Thursday, December 18, 2008

Style: Learning to Cut Loose

When I first moved away from Chicago, I was terribly homesick. I missed the over-abundance of unique shopping opportunities, the boutique on every corner, and the independent clothiers, all within walking distance from my home and from each other. After countless hours of researching neighborhoods and local shopping on the web, I would grudgingly get in my car and drive and drive (and drive some more) until I found a place here or there, tucked away in some remote corner of some distant neighborhood.

Now that I'm settled, I realize my initial response was, perhaps, a tad on the dramatic side. Sure, I still need to drive everywhere, but San Diego offers quite a few independently spirited store options. And, once you find one that you like, another isn't far behind.

During one of my little adventures, I discovered the perfect shopping stretch in Solana Beach, located in the heart of North San Diego County. Not only did this quarter of a mile stretch offer store after store of one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities, for the first time in a long time, I was more relaxed and a bit more myself. Here, I found stores where I could buy unique clothes, housewares, and gifts that wouldn't break the bank and I could meander and browse in a way that I hadn't experienced in a long time. Nowhere did I frequent more often than in a little, comfortable find, Cut Loose.

Cut Loose, founded in San Francisco, offers clothes made of natural and garment dyed fibers. As their motto states, clothing for the real world—they're comfortable pieces for real women. It's the type of store that your mom, your daughter, and you could all, collectively, enjoy. Each of you may be drawn to different items, but all would leave with a purchase in hand. Their colors and collections change with each season, but their quality and comfort never alter. And, most importantly, you don't have to live in San Diego or San Francisco to buy a Cut Loose design—their line is sold in boutiques across the country.

It may seem shallow, but, for me to feel at home in California, I needed to discover good neighborhoods, exceptional shopping, and beautifully made clothes. Stumbling on Solana Beach provided me with the first opportunity to unwind, enjoy, and truly cut loose. Details:

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Obsession: Cheap Wine Recommendations Easy to Swallow

Fighting my way through the holiday shopping crowds last week, I caught the tail-end of NPR's Fresh Air in between stops. Wall Street Journal's famed wine columnists and most-charming married duo, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, offered wine recommendations for gifts (and for supping) that are under $10. It was just the counsel I needed to leave the rabble and tension behind.

Favorites include Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Chili, Torrontés and Malbec from Argentina, or the bubbly Cava from Spain. Details: or stream their delightful conversation at

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Adventure Las Vegas: Bouchon, A Food Lover's Home Amid the Neon Lights

I love to explore and travel—it is one of the reasons my sister and I embarked on this website journey in the first place. There are many places that I want to see before I die and Las Vegas is not one of them. For starters, I hate crowds—the idea of hoards of people crammed into a small space does not appeal to me. I am also not a fan of tourist traps or any travel option that bills itself as a Disneyland-esque experience. That being said, you may find it odd that several weeks ago, I decided to venture to Vegas with my husband for the weekend. He has been there on several occasions and has tried to convince me that I would be amazed at the Vegas food scene. Being a skeptic and a foodie, I usually raise my eyebrows when the subject comes up. However, over the past several years, I have read many-an-article on the evolving food scene in Las Vegas. You can barely pick up a magazine or newspaper without reading about the famed chefs who have invaded the desert—turning a once over-the-top cheesy, buffetland into a foodie’s paradise. So we went for the weekend to relax, drink lots of wine, and eat our way through sin city.

There are hundreds of restaurants to go to in Las Vegas, but this article is about one—one that ranks supreme on food quality, atmosphere, and service—Bouchon. Dining at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon will make you forget that the congested streets, neon lights, and ringing slot machines lurk beyond its doors. From the moment you step into the restaurant, you feel like you are in an authentic Parisian bistro—leather booth-lined walls, warm lighting, and a bustling atmosphere that would make any Francophile proud. Since we had not made our way out of Chicago (alone) since our son was born, we wanted to share a really great bottle of red wine to compliment our dinner. The house sommelier, Paul Peterson, offered many different options and varieties. He also recommended his favorite entrées to pair with the wine we chose. I have worked in many restaurants and have dined out enough to be able to say that this sommelier really knew his stuff. Everything he suggested was perfect—he even brought a glass of white wine to go with our oysters while our bottle decanted.

