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We Survived the First Year of Marriage….and all we got was a trip to Thailand!

Photo by Julian Mackler, Rockhouse, Negril, Jamaica, Day after Blewish Wedding

People LOVE asking newly-married people the same question:

“How is the first year of marriage???”

That is QUITE the question. Do you give the expected, “It’s been wonderful!” and go about your merry way?? Or do you keep it (too) real with the “It’s mostly great, except for the times I want to kill him/her!” and laugh like it’s a joke even though you really mean it? I tend to go with a big ol’ grin and say “We made it!”

So, you’re probably wondering, how WAS the first year of marriage??

It was beautiful. It was terrifying. It was heart-breaking. It was educational. It was earth-shattering. It was hard. It was easy. It was enlightening. It was full of breathtaking highs and gut-wrenching lows. But most importantly for us, it was a strong and enduring partnership between two people who (thankfully) really, really like each other.

I can’t and wouldn’t want to give people marriage advice because every relationship is so singular. But I do have a couple of suggestions. These might feel painfully obvious, and if so, use them as needed reminders:

  • Regardless of who you are with, those highs and lows will happen. Be with someone that you can’t WAIT to celebrate those amazing moments with and who will never leave your side during life’s darkest days.
  • Take some time to learn who you are and how you operate within your marriage/relationship. We are all constantly learning and evolving as individuals, but I had to understand what type of a partner I am. Be patient with yourself and your significant other as you learn how to function as a team. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t organically happen immediately.
  • Spend time with each other and if you can, get the hell out of dodge! Maybe you don’t have the time or credit card points to go across the world (what, you thought we actually had the money to go to Thailand??); so road trip an hour away to a B&B or shut out the world for one night by turning off your phones and computers, make dinner, and talk to each other.

So yes, we SURVIVED the first year of marriage. If I’m being honest, I think I love Jay a little more than I did in April of 2015. And that, to me, is the biggest indicator of a successful first year of marriage.



Okay, yes, Thailand, the important part!  Our wedding anniversary is the same week as both of our birthdays (I know, so obnoxious, right???). So for our first anniversary and 32nd birthdays we went to Thailand!! I wrote a very, very, very long post about our trip, so I’ve broken it up in parts.

Want to read about what we ate and loved??? Check out the Thailand Eats post.

What to read about what we drank??? Thailand Boozing!

Want to read about the most disappointing $450 meal ever at the TOP restaurant in Asia. Read on about Gaggan. Be warned, lots of snark.





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What I ate in….Thailand!

For two weeks, Jay and I ate our way through Thailand to celebrate our birthdays and first wedding anniversary.  We stayed in three gorgeous hotels, that I’d HIGHLY recommend in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

As for food, we ate EVERYTHING. We ate fancy, we ate cheap. We ate the unidentifiable and the things we still don’t know what they were (Mal, babe, that was def chicken feet). We had a lot of hits, one major miss and only minor stomach issues, so as far as a food-based vacation, I’d consider it a win.

Let’s start with the bad. The bad was so disappointing, it has its own post. We were so excited to eat at Gaggan, the #1 restaurant in all of Asia (do you know how big Asia is?). It’s also #10 in the world. The horror….the disappointment….the amount of money we spent on it. So much sadness. Click here to read about it.

But this is a happy place – so let’s talk about the things I ate that made me HAPPY. My top eats in no particular order:

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Thailand Drankin!


Like most big cities, Bangkok is a great drinking town. Want a cheap beer to beat the heat, there’s plenty of Chang. But there are also plenty of other kicked-up cocktails to be discovered.

Before heading to Thailand, I had read a lot about how Bangkok has a thriving cocktail scene. On our first night, we ended up going to two of the most innovative bars – Tep Bar and Teens of Thailand. Tep is a neighborhood bar full of locals, with a few of us foreigners sneaking in. There we got to experience Mekhong, aka Thai whiskey, which, as you can see below, has some very inventive names. If you like stronger liquors as we do, the Mekhong makes some great cocktails.

Our server encouraged us to check out Teens of Thailand, which I had heard about, but hadn’t realized was nearby. We loved the first couple of drinks at TOT, but as we neared the end, our sweet, gentle giant server approached us and asked if he could make us something special.

