Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wine Tasting in Healdsburg

Sonoma in January possesses a unique kind of beauty. Temperatures hover around a toasty 59 degrees, the rain spits from the thick fog cloaking the mountains, naked vines stand in stark contrast along the rolling patchy green hills. I'm relaxed and happy to be here for the first time with my best ladies. 
On Saturday morning after an early check in at the Renaissance Marriot Lodge at Sonoma Resort + Spa our driver, David, of Intimate Wine Tours whisked us off to Healdsburg, a small city located in Northern Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley where we tasted wines at Bella Winery and Yoakim Bridge. Because of the 1:30 Patriots playoff game we only had time for two tastings before booking it over to Lagunitas in Petaluma to ensure prime seating in front of their one TV!

Bella Vineyards + Wine Caves 
$10 tasting / beautiful wine caves / relaxed tasting atmosphere / gorgeous property / excellent Zinfandel.
9711 W Dry Creek Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Yoakim Bridge Winery
$10 tasting / intimate yet lively tasting room run by a spunky couple / great Zins and a really delicious 2010 merlot.
7209 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Lagunitas Brewing Company
noshed on soft pretzels + smoked pork nachos / tasted lots of unique beers - a range of hits and misses in the bunch. 
1280 N. McDowell Blvd
Petaluma, CA 94954

Post Lagunitas and a Patriots Win(!!) we headed back home to The Renaissance Lodge where we were just in time for their wine tasting happy hour, along with the rest of the hotel guests. After some hotel lobby shenanigans it was off to Sonoma Plaza for one last tasting. Our good natured driver, David, (now off the clock) joins in on the fun at Roche Winery Tasting Room before bidding us farewell until tomorrow. We make our way across the square for dinner at La Salette.

Roche Winery
popular downtown Sonoma tasting room / outdoor patio on the square
122 West Spain St.
Sonoma, CA 95476

La Salette
inventive contemporary Portuguese cuisine.
452 First St East
Sonoma, CA 95476  

Tasca Tasting Platter at La Salette: Fried Goat Cheese, Spicy Fried Pig Ears, Escargot in Garlic Butter

Monday, January 25, 2016


Sausalito is a dreamy little coastal town on the San Francisco Bay. Strolling along the quaint waterfront with trendy restaurants, coffee shops + art galleries and taking in picturesque views of the sprawling San Fran cityscape makes for a really nice afternoon. 

We scored the perfect waterfront deck table at The Trident and had a fantastic lunch. There was tuna tartare, truffle fries and a crab Caesar salad, complimented by a bottle of Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc.

 558 Bridgeway
Sausalito, CA 94965
The Trident Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Progress | San Francisco

We are 20 days into 2016 and I've found my favorite meal of the year so far! An impromptu girls trip over the long MLK weekend brought me to California, and I'm so glad I decided to make the journey. When is girl time in SFO, Sausalito and Sonoma ever a bad idea?!

The Progress located in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco defines themselves as a vehicle for a completely local production. Innovative banquet-style meals served with memorable wines. The greatest dinner party ever.

Turns out, it is one of the greatest (intimate in our case) dinner parties ever. Everything about this place feels fresh and inspired. No one is doing it quite like they are here. Take for instance their Manhattan ($12) made with a smooth and intense black butter bourbon, vermouth and bitters. They make the black butter in house before steeping it in the bourbon. We also drank some delicious and interesting wines including a Georges Descombes Gamay ($14) (Morgon, Beaujolais, France) and a Piquentum Refosk ($15) (Istra, Croatia).
Meals are shared family style for a fixed price of $58, starting with five rotating small plates served in a portion size to compliment your party. Pictured up close and personal are the bahri dates with hazlenut crema and some bite size roasted carrots with curried yogurt. The rest seen in the group photo include: smoked trout + seven pepper cracker, fish fry with kimchi tartar sauce, and buttermilk biscuits with apple bourbon black butter. These small tastes were a welcome prelude, and we had fun each ranking our favorites to least favorites. 

