Season of Joy and Coffee.

Thanksgiving weekend came to a close and it is raining outside. Raining! In November. In Minnesota! I’ll take the rain though and patiently await the snow. Perhaps it will make this holiday season feel as if it is not racing by. I always say I’ll  take in and savor each activity, each moment with family and friends and every twinkling light. And yet every year it all goes by in a blink of an eye.

The rain almost reminds me to stop, breathe in the season’s tidings and enjoy it.

Perhaps this season will be one of new traditions for you. One I just started is decorating seasonal plants for our front porch. Ok ok.. I know tons of people do but this year was my first time. I was totally that person out front in her pajamas decorating, with my coffee in hand of course! I loved it.

Another new tradition I’ve enjoyed this year has been heading to Caribou Coffee and creating my own drink. Caribou is going over the top this season, with toppings to make more than 500 holiday drinks!

 I stopped by my local Caribou, ordered up my drinks of choice and played around with toppings to my heart’s content. I was a barista for 5 years so Caribou’s Topped By You is right up my alley. I totally miss whipping up new drinks behind the espresso bar.

Of course I couldn’t just try one; I mean I dream of one day ordering an entire restaurant menu… at one sitting 🙂

So first I went with the Blended Truffle Mocha, topped with dark chocolate chips, brownie bits and candy cane.

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Next up, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Mocha with more brownie bits and dark chocolate chips. Both were topped with vanilla whip cream. Let me introduce them to you below, my Joyful Chocolate Delights! (because with this amount of chocolate you cannot help but be joyful!)

Voilà. And holy yum.

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Head into your Caribou Coffee store for Topped By You Tuesdays. Try all of the whips and toppings being offered for free between 3-4pm. Also on Tuesdays snag a dollar off a large holiday drink throughout the holiday season! Create your own holiday drink, Top Me and Top Bou. Or order one of my Joyfuls!

I’ll be over here breathing in the season, taking it slow and sipping on a Joyful Chocolate Delight!

(I’ve partnered with Caribou Coffee in facilitating this post. All opinions are my own.)

 

To Do In Philly: The Magic Gardens

On this 70 degree November day, my heart is happy. I’m jumping for joy and lifting my face upwards towards the sun. Give me all the rays!

I am one of those forever summer people; one who’d be pretty happy posted up on a beach for the rest of forever. So naturally I get the end of summer blues. At 30 I’ve finally learned the cure to such blues.

Fall travel!

The first such trip was to Philly in September. Have you been? I absolutely love Philadelphia. On this trip I wanted to check out Philly’s Magic Gardens. The Magic Gardens are a non-profit, visionary art environment. Its located within Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork. The gardens are an outdoor installation spanning half a city block on South Street. Isaiah used nontraditional materials to transform an empty city lot.

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Walking through this beautiful mosaic garden, I felt almost transported back to Spain. It felt like a Gaudi masterpiece. There was so much to look at, so many colors, materials and sayings. As we perused the garden, the artist himself was even there, happily engaging visitors in conversations regarding his work.

 

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I highly recommend you add the Magic Gardens to your itinerary. And after you’ve explored to your heart’s content, you’re going to need some afternoon wine and snacks. So make your way over to Tredici Enoteca.

The restaurant has a warm coastal feeling.

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 No better place to Rose all Day 😉

To enjoy some oysters..

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And to eat hands down, the best bacon wrapped stuffed dates ever!

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I’d say this trip was a great fall blues cure.

Do you experience the same blues? How do you beat em?

 

Wedding #458

Wedding Number 458. That is officially the numbers of weddings I’ve been to in the last year and a half.

Well ok NOT 458 but it feels that way. People ask if we do anything else. Others ask if we TRY to get invited to as many weddings as possible.

As if its our hobby…

Nope. No sir, we do not.

It just happens to be an ongoing season of love, of two people coming together who happen to invite us. And you know, we go. We eat, we drink and we dance the night away. I am officially a wedding pro. I may be adding it to my resume.

Professional love fest aka wedding attendee.

