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Entries in Foreign Cinema (3)


this chicago weekend


It was a welcome surprise to discover that--after over a week apart--Michael and I would be going to Chicago for the weekend. So many things to consider, namely where to eat?

Longman & Eagle was a foregone conclusion. We'd enjoyed their brunch immensely during our first anniversary visit two years ago. It was time to see if it lived up to our memories (and perhaps surpass Foreign Cinema as our favorite brunch place of all time, hmm?). Because they don't take reservations, we were at their doorstep at 9 am on the dot, ready to eat. They didn't disappoint, so please stop by when you're in the city--and think about checking in one of their six rooms too! And leave room for a donut... They have a perfectly hipster space next door that only served three varieties (so why it took me forever to choose mine is a mystery).

The Aviary was another must. It's no secret that Michael and I love our cocktails, and "The Aviary" and "Chicago" have been synoymous in our minds for a very long time. While they do take reservations, the short notice made it impossible to get one on a Saturday night, so we lined up, crossing our gloved fingers that we'd snag a seat. It was the most creative drinking experience ever. British bartenders may corner the market on cheeky, clever drinks, but what Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas have created is sheer genius. Yes, some drinks were more style than substance, but even those you couldn't begrudge because they were like magic tricks for adults! And those were the bad ones--two in particular I still think about before I go to bed. They were that inventive and delicious.

I snuck in some culture--Michael allowed himself to be dragged to the Art Institute and (gasp!) went over his two-hour museum limit. He let me ooh and ahh over my favorite Seurat, and we had a lot of laughs guessing titles in the contemporary and modern sections (hint: like choosing "C" in a multiple-choice exam, "Untitled" gives you pretty good odds). We spent extra time looking at the Dalis and Kandinskys because they're my brother's favorites.

We walked a lot, did some window-shopping and some shopping-shopping. He got me a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery and commiserated when I expressed my disappointment. And when we settled in our seats for what was surprisingly our best meal of the trip at Publican Quality Meats (the deli, not the restaurant), I marveled at how it had become second nature for him to just maintain a cheery facade after I got grumpy from walking for thirty minutes instead of the sixteen that Google Maps promised, how I peacefully accepted that our daily plans would be awkwardly interrupted by someone's need for a long mid-afternoon nap, and how all of it was just so much darn fun. Now if only we could find a way to bring Watson along on all of these adventures...


back to the bay


This past week has been a whirlwind of activity. My love for Northern California is pretty well-known on this blog, and having lived there for six years, I considered myself familiar with it all the way from Sacramento to about Gilroy. I knew going in that this visit would be wonderful, but imagine my delight when I discovered that my favorite place still has the ability to surprise me.

(But first, an ode to my tried-and-true...)

Brunch at Foreign Cinema. I couldn't help it! I was willing to be adventurous and go to Fresca for a Peruvian Sunday brunch, but this time around, I was not going to miss out on my happy place and made reservations for Saturday. True to form, it did not disappoint. The cocktails were strong (they have a Persian Bloody Mary that is thicker than soup and just about knocks your socks off), the flavors were spot on, and the eggs were perfection.

The surprising new highlights

Oakland in general. I've always been leery of Oakland, but (according to locals) the influx of Googlers and other techies are pushing artists and chefs out of San Francisco with Oakland benefiting as a result. I've mentioned A Cote's mussels before, but what really made me want to give Oakland a serious look the next time I'm around was Mua. First of all, the ambiance of the place is ridiculous. I've never been to anything like it. Where other restaurants have played at being industrial, this was the real deal. The tunes were amazing (everything from the sixties to present-day hiphop) and the food managed to be both adventurous and homey. Five-star gourmet it was not, but yummy? Oh yes.

Ram's Gate Winery. The very first stop if you go wine tasting in Sonoma, I'd never heard of it or tasted it before this trip but I loved it. Their whites were amazing with different level of oakiness for those who are fans of California chardonnays and those who are not. For anyone going on a wine trip with friends, this is a must-stop. I've never been to a winery so perfect for lounging around and just being in wine country. The architecture of the place itself is notable, but more importantly, they give you all of your tastings in individual glasses so that you can take a seat and enjoy a spectacular view of Sonoma.

 Frances. Ever since I heard of this Michelin-starred restaurant bearing my mom's name, I've wanted so badly to visit, but the place is tiny and gets booked ages in advance. It was incredible. I thought I knew farm-to-table until this restaurant. Such simple ingredients done beautifully. (The two bottles of excellent wine that we ordered didn't hurt either.) My mother would have loved it.

And a word of warning...

I typically recommend trying out sparkling wine vineyards (that doesn't sound right) to people going on wine tasting trips unsure of what they like. While we have our favorites (Schramsberg has a great tour and Domaine Carneros is just delicious), the others are also fun to try. The last one we had left to visit was Gloria Ferrer, and we were so looking forward to going. While I'm happy to report that we have now completed our list, I wouldn't recommend trekking to Sonoma for it. It's always such a challenge deciding which wineries to visit, and there are many others in Sonoma that deserve your attention instead.

And that's it! Till the next time...

{image via}



if you're going to san francisco...

{photo by Tim Sohn}

A little last-minute planning has me flying back to the Bay this weekend. Can someone say T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D? Granted, I suspect San Francisco will not be any warmer than it is in Nashville at the moment, but I am so very excited about seeing friendly faces and visiting all of my favorite spots.

On the list for my three-day visit:
Brunch at Foreign Cinema. San Franciscans love their brunch and I have had it from fancy to hole-in-the-wall, waiting three hours to get in the door, but nothing beats Foreign Cinema. Everything is perfection—including their morning cocktails.

Visiting the Marina. This means viewing the Palace of Fine Arts (even if it is from the freeway), walking along Crissy Field, and, of course, shopping on Union Street. Ambiance, I am coming for you.

Dinner at Aziza. Your life would not be complete without a meal at this perfectly-reasonably-priced-for-its-Michelin-star restaurant. There are so many delectable places to dine in the city, but if I had to choose one place, this would be it.

Purchase flowers and produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. By far the best Farmers Market ever.  Snacking along the way is a must.

Ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. They change their flavors regularly, so I will be crossing my fingers that my favorite Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cereal flavored) will be available.

Lunch at any legit Chinese place in the Bay Area for dimsum. Yum. Enough said.
Coffee at Coupa Café (Palo Alto). This gives me an excuse to stroll around downtown Palo Alto (one of my favorite towns).

More coffee at Red Rock (Mountain View). Before Nashville spoiled me with live music, it used to be a novelty to hear a band play at this huge coffee house. The bonus is the nearby used bookstore where I could spend hours and hours. Oh, and Castro Street also has Therapy, a boutique that is ridiculously dangerous because I always find at least three things I need to have.

The rest can remain a mystery. Who knows, I may even find something new. Already counting down the hours to my San Francisco adventure…