Girls on Food

Coffee

Staying At The St. Jane Hotel And Dining At Free Rein In Chicago

My annual summer trip to Chicago was met with a big first for me – it would be the first trip with my 4-month-old daughter Marie! Usually, on my trips, I freely roam the city, restaurant to restaurant doing whatever I please… those days are over.

Now that we’re traveling as a family, I have a lot to consider when looking for a hotel. I wanted to make sure my stay was comfortable for baby Marie, charming to the eye for my husband and food-centric for myself. I was a little nervous about staying at a boutique hotel because I wasn’t sure how baby friendly it would be. Many boutiques I’ve stayed in, tend to be a smaller in bedroom size, with more sophisticated furnishings – great for adults but I need to consider the little one.

We decided to book a junior suite at the St. Jane Hotel, which opened in July, and it delivered on all 3 counts.

This boutique hotel is located in the 37-story Carbide and Carbon Building, built in 1929. The outside maintains an art deco flair with its black granite and gold accents and the moment you walk in, it feels half Great Gatsby half Lana Del Rey – Jazz age meets hipster chic.

Carbide and Carbon Building
Baby Marie loves the art deco style!

The Premiere Junior Suite is a bit of splurge, but it’s so perfectly spacious that it’s worth it or a family vacation. The astonishing views of the city, a roomy shower (that also has a beautiful city view!) and a big comfy bed are worth the upgrade. Bonus: the toiletries are products by Mason Margiela’s ‘Replica’ Jazz Club line, my all time favorite perfume!

A view from our room at night

St. Jane Hotel’s key restaurant is Free Rein, a modern French brasserie led by chef Aaron Lirette, who obtained a Michelin star for GreenRiver. Free Rein serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers a coffee shop, full bar and provides the hotel room service. Here’s how I savored the hotel with an ultimate epicurean stay.

I started the bright and early at their café, which is separated from the main dining room. The coffee is provided by Chicago fan-favorite Dark Matter and pastries by fellow Michelin star collector, pastry chef Evan Sheridan of Sixteen.

The Ham and Cheese Croissant, although not shaped in the classic crescent style, the Ham and Raclette is still flaky, buttery and I loved the addition of mustard on top. I loved my Dark Matter lattes every morning too, but with the time changes and general baby exhaustion, I did fuel up on their Nitro Cold Brews as well.

Ham and Raclette Croissant
Latte

Later on, Chicago Girls on Food blogger Hilary met up with me for lunch, where I was able to get a little break from the family and do what I love to do the most – explore a new restaurant. Highlights from this lunch included:

Sweet Corn Soup– corn, scallion, and coconut

I always love a presentation of soup pouring! 

Kanpachi Crudo– English peas, heart of palm, citrus, caviar 

Soft Shell Crab BLT– Bacon, gem lettuce, Old Bay aioli

Saffron Spaghetti – tomato, fine herbs, parmesan

I loved all of Chef Lirette’s artful takes on American classics for lunch. If I had to choose tops spots, my number 1 was definitely the Soft Shell Crab BLT. This succulent sandwich is paired perfectly with the crispy Old Bay seasoned fries. The Kanpachi Crudo is a close second, it felt like a spot-on execution of “summer on a plate”. For lunch, I recommend washing it all down with a glass of Virtue’s Rosé Cider, it’s crisp, lightly floral but pairs perfectly with any of the dishes above.

Virtue Rosé Cider

For dinner, the lights dim down and it feels a little fancier at Free Rein. The menu expands out to a number of new options, including large format items, intended for sharing.

I started with a glass of Clos des Papes “Le Petit Vin d’Avril” a rich, Rhône blend to pair with decadent dishes. The absolute favorite item was the Foie Gras Tourchon with black truffle, Marcona almonds, cherry compote and summer berries. This item will be available on the Fall menu, so make sure you pop in there soon!

Foie Gras Tourchon

My other favorites included the Tomato Salad, with black garlic, cucumber and sourdough and the large format Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye with chanterelle mushrooms, potato puree, and beef jus.

Tomato Salad
Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye

Staying in a very touristy part of town and relying on the hotel to have extraordinary food sets a bar very high and sometimes isn’t realistic, but Free Rein and the St. Jane Hotel exceeded my expectations.

GOF Tip: The room service menu offers some items from the Free Rein menu – go for the Smoked Whitefish Toast. Since I was watching Marie, it’s nice to have an easy-to-eat but still gourmet meal around!

