Anatomy of a Sunset

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I’ve got a lot to say about Cambria and Paso Robles. I would have said it all sooner, but there was an incident with egg whites and a mouse tracker pad and, well, last week my laptop was not interested in playing ball.

So to start somewhat at the beginning but also at the end. This was a quick trip, just two nights. We stayed at the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach in Cambria. It’s a charming little place just across the street from the ocean. Every room comes with a wee patio so you can sit outside and catch a glimpse of the sea. It had all the necessities… heated pool and hot tub, breakfast, a view. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the hotel itself but it was a happy spot.

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The last evening that we were there, though, there was a strong pull and determination to head on over to the ocean and watch the sunset. I wanted very badly to play with the light and it was just peaceful. We spent an hour walking up and down the shore, listening to the waves, feeling both the fullness and the emptiness of the sea and sky. It was fun and peaceful and filling.

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I forget sometimes to stop and watch the Sunset. Life is intermittently busy and not. I find myself sometimes with time on my hands that I struggle to fill with meaning. And I forget that there are sunsets and I should stop, breathe, watch them. This is why sometimes I take pictures. Because when I look back I can see that I had something gorgeous in the palm of my hand and if I concentrate, I can see it, smell it, feel it all over again. Sunset can be an anchor, not one that weighs you down, but one that steadies and stabilizes. I should probably stop and feel one more often.

To Cambria! And Some Santa Barbara Pics

As I write this, I’m off exploring Cambria, California. Another fantastic piece of wine country in my beautiful home state.

I was in Santa Barbara in April and with all the Portugal excitement, I haven’t really gotten a chance to show it off, so here is a mini photo diary of my favorite Santa Barbara snaps and experiences.

We hung out a little in The Funk Zone in downtown Santa Barbara. We swung by the Riverbench Tasting Room, Santa Barbara Winery and Oreana.
Of the three, Oreana was by far my favorite. They had excellent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and an extremely great Verdelho which I deeply loved (and should have bought way more of that the one bottle).

The net day we went and drove up to wine country to the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and checked out three wineries there.

 

We visited Fess Parker, Zaca Mesa and Foxen. I liked Foxen the best, I think partly because we ended up picking out a bottle of wine and hanging out on the back deck just drinking and talking and relaxing. They had a Rose of Pinot Noir that I adored!

The Santa Barbara trip was incredibly fast and definitely requires repeating when we have longer than one night! Have you been? Where do I need to visit?

 

Eat Portugal – The Best Bits

Okay, let me weight in on the best Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner I had whilst in Portugal.

I know this seems odd because it’s not Portuguese, but in The Algarve there is a huge British ex-pat contingent. As an ex-pat myself, I’m a sucker for a good English Breakfast, which we found at Tee Time in Vilamoura. It’s your standard yumminess with a huge high point being the sausages. And it is an absolutely steal.

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On to lunch. I spoke before about my new obsession with Couvert. So one afternoon we went for a late lunch wherein I had Oysters, Couvert and a great glass of Vinho Verde. The restaurant was right on the beach in Vilamoura. Rocha Baixinha has a fantastic full menu and I highly recommend a visit. The Oysters were just perfect. They were briny and sweet and with just a hair of lemon they tasted perfect. I love trying Oysters in different places… it gives you such a sense of the place. I know they aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for me.

 

I’m not going to lie, when my Partner in Crime and my other travel companions picked burgers for dinner on our last night in Lisbon, I wasn’t delighted. I like burgers, but I don’t love and obsess over them and I am a bit picky. Also, I was in Portugal. Burgers felt like an odd choice. PiC went ahead and did some research, and an artisan burger place was located. I had resolved to get a non-burger item but the menu was just burgers. I went ahead and ordered an X-Tudo Burger with watercress instead of lettuce. It was a bacon, egg and cheese burger and I was sure I’d eat maybe half and move on with my life.

And Oh. MY. GOODNESS. It was the best damn burger I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was sumptuous and rich and the flavors were spot on. There was a little bit of bread in the middle the burger on top of the patty before the other toppings to soak up the juices so that it wasn’t a giant mess. The egg was perfect, the bacon was delicious. It was absolutely revolutionary and I almost missed it! This is the burger all future burgers will be compared to. Run don’t walk to Honorato if you are in Lisbon. Seriously.

 

Back peddling in time just a little to our first night in Lisbon was my favorite dessert. Our first night we went to a restaurant on the same street as our hotel called Restaurante Laurentina. The meal was pretty good, we enjoyed it. My Partner in Crime had a really great White Veal with Sweet Potato and it was quite tasty. The best part though was the dessert. It was a caramel pudding with toasted almonds and it was decadent and rich with just the right of caramel nuttiness. I loved it so much I nearly ordered I second. I was also mildly sad we were sharing. It was great!

 

And just for fun here are a couple of other random food related snaps from the trip.

 

And that wraps up this series on Portugal. I still have a little bit of Santa Barbara catching up to do and I’ll be in Cambria faster than I can blink.

A Few of My Favorite Things

This serving dish would be perfect for Couvert, with a space each for the Olives, the Tuna and the Butter!

I Found My Heart in Lisbon

I had a feeling I would probably like Lisbon, but I wasn’t expecting to love it so much. It’s so easy to fall for the architecture, the culture, the food and the people.

We only spent two days in Lisbon, so I feel like we saw barely anything but I still soaked in as much as I could. We spent one day just roaming around the city.

One of the things I most adored was the pavement. Lisbon is all about the tiles. There are mosaic patterns all over the streets, and sometimes they are pretty patterns and other times they are very cool optical illusions.

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Next were the stores and all their little quirks. There were off course Pastelarias (Pastry Shops) everywhere, but there was also seafood, tubs of flowers on the streets, and some very epic Port stores. Port comes from the North of Portugal, in Porto, and we happened upon a store that was selling bottles that were 100 years old. It was very cool, but funnily enough I didn’t have over a thousand euros to drop on a bottle.

The second day, we went ahead and rode the famed Tram 28 up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The Castle upon the hill offered a really great view of the city. It’s a very old Castle with a massive amount of history. The courtyard is also filled with peacocks that love showing off. It’s definitely worth a wander around. I was a little obsessed with the red door.

I have a long long list of the places I have yet to visit in and around Lisbon. Belem and Sintra to name just a few.

Basically, Portugal is calling. You should go.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Check out this awesome Dry Shampoo from Not Your Mothers. I usually throw it in my suitcase when traveling to give my hair a quick refresh after a day of roaming around.

Lets Talk About Couvert

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I’m obsessed. I’m really obsessed and I’m really okay with it. Whenever I travel to a different place, I do my best to absorb the local food and try whatever I can. I ate a lot of Portuguese food over the week that I was in Lisbon and The Algarve, and for the most part everything was incredible. The three stand out things that I had, though, were Vinho Verde, Pastel de Nata and Couvert.

Lets start with the wine. So in the North of Portugal there is a region that specializes in a wine called Vinho Verde. It’s essentially “Green Wine”. It’s fresh off the line and should be enjoyed fairly soon after bottling. It’s a lot like a white version of Beaujolais in that respect. It’s medium dry, and a little effervescent and it is absolutely awesome. It has a a low alcohol content so it’s very easy to drink and relax with, but it’s gentle enough that you aren’t going to be hung over the next day. We ordered it with every single meal and it was just great. My Partner in Crime who is not very into wine really liked it, and it’s always nice to share things. Our preferred bottle was Muralhas de Moncao which you can find on the wine list at pretty much every restaurant and it was massively affordable.