The meal that followed went like this: Delectable beet salad with horseradish vinaigrette, classic frisee with lardons and a perfectly poached egg, flawlessly executed juicy roast chicken with a beautifully crispy skin, and mind-blowing braised pork shoulder with root vegetables that left me wanting to lick the plate. Every morsel of our dinner was tastier and more mouth-watering than the bite before. We finished our meal with a crème brulee that was the best I have ever had in my life—creamy on the inside with a perfectly hard, caramelized shell on top.

As we sat at our table savoring our last drops of Chateauneuf du Pape, obsessing about our amazing meal, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I would return to Vegas every year just to immerse myself in the delectable food world of Thomas Keller. Through Bouchon, I now have a new affection for Las Vegas. As Keller’s website describes, Bouchon is “a casual place, a social place, a place where people come to relax and eat. A kind of home.”

Obsession: Websites We Love for Awesome Gifts

If you are like us, the holidays seem to sneak up faster and faster each year. We thought we would share some of our favorite websites for gifts that are easy, fun, and interesting. Happy Holidays!

Zingerman's: Buy a cheese club, yummy baked goods, or house-made bread. Now you can even overnight Reubens for four. Now who wouldn't want that? Details:

Boccalone: Purchase homemade salami, pancetta, mustards, and peppers. It's all about the pig, baby. Details:

Robert Sinskey: Buy a bottle, a wine club, or a cookbook from part-owner and cook, Maria Helm Sinskey. Details:

1730 Outlet Company:
Find great candles, housewares, and kitchen gifts at bargain basement prices. Details:

Pewabic Pottery: From this Detroit institution, purchase a great tile, vessel, or a one-of-a-kind holiday ornament. Details:

T-Shirt Deli: Looking for the perfect tee for your mom, husband, or new babe? Make it yourself at the T-Shirt Deli. Details:

jl925: Jessica Lee, jewelery designer, uses recyclable items to create unique bracelets, necklaces, and, our personal favorite (hint, hint), rings. Details:

Yard Dog: Specializing in folk and outsider-art, Yard Dog provides a variety of pieces for any size budget! Details:

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Adventure LA: The Oinkster Makes Piggies of Us All

Originally, the purpose of our Adventure food reviews was to showcase restaurants that satisfied the adult palate, but didn’t reject the company of our children. However, being a self-confessed junk food junkie of the regional-sort, I’m always on the lookout for a city’s local culinary speciality. Although not our original intent, cheap, regional cuisine often reigns supreme when trying to please the whole family.

This being said, Los Angeles offers the first entry of this sort—the hometown pastrami sandwich. And, quite frankly, it’s not just any pastrami sandwich—it’s a fantasy-feast. It’s the type of meal that you dream about for weeks after you leave and it actually makes you wonder if you should, in fact, buy real estate in the area.

As chef André Guerrero’s motto promises, The Oinkster offers “slow fast food.” This is a sandwich that comes out almost as quickly as you order it, but is made with oh-so-much love. The Oinkster pastrami delivers two-week cured meat, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and red cabbage slaw on a succulently butter-laden roll. Accompany that bad boy with crispy Belgian fries and one of the many homemade sauces, including chipotle ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, and ancho-lime mayo! The slow roasted and smoked BBQ Pulled Pork slathered in North Carolina BBQ sauce isn’t a bad bet either.

Located in LA’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, The Oinkster is housed in a wonderfully kitschy 50s A-frame. Inside, the diner offers comfy red naugahyde booths and, outside, sit amongst the hipsters in their horsetail-adorned patio. While your kids suck down their Oinksterade, a house-concocted orange lemonade, you can sip on a pitcher of cold, draught beer. And, if you want to soak up the atmosphere a little longer, top your meal off with a slice of homemade banana cream pie or a PB&J cupcake for dessert. Details: 2005 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angles, CA, 323.255.oink,

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Obsession: Stocking Stuffer Bliss

When I moved from Chicago, the holidays were drawing near. Since everything was new to me, I didn't yet have the luxury of buying interesting and affordable gifts from my local retailers. Well, thank goodness for online shopping—it not only rescued my loved ones from a very boring holiday season, it opened my world to accessible, independent, DIY entrepreneurs.

The greatest cyber-place to play is ETSY. Almost everything ETSY offers is affordable because you work directly with the artisan. You can buy fun jewelry (, "ties that don't suck" (, or the dictators of the world moustache collection ( No matter your recipient's taste or the size of your wallet, at ETSY, it's easy to find a fun and fabulous gift! Details:

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Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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