Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fun and Elegance at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon Afternoon Tea

In my travels, I always go to Washington DC once or twice a year. The museums, the culture, the food- I love it all!

Recently my fiance' and I spent the weekend in DC, staying at our favorite hotel, the Ritz-Carlton! Impeccable service, gorgeous rooms, close by to the Mall and the downtown and longer stroll to my favorite neighborhood, Georgetown.

My focus of this trip was to see family, drink tea and relax with Stephen. I was on a tea-buying trip and wanted to experience different teas in the DC setting.

Our hotel offered some amazing tea. A special blend was send up for Stephen and I in the afternoon to refresh us, and we got to sample the special cherry blossom blend as well. At night, I still had an extra teabag so room service brought up a fresh hot pot of water so I could make ourselves a cuppa or two before bedtime.

Friday and Saturday we visited the museums and shopped in Georgetown where I bought several teas- oolong and black teas- and saw family in Arlington, then on Sunday before we left we enjoyed another delicious room service breakfast in our gorgeously appointed room.

Note- If you have never stayed at a Ritz, get yourself to the Ritz Carlton Washington DC. It is the ultimate in comfort and luxury! And the people- so professional and accommodating. I never ever stay anywhere else in DC.

So, on Sunday we headed back to Arlington to pick up Stephen’s two cousins and off we went to afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City, overlooking the Potomac River and next to the Pentagon City Mall.

We were seated in the cool, stylish dining room next to a fireplace with high comfy couches and a square low table. The kids, Anthony and Genevieve were very excited to be out with Aunt Christine and Uncle Stephen!

The tea began with us choosing our beverages- creamy hot chocolate for the kids and a tropical, woody, green Chinese Sencha called L’Oriental for Stephen, and a green tea with lemongrass, lime, ginger and lemon for myself, called The Vert Jasmin. All the loose teas are designed exclusively for the Ritz win collaboration with Damman Freres Premium Tea Makers. Stephen and I also enjoyed a glass of champagne.

Then came a tiered tower of treats for us all- gooey brownies and gingerbread teddy bears for the kids, lemon tarlets and exquisite chocolate rolls for the adults. The chef came out and personally thanked the kids for coming in, giving them each a wrapped tower of specialty cookies in flavors such as mint chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, and chewy cinnamon oatmeal raisin.
(I got cookies too. I asked ☺) 

The Pastry Sous Chef Steven Sechoka said he creates everything from scratch, and wants each patron to enjoy their meal in the freshest way possible. For afternoon tea, he works with the tea makers to pair the tea seamlessly with the edible delights he creates daily. This man is a true artist!

We also enjoyed mini scones in lemon and chocolate chips, with savory sandwiches of tuna, cream cheese, cucumber and more. Each sandwich was more delicious than the last!

Alas, tea came to end and we were given more treats and bottles of water for our ride home. 
After dropping off the kids to their parents and hugging everyone goodbye, we began our trek back to PA.

What a gorgeous weekend! We’ll be back, DC!

You can enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Pentagon City Ritz Carlton on Saturday: 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and
Sunday: 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at 1250 South Hayes Street in Arlington, Virginia.

Special thanks to Michele Klarman and Nicholas Hines!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19 Pantry Challenge!

Tonight I'm embarking on the Pantry Challenge! First, turning 3 pounds of tomatoes into homemade sauce to freeze, then.... Utilizing several ingredients in the freezer and pantry for dinners this week! What will I come up with.....!?!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

DAWES – Classic, modern, and accessible

DAWES plays Mount Hope Winery (site of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire), July 23, 2014
Review by Special Guest Music Blogger Stephen M. Trimble
In the interest of full disclosure, I will state up front that Dawes, originally from the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, is far and away my favorite band. Ever since I discovered the perfectly constructed, moving, emotional song “A Little Bit of Everything” on Sirius Satellite Radio, I’ve devoured everything the quartet has produced to date, and been delighted at every turn. 
 DAWES Photo by Noah Abrams,
Led by songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith, Dawes has a distinctly minimalist sound, allowing their alluring melodies and Taylor’s soulful vocals to play center stage. Rather than relying on fuzzy distortion to muddy the waters of their superb musicianship, Dawes’ approach is to let the emotion of their songs come to the fore. This creates an accessibility and connection with the listener that is sadly absent from many modern rock bands. 
Griffin Goldsmith, Taylor’s younger brother and the band’s highly underrated drummer, provides a solid and driving backbeat without overpowering the melodies. He also sings strong harmonies, his voice blending well with his brother’s. Wylie Gelber, bass, offers interesting lines that meld perfectly with the attitude of the music. And Tay Strathairn, keys, has a Steve Winwood-like affinity for the keyboards that offers up tasty notes on the Hammond organ and evocative piano that in many songs leads the melodic charge. 
The show in Mount Hope, PA, on July 23 was only my second live Dawes experience (second of many, one hopes). The first, in York, PA at the Strand Theater, was disappointing. Although the band itself had a stellar performance, the sound was mixed in an amateurish manner and thus was almost unlistenable. The bass and drums were mixed so high that you could almost see each note, and as a result, the vocals had to be pushed to the point of distortion, and Tay’s keys were nearly lost in the deplorable mix. 

