food

Restaurant Review: Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar

Last weekend, I got together with a few friends for lunch. It’s been a few months since our last get-together, so I was ready for some time with the ‘gang’.

We decided on Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, since they appeared to have a little something for everyone. The restaurant is conveniently located right off of Interstate 64 West in Henrico County, Virginia. I’m glad that this one is so close to my home because, while the chain has a few other locations, most of them are over one hour from my home.

Screenshot 2018-11-18 at 11.06.42 PM - Edited

The restaurant describes itself as contemporary Italian food, and I’d have to agree. There wasn’t an abundance of traditional Italian dishes on the menu, but what I did notice was a focus on giving a fresh take on an otherwise simple dish. I ended up trying the zucchini frite (fried zucchini slices) and the shrimp messina with a side of Brussels sprouts.

Travinia’s Shrimp Messina

Both dishes were tasty albeit not strikingly unique. The flavors were good and, while the restaurant puts a new spin on traditional Italian cuisine, they don’t stray so far away from the standard seasonings and flavors that the food doesn’t fit the Italian flavor profile. I appreciate the adherence to tradition while still injecting creativity into the dishes. Good job, Travinia, for walking a thin line and doing it well!

I would return to the restaurant, though I’d probably choose to go in the evening as opposed to lunchtime. I’m curious about the wine list and I generally prefer pairing wine with dinner over pairing it with lunches. It’ll be nice to see how the after-five crowd differs from the lunch crew.

That’s all for my quick review of Travinia. I have to get back to my writing (NaNoWriMo calls!) so that’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow.

life curation

Winter Socializing: My Game Plan

Happy Hump Day! I’m already looking forward to the weekend, but I’m two days away and trying to make the best of it. As the days get shorter and the air gets cooler, I’m considering what my social calendar will look like. I hate having to go outside during the winter so any social events I attend must be pretty special in order for me to participate.

party

My ideal calendar for December 2018 to March 2019 would involve the following:

  • A monthly art event
  • One wine event during the season
  • Two or three workshops (less than 3 hours long each)
  • One long workshop (more than 3 hours)
  • Biweekly dinners with friends
  • One date per week

I’m an introvert, so this schedule is ambitious for me. In fact, there’s a good chance I could line up my calendar to include everything I’ve written above and I still may end up flaking simply because I don’t have the energy. But what I’m learning is that it’s really important for me to set social goals, much like I set career, education, health and financial goals. Social goals can really help me with managing the emotional lows that I tend to experience during this time of the year.

As much as I love to isolate myself, I really benefit from interacting with others in small doses. If I don’t overdo it, being around others tends to lift my spirits and give me some energy. So I’m going to spend some time today figuring out which events to add to my calendar. And, once I have those all lined up, you can look forward to some reviews and discussions regarding the stuff that I’m doing as I ride out this fall and winter. Wish me luck!

life curation

Live Your Best Life: Hobbies to Help You Heal

Happy Friday, friends! We made it through the week, and what a week it was. The East Coast is getting some truly spring-like weather, and I’m excited for the warmer days to come!

As you all have already seen, I’ve been sharing some of the things I used to help recover after devastating life events (for me, specifically, my divorce, but also the loss of several close family members and friends). In this post, I’m going to share some of the hobbies that helped me move through my pain and heal my heart.

For starters, I want to add a disclaimer: you can and should seek professional help if you want or need a qualified individual to help you with your problems. Nothing that I’m recommending should be considered a replacement for clinical treatments and professional counseling.

That being said, here are some of the hobbies I used during my recovery and how these hobbies helped me:

  • Enjoying art: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – art saved me from my darkest moments. Spending time in museums, creating my own art, and learning more about artists and their works helped me tremendously during my lowest points. There’s something very magical about being able to mentally “escape”, transcending time and space, as you view a piece of art. Also, creating art did wonders for helping me to work out some of my frustrations and to take the “sting” out of my losses.

art

  • Traveling: One of my best friends advised taking a trip prior to any big decision, as the change in scenery and routine does wonders for giving you fresh perspective. During those painful years, I took several trips that helped me to clear my mind and reconnect to the joys that I experienced in years prior. Physically visiting different locations impacted me on levels that I couldn’t experience if I had stayed at home. Travel was wonderful for helping me to navigate my pain.

map

  • Writing: To be honest, I couldn’t always verbalize my emotions. There were a lot of days where the feeling would be in my chest, even in my throat, but I couldn’t speak the pain that I felt. When my voice failed me, my pen was ever ready to capture the emotions that I felt but couldn’t vocalize. At one point, I wanted to reread my journal entries, but I have since decided against that.  Those journals have served their highest purpose already: they were my voice’s proxy. I am thankful for the ability to give myself some relief when I felt nothing but despair.

writing

  • Exercising: I’m not obsessive about fitness, but it was a mighty powerful tool that I used during my healing process. Aside from the physical effects (the release of endorphins that lifted my mood), the repetition of certain physical movements provided me with a rhythmic experience that required that I focus on the present moment and temporarily suspend my emotions. Exercise literally took my mind off of my problems, giving me some much needed relief.

exercise

  • Fine dining/wine tasting: I’ve already shown my love and appreciation of good food and wine on this blog numerous times. However, I’ve never mentioned how much I employed these sensory pleasures during my healing phase. I learned about different cuisines and prepared 4 and 5 course meals at home. The discipline, effort and precision involved with designing and preparing elaborate meals was a satisfying creative effort. And trying new wines, while learning to hone in on the elements that I enjoy most, enhanced my dining experience. You have to be careful with this one: restraint and knowing your personal limits are key.

