We are heading back to one of my favorite places…Watercolor, Florida!! As many of you know, we love Watercolor and have been going there A LOT over the past year. I have been visiting this area for about a decade and my husband and his family have been going for pretty much his whole life. To get ready for my trip, I’m sharing my packing list!
This trip to Watercolor is even more exciting than usual because we’re not only going to enjoy the beach, but we also get to celebrate Easter with our friends at the Chapel at Seaside which is going to be so special.
For those of you who don’t know, Watercolor and Seaside are two communities that back up to one another along the iconic stretch of the beachside highway known as 30A. You can distinguish where you are in this area by the architecture. Seaside is known for having almost dollhouse looking homes painted in pinks, yellows, blues, greens and white and Watercolor is filled with larger homes mostly painted in whites, blues and greens. All of these towns are connected with bike paths so you never have to drive anywhere which I love.
The weather along the Florida panhandle is gorgeous during the month of April and it’s usually a lot less busy than spring break and the summer. Since the vibe in the area is casual chic, I’m packing mostly dresses and pastel-colored swimsuits. I never go to the beach without packing a few sunhats…I live for my Eugenia Kim hat and it is just amazing, but it is kind of a hassle to pack. If you’re flying or don’t want to deal with bringing a big hat, check out this foldable one I found for less than $10. I use it way more than my other hats and I get so many compliments on it.
Have you been to Watercolor or anywhere on 30A? What are your favorite things to do in the area?
Tom Brady, the Chiefs and The Weeknd…could I ask for a better Super Bowl lineup? I have had a crush on Tom Brady since middle school and the Chiefs are my favorite team in the NFL so I will be cheering for both teams this Sunday and eagerly anticipating The Weeknd’s performance. Since we’ll be celebrating from home, I’m making my favorite chili, guacamole and buffalo chicken wings for me and my husband to snack on for the big game.
To start off our Super Bowl celebrations, I will be whipping up a big bowl of my favorite guacamole. I stumbled upon this creation one day when I was out of red onion and tomato so instead I used white onion and no tomato and it ended up being the best guacamole I’ve ever made.
Because of the cooler weather, I think Chili is perfect to cook for Super Bowl Sunday. For whatever reason, I prefer to use pinto beans for my chili so it’s a little bit different, but I love it. You can warm up some tortillas or biscuits for dipping and top the chili with sour cream, cheese and green onions. We also love buffalo chicken wings in our household. I get the pre-marinated buffalo chicken wings from Central Market and cook them at 450 degrees and 20 minutes on each side. I know this sounds a little aggressive, but they get so crispy and delicious.
I love how all of these foods are great for snacking on throughout the day and they are exactly unhealthy. What are you cooking this weekend for the Super Bowl and who are you cheering for?
When we were planning our trip to Miami, I had high expectations for the weather and beaches, but wasn’t thinking much about the food. After living in Houston for six years, I became quite spoiled by the *highly* underrated food scene and am usually disappointed by the food in other cities when I travel now. But I was not disappointed by the Miami food scene at all, in fact, I was quite blown away.
To share my culinary adventures with all of you, I’m ranking the seven restaurants we ate at during our trip. We barely scratched the surface when it comes to Miami dining so this is in no way a ranking of all Miami restaurants, only the ones we ate at during our three-and-a-half-day stay.
Our best meal in Miami was at Casa Tua. The vibe was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced and the food was excellent. We ordered a fish carpaccio, octopus (the best dish we had on our entire trip), the Mushroom Fettuccine (which they are apparently known for), the Red Snapper and finished off our meal with the Italian Casa Tua Doughnuts.
No matter where you are seated for dinner at Casa Tua, you will have the most enjoyable time. Each dining area is unique and oozes sophisticated European charm. COVID guidelines were well respected here and we will definitely be back.
A very close second for our dining experience in Miami is Mandolin. This mediterranean bistro is a true gem and should not be missed when visiting Miami. Set in the lush gardens behind Miami’s famed design district, the striking blues and whites that make up this restaurant make you feel like you’ve been transported to Greece.
For lunch, we ordered the Cheese Saganaki, the Ali Nazak, Greek Salad, the octopus and French Fries with Greek Yogurt. We ate every bite and wish we could have tried more, but we were so full. In addition to the lovely setting and insanely good food, the service was excellent and the restaurant felt clean and respectful of COVID guidelines.
