Car Reviews

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

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


We needed a small, sporty car for a California trip starting in Los Angeles and ending in San Diego, so we were matched up with a 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC. Having minimal experience with Mitsubishi, I was intrigued since the Lancer is one of the least expensive all-wheel-drive sedans money can buy.


MSRP (as tested):  $22,805
MPG Estimate: 23 city – 31 highway
Engine:  2.4L MIVEC SOHC 16-valve, 4 cylnders
Power:  168 hp @ 6000 rpm  | 167 ft-lbs. @ 4100 rpm
Transmission:   CVT
Color:  Diamond White Pearl

For more info, click here to view the 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer brochure.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

An evening in University Heights – San Diego, CA


I’m seat-spoiled in my daily driver, so I wasn’t expecting a compact sedan to have comfortable seats. Fortunately, the driver’s seat didn’t cause any back pains on the trip from Los Angeles to San Diego. The seats were firm and not necessarily something that I’d fall asleep in like a recliner, but they do the job surprisingly well.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

Was disappointed that there was no telescoping steering wheel, but despite this, the wheel position wasn’t a distraction. Overall driving comfort was good – nothing ends up standing out as uber-comfortable, but after driving the car a lot you realize that everything does it’s job to a point where you don’t even think about it. Like the car isn’t trying to distract you in any way. It simply wants to do its job.

Oh, Lancer…you’re so humble.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |


Power was sufficient enough that I don’t recall ever feeling like we needed more umph to get around or to merge on to the highway. I’m also a big fan of car having good handling over a soft ride, so I enjoyed the car’s nimbleness around turns. I can safely say that if you need to make a quick U-turn in the middle of a neighborhood street, the Lancer can easily handle it.

We didn’t really need to use the all wheel drive for anything, but it was nice to have…just in case. Would love to take this car for a spin in some light snow to check out its capabilities.

Gas mileage for our trip was closer to the low end of the range at about 24 MPG, which might have been affected by the L.A. traffic for part of the trip.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

Living like a local in Silver Lake – Los Angeles, CA

Who Should Buy This Car?

You should buy this car if you want a humble car with all wheel drive at a reasonable price. You might like this car if you enjoy spirited acceleration and fun handling, but don’t need something filled with a bunch of technological bells and whistles. It also doesn’t hurt that Mitsubishi offers a solid warranty with a 5 yr/60,000 mile basic coverage and 10 yr/100,000 mile powertrain coverage.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |

Wine time at Miramonte Winery – Temecula, CA

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC |


Disclaimer:  As noted above (you did read the whole post, right?!) we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mitsubishi. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. As always, all opinions remain our own.

Reviews, Travel

Clifton Café – Clifton, VA

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA |

What do my Mom and my dog have in common?

They both love Clifton Café.

My mom always talks about The Magic Pan and how magical (GET IT?!) the crêpes were. Sadly, there haven’t been very many restaurants that serve crêpes around here (a few are starting to pop up now and I’m sure finding crêpes in DC would be easy, but getting my mom to go to DC would not be).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA |

Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe

Luckily for us, we discovered Clifton Café, a crêperie in historic Clifton, VA that helps close that gap on those crêpe cravings. Crêpe options range from the savory Dan’s Barbarian Beef (roast beef, Havarti, onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapeños, tomatoes, and Dijonnaise) to sweet favorites filled with Nutella, bananas, and fresh berries. You can also enjoy sandwiches, salads, wine and beer–and since coffee is a perfect match for crêpes–an extensive latte menu. My sweet tooth always leads me to their Crème Brûlée Latte.

It’s also a great place for  Mother’s Day Brunch and is quickly becoming a new tradition for us. This year, the brunch consisted of a three course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. For our first course, we all enjoyed the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Caprese–I personally find it hard to turn down any appetizers with burrata.

For our second course, the table was filled with a Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe (roasted corn, red pepper and herb fricassee, sautéed chorizo, tomatoes, and gouda cheese), Salmon di Oliva Crêpe (Norwegian smoked salmon, feta, tomatoes, red onion, olive medley, and sautéed spinach with a lemon-basil sauce), and the BBQ Beef Brisket Crêpe (slow cooked BBQ beef brisket over mashed potatoes).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA |

Salmon di Oliva Crêpe

To end the meal we all came back together and chose the same dessert, the Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe (with lemon curd, powdered sugar and whipped cream). Needless to say, my mom was in crêpe heaven.

Photo May 08, 11 55 17 AM

Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe

Enough about my mom. The dog-friendly patio is spacious enough to accommodate  75 pounds of fluffy labradoodle. I wish more places had patios, and of the few that do, I wish they had more room for big canines. The hostess and servers not only welcomed Cooper for lunch, they almost didn’t want him to leave. If he goes missing, I know the first place we’ll look…

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

So, if you’re looking for a quaint lunch spot to take your momma to, or if you’d simply like to enjoy some sunshine with your pup, Clifton Café is a perfect choice.


Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided with a 2016 Kia Sorento to test drive for a week (click here for our car review). The epic panoramic sunroof made it the perfect SUV to take for a drive on the scenic and winding roads of Clifton, VA to one of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat.

