Tag Archives: ACC travels

ACC Travels: London and the Cotswolds

Usually I post travel pieces right after I return from a trip but we went to, and ate at, so many incredible places it took me an age just to pour through all the photos and memories in order to share the very best with you all.  This spring Patrick and I visited London and then headed out to the Cotswolds – we also hit Oxford and Dublin which will be subsequent posts.  The New York Times scooped me again with a 36 Hours in the Cotswolds and I was gratified to see my choices were mostly endorsed by the paper of record (included in their piece that I can also recommend are the towns of Burton on the Water, Stow on the Wod and a visit to Broadway Tower).  It was a trip of a lifetime visiting with amazing friends and traveling over the gorgeous British countryside – not to mention having amazing meals.



Patrick lived in London for several years and if he had his druthers we would probably spend every vacation there.  I must admit I have caught the bug as well, mostly because of the amazing friends we have there, but also because the city is so vibrant and alive – especially the food scene.  Below is more detailed info on some of my favorite places we ate in London but I would be remiss not to include a couple of other highlights.  Paxton and Whitfield is the world’s most incredible cheese shop, the Churchill Arms and the Lamb and Flag are our two favorite pubs, you can get terrific tapas at any of the Brindisa locations, and of course no visit to London would be complete without a stop at Borough Market.

Fortnum and Mason – 181 Piccadilly London W1A 1ER

Not only is this an incredibly beautiful 300 year old store with an awesome food hall in the basement but it also has the most charming wine bar.  I like to pop in to take a break from shopping on Jermyn Street.

First a glass of sparkling rose in the bar, maybe a cheese plate, and then I can get lost in the food hall picking up tidbits to bring home.


Santo Remedio – 152 Tooley Street SE1 2TU

Of course I found an Air B&B a block away from a Mexican restaurant!

This place was so cute and instagrammable but it all comes down to the margarita.  Once I had my first one I knew this place would be alright!  Fresh and tart they were perfectly balanced and the chips are lighter than air.


They have a great lunch menu where you can get several courses for a reasonable price – a great way to celebrate Fiesta Friday in London.

Lazy Hunter – 117 Kentish Town Road NW1 8PB

When you are sitting in the back of this Kentish Town pub surrounded by hipsters and drinking craft beer you may think you were in Brooklyn but the menu has a serious British bent.  Patrick got the full English breakfast, made with homemade sausage and the traditional grilled tomato.

I opted for the venison burger with caramelized onions and incredible fries.  If its a nice day try to sit on their lovely back patio.

Passione Vino – 85 Leonard Street EC2A4QS


If this place existed in Washington, instead of the Shoredich neighborhood of London, I would be there all the time.  Part shop, part wine bar, it’s the perfect afterwork spot.  Of course my incredibly fun and chic friend Coleman is the one who took us here.  I was glad to be with a regular because you feel quite odd walking through the shop to the hidden wine bar in the back but thats where all the fun is to be had.!

We grabbed a perfectly chilled bottle of sparkling rose and caught up, I just hope he will forgive me for sharing this secret spot!

A.Wong –  70 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE


If you follow me on Instagram (@acapitolcontessa) then you have already seen some of the INCREDIBLE highlights of this meal.  One of the top ten of my life for sure.  It didn’t hurt that our friend Vernon is friends with the chef and owner, Andrew Wong, but trust me they treat everyone at this Michelin starred restaurant like family.  None of the stuffiness you would expect with this level of cooking – the chefs are having fun with the food but also hewing really closely to traditional Chinese dishes.

I could probably do an entire blog post on this meal alone but the highlights were definitely the “goldfish” dumplings that were both adorable and delicious.  We also loved the cantonese roasted pork, the 1000 chili chicken with snails and the Singapore noodles with scallop dressing.  The menu changes often so make sure to ask for suggestions from the impeccable staff.

To finish off you cannot miss the amazing peach merengue.  Thank you A. Wong for an incredible evening.

The Cotswolds


I had only ever been to London, so for this trip I really wanted to get out of the city and see more of the countryside of England.  We took the train out to Oxford (that one night is a whole post of its own, coming soon) and then rented a car to drive to the Cotswolds.  Huge love to my dear husband who drove ,which was pretty hair raising but totally worth it – there are so many incredible towns tucked away in far reaching corners it really is best to get lost and explore.

The Wild Rabbit –  Church St, Kingham, Chipping Norton OX7 6YA


Unfortunately we didn’t have time to eat dinner at this beautiful restaurant when we were staying there.  However, the elegant breakfast spread is included in the room rate and is top notch so I have no doubt the rest of the menu is as well.  I couldn’t leave this off of the post because it was one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had (and part of the reason why we stayed in the Cotswolds in the first place).  Wellies for all the guests!


The attention to detail was so charming but unpretentious and the bar area was a great place to relax and have a whiskey after a long day of driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

Huxleys – High Street, Chipping Campden


Who knew some of the best Italian food I have had in a long time would be found in a 500 year old building smack in the middle of quint Chipping Campden?


It was raining like crazy and Patrick and I just wanted some warming food.  What we got was terrific pastas, a serious Italian wine collection, sheepskin blankets for your lap and the perfect place to hide out in front of the fire during a hail storm.

Daylesford Farm – Daylesford, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0YG, UK


Dream place – cooking school, home goods shop, delicious food market, incredible wine cellar, bucolic surroundings…I went to this place twice in 24 hours because I couldn’t get enough.


Its almost like Chip and Joanna opened the Silos in England – this place also runs the Wild Rabbit so you get a discount if you stay there.  The only question is how much can you fit into your suitcase???  (Answer – 4 beautiful handblown glasses, 2 bergamot candles, a hand thrown pot and several jars of spices).

The Kingham Plough – The Green, Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 6YD


Exactly what you want in a quaint neighborhood pub in the country.  Fireplace – check, low wooden beamed ceiling – check, friendly locals – check, delicious menu featuring locally grown ingredients – check.  Just down the street from the Wild Rabbit we quickly fell in love with this place and its vibe.  After a couple of pints by the fire we tucked into the rather sophisticated menu.

They have a nice mix of casual pies and sandwiches that you can eat in the pub section (full menu is available out there as well) and then the back dining rooms have a more formal dinner menu.

I cannot wait to get back and explore more of both of these places – I hope some of you are able to get out there this year.  If you find more gems leave them in the comments.  Cheers!

ACC Travels: Dublin, Ireland

We know a bunch of people who were in Ireland this week for a friend’s wedding which reminded me I needed to post this!  Apologies for folks if this is too late for your trip but Ireland is just the perfect place to go over the fall and I cannot recommend Dublin enough.  We had travelled previously all over the Southwest part of the country but this city has as much charm as a dozen small towns.  And the food scene!  Definitely not what I was expecting.  Cannot wait to go back.  Probably goes without saying go to Guinness and Jameson when you go but the spots featured below are a little more off the tourist radar. Sláinte!

The Bull and Castle – 5-7 Lord Edward Street


Owned by the famed butcher F.X. Buckley this is definitely where you want to splurge on a good steak.  The cocktails aren’t half bad either (try and get one with the scotch dry ice).  They dry age their steaks and serve them super simply – just how you want.

Piglet – 5 Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar


This wine bar is what I dream will open up around the corner from my house.  Teeny tiny but so charming with a fun wine by the glass menu and great little nibbles.  Perfect spot to stop on the way out to dinner.  Definitely chat up the bartenders for recommendations on what they love.

The Bank – 20 College Green, Dublin 2

Our cab driver from the airport was classic Irish, with the gift of blarney to boot.  He was the one to recommend the Bank, an old school Irish pub without any of the hookey touristy elements you can find.  Asking locals really is the best bet and this place didn’t disappoint.


I had the “Sunday roast” with super tender chicken and amazing sides (basically enough food for a family of four).  Housed in an old bank, the interior is really beautiful and they even had a piano player all day Sunday.

The Oak – 1-3 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 AN28


Want a comfy pub you can grab a quick casual pint at?  Done (red door).  Want a lovely date night with upscale Irish dishes and a creative cocktail list?  Also done (blue door)!  The Oak has two entrances to two very different spaces but I adore both.  Everything you want in one block.

Forno 500 – 74 Dame St, Temple Bar


Best pizza I have had in a long long time came in Dublin??  After weeks of English and Irish food, Patrick and I needed a break and stumbled across this place.  I seriously still think about the amazing crust loaded with buratta and make you cry prosciutto.

Fallon & Byrne – 11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2


Food halls have become ubiquitous in the States but we are really just trying to catch up to the European versions.  Fallon and Byrne combines a beautiful food market with a subterraneous wine bar and a top floor seated restaurant.  Pro tip – go for their pre theater dinner and get a great deal.

The Brazen Head – 20 Lower Bridge St, Merchants Quay


If you have been open since 1198 seems pretty likely you have figured out how to run a great bar.  Sure its got a fair amount of tourists, but that hasn’t diminished the charm and authenticity of this bar.  It feels like stepping back in time and somewhere you can spend a whole lot of time.


ACC Travels: Venice, Italy

Since my darling husband just returned from Italy this weekend it had me reminiscing about the last time he went there to give a speech and was smart enough to bring his wife along!  His speaking engagement was in Milan but since Patrick had never been to Venice before and I am still haunted by my visit from years ago, I decided that is where we should meet up.  Could there be anything more romantic than meeting your love on the Grand Canal???  The fall is a great time to visit Venice as it is MUCH less crowded than in the summer.  You have to be careful for the “Acqua Alta,” ie when the water levels get so high that the canals flood the city (ick) but if you look online there are great resources for estimating when that will happen.  We went mid November and it was perfect.


Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with incredible art, architecture and natural beauty, but unlike most of the rest of Italy, it is not known for its food.  They have seafood in abundance but many of the restaurants are super touristy and overpriced.  Because things essentially need to be “imported” the quality of some produce isn’t as good as say Florence.  But do not despair!  Do enough research and you can find great food.  I won’t lie – there were a bunch of duds on this trip.  Even the best laid plans can be ruined by closed restaurants, exorbitant prices or a maze of canals.  However, there were several gems.  Here are our favorite stops – I also recommend checking out Chowhound boards before you do any international travel and search the city you are visiting.  I found a lot of these places on there – its basically crowd sourcing from foodies at its best.  Ciao!

