Girls on Food

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A Vegan in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas

vegan in the rio grande valley

 

farmer's market

raymondville countryside

This is the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Oddly enough, there are no valleys here. It’s flat, lush land for miles and miles. I’ve spent the past week and a half traversing this southernmost region of Texas and I have to say – I love it. Maybe it’s all the palm trees, tropical flowers, sunshine, and friendly people, but there’s something about this area that captivates me. ?? It’s made up mostly of small towns, many dotting the border of Mexico, so as a vegan coming down to visit I had no idea what to expect in terms of veg friendly food. But I was pleasantly surprised.

major health foods

There’s a handful of health foods stores in the city of McAllen, which is where I spent most of my time. McAllen is pretty small compared to the big cities I’ve lived in (Dallas, Austin, Beijing), but it’s got a nice mix of old town feel and modern amenities. There’s a Sprouts Farmers Market near downtown, which is one of my favorite health foods stores, so I was really excited to find one in the valley. I also explored a local store called Major Health Foods that has a wide selection of vitamins, supplements, beauty & skin products, vegan cheese, ice cream, and more. They even have a little bulk foods section.

coconut oil

I also found the biggest jar of coconut oil I’ve ever seen. 54 ounces for $44.00. I think it would take me a few years to use up that much! If you head past the registers toward the back of the store, you’ll come across a vegan cafe that has a different special every day. Major Health Foods has everything a vegan could need, but since they are local and not a chain, expect slightly higher prices.

mcallen public library

I ended up going to the McAllen Public Library several times. It used to be a Walmart, but when they got a new location, they gave the building to the city and it got turned into a huge library. Awesome! ? ? ?

 McAllen Public Library
4001 N 23rd St, McAllen, TX 78504

As soon as you walk inside the lobby, there’s a brand new cafe in the right hand corner. They have a wide array of coffee drinks with the option of using soy milk or almond milk, tea, salads, and a Jalapeno Veggie Wrap. I decided to try the wrap, but minus the jalapenos because I’m a little intolerant of super spicy foods.

jalapeno veggie wrap

It was quite tasty and still had a little kick to it, even without the jalapenos. It contained black beans, which made it a very filling meal, plus sauteed zucchini, spinach, carrots, a green sauce, with a side of veggie sticks and a pickle. The only thing that could’ve made it better was a few slices of avocado. For my drink, I went with their homemade sweet tea. I liked it because it wasn’t overly sweet like most, and it had a hint of citrus.

coconut chips

Across the street from the library is the 99 Cent Store ? ? woo hoo! Forget the Dollar Store ? they are sooo expensive. The family I stayed with introduced me to these delicious dark chocolate coconut chips which are normally 3 or 4 bucks, but at the 99 cent store they’re ONLY 99 cents!! They also come in a regular flavor without chocolate. The store had a nice selection of teas and I picked up an organic green tea. There’s a small produce section, wines marked down to $2.99 ?(not sure if any are vegan brands, but if so, it’s worth a visit just for that), home goods, and lots of other things.

nectar avenue

On my way back, I stopped to take a look at the McAllen Food Park, which is located in the parking lot connected to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Food trucks are slowly but surely becoming popular in McAllen, and I saw several during my stay. This is the menu for Nectar Avenue ☝️, the only food truck in the park with vegan options. They serve fresh juices, smoothies, a fruit bowl, veggie bowl, gazpacho, garden wraps, and more!

McAllen Food Park
400 W Nolana Ave, McAllen, TX 78504


farmer's market

homemade jam

Every Saturday in McAllen there are 2 farmer’s markets – one is at the public library from 10 am – 1 pm and the other one is at Fireman’s Park from 9 am – noon. The weekend that I went there happened to be a big music festival in town, so a lot of the regular vendors at the market were at the festival. Despite a smaller market than usual, I was still really impressed with the local products available. I ended up going to both markets because I was in total farmer’s market mode.

homemade granola

farmer's market

I found lots of vegan items: jams, jellies, fruits, vegetables, granola, pecan butter, and even deodorant! I bought locally handmade rose jelly with roses straight from their garden, a small bag of pecans, Mexican squash, and deodorant because I was having a situation with my current one (it wasn’t working, ewww).

vegan tamales

By the time I got to the market at Fireman’s Park it was lunchtime and I was hungry. Lucky for me I found the perfect meal. One vendor was selling homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves. There were 3 flavors: bean & cheese, chicken something or other (I glazed over that one), and spinach & mushrooms. I love the spinach & mushroom combo so I grabbed them and chowed down – and they were SO good.

There’s usually a vendor at the farmer’s market called Le Vegan Factory, but I couldn’t find them and I suspect they were stationed at the music festival.

chickpea burger

On Monday I hit up a restaurant called The Mighty House because they have Meatless Monday. The vegan items on their menu are the falafel and the veggie burger, and every Monday both items are on special. I went with the burger which is made with chickpeas and topped with spinach, tomato, and avocado. It comes with chips or a side salad. And I couldn’t resist getting the fresh coconut cucumber juice.

The Mighty House 
1303 N 10th St, McAllen, TX 78501

organic juices

On my last day in the valley, I went to the Green Owl Deli and found myself in vegan heaven. Green Owl has a couple of items containing meat, but most of their menu is vegetarian and vegan. They have a beautiful selection of organic juices, vegan desserts, gluten free options, helpful employees, and a lovely seating area.

