PLANTA Queen

So, I am a sucker for new restaurants, I love Asian food and recently I have been loving how restaurants do vegan + vegetarian food, so when PLANTA Queen opened up I KNEW I had to try it. I liked it so much that I went not once, not twice but THREE TIMES in 14 days (specifically 10/7, 10/16 and 10/21- yes I know, AGGRESSIVE, but it was honestly that good). I went with my girlfriend the first time and then I brought my husband. My husband liked it so much, that we found our selves back in less then a week. This is a trendy spot in the middle of River North.

Visit 1- October 7, 2022

When we saw the menu we wanted to try everything, the first thing we got were cocktails- I got the Lych Please and my friend got the Kombucha Mojito. For appetizers and dinner we just shared food, we ended up going with the recommendations from the server. We got the baked crab roll (6/10- this was not one of my favorite items but it was good) and the cauliflower tots (10/10- crispy flavorful and amazing) for starters. For our mains we got the pineapple fried rice (8/10-very good but not as unique as I would have liked) and the udon noodles (12/10- warm, creamy and truffley- simply amazing). Lastly for dessert we got the match “cheesecake” (20/10- the best every topped with a berry compote and coconut cream). Over all, the food was amazing and the ambiance and service was amazing. I think I made a reservation for my husband and I to come back while we were still there!

Visit 2- October 16, 2022

So I had to repeat the three things I absolutely loved from the first visit which was the cauliflower tots, the udon noodles and the matcha cheesecake. The three other things we tired was the dragon roll (10/10- I don’t even like broccoli and I liked this), the ahi watermelon nigiri (10/10- I don’t even know how someone can get watermelon to taste like that) and the jackfruit wings (10/10- this honestly tasted like real wings).

Visit 3- October 21, 2022

This was an improv visit, I was driving back to the city and I was dreaming about the food, and there happened to be reservation available – so naturally we had to go. We decided to skip the cocktails this time and the only item we reordered was the match cheesecake. This time we got the bao slider (10/10- the mushroom was perfect), the torched and pressed (20/10- best flavor on the menu HANDS DOWN, the texture and taste was perfect), the bang bang broccoli (10/10- again I don’t really like broccoli but the sauce and flavor and crispiness was perfect) the dan dan noodles (2/10- apparently szechuan kamut has a numbing sensation in the mouth and we weren’t told so I though I was having an allergic reaction while I was eating this dish).

Over all this is definitely my favorite vegan spot in Chicago, I fell in love with their water glasses so I bought them after my first visit. They also have some specials on different days of the week and I want to go back:

  • MAKI MONDAYS (AFTER 5 PM) Maki Rolls Unlimited Maki Rolls
  • POUR DECISION WEDNESDAYS 1/2 priced bottles of wine
  • DISCO & DUMPLINGS FRIDAY (AFTER 5 PM) dumpling platters
  • WEEKEND BRUNCH Endless Mimosas & Sake Sangria

If you are looking for an amazing new restaurant to try in the River North area be sure to check out PLANTA Queen.

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II Sogno

Downtown Wheaton is probably one of my favorite cities outside of Chicago. They have so many restaurants and new rooftops! I have been wanting to try Il Sogno for a few years but there is always a LONG wait, and I finally decided it wait it out, it was definitely worth it.

I knew I wanted to sit on the rooftop, even though the wait was longer. There was beautiful weather and a cotton candy sunset that night. We started the night off with some cocktails!

The food was absolutely amazing! We ordered the meatballs and polenta- the meatballs were very flavorful the polenta was extremely rich! For our entrees we ordered chicken piccata- served with capers, lemon, garlic, spinach, white wine and paccheri vodka pasta- jumbo rigatoni, tomato cream sauce, Reggiano parmesan, fresh basil.

I think this is one of the best rooftops in downtown Wheaton! The food and drinks were also amazing, can’t wait to go back!

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ROOH Chicago

ROOH is a progressive Indian restaurant in Chicago located in the West Loop. Rooh Chicago features traditional cuisine from India but with a modern, progressive twist. Plated with a fancy twist, Rooh’s menu features a total of around 34 dishes with seasonally available ingredients. I have been to ROOH twice now and I loved it both times.

First, I LOVE the ambiance in the upstairs dining area, it has a nice living room home feel to it. The first time I was here was back in October of 2019 for my birthday dinner. There are a few menu items that I wish that were still on the menu!

Their cocktail menu is elaborate! They do such a good job capturing the flavors of Southeast Asia. Their cocktail menu is Ayurveda inspired. I think their entire cocktail menu is worth trying, I haven’t had a bad drink here.

