Happy belated holidays/New Year! It’s pretty much mid January! I’m clearly awesome at this!
Well, here we are. 2020. A fresh new decade. Never mind that the world is still finding reasons to go to hell every day and poor Australia needs our help more than ever and the political climate in the US is a touch toasty. It’s still that time of year where we all get to take a crack at our New Year’s resolutions and make a few changes.
So from what I can tell, the general consensus was that 2019 was a crap year. I feel like everybody I know has had something to deal with, a mountain to climb, catastrophes to sort out…. I got into so many conversations about how relieved everyone was that the year was coming to an end, ie. “man, 2020 can’t come fast enough!” and “it can only go up from here!” etc etc.
And I get that sentiment. I lost my grandparents in 2019. My mother-in-law broke her foot TWICE, crashed her boat, and ended up taking a header down a hill and rounding out the year with a broken collarbone for the holidays. My own mom was dealing with a bunch of drama of her own, including an accident that totalled her car. Close friends of mine had terrible health scares and hardships and too many hospital visits. And in our little family unit, we dealt with a boatload of toddler tantrums, career slumps, a sick dog that cost you don’t even want to know how much to treat, and just a heaping pile of discouragement. So I too joined the “don’t let the door hit you on the way out, 2019” conversations. I was ready for it to be over, too.
But it got me thinking about a few things. One thing being that– oh boy here she goes– time and years are kind of irrelevant and “day is just a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles” which someone smart said once, I can’t remember where it’s from <cough Firefly>. So is it truly possible that 2020 could be any different just because it’s a “new year”? Isn’t this just more psychological than anything? I think way too much about the irrelevance of time and how we get caught up in it and it’s probably also why I’m late a lot.
The second thing that was interrupting my precious moments of complaining was that compared to a lot of people, we’d had a damn good 2019. We ended the year with everyone relatively healthy or at least on the mend. Our spirited little boy turned 4 and got out of his caveman phase and is so hilarious, I can only marvel at how much he takes after his mom. In the past 12 months, I’ve got to travel the world with amazing people and have incredible meals in those places just because my job means that people actually ask for me to visit all of these cities (and I love you for it. So much). Our home is safe and warm. Our fridge is always full. We actually have the means to pay for a sick dog who is now medicated and still trucking along, even if she spends her days high out of her tree and honestly who wouldn’t want that? We have big plans and lots to look forward to with so many sweet memories behind us and hearts bursting with love for each other. We are really, truly lucky.
But it does feel different now, the beginning of this decade. I like the idea of being given a chance to reassess yourself and see what you can change to live your life a little fuller. I’ve vowed to stress less, to live in the moment more, and to not be so hesitant (or apologetic– it’s the Canadian in me) to ask for what I want. Or to say no to the things I don’t want. Our time is precious here.
In the spirit of looking back, I also wanted to make a habit of posting about some gluttonous highlights from all of the cities I get to visit, so every January, I’m “resolving” to post about the year’s previous travels. So below is a list of all of the cities that were so kind to me in 2019, and my fave places I stuffed my face at. I have such great memories from every single trip I took, and I’m a real lucky lady to be met with such kindness. I’m so appreciative of each and every one of you. Thank you.
Wishing you all peace, joy, success, abundance, and an ability to appreciation the little things as they pass us by.
Springfield, the sweet little surprise! How cute are you?? I brought my foodie friend Erin with me and she became so charmed by it, she started looking at local real estate, but to be fair, that was after about four fancy cocktails at the kitschy and awesome Golden Girl Rum Club. Also had a stellar meal at Springfield Progress. Great staff, fun room, insane Korean fried chicken and cauliflower shawarma. If I lived there, I would become very annoying and be there three xs a week and demand a plaque on my chair.
Obviously Denver = amazing and full of crazy good restaurants and bars, but our biggest delight of the weekend was a sushi restaurant called Sushi Ronin. Yes, sushi in Denver, but I’m telling you that you must go and eat there if you get the chance. Happening vibe as the kids say, and great FRESH tasting sushi. Try the Colorado roll with green chili, tempura avocado, and seared striped bass on the top. I also found out I won an award while I was there which in all fairness pro baby made everything more delicious.
I LOVE Philly and I could go off about all of the bits that are great about it. But my one true love that I must visit every time is the Oyster House. It’s loud and crowded, but tables move fast so you won’t have to wait long, and it’s worth the wait anyway. My faves are the roasted oyster sampler and the lobster roll that I don’t share with anyone unless it’s Sean Maher, in which case ok fine. Another good one we found is Abe Fisher. Pickled mackerel and poached chicken and delicious little potato latkes. We fell in love with it BEFORE our server told us the staff liked themselves some Firefly, so.
I didn’t have enough time to explore the city due to a late arrival and early departure, but I did find myself at a “family dinner” that Holly Marie Combs organizes every time there’s a big group at a convention. She picked Alla Famiglia, this crazy Italian restaurant and they were so kind to us and also gave us a ginormous table in a private room with like five chandeliers which NO ONE NEEDS but how pretty! And the food was great…. heavy duty Godfather type-food, but great. Scallopini, chicken parm, mounds of pasta, steak with like 7 different sauces and toppings to choose from… Plus I sat next to Samm Levine and we became kindred spirits and friends forever and drank too much grappa, love you Samm!
