100 Books in One Year: The Challenge and Full List

I started 2018 needing an escape from the constant bad news coming from my phone and TV. I needed to immerse in something that took my mind offline. When I saw my friend Erin Ruberry give herself a goal of reading 100 books in 2018, I decided to join her. I figured I might make it to 50 - which was still a lot more than I'd read in recent years.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton, read in Cheapside Cafe in Cincinnati
The 100 books in a year challenge became more of a solace than I could have imagined. I'm a fast reader, but still, this is a lot. Here's how I tackled it:
  • Mornings: In the mornings before 8:30am, I put my phone away and read. At least one chapter - but that was usually enough to suck me into a few more.
  • Nighttime: Before bed - again, put the phone away and read at least once chapter. Plenty of times, I got sucked in and read longer. But many others, I got sleepy and rested well without the glow of a screen. Spoiler alert: I also slept better.
  • Print vs Audio: I love reading fiction in print book form... but non-fiction is less engaging to me. So, I decided early on - fiction would be paper, nonfiction would be audiobook. This allowed me to listen during travel, commutes, light tasks and errands - doubling my book intake per week.
  • Libraries, Amazon & Bookstores: This many books could also be very expensive, so I made the conscious decision to switch to the library. Almost all of these books were checked out for free from the DC Public Library. I go online, request a book and they email me when it's at my local library for pick up - or it downloads to their Libby audio app. A few came from Amazon. Still more from my beloved nearby bookstore, Politics and Prose.
Here's the full list as the year is coming in for a close. I think I'll make it. Do you? What should I fit into my last few reads?

100 Books in 2018
Note: * starred books denote my favorite reads of the year
1. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
2. The Stars in Our Eyes by Julie Klam
3. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
5. Together We Rise: The Women's March
6. Green by Sam Graham-Felsen
7. Paris for One by JoJo Moyes
8. Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker*
9. Real Love by Sharon Salzberg*
10. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
11. The Power of Onlyness by Nilofer Merchant
12. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
13. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
14. Hunger by Roxane Gay
15. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
16. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
17. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones*
18. The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
19. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
20. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
21. Spinster by Kate Bolick
22. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
23. Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell
24. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory*
25. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
26. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin*
27. Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel*
28. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
29. Unbelievable by Katy Tur*
30. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
31. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
32. Surf Travel: The Complete Guide
33. We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
35. Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai
36. Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat*
37. Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole
38. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
39. Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber*
40. A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
41. Brotopia by Emily Chang
42. Life and Death in the Sunshine State by Cutter Wood
43. The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
44. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
45. Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri*
46. The World As it Is by Ben Rhodes
47. The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah*
48. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
49. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón*
50. Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
51. The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close
52. Food Swings by Jessica Seinfeld
53. Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson*
54. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry*
55. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton*
56. No One Tells Your This by Glynnis MacNicol
57. How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson
58. Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley
59. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer*
60. Burn for Burn by Jenny Han
61. Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer*
62. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
63. Evicted by Matthew Desmond
64. I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable
65. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
66. The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland*
67. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
68. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Liane Weisberger
69. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez*
70. The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis
71. Shug by Jenny Han
72. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
73. Educated by Tara Westover
74. Love and Ruin by Paula McLain*
75. Fire With Fire by Jenny Han
76. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger by Rebecca Traister*
77. Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han
78. The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
79. Pie Squared by Cathy Barrow
80. The Lido by Libby Page*
81. God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright
82. I'm Not a Tractor! How Florida Farmworkers Took on the Fast Food Giants and Won by Susan L. Marquis
83. Wine Folly: The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack
84. The Power by Naomi Alderman
85. Exit West by Moshin Hamid
86. This Is Only Going to Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips* (highly rec audiobook version)
87. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory*
88. Becoming by Michelle Obama (highly rec audiobook version)
89. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi*
90. Buttermilk Graffiti by Chef Edward Lee (currently reading)
91. From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein*
92. Florida by Lauren Groff
93. We Fed An Island by Chef Jose Andres (highly rec audiobook version)
94. L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making Paris My Home by David Lebovitz
95. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward (highly rec audiobook version)
96. Loving Bravely by Alexandra H. Soloman, PhD
97. Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan

A few fun stats:
  • over 80% women authors
  • over 35% diverse authors
  • eight by former Obama White House staff members
I'll try to do a few follow up posts focusing on my favorites and why I loved them but I've been tagging them with #TGfavereads on Instagram if you want to see them in real time.

