12 Bones

If you ever find yourself in Asheville, North Carolina. Let me start over. Plan a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. And when I say Asheville, I mean 12 Bones. When you combine perfectly smoked meat, incredible specialty BBQ sauces (blueberry chipotle is my favorite), and incredibly rich sides, it’s no wonder 12 Bones has been voted hands down best ribs in the country. They have two tiny locations with rickety picnic bench seating, the food comes out on tin miner pans, each restaurant is open five days per week, and when the run out of ribs they close. You play by their rules. And trust me, you will want to play. These ribs are what dreams are made of, especially when paired with cheesy jalapeno grits and buttered green beans. (Mmm, is 8am too early for ribs?)

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Foodie Finds: Trilogy Cafe

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Today is my cousin’s birthday (Happy Birthday Ellie!) and we spent this past weekend celebrating. I picked her up from her university on Friday and most of our three days together were spent partaking in our two favorite things: eating and shopping! (We are so predictable.)

One of the amazing stops was Trilogy Café, a 100% organic, vegan, gluten free and soy free café that sits on a rooftop in downtown La Jolla. My mom accidentally found this place and I’m so glad she did! If you also read AnneandElle.com, you know that my mom and I are health nuts, so we were stoked to discover they serve up tons of raw and paleo goodies! But this cafe does not discriminate – even those who could care less about health will be salivating as they watch the fresh salads, wraps, smoothies, acai bowls, and desserts pop out from the kitchen.

I ordered The Wrap of Zen: a raw paleo coconut wrap filled with sprouted house made hummus, butternut squash, beets, avocado, and cucumber, topped with their infamous Almond Love Sauce. It was AMAZING! My cousin ordered a chocolate layered mousse masterpiece, my mom got a superfood salad with the most amazing dressing, my littlest brother devoured an acai bowl, and we ordered an apple pie for the table because we simply couldn’t resist. It was all DELICIOUS!

Trilogy’s rooftop location doesn’t just offer incredible views to gaze at while you eat. You can also stop in for a yoga or aerial yoga class. So my dear San Diego friends, make your way down to La Jolla and check this gem out! I’m sure now that the secret’s out, lines will be winding out the door of this new cafe in no time!

High Tea: A Very English Afternoon

What would a summer in London be without a proper afternoon high tea? Incomplete, that’s what. So when it came to my attention that there was a popular tea room and bakery that served up a cake stand filled with gluten free goodies, I was sold! Enter Bake-a-boo, a darling destination tucked away in West Hampstead. With about 20 brews to choose from, I took advantage of the endless tea by ordering first a pot of vanilla and then a pot of almond, both of which were delicious!

IMG_6389And of course there were the treats! I started by nibbling on the finger sandwiches before digging into the scones. I layered on the cream and jam quite generously… to the point of needing to take a break before diving into the cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries. Laura and I killed some time by chatting and sipping on tea… but it didn’t last long because the blueberry and vanilla cupcake was calling screaming my name. As were the chocolate covered strawberries immediately after. But that’s where I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t stomach the last raspberry cupcake, so that will have to be my dessert with lunch tomorrow!

Bake-a-boo is the perfect place for anyone looking for an amazing afternoon tea, but especially fantastic for those of us with food sensitivities! In addition to their gluten free spread, they have a dairy free and sugar free option! And the entire café is adorable… right down to the bathroom adorned with a wall collage of hilarious and clever canvases. Ok, all of this reminiscing is making me crave that last cupcake. Maybe it won’t last until lunch tomorrow after all…

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Mojito Making: Round Two

IMG_6364Last weekend, Laura and I headed to a Mojito Master Class. We had such a great time in our attempt to master the mojito, we decided to continue the pursuit in perfecting our new craft. So just four days later, we were back in the hands of the Ping Pong bar master for another round of beverage lessons… this time accompanied by amazing food!

Being gluten free doesn’t usually put a damper on my foodie adventures, however dim sum is probably one of the more difficult menus to navigate… and Ping Pong is a dim sum restaurant. Luckily this establishment is prepared for people like me and has an entire gluten free menu!!! I’ve actually found London in general to be pretty accommodating for those of us affected by gluten intolerance – many menus are allergen marked and/or have a separate gluten free menu of items. Ping Pong sent out round after round of piping hot, gluten free nibbles for me as my friends shared other dishes. I prepared my stomach for the alcohol to come with edamame, a vegetable and rice pot in black bean sauce, rice and meat rolled in banana leaves, a carrot and squid salad, and a citrus mochi ball. It was a feast!