Photo Jun 08, 1 06 29 PM

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

Car Reviews

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD Review

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

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

Between this Sorento and the 2015 Optima SX we were able to test drive last fall, Tina and I have been surprisingly impressed. Full disclosure, there was a lot of overlap in what we enjoyed with this SUV and the sedan. So, for fear of this sounding repetitive to the last review, let’s start out with something a little different: Out of the two vehicles, I would definitely choose this Sorento over the Optima in a Zombie Apocalypse situation.


MSRP (as tested):  $46,495
MPG Estimate:  17 – 23 MPG
Engine:  3.3 L V6 GDI Engine
Power:   290 hp @  6,400 rpm | 252 ft-lbs @ 5,300 rpm
Transmission:  6-speed Sportmatic Transmission
Color:  Titanium Gray
Options:  SXL Technology Package (Xenon HID headlights, lane departure warning system, forward collision warning system, electronic parking brake, surround view monitor, smart advanced cruise control)

Click here for the 2016 Kia Sorento Brochure


No complaints from the comfort department. Of course, if you’re being chased by zombies you probably wouldn’t have time to realize how nice the seats feel for long stretches of driving. And you’re hands will also be too sweaty from the adrenaline that you wouldn’t need to use the heated steering wheel. However, the ventilated seats are nice for cooling your tuckus during tense situations.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

Also, the third row of seating could easily fit children, but you’d probably want to save that room for food rations, weaponry, and ammunition.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |


In terms of bells and whistles, there were two major perks that I will miss most. The first is, well, the first thing you notice when you enter the car:  The Panoramic Sunroof. It’s a cool feature that really makes the car feel open–the extra glass almost feels like a mid-century modern home (minus the pool). The roof is also big enough that a few people could–hypothetically–stand up simultaneously and wave to a passerby like a boss. Or, alternatively, one could shoot down zombies with a machine gun…like a boss.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

Not a boss.

The second feature that stole my heart away was the surround view monitor, which provides a 360 degree aerial view of the SUV. For someone who predominantly drives smaller sedans, it definitely made me feel better about squeezing the Sorento into tight spaces. When I drive SUVs I always feel like I’m about two cementers away from hitting every car in the parking lot. Not so in this SUV. It’s also great for ensuring that no zombies are lurking in search of brains in your blind spots.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

No zombies…this time.


For a big guy, the Sorento SXL had enough umph that I really wanted to floor it around a corner and try and flip the car.

I did not try this (nor should YOU), but the spirit lives on.

Photo Jun 08, 1 06 29 PM

For every day purposes, changing lanes and merging was no problem. Gas mileage was acceptable at about 21 MPG for our test week, which included mostly stop-and-go commuting and some short weekend road trips.

And yes, you can also use that umph and good gas milage to efficiently run over zombies.

Dog Friendliness

The biggest surprise was not the SUV itself, but rather the fact that we were able to coax Cooper into the back. He hates SUVs and doesn’t trust automatic lift gates. But, with enough treats, we got him to sit in the back for a short ride.

The pictures don’t show it, but he is terrified.

Anyway, if your dog is not a coward, he or she would love all the room in the back. Coop’s a big guy and he was able stand up without any issues (aside from mental issues). It’s also good practice, we’d hate to leave him behind during the Zombie Apocalypse…although it might be cool to have a zombie dog for a pet.

Food Friendliness

Not worried about the Zombie Apocalypse? Fine, let’s say you want to escape from becoming an office zombie at work. Go grab some Popeyes and take the Sorento out to tailgate at a park for lunch.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia |

Who Should Buy This Car

Although a very versatile vehicle in a Zombie Apocalypse, the Kia Sorento is a fine choice for a normal suburban life as well. It all comes down to the fact that it’s an affordable SUV with luxury car amenities and a solid warranty. We now understand why there are so many Kia Sorentos in our neighborhood.


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

Imitation Creation, Recipes

Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

There are only two times in my life where I’ve felt so gluttonously full that I thought my digestive system was near shutting down. The first involved consuming two Chipotle burritos in under an hour. If anyone ever asks, it is 100% possible to get drunk off burritos.

The second involved the first trip to San Francisco that Tina and I ever took. I need to point out that this second occurrence was not a result of being full from one meal. Nope. Rather it was a slow build throughout the day starting with breakfast and ending with a regret-filled dinner. My fingers ache just thinking about having to type it all out…

  • Bacon, egg and cheese croissant
  • Mango smoothie
  • Porchetta sandwich
  • Pizza w/ yukon gold potatoes, parmesan cheese, and bacon,
  • Spicy Korean chicken tacos w/ pineapple
  • Fried chicken
  • Cheeseburger w/ white cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg
  • Herb fries
  • Bacon-wrapped dates
  • Curry deviled eggs
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Chocolate cream pie
  • Grapefruit sorbet
  • Raspberry cream soda

That day involved a lot of snacking, a couple of lunches, and a dinner with unnecessary appetizers. We struggled to walk out of the restaurant after dinner and collapsed once we got back to our hotel. We were able to try a lot of food in a short period of time, at the expense of what could have been our final day on this earth. We, of course, survived our first-world problem of consuming too much food and lived to tell about it.

