Tag Archives: food

California Adventure

4 Nov

When we realized that the wedding of a very close friend happened to be the first day of my Autumn Break at work, Ben and I made plans to head back to Southern California for a week.  It was the first time that I had been there in over two years, when we returned for another wedding shortly after our move to Moscow.  I cannot explain how amazing it was to be back there.  I feel so lucky to have lived in such an unbelievably beautiful place for seven years.

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The wedding took place at a retreat in Escondido, California.  We only went to Escondido once when we lived in California, to visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, so we really didn’t know what to expect.  We arrived very late on Friday night, after dark, so it wasn’t until we woke up the next morning and drove back down the mountain into town that we realized how incredibly gorgeous it was.  We spent the few hours before the wedding catching up with old friends, meeting new people, and walking the grounds.  The wedding was beautiful and perfect.  I am so happy that we were invited to be part of such a special occasion.

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We drove up to Orange County Saturday night, after the wedding.  Two of our best friends were kind enough to let us crash in their guestroom for the rest of our stay.  We spent the next four days enjoying amazing food and good company.  In particular, we ate lots of Mexican food and drank good beer, two of the things that we miss the most.  We also tried a doissant, which is the non-trademarked name of a croissant-doughnut hybrid pastry.  We checked out Muzeo’s exhibit on the leather jacket, visited our storage unit, did some shopping, and caught up with friends.  Overall, it was an amazing trip.

California is somewhere that I think I will always consider to be one of my homes.  I moved there after graduating from college and getting married, joining Ben a year after he moved.  It is where we built our adult lives together and I have so many fond memories from our time there.  I am looking forward to the next time that we have the chance to visit.

до свидания!


Good Eats and Drinks in Tallinn

4 Mar

We have lots of photos, so over the next few days I will be sharing them in separate posts.  They are all ready to go, though, so I have no excuse for getting off schedule!

The food and drinks in Tallinn were both amazing.  The beer, in particular, was incredible.  Moscow has many things going for it, but beer is not one of them.  Within a few hours of being in Tallinn we found ourselves enjoying delicious living beers at the Beer House, an Austrian-style beer house that brews its own beers.  Their Medovar Honey beer was probably one of the best beers I have ever had.  We only had a few light dishes, but they were also fantastic.

On the recommendation of two colleagues, we had dinner at Olde Hansa on our first evening in town.  This is a medieval restaurant done right.  I was expecting it to feel cheesy and hokey, but it was actually a really nice atmosphere and the food and beer were wonderful.  The servers played their roles well, making comments such as going to get the “magical machine” to run our credit card, without feeling over-the-top.

We also enjoyed drinks and meals at Lounge 24, Depeche Mode Baar, Restoran Vanaema Juures, Porgu Brasserie, Valli Baar, and Sfäär.

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Moscow with H&K: Part One

6 Feb

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

As much fun as it was to explore St. Petersburg, I was so excited to show Heather and Kevin where we live.

These photos are from the first part of our time in Moscow, from 30 December to 2 January.  We spent our time exploring, eating, and lounging; finding plenty of time for all three.  Some of the highlights from these days were dinners at Taras Bulba and Khachapuri, drinks at Help Bar and Dolka Bar, a metro tour (this will have its own post), taking a midnight stroll on New Year’s Eve, and visiting the main collection at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

This post is overdue, so here are the photos!

Reminder: the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

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St. Petersburg: Part Three

27 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

After two crazy-busy days of tourism, we took a day off on Thursday to hang out and relax.  Our biggest accomplishment was braving the icy streets to go to the grocery store for some food.  It was a lovely day of family with feet up.

We were back at it on Friday, though.  We ventured out for brunch at Brooklyn Local Cafe. I was sold the moment I heard they actually had bagels.  Bagels are one of the things that I miss A LOT over here.  They made a good one, too.  Once we were fed, we visited the Russian Museum which is the largest depository of Russian fine art in St. Petersburg.

State Russian Museum

State Russian Museum

Since the Russian Museum is not quite as large as the Hermitage, we had time to walk around and explore a bit after.  We primarily wandered up and down Nevsky Prospekt, a main street in the city.  We were able to spend some more time looking at sites that we passed with our guide earlier as well.  This included walking around and taking a million photos of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  It is certainly impressive and makes Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square look even more like a model at Disney than I originally thought.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

We had warm beverages at Cafe Singer in the Singer House, Kevin treated himself to a jersey at the Zenit store, we  marveled at the treats in the Kupetz Eliseyev Food Hall at the Eliseyev Emporium, enjoyed cocktails at the Grand Hotel Europe, and finished off the day with dinner at Van Der Wafel.

Saturday was our last day in St. Petersburg.  We planned a few last things, but spent much of the day packing up and preparing to head to Moscow.  We had lunch at the Idiot restaurant and then walked to see the Bronze Horseman statue.

