Dinner Party in the Vines

A couple of summers ago I gathered my family, some home-cooked food, a photographer and a food writer together for a late lunch in the Virginia wine country. My family and I had recently moved to Virginia from NYC and in trying to shake off the Manhattan-centric blues, had discovered the riches of our newly local wine region.

I was approached by Anthology Magazine to host a dinner party for my dancing family, paired with local wines, smack dab in the middle of Virginia wine country, and I mean literally in the middle of it. We feasted, fancy picnic style, in between the lush Virginia vines of Paradise Springs Winery, just outside of DC. The stuff of dreams, a lot of cooking and prep went into this dinner, along with a lot of honest to God sweat as it was a 95 degree day, but there were definitely no tears. It was one for the books, er, magazines. As the story was only available in print, I’ve had a few requests to post it on the blog, so here it is dear readers- Enjoy and Cin Cin.

Anthology Family Issue Summer 2014

Dining Among the Vines
Text by Anna Watson Carl
Photography by Amy Dickerson
Styled by Kelly d’Amboise

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Harvest with Hobo Wine Co.

mtmf-kenny

Last fall, Amy Dickerson and I took a top secret trip to Santa Rosa, where we hung out with winemaker Kenny Likitprakong for a day in the life of his harvest. The fruits of our labor (and his) are currently out—ours in print, his in bottles. What a thrill to spend a day with Kenny and his crew—his crew being comprised of a few hardworking wine folk including his wife Lynn and their two darling girls. Lynn is not only a big part of Hobo Wine Co., but has her own illustrious wine label as well—my kind of woman.
Fun fact: their school-aged girls pull their own weight in the warehouse winery, eagerly jumping into the vats to assist in the daily press downs- hands down my most favorite part of the day with the Likitprakongs.

Kenny is churning out some of the best juice in the country right now. He makes food friendly wine (fruit-driven, high acid wine) that speaks the language of its land at a price point that he says he feels comfortable personally buying wine at. He’s on the verge of what is a new-ish trend in the US, great somm-darling wine at a fair price. The Old World has of course been hip to this notion for centuries. Kenny did his due time apprenticing in France, learning the lay of that land before getting back to his own California roots to start up his own vision.

Sharp, quick-witted, and warm—Kenny’s the kind of guy you want to follow on adventures and then kick back with over a cold beer. He’s got that enviable combo of hearty work ethic and laid-back ease, he is a skater dude at heart, so maybe that explains it. His environs don’t hurt either, it’s easy to feel both inspired and relaxed in Santa Rosa. In his daily life, the guy is a maniac, traversing the Northern California coast from Santa Cruz to Mendocino in his dusty pickup, sourcing and hand-testing grapes from various vineyards. He logs a lot of time on grape-clustered country roads, returning each day to his winery, where the magic that began on the vines continues. Three Cheers and a Cin Cin for Hobo Wine Co., they are really on to something.

Meet the Modern Farmer Fall 2015:

Modern Farmer cover

Modern Farmer

A few favorites from Hobo’s current releases:

Folk Machine Potter Valley Pinot Noir- we happily drank this beauty during an al fresco home-cooked dinner in the Hobo Winery. Maybe it was the company or the romance of the wine churning all around us— no, actually, this is just a really killer bottle. $24.99

Camp Cabernet Sauvignon 2014- a Sonoma-centric, chompy and chewy red. Great at your next BBQ. $18.00

Folk Machine Valdiguie- my go-to dinner party wine, a great label (looks great on the table- I know, I can’t help it, aesthetics are key) and even better blend. The fruit sings and the minerals and dirt dance- for real. $18.99

Folk Machine Parts & Labor- a longtime favorite and another perfect Cali. red blend. I used to buy this wine for a local wine market, it still sells out. Enough said. $14.99

Photo: Amy Dickerson for Modern Farmer

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1 comment | Tags: travel, vino

Happy Weekending!

awesome people hanging out
I love this photo. 

What are you all up to this fine spring weekend? We might brave the crowds and take in the wonder of the Cherry Blossom during peak bloom. My friend Rashmi advises to get there at sunrise, that’s what her family does to capture the true beauty of the blooms sans crowds. Sounds magical, we will aim for it with the expectation that we will probably arrive around 10:30 just in time to whisper swears out of ear reach of the kiddos when there is not a parking spot left to be had. We’ll take in my talented friend Karen Reedy’s dance company at DC’s Dance Place as well, where they are tag-teaming with San Francisco’s Project B. in performance. If you live in the area, get yourself a ticket! Karen’s choreography is so swoonful, I wish it could dance me to sleep every night.

