love at {first} sight

Image

Loving my life.  This is Lucas in his first pair of swim trunks enjoying his first of many days out with the family at a resort pool, in lovely Palm Beach.  We stayed at the Breakers resort and loved every minute of it!

Life is good.

{the sweetest mami}

Advertisements

{America, the beautiful}

I’ve been away from home for less than a week, and am so grateful I get to return home today.  Oddly enough, this was my first domestic trip I took since the flight from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale nearly two years ago, when I moved to Florida with my dear family.

I’m in Madison, Wisconsin, and have to admit it is one beautiful town.  Very picturesque and small-town feel.  Driving through downtown, it is nice to see virtually no big-name stores or restaurants.  It’s full of one-of-a-kind shops and eating places.  I’m grateful to be here in the summer, because I hear the winters are brutal.  The weather has been warm and sunny, and only today has it started to rain a bit here and there.  The landscape is ever so green and hilly; I’d really hate to be here during an ice or snow storm!

Image

@Rocky Rococo’s – home of best pan pizza in town!

Image

@ the Old Fashioned – downtown Madison

Image

I was tempted to try this soup, but passed!

Image

deep fried cheese curds…yummy!

Image

home made frozen custard, less than a mile from the office..dangerous!

Image

@ Michael’s Frozen Custard

Image

I had the Chunky Monkey..delish!

Image

my Chunky Monkey sundae!

Well, I’ve enjoyed my stay here and made the most of my ‘free’ time away from home.  Caught a couple of movies and enjoyed some frozen custard and local cheeses too.  The time has come to return to my lovely family, which I’ve missed dearly.

Image

Image

~the sweetest mami~

{Mexico Lindo} Where to: See and be seen.

So, let’s get this party started right.  Mexico City is the mecca for the hip, young and beautiful–and, might I add — the  elite and wealthy.  First, let’s get a few basic principles out of the way.  If you want to truly experience Mexico City as the locals do, you must get a few things right.  Of course, there are exceptions to these ‘rules’, which I shall call out as needed.

For starters, you must look the part.  People take their social events seriously out here.  Men are mostly dressed in formal suits, and their take on casual is losing the jacket (and in some rare occasions, the tie).  Women are dressed in trendy outfits, and never leave home without a great pair of heels.  Now, here’s the exception – if you are at a very nice restaurant or club and spot someone wearing faded jeans or a shirt whose sleeves are casually rolled up, it’s only because they can; this sighting is one of the top elite and upper class.  They need not impress anyone with their fine clothes.  Their wallet will do all the talking.

Next, in order to be fashionable, one must be fashionably late.  Fact – nobody that’s anybody is seated for dinner before 9pm; the exception to the rule is the thirsty bunch whom you will find at their dinner table before 9, but who are just getting warmed up by having some pre-dinner cocktails and drinks.  When going out to dinner, try not to be that first eager seating of the night.  Plan in advance, and have your concierge book a reservation for you, and be prepared for a long night.  It is rude for waiters to rush the patrons along during dinner.  Don’t be offended if you feel you have to ask for the check.  They have not forgotten you.  They are just trying to give you some privacy.

I will now share with you a few of my favorite spots in the city that are well worth the wait, and I’ve frequented more than once.  These are the ones that never fail to impress when I’m showing someone new around.  One site I visit to learn about new spots is Concierge.com, hosted by Travel & Leisure magazine.

Where to:  Be Hip, or Be Square

  • the W hotel – Solea Restaurant & the Whiskey Bar – Settle in for a nice and loud evening at this intimate restaurant that hovers over a swanky lobby lounge that is guarded by a red velvet rope on most evenings.  The food is excellent, even though it is more modern American than Mexican.  Come for dinner; stay for cocktails.
  • love ixchel – Both restaurant and club, this hot spot is one of those that you’d have to be looking for to find, and even once you’ve found it you can barely tell you’ve arrived.  Venture downstairs into a dark and cozy ‘basement’, where the food is exquisitely prepared, and the ambience quickly turns into a disco club once the clock strikes midnight.
  • Biko – This new discovery of mine is one I’d happily return to.  The menu is vague, at best, and don’t bother asking the waiter to describe it, because you will only get lost in a myriad of words that describe such complex dishes that you are better off just saying ‘surprise me’, and see what fancy concoction is brought to you.  The food here is best described as Spain meets Mexico, with a touch of whimsy and intricate flavors that will keep you guessing, ‘what else is in this dish’.  [Save this one for when you are on expenses, or for a very special occasion.  Well worth the cost, though a bit steep.]