Bronze Horseman

Bronze Horseman

Earlier in the week we decided to take an overnight train back to Moscow and books our tickets.  Our transportation to the station was very late and as we rushed onto the platform we learned that the train we selected was one of the very few trains that does not leave from the station known as the Station Where Trains to Moscow Depart From.  Since trains leave so often, we were able to find four spots on one that left a few hours later.  We grabbed a table and some beers and waited it out.  We were not able to get one compartment for all four of us, but Heather and Kevin were together with another couple, as were Ben and I, and we were in compartments next to each other.  I fell asleep before the woman even checked our tickets and overall enjoyed the overnight train.  It was a little warm in the car and the other couple with Ben and I were not the best roomies, but I would definitely travel this way again.

And then we were in Moscow!

Reminder: the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

до свидания!

St. Petersburg: Part Two

19 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through it all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

We toured the city on 26 December.  Led by an English-speaking guide that Heather and Kevin booked through easyRussia, we covered A LOT of ground in St. Petersburg.  This is a photo-heavy post (see gallery at the end), so rather than explaining too much detail/history I recommend that you use the links to learn more about the places we saw!

Our flat was pretty close to the Kazan Cathedral, which stands out due to its impressive colonnade.  Built in the early 1800’s, it was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  We did not enter the cathedral, though, simply passed it while walking.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

We then moved on to another cathedral, the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral.  Our guide rushed us here so that we would arrive in time to see part of the service.  It is fairly small inside, but like all of the Russian Orthodox cathedrals that I have been in, it is covered top-to-bottom in ornate decorations and iconography.

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

As we walked back to the main street of St. Petersburg, we passed Moika Palace, the location where Rasputin’s assassination began with cyanide poisoning.  We opted out of the tour of the cellar room due to timing and expense.  While most palaces were converted to mundane use after the revolution, this one was given to the Education Commissariat and was preserved as a museum.  It is currently the Palace of Culture of Educators, hosting events and theater productions.  One of my favorite quotes from wikipedia about it is this: “The courtyard where Rasputin attempted to flee from his killers is now occupied by a kindergarten playground adjacent to the palace.”

We also past Nabokov House and quite a few palaces that were converted post-revolution.  We saw St. Isaac’s Square which includes St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hotel Astoria, and Mariinsky Palace, which now houses the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac's Square

Mariinsky Palace off St. Isaac’s Square

We stopped for lunch at Stolle.  They are a “pie” shop, with both savory and sweet pies.  They are AMAZING!  We were very excited to find they have locations in Moscow as well, so we will definitely check them out again.

We walked along the main street for a bit and then hopped on the metro to see the Peter and Paul Fortress.  We didn’t go into any of the museums or sites, but it was impressive to see.  I am also glad we were able to see it in winter because they frozen river covered in snow was impressive.  We also walked to the cabin of Peter the Great, which was a tiny little cabin that is preserved inside of another small building.  It was such a contrast to all of the palaces we passed throughout the day.

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

At the Peter and Paul Fortress

We passed many other sites along the way since the whole city is covered in historical locations and monuments.  It was about six hours of tour, most of which were walking, so we were exhausted by the time we made it back to the flat.  We managed to drag ourselves back out for dinner, though, and enjoyed a nice dinner at an Armenian restaurant called Kilikia.

As I mentioned before, the photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

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St. Petersburg: Part One

11 Jan

So. Many. Photos.   While this is definitely a good thing, it also means that it is going to take some time to sort through them all.  I have decided to share photos and stories from our vacation in pieces.  Hope you enjoy!

Ben and I took a late afternoon train to St. Petersburg on Christmas Eve.  Trains leave from Moscow for St. Petersburg, and vice-versa, close to every few minutes.  The specific length of time varies, but most are approximately four or eight hours.  We selected one of the four hour departures that would arrive after Heather and Kevin, giving them a chance to settle everything with the rental flat and rest a bit.  After we got in, we chatted and enjoyed a nice holiday toast of Havana Club rum.  Why not celebrate being out of the States with something you cannot have in the States?

On the train to St. Petersburg

On the train to St. Petersburg

Christmas day was spent at the Hermitage.  We visited the collection housed in the Winter Palace, which is part of Palace Square.  We spent probably five hours there and still only saw about one-third of the collection.  Ben and I have been saving many of these museums and sites, anticipating having family and friends visit.  The Hermitage is one that we can easily visit again and not feel like we are seeing the same thing over and over.  Not only was the artwork itself amazing, but since it is housed in the Winter Palace, the rooms themselves are artwork, rich in history.

Inside the courtyard of the Winter Palace

Inside the courtyard of the Winter Palace

We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the day and decided to find dinner on the walk back.  We ended up at Gogol and I don’t think we could have planned a better first dinner out in Russia.  Excellent food and atmosphere, with an English-friendly staff and menu.  Designed to be the flat of a writer in the 19th century, each room is themed.  We were seated in the Reception room.  We all enjoyed our soups and main courses, but the highlight was the vodka.  Heather tried to order the homemade spicy horseradish vodka only to be told it was not available.  A short time later another server came out to let her know that it was now available if she still wanted some.  At that point, we all ended up ordering it and not one of us regretted it.  Not my first horseradish vodka, and not even the only one of the vacation, but definitely the best I’ve had.