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After all that food it was time for drinks! I graduated from the classic mojito on to a blackberry and chambord variation. The result: sweet and refreshing!

IMG_6376Ingredients:
– 4 blackberries
– 3 lime wedges
– 1.5 tsp. sugar
– 10 mint leaves
– double shot of rum
– 1 Tb. chambord
– crushed ice
– optional garnish: two mint leaves and a lime wedge

Method: Add the blackberries, lime wedges, and sugar to a glass and muddle well. Add the mint leaves, rum, and crushed ice so that the glass is 1/3 full. Using a bar spoon, stir, pulling the mint towards the top. Pack the glass with crushed ice until full. Top with chambord. Garnish and enjoy!

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Throwback Thursday: A Day In Oxford

It’s been almost two weeks since two of my fellow travelers and I hopped on a bus to Oxford for a quick day trip. Part of my delay in blogging about the adventure is due to the fact that I packed the wrong camera lens with me during my hectic attempt to stuff everything I needed for three months in Europe all into one bag way back in May. I have my little f/1.8 50mm lens which is what I use for food photography and is awesome… but not ideal for travel due to zero versatility as it’s a prime lens. Ok, enough techy camera details. Moral of the story is I was bouncing between my iPhone and camera, all while trying to not spill tea on myself or my various equipment (there were multiple close calls). But I’ve finally uploaded all the photos and sorted through everything. This is the result:

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We had an incredible trip despite multiple main attractions being closed and getting caught in a downpour. Oxford is a charming, tiny town with endless history, gorgeous architecture, and home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And there was a gluten free crepe cart! (Is it terrible that was just as memorable as the university tour?)

Some Oxford fun facts:
– Oxford University is the oldest university of the English speaking world
– The city is the birthplace of the Oxford English Dictionary and is where the recent debate to add “twerk” as an official word was located (unfortunately, it’s now a permanent part of the English language)
– The university was established by monks, for monks and subjects besides theology were introduced relatively recently
Oxford 5– From 1878 through the 1920’s women were allowed to study at Oxford, but they were only allowed to be part-time students which meant they didn’t take exams (awesome) but also never received a degree (not cool)
– The Oxford dining hall was the inspiration for Harry Potter
Blackwell is the largest book store in the UK and has over 5 miles worth of shelving and a basement that runs under multiple buildings in the city

If you find yourself in London for an extended period of time, be sure to schedule in a day trip to Oxford! But, an insider tip: book the Bodleian Library in advance – space is VERY limited and is almost impossible to score a spot same-day! We unfortunately missed it! Maybe I’ll go back one day…

Eating My Way Through London

Whoever said London has terrible food was going to the wrong places! This amazing city has everything from world-renowned cuisine served in breathtaking restaurants to hole-in-the-wall dives where you grab your delicious grub and run. Dishes from each and every country can be found dotted throughout the city – and you don’t necessarily have to leave central London to enjoy truly authentic and unique culinary experiences.

Greenwich Nutella Mini PancakesThis weekend I turned twenty-two and between all the sightseeing, I filled my time refueling with new and exciting food. Day one was spent exploring along the south bank and eating Brazilian food, then catching a boat down the river to Greenwich where I noshed on mini pancakes generously draped in nutella and strawberries, all before heading to the weirdest meal of my life.

Famous for serving the “most unusual food in London,” Archipelago didn’t disappoint. We were escorted to the dimly lit basement where we sat at a table that had a huge bouquet of peacock feathers – these were relocated in order to allow cross-table conversion which mostly consisted of commenting on the eclectic decor. Mini towels were placed in a bowl and then topped with hot water, which upon contact expanded into hand-towels. As we browsed the menu, I inquired about the lovebug salad – but once it was discovered that the “wildlife” served on top of the greens was a variety of insects, we decided to steer clear of that particular dish. Instead we opted to start with zebra, crocodile, and python. Surprisingly, the jerked zebra was the crowd favorite. The crocodile wrapped in vine leaves was nice, but didn’t really taste like anything unusual. And the python carpaccio was more salty than any of us preferred. For mains, we decided to go with more mainstream dishes – bison rump and duck confit. These were yummy – but the overall verdict is that you reserve a table at Archipelago for the experience and bragging rights more than the food quality.

