Heirloom Kitchen

I will be honest. I never heard of Heirloom Kitchen or Chef David Viana before the popular cooking competition Top Chef on Bravo, but after getting to know the chefs on the show after watching a couple of episodes I immediately added Heirloom Kitchen to my list. I’m always ready to add a good restaurant to my list. Basically, #willtravelforfood.

Heirloom Kitchen is located in Northern, NJ and is a multi-use space housing a restaurant, cooking school and boutique. It was opened by Chef David Viana and Neilly Robinson and they work with a host of amazing chefs that have made their mark on the New Jersey restaurant scene. They source their ingredients from local areas for a true farm-to-table menu that changes seasonally.

Heirloom Kitchen
3853 County Rd 516
Old Bridge, NJ 08857
(732) 727-9444

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I will be the first to say that moving to the suburbs was never high on my list and I’m still not happy about it. Either choice I had was going to be a lifestyle compromise for me and I’ve been making the best of it.

So what does one do for food when they move to the suburbs? Become a glutton for chain food? Well, not always. In comes Bardea, with the hope to save us suburbanites from the torture of a life of chain restaurants. Bardea recently opened in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on Market Street, which has been an area focused on revitalization for some time and definitely promising.

Bardea (bar-DAY-ah) is the Italian term for “the goddess of food and drink” and features “interpretative” Italian cuisine from chef Antimo DiMeo.


620 N Market St
Wilmington, DE 19801
(302) 426-2069

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Ambra is one of those spots that you may or may not know if you’re familiar with the Philadelphia food scene. Ambra serves contemporary style Italian cuisine and the pre-fixe menu changes with the season.

You have the choice between two options separated into four courses, but be prepared to constantly have something in front of you. The staff is attentive and full of surprises, from bringing complimentary prosecco to small courses that range from a delicious consume broth to a muffuletta or a warm potato focaccia with herbs and fixings. You’ll certainly won’t go hungry and both your taste buds and senses will go fulfilled.

Ambra was started by Marina de Olivera and Chris D’Ambro and named after D’Ambro’s grandfather. The two met while working at Talula’s Garden and after taking some time to work in San Jose de Cabo returned to Philadelphia to take ownership of Southwark, which led to the opening of Ambra right next door.

705 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 858-9232

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The Hudson Valley is on the top of my destinations whenever I have a free weekend. The combination of water, mountains and a cool art scene are enough to make my heart explode. That’s where Dia:Beacon comes in.

I distinctly remember the first time I walked into Dia:Beacon. It is an unassuming space from the outside, but take just one step inside and prepare to be stopped in your tracks. You’ll be greeted with an industrial space filled with some of the best contemporary artists you can find.


DIA: Beacon
3 Beekman St
Beacon, NY 12508
(845) 440-0100

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HOUSTON, TX // 15 Things to do in HTX

Houston is the fourth largest city in the US and one of the most underrated ones in my opinion. I lived there for a period of time and it is a city that captured my heart in so many ways. I believe that I’ll get back there when the time is right!

So, want to live Houston like a local? Check out some of my fun suggestions that may or may not have crossed your path in typical vacation planning.

1. Greetings from Houston.

Greetings from Houston :: Gelazzi :: Houston :: TXDon’t we all just love to document our travels in fun ways (i.e. instaworthy). In comes, the Greetings from Houston mural located in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. Located on the side of a gelato shop, you can grab some gelato to cool down on a hot Texas day while getting your pose on. Photo by Nilda Meliza Gomez 

Gelazzi, 3602 White Oak Drive, Houston, TX 77007

2. Grab a beer with the Beatles. 

The Beatles :: 8th Wonder Brewery :: David Adickes :: Houston :: TX :: Photo by Nick Scurfield

8th Wonder is a local brewery specializing in vegan brews in Downtown Houston. You can relax outside, enjoy a beer and the work of artist David Adicke’s giant statue of the band the Beatles.  Photo by Nick Scurfield

8th World Brewery, 2202 Dallas St, Houston, TX 77003

3. Take a moment to reflect and enjoy some chamber music at the Rothko Chapel.

Rothko Chapel :: Menil Collection :: Houston :: TXPart of the Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel is a space featuring the artwork of Mark Rothko and provides a tranquil place to meditate and reflect. Throughout the year, if you’re lucky you can hear some of the best chamber musicians in Houston perform their evening concert series. 

