Tag Archives: restaurants

Southern Snow and Beaufort, South Carolina

I thought I would drop in and let you know that I am, indeed, still alive.  Unfortunately, some new health concerns have arisen to put a damper on culinary enthusiasm (and life in general. . . boo, no more whining, I promise).  Here is a little of life lately. . .

If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., you may have heard that we have another winter storm on.  Right before the last one, J. and I made an impromptu trip to Georgia.  We got there just in time to enjoy a little “family bondage” (a cousin meant to say “family bonding”, but this alternate version now has a permanent place of honor in the Baird family lexicon!).

treedownA lot of ^this^ happened, which resulted in a lot of this. . .

IspyIt is amazing how long kids will play “I spy, with my little eye”!  Jason, his superhero dad, and a cousin spent the next three days keeping 4 houses afloat with two generators,  my mother-in-law kept twelve people fed three times a day despite a nasty cold, and I colored, “I spy-ed”, and hide-and-go-seeked my heart out!

After a visit further south with my folks, Jason surprised me with a mini vacation on the way back to D.C.  We spent a morning wandering around it the sunshine in Savannah, browsing Broughton St. and people watching in the park before heading just an hour upcoast to Beaufort, S.C.  We attended a festival on the waterfront there during college, and came away with the impression that it was a hidden treasure.  Twelve years later, and  a few days of down time: it is a really comfortable, relaxing, FRIENDLY place to pass some time.  The waterfront is lined with rows of porch swings,  truly amazing homes spread for ten blocks back from the water, the food is good, and the views are lovely.  There is nothing fancy happening: this is not a shopping mecca, nightlife seems fairly non-existant, the beach is not easily accessible, and away from the waterfront the town becomes a bit run down, shut down, fast-foodie.  So, if you are a mover and a shaker who doesn’t care for an extreme change of pace, you might want to keep going up I-95 until you hit the Charleston exit.  But if you are looking for a pleasant place to pass a weekend, keep Beaufort in mind.

Jason caught this little guy having a rock star moment in his own private fountain.  So sassy!cardinalfountainThen we spotted this beauty. . .streetcatwhich made this inevitable :) (cannot pass by furry fabulousness!).rubme

lighthouseslickThe sheltered warmth of Beaufort made me long to see the ocean: inland warmth is deceptive, and sunshine is fleeting!  It was plum cold down at Hunting Beach State Park.scarethewolfScare the wolf!  If this reference means nothing to you, disregard.  Otherwise, greetings from the lost boys in Neverland!shylighthouseYep, did I mention. . .Plum. . .Cold.

Places we tried and enjoyed: Blackstone’s Cafe– great atmosphere, super friendly service, plain ol’ diner breakfast food, but with surprising gluten-free options (if you spend time traveling g.f. in the South, you will understand what a pleasant find this was!). Lowcountry Produce Market Cafe– really good food, lovely building, and fun browsing of local food and artisan goods.  Panini’s Cafe–  usually we skip places with enormous menus, but this one had the little “gf” symbol all over it (again, rare) so we had to give it a go.  It was great, and the waterfront side completely undersells what is waiting within.  Brick pizza oven and prep area out in the middle of the dining room, soaring ceiling, huge deck overlooking the waterfront, and solidly good food.  City Java and News– good hot chocolate and latte.

While in Beaufort I recommend: strolling through the neighborhoods, and don’t ignore the overgrown, dead end streets- they are the best!  A visit to Hunting Beach State Park- a bit of a drive, but well worth it on a warm day.  Grab yourself a waterside swing, or a bench, or a hummock of grass and just enjoy the view.  beaufortwaterHave you ever been to Beaufort, South Carolina?  I’d love to hear about your time there; leave a note in the comments below.

 

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach Boardwalk|via One is Hungry

You know that saying, ”  If you can’t say something nice. . .”; well, this will be a short post!  Virginia Beach was a work trip.  We were looking at it as a nice segue from full, flaming sun, southern vacation to the realities of home.  This was our first experience of the mid-Atlantic ocean and ocean front.  To be brief, we found it was not for us.  I have lots of pretty, cherry-picked pictures from the boardwalk, but they are not an accurate representation of the place or the experience.  However, let’s focus on the good things:  We had a room immediately on the beach (that was a treat), and saw the sunrise colors spread over the ocean each new day.  The food offerings, in town, not the hotel (Hampton Inn, you really need to work on your breakfasts!) were quite good.