Green Owl Deli
2901 N 10th St, McAllen, TX 78501

green owl deli

green owl deli

After much consideration, I narrowed my choices down to the lasagna and the chalupas, both being vegan and gluten free. I also grabbed the Turmeric Elixir juice which was very tasty. Everything was super yummy, but I think the lasagna was my favorite. Instead of pasta, the base is made of eggplant and zucchini, and filled with black beans, lentils, & marinara sauce. It’s topped with cheese and comes with a side salad.

Needless to say, vegans will not go hungry in the valley. There’s lots of delicious options!

Here’s a couple general tips if you’re traveling and not sure where to find vegan food:

Mexican and Chinese restaurants almost always have vegetarian and vegan options, or can be easily altered if you ask. Local restaurants are great and usually accommodating, but if you need something that’s quick and can be found along he highway, try Chipotle or Taco Bell. Taco Bell recently announced a slew of menu items that are certified by the American Vegetarian Association. Yay! And you can’t go wrong with rice + veggies + tofu at a Chinese restaurant. Lastly, the local grocery stores are chock full of vegan ingredients perfect for a home cooked meal or putting together a quick snack for the road.

I will definitely be back to the valley soon, and it’s nice to know there’s no shortage of cruelty free food 🙂

Jillian ♥

P.S. To check out all the cool things there are to do and see in the valley (besides the food?), go to my Compassionate Women blog next Friday for the full scoop!

Coffee on the Shore: Obexer’s General Store in Homewood, CA

Coffee in hand, big girl panties pulled up, fire in my eye and lipstick applied. I am now ready to face the day. Given enough coffee, I could rule the world. I was once told, if you are not shaking, you need another cup, and do I ever live by that rule.

Obexer’s General Store
5300 W. Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA 96141
http://obexersgenralstore.com

Obexer's

Coffee, lakes and chocolate bacon, oh my! That is a fierce threesome. During my spontaneous and random trip to the lake, I noticed I felt “off.” I was still tired from my grueling 65 hour work week I had just wrapped up and was dragging. I checked my hands, and sure enough, they were calm and collected, so clearly, I did not reach my coffee limit yet.

First off, there are not too many places on the north shore of Lake Tahoe that offer coffee. Living in Reno, there are coffee shops on every city corner. I was a little surprised to be driving for miles and miles and not come across a small café or coffee shop, which in a way is nice that the beautiful trees and natural land have not been destroyed by a Starbucks Drive-Thru.

As we were approaching a bend on a two-lane highway, I noticed a deep red building with cute green awnings and written right across in big white letters were the words, “Fresh Coffee”. I immediately spun my head around like “The Exorcist” to make sure I saw those words right and I did. Hubs immediately knew to pull over on the side of the road and flip around.

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The adrenaline and curiosity were building inside me like volcanic pressure. I don’t think the car was quite done parking yet as I jumped out and told my husband “Sayonara”. As I approached the front door, I noticed a little sign that said Obexer’s General Store. I walked in to find it was an antique looking grocery store that had a full deli inside, along with liquor, groceries and of course, coffee.

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I asked the gal working the register what the story on the coffee was and if it was local. It was! They serve Alpen Sierra Coffee Company. They have a little coffee bar set up in the middle of the store with the beans, grinder, and bags for you to help yourself. They also serve it brewed hot, and have bags for sale as well.

The coffee is certified organic and carefully crafted. I chose the Costa Rica La Amistad blend. This is a full body blend with sweet aromas and a bold, satisfying finish. I was curious about this delicious coffee, so I did a little research on the roaster, and this is what I found directly from their site –

“In 1988, while on a rainy day trek in the Rohrmoos Tal, near Schladming, Austria, founder and Roastmaster, Christian Waskiewicz, was inspired with the vision to create Alpen Sierra Coffee Company in Lake Tahoe. Having spent much of his life in the Alps of Europe and the Sierra Nevada of California, Christian’s pursuit of the good life has become the foundation of Alpen Sierra’s goal of providing a quality experience through the enjoyment of excellent coffee, tea and chocolate.

obexers

Serving its first cup of coffee in an historical log cabin on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe in 1991, Alpen Sierra has grown to become recognized as the premier craft roaster of specialty coffees in the Sierra Nevada. Locals and visitors enjoy Alpen Sierra Mountain Roasted coffees at home, in many coffeehouses and specialty food establishments throughout the world.” – Alpen Sierra Coffee Company.

Alpen Sierra will ship coffee, tea, and other products the same or first business day following your order date. Order online at http://www.alpensierracoffee.com.

Back to Obexer’s General Store.

After sipping on my coffee for a few minutes, I started to inquire about the adorable general store I was standing in. The gal at the register was so friendly and helpful. She told me that Sarah Obexer and the Obexer family were the first family to settle in Lake Tahoe and helped establish the West shore. The general store is over 100 years old and was established in 1911. I was also told, that the Obexer family is very hands on and is very involved in the daily operations of the store.

As I looked around, I noticed the deli counter that was over in the corner and saw they had thick cut, smoked, chocolate covered bacon slices. I absolutely had to have one. I was told there was a man in the store earlier who ate 12 pieces of this chocolate bacon, challenge accepted.  I quickly paid and went out to the dock that sits right behind the store and drank coffee, ate chocolate covered bacon and watched the boats sail across the lake. The bacon was salty, sweet, savory and devilishly delicious. My trip was now complete.

obexer's choclate bacon

If you are a local, then I am sure you already know about this darling general store that has so much to offer. If you are a tourist driving through, or live in Reno, I highly urge to visit Obexer’s and get the true meaning of what a “mom and pop” shop experience.

Thank you for an excellent snack and dose of coffee!

To Eat Or Not To Eat?: The New York Renaissance Faire

Throwback Thursday to the weekend near the end of this summer when my dear friend Caitlin Bajo and I journeyed back in time to the days of mud shows, powdered faces, Shakespeare, and of course the most important beverage of it’s time: wine. The New York Renaissance Faire is a destination for many historically jazzed travelers looking for a fun daytivity to share with parents, children, and LARPERS alike.

The New York Renaissance Faire
Tuxedo Park, NY
http://www.renfair.com/ny/

The festival runs August 1st through September 27th, 2015 and has theme weekends with a plethora of special events to make your experience truly histrionic. Caitlin and I managed to go on ooooh lala “romance weekend” where couples were invited to renew their vows and corseted bawdy love was in the air. Don’t pause for too long or Robin Hood may attempt to steal your heart or at least tempt you to join him on the pub crawl.

What trip to The Renaissance Faire is complete without matching feather bows for our festival hair?
What trip to The Renaissance Faire is complete without matching feather bows for our festival hair?

While noshing on my period specific turkey leg and steak on a stick I thought of no better way to spend the afternoon than to take a tutorial on wine from an aptly dressed “monk”.  The class lasts an hour and gives a tasting of five wines where you choose your favorite and get to take away a full glass of your top choice. Our leader showed us how to appropriately pair dark chocolate with red wine and schooled us on the value of the perfect pinot. Pretzels in between pours is a must as the sharp saltiness cleans your palate and prepares you for the next flavor explosion. Fun fact, pinot noir grapes are the most likely to actually lower your cholesterol. Don’t forget to refrigerate your wine after you open it, just like food can spoil so can your favorite vino.

IMG_3317.JPGNotice our fearless instructor in action. He works at The Brotherhood Winery just a stones throw away whose spiced holiday wine is a seasonal dream. He has made it an exciting retirement career where he has singlenadedly managed to retrain his palate. One of the selections that we swished around in our mouths was a drink we often hear the name of but don’t get the chance to try….mead. Sweet as honey, we raised our glasses and toasted in a truly triumphant medieval kinda way.

 

Don’t forget to hit up the joust at the end of the day!  Whether you’re looking for something quirky, fun, or just want to pay homage to snacks from the 1600s The New York Renaissance Faire is worth the trip.  Not convinced?  Just check out this sweet list of eats:  http://www.renfair.com/ny/thefaire/food.asp.

Hopefully, the fairy dust you buy at the adjacent tent will instantaneously make Dave’s minieth donuts zero calories.

Tamalito Verde From Acholado – Cocina Peruana in Managua, Nicaragua

So, I spent two weeks in Nicaragua this summer, and I know you are probably expecting an article on traditional Nicaraguan food. Well, I promise you that’s going to happen soon (if you count beer and rum as food, that is), but what really has me hung up after my expeditions does not hail from Central America. It’s Peruvian, and I have to share it with you.

Friends, I would like to introduce you to Tamalito Verde, a gift from above (although if you’re reading this from America… I guess it’s more like a gift from below). Tamalito Verde can be found in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, at a restaurant called Acholado.

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It was love at first bite.

Acholado – Cocina Peruana
Plaza Viejo Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Managua, Nicaragua
restauranteacholado.com

As you can see, Tamalito Verde begins with a soft and comfort-food-esque corn tamale piled high with various sauces. Typically tamales have a leafy casing that you need to remove prior to eating, but this one didn’t. Maybe they removed the casing before plating it because we looked like incompetent tourists? Either way, the tamale is ready to go when it arrives and your fork simply sinks into its green goodness – almost like melted, buttery cornbread, but less crumbly and doughier.  Actually, it’s very similar in consistency to polenta (cornmeal concoction from Italy) if you’ve tried that. Anyway, scoop some sauces all up on your forked-up pile of whatever-you-want-to-call-it and you are ready for your first taste: sweet, spicy, and savory all at once, thanks to the sweet corn/chipotle dynamic.

Maybe all the “sauce piling” doesn’t make it the most photogenic of fluffy green mounds, but I can assure you, Tamalito Verde is life-altering.

I suppose, though, you would like a more thorough ingredient list before agreeing with that statement and hypothetical taste-test. Unfortunately for me, and very, very appropriately, seeing as this was Central America I was in, the menu was entirely in Spanish. I can see this headed in an embarrassing direction for me, considering many readers may be fluent in Spanish, and I am most definitely not. Thus, I would prefer to refrain from playing part-time interpreter here and leave you to your own devices. But, I am a food blogger and we are known for jumping in with two feet and one fork, so here goes:

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Why didn’t I pack that dictionary?

According to Google, Tamalito Verde consists of: corn, fresh cilantro, cream cheese filling, salsa, huancaina sauce (made from yellow potatoes), and “juices of lomo saltado,” which is the juice from a popular Peruvian dish, lomo saltado. Just found out lomo saltado is made from strips of sirloin and potatoes.

Excuse me while I have a quarter-life-crisis please.

