Category: Tiny Tastebuds

There is something magical about Northern California. Maybe its the fresh air, the stunning scenery that takes you literally above the clouds, the fresh produce, or the gorgeous wines the region produces. Whatever magic San Francisco and the Napa/Sonoma Valleys possess has drawn our young family there time and again.

We wrapped up Summer 2017 in Northern California and couldn’t have chosen a better time and better companions to do it. Eight glorious days exploring wineries, hiking in magical Redwood forests, and partaking city sites.

Traveling with kids isn’t very difficult if you research ahead of time and plan. Here are things we recommend:

Wineries:

Benzinger – A bio-sustainable winery that boasts gorgeous grounds (see above), absolutely outstanding wines and has a fun, for adults and kids alike, tram tour.

Arrowood – An off-the-beaten path winery with small productions of big reds, amazing views.

Imagery – A sister property of Benzinger, this winery is also bio-sustainable offering great wines with originally commissioned art works as labeled. The wines were great, the little vegetable and flower garden was a gem for the girls who saw how all matter of veggies grow.

Sterling – Big, a bit crowded, with decent wine. The only reason to go here is for the views which you take in after taking an air tram to a mountain top.

Castello di Amorosa – Big, definitely a bit crowded, but with amazing service, delicious wines, a small and tastefully done zoo, beautiful grounds, and a spectacular, straight-out-of-Tuscany castle to boot. The girls enjoyed visiting a Princess Castle and we enjoyed their beautiful wines. Their muscat grape juice which is bottled and presented the same way as their wines is not to be missed. We liked it so much that we brought some home.

Kunde – A beautiful winery with gorgeous grounds, an amazing patio, and an appealing wine and cheese tasting that satisfied even the youngest tasters.

Hikes:

The Sonoma Overlook Trail – A beginner’s hike just to get into the swing of things especially if giving hiking a go with young children

Armstrong Woods – A gorgeous, serene, easy to get to and easy to navigate redwood forest. We took the 2+ mile hike without a problem using two of these.

Eats in the wine country:

Bouchon Bakery – A bakery owned by the famed Thomas Keller that curates the very same delicious breads and pastries offered at The French Laundry and Bouchon. The girls love chocolate croissants but their Cream and Strawberry puffs are not to be missed. We liked it so much, we went twice.

Addendum – Offers a picnic lunch of fried chicken unlike anything you’ve ever had in a beautiful setting that’s casual and they pack chocolate chip cookies!

The Freemont Diner – Casual, rustic, everything you imagine a real diner to be with killer french toast and huevos rancheros.

Eats in San Francisco:

Firefly – Recommended by a friend of ours who lives in the Noe Valley, this restaurant didn’t disappoint. Their food was eclectic and not just different, but delicious.

Delphina – a beautiful restaurant in the Mission with a great menu and even better food. The offerings are seasonal, fresh, and pasta is king.

There are more things we saw and did and I will have more information on how to actively travel with younger children in posts that follow. For now, however, I begrudgingly bid goodbye to summer break.

Life Moments Tiny Tastebuds Travel

This weekend, no, this summer has thus far been a blur. We’ve fallen into a familiar pattern of small excursions around the city, time with our families, and kids parties. This weekend has not been any different. The girls spent time with Baba and Deda. More than that, they had a pottery painting date with my sister and nephew at the very same place I used to take the now 13-year old Alex when he was Sophia’s age. We finally got out these little aprons my sister and I made for the girls a few years back when we made them for all the little cousins’ as Hannukah presents. We shipped the aprons with homemade hot chocolate and cookie mixes. The girls were besides themselves with glee and couldn’t wait to cook for each other and us. Sophia made a fruit salad for herself and Eliza with her very own real knife. Her fruit salad recipe had grapes, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and lemon juice in it. She doesn’t usually like blueberries but having made it herself won her over, I suppose. Or was it that she worked up an appetite after a morning at the zoo? Whatever it was, we were glad to see the kids enjoy their time in the kitchen and in the zoo, glad to see their time. Period.

Sunday was the first time we had been to the zoo since last fall and it was a beautiful day. We weren’t the only ones who had such a splendid idea but we have a membership and don’t feel the need to explore every nook and cranny each visit. The zebra exhibit was closed which was disappointing to Eliza who asked where is the zebra vacationing. Alas, all it took was a carousel ride, a significant amount of time at the Tree House.

Life Moments Tiny Tastebuds Weekending

Dessert Life Sophia Cooks Tiny Tastebuds


I grew up in a family that traveled extensively and am incredibly fortunate to have lived and visited many exciting and captivating places in the world. Evan and I share this passion together and spent months over our 15 years together traveling.


