Monday, August 19, 2019

More Birthday Celebrations!

I'm now in my late thirties. That's just a fact. Neither good nor bad. But it is kind of unbelievable sometimes. It's not that I don't feel like I'm in my late thirties--I mean, I'm a homeowner, a mom of two kids, with a husband of more than ten years. But it's still weird to me.


Nevertheless, birthdays are something to celebrate, and celebrate I did! You already saw my amazing dinner at Rose's Luxury, but I was lucky enough to have a second birthday dinner with my friends Ally and Mitchell. We had such a fun night at Le Diplomate*!




I love this place. The food is so good, and the drinks are some of my favorite in the city. I especially love the Romarin, which is Rocktown Vodka, St. Germain, Rosemary, and Grapefruit. It's so good that it's dangerous.


As with most French restaurants, there aren't a ton of vegetarian/pescatarian options, but the ones on the menu are so fantastic that it's worth the trip. Our table ordered a bunch of non-meat appetizers and it turned out to be so much food I couldn't even finish what we ordered. I think the tuna carpaccio and the haricots verts were my favorite, but the mushroom tart was a close second. We also got a free cheese plate after a waitress broke a glass and some of the shards went into Ally's back(!!).


My super thoughtful friend Dani called the restaurant and sent a glass of sparkling wine to my table. Can you even? I would never even think of something like that. It was really special. What a great way to round out my birthday. Cheers to 37!


*Incidentally, Le Diplomate is another Starr restaurant, so of course I love it. See more of my favorite Starr spots here.

See more birthday celebrations here:
2018:
Asher's birthday
Dan's birthday
2017:
Asher's 1st birthday
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday
2016:
Dan's birthday
Zahara's 3rd
Calli's birthday
2015:
Zahara's 2nd
2014:
Dan's birthday
Zahara's birthday
Calli's birthday
2013:
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday
2012:
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rose's Luxury

As part of my birthday celebrations, Dan and I went to Rose's Luxury for a fancy meal. You know how much we love a fancy meal, right?


The thing with Rose's Luxury is that it is a Michelin one-star restaurant, and they take very few reservations. Doors open at 5pm, and people generally start lining up around 4 or 4:30 to snag a table for that evening. Normally, we aren't able to get there that early and wait (because of kids and jobs--silly life responsibilities). But, today, on my birthday, I had the day off. I figured, I'll grab a book and a drink and wait in line for what promises to be an awesome meal. And you know what, it was worth it!


The line ended up not being bad at all. Granted, it was a Wednesday so crowds were smaller than they would be on a Saturday. I got there early--around 4pm, and there were already two people ahead of me. But thankfully there were chairs, so I went next door, grabbed a sangria, and came back to wait. By around 4:45 there were nine people/parties in line. A few had reservations, and a few didn't. As far as I could tell, everyone who was there by 5pm got a seat for that night.

Let me start by saying the restaurant is gorgeous! It is very unassuming from the outside, but inside it is so well decorated. In particular, I loved the warm string lights, which created a cozy atmosphere; the soft, blue velvet couch in the bar area; and the neon sign which simply said, "awesome." The service was impeccable, and exactly what you'd expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant. But, of course, the food was the star of the night.

We sat at the Chef's table, which I'd highly recommend. Dan and I sat side-by-side just a couple of feet away from the kitchen watching as each dish was meticulously prepared and then inspected by the owner before being sent out. We tried to decipher the kitchen's system, affectionately dubbing one of the chefs "tweezer man," after watching him delicately place each item with his long tweezers. 


