WKA Ireland & USA Vacation 2011 :)
dublin-10.jpeg

Three of my all time favourite Dublin pubs: Keoghs on South Anne Street; O'Donoghues on Merrion Row; and McDaids on Harry Street.

My very good friend; Colm ‘Mr Irish BBQ King’ Halloran cooking us (and about 40+ other Irish friends) a wonderful Welcome Home BBQ, the day after we arrived.

This shop used to be my Brother-in-law’s Wine shop a few years back (Claudio’s Wines), he’s since moved the shop to Wicklow, the old space is now housing a really pretty little flower shop.

My beautiful niece Erika 8 + 1/4 (aka the next Irish Annie Leibovitz) adept with a camera bigger than her head...

The one and only all singing, all dancing, cute as a button Miss Esmé Henson - the second daughter of one of my best buddies; Leonie getting her paws into the contents of a box of Ladurée macarons...

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

MINETTA TAVERN

113 MacDougal Street, New York, NY 10021-1201(212) 475-3850

www.minettatavernny.com

THE SPOTTED PIG

314 West 11th St. #1, New York, NY 10014-2369 (212) 620-0393

www.thespottedpig.com

Great spot, very popular so book in advance. Jammed packed with every form of ceramic pig in every variety you can imagine. Fabulous food and wine and very cosy ambiance. Surrounding cobble-stoned Greenwich Village streets are very quaint and cool to walk around at night. Avoid the famed SP burger - nothing to write home about at all. Two of my mates ordered it and thought it was a major let-down - esp. as the burger was bland and over-powered by the robust Roquefort cheese. However the Fried Duck Egg with Bacon and Mustard Greens = a must and was To. Die. For... Nyom, nyom, nyom...

FREDDIE

This little fella was gorgeous, he and his owner sat down at the restaurant outside of which we were having a drink to cool down after a full-on day of retail therapy in the crazy humid NY heat and he stole the attention of almost everyone seated around us. Especially so for the blonde lady seated at the back who fell so totally and utterly head-over-heels in love with him... so much so I think i saw her trying to smuggle him into her LV handbag...

GAETANA'S

143 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014-2837 (212) 673-3913

www.geatanasnyc.com

This little Italian restaurant was right on the corner intersection of the apartment where we were staying in NY, we stopped off here a few times for a drink at the bar or a bite to eat. The bartender was a good bloke.

BUVETTE

42 Grove Street, New York, NY 10014 - 5310 (212) 255-3590

www.ilovebuvette.com/

THE LITTLE OWL

90 Bedford St # 2 New York, NY 10014-3764, (212) 741-4695

www.thelittleowlnyc.com

We had a wonderful lunch here at The Little Owl, one of my faves I think during our NY stay, I did however wonder a few times during the 2 or so+ hours I spent over a lazy lunch here, why on earth there were so many people outside taking photos of the building... I only found out later, that the exterior of the building was used as the location for the apartment in ‘friends’.

VESUVIO BAKERY

160 Prince Street, New York, NY 10079 (212) 925-8248

www.vesuviobakerysoho.com (*Note - it's not closed as possibly mentioned by some)

RISOTTERIA

270 Bleecker St New York, NY 10014 (212) 924-6664

www.risotteria.com

Whenever I’m in NYC I tend to spend most of my time downtown in Greenwich Village, Soho and Tribeca areas, this is a tiny restaurant on one of my favourite streets; Bleeker in GV and they do THE best pizzas on the planet - if you like super thin crust bases - this is the place for you. Their risottos are superb also and the staff really accommodating and friendly.

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WICKFORD, RHODE ISLAND

"Never work with animals or children..." or so they say... and this trip I turned into the 'Anne Geddes' of the animal world and found it virtually impossible not to snap any furry mop-haired delight than I stumbled across... this time it was 'Mozart' who was a puppy/guard-dog at an interiors store in the pretty little town of Wickford (Home to The Witches of Eastwick').

OAK BLUFFS, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASSACHUSSETTS

EDGARTOWN, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASSACHUSSETTS

ASHLEY INN

129 Main Street, Edgartown, MA 02539 (508) 627-9655

www.ashleyinn.net

A gorgeous little guesthouse only minutes walk from the centre of Edgartown.Really pretty rooms, super clean, very quaint and homely.