Remember when I told you the meal was life altering?? This is not. What I had. In mind. Like I’m literally sitting here raving about my favorite meal from vacation, and it contained sneaky meat. I feel betrayed, and very hopeful that Google Translate is wrong.

But it’s time to move on to something worse….

If you cringed while reading the above description and it wasn’t because of the sirloin, I’m gonna take a wild guess. CILANTRO. It’s a good thing I didn’t attempt to read the description very thoroughly before ordering, because I would have run far, far away.

Cilantro is one of those herbs that you either hate or love and my hate runs deep for the green devil. As you can conclude from the photographic evidence I’ve provided above, Acholado’s chef clearly falls into the latter category, because that overzealous ration of smothering green herb doesn’t appear to be the work of a light hand. I’m not going to bore you with the story of how my meat-loving father and I finally realized we were indeed biologically linked (come on, how many Italian vegetarians do you know??) when we discovered our mutual vendetta against cilantro, which tastes like soap to us, and apparently like 4% of other humans…but trust me when I say it is a meal-ruiner.

Hence my admiration for Tamalito Verde, in which I tasted zero soap. It’s nothing short of a miracle, people. Thanks to my new favorite meal and restaurant, now I cannot only stand in the same room as cilantro, but EAT IT TOO!!! That’s right, I had my cilantro and I ate it too.

I will admit that I’m a bit jealous of the other 96% of you who actually know the true taste of cilantro, seeing as I can only ever taste Dawn and Palmolive, with exception to Acholado’s fine chefery. But I have a feeling that if you are in that majority who loooooves cilantro and has no idea what the heck I am talking about, you will also love Tamalito Verde. It’s basically a win-win situation.

So, long story short, you should probably head to Managua right now so you can stuff your face into this green beauty and I can resume crying over my disloyalty to the cows of the world.

Adios, carnivores. xoxo

P.S. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I would eat Tamalito Verde for every meal if I could, even with the sirloin.

Hershey Pennsylvania: A Sweet Pit Stop

On my recent journey to Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but stop at the chocolate Mecca on my way home to NYC: Hershey, Pennsylvania. Driving past the massive roller coasters at the theme park, serene Hershey Gardens, and ZooAmerica, there are an endless combination of funtivities to immerse yourself in. However, I chose to focus on the place where the magic happens…..Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Hershey’s Chocolate World
251 Park Blvd
Hershey, PA 17033
http://www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld/

 

Before I made my own candy bar I indulged in one of their chocolate tastings.  Not commonly know, chocolate was originally made to drink.  First recognized for their rich texture and flavor, cocoa beans date back to the days of The Mayans.  When Cortez discovered the uncharted Mexican territory he demanded their most valuable possession and handed to him was no less than cocoa beans.  Formerly used as currency, you can thank these delicious nuggets of goodness for the phrase “bean counter” because the tax collector would be paid in these sweet sweet beans.

In Hershey’s Chocolate Lab you learn all these fun facts and more while attending a chocolate making workshop helmed by one of their many skilled cocoa specialist.

Notice the plethora of nibs we were handed to try.  Our chocolatier encouraged us to let the flavors melt on our tongues and allow our palates to truly recognize the bouquet of tastes.  Much like a fine grocery store wine, my chocolate had the faint burn of coffee or maybe that was just because I was on my third cup of iced Java for the day.  It was amazing to watch as children taught their taste buds to notice faint hints of citrus and pepper.

We were encouraged to get as creative as we desired.  Speckling my chocolate bar concoction with cinnamon and chile pepper it was truly a foodsperiment.

Whether you’re looking for an informative lecture or fun for the whole family, Hershey’s Chocolate World has a little bit of everything.  It’s no surprise that the nation of Spain kept their discovery of chocolate a secret from the rest of the world for a hundred years.  Who needs top secret weaponry when in one day you can mass produce ten million chocolate bars in Hershey’s new state of the art factory.
Hershey's Chocolate World Attraction Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Siblings and Seafood: The Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival

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~ brother (age 4), sister (8 years old), myself (3 years old) ~

One of the most wonderful aspects of living in California is what I like to call the “Are We There Yet Rabbit Hole”. On any given random whatever kind of afternoon you can hop into the car with a few friends or family, close your eyes, spin a circle and your compass will point you towards a riveting place more commonly referred to as the great unknown. California is a culinary Pandora’s Box just begging to be opened. Whether traveling north, south, east or west you can find countless tiny towns and quirky communities which in themselves carry the great history and mystery of the edible bounty this golden coast has come to be known for. This past Saturday myself, along with my two older siblings, their significant others and my eighteen month old nephew (who we have come to affectionately know as “Lumpy” or “The Nugget”) found ourselves in one of these such towns; Bodega, more specifically amidst the eclectic crowd at the 21st Annual Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival.

Located in what was once a Coast Miwok village, Bodega is more historically known as the site just south of California’s first steam powered saw mill. Built in 1843 by Massachusetts native Captain Stephen Smith, this mill produced lumber that would be used to literally build the foundation of California from the ground up. Even with this newly established business venture knocking at their door Bodega remained small. With a current population of less than three hundred, the residents of Bodega take pride in the passive enclave they call home. After all, living less than two miles from Bodega Bay and its array of freshly harvested seafood does have its edible advantages.

