Thursday, July 3, 2014

Anniversary weekend in Chicago

It's hard to believe M and I just celebrated our 7th anniversary together!  My goodness how time flies.

When we started thinking about what we wanted to do to celebrate, we talked about getting out of town for a weekend.  Chicago was on the list, since we hadn't been together in a few years.  When I looked at the calendar, I realized I would be there for the week before our anniversary on business, so that was the obvious choice.

M arrived on Thursday evening, and I wrapped up our events Friday morning.  Once we switched hotels and got settled, the first place we went was Eataly!  If you know anything about us, you know we plan our trips around food, and this one was no exception.

After exploring the HUGE store (is that what you call it?  Store/bar/restaurant?), we found a spot in the beer cafe in the corner and decided this would be our afternoon hangout.  We were waiting for our friends to fly in from DC to join us for the weekend.

With both the US Open and World Cup matches on, we were in a perfect location. Plus they had one of my favorite beers on tap - Dogfish's Positive Contact!  We ordered a few small plates including fried shrimp, a white bean and artichoke spread, and fried chickpeas - all were delicious!  Perfect timing, just as we finished lunch, our friends arrived!  

That evening we headed over to Restaurant Row and had small plates/appetizers at 2 of the cities hottest restaurants - Girl and the Goat and Avec.

The food at both restaurants was incredible.  At Girl and the Goat we got several appetizers: goat empanadas (you have to get something with goat!), roasted cauliflower, and hamachi crudo, among other things.  Everything was delicious, and we all tried one of their signature cocktails, which were delicious as well.  The one I ordered, Bolt Action, is made with Blenheim's ginger ale, which is made in a small town near where my dad grew up in North Carolina!  It's hard to find even here in DC, so imagine my surprise when I saw it on a menu in Chicago!

At Avec, we had a few more small plates and dessert.  Again, delicious!

Saturday morning we needed a bit of exercise, so we got up early leisurely and went for a walk around the city.  Chicago has always been one of my favorite places, and the weather over the weekend was just perfect.

Our Saturday activity was a Chicago White Sox game!  If I'm in town, it means the Cubs are out of's just what happens.  So the next best thing was to head to Comiskey Field, aka US Cellular Field.  The weather could not have been any better, and we had fantastic seats.  

M even caught his first foul ball!

Apparently at this point I decided to stop taking photos, because I didn't take any more the rest of the weekend!  After the game, we were starving so we stopped by Public House back in the city for some nachos, pizza, beer and soccer.  That evening we headed up north a bit, just north of the Lake View area, to the Half Acre Brewery.  The boys wanted to try a few of their beers, so we stopped in their tap room for a bit.  We were finally hungry after that and went over to the brand new restaurant, Parachute.  It had only been open a few weeks - it's a Korean American restaurant opened by Beverly Kim and her husband Johnny Clark.  We were fans of Beverly on Top Chef, so were excited to go check out her new spot!  We tried a bunch of different things, but the bi bim bop was by far my favorite!

Sunday morning we went for another walk, and then back to restaurant row for brunch at Little Goat, the diner connected to Girl and the Goat.  It was absolutely packed, but we put our name on the list, got a coffee, and walked around a bit while we waited - and it was definitely worth the wait!  Everything was delicious, and it was the perfect end to our weekend in Chicago.  The boys drove us girls to the airport to head home, and they set out on their baseball adventure - they went to 3 more parks and several breweries as they made their way back to DC!

Happy anniversary honey, here's to many more!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Another weekend, another paint project

Last weekend, I got out the white paint and set to cover up some of the wood in the house.  We have beautiful wood floors on the main level, but it has a little bit of a dated feel too it...especially the stairs.  So I painted all of the risers and the 2 spindles that were wood.  I have plans to come back and paint the railings black, but that's for another day.

Here are the befores from before we moved in: took 4 coats of Behr's paint and primer in one in semi-gloss. 

And finished!

Someone was tired of being blocked from the stairs all day!

The 2 banisters actually took 5 coats....but it was totally worth it.

Such a difference!  Much lighter and more modern looking.  I can't wait to get the railings painted soon, too!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Touring Mendoza - part 3 of 4, trip to Chile and Argentina

I know it may seem a little strange that I'm posting about a trip that was a year ago...and I admit it's a little weird.  But I write this blog as much for me as I do for the handful of friends and family who read it!  So while I'm a little tardy in these posts, I still want to do them, and hope you still enjoy reading them, or at least looking at the photos :)

After an awesome time in Santiago, we got back on a plane and headed over the Andes to Argentina.  The views out the plane window were just breathtaking.  