We also loved La Mar. This hip Peruvian restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. The food was outstanding and we had the sweetest waiter. We ordered the Roll Anticuchero, the octopus, the Arroz con Mariscos and the whole fish which was de-boned, cut up and fried into small bites.
I will say that there were a couple of things that led to La Mar not being my top restaurant of the trip. First of all, I did not feel safe in regards to COVID. This place was packed and restaurant workers were constantly asking patrons to put their masks on, which was unnerving. I do think the restaurant could restrict the number of reservations they take or limit the number of people who are just standing around to alleviate this issue. Secondly, the restaurant terrace is overlooking the bay, which is lovely, but people were smoking on the pathway right beneath the tables which was awful. Third, because the restaurant sits at the base of the hotel, many people use the two entrances on the restaurant’s terrace to get into the hotel so that means random people are walking by your table all night.
We ate at the Edge at the Four Seasons twice during our stay. Once for breakfast and once for lunch and we really enjoyed both meals. I noticed the adherence to COVID guidelines the most here compared to any of the other restaurants we ate at. The tables were well spaced and very clean, patrons and workers were required to wear masks (when not at their table) and the food was great.
For breakfast we had coffees, the baker’s basket–a butter croissant, a chocolate croissant and a croissant filled with cream cheese and jam, and the Honey Nut Granola Parfait. For lunch one day we shared a burger and fries by the pool and it was amazing.
Of course we had to go to Little Havana when we were in Miami! After a little cigar shopping, we popped into Sanguich de Miami for Cuban Sandwiches. This sandwich shop is really a hidden gem in Little Havana. All of the sandwiches are made on fresh Cuban bread and are made with high-quality meats.
Sanguich de Miami was also really good about COVID guidelines and the restaurant felt very clean and safe. There is usually a line so if you’re looking to save time or avoid the crowds, you can order ahead online seamlessly.
Mignonette… I’m still replaying this experience in my head because I had high hopes for it, but I don’t find myself wanting to go back. The food we had was good, but there were a few things that threw the experience off for me.
Located in the up-and-coming Edgewater neighborhood, Mignonette is housed in what was once a gas station. They did a fabulous job transforming this place, but upon entering, I smelled something very muggy and musty and that’s not great when you’re about to eat seafood. We also sat at the front of the restaurant which has a large window so all of the oncoming headlights were a bit much for me. Another thing that detracted from the experience was that the waiter originally helping us left unexpectedly during dinner and we were not helped again for quite some time by another staff member. I also ordered sparkling water several times that never came. All of this is to say that our dinner at Mignonette was good, but I don’t think we will be back.
LT Steak & Seafood, the main restaurant at the Betsy Hotel on South Beach was our least favorite of the trip. Since we stayed at the Betsy our first night in Miami, we had lunch there when we arrived–a burger and the Spicy Crispy Rock Shrimp roll– and then breakfast the next morning where we had oatmeal and the Betsy Breakfast. Although the service could not have been better, the food left quite a bit to be desired. With so many other options in the area, I regret having had two meals here.
As summer winds down, Americans continue traveling around the country. This week for Brit’s Summer Travel Series, we are heading to one of my favorite places, the island of Palm Beach! Since I couldn’t go this summer, my friend, Hillary is helping me out on the blog this week. She has been quarantining in the ultra-luxe locale since March and has not only shared some of her favorite things to do in the area, but she has also given a lot of updates about what the area is like now during the Coronavirus pandemic.
When I think of Palm Beach, the first things that comes to mind are luxury, pink and palm leaves…a few of my absolute favorite things! But there is so much this little slice of paradise has to offer. Concentrated within 7.8 miles, Palm Beach boasts fabulous shopping, top restaurants and incredible hotels.
You will not be hard-pressed to find an amazing meal in Palm Beach. Some of the best restaurants from New York City are in Palm Beach as well as institutions like the Palm Beach Grill and Benny’s on the Beach. If you’re a seafood lover, there is nothing better than enjoying a cocktail at the Seafood Bar at the Breakers with fish swimming under your glass.
Just as a rule of thumb when traveling or day-to-day life, if there is a Hillstone restaurant in your area, go there. Whether I am in Palm Beach, Montecito or Dallas, I always go to the Honor Bar (and order the Emerald Kale with Rotisserie Chicken Salad, French fries and a glass of white wine), which is one of the many restaurants owned by the Hillstone Group. The food is always amazing, the wine lists are perfection and the service is great.
