Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Exploring wine: Malbec, Argentina

Flechas de los Andes, Malbec, 2009, $17.99
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a few glasses

Malbec is quickly becoming one of the most popular wines in the U.S. It's trendy for a number of reasons. One it is less robust and overpowering than a Cabernet Savingnon but can be paired with similar meals, such as heavy meat or pasta dishes. Two, even a cheaper Malbec is complex enough to stand on its own as a red wine to serve during a party. It's a bold red wine with a balanced flavor (well rounded) which makes it appealing for a lesser experienced or casual wine drinker.

Malbec grown originally in France (and still is) but the most well known vintages are from Argentina. This Argentine bottle received a score of 92 out of 100 from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. I agree that it is an impressive wine for the price.

Characteristic of Malbec, the color of this wine is a deep purple. The bouquet (or nose, or smell) smells strongly like juicy dark fruit like blackberries or currants and had a slightly woody scent as well. I tasted this one with my mom and we both noticed the tannins right away, also characteristic of Malbec. We laughed at how it tasted like "wet grapes". You could taste the berries, then grapes, then the bite of the tannins.

The last glass of this one tasted softer than the first. Perhaps this would be a good wine to buy a few bottles and see how it tastes different next summer and the one after that. We drank it on its own (OK, with butter toffee...) but it would be great for a BBQ with chicken wings or ribs. 

If you want more info about this bottle and maker, KosherWino reviewed it in more detail here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend Recap: wine, art, shopping, and mom

{After a title like that, I can only give you this cute picture of a squirrel... I forgot to take pictures.}

My mom came to visit this weekend. We exhausted ourselves shopping, drinking wine, and discussing art history and design while critiquing art shows and lounging around the house. I am fortunate that I have so many similar interests with my mother. It gives us such a common ground which we form our relationship around. As I have grown and as I mature, it is neat to see how our relationship develops and changes. 

She is more than my mother now. She is my best friend. She is my confidant. She laughs at my jokes. She gives me painfully honest feedback when I need it. She is my rock. I am her best friend. I am her confidant. I laugh at her jokes. I give her painfully honest feedback when she needs it. I am her rock. 

I feel honored to give back to her the love and support she has given me... and she gets excited when we go shopping and she doesn't have to pay for all the stuff I buy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Shoe Love: Alexander Wang

via shopbop

After re-living my outdoorsy adventure for a week, I'm looking for something a little bit ridiculous to balance it out. These completely fabulous Alexander Wang heeled loafers are exactly what I'm looking for. They remind me of images I've seen of Louis XIV's high court at Versaille. I would seriously consider buying these just to wear them casually with jeans and a white t-shirt at my local neighborhood bar... just to throw people off, ya know?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wardrobe: What I Wore

...and here's what I wore for a day on Mount Rainier.

Wardrobe: Mount Rainier

Hair ties, Henley, Vest, Sunglasses, Pants, Ta Ta Tamer, Watch, Shoes

As one who normally shops for heels and silk dresses, venturing into REI and the world of athletic wear was a bit daunting. In the past I have dreaded any suggestion of leaving the city and kayaking, hiking, etc. One reason was that I always felt frumpy and out of place. I never wore the right shoes (hiking shoes don't have heels?) and often was too hot or too cold. But now after spending time shopping in this new genre (Sara you were right, it is fun!) I have a few stylish and sporty outfits I can wear next time Gman asks.

When choosing an outfit it is important to start with the right underthings. Whenever I go for a run, practice yoga, and now when I go hiking, I do not leave home without my Ta Ta Tamer from Lululemon. This bra not only holds everything comfortably in place (seriously, no bouncing) it does not flatten you out either, which for me can sometimes be painful.

Going outside doesn't mean you have to be boring either. Have fun with your accessories. I love these vintage inspired hair ties and Chloe's take on the aviator.