What I’m Drinking:

The cherry blossoms are blooming- just another good reason to drink pink. I’m liking this one lately- a perky pink Pinot from Sonoma, yum.

In Other News:

My friend Liz Larsen is playing Carole King’s mother on Broadway in “Beautiful” (NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW!). It was just another day on the Broad-way last night when the legend herself popped in to see the show. She sat down backstage with the cast for an impromptu master class. What the what! That’s Liz in the corner wiping away tears as she videos and sings harmony.

How brunch is taking over the world.

A Navy Seal explains why making your bed may the most important thing you do today.

Dove’s new beauty campaign spawning spoofs all over the blogosphere including this one and criticisms across the interwebs like this one. What say you to all of this?

Which iconic movie house should you live in? (I got Cameron’s house from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- I always loved that house!)

These little beach radios remind me of my pink Sharp QT-50 boombox circa 1986- that thing was awesome, do you guys remember these?

The cookbook I’m drooling over and its restaurant I need to patronize.

I love this little chambray blazer.

Hilary hires this Google gal to head up her tech dept. It looks like she’ll make the big Hil for Prez. announcement this weekend.

This Atlanta designers’ patternful and color-filled home is the cat’s meow. That lighting fixture- that coffee table- those prints on prints. Love it.

Turns out it wasn’t just bad teeth, a few reasons why nobody smiled in old photographs.

If you’re short on space in your kitchen, this is a stylish storage solution.

An afternoon at Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch.

Hip Hip Hooray- the Brontosaurus is back! Next up- we need to get Pluto back in the game.

Cin Cin ya’ll and Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Happy Monday!

Black Sesame Ice CreamBlack Sesame Ice Cream, anyone? Yum. 

Well, I missed my weekly Weekending post, so here’s a Happy Monday for you all. In the midst of being a bit overwhelmed with work/life balance (what’s new, right), I have been slowly and surely finding my way to a more simplified way of life, it’s on my mind a lot lately. After accepting too many gigs here and there that have left me exhausted and feeling like I rarely my family, I have decided to study and learn the art of the graceful decline. The problem is- I’m a city girl with a built-in hustle. You can take the girl out of the city but…, well you know. I need to learn to shake the hustle off because the truth is, since having my kiddos, I don’t love the hustle like I used to. I’m actually starting to hate it. I’m in the fortunate position of not having to work full time, but I do work part-time. It’s a constant balancing act of figuring out just how much is enough- financially, logistically and emotionally. You want to do what you love but you also want to be with those you love- the ongoing conundrum.

Whew. I’m exhausted just writing that but it’s Monday morning, it’s a new week and it felt apropos to do so. If you, dear readers, have any advice- please send some my way.

In the Meantime:

What I’m Sipping: Cue the Angels, Go on the Spotlight- AHHHHHH! (read in Soprano)- it’s officially Rosé season folks. Truth be told, I drink the pink nectar of the Gods year round, but spring feels especially ripe to start popping the tops on the pink stuff. Here’s my all-time favorite, it’s a pretty penny and a bit more than I’d like to spend for a Tuesday night wine, but the beginning of a season only comes once a year, so what the hell- Tempier Bandol Rosé it is. Trust me, one sip of this stuff and you will totally get it- it is such a special wine. Maybe I’ll get really motivated and make a proper Bouillabaisse- the perfect pairing for this wine that boasts bright fruit, hints of dark chocolate and tangy spice- a most delicious and unique rosé from a most royal family in wine (The Peyraud/Tempier family has supplied Alice Waters’ go-to juice at Chez Panisse for decades and is responsible for getting their local Bandol grape officially classified in France. More on this stellar family here. P.S.: Lulu Peyraud is a personal hero, she is 90+ and takes a daily swim in the Meditteranean every morning, her cookbook is one of my favorites too.

In Other News: 

I got a kick out of this. Noel Gallagher on Beyoncé, “artistry”, how Apple is ruining youth culture, being a pussy, and much much more.

“25 Expressions You Should Have in Your Vocabulary”. I don’t know about everyday use- unless you don’t mind ostracizing yourself from society at the risk of sounding like you are speaking in tongues- but these are some pretty cool words.

GAP is still having that crazy ass sale at 40% off. Use Code: HOP

Tuscany’s Villa Lena looks pretty dreamy.

Mackenzie Horan’s NYC guide, if you’re due for a trip anytime soon. Good stuff here including some of my favorites- Palma, Rosemary’s, Buvette and Cafe Cluny- the stuff of dinner dreams.

