Under The Radar Restaurants For Valentine’s Day

To be perfectly honest, this post could just be a roundup of some of my favorite dining destinations in DC that don’t get a ton of hype — but since there is a lot of urgency right now around booking dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to make it tailored to that.

Gerald and I have never really done a Valentine’s Day celebration. I think we’ve stayed in and made dinner every year we’ve been together, and are planning on doing the same this year. That being said, we do love going out for casual dinner dates on a whim (and without a reservation), and we kind of have a rotation on lock. Read on for my favorite under the radar restaurants where you’ll more likely than not be able to get a walk-in table this Valentine’s Day or for your next date night!

Disclaimer, these restaurants are on the more casual side — but as you know, I kind of wear whatever I want, whenever I want, so feel free to break out that killer dress and wear it to my favorite hole-in-the-wall spot. It’s Valentine’s Day after all! P.S. all of these are pretty affordable — you’re welcome!

IMG_3018

Cheese board from Lavagna

Baby Wale | ShawI might be biased because my company designed the space, but I love the layout of this restaurant. It boasts if not the longest, one of the longest, bars in DC, so it has a steady happy hour scene, but I’ve never had to wait for a table. I always order the grilled romaine Caesar salad and their fries, but they have a great menu with options for every kind of eater. Hot dogs, pizza, ramen, steak — it sounds weird, but I love it.

The Commodore | Logan Circle: When Gerald and I are craving comfort food, this is where we go. This dive bar not only serves up some of the best mac n’ cheese and fries I’ve ever had, but also has amazing prices on cocktails. $10 for a Gimlet? Yes, please. They have great BBQ platters and a soundtrack filled with Blink 182 and Third Eye Blind that makes me long for the late 90s.

Shaw’s Tavern | Shaw (duh)I adore this place. They have the best salads in my neighborhood, a communal atmosphere, and another great soundtrack of indie tunes. (Oh, and a great house red for $7 a glass AT ALL TIMES!) We love this laid back spot and always share an order of green-fried tomatoes and fries when we go. (My favorite salad is The Cuke!)

IMG_2814

Salad prettier than me from Shaw’s Tavern

Casolare | Glover Park: Alright fine, this is another client, so again I am biased — but the food here is really worthy of a trip to Glover Park. Tucked in the Glover Park Hotel, the sister restaurant to Alta Strada features coastal Italian fare — think inspired seafood dishes and thin crust pizza — in a gorgeously appointed setting. Perks of a hotel restaurant mean there are almost always tables available, but I can vouch for the quality of their food — it’s way better than a standard hotel spot!

El Riconcito | Shaw / Mount Vernon Square: This is my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant ever (I first featured it in my Mexican Food Guide!), and it is nothing fancy — but they have great, inexpensive El Salvadorian food and cheap drinks. If you want the most casual dinner out you can get, this is the spot for you.

Lavagna | Eastern MarketWe’re suckers for a good bowl of pasta, and Lavagna doesn’t disappoint. The cheese board alone is worth the trip to this neighborhood wine bar and Italian eatery! Fairly priced, you can snag a bottle of wine and a carbo-loaded meal for two for well under $200.

Dirty Habit | Penn Quarter: Another hotel restaurant! Located in Hotel Monaco (where Gerald and I are getting married!), this thoughtfully-designed bar features a mix of Asian-French fusion dishes like charred eggplant and short rib, but still has more traditional dishes like kale salads and truffle risotto. It’s also a six-minute walk to E Street Cinema, perfect for catching an indie film before or after dinner.

Let me know if you have any favorite under the radar spots!

Ski Trip Packing Guide

DSC05458DSC05456DSC05448DSC05460DSC05462

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that Gerald’s family takes a ski trip to Aspen, Colorado every year. This year was my third year attending the trip, so I’ve finally got my packing list down pat. Packing for a trip that involves both outdoor activities and nice dinners can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time going to a mountain town,so I’m sharing my tips for what to pack if If you’re heading on a ski trip soon!

ON THE SLOPES

Skiing equipment and apparel can be expensive, but I’ve finally acquired the proper items over the years. I rent my skis, helmet, boots, and poles, but I’ve invested in the essentials. 

Ski Goggles: I highly recommend purchasing your own goggles instead of borrowing someone else’s or skiing in sunglasses. If you ski in glasses, you risk the chance of breaking or losing them if you fall, and the metal on styles like aviators can actually burn your face since the sun is stronger due to the elevation. They’re a splurge, but a good pair is a worth the investment. I have these UVEX goggles in white.

