1 Year of Life Into 1 Blog Post

So, I know Colin is the main contributor for this blog currently and he told me if I don’t step it up, he is taking over “our blog” completely for his Colinary Tour. How rude right? But I get it. I mean he majored in journalism and its easy to get lost in the words of his beautiful writing but we can’t all have that gift. While I do have a lot of great ideas for blog posts from seeing many breathtaking places, strange people, and emotional airport embraces, I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words and have a serious issue with remembering to use punctuation. I think I can thank my mom for that one.

My life post-grad has been an incredibly, fun-filled, busy blur that doesn’t seem real sometimes. Since college, I’ve been fortunate to live in West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and New York City. I recommend all locations except the one that rhymes with Shminneshmapolis. Cool city and all for the 4 months of bearable weather, but I mean damn, that winter is brutal. Basically what I mean is that NYC can’t really compare to any other city in the US and from now on whenever I look at any city skyline, I just say “aw, that’s cute.” My dad is always down to help his kids move and he has really come in clutch moving Colin and I to and from these cities. I mean for an 18 hour cross country drive: he is a 20 ft. moving truck driver by day, and full on whisky drinker at the local dive bar by night. Also, Whit has never missed a free breakfast buffet at a hotel in his life. He’s great.

Colin and I really have experienced so many cool things together already with only a year and a half of the travel benefits under our belt. Disclaimer: I had 22 years of free travel thanks to mom and pops so I had a little bit of a head start on him. Besides our frequent trips to Atlanta for all of the weddings, lake days, and family time we have FOMO for if we miss, we tend to get around. Just this year, Colin and I have seen the canals in Amsterdam, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and the sunny & topless beaches in Barcelona. We’ve spent the day in St. Louis, Missouri at the Zoo, Botanical Gardens, and the Arch. We got to have an incredible day in Denver, Colorado with our friend Ellis who took us on a 20 mile bike tour of the city. My cousin got married in Nashville, Tennessee and we made a weekend trip out of it. One of my best friends, Brooklyn, lived out in Bozeman, Montana for a year and we enjoyed the snow capped peaks, roads so beautiful you want to get lost, and being in the company of dear friends. At the end of the day, that’s really all that matters to me: friends and family who will make you laugh until your cheeks hurt, a cozy home to cuddle in, a homecooked meal, mental (and real) photographs of the beautiful places you’ve been & gratitude for all of the above.

Something that comes with this job for me is that I am always looking for something to do in my time off, when I really should be resting and just enjoying a normal altitude and stillness of the ground. But like, I can hop on a plane and be anywhere I want in the world in a matter of hours, and that is hard to pass up. We really have been trying to focus on enjoying New York and doing fun New Yorky things when we are off together and I would say we are doing a good job. We joined a kickball team where every Thursday night, we go to the field for our game and then go to a bar after for mandatory flip cup. The points count towards the overall league score. I mean what genius came up with that? Incredible. Shoutout to Georgia Southern for teaching me everything I know in the flip cup world. Picnics in Central Park. It is just as dreamy as it sounds. We gather up blankets, fruit, cheese & wine and enjoy the sunset- barefoot in the grass, forgetting for a minute that we are engulfed in this concrete jungle. Rooftop bars. I mean I actually feel like I am in an episode of Gossip Girl when I go to these magnificent rooftops overlooking Manhattan. But then when I get the tab, I quickly remember that I am still a poor girl trapped in a rich girls body so reality is restored quickly.

I have also been making changes to my health to try to improve overall quality of life and that is a beautiful thing. Going from drinking beer and eating fried foods in college daily, to living at home where we don’t miss a meal and there is always an abundance of breakfast and appetizers on deck (if you have ever been to my house you know how 100% real this is), its safe to say neither of those are the case now. I bought a bike, which I ride to the yoga studio I joined, and although we do have Colin’s car, (shoutout to the 200k Chevy Tahoe) the amount of walking in New York in unlike anything I’ve experienced. Colin and I are now frequent members of Hello Fresh which sends you 6 fresh meals a week for roughly $10 a meal and everything is delicious and healthy! We have our local fruit and veggie stand where we buy all produce which is another thing we are trying to eat more and more of. And did I mention that our apartment is a 4th floor walk up with no elevator? And that we had to buy AC window units when we first got to New York? Yeah, moving in was really fun. We are really trying hard to take care of our bodies better than we have in our previous years and the benefits we feel make it worth it.

