Weekend Recap: Gelato, Humpback Rock Hike, and Brunch at Bluegrass Grill

The first weekend of August was a lot of fun! Mostly because Nathan actually had a weekend. He gets one weekend off a month and this was it, so we made sure to take advantage of it. Not to mention we also had perfect weather: 75 and sunny with hardly any humidity. Doesn’t get better than that toward the end of summer.

FRIDAY

We started things off on a sweet note with a dessert date to Splendora’s Gelato Cafe on the downtown mall after dinner on Friday. It was a beautiful night out and there was a lot of great people watching – a juggler, accordion player, and artist were among the highlights of the mall this time. It does make me sad that it’s getting dark earlier already though!

IMG_1694.JPG

I haven’t had really good gelato in a long time, so this hit the spot! We each chose two flavors, and I got granduia (chocolate and hazelnut, so basically nutella) and salted caramel. So delicious, especially when they melted and started to mix together. The little spoons that came with our gelato were cute too. Am I the only one who’s always tempted to keep those?

IMG_1693.JPG-1

I was glad we got to try Splendora’s after hearing so much about it. It definitely lived up to the hype, although Nathan decided he’s more of an ice cream guy than gelato fan. I can work with that! After we walked back home, we finished House of Cards season 4 (OMG) and called it a night.

SATURDAY 

On Saturday morning, we headed out to a highly anticipated hike: Humpback Rock! This was on our bucket list from the very beginning and we were glad a window to go finally opened up. We hadn’t been hiking together in far too long, and we were both craving a good mountain getaway.

It was a gorgeous ~30 minute drive from Charlottesville to the trailhead, which is directly off the Blue Ride Parkway. Up in the mountains it was a good 10-15 degrees cooler with a strong breeze too, but once we got moving we warmed up.

The hike to the lookout is ~1 mile with 800 ft. elevation. It is STEEP but we had been warned so we were prepared. The near-360 degree view at the top made it worth every step!

IMG_1696.JPG

IMG_1703.JPG

IMG_1702.JPG
Clearly a popular spot, but plenty of people to take photos of us this way too 😉 #brightside
FullSizeRender.jpg-1
Smiling /slash/ holding on for dear life.

It was pretty windy at the top so this is as far as we ventured out!

FullSizeRender.jpg

IMG_1711-1
May or may not have crawled out for this pic because I was scared to stand up…

After soaking in the breathtaking view, we took a different route back down the mountain that is supposedly part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s about ~3 miles down but a lot less steep, so we got to enjoy a more casual pace and good conversation. Overall, it took us a little over 2 hours to do the trail this way. Can’t think of a morning better spent than in the mountains together, and I’m so grateful we live close enough to be able to enjoy our free days like this.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, grocery shopping, and meal planning for the week before a casual dinner date at Chili’s using up some old gift cards we had.

IMG_1714.JPG
I see you, Chili’s.

We debated saving season 5 of House of Cards until season 6 comes out but we couldn’t resist, so after a couple episodes (#cantstopwontstop) we headed to bed. Deja vu! We slept hard Saturday night. Something about that mountain air…

SUNDAY

Sunday morning we went to church together and then met up with a couple friends for brunch at Bluegrass Grill. We’d been trying to make plans with them for awhile, but the guys’ off-days never lined up until this weekend. We’d also been wanting to try Bluegrass Grill for awhile, so it worked out perfectly!

We soaked up some of the gorgeous sunshine outside for ~45 minutes until our table was ready. It was totally worth the wait! Everything on the menu looked amazing, but after some recommendations from the waitress, I decided to order The Hungry Norman and Nate ordered The Southern Belle. Yes, you read that right…please imagine my husband ordering “the southern belle” while I ordered “the hungry norman”. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did 🙂

IMG_1715.JPG
The Hungry Norman: Blackberry Jam, Goat Cheese, Sausage Links, 2 Over-easy Eggs on English Muffin with fruit

*Shoutout to good friends who don’t judge when you take pics of your food!*

This was hands down the best breakfast sandwich I have ever eaten! The photo doesn’t do it justice, but buried under those eggs is my perfect sweet/savory combo of blackberry jam, goat cheese, and sausage. Whenever I make egg & cheese sandwiches at home, I always add grape jelly, so this was like that except on another level! It was kind of like a breakfast spin on my favorite burger at Twenty Tap (back in Indy) which uses tomato jam and goat cheese with an English muffin. Needless to say, I cleared my plate and was sooo happy with my choice. 10/10.