Baby Marie admiring the gold elevator doors

Although the lunch portion was provided by Free Rein, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

Lauren’s Last Bite Takes Over London

There’s no need to dread turning 35 if you do it with an epic trip to London. Turn up!! Turn up!! If you read any of my previous posts, you will recall I was living in Puerto Rico. I have since relocated back to Washington D.C. I love to travel as often as I can, but I am frugal. I would much rather spend my hard-earned moolah on food and cocktails! It is cheaper to book a flight out of NYC to London, which gave me the opportunity to try the ‘Purple Amethyst Latte’ at The End in Brooklyn. This vegan latte was a berry-infused, antioxidant rich, mood lifting drink with ube and a touch of lavender honey! This coffee shop offers a couple of energizing drinks as alternatives to coffee at their “Plant Alchemy Bar”. They are also famous for their ‘Unicorn Latte’.

Upon landing in London, a city known for its abundance of Michelin starred restaurants, I didn’t know which one to choose.  Luckily there were a few near my hotel. Another plus about London’s bevy of Michelin starred restaurants is that most of them are open for lunch and offer a prix fixe option that won’t blow your food budget. Unfortunately, I have a food budget AND a drink budget. My drink budget has been known to be loftier than my food budget. I chose the Typing Room’. It was modern, sleek, yet still approachable. I ‘day-dressed up’, but other diners were more casually dressed.  The food was stellar and the open kitchen gave way to a wonderful show. It was raining (duh, I was in London) and I ate a little heavier than usual for lunch. Venison, braised cabbage two ways with yogurt and demi-glace. The venison was so tender that no knife was needed.

Venison Medallions, Cabbage 2 ways, Spiced Yogurt and Demi Glace

Blown away by the service, food and the experience at Typing Room, I couldn’t leave London without checking another Michelin starred restaurant off my list. I love some fusion and StreetXO was highly recommended. This was a Spanish/Asian fusion. Ok, I can dig it. No surprise I started with a celebratory drink. They had me at vodka, St. Germain and that big a** glass. StreetXO has a variety of tasting menus, but being alone I was able to order a la carte. YAY!!! I had the “club” sandwich. Being a former Boricua, I couldn’t resist a croquette. These were a perfect mix of Spanish/Asian fusion: kimchi, raw salmon, trout roe, Lapsang Souchong tea, and sheep’s milk. These were perfect from the first dribble-down-your-chin-I-don’t-care-I-am-in-public bite. It was THAT good. The menu looked so good. I want to go back with more people and devour the entire menu…twice!  Most of the clientele were Spaniards. I loved this, because you know if natives are eating there it is legit. This also let me know how far my Spanish has regressed since living in Puerto Rico. 

“Club Sandwich” from StreetXO
Croquettes with kimchi, trout roe

I fell for the hype and went to the ICEBAR in London. It is exactly what you imagine…a bar with everything made of ice: the bar, the glassware, the seats, EVERYTHING. I’m guessing it’s an improbability that they ever run out of ice.  At the door you are greeted with ski jackets to keep you insulated in the constant brisk -5 Celsius temperature. It’s as cold as it sounds and your jacket comes with gloves attached. BRRRRRRR. I’m having cold flashbacks. It was a cool spot (literally and figuratively). The bar is sponsored by ABSOLUT and each year the inside has a different theme. When I visited it was a zoo them. Gorillas, zebras and tigers, oh my! I’ll be honest, I was a bit too cold to take it all in. Even the cute bartender with the sexy, South African accent couldn’t coax me into staying. Look me up when you have a job in a temperate climate.

treacle tart

As always, I will conclude with my last bite. I will go back to London for the ‘treacle tart’ from Boxcar Butcher and Grill. From my understanding, treacle is term for molasses, but is also slang for sweetheart. This tart had a sweet/salty combo from a dusting of caramel corn. All I can say is, “WTF?” Where’s the Food?

Cute Bartender @Icebar in London

Party Ideas for the Best Galentine’s Day Ever!

Happy Galentine’s Day from Girls on Food!

Welcome to our first official Galentine’s Day Party Guide 2018! Although it’s not technically an official holiday, we at Girls on Food can’t help but indulge in this very special day to celebrate our favorite ladies!

