Celebrating the New Year in Vienna

It was not the crowded, centuries-old coffee shops serving delicately foamed cups of Melange paired with beautifully flaky pastries that caused me to fall in love with Vienna. Nor was it the tiny streets winding their way along squares and cathedrals, palaces and theaters, or even the way the winter sunlight illuminated the ornate crevices that decorated the buildings. And despite the magnificence of the opera house and the phenomenal performances of the world’s best opera, it wasn’t that either.

A horse-drawn carriage waits for riders to tour Vienna near the Hofburg Palace.

A horse-drawn carriage waits for riders to tour Vienna near the Hofburg Palace.

But, in a way, it was each of those things that made my heart soar with love in Vienna, combined with the bierhauses full of eager friends sipping on beers brewed from recipes hundreds of years old; the culture of music and arts that was so prominently a part of the city’s essence; and the way the aura of history hung in the air, a feeling that only a city wise with the experience of world wars and powerful empires could possibly possess.

Cheese strudel covered in warm vanilla sauce at Café Central.

Cheese strudel covered in warm vanilla sauce at Café Central.

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The New Finca in Downtown Salt Lake City

Back in the fall, one of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City relocated right to the heart of downtown.  Finca, the Spanish tapas restaurant known for amazing pairing dinners and deliciously authentic Spanish food, moved to 327 West 200 South in downtown Salt Lake City. With the relocation, Finca not only gained a downtown address but it doubled in size (both in seating and kitchen space), added an independent—but co-existing—coffee shop, La Barba by Chaming Beard, a pintxos menu and extended its hours to cater to late-night eaters.

Interior of Finca downtown in Salt Lake City.

The new interior of the downtown Finca.

The new Finca in downtown Salt Lake City also has a dramatically different vibe than its former southern self.  Gone are the days of bright sunny interiors and close-knit tables with a casual vibe.  Now, Finca is drastically dark—as in dark enough to require your phone flashlight in order to read the menu.  There are cozy booths, intimate private rooms, lounge chair tables and even a bar area, all in a dark bar-like setting. [Read more…]

A Toast to the New Year (And Off to New York City!)

I don’t do the whole New Years thing. I mean, yes, I write resolutions and I like a good party to celebrate the last night of the year, but I don’t really do the whole reflection-on-the-past-year thing until February. February is my birthday month, when I really look back on the previous year and the soon-to-be-previous age, when I think about what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, what I’ve loved and what I’ve lost.

It makes January a sort of buffer month; 31 days of burying the old year and preparing for the new one. Besides, doesn’t January feel like a buffer month of boringness anyway?

Kelli Nakagama at the Silvester Ball at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.

Ringing in the New Year at the Silvester Ball at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.

So now, here in the month of my birthday, with the day quickly approaching, I’ll take a look back at last year.

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Doors of Prague

My obsession with doors—and their mysterious beauty—continued in Prague. Every door caught my eye during my Christmas trip to the point where I was actually afraid I might have nothing but photos of doors on my camera when I looked back at my pictures. What can I say, I couldn’t help myself!

Here are my favorite doors of Prague.

Door of St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

St. Vitus Cathedral.

This random side doors at the St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle Complex is my most favorite from my trip.

Gate near the Old Jewish Quarter in Prague.

Decorative gate near the Old Jewish Quarter.

Elaborate door in Prague.

Elaborate door on the way to Prague Castle.

A door near Old Town Square, Prague.

A door near Old Town Square.

A  door at St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague.

Looking up at a door at St. Vitus Cathedral.

Oh, Prague: you are mesmerizing.

Related :: Doors of Spain & France, Christmas in Prague, plus some doors in Washington D.C.

New & Improved Bistro 222 in Salt Lake City

It’s hard to imagine a “hidden gem” right on Main Street in Salt Lake City. But when I think of Bistro 222, that’s exactly what I think. The New American restaurant is prominently visible to the downtown traffic, yet its cuisine is seriously underrated in the Utah food scene.

But maybe that’s thanks to the new chef, David Bible, and his updated menu. While I’ve been impressed with the restaurant since it first opened, David—formerly at Silver Star Café (most notably when the Food Network TV show Diners, Drive-ins & Dives filmed a segment there)—has transformed it into a completely new and improved Bistro 222 by revamping the menu while maintaining the same vibe.

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin at Bistro 222 in Salt Lake City.

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin.

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Where to Eat in Prague

Beer is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the Czech Republic. Czech beer is well-known and well-respected around the world. And it very well should be, considering their incredible history of beer brewing. The Břevnov Monastery has been brewing beer since 993 AD and the Czechs had the rights to beer brewing in the 12th Century, beating their neighbors, the Germans, by an entire century.

Czech cuisine, on the other hand, likely draws a blank. Before I went to Prague for Christmas, I had no clue what a Czech dish consisted of. Well, besides beer.

A dark lager beer at Pivovar U Tří Růží

There’s more to consume in Prague than beer. (Although they do beer very right, especially at Pivovar U Tří Růží.)

But with the Czech Republic’s impressive history and incredible culture—not to mention Prague being one of the most visited cities in the European Union—I knew there had to be something worth eating there. And I ended up having some great meals there.

So, after plenty of research, here’s where to eat in Prague.

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