2020 Cayman Cookout at The Ritz Carlton with Fortessa – OOTD’s & Food!

When I was asked to attend the Cayman Cookout with Fortessa, I was in literal shock. What an opportunity of a lifetime. Are they sure they asked the right person? haha. I want to take you on the trip with me, I’ll be sharing Day 1, 2 and 3! I’ll be sharing the events I attended, my outfit of the days and more!


First off if you’ve followed my travels last year you will know that my traveling luck is awful, LOL. The more I travel the more issues I have unfortunately ran into. I was flying out of DC to Charlotte- our flight was delayed around 30 mins which made my connection REALLY tight. So much so that I had to SPRINT to the gate. Hm…hello I just had a baby, when is the last time I ran anywhere? HAHA. Well I made it and I felt like I was going to pass out.

Ritz Carlton: Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands – I’m here!

Got check into the Ritz Carlton – perfection is all I can say. The staff and the room is amazing. This was quite the welcome and I wasn’t mad. Kristen ( @balancingpieces ) and I both got checked into our rooms, took a shower and got ourselves together for dinner at Blue by Eric Ripert. This is the ONLY AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the Caribbean. We had a 7 course dinner that blew my mind. Below is the menu and my photography of it.

Fortessa Tablewear – La Jolla linked HERE (comes in different colors)

“Amanda” Plateware (the circle grooves) I also have these! shop HERE.

Gold Stemware – Shop HERE (I have these!)

“Air” Collection in Glassware – Shop HERE.

Outfit (below):

Blue Dress: Shop HERE. $28.99

White Earrings: Shop HERE. $13.99

Phone Case: Shop HERE. $32

Sandals: Shop HERE. $34.99

Day 2

Woke up bright and early – headed to Kristen’s room to have breakfast with her and I also popped some Moet to start my day! Why not!?!

Star Pj’s (this pink set is sold out but I linked similar) shop HERE

First up: Mexican lunch with Agave. Tequila Ocho and iLegal Mezcal.

“¡Viva Mexico! If you love Mexican cuisine, you’ve found your match at Cayman Cookout. Delight in a lively and sophisticated meal from Chef Xavier Salomon, Executive Chef from Montage Los Cabos, around ancestral culinary traditions. Experience a gastronomical journey through creative, fresh and authentic homage to Mexico’s history. You will also enjoy Ilegal Mezcal and Tequila Ocho cocktails provided by Agave Grill.” Event Line Up


Dress: Shop HERE

Sandals: Shop HERE

Crossbody Summer Bag: Shop HERE

Pearl Hoop Earrings: Pair ONE and Pair TWO

Second up: Rockstars of Beverage

“Picture this: the world’s best bartenders walk onto Seven Mile Beach. Join a lively group of superstars from the beverage-world for a boozy afternoon on the beach, filled with fun banter, cocktails and light bites. Host Lauren Mote, co-proprietor of Bittered Sling and Diageo Global Cocktailian, asks the right questions and gets all the juicy details of a life behind the most famous bars and the world’s best brands. Featuring special guests, Dennis Tamse, Global Relationships Director at the Nolet Distillery (Ketel One vodka); world-renowned mixologist, bar owner and consultant, Julie Reiner; Co-Founder and Head Bartender of Crafthouse Cocktails, Charles Joly; and Kaitlyn Stewart, World Class global winner 2017. Sponsored by Ketel One Vodka, Tanqueray No. TEN and Bittered Sling.” – Event Line Up

Dennis Tamse, Lauren Mote, Julie Reiner, Charles Joly and Kaitlyn Stewart.

(Click their names for their Instagram accounts)

After this event Kristen and I were both swollen from the heat, lol. Truth! We both went to our rooms, grabbed some food and relaxed for a little bit. We then took some photos & headed to LUCA for dinner and it was amazing, highly recommend it!


Shirt: Linked Similar ones HERE ($36)

Skirt: Shop HERE (sold out from the boutique but linked it from another place) here is their others…HERE. $46

Shoes: Shop HERE (white) & grey option HERE. $19

Day 3


White Dress: Shop HERE.

Nude/Gold Flat Sandals: Shop HERE.

Black Shorts: Shop HERE.

Leopard Shirt: Shop HERE.

Silver/Brown Sandals: Shop HERE.

Sunnies: Shop HERE

First up: Andrew Zimmern Explores the Flavors of the Cayman. Presented by Best Dressed Chicken.

“Give a warm Cayman welcome to chef Andrew Zimmern as his culinary voyage around the world brings him back to Cayman Cookout. World-renowned chef, bestselling author and multiple Emmy-winning television personality goes live in Grand Cayman to taste and discuss the bizarre side of international and local flavors with Cayman’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs. Beverage offerings include Santa Margherita wine, signature cocktails featuring Russian Standard Vodka, and Cayman’s very own Cayman Islands brewery beers.” – Event Line Up

This was one of my favorite events they had. Kristen and I walked around and got to taste all the flavors of the Cayman and it was DELICIOUS. I went back to “The best dressed chicken” 4 times, haha. No joke! below are some of the foods and places we got to try.

