July 2, 2015

Classic Cocktail 101 | New Orleans, Louisiana

If you're in search for innovative and delicious libations, New Orleans has it all.  As a huge fan of touring a city through its drinks, I honestly believe New Orleans has some of the best stuff out there.  While there are plenty of locations that offer new concoctions daily, here are some of the classics the city is known for: 
(whiskey + glass swirled with absinthe + Peychaud's Bitters + sugar + lemon peel garnish)

(light rum + fresh lime juice + simple syrup)
Vieux Carré
(rye whiskey + Cognac + sweet vermouth + bitters + Bénédictine liqueur)

Mint Julep
(Bourbon whiskey + water + powdered sugar + mint)

(rum + fruit juice + grenadine + orange slice + cherry for garnish)

Ramos Fizz
(gin + lime & lemon juice + simple syrup + egg white + cream + orange blossom water)
Bourbon Milk Punch
(bourbon + milk + vanilla + simple syrup + nutmeg) + sometimes dark rum + sometimes brandy instead of Bourbon {thus, a Brandy Milk Punch})

Arnaud's French 75
(Cognac + lemon juice + symple syrup + champagne + lemon peel)

Pimm's Cup
(Pimm's No. 1 + lemonade + 7up + cucumber garnish)

Bayou Bash
(Southern Comfort + fruit juices + red wine)

Here are some of my favorite places for a refreshing sip in the French Quarter that we tried

Hermes Bar at Antoine's Restaurant
713 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130 

Antoine's is a work of art in itself and has been family-run since 1840.  Its rooms are loaded with history, with private rooms filled with memorabilia, many being homages to Mardi Gras krewes.  I recommend touring the dining room, then grabbing a drink at Hermes Bar.  This quickly became a repeat bar for us- it is so inviting and the sazeracs are incredibly addicting!  I loved sitting in the bar, doors open, hearing the sounds of Mardis Gras in the street and taking in the dark wood and classic fixtures.  It really felt like a classic New Orleans moment.

The Court of the Two Sisters
613 Royal St., New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Another location steeped in history is The Court of the Two Sisters.  The entrance actually has gates from Spain blessed by Queen Isabella.  It boasts a gorgeous courtyard with a wishing well at the center.  We first came here for drinks only (their Bayou Bash and Mint Juleps are delicious), but ended up back for a very charming dinner a few nights later.  I also hear their live jazz brunch buffet is amazing!


310 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130 
We were lucky that SoBou was connected to our hotel!  We also met one of its talented chefs at the Zulu Mardi Gras parade.  SoBou is all about small bites and fun cocktails.  I had a King Cake Old Fashioned, which was one of the more delicious (and strong) drinks I've enjoyed.  The baby frozen in the ice cube was the best part. 


 Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116

The hurricanes here are my favorite... the juices are fresh and not too sweet.  Located on bourbon street, this joint seems to be the life of the party.  Loud music, happy people, and good drinks mixed with an old world charm.  We grabbed a drink to go and took it all in from the street- there is a lot happening here!  Like many other structures in New Orleans, Lafitte's is full of history.  It is one of the few buildings to have survived the 18th century and some say it is the oldest bar in the US.

Pirate's Alley
622 Pirates Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116

Pirate's Alley Cafe is an absinthe house located in (you guessed it) Pirate's Alley.  The location is one of my favorite streets in New Orleans, right behind Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.  William Faulkner once lived on this street, and its easy to see why!


Pat O'Brien's 
718 St Peter St, New Orleans, LA 70116

It is pretty much required that you try a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's bar in the French Quarter.  Be warned that they are quite sweet and very strong!  Their courtyard is open and beautiful, so since it gets slightly crazier at night, I'd recommend coming here for lunch and sipping a hurricane.

Our trip was a whirlwind, so we missed out on a lot, but I also think we got a great sampling in!  I'd love to go back someday, so please leave your recommendations in the comments. :)
Here are some other great bars I have my eye on:
The Carousel Bar
The Sazerac Bar
Swizzle Stick Bar


June 26, 2015

Logan Shoals Vista Point | Lake Tahoe


Lake Tahoe is the largest Alpine lake in North America and is located on the border between California and Nevada.  From skiing in the winter to outdoor recreation, it really is a great (and family friendly) destination.

My parents were married in Tahoe and I have fond memories of visiting as a child, so it also happens to hold a special place in my heart.


In May we visited for a week with Charles' family (all 5 brothers, wives, kids, and his parents were there).  It was the first time we had all gotten together for a vacation and it really turned out lovely.  There were many game nights, family dinners, and outings around the lake.

We all managed to have a little alone time too, which I used to explore new lookouts.  My favorite place was the Logan Shoals Vista Point in Zephyr Cove, which is on the Nevada side of the lake.

Here are some photos I took of a particularly lovely evening as the sun slid into the night over my favorite view of the lake.


June 22, 2015

Destination Wedding Q & A | San Juan, Puerto Rico

Although we were married three years ago (today), I still get e-mails regularly on all the details of my wedding.  I was also just featured by Alfred Angelo blog, which was incredibly flattering and exciting!

In an effort to help as many people as possible, here is my Puerto Rico Destination Wedding Q&A with some of the answers to the common search hits and e-mails I receive.

**Please note that prices/details may have changed since 2012, so you should take the time to research on your own as well.  I can't promise any of this information to be 100% accurate for you.**


How did you reserve the fort you got married on (El Morro)?
Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a National Historic site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you do have to take some steps to secure renting it out.  Keep in mind you can only rent it AFTER normal park hours.  Depending on the time of year, this can limit how much light you will have.  To begin, contact the park to reserve your date and start the application.  The fees I paid in 2012 to do this included:

Application fee:  $50
Site fee:  $350
Liability insurance:  approx. $100

This step will only secure your rental of the fort, not the provisions needed to hold a wedding.  You will still need to provide any seating and decor you want and coordinate with vendors on bringing/removing those items from the site.  At least having a 'day of' coordinator would be recommended.


What other vendors did you use/recommend?

Photography:  Vanessa Velez
Reception and food:  El Convento (RFP here)
Flowers and decor:  Inventos by Mima
Lights and music:  DJ Rockhand
Video:  NDF Films (if you want to see our sneak peak, it's here!)
Rehearsal dinner: Toro Salao


What are the requirements to get married in Puerto Rico?
This felt like the biggest hoop we jumped through.  Here is exactly what I needed in 2012:

- Both of our birth certificates (originals)
- Identification (passports and licenses)
- Notarized Travel Affidavit dated within 10 days of wedding date
-Copy of the the public notary certificate for the notary I used
- Medical Affidavit (dated within 10 days of wedding date)

Examples of affidavits:

What do you recommend doing in Puerto Rico?

I was so busy with my wedding that I didn't fit everything in, so I will definitely be headed back!  I also have an entire page dedicated to our time in Puerto Rico and my wedding here if you are interested in more information.  If you have any additional questions, I am happy to address them in the comments as best I can.

Puerto Rico is a lovely place to visit and was perfect for our wedding.  I cannot say enough good things about the location, people, food, and entire experience!