We decided to order ala carte, vs. the prix fixe menu, and it was definitely the right choice for that night. We basically ordered every pescatarian small plate, and it was more than enough food. Here's what we ate:
  • Cacio e pepe monkey bread 
    • YUM! This was so salty and peppery and buttery. Really great start
  • Green tomato panzanella with anchovies
    • At first I was confused as to why this was called panzanella, but then I found the cubed bread underneath. This was really light and refreshing. I liked the saltiness of the anchovies
  • Popcorn soup
    • I had no idea what this would be when we ordered it, but it is exactly what it sounds like. It's soup that tastes like popcorn! It's really salty and creamy with bits of popcorn blended in. I loved it, but the small amount I had (Dan and I shared one portion) was perfect. I'm not sure I'd want a whole bowl of it



  • Lychee salad
    • This is one of their best-sellers and has been on the menu since they opened six years ago. We were told by our server that we had to mix it up to eat it properly. Dan and I planned to, but first wanted to taste the different components, like the coconut cream and peanuts. Then the chef came by to reiterate the point about the need to mix it up. Message received. Either way, it was delicious
  • Strawberry pasta
    • Ok, this one was weird,  but I really liked it. It is a freshly-made pasta with a 60% strawberry and 40% tomato sauce, served with a big dollop of ricotta. It is definitely on the sweet side, but I found it refreshing for summer. Dan said he probably wouldn't order it again though
  • Sweet Pea Primavera 
    • I really liked this dish too, but was starting to get pretty full. It's a nice, light pasta flavored with fresh peas and mint. I liked the egg and horseradish that topped the dish. And it was just so pretty



  • Cacio e pepe pasta
    • Dan's favorite dish of the night--and a strong contender for mine as well. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of bite. This was compliments of the chef, which was a nice touch. I know we're paying for it one way or another, but I love the service in fine dining where you feel like you're getting value for your money. It's nice to feel taken care of
  • Dessert
    • We ordered the aged rum banana pudding, which was delicious! Tasted just like an adult Nilla wafer pudding. So tasty we forgot to take pictures. Oops! But, the servers/chefs brought two extra desserts for my birthday! One was a coconut sorbet with lime zest and caramel. I loved the sorbet, but the lime was a little too sour for me. The other was a vanilla ice cream in the cutest little cone you've ever seen, with sprinkles and a sparkler. So fun! 




Another epic meal in the books for us! What a treat!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Asher's 3rd Birthday!

Asher turned 3! To celebrate this milestone, we had a small party at our house with my Holy Cross mom's group friends. We've been meeting once a month for the last 3 years, since our babies were born! It's amazing how much they've all grown.


We went pretty low-key for this celebration, with a breakfast spread and play date. Thank you Costco for all of your amazing offerings! We had bagels with cream cheese and whitefish; croissants with jams; fruit and veggies. Easy and delicious!



I broke out my decorations from Sarah and Kyle's bon voyage party years ago and had all the moms sign a passport for Asher. Each kid got to keep a passport and some travel stickers. I also got little airplane whistles at the Dollar store for them to take home.


It was great watching the kids run around, play together, and get messy with cake!





Happy birthday, Asher! We love you! 


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Dear Asher: 3 Years

Dear Asher,

Happy third birthday! This was such a fun year, and it's incredible how much you've grown. It seems like overnight you went from a baby to a little boy. Physically, of course, you've changed a lot. But emotionally and creatively you've grown leaps and bounds. You have real preferences and opinions on most things now, and you aren't afraid to express them.


Some of your favorite things include cooking, swimming, playing with cars, and loving/fighting with your sister. I've been really impressed with your interest in the kitchen, actually. Any time I'm cooking, you demand that we pull your learning tower over so that you can help. You've gotten really good at making eggs--truly! You crack the eggs, whisk them, pour them into a pan, and stir them in the pan. Of course I'm supervising, but you're really good at it and don't want a lot of help ("I do it!"). Pretty soon, I'll expect breakfast in bed :)


Another way you've shown your independence is through potty training. At 2.5 years old you just decided you were ready. One day you demanded underwear and wouldn't wear diapers anymore (except for naps and overnight). You've had maybe a handful of accidents since then. Once you decide to do something, you do it fully.


You're still sleeping in your crib, but for your 3rd birthday you're getting a big-boy bed (thanks to babushka, dedushka, and mommy, and daddy). It's nice to have you contained, but we know those days are numbered.


You are talking up a storm. You're constantly asking questions--"why" is your favorite word at the moment. You are so inquisitive, but you also just like to keep the conversation going. Jokes are another thing you're figuring out. You're absolutely rubish at them, but you still manage to crack us all up, including yourself. You're first joke: "Knock, knock. Who's there? Diaper Truck." Cue maniacal laughter.


