Colinary Tour of Minnesota – Cuba

It’s only my second day into this project am I’m already reaping major benefits.

I was on a double at work yesterday, which left me little time to track down an international lunch or dinner spot to test out. But I did have time for “the most important meal of the day” (Cadswallop if you ask me…..Hagrid reference anyone?). I don’t even know any foreign breakfast spots back home – do people in other countries even eat breakfast? – so I definitely don’t know any here. Thank God for Google.

Thirty seconds later I’m looking at the CityPages ’10 Best Breakfast Spots in Minneapolis’ and it’s full of typical sounding restaurants like Al’s Breakfast, Hot Plate and Milda’s. I’m sure they’re delicious, but not what I’m looking for. Only one place on the list seemed like it fit the bill – Victor’s 1959 Cafe.

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I can’t honestly say I’ve ever eaten Cuban food. I’ve had a Cuban sandwich before, but I’m sure Cuban’s have had a cheeseburger before as well…not saying much. The idea of Cuban breakfast intrigued me.

It was a short drive out of the city, heading south. The big buildings and massive apartment complexes faded into rows of trees lining one way streets with modest homes hugging the curbs. Yellow and orange leaves lined the drainage area between the curbs and asphalt – more on the ground than on the limbs. I turned right off of Blaisdell Ave. onto 38th street and nearly drove by the place. The bright turquoise paint on the building is the only thing that stopped me. In a city that hunkers down underneath dark jackets and brown buildings for five months a year, Victor’s stands out like like a large white man in Peru. Trust me, I can verify that analogy.

There are a grand total of two parking spaces in their parking lot, so I kissed that option goodbye and found street parking nearby. My first experience with Victor’s was before I even set foot in the place. A kid about my age walked by me on the sidewalk with a to-go box in his hands. I was watching my breath make steam in front of me when I caught a whiff of whatever he ordered…I knew I was in for a treat.

Sure enough I walk into the small entryway and I’m greeted by a full-on assault to my senses. My eyes light up with every color in the color wheel lining the walls, floors and ceiling before me, my nose is infiltrated with the smell of sizzling steak and onions and I hear the clanking of pans and shouts of Spanish from the kitchen. The entire place is about the size of my apartment; it probably seats no more than 25 total. I belly up to the bar (seating: 4) so I don’t hog up valuable table space (a nice little life hack I’ve learned from my days in a restaurant up here) and take in my surroundings. First thing I notice, they’re cool with graffiti. Scratch that, they encourage graffiti. Every wall is plastered with signatures, pictures and hearts with initials inside done in Sharpie. I comment on the decor and the server hands me a coffee mug with Sharpie’s – they’ve embraced it.

I look over and see that Guy Fieri has visited this place on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives – he too signed his name. My anticipation for this place continues to grow.

I get a coffee and make small talk. Victor’s has been there for 17 years. They close from 2pm to 4:30pm. The servers are off on Sunday and make a plan to get mimosas. Good for them.

I’m hungry and don’t really feel like trying to nail down the perfect order so I go with the first thing that looks good – the Cuban Scrambler. Three scrambled eggs covered with black beans with a side of fried sweet plantains and Cuban toast with Guava jam.

Cuban Scrambler - three scrambled eggs, black beans, fried plantains and cuban toast with guava jam,

Cuban Scrambler – three scrambled eggs, black beans, fried plantains and cuban toast with guava jam

You know when you’re on vacation and you go to a beach bar with a really cool atmosphere and have a great time? The bar is cool, the people are happy but the food isn’t really anything special? You leave there thinking, ‘that was fun but that food wasn’t really that good’….yeah Victor’s isn’t anything like that.

Whoever cooks the black beans knows what they’re doing. The eggs are eggs…there’s only so much that you can do with eggs. The plantains are as good as I’ve had anywhere but the Cuban toast is what set it off. Warm and fluffy, it’s two large slices of bread that felt like they were slid over the grill for a minute rather than in a toaster. It was perfect.

The lady next to me ordered the steak breakfast. She looked like she just came off of a long nursing shift – she ordered a well-deserved mimosa. From the looks of it, all sorts of people eat at Victor’s. An old couple wandered in; looking wildly confused and skeptic. Two regulars were greeted by name. A foursome of college kids. Several individuals like myself and the nurse who just wanted something delicious to start/end their day.

