Reviews, Travel

Red Truck Rural Bakery – Marshall, VA

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, we had a Rally Red 2015 Outlander for a week that begged to be driven (check out our review here). And thanks to a grey, rainy day, our original outdoor plans were nixed, so we decided to head west to add some color to our day at Red Truck Rural Bakery in Marshall, VA.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Red Truck, meet Red Mitsubishi. #DriveMitsubishi

Red Truck Bakery is an iconic bakery and market that has historically only had one small location in Warrenton, VA. Luckily for us, they had their grand opening of the new, larger Marshall shop. How grand was the opening? I dunno, maybe you should ask Academy Award Winning Actor, Robert Duvall:

The trip out west on Route 66 is much different than the mess that I normally sit in every weekday. The small town of Marshall is about an hour outside of Washington, DC; once you get past the cookie-cutter residential developments of Prince William County, you start to feel the calming sensation of being surrounded by green stuff–you know, actual nature, like trees, hills, mountains. So, despite the rain, we had a comfortable ride in the Outlander along with some pleasant scenery to take in.

When we arrived at Red Truck Bakery, we were met with an exterior that was charming and blended in well with that small town vibe. Parking is easy, as they have plenty of space out back, but there was also ample street parking available. We parked on the street thanks to my stellar parking abilities (aka a backup camera).

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

That small-town feel follows you inside, as the staff and customers were all friendly and eager to provide recommendations on what to order. It’s the kind of place where you get the impression that everybody knows each other, even if they don’t.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

The wall of deliciousness.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

These fellas would have made a fine picnic had it not been for the rain.

When it comes to the actual food, the choices were quite overwhelming for us first-timers. First, there’s a glowing case of baked goods–all of which were fighting for our attention–as well as two refrigerated grab-n-go cases with sandwiches, drinks, and other goodies. On top of that, there is this wall of jars and bottles of packaged goods from other local and lesser-known companies. Who knew a mini food mecca could exist in a small town bakery?

Tina tried their (highly coveted) Veggie “Beetloaf” Sandwich (roasted beets, sweet potatoes and ground walnuts). She was instantly a fan and for me, as someone who doesn’t really like beets all that much, I enjoyed the few bites I had. It doesn’t taste as “beety” as it looks, and rather has more of an “herby” taste.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Veggie “Beetloaf” Sandwich: roasted beets, sweet potatoes and ground walnuts.

For us meat eaters, you can’t go wrong with their Chicken Salad Sandwich. Or as I will forever call it, the Kitchen Sink Salad Sandwich (as they put everything but) in this jam-packed sandwich, including fresh local roasted chicken, grapes, apples, celery, raisins, walnuts and a hint of curry, with local Bibb lettuce.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Chicken Salad Sandwich: fresh local roasted chicken, grapes, apples, celery, raisins, walnuts and a hint of curry, with local Bibb lettuce.

Sandwich Tip:  The sandwiches are pre-made and are grab-n-go, so they can sell out fast. So, it’s highly reccomended that you give them a call to reserve what you want. Luckily, we called ahead and got the very last Veggie Beetloaf Sandwich. 

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Peach pie. Maybe the last of the season…

Our dessert included peach pie and a cookie, but was completely overshadowed by one of the best cranberry-orange walnut muffins we’ve ever eaten (sorry, not pictured). I can’t remember getting this excited about a muffin before… I mean, it’s just a muffin, but it’s not.

We didn’t try them (still not sure where I discovered that willpower), but the pumpkin scones with maple glaze beckoned like an old friend, while the ham scones looked as if they could be my new future best friend. Until next time, scones…until next time.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Overall, we really enjoyed this little gem of a store and highly recommend giving them a try. The Marshall shop is also in proximity to two of our favorite wineries, Barrel Oak Winery and Aspen Dale Winery, so Red Truck is a convenient place to grab a picnic lunch before heading out for a day of wine tastings. And if you do go, leave the willpower at home and take ALL the scones home with you.

Red Truck Rural Bakery
8368 W. Main Street
Marshall, VA 20115
RedTruckBakery.com
Twitter: @RedTruckBakery
Facebook

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Disclaimer:  We were not compensated by Red Truck Rural Bakery in any way for this post. We really like ’em and you should too!

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Travel

10 Hours in Annapolis, MD

GET IN MY MOUF | Annapolis, MD Waterfront

I’m busy. You’re busy. He’s busy. She’s busy. We’re busy.

Everyone is always so busy around here…

No matter how busy you are, you can surely spare just ten hours for a trip to the waterfront in Annapolis, MD. It’s a great place to escape the “busyness” of the Washington, DC area, without having to spend too much time in a car.

We were recently invited on a #DCTravelBlogger day trip (thanks, Jessica!) to explore the city with Susan Steckman, Vice President of Communications for the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau (AAACVB). Susan was a wonderfully sweet tour guide who helped ensure every minute of our short trip was packed with delicious food and beverages as well as interesting sights and historical information. And of course, we must give a shout out to the wonderful #DCFoodBlogger crew, as Tina and I had a blast hanging out with such a friendly, talented, and fun group of people.

So, below is a recap of our adventure, which can also work as a loose itinerary for anyone looking for a quick day-trip to this historical city on the water.

