Tag Archives: Travel

Nashville, Trip #2

Well, the hubs and I made a last minute decision to do a whirlwind weekend trip to Nashville.  We saw on Monday that some bands were playing in Nashville over the weekend that we would love to see that were not going to be in our area anytime soon.  By 9 pm Wednesday night, we decided we had to go.  We took a half day from work Friday, and by 1 pm we were on our way.  Unfortunately, I was a horrible picture-taker over the weekend, and I don’t have much to show for it, but I’m providing lots of links as to what we did, so I would just encourage you to click on them (because, lets face it, those pics will be much better than anything of mine anyway!)

Friday

After driving like crazy, we got into Nashville around 6 pm and checked into our hotel that was in the Vanderbilt University area, and ended up being just one block from the concert venue, the Exit/In.  We had done some quick searching on the way down to determine our dining destinations, and Friday we decided on The Patterson House, a cocktail bar that was recently ranked in Bon Appetit magazine as being in the nation’s top ten new cocktail bars.  Similar to the Holland House from our last visit, but very close to the area we were staying in.  Dimly lit (in a good way), speakeasy vibe adorned with lots of old books and pretty glass.  Cocktails are all $12, which might take people aback, but for the amount of work and the quality of the ingredients that go into them, I have no problem with it.  I did at least attempt some pics on the iphone here, but it was so dark, and sometimes I feel kinda intrusive with flash, so unfortunately no pics, but check these out here to give you some ideas.  I had a Fall Sidecar and a Ramos Gin Fizz, both amazingly beautiful and tasty.  Food did seem to be an afterthought there and did not live up to the high quality of drinks, but overall I was very happy.

After dinner, we were on to the Exit/In to see Hillbilly Casino, the Supersuckers, and Reverend Horton Heat.  Hillbilly we have seen several times and love them, but it was my first time seeing Supersuckers and RHH live.  Supersuckers were good, and Reverend Horton Heat  was AMAZING.  Great show, and an excellent venue to see music.  After the show ended, we took a cab downtown to Layla’s as Hillbilly Casino was playing until 2 am.  A late night for sure!

Saturday

Saturday morning consisted of sleeping in/sleeping off a hangover!  We finally got rolling around 11 and went to the Farmer’s Market.  We had been there on our last trip and loved it, so we decided to go again.  Purchases included goat’s milk, goat cheese,  a pumpkin whoopie pie, and a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese icing.  Next, we went to Swett’s , a soul food “meat and three”, where my only pic occured.  A pig-out of my fried chicken, stewed green beans, mac and cheese, and fried okra ensued.

My only pic of trip - the cure to my hangover!

The day was gorgeous, so we just wandered around outside where we could.  We went by Yazoo brewing company and had a beer on their patio. We then went to the Historic Hillsboro Village area and roamed the streets, weaving in and out of little shops.

For dinner, we decided on Flyte, and we definitely made a great choice.  Top-notch service and wonderful seasonal dishes in a very pretty atmosphere with a great wine and drink list.  We went the all appetizer route. As the name indicates, you can do “Flytes” of wine, but also of soup and salad, which allowed us to sample 3 soups and 3 salads, including a smoked pumpkin soup and a golden beet salad with an orange dressing.  Other appetizers included butternut ravioli, braised pork belly with boiled peanut hummus, and the highlight of the night, Halibut cheeks with mushrooms and bok choi in this Asian-type broth. So delicate, tender, and moist!  We decided to skip dessert and just order drinks since we had snacks at our hotel from our Farmers’ Market visit, and I loved the “Sunflower” I ordered – vodka, liquor 43, orange juice, and nutmeg.  But, as we got to talking to our very lovely server, Tracy, she told us about the food truck that she and the hostess from the restaurant run called Sugar Wagon, and she just happened to have some items from it there at the restaurant!  We ended up taking back to the hotel two  ice cream sandwiches of hers, one being salted Bourbon caramel ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and the other oatmeal cookies with cream cheese ice cream.  We wolfed them down as soon as we got to the hotel, and they were awesome!  And, she told us her Sugar Wagon had recently won 2nd place in Nashville’s first food truck competition.  How great is that?