After it was all said and done, I asked if I could sign my name net to Guy Fieri’s. The servers were appreciative that I asked and obliged me saying, “Once you’re article is famous we can claim both of you!”. There’s a good chance I talked up this ‘food blog’ a little more than it’s worth but hey, no harm no foul. And give Guy some credit, I can’t describe Victor’s any better than he did…”Off da hook Cuban food!”

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They serve beer and wine too!

They serve beer and wine too!

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If you're not paying attention, you'll drive right by this place!

If you’re not paying attention, you’ll drive right by this place!

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Cuban Scrambler - three scrambled eggs, black beans, fried plantains and cuban toast with guava jam,

Cuban Scrambler – three scrambled eggs, black beans, fried plantains and cuban toast with guava jam,

Pretty much every inch of this place has been Sharpie'd over!

Pretty much every inch of this place has been Sharpie’d over!

Craft coffee at Victor's

Craft coffee at Victor’s

Culinary Tour of Minnesota – Vietnam

A friend told me recently I need to focus my career goals on something that I am passionate about. I agree entirely. I want to live a life of purpose and meaning – where I wake up everyday excited to get to work. Only problem is…I don’t know what that passion is yet.

That’s not to say that I’m not passionate about things, because I am. I just don’t know which passion I should try to turn into a career. So in the spirit of making a choice rather than being scared into indecisiveness, I’m going to spend my upcoming months doing something that I love…eating.

That’s right folks, it’s time to do what I do best; shove food in my face. But not just any food. My goal over the next however-many months in the Twin Cities is to eat food from as many different cultures/countries as possible and tell you about it. I’ve noticed that Minneapolis/St. Paul has an above-average amount of international influence – especially in the culinary scene – and I want to try it all. I don’t have any formula or general gameplan to speak of as to how I’m going to attack this daunting task other than to eat. A lot. But if you know me…I think I can handle it.

So without further ado, here we go.

VIETNAM

Vietnam is first on the list simply because it was on my way home from work today. I stopped for a late lunch at Lotus to Go Go – the takeout spot so nice, they named it twice. Even at 2:15 p.m. the place was busy. Located in a small shopping lot on the corner of LaSalle Ave. and Grant St. in downtown Minneapolis/Loring Park – Lotus isn’t somewhere you’d drive by and think, “Oh honey, that place looks cute, let’s try that.” Quite on the contrary, it sits alongside a liquor store, a gas station and some oddball apparel shops. I don’t know what it is about Asian restaurants attached to gas stations but I’ve never been disappointed by one in my life. (If you ate at Shangrila Asian Bistro in East Cobb before it shut down, you know what I’m talking about.) There’s little to no parking to speak of and there’s a good chance you’ll have to ward off (or give in to) some beggars before you get inside. But once you do – you’ve made it.

Serving up authentic Vietnamese dishes like Com Ga, Bahn Mi and Pho alongside fan favorites like Pad Thai, Kung Pao Chicken, Lo Mein and the likes – Lotus offers a real Vietnamese cuisine as well as some flair on many traditionally Chinese dishes. I went for the Com Tam – grilled pork over rice with an egg (?), lettuce, cucumbers and pickled daikon & carrots.

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The pork was seasoned with something on the sweet side and it was delicious. I’m not even going to try to act like I know Food Networks phrases to talk it up – all I know is that it was awesome. Best part was the $9.99 price tag for a filling meal. If there’s one thing I know know, it’s that I’ll be back to Lotus to Go Go.

2016 Ryder Cup: Pictures from Day 1, Hole by Hole Layout and How the Scoring Works

 

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I was explaining the Ryder Cup to Natalie and I realized a couple of things: 1) it’s kind of difficult to explain and 2) it’s the whitest sport ever. It’s like the Olympics for golf, but it happens every two years, it’s only the US and Europe and this year it is played in Minnesota…so many white people.

I was fortunate enough to land tickets for Tuesday’s practice round, and I’d like to think I took full advantage of my day. But before I show you the gorgeous landscape that is Hazeltine National Golf Club (Chaska, MN), here’s a simpleton’s version of how the tournament is played and scored:

2 teams. United States. Europe. 12 players per team.

