Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Supper Club: Californios

This week marked our inaugural supper club dinner!  The concept is simple: get a group of foodies together and take turns coordinating reservations at some of the most in-demand, renowned restaurants.  Our current crew consists of Brittany, Ari, Maryana, Elyse (who unfortunately couldn't make this one!), and myself. 

Brittany kicked us off with the Michelin-rated Californios, featuring a seasonal 16-course tasting menu that builds on traditional Mexican cuisine.  The food was simple and delightful, not to mention refreshing for summer.  Many dishes took tried and true recipes to the next level by focusing on the technique, such as grinding grain longer for a smoother texture, or adding incredibly high quality, rare ingredients to the mix.

Walking in reminded me of Alinea, as the building was minimalist and unmarked.  The restaurant itself was very small, with only about six tables lining one wall, and an exposed bar/kitchen on the other. The tones were dark, with splashes of color in the art on the walls or the dahlias on the tables. 

We were infatuated with the staff, who kept things light and friendly.  There was never an air of pretension, and we had a great time with them!

I'll walk you through our meal with captions, and highlight any anecdotes along the way.

"Let's jump a page and go right into France." 
-Assistant GM, and our favorite on staff

Melon agua fresca, hella fancy watermelon, and cured wagyu chicharron

You can't have a Michelin meal without wagyu beef and caviar (both to make appearances later on, too)!  I think it might be a rule.

Masa and pineapple al pastor in a treasure box

Soft-shell crab taco
Black bean tamale
(they ground the masa for 6 hours-it was SO smooth!)

Delicately folded coconut ceviche

Corn and crickets (we found out the latter later) 
A crowd favorite!

Lobster taco (!!)

Octopus with tomato water

Three bean puree with caviar
Another winner!

Bass with carrots
"I've never tasted a more carroty carrot" -Brittany
(We all agreed.)

Carne asada wagyu 
(The 2012 Mi Sueno cab was spectacular!)

DIY lamb tacos

At this point I was starting to hope we were almost done...16 courses really starts to catch up with you!

I love how Maryana almost looks like she's in prayer as she takes in each new dish.  I have multiple photos of her looking just like this at different points in the meal, hands in lap, head bowed, taking in the miracle of food before her!

 Goat cheese and berries

White guava sorbet on pistachio butter

This pistachio butter had us all raving.  It was so tacky (great describing word, Maryana) and smooth.  We told them to bottle it, and we would've bought several on our way out! 

At this point I'd had enough wine (plus the margaritas we'd had at El Techo before dinner!) that I thought Maryana's head in a glass was an elevated form of art.  Nailed it.


Finally, here's a look at the menu they give you at the end of dinner.  Not a ton of insight into exactly all we ate and the details they put into each dish, but a good reminder of our journey at Californios!

The whole evening was an absolute delight-looking around the table and laughing with ladies I love, indulging ourselves at our every turn, learning from the meal and from each other-I can't wait for more nights just like this one.

Stay tuned for the next Supper Club in October!

Return to the Lighthouse

We decided to make the most of Lauren's trip to California by planning a quick girls' getaway at Pigeon Point.  Brittany and I had been three years ago for #lighthousepartyofsix, and were excited to share the spot's magic with Maryana and Lauren.

It was a beautiful weekend, with wisps of white clouds polka-dotting the blue skies.  We picked up rations in Pescadero and settled into the hostel at Pigeon Point.  Now I'm not normally one to stay in hostels, but this place is all about location.  It's right off Highway 1 near Halfmoon Bay, surrounded by nothing, on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean.  The place is absolutely serene, with sweeping views, bright stars in the sky, and the sounds of ocean waves rolling through your windows.  Twenty-four hours here can feel like a week, in the best way!

I was liable to bust a gut the whole time, the girls had me laughing so hard.  From disaster pants to Mother Teresa (don't ask), we were holding our sides or wiping tears from our eyes more often than not.  So much silliness. 

There was plenty of time for quiet moments as well, taking in the beauty around us and some much-needed R&R. 

Dinner was perfect.  We snagged lots of fresh produce, artichoke bread, and local goat cheese from the market and created quite a spread for ourselves while overlooking the water.

Finally it was time for the long-awaited moment: hot tub on the cliffs at sunset!  We played lightning rounds of the question game and tried not to boil alive as we took in the phenomenal view. 

That night Brittany taught the girls shithead (which appropriately we learned at a hostel bar in Puerto Rico, she reminded me), and after a few rounds we moved on to the fire pit to roast marshmallows and chatted a bit with the other people staying on-site. 

Next morning, we explored Pescadero, making stops at Harley Farms and Pie Ranch. 

As you know, Brittany loves baby goats

We played more shithead throughout the morning at various stops, got at some delicious goat cheese, and later finished it all off with pie.

It was an absolutely rejuvenating, soul-nourishing weekend with people I love!  Pigeon Point will always be such a special place to me, with new memories built upon those before.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

NYC: How Lucky We Are to be Alive Right Now

I feel that I'm basically spending this summer tracking down my closest friends in different cities, and New York was a big one for me! This was my second July in a row in New York City, and my trips there keep getting better.  I love getting to know a city to the point where there aren't any more tourist check boxes I'm enticed to mark off, and I instead spend my time wandering the city with newly-minted locals, imagining what my own life there could be.  

I should mention I was there for work, but don't worry, it didn't detract from my fun.  

The weather was unpredictable-hot sticky muggy with the occasional downpour, highlighted by a day of sharply dropped temperatures and cool breezes.  And the smell!  Imagine a men's locker room after a football game.  The hot guys were even there.  But the whole experience is still just kinda...pungent.  