  • Queen of Spice- Whiskey, Papaya, Persimmon, Cardamon, Mint 
  • Road to Kerala- Mezcal, Cinnamon, Coconut, Pineapple, Banana 
  • Pistachio Paradice- Gin, Pistachio, Curaçao, Cucumber
  • Hyderabad Tonic- Turmeric-Infused Aviation Gin, Orange & Thyme Syrup, Q DrinksGrapefruit Tonic
  • *Malabar Old Fashioned- Coconut-Washed Bourbon, Coffee, Maple, Bitters, *Coconut Oil May Contain Trace Amounts of Tree Nuts, Peanuts
  • Betel Collins- Vodka, Chamomile, Chareau, Midori, Betel & Rose
  • Pink City- Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila, Guava, Chili, Lime, ROOH Masala

As you can see, there are a lot of traditional ingredients in this menu AND they have a HAPPY HOUR menu! I have yet to go to ROOH for a happy hour but its on my list for the spring. There is a cocktail of the week on the menu for $8 along with some discounted bites.

I am going to show the bites we had back in 2019- some of the things I miss are the dhai puri and the paneer pinwheels! Probably my two favorite items!

Lets fast forward to 2022- we went back to ROOH for dinner and drinks for a friends birthday. The food, drinks and ambiance were all amazing. We pretty much ordered every food item on the menu this time around.

Overall ROOH has such a comforting menu, if you are looking for good indian food in a trendy spot- look no further and go to ROOH.

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Indienne Chicago

Indienne Chicago

Growing up in a Southeast Asian household, I have always been accustom to eating indian food but I also remember dreading the days I had to eat it. My mom always did a good job incorporating other cuisines into our weekly meals such as Italian and Mexican. It wasn’t until I was older that I really appreciated the flavors and spices that come from my cultural background. My husband and I always find ourselves spicing up all our foods with unique flavors from India. When Indienne opened in Chicago I was excited to try it, but the reservations filled up quickly and we had to wait to get a reservation. We were uncertain at first if we wanted to do the tasting menu, and we actually had reservations to eat off the regular menu, but ironically there was a cancelation that night and they had a spot open up for the tasing menu. This is a decision we don’t regret- the food was so good that I am still thinking about it a solid week later. We did one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian tasting-make sure to tell them if you are a vegetarian who eats eggs!

I am going to start by outlining the 2 menus then I will go into my own thoughts on each menu item followed by final thought on the overall experience.

Vegetarian Tasting Menu

PASSION FRUIT (PANI PURI) buckwheat tart, avocado

MUSHROOM (GALAUTI) eclair, goat cheese, truffle

YOGURT (CHAT) crispy potato, raspberry, various chutneys

CAULIFLOWER (LIQUID BHAJI) sweet corn, pine nut thecha, crispy garlic POA, cultured butter

EDAMAME (SOMOSA) Yuba, yellow pepper pachadi, tomato achar, asparagus. ($6 chili-cheese kulcha supplement available)

MAITAKE (ALLEPPEY) moringa podi, sanas ($15 supplemental course)

PANEER (PATURI) swiss chard, young zucchini, kofta, makhani, fenugreek served with black dairy dal and garlic naan

BESAN (BARFI) opera, pistachio, milk ice cream, citrus chutney

TREATS PAAN-bonbon GUAVA- pate de fruit

Non-Vegetarian Tasting Menu

PASSION FRUIT (PANI PURI) buckwheat tart, avocado

MUSHROOM (GALAUTI) eclair, goat cheese, truffle

YOGURT (CHAT) crispy potato, raspberry, various chutneys

EGG (CURRY) sweet corn, crispy peas, crispy onion, millet POA, cultured butter

CHICKEN (MALAI TIKKA) terrine, leeks, amul cheese emulsion, burgundy truffle

LOBSTER (ALLEPPEY) butternut squash, moringa podi, sanas ($25 supplemental course)

LAMB (BURRAH) hemp seeds, peas, pepper, coconut, potato pave served with black dairy dal and garlic naan

RASMALAI (AIR) milk anglaise, pistachio, gold, honeycomb

TREATS AAM- bonbon CHAI- aero

Course 1 & 2

The passion fruit pani puri and the mushroom eclair came out together. The presentation stand was beautiful. We were instructed to eat the pani puri in one bite. The bite was literally explosive, first it tasted like passion fruit then it ended tasting like a traditional pani puri. It was engineered just perfectly. The second thing was the mushroom eclair. It was bold, it was light, it was savory and it was amazing. My husband and I love mushrooms and truffles more than anything, the goat cheese was also a nice flavor balance in the dish. As a pair, one of the items was more sweet and the other savory and it was perfect. At the end of course 1 and 2 we literally couldn’t wait for the rest. I don’t think that I would have changed anything about the pani puri or the eclair except to maybe have more.

Course 3

I think (I’m not sure) that the yogurt chat is my favorite menu item. I probably could have had 3 servings at once. The top was crunchy and the center was fluffy and airy. The flavors were amazing, not to sweet, not too much yogurt, not too many chutneys. It was made to perfection, served at the perfect temperature. I am not going to lie, I contemplated asking my husband for his portion to after I finished mine.

Course 4

We both actually got the egg curry, and if you are a vegetarian who eats egg, make sure you let them know, so you get the egg curry for this course. This dish brought us back to a popular Gujarati dish called pav bhaji. This is actually one of my husbands favorite Gujarati dishes so he really enjoyed this course. This dish was almost too pretty to eat. My favorite part of this dish was the perfectly runny egg, on and the poa (bread).