Take a trolley tour

GET IN MY MOUF | Discover Annapolis Trolley

This is a very touristy thing to do, but you don’t live in Annapolis, so you ARE a tourist. Don’t fight it. Step on the trolley with Discover Annapolis Tours and embrace the chance to not only learn about Maryland’s capital city, but to also get the lay of the land. The tour covers a wide area, so keep an eye out for sites, restaurants, and shops that you might want to visit later on.

Visit an Irish Pub

GET IN MY MOUF | Galway Bay

GET IN MY MOUF | Galway Bay

GET IN MY MOUF | Galway Bay

Did you know that there are more Irish pubs per capita in Annapolis than in Ireland? You probably didn’t, because I just made that up. However, when you walk the streets, it sure feels like every other restaurant is a pub. So, to not stop into one for lunch and/or a pint would be blasphemy. We lunched at Galway Bay Irish Pub (you might’ve seen them on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives), opting for crispy fish and chips and a no-filler jumbo lump crabcake. The wildcard surprise, however, was a sampling of the pub’s proprietary egg nog. The restaurant doesn’t stock any during non-holiday months, but we were fortunate enough to be treated from the owner’s personal stash.

Have a glass of wine 

GET IN MY MOUF | Great Frogs Winery

GET IN MY MOUF | Great Frogs Winery

GET IN MY MOUF | Great Frogs Winery

Sure, you could enjoy a glass of wine at many of Annapolis’ great restaurants and wine bars, OR you could visit Great Frogs Winery, the ONLY winery in Annapolis. Enjoy a tasting or two in their rustic, yet restored barn only a short drive from Annapolis Harbor. They have a wine for every palate, but the stars were clearly their dessert wines, so don’t forget to take a bottle home.

Take a boat ride

GET IN MY MOUF | Annapolis, MD Waterfront

This is a must. I don’t care if you have to beg, borrow, or steal a yacht—If you visit Annapolis, you better find a way on to the water. After all the eating and drinking of the day, we had a relaxing ride on the Harbour Queen with Cruises on the Bay by Watermark. This narrated cruise of the Annapolis Harbor and the banks of the U.S. Naval Academy, schools you on the history of the Naval Academy and Annapolis’ role as an historic seaport. So, not only do you get a chance to get out on the water, but you also learn something. Don’t be afraid of knowledge.

Have dinner on the water

GET IN MY MOUF | Carrol's Creek Cafe

GET IN MY MOUF | Carrol's Creek Cafe

GET IN MY MOUF | Carrol's Creek Cafe

There’s no better way to end the day than having a nice meal on the water. Tucked in the Annapolis City Marina, Carrol’s Creek Cafe is easily accessible via one of the city’s water taxis. Beautiful ambiance, fresh seafood, waterfront view and a setting sun are hard to complain about. Scallop lovers will enjoy their house-specialty appetizer: A plump scallop rolled in shredded phyllo, fried crisp, and served on a bed of wilted spinach, lump crab and prosciutto ham with a shrimp cream sauce. We also enjoyed an herb encrusted Rockfish fillet, roasted and served over sun dried tomato pesto risotto, sautéed baby spinach, jumbo lump crab, and sauced with a beurre blanc. Luckily we left room for dessert, which included a smooth espresso crème brûlée for me and a rich flourless chocolate molten lava cake for Tina.

Treat yo’ dog!

Annapolis might also be the pet-friendly capital of the east coast. Not only will you find plenty of pet shops and dog-friendly restaurants with patio seating, you can even take your dog on many of the boats and water taxis. Cooper didn’t make it out on this trip, but we’re already planning another visit to take full advantage of his future favorite city. Plus, he heard how good the Annapolis Ice Cream Company is and hasn’t stopped bothering us about it.

Disclaimer:  We were guests of AAACCVB and the establishments mentioned above as part of a #DCTravelBlogger promotional trip. As always, opinions remain our own.

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11 Questions, Beyond the Food, Travel

11 Questions with Deli Board’s Adam Mesnick

Adam Mesnick of Deli Board

My relationship with San Francisco’s Deli Board all started with a single tweet:

The tip from @Catalyst_Red would become the recommendation of all recommendations during our recent trip to San Francisco. An hour after that tweet, I was mouf-deep in one of the best sandwiches of my life, the Ramone:

The Ramone | Deli Board - San Francisco

Let’s get a little closer:

The Ramone | Deli Board - San Francisco

Meet Ramone:  Romanian pastrami, turkey breast, kosher salami, provolone, cheddar, pickles, coleslaw, board sauce, brown mustard, and a fresh baked French roll.

Did it taste as good as it looks? Yes. Better, even. It was warm. It was satisfying. It was sure to appear in my dreams one night–every night. It’s construction felt like the design of a true sandwich engineer; each component working with the others, moist meat, the varying textures, house-made pickles, the bread–oh, the bread.

