A Weekend in Chicago

The Windy City has plenty to offer, especially during the holidays with fun displays full of festive cheer.  From art and shopping to food and culture, there is so much to enjoy!  I recently got my city fix in for a weekend, and it was honestly the perfect little itinerary for a short and fun getaway.  While I am nowhere near an expect on the city, here is where I suggest you eat, shop and explore in Chi-town.

Shopping

The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Ave is the place to go for shopping in Chicago.  Being one of the most famous streets in America, the glamour doesn’t disappoint.  Glitzy designer flagships align the street among large global chains and huge department stores, meaning there is something for everyone.  The window shopping is first class too!  For the holidays, the street is all decked out with fun little displays outside, in addition to amazing window decor from the designer stores.  I was there on Black Friday, and although crazy, the hustle-like atmosphere from the crowds was exciting and exhilarating, almost like out of a Christmas movie.  All of the department stores are worth checking out and, while not as large as their NYC counterparts, stores like Bloomingdales, Saks 5th Ave and Nieman Marcus prove to be alive in the holiday spirit.

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The scene at night of Michigan Ave on Black Friday

Perpendicular to Mich Ave is Oak St. which houses more designer stores, among nicer brands such as Barbour, AllSaints, and Madewell.  The area serves as a bit of an escape from the crowds of Michigan since it’s a little less grand and a little more quaint.  I recommend walking in and out of the surrounding streets to explore more of what’s around off of the high street.

Art

It is easy to make a day out of the Chicago Institute of Art and Millennial Park since they are right next to each other and I would 10/10 recommend doing so!  I was surprised at how vast the collections were at the art museum.  They literally have every sort of art imaginable, all wonderfully curated and displayed with countless masterpieces from artists of every time period.  Besides the more famous American art and impressionists collections that everyone goes to see, the museum has a super cool gallery of European armor from as early as the 7th century.  I can be a bit of a history nerd, so I found the display extremely interesting and well done.  They also have an exhibit of miniature rooms, like doll houses, that show scenes from different time periods and locations.

Down the street from the museum is the classic instagram famous mirrored sculpture otherwise known as the Bean.  I really wanted to check out the bean for the soul reason of getting a picture, but I ended up being more fascinated in it than I thought I would be.  Yes, it is touristy and crowed, but that is all apart of the fun and allure.  The shape of the sculpture creates many different illusions with the bean-shaped mirror that changes at every angle and location.  You can move anywhere around and you’ll get a totally different shot.  It also reflects a beautiful and well-positioned image of Chicago’s sky line, making it a delight for both tourists and locals alike (and of course insta-worthy!).

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Food

Like any major metropolis, Chicago has a wide range of cuisine and food specialities.  I’m honestly not a big deep dish fan (prefer NY pizza for sure, sorry Chicago), so I opted for other indulgences such as donuts.  Stan’s Donuts is a serious must try.  They are located right on busy Michigan Avenue, but have 8 other locations throughout the city with their cute little cafe-like shops also serving coffee and gelato.  I tried the nutella banana filled donut and the blueberry cream cheese pocket donut which were both amazing.  Honestly though, all of Stan’s array of classic and unconventional donuts looked fabulous (I’m that person that would try everything); I doubt you can go wrong.

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I checked out Eataly Chicago which was the first time that I’d gone to an Eataly.  Eataly is a food concept department-like store that specializes in imported authentic Italian food with the idea that food is a celebration and an essential part of culture.  The first stores started in Italy and they are now in many major cities around the world with Chicago being one of four in the US.  The indoor market has different stations serving up Italian specialities such as gelato and made-to-order cannolis.  There are different casual restaurants and many bars that allow you to “bar-hop” throughout Italy.

For a fun Sunday brunch, Luxbar in the gold coast neighborhood is classic and fun with signature entrées and delicious almond croissants.  And for a nice dinner, Brindille proves to be a fantastic dining experience with decadent and modern french cuisine.  Honestly, the highlight of the meal are the amuse-bouch potato beignets which taste like ridiculously good tater-tots.  The desert menu is also spectacular with options such as a plate of freshly baked cookies that will make you feel like a little kid on Christmas.

Culture

Both the Willis tower and the Hancock tower offer impressive views of the city and a different perspective from above.  You have to take a picture at the sky deck on top of the Willis tower.  Little clear capsules perturb out of the building making it seem like you are suspended above.  It is a little frightening, but super cool to look down (people with a fear of heights: beware).

Walking around the city during the holidays is an experience in itself, but to really get your Christmas fix, head down to Lincoln Park and see the Zoo Lights.  Every year from Black Friday to Christmas, the zoo puts up an over the top display of lit up animals and trees, complete with light shows to music.  It’s totally free and fun for everyone.

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Your Guide to Scottish Cuisine (What and Where to Eat)

My trip to Scotland brought me all over the country which allowed me to experience a wide range of cuisine and foods.  Scottish food is underrated.  People seem to associate the “only” quality British cuisine with London, and while London is a huge culinary capital, Scotland is overlooked, especially as they provide so much industry and agriculture to the foodie world.  Take smoked salmon: the delicacy is a favorite in much of the world.  The best smoked salmon?  Scottish smoked salmon, fished straight out of the North Sea and prepared to perfection.  I recommend eating all that you can if you find yourself in Scotland.  And that isn’t all.  Scotland is known for its meats and game, along with cheeses, seafood and hearty breakfasts.  If you want to know exactly what foods to try, check out my post for Spoon University here! 