Course 5

Couse 5 was the first course that was different in the two menus. The chicken in my dish was cooked to perfection- I asked the server how the chicken is made so perfectly and he told me a long intricate process of the magic. Sounded like a science experiment. The amul cheese emulsion was rich and creamy and complimented the chicken well. The samosa was also amazing, it was an great twist to a traditional samosa, the gray on this was also creamy and full of flavor. We added the chili-cheese kulcha and it paired great with the gravies on both dishes. I loved how unique both dishes were. I honestly couldn’t really pick one being better than the other.

Supplemental Course

We opted to get the lobster supplemental course. Both my husband and I enjoy sea food and we both were excited to try it! It was well worth the upgrade. The lobster was cooked to perfection and it was in a butternut squash gravy and it was served with a side of what we though was khatta dhokla. I honestly think this was one of the best lobsters I have had in a while, especially in Chicago. It is rare to have such fresh lobster in Chicago. I would most definitely recommend this upgrade to anyone who likes seafood.

Course 6

This was the last course before dessert and it was great. I have never really loved lamb but this was probably one of the best cooked and flavored lambs I’ve ever had, the array or sauces were a great complement to the dish. At first I though that the potato pave was a pineapple, then I quickly realized it was a potato. Overall I liked this equally as much as the chicken, both flavored well and cooked perfectly. The paneer was also very good, made uniquely. Personally I don’t really like dal, in any form really but this dal was flavorful and buttery and amazing. The garlic naan was also a great complement to the last dishes and dal. I had my naan with the dal.

Course 7

The dessert was creative and executed perfectly. The rasmalai “air” was truly like eating air. The taste was exactly like rasmalai but it was light and airy, almost like magic. The second dish was also very good, the textures were unique and the ice cream was creamy and perfect. Honestly this was a great end to an amazing dinner experience.

Treats

After the tasting menu was complete we got some small treats. The paan bonbon tasted just like paan and the guava was very flavorful. They also gave us a third treat (because they didn’t have the chai one) and it was a liquid filled treat- it was very good but I can’t remember what it tasted like.

KOLKATA sweet & sour

Komet Indian single malt whisky, folded with fresh ginger and frosted mayo elixir, topped with a spritz of Islay Whiskey

DEHLI strong & refreshing

Banhez Mezcal, seamlessly infused with goat cheese & apricot, all carbonated in unison, served alongside grapefruit compressed with fermented honey & an agave nectar; garnished with smoked salt

GOA fizzy

A refreshing house blend vodka fizz made with a lavishly floral roasted cashew orgeat, powdered honey, sweet and sour tropical essence and top up with soda and garnished with nutmeg

San Francisco refreshing

A sotol collins featuring ono, honeydew, tomato & truffle foam with a hit of a chili garnished with an edible bouquet

Coctails

We tried four of the cocktails on the menu and we liked all of them. The cocktail selection process was also unique. They had the bar engineer come out and answer any questions we had about the bar menu.

I think all the cocktails were amazing. I think that we will most definitely do the wine pairing with the tasting menu.

Overall Indienne was one of the best indian restaurants I have had in the city, the experience was unique and the price point is reasonable considering you are in the city being treated to a 3 hour dining experience. The staff was friendly, and they worked in synchrony bringing out the right plates and utensils for our next course. Honestly it was amazing to see how so many staff members can work together in such synchrony without making a mistake. They literally ironed the table cloth to a crisp and clean finish. If you want to try this menu, you only have a few more weeks to try it, since the will be changing the tasting menu next year which we are SOOOOO EXCITED FOR! Click here to make your reservation before it’s too late!

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Collagen Supplement

I have been taking the Youtheory collagen for about a month now, I have it on the auto subscription on Amazon so I don’t run out. There are many known benefits of collagen and here are some of the benefits:

  1. May improve skin health – we know that a major component of our skin is collagen and it essentially plays a roll in strengthening our skin. Fact is- as you get older your body produces less collagen and this can cause your skin to look dry and wrinkles become more predominant.
  2. May relieve joint pain- Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints- again as you age and the collagen levels decrease you will start to have joint pain.
  3. May prevent bone loss- bones are mostly made of collagen which give them structure and strength- with age you produce less collagen and therefor decreases bone density and increase the risk of broken bones.
  4. May boost muscle mass- collagen is a major protein in the skeletal system
  5. May prompt heart health- Collagen provides structure to your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries may become less flexible and elastic.
  6. May benefit Hair and nails – Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness. Additionally, it may help your hair and nails grow longer

Personally the benefit I have seen is in my skin, I have always struggled with larger pore size and my monthly visits to get hydro facials have substantially helped my skin. However, in the month I have taken the collagen supplement my pores have shrunk AND my skin looks so smooth. Also, my hair and nails look great (similar results to the daily biotin I used to take a few years ago).

The other speculated benefits are all long term effects, and if they are true there is no harm. The only CON that I can think of is the serving size- its SIX tablets per day and they are not small- although they don’t taste bad so it could have been worst.