We feel that the time has come for us to introduce our wanderlust to the girls. With that, we have kicked things off with an easy first jaunt up to New England.


It is our hope that through these trips we can introduce our kids to the big wide world, its diversity, and impact how Eliza and Sophia view themselves as citizens of planet Earth.


The details of the trip are pretty simple — 2 days in Maine, 3 days in Boston. While we are content on the beach, especially with a book in hand, we wanted to mix things up to make sure Sophia and Eliza felt occupied. Our flight out was on Thursday afternoon ensuring that we beat the mad weekend rush to all the beaches in Maine and got a head start on lobster rolls fresh air. Kennebunkport served as our home base in Maine. We visited the Portland Headlight Lighthouse and Portland on one day and made the next day a beach day.



I found an astoundingly small number of recommendations for restaurants and things to do when planning the details of  the trip. What I did find and what we discovered ourselves, I am sharing so that others can hopefully benefit.


Accommodations:

  • You can’t go wrong staying in Kennebunkport. The Bushes, after all, have a huge compound there. It’s scenic, close to both Portsmouth, Portland, and it boasts beautiful beaches and a very family-focused vibe. We stayed in Dock Square which was central to everything and close to the beaches.

Dining:

  • Kennebunport: Alisson’s is great if you’re traveling with kids. The food is simple, but well prepared and locally-sourced. The kids menu lists the very same fried chicken bites and fish and chips but the dishes were obviously made in house. They provide crayons and coloring pages, too.
  • Kennebunport: The Clam Shack lives up to its reputation as the best lobster roll in the world. Uncomplicated, fresh, and done just right, the lobster rolls and fried clams are the very definition of a laid back summer. I would consider a trip to Kennebunport just for these.
  • Kennebunport: Salt and Honey provides good fresh seafood-heavy options in a laid back setting.
  • Kennebunkport: It wouldn’t be a summer trip without a visit to a local  ice cream parlor. Rocococo Artisan Ice Cream did not disappoint despite the fact that we live within 5 minutes of world-class parlors and make our own, too. The kids opted for the delicious chocolate and mint chip while Evan and I tried spicy ginger and fragrant guava. Yum.
  • Portland: Portland is a must-see if you can tear yourself away from the beach and relaxation. There, you will find Central Provisions which offers inventive dishes that are both delicious and new. I wouldn’t say this is child-friendly in terms of the menu but worth a try with kids who are 5+.
  • Portland: The Holy Donut serves up unique flavors of potato donuts. Donuts. Enough said.
  • Portsmouth: We were in for huge surprise in terms of atmosphere and food at the Flatbread Company. It doesn’t look all that special and is fairly big which makes one think big, mass-produced, and run of the mill food. Instead, there are flatbreads and pizzas made with organic ingredients and fired in a wood burning oven. There is a big log for people to sit on in front of the oven. The girls loved watching Charlie fire the pizzas and Eliza was ready to stay and apprentice.

Life Tiny Tastebuds Travel Uncategorized

Kids now-a-days have so many toys that most parents, including us, have a difficult time finding ample storage and managing the inevitable clutter. The best possible entertainment, I find, are activities that we make ourselves and not ones that are specifically for the kids anyway. We involve the girls in our everyday life encouraging and expecting that they participate in our family life. One such example was the making of a Vanilla Bean Raspberry Swirl cheesecake which both Sophia and Eliza helped me make. Eliza helped weigh out the graham crackers and Sophia crushed them and mixed the melted butter into the crumb mixture. Sophia also helped swirl the unbelievably good raspberry sauce before we put the cake into the oven. She loved being so creative with the swirling. The cheesecake turned out out of this world and a recipe is forthcoming.Speaking of homemade or handmade or made at home and by hand is this beautiful quilt. My sister Anna has taken two years to make it and it was worth the wait. It is so special because it is made especially for Eliza. The design is bright and airy—it isn’t too girly because of its geometrical pattern structure but hints of femininity with its bright pinks and reds. Without trying, the quilt has brought the rest of the elements in her small nursery together. Eliza loves to cover herself with ” ‘da blaket ‘dat Anya made!”This weekend was mostly about spending time as a family. We followed what has become a bit of a routine—a visit to a coffee shop, a trip to the farmer’s market, a dance class, and lots and lots of time outside.

Evan and I did manage to have an evening out. A friend of ours from college was getting married and we were excited to share the day with him and his beautiful bride.

