I don't think I'm a music snob. I love music, I guess I've got my tastes, but I don't think it's about standing on pretense; I think it's about enjoying, sharing, and relating. Hell, I've been sharing playlists with you guys for ages. They're some of my favorite posts to do. But I think we can all agree that cherry-picking singles and compiling them is a totally different experience than listening to an album from the first track to last, the way the artist intended it to be heard.  

That's why I like vinyl. Not because it's particularly hip or anything, but because it forces you to pay attention to the album as a whole. It has warmth, a richer tone - and I love that snap and crackle. Am I exclusively a vinyl listener? No. I'm not here to wax and wane about its superiority. I don't think it's superior, I just think it has its place. I have a record player in my office perched right near my SONOS speaker, and I use them both - but would I listen to Justin Timberlake on a turntable? Probably not. 

On the flip side, there are certain albums I just love more on vinyl. Most of them are knotted up in memories of my beloved Salty Dog, a favorite college bar in Gainesville, Florida, where fraternity guys battled it out nightly for gold-glove juke-boxing rights. The standing king was always the man with the least-contestable music taste. He was usually proudly blasting chest-beaters from The Band, Warren Zevon and Motown, or hosting massive drunk sing-alongs to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" like we were Goose and Maverick in Top Gun. Those songs just sounded better out of a jukebox. Maybe that's why hearing them now with sparkling clean audio on Spotify just doesn't feel right. Maybe that's why I think some tunes deserve a gold ole' fashioned turntable. Here are some favorites from my collection:

The Staple Singers are intricately woven into the fabric of music history, but for one reason or the other, they never quite reached the iconic status that so many of their peers from the same era enjoy. Not like you'd have to dig too deep to encounter them, though - they're forever tied to a few of the most important acts in rock history, namely The Band, who they collaborated with in 1976 for "The Last Waltz," which just about everybody has heard. The Staple Singers - Pops, Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne, and Mavis - crooned right along with Levon Helm and his ilk on The Band's most ubiquitous song, "The Weight." 

Tell It Like It Is debuted in their infancy as a group, about five years prior, and is loaded with classics ("What the World Needs Now", "Place in the Sun") that beg for the crackle of a record player. If you're interested, in 2010, Mavis Staples released an indelible solo album, (produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy) You Are Not Alone. Named for the eponymous lead track, it is one of the most haunting, perfect gospel records I've ever listened to. 

You're probably thinking about the bar scene in Top Gun right now or that sexy part in Ghost where Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore make a pottery wheel look downright filthy. The Righteous Brothers are the quintessential soundtrack for some lovin' feelings, no doubt. But they also go nice with a glass of wine and a deadline; this is one of my favorite albums to play in the office. 

My Uncle is a somewhat serious guitar collector, so much so that in his last house there was an entire room dedicated to his instruments. It also housed his and my Aunt's vinyl collection, and one day she and I sat down on the floor by the record player and started going through their albums. She told me stories about the sentimental value of many of them, often the soundtrack to their romance when they were teenagers, stories I love hearing. She told me to mark the records I most wanted for my own so when it came time to inherit them, she knew which were most important to me. I thought it was morbid, but she's nothing if not a planner, so I did it. Christmas before last, I unwrapped a stack of albums I'd picked out that day, about four of them, that she was willing to let go. I was so stoked that this album was in the mix. I think about them every time I listen to it.

I don't know what it is, but I love Dire Straits. Maybe I fell for them back when I was obsessed with the movie Empire Records in high school, which features the band's song "Romeo and Juliet" on its soundtrack. But more than anything, the band makes me think of living in Palm Beach in my mid-20's, buzzing down on A1A with the windows down. Most of my car listening I did via iPhone connection, but I kept one CD in the changer - Brothers in Arms. Don't ask me why. blasted it. I just loved it. I must have listened to it a hundred times, and I'm still not sick of it. There's a reason it went platinum nine times. The year I was born, it won two Grammys, which is kind of cool. 

Anyway, after plundering the Sid Mashburn warehouse sale a few weeks back, I didn't leave with too much - but one thing I immediately zeroed in on was a milk crate full of Sid and Ann's old records marked "$1." Brothers in Arms came home with me on vinyl, but I didn't retire the CD. It was one of the first records to be aimed at the digital recording market back in the day, and it was abridged on its vinyl release, so I suppose if you want to get real nerdy, this is one to own on compact disc. When you think about it, that makes it a pretty significant album on every level. One of the best-selling the world has ever seen, yup, but also a mark of its era. I guess I shouldn't fail to mention this is the album with "Money for Nothing" on it, which was one of the most heavily-played music videos to air on a then-new network called MTV. You know, back when the "M" in MTV stood for "music."