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

One might think that gorging to that extent would link those foods to the pain and thus create negative connotations to the individual foods that we ate. One might think that consuming easily thrice our recommended daily caloric intake would kill any future cravings of those infamous foods. One might. But one might be wrong.

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

It’s hard to have a bad meal in San Francisco (or any part of California), so we had like seven great meals that day. And each part brings back fond memories, but there was one item in particular that we could not stop thinking about:  Yukon Gold Potato Pizza.

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

The pizza came from a small stand at a farmer’s market right outside of the Ferry Building. I honestly don’t remember the name of the company, I just remember there being orange somewhere in the logo. But they had a portable pizza oven, which created an alluring smell of fresh crust and melty cheese. The menu had a few standard options, but one clearly stood out:  Yukon gold potatoes, Parmesan, rosemary, and bacon.

Putting potatoes on pizza isn’t some grand creation, but it was new to us. When we returned home we tried to find an equivalent, but failed and gave up the search pretty quickly (partially not wanting to tarnish the memory with a mediocre east coast version).

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

After a couple years, we finally realized that we could just make the pizza ourselves. So, after years of our tastebuds lamenting the loss of this potato-topped pizza, we took destiny into our own hands.

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

“Pizza ready, yet?”

You could certainly make this in the oven on a pizza stone–it’s definitely easier–but there’s something awesomely primitive about cooking a pizza over an open fire.

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza


Pizza Dough – Makes 2 14″ inch crusts

  • 3 1/2 – 4 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water 110 degrees
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Packet Active Yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, plus 2 teaspoons
  1. Combine the water, honey, salt, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and active yeast in a bowl, preferably one with a spout for easy pouring later. Leave this to proof for approximately 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place 3 1/2 cups of bread flour in a mixer fitted with the hook attachment.
  3. Once the yeast has fully dissolved into the liquid solution (it should float to the top, creating a spongy top layer), turn the mixer on low and pour the mixture in.
  4. Allow the dough to mix on medium-low speed until it pulls aways from the sides and rolls into a ball. If the dough doesn’t pull away from the sides, add more bread flour by the tablespoon until you have the proper consistency.
  5. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly into a ball. Place in a large oiled bowl (remaining 2 teaspoons), cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until double in size. Approximately one hour.
  6. Once the dough has risen, split into two equal portions, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for ten more minutes.

Pizza Toppings

  • 3 – 4 oz Shredded Fontina Cheese
  • 1 Cup Thinly Sliced Yellow Potatoes
  • Rosemary Garlic Oil (ingredients below, recipe to follow)
    • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary
    • 1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
    • 4 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
  • Sea Salt & Dried Rosemary, to taste
  • Optional:  Bacon (we made ours vegetarian-friendly, but you don’t have to)


  1.  Make the pizza dough per the instructions above, or buy a pre-made dough from your favorite grocery store.
  2. While the dough is rising, make the Rosemary Garlic Oil:  Cook the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, red pepper flakes and sliced garlic on medium-low heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until the garlic just starts to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Get your charcoal grill ready. We have a 22-inch Weber kettle grill we use with this chimney starterfire starter cubes, and Kingsford charcoal.
  4. Here’s where a pizza peel might come in handy. If you don’t have one, a cutting board or flat baking sheet should work well, covered with enough cornmeal that the pizza dough slides of easily. Spread out your dough (toss it if you dare) into the shape of your pizza. Brush with the olive oil, cover lightly with cheese, and add the sliced potatoes making sure none of them overlap. Finish by brushing the potatoes with more oil and topping with rosemary and sea salt.
  5.  Slide the pizza directly onto the hot grill and cover for about five minutes. Since all grills are different, you might need to baby sit your pizza. If the heat is uneven, rotate once throughout to even out the charring.
  6. Once the bottom crust has some nice dark color, remove from the grill, and broil on high in the oven for about three minutes.
  7. Slice and eat immediately!

Get in my Mouf | Grilled Rosemary Potato Pizza

Events, Travel

Events DC Presents: Embassy Chef Challenge

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge

Photo Credit:  Don Tanguilig

What:  Embassy Chef Challenge
:  May 25, 2016 | 6:30 PM
Where: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Cost:  $65
More Info:

Want to take a culinary tour around the world, but don’t quite have the million frequent flyer miles that it would take to get you there? Luckily, Events DC has partnered with Cultural Tourism DC (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) to satisfy your mouth’s craving for world domination.

In its eighth year, Embassy Chef Challenge features 19 global culinary representatives from South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, along with a solid showing from the Caribbean nations. Chefs compete for not only the Judge’s Prize (awarded by local chefs and food writers), but also the coveted People’s Choice Award based on attendee votes.

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Here’s an amusebouche (in list form) of what you might taste at the event:

  • Filipino Bringhe  (savory seafood paella made with sticky rice and coconut milk)
  • Rum-Infused “Painkiller” Cocktail from the British Virgin Islands
  • Guatemalan Gazpacho del Enchilada
  • Bacon-Wrapped Duck Pâté from the Czech Republic
  • Uzbek Plov (hearty lamb and rice pilaf)
  • Ghanaian Black-Eyed Pea and Shrimp Fritters.
  • Arabic Coffee from Qatar

As you taste the world, you’ll also be surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere with live music and plenty of dancing. It’s sure to be a fun–and delicious–celebration of diversity and global cultures!

