{Product Review} Toiletry Bag with Travel Accessories by ToiletTree Products

I have a confession to make. I am so used to packing that I have, for several years now, stopped unpacking. That means that my toiletry bag is always at the ready, which also means that my toiletry bags suffer from a high degree of wear and tear.

Because of the sad state of my last toiletry bag, I was very excited at the prospect of getting a new toiletry bag to try out. That is why I was so excited when I was recently sent a Toiletry Bag from ToiletTree Products.

The Toiletry Bag is designed to organize all of your toiletries while you are on the road and if you are like me, while you are at home!

The bag has a large double zipper compartment as well as a separate zippered compartment on the bottom. 

The nylon fabric interior is designed to be fully water resistant. 
The bottom compartment has a zippered mesh pocket as well as secure storage for the travel accessories that are included with the Toiletry Bag. 
The bag includes three TSA-approved travel bottles (labeled shampoo, conditioner and body wash), a toothbrush case and a collapsible cup and pill holder. That cup! I love it. 

I have to admit that when I first took a look at the bag, I was surprised by how big it seemed. I thought for sure that it was going to be too large to fit my needs. Those who have traveled with me before know that I suffer from luggage separation anxiety, which causes me to be a carry-on luggage only traveler. On further inspection, I realized that it was actually not much larger than my current toiletry bag. I also tried to fit it into my overnight bag and, surprise, surprise, it fit!

I filled the bag with my usual toiletries and there was plenty of room for more items.

Because of my luggage separation anxiety, I probably won’t be able to use the secure elastic spots because of the TSA rules on having liquids in a quart size bag, but the bottom compartment is the perfect place to put my ziplock bag. 

The toiletry bag is also made of a heavy duty material and doesn’t look like it would get banged up easily. I also loved the two handles on either side of the bag, which makes it easy to grab and go. Can’t wait to see where my Toiletry Bag and I go next!

The Toiletry Bag is available on Amazon.com for the very reasonable price of $24.95.

To learn more about ToiletTree Products, find them on
Twitter: @ToiletTreeProd
Facebook: ToiletTreeProducts
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/toilettreeprod/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/toilettreeproducts

Disclosure: I received this Toiletry Bag with Travel Accessories from ToiletTree Products for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here

minibar by José Andrés (Washington, DC)

About one week before Valentine’s Day, Raisin Bread sent me a cute Evite. We would be meeting up at Metro Center on Wednesday, February 12th for an outing of some type. Besides that and needing to dress nicely, I didn’t have any other information, but I was super excited and curious. My husband is too sweet with his surprises!
We rendezvoused at the designated time and started walking until we reached a nondescript door with this sign next to it. Upon seeing the sign, my reaction was, “HONEY!!” 

As we entered the front door, our hostess came out from another door and greeted us by name, took our coats and then ushered us into a lounge area, where we waited for our 6:00 pm seating.

Now, let me back-up a little and tell you about minibar if you don’t already know. minibar by José Andrés is one of Washington, DC’s most intimate, avant garde and exclusive restaurants. The restaurant has four seatings per night, accommodating six people per seating. To call it a meal is an understatement. Instead, a once in a lifetime culinary experience is a more appropriate description. The difficulty in getting reservations plus the cost are two reasons why a visit to minibar, for us at least, will likely happen just once. The restaurant is tasting menu only and currently runs at $250 per person. Wine and nonalcoholic pairings are also available. Raisin Bread reserved nonalcoholic pairings for the both of us, which are an additional $55 per person.
As we sat down, I was feeling impressed by my husband’s thoughtfulness (this has been on my bucket list for years) as well as his ability to secure this difficult reservation. I also felt very lucky that we were going to enjoy what was surely to be a memorable night. 
While we waited, we were presented with a bound hardcover book, inside of which was an amuse bouche of pressed flowers.      
By the way, owning to the surprise, I did not think to bring my real camera, so the night’s meal was captured on my less than stellar camera phone. 

Pressed Flowers
Flower petals set in a potato starch paper

Eventually, we were ushered in to the dining room, where we all received a welcome cocktail. Raisin Bread is no longer drinking, so he received a booze-free variation of the cocktail. 
Pisco Sour and Moroccan Mint Tea with Passion Fruit
Our culinary journey began with a selection of snacks. 
Root Vegetable Chips
The imaginative cooking of minibar makes its appearance right at the beginning with thin root vegetable chips in the form of maple leaves and flowers. 

Pizza Margarita
Chef Spero told us that this pizza was their ode to the infamous DC Jumbo Slice. The texture is nothing like a typical pizza, but the flavors were all there. I also loved that it came on a miniature paper plate, keeping to the pizza joint theme. Details and thoughtfulness like this is what makes minibar stand out.

Parmesan Canelé
Each item we received looked so beautiful and yet, I often had no idea of what to expect in terms of taste. The canelé was sweet but had a kick of cheesiness.

minibar is set up with two bars facing each other with seats for six diners. In the middle is the large open kitchen. I was amazed by how many people it took to put together our meal. 

Cucumber Sour with Floral Cloud
The first beverage from our beverage pairing arrived in a huge glass and was finished before us. The drink also consisted of chamomile, hibiscus and orange blossom water. Each of the beverages was carefully conceived. As each beverage arrived, the server described the drink and told us how many courses the drink would be paired with. 
Almond Tart with Blue Cheese
Cucumber Sour with Floral Cloud
One of the best parts of our experience was being able to see the chefs assemble and plate many of the dishes in front of us. We were also able to ask questions, which is definitely not something you get to do every day. Once this dish was finished, we were instructed to quickly take the whole piece and consume it in one bite. I wish I had more time to admire the construction, especially the almond shell, but it seemed that time was of the essence. 

Golden Delicious Gastric

I honestly don’t recall what was in this drink, but according to our menu, it had red wine and apple. We sipped on this over the next three dishes. 

Rubber Ducky
Golden Delicious Gastric
These meringue duckies were too cute but I ate one anyway. Chef Spero suggested we start by chomping off the head, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. We duckies were filled with foie gras ice cream and duck.

Beef Tendon Churro
Golden Delicious Gastric

One’s mind does not automatically associate beef with churros, but the combination was to die for. The lightness of the fried churro and the richness of the beef tendon went together just perfectly.

Waldorf Salad
Golden Delicious Gastric
This was described as our “salad course.” Again, the fun and imagination of the minibar team shine through on this course. The Waldorf salad is something that everyone is familiar with but it is being presented to us in an entirely different form. The meringue buns gave us the apple component. Inside, we found walnut, celery and lettuce components, lightly dressed.
  

Ayran
Ayran is a typical yogurt drink found throughout the Middle East region. Here it was prepared with yogurt, salt and white pepper.

Late-Night Chicken Shawarma
Ayran

This was my favorite dish of the night. The play on shawarma was very familiar and bursting with flavor. The lettuce was wrapped in the potato starch paper that we saw earlier in our meal and added that extra note of greasiness that late night snacks need. The yogurt was the star of the dish though. 

Thai Basil “Iced Tea”
Orange juice, ginger, lime and Thai basil. I was really pleased with the beverage pairing. I found each drink to be well-thought out and creative. Of course, they paired well with their dishes, but the thing I enjoyed most was that they were each light and refreshing instead of overbearing.

Vietnamese Pig Ear
Thai Basil Iced Tea
When I saw them plating this dish, I was so excited about the pipette. This dish was composed of a pig ear chicarrone cracker topped with curried pork, pickled vegetables and herbs, served with a pipette of chili oil. This was another favorite of the night for me.

More evidence of thoughtful service. The previous dish was so messy that our hands were covered in sauce and pork juices. Before our next course, we were given compressed towels that expanded with the addition of orange blossom water. 
 
Calpico Horchata
Two things I grew up with that I would never think to combine, but the tastes are actually quite similar. 
 
Ibérico Sea Urchin
Calpico Horchata
Another beautifully presented dish. Uni pieces floated on a broth of Ibérico ham gel. Raisin Bread didn’t particular enjoy this dish due to the brininess of the uni.  
Coconut Shabu Shabu
Calpico Horchata
For the first time in my life, I utilized a pair of tweezers to consume food. We were instructed to pick up the dumplings with the tweezers and dip them in the sauce for no more than a few seconds. After finishing the dumplings, we could then pick up the bowl to drink the broth. This take on shabu shabu was my least favorite dish of the meal. I tend to dislike coconut and found the dumplings to be quite strong with coconut flavor. The broth, however, was excellent. It was complex and rich. 