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Day two was spent perusing the shops on Upper Street. I fell in love with the quirky independent stores which housed everything from clothing and stationary to odd cooking gadgets and funny gifts. All that window shopping of course called for brunch. We stopped into La Farola, an adorable Spanish restaurant which had a brunch menu consisting of just five options – but five delicious options! I chose a vegetable pisto topped with broiled mozzarella and two poach eggs, served with a side salad and spiced breakfast potatoes. Delicious!!! Fried eggs and chorizo, a cured ham, cheese, and fried egg toastie, tea, and coffee also made their way to our table. At just £6 a person, this is definitely a place to return to!

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Oh and we obviously had to stop into the gluten free bakery!!!

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The day continued with more shopping through Old Spitalfields Market and wandering through London, all of which had me starving by the time dinner came around. I met up with family friends who took me out for a birthday dinner at Balthazar. We had lovely dinner which kicked off with pommes frites instead of bread (my ultimate weakness), followed by an octopus, tomato, and basil salad speckled with olives and shallots, all tossed in a light lemon dressing. For my main dish, I selected sea bass “en papillotte” with Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, fennel, and tarragon. And anyone who knows me is well aware that you don’t have to twist my arm to order dessert. Out came a pavlova which was wrapped around vanilla bean ice cream and sat on top of fresh strawberry sauce – with a little happy birthday message written in chocolate. I blew out my birthday candle and called my birthday celebration to a close. Don’t tell, but I wished that I could eat like this every weekend!

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Travel Detour Part Two: NYC

I’d like to think that when things don’t go as planned, that’s simply the greater force of the world redirecting you onto your true path. Perhaps that’s a naïve, optimistic way to look at life – or perhaps it’s the truth. At the very least, it’s my philosophy. So when my long-term relationship abruptly ended and took my summer plans down with it, I got “redirected” to North Carolina to visit my grandmother for her birthday and then “redirected” once again to NYC.

New York City. My place of birth. The city that never sleeps. A place of vibrant life and terrible tragedy. A complex city that magically kneads together history, luxury, poverty, tranquility, constant activity, and so much more onto one small island. When you step into Central Park, the hum of the city fades away, transporting you into a serene escape. You can easily walk from one neighborhood to the next, each oozing with their respective culture. And for such a small island, it is ridiculously easy to get lost. It is this entanglement of all walks of life that has made me fall head over heels in love. New York City, I’m coming for you after graduation!

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What To Do With Leftover Turkey?!?

Curry Turkey Salad-5067The week of the best day of the year has arrived: Thanksgiving, also known as the official start date of a month long of feasting before New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym every day begin. At least that’s what the average American’s final few weeks of each year tend to look like. But why? Why not strike a balance.

That’s what this month’s blog post on my mom’s blog is all about… the 80/20 rule that says if you eat well 80% of the time, you are free to indulge 20% of the time. And indulge doesn’t mean binge! Find out more over at the blog

And also check out the amazing Curried Turkey Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes recipe! It is the perfect way to strike a balance and nourish your body after a Thanksgiving feast. Get the recipe here!

AnneandElle.com Has Officially Launched!

If you have been following my blog for a while, you already know that over the last year I have been dedicated to getting in shape and eating healthy. My body, energy level, and overall well-being is thanking me every day for making the choice to put down the junk food, stop the late-night snacking, and get moving.

But what this post is really about is the launch of the food blog my mom and I have teamed up and created. This has been in the works for months and we are finally ready to go live! Our mission is to deliver delicious, gourmet, organic, and nutritious recipes that anyone can make no matter what their skill level in the kitchen. Each post will also educate readers on the benefits of adding certain health foods into their diet.

This post is all about BEETS! Did you know ancient Romans used beets as an aphrodisiac? And that they’re also an antidepressant? More fun facts and the delicious recipes are waiting for you at AnneMasri.com!

ROASTED BEET HUMMUS WITH THYME

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BEET GREENS WITH GINGER AND DATES

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Seven Days In Spain: A Week Full Of Firsts

I have now been in Spain for seven days and I feel somewhat acclimated to my new life. I’ve already experienced my first legal alcoholic beverage, my first extremely embarrassing moment, my first night out on the town, and my first foreign affair.

