December 29, 2012

Dublin, Ireland - Part I

This week I realized that I never finished telling you about our latest Euro trip,
so I figured the last week of 2012 would be the perfect time to catch up. 

The flight from Edinburgh to Dublin was so quick, that I barely even had a chance to drink my coffee. 
Upon landing, we set off to find our home for the next few days,
an adorable Georgian apartment from the best host we could have ever asked for.
Karin, the landlord, provided all the essentials,
including breakfast, laundry service, and most importantly, personal recommendations that helped make our trip unforgettable. 
If you ever need a place to stay in Dublin, I highly recommend this one.

After settling in, we grabbed our umbrellas and went exploring. 
Our first stop?
The Guiness Storehouse of course!
Because it would be a sin to come to Ireland and not have a few pints of the creamy dark liquid,
and where better to start than the birthplace of it all?
We spent a few good hours wandering around the factory,
learning about the brewing process and how it all got started. 
My favorite part of the day was taking the "Guiness pour lesson",
where we were taught how to properly pour a pint, and even recieved a graduation certificate after successfully completing the final exam. 
The views from the top floor of the building were simply amazing,
and although I'm bummed that we don't have any photos, I know that it's something I'll never forget. 
Another landmark that is an absolute must in Dublin, is Trinity College
Founded in 1592, it is the oldest university in Ireland,
and holds a prestige title as one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, 
(sibling to places like Oxford, Cambridge and St. Andrews). 
The campus, as you might expect, is absolutely gorgeous. 
We blended in with the students for a bit before donning our tourist hats again to check out the famous Book of Kells, 
in the world famous Trinity College Library. 
For those of you who are not familiar with the Book of Kells,
(like, I for example, heard of it, but didn't quite know what it was),
it is an illuminated manuscript gospel book, written in Latin, 
containing the four gospels of the New Testament, together with various prefatory texts and tables. 
It was created by Celtic monks ca. 800 or slightly earlier.
Now can we pause for a second and talk about that date?!
I literally had to look up how to write it because to see something so ancient is just unbelievable to me.
The only downside of the experience is that we were in the library,
and as gorgeous as it was, in libraries there are always rules,
and the main rule here was no pictures. 
Of course the husband decided to be a rebel and sneak a few with his iPhone,
but to my dismay, he's not cut out to be a secret agent because he was immediately spotted by security and was kindly asked to leave. 
Here's our only remaining evidence that we were actually there:
Ha ha,
told you it wasn't much, but hey, it's better than nothing!
Anyway, I could have wandered around the campus for days, it was so beautiful. 
Definitely worth a visit if you're ever in Dublin.
I have one more small post coming up about Dublin,
where I'll tell you about the most amazing restaurants we had the pleasure of visiting. 
Stay tuned!


December 26, 2012

Mount Woodson

Hi guys! 
How was your Christmas??
Ours flew by like a whirlwind,
but I'm happy to report that I was actually able to tear myself away from stuffing my face a few times,
and spend some time outdoors. 

I've been wanting to hike Mount Woodson for a while now,
and getting a few extra days off work seemed like a perfect opportunity to do just that. 
Situated above beautiful Lake Poway,
the trail offers stunning views of San Diego,
and if you look closely, you may even catch a glimpse of the dowtown skyline. 
The whole hike takes approximately three hours (roundtrip),
with the best reward being the photo-op at the Potato Chip Rock (<-- actual name).
Walking on top of the world is a little bit intimidating if you suffer from acrophobia like I do.
But the views are so worth it!
Conquered the famous Potato Chip Rock!
It does, in fact, look like a pringle. Right?
If you're in San Diego and in the mood for a challenge,
I definitely recommend this trail. 
It's more difficult than Cowles Mountain,
which is my usual pick for an outdoors cardio session,
but it's definitely manageable. 
My booty-cheeks hurt so good the next day!


December 16, 2012

If you're going to San Francisco... Eat Here!

There are countless amazing restaurants in San Francisco,
and although narrowing our selection down to just a few places was difficult,
I couldn't be more pleased with our choices.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?
Our original plan was to carb load on Italian food as soon as we touched down, at the highly praised Seven Hills restaurant. 
I heard they have the most delicious Ravioli Uovo - full belly farm egg yolk, house made ricotta cheese, spinach, brown butter and white truffle oil.
Unfortunately, those plans quickly fell through after our flight was delayed by five hours.
Damn storm.
We ended up getting to San Francisco around midnight,
and after finding our hotel, checking in, and getting settled,
my hopes of indulging in a great meal that night were zero to none.

Aaaah, but this is why I love the city.
It's like she whispered in my ear,
"chin up, there are plenty of lovely options around here past the late night hour".
Corny, I know,
but after a quick yelp search my hopes were rejuvenated.

We ended up walking a couple of blocks down the street to find a sushi joint known for great food, a live DJ, and late night hours.
You know how we found it?
There was a line out the door!
Mind you, this was around 1 a.m.
We figured, if all these people were waiting, it must be good.
And boy was it worth the wait.
Ryoko's Sushi was just what we needed to kick off the vacation.
After waiting in line for about 20 minutes,
a wait that was alleviated by being served drinks in line and getting to hear the DJ spin,
we were seated in the center of all the action.

We started off with some wakame-su salad,
seaweed and cucumber in light vinaigrette.
This wasn't the typical seaweed salad either,
you know, the green grassy one, which I also love.
No, this was actually seaweed.. like the stuff you find at the bottom of the ocean.
Very flavorful and light.

