London Brunch: Daisy Green, Marylebone

After visiting our home kingdoms for the holidays, the London brunch queens were finally reunited this past rainy Sunday. To celebrate the end of our winter hiatus, we made our way to Marylebone to do what we do best – brunch and avoid studying. The London sky soaked us with a steady stream of cold drizzle, and I was feeling a major post-spinning and post-drinking-too-much-in-Shoreditch hangover, even several mornings after the fact. Frankly, I needed a cute brunch spot to brighten my day and fill my stomach ASAP.

Enter a new fave, Daisy Green. Just a few blocks north of Oxford Street, this Aussie cafe beguiles you from the rainy pavement. Who can resist a neon sign heralding a “Secret Garden Brunch?” Not me!

At first Daisy Green appears to be your run of the mill cafe, but sneak downstairs to enter the whimsical dining room to get your brunch fill. I never thought a basement could be so bright and bohemian garden-esque.

The space is small and adorned with charming touches like cotton-candy paper flowers and shiny streamers. They do take bookings, but luckily we were able to grab a table without a reservation.

Like most Australian cafes, the menu is mostly nutritious with dishes like corn and broccoli fritters, the full Aussie breakfast, eggs on charcoal toast, and shakshuka. Being me, I managed to find the one gluttonous dish on the menu, however, and tucked into the “fancy” bacon sandwich. I mean, there’s spinach, so it’s basically a salad, right?

It was delicious, and I regret nothing. My friend Riley had the decidedly more lean scrambled eggs on charcoal toast. I’m still not sure what charcoal toast is, but it looked cool?

I would definitely return this fanciful hideaway for another round. It’s centrally located, affordable, and has a delicious but not too over-indulgent menu. Plus, you’ll have ample opportunity to photograph its decor and delightfully photogenic facade. It certainly warded off my Sunday scaries. Do you have any London brunch spots I should try? I’m headed to a special one this weekend, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

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Breakfast on the Beach at Kono’s, Pacific Beach

Sorry for my unexplained blogging absence lately. I’ve been off soaking up the sun in San Diego, one of my favorite cities in the US aka LA but without everything that sucks about LA. Hopefully I can make up for the lack of content with a recommendation for one of the best and most iconic spots in said fave city. Did I mention it’s super cheap and right on the water? Join me for grade-A people watching and major food porn at San Diego favorite, Kono’s!

On our first morning in San Diego, after sleeping in and playing Pokemon Go until about 9, my parents and I grabbed some much needed iced coffees and made our way north to Pacific Beach from our hotel downtown. (Pro tip – downtown is a great, centrally located  headquarters for your next SD trip). Through obsessive Yelp review-checking, I had found Kono’s and knew I had to try the local-favored haunt.

Kono's Pacific Beach

Kono’s is situated literally right on the beach where Garnet meets the boardwalk. Even at 10AM the sand was starting to teem with beachgoers and the typical SoCal scene – surfers conquering the waves, yoga moms out for their morning run, and hungover bachelor parties searching for hair of the dog. This bustling beach, while entertaining, also meant a line had already formed, blocking us from our breakfast feast. We had forgotten brunch commandment number one – if you go to brunch on a Sunday, be prepared to wait.

The line at Kono's on Pacific Beach

Pro-tip: Arrive early to find street parking. We lucked out and found a spot a block over, but the beach parking can go fast on weekends. Be prepared to take your time to find a spot, walk from further away, or take an Uber to avoid parking altogether.

Luckily, Kono’s sells coffee near the end of the line, so you can feed your caffeine addiction and take in the San Diego sights while you wait.

Kono's Coffee pacific beach

Pacific Beach, San Diego

The shop across the way had some signs perfect for my inner mermaid. They’ll go nicely in my future beach house.

Beach House Signs in Pacific Beach San Diego

I also used the wait to take a selfie and artsy shots of the California flag. My teenaged obsession with Laguna Beach and The OC was out in full force.

selfie at Konos Cafe Pacific Beach

Blouse
Crochet Shorts (similar)
Sandals

California Flag on Pacific Beach

We finally rounded the corner into the restaurant and were greeted with a surfer or wannabe surfer’s paradise. If you are in a hurry, grab a table inside. There were plenty open during prime brunch rush hour.

Kono's Pacific Beach in San Diego

Kono's Pacific Beach in San Diego

Feeling instantly transported to a 1970s bohemian surfer bungalow, I was lovestruck.

