Isla Mujeres

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Our second day in Cancun, we headed to Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast accessible by ferry. Can you believe the color of the ocean?

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It was an easy 15 min ride over and once we disembarked and made it through the gauntlet of people trying to rent us hotels, scooters, and time shares, we discovered some really charming and colorful streets.

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We had the most delicious meal of our trip in Isla Mujeres at the Rooster Cafe. I had gazpacho and tacos, while Sean had a sandwich with sausage, peppers,and cheese. I’m still thinking about my soup!

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After lunch, we made friends with this little guy just hanging out on the street.

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Everything was going great… nice weather, nice meal, nice doggy.

And then we rented some bikes to ride to the tip of the island about 5 miles away. There was a nature preserve and a sculpture garden I really wanted to see.

That’s when things started to go bad.

We got our bikes and off we went. The ride was fairly easy, but we had to share the road with cars, motorbikes, trucks, and everyone else heading that way.

About 45 minutes into our ride and nearly to the tip of the island, Sean stopped. I was way ahead and didn’t even realize he wasn’t behind me for the longest time. Then I cycled back to him to find out the problem.

Turns out his bike just stopped working. Chain was attached, nothing looked obviously broken, but it just wouldn’t go forward.

So, what choice did we have but to abort our plan and head back into town? I rode ahead to see if I could get some help and Sean started walking his bike back. Not fun, guys. 

I ended up convincing a taxi driver to hang our bikes out of the trunk of his car and drive us back into town. When we took the bikes back to the rental place, the guy who ran this business accused us of breaking his bike!

Yeah, we broke your bike by riding it, dude. 

I stood there and argued with him for a good 20 minutes and finally we had to walk away. There was some yelling (from me) and head ducking in shame (from him) but he refused to give us a refund for renting a crappy bike, the taxi ride back into town, time lost, whatever. It was not pretty!

Heads up: Don’t ever rent bikes in Isla Mujeres from Omar!

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We ended up venting with a few bottles of Dos Equis on the beach and all was good again before taking the ferry back to Cancun for the day. 


Spring Break in Cancun

IMG_7431I’m so behind in updating this blog with our travel and food adventures, but here goes my attempt at getting back to it.

For Spring Break in March, Sean and I headed to Cancun for some fun in the sun.

It had been pretty cold in DC, so it was a relief to get somewhere warm (On a side note, DC had a freak heat wave while we were gone and we came back to 70 degree temps)

Instead of staying in one of those big resort spring break hotels, we opted for Airbnb, which turned out to be a great experience our first time.

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I chose a place that looked cute online, had good reviews, and then just left it up to trust. It worked! This is the place where we ended up, which was in the middle of downtown Cancun, and it was only about $60 a night (a great bargain here)

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Getting in to the little house was a little adventure… the owner said her father would be at the house when we arrived, but when he didn’t answer after we kept ringing the doorbell, I had to yell “Oye! Oye!” until someone from the house next door came out. Turns out the father lives next door. But it was all good.

This little sitting room above was just perfect. That big window faced the front garden next to the street and we could hear nature sounds, the ice cream man go by, and other chatter outside. Very sensory overall. 

I have to say, staying in someone’s house is pretty interesting. In this case, the owner wasn’t there and we had the place to ourselves but it felt so cozy. We also really liked her bizarre decorating style.

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As I said, this little cottage was in downtown Cancun, so it was very much out of the tourist hotel zone, which was good in many ways, but not good in others. It would’ve been nice to easily walk outside our room and stroll down to the beach. That’s not how it worked out for us, though we did learn how to use the bus system pretty easily.

The upside was that we were in the middle of a very busy local part of town with plenty of shops, restaurants, parks, and people-watching. Our first night, we walked to the Parque de las Palapas, where we had dinner and then hung out in the main square watching kids ride around in remote controlled cars. There were some really cute but young kids in those cars… one little baby was about 6 months old I think and couldn’t even hold her head up!

We found this restaurant, Piknik, a little pricey for a local place, but the food was tasty. The waiter talked me into this spicy shrimp dish, which tasted good and all, but I would’ve preferred something more simple, I think. In any case, the guacamole was good!

In fact, we went back to this same restaurant a few days later for an afternoon snack of drinks and guacamole and they ran out. As in, NO. GUACAMOLE. AT. ALL. 

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One bizarre thing we discovered in Cancun is that there is a super Walmart there. This Walmart looks exactly like a Walmart you’d find in the States and has all the same stuff, except apparently a very robust selection of alcohol that goes on for aisles and aisles. (We met an American couple in the park  looking for this Walmart for that very reason)

We felt like we had to check out the spectacle of this Mexican Walmart, you know, just to see it, ridicule it, and then never return.

Because why would we go to a Walmart in Mexico when there are Walmarts everywhere in the States? (That’d be like going all the way to Italy and then eating at Pizza Hut or something instead of a real Italian place).

We’d never do that! 

Well, except the very next day… we had to go back to the Walmart and buy a few things. An ipad charger (Sean left it at home), a towel for Sean (he left it at home), and something else I can’t remember that he left at home.

That first day in Cancun was very casual, but Day 2 was when the exciting stuff started to happen.

I’ll give you a few hints:

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some yelling

and something you can’t do in the States, walk around the streets with an open cerveza in hand.


A Texas, Korean, and Southern Food Weekend

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One of my favorite things to do lately is browse Yelp food reviews.

I discover so many new random hole in the wall joints (my favorite) this way.

Like Republic Kolache, for example.

I happened to see the thumbnail for it while browsing for something else.  Texas style Kolaches in DC? How can that be?

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But alas, it is true and Yelp brought this lovely little place into our life last Saturday.

Republic Kolache is only open on Saturdays from 10 am-1 pm inside the American Ice Bar downtown. It’s a pop-up which uses the bar space in the am.

They feature unique different flavors each week and we tried them all including egg & cheddar, half-smoke, sag paneer, cream cheese & pecan, and spiced apple.

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They were all really good, but the sag paneer (a tex-mex version of the Indian dish) and the cream cheese pecan were my favorites. 

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The decor is really Texas inspired and I was impressed by the tray paper featuring all the famous Texas motifs.

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This woman is particularly meaningful for Texans… do you know who it is? Selena, of course! (On a side note, I once went to her shrine in Corpus Christi where she is forever immortalized in a bare- midriff top like this one.)

We understood all the Texas motifs easily, but the only one we couldn’t figure out was the cherries??? Can some Texan out there explain?

All this bread was certainly filling for a few hours, but we had to go home and make some space in our stomachs because that night, we met some friends at the Korean/Southern hybrid restaurant in National Harbor called Succotash.

Here is my “Dirty Chicken” which reminded me of chicken wings with spicy sauce and blue cheese. It most definitely had a Korean flavor though with Korean red chili spice.

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Some of our other dishes included fried green tomatoes, watermelon and peanuts, BBQ ribs, and chicken with waffles.

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We also had Korean chicken wings, collards with kimchi, and a ham and sausage platter.

One of my favorite dishes of the night was this pimento fundido with caramelized onions.

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I would’ve loved to try dessert, but as you can imagine our stomachs were full after all this food. How could we not be full?

While we all thought our entrees were fine, everyone felt the appetizers and the sides were more special and worthwhile. We agreed if we ever come back, we’d skip the mains completely and just order some drinks with small plates instead.


The Red Truck Rural Bakery

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Our friends have been raving about the Red Truck bakery for some time. It’s in a tiny little town out in the country on the way to Shenandoah.

A little internet research revealed that this bakery has garnered so much attention from food critics since it opened. 

One or two of them even call it one of the best small bakeries in the country. In the whole country?

So, of course we had to go.

Actually, we did check it out a few months back on our way from Shenandoah, but got there after lunch and virtually everything was sold out. (virtually, as in, I think we got the last muffin) A good sign, right?

We finally made it back early this past weekend and found plenty of abundance in the bakery case this time.

Our mission: breakfast.

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We were actually on our way to the Barrel Oak Winery after this for breakfast #2, so we went kind of light with our order.

We got the bacon egg biscuit sandwich, which just looks so pretty sitting there on the counter and a cheese and sausage croissant.

It was a lovely sunny day, so we just sat outside on the front step with Quinn.

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The sign says it’s the best coffee on the east coast, and it was pretty good…

The final verdict? I enjoyed our food and I think we’ll go back when we’re in the area. I don’t know that I was completely blown away by it though. 