Ski/Snow Pants: comfort and mobility is key on the slopes and I didn’t want to look like a Michelin man, so I asked for a pair of North Face pants for Christmas the first year I went. This is definitely something that’s worth asking around to borrow since they are easily washable and come in sizes S,M,L, etc., making them much easier to share than a pair of jeans with a waist number! I have these in black.

Ski Jacket: this is my most expensive ski gear item and also another Christmas gift! I borrowed a friend’s jacket my first year but I loved getting to pick out my own with special touches like black piping and a furry hood. If you’re searching for your own, make sure it has lots of pockets! You can’t bring a purse up the mountain (although you will see people with backpacks, wearing one would throw me totally off balance) so you’ll want room to store chapstick, credit cards, lift tickets, etc. Pro tip: REI and Dick’s have some pretty awesome coupons that can shave a lot off the price, so keep your eyes open for deals if you’re in the market. Check out my jacket here, I have it in white!

Fleece: I always wear a fleece under my jacket, but I’ve been lucky that I can just repurpose my workout clothes! I always bring my medium North Face fleece and a lighter one that’s meant for running for the warmer ski days.

Long Underwear: while I own a legit pair of long underwear, I always just opt for a long sleeve workout tee and a pair of workout leggings. If you have a moisture wicking tee, that’s a great one to bring because it does get warm on the top of the mountain when it’s sunny and bright out and you don’t want to be sweaty under all your layers.

Socks: this is another option that’s worth it to invest in — having cold and wet feet in your massive plastic boots is no fun at all. I have a few pairs of Smart Wool socks which I actually wear with my street boots in the winter, as well as a ski pair from Under Armor. You won’t get blisters from your boots if they are fitted correctly, so you don’t need to buy the thickest socks out there. A little bit of extra room in your boot actually helps the air flow more around your feet, keeping them warmer!

Snow Gloves: I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to use my little brothers snow gloves from elementary school as my ski gloves, so it’s worth rummaging though the storage at your parents’ house to see if you have a pair in hiding! Mittens actually keep your hands warmer on the slopes, but I prefer gloves.

APRES SKI

One of my favorite things about Aspen is that despite its glamorous reputation, is that it’s a pretty casual town — I think that most ski towns tend to be on the casual side too! I even got away with only packing four pairs of shoes for 8 days. 

Shoes: almost everyone wears snow boots 24/7. I’ve had my Sorel boots since college and wore them nearly every single night out during the trip. I also brought my UGGs for wearing around the chalet, a pair of black OTK boots just in case (only wore them once!), and a pair of sneakers to workout in. Since snow boots are the heaviest, wear these on the plane so you don’t take up extra room in your suitcase

Sweaters: I lived in sweaters and thermals the entire time we were there. There is no need to bring fancy blouses or going out tops, a cute sweater is just as appropriate at a craft cocktail bar as it is at a white tablecloth restaurant. Check out some of my favorite and unique sweater picks here!

Bottoms: stick to leggings and pants as your bottoms, it’s rare to see someone wearing a dress or skirt because the temps drop pretty low at night. I brought five bottoms, but only ended up wearing four (two pairs of Spanx leggings and two pairs of black denim), so I’ll plan to pack lighter the next time we go

Faux fur: the amount of beautiful, floor length fur coats you’ll find in Aspen is amazing — both men and women wear them! If you have one, faux or not, it’s the spot to bring it to. Since my faux coat takes up so much room, I opted for one furry vest instead.

Shop My Look: 

Sweater | Vestique

Pants | Free People 

Boots | Sorel

 

Segura Viudas Open Up Cava Party

SeguraViudas3SeguraViudas2SeguraViudas1

It’s been a hot sec since I went out to a club, especially on a weeknight, but I had so much fun at the Segura Viudas Open Up Cava Event at Heist this week!

Segura Viudas is a new brand to me—they are an award‑winning Cava rooted in rich Spanish winemaking heritage—and boy do they know how to throw a party. For the evening, Heist was decked out with Cava-inspired decorations (think, gold and white bubble balloons everywhere!), had an awesome DJ, super cute photo booth, and of course, plenty of Cava.

As soon as we entered the club, we were greeted with our own individual bottle of Segura Viudas and got to choose between Brut or Rosé. I went for the Brut first and it was everything I like in a sparkling wine! I prefer clean and crisp flavors when it comes to Cava and they nailed it. I later tried the Rosé and it was a bit too fruity for me, but still very good. The best part about these wines is that they are high quality and luxurious, but won’t break the bank, retailing around $12—perfect for impressing guests at your next dinner or girls night! The website even has a calculator to help you determine how many bottles you’ll need based on how many guests and how long your event is.