Before this gets too foodpornigraphic, let’s jump to the man behind Deli Board–The Chairman of the [Deli] Board–Adam Mesnick. A Cleveland native and former mortgage banker, Adam has turned his love of sandwiches into a carefully crafted deli destination in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood. Although he is perpetually busy running Deli Board and the recently opened “newish delicatessen,” Rye Project, Adam was kind enough to take some time to answer these 11 questions:

1.  What is your fondest memory of food and why? 

For me, food evokes so many memories. I have too many amazing food memories to count–I have been eating food for 41 years. My memories of food are similar to many people’s feelings about music or a certain song, it takes me back to a certain place, a setting, it helps preserve great memories for me. Sometimes just cooking certain things, like matzo ball soup. I have so many memories, it really just depends on the day, and which woman in my family was yelling about too much salt in my broth.

2.  Do you have any specific morning routines or rituals that you do every day to prepare yourself for being the Chairman of the Board?

I am an early riser as we mainly focus on lunch, so I usually take my pooch for a quick stroll, grab coffees for my crew and head in to get the day prepped and ready. I live a block from both stores, so I am always close.

3.  Do you listen to music in the kitchen? If so, what artists are on the regular rotation?

I am mainly an old dead head, my crew not so much. They listen to all sorts of shit I don’t know the names of. But I do like that Usher song, “I Don’t Mind,” and they have really been into N.W.A. recently–I know all the lyrics from when I was a kid.

4.  You have a pretty solid team at Deli Board, what attributes do you look for in your employees?  

I am always looking for driven individuals that are service-oriented and have a positive attitude. Service and attitude are everything to me. Also, I am not afraid to spend the time training someone who is inexperienced; sometimes I actually prefer it.

5.  When you’re not working in your restaurants, what do you do to relax and unwind? 

Mainly eating out, I do yoga as much as seven days a week, hang out with friends and my pooch, and work. I am always working on something or thinking about food. I am sort of obsessed with food and those closest to me would tell you I never stop.

6.  Aside from yourself, is there one person (or people) who has been vital to the Deli Board’s success? 

There have been so many great additives along the way. It would not even be close to possible without great individuals working their tails off.

7.  Outside of sandwiches, is there another food item or genre that you’d like to master next? 

We are always looking to learn more about sandwiches, salads, salad dressings, soups, and sauces. We make everything in-house and they continue to evolve. We currently sell hot sauce at the stores and people dig it…I dig it. I am a pepperhead and love hot sauce, so packaging and the outsourcing of bottling is on the horizon. Way back in the day, when Deli Board started in 2009, we were a soup wholesaler and caterer. We now only cater, but we are working on a soup revamp as well right now, but for Deli Board and Rye Project, not wholesale.

8.  In an interview with SFGate, it was mentioned that the catalyst that eventually led you to Deli Board was losing your job in the  mortgage banking business. If you hadn’t lost your job, do you think you would still be working in banking industry today?

I stuck around mortgage until 2009–it was the catalyst for sure. It was my best job in the mortgage industry, and things went south from there. I sold my home short, and have built Deli Board from the ground up. There have been some angels along the way, but it was all loans and most are complete, or close to it. I needed to do food.

9.  If you could travel back in time to when you started Deli Board and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

The fact is, it’s food and my dream come true, but it is a business and needs to be sustainable.

10.  What’s the first thing you eat or first restaurant you visit when you go back to Cleveland?

I love Tommy’s Restaurant in Coventry; I eat a falafel. I also am a huge fan of pepperoni bread, so I run to the West Side Market.

11.  Has Lebron James ever eaten at Deli Board? If so, what’d he eat? If not, what sandwich would you recommend for him?

Lebron has only eaten at Deli Board in my dreams. He strikes me as a simple eater–he grew up in Akron. He would probably want corned beef or roast beef and cheese, bread, simple…maybe a little sauce.

A HUGE thanks to Adam for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. And for everyone else out there, I hope your next task of the day is to book a ticket to San Francisco (especially you, Lebron).

Deli Board Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mouf Links, Travel

Mouf Links: Pocono Mountains Edition

Pocono Mountains

Okay, first purge your mind of what you think the “Poconos” is all about, because you’re wrong. The era of champagne glass-shaped hot tubs is over, ’cause we’re talking bout the Pocono Mountains here. The real attraction of this destination can be found outside of a hotel room, with enough outdoor activities to satisfy even the bravest Bear Grylls wannabes. Not to mention the fact that the area is quickly becoming a mecca for water parks. Oh, and you want good food? Yeah, they got that, too.

Although we were unable to attend a recent #DCTravelBloggers trip to the Pocono Mountains, below you can find links recapping the experiences of some of our local blogger friends who ventured up to Pennsylvania for a long weekend. If you’re considering a vacation in the Pocono Mountains, we highly recommend perusing their experiences. They’ll tell you what to pack, where to stay, what activities to do, and especially what you should EAT.

