A day of tastings…

31 Mar

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Ben and I went on vacation to San Francisco and one day during our trip, we took a
day trip out to Napa Valley!

Though I’ve never mentioned it on the blog before, I love wine. It’s my alcoholic beverage of choice and being able to learn more about it was really great. This day trip was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable days I can remember!

We started the day off doing an educational tour and tasting at Cakebread Cellars.

We walked through the vineyard, learned about grapes and harvesting season.

Then, we walked through building where the wine is fermented and aged in bulk barrels.

It was fascinating to see the entire wine making process and then to taste the finished product at the winery.

After Cakebread, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat at Oakville Grocery, a cute neighborhood grocery store.

We both got great homemade sandwiches and sat outside at their picnic tables.

As you can see, Ben is loving his chicken salad sandwich and though not pictured, I was chowing down on my mozzarella and tomato sandwich!

Next up – we went to St. Supery Winery. I had read great reviews about their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. The people that work at this winery were really wonderful. If you’ve been to a wine tasting at a winery before, you know that depending on what tasting you choose to do, you can try anywhere from 3-6 wines. I’m fairly certain we tasted 6-8 wines each! I learned so much from the staff at this winery and I would definitely recommend it.

Finally, we went to Cliff Lede Winery – another winery known for its Sauvignon Blanc. This winery is set in a gorgeous part of Napa Valley.

There is a courtyard that connects the tasting room to a gallery space that features contemporary art. The gallery had some beautiful artwork in it and it is open to all of those that participate in a tasting at Cliff Lede.

We spent time talking to the staff at this winery too. At this point in the day, I came to understand that so many of the people that live in this area value great food and wine. We spoke about local restaurants and some of their favorite dishes. It was so nice to meet these new people and realize our similar interests.

As you can imagine at this point in the day, we were extremely full from all of the wine and we needed a break from tastings. So we spent time driving through St. Helena, Rutherford, Yountville and Napa – all such quaint towns. We saw some of the most renowned restaurants in the world, as well as others that had great local flair.

We ended our Napa Valley excursion at Mustards Grill for dinner, which was an amazing meal.

Unfortunately, it was too dark inside the restaurant and none of the pictures came out. Take my word for it and the next time you are out that way, make a reservation there!

Have you ever been to a winery or done a wine tasting before? Do you enjoy it?

My blog appetite is back!

28 Mar

As you know, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. Many of you have asked why that is and my simple, yet truthful answer has been that I’ve lost my blogging mojo. Over the past five months, I haven’t felt inspired to write about new restaurants or my own culinary adventures. However, after a recent long weekend trip out west to San Francisco with Ben, I was quickly re-inspired and brought back to writing about my love for food.

San Francisco is known for its great food and the restaurants were especially accommodating to my vegetarian diet. I wasn’t able to capture everything we consumed, but I think you will understand why I am excited to write again about my fun food experiences 🙂

This was actually my first trip to San Francisco! One of our first stops was a French bakery, La Boulange Bakery, which happens to be a chain that’s located across the Bay area.

I was hankering for some fresh baked goods and instead of choosing one, we decided to split three different kinds- whole-wheat sesame croissant, chocolate croissant and a feta scallion roll!

I have to let you in on a secret though….my trip was not done completely on the fly. I spent a great deal of time planning, researching and consulting with an old friend and fantastic blogger, Victoria, who gave us some wonderful suggestions.

One of her recommendations was Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights.

It was a good thing I also read some reviews before we went, so that we knew to expect a long line and that we needed to write our name on a chalkboard in order to get seated!

Once seated, we ordered a broccoli rabe pizza, which was fantastic.

After spending some time in San Francisco, I’m excited to go back and compare Pizzeria Delfina to its rivals, Flour + Water and A16.

We were lucky that we were able to spend a Saturday (though a very rainy one) at the farmer’s market at the Ferry building. We had such a great time talking to the local vendors, checking out their fresh produce and all of the other products that were there. We sampled some amazing cheeses, tapenades and breads.