For sushi, we chose the Pokemon - salmon, mango, avocado and green leaf lettuce, wrapped in soy paper;
the Hot Tail - marinated yellowtail in spicy sauce, shiso, and cucumber;
and the Big Mama - spicy BBQ eel, egg, shiso, cucumber and flying fish roe.
Everything was delicious, but the Pokemon roll was definitely my favorite.
We finished off the night with an order of strawberry mochi balls,
and took a leisurely stroll back to our hotel,
satiated and buzzed.

The next place you have to visit if you're going to San Fran is truly a landmark.
Swan Oyster Depot is so OG* that it doesn't even need a website.
They don't accept credit cards,
and if you really want to eat there, you'll wait in line for a space at the bar just like everyone else.
A bloody beer and some good ol' clam chowder. 

Combination Salad
Combination Oysters
This line was a tad bit longer than the one from the night before.
After about an hour of standing in the rain,
(oh the crazy things we do for some delicious bites),
we were able to grab some seats inside.
I mean, this probably isn't a place you want to bring your first date to,
but it is a place that serves up the some of the freshest seafood I've ever had.
Bonus points if you can chat up the server into giving you free samples of whatever it is he's carving up.
In our case, it was some salmon lox sandwiches and some ripe urchin bits.

On Saturday we had a dinner that topped all dinners!
After some meticulous research, I finally decided that La Folie would be the best place for our date night.
The restaurant has recieved various accolades throughout its lifetime,
including one Michelin star and a spot in the top five ranks on Zagat's list of best restaurants in San Francisco.
A lot to live up to, but La Folie did not dissapoint!
Although the decor wasn't as extravagant as I maybe would have expected,
I appreciated it at the same time.
It's a statement that says "I don't need to put on a show or mask anything up, just put out some extraoridnary dishes".
What I also like about this restaurant is that it offers choices as far as the menu is concerned,
an extravagance that most other restaurants of this stature simply don't bother with.
Diners can choose to have either a 3, 4 or 5 course meal,
or if you want to try all the best that the chef has to offer,
go big and spring for the tasting menu.
After reading that the portions at La Folie are quite generous,
I opted for the three course dinner,
while Erik chose the four course option so he could try out their dessert.
Warm pig feet, sweetbread and lobster terrine, on a lentil salad with bacon and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Triple T Ranch tempura duck egg, on sweetbreads pancake, Frangelico almond pesto, wild mushroom salad, and truffle vinaigrette. 
Lobster and mushroom risotto, with leeks and lobster broth.
Pan roasted Bolinas black cod, with warm broccoli panna cotta, lemon olive oil pearls, and blood orange Beurre fondue.
Roasted Emigh Farms lamb rack, Israeli cous cous gateau, Medjool date and marinated beets
Roti of quail and squab, stuffed with mushrooms, wrapped in crispy potato strings, with truffled jus.
Carrot cake, candied Buddha's hand, Greek yogurt sphere, olive oil gelee, Earl Grey tea ice cream.
Our wine selection for the night was a 2002 Aleph Malbec,
which complimented each course beautifully.
The lamb and the quail courses were by far the favorites of the evening,
but what truly made the experience was not even the culinary creativity,
but all the other details that are so easily lost in the world of American dining.
Each course was presented as a piece of art,
exquisitely decorated with color and flavor.
The staff was so gracious and knowledgeble,
enchanting me with their French accents each time they placed a plate in front of me and went on to describe what I would be enjoying.
The amuse buche servings between each course were the cherry on top.
We sat there for hours, savoring each bite and enjoying each other's company.
It was a perfect evening, and I couldn't ask for anything more.

The last place that I'd like to recommend to you today,
is vastly different from the five star dining establishment described directly above,
yet it too filled our bellies with some tasty meals.
Tea Leaf Salad
Thai Tea makes the world go round!
Garlic Noodles with Duck - flour noodles with fried garlic and scallions
Coconut Rice  - AMAZING
Chili Lamb - with dried and fresh chili, onion and basil
Burma Superstar may have been featured on the Food Network,
however it has earned its loyal followers by offering sublime food and a friendly atmosphere.
We actually came here upon a recommendation from my bestie, who just happens to be a self-proclaimed foodie like myself.

The stakes were raised pretty high,
considering the place has over 3,000 five star reviews on Yelp.
We got to the restaurant about 10 minutes before it opened,
(11 am on a Sunday),
and already there was a crowd of people waiting outside the door.
Once the lights turned on,
we were quickly seated,
given a rundown of the most popular dishes,
and were left to peruse the menu.
Let's see... what can I tell you,
the Tea Leaf Salad was indeed one of the BEST salads I've ever consumed,
and the combination of the lamb with the coconut rice?
Simply divine!!
Definitely worth a visit if you're in town.

*Original Gangsta.. duh.


December 11, 2012

If you're going to San Francisco - Part II

Part II of our San Francisco adventures. 
Just like any iconic landmark, 
the Golden Gate bridge was assaulted with 402,394,391 pictures. 
I'm sure it's tough being so pretty.

We started the day off by hiking up and down through the Presidio.
Unlike the first day, we got very lucky with the weather. 
(Thank you baby Jesus)
Literally flying. Now accepting offers from the WNBA. 
So perfect, it hurts. 
Told you... a million pictures. 
After walking for what seemed like hours,
we decided to take it up a notch. 
Took the muni up to Lombard St. and proceeded to climb the steepest hill ever
Oh but the view was SO worth it!
We finished our day off at Fishermans Wharf. 
Once a tourist, always a tourist. 
Do it. 
Holly Jolly
Like I mentioned in my previous post,
we had less than two days to spend in the city,
and I'm pretty sure we used our time wisely. 

Next up I'll be sharing some SF food porn with ya. 
I know that's what you've really been waiting for.