About last night…

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As I write this post sitting on our screened-in back porch, it’s cool and rainy. I’m sitting here listening to the gentle sound of raindrops and breeze through the oak tree leaves– it’s incredibly peaceful. With such gloomy weather this morning, it’s hard to believe that only a few hours ago, we were dining al fresco under the light of globe string lights and a huge, uplit Magnolia tree. We had course after course of rustic Italian cuisine paired with perfectly complimentary Italian wines. Laughter, storytelling with new friends, and Catarina Valente softly playing in the background. An unforgettable dining experience.

This is Dinner in the Field.

Curious what this is all about? Here’s an explanation from the Chefs themselves– Paige and Gregorio:

My husband Gregorio and I are a Chef team, who fell in love while cooking and eating together in Southern Italy.

I had recently completed my culinary studies in Italy and Gregorio, an Italian native, was continuing to learn his craft from family members, who had been teaching him ever since he was tall enough to reach the counter. When Gregorio and I met, neither one of us could speak very much of the other’s language, but lucky, food became our universal language. We formed a strong connection in the kitchen–learning from each other, one dish at a time.  After just a few weeks, we were inseparable as we shared our passion for creating large family meals from food grown right outside Gregorio’s doorstep–milk from his cousin’s cow, orange juice from his orange tree, eggs from his Aunt’s chickens, and vegetables from his sister’s garden.  

These relaxed, alfresco family dinners on the Southern Coast of Italy inspired us to return to my hometown of Richmond and share our experience with the people of VA. Each Dinner in the Field event is focused on cooking from the ground up.  First, we find the local seasonally specific ingredients, then we find the breathtaking location, and lastly we create a menu to compliment the entire experience. 

We hope to see you at one of their family tables this summer. 

Working at Virginia Tourism, we have highlighted Dinner in the Field in our marketing– from an advetorial in Food Network magazine to connecting our friends from SORTEDfood with Chef Paige for cooking lessons on a boat and the Dinner in the Field experience for themselves. I had heard how special this evening was– most of these dinners sell out within 10 minutes of posting tickets — but I hadn’t yet experienced it myself. And I am so very glad I had that opportunity last night!

 
We arrived at the stunning Seven Springs, less than 20 miles from the heart of Richmond in King William county. The farm boasts expansive acreage dotted with little cottages, beautiful old trees, a fenced-in area for their Hog Island sheep, and a manor house (frequently visited by George Washington). Note to soon-to-be-brides: this is the most perfect place to get married. Look into having your wedding here!

*All photos courtesy Don Mears Photography/Seven Springs Farm

We strolled around the grounds with glasses of prosecco in hand, then relaxed in the outdoor living room while Chef Paige introduced the first course — the apertivo.

  • Rustici con riccota e pomodori secchi (a light, flaky pastry with ricotta cream, basil, and sun dried tomatoes)
  • Aged parmigiano reggiano cheese and local honey

adored the rustici — it was light and refreshing but also decadent in a way, as well! So yummy.

IMG_1006Next, Chef Paige asked us to find our seats at the long dining room table a few yards away, next to a beautiful Magnolia tree. The table was decorated with seasonal vegetables and bouquets of basil as centerpieces. Paige and Gregorio would come out between each course to tell us about what we were about to eat. Many of the ingredients were just hours or days off the vine– which meant they retained maximum sweetness and nutrients. And we also learned: never ever refrigerate your tomatoes! Each course was absolutely incredible.

Chef Paige and Gregorio also share some of their guests’ favorite recipes on their blog, and I was so pleased to find the recipe for tiramisu and parmigiana this morning. Yay!

We were treated to the following courses, each were fresh, seasonal, and, well, pretty perfect.

  • Insalata: Italian green beans, potatoes, onions, cherry tomatoes, oregano and basil.
  • Primo: Rigatoni al Pesto com Gamberi (basil, parmigiano, garlic, pine nults, walnuts and pistachios, blended and sauteed with rigatoni pasta with zucchini and shrimp).
  • Secondo: Parmigiana (layers of sliced eggplant baked with fresh tomato sauce, parmiggiano reggiano, basil, and provola cheese)– this was my FAVORITE! And lucky for me (and you!) Chef Gregorio has shared his recipe here.
  • Dolce: Tiramisu’ (with mascarpone, coffee, and cacao). Recipe here!