And seriously, it’s not like you have anything better to do on a Wednesday night, right?

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Reviews, Travel

Eat + Hike + Sleep: Monterey County, California

Big Sur |

Since the strong majority of our vacations primarily involve eating, hiking, and sleeping, it only makes sense to start an ongoing series aptly named Eat + Hike + Sleep. Yeah, you wish you could come up with a title as original as that. Didn’t even need a thesaurus.

The first location up for this series:  Monterey County, California. With all the times we’ve landed at SFO, we always ended up traveling north. There is tons of awesomeness up north like, duh…San Francisco, but also other cool places like Mill Valley, Sonoma, and Napa. I’ve never been, but I’ve also heard that Berkeley is a cool town to check out too. And if we’re talking further north, I enjoyed my time in Sacramento and its surrounding wine country.

Wanting to mix things up on our recent trip out west, we figured it was time to head south and check out what Monterey County had to offer. Specifically, we stayed in Carmel Valley and spent some time in Big Sur cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway.


Good to Go (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Good to Go - Carmel-By-The-Sea |

Located in the Crossroads Carmel shopping center, this juice and smoothie joint was a convenient stop in between Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Also, with most of our other meals clocking in with a a maxed out indulgence level, grabbing some smoothies from Good to Go was a perfect way to start a day of hiking.

Café Rustica  (Carmel Valley Village)   Cafe Rustica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | | #foodstories

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | | #foodstories

Herb-Roasted Half Chicken | crispy artichokes, au gratin potatoes, ratatouille, and kalamata olives

Café Rustica is such a cozy place. I felt like a foreign exchange student having dinner in a European family’s house. That kind of cozy. The portions were generous and my Herb-Roasted Half Chicken dish had like fifteen different sides (er, well four).  I was afraid they might be fattening us up for tomorrow’s special. And also, two words: Crispy artichokes.

Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley Village)   Corkscrew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | | #foodstories

Wild Mushroom Gnocchi | parsnips, arugula, pistachio, Brussels sprouts, chive lemon brown butter, & frisee

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | | #foodstories

Roasted Tomato Pizza | mozzarella, basil, olive oil, goat cheese, roasted garlic, olives, tomato sauce

A sign of a good restaurant is one that you visit twice during a vacation. We did just that with Corkscrew Cafe. First of all, they have a bread basket on the menu. At first I was appalled that bread wasn’t free and was ready to fight someone. But the more we thought about it, we realized that if a restaurant is going to put bread on the menu, then it better be the best bread in town. After talking with the server, we found out that “Jason’s Bread” (as it is listed on the menu) is indeed made by Jason, whose sole responsibility at the restaurant is to make bread. He also confirmed that it was magical. So we got the bread and not only was the bread as brilliant as advertised, but the whole freaking meal was just perfect. The Wild Mushroom Gnocchi might have been the most memorable dish of the trip and the chili & honey braised Short Ribs just melted on the plate. I sent the knife back, because there was no need for it. It was so good and we returned the next night. Too bad they were out of bread, but I don’t want to talk about it…  Luckily the Roasted Tomato Pizza and Kale Salad did not disappoint.

Valley Kitchen (Carmel Valley)   Valley Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Valley Kitchen - Carmel Valley |

Located in the Carmel Valley Ranch, Valley Kitchen ended up being a perfect way to end the trip with a final dinner in Carmel Valley. The Honey and Goat Cheese Salad as well as the Asparagus and Wild Arugla Salad were fresh and filling. It was also fun playing a game of russian roulette with the cast iron pan fried shishito peppers. Somehow I ended up with all the hot ones. The real star was not the food, but our server (who’s name we forgot to write down)–He was knowledgable about the local wines in an unpretentious way and even allowed us to sample some of the ranch’s own Swing Pinot Noir. His friendliness also allowed us to find out a little bit more about the area and the ranch. The meal and service made it even harder to leave the next day, but I have a feeling we’ll be back soon.


Point Lobos State Reserve (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Carmel-By-The-Sea, California |

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

With a lot hikes, you have to really earn the good views through steep climbs, spider-webs, and losing at least one boot to a mud puddle. But, at Point Lobos, within about five minutes of walking, we were met with landscapes that I wish we could bring back with us to the east coast. The trails are all fairly easy and your reward for what seems like no work at all, is an abundance of blue coves, towering trees, and magnificent cliffs. And as an added bonus, we’re pretty sure we saw a seal give birth. Check off “birthing seal” from the bucket list. A word of warning, parking is limited, so unless you want to park on the street and hike to your hike, arrive as early as you can.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California |

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California |

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – Big Sur, California

As easy and GORGEOUS (yelled with a British accent) as Point Lobos was, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s .64-mile McWay Waterfall Trail leads to a blue cove and a flowing waterfall that lands directly onto the beach itself. For a longer, more challenging hike, you can head inland on the 4.5-mile Ewoldsen Trail where you follow a stream along somewhat visible paths. You can park for free fairly easily along Route 1 near the park entrance, but why wouldn’t you want to support the park system? It’s only ten bucks…

17-mile Drive (Pebble Beach)

The Lone Cypress - 17-MIle Drive - Pebble Beach, California

The Lone Cypress – 17-Mile Drive – Pebble Beach, California |

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

Checking out a beach along 17-Mile Drive with our fun buddy, the 2016 Mazda CX-3.