In the spirit of adding to my resume, I’d also like to add Professional Foodie. Is this a thing? I am a phenomenal eater. I even practiced my skills at the new Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on Eat Street.

The space is bright, colorful and with the open garage style window, has a flowing breeze. All of which remind me of a previous Jamaican vacation, so my mouth just watered with anticipation and memories of jerk chicken. My hopes were high.

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My taste buds were ever so delighted with flavor, texture and spice. Man were they on fire after a few of those sauces! Gimme all the spice!

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I had to go with the One Love Special, a combo of the fire grilled jerk chicken and the slow roasted jerk pork.

Hello bowls of love.

AND the Jamaican pattie with spicy beef. (These brought me back to ALL those patties I ate at the beach…)

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Curried vegetables and other meats were ordered around the table. My nose may have been dripping from spice but my fork just was not stopping. Word of advice, just order another Red Stripe!

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Pimento Kitchen 6

I’d say my Professional Foodie skills were put to good use here.

P.S. This week I’m off to another wedding…. #459 😉

Winery lunch

The Montserrat Tour to Take: Barcelona, Spain

I was listening to a podcast the other day, in which the speaker stated that there were two ways to look at life. There were those that would sit in their cubes dutifully saving income in order to live life after 60. Then there were those that looked at life as a now and not as a future state. Those that seek to explore while they are young. Those that will find a way to build that lifestyle they seek now.

Of course there are more than two ways to look at life. However if we are going to follow along and play into that speaker’s philosophy, I’d fall into option two. I strive to find a way to play now. To explore now. To put my wanderlusting soul in a box, with a key only to be opened upon hitting a certain amount in my 401k; would equate to a death sentence for that part of my soul.

Perhaps you call option two the proverbial millennial in me. Call it what you will.

Travel I must. It’s a directive running through my veins. It cannot be ignored.

So along the lines of option two, I am finally getting up a few more Spain travel posts.

Most of our trip in Spain we planned on our own, not being held to tour times or group travel. Some places were picked out and others we ignorantly wandered into. But that’s how we like it. A mix of planned and spontaneous. I’d call myself semi-type A, I like lists and itinerarys but I also like to get lost. To see what I may never have seen. To meet and taste and smell the unexpected. Even if sometimes that means I’m lost in an Irish field,the rain is sprinkling down, my hair in hideous waves due to the thick fog and my nose dripping with snot. (See story here)

While we mostly wandered Barcelona on our own schedule we did take one tour. If you are to take one tour in or around Barcelona, this is the one company to use! They gave us exactly what we liked. A bit of an organized tour, a bit of time to ourselves to wander and a guide who was personable, knowledgeable and eager to build new relationships.

Our tour was to the must see monastery and mountain region of Montserrat. The area is full of legend, housing a beautiful Benedictine abbey, the Virgin Sanctuary and did I mention a farmers market of cheese vendors?! You can also ride the Funicular up to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views and a walk with the clouds. It is not to be missed!

Walking in the Clouds

The beauty, mystique and legend of this place not only speaks for itself, it can be felt. My descriptors and pictures lack just how this place takes your breath away. You are quite literally walking within the clouds. Whatever your religious leaning may be, the spiritual presence is enveloping.

Mountain View 2

Cathedral

Our tour capped off with a leisurely Spanish lunch and winery tour.

Winery Vines

Oller de Mas is a boutique winery built out of a family legacy. They are quite literally bottling by hand and allowing the youngest family members draw and design the labels. Even the children have a hand in the boutique aspects of this place. With a private tasting room within the castle we got to know our intimate tour group. Thought not a sommelier our guide knew his wine and knew the winery. Our wine tasting was knowledgeable, fun, relaxed and hey, there was a lot of wine!

Winery lunch

Winery Lunch 2

Winery Dessert

I cannot recommend this tour more. It was one of the top days of our trip. I may or may not have ended the day with a slight wine induced nap back to the city.

Wine glasses winery

Winnery Barrels

Thank you Castlexperience tours for an unforgettable day!