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Great places to try across Scotland:

Luigi’s (Dornoch, Scotland):  Dornoch is a tiny town up in the Highlands with a world famous golf course that attracts people from all over.  The best restaurant in the town is Luigi’s which is an excellent Scottish/Italian/seafood restaurant serving fresh oysters, lobster, and pasta.  The seafood here is amazingly fresh, and this is definitely the place to try fabulous North Sea oysters (which are, by there way, delicious).

-Boath House (Nairn, Scotland):  Boath House is a hidden gem; slightly off the beaten path, but wonderfully rewarding.  It has a very Scottish menu with most ingredients coming from the estate or nearby farms.  Everything taste extremely fresh and high quality.  The duck was one of my favorite dishes that I tried in Scotland since it was prepared perfectly and served with amazing foie gras.  The smoked salmon is also a thing of beauty.  Boath House is considered one of the top restaurants in Scotland outside of a major city and it is easy to see why.  It’s a great find and a great experience.

Scran and Scallie (Edinburgh, Scotland):  I talked more about this restaurant and the next one mentioned in my previous post about Edinburgh, but it’s worth mentioning them again due to their impeccably high quality Scottish food.  Scran and Scallie is where I tried haggis, a momentous occasion, and it is also where I had these dedacant savory pies.  You have to try haggis at some point, and a gastropub is the perfect place since they prepare in a gourmet fashion.  Scottish savory pies are really delicious in the most comforting of comfort food ways.

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The Wedgwood (Edinburgh, Scotland):  The Wedgwood is one of the top restaurants in Edinburgh, but what makes it really great is that they make an effort to serve true Scottish cuisine in a gourmet setting.  Ingredients include foraged mushrooms, Douglas fir pine, venison, pigeon, and sea spaghetti.  They put on the ultimate display of Scottish food to showcase the potential it holds.

Tail end (Dundee, Scotland):  You cannot go to Scotland without having fish and chips (unless you’re vegetarian, of course), and although the classic dish can be found in any pub, I recommend seeking out more contemporary chip shops that specialize in locally sustainable fish.  Tail end in Dundee does just that.  They take great pride in their “handsome halibut” and their delicious homemade tartar sauce.  The place is cute and trendy, making it the perfect spot to enjoy true Scottish seafood.

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-The Drouthy Cobbler (Elgin, Scotland):  Another mandatory experience in Scotland is going to a pub.  They are everywhere, but it can be a little difficult to a find a really good one that truly cares about the food they serve.  The Drouthy Cobbler is a little known hidden place in the small town of Elgin.  You can’t even access it from the main road, finding it instead in a little alley way.  The atmosphere is quaint and trendy but still feels pub-like and they serve solid Scottish food like smoked trout and salmon, sausage rolls, and bangers and mash.

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How to Spend 48 Fabulous Hours in Edinburgh Scotland

Hi there!  I just recently returned from a 10 day trip to Scotland where I pretty much road tripped from the Highlands all the way down to Edinburgh.  The whole journey was amazing, and I felt like I was really able to see the whole country.  However, more on that later (look out for a Scottish food post!).  One of my favorite places that I spent time in was the last place, Edinburgh which is a surprisingly bustling metropolitan center full of history and culture.  The last weekend was spent there, and although I definitely could have spent at least another day exploring the city, I was able to pack a lot in those two wonderful days.IMG_7297

Edinburgh isn’t very big in size and population compared to other landmark European cities, but the number of noteworthy sights, neighborhoods, and, quite frankly, tourists make the city feel larger than it is.  It takes on the vibe of a smaller and slightly less stylish London that is easier to walk around and harder to get lost in.  I arrived late in the afternoon on Friday having just played golf nearby.  The immediate cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city center, where my hotel was, made me realize that this place was different from the rest of Scotland.  Our hotel was very modern and stylish, as one would expect from a nice city hotel.

For dinner that first night, I ventured across town to the neighborhood of Stockbridge which is a hip high-end area bustling with coffee shops and gastropubs.  I went to a recommended restaurant called Scran and Scallie.  Nothing in Edinburgh is that far away, so my taxi ride to Stockbridge was an easy ten minutes and it easily paved the way for a light walk back to my hotel.  Scran and Scallie is a very popular gastropub serving traditional Scottish fare in a gourmet manner.  The clientele is young and fun, echoed by the quirky takes on traditional Scottish decor.  The menu appears very traditional with practically any pub fare you can think of available (meat pies, haggis, fish and chips), as well as some more contemporary options.  My Dad and I both opted for classic British entries, while I tried a Scottish specialty and he had an elevated Caesar salad for starters.  My haggis appetizer was a bit risky since I had never tried it before, but it was really good (the texture is oddly comparable to falafel) and I felt as though I was truly embracing the culture.  Our pies (mine was a seafood pie and he had a steak and ale pie) were deliciously comforting and really hit the spot after a day of golf in the rain.  The seafood pie, in particular, eluded flavor with salmon, cod, and shrimp mixed in with mashed potatoes.  Scran and Scallie is really the perfect place to indulge in local cuisine prepared beautifully in a fun atmosphere.

 

The walk back from Stockbridge was surprisingly easy and very pleasant.  The city feels very safe at night, and it is super cool to see all the sights and buildings lit up.  The famous hilltop castle that overlooks the city gleams brightly in a slightly eerie manner to the bopping crowd below.  Back at the hotel, my dad and I went to go check out Bar 1, 1 Square, and although my dad felt a little out-of-place, I found the Bar to be super trendy and cute.  They specialize in fancy schmancy gin and tonics (the hippest drink if there ever was one), as suppose to the traditional scotch collection that is found in most Scottish bars (more my dad’s cup of tea).

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Saturday was an early morning since there is so much to see and explore.  After a breakfast of Scottish smoked salmon (literally the best stuff ever) and black pudding (which is surprisingly delicious), I walked up castle hill which is a super cool walk to use my prepaid online ticket to Edinburgh Castle at 9:30.  On the way, there was a cute little farmer’s market that, if I was a local, I would totally be shopping at.  The castle is admittedly a tad touristy and you have to arrive right when it opens to beat the big buses, but it offers great views of the city and has a very interesting history.  I recommend going straight to the crown jewels exhibit since that line gets long very quickly and it’s probably one of the more impressive parts of the castle.  The castle takes about 2 hours, depending on the crowds, but you can totally condense it and choose to see less or more.

 

Tourist central of Edinburgh is the Royal Mile which you are fed directly into from the exit of the castle.  At first, the crowds are a little overwhelming but they filter out, and if you ignore all the street performers and touristy shops, the wide street is definitely worthwhile to walk down.  St. Giles Cathedral is a highlight and a must-see.  The Cathedral is huge and full of beautiful stain glass windows.  The tall blue ceiling is enough to take your breath away.  Farther down the mile, the crowds disperse and it’s fun to look around the admire the buildings and spirals.  The street finishes at the Holyrood Palace which is an official residence of the Queen.  It is fun to tour the palace and check out the old Holyrood Cathedral ruins since the place is rooted deeply in history.

 

After the mile, I, being a die-hard Harry Potter fan, wanted to check out some notable Harry Potter sites in the city, notably Victoria Street and the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first couple books.  I grabbed a quick lunch at a little cafe and continued to venture across town back towards the castle, but, this time, instead of walking up the mile, I walked on the edge of old town which is bordered by a valley with the train station underneath.  The views from there are great and there is a park that lines the street.  Victoria Street is the most “aesthetic” street of Edinburgh and claims to be the most photographed.  It is also the street that JK Rowling based “Diagon Alley” after, and really looks like it is out of a movie.  The shops are super fun along the curved street too! I then made the pilgrimage to Elephant House which calls itself the “birthplace of Harry Potter” to take some pictures, and I also photographed “Tom Riddle’s grave” in the nearby Grey Friar’s graveyard (creepy I know).

 

By this time, it was already mid-afternoon, so I ventured over to New Town to walk around and shop.  A highlight of New Town is the Scott Monument and park, a huge gothic steeple that distinguishes itself from the Edinburgh skyline.  Dedicated to the author and thinker Sir Walter Scott, visitors have the ability to climb the monument which I opted not to do since I wanted to get over to the shops.  I enjoyed a couple of hours shopping at British and European shores (including Topshop, Zara, and Harvey Nichols, a fabulous British luxury department store) while also in search of a quilt, being the cliché tourist that I am.  Shopping around Edinburgh is delightful, and there is a surplus of great stores that are harder to find in the US.

 

For my second night in Edinburgh, I went to Wedgwood Restaurant which is a widely considered one of the best in the city complete with a Michelin star and four rosettes.  That being said, the restaurant is nice and simple with a modern atmosphere that isn’t at all stuffy.  The food is centered around local game and seafood with very Scottish ingredients prepared in an elevated manner.  I had a douglas fir smoked salmon dish and an interesting savory bread pudding which was to die for.  My dad had a seaweed vongole pasta starter which was very unique and venison with haggis for his entry.  The highlight of this special meal was the very sticky toffee pudding, a celebrated Scottish dessert and a must try for anyone traveling to Scotland.  Wedgwood is a great restaurant located conveniently on the Royal Mile where you really get to appreciate Scottish produce and fine cuisine.

 

That wrapped up my stay in Edinburgh as I had a 10 am flight the next day.  Overall, I found the city to be delightful and could have definitely spent another day there.  Alas, I was able to squeeze in a lot while I was there.  Highly recommend exploring this city for yourself, even if it is only for 48 hours.

Inside the Newest, Most Insta-worthy Twin Cities Coffee Shop- Cafe Astoria

Not even established enough to have its own website, Cafe Astoria sits at an unassuming street corner, across from a hospital on St. Paul’s Grand Ave.  However, Cafe Astoria isn’t your typical independent neighborhood coffee shop that tends to inspire the basic minimalistic cup of a Millenial’s dream.  The coffee, which is the farthest thing from minimalistic, is attracting people from all over the cities (particularly teenaged and young adult girls) with its golden, rainbow, over the top creations that scream “I have to post this on my Instagram story!”.

