Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Easter Weekend in New Orleans

Hi Friends! I just got back home after a whirlwind week in New Orleans and Disney. My husband and I went to NOLA with my in-laws for Easter and I went straight to Disney for the Capture the Bite workshop upon our return. More on that workshop to come!!
This marked our 11th trip to NOLA in the past 5 years and this was our first time spending a holiday there. We had no idea upon booking our trip that there would be so much activity in the city on Easter Weekend!
We kicked off Easter Weekend with a Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. They offer a Jazz Brunch 7 days a week which is a great option for those traveling to NOLA mid-week.
This was our second time attending a Jazz Brunch here and both times we truly enjoyed ourselves. The live Jazz and ambiance on the courtyard set for the perfect lazy New Orleans Saturday. Plus they have very good drinks!
The Brunch Buffet has a large variety of New Orleans staples and is $30 a person. That day we had a choice of shellfish (crawfish!), jambalaya, gumbo, prime rib, freshly made specialty omelets, red beans and rice plus so much more. Not to mention, their turtle soup is served without Sherry in it (it's on the side) which means those who are allergic to Sherry like yours truly can still enjoy a New Orleans favorite.
Following our Jazz Brunch, we headed to the Central Business District, where we experienced an Adult Easter Egg Hunt at The Cathoula Boutique Hotel. While we were unsuccessful of finding one of the 288 eggs hidden (the ones in the pic above were snagged before we could get them), we had a great time. We even saw Bunny Burlesque - I guess when in NOLA (a fun but odd experience to share mid-day with your in laws!)
On Easter Sunday, we began our morning watching The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade which consisted of of mule-drawn carriages and old convertibles making its way through the French Quarter, taking the participants to Easter Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. We saw some amazing bonnets for sure.
We then made our way over to Steamboat Natchez for their Easter Brunch Jazz on the Mississippi. It was a perfect relaxing Easter afternoon and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Following Easter Brunch, we headed back to our AirBNB where we watched our second (but not last) parade of the day, Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade. I saw Lamas and were thrown a few full sized carrots (not joking).
It was fantastic being able to watch the parade from our balcony - the route went directly by our rented condo. I did get hit in the head with a giant bag of beads, giving me a nice black eye for a few days. I was more concerned with my beer spilling! Oops.
After adding a few new beads to our ever growing collection (thanks to the bag of 50 that hit me in the head), we headed over to the third parade of the day, The Gay Easter Parade. While I didn't see a Lama in this parade like Chris Owens, we definitely had a great time spectating.
We truly enjoyed walking around the quarter, seeing all the decorated houses. We've now seen houses made up for Christmas, Halloween and Easter in the big easy.
When we booked our trip to NOLA during Easter, we never thought our weekend would be full of festivities. We found ourselves looking to book Easter 2018 in New Orleans!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ruth's Chris Dauo Vineyards Tastemaker Dinner

A few weeks back Gabe and I had the opportunity to check out Ruth's Chris Dauo Vineyards Tastemaker Dinner. Ruth's Chris holds a special place in our heart as it was one of the first places we dined at when we moved to Tampa 6 years ago. There's something about the steak and melted butter that gets me every time.
We had a fantastic time at the Tastemaker dinner and I hope to attend more in the future. The April Ruth's Chris Tastemaker Dinner will be a 5 course pairing with Jonnie Walker. Click here to find a location and date near you. Along with Johnnie Walker, there is a fantastic lineup for the rest of the year including: Chateau Montelena Winery, Moet Hennessy (which I must go to) and Marchesi Antinori. You can check up the lineup and get the dates for your Ruth's Chris by clicking here.

So back to the Dauo Tastemaker Dinner, we had 5 courses perfectly paired with Dauo wines. Each plate was excellent as was the wine. Overall, I was very impressed with the Tastemaker dinner and Ruth's Chris did an excellent job with it.
First Course:
JERK MARINATED PORK TENDERLOIN
Jamaican Coconut Rice Cake, Mango Chutney
Paired With: DAOU “CHEMIN DE FLEURS”, Paso Robles, California

This pork was cooked to perfection and had a great spice to it. The Chemin De Fleurs was a perfect pairing to this slightly spicy dish. I have never had this varietal of wine before, which is very rare. I am pretty picky with white wines and this was one anyone could drink.
Second Course:
HONEY & SOY GLAZED ATLANTIC COD
Roasted Fingerling Sweet Potatoes
Paired With: DAOU CHARDONNAY, Paso Robles, California

The cod was full of flavor and I loved the roasted fingerling sweet potatoes. I was thankful that the portions were not full plates as we were already getting full on course 2. Of course I was happy with the wine pairing on this course, a beautiful chardonnay from Paso Robles. I may have stolen my husbands glass :)
Third Course:
CHOCOLATE & COFFEE BRAISED SHORT RIB RAGOUT, Pappardelle Pasta
Paired With: DAOU CABERNET SAUVIGNON, Paso Robles, California

Anytime I am presented with pappardelle, my life becomes 10x happier. Mix that pappardelle with chocolate and coffee braised short rib...well be still my heart. Seriously one of the best, if not the best, pastas I have had in the US. Dear Ruth's Chris, I need this recipe. The Daou Cabernet was an excellent companion to this dish.
Main Course: 
PETITE FILET MIGNON, BALSAMIC GOAT CHEESE GLAZE, Zucchini Fritters, Potatoes Au Gratin
Paired With: DAOU CABERNET SAUVIGNON, “RESERVE”, Paso Robles, California

The star of the show at Ruth's Chris is always the filet mignon and this one did not disappoint. Not seen in the photo of meat and butter was our sides, consisting of zucchini fritters and potatoes au gratin. All was delicious. Then to pair it with a reserve Daou Cab was an extra treat. This wine drank beautiful with the steak.
Dessert Course:
MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE, Chambord Cream
Paired With: Pessimist Red Blend, Paso Robles, California

Apparently after 4 courses and glasses of wine, I tried to get artistic with my dessert photo. Excuse the super sideways pic! The chambord cream was insane and I could have happily ate an entire dish of it. We truly enjoyed the Pessimist red blend with the dessert.

Awesome job to the Tampa Ruth's Chris team. You left us impressed!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

2017 First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Recap

A few weeks ago, my husband Gabe and I ran the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay. This is our third time running this event and we absolutely love this series. 2017 was a little different of an experience for me but at the end of the day, it was still a great time.
The 2017 relay started off not exactly as planned. We stayed a couple miles away from the start line and got a late start to the morning. Luckily we had no traffic (totally different scenario than 2014) and when it was time that we passed the start line (10 minutes before the wheelchairs were scheduled to begin), I made the poor decision to stay with Gabe and park the car vs. jump out then and go to the start line. Well, as luck would have it, we were nearly a mile away from the start when I heard the National Anthem. I sprinted to the start line and was the last person to start the race.....by 4 minutes.

I have ran over 20 half marathons, 5 full marathons and multiple other race distances. I have yet to experience something like this before. I was alone in the pitch black, most of the crowd had already moved away from the start and the photographers already moved on. I had already sprinted a mile, far above my normal pace to get to the start.
I finally caught up with the back and then spent the next few miles weaving. I caught up to the 3:45 pace crew and shortly after the 3:30 pace crew and so on. I had intended on running with the 2:10 pace crew but knew there was no way I would ever catch up to them. I caught the 2:30 crew right before I transitioned to Gabe.
This was mentally rough for me. We have been training at Orange Theory Fitness for a few months and my base pace has significantly gotten better. For the first time in my life, I wanted to get a PR. Since this was a relay, I knew I could go all out. I've never been the person to harp on PR's or my pace but deep down, I was pretty bummed.
With the additional sprint at the beginning and the mental test of being alone in the back, non-stop weaving and the realization that I wouldn't get to the pace I wanted, I was a mental nightmare.
Once I took in my surroundings, I got over the situation and made the best of this gorgeous morning. How could one possibly be upset in this surrounding. Plus all this was nobody's fault by my own. I learned a lesson for sure!
Aside from all the drama, I felt pretty good. My cardio is the strongest it has ever been and there is no doubt in my mind Orange Theory helped me get over the dreaded Ringling Causeway Bridge not once but twice.
When it came time for the switch, I wished Gabe good luck and started live tracking him. The really cool thing about this years series is that you could do live tracking with Athlilnks. When I opened the app, I was pleasantly surprised to see my husband running a 9:10 pace. At one point, he dropped below 9:00 per mile. I was very proud of my hubby, especially being he ran Savage Race the day and was head to toe sore.
Along with the awesome tracker app, Athlinks offered free photos to participants! Our finisher photo was not available but we still got a pretty great photo of us crossing the finish line.
While we didn't finish in the 2:10 pace group like we intended, we still finished at 2:16 and I will take that all things considered.
Following the race, we grabbed brunch at First Watch finishers tent. I was very happy for pancakes and fresh fruit.
The beer tent was buzzing at 9am. I grabbed a Michelob Ultra but couldn't do it.
After a few sips, we quickly grabbed a shot with the Ringling Causeway in the background and headed off to check out of our hotel.
I flew out to Atlanta shortly after this race but took advantage of a few hours and saw Beauty and the Beast before I headed out! It was so good!