Continuing along our not-so-conventional Girls that Go! route, I got a chance to catch up with Annette White, of Bucket List Journey. Chef, adventurer and general experience-seeker, Annette has a long list of things to do and she’s doing them with verve! Read about it here!
GGG: As they say in The Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” How did you get started blogging and traveling?
When I was young my father would take me on day trips through the winding back roads of Northern California. I eagerly anticipated each one because no two adventures were the same. This, and a month spent in Italy with my grandmother, has given me an insatiable curiosity for exploration. Even though I now spend most of my spare time traveling outside of my home state or country, I still enjoy taking close-to-home solo day trips, exploring new towns, streets, restaurants and attractions. I call them my mini-vacation. Or my day of sanity.
A little over 3 years ago, I was searching for a place to keep track of my travel, food and bucket list adventures. The pieces of scrap paper and random internet files were getting out of control. Instead of being buried alive by crumpled up scratch paper, I decided to condense my dozens of notes into a blog. At that time, I knew that having new experiences was my passion, but had no clue that blogging would be added to that list.
GGG: Lucky for us, it was! Your site is a bit different from a more run-of-the-mill travel site because it focuses on your bucket lists. Why bucket lists, specifically?
Ever since I was young I had kept a mental list of dreams, though never calling it a bucket list in my mind, more of an “I’m-gonna-do-that-someday” list. But then, as I approached the “mid-life” crisis age, I became obsessed with finding my passion, jealous of people who were masters of a single craft. I was on a hunt, trying dozens of new things hoping that one would outlast my short attention span, and that’s when I realized that the hunt was my passion. I thrived off of the feeling I got from seeing, doing or eating something new. And the official bucket list was born. And life has never been the same.
Not all of the goals on my 400+ item life list are monumental, but most are related to traveling the world; there is everything from swimming with whale sharks in Mexico to hiking Cinque Terre to eating a scorpion in Thailand. For me it is all about stepping out of the box and trying something new.
GGG: Brava! In your quest to see and do and eat everything, what would you say your three most memorable dishes have been to eat? To prepare?
Eating bone marrow at St. John Bar & Restaurant in London was one of the most memorable plates. It had a unique presentation and spread like butter. Second would be the decadent Millefoglie Glassato al Pistacchio pastry in Florence. It was one of the dishes that I had to recreate as soon as I returned home, though I need to do much more research before it is actually perfected. A meatball sub would not typically have made my ‘best of’ list, but the Porky Meatball Sandwich at Salumi in Seattle was worthy. Mario Batali’s father owns this little joint and puts chunks of tender pork in his meatballs. Messy and delicious!
One of my favorite dishes to prepare was for a benefit that my restaurant was participating in. I made an Italian pizzelle cookie cone filled with coffee chocolate mousse and topped with hazelnut whipped cream. The seven I ate myself were worth every calorie. My next best-loved to make would be seafood saffron risotto with clams, mussels, prawns and scallops. The color of saffron, smell of fresh shellfish and creaminess of risotto is a memory that doesn’t easily fade. Lastly, would be homemade chestnut ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce. I adore chestnuts and was beyond thrilled to finally justify being able to eat them as an entire meal.
GGG: Mouthwatering! So, you’ve got some pretty adventurous things on your bucket list! What has been the scariest thing you’ve checked off, and how did it feel?
I can’t remember there being a time I was more terrified than just before skydiving. To start with, flying is not my best friend, not even a close acquaintance, and when you add that to the thought of plummeting 10,000 feet to my death. Ugh! Peeing my pants was not an option since I was wearing a borrowed flight suit. After safely landing I truly felt like Superwoman, I swear that at that moment I could have walked on water, or at least ridden a unicorn.
GGG: Ha, yay! As a foodie and restaurateur, you have pretty high standards for cuisine. Outside the US, where was your favorite meal and why?
For me, dining is not just about the food it is about the entire experience. It is everything from the ambiance to the staff to the decor, even little things like the server aprons or guest check presenters. I recently grilled a waitress about the fabulous canvas, country pin stripe apron she was wearing and I take photos of all the different containers that my bill comes in. My favorite was a tiny terra cotta pot filled with caramel corn and my check. Genius!
Back to the question…So far, my favorite meal outside of the United States was at Arbutus in London. The exterior was charming, the white marble bar at the front door inviting, the wooden table tops unique and the food impressive. I indulged in a 3-course prix fixe meal that included tender rabbit and the best minestrone-style soup I have ever had. No disrespect grandma.
GGG: I should probably stop asking food-related questions, I am getting hungry! Traveling abroad is always exciting, but you’ve also done a lot of traveling in the States. Where was a place you were pleasantly surprised by? Somewhere you thought was overrated?
I was interested to see how this sun-loving California gal would take to Seattle, Washington and I was very delightfully shocked. It is a bustling, yet uncongested big city filled with trendy restaurants, fresh fish markets and friendly people. The weather might keep me from ever living there, but a second visit is definitely in the cards.
Though I enjoyed my time in San Antonio, the Riverwalk was the most overrated place I have been to. It was as if the Las Vegas strip met San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf; crowds of people, overpriced dining and touristy attractions. With that said, I made the best of it by munching on fried pickles and gator for the first time!
GGG: You’ve still got a long way to go on your bucket list. Any trips in the near future that we can look forward to reading about?
I am overly excited about my upcoming travel and bucket list plans. Maui, Hawaii for my 15th wedding anniversary is the next thing on the books. The hubby and I will be celebrating by touring a pineapple farm, paddle boarding, attending a luau and eating lots of Ahi poke. Then, I will be heading to Portland, Oregon to attend my first traditional Native American Pow Wow and, of course, stopping by Voodoo Doughnuts to get a Bacon Maple Bar. Soon after, I will be spending time in Savannah,Georgia for a press trip with Savannah Inns. Here I will be staying at my first bed & breakfast, indulging in Southern cuisine and celebrating the 100th year of the Girl Scouts (I hope there are cookies).
It’s back to Las Vegas in September to go to the Mob Museum and drink Absinthe at Sage. I will be spending much of October in Arizona savoring the sun and escaping the chill of Northern California. Then it is all about planning for a month in Thailand where I will be volunteering at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, bamboo rafting through the hushed valleys, sunbathing in Phuket and overindulging while learning about the food culture. Phew! Somehow I will have to fit ‘running a restaurant’ in between all of this!
All photos in this post are courtesy of Annette White.