I know considering my age that I should probably cast my vote for Garden State, but come on. I mean, is there a better movie soundtrack out there than The Big Chill? I'm really not sure. The movie itself, which is on Netflix if you're interested, is about a bunch of people my parent's age when they were about my age, which makes it a strange watch now. If it is at all an honest portrayal - a time capsule of the baby boomer generation just around 30 - then I do believe all the narcissistic and self-involved labels they love to slap on the heads of people my age perhaps isn't an isolated manifestation of Millenial culture, but instead a symptom of something no generation will cure: a disease called "being thirtysomething." The movie takes place in a grand vacation home in South Carolina, and the wardrobe is pretty rad, which makes it a good visual too. 

But whatever. You don't need to know or care a lick about The Big Chill to love its soundtrack, which zigs and zags through genres from the late 60's and early 70's via bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Marvin Gaye, and Percy Sledge. Oh, and you better believe "The Weight" is on there.



So it's the end of July which naturally means it's time to start thinking fall. Makes total sense, right? I mean, I love thinking about sweaters in the dead heat of summer, don't y'all? But here's the thing: if you don't start shopping now, by the time it actually gets cold, none of the good stuff will be left. So here's what I've got my eye on.



1. The long white shirt
White shirts as a wardrobe investment? What an original thought! I knowww, but bear with me. This is a fresh take on the ten you've already got in your closet, I promise. It's longer, leaner and meaner, with high slits and crisp cuffs. And just like your other white shirts, it still goes with everything. I really like it under a sweater that's a little cropped. Yes, maybe that idea is little 90's Cher Horowitz, but layered up with a smart peacoat and some sneakers, you've got yourself a look that's very today.




2. The dub monk
If you've walked into Sid Mashburn or SuitSupply (or anywhere the #menswear crowd flocks) in the past three years, you're perfectly aware of what a double monk strap loafer is because every dude on the sales floor is rocking a pair with short pants and probably glasses looking all kinds of damn-why-doesn't-my-boyfriend-dress-like -that. I think it's high time we girls stole the look, don't you? Apparently, Billy Reid agrees with me, because he made a sleek, narrower monk strap shoe with a delicate strap just for the dames. I think Photographer Caroline Allison looks real cool in this pair with a leather jacket.




3. Denim, denim, denim
It seems radical now, but I remember a stretch where the idea of wearing a pair of blue jeans seemed relentlessly uncool. Around 2006, we collectively burned out on glittered A-Pocket Sevens and gaudily stitched True Religion flares and retreated from "good" (read: expensive) denim for several years. But it's back with a vengeance, baby, ne'er a rhinestone in sight. Canadian tux? Suit me up. Jean jacket? Find me at the GAP. And now, because the fashion gods are benevolent and cyclical, we have been again gifted with the denim skirt. But our old friend is different this time around. Most notably, she's more grown up, having realized with age and experience comes grace and dignity. Forgive her for the days you could find her at Abercrombie, back when she could barely manage to cover your derriere. She knows she has sinned, and in repentance has dropped her hemline to a respectable un-tarty length that pairs perfectly with a pointy-toe heel. Thanks, girl. Welcome back.




4. The leather jacket
Some time ago I walked into a bar wearing a black Billy Reid leather jacket with a big gray cashmere scarf stuffed into the top - I thought I looked real cool, and I met a guy that night that stuck around for awhile, so I thought he probably thought I looked cool too. He told me later "that thing was one zipper short of Thriller." Womp womp! The guy I dated after hated that jacket too, come to think of it. So the lesson here is don't expect to impress your boyfriend with this particular item on the list. But who cares? We gals dress for each other (and the gays) anyway, and I stand by the fact that nothing can give you a swag boost, should you need one, like a good moto jacket. The other lesson here is probably don't date a-holes who pick apart your wardrobe, but one thing at a time.





We first talked about form•function•form a few months back when Mr. Shawn Reed gave me a watch band primer. If you need your memory jogged, Shawn makes things out of leather. Horween leather, to be precise; the tannery in Chicago that's been producing some of the finest stuff out there since 1905. Shawn makes bracelets, bands, wallets, and other handy stuff. When I was in Winter Park, Florida last month I visited his studio to get a peek at his process.


