The Weekender – North Lake Tahoe

I wish every weekend were a long weekend with my family. Sometimes it’s so nice to just hang out and laugh and tell stories with the people closest to you. This weekend was the perfect last trip of the summer and Tahoe was gorgeous. In true Chelsea fashion the only things we did on the Tahoe To Do List was eat, but those meals were so  fantastic that they deserve their own post (stayed tuned). Today is about the views.

IMG_7335

When we arrived it was too windy to lay on the beach at the lake so we travelled to Virginia City for a dose of history and gold mining culture.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 6.36.39 PMIMG_7249IMG_7144 IMG_7146

This historic town is absolutely adorable and as kitchy as can be. It has old candy stores and saloons (with buckets of blood apparently), it has riskay 25 cent peep shows for men only and boasts this 100 mile view.

IMG_7242IMG_7191IMG_7232IMG_7202

There was a casino-like saloon that had something called a suicide table. Where it is said that three people killed themselves after gambling away their life savings. This town is not messing around!

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 6.38.13 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 6.37.29 PM

Horse drawn carriages and a museum of horse and human drawn fire engines line the main street. There is so much history here, from the lives of the miners to their families and visitors during the gold rush.

IMG_7151 IMG_7209

Being tourists and all, we also rode the train along the gold mine route through the mountains.

IMG_7253 IMG_7303 Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 6.39.35 PM

After our train ride, we drove back to Tahoe and enjoyed a lovely dinner at Stella. On Saturday we drove up to Squaw and rode the tram over the mountain and above the Olympic village.

IMG_7411

The giant tram takes you more than a mile up and over the peaks gliding right through the breathtaking views. There is a pool, a restaurant and a bar (perfect) at the top with picnic tables for you to sit back and relax.

IMG_7375

Fun fact from our tram operator: Walt Disney designed Thunder Mountain after the granite rock formations that line the mountains in Squaw.

IMG_7355 IMG_7380 IMG_7382

You can see a little of Lake Tahoe from the top of the mountain, a thick blue smudge in between the greens and browns of the mountain tops. I feel like everywhere you look in Tahoe there is either amazing wildlife (like coyotes walking along the side of the road) or an amazing view. It’s beautiful up there and summer is just as gorgeous as winter.

Tahoe To Do List

We are spending this weekend with my parents and sister in Tahoe. I’ve never visited during the summer (except for one wedding) so I’m excited to be a tourist. I always get confused with the geography of Lake Tahoe (east coast brain over here) because for some reason in my head Truckee is at the bottom of the lake, not the top. But I finally got it right and with a little help from my sister who lives there, I now understand that we are staying in North Lake Tahoe (they even make it easy by saying north lake) this weekend. The agenda is wide open, so I decided to put together a couple of suggestions so the fam can pick and choose what they want to do.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.15.31 AM

Taking in the views with my mental camera and my physical camera are definitely on the list. No matter where or when you go to Tahoe the views are always breathtaking.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.16.27 AM

My main priority this weekend is to sit back and relax. And nothing says that better than a sunset paddleboat cruise. This giant boat looks so historic and fun!

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.16.36 AM

My sister works at this amazing (and apparently world renowned I just found out) restaurant called Stella. It’s a great choice for a fancier dinner.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.16.43 AM

Brunch is a must on any vacation and the locals love this place. The menu sounds amazing and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.26.56 AM Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.16.58 AM

I think the saying goes ‘while in Tahoe, do as the Tahoe-ians do’ (bit of a stretch I know) and that means sporty activities. The views and the weather are too great not go on a hike or two. And in accommodating all levels of sportiness my family possesses I found these two trails that look easy enough but that pay off in the views and waterfalls they lead to.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.30.50 AM Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.28.34 AM

I also really love other sporty activities like kayaking and Nate loves to bike. There are so many possibilities of things to do and see, do you have any suggestions for summer in Tahoe activities?

L.A. Bites

L.A. like SF is a place where foodies flock. You will rarely be disappointed with your food choice in these two places, and we were not either. I only had one requirement, like I told you guys, I wanted all the dining to be al fresco, and L.A. always accommodates.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.49.20 PM

After settling into our cute little hotel, we strolled down Main street and stumbled upon Brick + Mortar.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.52.21 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.50.01 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.55.01 PM

Because it was Friday, and we were on vacation and because we were already really happy, we ordered solely from the happy hour menu (to keep our good moods going). We got cheese, fries and bread with more cheese on it.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.48.47 PM

I really really love cheese, it’s almost an obsession. So when we ordered the cheese plate, nothing could disappoint me (because I love it all) but this plate was really impressive. The jam, honey and orange relish were paired perfectly with the four cheeses and warm bread.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.53.57 PM