Fred the owner was a really great guy, incredibly friendly and welcoming. Big thumbs up.

MENEMSHA, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASSACHUSSETTS

PROVINCETOWN (P-TOWN), MASSACHUSSETTS

VORELLI'S

266 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02539 (508) 487-2778

www.vorellisrestaurant.com

The world's best pulled pork sandwich.... The best.... Ever...(and a cool looking packet of chips - v. Americana style)

THE RED INN

15Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657 (508) 487-7334

www.theredinn.com

Had a really superb last night dinner in P-Town dinner at this restaurant (Thanks Lucia @ Penguin NY ;)

A beautiful walk up though the residential end of Commercial Street from our hotel allowed for lots of ogling at super-cute Cape Cod style idyllic houses resulting in a gorgeous end setting, right on the water with stunning ocean views. Fab food, fab location, brilliantly knowledgeable Bostonian waiter (full of invaluable info. for the next leg of our trip) and extensive wine list. Highly recommended.

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSSETTS

Haymarket Market (a tad frenzied but worth a gander around on a Saturday before heading over towards the North End)

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ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

GALLUP, NEW MEXICO

MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH - GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA

The view from our hotel balcony...

ROUTE 66 WEST FROM ARIZONA TO CALIFORNIA VIA NEVADA

Margaritas x many @ a Mexican restaurant in Seligman AR en-route to Vegas *Salud* ;-)

The above are two stills from Cirque du Soleil The Beatles 'Love' – I brought my camera only to find out there was a strict no-photo policy however as I had left my camera on my lap which was facing the stage when I found this out, and I didn't have a flash attached, I thought it couldn't do any harm to take one or two teeny, tiny photos now could it? However after the show feeling mighty smug at my sneaky ways the smile was promptly wiped off my face and I discovered I got bitten on the bum badly as nearly every shot turned out to be of the ceiling...! So the blue one was about the only decent shot - albeit not much is happening in it (!) At least it gives a rough idea of the layout of the stage... and the red one was the second best one...

BTW if you are a Beatles fan, get a copy of the soundtrack to this show, it's fab. I initially laughed it off when they were selling it outside the show as another marketing tool as I have most if not all of the music of the Beatles already but I bought it on my return and it's well worth having in your collection as the songs have been re-mastered and re-mixed and it's a fantastic result.

VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA

BBQ PINK PEPPERCORN CHATEAUBRIAND WITH MINT, HABANERO CHILI, LIME AND PARSLEY GREMOLATA

My husband Mike has made this dish for some years and it's a really easy and quick idea for an afternoon BBQ. I decided to add some of the flavours I had experienced on our hols - such as the habanero chili to give it an extra kick ~ which works beautifully with the lime.

WATERMELON AND STRAWBERRY VODKA FRESH BERRY MOJITOS

WARM WILLIAMS SONOMA CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CAKE WITH HOT CHERRY SAUCE

BLACKBERRY, BOYSENBERRY & ALMOND PRALINE CRUMBLE

I was blown away with the range and quality of berries in the super markets around Venice and at the Farmers Markets I went to in Santa Monica. These berries are from Whole Foods but I also found some amazing yellow raspberries at the market in Santa Monica on the first Saturday we were there and we used them in a Pavlova that night for dinner ~ we had an Santa Monica native friend to dinner so felt it only fitting to inject a bit of 'Aussie' into the evenings dins..

BREAKFAST EGGS WITH TRI-COLOUR POTATOES, SMOKED BACON, JALAPENOS AND CHEDDAR

ROMAINE, BUTTERNUT SQUASH, BEETS & SALTED PEPITA SEED SALAD

BROWN BASMATI & WILD RICE SALAD WITH MINT AND CHICKPEAS

All Images strictly © Katie Quinn Davies

WOWZERS!

What. a. trip... that being said, I'm also just a tad miffed to be back home and back to the reality of the 9 to 5, or in my normal case, 8am to 1am {!} But you get that, all holidays have to come to an end at some point and seriously no complaints as we had one heck of an amazing time. I just wish I could do it all over again *sigh*...