This is less of a hike and more of a “drive and stop to walk around,” destination, but 17-Mile Drive is still a fun way to kill an afternoon. It’s a surreal contrast between nature, tourists, and a golf course community where the average home price is in the double-digit millions.


Carmel Valley Ranch (Carmel Valley)

Carmel Valley Ranch | Vinyard Oak Studio |

The view from our Vineyard Oak Studio balcony at Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel Valley, CA

Making good use of the double-sided fireplace

We had originally planned on spending our last night in San Francisco before we flew back, but we just didn’t want to leave Carmel Valley Ranch. From the indoor/outdoor fireplaces and outdoor soaking tub on our deck, to sweeping views and live turkeys, pregnant deer, and ranch-made honey, this place was almost as magical as Disney World–except Carmel Valley Ranch has heated bathroom floors. And that doesn’t even touch on the massive list of activities that the resort has to offer which include hiking trails, tennis courts, golf, food demos, horseback riding, and even a chance to collect honey from their onsite bee hives. You could literally stay here for a week and never leave. Yeah, it was totally worth it to wake up at 5 AM to drive two hours to SFO to catch our flight, just so we’d have one more evening here.

Obviously these are only a few of the hikes, eats, and sleeps that can be found in the area. Drop us a comment for your favorite places or suggestions for where we should head next time. There WILL be a next time.


Thanks to DriveShop and Mazda, we had a 2016 Mazda CX-3 to play with for a about 500 miles (check out our car review here). Its nimble handling made it a blast to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |


Disclaimer:  We were not provided any free food, lodging, or park entrances for this post. We liked all these goods and services and would gladly pay for more of ’em again.

Car Reviews

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD Review

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at DriveShop and 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.

You know all those car commercials, where the car speeds up and down winding roads on the edges of cliffs? I got to do that in Northern California with this car and it was awesome…

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

Bixby Bridge – Big Sur


MSRP (as tested):  $32,340
MPG Estimate: 27 city – 32 highway
Engine:  2.0L Skyactiv-G, 4 cylinder
Power:  146 hp | 146 lb-ft torque
Transmission:   6-Speed Automatic
Color:  Soul Red Metallic
Options:  Navigation, Sirius Satellite Radio, Grand Touring I-Activesense Package (Radar Cruise Control, Smart City Brake Support, Smart Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning, Auto-On/Off Headlights, High Beam Control, Variable Rain-Sensing Wipers)

For more info, click here to view the 2016 CX-3 Brochure.


Like my last post on the CX-5, the amenities in this mini “SUV” are essentially the same. We exclusively used the navigation system to get us around Northern California, from  SFO down as far as Big Sur, and we didn’t get lost. The voice command function works fine, although I wish I could navigate to an address all in one sentence, rather than having to say “Navigate to Address” and then wait for the prompt to ask me for the address. A small complaint that maybe only saves 30 seconds, but worth noting ’cause that’s 30 less seconds I have to wait to start driving (which is REALLY fun).

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

Your ears are taken care of by a Bose sound system. You can never go wrong with Bose, so in my opinion, jumping up to the Grand Touring trim is absolutely worth it.


Given the size of the CX-3 and our experience with its older brother, we expected the ride to be a little rough. Fortunately, cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway was smoother than fresh churned butter from a grass fed cow. I could have easily taken a nap if I didn’t have so much adrenaline pumping through my veins from tearing up the twists and turns of Highway 1 (but, we’ll get to performance in a second). We also found the seats comfortable, hugging us better than my old Mazda 3, with the suede sections helpful for keeping us from sliding around–an issue that is all too common with leather seating.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

Since we were on vacation, we got to test the hauling capacity and it was a perfect fit for what we had: 1 large suitcase and 1 carry-on fit snugly in the hatchback. The back seat was definitely tight and not something a full-size adult or large dog would enjoy for extended periods of time. But, seriously, if you’re getting one of these, it ain’t for the size.


Honestly, all that other stuff (amenities, comfort, sound) matters about zero percent once you get behind the wheel. Three words: Handling. Handling. Handling. If I could get a job driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway along Big Sur, I would gladly take it if it included this Mazda CX-3. If you don’t know or quite understand the term “road feel” then go test drive one of these immediately.

For Mazda, driving really does matter. What’s remarkable about the CX-3 (er, most Mazdas, really) is that they achieve a fun driving experience without cheating with a turbocharger or a gas-guzzling V6. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t complain about a turbocharged Mazda CX-3 with a stick shift…(seriously, just MazdaSpeed the whole line up). When you drive almost every other competing car in the segment, none of them entice you to drive as much as this little guy.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

17-Mile Drive – Pebble Beach

Gas mileage was also great and near the top of its class–we averaged 30.1 MPG during our nearly 500-mile trip up and down the coast. It was mostly highway, but there were some smaller trips around Carmel Valley and Carmel-By-The-Sea.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Who Should Buy This Car

This car might be a good match for you if your top priorities include i) being fun to drive, ii) getting decent gas milage, and iii) being comfortable. You probably don’t care too much about space, but covet a hatchback. The addition of AWD and slightly taller stance also benefits those who might need to deal with snow and/or some light dirt road duty.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD |

Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and 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. 

