scenes from the carribean

So I learned a lesson last week while in the Mayan Rivera – that vacations involving going to one place and staying put can be lovely and just as invigorating as those trips where I am soaking in all of the culture, food, and art that I can.  Especially when the primary point of the trip is visiting with family.  With these trips, the best idea is to not have too many decisions and negotiations to make so you can get down to focusing on visiting with each other – since this can be like herding cats with a wonderful, but varied group of 7 sometimes.   I went into it a little skeptical about the ‘all-inclusive’ thing – but I am always willing to try anything once – and gotta admit, I enjoyed it and it was the perfect anecdote to how busy things seem to have gotten these days.  It was lovely to be warm – especially knowing that it is already firmly around 40 degrees in Seattle most days – and getting to float in the Caribbean made me literally giggle like a child each time.  And then there were the tough decisions we faced daily, like do I read several chapters of a book in one sitting under a palapa while the waves lap near by?  or do I swim in the infinity pool or the ocean?   play volleyball?  or go find snacks?  And hey – I got to check off the “swim up bar” experience off my list in the sky too.  All in all, a lovely time – thank you so much to Shawn’s family!  I still have a lot to go check out in this world, but I think I might need a few more of these chillaxin’ style trips in my future too.

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empire state south

So, I won’t bore you with the all the details as to why it has been radio silence from me in the blogosphere in recent weeks, except for one excuse – a 10 day trip to the south – which brings some good food suggestions from afar!  The first half of my trip was to Atlanta, where arguably the best meal of the whole trip happened – at Empire State South.  A beautiful space was created in the 999 Peachtree building in Midtown – including a bocce court in the back – which set the scene for a lovely lingering lunch with the mama and Suz.  The menu, full of southern classics with modern and culinary-school twist, was created by Hugh Atcheson of Athens, GA acclaimed restaurants 5&10 and The National (not to mention some James Beard awards thrown in for good measure) and Ryan Smith (Baccanalia, among others are on his impressive resume).  It was incredibly hard to choose from all the lovely options on the menu – so I opted for a plate of 5 sides, so that I could sample a bit of everything: a cheese-y squash cassorole, brussel sprouts with marcona almonds, collard greens, skillet okra, and a field peas with Carolina rice dish that was a beautiful lemon-tinged risotto type deal.  All of which made this displaced-southerner deeply satisfied in a cure-your-homesickness kind of way.  The vanilla bean lemonade cut the richness perfectly – and the tiny gingerbread whoopie pie for dessert was the perfect bite of sweet to end the meal!

Other highlights of the Atlanta trip were the newly opened Tomatillos – a homage of sorts to long-lost Tortillas that is in East Atlanta – not fancy, but good straightforward stuff.  And the new Wrecking Bar a brew pub that has found its place in the former home of the architectural salvage place of the same name in Little 5 Points.  These guys are serious about beer, and make a lovely “in fashion” as well (thanks Lee!).  It was a great visit with my southern peeps, and a lot of fun was had with the kiddos during the 3-day Halloween extravaganza.  Next stop – New Orleans!