Taking Back My Twenties

Posts Tagged "Wine"

Turkish Delights

Posted on Jul 9, 2014 | 5 comments

The food in Turkey was ridiculously good. And oh so fresh!

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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.

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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:)

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Another dish I was in love with was warm hummus served with hot pastrami. I could eat this for days.

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For snacks, we would sometimes stop by one of the many juice stands for freshly squeezed juice,

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or duck into a spice store for giant medjool dates.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The local beer, Efes, came in a dark variety that both Matt and I loved.

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We had many wonderful meals, and I obviously didn’t document all of them, but here are a few highlights:

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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.

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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!

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Lastly, we had a really nice meal on our first night at a modern Turkish restaurant called Lokanta Maya

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Above are shredded wheat balls stuffed with feta and honey and below, fried zucchini.

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We also had fresh clams and more seabass!

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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!

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BBQ Birthday and San Salvaje

Posted on May 19, 2014 | 1 comment

Happiest of Mondays to you guys!

We did a whole lotta nothing on Friday and Sunday so that we could go all out on Saturday! For the first time in a while, we didn’t even put any effort in Friday dinner – we just had leftovers and went to bed.

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Saturday, we drove out to the burbs to celebrate the adorable Rosco – he turned one! Time is flying – I can’t imagine how fast it moves when you’re a parent!

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You’re telling me this whole cupcake is just for me?
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We enjoyed a lovely bbq buffet, adult beverages, and Texas breezes out on the patio. It was great to catch up with a bunch of friends who all moved to Dallas after Duke!
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We got home just in time to change clothes and walk downtown to try San Salvaje – the new Stephen Pyles restaurant!. I was pumped to try it because it’s South American fusion and reasonable priced for downtown Dallas. I somehow snagged a reservation before it had even opened last week. We arrived a little early and tried a flight of pisco from Chile and Peru at the bar. All three were slightly sweet, but sooo strong! We made it through half of each glass and then I added a few drops of agave and some lime to turn these into mini pisco sours. I guess I’m a wimp:)

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I was so excited to see the wine list because they had many bottles for $25-$32!! I love this restaurant just for that! We splurged for this bottle of malbec and it was wonderful!

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We skipped the entree and just ordered a few small plates. Less is more these days.

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This is the pork belly tacu tacu (lentil cake) with fig compote. It was absolutely perfect and the pork just melted in my mouth.

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Next, the lobster sweet corn tamale with fried avocado – also fabulous.

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The duck tacos were probably my favorite and they came with two salsas, cilantro, and a little tower of limes for seasoning!

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Last of the small plates was the crab arepa.

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The waiter talked us into desserts too, which were incredible: the sweet banana tamale (holy moly, so good),

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the sweet potato donuts!!!

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I was already completely in love with San Salvaje and then Chef Pyles stopped by our table to chat!! He’s been traveling to South America for years and created the restaurant based on his experiences. We’re hoping to plan a trip down there in the near future and got his recommendations for cities. He was so sweet and even went into the back to look up some names of restaurants in his notes and came back to share them with us later. He was down-to-earth and friendly, and now I’m an even bigger fan:)

Have a good week.

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Beauty & The Beast with ScoreBig

Posted on Apr 24, 2014 | 1 comment

Gosh I love Dallas. Now that the weather is warm, I’ve been taking more walks and soaking in the sunshine. Last night, I had the opportunity to walk downtown to see Beauty and the Beast!

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ScoreBig contacted me about trying their website to buy tickets to an event and provided me with $100 towards the tickets. Woohoo! If you aren’t familiar with ScoreBig, the site offers tickets for sports, concerts, theater, Broadway, family shows, and attractions. I found the website really easy to use – I typed in my location and all the available tickets popped up! In Dallas, it looked like most of the tickets were for sports. There were tickets for shows and concerts, but the dates were pretty limited. However, it seems like the availability can change quickly, and you can set up alerts so that you are notified as soon as tickets become available. Anyway, I picked Beauty and the Beast because it’s a classic, but also because I’ve been wanting to check out the AT&T Performing Arts Center downtown.