My friend got The Dirty Frenchman, which was french toast with brie, honey, & lavender on wheat-raisin bread. She shared a bite and it was to die for! Smelled amazing and tasted just as good. I want them to make a candle that smells like her french toast and I told the waitress that so…*copyright pending*. Nathan also loved The Southern Belle and I enjoyed trying it, too! It involved pimento cheese, fresh tomatoes, and jalapeño hollandaise…I forget the rest (it was a special).

Overall, the Bluegrass Grill is my new favorite breakfast place and I want to try everything on their menu. I like how they had classic, comfort-food staples like grits, biscuits ‘n gravy, bacon, etc. but then also put creative, classy spins on traditional dishes (like blackberry jam and goat cheese, or lavender on the french toast). The names (i.e. Hungry Norman) made it feel less stuffy than some of the ingredients would suggest (in other words, I could actually pronounce them). Plus, the portion sizes are perfect. Sometimes places give you these small little servings for fancy dishes and charge you more. That is NOT the case here and it makes it a perfect brunch spot for us! Word of warning – if you come visit us, we will probably end up back here at least once during your trip. I will also ask to try whatever you order. Thank you/you’re welcome.

The rest of Sunday was spent cleaning the apartment, doing some food prep for the week (two more new recipes on the meal plan whoop whoop), and relaxing. It was our favorite kind of weekend: a good hike, good food, and good time with friends. August is off to a great start!

Weekend Recap: Mom & Dad’s 1st Visit! (Part 2)

Picking up where we left off…

SATURDAY

We met Saturday morning and headed out for a hike! I definitely wanted to take my parents out for some adventuring while they were here. I thought a new trail would be fun, and one of my friends recommended Crabtree Falls, so that’s where we went.

The trailhead is about an hour from Cville and the trail is ~3.5 miles total. The internet said it was “moderate to strenuous” but…IMG_1516.JPG…according to that sign, 30 people have died by venturing out, so…seems a bit more than strenuous to me, eh?

In all seriousness, the trail was in great condition so even “strenuous” parts were manageable for us. There are steps built into some of the steeper terrain, and as long as you’re OK maneuvering over rocks, you’ll be fine.IMG_0320.JPGIt was about 15 degrees cooler in the mountains than it was in the city. Plus the trail winds along a waterfall for most of the way, which helped cool things off AND meant we got to enjoy some incredible views the whole way. I’m a big fan of instant (or constant) gratification when it comes to hiking 🙂IMG_1521.JPG

IMG_1519.JPG

IMG_1523.JPGThe bonus surprise was an amazing view once we got to the top too! I had no idea it would open onto a vista like this, but it was so rewarding and breathtaking.IMG_1544.JPG

IMG_1550.JPG

IMG_1542.JPG

IMG_1549.JPGIt took us about 1.5 hours to get up and about an hour to get back down. This hike is perfect for a half-day adventure from Charlottesville. We started the hike around 10:30AM on a weekend day, and while it was definitely a popular choice, we didn’t have any trouble finding parking spots or keeping our distance from other groups. (Can’t say the same about Old Rag!)IMG_0317.JPGWe were all smiles the whole way. I don’t think we stopped talking…ever…which made the whole hike fly by! (And yes, by “we” I mean me. I talked the whole time. Future warning for anyone who goes hiking with me!)

Dad was awesome and drove us back from the hike so I could veg out/eat Clif bars/look at all our pictures. He was also a real hero when we got back into town and stopped at Beer Run to get Nathan a case of local beer! That man knows the way to my husband’s heart (does that sentence feel as awkward to read as I do when I type it? But it’s true!). Nate is on night shifts for another couple weeks, so he may or may not end up drinking the beer around 8AM after work but…#nojudgment here.

