Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What We've Been Up To: Part 2

Here are some more highlights from our last couple of months. See Part 1 here.

San Francisco/Sonoma:

An all-garlic restaurant; not for the faint of heart (or vampires)
Pier 39 in San Francisco
Harrogate friends at Alisha's brewery!

Hanging out with the Barrs!


Celebrating our 6th anniversary

Moving Home:
Such a pro at air travel

Thank goodness for good friends

Jewish Holidays:

Dan's homemade challah

Apple Picking:

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

What We've Been Up To: Part 1

Hi friends! Wow, it's been a while. I finally am starting to feel a bit more settled. The boxes are all unpacked and we're getting into a new routine. So much has happened since I last posted:
  • a move across the world
  • visiting six cities in three time zones (not including Harrogate or Washington, DC)
  • moving into our new/old house
  • Zahara starting day care
  • Dan starting work
  • Me starting the job hunt in earnest
  • Zahara's first time at the zoo
  • The Jewish high holidays
I can't possibly post about all of those things...I'm just way too behind. Instead, I'll post a few highlight pictures. I have no idea where this blog will go in the future, but I do know that I love it and hope to continue recording my adventures and memories here. 

Our Move:
Rachel and Chris hosted an amazing farewell party for us in Harrogate
Had one last glass of fizz with the girls (missed you Kristiina and Vicky!)

Cape Cod and Boston, Massachusetts:
Relaxing in Cape Cod

Visiting cousin Nina

Seattle Duck Tour

...more to come in Part 2

Friday, 29 August 2014

Dear Zahara: 14 Months

Dear Zahara,

What a big month this has been. We've moved across the world! I am so proud of how easily and wonderfully you adapt to new surroundings. Without exaggeration, we have completely uprooted your whole life. It makes me a little sad that you won't remember all of the wonderful memories we've made up until now, but I am excited to start this new adventure with you in America.

You've had a few big milestones this month, but the biggest is that you are now walking! You took your first steps way back in July, but you were still mostly crawling all summer. Over the past few weeks you have become a lot more confident in walking. You still toddle around like a drunkard and it's absolutely adorable.

You don't have many full words yet, but you are clearly making yourself understood. You can say hi and bye; you say "baa" for ball and "waa" for water. You are great at using sign language for food, milk, and more. You also are learning your body parts, and will point to them when asked. You especially love wiggling your fingers and toes.

You are a giant ball of energy, and sometimes it is hard keeping up with you. But your sweet little giggle and baby hugs make it all worthwhile. Happy 14-months. We love you!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Turkish Baths in Harrogate

One of the items on my bucket list before leaving Harrogate was a visit to the Turkish Baths. Dan very thoughtfully gave me a gift certificate for Mother's Day. Initially I planned on going by myself, but when my friends said they were available to join me, I knew the experience would be that much better. Rachel, Becky, Vicky (not pictured) and I made a morning of it. No photos are allowed during the session, but we managed to sneak one in after the fact.

I've been to an authentic Turkish bath in Istanbul; I still maintain that was one of my top-ten most interesting life experiences. It was so unexpected and wonderful. Of course a lot of that had to do with the hamam we chose--if you are ever in Istanbul, you MUST visit Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami.

These baths were significantly different than the ones in Istanbul, but it was still relaxing and wonderful. This was more like a spa than a bath house. Bathers go through a series of rooms to open their pores and release toxins. First you visit the sauna, then the Tepidarium (warm room), then the Calidarium (hot room), and finally the Laconium (hottest room). In between each room you shower and take a dip in the plunge pool. It was freezing! It was really interesting how different the pool felt after each room. I thought that it would feel less cold after visiting hotter rooms, when in fact it was the opposite. The hotter the room I was in, the colder (and less pleasant) the plunge pool.

Plunge pool [source]

Before we knew it, our two-hour session was over. I left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. The Turkish Baths are just one more thing to love about Harrogate.

Monday, 18 August 2014

My First and Last British Wedding

For three years I have been desperate to get invited to a British wedding. Why? Because of the hats! Do you remember the parade of incredible hats during the Royal wedding? It turns out, that wasn't unique. Brits love wearing intricate, colorful, huge hats and fascinators to formal events. I wore one during the Jubilee, but I wanted one more excuse before I left the country.

2012 Queen's Jubilee

I really lucked out when my friends Charity and Brock got engaged. Though they are both American, they live here in Harrogate and decided to get married here. The wedding was last week, just ten days before we leave England. Just in the nick of time! My friend Becky lent me the most amazing fascinator--I was ready!

The wedding took place at Rudding Park, which was recently voted one of the best hotels in England! The ceremony, performed by Brock's college roommate in an old chapel was stunning. Charity and Brock are both very traditional, and this suited them perfectly.

Guests threw bird seed at the happy couple as they exited the chapel.

Next up was the cocktail hour--always one of my favorite times at a wedding. The passed hors d'oeuvres were phenomenal. My favorites were the adorable little fish and chips served in a newspaper cone and the lush brownie bites.

Dinner and dancing followed. I had to sneak back home to put Zahara to bed (she was with a babysitter during the ceremony), so I missed the cake cutting and speeches. Apparently Charity's dad made everyone cry with his super emotional tribute to his daughter. Even Dan admitted getting choked up.

