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I sometimes think that if it wasn’t for this blog, I wouldn’t remember half of the things we do in a year. I love going back and being able to remember exactly what we did, ate, and saw during a certain time of year. It’s been the most consistent journal I have had in my adult life, and hopefully making it public has been entertaining and informative to others! As I sat down to start writing this post, I thought to myself that we didn’t do too much in 2014, but going back made me realize what a full year it was from the very start and just how much good happened.

2014 was an interesting year. We spent a large chunk of it legally chasing after a shady plumber who took lots and lots of money and did a hack job on our house. We hoped to leave that in 2014, but the legal system had other ideas. You can really get away with anything if you’re slimy enough, we’ve learned. If you’re looking for a plumber in the Boston area, feel free to contact me so you know who NOT to choose.

That situation has been tough, but this year has been about so much more. We saw our families a ton, with two visits to Ireland and multiple guests from Ireland, as well as a nice long visit from New Jersey family and lots of short trips there. We got to help out in our first Sonoma grape harvest, had many boat dates, and genuinely grew closer to many great people in our lives. It was a full, rich year, and we have so many memories to be thankful for.

Below are some of my Best of 2014 moments in food and travel. Please share one of yours in the comments!

 

Aniar –  My belated birthday dinner in Galway was definitely the best meal of the year. Service, ambiance, and local Irish ingredients make it easy to see why this restaurant has a Michelin star. How many ways can I tell you to get yourself to Galway, then go to Aniar?

Aniar Galway

 

Red Fish Grill, Coral Gables, Florida – We kicked off 2014 with a trip to Miami. With the winter we had, it turned out we needed every second of warm sunshine we soaked up while there. We stayed at the Sonesta in Coconut Grove (highly recommended, full disclosure, I work for Sonesta Hotels.)

Red Fish Grill

 

Owenmore Restaurant at Ballynahinch Castle – You know how I feel about the Irish countryside, if you’ve been reading for any amount of time. There is an indescribable beauty and sense of calm; it changes me in the best ways ever. We got to spend a day in the country, followed by a delicious dinner and overnight at Ballynahinch Castle, a place my husband’s family has been visiting for years. They knew so many people it felt like home, and I will always remember relaxing by the fire into the wee hours of St. Patrick’s Day morning.

Ballynahinch Castle

Ballynahinch Castle Owenmore Restaurant

 

Wine Country Weekend Lunch at Davis Family Vineyards – A year is not complete without a visit to Sonoma County. Through blogging about wine and travel, I have met some great people and had amazing opportunities, and this year was no different. We kicked off this wine country trip with a glorious wine lunch at Davis Family Vineyards. Sonoma Wine Country weekend has so many great events (including our starlit night of dancing at Rodney Strong), and I would definitely recommend checking one or two out if you happen to be there during the events.

Davis Family wine

 

Sonoma sunset

 

The Girl and the Fig and all the Sonoma County wine tasting – Okay, pretty much every moment of our Sonoma trip was my favorite. This post summed up some of the food and wine experiences we had in Napa and Sonoma. Our Flipkey wine country cottage is really worth checking out too.

Girl and the Fig, Sonoma

Travel to Long Island Wine Country – From tasting by the ocean in the beautiful Kontokosta Winery tasting room to chilling out at Noah’s in Greenport, having copious quantities of oysters and bubbly at the Blue Canoe, and feeling at home at Bedell Cellarsour getaway to the North Fork was one of my favorite weekends of 2014.  The North Fork is so easy to get to from Boston, and we are definitely planning a 2015 visit.

Kontokosta Winery, North Fork

As we look back at 2014, we are planning our 2015 travel, including the biggest trip of our lives. . . a 12 day safari in Tanzania! I have been to Africa once before (Tunisia during college), but this is going to be very different. Sleeping in a tent amongst lions and elephants and other animals? SO exciting and so very far out of my nerve-laden comfort zone! It will definitely be an adventure!

 

Your turn – what was your favorite food/travel moment of 2014? Do you have any 2015 travel plans or dreams?

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Tags: best of, California, cocktails, Connemara, Dining out, Food, Ireland, North Fork, Sonoma, Travel, wine, wine country

With just over a week left in 2014, I have my winner for the best meal of the year. We ate a lot this year and had the opportunity to do some great travel (Best of travel coming tomorrow!), so it was tough to decide. Our experience at Aniar in Galway was just so exquisite though, I couldn’t NOT choose it as the best of 2014. My photos don’t do this meal any justice; the lighting was perfect for a date night but not great for photos. And I definitely know I am leaving details out, since it seems like this dinner was ages ago. Below is my best effort at sharing with all of you an evening that delighted so many senses and left us singing Aniar’s praises all over Galway and beyond.