Our hike worked up a wonderful appetite for dinner that night. We wanted to time our dinner so that Nathan could join us before work. It was so nice to have his company! We originally planned to try Tavola, but there was a wait and we didn’t have much wiggle room for timing, so we went right next door to The Local! When we went to The Local before I knew my parents would love it (and also that I wanted to try everything on the menu), so I was really happy we got the chance to take them on their first trip out.

For starters, Mom got the watermelon gazpacho (which I’ve never had and got to try – reminded me of a fruity salsa, in a good way) and Dad and I both got house salads.

IMG_1563.JPG
Local “Appalachia Star” mixed greens, soy-ginger vinaigrette and pickled vegetables, topped with crispy won tons and soy roasted almonds

Then the main attractions…

IMG_1564.JPG
For me: Duck Breast
Pan roasted duck breast, pistachio mole, duck fat sweet potato hash, Virginia apple-cranberry-chayote squash and avocado relish
IMG_1565.JPG
For Dad: Local “Double H Farm” Berkshire Pork Chop
Chili rubbed, grilled and served with mashed potatoes, shoestring sweet potatoes, and a chipotle adobo gravy
IMG_1566.JPG
For Mom: Roast Local Squash
stuffed with “Caromont” goat cheese, quinoa, dried cherries and almonds over local braised greens with a fresh tomato sauce, and parmesan (cheese can be omitted for vegan diets)
IMG_1567.JPG
For Nate: Local “TImber Creek” Chicken and Waffles
Fried Local Chicken Breast over house made orange-pecan waffles with Strawberry-jalapeno “syrup” and a honey-lime dipping sauce

All of the food was absolutely delicious! Nate was in breakfast mode so it was great that they had the chicken and waffles as an option. I’d never had duck before but I would definitely get it again. Very flavorful and tender – all the flavors of my dish complemented each other perfectly with a nice amount of spice, and anything with avocado is gold in my book! Dad’s pork chop was also great, although the mashed potatoes kind of stole the show. And Mom’s squash with the goat cheese was awesome! I love getting to try a little of everything and am glad no one in our family is shy about sharing 🙂

Of course, we had room for a few bites of the dessert special – flourless chocolate cake!IMG_1568.JPGThis was rich and dense and the perfect finishing touch to a delicious meal together. Nate said we should have cake after breakfast more often. Ha!

After dinner, we dropped Nate off at work so my parents could see where the hospital is. I had my paparazzi with me and couldn’t resist this pic. So official!img_0354-jpg.jpegAfter that, I dropped Mom and Dad off for the night with plans for one last breakfast at our apartment together before they hit the road back home.

SUNDAY

In the morning, I picked Nate up from work around 7:30 and my parents brought over some delicious food for breakfast. We had originally planned to cook for them but they were able to get some bacon, egg, & cheese sliders from their hotel. Couldn’t beat that! We got to relax and get comfy at home while hearing about their upcoming Alaska trip, Nate’s night at work, and everything in between. It was a perfect way to start the day and cap off their time in Cville. After we finished, they hit the road, Nate went to bed, and I went to church with a friend.

I can’t believe how fast this trip went! I feel like we were able to fit in SO much and really make the most of my parents’ time here. Of course, I already have things on the list for the next time they come back. It was also a lot of fun having them stay for a few days vs. in Indy where it was always just day trips because we lived so close. We get way more quality time together this way and get to do so much more exploring! Their first visit – of many, I hope! – was a success and I’m already looking forward to the next one 🙂

Weekend Recap: Mom & Dad’s 1st Visit! (Part 1)

This weekend was extra fun thanks to our first out-of-town visitors – my parents! They both came to help us move in June, but that trip was a whirlwind-one-night deal. This time, they stayed Thursday to Sunday and we had a few days together full of the fun stuff we’ve discovered so far in Cville!

THURSDAY

My parents got into town mid-afternoon on Thursday. I took Thursday and Friday off so I could spend time with them, so once they got settled I met them at their hotel so we could catch up (aka talk/laugh for a couple hours nonstop) without disturbing Nate, who was at home trying to sleep. The timing with his overnight work schedule with their visit was a bummer, but we still got to have evenings with him before he went into work. We were out and about during the days too so it really wasn’t all that bad in terms of him needing to be home/sleeping in the quiet.

