Manda Travels: Maui (trip 3!)

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Brett and I made our third trip to Maui a few weeks ago, and were lucky enough to have three friends join us this time! It really is a magical place and we were so happy to share it with them. We mostly revisited some of our favorites this trip, but tried a few new spots too. Some trip highlights below and, of course, a list of where and what we ate 🙂

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We spent our first three nights in Paia — a laid back surf town with cute shops and our favorite natural grocery store – Mana Foods! Paia is on the north shore of Maui, where the beaches are better for surfing rather than lounging since it’s quite windy! It was a great central location to everything on the east side of the island including the road to Hana, the Maui winery and my favorite “western” town of Makawao (where Brett’s cousins live!). One of the best days of the trip was the road to Hana — we were on the road by 8am and landed at the Maui winery around 4:30pm — a full day of driving and adventure! My most favorite part of Maui is the drive around the backside of the island; when you reach Hana most guides tell you to turn around and return the way you came, but there’s a dirt road that brings you around the backside instead and it has the most incredible views of the island and ocean, and the most interesting terrain changes — you go from full on rain forest, to dry rocky fields, to lush green pastures filled with cows.

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For the second part of the trip, we stayed in hotels in Lahaina. We spent a lot of time lounging at our pools, frozen mai tais in hand. The boys went on a snorkel trip to Molokini Crater and saw tons of turtles. Also, while we were there, the Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC championship game — we rented a poolside cabana to watch the game in and it was so, so fun. We brought down the blender from our room and made frozen drinks with coconut cream, homemade passion fruit infused tequila* and papaya juice. And Dave cooked up an amazing steak. Add in an Eagles win and it was true heaven!

One of the best meals of the trip was on our first day — poke from the Like Poke? food truck in Kahalui. It’s in a parking lot with a few other trucks, all of which looked delicious but we stuck with poke and were so glad we did. We shared poke bowls with both ginger and wasabi poke, along with ahi katsuyaki (fried ahi) and the most insane curly fries ever with furikake on top. We talked about this meal throughout the rest of the trip. We also tried poke from the supermarket, which is oddly enough a very respectful place to get poke in Maui. We had it for lunch two days and it was also really good, but the food truck lunch still wins!

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We re-visited two sushi spots – Nuka and Sansei. We had a really fun and rowdy dinner at Sansei, despite power outages from an incoming storm (!), but the sushi at Nuka blew us away. Traveling as a group of five also means you get to try more things on the menu — going to be vacationing as a group from now on 😉

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Paia Bay Coffee became our coffee spot for the first leg of our trip. They have great iced coffee and an great bagel sandwich with bacon, cream cheese, tomato, avocado and red onion — we each got one of these as road to Hana fuel one morning.

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Paia Fish Market is a great lunch spot that we visit each trip. They make great fish sandwiches that pair perfectly with Maui’s Bikini Blonde Lager. We also revisited T. Komoda bakery in Makawao – the stick donuts were even better than I remembered. I’d pay an absurd amount of money to have one appear in my hand right now. Honestly the best donut I’ve ever eaten.

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After three days in Paia, we drove over to our usual hotel in Lahaina. Our friends stayed up the road at the new Westin, so we divided our time between the two. On that side we revisited Star Noodle – still one of my favorite Maui meals, amazing pork buns and chicken wings; and we also had lunch again at The Fish Market – seared tuna sandwiches all around. A banana cream pie from Leoda’s was also a must, of course.

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Lastly, we anniversaried our pre-airport tradition of having Flatbread Company pizza before our flight — the barbecue chicken with pineapple was unbelievable, and a good transition from Hawaii back to New York!

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*There are tons of fruit stands throughout the road to Hana — prices are listed and you just place your money in a small lockbox, or even a wide open cooler that operated as a bank! The fruit is grown in the family’s yards, and payment is all honor system. These really capture the spirit and culture of Hawaii. We were on a constant hunt for fresh lilikoi (passion fruit), which Brett soaked in tequila to use in drinks all week.