With Galentine’s Day approaching us on Tuesday, February 13th, and Valentine’s Day following the next day, we wanted to provide you with a few of our favorite party items and ideas to help you plan the ultimate Galentine’s Day celebration- the kind Leslie Knope would be impressed with.

There are many exclusive promo codes and deals in this party guide, so you can try many of these products at discounted prices! Be sure to keep an eye for them and any notes on expiration dates.

First: Send an American Greetings e-card to get your girl-squad pumped

The party invites have already gone out, your guest list is set and it’s the morning of Tuesday, February 13th. What better way to get your friends pumped for the party that night by sending them an American Greetings e-card?

Forget sappy, snail mail greeting cards of the past, American Greetings has an array of options that will make your galpals chuckle. Our favorites are the Smooth Hamster and the Michael Bolton e-cards.

The best part of American Greetings e-cards is that they have a monthly membership option, and you can send unlimited e-cards, no matter what the occasion is. It covers all your bases, letting someone special know you’re thinking about them and in a way that’s so much easier, creative and doesn’t leave an ecological footprint.

Use this link to receive a FREE 7-Day Trial Subscription at AmericanGreetings.com!

Then: Plan The Party

A better version of the little black book from 27 Dresses, the Panda Planner is a necessity for having a stress-free life and a perfectly organized Galentine’s dinner party. Combine that with a Maria Shireen bracelet to dress up your hair ties and a modern Snowe candle for ambiance and you’re in perfect party-planning mode! Want your own? Use the code MSxGOF for 15% off qualified bracelets, and GOFPANDA for 10% off your own planner, February 2nd through March 2nd!

Get That Kitchen Organized

Take a trip to your happy place, the Container Store, to get your home extra organized! We recommend customizing your drawer organizer (or using their starter kit) to avoid any embarrassment when your dinner guests go through your drawers for an extra piece of silverware. Go one step further by installing drawer liners that repel dirt and water, prevent sliding and add an extra layer to the design! I used the InterDesign Linus drawer organizer starter kit to organize my Littledeer wooden utensils, Centellino wine decanter, Chemex handles, chambray cocktail napkins, and Pottery Barn copper handled flatware.

You’ll need oven mitts that match your sassy attitude and are still functional when handling that hot stuff. Blue Q’s Oven Mitts are super-insulated 100% cotton and a percentage of their sales are donated to hunger relief programs throughout the world. Elevate your kitchen accessory game even further by pairing a Le Creuset Cerise Red Signature Saucepan with Littledeer’s Hand-Made Heart Paddle for love in the kitchen, and you’re ready to begin cooking!

Prepare Your Floral Arrangements

As can be assumed for any Galentine’s/Valentine’s Day event, flowers are a MUST! The Flower Chef by Carly Cylinder is a modern guide to do-it-yourself floral arrangements. With plenty of imagery and easy to follow instructions, you’ll be a pro florist just in time!

Set The Table

Here are some of the basics for setting a table:

  1. Place utensils in order of use, from the outside in (salad forks are left of dinner forks, and spoons are to the right of dinner knifes)
  2. Forks go on the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right
  3. Only include utensils that are needed based on the menu you’re serving (if you’re not serving soup, don’t put out the soup spoon).

My favorite themed flatware, that can also be used throughout the year, is the copper handled flatware set from Pottery Barn, which enhances your Galentine’s Day dinner with the handcrafted copper-plated stainless steel. Linen Hemstitch embroidered placements are far more practical than paper lace hearts, and are versatile for formal and casual occasions alike. My favorite ceramic salad and dinner plates are from the Costa Nova Riviera Collection They are safe for the dishwasher, freezer, microwave, and oven! In addition to the impressive craftsmanship, they’re great for everyday use, being that they’re extremely durable, chip-resistant, and thermal-shock resistant.

Host a Bake-Off

One fun way to bond in the kitchen with your girlfriends is to have a bake off! Foodstirs modern baking (Sarah Michelle Gellar is a co-founder) delivers non-perishable, organic dry ingredients, all natural decorations, and chemical-free dyes to make tasty treats. Their Baker’s Club is a bi-monthly subscription that features fun kits like the Sweetheart Brownies (seen in image). You can also purchase fun individual baking kits such as Rainbow Cake Pops and Out of This World Donuts. Making these brownies was so easy and I cannot wait to try their other kits! These kits are also very fun to inspire little ones to get in the kitchen. Use promo code GIRLSONFOOD for 20% off your first purchase on their site.