Vineria all’Amarone


How can you not like a place named after some of the best wine made in Italy?  Vineria all’ Amarone is a sweet spot that specializes in wine (duh) and food that goes well with it.  Unlike most places it takes reservations online so perfect for a day when you know you are not going to want to mess around figuring out where to eat.  I highly recommend anything that comes out of their oven, from roasted meats to the lasagna.  We of course ordered a bottle of Amarone, which was so much more reasonable than anywhere you would get it in the States.  Best of all the whole restaurant is decorated with empty bottles from customers who tag it with memories of their meals there.  They have tags in every language and some of the sweetest stories!  Definitely a must try.


I highly recommend getting out to some of the islands of Venice during your stay there.  Each has its own character and unique specialty like the glass blowing on Murano.


Much less known is the tiny island of Mazzorbo, that has Venice’s only vineyard on it, Venissa.  Unfortunately when we were there it was closed for a special event but just walking grounds was pretty incredible.  Venissa is not just a vineyard but also a restaurant and hotel which win rave reviews.

Ristorante Ai Cesendeli

Just a short walk over a tiny bridge from Mazzorbo you get Burano, the island known for its lace makers.  The colors of the homes on the island are a huge draw but as soon as we got there we realized we were starving.  The only restaurant that I could find recommended was of course closed with no reason given but such is the joy of travelling in Europe.


Luckily we stumbled across this amazing family run spot that served great pizzas and Aperol spritzes for lunch.  I ordered an eggplant calzone type thing and it came with about $15 worth of prosciutto di parma on top!  Absolutely delicious.


This place is tucked away – like really tucked away.  The more time you find yourself in Venice the more you will find that you are lost.  That is a good thing!  Just keep walking and eventually you will find it.  I had read about this place a ton and was totally going to give up but Patrick knew I really wanted to go and when we finally found CoVino it was like an oasis (especially since it was pouring out!).  Once inside you feel like you are in someone’s kitchen, and you basically are in the postage stamp of a restaurant.


Don’t let that scare you off as they churn out awesome food.  It is a 3 course menu and very inexpensive so well worth the hunt.


Almost 100% of the places that line the Grand Canal are tourist traps and are not worth looking at.  Basically if they offer the menu in more than 2 languages with pictures you should keep moving.


However, the gracious patio overlooking the canal at Vinaria is a lovely place to sit after a long day of exploring and grabbing a glass (or three!) of wine.  Cannot speak to the food but the view cannot be beat.

Al Timon

Patrick doesn’t eat seafood which on an island can be pretty challenging.  I kept reading about Al Timon before we left as one of the few places that does meat right.  We tracked it down in the old Jewish quarter and man am I glad we did.


As with a lot of places in Venice it is a little confusing once you get in as the menu is all in Italian and everyone seems to know what they are doing.  However, the waiters are really lovely and helped us order this amazing beef tenderloin (not the horse that we were accidentally going to order!!!).  They serve it up family style on a big wooden board with rosemary roasted potatoes, white beans, arugula and loads of other accompaniments.  Some crusty bread and red wine and we were in heaven.

ACC Travels: Nantucket

As summer gets into its swing I know a lot of you have travel plans.  If I had it my way, I would spend the whole summer on Cape Cod, preferably Nantucket.  Unfortunately that is not in the cards, but I had a great trip right before the season officially kicked off so I can point you in the right direction for any of you lucky enough to visit over the summer.  Anyone who has ever been has been enchanted by this place but it does come at a cost – Nantucket ain’t cheap.  So I decided to share some places to eat and shop that include some higher and lower end places so you don’t have to eat just oyster crackers and water for the rest of your vacation.

For the Splurge…

The Straight Wharf – 6 Harbor Square

This place is such a little gem – right on the water (which is surprisingly hard to find on the island) and really special.


The main dining room has luxury touches but feels very accessible with the colorful paintings and potted herbs used as centerpieces.


A great way to start the meal is the spring pea salad with snap peas, english peas, parmesan, radicchio, pickled hots, and pistachios.  The perfect mix of textures and tastes comes together on the plate.  Local oysters are also a hit, served with a lemony granita.  The menu changes often but if their version of a personal clam bake is on the menu, make sure to order it.  Lobster, clams and some of the best sausage I have ever had.  It is an elegant take on a causal meal – the perfect example of what this place does well.  To round out the meal if they have a special galette (you have to order it early in the meal) make sure to get one as they highlight seasonal fruit and perfect homemade ice cream.

Ventuno – 21 Federal Street

Located right downtown in a charming historic home, Ventuno feels like the best Italian dinner party you have ever been to.


The cozy interior makes the most of the historic architectural details – we were seated right by the fireplace.

IMG_2314Have fun with the menu – there are small bites, larger appetizers to share and then first and second courses.  The fried olives stuffed with sausage are completely addictive and a perfect match to their house Negroni.  We also tried the crostini with local honey and ricotta.  What a beautiful little toast!

