A Day in Oberlin

Spent the day in Oberlin, a quaint little college town 40 minutes west of Cleveland. 

Making music on the street

Making music on the street

The 'ol five and dime

The 'ol five and dime

#teamsawyer selfie

#teamsawyer selfie

Had a great little breakfast at Black River Cafe then walked around campus with minis and talked about college, life, and hanging upside. 

It was a fine little Sunday.  

My lil monkey 

My lil monkey 

All images taken with Samsung nxmini as part of the Imagelogger program.

Cedar Point

Cedar Point, or America's Roller Coast as its known to coaster enthusiasts everywhere is right in our backyard. We don't get up there as often as we used too but we did manage to meet up with Team Classy Chaos at the beginning of the summer. 

When we arrived at the park, we headed directly to the new family rides, Pipe Scream and Lake Erie Eagles. The minis are not yet ride enthusiasts so we thought this ride would be a perfect introduction since we could all ride together. We picked Pipe Scream as our first ride and moments later we were off on a massive up and down barf machine. The boy and the Chef LOVED it. The girl and I did not. Next up was Lake Erie Eagles which ended up being more our speed. Flying thru the air, we got to control our very own Lake Erie Eagle. The minis enjoyed this one and the big kids did too. 

The rest of the day we spent walking through the park with friends hopping on and off rides, taking selfies with Snoopy, and enjoying the company and the park's effervesce atmosphere.

Cedar Point is such a great part of Ohio and all of the midwest. If you are still looking for a summer weekend, Cedar Point has something for everyone. 

Things to Do in Carmel By The Sea with Kids

Last week #teamsawyer was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Northern California. The Chef had to work the entire time so the minis and I headed out for an adventure. Two kids, one mom, one convertible. FTW. 

Here is what we did:

  1. Point Lobos State Park is an amazing state park that is considered the "crown jewel" of state parks. The minis and I ended up spending about five hours watching scuba divers, hikers, and seals enjoy the California coast. We found a secluded beach that we buried each other in the sand and chased birds at Bird Island. The trails are ever changing, beautiful, and easy to hike with kids. 
  2. Earthbound Farm Stand was a total surprise stop for the minis and I. The Chef went to the farm in the morning for a press breakfast. The minis and I skipped it but the name popped in my head after our big hike at Point Lobos. I googled it, dropped the top, and drove to the stand. The Earthbound name is well known in our house as we are a primarily organic family. The farm stand is simply adorable. There is a great children's garden and the food is simple and good. There is a salad bar made up of all Earthbound Farm's organic lettuces and veggies, a daily panini option, and grilled cheese for the minis. We took our lunch in the children's garden and had lovely afternoon.
  3. Souvenir…A French Apartment Shoppe We spent an afternoon walking and shopping the streets of Carmel by the Sea. The girl and I skipped ahead while the boys were in a knife shop and found ourselves in this adorable Parisean inspired shop. The store owner took one look at Lou and had to give her something sparkly. Lou walked out with a sparkly letter "L" and I ended up purchasing a super long French locket. 
  4. Carmel Beach is stunning. I think Carmel Beach will probably end up being the reason #teamsawyer relocates to Northern California. It's filled with dogs, people, clean sand, and a crystal blue shoreline. It's a great walk with kids because the beach is home to more seaweeds than you will ever see in your life. The Chef had a blast discovering and sharing seaweed stories with the minis. 

We had a blast in Carmel and it was easy to spend the day enjoying it's beauty. Kids had a wonderful time and really enjoyed every aspect of our time in Carmel. 

Walden Inn and Spa

The Chef and I might be turning into the same person. This year for Christmas we agreed to buy a very small gift for each other. We set a budget and agreed not to go over it. Mostly though, we agreed to actively spend time together, not working, not talking about work, and not thinking about work.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my gift to find a spa day at The Walden Inn and Spa in Aurora, Ohio. Better yet, imagine his surprise when he opened his gift to find a three night stay at The Walden Inn and Spa in Aurora, Ohio. How ridiculous is that? I had no idea the Chef even knew what a spa was. We bought each other the same gift. At the same place. Like I said, we are totally turning into each other.

