Back Trackin’ – Fall in Napa Valley

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', California, Wine

Late November will make three years since Husband J and I went to Napa Valley, but we STILL talk about our trip there…a lot. It’s such a beautiful place with so much great food and even better wines, which essentially means that we were in total heaven. We were there a week after Thanksgiving, and it wasn’t particularly cold (As someone who hates the cold, you know you can trust me on this one). It was actually nice, nippy fall weather with sun pretty much every day we were there. I believe that Napa really is an all-year destination. Don’t feel like you need to go there in spring or summer to enjoy yourself.

I am sure that it must be enchanting to see the vineyards bursting with grapes, but I loved the fact that so much of the greenery and vineyards seemed to say fall. 🙂

On the grounds at Duckhorn Vineyards

Husband J on the grounds of Frog’s Leap

The view from our balcony at the Wine Country Inn
What I liked most about being in Napa in the “off season” was the fact that no one else was really around. Most visitors aren’t coming to Napa in late November/early December. We got to really hang with and talk to all of the folks at the wineries as if we were shooting the breeze like old friends. They weren’t rushed, so neither were we. I think we really got to ask all of our questions and learn more about the folks that work at the wineries and how they got involved in the wine industry. A big shout out to the folks at Arger-Martucci and Cakebread Cellars for being especially nice.
Are you a fan of off-season travel? Where was your most enjoyable off-season trip?


Back Trackin’, California Edition – Traipsing Through Downtown San Francisco

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', California

**For those of you newer to the blog, Back Trackin’ post are posts about places that I’ve been to in the past (usually more than a year or more in the past).**

On our way to Napa Valley, we didn’t spend very much time in San Francisco. I’m disappointed about that. Now that I know a few people who live in the area, I hope to go back for a visit and to see parts of the city that we didn’t get to explore.
We stayed right in downtown near the Civic Center, which allowed us to walk to most centrally located areas in SF.
Our first stop was pretty easy since it was essentially across the street from our hotel. Under the impression that we were just walking through a pretty park, we stumbled onto the Martin Luther King Memorial.
Pretty, isn’t it?

I appreciated the quotation on the back wall.

After sitting in the park for a short while, we made our way over to Chinatown. I was very excited to see San Francisco’s Chinatown since it’s the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest one in North America. I actually think I liked it a bit better than NYC’s. Don’t worry…I’m not losing my NYC love anytime soon.

By the way, we had a great meal at R & G Lounge in Chinatown. It was a little bit of a wait, but even a very hungry Husband J said it was worth it. It closes at around 9:30pm and seems to be popular with families, which is always a sign to me that there’s good food to be had.

I love the fact that there is a street in downtown San Francisco named after Jack Kerouac. I still haven’t read On the Road yet. Is it worth it? I hear it’s a little out there/esoteric. Apparently there is going to be a movie adaptation coming out later this year.

By the way, I think the Transamerica Pyramid is pretty darn cool. I wouldn’t mind a funky looking building like that to dot NYC’s skyline.

If I am in a new city in the U.S., I refuse to miss much of the touristy stuff, which essentially meant that I wasn’t going to miss winding Lombard Street.

Too bad the walk up to Lombard Street was almost vertical. San Franciscans (did I get that right?) must have awesome legs, bums and cardio endurance. These hills are NO JOKE!
Husband J walks ahead. I was a little slow walking up. 🙁

At least we got a nice view after all of the effort…..
Do you notice Alcatraz in the distance?

I hope this post did downtown San Francisco justice. If you’ve been to or live in San Francisco, where are some of your favorite places to visit?

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L.A. Revisited/ Food Porn Friday – Comida Cubana at Versailles in Culver City

Friday, March 4th, 2011 | Posted under California, Food Porn Friday

Aaaahhh, comida Cubana (Cuban food). It’s so deceptively simple and delicious. I often love Caribbean food from Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands because it has so many similar elements to what we eat in the rest of the Caribbean: lots of plantains, green (unripened) bananas), rice (and more rice!) and beans, etc. Yet Cuban (and Puerto Rican & Dominican food) have their own distinct flavor.

Cathy of Wifey Lifey suggested Versailles, and Amber of Ambergon Trail heartily seconded the suggestion, so I knew I needed to stop by. Versailles was very close to my friend, Big Mitts’ apartment as well. Since it was my first night in Los Angeles, and I realized that I might not be able to stay up past 9pm Pacific time (I’m an old day), we had an early dinner there.
Versailles’s Special Garlic Chicken
This chicken was deceptively good. You would think something as simple as Garlic Chicken would not have so much flavor, but between the crispy skin, the tender meat and tangy garlic sauce, it really was simply prepared yet quite memorable. Also check the maduros (fried ripened plantains) accompanying the chicken. Ya gotta have those! Actually I think I’ll be making some this weekend. I took most of this home, by the way! This dish could easily feed two people!
White Rice & Black Beans
You can’t forget the black beans. I love how Latin Caribbean restaurants make black beans in a well-seasoned, almost soupy manner, and Versailles’ was no exception.

Pineapple Soda
I don’t know why, but pineapple soda brings me back to my childhood visits to Antigua. I just felt the need to have some that night.
Cheap, delicious and filling! I’m going to make sure that I get back to Versailles on my next L.A. trip.