We came back to the apartment around 5 (when Nate has been getting up) so we could cook them dinner. Ever since we first tried this recipe, we were dying to make it for our parents. It was the perfect way to spend time together their first night and show them our apartment now that we’ve gotten everything unpacked/organized!

IMG_0277.JPG
Me stuffing chicken. #glamorous

IMG_1471.JPGAfter dinner, I went to my book club meeting and sent my parents off to date night at Carter Mountain. On Thursdays in summer, they stay open late for people to watch the sunset on the hill. From the photos my parents took, it looked absolutely beautiful!

FullSizeRender.jpg-1

FullSizeRender.jpg-2

IMG_0294.JPG-1

^Doing sunsets in style.

I had a great time at book club too! It was their first meeting since we’ve moved here (they meet monthly), so it was great getting a feel for what to expect and getting to know some new people. Believe it or not this is my first book club so it’s a fun new experience for me. I love how easy it’s been to plug into groups I’m interested in here so far!

FRIDAY

We got an early start Friday by heading to Monticello for the morning. This has been on my bucket list here since day one, but I wanted to save it for a time I could go with my dad. He is a huge history buff and I knew I would get so much more out of the experience if he was there! Plus, if you are a Virginia resident but take out-of-state guests, you get admission for free. Win win 🙂

IMG_1475.JPGBefore our tour of the house, we got to walk around the grounds and check out the basement and gardens.IMG_1484.JPGThis is the view from the top – pretty hazy from the humidity that day! I can see why Mr. Jefferson liked this place even if living on a mountaintop was a little inconvenient during his time…particularly when there was a drought and they had to haul water all the way up from the Rivanna River!

I learned a lot during our visit at Monticello. I had no idea Jefferson was such a foodie. His kitchen was “well equipped” for that era (oven, fire, stovetop, etc.) and he had his cooks train with French chefs to prepare his favorite meals from Paris. It was pretty cool to hear about what he would eat and how the slaves would get all the food from the basement to the main floor/table without even being seen. Different times for sure. IMG_1478.JPGThe garden was probably my favorite part of the whole place though ❤IMG_1486.JPG

IMG_0361Rows and rows of fresh produce. It was quite an operation in the 1700s and is still going strong today. I admire the ways they’ve preserved the condition of everything to be as close as possible to how it was when Jefferson lived there.

IMG_1490.JPG
The real photog in action!

IMG_1492.JPGWe toured the house but weren’t allowed to take photos inside 😦 I can attest that it was absolutely gorgeous though and so impressive! He had GREAT style – classic choices that are still beautiful today. Every brick for the house was handmade. Can you imagine? A lot of the house was inspired by/modeled after architecture Jefferson observed in Paris, too. He introduced the first skylights in America and had 13 put in at Monticello. Lots of European influences here!IMG_1496.JPGFun fact: Monticello took 40 years to build.IMG_1499.JPGHad to get some photos of the iconic view of Monticello (facing west).

On our way back to the visitors’ center, we stopped by the cemetery where Jefferson and some of the family are buried.

We also stopped by a gravesite for some of his slaves. It was a sobering moment…unlike Jefferson’s cemetery, there were no headstones, there was a broken down fence, and it was about .75 miles from the main house. Times were so different back then. Jefferson was a great president, but the realities he existed in are hard to wrap my head around.

After Monticello, we had lunch and did a little shopping for my parents’ upcoming trip to Alaska (!!!I know, when I grow up I want to be cool like them too). Later that evening after cleaning up (hallmark of a well spent summer day: two showers needed), we met at my apartment and walked to the downtown mall for dinner and Fridays After 5.

The hardest decision was where to eat. It was Restaurant Week, so a lot of the menus were limited. Even though everything sounded amazing, we ended up at one of my standbys: Monsoon Siam!IMG_1505.JPGIt was delicious, as usual 🙂 I love taking different people with me because I get to try different dishes. Goodness knows I will always stay true to my Pad See Eaw ❤

IMG_1509.JPG
Pad See Eaw with Chicken for me
IMG_1510.JPG
Chicken Pad Thai for Mom
IMG_1511.JPG
Kao Pad Fried Rice with Crab for Dad

So glad they got to try this place! It is definitely one of my favorites – delicious and reasonably priced. I think it will be a regular spot for us! Sure seems that way so far, anyway.