dining

 

Those are the hobbies that I used to help cope and heal from my pain. I hope that these may be helpful for lifting your spirits during the low times. Take care, and enjoy your weekend!

wine

Low Cost Libations: I’m Trying Inexpensive Wines

 

A recent trip to Trader Joe’s ended up with me browsing the wine section and being floored by the super-affordable wines. So many options were less than $5! So I had to ask myself, do I, the wine lover, give inexpensive wines the thumbs up?

wine

I bought 6 bottles for less than $5 a piece. I’m not a wine “snob” but I prefer wine that costs a bit more because they tend to taste better. But I’m curious about the overall qualities of the wine that I purchased. So here I am: trying some new wines and figuring out whether the flavor and quality far exceeds the cost. I’ve tried one so far, and I’ll be trying a new bottle every few days or so. When I’ve finished trying them all, I’ll come back and give a review.

(here’s a review of one of the wines on my Instagram account)

Do you all have any favorite inexpensive wines? Let me know in the comments below!

festivals · international

It’s Officially Festival Season!

April is such a bittersweet month for me. It’s when spring really starts to kick into gear, and my allergies get assaulted to the nth degree. It’s also still cold and rainy enough to make quite a few days less than ideal.

However, there is a lot to love about April. For starters, it isn’t as cold as the winter months! And, it signals the beginning of festival season in Richmond and DC. And there’s nothing I love more than to be able to pick and choose the festivals that I want to attend!

There are so many festivals that have caught my eye: I’m having a hard time picking a few to mention here. But, as best I can, here are some of the events I look forward to attending during the first two months of this festival season:

Untitled design (1) - Edited

Richmond French Food Festival – Food, wine, music, and supporting a good cause: the French Food Festival has to be one of my favorite hometown events to attend. I went several years ago and enjoyed the dishes, the can-can dancers, and the vendors offering all sorts of delightful objets d’art. This one will be a lot of fun!

strawberry

Strawberry and Wine Festival – this festival combines two of my favorite things: wine and strawberries! It’s wholesome fun for the entire family, with treats, music and activities for all. This year will be my first time going, and I’m really excited to experience this festival!

Untitled design - Edited

Passport DC – various embassies in Washington, DC open their doors for a once-a-year event that allows visitors to tour the embassy offices and ambassador residences. I wrote about my visit to the Haitian embassy during Passport DC last year. Visitors can talk to embassy staff and get to experience a slice of the countries participating. This free event draws a lot of people, but if you are willing to brave the crowds, you will be rewarded!

Do you have any festivals that you love to attend? Let me know in the comments below: I’d love to hear about them!

wine

Wine Collectors Rejoice!

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 5.23.12 PM - Edited (1)

 

Sotheby’s London is starting 2018 off with a bang! Their first wine sale of the year will feature nearly 400 bottles of rare and fine wines. The auction house has titled this sale, “A Great Collection From a Secret Grotto from a Northern European Connoisseur“. With a title like that, who wouldn’t want to participate?

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 5.23.12 PM - Edited

Serena Sutcliffe, MW, describes this enchanting collection as follows (you can read more of her thoughts in the catalogue for this incredible sale):

“In the dark days of winter, it takes a treasure trove of truly joyous wines
to bring a smile to the face – and this is just looking at them rather than
drinking them. Contemplation of mouth-wateringly beautiful bottles brings
immediate memories, as well as hopes of meeting these wines again, which
is more than possible for you, the wine-loving client. You literally can smell
them and taste them when you see them in the cellar, or on the written page
– they come to life in all their dimension and diversity. This is a collection
that displays some of the greatest wine-making talent of our days which,
on reflection, might well be on unrivalled top form in the last few decades.
These years have shown a glittering balance of technical know-how with
enormous human skill, driven to its peak by pride in the profession and
critical competition. It is the consumer who has benefited.

Above all, this collection puts the greatest vinous gems of France under
the spotlight. It is clear that the wines were chosen by someone with
remarkable gastronomic and wine knowledge.”

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 5.22.45 PM - Edited

The wines range from the luxurious but affordable to the truly exquisite.  On the lower end of the estimate spectrum, a Chateau Lafite 1994 is expected to fetch anywhere between $400 and $500 USD; for the most serious collectors, a Petrus 1995 is expected to soar anywhere between $21,000 and $30,000 USD.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 5.23.02 PM - Edited (2)

Screenshot 2018-01-06 at 5.23.02 PM - Edited (1)

This sale is going to be spectacular! Too bad I won’t be anywhere near London at the end of the month: otherwise, I’d definitely attend. The sale occurs on January 24, 2018, at 10:30 GMT in London. If you can attend, I highly encourage you to do so!

 

(all photos courtesy of Sotheby’s)

luxury · wine

Adventures in Enology: Wine School, Round 2

A few months ago, I mentioned an awesome FREE Wine Tasting class on Coursera. If you missed out on the course previously, I have good news for you: the course reopened this week! I’m re-registering for it, since I only completed about 50% of it during the last session. This time, I’m determined to complete it!

all free download

(photo courtesy of All Free Downloads)

Though the course is free, it requires the purchase of wine, glasses and food for the exercises. I’m so committed to completing the course this time that I’ve already ordered some of the items that will be needed in the upcoming weeks. I hope you all join me in taking this free Wine Tasting course. Of course, if you aren’t interested in learning more about wine, you can always check out the many other free courses available on Coursera.