San Francisco + Napa: Bouchon Bakery

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I have no earthly idea where to start in describing the last 3 weeks of my life. I’ve never been away from home for that long and while I was definitely happy to see my own bed and pillow Monday night, my little 3-week adventure was one that I’ll never forget.

So instead of trying to write one big post for London and then one for San Francisco, I think I’ll just blog about some of the particularly memorable experiences – you know, like cheese. (See: Halloumi :))

We happened to be in SF/Napa for TWO Bears games and while JB was a trooper about missing the Monday night game with all of the Giants-going-to-the-World-Series madness, missing this past Sunday’s game was not optional. This meant spending an incredible Napa morning in a dark bar, so as a trade off, we headed out super early for a run through Yountville which culminated in a stop at Bouchon Bakery.

I had heard rave reviews of Thomas Keller’s Parisian bakery in NYC, so nothing could have made me happier than seeing that cute little yellow house off the side of the road, line out the door and great smells a half mile away. I did a bit of reading and Yountville was actually their first location, with locations in NYC, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills added later.

I quickly negated our three-mile run (and then some) with the coffee of my dreams and after agonizing for ten minutes over the pastry case, settled on two scones: chocolate cherry and bacon cheddar. They were perfection — buttery, crumbly, just sweet enough.

If you have the chance to go to a Bouchon bakery, please go! Run! Or walk, but go, and have a pastry for me.

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It’s raining apples

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It’s raining apples.  Well, not really, but I still give a lot of credit to the mid-west orchards for trying. I’ve been dying to visit an orchard all summer, but figured I’d wait until fall when my favorite Honeycrisp apples were at their crispiest. Little did I know, mother nature was not a fan to apples this year, and after doing some research, found the majority of the orchards in the area apologetically explaining that the crop was just not meant for picking this year. Color me heartbroken.

Then I came across County Line Orchard, it’s website similarly mentioned the hard season, but went on to explain that the passionate staff so understood the desire for city-slickers like me to come pick apples, that they manually hung apples on the trees to be plucked. Packing the beautifully manicured orchard with gutters full of apples, it seems the staff poked fun at the run of bad luck, and told Mother Nature herself to go somewhere else. The day we visited was cold and grey, but it made the tractor rides, corn maze and seasonal eats that much more enjoyable.

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I channeled my high-school bus riding days, and sat in the back of the tractor.  I’m a rebel.

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A gift from God.

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The orchard had two corn mazes: after tackling this decently maintained version, we moved onto the larger of the two, where the only thing to lead us out was the smell of pumpkin spice donuts – without we might have been there for days.

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I suppose signs for “maze exit” would have been more helpful!

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One of the pumpkin patches packed full of orange beauties.

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Pretty much the only reason we made it out of the maze: roasted corn and fried dill pickles.

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The most coconut-looking squash I’ve ever seen.

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Homeward Bound

DeuxChicago Fashion

Laura makes her multi-hour journey home from beautiful London tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited. True, the lucky little jet-setter takes off again nearly immediately, on Monday for a vacation, and our time together will likely be a quick cup of coffee, but I’m happy she’s coming home safely nonetheless. It’s tough to travel on your own, but the girl did it with her signature American class and charm – get ’em, chickadee! Happy Friday 🙂

Things we learned from the P/VP Debates

While we usually prefer our politics with a side of humor and formyourowneducatedopinion, we did learn a few key things from the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates we thought it might be helpful to share.  You know, since politics and televised debates relate pretty directly to your every day lives, or really any time you’re instructed to sit on a tall stool on a huge stage and look comfortable and natural for 2 hours.

1.  It’s cool to interrupt.  “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you…I’ll let you finish…..”

2.  To be in politics, you must have white teeth

3. Except if you’re Paul Ryan, then you just never show your teeth

4. We want to drink with Joe Biden.  No seriously, try using TIME’s debate drinking game suggestions.  We would also recommend one last addition – drink every time Ryan or Romney answers a question with a personal anecdote (including a pointed mention of town and state).  We promise you a good time…and likely a hangover.

5. There’s a Gangnam Style tie in to just about everything.

6. ‘China’ is a dirty word

7. To be a moderator, you must be a masochist. There is a nice alliterative ring to the two words if you play TIME’s drinking game before saying.

8. Sometimes, yes EVEN in a professional political debate, there might be someone under the table, tickling your toes.  You just never, never know.

Joe Biden Laughing

Birchbox Dayyyyy!

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It’s Birchbox Day!  Yet again, upon opening my door my toes are greeted by the sweet little pink box of goodies sitting just inside my apartment.  Now just the other day, I filled out my beauty profile on the birchbox site to (hopefully) encourage them to stop sending me so many products for color treated hair (this shiz is as natural as it’s been in years!), so I certainly had high expectations for this month’s box.

To be fair, my composite picture here doesn’t include the Peanut Butter and Chocoloate Luna Bar that was perched on top – we’ll call that a victim of my disappointment – but as you can see from the visual, yet again the box features hair products.  Sigh.  Don’t get me wrong, I did slather some of those vitamins on my face and I will cart around the tiny perfume samples for emergencies, but I’m already holding out for next month!

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Halloumi: A Love Story

It has become alarmingly apparent to me in my time in London that there are some things that just do not exist in the good ole’ U.S. of A. In particular:

– The question, “Large, or small?” when ordering a glass of wine

– Flat whites

– Castles

– Credit cards with a microchip

– Roast chicken and thyme flavored potato chips

– The Only Way is Essex

And today, I discovered the most devastating non-American thing of all: halloumi. I was nosily listening to someone’s elevator conversation today and they mentioned that the café downstairs was serving a dish with halloumi. I made a note to Google that, whatever that was, then promptly forgot to Google it. Fate intervened and today while picking up some dinner at Marks and Spencer (oh yeah, add that to the list) it jumped out at me from the cheese section. I picked it up out of curiosity to snack on while making my dinner and the rest, my friends, is history.

