The Bowerbird of the Sea

Watch the entire video for one of the most amazing images.

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Home Inspiration: Texture

I’m gathering ideas for our new home.

GARDEN IDEAS
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Beautiful stone walls just outside Rose How on Hawkshead Hill in the Lake District of England. Wondering if we could recreate something like this in our backyard.

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INTERIOR IDEAS
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I love the mix of the soft textile rug, wood plank floor and cast iron bed detail. Taken inside Single Thread Inn.

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This onion flower pendant has such interesting layers of light. Taken inside Single Thread Inn.

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Single Thread Farm & Inn

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Located off the downtown Healdsburg square, sits one of my new favorite places to eat, sleep, discover, and to simply be inspired. By now you may have been or read one of the many stories – I like this one – about Single Thread Farm. I’ll try not to repeat what many articles have already said, but I will support and reinforce all the good press.

Martin and I drove up to the inn last week and stayed overnight. Guest parking is conveniently located just behind the building. You can enjoy dinner at the restaurant without staying at the inn, but we told our kids that it’s part of the package. However, you cannot stay in one of the guest rooms without having a dinner reservation.

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Before beginning the experience, it’s important to understand omotenashi “a Japanese word that represents the country’s approach to hospitality in which a host goes above and beyond to anticipate a guest’s needs and treats that person not like a customer, but like a friend.” This and the food are why we are smitten with Katina and Kyle Connaughton’s Single Thread.

THE INN
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Quiet. The minute my husband and I entered the cozy lobby at 131 North Street, it was quiet and empty yet didn’t feel cold and unwelcoming. Within a minute, the manager and staff arrived to greet us, tell us about our upcoming dinner, show us around, and bring us to our room. I should add, they sent me an email that morning to ask about our expected arrival time and a preferred 4-digit code to be pre-programed as our room key. No physical keys, just keypads. Our personal code unlocked our room, the roof garden lounge, and all guest-only amenities. Very convenient. All five guest rooms, as well as a study, are located on the second level, with the restaurant on the ground floor.

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Upon entering our guest room, I knew everything was carefully curated to go above and beyond as well as delight. From the Ratio coffee brewing device and Zalto glassware, to Sasawashi slippers and Aesop bath products, each detail and personal touch made me think how did they know? Comfort is clearly a priority so nothing was too precious.

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A small plate with a crafty Japanese-paper cloche sat on a side table. Next to it was a birthday card for my husband, Martin. When I booked the reservation, I mentioned that our Single Thread dinner was his birthday gift. Under the paper was bright yellow lemon, or what I thought was a lemon. The beautiful fruit looked so real, but it was actually a disguise for layers of wonderful textures and flavors: Meyer lemon ganache, olive oil jam, Tonka bean shortbread, and Meyer lemon marmalade. Seriously.

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And there was more. On the mini kitchen counter were six petite chocolates: fennel seed and satsuma, hearth roasted grapefruit, and pecan and coriander. Dinner wasn’t for another few hours so we were safe eating a few handmade treats. In the drawer fridge were complimentary craft beer (Pliny the Elder), Vero Water, and Revive Kombucha. And in the freezer was homemade milk chocolate and caramel coffee of course.

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After all that, it was time for a stroll and get some fresh air. We walked up to the roof garden to find cool wooden planters on wheels, greenhouses, small kitchen and a spacious lounge area.

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About the room decor. Natural wood, neutral tones, dark gray, onion flower pendant, leather-handle cabinets, wood plank floors. Things I want for our home.

About the bathroom. Prepare for an auto-open lid greeting from the ToTo toilet that feels like a cheerful AI is living in the loo.


THE RESTAURANT
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As we walked downstairs for our dinner reservation, we were welcomed with homemade cider that was to be enjoyed at an open window into a remarkably quiet kitchen. Despite about a dozen cooks, including Chef de Cuisine Aaron Koseba, moving about preparing dinner, the kitchen was peaceful. It was captivating. My favorite kitchen moment was watching a cook with tiny scissors trimming a bouquet of edible flowers, the size of something you’d find on the island of Liliput, into a small bowl.

single-thread-farm-golden-eye-snapperGolden Eye Snapper from the Hearth: Carrot, Dried Apricot, Scarlet Turnips and Their Greens
Paired with Alquimista ‘Jessie’s Grove’ Zinfandel, Lodi, CA 2015

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Wild Yellowtail: Barrel Aged Ponzu, Cara Cara Orange (those are individual cells that were frozen), Komatsuna, and Saikyo Miso
Paired with Aizu Chujou Junmai Sake, Japan

