I’ll spare you the details of my low-key weekend at home and share the last of my Turkey pictures!
After our time in Istanbul, we traveled to the beach town of Bodrum along the Aegean coast. I was really, really excited about this part of the trip, but after the whirlwind of the city, I hadn’t thought much about it. I think Matt and I were both blown away when we arrived and saw how ridiculously beautiful it was. We didn’t stay right on the water to save some money, but our hotel had a breathtaking view from a hill overlooking the city and harbor, so it was fine with me!
I knew the town was old, but I didn’t realize how much history there was until we started walking around the city and learning more about it. On our first day we explored and visited the ruins of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world! We probably could have spent another whole day going to historical sites (the castle looked so neat), but we had a birthday to celebrate!
We walked down to the harbor on our first night and discovered tons of waterfront bars – reminded me of the cove we’d go to in Mykonos every night before dinner on our honeymoon!
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous posts are the cats in Turkey! They were everywhere and the locals and people working at restaurants kept them well-fed and gave them attention, so it wasn’t a sad situation (or at least didn’t appear to be) like some of the other places I’ve visited where the animals are thin and sickly.
This was the view from our dinner table down to the docks where the cats were waiting for scraps of seafood.
Anyway, back to the birthday. Matt turned 30 on the 3rd, so I wanted to do something extra special for him. It didn’t take much research to discover that renting a gulet, or a traditional wooden boat is a big thing in Bodrum. A friend of mine had also done this and highly recommended it, so I made arrangements with a wonderful lady to hire the Adorya gulet for the day.
Matt didn’t know a thing about it until the morning of, when I gave him a pair of sunglasses and a card that explained the surprise. He was one happy 30-year-old!
The boat was absolutely amazing and the day was right out of a fantasy….by far the best excursion I’ve ever done!
We sailed into quiet coves and swam in the brisk water,
we snorkeled (but didn’t see much),
we drank beers while floating on noodles,
and jumped off the top of the boat.
Our captain prepared an incredible fresh lunch of salad, fruit,
and fish caught that morning.
Of course, I arranged for a bit of cake:)
It was seriously one of the best days of my life.
After the boat trip, we rested and then strolled into town for dinner. We took a break from Turkish food and had dinner at a Spanish restaurant called La Pasion.
We sat in a beautiful courtyard and had tapas. I think we ordered 7 and all of them were phenomenal. I’m so glad we found this gem!!
We went to this one bakery every night in Bodrum to pick a dessert to take back to the hotel. I think Matt’s birthday is about the only day he’s willing to eat dessert with both lunch and dinner!
On our last day in Bodrum, we took a bus over to the beach side of the town and spent the day at a beach club.
The view was great! We had crazy winds, so we wrapped up in towels to stay warm and watched the huge beach pillows blow into the water. It was cozy.
We had one last dinner in the harbor, and then it was back to Istanbul for the long trek home.
Looking back at these pictures, it’s like the whole trip was a dream. I know I am very fortunate to be able to travel and I’m so thankful that Matt and I had the opportunity to visit such an amazing part of the world and celebrate a fun milestone on a gulet:)Read More
The food in Turkey was ridiculously good. And oh so fresh!
There were markets with beautiful fruit. I had sooo many cherries at breakfast every morning. Given that we were near the water, there was also wonderful local seafood and we enjoyed seabass 4-5 times during the trip.
The Turks start their meals with mezes, small dishes or snacks that are usually served cold. I was obsessed! The only problem was that we would often order a couple and eat them with lots of bread, and then be too full for our entrees:)
Another dish I was in love with was warm hummus served with hot pastrami. I could eat this for days.
For snacks, we would sometimes stop by one of the many juice stands for freshly squeezed juice,
or duck into a spice store for giant medjool dates.
And the bakeries, oh the bakeries, were delightful, and on every corner. Matt and I made it our goal to try all the varieties of baklava and would search for the best-looking bakery after dinner each night.
Waffles stuffed with toppings were also a thing over there. Although it doesn’t look as delicious as it tasted, this soft waffle was filled with dark chocolate, caramel, bananas, strawberries, and sprinkles; it was to-die-for.
I drank lots of Turkish wine. Although most food in Turkey was less expensive than in the US, the alcohol was pricey. I stuck to local Turkish wine and beer, because cocktails were $15-$20! The Turkish reds weren’t too flavorful (although we had one or two good ones), but the roses and the whites were great. I’m not usually a rose girl, but I got into them on this trip. Side note: the bar below is called Mikla and had the most incredible views of the city. You MUST go for a drink if you are ever in Istanbul!
