July 21, 2015

Riga, Latvia - Part I

So here's a fun game to play...
next time someone asks you where you're going for vacation, 
tell them - Riga... Latvia. 

Pause for reaction. 

My guess is that more than half of the people you say this to will be confused. 
I can't blame them. 
There are 195 countries in the world. I don't expect people to be able to name them all. I certainly couldn't. 
I had to google that by the way. <insert wide-eyed emoji here> For some reason I thought there were more than that. 

The point is, that I spent a few days in Riga, Latvia last month, 
and it was amazing. 
And I want to tell everyone about it so that you don't have to be startled the next time someone tells you they're going there,
or better yet,
so you can get it on your radar and eventually visit it yourself.

So a couple of fun facts about this place:
-Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
-Riga is the capital, and dates back to at least the 12th century.
-Latvia is one of the three Baltic States, and has land borders with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. 
-The official language is Latvian, however a lot of people speak Russian and English.

My other impressions of my time spent in Riga?
This place is absolutely gorgeous!
The city is well known for its Art Nouveau architecture. 
Its old town is filled with such buildings, and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architecture, 
much of which dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

I honestly just loved everything about this place.
The pictures just don't do it justice.. you really need to check it out with your own eyeballs. And nose. And mouth. 
"If you haven't tasted it, you have not been in Riga."


July 16, 2015

Patron Secret Society Dinner

I often get asked if I get paid to blog,
and my answer typically confuses people.  
"No? Then why do you do it?"
Hmmm... tougher question. 
Yet I've thought about it enough over the past couple of years that I think I know the answer. 
My blog is my creative outlet, but that's not the only reason why I do it. 
This site has opened so many doors for me and introduced me to numerous amazing people. 
It has given me the opportunity to document all the things that I love to do:
eating, traveling and partaking in experiences that I'll look back on years from now and smile about.

Last week I got the chance to attend an event that set the bar pretty high. 
It all started with a simple email titled "Join Us: Exclusive Patrón Tequila Secret Dining Society Event". 
My eyes lit up and my heart started beating a little faster as I clicked through to read the rest of the message. 
It just kept getting better. 
Inside was a note inviting me to an event from a series of exclusive Patrón-sponsored dinners that were held in "unforgettable locations" and featured top culinary and mixologist talent. 
While majority of the details were to remain a secret until the day of the event,
I was pleased to read that the hosts for the evening were two of my favorite industry leaders in San Diego. 
You probably already guessed it, but it's true,
I was among 40 lucky foodies that would get to experience a stunning multi-course dinner prepared by none other than 
Chef Brian Malarkey and Mixologist Lucien Conner. 
The event was scheduled for a night during Comicon weekend,
one of the busiest times of the year in San Diego. 
It was also appropriately themed, featuring the super heroes of the secret dining society.
With little more than a meeting location and time, 
I showed up ready to be surprised and delighted by night full off twists, turns and lots of tequila. 
After a quick scavenger hunt around the Santa Fe train station, 
my dining companions and I gathered inside the lobby of the Museum of Contemporary Art,
where the cocktails started flowing and didn't stop till much, much later. 
A quick meet and greet with the other guests was interrupted by a fairy that proceeded to lead the eager group across the rails to board the Patrón Express. 

The next several hours float by like a dream. 
As I step aboard the gorgeous private railcar, I'm greeted with yet another cocktail and a platter of uni. 
Stop. It's already too good. 
Yeah right. By this time I'm wishing this experience would never have to end!
I feel breathless as I take in the opulence of my surroundings. 
The train has three staterooms, a master suite, a dining room, a vast kitchen and an observation room,
and all of it is dripping in velvet and gold. 
I feel right at home.
As everyone finds their seats along the beautifully decorated table,
I still can't believe that I'm part of this company. 
Our hosts welcome us as we get comfortable, 
and proceed to present course after course of beautifully crafted dishes that are paired with extraordinary Patrón cocktails. 
Everything was so perfect,
and the chef coming around and personally shaving truffles onto our final course was just the cherry on top. 
Or truffle, rather. 

As if all of that wasn't enough, 
after feasting for hours, our plump (and buzzed) group is escorted back to solid ground for a dessert & cocktail party. 
And there under the cover of darkness, while the DJ plays sultry music and tequila continues to flow down my throat,
 I remind myself that money can't buy experiences like this. 
And I feel truly happy.