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The wedding was held outdoors overlooking Independence Hall and the beautiful park grounds of Old City. I never tire of this view and never take it for granted. Sophia and Eliza helped make a wedding card and we think it turned out rather cute.

Cookery Crafts Dessert Flavors Food For Thought Hubby Cooks Life Sophia Cooks Tiny Tastebuds

Continuing with our streak of visitors, we spent time with my parents this weekend. They visited hands full of my mom’s famous sous and we provided Sophia for entertainment and some of our very own culinary creations to round out all the family fun. I can never shake off my parents generosity and desire to ease our kitchen burdens — they will always want to delight us with something delicious. I can’t complain either because as I said before, my mom is an amazing cook. Besides it being delicious, it is nice to know that someone cared enough to make something for you or at least offer. As much as we love to cook, someone else’s culinary offerings are always a treat. Try as I may, I will need years to match my mom’s kitchen expertise especially in Russian/Azeri dishes. But try we do and in our own way, we manage it.

 

Now that the end of winter is near, I am somewhat sad about its imminent departure. Before it really goes away and snow is no longer likely, I decided to make Pelmeni which are hand-made dumplings with savory fillings. I opted to fill mine with veal for flavor, pork for texture and sautéed onion and garlic for that extra little something. Shaping and filling the little dumplings turned out to be quite an undertaking. I probably spent three hours at the task but the result was well received by even the youngest of critics. They are typically served with sour cream and plenty of freshly cracked pepper or sautéed with butter and onions.

CheeseyPelmeniAs you can see, we prefer ours with sour cream and cracked pepper. Even Sophia, who admittedly was skeptical when I first placed her plate in front of her, ended up completely smitten with these. These are absolutely a labor of love. I’d make them again, but only once in a blue moon and for someone I truly love. Thankfully, three hours of these have yielded two more dinner-sized portions in my freezer.

Cheese and dairy seemed to play an accidentally integral part of our weekend as we also made blintzes, ricotta gnocchi and that farmer’s cheese cake my sister shared with me last weekend. The blintzes I just had to show off to my mom as she makes them so well and I’ve recently freed her of said responsibility for us. The ricotta was burning a hole through my culinary to-do list and I’d missed making home-made tomato sauce. The gnocchi were super easy and the tomato sauce is fail-proof.

CheeseyGnocchiThe gnocchi, finished off with basil were part of Sunday lunch which I finished off with the cheese cake… I changed the recipe my sister shared with me and it needs a bit more tuning before I will share my version of it with the world. That said, I think I’ve made mild improvement but have more changes I’d like to incorporate.

CheeseyCakeAll this would not be possible without two extra pairs of hands to help with Sophia.

CheeseyPlaytime

What’s more, I took advantage of a few free moments to treat my mom and me to an excursion to the shoppes. Mother-daughter time is something that I don’t get often, cherish and thoroughly enjoy. Great fun was had by all. This weekend was originally supposed to be just the three of us, but I am glad my parents visited. We are officially declaring next weekend time for just-the-three-of-us.

 

 

 

Cookery Culinary Adventures Flavors Hubby Cooks Life Mom's Cooking Tiny Tastebuds

Sort of like the song itself, I’ve dreamed of this weekend for so long. We were home, it was cold and wet outside, but warm and pleasant inside the house. First things first… we’re all stocked up on groceries and the tall list of things I had to cook have all materialized and are waiting to be eaten over the course of the coming week.

Besides cooking and crafting, I managed to take Sophia out to the mall. I wouldn’t usually brag about a mall excursion but Saturday was rainy but warm, and she’s been cooped up all week long. I did it more for a change of scenery than anything. I suppose that I could have taken her to a children’s activity but nothing is scarier than a group of kids with runny noses and sore throats. The mall is just a short ten minute ride away and as you know, Sophia is a terrible carseat rider. At first we thought it was motion sickness, but I am starting to think it may be a mean case of anxiety over being restrained. Anyway, the mall excursion started with tears and a tantrum signaling Sophia’s unwillingness to get into the carseat. After much cajoling and, I am not too proud to admit it–bribery, I finally got a stoic and resigned Sophia on her way to the mall where there were cookies and balloons. Our mission was to just window shop and get out of the house; That much was accomplished. In the end, she didn’t want to leave the mall… but lunch and these chocolate covered marshmallows (home made, of course) waited for us at home.