Kono's Pacific Beach in San Diego

Instead of opting for a table in this Beach Boy heaven, we decided to stake out a spot overlooking the sea. Just head across the street and around the aforementioned souvenir store, and you’ll find the world’s best breakfast nook.

Breakfast at Kono's in Pacific Beach

Pro Tip: Have someone from your party wait for a table while you wait in line to order. They are a hotter commodity than beachfront property!

Breakfast at Kono's in Pacific Beach

Grey yet warm, the overcast haze enveloped us as we watched the surfers roll over the waves, like clumsy Jesuses walking on water. Finally, the main event arrived.

Breakfast at Konos in San Diego

Not one for a sweet wake-up call, I opted for the savory scramble and famous Kono’s potatoes – mixed with cheese and peppers. Really, what doesn’t taste better mixed with cheese and peppers? If you prefer more of a dessert vibe for breakfast, get the French toast. My mom devoured hers.

Breakfast at Kono's in San DiegoBlouse
Purse
Sunglasses

Not only were my taste buds fully satisfied, but my wallet also was quite satiated. Most options at Kono’s will cost you less than $8.00, and there is more than enough food for one ravenous adult.

Breakfast at Konos in San Diego

Pro-tip: Save even more money and split an entree with a friend. I had more than half my food left at the end of my meal, and I’m by no means a dainty eater.

Fully content and not yet sunburned, we wandered the beach to walk off our scrambles and French toast. The next time you’re in San Diego, Kono’s is a must. Cheap, delicious and quintessential Southern California cool – you won’t be disappointed.

Pacific Beach San Diego

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The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

As I do on most vacations, I made sure to basically eat my way through Walt Disney World during our recent trip. Luckily I was walking a lot and sweating off my body weight in the suffocating Florida humidity, so my foodie indulgence didn’t do too much damage. Disney World has your typical mediocre and overpriced theme park food, but there a few culinary gems present as well. I thought I’d share the most delicious bites from our trip, so you can add them to your must-eats the next time you’re in the house of Mouse.

Dole Whip 

Location: Adventureland in Magic Kingdom

dole whip

No Disney food article is complete without mention of this heavenly frozen delight known as Dole Whip. It’s essentially pineapple soft serve, but boy does it hit the spot on a hot day. You can also get a Dole Whip float with pineapple juice, but the regular soft serve was sweet and refreshing enough for me. The line can get super long, as there are even t-shirts devoted to this treat, so go early (Dole Whip for breakfast sounds great!) or be prepared to wait. Enjoy your Whip at nearby shaded tables and take in the neighboring magic carpets.

Aladdin's Magic Carpets

Lunch at Cantina de San Angel

Location: Mexico Pavilion at Epcot

san angel inn

Unfortunately I did not snap a photo of my glorious enchiladas at Cantina. I simply was too ravenous to fiddle about with my iPhone. They were also just inhaled really quickly (guilty!).  We arrived around noon after traipsing about Future World in the rain, with no reservation, and were seated right away. The food was excellent, service was quick and friendly (ask for Angel!), and it was the perfect spot to cool off and wait off a little afternoon rain. I’d recommend the enchiladas and tacos – all on the more affordable end. After lunch, I explored the great shopping in Mexico and picked out an intricately painted Day of the Dead skull to adorn my desk. We finished off our “trip” with a quick ride on their “Tres Caballeros” ride. It’s cheesy, but I have a soft spot for the Caballeros and Donald Duck, so it’s a favorite of mine.

Dinner at Le Cellier

Location: Canada pavilion at Epcot

The filet at Le Cellier - yum!

On the other end of the Epcot restaurant spectrum, and literally on the other side of the World Showcase is Le Cellier. Located in the Canada pavilion, Le Cellier is an upscale steakhouse with some of the best steak in WDW. Never ones to be half-hearted when it comes to food, my family started with the classic poutine. AKA french fries with cheese, truffles, and a red wine reductions. SO GOOD. I had their signature steak, the filet mignon, for my main. The perfectly cooked filet sits on a bed of mushroom truffle risotto. This meal was probably our best of the trip, so I’d highly recommend Le Cellier if you want something a little more upscale. Be sure to make a reservation 180 days in advance (when reservations open), and be prepared for an expensive, but delicious meal.