I had no idea that Gin and Tonics were such a force in Thailand. I spent most of my early drinking years believing Gin and Tonics were these horrific, overly junipery things that I hated – until I experienced DC’s Jaleo and Estadio and learned what a real G&T was like.

Back at TOT, our server brought me a Thai Tea Gin & Tonic, which was one of the most delightful drinks I’ve ever had. It had the citrus notes of a thai tea, but was herbal and just a tad sweet. I loved this drink so much. Namsaah Bottling Trust, which served great food, also had some herbaceous and fragrant Gin and Tonics as well, including a lavender infused drink which was incredibly refreshing during the hot Bangkok nights.

Thai Tea G&T

We spent a couple of nights at the enjoyable Hyde and Seek which has one of the largest cocktail menus I’ve ever seen. Close to our hotel, it was the perfect spot for a nightcap. Vesper also has a delightful cocktail scene and we loved Smalls‘ atmosphere (and they had Titos!).

One of the most fun cocktails I had was the Tom Yum Cocktail at Sri Panwa in Phuket. Our Phuket hotel was one of the most beautiful places on earth, and while it had some great food, I found many of the cocktails a bit too sweet. That was until I discovered the Tom Yum cocktail, which was a play off of tom yum soup. When I ordered this, I didn’t realize it’d take 10 minutes to make, but it was worth every second. The cocktail packed a spicy punch, as they used real chilies, with hints of lime and a little bit of sweetness. It was the perfect poolside vacation drink.

So, have no fear, discerning drinkers! A lot of vacation spots have a bad reputation of fruity, boozeless concoctions that leave you with a headache and not much else. Thailand, fortunately, is not one of those places. Whatever you are looking for to whet your whistle, you’ll be able to find it in the Land of Smiles.

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Gaggan-tic Fail

I’m not quite sure how to put our experience at Gaggan into words, but I’ll try.

Words we used that night were “challenging,” “awful,” “um, no,” “oh, dear, that texture,” and “why couldn’t everything have tasted like that??” Let me start from the beginning.

When planning our trip to Thailand, we learned that Bangkok has not one, but two top 25 restaurants in the world. One, Nahm, we knew about and had planned from early on to check out. But Gaggan was new to us. It was also recently voted the #1 restaurant in Asia. That’s huge. We had to go. We booked a reservation a month out and eagerly awaited. Lauding Trip Advisor reviews and high critical claim stoked our excitement

Gaggan describes itself as a “progressive Indian” menu. A set menu at 3500++ baht is a lot for a meal in Thailand, but when you’re talking the top meal in a continent, $100 pp is easy to excuse.

We arrived at Gaggan, a colonial style white house hidden down a dark alley. Awash in uplights, it was a gorgeous setting against the dusky Bangkok night. We walked in giddy. I wish future me had been able to warn present me.

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What I Ate In….Chicago!

I casually strolled into the reputable restaurant, expecting to breezily get a table. I assumed the folks standing around were just there for drinks and headed to the host stand and requested a table for two.

“Hmm, yes – that’ll be about a 30-45 minute wait, and that may bump into when the kitchen is closing, so you may not get to eat.” Wait.

No, I was not at some new hot spot in New York at 10:00 on a Friday night. I was in Chicago on a Thursday at 2pm! I knew the Chicago restaurant scene was SERIOUS (do you know how many bars and restaurants they have that you have to pre-purchase tickets for??), but I was not prepared for potential lunch rejection from what I lovingly dub an upscale diner.

Fortunately, after about 25 minutes, our names were called and we were sat at Au Cheval. And Lord, am I glad we were. I would describe Au Cheval as kicked up diner food. Everything we had was a better version of comfort food that we love. What we ate and drank: Continue Reading

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Eatin’ all over the World – Featuring a Love Letter to Thip Khao.

October 2015 Update: 2 days after writing this, we discovered the best tacos in DC at J & J Carryout on Georgia Avenue. If you’ve been in DC long enough, you know we flail when it comes to tacos. A lot of them are good, but never quite hit the spot. But these….these are special. Go check them out, they also have a great vegetarian menu and an amazing jalapeño crema. 

One of the best things about living in the DC area (or what we locals call the DMV) is how much amazing international food exists nearby.