*Disclaimer* be warned you might need to put on the kettle and make a cup of tea for this post, or open a bottle of red, this one's a big one... Also apologies this was such a long time coming and since my last post, unfortunately I had no internet connection in the US other than on my iPad - which is pretty useless for updating a blog! Anyway, I hope you enjoy my little {Ok strike that - very large description} and story of our time away....

We kicked off the five week vacation with eight nights back in my hometown of Dublin, rather unfortunately however I woke up the day after arriving with the Mother of all head colds {a big thank you to the girl on the plane from London to Dublin who sat in front of me, and who shoved back her seat immediately on take off and gloriously sneezed all over me on the 50 minute flight} and as such I very frustratingly spent my third, forth and fifth day in Dublin in bed with a 'poor me' attitude; a box of tissues and a LOT of over-the-counter cold and flu remedies with the intention/hope of beating the bugger out of me. Luckily my cunning plan worked and I was able to enjoy our friend's wedding in the beautiful K Club in Co. Kildare and they, and we had an utter ball.

The rest of our time in Dublin was spent catching up with mates, shopping a bit in Marks & Spencers Food Hall {never tastes as good as you remember}, stocking up on goodies in one of my beloved Irish shops; Avoca and generally enjoying one too many pints of the black stuff in my various favourite pubs in Dublin town. It was great to be home, I hadn't been back properly in almost 4 years and I really enjoyed it, surprisingly too I even managed to get a teeny bit teary-eyed as I sat in Dublin airport en-route to our next destination of ...

NEW YORK

WooHooo! I love, love, love this town. I love the diversity; the craziness; the eclectic mix of people; the' 24/7 anything you want, whenever to want it' vibe; the 'Devil may care' attitude, and Ok I'll be honest I love the shopping {much to my husband's dismay yet to their accountant's glee at; Anthropologie, Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table}. I adore the way no-one gives a fiddlers about you, what you're wearing or how you look as they're all too wrapped up in their own thing to care *take note Sydney*. I love the smell of the city; the 'honk, honk get the **** out of my way' ballsy taxi drivers; the architecture; the restaurants; the bars; the varied choice of music and nightlife and above all; the friendliness of New Yorkers. I love sitting in a bar, on a bar stool and the great and varied conversation you always enjoy with the people sitting next to you and/or the guy behind the bar. In NY and Chicago {and now I can add Boston too} in particular I find, the Irish accent normally helps to get things started on that front...

Whilst we were in the city it was wonderful to meet up with Nicole Franzen whom I met at one of my return-to-each-time-I'm-in-NYC bars in Soho; The Broome Street Bar. There we had a beer or two and after collaborating on my Christmas Magazine posting back last December it was wonderful to finally meet Nicole face-to-face and have a natter about all things photography and other non-foodie/work related stuff.

I also hooked up once or twice with my gorgeous friend Melina Hammer and her equally gorgeous and talented hubby Jim. Melina and I have been buddies since I first got into photography 2 years ago and it's always wonderful to meet her State-side. This time we headed over their way to Brooklyn and we enjoyed a great meal at one of her local hotspots; The Castello Plan where we enjoyed scrumptious tapas-style dishes including their house pickles which have now ignited a ridiculous pickled Okra infatuation in me.

Speaking of all things dinner and food... We had some excellent dining experiences on this trip to NYC, most notably lunch at The Little Owl in Greenwich Village and dinner at The Spotted Pig which is located not too far around the corner in the West Village very near to where we were staying with a friend for the week. In the latter I had an AHMazing starter of a huge Fried Duck Egg with Bacon & Mustard Greens – yum, yum, yum. I could have eaten it all week/month/year. I don't think I'll ever forget it, I can almost taste it now – 4 weeks later. Totally divine and I now am on the hunt for some duck eggs here in Sydney so I can try and re-create it from memory.

We also ate at Babbo after finally securing a table {only took me 6 years!}. A wonderful environment, impeccable service, gorgeous ambiance {great music choice too: Led Zeppelin *kudos Mario*} and overall just excellent food. However I made a slight boo-boo with my choice of entrée; Chianti Stained Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu and whilst very flavoursome, bizarrely I found the appearance of the Chianti-stained pappardelle really quite off-putting as it immediately appeared to me as very raw meat and my stomach pretty much closed up shop for the evening. I think too possibly the aroma of the wild boar didn't help matters greatly either. Luckily my husband, the wonder that he is, will eat anything spelled 'pasta' and generously offered to swap his Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Dried Orange and Wild Fennel Pollen and my tummy was instantly a much happier camper. I would definitely return to Babbo but next time I will take a little more consideration in my choice of mains. Other than that it was a cracking meal my husband Mike in particular adored it and still speaks gushingly of the overall experience at Babbo.