1.  48 Hours in the Pocono Mountains | Will Drink For Travel

2.  Farm to Table at Shawnee Inn | The Dining Traveler

3.  Weekend Trip to the Pocono Mountains | Travelaine

4.  Escape to the Pocono Mountains | The Together Traveler

5.  8 Great Poconos Summer Activities | McCool Travel

6.  Kalahari Resort, Pocono Mountains | McCool Travel

7.  SCDC Travels:  The Poconos | Spicy Candy DC

8.  Pocono Mountains (Summer) | A Lacey Perspective

9.  Experience the best of the Pocono Mountains | The Hungry Travelist

10.  Whitewater rafting in the Poconos | The Hungry Travelist

11.  Dinner at the Shawnee Craft Brewery – “Beer from here; Food from near” | The Hungry Travelist

12.  Recap:  Shawnee Island Camping Experience in the Pocono Mountains | Will Drink For Travel

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#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Travel

Five Travel Tips for a Super Awesome Vacation

Travel Tips | getinmymouf.com

[This is post #037 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project. Yeah, we’re behind, but we’ll catch up…]

Tiffany at The Together Traveler posted some great tips she picked up from a packing workshop she attended with bloggers from The Dining Traveler, Spicy Candy DC, A Lacey Perspective, and McCool Travel. So, if you’re planning a trip, be sure to check out her two posts for some great ideas:

“Tips for Your Next Trip for a Traveling Pro”

“Packing Tips from Seasoned Traveling Pros”

Her posts inspired us to think about some of the things we’ve learned over the years. Although we’re not as seasoned travelers as the folks mentioned above, we’ve definitely made some mistakes and picked up a few shortcuts along the way. So, here are five of our tips for a super awesome vacation.

1.  Plan out your very first meal at your travel destination. 

Tony Tutto's Mill Valley | getinmymouf.com

Our first meal during our last trip to the Bay Area: Tony’s Tutto’s in Mill Valley, CA.

There’s nothing worse than stepping off a six hour flight in a new location, sweaty, slightly over-whelmed, and tired. Oh and STARVING. Your vacation has started, but you can’t even start relaxing because you still have to pick up your bags. I’m not sure about you, but the first hour or two in a new location is always a bit hectic for us. And there’s nothing worse than having an awful first meal. We learned the hard way, so I always make sure to scope out a good or familiar spot to grab a bite to eat so we can get our bearings.

2.  Set aside at least one day of your trip for improvisation. 

Travel Tips | getinmymouf.com

Because you never know when you might be spending four hours searching for starfish at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

As much as we all like to cram as many activities into our vacations as possible, there’s nothing less relaxing than following a strict itinerary for an entire week. It’s great to maximize your time–and let’s be honest, there are some places you’ll only get to visit once–but it never hurts to build a “free day” into your plans. Maybe you’ll feel like exploring an area you weren’t aware of before. Maybe you want to go back and repeat an activity from your first day. Maybe you just need a day to recoup after drinking for 2, 3, or 4 days straight…

3.  Buy luggage in the brightest color possible.

Travel Tips | getinmymouf.com

This bag is so bright, you need to wear sunglasses to pack.

I have a bright orange luggage set. This luggage as has been one of the best travel purchases of my life, because when the sea of black and navy blue suitcases flow out of the baggage claim conveyor belt, mine clearly stands out. So, if you’re in the market for a bag, pick the one with the most offensive color or design.

4.  Hire a tour guide.

Yokahu Tower

View from Yokahu Tower @ El Yunque in Puerto Rico. A trip that was much easier thanks to our tour guide, Rob.

Although it can be expensive, the value of joining a group tour or hiring a private tour guide can make it more than worth it. Skip the large, crowded tours you find in heavy tourist areas and look for smaller, more intimate tour guides on TripAdvisor or Yelp. We’ve mentioned before in our “Five (mostly food-related) Things We Miss About Puerto Rico” that the highlight was clearly a result of amazing rainforest tour guide, Rob of Sunset Tours. He made it worth the money and was even able to recommend restaurants for us to try during the remainder of our trip.

5.  Bake cookies to take on your trip. 

Momofuku Milk Bar Cookie Mix Review | getinmymouf.com

I just like eating homemade cookies on long flights. Especially these Momofuku Compost Cookies.

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#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Travel, Videos

#DCTravelBlogger Brunch – Jaleo Crystal City

Jaleo Crystal City  

[This is post #004 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project.]

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to attend a blogger meet-up, I’ve got the dirty secrets right here in this very post. Yup. It’s like General Hospital up in this crazy blogger world. Betrayal, murder, paternity tests…

Okay, aside from maybe stealing someone’s sangria, there wasn’t any soap opera drama.  And kinda hard for there to be any secrets when everything is tweeted or Instagramed the second it happens. Such is life for a blogger.

Anyway, Jessica at The Dining Traveler was kind enough to set up a brunch at Jaleo Crystal City for DC/VA/MD-based bloggers. Most of the attendees have travel blogs, but a few of us food bloggers snuck in and there were even a few fashion-focused folks as well. It was a great mix and I’m happy to have made some new friends in the local blogging community. I’ll get to Jaleo’s phenomenal food in a second, but it goes without saying that the people are what made the event successful. For fear of leaving someone out, I’m not going to attempt to list everyone, so check out the hashtag #DCTravelBlogger on Twitter or Instagram to find the folks who partook in the fun. 

It was great to share stories of gumbo, DC traffic, blog traffic, DC weather, cocktails, food, Tastemade, home ownership, New Orleans, food photography, day jobs that pay the bills, upcoming vacations, California, wine, dog hair, old phones, and #DCFoodPorn. 

Speaking of food porn…

So what’d we eat? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Speak is probably too weak a word, as the food at Jaleo sang to us at every course. And the service was SPOT-ON. Our sangria glasses were never empty and the staff welcomed the insanity of our selfies, food pics, and blog videos. 

