November 25, 2010

Dinner in Little Havana

So, enjoyed our first day in Miami. Warm air, blue water, sandy beaches, art deco buildings, and people watching...

After travel and sightseeing, we headed inland to the Little Havana neighborhood and our dinner destination – Versaille Restaurant. A Miami landmark, this restaurant is located on 8th Street or Calle Ocho. When I worked out of Miami International Airport I would often stop at the airport outpost of this institution, Cafe Versaille, for coffee or a snack between flights and had never had the opportunity to go to the main restaurant.

When we arrived at the restaurant around 6:00pm the parking lot was already filling up. Inside the host led us to a table right away and we were soon deciding what to order. Jonathan selected a platter of different Cuban specialties and I chose a plantain omelette.

Versaille is a classic restaurant. The waiters wear uniforms and there are etched mirrors on the walls. The atmosphere is warm and there is a sense that you have been transport to an earlier time period.
Before the meal arrived the waiter brought toasted white bread with butter. It does not sound particularly exciting, but it that was not the case. The toast was warm, crispy, and buttery – tasty and comforting. Our dinner arrived shortly. My omelette was very good and filled with sweet plantains. Jonathan also enjoyed his meal. (One note though – the entree portions were huge so neither of us were able our food!) We ended our meal with a decaf CafĂ© Cubano.

Dining at Versaille Restaurant is comfortable and fun. And since US citizens are still restricted from to travel to Cuba, it is the next best thing!

November 21, 2010

Flowers on the Sidewalk

Left in Memory of...
April 12, 2010
Polish Embassy
Washington, District of Columbia

November 19, 2010

Back in Miami

In 1998 I was hired as a pilot by American Airlines. After training, I was assigned to Miami International Airport to fly Boeing 727s. For me, Miami was part culture shock and part dream. It was a very different city than the places in the Northeast that I called home. And at the same time it was the beginning of my adventure exploring the AA destinations around the world. In the end I was only based in Miami for a short time before returning to my native Boston. However, I enjoyed the few months I got to spend in a warmer climate.

Over 10 years later I was in Miami again - this time with my husband Jonathan. This time the purpose of our trip was to compete in the Miami Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival with the DC Dragon Boat Club and to spend a few days in the sunshine. A perfect escape from the encroaching winter weather in Washington, DC.

We landed at Miami International Airport before 10AM in the morning. The sun was up and the temperature was a balmly 75F (24C). After dropping our bags at the hotel we headed out to explore. While I had spent many days walking around Miami Beach and South Beach, this was Jonathan’s first trip to Florida. We walked around South Beach past the art deco hotels and the umbrellas of sidewalk restaurants, ventured out to the sandy beach where people were baking themselves in the sun, and finally spent some time relaxing at a small cafe.

To me, South Beach has always been - and still is - a surreal place. And a great place to sit at a cafe and watch the crowd go by. This is a vacation place and people come to have a good time. There are all extremes of society and behavior here - all you have to do is find a comfortable seat in an out of the way corner and watch the world go by...

Cascading Water

Meridian Hill Park
Washington, District of Columbia

November 16, 2010

Wine and Chocolate – Continued Adventures in Chicago

My time in Chicago was a whirlwind... My days were filled with meetings and tracking down my lost luggage. Not much time remained to explore the city, however I did have a little time to relax.

Downstairs in my hotel, the Intercontinental, was a small wine bar called Eno. I decided to go there for a glass of wine and some dessert. I sat down at a table and ordered a glass of wine and some chocolates. Eno has a simple menu serving three of my favorite foods – cheese, wine, and chocolates. The wine was excellent and the artisan chocolates were perfect. And they were a wonderful treat to help me forget about my luggage woes!

And on the subject of chocolate, before leaving Chicago I was able to visit the Vosges boutique on Michigan Avenue. I have always loved these creative chocolates in their pretty packaging. I purchased several new bars that I have not had the opportunity to try previously, including black salt caramel, Blood orange caramel, marzipan, gingerbread toffee, and organic Dominican dark chocolate. Since returning home I have tested the salt caramel and dark chocolate bars and both are fantastic. I look forward to opening – and eating – the others over the next few weeks!