Charity and Brock took dance lessons for their first dance, and it really paid off. They were adorable. Nervous, but cute.

It was such a fun celebration, and a great way to end my time here in England. Congratulations Charity and Brock!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Dinner to Remember

As part of this year's birthday celebration, Dan took me back to the Burlington restaurant at the Devonshire Arms. We went there for my 30th birthday and I am so glad we were able to return. The Michelin-starred restaurant is expensive, but worth it. By the end of our eight-course tasting menu, I literally (not figuratively) could not have eaten another bite.

I was once again impressed by the chef's creativity. From start to finish the dishes were unique and quite memorable. Most of the dishes were delicious, but there were a couple of misses for me. Here's the run-down, course by course. Sorry for the poor pictures. Lighting in the restaurant is wonderful for ambiance, but terrible for photos.

Amuse Bouche: 
  • Green apple with avocado mousse
  • Beetroot and smoked salmon macaron
  • Mushroom duxelles "hamburger"

Before eating, Dan and I each picked which one we thought would be the best. He picked the hamburger and I picked the apple. We were both blown away by the macaron. It was so unexpected.The texture was absolutely perfect--airy and crunchy. The salmon filling was salty and smoky--a perfect pairing to the slightly sweet beetroot. 

I enjoyed the apple and avocado more than Dan. I have never had guacamole with apple before, but that's what this was. The avocado was perfectly seasoned with lemon juice and a tiny hint of cilantro, and the apple was crisp and tart. It was weird, but it worked.

The duxelles was delicious, but the filling to "bun" ratio was a bit off for me. I wanted more mushroom. All three bites were a wonderful pairing to our pre-dinner martinis.

First Course: 
  • Jellied tomato consomm√© with horseradish and fennel flatbread

This was a miss for me, but Dan really enjoyed it. I don't like the flavor of fennel, and I found the texture of the consomme off-putting. It reminded me of Vaseline. The horseradish cream was delicious though.

Second Course:
  • Heirloom Beetroot with white balsamic vinegar jelly and Dorstone cannelloni

You have to really love beetroot to enjoy this dish. Thankfully, I am a big fan. There were several different types of beets all prepared in different ways. I loved the roasted beet and the fruit leather. Apparently, there were also salt-baked and compressed beets (which take 24 hours to make!), but I couldn't detect enough of a difference to warrant the effort. The blue-cheese cannelloni was very intense, but paired well with the sweet beets and the acidic vinegar jelly.

Third Course:
  • Salt-baked Carrot with goat's curd, roasted hazelnut, truffle mayonnaise and deep-fried quail egg

This was my favorite dish of the night. It doesn't sound or look very impressive, but that makes me love it even more. It's the sign of a good chef to take ordinary ingredients like carrots and make them extraordinary. 

The carrots were prepared three ways: salt-baked, pickled and maybe freeze-dried? The last method I couldn't quite figure out. It is the powdery substance on the side of carrot. The other two methods worked really, really well. The pickle was sweet and crunchy. The salt-baked carrot melted in your mouth. The egg was perfectly cooked, and I could not get enough of the luxurious truffle mayo. I was sad when this course was over.

Fourth Course:
  • Mackerel with grapefruit terrine and dashi

This dish was a partial winner. The fish was delicious and perfectly cooked. The rest of the dish was a complete disaster. The dashi gel was OK with the fish, but the grapefruit terrine was horrifying. It did not work with the dashi at all. The apple avocado made another appearance, but it was completely out of place here. There is a saying that "if it grows together it goes together." I'm fine with some avant garde cooking, but combining grapefruit, mackerel, and dashi was a step too far.

Fifth Course:
  • Duck Egg Yolk with asparagus, watercress and truffle

We got back on track with this dish. It was another favorite of mine. I am guessing the egg yolk was sous vide because it was absolutely perfect. The creamy truffle mayo came back (yay!) and worked wonderfully with the spicy watercress and mellow asparagus.

Sixth Course:
  • East coast turbot with asparagus and hen of the woods mushrooms

I was starting to get uncomfortably full at this point. Though the fish was light and flaky, I barely ate half of it before throwing in the towel. What little I did have, I really enjoyed. The earthy asparagus sauce and mushrooms were a nice pairing with the fish.

Seventh Course:
  • Vanilla Yogurt with pineapple; and lime and mint sorbet

Nope. Not for me. The "yogurt" was, as Dan said, like astronaut ice cream. It was freeze-dried and very tangy. The sorbet was nice and refreshing.

Eighth Course:
  • Yorkshire strawberries; buttermilk shortbread; champagne and elderflower sorbet

I was so full at this point that the dessert would have to be incredible to tempt me to eat more. The shortbread biscuit and strawberry jelly did that. This was such a whimsical dish. It was basically a deconstructed strawberry shortcake. All the flavors were there, but in such unexpected ways--like the strawberry leather with cracked pepper. So interesting and delicious that I finished the whole dish!

And with that last bite, I was officially done. I could not eat another bite if someone paid me--unless it was chocolate, and then I probably could have found a way.

Read about the rest of my birthday celebrations here:
Calli's birthday
Zahara's birthday
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday