Taking Back My Twenties

Amazing Restaurants

Snapshots from Puerto Vallarta

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 | 25 comments

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I absolutely fell in love with Puerto Vallarta! I can’t believe this paradise is just two hours from Dallas. The food, the people, and the scenery were wonderful. Matt spoke Spanish as much as possible, and we chatted with so many interesting people and got to know the staff at the resort. We ate amazingly fresh seafood, consumed as much guacamole as humanly possible, and sipped margaritas and cervezas a little too often. One of the highlights was a mountain bike trip we took into the countryside. We rode through little villages, saw beautiful birds, and were surrounded by lush forests. If you’re ever in Puerto Vallarta, I highly recommend La Leche and Cafe des Artistes for dinner, and EcoRide bike tours for a challenging excursion!

Thanks for all your kind words and strong opinions on my previous post. I guess you can see why I haven’t shared much during this job search period:) I really appreciate the supportive comments – thank you for understanding that this is a frustrating time!

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Celebrating in New York

Posted on Oct 22, 2013 | 11 comments

Where do I even start? NYC is just so amazing. And the food, oh the food!!

I arrived on Thursday and was able to meet Matt for a quick lunch in Hell’s Kitchen. We dined at a Thai-French fusion cafe called Breeze and scored a little table right on the patio/sidewalk.

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The spicy duck salad and peanut curry shrimp were both tasty and lighter than your typical thai food. Perfect lunch!

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Matt had to get back to work, so I walked the afternoon away. Starting in Hell’s Kitchen, I walked down through Chelsea, and stopped in the market, and then walked through the West Village.

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I eventually made my way to the lower east side and stopped into Babycakes for nourishment. The bakery is gluten free, vegan, and soy-free, so I was really curious to try something. The apple cider donut was absolutely amazing! I took it down in about ten seconds. I saved the cupcake and split it with Matt later that day, but it wasn’t very good (dry, with a weird taste). I want more donuts!

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For dinner, I met a bunch of college friends at Empellon Taqueria in the West Village. The restaurant was dark and intimate, but the loud music made it a bit hard to converse. It was great to catch up though, even if we had to yell:) We enjoyed spicy margaritas, guac, and tacos. My three tacos – chicken verde, wild mushroom, and pastrami were all delish. It’s hard to beat Dallas when it comes to tacos though.

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Friday was my actual birthday, so I slept in and took myself out for a day of exploration. I started with a run along the river and ended up back in the lower east side to pick up a cake.

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I stumbled upon this incredible juice bar and had the best almond milk chai latte of my life. I may move to New York just for this latte.

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I picked up lunch and met Matt in Bryant Park. The weather was 60 and sunny and was just gorgeous birthday weather:)
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We shared a pumpkin sandwich, a quinoa salad, a ginger beer, and a grasshopper cookie from Peacefood Cafe. T’was lovely.
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I spent the afternoon shopping, although everything was too expensive, so it was more like looking. It was just fun to be out and about!

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Once Matt got off work, we kicked off the evening at Gramercy Tavern. We sat at the bar and had the most wonderful service! The bartender comped our first round simply because Matt had to stand up while I was sitting at the bar. Nice! I started with a little bubbly and the moved on to a fall bourbon special.

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Since my favorite restaurants typically involve small plates, I picked ABC Cocina for dinner. It was exactly the vibe I wanted and all the food was fantastic.

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We shared the olives with poblano and mint pesto, which I de-pitted and ate on bread, because that’s how I learned to like them on the honeymoon:)
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Glazed short rib tacos (amazing),
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pepper and potato empanadas,
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maitake mushrooms with fresno pepper vinaigrette, and un-pictured brussels. LOVED this restaurant experience so much!!
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And then, after a 20-block walk home, we got to eat this:
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It’s a carrot cake from Peacefood Cafe, which some reviewers claim is the best carrot cake in the city.
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It.was.so.dense.
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This is definately not your typical carrot cake! There’s pineapple inside! I’m still thinking about it now. We couldn’t even eat a fourth of it on Friday night, but were able to finish off the whole thing by Sunday night.
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Matt got us tickets to see Big Fish! We slept in on Saturday morning, and then went to the matinee show in the afternoon. The costumes and set were wonderful. I loved seeing this because I’m a big fan of the movie.
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Saturday evening was chilly, so I had to layer with random tops! We went to The Ginger Man and warmed up with pumpkin beers after the show.

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And then we had dinner at Craft. The atmosphere was beautiful, although I felt a little out of place at such a nice restaurant. The waitress didn’t help that feeling, as she became annoyed when we only ordered four things. The food was all very unique and perfectly prepared. The portions were really small, although we didn’t care because we knew we had more cake waiting!
Above is the pork with egg and jalapeno and below is the pumpkin ravioli.
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We also had the red snapper in a pepper sauce,
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and more mushrooms (I’m obsessed).
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We declined dessert, but enjoyed mocha marshmallows on the house. The hostess also sent us home with fresh muffins to enjoy the next morning, which was a nice touch.
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I’m sad it’s over, but so, so thankful for a perfect weekend. And so another year begins!
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Cedars Social + Truck Yard

Posted on Oct 8, 2013 | 2 comments

Hi Guys,

What’s new out there?