We decided to go the day after New Years to start off the year with a bang. I shared my spa day with him (back waxing CHECK) and went spent three glorious days together. It was unbelievably amazing.

couple spa room

The spa itself is gorgeous and the shared couple rooms are ridiculous. The wonderful thing about doing a treatment is that you get the room for an hour before and after. The room is huge with a giant hot tub, two massage tables, sauna and steam, a reading nook, and a wintery view of the woods. We most definitely enjoyed our spa day.


I knew about The Walden thanks to my bff getting married there a few years back. While I didn't stay for the wedding it was hard to forget the simple beauty of the atmosphere. The Inn is large but not overwhelming and the staff has a way of being all encompassing but never intrusive. For the most part we barely saw a soul. Each night we watched a movie in the private theater all by ourselves. We made popcorn and drank cider and watched cheesy stoner comedies. It was so much fun! We also found ourselves taking an exorbitant amount of baths. I think in our entire marriage I have known the Chef to take a bath once. In three days I think he averaged two baths per day. We were very clean. We were also very very happy. It really felt like a second honeymoon. 

We ended up eating out a few times as The Walden's main restaurant The Barn was closed for  winter holiday and the room service food was meh. We had two meals out and both were not super exciting but I'm glad we did it. We never ever get a chance to see what other people are cooking. Our time at The Walden was easily the best Christmas present either of us have ever received!

If you have a chance to spend a weekend at The Walden, I highly recommend it. I know that the Chef and I plan to start our new year off every year at The Walden, it is good for the soul and great for the marriage. 

The Public Hotel


The Chef and I had to be in Chicago earlier this month because he was participating in the Chipotle Cultivate Fest. It was the weekend following our anniversary so we planned to spend the weekend holed up in a hotel in between chef duties.  

I reserved a room at The Public Hotel because the Chef had stayed there during another trip and loved that they lent out bikes to their guests. I booked a loft room and we were on our way!

When we arrived I noticed how clean and pretty it was.

Very boutiquey, very hipster.

We checked in and were given keys to our room. The bellhop accompanied us and when we got the room I found myself a bit surprised. I reserved a loft room which was described on their website as: 

including a King sized bed and living room area with pull out sofa. Classic city views with large work area, custom lighting, mix of custom and iconic pieces of furniture, comfortable slip-covered sofa and chairs, down comforters and pillows, imported 300 thread count Frette linens. Bathrooms with bathtubs, custom corian sinks and marble mosaic floors. Flat-screen 55” LCD high definition TVs with full cable access, complimentary WiFi, customized minibar, ipod docking stations, and safe

That night the Chef and I headed to Blackbird to meet the other chefs participating in the event for dinner. We decided to ride the bikes that the hotel provided to the restaurant. About halfway their the Chef's tire popped. We called the hotel explained the situation and expected them to offer to bring us another. Instead the manager told us to walk them back. Seeing as how we were soon to be late to dinner and almost to the restaurant the Chef expressed disappointment at the manager. After a 10 minute conversation/argument the manager agreed to have a bellhop walk us a new bike. We were shocked that a luxury hotel could have not a care less for their guests. We were super bummed about our bad hotel pick for our anniversary weekend.

Stranded with a flat

After the room bumble and the bike drama I would never ever go back to The Public Hotel. The manager sent us a bottle of champagne to make up for her lack of caring and poor response but it wasn't enough. The fact that the hotel was willing to let a guest be stranded in the middle of a city just floors me.  

While The Public Hotel is beautiful the lack of customer care for such an expensive hotel is astounding. Think twice before booking...

Simon says...thumbs down. 

St. Regis Aspen

The St. Regis Aspen is easily the NICEST hotel I have ever stayed in.