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Once I picked my event, I had a couple of options for tickets, based on seating. There were 2-star, 3-star, and 4-star seating options and each had a list price. I originally wanted to buy 2-star tickets, but by the time I got around to purchasing them, they were sold out! I went with the 3-star seating, which had a list price of $100 per ticket. Now, the cool part – I got to make an offer on the tickets based on what I wanted to spend! By choosing a seating area rather than an exact seat, the ticket providers can offer better deals (if you buy multiple tickets, the seats will be together). Once you type in your offer, there’s a little indicator that tells you the likelihood of your offer being accepted. I offered $55 for each ticket, and found out instantly that my offer was rejected:( BUT, on that same screen, I had the opportunity to buy the tickets for $64, so I did! The nice thing about the pricing is that there’s no fees and free delivery is included, so I didn’t have to pay any service fees after that. I entered payment information and got an email confirmation indicating that my tickets would be at will call. Pretty simple!

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I thought $64 was a fair price for a musical, given the list price. I must say though, after I saw how empty the theater was, I’m not sure I got that great of a deal. I think I’ll definitely browse the site in the future though, because I bet the 2-star tickets (list price $50) would have been more reasonable and the seats almost as good. The seats were up pretty high in the balcony, but were in the first row.
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As for the show, it was awesome!! I had forgotten how good of a story it is! And I knew all the music so well that I just wanted to break out into song and dance with the actors.
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I sipped wine too, which was fun. I’ve been 21 for a while now, but for some reason I’ve only gotten a drink at the theater once or twice before!
Thanks to ScoreBig for the tickets! Definitely check it out the next time you’re in the mood for entertainment but don’t want to pay full price!
Happy weekend eve.
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East Coast Easter

Posted on Apr 21, 2014 | 10 comments

I got to spend Easter with the family! I headed to my sister’s house in Charlottesville, VA, and both my parents and Matt’s parents came from their states to join us!

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No visit with my brother-in-law is complete without a beer tasting! Kanz brews his own beer and is always interested in feedback/discussion. We kicked off the weekend by comparing two different years of barleywine with the Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine. All were delicious!

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My mom and dad are pretty incredible grandparents to little Mazen and offered to take over the parenting responsibilities so the four of us could enjoy dinner on the town.

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We walked to Bang! on the Charlottesville mall – it felt freezing to my Texas blood and I wore a wool coat and scarf:)

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We sat at the bar while we waited for a table – I sipped on a cocktail made with bourbon and lemongrass simple syrup – delicious!

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I think we ordered nine small plates for the four of us. I won’t bore you with descriptions of all of them, but my absolute favorites were the pork spring rolls,

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the Thai beef with soba noodles, bok choy, and cilantro sauce,

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the sesame tuna,

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and the tempura haricot vert!

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On Saturday, I went to a crazy athletic conditioning class with my sister – it was hard, but pretty similar to my regular Saturday morning class, and I felt incredible afterwards!

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Matt, my parents, and I headed out to the countryside for some wine tasting mid-morning. I think we all have our eyes closed in this picture. We met Matt’s parents at Barboursville and enjoyed tasting some great Virginia wines.

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And a picnic!

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Great Harvest sandwiches, crab chips from Maryland, and a dry riesling made for the perfect lunch.

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Saturday afternoon, we all retired to my sister’s giant yard for bocce ball and conversation.

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Our hosts cooked an awesome spread of pulled pork, beet salad, mushroom and pea risotto, and Virginia rolls fresh from the bakery!

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But some of us were most excited for dessert!

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Cupcakes, peanut butter fudge, and chocolate truffles rounded out Easter dinner, and I went to bed stuffed.

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We all gathered on Sunday morning for brunch, and then it was back to the airport to start the long trip home:(

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Hope yall got to relax this weekend too, if you celebrate the holiday. It’s always sad saying goodbye, but there’s lots going on here this week! Positive vibes are always welcome if you want to send them my way:)

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A Rainy Hill Country Weekend

Posted on Apr 7, 2014 | 4 comments

This weekend, Matt and I traveled to Hill Country to use our free stay as part of the Marriott Rewards Ambassador Program (review of the program coming in the next month).

