Yep. Napa, again. I have a serious case of wanderlust. I can count the number of days on one hand!
Date Night in St. Louis
You hear it over and over again. “Make sure to have regular date nights after the baby comes!” And in theory, it sounds like wonderful advice. But date nights after having a baby can be challenging — and depending upon where you live, a little pricey once you add in the cost of a baby-sitter for a handful of hours. A friend recently scoffed when I told him that the going rate here in Chicago is about $13 – $15/hour — at least for our sitters. Still, we try to do it at least once a month.
Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have family (read: free) babysitting help for Nora, as was the case over Easter weekend at my parents’. So I planned a full evening out for KP and me — drinks with one of my high school friends followed by dinner in the historic Benton Park neighborhood of St. Louis. I’m terrible with the hot spots for dining and even more so for drinking in St. Louis these days. Embarrassingly, I even need to use the GPS on my phone to know where the heck we’re going. Thank goodness my fellow foodie sister who lives in the area always has some good recos in her back pocket, which is how we ended up at both Ernesto’s Wine Bar and Sidney Street Cafe.
When KP told my dad where we were going, he said something about it being a rough area, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Benton Park is really cute — tree-lined streets (and the trees in full, fragrant bloom, unlike here in Chicago…), adorable row houses, kids riding their bikes… I’m told by the friend we had drinks with that Benton Park is up and coming. So yeah, I can see how that might translate to “rough” to some.
Drinks at Ernesto’s Wine Bar
Our night out started with drinks at Ernesto’s Wine Bar, which sits at the corner of McNair Ave. and Lynch, and is a very short walk to Sidney Street Cafe. Basically, they’re on opposite corners from one another.
There’s a cute little back patio at Ernesto’s and I was hoping we could enjoy drinks there, but it was full. We were the only group inside but that was fine — we could be as loud and obnoxious as we wanted (but we refrained). Ernesto’s is dubbed such for Ernest Hemingway; there are pictures and books throughout the restaurant of Hemingway.
“Ernesto’s captures the passion for inquiry and adventure through the pairing of wine and food.”
If we lived in Benton Park, I could see us as regulars at Ernesto’s. It definitely has a comfortable, casual, neighborhood feel to it. And it has a small yet thorough menu. We weren’t there to eat, though. The wine menu was equally decent, and although it’s a wine bar, they have a “nearly full” bar (per the waitress), though no beer on tap (sorry, Kevin). Though the Summer Breeze cocktail and mojitos all sounded quite thirst-quenching, KP and I opted for wine (we still had to get through dinner, after all). It was a great place to sip on a few pre-dinner drinks. In fact, we could’ve easily spent the whole evening there. We got so comfortable and caught up in catching up that it was our reservation time at Sidney Street Cafe as we paid the bill.
Dinner at Sidney Street Cafe
Walking into Sidney Street Cafe, I decided that next time we’d just have drinks there first. Not that I didn’t love Ernesto’s, but the bar at Sidney Street is my kind of bar. It’s dark and reminded me of a scene from a Juarez Machado painting that used to hang in our kitchen. I imagine overhearing interesting stories — the kind of bar where I’d forget I was there with KP and listen in on someone else’s conversation instead (also known as, eavesdropping).
The bar flowed right into the main dining room which had a similar feel, although a little brighter, with exposed brick walls, hardwood floors and crisp white tablecloths draping the tables. It was buzzing at 8:15 on a Saturday night. Being how I am, I wanted to know what to wear to Sidney Street. My sister said anything goes, and that’s exactly right. There were people there in dresses and suits, and others in jeans and sandals. Comfortable.
Propped on the side of our table was the starter menu on a chalkboard. After two glasses of wine and lunch hours ago, I was starving and every single dish sounded like something I could devour. We settled for the house made charcuterie board, which had slices of sausage, blueberry compote and these incredible little pretzel rolls. We chose well.
Much like the starter menu, so many things on the main menu sounded good. KP went with the rabbit and waffles which took one of my contenders off the list, but I continued to hem-haw between the duck and the lamb. I went with the latter, only for the waitress to tell me that they were doing a special preparation of the lamb that night, a lamb wellington with lamb meatballs. Even better!
Both of our dishes were beautiful. And I was happy to have a few bites of KP’s rabbit and waffles.
Being a good sport, I even shared with him both the lamb wellington and the meatballs. Honestly, they didn’t exactly go together but both were so delicious that I didn’t really care! The lamb wellington was really unlike any lamb I’ve ever had. Would you look at how pretty and pink it is (okay, it wasn’t that pink — cut my iPhone some slack)? Even though I shared with KP, I still couldn’t finish everything. The General Manager stopped by to express concern that I didn’t eat it all, but I quickly reassured him that the leftovers were going home with me (you’re welcome, Dad).
Much like Ernesto’s, I could see myself regularly dining at Sidney Street if we lived in St. Louis. And with a free babysitter, to boot!
How is today already Friday? This is what happens when we extend a holiday weekend into Monday — my whole week is off. But we were having such a good time at my parents’ last weekend, and the weather was so freaking beautiful… we couldn’t stand the idea of coming back to chilly Chicago. Yes, it’s still chilly.
The week flew! And we’re heading into some busy days in the upcoming weeks — all good things, though. This is the last of our semi-low-key weekends for a bit. KP and I will be running a 5K on Sunday — the Ravenswood Run — and Nora’s Guncle Frank will stroll her around til we finish. Then we’ll all brunch. Here’s hoping for sunny skies, or at least no rain, on Sunday.
Whatever you have in store this weekend, enjoy!
Monday was the 118th annual Boston Marathon. Here are the 42 best signs from the course. My favorite is #22.
So maybe we’re not good with knock-knock jokes, but Chicago reigns as America’s funniest city.
Looking for travel inspiration? Check out these 40 “secretly underrated” places. Surprised to see someplace I’ve already been make the list (Bishop Castle, San Isabel National Forest, Rye, Colorado)!
I’m not surprised to learn that dogs (and cats) can love. Even though Daisy is terribly crotchety, she amazes me with her patience and tolerance of Nora — even when Nora sticks her hands in Daisy’s eyeballs. I’m not ready to leave them alone unattended (and probably never will be), but I think Daisy gets it (“it” being that she’ll have a one-way ticket to the glue factory if she so much as looks at Nora wrong). (NOTE: this link is a little science-y and should only be skimmed after two generous glasses of pinot noir.)
I’m so excited to return to Napa in a few weeks. It’ll be a short trip — combined with work for KP — so we have to carefully plan the few wineries we can visit in an afternoon. We just might have to return to an old favorite, Peju. Looking forward to ordering a big fat case of Provence to enjoy this summer.
This is the adorable cottage my husband and I stayed in at The Carneros Inn in Napa for our anniversary nearly three years ago. The entire place is this charming and picturesque. And, as luck would have it, we’re going back in just a few weeks! Work is taking KP to Napa (poor guy, right?), and the stars have aligned so I get to tag along for a change. Counting the days…
This week started off with spring and winter all in the same day.
I guess we were a little aggressive in putting up our patio furniture last weekend?
It’s been a busy week — too busy to even be mad about the two-ish inches of snow we got Monday night into Tuesday morning. The week started with a trip to the vet on Monday to find out that Daisy has a UTI (and witness a poor woman leave after having her dog put down — tear-jerker!). I swear, that dog can’t catch a break (nor can my wallet). Then Uncle Sam reared his ugly head on Tuesday — Tax Day. Although, props to the many Chicago restaurants that offered Tax Day specials. My friend and I enjoyed half-priced wine at a favorite, The Florentine, that night. Nora had her swim “lesson” on Wednesday and is becoming a real pro at going under the water. And yesterday it was time to prep for our Easter weekend.
Phew. So this weekend we’ll spend Easter at my parents’, and KP and I will squeeze in a date night at Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis. Gotta love the convenience of Grandma babysitting.
Hope the Easter bunny fills your baskets to the brim this weekend.
God forbid you get stuck with those nasty Peeps. Here are some ways to use them (because who eats those disgusting things?). I especially love the Twinkie car-driving Peep!
The seventh and final season of Mad Men premiered on Sunday night. I gotta say, I was a little underwhelmed. My favorite part was the cameo from Neve Campbell. Didn’t see that one coming and had to stop and think for a minute where I knew her from. Although I thought the premier was a bit of a doozy, at least the interwebs kept us entertained with all kinds of Mad Men-related funnies.
Did you know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month? (Better yet, did you even know there is such a thing as National Grilled Cheese Month?) Here are five tips to kick your grilled cheese up a notch. (I wonder if I can find a Weight Watchers grilled cheese…)
I really enjoyed this excerpt of Stronger, by Boston Marathon bombing survivor, Jeff Bauman. Adding that one to my to-read list.
Just in time for prom season… only in America.