Where to Eat, Drink & Stay in Cincinnati

I refused to believe that all Cincinnati had to offer from a culinary perspective was Skyline Chili. Listen, I'm sure it's fine. But, this is a modern, emerging town, full of artists, advocates and designers. There has to be good food here. 

So, I put out a call to my friends and the recommendations came rolling in. I'm going to share a few of the places I loved -- and also the spots that are next on my to-do list. Because 48 hours isn't enough to get to know this city. I'll be back.
Alleyway art at 21C Museum Hotel in Cincinnati
Where to Stay: 21C Museum Hotel
Is it a hotel within a museum or a museum within a hotel? Who knows? But, 21C is a mash up of sweet - cool - fun. Creatively designed spaces abound in this hotel concept. While I stayed there, the exhibit was called The Future is Female and featured amazing women artists. 

I was greeted by 21C's friendly staff and an upgraded room. They gave me a choice of a quieter interior room or a view of the city. (I choose city view and woke up to gorgeous sunrises.) The beds were comfortable, there were tons of outlets, fast wifi and great bathroom products. 
Room at 21C Museum Hotel in Cincinnati
If you're not staying at the hotel, you can still visit the exhibit, the gift store and Metropole, the  restaurant in the lobby.
21C Museum Hotel is located at 609 Walnut Street.

Where to Happy Hour: Kaze in Over-The-Rhine
If the weather works, escape to the patio at Kaze Sushi Bar & Gastro Pub for happy hour. I had $5 rosé, spicy tuna rolls and yellowtail nigiri, all while meeting a fabulous group of women who have made Cincinnati home. There were actually three of them who had moved there from DC. 
Kaze OTR is located at 1400 Vine Street.

Happy hour with some amazing women in Cincinnati
Where to Get Breakfast: Cheapside Cafe
This spot is SO CUTE. Before I get to the food and coffee, can we talk about the design aesthetic? It's all weathered white wood and air plants. I wanted to immerse myself in there all day... but clients called. So, I ordered a perfect latte and an incredible breakfast sandwich that layered egg, bacon and pimento cheese. I know, dead. It was Instagram egg porn for days.
Egg, bacon and pimiento cheese breakfast sandwich at Cheapside Cafe
All that, plus a great outdoor patio for upcoming fall mornings. Don't. Miss. This. Spot.
Cheapside Cafe is located at 326 East 8th Street.

Where to Get To Go Lunch: Allez Bakery
Allez Bakery is owned by family of DC's Nikki Rappaport, so I had to stop by. They have amazing breads and sandwiches. I grabbed two to-go to bring my client for lunch. We had the chicken salad and the jerk tofu (at the recommendation of the baker.) Both were delicious.
Allez Bakery in Cincinnati
If I was in Cincinnati just for fun, I'd say, pick up sandwiches from Allez and then go on a wander to see how many amazing works of street art you can find. It's a heck of a way to spend the day.
Allez Bakery is located at 1208 Main Street.

My To Do List Next Time:
  • Sundry & Vine for craft cocktails 
  • Venice on Vine for perfect pizza and supporting a great cause, job training and placement 
  • Salazar for seasonal farm-focused menu by Chef Jose Salazar
  • Ché for Argentinian grilled meats, salads and sides
  • Please for gorgeous plates and a neat back garden bar with craft cocktails
  • Sotto for Italian eats and wine in an underground, downtown hideaway
  • Boca for seasonal plates by Chef David Falk
  • Rooted Juicery for smoothies, bowls and other delicious, but healthy bites
Got recs? Leave them in the comments!