I am a sucker for cheese along with anything and everything truffle oil related, so you know we got these bad boys – truffle parmesan fries.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.47.47 PM

Annnddd we got this pizza that had mushrooms, mozzarella and truffle oil again, woops. The pizza was crisp but had a great doughy crust and the truffle fries were hot and not too greasy or salty. I would love to try a real meal at Brick + Mortar, just based off of their happy hour bites I would venture to say their dinner is amazing.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.51.23 PM

After a couple rounds and a walk to the pier, we had big plans of going somewhere fancy for tacos and margaritas for dinner, but then we saw the Calbi food truck and changed our minds. Sorry no pictures of this, but just know it was delicious food truck food at it’s finest!

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.01.58 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.59.18 PM

We had time for one more meal on Saturday, before the wedding, so we made the best of it. Venturing into the Venice Beach area we found Joe’s Restaurant – sounds unassuming but it was actually quite chic and hip.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.59.49 PM

Bloodies and Long Island Ice Teas were the perfect start to the day!

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.00.26 PM

Three of us ordered the stone crab hash, which I instantly decided upon just by reading the name of it. The fresh crab melted in your mouth with the egg yolk and soft peppers and potatoes. I was salivating before the plate was out down and probably finished in record time.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.01.09 PM

The fourth got the huevos rancheros, which she described as delectable and which looked too perfect to eat.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 1.39.00 PM

Sorry I failed to take any pictures of the wedding food (except for the wedding favor of donuts and champagne seen above) but Nate and I shared the prime rib and veggie options – both were delicious. I feel like this was just a tiny taste (see what I did there) of what L.A. has to offer in terms of food. I need to go back and just focus on that for a weekend (that’s my inner fat kid talking). What are you favorite spots to eat in L.A.?

The Weekender – L.A. Edition

I always forget how much I like L.A. I have this weird image in my head of this giant city with lots of smog and having to drive everywhere (which is true) but I also forget that it’s a charming town with cute neighborhoods and great food. It steals my heart each time I come back and this time was no different.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.51.15 PM

Our hotel was in Santa Monica and on Friday, after our inaugural beer, we took a stroll down the boardwalk in search of more booze and bites (don’t worry, all the food and al fresco dining will be featured tomorrow).

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.50.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.51.56 PM

While strolling, I took a lot of pictures of just the vegetation because it seems to be so much more vibrant in L.A. Flowers everywhere, succulents on each table, vines and grasses in front of all of the houses and palm trees to boot. Those clear skies and sunshine everyday will do that to a city.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.55.33 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.52.35 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.52.13 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.58.24 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.59.07 PM

Saturday before the wedding we walked to Venice beach for brunch and strolled through the shops and canals on the way back. I must say, the houses on the canals are probably the cutest I have ever seen!  They all have so much character and panache! All unique but fit together perfectly, with the water as a beautiful backdrop.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.55.01 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.58.43 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.53.44 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.58.08 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.55.51 PMFinally, it was time for the wedding, and to say it was chic is an understatement. Gold sugared champagne glasses, a wedding cake that belongs in a magazine and pink and cream sparkles accentuated the room and wedding party perfectly. It was gorgeous, and heartfelt and fit the adorable couple perfectly.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.50.59 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.09.46 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.11.30 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.10.50 PM

Until next time L.A., I promise I won’t forget how much I like you this time.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.10.14 PM

Na Pali Coast

On our last full day on the island, we kind of chartered our own boat, for a private tour of the coast (yeah we fancy, sometimes) and some snorkeling.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.18.18 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.17.56 PM

The Na Pali (meaning high cliffs) Coast is the famous for its untouched beauty and ridiculous hike along the cliffs and through the valley. No cars are allowed on this side of the island, just feet and tents (and boats, oh my).

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.17.16 PM

Many movies, including Jurassic Park (try getting the theme song out of your head now), South Pacific, 7 Days and 7 Nights , to name a few, were filmed on the beaches we passed by and in the giant valley that we looked down on during our Waimea Canyon hike (this is what we were trying to see through the clouds).