 

 

The Colinary Tour – 26 hours in Barcelona, Spain

I got off of work Tuesday at 4:30; wheels up from JFK International Airport at 8:15 pm. Touchdown in Barcelona at 10:00 am; wheels up from Barcelona to JFK at 12:00 pm the next day.

I ate, I drank and I watched the sun set beyond the hills of one of the most alluring cities in the world. At one point I was awake for something near 40 straight hours, so the details are only asi asi…but I’m going to do my best here.

First, I got to surprise one of my best friends, Will, and his little brother Alec, which was a treat. It’s always reassuring to know people are excited to see you. We immediately hit Platja de la Barceloneta, a mile-long beach and boardwalk dotted with seaside bars and nightclubs. Clothing: optional.

Beach hustlers were pawning anything they could: mojitos, tapestries, cervezas, bracelets, back rubs. At one point we hear, “Policia!” and see all these salesman take off running in the same direction. Picture like 8 dudes running through the sand with a tray of drinks or beach blankets whipping in the wind…pretty funny stuff right there.

After we got a good bronzing, it was time for tapas. The main reason I came.

We went to a little spot near our hotel called L’Olivera. We luckily got one of the last tables and asked for a menu. The host/waiter/bartender/busser/manager/owner/landlord pointed to a display window of food and walked off. You get what we’ve got today and you’re going to like it. I dig. It reminded me of one of my all-time favorite BBQ spots in Statesboro – Vandy’s. You walk in Vandy’s and they tell what they have today. There’s no ordering, it’s a yes or no transaction. “We got ribs today.” Okay then, ribs it is.

Our options consisted of chicken wings, mushrooms, peppers, bombas de carne (think ground chicken inside of a hushpuppy), roasted potatoes and what looked like a potato salad. We got one order of everything except the mystery salad.

 

The mushrooms were simmered in a garlic pesto oil and were potentially the greatest mushshrooms I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to Bonnaroo.

The roasted potatoes are a typical appetizer/side item in Barcelona, covered in a tomato hot sauce like Spanish fries and ketchup.

I wish I got more pictures of our tapas, but they were devoured by our animilistic party before I could pull my phone out. Oh well. The peppers were green and mild. Roasted, crispy and slightly wilted, they were the perfect pass around item. Mix in some Sangria and Estrella Damm (domestic beer) and we were ready to hit the town.

But Alec, who was studying abroad in Barcelona for two months, had a better plan for us. You can hit the bars in any city in the world, so instead he led us to a place called “The Bunkers”. Essentially, it’s a hollowed out war post that has turned into a youth party scene that just happens to overlook the entire city, the ocean and offers up once-in-a-lifetime sunset views. Given how truly incredible the atmosphere is, I figured it would be a huge tourist spot. And true, it was well-known obviously because there were probably 100 other hoodlums like us with a bottle of wine, but our taxi drivers had no idea what we were talking about. We had to Google map it and take them there. Which surprised and intrigued me because I would assume that taxi drivers of all people would know the tourist spots. So the idea that this place wasn’t an overblown tourist trap (looking at you, Times Square) was cool.

And let me tell you, I will never forget sitting on that hill watching the sun set on Barcelona. It was preciosa.

That picture was the last documentation I have from my time in Barcelona. My phone died and didn’t gain life until I was on the plane the next day. But the rest of my night included walking for a mile until we found taxi, getting lost in said taxi and finally ending up at a streetside ristorante underneath patio lights.

My final comida espanola consisted of seafood linguine. Mussels, clams, and a jumbo shrimp in a lightly spicy, thick tomato sauce. Will definitely beat me at ordering, though. Octopus with potatoes in olive oil. The octopus was perfectly grilled and crispy on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside. I had one bite and was immediately frustrated with my decision to get pasta.

We took a taxi to the hotel. Just like we took taxis all day long to different places. So we assume we’ll be taxiing to the airport. The flight is at noon, we wake up and step out to catch a cab and find out from a local that the taxi drivers went on strike on Thursday over Spain’s allowance of Uber in Barcelona. So no taxi’s existed that day. Sweet.

