Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Charleston, South
Carolina for a weekend away with my sisters.
Before heading down south we did some research about the destination. As
we are all pretty busy, we chose to divide and conquer the activities. I, of course,
was in charge of planning our meals. Luckily I had some great recommendations
from friends who had recently been to Charleston so I can say our meals were
pretty spot on. Here are some of the highlights…
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit: A trip down south isn’t complete without a biscuit so we decided to start out trip with one. This biscuit outpost in City Market was the perfect fueling station to get us through the afternoon. We had a fried chicken biscuit(savory) and also a birthday cake biscuit(sweet).
Hominy Grill: I never get to sleep in so I insisted on a late start on Saturday morning. I got up just in time to catch brunch at this local favorite. We had to wait a little while for a table but they have bar service on their patio so the waiting didn’t seem too bad. I ordered a hodge podge of items for breakfast including fried green tomatoes, griddle banana bread and a biscuit. It was all wonderful and worth the wait.
Husk: This is the one restaurant everyone I spoke with recommended and it didn’t disappoint. The restaurant strives to highlight local ingredients but not necessarily in the traditional manner. We did have some pimento cheese but also had the chefs take on chicken and dumpling which involved sous vide chicken and the best potato gnocchi I’ve had in a long time. Put husk on your list and if you can’t make the restaurant, there is a super cute bar/patio next door with it’s own amazing menu.
When we weren’t eating we were pretty much walking around so
I didn’t feel bad about the not-so-healthy southern cooking I was consuming. Charleston is a great city to explore on foot
and we had the perfect weather for it. I
learned a lot about history, ate some great food and had a fun weekend with my
There is nothing like a week at home with three kids to get you craving a vacation. We survived(and enjoyed) President’s Week with a bit of a stay-cation. We went to a few museums and had dates with friends. I put just the right amount of activity on the calendar to keep the kids busy enough that they wanted to go to sleep every night! Last week I wrote about getting away to somewhere warm. When I started to think about it, I realized some of my best vacations have been in places where it is cold and there is lots of snow on the ground.
I didn’t learn how to ski until I was in my 20’s. Shortly after that I moved to Denver, Colorado to go to Johnson and Wales for Culinary School. I learned a lot at school but also learned that I love the mountains and specifically skiing! I don’t actually have the genetic make up of a good skier… I get cold really easily and I also get altitude sickness. Once I figured out a few tricks to get over those obstacles, I really started to LOVE skiing. I would take trips up to the mountains and ski for the morning before heading into work for the dinner shift. It was a great! My first trip with my husband was to Vail, Colorado; making it very fitting that part of our honeymoon would be spent on the slopes in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
To this day, one of my all-time favorite vacations was to a little town in northern Italy called Selva Val Gardena. My husband and I were living in London at that time and knew we wanted to go skiing in the Dolomites in Italy. I found Hotel Laurin through some online reviews and our trip was set. We would fly into Venice, Italy and then drive up to the mountains for a few days. We would end our trip walking and boating through Venice. It all sounded very romantic and it was, once we finally arrived at the hotel. We hit some snow on the way up, to Selva Val Gardena; which was awesome in the context of skiing but not awesome in the context of driving a tiny car up a mountain. Long story short, we were installing chains on our tires in the dark on a Saturday night in some small town in Italy. The good news is we finally made it up and over the mountain and arrived at the hotel safe and sound.
The rest of the trip was amazing. The Hotel Laurin was just what it advertised, small and charming. The owners were very hands on taking care of our needs from espresso in the morning to cocktails before dinner and a night cap before bed. You could book the hotel with dinners included but being the foodies that we are we decided not to do that as we wanted to explore other options. It turns out that was a mistake, the food at the Hotel Laurin was amazing and plentiful and the only other dining options in the town are other hotels. When your hotel has an amazing restaurant you don’t want to venture out too much. The next year when we returned we took all of our dinners at the hotel. The food was a mix of Italian, Swiss and German. It wasn’t fancy but it was just what you needed after a day on the snow. I still remember an evening where we had fondue… meat fondue. They specially prepared a broth for us which we used to cook different meats. It was amazing. The trip was so great we returned the following winter to the same hotel. I hope someday to return to Hotel Laurin with all of our children in tow but it will be a few years before they are all able to ski.