(To be clear we found this tour through other reviews. The company did not compensate me for this post, (nor did they even know I was writing it) I merely wanted to share a great experience with those looking for tour options in Barcelona)

Cabbage

I am a Dreamer.

If you asked, I’d say yes, I am a dreamer.

I am one of those that can get lost within my own head for hours. I dream of worlds different than this; of realities that don’t exist.

My imagination fueled my childhood and that of many cousins, as we gallivanted through our grandparents property… pretending to be the “Raiders”, or saviors of souls in need. Off we were to free towns from peril, swinging our sticks in an epic battle with imaginary forces.

My day dreams have filled many an international plane ride’s seemingly endless flight.

Day dreams are fewer and far between these days, though they  have not disappeared.

In fact this year I turned four of those dreams into goals.  Yes I became that person that actually writes down her personal goals. I’ve never done this before, outside of a corporate setting. I’m working on two of them. Progress, right?!

While I will selfishly keep them to myself for now, just working towards them helps relieve the feeling as if I’m a gated puppy, chained to my cube, which the corporate world often imparts upon me. It’s a feeling of being stifled, of turning off portions of your brain, creativity or as I’ve been calling them; dreams.

In the meantime new restaurants call my name. But  of course! What is this blog without food? I recently checked out Upton 43 and it lived up to the hype.

Upton 43 Rose

I mean Rose all day right? This glass was the perfect balance of sweet and dry. I like it right in the middle.

Cabbage

Get the charred cabbage… this dish had me at marrow butter. At home, I would have put my entire face into the plate. The boyfriend can attest… this has happened.

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The peas, grains and fermented strawberry dish was just as summer should be. All in a plate about to be inhaled.

Chicken and Cauliflower

My pressed chicken, cauliflower, ham hollandaise and truffle was absolute comfort. This is my new go to comfort food.

If you asked, I’d tell you to order all three dishes and more 🙂

I’ll be over here working on my dreams and gallivanting around the Twin Cities’ restaurant scene. Don’t worry, you won’t catch me with any sticks hoping to ward off imaginary enemies. I’ve traded sticks for Rose.

Have you been to Upton 43?

Kikugawa

Skyway Delights: Must Eats in the Minneapolis Skyway

It took me many a year before I was working downtown Minneapolis… But once I did the Skyway world became my oyster.

The tunnels connecting our downtown; an almost different city living within these bubbles. (or the official name of “pedestrian footbridge”…) Many and I included, not daring to venture out when the snow starts blowing.

These tunnels are a mystery to many. Every day I see a soul wandering around praying they find their way. I myself have been lost many a time and have relied upon my trusty skyway map.  (That map has mysteriously disappeared)

Thankfully I no longer need such a map, having made these tunnels my oyster and all.

The remaining mystique of the skyways to me is devoted to the food offerings within.

The skyways have no shortage of chain restaurants. The Chipotle line, 100 people deep, kills me every time. There are so many more and better options. Why spend your entire lunch hour and I mean HOUR in that line?! Its reliable I know. It can be safe, or not……. (See recent food illness claims.) Take a chance and switch it up once in a while.

Below are some of my Skyway favorites.

Andrea Pizza: A staple really. You see those little white bags floating around the skyways. People carrying them proudly back to cubes and offices around downtown. Join em. Be a part of the lunchtime cult. Mix and match your pizza slices and call and thank me after you’ve had a glorious nap under your cube.

Kikugawa: I remember the days of Kikugawa in Northeast. Bummed were we when those lights went out. But all can now rejoice as they are serving up ramen and sushi and overall hitting the spot in the skyways. Order the ramen spicy and thank me later.

Kikugawa

Takatsu Sushi: I discovered this place on yelp and for the life of me could not figure out where I was. (Pre-Skyway oyster making) However I went early and discovered the freshest sushi one will find for that 9-5 lunch hour. Don’t go late, the line will intimidate you and mimic Chipotle lengths.