No problem, we’re savvy public transportation users. So we took the red train to the L9 to Terminal 2 of Barcelona Airport, taking about an hour total. We got to the airport a little later than we wanted to but no worries, we’ve still got two hours before the plane leaves.

As we come up the escalator to the international ticketing/security floor, all we saw was a three or four person wide line that snaked through every open space in the airport. You couldn’t move without coming in contact with it. I actually thought to myself, “Ha it would suck to be stuck in that line.” Then we realize that’s the line for security. Then we hear someone say the security administration is on strike as well. Then we look at our watches, look at the line and settle in.

If you lined everyone up end to end I have no doubt it would reach seven or eight football fields of furious international passengers. Not stressful at all. At 11:40 am we finally made it through. Will and I take off running full speed through the airport, heading to ole E74. 74 gates, just what I was hoping for. But thankfully, the gates started with high numbers and worked backwards so we only had to sprint a short couple hundred of feet. Huffing and puffing, we boarded the plane at 11:50, stressed and sweaty but endlessly relieved and just plain happy to get home.

And that’s that. One full day in Barcelona. I had two off days in a row at work and I spent the entirety of them either in Spain or on an airplane. Just flyin’ by the seat of my pants.

The Colinary Tour – China

Walking through the streets of Chinatown, I expected a scene out of a sitcom. Like when a white guy walks into a barbershop on Saturday morning and everyone just gets quiet and turns their head. Nom Wah Tea Parlor, deep in the heart of Chinatown, was nestled on a small, quiet street away from the fruit stand, purse tables and t-shirt shops of Canal St. On the 10 minute walk from the subway stop, I was the tallest and whitest person visible. I walked with a purpose – as I always do when I am on my way to eat dim sum. Nom Wah is heralded as the oldest running dim sum shop in NYC, being around since 1920, so my hopes were high. I was picturing a scene from Rush Hour. I heard little English as I approached the Tea Parlor. As I walked through the door, fully expecting my barbershop scene – I was disappointed. The scene was more American Diner than it was Chinese Tea Palace.

But no worries, all that means is that good news travels far and wide, right? Ehh, wrong. Nom Wah seems like the embodiment of a bitter old man who refuses to die out of pure spite for the living. Persistence, rather than excellent eats, seems to be the key to this nearly century-old dim sum restaurant. Standard atmosphere, standard service, standard dim sum. Well maybe I just got standard food, you say? Tell that to this plate of Chicken Feet I ordered.
20170719_111129.jpg

The Chicken Feet were actually my favorite part of the meal. Boiled with sugar and vinegar and steamed with a black bean sauce, the flavor toes the line between sweet and earthy. White meat fans – not for you. If you’re like me and enjoy the dark, grisly meat bits of the chicken joints – for you.

As for the actual dim sum – I got the Pork Sui Mai. Minced pork with mushrooms and shrimp in a wonton wrapper. Texturally, it was pleasant but as far as tasting…not much going on.

20170719_111811

The House Special Dumpling Soup was forgettable. The dumplings contained pork and shrimp but they were awkwardly tough and difficult to get through.

20170719_110625

All in all, kind of a disappointment for a 4.2-star rated restaurant on Google Reviews. Especially one that’s been around for nearly 100 years. Would I eat the meal again? Absolutely. Would I pay for it again? Nah.

Here’s how I watched the Masters in 3 different states today.

The Masters – a tradition unlike any other.

Flying standby – an experience unlike any other.

After a beautiful weekend in Nashville celebrating the new Mr. and Mrs. Perry Beasley’s marriage, I was forced to check back into reality. And nothing smacks you right in the face quite like the reality of missing Sunday at Augusta.

But as fate would have it – and doesn’t it sometimes seem that fate is the conductor of the Masters rather than the players themselves? – my journey from Nashville back to Minneapolis was filled with as many twists and turns as the back nine on Sunday afternoon. Both endings were just as satisfying and appropriate.

If you haven’t heard, Delta’s flights were just a teensy bit backed up this weekend. If you had the misfortune of traveling, then you know all too well what the scene at any airport in the country was this past weekend, especially one in the southeast.