Lastly, as someone who wants to be prepared but doesn't often do outdoorsy activities I want my athletic wear to do double duty. These layering pieces can be worn for other occassions too. I see the long sleeved top pairing nicely with some high waisted jeans and loafer pump (like this one) for a night out with the girls.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Destination: Mount Rainier

My preferred way to enjoy nature is with a glass of wine while watching Planet Earth DVDs and sitting on the couch. As I’ve mentioned here and here, I dislike sweating and I hate bugs. I hate that after being dragged on a hike we have to check for ticks and there is always the possibility that something larger, say a bear or T-Rex, may eat you alive. Yes, it is much nicer to sit in the comfort of my living room and to have Gman refill my glass. Besides, wandering through the woods is not part of my persona.

However, Gman is a rather persuasive man and convinced me yet again that I would enjoy a four hour hike up a mountain. And after a two hour drive from Seattle, we were at the base of Mount Rainier which is part of the Cascade Mountain Range. It is an active volcano covered with seven glaciers. During the summer and luckily during out visit, there are sweeping valleys of brightly colored wildflowers.

Like in Seattle, I was first struck by the freshest air I have ever breathed. As we got further from the visitor center the air was even cleaner. I felt rejuvenated from breathing it. The smells of pine, melting snow, freshly tilled soil, and wildflowers overwhelmed my olfactory glands and I had to close my eyes to take it in.

I could hear the sound of my breathing and the ground crunching beneath my feet. Whenever we stopped I first heard silence but it wasn’t quiet. As I listened I could hear bees busily pollinating the flowers, waterfalls that turned into rushing rivers of melted snow, and sometimes falling rocks. Marmots whistled at each other from across valleys and birds chirped as they scavenged for food. The mountainside was alive with busy animals taking advantage of the warm day.

I was overwhelmed by what I saw. These pictures do not begin to capture the views of mountains, rivers, rock formations, glaciers, grass bravely peeping out from beneath the melting snow. They can’t capture what it felt like as we became taller than the mountains on the horizon or when we were peers with the clouds. I have never climbed my way to 7,000 feet before. It was exhilarating to see my perspective change with each step. The landscape changed too. First it was pine forests, then fields of flowers and sprawling bedrock, then desert like conditions above the tree line. Being eye level with the clouds I could see them struggle to make their way around Mt. Rainier’s summit.

We spent most of the day traversing the side of that mountain and as the time of day changed so did the light. The grass and flowers became luminous as they quickly absorbed it. The colors of the flowers were intensified and I was surprised that hot pink, bright purple and bright yellow existed in nature. Marmots lazily basked in the sun on rocks while the rocks bounced the light right back. In the late afternoon the shadows were long and light golden. It was softer and the flowers, trees, and leaves actually looked different. I could see why Monet was fascinated with painting the exact same bale of hay 50 different times. It looks different at various points of the day. The white light of a sunrise is distinctly different than the orange light of a sunset.

On our last hike of the day we were walking along what seemed to be a simple pleasure path until we spotted a break in the bushes. We decided to sneak through. As we emerged on the other side the ground dropped down into a rocky cliff face hundreds of feet deep and I could see for miles out into the horizon. The brown toned foreground, green toned mid-ground and blue toned landscape far away always seemed so exaggerated in Leonardo de Vinci’s work. But now I can see exactly the atmospheric perspective he was describing. It made me wonder why he was so observant and not those before him. Were they not taught to look?

Best part of this picture? I wasn't zooming in!

After more than 6 hours of being in the great outdoors we had a beer, Mt. Rainier brand of course, and started our trek back to Seattle. I was surprised that my body was neither completely exhausted nor sticky from sweat. My shoes were dusty and I felt calm and at peace. I was proud of myself for keeping up with Gman. I was proud of myself for leaving the comfort of my couch and doing something new. Now an experience that was way out of my comfort zone was completely mine. My spirits were revamped and with a renewed sense of accomplishment I looked out the window nostalgically as the sun set on Mount Rainier. This experience wasn’t just for the brave few, this is for everyone. This is for me.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Recap: The bar cart and other treasures

Seriously, it's Monday already? This weekend was definitely not long enough. Saturday I went antique shopping in Maryland at Chartreuse & Co. with two new girlfriends. We took one of their husband's Hummer just in case we found some larger goodies we couldn't live without. I wasn't sure what to expect as the place was described to me as three barns of treasures. The main barn was set up as shops by individual vendors and the place was swamped. There was something for everyone, shabby chic, industrial, and 40's glam are just a few examples. Each vendor did a lovely job designing their theme and displaying their treasures. I found most of the prices reasonable as well.

I found the 1950's bar cart that I have been searching for! I have seen others with 1,000 price tags and I was relieved when this one was more reasonable at $150. I bet it has seen many a party and I can't wait to test it out... what am I saying, I already did. (Picture below.)

That cat owned the place. Everyone who walked by petted him.

The second barn was a catch all for less valued furniture. I'm sure a great bargain was waiting in that pile somewhere... and the last barn was full of architectural remnants like doors and window frames. If I were to build my own home it would be neat to use the vintage doors on the interior.

After shopping we went to Frederick, MD for lunch and more shopping. I recommend this as a day trip if you are looking for something different to do around D.C.

This went home with me...

This did not...

How was your weekend? Do you like antique shopping or do you prefer buying everything new?

**PS - I bought the bar cart from The Treasured Hunt. She specializes in all things vintage barware and has two other bar carts. So like her on Facebook and check to see when they become available.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lucky Magazine Contributor: round 3!

Dearest friends,

I was invited to submit to the next round of the Lucky Magazine Contributing Editor Contest (first round here). I felt so honored and the excitement super-charged my creative juices for the next challenge; which was to create a themed dinner party. I naturally chose a chic, Game Day inspired three course plated meal and game viewing; complete with orange and blue macarons, and champagne.

Please read my entry here on the Lucky Magazine website and vote for me if you like what you see!! The number of votes I receive in the round will push me to the next (two more to go!) so it is important that you double check that you vote was counted (please please!). Remember there are only six days to vote so please check it out ASAP. I am so grateful for your love and support, it's truly what makes my creativity worthwhile!

I could only include four pictures in the official entry. So as a special treat to you, here are my favorite shots of the tablescape (and fabulous flowers!)...

Many thanks!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shoe Love: Bottega Veneta

via Bergdorf Goodman

I first saw these in the Vogue September Issue. I love the throwback style of a strappy t-strap. But what struck me about these darlings is how the pattern of black, shades of browns, reds and creams, reads as a neutral. You wouldn't have to think twice about wearing these with any color dress, pants or skirt to work and they would look sultry afterhours.

Have a lovely weekend everyone! I have so much planned for you in the coming weeks I can barely keep it to myself. Stay tuned for a special Saturday post tomorrow and if you want to see what I'm up to you can always catch me on twitter! @HighHeeldTravlr

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Bastille Cafe and Bar; Seattle WA

As you walk into Bastille Cafe and Bar you are stuck by the floor to ceiling open windows, white subway tile covering the walls, and industrial style black crown mounding, chairs, and details. The tables are wood, stained to almost black green. The bar accoutrements are delicately organized in rows and the bar tender meticulously cleans glasses and wipes the copper bar top.

At our table we felt the afternoon breeze as we sipped typical French brunch cocktails like A French Kiss or Bloody Mary (or perhaps a Kir Royal?). It was difficult ordering, not only because of my desperate state of hunger but also because everything I read made my mouth water. Gman went with a burger and fries and for me, a croque monsieur. Can you tell we were hungover? We ordered another round of drinks and lingered at the table to relish in the atmopshere.