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.18.41 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.18.50 PM

The biggest perk of having our own boat (besides the fact that my family doesn’t seem to like other people) was that it was small enough to go in and out of the caves and close enough to see birds sitting on the cliffs.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.18.58 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.19.31 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.19.41 PM

The other big private boat tour perk was that we had the Kauai native Captain Nick all to ourselves for questions and we were all able to hear his stories and facts about the island.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.19.58 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.19.10 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.20.07 PM

My favorite story was that Puff the Magic Dragon was born here, or the story originated here. There is a long formation of mountain down to the beach that (if you look just right) looks like a dragon and when the large winter waves crash on his snout it looks like steam coming from his nose. This story was born in the 60’s, and who knew what kind of puffing they were doing…

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.20.21 PM

Captain Nick said one of his friends got married in the center of this open cave. The rock in the middle (what used to be the roof of the cave) is where the couple stood and the guests were in the water on small boats around them – talk about a memorable wedding.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.18.25 PM
A boat tour is a must in Kauai, there is so much that you can’t see or get to by car. The views are too good to pass up, and Captain Nick’s stories make it worth your while.

Kauaiian Adventures

In between beaching everyday and eating plate lunch and seafood for dinner every night, we worked in a couple of adventures along the way. Nothing says vacation like waking up to fresh pineapple and lazily packing for the beach, the only things in your bag are a good book and some sunscreen.

2014-06-14 03.30.54

2014-06-15 09.22.57

We tried out a new beach each day and in driving to them we found some great local spots. I would definitely recommend Tunnels beach (called so because in the winter the waves make perfect tunnels) for snorkeling and wave jumping.

2014-06-16 09.38.42

2014-06-18 22.13.32

2014-06-14 06.59.02

2014-06-14 06.56.40

We drove by the Coconut Experience everyday and had to stop, because with a name like that how could we resist? This shack was open only in the afternoons (talk about island life) and served an abundance of freshly picked and chilled tropical fruits.

2014-06-14 07.03.21

2014-06-14 06.56.33

2014-06-14 06.54.59

I regrettably didn’t take that many pictures of food but this sums up most of the meals we consumed – fresh fish in some form or another with rice or macaroni salad, with sushi being our go-to snack.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.55.02 AM

Dessert was shaved ice (almost everyday) – NOT to be confused with snow cones (which I did, woops). Shaved ice is the much better, smoother, tastier cousin to the snow cone and in Hawaiian fashion they put ice cream in the bottom of the cone. After eating the tropical flavored ice (I stuck with my pineapple, coconut, mango mix each time) the remnants of the flavored syrup seep into the vanilla ice cream creating a creamsicle effect that is amazing and unbelievably refreshing.

2014-06-16 10.07.59

2014-06-16 10.05.49

2014-06-16 10.14.32

2014-06-16 10.14.42

In traversing the island (searching for hidden beaches and obscure lunch spots) we encountered beautiful vegetation and wildlife.

2014-06-16 09.35.02

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.54.33 AM

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.54.06 AM

2014-06-18 22.13.52

Chickens roam all of the islands and are literally everywhere; in the parking lot at the airport, on your back porch at night – everywhere. These guys wanted to come home with me, but my love for fried chicken changed their minds.

2014-06-16 03.12.01

2014-06-16 03.12.51

My first trip to Hawaii was when I was seven and we went to the cheesiest luau ever (seriously, my family still talks about it) but I loved it, and I still love them – no matter the level of cheese. I love the dancing and the roasting pig in a pit and the beautiful hula outfits. And everyone likes a good party, and a really punny blog post title, right?

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.37.19 AM

2014-06-15 10.21.42

2014-06-15 10.23.11

Aloha and happy hump day friends!

Waimea Canyon

Happy Memorial Day and Hawaii Week here on the blog! I hope you all are enjoying your long weekend and getting ready for summer! We are back from da islands man and thank goodness for this extra day off, it helps to ease back into the real world (you mean, I can’t sleep in and go to the beach everyday anymore – rough).

2014-06-16 02.59.33

In preparation for summer, I’m going to post about Hawaii this week, to get you all excited for the warmer months and all the luaus you have planned! Kauai is beautiful, being one of the rainiest places on earth it’s very lush and tropical. To enjoy this rainforest-like ecosystem we decided to hike Waimea Canyon.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.44.17 AM

Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific this sight was a jaw dropper. We drove up the windy roads to the lookouts at the top of the canyon and it was so perfect and gorgeous it looked almost looked fake (like those backgrounds at Disney World of different places in the US).

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.44.49 AM

I loved the contrast of red and green, almost in perfect stripes with the sun shining on certain spots and creating shadows across the valley.

2014-06-16 03.52.54

2014-06-16 03.57.46

2014-06-16 03.58.36

2014-06-16 04.10.23

Continuing past the lookouts, we drove a little further up to a hike that would take us through the world’s highest swamp (not the most appealing sounding, but we did it anyway).