The activities to do in Palm Beach are endless. A local favorite is bike riding on Lake Trail and hanging out on the beach of course. As most of you know, I am a shopper so Worth Avenue and the Royal Poinciana. The flagship Lilly Pulitzer store is right on Worth Ave. and you can see how the designs for fabrics are made and shop some of the best Lilly styles around! At the Royal Poinciana, you can find things like LoveShackFancy, Alice and Olivia, Hermes, Stoney Clover Lane, Zimmerman and so much more…it is like my dream shopping destination!!
Growing up, my dad loved taking me and my sister on road trips around the U.S….from San Diego to Seattle, or Manhattan, Kansas to Montana and so many more stops over the years. This summer, I’ll be sharing my favorite U.S. summer destinations with you as part of my Summer Travel Series.
To kick things off, we’re going to Watercolor, Florida! Watercolor is a picture-perfect town nestled in between Destin and Panama City Beach along the scenic 30-A Highway. I’ve been going to Watercolor since 2010, but my husband and his family have gone since the 90s, around the time the town was developed. His mom has the most beautiful beach house there so we try to go a couple of times a year and it is just magical.
This beautiful beach town is a quick four-hour drive from New Orleans, Louisiana, a six-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia and nine hours from Houston, Texas. There are also two airports nearby–Northwest Beaches Airport in Panama City and Pensacola International Airport that bring in flights from around the country.
Watercolor is a private resort community and it has its own beach, beach club, pools, tennis courts and miniature water park. The town has a hotel and homes that can be rented or owned. By staying at the hotel or one of these homes, you then have access to all of the town’s amenities.
Watercolor and the surrounding communities are connected by biking trails so you don’t have to drive once you get there if you don’t want to. Ubers are VERY limited in the area so I would recommend arranging rides to and from the airport and any dinners that are far away in advance because it is really hard to get a ride last-minute.
The restaurants in the area are some of my all-time favorites. Our family favorite and closest restaurant to our house is Cafe Thirty-A. It’s a very traditional restaurant and they have great fish, an incredible wine list and it is family-friendly. Next on our list is Basmati’s…I think they have the best cocktails and the food is so good! Borago is also a wonderful option if you are in the mood for Italian.
For lunch, I have to go to Shrimp Shack at least once every trip. They have the best lobster rolls–huge pieces of fresh lobster served on a simple bun with no sauce, but a side of melted butter…the best. And sometimes I get their gumbo too. The actual restaurant is really small, but they have patio-style seating that looks over the water and it makes for a great afternoon. My other lunch favorite is George’s at Alys Beach, but I have been told by most people I bring there that they don’t like it. I however, love it. The building looks like it has been dropped out of the Hamptons and delivered straight to 30A. The food is wonderful and the service is great.
We also try to go to the Big Bad Breakfast (BBB) at Inlet Beach on our trips–either right when we get in or before we fly out. BBB is originally from Oxford, Mississippi, the same town where my husband and I went to college at Ole Miss so we love going to the new BBB at Inlet Beach for a little bit of nostalgia and the food is amazing.
Reservations are always essential at these restaurants for dinner, but even more so now because of coronavirus restrictions. I will say our most recent trip was quite different than those in the past. The town was still busy, but the Watercolor Inn seemed really understaffed and over-occupied leading to crowding and nearly hour long wait times to even order a drink. If you’re at the beach club, I would just suggest packing a cooler and bringing your own drinks to the beach.
Other than the beach and beach club, there is also Camp Watercolor and the lake for guests to enjoy (in addition to smaller community pools and parks.) Camp Watercolor was just re-done and has a really fun lazy river, a slide and a pool for children of all ages.
If you’re more interested in checking out the lake, they offer kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing in a beautiful setting. But whatever you’re interested in doing during your vacation, Watercolor will almost certainly have you covered.
I hope you enjoyed this trip to Watercolor with me! Come back next week to see our next stop on Brit’s Summer Travel Series!
As an avid traveler, the past few months have been incredibly strange for me. In my pre-COVID life, my husband and I would fly somewhere at least twice a month, but until last week, we hadn’t stepped foot in an airport since March.