All times are Central, extremely approximate and maybe even false.

11:10 am – Nashville International Airport Gate B3

We learn that our hopes of making the 11:10 flight from Nashville to the Twin Cities, and what I think is my only hope of being able to fully take in Masters Sunday, are crushed. No seats for you.

11:45 am – Nashville International Airport Gate B4

Nashville to Minneapolis isn’t going to happen today, so we’re forced to pursue other options. Flying into Atlanta, the hub of Delta and therefore the hub of airport hysteria, in order to then fly to Minneapolis sounds about as appealing as driving north on I-85. (If you’re reading this and don’t understand that particular reference…google it). So we go with Plan B – wing it. We list on a flight to Detroit, Michigan.

12:30 pm – Nashville International Airport Gate B4

This plane that is set to depart at 12:50, the one we’re hoping to get on, has been delayed since 8:30 that morning. People are sleeping, crying, whining, bitching, moaning and overall displeased with their current situation. Gate agents switch from handing out free snacks to ordering dozens of pizzas for the masses. It placates the tension, but only for as long as the customers are stuffing pepperoni pan pizza in their face.

1:05 pm – Nashville International Airport Gate B4

Masters coverage starts. I begin streaming it on my phone.

1:07 pm – Nashville International Airport Gate B4

People start boarding the plane. It’s not looking good for us. Also, right about now my dad texts me a picture of a raccoon sitting on a plush armchair in my grandmother’s living room. No relation to the story, but a pretty funny visual.

1:11 pm – Nashville International Airport Gate B4

Jordan Spieth’s tee shot lands in the fairway bunker on 1. The gate agent, bless his heart, is literally double fisting telephones, warding off angry customers as he announces last call for boarding. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose walk to the first tee box. Five people miss this flight which allow Natalie and I two seats in the very back row.

1047040

1:40 pm – 10,000+ feet over the Tennessee

Using a loophole in the system, I access free WiFi on the plane and begin streaming the Masters live. Sergio is off to a hot start. Spieth…not so much. I got about 15 seconds of golf coverage in between every 30 seconds of loading time. It was a real up and down round out there.

2:50 pm – 10,000+ feet over Kentucky or Ohio, or who really cares

There is a medical situation on the plane. The guy in front of me jumps up to tell the flight attendants he’s a doctor. This outdrives my attention on a golf tournament. He tends to a young guy ten rows up, asking for sugar packets and orange juice. I have no idea what McGuyver did to this kid but he’s up and walking off the plane in no time.

3:35 pm – Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Detroit, Michigan

We haul ass to the exact opposite end of the airport to attempt to make the connection to Minneapolis. We get there and are told we aren’t on the standby list. We protest, but feebly. The last two seats, which we believe are ours, are given to an older couple.

1mz62h

3:55 pm – Max and Emma’s Airport Bar, Terminal A

We sit down for what will be the longest uninterrupted HD Masters experience today. Rose and Sergio are teeing off on #8. Matt Kuchar starts his run. Thomas Pieters starts his run. Spieth continues his plunge. Freddy Couples (?!?) is giving it all he’s got. Rickie Fowler is struggling but hanging around.

5:20 pm – Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Gate A12

No sooner did we leave the bar than I began streaming golf on Natalie’s phone (shoutout to unlimited data). Waiting for our seat assignments, I watch Kuchar send the crowd into a frenzy with his ace on 16. I watch Thomas Pieters drill birder after birdie. I split my attention between handing the gate agent my ticket and watching the tournament. I walk down the jet bridge and on the plane, to my seat with my eyes glued on the final stretch.

5:35 pm – Runway, Detroit Metropolitan Airport

We’re third in line to take off…fine by me. More uninterrupted streaming. By now, it’s clear that it’s a two man race for the green jacket. Charl Schwartzel birdies 18 to get to six under, but it’s too little too late.

5:55 pm – 10,000+ feet above Michigan

I gain access to WiFi again, thus ending my quality definition Masters experience for 2017. From here until nearly the end, it’s on again off again access to the Masters. I watch Sergio hit into the bushes but I miss him save par. I watch Rose maintain his lead through 15. I watch Sergio stick his approach on 15, but I miss his drill the eagle putt. I catch the replays once I can. His emotional fist pump gave me goose bumps.

