Escape and Unplug: Camping in the Dry Tortugas

From the Battlements of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park

From the Battlements of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park

There are few places where you can truly unplug and escape the frenetic pace of modern life. But camping in Garden Key—a remote island in the Dry Tortugas National Park located approximately 70 miles from Key West and accessible only by boat or seaplane—disconnects you from the rest of the world, both physically and digitally, letting you live in the moment.

Natural beauty and wildlife surround you at the Dry Tortugas National Park. Aquamarine waters stretch as far as the eye can see. Each evening, spectacular sunsets grace the sky—the fiery orb of the sun sinks into the sea, while the sky fills with brilliant pink and golden hues. On a clear night, the stars shine perhaps more brightly than you will have ever seen before, thanks to the lack of light pollution. read more

Crane Ramen Restaurant Gainesville, FL

Interior of Crane Ramen Restaurant in Gainesville, FL

Interior of Crane Ramen Restaurant in Gainesville, FL

When my mother called and told me that Crane Ramen—the first ramen restaurant in Gainesville, Florida—had opened, I decided to check it out. It’s hard to find a ramen restaurant outside the big cities, though with the increasing popularity of ramen, that may change. I’ve been spoiled by all the ramen joints in Chicago (Santouka being my favorite) and Atlanta, so it was exciting to see one open in my little hometown.

Crane Ramen’s Atmosphere and Setting

Crane Ramen features a vibrant, modern interior with an open kitchen, illustrated placemats showing how to eat ramen (the secret is to slurp and slurp quickly!), and ceiling banners featuring the restaurant’s logo—a crane stretched proudly over an empty stack of bowls. This may be a reference to longevity, as cranes are fabled to live 1,000 years in Japan, and noodles symbolize longevity in some Asian countries. read more

Ribeye Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans

Ribeye Steaks with Red Wine Sauce, Blue Cheese, Pancetta, and Candied Pecans

Ribeye Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Truffle Mac and Cheese, Salad, and Red Wine

It’s not very often that a wine–or any alcoholic beverage for that matter–inspires what I cook. Normally, I choose a meal first, then think about the beverage pairing. But when Corey and I received a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon last summer, I made an exception.

Corey and I have very different wine preferences: I prefer light, refreshing German Rieslings with floral and sweet notes, while Corey prefers robust reds. When Corey mentioned this predicament to a colleague at his future firm this summer, she kindly sent him a bottle of Orin Swift Cellars Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012–a wine that we both adored. read more

Dumpling King – North Miami Beach, FL

Green Onion Cake at Dumpling King Miami

Green Onion Cake with a Sweet and Spicy Sauce at Dumpling King

Dumpling King was our last restaurant adventure in Miami before returning to Chicago. It came highly recommended by one of Corey’s colleagues and fellow foodies, so we were eager to squeeze it in before we left. We’re so glad that we did! We’d been craving some authentic Chinese food (which there isn’t much of in Miami), and this sure hit the spot.

From the outside, Dumpling King didn’t look too impressive; it’s located in a strip mall in which building repairs were underway. But we didn’t let that stop us, and neither should you! After all, one of my favorite restaurants, Raku in Las Vegas, is located in a strip mall. I still dream of their homemade tofu and crispy shrimp, and I can’t wait to go back to Las Vegas to eat at Raku (among other things). read more

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sriracha Ganache

I love cupcakes, but not as much as my sister Sadie. She’s a cupcake fiend! She visited me in Miami over the Fourth of July weekend, and there were two things that she absolutely had to do before leaving Miami: go jet-skiing and make cupcakes.

Jet skiing was an adventure—at some points I wasn’t sure that we were going to survive! I’d never driven a jet ski before, and at first it was scary. It’s easier to steer at high speeds, but to go that fast is intimidating. So I started out really slow, which made my steering horrendous. read more