United States roster:

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European roster:

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Captains (Davis Love III & Darren Clarke):

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3 days. Friday. Saturday Sunday. Friday and Saturday are team play days, Sunday is single matches.

Friday and Saturday contain two separate formats: fourballs and foursomes. There are four tee times for each format with two players per tee time, so eight players from each side will play in fourballs and eight players from each side will play in foursomes on both Friday and Saturday. If you’re keeping up with your headmath you have realized that there are more matches to be played on Friday and Saturday than there are golfers. Good job. Some players will play 36 holes on either Friday or Saturday (or even both).

Fourballs: Each player hits his own shot and plays a regular round of golf (relatively speaking). There are four balls in play on every hole. Whichever player scores the lowest score on the hole wins one point for his team. Whoever has more points after 18 holes wins, or if one team builds an insurmountable lead (they win the first 10 holes, making it impossible for the other team to come back) then that team wins automatically. If Dustin Johnson scores a 10 on a hole, but his playing partner Jordan Spieth birdies – then Dustin’s score doesn’t matter. No matter how bad it is. Jordan wins the hole (given the European’s don’t score better) for Team USA. If the best scores for each team are the same on a hole, each team gets a 1/2 point for that hole.

Foursomes: This is alternate shot. This means if you and I are on a team, I hit a shot, then you hit a shot, then I hit a shot, then you hit a shot…until we hole out. Whichever team has the lowest score for the hole gets one point for that hole. Whichever team has more points after 18 holes wins.

Each of the above matches are worth one point total.

Sunday: Singles matches. The showdown. Good ole’ fashioned golf. Me vs. you. Whichever golfer wins, gets one point for his team. Each golfer plays on this day, so there are a total of 12 matches.

Still keeping up with the algebra? There are 28 matches total. The first team to reach 14 1/2 points total wins. If the Ryder Cup finishes at 14-14, then the defending champs keep the Ryder Cup (in this case, Europe). So USA needs 14.5 points to win the 2016 Ryder Cup.

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Here’s the hole-by-hole photo gallery that I took earlier this morning:

Hole #1 – Par 4, 490 yards

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View from #1 grandstand

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Hole #2 – Par 4, 431 yards

View from behind the green

View from behind the green

Hole #3 – Par 5, 633 yards

This hole is a beast. I had four or five photos for this hole, but only one could make the cut.

This hole is a beast. I had four or five photos for this hole, but only one could make the cut.

Hole #4 – Par 3, 210 yards

Hole #5 – Par 4, 448 yards

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Hole #6 – Par 4, 405 yards

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Hole #7 – Par 5, 572 yards (*disclaimer: this is THE hole at Hazeltine. So it deserves much more than one picture)

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#7 is paper thin and a slight dogleg right. 9/10 of my tee shots would be in the lake.

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Hole #8 – Par 3, 176 yards

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Hole #9 – Par 4, 432 yards

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Hole #10 – Par 4, 452 yards

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This picture is taken from the landing zone at the top of the hill. Sketchy 130+ yard approach shot onto a small green.

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Hole #11 – Par 5, 606 yards

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Another monster par 5. This myriad of sand traps protecting the front of the green almost guarantees no one can make it in two. Almost…(looking at you DJ)

Hole #12 – Par 4, 518 yards

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There’s a green behind there somewhere.

Hole #13 – Par 3, 248 yards

I forgot to take a picture of 13, so let’s just treat it like hotel elevators treat the 13th floor and act like it doesn’t really exist.

Hole #14 – Par 4, 352 yards

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Hole #15 – Par 5, 642 yards

These par 5's aren't even fair.

These par 5’s aren’t even fair.

Hole #16 – Par 4, 402 yards

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Hole #17 – Par 3, 182 yards
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Hole #18 – Par 4, 475 yards

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My Trip into the Gateway Arch

I had two days off last week and this girl I know had a hotel for the night in St. Louis, so I hopped on a flight and became a tourist for the day. My main reason for going was to hopefully bump into Nelly, but also I’ve never been to St. Louis so I was excited to see what it was like.