Winter holidays in the snow are just as fun as those in the sun. Food plays a big part in any vacation I take and the food on the mountains in Selva Val Gardena, and most mountains in Europe, surpasses the expectations set by the cafeteria style eateries you find on the mountains in the states. I’ll probably fall asleep tonight dreaming of the mountains, skiing and fondue. I’ll wake up to reality here in NYC and maybe with some snow on the ground.
This time of the year I start to long for an escape from the
winter in New York City; especially with the mixed bag of weather we have been
having. Should it really go from 20 degrees
to 50 degrees in less than 24 hours and then right back down again? And how
about that snow/sleet/rain we had this week?
That is enough to make anyone want to catch the next flight out of town
(that is once the airports are back on schedule). My first instinct is to head somewhere warm
and sunny but I also think about going somewhere with lots of white snow (more
on that next week).
One of my favorite warm weather destinations this time of the year is Florida. I know it doesn’t sound exotic but it is called the sunshine state for a reason. Florida is actually very big from top to bottom so you really have your choice of environments when you visit. Back in my grade school days, my dad loved taking us to a destination and then piling everyone in the car and exploring what it had to offer. I remember taking a trip to Florida one spring break. We must have started in Orlando because I remember spending a few days enjoying Mickey Mouse and all that the parks had to offer. Then we piled in the car and headed south. We stopped in the Everglades leaving me with memories of the great outdoors. I vividly remember staying in some sort of cabin with lots of Mosquitos outside and the urgency to close the screen door quickly so they would remain outside. From there we continued south to the Florida Keys. We all got outfitted with snorkeling gear and used it to look at fish and shipwrecks in the ocean as well as the bottom of the pool. Swimming is one of those activities that can be entertaining forever, huh? I still love to hang out in a pool for hours on end. We finished our trip with a visit to Key West. It isn’t the same when you’re under 21 but still pretty cool. Frozen drinks are fun at any age even without the alcohol. Then we had a long drive back up to Orlando before heading back to the cold in Indiana.
Another one of my favorite memories of Florida is visiting my grandparents at their condo in Naples. My sisters and I would fly down without our parents and spend a long weekend just with our grandparents. Talk about getting spoiled. Beyond all of the excitement in their retirement community of golf, swimming pools and tennis we would venture to the beach and of course go on shopping trip. I remember eating at a place called The Dock and Michelbob’s was the place for ribs either before or after mini golf. The best part about Naples is that my dad now has a condo there. I hope my children will get to create the same memories with their grandparents that I was able to.
So whether you are off to a sunny destination this holiday weekend or already live in one(Lucky You), soak up some sunshine for me. I’ll be here in NYC enjoying whatever mother nature throws our way.
Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of cruising to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder. I had heard a lot about cruises and their all-you-can-eat buffets so I set my expectations pretty low for the food we would eat aboard the ship. I was pleasantly surprised with the dining options and even more so with the service and hospitality extended from the servers on board.
For breakfast the main option was Cabanas(the all-you-can-eat buffet). It worked out really great for my family as we could each pick and choose what we wanted. While I don’t like to waste food, anyone who has children knows they are often picky about what they eat and it changes from day to day. The buffet was great because we could load up a plate with Mickey Mouse Waffles, chocolate chip pancakes, donuts and even fresh fruit. There were healthier options as well and I typically got yogurt with fruit and granola while my husband chose the made-to-order omelet. The good news was with all of the options our crew started off the day with tanks full and ready to go.
