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May 25, 2012

Filthy 5k Mud Run…One and done!

I don’t know why my husband convinces me to run. I am not a runner. Never have been. To run 3.1 miles is not normal to me. So to run 3.1 miles up and down hills, through mountain trails, across bridges and crossing through a mud pit…well, that’s definitely not normal. It’s a lot harder and more difficult than you think. But I did it! Wahoo! I accomplished my goal to at least finish the race and not stop. I only have Jared to thank for. He helped me cross the finish line with words of encouragement all the way through. Your support, Jared, is priceless.

Dominion Riverrock is a few years old to the Richmond area. It’s an outdoor lifestyle festival with tons of bands performing during the weekend with fun athletic races that include running, kayaking, biking, dog jumping and so much more. It’s an event that brings thousands of people to Brown’s Island in Richmond. We decided to participate in the Filthy 5K Mud Run just to cross it off our list. While it certainly was fun, I probably wouldn’t do it again. We both like to be active in our lives, but running is just not fun for me. I’d rather continue with MMA than run :)

Here’s a before and after photo of us:

After running 3.1 miles, we came close to the finish line and had to Army crawl through a mud pit. That’s probably the tannest Jared has ever been! The weather was pretty ideal. It was a little warm in the beginning, but as soon as the sun set, the temperature dropped and we were freezing!

We were able to rinse off with cold water through hoses that were set up for the runners. As a reward, each runner got one drink ticket to enjoy a beverage after the race. Honestly, Jared had to finish my beer because my whole body was shivering. We were both freezing to death, literally freezing, because it got so cold and we were still damp. As soon as we finished our drinks, we booked the hell out of there, turned the heat on in the car, drove home and took hot showers. We got into comfy clothes and fell asleep. Running certainly takes a lot out of you and I was exhausted.

Running the Filthy 5k was definitely a great experience to share with my husband, but like I said in my headline….ONE AND DONE!

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Apr 18, 2012

A nice little day trip to Williamsburg Winery

I’m pretty lucky to be only an hour away from some of the sweetest wineries in Central Virginia. Richmond is literally a short drive to Charlottesville and Williamsburg, which are two cities that have numerous wineries and can be the perfect little dry trip with some girlfriends. So that’s exactly what I did this past Saturday. Two of my friends and I drove to Williamsburg Winery to enjoy a little tasting and tour. We spent only $10 pp to get a pretty thorough tour of the winery, and sampled seven different wines. The tour was an hour long…no joke! The first 40 minutes was practically learning/walking through the winery, and the last 20 was tasting the wine. I think we definitely got our money’s worth.

As you drive into the property, you’re greeted with acres and acres of land (Williamsburg Winery is 60 acres total). A tree lined dirt path led us to the actual winery. It was just a beautiful, sunny and gorgeous day for this trip!

We arrived late afternoon around 3:15pm. It was fairly crowded, but we were able to get on the 3:30 tour. We walked inside the shop and learned that their wines were fairly reasonably priced. The cheapest was $8, but obviously the price goes up from there.

Our tour began right on time with a short video describing the history of wine and of the winery itself. Not too thrilled about this portion, but the video was only 10-15 minutes. Afterwards, our personal tour guide assigned to our group took us through different parts of the winery. I forget his name, but he was good!

He took us to a couple different areas in the winery including the barrel cellar where wines were kept stored in oak barrels for roughly 6 months.

Continued onto the production area…

And to the wine museum…

Learned that the first wine bottle was called an “onion” bottle (photo on the right). It was suitable for the very rough terrain, note the wide bottom. However, when roads were built, the bottles evolved to what we see now in the stores, which are more compact than the onion bottle.

Now the fun part…taste time! These were seven wines we sampled at the end of the tour. A pretty wide selection with three whites, three reds and a dessert wine. After the 40 minute walking/lecture tour, the whole group was ready for this! Haha!

Everyone got a sheet of paper with the names of the wines so we could take notes. We also received a wine glass with the Williamsburg Winery logo etched on it. We found a spot and our guide started to pour!

I certainly had a favorite, the Lord Botetourt. It’s a red wine with a blend of several different grapes. It was amazingly delicious. It was incredibly super rich and flavorful, which after sampling the whites and lighter reds, felt really nice on the palette. This doesn’t even compare to my Trader Joe wine, sorry La Finca. I can splurge a little bit when the wine is this good. I brought one home with me for a reasonable $14. Can’t wait to enjoy it soon!

Thanks Rachel and Emily for a fun day trip to the winery! If you get a chance to go, think about doing the more expensive tour for only $36. It includes a 2-hour tour with more wines to sample with gourmet cheeses and crackers. But if you decide to go on the $10 tour, you’ll certainly enjoy it. It was well worth the trip.

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Apr 3, 2012

Greek beauty and comfort at Stella’s

I’ve lived in Richmond for seven years now, and never stepped foot in Stella’s until now. I even lived less than five block away and never noticed it before. If you’re a Richmonder like me, and this is the first time you’re hearing about Stella’s, let me take you on a small tour. Stella’s is a rustic and modern Greek neighborhood restaurant located on Lafayette street between Monument and Patterson avenues.