I’ve recently found myself eating a lot of global cuisine. It’s some of my favorite because you can have a delicious, unpretentious meal at a decent price that tastes like somebody’s grandmama might have made it.

Northern Virginia is known for having amazing and authentic Asian food. Our good friends, Kristin and Dan, threw an amazing wedding in that area this past weekend (yes, her dress is BEAUTIFUL!). For every wedding Jay and I have been to the past year, we have turned it into a dumpling-hunting adventure. This first started in LA and then continued in Virginia. It was on the Left Coast that we first discovered xiaolongbao, also known as soup dumplings.

XLBs aka Soup Dumplings!

XLBs aka Soup Dumplings!

I’d always been under the impression that I didn’t like steamed dumplings. I always found the dough to be too gummy. When I finally had XLBs, I realized I’d been eating dumplings made by the WRONG people all my life. These were little chewy pockets of heaven, filled with savory soup and delicious meat. If you get a chance to try them, do! And yes, you can find pretty good ones in the DMV.

We didn’t find any XLBs this weekend, but we did stumble on the Dumpling Queen in Chantilly. Armed with a hangover, sore dancing feet from the amazing DJ (I mean, he played SPICE GIRLS!) and an appetite, we devoured the Lili’s Special steamed dumpling filled with pork, shrimp and chives. The filling was fresh and perfectly seasoned, while the dumpling had the perfect texture. They were delightful.

Thanks to moving closer to Maryland and me working there, we have been taking full advantage of the amazing amount of ethnic food in the Silver Spring area. The Big Greek Café is amazing, with flavorful gyro meat, great feta and herb covered fries, perfectly fried and seasoned falafel and (wait for it) BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE. It was a really good meal and I can’t wait to branch out to the rest of their menu.

Yesterday, not that excited for the salad I’d brought for lunch, I ventured over to Tastee Tropics in the White Oak shopping plaza. The 3 star average on Yelp wasn’t that promising for this Caribbean joint, but this Florida girl with Jamaica in her heart figured anything would scratch the itch. It was a good reminder of why we shouldn’t always trust Yelp: this food was BOMB. I got curry goat, rice and peas, collards and plantains. Everything was SO good. I was pleasantly surprised by the plantains, as so many people get these wrong. This meal took me back to many vacations in Jamaica. If you’re ever in White Oak, give it a try. Too scared of goat? Go for the curry chicken!

It may not be pretty, but damn, its delicious.

As much as I enjoyed these places, there’s a new kid on the DC block that has been near and dear to my heart for a few months. Jay and I like to think we have always been ahead of certain trends: swirl coupledom; Jay drank rosé years before it was “cool”; A mutual admiration of big butts (which let’s be honest….have always been cool, whether mainstream magazines say so or not). And most recently, a new Laotian restaurant, Thip Khao.

Thip Khao has recently received a lot of well-deserved love and attention. Bon Appétit named it one of the best new restaurants in the country. We first checked it out before it received that honor on New Year’s Eve of 2014. I still remember what we ate – the Naem Khao or crispy rice, the crispy wings, the sundried beef with lemongrass and ginger and the duck laab. Everything was great, but the Naem Khao was a revelation.

Made of crispy rice, coconut, lime, scallion, pickled pork ham, peanut, cilantro, lettuce wraps, it is sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and savory. It is every flavor profile you want in a dish. I honestly crave it regularly. Writing about it right now is killing me. It is my absolute favorite thing to eat in DC right now.

Snakehead filet topped with cashews, mangos, avocado, ginger, lime juice. So good!

Since that first trip, we’ve also tried the crispy pig ear and the crispy snakehead fish with mango, avocado, ginger leaves, spicy fish sauce, garlic and cashews. The snakehead fish was perfectly cooked and the additional ingredients were fresh, bright and flavorful. The reason Thip Khao dishes have such a dynamic flavor is because Chef Seng grows many of the ingredients she uses. You can honestly taste the difference. She’s also incredibly personable and you can tell she absolutely loves what she does. I am so happy for their success and hope they continue to thrive as they approach their second year. And give Chef Seng a follow on instagram, but know that her feed will make you hungry!

So tell me, readers. Been to Thip Khao yet? If not, let’s go! Are there any globally-influenced restaurants that you think are out of this world?? Comment below!