I love Australia so damn much and am lucky to have been a bunch of times. Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, they’re all amazing, but Charlie and I got to spend a bit of extra time in Sydney this go around. The highlight food-wise was a risky order at Nomad: a whole head and collar of a Kingfish. Easily one of the best dishes I’d had all year… Super tender, juicy, salty.. just, all of the things. We were literally licking that fish head dry which is gross! But delicious! I love fish heads now! Even Paul McGillion had a bite which is a big step for Paul. And kudos to the restaurant for not making fun of me when I tried to find the bathroom by literally moving a giant barn door leading into the meat locker. Also great wine there.
Yet another sweet surprise! Albuquerque’s rad. The sunsets were fiery and unreal, the people just naturally cool, like hipsters that don’t know they’re hipsters. We got gifted personally grown dried sage to burn, homemade turquoise jewelry, basically every cliche was wonderfully true. We had a gorgeous meal at Campo on the grounds of the insanely romantic Los Poblanos Inn (worth a stroll before dinner to take it all in, or better yet, stay there). Get the house-made pickle jar to start your meal and the lamb pappardelle and anything else they recommend. Also loved Vernon’s Speakeasy— good food, awesome jazz, and a spooky little bar to sip and people-watch.
Another city where I scooted in last minute which meant only time for one meal out, but we chose Juniper based on local recommendations and it was perfect. Friendly service, a farm-to-table menu, and delightful things like a juicy mushroom tarte with blue cheese and pecans, brown butter trout, seared duck with confit brussels sprouts… Very important: save room for berry bread pudding with vanilla buttercream.
Cincinnati and I are buddies at this point. It’s a sneaky little foodie town, too, with tons of good restaurants. Sean Maher and I happened to be there for Unification Day (if you know, you know), and we went back to Boca, one of my faves. Oysters Rockefeller (when with Sean, you will always be eating oysters, it’s a thing with him), gnocchi with taleggio cheese and truffles, beautiful beef tenderloin with king crab…. Just always totally amazing. We also had a little group Firefly dinner at Jean Robert’s Table where they treated us like kings and we ate the world, including caviar because Morena talked me into dropping some cash “because why not” and crab salad and more steak. I believe we will also be allowed back because we were surprisingly well-behaved, as it was early and we are getting old.
We are still talking about this restaurant called Pig in a Fur Coat. It’s meat-forward, which prompted Sean to use his old “I’m a vegan” joke when they asked about dietary restrictions which made me kick him under the table, but everything we had was otustanding. Our most memorable bites were the ravioli with bacon and ricotta, pork belly with fennel and balsamic, and and a ridiculous pear panna cotta with cardamom. Bonus was the lovely service from a Browncoat which I picked up on but Sean did not because, Sean.
Reno is a trip. This was my second visit and another stay at the Atlantis, which has a great in-house restaurant and wine bar called Bistro Napa with a great happy hour and delicious food. We also paid a visit to Romanza, a hilariously kitschy (code for slightly tacky, which I am all about) Italian place with a painted blue sky complete with clouds and spinning sculptures galore and soft pink booths. Their sausage lasagna is actually awesome though, as is their pan-seared sea bass– crispy and perfectly cooked. Who doesn’t want great food under a fake blue sky, surrounded by moving statues? Not this gal!
And one final surprise surprise to round out the year: turns out Oakland is home to some serious chefs who seem to have left the competitiveness of San Francisco to open restaurants here. Lucky us! Sean Maher wanted oysters, obviously, so we found The Cook and her Farmer. Tucked into a market, it’s basically a glorified takeout stand, but the shrimp po’ boy rivalled my favourites from New Orleans, and their oysters were super fresh and sweet. They also have a slow-cooked grilled cheese??? Thanks to a convention attendee who had obviously heard we like our food, we were sent to Delage, an omakase experience full of California-inspired Japanese food. Holy God. Beautiful produce, expert-level nigiri, bowls of hot scallops in ponzu butter sauce… This was just unreal. And for 8 courses at $70 a person, a steal as far as I’m concerned.
I was going to include New Orleans in this post because it snuck in at the beginning of January, but it really and truly deserves its own post which will happen soon. I am love-sick for New Orleans and I will gladly tell you all about it.
My 2020 is shaping up to be a year full of more travel and I hope I get to meet you in Germany! The UK! Washington State! Maryland! Chicago! and more popping up as we go. Stay tuned to my Twitter @JewelStaite and check out my Instagram stories under “Appearances” for dates and links to tickets! I vow to eat my way through each city, just for you of course. The sacrifices I make. That’s real love right there.
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Great stuff on the eat outs! Nice to see a shout out to Firefly. Glad you survived 2019 and hope you thrive in 2020!
So sorry to hear about your grandparents 🙁 I’ve been there. Good to have your positivity on this post, it has been a rough year. Sorry we missed you in Tulsa! We were just 2 hours away in Guthrie. Proud Browncoats 😄 Take care, hope the 2020 is a shiny one
Happy new year to you and your family. We enjoyed meeting you and Charlie last year in Melbourne. Hope it’s not too long before you come again.
Always a pleasure to read about your food experiences, and my wife and I hope to visit some of the fantastic foodie hideouts you’ve discovered, unfortunately we missed your last visit to Aus, but are hoping to catch you next time your here.
Fingers crossed for a great 2020 to you and the fam!!
Happy belated New Year to you, Jewel. I hope 2019 was fun for you.
Thank you for pointing out the hyper focus on “time” especially with River’s line! No need to wait for a new calendar to make changes.
That been said, you’ve probably been there what with your love affair in New Orleans, but just in case it’s slipped by you, check out Commander’s Palace. Any place that makes their own cream cheese is worth ordering the cheesecake from!
Deepest sympathy on the loss of your grandparents. I’m glad for this post _ helpful as always _ showing you’ve come through 2019 spirit intact. Best wishes for a happy and healthy year.