Jaleo Crystal City #DCTravelBlogger

‘Ferran Adrià’ liquid olives – Like a delicious science experiment in your mouf.

We were even lucky enough to get a demonstration on how the liquid olives were made by Head Chef, Domenick Torlucci:

Jaleo Crystal City #DCTravelBlogger

Smoked salmon on cristal bread with hardboiled egg, goat cheese and capers.

Jaleo Crystal City #DCTravelBlogger

Yes, we even ate our veggies…because Chef Torlucci and his team made them taste amazing.

Jaleo Paella Crystal City

Vegetable Paella – Fun Fact: This paella pan was bigger than my Mazda.

Jaleo Crystal City #DCTravelBlogger

Sweet-soaked Spanish toast with caramelized bananas and rum whipped cream.

There might have been a selfie stick involved…

And of course we made good use of said selfie stick…

Being a blogger and living on Twitter and Instagram, it’s easy to forget that there are REAL people behind all the pictures and tweets. It was nice reminder that the pictures and stories we share online are nothing without anyone to share it with. So, Salud! to new friends and future meet-ups.

PS:  Don’t take my word for it. Check out the links below to some of the other bloggers’ experiences at the event. There are a TON of great pics, so prepare your eyes for mucho #foodporn:

Jaleo on Urbanspoon

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#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Reviews, Travel, Videos

When in Sacramento…Drink Wine!

Skinner Vineyards

[This is post #002 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project.]

Before I go on any trip, I typically have at least 701 restaurants mapped out to visit. However, since this was a work trip, I wasn’t quite sure how much free time I’d have. I could have done some research anyway, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up for nothing. So, I landed in Sacramento with my boss, zero plans and no expectations.

It ended up working out well, since my boss is a wine aficionado in the truest sense of the word. He had some nearby wineries mapped out on his to-taste list, so I tagged along. In hindsight, I probably should have taken a wine tasting class, since I’m about as opposite as can be from a wine aficionado. I’m sure we were quite the odd couple:  He sniffed, inquired about production levels and varietals, while my input was limited to…”{grunting sound} Me likey.”

We visited about a half dozen wineries during our limited free time and luckily ended up finding some decent restaurants, too. Below are a few of my favorites, but first a quick disclaimer:  Most of the spots below are near Sacramento, but only one is actually in the city, so be prepared to travel a bit.

1. Klinker Brick Winery (Lodi, CA)

Klinker Brick Winery

I really loved the casual atmosphere of this winery. It’d be a great place to hang out on their patio, sip some wine, play some corn-hole, and just enjoy that fresh California breeze. And the name, Klinker Brick, is just fun to say. How can you not have a good time at a place called Klinker Brick?! Oh, the wine. Right. The wine highlights for me included their Albariño, Petite Syrah, and Farrah Syrah. Truth be told, I don’t think I had ever heard of Albariño before. Either way, me likey.

2. Jessie’s Grove Winery (Lodi, CA)

Jessie’s Grove Winery Ice House

The dessert wines at Jessie’s Grove were brilliant. Give me a dark chocolate bar, a bottle of their Sweet Perfection and I’d be set for the evening. (BTW – It’s hard to concentrate right now because I’m blasting “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. And YES, I am singing along and replacing “girl” with “grove.”) Aside from wine and chocolate, I was struck by the history of the vinyard, which stretched back to the late 1800s. Some of the original vines that were planted in 1888 are still used for production in their wines today. You’re not just drinking wine here, you’re traveling back in time and tasting history. But since there were no blogs back then, I recommend traveling back to present time as fast as possible.

3.  The Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery (Lodi, CA)    The Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery on Urbanspoon

The Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery

The name is a little misleading, as I saw no foxes dancing, but that was quickly reconciled by the fact that The Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery bakes its own bread. Honestly, if you bake your own bread, it almost doesn’t matter what you put between it.  Tried a Tri-tip Green Chili Melt and surprisingly, the highlight wasn’t the green chili, tri-tip, or the melty-cheese. It was cheddar-jalapeno bread so fresh I could taste the field the wheat was harvested from. (Now that’s how you hyperbole the heck out of  sandwich!) Also, they give you a cookie with every order! It’s the little things that can make me happy and in this case it was a snicker doodle. I recommend stopping at this place for lunch in preparation for a day of wine tasting in Lodi. Create that solid bread foundation in your stomach for which the wine can fall upon.

4. Ella Dining Room & Bar  (Downtown Sacramento)     Ella Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

Ella Dining Room & Bar

Ella Dining Room & Bar is the kind of place that I would’ve planned to go to, had I been aware of its existence. First of all, the restaurant is adorned with shutters on the walls, imported from somewhere like Hungary. Why? Who knows, but it looked cool as heck. I tried their signature cocktail, The Real Gin and Tonic, and was not disappointed. I was so not disappointed that I had two more. And then there was the fried chicken, which was guaranteed to be moist because it was sous vide before being fried. I also have to admit that although it was a nice restaurant and I was with work folks (including my boss and our company President), that did not stop me from ordering said fried chicken and eating it with my bare hands. #NoShame. Oh, and the housemade hot sauce was the bomb.com/yummy.php.