@ BIKO

Where to:  Experience Traditional Cuisine

  • San Angel Inn – This is an old monastery converted into a restaurant, in the style of a Spanish hacienda, with full courtyard and all.  Tucked away in the small colonial town of ‘San Angel’, it is across the street from the Casa Azul – Diego Rivera’s and Frida Kahlo’s old residences and art studio spaces.  Order a margarita, and you’ll be served tequila straight up with a squirt of fresh lime juice.  Nice way to start off a meal, if you ask me…
  • Cafe de Tacuba – Are you familiar with the band, of the same name?  Well, the restaurant came first, in case you were wondering.  Located in the busiest part of town, near the town square ‘Zocalo’, this restaurant is one of those places that does not look like much from the outside, but that is a thing of beauty once you’re inside.  Open since 1912, its walls are decorated with precious works of art, and the decor is very ornate and seems to be dripping in gold and chocolate.  As a matter of fact, one of its focal points is referred to as their ‘chocolate mural’, as it recounts the history of chocolate through the times, in homage to the god Quetzalcoatl whose gift of chocolate was seen as a  symbol of love and friendship.  This place holds a dear place in my heart.  I booked a reservation for me and my husband here as a surprise since he is a big fan of the music band ‘Cafe Tacuba’ and had always told me of how they took their name after a famous restaurant in Mexico City.  He topped my surprise by proposing marriage to me during that same dinner.  Now, there’s a memory that’s even sweeter than chocolate itself.

If you ever find yourself in this beautiful city, I hope you get to make your own memories by visiting one of these spots, or discovering your own.  Do share your comments with me, as I’d love to hear all about it.

{Viva Mexico!}

xo

~the sweetest mami~

{Mexico Lindo} Welcome.

I’m back in Mexico City, and it’s like I never left.  I have been here so many times, it’s beginning to feel like my home away from home.  When it comes to seeing its beautiful sights and visiting its most prestigious spots, I’ve ‘been there, done that’, as they say.  It dawned on me, though, that I never really got a chance to write about all its glorious beauty; perhaps, because every other time I’ve been here I’ve been so busy exploring the city and it’s neighboring towns.  So, I resolved to share the ‘best of’ with all of you, so that you can live vicariously through my experiences, and if you are ever fortunate enough to visit this beautiful city, you are not at a loss as to where to go or what to do.  I will begin this ‘series’ tonight, and may come back a few times to edit some posts as more comes to memory or as I add more to my experiences.  I truly hope this helps enlighten so many who are ambivalent about visiting Mexico.

{happy travels}

xo

~the sweetest mami~

Valentine’s Day Ideas (in Arizona)

It’s been a while since I last posted something in my ‘Diary’.  I thought I’d take advantage of the upcoming Valentine’s Day ‘holiday’, and recommend a few spots I’ve enjoyed in the past.  Good luck trying to get into one of these hot spots this weekend!

Tres Romantique — Coup des Tartes
Victor took me here last year, to celebrate my birthday.  The mood is very intimate and cozy, and the service is great as well.  The food was simple, yet elegantly presented and tasted delicious.  The highlight of our dinner was the warm chocolate cake the waiter brought us for dessert.  The memory was captured forever with a complimentary photo they took of us that night.

Churros and Sangria, Anyone? — Barrio Cafe
On a much simpler, much more relaxed note, this is a great spot for dessert or pre-dinner drinks.  They have the best sangria in town, and it is best served with their warm churros filled with caramel sauce.  This is a great spot to start, or finish, the evening.

More Swank for Your Buck — The Mission
I only needed to go once to declare this one of my favorite spots serving Mexican food.  The decor is glamorous, even swanky, one would say.  What’s great about the experience is not only how beautifully their food is presented, but also how it tastes just as great as it looks.  The chef is influenced greatly by French cooking, and this is obvious in the delicate sauces that balance his dishes and bring out the flavors in all his plates.  This is the spot we’re hoping to get back into on Sunday, if we’re lucky.

Great Sunday Brunch – T. Cooks at the Royal Palms
This is a great spot for brunch, and is often voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the area.  I read somewhere that wedding proposals are all too common here, so ladies beware…lol.  On a more serious note, this is one of those places where everything is perfect, every time.  You will be treated as if you’re the only table your waiter has, and the food will be awesome, no matter what you order.  I find this to be one of the few expensive restaurants in town where you actually feel like the food and service are worth the higher cost.  Also, take time to enjoy the beautiful outdoor seating area while you’re there.  It is made for lingering…

I hope I’ve given you enough ideas to put together a nice day out with your Valentine this year.  We are keeping it low-key this year.  Brunch and a movie is the way to go, for us. 

Have a sweet Valentine’s Day and feel free to share your favorite spots and experiences, too.

xoxo

Santa Barbara Highlights

We recently took a road trip to California, for a long weekend, to soak in some time to relax before the babies are born. We were also looking to escape to cooler weather…which was not the case, since there was a bit of a heat wave (in the 80’s)while we were there.

During our trip, we stayed in Carpinteria, and drove over to Santa Barbara several times (about 15 minutes away) as well as visited Goleta, Solvang and the Santa Ynez valley. Each of these places were so different from one another, and we loved each and every one of them.

Carpinteria is known as home to the ‘world’s safest beach’, and is a quiet beach town with a few quaint eateries and boutiques near the coast. Santa Barbara, on the other hand, is a lot more metropolitan and has a vibrant downtown scene, with the coast nearby as well as nice restaurants and plenty of familiar stores to shop in. Santa Barbara is known as the ‘American Riviera’.

While in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, we dined at the following notable establishments:

Carpinteria
Gianfranco’s Trattoria – Serves great Italian food, in a cozy atmosphere; I ordered their signature spinach and cheese ravioli and loved it.
Foster’s Freeze – Local ice cream shop; we ate here one night when we were too full to eat a proper dinner; I had a hot dog and strawberry shake (which was superb!)

Santa Barbara
Jane – Our favorite restaurant of the ones we tried. Warm atmosphere, great food and great service; I was lucky enough to find veal on the menu and loved it — had the veal scallopini.
Brophy Bros Seafood – Great spot for fresh seafood, right on the harbour; I ordered the fish and chips and needed help finishing it! Very good batter on the fish.

Crushcakes – Organic cupcakes! I ordered (and loved) the Strawberry Blush — a strawberry cupcake topped with pink strawberry frosting.
McConnell’s Ice Cream – Handmade ice cream served in very generous scoops! I barely finished one scoop of Peanut Butter Crunch in a waffle bowl.
Spoon Gelato – Excellent gelato; plenty of flavors to choose from. I tried the hazelnut and loved it!

We also ventured out to Goleta for their Annual Lemon Festival, where Vic tried a variety of local wines and lemon beer while I indulged in a decadent slice of lemon meringue pie. The next day we drove through beautiful landscapes and mountains to Solvang, a small town which was founded by Danish settlers and looks like it was taken right out of Denmark and placed in the California highlands. I tried the traditional Danish ‘Aebleskiver’ pancakes for breakfast, which are basically round balls of batter covered in powdered sugar, and served with fresh preserves.

After a brief tour of Solvang, we visited the Bridlewood Winery in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley. The property is magnificent and so beautiful. We took a tour via horse-driven carriage and purchased a nice bottle of Syrah, which is the grape they most pride themselves in harvesting.

New York City Foodie List

I used to live on the East Coast (in NJ) and frequented many great New York City dining spots. I have a few favorites, and continue to add to my list each time I return. Here a few highlights I hope you’ll enjoy, if you’re ever in the area. I will add more as it comes back to me…it’s been a while…

Favorite Brunch Spot: Ideya (Soho)
This is my must-eat spot whenever I head back to New York. It fills the void I have now, living on the West Coast, for the Latin food I crave so often. Selecting a drink is my first order of business, as soon as I arrive. Their flavored mojitos are great, any time of the day, and they also offer great fruit nectars and tropical non-alcoholic ‘shakes’. Their tostones (crispy fried plantains) are always a required side dish, and they also have great bacalaitos (cod fish fritters), empanadas (beef patties), and croquetas (similar to mozzarella sticks) as appetizers. They’ve got a great cuban sandwich for brunch, that is big enough to share, and nothing has stopped us from ordering bistec (traditional skirt steak) for brunch either. Bring your appetite and be ready to enjoy the tropical latin flavors that Ideya has to offer when you visit.

GOOD TO KNOW: Even though Ideya is a small, cozy restaurant, it doesn’t stop them from spinning DJ tunes in the evening. It’s a lot of fun, but don’t expect a setting for a quiet dinner after dark.

Favorite Pizza Joint: John’s Pizzeria (Midtown location)
If you’ve ever used the term, “I think I’ve died and gone to heaven” when eating out, this might be one of the few times it could be worthy of such glory –and I don’t say this purely because it’s in an old church structure. Pizza here is served by the pie only, and the crust is of the thin kind, and cooked just right. Service is always great, and the setting is unique. Look up to see the original church stained glass windows, that look like they were created just for John’s. They really do resemble a whole pizza pie…so, you really can feel like you’re enjoying a ‘slice of heaven’ while you’re there.

GOOD TO KNOW: They have another location in the Village, if you prefer downtown to midtown. Timing is everything, for this midtown spot since it is in the Theater district since it tends to get very busy with theater-goers before and after Broadway shows.