The local beer, Efes, came in a dark variety that both Matt and I loved.
We had many wonderful meals, and I obviously didn’t document all of them, but here are a few highlights:
Meze by Lemon Tree (above). I choose this for our last night of the trip (we were back in Istanbul) because the menu is mostly modern mezes. We ordered 6 cold ones and 3 hot ones and every dish was incredible. It was phenomenal.
Another great restaurant was Banyan in Ortakoy. Although this restaurant was Asian fusion and not Turkish, it had the most beautiful view of the water and I had to share the caramelized sea bass and quinoa shredded salad picture because it was probably the best salad I’ve ever had!
Lastly, we had a really nice meal on our first night at a modern Turkish restaurant called Lokanta Maya
Above are shredded wheat balls stuffed with feta and honey and below, fried zucchini.
We also had fresh clams and more seabass!
I think the Turkish food was my favorite part of the trip! After avoiding dairy for most of this year, the feta and yogurt tasted extra heavenly. Aside from being uncomfortably full some nights, I didn’t have any issues with bloating. I was religious about taking my probiotics while traveling, and I think they are making all the difference (either that or I’m just not stressed about finding a job anymore:) Anyway, I’m just so thankful that I was able to enjoy all the Turkish food and still feel pretty good!
I’ll share some pictures from Bodrum and Matt’s 30th next!Read More
Vegas is intense! I can’t believe how many people were there – I arrived and was like, oh, this is where everybody has been all these years!
I got to our hotel just as the sun was setting on Friday night! I was the last to arrive and it was glorious to walk into a hotel room of friends! My friend Emily was our host for the weekend and she did an amazing job planning everything and getting us on lists so we could skip the lines and the cover charges! She also works for the Las Vegas Sands, so we got a ridiculously low rate at the Palazzo.
We listened to an epic playlist while getting ready and then headed to the lobby for dinner at SushiSamba. I’m not a sushi person, so I never would have picked this on my own, but it was amazing!
We had wonderful service, excellent cocktails, and delicious food!
Highlights included the fried plantains and the sea bass skewers!
And a complimentary cocktail tower!
After dinner, we headed across the street to the XS club at the Wynn.
The club was giant and had an awesome outdoor area.
I had no idea it was going to happen, but David Guetta appeared as the DJ at 2am!!
He was awesome, and we made our way to the pit to get a better look!
Most of us east and central time zone people couldn’t sleep in so we grabbed green juice, hit the gym, and got some lunch at the pool. It was a little too chilly for bathing suits, but I enjoyed a nap under a towel in the wonderful sunshine.
Saturday evening we got all dolled up for our second night on the town (I definitely could not have handled a third night!).
Our destination was the Cosmopolitan hotel, where we had drinks in the Chandelier bar. Bourbon for me!
We had dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Rose.Rabbit.Lie at the Cosmopolitan. The menu was all small plates, so we shared a bunch of dishes, and every single thing I tried was phenomenal. The above brussels sprouts with crispy chicken skin were maybe the best I’ve ever had. The coolest part about dinner though, was that our table was backstage and we dined while a show was happening on the other side of the wall. All the performers would come through the dining room, warm-up with a small act/performance, and then enter the stage door.
We saw so many interesting things, like this upsidedown man!
Our main event for the night was the Marquee nightclub. One of Emily’s [INCREDIBLY generous] friends got a table for us! It was wonderful to be able to have drinks (and water!!) right there and be able to sit and relax if we wanted too.
We spent a large portion of the night debating if the man in the black suit in the left-ish part of the picture was Paul Rudd. If it wasn’t, he was an exact look alike!
We had [too much] champagne and I loved the girls with sparkers who would bring out the bottles. They even changed outfits each time!
Needless to say, it was a magical night!
We ended the trip with brunch at Bouchon Bistro.
I enjoyed a spiced doughnut and a glorious corned beef hash in honor of St. Patrick’s day. I was super impressed with the food in Las Vegas, and I told matt we are going back just to eat.
A gigantic thank you to my friend Emily for totally spoiling us and bringing us all together!!!Read More
I’m home from New Orleans, and already missing the incredible food. Exploring new places through restaurants is a huge part of travel for me, and New Orleans is one of the most unique food cities in the US! I was in heaven the whole time! I ate some traditional dishes as well as modern interpretations of classics too.