Best Places to Co-Work in Tampa Bay

I was born and raised in Tampa, but I've lived in Washington, DC for nearly twenty years. When I'm in Tampa for an extended period of time, I'm constantly scoping out places to work. Coffee shops, bars, dedicated co-work spaces. Here's what I found on my last trip:

Day One: Commerce Club at Oxford Exchange
I love the design of Oxford Exchange, so this was tops on my list and the first place I went this week. But, guess what - there's no public wifi to work from Oxford Exchange. For that, you'll get sent upstairs to their paid ($15 day pass) co-working space, Commerce Club. The light and facilities are gorgeous, and you can order lunch from Oxford Exchange to be delivered to you. There are also several gorgeous conference room spaces to rent.

The downside, from my perspective is that it was sooooo quiet. There were a handful of other people working from there, but no one spoke or looked up. I think that works for some people's brains, but mine needs a bit more external stimulation.

Great spot to work from, particularly if you're downtown and want total silence.

Day Two: Station House, St. Petersburg
I immediately vibed with the Station House style when I walked in the door. In the entry, there is a coffee shop, several hang out locations and conference rooms - and fun music. For wifi access, I paid for the day pass ($20) and took a tour of the space. On the fourth and fifth floors, there are a lot of indoor and outdoor work spaces with a fun vibe. And people talked to each other.

I also had an incredible katsu chicken sandwich for lunch at Ichicoro Ane which is located in the basement.  Everyone was incredibly friendly. If I was in St. Pete more often, I'd hang here. As it is, I'm usually more in Tampa, so I'm excited for their upcoming Hyde Park location.

If you are a social-creative, you'll love this spot.

Day Three: Blind Tiger SoHo
At home in DC, I often choose coffee shops or hotel lobbies over co-working spots, so I decided to focus on these locations next. I had a coffee meeting with an old colleague at Blind Tiger Coffee on South Howard.

It was the best cup of coffee I had while in the area. And, after my meeting I ended up staying for another hour working. Their wifi was solid and I didn't have to pay a day rate to hang. There were also other creatives working from there which lent a buzzy vibe that helps me get more done.

Perfect low maintenance go-to spot when in South Tampa

Day Four: Union Coffee at Armature Works 
I was meeting a friend for lunch and arrived early, so I found a perch at Union Coffee & Tea Bar. I love Armature Works, so this was a great spot to hang for a bit. But, I think if I was to stay longer, I'd want to sit outside on a nice day or grab one of the comfy couches.

Just avoid trying to co-work during the lunch rush or you'll end up fighting for tables with dozens of moms in yoga pants with giant strollers.

It got so jammed that I jumped ship...

Awesome lighting and work space - as long as you're not there during lunch or dinner rush.

Day Four, Part Two: DI Coffee Shop
My friend Grace told me her favorite spot to work was DI Coffee Shop on Davis Island, so I zipped over the bridge. It was pretty perfect for me - good coffee, snacks, tons of seating areas that work well for laptops, a good amount of people, but not mobbed.

Of all of the coffee shops I visited on this trip, this is the one I could see myself working from most often.

Chill vibes, large farmhouse work tables, interesting people and good tunes.

It looks like I'll be back in Florida to do some work this fall. Let me know what spots I should check out next.


Financial Resolutions: Tips, Tricks and People to Learn From

I'm in a lot of Facebook and Google groups filled with smart, savvy, funny, successful lady friends. With the new year approaching, the conversation has turned to resolutions and goals. Financial goals keep surfacing -- making our businesses more profitable, paying down debt, saving for down payments and planning for retirement. Even setting a big goal like "travel to _____" can be a big finance plan to devise.
Repeat. After, Me.
So, what should we be doing differently? How can we encourage ourselves and each other to make the right choices? I asked that question to friends and followers and have been getting great advice, so I'll share the "best of" here. Tweet me @tammy or leave a comment below if you've got one to add to the list.