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Manda Cooks: Ottolenghi’s Beet Cake

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Last year, Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published Sweet  – a collection of dessert and baked goods recipes from the celebrity chef and his pastry chef. My sister and I attended a talk and book signing at the 92nd Street Y back in October to celebrate the book launch and then I was gifted the book by a friend over the holidays (thanks Katie!) The photos in the book are so pretty that the book could almost serve as a coffee table book. I went through the whole thing page by page and decided to jump right into it the next day. Some of the recipes are a little complicated, or at the very least use interesting ingredients, but the one I tackled turned out so well that I can’t wait to get into more. I made the Beet and Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (you can see the recipe here). I love the color of beets and was obsessed with how the batter looked. I didn’t have the Fruit Fresh tablet that they recommend you add to preserve the color so the color softened during baking, but the cake did retain somewhat of a pink tint! To me, it tasted like a more sophisticated carrot cake (= so good). We had it for dessert on New Year’s Eve (with our tapas feast) and then for breakfast the next day and it hit the spot both times. Will definitely be making this again — can’t wait for beet overload in our CSA this summer!

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Manda Cooks the Book: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

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I pre-ordered this cookbook as soon as I heard about it – I’ve been a big fan of Deb’s for years (it was one of the first blogs I read daily) and I loved her first cookbook. I’ve cooked five recipes from the book so far, and have two that I especially love and have cooked multiple times. Also – the book title doesn’t lie – these really are “Every Day” recipes! I made them all on weeknights relatively quickly.

My two favorites are the first two pictures below — brussels and three cheese pasta bake (I added broccoli too) and the quick sausage, kale and crouton saute (which is unbelievably good – but I used spicy sausage instead of sweet). The other recipes I’ve tried are the roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar, spiced carrot and pepper soup with a couscous swirl and polenta-baked eggs with corn, tomato and fontina. And a few more that I want to try are sushi takeout cobb salad, pea tortellini in parmesan broth, broccoli melts, pizza beans and meatballs marsala with egg noodles an chives. I have post-it notes all over the book!

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I actually was lucky enough to go to a book signing and meet Deb! She is just as bubbly and sweet as I thought she’d be!

Manda Cooks: Tapas

One of my favorite weeks of the year is the week between Christmas and New Year’s — my office is closed, the hustle and bustle leading up to the holidays had died down, and it finally starts to get pretty cold in New York. I love spending a good stretch of days in my apartment, sleeping in, watching movies and opening up a bottle of red wine at 2pm (because #staycation). This year I finally went through my stack of Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazines from the past few months – I have a binder that I fill with recipes that I rip out from magazines. Food & Wine’s September issue was all about Spain — rioja wine, tapas and jamon — which seemed like a perfect theme for New Year’s eve dinner. I made this vegetable tortilla and these meatballs.

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I studied abroad in Madrid and my senora would often make us tortilla espanola — I loved it and wrote down her recipe, but had never attempted it on my own. I loved that the F&W recipe incorporated other vegetables too — a colorful addition! The “vuelta” (flip) was intimidating, but with the help of a friend and a large cutting board it was a success. It came out looking just like the photo, which always makes me happy. The meatballs were also great — they didn’t quite taste as good as all of the work that went into them, but worth trying.

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After I returned from Spain, my brother gave me a tapas cookbook for my birthday — it’s been a while since I used it, but the fried goat cheese and caramelized onions on the cover were calling my name so I made that too.

I picked up meat, cheese and olives as well and my sister made delicata squash “doughnuts” and little lentil pancakes. In true tapas style, we prepared and brought out the dishes over the course of about an hour, and played a few rounds of What Do You Meme? in between “courses”.  Flize ano nuevo!

PS – how pretty is this saffron dissolving in water?!

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Happy New Year!

2017 was sort of just a high intensity year, huh? High highs, low lows. Lots of excitement and celebration but also stress and anxiety.

It was an amazing travel year for me — with trips to Paris, Iceland, Cuba, California, India and Miami. And, of course, getting engaged in February was a highlight!

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Last year my New Year’s resolutions were to (1) actually blog more (didn’t happen), (2) volunteer (happened!), (3) work with a dog trainer for Moose (happened!), (4) bring my coffee, breakfast and lunch to work more often (happened!) and (5) learn how to better manage my anxiety (didn’t happen – just bit a nail off because I have anxiety about dealing with my anxiety – go team!)

