Grace’s Mandarin If You Love Chinese Food

I stopped eating Chinese food 10 years ago, after my vacation in China. Not because I had a bad experience, but because I had such a great food experience, that after that eating  broccoli and pieces of something that might have been chicken, beef or a shoe sole, covered in soy sauce, didn’t seem appetizing at all. And unfortunately this is what most of the Chinese food outside of China tastes like.

One of my memorable dinners in Changchun was at one of the city’s top 3 restaurants, where you could pick the lobster or the fish from the aquarium and they would cook it for you right away. Yeah, this type of restaurant, with marble tables and chairs looking like emperor’s throne. It was also where I first tried glass noodles, frogs’ legs and some of the cuisine’s finest sauces. My other memorable dinner was in Beijing, where we found a hall-in-the-wall type of place, with sticky tables and personnel wearing stained aprons and not speaking a word of English. Up to the day I remember how delicious their Beijing duck and sweet aubergines were.beijing_modern_city_920x500

However, yesterday I finally broke my 10 years long Chinese food fast and didn’t regret it one bit. Before seeing Sting at MGM National Harbor last night we had a dinner date with my husband at Grace’s Mandarin. I can say with absolute confidence that it was the best Chinese food I ever have had outside of China. Continue reading

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New York Gems: Chelsea Market

One thing I am always trying to do when I am traveling is to visit the local market.

Even if they are flooded with tourists, nothing shows you local life better than these markets. Oh, the crispiest of the breads at the market near St. Placid metro station in Paris! Oh, the juiciest of the shrimps and octopuses at San Miguel Market in Madrid! Oh, the delicious pasta at San Lorenzo Market in Florence! I could go on and on…

Not only food, of course. All kinds of arts and crafts, local clothes and fake Louis Vuitton purses,  old ladies buying milk and cheese and bargaining with the sellers, all the tourist buzz – there is just something to the markets that gives you a real taste of the city.

Before I first came to New York, I’ve never even thought that there might a market there – for me New York was a city of skyscrapers and market just didn’t fit into the picture. But now Chelsea Market is one of my favorite places to visit whenever I am in Manhattan. It’s definitely more touristic than a farmers’ market somewhere in the Southern France, but it is definitely a place to not be missed when you are in Big Apple.chelsea market Continue reading

The Boardwalk Empire VS MGM National Harbor

I first entered a casino in 2010. My then-not-even-a -boyfriend took me to Atlantic City and  the place wowed me to the point that it has now almost become our family legend how I was waking around the Caesar’s Casino with my eyes wide open and jaw dropped.  Since then I went to AC at least 8 times and each time the wow-factor was there less and less, until last weekend it came to the point when I wanted to dry-clean all of my clothes and shoes after just spending a night there.download-1

Sure, the ocean is always beautiful, but the famous Boardwalk is not what it used to be. From closed hotels and casinos to shops selling tacky t-shirts, from mediocre restaurants to scary-looking crowds, from loud commercials on repeat to all-penetrating cigarette smoke, this was definitely not the place I remembered from my first visits in 2010.

This past weekend we finally drove to National Harbor to check on the new MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino, which opened just last December. Casinos in the US are very strictly regulated, so having one just half an hour drive from home seemed an exciting thing.

And this time the WOW factor was present all right. Continue reading

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Bluemont Vineyards Or 951 Feet Above The Sea Level

By now I have almost surrendered to the fact that this winter won’t be white in Virginia.

Since we cannot enjoy winter activities this year, we decided to completely ignore the fact that it is still February and it’s still quite chilly outside, and headed to one of our favorite wineries just an hour drive from home.

Before I moved to Virginia, I had no idea the state is so big on wine, but soon I learned that there are over 280 wineries in the area, which means there is always a new place for you to go if you are love wine touring. I’m not a big wine connoisseur, and I pick wineries to go based on the scenery and food they serve,  and my husband, who knows a lot about wine and can tell zinfandel from cabernet-franc without looking at the bottle, puts a further filter on it Continue reading

Flip-flops In Winter? Why Not?

If there is one thing I am still struggling to understand about the Americans, it’s their relationship with the weather. Or rather, the connection between their clothes and the temperatures outside.

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Before I came to the US, I used to determine how cold  or warm it was outside just by looking out of the window. People bundled up in scarves – damn cold, I am not going anywhere. Wearing jackets – I need a warm coat. Wearing t-shirts – I might grab a lighter jacket, just in case.But here in the US it is a wrong way to decide on what to wear. Continue reading

Christmas 2016

I almost missed the Christmas hassle this year – thank you, gentleman across the aisle on a plane from London, who was coughing his lungs out the entire flight.  My to-do list for December was 3 feet long and what’s more important, I had tons of inspiration to actually do all of that.

Well, next time I’m thinking I need some time off work, I’ll be more specific as to my physical well-being, as this has officially been the longest-playing virus in my life. During 2 weeks of being sick I went through all 5 stages during this time – denial (no, I am not getting sick, it’s just the dry air that makes my throat sore), anger (I hate this guy on the plane), bargaining (if I have another Day-quill, I can probably go out), depression (that’s it, no Christmas for me this year) and acceptance (so what if it’s the case?) – and then I figured out I needed to see the doctor, and the doctor figured out I needed antibiotics, and after 3 days I figured out I am feeling much better and there is still time to jump on that last wagon of the Christmas hassle. A lot of figuring out involved.

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In just  5 days I can proudly say that I am 95% done with my Christmas shopping – just 2 gifts left, all of the packages have been wrapped and shipped worldwide, all of the cards are signed and mailed, stockings are up over the fireplace, window lights are out there,  Christmas tree is up too – and it’s been cold enough to start the fireplace season, so it adds to the atmosphere. Still have to catch up on hot cocoa with marshmallows, but that is only because I’ve eaten a bag of marshmallows I bought  for this cause even before I could think of hot cocoa. Continue reading

Baby, It’s Hot Outside…

 

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June was fresh and warm and fast and eventful. July was long, stressful  and very, VERY hot. So hot that you start seeing double after just couple miles of bike ride. So hot that your ice-cream melts before you manage to take the first bite if you step outside the ice-cream place. So hot that the alternative of staying at home on Saturday and doing the big cleaning seems more exciting than going outside for a picnic.

I didn’t do much from  my Summer Bucket List in July. My excuse is craziness at work and craziness outside with temperatures steadily hitting close to 100F/34C. Here are few things I will remember about July 2016. Continue reading