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I’m moving!

I’m moving my blog to my own domain (thanks to Jeremy for hosting), so I will not be adding posts here anymore. For all future stuff check out http://blog.tiffanybroadbent.com

Thanks!

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Brandon Plantation House

Brandon Plantation House

This past weekend we had a turn of nicer weather so Jeremy and I made a day trip on Saturday to visit Brandon Plantation on the James River. We started the day at the first Williamsburg Farmer’s Market of the season, had breakfast at the Trellis, then just started driving. We didn’t have a particular destination in mind, only that we wanted to take advantage of the sunny (most of the time) weather and get out of the house. We decided to go across the Jamestown-Scotland ferry and found (using a paper map, craziness!) a place called “Brandon Plantation“. After a bit of Googling on my Droid we found directions and I called to make sure they were open (they were, until 4pm).

As we came up the long drive the weather started looking a bit grumpy, but the clouds had been coming in and then dissipating all day so we decided to stick with the “being outside” plan. We pulled into the parking lot and were the only car there, there was no sign of anyone else at the plantation aside from a car next to one of the secondary buildings. The admission fee is $8 on an honor system so we decided to poke around quickly, see if there was more than just the immediate area to see (there definitely was), and then pay our fee. Just as we walked up to the house there was a random downpour for about 2 minutes but then after that we were given a break from the rain and Jeremy and I explored the freshly rained-on gardens and grounds (yielding a few fun “raindrops on plants” photos ;) ).

The house (which is not open to the public) is a really cool bit of architecture and the gardens are broken up into little “rooms” with a single entrance to each. The daffodils were in full bloom as well as many of the trees. The plantation was built right along the James River so we stopped at the riverside and enjoyed the views, snapped some photos of the storm clouds go over the opposing shore and then headed home. The entire time we were there we only saw one other person, the gardener, but it was a great afternoon trip and definitely a spot to come back to as the flowers continue coming up (it’s also on the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week list of places to visit).

Brandon Plantation Flickr Set

Brandon Plantation Flickr Set

So those have been all of my photo trips as of late. Hopefully I can be a bit more diligent about posting as the weather gets nicer and we go out on more excursions.

Happy Spring!

Jeremy and I went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden at the end of January in the pursuit of flowers in the midst of the crazy winter we’ve been having, thankfully they have a great greenhouse with seasonal flowers on one side, tropical plants in the center, and orchids on the other side. It was great to get outside and walk around (and go inside the greenhouse and enjoy the warmth and lovely flower smells) so we decided to buy an annual membership since we usually go to the gardens two or three times a year, and with the admission price for two people it was worth it to buy the pass. The extra bonus with the membership is that it gets you into a whole slew of other botanical gardens around the country (including the gardens in Norfolk), so it’s a really great deal and is now in the rotation of default places to go take photos when we need some inspiration. Flickr sets linked below.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Flickr Set 1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Flickr Set - trip 1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Flickr set - trip 2

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Flickr Set - trip 2

Norfolk Botanical Garden Flickr Set

Norfolk Botanical Garden Flickr Set

"Free Smells" PicPlz photo from Austin

I’ve joined in on the “use your smart phone to take pictures and then add filters to it” trend and have started using an app called PicPlz to try and practice taking more “random” photos of everyday stuff. So every once in a while either in my Twitter or my Flickr stream (or both) you’ll see a photo or two appear from something random I noticed during my day. My first PicPlz photo was taken at on our first trip to Lewis Ginter.

So it’s been a ridiculously long interlude since my last post so the next few posts are a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to.

SXSW 2011First, I went to South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin in March with Jeremy, that was a blast.

I had my first food truck encounter (so good!), met a bunch of the Foursquare development team, got to go in as a VIP to the Foursquare party (we were waiting in line and one of the guys at the door recognized us from the earlier Superuser meetup and he pulled us in), saw a screening of “Win Win” with Paul Giamatti (including seeing the cast in person after the show at a Q&A), and went to tons of sessions ranging from social media and location-based services to keynote talks by Dennis Crowley (CEO of Foursquare), Felicia Day (of The Guild and Dr. Horrible fame) and Guy Kawasaki (former Product Evangelist for Apple).

