As mentioned in my post about Miami, a serendipitous run-in with a Nashville friend while there led to one of the most fun New Year’s I’ve ever had! Two of my best friends (that you’ve probably seen mentioned a million times if you read this blog on the regular…) Taryn and Claire, had arrived in Palm Beach and we were trying desperately to figure out what we wanted to do for New Year’s Eve. We decided that Miami would probably be too crazy and Palm Beach would probably be too boring, but the girls weren’t up for driving to Key West. As we sat looking at this gorgeous view, we remained unable to decide: That’s when James and Bobby called us from Key West offering up the following arguments:
The drive to Key West is one of the top 10 most beautiful drives in the world.
Key West is heaven and if you don’t like heaven, you don’t love God.
Needless to say, that’s all the convincing we needed. Within an hour we were packed and headed to get the rental car, which proved to be difficult given the amount of luggage we had all brought on the trip.
This sweet rental car boy gave us a great deal on a car and fudged how much gas was in the tank to our advantage! Score #1 of the trip! Look how giddy this spontaneous adventure was making me – so excited!
In order for him to drive us from the hotel to the rental car offices we had to stuff every last corner of the car… literally.
Claire offered to drive first and we determined that whoever was driving had to wear the appropriate eye wear. We encountered a few minor mishaps on the way down like getting yelled at by 3 different grown men. (Um chivalry is dead in Florida.) It also rained the entire way down which kind of puts a damper on the beautiful views. We also waited in line for 30 minutes (at least) to gas up the car only to realize just as we thought we edged close enough that the pump wouldn’t reach our car.
So annoyed. I JUST WANNA GET TO KEY WEST!
Luckily, we arrived in one piece before dark and lugged every single piece of luggage across the streets of Key West for all to see. #ummmwe’removingin James and Bobby took us on a walking tour of part of Key West, took us to get the most amazing Cuban food (but isn’t all of it?), and stopped at one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen, Casa Marina, to have a cocktail on the beach.
Stunning! Photo courtesy of casamarinaresort.com
The walk to the beach hammocks at night… breathtaking! Photo courtesy of www.casamarinaresort.com
Photo courtesy of www.tripadvisor.com
Paling around with my pals on the hammock.
We decided that our New Year’s Eve primping routine was changing from sparkles and high heels to something much more casual. We didn’t hate it!
Headed to the show!
Key West ended up being the PERFECT way to spend New Year’s Eve this year. Low key and laid back with great friends and great music! Before heading out of town to check into the Breakers we all had brunch at one of Key West’s most infamous breakfast joints, Blue Heaven.
Um yeah. This is tomato and avocado eggs benedict with a key lime hollandaise sauce on top. Whoa. Somehow I dragged a piece of hair through some of the sauce and was smelling it the entire drive back. I didn’t hate it.
We also were visited by one of Key West’s most infamous during breakfast…
These things roam the streets of Key West like stray cats!
Wouldn’t have wanted to spend New Years with anyone else!
The last stop before leaving town was getting a fresh coconut water – if you know me well, you know how much this excited me. One of my favorite things!
Although we were in Key West less than 24 hours (crazy!), it was totally worth the trip! I wouldn’t mind making that a yearly New Years tradition and this time the sun shined on us all the way back to Palm Beach!
What’s the craziest thing y’all have ever done for New Years (or in Key West)?!
For the next few days this blog is going to take you all on a tour of South Florida – Miami, Key West, and West Palm Beach beginning with today’s post about Miami. I feel like I should mention that initially this was an all girl trip to the Breakers in West Palm Beach courtesy of the great people at Garden of Life, but the last few days of 2013 turned into a great adventure with lots of spontaneity, new places, and new and old friends.
One week before I was supposed to leave for Palm Beach I was having dinner with friends and by happenstance one of them, Andrew, was going to be in Miami around the same time I was going to be in Palm Beach. He suggested that I fly in a day early and go to the Dolphins game with him because he was going alone. I immediately jumped on the bandwagon, invited my friend Michelle (Miss Florida USA from my year), and we had the tickets booked within two hours. This didn’t dawn on me until afterwards:
I am happy to report in hindsight that Andrew is one of the most laid back and fun people to travel with! Ever.
Immediately upon landing Michelle scooped me up and we headed to the W South Beach where we primped Miami style (aka tight clothes and false lashes) to head to dinner at Prime 112.
The hotel is gorgeous, but even better than that was that the bathroom had GREAT lighting for pics! ha!