Another dining success we had in New York and yet oddly another Mario Batali related location {and no, he's not paying me commission} whilst he's not still connected to it he was an original chef-partner at this adorable restaurant just off Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village called: . I was initially drawn to when I wandered past the previous late afternoon {totally unaware of the Batali connection} due to it's incredibly romantic feel – really cute, quaint and cosy, candle-lit and intimate. So I was delighted when the Maître d' told me he had a little table available for us. We weren't disappointed and enjoyed a super evening with two friends. Note: the White Bean Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce was heavenly. is located at: 31 Cornelia St., New York, NY 10014 {nr. 4th St}. If you find yourself in the area and fancy a beer before dinner The Four Face Liar one of my top bars/pubs in NYC, is literally around the corner at 165 West 4th Street. The beer flows, the staff are tops and the music just to my liking. It's also a wonderful place to sit outside on a balmy NY evening and have a pint or two with mates and watch all the goings on in the Village.

Pastis was a NY restaurant I'd been intrigued by for a few years, I think mainly it initially caught my attention in a design awards book as at the time a few years ago their logo and brand identity was commended and often featured on design blogs and such. I ate there on the Tuesday night with friends and whilst I can now say I've been to Pastis, I honestly wasn't blown away. In fairness, I was half expecting to be a little nonplussed by the place as a lot of New York friends have mentioned they feel it's past it's hey-day now. Super noisy, quite impersonal, too large and generally not really my cup of tea as I tend to opt for more cosy, mellow and ambient eateries. Although that being said, I liked the food. I had a very lovely and rustic Macaroni Gratin with Bacon, basically your bog-standard Macaroni Cheese but a pretty good one at that. I loved the way it was presented in a small and heavy, cast-iron black Staub frying pan and I accompanied it with crusty bread, arugula (Rocket salad to all non-US readers) salad with lemon and a gutsy French red. All in all a nice enough meal and friendly, helpful waiter albeit not so great to have to yell at your dinner companions all night. Next time I may try out it's sister restaurant Balthazar as our fellow Sydney friends who were in NY at the same time as us spent a night there and seemed to fare a lot better.

Risotteria is a staple visit every time we're in the Big Apple on Bleecker street. It's a small venue, seating capacity is only about 20 so you may have to wait a little while to get a table unless you head there a bit later on like we normally do, but as a thin-crust pizza nut this place is my idea of heaven. The base is so thin it's like a water cracker, actually it's even thinner and super crispy. Their mainstay risottos too are top-notch and all offerings are very reasonably priced with a decent wine and beer menu to accompany. An added bonus for some is pizzas and breads are gluten-free and they offer various vegetarian dishes too.

MARTHA'S VINEYARD, CAPE COD & BOSTON

So after a fun-filled, crazy week in NYC, we packed or bags, picked up a hire car and set off on our road trip north towards Martha's Vineyard.

Ok I'm not going to lie here... the drive from Manhattan to Martha's Vineyard is really, really boring... I think I expected a load of quaint, pretty villages but all we got was a lot of trees on either side of the highway and in fairness what else should you expect when driving on the fastest route from A to B be it in the US or Oz or elsewhere? We did make a quick stop off for lunch in the Rhode Island town of Wickford, which was a must on my list as the town was set as the model for the fictional village of Eastwick in his novel, The Witches of Eastwick – one of my all-time favourite movies.

Another few hours drive, a hop on the car ferry and we'd arrived at Martha's Vineyard which I just loved.

It was pretty much everything I expected and hoped it would be and look like. I pondered within 0.007 seconds of being in Edgartown the practicalities of ditching in my life in Sydney to open up the world's cutest guesthouse 'What Katie ate style' down one of the town's numerous adorable streets... Alas I also considered the realistic headache of running a guesthouse once the novelty wore off after three days and the reality of cleaning guest's toilets kicked in so I decided to hunt out a good place for dinner instead. We settled on Detente and had a really pleasant evening. Our waitress was lovely, food was good, nothing out-of-this-world/write-home-about stuff, but we enjoyed it all the same and enjoyed watching the lighting storm crashing outside from the cosiness of our window table. There's nothing nicer than seeing and hearing crazy rain pouring down when you're all wrapped up snug inside with a bottle of red and the fire blazing.