We then decided to head to the pool for a quick break for some snacks and girl time! We ordered salsa/chips (its my FAV) and some lobster/crab corn dogs. I had the BEST margarita – I swear they always taste better on a beach.

My travel pack from Wander beauty was perfect for this trip. I used the mist to keep my skin hydrated while getting my tan on!

Wander Beauty: Airplane Mode Kit shop HERE

Sunnies: shop HERE

Necklaces: Hearts HERE and Circle pendant HERE.

Next stop: Barefoot BBQ at Royal Palms. Presented by Certified Angus Beef, Moet & Chandon, and Barilla.

“A backyard BBQ adopts new meaning under the stars on Seven Mile Beach where shorts or rolled-up trousers are de rigueur. Dine under the stars as Chefs Eric Ripert, José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern and other local and internationally acclaimed chefs harmonize sizzling grills on the beach with the breaking waves in true barefoot elegance. Hand-crafted cocktails, savory delights and live music, will enchant your way into the evening. Presented by Certified Angus Beef and Chandon California sparkling wines, featuring Beam Global Bourbons, Flor de Caña Rum, Terrazas wines and 1981 Brewing Company.” – Event line up

We literally ate, drank and danced the night away! It was so much fun. The food, as always was delicious. If you’re looking for something to scratch off or add to your bucket list, this is it.

My dress was from the gift shop but I’ve linked similar ones HERE.

Day 4

The Beach Bash presented by Progressive Distributors Ltd. hosted by The TODAY Show’s Al Roker!

“Set sail crossing the turquoise Caribbean Sea to Stingray City, Chef Eric Ripert’s favorite destination to swim, snorkel and revel in a distinctly Caymanian experience. Hosted by the The Today’s Show Al Roker, Rum Point awaits enticing event participants with its shaded shores, colorful picnic tables, and soft-swaying hammocks. This street food extravaganza alongside Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Laetitia Rouabah, to name a few; as well as Beverage artisans Charles Joly and Global Rum Ambassador, Ian Burrell, is presented by Progressive Distributors Ltd. and Moët Ice Impérial featuring Flor de Caña Rum and Cayman Islands Brewery.” Event Line Up

Next up: It’s All About Truffle dinner by Chef Thomas Seifried presented by Sabatino Tartufi and Gourmet Foods International

“Savor the exquisite taste of one of nature’s most delectable delicacies with an evening dedicated to truffles as Executive Chef of Blue By Eric Ripert, Thomas Seifried takes us through a six-course truffle dinner. During this gastronomic event, we will explore and discover the many ways we can associate truffles in our culinary journey. Paired with delectable wines, this is a dinner experience that can’t be missed.” – Event line up

Another beautiful setup by Fortessa.

This is how you do a dinner presentation!

Rosé it Out presented by Moët & Chandon & The Ritz-Carlton CC

“Be amazed as the Harbour Club pool transforms into a sophisticated and whimsical oasis with enchanting pops of pink and blushing shades of Rosé. Follow your heart to our after party featuring a DJ under the stars as you sip on Moët & Chandon and a selection of handcrafted Belvedere vodka cocktails. With glamour and mystique galore, the night is only getting started!” – Event Line Up

Dress shop HERE.

Day 5

Master Bites with Chef Rainer

Chef Rainer Zinngrebe, Vice President and Corporate Chef at Marriott International Luxury Brands, has traveled globally over the past two decades in his capacity of Master Chef. Struck by the similarities of food and eating habits across borders, cultures and cuisines, he decided to share his discoveries in his book Small Bites Big Taste, which contains over 80 recipes of exciting, contemporary dishes that are not only easy to prepare, but also fun to share with family and friends. Chef Rainer will demonstrate a selection of these amazing creations at Cayman Cookout.” – Event Line Up

**This was one of my favorites!!!

After the event we headed to the pool again for lunch and some relaxation before the next event! They had people walking around handing out frozen grapes and push up pops as a light snack and cool bite. I appreciated it!

White Lace Coverup: shop HERE

Black Lace Coverup: shop HERE

Sunnies: shop HERE

Hat (pack of 2 for $14): shop HERE

Next up: Rum and Robusto

“After brunch, discover the pinnacle of the Caribbean with an exhilarating rum tasting. From locally produced to world renowned, indulge your senses as you enjoy cigars from Cayman Cigars Company and coffee with live Son Cubano at the Harbour Club. Sip on cocktails inspired by the island’s vibrant colors and flavors as you toast to the good life in Cayman. Event host and Global Rum ambassador Ian Burrell will be taking you on a tour of some of the best rums in the world, such as Wray & Nephew, Ron Abuelo, Flor De Caña, Diplomatico, Bacardi, Seven Fathoms, Tortuga and Ron Zacapa.” – Event Line Up

Next Up: The Grand Gala presented by Fortessa and Garnier-Thiebaut

“Conclude this lively celebration of food and beverage with an elegant and delightful plated dinner at Blue by Eric Ripert. Join host Andrew Zimmern while Eric Ripert, Dominique Crenn, Daniel Boulud, Pano I. Karatassos, Normand Laprise, Niki Nakayama, Clare Smyth, Thomas Raquel and Thomas Seifried come together to prepare an enchanting dinner that will be the highlight of your Cayman Cookout experience. Course after course, culinary delights will surprise and mesmerize you as they are paired to perfection with wine from world-class producers.” – Event Line Up


Dress: (Medium) Shop HERE

Shoes: Shop HERE.

