2016 | What I’ve Been Up To

Hello Lovelies!

Happy 2016 (and early Valentine’s Day)!

Although I have a great deal in store this year (I’m back in action after a brief haitus), you may have been wondering what I’ve been up to! Let me give you a brief run down:

Our 2 Year Anniversary Trip to D.C. 

Living in the beautiful Carolinas, sometimes it’s difficult to leave. However, Shahin and I love to travel and instead of buying each other “traditional” wedding anniversary gifts, we do things a little differently in the Arminoei household. We’ve made taking a trip each year one of our traditions. This year, we decided to spend a long weekend in D.C. The fact of the matter is, I had only visited once when I was in elementary school for a field trip and well, let’s just say it’s one of the hubs’ favorite cities and he had been dying to take me there. Now if you know me, of course I did my research prior to our adventure to ensure we were hitting some of the best spots in town (duh).

The Highlights:

Zara

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{ Image courtesy of DC Internationalist }

I know, I know. I have a shopping problem and everyone is aware. Unfortunately, Zara has not yet graced Charlotte with its presence so whenever I see that big, beautiful store – I’ve got my game face on.

Zaytinya (for dinner) + barmini (for drinks) by renowned Chef Jose Andres

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Y’all – I wish I could put into words how blown away we were. After eating at one of James Beard Award Winning Jose Andres’ restaurants, Zaytina, we had drinks at his bar (which required a reservation). Once arriving, we had to ring a doorbell to enter (a little reminiscent of a speakeasy). This place was simply beautiful – clean, chic, hip. The Mixologist provided us with a drink upon arrival to clean our palates and then Shahin and I went to town. This place does hand crafted cocktails right. One of the drinks I had the pleasure of tasting was homemade banana bourbon – absolutely delicious and hands down one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. If you’re in the area – don’t miss out on this place (but make sure you book a spot at the bar in advance!)

White House visit 

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Cliche, but one of those “have tos”. And of course, being the basic white girl I am, Starbucks in hand!

USDA Farmers Market 

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Purely by accident, we stumbled upon a USDA Farmers Market during a stroll through the city on a beautiful Autumn day. We picked up a variety of dumplings, apple kombucha and homemade cola and sat in a park to indulge.

Persian Cuisine

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I guess it’s no secret that D.C. has a buzzing Persian population. To pay homage to the hubby’s heritage, we decided to drive about 30 minutes outside of the city to get a taste of some of the best Persian cuisine I’ve had (aside from when Shahin’s grandmother comes in from Iran and cooks for us). Kabobs, grilled tomatoes and my favorite, Persian rice (tahdig). NOMZ.

Annual Family Trip: Panama 

Each year, Shahin’s dad and stepmom take the family on a trip for a belated Christmas. This is my favorite family tradition because we much prefer experiences and memories over tangible things. I didn’t think anything was going to top last year’s trip to Barcelona, but the fam never ceases to amaze me. This year we traveled to the beautiful country of Panama and stayed right in the heart of Panama City. Not doing a great deal of research in advance, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Panama City reminded me of Miami in a lot of ways. It’s actually a big, international banking city (who knew) and there were restaurants and bars galore, high end shops (hello, Chanel) and so much to see and do.

The Highlights: 

JUICE

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Weird, right? How could juice be a highlight of a trip? Juice is a big deal in Panama. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria and each morning, they had this little piece of heaven we dubbed “liquid life” = watermelon juice. Every morning when we would come down for breakfast, we b-lined straight for the juice (even over the omelette station). This stuff was the real freaking deal. Even outside of the hotel, we would grab juice from a little stand practically every day.

Panama Canal

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We took a boat through the Panama Canal – definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Although the excursion was a little longer than expected, the views were incredible.

Monkey Island & Indigenous Tribe 

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The best excursions we had (in my opinion) both occurred in the same day – and a full day it was! First, we met our guide and took a boat out into the water where we would then pull up to various parts of a jungle (keep in mind: about a 45 minute drive outside of where we were staying). This is where an array of different monkeys would come and visit our boat while we fed them bananas (and in some cases, right from our hands). This was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. Above is a shot of a monkey that was hanging out on our boat. Pretty up close and personal!

After Monkey Island, we went to spend the rest of our day with an indigenous tribe. Yes – real life. A couple of the tribe members met us and took us out on a canoe to get to their village – life jackets and all (refer to the picture below).

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Once we got to the village, we watched the tribe do a few traditional dances (and then were invited to dance with them), were fed some delicious plantains and fried fish wrapped in a banana leaf and then had a little Q&A time (thank goodness we had a translator). We were also to buy some crafts from the tribe which was a really neat concept in itself because each family had their own table and the money went directly to them. I picked up a couple of beautiful hand crafted vases – LOVE! Below is a picture of the end of our excursion. The tribe was so welcoming – definitely a experience for the books!

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Coming Soon: DIY Project 

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So what else has been going on aside from traveling? The hubs and I picked up this beauty from one of my best friend’s moms (who owns Charlotte Staging). It’s actually an antique record player but we immediately saw its potential – and if you’ve seen some of my other posts, we love DIY projects. I am really looking forward to tackling this one!

So far, Shahin’s taken out the record player, and we will be using it to decoratively conceal our entertainment center. The piece has officially been sanded and we’ve removed the grates and added shelves. Step 2 of 3 complete.

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So what’s next? Of course, you’ll need to stay tuned (blog on this one coming soon) but we’ll be painting it and transforming it even more! We’re definitely going mid-century modern here – I’m thinking brass legs and a high gloss white paint. Below is an image I snagged from Pinterest and will be using it as inspiration!