Then you choose four meals. These are listed on the menu from lightest to heaviest, with a recommendation to order two from the lighter section and two from the heavier section. We ended up with one light and three heavy - and although it was a bit too much food to finish as our waiter warned it would be, we were happy that we chose what spoke to us! These plates were truly remarkable and I urge anyone living in or planning a visit to the awesome city that is San Francisco to make a reservation here ASAP. 

In order of appearance: Fried Rice | tea-smoked liberty farms duck, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), bok choy + maitakes / Celery Root Ravioli | wilted escarole, apple paste, shavings of goat gouda / Half Moon Bay Black Cod | pea greens, pomelo + aromatic vinegar / Lamb Merguez, Octopus + Crispy Squid | Mediterranean stewed yellow-eye beans

1525 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
The Progress Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Avana Sushi

I am excited about having Chinatown restaurants on the blogs radar lately. There are spots I have been frequenting for years that are finally getting their due. A couple weeks ago we took a look at Hei La Moon, then last week we talked Pho. Now, Avana Sushi. This hole-in-the-wall four seat counter is surrounded by about five tables in a mini-food court off of Beach Street. I typically grab takeout and bring it back to the office, but dining-in is also a treat!  A waitress ensures you will always be well taken care of here despite the haphazard ambiance. 

You can't go wrong with the luncheon special - for $7 you get a choice of 1 maki, 2 sides and miso soup. Pictured above are a couple different combos: spicy salmon avocado roll + seaweed salad + tuna nigri, and a salmon mango roll + edamame + avocado salad. My favorite rolls to order on their own (not part of the lunch special) include the Spicy Caterpillar Maki ($8.95) - eel, cucumber, avocado + spicy mayo topped with avocado, eel sauce + tobiko, and the Black Pearl Maki ($8.95) spicy salmon, tempura flakes, scallions, avocado + black tobiko.

Super fresh sushi, creative maki rolls and perfect little lunch specials all at a great value, Avana is the best!

42 Beach St
Boston, MA 02111
Avana Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Year 2015.

It is time for a little reminiscing on an amazing year. I am very grateful for all of it. Thank you, 2015. 

Travel - We kicked off the year with plenty of skiing in Maine and Vermont

Boston Restaurants - I was lucky I had a chance to experience East by Northeast before they closed a few months later / Discovered Besito serves really good Mexican food in Chestnut Hill.
Coconut Red Curry Lobster w. Egg Noodles @ East By Northeast

Tres Leche Cake @ Besito
Inspiration - shared what I had been reading - I can't recommend these books enough!


Travel - Jetted off to Northwestern Canada where we skied in Alberta at Banff and Sunshine, and in British Columbia at Revelstoke.

Boston Restaurants - enjoyed a terrific meal at the new Earl's in Assembly Row

Travel - It was all about the USVI and BVI this month. My cousins picture perfect wedding on St. John / a day trip to Water Island / 5 days on Virgin Gorda / a day trip to Anegada / a day at Coki Beach on St. Thomas / This trip is one of my favorite to reminisce on - I still get lost in the Caribbean landscapes and lifestyle; sparkling teal waters, azure sky, pristine beaches, fish tacos and painkillers for days, snorkeling with tropical wildlife for hours....

Boston Restaurants -  checked out the new Japanese Hot Pot Shabumaru in the Westin Copley / Feasted on Skrei (premium Norwegian Cod Fish) at Legal Harborside
Pan Roasted Skrei Fish in a smoked mussel chowder @ Legal Harborside

Travel - I didn't get a post up a about it, but the day we all hiked and skied Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire was one for the memory books!

Inspiration - Despite all of the Caribbean Sun in March, I was still okay returning home to Charlestown and the snowpocalypse

Travel - Again with the travel posts taking up an entire month! I was really encouraged and inspired by my press trip to Cleveland, Ohio. If you are going to send me to a city and pay for my flights, hotel, dinners, drinks and experiences, you better believe I am going to soak in every detail and write honestly about it all in return. 

Boston Restaurants Select Oyster Bar was one of my favorite openings of 2015. If you haven't checked them out yet, make it a point to get there in 2016!

