Top 10 Travel Destinations of 2012

Posted by on Jan 30, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 1 comment


Where will I travel to in 2012?  Yesterday, Chris and I journeyed around the world from one country to the next at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show.  I jetted between visions of safaris in Africa, bullet trains in Japan, the underwater worlds of the Galapagos, the surf in Indonesia, the city in the skies of Peru, the colors and culture of India, and adventure travel in New Zealand.

Exhausted and overly stimulated by the possibilities around you how is one to choose your next destination?   Perhaps our next travel destination will be a decided for us — a result of the 15 different trip sweepstakes we entered!



Every January the travel media boasts about the top 10 most popular destinations of the new year targeted to several different market demographics.  National Geographic does the Top 10 Trips, Budget Travel selects the Top 10 Budget Destinations, Huffington Post writes an article on the Top 10 Travel Destinations According to Facebook, all inspiration for travel in the new year.  I however have always looked for a single reason and or feeling that encouraged my desire to travel to a particular destination.


My Top 10 for 2012


1.  Croatia

Unchartered Eastern Europe territory, possibility of my sister studying abroad in Italy (girls trip!).  Hike through the Plitvice Lakes National Park a World Heritage spot.  See Dubrovnik‘s city walls.  Visit the Marco Polo Tower said to be home to Marco Polo in the 15th century.  Visit the beaches of Brac Island.


2. Peru

A long time dream of climbing to Machu Piccu.  Peru was recently ranked the next best foodie destination in the world by Frommer’s. They have the second largest portion of the Amazon Rainforest.  Visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and the natives that call them home.  Sandboard the dunes of Huacachina.  Check out the surf in Mancora.



3. Equador

The Galapagos Islands, need I say more.  Mountain bike down the active Cotopaxi Volcano.  Shop the Otavlo Market.  Visit Banos the self-proclaimed adventure hub.  See Cuenca’s historic Center City a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Straddle the equador.



4. Colombia

Explore Bogata’s La Cendelaria neighborhood.  White water raft in San Gil.  Visit Cartagena the old city of Colombia.  Scuba dive the reefs in Taganga.  Trek through the jungles of Tayrona National Park to la Ciudad Perdida, a.k.a. the Lost City.  Visit the underground temples and tombs in the underground caves of Tierradentro.  Take a boat ride down an Amazon River.



5. Japan

Go scuba diving in Okinawa and see where Chris’ Dad went to high school. Visit the Nishiki Market and the Ancient Sites of Kyoto.  Ride the bullet train (Shinkansen).  See the lights of  Tokyo at night.  Ski in Hokkaido at Niseko.  Tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.  Follow Anthony Bourdain’s Layover  path through the culinary excellence of Tokyo.


6. El Salvador

Hopefully the situation in El Salvador will clear up so Cory can continue his service in the Peace Corps and we can get to see the life he has been living for the last 6+ months.  Fingers crossed!



7. Panama

Visit the Panama Canal.  Hang out at Portobello on the Caribbean coast, snorkel and visit the Spanish ruins.  Road trip to the little town on the Baru Volcano, 3,475 meters above sea level.  Boat to Monkey Island in the Chagres River.  Drive to a small town of Pedasi and enjoy the typical Panamanian lifestyle



8. New Zealand

Walk the Routeburn Track in the Fiordland National Park.  See Wanaka and its eponymous lake.   Scuba dive at Kaikoura on South Island.  Stay at the Blanket Bay situated on Lake Wakatipu.  Visit the Abel Tasman National Park, a beach oasis. Check out Whangamata ”the surfing capital of New Zealand”.



9. Argentina

Visit Enrique and Kris’ holistic retreat in Argentina.  Tango through Buenos Aires.  Visit the Iguazu Falls, an extraordinary natural wonder of the world.  Visit Bariloche, which sits at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.  Paraglide in Mar del Plata.  Visit the Los Glaciares National Park.  See the city of Ushuaia.  Wine taste through the Argentinian wine country of Mendoza.