The first night we took a leap of faith on an Urban Spoon recommendation, wandered into what appeared to be a biker’s dive bar, and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves eating some of the best Mexican food we’ve ever had.  Hello tuna tacos with mango-passion fruit-chipotle dressing!  Everything at the Side Street Cantina was fantastic and really reasonably priced.  A few nights later one of Jason’s co-workers introduced a group of us to Mojito Cafe…fantastic!  Thank you, Chris!!  They are open from 5 til whenever they feel like it; the staff is great and the food is truly outstanding.  Jason highly recommends the fried banana cheesecake!  Almost forgot, Sunnyside Cafe and Restaurant has gluten-free pancakes and waffles, enormous portions, and roughly five pages of reasonably priced breakfast goodness (bad news- real maple syrup is by request and $2.50 extra).

Other good things, hmmm. . .dolphins.  So many dolphins at Virginia Beach; at least three separate pods of around ten dolphins each.  They come incredibly close to shore on a somewhat regular schedule.  One day while I was watching the water, a wave began to form about 20 feet ahead of me.  As it approached and grew, overtaking the couple in my sightline I saw a large grey form riding along inside the  translucent amber top of the wave, staying just ahead of the break.  After a few heart-stopping moments in which I was the only one aware that this sizable, unknown entity was eight feet from the swimmers ,it became comfortingly clear that it was a dolphin.  I’d never seen one so large (about 10 feet) and so close up. That moment had all the elements of my worst nightmares (sharks!) and best dreams (swimming with dolphins) rolled into one!

Finally, the airplanes.  We were near the Oceana Navy Base and received CLOSE, LOW fly-overs about ten times every day.  Once used to the almost sickeningly loud sounds (and I mean really, so loud as to nearly make one’s stomach hurt), it was amazing to see the various planes in flight.  We got to see quite a bit of the Blue Angels, in town for the air show, F22s, helicopters and more.

Those things were really the highlights of our time at Virginia Beach.  On our final morning, Virginia Beach bid us farewell with pelting sand like bee stings and a car that had been very carefully broken into and relieved of its hidden GPS.  More about that here.  So, my final words on Virginia Beach are these:  if you find yourself headed down the Virginia coast with time to kill and hankering for a good meal, by all means pull up at one of the fantastic restaurants this city has to offer.  Then get back in your car and out of town, preferably before 10 pm :).

Fun Slide, Virginia Beach Boardwalk | via One is Hungry

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Down Under the Weather

Westlake, Yarralumla

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,  Robert Burns

In other words, things don’t always go as planned.  I mentioned in this post that Jason and I would be returning to Canberra, Australia for the month of June.  We were really excited about the opportunity and it built up in our minds into a fairly important, potentially life-altering trip.  During our January sojourn health, happiness and suitability lined up so wonderfully that we were even considering a move to Canberra or a similar climate!  Can you see the expectations mounting?

The flights over went as beautifully as 26 hours of travel could go (Dramamine, where have you been all my life?!).  Setting down finally in Canberra, we disembarked into what seemed a remarkably mild winter .  Came the first surprise:  we were taken to an apartment we were sharing with two other guys!  Yep. . .I’ve never had a roommate, other than my husband; I didn’t live in dorms at college, and I had no full time siblings growing up.  I was feeling some trepidation about not knowing the rules of living with other people and how sharing space works (also fears of being loathed by Jason’s co-workers by month’s end).  Luckily, I’m pretty sure it was the easiest introduction to roomies that anyone ever had;   the guys were great and we bonded over rugby and the flu.

That’s right, surprise number two:  all of us got the flu; in fact, it seemed like all of Canberra had the flu.  Jason and I were able to hang on steadily through the first week and a half feeling a bit tired and run down, but completely able to function.   We took in the Canberra University vs. Wales game at the Olympic training grounds, visited our favorite restaurants (hi, Tom!),found some new favorites (Brodburger– best burger in Canberra), and spent as much time as possible up in the hills.

Canberra University vs. Wales

bottom of the hill

half way up the hill

top of the hill. . .lovely

Rain forced me inside several times this trip, allowing me to taking in an amazing exhibition of Antarctic photography , a stunning touring exhibition of von Guerard landscapes, and a really interesting series of paintings about the life and career of Ned Kelly at the NGA.

Sidney NOLAN, Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan. Image property of NGA

Finally, we both landed like a ton of bricks, oozing, hacking,wheezing and sneezing our second weekend away.  My insistence that fresh air would be good for us, and exercise boost our immune systems earned me a secondary upper respiratory infection.  After a successful trial run with the Australian health care system, antibiotics, and a few days of lying in bed with soup and P.G. Wodehouse, I convinced myself that I was well enough to spend my last full day up in the hills I love, watching kangaroos nap, kookaburras laugh, and myriad parrots, parakeets and cockatoos paint the sky with their dazzling plumage.