The most successful of the bunch was #4 – I tried to limit myself to buying breakfast or lunch only 50 times over the course of the year (during the workweek only). I had a little tracker hanging in my desk – I find that I’m best at achieving goals when there is a strict count involved and when I have a visual of my progress. I did pretty well with this, but ended up falling off the wagon during the last two weeks of December. I ended up buying breakfast or lunch 56 times over the year, but I still consider it a success!

This year, I’ve transformed my resolutions into more of the counting sort and am creating a visual tracker to go along with each month. My resolutions are to: (1) only buy breakfast or lunch 50 times this year, (2) only buy coffee 50 times this year, (3) blog eight times per month, (4) “cook the book” once a month, and (5) do something crafty once a month. I also have this little thing called a wedding to plan… eek! I’m also generally trying to work out more, drink less and, duh, stress less.

I’m kicking off 2018 with a trip to Hawaii this month — Brett and I took the same trip in 2015 and 2016 and I can’t wait to go back. It really is my happy place! We have three friends joining us this year and I’m so excited to show them the island. Planning a fun trip for mid-January is a seriously good way to get over the post-holiday blues quickly!

Manda Travels: India Part 3 – Udaipur

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Day 8: Jaipur to Udaipur

We sneaked in a little bit of pool time in Jaipur before making our way to the airport. Our flight was a tiny little propeller plane — we boarded from the back of the plane and there wasn’t any luggage stowage underneath, so the luggage was just piled in after all the passengers boarded. Despite being a short flight (35 minutes), they served a full lunch meal (which we respectfully declined 😉 ). Our hotel was a 45 minute drive from the airport and we arrived just in time for sunset — the hotel we stayed in was in the middle of a lake, so you have to take a small little boat to get to it. Once we arrived we were greeted with a drink, a red dot on our forehead for good luck and rose petals showering down on us from the roof — quite the welcome! We quickly changed and unpacked our bags then headed to the hotel bar for drinks and the nightly traditional dance performance. One of the dancers danced with seven glasses stacked on top of her head. Eventually we had dinner at the hotel — they had a tasting menu that was one of the best meals we had on the trip. We had three appetizers, soup, eight tastes of different meats and side dishes and seven different types of bread. One of the favorites of the meal was the laal maans — lamb in a red/yogurt curry that is popular in Rajasthan. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

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Day 9: Udaipur

Similar to our previous hotels, breakfast was included in our room rate and was insanely good. Brett had lentil “doughnuts” and I had uttapam – a dosa-like pancake from south India. After breakfast we relaxed by the pool for a bit — our chairs pool chairs faced the lake and the royal palace so it was quite the view. We had a driver for the afternoon that took us to a second, smaller lake, to the Saheliyon-ki-Bari gardens and to a shop I had read about that sells crafts made by women in the surrounding area. We did a quick walk around Temple Street – a street filled with little shops close to City Palace. Udaipur is known for leather-bound notebooks, which ranged in size from two inch squares to full size, and were sold everywhere. We got back to our hotel just in time to join the nightly “heritage walk” around the property and then a quick boat ride to the neighboring island, which the prince used to use exclusively for parties. We had dinner across the lake and ate outside with a great view of the palace and of our hotel.

 

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Day 10: Udaipur

I forced us to get out of bed early to join the 6:30am complimentary sunrise yoga class on the roof of the hotel. We went back into city center to a small cafe for breakfast, then spent the rest of the morning shopping some more and then touring the City Palace museum. There is an amazing temple in the middle of town, Jagdish Temple, which has been in continuous operation since 1651! There were hundreds and hundreds of elephants carved into the stone walls, really beautiful detail! We spent our last night in Udaipur relaxing at the hotel — it was so nice to end our trip on a relaxing note that truly felt like vacation!

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Day 11: Udaipur –> Delhi –> Abu Dhabi –> NYC

Yes, quite the journey home 🙂 But an amazing, unforgettable trip. India, we love you and can’t wait to visit again soon!

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Manda Travels: India Part 2- Jaipur

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We spent four nights in Jaipur and really fell in love with the capital of Rajasthan – also known as “the pink city” because of the color of the terracotta buildings within the old city walls. We did so much shopping here, in addition to site seeing and, of course, eating.