Prime 112 refers to themselves as the first modern boutique steakhouse. Located in the bottom of Miami Beach’s first hotel, Brown’s Hotel, Prime 112 is a cool mix of historic and modern.
Courtesy of mylesrestaurantgroup.com
Apparently everyone in Miami loves the historic and modern because we had a 10:30 reservation and weren’t seated for 2 hours… but we didn’t mind too much because there was champagne… and bacon…
As an avid bacon lover and foodie Andrew was already up on the fact that having bacon instead of popcorn and nuts as a bar snack is the newest and coolest thing popping up at restaurants across the country.
When we were seated, my eye was immediately drawn to the part of the menu that listed the numerous types of butter you can order with your steak including gorgonzola, cabernet goat cheese, truffle, smoked bacon and onion, etc. (I don’t keep to vegan and gluten free when I’m on vacation if you couldn’t tell… 😉 ) I also loved their “accessory” menu:
This must be why they can refer to themselves as a female friendly steakhouse! ;)
Andrew is the best/worst person to have dinner with because he wants to order every single thing on the menu and I feel like we almost did… including escargot which they forced me into trying. Interesting fact: I HATE seafood and for some reason in my head snails go into the seafood category. I was very dramatic about the entire ordeal as shown below:
I actually gagged several times… I think Andrew has a video of that embarrassment somewhere… haha
I’ll be honest, the escargot tasted like butter, which as explained above, I LOVE – but the texture was pretty much exactly what you would imagine. Check another interesting food off the bucket list. I don’t have as many great pics of dinner as I wish I did, but here are a few more pieces of our smorgasbord:
um HELLO look at all that butter!
Wagyu filet and a $25 kobe hot dog… haha
We had big plans to go out that night but by the time we finished dinner it was 2:00 in the morning and we were in an intense food coma. Andrew is also the biggest Dolphins fan in history and this was going to be his first home game so he wanted to be nice and rested for the game. Luckily, we had an authentic Miamian (Is that a word?) and Cuban to introduce us to this the next morning: Behold: Cuban coffee aka the strongest, sweetest, and most addictive coffee you will ever taste. There are two types: cafe con leche (with milk) and cortadito (without). We opted for the cortadito (pictured above) and it is served just like you see – small and with mini cups for sharing because it is THAT strong – but SO good. Michelle and I each had one mini cup and Andrew really went for it drinking the rest and wanting more! We were REALLY ready for the game! (Sidenote: I really really really want to go to actual Cuba.)
This was my first time down on the field at an NFL game and it was so fun to do in Sun Stadium! The fans are crazy and the stadium is beautiful. Andrew and Michelle had an intense rivalry going on since Michelle is born and bred a Jets fan.
Literally the happiest person in the world!
Special shout out to Ashley and Aaron for hooking us up with amazing tickets!
When Michelle and I met at Miss USA it was love at first sight and it was so so so fun to be able to hang with her in her city. I thought I wanted to be Latina before, but after spending some time in Miami with her, it’s overwhelming me! haha
One (of many) things that make Sun Stadium so unique is that they have a nightclub inside the stadium. LIV Nightclub is inside the Fontainebleau Hotel… and inside their football stadium …and it is raging at 1 PM which was so bizarre and funny to me, but it was fun to see!
The view from LIV
DJ booth, duh.
Y’all know how much I love restaurants and food and the first thing I thought of when I knew I was coming to Miami was Cuban food. The only other time I was in the Miami vicinity was when I flew through on my way to Key West and my boss at the time and I scheduled our layover so that we could go to a Cuban restaurant.
Michelle and Aaron suggested Larios On The Beach which is Gloria Estefan’s restaurant and it exceeded every expectation I had. We found out that another friend from Nashville, Bobby, was in Miami, so we invited him to join us. (This detail becomes important later.)
Going to Miami and not getting a mojito just wouldn’t be cool.
Every. single. thing. we ate was my favorite thing. Take me baaaack! While chatting at dinner, Bobby mentioned that he was playing a show in Key West for New Year’s Eve with another friend of mine and invited the girls and I to come down. I was immediately excited about the idea of going to Key West (love it there!), but had my doubts that I would be able to convince my friends to drive 5 hours to get there… (Spoiler alert: we went – stay tuned!)
Ran into this guy leaving the restaurant and felt so guilty! haha
Other honorable mentions from Miami include:
Champagne (or as I like to call it, champs), laughter, and friends on the beach late night. (My new favorite activity!) Loving every bit of the W South Beach
Is that room not gorgeous?!
I could wake up to that view every day!
Cruising all around town and getting to see lots of different neighborhoods in the back of Aaron’s convertible
blurry but awesome views
Andrew losing a bet with Michelle about the game and having to wear her Jets hat Worn out after a great start to my Florida trip with some of the best friends a girl could have! Love y’all so much!
If y’all know me or come here often, then you know what a music lover I am. I think I actually spend hours every day listening to music of all genres. I think I’m going to start posting a playlist a month of some of my favorite songs of the moment. This month there are 13 tracks old and new that I’m loving. You’ll find that my taste is all over the map – let me know if I’ve helped you discover any great new songs and I would love to hear what you’re listening to right now! (You have to have a Spotify account to listen, but signing up is free!)
Yesterday you saw my first couple of days in LA and Manhattan Beach and today I’m taking you along for the rest of the trip!
When I think of LA, often times many of the images in my head are of glamorous Beverly Hills… Rodeo Drive, a few real housewives that this really good friend of mine loves to watch… (Ok fine, it’s me.) So I knew Claire and I just haaaaad to check out Villa Blanca and Beverly Hills. It didn’t disappoint!
Have you ever seen a more elegant dining room?? Lisa Vanderpump knows what’s up. Photo courtesy of sixyfivedesign.com
Sadly, there were no Lisa, Pandora, or Jiggy sightings but we (mostly me – thanks for indulging me Claire!) thoroughly enjoyed our lunch, rosé (we had to!), people watching, and the stupidly attractive staff.
Found in the bathroom at Villa Blanca. I have the same one gifted to me from Kim Greenwood… Lisa gets us.
So so so many beautiful fresh floral arrangements all over Villa Blanca!
Not the cutest photo… but just getting into character with my rosé! haha
More of the bar
The Blanca Chopped Salad
Filet Mignon Sandwich
English Sticky Toffee Pudding… we would have never ordered this but our server insisted that this was the dessert to go with. He didn’t steer us wrong… and as I mentioned earlier, everyone that works there is stupidly attractive.
After lunch we wandered around Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive
Just some of the many beautiful things I added to my wishlist at the Chanel boutique… 😉
The Beverly Wilshire Hotel – made famous in Pretty Woman Soaking up the good life with my bestie! In order to check another place off the list Claire was nice enough to take me to Glow Bio, my nutrition obsession, Kimberly Snyder’s, new place in LA.
Photo courtesy of LA.Eater.com
Acai bowl with raw granola. Insanely good. I’m working on a recipe for this that I will share when I get it right!
This is now on the fridge so that I can make some of these at home in my Vitamix!
Remember the health and beauty shots I mentioned? The little bottle on the left was the inspiration for my recipe!
We also hiked the stunning and strenuous Runyon Canyon which was well worth the burning lungs and sweat! Check out these views! Other honorable mentions from my LA trip are:
The trampoline gym (just found out that Nashville has one of these… get me there ASAP! Great workout and such a blast!)
With my crazy partner’s in crime Ashley, Claire, and Meagan!
Check out this cluster of a video of us all doing a synchronized routine, toe touches, Claire doing a selfie video, flips, etc.
I got to attend my dear friend Brett’s Christmas party while there!
Love this boy! We’ve been friends I moved to Nashville and now he’s making it big as a songwriter in LA. Proud of him!
Getting really into sending Snapchats like this: Discovering Claire’s abundance of sparkly and studded wardrobe items. ABUNDANCE. Singing karaoke at the Belmont
Crooning Remix to Ignition, duh. No telling how many times Claire and I sung this during our many adventures in December! Stay tuned for my tour of South Florida!
…and running into my sweet friend Vince there!!! Going to dinner at Dan Tana’s and getting to meet some of Claire’s best friends from UNLV, sweet precious brothers, Jimmy and Eddie.
Getting fro-yo at this place and noticing their VERY sexy logo! Only in LA!I had such a wonderful time in LA and hope to be back to visit soon! What are some of your favorite LA spots?
You may remember my trip last month to Las Vegas. Since I was already out West, I decided to extend my trip to visit my best friend, Claire, in LA. I hadn’t really spent any time in LA as an adult and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by my experience there.
The weather is beautiful (duh) and there are so many great people and so many fun things to do. Since LA is so spread out and doesn’t have any skyscrapers outside of downtown (where I’m told that no one hangs out) it almost feels like more of a small town than a giant city. I sent Claire a to-do list of everything I wanted to do in LA and being the excellent tour guide she is, she made it all happen except a couple which is just incentive to come back for another visit! My to do list included:
Eating at Villa Blanca
Hiking Runyon Canyon
Eating at Cafe Grattitude
Going to GlowBio
Going to a Richard Simmons workout class
Having a cocktail at Chateau Marmot
Going to Manhattan Beach for a night
We managed to accomplish all of those things except numbers 5 and 6 in addition to fitting in tons more!
The night I got to town, the first order of business was going to Cafe Gratitude with some of my favorite people, Claire, Ashley, and Brett. I don’t know if I was so worn out from Vegas, or just so excited to be there that it didn’t even cross my mind to document the experience. That being said, I wouldn’t even mention it if it hadn’t been one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to. Cafe Gratitude is a gourmet organic vegan restaurant, and it is truly gourmet. Even meat lovers will be astounded with the fare. Definitely definitely check it out if you’re in LA.
Not to worry (insert sarcasm), that wasn’t the only vegan restaurant we went to. The next day my fellow health and nutrition lover, Ashley suggested another restaurant called Sun Cafe which specializes in organic vegan cuisine with lots of raw food options as well. We decided to order several things and share them.
People. These are vegan (half) raw nachos aka my heaven! You can get them totally raw which just means that they don’t serve them with tortilla chips, but thinly sliced pieces of jicama which is a crisp and refreshing vegetable that doesn’t have a strong flavor. We went for half and half and it was so good! The cheese is made from cashews and other than that, most of the ingredients are what you would find on your typical plate of nachos – salsa, guacamole, jalepenos, etc.
Gluten free vegan mac and cheese made from quinoa noodles and cashew cheese. We died over this too. Incredible!
Raw Vegan Pesto Pizza – a food is considered raw when it has not been heated to a temperature of over 116 degrees-ish. This is because a food maintains it’s enzymes if it remains below this temperature. This crust was probably made in a dehydrator, and although, to be honest, it tasted nothing like pizza, it was still really really good.
We also shared a piece of raw pumpkin pie. It was gone before I could take a picture. 😉 I highly recommend Sun Cafe to anyone living in or visiting Los Angeles!
That afternoon Claire, Meagan, and I packed up and headed to Manhattan Beach for the night. Our friends Nick (you may remember my first meeting with him here haha) and Dick (yes they are really besties/roommates with rhyming names) had invited us up to explore the quaint town of Manhattan Beach. It was an unusually cold night for California and we found ourselves all huddling around the fireplace for warmth which somehow resulted in an epic photoshoot.
It started with just Claire and I (not even posing… 😉 )
Then Meagan joined in the fun making many jokes/complaints that you couldn’t even see her… haha not true, I would recognize that glowing beauty anywhere! Not to be left out, we soon figured out a self timer and included the boys and Santa Claus. No joke, I probably sorted through about 80 photos of us in front of the fireplace and these were the winners! haha Sidenote: Is that not one of the coolest fireplaces you’ve ever seen?
Then, after several games of heads up, we headed to a Christmas party. The cab ride was probably the most fun with Dick entertaining us with many obscure stories and songs (many of which got captured and are currently on my Instagram page @brennamader). Then we got tired. After sleeping in the next morning we had coffee on a terrible patio with a terrible view (yeah that’s the ocean you can see) before heading to brunch at MB Post – A Social House.
M.B. Post has everything I love in a restaurant: great atmosphere, killer food, famous chef (David LeFevre), and awesome cocktails.
Courtesy of LA.Eater.com
We started with a cocktail (pictured is the “Old George.”) Not only was it tasty, but it gets bonus points for being so beautiful! Check out their most recent brunch menu here.
In typical form, we decided to order tons of food and share starting with David LeFevre’s famous bacon cheddar biscuits with maple butter. (These are not gluten free, raw, or vegan but are totally worth it! ;)) You can make your own at home with this recipe – they are famous for a reason!) Mmmmmmmmm! We also indulged with french toast, eggs benedict, fried chicken, and a caramel roll that tasted oddly similar to the ones my mom makes. We decided to throw a salad in there for good measure too. #healthy
We decided to walk off our food coma on the boardwalk where we encountered lots of friendly locals, gorgeous architecture, a live jazz band, and gorgeous beaches and sand.
A gorgeous pic from the official website of Manhattan Beach
I managed to fit all of this into only 2.5 days – stay tuned for more Wanderlusting around LA and Beverly Hills tomorrow!