Year in Review: 2014

Emily and I at The Green Dragon in Boston.

Emily and I at The Green Dragon in Boston.

I can’t believe another year has passed already. I’m starting to feel old, and I’m only 22 (almost 23!). Last year around this time I posted a short review of my year—exciting stuff that happened (I graduated!), books I loved, movies I saw. I thought I’d do the same thing this year because, even though nothing as exciting as graduating from college happened, I did read some amazing books and see some amazing movies.

lovelyphotoI’ll start with books. One unconventional book that I absolutely adored was Lovely: Ladies of Animation, a collaborative art book featuring personal work by Lorelay Bove, Brittney Lee, Claire Keane, Helen Cheng, Lisa Keene, and Victoria Ying. I went to their exhibit in Burbank at the Center Stage Gallery and it was amazing. I love their artwork, and anyone into art, animation, or Disney should check it out.

sinnerNovels I loved include Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys, a story about a hard working girl from the French District in New Orleans. The writing was wonderful and the characters colorful. Another colorful book was Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis, an “Arabian nights” type story set in India. Both those books are full of very different cultures, vibrant and interesting. Another book full of culture is Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse. The culture in this book is fictional, but heavily based upon Roman and Greek culture. I am incredibly excited for the next book, The Winner’s Crime. And speaking of waiting, I waited so long for Maggie Stiefvater’s Sinner, a stand alone companion novel to her Wolves of Mercy Falls series. If any of you like Maggie Stiefvater or werewolves or hot OTP couples, definitely check out this book. All of these books are incredible, and if you haven’t read them, put them on your “to read” list.

The-Theory-of-EverythingAs far as movies go, I enjoyed the adaptation of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which was not only a moving story set in World War II, but also incredibly close to the book. I also liked The Theory of Everything, the movie about Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane. The acting was amazing. And I know this is not a movie, but I also loved watching ABC’s Once Upon A Time. It was a fun, fairytale adventure with lots of twists and turns and villains. I can’t wait for the next season to come to Netflix.

Me under a tunnel of books.

Me under a tunnel of books.

It is difficult, nigh impossible, to top the traveling Emily and I did last year, going to London, Oxford, and Paris. This year was not as exciting, but we did get around. We went to Boston, walked the Freedom Trail, tasted the marvels of Little Italy. On the West Coast, I also visited The Last Bookstore, one of the most famous bookstores in Los Angeles, and it was quite the experience. Emily and I are closing off the year in Chicago together, so more adventures are yet to be had!

I can’t wait to wrap up 2014 watching Lord of the Rings in Chicago with my best friend, but I’m also looking forward to 2015. Hopefully it will be an exciting year and bring about some changes. I’m still thinking about what my resolutions should be, but hopefully they are big and exciting! I hope your new year is the same.

A Taste of Italy

IMG_2919Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that carbs is my favorite food group. It’s the German part of me. Carbs, carbs, carbs. So, of course, one of my favorite kinds of food ever is Italian food. I love the bread, the pasta, the meatballs. One day, I will go to Italy and do nothing but eat, eat, eat all the delicious Italian food. But until then, I search eagerly for authentic Italian restaurants outside of the mother land. I found one in Santa Barbara, Max’s Restaurant and Cucina. My family likes to go there for breakfast on Sundays, but at night their Italian food is to die for. And served by a waitress with a thick Italian accent.

IMG_2922So naturally, when Emily and I went to Boston and we learned that they have quite the Italian food scene, we decided we had to eat in Little Italy. Luckily, the Freedom Trail goes right through Little Italy, and we actually got breakfast and a delicious pastry shop called Modern Pastry, but we were sure to return for lunch. We found a restaurant right on the Freedom Trail called Limoncello, and it was some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had.

IMG_0793Homemade pasta, fresh bread, and a cute waiter who barely spoke English. The place was wonderful. It was adorable, with paintings of Italy on the walls, bottles of wine lined up around the room, and cute flowers by the windows. We were one of the only parties in the restaurant at the time, so it was a relaxing environment. We sat by the window and watched people walk by on the Freedom Trail and observed people going about their business in Little Italy. It was a great experience, and even as I write this I’m craving the food.

