an anniversary mini-break

Last weekend Matt and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. We always try to do something special, whether it’s a short trip or even just a fancy dinner out. In the past, we’ve gone to Nantucket, had dinner at Daniel, and spent a night in Atlantic City. This year, Matt’s parents generously volunteered to keep Nolan for a sleepover at their house, and we planned a night in the city.

For somewhere that’s a 30-minute train ride away, NYC has so many things to do, places to see, restaurants to eat at, hotels to stay in… I found this one night away harder to plan than other week-long trips. To book our hotel we ended up with a good price through Travelocity’s mobile site. Believe it or not, the same exact room was $10 more expensive booked on the computer than it was on my phone. It was a special “mobile rate.” We also considered using Hotel Tonight, but in the end found that the Travelocity price was on par with or better than the deals they had.

We stayed at the Soho Grand, which was lovely. Very cool decor, lots of brushed brass and dim lights. The staff was friendly but no one looked a day over 24 and most are probably struggling actors and models. It made me feel old. And round.

The hotel kindly upgraded us to a room with a great view of the Freedom Tower, but it overlooked Canal Street and was so loud in the morning. I’d say they need to reevaluate the windows because it was way too noisy after 6am.

We got tickets to see Once through TDF (a $20 membership gets great prices on tons of shows). It’s luck of the draw with seating and you don’t find out where you’re sitting until you arrive, but once again we lucked out. We had mezzanine seats on the aisle (the pregnancy bladder gods were with me!) and paid only $40 a piece for them. Those seats regularly sell for $142! The show was wonderful and hearing the music from a live band made me like the soundtrack even more.

The rest of our 24 hours or so were pretty much focused on food because that’s my favorite part of any trip, even one that’s just across the East River. We started with delicious brunch at Schiller’s Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side.

After the show we had a snack (dinner #1) at the bar in the hotel, and ended our night with a delicious dinner at Hudson Clearwater.

 The food was definitely delicious, but I wouldn’t recommend sitting outside like we did. It was beautiful but the seats were uncomfortable and all the tables wobbled a lot on the bricks. Plus, there were some furry friends who scampered about…

Before heading back home on Monday morning, we finally visited Clinton Street Baking Company to try their famous pancakes. I love pancakes, but I’m kind of picky about them. Most of the time when I order them in restaurants, I find that the toppings and extras are all good, but the pancakes themselves are usually pretty bland and lackluster. Well, these were not bland at all. I went with the popular Maine blueberry pancakes and they were as good as I’d hoped. I would never wait hours and hours for them as is the case on most weekends, but ten minutes on a Monday? No problem.

Even though I was hauling around my big belly and couldn’t partake in the gallons of wine and cocktails that were everywhere (being pregnant in the summer is hard!), it was a very rejuvenating day away with my favorite man.

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photo (1)Marking our anniversary in a special way is important to us; what do you do to celebrate yours? Next year I have my sights set on a night away at the Maplestone Inn in New Paltz. Is it too early to plan anniversary #8 and reserve some babysitting?

Images from: Soho Grand Hotel, New York Magazine, Once the Musical, A Cup of Jo, Hudson Clearwater, and me

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Nantucket

Well it’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?? Sorry for the lapse in posting, now on to Nantucket!

Because this was our third trip there together, we decided to rent a place instead of staying in a bed and breakfast. If you want to splurge, stay at the Union Street Inn. We stayed there four years ago and it’s amazing but too $$$ for us!

This time we stayed in this apartment, which we found on Home Away. If you haven’t checked out Home Away, definitely click around before you book your next trip. Amazing house and apartment rentals. The apartment was a ten minute walk from town, a short a bike ride from beaches, and it had beautiful views of the harbor.

Above images from http://www.homeaway.com

It was really nice having more space to hang around for half the price of a hotel or inn. My only complaint about the place is that there was a lot of road noise! It’s not on a main road but there seemed to be a lot of noisy truck traffic during the day.

This was the view from our balcony around sunset.

I was really digging this dog’s hairdo.

There’s Matt walking down the street. Nice butt!

An early morning shot of Main Street.

This is a government sign from the 1970s. Obviously we’re not the best listeners.

I guess I could put up with having a house on this beach.

But only if you really twisted my arm.

Ok so now get ready for my million sunrise pictures. On our last morning there, I couldn’t sleep. I never sleep well on “travel days.” Whether I’m heading out or coming home, I can’t sleep. So I woke up at 5 and watched Antiques Roadshow until I saw this gorgeous sunrise start to take shape. I snapped a bunch of pictures and these are just a few. I didn’t adjust the color at all.

If you’re going, eat at Dune, Queequeg’s, Even Keel (for breakfast), and The Boarding House. The beaches are beautiful, there are plenty of bike trails, and we always have a great time. We’re going to try to keep up our streak of going every two years. I should probably start saving now.

The North Fork should start paying me

When we decided to plan a little getaway to the East End for our anniversary, I thought, “Perfect! A trip that’s close to home and economical!” Well, it was close to home…

My love for restaurants is a problem. When I get to a place with great local restaurants, I can’t NOT eat there. I always start off with, “Sure, we’ll just grab lunch at a deli or something.” Fast forward a few hours and I’m eating tuna tartare.

We dined out three times and I would highly recommend all three places.

Dinner Night #1 – The Frisky Oyster, 27 Front Street, Greenport

The FO’s website is under construction but it has a copy of a sample menu. Like most restaurants in the area, the menu depends on what’s seasonal and available so it changes regularly.

From the moment we walked in the door, I had a good feeling because we were out celebrating our anniversary and our WEDDING SONG WAS PLAYING! Crazy, right?? (By the way, it’s Jack Johnson’s “Better Together.”) We started with delicious tuna spring rolls. Matt ordered tasty duck and I enjoyed a pasta dish with lobster in a goat cheese cream sauce. For dessert, strawberry shortcake. Oh, and I had a lemon mojito. Why are all my pants tight? I can’t begin to imagine!

Lunch Day #2 – Noah’s, 136 Front Street, Greenport

Noah’s was just reviewed by the New York Times and rated a Don’t Miss restaurant. I have to agree. Nautical but chic, cool artwork, friendly service, incredibly fresh, delicious food, and a kickass cucumber margarita. What’s not to love?

Image: http://www.chefnoahschwartz.com

My lunch, after I took a bite.

The artwork is supplied by a local artist who makes fish prints from the fish her husband catches. Really amazing.

image: http://www.eastendfishprints.com
image: http://www.eastendfishprints.com

Dinner Day #2 – The North Fork Table, 57225 Main Road, Southold

The North Fork Table is like The River Cafe of the East End. A prix fixe menu, creative local food, fantastic service – it’s really an experience.

image: http://northforktableandinn.com

I had roasted beets with goat cheese and pistachios, crispy duck breast and the best damn peach cobbler I’ve ever had in my life. Matt had good stuff too. Even when you’re ordering wine by the glass, they have you taste it first, just to make sure you like it. Smart! We’ll definitely be back. Maybe before the end of the summer…

Tomorrow: beaches, B&Bs and wine!

Booked!

I cannot believe that in just three short weeks, Matt and I will have been married for THREE years. Because we’ve been together for nearly ten years, in many ways it feels like, just three? But it mostly feels like, WTF?? Our wedding was three years ago? It feels like last summer!

For our first anniversary, we had dinner at Daniel on East 65th Street in Manhattan. It was beyond special, but not somewhere I feel the need to go back to any time soon. I love to splurge on a meal from time to time but eating at Daniel is beyond a splurge, it’s an investment.

image: blog.purentonline.com
image: blog.purentonline.com

I read an article in the Times last year that some very posh restaurants, including Daniel, had lowered their prices to accommodate the economy and stimulate some business. Currently, a three-course prix fixe dinner is $105 a person. I think that might even be a tad lower than when we were there two years ago.

The meal was sublime, the service was insane (French style) and I’m still salivating over the lychee champagne I had , but upon leaving I felt disgusting about how much the meal cost. For my taste, I’d rather do a special occasion at our true favorite, The River Cafe.

image: http://www.nycgo.com
image: http://www.aromanticspot.com

It’s still very pricey and men need a jacket for dinner, but even with that it’s more laid back than Daniel and you can’t beat the view. The restaurant is perched under the Brooklyn Bridge and looks across the East River at the skyline and South Street Seaport.

I have absolutely ZERO recollection of what we did for our 2nd anniversary. We had moved into our house just two weeks before and I think my brain is fried. Scratch that!! I just remembered, we went to Atlantic City and spent a night at the Borgata. Eh. The cigarette smoke is disgusting and our dinner at Bobby Flay was so-so.

For this year’s anniversary, we’ve agreed not to do gifts because we’re spending two nights out in Greenport at the Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast. It looks so peaceful and relaxing and it has great reviews on Trip Advisor. I can’t wait to drink wine, eat, go to the beach, eat, walk through Greenport, eat, and if there’s time, maybe grab a snack!

image: http://www.themorningglory.com
image: http://www.themorningglory.com

So… who’s watching Baxter?

A rainy day and a beautiful day

Our third day in California was a rainy one, so we planned as many indoor activities as possible. We started with ANOTHER  amazing breakfast at the Farmhouse and then relaxed a bit before heading to Korbel.

The brandy tower was modeled after the tower that Francis Korbel saw from jail in Czechoslovakia. He was a criminal! (Not really, he was protesting or something)

The tour was ok, too much history and too little champagne-making explanation. Our guide was an older gentleman whose favorite phrase was, “Really think about that for a minute.” Then he would immediately start talking about something else.

I was insulted at one point by what I considered to be blatant sexism but Matt says I’m overreacting. The tour guide was explaining why the bottom of champagne bottles have a concave bottom (it’s for reinforcement) and he said, “Ladies, you’ll know this, when you drop a mayonnaise bottle with a flat bottom, what happens? It breaks!” Ahhh right, our small hands and fingers have trouble holding the jar while we’re at home making sandwiches for our husbands.

After the tour we grabbed lunch at Willow Wood Market where I spotted salt and pepper shakers that I really want.

Unfortunately, they weren’t for sale.

I needed a break from wine so I ordered a chai tea latte and was confused to receive this:

Yes, that’s a bowl of tea. For the sake of my bladder, I didn’t finish it.

That night we drove to Santa Rosa for dinner and we ate at Syrah. Wow! This was the first time I did a tasting menu with a wine pairing and it was amazing. Great food, delicious wine, funky decor, good stuff!

The next day was absolutely gorgeous so we tried to get as many outdoor activities in as possible. We visited Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve which was muddy but beautiful.

Many people describe me as tree-like, what with my never-ending legs that hold up my 5’1” body. You can imagine then how large this tree is.

We tried (unsuccessfully) to time a picture but my camera focused on the branch it was balancing on instead. Oh well.

A friendly passerby took this one for us instead.

Being the beach lover that he is, Matt really wanted to drive to the coast. I was lukewarm about it because I thought, we live on Long Island! We’re surrounded by beaches! Yeah so the Pacific Coast is pretty different. My bad.

Sure, that looks just like our beaches…

This rock reminded me of the final scene in The Goonies when they’re on the beach and One Eyed Willie’s boat sails by.

Anyone who knows me knows that I typically avoid places that have danger signs. Once again, Intrepid Matt bullied me and I’m grateful for it.

That’s not a cool new hat, it’s my hair being whipped by the insane wind.

This is how we got back and forth from the car. I get winded just looking at it.

Hey, Matt!

I had no idea that everything in Sonoma closes really early. All the vineyards’ tasting rooms close between 3:00 and 5:00 which was kind of annoying! We were able to stop at Iron Horse Vineyard and Hartford Family Winery to get some tastings in. Hartford looked like a beautiful private residence but it’s primarily a tasting room and wine processing facility.

For our final night in Sonoma we visited Healdsburg and were disappointed to see that all the stores and tasting rooms also closed before 5:00. Annoying! We were able to shop in Lime Stone which had really cool home accessories and jewelry. I bought myself a vacation gift:

Dry Creek Kitchen was the destination of our final dinner and it was fabulous. I feel like I’ve said that for every meal but the food everywhere was just so good! It’s a Charlie Palmer restaurant so I’m interested in trying his places in New York, Aureole and Astra.