As you walk inside, you’re immediately in awe of the interior design and ambiance—the wide open space, large windows with sunshine coming through, terracotta pots surrounding the ceiling, black and white family portraits displayed on the walls, wooden rustic chairs and beautiful light gray marble countertops—I was in love.

This is my favorite photo I took of the bar with the mirrored backdrop. I just love the reflection of the liquor bottles, terracotta pots and large artwork.

In the middle of the restaurant was a large family table fit for a much larger party, probably 15 or so. It would be a great place to reserve for a birthday dinner or brunch, or even a baby shower.

So, like I mentioned I never went to Stella’s until this weekend. And the funny thing is, I went twice! Once for lunch on Friday and for brunch on Sunday. I had a special guest in town, one of my best friends from college. She was visiting from NYC so I decided to take her here. Totally a great decision! But what was even better was ordering a mimosa to kick off her visit. Mind you, the mimosas were huge for only $6. It was literally the size of two traditional fluted mimosas in one large mason jar. They also had a pomegranate mimosa, which I must try next time.

Because of Lent, I couldn’t eat meat so I opted for their “Famous Grilled Cheese” with their fried potatoes for $6. It was a solid meal, a little too much carbs for my taste, but that was my fault. The grilled cheese was made with cheddar with thick slices of white bread. The fried potatoes were large wedges sprinkled with a medley of dried herbs.

My friend, Jenny, got the Souvlaki Pita chicken for $9. Just look at that massive plate of food. I need to go back and try that one!

It was our lucky day because I ran into a friend who happened to be a waitress at Stella’s. She offered us dessert…her treat. How could we say no? We tried these chocolate truffles with Greek yogurt and strawberries. Oh, it was truly decadent and delicious. The combination of the chocolate, yogurt and strawberry was the perfect trio in one single bite. It worked so well together. I’m not even a huge fan of yogurt! But I was a fan of this.

We returned on Sunday and brought Jared with us this time for brunch. I wanted him to experience this place. Brunch was equally as good. Because I had drank too much the night before, I needed coffee, which they served Carytown coffee. My liver just couldn’t do a mimosa…haha.

And of course, I ordered their Stella’s Crab Benedict with jumbo lump crab meat on an artisan roll topped with poached eggs and drizzled with a sundried tomato hollandaise. All for $12. Um, delish! It’s not your traditional benedict. There wasn’t any ham nor was it on an English muffin. It was definitely less saltier without the traditional ham, however, the roll was a little too heavy. I felt it overpowered the delicate and super fresh crab meat. But overall, it was pretty damn good.

Jared ordered the traditional Greek omelette with tomato, spinach and feta for $9.

Jenny had the Tsouresk, which was Greek Easter bread french toast with almond, topped with fresh fruit and powdered sugar only for $8.

There’s something for everyone at Stella’s, whether you go for lunch, brunch or dinner. Not only was this a beautiful place to dine, they served beautiful food. I am so happy I was able to take Jenny and Jared there, and I will certainly go back. Maybe happy hour next time to try their small plates. Thanks, Stella’s for a wonderful dining experience—food and all.

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Jan 3, 2012

A taste of Art and Soul in DC

The first time I had seen Art Smith on television was years ago on the Oprah show. He made special appearances on her show since he was her personal chef for 10 years. Now, Art moved on from Oprah and made more appearances from Iron Chef America to my favorite reality cooking show, Top Chef Masters. Over Christmas break, my sister Sharon, treated Jared and I to lunch at Art’s restaurant in DC called Art and Soul. Jared and I hopped the metro, walked a few blocks from Union Station and met Sharon for lunch since she works nearby. There, we were introduced to Art’s Southern cuisine with a modern twist and became huge fans of his style of cooking.

From the light fixtures down to the seating, the decor at Art and Soul reflected more of the modern style of cooking rather than Southern.

Art and Soul offers a “Power Lunch” special. For $25 per person, you enjoy three delicious courses. Not a bad price for hi-end quality food.

Sharon ordered off the power lunch menu. Her first course was the smoked salmon salad with dill, creme fraiche and pickled red onion. It was presented in a small canning jar with crusty toasted bread on top of a wooden tray. The presentation was more Southern, which I love. It added a little more character to this course.

I ordered the mac n’ cheese for my appetizer and shared it with Jared and Sharon even though I wanted to eat the whole thing by myself. There was something incredibly special about this mac n’ cheese. The lightness in this mac n’ cheese was addicting. I’m not so sure what blend of cheeses was used, but it wasn’t heavy at all. The crusty top was toasted bread crumbs. It was devoured in minutes.

Each of us ordered Art and Soul’s specialty, free range fried chicken. The chicken was brined in buttermilk served with scallion mashed potatoes and a black pepper gravy. This is the first time I think I ever ate fried chicken with a knife and fork, but it was fantastic. You’d cut into the piece of meat and it was juicy as ever. It wasn’t oily at all and the skin was extra crispy. I believe the “free range” also makes a huge difference in the texture of the chicken.

The third course from the power lunch menu was a warm chocolate chip pecan cookie. It was soft and chewy at the same time. It was not your average cookie. Delish!

If you ever get a chance to visit DC, check out Art and Soul for lunch, it was more friendly to our pocketbook. The dinner prices seemed were out of our price range! The menu was a great blend of artfully crafted food with a soulful touch. Thanks, Art for the experience!

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Sep 30, 2011

Food + Music for Our 1-Year Anniversary

On September 25, 2010, Jared and I tied the knot right here in Richmond and it was absolutely perfect. The sun was shining, the drinks were flowing and people were dancing! Our wedding couldn’t have been any better. It seems really crazy to be writing this post thinking that a year already flew by. A lot of good things have happened since our marriage namely purchasing our first home together and, of course for me, starting Pretty Tasty Things. We’re just thankful that things have been going great since we got married. So, for our anniversary, we wanted to make it special for us so we celebrated in several different ways that brought back memories of our wedding and honeymoon.

The first stop was Charlottesville, VA. We ate dinner at the downtown outdoor mall, which was absolutely the cutest place in Virginia. We didn’t want to spend so much money, so we tried The Hook, a popular diner in Charlottesville. The food was pretty decent, but I probably wouldn’t go back. We didn’t go to Charlottesville to just eat. The real reason was to see Ray LaMontagne perform at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion. Our first dance was to his song, “You are the best thing.” What great timing!

It was only a day trip so we loaded up on coffee before the show started. I didn’t want to fall asleep on the road driving back to Richmond!

Jared is such a Southern boy. He ordered country fried steak smothered with gravy. He had a side of mashed potatoes and corn, which was left uneatened. The steak was good, but the sides were pretty bad. You could tell the mashed potatoes sat on the burner for a while and the corn was straight out of the can.

On the other hand, my all-lump crab cake sandwich, was alright. It wasn’t anything to go crazy over, but it had a good amount of crab meat, which is what I like. I was a little disappointed with the bun. I think bread is just as important as the filling and it fell a little short.

We arrived at the show around 7pm. Jared was a little tired, but I was super pumped to see Ray! We found a spot on the lawn with our lawn chairs and watched from afar Brandi Carlile, who performed beforehand, and my man, Ray LaMontagne. Ray didn’t sing our song, but listening to his sweet sweet voice was worth the trip and money.

We returned back to Richmond later that night, and on our actual anniversary day, we had brunch at Kuba Kuba in Richmond, VA (the Fan). We went to Spain for our honeymoon and granted it’s not anywhere close to Cuba or being Cuban, they both love their café con leches as much as Jared and I do. Every day in Spain, Jared and I started each morning with a cup of café con leche. Since then, we’ve been addicted. We even make it at home, here’s the recipe for it! 

It was crowded as hell at Kuba Kuba, as always. So we sat at the bar and watched these two men cook seamlessly in their small space. It was damn impressive.

We both ordered the California Huevos, which is two perfectly cooked over medium-eggs over red beans and Kuban bread topped with Monterey Jack cheese, lime sour cream and enchilado sauce. It was outstanding. We finished our coffee, devoured our meal and left with happy stomachs.

Our last stop was Emilio’s Restaurante in Richmond, VA (the West End) for dinner. So, Jared surprised me with first stopping at Emilio’s in the Fan. Not gonna lie, the atmosphere wasn’t too great in the Fan. It was more like a hangout spot, a dive bar than something intimate and romantic. So, we drove a little west to their second location in Short Pump. It just felt cleaner and more appropriate for the occasion. We sat and immediately ordered a pitcher of sangria. Thankfully for us, it was sangria Sunday, which meant a pitcher was only $12!

The endless pitcher of sangria filled each of our glasses four times!! The sangria was not as sweet as the ones we drank in Spain, but they certainly hit the spot.

We ordered off the tapas portion of the menu since we ate that way in Spain. The food definitely reminded me us of our trip. The flavors and style were pretty close to being authentic. Our first tapa was the Gambas al Ajillo, gulf shrimp in a special garlic sauce. The shrimp were a little small, wished they were slightly bigger, but the garlic sauce was out of this world. We later dipped our bread in it…oh my gosh. I couldn’t stop eating the sauce. This is definitely one dish I’ll recreate in Pretty Tasty Things.

We also order the Empanada con chorizo. It was stuffed with Monchego cheese and chorizo served with a paprika aioli. We weren’t a huge fan of this one, the stuffing was too cheesy for my liking. We then ate a Pan a la Mediterranea, which was flat bread topped with marinated artichokes, mixed Spanish olives, roasted red peppers, garlic and melted Monchego cheese. It was like a little pizza! Pretty good!

Last, but not least, the mussels in a spicy marinara sauce. OMG. This specific dish definitely took me back to Spain. The first bite was exactly like the mussels I had in Spain. They were as good. The sauce was spicy and flavorful. I would go back and get this over and over again. We ate every last one of those mussels. It was my favorite.

This pretty much wraps up our weekend in food and music. Thanks so much for reading about our food experiences and if you live in Richmond, I would totally recommend Kuba Kuba and Emilio’s for some good eats. Can I just say that Spanish cuisine has got to be one of my favorites!

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