Friday, July 14, 2017

Epic Doesn't Even Begin to Describe It

Where do I even begin with this recap? For years Dan and I have been wanting to try out Jose Andres' famous MiniBar. The concept of the restaurant is simple: many, many courses of tiny, yummy bites. It is notoriously difficult to get reservations, and it is outrageously expensive. But, for as much as Dan and I love food, we knew it would be worth it. And you know what? It definitely was!

Ostensibly this dinner was in honor of Dan's 35th birthday. But let's be honest, it was as much for me as it was for him. Everything about this dinner was amazing--even from the very first impression, which was a man standing outside a very poorly marked tiny entrance to the restaurant asking if we had reservations. Once confirming that we did, he then ushered us into the "White Room," which was a foyer that was completely white from floor to ceiling. The man in that room asked whether we were there for dinner or drinks, then opened another door to reveal the next waiting area. Appropriately enough, the next room is decked out to make you feel like Alice in Wonderland. The clock on the wall only has ten numbers (one of which is a question mark), and it runs backwards. That pretty much sums up how I felt at this point. Curiouser and curiouser.

Another man welcomed us and offered us a thyme hand spritzer--a natural hand sanitizer made from herbs--as well as a glass of sparkling wine. Then a slew of waiters brought out our first nibbles: a pizza margherita, puffed rice, and a lemon verbena slushie. The "pizza" might have been the best thing we ate all night. It tasted exactly like biting in to a great NY slice.

Once we were done with our nibbles, we were ushered in to the dining room, along with the two other couples at our seating. There are four seatings each night, each with only six guests at a time. We sat in the kitchen, watching all the talented chefs put our food together in front of our eyes. It was spectacular.

All the food came pretty quickly, one after another. It never felt rushed though.
  • Beet and Yogurt Butterflies
    • Delicious! Crunchy and sweet.
  • Wax and Honey Cocktail
    • Awesome that it all came from the same beehive (wax, honey, distilled vodka), but not really to my taste,
  • Hibiscus Crackling (not pictured)
    • Hibiscus essence trapped in a tea leaf. Smoky, sticky, and crunchy.
  • Harry's Berries al-Andalus
    • Infused strawberries served on a Himalayan salt tab. Fun, but not very memorable.
  • Magnolia Dew Drop
    • Loved this presentation! The dew drop was encased in a gel that burst in my mouth.

  • Avocado Toast
    • Everyone else at the table had uni with fresh wasabi grated over shark skin. Our toast was amazing. I have no idea what it was made of, but it was sweet and fluffy. It melted in my mouth.
  • Corn Chip with Horchata
    • The chip was a bit too chewy, and the Horchata was just OK, but the corn and BBQ sauce combo was awesome!
  • Parmesan Spoons
    • LOVED this! The Parmesan spoons were so fun, and the basil foam was terrific. The balsamic vinegar caviar was such a fun surprise.

  • Gin and Tonic Hand Refresher
    • So fun! Smelled amazing!
  • Pumpkin Tart
    • This was crazy. One of the chefs took a metal mold, dipped it in liquid nitrogen, then in melted chocolate. Another chef then filled the tart with a pumpkin and kumquat gel, and fed it to us individually on a spatula. I didn't love the taste, but the technique was totally novel.
  • Tuna Tartare
    • I could not get enough of this! So good! Especially the creamy egg yolk!

This is getting really long and I still have 12 courses to go!! I'm going to continue this in another post. Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Kid-Free Vacation!

I'll try and refrain from using ALL CAPS and shouting at you, but I went on a kid-free vacation with Dina!! IT WAS GLORIOUS! Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

My friend Dina and I decided to celebrate our big 35th birthdays together by leaving our kids and husbands at home. Fortunately for us, our husbands are amazing and both agreed to our plan. Since the cruise left out of Florida, I actually took Zahara with me so that she could get some quality time with her grandparents and Dan would only have Asher. Win-win!

Dina and I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise from Miami to Coco Cay, Nassau, and Key West. It was four nights, which was a perfect length for us. The entire goal of our trip was just to relax. We wanted to sit by the pool, sit on the beach, drink fruity drinks, and eat good food. I'm happy to report we were successful on all fronts!

The only planned activity we had was a glass bottom boat tour in Coco Cay that we booked through the ship. It was amazing! Our guides, Quick Draw McGraw and Cardinal, were fantastic! I thought we would just be seeing the sea creatures from the boat; but Quick Draw would spot something, then dive in the water and go get it for us to view on the boat. We held star fish, lobsters, conch, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers*! We saw sting rays too! It was awesome!

To be honest, Coco Cay itself wasn't that fantastic. It still was super relaxing as we hung out by the hammocks, but they were doing some construction on the island, so the view wasn't that nice--nothing a pina colada couldn't fix!

It was kind of the same thing in Nassau. We opted to go to the public beach that was only a 15 minute walk from the port. Junkanoo Beach is easily accessible and was exactly what we were looking for. It had soft white sand and warm turquoise water. As we were right by the port, the view left something to be desired, but who cares? I grabbed my book and a local beer and suddenly everything was right in the world.