Aniar Galway

Aniar means “west” in Irish, and much like wine makers, they are driven by terroir. You won’t find lemon in your water at Aniar because lemons don’t grow in Ireland. Our tasting menu feast highlighted meat and produce from Ireland; it was a great testament to the fact that Irish food can be REALLY good, something I have been trying to get across for years. Ireland has some of the best raw materials for amazing cuisine, and it’s great to see places like Aniar showcasing that.

Aniar Galway

We decided to go all out and do the tasting menu with wine pairings since this was my belated birthday dinner, which we didn’t make due to a flight cancellation from Scotland.

I was so glad that we did the wine pairings, as they were spot on perfect. The service was even better. The wines weren’t listed on our menus, and when I asked about them at the end of the meal, our server hand wrote each one on the back of the menu. Throughout the night there were so many little added touches where the staff went above and beyond.

A light, fun, Prosecco kicked off our night, and went nicely with our first course, a fresh piece of mackerel. I love pairing a fatty fish with bubbly, and our first bites set the tone for the whole meal.

Aniar Galway We had a table right by the window, so we were able to watch the hustle and bustle of a rainy Galway evening while we dined. It was cozy and romantic, and despite Aniar being a Michelin star restaurant, there was nothing stiff or pretentious about the place. It felt so homey and relaxed.

Aniar Galway Each bite of the meal was perfect; this fresh hen egg was swoon-worthy.

Aniar Galway

Halibut dusted in fennel, deliciously flaky and meaty at the same time, paired with Chardonnay from Beaujolais (Terres Dorées 2012 Classic) that was acidic and crisp, full of mineral and lemon.

Aniar Galway

Somewhere along the way (I am missing a course, pork neck.) we were served a wine that I was able to instantly recognize as Gamay, the grape in the oft overly fruity and awful Beaujolais Nouveau. This Gamay, by Jean Paul Brun, was a perfect example of how good Gamay can be when aged and finessed the right way. Big, dark cherry notes and a little earthy funk made this wine a new favorite, and I am definitely hoping to get my hands on it in the US.

A beautiful local herbal tea sorbet was the perfect mid-meal palate cleanser.

Aniar Galway

The tasting menu included some things I don’t normally go for, like venison, but I was adventurous and tried it all. And I hate to say it, but I thought the venison was incredible. It was so tender and flavorful and paired perfectly with the earthy, seasonal vegetables served with it. A gorgeous Rhone Valley Syrah rounded out each bite. This was my favorite course of the night.

Aniar Galway

 

wine pairings at Aniar Galway

Dessert was a fun and foamy blackberry, apple, and buttermilk concoction paired with a Chateau Jolys Cuvee Jean, a dessert wine that had so much balance with its honeysuckle sweetness that even I, one who does not like sweet wine, loved it.

dessert at Aniar

I wish I had taken the time to take more photos and notes along the way, but the way this meal flowed, the chat with our servers, watching the people go by and peeking into the insanely clean and busy kitchen all caught my attention before the thought of blogging creeped in. This night was a delicious, long breath of fresh air, filled with flavor and obvious love of food and of Irish ingredients. Bravo to Chef Ultan Cooke and the Aniar team, and thank you for being my best meal of 2014.

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Tags: Dining out, Food, Galway, Ireland, restaurants in Ireland, Travel, travel blog, travel blogger, wine, wine blog, wine blogger

Monday is a good time for dreaming of travel, don’t you think? I’m excited to share that Flipkey is holding a contest in conjunction with their new virtual tours. They are asking bloggers to write a post about which of three virtual tour locations, Lake Tahoe, Phoenix, or Miami, the blogger would choose to enter to win a $1,000 Visa gift card.

I love to write, and I love to travel, and I love to write about travel, so I thought this would be a fun contest. I have been to Miami (and would totally go back, especially to stay at the Sonesta in Coconut Grove). I have been to Phoenix and would like to explore more.

But the sound of Lake Tahoe pretty much just grabs at my wanderlust in a much bigger way. You know I love California. My first Flipkey experience was at our Sonoma wine country house rental; the experience was an amazing one, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Lake Tahoe has a lot going for it, including its proximity to wine country, gorgeous natural beauty, gigantic blue lake

The Flipkey Virtual Tour of Lake Tahoe won me over completely.

Emerald Bay

(Source)

This photo of Emerald Bay takes my breath away; I can imagine it being spectacular in all seasons.  I am a country girl at heart, and smelling the pines, hearing the lake lapping its shores, and being able to see endless sky would be my paradise.

 

Bear's Landing

(Source)

Similarly, Bear’s Landing looks like pure bliss. I want to hike for hours and swim and kayak and water-ski, then relax in a hot tub or in front of a fire in one of the many beautiful Flipkey rentals.  I might even learn to ski in snow, depending on when we visited! Lake Tahoe looks like a true getaway, which is why it is my choice.

Your turn, if you had the choice, which would you visit, Lake Tahoe, Miami, or Phoenix? Why?

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Tags: California, contests, Flipkey, Lake Tahoe, Take me there, Travel, travel blog

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