Since we had such a late night on Friday, and already had a wonderful day and dinner, we decided to call it a night after Flyte because we were getting up early to head home on Sunday morning and soon face the realities of work on Monday.  But, it was most certainly another successful trip to Nashville, and I can’t wait til our next visit!

Our St. George Island, FL Vacation

So, if you could not tell by my influx of seafood recipes as of late, I was lucky enough to spend a vacation recently lazing on the beach for a week in Florida  – St. George Island to be exact.  It’s in the panhandle, kind of in between Panama City and Tallahassee.  The weather was warm and luckily the ocean water was still warm, too.  Days usually included a nice walk or bike ride in the morning, followed by the beach and reading for several hours, and then some good, local seafood in the evening (which often included oysters, shrimp, and grouper).

The lighthouse on the island

St. George Island is only about 28 miles long and 2 miles wide and located about 4 miles right off the mainland.  Though on one end is a very exclusive, gated community with its own airstrip, the rest of the island is very laid back and practically the opposite of exclusive.  Down-home beach bum might be a better description.  There are many areas that are not developed still, and no building can be taller than 3 stories.  There are only about 5 restaurants/bars on the island, and it is a VERY dog friendly area.  Dogs are allowed on the beach and in most all of the restaurants – which was good because between my parents, myself, and my husband, we brought 4 dogs with us.  I’m not sure what we were thinking…

But, it turned out amazing!  Our beach house for the week was just right, we bought tons of great seafood from these little trailers that would show up each day with seafood that had just been caught, and were able to spend the week in total relaxation.  Some of our highlights:

First, Eddie Teach’s – a great dive bar.  Open for lunch, dinner, and late-night, open-air, and all dogs welcome.  They have a “happy hour” Monday – Friday at 3:30 – 4:30 of half price for a dozen oysters.  I think the hubs and I went up 3 days just for that.  Plus, they have a really good list of draft and bottled beers.

Eddie Teach's - where we spent lots of our time eating oysters and playing pinball

Our first evening on the Island, we went to Eddie Teach’s and stuffed ourselves.  2 dozen oysters baked with spinach, garlic, and Parmesan, 2 dozen raw, a pound of steam shrimp, and an order of their smoked fish spread.  We sat outside (and, admittedly, at first getting eaten alive by mosquitos until we found some repellant…or maybe I’d had enough beers by that time to just not notice as much) and enjoyed the live band and the company of the other vacationers.  Plus, they had a pinball machine!

Part of our giant seafood spread at Eddie Teach's

Harry A’s is another good place on St. George.  We went there on Sunday because my husband and step-dad needed their fill of football.  But, they had awesome fried oysters and a grilled grouper sandwich.  And, it was our lucky day – karaoke on the outside deck!

Harry A's - dog friendly and karaoke every Sunday. What else do you need?

The town on the mainland before you head out on the bridge for St. George is called Apalachicola and it is very cute  – a smaller coast town with more of the “Old Florida” feel.  Laid back,  seafood restaurants, some good history spots, an awesome local bookstore – and, you can watch all the fishing boats come in.

Fishing boats in Apalachicola

We went there on our last night, and found Veranda’s, a restaurant with a fantastic wine list, and a table on the 2nd story balcony that offered a great view of Apalachicola’s downtown.  Our dinner included shrimp and roasted red pepper polenta and flounder with a shrimp and artichoke mustard cream sauce.  A perfect evening to end our trip.

Veranda's on 2nd Floor - we were sitting on the balcony right in the corner watching the sun set

The good news, however, is my parents have reserved a house again for next year!  I’m already counting the days…

Our beach house - The Moon Ray

We stayed at the Moon Ray, and it was my parent’s 3 year there.  Just right for 4 people and 4 dogs, and only about a 2 minute walk to the beach.  Plus a bike/walking path right outside that goes around much of the island!