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Day 4 continued …

We arrived in Jaipur in the early evening, hungry, thirsty and thrilled to be out of the car. I strategically booked us a night at the Tree House Resort so that we’d have a little bit of a rest after a busy beginning to our trip, and it worked out wonderfully! You reach the resort by driving down windy and hilly dirt roads into a valley outside of the city. We checked in and were taken to our “nest” – a free-standing tree house perched up in the trees with a real tree growing right through our room! We dropped our bags and headed to the Peacock Bar for a drink — the bar is actually a 400 year old small wooden room that they re-purposed into a bar. One of the quirky things about the resort is that they employ local people from the nearby village, rather than those trained in hospitality — I loved this, but the level of service was very different from what we experienced elsewhere… all of the staff was very friendly and helpful, but many were a little awkward and didn’t speak a lot of English. We spent the evening with wine in one hand and a book in the other the eventually found our way to dinner — we had paneer with peppers and onions, chicken tikka masala and okra with onions –great food, made with fresh local produce. The manager of the resort sat with us for a bit and told us more about the place its history – turns out it started as a single tree house, cute! After dinner we climbed up into our nest and hit the hay!

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Day 5: Settling into Jaipur

We had breakfast at the Tree House Resort (coffee, yogurt and some puffy fried bread that tasted like funnel cake) then went for a quick swim in the infinity pool. Our driver picked us up at noon and drove us into Jaipur city to our next hotel – Samode Haveli – our favorite hotel of the trip! We were given lemon water and sat in the most beautiful painted room while we checked in. Samode Haveli is an old mansion surrounded by gardens. Each room is different and you reach your room by climbing narrow staircases and walking through various courtyards. Our room was so pretty – filled with hand-painted columns and arches and it even had a private terrace (complete with monkeys – hah!) We had about an hour to kill before our first plan for the day so we had some prosecco at the pool, obviously. At 4pm we met our guide, Amit, for our Crafts & Cuisine tour with Jaipur Walks. We saw so many things – marble sculptors, bangle makers, copper and brass metal workers and flower vendors, plus various temples and havelis. We also felt super adventurous and had some “street food” — buffalo milk pudding with cardamom and almonds, fried dough filled with lentils and spices, and the best chai tea in town. An amazing tour that helped us understand the day to day life in Jaipur. Later on, we went for a night swim then had dinner at our hotel – butter chicken, cauliflower with peas and butter naan.

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Day 6: Busiest Day Ever in Jaipur

We woke up early for our Old City tour — we started at the wholesale flower market which was crazy busy and cool. Tons and tons of bushels of yellow and orange marigolds! We then walked through the Jantar Mantar observatory – an astrological observatory from the 19th century, including the world’s largest stone sundial (which is accurate to the minute!). We then walked through the City Palace – one of my favorite parts were the four different doors that lead into the main courtyard — one for each season. We learned a lot about the history of the royal family, and their role today – the current king is only 19! After the tour we had lunch at LMB – a popular restaurant and sweet shop. After lunch we wandered around Old City on a hunt for a bunch of shops that I had bookmarked — we bought rose and sandalwood oil from a fragrance shop, pom-pom flip flops from a shoe shop, and some earrings at a bangle shop. We also went into a textile store – Hassan’s – where we ended up buying some clothes and a rug. On our way to meet up with our driver, we found Tikam Chand — a third generation photographer in Jaipur who has been taking and developing photos on the street for years. I was SO excited to meet him. It was a highlight of the whole trip. We went back to the hotel for a swim and some rest, then headed back into the Old City for our appointment with Suresh Shastri – a seventh generation astrologer. We sat on a mattress on the floor with him in the back room of a building — such an interesting experience. We had drinks and dinner at Bar Palladio that night – really pretty restaurant but the food was just so-so.