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Now lets move on to the Pastry. Pastel de Nata is the local delicacy. It comes from Belem, which is tucked up next to Lisbon. It’s a custard tart in a very very flaky crispy pastry shell. It’s delicate yet decadent. The custard is subtle with vanilla but firm, smooth and creamy. I tried this both in Lisbon, and in The Algarve and I personally think the ones in Lisbon were much better. One of the best moments on this trip was sitting in a little cafe off the beaten path in Lisbon, surrounded by trees and having a Pastel de Nata with coffee. Just a perfect moment.

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And now, Couvert. This is where you’ll have to bear with me because I may sound a wee bit crazy. Couvert is essentially like a bread basket you get before a meal. Unlike in some other countries, it is charged for, but it’s very inexpensive. Couvert translates to Cover. Every restaurant has a slightly different version but it is usually Bread, Butter, Olives, Tuna Paste (or other fish paste/pate) and sometimes Marinated Garlic Carrots. One place also had Feta with the Olives. The star of the show is the Tuna Paste. It’s such a great start to a meal. You just snack on whichever combinations of things you want. I’m all about variety and I love to pick at things with different flavors and textures. A smear of butter and tuna paste on a small piece of bread, then an olive, then another bit of bread and maybe a garlic carrot or two. The flavors were so simple, clean, and different. And of course, European bread is always divine. I firmly stated whilst I was there that I could have Cover and a glass of wine for lunch every day and I would be completely content. And I did. Three times.

Of course, when I got home I wanted it again, so I’ve approximated it and the recipe is below. Serve it up with some black and green olives and some hunks of fluffy bread.

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Tuna Paste for Couvert

1 Can Tuna in Water, drained (4-5oz)
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Small White Onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, minced
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and taste. Adjust lemon juice and herbs and spices as necessary to be the most happy to your palate. Let sit in the fridge for an hour to let the flavors mingle and mellow. Serve with bread, butter and olives, preferably in the sunshine with a glass of wine on a mellow day.

 

In Love with The Algarve – Blue

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I think the theme of Portugal, is Blue. So. Much. Blue. We spent a week in Portugal and it was an amazing time. This is the first of a series of posts chatting about things that blew my mind about Portugal. We spent most of the time in The Algarve, and a couple of days in Lisbon. We flew into Lisbon, stayed the night, took the train down to Vilamoura, then after 6 days we headed back to Lisbon to explore for the day, then stayed the night in the incredibly swanky Corinthia Hotel (where the President of Malta also happened to be staying whilst we were there) before flying home the next day.

This gave us a lot of time to knock around Vilamoura, eat great food, drink wine in the Marina and relax. Everywhere you look is blue and flowers and sunshine. The Algarve gets 300 days of sun a year and you can drink it all in. It’s beautiful.

 

Portuguese food is diverse and delicious and I’m now obsessed with a couple of different things. Predominantly Couvert and Pastel De Nata. And then there is the wine. It’s so different and there is a uniqueness to it. Vinho Verde is a completely new style of wine for me. I’d never tried it before, but I loved it.

 

We are already talking about going back the year after next. There is so much more of this awesome country to explore.

Shall We Away?

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And then there are the days when it’s time to wander. Pack your bags. Call an Uber. Head to LAX. Sit and have breakfast with your Partner in Crime. Hop on a plane. Drink Screwdrivers and watch more than one guilty pleasure movie. Then hop on the Wifi to get some work done before you land in JFK. Then across the sea to Portugal. Which is where I’m headed right now. To explore Villamoura a little bit, to eat and roam and rest. Whilst still of course, working. Because a girl must work even on the down days.

Freelance life is tricky. The good thing is, your work goes with you everywhere. The bad thing is, your work goes with you everywhere. I don’t travel light any more. I love my studio case, but I don’t love feeling like a pack mule when I travel, I mitigate this as best I can by checking all my bags except my favorite travel purse. Stick on a hat. Feel marginally more fabulous.

So to an apartment in Portugal, to spend time with my Partner in Crime and the woman I want to be when I grow up. And to explore. I can’t wait to see what I find. I hear it might involve pastry and I cannot wait.