Supplies, product and other necessities are all given neatly-labeled homes.

After you pass through the unmarked, heavy green door, the warm smell of leather greets you right away. The space, incredibly utilitarian, is stylish and masculine - shelves are piled with a rainbow of material from floor to ceiling. Bright parachute cord, watch faces and space pens are displayed in stacks of labeled shelving that would make any gear head drool. Strewn about are scraps of leather and products half-conceieved, everything rooted by the pièce de résistance; Shawn's new laser cutter. The behemoth of a machine, perched prominently against the entry-facing wall, has eased the tedium of his process, opening up an entirely new dominion of product possibility. Its his dream machine, so to speak - meaning whatever he dreams up, the machine can churn out.



A wallet prototype being played around with during our visit.

On this particular day, Shawn was working on the design of a new notebook/wallet hybrid that housed a pad to scribble on, essential plastic, and a cooly-appointed space pen. "The process for a new piece usually starts as I’m looking at something, and wondering how I use it, or whether there is a situation where I might want to use it a different way than usual;" he says. "Whether that’s a wallet, a notebook, a pen, whatever…so I’ll start kicking ideas around in my head."  

Not one to force it, he continues "It’s been better, for me, to get an initial idea down as a quick rough sketch or just a verbal description in my phone, and then come back to it every once in a while with new eyes and hopefully get some new connections."  





Shawn fleshes out most of his designs in autocad.

Once he's relatively comfortable with early sketches, he moves to the computer, working in autocad to arrive at a precise rendering of the product. "I actually learned how to use autocad in high school, and worked with it regularly in my early years out of college as a landscape architect and town planner—autocad is absolutely crucial to how I think about things for design; partly because it works so well, and partly because I’m just so used to it. Just as in the initial sketch and idea phase, I’ll also walk away from this phase of the design several times to come back to it with new eyes—sometimes I’ll see a cleaner way to achieve what I want, or realize that something just isn’t going to work at all."

Once he's hit on something he likes, Shawn moves out of autocad and into initial prototypes. In the past, that meant printing the cad on paper, sticking paper to leather with tape or tacks, and hand-cutting the design out with an exacto blade. Thanks to the laser cutter, now he can just zap the design from one machine to another, automatically directing the laser to cut the prototype directly from the cad drawing on his desktop. "It’s really a remarkable thing, and is well worth the money - not just for the laser itself, but for the electrical upgrades necessary to run it in our studio" he says.


Used in every product, the studio houses stacks of Horween leather bolts.

At the moment, form•function•form has about six products that are in various stages of prototyping; "Most are relatively close to complete, and are being carried around in a couple different friends’ pockets for final testing" Shawn says. "This last phase gives us a good idea how things will wear; does the leather want to bend a weird way after a while? is it stressing in a spot that we hadn’t considered? Do any closures or loops or whatever get in the way? Does our tester end up using it completely different than I’d designed it?  If so, does that mean a redesign, a different product, or maybe a description note to point out how it was designed to work? Just as in the previous phases, we’ll come back to a design multiple times, reinserting it back into autocad dozens of times before I’m happy enough to move into production." 




Watch bands at the ready.


Once new products are ‘final’, which, as Shawn notes, is "a silly notion—we’ve quietly redesigned our Architect Wallet three times since its initial launch, and tweaked our button-stud watchband probably five times", he moves most of them to production via a clicker press, a piece of equipment that can exert several tons of pressure at the push of a button, rather than cutting each item out with the laser.  

"We have what amounts to heavy-duty cookie cutters, called ‘dies,’ manufactured from our autocad drawings, and those dies punch out the blanks for us to finish and stitch into our products. All of this is done in-house, in our studio. It’s been an absolute joy to get to create things and interact with people who are excited about our products and appreciate the fact that we like what we do."




form•function•form is available in West Midtown Atlanta at TWEEDS and online from our partners at Huckberry





I love black even when it's hot outside, so when I spy hot-weather classics like good ol' Jack Rogers clad in my favorite non-color, I'm all over it. Here's what I took with me on my recent trip to Florida... thanks to those Jacks, a pretty white skirt from Island Company (plus its necessary accompanying mini steamer, ha!) and a few other brands long-trusted by Floridians, I managed to stay comfy despite temperatures pushing the triple digits. Hope these trusty items inspire your sunny day suitcase, too!

1. for embracing an island classic... Jack Rogers Navajo sandals, 110.00, jackrogers.com
2. for sunny days... Costa Wingman sunglasses, more about those here
3. for beachy waves... evo Salty Dog salt spray, 17.50, salons and amazon 
4. for poolside... Maridadi Trading tie-dye scarf/sarong, 120.00, inquire info@maridaditrading.com 
5. for dining al fresco... Island Company Mar-a-Lago skirt, 155.00, islandcompany.com 
6. for dodging the burn... Island Company Islander sunscreen, islandcompany.com  
7. for poolside and airplane reading... Graphic Image iPad case, 145.00,  horchow.com
8. for thanking my host... Terrapin Stationers note card, 18.00, terrapinstationers.com 
9. for that little something extra... BaubleBar Boho drop earrings, 38.00, nordstrom.com
10. for laying out on the sand... Fresco Towels Aztec beach towel, 149.00, burkedecor.com








1. At Chef Ford Fry's Attack of the Killer Tomato festival this past weekend, that ripe, red summer fruit was the star of the show, cast in countless cocktails and dishes courtesy of the South's best chefs, restaurants and bartenders. One of our favorite bites was Canoe's hush puppy creation, which was served with a plump, juicy Doux South Drunken Tomato on the side. We popped them like candy and let 'em burst in our mouths (which sounds kinda dirty, now that I say that) - they were just what I wanted on such a hot, muggy day. I can see these being a great pantry staple and an easy addition to  bloody marys. 


2. Paris on Ponce is the kind of place you come from far and wide to visit. It's chock full of quirky, well-edited booths of antiques and off-the-beaten-path boons. Last weekend was their Bastille Day party which was a great excuse to wander around the seemingly infinite outpost. When you visit (because you should!) don't miss the back room - stocked with piles of furniture, headboards, old doors and other bits ready to plunder - or the red velvet-drenched Moulin Rouge-esque Le Maison Rouge room, a très racy sight to behold in itself. 



3. My friend Christopher has been telling me for months to visit Chef Guy Wong's Old Fourth Ward ramen joint Miso Izakaya. I finally made it there on Friday night and all I could think the whole time was "...how did it take me this long?" I ate the Dan Dan Ramen, which was spicy and oozy in all the right ways, and learned all about shochu, which I would describe as a boozier, more liquor-y sake. Wide-eyed at this entire genre of alcohol I prior had no idea even existed, I kept pestering the bartender to tell me more about it. Finally, he laughed and said "Shochu is like the internet. There is no end." 






Ed note: many prayers for the victims of Malaysia Air Flight 17, such an unspeakable tragedy. 

I know, I know, it isn't easy to "think Fall" when temps are tipping the 90's, but as we all know, if you wait until September to start shopping for cool weather, all the good stuff will already be snatched up. My first job was as a sales girl at Nordstrom, so I had it drilled into me early-on the big event that the company's annual Anniversary Sale really is. Unlike most sales this time of year, which feature the picked-over dredges of the season prior, the Anniversary Sale launches brand new, exclusive fall and pre-fall items from name designers at steep discounts. It's urgent, too - on August 3, all prices go back up to full retail, so you only get a short window to shop this stuff at discount. That means it's much $marter to plan ahead, y'all feel me? I've scored big in past years! Here's what I'm eyeing right now. Be sure to scroll through the slider at the footer and check out Pinterest and the Goods page for even more good stuff. 



1. B.P. striped sweater with elbow patch 24.90, after sale 38.00 and Treasure & Bond quilted leather moto jacket 218.90, after sale 328.00  2. Molton Brown Black Pepper body wash duo 39.00, after sale 60.00 3. Alexis Bittar long pendant necklace 149.90 after sale, 229.00  4. Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay collection 88.00 after sale 110.00 5. Steve Madden knee-high leather boot 133.90, after sale 199.95. 










Costa Wingman sunglasses, right at home on the shore of Palm Beach, Florida, where I just got back from vacationing. I'm pretty sure it's a mandate written into state law that no Floridian - snowbird, sportsman or otherwise - should be on the water sans-Costa. Their necessity is about the only thing I can think of that both Northern and Southern Floridians (which we all know are two extremely different groups of folks) agree on. Bonus points: the proliferation of colored, mirrored lenses and aviators having a major fashion moment. Oh, and they really protect your eyes, too. 