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The café opened this past spring, intending on becoming just a small local shop for the downtown St. Paul neighborhood.  When pictures of the coffee started to surface on social media, everyone started to head to St. Paul to check out the hype.  The place is perfectly made for social media, and from a marketing standpoint, platforms, such as Instagram, have worked wonders for the shop, skyrocketing its popularity while continuing to curate towards the internet.  They have already needed to expand the shop to fit the overflow of customers.  Cafe Astoria has a typical menu of artisan drinks, both cold and hot, but then, there is the secret menu which contains creations such as the 24K Gold Latte, the Campfire Mocha, the Rainbow Matcha Latte, the Crême Brulé Latte, and the Rainbow Mint Mocha.  All amazingly beautiful; it is difficult to take the first couple sips of the drinks out of sheer fear of messing up the designs.  However, the taste of the coffee and the subtle sweetness allow for a very enjoyable experience.

  • Rainbow Matcha Latte: A nice sweet mix of warm green tea and milk.  The colors of the rainbow drinks change every day, so one day the drink could be blue like mine and pink the next day.  Either way, they are beautiful and unique.

  • Campfire Mocha:  Just imagine a s’mores turned coffee and you have a Campfire Mocha!  Great for chocolate lovers and anyone craving something fun and sweet.  Just look at that giant marshmallow!

  • 24K Gold Latte: A wonder to behold.  I mean who doesn’t want to drink eatable gold leafs?  Boujee and beautiful, the 24K Gold Latte is what made Cafe Astoria into what it has become.

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Coffee aside, Cafe Astoria has a great insta-worthy and trendy menu that is perfect for both breakfast and lunch.  The signature smoothie bowls are swoon-worthy art-pieces full of fruit, seeds, and great flavors.  Healthy and delicious, they have 4 different kinds ranging from “Beehive” to “Berry Berry”.  In addition, the café offers both savory and sweet crêpes which truly makes the place feel like a modern Parisian café.  They are very simple but definitely hit the spot for a quick meal.  There are also homemade pastries, including great scones, as well as sandwiches and an elaborate list of funky oatmeals.

  • Smoothie Bowls:  Full of fresh ingredients and nutrients, these bowls are just as pretty as the coffee at Café Astoria.  The super trendy health craze is thanks to a lot of Cafe Astoria’s popularity (other than the coffee) since people are clamoring to try the newfound smoothie bowl concept.
  • Crêpes:  Try classics such as banana with Nutella or any of the delicious savory sandwich-like options.  Make the trip down to St. Paul to relax, drink a fancy-schmancy coffee, eat a crêpe and a smoothie (if you really want to go all out), and enjoy.  Instagram crazy or not, either way, Cafe Astoria is a greatly enjoyable experience where the visible appeal of the food is just as important as the taste.


 Address: 180 Grand Ave
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CafeAstoriaSaintPaul

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Exploring London Part 3: What to eat

Here I am, at the last stage of sharing my trip to London, and lamenting the fact that it is already October.  Personally, I believe that London food is very underrated.  I question why it has a bad rap when I look at the amazing diversity of quality food and restaurants the metropolis has to offer.  Seriously, why does everyone roast British food when it holds the distinction of creating Fish and Chips and Afternoon Tea Time, two of the most amazing things ever invented, among other classic additions to culinary culture (Beef Wellington anyone?).

Being a mega european financial center, giant tourist destination, and mecca for performing and fine arts, London has a vast array of great restaurant options.  You can practically find anything you want in the city.  This being said, it might be hard finding places that truly capture the local culture of the city.  I did extensive research to find restaurants that were unique and original British eats.  Below are some suggestions on what and where to eat while visiting the amazing city.

Breakfast:

  • Duck and Waffle (In the Heron Tower): There is nothing quite like eating a fabulous brunch on top of a skyscraper while gazing out at the city of London through transparent glass walls.  From the moment that you are whisked into a restaurant owned glass elevator, you know you are about to have a one of a kind breakfast.  Be amazed at the view while you enjoy freshly prepared unique breakfast food.
  • The food ranges from a traditional scrumptious english breakfast to a spicy ox stuffed donut.  The donut is a most try.
  • The Greek yogurt was some of the best I have ever tried.  I had the honey one which was coated with honey comb along with other sugary sweets.  The pastry board was a worthwhile starter.
  • The view from the restaurant.  Be prepared to be amazed.