The opposite was true at the Mount Hope venue. The sound was mixed perfectly, allowing the audience full enjoyment of this outstanding show. The venue itself is on the site of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire—on the outdoor Human Chessboard stage. There is plenty of room to get up close to the stage, making for an intimate experience. For audience members who prefer to sit and watch the band, pew-like benches are arranged to the rear of the audience section. 
In all, about 400 people braved a blustery thunderstorm just before the show and were not disappointed.  The weather let up almost to the minute before showtime, and just as the last of the rain fell from the unsettled sky, the band appeared and opened with one of my favorite tracks: “That Western Skyline” from their first album, North Hills. The story of a young man who follows unrequited love across the country, the tune evokes sadness juxtaposed with an empowering declaration of returning home and resuming life. 
From there, the band launched into stirring renditions of “Most People,” “Just Beneath the Surface,” “From the Right Angle,” and “From a Window Seat” (from their latest album Stories Don’t End); “Fire Away,” “A Little Bit of Everything,” “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” and “Coming Back to a Man” (from their sophomore album Nothing is Wrong); and “Peace in the Valley,” also from North Hills. Notably, they also played fan favorite “When My Time Comes,” with Taylor turning the mic over to the crowd for the third chorus, to which the audience replied lustily. 
The band also offered up three new songs: The fantastic “Right on Time,” “Things Happen,” and “Can’t Think About That Now,” all from their upcoming fourth album, which is yet to be recorded. 
Dawes is a band that makes its living on the road, and had returned to the US only one day previous after a European jaunt opening for Conor Oberst at several shows. Despite this, the band showed no signs of fatigue and delivered a soulful, energetic performance that engaged the crowd and had us on our feet. In addition, my fiancĂ©e and I had a chance to meet Taylor after the show, and he could not have been nicer or more patient as we posed for a picture. This was despite the 40-person line behind us waiting to meet him. 

In short, if you have not yet encountered Dawes either recorded or live, make it a priority. Their combination of strong songwriting, superb musicianship, soul, and approachability make this a special band with the power to endure long after their contemporaries have faded with nary a whimper. And I hope that the Mount Hope folks continue to book concerts at this excellent venue when the Faire is dark (it runs from August to October each year), because it’s a perfect outdoor setting to see a favorite band. 

Special Thanks to Candace Smith of The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Don’t miss the opening of the faire August 2!

Stephen Trimble is a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

#500DaysofBeauty Guest Post- Sun 365 Self Tanner by Kristi

Hey everyone! Happy Spring! I've got a whole host of fun exciting summer essentials, but before those warm rays brown you bronze, get a little bit of help from self-tanners.

The problem, however is the scent, the application, the orange... how to combat this?

My friend Kristi says she has found a decent product:

"I finally found a self-tanner that no-shoot-honest-to-god DOES NOT SMELL. This is monumental, people. My legs will *not* be the color of raw chicken this summer!!"

Plus, after Kristi had it on for a few hours, she said: 
"Ok, now that it has bonded with my skin for a bit I am catching a hint of self-tanner smell. However, it is very faint/tolerable and the color is perfect and has not collected/made dark spots on rough areas.
If you're a fair to medium-skinned gal, this is for you."

There you have it folks- from a lady who has decreed it shall work!

Additional Note: 6 hours later, Kristi did detect the Self Tanner Smell, but it still had great coverage! So during the application process there isn't a smell, which is a bonus!

Have you tried it? What do you think? What kinds of self-tanners do you swear by?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Victory Tasting Dinner Was a Huge Success!

In case you missed it, T Burke Gastro Pub hosted it's first ever Victory Tasting Dinner with Victory Brewing Company at the Valley Forge DoubleTree by Hilton! Four courses of deliciousness! 

The atmosphere that night was perfect- cold and rainy outside, warm and cozy inside. 

We began with a lovely duck confit over leafy greens and a goat cheese croquette, paired with the Swing Saison, the savory duck commingling with the fresh peppercorns and spicy citrus of this refreshing beer. This one was my favorite beer. 

We then moved on to delightful pan seared salmon paired with Golden Monkey, which has 2 imported row malts, coriander seed, and whole flower European hops. This tasted so amazing with the salmon.

The third course found Rach and I getting a little full, but we were ready for the next course! They brought out beer-braised short ribs with Hop Devil, a Victory IPA favorite with whole flower American hops. This was the perfect meal for this evening, with stick-to-your ribs meat and potatoes. This was the end of the savory meal, and next was dessert. 

Dessert was a chocolate brownie created with the Storm King Imperial Stout! Topped with a caramel beer drizzle and frosty vanilla ice cream, we were in heaven! Amazing!

So, don't miss the next one when it comes around!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Victory tasting menu party at T. Burke's at Doubletree VF

This is what you have been waiting for! 

A Victory tasting party at T. Burke's Gastro Pub at Doubletree Valley Forge on Wednesday, March 19th. 