Laurann Claridge.

Claridge + King is one of those lines I came across years ago (I think in a very early issue of Lonny!), fell in love with, and stayed in love with. Girls after my own heart, Houston-based Laurann Claridge and her Nashville-livin' sis Lizbeth King were inspired by men's closets but wanted something that fit them a little better, a little sexier - while still holding onto the elegance and cool of boyfriend shirt theft. Have you ever walked around in a man's way-too-big crisp oxford? If you don't feel sexy in that, I think you may need to have your pulse checked.

The sisters execute every design with an enduring sense of style in mind, striving to conjure up thoughtful clothing, attention paid to every detail. I think the reason their items last in my wardrobe after year is because C+K chooses to completely eschew fads. They're shooting for something quieter that still works hard in your wardrobe (without being drab or matronly). Given the heavy mileage of my shirts, I'd say they've succeeded. I've got a massive weekend ahead full of house guests, high school friends, big dinners and a gun dog named Quincy - I'm relying heavily on one of their shirt dresses to get me through it looking halfway composed. Let us pray.

5 Questions for...
Laurann Claridge, Claridge + King
Dinner with anyone, dead or alive?
Let’s make it a dinner party, shall we? We should invite a wildly varied bunch of people–all never shy about sharing their opinions! How about … Charles James, Diana Vreeland, Julia Child, Emily Post, Gertrude Stein, Teresa Caputo (the TLC medium), Oscar Wilde, Etta James and of course, my husband William Zeitz.

One album that meant something to you as a teenager.
The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire (circa 1978), their dance-able classics were the anthem of my youth. I still can’t hear “Got to Get You into My Life”, “September”, or “Boogie Wonderland” without moving my body or singing out loud—impossible.

If you could only eat one thing forever, it would be...
Carbohydrates. No doubt I’d put on the pounds, but I’d have so much fun eating my way through thin crust, coal-fired margarita pizzas, pasta Bolognese, and fleur de sel laced bittersweet chocolate chunk cookies.

Tell us about those shirtdresses!
Well, well, well as you well know, it all started with our boyfriend style, His is Hers® Original Shirt. Then our customers clamored for a fitted style shirt—hence the Great White Shirt and the Ivy styles were born. Shirt dressing was the third part of our design evolution. We wanted pieces that could multi-task as a long shirt–slash–tunic, pieces we could wear on their own or layer with our long tanks, favorite jackets, coats, and accessories. The fun part is to see the design directions we can take each of them. Every season we add a few more to the mix.

Is everything really bigger in Texas?
Yes, thank goodness! People in Texas are bold and beautiful. Hospitable and kind, and they live life to the very fullest, opening themselves up to both new experiences and new friends. I love living in the South, particularly here in the mighty state of Texas.




True & Co. bra, The Laundress wash basin, delicate wash, delicate spray, and stain bar.

Mornin'! Remember this post and this bra? Go look, I'll wait. 

In it I talked about lingerie. At length. And got some brow-raising reader email after, let me tell you. If you need a refresher, think of True & Co. like the Warby Parker of bras. You have a try-on box sent to you to fit in the privacy of your own home, then you keep what you want and send back what you don't. Since becoming acquainted with them, have racked up a nice collection of delicates... ones that I obvs can't just throw in the washing machine with my beach towels (the horror)!

The Laundress has long been setting the bar for gold-standard home care. J.Crew even caught on awhile back and teamed up with them for a specially-scented cashmere wash. The pretty packaging and insanely fresh scents are enough to sell you, but this stuff isn't just fancy fluff. It actually works, and works well. I thought it would be a nice follow-up post to grab some tips on caring for nice underthings from the brand.

So, what defines a delicate? Its not just your bras and undies - pretty much anything that's a silk, synthetic, or blend counts as an item deserving of TLC. That also means stuff with an embellishment, hardware, lace or fine mesh, and of course anything labeled "hand wash only" or "dry clean". 