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Day 7: Shopping Day in Jaipur

We spent the bulk of our day in two stores — Ridhi Sidhi Textiles and Manglam Arts Furnishings. Ridhi Sidhi was my dream come true – stacks upon stacks of hand block-printed fabric, plus cute shirts and dresses and amazing quilts. Harsh, the owner, even drove us in his car to their main factory just a few blocks away where we got to see the printing process live. They do a lot of printing for Pottery Barn and Roberta Roller Rabbit, so it was really interesting to see where it’s all made! We spent hours looking through fabric and ended up with a few dresses for me, two custom-made shirts for Brett, and a new quilt for our bed. We spent the afternoon at Manglam Arts – a furniture company that makes custom furniture for Anthropologie and ABC Home. It’s a series of warehouses filled with amazing chairs, couches, side tables, etc. We walked around and explored then picked out and designed some custom furniture for ourselves. This was a really fun day — we have a future plan of traveling back to these two places later in life when we need a wardrobe or furniture refresh 😛

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Manda Travels: India Part 1 – Delhi & Agra

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Brett and I spent two weeks in India at the end of September. It was an amazing and unforgettable trip. I’m going to highlight some of our favorite things over three posts since there are too many to squeeze into one!

Packing was really tricky for me – the advice that I was given was to cover up while out and about to not draw attention, but wear whatever I wanted within our hotels and restaurants, etc. During the day I wore loose pants and t-shirts or mid-length dresses with a pashmina covering my shoulders. At night I wore normal vacation-y dresses 🙂 It was generally pretty hot (and sweaty), so I hand-washed a few t-shirts that I wanted to wear twice.

We were really lucky and didn’t get sick at all during the trip – no “delhi belly” for us! We were pretty careful about what we ate and drank (we used bottled water to brush out teeth, avoided ice unless we were in a nice hotel, and didn’t have any salads/raw veggies) and we also took activated charcoal pills every day (a tip from a friend who grew up in Delhi). I also ate yogurt almost every day, something I swear by in the states too 😉

Day 1: Layover in Doha

We had a twelve hour layover in Doha on our way to Delhi. We landed around 7am, showered and changed in the arrivals lounge at the airport, then headed into town. We took an uber to the main souq/marketplace, but not much was open so early. It was 108 degrees so hard to be outside for too long — we ended up taking another uber to the Villagio Mall to cool down. The mall was so heavily air conditioned that I had to step outside a few times to warm up! Similar to the souq, nothing was really open yet even though it was noon. Some stores finally began to open around 1/1:30. While we waited, we watched an ice hockey game (yes, there was an ice rink int he middle of the mall) and we had chicken fingers at TGIFriday’s (::cringe::). At 2pm we headed to the Museum of Islamic Art, which was by far the highlight of the layover. When we left the museum we walked back to the Souq, which had more hustle and bustle than earlier in the day. We checked out a Falcon Souq — which had falcons for sale ranging from $500-$5000! Eventually we made our way back to the airport for dinner and drinks in the lounge. Looking back, we wished we had booked a hotel so we could have slept through the morning and used the afternoon for the museum and the souq.

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Day 2: Old Delhi

We finally landed in Delhi at 2am local time. We were exhausted and so happy to finally crawl into bed. We let ourselves sleep until 9am then made our way north to Old Delhi. We hopped in a rickshaw and drove through the streets of Chandni Chowk – the oldest and busiest market in Old Delhi. It was really crowded with people and traffic (rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, bikes) but despite the hustle and bustle, people seemed pretty calm. During our ride we drove by many Hindu Temples, Muslim Mosques and even a Baptist Church! After the drive we visited the almost 400 year old Jama Masjid – one of the largest mosques in India. For a few dollars you can climb up on of the mosque’s four minarets and take in a great view of Delhi from above. After Jama Masjid we went to The Red Fort, which was the main residence of the emperors for 200 years. We spent about an hour walking around the huge property reading the history behind each of the many buildings. After our Old Delhi morning, we went back to the hotel for a nap and a shower, then went to Haus Khas Village – a very hip, young and social neighborhood with lots of bars and shops. We went to Social and sat outside overlooking a lake. We had drinks and a few really great appetizers – including vegetable “momos” (dumplings). The narrow, winding, pedestrian-only streets reminded me of Positano. Eventually we headed back to our hotel for a nightcap before bed.