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Be back soon! XO

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Restaurant Review: Heirloom // Gone to Carolina in My Mind

A few weeks ago, my husband, Shahin, celebrated his 29th birthday! I wanted to make sure we dined somewhere special and preferably at a place we had never been before. Both of us are avid foodies but I was completely stumped on where to dine. I decided to reach out to my network of friends and family via Facebook to ask if they had any obscure and/or excellent restaurant recommendations. The funny thing about the hubs and I is that we are both native Charlotteans and if there is anyone who knows this city inside and out, I would like to think it’s us. With that said, I enjoy giving recommendations to people regarding where to shop, dine, drink, etc. but I also enjoy receiving the suggestions just as much as I do giving them! Don’t get me wrong, I can read blogs and reviews all day, but there is just something about receiving a word of mouth recommendation that is unlike any other.

Although there were several restaurant suggestions made by friends (most of which I have every intention of checking out if I haven’t already), I decided to make a reservation at Heirloom as it came highly recommended by a friend of ours that is heavily involved and respected in the Charlotte food and beverage community. He gave me the run down and almost immediately sold me. It was settled: Heirloom it was! So, why has this restaurant captured the hearts of many chefs and local foodies?

The deal with Heirloom is that it is all farm-to-fork and there is no set menu as Chef/Owner, Clark Barlowe, writes it every morning. But what is even more fascinating is that Heirloom only uses locally sourced, North Carolina ingredients, beer and wine. Now, in my opinion, it doesn’t get any more unique than this. My foodie friends have described this place as a “hidden gem” and it’s gained some attention from The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, Cheshire Dinner Society, Charlotte Magazine, CLTure and more. Clark was even a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped (one of my favorite shows). Check out what we ate in addition to my thoughts below. Enjoy!

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{ The Heirloom Menu for 8/13/14 – accompanied with fresh clams }

What’s great about this place is that you have options. One being a 7 course prix fixe tasting for $65 (includes a glass of North Carolina vino), a 3 course dinner for $30 (you choose any 3 from the 7 course menu and also get a glass of North Carolina vino), or you can choose any appetizers, entrees and/or desserts from the regular menu. Shahin, his dad, step mom and I decided to share some appetizers first. We had this super intricate, local cheese plate with various jams, preserves and fruit to accompany it, clams in a light but tasty broth in addition to some fall off the bone/melt in your mouth ribs paired with eggplant and fried okra – wowza!

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{ Local cheese plate with preserves and fruit; Ribs with eggplant and fried okra }

For dinner, I decided on the 3 course option and chose the Heirloom Salad, 62 Degree Duck Egg Pasta and the Salem Hills Farm Teres Major (Grass fed Black Angus Beef). The Heirloom Salad was absolutely stunning and delicious. It contained Mexican Sour Gherkins, Burton Farm heirloom squash, NROG feta cheese, Cottle Farm cabbage along with a thyme vinaigrette.

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{ Heirloom Salad }

This 62 Degree Duck Egg Pasta…let me just tell you. This dish was to die for. What I also really enjoyed about our experience at Heirloom (that I failed to mention earlier) was that our service was impeccable and I felt that it was very much an educational experience. Our server was able to provide us with detailed information about our dishes, where the ingredients were locally sourced and explained the various cooking methods. She described the idea behind the 62 degree egg which is a cooking method that has been adopted by some chefs as it is said that when the egg is cooked more slowly and at a lower temperature, it creates a very unique taste and texture. The duck egg was placed very delicately on top of the fresh pasta and once you broke that soft, yolky goodness – it created a silky, aromatic and delectable sauce. So what exactly is this incredible sight below? A house made North Carolina egg yolk pepper pasta, Against the Grain Farm dragon tongue beans, capers, a West Hill Farm duck egg cooked at 62 degrees sprinkled with Gremolata breadcrumbs.

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{ 62 Degree Duck Egg Pasta }

Alright, so my third course unfortunately did not make the cut as far as pictures go – it was just a tad too dark to post (we were in a very intimate setting). BUT it was absolutely divine: grass fed black angus beef, Heart & Sole Farm Charlotte and Mountain Rose potatoes, Burton Farm heirloom squash with beef au jus.

Now, if you know me, I am a sweet eater through and through…no shame in the game! But y’all – THIS. FREAKING. DESSERT. Let me sum this up for you real quick: chocolate mousse on top of a chocolate chip cookie crust, a sweet and salty caramel sauce beneath a homemade LIQUID NITROGEN “half baked” ice cream with candied walnuts. Yes, I did in fact say: liquid nitrogen ice cream. What is it exactly? The entire idea of using liquid nitrogen is part of molecular gastronomy (a style of cuisine that mixes Science with food). What the liquid nitrogen does is create a smoother and much creamier texture of ice cream – hands down the best I’ve ever had. Since Shahin does not typically do sweets, they put his little birthday candle in my dessert.  🙂

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{ Chocolate mousse on top of a chocolate chip cookie crust, caramel sauce, candied walnuts & homemade liquid nitrogen ice cream }

Clark even came out and said hello to us, which I thought was incredibly nice. He’s down to earth, humble and just very organic and real. The space felt like home mixed with a touch of vintage farmhouse – very cozy, inviting and warm. If you can’t tell how I feel about this place, all you need to know is: GO! Go now…or tomorrow. But seriously, go. This place is unlike any other in Charlotte and really pays homage to the great state of North Carolina!