Since this is one of (if not the) biggest general tech conference in the country it was definitely a bit overwhelming (lots of people, lots of social interaction, lots of networking) but I came out of it with some fun ideas to bring back to the College and got to meet up with some fellow W&M alums who were either attending or presenting at the conference.

chicago – day 2

Since our flight was not until 7pm Sunday night we had pretty much the entire day for exploring. We decided to go to the famed Field Museum of Chicago, but first we stopped for breakfast at a bagel place called NYC Bagel Deli (found courtesy of Yelp, again, yay for social media), New York-style bagels in Chicago, I know but they were really good (I got an everything bagel with garden veggie cream cheese, that’s my control case for bagel places, if they do that well, then they’re golden). After breakfast (and coffee for me) we made our way to the nearest El stop and hopped on, riding “the Loop” around downtown Chicago to the Field Museum. As we were walking to the museum we went past an interesting, and slightly creepy art installation called “Agora” that had the backdrop of the Chicago skyline, a very cool locale to be sure. Then we were off (after taking some panoramic shots of Chicago from the steps of the museum) to explore the Field Museum.

When you first enter the large atrium/lobby of the museum you are greeted by its most famous resident, Sue, the largest, most complete and best preserved T-Rex. We started on the top floor of the museum with the gemstones, and worked our way around the floor looking at the ancient Asian artifacts, meteorites and more, and realized we’d spent over 2 hours just on that floor…there was no way we were going to be able to get to any other museums that day. So we took our time strolling through the other areas of the museum, past the “Gold” exhibition, the menagerie of stuffed animal specimens from around the world and of course, the dinosaur fossils.

After we finished at the museum we went to a restaurant called Mercat a la Planxa, a restaurant owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces. We were there just in time to catch the brunch tasting menu, we had the option of picking four tapas courses and unlimited bloody marys, mimosas or 3 different flavored sangrias or five tapas courses, all for $25. Not being able to pass up such a good deal for food and drink we opted for the four course menu and I had the rosemary and grape sangria and Jeremy had the pomegranate peach sangria. The entire menu is (not surprisingly) Spanish-influenced and was very tasty, Jeremy and I made sure to order different items so that we were essentially getting an 8 course tasting menu.

Brandade

Brandade (this was very good)

Bacon-wrapped dates

Bacon-wrapped dates

Andouille potato hash

Andouille potato hash

Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and grits

Grilled chicken sandwich

Grilled chicken sandwich

Crab salad

Crab salad (yum)

Ham sandwich

Ham sandwich

Steak and scallop

Steak and scallop (one of my favorites of the meal)

Cream puff with berries

Cream puff with berries

Rice pudding

Rice pudding (and Jeremy trying to get into it before I was done taking photos)

Chocolate pudding

Chocolate pudding

Once the meal was over they were done serving brunch (it was 3pm) and they were gearing up for dinner, so when we asked to see a dessert menu they just brought us the three “demonstration” desserts for the day for free, a very nice gesture and they were quite tasty as well. I had my DSLR with me this time for photos (and my 50mm prime lens) and since the restaurant was pretty quiet it was much easier for me to take pictures (although the server did catch me doing it one time, saying “We see a lot of people doing that”, so I didn’t feel quite so guilty).

After lunch we checked out of the W, and hopped on the El back to O’Hare. Our flight left on time and we were back in the ‘burg by 10:30pm. Overall it was a great trip (and a lovely surprise), I was expecting Chicago to have more of that “big scary city” feel but it didn’t. There is some really cool architecture there, nice parks and walkways along the water and great restaurants, I’m definitely looking forward to the next time I can return.

All of my photos of the trip are up as a Flickr set.

Chicago dinner day 1 at L20

So whenever we go on a trip Jeremy always tries to find a tasty place for dinner one of the nights we’re there, with extra bonus points awarded to restaurants that offer a tasting menu. He found out about L20 via UrbanSpoon (yay social media) and made reservations for us for Saturday evening. We took the complementary car service from our hotel and it was about at 15 minute drive north to the restaurant situated in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

The whole decor was very modern, lots of wood (both natural and enameled), with a white branch sculpture/flower arrangement (on various branches were little clear test tubes with white orchid blossoms in them) as the main focal point of the room. There were about 20 tables in the entire restaurant and probably 10 or 12 staff members, so the service was excellent, there was never a time where your water glass was empty or an empty plate sat in front of you (and as in many fine dining restaurants, I always get a kick out of how if you get up from the table at any time during the meal a fresh napkin is awaiting you when you come back, no using “old” napkins! Sometimes it was almost a race to see if you could get back to the table before the server had returned with the replacement napkin). The service there was probably the most efficient and attentive that I’ve experienced and the food was excellent.

