Fraunces Tavern, My New Favorite NYC Bar

After my weekend with the girls, the next stop on my journey was to visit a few more friends in New York. One, who knows me too well, was dying to take me to Fraunces Tavern for drinks, or food, or whatever, but mostly for the design of the place.
DSCN5592 What a cool place this was! From the moment we walked in, my eyes wandered up, down, all around, admiring the way they combined modern and antique elements to create an environment that truly moulds your experience here.DSCN5576 Their sunken dining room (The Tallmadge Room) at the front of the building featured creative re-use of church pews as dining seating. To me this is so much cooler than a booth, and would be a fun dining experience with a group of friends.DSCN5577

They had a huge whiskey menu (which my hubby was surely jealous of) that went lost on me. But I’m sure if I were a whiskey drinker, I would have loved to settle in at their Dingle Whiskey Bar.

DSCN5578 The main bar (The Porterhouse Tavern) was very rustic feeling, my favorite element of which was the cowhide banquette seating throughout.DSCN5579 DSCN5583

Glass shelving filled with bottles made for unique dividers to separate one banquette seating area from the next, creating a more intimate experience.DSCN5590I wish I could have walked the tavern with one of the designers so I could have asked where this bar came from! It looked like an antique, salvaged piece from somewhere. I guess I’ll never know.DSCN5585 DSCN5586 Behind the main bar, I kept wandering and discovered what a maze the place is! Around every corner there seemed to be one more cool room. This is the Chef’s Table, set in a wine cellar-esque setting.DSCN5580 Beyond that I found the Speakeasy, which was unoccupied but still looked like a great setting for a few beers on a Friday night.DSCN5582 And lastly, the Bissell Room. Even though this dining room felt quite a bit more formal than the other spaces, it would none the less be a comfortable place to sit down and stay awhile for a leisurely meal and a few cocktails.DSCN5581Which is your favorite room?

A Day in The Hamptons, Breezy and Free

As you may know, I recently finished a pretty intense design program. I’ve been loving my new found freedom! So what’s the first thing I did with it, you might ask? Well, I jumped straight onto a plane for an epic vacation on the other side of the country. First order of business: girls weekend with some high school friends. It was too quick, but we had a fantastic time together, catching up and just enjoying each others company. Since we’d visited New York City together in the past, we decided to mix it up this time around and spend a day in the Hamptons.

First stop: Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, for the most delicious baked goods! My favorite was the cookie dough cupcake. And the setting for such a bake shop was just adorable, in what surely used to be someone’s house long ago. It was easy to feel right at home.DSCN5420 DSCN5417 Of course we made time for a quick walk on one of the windy beaches.DSCN5442 Before lunch, we stopped at Wolffer Estate winery in Sagaponack for some wine and girl-chat time. What a beautiful setting to be with friends! DSCN5449 DSCN5448 Lunch was sea food at a Hamptons icon in Amagansett, where they happily boasted the names of all the celebrities who have lunched there.DSCN5458 Next we made our way all the way up to the top of the Island and took a walk on the ocean around the Montauk Point Lighthouse.DSCN5472 DSCN5462 DSCN5474While we were in Amagansett, I couldn’t resist urging the girls to pull over for a little shopping. Love Adorned is one of my favorite shops in SoHo, so I had to see what their Hamptons location was like!
DSCN5483 I’m always up for a good farm stand, and the Round Swamp Farm country market in East Hampton was above and beyond. I would do most of my grocery shopping here if I lived nearby.DSCN5484 DSCN5489 DSCN5485 Since we weren’t quite hungry for dinner yet (having just stuffed ourselves with lobster rolls, fried clams, and chowder) and it was beginning to rain, we did a little more browsing and shopping in East Hampton.

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I loved Book Hampton. It was comfortable, cozy, and was the kind of book shop you could take your time in, especially on a rainy day like it was.DSCN5492 DSCN5490 And finally, we ended our day with drinks and The American Hotel followed by an incredibly delicious dinner at Tutto Il Giorno in Sag Harbor.DSCN5495What a wonderful, leisurely day it was wandering through the Hamptons with great friends and my new found homework-less freedom!

Have you been to the Hamptons? What is your favorite spot there?

What Have I Been Up To?