Patriot’s Day/Marathon Monday in Boston
I lived in Boston for three years, from 2006 – 2009. Prior to living there, I didn’t know of Patriot’s Day, which is this coming Monday, April 21st. Maybe I did — maybe I learned about it in elementary school social studies or something? If I did, I don’t remember. Anyway, I became very familiar with Patriot’s Day, which is also the day the Boston Marathon is run every year. So Patriot’s Day is also known as Marathon Monday in Boston.
Some friends always had the day off work on Patriot’s Day, a holiday in Massachusetts, and those of us who didn’t usually took the day off. To me, Patriot’s Day meant beautiful spring weather and the Red Sox game, followed by drinks at the bars near the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street. In other words, a fun, booze-filled day with good friends.
I have so many good memories of Marathon Monday from my Boston days. But last year, obviously things went much differently. It’s one of those days that I’ll never forget where I was when I heard about the bombing — just like I remember where I was when the Challenger exploded, or on September 11th. I was sitting at my desk at work and got a news alert email. Initially, though it resonated with me, it didn’t seem like it was anything major. But the stories and details quickly emerged and it was clear that it was an incredibly major, terrible catastrophe. And I immediately thought about what I’d be doing if I still lived in Boston, who I’d be with, and started texting those friends. For various reasons, none of my Boston friends partook in Marathon Monday festivities last year — one was pregnant, one was traveling and so on. I remember thinking, thank God, and breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Boston is a tough town. When I moved there, I found it hard to make friends; I can count on one hand the number of friends I made — and still have — who were born and raised in Boston. Born and bred Bostonians stick together. And while, to an outsider like me, Boston felt like a tough city, it’s also a city of strength. So it was no surprise that the “Boston Strong” slogan organically came to be in the aftermath of the bombing. And I have no doubt that the strength of the city and its people will show on Monday, the first marathon since the bombing.
Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with Boston. It was hard for me to find my footing initially, and I suppose you could say I got mixed up with the wrong crowd for a bit. Gosh, that makes it sound like I was hanging with Tatiana from The Heat, which wasn’t the case. And those winters… well, I guess they just prepared me for the polar vortex. On the flip side, while I don’t have a ton of friends from Boston, the ones that I do have are genuine and very special to me. And I met my husband in Boston and we have lots of good memories there together. When I stopped and thought about it, there are actually a lot of things I miss about Boston. I give you my top ten.
Ten Things I Love About Boston:
- The accent! You either love it or hate it. I love it. Say it with me: pahk the cah in Hahvad Yahd.
- Southie was my home in Boston. The grit, the old school Southie folks, the bars, the silly milk crates to “save” your shoveled parking spot are all things I hold near and dear to my heart.
- The Playwright was my old stomping ground in Southie. It’s the epitome of a Southie bar as far as I’m concerned — crowded, loud and the Sam of the season in everyone’s glasses (and spilled all over the floor). It’s the kind of place where the waitress runs out the door after you, chasing you down the sidewalk if you genuinely forget to tip her (true story).
- Fenway Park turned me into a baseball fan. Growing up outside of St. Louis, I guess I’m supposed to be a Cardinals fan like the rest of my family. But I never cared much about baseball when I lived there. As a kid, I didn’t go to ball games that often, and when I did, the little fat girl in me was more interested in the nachos and ice-cream. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston and experienced Fenway Park that I developed any interest in baseball. Red Sox Nation sucked me in.
- The South End is one of my favorite Boston neighborhoods. It’s charming, picturesque Boston at its best. Think tree-lined, cobblestone streets; brownstones; wine and cheese shops; community gardens; restaurants galore…
- The Back Bay is another adorable Boston neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and great shopping — everything from unique boutiques to high-end fashion.
- The food scene in Boston is pretty fabulous. Now, I’m biased to Chicago, but Boston is #2 on my list. I could never pick a single favorite restaurant in Boston, although I will say that I love pretty much everything that Barbara Lynch has created, especially The Butcher Shop and its neighbor across the street, B & G Oysters.
- The Cape is the best Boston getaway, and not just during the obvious summertime months. It’s gorgeous in the autumn, too, with all the leaves changing color. But yes, the Cape is at its best in the summer when you can bask in the sun all day long, then refuel with a big, fat lobster roll and a Sam Summer.
- The Westin Boston Waterfront is clearly the wild card on this list. I’ve never even stayed there. But it holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my husband and I had our first unofficial date (ironically, we had a couple of unofficial first dates…) at this awful New Year’s Eve party in 2008.
- Patriot’s Day/Marathon Monday was, like I said, always such a fun day when I lived in Boston. It’s unfortunate that it’s been marred, but on Monday, the runners will run again and the strength of the city will no doubt prevail.