We ended the night around 11pm and made our way back to downtown, still chatting the whole way about each course and what a dreamy evening it was.

I simply cannot say enough about what a magical experience Dinner in the Field was, and I can’t wait to return for another. Chefs Paige and Gregorio are hoping to soon open a restaurant to share Dinner in the Field with more people — so stay tuned for what is sure to be an in-demand destination restaurant!

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Two very happy campers last night above – thank you Chefs Paige and Gregorio for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will cherish forever!

Style Inspiration | The Carolina Inn

photo: carolina inn

Happy Monday! The warm weather is finally upon us – isn’t it lovely? I am so excited for spring this year!

Last weekend, my husband and I traveled down to Chapel Hill, NC for the wedding of my beautiful sister-in-law, Carol, and her sweet fiance Duncan. The wedding took place at the charming Carolina Inn — a Chapel Hill institution. We had a suite at this beautiful hotel, and I was blown away by the sweet, Southern, traditional yet modern decor. Whoever did the interior design for this gorgeous inn: bravo!  [Read more…]

Tuesday Ten // Virginia Craft Beers to Enjoy This Month

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August is Virginia Craft Beer Month! With 82 craft breweries across the state (and counting!), Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers, for sure!

In honor of Craft Beer Month in the Commonwealth, here are ten of my favorite Virginia Craft Beers to enjoy this month. Check them out after the jump!

[Read more…]

JetSet | My favorite travel essentials

Lauren Conrad always looks effortlessly chic when traveling!

G r e e t i n g s from the Big Apple! I am in New York City for a few days on business this week and am loving the weather up here. I love the South and our signature southern summers, but a break from the heat and humidity is very welcome!

My travel experience today was one of the best I’ve had in a while (even though my flight was delayed 45 minutes). Biggest factor? Comfort. Second biggest? I’ve become a pro at the Two Night Suitcase Packing Game. Travel seems sooo much smoother when you’ve got your suitcase act together, packing only the must-haves, and getting your carry-on essentials down to the, well, essentials.
This is the second trip I’ve taken with my new Diane von Furstenberg Private Jet Fold Over Tote (thank you Erin & Eddie!). It is THE BEST for a two to three night getaway, and I highly recommend it!

I’ve also finally got travel style down to a science as well — a work bag/purse/carry-all, folding Ray-Bans that fit in a case smaller than a camera, comfy clothes, easy slip-off shoes, and a watch to make sure I’m not running late.

Thankfully, practical travel wear can be cute. Here are my favorite travel essentials for easy, breezy jet-setting.

 

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1. White T-Shirt (I “borrowed” one of my husband’s undershirts for a little extra room and comfort!)

2. 1969 Sexy Boyfriend Jeans | GAP

3. Wayfarer Folding Classic | Ray-Ban

4. Plated Pink Stud Earrings | kate spade new york

5. Gramercy Grand Watch | kate spade new york

6. Maey Bow Thong Sandals | I.N.C.

7. Le Pliage Tote | Longchamp

 

What are your travel essentials? What are some of your “musts” before you get on a plane or hop in a car for a road trip?

Happy Travels!

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Very Virginia | Dog-Friendly Virginia Wineries

photo: Dog & Oyster Winery (Irvington, VA)

photo: Dog & Oyster Winery (Irvington, VA)

H a p p y  M o n d a y friends! I hope ya’ll had a great Fourth of July weekend! We had an amazing holiday weekend, filled with fun times at the pool, on the river, on our bikes, and — my favorite, with our Goldendoodle, Millie, at a couple of Charlottesville’s beautiful wineries.

Virginia wineries are notorious for their beautiful vistas and outstanding wines. But, many of them (in fact, 120 of Virginia’s 250 wineries) are dog-friendly, some even allowing your furry friend in the tasting room as long as they are on a leash! Here are two of our favorites, that we happened to visit yesterday:

Kewswick

 1575 Keswick Winery Dr, Keswick, VA 22947

(434) 244-3341

www.keswickvineyards.com 

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dogDog-Friendly Areas: Tasting room, porch, patio, picnic tables

 

Why We Love It: My husband and I made a trip to Keswick on the day we got engaged, so this winery has a special place in our hearts for obvious reasons. We’ve also really enjoyed being Wine Club Members at Keswick, which I highly recommend. Click here to find out more about membership!