Habit Hacks

Smart Reads 
  • The Financial Diet comes out January 2nd -- just in time for resolution reinforcement. Lily Herman, one of my faves to follow on Twitter, recommended it. I'm also going to follow authors, Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage, on Twitter. I think surrounding myself with smart women in my newsfeed helps me up my game and holds me more accountable. [NOTE: Chelsea just gave me a heads up that an Audible version is coming soon. I'll update here when it's buyable!]
  • In 2017, on the advice of my business manager Sherrell Martin, I read Profit First. I think implementing this in 2018 will help my business become not just a revenue-generator, but also a profitable business for me personally. 
  • NPR has a great series called Your Money and Your Life
Reduce Shopping & Impulse Buys
  • A friend of mine who's worked for financial clients for over a decade says, when you get a bonus or unexpected check, "use the rule of thirds - 1/3 to savings, 1/3 to pay off debt and 1/3 to do something fun." 
  • Read Ann Patchett's "My Year of No Shopping."
  • In 2017, I downsized my closet by over ten garbage bags of clothes. When I held each piece and thought about whether or not it brought me joy, I learned that what brings me joy are a great fitting pair of jeans, a baby soft t-shirt, a warm alpaca sweater. And, I'm not mad that they are almost all black or grey. I love it. But, sometimes, I need more -- for work, an event or just a trend I want to try. So, I use Rent the Runway Unlimited. I check clothes in and out like they are Netflix movies. Fancy dresses for weddings, savvy professional dresses for big meetings, expensive wool coats I can't afford and trendy fun dresses for going out. But, after one wear, I pop them back to RTR and move on. And, I don't miss them. If I did, I could check them back out again. Also, I think it's psychologically deprogramming me from that "buy" rush.
Travel Hacks
  • Seeing the world - and my friends - is very important to me. But, travel can be expensive. The brilliant Nisha Chittal (who I met back when she ran social for Travel Channel), turned me on to Scott's Flight Deals. Whether you want to travel to Florida or Fiji, Scott emails you when prices drop, tells you the savings, and approximately how long the deal might be live. I've found it's a great way to plan for big trips -- and spur of the moment whims. I sprung for the paid version, which allows me to customize my departure airports (and cut down on email clutter for deals that don't appeal to me.)

Invest Like a Lady

  • Look, women have different financial needs and life cycles than men. So, it only makes sense to financial plan for those things. Ellevest is a company that helps you do just that (and it's founded by the fabulous Sallie Krawcheck, former head of Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney.) One of the things that I'm overdue for is consolidating my 401(k)s from past jobs... and figuring out how to invest as a self-employed business owner... and potentially figuring out solutions for my team members to financially plan. I'm planning on starting out this with Ellevest in January.

Podcasts to Play
Folks to Follow 
Groups for Good Decision Making


The Definitive #DCChristmasChallenge Holiday To Do List

Washington, DC is magical around the holidays. And, it's not just because the politicians tend to go home. There are so many incredibly creative and fun things to do!

I had to make a list. The. List. The starting gun goes off December 1st (ok, November 30th at midnight) - see how many you can do!
The Whobilation at Miracle on Seventh Street
The Model Train Bar at Miracle on Seventh Street (look up!)
How many do you think I'll make? You? Tweet me updates, recommendations and things I should add at @tammy. Tag your pics with #DCChristmasChallenge to play along.


Where to Eat, Scuba and Snorkel on Grand Cayman

We were supposed to be in the Keys, but Hurricane Irma had other plans. All Bill wanted for his 40th was to go scuba diving somewhere warm and new. So, we scrambled and searched the map for options. Thanks to a wonderfully affordable points deal from American Airlines, we landed on Grand Cayman. And, it exceeded all of our expectations.