Tea:

  • While a lot of hotels offer fine afternoon teas, it is always fun to try something a little out of the ordinary.  I am personally convinced that tea time is the greatest invention by man, so for me, I will enjoy anything with the name tea in it.  However, if the stuffy tradition is not your forte, an unconventional choice such as the Mad Hatter’s Tea is a fun way to enjoy the english specialty.  Located in the avant-garde Sanderson Hotel’s courtyard, you will truly feel like you fell down the rabbit hole upon entering the vicinity.
  • The fun interior of the Sanderson, which makes it a very subtable location to host an Alice in Wonderland themed tea.
  • The tea leafs are presented in little flasks to help you smell what tea you want before ordering.  The flavors are very flavorful and unique.  Brought to you on a tier, the little candies and desserts are shaped into fun themed items such as mushrooms and hearts.
  • The tier also has the cute little savory bits and the “drink me” potion, a tiny sweet strawberry purée and marshmallow drink that looks as trips as it sounds.  Fresh scones accompany the tea with the traditional pairings of preserves and clotted cream.
  • As a special endings to the tea, you are given a flower pot filled with chocolate mousse and edible “dirt”.  Also pictured is the teapot that the tea comes in.

Lunch:

  • Because of my hectic nature and desire to see a lot in a limited time, I didn’t really have actual scheduled lunches while in London.  Instead, I ate at “pit-stop” like places while shopping which included places in the food halls of two great department stores.  In London, the department stores take selling food to a whole new level with in store cafés, and freshly prepared to-go items.
  • Fortum and Mason has a great little place nestled in the back of their famous food hall.  You overlooks the aisles of tea and delicacies while enjoying classic British dishes such as gravlax smoked salmon, scotch eggs and welsh rarebit.  The place is perfect for a quick comfortable eat while in the middle of hustling and bustling around the crazy high streets.
  • The food halls in Harrods are known world wide to be immense and extravagant. They are also very convenient if you need a quick pick me up while roaming the overwhelming collection of clothes the store has in stock.  I got a smoke salmon and cream cheese “pillow” and a roast beef and cabbage salad to go, along with multiple elder flower sparkling cordials.  It is a super easy delicious place to grab gourmet food on the go.

Before dinner drinks/bar:

  • The Shard is the tallest building in western Europe while being a architectural wonder to the London skyline.  There are many restaurants in the building, in addition to a luxury hotel.  There is also a high end bar near the top of the building that provides some of the best views of the city.  The gourmet cocktails are all designed to represent a famous movie director and their movies.  There is a Harry Potter cocktail for David Yates, along with two floating neon colored Star Wars ones for George Lucas.  It is fun to check out all the funky creations while enjoying the breathtaking view of London from up high.

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  • The Wingardium Leviosa from the Director’s Bar.

Dinner:

Amaya- An Indian Restaurant

  • Due to the heavy influence of Indian culture in England, London plays host to some of the best Indian food outside of India itself.  Everywhere you look there are different types of Indian restaurants, and you really cannot go wrong.  It just depends what you are looking for.  The Indian place that I went visited this time was a very contemporary fine dinning place called Amaya.  It is the sort of place where the Indian community goes for special occasions, and locals and tourist go to experience a high level of Indian cuisine.  The dishes are not totally what you expect from an Indian restaurant, but every dish is extremely tasty and beautifully prepared in the visible kitchen.  The atmosphere is dark and chic, making pictures slightly difficult…
  • Freshly prepared paneer (Indian cheese) with seasoning and a ton of flavor.  A traditional Indian dessert that was simply amazing.
  • Smooth and creamy grilled goat cheese with pomegranate purée.  Deliciously prepared grilled oysters in a creamy curry sauce.
  • Naan (otherwise known as the best bread ever) comes with a beautiful selection of curries and sauces.  A plain yogurt Lassi which is a delicious sweet drink.  At Amaya, it comes with eatable flowers on top.
  • It should also be known that Amaya had literally the best Biryani I have ever had.  It came with a sweet yogurt pomegranate sauce, and it literally melted in my mouth.

Bellamy’s- A classic French, with British influences, bistro

  • Bellamy’s is a small local bistro that echoes a traditional Parisian fine dining experience.  Very popular with the locals, it is a simple place that serves very well prepared traditional fare in a classic old-time setting.  The place also takes on the claim to fame of being the Queen’s favorite restaurant.  It’s easy to see why since it’s a bit hidden and out of the way.  This is a place where people dress up nicely for a good solid meal.  It was really refreshing to see everyone in semi-formal clothes and suits to enjoy dinner, something that is unfortunately hard to come by in America.
  • The dimly lit interior of the restaurant echoes an old-time feel with pictures of movie stars, and classic french posters.  A simple but divine split pea soup.
  • I chose to eat a classic meal of oysters and foie gras.  Both were excellent with the oysters being very fresh, and the foie gras being paired with apricots and great bread.

Harwood Arms

  • I had an amazing experience at Harwood Arms, a gastropub located in the quite residential neighborhood of Fulham.  Again, this is clearly a place that locals know of and cherish.  The place is very unassuming, being located in a cute little blue building, and having a very British pub like interior.  However, Harwood Arms is the only pub in London to hold a Michelin star, a premier distinction that guarantees a special dining experience.  The atmosphere is different, but it is very refreshing to experience high quality food in a classic casually British atmosphere.  What is more, the pub distinction makes for a more reasonably priced Michelin starred experience than most restaurants that share that distinction.
  •  As you can see, the atmosphere is very open and welcoming.  As bread, the Harwood Arms serves homemade Irish soda bread with gourmet butter that is to die for.  It’s a great start to dinner.
  • I personally adore Scotch eggs in general, but the venison one at the Harwood Arms was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  If you go here, make sure you order one as a pre-starter.  It will seriously change your life.
  • The bar is very eclectic at the Harwood Arms with a big buffalo head perched up on the wall beside it.  For an appetizer, I had the trout tartare which was brilliantly prepared with vibrant colors.  It tasted amazing.