L20 brands itself as a seafood restaurant and they definitely follow that in their tasting menu, with only 2 non-seafood savory dishes out of the 12 course fall tasting menu. The first few courses were sushi/sashimi style, which was a new food experience for Jeremy as he isn’t much for sushi in general, but the preparations of these wasn’t your typical “sushi roll” and the quality of the ingredients made each dish delicious. Nearly every course came paired with its own wine and we were also served an amus bouche along with a pre-dessert palate cleanser and post dessert cookies so in total it was more like a 14-course wine-pairing meal, needless to say we were very satisfied by the end of the meal. Here’s the rundown of the dishes with photos (apologies for not the best composition/focus on these, I was trying my best to be subtle when taking the pictures, didn’t have the flash on, but with so many servers milling about I wasn’t able to keep my little photography project very secret).

Amus Bouche
Smoked diver scallop in gelatin

 

Smoked diver scallop in gelatin

Smoked diver scallop in gelatin


Wine 1: Alsace seyval blanc

Course 1: Hamachi and tuna with uzu marinade and micro chives

Hamachi and tuna with uzu marinade and micro chives

Hamachi and tuna with uzu marinade and micro chives

Course 2: Fluke tartar with olive oil and salt cured lemon (the salt cured lemon really added a lot of dimension to this dish, this was my favorite of the “light” courses)

Fluke tartar with olive oil and salt cured lemon

Fluke tartar with olive oil and salt cured lemon

Wine 2: Sake

Course 3: Himachi-wrapped uni with apricot oil (never had uni before, interesting texture but tasty)

Himachi-wrapped uni with apricot oil

Himachi-wrapped uni with apricot oil

Wine 3: White rioja

Course 4: Diver scallop with a passion fruit, sauvignon blanc and vanilla sauce, with caramelized cauliflower

Diver scallop with a passion fruit, sauvignon blanc and vanilla sauce, with caramelized cauliflower

Diver scallop with a passion fruit, sauvignon blanc and vanilla sauce, with caramelized cauliflower

Wine 4: Kabinett Riesling

Course 5: Fois gras a la planca with a baked citrus marmalade, braised fennel and citrus zest (very rich, but love the texture of the seared fois gras)

Fois gras a la planca with a baked citrus marmalade, braised fennel and citrus zest

Fois gras a la planca with a baked citrus marmalade, braised fennel and citrus zest

Wine 5: Melville Chardonnay

Course 6: Butter poached lobster bisque with chestnuts, Cognac and fresh cream (the broth on this bisque was amazing)

Butter poached lobster bisque with chestnuts, Cognac and fresh cream

Butter poached lobster bisque with chestnuts, Cognac and fresh cream

Wine 6: Viognier, Greece

Course 7: Salted cod with fingerling potato emulsion and Italian caviar (a bit salty but the potato emulsion was a cool twist)

Salted cod with fingerling potato emulsion and Italian caviar

Salted cod with fingerling potato emulsion and Italian caviar

Wine 7: Bohan fillan 2008 pinot noir

Course 8: Snapper with cilantro merengue frozen table-side with liquid nitrogen, curry, coconut powder, cumin coriander chip, jasmine rice sauce,  and brussel sprout leaves (this dish was both Jeremy’s and my favorite)

Snapper with cilantro merengue frozen table-side with liquid nitrogen, curry, coconut powder, cumin coriander chip, jasmine rice sauce,  and brussel sprout leaves

Snapper with cilantro merengue frozen table-side with liquid nitrogen, curry, coconut powder, cumin coriander chip, jasmine rice sauce, and brussel sprout leaves

Wine 8: Montsano Chianti

Course 9: Halibut with lemon truffle sauce, shaved truffle and celery (this was one of the first times I had whole fresh truffle, honestly, it didn’t have the crazy amazing flavor i was expecting, just very subtle mushroom/earthy flavor)

Halibut with lemon truffle sauce, shaved truffle and celery

Halibut with lemon truffle sauce, shaved truffle and celery

Wine 9: Man O’ War Syrah, New Zealand

Course 10: Korean shortrib with green cabbage, sauteed romaine with sesame oil, homemade kimchi and tempura rapini

Korean shortrib with green cabbage, sauteed romaine with sesame oil, homemade kimchi and tempura rapini

Korean shortrib with green cabbage, sauteed romaine with sesame oil, homemade kimchi and tempura rapini

Dessert palate cleanser: Frozen passionfruit orange marshmallow

Frozen passionfruit orange marshmallow

Frozen passionfruit orange marshmallow

Course 11: Caramelized apples with brown butter, toasted milk ice cream, red apple cake, vanilla sphere (remembered a bit late to take a picture for this one)

Caramelized apples with brown butter, toasted milk ice cream, red apple cake, vanilla sphere

Caramelized apples with brown butter, toasted milk ice cream, red apple cake, vanilla sphere

Wine 10: Moscato, Sicily

Course 12: Orange grand marnier soufflé with orange marmalade (this was so good! sweet and tart and soft and crunchy all at the same time)

Orange grand marnier soufflé with orange marmalade

Orange grand marnier soufflé with orange marmalade

Bonus mini-dessert: Lemon merengue and Cantaloon cookies (I had no room to finish these, took bites to taste and that was all, Jeremy really liked them though)

Lemon merengue and Cantaloon cookies

Lemon merengue and Cantaloon cookies

Overall, if you like seafood, you will love L20, the quality of the ingredients was impeccable and the tastes and flavors were some I had not ever encountered before. Yum.

