Can I get you a drink?

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Two of my favorite things are red wine and coffee.

When I was in college, I studied in France, and I was fortunate enough to live at the home of the owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, often abbreviated to DRC, which is an estate in Burgundy, France that produces white and red wine. It is widely considered among the world's greatest wine producers, and DRC bottles are among the world's most expensive. It takes its name from the domaine's most famous vineyard, Romanée-Conti. They let me live in their home but I was NOT allowed to pick grapes at Romanée-Conti. Instead I participated in the vendange at one of their less famous vineyards. Turns out grape picking is very hard work. Despite this early exposure to fine wine, I am not a wine snob. In fact, I usually just order the house red when I go out to dinner. However, two of my dear friends recently turned me on to Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel, and it is delicious. It’s a bit spendy, but if you are going to drink wine and you can’t afford DRC (me!), this is the one! Divine.

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Also, for our anniversary, my husband bought us an espresso machine. We already had a french press, a regular coffee maker, and a Keurig. The french press makes the best tasting coffee, but is a pain to clean up. Lazy, I know. We use the regular coffee maker for parties. We were guiltily using the Keurig on a daily basis but the pods are so unenvironmental, even though I was buying the compostable ones. Our new espresso machine is a Nespresso. According to their website they use sustainably sourced coffee. It comes in pods, but they are aluminum and recyclable. You put the used pods in a bag and mail them back to Nespresso and they recycle them for you. Not sure about the total carbon footprint on this one, what with the shipping, but my goodness the coffee is amazing. Especially if you use whole milk in the frother that comes with it. And sprinkle it with a little cane sugar. Wow. I am not even kidding, this thing is a delight.

If you are considering a Nespresso, note that they seem to follow the “razor and blades” business model, which is where one item (the handle) is sold at a low price in order to increase sales of a complementary good (the blades). With the Nespresso, you can get the espresso machine for an okay price, but the pods are spendy. Especially if you drink a million cups a day like me. But even if you don’t get a Nespresso, you should definitely try the wine. And, if you have a favorite wine, do tell!

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

I’m a Little Tea Pot 🎵

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When I was a kid, my nickname was cookie jar. Why? Because I ate so many cookies that my body began to look a bit like a cookie jar.

Cookies are still my favorite food. I love cream filled sandwich cookies the most. On the low end, I love Oreos. The new Oreo Megas are obscenely good. On the high end, I like macarons. Not to be confused with coconut macaroons, which are good too, but not as good as the French macarons. I’ve tried many many times to make macarons. They taste great, but they never look right. Mine look like lumpy toadstools. If you know how to make them, please send me your recipe.

I’m in Dublin now, and we found a Ladurée (the iconic Parisian tea room). For me though, tea is just an excuse to eat cookies.

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Obviously, most people come to Ireland to drink beer, not to eat cookies. Guinness is king here, and yes, we’ve already had a few pints. Also, I’ve seen a lot of freckles. I read in Cosmo that Scotland boasts the highest percentage of natural redheads, with 13%, while Ireland comes in second with 10%. So, first impressions of Dublin are beer and freckles. And, lots of amazing restaurants. Who knew it was such a foodie town? The other funny thing is that I’ve seen a Swatch, a French Connection, and a Benetton on the same block as our hotel. Unexpected. All of my favorite brands from the 80s.

Also, we went to Riverdance, which was very fun. It’s a little mystical and slightly dorky, but the dancing and music are impressive. If you get the chance, you should definitely go.

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

Chinese Eggplant Recipe

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Okay, here it is! The best comfort food ever. My friend Yao from The Hutong sent this recipe to me. Whip up some of this fried eggplant and serve it over a bowl of steaming white rice and be happy. You won’t be sorry, because it is delicious. If you make it, let me know what you think.

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

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Xiao Long Bao

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Xiao Long Bao (XLB) are steamed soup dumplings from Shanghai. Inside the dumpling are little cubes of gelatinized broth. When you steam the dumpling, the gelatin melts into a delicious pocket of broth. 

Eating XLB is a bit of an art form. You need both a soup spoon and chopsticks to properly eat XLB. You’ll want to put a mixture of dark vinegar, a tiny bit of ginger if you like ginger, and soy sauce in your soup spoon. In our cooking class at The Hutong, we also added sesame oil and sugar and a bit of chili paste.

Then, take a XLB off the steamer and add it to your soup spoon. Nibble a little hole in the top of the XLB so that some of the steam can escape and some of the vinegar mixture can enter the XLB. Then, slide the whole XLB and the vinegar mixture into your mouth. Some people compare it to eating an oyster shooter. Yum.

XLB are traditionally prepared in a small bamboo or stainless steel steaming basket. XLB are not easy or quick to make, but they are worth it because they are delicious. I consider this an advanced recipe. This website has some good pictures that show you how to pleat the dumplings, which is the hardest part. If you go to Din Tai Fung, the excellent XLB chain restaurant, you can see the XLB being made because they have an open kitchen. Note that Din Tai Fung doesn’t take reservations and I’ve always had to wait, but that’s okay because the chefs make the XLB in a kitchen with a window near the entrance, so you can study how they pleat the dumplings while you wait.

Here’s the recipe (see below). Good luck and happy cooking!

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

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Dim Sum

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Dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on a small plate with tea. They are kind of like tapas. Dim sum is literally translated to mean “touch the heart” and the associated Cantonese phrase yum cha means “to drink tea.”

I attended a Chinese cooking class at a cooking school called The Hutong here in Beijing a few days ago. I’ve been to this cooking school before in years past, and I highly recommend it. The teacher that I like the best is named Yao. I’m going to her xiao long bao (XLB) class next week.

XLB are soup dumplings. You eat them with a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Yum. You may have heard of Din Tai Fung, which is one of my favorite restaurants. They are famous for XLB and they have restaurants all over the world. I’ve been to the one in Beijing several times, and the one near Palo Alto. I’m pretty sure they have a Michelin star, which is amazing because Din Tai Fung is a chain restaurant often located in high-end malls. I’ll share the XLB recipe after my class, if it is any good.

Here is the recipe and a photo of the lovely shrimp dumplings that we made at the dim sum class. They were much easier to make than you would think and they were delicious. If you try them, I hope you like them!

Warmly,

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Empty Nest Obsessed

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason.

Dog-friendly hotels?

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My husband and I recently took a cross-country road trip. We brought our English Bulldog, Coconut. She was a lovely traveling companion. The downside to traveling with a dog is that if you aren’t willing to leave them in the car alone, which I am not, you end up eating a lot of fast food. I’m a bit of a food snob, so this was not great for me, however, I discovered two amazing treats. Taco Bell sells Cinnabon Delights . They are only $1 for two. They are like bite-sized malasadas. Little cream filled donuts. Yum. Also, Arby’s has a delicious greek gyro. For fast food, it is surprisingly delicious. We also discovered a website that gives the low-down on dog-friendly hotels. They had great recommendations for small towns and big cities all across America. They give you the pet policy, whether there is a pet fee, and a description of the hotel. The best and the worst pet-friendly hotel we stayed at was the La Quinta Inn. The first one we stayed at was clean and comfortable. We had such a great experience, that we didn’t check Bring Fido. Instead, we just rolled into the next La Quinta Inn. It was super sketchy and dirty. We couldn’t leave fast enough! Next time, we’ll read the reviews on each dog-friendly hotel before checking in. If you take a road trip with your dog, I hope you have fun!

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason.