the best meal of my life

Hi friends! How are you? Hope you’re having a happy Monday! How was the weekend?

I’m enjoying a short getaway with Liv in San Diego, but I wanted to pop in and share some details from a truly incredible dining experience from Friday night: Kyle’s pop-up dinner with Riley Chandler.


We found out the date for this pop-up dinner months ago, and I was SO PUMPED because I knew we’d be in Tucson. Kyle’s friend Riley puts on these underground dining events, and recently completed a four-part series with local chefs. Kyle’s dinner was the grand finale, and needless to say, it far exceeded my high expectations.

He’s my brother, so of course I have to brag on him a lot in this post. Hope that’s cool. 😉

Kyle, Me, Tom

The venue was a residential penthouse in downtown Tucson. A couple, who recently moved to Tucson, offered their space for the event, and it was absolutely perfect. They had sweeping city views from the balcony,

Tom, me on the balcony

the coolest collection of modern art and decor,

art inside the penthouse

Oh hey pilot

and oh yeah, an enormous, stainless-steel clad kitchen with multiple fridges, pantries, burners, ovens…. the real deal. I thought for sure the husband was a professional chef, but turns out that the kitchen was designed because he truly loves to cook and enjoys amazing food, and wanted to invite the best of the best to cook in his kitchen. 

Stainless steel kitchen

We purchased tickets for the chef’s table, along with two other couples,

Table setup

and were treated to a specialty house cocktail and amuse bouche before the remaining guests arrived. (There were 32 of us total, and the event sold out extremely fast.)

Cocktail time

Looking down at the table setup

Kyle talked to us about what to expect for the dinner, while he and Riley put together an ahi tuna appetizer on toasted nori with compressed watermelon (compacted with coriander, olive oil, salt and pepper).

Ahi app

They also made Kyle’s twist on a Mexican mule with fresh blackberries, ginger, cilantro, lime, tequila, and local honey (from the Miraval resort mesquite hives). I didn’t snap a pic of it, but it was the best cocktail I’ve ever had. And I’ve, um, had a couple cocktails in my life haha.

Kyle designed the entire menu, which was beautifully balanced (it didn’t feel heavy in the middle; rather, all of the courses were about the same size), and comprised of local and outsourced ingredients. The produce was all from local farmers, while the seafood and meat were flown in from around the world (like the Wagyu from Japan and Iberico ham from Spain).

Here’s what the menu looked like:



hamachi | scallop

sesame ginger paste | shisho | lime

pickled apple | fennel | local grapefruit




Iberico ham | seared scallop | caviar | gold flake 


Foie w barrio bread


pickled things | mustard | barrio bread toast | radish




shaved truffle | arugula flowers | ramp butter



bleu cheese | watercress | dill 




shallot | dehydrated tomato | horseradish | garlic 




chevre ice cream | bacon praline | chocolate

(Missing pictures are the ones I took with my phone for Insta stories or Snapchat but forgot to take with my real camera. I’m bummed about this because the dessert and the burnt fruit dish were BEAUTIFUL.)

All of the dishes were complex, and it was incredible to watch the chefs quickly plate and prepare everything. Kyle and Riley had done a ton of prep work, which obviously payed off; nothing felt rushed or hectic, and the chefs weaved in and out of the sea of plates like an intricate dance.

Chefs cooking

They also had a couple of hardworking front-of-house servers, who filled water and wine glasses constantly, and whisked away the dishes in between courses.

Kyle’s Executive Chef Brandon was there -also from Miraval- and he helped support Kyle with the dishes and plating, 


while also dropping some major wine knowledge.  


As we all know, I LOVE WINE, but I don’t necessarily know a ton about wine. I just know if it’s red, I’ll usually like it.

It was pretty fascinating to learn about how each wine was prepared and the story behind each bottle, and all of the pairings for the courses blew me away. 


One of my favorite parts about the meal was how interactive it was. Before each course, Kyle talked briefly about where he sourced the ingredients and what inspired the flavors. It gave everyone something to look forward to, and I could tell from looking around the room that everyone was enjoying themselves and blown away by the food. There was a LOT of clapping and cheering. We definitely found the best place to eat in Tucson that night.

Also, the way everything was plated was unique and beautiful. Some dishes were served on flat tiles, wooden boards, or in the ahi tuna’s case: a bed of (sanitized) stones. Kyle found them all in the nearby wash, then scrubbed them and ran them through the dishwasher. He had such a unique vision for the meal, and it was truly incredible to watch him bring it to life.

Burnt fruit

Tom and I have been talking about it on and off all weekend, mostly about how excited we were to be there. Kyle has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, and it just makes us happy/proud to see someone who works so hard and is so passionate and knowledgeable about what he does.

It’s funny because even if I didn’t know him before, I’d still be talking about this meal (and that one chef who told funny stories and made everyone laugh while preparing this beautiful, delicious food) for years to come. 

Kyle, Me, Tom

It was the perfect way to cap off our time in Tucson. We toasted to the amazing time we’ve had surrounded by our Tucson family and friends, and the excitement of what’s to come.

Hope you have a happy Monday and I’ll see ya soon with some San Diego adventures.



*For the friends who asked on Instagram: dress is here (in black) and shoes are here (the perfect height to walk all night with zero probs).

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  1. Sam @ Hygge Wellness on April 3, 2017 at 6:18 am

    This is AMAZING!! So, so cool. You can totally brag about it. I absolutely love seeing someone so passionate about what they do just kill it. Kyle seems like he totally is. This looks like such an amazing event. Congrats Kyle!

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      yes, that’s exactly it! it makes my heart happy to see how much he loves what he does, and he’s so.dang.talented

  2. Christina @ on April 3, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Everything looks so amazing, you must be so proud of him! That’s so nice that the timing worked out and you were still in Tucson for such a special night. Aaaand that cocktail sounds SO good!

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      yes, i’m so glad we were still here!
      the cocktail. i want it again. like right now

  3. Jessica @ Semi-Sweet Tooth on April 3, 2017 at 7:16 am

    This sounds incredible! Such an awesome experience – and something that is made even more amazing by the fact that you know the chef.

    Definitely an awesome way to spend the weekend and a fun way to celebrate your time in Tucson. 🙂

    XO, Jessica

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      yes, it was such an incredible experience.

      hope you had a great weekend, too!

  4. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on April 3, 2017 at 8:58 am

    What an awesome way to end your short sabbatical in Tucson. Kyle’s food looks amazing!

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      it was the perfect way to cap off our time here <3

  5. Vanessa | The Real Life on April 3, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Now THIS is my jam. That meal looks amazing! Kind of reminds me of my hands-down favorite meals, which are at my favorite authentic Italian restaurant here in Denver. I love foooooood! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      hahah YES it’s the best 🙂

  6. Julie on April 3, 2017 at 9:13 am

    That dinner sounds amazing! I LOVE food experiences like that. Speaking of amazing… LOVE your dress! Hope you girls are having a fantastic time in SD.

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      yes, they are the best!! thank you! we had an amazing time <3 hope you had a great weekend, too!

  7. Tracy on April 3, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Wow that is so neat! You must be so proud of him!!

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      yes, it was amazing!

  8. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on April 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    You must be SUCH a proud sister! What a night! I have only been lucky enough to experienced a coursed meal like this a couple of times, and I LOVE eating small bites of delicious rather than one big entree. Kyle is so talented! What fun!

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      same- it’s my favorite way to dine. you have a ton of different things but don’t feel uncomfortably full afterwards
      hope you had a great weekend, too!

  9. Jamie @ madrediem on April 3, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    “I just know if it’s red, I’ll usually like it.” – I feel like I could have written that. Like, yep, it’s red and the bouquet is red…I taste some lingering, uhhhhh red notes…it’s delicious. Can I have some more?
    (that’s me, being a sommelier).

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      HAHAHA. this is why we’re friends

  10. Bethany on April 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Your brother seems really amazing! That kitchen is also crazy! Like a dream!

    Love the dress!

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      he is so talented, and works so incredibly hard
      thank you!!

  11. Jennifer on April 3, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    So talented & everything looks incredible!!! I would love my hubby & I to try his cooking….if ever travel in your area (as we live in Canada). We had out best meal this past Dec for our anniversary. Food is everything…especially when outstanding. Was curious if everything was gluten free?

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      yes!! it would be worth the trip 😉 (ps i love canada)
      pretty much everything was gluten-free. the only thing that wasn’t was the barrio bread toast, but the awesome thing about it is that the flour is so incredibly fine that the gluten content is very low. those who have gluten sensitivities can eat it with no probs, so i had a giant piece (plus another) to see what happened and i felt great. i can’t wait to buy a loaf and make a sandwich 🙂

  12. priya on April 3, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    all i can say is, WOW(!), Kyle. He has come such a long way and seems like such an accomplished Chef!! I know if I’m ever in Tuscon (or where he is working at the time) I will try and stop in where ever he’s cooking 🙂

  13. Carrie on April 4, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Holy moly this looks delicious! I love the idea of the pop up and having lots of dishes and flavors to try. The lamp chop looks BEAUTIFUL!

  14. kelli @ hungry hobby on April 4, 2017 at 6:13 am

    Um he needs to come to Phoenix ASAP! Although I would totally drive down to Tucson to be a part of a fun dinner like this what a cool concept!

  15. Juliette From Namastay Traveling on April 4, 2017 at 7:11 am

    I’ve loved following your brother’s journey, this looks AMAZING. Wish I could taste foods through a blog!

  16. Annie on April 4, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Oh my gosh this is like a dream of mine! It all looks amazing!!!

    • Fitnessista on April 4, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      It was the best

  17. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on April 4, 2017 at 10:36 am

    How cool! Go Kyle!

    • Fitnessista on April 4, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Yayyy I’m so proud of him

  18. Julia on April 4, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Gina, I’m close to Tucson and pass through it at least once annually. Where does Kyle serve up his creations normally? Is it still the food truck? Tell him to come hook up El Paso with something yummy. I know a chef friend in the area who would probably love to collaborate with him.

  19. adrianna on April 7, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    HUGE CONGRATS to your brother! everything looks so incredibly amazing. he should be really proud 🙂 salivating over here…

    • Fitnessista on April 10, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      thank you! he is so talented <3

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