Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Riad Idrissy & The Ruined Garden

While trying to finalize a destination for our 3rd anniversary trip, the article that pushed me over the edge toward Morocco was one by Condé Nast Traveler called "How to Live Like Royalty in Morocco". The article featured three hotels, two of which excited me enough to make our final itinerary. I knew instantly that Riad Idrissy was the only place I wanted to stay while visiting Fez; it was non-negotiable, and it definitely didn't disappoint. This 400 year old riad was purchased and fully renovated in 2006, using only materials and furnishings designed and made in Morocco. While drinking wine on our terrace, we got to meet and chat with one of the owners, an Englishman who purchased it after falling in love with Fez, and it was lovely to hear his story.

Upon arrival, we were met by Fatima, who was an incredible hostess during our stay. She served us some mint tea, and showed us to our Library Suite, one of only five guest rooms in the riad. The bedroom was beautiful, but the best part was our adjoined library and terrace that looked out over the adjoined restaurant, the Ruined Garden. The day before our arrival, we requested the 7-hour lamb Mechwi for our first night, which requires a day's advance notice. It was served on our private balcony as the sun was setting, and was possibly my favorite meal of the entire trip (picture below).

The Ruined Garden is an utterly charming restaurant, set in a secluded courtyard complete with lush, beautiful plants and uncovered original mosaic floors and columns. We ate an over-the-top included breakfast there each morning of approximately one million breads, fresh fruit, and a tagine of Berber eggs. The entire experience made it feel like we were welcomed into someone's home, rather than just nameless guests at a hotel. I can't possibly say enough about our experience in this beautiful riad, and would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.

This 70s style jumpsuit is from Nasty Gal, but is no longer available.
{Similar here, here, and here}

This flowing maxi from Express was perfect for Morocco thanks to it's comfy jersey fabric, and conservative cut. {Similar here and here}. The necklace, from Free People, just had to be purchased for the trip as well.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Butternut Squash Hummus with Sunflower-Pepita Pesto and Chipotle Relish

Have you ever seen a picture scream fall quite so much before? It's basically a girl in boots, flannel, a vest and a scarf, drinking a PSL, and buying mums and pumpkins. But this appetizer board is actually so perfect for fall! The colors, the flavors, the textures... all. of. it! I made this for a girls night sleepover last night, and it was so good that I refilled the snacks and veggies three times.

You could make the base hummus here alone, but it is so much yummier with the toppings and they're really quick to mix up. I bought a trail mix in the bulk section of Central market that had sunflower seeds, pepitas, and dried cranberries, so I got only the amounts I needed. This recipe makes a lot of hummus, so you'll have leftovers. Well, maybe. Who am I to judge?

Butternut Squash Hummus with Sunflower-Pepita Pesto and Chipotle Relish



  • 1 cup cubed butternut squash
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 6 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sauce from chipotles in adobo
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 t. smoked paprika
  • Small pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
Sunflower-Pepita Pesto
  • 2 T. sunflower seeds
  • 2 T. pepitas
  • 2 T. chopped basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Small squeeze of lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
Chipotle Relish
  • 2 peppers from chipotles in adobo, minced, plus 1/4 teaspoon liquid
  • 1/2 t. minced dried cranberries
  • Drizzle of honey, to taste
Ideas for Serving: veggie chips, carrots, zucchini, roasted artichoke, roasted sweet potato wedges, pita, crackers, pretzels


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice the top off the head of garlic, drizzle with some olive oil, and wrap in foil. Rub the butternut squash with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
  2. Roast the squash for 30 minutes, until tender, and the garlic for 45 minutes. Allow both to cool a bit, then squeeze out 8-10 cloves of the roasted garlic.
  3. Add squash, garlic, and all hummus ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add more olive oil or lemon juice, if needed, for consistency.
  4. To make the pesto: mince the first three ingredients. Add olive oil until desired consistency (a little extra liquid looks good for presentation) and a few drops of lemon juice. Salt to taste.
  5. To make the relish: Combine peppers and cranberries, add a little honey to taste. 
*Basic butternut squash hummus recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Volubilis, Morocco