Inspiration - In a rare moment of downtime - home at my apartment on Bunker Hill Street in Charlestown. 


Travel - All about New England this month: Eating all the lobster / a weekend in Newport, Rhode Island / a weekend on Martha's Vineyard + a phenomenal dinner at Red Cat Kitchen in Oak Bluffs. 

Boston Restaurants - since I had been neglecting to keep up with the restaurant scene posts for months, I started a series of "where I've been lately" roundups. The June edition includes five all time favorites: Highball Lounge, Eastern Standard, Row 34, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Shojo.
Tater Tot Nachos @ Highball Lounge


Travel - The annual girls trip brought us to Charleston, South Carolina. Restaurants we visited that I would highly recommend: Bin 152, FIG, Poogan's Porch and Chez Nous. Additionally, Bob and I spent the 4th with his family on Lake Winnepesauke.

Inspiration - The Hendricks Gin Flying Cucumber. One of the coolest things I've ever experienced! You have to see it to believe it!

Exploring Great Island, Wellfleet (and eating Wellfleet Oysters!)
Travel  - We spent a glorious amount of time outdoors. The month kicked of with back-to -back hiking and camping weekends in The White Mountains: Mount Madison + Osgood which was followed by Mount Washington + Dolly CopFrom there we took a week off and made the rounds: Bob's sisters house on Lake Winnipesauke --> A quaint Bed + Breakfast in Wellfleet --> my Mom's house in Yarmouthport. I actually didn't post anything about that week - it was a much needed escape for family time, us time, lake time and beach time. 
Hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Boston Restaurants - Had a wonderful meal at Babbo Pizzera with the girls. I have recommended Babbo to quite a few friends and co-workers, everyone's feedback has been overwhelmingly positive / Tempo in Waltham treated me to a delicious evening.  
Pizza, Squash Blossoms + Gelato @ Babbo
Inspiration - I partnered with Ribera Y Rueda Spanish Wines on their Si What's Next Campaign and had a ton of fun! Also, I moved in with Bob in Newton!

Travel - This summer we got an ORV beach pass and a paddleboard and had a lot of memorable weekends on Crowes PastureSeptember is particularly great because it is still warm and all the tourists have faded out.....

Boston Restaurants - Checked out Southie newcomer Coppersmith at their soft opening. 
TravelOREGON ROAD TRIP. Bob and I on the road for 9 days. It was incredible. We visited: Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, Astoria, Cape Disappointment, Shipwreck Beach, Cannon Beach, Newport, and the Willamette Valley

Boston Restaurants - The October round up edition features favorite spots in and around my new hood: Hopsters, Max + Leo's, Deep Ellum, Devlin's, Cook, The Breakfast Club (pictured), Thai North, Buffs Pub and Sycamore. 

Branch Line in Watertown - another favorite opening of 2015
Boston Restaurants - The November round up was for new comers: Branch Line in Watertown / Gracenote Coffee Roasters in the Leather District, and old favorites: Granary Tavern in the Financial District / Silvertone in Downtown Crossing. I also attended a slew of media dinners: Masa Taqueria in Woburn, Not Your Average Joe's in Waltham and Liquid Art House in Back Bay.

Inspiration - We hosted Thanksgiving! I took a hard hat tour of the under construction Godfrey Hotel located on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing right across the street from my office. 
BL's Fried Turkey
51 Lincoln in Newton Highlands
Boston Restaurants - Another big month for dining out in Boston, most notably at Clio for their Final Service. There was dinner at Lincoln 51 with the ladies, Loretta's Last Call with my sister, Seasons 52 with Bob, and Dim Sum at Hei La Moon

Inspiration - My sister, Leah, started her own blog: Joy of Outside - definitely check it out! Her and Alex hosted our family Christmas complete with an amazing Hot Chocolate Bar.
Photo borrowed from Joy of Outside: Our night hike in Vermont w. appropriate cozies

Travel - The Green Mountains to bring in the new year with friends!
Photo borrowed from Joy of Outside: New Years crew in Vermont

Hope everyone is having a great start to 2016!