To be honest with you, I was a bit trepidatious about going to the airport and actually flying. I had so many questions and had heard horror stories about not being able to use the bathroom or not having access to get water or food. In the weeks leading up to our trip, I called the Austin-Bergstrom Airport a couple of times to see what it was like in the airport. They assured me that places like Starbucks and Jo’s Coffee were open and all of the bathrooms were open.
I had also heard stories about crazy-long lines to check bags and get through security, but in our experience, it took less than 10 minutes to check two bags and we got through security in under 15 minutes.
We flew from Austin, Texas to Panama City Beach, Florida for our first post-COVID vacation. There were no direct flights available so on the way to Florida we had a layover in Nashville, Tennessee and on our way home we had a layover in Houston, Texas. Our layover in Nashville was about 10 minutes so I can’t really speak to what that airport was like, but I would rate Austin’s airport as the cleanest and most efficient.
For our trip, we flew on Southwest Airlines and I have to give them such a major shoutout. Everyone from the people behind the counter checking bags to the people boarding you for the flight were so helpful. I think they are incredibly sensitive to the fact that people are nervous about flying again and they worked hard to make everyone comfortable and safe.
If you’re familiar with Southwest Airlines, you will know their boarding process is quite different than other airlines. You check in 24 hours before your flight and are assigned either an “A,” “B,” or “C” with a number between 1-50 behind the letter. That is still the same, but instead of calling passengers in groups of 30, the boarding agents now call passengers in groups of 10. I actually loved this aspect. It was much more civilized and I think it kept the bottle-neck of passengers way down. Until September 30th, Southwest says they are only booking flights at 60 percent capacity leaving the *dreaded* middle seats empty unless you are a family or group traveling together and want to sit in the same row. I loved this and on all four of our flights, there were empty seats and a lot of space between passengers.
I do think Southwest could improve the cleanliness of the planes. Our flight to Florida was around 6 a.m., so I believe the plane had been cleaned the night before and you could tell. Our seats were clean and the plane seemed fresh. Our flights home were a very different story. Our flight from Panama City to Houston had a quick turn-around time and there were still crumbs on my set when I boarded the plane. Same story on our flight from Houston to Austin. Luckily, I bring my own wipes and wiped down our seats, armrests, seatbelts and tray-tables, but I do think the airlines should be doing more to keep their planes clean. They were very focused on picking up trash and requested passengers hand them wipes people usually stuff behind the seats several times during the flight, but picking up trash alone does not equal cleanliness.
Passengers are required to wear masks while boarding the plane and during the entire flight unless they are eating or drinking, but while you are in the airport, you are not required to wear a mask. During our longer flights, Austin to Nashville and Panama City to Houston, we were offered a can of water and a snack, but I always bring my own water and snacks so I didn’t take any. On the shorter flights, Nashville to Panama City and Houston to Austin, beverage and snack services were not offered. We were able to use the bathrooms on all flights, but you are not allowed to form lines.
Overall, I really appreciate the changes airports and airlines have implemented and I think they actually make the process of flying less hectic. I do think sanitization efforts should be taken up a notch by sanitizing the buckets used for security, requiring passengers wear socks through security and that airplanes are cleaned AND sanitized thoroughly after each flight.
Have you traveled during coronavirus recently or do you plan to soon? Leave me a comment and let me know your experience.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, friends! Not only is this weekend special because we get a chance to honor the heroes who have been lost in service to our country, but it is also the first holiday we can celebrate *somewhat* openly as coronavirus social-distancing restrictions begin lifting.
If you’re gathering with friends and family for the first time in a while, a blind champagne tasting just might be the perfect way to break the ice as you ease back into normalcy. Last summer, I hosted a blind tasting with our friends in Watercolor, Florida and it was such a hit! The tasting is easy to put together and the results will shock you.
HOW TO HOST A BLIND CHAMPAGNE TASTING:
Start by selecting your bubbles. For our tasting last summer, we had six guests and three bottles worked perfectly. The game is played best when you choose bottles at different price points and from different regions.
Print or order scorecards for you and your guests to rate the selections. We found these adorable scorecards on Etsy from the SweetUnrest store.
After our tasting, I found that I preferred Prosecco to Champagne which completely shocked me. I hope you all enjoy this blind tasting and let me know which champagne selections you choose for your own tasting! Cheers and Happy Memorial Day!