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  • One of the desserts that I tried.  It was a brown bread ice cream with scotch whisky jelly and raspberry.  It sounded very weird, so naturally I had to give it a shot.  It was surprisingly delicious, and it kind of tasted like bread pudding in ice cream form.
  • Another dessert that was simply amazing.  I had the lemon curd filled donut holes with earl grey cream, enough said.  For my entrée, I had the pork belly which was covered with bacon marmalade and apple.  It had to have been the best pork I have ever tried; prepared to perfection and extremely tender.
  • I also tried the beet salad with goat cheese which tasted like summer, and the Cornish sole which was tasty and light.

Well, there’s that!  All the great places I ate at in London.  I hope you enjoyed this guide full of great suggestions from the British capital.

  • Duck and Waffle: https://duckandwaffle.com
  • Mad Hatter’s Tea: https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-sanderson-london/eat-drink/mad-hatters-afternoon-tea
  • The Shard: https://www.the-shard.com/restaurants/
  • Harrods: https://www.harrods.com/en-gb
  • Fortnum and Mason: http://fortnumandmason.com
  • Amaya: http://www.amaya.biz
  • http://www.bellamysrestaurant.co.uk
  • Harwood Arms: http://www.harwoodarms.com

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Great new places to try in Edina

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Entrance at Coalition

Yes, I know that I’m moving across the country in a week, but that doesn’t mean I cannot rave about some great new food joints in my hometown.  This summer in Edina has been bustleing as 3 very popular restaurants have moved in.  A lot of recent hype has acquired from the new residents, making the summer exciting and lively.

 

Ole Southern: An up and coming chain based in Hayward, Wisconsin; this traditional bbq is an off-branch of Famous Dave’s.  Ole Southern’s focus is on creating real authentically prepared meat.  The menu is simple, full of different kinds of meats which you can pair with sides such as a delicious mac and cheese, and barbecue rice.  The meats include ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and hot links.  They can be by themselves or in a sandwich complete with a mouthwatering soft bun.  The atmosphere is very reminiscent of a casual-fast type place with an order-at-counter system, making it ideal for takeout.  If you do choose to eat in, it is a fun vide with tables painted as American flags and country music playing amongst strings of lights on the ceiling.  I’m personally I’m not a big fan of ribs and I always thought that bbq was pretty much just ribs, so I didn’t know what to expect from Ole Southern.  I was so surprised by how much I loved the brisket that it has completely changed my mind about bbq.  If you are in the mood for some good old meat, Ole Southern will hit the spot!

 

Coalition: Among the bustle of popular restaurants nestled along the 50th and France area is a new addition to the overwhelming choices that downtown Edina offers.  Coalition is a refreshing classic gourmet american place that offers a variety of foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The menu and its namesake is based off the concept of bringing a bunch of local food providers, bakeries, and farms together to create a vast and tasty menu that is sure to suit many preferences.  I’ve eaten at Coalition for both breakfast and lunch.  The breakfast puts a good twist on classics such as pancakes and french toast.  I tried both the pineapple upside down pancake and the vanilla crème french toast.  Both were divine.  In addition to the comfort food options on the breakfast menu, the restaurant gives you these amazing cardamon donut holes to start.  They come out fresh, warm, and, most importantly, delicious.  For lunch, the menu is pretty straight forward with a section for starters, salads and sandwiches/burgers.  The apple brie salad is super tasty and refreshing, while the chicken cheese biscuit sandwich hits the spot if you’re in the mood for some hearty food.  It seems like you cannot go wrong with anything at this nice casual newcomer.

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The clean simple interior of Coalition.  

 

Town Hall Station: Situated at the location of an old independent gas station, Town Hall Station is a creative “stop” to go and “refuel”.  They even kept the old vintage gas sign, making the atmosphere feel nostalgic for a day long gone.  The restaurant might strike an outsider as an old-time diner like place, but it is, in fact, a bumping hip hangout joint complete with a full service bar and great atmosphere dinning.  The menu is not what you’d expect, as it features a lot of Southwestern cooking, in addition to classic burger creations.  The nachos are exceptional as a starter, and if your feeling the Tex-Mex, they have loads of taco options.  The burgers are spectacular with their signature one really standing out.  It features two patties full of briskets and covered with cheese for a juicy creation.  The vibe is super fun, service fast, and food good.  What else could you ask for when you want to have a good time!

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The fabulous pulled pork nachos which are completely soaked in queso!

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The old time feel is brought to you by the vintage sign advertising Town Hall Station in the parking lot.

Since I’m leaving soon, I’ve been trying to make an effort to go out and explore my hometown often.  It has been fun to truly find what Edina has to offer and take advantage of that before I go.  I urge others to do the same if your going to college.  I cannot believe that I’m leaving in a week, as time has flown by, so everyone, use up the time with fun stuff while you can!