10. Indonesia

Surf or watch others at some of the world’s top surfing destinations, Uluwatu, Bingin, Kuta and Seminyak.  See the rice paddies of Ubud.  Have a drink at the Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort in Jimbaran.  Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest.  Scuba dive off of Lembongan Island.  Visit the infamous Lake Bratan.


Where will you go or dream of going in 2012?


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Andrew Kirschner’s New Digs: Tar & Roses

Posted by on Jan 27, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 0 comments



Andrew Kirschner, former chef at Wilshire in Santa Monica, opened the doors to Tar & Roses on Tuesday.  The restaurant located on the 6th block of Santa Monica Blvd is the perfect distance from 3rd Street Promenade to avoid endless waits and encourage a local and loyal crowd.  The menu has a wood-fired, rustic yet modern flare that encourages curiosity and entices the taste buds.



The decor is humble and well executed, making for a comfortable home-like atmosphere that makes you want to slowly enjoy every minute of your evening.  The staff was prepared for the opening and educated on the diverse menu.

Now on to the real good stuff, the menu was an inspiration to any foodie.  Divided into five sections: snacks, small, large, pre-ordered family style & veggies allowing you to dine as you would like, whether that is sharing small plates or dining on a extravagant family style dinner.  In addition the chalkboard is marked up with a carefully curated list of mix and match cheeses, charcuterie & bruschetta.

We mixed and matched salted cod with capers bruschetta, Coppa, wild boar (I can’t remember the traditional name), a spanish hard cheese and a soft cheese made from cow, sheep and goats milk.  The presentation was well executed — served on a wooden board branded with the T&R logo, our cheese, meat and bruschetta assortment accompanied by two different jams, a handful of nuts, wood-fired bread and some pickled vegetables was perfect.



Not extremely hungry but unwilling to part with Tar & Roses we moved on to the snacks and ordered up the charred octopus skewers with salsa verde and piquillo pepper aioli and the bone marrow with pickled onion marmalade, sea salt, served with sourdough bread.  If you haven’t had bone marrow before, please don’t judge this is like the nectar of the gods.  You use a tiny spoon to scoop out the decadence and spread its deliciousness on a piece of bread.  A delicacy in many countries and for any foodie this dish is a must try.


All in all I am proud to welcome Tar & Roses to the Santa Monica community, I wish them the very best in success and encourage all of you to get out there and try it.  A word to the wise if you are going with a group, call at least 5 days ahead and you can enjoy a family style meal.  The family-style menu was adorned with a whole roasted goat, roasted goose, standing rib roast and a seafood pot.  Priced per person this is my first pick next time the family is in town!

Tar & Roses, 602 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica

Dinner:  5:30pm – 10:30pm; Phone: 310-587-0700

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Steak Pizzaiola Over Rigatoni

Posted by on Jan 19, 2012 in Blog, Eats | 0 comments




An easy to make – tastes like it has been cooking all day recipe from MAD HUNGRY: Feeding Men & Boys – Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques by Lucinda Scala Quinn (I did admit I was obsessed! Don’t judge!).  I served this to Chris the other night I think he fell in love all over again.  Seriously, steak in pasta!  Decadent it definitely is, but honestly the recipe calls to serve it as you like, whether it’s served with over pasta or with bread or polenta and sautéed swiss chard on the side.  Steak Pizzaiola is a beef lovers dream, cooked in one pot it is also your dishwashers favorite (we don’t have one).  It’s one you’ll find yourself falling back on again and again.


Steak Pizzaiola Over Rigatoni


  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chick steak
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 – 4 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1 pd of rigatoni, or your favorite pasta


Preheat the oven to 325 F. Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat a large oven proof dish (I use my beloved Le Creuset) over high heat and swirl in the olive oil.  Brown the meat on both sides. Remove the meat from the pan.

Stir into the pan onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes and tomato sauce, simmer until onions are translucent.  Return meat to pan and cover with tomato sauce, and cover with a tight lid.

Braise in the oven for at least 2 hours stirring every hour.  Uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.  Remove meat and slice into small chunks.  Return to sauce and mix with your favorite pasta.

Top with fresh grated parmesan and basil.


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Wine Tastings, Pub Openings, Food Photography & Ultimate Frisbee

Posted by on Jan 12, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 0 comments


LeiOut Beach Ultimate  Come out to Santa Monica for the largest co-ed Ultimate Frisbee Event in the world, 100+ teams show up with crushing thoughts of blood, sweat & tears!  LeiOut organization has been bringing together the frisbee obsessed since 1999!

  • When: Jan 14-15
  • Where: N of Pier, Santa Monica
  • When: 10am-4pm
  • Cost: Free to Watch

Around Australia in 80 Sips  Enjoy 80+ great wines plus artisanal cheese, charcuterie and more at the Pacific Design Center this Saturday night!

  • When: Jan 12
  • Where: Pacific Design Center
  • When: 8pm – 10pm
  • Cost: $75.00

Picture Perfect  Food photographer Christina Peters and prop stylist Amy Paliwoda will teach a natural-light food-photography class this Sunday.

  • When: Jan 14
  • Where:MDR Photography Classes, 4051 Glencoe Ave., Marina del Rey
  • When: 9:30am – 4pm
  • Cost: $249.00

The Pub @ Golden Road  Get a beer and a burger for 10 bucks cash on our patio BBQ. Chef Adam has prepared vegan and non vegan burgs and our cans of Point the Way IPA and Golden Road Hefeweizen are ready for you to enjoy.

  • When: Jan 15
  • Where:5430 San Fernando Rd West, Los Angeles, CA
  • When: 11am – 11pm
  • Cost: of food

Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show The largest travel show in the western United States features rock climbing, ziplining, a scuba pool, Fiery Food Stage, live music and travel tips from speakers.

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Crunchy Hot Sesame Wings & Cool Cucumber Salad

Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in Blog, Eats | 2 comments

Crunchy Sesame Chicken Wings

I have fallen head over heels in love…with a cookbook!  Seriously my excitement for this cookbook is borderline insane.  I have cooked four meals from it since Sunday and am already dreaming about conquering the whole book!  I scored this masterful find at William Sonoma on sale for $7.00 which in itself was a treasure.  Chris called it out to me as the title smacked him over the head, MAD HUNGRY: Feeding Men & Boys – Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

This cookbook is chock full of beautifully thought out and passion-driven recipes.  Classics with simple twists that make the difference between an Applebees and a fine dining establishment.  Tips of cast iron pans, good knives and meal servings.  Life knowledge that will change the way your family, your men and your kitchen operates.

My favorite cookbook introduction now goes as follows:

“Men eat differently from women — they eat more, they eat constantly, and they eat passionately.  They ransack a packed refrigerator and scrounge crumbs from an empty one.  They eat standing in front of the fridge, and they eat with their fingers.  They are all appetite and no pretense, “What’s for dinner?” is the most important, most burning question.  Food is everything to them and food is nothing until there is none.  And, if they’re “mad hungry” with no food in sight, life is a living hell.  But feeding them well is what many of us love to do and few jobs feel as satisfying.  It’s what keeps them healthy, keeps them happy, gives them some of their fondest memories, and teaches them to cook.” – Lucinda Scala Quinn


Mad Hungry: Feeding Med & Boys

So the first recipe I share with you from Mrs. Scala Quinn (trust me there will be plenty more) is one I never dare make at home — typically I can’t nor do I dare recreate the masterful wings of a local bar.  Buffalo wings are a delicacy you just don’t make at home.  Ahh…but Lucinda has clued me in on the secrets.  These wings not only look similar to the ones you dive into with a beer in hand but they taste that much better.  Try them out for a football Sunday and boys will go insane or serve them up on Super Bowl Sunday and (trust me) you will win girlfriend of the year!

Crunchy Hot Sesame Wings


  • 20 chicken wings
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • vegetable oil, for coating the pan
  • 1/4 c sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 c panko bread crumbs
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • bottle of hot sauce or wing sauce


Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Place eggs in a large bowl and beat, add chicken wings and combine until wings are fully covered.  In a small bowl, combine the sesame seeds, flour, salt, cayenne, panko, and garlic.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with baking parchment or coat the pan with oil.
Dip each wing into the flour mixture to fully coat.  Place the coated wings side by side on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375 F and then increase the temperature to 400 F.  Cook until the wings are golden brown and sizzling, 20 – 30 more minutes.  Immediately remove wings place in a bowl with hot sauce or wing sauce and toss to coat.

Crunchy Sesame Chicken Wings

Cool Cucumber Salad

Pickled Cucumber Salad


  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c rice wine vinegar
  • 2 generous tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp siracha

Mix all ingredients together and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Restaurants I Have Been Dying to Mention

Posted by on Jan 8, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 0 comments


It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with the Holiday season flying by, ringing in the New Year and getting back into the swing of things!  I have done a ridiculous amount of eating that I have been dying to share with you all!  Check out my latest hot spots!

Larry’s - Venice, CA

24 Windward Ave  Venice, CA 90291-4102
(310) 399-2700

Larry's sits steps from the Venice Boardwalk

Larry’s sits steps from the Venice Boardwalk

Mark and Erwin Sokol (of Hotel Erwin) have teamed up with Waterloo & City chef Brendan Collins to bring affordable gastropub-ish plates to the art community of Venice Beach.  Larry’s opened in August 2011, was named after local artist Larry Bell, a pioneer in minimalism.  The interior bar

Larry Bell, local artist and a pioneer of California minimalism was the inspiration for Larry’s, his accomplishments and style was carefully used in the design and interior features that make this new spot shine.  The eats are nothing short of extraordinary and unique creative masterpieces.  SHRIMP & LOBSTER RAGOUT, capellini pasta, lobster tomato sauce, basil & truffle, GREEN CURRY MUSSELS, ginger, fresno chile, charred bread for dipping,  PIZZA, green chorizo, egg, chipotle, tomato sauce. The menu although foodie eccentric, never tops a $15 price tag making this the new hot spot for every local generation.

Ahi Tuna Tartar, white soy ponzu, prawn crackers, pickled vegetables

Ahi Tuna Tartar, white soy ponzu, prawn crackers, pickled vegetables

Bacon Wrapped Organic Salmon, roast beets, gnocchi & horseradish

Bacon Wrapped Organic Salmon, roast beets, gnocchi & horseradish

Dry Aged Beef Burger on ciabatta bun, house made pickle & fries

Dry Aged Beef Burger on ciabatta bun, house made pickle & fries

Hostaria del Piccolo – Santa Monica, CA

606 Broadway St  Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-6633

Hostaria del Piccolo

Hostaria del Piccolo

Opened just this year, Hostaria is the latest venture of Vittorio Viotti and chef Bobo of Venice, Italy’s Piccolo Venice, said to be one of the very best restaurants in Venice.  The menu is adorned with antipasti options that cause any palate to water.  ORECCHIE  crispy fried pigs’ ears and salsa verde, CINGHIALE  roasted wild boar sausage: soft polenta, MAIALI  selection of exclusive Italian cold cuts and VERDE arugula, spinach, avocado, pine-nuts and Parmesan crisp.  The pizzas have been rated nothing short of excellent and the staff is friendly and actually Italian!  When visiting Santa Monica next its a must try whether you’re looking for lunch of dinner, it’s not to be missed.  Perhaps than you can fly to Venice and sample Piccolo to compare notes.

Frittura, crunchy fried calamari, shrimp, white smelt fish

Le Pizze Bianche without sauce - squid ink dough, mozzarella, tomatoes & basil

Le Pizze Bianche without sauce – squid ink dough, mozzarella, tomatoes & basil

Gnocchi Marinara

Gnocchi Marinara

Bottega Louie – Downtown Los Angeles, CA

700 S Grand Ave  Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 802-1470

Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie

Walk by Bottega Louie on any given day and it will be packed, you will automatically decide its pricy and perhaps unaffordable — if your like me it’s best not to torture yourself and keep it in mind for another time, another place.  However, a tiny bit of research will prove your instincts immensely incorrect.  Bottega Louie may look to be a $30 a plate dining spot but its affordable and utterly brilliant.

Walk through the front door and your smacked across the face with an aisle of pastries, mini desserts, macarons, and tarts that scream beauty and perfection.  To the left you’ll see a cocktail bar that sends you back to the 20′s and off to the right a stainless steel open kitchen with 15 maybe 20 chefs and sous chefs cooking and plating dishes with the utmost care and precision.  The lunch and dinner menu may set you back $20 – $25 a person, but plates are enormous, pizzas feed 2+ and you will not leave disappointed.  Beware that they do not take reservations and a wait time can range from 10 minutes on a weekday to 2 hours on a prime weekend!

Mini Meatball Sliders

Mini Meatball Sliders

Portobello Fries

Portobello Fries

Infamous Bottega Louie Macarons

Infamous Bottega Louie Macarons

Bottega Louie Desserts

Bottega Louie Desserts

Cal Shabu – Santa Monica, CA

930 Broadway, Santa Monica, 90401

Cal Shabu - Santa Monica

Cal Shabu – Santa Monica

Shabu Shabu is an act of cooking, the dish is prepared by bring a pot of water to a boiling point and submerging very thin slices of meat and vegetables meanwhile swishing it back and forth until cooked to your desired doneness. In fact the swish-swish sound directly translates to Shabu Shabu. The cooked meat and vegetables are then dipped in a ponzu or sesame seed sauce and served with a bowl of rice.  Once you have devoured this simple yet delicious meal, the leftover broth from the pot is combined with the remaining rice, vegetables, and noodles and eaten as a soup.

The experience in itself is just a ton of fun and Cal Shabu does a remarkable job at making you feel as if you are dining at home.  The restaurant is located off any Santa Monica main drag and therefore the staff is genuine and it’s patrons all locals (they are literally located 6 buildings from our apartment!).  Next time you’re looking for something to warm you up or are in need of some comfort, Cal Shabu should be your first and only choice.

Two Item Combo - Prime Beef & Mussels

Two Item Combo – Prime Beef & Mussels

Soup made from cooking broth with fresh veggies and noodles

Soup made from cooking broth with fresh veggies and noodles

Happy Hour at Cal Shabu, Santa Monica

Happy Hour at Cal Shabu, Santa Monica

26 Beach – Marina del Rey, CA

3100 Washington Blvd  Marina Del Rey, CA 90292-5551
(310) 823-7526

Twenty Six Beach - Venice, CA

Most notably known for their massive burgers, acknowledging and not letting it’s patrons forget that they have several times over been voted home of the “Best Burgers in L.A.” is my latest find.  I cannot prove the above theory as I stumbled on 26 Beach for brunch, but their brunch menu is not ordinary sporting entire sections of “Pasta Scrambles”, “The Royals – Eggs over brown rice” and somewhere around 20 French Toasts varieties that you will find creeping into your foodie dreams.  The atmosphere is eclectic and memorable and food is fantastically executed.  I am not sure while dining if I realized just what we had stumbled upon, but now looking back I am dying to test out the french toast and the infamous burgers.

Panchetta & Eggs Pasta Scramble

Panchetta & Eggs Pasta Scramble

Twenty Six Beach Outdoor/Indoor Patio
Twenty Six Beach Outdoor/Indoor Patio
Corned Beef Hash Scramble

Corned Beef Hash Scramble

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2011 in Review: For Love of Exploration

Posted by on Jan 5, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

In 2011 blogging became an extension of my everyday life.  I took pictures with it in mind, I cooked with it in mind, I planned my weekends with it in mind and honestly I constantly toyed with the idea of figuring out just how I could blog & promote my own brand 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Okay time to get real…the reality of the situation is that I am not in a position to take that leap just yet, but WordPress has given me a little gift of encouragement for my efforts in 2011.  As I still have a full-time job that demands some serious time (especially Jan-Jun) and other commitments (boyfriend, friends, family, my well-being) I don’t have a ton of free time to execute the post ideas that linger in my mind day-to-day, but the below was an encouragement that the efforts I do put out there matters to someone, somewhere out there!

For the New Year WordPress sent this ridiculously well thought out analysis of my blogs success over 2011.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,700 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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