They offer their pastas in two size portions so you can save room for everything else you want to try on the menu.  I had my mom’s favorite pasta, Spagetthi a la Vongole – and it was the best I have ever had.  Tender clams, crunchy breadcrumbs and a deeply flavored pasta was just perfection.


Make sure to check out the extensive Italian wine list – there are a lot of pricey bottles but you can try some really great stuff by the glass and save yourself some money.

Toppers at the Wauwinet – 120 Wauwinet Road

I have been hearing about The Wauwinet for ages, my cousin and her husband actually got engaged at this incredible Relais and Chateaux approved hotel.  It is pretty far from downtown, out on the top part of the island, but they have a boat that will ferry you back and forth from the Harbor.  Brunch is a great way to try this incredible restaurant without breaking the bank.  Sure you could pop a $3,500 bottle with your eggs but you could also opt for the $14 sparkling cocktails (we went with option B).  Everything about this place is pitch perfect.  The shaded patio with views of the ocean – check.


Bernaud china done with a Nantucket basket weave around the dishes – check.  Tender biscuits and pretzel rolls served in actual Nantucket baskets – check.


We all felt incredibly well taken care of which is exactly what I expect in a hotel of this caliber.  Make sure to ask one of the hostesses to take your picture out on the sprawling green lawn that overlooks the water.  I am pretty picky about my lobster rolls and when I read that this one was served in a brioche roll instead of a split top bun (sacrilege!) I was nervous.  I am so glad I went with it – incredible french fries dusted with Old Bay and an all lobster meat, zero filler, roll bound together with brown butter mayo (!!!).


Several of my group ordered egg dishes all of which they loved but everyone was stealing fries from me and others that had them so make sure to order a side of them if they don’t come with your brunch.  Freshly baked cookies was a sweet way to finsh off this lavish brunch.

For the save!!

Bartlett’s Farm – 33 Bartlett’s Farm Road

Whenever I travel I always want to cook with local produce and ingredients.  Not only it it an incredible way to taste local flavors but it also saves you a ton of money!  Bartlett’s Farm is my dream come true – family owned and meticulous about quality they have everything you could ever want for your Nantucket dinner party of your dreams.


Fruits, veggies and baked goods alongside great cheeses and snacks as well as prepared foods means it’s a one stop shop.  They even have a great wine selection, carefully curated, and were just happening to be doing a rosé wine tasting right next to their rose bushes!


Cisco Brewery – 5 Bartlett Farm Road

Right down the street from Bartlett Farm is one of the best reasons to visit Nantucket – Cisco Brewery.


It’s not just a great craft brewery, they also have a distillery and vineyard on property.  They have live music, food trucks and SO many great doggies hanging out in the sun while their owners relax and party.


This is the best gathering place – the minute we set foot on the property I start to smile.  It’s a bit out of the way but there is complimentary shuttle that will take you from downtown out there and every cab can find their way there blindfolded.

B-ACK Yard BBQ – 20 Straight Wharf

Located right next to the Harbor this BBQ place is relatively new and a great option for either lunch or dinner.


The best way to try the most of the menu is one of their meals called “The Selfie.”  It comes with 2 meat options, 2 sides and rolls.  We loved the beef burnt ends, which is basically meat candy, and the mac and cheese is a must.  Split an appetizer (the dry rubbed wings are great) and then split the Selfie and you will have plenty of food.  This is a great option if you are traveling with kids as well (and if not they have an awesome craft beer selection!).


Crosswinds – 14 Airport Road

If you ever watched “Wings” on TV you know that the airport on Nantucket is tiny and is supposed to have a cute diner style restaurant.  It does and it’s awesome!  It was 10am and Patrick and I are frantically figuring out new travel plans after cancelled flights (the hazards of being on an island) and we head into Crosswinds hoping to get some sustenance before we head out.  Little did I know this is the best diner on the island, maybe on the Cape!  I had to go with the grilled cheese and fries despite the hour and man were they good.  Definitely hitting this place up next time even if we take the ferry.


There are so many other magical and delicious places to try on the island – Cru for oysters, Petticoat Row Bakery for amazing cakes and pastries,  Claudette’s Sandwich Shop by Siasconset Beach for beach picnic provisions – leave any suggestions you might have in the comments section.  Until next time Nantucket…




ACC Travels: 24 Hours in Richmond

Two years ago Patrick and I stopped in Richmond for the night while heading down to Hilton Head.  We only had a quick dinner and then left the next morning but even that quick glimpse made us want to come back and explore more.  So when we were headed to Coastal Carolina this summer we decided to carve out more time and actually got a full 24 hour experience.  We are already planning a trip back because this city is really something.  Charming and historic, but also growing and changing at a rapid pace, it’s a great quick get away from DC.  I did a fair amount of research before we left and solicited lots of advice but we barely scratched the surface of what Richmond has to offer.  Here is a rundown of our 24 hour Richmond adventure – a little something for everyone.  If you have Richmond recommendations please add them in the comments!


