I am pretty sure most of my adventures in life are fueled by my tribe and food. As a registered dietitian, I do talk about food a lot, but I also love to eat food with the people I love. I am so thankful for flavorful adventures with the heartbeats in my life. Food always taste better when consumed amongst great conversation and great people.
The last few weeks have taken me back to some familiar places. Going to California has always been a favorite destination of mine. I have fond memories of the beauty that is California. This trip it was my time to experience Cali in a different way and to create new memories. It was great to go with a couple of my lady friends I enjoy spending time with.
Nothing beats a little quite time while on vacation. Quiet time meaning a play list I love, a little run and the ocean. I enjoy vacationing with family and friends but it is part of my passion to always take a little time for me and do something I will remember for a lifetime. Not only did I get a workout in, but I spent this time looking into the future, how exciting it is going to be and adding to my mental "to-do" list.
After my alone time, I reconnected with the girls and we headed out to explore the area around our hotel by the bay. We started walking and landed in Little Italy. Little Italy was bustling with good vibrations, delicious smells and a variety of restaurants and bars. We had so many places to choose from and decided fresh seafood and craft cocktails were calling our name.
We landed at Ironside Fish & Oyster Restaurant in Little Italy. We were immediately drawn to the large doors opening up to a cozy patio, ambient lighting and a hip, young vibe. There was a bit of a wait, so we cozied up to the bar while we waited on our table. They had a lovely craft cocktail menu with their own twist on classics. I ordered the Old Ironside which was their take on the Old Fashioned. They had a nice selection of cocktails, craft beers and wine selection. We each found a delicious beverage to start the night.
The best part about the Ironside is the fish is fresh daily. They had the local fisherman who provide the protein listed on their menu to know where the fish came from. After gazing around the room and reading the menu, I noticed one particular dish being served: the Lobster Roll. I have always wanted to try this decadent dish and it seemed like this to be a perfect place. I was not disappointed. The buttery and delicious freshly baked roll, complimented by fresh lobster in a light cream sauce and my favorite, topped with thinly sliced onions rings. It was so filling, I could barely make a dent in my fries. I would recommend dining here if you are ever in the area.
After dinner we were stuffed so decided to venture around Little Italy and walk off a few calories. However, we were drawn into a quaint little shop on the corner by sweet smells of gelato and lattes. We were greeted in Italian and were called Bella (which I think I could get use to) and immediately felt the coziness of this little cafe. Pappalecco's had a lovely variety of freshly made gelato. We could try a bite of all the available flavors to see which one would be our favorite. I did try all of them. No kidding and ended up with mint chocolate chip and a delicious latte.
I got to end the night with these lovelies, sipping on lattes, laughing and indulging in the creaminess of Papplecco's mint chocolate gelato. Pure bliss!
The next day, after a great workout at the hotel gym, I headed back to Little Italy because I noticed signs for their Farmer's Market. I knew it would be a great way to experience the delicious food from California. I was especially interested in the fruit and avocados I could buy and eat while I was there. There is nothing like these fruits straight from the farm. There was a lot of cool breads, dips, organic products, flowers and homemade empanadas, enchiladas and tortillas that I could not get enough of.
I loaded up on passionfruit, peaches, avocados and something new I had never seen or tried before, white grapefruits.
The pro blanco or white grapefruits were the sweetest and juiciest grapefruits I had ever had.
The “white gold” is a cross between a pomelo and a white grapefruit, with bright green to lemon yellow skin, a thick rind, and sweet flesh with almost no bitterness. I went back to the hotel and devoured them with my yogurt parfait and coffee on my hotel patio. After I indulged in my Cali foods, it was off to the beach for some sand and sun.
We ventured to La Jolla. Amanda wanted to kayak through the caves and Jodi and I decided to grab a seat on the beach and catch some rays.
There is nothing like your toes in the sand, the water and the cool breezes off the ocean. After Amanda braved the waves with her muscles and determination, we found a cafe along the beach to indulge in some snacks so Amanda could refuel after her kayaking workout.
I also decided I wanted to see the infamous San Diego Zoo, so I grabbed an Uber. Growing up near Omaha, Nebraska, I have been pretty spoiled being able to go to the Henry Doorly Zoo any time. I also wanted to compare the two. I did enjoy the San Diego Zoo, but it was a very hot day. Not a lot of the animals wanted to be social.
I always love to see the elephants. I wish they could talk so they could share with me everything they know and remember. Quite a few of the elephants have been a part of the zoo for over 30 years. It was so warm that day, one of the elephants was begging the zoo keepers to let him in the care station where they wash them and keep them healthy. I think he wanted a cool shower!