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Monterey Bay Abalone: A Sauce of Its Liver, Slow Cooked Onions, and Myoga
Paired with Taiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai, Ibaraki, Japan

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Hearth Roasted Sweet Potato: Chicory Ice Cream, Cocoa Husk, and Hazelnut
Château Doisy Vedrines Sauternes 2nd Cru, Bordeaux, France 2011

Inside the 54-seat restaurant, we sat at a cozy table just off the open kitchen. We chose the wine pairing with our 11-course pescatarian tasting menu. Alternatively, you can select their vegetarian or nightly menu. Meals were elaborate but easy to navigate with complex seasonal ingredients that were not overdone or overused. Food was served on beautiful ceramics made by the Nagatani family from Iga, Japan. This staff. From the sommelier to server as well as the person who removes your finished dishes, they all are well-versed in each dish and all the ingredients. Akiel, who was our main server, recognized us (well, really my phone case) from our dinners at Lazy Bear. He recently moved up to Healdsburg to join the dazzling Single Thread team. And we’re glad he did, he’s such a delight. I wish I could remember our sommelier’s name, he was amazing and such a good conversationalist. Delivery of food and wine is perfectly timed thanks to the tv screens above the kitchen. It all goes back to omotenashi, anticipating a guest’s needs and treating that person like a friend.

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Tip: There’s one table and sofa that located directly across the kitchen, you can see everything. If you’d like to have more of a theater Chef’s Table experience, request that seating.

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Eleven courses later, here we are with Chef de Cuisine Aaron. Happy and full.


BREAKFAST
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Make a selection from the breakfast menu, including a vegetables-from-the-farm frittata, Ibushi-Gin smoked trout, the night before and enjoy it in-room or in nearby study (informal lounge for guests). We chose the Japanese-style breakfast, served in the study. With only five rooms in the inn, we felt the comfort and noise level would be more than manageable. Plus, we wanted to hear what other guests thought of the dinner. Zack was our guy that morning, chatting about the Donabe rice, fishing, and the beauty of Northern California. Engaging and super-nice, he was gracious about us monopolizing his time. Here is what to we had for breakfast:

Grilled Trout
Dungeness Crab Dashimaki Tamago
Donabe Rice with Cherry Blossom
Vegetable Salad in Sesame Dressing
Fresh Yuba with Barrel Aged Ponzu
Homemade Tsukemono
Miso Soup
Fresh Fruit

 

single-thread-farm-onion-flowerThe onion flower used for their stationery. | A note in our menu.

Thank you Katina and Kyle Connaughton and the staff for an extraordinary experience. We can’t wait to go back.

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International Women’s Day

Celebrating Women’s Day with bold and inspiring images on Instagram from these amazing friends, colleagues, and people I want to meet.

wall-street-womens-day-dorka1

Via @dorka1

gunnerandlux-womens-day

Via @gunnerandlux

inkmeetspaper-courage-notebook

Via @inkmeetspaper

womens-day-trisherber

Via @trisherber

pincause-insta
Via @thepincause

instagram-office-nyc-womens-day

Via @mikeyk

wear-red-thepodolls

Via @thepodolls

coco-chanel-quote

Via @sketchlondon

What’s inspiring you today?

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Girl Power Reading

Rad American Women A-ZRad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries by Kate Schatz

These books. Just what we all need to move forward and rise up. You’ll find pages and pages of purposeful words and pictures that honor intellect, bravery, creativity, beauty, and hope. If you read with your child, know that there are lots of opportunities to pretend play and create some of the best (and original) costumes. I’ve read some with my kids and a couple are sitting in our living room ready to be discussed. The Gutsy Girl was a recent birthday gift for my daughter and now has a special spot on her nightstand. And I’m sure there’s more out there. What are your favorite girl power books?

Rad Women WorldwideRad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz (Sequel to Rad American Women A-Z)

Rosie Revere EngineerRosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

The Gutsy Girl by Caroline PaulThe Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul

Women in Science by Rachel IgnotofskyWomen in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea BeatyAda Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Good Night Stories for Rebel GirlsGood Night Stories for Rebel Girls by by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

My First Book of Girl PowerDC Super Heroes: My First Book of Girl Power by Julie Merberg Board Book

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A Few Days in Chicago

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When you’re spending a long no-kids weekend in Chicago and want a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood – close to Broadway shows, good eats, Magnificent Mile and the Art Institute of Chicago – I love the Langham. Located along the Chicago River, this modern yet comfortable hotel has just enough bells and whistles to keep you pampered but also not feeling like you’re tip-toeing around in a museum. The hotel has lots of small living-room-inspired spaces to put your feet up and a nice bar to warm up because baby it was cold outside!