10:00amJames River Walk – Patrick and I arrive at the Hilton Downtown Richmond (really great location and super reasonable prices).  We drop our bags and head right out the door.  A quick walk from downtown and you are at the James River.  Richmond has done a great job creating walking and bike paths along the river with lots of signs with historical information as well.  We knew we were in for a high calorie day so decided to get moving a bit first to feel less guilty.  We decided to check out Belle Isle, one of the biggest islands in the river, and it certainly delivered.


Once you are on the island it’s hard to believe you are in a city, it’s so peaceful.  Nature people we are not, so it was a little disorienting though we finally made it to the other side of the island.  If I were going to do it again I wouldn’t walk all the way across the river and island to the other side of the city (in August no less) but it made the breweries on the other side that much more refreshing!

11:00amLegend Brewery – Sweaty and THIRSTY we arrive at Legend Brewery Company, the first of the breweries on our trip and also one of the first in Richmond.  They have a great outdoor patio overlooking the city and lots of fun barrel aged beers you can only get at the brewpub.  Not the most creative beers I have ever had but friendly staff and a much needed break from the heat.


11:45amBlue Beer Cider – Right around the corner from Legend is Blue Beer Cider.  They are moving to a new and bigger location back on the other side of the river soon, which will make this place much more accessible.  I am not a big cider person but this place just blew me away.  Do make sure to stop by and do a tasting of their ciders.


From Hopsap Shandy, their hopped cider, to Mill Race Bramble, their berry flavored cider, every one is dry, crisp and totally unexpected.  This place really changed how I think about cider and I cannot wait to go back and check out their new location (the current location leaves something to be desired as it is just a room in an industrial building – however the helpful staff and amazing cider more than make up for it).


1:00pmCan Can Brasserie and the Carytown District – After all that walking (and tastings!) we needed sustenance so we headed to Carytown.  This is such a cute little stretch of the city that mostly runs along West Cary Street.  If you want to do some shopping, this is definitely the spot with cute independent boutiques and an outpost of one of my favorite stores, Creme de la Creme.  The last time we were in Richmond we had a terrific dinner at Can Can Brasserie and while normally I don’t like repeating myself in another city, the sound of a bistro lunch was too enticing.


I am so glad we went back, as this place is really a stand out.  If you like Le Diplomate in DC, well this is the Richmond version.  It is like stepping into a Paris bistro but with a touch of Southern charm.  Even better we decided to sit at the bar and during the week they have a discounted bar menu with many of the most popular dishes.  Fortified by mussels and frites we set off for more exploring.


3:00pmScott’s Addition Neighborhood – This semi industrial neighborhood has been totally transformed over the last several years.  Like many up and coming cities these large vacant buildings have been turned into hip loft apartments and new commercial spaces.  Scott’s Addition has a pretty ridiculous concentration of breweries in it, so if you are interested in packing in as many as possible I would send you here.  Honestly for breweries I do think it’s about personal taste – we heard from almost everyone in the food industry that we had to try The Veil Brewing Co. but we were not impressed.  You have to REALLY be in to beer here – the all black walls, beers poured in wine glasses and the pretension really turned me off.

Ardent Craft Ales, was much more my speed with a large beer garden outside and a light filled, laid back tasting room.  There is also Hardywood, Isley Brewing Company, James River Distillery and many others all packed into about one square mile.  We did not hit all of these (and I wouldn’t recommend it!) but needless to say if you want to spend an afternoon sampling Richmond craft beer, Scott’s Addition is the place to be.

6:00pm – Tarrant’s Cafe – After some more exploring, a cat nap and a quick change of clothes we are ready to go out on the town.  Near our hotel we stumbled across this adorable little supper club like restaurant called Tarrant’s Cafe.  Housed in an old pharmacy building this place is quintessential Richmond.  I love how the city has retained many of its older buildings and have lovingly updated them.  With original pressed tin ceilings, vintage chandeliers and lovely stained glass this place does a mean cocktail.  Ask for any of the classics (I went with a Vesper martini of course) and you won’t be disappointed.


8:00pm – The Roosevelt – Another neighborhood worth checking out is Church Hill.  Unfortunately the famous Sub Rosa Bakery was closed by the time we got there for our dinner reservation but it’s just another excuse to go back!  The Roosevelt was recommended by almost everyone I spoke to.  This James Beard award winning  restaurant is tucked into a small row house so charming it makes you feel like you are at a dinner party rather than a restaurant.

Image result for the roosevelt richmond

They serve updated southern classics made out of local ingredients – make sure to end the night with the chocolate pudding!  We were totally beat after our long day so didn’t get to check out the nightlife in Church Hill but there are several bars within walking distance if you want a nightcap.

Next day – 9:00am – Perly’s -This is a classic Jewish deli with a hipster twist.  Again another restored business that has all of the old lovely details with modern twists on the menu (think rosemary flavored cream cheese and homemade sodas).  I had one of the best latkes I have ever had while sitting at the old school diner style counter.  We left stuffed and happy, eager to return to Richmond to discover more gems.

