A Few of My Favorite Things - A Magical Day in New York at Christmas

"...Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes, Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into spring, these are a few of my favorite things..." 

"...Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes, Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into spring, these are a few of my favorite things..." 

These are a few of my favorite things, but my favorite thing during the Holiday Season...to be in New York City, there isn't a more magical place and time on earth!  Here's my idea of the perfect day in New York at Christmas with all of my favorite things... 

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1.  Start the day with coffee at St. Ambrose, the best coffee on the upper east side! Then grab one to go, and head towards the Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 2nd most visited art museum in the world. After perusing the exhibit of Modern and Contemporary Art...

2.  Stroll down Madison Avenue and make a stop at Zitomer's (76th) for a little funky gift and card shopping. You just never know what you might find there! A must stop is the Original Ralph Lauren Flagship Store in the Gertrude Rhineland Waldo Mansion, circa 1898 at 72nd & Madison. Modeled after the Chateaux of the Loire Valley in France, the rich history of this beautiful building along with Ralph Lauren's timeless and incredible design flair, make this truly the most amazing retail establishment in the world. It used to house all of the RL lines from mens wear to home collection. I spent the most magical day here during the blizzard of 2003. The snow was coming sideways down Madison Avenue early that December morning as friends of mine and I sat in the Home Collection Showroom, on a purple velvet sectional sofa, with crystal chandeliers above, fragrant holiday candles flickering everywhere, a fire blazing in the fireplace and, to make it more perfect, "It's a Wonderful Life" playing on the television above the fireplace mantel. You could see the horizontal pattern of the blowing snow through the windows to either side of the television screen. Did I say magical? Not to mention the staff offering us champagne as we began to feel the warmth of the fire.  We felt we had just moved into the most amazing Winter Wonderland, I didn't ever want leave! A moment in time I will never forget.

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

My Jeff outside the Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

Inside the beautiful Ralph Lauren Flagship

3.  Ice skating (or watching) in Central Park on the way to lunch. Walking through the park to Central Park South to make our way to Columbus Circle for my favorite lunch in the city, Nougatine at Jean-Georges. I can't tell you how many lunches we have enjoyed at Nougatine, but each one has been fantastic, and each comes with a story of its own. One in particular was taking our god-daughter and a friend for holiday lunch and meeting Steven Tyler, who could not have been more engaging. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and as we left the restaurant, asked us, "who was that guy again?" Obviously, they were too young to truly appreciate our lunch mate or the conversation, but Aunt Gigi loved every second.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

Nougatine at Jean-Georges, Columbus Circle

4.   Just enough time to drop by Harry Cipriani for a Champagne Cocktail on the way to afternoon tea at The Pierre. The scene at Cipriani is always good for a crowded bump on the shoulder, spilling a little of that deliciously sweet drink, but if your lucky enough, it only hits the floor and not you or your partner!  Then just a block to The Pierre for traditional holiday afternoon tea. A little caffeine pick me up, or just more champagne, either way, a delightful way to spend the late afternoon.

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

Afternoon tea at The Pierre

5.  Strolling down Fifth Avenue towards Rockefeller Center taking in the beautiful lights, decorations, and artfully crafted Christmas windows along the famous 5th Avenue shopping mecca. It wouldn't be Christmas in New York if you didn't just poke your head into Tiffany's and watch all the pretty little tiffany blue bags walk out the door for some lucky someone! Then, it's time for cocktails and wine while we view the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center at Morrell's Wine Bar. The best place for a glass of wine with all of your new best friends and spectacular view across the plaza to the tree!

1 Rockefeller Plaza

1 Rockefeller Plaza

6.  Dinner at the Sea Grill Rockefeller Center, where the beautiful dining room's windows are literally overlooking the Rockefeller Center ice rink, and while you are enjoying a perfectly prepared and very fresh fish dish, it almost appears as though if the skaters can't make their turn, they might just wind up at your table! Well, not really, but it is a magnificent and up close and personal view including a glimpse of the tree above.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

7.  An after dinner drink or cappuccino at The Polo Lounge or Nat King Cole Bar (St. Regis), just across the street from one another on 55th and 5th. Since they are so close, why not have one at both! The perfect end to the perfect holiday day in Manhattan.

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Just a few of my favorite things! Can you tell I have mastered the art of eating and drinking my way across the upper east side? Well, it took years of practice, but each place, each story, each moment, and especially everyone that I have shared these moments with, holds a special place always in my heart.  May your holidays be filled with all of your Favorite Things!

PS...Tomorrow, a few more favorite things, Burgers and Bloody's at 21 Club and a theater matinee, can't do all my favorite things in just one day! We highly recommend "Hamilton" it was amazing! And, we got really great seats at a reasonable price on StubHub!

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!

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Jeff and me in Central Park 

Jeff and me in Central Park 

Tasteful Holiday Sides

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

I love my Le Creuset! It makes holiday cooking easy, fun and colorful!

So, let's make this Thanksgiving thing simple and fun! For me, it's all about the sides and the beauty is that most can be prepared in advance, and then just heated through when its time to serve. Really, once you get the bird in the oven, there is time to get everything else together AND spend time with your family, friends and guests and really ENJOY the day! I love being in the kitchen, and holidays having other people in the kitchen with me, enjoying a beverage, snacking, telling stories, laughing and just having fun! I like having a few appetizer snack plates available as the guests arrive.  Not too much food, in anticipation of a holiday feast, but a few light snacks. I also like to keep the "feast" simple. There is no need for so many dishes on a holiday table, keep it simple, fresh and remember, it's really about the company and the celebration!

My favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal is the sides. I like to go with a theme, and then select sides that compliment each other. This year, there is such an abundance of fresh figs, I put together a rustic Thanksgiving menu for us utilizing these sweet little gems, along with my standard staples, like my Ciabatta Cornbread Stuffing (Jeff's favorite) and Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

I know I said that the sides were my favorite part of Thanksgiving, but I am a big fan of a bite of something sweet to make a festive meal complete! This year for us, my Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, Georgia Pecan Tart and a moist and delicious Fig Cake with ginger, walnuts and a lemon scented glaze. Please reach out for more recipes, I'd love to hear from you!

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Now, let's talk about wine pairings. We always begin with champagne, it's just a wonderful way to start a celebration. When it comes to pairing wine with a holiday meal, especially with turkey, I like a nice medium bodied Merlot. With its easy tannins and soft finish, Merlot doesn't overpower food, making a fabulous pairing with a holiday meal that usually has many diverse flavors. One of our favorites is this lovely Duckhorn Merlot, comprised of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, aged in 100% French Oak barrels.   

 

Wishing you and yours a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We have so much to be thankful for! Cheers to good health, much happiness and a simply delicious holiday celebration! 

Can you believe Christmas is literally 5 weeks away! Stay tuned for delicious food and wine pairings to get you through the holiday season! Until then...

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It's Fig Week!

Just for fun, I’ve been posting fun fig recipes all week. I love figs, and really take advantage when they are in season. Super healthy, full of potassium and anti-oxidants, figs are filled with fiber and compliment both sweet and savory dishes. So much diversity in these sweet little gems!

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This weeks feature

Porc Aux Figues               

with Port Wine & Fig Sauce, sweet and savory with tender and juicy pork tenderloin and a mouth watering port wine and fig sauce.

Click Here for the recipe! 

Honestly, I could put figs in or on just about everything or eat them just by themselves! I will miss having fresh figs until next season! Let me know your favorite ways to eat them, I would love to hear from you! In the meantime...

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Happy Fig Week! Next week we're getting ready for the holidays with lots of options for deliciously simple holiday side dishes! Our favorite time of year...See you then!

Primo Pairings!

For cheese pairings right through dessert…this week it’s all about the reds…red wines that is. As the weather becomes cooler and evening begins earlier, cozy gatherings to celebrate family and friends are a great opportunity to explore flavors and pairings with your favorite wines. I lean toward red wines this time of year for their warmth and depth. 

For cheese pairings right through dessert…this week it’s all about the reds…red wines that is. As the weather becomes cooler and evening begins earlier, cozy gatherings to celebrate family and friends are a great opportunity to explore flavors and pairings with your favorite wines. I lean toward red wines this time of year for their warmth and depth. 

A Cabernet Sauvignon with less alcohol and light tannins is perfect for aged cheeses. Semi firm cows milks cheeses such as aged Cheddar and Goudas pair exceptionally well with Cabernet, as do aged sheep and goat milk cheeses like Pecorino (sheep’s milk) and Sartori (goat’s milk). Rich, bold Cabernet pairs well with sharp cheddars and Gruyere. For creamy soft ripened cheeses like Brie, a lighter red variety, Pinot Noir or a light Merlot, would compliment the creamy, buttery flavor of the cheese. These light varieties also tend to compliment my favorite, Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its salty bite, which exaggerates the tannins in a heavier more tannic wine.

A Cabernet Sauvignon with less alcohol and light tannins is perfect for aged cheeses. Semi firm cows milks cheeses such as aged Cheddar and Goudas pair exceptionally well with Cabernet, as do aged sheep and goat milk cheeses like Pecorino (sheep’s milk) and Sartori (goat’s milk). Rich, bold Cabernet pairs well with sharp cheddars and Gruyere. For creamy soft ripened cheeses like Brie, a lighter red variety, Pinot Noir or a light Merlot, would compliment the creamy, buttery flavor of the cheese. These light varieties also tend to compliment my favorite, Parmigiano-Reggiano, with its salty bite, which exaggerates the tannins in a heavier more tannic wine.

When it comes to pasta, there are a multitude of choices, but one rule of thumb, is to pair based on the sauce. Tomato based sauces are very acidic, and therefore pair well with medium weight red wines such as a Chianti or Merlot. As you add more richness or protein, such as meat (i.e. Bolognese), a bolder red pairs beautifully, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. I like a nice Merlot with this spicy tomato based Spaghetti Calamari.

When it comes to pasta, there are a multitude of choices, but one rule of thumb, is to pair based on the sauce. Tomato based sauces are very acidic, and therefore pair well with medium weight red wines such as a Chianti or Merlot. As you add more richness or protein, such as meat (i.e. Bolognese), a bolder red pairs beautifully, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. I like a nice Merlot with this spicy tomato based Spaghetti Calamari.

There isn’t a more popular pairing for red wine than steak, especially a nice bold and balanced Cabernet.  Tannins bind with proteins and fats, which steak has plenty of! I could do an entire blog on pairing different types of steak with red wine, but for today, I’m thinking about my Chateaubriand, the center cut of a tenderloin, lean, rich, yet subtle in flavor and melt in your mouth texture. With an earthy mushroom and herb sauce, a nice young, lower alcohol content Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice to bring out the flavors of both the steak and the wine.

There isn’t a more popular pairing for red wine than steak, especially a nice bold and balanced Cabernet.  Tannins bind with proteins and fats, which steak has plenty of! I could do an entire blog on pairing different types of steak with red wine, but for today, I’m thinking about my Chateaubriand, the center cut of a tenderloin, lean, rich, yet subtle in flavor and melt in your mouth texture. With an earthy mushroom and herb sauce, a nice young, lower alcohol content Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice to bring out the flavors of both the steak and the wine.

My favorite red wine pairing…chocolate, of course! These rich and delicious Chocolate Cupcakes are just screaming for a nice glass of Merlot to compliment their deep chocolate flavor and decadence!  

My favorite red wine pairing…chocolate, of course! These rich and delicious Chocolate Cupcakes are just screaming for a nice glass of Merlot to compliment their deep chocolate flavor and decadence!  

I hope you try one of my pairings with your favorite glass!  Let me know how it goes and which wines you selected with each dish, I would love to hear from you!

In the meantime...

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It's National Pumpkin Day!

I've been celebrating Pumpkin Day all month long, creating fun new recipes and enjoying preparing and updating some of my old ones. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, I've selected a few of my favorite pumpkin delights to share with you...enjoy!

Simply click on the highlighted dish names for the recipes.

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage, Toasted Hazelnuts and lots of Parmigiana!

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Creamy Parmigiana Pumpkin Zita with a hint of Amaretti

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Ravioli with brown butter, sage and toasted walnuts

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, my go to Thanksgiving dessert

I hope you enjoy preparing these simple pumpkin recipes as much as I enjoyed preparing for you! Please feel free to share and don't hesitate to reach out with your comments! I would love to hear from you! Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy Halloween!

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Pretty in Pink on National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

We are coming out in Pink...and Dark Chocolate to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I don't know of any better combination than Chocolate and Pink Champagne!

We are coming out in Pink...and Dark Chocolate to recognize and support Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I don't know of any better combination than Chocolate and Pink Champagne!

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These Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes are the bomb! So rich and velvety, and for an extra special touch for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I added a little Rose' Glaze for a touch of pink!  Having a little dark chocolate craving? I've included a gluten free version!

Click Here for the recipe!

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And you thought Rose' was only a summer beverage...Check out the Rose' All Day Wine and Music Festival in Dallas, October 29th! In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the event will donate $1 from every ticket to the AIRS Alliance for reconstructive surgery. 

I say Rose' All Year!!!

My Angel, Jeff, pretty in pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, enjoying @whisperingangel Rose' ... All he needs is one of my chocolate ganache cupcakes! 

My Angel, Jeff, pretty in pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, enjoying @whisperingangel Rose' ... All he needs is one of my chocolate ganache cupcakes! 

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5 Good Reasons to Have a Second Cup of Joe

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Something about fall, when the mornings are a little cooler, that makes me go for an extra cup of coffee in the morning! I grew up on coffee, which was a huge social occasion in our home. My grandmother used to let us dip our toast with honey in coffee for breakfast when I was just a little girl and I felt so grown up as a young teen when I was offered to “have coffee” with the grown ups at the end of a dinner party for the first time.

I love the taste of coffee, straight up, black, just by itself, no sweetener, no fancy flavors, no cream…just coffee. I have two cups every morning to start my day. (Right after my warm water with lemon, but that is a blog for another day!) Whatever your coffee pleasure, here are a few great things to know to justify your love of this super beneficial bev.

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1.     Coffee (caffeine) enhances concentration and productivity.

2.     It is a stimulant that boosts brain function, alertness, focus, and even increases memory!

3.     By helping sustain intensity and energy, coffee is the perfect pre-strenuous workout beverage.

4.     Rich in antioxidants, coffee can lower the risks of some forms of cancer, reduces the risk of Parkinson’s Disease and provides protection to the heart. In addition to these health benefits, coffee is especially concentrated with flavonoids, which have been reported to have anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties.

5.     Coffee also stimulates stomach cells to release more hydrochloric acid which aides in         digestion.

A 2010 study in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that regular moderate amounts of caffeine has an inverse correlation to cognitive decline and can actually help to protect and heal the brain. Everything in moderation of course, in this study, moderation was defined as 1-3 cups of coffee per day.

So, now when you enjoy your morning coffee, you can feel good about all of the benefits that cup of joe is delivering to your body…a super great way to start the day!  Time for my second cup!  Oh, and if you want something sweet and yummy to go with yours, try one of my warm and soothing Pumpkin Muffins! (click here for the recipe)

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Why Farm to Table? 5 Good Reasons

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Beyond the obvious, nouveau restaurant catch phrase, what does Farm to Table or Farm to Fork mean… really?  So, you go to your local farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, bring home some beautiful fruits and vegetables, even meats, cheeses, eggs, nuts and baked goods, then get in the kitchen and cook a little dinner with them.  Simple right?  Yes!  It is so simple and so good!  Good for you, good for the community, good for the environment and good for the economy!  This concept is nothing new but a re-connection to our roots and an attempt to minimize the distance that food travels and must be preserved before being eaten. 5 Good Reasons for Farm to Table:

It's Good For You. The health benefits of fresh local are undeniable.  Since it is not being transported from a long distance, local fruits and vegetables can be picked at the peak of ripeness, not beforehand, when they have not yet fully absorbed their nutrients, to make up for shipping time which means you are eating them at the peak of their flavor. According to the San Diego Tribune, the average produce travels 1500 miles to reach your grocery store, a large percentage of which is coming from outside of the country.

Local Community Impact.  By supporting local farmers you are supporting your own community, creating demand for labor and getting out in a fresh, healthy environment to visit, taste and enjoy!

Environmental Sustainability.  If produce travels 1500 miles at an average of about5 miles/gallon in a large transport truck, it takes 500 gallons of fuel per truck, not to mention emissions polluting our air.

Animal Welfare.  By supporting local farmers who do not practice in industrial factory farming, you are supporting animal welfare.

Economic Impact. By supporting the local farmers, you improve local economic vitality, increase labor demand, and decrease the need for a large supply chain, imports and shipping costs to the food that you are buying.    

Not only are restaurants adopting this brilliant concept, schools are offering Farm-to-Cafeteria lunches promoting healthy eating and nutrition education. Check out my list of my favorite Farm to Table restaurants across the country on Gigi’s Dish List. (click here)

Enjoy this beautiful start to fall, with healthy farm to fork foods!

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Romantic Fall Getaways

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Okay, so you’ve been with the kids all summer, taken your family vacation, and enjoyed every moment.  Now, it’s time for a little romantic getaway just for the two of you! Of course, when I’m looking for a getaway, I always look for a great place to recharge, but it’s really about the food for me, which makes for the perfect all round getaway experience.  Wining, dining and romancing is what this getaway is all about! Here are a few of my favorite Romantic Getaway spots that offer a comfy, cozy environment and fabulous cuisine.

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Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley @AubergeSoleil

Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley @CalistogaRanch

Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont @TwinFarms

Blackberry Inn, Walland Tennessee @blackberryfrm

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California @Post Ranch Inn 

Little Palm Island, Florida Keys @LittlePalmFL

Inn at Little Washington, Virginia @InnatLittleWash

 

This week’s feature, one of our favorite romantic spots, and my recommendation for your fall romantic getaway, Post Ranch Inn and the Sierra Mar Restaurant. Check out their website Postranchinn.com. We have visited Post Ranch and Sierra Mar many times and it has to be one of my favorite dining experiences. The food and wine are fabulous and the view simply spectacular. With the quaint and wonderful town of Carmel just minutes away, and of course, beautiful Pebble Beach, there is so much to do and see close by, or you can just stay on the cliff of Big Sur and enjoy each other! My recommendation for a fall getaway. 

The vistas at this most magnificent spot are spectacular. Enjoy your romantic getaway, whether traveling near, far, or just having a special staycation at home!

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Located on the Monterey Peninsula, 140 miles south of SF, 94 SanJose 25 Monterey 20 Carmel, down State Route 1 through curves and cliffs and the most incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged CA coastline with the Santa Lucia Mountains bordering the east and the Pacific bordering the west. Activities include hiking, bird watching, wale watching and beaches.  High in the cliffs, site the most beautiful hideaway, Post Ranch Inn and the Sierra Mar Restaurant. 

Summer Travel Series - Vail

This week’s feature – The Vail Valley - Where the air is crisp and cool and the red sky sunsets take your breath away! #SummerintheRockies Read on for my favorite places and Colorado inspired recipes!

“I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.  You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply, Rocky Mountain High, Colorado…” John Denver Circa 1972

“I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.  You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply, Rocky Mountain High, Colorado…” John Denver Circa 1972

The summer mountain climate makes for incredible fresh local produce!  The Farmers Markets are amazing show casing local farmers’ and artisans’ works, fresh pastries and confections.  My idea of a perfect day is shopping the farmers market and coming home to create a fresh meal with the day’s bounty. 

The local Palisades Peaches are so sweet and juicy and though just perfect all on their own, I love to cook with them and have so much fun creating fun recipes that include these delicious wonders.  A traditional peach crumble, arugula salad with grilled peaches and goat cheese, even in a vegetarian Bolognese with wide pasta noodles, a fantastic, fresh and simple summer meal.

My traditional Peach Crumble.  Click here for the recipe

My traditional Peach Crumble.  Click here for the recipe

When it comes to dining out in the Vail Valley, there is an array of terrific options, in fact, a few of my favorite restaurants on earth are right here in the Vail Valley.  It’s all about the lunch for me and on a special occasion I love to splurge on a long late lunch as my only meal of the day.  Being a July girl, we are usually in Vail for my birthday. My favorite lunch is @SweetBasilVail where we spent my birthday this year, starting with Rose’ Champagne and Truffle Fries…what could be more decadent than that for a special celebration!

Sweet Basil Vail...One of my Favorites!

Sweet Basil Vail...One of my Favorites!

In addition to super great dining, the summer activities are limitless here and there is something for the entire family.  Healthy living is key with so many great hikes, biking trails, paddle boarding lakes, tennis, golf, super great kids camps, water rafting and fly fishing…the list goes on.  It really is the perfect family summer camp!  Did I mention that I caught 6 rocks and a tree while trying to fly fish?  Jeff is a very talented fly fisherman however, otherwise, we would starve if we were counting on me to catch dinner!  

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My fisherman!  Jeff catching our dinner in the beautiful rapids of the Eagle River. As you can see, the end result is delicious. Trout is probably our favorite white fish, flaky and light, with a delicious mild flavor. There is nothing better than fresh caught fish. A beautiful Rocky Mountain Trout Amandine. Click here for my recipe!  

Preparing for our Trout Fishing Adventure!

Preparing for our Trout Fishing Adventure!

Enjoying our last days of summer in Colorado. We are so blessed to be able to spend a good part of our summers here.  It truly is God’s country! 

  

Summer Travel Series - Colorado Summers

This week's feature, beautiful Aspen Colorado! 

This week's feature, beautiful Aspen Colorado! 

Downtown Aspen

Downtown Aspen

The Little Nell Aspen

The Little Nell Aspen

This week's feature, Aspen.  Though known for being a great ski town, Aspen is also filled with a rich history of early settlers and miners heading west.  Check out Jeff's historic walking tour of Aspen, you will find this little western town's history fascinating!

One of the first things you'll notice in Colorado in the summer is the incredible flowers everywhere you look, in all shapes, sizes and colors of the rainbow.  They just make me smile!

Cascade of beautiful flowers Aspen Streets

Cascade of beautiful flowers Aspen Streets

Downtown Aspen Shopping

Downtown Aspen Shopping

A few of my favorite restaurants are right here in Aspen.  For lunch it has to be Ajax Tavern @thelittlenell right at the base of Ajax Mountain, and The Wild Fig, just across from the famed Wheeler Opera House.  My favorite dinner spots Casa Tua for Italian @casatuaaspen for a super great menu, Ellina @ellinaaspen and a clubby Steakhouse, Steak 316.  Don't forget to check out what's happening at Belly Up Bar @bellyupaspen, for an intimate look at fantastic entertainment.

When breakfast comes into play, I can’t resist the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes at Element 47 @littlenellaspen on the pool terrace.  They are delicate, light and spongy with a sweet raspberry sauce.  Here is my version of this favorite breakfast dish, I think mine are pretty close!

Lemon Souffle' Pancakes - Click here for recipe!

Lemon Souffle' Pancakes - Click here for recipe!

Shopping in Aspen is nearly as much fun as hiking the beautiful Maroon Bells! From elegant designer boutiques to home decor and cowboy boots, not to mention stunning art galleries featuring exquisite collections, there is something to appeal to everyone!

Kemosabe Boots, Hats, Jewelry and Buckles

Kemosabe Boots, Hats, Jewelry and Buckles

I shot this beautiful landscape on the way back from Aspen.  Colorado truly is God's Country! Hope your summer travels bring you to the Rockies sometime soon! Send me your travels and photos from your favorite summer trip! I would love to post them on the blog!

Live well, love well, eat well...travel safely!

 

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Summer Travel Series - Charleston, America's #1

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

The Pineapple Fountain represents the true meaning of the crowned fruit, Welcome, Friendship and Hospitality, the very essence of this fantastic city. There is a reason why Charleston is voted #1 in North America and #2 in the world by Conde' Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure, it's rich history, natural beauty, amazing culinary and southern hospitality, make it not just a world class summer vacation destination, but a fantastic getaway any time of year! 

The Charleston Battery

The Charleston Battery

Charleston is much more than cobblestone streets and classical architecture, it has become the culinary capital of the southeast, in this city, "History Reigns, Food Rules!" 

There are over 200 restaurants in this beautiful city, offering everything from slow cooked traditional southern food and barbecue, to farm to table and fine dining, including several James Beard award winners.

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Award winning Sean Brock's Husk and it's sister restaurant, McCrady's, members of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and two of my favorites. Husk, Bon Appetit's 2011 Best New Restaurant in America, features a modern take on farm to table southern food whose menu changes daily based on the fresh ingredients of the day.  McCrady's set in a 4-story Georgian House, circa 1778, home of Edward McGrady, which he opened as McCrady's Tavern, has been many things since his death in 1802, but today stands as both a tavern and adjacent haute cuisine multi-course tasting room. Another favorite is the Hall Family's Hall's Chophouse. Jeannie and Bill Hall opening Hall's in 2009 joined by sons, Tommy and Billy, this family has spent all of their lives in the hospitality industry.

A true neighborhood hot spot offering a well rounded menu for all palette's, live music and the best Gospel Sunday Brunch in town!  In fact, Jeff and I went for brunch once and stayed through dinner enjoying gospel and jazz all afternoon long!  And, by the way, we were among several other tables who did the same thing! 

 

Did I mention shopping? A day on King Street is a shopping extravaganza! From fine art and antiques to designer boutiques, book stores, home decor, chocolates, cosmetics and coffee shops, King Street is Charleston at it's best.   

Rainy day of shopping on King Street!

Rainy day of shopping on King Street!

Hotels range from Belmond's Charleston Place, to lovely and quaint B&B's and guest houses. There is truly something for everyone in Charleston. Whether you are a foodie, shopper or history buff, Charleston has it all. Check out Jeff's historic walking audio tour of the city at historicwalkingtour.com! I hope you can add Charleston to your summer travel planning!  You will be glad you did!  Send me your photos and favorite places!  Happy July!

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Summer Travel Series - Celebrating the 4th of July!

Fireworks in historic Boston Harbor. Founded in the 1600's and where the American Revolution began, what a perfect 4th of July vacation destination! While you are there, check out Jeff's audio historic walking tour with 50 historic sites on a beautiful walk through the city. Click here  to view the tour! Where are your summer travels taking you?

Fireworks in historic Boston Harbor. Founded in the 1600's and where the American Revolution began, what a perfect 4th of July vacation destination! While you are there, check out Jeff's audio historic walking tour with 50 historic sites on a beautiful walk through the city. Click here  to view the tour! Where are your summer travels taking you?

"The second day of July, 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." -John Adams, July 1, 1776

The Declaration of Independence was finally approved and signed July 4, 1776, officially declaring the United States of America independent from Great Britain. Ironically, John Adams died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, as well as Thomas Jefferson who also passed on this very same day. The two were also coincidentally the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become United States Presidents.

Celebrating right here at home...Hilton Head is a great place for the 4th!

Ocean Lounge, Sea Pines Beach Club, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC

Ocean Lounge, Sea Pines Beach Club, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC

A 4th of July tradition...whatever the holiday menu...always ends with my scrumptious Red Velvet Cupcakes with creamy mascarpone and cream cheese frosting, my favorite part of the holiday!

My Red Velvet Cupcakes...Click Here for Recipe!

My Red Velvet Cupcakes...Click Here for Recipe!

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The best part about celebrating holidays is that the festivities always revolve around family, friends and food! Though my favorite part of the 4th of July is the cupcakes, the fireworks are a close second!

Happy 4th of July!

 

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Summer Travel Series - Travel Tips

It's Summer!  Have Suitcase...Will Travel!!!

It's Summer!  Have Suitcase...Will Travel!!!

Summer is here...  Some say finally...I say already?  But ready or not, it is upon us, summer!  It is time to start thinking about summer travel planning.  I hope our summer travel series leads you to a great summer trip, destination, restaurant or even just a new fun recipe.  I want to hear from you!  Please send me your summer travel questions and your feedback!  If you choose one of our recommendations, send me your photos, I'd love to post to the blog!  Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy summer!  Bon Voyage!

Practice makes perfect as they say, and after many years of doing it, I pretty much have it down to an art.  Summer vacation travel is exciting, but seems to bring with it an added level of stress by nature.  Summer travel is meant to be fun…so let’s see what we can do to help keep it that way!

First make a packing list of the types of items you will need, depending on your destination and planned activities.  Packing smart is the key to stress free travel.   

Pack light!  Lighter weight summer clothing makes this even easier.  Choose knits and cottons, fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily. I can actually go for two weeks in a carry-on bag, I know what you are thinking, impossible right?  Stick with me here.  Pick a color and plan around it using the Rule of Three.  No more than three bottoms and/or 3 tops that are interchangeable among each other, this is where your color selection comes in, plus it really makes choosing what to take so much easier!  Pack layers and ladies don’t forget a little black dress, the most versatile item in your closet.  Dark fabrics don’t show stains and can be worn more often.  If you roll clothes, place those items on the bottom of your bag and folded items on top.  Pack small light colored clothes and undergarments in Ziploc bags, squeezing all the excess air out.

Think what you can do without, and don’t pack it!  Only take jewelry that you are actually wearing to travel, which not only keeps is simple, but also helps to prevent leaving a “little” something behind. 

Shoes:  Rule of Three.  Pack one pair of dress shoes and one pair of casual shoes, and of course, if you plan to visit the gym or hit the tennis courts, one pair of tennis/workout shoes.  Of course, you will be wearing one of these for travel, so you really only need to “pack” two.  Stuff shoes with sunglasses, charge cords, other smaller items that will fit inside.  If you are taking your golf clubs, don’t forget to utilize extra space in your golf travel bag for items that would take up unnecessary space in your suitcase, shoes in particular, tennis rackets, etc. 

Pack liquids and cosmetics in small travel containers and place in sealed Ziploc bags, which helps with organization and prevents leakage.  Place vitamins and supplements in Ziploc bags avoiding bottle bulk.  

There you have it.  Stress free travel…just in time for your summer vacation!

Check out this video featuring all of the many wonderful activities at Sea Pines Resort!

Check out this video featuring all of the many wonderful activities at Sea Pines Resort!

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Don't forget to pack the camera! Okay, iPhone 7 with Portrait Photography feature!

Don't forget to pack the camera! Okay, iPhone 7 with Portrait Photography feature!

JT and me enjoying the Ocean Lounge, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island.

JT and me enjoying the Ocean Lounge, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island.

If you haven’t made summer travel plans as yet and you are still looking for a fabulous destination for you and your family to spend time together in an amazing setting with incredible culinary…my summer dish list recommendationSea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island.  The best family vacation spot in the world!  Happy Traveling!  And if you are in my neighborhood, please reach out! 

Our home.  Beautiful Harbour Town, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Our home.  Beautiful Harbour Town, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Preparing your home:  Turn off toilets, or water altogether.  Pour a little bleach in the toilets.  Turn off the icemaker and remove the all but a couple of ice cubes.  This way you will know if you had a loss of power while you are away.  Chances are if the cubes have melted, the food in your freezer has also thawed at some point.  Remove foods and condiments from the refrigerator that will be spoiled by the time you return.  Leave closet doors ajar for air circulation and in summer or warmer climates, leave AC turned on to 78-80 (F) degrees.

If you are traveling by air, ladies, always carry a wrap or sweater on the plane.  And children should pack (with supervision of course) and carry their own bag!  I see some of the cutest roller bags being pulled by the most proud children when I’m traveling.

Traditional Low Country Boil.  Fresh local South Carolina Shrimp, Smoked Kielbasa, Red New Potatoes and Fresh Corn on the Cob.  Click here for recipe!

Traditional Low Country BoilFresh local South Carolina Shrimp, Smoked Kielbasa, Red New Potatoes and Fresh Corn on the Cob.  Click here for recipe!

The Greatest 2 minutes in Sports!

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

April Showers Bring May Flowers to Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

It's spring in Kentucky and the first Saturday in May is all about the Run for the Roses!  Who will wear the coveted Garland of Roses this year?  A tradition that started in 1896 when the Derby winner was awarded a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.  The red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby in 1904.

Garland of Red Roses, more than 400 red roses and a crown, one single rose in the center to recognize the heart required to win this incredible race.

Garland of Red Roses, more than 400 red roses and a crown, one single rose in the center to recognize the heart required to win this incredible race.

Derby Pie, my favorite Kentucky Derby Tradition...well, except for a cool Mint Julep of course!

Check out my recipe for Kentucky Derby Pie!  It is rich, chocolaty and delicious, a perfect compliment to a sweet and minty julep!  Give it a try and send me your thoughts!  

Check out my recipe for Kentucky Derby Pie!  It is rich, chocolaty and delicious, a perfect compliment to a sweet and minty julep!  Give it a try and send me your thoughts!

 

Fab Flavors of France

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

Chocolate Creme Anglaise with Berries

What to do with a little leftover chocolate creme anglaise from last night's dessert soufflé, serve it with berries for breakfast of course!  A chocolate lovers dream petit dejeuner!  As we continue celebrating "April in Paris" and the Fabulous Flavors of France, we wrap the month with my favorite Francais inspired desserts, of course, it has to be chocolate, like my chocolate soufflé (pictured below).  Rich in flavor, but light and airy in texture.  French cuisine has influenced the culinary world for centuries.  The French have mastered the art of savoring food and wine, never in a rush, always taking time to enjoy every bite, every sip, every moment of a meal.  Ending with something sweet is thought to be a great way to create balance for the palate.  Just like me, the French have an affinity for chocolate and custards.

Hope you enjoy making my Chocolate Souffle.  It is so simple to prepare and oh so yummy!  Send me your photos!  Remember April in Paris isn't just a time of year, it is a feeling and always a good idea!

April in Paris...Oui Oui!!!

"I never knew the charm of spring, I never met it face to face.  Till April in Paris, this is a feeling ...what have you done to my heart."  Vernon Duke 1932 (paraphrased)  Audrey Hepburn once said, "Paris is always a good idea." (Sabrina 1954) I tend to agree!  Especially in spring.  This month, we explore my favorite great places to stay, play and eat in France along with a couple of my favorite Francais inspired recipes!  Savourez et trouvez des plasirs!

L'Avenue Paris (Avenue Montaigne Of Course!)

L'Avenue Paris (Avenue Montaigne Of Course!)

This corner restaurant at the lower tip of the Golden Triangle of Paris, with it's outdoor patio has to be my favorite spot in the City of Love.  Jeff and I went once for an early lunch at 11:45 am and ended up leaving sometime around midnight!  Well, there was a walk down the Avenue late that afternoon before returning for cocktail hour which led directly into dinner, meeting new friends, etc.  One of the most memorable days of my life!  I think Jeff was just trying to keep me away from the fabulous shopping along Avenue Montaigne where you will find everything from Haute couture to ready to wear, albeit for me, just maybe the best window shopping in the world!   

This week, let's start with one of my favorite french cheeses and appetizers.  A wonderful creamy french brie or camembert with sautéed mushrooms, herbs and toasted baguette slices.  I could just have this for a most satisfying dinner paired with a lovely red Bordeaux.  Delicieux et satisfaisant.  Send me your favorite french inspired dishes!  Bon Appetit!

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Spring Has Sprung!

The best thing about spring is renewal!  The transition from winter gray skies to bursts of spring color brings beautiful spring flowers, budding leaves on trees, all signs that life on earth begins again with a fresh spirit of youth.  "April hath put a spirit of youth in everything." -William Shakespeare

Fresh and colorful spring vegetables add a vibrant kick to spring entertaining.  Asparagus, baby carrots, sweet peas, scallions all bring fresh flavors and beautiful presentations.  My Penne with Spring Vegetables is a beautiful combination of all of these spring vegetables in a light and aromatic pesto sauce.  A wonderful lunch on its own, or a perfect compliment to a spring rack of lamb.  Give these simple recipes a try and let me know your thoughts!

Live well, Love well, Eat well!  

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It's Wine Wednesday! What's your favorite Pairing?

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

May I recommend the 2015 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines! @duckhornwine

May I recommend the 2015 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines! @duckhornwine

Send me your favorite pairing or just your favorite wine and I will have a perfect recipe pairing for you!  Last week we focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and its perfect pairings.  We turn our attention to the white variety this week and Sauvignon Blanc, a green skinned grape originating from the Bordeaux region of France.  This grape produces an elegant yet delicate, light and crisp wine with hints of citrus and a palette freshening acidic edge.  It pairs particularly well with goat cheese, chèvre in particular.  I like to roll a log of chèvre in fresh lemon zest and thyme leaves, then drizzle with a really good extra virgin olive oil and serve with toasted baguette slices or water crackers and a lovely chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc which enhances the lemony citrus accent of the thyme leaves and zest...a perfect combination of flavors.  For perfect meal pairings, I recommend fish and shellfish, chicken or pork in light sauces (not butter or cream sauces) with fresh herbs and citrus flavors such as my Scallops Marnier appetizer or Whitefish with Fennel-Orange Relish.  As a dessert pairing, anything tropical, mango in particular, works very well with this beautiful wine.  

This wine also pairs beautifully with my Fennel & Orange scented Whitefish!

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Wine Wednesday ~ Perfect Pairings!

One of My Favorite Pairings ~ Cabernet Sauvignon and Morbier Cheese

One of My Favorite Pairings ~ Cabernet Sauvignon and Morbier Cheese

It's Wine Wednesday and it is no secret to those who know me that I love a good California Cab.  The Cabernet Sauvignon grape was an accidental breeding in the 17th century between a red Cabernet Franc grape plant and a white Sauvignon Blanc grape plant, a beautiful and divine intervention!  Cabs are full bodied, dry (not sweet) and meant to be enjoyed and paired with food.  Aged in oak barrels, this amazing wine mellows with age and exudes wonderful flavors of blackberries, cherries and a hint of vanilla from the oak.  I prefer a smooth Cab that is lower in tannins and alcohol content.  When it comes to pairing with cheeses, I recommend a semi hard aged cows milk cheese such as an aged Vermont Cheddar or this beautiful French Morbier (pictured above) or a semi hard sheep's milk cheese such as Pecorino or Manchego, another favorite!  And, of course, who doesn't love a soft ripened French Brie which softens tannins and enhances the fruit flavors of the wine.

For meal pairings, Cabs pair very well with fatty red meats such as beef and lamb, or fatty red fish like salmon or ahi tuna due to the ability of proteins and fats to negate some of the tannins in the wine.  And of course, there is no better pairing than red wine and chocolate!  Serve my beautiful Chocolate Souffle' for dessert with one more glass of bold Cabernet!