In Mendoza, we decided to hire a driver for the 3 days, and we are so glad we did.  Miguel Saenz picked us up and at the airport and drove us everywhere for the whole time we were there.  He was great - his English was very good, and he was incredibly knowledgeable about the area and wineries.  He and M emailed several times before we got there, and between the 2 of them created our list of wineries to visit.  

The roads in Mendoza were wild - no signs, and they would just fork without notice...or directionals!  Plus he helped with the security guards at the wineries.  I can't imagine doing Mendoza without him and highly recommend him if you're traveling there (just Google him!)

We started our trip in the MaipĂș region, and our first stop in Mendoza was CarinaE bodega.  

A boutique winery that produces about 260,000 liters, they grow Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and age their wine in both French oak casks and cement tanks.

Our next stop was Trapiche.  According to their website, Trapiche is Argentina’s largest exported premium wine brand, exporting to more than 80 countries world wide.

They have aisles and aisles of cement tanks, it was crazy.

These are wines that you can find easily in the US.

Next up it was lunch time.  Many of the wineries have these huge lunches, tons of grilled meats and you do the tasting during lunch.  

Lunch at the Familia Zuccardi winery was wonderful.  It was so much food, similar to an American Texas steakhouse where they just keep bringing grilled meats as long as you will accept them.

The setting was lovely.  Their wines are easily available.  We even had one of their Malbecs on the plane down.  And they have delicious olive oil - we brought home a bottle for my parents and for us.

After the long lunch, Miguel took us back to the hotel to check in and relax.  We wandered around the city of Mendoza, which was much larger than I expected.

Apparently Sunday night was market night, as there were hundreds of people out shopping, picnicking, dancing in the street, playing soccer and enjoying the evening with their families.  

Miguel picked us up at 9am the next morning, and our first stop was Achaval Ferrer for a tour and tasting.  Located in the Uco Valley, it was a little drive from Mendoza.  We love their wines, and had a great visit with beautiful views.  

Next was the complete opposite looks wise - Vina Cobos.  It was a huge, modern facility.  Vina Cobos is connected with the American winemaker Paul Hobbs.  

They have several different labels - Cobos, Bramare, and Feline. We had gotten a Feline Malbec from a local wine shop before, so were excited to visit - and it did not disappoint! 

Following that visit was another big, fancy lunch, this time at Ruca Malen.  

The weather was absolutely beautiful, we could have sat there all afternoon.  

The food was very fancy, and everything was delicious.  It was a large tasting menu, so we kinda were there all afternoon!

After some espresso, we headed to the final winery of the day, Alta Vista.  

The winery was built in 1899, and is about 15km south of Mendoza.

They use lots of small cement tanks for their wine, and make mostly Malbec, Chardonnay and Torrontes. 

We did the tasting in the fancy testing room.

That evening, we poked around Mendoza and found a great brewery for dinner...we needed a burger and break from wine!

We spent the third and final Mendoza day in the Uco Valley.  

There was a bit of confusion with the first winery, so luckily Miguel was able to make a phone call and rearrange some things - another bonus to having a local driver!  We started the day at Domaine Bousquet.  They use a few huge wooden tanks, as well as some cement ones.  The setting was gorgeous, and wine delicious too!

The family is from France, and is using more of a European style to make their wines.  We really enjoyed this visit, and the wines were delicious - we brought a few home with us.  The winery is quite large and has guest rooms available, plus they do events throughout the year like cooking classes.

Stop #2 was Adeluna Cellars, just down the street.  It was beautiful, and had really cute dogs to pet!  

The wine wasn't our favorite, but we still enjoyed the beautiful setting. 

Our final winery stop of the day was Bodegas Salentein.  Their barrel room is famous for it's design with a grand piano right in the center.

After the tasting there, we headed just around the corner for a wonderful lunch at the restaurant at Bodega La Azul.  Even though you felt a little like it was an unfinished building in a field, cause it was, the food was delicious.  The chef came out and talked with us for a while, too, which is always a treat.

The winemaker was our server at lunch, and then took us into their barrel room to try the new vintages of what we had at lunch.  He was so nice and welcoming, it was a great end to our time in Mendoza.  

If you go to Argentina, we highly suggest Mendoza...and our driver Miguel!  It was such a treat to have him with us for those 3 days.  And incredibly helpful, it would have been a mess with us trying to navigate and talk to the guards at the wineries in my broken Spanish.  

One more stop on our South American Adventure - Buenos Aires!

See other posts from the trip here - Chilean Wine Country and Santiago