I am going to go ahead and share the direct link to the product I order incase you want to try it: CLICK HERE

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Weekend trip to Michigan

After we got vaccinated earlier in the year, we were itching to go somewhere so we decided to plan a little weekend getaway with some friends. We had rented a cute house in Coloma, MI of Airbnb. The pictures were nice, but to our surprise once we got there, it was MUCH different then what we had seen. It was evident that the pictures were edited and were were essentially catfished by our rental. This is where we stayed incase you wanted to avoid the house! We got into Michigan in the evening, and our first stop was Silver Harbor Brewing Company. Unfortunately there were no open tables, so we decided to take some beer to-go before checking into our AirBnb. Our initial reaction was “wth” when we walked into the house, it was dark and dungy and dirty. The first thing we noticed was the bathroom, the door was in the kitchen and it was a GLASS DOOR! We took a minute to settle In before picking a place to eat dinner. Unfortunately, things in the city closed early so we had to make moves. We decided to go to The Blackbird Waterhouse. It was a cute little restaurant close to our rental, it was snowing pretty bad and we didn’t want to go too far. The food was good and so was the beer!

When we got home, we wanted to call it an early night because we had an early morning snowmobiling. We got up early and made egg bagel sandwiches before heading out. We had to drive about an hour north to rent our snowmobiles at Powersport Rentals in Cedar Springs, Michigan– it looks like they have permanently. The White Pine Trail was a beautiful 100 mile trail that we were able to ride! We passed through so many small towns along the way. We stopped at Sawmill Saloon to grab a beer and a giant pretzel while the boys rode further north. We went about 42 miles up the trial before turning around. I am kind of bummed that this rental spot is closed, I was looking forward to going back and renting again.

After the 4+ hours of riding we were hungry to say the least. We decided to go to Perrin Brewing Co. in Comstock Park, MI. There was a long wait, but we decided to wait it out! In the mean time, we decided to call AirBnb and see if we could move to another house since the house we were staying at was a disaster, the beds were uncomfortable, there was a stink bug in one of the beds and there was broken glass in one of the bedrooms. They were SUPER NICE and moved us to this amazing house in South Haven, MI. We really enjoyed the brewery, amazing food and beer!

After we ate, we headed back to our house, packed up, jumped into the hot tub and chilled before heading back up to South Haven! The house we checked into was SUPER CUTE and he host was so nice! This is a perfect house to rent in the summer time with a few families!

The next morning we went on a hike and saw the most amazing views on the beach, where the water had froze in place. It was super cold that morning but it was worth it for the view!

After walking around we obviously built up an apatite, so we did what we do best– we found another brewery! We went to Three Mittens Brewery in Grand Rapids. MI. Again, it was great food and amazing beer! Highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.

After lunch, we headed back to the house and just relaxed! Later in the evening, we headed to another brewery– Three Blonds Brewing in South Haven, MI. The beer was actually very good but the food wasn’t the greatest- this was probably because we showed up right before the place closed. We found a fan favorite beer- Just took a DNA test and it’s 100% beer!

That night we went home and hung out, it was our last night in Michigan before heading home. The next morning we woke up and went to a local coffee shop called The Living Room, in downtown South Haven. It was super cute, then we went to the Olive Cart and got some oils and balsamic to go! After coffee, we decided to slide across ice to go up to the lighthouse! Again, we saw some beautiful views but it was SUPER slippery!

After our morning in South Haven, we went back to the house, passed up got ready and headed back to Chicago. On the way out of Michigan, about an hour into our drive- we stopped and got some lunch at The Stray Dog in Buffalo, MI. Great spot with amazing food! I can’t wait to visit this place in the summer, they have really nice outside space.

We had an amazing weekend with good friends in Michigan! The greatest part about this area in Michigan is that it is only about 2 hours way from Chicago, and there are so many things to do in all seasons!

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Pacific Coast Trip

Pacific Coast Trip

As the pandemic seemed like it was coming to an end, and more people stated getting vaccinated, we decided to plan a vacation. Our front runners were Hawaii and driving the Pacific Coast! The winner was the coast trip, so we decided to fly into Seattle and drive all the way down to San Diego over a 2 week period.

Day 1: Seattle Washington 

We flew into Seattle on Saturday night, got our rental car and headed to the Hotel W in downtown. We had a pretty long flight and the rental car pick up took longer than expected and we were STARVING by the time we got to the hotel. We decided to check out a local spot in the downtown area called Fogón Cocina Mexicana. It was very good Mexican food, and it was reasonable priced. By the time we got back to the hotel room it was midnight, and we were ready to call it a night considering it was 2am in Chicago! 

Day 2: Seattle Washington –> Astoria Oregon 

We woke up in the morning and decided to go explore the city by foot. Fortunately, our hotel was located close enough to the area of the city we wanted to explore.  We walked to Public Market Center and Pikes Place Market. On the way to the market, we passed the famous Gum Wall in the Post Alley. We grabbed breakfast at Honest Biscuits and coffee at Indi Chocolate. The coffee was AMAZING, so fresh and delicious. After walking around the downtown area and the pier we headed back to the hotel and checked out. We then dove to the space needle just to check it out, we did not take the tour. Since we had a long trip ahead of us, we decided to stop at Costco in Seattle and stock up on water and snacks! On the way out of Seattle we stopped at Legendary Donuts before heading to the small town of Astoria on the coast of Oregon, just west of Portland. Our original plan was to stay in Portland, but we decided to cancel the reservation a week before the trip due to the violence and protests in the area in the preceding weeks.  

