Love Letters to Southern California

Santa Monica Sunset |

Alright, it’s time we went public with something…

We’re in a relationship with Southern California and things are getting serious.

Some of you may have already figured it out based on our previous posts, semi-annual trips, instagram posts, and incessant tweeting. So, let’s make it official with a few love letters to our favorite places in SoCal.

Pasta Sisters – Los Angeles, CA

Dear Pasta Sisters,

It has only been a month since our lips last touched your frest pasta, but we can still taste every flavor like it was yesterday. Your menu so simple in quantity, yet complex in flavor. This is what our heart has yearned for over the years. This is what pasta is supposed to taste like.

Oh how we would give anything to drown in a sea of your porcini mushroom cream sauce. Delicate, rich, yet not heavy. 

Pasta Sisters |

Your Arabbiata warms our soul like a sunrise in Italy. The spice lights up our tastebuds.

Pasta Sisters |

The only thing warmer is the generosity of your employees. With smiling faces, their enthusiasm exudes far beyond reaches of your storefront.

It was a meal like few others, which transported us from a non-descript strip mall in Los Angeles to the dinner table of a gracious Italian family. Our visit is sure to be the first of many.

Pasta Sisters |

Playa Provisions – La Playa, CA

Dear Playa Provisions,

Your proximity to LAX is alluring and although we “hit it and quit it,” you can rest assured that when we say we’ll call you in a few days, it’s the truth.

Playa Provisions |

You’re the whole package:  Restaurant. Coffee shop. Ice cream parlour. Culinary shop. You got it all going on and then some. 

Even celebrities wanna hang with you (sup, Conan O’Brien?).

Playa Provisions |

Your fish tacos are good enough to be the first or last of a trip; they make us want to miss our flight back home. 

I’m sure your competitors will be jealous when they read these words, but they shouldn’t hate the Playa, they should hate the game.

El Zarape – San Diego, CA

My Dear El Zarape,

I can’t remember the last time we visited San Diego and didn’t meet up…because we always ensure you’re one of our first stops.

Your selection of salsas leave nothing to be desired and there’s no reason to be unfaithful. The colorful salsa bar, is a feast for the eyes, while also pleasantly burning our mouths.

El Zarape |

Your California Burrito fills not only a void in my stomach but the void in my heart left by other unsatisfying Mexican food joints. The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts: Carne Asada, french fries, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, beans. 

You are our first, our last, our everything.

Beerfish – San Diego, CA

Dear Beerfish,

They said it couldn’t be done. They said it was superfluous. They said you were insane. Alas, you were able to put fish and chips into a burrito. It wasn’t gimmicky, either. It was awesome. You are awesome. 

BeerFish |

Oh how we miss the way your fish crunches amongst the soft tortilla.

Oh how we long to taste your spicy green sauce again.

Oh how we yearn to wash it all down with one of the many local beers you have on tap.

You fill our stomachs with a warm burrito and a cold beer, while you fill our mind with clarity to know that anything is possible.

Beer? Good.

Fish? Good.

Beerfish? We are in love.

2018 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring

Dear CX-3,

Our rendevouzs are becoming more frequent and almost annual. Each time we spend together, I long for the next time to be sooner. Oh how I miss your handling. Every curve is an adventure, every twist bring on more heart palpatations.

2018 Mazda CX-3 |

2018 Mazda CX-3 |

I love the way your premium leather seats feel on my skin.

I love the way you keep us safe with the automatic lane assist.

I love the way your heated steering wheel keeps my hands warm on cool mornings.

I love the way your zoom zooms.

2018 Mazda CX-3 |

Although your small size helps you get into small spaces, there’s plenty of room to put junk in your trunk.

See you again soon…

2018 Mazda CX-3 |

2018 Mazda CX-3 |


Thanks to Mazda for sharing the wheels with us for a week; join the conversation and share the love with hashtag #DriveMazda. Wanna know more about the Mazda CX-3? You can check out the brochure here, or just go drive it for yourself. 

We were not provided with any compensation for this post from any restaurants or car brands. All opinions and love letters remain our own.

Reviews, Travel

Retreat Yo Self > The Inn at Perry Cabin – St. Michaels, MD

Inn at Perry Cabin

At some point during the last twelve months, my life turned into one that involves attending Board Meetings once every quarter. As fun as that sounds (it’s really not that bad), there is a nice perk:  The Annual Board Retreat.

This year’s retreat was at The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, MD and although most of my time was spent in meetings, the backdrop was a gorgeous waterfront property that would be an easy weekend escape for anyone in the Washington, DC metro area.