Nothing exciting here except an awesome weekend. We ate in on Friday and then had some drinks with friends, which made for a nice low-key evening. Saturday was one of those cold rainy days where cuddling up in bed sounded perfect. But we grabbed brunch with friends in a cute neighborhood and tried some vegan cupcakes that were good but made me feel gross. I am not a fan of soy!

For dinner, we decided to go all out and use a wedding-present gift-card to the amazing Cedars Social. I dined here back when I visited last November and became obsessed. The restaurant is tucked in a kind of isolated part of downtown, and you would never know it was there. The space is so cozy, with a fire pit in the middle and a cute little library full of books in one corner.

I ordered a fancy cocktail with strawberry-infused bourbon! It was way sweeter than my typical bourbon drink, but I still enjoyed it. Matt got a jalapeno something that was to-die-for.

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Even though these plates are a decent size, the Cedars Social focuses on small plates – def. my favorite kind of restaurant, but only when I don’t have to share with too many people:)

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We shared the pork belly with white beans and a soft fired egg. This one was in-cred-dible!!!

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Then, the braised short ribs with greens and whipped potatoes. The meat fell apart when we put our forks in.

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And a main dish – the trout with avocado, beets, and a coconut vanilla sauce. This one was fabulous as well!!

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Oh, and the famous truffle fries, which nearly melted in the mouth.

It was one of the best dinners we’ve had in Dallas and I’m thankful for the friend who gave us this thoughtful wedding gift!

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On Sunday, we made plans with friends to try Truck Yard, a new back yard bar that’s been getting lots of press! The space is modeled after an old truck yard, complete with tires, truck beds, and food trucks.

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There’s also an adults-only tree house that serves specialty cocktails. And unlike most bars in the Dallas, the mixed drinks are a reasonable price. I had a tequila grapefruit drink for $6 and Matt’s bloody mary was only $5.

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It was one of those post-rainy days that could not have been more perfect in terms of weather!! And there was live music. I loooooved this place and want to go back every Sunday.

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We tired the peanut butter sliders from one of the trucks,

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and a spicy pork torta from another. Both were delicious.

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Have a good week.

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An Evening in Bishop Arts

Posted on Aug 25, 2013 | 11 comments

The weeks are just flying by! I can’t believe next weekend is Labor Day and then summer is over:( Although, I must admit, I’m looking forward to cooler temps in Dallas, so we can actually sit on all the awesome outdoor patios. I took it easy this weekend because I planned a little trip to the Texas hill country tomorrow. I know as soon as Matt starts work, days off will be a rarity, so I figured we should check out another area of Texas while we have the time off.

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Anyway, we stayed in on Friday night and had pasta with friends, and then planned a pizza date night for Saturday in a different neighborhood. I was super excited to check out the Bishop Arts District outside of downtown because I’ve heard it’s charming and has great good. The rumors are correct!

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We arrived early and attempted to walk around, but it was too hot and we didn’t make it far. We gave up and grabbed a beer in the cute Whitehall Exchange to kill some time before dinner. I was a tad disappointed that they didn’t have beer on tap, but found one of my favorite bottles.

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For dinner, we walked over to Eno’s Pizza Tavern. The space was adorable and much nicer than your typical pizza place. They had tons of great local beer on tap, although it was pricey at $6 for just a 10oz pour. I understand the high prices when the beer is high ABV, but I didn’t get why a small pour of a 5% wheat beer would be so expensive. I loved my saison though!

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There were a lot of good salads on the menu and the large was enough for two big plates. We ordered one with fresh jalapeno, roasted pork belly, and a local tarragon honey vinaigrette. I think I was imagining chunks of crispy pork belly (aka bacon), so I was a bit disappointed when it was more like cubed white pork chop. Everything else about the salad was lovely.

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There were lots of fun seasonal ingredients available on the pizzas and it was nice that they allow half-n-half on the specialty pizzas. We ordered half with spicy sausage, American calabrese, and Benton’s ham with a honey drizzle, and half with basil, garlic, mushroom, charred tomato, and ricotta.

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Both kinds were great, especially the honey and with the spicy sausage meat! The crust was super thin and almost like a cracker. While I liked the crunchy crust, I think the lack of doughy edges on a 14 inch pie and the $16 price tag make the pizza seem like kind of a rip off. I loved every bite though.

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The highlight of the entire weekend was this cookie tower. I saw it on the Tillman’s Roadhouse menu and pretty much knew I had to have it. And then it exceeded expectations! There were four cookies that were gooey inside with peanut butter icing in between each. The stack was served with banana ice cream and a warm ganache that Matt kindly drizzled over everything.

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Since Matt and I can be competitive when eating dessert, we cut the stack in half to define the portions:) This smushed everything a bit, but I think you can imagine how delicious this was even from the messy picture.

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I WILL be back for the stack again. I’m officially obsessed.

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Jujube

Posted on Mar 31, 2013 | 3 comments

Happy Easter!!

I thought I was beating Matt’s cold, but it has gotten the best of me today:( I wasn’t able to go to church or brunch, but my parents were nice enough to order us a pizza and come over for the Duke game.

I really thought I was on the up-and-up Saturday, and attempted a date night. I figured beer is the best medicine (only in the moment…)

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Matt and I stopped at Milltown in Chapel Hill and had a drink at the bar – this dubbel was fantastic!!!

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I hate how having a stuffy nose affects your taste buds! I figured Asian food might stand out, so we checked out the bar at Jujube, a fusion restaurant with Chinese and Vietnamese influences in Chapel Hill. We decided just to share a cocktail and were blown away by the Hot Date – jujube [date] preserves, bourbon, cayenne, and lemon. Hot and sweet and oh so perfect.

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We stayed at the bar and shared a few small plates as our dinner. First, the bqq pork belly dumplings with the most amazing sweet chili dipping sauce – we decided the sauces were what took all the dishes from good to awesome.
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Second, we enjoyed sweet potato fritters with a black vinegar sauce.

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These were melt-in-your-mouth pillows, and again, the sauce made this dish outstanding.

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Crispy beef short rib and goat cheese wontons with hot pepper-basil jam arrived next, and while the insides of these were good, I tasted just a little too much of the fried shell and didn’t ever taste any goat cheese Can’t complain about the hot pepper sauce though!

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The service, by the way, was great, and our bartender was very informative and attentive. At one point, we couldn’t decide between two plates so he brought us a taste of the rice noodle salad for free! I’m not a cucumber or shallot person, but the sweet dressing was so good that I hardly noticed.
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Our last dish was spring rolls, served lettuce-wrap style. I guess I got confused and thought we were getting lettuce wraps with just pork and shrimp as the filling, but they were tasty nonetheless. It was refreshing to have the crunchy lettuce outside of the fried shell.

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Everything we tried was so unique and flavorful that we decided to just look at the dessert menu. Yeah right. We simply had to try the fried apple-goat cheese dumplings with vanilla-bourbon ice cream and black vinegar caramel. Basically my dream, fried into a pocket.

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There were four dumplings under there, and we quickly discovered that the goat cheese was lurking in the corners. Absolutely to-die-for!

I’m so glad we tried something off the beaten path!

And now, my friends, I’m not gonna go to bed; because even though I feel lousy I’m on spring break and I’m gonna stay up past my bedtime watching random tv!!

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Chuck’s

Posted on Nov 18, 2012 | 3 comments

It was a low-key weekend around here because of the big holiday week coming up. So, we got drinks & nachos with friends on Friday, and had date night on Saturday. Of course, other boring things like laundry, spinning, and grocery shopping took place.

Matt and I have been planning to buy our wedding bands during the annual sale at Diamonds Direct – I was expecting it around Christmas, but was surprised to hear that it was this weekend! So, at the last minute, we headed Raleigh to get 20% off! We weren’t prepared and felt a little rushed, but after a glass of champagne and a lot of guidance from the wonderful sales people, we both found rings!!!! I got a simple band with pave to match my engagement ring and Matt got a palladium ring with two small lines along the border. Making the purchase got me really excited – we are exchanging vows in just 6 months!

But really, the point of all this is to say that we were in Raleigh on Saturday, and took the opportunity to check out a burger joint. Chuck’s is one of Ashley Christensen’s restaurants – we loved her other two: Poole’s Diner and Beasley’s Chicken and Honey! The restaurant was really casual and the prices were low. I just love it when you can get an awesome meal at a restaurant with a cool vibe and not spend a fortune.

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We were very hungry when we arrived, so we ordered the Belgian fries right away. I really liked that we got to pick sauces (along with ketchup) – we chose the sweet chili sauce and the horseradish aioli. All were good! And the fries were absolutely perfect.

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I appreciated that the menu offered little burgers (5oz) because the half pounder looked too big. I picked the Last Word, which had truffle cheese, shredded kale, and hazelnut vinaigrette. The flavors were so unique and this was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Even Matt, who had a massive man-burger with chili, slaw, and cheddar, liked my burger the best:)

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The true Last Word was the salty peanut butter and banana milkshake that we ordered with bourbon!!! Talk about a sweet ending…

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I only wish Chuck’s were a bit closer so I could go back!

Only two days this week and both were declared jeans days – I’ve never been this pumped for Monday:)

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