The majority of our trip was spent in San Francisco, but we also did get the chance to go out to Napa Valley for a day. Stay tuned for my next blog post on our time in the wine country!

Have you ever been on a trip that has inspired you? If not, do you have anything planned in the near future?

A hiking adventure…

25 Oct

This past weekend, I was in Washington, DC with my boyfriend Ben. Typically when I’m in DC with him, we spend our time visiting with friends, eating at our favorite restaurants and walking or biking in the city. However, we decided to do something different than usual and take a day trip out of the city to go hiking.

We headed to the Shenandoah Valley, which is about two and a half hours outside of DC, early on Saturday morning. Ben has been looking forward to this hike for some time and planned out which trail we were going to follow. We packed sandwiches, snacks and water to sustain us for the estimated 5-hour hike.

We began the hike at the bottom of the mountain and worked our way uphill for about three hours. We passed waterfalls, big boulders and many other people working their way through the hike.

Going uphill for those hours was absolutely grueling for me. Although I may spend quality time in the gym, working out in the nature is completely different and extremely challenging. Ben, on the other hand, is not a gym ‘go-er’ and thrives on outdoor activities, like mountain biking. Look how happy hiking makes him!

We stopped multiple times so that I could catch my breath take photos of the gorgeous surroundings…

After we reached the top waterfall, we then started on another path, which we thought would lead us back down the mountain. Instead, we got lost and after about 40 minutes of (uphill) hiking and no people in sight, we finally came across a group of young guys who were also lost. Together with our new-found friends, we turned around and walked back to the way we came from and found the trail, which ultimately led us downhill.

Throughout the entire time were hiking uphill, I kept thinking (and voicing my thoughts aloud to Ben) about how excited I was to just start hiking downhill. Let me tell you, downhill is not as liberating as I thought it would be. It was very difficult, both physically and mentally.

Overall, the hike was lengthy and took us 5 hours to complete. It was great exercise and a good way to get away from our hectic daily lives; I even left my BlackBerry in the car! I’m not sure that I’m entirely ready to go on another intense 5-hour hike in the near future. I’m still sore today and can now say that hiking is not an easy feat!

Have you done an activity lately that you’ve found challenging? If so, would you do it again?

Weekend Routines

16 Oct

We are creatures of habit in the way that we choose to live our lives. For example, my mom has eaten the same lunch 5 days a week for 23 years. She claims that she never gets tired of her melba toast and cottage cheese, while I beg to differ, I am starting to think that she’s on to something.

Since I took up boxing as a hobby 7 months ago and spinning about 4 years ago, I love having the weekends as extra time to devote to fitness. When I’m not doing the monthly bike ride, I am a regular at my gym just before 9am on Saturdays and Sundays. I take spinning class at 9am and I even try to use the same bike every weekend! I’ve written about my love for spinning before and so much of that is attributed to the instructor and their music selection. If you were to ever catch me mid-class in the cycling studio, you’d see me jamming out and singing along out to some great tunes. After spinning, I typically run out of the room to start wrapping my hands for the upcoming boxing class.

Lately, on Saturdays, I work out on my own until Randall “The Knockout King” Bailey gets to the gym. Randall is a welterweight world-champion boxer and quite frankly, he kicks my ass every time I work out with him. He is training for an upcoming boxing match in December in Belgium. What I enjoy most about Randall’s way of teaching is that the class is based on technique, and because of his background, he can teach us all so much about the proper way to box. Oh yea, and I like that he takes me into the ring and I get to go one-on-one with him!

On Sundays, you can imagine my schedule is slightly similar to Saturdays. (hey – I did start the blog post off by saying I was a creature of habit!) I love getting my spinning workout in first thing in the morning, because it not only revs me up for the boxing class that follows, but it also gives me such a positive attitude for the entire day. After Sunday’s spinning class, I take a class that focuses on boxing, cardio and boot camp exercises. The trainer for this class actually teaches about 15 classes a week at my gym; he’s been boxing since he was 7 years old! From this class, I’ve learned that I love jumping rope and running around the block as a group.

