What Is It Like Dining at The French Laundry? Dreamy & Sublime!

dining at the French Laundry

Dining at The French Laundry has been a dream of mine since my passion for food, restaurants, and the presentation of dishes bordered on obsession. This world-famous, three Michelin Star, pinch me I’m dreaming restaurant is the place where food lovers spend an evening of a lifetime.

Seven years ago, my wish to dine at The French Laundry came true and Craig and I experienced this spectacular dinner for the first time. As expected, it met every one of my expectations and more. The entire food adventure was dreamy and surreal, delicious and memorable. I wrote about my experience here on the blog way back when I first started Adventures of Empty Nesters. 

Fast forward to 2020 where it was a challenging year for everyone. (I know it’s an understatement!) We put our travel dreams on hold and continued to postpone and cancel every trip, every adventure. However, it was time for me to plan my 2021 60th Birthday celebration during this lockdown even where we saw no end in sight. But I planned it anyway! Always the optimist and planner, I thought, why not, let’s plan something, we can always cancel.

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Travel Connections : Look What I Discovered in Maui!

travel connections

Why do we travel? One reason: For travel connections

I am often asked – Why do you travel? 

Whenever or wherever I travel, I look for special connections, unique moments, and delightful conversations. What do I mean by travel connections?

My goal is to gather stories, backstories, inspirational stories, and going deeper into the lives of the people who live in these glorious destinations. Now that is traveling! Of course, we visit the local attractions, but there is so much more.

Tell me about the food you grew up eating? Please share with me your favorite local place to relax and soak up the surroundings! What cafe do you go to with your girlfriends? Where can I see a gorgeous garden or unique architecture? I want to dive deep!

I ask questions like: Who did you meet on the train? Where were they going and should you go there too? These are the best parts of travel, the connections we search for and often just stumble upon.

Here is my most recent travel connection story!

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A Juicy Springtime Cocktail & Savory Appetizer with Melissa’s Produce

Springtime cocktail

Just for you! A Springtime cocktail for toasting friendship & family!

Spring is the perfect time for a new cocktail adventure! I just love bright new beginnings, sunshine, handcrafted cocktails, and a beautiful asparagus appetizer to accompany the tasty beverage.

We have been raising our cocktail game and consistently trying to include the very best organic ingredients and search for empty nester-friendly recipes. I found a gorgeous Blood Orange Margarita on Instagram, created by The Bitter Fairy. We have made it two other times already and thought it was time to share it with you!

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An Anniversary Trip to Ventana Big Sur: A Luxury Hotel on the Pacific Coast

luxury hotel in Big Sur
We celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary at Ventana Big Sur

Ventana Big Sur – An extraordinary luxury hotel!

After seven months of quarantine, we were more than ready for an anniversary trip. At the time, restrictions from COVID had lifted enough where we could travel to the glorious California coast at Big Sur.

I needed this vacation so much! Tired of being cooped up with no trips planned, it was time. Travel is my passion, my occupation, and honestly, what lights me up inside. I love to create the plans, to experience new places, and find adventure. I’m not ready to settle into retirement yet; there are too many fabulous destinations to visit, too much out there to learn! Don’t you agree?

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Hey Food Lovers, The Virtual Cooking Classes by NYCWFF Are Fantastic!

virtual cooking classes

Virtual Cooking Classes – What do you think of this idea?

Are you tired of the same old thing, day in and day out? Does a new type of cooking adventure sound interesting? A virtual cooking class is a great place to begin! Whether I take a cooking class tour or one close to home, I have learned a ton about the craft of cooking delicious food. These types of classes not only boost your cooking talents, but there is always a surprise tip that you would have never picked up from just reading a recipe. 

Are you looking for virtual cooking classes now that we are not gathering in large groups? The Food Network & Cooking Channel, along with the New York City Wine & Food Festival, have created NYCWFF at Home.

The beauty of wine and food festivals is that they enable the everyday cook to mingle with accomplished and often famous chefs while tasting bites of local restaurant food. Due to COVID-19, we aren’t able to attend festivals and do so many other things, and one of those activities is to take a cooking class with a large group of people.

However, during the Stay at Home mandate, this group of enthusiastic food lovers at NYCWFF managed to put together a cohesive, organized, and delightful cooking class series. 

While safe in our homes, we can all participate in a unique opportunity to cook alongside and engage with an NYCWFF personality.

I have already taken two classes and absolutely adored the experience. These chefs are incredibly generous with their knowledge, tips, and cooking techniques. You never know what new cooking gem will be uncovered!

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Three of Our Best Cocktail Recipes & Videos for Empty Nesters & Friends

        best cocktail recipes

More of our best cocktail recipes for you!

So the project continues.

Our little video Cocktail Adventure has been moving along and catching speed. You all have been so supportive with your comments and enthusiasm, and we aim to please! Even our non-drinking friends are enjoying this little escape as well!

We began this adventure six weeks ago to connect with everyone stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are baking amazing new recipes, letting their creative juices flow, and investigating new personal talents. Also, liquor sales have gone up dramatically! Hello? You are making cocktails too!