Lunch was a little bit different as you could choose from a variety and ‘take-away’ counters or the buffet. I believe there was a sit-down option as well but we didn’t take advantage of that. Pete’s Boiler Bites served up the best chicken fingers and French Fries on the ship. Pinocchio’s Pizzeria had pretty good pizza and even humored my son by making him pizza without the sauce with extra cheese on the side. Daisy’s De-Lites had paninis, salads and lots of fresh fruit. And then there was Cabanas with the never-ending buffet of options complete with plain pasta to satisfy any child. We typically got a variety from more than one of the options and the best part was sitting outside looking at the amazing views. Lunch often finished with ice cream from Eye Scream Treats, a serve-yourself soft serve ice cream that was available from 10am-11pm.
Dinner was the most formal of the meals with a set reservation rotating between three restaurants. Every night had a different theme and were all loosely Disney based. Animators Palate had a lot of screens on the wall with Disney images to entertain you throughout the meal. We also had breakfast with the characters here. Tiana’s Place was very Cajun and we even celebrated Mardi Gras there one night. Triton’s was based on The Little Mermaid and had a bit more seafood than the others. There were often ‘fancy’ options on the menu including truffles and lobster. As I am writing this three weeks after my return, there isn’t anything that I ate that stood out as amazing or a complete disappointment. As I mentioned the service was amazing and we had the same servers for all of our dinners on the ship.
The rumors about gaining weight on a cruise might be true. My brother-in-law even downloaded an app that makes you look like you’ve gained a few pounds. Perhaps it is my self-control but I walked off the ship still wearing the same pants I had on when I boarded and they felt just fine. I found the food on the ship to be better than I expected. My only disappointment was that the lack of local options. I cannot say I really enjoyed Alaskan cuisine but I did enjoy everything else Alaska had to offer.
Last week I brought you on a journey to Roanoke, Virginia, where the food culture is not so vegan friendly, and this week, we’re off to Spring Grove, Minnesota, a tiny Norwegian settlement in the Southeast corner of Minnesota boasting a population of 1,200 people… a modern-day village that I am proud to call my hometown. Not unlike Virginia, most restaurants in Minnesota are meat and dairy forward, and finding delicious vegan options, especially in my hometown, is nearly impossible. For the longest time, my grandparents couldn’t grasp the concept of veganism and had no idea what I ate to survive — they have since come around, and are now trying to adopt a more vegetable forward diet. Thankfully, Spring Grove is a farming community, so fresh produce is abundant in the summertime.
In terms of food, the thing I look forward to most when visiting home is drinking a Black Cherry soda from Spring Grove Soda Pop Company — I never drink soda, but I allow myself to have one during my trips home. The company was founded in 1895 by pharmacist G.G Ristey, who served soda from a soda jerk counter that was a staple of his pharmacy. To meet customer requests of having soda that they could bring home, Ristey and his brother-in-law purchased bottling equipment and began producing soda that was sold at local venues. The company has changed owners throughout the years, but the original recipes have gone unchanged, and the company continues to produce nine, pure cane sugar, old-fashioned sodas, to an expanding market of consumers, a network spidering far outside of Spring Grove. The soda is rich, nearly syrupy in consistency, but so delicious. For me, it’s a taste of childhood.
Outside of soda, when home, I cook many of my own meals, in part due to the lack of vegan food, but mostly because I love to create in the kitchen. Thankfully, my mom is a heath food junkie, and frequents a food coop near her office in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a beautiful 45 minute drive through the bluffs from my hometown, so she always stocks the pantry and refrigerator with beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables before I arrive home. The sweetest and most thoughtful mom, she always requests that I send her a grocery list a few days before I fly home to insure that I have everything that I need to create in the kitchen. The food coop also has a plethora of vegan options at their cafe, so when in a bind, or when I don’t feel like cooking, my mom stocks up on cafe items as well, my favorite being a toasted almond and quinoa salad with supremed orange segments and spring peas. They also sell Dandies marshmallows, a vegan marshmallow, at the coop, so I’m able to enjoy a s’more at the fire, using Endangered Species vegan dark chocolate of course!