Marshmellows

 

Aside from these indulgences which were requested by Sophia after watching George devour them on Curious George, we also made

MRoastLamb

a lamb roast, grown up tater tots with chimichurri sauce, stuffed peppers concluding our culinary activities with made-from-scratch breakfast this morning:

MWaffle

My sister got us a waffle maker and we finally whipped up a batch. You’re going to think this is crazy, but I’ve only had fresh home-made waffles maybe three or four times in my life. These were definitely the best! Sophia agreed … devouring a full quarter waffle :-). All those carbs must have been exactly what she needed to rouse up her inner artist.

Martist

 

Cookery Crafts Culinary Adventures Dessert Flavors Hubby Cooks Life Play Tiny Tastebuds

I don’t know about you, but when we go away for even a few days where I don’t have to cook or clean up after meals, I miss cooking. I also miss my [and Evan’s] cooking after going without for more than a week. Perhaps some find this to be a little odd, but we find comfort and pleasure in creating warm, homemade meals and filling the house with various spice-infused aromas. Evan while relaxing at my parents’ house after our getaway with my in-laws, I already missed my own kitchen. That said, my mom always cooks our favorite things and send them home with us so that we can have a few days where we don’t need to cook/shop right away and can focus on unpacking, cleaning and getting started on the workweek.

This particular visit was no different and by Friday, my mom [aka Baba] triumphantly declared to me that I need to let her know what I’d like to take to go by Saturday AM if she is to have it ready by Sunday AM when we usually head out. Sass and cheekiness clearly prevailed when I responded “How-come is it that my local Chinese takeout place only requires 30 minute notices for food-to-go and you need a day?!”

We’ve now been home for a few days and the fridge has quickly emptied. Also, Sophia has recently discovered her love for burgers and asked that we have burgers for dinner yesterday. Since I had no dinner plans at the time of her request, I happily obliged. Braving the polar vortex I headed to the grocery store for a few necessities. Brrr… I get the chills just remembering how cold it was.

Burgers can be quite rich and so I changed things up a bit; the burgers were from turkey breast, the buns whole wheat and the fries were made in the oven from a sweet potato.

BurgerLoveThe little miss helped me cook. She was in charge of salting the potatoes once I cut them and drizzled in olive oil. Because the turkey meat was breast meat and thus rather dry, I added a panade (paste made from stale bread and milk) to keep the moisture in the burger. Sautéed shallots and garlic were added to the burger mix upping the otherwise mild flavor of the meat. Lastly, but most importantly the assembly: toasting the burger buns, adding lettuce, ketchup, onion and tomato produced a classic pub-fare plate. After digging into 1/8 of the burger, little Miss Sophia was replete.

 

Cookery Flavors Tiny Tastebuds

Very few things are just about us once we become parents. While at times overwhelming, it is endearing and entirely worth it. Evan’s birthday was this Sunday and we celebrated it just as we intended — with his parents and grandmother. My mother-in-law baked a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting which is Evan’s favorite.

BirthdayCake

Sophia helped ring in Evan’s new year.

BirthdayBoy

As for what to get a man who has everything? A cookbook, of course! It is a rather selfish gift, I know. I am sure to benefit from this over the years when Evan prepares delicious dishes artfully described in this bright text. Actually, there is a story behind this cookbook; Back when we lived in Philadelphia, we used to attend dinners hosted by Shola Olunloyo, an excellent and famous chef who at one time co-hosted a dinner with Alex Talbot who one of this cookbook’s authors. The techniques they both used were very unique and each dish was packed with flavor. We were inspired and have since experimented with some of the methods used by both chefs. Anyway, though this book is not an experience (which is what we like to gift each other) per se, it will lend itself to many culinary experiences.

 

Dessert Life Moments Tiny Tastebuds

I struggled finding sample menus for toddlers when Sophia transitioned to solids. Most of the available information focused on recipes for dishes but not well-balanced menus that would describe a typical diet for a week or so. I log what Sophia eats for each course and try my best to vary her diet ensuring she doesn’t get bored. We  like to make sure that she eats whatever is planned for her before trying new foods. This week’s menu is posted below and after looking at it, you will see that we aren’t keen on having too much fat in her diet despite her being a skinny minnie. We limit egg consumption to at most every other day and soups make up at least one meal per day. Kasha (hot cereal) is a staple in our house and I alternate farina and oatmeal hot cereals. Snacks are equally important and because Sophia is not a huge eater, they tend to be bigger. Lastly, and you may have already noticed this, mango is a daily first snack. The mango is a Happy Baby Mango/Spinach/Pear packet that has a lot of fiber and is delicious. Mangos aren’t always in season and the packets ensure Sophia gets a serving all year round.

Menu

Tiny Tastebuds