Earrings: Shop HERE.

Fortessa’s gorgeous setup for dinner:

I hope you enjoyed the recap of our 5 days in paradise with Fortessa at the Cayman Cookout 2020! It’s a bucket list event and highly recommended!

xx, Tonya Michelle

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Our Stay at Innside by Melia for New York Fashion Week!

This post is sponsored by Innside by Melia New York who provided a complimentary hotel stay.

Now that New York Fashion Week has come and gone, I have time to reflect on our incredible hotel stay at the Innside by Melia Hotel, where we stayed for eight days.

From the moment we checked in, we felt right at home. The hotel staff was so accommodating and held our bags for us while they got our room ready as we arrived prior to check-in time

While we waited for our room to be ready, Caroline and I ate an early lunch at the hotel’s restaurant located in the lobby, The Wilson. During our long stay, we ate here many times and I cannot recommend it enough! They have an incredible cocktail list that they were more than happy to make into mocktails for me and a “town by the sea” restaurant style that is fitting for any diet!

Staying away from home for eight days can be hard, but a gorgeous room with city views and comfortable beds made it easy! Caroline and I stayed in the deluxe queen room with two queen beds and felt right at home. The closet space was also spacious enough to fit all of my outfits for Fashion Week plus the clothes and shoes Caroline brought!

I posted this UNREAL photo of morning and nighttime and everyone thought it was a painting but it’s not, it’s the view from the hotel. Gorgeous right?!

I loved the spacious shower as well, it’s hard to find – also included was easy to dispense shower gel, shampoo and conditioner.

The mini fridge and Nespresso machine were perfect for our long stay, and the drinks were complimentary which was great because we drank a lot of bottled water! We also brought leftovers home often and the fridge was large enough to fit whatever we brought home with us.

Another plus was the location of the hotel, located in Chelsea on West 27th Street. We were never more than a few minutes away from all of the meetings we had to get to and right around the corner from the Flatiron Building, which was perfect for photos!

Also, can we talk about the design in the elevators….

When choosing a hotel, one of the most important things to me is a hotel with great customer service and a relaxing ambience. Innside New York by Melia checked all of those boxes. The lobby is comfy and cozy and having a restaurant inside the hotel is a huge plus for me, especially after a long day I usually don’t feel like leaving my hotel to get food, especially in the cold!

The next time you’re visiting New York, I highly recommend staying at Innside by Melia! You can book at their website.

xx, Tonya Michelle

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My Top Travel Necessities!!

I feel like I’ve been traveling non-stop the past year and I wanted to truly share these items that I can’t travel without. I promise it makes traveling easier, more comfortable and keeps you organized!! Whether it’s packing or what to keep in your bag, I got you covered! I like to make sure I’m prepared and organized.

Suitcases: The ONE brand I’ve been using for the past two years NON stop has been Gabbiano Luggage. They have stylish designs for anyone’s taste and also are durable. You can shop their website HERE. (I don’t get commission from you purchasing, I legit believe in their product!)


Packing cubes has changed the game for me! I never used them or truly believed in them until I decided for $25 I would give them a chance. Ive been able to organize my suitcase a lot better, fit more in and they honestly look super cute.

The makeup cases are a must as well. I started using it so much while traveling that now day to day I keep my make up in them! They have different sizes and colors.

I also have tons of clear pouches. I use these for my tote / duffle bag while traveling. One keeps my passport mini wallet, another keeps my hand sanitizer, lipsticks, perfume and etc, another I keep with snacks! It’s an easy way to know where things are quickly.

Travel kits:

These are good for those who don’t feel like picking out item by item and it’s way cheaper as well. These kits are great for traveling or even keeping in your car. Personally I’ve bought these kits for both of my cars and for Carl’s. Never know what you might need and they have came in super handy plenty of times!

Hanging Organizers:

Battery Life: 

My FAVORITE is the My Charge, comes with an iPhone charger and USB, Also you simply plug into the wall to recharge, no USB cord needed. It’s a LITTLE pricey, but I’ll be honest…it’s been a lifesaver and super convenient. Charges my iPhone XMAX twice before needing to be recharged.


A sound machine is a must for me. I can’t sleep with the TV on and I also can’t sleep in silence. This one is light weight & has over 5 settings.

Also – I bring slipper socks or slippers to the hotels because honestly I won’t walk barefoot on anyones floors. Not sure the last time bleach has been there and I’m not taking chances, LOL. Just a tip 😉


These are some of my must haves while traveling, again you can also keep these in a pouch or makeup case in your car. I do both. Somedays you might need to get refreshed while you’re out and about.