One of the things I was looking most forward to was being reunited with Lauren, who moved to Box London early this year.  We shared a wonderful evening catching up and indulging. 


We started at her hotel's rooftop bar, called The Heights, drinking frozen rose and gazing at the Empire State Building, followed by a delicious seasonal dinner at Park Avenue Summer.  We capped off the hot summer night with gelato from Eataly and firefly-spotting in Madison Square Park.


The next night I met up with Shawn and headed to Summer Stage in Central Park.  We had gone to a throwback DJ set in the same spot last year, so I was familiar with its awesomeness.  This time we chowed down on fried chicken sandwiches and Ommegang beer while waxing philosophical with each other, and later swaying to the Amy Winehouse-meets-Gwen Stefani grooves of Chilean artist Mon Laferte.  No photos of us from that night, but Shawn will definitely make a reappearance later in the week!

The next night I reunited with Preetam, who lives in Seattle, just completed his PhD, and is city-hopping for job interviews.  We decided to spend our night together on Broadway watching Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.   It was such an incredible, immersive experience!

Firstly, the stage was one-of-a-kind.  As you can see from the photo below, the stage weaved its way throughout the theater, with audience members on, in and around it in all directions.  Throughout the show, the actors roamed the pathways, strutting and playing instruments, winking or nudging theater-goers; sometimes, they even pulled up a chair and sat at a cocktail table with paying guests. 

Second, it was so interactive!  Within the first minute of the show, a member of the company threw a dumpling at me, which Preetam and I shared.  Lots of other fun, unexpected things happened throughout, like egg shakers being distributed so everyone could partake in the percussion.  There were maniacal strobes, fanciful costumes, even a 19th century Russian rave.  Basically, the show was a tactile, in-your-face, at times over-stimulating brouhaha of a performance.  Preetam leaned over countless times to ask, "What the hell is going on?!"  We absolutely loved the show and couldn't stop raving about it after.

My dumpling!
I didn't know my mouth could open that big.  Sheesh.

Friday we celebrated Shawn's 30th birthday with friends and coworkers with happy hour, pizza, and karaoke.  One face I was happy to see was Kevin's, who was part of Gio's masters program in Bologna at the same time I was at the villa (here's a throwback to our trip to Ancona altogether in 2011).  He referred Shawn to his job at IIE and now they both work there together.  He did a hilarious double take when he saw me (since it's been at least 5 years and I live in CA), and it was really fun catching up. 

After happy hour, Preetam and Rachael met up with us at karaoke, where we upgraded to a larger room 4 times as more people from Shawn's work joined our ranks. 

The girls missed the memo

We were there for hours and seriously got into it.

Saturday was Shawn's actual birthday, and after transferring from my work hotel in midtown to his apartment in the Bronx, we decided to head even deeper into his borough to check out Little Italy.

 Shawn LOVES my photo ops

We roamed the market, ate pasta for lunch in July against our better judgement, and sipped coffee on the sidewalk while watching the world go by. 

Where I'm headed in less than a month!

Resting back at his place, we grew increasingly obsessed with DJ Khaled's summer hits, primarily Wild Thoughts, which became the soundtrack for our weekend.   We the best music!

That night we met up with Christian (remember my behind the scenes tour of the UN last year with a Mexican diplomat?  That's him!) for Shawn's birthday dinner.

We had a spectacular meal at Mountain Bird, an incredibly fresh French/Japanese restaurant they frequent often-the kind of place you'll only find in New York.

Happy birthday, Shawn!

I know what you're thinking: Saturday night!  New York City!  Shawn's 30th birthday!  You guys must've had quite the night out on the town.  Nope.  We went back to Christian's place and played Mario Kart, happy to relax together.  That's what happens when you turn 30.

Sunday morning, on our way to meet up with Rachael and Preetam on the upper east side, we saw two fights, one on each of the subway trains we took.  One lady was evicted from a train Survivor-style (the tribe has spoken) for speaking to another woman's man.  While moments like those can feel charged and a bit scary, there was a certain solidarity in the whole thing, where you knew people on the train would stand up for you if something not cool happened.

Back in the normal world, we met the crew at Maison Kayser, a delicious, authentic French bakery chain that they apparently have all over Paris and New York (how had I never noticed these?).  We talked about life and careers and ultimately how the four of us should really have a podcast together.

Next we wandered Central Park, listening to crooners under the arches and sweating a lot.  Some of us even joined the throngs of children for a ride on the carousel, while dad (Shawn) looked on. 

Finally, as a reward for our hot walk, I insisted we go to Grom for gelato, which brought us all back to life.  They should keep that stuff in stock at hospitals-miracle drug!  

Then Shawn and I said our goodbyes to the others and headed to Christian's friend's house (who is also a Mexican diplomat) for a BBQ with a community of Mexicans and Spaniards who were doing a fusion meal to share each other's cultures.  We had spent last 4th of July on their rooftop and it was so fun reuniting with them, not to mention we got to eat like kings!  Best of all, we were regaled with hilarious stories about the Mexican President's visits to New York and all the ways they have to scramble to make his trips go smoothly. 

Rooftop smiles

That night we grabbed burgers from Harlem Shake (didn't know this was a place), and watched the premiere of Game of Thrones (another wild night!).  

Time in New York ticks faster than in other places and before I knew it, it was my last morning with Shawn.  We jumped on the subway headed to Bryant Park and got stuck for about an hour underground.  We shrugged and made the most of it, just enjoying our last couple hours together.

Despite its particular frustrations, what a joy New York is, with friends around every corner, and excitement and possibility just waiting for you to uncover them.  Can't wait for next time!