DSC00175The Bodega Seafood, Art and Wine Festival is a celebration of all that is delicious and good in the region. Fisherman, wine makers and crafts people come together to share with the community their goods and services in a family friendly atmosphere filled with music, hospitality and a wide array of seaside treats. The vast variety of food left my hungry cohorts and I more than interested to try something new, as well as, sample some revamped old standards. From the Key Lime Calamari, to the beer battered garlic parmesans French fries smothered in crab aioli topped with even more fresh snow crab.

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Both prepared by Gourmet Faire, a gourmet food company located out of Sonoma County, whose goal is simple: “we serve yummy food to hungry people!” Every one of us found something to savor. So much so that we found ourselves pulling six little immortalized words straight out of the mouth of Charles Dickens young fictional protégé Oliver Twist. We all found ourselves enthusiastically saying at one point or another… “PLEASE SIR, I WANT SOME MORE!!”

We happily tried a wide selection of festival offerings, cherry picking and nibbling from one another’s plates without hesitation or remorse, taking in the sounds and smells as we ate our way through the celebration. The youngest member of our munching motley crew, Lumpy, even found something refreshing to snack on: a paleta or Mexican fruit bar created by the Frozen Art Gourmet Ice Cream Company. Having been in the ice cream industry for over 40 years, this third generation family run business not only takes pride in their Mexican heritage but also believes in sharing that pride along with their ice cream and paletas (fruit bars) with the rest of Northern California. With over 45 flavors to try it was impossible not to find something we each craved, and for Lumpy it was a kiwi paleta for the win!!

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The five and a half of us could have stayed at the festival all day. But with the hot California sun beating down on us and our belly’s full to the brim with fish tacos, lemonade and ice cream cones, we took a last whiff of the fried smells which mingled through the air, licked the salt and vinegar from our fingers and waved goodbye to Bodega. Heading towards two separate cars, my brother and his lady love in one, the rest of us in the other. We wobbled like Weebles with our hugs and goodbyes; proud with the four hours of delicious gluttony we had all partaken in together.  As we drove east on Bodega highway headed back home, with Lumpy and my brother-in-law resting in a deep food coma in the backseat, my sister and I commenting on the events of the day. We yammered back and forth over what our favorite foods of the day were. For my sister it was the shrimp tacos.

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For me, my heart could not leave behind one of the first foods my father, a lifelong seafood lover, taught me to enjoy… fried calamari, only this time it was spiked with just a touch of key lime.

11949471_10100477329734513_7526199566107691092_n (2)Our Bodega seafood festival adventure was all I hoped it would be and more. Spending time with my siblings: my older sister, brother-in-law and the Nugget as well as my older brother and now soon to be sister-in-law (my brother just happened to pop the question the night before. Fortunately for all of us she said YES!!). A happy ending to what actually is a new beginning for my family, one filled with love, fun and hopefully plenty of delicious memories to come.

Food Coma History: Gettysburg, PA

Four score and seven hours ago I had the privilege of traveling to historic Gettysburg, the battle that has now come to symbolize the turning point of The American Civil War.  In light of an impromptu last minute journey to move my cousin into his freshman dorm at Gettysburg College, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring you all the history on this bourgeoning foodie paradise.

During wartime in the July heat of 1863, all the soldiers had for sustenance was the low hanging fruit of cherry trees. Now the town has contributed to the food tour nation and offers options for the eating adventurer such as their downtown food tour:

http://www.savorgettysburgfoodtours.com/tour-information-.html

Savory sweets tour:

http://www.savorgettysburgfoodtours.com/tour-information-.html

Wineries stand at attention on every corner for the true patriot. Conveniently, if you ask in any of the wine or specialty food shoppes, they will quickly hand you a foodie map detailing the different stores and locations. Gettysburg is about sooooo much more than Battlefields.

The Pub & Restaurant
20-22 Lincoln Square
Gettysburg, PA, 17325
http://the-pub.com

 On our first evening in this picturesque small town, we went as far as across the street to sample The Pub’s finest. The Pub, whose main slogan is Believe, has an owner that suffered many trials and tribulations including a devastating fire in February of 2001 that burned the restaurant to the ground but managed to survive. The Pub is now a successful and trendy spot right in Gettysburg’s main square.  The elaborate plate motif is very fetching to the eye, but the main delight and take away from this food explosion were the rolls of knotted pretzel bread that are served with every entree.  The portions are MASSIVE and have drastically more elevated flavors than my favorite big portion hot spot, The Cheesecake Factory.

Adams County Winery
25 Chambersburg Street
Gettysburg, PA, 17325

Home


Before traveling, be sure to check out their summer/fall concert series. Live music can be found on every corner and an excellent opportunity to check out some new sounds.

Adams County shop has a successful wine slushy.  They offer one of their reds and lighter varieties in a straight up 7-11 inspired Slurpee forms. In the beating sun at the end of August, this treat is a definite must have.

The Farnsworth House
401 Baltimore Street
Gettysburg, PA, 17325
http://www.farnsworthhouseinn.com

The Farnsworth House has been featured on all the ghost themed reality/re-enactment shows. Even taking a trip to the bathroom down a dark hall was creepy.  However, the al fresco dining is something that any diner would rejoice over. Nestled in this beautiful garden patio, The Farnsworth offers up a variety of aptly themed Civil War Cocktails that are worth a try.  I tried “The Third Battalion” a combination of champagne and whiskey.  I was terrified of this place, since it was so obviously haunted, so I needed a fast buzz just in case I stumbled on a paranormal experience.