I decided to change up the title of my weekly roundup posts. “Friday Faves” wasn’t working since not all of the links I share each week are “faves,” per se. Some are just newsworthy, and/or thought-provoking. So it’s “The Week That Was” going forward.
Nora and I spotted the urban Peter Cottontail this week in our back alley. As my sister pointed out, the Chicago Peter Cottontail has to resort to concrete since there are no bunny “trails” for him. Poor guy.
At least it’s beginning to feel like Easter time here. I dragged poor Nora all over the ‘hood all week because I was on a hard core mission to enjoy the beautiful weather. We walked KP to the train in the morning, went to the park and of course walked to Starbucks. And as such, she’s been sleeping like a… baby.
This weekend we’re having some furniture moved around in our house as part of Project Make Space. And I have a wedding shower on Saturday. Other than that, we’ve got nothing on the books and I’m glad. I could use a little down time!
Whatever you’re up to this weekend, have a good one!
Good tips for flying with kids.
Now I’m hungry for some New York favorites.
I was horrified when I saw the headline about a nine-month old baby charged with attempted murder and was sure it was a joke. Not so.
If you haven’t heard about Heartbleed, educate yourself and change those passwords. Now.
Which one of these did your bedroom look like when you were a kid?
The Amalfi coast has been on our list. This preview makes me almost ache to go. And it also makes me hungry.
No more hunger-inducing links. Have a lovely weekend.
Well, there it is, friends — the sidewalk in front of our house, sans snow! It’s been gloomily rainy, but I will gladly take that over the white stuff at this point.
Here’s hoping the end of the week also means the end of the sick house. Nora came down with a wicked cold at the end of last week, and she graciously shared it with KP and me. And then KP left for New York for work mid-week, so it was just me and the little sicky. It’s safe to say I am ready for the weekend.
And what a weekend it will be. One of my pals from my Boston days is coming for a weekend visit, so I will get my fair share of girl time! Manis and pedis and dinners out are all on the agenda. Whatever you’ve got on your agenda, enjoy it!
The best thing that happened this week: the return of The Mindy Project, after an unacceptably long hiatus. But they generously gave us two episodes, so all is forgiven.
I picked up a few things at Target this week to put a little springy pop of color in my wardrobe. How adorable is this bicycle cardi?
Happy to see some of my favorite ballparks on this top 10 list.
The Ledge is one thing, but I think I’ll refrain from trying the Tilt. “It’s never been done before…” Well in that case, sign me right up to be one of the first! No, thank you.
I’ve made the executive decision that when Nora is an independent adult, KP and I will quit our jobs (assuming I have one) and travel the world for at least a year. I wonder if any of these tips will change much by then.
Ever wondered what a day of takeoffs at LAX looks like? It’s pretty incredible.
TGIF! Have a wonderful weekend.
Where to Eat, Sleep and Sightsee in Savannah, Georgia
“Have you ever been to Savannah? Thoughts?” So asks one of my friends recently. Thoughts? Just one: go! Savannah is bea-u-ti-ful! My husband and I visited Savannah a few Octobers ago, which just so happens to be a lovely time of year to visit.
Savannah, Georgia Hotels
We were in Savannah for a wedding at Mansion on Forsyth Park. However, the first two nights we stayed at the Courtyard Savannah Downtown/Historic District — a little friendlier on the pocketbook. There’s not too terribly much to say about the hotel itself or the décor — it’s a standard Courtyard property. It’s worth noting, though, that it’s pleasantly quiet; our room was next to the elevator and I’m a freakishly light sleeper, but I caught some serious zzz’s. The fitness room is nice, albeit on the small side. But it has everything you really need — bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, etc. A main selling point of the Courtyard is the location. Many sights to see are within walking distance, like the Savannah History Museum, Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), River Street, several picturesque squares and of course, plenty of restaurants. The Courtyard is a great base for exploring Savannah.
For our last night in Savannah, we opted to stay at Mansion on Forsyth Park simply for ease since it’s where the wedding and reception were being held. Because it’s easier to stumble to your room drunk than find your way halfway across town. (It’s a whole mile between these two hotels, after all.) With AAA Four-Diamond distinction, Mansion on Forsyth Park is Savannah’s most recognized luxurious boutique hotel. It was renovated and reopened by an art collector and there’s unique artwork displayed throughout the property — fitting for our friends’ wedding since she’s an artsy SCAD alum. Mansion was certainly a change of pace from the Courtyard. The rooms are beautifully appointed with luxurious floor-to-ceiling drapery and sparkly chandeliers. The bed was deliciously comfortable and I can only dream of one day having such a fancy, spacious bathroom. The location is nice with lush Forsyth Park just across the street, though it’s on the opposite end of Savannah from many of the shops, restaurants and riverfront. If you really want to spoil yourself, stay at Mansion.
Savannah, Georgia Restaurants
Thanks to my friends at Chowhound, I received some most excellent restaurant recommendations on where to eat in Savannah. With just three days, it was hard to narrow it down!
We lunched at Crystal Beer Parlor which was my favorite of all the restaurants we dined at in Savannah. Having been around since the 1930s, Crystal Beer Parlor is Savannah’s second oldest restaurant. It’s a casual, no frills establishment and its walls are adorned with memorabilia from days past. Dubbed “the best in the state,” the Gawgia Peach Cobbler was the highlight of the meal.
The evening before the wedding, the groom’s family hosted a gathering in the gorgeous grand ballroom at Garibaldi’s. Because it was a big party, there were different tasting stations set up and we sampled a lot of different things from the menu — the favorite being the crab shooter. It was rich and creamy with just the right amount of crab meat. Though, I could’ve taken down more than just a shooter’s worth! Garibaldi’s has such an ambience to it, it would be the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.
Our lunch stop on day two was The Olde Pink House. It oozes Southern charm and feels like a spot for afternoon tea with the ladies — nestled in an 18th century mansion with crisp white tablecloths, pastel-colored walls, sparkly chandeliers. Oh, and it’s pink. My husband scored points for humoring me by agreeing to dine there, but I’m quite certain the Low Country She Crab Soup made it all worth it for him.
Before heading out of town on Sunday, we brunched at J. Christopher’s, what I thought to be a cute, neighborhood establishment with just the right amount of kitsch and plenty of interesting artwork on the walls. It’s even housed in a converted garage. Turns out J. Christopher’s is a smallish chain with locations throughout Georgia and Tennessee. Seems to be popular with the locals, though, as there was a bit of a wait to be seated. Counter seats are first come, first serve, though we didn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for a booth. And worth the wait it was. I’m a fan of savory brunch items, and I especially love eggs benedict, so I opted for the crab cakes benedict. Just the right amount of spice and super flavorful. I have no idea what my husband ate as I was too engrossed in licking my plate clean.
Things to Do in Savannah, Georgia
A weekend is just the right amount of time to get a good taste of Savannah — literally and figuratively. It’s a walkable city so no need to hassle with a rental car. And, it’s relatively compact, so you can walk from one place to another easily. Besides, you’ll want to walk everywhere so you can take in all of the lush, charming city squares.
River Street is loaded with shops, restaurants and… tourists. Still, it’s nice to leisurely stroll along the river. River Street plays host to various events, like this weekend’s Art Fest, and later in the year a seafood festival, blues festival and more.
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is a must-visit along River Street. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you’ll find it hard to resist the sweet, buttery goodness of the popular pralines. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen has big round barrels overflowing with saltwater taffy, lollipops and other sugary treats… a bakery case with tray after tray of caramel and candy apples… oh, and perfectly shaped scoops of gelato in every flavor imaginable.
Love her or hate her, Paula Deen helped put Savannah on the map. We couldn’t be bothered waiting in line to dine at The Lady & Sons, but we did peruse The Paula Deen Store which has the usual suspects — cookbooks, bakeware, collectibles and aprons with sassy quotes, which made for well-received Christmas gifts.
I’m a sucker for hop-on/hop-off tour busses, so we hopped on the Old Savannah Trolley Tour. It took us all over Savannah and we covered sights like Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace and The Mercer Williams House Museum, from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Savannah is known for its iconic squares and parks. They’re delightfully unavoidable, filled with big, old live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Each square boasts historic significance.
Colonial Park Cemetery is said to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Savannah. It was the place of the majority of burials in Savannah for 100 years, and many notable Savannahians are buried there. Haunted tours are available.
Savannah is just lovely. Ever since my one and only visit, I’d happily go back. A weekend was nice, but there’s so much more delicious low country fare to indulge in and picturesque sights to see. I’d love to know, though — what’s Savannah’s infatuation with Pabst Blue Ribbon? At nearly every turn there was a PBR sign or glass. Maybe I was just more attuned to it because my dad worked for PBR back in the day (a hipster before it was even hip!), but I’ve never seen quite so much PBR signage in one place.
I’ve done some research (aka, quickly Googled) and all I found is that PBR is the “unofficial” beer of Savannah. Anyone?