Reviews, Travel

The Butcher and Barkeep – Harleysville, PA

The Butcher and Barkeep |

The Butcher and Barkeep is the type of establishment every town needs.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town, a big city, or even suburbia. There’s not a community on the planet that wouldn’t support a place like this.  A place that takes their beer as seriously as their cocktails and their cocktails as seriously as their food. The menu is thoughtful and interesting, yet the portions are generous for a reasonable price. The cocktail menu makes the joint sound fancy, but it’s plenty casual. You could come here to celebrate a promotion, or stop by for a beer after a rough day at work. It’s hard to peg The Butcher and Barkeep to a specific identity, because it has broad appeal, yet when you visit, you realize they’re doing something so specifically enjoyable that it’s as if they created the atmosphere just for you.

Shrimp & Grits | The Butcher and Barkeep |

Shrimp & Grits | cheesy grits, Carolina shrimp, andouille-bell pepper cream

In a time where many restaurants and bars are turning towards a specialized focus, it’s nice to have a place with the culinary cahonas to try to do everything well.

So, what’s the secret?

Food-wise there are no gimmicks. They have southern staples like Shrimp & Grits and Gumbo; albeit with their own interpretation. I suppose the Sexy Fries might sound like a gimmick, but you won’t give a damn. They’re so satisfying because they combining a bunch of comforting flavors, you can eat them by hand, and they go great with a brew. And drizzle truffle oil and Hollandaise on anything and it’s going to be sexy, but that ain’t no secret.

Sexy Fries | The Butcher and Barkeep |

Sexy Fries | hand cut fries, fresh herbs, parmesan, hollandaise, truffle oil

Having a huge beer selection definitely helps. And by huge, I mean they’re basically a restaurant attached to a bottle shop and draft house. Ask the bartender for a recommendation and you’ll realize he knows the ins and outs of everything they serve. Had a bad day slogging through 9-to-5? Try a Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager. Grabbing a brew after hitting the golf course with a buddy? Hardywood’s The Great Return IPA. Killing time while the wife works and you’re partial to the art of stout? Yards Love Stout. That’s all well and good, but being an excellent brewhouse is hardly some magic secret to success.

If a restaurant excels in food and is also well versed in its selection of craft beer, there’s no way they’d be able to present a cocktail program that lives up to the already high expectations, right? Wrong. House-infused liquors and homemade syrups fuel libations such as the Matcha Maker (matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup), Country Pie Old Fashioned (brown butter infused bourbon, luxardo, honey liquor, angostura) and the Winter Mule (black pepper infused vodka, lime, ginger beer, winter spice syrup, nutmeg). The cocktails are complex–not complicated–and so precisely balanced that you can only assume they were designed in a laboratory.

Matcha Maker | The Butcher and Barkeep |

Matcha Maker | matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup

If the secret isn’t the food, or brews, or cocktails, then it’s easy to say that the secret has to be the people. Attentive servers and knowledgeable bartenders can only be the result of a trickling down of great leadership from the owners Gerard Angelini, Cody Ferdinand, and Jeffrey Sacco. 

The simple truth is that there is no one singular reason and that The Butcher and Barkeep is far greater than the sum of its parts, where the sum equates to a place where you want to go to simply be happy. When was the last time you had a meal that made you truly happy? Content without feeling trendy. Comfortable, despite being surrounded by strangers. Satisfied, without feeling like a glutton.

If you’re ever in Harleysville, PA–which is a suburb of Philadelphia–make the effort to stop by The Butcher and Barkeep for a great meal, cold drinks, and an unlimited supply of happiness.

The Butcher and Barkeep
712 Main St, Harleysville, PA 19438
Butcher and Barkeep Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

11 Questions, Series

11 Questions with Mark Overbay of Big Spoon Roasters

Mark Overbay - Big Spoon Roasters |

To say that Big Spoon Roasters‘ nut butter is better than the smooth or chunky peanut butters found on the shelf of most super markets is not only an understatement in flavor, but an epic understatement in inspiration.

Our first encounter with the small-batch nut butters was simply seeing a jar of Chai Spice on the shelf of one of our favorite local shops, Red Truck Bakery. And, yes, that Chai Spice jar was quickly devoured because it was nothing like any of the other peanut butters I had ever had, but it wasn’t until I started learning a bit about the company that it became clear why it was so good.

It’s easy to claim to practice ethical standards for food sourcing. It’s easy to boast about how valuable employees are. It’s easy to slap a label on your product that lists every popular industry catch phrase. But the company’s founder, Mark Overbay, practices what he preaches. From sourcing quality, sustainable ingredients, to paying employees fair wages and treating them with respect, Mark’s obsession with doing what is right is reflected in each jar of Big Spoon Roasters nut butter (I highly recommend checking out this Bon Appétit article for the full story on how Big Spoon Roasters came to be).