Truffle Parmesan
Parmesan water and truffle honey. The description had me a bit nervous because drinking cheese does not sound appealing to me for some reason, but it wound up going perfectly with the dish it was paired with.

Beech Mushroom Papillot with Truffle
Truffle Parmesan
The assembly of this dish was quite involved. The mushrooms were cooked in plastic bags. The bags were placed in a bowl in front of us and were snipped open. As soon as the bag opened, the aroma of the cooked mushrooms hit me in the face and I wanted to eat those mushrooms immediately. If that wasn’t enough, truffles were shaved onto the mushrooms. As you can see, at this point in the meal, we are getting to the heartier courses.  

Kimchi Lemonade
House-made white kimchi and lemon with watermelon radish garnish

Fabes con Almejas
Kimchi Lemonade
minibar’s rendition of the traditional Spanish beans and clams. Only the beans and clams are sphereified.   
Chef Johnny Spero with the squeeze bottle

Pomegranate Ale
Pomegranate, Mexican Coke and angostrua bitters. This one was not as interesting as the previous beverages but still very tasty.

Espardenyes with Bone Marrow
Pomegranate Ale
When the chefs said this dish was sea cucumber and bone marrow, I could barely contain my disappointment. I am usually not a fan of either ingredient, but I loved this dish. All of the preparations of sea cucumber I have ever had had a horribly snotty consistency. Not this dish, the sea cucumber was firm and had almost the texture of pieces of lobster meat.

Roast Squab with Oyster and Seaweed
Pomegranate Ale
We rounded out the savory portion of our meal with a roasted squab breast covered in a heap of seaweed with oyster cream. There was also a deep rich sauce. I am guessing pomegranate to match our drink. The bird was cooked to the perfect rareness.

Derby
Grapefruit and honey. This light refreshing drink was a great way to begin our dessert course. The honey really stood out but was not overly sweet.

Bonne Bouche Cheese Puff
Derby
We were instructed to stuff the whole cheese puff in our mouth in one go to avoid exploding cheesiness.

Frozen Flower Bed
Derby
This dessert was like nothing I have ever had. It was sweet and chilly.

After Eight
Throughout the night, the minibar team had tweezer parties, squeeze bottle parties, now it was time for a torch party.

The After Eight is a play on the chocolate after dinner mint and that is exactly what it tasted like!

After we were finished with the After Eight, we were moved over to the adjacent barmini to finish off our night. For us, this part of the night was not as memorable or as flawless as it was inside minibar. In particular, I found the dessert items to be pretty uninteresting.

Chai Soda
Chai tea and fever tree soda water

Raspberry Bon Bon and Boozy Bear
We were presented with a selection of petit fours. The boozy bear was a Mezcal-soaked gummy bear.

Thai Pocky Stick
Spicy/curry version of the Pocky Stick

Lemon-Mallow and Doughnuts
Lemon marshmallow and Krispy Kreme ice cream flavored doughnut.

Along with our desserts, we had a choice of coffee or tea. One of our table mates was celebrating his birthday, so we got a bonus treat. 
Pina Colada Cotton Candy Birthday Cake
This cake was made on the spot, using a cotton candy machine on the table, and I couldn’t believe that you could cut them into slices! So cool. This was honestly my favorite item we had at barmini.
barmini is whimsically decorated with mix and match furniture, including this cactus couch. 
Here’s the bill! And what a doozy of a bill it was!
As we left, we were presented with individualized menus. As you can see, it wasn’t 100 percent accurate and got wet from the snow as we were leaving. 
Overall, I really enjoyed our evening at minibar. We spent at least three hours there. For me, it was such an interesting meal that made the extravagance worth it. 
855 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
 