6:15 pm – High above Minnesota

Rose bogeys 17 to make it an even draw at 9-under. We begin our initial descent into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. At this point I know it’s a race against time until I lose internet connectivity. Both players drive into the fairway. We descend lower and lower. Rose gets a miraculous bounce on hi approach and ends up 20 feet away from the pin. Garcia, knowing what’s on the line, with all the pressure in the world, sticks his approach about 8 feet away. Talk about cojones.

image

I’m bouncing in my seat, nervous knowing my connection will go out anytime soon. Rose lines up his putt, the crowd and myself go still…and he slides it by the cup. That means if Sergio sinks his, then it’s game over.

He lines it up. The crowd goes quiet. The broadcast goes quiet. The plane was already quiet but I swear it feels like they know the scene. Sergio walks up to his ball, sets his feet and stands over his putt. This is it. I’ve rooted for Sergio for a long time, and I finally am going to see him win his first major in peak dramatic fashion. He checks his line one last time.

And then I lose service.

21c9286394a6f6f9355e03130684d91f_aaaaaaaaaand-its-gone-aand-its-gone-meme_625-625

Gone. I’m in the purgatory below 10,000 feet where no WiFi is allowed but too high to gain data access. I’m stuck in limbo, what the hell happened?!?! I’ve got my phone in one hand with the frozen screen of Sergio standing over his ball, not moving and I’ve got Natalie’s phone in the other hand desperately refreshing the screen waiting for service.

6:25 pm – Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Runway

At last, Natalie’s phone loads. Garcia and Rose are standing on the 18th tee box. My heart sinks.

He missed it.

It’s over at this point, right? You can’t come back from missing the Master’s winning putt and still have the nerve to win a playoff hole, can you?

But then Rose sends his drive wide right, into the pinestraw and directly behind the wide reach of a magnolia tree. He has no option but to punch out. Finally…the break Sergio has been missing for the last 20 years. We begin deplaning. I’m watching the final as we leave the jet bridge. I walk out into a crowded gate full of people waiting to get on the plane I just left. Sergio is walking up to his ball. These people are sitting and staring, waiting to get on with their travel. Sergio stands over his ball. I wonder for a second, how do all of these people not care that this is happening right now! Sergio putts it. Tracking, tracking, it rims around the cup and it goes in.

He goes nuts. The crowd responds accordingly.

Finally, Sergio’s done it. He won a major.

Finally, we did it. We made it back to Minnesota.

The End.

P.S. – I want to say that watching Sergio win was a real pleasure. The youthful enthusiasm that he plays with is enjoyable to watch. He has come so close so many times over the years and I was happy to see him finally earn a green jacket.

Colinary Tour: Japan

Pick any time between 10 a.m. and midnight and that is a good time to expect a large crowd at Zen Box Izakaya. Zen Box Izakaya, located on Washington Ave. in downtown Minneapolis, serves up traditional Japanese dishes with a focus on noodle bowls – specifically ramen.

Izakaya roughly means “sharing plates” in Japanese, like tapas.

The majority of the menu is focused on smaller plates not meant as an entree, with the exception of the ramen. Three ramen options are mainstays: Kimchi, Miso and Tonkotsu. Every weekend features a new and unexplored ramen bowl flavor. Every Tuesday is Vegetarian Umami Night.

20170309_201337

Natalie and I tried all three ramen bowls over the course of a two-day research expedition. Clear winner: Kimchi. Runner Up: Tonkotsu. Distant third: Miso.

However the bell of the ball in my opinion was the Tempura Avocado. Japanese for Fried Avocado.

Now, I like avocado fine. Throw it on a torilla chip, sure I’ll have some on a sandwhich. But I’m not the kind of guy to just whip out an avocado and dig it with a spoon like it’s a jar of peanut butter. So I’m probably a half an avo deep when Natalie pointed out that I’ve never eaten that much avocado in my life. Well, good point. But then again, fried avocado has never been an option for me up until now. It is served with a divine spicy mayo yum yum sauce. At $8 for the plate, it is worth every penny.