I keep my dry cleaner pretty busy, (Stephen at Press Atlanta for you locals, they even pick up! Tell them I sent ya!) but some items I keep home and tend to myself:

Prepping a Delicate Bath:
1. In my little Laundress wash basin, I treat any stains with the wash and stain bar and then prep a delicate bath. 
2. The Laundress recommends filling the basin with tepid water and adding 2 capfuls of Delicate Wash - don't let the small bottle trick you, this stuff is highly concentrated. 
3. Like colors only!
4. Submerge the item. This is something I have to remind myself of, not to rinse everything to death. Their words: "gently agitate" your items so they are evenly soaped and wet.
5. You can soak items for up to 30 minutes.
6. I usually see a little dye in the water, it's normal! You won't notice any loss, don't worry.
7. I rinse with tepid water until it no longer runs soapy and (this is key) I don't wring. Especially with bras, they will totally lose their shape! Just press the water out of your item. 
8. For odors, try adding 1/4 cup of white vinegar to your basin.
9. Lay flat to dry.

If you're a die-hard washing machine gal (like my Aunt) then you're not SOL. Just set your machine to the delicate cycle on cold, place your item inside out in a mesh bag, and add the appropriate amount of Delicate Wash according to your load. Just don't throw it in the dryer after! Lay that puppy flat!

I'm a big fan of steaming to knock out any remaining wrinkles and have been preaching the gospel of Jiffy hand steamers ever since my sister gave me one for Christmas a few years ago. That thing has saved me countless pennies on dry-cleaning and makes ironing a rarity. Seriously, can't recommend it enough. 

After that, you can freshen up with The Laundress' Delicate Spray between wearing and washing. It smells so good, some nights, I even spritz it on my pillows before I go to bed.



Howdy! How was y'all's Fourth of July? Hope you got to see some fireworks and some family - I sure did, and the break was welcome. Now that I'm back to it, I thought it would be fun to kick summer content back off with something I promised a few weeks ago - travel guides. I pondered how I wanted to go about these in my own way because a big long guide is just too exhaustive for a cozy little blog like The Love List. Who do I think I am, NatGeo? So I put on my explorer's hat during my recent trip to Florida and decided to let the "guide" idea evolve based on what I saw and did. My conclusion? Mini-guides just for eating, town-by-town, which I'm going to call "Hit Lists". Hit Lists aren't going to be the end-all be-all Eater-level heat map, but instead 3-5 places in each town and/or neighborhood that I've sat down to a good meal at and feel proud to share. I'm going to cut those in with another post series of Studio Tours, which I will start to publish later this month. So let's get on with it, starting with Winter Park, Florida.

If you've not yet been introduced to Winter Park, it's an affluent suburb of Orlando that most notably plays home to Rollins College. Nearby the school is the town's beating heart, Park Avenue, a stretch of walkable restaurants and retail on charming brick roads. The signs on the way to my best friend's parent's house that say "WELCOME TO WINTER PARK, PLEASE DRIVE WITH EXTREME CAUTION" absolutely kill me. He and I always kid that they might as well have a disclaimer afterward that read (...because we're rich here). Joking aside, it's a great little town that I've loved visiting ever since he and I became close in college. It's quaint, well-manicured, (and though some may disagree), I think in comparison with other established Florida towns, is low on the pretense scale. The eating is real good, too - whether you choose to stay within the confines of Winter Park or venture out a little into nearby College Park even (gulp) Orlando. Here were my favorite spots this trip:




The view from Hillstone's deck on a rainy evening.

Our first meal of the trip was at an old haunt with a new (old) friend - Shawn Reed of form function form (you may remember him from this post). Like lots of friends I've made via The Love List, often you've emailed, texted and talked so much that by the time you finally meet, you feel like you already know someone, and Shawn was no different. Hillstone, named for the restaurant group rather than what it actually is, is really just a re-branded Houston's... much like the ol' Palm Beach Grill or what have you. 

Normally I don't know that I'd mention a chain on one of these guides, but I've been going to this restaurant a long time and have visited a lot of other Houston's - I have to say it's by far the most beautiful one I've ever been to. Shawn, who was an architect in a past life, was admiring the beam work while I was enjoying the view. If you get a table by the window, you're treated to the sight of a glassy lake surrounded by gorgeous Florida vegetation. There's a dock to dine on and Adirondack chairs on the lawn if you'd like to wait for your table with a drink outside during nice weather. On this particular night, it was a little rainy, but during the sunset the three of us agreed that mixed with the light shower it was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous out. I had what I always have at Houston's: spinach dip and a hamburger. 

The bottom line: "Hillstone" it may be, but by the menu... just another (consistently good) Houston's. Go for the grounds, the gorgeous space, and ask to be seated by the window for a killer view. Time it for sunset if you can.




Minty fresh.

