April 18, 2014

Del Frisco's Grille // Chestnut Hill

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I went out for dinner at Del Frisco's Grille in Chestnut Hill for the first time, and I enjoyed it so much that I just had to tell you all about it. The location is brand new, having just opened in November, and I really had no idea what to expect. When we walked inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant's atmosphere, which gave off a modern upscale yet casual vibe. It turns out that this vibe makes sense, as Del Frisco's Grille is the more casual counterpart to the Del Frisco's in the Seaport, and features a different menu with lower price points.

The service we received during dinner was spectacular. Our waitress, Judy, was very personable and attentive to us the whole evening. We also had the pleasure of meeting the general manager, Sean Mullen, who was happy to tell us all about the restaurant and items on the menu. Here's an insider secret… May is National Burger month and Del Frisco's Grille will be serving up The Bad Mother Clucker Burger just for the occasion. The burger is topped off with 2oz of lobster meat, a fresh egg, tarragon aioli and manchego cheese, and is only going to be available at the Chestnut Hill location. You'll know where to find me come May!

While we sipped on yummy drinks, Sean sent over some of his favorite appetizers for us to snack on. We tried the Cheesesteak Eggrolls, Ahi Tacos, and Jumbo Lump Crabcake. While they were all delicious, Kevin and I both agreed that the Cheesesteak Eggrolls were our absolute favorite! For the main course, I had the Bay of Fundy Salmon with arugula-citrus salad, and I loved it! You really can't go wrong with salmon, but the pairing of the citrus salad made it that much better.

When I go out to dinner, hard as I try, I don't typically leave enough room for dessert. But, after one look at this dessert menu I knew that turning it down wasn't an option. Without any hesitation, we decided on the Coconut Cream Pie, which came with our waitresses highest recommendation. It was definitely a dessert meant for sharing and it was amazing! I was so happy with our entire experience at Del Frisco's Grille and I can't wait to stop in again soon!

April 10, 2014

Visiting California: Big Sur Road Trip

I'm so excited to be sharing more about my California trip with you today, especially because it gave me a chance to look through all my photos again and remember how amazing it was! Since we went into the trip without a set itinerary, we were able to make plans on a whim while we were there. On the second day, the gorgeous weather convinced us that we needed to see the coast. And so began our drive to the Big Sur! 

Before getting too far, we made our first pit stop at the adorable Black Bear Diner in Gilroy, CA for breakfast and coffee. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was so fun. How cute is the little bear paw on the napkins?

After breakfast, our journey to the Big Sur really began. We weren't exactly sure where the Big Sur started, but we made our way to Carmel assuming that we'd know it when we saw it. And, when we arrived at Carmel River State Beach, we knew. We pulled right over to take our shoes off and take in the scenery. It was difficult to leave the beach, but we knew there was even more to see ahead of us.

While we didn't drive the entire 90 miles of the Big Sur, we did spend a good 4 hours driving / pulling over to make the most of each stop. It was so hard to not pull over every 5 minutes because the views were so breathtaking! I think my favorite view was of the Bixby Creek Bridge in Monterey. It was so beautiful, and I wasn't surprised to learn that it is one of the most photographed bridges on the Pacific Coast. If you look closely, you can see it in the photo below.

I seriously couldn't get over the scenery along the Big Sur, and could have driven along that road forever! But, as evening was quickly approaching we decided to make our last stop at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It was here that I was able to lay my eyes on Redwood trees for the very first time, and they are incredible! This particular tree, The Colonial Tree, is 1,200 years old and is about 27 feet around! Although it wasn't the tallest tree in the park, because as the park ranger told us, it had been struck by lighting multiple times. Still an impressive sight!

The best part about our Big Sur drive was that when we reached our final destination and it was time to head home, we were able to turn the car around and see it all again from the other direction! I would absolutely love to go back to California and drive the full 90 miles of the Big Sur. It is 100% worthy of a bucket list, and if you're heading to the Pacific Coast, do yourself a favor and add it to your itinerary!

April 2, 2014

Visiting California: A Trip to Swanson Vineyards

Last week I traveled to San Francisco for the very first time, and it was truly amazing! Before my trip I asked for recommendations on places to visit while in California, and nearly everyone I spoke with said that Napa Valley was an absolute must. I'm so glad that I took the advice, and now I'm going to tell you the same thing ... if you're in the area, I promise that you will fall in love with Napa!