ACC Travels – A Massachusetts Round Up


Sorry to be away for so long but A Capitol Contessa is back and better than ever!  Most of my time away from the blog was spent in my lovely home state of Massachusetts where the food just keeps getting better and better.  I basically set out to give myself mercury poisoning, eating seafood at pretty much every meal I could get.  There just isn’t anything like a freshly shucked oyster right off the truck from Maine or perfectly cooked cod right out of the sea.  Lots of family commitments kept me from doing a true post on any one of the cities or towns I visited but I wanted to share the highlights for all of you travelling to MA this summer or for folks that are local.  Stops in Dennis on Cape Cod, Newburyport on the North Shore and of course Boston, have me itching to get back home more often.

Dennis, MA

The Ocean House – 425 Old Wharf Road – Seriously one of the more beautiful restaurants I have ever eaten in.  Waterfront dining isn’t that hard to find on the Cape but fine dining is – I truly love the variety of clam shacks and oyster bars  but if you want a nice night out it can be hard to find.  The Ocean House is white table cloths, a serious wine list and beautifully done food but it’s not so fussy that you stop feeling like you are on vacation.  I had some insane lobster ravioli there that must have had about a pound of lobster both inside and on top of the pasta.  Delicious!  Pro tip: order their espresso martini with dessert.


Skipper Chowder House – 152 South Shore Drive – I consider myself a bit of a clam chowder connoisseur and I would have to put the chowder at Skippers at least in the top 5 ever, if not number 1.  Creamy, clamy, and chunky, it was everything I want in a chowder and more.  The fried clam plate is also pretty terrific but be warned it’s a LOT of food!  Skippers is a typical Cape style place right across from the beach with a good local craft beer selection on tap and a cute top floor bar.  Get the chowder and you wont be disappointed.

Newburyport, MA


Brine – 25 State Street – Brine is just what the doctor ordered for the seaside town of Newburyport.  As much as I have always loved visiting, it was certainly lacking in upscale dining.  Brine serves up carefully selected oysters and refined seafood dishes as well as chops for meat loving patrons.  Definitely start with some oysters which are all expertly shucked by the staff (on Thursdays there is a buck a shuck deal).  I love all the attention to detail at this place like house made ketchup and inventive plating.

Joppa Fine Foods – 50 Water Street – Stores like this make me a kid in a candy shop…where my version of candy is high quality olive oils, artisinal salumi and a collection of flavored salts!  Joppa is a great store to buy local and handmade food ingredients and ideal for putting together a slamming picnic.  They have prepared foods, a to die for cheese counter and delicious wine to throw into your basket.

Boston, MA


Saltie Girl – 281 Dartmouth Street – If I could design a restaurant (ooooh I can dream) it would be Saltie Girl.  Everything about this place is PERFECT.  The beautiful fish scale tiles on the bar, the jute wrapped columns, the iced buckets attached to each table to keep wine crisp – I loved ALL OF IT.  I took so many pictures it was starting to get obnoxious so I will only share a handful but please get yourself over to this place.

It is quite small and is first come first serve with seating at the bar and at several booths.  However, the staff is so gracious and accommodating that its worth the wait (a nice glass of rose doesn’t hurt either).

The Saltie in Saltie Girl refers to a large selection they have of tinned seafood.  If you think opening a can of sardines doesn’t constitute creating a meal think again.  These are not just any canned fish – these are the best of the best imported from around the world, that are served with carefully selected accompaniments.  The really knowledgeable staff will walk you through that menu, the raw bar and any other questions you may have.  Want something hot and more substantial?  Why not lobster and waffles or a really amazing looking burger?  All meals end with an adorable check presentation and an awesome haute version of a wetnap.

Last but not least I have to give a shout out to the Boston Public Market – this place isn’t new and isn’t new to me but during my visit they finally transitioned to being open 7 days a week.  Also every time I go there are more and more vendors open so if you haven’t been since it first opened I highly recommend you stop in again.  You all know how much time I spend in Union Market back in DC – well this is the Boston version and I hate to say it…but I prefer it!

Lots of food stands to buy food right on the spot mixed with terrific grocers and other food artisans to get super fresh ingredients from all over New England.  I stopped in and bought fresh parsley and garlic pasta at Nella Pasta, a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers for my mom at Stow Greenhouses, some local beer at Hopsters Alley and of course a small cone of moose tracks at Crescent Ridge as a snack.  The perfect way to spend an afternoon in Boston.  Hope all of you living in the Bay State or those heading there get to try some of these spots.  GO SOX!

ACC Travels – Chicago, IL

When Patrick said he was going to take me to Chicago for my birthday I paused for about 3 seconds before I went online and started researching restaurants.  This city has always been a big eating (and drinking) town but recent years have seen a spate of nationally recognized spots opening and thriving.  The minute the plane landed we knew we were somewhere special – the people are incredibly friendly and the city was bursting with colorful flowers everywhere you look.  Perhaps that’s to make up for the 5 months a year its atrocious to live there but at least they have terrific food and drink options to stave off the cold.  The only disappointing meals we had were deep dish pizza and sausages – go figure!  Likely why I usually avoid these tourist dishes (I would never in good conscious recommend someone visiting Boston to get baked beans).  Here are just some of my favorite spots we visited.