Our first stop was an adorable little bar/music venue on Frenchmen St. called The Three Muses. It’s no secret that Matt and I love small plates, so when I read about this spot, I knew we had to try it. Little did I know that everyone else knew about it as well and there was a 2 hour wait on a Sunday night! We decided to stick it out and I definitely think it was worth it in the end.
We shared the yucca fries with Cuban mojo dipping sauce (fries were kinda cold, but the sauce was amazing),
the Angry Orchard cider braised pork belly with apple chutney and potato pancakes,
the fried oysters with grits, wilted spinach, and a bloody mary sauce,
and the seared scallops topped with grapefruit and a vanilla citrus reduction served over swiss chard, butternut squash, and mussel risotto. All three dishes were absolutely divine (this may have been my favorite food of the trip!) and most items were between $9-$12. For a city that has surprisingly expensive restaurants, The Three Muses is a gem!
Of course we had to try the famous Commander’s Palace!! We decided to go for lunch to save money and because there were so many other places we wanted to try in the French Quarter. I think this was a great call because the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed (but sill quite fancy!) and the food was as delicious as I imagine it is at dinner time.
We started with the shrimp & tasso henican: wild Louisiana shrimp, tasso ham, pickled okra, sweet onions (they forgot to remove these!), pepper jelly, and Crystal hot sauce. The flavor combination of the hot sauce and the sweetness of the pepper jelly was so incredible!
Both of our entrees came with soup, so I tried the gumbo and Matt got the turtle soup. The gumbo was pretty typical, but Matt’s soup was something special. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of eating turtle, but I got over it and was happy I tried it.
I ordered the seafood cakes as my entree – they were made with crab, shrimp, and fish and were a tad spicy. I loved them, although I didn’t get the full entree experience because they were served with something cheesy and I got vegetables instead. I was so full though, that I didn’t really mind.
Matt’s pork, sausage, and white bean cassoulet was really tasty too.
I’m glad we fit in Commander’s Palace because I’d say it lived up to its reputation and it was a great place to get a taste of classic Louisiana food.
Despite our fullness, Matt and I had a long walk home from lunch and couldn’t resist when we saw a donut shop.
Just look at all those flavors and they change every day! We went with the butterscotch pecan and it was perfection.
While we were working out in the hotel gym on the last day, Matt started having visions and cravings for more donuts on the treadmill, so we gave in and stopped by on our way home:) This time we tried the salted caramel and Japanese yuzu fruit. These really helped to sweeten the almost 8 hour drive home!
The NOLA food tour continued at Jaques-Imos on our second night! My brother-in-law’s little brother, Andrew, is my age and lives in New Orleans. He took us out in his neighborhood and we had a blast.
The restaurants were crazy because of the tourists in town for the Sugar Bowl, so we faced a two hour wait at this famous nook. We passed the time drinking local beers at the dive bar next door! Then we moved over to the restaurant and I got a watermelon mojito. So summery!
Jacques-Imos is super casual and serves all the classics in giant portions. We all wolfed down the cornbread and fried green tomatoes the minute we sat down:
Matt and I shared the duck and andouille sausage gumbo, the pan fried drum with pecan sauce, and red beans and rice and mashed sweet potatoes on the side. The gumbo was standard and pretty similar to the one I had at lunch (can’t remember why I ordered this again), but the fish was wonderful and the sides were fantastic too.
And that brings me to New Year’s Eve! We wanted to do something low-key and didn’t feel like making a reservation for a big dinner, so we bar hopped and tried some of the city’s famous cocktails.
Our first stop was at the Bourbon O bar on Bourbon St. I had a twist on the Sazerac (rye whisky, peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup, absinthe rinsed glass, lemon), which included benedictine and vermouth in addition to the classic combination. It was hands down one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had – best sweet-to-alcohol ratio ever!
Our second stop was the French 75 bar at the famous Arnaud’s restaurant. I ordered a rum drink with Mount Gay and a few different bitters and juices and it was pretty similar to a dark n stormy. I loved the old timey vibe of this bar, but it was smoky:(
Our third stop was at a restaurant that had a good-lookin’ menu, so we snagged seats at the bar and had dinner at SoBou.