Reception Room at Gogol
(Photo from Restaurant’s Website)

We don’t have too many photos from these two days, but this is a pretty good place to stop for now.  The photos are a mix of all of our photos, so big thanks to Ben, Heather, and Kevin for their contributions.  See below for the gallery!

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Winter is Coming

30 Nov

So, I began drafting this post a few days ago.  At that time, my “winter is coming” reference* was totally appropriate.  However, it appears that winter has now arrived.  This Washington Post article from yesterday details the snow storm that has left our city covered in snow and ice.  In one day, we had over half the snowfall of a typical November!

Needless to day, my puffy jacket and snow boots are back in the game.

Before all of this craziness began, we celebrated American Thanksgiving last week with some friends.  We have gone for fairly non-traditional meals the past two years.  Last year we went to a North Korean restaurant and this year we went to a Georgian restaurant.  If I’m not having stuffing and gravy, I might as well be having khachapuri.

Signs of the upcoming holiday season are all over now, too.  New Year’s trees and decorations are everywhere, which is always an amusing mix of Russian and western-influenced details.  We don’t have too many decorations with us, but the few that are here are up now, too.  I am extra excited about the holidays this year since we will get to spend them with two of my favorite people: my sister and brother-in-law!

X-mas Sock Monkey

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* As some of you may have gathered from the subject, Ben and I have been watching “Game of Thrones” and we just finished watching the second season last weekend.  SO. GOOD.  I sure hope that our version of winter does not include any White Walkers!

A Tourist in My Hometown

8 Jul

As previously mentioned, I spent two weeks in Florida visiting family and friends. I haven’t lived full time in Florida for almost eight years, but being born and raised in Pam Beach County means that this place will always be one of my homes. I definitely took it for granted while I lived there and totally appreciate that this is where I can vacation without having to pay for a hotel:

My parents took the full two weeks off during my stay, making this a vacation for them, too. We split our time between hometown memories and being tourists. Driving around I saw the only two houses I lived in, as well as my elementary, middle, and the rebuilt-version of my high school. I also went through boxes of cards, letters, photos, etc. from my childhood and teen years. We also visited beach-front hotel restaurants for fancy cocktails, took photos in front of the ocean, and I declined savings-card memberships because “I don’t live here.”

Some of the note-worthy food and drink stops were Tap 42, the Breakers, Burger-Fi, Four Seasons, and, of course, TooJay’s.

There were two must-visit restaurants while my sister and brother-in-law were in town: Sublime and the Mai Kai. Sublime is a gourmet vegan restaurant with one of the best sandwiches I have ever had (the rueben). Not one of us is vegan, but we all loved it. The Mai Kai, well, that was something else altogether. Happy hour drinks and appetizers, dinner, and a show – this place is way more than a tiki bar. My brother-in-law described the full experience, including the serendipitous moment that put this place on their radar, over on his blog.

Over the years my friends have spread out across the country, but I was fortunate to see a few while I was in town. Dinner and drinks were enjoyed on separate occasions along Atlantic Ave. with Katie, who I haven’t seen in over two years, as well as Becca and Charles who I haven’t seen in over seven years. I am lucky to have the kind of friends that make it easy to pick right back up, as if I saw them a few days earlier.

While I managed to eat-til-it-hurt and shop almost every day, there was also a lot of relaxing going on. Books were read and crosswords completed (sometimes only attempted) on my parents’ porch or living room, movies were watched on the big and small screen, and walks were taken around the neighborhood. This was an amazing way to vacation and next time, when Ben is with me, it will be perfect (I cannot wait to take him to Mai Kai!).

A few photos from the trip:

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A Grocery Store Challenge

9 Jun

Here is a challenge for all of you. Go to your neighborhood grocery store – just your typical Ralph’s, Albertson’s, Publix, Harris Teeter, etc. – and find a can like this:


Yep, that is “horseflesh stew” (I prefer the Google Translate translation when the words are typed in on separate lines – if typed on one line it changes to “horse meat stew”).  This was taken at the corner grocery where Ben and I shop most often, but they also have it at the store directly across the street from us.  Neither one is a specialty store of any kind.  It is located in the canned meat section with canned tuna, anchovies, calamari, foie gras, beef stew, lamb stew (see the can next to the horse?), and many others.  This definitely caught me off guard when I saw it shortly after we arrived.  Since then I have also seen horse meat on menus.

So, can any of you find horseflesh in your grocery?

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Out for a Walk

27 May

With no destination in mind, Ben and I went for a walk yesterday afternoon to enjoy the beautiful weather. I think I have mentioned this before, but we love our neighborhood. We haven’t taken nearly enough time to explore, though, and hope to remedy that this summer. All of these photos were taken along our walk and the furthest we went was about 2 km/1.25 miles towards city center. 

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