A friend of mine who vacations in the Cayman Islands regularly turned us onto Cayman Villas, which rents condos and homes all over the island. For our first trip, we wanted to be on Seven Mile Beach to be close to dive destinations and restaurants. We landed on a one bedroom at a condo called "White Sands" and it was wonderful. Only a few units meant there were only a few people and we practically had Seven Mile Beach to ourselves! There were hammocks and lounge chairs to use, along with a full kitchen (which saved us a ton of money and allowed us to eat healthier.)
Working from White Sands
Our first excursion was to Pappagallo, a wonderful local Italian restaurant with beautiful views and fantastic service. Our reservation was at 7:00pm and the restaurant doesn't get busy until later, so we sat outside and had cocktails while watching the sunset.

The sunset view from Pappagallo
I'm not sure how I didn't get a photo, but in the entryway, there's the most charming parrot named Humphrey Bogart who talks to you. Normally, I would think this is weird and loud and annoying, but Bogey was... cute and he had good pick up lines, so I was smitten. Also, you can't hear him in the dining room, so don't worry if you don't like birds.

We kicked things off with the tuna tartare, which was one of the daily specials, and a bottle of rosé.

Tuna Tartare at Pappagallo
For my meal, I had the Bolognese. All of their pastas and seafood looked fantastic. I would definitely recommend making this a spot for a special celebration. At the close of the meal, we were too full for dessert, but they still brought out a candle and some cookies to celebrate Bill's milestone birthday.
Bolognese Pasta at Pappagallo
The next day, Bill had his first dive and I laid out on the boat and read my book. It was pretty fantastic to immerse ourselves on the island.

The guy sitting next to me on the plane there told me about this great dive bar on the water called My Bar at Sunset House that was staffed by Indians and had an awesome (formerly secret) Indian menu. I was intrigued and it was nearby, so off we went. Like almost everything on Grand Cayman, we were treated to stunning views and friendly service.

Pina Coladas at My Bar at Sunset House
Fish Curry at My Bar at Sunset House
My Bar also has a full 'American' menu with things like burgers, wings and mozzarella sticks... but for my money, when you've got a talented kitchen full of Indian talent, you go Indian. And, my fish curry paired surprisingly well with a frozen pina colada.

One of our favorite drives was driving all the way around the island to Rum Pointe Club. It takes a good 30-45 minutes, so make sure you have time and a designated driver. But, if you decide to go, you'll be rewarded with amazing views along the way and a lovely bar and restaurant along with beach front tables, lounges and hammocks. Or, like us, you can bring your own pizza float. There's great snorkelling right off of Rum Pointe, so make sure you bring snorkel gear. You can also catch trips with Red Sail Sports from Rum Pointe.)

Sipping Pina Coladas on the Pizza Float off Rum Pointe
Speaking of Red Sail Sports, they were awesome. We went scuba and snorkeling with them twice. And, they took us out to the must do Stingray City. Stingray City blew me away. These gorgeous beings that I've avoided stepping on my whole life (Florida kids, amirite?) were docile and just allowed you to hang out and hold them. I wouldn't try that anywhere, but apparently decades of human contact and feeding have made this spot one of the few in the world where you can kiss a ray.

Me at Stingray City
Grand Cayman is wonderful and, unlike many Caribbean islands, there is a lot of great food. But, you still have to dig a bit to have a more local experience. I would highly recommend visiting Heritage Kitchen and getting the Cayman grouper or fried chicken. Just look for this little house right across from the beach. And, don't forget to also get a fresh mango or other juice drink!

Heritage Kitchen
Heritage Kitchen is only open Wednesday through Sunday, so plan accordingly. If you're there on Sunday, they do barbecue from 11-6pm.
Cayman Grouper at Heritage Kitchen
What else? There was so much more great food to try. A few more of our faves are below, but we'll have to go back because the to do list is long (and Eric Ripert's Blue is under renovation.)