We got into Astoria around 4pm an checked into our hotel, before heading out to explore the city. We stayed at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn–literally the cutest little inn. Our first stop was Buoy Beer Co. This was a beautiful waterfront brewery in the heart of Astoria. If you go make sure you go inside and check out the glass floors, you can see the sea lions swimming under the building– this was something we missed and found out about after we left! Our next stop was Rogue Pier 39 Public House for a beautiful sunset. We were able to sit outside while the sun hit our face and the sun set. We were starving after this and some locals told us to check out Voodoo Martini for an espresso martini and some pizza. We called it a night after this, and headed back to our hotel.

Day 3: Astoria Oregon –> Redwoods National/ State Park California 

This was out longest drive of the entire trip, a total of 8 hours and 45 mins but we stopped along the way and it ended up being over 10 hours. We stopped in the city of Seaside to walk along the beach and take some pictures. After about a few hours we were hungry and decided to stop at Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour and lunch. We got a grilled cheese and cheese curds, both of which were made with fresh cheder cheese. 

We got right back on the road for a few more hours until er stopped at a roadside coffee shop, The Village Bean, for an afternoon pick me up. 

After a few more hours we had to stop for food and to use the bathroom. We stopped in a small fishing town called Northbend and grabbed a beer (only to use the bathroom) at a local Irish Pub. After that we went Tony’s Crab Shack to grab a bite to lunch- PROBABLY THE FRESHEST SEA             FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD! We got a crab sandwich on sourdough bread and clam chowder. 

There were two MUST SEE viewpoints in Oregon on the California boarder. The first one was called Secret Beach; it was about a 10-minute hike down to a secret beach and it was absolutely amazing. The hike back up was a bit hard, and elevated but it was well worth it. The next stop, about a mile up the road was the Natural Bridges. We finally made it to our hotel at about 8 pm. We were staying in Klamath, which was located in the Redwoods State Park. We were told at check in that nothing in town was open anymore and if we wanted food, we would have to go back up to Crescent City 20 miles back north—this drive in the dark was probably one of the scariest drives EVER filled with fog, darkness and sharp turns—not to mention the drive took over an hour round trip. 

Day 4: Redwoods State and National Park 

This day was dedicated to exploring the Redwoods. We woke up and started early! We drove down Highway 101 and took Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy. This was a beautiful off-road path, absolutely breath taking. We stopped along the way many times to take pictures. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day. 

Big Tree/ Circle Trail: This was a 0.3 mile loop trail which was easily accessible off the road. It was a beautiful trail!

Revelation Trail: Developed specifically for the visually impaired, this trail encourages you to engage all of your senses to more fully experience the redwood forest. You can touch the rough bark of a redwood and then compare it to the soft feel of a moss-covered fir or spruce, while sounds of the creek murmur in the background. The sharp aroma of California bay and tart taste of redwood sorrel allow for a more complete understanding of the ecosystem.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove: This is a scenic 1.4-mi. trail in an upland redwood grove, honoring environmentally-minded former First Lady. 

 Tall Tree Grove: Unfortunately, we did not get to do this hike, because we didn’t know we had to apply for a permit ahead time. By the time we realized it, it was too late.

Dolason’s Prairie: We took Bald Hill Road about 16 miles up into the mountain where we saw the most beautiful thing ever! Fields of purple Lupine’s in full bloom. It was truly breathtaking. Honestly when we were driving, we didn’t think it was going to be anything amazing, until we saw it. We were so grateful that we made it all the way up, we were told by the ranger that this only blooms for about 2 weeks every other year and we happened to be around for the bloom.

Fern Canyon: Some of the exquisite ferns now clinging to Fern Canyon’s shadowy 30-foot cliffs are ancient species whose ancestry can be traced back 325 million years. Look for velvety five-fingered ferns, dark green sword ferns, and delicate lady ferns. Scouring winter floods periodically rush through the canyon

Elk Meadow: Great spot off Highway 101 to possibly see some elk, have a picnic lunch, enjoy the meadow and also embark from several trails that originate here. The ranger’s at the Thomas H Kutchel Visitor Center circled this area when I mentioned I wanted to hike Trillium Falls. You can easily access this trail from the Meadow and the area is well signed. Of course the main attraction are the elk. There happened to be dozens of elk the day we went.

Sunset at Patrick’s Point: One of the rangers are the Visitor’s Center recommended we see the sunset here and we are SO GLAD we went. This was our favorite sunset of the entire trip! It was a clear day and we were able to see the sun disappear into the ocean.

Somewhere in the middle of the day we went all the way down to Trinidad, a small town south of Kalmath, right outside of The Redwoods National Park. We had lunch at a place called The Lighthouse Grill. We definitely earned our meal and beer that afternoon. We had the tofu burger and the Nut Burger (a homemade veggie burger with cashews and pecans topped with sautéed onions, goat cheese and chipotle aioli).