The Chef and I were lucky enough to experience The St. Regis as part of his Chef's Club contract and last month I found myself indulging in all of her luxurious amenities.

The St. Regis Aspen

The St. Regis is located at the base of Aspen Mountain and is walking distance to anything and everything in this glamorous snowy town.

The Chef spent most of his time in the kitchen so I was free to explore the St. Regis at my leisure. After a full day of snowboarding at Buttermilk Mountain I headed straight to the glorious Remède Spa. I steamed my bumps and bruises away and melted in the bubbling grotto. After I couldn't get any more relaxed I headed to the oxygen spa. Never having 'done' oxygen I was immediately impressed and obsessed. 

By the end of my spa session my body was a bowl of jello.

Never having been as relaxed as I was when I left the spa, I slowly headed back to our gorgeous room. The St. Regis room that the Chef and I were lucky enough to stay in was quite stunning. With a corner of Aspen Mountain waking us up each morning we sure didn't have a lot to complain about. The bed was one of those beds you never want to get out of and when we didn't have to get up we stayed in. 

St. Regis Guest Room

One of the best things about The St. Regis Aspen is the Chef's Club restaurant.

The Chef's Club features different  Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chefs. The menus change seasonally as do the chefs. Because I happen to be married to one of the chefs I was lucky enough to dine at the Chef's Club numerous times. The restaurant is so gorgeous and the food's not half bad either. There is a kitchen table that was perfect for the solo diner like myself. The staff is amazing and absolutely know what they are doing. The execution of the dishes was phenomenal and the overall atmosphere of the Chef's Club was comfortable yet luxurious without being white table cloth stuffy. I loved it and think The St. Regis has an absolutely beautiful dining experience on their hands.  

Chef Sawyer at the Chef's Club

The St. Regis Aspen has it all.

I almost think it might be the perfect hotel. On the last day as the Chef and I were walking back to our rooms a gaggle of kids ran past us in their pajama's. They had met in ski school and quickly became friends when they realized they were staying at the same hotel.  As we walked towards our room, I couldn't help but imagine my kids running around with their ski buddies, sneaking hot chocolate in the lobby, and promising to write each other when their vacation ended. We most definitely will be back. And next time, we'll be bringing the minis.  

Let's Go To Italy!

The Chef and I get to do some pretty rad stuff. We've travelled our butts off these last two years and that doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Last year the Chef spent a month in Italy headlining a culinary tour and then he hung out in my families  hometown for restaurant research. It turned out to be a phenomenal learning experience for him but it was pretty hard on us. Thirty days away is way too long for our little family.

So when the Chef was approached again to headline an Italian tour we knew we had to be a part of it. The In Cucina & In Famiglia Custom Tour was born!!

The minis and I in Venice 2012

We leave in June and will be spending a week cooking together as a family, hanging with our family (and hopefully yours) all while in the beautiful homeland of my family. The itinerary put together by Diana is simply spectacular and the Chef and I are beyond excited to be a part of such an amazing trip. We hope you can join us!

June 22-29, 2013

Day 1   Saturday June 22, 2013       Depart Cleveland

Depart Cleveland for Florence, Italy.

Day 2   Sunday June 23, 2013       Florence, San Gimignano

Arrive in Florence, Italy.  Private transfer to hotel in San Gimignano.  Time at leisure to stroll through the cobbled streets of this true Tuscan jewel.  Renowned for its bell towers and strategic location over a hilltop, this will certainly be a place to remember.  By late afternoon we will meet with the Sawyer Family as they will spend some time talking to us about their ideas on nutrition and how good food can be made fun for children.  We will end the short discussion with a lesson in the Italian Language and then we will learn how gelato is made.  At the end of our discussions, we will sample some true Italian gelato from Diana’s favorite Gelateria located on the Piazza Della Cisterna in San Gimignano.  More free time to explore the narrow streets of San Gimignano before dinner and then overnight. 

Day 3   Monday June 24, 2013     San Gimignano, Florence

Breakfast at hotel and then transfer to Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance.  Today we will discover the beauty of this elegant city par excellence with a special tour for children with our bilingual, private and certified guide.  This morning we will visit the Galleria Academia to view the beautiful sculptures by Michelangelo, the slaves or prisoners of the rocks and the unforgettable statue of David.  The Academia houses some of the most important sculptures of Florence. (to avoid the long lines, we will prearrange entrance tickets). Then we are on to the famous Duomo of Florence (the fourth largest church in the world), with its grandiose cupola by Brunelleschi, Giotto's bell tower, and the Baptistery with its famous bronze doors.  Our guided tour will include the Piazza Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio. Part of the walking tour will include a climb up through the Duomo’s cupola to the top.  Children will certainly enjoy this adventure and the 360 degree view from high above.  At the end of the tour, you will have time at leisure to enjoy Florence.  During your free-time, you may choose to rest at a local trattoria or visit the open air markets of the San Lorenzo or the Mercato Del Pulcinello for some genuine Florentine artifacts, leather goods and souvenirs.  Upon our return to San Gimignano we will join the Sawyers in a pasta making session.  Of course we will feast upon our creations for dinner.  Overnight in San Gimignano.       

  Day 4    Tuesday June 25, 2013      San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Orvieto

**For those interested, you may partake in a hot air balloon ride over the gently rolling hills of Tuscany….as the trip draws near, we will have more details!!

Breakfast at hotel and then morning departure for Monteriggioni, a tiny city in the heart of Tuscany which was built over 500 years ago as a military outpost by Siena.  The entire town is intact as it was and as a result, the children will be able to walk the original observation wall which circles the town to enjoy incredible views of the rolling hills below. On our journey south, we will stop in the country side for a rustic picnic and have a brief lesson in Italian.  By Mid-afternoon, the adults will enjoy a wine tasting of the coveted Brunello di Montalcino accompanied by local cheeses, olive oil, prosciutto, and vin Santo.  By late afternoon, we will make our way towards the city of Orvieto, in the heart of Umbria.  The origins of Orvieto date back to the Etruscan Civilization.  The first Etruscan settlements, going back to the 9th century B.C., in fact were found inside the turfaceous caves in the bedrock upon which today rises the city itself.  Dinner will be in an ancient cave. Overnight in Orvieto.  

Day 5   Wednesday June 26, 2013    Orvieto

Breakfast at hotel.  This morning you will have free time to explore this wonderful city. During your free time, you may choose to visit the Duomo as it is the most famous Cathedral of the city.  Construction of this Italian Gothic style structure took 100 years to complete and dates back to 1263.  The Duomo houses the blood soaked cloth which is the relic related to the miracle at Lake Bolsena which occurred in the same year.  The modern day Roman Catholic Festival of Corpus Christi is a result of this miracle. Another possible sight could be Saint Patrick’s Well or you may simply enjoy sitting and sipping a cold glass of local white wine as you observe the local color of the town.  If shopping is your goal, there are many beautiful shops to explore as well.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit back and observe the Orvietani (citizens of Orvieto) themselves as Orvieto is a very tranquil and contained city and independent exploration is a pleasure.  Today we have arranged another fun afternoon in cucina, but first, we will explore the extensive underground city of Orvieto.  This is a fascinating labyrinth of tunnels and twists where we will learn about the activities which took place in them for countless centuries.  Mid-afternoon, we will meet one of our favorite “pizzaiolo” (professional pizza maker) in Orvieto for a private pizza lesson.  It is another day to get down and dirty, this time in cucina – so come prepared!  After preparing the dough and delicious toppings, we will also get to enjoy our pizza creations together. For dessert, we will have gelato together in the main piazza. Overnight in Orvieto. 