After dinner we walked back to the pavilion for music.IMG_1512.JPG-1The band was really great this week! They had such a range – Jackson 5, Etta James, Walk the Moon, even ACDC. A lot of people were dancing, including some adorable kids in front of us who kept us highly entertained the whole time.

We walked back to my apartment as the sun set and reminisced on a wonderful summer day. I knew I would sleep well that night: good food, good time with family, and a full day of fun. Which is a good thing too…I needed to rest up for our grand plans for the next morning! Stay tuned for part 2 of their trip 🙂

Currently: June 2017

Time for another spontaneous edition of what we’re currently loving! These are some of our favorites from June.

Currently reading: 

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It’s yet another classic that I have never read (though I have vague fond memories of watching the movie as a kid), so I am finally getting to it this summer. For those who keep up with my book reviews, you know summer is a time when I like to sprinkle in classics as much as possible, and this one certainly fits the bill!

ALSO reading 100 Things to Do in Charlottesville Before You Die. The woman who wrote this is the person who hired me for my job here in Cville, and she gave this book to me as a welcome gift! Needless to say, I have been poring over it to make our bucket list. We’ve already managed to cross a few off, like polo at King Family Vineyards at the City Farmers’ Market. I will definitely be using this book to plan the agenda for my parents’ first visit out here in a couple weeks too 🙂

Currently watching:

House of Cards. Nate and I started season one and watched the entire thing within a week, which is crazy for us! Season two is underway, but with Nate’s intense work schedule, our pace is significantly slower this time around…probably for the best. Ha!

Currently eating:

Burgers! Burgers are one of those classic summer foods for me. I’ll eat them year round, but kind of like watermelon, corn on the cob, or ice cream in a cone, I always enjoy them more when it’s hot out.

We’ve had the chance to try a lot of the restaurants here in our first month, including Citizen Burger Bar on the downtown mall. This was on our list since we first visited Charlottesville, and it was really fun to finally go!

IMG_1332.JPG-1

^I got the Wild Mushroom & Swiss, which comes with swiss cheese, wild mushroom, black onion, citizen sauce (amazing!!), iceberg lettuce, and tomato on a brioche bun. House salad on the side.

Nathan got the Southern (no photo, sorry!), which comes with pimento cheese, bacon, mustard, iceberg lettuce, and tomato on a brioche bun. We shared his fries, but I forgot to snap a photo until there were only a few left on my plate…

IMG_1333.JPG

Hopefully you can still tell how delicious the fries were though! Perfectly salted, seasoned, and crisped.

Citizen Burger Bar is known for using local ingredients (the beef is from Timbercreek), and you order them pink, no pink, or red as opposed to medium/rare/well done. The prices definitely reflect the quality of ingredients, and even though it was delicious, this probably won’t be a regular stop for us. Still glad we got to try it and I’m sure we’ll be back on occasion. We both cleaned our plates and walked home full and happy!

Currently listening:

To the random radio stations here to try to find our favorites. Definitely a work in progress (and slow going) because we don’t spend much time in the car at all anymore. Almost everything is walkable, so on the rare occasion when we are driving, it’s usually not for more than 10 minutes. I’m sure eventually we’ll find some new stations we like though!

*Side note – the channels that get reception here are the same ones as I used to get in my hometown near Louisville – 102.3, 99.7, 98.9, 92.3, etc. I kind of wonder if this has something to do with being almost exactly due east of Louisville? Is that how radio satellites work? Off to Google I go…*

Currently wearing:

Tom’s Stella Wedge Pump in Natural. I got a pair for my birthday and have been putting them to good use with all the dinners and receptions lately! These are super comfortable, which is clutch with all the standing/walking we’ve been doing at the events. I feel like such a grownup to finally have a pair of heels I can tolerate.

Currently laughing at:

This Twitter account. I’ve followed them for a few years and now Nathan is on board too. We spent entirely too much time scrolling through their whole feed one night when we couldn’t go to sleep.

Also this blog. A former co-worker told me about it and he was spot on when he said I would find it funny. Another thing I spent way too much time scrolling through one day and I keep going back!