 A Stranger Galentine’s

For those of you who cannot get enough of this throwback thriller, why not enter the Upside Down for a theme? Stranger Things inspired costumes, Christmas lights and a round of D & D are musts for this idea. For sweet baked treats, we recommend picking up a copy of Stranger Fillings by the Muffin Brothers (a parody cookbook) for inspiration. We couldn’t resist testing out the book with a banana-blonde wig version of Eleven’s Eggo’s. WARNING: According to a study conducted by Hawkins National Laboratory, the more advanced recipes such as the Demogorgonzola Tartlets, Friends Don’t Li(m)e Pie and The Upside Down Cake could leave guests with telekinetic powers. Collectible figurines by Funko are also fun and are perfect for any fan-girl still mourning the loss of Barb.

Vino Vixens

You’re going to need all of the essentials for a wine-centric night:
1) For aerating and chilling your whites and roses to the perfect temperature, the icicle-looking Corkcicle Air is inserted directly into the bottle after being in the freezer for 90 minutes. Use the code GIRLSONFOOD for 20% off products on the Corkcicle site, now through March 31st!
2) To avoid the guesswork for your wine purchasing, order from Winc to have 4 bottles shipped to your doorstep based on the flavor profiles you know you love. For a limited time only, use the code GIRLSONFOOD for $25.00 off your first order of Winc!
3) The online store Wine Enthusiast carries all of the best wine glassware lines, including Zafferano and Fusion. The Zafferano Red Wine Glasses are uniquely shaped and remarkably lightweight and perfectly suited for bold and aged reds with the narrow opening of the mouth maximizing aroma and a generous bowl promotes oxidation for the wines to breathe. The handblown crystal Fusion Air Wine Glasses are also exceptionally lightweight with a large bowl, while also being dishwasher safe and remarkably break-resistant (if you break it, they’ll replace it for free up with a 10-year guarantee)!
4) To help guests keep track of their wine glass, the uniquely shaped Palm City wine charms are both fun and functional, with fun themed designs such as Beachy and Wine Lovers! Use code GIRLSONFOOD for free shipping and 15% off your entire Palm City order, now through March 2nd!
5) To avoid wasting any time opening a bottle of wine, the Original Rabbit Corkscrew pulls a cork in 3 seconds and then automatically releases the cork making it the most efficient opener in your collection!

Brew Up Some Fun! 

You’re about to start enjoying your craft beers and carbonated beverages in a whole new way. Become a bartender wherever you go. Unlike traditional growlers, the pressurized GrowlerWerks uKeg uses a CO2 canister to keep your beers fresh for up to two weeks after your first pour. Pro tip: Make sure to have your 33 Bottles of Beer tasting book handy for notes on the contents of each uKeg! For your own copper plated keg, use code uGIRLSONFOOD for free shipping via U.S. Ground; expires at midnight on March 2nd.

Tea Time

Being realistic, following the wine you’re going to want to wind down with a nice cup of tea and honey. One of my personal favorites is the Blackberry Sage by the Republic of Tea, which pairs perfectly with the elegantly packaged healing Manuka Honey from Kiwi Importer (raw honey made from bees that feed on the Manuka tree). Note, if you create an account with Kiwi Importer, you receive $5 off your first purchase!

Cool Beans

With dessert (or with clean up the morning after) you’re going to want to serve delicious, quality coffee. And now that specialty coffee shops ship their beans nationwide, you can pre-order your single origin just in time for your event! I personally love Ritual Coffee, based in San Francisco, for their bright red packaging and seasonal beans that make for perfect drip coffee in a Chemex.

Time For Desserts 

Treat your gals to sweets on themed Galentine’s Day dessert plates by Nicole Miller Home, sold exclusively at T.J.Maxx. Don’t forget to elevate your candy game and have a few of your favorite Sugarfina boxes on hand for snacking! After all, Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day are times to indulge; with delicious and unique flavors such as “Cheers To Us” Champagne Bears and “Love You a Bunch” But First, Rosé Roses, who could resist?

An Option For The Health-Nut

We all have that one gal-pal who insists on following her diet throughout Valentine’s Day. While we may not have the same willpower as she does, we can try to let her clean-eating influence us a little. Serving an array of Siren Snacks at your party will keep her happy and allows you to indulge in a tasty guilt-free treat. These plant-based protein bites (12 grams per serving) are dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free and soy-free and contain no artificial colors or sweeteners. This is also a girl-powered company, founded by sisters Elizabeth and Abigail Giannuzzi from San Francisco. There’s plenty of variety in flavors with Dark Chocolate Brownie, Cookie Dough and Snickerdoodle, but our favorite flavor is the Lemon Poppyseed; a sweet and zesty break from the traditional protein bars. Use promo code GIRLSONFOOD for 20% off your first purchase on their site.

Keeping It Clean

If you’re hosting a party, you must be sure guests have the option to use hand sanitizers before digging into their favorite finger foods, but don’t you hate it when those ugly anti-bac bottles are on the table? Enter: OLIKA 2-in-1 hand sanitizers. These adorable little “Birdies” keep your mitts clean with a hand sanitizing spray that is a push spray at top half of the bird and hands wipes at the base of the bird. Use promo code: GIRLSONFOOD for 10% off OLIKA purchase ($15 minimum) on their site.

Got a friend with a major sweet tooth? Be sure to check out Double D’s Truffles & Treats for an assortment of handmade chocolates. Ten dollars will get you a 15 piece gift-wrapped box and you get to customize the flavors in the box. Plus – this chocolatier, is able to create flavors by request and have them shipped to your door.

A “Happy Ending” 😉 

Have you checked out Sugary Charm’s Kama Sutra Collection? Known for their more PG-rated cookie cutters, they have recently expanded into a naughtier line of cookie cutters. Unlike standard metal cookie cutters, these are made with food safe materials (PLA- a biodegradable, plant-based plastic, FDA-approved) and, even better, they imprint the dough perfectly. Check out their site for options and use promo code GIRLSONFOOD for 25% off your Kama Sutra cookie cutters purchase.

Start your free trial now!

This post is sponsored by American Greetings on behalf of PepperJam Networks; all opinions expressed are our own. 

Girls on Food’s Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays from Girls on Food!

Welcome to our holiday gift guide 2017! Being that we still have 6 days left of Hanukkah and 10 days until Christmas, we wanted to provide a few of our wishlist items to help anyone still shopping for the foodies in their life (even if that foodie is yourself) find the perfect gifts! No matter your budget, consider your holiday shopping sorted from us at Girls on Food!

For the Millennial cocktail enthusiast

Copper Drinking Vessels from Absolut Elyx Boutique

Send the perfect gift to the thirsty pal in your life, providing them with Instagram-worthy copper bar tools and drink-ware for every occasion. Shake up the holidays with curated boxes fit for all cocktail lovers, from the iconic Copper Pineapple to the gift sets that satisfy what every liquorist really wants for the holidays: to make fancy and delicious cocktails at home with snazzy copper mugs. After all, #CopperMakesItBetter!
Embracing all the current beverage trends, Moscow Mules, pineapples, engravings, copper-everything, premium drinking vessels and beverage tools, these gift sets are perfect for enhancing any drinking occasion. The official drinking glass of the Moscow Mule, Absolut Elyx’s copper mugs are preferred glassware of not only home mixologists but also of many restaurants and bars, being both perfect at keeping drinks cold while also being extremely photogenic for the ‘Gram. #ad

Check out the Absolut Elyx boutique here.

View slide show below for our other favorite gifts
click on the image for purchasing info

Beer, wine, coffeeCookbook, OrganicCookbook, salad spinnerLollipopsAvocado MonthlyManuka Honey, Skincare, Inflamed SkinSpoonsMagnetsNapkinsStar Wars, chop sticksThe Paragron Smart Cooking SystemChristmas Accessories, Sweaters, Christmas Stockings, Wine

 

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Absolut Elyx and other Girls on Food partners. The opinions and text are all mine.

Can-Can Fatbois Eat All of France?

This May, the Fatbois were STAYIN’ IN PARIS (s/o to The Chainsmokers, more specifically, Drew) TO GET AWAY FROM OUR PARENTS (like… sort of… we still live at home… don’t judge). As we embarked, baguettes, blocks of cheese, and croissants can-canned through our heads.