20170309_200223

If you like food, you need to go eat at Zen Box. But do yourself a favor and make a reservation. Tables are at a premium.

 

 

Why Atlanta sports fans are the best in the the business

Whether you were born into it, or for some twisted reason you have adopted it; when you are an Atlanta sports fan you willingly enter yourself into a contract. The rules of the contract are simple. You are guaranteed heartbreak and disappointment of monumental proportions on behalf of every team every two to three years. And in return, maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a championship before you die. But don’t count on it.

As I watched my Falcons slowly have their grip on the Lombardi Trophy wrestled away from them over the course of the fourth quarter on Sunday, I had only one thought. This is so Atlanta.

We were up 28-3, I texted a friend and said, “I still don’t think it’s enough.”

Some people might call this pessimistic, others may call it bad mojo. I call it experience.

As a true Atlanta sports fan, alongside so many others like me, I’ve seen this show before. Granted this was the worst episode in history, but the show remains the same. I saw it when the Falcons started 5-0 last year just to finish 3-8 and miss the playoffs. I saw it in 2012 when they gave up another massive lead to the 49ers in the NFC Championship. I’ve seen it the last two years as the best Hawks teams in memory got swept by Cleveland in the conference finals. I’ve watched the Braves win the NL East almost every year of my life, and while they gave us our sole championship in 1995, with all due respect – it isn’t enough. I’ve seen the same teams lose the same big games to the same big-name teams over and over and over.

But still, I come back.

And that my friends, is why Atlanta sports fans are the best fans in the world. Because we always come back. Guaranteed embarrassment and disappointment on the grandest scale, we still come back.

There’s not a soul outside of the city who’d agree with me. That’s fine. In fact, so many other cities have gone out of their way to point out how poor of fans they think Atlantans are. ATLiens have been through it, time after time, gut-punch after gut-punch – but still, we come back.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe encapsulated a common, yet wrong, assumption about Atlanta and its fans in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. ESPN actually paid someone in 2015 to walk the streets of Atlanta on a random Tuesday and belittle the city because he couldn’t find any Falcons fans. We’ve been called fake, fair weathered, nonexistent and underwhelming. Cities like Boston, LA and New York would have you believe that we hardly exist.

I wouldn’t know, but I’m assuming it’s a whole lot easier to be a fan when your teams’ win championships nearly every year. What would happen if Boston went 20 years without a championship across major sports? Would they be as loud as they are? Would they get unending favorable media coverage? Would their fans exist like they do? Or would they lay low, practicing patience, faith and hope like so many of us in ATL? We’ll probably never know because they, unlike us, win. And quite often.

But that’s the precise reason why I think Atlanta fans are the best. We fully acknowledge and expect the impending heartbreak. WE KNOW WE ARE GOING TO LOSE – in dramatic, gut wrenching fashion no less. We expect the worst, every time. We know we’re going to walk away feeling like we were sucker punched. We know that the most airtime we’ll get over the next month is going to be on the opposing team’s highlights. We know every other city thinks we’re fake and nonexistent. With a 25 point lead in the second half of the Super Bowl, we can never assume victory. We are proven right in that regard.

And yet, we come back.

We roll with the punches, we take last year’s heartbreak and raise you another one. We rise up, every time, and cheer on our teams. No matter what. Find me another city that continues to go all in with their teams for literally no reason but to be let down time after time.

I wish other cities actually knew what we go through, because if they did – they would show us the respect we deserve. But Atlanta doesn’t need any other city or any media outlet to define our fanhood.

Atlanta’s got Atlanta.

And until our happy asses are mobbing down Peachtree, going nuts at the parade for whichever team just won the championship – that’s all we need.

 

Colinary Tour of Minnesota: The Mediterranean

I bet Spitz Mediterranean Street Food goes through more napkins than any other restaurant in the city. The food here is hands on, fingers in, sauce-all-over delicious.

Specializing in doners (wraps) and french fry baskets loaded up and over with meats, veggies and, of course, sauce, Spitz also offers a nice little drinking atmosphere. I’m currently working on my second Castle Danger Cream Ale, a local craft brew from northern Minnesota, as I type this. The dedication to Minnesota beers is not only obvious; it seems like its the only option. A decent wine selection and a few different Sangria (?) flavors are also available to wash down that street car doner you’re currently struggling to hold together.