 

I’m Back!

Hello readers (who probably forgot about me), and non readers who I want to become readers!  I apologize for not writing these last months as I’ve been extremely busy with graduation, senior obligations, college decisions, and travel.  Everything has been a ton of fun, however, and I have now finally found time to share my fun with you!

A lot has been going on in my life recently including 2 big international trips, and myself preparing to move to New York for school.  With summer coming to an end, I’m hoping to share the adventures that I’ve had, and will have before I head out to school.  I’m trying to revamp the blog so that it’s  more of a overall lifestyle blog with me sharing tips and wisdom from my life centered around my favorites hobbies (food, travel, and fashion).

Then, once I move out to New York (and by the way, NY means small college town living, not city that never sleeps), I will focus on trying to live a fulfilled, adventurous, and classy college life.  I will share tidbits on how I’m doing that, in addition to travel.  My college’s location is a tad isolation from city life, but I believe that I’m going to have easy access to cities up and down the east coast, in addition to the atlantic shore and charming small town life.  I cannot wait to hopefully expand this blog while focusing on a more college student targeted audience!

I will try to post more content in the next couple of days, as I attempt to revamp everything!

Thank you, Addie ❤

Naples Florida-A Great Relaxing Vacation Destination

Naples combines the allure of Florida beaches, exceptional restaurants, and fabulous shopping in one town, making it a great destination for a tropical vacation.  It isn’t classic Florida, but, in my bias opinion, it offers the best of Florida with a more sophisticated twist.  Everything is, there’s not better way to say, relaxing and nice.  Wether it’s walking the miles of white sandy beaches and swimming is mildly calm waters, or spending the day out shopping at the many unique stores around town, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

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The main beach in old Naples.  It stretches across the whole town and includes an iconic pier.  The beach is public but is never super busy.  

Once you soak up enough of the sun, there are plenty of great places to walk around and shop.  5th Ave is the most popular street and offers a lot of fun restaurants and quant shops to walk into.  3rd Street is another hot spot, along with Waterside shops which is chock full and higher end flagships and department stores.

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3rd Street is a popular destination who’s shops include Lilly Pulitzer, the Island Company and 3 huge Tommy Bahama stores.  

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Waterside Shops which features many well know stores, along with lesser known boutiques.  Window shopping is just as fun here and the fountains surrounding the squares are beautiful.   

The restaurants in Naples are truly exceptional and there is a wide range of options.  My all time favorites include the modern Persian restaurant called Bha! Bha! and the quant provencal restaurant called Blue Provence.  However, there are plenty of options to soot anybodies taste.  It’s also great to be able to sit outside on the patio or street side.

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One of my favorite dishes ever, Persian Haleem, from Bha! Bha!.  It’s a roasted eggplant dip that’s eaten with pita bread.   

 

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Apricot orange peel Persian Ice Cream from Bha! Bha!.  Persian ice cream is unlike any ice cream you’ve ever had.  It’s a must try!

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The decor at Bha! Bha! is modern, pleasing, yet cultural at the same time.  And yes, there is outside sitting right on 5th Ave.   

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Bleu Provence offers traditionally prepared French cuisine in a classic setting.  Here, I have the country paté which is prepared with an apricot purée.    

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The classic chocolate profiteroles that embody the best of french pastry baking.  All the deserts are great, but the profiteroles are absolutely fabulous.  

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The patio at Bleu Provence is extremely welcoming and comfortable.  It aspires to be a traditional french garden with a homey feel.  

You really can’t go wrong with anything in Naples as it truly is a great vacation town.  I highly recommend checking it out if your planning on going to Florida, or if you are still looking for somewhere to go for spring break.

3rd street shops: http://thirdstreetsouth.com

5th Ave: http://www.fifthavenuesouth.com

Waterside shops: http://www.watersideshops.com

Bha! Bha!: http://bhabhabistro.com

Bleu Provence: http://www.bleuprovencenaples.com/dinner

 

 

Traveling Down the California Coast

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a great holiday and I can’t wait for what 2017 has in store.  After christmas this year, I traveled to California and ventured my way down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  The trip presented spectacular views and I really enjoyed seeing a different side of what the  United States has to offer.  Everything centered around driving, but along the way, I stopped at various towns and scenic points to soak in the beauty and culture of the west coast.

I flew into San Francisco, however, I wasn’t feeling too well, so after an obligatory In and Out Burger run, I spent the first day in the hotel room.  Feeling better, the next day before starting the drive, I got to walk around and see the city which consist of a surprising mix of victorian and art deco architecture.  Strolling the hilly streets is extremely pleasant and it made me wish that I hadn’t fallen ill the night before.  After a limited stay in San Fran, I started the drive with the first stop being Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a fascinating town.  To me, the pier, boardwalk, beach and views represent a textbook definition of California.  On one hand, everything is very classic, bustling and colorful.  On the other hand, it is extremely touristy, but the vibe is still enjoyable.   It was great to walk around and soak in the sunny atmosphere.

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The Santa Cruz Boardwalk

For some reason, the Santa Cruz pier seems to attract just as many sea lions as it does tourists.  The bars under the pier are laden with them, in addition to them swimming in the water.  I had a good time watching them communicate to each other and wattle across the planks.