November 11, 2010

Music in Dupont Circle

Musician in Black & White
Musician in Color
Dupont Circle
Washington, District of Columbia

November 10, 2010

Thank you Starbucks

Starbucks, once a small Seattle area coffee shop, has become part of mainstream culture worldwide. With shops on every corner it is now ubiquitous and probably lost some personality along the way. During its period of growth the company has tried to be socially responsible and true to its coffee shop roots. It has not always succeeded. However, recently it made a decision that I think needs applauding.

Those of you who know me – or read this blog regularly – know about my obsession with chocolate. I love chocolate. I drink hot chocolate every morning and rarely drink coffee. In my opinion Starbucks hot chocolate is too sweet. So, I do not stop at their shops very often – and when I do I just order some tea or a bottle of water.

One of my favorite chocolate companies in the United States is TCHO from San Francisco. So, I was excited learn that TCHO is now producing the Starbucks house brand chocolate bars and wasted no time procuring some. The new Starbucks house brand bars come in dark and milk chocolate – and of course, I had to try one of each. Both bars were delicious! Definitely TCHO quality and intense chocolate flavor. Now I have a reason to stop at that ubiquitous shop on the corner...
Starbucks, thank you for choosing TCHO to make your chocolate bars!

November 6, 2010

A Missing Bag and a Purple Pig

Chicago in November – clear and brisk with piercing sunshine. My trip begins at baggage claim. I watch the bags go round and round. People come, wait, pick up their bags, and then leave. My bag still does not appear. After what seemed like an eternity – but was probably only a half an hour – it becomes apparent that my bag was not in O'Hare with me...

After talking to the individual at the United Airlines Baggage Service Center, picking up my rental car and driving downtown I finally arrive in my hotel room. I was tired, sad, and a bit frazzled.

I take a minute to collect myself, then meet up with the coworkers I am traveling with and run across the street to Nordstroms and Sephora for a little emergency shopping. I have just enough time to get what I need before the stores close! Then it's finally time to relax and get dinner.

We decided to try the Purple Pig, a small wine bar and restaurant on Michigan Avenue. Inside there are several small tables around the edges of the room, communal tables in the center, a bar at the back corner. The restaurant is buzzing with activity and has a vibrant atmosphere. The hostess informs us we will have a 30-40 minute wait, however, I was pleasantly surprised when she called us in about 20 minutes.

Now, on to the meal. We shared a very nice bottle of Burgundy and I ordered a salad and a cheese plate. My dinner companions had scallops, procchutto and steak. The cheeses on my plate were all excellent and served with a delicious grape and fig chutney. Everyone else enjoyed their food and the dining experience as well! The Purple Pig is a great place to have dinner – or just a nice glass of wine – in Chicago.

November 2, 2010

Something Sweet

Being from New England whoopie pies are a favorite treat of mine. For individuals who are unfamiliar with this baked good, it is two round cookie shaped pieces of chocolate cake with with sweet frosting between. When I moved to California I was disappointed to learn these tasty treats were not more common in other parts of the country. Now that I am back on the east coast living in Washington I am happy to have found a bakery in the District that makes whoopie pies!

Something Sweet is the perfect name for a bakery. It is located near the intersection of Wisconson Avenue and Macomb Street across the street from one of my favorite DC area pizzerias. Recently my aunt and I were having lunch at 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria and decided to visit Something Sweet. I was delighted to see whoopie pies in the bakery case! (And, of course, I just had to purchase one to try.)

Later that afternoon I made tea for my aunt and I and we shared our whoopie pie. It was a very good! The cake was perfect – rich chocolate and not very sweet – with sweet frosting. (And it was a perfect size to share.)

The whoopie pie was a fabulous treat – reminiscent of bakery trips with my dad when I was child!