After the sunset, we ended up going back to Trinidad to grab beers and pizza at this local spot, Headies Pizza and Pour. Unfortunately our drive back to the hotel was over an hour due to unknown roads and terrain and we waited to eat the pizza until we got back to the hotel.

Day 5: Redwoods State and National Park –>  Fort Bragg 

We were exhausted after all the walking and driving the day before, so we decided to sleep in and relax a bit in the morning before we headed out. We only had a 4 hour drive so we weren’t in a rush. 

An hour and a half into our drive we stopped at Eel River Brewing Company for some lunch and local beer. 

I highly recomend pulling off 101 at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and driving the Avenue of the Giants for 32 miles. It was a breathtaking drive, and it ran along 101 South, so we didn’t go out of our way. 

We then drove into fort Bragg where we checked into our little hotel, the Beach House Inn. One of the most highly recommended restaurants in town was Silver’s at the Wharf but they did not take reservations ahead of time, however someone had just canceled and we were able to reserve a table for later that evening. While we waited for our table we drove further south into Mendocino where we grabbed local beers from Patterson’s.

Once we got back to the Fort Bragg area, we grabbed dinner at Silver’s. We had a table that overlooked the Fort Bragg harbor. Overall, the food and ambiance were great at this restaurant, would highly recommend checking them out if you are in the area. After dinner we stopped at a local ice cream shop, Cowlick’s Ice Cream. We tried MUSHROOM ICE CREAM- oddly yummy actually. We called it an early night that day since we wanted to wake up early the next morning. 

Day 6: Fort Bragg –> San Francisco 

We woke up fairly early and headed out, the first thing we checked out was The Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It was kind of a disappointment; we didn’t really see any glass and we didn’t even get all the way to the shoreline because it was a terranes hike.

We say some of the most gorgeous views on the drive to San Francisco. We stopped in Point Arena and saw the lighthouse. We stopped for coffee at the Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast. It was the cutest resort ever, private cliff waterfront views—highly recommend staying here if you are thinking of something romantic and remote.  The staff here was also very warm and welcoming, they let us walk around the property and check it out.

Before getting to San Francisco we stopped just north of the city in Sausalito where we had lunch at Poggio Trattoria. Great Italian restaurant—highly recommend this spot for a meal or a quick bite and wine. The service and ambiance was really nice, and there was a lot of street parking in the area with parking meters.

After lunch we took the Golden Gate Bridge into the city and checked out the Full House house. Before checking into the hotel we stopped at a famous donut shop called Bob’s Donuts and Pastry Shop.  We got there around late afternoon, and there was still a line on the outside of the building – which was worth it!

We stayed at the Hotel Adagio in the Tenderlion area. The hotel showcased its beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture on the outside mixed with and upscale contemporary design on the inside. We were upgraded to the rooftop suite with a private balcony. That afternoon we walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the area. We stopped at Boudin and ate some fresh Sourdough bread and butter—it was absolutely amazing! 

We had reservations at the Waterbar that evening, located right under the Bay Bridge. We had some great cocktails with a great view. We had a little snafu with the restaurant when we got there, we made reservations in hopes to have a drink and some appetizers, but they wouldn’t allow us to eat there without ordering dinner. After taking to the manager, we were able to move inside to the bar to have some cocktails. It actually ended up being a great night after all.

Day 7: San Francisco –>Santa Cruz 

We woke up early in the morning to walk over to Lombard Street to pick up our bikes, we were biking the Golden Gate Bridge that morning. It was about a 45-minute walk to grab the bikes. It was about a 3.5-mile bike ride to the bridge. This was actually the hardest part, all uphill. After we got to the bridge it was a straight shot ride. When we got back down,, we grabbed shakes at Project Juice and a bagel at Noah’s NY Bagels. We did a total of 10 miles on the bike that day. We got back to the hotel, got ready and left for Santa Cruz. 

We checked into the Chaminade Resort & Spa; it was the most beautiful resort ever. The evening was even more AMAZING- my boyfriend proposed to me (I will write all about the proposal in a separate blog post). Dinner at The View, a Treeside Restaurant was fantastic. It was truly the best night of my life! 

Day 8: Santa Cruz–> Carmel by the Sea/ Big Sur Area 

We woke up in the morning and enjoyed a beautiful breakfast at The View, a Treeside Restaurant. After breakfast we had private access to the hot tub because of COVID. They only allowed 1 party to rent it out at a time. After the hot tub we walked around the property; they have beautiful hikes on the property which we didn’t do, but we definitely plan on doing the next time we come to the resort. 

Our next stop was Carmel by the Sea. On the way into Carmel, we did the 17 mile drive around the Pebble Beach area. It was absolutely beautiful. After driving around we stopped at Sea Harvest and had a yummy crab salad sandwich and garlic bread. 

We were staying at the Carmel Mission Inn. We were actually highly disappointed, the hotel looks gorgeous online and when we got there we found that the entire hotel was under construction, and it looked like an actual dump, not to mention we were woken up by the construction. Our room it self was okay, but we weren’t able to utilize any of the hotel while we were there, and the hotel forced us to pay our “pre reserved rate” through Expedia rather then let us pay the LOW going rare that night, they were trying to tell us even though it was $95 on google we had agreed to pay $275 online.