Day 6   Thursday June 27, 2013     Orvieto, Civita Di Bagnoreggio, Rome

Breakfast at hotel and then by early morning, we will begin our journey towards Rome. On our way to Roma, we will stop in the almost abandoned ancient town of Civita Di Bagnoreggio. This tiny town is perched upon an ancient tufa rock and is accessible only by crossing a foot bridge to get there.  This town dates back over 2500 years to the fascinating Etruscan civilization.  Before arriving in Rome, in the outskirts of the city, we will stop at one of Diana’s favorite “agriturismi/campagne” for a special day in the Italian countryside.  Here we will see live animals and many crops which sustain the typical Italian diet.  The Sawyers will talk to us about their ideas on the importance of the concept of “0 kilometers” and genuine food and how a farm functions in harmony with nature.  We will all have a chance to plant some seeds and harvest some crops before we indulge in a true Italian style country lunch. Our lunch will be very hands on as we are guided by the Sawyers in the preparation of our meal. At some point this afternoon we will sneak in an Italian lesson as well.  In the late afternoon we will arrive to Rome.  Check in our hotel.  The remainder of the evening is yours to explore or to rest.      

Day 7   Friday June 28, 2013      Roma Antica

Breakfast at hotel.  This morning we will gather for a tour of Ancient Roma and all its glory.   As we plunge into the vivacious traffic of Rome, our senses will be simultaneously stimulated by antiquity and modern day society.  We will feel the heart-beat of the city as we pass through the Piazza Venezia where we will admire the huge monument dedicated to the first Italian King Vittorio Emmanuelle II. Today, this has been dedicated to the memory of the unknown soldiers with the eternal flame.  We will pass the Teatro Marcello and The Circus Maximus, the site of many chariot races.  We will take a stroll through the Roman Forum, rich with antiquity.  Through the main square of Rome, crossing the Via Sacra (the Sacred Way), the most important street in ancient Rome where many triumphant processions took place.  We will see the ruins of some ancient monuments as well as the Triumphal Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus, the Curia, seat of the Roman Senate, the Basilica Emilia and the Basilica Julia which were both used for business transactions. We will also see The Vesta Temple with the house of the Vestal Virgins, and finally the Temples of Antoninus and Faustina, Vespasian and Saturn.   If you choose, you may enter The Coliseum the magnificent Flavian Amphitheatre where we will envision the gladiator duels, wild beast fights and naval battles which were arranged for the entertainment of the Roman people. The Arch of Constantine is visible from here as well. At the end of our guided tour, we will have time to relax at an outdoor café or discover something new in the Eternal City.  the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, The Piazza Venezia and the Trevi Fountain.  Afternoon at leisure and then Farewell dinner at one of Diana’s favorite restaurants in Roma and then gelato at her favorite Gelateria in Roma.  Overnight in Roma.

Day 8    Saturday June 29, 2013   Depart Rome

Transfer to Fiumicino International Airport for overseas flights.  Arrivederci Bella Italia!!!                        

This Once in a Lifetime Custom Journey Includes the Following:

  • 6 Nights stay in hotels
  • 6 Breakfasts
  • 2 Lunches which include wine
  • 5 Dinners which include wine
  • A private driver throughout entire journey
  • 2 Private airport transfers: Upon arrival in Florence on June23rd and upon departure from Roma on June 29th
  • Several Cooking lessons and kid friendly culinary discussions
  • 2 or more Lessons in the Italian language
  • 3 private certified bilingual Guides: Florence, Orvieto, and Roma
  • 4 Entrance tickets: to the Galleria Academia in Florence, to the military observation walk in Monteriggioni, to the subterranean caves of Orvieto and to the Coliseum in Roma
  • 1 Pizza Lesson
  • 3 if not more gelato treats
  • 1 wine tasting (for the adults) which includes a light meal
  • The accompaniment of Diana Maiola Cirino and Jonathan and Amelia Sawyer and family
  • A Kick-off Party hosted by Diana Maiola Cirino and The Sawyers to include a lesson in the Italian language

If interested in travelling with us, #teamsawyer, to Italy please email Italian Tours by Diana as the trip is quickly filling up. 