Dinner at Morimoto Asia

Location: Disney Springs
Dinner at Morimoto Asia

Our final dinner in Orlando was a real showstopper at Morimoto Asia. My brother is a huge Iron Chef fan, so we knew we’d have to try Chef Morimoto’s recently opened restaurant, even though it’s more expensive. I started with with Mango Match Punch, a delicious cocktail made with green tea vodka, mango and lychee soda. We tried and shared a few dishes to get a real taste of the restaurant, and my favorites were the rock shrimp tempura, the sushi and the ribs. The ribs were definitely the standout dish, so if you can’t afford a several-course meal here, stop in for cocktails and the ribs. Worth it! On your way out, don’t forget to take a snap of the gorgeous decor!

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Be Our Guest

Location: Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom

The food at Be Our Guest was just fine, but I wanted to mention it as the detailing and decor was a really immersive and memorable experience. You feel like you’re dining inside Beauty and the Beast, so if you are able to snag a reservation, I would still make the trip if you lower your expectations re: food. My brother liked his beef sandwich, and I liked the pork, but my mom hated her Nicoise salad.  Maybe eat something beforehand, and go to split a few entrees and dessert and take a ton of photos.

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

Location: Near Everest in Animal Kingdom

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

Okay, Anandapur is really just glorified soft serve, but who can resist that oh so colorful and intricately painted truck? Not me! I also had this cone after a very sweaty and hot afternoon exploring the Animal Kingdom. It was the perfect snack to enjoy while watching Jungle Book: Alive with Magic (read more about my thoughts on Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime experiences here). Nothing special, but I can never resist a tasty waffle cone.

What are your favorite Disney foods? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for stopping by and happy eating!

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

Travel Tuesday: How to Eat Like an Italian

Forget climbing the Colosseum, taking in the wonders of the Vatican Museums, or tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Arguably, the best part of visiting Italy is indulging in its food. During my trip over the summer, I did my duty and savored every last bite I could get my hands on. All in the name of blog research, of course. (Check out  Everything I Ate in Rome and Everything I Ate on the Amalfi Coast).

As an American, however, I had to prepare and learn the art of eating like an Italian. Through my dutiful research and prolific intake of carbs, I’ve gathered some tips and etiquette for how to best eat your way through the peninsula. My findings are informed by my experiences in Rome and on the Amalfi Coast, so custom may vary a little in other regions. Now, on to the rules of feasting!

Tripadvisor and Yelp are your friends
Italian cities, particularly Rome, are filled with restaurants; the number of choices is overwhelming. Do your research via Yelp and Tripadvisor before your trip, so you have a list of must-tries in areas you’ll be visiting. The hotel concierge can be hit or miss as they often have partnerships with local restaurants that may or may not actually be good. For a local recommendation, ask your tour guides or check out the Eating Italy blog. They run food tours in Rome, so the Roman food landscape is their expertise.

Ristorante 34 near the Spanish Steps was one of my favorite meals on the trip.

Avoid tourist traps
That being said, if you’re out and about and unprepared with restaurant options for that area, be careful when picking a place on the street. If there is a carnival barker type standing out front and beckoning you inside, that’s a bad sign. These places are tourist traps usually with overpriced menus and mediocre food. We fell sucker to one of these (Da Francesco – avoid!) near our hotel on the Via Veneto because we were jet lagged and just wanted lunch ASAP. The food was meh, prices were high and the waiter was peeved when we didn’t give a Yankee sized large tip. Not a terrible experience, but not pleasant either. At that point, you’re better off stopping by a deli or street vendor (trust me – the suppli – fried balls of goodness -are worth it).

When to eat?
Since I have the habits of a 75 year old and like to have dinner at 5PM, it was difficult to adapt to eating later like the Europeans. 8 or later seemed to be customary to start dinner, and meals were a much more languid, drawn out affair. I love the longer, savoring of meals, so by all means, devour at a leisurely pace. If you can’t wait to eat at 8 or 9, try an apertivo. They’re essentially an Italian happy hour right around the end of the work day and include a smattering of nibbles for the cost of a drink. Apertivo is an excellent option for student or budget travelers, since they can cost as little as 2.5 euros. Read more about the apertivo experience here.

Grabbing a late dinner on the Amalfi Coast. Worth it for that sunset.

How Italians do bread
Oh bread, may favorite carb to enjoy before eating more carbs. Bread may or may not be complimentary, so check the menu before digging in. Butter is unlikely, so instead dunk your bread in tasty olive oil, or better yet, use it to sop up any extra sauce from your entree or pasta. Yum!

Frizzante or naturale?
Thirsty yet from all that bread? When ordering water, be sure to note if you want frizzante (sparkling) or naturale (still). Roman tap water is very clean (straight from  the aqueduct!), so no need to pay extra for bottled.