Stay tuned for a complete list of restaurants, vineyards and places to visit!

Wine Tour-rific

Day #2 in California was filled with even more food and wine!

One of the perks of staying at The Farmhouse Inn is the breakfast. Oh lord, the breakfasts. No Costco muffins and mediocre coffee here! Yesterday it was oatmeal pancakes and the best scone I’ve ever had. Today it was waffles with a caramelized bacon and banana sauce and a pork patty. INSANE. The most interesting mix of flavors!

The main house and restaurant

Our room

After breakfast we were picked up by Ken, our wonderful tour guide from Platypus Tours. He was really knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating. We visited five different wineries in the Russian River Valley and pretty much loved all of them. There were eight of us in the group and with the exception of “million questions guy,” everyone was normal. We visited Russian River Vineyards, Inspiration Vineyards, Battaglini Estate Winery, Foppoli Wines and LaCzar Vineyards. In addition to meeting the owners/winemakers at four of the five vineyards, we actually had tastings in the proprietors’ homes for the last two.

Our transportation for the day

Russian River Vineyards

This vine at Inspiration Vineyards is over 100 years old. Older vines produce really concentrated flavors but have small yields.

These are younger vines, they are smaller and not designed to grow as thick and gnarly as older vines.

John’s tasting room is his garage which doubles as storage and a crystal meth lab. Kidding.

The forecast called for rain.

I’m starting to doubt that meteorology is a science…

They were big fans of the old country at Battaglini.

That’s us with Joe. Ciao, Joe!

The wisteria covered tasting room

The home of Foppoli Vineyards

The view from their home

Dominic, the guy in charge (he’s my age)

The final stop was to LaCzar Vineyards where we had a tasting (and some delicious snacks) in the owners’ home. This is the view from their backyard. You can imagine what the inside of the house looked like. I’ll give you a hint. GORGEOUS.

I think I could manage to live here.

California, here we come!

Matt and I are settled in to our California trip. We’re spending this week at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, about an hour north of San Francisco. Aside from some rain and a dash of traffic, getting here was a breeze!

This was our first time flying on Virgin America and overall, it was very pleasant. I was disappointed to see that the movies were $8 a piece, so instead I watched marathons of Cold Case and Law and Order for free. They also don’t offer any complimentary food so everything needs to be purchased. Boooo!  I picked up some high-brow literature in the airport:

Virgin America is like Jet Blue’s cool younger sister.  Based on previous experience and what The Bachelor tells me, I imagine all pilots to look and sound like John Edwards (minus the cheating and the love child). When the captain came  over the loudspeaker I was surprised to hear that he did not have that southern drawl and instead had some sort of accent, Caribbean, Irish, Mandarin, I’m not really sure. These are some pictures I took from the plane:

For some reason whenever I think of snow-topped mountains I think of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when he is forced to jump from the plane that’s crashing. I’m a weirdo, I know.

Before heading up to Sonoma County, we stopped at Hog Island Oysters in the Ferry Building by the Bay Bridge. Amazing! The Ferry Building is a fabulous marketplace with tons of delicious looking shops and restaurants. It’s reason enough for me to pick up and move over here.

Image: Ferry Building website

Considering that when Matt and I started dating his palate did not extend past tuna sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, and chicken parm, I’m proud to say that he ate oysters and enjoyed them! He didn’t go for the raw ones (although I did) but he was a good sport.

possibly the best clam chowder I’ve had – super fresh with a delicate creamy broth, not the bisque-ish consistency I’m used to

the view from our table

After lunch we made our way over  the Golden Gate Bridge and of course I snapped some mediocre pictures. Photography from a Kia Spectra is hard!

In addition to being a hotel, Farmhouse Inn is also an acclaimed restaurant and we can see why! We had a really delicious dinner there on our first night. Pork cheeks (way better than it sounds), halibut, chocolate beignets (fancy doughnut balls), mmmmmmhmmmm.