Not exactly sure how we could contribute, we created Cocktail Adventures, where we film a short 4-5 minute video and offer a little cocktail history, our favorite recipes, and a travel memory that is enhanced by this drink.

My husband Craig does some research, we include our signature recipes, and I add my friendly spin on our travel memories.

Today you are in for a treat! A tasty trifecta of the perfect ingredients and stories as well as the three videos we filmed in one take. Yep, one take. Why waste time on perfection? There’s no such thing!

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Culinary Tourism is So Much Fun :: Learning How to Make Macarons

learning how to make macarons
Holding a partial tray of pistachio macarons after filling

Travel offers so many types of learning experiences

Is learning how to make macarons a worthwhile life skill? To some, not so much, but to the rest of us, baking challenges enhance our culinary skills, create BIG smiles and a happy sense of accomplishment!

As I write this post, we are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, and flour is at a premium. It took me two weeks to find five pounds of white flour, and I only have it because my stepfather found it for me! Whoever thought that finding baking flour would be a problem?

However, during this small window of time, many of us are turning to baking as therapy as well as a way to learn a new skill. Some are honing our baking chops to see if we can up our game as well! So far, I have tried my hand at Foccacia and Blueberry Scones – Successfully!

Just a few months ago, when flour was an ingredient I took for granted, I learned how to make macarons. I traveled to Seattle to see our daughter and included this culinary adventure. The class was held at The Pantry and was taught by Marianna Stepniewski, a skilled pastry chef, who showed us many special techniques and offered tips and tricks. After she demonstrated what we needed to do, we tried it ourselves and took turns. We divided into four groups of three and each made a flavor.

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Looking For Great Food in Kansas City, Kansas? Let me show you where to go!

food in Kansas City Kansas
Sharing a little barbecue with my friends!

 Is there really great food in Kansas City Kansas? Absolutely!

We discovered unique handcrafted cocktails at The Mockingbird Lounge, artisan popcorn at Velvet Creme, the BEST tacos, and authentic family owned and operated established restaurants that will wow every single visitor. All coupled with the nicest people I’ve met in a very long time!.  Have you made it over KCK?  (BTW, all the cool people call Kansas City Kansas, KCK)!

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Attention Bourbon Lovers :: A Fantasy Trip to the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky

trip to Bourbon Trail
Humorous sign at Mammy’s in Bardstown, KY

An Epic Trip to the Bourbon Trail

A trip to the Bourbon Trail… is this on your list too? Ever since our grown kids came home from college loving this delicious brown spirit, I have been paying attention. Truthfully, at the time of their discovery, I was still favoring the ubiquitous Cosmo. I then moved on from the Cosmopolitan to a vodka martini which was made up of  “Chopin, up, two olives and a twist.”

However, in the last year, my favorite adult beverage is now a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, because I love the aroma and smooth flavor of a good quality bourbon.

trip to the Bourbon Trail
“The Travelers” hanging out by the two-story copper still at Angel’s Envy

This leads me to the story of our most recent vacation, an adventurous trip to the Bourbon Trail. We began our tour in Louisville, Kentucky, traveled over to Lexington, KY and then finished our trip in Nashville, Tennessee. Not surprisingly, it was one of our favorite trips in years!

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A Cheese, Glorious Cheese Tour – Italian Cheese is the best!

Italian cheese
Cheese that has been aged in cavernous warehouses and carefully flipped, cleaned and stored in order to age it to perfection was a sight to behold.

Learning about cheese

Is learning about cheese on your bucket list? Maybe not, but let me tell you that once you know the work and craftsmanship that goes into the making of cheese, you may change your mind. I certainly did. I knew that I loved to eat and serve Italian cheese, but truthfully had no idea what it took to make authentic, real Italian cheese.  A trip to the Veneto Region of Northern Italy was the best way to learn! To get all of the delicious details of my entire tour with Oldways please click ==> HERE!

Italian cheese
Walking in the mountain pastures of Northern Italy

 

Cheese glorious cheese!

I must apologize to my lactose intolerant friends, but ooey gooey, tangy, buttery cheese is divine! Pair it with your favorite wine, grate it over pasta, bake a lasagna, melt it for sandwiches, enjoy a quesadilla or just eat a chunk with a piece of fruit. Tasty cheese is big business and nobody does cheese like the Italians!

Italian cheese
Monti Trentini is a family owned business and located at the base of the Dolomites.

Happily touring for cheese

On my recent culinary trip to Italy with Oldways, our traveling group had the pleasure of suiting up and touring a cheese plant with our new friends at Monti Trentini. Located in the Dolomites of Northern Italy, with views of craggy stone mountains in every direction, this AMAZING facility impressed us all.

I had no idea how much thought, effort and skill, mixed with a little Italian love, went in to making cheese. The cleanliness standards are extremely important and every precaution is taken to make sure the plant is germ free. This cheese is raw, not pasteurized and therefore must be aged in order to kill any possible contaminants. We all wore special clothing and fabulous hair nets.

Italian cheese

The milk comes from happy Italian cows that are only fed local, organic grasses, while they breathe fresh mountain air. They always use the freshest milk combined with certain techniques coupled with a strict aging process and this creates the most incredible cheese!

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