Rothko Chapel,1409 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX 77006

4. Make a picnic basket from Houston Dairymaids and head to Miller Outdoor Theater for a show. 

Miller Outdoor Theater :: Houston :: TX :: Photo courtesy of Miller Outdoor TheaterHouston Dairymaids specializes in local Texas cheeses. Show up for a tasting and put together a basket to take for the road then pop on over to the Miller Outdoor Theater, which features local and travel groups. Perfect for a picnic on the lawn with some entertainment. I vote for a touring broadway show or the ballet! Photo courtesy of The Miller Outdoor Theater 

Houston Dairymaids, 2201 Airline Dr, Houston, TX 77009

Miller Outdoor Theater, 6000 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030

5. Experience the Houston sunset at Turrell’s Skyspace.

Skyspace :: James Turrell :: Rice University :: Houston :: TXSkyspace is a large-scale installation by artist James Turrell located on the campus of Rice University. It’s open to the public at all times, it has a light sequence show daily during sunrise and sunset (available by reservation).

Skyspace, Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, Houston, TX 77005

6. Have a glass of wine in Houston’s oldest building. 

Historic Downtown Houston :: Houston :: TX :: Photo Courtesy of Dwell

Houston is not known for its architectural history, so if you can find some embrace it! Typically, the most historic neighborhoods are areas of the Downtown and Montrose. Grab a glass of wine at La Carafe, located in the oldest commercial building in Houston. Located downtown, it’s convenient to the Market Square Park and it’s dark, romantic and full of character. Photo courtesy of Dwell 

La Carafe, 813 Congress St, Houston, TX 77002

7. Take a trip beneath the city. 

Buffalo Bayou Cistern :: Houston :: TX :: Photo Courtesy of Buffalo Bayo + Visit Houston TexasThe Buffalo Bayou Cistern is located at the Water Works; a former water reservoir for the city is now the home to site specific art installations in the depths of the city. Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bayo

The Water Works, 105 Sabine Street, Houston, TX 77007

8. Drink Texas style at the West Alabama Ice House.

West Alabama Ice House :: Houston :: TX :: Photo Courtesy of West Alabama Ice House

There’s just something about enjoying a beer in one of Houston’s open-air ice house bars. Mister fans and picnic tables provide a cozy low-key place to hang out with friends. Hungry? Grab a taco at the Estilo Tierra Caliente  truck permanently parked next door. Photo courtesy of West Alabama Ice House

West Alabama Ice House, 1919 W Alabama Street, Houston, TX 77098

9. Prepare to be amazed by the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony.

Waugh Bat Bridge Colony :: Houston :: TX :: Photo Courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science

Have you ever seen 250,000 bats before? Believe me, you’ll never forget the site (or the smell). The Waugh Street Bat Colony serves as a home to Mexican free-tailed bats who fly each night at dusk to eat all year long. Photo courtesy of HMNS

Waugh Bridge Bat Colony, 401 S Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

10. Visit notable aviator and film director Howard Hughes. 

Hughes Family Gravesite :: Houston :: TX :: Photo Courtesy of Glenwood Cemetery

Glenwood Cemetery is a historic cemetery located within the inner-loop of Houston. It is the resting ground for many notable Houstonians including former aviator and film director Howard Hughes. Photo courtesy of Glenwood Cemetery

Glenwood Cemetery, 2525 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007

11. Explore Indian culture. 

BAPS Shir Swaminarayan Mandir :: Stafford :: TXThe BAPS Shir Swaminarayan Mandir was built to provide a space for spirituality  for those practicing the Hindu faith. You may visit the Mandir for worship and prayer as well as educational tours. 

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston,  1150 Brand Lane, Stafford, TX 77477

12. Run into a former president. 

North Italia :: Houston :: TX :: Photo by Ellie Sharp

Update: George H.W. Bush passed away at the age of 94 on Friday, November 30, 2018. Read more about his legacy here.

The 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush resides in the Galleria/Uptown neighborhood of Houston. The President and his family frequent some of the area restaurants, such as North Italia. Prepare for the entire restaurant to rise upon his entry with a round of applause. Photo by Ellie Sharp

North Italia, 1700 Post Oak Blvd, Ste 190, Houston, TX 77056

13. Go on a mural crawl. 

Butterflies Wall by Fabio Panone :: Downtown Houston :: Houston :: TXHouston is the home of some amazing murals, many of them located in the downtown area of the city. Put on a cute outfit and get ready to pose. Photo by Nilda Meliza Gomez

Butterflies Wall by Fabio Panone, 2201 Preston St, Houston, TX 77003

14. Run among the butterflies. 

Butterfly Exhibition :: Houston Museum of Natural Science :: Houston :: TX :: Photo courtesy of RoadtrippersThe Houston Museum of Natural Science is home to many exhibitions, but one of the coolest is the butterfly center spanning three-stories and a simulated rain forest. Walk freely while butterflies interact with you. Photo courtesy of Roadtrippers

Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030

 15. Become a tequila connoisseur.

The Pastry War :: Houston :: TX :: Photo courtesy of The Pastry War

Who doesn’t love a margarita? Why not try a specialty flight of tequila hand-picked from Mexico? The Pastry War is located in downtown Houston and provides an extensive drink menu and Mexican eats. Photo courtesy of The Pastry War

The Pastry War, 310 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

Did you try any of these suggestions? I’d love to hear! Follow me on Instagram or shoot me a note at I have plenty more suggestions, so stay tuned for upcoming posts!

NOTE: All photos taken by Tracy E. Smith of Belle Artiste Studio & The Artful Epicure unless otherwise noted and credited.


Imagine walking into a perfectly curated shop full of modern-farm decor and specialty items. Now add a greenery complete with bonfire and a full restaurant with greenhouse dining room and coffee bar serving delicious eats and drinks. Well, then you’ve found my version of heaven also know as Terrain.

Located in Glen Mills, PA, Terrain is part of the URBN company and the Anthropologie brand. The flagship location was founded in 2008 and was opened on the site of the historic J. Franklin Styer’s Nursery. Since its opening, additional locations have opened in California, Maryland and Connecticut.

“We are inspired by the idea of merging house and garden to create an immersive natural experience and an environment where our customers can come to unwind, explore, and celebrate occasions big and small.”

914 Baltimore Pike
Glen Mills, PA 19342
(610) 459-6030
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Dan Flavin (1933-1996) is an American minimalist artist whom I just happen to adore. I encountered his work for the first time in a private home collection (nope, not joking) and I have been hooked ever since. There is just something about good neon art that fills my heart!

Flavin began using electric lights in his work in the early 1960s. The majority of his career was spent creating installations and sculptural pieces made exclusively of fluorescent light fixture tubes. Yes, just like the ones found in office spaces and dressing rooms.

Many of his works you’ll find are tube lights in different formations, which are meant to represent soaring towers in relation to the work of Russian Constructivist artist, Vladimir Tatlin. The work represents a sense of impermanence because the light can dim or burn out at anytime just like the ideals of constructivism (where learning is an active, constructive process).


Flavin’s work is designed to respond to it’s setting and build upon the architectural landscape of where it happens to be installed. You’ll find many of his works were site specific, such as his work at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas (pictured below). Flavin even stated that his work is full of implied narratives;

“It is what it is and nothing else.” – Dan Flavin

Some of my favorite venues where you can experience Flavin’s work on display year-round include Richmond Hall as part of the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas; Dia: Beacon in Beacon New York; and the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, New York. Each space has it’s own unique setting to showcase Flavin’s work. You should definitely check them out and prepare to be in awe!


To read more about Dan Flavin and his artworks, visit here.


It’s one of the most talked about restaurants in Philly right now. It’s got this must go, eat, take photos and be seen vibes. And I fell for it and I’m glad…kind of.

Louie Louie was started by Marty and Sydney Grims, the father-daughter team behind White Dog Cafe.  It’s a European-style bistro, with cafe fare that is a interior-design heaven. Designed by Philadelphia firm Rohe Creative; the art nouveau inspired design that reminds me of a Wes Anderson film or a trip back to the Mad Men era. It’s delightful and warm in it’s mis-match kitschy feel.

The menu is French-American inspired. I went for brunch and you’ll find the typical European fare of benedicts, croque madame and monsieur, but you’ll also find those cozy traditional American breakfast staples and regional fare (like scrapple). The menu is a little all over the place, but I appreciated having options, but at the same time, it would be great if there were more authentic french restaurants on the Philly food scene and less of the same thing over and over. Though, I digress…




Louie Louie
3611 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
(267) 805-8585

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If you’ve never been to the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia YOU. ARE. MISSING. OUT! Take a quintessential main street, add historic cobblestones, great restaurants and adorable shops and you have perfection.

The Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House is located on Mermaid Lane, walkable from the main drag of town. It is a space for those of the Quaker faith community to meet and reflect in a peaceful setting and also provides a home to a piece by the artist James Turrell.

The Skyspace at Chestnut Hill Quaker Meeting House
20 E. Mermaid Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19118-3507



Kimpton Hotel Palomar DC is located in the Dupont area of Washington, DC. It’s the area that I have stayed in the most whenever visiting DC because it’s super accessible to really great restaurants and the majority of the museums.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar
2121 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 448-1800

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