California

San Francisco Travel Guide

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Well hello!  We just got back from a phenomenal trip to San Francisco.  Though we had originally intended to attend Pokémon Worlds, having all that free time in San Francisco really let us explore so many different neighborhoods and see so much in 5 days.  It was my first time there, and everything was so photo-worthy!  Even better, Matt’s been there a bunch of times and we were able to do things that were new to him too.  We love to explore, and we walked A LOT.  Here’s our trip!

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Watch Day 1 – Exploring San Francisco!

  • What We Did: Walked to see the Painted Ladies, checked out the view at Buena Vista Park, walked through Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park, stopping to admire the Japanese Tea Garden.
  • What We Ate: Sushi-Go-Round at Isobune in Japantown, Muracci’s curry
  • Step Count: 23,265 (9.27 miles)

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Watch Day 2: From the Bay Bridge to Golden Gate

  • What We Did: Walked to the Ferry Building, then the whole Embarcadero, and Fisherman’s Wharf, then Ghiradelli Square, over to Lombard Street and all the way to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • What We Ate: a Nutella Belgian Waffle at Pier 39 with an apple cider from Biscoff next door, a sourdough turtle from BoudinIn-N-Out Burger for lunch, dinner with Matt’s friend at YakiniQ for Korean barbecue.
  • Step Count: 32,813 (13.24 miles)

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Watch Day 3: Japantown, Chinatown, & Coit Tower

  • What We Did: spent some more time exploring (& shopping in!) Japantown, walked through Chinatown  and to Coit Tower.
  • What We Ate: Tonkatsu in Japantown at Koji Osakaya, dinner with my cousin & his girlfriend at Hunan House in Chinatown.
  • Step Count: 23,317 (9.3 miles)

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Watch Day 4: Eating Our Way Through the Mission!

  • What We Did: ate our way through the Mission, soaked up some sun in Dolores Park and walked down Valencia Street, which was closed to traffic and a total party.
  • What We Ate: The Rebel Within at Craftsmen & Wolves, a sandwich & a tart at Tartine, two scoops of ice cream at Bi-Rite, and sushi at Amasia in Noe Valley.
  • Step Count: 18,606 (7.47 miles)

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Watch Day 5: Academy of Sciences & Lands End!

  • What We Did: A museum visit to California Academy of the Sciences just in time to watch the penguins get fed and chase butterflies in their rainforest exhibit, walked through Inner & Outer Richmond to Sea Cliff, then the breath-taking hike of Lands End and the Sutro Baths.
  • What We Ate: breakfast at Pinecrest Diner, lunch at Lou’s Cafe, and dinner with Matt’s friends at Iza Ramen where I finally got my takoyaki!
  • Step Count: 16,047 (6.4 miles)

Stay tuned to see much, much more of this trip!

 

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars – Lunch

This week on Top Chef, it’s the classic challenge: Restaurant Wars!  You know the drill.  The remaining 8 chefs are split into two teams by drawing knives for first pick & second.  The two teams need to execute pop-up restaurants and impress the judges!

Oh, but there’s a little twist this season.  Restaurant Wars is actually a two-part event, as each team is to execute both a lunch and dinner service.  No big deal, right?

Orange Team Captain Amar fills his team with Jeremy, Kwame, and Phillip– he picks Phillip for his front-of-the-house experience and interest, not knowing that two chefs would have to play front-of-the-house with this Restaurant Wars double-header.  They form District LA.

Gray Team Captain Karen chooses Marjorie, Carl, and Isaac.  With both my Boston chefs on one team, this is my favorite.  They open Palate.

Here’s what the chefs put forth for their lunch menus:

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Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and restaurateur Bill Chait dine at both restaurants.  They prefer District LA’s appetizers, but Palate’s entrees.  Kwame is at front-of-the-house for District LA and does a decent job– he makes sure there’s someone there to greet the judges, but does forget to provide them silverware.  Marjorie, the general manager for lunch at Palate, is sadly away from the hostess stand when the judges arrive, but does a great job contending with the tables who just don’t seem to want to get up… she bribes them with wine!

Lunch service ends pretty smoothly for Palate, but the same can’t be said for District LA.  The tickets are still pouring in by the time Palate’s service is through… but to be continued!  I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with for dinner, because with the judges opinions so far, it could go either way.  What do you think?!

Top Chef: Eyes, then Hands

You eat with your eyes first, right?  The Quickfire Challenge from this week’s Top Chef was all about #foodporn!  Yes, with the hashtag.  It’s a plating challenge.  The twist?  It’s junk food that they’re plating.  The other twist?  Instagram likes will decide the winner of immunity.