View towards the beach from the deck of the Moon Ray

Hey, Chicago, What Do You Say?

Last weekend was a three day weekend in Chicago. My brother-in-law turned 21, and so we decided a trip to a Cubs game was in order to celebrate.  A group of nine friends and family took Amtrack  up on a Friday morning, and we had an amazing time.  It was incredibly hot, though, but we did managed to survive.  Chicago has about a zillion things to do, see, and eat, but here’s a few our our highlights.

Friday Night

Friday for dinner, as we aimlessly walked around, we randomly stumbled upon a place that had been recommended to us –The Hubbard Inn .  The menu looked perfect, the restaurant was beautiful, and there was actually a table available (I think it was only about 5:30 pm, though)!  It has this  hip bohemian tavern/speakeasy/community gathering feel, and our server was so helpful and spot on with recommendations and service.  The drink menu is fantastic. I had a Moscow Mule (Vodka, ginger beer, lime, mint) – so refreshing! Though the entrees looked perfect – like, so right up my alley – I did not want to eat too much and be miserable the rest of the night.  So, I started with the gazpacho – light, smooth, with just a hint of spice.  For my entree, steak tartare.  I had just mentioned the week before how it had been ages since I had steak tartare, so I thought it was meant to be that I ordered it – and, it did not disappoint.  Other items we ordered included a watermelon, tomato, and feta salad; roasted pepper and arugula flatbread; lamb burger with tzatzike; and a lobster club.  All were fresh and prepared perfectly.  For an after dinner drink, I got the Cuzco – pisco, aperol, egg white, bitters, lime juice.  Perfection!

My gazpacho with a little crostini

Red Pepper and Arugula Flatbread

A not very good pic of my lovely steak tartare

The Hubbard Inn's Cuzco - very delicious!

Later that night, we stopped at Rossi’s Liquors for a few drinks.  If you like dive bars, this is worth a visit while in Chicago.

Saturday

Considering it was a bit of a late night Friday, we were a bit slow to rise on Saturday.  Nonetheless we made it to Wrigleyville for the Cubs Noon game, and the Cubs actually won!  After, Wrigleyville turns into a drunken frat boy cluster, but we did manage to find an Oasis in the midst of it – The Gingerman Tavern.  And by Oasis, I mean, it had good craft beers, games, a pool table, and a rocking jukebox – not that it was cool temperature wise, because either the AC was broke or they need to get a new one, as it was 90 plus degrees out and hot as heck inside the bar.  Still, a good time was had, having a few beers and listening to good tunes on the jukebox in order to chill after the game.

Some of our crew outside of Gingerman in Wrigleyville

After we finished, we headed to the Wicker Park area.  We had heard Wickerfest was going on, and it looked liked great music, so we thought we would check it out.  It was madness!  We walked around for a bit, but did have to duck into a couple places to get out of the throngs of crowds.  One place was BIN, a cute little wine bar with snacks, and the front window/wall is a large garage door that opens all the way to let it be a nice indoor/outdoor space.   I had a Rose wine flight, the hubby had some local beers, and we shared a salumi platter with a good selection of meats and cheese, plus olives, cornichons, and this little fennel salad.  If I lived in Chicago, this would definitely be a go-to spot for me.

While wandering around, we also ran into a little cupcake truck called Flirty Cupcake. Kinda like the ice cream man/truck, I guess, but cupcakes.  How cute is that? I did not actaully get one, as I was too hot and a cupcake did not sound good, but I wish I had just on cuteness factor alone.  Next time!

I so wish I had bought one of these adorable cupcakes

From there, we essentially made our way through the maze of the festival and listened to some music. Once we could not take the crowds anymore, we stumbled upon several other bars, the last one being Jack and Ginger’s.  Nothing too exciting, but great specials!  On Saturday, it was $1 burger or pulled pork sliders and $2.50 PBR cans.  By that late in the night, it was just what we needed!