Upon arrival to our hotel, Opera-Daunou, we ditched our luggage and ventured out into the city. We stumbled onto La Colombe, a cozy café, located on 2 Rue de la Paix. We were greeted by the friendliest staff, who excused my pathetic attempts at speaking French. One thing we’ve noticed is that Europe does coffee very differently from the states. It is typically stronger, poured into a smaller serving. Discovering the equivalent to our medium Dunkin iced coffees became a series of trial and error. The key to success is to order either a café au lait or a café americano. We topped off our café with chocolate-filled croissants, which easily became an everyday staple. 761BAC8B-5C5D-483E-B9FB-B5571631029D

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Local Fixture Coffee Bar in Whittier, CA

Coffee anyone?

I have to be honest, I do not know anything about the city of Whittier, but by the looks of it, it seems like a small humble town with lots of potential. Local Fixture is just what this town needed.

Local Fixture Coffee Bar
6728 Bright Ave, Whittier, CA 90601
https://www.localfixture.com/

You can also follow them on IG @localfixture_coffee

Inside Local Fixture, you’ll notice a lot product selections throughout the store that is thoughtfully put together. (Note cards, candles, trendy mugs, socks, jewelry, back packs, and other novelty items)

The star of the shop is their coffee bar, serving up Stumptown Coffee and The Art of Tea. Clean and simple decor. Their coffee is amazing, and the staff is absolutely wonderful. If you have a sweet tooth, they also have yummy pastries to go along with your coffee.

One thing I like about this place is that it feels cozy. It’s spacious, it’s trendy, it’s unique- it’s a place i can find myself coming to everyday. There’s a succulent wall outside that’s very Instagram-worthy, and plenty of space inside for you to either catch up on work, or chit chat with an old friend. The people here are very welcoming, and they have great taste in music!

I’ll be sure to come back here for seconds.

The Morning After, A Dallas Observer Brunch Event

The Morning After
A Dallas Observer Brunch Event
http://www.dobrunchthemorningafter.com/

morning after brunch, Dallas ObserverIt was a picture perfect day here in Dallas for the inaugural Morning After, a Dallas Observer Brunch Event hosted by Whole Foods Market.  I am here to tell you these people know how to put on a food festival. This venue was the best. The brunch was held at the Dallas Farmers Market. The shade from the open-air shed was needed on this unseasonably warm and sunny February Saturday. More than 20 of Dallas’ shining brunch stars were out cooking up free samples to chow down on. Oh, did I mention free drinks and music too.

Here are just a few of my faves…in no particular order!

Lucky’s Cafe: Chicken and Waffles with a side of gravy AND syrup. This boneless chicken needed nothing. What was in that crust?

Jonathon’s Oak Cliff: Peppered biscuits, peppered gravy and kabob of smoked sausage, ham and bacon glazed in coffee. GLAZED IN COFFEE. Am I in heaven?

Asian Mint: Fried rice for breakfast? Well, of course! Especially if it is loaded with bacon, eggs and a little sriracha sauce.

Full Circle Tavern: Biscuit with sausage gravy and candied peppered bacon. A perfect bite.

Hypnotic Donuts: The Canadian Healthcare will put you in the hospital it is so good. This maple-glazed donut is topped with…wait for it…BACON. 

Ida Claire: First up, mini blueberry pancakes, blueberry-cardamom compote, butter and yogurt whipped cream. Followed up with superseed granola, honey greek yogurt, seasonal fruit and basil. Neither with bacon…they were sublime without it.

Amazing food, amazing venue. Can’t wait until next year. I might not eat until then!

Empire Espresso & Amandine Bakeshop in Seattle

14794067_10154657478534628_798819453_nIf you’re a Seattlelite, coffee runs through your bloodstream. You’re constantly searching for the next best thing. Well, I’m here to tell you that Empire Espresso is stiff competition and with Amandine Bakeshop right by its side, you are bound to fall in love.

Empire Espresso has been around for 7 years, with locations in Capitol Hill and Columbia City. Owners Ian and Natural put a lot of thought into the process of making coffee, from the type of drinks they serve to the employees and even the milk. This attention to detail makes all the difference. They make their cashew milk in house, turn that into a Chai latte and you’re good to go!

amandine 2Need a pastry? Amandine Bakeshop bakes all of their goodies right in front of you.

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Chef Sara Naftaly and her team provide most delicious assortment of daily macarons (featured: Lime + Tahitian Vanilla Bean, Guava + Cajeta and Indian Blood – Peach).

amandine 4

My favorite pastry? Their chocolate, carambar, sea-salt and hazelnut cookie.