World Café: World Café has recently changed ownership hands which has allowed the options and creativity to flow. My favorite breakfast sandwich is housed within these walls. My next order will be one of their lunchtime bowls.

world cafe

Bep Eatery: Bep has seriously the friendliest staff. I always feel welcome and wanted as I’m ordering my pho with all of the ingredients. The spring rolls here are also on point, have a few and roll yourself back up to the office.

Bep

La Belle Crepe: Rightly so this place puts heavy competition on Bep’s pho. Both however are different and delicious in their own right. I love the feel here with its teeny tiny eat in counter. I get flashes of my trips to Paris and Vietnam. If I can get glimpses of my past wanderlust in the skyway; it adds that extra flavor oompfh.

La Creperie

Sprout Salad Company: So I eat many more a salad than this blog or my Instagram may exude. You can find me here at least once a week switching up my salad selection. Remind me next time to get that frequent buyer card. For real.

Il Foro: I could not leave out the infamous only served at lunch burger. I have had this burger now three times. It is a lunchtime indulgence that cannot be beat. After those annoying and often heated conference calls, go and shove your face in this burger. Trust me, it helps. The oooey gooiness of the cheese is the perfect post conference call antidote.

il foro

It occurs to me now…I should have really titled this post: Skyway Noodle Wars… per all of the noodle dishes above. Or have done a completely separate noodle post… But hey, its Minnesota where seven months out of the year have me craving spicy, brothy noodles anyway. What else would you eat?!

Now I know I’ve neglected a few other loved spots. What are your favorite skyway eats?

Kiosk

Kiosk Universal: Barcelona Must Eat

Our Barcelona trip was full of must eats. The Tapas, duh. Jamon and queso, yum yes like three times a day.

Seafood? Seafood was required.

Some of the best seafood we had was at Kiosk Universal.

You can find Kiosk Universal in La Boqueria. La Boqueria is, no bias at all here, one of the best markets in the world. It is said that here, you can find a paradise for the senses. I strongly agree as my foodie desires were more than fulfilled perusing the stalls. We purchased a variety of olives to take back to our airbnb and sniffed out different fruits to try. Cheese and meats will be yours in abundance should you sample and purchase to take home.

We headed to Kiosk Universal on a tip from friends.

Where else can you sit and ogle razor claims, mushrooms, shellfish and fish piled all up in your face?

I mean look at those! So fresh the stall to your left, right, other side, front, back etc. is selling the freshest catch.

Kiosk

Holy green sauce were said friends right. This place, its seafood and its green sauce are to die for. Order everything.

I was instructed to order everything, so I pass on the same sentiment to you.

tuna steak

Lick up that green sauce and enjoy!

Mussles

shrimp

Head to the back of the market. You’ll know it by the fact its packed. All the time. Elbow your way in and enjoy allll the delights.

Thank me later 🙂

Kiosk Menu

Rob with three desserts

The Best Meal in Barcelona

The best meal in all of Barcelona?  Quite the statement, I know.

Perhaps it was the magic of a two week trip winding down.

The culmination of the exploration and needing some place to top it all off.

It may have been built up by our wonderful airbnb host, who stated upon our arrival, that he himself as foodie considered this place the best of the best.

Barcelona is full of culinary delights… full of jamon and queso… full of pincho bars where one can toothpick their way through endless selections..

We ate and ate for two weeks.

Our last spot however has my heart.

On the recommendation of our host, we made it to Bar Canete on our last night. We perhaps should have made a reservation! But to our delight we were seated shortly after ordering a drink to wait with.

I had to start with oysters. Oysters and I are obsessed. with each other. And I get to eat them ALL as a certain someone claims he is allergic. (which I doubt based upon described symptoms…)

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The spicy clams came next.

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Rabbit cutlets to continue the meal..which were perfectly cooked and mild.

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As my main I had to order the wildly popular, seemingly social media classic, the Cannelloni of roast poularde and foie bechamel.  O my heaven in my mouth. It was meaty yet light, rich and creamy, scrape my plate delicious. I would have licked the plate had I have had another glass of wine..