The T3 mini straightener and blowdryer is what I travel with. It’s light weight, has great POWER and gets the job done without having to bring your full sized ones!

Also always carry extra bobby-pins and hair ties, these have been my favorites simply because they don’t pull your hair out!

A Good Book:

Personally I love a good book while traveling, these thrillers have kept me turning page by page whether I’m in the airport, stuck somewhere because of a delay or simply on the beach!

Random Must Haves:

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Spring Break Shopping List!

Spring break is just around the corner! It’s never too early to start shopping. Whether you’re going on spring break or just want to get a head start on summer shopping, Caroline and I linked all of our favorite swimsuits, cover ups, shoes, earrings and beach bags we know you will all love!


One Pieces:

Beach Bags:





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Our week-long, dream honeymoon in Aruba at Amsterdam Manor. Part 1!

This post is sponsored by Aruba Tourism. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

From the moment we stepped off the plane, Carl and I knew we landed in paradise. Aruba’s 70 square miles of beach, desert-like landscape and Dutch inspired buildings made this little island the perfect destination for our long awaited honeymoon.

Aruba Tourism set Carl, Caroline, Caroline’s boyfriend Ben, and I up at Amsterdam Manor in Oranjestad. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Dutch Colonial architecture and some rum punches! Like who would say no to Rum Punch?!? Not us! haha After a long day of travel, we immediately felt at home!

First, the staff at Amsterdam Manor were accommdating and lovely to work with. Manager Gerald had so many suggestions on where to eat, what to do and what to see and was so friendly and inviting! We took his advice for one of our last nights there which we will share in post 2!

Once we arrived, Caroline, Ben, Carl and I were taken to our separate rooms. Carl and I got the beautiful honeymoon suite of course and Caroline and Ben got the one bedroom suite. Both rooms were beautiful and featured a kitchenette (which is perfect if you wanted to cook in your room and save some money!) with a pullout sofa and private bedrooms. The honeymoon suite Carl and I stayed in had a large bathroom with a jacuzzi, which Carl couldn’t wait to dive into. I also loved the his and her sinks.

The rooms were spacious and perfect for families. It felt like home away from home. For larger families, there is also a two bedroom option.

Located right across the street from Eagle Beach, aka the best beach on the island according to locals, the location truly cannot be beat. Amsterdam Manor provides all guests with beach towel cards so that you can enjoy fresh towels, beach chairs and a cabana included with your stay.

The beach and lunch bar “Passions” had drinks of all kinds and some amazing lunch options. We had everything from coconut shrimp, fish tacos, even some pizza on the beach. I almost ate the whole pizza myself!

At night, the beach turns into a romantic oasis with linen tablecloths for dinner. You do need a reservation to enjoy the dinner on the beach. Carl and I dived in. We drank the best bottle of Merlot, surf n turf and Carl ordered a pork chop!

Needless to say, we definitely spent most of our time on the beach! I read a book a lot of the time, Carl hid in the shade and caught some zZzZZZzz’s.

We also enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Mango’s located on the resort! They had everything from fresh fruit, juices, an omelet bar and the normal favorite breakfast foods!

The food was delicious and there was something for everyone.

Pssst! On Thursday’s they have Manager’s happy hour which features $1.25 drinks at Mango’s bar! All the Managers come to meet and greet the guests and get to know everyone. There is live entertainment as well. We all got up and danced, even if we weren’t the best at salsa, we made it our own!

All in all, I would recommend Amsterdam Manor in Aruba to anyone coming to experience Aruba for the first or fourth time! We had such an incredible time. I didn’t want to leave, especially cause we came back home to 7 inches of snow. Also, the hospitality is unmatched and you can’t beat the location! Everyone always had a smile on their face, willing to answer any questions you have and also help you plan the most adventurous days.

My second blog post which is coming soon will go into details on all the fun adventures we did and also what to pack! Stay tuned!!

xx, Tonya Michelle

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Explore your own city in 24 hours! DC Style.

Right before Christmas, Caroline and I decided we were both in need of a ‘staycation!’ We decided to head up 495 just about 45 minutes away from my home in Northern Virginia to stay at the Pod Hotel located right in the heart of Chinatown.

We wanted to try something different than the “usual” hotel, and after a few recommendations decided on the Pod Hotel located in Chinatown! The attractive price point of $100 a night for a queen size bedroom made this the most affordable yet luxurious option in the entire city.

The small sized rooms are perfect for those who want to explore the city and are just coming back to get ready for the day and to sleep! Caroline and I each got our own rooms for some extra space and would highly recommend doing so unless you’re traveling with a significant other. 

After settling into our rooms, we headed downstairs to the Crimson Diner where we had some light bites before heading out to eat. Perfect for some photo ops, the décor was amazing as was the food! Caroline and I got some chips and pimento cheese dip, onion rings and I got a breakfast meal as it’s served all day long! I also used my 2-for-1 drink tickets provided upon check-in for us to get a cocktail with our appetizers before heading out for the night.