Here’s what the chefs create:

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L to R, top to bottom: Phillip, Carl, Chad, Jeremy, Marjorie, Karen, Kwame, Amar, Isaac

While the Quickfire was all about eating with your eyes, the elimination challenge was all about eating with your hands!  Neal Fraser introduces the concept of beefsteak– a traditional event in which there are no utensils, and no napkins.  Three teams are three are to make a meat dish, a fish dish, and two sides each.

The red team is basically all of my favorites– it’s Kwame and my Boston people, Karen & Carl.  The blue team is Marjorie, Isaac, and Chad.  The green team is Jeremy, Amar, and Phillip.

Here’s what they make:

It was pretty hilarious to see everyone in black tie and eating with their hands.  The best part, however, was that Hugh Acheson (heart-eyes emoji) was there to judge!  He also flung a piece of lamb that Padma had nibbled and hit some guests for the charity event.  Miss you every episode, Hugh!

Karen is announced as the winner of the instagram Quickfire securing herself immunity.

Most of the plates suffered from being too dainty and missing the point of the challenge.  Ultimately, the green team won for being the closest to hitting the mark, and Phillip claims his first win for his on-the-bone lamb.

The blue team ends up being the least favorite.  Luckily for Marjorie, my favorite member of this trio, Tom announces her the best baker Top Chef has seen– seriously, my mouth is watering for that milk bread!  Chad is sent to pack his knives.  Sadly, his instagram was my favorite, but he had trouble switching gears.

Which ‘gram is your favorite?  Seriously, how pretty are they?!

Top Chef: 10 Years Later

Get ready for a lot of 10’s!  There are 10 chefs left on Top Chef in this week’s episode, and the challenges are appropriately themed.  It has also been 10 years since the very first season of Top Chef premiered.

So, for the Quickfire, the 10 chefs can only use the same 10 ingredients.  Each chef has 20 seconds to pick one, they don’t have to use all 10, but they can use nothing else.

  • Phillip grabs beef
  • Isaac gets chicken
  • Chad picks jalapeño
  • Jeremy adds salt
  • Marjorie selects vinegar
  • Karen grabs olive oil
  • Kwame picks garlic
  • Amar gets mushrooms
  • Carl selects tomato
  • Jason chooses celery

Top Chef Alumna Antonia Lofaso is here to judge the Quickfire with Padma.  She selects Isaac and Karen as having made her least favorite dishes, and Jeremy and Amar as having made her favorites.  Jeremy wins and receives immunity!

The elimination challenge is also 10 themed.  Padma can barely make it through her giggles to the list of things that were happening 10 years ago– that Myspace was the most popular website (oof) and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.  The chefs need to put themselves 10 years ago on a plate and serve it to a table of (surprise!) 10.

It’s really fun to hear the stories of where these chefs were (and who these chefs were!) 10 years ago, but for one, it’s not a happy memory.  Kwame can’t get out of his own head during this one.  Michael Voltaggio (heart-eyes emoji) comes around with Tom to taste, as he’s one of the four Top Chef Alumni attending the dinner (the others being Antonia, Blaise, and last year’s winner Mei Lin!).  Phillip makes a literal fool out of himself explaining how he can’t cook to the judges’ tastes.  Tom tries to explain the concept of simply cooking good food correctly, but it’s not sinking in.

Here’s what they make:

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Gail makes a comment to Tom while they enjoy that she sat down next to him 10 years ago and here they still are!  Too cute.  The two of them plus Padma, Blaise, and Michael Voltaggio sit at the judges table to give the good news– their favorite dishes belonged to Marjorie, Chad, and Carl.  Marjorie gets her second win!

Now for the bad news– Jeremy’s immunity saved him this week, but Kwame got in his own head and ended up on the bottom, as did Phillip and Jason.  Jason is eliminated, he’s seemed a bit off-beat for a while.  He packs his knives, but something tells me Phillip could be right behind him… enough excuses, just cook well!

Thoughts?!

Top Chef: Hot Hot Heat

Sorry this is late, guys!  The right-before-the-holidays hustle and bustle gets you, am I right?!  Just as it’s getting cool over here on the East Coast, we check in with Top Chef: California in Palm Springs where the chefs experience some extreme heat!