  Because we had dinner reservations, we opted for lighter options that were available.  Most notable was the sweet breads which, were a delicious concoction of assorted pound cakes served with apple butter. Vacation eating at it’s finest: cake for lunch.

           Gettysburg: The Visitor Center
1195 Baltimore Pike
Gettysburg, PA, 17325
http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org

Although it’s not food related, I wouldn’t feel like a true patriot without telling everyone to go to The Visitor Center. Our tour had a two-hour battlefield tour and a screening of a documentary on the cause and effects of The Civil War. As you can see, there are many photo opp’s just waiting for you right outside of the door. I always like asking the statues of Abraham Lincoln advice; they’re so good at making me answer my own questions.  I even brought him coffee one day thinking that would open him up.

Reid’s Orchard and Winery
400 Baltimore Street
Gettysburg, PA, 17325
http://www.reidsorchardwinery.com

The second winery focused on darker and richer wines. If you enjoy a heavy red, Reid’s will have exactly what you’re looking for.  The owner intentionally uses less sugar because his wife suffers from migraines, which aides in creating a truly rich base that pairs nicely with cheese and savory desserts. They also feature one of my favorite vinos, a Zinfandel they call Zin on Skins. Their wine tasting is $3 if you just want to sample six wines, but $6 to take home the glass. I obviously needed the glass. I can’t wait to host my mismatched wine glass party!

Hauser Estate Winery
19 Lincoln Square
Gettysburg, PA, 17325
http://www.hauserestate.com

Hauser is located right in the middle of town and features not only wine, but also cider, hand crafted and pressed on site. Produced from apples native to Adams County, Pennsylvania, it helps create an out of body experience for cider drinkers. We did a tasting and found some amazing blends. Their Fireside is like a mouthful of Christmas, subtly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla. I’m looking forward to ordering some over the holidays and heating it in my crock-pot for a winter treat.

Shown above is the lovely Grace, who can be found slinging samples in the shop in town. Treat yourself to a glass of their Cabernet Franc while you lounge on their patio. If you’re lucky you may see a reenactor elegantly sipping in his Blue Union Uniform (stud) and feel as though you’re transported right back to the days of the Civil War although now you have the luxury of plumbing.

Dobbin House Tavern
89 Steinwher Avenue
Gettysburg, PA, 17325
http://www.dobbinhouse.com

On our final evening in town, we ventured to another spooky stop on The Gettysburg Eats Trail. The Dobbin House, which is another haunted locale. Brimming with rustic and authentic mid nineteenth century flair, the wait staff dresses in period garb, rustles up food of the times and some very forward thinking alcoholic beverages. I feel like if the “Blue Martini” was served during The Civil War it would all have gone a little bit smoother.  I don’t remember the last time I saw orange roughy on the menu but, I have to say it did leave me intrigued.

We started our evening with a basket of warm breads followed by the “porridge of the evening” a delicious seafood bisque. The base was thick and chunks of seafood fantastically rested at the bottom.  I went for the James cut of the prime rib while, my mother got her favorite, the baby lamb chops with fresh mint jelly.

Ghost notes: it is suggested that a slave girl wanders the halls of the Dobbin House Tavern, because it was a location for tired travelers on the Underground Railroad to stop while heading north.  Filled with historical ambiance, this is a must eat in Gettysburg. However, make sure you make a reservation, this antique home fills up quickly and if you reserve too late you may end upstairs in the paranormal bedroom.

Gettysburg may be a town known for an epic three day battle that is a landmark of American History, but you won’t be warring with your tastebuds if you make this your next food destination. Filled with old world charm, history, and a community of young foodies exploring new wines, cider, and flavors it’s for sure another check mark to put in your foodie passport. Whatever you do, don’t let the ghosts sample your snacks….it will go right through them.

Summer-time Kombucha

me outsideKombucha:
A beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. hmmm… why would anyone drink that? It doesn’t sound that yummy does it. Then why all the rage, you ask. Well the benefits of drinking this delicious beverage are pretty impressive. What are the benefits you ask? Let me drop a little booch (that’s what all the cool kids call it) knowledge on ya. The main benefit is it’s great for your gut and your digestive system. It is a natural probiotic. It aids your liver in its main function, detoxifying. It helps your immune system and it gives you energy.

I have been consuming Kombucha regularly for over a year now and I have definitely noticed a difference in my body. Everything seems to run a lot smoother. Well, my family and I were vacationing in Oceanside, CA and I came across this amazing little kombucha brew house, Living Tea Brewing Co. I was super pumped!  Here I was on vacation without my daily dose of booch and this gem was right down the street from where I was staying. I actually squealed as we drove past.

Living Tea Brewing Co. & Marketplace
302 Wisconsin Ave
Oceanside, CA 92054
http://livingteabrewco.com

jewelryThe next day I got up bright and early, woke up Maddie (cousin and someone I converted to the booch life) and we walked up to the shop. It was everything I hoped for and more. They had a plethora of kombucha flavors on draft!! Yes, you read that right they had kombucha on tap. I felt like it was Christmas time. I excitedly ordered the Peach Ginger, Maddie ordered the Mango Madness and while they were pouring our yummy booch we looked around the shop. It was full of pretty little trinkets such as, hand crafted jewelry, natural body care and so many teas!

beauty productsThey had starter kits for making your own kombucha which, is something I was and am really interested in learning how to do. I did buy the scoby and will be posting how to brew your own kombucha at some point. Our order was up and let me tell you, the flavors did not disappoint. I was hooked.
We stayed in Oceanside for a week. Maddie and I were at Living Tea Brewing Co. every. single. day. There is nothing like a fresh cup of kombucha or a jug or pretty much any size you want since they offer a variety.