The presentation style, taste combinations, and setting were so influenced by Parisian cafe style that I might have mistaken it were it not for so much English being spoken. I did not expect such nicely executed French food in Seattle. 

Review: Rub with Love, Shack; Seattle WA

With flavors of smoked paprika, cumin, and brown sugar your mouth can't help but water when encountering this tasty roasted, pulled pork sandwich. After a morning of plane travel, taxi travel, and touring Pike's Place we were in dire need of a fulfilling meal. The weather was perfect so we wanted to take advantage of it and sit outside. As we strolled along Western Ave scoping out the restaurant scene we were taken by the picnic tables out front and wafting smell of BBQ coming out the front door of Rub with Love, Shack. The only word in my mind was, YESSS. So we grabbed some sandwiches and beers and sat in the relaxing sun for our first meal in Seattle. It was in this moment we decided to eat our way through the city...

*A note about Rub with Love, Shack: It is owned by the award winning chef Tom Douglas who has revitalized the Seattle foodie scene. He reinvents foods from all over the world by using locally grown, seasonal resources: global with a Seattle twist.

We also hit up Serious Pie. Every local will tell you "It's worth the wait and you will wait." We did wait and our mouths salivated with anticipation. Luckily Douglas also owns Dalia Lounge which is conveniently located next door and will happily serve you cocktails and starters while you wait for a table.

Learn more about his restaurants here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wardrobe: Seattle and the Dr. Marten

Dr. Martens, Bag, Necklace, Cords, Boyfriend Shirt

I couldn't resist putting a look together using Dr. Martens. When I was in high school went on my first trip to NYC. I fell in love with a pair in a shop in SOHO. I wanted them so badly buy my mom said she wouldn't pay for such a trendy shoe (I think she thought they were ugly...). My 14 year old heart was broken and I've never forgotten them.

Not only did I see these rocked all over Seattle but also on a few men in pictures from New York Fashion Week. I like the way they keep a casual look edgy. I can imagine wearing this to run errands, hanging out in coffee shops, going to a gallery opening or while listening to some live music out with friends.

Wardrobe: What I Wore

Here's what I wore for a day of touring the city. With the weather starting in the 50's in the morning and getting up to mid-70's by the afternoon (and almost no humidity!) shorts and a light sweater felt comfortable and stylish.

Sperry's are great for running around too (**although perhaps a bit too preppy for Seattle, I got some glaring looks...)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Destination: Seattle, Washington


When I think of Seattle I imagine flannel shirts, throwing fish, Nirvana, and The Real World. It never caught my attention until I met Gman. He raves about the crispy, fresh air and how one can go boating and mountain hiking in the same day; then go to a fancy dinner downtown. He loves the ease at which a Seattleite can navigate a vibrant music scene while discussing the finer points of literature and the best brew of coffee or beer. They are both cultured city dwellers and outdoor enthusiasts.

After a month of separation we wanted to get reacquainted and what better way than with a trip? Seattle would be the best compromise of my wanting to go a new city and Gman’s desire to be in the fresh air of the Pacific Northwest Mountains. We took five days off giving us four full days of exploring. I was determined to dismantle my preconceptions about Seattle and find that real city Gman’s soul connected with.

As soon as we landed I noticed the crisp, clean air. Because of the mild humidity the air seems sharper, in HD as one of my friends noted. I couldn’t get over how even dirty cars and the bricks in the streets seemed more in focus.

Perhaps the most striking feature of Seattle is the lack of segregation. By that I mean the industrial factories are next to the baseball and football stadiums which are next to the downtown corporate scene which is mixed with the sustainable fish and flower markets. The neighborhoods aren’t separated by rich or poor but by style and there was a striking mix of people in each shop we went into. Even in the more seemingly conservative neighborhood we saw some impressive tattoos. People with similar interests were in the same spaces and were not separated by age, race, or gender. I found the city more casual than New York or Washington D.C. in that way.