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Day 3: New Delhi –> Agra

We woke up early and went to Humayun’s Tomb – a really pretty red sandstone tomb from the late 1500s. We spent about thirty minutes walking around the gardens then went across the street to The Hope Project – a non-profit organization that offers tours of the slum it’s located within. A 21 year old who grew up and still lives in the slum was our guide – he was really sweet and smart and we learned a lot about the community and its history. India is filled with hidden treasures and this neighborhood was no exception – one of the most interesting stories we heard was about the poet Mizra Ghalib whose tomb is in located in the neighborhood. After the tour we met up with a friend’s sister for lunch at Basil & Thyme – good food and great company! We even got to meet her two kittens after that she rescued from the street. Back to the hotel to pack up then we hit the road for the three hour drive to Agra. We arrived in Agra in the early evening, had a drink in the hotel then went across the street for dinner. Crossing a street in India as a pedestrian is terrifying – you just sort of have to go for it, and hope that the drivers swerve around you. Eek! We ate at Pinch of Spice – a crowded and lively restaurant. We had paneer masala and chana masala and, of course, rice and butter naan.

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Day 4: Agra –> Jaipur

Our guide for the Taj Mahal met us in our hotel lobby at 5:45am so we could be at the Taj for sunrise. Our guide was great – we learned a lot about its history and construction (took 20,000 people 20 years to build it and then 5 years to clean up from building it!) He also insisted on taking advantage of every photo opp — we must have 50 posed photos of us from the visit! Went spent a while walking around and experiencing the building from all different distances and views — it was crazy beautiful and super detailed up close. After the Taj, we had breakfast at our hotel and spent a bit of time relaxing at the pool. Then back in the car and back on the road for the long drive to Jaipur. Seven hours total, included a one hour stop for our driver to eat/rest and a one hour detour to visit the oldest and deepest stepwell in India. The highway we drove on was perfectly nice — but the craziest thing is that people don’t seem to use their mirrors at all! Instead, drivers honk constantly at each other to let them know when they’re changing lanes/passing/etc. I spent 15 minutes of the drive counting the number of times our driver honked the horn — 33 times! In 15 minutes! Omg. We finally arrived in Jaipur around 5pm, tired, hungry and happy to be out of the car.

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Manda Cooks the Book: Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s “My Father’s Daughter”

I discovered this Let’s Cook The Book instagram via A Cup of Jo a few weeks ago and was oddly obsessed with the idea. The owner of that instagram account started it as a way to simplify her meal plan for the week, but I think it’s a great way to get to know my cookbooks! I own quite a few cookbooks, and while I do crack them open pretty often, it’s a fun way to focus on one book and really get a feel for the style.

I started off with Gwyneth Paltrow’s “My Father’s Daughter” — I already a few go-to’s from this book, so I forced myself to try two new recipes for #cookthebook week and for the third meal I went back to a favorite. The recipes in the book are simple but special, with uncomplicated ingredients and easy steps. The book will continue to be a go-to for weeknight dinners.

We made:

Fried Sole Sandwiches with Spicy Mayo and Pickles (we substituted cod from our CSA, and I made homemade pickles with this recipe)
Homemade Veggie Burgers (these were way better than expected, and made great leftovers)
Chicken Milanese with Herbs and Dried Cranberries (the topping here is the best part – use good olive oil! and don’t skimp on the cranberries)

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And in the past we’ve also made:

Kale Fried Rice
Stir Fried Chicken (<– so, so good, it tastes like Chinese take out)
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Playwright’s Melts

Manda Travels: SF to LA roadtrip

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Two weeks ago Brett and I drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of four days. I had been wanting to do this trip for a while, and while I’m so glad we were able to squeeze it in this summer, I wish we had had double the time to explore the coast! We spent one night each in San Francisco, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles – each place is so different from the others that it really felt like four mini vacations in one. A few of our favorites below, plus a ton of pictures from Big Sur for obvious reasons 🙂

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Day 1: San Francisco

We landed in San Francisco around 10am and headed downtown to drop our bags at our hotel. Brett’s favorite place to stay in SF is The Palace Hotel — it’s super spacious and comfortable, and generally feels fancy which is fun (they even have those electronic japanese toilets!) We grabbed a burrito for lunch for the Senor Sisig food truck – best burrito ever (feelings may have been influenced by time change/airplane food/etc). After the burrito (which we ate in approx 30 seconds with the i-bite-you-bite method), we grabbed iced mint mojito lattes from Philz. They sound weird, but they taste like a thin mint had a baby with coffee ice cream (= delicious). Brett headed off to meetings for the rest of the day, so I met up with a friend and explored her neighborhood a bit — we walked through a Bi-Rite market (which is what dreams are made of) and she showed me the Painted Ladies. I then walked over to Tartine and got four “snacks for the road” – three of which we ate before we got into the car the next day. The ham and cheese croissant was insane. That evening we had a drink in the hotel with a friend, wine in the Ferry Building with Brett’s aunts and then dinner at my friend Emily’s apartment.