Not only is Keswick dog-friendly, they also are huge supporters of the local SPCA chapters, hosting Yappy Hours on summer Sundays. For every bottle of wine purchased, Keswick makes a donation to the visiting shelter. They even have a Yappy Howl-O-Ween costume contest with the Charlottesville/Albemarle SPCA in October!

Want more information on Yappy Hours and the local SPCA chapters? Click here.

Our Favorite Keswick Wine: VMonticello White Wine.

“Straw in color, the nose is quite tropical with papaya and mango aromas being especially dominant. The slightly riper profile is due to the higher percentage Viognier in the wine as opposed to previous years. The wine still possesses healthy acidity that keeps the wine clean and focused on the palate. There are more stone fruit flavors on the palate with hints of flintiness and slate, almost reminiscent of a Sancerre. The wine is dry but has wonderful weight within the mouth, which along with the acidity will enable this wine to age for a few years if you choose to do so. This wine is a perfect summer time wine, easily drunk on its won but will pair with a variety of lighter fare such as salads and seafood.” Click here to purchase.

 

Barboursville

5210 Frederico Rd, Barboursville, VA 22923

(540) 832-1701

www.barboursvillewine.com

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Dog-Friendly Areas: Tasting room, outside areas, Barboursville Ruins

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Millie and me checking out the Barboursville Ruins.

Why We Love It: Barboursville Wine reigns king in Virginia, with renowned winemaker Luca Paschina on the throne. While Luca’s wines have received international recognition, and the Octagon red is on the pricier side of Virginia varietals, Barboursville’s wines are as accessible as they are varied, and it was a pleasant surprise to be able to bring our Millie along with us to taste these award-winning wines. Be sure to check out the Barboursville Ruins while you’re on site. Preserved as a ruin after its destruction by fire on December 25, 1884, Barboursville was one of the largest and finest residences in the region. The only building in Orange County known to have been designed by Thomas Jefferson, Barboursville was constructed between 1814-1822 for Jefferson’s friend James Barbour, who served as governor of Virginia, U.S. senator and secretary of war. A brick Flemish-bond mansion with a hipped roof, Barboursville stood two stories high over an English basement. After the fire, the family renovated a pair of brick dependencies to the west of the mansion. Today the estate is run as a vineyard.

Our Favorite Barboursville Wine: Of course, is the Octagon. But if you’re looking for a friendlier price point, the Nebbiolo Reserve is a can’t miss. Wine experts still come to this estate in the conviction that Nebbiolo should not be grown outside of Piemonte, only to express disbelief that Barboursville’s Nebbiolo is grown and crafted right here in Virginia. The Nebbiolo Reserve is a stand-out wine, of subtlety and finesse as well as power. Click here to purchase.

These are just two of our favorite Virginia wineries that happen to be dog-friendly, as well. Some of our other favorites include:

But there are so many to choose from and discover in Virginia! Interested in visiting Virginia’s dog-friendly wineries? Here are some additional resources:

What is your favorite dog-friendly winery? Leave your tips in the comments below!

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Five on Friday

Happy Friday, ya’ll! The past few days have been so, so busy – I really haven’t had much time to blog over my morning coffee or in the evenings this week! There just simply haven’t been enough hours in the day.

Even with so much going on and such a busy schedule, it’s good for the soul to take a few moments to daydream every now and then. And that’s what today’s Five on Friday is all about: dreamy, whimsical, lovely inspirations, treats, and ideas.

Without further ado, here’s this week’s Five on Friday!

Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies

Soft Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies. Click the photo for a link to the recipe from Love & Olive Oil.
Photo credit: Love & Olive Oil

[Read more…]

FITnotes | Make it Work! Working Out on Vacay Made Easy

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When you’re on vacation, usually the last things you think about are diet and exercise. In fact, most of us tend to “fall off the wagon” during vacations, what with rich dinners out, lots of frozen cocktails, and lazy days by the pool.

Since we have been down in Florida, however, I’ve been trying to stay active. We’ve been for long walks on the beach, paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming.

This morning, I did an at-home barre exercise by the pool, which was SO fun, I thought I would share!

[Read more…]

JETset | 5 Travel Essentials Under $50

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Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a weeks-long vacation, preparing to go out of town is guaranteed to always incite one thing: STRESS! There’s choosing what to wear, packing, planning, printing out itineraries…oy! But once you’re out the door, the journey there is half the fun.

Here are five travel essentials under $50 to make your in-flight experience worry-free and just a little bit more fancy — without breaking the bank! After all, you need some walking-around money on your vacation… 🙂

[Read more…]

App Love | Holiday VoxBox: Goody (and goodies) galore!

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If there’s one thing I love, it’s samples. I’ve been a Birchbox subscriber since its genesis, and had recently been looking out for other ways to sample new beauty, health, and fitness products. Enter Influenster, a free-to-join community of invited trendsetters who live to give opinions of products and experiences. Influenster creates links between brands and members to reward participation and influence future products.

I signed up for Influenster in December and received my Holiday VoxBox just before heading to South Carolina for Christmas. It was almost like opening an early Christmas present! The folks at Influenster sent a box chock-full of goodies, from beauty products to oatmeal to discount cards. I loved just about everything in the box, and honestly can’t wait to receive my next one.

Here’s just a snapshot of some of the products (and my reviews):

Goody QUICK STYLE Paddle Brush

($11.99, Target)

ImageI’ve got long, thick hair, and blow-drying on a daily basis can be time-consuming at best. The Goody QUICK STYLE Paddle Brush promised to help dry hair 30% faster with its absorbent bristles. I can definitely tell a difference. It’s like a ShamWow for your hair! Love yours? Connect with Goody on Twitter:

  • @GoodyHair
  • #Quikstyle

 

Quaker Real Medleys Summer Berry Oatmeal +

(Grocery stores nationwide)

58595_754660192919_1893417590_nThis 250-calorie cup-on-the-go of oatmeal was actually perfect for me this morning. Between scheduling media interviews pre-business hours, walking the dog, getting dressed, and making into the office, I ran out of time to make breakfast. Thank goodness for the Quaker Read Medleys Summer Berry Oatmeal cup! It only took 45 seconds to heat up, and was a delicious, sweet treat to start my day off right.  This is perfect for any girl-on-the go. Did you love it too? Connect with Quaker on Twitter:

  •  @Quaker
  • #RealMedleys

 

 

 

 

 

EBoost Natural Energy Effervescent Powder Pink Lemonade

($28 for a pack of 20, Eboost.com)

pink_lemonade_2012Sometimes, a cup of Joe just doesn’t do the trick. That’s why I really loved Eboost’s Natural Energy Effervescent Powder Pink Lemonade. It doesn’t taste sicky-sweet (nor leave you with a metallic aftertaste) like some other energy drinks, and it’s jam-packed with good-for-you ingredients like green tea, vitamins, super nutrients, and Stevia. I highly recommend this for folks who just don’t like the taste of coffee– or who just LOVE the taste of pink lemonade year round. This gave me the extra-jolt I needed to get through my first day back at the office after the holidays. Did Eboost give you that kick you were looking for? Connect with them on Twitter:

  • @EBOOST
  • #naturalenergy

 

 

 

So far, these are the only products I’ve tested out from my Holiday VoxBox, but I’m looking forward to trying out the more beauty-related products. Stay tuned for my reviews of:

  • NYC New York Liquid Color Lipshine
  • Kiss Nail Dress
  • Montagne Jeuness Face Masque
  • SoleSociety Perfect Pair

Home Goods | to paris (and beyond), with love

In June, I’ll finally bid the Fan adieu. It’s been a lovely five years living in the bustling Fan district of Richmond. I love being within walking distance of restaurants, markets, bars and friends’ houses, and taking long walks down Monument Avenue with my dog Millie. But I’m also excited to start this new chapter in my life, in the Near West End, just ten minutes west of the Fan.

I’ll be moving into a charming Cape Cod, with a lovely backyard and plenty of space to go crazy decorating my new home. I’ve been turning to design*sponge for lots of inspiration, and have already concepted how my office will be “themed”: vintage travel!

Last weekend, I purchased a huge oversized vintage suitcase from Halcyon Vintage, which I will be transforming into a DIY coffee table (see the how-to here on design*sponge). I’ll be filling the wall space with framed vintage travel posters, like this one I bought on eBay (for $9.99 no less).

I love it. It’s an original 1960’s Paris travel poster. It’s so whimsical and dreamy– it feels like it was lifted right of of Sofia Coppola’s “Miss Dior Cherie” commercial.

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