Bon Viaggio!!

Choose Chicago

This past Monday the Chef and I celebrated our  6 year wedding anniversary! Hard to believe it’s been 6 years but hot damn has it been a crazy fun ride. The Chef loves all of me, all of the time. No. Matter. What. I can’t say that about anyone else in this world. We are total lifers and I couldn’t be happier. Sure sometimes I want to punch him in the face and shave his beard of while he’s sleeping but if that’s not love, I don’t know what love is. Totally kidding. He’s the man and it’s dope that he’s mine.

Normally, we tend to forgo presents on our anniversary and usually try to take a trip somewhere. Just the two of us. No work, no kids, just us.

Last year the Chef surprised me with a trip to our friends restaurant in Virginia. This year I surprised the Chef with a road trip to Chicago. We packed our bags and hit the turnpike.

In under 6 hours we crossed two state lines and found ourselves in the Windy City with no kids, no reservations, and most importantly no work. 

Check out or whirlwind weekend in The Windy City:


The James

I picked Chicago for two reasons: the proximity to CLE (5 hour drive for us) and the awesome rate I got on Jetsetter. As I was perusing for hotels, I saw the special for The James. Their website looked cool and they responded to my questions about their gym on the Twitter, so I booked it.

We checked in and immediately noticed the super hip vibe. Being not so hip, I demanded that the Chef take ridiculous pictures of me posing with art chairs. He complied as evidenced above. Because we had absolutely NO SCHEDULE for the weekend, we headed up to our room to relax after the long drive.

Honestly we found ourselves a bit disappointed with The James. When we arrived on the 7th floor we noticed immediately the overpowering cigarette smoke waffling through the hallway. As we opened the door to our room, we were greeted by two double beds. Nothing says anniversary like two double beds! I called the front desk to let them know I reserved a kind room and would like to move. The front desk informed me that unfortunately they were sold out of kings. Obviously it being our anniversary celebration I was a wee bit ticked about the bed situation. I also picked The James because of an interaction I had with the hotel on Twitter. The Chef and I have been working out religiously every single day and I didn;t want our trip to slow down our momentum. Before I booked with the Jetsetter I took to social media to ask if anyone had stayed at The James and if so how was the gym? Did it have a sauna, steam, or spa? Within a few hours The James Twitter responded that yes it had all of the amenities I was looking for and they looked forward to my stay. I booked the hotel.

Fast forward to the first morning of our trip. The Chef and I awoke and headed to the gym. We were completely disheartened as we paraded through the lobby down a flight of stairs in our gym clothes. Once we walked in we were greeted and asked where the locker rooms were. The girl at the desk informed us that there were no locker rooms and if we needed a restroom there was one in the lobby. I asked about the steam and sauna and was immediately shot down. Apparently I had been misinformed on Twitter the girl explained. Feeling a little steamed that I had specifically based the booking on the rooms and the gym I hit the treadmill with a furious vengeance.

The James had it’s issues and I would probably never stay their again however it does have some major pluses. The location is the jam. You are literally in the heart of the city surrounded by shopping, restaurants, theatres, the river walk, and anything else you heart possibly desires. The staff is also fantastic. The front desk worked really hard to get us in a king room and lucky for us they managed to on day #2 of our trip. They also moved us to the top floor so we wouldn’t be surrounded by smoke. The staff really improved on what could have been a really shitty stay.



Our good friend Koren runs Avec in Chicago. The Chef has eaten there multiple times but I hadn’t been so lucky until now. Koren’s food is simple, beautifully executed, and delicious. The Chef and I sat at the bar nibbled on specials as Koren ran around the restaurant, touching every aspect of service. She is James Beard winner and it shows. Girl got it going on. 