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When you visit, be prepared to get a slice of cake (featured: Buttermilk Cake with seasonal berry (mine was blueberry) and candied ginger). And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the macaron ice cream sandwiches!

Empire Espresso was also featured in Seattle Met Magazine for Best Coffee shop in Columbia City/ Capitol Hill. Treat yourself, grab a coffee and a pastry and enjoy their upstairs area.

Winning In Windham: A Vinoventure

As Thoreau once said, I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately…..and to sample wine.  ALL OF THE WINE.  Ok, maybe I added that second bit, but I imagine that’s what he was thinking.  I had the pleasure of traveling the back roads of Windham, NY with my father and happened upon some new local treasures.

After traversing The Windham Path, our first, stop was Higher Grounds.  This laid back coffee, breakfast, sandwich shop has some wonderful options for people looking to stay healthy.  I sampled their Garden Goddess served with feta cheese, tomatoes, spinach and you can add avocado if you’re feeling frisky.  It doesn’t hurt that when you look out the window, you’re staring at a mountain.  Also, they had peppermint coffee, and I’m a sucker for peppermint coffee.  Keep your eye peeled on their specials; they like to switch it up.

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Higher Grounds
61 State Rt 296, Windham, NY 12496
https://www.facebook.com/Higher-Grounds-Coffee-Co-302891989763169/

After a morning hike, we decided to get a closer look at some of the towns finer grapes.  Situated off the main road a piece is The Windham Winery, a local establishment featuring a $20 tasting that doesn’t disappoint.

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Their tasting menu has an excellent assortment of choices.  Different and unique was their Diamond wine, a grape that is not frequently used because it has to be worked with individually and carefully.  The owner is very present and walks you through all of his wines. He’s laid back, personable- he makes this an experience you won’t forget!

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I only do wine tasting in my finest Ron Jon surfer trucker hat, an obvious class act as I taste intricate wines in this refined hiking ensemble.  Their Vino is on the sweeter side but never left my cheeks in cartoon pucker.  It has an at home, laid back feel.  You’ll find yourself staying longer than the time you expected because you can’t stop petting the dog and leisurely staring out toward the beautiful mountain vista.

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Next stop – Ze Windham Wine Bar.  A cozy little locale on the main street of town.

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Ze Windham Wine Bar
5369 Main Street Windham NY 12496
(BEHIND THE POST OFFICE)
http://zewindhamwinebar.com/wine-beer-food.html

This quaint family operated business has a lovely array of wine and beer alike.  My father is traditionally a bud light drinker but was pleasantly surprised by one of their options, the Berliner Weissbier.  I squealed with delight that I managed to get Papa Lohne to try a brew that had a decorative decal #familygoals.  Just check out the artistic craftsmanship on this bottle.

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Father proudly holds his maiden voyage of a beer that isn’t handed out for free at intramural sporting events.

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One of the owners, Cordelia, poses artfully for me in her native wine habitat.  I highly recommend Ze Windham Wine Bar and not just because it utilizes Ze as a “the.”  It’s charming, friendly, warm, and a wonderful place to have a glass of wine and socialize with the owners and the surrounding guests alike.  While I happily sipped on a cabernet, I regretfully did not try one of their cheese plates or charcuterie boards.  Suffice it to say, next time I am on a self-enforced writers retreat, I will stop by and sample a pretzel roll and pecorino cheese.

As the winter approaches and ski season is just around the corner, take a moment and visit Windham, NY.  You can traverse the friendly slopes and then grab a glass of your favorite cabernet, just maybe don’t do both at once.  Your not broken leg will thank you for it.

Bad Owl Coffee: Happy #NationalCoffeeDay!

Tucked away in an unassuming Henderson, NV Strip mall, (not nearly as cool as Diagon Alley) you can find a little bit of magic – Bad Owl Coffee.

Bad Owl Coffee

Bad Owl Coffee
10575 S Eastern Ave, Ste 160., Henderson, NV 89052
http://www.badowlcoffee.com

Wizards and muggles alike can enjoy a range of gourmet coffee and tea beverages, including their famed “Butter Brew” lattes, Mint Mojito Lattes, or Nitrobrews (nitrogen infused coffee served on tap).