{Product Review} Sunshine Burgers

Who else has been glued to the television over the last week? I love the Olympics and have been keeping up with snowboarding, downhill skiing and other events as much as I can. Having the long weekend and huge dump of snow have made it a bit easier than it otherwise would have been. 
Being stuck at home, catching the latest broadcast means having some quick and easy meals ready to make at home a necessity. Lucky for me, I had a huge supply of Sunshine Burgers arrive just in time for the Winter Olympics! 
Sunshine Burger is a line of vegan burgers made with non-genetically modified, organic ingredients. These burgers are a great source of plant-based protein and are gluten, wheat, soy, corn, oat, dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut free. 
Sunshine Burger sent me a selection of their most popular flavors, including Garden Herb, Loco Chipotle, Black Bean South West, Falafel, Shiitake Mushroom and Hemp & Sage Breakfast
For dinner one night, I decided to make some veggie burritos using the Sunshine Burger patties. 
Sunshine Burger Burrito
1 Garden Herb Sunshine Burger patty
1 Shiitake Mushroom Sunshine Burger patty
1 can of vegetarian refried beans
1 avocado
1 tomato
shredded Mexican blend cheese
4 flour tortillas
I thawed the patties and then crumbled them by hand before heating them through on the stove. Raisin Bread and I then built our own burritos with all of the accroutrements!

I have also been using the Sunshine Burgers to make quick and easy veggie burgers for lunch.

A Quick Lunchtime Burger
1 Sunshine Burger patty of your choice
1 burger bun
lettuce mix
cheese
avocado
chili (optional)

For the burger below, I used the Loco Chipotle patty, which is a quarter pound patty and has a ton of flavor and a great kick to it. I went all out with it and added some vegetarian chili to my burger.

I found both recipes super tasty. Raisin Bread, on the other hand, was not a fan of the texture of the meatless burgers. On the negative side, I found the patties to be pretty fragile. Just moving them from the microwave on to a bun caused the patties to crumble. Overall, though, I really love the taste of the patties that I have tried thus far, especially the Black Bean South West.

Find stores selling Sunshine Burgers near you here.

To learn more about Sunshine Burger, visit them:
Twitter@sunshineburger

Disclosure: Through my affiliation with Fit Approach, I received complimentary product from Sunshine Burger for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here

{Product Review} Professional Skin Care Face and Body Brush System by ToiletTree Products

In terms of my beauty routine, I pretty much have found a system that works for me and have stuck to it for years and years. Once in a while, I am willing to try something new if I think it will help solve a problem area or save me time or money. 
The Professional Skin Care System by ToiletTree Products is just such a product. I have been wanting to try out a skin care brush for the longest time, but just couldn’t justify spending the money on a beauty item that I was unsure of. That is why I was so excited when ToiletTree Products contacted me to see if they could send me their Professional Skin Care System! 
I have been using the brush for about two weeks now, and I love it! The system comes with 4 interchangeable brush heads: 2 face brushes (one soft and one medium), 1 body brush and 1 pumice sphere, a water-resistant strap, and 4 AA batteries so I could use it immediately. The brush is water-resistant, which is perfect for use in the shower. It is also available in six different colors: pink, purple, green, blue, gray and black. 
I have had a hard time finding a good exfoliating product for my face, so to be honest with you, I don’t really do a lot of exfoliating. The brush is a great alternative to harsh scrubs and solutions to get rid of dead skin and get the deep clean I really need but have been avoiding for so long. 

My body is a different story. I use body scrubs, mesh poufs and exfoliating body washes on a regular basis, but my skin feels even softer than usual after I started using the ToiletTree Skin Care System.

My favorite part about the system is how easy it is to use. The heads just pop off, so I can switch between all of them very easily over the course of my shower to make sure I am squeaky clean from head to toe.

Get this. The Skin Care System is sold for only $39.95. Although I have not used other skin care brushes, I think this is a great alternative for those who are looking for a product of this kind at an extremely affordable price point.

The ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System is available on Amazon.com

To learn more about ToiletTree Products, find them on
Twitter: @ToiletTreeProd
Facebook: ToiletTreeProducts
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/toilettreeprod/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/toilettreeproducts

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ToiletTree Professional Skin Care System from ToiletTree Products for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here

An Outdoor Run + {Product Review} 2Toms BlisterShield

For the first time in a very, very long time, I got to run outside! Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous out and warm enough for this Californian to brave the elements. I knew it wasn’t going to last long, so I took a break from my best friend, Mr. Tread Mill, and hit the pavement. 
I headed past the Netherlands Carillon

And across the Memorial Bridge.

I stopped to check out the frozen Potomac River.

I made my way past the Lincoln Memorial 

and the Washington Monument. The scaffolding is coming down, slowly but surely.

I ran down the National Mall. Here’s the Smithsonian Castle.

I made it to the National Gallery of Art before turning around. I planned to complete between 6 and 9 miles on this run and wound up finishing 8.22 miles. It felt so good to be outside and enjoy the sights. My first race of 2014 is coming up quickly and getting outside was just what I needed to reassure myself that I am ready for it. 
I also used my outdoor run to test out a product I recently received. Medi-Dyne sent me a few samples of 2Toms BlisterShield. On runs, my left foot in particular has problems with chafing and blister formation, so I was interested to see how this product might help. 
I opened one of the sample packets I received and sprinkled half of the powder into each of my socks. 

Then I shook the socks around to spread out the powder. Putting the powder-lined socks on created a little bit of a mess, especially since my pants were black! I could definitely feel the difference of having the powder in my sock because it actually felt like more friction instead of less. That made me a bit worried. There was no reason to be though because I had no foot problems during or after my run!

I also thought that taking my socks off would create a mess but this also wasn’t the case. There was no mess and the product washes right off in the shower. I will be using the second sample on my next long, outdoor run for sure!

Disclosure: I received two sample packets of 2Toms BlisterShield from Medi-Dyne. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here. 

Sonoma Winter WINEland and Brewery Visits

We planned a trip down Northern Sonoma County’s Wine Road on Sunday for the 22nd Annual Winter WINEland.

By the way, if you missed the previous posts on my recent trip to Northern California, check them out first:
The Hills of San Francisco
Sunshine, food and wine in Napa and Sonoma

Winter WINEland is an event, where you have the chance to visit any of the over 100 participating wineries, where you receive tastings, discounts and sometimes food pairings, all for one ticket price. We purchased Sunday only tickets, which were about $35 including service fee. Such a good deal!

Northern Sonoma County in itself is huge, so we pretty much stuck to the area around Healdsburg to make the most of our time.

We started out at 11 am at Wilson Winery, where we picked up our wristbands and tasting glasses. We sampled three different red wines by Wilson as well as enjoyed some barbecue brisket.

As you can tell, the weather was absolutely amazing. I hear that it can sometimes be dreary and rainy in January, but California is currently facing a severe drought and there hasn’t been any rain to speak of. 
Barbecue brisket at Wilson Winery

Our next stop was lunch at Bear Republic Brewing Co.

The restaurant served pub-style offerings, which were tasty but not amazing, and I felt I was led astray on the beer recommendations. I typically like lighter beers, and the waitress suggested the beer on the right for me. Yeah, that’s not a light beer! I believe it was the Heritage. 
Beers from Bear Republic
Our second Wine Road stop was the beautiful Truett Hurst Winery. The grounds were so gorgeous that we wound up spending quite a bit of time just chatting, sitting in the sunshine and exploring. Along with the vineyards, there are gardens and livestock, including chicken and sheep (which I did not see any of).  
The gardens of Truett Hurst
The property butts up against Dry Creek, where there are salmon and trout, which I also did not see any of. 
Not only was the setting magnificent but I also had some fantastic wine there. My favorite was the 2012 Black Sheep Pinot Noir with flavors of black cherry, candied ham and ripe berries. It was rich and tasty! 
Next, we ventured over to Geyserville to visit Silver Oak, which specializes exclusively in Cabernet Sauvignon. The AFC Championship game was happening during our visit and the winery staff kept visitors updated on the score via a chalk board. 

Silver Oak also had a food pairing for us to enjoy. Black truffle and mushroom pizza from their own wood-fired oven! It was so yummy and, of course, fresh!