Topolobampo – 445 N Clark Street

For me this was a must stop.  Rick Bayless is pretty much the father of Mexican cooking in America.  I have loved watching him talk about his passion for authentic Mexican cooking on TV and I have several of his cookbooks which are just outstanding.  Actually the ONLY jarred salsa I will even consider buying is his Chipolte Salsa (they carry it in most supermarkets so keep a look out).  We basically went directly from the airport to lunch at Topolobampo and what a way to start off the trip.  The list of mezcals and tequila were dizzying but don’t worry if you can’t decide, just get a flight!  They offer a 3 course lunch for only $25 which I am somewhat regretting not doing but we just weren’t hungry enough.  Patrick ordered the Soupa Azteca to start with, and man did he order well.  The broth, poured tableside was like nothing I had ever had before, so rich and layered with flavor.  I had a special appetizer where they cured tomatoes in habaneros.  How does one take a fresh tomato, infuse it with the heat and flavor of one of the hottest peppers around and not lose the flavor of the tomato?  I have no idea but I guess that’s why they pay Rick the big bucks.  Look how beautiful the plate was.


We both got different quesadillas for our main entrees and they were a far cry from the greasy, overly stuffed and flavorless quesadillas that haunt most bar menus.  Patrick’s had tender braised short ribs, while I went the vegetarian route with squash blossoms and fresh corn.  The service from beginning to end was delightful.  With expectations set super high, this place definitely delivered.  Apologies that I don’t have more photos but I was so taken with the meal and the experience I didn’t really want to ruin it by being “that” person snapping away.  One confusing note – both Topolobampo and the original Frontera Grill also by Bayless share an entrance.  Don’t look like rookies as we did walking around looking for another door!

Berco’s Popcorn – 810 West Armitage Avenue

Owner Matt Bercovitz makes you feel right at home the minute you walk into his gourmet popcorn store.  While sparsely decorated, the focus here is rightly on popcorn which you can order in a variety of flavors.  Matt will let you sample to your heart’s content from flavors like Big Time Butter and Best Carmel Corn Ever.  I know there are more famous popcorn joints in town but we loved the popcorn here and it’s great to support an up and coming young entrepreneur.  They even have a customizable video wall where I got the blog’s first shout out!


North Pond Restaurant – 2610 North Cannon Drive

This place is special.  Situated on a pond inside Lincoln Park in an arts and crafts building this gem turns out delicious seasonal food to tourists and Chicagoans alike.


Many suggested it as a brunch spot so that’s what we did and were not disappointed.  It’s a pricey restaurant but the 3 course brunch goes for $34 on Sunday and is worth every penny.  Each plate had just the right amount of food to satisfy but not leave you feeling stuffed.  I also cannot say enough about the wait staff – perfectly trained to be there when you needed something and effortlessly disappear when you didn’t.  The  grilled lamb with squash, shell beans, red onion and grilled apricots was delicious and beautiful.


They also have a lovely bar with views of the pond so it would be a good place to stop for drinks or dessert if you didn’t want a 3 course brunch.  If you go for the sweets menu I highly recommend the blackberry and peach selection – how pretty is this??


Parsons Chicken and Fish – 2952 West Armitage Avenue

Fried chicken and negroni slushies??  SOLD!  This charming place is tucked into a pretty residential neighborhood but my research paid off as we looked for a spot to eat after visiting Revolution Brewery (which I highly recommend).  A short walk found us at this retro diner that serves old school classics updated, like pasta salad and pimento toast.  They have a killer back patio and several cocktails served slushy style.

Bub City – 435 North Clark Street

Who knew that some of the best BBQ in the country is found in Chicago?  I am sure many of my Southern friends are howling right now but seriously, this place is beyond delicious.  We stopped in for drinks (the delicious Back Porch Tea with Jack Daniels and sweet tea vodka) and had to return the next night for dinner, the smell was just that good.  Patrick had the fried pickles (no comment) and we shared the chopped brisket and mac and cheese.  I consider myself a mac and cheese snob – I am still creaming about this rich and creamy version.  The brisket was perfectly done and not as greasy as most versions you find.  There is also a pretty vibrant bar scene here and they own a tiki speakeasy around the corner called Three Dots and a Dash that we wanted to try but were honestly way too stuffed to keep going!  What says America more than our stars and stripes depicted in Budweiser cans??


We had such a great weekend and didn’t even scratch the surface of what the city has to offer.  For non food entertainment I can recommend the Chicago’s First Lady architecture boat tour (how we got the perfect skyline shot featured above) and of course hit Wrigley Park (we caught a no hitter!).  Hard to go wrong in Chicago and I cannot wait to get back there.


ACC Travels: Frederick, MD


A new feature for the blog – city guides!  I often get questions from friends on where to eat and shop when travelling so I figured I would share those tips with the masses.  For the first ACC Travels we are sticking close to home in Frederick, MD.  This quaint historic town is about a an hour and 15 minute drive from downtown DC, making it the perfect day trip.  I have been to Frederick probably a dozen or so times over the years but this most recent trip was definitely the most fun.  Tons of new restaurants and hip stores have opened up so even if you have been before it’s definitely worth a follow-up trip.  The impetus for this visit was a Frederick Keys game, the town’s minor league baseball team.  Usually a minor league game wouldn’t be that big a draw since we have the Nationals playing right in our hood but the after game entertainment was too hard to resist – monkeys riding dogs, herding goats.  Yea you heard that right.  So Patrick and I immediately bought tickets to the game (a cool $12 for the best seats available) and even booked a hotel room nearby so we could get the full experience.  Below are some of my favorite stops in Frederick and pictures from our trip – where is your favorite day trip stop??

