Favorite Foods & Places 2019

Las Estacas in Morelos, Mexico

Happy New Year!

I like to start the year recapping the previous year – the highs and lows, favorite experiences, the firsts and things I want to do more or less of in the new year. Most notably, I started this here lil’ blog in 2019 and I’m excited to share even more recipes, stories and tips with you in 2020.

I scanned my many iPhone pics to recall the places and spaces I’ve been and found some things I’d almost forgotten. Putting this list together has been a great exercise in gratitude for moments of joy. I’m thankful to God for the opportunities I’ve had to travel and explore. For real. Below, I’ve captured a few of favorite experiences in 2019.

Cozy Dinner in Paris

The scenic route to Les Cocottes

I was in Paris for work last February and we asked a Parisian colleague for a dinner recommendation. She suggested Les Cocottes which proved to be a perfect spot. The restaurant is narrow, long and cozy with a friendly staff. They serve many of their dishes in cute cocottes, individual casserole dishes.

The scallop special with tiny croutons

I loved my seafood ravioli appetizer and unusual main course of scallops. It was the special of the day and came with a garlicky spinach salad which I thought was a light paring compared to how’d they be serve in the US of A. It worked out well because I had room for dessert waffles with whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. No regrets. A bonus was that it’s close to the Eiffel Tower and we got to catch it twinkling on our stroll back to our hotel.

My waffle with a smidge of whipped cream

Reserve Drive (aka Safari) in Kenya

Why it’s called a game drive

When traveling in Kenya with a 2.5 yr old and infant, high octane action isn’t really on the agenda. While we were limited to kid-friendly activities, I still had an amazing time with ample adventure on game drive at Ol Pejata Conservancy near Mt. Kenya last March.

Lunchtime

We drove around the massive grounds and got up close to elephants, zebra, water buffalo, rhinos, hyenas and a slew of birds. I definitely appreciate the beauty and majesty of creation more with each year and seeing these animals just…living was unforgettable.

Zebras in Ol Pejata Conservancy

New Orleans Jazz Fest

Straight chillin at Jazz Fest

I was very jazzed (ha!) to return to the New Orleans Jazz Fest after going as part of a bestie’s Bachelorette Party in 2012. I love that for such a large crowd the vibe is still so relaxed. This trip was with my friends, Dadjie and Laura and we were laser focused on listening to music, eating and drinking #goals. My favorite acts were Lauren Daigle, Hurray For the Riff Raff, The O’Jays and the Ellis Marsalis family tribute.

Willa Jean cornbread with cane syrup

Food wise, I ate all things including some killer Cracklins out a paper bag. Though I grew up in the south, it was during the lowfat 90s era (Snackwells, anyone!?), so crispy pork skin and fat was a no go. After making festival friends the first day, we learned to bring in our own spirits to doctor up in park soft drinks. Knowledge is power. We stayed by Willa Jean and went there everyday. Everything was great, though I daydream about their blueberry ginger muffins. I’m definitely hoping to return this year.

I didn’t actually dress for this mural photo op

Breton Crepes in Paris

A Breton-style buckwheat crepe filled with mushrooms, ham and cheese

I returned to Paris in July determined to visit one of the many Cafe Briezh locations. My friend, Lorena, had recommended it, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to go on my previous two work trips. This time, I made it for a weekday shall we say brunch. I started with a savory buckwheat crepe filled with ham, cheese and mushrooms, which was delicious. I fell in love with this style of crepe at Ti Couz (RIP) in SF when I lived in there in the early 2000’s. In the US, most crepe places use the same white flour crepe for savory and sweet fillings, so I was excited to try their buckwheat version much much closer to the source. IMHO.

My ginger caramel dessert crepe

Surprisingly, it was this dessert crepe with ginger caramel sauce that really stood out for me. The edges of the crepe were buttery and crisp and the sauce was bright and assertive from the fresh ginger. This definitely stoked my interest in visiting the Brittany region of France and also trying my hand at recreating this at home.

Las Estacas Water Park in Mexico

The lazy river we floated down at Las Estacas park

I’m so thankful that my friends, Lorena and Israel hired a bus to bring many of their wedding guests to Las Estacas, a natural water park in Morelos, Mexico ahead of their big day in October. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into and dressed like a wierdo; workout leggings and brand new suede Vans for a water park. Still SMH. They wanted us to swim but I was skeptical it’d be warm enough. What would we do all day?

Checking out the unforgettable views in my regrettable outfit

Ha. Sometimes, low expectations can be a great thing, because when I got there, I was blown away. The park was full of ultra tall palms, lush foliage and green grass all surrounding bright blue water. We spent the day floating down the lazy river, grazing on Mexican snacks and also chillaxing in and around the warm resort-style pools. Don’t worry, I ended up buying flip flops which greatly enhanced my experience and allowed me to practice my preschool level Spanish. All in all, it’s one of the coolest places I’ve been.

Bebidas time

Lobster Noodles in NYC

THE lobster noodles

Earlier in the year, I’d read about Wayan, a new Indonesian restaurant by Cedric Vongerichten. My friend Murrel had it on her list as well so we decided to check it out on a regular Monday last month. I hadn’t read about the dishes to get here, but the Lobster noodles seemed like a solid pick. How were they, you ask? Well, I’ve thought about them on most days since them and almost went back 2 weeks later for my birthday. The noodles look pretty, but unassuming; long ramen-looking noodles lightly coated in sauce nestled with chunks of lobster. But there’s something magical going on.

A surprisingly dramatic noodle pull

The sauce is savory and creamy and the only thing the menu mentions is that it includes kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. The very long noodles have the right amount of spring. Sigh. Ok, now I’m hungry. Everything else we ate was great so I’ve added Wayan to my list of favorite NYC restaurants. Done and done.

Dark and lush surroundings + hot sauce at Wayan

Up Next..

A Water Buck in thoughtful consideration

Where should I go in 2020? This is the first time in many years that I have no tickets booked or trips on deck… well expect for 2 weddings in October, one in India. JK. I do have a travel wish list that includes places like Patagonia, Namibia and Norway, but also Utah and Canadian Rockies. It’d be great to take a road trip too. Well, it’s January 1st so time to start dreaming and planning. Here’s to a 2020 full of joy, adventure, growth and gratitude for us all.

Cheers,

Shadia

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