Eat local and seasonal
If you’re in Naples, order pizza. If you’re in Bologna, try the bolognese. If you’re on the coast, have fresh fish. I sound like captain obvious, but Italians do excellent fresh, seasonal food. Also order based on local specialties, so you’re getting the best of the best and not reliant on Americanized versions of Italian treats. Roman favorites include cacio e pepe, amatriciana, carbonara, and saltimbocca. You won’t be disappointed.

Amatriciana at Grazia e Graziella in Trastevere. Nom nom nom.

Coffee faux pas
Italians love to have coffee at the end of a meal, as it is a diuretic and aids in digestion. Cappuccino or any other milky drinks, however, are strictly for breakfast and should not be ordered after 10AM. Instead, order un caffe which is straight espresso. Down it like a shot to cap off a meal and be on your merry way.

Caffe at Da Vincenzo in Positano. A must try.

You’ve finished eating, now what?
Simply ask your waiter for Il conto per favore and your check will be on its way. A service charge of around 1-3 euros is usually added to the bill and should be noted on the menu. I’d add a few euro for good service and even more for an outstanding meal – one to two euros per person. To me, most meals in Italy were outstanding, so definitely have some extra euros on hand, as you usually need to tip in cash. Try to physically hand the tip to your waiter too, especially if you’re dining outside in a busy area.

The one dish to never order in Italy
Fetuccine Alfredo. It’s an American invention, and if a restaurant in Italy has it on the menu, run far far away.

And finally, take in the glorious surroundings, savor every bite and never turn down a chance at gelato.

Nutella. Gelato. The end.


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Twilight in Trastevere

During my recent trip to Rome, one of my favorite experiences was an evening spent in Trastevere. Far from the tourist epicenters of the Colosseum and Vatican, we arrived in the neighborhood, nestled on the west bank of the Tiber, just after a rainstorm.

After a winding taxi ride through cobblestone streets (every taxi ride in Rome feels like a high speed getaway chase), we were deposited in an unassuming alley way and told we’d have to make rest of the journey on foot. Our destination – Grazia e Graziella, a Trip Advisor recommended restaurant in the heart of the neighborhood. Dodging puddles, we navigated the snaking  pedestrian streets until we found our target.

Seated on the patio, we had front row seats to excellent people watching. From tourists, to locals celebrating the weekend, to eccentric shop stalls to friendly Italian puppies, we took in the sounds and sights of Trastevere reawakening after the rain.
All of this street side entertainment was just a warm up, however, for the showstopping main event – our dinner.

 

I know I’ve already covered this meal in my “Everything I Ate in Rome” post, but it is so worth revisiting. Glorious antipasti, amatriciana and tiramisu. Last meal worthy stuff and perfectly Roman – no spaghetti or fettucine alfredo in sight. The sight of it still makes my mouth water.
After we had fully stuffed ourselves, we set out to explore the neighborhood’s streets, with both dusk and Romans settling into them.

 

I love the golden hues of this city at nighttime. Every random building is so photogenic.

 

In one of the main piazzas stood the beautiful Basilica Santa Maria. It’s really incredible and overwhelming how many historical and jaw-droppingly beautiful buildings still exist in Rome. Santa Maria dates back to 1143!

 

Warm summer nights meant many tourists and Romans alike were gathering outside to take in the weekend air. I love the feel of community this brings to the city; people aren’t confined to bars or restaurants, but want to soak up the feeling of Rome and its evening energy.
I couldn’t resist a shameless selfie.

 

Street vendors litter the streets and squares, like most of Rome’s busy areas. They provide entertainment and window shopping, but you should take your time and use your discernment to sniff out the real deal from tourist traps. I was content to meander and take photos.

 

Revelers spilled out into the street and around this cute vintage car.
We found our way to the Tiber and Trastevere’s end. More stalls dotted the border of the river below. If you’ve seen the new James Bond film, Spectre, you’ll recognize this river’s edge from a certain high speed car chase. The city is so cinematic and surreal, so I definitely understand the appeal to filmmakers and artists of all mediums.
Darkness fully engulfing the city, we decided to double back once more to take in the neighborhood’s offerings one more time before leaving.

 

I’m a city girl at heart, so it truly sent my heart racing to feel in the “middle of it all” and take in the buzz of the weekend with real Romans. We just had a glimpse of Trastevere, so I look forward to tasting more of its fine food, ambling through its labyrinth of streets and soaking up its electric spirit on my hopefully very soon next trip to the Eternal City. If you visit Rome, you’d be remiss to skip it.
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