We still had some more time, so we added one more winery to finish out our WINEland journey. We visited Geyser Peak Winery. Our day was pretty heavy on the red wines and one of our traveling companions prefers whites. Geyser Peak was recommended for this reason. I was pretty wine-ed out by this time, so I just had a taste of the offerings. I did confirm one thing over the course of the weekend though. I really really do not enjoy sauvignon blanc! 

 

If you thought our day was over, we still had more tasting to do! We headed to Russian River Brewing Company, which we had tried to visit the previous night. I did not order anything to sample, but I had a couple of sips of the famous Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. Unlike my friends, I do not appreciate IPAs so those beers were lost on me.  

On our way back into San Francisco, we stopped by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma for dinner and more beer sampling. I shared the “Around the World in 16 Beers” tasting with two other girls and we barely made a dent in it. Again, my beer palate is pretty limited, but they were fun to try and the setting was nice. There were large picnic tables in an outdoor beer garden. The food here was also very pub-ish, so it was nachos for me! 

It was a fun weekend of catching up with old friends, eating delicious food, enjoying plenty of adult beverages and spending time outside in beautiful weather!

Until next time, San Francisco!

January 2014 Happenings

Welcome to February! January was a busy and very very cold month. Here’s a brief run down of January 2014!

#Polar Vortex: I am so over this weather. We experienced 6.6 inches of snowfall in January and I have lost count of how many single digit degree days we have had. This has been by far the coldest winter we’ve had since I moved here in 2011. Is it spring yet?

January 21, 2014
January 21, 2014
January 25, 2014

RAMW Restaurant Week: I got to experience a new restaurant this month as well as enjoy another meal at an old favorite during DC Restaurant Week. There has been some noise about how Restaurant Week isn’t really a good deal and might also be a rip off. I don’t disagree, but you can also find good deals by scouring the menus and picking high price point restaurants. 
I had a lunch date with myself at Sushi Taro, my favorite sushi restaurant in DC. My lunch was comprised of a 3 box tasting of shrimp and vegetable tempura, salmon and albacore tuna sashimi and soba. For my sushi course, I received eel, yellowtail, tuna, salmon, white fish and shrimp nigiri and salmon and avocado maki. Lunch ended with a serving of green tea ice cream. Yum! And not bad for $20! 
Raisin Bread and I had a friend who was in town for a week on business so we set up a Restaurant Week excursion with him to Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill. I don’t often find myself around the Hill but this establishment was teeming with Hilly people. 
I started my meal with a cocktail called The Lobbyist’s Libation (Hendrick’s Gin martini with cucumber puree and lemon-infused simple syrup). I wasn’t at the table when our amuse bouche arrived, but it was yummy and tasted like tomato soup. 

For my three course meal, I had the red oak and roasted beet salad with crisp goat cheese, black walnut and a sherry shallot vinaigrette, the grilled angus sirloin with short rib ravioli, sweet potato puree, braised swiss chard and black garlic jus, and lastly, green apple consomme with crisp apples, cinnamon panna cotta and almonds.

My favorite course was the entree. It was perfectly cooked and I really liked the accompaniments, especially the black garlic.

Funniest Thing to Happen: I won a year’s supply of toothbrushes from Colgate and Influenster. Sweet! Clean teeth! If you haven’t tried the Colgate SlimSoft toothbrush before, I highly recommend it. It’s magical.

Making an Apartment a Home: January was the first month since we’ve moved to DC that both Raisin Bread and I weren’t in graduate school. We got a chance to spruce up the apartment a little with some greenery. I love plants but I have a history of not having the greenest of thumbs. Hopefully, these bad boys will thrive.

The Treadmill is My Friend: When it’s cold, I treadmill. When it’s icy, I definitely treadmill. I’m currently training for my next half marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon in March. I also got to put in some miles in my awesome new Union Jack leggings, which I received from my mother-in-law for Christmas. 
Total mileage this month: 30.8 miles

Trip to San Francisco: Last but not least, as you know, I visited San Francisco over MLK weekend. Be sure to check out my posts on this fun trip. The final post will be up later this week.

Part 1: The Hills of San Francisco
Part 2: Sunshine, food and wine in Napa and Sonoma

Sushi Taro
1503 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001