Two days later and we were driving north to Cape Cod and right up to the tip to Provincetown or 'P-Town' as it's locally known. A funky little town, a tad touristy and 'spring-break' feel for me but our guesthouse The Carriage House was fab, run by a wonderful guy called Angus, who was incredibly welcoming, helpful and friendly. We sauntered along the main strip: Commercial Street and feeling peckish decided upon lunch at a pub-like establishment called Vorelli's and I can now attest there is a God and he lives in Provincetown and works as a chef making THE best, note THE best pulled pork sandwiches on. the. planet. I could have eaten 12 of them, in fact I wish I had as at present I am starving and would kill for one of those sandwiches right now. Due to this find in P-Town there is no doubt there will be a recipe for a pulled pork sandwich in the What Katie ate book, mark my words...

From P-Town we we're headed north again to Boston, a city I had never visited before but was very excited and interested to see esp. what with the whole Irish connection in Boston. I kept expecting Matt Damon or Ben Affleck to walk around the corner and oddly had the closing credits theme tune (Miss Misery by Elliot Smith – RIP Elliot) from Good Will Hunting playing in my head for the entire duration of my stay, but alas no Ben or Matt.. this time.

We stayed downtown at Beacon XV close to Beacon Hill which is a gorgeous area with all it's cobble stone streets and Federal-style row houses *drool* and gas-lit street lamps. We rambled around the area for a few hours before meeting up with old Irish friends for dinner at Terramia in the city's Italian North End. I'm a massive Italian-food fan and found myself craving pasta by the time we got to Boston and this place did not disappoint. I think it was one of my most memorable, fresh, flavoursome and authentic Italian meals had during our five week vacation. I would highly recommend it as a standout from the many other Italian offerings surrounding it in this Boston suburb – in fairness not that I ate at any of them, but I think they'd be hard-pushed to up the standard much more than Terramia.

I do have to admit *cringe* I did indeed go to the exterior of the pub where they filmed Cheers *Shakes head shamefully* and it did look exactly like the screen shots shown on the show which I used to love watching as a kid however sadly on this occasion {as I would imagine happens on the other 364 of the year I am not in Boston} there were 1001 Japanese and German tourists outside snapping away gleefully and not being one to blend into tourist traps much, I decided on this trip a photo of me under the Cheers sign would have to wait for another day...

NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA & UTAH

Fast-forward 2,247 miles + 1 American Airlines flight to Albuquerque NM + another rental car + 1 dodgy Mexican meal and it's 8am on the morning of Monday May 7th and the start of our 355 mile drive North West to Monument Valley in Utah = a place I have always wanted to see with my own two eyes. With a quick stop off at Walgreens to pick up some supplies *** we headed West passing along Central Ave NW passing some great old retro diners and motel signs; lunch at Gallup was very another dodgy Mexican meal (!) {regretfully we really had no luck on that front at all on this trip}; passed through a crazy, full-on sandstorm in the Arizona desert making visibility in the car virtually next to zero *eeek* until finally we started to see rugged rock formations of the Utah desert rise majestically out of the red sand. I never was much of a western movie fan {other than The Searchers and ogling at a young Clint Eastwood never does anyone any harm} but there's always been something about those 3 main 'Buttes' or 'Mittens' at Monument Valley which have mesmerized me. There have been a few places on this earth which have made me a little teary-eyed upon setting first sights on them – one being Sydney Harbour on spying it for the first time on a ferry en-route from Mosman to Circular Quay during my first holiday to Oz in 2002; the second being the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran; seeing the skyline of Chicago at night for the first time in ten years after living there reduced to me to a mini quivering wreck two years ago in a taxi from O'Hare and the sight of Monument Valley did it again. Nothing major in the tears department, but nevertheless, they made an appearance, albeit very brief. Then we walked into our hotel room at The View Hotel and onto the balcony and HOLY COW - what a sight {!!!?!} Breath-taking and stunning, jaw-dropping and wonderous. I could have sat staring at them for hours... and we did.

We booked The View Hotel for 2 nights – in hindsight and as a tip I would say this is one night too long. Whilst MV is a sight to behold and an amazing place to visit, after you've stood in awe looking at the valley {which you can do forever}; driven around the national park somewhat; done a horse-riding or 4WD tour; scooted around the surrounding desert area in the car – there's not really an awful lot else left to do. Chilling out for a day there is awesome, but personally if I was to do it again, I'd not have stayed for the second night. A tip too for anyone who enjoys a beer after a long day's driving – Navajo Nation is dry so there is no bar or anywhere to buy a beer or glass of wine at the View Hotel or anywhere really near it other than a bar 20+ miles away north in the teeny town of Mexican Hat. So if you want to enjoy a glass of vino whilst sitting on the balcony admiring the view, take a bottle with you and a six pack of beer {Thankfully I stopped off at Walgreens*** that morning and thought 'Let's buy a bottle of white in case the bar shuts crazy early at the View Hotel' (!)} My husband is still thanking me for having the foresight to think ahead with that one ;-)

LAS VEGAS

I swore the last time I went to Vegas I'd never go back, it wasn't that I didn't like it, I had fun and took quite a shine to it, but thought; "once is enough/seen that, done that" etc. We ended up back here as it was the best place for us to break the long drive from Monument Valley to L.A. and in saying that, surprisingly I have fallen back in love. We had an utter ball in Vegas this time. I loved it, in fact I don't know how anyone doesn't like Vegas, you've just got to take it for what it is = a big, grown-up's party town, it doesn't take itself seriously and allows you to let your hair down and have fun. It isn't as beautiful as many other cities on this planet but if you want it can be a really relaxing place where you can spoil and pamper yourself rotten.

OK the strip during the day and night is awful: way too many people, way too many tourists; way too many people walking around with fluro green cheap cocktails; way too many women with skirts shorter than belts; way too many guys standing on the streets flicking/clicking those really annoying call girl cards at you but ignore all that and I love the positives it offers: great restaurants – some with impeccable service, great hotel rooms at very reasonable prices for what you get in return, great shopping and an attitude that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want it and no-one cares. Yes, there are many other places on this planet I love more, but I had a blast in Vegas this time and I'll definitely be back. All these positives may be being slightly swayed by the fact I won the jackpot on a slot machine *Wooooohoooooooooo* – obviously totally unexpected but which brought many, many smiles and laughs for the 2 days we were there.

Vegas offered us what was, without a doubt the total highlight of the trip for both my husband and I: The Beatles 'Love' Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage was one, if not the best live shows I have ever seen in my life. I was hoping I'd like it but honestly, it utterly blew me away, I fell in love with it. I am a huge Beatles fan and this show left me slack-jawed, amazed for the full 90 minutes, it made me adore the Beatles even more-so - if possible. The vision of the creatives responsible for the show in every different artistic discipline is breath-taking. The talent of the performers was outstanding and garners enormous respect. I could have stayed in my seat and watched the second 9.30pm show and gone back again the next night and the next. In fact, I will without a doubt return to Vegas purely to see this show. If you are heading to Vegas – whether you're a Beatles fan or not, get tickets for this show, you will not regret it, it's beautiful, tear-jerking and totally mesmerising. Even after the show at dinner, both my husband and I spent many a moment catching each other out staring into space both mentally recollecting various parts of the show in our own heads.

Speaking of dinner, we had a great post show dinner at Il Mulino which is located in Caesar's Palace. Ironically it's a restaurant which started out in Greenwich Village in NYC. The service was first-class, waiters dressed in white bow ties and black tails, gorgeous atmosphere, incredible array of small tasting plates to start – even before we were offered the menus {!}, 27 specials – yes 27! and a very varied and extensive main menu to choose from.

LA, SANTA MONICA & VENICE BEACH

This is the part of the US I really feel most at home in: California. I think it's probably due to my undying love over the past 25 years or so for a lot of rock bands from the West coast of the US. Music makes me really happy and wherever I seem to go in California - in particular L.A. and the immediate surrounds, I always seem to be in a bar or venue where they're playing the music I love. Also I too think living in Australia we share a few similarities in lifestyle and weather, attitudes towards food and such. I decided to rent a house in Venice Beach – almost literally right on the beach for the week we were there and I can tell you the house I picked did not disappoint. It was G.o.r.g.e.o.u.s.

Things were also helped greatly by the fact The Red Hot Chili Peppers decided to become our neighbors {no joke} for 2 of the 7 days were there... ?! I think they were shooting a video or such in the studio next to our house. It was really quite surreal to walk out onto our hall door porch and find Flea – complete with green hair chatting casually on his cell phone on more than one occasion. Our good mates Natalie and Simon from The Sydney Picnic Company – whom I have mentioned many a time before on my blog, joined us for the week in Venice Beach and what great fun all 4 of us had indeed.

On the Saturday night Simon – chef extraordinaire, whipped up an incredible meal of his famed roast chicken risotto - no jokes, gloves off, this is one of the best risottos you'll ever have tasted and fantastically Si has kindly donated me the recipe to be published in my book - stay tuned. We enjoyed a few canapés in the gorgeous back garden first around the fire {weather was pretty average in CA whilst were were there unfortunately} and partied on until the wee hours. we spent most of our last week just chilling and relaxing after what were, four fairly full-on past weeks of traveling around.

We were blessed to have a brilliant and huge Whole Foods Market a few blocks away so we did a fair amount of grocery shopping there and took it in turns to cook up a few meals during the week. The bar on the corner The Venice Ale House was literally a stones throw from our house was a great little spot for late night snacks and cocktails and on our last night we ate at Il Piccolo which was a great little spot with a very romantic and cosy atmosphere and superb menu and again literally located right next to our house so the ramble home was an easy one.

Abbot Kinney is a great area of Venice which was only a 5 minute walk from our place, a cool collection of great restaurants, bars and shops. I found some incredible vintage childrens retro wooden skateboards which now take pride of place in my sittingroom at a shop called Surfing Cowboys - the website of which store I have often perused online from here in Sydney after looking for a retro surfboard for my hubby a few years back. If you're in the Abbot Kinney area and feeling peckish - Gjelina, esp. for good pizza is well worth a visit and being currently being hailed as one of the top 20, one-to-watch restaurants in L.A.

So all in all an incredible five week trip away. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Next time I think our trip to the US will involve a visit to Northern California - Portland, Seattle etc and possibly a trip to Texas, in particular Austin. But until then it's heads down for me for the next few months as I have to focus on my book, juggling work and more blog posts. I am super excited about what is in store over the next 12 months for What Katie ate.

On an end note - I was a tad miffed I didn't have internet access on my laptop whilst in the US to update my blog whilst I was away. On the other hand it was nice to take a little break away to recharge the batteries, however I really wanted to mention on the blog how utterly chuffed and thrilled I was to win not one, but two (!) of the 2011 Saveur Food Blog Award categories for which I was nominated in this year's awards. I was really extra flattered and touched to win the Best Food Photography award and want to say a massive Thank You to all you voted for me. I was really quite astounded when I saw the results (I checked then with one eye open) so it was a fab surprise especially so being included with such a strong bunch of talented competitors and once again, thanks so, so much.

Finally I also wanted to share some extra special news... further to my news a few months back regarding my book signing with Lantern/Penguin Australia ~ whilst I was in the New York I met and signed with Penguin USA and agreed for them to publish my book in the United States (!!!) so all State-side What Katie ate readers rest assured you'll be able to get a copy of the book once it publishes in Australia and the US (+ Canada) in the fall of 2012! *Yay!* I'll also have exciting news soon for all UK and Irish WKA readers. :)

*PHEW* Mammoth post... Time for a little break after I get the recipes from the above pics up and I'll be back with a new foodie/recipe post early next week. Have a great weekend all x

Note – This blog post has taken me a few days to compile due to all the photos and links. I'm uploading it as is now and will post recipes for all dishes featured in the Venice Beach section over the weekend. Also I'll be updating it immediately with active HTML links for all names, places, hotels, shops etc mentioned above in the main body text. Unfortunately I had spent *hours* putting all these in and blogger crashed on me *Arrrgh* meaning I lost them all but would rather get the post up and amend as I go to avoid the same think happening again.