2014-06-16 03.41.58

2014-06-16 03.42.08

2014-06-16 03.46.54

The flowers and foliage were so unique, huge green leaves next to mossy pine-like trees.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.45.25 AM

And every once in a while we would be able to peek down from the clouds and see the canyon again. If you are visiting Kauai I think Waimea Canyon is a must see. Even if you are staying on the north side (like we were) it’s worth the drive and making a day out of it – you won’t regret it.

The German Tourist Club

Tahoe didn’t end up happening this weekend (7 inches of snow on Friday alone, and yes it is the end of April) but we got to play tourist just the same. We visited the German Tourist Club on Saturday – a cabin in the woods that you hike to, open to the public one weekend a month for drinking. Yes you heard all of that right, people hike to this cabin in the woods to enjoy beer and play board games.

IMG_5659

IMG_5572

Nature Friends (Naturfreunde) originated in Austria in 1895 as a place people could visit with their families and enjoy nature. It’s one of the largest non-governmental organizations and has branches all over the world. The German Tourist Club, in Marin was started in 1912 and people have been visiting with their families and enjoying the nature of Northern California ever since. If you are not a member, they open the club to you once a month to visit.

IMG_5365

IMG_5637

So we decided to visit. The ‘hike’ was more like a leisurely stroll through the hills (cue Sound of Music soundtrack now), with the sun shining and the birds chirping.

IMG_5380

When you make it to the cabin,  it’s like you stepped into another time and place. It’s nestled on a ledge among the trees, and you can tell it’s German just by the look of it.

IMG_5445

IMG_5413

IMG_5426

We packed a good amount of snacks and some games and they sell pitchers of beer and bottles of wine.

IMG_5436 IMG_5522 IMG_5399

This is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the sunshine and company of your friends – the scenery isn’t bad either.

IMG_5404

IMG_5391

IMG_5420

IMG_5432

After the sunshine, beer and games, we sadly hiked back out, got back into our cars and returned to the real world.

The Weekender – Denver Edition

St. Paddy’s Day, is a day for imbibing. A day where you can drink or eat anything dyed green and it’s not weird. Green beer, green whipped cream, green bread (yep had it)  – everything goes. Funnily enough, the Saint, who we honor on this day, his color was blue, but we will let it slide. This giant green feast day has turned into a celebration worldwide, so we ventured out of SF to partake.

IMG_8304

Nate and I went to visit some friends/his cousins (cousin doesn’t do them justice) in Denver for this lovely green holiday – and Irish imbibers we became! In summary:

IMG_8291

IMG_8305

IMG_8316

IMG_8326

IMG_8368

IMG_8374

IMG_8378

IMG_8386

After consuming as many crazy drinks as we could, we ate – huge burgers, from Park Burger. Everything you want in a burger and more, with loaded fries.

IMG_8438

IMG_8440

IMG_8439

IMG_8441

Once we were fueled and done with the liquors we had a private tour of the Denver Zoo. Nate’s cousin Kate (rhyming intended) is a volunteer there and showed us the ropes.

IMG_8405

IMG_8407

IMG_8412

IMG_8408

IMG_8417

IMG_8420

Stellar weekend, with stellar company in a stellar town makes for a happy girl, and an even happier couple who gets to go home and not imbibe ever, ever again.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 4.41.09 PM

Stuffed Pizza

In planning for my Chicago trip, there were three things I wanted to do once there – visit Willis Tower (check), see The Bean (double check) and eat deep dish Chicago style pizza – and boy did I!

IMG_7919

Chicago is the home of deep dish pizza and there are so many options to choose from! You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t, but I was) to know that deep dish pizza was invented in the kitchen at Pizzaria Uno (yeah that one) in the 1940’s. The first stuffed pizza (only differentiated from the deep dish by it’s deeper crust) was first made at Giordano’s in Chicago. So after going through all of the choices I decided oldest was best for me. I picked Giordano’s, from the expansive list of options because they were the first to make stuffed pizza and because I could walk there from my hotel.

IMG_7930

I’ve had deep dish pizza before, Little Star being my favorite in SF but this seemed different somehow – older, richer and pretty close to perfect!

IMG_7955

I got the Chicago Pizza that was stuffed with green peppers, onions, pepperoni and I added sausage (why I have no idea, the thing was huge already). And the combination of flavors was spot on.

IMG_7957

Having been the first to make this stuffed creation they’ve had time to perfect it. There was just the right amount of chunky sauce, in relation to toppings (or stuffings) and to cheese and crust.

IMG_7961

Perfect proportions make for perfect pizza, and I would eat it again right now if I could! After two pieces I put it back in the sturdy box and brought it on the plane so Nate could have some too – and he agrees – Chicago does it better!