Restaurants We Loved

Places I Didn't Make It To But Want to Next Trip

Me, post swimming at Stingray City

So, the only question is... when are we going back?


Where to Eat and Drink on Your First Visit to Montauk, Off-Season

After a seven hour road trip from Washington, DC, I pulled in to Montauk with an agenda. Like I normally do, I'd been keeping track of restaurants and places I wanted to visit. And then... Montauk had other plans for me.

Since I was there the week before Memorial Day, most of my targets weren't yet open. 

This forced me to live more like a local. And, I loved it. 

After dropping our bags at our house, Thea and I called a cab, chasing the sunset. Since all of the spots we had planned to go to were closed, we left our destination up to our cab driver and he lead us to my favorite place for the week: The Montauket

The building and bar is nothing fancy (like I like it), but. this. view. 

I ordered a glass of the local rosé (the first of many times I'd drink Wolffer Estate Summer in a Bottle that week.) 

At the close of each day, I'd hop in the MINI and zip over to The Montauket for a glass of wine and sunset. Perfection. The bartenders remembered my name the second time I showed up - and what I was drinking. I met locals and Long Islanders, which I found far more interesting than the snobby Goldman Sachs banker that talked loudly about his Miami house and how much money he made. The Montauket became home base.

On the food-front, there were a lot of great options. Some of my favorites were Duryea's for lobster rolls, crispy french fries and bottles of rosé on the dock, 668 The Gig Shack for lunch at the bar and John's Pancake House for hot breakfast. 

My favorite single food moment was zipping down to see if Gosman's was open for lunch yet (it wasn't) and finding Sammy's On The Go food truck for a fried clam roll on a perfect spring day. 

Fried Clam Roll from Sammy's On The Go
Another great afternoon spot for fried seafood is The Clam Bar, just off the main road into town. 

Fried Clams, Sweet Potato Fries and a Diet Coke from The Clam Bar
Looking for the perfect latte in Montauk? You'll want to find Left Hand Coffee (it took me a few days.)

If you want your coffee straight up and with a side of decadent baked goods, head to Montauk Bake Shoppe. I was a regular there for their croissants, which I'd bring home and eat on the deck while I worked.

Coffee and Chocolate Croissant at Montauk Bake Shoppe
Looking for a way to spend a cloudy day? The Long Island wine scene has come a long way. I'd recommend a tasting at Wolffer Estate. It's a beautiful vineyard and tasting room, with beautiful charcuterie boards and a full menu. I dare you to leave without buying a bottle of their rosé.

Wine Tasting at Wolffer Estate
Another fun road trip was meeting friends for brunch at Estia's Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor. It's a beautiful drive and at the culmination, you're rewarded with decadent, fresh Mexican eats. When someone inevitably asks, "Should we also get queso fundido?" Everyone should respond with a resounding "YESSSS!" There are no reservations, so plan for a bit of a wait here. Luckily, there are cool gardens and patio tables to hang out at while you wait.
Estia's in Sag Harbor
On a clear day, you'll want to visit the Montauk Lighthouse. You can go all the way to the top - or just hike around the cliffs and rock beaches nearby. Either way, the views are breathtaking.

Montauk Lighthouse
For the days where you just want to lay in the sand and read or soak up the sun, my favorite was Ditch Plains Beach. In the summer, this spot is probably crazy busy. But, Ike and I were rewarded with vast open stretches of beach to run on. I liked this neighborhood a lot. I'm sure the real estate is still out of my price range, but the houses are more down to Earth in this part of the town. 

Ditch Plains Beach
Montauk reminded me a lot of Key West. Both of them feel like the ends of the Earth. Both have fantastic people and places when you dig beneath the overlay of drunken tourists. I feel so thankful that I was able to see it first without the lens of the influx of investment bankers and trust funds. 

I hope one day, I'll return. 