 

 

kombucha jugWe ended up getting the 32oz jugs and if you bring them back they refill it for you at a discounted price. The staff is super friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about what they are doing; so next time you are in Oceanside please go check them out. You can go to their website: http://www.livingteabrewingco.com and don’t forget to follow them on instagram and Facebook.

Until next time,

Summer

Once Upon a Time in Mexico City: Seafood at Contramar

When I was a young jr. producer I was lucky that the company associates would always take me to the nice events and to the expensive lunches so I could learn the business. I must have been 22 years old the first time I went to Contramar. Back then they didn’t take reservations and yet all of these important businessmen were willing to wait as long as it took. I remember my boss saying “we are going to wait and then we are going to eat amazing seafood”.

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Contramar 
Durango 200 Colonia Roma, Del. Cuauhtémoc, México D.F.

Contramar is located in the ultra chic La Roma neighborhood. The decor is classy with a beachy vibe, perfect lighting and crisp white tablecloths in what was once a high ceiling bodega. Although Mexico City is inland, the restaurant gets fresh seafood delivered daily from both coasts. It has a top quality menu and attracts beautiful wealthy crowds. Even after all these years it is still a coveted lunch place and the place to see and to be seen.
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For our first appetizer we ordered the Aguachile Campechano. Aguachile is a dish made by submerging seafood in a lemon spicy brine. This particular one was marinated in a salsa verde broth and had fish, shrimp, octopus, scallops, pickled red onions and cucumbers. It was so refreshing, citrusy and mildly spicy. We gobbled it right up!

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Then we had the Tacos de Pescado Al Pastor. These are a version of the upscale fish tacos marinated in an Al Pastor adobo. They come with handmade corn tortillas. Al Pastor is an adobo made with a bunch of dry chilles, spices and achiote paste. The tacos were fantastic. They had the perfect balance of Al Pastor flavor with a sense of seafood.

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Our main entrée was the Pescado a la Talla Contramar. This is the restaurant’s specialty. It is a split red snapper, half of it is covered with a red spice rub and the other half with a green rub.  The green rub is made mostly with parsley. No wonder this is their signature dish, the snapper was cooked to perfection.

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And last, but not least, we had the Merengue con Fresa for dessert. This is a merengue cake with fresh strawberries in the middle. Just when I thought our meal couldn’t get any better along came dessert. You have never had anything like this. It was decadently amazing so good it should be forbidden.

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Contramar remains the standard for impeccable fish in Mexico City. That is why it is treated with some serious respect among national and international foodies. A must try in Mexico City but remember they are not open for dinner.

Crazy for Crawfish: Long Beach Crawfish Festival

Long Beach Crawfish Festival

http://www.longbeachcrawfishfestival.com/

With an entire weekend off and no idea what to do with my time, I found myself hopping into my car and driving out of sunny San Diego up to LA for a visit, and when my mom told me they would be at the Crawfish Festival in Long Beach on Saturday and had an extra ticket, I knew I had to tag along. Now, I’m not a huge fan of steamed crawfish or any steamed shellfish really, solely due to the fact that I am lazy and don’t want to work that hard for my food. Luckily, I had a plethora of other down south specialties to choose from, and because I don’t love making choices, I basically just ate everything.

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My huge and ridiculously strong margarita was placed in my hand upon arrival after over an hour in traffic, so refreshing on a 100-degree day, and it did its job almost too well.

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Mom decided that we needed to “take a lap” to check out all of our options, her new husband (Congrats mom and Mike!) told us to bring something back to snack on before he went and picked up his giant bucket of crawfish, so off we went. We wandered a bit before coming to a screeching halt upon reading the words “fries etouffee.” I became etouffee obsessed when visiting New Orleans, and I love fries topped with basically anything, so these guys did not disappoint. Crispy and substantial fries were the perfect base to hold the rich and saucy etouffee, with a little crawfish tucked into each delicious bite.

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Our other choice was the catfish nuggets, because duh, you don’t take a girl to a festival rooted in southern food and deprive her of catfish. Crispy on the outside, perfectly tender and flaky fish on the inside and almost too easy to just keep popping into your mouth, these certainly didn’t last long.
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I couldn’t leave you hanging without proof that there actually was steamed crawfish at this event.  A whole bucket of crawfish was included in the ticket price for only $4 over the general admission price. What a steal! My stepdad Mike is creole, a huge fan of crawfish, and seemed very happy with his giant bucket of crawfish, red potatoes and corn.

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Somehow, I made room for dinner after our little appetizer party, and chose tilapia that was breaded in cornmeal and had the most delicious crunch. I was so full, but could not stop eating and washing it down with my delicious mango/strawberry margarita.

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As we relaxed to the sounds of zydeco music and watched everyone fill up the dance floor, we were treated to the most beautiful sunset over the water. It inspired me to walk to the lit up ice cream truck at the edge of the water for one last treat. While I might be sort of lactose intolerant, I will literally never turn down ice cream and am a total sucker for rainbow sprinkles, so this made me the happiest girl in town!