Well folks, I have to admit getting used to a new routine involving an intensive hand-drafting/hand-rendering class and a busy work schedule has been a challenge. I’m starting to get a hold on how to best manage my time so I can get back to blogging! I’ve got a couple up my sleeve, plus I’m heading to New York for a friend’s wedding celebration and will surely have lots to write about when I get back. In the mean time, here’s what I’ve been up to:

Among many things, at work I’ve been pairing fabrics in our library.

fabric And shopping for fabrics in the Fabric District in Downtown LA.fabricdistrict At home, the hubby has been cooking up a delicious storm, including roasting these tomatoes and peppers.tomatoespeppers We watched the Breaking Bad series finally, accompanied by these red velvet cupcakes the Village Bakery made in honor of the final paragraph of the live of Walter White.bbcupcakes I snuck away from my drafting table for a night with girls at Street Food Cinema… Princess Bride screened outdoors in a nearby park, plus lots of food trucks. Mmmmm Umami….umamiburger princessbride This oh so scrumptious hot cookie and ice cream dessert at Pop, a champagne and dessert bar in Pasadena, where we met a wonderful friend from college during her brief work-related visit.cookiedessertAnd Disney lovers hold on to your seats… my AMAZING husband, who clearly knows me too well, gave me annual passes for Disneyland for our anniversary! BEST. GIFT. EVER.
DSCN3580I’m looking forward to sharing regular anecdotes with you all again! Next week: a nod to Halloween.

This Week I Loved…

A bratwurst lunch in downtown LA.
wurstkucheThis home-cooked meal with bacon-wrapped pork.
homemademealStreet art filling in an otherwise missing concrete brick.
streetart This RauschenbergDSCN3334 …and this Frank Lloyd Wright furniture at the Huntington.DSCN3349 The mountain view from my desk and my new job with an interior design firm in Pasadena. Woo hoo!viewfromwork My funny cat sleeping.DSCN3485And this. (I heart Stephen Colbert.)

http://www.hulu.com/watch/519451

Delicious Foods of Turkey

As I’m wrapping up the last of my posts on our trip to Turkey, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to talk about some of the delicious foods we had there. Some of the most phenomenal bites to eat were also the simplest ones! On our first day, as we were beginning to get a lay of the land in Istanbul, we started getting hungry right as we were in an area where few restaurants could be seen. Well, that turned out to be lucky for us! We came across this guy making fish sandwiches.Istanbul072 He was positioned right outside of this boat which functioned as his restaurant.Istanbul073 It was a super simple meal. Just fish, tomatoes, onions, and peppers on a bun. and only for the equivalent of about $3 each. So delicious! It was a great introduction to sea food in Istanbul.Istanbul075 Istanbul076 Later on in the trip, we had gotten a recommendation from a local to visit this restaurant. We walked through a lesser traveled part of town and around a couple of corners before arriving here. Little did we know this would be one of the best meals of our lives!Istanbul411 We were first greeted by these guys before being sat by a host.Istanbul410 Calamari…Istanbul403 Sea bass…Istanbul404 And fried goat fish. Everything was simply prepared, and seriously the best seafood I’ve ever had. (And don’t you worry, we made plenty of jokes about the anecdotal goatfish!)Istanbul405

We had so much fun joking around with the server, that he brought us 3 of these desserts on the house! Turkish ice cream (which tasted not unlike gelato) on top of dried apricots in a sweet syrupy sauce, and sprinkled over top with nuts. I will dream about this dessert until I am one day able to taste it again.Istanbul406 On our last night in Istanbul, we were on a hunt for doner kebab and came across this place. It turns out, this chef is quite renowned! I had to include this photo, because my foodie-husband was so excited that the chef let him into the kitchen to shave off some meat. When he came out from behind the counter, he noticed a few of his arm hairs had been burned off from the heat! And the chef stands here in front of the fire and does this all day, every day… can you imagine?

Istanbul640In search of beverage to go with our doner kebab, we came across this wonderful little wine and cheese shop in the basement of an old apartment building near Galata Tower. They of course had a huge selection of Turkish wines and cheeses, and we happily picked up a bottle of wine to go with dinner.Istanbul643 Istanbul644The morning we left Istanbul to head to Central Turkey, we had time for a leisurely breakfast at this delightful cafe.
Istanbul670 It was here that we had our first full traditional Turkish breakfast. It’s a huge spread of olives, tomato and cucumber salad, cheeses, breads, jams, eggs, coffee and tea. It was the perfect send off from our time in the city.Istanbul665 While our time in Cappadocia was short, and most of our meals were on-the-go, we had one last big celebratory meal with our friends and travel companions in the town of Uchisar. We started with cocktails in this lounge, which I absolutely loved the design of. It was a combination of modern, vintage, and traditional Turkish elements, and felt super comfortable, like a place you could easily spend hours in.Cappadocia423 Cappadocia418 Then we headed downstairs to the restaurant for a rich, delicious meal.Cappadocia451 These were pheasant samosas, and really didn’t need the sauces they came with at all.Cappadocia441 Then some grilled haloumi cheese on a salad.Cappadocia442 And a zucchini salad.Cappadocia444And finally the main course, for me it was a dish of hand-made pasta with lamb meat and a yogurt sauce. So rich and comforting.
Cappadocia447 We just didn’t want the night to end, so we extended the night a little longer with dessert in their cigar bar.Cappadocia472As is tradition in Turkey, every meal ended with a Turkish tea to help digestion. So I will let you finish this visual meal with a Turkish tea as well.Istanbul493Everything we ate in Turkey was so delicious, we’ve already begun searching the LA area for substitutes. We’ve found a great place for traditional Turkish breakfast, and are on the search for more.

What Turkish bite would you most like to taste?

This Week I Loved…

An old fashioned cherry cola.1065761_10100535563318855_480919759_o Freshly picked cherry tomatoes from our garden.1063283_10100535562530435_1257224527_o

And the first fully ripe zucchini from our garden.

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A summer feast for friends and family.1060557_10100530579227015_1901190698_oSlicing summer fruits for a delicious tart.
1059757_10100535563807875_1856734675_oCuddling with my sister’s funny little dog, Daisy. (Such a love bug!)

1056857_10100531683005035_1046217409_nAnd this monument to lab rats used in DNA research.

Dining and Design in the UAE

For our entire vacation in the Middle East, it struck me how well we were eating. We never had bad food, not even once. It also struck me that the service at restaurants in the UAE was always top notch. Really impeccable. We certainly felt spoiled! Here is a highlight of our favorite dining experiences from the UAE.

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One night, the friends we were visiting took us to their all time favorite restaurant in Abu Dhabi, called 18 Degrees (named because if the building it resides in, which is built at an 18 degree angle). It was an opportunity to meet their friends (mostly expats from the US and the UK) and for them to share with us one of their favorite places.

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The interior embraces the building’s lean, and seems to use the steel reinforcement as an important element of the decor, rather than trying to disguise it.

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The kitchen is open to the dining room, and we were lucky enough to be sitting right next to the kitchen so we were able to watch the magicians at work.

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When we got to our table, the restaurant manager had left this note for each of us, addressed to each individual person. This was not prearranged by our friends, just something that they did to make us feel welcome and well taken care of.

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All of the food was incredible. They had started us off with a variety of appetizers, already divided into a sample plate of sorts for each of us, to ensure we could all try each one. Then our main courses arrived. I ordered their duck leg (which was our friend’s favorite dish there… which such a shining recommendation, I couldn’t resist) and it did not disappoint! Definitely the best duck I have ever had. And we even had a chance to tell the Michelin rated chef as much. He came out to our table a couple times to see how we were doing and to chat with us a bit.

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They treated us all to complimentary champagne, and then of course we drank lots of wonderful wine. And after our meals were done their cheese specialist came downstairs with these unexpected and quite decadent variety of cheeses, some as old as 15 years and all unpasteurized. The staff described each cheese in detail, just as they had done with each appetizer, meal, dessert, and cocktail (each by their own specialist). If you know me well, you know I love cheese… a lot! So I was in heaven!

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AbuDhabi610Just the next night, to cap off a day in Dubai, we had reservations for another incredible place. Rather than pay an entry fee to ride an elevator to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, we opted to have a luxurious evening of cocktails at the bar and lounge on the 124th floor, called Atmosphere.

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Yes, the cocktails were unique and delicious. And yes, the service was once again amazing. But I was in interior design heaven, surrounded by what looked to be glossy bent mahogany, like something you might see on a very expensive yacht. The warmth of the wood exaggerated the warmth of the sunset coming in through the windows.

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And yes, we were 124 stories up for sunset. This photo will not do the view justice… it’s hard to describe just how far you are able to see while looking out a window at that height. It doesn’t seem real!

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On our final night in Abu Dhabi, before the four of us jumped on a plane to Istanbul, we took my hubby to Emirates Palace for dinner at Hakkasan, an awesome Asian fusion restaurant (which I understand has locations in several cities around the world).

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I loved the decor! Once again, we felt surrounded by beautiful wood, but this time in a form much more open.

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There were a couple different seating set-ups, but all were both modern and comfortable with great use of materials like wood and leather.

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Outside, there was what seemed like a bridge or boardwalk leading to beautiful, almost tropical looking, outdoor lounge areas.AbuDhabi706 AbuDhabi708

Once again, the food was to die for. It started with some delicious, tender, perfectly flavored dim sum.

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Then we shared a few main courses, family style if you will. My favorite one was the sea bass cooked in wine (I’m sure the menu described it much more eloquently!) But the lotus root dish was pretty amazing too, I’d never had anything quite like it before.

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And when they learned that it was his birthday, they brought this dessert out so we could sing to him embarrassingly. Because what would a birthday be without that.

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One thing I feel certain about is that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are doing it right when it comes to hospitality and dining. No expense seems spared in the design, and the service could make any average joe feel like a millionaire!

What do you think? Do you like the design of these restaurants? Does the food look intriguing?