I may or may not have totally convinced a patron of PK Meats to buy a few bottles. We stopped into Paul Kahan’s awesome new butcher / sandwich / speciality food shop before we hit up Publican for brunch. The shelf was full of all 6 of our vinegars and a woman was reading the above tag. I walked up and picked up a bottle of rose vinegar when she asked me if I had ever had it. Naturally I gushed about the Chef’s product and let her know my favorite styles. After brunch we came back to see if any of our vinegar had sold. Half the shelf was empty. Crazy exciting to see!


Brunch is the bomb. Publican is the bomb. ‘Nuff said.

GT Fish

It’s kind of funny how we ended up at GT Fish. Earlier in the day we had brunch at Publican with two Chicago culinary staples, Roderick from Rare Tea Cellar and Ellen of Soapbox fame. As we ate thru the menu, Ellen and Roderick informed us that it was restaurant week in CHI and hopefully w had a reso for that evening. Being that our trip was intentionally under scheduled we began to worry that our celebratory anniversary dinner would be a bust. Luckily for us, Ellen and Roderick worked their magic and later on that evening the Chef and I were enjoying our share of to die for oysters and lovely cocktails. At the end of the evening we met Giuseppe Tentori, the Chef of GT Fish & Oyster. He was beyond adorable as he offered up his advice and suggestions for the next time we visit the city. This past week, I was pleased to see his name on the James Beard nomination list alongside my Chef’s. 


This coffee is pretty freaking spectacular. So spectacular that we are going to be serving it in The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat starting this week. 



Koren snuck out for a moment after dinner at Avec and introduced us to her local. We downed a few drinks and talked shoppe. A great end to an already perfect evening. I will definitely be calling this my watering hole the next time I’m in town.


The Chef and I accidentally went to Sepia. And thank god we did. We only got to experience the cocktail side of the restaurant but what an experience it was! The entire restaurant is super cool and my cocktail was fucking amazing. Next time I must go back for dinner especially since I saw their Chef, Andrew Zimmerman, also appeared alongside my Chef’s name on the beard list last week. How weird that two places we visited in CHI had Beard semifinalists  running them? 

‘In Theatre’ Movie Rental

Our final Chicago memory is one of my favorites. The Chef and I had contemplated going to a movie on our last afternoon in the city. We went back and forth on the idea and decided against it mainly because of the health kick we have been on. That is when I had the brilliant idea of renting an ‘in theatre’ movie in our hotel room. We walked across the street to Trader Joe’s, bought some fruit, snacks, and a little dark chocolate, and headed up to the top floor of The James. We rented The Descendants and snuggled up for a relaxing afternoon. Pure awesomeness my friends. If you’ve never rented an ‘in theatre’ movie in a hotel room, I highly, highly recommend it. Lounging in a hotel room is WAY better than sitting in crappy theatre seats while eating disgusting ‘buttered popcorn.’

I definately fell a little in lurve with the city of Chicago. Having only been there once before I definately did not have a great view of what the city actually offers. Spending Columbus Day weekend with the man I love in Chicago was absolutely what the Chef and I needed and introduced me to a brand new city. I can’t wait to go back!

What are your favorite places in Chicago? Kid friendly? Resto’s? Museums? Hidden gems? Show me some Chi City love!