Mark Overbay - Big Spoon Roasters |

Photo courtesy of Mark Overbay – Big Spoon Roasters

We’re quickly working our way through Big Spoon Roasters’ flavors with a pace of about a jar per week, but so far the Chai Spice has been wonderfully addicting. The Peanut Cocoa is also a great afternoon snack and I’ve heard good things about the Espresso. My personal preferences include eating it with tart Granny Smith apples, atop vanilla ice cream, and–more often than not–by the spoonful straight outta the jar. My only piece of constructive criticism would be a shallower container, so that I could lick the bottom.

Mark Overbay - Big Spoon Roasters |

Photo courtesy of Mark Overbay – Big Spoon Roasters

We’re really excited to share this month’s 11 Questions with Mark Overbay, because just like his jars of nut butter, the answers are filled with delicious inspiration.

1. Big Spoon was inspired by the fresh peanut butter you enjoyed in Zimbabwe while serving as a volunteer for the Peace Corps. Are there any other products or flavors that you’ve experienced during other trips around the world that you would like to bring to back home with you?

Definitely! Food is a thread that connects all people, and experiencing other food cultures is one of the best things about traveling. You don’t necessarily have to travel around the world to experience other food cultures, though. Ask anyone in the American South for a cornbread recipe and you’re likely to get a different answer from each person. I’ve been lucky enough to do a bit of international travel, though, and food highlights include grilled beef with perfect avocados and chunky salt in Chile; tender smoked octopus and Basque wine on the Mediterranean coast of Spain; venison stew thick with carrots and parsnips in St. Andrews, Scotland; falafel in Paris; and the pizzas of Bologna, Rome, and Naples.

2.  Do you have a target number of new products that you try to launch each year, or do you release new flavors as you discover them?

We do not set targets for the number of new recipes we’d like to release per year. I do not judge those who do set such targets, but our new recipes are driven more by inspiration than dates on a calendar. That said, I have dozens of nut butter and bar recipes in the hopper, so to speak, and we usually end up introducing at least one new nut butter per year. In fact, I’m working on a new recipe now that we hope to roll out this spring. We also occasionally make one-off, super small-batch, seasonal nut butters for special events in our region. Examples include Pecan Sorghum Butter, Almond Walnut Butter, Peanut Pepita Butter, and Vanilla Cashew Brazil Nut Butter.

3.  What’s the most unconventional way that you’ve seen people use your nut butter? (Either in a dish, or even a non-food use).

A lot of folks have used our nut butters to make sauces–sweet, savory, and spicy. For instance, our Peanut and Peanut Cashew Butters are excellent bases for a Southeast Asian style dipping sauce like this one. The most unconventional use I can recall is when someone wrote in that they were using our Chai Spice nut butter as the base for carrot cake frosting, instead of cream cheese. Sounds good to me!

4.  You’re based in Durham, NC; what restaurant is one of your go-to lunch spots and what do you order?

For so many reasons, starting with the number and quality of local farms, the food community in this part of NC is AMAZING! I don’t eat out for lunch often, but when I do, my go-to Durham list includes Toast, Pizzeria Toro, Scratch, Rose’s, Dos Perros, and, if near Chapel Hill, The Pig and Neal’s Deli.

5.  Durham is turning out to be quite a strong community for food, ethical food production, and innovation. Are there any other lesser-known food cities/communities that you’ve discovered since forming Big Spoon?

Gosh, I feel like with social media taking over the world, it’s difficult for any community producing quality products to be “lesser known” any more (that’s not necessarily a bad thing), but there are some somewhat unheralded gems out there. This was long before starting Big Spoon Roasters, but I used live on Bainbridge Island, WA, and the communities on and around the Olympic Peninsula have wonderful pubs, cafes, and farmers’ markets that remind me of Scotland and Wales. Tiny Hillsborough, NC, has one of the best restaurants in the Southeast in Panciuto.

6.  Have any of Big Spoon’s nut butter flavors been more popular than expected?

Honestly, all of our recipes have exceeded any expectations I’ve had in terms of popularity (knock on wood). You make something that you think is delicious and hope that others will, too. We do quite a bit of palate training and development here among our small staff of employees, so are all pretty well calibrated, but you never know how the public at large will react to something you make.

7.  The blog portion of your website is full of stories, anecdotes, and quotes relating to inspiration and positive energy. Did you ever hit a point early on in the process of starting (or shortly after starting) Big Spoon that made you question whether or not the business would work out?  If so, what inspired you to keep going?

Thanks for noticing that! We just launched the blog in October 2015 because I felt like we needed another form of communication that could articulate more of who we are and what we do beyond typical website “about us” content, social media, and our physical packaging. Sure, there have been doubts and inner debates about the livelihood of the business, but I’ve always believed that the business would survive if we kept our primary focus on the quality and integrity of our work, i.e. our recipes and products.

8.  What is one quote or mantra that you consistently tell your employees to keep them motivated?

Thankfully, we don’t need a mantra or quote to keep members of our team motivated. It’s an old adage, but employees truly are our most valuable assets, and I believe in treating employees in ways that make that evident to them. In other words, employees should know that they matter, that their work matters, and that one of our goals as a business is to provide them with a living wage and the resources they need to lead an inspired, fulfilled life. The closest thing we have to a mantra might be, “how we do anything is how we do everything,” which to us means that we strive to be present in every moment, to devote our full attention to creating quality, and that no detail in our process–from measuring salt to taping up a box–is too small to ignore.