That Water View

Even if you hate boats and/or sailing and/or fishing–which would be a wasted use of a hatred–you can’t help but appreciate the calming water views. We were spoiled with perfectly warm fall weather, but it would also be a cool place to visit during a snowy winter day.

Stay Active

Although the work portion of my trip prevented us from enjoying one of the many daily activities, the list was long enough to entice us to return on a future trip. The daily activities ranged from early morning oyster boat tours to kayaking. Wanna bike through St. Michaels? They got you covered with complimentary bikes.

The best part? All of the activities are inlcluded in your stay. No upsells or surcharges. Luxury without a price tag on everything.

Get Turnt Down

At most nice places, you might feel ashamed to get cookie crumbs on your bed. Well, this is actually encouraged at The Inn:  Turn down service includes fresh baked cookies.

You read that correctly. Every evening, you are cordially invited to a cookie party in your own bed.

Make Room

A picture is worth a thousand words? Okay. Here are four thousand words:

Enjoy The Journey

Although not long enough to be considered a “road trip,” the two and a half hours it took us to travel to The Inn at Perry Cabin was long enough to warrant a couple pit stops for food.

If you have time, we highly recommend checking out Bakers & Co. in Annapolis, MD. The test of a good bakery is this:  If you finish eating breakfast, then go back into the bakery to take stuff home for later, it’s a pretty damn good bakery.

We took two croissants home with us.

And also pizza from Vin 909

Vin 909 - Annapolis, MD

Vin 909 - Annapolis, MD

A Smooth Ride

Thanks to the fine folks at Hyundai, the journey was also made much more comfortable by having the transportation provided via a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Ultimate.

I appreciate the accurate use of “Ultimate” in the trim level. Some vehicle manufacturers use vague descriptions (SE, Grand Touring, SLX, R2D2) to describe the model trim level. Hyundai eliminates any guessing as to how well-equipped the Santa Fe is: Ultimate.

What makes a Santa Fe Sport an Ultimate? Not only heated seats, but a heated steering wheel. 360 degree surround view, Apple Car Play, and plenty of power with 240 HP in a 2.0L turbo engine to name a few. You can check out our separate Review/Q&A here and follow the conversation on social media:  #DriveHyundai.

One Last Tip

We wanted to end the post with one final tip, as it was a hard lesson that we had to learn. No matter how many nights you plan on staying at The Inn at Perry Cabin, add an extra day. We regretted not staying longer and you will too.

Car Reviews

Car Q&A: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate

This post is made possible through a partnership with the cool cats at Hyundai, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveHyundai.


MSRP (as tested):  $39,875
MPG Estimate: 19 city – 24 highway
Engine:  2.0L Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection 4-Cylinder
Power:  240hp | 260 lb-ft of torque
Transmission:   6-Speed Automatic
Color:  Twilight Black (exterior) / Gray (interior)
Options:  Ultimate Tech Package (Smart Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking w/ Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake w/ Auto Vehicle Hold, Dynamic Bending Light, High Beam Assist, Auto-Leveling Headlights)

For more info, click here to view the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Brochure.

We spent a week with the Santa Fe Sport, including a beautiful weekend on the water in St. Michaels, MD (check out our companion post here).  Afterwards, we sat down–or rather, IN—the Santa Fe to see what makes it so ultimate.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate

Get in my Mouf (GIMM):  I notice that you don’t beat around the bush with your model trim: ULTIMATE.

Santa Fe:  I feel as though it is a quite accurate descriptor.

GIMM:  Indeed, but in the words of Kendrick Lamar, “Be humble.”

Santa Fe:  I hardly think Kendrick was referring to a family SUV when he wrote that song. And yes, I am familiar with his music library. I do subscribe to XM Sirius.

GIMM: Yes, I recall enjoying satellite radio on our trip.


Santa Fe:  I know. I was there. Anyway, you were questioning my humbleness?

GIMM: I didn’t mean to question your humbleness, I was just pointing out how…not humble it is to use “ultimate” to describe one’s self.

Santa Fe:  You did and it’s possible to be humble and accurate. Look, I’m not a flashy luxury vehicle that flaunts what I have. I’m an all around great SUV who happens to have an options package that is, well–

Do you know what the definition of ultimate is?

GIMM:  Of course. I mean, I didn’t go to college for five years and not learn big words.

Santa Fe:  Right. Then you already know that “ultimate” can be defined as the “best achievable or imaginable of its kind.”

Can I ask you another question?

GIMM:  Go for it.

Santa Fe:  You spent a week with me. Was there anything else you felt that I was lacking? Something else that you desired to have?


GIMM:  Hmm…Anything?

Santa Fe:  Anything at all.

GIMM:  Pizza.

Santa Fe:  You did have pizza!