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The Long Beach Crawfish Festival was such a lovely way to spend an evening, and after attending the Long Beach Funk Festival last year, I highly recommend any event. The city certainly knows how to offer up a great time!

Hot Italian: Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Petersburg, FL

Word of mouth discoveries are always quite the adventure. My Aunt Karen and I were lying on Pass A Grille Beach about 2:00 in the afternoon Friday when we both started to hear a grumble. Though the weather was not looking too good and the dark clouds started to roll in it was not thunder, we were hungry! Already on an Italian kick from an earlier discussion, we agreed to try to find this Italian Market she had heard such good things about. I promptly asked Siri. After a few failed attempts Siri came up with Mazzaro’s Italian Market, “Yes!” my Aunt proclaimed, just like that we packed up and were in route.

Mazzaro’s Italian Market
2909 22nd Avenue N
St Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 321-2400
http://www.mazzarosmarket.com

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Let me tell you, when you pull up to Mazzaro’s Italian Market you feel like you have been transported to Italy. The murals on and around the building are beautiful; Fiat’s outside lend authenticity as well as a quick photo op. When you walk in you are energetically consumed by the hustle and bustle of the market. To your left are fresh fruits and veggies next to a marinated olive bar. This being our first trip, we really just had to soak it all in like a fresh piece of bread dipped in herbs and olive oil. While we are talking about bread, it was amazing… made fresh in house everyday.

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The Market opened in 1993 and is truly an Italian Lover’s as well as any food lover’s, dream market. Mazzaro’s features freshly roasted coffee, over 75 prepared foods daily in their deli, over 1,000 wine selections and over 300 cheeses, fresh cut meat and seafood, homemade gelato, freshly baked bread and pastries, each in their own section of the market. You can order take out, catering or enjoy your food on their patio.

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I also tried, for the first time, a mammoth slice of Cannoli Cake at $4.00 that was out of this world!

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My Aunt and I pulled a ticket, ordered, and shared the Hot Italian (ham, salami, pepperoni,
provolone, shredded lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, Italian dressing) $5.50. The bread was warm, and soft like biting into a cloud; the flavors in the sandwich complimented each other so well all we could do was embrace our mouth full of food, goofy smile at each other from how happy that sandwich was making us.

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If you are every in the area, I hands down turn around and slap the ground, recommend you stop by Mazzaro’s. Even if you are not a crazy food person like me you will so enjoy all the collected Italian treasures they showcase in the store and the friendly employees. Next time we plan to stop there to grab lunch BEFORE we hit the beach.

Feeling Foxy at Foxen Winery in Santa Maria, CA

If you’ve never been to Santa Barbara wine country, you are missing out. It has all the amazing wine of somewhere like Napa or Sonoma, but with better prices and without all the crowds. Go watch “Sideways” and tell me you don’t want to hop on a plane to California’s central coast, I dare you.

Foxen Winery
7600 & 7200 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
http://www.foxenvineyard.com

foxenFoxen was one of the first wineries I ever visited in the Santa Maria Valley. My partner and I have visited so many times, most of the staff knows us by name and we have a wine club membership there. They have such a great variety of really fantastic wine, you’d be silly not to pay them a visit.

Foxen actually has two tasting rooms (so twice as much wine!). Both are about 12 miles down on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail (where you could spend all day tasting amazing wine) and since they are just down the road from one another, you have no excuse not to stop in at both. At the main tasting room you get to try some of the central coast’s most famous varietals- Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Head on down to Foxen 7200 (or “The Shack” as it’s called) to try some Italian varietals, ports, and some fantastic Bordeaux style blends. A $10 tasting gets you a flight of 6 at each tasting room, so it’s a steal as well.

rootstastingFoxen really shines when it comes to Pinot Noirs. They occasionally do Pinot Noir flights, highlighting different blocks and vineyards, and each is unique, complex, and just plain good (make sure you try the Julia’s Vineyard). One of my personal favorite wines is their Chenin Blanc, which is a great Chardonnay alternative since it has some barrel aging and it full of rich cream and butter. It is hands down one of my favorite white wines, as it’s extremely food friendly but stands alone well. If you make it to the tasting room in the summer, make sure you pick a bottle of the Rosé of Mourvedre. It’s perfect for sipping on a hot day or paired with a light snack.

groundsHead on over to The Shack to try their Guillermo Grosso- a 50/50 of Cabernet and Sangiovese blend. If you like big, herbacious food wines, this one is for you. Their Cabernet Franc is also an excellent example of the varietal and just really, really tasty.

Not only does Foxen has fantastic wines, but they know how to have fun! They frequently host dining events both on and off their grounds and have quarterly pick up parties for wine club members. They also frequently do specialty tasting events such as their Roots Tastings where you can try some of their older and vintages (they’ve aged perfectly by the way). They also have a host of adorable winery cats and dogs, some of which are very friendly and snuggly, so you might make a new friend!

All in all, Foxen is a standout winery in the Santa Maria Valley. Whether you like delicate Pinots, robust Syrahs or, you know, wine– Foxen deserves a visit (or three!) The staff is knowledge and extremely friendly, and the wine is delicious to boot! What more could you want in a tasting experience?

And get a picture with their famous hippie sign to show the world how cool you are.
And get a picture with their famous hippie sign to show the world how cool you are.

Tolosa Winery, San Luis Obispo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato