aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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picnic at the presidio
in san francisco

Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

It sounded too good to be true: good food and drinks, stunning views overlookign the Golden Gate Bridge, baby friendly, and completely free.  But, Off the Grid's Picnic at the Presidio in San Francisco met all our expectations and more.  In fact, it was one of the best foodie events we have been to this year.

Off the Grid ups the game for the food truck lover.  They organize and work with hundreds of food trucks and food vendors across San Francisco to organize and coordinate food trucks at different locations.  They've got a brilliant constantly updated map that shows the location of food truck vendors across the city.  And, they run special weekly events throughout the year, including a twilight event at the Presidio and a Friday weekly market at Fort Mason Center.

Dogs at the Picnic at the Presidio Picnic at the Presidio
Picnic at the Presidio
Picnic at the Presidio Picnic at the Presidio

Views of Picnic at the Presidio, including the bar and Bubbly Bar

We headed to Picnic at the Presidio on a glorious Sunday afternoon, sun and warmth replacing San Francisco's usual buffeting wind and fog.  We flung aside our fleeces and meandered through the Presidio's Main Lawn, unsure of which of the thirty vendors we should visit.  People sipped on champagne and mimosas, purchased from the Bubbly Bar, and beer and wine from the main bar in the center of the lawn. 

Amara trying pierogis Amara trying pierogis
Pierogi truck at the Picnic at the Presidio Pierogis at the Old World Food Truck
Creme Brulee cart Creme Brulee Cart
Amara trying creme brulee Patrick and Amara at the Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

Behind me, a group of food lovers debated the respective merits of Napa Valley Merlots and Rieslings, while we tasted and judged our own food.  Funny thing is that we're definitely raising a foodie.  This kid will clamp her lips shut if you try to give her frozen fish nuggets but will happily devour an adult's portion of $12 per pound North Georgia smoked trout.  And, truth be told, most of her food choices are the exact ones that we would have picked.

Her winners at the Picnic at the Presidio were our winners, as well.  Amara was so delighted with Patrick's pierogis from the Old World Food Truck --- creamy, soft, and delicately spiced potato dumplings --- that we barely got bites. She wasn't impressed with my lemongrass tofu on a vermicelli salad from the Little Green Cyclo Vietnamese truck and I agreed that the flavors were bland and uninspired, lacking in punch and spice.  We rounded out our meals with vanilla and nutella and strawberry creme brulees from the Creme Brulee Cart and all of us preferred the cleaner and lighter vanilla option.  The fresh strawberries in the nutella creme brulee muddied the texture and flavor of that creme brulee.

But, honestly, those are just nitpicks.  I would suggest Picnic at the Presidio even if the food wasn't good, and, for the most part, it was good.  It was one of those lovely events --- full of good food, drinks, pups, babes, and happy people in the bright sunshine --- that I wish every city had.

. . . keep reading picnic at the presidio in san francisco after the jump


the atlanta food and wine festival
delicious southern

Peach sliders at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2014

Peach sliders from Revolution Donuts

Recently, I was telling a friend about how I was at Ben & Jerry's on a press trip and heading to the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for media coverage.  They laughed and said that it didn't sound like "work." 

It is work.  It's just that I happen to have a great job.

Every now and again, I pinch myself to make sure that this is real.

Andouille sausage with polenta Crab benedict
Peach and ricotta dumplings
Pancakes Empire breakfast at AF&WF

Empire Breakfast at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

I landed head-first into this whole writing thing, because a passion for food, travel, and writing came together on this personal pet project, and people liked what I had to say.

Passion rules the world, yes?  And, when, we are passionate, we produce great things.  It's the story of humanity. 

And, it's the story I heard over and over again at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

French Broad Chocolates Olive & Sinclair chocolates

                                                                                                                                 French Broad and Olive & Sinclair chocolates

Dan and Jael Rattigan quit law school and business school to hit the road and head to Costa Rica where they started a small chocolate shop and bakery that quickly became popular with the expats.  After a few years, they moved to Asheville, North Carolina to open up the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, one of the best chocolate shops we've ever visited.  At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, they presented a talk on Sipping Chocolates, and we tasted a maple and smoked sea salt Liquid Truffle.  The silky smooth ganache floated on the tongue and the smoked sea salt contrasted beautifully with the velvety sweet maple syrup. 

Olive & Sinclair chocolates

Olive & Sinclair chocolates

Like French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Cacao Atlanta and Olive & Sinclair are bean-to-bar chocolate makers, starting with finding high quality cocoa beans across Central and South America, importing those beans, and producing their own beautiful chocolate.  They are working to change the way we look at chocolate, developing something purer and more complex than the typical Hershey bar.  I took a Raw Chocolate class with Kristen Hard of Cacao Atlanta and we learned how to taste chocolate as the master chocolate makers do; it's an intense process where we compared and contrasted quality, style, flavor, and texture.


. . . keep reading the atlanta food & wine festival 2014 recap after the jump


the surprising morpho butterfly
brown to blue

Morpho caterpillar

Morpho caterpillar

This prickly, brown-hatched worm doesn't look very appealing.  If I saw it on our deck, I'd probably kick it out of the way. 

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Then, this caterpillar turns to this butterfly.  Which also doesn't look very appealing, if you ask me.  It looks almost the same as the common brown moths that we frequently swat away.

Morpho butterfly opening wings

Morpho butterfly opening its wings

And, then it does this.  It opens its wings and reveals itself.

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly with wings open

Morpho butterfly

Morpho butterfly

Which just goes to show that nature is spectacular.  Curious, surprising, and always spectacular.


. . . keep reading the surprising morpho butterfly after the jump


gear and tips for traveling with a baby to costa rica
the nitty gritty

Amara and I at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest

Looking at the chickens at Villa Blanca Cloud Forest

Last week, I told you about why we loved our Costa Rica trip with Amara.  I think it's a perfect first international destination for new parents because:

  • most people speak English
  • food and water are clean and safe for immediate consumption
  • Costa Rican culture is very family-oriented and babies are everywhere
  • most restaurants and hotels offers high chair and portable cribs/pack and plays
  • distances are not too long so it is possible to see a few places without subjecting your baby to very long drives
  • many of the popular attractions are outdoors and relatively low-key, involving hiking, walking, and beaches, all of which are perfect activities with baby

All this being said, we found very few families traveling with babies and toddlers.  Several people stopped us on our flight back home and told us that they remembered us at the hotels because we were the only couple with a baby at two different hotels.  Perhaps because of that, we had a hard time finding detailed information about traveling to Costa Rica with a baby so the information provided below gets into the nitty gritty of travel, in the hopes that it will answer many of the common questions that travelers with babies/toddlers may have.

Amara in Costa Rica

Trying plantains for the first time

What to Pack

Patrick and I did a lousy job packing for our first international trip so this list is based on what we should have packed (and is close to what we ended up packing for our subsequent trip to India) rather than what we actually packed for Costa Rica.  We ended up needing to do laundry every two days because we did such a bad job with our packing!  Anyhow, for a one week trip, assuming that you will do laundry mid-way during the trip, you should pack:

  • at least five pairs of shorts/pants: we found that we had to change her clothes at least once a day because of the high humidity and stickiness
  • at least five shirts/tops/onesies
  • two days worth of diapers and wipes: there is a HUGE Wal-mart right outside of San Jose which is a great place to stock up on diapers and wipes, but it's important to make sure you have enough for the plane and the first day or two
  • food pouches: we find baby food squeezable pouches to be the most convenient for traveling and stocked up on these in the United States before we left; we found jars of baby food in Costa Rica but didn't see the pouches anywhere

. . . keep reading gear and tips for traveling with a baby to costa rica after the jump


January 2014

on traveling to costa rica with a baby
seeing the world through her eyes
January 28, 2014

October 2013

mcdonalds menus round the world (volume 1)
from australia to zambia
October 2, 2013

March 2013

amara's oh the places you'll go! nursery
March 27, 2013

November 2012

on stuff and things
November 27, 2012

December 2011

costa rican cuisine
creating a pais marco
December 22, 2011

hummingbirds flutter
near poas volcano
December 16, 2011

from farm to table: doka estate coffee
December 13, 2011

skirts swirl
at mirador ram luna
December 9, 2011

September 2011

the taste of two years
September 30, 2011

weekly photo: bonaventure cemetery
in savannah
September 16, 2011

unmitigated luxury
at couples san souci
September 13, 2011

biltmore festival of flowers
in asheville
September 2, 2011

August 2011

elizabeth on 37th
upscale in savannah
August 26, 2011

July 2011

fig charleston
new south cuisine
July 1, 2011

April 2011

savannah southern food smackdown
paula v. wilkes
April 27, 2011

mabel francis potter's cupcake emporium
in savannah
April 1, 2011

March 2011

weekly photo: leafy gates
March 11, 2011

February 2011

weekly photo: antico pizza
February 4, 2011

steelers potato skins
February 3, 2011

December 2010

our santa
December 28, 2010

chewy's silver screen soiree
December 6, 2010

May 2010

sweet georgia skies
May 25, 2010

April 2010

April 22, 2010

September 2009

the low-down
a wrap up
September 11, 2009

oven-baked amarillos
September 4, 2009

this is Hawaii
September 02, 2009

August 2009

west maui
the easy way . . . or the hard way
August 27, 2009

the low-down
a wrap up
August 21, 2009

feeling good
August 13, 2009

glowing in luminescence
August 5, 2009

san juan
kite-flying in the old city
August 4, 2009

July 2009

healthy tropical granola
July 21, 2009