Azul Del Mar

Last year after the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, I surprised the Chef with a one day trip to Key Largo. He woke up thinking we were headed back to Cleveland on our four year wedding anny but we weren't. Haha Chef.  Widow tricked you! I always have a hard time buying the Chef gifts. He is a man that does not want. And if he does want it's probably a freaking 800 lb. french cookbook. And really, how many of those can one man really need? So when the SOBE fest landed on our anny date I thought, perfect, I'll take him to Key West, the locale of our engagement. I started researching the drive, places to stay, and car rentals and realized that a one day trip from Miami to Key West would not be the best way to utilize our time together. The drive alone would take up the majority of both days. I decided to look at Key Largo. I had never been and had always loved The Beach Boys song Kokomo (they mention Key Largo). Yes I know I am absolutely ridiculous.  Howfreakinever,  if the B Boys mention a city in one of their songs, you know it's good times.  The Beach Boys only had good times. Besides you know the whole Charlie Manson, never leaving the house, crazy Brian Wilson thing...Bygones. My first thought was to stay here. I was familiar with the chain and even had a credit card with some points that would knock of some of the cost. I booked a room for $220. I began to read the reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor after I booked and soon decided that this was not the place for us. Every review reiterated the same thing, not clean, run down, and poor customer service. Exactly the opposite of what I was looking for. I continued to obsess on Trip Advisor and finally came across an adorable boutique hotel called Azul Del Mar. We woke up Sunday morning in Miami, the Chef thinking we were headed back to snowy Cleveland, but soon were on US-1 headed south. The Chef was ecstatic.  Anny gift, a success! An hour and a half on US-1, we realized we had passed the boutique hotel we were so excited to get to. Our damn iPhone decided to lose service, we had about given up, and then saw the sign pointing us towards our final destination: The Hotel: Azul Del Mar The first thing the Chef and I noticed about Azul del Mar was how secluded it was off of US-1.  We pulled under an umbrella of trees to see a lovely white beach house. Dominic + Chef The Chef and I headed into a wee house that seemed to be the check in area and found ourselves face to face with Dominic, owner of Azul del Mar.  He inquired about our visit and we told him of our journey.  He pulled out a long skinny piece of paper that turned out to be a map, and started scribbling all over it. You must go here, here, and here he said in his faint British accent, these places have the best local foods. He handed over the keys and walked us to our room, the tropical garden suite.  And sweet it was! As he opened the door to a gorgeous room, I couldn't help but be impressed.  The room was simply decorated with a hint of mod.  Not cheesy seashell motif in this garden suite!  After checking out the main room, we found a giant whirlpool tub loaded up with Aveda essentials.  My heaven.  Love it. Dominic was soon on his way and the Chef and I were set to explore Key Largo. Queen Size Bed + Leather Couch + Kitchenette Aveda + Bubble Bath = Lurve Azul Del Mar was the absolute perfect hotel for us.  It was very secluded, with it's own private beach & pier, and very very beautiful.  The room was large, well decorated, and clean.  Dominic even had the fridge and cabinets all stocked with basic needs like wine glasses and ice!  Our Key Largo trip was pretty amazing and the food was off the hook.  More to come on that later. The best thing about the Azul Del Mar was actually two things.  Dominic, the owner made our stay quite enjoyable.  By the end of our trip he even offered to sell us the joint.  I would have jumped on it in a second but my better half (aka the Chef) talked me out of it.  Best thing #2 was what everyone focuses on for travel, and that is the price.  Azul Del Mar was less than $200 a night and worth every penny.  The ambiance, the intricate customer service, and the seclusion of the boutique hotel made our short trip to Key Largo the most pleasurable trip ever. For more info about The Florida Keys and Key Largo check this site out.  They also have a twitter & FB page and will respond to any Keysee questions. For more info on Azul Del Mar, please head on over to their website.  If you book via phone, tell 'em I sent you! To see more pictures of our Key Largo trip, check out (and be my friend!) Chef's Widow Flickr. xo

Food & Wine Chef's Club in Aspen

The Chef's menu has been featured at the Food & Wine Chef's Club in Aspen, Colorado this winter. Last week he cooked an amazing prix fix and I was lucky enough to experience the deliciousness.

The Chef will be heading back in March for another round of dinners and even though I'm a little biased, I HIGHLY suggest you check it out if you happen to be hanging out in the quaint & luxurious ski town. 

Chef Jonathon Sawyer's Prix Fix

Chef Jonathon Sawyer's Prix Fix

Carne Salata

Red Wine Braised Lentils

Lobster en Papier

Dungeness Crab & Fromage Blanc Agnolotti  

Vegan Chocolate Torte