Someday I’ll go to Italy for real and eat so much food I’ll come back twice the size I was when I left. But until then, I’m grateful to find places with such authentic Italian food. They’re gems, and if you’re ever in Boston and looking for a good place to eat, I wholeheartedly recommend Limoncello.

Emily and I in Little Italy, Boston, right outside Limoncello on the Freedom Trail.

Emily and I in Little Italy, Boston, right outside Limoncello on the Freedom Trail.

Les Deux Magots

ImageThe highlight of my senior year of college had nothing to do with college, though graduating was rather exciting. But the most incredible thing I did that year was travel to Europe for the first time. Emily and I stayed in London for over a week, taking day trips to Oxford and Paris. When we decided to go to Paris, we knew we had to eat in a quintessential Parisian café in order to get the true Parisian experience. And being the literature nerds that we are, we knew we wanted to find a café with literary significance. After all, almost every old café in Paris can boast that it has hosted more than one famous writer, both European and American. After diligent research—which is Emily’s gift—we decided that for our whirlwind day in Paris we would eat in a little café known as Les Deux Magots.

Les Deux Magots is a small café located in Saint-Germain. And before you begin to wonder, the name does not translate to “two maggots”, which would be a terrible name for a place that serves food. Rather, Les Deux Magots means the two Chinese figurine dolls, a name derived from a novelty shop that occupied the space before the café. Since it was founded in 1812, Les Deux Magots has served many famous authors, artists, and notable people, but I will mention two.

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This plaque stands on the street corner where the cafe is located.

Ever the classicist, Emily insisted that we find a café where Ernest Hemingway had frequented while he lived in Paris in the 1920s. Les Deux Magots is one of those cafes, and it was very excited for both of us to eat in a place where that hosted this great American writer. More exciting for me and less exciting for Emily, Simone de Beauvoir also ate at Les Deux Magots. A notable French existentialist, writer, and feminist, de Beauvoir is most famous for her book The Second Sex and her relationship with existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. While I wrote my senior thesis that year—you can read part of my musings on the heroine in British literature—I read The Second Sex and was duly impressed by de Beauvoir’s intelligence and talent in writing. Though as a disclaimer I should say that I disagree with her on many, many points, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way de Beavoir tied feminism into philosophy, psychology, and politics. Anyway, Emily humored my Simone de Beauvoir phase as she handles all my odd phases, and we went to the café of Ernest Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir.

But besides the historical and literary significance of Les Deux Magots, there is also the cultural atmosphere of a French café—a Parisian café. Emily and I sat at our small little table and ate our delicious sandwiches, soaking in the moment, pretending we were great writers ourselves. It was a wonderful experience; a required experience if you ever plan on visiting Paris. There are many cafés to choose from, and I’m sure they all serve delicious food and wonderful ambience, but Emily and I can personally recommend Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

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A shelf in the famous Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company that honors Simone de Beauvoir and her book The Second Sex.

Founding Farmers

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Founding Farmers in Washington DC is one of our new favorite restaurants.

Have you ever heard of love languages? You know, words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch? According to the premise, these are the ways in which we show others that we care, and the way in which others show that they care about us. I’m not 100% sure of how much I buy into this concept, but I do know one thing for certain. One of the major ways that I like to show that I care for someone is through giving them gifts.

Clare is the same way, and we always joke that buying Christmas and birthday presents for each other is so easy that we could go broke. I cannot tell you how many times I have texted her in July saying that I found her Christmas present, or how many times Clare has told me that she found my birthday present 11 months early! Part of this is that the two of us are so similar that it is easy to shop for Clare, and I am always on the lookout for little pick-me-ups that I could send her or books that I want to share with her, and vice versa.

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The bacon lollys were strips of bacon caramelized in brown sugar and other spices. And they are just as incredible as they sound!