We spend the evening in the city of Carmel by the Sea and it was THE CUTEST TOWN IN THE WORLD I KID YOU NOT. We started the evening at Galante Vineyards and had a wine tasting. It was a cute tasting room in the alley, had a very European vibe. After the tasting we went to Yafa for dinner. The owner Dia was absolutely hospitable, he truly helped us celebrate our engagement and created an unforgettable night. We tried some of the best wines of our life this night. Yara was an AMAZING Mediterranean Fusion restaurant- we literally can’t wait to come back to Carmel by the Sea in the near future!

Day 9: Big Sur 

Today was our full day to explore, as you can imagine we slept in that morning. We finally woke up and made it across the street to Allegro Pizzeria in Carmel, it was a really cute pizza place with fresh brick oven pizza, definitely hit the spot. After lunch we went south into Big Sur. The ocean was beautiful and blue along this part of the coastline. We noticed the more south we got, the bluer the water got. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day. 

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: The overlook trail for McWay Falls is a must-stop for anyone taking the scenic drive up Highway One along the Big Sur Coast. The waterfall is stunning, dropping some 80 feet onto a pristine beach in an enchanting cove. It is a short 0.6-mile round trip hike to a viewpoint for McWay Falls, which can be reached directly from Highway One or from parking areas withing Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park.

Pfeiffer Beach: There is a $12 entry fee to get into the beach. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the top attractions in Big Sur. Getting to Pfeiffer Beach takes a bit of effort, it was definitely an off road adventurous long drive to the beach. The beautiful scenery and serene ambience are well worth the short detour from California Highway 1. You will fall in love with this beautiful spot, guaranteed! I also realized, while writing this post, that you can walk to McWay Falls from this beach.

Bixby Bridge: Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, “graceful architecture and magnificent setting”. It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge.

We also stopped along the coast numerous times to take pictures! Honestly, travel times are always along the coast due to all the stops we make to suck in the views. 

We ended the night back in Carmel by the Sea for dinner, we were on an Italian kick that day and we ended up having dinner at Carmel’s Bistro Giovanni. The city was packed since it was Mother’s Day but it was well worth the dinner. 

Day 10: Carmel–> Las Angeles 

We left moderately early to head to Las Angeles in the morning, our original plan was to head to Ventura–>LA–>San Diego but we made a last-minute switch to move it to LA–> Newport Beach–> San Diego. Our first stop after heading out of Carmel was Hearst Castle in San Luis but unfortunately when we got to the gate, we found out they closed at the start of the pandemic and now they need major road renovations before a bus can get back up there. 

A few miles up the road we stopped at Ragged Point to see the Sea Elephants. I have never seen such sight, there were literally hundreds of sea elephants on shore basking in the sun. It also smelled a little weird there. It was definitely a sight to see. After our little pitstop, we were back on the road until we stopped at In-N-Out burger for some lunch. It was a bit messy to eat in the car but worth it!

We finally made it to LA, and we spend the evening with my fiancés friend and his family. We went to Zuma Beach in Malibu California to hike and watch the beautiful sunset. We went up to Point Dume. After the hike we ended up in Santa Monica along the pier for dinner.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, we were staying at the W Hollywood and we were upgraded to The Marvelous Suite. I would say in general the city of LA was dirty and I didn’t love the Hollywood area. I definitely think that LA was a one time city, I would love to go back for the food scene but I don’t think I will be back in LA any time soon.

Day 11: Las Angeles –>Newport Beach 

We woke up in Hollywood in the morning, till I had enough of the smell (TMI but smelled like pee), For lunch we ended up going to a VEGAN PLACE called Sugar Taco. It was honestly the best, you couldn’t even tell that there wasn’t any meat or cheese on the food.

After lunch we went back to the hotel, checked out and went up to the Hollywood sign before we headed down to Newport Beach. We didn’t even end up parking by the sign, it was extremely hot and crowded up there. We got to Newport Beach late afternoon and checked into the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview. After checking in, we wanted to see the area so we went and checked out Balboa Pier and Newport Beach before we headed to Huntington Beach for dinner. We went to Sushi on Fire with one of my fiancés friends. The sushi was AMAZING! My favorite was the lobster roll!

Day 12: Newport Beach –>San Diego 

The next morning we were headed to our FINAL STOP- SAN DIEGO! We were originally going to stay 3 nights in San Diego, but due to an unforeseen situation we had to cut our trip short and fly home a few days early. On the way to San Diego we stopped in Laguna Beach for some Lunch. We ended up eating at Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico and it was hands down the best meal we had on the entire trip. We ordered–guacamole, Mexican city corn, queso fundido, and shrimp taquitos– all of which were absolutely amazing!

After lunch we went straight to San Diego. We checked into our airbnb, The Rose Bungalow, a small property walking distance from the beach and the famous Ocean Beach Pier. After checking in we went and grabbed some Kombucha at Tapshack before heading to Torrey Pines to hike a bit. Before this trip the only city in California I had ever gone to was San Diego and the Torrey Pines was my favorite hike. Unfortunately it was a very cold and gloomy day and we didn’t do the whole loop that day. On the way back to our airbnb we stopped at the La Jolla Cove. We ended the day at a dinner walking distance from our place. Of course we ate some more Mexican food. We ended up at La Doña in Ocean’s Beach. We actually ended up trying some of their vegan tacos.

Day 13: Sand Diego –>HOME as an Engaged Couple 

The next morning our flight home was at 1:30 PM local time so we had a relaxing morning, and we stopped at Tapshack to grab some refills of the coffee they had on tap before heading to the airport.

If you want to see our whole trip in 18 minutes click on the link–>

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The Perfect Pan Pizza Crust

Getting the perfect pizza crust is probably the hardest part of making a pizza. Lucky my sister Neha is always the first to come up with the best pizza crusts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bread flour/ all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
  • 1/2 cup milk

You want to combine all the ingredients and cover it up with cling wrap and let it rise for 2 hours- you can also put it in the fridge and let it ferment slowly over a few days.

Put a little olive oil in a cast-iron pan OR a non stick pan with an oven safe handle. Also add any seasonings and a tiny pinch of salt to the mixture and completely coat the pan with your hands. Now you want to put the dough I the pan (while your hands are oil) and stretch it to fit the pan. Leave it in the pan for 20-30 mins for a second rise (I skip this step if I don’t have time).

Put the stove on at medium heat and turn the oven on broiler. You want to cook the pizza dough on the pan for about 4 mins, until the bottom of the pizza starts to brown.

Add sauce edge to edge as well as the the tipping and mozzarella cheese. You want to broil for 2 minutes- or until it is brown to liking.

Now you want it to cool on a cooling rack before cutting and serving!

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A LOOK BACK AT 2020

2020 started with a family cruise in the Caribbean! We all got super super sick on this trip, in hindsight we all though that we possible had early COVID on this boat “covid before it became a thing” if you may say. Before we got on the ship we had a family dinner at North Italia in Miami and the food was absolutely amazing- there are a few locations in other cities as well.

Something I tried for the first time was making my favorite HOMEMADE gnocchi, it was honestly hard work but it truly made me appreciate the gnocchi I have at restaurants.

In the beginning of march we took a girls trip to Colorado to ski, it was the week of the the lockdown, what a crazy time, we flew home from the trip and days later the country completely shut down.

Honestly, there was nothing to do the first few months of the pandemic except hang out with the people you lived with, watch Netflix and COOK! It was such an unreal time, no one knew enough about Covid to make decisions about hanging out with each other. It was a time of social distancing and isolation. We got accustom to using FaceTime to communicate and everyone became a homebody. I occasionally went on bike rides with friends and we had a few picnics at the park. I didn’t even go to the grocery store that summer, thank goodness for the Instacart employees.

In July a close friend turned 30 and we decided to rent a house and go out to lake Geneva for the weekend! What a great weekend! It was so nice to actually hang out with people for a weekend. A few weeks later my family and I decided to rent a house in Northern Wisconsin for for weekend. Here is a detailed post about our family weekend!

Made 2 of my most popular sweet treats later in the end of summer: cast-iron cinnamon rolls and apple tart! You can see the full recipes if you click on the images below!

Towards the end of September- a good friend had a beautiful backyard wedding and that Sunday after their wedding I went on my first pandemic date with Chaitan. It was honestly very strange to meet a stranger at a. restaurant in the myst of a pandemic when indoor dining was still prohibited/ distanced. Our first date quickly turned into many dates and in early November we went back up to Wisconsin to hike Devils Lake with the family.

We ended the last few months of 2020 with a trip to Tennessee and family time for Thanksgiving, Christmas and my sisters birthday!

We ended 2020 with an evening at Chaitan’s apartment, we got ready and took pictures on the rooftop! We had just gotten the Covid vaccine ! around this time so the end of the pandemic seemed near!

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Rustic Apple Tart

Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening (4 tbs)
  • 4 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tbs salt
  • 3-6 tbs ice water
  • 4 large apples
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 table spoon confectioners sugar (powdered)

This is the BEST fall apple pie substitute I have ever made. Originally I wanted to try a peach tart but the peaches had gone bad so I had to find an alternative.

Tart crust: In a food processor combine: 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 4 tbs unsalted butter, 1/4 cup shortening (4 tbs), 4 tbs sugar, 1/4 tbs salt and add 3-6 tbs of iced water as needed. Put the dough in cling wrap and chill for an hour.

The filling: peel and thinly slice apples and add: 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Assembly: Roll the dough out on parchment paper and start adding the apples in a ring working your way towards the center. Then carefully roll the edges over the sides. Lastly you are going to brush the outside with egg white and sprinkle powdered sugar on the edges. You are also going to sprinkle granulated sugar on the apple portion. Preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

I pre made this earlier in the day to serve, but I would let the tart chill for an hour before cutting into it.

This is a great FALL dessert, you can also pair it with vanilla ice cream or a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

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