My cocktail here was ridiculous, but I can’t remember what was in it because it was a special drink. It was a twist on King’s Cake though, so imagine liquid cake batter with bourbon!!!
We started with the shrimp and tasso pinchos served with grilled pineapple and pickled ghost pepper jelly – I really loved how this was presented and I’m a huge pineapple fan.
Next, were the sweet potato beignets with chicory coffee ganache – loved these fried balls, but they weren’t as savory as were described, so we saved them for dessert:)
We also had the rich girl po-boy, which was a savory Maine lobster lady finger layered with champagne lobster mousse, bowfin, paddle-fish and ghost pepper catfish caviars served with a shooter of drunken lobster bisque. This was so cool, but just a little too out-there for me. Caviar is just kinda scary.
The best thing we ordered at SoBou was the simplest – just pan-fried fish with apple cider and braised greens with creole beer nuts. A couple of different bartenders recommended this dish – it was perfectly seasoned and cooked.
It was raining when we left the restaurant, so we quickly found a spot to ring in 2014. We landed at the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone!!
The bar stools rotate around the bar – so cool! We ordered two Kir Royale’s while we made one rotation and then headed to the dance floor about 10 minutes before midnight.
There was a great live band, but we were too tired to stick around for more than a few songs and called it a night.
On New Year’s Day, we had a really hard time finding any place serving brunch, but managed to find some pancakes for a sweet start to the year – these had a bananas foster syrup on top!
Our final dinner was at a new restaurant called Kingfish. I was happy that it was on the casual side – at this point I was tired and ready to be in bed after another day of cold, rainy weather and miles of walking. There was a festive wrap-around bar in the front of the restaurant and a cozy back dining room.
We shared another favorite small plate of the trip – a sweet potato waffle pirogue filled with New Orleans style bbq shrimp,
and then shared two entrees: boneless duck tossed in ramen noodles, roasted peppers, mushrooms and preserved lemon sauce (above) and the shredded slow roasted pork pot pie with crab boil potatoes, english peas, and carrots (below). The duck ramen was a clear favorite, although both were great and different from anything else we’d already had in New Orleans. The portions were huge and reasonably priced and we ended up brining both home.
The not-so-grand but incredibly tasty finale was a muffuletta from Central Grocery. I had mine on the car ride home and was in heaven. Since the honeymoon, I’ve come to love olives and enjoyed the sandwich much more than I was expecting. I wish I had ordered the giant size!
There ya have it, my tastes of New Orleans! I promise we did more than just eat while we were there, but I’ll have to share the rest in another post. See ya.Read More
Happy eve of Thanksgiving. I’m writing from the plane, where I enjoyed a glass of merlot and a Whole Foods salad. I was in such a rush that I forgot the salad dressing though, so it was kinda gross. But the wine and all the food I’ll eat tomorrow will make up for it. We’re spending the holiday with Matt’s family outside of Annapolis and I’m pumped for four days of relaxation and family time, plus the Allens’ awesome beer selection.
Speaking of awesome, I wanted to write a post to share the amazing spanish feast I enjoyed on Monday night. One of my friends was entertaining clients to develop new business, and invited Matt and I to join for dinner at a new tapas restaurant in Dallas. Casa Rubia just opened in Trinity Groves and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a food adventure!
We started the evening with a bottle of Spanish Grenache and a massive meat and cheese platter – presented with fig jam, quince, apple butter, and fresh honey.
As for the tapas, we ordered just about everything on the menu for our group of eight, plus the paella special. I didn’t get a snap of everything and the lighting was poor, but these were the highlights:
Octopus, Saffron Potatoes, Pickled Onions, Romesco Verde
Crispy Artichokes, Meyer Lemon, Fresno Chile, Mojama, Saffron Aoili
Texas Quail, Merguez, Sunchoke, Kale, Smoked Onion Broth
Maitake Mushroms, Quince, Duck Egg, Idiazabal, Soft Herbs
Lamb Belly, Moorish Spiced, Pomegranate Molasses Pickled Mustard Seeds Parsnip (who knew you could even order lamb belly – dare I say this was better than pork belly?)
And this giant Nantucket bay scallops and lobster paella easily served all eight of us.
I enjoyed every single bite and loved the experience of tasting so many unique creations.
If I don’t talk to you tomorrow: have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!
I know I haven’t been the best about posting frequently these days, but I’m thankful for those of you who still come over to visit.Read More