After our incredible visit to Chefchaouen, Adam and I (and our personal driver from Y'alla Tours) headed south on a long drive toward Fez. Along the way, we stopped at Volubilis for a little history. This partially excavated city was once capital of the ancient kingdom Mauretania, and was later taken by the Romans before they were ultimately overthrown by local North African tribes. By the end of the 8th century, it was occupied by Idris ibn Abdallah whose dynasty ultimately became Morocco. The city was abandoned in the 11th century as its inhabitants migrated to Fez. 

Aqueducts built around 70 AD carried water from the surrounding mountains to the city, and water flowed through intricate networks of stone channels through the houses and public baths. The grander homes boast elaborate mosaic floors telling stories of mythology, and sculptures of marble and bronze. Adam's favorite fact: the wealthy families owned slaves whose job was to sit on their toilets to keep the seats warm between uses. Seriously. Volubilis sat in a very fertile agricultural area, and their main export was olive oil; some of the stone olive oil presses are visible at the site.

The ruins were devastated and largely buried in the mid-18th century by a large earthquake. While Morocco was under French rule, between 1912 and 1956, much of Volubilis was excavated. The ancient city was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and it's not hard to see why. This was such a beautiful and fascinating stop on our trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed learning so much about Morocco's history outside of its modern day cities. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chefchaouen, Morocco

There is just no logical place to start this post other than simply with color. The small city of Chefchaouen, also known as The Blue Pearl of Morocco, is a photographer's dream, with supersaturated shades of blue covering nearly every surface. The countless colors of blue are so intense that it looks like your actual life has been filtered. Can a place possibly be as brilliant and colorful as the Instagram and Pinterest pictures? Yes.

Located in northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is a magical town nestled in the beautiful Rif mountains. Some reports say the town is painted blue to ward off mosquitos, others say that Jewish refugees fleeing Europe introduced the color as a symbol of their faith. So, yeah, two very different explanations. Although tourism to the city is increasing, the town still feels very traditional and relatively untouched by visitors. Of the three major cities we visited (more on Marrakech and Fes later), Chefchaouen felt the most "local" or authentic.

To be honest, there isn't much to do in the city; there are no major sites to see, the central shopping area is small and easily covered, and alcohol is extremely hidden. However, just walking around the shops, and people watching at cafes is enough. I think I took truly over 1000 photos of every possible nook and cranny. We stayed for two nights, at the highly recommended Lina Ryad and Spa, and it was the perfect length of time. Riads are traditional Moroccan homes with an interior courtyard, many of which have been beautifully transformed into incredible small hotels. Ours was the highest rated in Chefchaouen, and was perfectly located, beautifully designed, had a quiet spa swimming pool, and beautiful views. The service was also beyond impressive.

After a day of just walking around, snacking at three different places, drinking mint tea, and exploring, we decided to settle in for a drink and some dinner. Most places did not serve alcohol (shocking that we still powered through to find it), but both the Hotel Atlas and Hotel Parador serve wine and beer alongside beautiful views. We watched the sun set over the city from the balcony of Hotel Parador before heading to dinner. Our favorite of the restaurants we visited, Beldi Bab Ssour, was recommended by a staff member at the riad as "like being welcomed into a Moroccan home" and did feel quite authentic. We had lamb koftas and chicken pastilla; it was all insanely flavorful and delicious.

This experience is one that will stay with me forever, through amazing memories and some of my favorite photos of all time. My insistence on seeing Chefchaouen changed the entire route of our trip, adding hours of driving time, but I wouldn't have changed it for anything.

STAY // Lina Ryad & Spa
EAT // Beldi Bab Ssour
DRINK // Hotel AtlasHotel Parador
SEE // Colors! Doors! No major can't-miss sites.
WEAR // Respectful clothing, covering legs and shoulders