hazelnut Crunch made with roasted pear, hazelnuts, gianduja cream and espresso sauce.  Second favorite of the night was the carrot cake with yogurt cream, pistachio ice cream and valhrona blond dulcey.

If you ever find yourself in the Toronto area, be sure to check out Brassaii.  Chef Monteiro prides himself on updating his menu frequently, so every time you dine there you’ll get the best of what’s in season.

Thanks to the team at Brassaii for a great dining experience!  Hopefully I’ll be able to return again soon.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.52.04 AM