Currently loving: 

Free yoga classes, fresh summer produce, and how simple and settled life feels these days. Summer is my favorite time of year, and as I type this, I’m sitting on our patio sipping ice cold tea and with a mountain in the distance. (Is it appropriate to use #blessed here?) I’m amazed at how smoothly our transition has been, how many friends we’ve already been able to make, how nice our apartment is (the dishwasher actually cleans our dishes – *praise hands*), and how our work lives have started out. God is good and constantly blows me away. I definitely want to soak up every sweet moment this summer…and beyond!

What are some of your current favorites?

Weekend Recap: Sweet Treats, Pizza Eats, and a New-to-Us Trail

Nate and I wrapped up another fun weekend together. This was the last weekend before we both started work (he’ll be on cardiac ICU starting Saturday after orientation all week), so we made sure to make the most of our time together!

FRIDAY

Friday was pretty rainy, so we started watching House of Cards. Four episodes later…the rain stopped and we went out for some frozen custard from Kohr Brothers!

IMG_1291.JPG

Kohr Bros. is relatively local (they have a handful of locations in Virginia). Nate got a mint and chocolate swirl in a waffle cone. I got a chocolate and vanilla swirl with sprinkles.

IMG_1296

Summertime in a cup! ‘Twas perfect.

SATURDAY

On Saturday, we spent most the day at a pool party for incoming interns and their partners. The rain cleared out (yay!) and we enjoyed getting to meet a lot of new people.

That night, we went out for date night at Lampo. This Neapolitan pizza place was on the top of our list of places to try after hearing about it nonstop. They make Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN), “certified Neapolitan pizzas using only the finest ingredients.” There are currently <100 VPNs in the U.S. and I can attest that there really IS a difference. Nate and I both felt like we ate pizza for the first time at Lampo.

Like pretty much everything else we’ve gone to so far, Lampo was less than a mile away. (Dangerous!) We were warned that there is always a wait, so we got there at 6 and had a couple drinks while we waited for a table to open up.

IMG_1298.JPG

We eventually got seated at a spot outside and took a couple photos.

IMG_1299.JPG

…And literally within 2 minutes of this photo rain started pouring and they moved everyone inside 🙂

Presto, change-o!

IMG_1304.JPG

IMG_1305.JPG

Food followed not long after. They serve everything as it comes out of the oven/kitchen so it’s all as fresh as possible.

We started with a salad.

IMG_1300.JPG
This was delicious! Nate and I both loved the maple dressing. I am also a big fan of fennel. The hazelnuts reminded me of the salad I had at Napolese. Added some good crunch!
Next up – the REALLY good stuff. We shared 2 pizzas.
As you can see, the pizza comes with a pair of scissors to cut your slices. So cool! We’d never eaten pizza before that way but it was fun (and meant we could make the slices as big as we wanted…).
But about the pizza…GAME OVER. I will never be the same and it has ruined all other pizza for me. Aside from incredible crust (melt in your mouth but with just the right amount of chew too), the sauces on each were amazing. The prosciutto comes with their traditional white sauce and the margherita has the red (as you can see). Both were exquisite and I’m glad we tried one of each. The balance of flavors was perfectly done – that hint of lemon with prosciutto – yum. Clearly I am at a bit of a loss for coherent words but that should tell you how good it all was! I feel like we’ve been to Italy now but I am waiting to take my sister here (who actually has been to Italy) for her to be the judge. 🙂

We followed pizza with more House of Cards before calling it a night. In other words… #myperfectdatenight

SUNDAY

Sunday was spent trying a new church and getting ready for the workweek (what?! Haven’t had to say that in a while…) In the afternoon, we ventured out to Monticello Trails. A few of the residents had told us about them at the social on Saturday and it was a nice, lower key kind of hike!

IMG_1317.JPG

We walked around for a couple hours exploring and definitely plan to go back! It’s about ~10 minutes from our apartment, so just a short drive away from another great nature escape.

IMG_1313.JPG

Having so much wilderness close by to relax in makes me feel SO spoiled and completely at peace after living in a city for a few years.

IMG_1315.JPG

We have some fun plans this week while Nate is doing orientation – a couple more socials, which should be fun, including a dinner out tonight. I’m sensing a theme here in Cville…lots of good food with fun people. I can get used to this 😉