It was November, and we were celebrating an anniversary gift to ourselves, seeing Hamilton. Was it worth the quick trip from the west coast? Yes and YES. I won’t go into my critique of the show because I’d just be echoing all the best reviews. As for securing tickets, I have to thank the representative at American Express Platinum Card Concierge. She was fun to work with, very resourceful, and got the job done within hours.

Here’s a list of where we dined.

The Langham | 330 N Wabash Avene, Chicago, IL 60611 | 312.923.9988

PRIVATEBANK THEATRE
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Yup, I had to get the ubiquitous waiting-in-line picture. It was all so surreal for my husband and I, before and even more so post-show.

Hamilton at PrivateBank Theatre | 18 W. Monroe Street Chicago, IL 60603

BOKA
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Our celebration continued at Boka where we were fortunate to have Augustus take care of us. It was like the kind of care you get at Lazy Bear but on a smaller scale since it was just the two of us. He was so impressive with his knowledge on both food and wine, was polished, and super friendly. Post-dinner drinks at the bar with craft cocktails and a painting of the eminent Bill Murray concluded our five-star experience.

Boka | 1729 N Halsted Street., Chicago, IL 60614 | 312.337.6070

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GODDESS AND THE BAKER
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I LOVE this place! Good morning espresso, artisan pastries, a fine selection of small-batch chocolates, and yummy avocado on toast. And the cafe was only a few blocks from our hotel. What a bonus!

Goddess and the Baker | 33 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 | 312.877.5176

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SALERO
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Spanish cuisine with a contemporary vibe at this neighborhood gem. Lots of delicious small plates as well as platos grande, like the paella mixto (probably one of the best I’ve ever had). For a standout dish on the pintxos (casual bar) menu, get the duck confit empanadas.

Salero | 621 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 | 312.466.1000

MOMOTARO
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Our last dinner was at Momotaro. We were one of the first guests of the evening but within one hour, our elbows were practically rubbing with next-table diners. And I understand why. Great cocktails, fresh and flavorful sushi (served with mild-temperature rice that would make Jiro proud), outstanding cooked dishes, and an all-around fun atmosphere.

My welcome cocktail was the popular Monk’s Journey, which consisted of Ketel One vodka, Chareau Aloe liqueur, matcha green tea, and lime. Bottles of sake followed. As for the food, I spent more time savoring each dish than capturing images. Though, as you’ll see, we had time for a few good ones.

Momotaro | 820 W Lake Street, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.733.4818

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Dandelion Chocolate Tasting

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We had the pleasure of attending a private tasting at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco where Todd (co-founder) and Cynthia, from my favorite small-batch chocolate maker, gave a comprehensive tour of how they make chocolate. From sourcing cacao beans and sorting nibs to tempering and hand wrapping, the journey was fascinating. So many surprising flavors coming from various regions, including Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Madagascar. If you appreciate the bean-to-bar movement, I highly recommend the tasting or just visiting Dandelion Chocolate. If you can’t get to San Francisco, they do have an online shop where you can purchase bars and pre-order their 2016 Advent Calendar. It’s a fairly large work of art, and inside each San Francisco landmark door is a treat made by one of their favorite local chocolatiers. My kind of countdown! In the meantime, here are some images from the tasting. Enjoy!

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A view from the loft at the San Francisco location.

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After tasting the different Dandelion Chocolate bars, we did an interesting blind tasting comparing other brands including Patric, Åkesson’s, and TCHO as well as some big brand names that surprisingly use cocoa powder instead of real chocolate. I was also stuck by the high levels of sugar used in some of the more manufactured chocolate bars. I couldn’t even finish the small tasting samples, it was cloyingly sweet.

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Inside an actual cacao pod. What does this fruit taste like? The fruit has the consistency of a banana and has a mild citrusy flavor. The Dandelion Chocolate team have worked with cacao producers in Venezuela, Belize, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and more.

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The bean slicer is used to test each cacao for the best quality beans.

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We tasted the blended sugar and cacao from one of the melanging cylinders. The nibs and sugar grind for 24 hours before they are stored in blocks. That’s my spoonful before it was quickly devoured. #betterthanNutella

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The final product packaged in some of the most beautiful paper. When Dandelion Chocolate opened a pop-up in Japan, the local team loved the paper so much, they created a small stationery collection with the designs.

Dandelion Chocolate
740 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.349.0942
Website

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