Following our run around the city, we headed downstairs to Pod’s Whiskey Bar which was not only huge but totally packed with city-goers. It seemed like the go-to spot for many locals and provided a cozy yet fun atmosphere, bumping to Spotify’s Hip-Hop 2000’s playlist which is now Caroline and I’s new work playlist!

The next morning, we used our free coffee and donut “tokens” to each get a caffeinated drink and a donut before heading home.

We had a great time at an awesome hotel and would highly recommend staying here! If you’re local or visiting to New York (Brooklyn, Manhattan) or Washington, D.C. any time soon and are looking to affordable options, definitely check out the Pod Hotel on your next stay!

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48 hours in Chicago!

When my bestie Victoria asked me to go to Chi-town with her for a quick trip, I jumped on it. If you haven’t noticed I try to travel once or twice a month. Not only to experience and make new memories but because I love sharing my favorites places and recommendations! It was a fast turn around but we had a blast, ate some amazing food and took some great photos. So, let’s dive in.

We checked into Loew’s hotel Chicago (the one located 455 N Park Dr, Chicago, IL 60611 ) – it’s affordable and beyond stunning. Between the decor and atmosphere it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite NYC hotels. A place where you can work in the lobby – also grab a bite to eat and a drink.

Soon as we arrived we headed straight into ETA Restaurant + Bar – ordered breakfast, a smoothie and felt recharged. I had my usual, the American breakfast (I ate it all, it was beyond amazing!) V had the avocado toast and chicken sausage! Highly recommend – service was also great. Even being busy they didn’t make you feel like it was a hassle. Much appreciated.

Checked into our room & the view was priceless. V was super excited cause she’s never had a room with a crazy view before. I think since she’s been to NYC afterward that’s now a thing…. a room with a view is a must!!

We got changed, fixed our selves up to be presentable and then headed out to explore. We did a little shopping at Moon Voyage, it’s a local boutique (2010 W Pierce St East) – I got a cute sweater and skirt, V purchased a gold ring with her initials on it “VIE” You can see it here. We explored and found some cool graffiti art – of course had a photoshoot LOL.

We decided to head to the Sky Deck — first off, if you guys don’t know I’m going to tell you: I’m afraid of heights. But I’m so glad I went and did it, def won’t be doing it again but I’m glad, HAHA. I think the scariest part was the elevator ride (60 seconds takes you up 103 stories) YIKES.

We then looked for the best pizza in town!! We landed at Gino’s East. We walked in there around 5:30pm right before the rush. I ordered everything basically, I was starving. We ordered: Pizza Breadsticks, Fries, Chicago Fire Pizza (Hot and spicy patty-style sausage, fire roasted red peppers, red onions) and Spinach Margherita Pizza (Spinach cheese blend, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil) & some beers!

Headed back to the hotel for some drinks at the hotel bar, watched the Steelers lose, got some computer work done and then crashed!

Day 2

Well after not having the best life choices and drinking each a bottle of wine the night before we were so sick we couldn’t eat the breakfast we ordered. LOL Wish I was kidding. We were pretty mad at ourselves.

V headed to her hair class for Bombshell Extensions (the ones I wear and love!) So I ventured out for a little on my own.

I got myself together and headed to meet my friend Roxanne for lunch! Roxanne is known as @glassofglam on Instagram and she moved to Chi-town from D.C. recently.

I was super excited she had time to meet up while I was in town! She recommend Summer House Santa Monica – Honestly she killed it. This place was stunning and the food was delicious to say the least. I just discovered as I’m typing this they have one in Northern Bethesda! Ok, I’m pumped and def diving to Maryland for this.

After, headed back to the hotel and decided to have myself a spa day. I went to the Spa on level 3 — booked myself a 50 minute massage and a 50 minute body wrap. Both were incredible. I fell asleep and twitched like 4 times, haha. Highly recommend their spa if you’re local or staying there.

We met back up after and decided to head to dinner! We used the hotels concierge service (which again, highly recommend). Ended up at Katana, only locations being West Hollywood, Chicago and Dubai! It’s tapas style eating which was perfect for us, we got to try so many different items. Our favorites:

  1. Sunomono – spicy marinated cucumbers
  2. Premium edamame
  3. ishi ebi no tempura (popcorn rock shrimp tempura, miso glaze)
  4. Shishito Japanese peppers (soy garlic sauce, bonito)
  5. SKEWERS wagyu kosho (american wagyu new york, black pepper sauce), Suzuki (chilean seabass) and Ebi bekon (jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon, chili garlic sauce)

We also got sushi but it wasn’t anything mind blowing. We would of gotten more skewers instead! I honestly forgot to take photos of most so bare with me but I would 100% recommend you trying this restaurant. I wish we had one in the D.C. area.

After we walked a few blocks to the Chicago theatre for some photos and shopping. Stopped at a bakery and wasn’t a fan, I sadly didn’t even eat my cupcake and the place smelled weird when we walked in. LOL.

Chicago is so beautiful during christmas – all the lights, decor that the buildings put up is stunning. Even the display windows at Macys.

It was a quick and fun 48 hours – honestly much needed! Hope y’all found some new places to go while in Chi-town or if you’re local to the area. We headed back to D.C. and I’m already ready to go back for more.

A few of my travels favorites and must haves!

The luggage that I’ve been using for over a year now: Gabbiano Luggage 

Comes in a 3 piece set! It’s held up from ALL my travel. No cracks, no broken wheels and etc. I highly recommend them. I also just got their new set is beautiful and made from Aluminum – Linked HERE.

xx, Tonya Michelle

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California Central Coast Wine Tour, Days 3 and 4

If you read the previous blog post on our wine tour of California’s Central Coast with E & J Gallo, you’ve already read about how much fun we’ve had the first two days. We were not prepared for the fun to come and each day seemed to get better and better!

Day 3

On the morning of day three, we woke up bright and early to board the van to head to San Luis Obispo for more wine touring! The morning air was crisp and cool as the fog moved in and we headed out on Highway 1 for an unbelievably scenic route to San Luis Obispo (think Big Little Lies intro!)

For breakfast, we stopped at the famous Big Sur Bakery. One of the foodies in our group has the cookbook from the bakery and has always wanted to visit. Caroline and I got a chai tea latte and some breakfast goodies that were so yummy. The bakery was so cute, and outside was a cactus garden that brought fun, hippie vibes to the cute café.

Along the way, we stopped for some wine photo ops as a group. Who could say no to a morning glass of wine and fresh air?

The California coast was simply breathtaking. Highway 1 was closed for an entire year due to damage from a mudslide and we were so lucky that it had just reopened a month prior to our trip. You can’t beat the incredible scenic views!

We arrived late morning to Stepladder Ranch and Creamery in Cambria for a tour of the creamery and goat farm on our way to San Luis Obispo. Known for their amazing cheeses, the goat farm was founded in 1871 and has been family-owned and operated ever since.

Taylor, our tour guide, taught us all about goats and how the creamery is used to make goats milk which they then turn into cheese. We even got to play with some of the Momma goats and none of us were expecting how much fun goats can be! They are the most affectionate animals and we were all laughing and smiling while they tried to jump all over us.

After showing us the ropes, Taylor had us sample some fresh cheeses. By far, the best cheese I had ever eaten! We sampled all different kinds from cow’s milk cheese that they purchase from a dairy farm down the road and turn it into their own cheeses, and goats milk cheese. I even bought some to take home with me for a late-night snack!

We weren’t the only ones impressed by the cheeses; Curtis Stone gave Stepladder a shout out in a recent article by the Wall Street Journal! “The ingredients I’m most excited about right now are from a little place on the California coast called Stepladder Creamery. They make really interesting, funky cheeses and aged stuff. ” -Curtis Stone

We were so excited to learn that Stepladder Ranch is starting a cheese club, hoping to ship cheeses across the country at some point. We will be their first customers when they do!

After reluctantly leaving the Ranch, we headed a little way down the road to have lunch at Centrally Grown. With beautiful views of the coast, we had a fabulous lunch paired with wines from Talbott & Edna Valley Vineyard, which we were visiting the next day.

Finally, after a long day of traveling, we made it to The Cliffs Hotel and Spa in San Luis Obispo! Located right on the beach, the views of the ocean were amazing, and it was so relaxing to be at the beach after a long day.

We then hurried to happy hour to meet with Edna Valley winemaker, Kamee Knutson, who gave us an overview of the wines we would be enjoying at the vineyard tomorrow. We sampled some incredible rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay as we got to know Kamee. She was so friendly and enthusiastic about winemaking we all got so excited about the following day at her vineyard!

While we sipped and sampled on some of Edna Valley Vineyard’s wines, two members from the San Luis Obispo tourism center came and gave us a brief overview of SLO and the Central Coast. We were so taken aback that one vineyard nearby is 50,000 acres, more than the size of Rhode Island!

After our happy hour, we boarded the van to Grover Beach where we were greeted by a waitress holding a platter of rosé for all of us on the beach. That was quite the greeting!

The beach was set up with a beautiful table and chairs with tiki torches and beach chairs surrounding a bonfire. We were all in heaven.

(Photo above by the amazing Stephanie – her Instagram / photography is HERE)

Our dinner consisted of a Caesar Salad with king crab legs, artichoke, potatoes, and corn in a magnificent seafood bake, unlike anything we had ever experienced before.

After dinner, we gathered around the bonfire with some Edna red wine and made s’mores. Kamee insisted we try a s’more with a Reese’s cup and I will never make a s’more the traditional way ever again! We could not imagine a more perfect evening.

Day 4

The next morning, we had the option to sleep in or go kayaking at Avila Beach. I chose to sleep in, but Caroline made the better decision to go kayaking with some of the group. I was so jealous when she raved all about it, talking about paddling into the morning fog and seeing sea otters and sea lions! Her pictures were amazing, and I highly recommend Avila Beach Watersports to go kayaking along the coastline.