The snow leopard was also a fun part of visit. There was a service dog with a group of kids and this kitty cat wanted to desperately play with all of them. He kept snuggling closer to the glass where the kids and dog were. He would put his paws on the glass and then kind of meow/roar and roll around wanting to play.
After a long day in the heat at the zoo, I took an Uber back to the hotel with an adorable driver named Joe and decided it was time for some delicious Mexican Food. We stumbled upon this hip and cool place called El Camino. I loved the cool vibe it had with fun signage, a dimly lit dining area and a cool patio with bar tabletops. The crowd was hipster-ish and even thought we were right below the flight pattern of planes coming into the airport, we quickly got used to the loud sounds of the planes landing. We met a few new friends on the patio and Stacy was our favorite in her pretty pink dress.
We ordered table side guac (because I just had not got my fill of avocados yet) and I could resist enchiladas with mole sauce. It wasn't on the menu but I asked if they could make it. I was not disappointed. I have to apologize, I ate it so quickly, I forgot to take a picture of both the guac and the enchiladas. Needless to say, it was a great dinner to end the trip and I would also recommend making a stop at this tasty restaurant.
As soon as I got back from Cali, it was back to work and another one of my favorite times of year, the Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest at the Iowa State Fair. This was the 53rd year of the contest and I was asked again to judge with Chef Terri Kohl.
It was great getting to know Chef Terri. She loves food, cooking and teaching. She enjoys offering classes from specifically themed culinary classes, recipe demonstration and private cooking classes. We were in charge of the turkey and lamb categories this year. Here are pictures of our favorite dishes.
Sage Buttered Turkey by Dawnette Richards from Vinton Iowa won the Turkey category as well as Grand Champion. It was delicious!
Rylan Crowley won the Lamb Division with his Lamb Sliders. This was one of the most delicious lamb recipes I had ever had. The Iowa Farm Bureau puts out a cookbook each year with the recipes or feel free to shoot me a message and I will be happy to share them with you!
After the Cookout Contest, I got cooking with Chef Andrew. Chef Andrew has a great segment every Friday and Saturday on KCCI, Channel 8 here in Des Moines where he creates amazing recipes and dishes to go with the specific time of the year. September is Family Meals Month and I am promoting the health benefits of eating meals together as a family. Kids are happier and healthier, more likely to do well in school and have less depression and social issues.
I encourage families to take pictures of themselves dining together and sharing a family meal. For every picture you take of your family sharing a meal and posting it on social media with #HyVeeFamilyMeals, Hy-Vee will donate $1 to Meals from the Heartland.
Chef Andrew shared one of his favorite healthy family friendly meals, Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini. It was fun to make and even better to eat. Make sure to tune in this month!
The rest of my food adventures included a couple of birthday celebrations. My mom came to celebrate her birthday in Des Moines, where we did a little shopping and a lot of eating delicious food. Including a little stop at Whole Foods for a container of Gummy Stars. Damn I love those things and now I have her hooked on them.
I made Mom a little white coconut cake. Mom loves white cake, so I decided to spruce it up with a little toasted coconut and a whole lotta candles for her to make a ton of wishes on!
While mom was in her cake coma on Sunday morning, I snuck out to KCCI with Sung Hee, a partner I enjoy working with. She works for Iowa Choice Harvest, a local company that secures and distributes locally grown Iowa produce to retailers and businesses, including schools and school lunch programs. One of my favorite products is their frozen apples. I always have a bag on had to warm in the microwave with cinnamon sprinkled on top for the perfect healthy and quick dessert.
After TV, I went home and awoke Mom from her birthday slumber and we hit the town for a little more shopping and birthday sushi. Sushi is so much fun with mom because we both enjoy similar flavors. We order things we both like and then share. A new place opened up in my Waukee hood and we decided to give Wasabi a try.
How cute is she? Love her!
A little gyoza to get us going.
Not as cute as my momma. But just as happy!
If you have not been to Wasabi, we absolutely loved it! The atmosphere is awesome, the decor is hip and cool. I did not feel like I was in suburban Iowa at all. The rolls were beautiful, fresh, creative and delicious. Highly recommend a trip to this new additions to my neighborhood. Check out the menu here.
After a whirlwind of a weekend of vacation, eating, and cooking, I had one more important birthday to celebrate. My Omaha lady tribe got together at a cool hip place in Omaha known as Pitch Pizzeria for awesome appetizers, happy hour cocktails and birthday conversation surround my beautiful frista Carlena. The best part about her birthday is she had 3 desserts in 3 different places that night and she ended the night happy and dancing all the way home. And let me tell you, she has some pretty impressive birthday moves.
Well, recapping all of my wisdom, food wisdom that is, has brought me joy and happiness to relive it with you.
I will say I am a little full...