My favorite touch of the evening was the Open Up Cava herb wall, which allowed guests to literally pick an herb from the wall and bring it to the bartender for a surprise cocktail. I may have overindulged and tried both the basil and cilantro cocktails, but they were delicious and worth the slight hangover the next day. Who knew cilantro in a cocktail could taste so refreshing?!

Thanks so much for a fantastic evening, Segura Viudas!

This post was sponsored by Segura Viudas, but all opinions are my own. 

Sweater Round Up

Remember when I used to hate sweaters? I don’t know what I was thinking, because now I can’t get enough! We’re getting ready for our annual trip to Aspen, and I just went on a sweater shopping SPREE. I’ve been living in last season’s sweaters for the past two weeks and I was getting sick of wearing the same tops, so I did a little online shopping damage. I’m not a huge fan of scarves, so when I look for sweaters I try and find tops with special details so I don’t have to accessorize them. Last year, I really liked lace up details, but this season I’m into knotted details, statement sleeves, and embellishments.

Shop some of my favorite picks below! The wrap sweater is currently en route to my apartment!

Screen shot 2018-01-07 at 7.16.36 PMScreen shot 2018-01-07 at 7.13.58 PM

Twist Back Sweater | Nordstrom

Tiered Sleeve Sweater | Madewell

Wrap Front Sweater | Nordstrom

Fringe Sweater | Fabrik

Knit Beaded Sweater | H&M

Wide Sleeve Sweater | Top Shop

My Latest Obsession: Spanx Leggings

DSC05262

DSC05270DSC05274

DSC05271

There are two kinds of people in this world, those who believe leggings should never be worn as pants, and those that believe leggings are a gift from the retail gods. I am the latter, and have been embracing leggings as pants since college. Yes, I would wear them to class on the reg with my UGG boots, but I always tried to make them look cute instead of sloppy.

Ever since graduating and moving on to the real world, I’ve been sneakily trying to work leggings as pants into my wardrobe — yes, even at work sometimes. As a result, I’m always looking for the latest kind that are a bit thicker and have details that make them look more like pants than leggings. I thought I had found the perfect faux leather leggings a few years back, until I heard about the Spanx leggings.

Disclaimer, I’ve never worn Spanx before, so I’m not extremely loyal to the brand, but once I saw them pop up on one of my favorite boutique’s Instagram stories, I was instantly intrigued. At a $98 price tag, I balked at the price and continued to stalk them online and on Instagram for about two months before I finally caved. I don’t know why, but I just had a feeling I was going to love them before I even tried them on. I ended up buying them on sale for $70 at Nordstrom and then ripping the tags off in excitement as soon as I got home. (Why I did that, I have no idea, it could have ended poorly.) BUT they did not disappoint and I don’t think I ever want to wear another pair of leggings again after putting these on my body. I kid you not — I went through my phone and texted approximately 16 people about them as soon as I put them on because I wanted my friends to be able to relish in how amazing they are.

Why are these so different from other leggings? When you put them on, they feel like a little hug. Since I’ve never worn traditional Spanx this might be what they feel like too, but I digress, it’s so cozy. They’re also high waisted and come up almost over my belly button, which is my preferred rise of bottoms. Lastly, they help streamline your midsection (which I guess traditional Spanx also do), even after eating two bowls of pasta and drinking 3 glasses of wine. I’ve had these since December 9, and worn them no less than 10 times since then. I have the Faux Leather Leggings in black (size S) and got the Faux Leather Moto Leggings (also in black and size S) for Christmas. I’ve been pairing them with button down flannels, oversized sweaters, and even a fur vest.

Shop My Look

Sweater | Fabrik (similar)

Faux Leather Leggings | Spanx

OTK Boots | Steve Madden

Last Minute NYE Looks

DSC05303DSC05309DSC05316

If you’re like me, you often wait until the last minute to do things. especially when it comes to finding outfits for important events like New Year’s Eve. This year, I’ve challenged myself to repurpose previous holiday looks (read more about it here), so I already have a dress in my closet to wear for NYE, but I know there’s lots of you out there that haven’t locked down your look yet!

To help you out, I’m linking 9 fabulous options below, that all have options for two day shipping! You’re welcome. And of course — everything is under $100. Happy shopping!

Sweetheart Emerald Lace Dress | Tobi: a dress that shows off one of the most flattering parts of your body (your décolleté) but also allows you to indulge in whatever you want due to the skater cut!

Wide Leg Jumpsuit | Tobi: if you don’t have a black jumpsuit in your life, you’re doing it wrong. Add a thin choker or statement necklace to personalize this look! Also, use code SLAYIT for 50% off!

White Tuxedo Dress | LuLu*s: so much yas. that is all.

Rose Gold + White Sequin Dress | LuLu*s: I don’t know why, but this strikes me as something that Taylor Swift would wear and I’m not mad about it. PS. her new album is awesome and you can judge me all you want for thinking so.

Black + Gold Polka Dot Dress | LuLu*s: I wish I hadn’t made this holiday challenge because I really want this dress. I probably wouldn’t pair it with the beret (can’t pull it off) but I love it with the OTK boots!

Swing Dress | ASOS: Velvet burnout, choker detail, and a floral pattern? I’m sold.

Metallic Lace V Neck| ASOS: I couldn’t pull this off because I hate tight dresses, but this is super fab. Pair with nude ankle strap heels and you’re set.

Gina Combo Dress | Revolve: ahhh I think I need this dress too! This would be perfect to repurpose for a company holiday party next year.

Open Back Mock Neck Dress | Revolve: why is everything from Revolve so perfect? This dress has the perfect amount of sheen and I love the unexpected open back!

Tulips DC

I’ve been waiting for a restaurant opening I was really excited about for awhile. Although it seems like new restaurants are opening every two days in DC, I haven’t been like “YES we must go try this” — until I heard about the opening of Tulips. I first learned about the opening at an event at its sister restaurant Quinn’s on the Corner (which is also amazing — go for the taco Tuesday or their weekend brunch!) and was instantly intrigued because it was taking the place of the Irish Whiskey Public House in Dupont Circle.

After talking with the chef at Quinn’s (who is also the main man behind the menu at Tulips) about the transformation of the space and the offerings, I knew I’d have to add the restaurant to my ever-growing Google doc of coveted eats. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to attend their media dinner last night — and was literally blown away by it.

First of all, let me state that this post is not sponsored, because the things I’m about to say about Tulips are phenomenal. The space has been completely revamped and is super Instagrammable — think crystal chandeliers, floral print booths, and of course, tulips galore. You seriously cannot tell that this used to be a dive-y Irish pub.

To me, good service in the hospitality industry is key to having a good experience while dining out, and the team at Tulips is top-notch. I literally gave the head waiter a hug when I was leaving because he was so attentive and friendly! I hadn’t realized how long it has been since I had experienced such hospitality in a restaurant, and the team at Tulips has it on lock.

Now I guess we can talk about what really matters, the food. As you may or may not know, I’m a vegetarian and I was thrilled to see that there was more than one option for me on the menu! The restaurant boasts a menu that’s classic American with a European influence, but isn’t intimidating or stuffy. (Who else hates when they have to Google everything before ordering?) Our tasting started with a mushroom bisque that was pretty much the best soup I’ve ever had in my life. It was rich and somehow silky — and I could probably eat a gallon of it in one sitting. It’s definitely a must-order. Next up was a ravioli that featured thinly sliced apples in lieu of pasta and was stuffed with butternut squash. It was a nice take on a dish that usually leaves me stuffed, but I didn’t feel like I was losing any of the comfort factor that comes with a bowl of carbs.

We also got the chance try their speciality cocktails — Catherine and I opted for a gin cocktail with tea and lemon and it was super refreshing. Julie got a drink with bourbon and although I don’t typically like cocktails with that in it, it was very drinkable and I know Gerald would have loved it.

The best part about the restaurant? It has a champagne bar on the upper floor! The furniture is still coming in, but we fell in love with the intimate atmosphere and super cute nooks. After dining downstairs, guests will be escorted up to the lounge and offered a complimentary drink — I told you the service was insane!

Last but not least, we got a chance to chat with the owner and he was so genuine and kind it just made the entire experience. I love getting to meet the people behind the magic, it really puts into perspective how hard someone has worked to make a vision a reality, and I think that Reese has a LOT to be proud of at his new restaurant!

Tulips is officially opening on December 27th, and I’m already planning a return trip on New Years Eve with Gerald! If you go, let me know your thoughts!