The funniest thing you've said recently is when I said, "Asher, you're cute." You said, "I'm not cute, I'm the cutest."  You've also been calling me gorgeous lately, which I'm absolutely loving.

You are so full of personality. People can't help but to fall in love with you! I love watching you play with friends, with Nori, and especially your sister. You guys are classic siblings, always either fighting or playing. No middle ground. But when you are playing, you guys are so sweet to each other. I hope you always have this close of a relationship.


Asher, we love you to the moon and back and are so happy you are ours. Happy third birthday, and many more!

Love,

mommy and daddy

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Atlantic City Beach Vacation

Is there anything better than a beach holiday in the summer? I love visiting Atlantic City, which is only a few hours from my house. It's got the right amount of sandy beaches, fun boardwalk, and  great people-watching. Here are some of the highlights:

Beach Days
I really love this beach. It's got nice, clean, sandy beaches with lots of fun amenities. We camped out near the LandShark Bar & Grill, which was the perfect place to be. They play fun music and have a great bar. We weren't in the restaurant itself, but could still enjoy the benefits. Plus, we had a great view of the Steel Pier observation wheel.



The first day we were there was a little overcast and chilly (for June). It was perfect for the kids though! The water was too cold for me to go in, but the cloud cover meant that we could be outside without sweating to death on a mostly empty beach.



The next days were classic beach weather. Hot and sunny. This was the first beach vacation since having kids where it actually felt like a vacation. Dan and I could sit in our chairs with a drink and a book and watch the kids build sand castles, play with crabs, and run at the waves. It was awesome!

Boardwalk
I know there are differing opinions of what makes a great beach. And while we loved the Outer Banks, our family really enjoys the hustle and bustle of a beach town. I want access to boardwalk fries, greasy slices of pizza, and cold, dripping ice cream. Throw in some salt water taffy and a pina colada and I'm a happy camper.




Steel Pier
In addition to the boardwalk, Atlantic City also has a small amusement park called Steel Pier. Asher and I went one afternoon while Zahara and Dan played on the beach. You pay per ride, and it's pretty expensive (relatively), but Asher loved the small airplane ride and carousel.


Food
We were celebrating Dan's birthday on this trip, so we wanted to have a couple of nice meals. Our best meal was at Buddakan, which is a great Asian fusion spot. I've also been to Buddakan in Philly and loved it there. It's part of the Stephen Starr restaurant group, and I love almost all of his restaurants (Morimoto, el Ray, Dandelion, Continental, Le Diplomat, and more!)



We also enjoyed our meal at Mexico--a kitschy Mexican restaurant. The food was fresh and the drinks were good though.


Carmine's was another solid choice. Meals are served family style and are HUGE! I mean, absolutely massive. We ordered eggplant Parmesan (wholeheartedly recommend!) with a side of angel hair pasta. All four of us ate it that night, plus the next day for lunch. It's not really worth it if you're not planning on leftovers, or if you don't have a big group though.

Our Hotel
We found a condo on VRBO for this trip. If you're traveling with a family, I highly recommend looking on VRBO or Airbnb for a place to stay. Our hotel had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room with a pullout couch, and a full kitchen. Being able to spread out and have breakfasts in the morning was critical to our family's happiness. We don't do very well all crammed in to one hotel room!



This place (Wyndham Skyline Towers) was perfect for us. It was walking distance to the beach (we brought our trusty wagon!), and had a fun game room and arcade for the kids. One morning when the kids were up early, we played board games and twister while Dan slept in. It also had a pool, which was great for that first day when the beach was a little cold.




It was a great vacation and I'm sure we'll be back!

Read about our past birthday celebrations:

2017:
Dan's birthday
Asher's 1st birthday
Calli's birthday
2016:
Dan's birthday
Zahara's 3rd
Calli's birthday
2015:
Zahara's 2nd
2014:
Dan's birthday
Zahara's birthday
Calli's birthday
2013:
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday
2012:
Dan's birthday
Calli's birthday