Via BBC Food 

I will not rest until I can find this at home. In a previous career, I worked in marketing at a well-known gourmet food store in Chicago so I have TRIED some cheese in my day, guys.

This was unlike anything I’ve ever tried – salty like feta but somehow mild like mozzarella, and squeaky like a Wisconsin cheese curd.

And do you know what most people do with it?

FRY IT. Or grill it, but either way, it’s this magical cheese that retains its shape when cooked at high temperatures, turns crispy and golden brown on the outside and melty and gooey inside. It’s like a self-contained grilled cheese.

Judging from the sad Yelp chains, no one has sourced it in Chicago yet, but if you can make that happen, I will give you my first born child, then the second one, and then make all of these drool-worthy dishes for you.

Grilled Halloumi + Quinoa Salad from The Kitchn

Zucchini, Halloumi + Herb Tarts from Taste.com Australia

Prosciutto Halloumi Bruschetta from Entertaining Anytime

Fried Halloumi Salad with Tomatoes + Watermelon from BethMichelle.com

Loving London

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As expected, I am totally in love with this city. It’s absolutely stunning – soaring modern architecture against castles and huge expanses of parks. It doesn’t hurt that the weather has been insanely perfect the whole time I’ve been here. There have been a few showers but on the whole, it’s been crisp, sunny fall weather; the perfect backdrop for exploring!

A few things:

  • I’ve found it less expensive than I anticipated. I am obviously very lucky to be travelling for work and I do imagine that renting a flat or hotel room would be extremely expensive here; similar to New York, space is at an absolute premium. However, I’ve found that there’s a huge range of both costs and choices when choosing food and shopping — yes, it would be easy to go crazy and spend a ton, but it’s definitely not impossible to keep it under control, either!
  • I’ve noticed a lot of Londoners reading while walking and even reading while running. To borrow a phrase from my new British friends, “wonderful and weird.”
  • England’s bad rap for their food and cooking is totally undeserved — I have eaten a ton of great food in my time here. Indian, tapas, pastries, yum. There is a HUGE food culture here too, beyond just the restaurant scene. I went to Borough Market, the city’s biggest and most notable on Saturday and was so glad I did (best “toasted cheese” aka “grilled cheese” OF MY LIFE!!) but that was honestly choosing one from a list of many, many Saturday food markets. I’ll be back for more, London!
  • On the toasted-cheese/pastries note… thank goodness London is an incredibly safe and therefore incredibly walkable city. I’ve walked to and from work every day and did a ton of exploring this weekend, walking literally everywhere. It’s not on any type of grid so I’ve relied fairly heavily on Google maps, but thanks to the River, I’ve started to be better able to orient myself when out and about and do feel that I am getting the hang of it!

Dumb American in London moments:

  • The River Thames is pronounced “Temms” – please, kill me. No one corrected me for like a week.
  • Though my head knows that I should look right first to check for cars coming when crossing the street, it has proven nearly impossible to reverse 28 years of left-right-left checking and I look like a total weirdo at every street corner, shaking my head back and forth at least 10 times. It’s habit fighting logic and I’m just a mess.
  • Speaking of things being on opposite sides of what I’m used to, the escalators are also reversed so I have tried to go up the down escalator twice.
  • I cannot work my microwave to save my life. I’m not sure if this is a cultural difference or because I’m staying in a high-efficiency green building. Either way, I definitely ate cold curry for dinner tonight.

Apologies for the short (and week late post!) but I’ve been trying to see and do as much as I can in the non-working hours and am therefore finding myself totally exhausted every night! In tonight’s case, I had a stressful (sarcasm) day of tapas, the Tower of London and cold curry… also, Downton Abbey’s on soon and that is serious business here. 🙂

Cheers from London!

I’ve been fighting with my wireless here but will be posting lots of pictures when I get home!

Autumn Ankle Boots

To anyone giving a cursory glance towards my ankles lately (um, who isn’t?), it’s no secret I’m all about the ankle boot trend this season. I’m loving the shapes, sizes, cuts and colors – what’s that sound? Oh, riiiight, it’s my wallet groaning in agreement. Quiet down, you silly thing! We’re trying to look at boots here.

Autumn Ankle Boots

Ash biker boots
$490 – jades24.com

Lace up boots
boohoo.com

Military boots
$24 – desireclothing.co.uk

Military boots
ebay.co.uk

Biker boots
amazon.co.uk

London Bound

 

Image via Jessica’s Little Shop of Illustrations on Etsy

I’m totally going to go back and read the Secret again, because I’m pretty sure the laws of attraction kicked in and my recent fascination with London (evidenced here) led me straight to a very unexpected but very exciting two-week stint there for work.

I’m off on Monday and ridiculously excited, both for the work project and to spend the rest of my time exploring the city. There is SO much to see and I was starting to get anxious about how on earth I’d ever choose until I stumbled on to Kate Spade’s London City Guide. It’s helpful because it doesn’t include every single thing in London, but is a quick list of just a few cafes, parks, museums and markets so at least I have a small list to start with!

Have you been to London? What is the one thing I MUST do there? Do you think I can pick up an accent in 12 days? Fingers crossed!

Cheerio!