Huge thanks to Mattie Matthews for allowing me a peek into Montauk life, for making me laugh consistently for years, and for being there as we support each other in this crazy life. PS. You need to be following her on Twitter and reading her blog, 67 and Dumped. Start at the beginning if you're new. Oh yeah, and she also is an award-winning travel writer.


First Look: The Salt Line at Southwest Waterfront

The Salt Line is unequivocally my new favorite place to pre-game before going to Nationals Park. But, does the food stand up to hike to the waterfront for dinner alone?

In short, yes. It's worth the jaunt.

First of all, the place is jamming. It has a great ambience and waterfront vibe that makes me feel a bit like I'm back in Florida. The indoor part of the restaurant is cozy and has a vibrant circular bar that allows anyone to pull up a chair for shucked oysters and a beer (or great glass of rosé from Getaria.)

Outside, the double their dinner seating space (take note, if it's raining, as it was on my first visit, the host stand gets very stressed with trying to pack everyone in.) Perhaps more importantly outside, you'll find a roll up bar that is probably the best open-air place for drinks in DC.

Now, onto the food. You know you are in the right spot when at the table next to you is seated the Washington Post Food Editor.

Our server was wonderful and helped us navigate the menu. We started with "Coddies" - fried cod balls sitting atop mustard and saltines.

But, my favorite starter was the Crispy Fried Egg. It's a poached egg, still runny in the middle, flash fried (a la a Scotch Egg) paired with a fresh cucumber and cous cous salad.

For my entree, I had the Nashville Hot Soft Shell Crab, which I loved. It was perfectly crunchy and spicy. I'd definitely order that again. The spiciness of the crab was mellowed out with a side of the watermelon and cucumber salad.

I want to return to The Salt Line to try their much-lauded Smash Burger, Lobster Rolls and Crispy Skin Rockfish. Not to mention freshly-shucked oysters and more crisp rosé while the sun sets on the riverfront.

If you like seafood and waterfront drinks, The Salt Line should be on your to-do list.

The Salt Line is located at 79 Potomac Avenue SE in Washington, DC. The nearest metro stop is Navy Yard. It's located directly behind Nationals Park -- and opens early (90 minutes before game time) for every Nationals Game. Reservations are recommended, especially when there are events happening nearby. 


Is RdV Vineyards the Best Wine in Virginia?

A few weeks ago, I was vineyard hopping over the weekend and I stumbled upon Linden. My wine friends were shocked that it was my first time going there. After all, Jim Law is the patron saint of decent Virginia wine according to everyone I trust on the subject.

Their follow up question, "Surely you've been to RdV?!?!"

I was embarrassed to admit I had no idea what that was. Rutger de Who?

Answer: Rutger de Vink, founder of RdV Vineyards... the winemaker in the hills of Northern Virginia who hails from The Marines and the tech industry, but is quietly and subtly building a name for himself as the best glass of wine in the state.

Obviously, I had to check it out. First of all, you need a reservation. I'm not great with planning ahead, but to taste or even visit RdV, you need a tasting reservation or to be a member of the wine club. Reservations are booked through their website (on the days they have them) and are $50.

When you arrive, the first thing you'll notice the stunning vistas. The slope of that granite hill was what called Rutger to this land when he decided he wanted to set up shop. It's the perfect soil to grow the perfect grapes. (And, as I learned on the tour, they are about halfway between Bordeaux and Sonoma... two places Rutger trained.)

Upon gated arrival, you'll be buzzed in and park your car next to the barn. The barn that looks like it should be in the pages of Architectural Digest. I fell hard for the clean modern lines mixed with old world touches. I also fell hard for the rosé and friendly staff that greeted us. My only complaint was that we couldn't buy a bottle.

Our small group gathered and was escorted up to the vines to hear the tale of how Rutger went from serving our nation to serving up bottles. When the wine bug bit Rutger, he studied with Jim Law at Linden. From there, he went to France and soaked up all that he could from the Bordeaux region. And to "finish" (I get the sense one never finishes learning about wine), he studied and worked in Sonoma.