So every year in the fall Jeremy and I will take a mini-vacation. The past two years we have gone to Charlottesville, Va but this year Jeremy said he wanted to surprise me and so he made arrangements not telling me what they were, just that I was to pick him up from the airport after his business trip to PA. He managed to keep the destination secret for over two months…then I get an email from United Airlines the Friday before we were supposed to leave informing me of my “upcoming trip to Chicago”, busted! (And I informed Jeremy as such with a text message promptly after receiving the email). We had both talked about wanting to go to Chicago sometime as neither of us had ever gotten farther than the O’Hare airport so this was a great surprise.
So Friday afternoon I head to the airport and we fly out (first class! Yay upgrades!) around 5pm. The awesome thing about first class is the unlimited beverages…including wine, which we both took full advantage of on the flight ;) We landed in Chicago at 6pm Central time, made our way to the subway and picked up a 3-day unlimited transit pass (definitely the best value for a weekend, $14 for unlimited rides vs $1.50 per ride otherwise, and since we were planning on using public transport as our primary transportation this worked well for us, no worries about running out of fare on your transit card). Our hotel, The W – City Center is on the blue line which comes straight out of the airport, so a 30ish minute ride and a bit of wandering later we made it to our hotel and checked into the room. The lounge/bar/lobby of the W was pretty busy with the cocktail crowd but we’d had enough wine on the plane so we headed up to our room.
This room is so cool, I *love* the decor, very modern and graphic, but cosy too. Instead of the bed being perpendicular to the door when you walk in it’s facing you and the first thing you see walking in, definitely a focal point with its dramatic under-bed lighting. There’s lots of cool mood lighting and the lampshades have screenprinted text of various words that start with “w” (wish…their main slogan word, welcome, wonderland, wordplay, etc.) and an art/light piece with the quote “life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” So overall a very swanky, very cool room.
This morning we woke up early (for this timezone, around 730) and went to breakfast at a local diner. They had all the classic diner breakfast items, Jeremy had pancakes and sausage, I had a spinach and feta omlette with flat-top hash brown potatoes (so good! crunchy golden brown deliciousness) and toast. After that filling breakfast we headed to the number 6 bus that took us on a scenic ride following the lakeshore down to the Museum of Science and Technology.
The museum was very busy and even though we got there right when they opened at 930 we still had to wait about 15 minutes in line to get in, but there were enough distractions of exhibit advertisements and people watching that it wasn’t too bad. They had just started their holiday exhibition so the main lobbies were decked out with dozens of Christmas trees (each themed as a different country), a nice way to start out the holiday season. There are dozens of interacive exhibits, from the human body and genomes to farming technology, trains, planes (including an entire 727 you can walk through) but my favorite area was the storm and weather area. There were cool simulated tornadoes, explanation of how lightning and static electricity works, and demos of a miniature tsunami showing how different types of coastlines affect the waves.
Around noon we left the museum in search of food and after a quick consultation on Yelp and Urbanspoon we decided on The Nile restaurant, a Middle Eastern place, about two blocks from the museum with a very well reviewed red lentil soup. So we take a quick walk to the restaurant and try to order a “lighter” lunch since we are going to a nice dinner this evening at L20. With that in mind, Jeremy and I split a bowl of the red lentil soup (which definitely lived up to its reputation, savory, earthy, hearty…although it was yellow not red, not sure how that works), a cucumber and yogurt salad with various herbs in it (also very tasty) then we both got pitas, mine with chicken, Jeremy’s with beef and lamb. Both pitas had yogurt, tomatoes, thin slices of pickle and red onion along with the marinated and seasoned meat, and the pita was grilled/pressed making the outside toasty and crunchy but the inside still soft, yum! And to top it off the whole meal was under $20, a very good deal for the amount of food they gave you.
After lunch we decided to take the 6 back uptown and we wandered along the river and lakefront, snapping some photos of the city and its cool and varied architecture along the way. We’ll relax at the hotel until 6 then we’re taking the complementary “Acura experience” chauferred car (you watch a marketing video apparently during your ride) to dinner at L20 (tasting menu here we come!) :)