Holiday Style Challenge

DSC05034DSC05044DSC05045DSC05031DSC05025DSC05049DSC05050

Wow, it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve written a post. Usually, I’d beat myself up over not blogging for that long, but I’m trying to be better about being too hard on myself and to be fair — it’s been a CRAZY month so far. From playing a major part in organizing my company’s annual Streetmarket to our engagement party in Charlottesville to the Aerie REAL Pop-Up, this month has been packed and we still have a plethora of holiday festivities to attend.

In all the craziness, I’ve been pretty bad about budgeting (eating out for lunch multiple times a week because I didn’t have time to pack one, forgetting to file expense reports, etc.), so I’m challenging myself to repeat some looks for the holiday season in lieu of buying all new holiday looks.

 I wore this ballerina-inspired slip dress to an event over the summer (see how I wore it here) and had been trying to figure out how to re-style it when Marisa of Style Factory DC suggested this exact look. I’ve never really been one for layering, but I kind of love the way this outfit turned out! I ended up wearing it for Thanksgiving dinner at my family’s house (how cute is their pup, Gracie?) and  the forgiving silhouette was perfect for eating all the things at dinner. I was pretty into the 90s vibes this look was giving off, but my dad did ask me why I was wearing a nightgown to dinner …#dadjokes.

I’m not sure how the rest of my challenge is going to go…but I’m going to try and stay strong and not buy anything else! Stay tuned…

Shop my Look 

Dress | Whistle & Wild (similar)

Tissue Tee | GAP

Boots | Steve Madden 

Choker | Zaful (similar)

 

 

AerieREAL Pop-Up Tour!

DSC05075DSC05112DSC05126DSC05067DSC05121DSC05073DSC05118DSC05130

When Aerie — American Eagle’s sleepwear + lingerie line — opened in my hometown mall in 2008, I was overjoyed. I was so excited to finally have a lingerie shop that wasn’t intimidating and actually fit my body type. When Aerie launched its untouched photo campaign in 2014 l fell all the brand all over again. The fact that Aerie promotes self love + acceptance AND creates cute, high quality clothes are just two reasons I’m so excited to be partnering with them for their DC AerieREAL Pop-Up Tour!

On Sunday, December 10, the brand will be popping up in Georgetown at the corner of M Street and Wisconsin NW (the PNC Bank corner) from 11 am – 6 pm. Not only will they be featuring their winter line of bralettes, cozy sweaters, PJs, and quirky beanies, there will be a DIY  Dream Pillow Station, FREE tote with any purchase, and FREE cozy cable knit blanket when you spend $65+. To top it all off, Aerie will be donating 50% of the pop-up’s proceeds to N Street Village, a local charity that empowers homeless and low-income women in DC to claim their highest quality of life. That’s shopping for a cause that I can get behind. 

RSVP HERE.

Whether you’re shopping for holiday gifts or treating yourself, I hope that I’ll see you at the pop-up in a few weekends! If you can’t wait for the pop-up, you can shop the items I’m wearing in this post below!

Shop My Looks

Bralette

Sleep Shorts

Leggings

Sweatshirt

Chenille Sweater

Socks

Beanie

All items courtesy of Aerie. 

Snakeskin + Tulle

DSC04996DSC04992DSC05004DSC05008DSC04995DSC05009

Do you ever make up an outfit in your head before you even have all of the pieces? That’s exactly what happened with this tulle + snakeskin look as soon as I purchased these booties. When I put this outfit on, Gerald told me I looked like I was straight out of Grease, which I didn’t really hate. I’d like to think this is something that one of the edgier Pink Ladies would have worn — if snakeskin booties had been a thing back then.

I’d been trying to figure out a way to repurpose this tulle skirt since I wore it to my company holiday party last year, but had been struggling with the right top of top to pair with it. The elastic band was a little tighter on me than I would like, so it looks funky with bodysuits and best with cropped tops. While this cropped sweater is a little boxy, a simple half tuck helped streamline the look and a “third piece” helped tie it all together. I’ve never actually worn a jacket on just my shoulders like this, and I’m not gonna lie — it made me feel pretty badass.

Now, onto these booties. I wanted them so badly that I went down half a size since they were out of mine, and boy do I regret it. My feet were so sore by the end of the night that I ended up walking home from a bar barefoot (much to Gerald’s chagrin.) I’d recommend sizing up half a size (I’m typically between a 7 and a 7.5 and got these in a 7 and definitely need that extra half size) and realizing that you’re going to need time to break them in!

Shop My Look: 

Booties | LuLu’s

Skirt | H&M

Sweater | H&M (similar)

Jacket | Similar