It’s located in that grey area between the University of Minnesota campus and the outer edges of downtown Minneapolis, across the Mississippi River on Central and Hennepin Avenues.

20170123_200731

I went for the Street Cart Doner, which was labeled on the menu as their most popular seller. Which to me begs the question, is it the most popular seller because it’s the best thing on the menu or because they labeled it as the most popular seller, thus enticing people to buy it, thus making it the most popular seller? Perhaps we’ll never know. I also ordered a side of waffle-cut sweet potato fries. I’m a sucker for anything waffle-cut.

The doner is served in a wax paper wrapper and cut in half. I found out too late that the best way to go about eating this guy is the tear off the wrapper as you eat it. But I’m just not that patient. I want my dinner and I want all of it. Right now.

The food is great. The lamb and beef combo is tender and soft, yet still a little juicy. The cucumber, tomato and green peppers (I asked for no red onions because I’m a sane human being) are noticeably fresh and crunchy. But the headliner of tonight’s performance is the garlic yogurt sauce that has fully infiltrated every square inch of this doner. Savory, just a touch sweet and resounding – it brings the tender meat and the crunchy veggies together. I was thinking about asking for a side of it as my drink order but there were other people in the restaurant.

Oh by the way I don’t know if I told you but this is an actual restaurant, not a street car. Just making sure.

The interior here is art-deco with abstract, colorful murals splotched over the walls. The main mural is a tribute to….wait for it…I bet you’ll never guess. Prince. They love that man up here. If intriguing, unique chandeliers are your thing then you need to come on down because holy smokes they’ve got the oddest light fixtures I’ve ever seen.

20170123_201253

20170123_200343

One thing I’ve noticed about restaurants and taphouses in Minnesota is their commitment to games – which I appreciate. The couple behind me is duking it out over a game of Battleship while crunching on a fry basket. The dudes across the bar are playing Go Fish. There are several board games behind the bar ready to be used by the patrons. Meanwhile, I’m over here typing on my laptop like a loser.

Well I’m going to go now. This has been fun, let’s do it again sometime.

p.s. I scarfed y food down before I took a picture of it for you to see. I apologize for nothing.

p.p.s. follow my Instagram @thecolinarytour

20170123_193755

 

 

Good Karma at Casablanca Cafe

If you want a guaranteed weekend of delayed + cancelled flights, just go through the Atlanta Airport when “snow” is projected. I am able to make fun of how Atlanta deals with wintery conditions because I am living in the worst winter in America- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although that is not what this post is about, it has to do with it because all I wanted was to escape the frozen tundra for a few days with my friend Emily, who is also a flight attendant. This is why we picked up a trip together that laid over in Ft. Lauderdale, FL!

With all of the odds not in our favor for this mini vacay, we somehow still made it about 7 hours late! We originally had plans to go to this cute restaurant on the water that night when we got in, but since we were so tired, we decided to stay at our hotel and get some rest. The next morning, we woke up and decided we would give this restaurant a try again. We were told that it was amazing with a great atmosphere. So, we requested our Uber. Now, Uber does this great thing now called “Uber Pool” were you literally carpool with another person who has a destination that is on your route, and its cheaper for everyone! I always like to do this because you meet new people and save money.

Side note: Emily is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. She has the ability to make everyone she meets feel so special and could probably strike up a conversation with a table.

So Emily starts a conversation with this nice man who from the looks of it, is on his way to work. He is wearing a chef’s outfit. We start talking about the crazy day we just had and about the unfortunate events that took place in the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday (our trip was a day after the heartbreaking airport shooting at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport). We told him how we are just looking to have a nice lunch near the water. He explains that he is the executive chef of Casablanca Cafe and he insists that we come try it out! We knew that our day was quickly turning around because this is the same restaurant that our manager told us to go to before leaving on the trip the day before. I am all about signs from the universe and if this isn’t one then I don’t know what is.

img_8956

As soon as we arrive to Casablanca, we follow closely behind Chef Marc who whisks us by the host stand, picks up a couple of menus and leads us up to the balcony which only has 3 or 4 tables. We sit down and as we are admiring the views and the food on the menu he says to us, “So, do y’all want to order from the menu or can I just bring y’all some food?” Emily and I looked at each other and smiled and both agreed- hell yeah, Marc, bring us the good stuff.

fullsizerender

Within a couple of minutes, our table was filled with these beautiful creations (that we later learned were not on the menu). We had shrimp, crab cakes, veal ravioli, kale salad, and chocolate molten cake. I can’t even begin to name all of the ingredients in these dishes because I would sound very uneducated on what is what, but here are some of the pictures of our mouth-watering meals.