5. Skinner Vineyards (Somerset, CA)

Let’s not beat around the grape vines:  Enjoyed a stellar 2012 Grenache, Estate wine, but the highlight of this place was the VIEW. We could have been drinking rainwater out of red solo cups and I would’ve still had a great time. You can’t tell from the video, but snow-capped mountain tops were even visible! Made the mistake of going to Skinner Vineyards as our last stop before the airport. Almost didn’t get on the plane… If you’re heading to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento, take a couple hours out of your trip and stop here to sip the wine and take in the scenery.

As much as I love the other cities of California (you know, the ones that start with ‘San’ or ‘Los’), I wouldn’t mind going back to Sacramento. I actually do have unfinished business. There’s a restaurant called Bacon and Butter that I didn’t get a chance to try. Yes, BACON and BUTTER. Need I say more?

Like what you see? Then let’s be email buddies:


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Reviews, Travel

San Francisco Deficiency Syndrome

It’s been a few months since we visited the San Francisco Bay Area and already we’re starting to feel the effects of SFDS (San Francisco Deficiency Syndrome). Although not supported with medical data, every year SFDS, affects 100% of all humans living in our house. And unfortunately there is no treatment, except for visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.

In an effort to find an alternative cure, we figured it would be best to explore the root of the problem and identify some of the sources. It’s pretty clear that the syndrome is connected to the food we eat, so let’s take a look at some potential sources of our condition.

1.  Avatar’s – Sausalito, CA     Avatar's on Urbanspoon

Avatar's Restaurant Sausalito

One needs only one piece of evidence to suggest that Avatar’s is a powerful source of culinary creativity:  832 Yelp reviews with a near perfect rating. The restaurant is a fusion of Indian and Mexican cuisine, which sounds like an odd pairing, but when you taste the food…it’s like something you’ve never experienced before. Simple dishes with complex flavors, combining a comfort of familiarity and newness that sticks with you long after you’ve left the area. Pumpkin chicken enchiladas don’t sound very exciting, but they were fantastic. No amount of hyperbole and exaggeration can do this place justice. Just. Eat. There. It’s worth getting SFDS.

2. The Girl and the Fig – Sonoma, CA     The Girl & The Fig on Urbanspoon

Pork Chop Girl and the Fig

A lot of people use the word “best” to describe a lot of meals they eat (myself guilty of this as well). In reality, this description of “best” is more accurately defined as “this is pretty good and the best [blank] I’ve had since that last best [blank] I had a couple weeks ago.” With that preface, I want to declare that in this instance, the pork chop I ate at The Girl and the Fig was THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD AND WILL LIKELY EVER EAT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I considered giving up pork for the sole fact that every other pork chop eaten after this one will only lead to disappointment and further worsen my SFDS. Oh and I almost forgot about the chocolate fig parfait aka Chocolate Heaven. And I didn’t think I even liked figs…

3. Wayfare Tavern – San Francisco, CA     Wayfare Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wayfare Tavern

We’re always too busy stuffing our face to get a pic of the food. This photograph was taken by our wedding photographer, Ryan Polei.

Aside from the strong sentimental attachment of Wayfare Tavern being the site of our first dinner as Mr. and Mrs., from the top of the menu to the bottom, everything we’ve eaten has delivered. Fried chicken? Crispy, moist, flavorful. Pop-overs? Perfect. Burrata? Excuse me, while I lick the plate. Wayfare Tavern was also the inspiration for our Peach Pie with Candied Rosemary. Oh and even something as simple as a freaking burger–and I’m going to use that word again, and I MEAN it–was the B-E-S-T we’ve ever had. If you needed any more convincing, we have a picture of the outside of this restaurant hanging in our living room. It’s basically the first thing you see when you walk in. We need help.

4.  Tony Tutto Pizza – Mill Valley, CA     Tony Tutto's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tony Tutto's Mill Valley

What better way to kick off a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, than by enjoying a fresh pie from Tony Tutto Pizza. Emphasis on the word fresh. We use that word on the east coast, but it does not mean what it means on the west coast. And yes this is a pizza place, but unlike most other cocky pizza places, it’s not about the pizza. The pizza just happens to be great, but when you eat a Tony Tutto pie you’re tasting each ingredient. You’re not eating a margherita pizza, you’re eating the tomatoes right off the vine and cheese straight from a cow. Yes, I know that’s not how cheese is made, but you get the idea…

5. Fish. – Sausalito, CA     Fish on Urbanspoon

Fish and Chips Sausalito

After a five-mile hike at Muir Beach, we were plenty hangry and not prepared to wait in what appeared to be a five-mile line at Fish. We toughed it out and became increasingly hangrier, but when the food came, nirvana was achieved. Beautiful fish and chips. A Vietnamese-style salmon sandwich exploding with flavor. It was the kind of meal that makes your worries disappear. We didn’t care that we were tired and sweaty. We didn’t care that the only table available was in direct sunlight, shooting UV rays into our eyeballs. We didn’t care that we might have been illegally parked. All we cared about was that the seafood was fresh, delicious, and in our moufs.

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Unfortunately, writing this post has made our case of San Francisco Deficiency Syndrome even worse. To prevent the risk of further infection and potential hospitalization we are currently in the process of planning a trip back this summer.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll eventually find a cure.

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Travel

Six Things We Miss About San Diego

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State Reserve

What?! San Diego is awesome? Breaking news, I know. But, we’ve been to the ol’ Sandy Eggo three times in the last fifteen months and we’re never ready to leave. The weather is perfect, traffic is minimal, you’re never more than 30 minutes away from a good time, and the FOOD. OH, THE FOOD. And, it’s cheap. The ratio of deliciousness to inexpensive is probably the highest in the U.S. Look it up in the census stats, it’s in there.

I also highly recommend buddying up to a local, as we’d probably end up eating at an Applebee’s* if it wasn’t for our friends Mike and Ashley. It’s like having our own personal food tour guides and surf instructor. Speaking of which, if you enjoy witty and sometimes sarcastic writing (which is why you’re here, right?), check out Mike’s surf blog, The Flying Peanut. Warning: It will make you want to quit your day job, move to San Diego, and learn how to surf.

Yeah, so picking five things wasn’t easy…so we picked six.

1. Oscar’s Mexican Seafood     Oscar's Mexican Seafood on Urbanspoon

Oscar's Mexican Seafood

Spicy Shrimp Tacos from Oscar’s. Yeah, this was from the second round of ordering. Should’ve gone back for a third…

If you’re looking for a reason to visit San Diego, I’ll give you two: The smoked fish taco and spicy shrimp taco from Oscar’s Mexican Seafood. They are not good. Nor are they great. The only way to describe them would be LEGENDARY. They are the type of tacos you will weave into the lore you tell your great grand children; and while you’ll most likely exaggerate your own amazing feats, you will not need to use any hyperbole with these two corn tortillas filled with magic. As we chowed down on these tacos during our final hours on the West Coast, I put some serious thought into how I could bring a dozen of them home with us on the plane. And although I couldn’t figure out a sanitary way to accomplish that feat, at least I was left with the fond memories of fish, shrimp, cheese, cabbage, pico de gallo, and avocado on a fresh made corn tortilla, topped with habanero crema. This restaurant is the sole reason why my Realtor.com app has a lot of recent “San Diego” searches.

2. Staying at the Secluded Studio with Canyon View (Airbnb.com)

Airbnb Canyon View

Waking up to this sure beat the cookie-cutter town houses we see at home.

We have found our unofficial second home in San Diego. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, the Secluded Studio with Canyon View in San Diego is a great place to start (click here for $50 off your first Airbnb trip!). Aside from being a clean, bright space with beautiful canyon views from the balcony, the location is perfect and is just a short 5-10 minute drive to all of the restaurants on this list. It’s great if you want to avoid the crowded beaches and packed downtown area, while still being pretty close to everything. You’ll feel like you’re staying with family, as the hosts provided us with bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, tea, coffee, milk, and juice. As much as I enjoy maximizing our food adventures by eating breakfast out, it was nice to enjoy a bagel and coffee, whilst sitting on the balcony over-looking the canyon.

3. Working on a Food Truck for Animals

Giraffe San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I found our next pet!

As much fun as it is to feed ourselves, feeding giraffes and rhinos at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was pretty freaking cool. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a giraffe?! They make human eyes look like garbage disposal sludge. And rhinos are just like giant puppies who have horns and could kill you if they wanted, but they won’t ’cause you’re on a truck and they LOVE apples. Spend the extra money for the Caravan Safari and make friends with some wild beasts.

4. El Zarape Restaurant     El Zarape Mexican on Urbanspoon

El Zarape California Burrito

California Burrito from El Zarape. Notice the holy trinity of hot sauces.

This hole-in-the-wall-ish restaurant is exactly the type of place you’d expect to find a solid Mexican meal. Although it might not have won any burrito awards, I have a sentimental attachment. I’m going to get a little mushy here, so get out the tissues and crank up the Journey. El Zarape was the site of…sorry, I’m tearing up a bit here…it was where I had my first California Burrito. I feel like I should mail them an anniversary card every year. I seriously crave this place at least once a month and the pain is compounded by the fact that California Burritos cannot be found anywhere in Northern VA or DC. It’s not a difficult food product to make, but for some reason it’s a freaking unicorn out here. So, to be safe you better eat at least two while you’re there.

5. Coin-Op Game Room     Coin-Op Game Room on Urbanspoon

Coin-op Game Room San Diego

Here’s to my dead homie, Michelangelo.

Barcades aren’t specific to San Diego, but we had a good time drinking and time traveling back to the 90s at Coin-Op Game Room. The beers and drinks were top notch, bartenders were friendly, and they had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! And it’s the only place that encourages drinking and driving (MarioKart, of course). Just stay out of the way of the pinball masters. They do NOT mess around.

6. Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream     Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream

Front Row: lychee, chocolate orange, peanut butter and guava jelly. Back Row: toasted coconut, peanut butter brownie, lemon cream

You know how when you go to an ice cream shop and you try a bunch of flavors and then you have to settle on just one or two? Well, Hammond’s has solved this problem with…(drum roll)…Ice cream flights! Hell yes. Choose up to six flavors, each small scoop is perched on its own mini cone for you to enjoy. It even comes on a cool stand that looks like it was designed by Apple. I don’t know why every ice cream shop in America isn’t stealing this idea.