At the same time, I’ve also learned that I strongly dislike the part of the class where we do mountain climbers and pushups! My favorite part of the class is the portion where we focus on boxing and bag work.

As I’ve mentioned before, not many other fitness activities come close to how great boxing is for you, physically and mentally. I know it may seem like a great deal of time to focus on fitness each weekend morning, but I enjoy the exhilaration during both classes, as well as how I feel after a solid two-hour workout!

Are you a creature of habit in your daily life? If so, does that pertain to fitness, restaurants you frequent or even the way you take your coffee?

Let’s go ride a bike!

10 Oct

Once a month, I participate in a community-wide bike ride sponsored by a local Miami Beach bicycle shop. The ride occurs on the second Saturday of every month (yes- even during the sweltering summer months!) at 9 a.m. It takes place on Miami Beach and the police escort the group through the 16-mile ride.

I have done the ride alone a couple of times and it’s been a great way to meet other cyclists in the community. However, I usually ride with my friend Sergio, who is a great biking partner!

It’s always great to catch up with him while getting in some exercise. After the 16-mile ride, we peel off and continue to ride for another five miles or so by ourselves.

There was a huge turnout at yesterday’s ride, probably because it was a gorgeous day and the weather is finally starting to cool off here.

It is always so lovely biking through the streets of South Beach when most of the residents and tourists are still asleep from the night before!

Since there were so many people yesterday, the ride started out much slower than I’m used to. In fact, we were even at the front of the group, trailing behind the police cars! So – the last five miles with Sergio were really necessary to make the bike ride a great workout.

I always look forward to the monthly bike ride because it’s different than my typical workout routine on the weekends (more on that later…) and because I do it with friends!

Do you participate in fitness activities with friends or do you prefer to do them solo?

Change of seasons!

30 Sep

As the weather cools down around many parts of the country, I’m beginning to crave to comfort foods that remind me of fall. I have been spending some quality time in the kitchen lately, experimenting with dishes that make me remember that the season is (or will be…) changing (hey- if I don’t do it in my kitchen, I don’t know if I can rely on the temperatures actually dropping in Miami!)

So, I ventured to buy a spaghetti squash, a vegetable that screams fall to me. Spaghetti squash is great because it acts as a healthy, hearty and lower-fat substitute to pasta. How did I create this delicacy?

Well, first set the oven to 400 degrees. Then, I took the spaghetti squash and rubbed some olive oil on the outside and poked many holes in it with a knife.

Keep the spaghetti squash in the oven for about 50 minutes and then take it out to cool for about five minutes before cutting it in half. After cutting it, take out all of the seeds and starting scouring the squash with a fork immediately; you will soon start to see spaghetti-like strings. Discard the seeds and put the spaghetti strings into a bowl.

There are many ways you can serve this dish and I decided to put an Italian spin on it. While the spaghetti squash was in the oven, I took cherry tomatoes and put some olive oil and kosher salt over them and roasted them in the oven, along side the squash, until they started to burst (about 35 minutes).

I also sautéed onions and spinach to throw in the mix. After the tomatoes were roasted and the other ingredients were sautéed, I mixed them in a bowl with the spaghetti squash.

Finally (and save the best part for last!), I cut up chunks of fresh mozzarella and mixed it throughout the dish. Personally, I like the dish kicked up with some spice – so I add crushed red pepper throughout as well.

Have you started cooking with new ingredients now that the seasons are changing? What are your favorite fall dishes?

Favorite foods from A-Z

20 Sep

Warning: Not your typical Eat More Meat Less post! I recently saw this on a blog that I follow, Beth’s Journey (thanks for letting me borrow the idea!), and thought I’d give it a try too. It’s a list of my favorite foods, using the ABCs!