Anyways, picture the most touristy things a human can do in one day and I did them. We went to the Botanical Gardens, we went to the zoo and we went to the Gateway Arch – the crown jewel of St. Louis’ landmarks. All that was missing was my fannypack and dad jeans.

I probably should back up, I have kind of been to St. Louis. On our way to Frontier Ranch in Colorado for a Younglife trip in high school, we drove through STL. I vividly remember being half awake, lying on the gum-riddled floor of a greyhound bus as the sun was rising when we were passing through. Our Younglife leader, Phil, calls back, “Hey we’re passing the Arch if anyone is up.” As tough as it was to leave my Tempur-pedic spot on the floor I decided I’d check it out. I was the only one awake other than Phil. We passed it on the highway, the sun was just coming up and the sky was orange and red and it was a picture-perfect scene. All I can remember thinking is, “Damn, should’ve kept sleeping.”

Honestly, I don’t mean to be rude but I remember thinking okay cool, there it is. That’s definitely an arch.

But actually having the chance to be on the ground floor and experience this thing for real was special. It is MASSIVE. 630 feet high, taller than the Statue of Liberty. Once we decided to actually go up in it, I got even more excited. Think about how far you can see from up there! I started to feel bad for my lackluster opinion of it beforehand.

So we bought our ticket ($13, fair price) and stood in line. I’m on the tips of my toes trying to see over everyone, curious as to what type of contraption is going to take us to the top of this parabola. As we got the tickets, the asked if we had any issue with claustrophobia, we said no. I figured it was just a necessary warning, kind of like the ‘WARNING: Gas is flammable’ label on gas pumps. So we stand in groups of five in front of elevator-type doors to get into our ‘tram’. Now, when I tell you this tram was the size of a large softball I’m talking about maximum two humans should’ve been allowed in this thing. They’ve crammed five of us in there and I’m sitting with my knees in my face and my feet in Natalie’s lap with three strangers like we’re huddling for warmth in the winter. Five people my ass.

But whatever, to be expected I guess.

When we reach the top, I get out of our Yeti cooler and ascend the flight of stairs to the viewing area. The first thing I notice once I’m there isn’t the astounding architecture or the panoramic views – it’s the smell. The top of the Gateway Arch smells like a middle school locker room. It smells like ComicCon walked around all day trying to catch ’em all and then wrung out their underwear into a two-week old hamper. It’s a small area with a lot of people, there’s bound to be an odor – I get it. If you’ve read my last blog post, you know that I’ll sweat if I chew too hard so I understand body odor, really. Again, to be expected.

Once my nostrils get over the offense, I regain my excitement to look over historic St. Louis and the Mighty Mississippi River. Just one problem, the viewing windows are the size of your rear view mirror. It’s like trying to see the skyline of a major city in your rear-view mirror in your car. And another problem, there’s nothing to see. I mean yeah there’s the river, but I can see the whole thing from the ground. At least there was downtown St. Louis? I guess?

We look out one side, send some snapchats. Look out the other side, send some snapchats. 90 seconds in, we look at each other, “Ok, ready to go back down?”

If you’re a St. Louis person, I’m sorry I’m really not trying to dog on y’all. The Botanical Garden was magnificent and your zoo was the best zoo I’ve ever seen with truly enlightening exhibits. But your Arch sucks, I’m sorry.

 

 

 

Thoughts on life after 3 months of attending flights

After finishing up roughly 3 months of being a flight attendant, I’ve realized a few things:

  1. With a schedule like this, the only way to survive is to eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and make the most of a Tuesday afternoon when you’re off and everyone else is working.
  2. People from all over the world are pretty fantastic (excluding the occasional person who uses me as their verbal punching bag while squeezed in a middle seat on a plane). Just because someone doesn’t look like you or speak your language, does not mean they should be discounted or brushed off. Put yourself in their shoes and treat them with the utmost respect just as you would want to be treated.
  3. Pictures can’t justify our world’s beauty; although I still manage to take at least 50 per layover, there’s just nothing quite like experiencing it in person.
  4. You never know what kind of day someone is having. Planes transport people to weddings and celebrations or to funerals and life changing doctor visits. Random acts of kindness, a genuine smile and a few sweet words can go a long way and have a lasting impact on a human being.