Wodehouse. . .I know, I have a problem

Gandalf Trail, Red Hill

Macedonian Orthodox Church St. Kliment of Ohrid

kookaburra on approach to Mt. Mugga Mugga

kangaroo on Red Hill

I’m glad that I got out that last day, even though I subsequently added a sinus infection to the list of woes.  Being sick when we could have been well, cold when we could have been warm, and watching the sun go down at 4pm, knowing it was shining on well into the evening at home was making us both a bit dour while we were trapped in the apartment.  Getting back up into the hills, being bathed in sunshine allowed for a return to balance and an important lesson.  Since moving to the D.C. area I have been both continually ill and ill at ease.  I’ve always wondered if I really dislike the area, or if it is merely a circumstantial prejudice.  Knowing how much I loved Canberra in January, and seeing how close I had come to thinking it a miserable hole while sick, I’m inclined to try harder to see the sunny side of D.C.  So, no, we are not moving to Canberra, the trip was a total bust for testing respiratory health in different climates and we were absolutely ready to come home.  We would love to go back, eventually, and I miss the gum trees and birds every time I go outside, but for now we are quite content to ‘bide a wee here in D.C.


frost at Fyshwick

 

Canberra: Part One

The most immediately and continually amazing thing about Canberra is the exotically perfumed air. Overwhelming all else is the eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees in many varieties are everywhere; there is one outside our bedroom window, a living incense. Close upon that are the agapanthus, jasmine, cedar, vast shrubs of rosemary, oleander, bougainvillea, and trees in the park that smell like cocoa butter on warm days. Add to that all the more typical summer smells of freshly mown grass, lavender hot in the sun, and the cool breeze off the lake and you are gloriously immersed in the heady bouquet of the Inner South A.C.T.

Agapanthus

A near competitor with the flora of Canberra is undeniably the fauna, specifically the birds. The are LOUD and varied. There are flocks of yellow crested cockatoos that sound like first cousins to flesh-rending Velociraptors, black and white speckled magpies that sound like dial-up internet connections, birds that always sound like they just heard a bad joke and ducks that mew like cats! There are black swans, tropical parrots, rosellas and doves that look exactly like our nephew, with the cutest little mohawks!

Yellow-Crested or Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos in Telopea Park

Black Swans in the Basin

The next thing you notice is that, to be the Australian Capital Territory, it is remarkably uncrowded, slow-paced. Locals 35 and under (and a few over) say it is the most boring, class conscious, unfriendly city around; 35 and over tend to say it is Australia’s best kept secret. I’m divided; our side of the lake, Parliament side, is lovely, full of parks, tree lined streets and easily walkable “villages”, museums, gardens,nature reserves, and memorials galore. The waterfront on the opposite shore is very nice as well. Then, there is The City and City Center: I found that area to be completely and inexplicably repellant, “big city” without any charm, mystery or quaintness to make it palatable.

Parliamentary Waterfront

Captain Cook Memorial at Acton Park waterfront

Captain Cook Memorial

National Carillon

National Gallery of Australia

N.G.A. Sculpture Garden

Suspended above N.G.A.

Speaking of palatable, now for the good stuff: the food. The food here has been terrific (and terrifically expensive!), with plenty of gluten-free options and honest to goodness European quality coffees and hot chocolates. The eggs have naval orange golden yolks (have you ever noticed that yolk colors vary region to region, and country to country?), there are more types of mangoes at the local market than I knew existed, and there always seems to be a friendly and knowledgable person around to tell you what things like wagyu, rocket, capsicum, and dukkah are.

The two areas whose gustatory offerings we have explored most thoroughly are Manuka (pronounced Monica) and Kingston. Manuka is trendy and bustling, with lots of cafes, and good people watching opportunities. My Cafe has been a mainstay of our trip, with good options no matter the time of day, but an especial favorite for finishing off the night with hot chocolate for Jason. Charmers does an excellent breakfast with perfectly cooked over easy eggs, the craziest, biggest, best bacon you ever saw (though if you like yours crispy, you should be sure to ask), and super friendly service. Public seems the place to see and be seen after work (if you can raise your eyes from the paella and flourless chocolate torte with berry compote) and Wasabi does beautiful sashimi. Kingston is a bit quieter, homier, with some seriously good food, if not as many evening options (many places in Canberra, at least the Inner South, seem to do half day service. Kingston seems especially full of cafes that only do breakfast and early lunch service). There is an italian restaurant in Kingston, L’unico, that does a gluten-free pasta you would never guess wasn’t the real thing. At the Kingston Grind you can get great coffees and some of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ideallic also does an outstanding coffee (and nice latte art) and good, affordable sandwiches, with gluten-free options available.

We still have a week and a half left here in the summer-land before heading back into D.C. winter so hopefully many more adventures and pictures to come.