Before traveling, I spent some time looking into which vineyards to visit while in Napa. When I came across the website for Swanson Vineyards, I knew I had found the perfect vineyard for my BFF and myself to visit. My instincts proved to be correct as soon as we arrived in Napa and pulled into the vineyard. The building was absolutely adorable, and we were already in heaven before we even stepped inside.

We were greeted in the yard by Lin, our fabulous salonniére for the day, and then the fun began. The family-owned Swanson Vineyards consists of two tasting rooms, The Salon and The Sip Shoppe. Our tasting was being held in the Sip Shoppe, but Lin gave us a quick tour of the gorgeous Salon before we got started. The tasting room was furnished with beautiful pieces from all over the world. My favorite being the unique chairs and the ornate chandelier. The amazing pink/coral walls were covered with paintings by California artist Ira Yeager and they really added to the Paris flair of The Salon. Can't you just imagine how fun it would be to have a wine tasting here with a group of your girlfriends??

When we finished up in The Salon, Lin brought us over to the Sip Shoppe, and I was charmed instantly. Described as "a candy store for adults", there was so much to love about this space. The family heritage radiates through The Sip Shoppe with it's New Orleans style, inspired by fifth generation New Orleanian Elizabeth Swanson (wife of founder Clarke Swanson). We were pleasantly surprised when Lin pointed out that the walls of the Sip Shoppe weren't walls at all, and that we were actually inside a faux circus tent! Continuing with the theme, the jazz music playing throughout the tent provided the perfect atmosphere for sipping wine.

During our tasting we sampled 5 different wines: Rosato 2012 (from the Sip Shoppes secret stash), Chardonnay 2012, Merlot 2010, Alexis Cabernet 2010 (served with delicious Alexis Bon Bons), and Tardif 2007. I can honestly say that I loved each one of them, and even though I typically prefer white wine, I thought the merlot was to die for! My absolute favorite though, was the Tardif 2007, a late harvest chardonnay. It has the distinct taste of sweet honey which I learned was caused by noble rot, a form of botrytis cinerea, a type of mold that affects white grapes. These grapes are then handpicked at a specific time and used to create this sweet wine! If you like sweet wines, the Tardif comes with my highest recommendation!

We had such an amazing time at Swanson Vineyards, and if I'm ever back in the Napa Valley area, I wouldn't hesitate to stop in again. If you find yourself in Napa Valley, and really why wouldn't you, be sure to visit and tell them Amy sent you!

March 28, 2014

Client Moodboard

Hi friends! As you may or may not know, I've just returned from a little vacation in sunny California! I can't wait to share my photos and experiences with you next week! In the meantime, I didn't want to keep the blog in the dark, so today I thought it would be fun to give you a little sneak peak of a project that I'm currently working - a complete blog redesign for a lovely local blogger. The client is looking for a simple, classic look that is clean, fresh, and not too busy. Using her preference for soft pastels, I created this moodboard to kickstart the design process. I'm really loving where the design is going and look forward to sharing it when it's done!

March 14, 2014

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

So how pumped are we all now that Saint Patrick's Day weekend is upon us?? I mean, even if you're not Irish you can pretend to be and it's perfectly ok! Between the music, festivities, family-time, green beer, and food, I love everything about this holiday. While I can't get enough corned beef and cabbage, one of my favorite St. Patrick's Day treats is Irish soda bread. No one makes it better than my Aunt Betty, who delivers a fresh homemade loaf to my family every year, but this year I tried giving it a whirl myself. And of course, now I'll pass the recipe along to you.

You will need:
2 1/2 cups flour 
3 tbs. softened butter or margarine 
4 tbs. sugar 
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt 
3/4 cup buttermilk 
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375º.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then, add butter and cut it into the mixture using two knives. When the mixture has the consistency of fine crumbs, sir in the buttermilk and raisins.

Knead dough on a floured surface until it is smooth (about 2 minutes). Shape the dough into a 
round loaf and place on a greased cookie sheet. Use a knife to cut an "X" into the top of your loaf. 

Bake for 40 minutes.

I highly recommend serving your Irish soda bread with butter and a hot cup of green tea. 
Have a Happy Saint Patrick's Day everyone!  

P.S. big thanks to my Mom and brothers who joined me in the baking and eating of the bread!