After Caroline rushed home to get changed, we all boarded the van to Edna Valley. One of the most remarkable things about California is how much the weather changes as soon as your only a few minutes away from the coast. The temperature rose 20 degrees! Luckily, we dressed in layers for the entire trip, which I would highly recommend.

At Edna, we were greeted with a glass of rosé, the trend in California I suppose, and did a quick round of the building, taking in the beautiful scenery that looks out onto the San Lucia Highlands and one of the Seven Sisters, seven extinct volcanoes along the Central Coast that helped to shape the incredible landscape!

We then headed inside where we had a Chardonnay tasting where Kamee took us through each of the glasses poured in front of us and even had us try a Chardonnay she had just made that no one had ever tried before! We all had our favorites and were enthralled by each and every Chardonnay Edna had to offer. Before this trip, I was exclusively a red wine kind of girl. Now, I have realized that “there’s a chardonnay for everyone!” as Kamee would say, and I’m certainly a Chardonnay drinker now!

After our tasting, we each picked our favorite glass of Chardonnay and headed to the patio for a cooking demonstration by Kendra Aronson, author of the San Luis Obispo Farmers Market Cookbook! Kendra spoke a little about the SLO farmers market, one of the more famous and well-known farmers’ markets in the country and showed us how to make her famous pistachio pesto with crostini!


The pesto was the best we had all ever had and we paired it with some incredible salmon, also the best we’ve ever had! Everything in California was just so fresh, unlike anything I’ve ever had. Even something as simple as a salad just tasted so much fresher!

After an incredible day at Edna Valley Vineyards, Kendra took us all to the San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market to show us just how amazing it is and introduce us to some of the farmers she mentions in her cookbook, where she got all of the ingredients for our lunch earlier that day!

Needless to say, Kendra was right. Everyone was so friendly and there was something for everyone whether you wanted to stroll and enjoy some live music, check out Bubblegum Alley, or shop for some local produce, no one was disappointed.

Afterward, we had an amazing dinner at Novo, one of the best restaurants in San Luis Obispo. We brought our Edna wines with us and enjoyed ahi tuna nachos, a hummus plate, and bread for the table that were all divine. For dinner, I ordered a ribeye and Caroline ordered a lo mein dish with fresh veggies and chicken.

It was the perfect end to such an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip. We met so many amazing people that we are excited to keep in touch with and follow along with on all of their upcoming adventures. Thank you, E & J Gallo, Louise, Chelsea, and Kela for the trip of a lifetime. We could not be more grateful for such an extraordinary experience!

xx, Tonya Michelle

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California Central Coast Wine Tour, Days 1 and 2

This week, Caroline and I are on an incredible trip wine touring the beautiful central coast of California with E & J Gallo Wines. We’ve recapped our favorite parts of days one and two!

Day 1

After a long flight, we landed in San Jose and drove immediately to the nearest In N Out. Caroline and I had never had it so going with some local Californians were perfect for recommending what to order. Caroline and I got cheeseburgers and “animal style” fries that are topped with cheese and onions, yum! We both agreed In N Out was so worth the hype. P.s., I ate TWO burgers and TWO orders of fries!

We then hopped on the van with the rest of our group and drove down the beautiful California coast of Monterey where we saw whales in the distance. It was absolutely breathtaking.

We arrived at the Cypress Inn, a beautiful hotel in Carmel that is owned by Doris Day. The rustic vibes and the history behind the building we were residing in made us feel more a part of the culture that is Carmel.

After checking in and relaxing in our rooms for a little, we met in the beautiful courtyard at our hotel that doubles as a restaurant where we met with Talbott Winery wine maker, David Coventry. David brought some of Talbott’s finest wines with him and we paired them with Cypress Inn’s cheeses and bread for the table. Caroline is big on Chardonnay and loved the Kali Hart Chardonnay. David also brought a Pinot noir that we both loved.

After a happy hour in Cypress Inn’s courtyard restaurant, we headed down the street to an amazing Italian restaurant, Il Tegamino where we sampled even more of Talbott’s incredible wines. My favorite was their Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay. I am not a Chardonnay drinker, so I was especially surprised at how much I enjoyed this wine. It paired perfectly with the Pescatora pasta I ate which included scallops, prawns, clams, shrimp, and mussels. Caroline also had the Pescatora pasta after David recommended eating seafood when it comes straight from the sea behind us!

At the table, we also enjoyed stuffed meatballs, Octopus, zucchini, and bread with the fried zucchini oil. All were to die for and paired so perfectly with all of the wine David brought. To top off our incredible meal, we had limoncello cake which was divine. The cake was supposed to be for the table but Caroline and I ate it all haha.

After dinner, we walked around Carmel with David who showed us different shops and pointed out places where he had his first job and where he enjoyed spending his time as he grew up in this town. It was an incredible yet exhausting first day and we were so excited to get to bed for the night!

Day 2

Our second day started early. Cypress Inn had a hot breakfast for us waiting that started our day off right as we headed to Big Sur for a hike. We stopped at Bixby Bridge to take some pictures of the bridge in the morning fog.

The views were breathtaking. Mike, our driver, told us that virtually every car commercial ever was filmed on that bridge because of how picturesque and breathtaking the landscape is! After we climbed up some of the peaks to take some incredible pictures and boy was it windy! The wind made the air cool and crisp and we all agreed it was certainly the freshest air we have all ever breathed in.

Afterward, we had another amazing meal at Pacific Ridge. The restaurant has large glass window panes to give you an incredible view of the ocean and the peaks that surround it while you enjoy your meal.

We all ordered a drink to go with lunch, Caroline got a delicious Moscow Mule. At the table, we enjoyed fried artichoke, crab cakes, calamari, and quesadillas. Everything was just so fresh! For our meal, I ordered the daily fresh pasta with seafood and Caroline ordered a cup of clam chowder with fresh clams and a Caesar salad. We were again so impressed by the food and loved everything that we ordered! We all could not stop talking about how fresh everything tasted. Even the quesadilla, one of the simplest foods to make, was extraordinary.

After some downtime, we boarded the van to Talbott Vineyards to meet David again for a tour of the vineyard and dinner. We were completely blown away by the scenery.

The golden hues were apparent and the rolling hills combined with the dirt roads made for the most picturesque setting. David showed us around the vineyard and we were able to sample wines straight from the barrel, an amazing experience that will surely change your outlook on wine forever.

We then headed to the guest house for dinner, where we were met with appetizers and spoke with Timothy Cole, COO of Forno Bravo “the world’s finest pizza ovens” about their brick pizza ovens, which made the most amazing garlic bread by the way. I was so enthralled I immediately called Carl with his information so we could get a pizza oven for our patio! Stay tuned 😉

Inside, chefs from Tarpey’s down the road made us an exquisite dinner, which included beef tenderloin, salad, cole slaw and more garlic bread! Topped with a salsa-like glaze, the beef tenderloin was the best we had ever had. Of course, everything was paired with the most incredible Talbott chardonnays and Pinot noir.

We had such an incredible time day 1 & 2! Stay tuned for a blog post on the last 2 days of our trip!

xx, Tonya Michelle

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MY New Favorite Restaurant in NYC, Park Avenue Summer!

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you’ve seen how much fun Caroline and I had in New York two weeks ago, that we decided to blog all about it in two separate posts. Well, here’s another one on our new favorite restaurant in NYC, Park Avenue Summer!

Park Avenue is an upscale, New American style restaurant that changes with the seasons. Featured during an episode of Gossip Girl back in 2009, Park Avenue NYC is known for its upscale menu items and stunning décor. Every season, Park Avenue changes its name to Park Avenue Summer/Fall/Winter/Spring and with it, their entire menu AND décor to match the season. Caroline’s cousins frequent New York City and raved about Park Avenue NYC, so we had to make a reservation. Somehow, we got lucky and ended up at Park Avenue Summer for lunch during “wine week,” which only happens twice a year during July and September!

From the moment we walked in, Caroline and I were blown away by the summer-inspired décor. We were seated and immediately handed a “wine week” list of wines to try. For only $20, guests can try ten different kinds of wines and when I say try, I really mean a full pour!

Our waiter was so friendly and immediately recommended appetizers to try. He brought us the corn crème brûlée, herbed French fries and a Cured Lemon Caesar Salad to pair with our wine and all were just exceptional. Both Caroline and I had never had crème brûlée before, so we were so excited and blown away by the flavor.

For lunch, we also asked our waiter for recommendations. Caroline knew right away she wanted to try the “free range chicken” with roasted summer squash and grilled lemon, but Vincenzo recommended the crispy chicken sandwich with jalapeño, and bread and butter slaw. Chicken sandwiches and chicken seem like pretty basic menu items, but not at Park Avenue!

Caroline and I immediately agreed—this was the best meal we have ever had. Sometimes, “fancy” restaurants can overdo it on the fanciness, taking away from the flavor of the meal. But Park Avenue Summer was the perfect mix of fancy and tasty and we had empty plates in minutes!

Last but not least, we had to try the dessert at our new favorite restaurant! Vincenzo was adamant about surprising us, and we couldn’t say no. He couldn’t pick just one, so he brought out the chocolate covered strawberry, a strawberry chocolate mousse with pistachio dacquioise and cocoa nib crumb, the mint chocolate sundae featuring chocolate fudge cookies and bourbon chocolate sauce and a coconut ice cream with bits of shaved coconut. Again, the desserts just blew us away! All three were just incredible, we were so grateful Vincenzo decided that we couldn’t have just one dessert, even if our tummies protested from being so full!

With more trips scheduled to New York City in the coming year, we plan to go back to Park Avenue NYC to experience fine dining in every season, and  we can’t wait to share with you our next experience there

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