Luckily for us, he found this land just off I-66 from Washington, DC in Delaplane, VA.

There are a couple of things that make RdV special. One, the terroir. Two, the team. Some years, the weather helps... sometimes it hurts. But, RdV wines are all vintage and all made with only grapes from RdV land. They only make about 2,200 cases a year (compared to 15,000 at Stone Tower.)

That all leads to a few things.

Price: Bottles are $75 and up to purchase after the tasting. It was so delicious that I would have gone home with a case if I could have afforded it. As it was, we bought one bottle of the 2012 Rendezvous.

Wine Club: The Wine Club is $750 to join. ** are you done wincing ** It's the only way to return and be able to buy wine without a tasting reservation. For your $750 you get access: to bottles, to events and to the beautiful property for longer amounts of time. Everything in my body wanted to join, but that $750 also only gets you 6 bottles that day. As I messaged a friend who is a member, "I would have joined if I could have had one more bottle, but I wasn't drunk enough to throw down that much plastic." However, if you're feeling flush, this is the wine club to join.

Scarcity: Some bottles are available on their website (the 2014 Rendezvous), at a small amount of retailers and in a few restaurants.

But, back to the tasting. After the vineyard tour, we walked through the entire facility, including the caves and bottling facility.

We ended back at a communal table where we tasted four wines, paired with a delicious charcuterie selection.

Afterwards, we bought our bottle and wanted to sit on the patio drinking it. I gather hanging out on-site and on the patio is members-only, but it wasn't crowded, so the team said it would be ok.

If you're on a journey to learn more about Virginia wines or you just love wasting an afternoon sipping wine in an elegant atmosphere, you should put RdV on your to do list at least once. It's worth the splurge to get to know the wine, the wine makers and the property. Everything about it was lovely, except that I had to say goodbye.

RdV Vineyards is located at 2550 Delaplane Grade Road in Delaplane, VA. It is accessed by reservations on their website or by joining the RdV wine club. Be sure to plan ahead. 

While you are there, don't miss checking out the red barn in the distance which used to house Chef Jose Andres gardens, and now fuels Chef Eric Ziebold's DC kitchens.


Is Inn at Perry Cabin Worth The Money?

The short answer: Yes, Inn at Perry Cabin is worth every dime.

My problem was that I didn't have enough dimes. But, I really needed an escape out of town... and a weekend on the Eastern Shore with my man and my dog seemed like the perfect solution. Enter Chase Points.

I don't know why I hadn't checked this before, but Inn at Perry Cabin is also available by using points. I booked it and three hours later, we were seated on a comfy sofa next to a fire pit with a gin n tonic on the way.

It was peak spring - cherry blossoms, dogwoods, tulips and more. But, I get the feeling Inn at Perry Cabin is special, no matter what time you are there.

The room and grounds are so welcoming, you barely want to leave... except the town of St. Michaels is equally as quaint and inviting. We hopped on the complimentary bikes and started to explore. Favorite spots included Theo's for dinner at the bar, Ava's Pizzeria (complete with pup menu on the back patio), Justine's Ice Cream Parlor and Rise Up Coffee.

One of my favorite bike excursions was when I went out for coffee and happened upon the St. Michael's Farmers Market. In addition to bakers and farmers, there was a chef demo, a live band and a local liquor distillery!

Honestly though, grab a few bottles of rosé at the local liquor store and a spot by the water. You don't even need to leave the property to have an amazing day.

Our last day, we went for a sail. Since we were the only ones that signed up, it ended up becoming a private lesson.

We went back to the city more relaxed than we had been in months. The Inn at Perry Cabin will always be on my radar... but if you can't swing the cash or points, there are quite a few AirBNBs in the area that will give you a similar experience.

We'll be back.

Inn at Perry Cabin is located at 308 Watkins Lane in St. Michaels, MD.