With all of the negative things happening in this world, sometimes it’s scary to travel. My family worries about me and all I can do is reassure them that I will be safe and smart.  One of the recent shootings that just happened was in the city I live in. But you can’t live in a box. Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring a new city or a new country is gratifying, exhilarating, and changes your perspective on how you view everyday life.

Being across the country from my close friends and family is hard but has also taught me to grow up and learn a lot. I am at the happiest in my life right now because having some solitude has made me focus on the important things in life. Be positive and warm to those around you- you don’t know what path of life they are on. Enjoy the warmth of the summer air on your skin or the salty ocean breeze when possible. Take care of your mind and body and be conscious of what you’re putting into it. Cherish the little things- like coming home to a clean house, a home cooked meal, or a movie day during a thunderstorm. Give compliments to people and they will come back around when you need a pick-me-up. Put an effort towards your relationships with people and don’t take anyone for granted, you never know when they could be gone.

While working for a major airline and traveling somewhere new every week sounds totally glamorous, its not all of the time. The hours are hard on your body, the days are long, and you never know how hard it is to pull out a smile until you’ve been flying across the country and back overnight for 12 hours with delays and unhappy people. But one thing I try to always remember, is to never get complacent; with my job and being responsible for the safety of so many; with days off and wanting to sleep all day when I know I shouldn’t but sometimes you just need to. And most of all- with the love and people I have in my life. Stay on your toes and sensitive to the people who emotionally give to you, and be ready to return that when they need it.

Much Love.

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London, England

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Chicago, IL

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Stillwater, MN

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Phoenix, AZ

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Nassau, Bahamas

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Paris, France

Minnesota Curb Appeal

So we don’t really know a lot of people yet, which means we walk around town on our own a lot. Which is great when there are all of these awesome houses around downtown Minneapolis to photograph! There’s not really a grand end game involved here, we just thought we’d share pictures of beautiful homes that we see on our walks!

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How I accidentally ended up in hot yoga

I tried something new the other day.

Natalie likes to do yoga, so now I like to do yoga. Anyways we sign up for a one-week free trial at this yoga studio in downtown Minneapolis. Now I’m already a bit nervous because I’m not very flexible and usually yoga is a class full of women and every one of them can balance their bodies parallel to the ground with nothing but one hand touching the floor.

Colin, you mean you can’t do that?

So I rent a yoga mat because apparently my beach towel is not yoga friendly, and into the studio we go. As soon as I walk in, something isn’t right. Now I’m a natural sweater…like if I get up from the couch too quickly my forehead might get a little damp. But by the time I walk across the room to my yoga mat, I’m already producing beads of sweat. What the hell is this?

Somewhere along the line – either they never mentioned it in the brochure, we didn’t ask, or Natalie knew and didn’t tell me, but at some point there was a bit of miscommunication. But it was too late and I was already signed up and inside of one hour of hot yoga.

What’s hot yoga you ask? Good question. Imagine doing yoga…all the stretching and moving and crazy poses and deep breathing. Now imagine that same thing inside of a steam room at the YMCA. Boom, hot yoga.

I was dripping sweat from places I didn’t even know sweat could drip from. My elbow, my kneecaps, anklebone…they are all dripping their own waterfall of sweat. The woman next to me? Dry as the Sahara.

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Literally less than three minutes into the class I can’t hold a pose because my feet have sweated through the mat and I was slipping all over the place like I had soapy feet in the shower. Next time you take a shower I want you to soap up the bottom of your feet and try to do a walking lunge. That’s where I was at.

So our kind yoga instructor gets me a towel. I think she meant for it to be to wipe my face off, but I put it under my back foot. Five minutes later, another towel…this one went under my front foot. Ms. Yoga didn’t look thrilled about it. But whatever, I’m here and I can finally move without being on a slip and slide. Proceed. Thirty minutes in and my chin looks like a faucet someone didn’t turn off all the way.

After a full hour we reached the end of class and the craziest thing happened…I enjoyed it. But what was even crazier was how the class ended. For the last three or so minutes they have you go into corpse pose. Basically just lay down and take a nap. It’s great. If every workout I’ve ever done promised to end with a nap on the floor I’d be a lot skinnier than I am.