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A typical day on the pier…

I continued on down the beautiful coast until hitting Monterey, a classic seaside fishing town known for its world class aquarium.  There is plenty of marine life in the bay as well as picturesque views.

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The town of Monterey

The aquarium in impressive, however, it is overflowing with families and kids making it maybe less enjoyable for others.  Outside the aquarium, however, there are beaches covered with seals and otters playing in the icy water.

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The amazing view from the workout room of the Monterey Hotel.  

Right outside of Monterey is a reserve and scenic area called the 17 mile drive.  Encompassed within the 17 miles are the famous golf courses of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.  For the first morning in Monterey, I had breakfast at Pebble Beach’s clubhouse which overlooked the 18th green.  Being a golf enthusiast, I loved seeing the world class courses and the amazing views.

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The view from a lookout point on the 17 mile drive. 

For dinner, there’s a great restaurant in Monterey called Montrio Bistro that offers a wide array of well prepared American fare.  I enjoyed the duck, as well a tapas sized mac and cheese.  For desert, I had the bread pudding while others in my family enjoyed the “s’mores in a shot glass”.

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The scrumptious bread pudding at Montrio Bistro.  

 

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The atmosphere is very modern and chic.  The food is very well done.  

I highly recommend Montrio Bistro in Monterey for a great meal of classic American dishes and sustainable seafood.

After departing Monterey, I spent the day driving along the infamous Highway 1 and Big Sur.  This drive is fantastic with incredible views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. For most of the drive, the road is situated on the edge of the mountains, overlooking cliffs.  It can be a bit treacherous and nauseating, but it’s worth it.

Throughout Big Sur, there are many opportunities to pull over and examine the views.  On one stop, I spoted whales fairly close to shore.

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A vista point along Big Sur. 

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A beach stop along the highway that had cool tide pools, unique sand and beautiful rock formations.  Disappointedly, the water was too cold to swim in, although I did get splashed!

 

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The colorful sand at the beach.  

After surviving the switchbacks of Big Sur, I stopped at a magnificent house (or palace) called the Hearst Castle.  Located pretty close to the exit of Big Sur, Hearst Castle reminds me of an American and modern Versailles Palace.  Built and owned by William Randolph Hearst of the Hearst Newspaper Corporation, the house is a Mediterranean oasis of art amongst a giant ranch.  Although excessive and gaudy, the goliath structure will blow you away (as it did with me).

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The exterior of the big house of Hearst Castle.  The exterior is nothing compared to the interior which is chock full of fine and ancient art from Egyptian, Roman, Medieval and Baroque times.  

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The view and landscaping are not too shabby either.  

Upon exiting Big Sur and entering SoCal, I stayed a few nights in a ranch in the dessert.  Then, I continued the drive down on the coast towards LA.  The coast line becomes flatter and there are fabulous beaches everywhere.  I stopped at one particular beach right outside of Malibu which had great rock formations and the classic lifeguard stands.  I eventually made it all the way down, and after one day at Disney, debarked home from LAX, having driven the vast majority of the golden state.

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The Malibu Beach

Although the weather wasn’t particularly ideal, driving down the coast provided a great way to see the state.  I covered so much in about a weeks time that I feel I have a good understanding of California.  By driving, you see so many great sights that can seriously take your breath away, creating a great vacation.

Minneapolis Restaurants-Broders’ Cucina Italiana

Often over shadowed by its older sibling across the street, Broders’ Cucina Italiana is a little known foodie paradise.  Its quick grab and go cafe atmosphere is perfect for a great last minute dinner, lunch or takeout which is what differentiates it from the pasta bar’s slight inconvenience of always being overcrowded.  The food is very authentic and well prepared with an extensive menu to choose from.  Anyone fascinated by foreign products or unique food products in general will delight, as I do, over the expanse of goods imported from Italy.  Many of the products, such as pasta, vinegar, candy and gelato to name a few, are in Italian which elaborates on a cultural shopping experience for the globally intrigued.  I find much joy looking around to see what they have while waiting for my food.

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Some of the goods on sale

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As a customer, you can order pasta dishes such as the delicious Mac and Cheese or the Spaghetti Parmesan, in addition to sandwiches, pizza, salads, and anti-pasta.  I love the tomato mozzarella sandwich on a baguette.  It’s simply perfect.  The pizza is Italian style thin crust and offers many traditional and innovative flavors.  There is a case of all the prepared salads and such where you can go and pick them up to bring home.

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The Mac and Cheese is nothing like Kraft’s.  It more of a cream and tomato dish topped with baked bread crumb.  Delicious!

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The salads and gourmet goods on display

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In addition to freshly prepared meals and the groceries, the Cucina has an assortment of homemade desserts and a coffee station with the ability to brew up plenty of gourmet drinks.  I recommend the caramel flan and the cheesecakes which changes flavors everyday.  There are also imported cookies and small bits.

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The beautiful display of desserts.  

Together, Cucina Italiana is a great place to enjoy to quick meal, shop and just look around.  The food is fabulous, the atmosphere’s refreshing and it’s easy!