Asparagus. One of my favorite vegetables, I particularly loved them grilled.
Beans. A staple in my vegetarian diet, these are always a great go-to protein. I’ve always really liked refried and black beans, but I’ve recently discovered white cannellini beans – a great addition to salads.
Cheese. From the classic cheddar to the more complex Port Salut, I truly enjoy it all! It’s also the foundation for the grilled cheese sandwich – which has been a favorite of mine since I was a child.

Dill pickles. Speaking of grilled cheese sandwiches, nothing pairs better with it than a dill pickle.
Egg whites. The perfect thing to eat on Sunday mornings. Light, fluffy and best complemented with cheese and veggies.
Frosting. Okay – so I like cake and cupcakes, but we all know that the star of both desserts is the frosting! I happen to love the frosting from the cakes at Costco.
Gnocchi. My favorite Italian dish, homemade potato or cheese dumplings, paired with fresh mozzarella makes a wonderful dinner.
Hummus. I’m a huge fan of hummus; not only because it tastes great but also because it’s a healthy dish that can be a spread on sandwiches or a great dip. There are so many brands out there, but Cedars brand (which I find at Whole Foods) is at the top of my list!

Ice cream. My favorite flavor is peanut butter, which is not always that easy to find!
Java. So it’s not a food, but coffee is a must in my daily diet. What can I say? I always need a java buzz!
Ketchup. One of my favorite condiments and extremely necessary on the aforementioned egg whites!

Lettuce. I know it may not sound too exciting, but lettuce is a wonderful vegetable and it is the foundation for such great dishes – iceberg wedge, taco salad, Greek salad.
Macaroni and cheese. I’m definitely a kid at heart; anytime I see macaroni and cheese on a menu out a restaurant, my eyes light up! It’s one of those comfort meals that I don’t eat often, but I love it when others make it for me.

Naan. It may sound strange that I don’t love Indian food, as a vegetarian because there are so many options, but I absolutely love naan. It actually reminds me of the homemade pita bread we used to make at camp growing up.
Oatmeal. It’s a healthy breakfast option that keeps me full for hours.
Potatoes. Every week, I have them on my grocery list because there are so many ways to make them! I most enjoy oven fries and baked potatoes.
Quesadillas. Being from Texas, Tex-Mex is my favorite type of food. I love quesadillas because they are easy to make and you can get creative on what you put inside them, mmm….grilled onions and spinach.
Reese’s. Hands down my favorite candy. I love the pieces and the cups and I also love mashing them in my ice cream (even if it’s peanut butter flavor – the more peanut butter, the better!)

Smoothies. I enjoy them because they are so refreshing and every time I make a smoothie – it’s a unique combination that somehow always tastes slightly different than the last time I made it!
Toast. You may think this is too simple to be a favorite, but I really enjoy a hot baguette or piece of challah straight from the toaster.
Udon noodles. These are great in a broth or just with vegetables.
Veggie burgers. Let’s just say, I have a couple of favorites…
Whipped cream cheese. I love it mixed with olives and because it’s whipped – a little goes a long way!
X-Mas cookies. So this one is a stretch, but I must say – I love the soft sugar cookies that have the frosting and sprinkles on top…you can buy at them at the grocery store buy at Christmas time.

Yogurt. I really enjoy frozen yogurt, a healthy alternative to one of my previously mentioned favorites – ice cream and Greek yogurt, which is packed with protein.
Zatar. If you’ve made it this far, you already read that we used to make pita bread at camp. When it was warm and right off of the hot fire, we would top it with Zatar, which is a really unique Middle Eastern spice.

After this exercise, I realized many of my favorite foods start with the same letter. For example, the letter P – I went back and forth because I like Potatoes, Peanut Butter and Pizza so much it was difficult to pick a favorite!

Try doing this exercise, it’s not as easy as it seems! Do you and I have any favorites in common?