Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fresh Starts

List-making keeps me organized and sane. If I tried to remember all the bits and pieces running around my head I'd go crazy! I always keep a small notebook in my purse and this week I started a new one. There's something so satisfying about a fresh notebook. I fancied up the cover and filled the first page up with the week's to dos.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend Nostalgia

My weekend was brightened by the arrival of Abby, a best friend from college. We ate, laughed, gabbed, gossiped, and watched the entire first season of Girls. It was much needed girly time!

Brewskies at Triple C! Smoked Amber is my favorite.

Sweet treats at Amelie's French Bakery. I had a cinnamon macaroon with chocolate filling and a chocolate raspberry petit four. Amazing!

Stopped by the Rat's Nest, a quirky thrift shop. This giant doll disturbs me...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Valentine Flashback

Valentine's Day brought visiting friends en route to NYC. We had a big group dinner and some delicious eclair and macaroons from Amelie's. They were perfectly sweet, buttery, and creamy with killer ganache (on the eclair). 

Lunch was at Berrybrook Farm, the first natural foods store in Charlotte. They have a completely vegetarian menu and juice dream menu! It's a walk-up counter with to-go food only, so a friend and I had lunch outside on a porch swing. The veggie chili was spicy and warm, perfect for a sunny yet chili winter picnic. I paired it with a grilled cheese on sprouted grain bread. The store has so many interesting natural products, I hope to spend more time exploring during my next visit. 

My thoughtful husband surprised me with a bouquet of blue-tipped hydrangeas (my wedding flower) and roses! Hydrangeas are so delicate and dreamy. Saturday was snowy--a big fluffy beautiful surprise. Alas, it was farmer's market weekend, so we bundled up and braved the cold for some fresh veggies and homemade-that-morning melt in your mouth donuts. A bunch of farmer's market kale inspired me to try a recipe I've been eyeing, the Raw Tuscan Kale Salad, from 101 Cookbooks. Fresh kale tossed with olive oil, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and breadcrumbs (made from farmer's market bread by the way); this salad is simple, yet filling, and paired wonderfully with baked maple salmon

What a delicious weekend! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Back to Cali: The Food (Part 2)

Well, it happened. I hit another winner in my eternal quest for the most delicious pizza on the planet. Michael's Pizzeria in Long Beach will now join the ranks of Serious Pie (Seattle), Domenica (New Orleans), and Cibo (Phoenix). According to their website, Michael's is ranked the #1 pizza in Los Angeles. Owner Michael Dene opened Michael's on Naples (fine dining, Italian) several years ago. In 2010, He got tired of having disappointing pizza, and decided to open his own pizzeria! Michael's is a small restaurant with BIG flavor. They bake Naples-style pizza in a wood fired oven and offer homemade sauce, cheese, and sausage among other toppings. The pizza is served with a fork and knife--the way they do it in Naples--with slicing by request. Bite by bite I savored my exquisite margherita pizza topped with arugula, paired with Mama's Little Yellow Pils (yum), and drifted off into a pizza trance. Somehow I saved room for a chilled goblet of homemade chocolate gelato. I was perfection. I would go back to Long Beach solely to visit Michael's Pizzeria. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Back to Cali: The Food (Part 1)

Although my food experience in Long Beach didn't come close to my time in New Orleans last summer, there were some definite palate pleasers! Breakfast at the trendy Berlin Coffeehouse was delicious. I had a veggie bagel with hummus, avocado, cheese, sprouts, tomato and onion. For me, one of the best aspects of California is that most produce is local and fresh! The fruit was juicy and delicious and avocados are never far. If you grab some food at Berlin, be sure to visit Fingerprints Music next door. They have lots of music on CD and vinyl and a variety of cool toys, gifts, and cards. Tequila Jack's has a great waterside view, delicious salsas and veggie tacos, and giant beers at happy hour.

One of my favorite Long Beach spots is the Belmont Shore neighborhood. The streets are bustling with people and pups; cute flower shops and creative restaurants dot the street. Orange, lemon, and avocado trees grow in front yards and parakeets flutter among the tops of palm trees. Lunch at Simmzy's was delicious! Since it was packed I ended up in the back bar by a window looking right into the kitchen. It was mouth watering watching all the delicious food come out. I had the vegetarian Whole Grain Jane burger (quinoa/farro/tofu) with apple slaw, avocado puree, and cheddar on a ciabatta roll. It was delicious and tangy, but a little messy. I turned it into a fork and knife sandwich! On the side we shared shoestring fries served with homemade blue cheese, ketchup, and a special fry aioli. I paired it with a Mad River Brewing Company - Jamaican Red Ale (yum) and stuffed myself with goodness. After lunch we strolled along the beach walkway for 3.5 miles back to the hotel. I was still full!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Back to Cali: The Setting

Remember my trip to Long Beach, CA last October? Last week I went back to manage the conference I was planning. Flying away from chilly 30-degree East coast weather to sunny 70-degree breezy California sunshine was a major mood booster! Long Beach definitely isn't the type of beach I'm used to; it's a big bustling city right by the sea, oil rigs dot the horizon off the shores, and a big shipping dock (with giant giraffe-like cranes) looms directly beside the shoreline. The water is cold, but beautiful, and has almost no waves due to a break wall built in 1949 to thwart submarines and torpedoes during WWII (random fact). A sidewalk stretches for miles along the beach, giving way to roller bladers, walkers, runners, bikers, and all sorts of interesting beach transportation. I was brave and took my Canon 60D with me (eek); I'm always afraid of something happening to it, but always regret not having it! First up, some shots of the beautiful scenery. Next Cali post covers my favorite!