9.  Clearly you work incredibly hard to achieve nut butter perfection; if you have an entire day off–let’s say you’re not allowed to work–what do you do to relax and unwind?

I love spending time with my wife, Megan, and our Vizsla, Rioja, more than anything. When I’m with them hiking in the woods, playing on the beach, or simply relaxing on the couch at home, the rest of the world disappears.

10.  I know quality sourcing is important to your business; are there any other nut varieties that you would love to incorporate into a nut butter, but haven’t been able to find the quantity or quality required to meet your standards?

Sourcing is incredibly important to us. I tried more than 20 types of almonds before settling on the heirloom Mission variety, which we exclusively use in our nut butters and bars. I’ve actually experimented with every type of nut that I know in test recipes, and even though I don’t work with many of them, I’ve researched farm-direct sourcing for walnuts and hazelnuts. Walnuts are toxic to dogs, so I’m not keen on introducing them into our nut mills for fear of cross contamination, and while I often like the crunch and aroma of hazelnuts, they are probably my least favorite nut in terms of flavor (I find them astringent).

11.  If you could teach any one person (living or passed) how to make nut butter; who would it be and why?

My great-grandfather, Woodrow Wilson Williams–who passed away just before my high school graduation–absolutely loved peanut butter, and he often told the story of the first time he tasted it, sold from a country store in rural Appalachia in the 1930s. He was a natural in the kitchen and it’s ironic to me that he could make so many even more laborious foods from scratch, and yet, like so many of us, he just accepted that peanut butter came in a jar from the local grocery store. If he knew how to make his peanut butter, his version would have been amazing, I know.

Thanks to Mark for the insightful and inspirational look into his passion-filled business of quality nut butters. Now go out and get your own jar!

Big Spoon Roasters
Durham, NC
Buy jars and bars online or find a retailer here.
Instagram:  @bigspoonroasters
Twitter:  @bigspooners


Offensively Rich Brown Butter Frozen Custard

Brown Butter Frozen Custard |

This Brown Butter Frozen Custard is so unapologetically rich, it might run for president.

It ain’t humble, either, using any excuse it can to remind of us of how rich it is. It’s a co-signer on my car loan. It started a college fund for my future children. And it always picks up the check when we go to dinner, making a big scene about leaving a 35% tip…

It’s so freaking annoying.

I hate this stupid custard…




…we can’t stop eating it.

Brown Butter Frozen Custard |

We’ll eat it in secrecy, closing the blinds while turning up the volume on the TV. The nutty brown butter holds hands with all those rich egg yolks, intimidating our tastebuds into submission. It hurts so good.

And when it melts, it doesn’t turn into a watery former ice cream. No, ma’am. It essentially melts into a thick custard, a la a crème minus the brûlée.

The ego with this frozen custard is so big, that we recommend not eating it alone, as it truly needs to be paired with other, less rich foods.

So, if you do decide to make some annoying, offensively rich brown butter frozen custard, here are a few suggestions on what to serve it with:

Brown Butter Frozen Custard |



  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • Heavy Pinch of Salt
  1. First, brown your butter.  I’ve found BuzzFeed’s post, “How To Make Perfect Brown Butter” exceptionally helpful. Once your butter is brown and your house smells nice and nutty, set the butter aside to cool.
  2. In a 4-quart saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, and egg yolks until smooth; stir in cream and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat, until the mixture thickens. The trick is to heat slowly and stir A LOT, so you avoid any scrambled yolks.  If there is some minor scrambling, no worries, as you’ll also be blending and straining later, just in case. I like to start the heat on low, stirring constantly, and gradually increasing the heat every minute, until you hit medium. You’re looking for a consistency that is almost as thick as a custard, but can still easily be poured.
  3. In a blender, blend the warm custard and the browned butter for about 30 seconds. This is important to emulsify the butter; skip this step and your frozen custard will be gritty.  Make sure the top of the blender is vented to allow hot air to escape–we normally cover with a towel, to prevent any splatters.  After blending, strain through a fine siev or strainer to remove any clumps.
  4. Next, cool the mixture – You can do this by letting it hang out in the refrigerator for an hour or so, or if you’re in a hurry, transfer the mixture to a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and submerge in an ice water bath for about fifteen minutes.
  5. Once the mixture is cool, make according to the instructions on your home ice cream maker. We use the Ice Cream Maker attachment for our KitchenAid Stand Mixer. We’ve found that it works best (and this may be the case for other ice cream makers as well) when we freeze the attachment at the freezer’s lowest setting.  The colder you can get the Ice Cream Maker, the faster it will freeze the mixture and the smoother and creamier the results. If it’s not cold enough, you’ll end up with icy ice cream. We’ll even go so far as to insulate the top with foil, to keep the cold air in, while mixing the ice cream. If it’s winter and really cold outside, feel free to make ice cream on your porch.


More Brown Butter stuff…