Maybe we should’ve ordered some sweet things too, but as it was right after New Years, I was trying to cut down on that for a little while. Next time, I think we’ll order a gigantic cinnamon bun and they have this dessert called Moonshine Cake that I’m really curious about. 

The little restaurant itself is cute as can be though and you can’t beat the location in a rural town with one main street that runs about a block.  

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A New Year

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Trying unsuccessfully to get Quinn to walk the plank…

Sean, Quinn, and I started off 2016 with a little fresh air.

After our warm spell through Christmas, the temps have finally fallen to respectable January levels- cool enough so we know it’s winter, but warm enough to go outside and explore.

Our first outing of the year was to Great Falls, Virginia.

But before we landed there, we ventured into DC to get savory kolaches at the Republic Kolache, which according to the Internet, is a home for “displaced Texans.” Unfortunately, they weren’t open (Sean was really looking forward to the brisket and jalapeno kolache), so we had to think fast and remembered a place we had just read about the night before, the Pretzel Bakery.

This little hole in the wall bakery sells breakfast pretzel sliders and a pretzel nutella bomb that Sean and I shared/fought over. (He takes the hugest bites!)

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Having our fill, we headed to Great Falls. It really was the perfect winter day.  

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Sean made fun of me here because I sat on my butt and inched my way down the branch to get this picture. (He just walked down it upright no problem)  

I couldn’t help it though. I really thought I was going to fall in the water! We also tried to get Quinn to walk down the branch but he wouldn’t budge. In fact, he cried a little when Sean walked out on it alone.

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After walking around Great Falls for a few hours, we headed to Old Town Alexandria, not wanting to go home just yet.

We planned to visit a new seafood restaurant on the waterfront with outdoor seating for Quinn, but when we got there, they weren’t doing the outside service anymore. So we ended up at Haute Dogs and Fries, which we’ve been wanting to get to for some time.

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We honestly had low expectations, but this place turned out to be great! We planned to sit at the tables outside with Quinn, but when Sean went in to order, they said we could bring him inside. 

We are now loyal customers for life. 

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The Red Hen

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Long time no see.

It’s been a few months since I’ve updated anything here about our latest outings even though we’ve been doing a lot of fun things. (Sean’s been on my case about it!)

I really do love going back and reading past posts and since we’re gearing up for a new year, I’m resolving now to keep this blog going strong.

So for my first update, I’m reviewing a dinner we had at the Red Hen in the historic Bloomingdale neighborhood of DC. It’s from a few months ago, but the food is just too pretty not to share.

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You’ll need to make reservations a few weeks in advance as this place fills up fast. No reservation but really want to eat here? Don’t worry. Be there promptly when they open at 5:30 pm and snag a seat at the U shaped bar.

This dinner was a pre-anniversary celebration, so Sean and I decided to go all out with appetizers, pastas, and mains. The meal started off with a few fresh pieces of homemade bread with zesty olive tapenade. I’m a huge fan of olives and often make this at home, but the Red Hen’s version was really delicious.

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We were impressed with all their starter choices, but we finally settled on one. This is burrata appetizer, a creamy ball of cheese sitting atop a mound of farmer’s market summer tomatoes and corn.

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The next course was pasta! Sean ordered the duck ragu and I got zucchini pasta. The green pasta was beautiful- if you look closely, the pasta are shaped like flower buds. The sauce was really unique and delicious with yellow squash, green pea puree, lemon zest, and pistachios.

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For the mains, we ordered huge juicy scallops with polenta (pictured above) and slow-braised short rib with smoky beans and chorizo topped with goat cheese.

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Those interesting square wedges on the side are my new favorite Italian discovery, Roman style gnocchi. We ordered this, thinking we were getting the traditional potato based pillows that you normally think of with gnocchi. Instead, these were made with semolina flour, loads of parmesan cheese, and fried rosemary and sea salt. Very delicious and as soon as I got home, I googled recipes to make these at home. 

I actually did make these at home and while they were good, they need some tweaking. I think Red Hen’s version had loads of cheese compared to ours.

It was about here in the meal that we just couldn’t eat anymore with happily filled stomachs. It’s a shame, really, because we were too full for dessert, which looked beautiful judging from nearby tables.

The Red Hen was such a special dinner experience, and worth its higher prices. Each course was creative and we discovered some new taste combinations we’ve never seen before. I’m excited to go back and try some different seasonal dishes on their menu for winter and spring.