The Colonial Town (Mill's 50) district of Orlando is one of those neighborhoods that writers like to call "up and coming". I prefer the term "hipster gentrification". The Strand is seated all perky, green and new, right on the corner. Everything on the menu is fresh, done well, and really inexpensive. The interior is a well-edited mix of historic and mid-century. It's a quick, affordable made-from-scratch lunch (I had a BLT) with a young crowd seated at every table. Their lunch menu is pretty straightforward, but the buttermilk chicken sandwich is by far the star of the show. Our sandwiches came with a healthy ladle of pesto quinoa (which is at the top of my list to knock off at home). 

The bottom line: They've got cold beer on tap, friendly service, and lots of style. Oh, and you can get out of there with your tummy full for under ten bucks at lunch.





The Gin and Tonic On Tap with pink peppercorns and Red Sorrel leaves.

One of my favorite college girlfriends, Maria, just got engaged, so we went out to dinner with her fiance Matt to catch up and celebrate. We decided sort of last-minute on Cask & Larder, which is arguably Winter Park's toughest reservation right now, but had no problem sliding in at the bar. We girls weren't that hungry, but I was in heaven and right at home when I heard Mofro floating in over the restaurant's sound system, and even happier when I saw a Jack Rudy G&T (from a keg!) on the drink menu. Brooks (inventor of Jack Rudy tonic, who I wrote about here) tells me that's due to the talent of top-notch bar man Eric Foster. I just wanted a snack so I ordered the Crispy Corn without giving it a lot of thought. Everyone at the table tried it and I think the general consensus was "holy shit!" Basically, it's corn on the cobb cut into quarters then drenched in Alabama white BBQ sauce and finished with something diabolical they call "hot sauce bread crumbs". It was amazing. Matt didn't talk much once food hit the table, he was really into his country ham and biscuit platter ;)

The bottom line: another gastronomical home run from the same chef couple who brought us The Ravenous Pig.



All the essentials at Black Bean Deli.


Sweet Sarah at Rifle Paper Company (saving that studio tour for its own post) tipped us off that designer Anna Rifle Bond designed some of the signage in this slick new Cuban joint, so we went to check it out. First of all, may I just say: best. chicken. empanada. ever. We washed one of those down with a Mexican Coke before lunch even hit the table. My $5.50 lunch special included a tasty giant half Cuban sandwich and a healthy side of traditional black beans and rice. It stands to note this place loves Sriracha - it's all over the walls here, encouraging you to drizzle your sammy with a little kick of the spicy stuff. I hear when the shortage was going on, people were BYO'ing the red rooster. 

The bottom line: beautiful of-the-moment space (lots of white subway tile), extremely inexpensive and well-executed food and plentiful Sriracha. Basically, trendy 2014 good eats in a capsule. 






The succulent selection at East End Market.

Audubon Park's East End Market touts itself as "Central Florida's Food and Culture Hub", and for good reason. It's a quaint but densely-packed neighborhood market that boasts nearly every kind of specialty food vendor you can dream up - coffee, fresh bread, organic produce and meats, funky kitchen supplies, books aplenty, pressed juices, and a forthcoming sushi bar. Artisanal as hell and independently-owned, natch. Chris purchased a beaker from Whisk and Bowl, the market's tiny but rich baker's shop. He thought it would double as a cute jigger for his bar. "That's borosilicate glass." The proprietor told him, "It can be heated up to 1500 degrees without damage."  After a little Googling, I found out borosilicate is what they make those trusty Pyrex glass bowls out of. Good to know.

There's a restaurant on-premises too, of course, all of it adding up to the sort of vibrant, high-integrity commercial hub we Millenials (who else hates being called that?) so love flocking to in droves. Do you care about the significance of your food? East End Market is for you. And even if you don't give a rat's ass about pasture-raised beef, you can still enjoy a quick coffee run (Chemex, naturally) or pick up a chic succulent for your favorite summer hostess. Be sure to check in for current events as well, since the 'mkt has always got them going on. 

The bottom line: if you like food, there's something for you here. If you love food, there's everything for you here.




Neon work by American artist Joseph Kosuth hangs at the Alfond Inn

Honorable mentions go to Rollins' newly-built Alfond Inn, which from 4-7 has a Grey Goose happy hour with $5.00 well drinks and $6.00 martinis, and to Prato, which I didn't get to visit this trip but have had many a great meal at in the past. If you're looking for a nice Italian dinner on Park Ave, I don't know any local that wouldn't recommend it.