*Just kidding, we will never eat at Applebee’s. Sorry, John Corbett.

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Travel

Five Things We Miss About New Orleans

Canal Street NOLA

View of Canal Street from the JW Marriott hotel.

FIVE THINGS?! We recently spent a long weekend in New Orleans, but even though it was a short trip, narrowing down everything we’ll miss about this unique city was no easy task. Hell, gumbo alone could take up all five spots (mental note for a future gumbo post…) And you can’t ignore the po’ boys. Or fresh Leidenheimer french bread. Oh, and Abita on tap!

Having been to New Orleans a few times, this list partially reflects some things that we consistently miss every time we fly back home. And aside from one item, we tried to avoid the obvious answers (ahem, G-U-M-B-O). With the exception of a trip outside the city to Gretna, most of these are in or within walking distance of the French Quarter, so it’s easy to relive all of these things within a day. And with all the food you’ll be eating, you’ll need to walk it off.

If you don’t mind the heat and aren’t afraid of hurricane season, flights and hotels are pretty reasonable in August (about half the price as they are in late fall). But don’t forget to pack an umbrella, as there’s a good chance you’ll see a few brief rain showers during your late summer visit. And bring a pocket full of dollar bills–Not for the cavalcade of strip clubs on Bourbon Street, but for the street performers, homeless, and vendors at the French Market.

1.  Chocolate Pecan Crunch at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House Bourbon House on Urbanspoon
This dessert from Bourbon House‘s Sara Toth won gold prize at the 2014 New Orleans Food & Wine Festival. One medal doesn’t seem like enough for this rich, salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, dessert that is almost impossible to describe with words and pictures alone. The inside includes layers of chocolate mousse, crispy pecan brittle, caramel, and a chocolate crust. All topped with rich chocolate ganache and pecans, served with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. We were too full to finish it at the restaurant, but that didn’t stop me from wrapping it up and shoving the leftovers in my carry-on bag. Two days and 1,055 miles later it was still worthy of a gold medal.

0pecan

And the award for the best dessert of the trip goes to…

2.  Merchant Merchant on Urbanspoon
Yes, we’ve already dedicated an entire post to Merchant, but it’s worth repeating. For a break from the noise of Bourbon Street, stop by Merchant for good coffee, crêpes, and friendly staff. And don’t forget to grab an almond croissant for the plane ride home (sorry, United, for all the powdered sugar on seat 9B).

Fork and knife bench

It’s a fork and knife bench! (@ Merchant)

3.  Chargrilled Oysters
Okay, yes chargrilled oysters are pretty common in NOLA and it’s almost superfluous to even include them on the list. However, every single time we go to New Orleans, one of our first meals includes them and it’s one of the first dishes we miss when we return home. And as a little bit of a #FoodPSA, I want to note that even if you THINK you don’t like oysters, you should still give them a try, ’cause you haven’t had any like this. Of course if you’re allergic you should use common sense…but it might be worth it…

Bourbon House Oysters

Chargrilled oysters from Bourbon House

4.  Beignets from Café Beignet Cafe Beignet on Urbanspoon
Standing in a sweaty line at Café Du Monde for beignets and a café au lait holds an iconic place in many peoples’ hearts. But honestly, if you want to avoid the crowd and (dare I say it) find better beignets, then check out Café Beignet. Everything also feels a lot less manufactured than at Café Du Monde, plus one of the locations is next door to a police station, so it’s most likely the safest place to enjoy a beignet (insert joke about cops stealing your beignets).

Cafe Beignet

Beignets are even good in a hotel room. Look at that sexy green carpet.

5.  Three Happiness Restaurant Three Happiness Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Technically, Three Happiness Restaurant isn’t in New Orleans, but it’s only about 15 minutes outside of the city in Gretna, LA. We have pretty solid Vietnamese food in Northern Virginia, but you simply can’t beat Vietnamese food in the New Orleans area. With a huge Vietnamese population (Tina’s family being some of them!), Louisiana has some of the best Vietnamese food you’ll find in the Western hemisphere. If you need an expert’s confirmation of this, check out Season 11 of Top Chef. The food at Three Happiness Restaurant was delicious (no really, seriously delicious), but it was the good vibes from the owners that made it truly unique. Their hospitality was so genuine that you felt like you were eating in their own home. Highlights included the crispy egg rolls (wrapped in lettuce and basil and dipped in nước chấm), tender cubes of ribeye sauteed in butter, and a seemingly never ending seafood hot pot with shrimp so fresh they were still wearing mardi gras beads.

Egg Rolls

I ate every single one of those egg rolls.

Runner-Up:  JW Marriott New Orleans
Also, as a “runner-up,” I want to give a shout out to the JW Marriott on Canal Street. The hotel’s location was perfect for accessing the French Quarter, while also not being right in the middle of all the action (because it’s nice to be able to sleep a little bit). The hotel food wasn’t anything memorable (especially for the steep prices), but it was fine if you needed a quick bite or late night room service snack. The rooms were clean and the staff was friendly (except for one condescending guy). The bellhops were all awesome and took care of us and our luggage like we were BFFs. So, we would definitely recommend JW Marriott for its cleanliness, friendliness, and location.

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