Flying International
Wow! What a difference from flying within the United States. While the seats are still uncomfortably close together, at least everyone receives a surprisingly high quality pillow and blanket. After a little nap, I was woken up for dinner and the food was delicious! I have never enjoyed airplane food in my life… another first! It may also have to do with the fact that it came with a glass of wine. When the “sommelier” asked me if I wanted a glass of wine with dinner, I looked at him like he was crazy. He must have thought I was the crazy one for thinking that I wasn’t old enough to drink. Once it dawned on me that I was free of the states and it’s 21 year old drinking age, the nice flight attendant gave my entire row a wine tasting. So it was on the plane only hours after departing from LAX that I was in love with Europe… and I hadn’t even stepped foot there yet!

Full from the delicious food and happily sipping on my first legal alcoholic beverage, I decided to see how ridiculously overpriced the movies were. Guess what? It was free. I know, I still can’t quite believe it myself. As I browsed the selection I decided to pass on Taken, the movie about a girl abroad getting kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. I instead decided on The Five Year Engagement and put any fears about being in a foreign country alone behind me. I barely had finished the movie and closed my eyes when I was woken up during the breakfast service. It had only been a few hours since dinner! But with the time change, I forced myself to eat an omelet, fruit, and yogurt in order to adjust to my new schedule.

The rest of the flight was easy enough. My layover in London was relatively short. And I arrived safe and sound in Madrid, Spain.

Embarrassing Moment #1
Well it’s official: Spain now knows I’m a complete klutz and can barely stay upright on my own two feet. I thought my skill and ability to consistently embarrassing myself might be a United States thing, but it’s unfortunately a universal talent.

I was trying to get into my own apartment building on my second night here. I thought my key was broken. I tried turning it all the way to the right, all the way to the left, pulling the door, pushing the door, and every combination of those possible. When someone came down and was trying to get out of the building and saw me struggling, I thought yes, some handsome Spanish man to my rescue! If only it had been that simple. It took a whole team of people to diagnose the problem and undo the damage I had done. Apparently in my struggle to open the door I had twisted the key too many times to the left, dead bolting the door shut. Who new European doors had such a feature?

As soon as the 6 or so men finally opened the door, I thanked them before quickly retreating to my room. I can guarantee my face was bright red. Luckily I haven’t run into any of them since, but I’m sure the time will come.

The Madrid Police Force: My New Favorite Men In Uniform
I’m convinced being extremely attractive is a requirement for joining the Madrid police force. I have yet to come across an officer who isn’t worthy of being featured in a calendar. Calendar? Yes, calendar… the ones of sexy men in uniform that are sold to help raise money for their stations.

I hope Madrid does this because that could quite possibly be the best souvenir ever. But just in case I don’t have any fan posters or calendars to take home with me, I am spending as much time with these men as possible. I use having no idea where I am to my advantage. Whenever I am lost (which is multiple times a day every day), I ask a sexy officer where to go. He points me in the right direction and explains to make a left on this street and right on that street. I have usually have no idea what he said (that either has to do with the fact that I’m distracted by his beauty or the fact that he’s speaking Spanish a thousand miles an hour), but I smile and nod and head in the general direction he pointed. Within a few minutes I’m lost again and I go in search of another sexy man in uniform.

Since when do I go in search of cops? Another first.

The City That Truly Never Sleeps
When people say that NYC is the city that never sleeps, they have clearly never been to Madrid. The metro closes from 1:30am-6am every night. Most would think they need to get home by 1:30, but in Madrid that’s just an excuse to party until at least 6am! When you hop on the metro tired with sore feet and the beginning stages of a hangover at a little after 6am, you are sitting next to someone in a suit off to work for the day. There are always people out and about, at all hours of the day of night.

But with all the partying, catching up on sleep is a necessity. Good thing the city practically shuts down everyday from 2pm-4pm for a siesta. Siesta = nap time = my favorite part of the day. Even during this traditional time to relax, many people continue to go about their day.

My First Foreign Affair
When my San Diego group went out to celebrate a member’s 21st birthday, we went all out. We dressed up nice an fancy, took tons of pictures, and made a big deal out of her finally being legal to drink in the states. But she wasn’t the only one who received a present that night.

Mine came in the form of a sexy foreign man. He wasn’t Spanish, but he was an attractive Italian man and a great dancer. We spent most of the night on the dance floor, and when we took a break and talked it was a combination of English, Spanish, and Italian. Fortunately I wasn’t expecting a deep, intellectual conversation from him. A few dances and kiss goodnight was more than enough.

Week one down, 10 months to go. This is going to be one crazy adventure!