Versailles has multiple Los Angeles area locations. We went to the Culver City location.
10319 Venice Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90034

Happy Weekend!


A Random Friday with a Side of In ‘N Out Burger

Friday, February 25th, 2011 | Posted under Blogging, California

Hey, everyone!
Thanks for the great response to my last post. In honor of your great comments, I actually dedicated my workout on Wednesday to you! I ran at a faster rate on the treadmill, and I took 10 lbs off of the assisted dip machine (that 10 lbs makes a difference…ouch!). I’m glad to hear that everyone is doing what they can to stay healthy.
If you have not noticed, I now have a Facebook page for the blog. Feel free to click the link denoted by the letter “F” on the top right and/or like my page by clicking right there on the right. I’d love for you all to join me over there. I am in the process of making the Facebook page better and becoming more interactive with you all. I hope to include more pics and perhaps more video that I might not put on the blog there.
Did I mention In ‘N Out Burger in the title of this post? Oh yeah! By the way, I do find it ironic that I just talked about health and am now talking about In ‘N Out Burger. Moderation, everyone! 😉 This will probably be my only fast food burger for the year, so it should at least be good.
When I was last in L.A. I was a hard core pescetarian, so I couldn’t really enjoy In ‘N Out like I should have. I was not going to miss tasting it on this trip. Anyhoo, I got off the plane in Los Angeles and was able for the first time in a long time to feel WARM wind on my face. After being cheap on my five hour cross-country flight and not buying the $8 sandwiches offered on the plane, I was totally ready for lunch. Luckily, Big Mitts, my friend and tour guide for our trip, lives VERY close to an In ‘N Out. Score!!
A Cheeseburger Animal Style (with sauteed onions + extra sauce)

French Fries

Favorite parts of the meal:
Sauce + the Onions i.e., the animal style in general

Worst part of the meal:
The fries

Okay, some brief general observations:

1. This burger was definitely good. I felt like the elements didn’t gel well together though. Parts of it were downright freezing cold, and the burger was sorta kinda just warm. I like my food (especially mass cooked meat) to be pretty warm when I get it. Am I being picky?

2. In ‘N Out is rather good burger, BUT is it life changing? I’m going to have to say that I don’t think so. I think it’s a great FAST FOOD burger, but I have tasted better burgers in general. I think I’d rather save my red meat points for elsewhere, if I’ve got other options. Plus, I know that they must put the worst things ever in them, but Mc Donald’s fries cannot be beat. These In ‘n Out fries were a little soggy, and I longed for some more crunch and salt.

3. I think given In ‘N Out’s price, it’s a great deal for the quality of the burger.

So what do you think? What are your feelings about In ‘N Out? Did this East Coast girl miss the mark? Maybe I went to the wrong In ‘n Out location? Do you have a favorite fast food burger option in your city or town that isn’t Mc Donald’s or Burger King?

Happy Weekend!


L.A. Revisited – Look But Don’t Touch on Rodeo Drive

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 | Posted under California, Shopping

I don’t know what it is about Rodeo Drive, but it makes me think of Pretty Woman (I try to forget that Julia Roberts portrays a prostitute ’cause this is one of my favorite movies ever).

Can I share something with you? I often feel weird shopping in nice stores. I don’t even like to go in and look at nice things. I’ve always been this way. I think much of this stems from my irrational fear that was drilled into me going to high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Back then, many stores had buzzers to let people in, and let’s just say that they often used them to keep people OUT. Even trips to Barney’s or Bergdorf Goodman, larger high end department stores, have not made me feel very comfortable over the years.
Even if I wanted to (or felt like I could) spend $1,000+ on a purse in a designer store, I just often felt looked down upon by retail professionals. Actually I’ve had some questionable interactions in some run of the mill stores too (I’ve got a funny story about this one particular happening in one of my unfavorite American cities, but that’s another story.). Either way, just window shopping on Rodeo Drive was enough for me. Could I get over my discomfort there? Maybe… 🙂
First, my friend, Big Mitts & I started at the southern end of Rodeo Drive in front of a familiar hotel. The facade of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel is just enough to remind me of Pretty Woman. The camera angles are EXCELLENT in that movie as this hotel is much smaller in person.

We crossed the street towards Via Rodeo, a relatively “new” short shopping street running parallel to Rodeo Drive.

Oh, Louis Vuitton. Maybe one day I’ll own some of your luggage. Why am I attracted to the practical things (or however practical $1,000+ luggage can be)?

Staying on the theme of luggage, I really liked Rimowa’s pieces.

Just in case you’re wondering, the small case is $750. The SMALL one.

I’m sure you are more interested in the fashion on Rodeo Drive.

I did think that their open air store was offbeat and unexpected.


Michael Kors
A special shout out to the very nice sales people at Michael Kors. They let us browse, talked to us and even complimented something I was wearing. 🙂 Even if it was a sales tactic, it made me feel special.

Did I get over my misgivings about fancy schmancy stores? Maybe just a little. The Michael Kors folks were really nice and quite fun to chat with. It was also late in the day on a weekday, so perhaps they were a little extra bored. 🙂 Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll feel comfortable enough to actually BUY something.
Do fancy stores intimidate you, or am I just a freak? Do you have any favorite luxury stores or high end shopping streets near you where you like to browse, window shop or actually buy something?


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