Key West was really relaxing as well. We had a nice leisurely breakfast on the ship and then just walked down the main street (Duval) until we hit the water. We stopped for a drink at the southern-most point in the Continental United States at a cafe appropriately named Southernmost Beach Cafe. The drinks were delicious, and the fries were incredible! The seasoning has a little sugar in it, which was is unusual and tasty. Later, Dina grabbed a chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. So refreshing on a hot, sticky day!

We had just as much fun on the ship as we did off it. We sat by the pool and read--I read 3 books in 5 days! We played trivia and Scrabble--they only had the Spanish version, but we played in English anyway. We drank delicious drinks and ate great food. I even worked out a couple of times. And, we gambled, and won! We played craps every night and had an absolute blast.

I definitely came home feeling refreshed and relaxed. Thank you Dina for an awesome birthday trip! And thank you, Dan, for being the best, most understanding husband ever! Love you!

*Here's an interesting/gross story about sea cucumbers. Did you know that when they get stressed (like when they're out of the water being passed around by a bunch of tourists), they throw up their intestines? Yeah, that happened.

Read more about my adventures with Dina: 
Baltic Cruise
Mediterranean Cruise 
Caribbean Cruise

Read about our past birthday celebrations:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Reliving my Childhood

So...I went to go see New Kids on the Block, Paula Abdul, and Boyz II Men last week!! I know! I can hardly believe it myself! I'm sure half of you are rolling your eyes and the other half are insanely jealous. I bought the tickets way back when I was still on maternity leave with Asher, and I've been looking forward to this ever since.

A few friends and I made a night of it. We started with sangria, guacamole, and Mexican food. Margot rightly pointed out that the entire restaurant, which was directly across the street from the concert venue, was filled with women in their 30s. Not a single man in sight. Everyone was headed to the concert!

We had terrible seats--literally the last row in the entire center. We were touching the back walls. But, you know what? It was still awesome. The big screens were great and we could still see the majority of action on the stages.

We got there just a few minutes late and sadly missed Boyz II Men's opening number: Motown Philly. The rest of their set was awesome though! It really brought me back to my adolescence where I listened to Cooleyhighharmony on repeat. Such great music!

Next up was Paula Abdul. Man, she has still got it! She had six songs and six costume changes! Her dancing was incredible. I was really wowed by her. And I love that she sang all of her best classics, like Do You Love Me and Opposites Attract.

New Kids on the Block was really fun too. They really played to their audience. Full 90's dance moves, tons of pelvic thrusts, lots of washboard abs.

I was surprised that I didn't know as many songs as I thought I would. Don't get me wrong, I still knew a ton--and they brought back great memories--but NKOTB was a lot more prolific than I remembered. They put on a fantastic show. We were dancing, singing, and generally making fun of ourselves for being such nerds. What an awesome experience!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Why We're Proud of You, Zahara

Zahara, you are such a special girl. You are so clever and insightful. You're always listening, even when you're pretending you're not. You hear and internalize everything! There are so many things that make us proud of you. Here are just a few:

Reading and Writing
You have always loved reading from the time you were a baby. We would sit for hours on that green sofa facing Leeds Road reading The Gruffalo, Cat in the Hat, or a million other books. While you still can't read on your own yet, you're starting to recognize words. And you're getting really good at writing some letters. I love your excitement and enthusiasm. You'll be reading and writing on your own in no time!

Your drawings are really coming along! For a long time daddy and I had to pretend to know what it is we were looking at (sorry, but it's true!). Now though, we can tell what you're drawing. It usually comes with an amazing back story. Like the cat that was outlined in purple but filled in green--it was a purple cat wearing a green costume, of course!

You are such a water baby. You LOVE the beach and the swimming pool, and we've been lucky enough to get a lot of exposure to both this year. Ever since we got you the water floaties you've been fearless in the pool. We love watching you develop those skills.

Babushka and Dedushka got you a balance bike last year. You've enjoyed it, but this summer you're really starting to get how to use it. Our driveway has a little slope, and you've perfected the glide down the hill.

Being a Big Sister
You are so sweet to your brother--even when he's pulling your hair or stealing your toys. Thank you for being such a big helper!

This is only a small glimpse in to all the things we are proud of you for. You may give us grief at times, but you're so, so worth it! We love you!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

July Thoughts by Z

More thoughts by my newly-crowned 4 year old!

Thought 1:
Z: Mummy, is that alcohol? Can we split it, like last time?
[Note: we have never shared an alcoholic drink!]

Thought 2:
Z: We need to run so all the calories fall down to the floor.

Thought 3:
On seeing pictures of our house progress:
Z: It looks like a broken castle.

Thought 4:
Z: I'm in charge of my body. Daddy, you're in charge of me. And mummy's in charge of you. Mummy's not in charge of me because only one man can be in charge of me.

See previous Thoughts by Z here