How fresh are your eggs? A quick little test to find out.

Mix yourself up a fresh whiff of spring with this yummy maple syrup lemonade.

A day in Point Reyes and Tomales Bay- one of my favorite spots on the planet, this post sent to me by my pal Amy- she and I explored this pretty part of the world last September. My personal favorite stop on the bivalvian blessed coast is Hog’s Island Oyster Co. in Marshall- I wrote about it here.

I’m digging the Finns.

I love this outfit. This chick is just constantly shopping- it’s enviable.

Which led me to these pretty necklaces. A bit pricey for me at the moment, but so cool.

A day in the work life of Ira Glass.

Ahhh- I need to try this app but am a little scared of what it will reveal. Have you tried it?

This wallpaper! Happy-Making.

The Surf Lodge- Montauk. Another one for the list. Let’s get real- anyone that knows me well knows there’s no way in hell I would ever get more than shin-deep in Montauk waters. Hello Carcharadon Carcharius- but I’ll put my toes in and am happy to soak up a little Montauk goodness anytime.

Silver Espadrilles- yep! Just nabbed a pair of these- will wear through September.

Elizabeth Banks solves all your problems in 68 seconds.

Easter Brunching at home? Here’s a few great recipes.

Put that swiss chard to use.

Cin Cin ya’ll. Have an awesome week!

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Volatize This: A Springy Fresh Bottle of Loire Bubbles

Springtime Bubbles
Look at that label- I love that little guy. 

This bottle put a little spring in my step, so I thought it a perfect profile for this time of year. Spring is peeking its little head around the corner and (finally) awakening our senses with warm whiffs of fresh flowers and budding greens- yay! It’s about time. I say this every year, but the fact of the matter is, winter is just too long. On second thought, maybe I just live on the wrong latitudinal line. Hmmm. In any case, I’ve found the perfect bottle to pair with your spring.

fizzy lifting bubbles
Fizzy-Lifting Bubbles

Found in the darling little Charleston coffee and wine bar, The Daily, both the label (always a sucker for a good label- who says you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes you very well can) and the region (Muscadet in the Loire) sold me on this bottle of bubbly.

A self-proclaimed Acid Queen, I love pretty much any and everything from the Loire Valley, it might be the most perfect wine region. Because of its terroir, temps and generally speaking, lack of over-manipulation (because Loire winemakers are old school), the Loire Valley turns out some killer food wines bursting with racy acidity and terrific minerality. Bonus- they’re almost always a steal, especially when compared to their Champagne and Burgundy neighbors, but even sans comparison, you can almost always score a great bottle from the Loire for under $20.

This bright bottle of bubbly boasts delicious notes of citrus- lime and meyer lemon with a hint of bitter almond (in the best way) on the finish. It has a bit of those rich brioche-y notes from the méthode traditionnelle (the traditional method of Champagne-making where the wine rests on its yeasts for a good period of time, soaking up those bread-ful notes and turning them into delightful toastiness). Showing off its classic Loire minerality as well, drinking this bubbly is quite like sipping on wet stones. How would I know what exactly that might taste like? No clue. Let’s just go with it: sipping stones- it really does taste like that, take my word for it.

Jo Landron
Jo Landron, a Loire legend. 

Let’s talk about the winemaker here. Jo Landron, an original winemaking hipster (just look at that twirl-worthy ‘stache and lumberjack jacket- the kids today only wish), is legendary in the Loire, making sure that his Muscadets- both bubbly and still, taste of their terroir, not of his hand. He stays out of the way as much as possible to let the land and fruit tell their story. At 20% Pinot Noir and 80% Folle Blanche, this bubbly is lip-smackingly delicious, a great deal, and an awesome food wine.

tasting note atmospheres

*PAIR WITH: Most anything light and lean- maybe a whole grilled fish with lots of lime, a spring kale caesar salad, smoked trout crostini with radishes (I love this recipe), and of course oysters- it is a Muscadet, afterall people. We drank our bottle with some seared scallops and a bit of tomato and shallot jam (recipe via Zero George Street’s Vinson Petrillo)- crazy good.

Cin Cin y’all.

Check it:
Atmospheres by Jo Landron, $18

{Landron photo by Wine Terroirs}

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0 comments | Tags: vino

Happy Weekending!

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We had a little taste of summer this past week in Charleston, this photo seemed apropos for the way it made me feel.

Hello good people of the world and Happy Weekend to you. We have just returned from a whirlwind week of Spring Breaking in glorious Charleston- what a gem of a city, I can’t wait to round up my favorite spots. We stayed at the beach so we had the best of both worlds- town and country- we got charming city, crazy good food (I mean, really kind of nuts- full report to come), and long empty beaches with summertime breezes. More on all of that later next week.

What are you all up to this weekend? Spring may finally be peeking its head around the corner for us here in the Mid-Atlantic. At least it’s raining these days and not snowing, it can’t come soon enough.

What I’m Drinking: 

This amazing Loire sparkling wine I discovered at the cuter-than-can-be Charleston coffee and wine shop, The Daily. It’s so crisp and delicious- tasting note to follow, this one’s worth seeking out.

In Other News: 

London opens a bar where you can pet owls- I’m there.

I love these photos of Japanese dancer, Mickael Jou.

Big sale at the Gap. Use code FFBEST for 40% off little numbers like this.

I’m attempting a paleo-esque diet for the next month starting tomorrow. After all of that Charleston goodness, something’s got to give. We’ll see how it goes. This book on baking with natural sugars seems like a step in the right direction.

And speaking of books, I just ordered this one to inspire me to dig a little deeper in my spring clean this year. Spotted on my pal Rashmi’s Insta.

And speaking of tidying up, this cleaning guru shares her secrets for a tidy home.

Green fondue for St. Paddy’s Day? Maybe. This white chocolate matcha mix doesn’t quite jive with my paleo ambitions, but it sure looks fun (and yummy).

This springy green floral cape just made it to my wish list.

Cafe Clover- on my NYC list. This little West Village spot looks fab.

“This is what happens when you put your phone away for a week.”

This raw kale caesar with beet microgreens and poached egg reminds me of a transcendent salad I just had at Charleston’s The Macintosh- except their’s had tiny little pieces of fried cauliflower- what the what!

This book looks fun. The difference between the Queen’s English and our English.

“The sulfites give me a headache.” Chances are this is probably not the reason you’re getting a headache, so pop the cork on the bottle of red. Thank you Lettie Teague.

These flared high-waisted jeans are rocking my world. Let’s hope this paleo thing works so I can get back to zippers post-bebes.

This documentary looks amazing- Sailing the Sinking Sea.

Bjork and The Secret to a Pop Tune Hit on this week’s Studio 360- I loved this episode.

Cin Cin ya’ll and Happy Weekending!

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Happy Weekending!

pink house
Pretty in Pink- Charleston

Happy Weekend dear readers. It has been a long week with my grandmother passing. I will head home today and try to get back to “normal” life. It’s been a wonderful week of celebrating our Meme and spending time with family and friends, a great reminder of what is most important in life. Our post-memorial reception turned into an all-night impromptu dance party and there’s not a whole lot in the world that a spontaneous dance party can’t cure- my grandmother would have loved it.

What are you all up to this weekend? We will be packing up the minivan and heading down to Charleston for some R&R, beach time with the kiddos and some serious eating and exploring. I’ll be sure to take copious notes and sketch out a great city guide based on our time there. We’re staying at a little beach house on the Isle of Palms, hopefully we’ll catch a few warm days. We’re looking forward to eating here and renting a bike to properly tour the charming city. We’re taking a Low Country cooking class here and taking the kids here. And if any of you all have any recommendations, please send them my way. I haven’t been in years so am really looking forward to some Southern hospitality.


What I’m Drinking: 

Mint Juleps on our Charleston porch- rocking chairs required. Here’s a classic recipe from New Orleans bartender, Chris McMillian. And apparently Charleston’s The Gin Joint’s got one of the best Mint Juleps in the country. I might have to see for myself.
In Other News: 

This Geico ad is hilarious, I want to be in the room when these things are thought up.

How to get the most out of your cookbook collection- great tips from Lauren Salkeld.

A Secret Weapon Stir Fry Sauce- this is awesome.

The new meaning of luxury (read: why Instagram is flooded with so many photos of delicious cups of coffee).

Yay- a new Tina Fey sitcom.

I love this easy breezy long dress for summer.

Headed to South Beach but can’t spring for The Raleigh (my personal fave- that pool!)? Park it at this chic hostel- I promise this is not your momma’s hostel. There’s one coming to Chicago too.

My friend Anna wrote a Food & Wine piece on this mother daughter duo last year. Here they are again, their Burgundy Cook’s Atelier’s is on my list! I’d love to go with my mom.

Tom, Katie and Suri- a Scientology Story. I read the book that this new documentary is based on, it is unbelievable. Can’t wait to see what the filmmakers have done with it.

The Keurig cup inventor feels bad that he ever did it. :-(

Vince Vaughn and pals pose for cheesy stock photos that can be all yours for free- hilarious.

Andrew Knowlton spends 24 hours straight at the Waffle House working as a line cook.

Cin Cin ya’ll and Happy Weekending!

{photo by Doug Hickock}

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The Art of Creatively Retreating

Creatively Retreating
One Nest Project (photo by Rashmi Pappu)

There comes a time- and no better time than the middle of the deep-freezing winter- when your body and brain wish to simply retreat. Retreat- just what does that mean anyway? I don’t know, I guess it can really mean anything from retreating to your bedroom for a quick nap and a think, to going Hollywood and retreating to your Golden Door or Canyon Ranch, with lots of room for variation in between.

As defined by Merriam-Websters, a retreat is:  a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director.

So, yes- it’s pretty vague, although it does stipulate “group withdrawal”- Girl Trip! Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter what it is as long your retreat provides a little cleansing and refreshing of the body and mind, right? I’m a big fan of the daily long shower retreat myself. But as for a bit more of a commitment involving a group withdrawal, it’s nice to make the effort to travel outside your local geographical zone and get your retreat on with some like-minded peeps.

Recently, my pal Rashmi Pappu suggested that a few of us creatively-inclined folks get together for a creative retreat. I jumped at the chance, as a bit of simple time spent away in a quieter place with some good folks, food, and drink is always a welcome respite. And if you are the creative type, always dreaming up new ideas and full of old ones that you haven’t quite grasped how to turn into actual creations (I’ve got a boatload of those jumbled in my brain), I highly suggest the retreat of the creative kind with kindred spirits as it’s a great opportunity to bounce said ideas off of one another, and really just enjoy some space, scenery and laughs- because that’s kind of what life’s all about, right? Add in a sustainably designed home, a world class winery, a charming country village and a top rated restaurant and you’ve got the makings for one inspired weekend.

We stayed at the small footprint but big thinking One Nest Project in nearby Delaplane. And when I say nearby, I mean pretty darn nearby. For the record, it took me 47 minutes to get to the house (if you subtract the wrong turn I took up a country lane which just added to the mystique and fun of it all- you have to get lost at least once, right?), yet another point for DC area living- it’s got this vast vineyard/countryside directly to the left of it that sits pretty and beautifully unspoiled. Once I hit Delaplane, VA., my shoulders literally dropped and out came a lengthy exhale. Ahh- country life. Bring on the retreating.

one nest project
One Nest sits on stilts, eschewing a traditional foundation. 

As I drove up the steep and winding road to One Nest, I was immediately impressed by how it is both perched and somehow nestled into its landscape. I was simultaneously wowed by its design and impressed by its respectfulness to its surrounds- it made me want to, I don’t know, bow my head and whisper “Namaste” to it or something. I didn’t do that, but still… One Nest is a residence and project by developer Mark Turner- a thoughtfully and beautifully designed home on a hillside with bucolic views of grazing cattle, horses and sheep, boasting a modern design that embraces its terrain. With soaring ceilings and drool-worthy iron-framed windows, this property is an experimental one- built in under 100 days for $150,000, it feels like a generous sized home but is actually a mere 1,000 square feet. One Nest is Mark’s attempt at a new style of living, one that is more conscious of space, sustainability and community. Read the feature on his One Nest Project in the Washington Post here.

one nest at dusk
One Nest Project 

After a beautiful pesto pasta lunch made by my pal Amy Rutherford of Alexandria’s immaculately edited Red Barn Mercantile, we set off to RDV Vineyards to take in a glorious sunset and a bottle of their ’09 RDV Rendezvous. I don’t normally share the penchant for Points or opinions of critic Robert Parker, but in this case I have to agree with his spirited tweets about this particular vintage and bottle- this is some seriously good stuff. Sold out, you can still buy yourself a bottle at the vineyard. The Bordeaux of Virginia right here in our backyard (well, at least One Nest Project’s backyard and ours for a day).

RDV
Pink skies at RDV

silo
Interior of the Silo- RDV (Photo by Rashmi Pappu)

And as for that sunset, I imagine that the city folks saw an impressive sunset that evening as well, but somehow I think ours wins by virtue of the countryside and the creative retreating and all.

Sunset
Photographer Rashmi Pappu capturing and enjoying the moment. 

Off we went, happily plied with a bit of Bordeaux-esque vino, to the top notch Ashby Inn- an impossibly cozy and charming combination of local haunt meets destination restaurant nestled in tiny Paris, VA. (I had to love that we ventured to Paris, VA. for dinner- that alone just made me happy.) Great food and drink ensued. My favorite dish of the night- a dashi custard seafood small plate, but honestly everything was delicious from the perfectly roasted quail to the house-made ricotta. After some conversation with our friendly sommelier, Stuart Brennen, I knew immediately what our bottle of wine would be. His eyes positively lit up while his hands theatrically gestured as he described the German Pinot he had recently acquired. Sold. The ’11 Baden Huber Pinot was a vino to love- vinified candy, juicy yet refined and light to medium-bodied, it proved a perfect pairing to the array of dishes on the table.

baden pinot
Baden Huber ’11 Pinot at The Ashby Inn. If you can get your hands on a bottle of this- please do so. 

With happy tummies, we headed home to enjoy a bit more conversation and a slice (or two) of Sucré’s delicious King Cake courtesy of one King Cake afficionado, Lindsay Boudreaux. A satisfying end to our first day of retreat.

breakfast and baby king cake
The breakfast of champions- avocado toast, a perfectly fried egg, and a bit of King Cake (not seen here because already ingested). P.S.: Rashmi got the baby! (Photo by Rashmi Pappu)

morning retreating

Paper and pencils in hand- the spitballing session begins.

The next morning provided a perfect opportunity for brainstorming, spitballing, and of course, lounging. Lindsay made fried egg and avocado toasts with a bevy of fixins and we noshed and enjoyed our environs. Hungry from all that brainstorming, we made our way into Middleburg for a cozy lunch at The French Hound. Chef’d and owned by John Gustin Birkitt, a Virginia local who made his mark at Napa’s Brix and Domaine Chandon, later making the culinary rounds in Provence, his menu is just the one you want to choose from on a chilly Sunday in February. We sat next to a roaring fire and dined on salted radishes, pommes frites, burgers and BLT’s. Yum, I highly recommend.

the french hound
Lunch at The French Hound= happy-making

A brisk walk around town and a cup of coffee later, I headed home. Another added bonus of retreating- it’s always nice to return.

I don’t know why we don’t do this creative retreating thing more often. I walked away from this brief moment away full of inspiration and ideas and more importantly, good memories and a bit more space in my usually cluttered brain. It’s always a good idea to gather- both the gathering of one’s thoughts and the gathering of one’s good people- throw in a beautiful backdrop (cue super cool house, countryside and awe-inspiring sunset), add in some good food and drink- and bam- you’ve got yourself a retreat to write home (or on le blog) about.

countryside
I wonder if these sheep are creatively retreating? (Photo by Rashmi Pappu)


The Makings of the Perfect Virginia Countryside Retreat:

THE HOUSE:
One Nest Project- 3 bedrooms (plus loft) from $399/night

THE WINE:
RDV Vineyards- call to book a tour and tasting, $50/pp

THE FOOD:
The Ashby Inn- fine dining in the chic little country town of Paris with new(ish) chef to the Ashby Inn, David Dunlap.
Market Salamander- get your gourmet on here, a terrific little market stocked with lots of yummies.
Home Farm Store- a grand food hall in a stunning old bank building packed with foodstuffs galore.
The French Hound- beautiful French country cuisine in the heart of Middleburg.

THE COFFEE:
Middleburg Common Grounds
- for a great cup of countryside joe.

THE PAPER GOODS:
Creme de la Creme- a busy little shop, stock up on your paper and pens here for your spitballing session or stop in at Amy’s shop on the way out to the country.

THE PEOPLE:
your adventurous, fun and creative pals
Do you make a habit of retreating? What do you do, where do you go? Do tell.

Cin Cin Ya’ll and Happy Retreating!

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Happy Valentines Day!

happy v day

Happy Valentines Day dear readers- I know I know, it’s a Hallmark holiday but I have to admit that I’ve always had a fondness for this lovey dove-ful day. I have such nostalgia (there’s that word again) for the warm and fuzzy memories of opening those little paper Valentines we used to get from classmates at school, and going home with Elmer’s glue-encrusted hands after cutting and gluing those silly doilies to the backs of red construction paper hearts.  This year we made crayon heart necklaces for our classmates and friends. I love paper Valentines but we opted to just melt some crayons, it took some time but we love how they came out.

Yep, St. Valentine’s Day- it’s a good excuse to share some love- true, we should just be sharing such love on a daily basis, but Valentine’s Day for me, is just another reminder. It’s a bright and shiny heart-shaped beacon of light in the doldrums of winter, so I’ll take it. What do you all do for Valentines Day? This year, I think C and I may just go to the movies. We try to do something slightly offbeat and different each year, but this year, we’re a bit overworked (read: tired) and a bit understudied for the Oscars, so we’ll probably just head to the local movie theater to catch Birdman or The Theory of Everything. Have you all seen either? Do tell.


My Valentine Mood
:

André Lanskoy is my new favorite artist. Why have I never seen his work before? If only I could afford to buy one of his prints. The one above is from 1959, I can’t get enough of it.

Chocolate Velvet Beet Cupcakes- seems about right for V day. I might need to make these.

Pink Fiats always make me smile.

Paul and Linda do too. Their expressions are kind of hilarious here.

Plum and Brandy Gelato- yeah, alright, twist my arm.

And Sangria Granita Snow Cones- yes please.


What I’m Drinking:

Rosé Sparkling- was there any doubt? It’s pink, it’s fizzy, enough said. I don’t know, I drink this stuff year round but this saccharine sweet holiday is yet another good reason to pop this pink bubbly’s cork, like we really need one. A few go to’s:

Domaine Jousset “rosé a lies” NV- the great Gamay grape that is way too underrated gets its juicy spritz on in this refined and racy (loads of food-friendly acid) bottle. Always a winner. $21

Domaine Regnier David Cremant de Loire NV- Cremant is a thin-in-the-wallet Champagne lover’s best friend. Made in the traditional method that Champagne uses to produce its wondrous bubbles, you get the same technique from a different part of the world, still imparting those brioche-y, creamy notes but at half (or less than half ) the price. This one’s quite beautiful and finessed with hints of toasted almond, brioche and ripe red fruit, made from the super food friendly and acidic grape, Cabernet Franc. Yum and yum. $23

Graham Beck Brut Rosé Sparkling- a happy little sparkler from South Africa with notes of red cherries, raspberries, wild lavender, and an earthy minerality to boot. $15

Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé NV- Billy Rose, if you want to be a baller. $75

What to Pair With your Pink Bubbly: Chocolate Velvet Beet Cupcakes, of course- duh. Or almost anything really, provided it’s not stick-to-your-ribs meat and potatoes.


In Other News: 

Have you seen this? A documentary about a lost documentary made by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein about German concentration camps in 1945. I stumbled upon it as it is currently playing on HBO, very good.

“The chalky anthropology of candy hearts.”- an interesting little bit of sweet tooth history.

The World’s Most Romantic Hotels- have you been to any of these? Fogo Island Inn- you just went on my list. You too, Hotel Les Roches Rouges.

Kiss-proof lipstick. Is there really such a thing- 9 long-lasting lipsticks put to the test.

How to make a heart-shaped pizza. Be careful with this one. In college, my friend Kristen received one as a Valentine from an admirer which pretty much sealed the deal, but not in the way you might think. Because of that heart-shaped pizza, she decided that that first date would never happen. Know your audience.

My pal Tracy Lynn Olivera is a badass and a fantastic talent. She has a CD. You should buy it because it’s awesome.

Inside the stylish homes of 11 comedians.

The top 5 places to cry in NYC. I’ve done my fair share of late night crying at the local Greek diner circa the late 90s. I might also add the Rose Planetarium and any corner on a rainy day where you might get a tidal wave-sized taxi splash- you’re good to just start crying right there on the spot and it’s perfectly acceptable, just as long as you don’t cry for too long- gotta get back on your game and hail your ass a cab.

Shirley Manson (where have you been Shirley!) steps in and pens an open letter to Kanye.

Speaking of Kanye (and who isn’t- I guess his inappropriate behavior really is working on his ego-boosting behalf), this is hilarious- the hidden texts between Kanye and Beck post-Grammys.

The best and worst first date spots in NYC.

My talented cousin just launched her jewelry collection and it is fabulous. Inspired by her time as an expat in Amsterdam, her pieces are beautiful- this Gwen necklace is calling my name. Use the code EClaunch10 through February 15th.

Staying in on Valentines? Make Duck a Deux if you dare (duck is hard, right!)- a lovely Valentines dinner for two.

If duck’s not your thing (or like me, you’ve just messed it up too many times), look to Julia for inspiration. I always think of Julia Child and her husband Paul on Valentines because they loved celebrating the holiday together and with friends. I had the big idea to throw and Julia and Paul dinner party this Valentines Day, but we just had a Top Chef Challenge birthday party for C and I thought that we were probably good for the month of February. Maybe next month. Anyway- here is a Julia-inspired Quick Coq au Vin Blanc c/o Martha.