Beginning at 6pm ( Til 8pm), T. Burke's is excited to present an awesome pairing of Victory beers with delicious fare!

For just $35, you get a gorgeous four-course pairing, including delicious duck confit with a Swing Saison; succulent pan seared salmon paired with Golden Monkey; beer braised short ribs with Hop Devil beer, and dessert, well, you have got to be here to believe this decadent chocolate and ale confection!

Don't miss this amazing dinner tasting menu with Victory's best beer and food at the Doubletree Valley Forge on Wednesday March 19, 6-8pm in T. Burke's Gastro Pub!

$35 pp plus tax and gratituty. 

Please contact Michael Rechner at 484-684-1473 or email at 

We can't wait to raise a glass with you! 

Doubletree by Hilton Valley Forge, 301 West Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia, PA. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Romance at the Ritz

Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I never thought I'd be so glad to see February, so please let's leave behind the Polar Vortex. 

Luckily, I've got my engaged love to keep me warm! You can bet with my first Valentine's Day as an engaged lady, S and I will be celebrating! 

One of the places we love to celebrate and visit is The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia.  Set on the lovely Avenue of the Arts near the Academy of Music, the Kimmel Center, City Hall and more.
Time to Relax at the Ritz
In the very first moment of arriving out front, the staff at the Ritz knew our names and that we were celebrating our engagement. Check-in took just a moment, and within minutes, S and I were happily ensconced in our king-size-bed room, enjoying some wine and cheese and marveling over the view and the comfort of the luxurious room. The bathroom was a vision in elegant granite and marble, with a tub, stand up shower, private toilet and marble vanity. 

The king size bed was perfect for lounging and an afternoon nap. The management kindly sent up Philly truffles and cognac which S and I immensely enjoyed! Later, we prepared for dinner at the Ritz's restaurant, 10 Arts Bistro. 
Thank you!
This is set in the main lounge and lobby of the Ritz, with low lighting, a majestic marble dome high above and powerful columns below. This property was previously a bank, and the touches of old classic architecture everywhere. 

Blair & Pear Martini
S and I settled in with drinks, S with a Japanese microbrew and myself with the delicious Blair & Pear honey lavender martini. We toasted our engagement, and perused the menu. We began with the artisanal bread basket and special sushi rolls, the CheeseSteak rolls - sweet and unique rolls wrapped in tender beef, peppers, onions, shiitake mushrooms and a touch of cheese whiz. These were fabulous! Every Friday and Saturday evenings from 6-8pm 10 Arts Bistro hosts a pop- up sushi table with unique and different sushi rolls.  

Philly Cheesesteak Sushi Rolls
Next we enjoyed succulent oysters on the half shell with lemon and lots of hot spicy horseradish sauce. Then the chef sent out tender pork belly to try with a fresh cilantro salsa and baked pita chips. So heavenly!

Pork Belly
For our main courses, I chose the 72- hour brawler braised shortrib over sharp cheddar and sweet potato gratin and candied Brussels sprouts. S chose the braised lamb shank with roasted potatoes and a mint jalenpo glaze. Heaven. S swooned over his duck while I was actually silent enjoying the tender delicious ribs.  Each bite was a delight. 

Short Ribs and Potato Cheddar Gratin
S and I quite liked the lemon intermezzo, then eagerly looked forward to dessert- coffee and cappuccinos with a cheese plates, then a selection of mini ice creams - peppermint candy cane, Dutch  chocolate, praline toffee with lemon shortbreads. S got the sweet potato cheesecake over a cranberry compote and candied pumpkin seeds - it was like Thanksgiving on a dessert plate- a delicious decadent delight. With my sweet tooth for fruit desserts, I chose the apple crisp with tart apples, bourbon soaked raisins and my absolute favorite- sweet, heady cinnamon ice cream. Serious Yum!

For Valentine's Day, 10 Arts Bistro is ready to set the most romantic table in the city - call now to reserve a table on Friday February 14 or Saturday February 15 to enjoy a special Valentine's Day menu at $195 ( tax extra). Also, reserve a room for a night or two to enjoy the most romantic place in the city. 

Don't miss the most romantic place in the city for you and your love!

After a glorious night's sleep in our luxurious bed, S and I headed downstairs for a romantic brunch.  I thought after the previous night's dinner I'd never be hungry again, but when we saw the brunch spread, we were suddenly starving!

We began with a taste of grits and duck confit, potato hash browns, special-order omelets with mushrooms, ham and cheddar, bagels with fresh lox and whipped cream cheese. We especially enjoyed the small glass containers with strawberry Greek yogurt and vanilla. Then the chef sent out cheesesteak eggs Benedict - poached eggs over cheesy tender beef- glorious! We also loved the assortment of croissants and sweet rolls with our coffees. 
Alas, it was time to check out. 
Cheesesteak Eggs Benedict
On the way home, we reflected on our wonderfully romantic Ritz weekend. Luxurious, elegant and romantic - all the elements of a glorious happy weekend. The Ritz Carlton Philadelphia has it all - and you should go and celebrate Valentine's Day 2014!