Our 8 am train home Sunday certainly came early,  but it was worth the fun we had.  Though this trip was a bit of a whirlwind, we know there are several places on our list for next time, including Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, Stephanie Izzard’s The Girl and the Goat, and Hot Doug’s (specialty hotdogs and duck fat fries).  Can’t wait til the next trip!

Our group at Wrigley! Go Cubs Go!

The Hub’s Birthday Weekend = Lots of Breweries

My good friends in St. Louis planned the most fun day for my husband’s birthday – Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour plus a pub crawl of four smaller local breweries, then off to an (upscale) BBQ joint.  The hub’s about burst from contentment and happiness.  Here’s a quick run-down:

ANHEUSER-BUSCH BREWERY

At the giant Anheuser Busch Brewery, we first did a “beer school” to learn about different beers, food pairings, and proper pouring techniques.  From there, we started the actual brewery tour – which is free!  The brewery is beautiful and huge.  You get to see the Clydesdales,  the beer brewing area, the bottling plant, and some of the grounds.  It is unbelievable the amount of beer that place produces.  Definitely worth checking out.  Plus, you get two free beers at the end. Score!

Giant tanks of beer at AB Brewery waiting to be bottled

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Nashville – Music City USA

The Hubs and I just had an AMAZING trip to Nashville, TN including lots of food, booze, and live music – I really need nothing else in life! We decided to go when we saw one of our favorite bands was playing there on a Thursday night and to just make a long weekend of it.  I’m not sure what was better though – the bands, the food, or the adult beverages.  Here’s the rundown: Continue reading

It Really IS Incredibly Delicious

So, to all my fellow Springfielders (or anyone planning a visit to the glorious Land of Lincoln), I want to make sure anyone who is not aware yet, that we are lucky enough to have one of the best bakeries in town I have ever been to, here or anywhere.  If you have not been to Incredibly Delicious before, stop what you are doing right now and go.  Well, not really, because they actually have somewhat limited hours and about a third of the time I go they end up being closed I have a total fit (what, me, over-react? never!)  They seem to close by 5 on weekdays and 3 on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays.  I suppose I could check the website to verify…

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The Moms Birthday Weekend

My husband and I’s mothers’ birthdays are back to back – making this year’s fall on this past Wednesday and Thursday.  To celebrate, we decided a weekend eating in STL was in order.  My mother lives in St. Louis, and Zach’s mother lives on our way there. So, on Friday after work, we headed off for the big city, scooped up Zach’s mom, and were on our way.  St. Louis is truly a great place with so much to offer – great food, awesome music, always something to do.  Every time we visit we contemplate if/when we will move there.  But, as per almost always, we had some good eats and I thought I would share.

Winslow’s Home

For breakfast Saturday, we ventured off to  Winslow’s Home.  There were 5 of us.  I had asked my good friend to join us as well, but she declined, stating it was often times very packed there and sometimes a cluster, and she was afraid it might make seating our party even more difficult.  With this info, I became a bit apprehensive, but things turned out fine as we waited maybe 5 minutes to find ourselves a table.  It being our first time there, it was a bit confusing walking into the establishment as 1. It was packed.  2. It is not just a restaurant/cafe, but also a general/grocery/wine store and there are items for sale EVERYWHERE, causing a bit of a hodgepodge/garage sale/WTF type feeling.  3. There is no clear signage nor employees addressing new customers  to let them know how to proceed  to satiate their hunger.  Luckily, our group pressed on, and we quickly corralled a table  and made our way to the counter to place our orders.