Foie Canneloni

My dining parter aka world travel partner ordered the aged beef steak with foe and truffle sauce… perhaps we indulged a bit 😉

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And of course; no trip finale is complete without ordering half the dessert platter.

Because it is vacation of course.

Rob with three desserts

Orange dessert

Chocolate torte

If you find yourself in Barcelona, go go go go go here! I’ll just be over here drooling.

Perhaps I should have started this post with a, “hey we went to Spain” intro! Or started posting chronologically, depicting the places we went, things we saw, restaurants we tried… but no. This time I started at the end. The end which was the best capstone I could have asked for. Hopefully the posts to come fill in the gaps 🙂

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Forgetting Nirvana…

On Mondays the boyfriend gives me a ride to the office.

It is a tradition he has started perhaps to ease me into the week. Or,  perhaps its a tradition he has started because of the new breakfast place he discovered after dropping me off…. perhaps this eases HIM into the week.. (wink wink)

Either way, I like this new tradition.  It was during this ride that he decided a new Pandora station was necessary as well.  Nirvana for your 7am tunes?

After the first song, we looked at each other and said, “Man, I forgot how good Nirvana was.” Yes… I use “Man.”

Nirvana wasn’t the only thing I’ve forgotten as of late..

Namely I have forgotten how good the dinner party was, excuse me, is. How good the dinner party is.  The last time I had friends over for a dinner party? Well.. its been months.

The last time I had dinner with strangers? Well never, until this past Monday.

What you ask? Have you heard of 320 Northeast?

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The “private supper” club you’ve never heard of? Or have only heard whisperings of? Whisperings of a local couple, a local chef and downright local ingredients? From the back door alley entrance, to the grain elevator ride, to the warm greeting by Megan and welcoming cocktail.. to the strangers who are no longer strangers at the end… the food, cider pairings and conversation make this an enchanting, and as they say, “deeply satisfying” experience.

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You feel as if you are privy to the blossoming, creative and hidden world of Minneapolis food.  As though you’ve stumbled in but were also offered a golden ticket. A personal foray into a local couple’s dream.  A dream that mimics aspects of perhaps your own dreams and or creative pinnings. A reminder not to give up on your own stupid stupid dreams.  (please see bathroom sign at 320 Northeast for previous sentence’s relevance.)

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I was so enthralled that I did not study each ingredient nor keep notes, I was too busy holding myself back from licking the plate… so my descriptions below may be a bit off..

The first course of smoked trout, duck egg aioli with pickled beets, carrots and others. ( I may not have licked the plate however I did scrape almost every inch of that aioli into my mouth with the remaining cracker crumbs….)

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Next was the pork belly, greens and the most delicious grits, all topped off with an egg.

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 The third course; lamb perfection on top of carrots and potatoes.

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Dessert was currant jam with granola and whipped cream. (Not pictured)

320 Northeast has brought back the dinner party for me and made it unforgettable. 320 Northeast has also rekindled my creative side. Creative quest perhaps. For both the dinner party and the quest, I am grateful.  Sign up for the emails and get yourself to the private supper club stat. Beware, within minutes, the openings are filled. Don’t hesitate to reserve that spot 🙂

(PS the whole Nirvana thing.. well that was a request from the BF, so whether it worked or not as a segway… you can blame him 🙂

 

Pho 2

Pho me. Stat.

It was a snowy night…

A combination of the heat pump not working… slash in the midst of repairs…

A wanderlust filled heart…

An ache for vacations past…. And a craving for those little plastic chairs and tables we so delicately perched over… slurping our broth and noodles.. allowing drops to fling this way and that.

Not a care in the world for where those drops ended up.  Just a need to demolish this concoction. The salty, spicy and flagrant bowl of warmth.

I also had free beef soup bones in need of using…

SO I MADE HOMEMADE PHO!!

Php Toppings

I LOOSELY based it off of this recipe:

I excluded what I did not have and let the broth simmer for over 9 hours…

Now it will never compare to those mornings in Hanoi we spent hunched over our bowls.. But this will do. This will more than do!

Pho 1

Pho 2

What is your favorite Pho recipe?