But in the past few years, I have realized that my favorite gift to give a person is an experience. What I love about experience gifts is that they last forever in pictures and in memories. While a t-shirt can rip or fade, and experience lives on in stories that we tell and memories that we share.

This year I was so excited to be able to celebrate Clare’s birthday with her in person! So while Clare was visiting me and my family in DC, I decided to take her to see a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Kennedy Center. There were good things about the show (puppets and a set that helped the audience imagine much of the scenery and characters in our minds) and bad things (a costume change that took Bottom’s transformation into an ass literally and left no room for the imagination).

But I think that both of us agree that the best part of the experience was the meal we shared beforehand at one of my favorite restaurants, Founding Farmers. Founding Farmers is an award-winning restaurant in Washington DC that has also won many fans among residents due to its fresh, utterly delicious food. The restaurant is located three blocks west of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, and usually the line of people waiting for tables spills out onto the street. And with good reason.

Founding Farmers is owned by a collective of American farms run by families (hence the name). All of the food in the restaurant is provided by those families, which ensures that the food is fresh, seasonal, and so, so delicious.

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The burgers are fresh, homemade, and to die for.

If you are lucky enough to live in the Washington DC area, you should definitely check out the restaurant for a special occasion or a fun night out on the town. Clare and I highly recommend the bacon lolly appetizer (it’s as amazing and life-expectancy-reducing as it sounds), the dogs & rolls (the homemade potato chips that come as a side are also incredible), and the chicken bolognese with bucatini (all of the pasta is handmade daily and is such a treat). From past trips, I can also recommend the fried green tomato appetizer (at its best during the summer), the GCS Burger (which is topped with fresh goat cheese, spinach, and pickled cucumbers and onions), and the goat cheese ravioli with chicken cutlet (a perfect blending of sweet and savory that melts in your mouth). Their made-to-order beignets are one dessert that I now crave on a regular basis.

Chicken Bolognese with Bucatini

And if you live outside the DC area, fear not! The restaurant has also put out an amazing cookbook! That you can buy on Amazon! I just purchased this for a loved one, and cannot wait to look through the cookbook and decide what amazing dishes to make at home.

Clare and I made so many fun memories that evening at Founding Farmers, and look forward to going again in the future to make some more.

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Order the beignets at the beginning of your meal, and they are made from scratch for you while you eat the rest of your incredible meal.

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Fourth of July Pie

Happy Independence Day! If you live in the US, that is. If not, I still hope you’re having a lovely day.

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Clare even made me a Batman apron to wear while baking pies.

One thing that Clare and I love is food. And by “love”, I mean that many of our adventures have centered around food– gelatto at the National Gallery of Art, chocolate beignets at Paul in Paris, tapas at La Tasca in Chinatown, New York style pizza at John’s Pizzeria in Manhattan, fish and chips at the Red Anchor in London. We love food.

My family, in particular, loves pie. We have pies for every season and have pie every holiday. When Clare lived in New York she would come to our house in Maryland for Thanksgiving and Easter. The Moores like cake more than pie, but we Bridgeses quickly introduced Clare to pie. It is kind of a rule in our family: Thou Shalt Love Pie.

Like I said, we take our pie seriously. We have a pie crust recipe that has been passed down through several generations, and several recipes that my grandmother has recently passed on as well.

My mom and I are entering a pie baking contest at our church’s Fourth of July picnic this evening, and I thought I would share one of my grandmother’s favorite recipes with you, dear readers. I am not a food blogger, but I did my best. Meaning, I forgot to take pictures of several steps. Oops. Ah, well. Here we go.

Strawberry Pie

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My family has been using this pie crust recipe for generations.

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons Crisco
  • 4 Tablespoons ice water

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Step 2. Sift together:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Step 3. Take out 1/4 cup of the flour and salt mixture and set aside for a later step.

Step 4. Mix 8 Tablespoons of Crisco into the remaining 1 1/4 cups of the salt and flour mixture.

Step 5. Measure 4 Tablespoons of ice water into a bowl.

Step 6. Take the 1/4 cup flour and salt mixture set aside earlier and mix it together with the ice water.

Step 7. Mix this into the other flour mixture.

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Step 8. Mix them together until a ball of dough is formed.DSC_0066

Step 9. Roll the dough out using a rolling pin and flour.DSC_0083Step 10. Drape the pie dough into an ungreased pie pan and shape it into a pie-like shape. DSC_0086For decoration, you can also braid the extra scraps of pie dough and line the pie pan with the braided crust.DSC_0092

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Step 11. Put the pie crust into the oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown (this time may vary depending on your oven.DSC_0001Step 12. While the pie crust cools completely, start on the filling.

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My grandmother’s original recipe has been well-loved over the years.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of fresh strawberries, washed and dried
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons strawberry jello
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Step 1. Bring the 1 cup water to boil.

Step 2. While waiting for the water to boil, mix the cornstarch, jello, and sugar together.DSC_0045

Step 3. Once the water is boiling add the cornstarch, jello, and sugar mixture.

Step 4. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute.

Step 5. Cool the mixture completely.

Step 6. While the mixture is cooling, slice up the strawberries. The thinner that you can slice the strawberries, the better.DSC_0110

Step 7. Once the pie crust is completely cooled, add in the sliced strawberries.DSC_0004

Step 8. When the filling is cooled completely, pour it over the strawberries in the pie crust.DSC_0005

Step 9. Cover the pie and put it in the fridge until you serve it. We usually serve the pie with whipped cream.DSC_0013

Step 10. Enjoy! And happy Fourth of July!

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Our sous chefs, Sydney and Bella, were a great help.

Paul: A Maison de Qualite

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The inside of the Paul in Washington DC.

In 1889 in the city of Croix, in Northern France, a man named Charlemagne Mayot founded a bakery and café called Paul. 124 years later, there are now Paul bakeries in 24 countries, including the United States. I discovered a Paul bakery in Washington DC several years ago, and it has become one of my favorite places in the world.

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The National Archives and Navy Memorial, located right next to the Paul in Washington DC.

This is partly because I love food. I had a friend observe once that I don’t give directions by street names, I give directions by landmarks. And most of my landmarks are food places. “Keep going past Busboys and Poets. If you’ve passed Franklin’s you’ve gone too far.” Paul is one of my favorite landmarks in Washington DC. The bakery is right by the National Archives and the Navy Memorial and is easily accessible.

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Paul always has a selection of fresh homemade sandwiches that are perfect for picnics.

And have I mentioned the food? The food is incredible at Paul. They make homemade bread each day and use demi baguettes as the base for delicious sandwiches that are perfect for an on-the-go lunch or picnic in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

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Some of the amazing desserts Paul offers.

And then, of course, there are the desserts. My favorite desserts include a cappuccino macaroon and a beignet filled with Nutella. These are also made daily and are always fresh and warm.

While the food is delicious, I have a special place in my heart for Paul due to many memories that are attached to the place. Clare would come down to visit my family in Maryland for many holidays throughout the years when she lived in New York, and we loved to go exploring in DC. One place that we always had to go when she visited was Paul. We would get sandwiches and beignets to go and then we would walk around the monuments, the Capitol, or the Library of Congress.

When Clare and I went on our trip to London over spring break this year, we found a Paul bakery right next to Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly. We also took the Eurostar train from St. Pancras International in London to Gare du Nord in France. We had 8 hours to spend in Paris. We went to the Louvre, Shakespeare and Company, Saint-Germain-de-Prés, the Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. We also were able to squeeze in two trips to Paul!

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A Paul on the Rue de Seine, near Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris.

When I began to write my Evan story, the novel that I just finished writing, last summer, I spent a lot of time in the Paul in Washington DC. A large amount of the first 1/3 of my manuscript was written in the café, looking out at the people bustling by the National Archives.

Paul will always have a special place in my heart.  Whether it is in Paris or DC, or whether I’m writing or with a friend, Paul is always a necessary stop for an outing. And believe me, once you try the food, you’ll be hooked too.

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Clare and I got chocolate beignets to go in Paris and ate them near the Eiffel Tower.