In addition to drinks, they offer sandwiches and an assortment of pastries, but I was there for the coffee! I recommend the Butter Brew, with a shot of espresso added – delicious! When they ask for my name for my order, I can’t resist giving them my favorite character’s name, Minerva (I don’t care what that Sorting Hat says, I am a Gryffindor!) If you aren’t a butterscotch fan, the pistachio latte is also very good.

Bad Owl Coffee
Iced Butter Brew Latte

My first visit here was shortly after they opened, and the line was literally out the door! While the crowds have calmed down a little bit, it’s still a favorite hangout spot, and for a good reason! Not only are the drinks delicious, but the staff is also friendly, and of course the décor is awesome!

Bad Owl Coffee
Each table is stenciled with different Hogwarts themed sayings or a signpost points to different locations within the wizardly world. A (faux) owl, rests in a cage on a stack of suitcases, and brick and wooden panels line the walls, giving the feel of somewhere far away from neon lights and concrete (Bad Owl is located about 12 miles from the Las Vegas Strip.)

The Events section of their website is empty, so check out their Facebook page, as they frequently host fun events such as board game nights, and even Harry Potter themed improv.

Bad Owl Coffee
Hot Pistachio Lattes

If you are looking for a unique coffee house experience, Bad Owl Coffee casts a delicious spell even “he who must not be named” could resist, so Slyther-in and try it for yourself!

Piece of the Middle East (in Seattle): Anar and Mamnoon Street

A couple of days ago, my friend and co-worker, Quinn and I had a great idea to indulge in our pun obsessions and decided to try a little piece of the Middle East (Get it?  Piece?  Middle East?).  Essentially doing a food crawl and sampling everything at a local Middle Eastern restaurant and its vegetarian sister restaurant next door.

Mamnoon Street
2020 6th Ave Seattle, WA 98121
http://www.mamnoonstreet.com

screenshot-2016-09-11-13-32-44The same people own both Mamnoon Street and Anar, Racha and Wassef Haroun.  They also own another restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, also called Mamnoon, but there you can sit down and enjoy cocktails with your food.

The Haroun’s came to the Pacific Northwest to work in the tech industry.  They decided to plant roots here and brought a bit of their Syrian/Lebanese heritage with them into the restaurant scene.  They have found their place amongst the foodies and have expanded their availability and visibility by opening up two more locations in the Amazon campus in downtown Seattle.

Our first stop during our food crawl was Mammon Street.  We opted to sit outside in the wind, as opposed to dining inside like a rational people would.  However, sitting outside when it’s NOT raining in Seattle is a treat one can enjoy when the opportunity arises.

img_1686I ordered both the lamb and chicken shawarma.  I had every intention of eating just a little bit of both to give a fair review, but as soon as I started to bite down into the lamb, I couldn’t stop.  I began to feel full right away, and I wasn’t even a 1/4 of the way finished with it.  So I knew that trying the chicken shawarma would have to wait until later, but it eventually went into the eager hands of my Uber driver later that afternoon.

Quinn wasn’t as ambitious as I was (since I suffer from eyes bigger than stomach syndrome), so he ordered a kefta arayess aka sandwich with a side of halloumi cheese.

img_1687Of course, there was no waiting to take a pic for this guy.  He’s all about business and just started noshing.  I was able to snag a little bite of the kefta arayess and was struck by the perfect balance of seasoning in the ground beef and the saltiness of the halloumi.

Eventually, Quinn gave up and decided he was full while I still wanted to go to Anar.

 

 

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Anar
2040 6th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
http://anar.life

img_1692Anar is right around the corner from Mamnoon Street.  The vibe inside looks like a typical juice bar with the display of fresh veggies.  I’ve been there before, and I die for their iced Turkish coffees.  But what I’m really all about is their lentil and brown rice dish called Mujadara.

Topped with pickled turnips and Greek yogurt, this dish is also extra filling.  I knew that I would be eating this for leftovers during the week because it might not look like a lot of food, but it’s a lot of food.  I did manage to take a few bites, but honestly I could have exploded at that point.

img_1693Also, I couldn’t leave without getting the chia seed pudding topped with apricot jam for the road.  Again, this is something to be enjoyed when you have room in your stomach.

The price points for both Mamnoon Street and Anar are relatively reasonable, and you get a huge bang for your buck.  I don’t recommend driving to their location because parking is awful in this part of downtown Seattle. If you are in the area and are looking for a better option than Thai food or a sub sandwich, either one of these fantastic places will be a welcome change for your taste buds!