VOLT restaurant – 228 North Market Street

wpid-20150620_131850.jpgIf you have heard of Frederick, MD and are not a civil war geek then odds are it’s because of VOLT.  This small town was put on the map when hip DC foodies began making the trek up 270 to eat Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio’s innovative food.  It had been a couple of years since I had eaten at VOLT but its food and impeccable service were just as good as remembered.  For day trippers there is an even bigger draw – a three course lunch menu for $35 that doesn’t disappoint.  The restaurant itself is housed in an incredible old building where Chef Votaggio was careful to keep its original charm while also incorporating really modern touches.  One thing that immediately sets VOLT apart from other high-end restaurants is the service.  Unfussy but still formal, these folks make you feel right at ease the minute you sit down.  Patrick and I started with 2 awesome drinks from their summer tiki drink menu.  We then tucked into a nice leisurely 2 hour lunch that ended with terrific french press coffee and two mini coffee cakes to take home with us.  Some highlights from the meal:

Softshell crab omlette

Softshell crab omelette

Hombolt Fog Cheese Plate with Kumquat

Hombolt Fog Cheese Plate with Kumquat

The Wine Kitchen on the Creek – 50 Carol Creek Way

This is a great spot to stop and grab a wine flight and/or some small plates.  A carefully curated wine list includes some really fun bottles.  They have preselected flights like “Pinot Envy” or “Whites of Fancy” or you can mix and match your own.

All the bartenders are really knowledgeable and can also whip up some pretty mean craft cocktails.  Even better?  They have daily happy hour specials at the bar, even on the weekends.  Its right along the creek (hence the name) which is a beautiful place to stroll along and feed the ducks.  The Wine Kitchen takes advantage of its location with a small outdoor seating area.

Black Hog BBQ – 118 South Market Street

wpid-20150620_201814.jpgThis place is the real deal.  Honestly, they could have been serving tires covered in BBQ sauce and Patrick and I would have been happy as the baseball game got totally rained out and we had to walk a mile back to town.  By the time we arrived at Black Hog we were totally drenched and starving (pro tip – BBQ joints are the best place to go after a rainstorm as each table comes with its own paper towels!).  However, we got super lucky because it not only provided shelter from the storm but also some of the best BBQ I have ever had.  Yes do the ribs and please the mac and cheese.  We also had the chopped pork and chicken which were delicious.  It’s a pretty casual place and be ready to wait as its very popular with the locals.  Luckily they serve local brews and there is a nice patio space outside while you are waiting for your ribs.

relish DECOR – 38 East Patrick Street

This store is absolutely adorable.  They carry a nice mix of hispter type kitchen goods (mason jars abound) but also some really nice classic pieces.  They carry Laguiole, a really well crafted French cutlery company,  flatware and knives in every color possible.  I already have an everyday set in black but was tempted to buy other colors.  They have an online shop if you cannot make it out to Frederick but it’s definitely one of those stores that’s better in person so you can pick up and see everything first hand – also the staff is incredibly helpful and accommodating.  How cute is this wall display of tureen tops?

Viniferous – 227 North Market Street

This wine shop has a little bit of everything so it’s a great place to browse.  Don’t have a heart attack when you pick up a seemingly innocuous bottle to discover that its $575 – they carry lots of great bottles in the $15-30 range.  In the back room they also have a small but decent selection of craft beer and a pretty extensive selection of magnum bottles.  They even had a magnum of my green wine!!!  Magnums are a great way to impress your guests and also means you don’t have to get up and grab another bottle in the middle of dinner.  They do free tastings on the weekends and have case discounts.

Emporium Antiques – 112 East Patrick Street

Give yourself plenty of time to cruise around this enormous shop.  Antique stores are pretty ubiquitous in these old towns but this place is one of the best in the region.  Clocking in at 55,000 square feet it has anything you might be looking for or just the right thing that you never knew you needed.  In particular there are great pieces of silver, medium size furniture and glassware for sale here.  It’s really fun to mix and match older antique pieces with new modern stuff on your table and this place is inexpensive enough that you can buy a set of glasses or plates for a minimum investment.  I came home with 2 small silver footed bowls to add to a set, a great silver shell bowl and darling anchor napkins.

Flying Dog Brewery – 4607 Wedgewood Boulevard 

Unfortunately the day we were in town the brewery was closed to tours for a special event so we didn’t get to visit.  However, this is some of the best beer made on the east coast so I am pretty confident that the tour and tasting is worth it.  They do tours Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and have the tasting room is open on the same days plus Sunday.  The tours are free and you can make your reservation online – if you go this summer definitely try Dead Rise make with Old Bay.  Doesn’t get more Maryland than that.

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