All went well!  (And the garage sale feeling wore off soon, and I ultimately decided Winslow’s was actually very cute and I loved the pressed tin ceiling.) Food came quickly and was delicious.  My husband had the breakfast sandwich and this day’s was egg and cheese with bacon and spinach on foccaia.  Tasty!  The egg was thick yet fluffy, and the bacon was good quality – thick slices with just the right texture.  My egg Frittata was AMAZING!  It had pulled pork with sliced brie topped with spinach tossed in a horseradish dressing.  The pulled pork made the dish.  It was tender, smoky, and sweet.  The meat did almost border on too sweet, but the melty brie and zing of the thick horseradish dressing cut it just right.  I was definitely a member of the clean plate club upon finish.  Though I did ask the cashier for a recipe for the pork, my  plea went unheard and  I will have to make do with just returning for a sandwich of it, as she suggested.

The infamous Pulled Pork and Brie Frittata

Aya Sofia

For dinner, we ventured to Aya Sofia.  I had been here for brunch in the past, and had been wanting to try dinner for some time.  We were not disappointed.  We made early reservations for our party of 7, and the place was fairly quiet when we arrived, but by the time we left around 7:30 pm, the joint was kicking.  For starters, we had the Biber Ezme, a roasted red pepper dip with garlic and breadcrumbs served cool/at room temp.  I was concerned it would come with too much of a raw garlic flavor, but I needn’t worry.  It was sweet, balanced, and light – slathered on the warm pitas they provide, it was perfect.  We also ordered the Anatolian Mezze Platter – goat, feta, and a Parm like cheese, with olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil.  The goat cheese was some of the creamiest I have ever had.  Sometime goat cheese can become almost too tart in a way, but Aya’s was fantastic.

For dinner, I had the special – whose Greek/Turkish-type name I have no recollection of.  But, it consisted of a puree of eggplant with mozzarella cheese with some very tender beef stew on top.  It was a solid dish and I was fairly pleased, but nothing to write home about.  The hubs had the Kuzu Incik – braised lamb shanks.  The hubs is a sucker for lamb and almost always orders if it is an option.  He said he felt it was cooked perfectly.  I think he was so mesmerized by the tenderness and flavor of the lamb shank that he practically forgot about the rice and beans it came with.

Biber Ezme (Roasted Red Pepper Dip)

In all, everything was a pretty solid two thumbs up.  The decor at Aya Sofia is very cute – reds, purples, very plush and soft.  I’m dying to try out happy hour in the summer months on their patio that looks great.  Our server was on the ball the whole evening, and we waited for nothing.  We did the “house” wine they seemed to be pushing quite hard to sell as a bottle of it was on every table for advertising type purposes, but we were pleased with it.  Nothing stellar, but it did its job. An Argentina Malbec Mendoza running  $32 – we went through two bottles.

Also –

We stopped at 3500 Winehaus to meet some friends for a pre-dinner drink.  I’m very pro this place as I feel it is just what the South Hampton neighborhood needs, but in the grand scheme of wine and food, it is nothing to really go out of your way for.  It is very pretty, with a great front and back patio that can be used year round (and a fire pit, too!).  The wines are priced so that you can do retail or drink there without a corkage fee and the selection is average.  You also have the option of a few beers and some liquors.   The food is very basic, but they are not in any way trying to reinvent the wheel.   Though this sounds a bit negative, it really isn’t.  It is a good neighborhood gathering spot just to enjoy some drinks or nibbles in an atmosphere that is not your typical bar while not being at a full-scale restaurant.  Thought I’m not doing backflips over my food and wine choices there, I am already looking forward to sitting outside in the welcoming patio there getting a buzz on with my friends when the weather gets warm.

Lastly-

We did not order dessert at Aya Sofia because we picked up a cake from Lubeley’s Bakery to have at home. If you have not had any sweets from this place yet, go now.  I think they have been around forever, they are not doing anything new or trendy, but they are good.  Like, consistently good.  Like, maybe I’ll have just one more small slice good.  Like, I think I’ll have another piece of cake for breakfast the next day good.  We had a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Sounds  boring, right?  Not the case one bit.  It has literally about 5 layers of cake with chocolate filling, the cake is ridiculously moist, and it is finished with the most creamy, rich icing.  You can’t get enough.