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We fell in love with the quiet Hill Country on our first visit, and decided we wanted to go back! The JW Marriott seemed like a perfect destination for a weekend away.

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We drove down on Friday evening. I sang country songs at the top of my lungs while Matt navigated the winding roads – I really wish I could play the fiddle…or the banjo.

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We arrived at Duchmann Family Winery just in time for a tasting and a picnic before the winery closed. I enjoyed all the wines we tasted, but liked the Vermentino white the best.

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We ordered a glass to split with our picnic. Wrapped in a million sweaters, we enjoyed dinner with strings of white lights and Italian music to set the scene.

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Dinner was a giant Italian sandwich and a snickerdoodle from Etzi’s.

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Etzi’s has the best bone bread and super strong mustard. Loved this!

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We got to the resort pretty late, and went to bed after sitting by the fire pit for a bit. I snapped some pictures of the resort and our room in the morning. It was massive and beautiful!

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We were upgraded to a resort suite – one of the many perks of the Marriott Rewards Program!

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There was a giant balcony with a view, but it was too cold and rainy to use it:( Overall, I’d definitely recommend the resort and the restaurant below (although I’m not sure I’d pay out of pocket to visit). It was also extremely family friendly with lots of activities for kids. There were pools and water slides for warmer temperatures too.

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We had high hopes of taking a hike and checking out the resort’s lazy river on Saturday, but the weather had other plans for us.

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We made the best of it though, and drove to a neighboring town for lunch: a salmon burger with lime aioli and some of the best sweet potato wedges in history.

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And then another winery visit! Dry Comal Creek is small and quirky and produced a lot of sweet wines – they weren’t extraordinary, but we bought a bottle because the service was great and we enjoyed chatting with the staff.

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The main event on a rainy night at a secluded resort is obviously dinner! There are two main restaurants at the JW Marriott, but we went with the more causal Cibolo Moon over the fancy steak house. We had a fantastic server – Jose – and a wonderful experience. Hotel restaurants can be hit or miss – but this one was a clear hit.

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We each had a spicy margarita – mine was made with pineapple infused tequila and Matt’s with raspberry-haberno infused tequila! We also received complimentary biscuits with a delicious strawberry-jalapeno jam.

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Matt and I shared three small plates and one entree and it was wayyy too much food!

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First, we had the fried oysters with tomato jam and bacon vinaigrette. I loved how this dish was prepared and the oysters were huge.

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Second, we had a salad topped with crab, lime chips, and avocado. This dish tasted a little bland, but was refreshing in contrast with the heavier items.

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Third, and the star of the show, was the smoked brisket ‘burnt ends.’ Both Matt and Jose had to talk me into this one because I just didn’t know what to expect. I’m sooo glad we got it. The brisket was sticky-sweet with crispy, charred edges.

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And lastly, the bison meatloaf with tangy bbq sauce and mashed potatoes. When this arrived, I really didn’t know if I could eat any more, but after one bite, I made room:) Needless to say, dinner was excellent, and I was thankful we didn’t have to travel far to get home afterwards.

Sadly, Sunday’s weather was worse than Saturday’s, so we had to cancel plans to check out a famous bbq restaurant on the way home because it had open-air seating. I was kinda glad since I had my fill of meat the night before. Plan B: find healthy, hippy cafe in Austin!

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I didn’t have to search very long on the internet to fine one because Austin is filled with them! We decided on a raw, vegan place called Beets Cafe. Despite planning to eat light, I absolutely couldn’t resist trying a raw cinnamon roll made with brazil nut meal, raisins, apples, and cashew cream sweetened with dates. Wow!!

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I ordered the burger made with carrot, beets, sprouted sunflower seeds, celery, parsley, flax, olive oil, crystal salt, and spices, and Matt had a mock Rueben that was so full of flavor you’d think it was the real thing. Oh, and a vegan doughnut from Red Rabbit Bakery for the drive home.

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I promise we had plans to do more than just eat in Hill Country before the weather turned sour!! It was a wonderful and relaxing weekend nonetheless, and I feel stuffed energized for the week ahead!

Happy Monday friends.

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