The Quickfire challenge takes place in the desert.  After a jeep tour to the San Andreas Fault, the chefs are faced with super weird solar ovens and solar stoves to harness the sun and cook for Padma Lakshmi and guest judge José Andrés.  The chefs draw knives to determine who will cook on the solar stoves– let’s call them giant silver satellite dishes– and who will use the solar ovens– weird tubes you have to orient toward to sun.  The ovens look a lot more intimidating, and Giselle freaking shatters hers by putting liquid in it!  Others have more success, like Isaac who makes cornbread in his.  Wesley redeems himself from last week and wins the Quickfire and immunity!

The stoves become the blue team and the ovens become the orange team.  These two teams of seven are to create a progressive four course meal… to be served on the golf course!

Here’s what they make:

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Blue down left in course order; Orange down right in course order

Tom seems amped to play golf.  Padma, Blais, and guest judge José all show off remarkable lacks of golf skills.  I know of a couple of kids they can take lessons from!

The fact that they’re serving from refreshment carts in extreme heat and significant wind presents complications.  Phillip makes his second odd choice of the day (the first was serving Padma an oyster on a desert rock in the Quickfire) by plating underneath his serving table.  Padma, José, and John Besh all lose it with laughter at this, the “weirdest experience” of Padma’s life.

The Blue team is declared the winner, with Jeremy closing in on his second win!  On the Orange team, it’s Grayson who’s asked to pack her knives.

…but who didn’t see that coming?  Thoughts?!

Top Chef: Kwame for President

Top Chef is taking their California road trip very seriously and takes the show from LA to Santa Barbara.  Amidst a vineyard, the 15 remaining chefs find themselves in a Sudden Death Quickfire.

If you’re new here, a Sudden Death Quickfire means the loser is in danger of being eliminated.  I’ll explain when we get there.  The Quickfire is a cool one– the chefs are to pair a wine with an uni (sea urchin) dish.  Guest judge Dana Cowan of Food & Wine magazine tastes with Padma.  The top dishes from the Quickfire are Grayson, Wesley, and Carl, with Grayson declared the ultimate winner and securing immunity.  The bottom dishes are Angelina, who kept it too simple, Karen, who’s uni ribbon idea didn’t pan out, and Giselle, who couldn’t find eggs to make the dish she wanted.  Giselle is the loser, thus she must pick a chef she thinks she can beat one-on-one and fight for her place in the competition.  If she wins, she stays.  If she loses, she goes.

Giselle picks Angelina and they cook again.  Giselle wins, meaning no one goes home this time.

The elimination challenge is supposedly about surf & turf.  The chefs pair up, pick proteins, and have to collaborate on a dish.  Grayson gets to work alone because she won.  After shopping, Tom drops a bomb on them– it’s not a surf & turf dish, it’s surf vs. turf and they’re not partners, they’re competitors.  Again, Grayson’s win gives her an advantage.  She can choose surf or turf and also the pair she’s competing against.

Here’s what the chefs make:

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Grayson chose to battle Amar and Wesley.  Her dish beat both of theirs!

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Jeremy faced off against Phillip and won.  Angelina and Giselle faced off again, and Giselle won again.  Kwame and Chad had a tight match, but Tom broke the tie with, “Kwame for president.”

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Isaac battled Carl, and Cambridge Carl won!  Karen and Marjorie faced off, and despite Karen forgetting to cook a piece of fish, (poor Padma got this sad dish,) she still won.  Jason and Frances were another tiebreaker situation, but for the opposite reason… Jason won.

The top three for the week are Jeremy, Kwame, and Karen.  Kwame takes the win!  The kid is on a roll!

The bottom three for the week are Frances, Angelina, and Wesley.  Sadly, Frances is eliminated.  She seemed so well liked by everyone– her presence will be missed!

Thoughts on who will be next to pack their knives?!

 

Top Chef California

Top Chef is back on my tv (finally!) and back where it all began– California!

It’s season 13, and 17 chefs (mostly executive, some James Beard nominees) gather to compete for the title of Top Chef.  There are not one, but TWO Boston chefs representin’ this season!  They’ll have to impress Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, and Emeril Lagasse.

The seventeen gather for Tom & Padma for their first ever Quickfire, and it’s a classic– the mise en place race!  It’s not a relay, but a competition to be one of the first nine to complete their mise.  Those nine move onto part 2 of the Quickfire, where immunity is up for grabs.

Five different ~California~ ingredients feature in the race; they could: break down chicken, supreme oranges, separate eggs, turn artichokes, or prep asparagus.  The choice was theirs, but the tasks were on a first come, first served basis.

The chicken people seemed to finish fastest, some egg folks… I don’t think a single orange-supremer made it in.  The top 9 split themselves into 3 teams:

  • The Blue Team: Renee, Frances, and Amar
  • The Green Team: Isaac, Grayson, and Carl
  • The Red Team: Jason, Jeremy, and Wesley

The relay part comes in here for part 2.  They have to make a dish featuring one of these California ingredients, but only one can cook at a time.  In fact, each chef only gets 10 minutes to cook before handing it off to their teammate.  Their teammates wait blindfolded and they cannot communicate with them.

Mostly, this goes well (with the exception of the team who pretty much never found their chicken cooking) and the Blue Team– all three members– win immunity!

For the elimination challenge, the chefs can make anything they want, as long as its enough for 200 LA foodies.

Here’s what they do:

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The food bloggers and critics actually voted for the top and bottom dishes, and the judges decided from there.  Amar, Carl, (yeah Cambridge!) and Jeremy took the top spots, with Jeremy taking the first win!

This left Angelina, Grayson, and Garrett on the bottom.  Grayson gets a little sassy but Emeril is having none of it.  Because Garrett made the real technical mistake, he unfortunately is sent home first.  But there’s always Last Chance Kitchen!

Guys, I promised you a double recap, as this was a two-night, two-episode premiere!  Come back tomorrow for Pop Up Pandemonium!

Are you all as excited as I am to have Top Chef back on?!

Netflix Crawl

Boston is big on St. Patrick’s Day.  I’m sure there will be bar crawls a-plenty this weekend in celebration. Nicole is not big on St. Patrick’s Day.  A bar crawl would not be my thing either.  I guess the idea is that you have one beer and each bar, then move on to the next.  In honor of my weekend plans, I’ve made a fictional pub crawl, via Netflix!

Cheers

IMG_5021What better place to start your night than where everybody knows your name!  The crowd at this Boston bar can definitely be festive, but never seems rowdy.  Have your first beer here kicking back with Norm and the gang, and you can be on your way before Cliff gives you too many “little known facts.”

The Drunken Clam

IMG_5012We’re moving geographically now to Quahog, Rhode Island, which is fictional, but Rhode Island is so small that it really doesn’t matter where in state it’s located.  You can get things going a little more here, pounding beer number two back with Peter Griffin and friends.  I mean, that Family Guy can drink.  We’ve seen him drunk enough to assume so, anyway.

MacLaren’s

IMG_5019We’re in Manhattan now!  This bar from “How I Met Your Mother” has no shortage of attractive and gullible ladies, so make some friends now that you’re on your third.  If you’re not having much luck, maybe Barney can give you an assist.  Haaaave you met Ted?  There’s also food here if you’re feeling a bit peckish, which I always am.

Paddy’s Pub

IMG_5023I’m guessing you’re feeling it now, or at least have a good buzz going.  If you’re not drunk, someone here is bound to be.  Here we are in Philadelphia at an Irish bar, so there should be a lot of holiday spirit.  Drink down your fourth beer with “the gang” of Always Sunny.  This is really the kind of place you could spend your whole holiday binge-drinking, but remember that’s not the goal of the crawl.

Snakehole Lounge

IMG_5024It’s time to get wild in Pawnee, Indiana at the world’s sickest nightclub.  According to some rough google-ing, Pawnee is somewhere in Southern Indiana, between Columbus and Louisville, KY.  Avoid the snakejuice and have a fifth beer with the Parks & Rec department.  Things could get weird here, you guys.

The Bronze

IMG_5020Apparently the middle of this country doesn’t have much going for it, ‘cause we’re on the west coast now!  Here in Sunnydale, CA you can get your dance on at The Bronze.  If you’re not quite 21, no worries!  And if it happens to be 1999, you can catch Dingoes Ate My Baby playing some tunes.  Although this is south of our final location, I didn’t want to end the night here because of all the vampire attacks nearby.  If this isn’t place isn’t your thing, you could instead pick up your sixth beer at the bar at UC Sunnydale, but of course, you risk turning into a caveman.

P3

IMG_5022Wind down and enjoy the music and your final drink of the night at P3.  This San Francisco night spot may have its share of demonic activity as well, but I figure anything safer than Sunnydale.  I’m sure Piper and the power of three will be there if something bad does go down.  Some pretty sweet bands played here, so I think it’s a great way to end the night.

You have now covered 3,364 miles without leaving your couch!

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click through to see how weird I am for putting so much thought into this!

If you are going out this weekend in celebration, have fun and be safe!

If you’re more of a non-observant person like me, you can watch all of these shows on Netflix!

| Cheers | Family Guy | How I Met Your Mother | It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia | Parks and Rec | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Charmed |