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Day 2: Monterey, Pebble Beach and Big Sur

We picked up our rental car and hit the road around 10am. We arrived at the Monterey Aquarium around 11:30am and had quick hour inside to walk around and marvel and the jellies and the octopuses (which is actually the correct way to make octopus plural, who knew?) From Monterey, we took the “17 mile drive” through Pebble Beach – a fun drive with crazy homes and pretty look outs. We had lunch with a friend at The Bench at The Lodge at Pebble Beach (quite the name, I know) – we sat outside on the patio, which overlooks the 18th hole of the famous golf course. After lunch we hit the road and were Big Sur-bound! Because of highway closures on route 1, we had to take a tiny, windy back road up over a mountain and back down to the coast. The smell of the woods and the mountains was crazy – now I’m on the hunt for a “Big Sur” candle! We pulled into Treebones around 6:30pm, dropped our bags in our yurt (!), went for a quick dip in their pool, then changed and headed to the bar for champagne. There are two eating options at Treebones – the main restaurant and then a little sushi hut. We went the sushi route and we so pleased we did – really fresh fish, with beautiful presentation (edible flowers!) in an amazing setting.

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Day 3: San Simeon, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara

After breakfast at Treebones, we headed back over the mountain towards civilization. Next stop: San Simeon to see the elephant seals. There were about a hundred male seals sleeping on the beach – apparently there are sometimes THOUSANDS of them, but it was still quite the sight! We grabbed lunch at Centrally Grown, where Brett had a Cuban sandwich that he is still talking about. A trip to California isn’t complete without a visit to a winery, so we spent the afternoon at Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria. We landed later that afternoon at our hotel for the night – The Goodland in Goleta (one town north of Santa Barbara). The hotel had such a fun, chill, California vibe – there were record players in every room, and Beach Boys records to play. For dinner we went to Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, which is right on the end of the pier. We sat at the bar and shared a steamed local crab and fries. After dinner we had a cocktail by the fire pit back at our hotel, plus a complimentary “s’mores kit” from the bar.

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Day 4: Final Stretch to LA

We slept in and had breakfast at our hotel, then hung by the pool for a few hours. We stopped in downtown Santa Barbara for lunch at La Super Rica — one of Julia Child’s favorite places to eat! We waited in line for about 45 minutes, but the wait was worth it. We shared four different dishes plus a horchata agua fresca, which was actually one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. After lunch we were back on the road, stuck in classic LA traffic. We listened to Here’s The Thing to kill time. We finally arrived at our hotel in Beverly Hills around 6:30pm. We checked in, made a quick change, then headed to Abbott Kinney to meet friends at First Fridays — a monthly gathering of food trucks! We had a quick prosecco toast at The Otheroom, grabbed dinner from the Word of Mouth Truck, dessert from The Pudding Truck, then night caps at The Tasting Kitchen.

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Day 5: Last Day in LA!

We packed quite a bit into our one full day in LA. On our way to Sqirl for brunch, we grabbed coffee at Alfred on Melrose Place. Sqirl was incredible — Brett and I shared the crispy rice salad, smoked whitefish tartine and ricotta toast with jam. So, so good. After lunch we drove up to the Griffith Observatory — parking was sort of a nightmare and took 30 minutes, but we had a good visit (especially space-obsessed Brett). We picked up our friend Katie and headed back to our hotel for some poolside aperol spritzes. Later that afternoon we stopped by a friend’s birthday party then had an amazing dinner at Felix in Venice. We were lucky to snag three seats at the bar before it got super crowded. Everything was had was delicious — it was the perfect final meal of our trip!