Ristorante Franchino, Praiano, Italy

As the year comes to a close and I search for some 2019 inspo to share with you all, I thought I would revisit one of the highlights of my past year. At the end of May, our amazing mother (#mommamoll) took us on a girls trip to Paris and Italy. It was a trip we’ll never forget, where we met the friendliest people, enjoyed delicious food, and took in breathtaking views. The very last night of our trip, we splurged and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Ristorante Franchino, where we took in the sunset and polished off 2? 3? bottles of local white wine, and where my little sister earned her alter-ego as “Masha.”

We flew into Paris because it was the most affordable flight, and only stayed for two days before hopping on our next flight to Naples, Italy.  From there, we traveled to our final destination, Praiano. A lot of people visit the Amalfi Coast, and stay there because it’s more well-known than surrounding areas. However, Praiano is just a 30 minute drive west of Amalfi, and I would argue just as beautiful, but much more relaxing. Praiano is home to numerous local artists, a “world famous” night club (sorry, another joke meant for my sisters), and amazing sunsets like the one below.

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The view from our Air Bnb patio on our first full day in Praiano

Looking back on our trip, I realize we spent 6 days basically taking pictures of every single thing we saw because no matter where you looked, it just got prettier and prettier. The beach was beautiful, but very rocky and full of sea glass. I spent a few afternoons hunched over collecting different glass and pottery pieces, effectively tanning only my upper back. We rented a small boat to take us out for a day, navigated by our friend Carmelo, and seeing the different coasts from the water was spectacular. This was arguably the best day of the trip.

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The view from our daily walk to the beach (photo cred: Masha)

Although we enjoyed many memorable meals in Paris and Italy, our dinner at Ristorante Franchino stands out for a few reasons- the views, the service, and the mouth-watering food. We ate at normal “American” dinner time most of the trip, so we were the first to be seated on the patio overlooking the water and coastline. We were brought little, soft pillows of dough that reminded me of focaccia bread, but sooo fresh and flavorful, along with complimentary Prosecco to start. We ordered a bottle of white wine from Ravello, and toasted to the last night of our trip.

I ordered calamari fritti, and was happily surprised that it was a mix of different fish because I learned to love sardines over the course of the trip. I learned that sardines come with most calamari dishes in Italy, and are something I would never order at home, but my God were they good. Then, I did the typical Annie move and instead of ordering my own entree, put my fork in everyone else’s meal so I had room for dessert.

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For dessert, we ordered hazelnut gelato covered in chocolate ganache, and I fought everyone’s spoons off because it was the most decadent dessert I’d ever had. It was simple, but so beautifully put together. This was definitely not dairy-free, so I enjoyed every second of it.

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This was definitely a trip we will never forget, and our last dinner spent at Ristorante Franchino was the perfect way to end it. If you are traveling to or near the Amalfi Coast, please don’t hesitate to reach out- I have so many recommendations!

I will be back in January with new focus and LOTS of new recipes to share with you. Happy New Year and thank you for all the support and feedback over the past few months. I wish you all health, peace, and happiness in the upcoming year!

XOXO, Annie

The Denver Central Market

I’ve been a little behind on posting because I’m in Denver for work. However, I’ve loved getting to know the different areas surrounding the downtown and it’s been lots of fun trying all the amazing restaurants and bars Denver has to offer. My good friend Annie lives in Denver and spent Friday night showing me around her neighborhood, the River North (RiNo) area. We ordered fun cocktails at Death & Co, ate dinner at Finn’s Manor, which is an indoor/outdoor bar with multiple food trucks to choose from, and stopped in and out of some bars on our way down Larimer St where Oktoberfest was taking place. As you can see below, we do not like each other and we did not have any fun.

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Tonight, I brought my coworkers back through the River North district and we decided to stop for dinner in Denver Central Market. This airy marketplace is full of different stations, including a full-service butcher, a bar, a candy store, bakery, and multiple meal options. It was exactly what we were looking for and lent itself to our different tastes and dietary restrictions.

The dinner we enjoyed here was so fresh, colorful, and wholesome. My friend Grace ordered a Caesar salad with vegan cashew dressing and (non-vegan) Parmesan 🙂 I ordered dinner at the grill station- half a free-range chicken, roasted vegetables, and a beet salad which was perfectly balanced with fennel and red onion. The weather in Denver was beautiful yesterday, and it felt so nice to sit outside with a glass of rosé  and eat a plate (mostly) full of vegetables.

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Caesar Salad with vegan cashew dressing
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Half chicken with roasted vegetables, beet and fennel salad and arugula

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The market also had a florist section with bunches of vibrant fresh flowers. I know that if I lived near, I’d stop here multiple times a week on my way home from work 🙂 The block the market is located on is full of impressive mural art and many cute shops and bars. If you’re ever in Denver looking for a great place to explore, I highly recommend spending some time this neighborhood.

The Coocoo’s Nest, Reykjavik, Iceland

It’s Monday, it’s raining here, and I’d rather be in Iceland. We’ve been back home for a week now but I keep finding myself thinking about the countless waterfalls, amazing landscapes, RAINBOWS, sheep, and this place. The Coocoo’s Nest was one of the most surprising restaurant experiences I’ve had, and I know one day we’ll make it back there.

The restaurant is hard to find- on the outskirts of Reykjavik’s downtown area, and does not look like much from the outside as it is a re-purposed fish processing shed. After some extra detours, we walked into this very cozy, quaint restaurant and realized we were starving. The Coocoo’s Nest has a rotating menu; their small number of choices centering around a different theme depending on the day of the week. Thursday was Italian night, so I settled in with a glass of organic white wine and for the second night in a row, ordered the fish of the day without any further information.

All food and drink is expensive in Iceland, but with this added cost comes a much higher standard for quality, and this place was no exception. We were served some very crusty, fresh sourdough bread (loaves stored right on the counter next to the cash register) with infused olive oil. When my meal came, I instinctively reached for my phone to take a picture. No surprise there. The real surprise was that my husband paused and took a photo of his pasta before scarfing it down. That’s how you know you have a good-looking dinner.

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The Icelandic whitefish I ordered was served with seared peaches, sweet potato mash, broccolini, purple basil, and edible flowers. Each bite was light, well-rounded, and so amazingly flavorful. I can truthfully say I’ve never had a more delicious piece of fish. The dinner we enjoyed here together was one of the highlights of our trip, and I’ll be thinking of this dinner for inspo next time I have some fresh fish on hand…