I know I’m real late to this party, but I am finally reading Unbroken and wow- it is unbelievable what one human being is capable of enduring while holding strong to one’s will to live. “Inspiring” does not even begin to describe this story.

This should be entertaining- “Who wore it best” on the NYC private school playgrounds?

And can someone please explain to me why The Vermont Teddy Bear Company would put out a 50 Shades of Grey Teddy Bear? What is happening? This has got to be the creepiest teddy bear ever.

Cin Cin all and Happy Valentines Day!

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Happy Weekend

The Crooked House of Windsor

Happy Weekend dear readers. Don’t you love this tea shop? The Crooked House of Windsor, one of the oldest still-standing tea houses in England, and that’s old. It’s on the list. I hope you are off to a tea-sipping, enjoyable weekend. As of Sunday, January 2015 will be forever over and done with- it’s so crazy how fast time flies. I’m not necessarily sad to say goodbye to January as a month but I am unnerved but how quickly this time thing operates. (take a breath, enjoy the moment- these are the mantras on continuous loop in my head). I never felt this way, at least not so intensely before I had children, now I am all too aware. What do you all do to combat the flying of our time?

What I’m Drinking:

Those of you who read my blog know I enjoy a glass of rosé throughout the year and especially in the winter, so I’m back on the pink juice. I’m currently sipping a rosé of grenache made by Elizabeth Spencer from the prettiest little town of Mendocino and it is killer. It’s juicy and chock full of bright cherry and strawberry fruit flavors- like a luscious strawberry jolly rancher without the sugar rush with a dry and finessed finish. If you don’t spot this one in your local shop, look for anything from Provence, rosés from Tavel and Bandol (my all-time favorite rosé region) will not disappoint. A little pink pickup is just what the dr. ordered during the dog days of winter.

A Few Things:

Ha.

These little scrapbooky photo journal books are awesome and can all be made via apps on your phone. I never print photos anymore and I certainly don’t make any albums, much less from our traveling adventures. I love this- so easy.

Mindy Kaling on Happiness- always happy to read or hear anything that comes out of her mouth.

For the love of Goop- steam your hoo-ha? Oh Gwyneth…

For all the Super Non-Fans: “How to Act During the Super Bowl”.

According to Gabrielle Hamilton, author and chef of NYC’s famed Prune, and all around badass, we should all be sipping savory teas. If she recommends it, I’m doing it. Have you read her book, Blood, Bones, and Butter?- so good.

Ha. A great follow up to The New Yorker’s How To Fall In Love with Anyone- this is funny.

Hilarious. A mom of two boys moonlights on Pinterest as a hipster mom with a sickeningly hip daughter named Quinoa basically making fun of people who dress their kids in jeans like this.

The awkward moment when Rashida Jones had to remind a reporter that she is black. Oy.

How Bogdanovich shot The Last Picture Show- one of my favorite movies. P.S.: Larry McMurtry was my dad’s college English professor- how awesome is that.

This will brighten your day. Take a minute and watch Ashley Bouder kick the shit out of Jerome Robbins’ “Fall” Four Seasons solo.

This escape to the Ojai Valley Inn is pretty swoonful. Girls trip?

The Blueprint for the best basic and go-to Viniagrette recipes. Never buy salad dressing again.

Good stuff for all of you 40ish year-olds- thanks for posting, Rashmi.

10 Foods to Boost Your Brainpower. I feel like there’s nothing new on this list , but it’s always ajeze good reminder.

Cocktails with DeNiro. I like how he rolls.

This pretty little fringe necklace is on my wish list.

Reno floor plans, if you’re into this sort of thing.

Fancy cheese plates for kids.

How to book a flight on the WAY cheap- because seriously, we can never have enough of these tips, right?

Drinking coffee before you work out? You may be on to something.

What Lies Beneath? Rare shots of a flipped iceberg.

Gold Cash Gold- the name of this new restaurant in Detroit is reason enough to make me want to plan a trip to the Motor City.

Making the most out of your Rotisserie Roast.

Alright Buzzfeed, you win- I’ll bite. If Disney princesses had realistic hair.

Paleo Schmaleo, I’m liking this a whole (grain) lot- ha.

Cin Cin ya’ll and enjoy your weekend! Bring on February, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, The Academy Awards and all that jazz.

(Photo by: Phil Wiley)

 

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