The produce, meat, cheese, wine, coffee, and spices are local, sustainably produced, seasonal, and perfectly fresh. The high standard of ingredients in each meal we enjoyed showed where the priorities of the rebellious foodies of Seattle lied: from a quick pulled pork sandwiches at Rub with Love, Shack, to elegant beet salad at Champagne to sweet corn risotto with Dungess crab at Pink Door to thin crust specialty pizza from Serious Pie. Each meal was carefully chosen by the chef or owner based on seasonally available ingredients and paired with local beer and wine.

I was surprised to see that many people still enjoy a good flannel shirt and in fact also still wear Doc Martins (See mom, they are still in style 10 years later!). The fish throwers are a tourist trap at best; although I did enjoy watching brawny young men manhandle my potential meal.

As I walked through the streets of Downtown, past the modernist architecture and wires overhead from street cars I kept asking myself, where is the real Seattle? Masses of tourists flanked us on the sidewalk as we passed the flagship Nordstrom store and outdoorsy people nearly peed themselves with excitement at the REI flagship (I went there, shocking I know.)

I normally balk at guided tours but heard a lot of great reviews for the Underground Tour in the Pioneer’s Square neighborhood, where Seattle was founded. The tour takes you beneath the streets and gives you the dirty truth about the beginnings of the city as a logging port in the late 1800’s. Prostitution became the most profitable profession, though the ladies were taxed as seamstresses. The occupation was so lucrative in fact that one famous madam’s estate, almost $500,000 at the turn of the last century, was used to start an endowment for the city’s public education system. Knowing a bit more history helped put into context the counterculture personality of the city.

We ventured off to Ballard and experienced the most impressive farmer’s market (dare I say it trumped Union Square in Manhattan?) where we picked up some smoked salt (I swear it adds the flavor of bacon to everything it touches, yums!) and ogled at the bountiful summer veggies, fish, and pork. This market even had soaps, oils, and grains. Which made it as close to one stop shopping as a market can get. After shopping we had brunch at Bastille CafĂ© and Bar. The floor to ceiling windows were wide open and the 70 degree breezy air swept across our skin as we sipped a French Kiss and Bloody Mary. The bustle of people somehow made the moment quiet and peaceful.

In the Capitol Hill neighborhood we experienced the same peaceful vibe though it was much more urban. Still the superior quality of food, coffee and shopping prevailed and we enjoyed thoughtful conversation with each other and a few locals. It didn’t matter so much what you looked like but you clearly had taste if you walked into Stumptown Coffee or Frock vintage shop.

Early Sunday morning, we took a ferry tour of the harbor. We cruised past the iconic Seattle skyline, Space Needle and all. Then past crowded boat docks bursting with pleasure craft. We were told many Seattleites commute by ferry or personal boat and that there were so many boats that the city devised an emergency escape route using them should Mt. Rainier ever decide to erupt (it’s an active volcano but more on that next week). We drove past naval vessels and tug boats and enormous freight ships. The old port is now a tourist destination, filled with souvenir shops and beggars.

I thought again where is the real Seattle?

As I sipped some locally grown Shiraz at The Tasting Room, smack dab in the middle of Pike’s Place, an unassuming local woman gave us a brief lesson in Washington wine and culture. She was very well spoken, knowledgeable, and friendly. Her appearance was unkempt but she seemed satisfied with herself and enjoyed chatting with other locals. I realized then that I was sitting in the real Seattle. 
Seattle isn’t necessarily a particular neighborhood or building. It isn’t segregated from the tourists or a myth in my mind. The history of the city is woven into the fabric of the buildings, food, and people. Gman’s soul didn’t connect to a landmark or favorite bar but with the come-as-you-are (Nirvana reference intended) attitude, outstanding food and drink, and a casual complexity that lingers in the crispy air.

{Special thanks to my local guides, Joe and Jenni! 
We would not have eaten such great food or seen such Seattle specific sights without your kind advice.}
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