Chef Marc hand delivered all of the meals to us and kept checking on us to see how we liked these combinations of ingredients, and I do have to say that each plate went back to the kitchen completely empty. We loved it.

After a full day of taking care of delayed and upset passengers, doing all we know to keep them happy, we were so grateful to be the ones getting treated like princesses. With the sun on our skin and an amazing view of the turquoise water, we couldn’t stop giggling and remembering that this is one of those times that the good karma was coming back our way.

img_8954

The best part? After the meal, we were waiting for our checks to see the damage we did, and Chef Marc told us all he wanted in return was a review on Trip Advisor. So you better believe we did just that! We finished this five course meal with espresso which was accompanied with the cutest stick of rock candy. It was just what we needed!

fullsizerender-3

Casablanca Cafe (and Chef Marc) refilled our spirits after a hard day of travel and emotions. With all the heartbreaking things happening in our world everyday, its hard to feel safe traveling as much as I do. But I believe there are still great people out there and Chef Marc proved me right. If you are ever in the Ft. Lauderdale area, I highly recommend giving Casablanca Cafe a try. I know Emily and I will be back.

fullsizerender-2

Me, Chef Marc + Emily

Colinary Tour: South of the Border in Cabo

20161129_143454-pano

View of Cabo San Lucas from the top of Mt. Solmar

Fall off the bone pork. I mean I literally picked up the slow-roasted pork shank by the femur and the surrounding meat peeled itself and flopped down on the table; releasing a little bit of steam and whole lot of aroma.

That’s what’s going through my mind when I’m recollecting on my trip to Cabo San Lucas after Thanksgiving.

The dish was Pork Yucateco (Chamorro de Cerdo) at Restaurante Maria Corona, just two blocks behind the hustle and bustle of Cabo Marina.

20161126_192745

Marinated with dried chiles and slow roasted, this hunk of meat was served with pickled red onions to add sharp/sour/citric flavors to the savory/rich/mellow pork leg and pasilla peppers to kick it up a notch if you so choose.

Served with rice, beans and a regional cheese (looked and tasted similar to Chihuahua cheese) this melt-in-your-mouth plate of food was the highlight of my first trip to Los Cabos in 2012 and it was the same this time around. Check out the rest of Restaurante Maria Corona’s menu here.

20161126_185202

However, don’t think that’s where my food search ended…come on, you know me better than that. Maria Corona’s isn’t upscale per se, but it’s an experience (think: tiki torches and guacamole made table-side). The antithesis of that is Tacos Gardenias.

Although it’s located on Paseo de La Marina, it’s not in the main drag of tourist attractions. If you weren’t hungry and don’t naturally gravitate towards delicious smells, you might never notice this place. It’s got a sign on the roof, but nothing else enticing you to come in. There isn’t even a front wall, just an open-air entry; which is nice. The fish taco was excellent, the shrimp taco maybe even better but if I were you I would go ahead and get one of each taco that they offer. I think it was eight, but I lost track after the cactus taco which I think was number five.

All this food, you need something to wash it down with right? Aside from Mexican Coke which is superior to what we have( is it the cane sugar? is it the glass? is it because we’re on vacation?), what’s a trip to Mexico if there isn’t some tequila going on.

I’ve just recently become a fan of tequila after realizing that the cheap stuff is garbage. Real tequila isn’t all that bad and there’s actually flavor in there. My favorites are Herradurra Reposado and Don Julio Blanco. The reposado is oaky and strong, with vanilla and pepper flavors. The Blanco is clean and smooth, the easiest tequila I’ve had to date.