GIMM:  Yeah, but we had to order it and pick it up. Would be nice if you could just make pizza. THAT would be ultimate.

Santa Fe:  I’ll keep that in mind for next year’s model…

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate



Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of Hyundai. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions and fake interviews with inanimate objects remain our own. 

Car Reviews

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring Review: Hello, Old Friend

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at Mazda, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMazda.

Before we get into the 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring, I wanted to start with a couple photos (courtesy of my younger brother, Tyler) of a different car:

2006 Mazda3 S |

2006 Mazda3 S |

That blue beauty right there was my first new car purchase. A 2006 Mazda3 S in Winning Blue Metallic. No co-signers. No help with the down payment. And since it was new, no previous owners!

It’s ridiculous to think now, but buying that car felt like a serious rite of passage into adulthood. A decade later I’m still not not sure if I’m actually an adult, but at that moment I sure did.

Not only was it my first new car purchase, but it was also my first introduction to Mazda and the “zoom zoom” philosophy.

What’s changed since 2006? A lot, but the core heart of Mazda has remained the same. Driving the 2018 Mazda3 was like reconnecting with an old friend. It felt familiar and comfortable, while also exciting to see what had changed over the last twelve years since we were first introduced.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

An Emotional Decision  

After having had a week to enjoy the 2018 Mazda3, I was reminded of just how much a car purchase is an emotional decision.

You can spend hours–days even–researching vehicles. Comparing options, reliability, and scouring reviews, but the only portion of the decision that really matters is how you feel when you sit in the driver’s seat.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

My old Mazda was a stick shift with killer handling, so even though the car only had 160 hp, it was a blast to drive. It felt great.

The 2018 Mazda–my sample equipped with an automatic transmission–was no different. It was peppy. It hugged corners. It made driving fun and helped tug at my emotions.

Yeah, I cried a little, so what?

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of logical reasons to enjoy the Mazda3, but the final choice is ultimately made with the heart.

Continuously Evolving

At the time, my Mazda was part of the first generation of Mazda3s, which were originally introduced in 2003. It was lauded for its performance, refinement, and aesthetics in an otherwise boring car class. For me, it was the perfect vehicle for what I needed. As a college student, I was looking for a reliable four-door car, that was also affordable and fun to drive. None of the other brands came close.

Over the last decade-plus, Mazda has continued to not only create solid vehicles that connect with the driver on an emotional level, but also introduce features and options that are a reflection of innovation in the car industry.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

The first is efficiency in gas mileage. In real world driving, my Mazda averaged about  25 MPG with just 160 horsepower.  The 2018 Mazda–with about 28 more horsepower–averaged roughly 30 MPG during our week of test driving. More power, less gas? I’ll take it!

Next, comes a technology system that is user-friendly, a screen that is easy to see, a a crystal-clear back-up camera.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

And you can’t forget about safety! Radar cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning (and assistance), and blind spot monitoring are just a few features that can help satisfy the fact that the Mazda3 is a logical decision (you’re welcome, brain).

Last, but first to my hands, we must also commend the presence of a heated steering wheel. Cold weather never felt so warm.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Gratuitous Labradoodle Section

It wouldn’t be a car post without mentioning how much our pup, Cooper, loves hanging out in the back seat of a Mazda.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Yeah, he approves.

Something to Talk About

Even excluding this post, I’ve always been a vocal proponent of Mazda–and specifically the Mazda3. My brother and I share fond memories of my car since I sold it to him after I grew out of it. It’s easy to share an appreciation for a vehicle that just feels right. Although he had to upgrade to a larger vehicle for his growing family, we still reminisce about changing gears and taking tight corners in the ol’ Mazda.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Aside from nostalgia, even the new Mazda3 is a great conversation icebreaker. Upon hearing that my buddy, Micah and his wife, Lizzy, recently purchased one, I instantly lit up. They gushed about how much they loved the car and I emphasized my fond memories for Mazda. The rest of the table probably thought we were weirdos, but who cares?

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

It’s worth stopping to point out that this is a compact car. It’s not a sports car or the latest electric car that will eventually transport you to mars.

It shouldn’t be exciting.

But it is.

Because driving matters…

…hmm…where have I heard that before?

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

2018 Mazda3 Specs (As Tested)

MSRP (as tested):  $28,470
MPG Estimate: 27 city – 36 highway
Engine:  2.5L Skyactiv-G, 4 cylinder
Power:  184 hp | 185 lb-ft torque
Transmission:   6-Speed Automatic
Color:  Snowflake White Pearl
Options:  Appearance Package and Premium Equipment Package

For more info, click here to view the 2018 Mazda3 Brochure.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring |

Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions remain our own.