Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dine Around: St. Louis

Since January, I've traveled to St. Louis once a month for work. Although I've lived only four hours away by car for thirteen years, I had only been across the state three or four times to visit the Gateway to the West. Of course, my first concern with getting to know this city, where I work half my job in, was finding the best places to eat. While I still have a lot more research to do, poor me, I did find a few noteworthy places that you might want to check out if you ever find yourself in the Lou. (I know, that nickname is awful but I've heard it said!)
Baileys' Range: In addition to their proper use of punctuation, this burger and shake spot was a great find for dinner. Although my meal was intended for one, I could've easily fed three. Starting off with the smoked onion rings and a Rosemary Paloma cocktail (bottom left), I should have stopped while I was ahead. Instead, I piled in a whiskey BBQ style veggie burger and a hot fudge, homemade peanut butter ice cream sundae. Everything was so good but I was literally in pain when I left. Next time I am in town, I am planning on revisiting and going easier on the menu.
Sauce on the Side: I love pizza, so naturally, I am also a fan of its eat-on-the-go cousin, the calzone. At Sauce on the Side you can choose from a variety of pre-decided combinations or make your own 'zone. I chose the latter and had a artichoke heart, pineapple combo with garlic and marinara sauces on the side. As someone who often thinks there is too much sauce on things, I found this to be a great compromise. Casual with a local beer on the side, this was a great place to dine alone.
Mango Peruvian Cuisine: Home to the best pisco sour I've ever had, I enjoyed this restaurant immensely, if only because I wasn't eating alone as my boss shared this spot with me, one of her favorites. I ordered the sea bass ceviche (left) which was perfectly spicy without numbing my mouth and the Ensalada de Palta which had a generous amount of fresh avocado and a dreamy citrus dressing. It was all so healthy and fresh, I topped off my meal with a delicious slice of chocolate layer cake. I will definitely be back!
Copia Restaurant & Wine Garden: The last dinner of my past trip was at this Italian wine garden. With the exception of the ballgown-festooned mannequins standing around the dining room, this place was great. You can't really go wrong with arancini (flash-fried garlic, herb, parmesan risotto balls, tossed in grated parmesan cheese over tomato cream sauce) and a French 75 cocktail (which the bartender had to look up, but he followed the recipe perfectly). After my appetizer, I tried king crab legs for the first time. Although the photo doesn't really do them justice, they were very good (a close second to lobster for me) and were served with steamed asparagus and whipped potatoes. Yum!
If you live in St. Louis or have been enough to have some recommendations, I'm all ears and will be back to try them out in May. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Missing in Action

Happy Spring! I've missed blogging my last few trips - partially because two were work-related and the other because South by Southwest can be tiring enough without adding things to it. Don't get me wrong, I love cataloging my adventures, even if only for myself to remember what I did in a year, but I am trying to be kinder to myself these days. You know, not just doing something because it's on my to-do list. In the meantime, I still snapped a few shots if you want to check out my Instagram feed - The highlights of two trips to St. Louis and one to Austin included:

A behind-the-scenes tour of the St. Louis Art Museum and the George Caleb Bingham exhibit. Learning about the process of making steel plates for prints over a several year span of time and seeing original proofs as the artist made corrections - quite fascinating.
All of South by Southwest but especially spending time with my amazing and inspiring friend, Jessica, who expertly spotted free cupcakes after I'd been looking for one all week.
Stopping by to see our two nephews in Dallas. (They were busy munching on fresh pineapple to pose.) We also had lunch with Brian's brother and sister-in-law.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

48th State: Alternatives

While most people travel to Jackson Hole in the winter to ski and snowmobile, we did neither. The weather was a bit warm for skiing and we felt like one tour for the dog sledding was enough structured tourist activity for one long weekend. Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do that don't require you to board a tour bus. There is great shopping in downtown with something for everyone's taste but I can only convince Brian that that is a viable activity for a short period of time.

So, we drove through the National Elk Refuge to enjoy the scenery and get up close to big-horned sheep - the roughly 6,000 elk were too far away to see from the road you need to stay on. Luckily, the sheep were very entertaining and like to lick salt off bumpers so they were easy to photograph. The mountains in the background were spectacular, as they've been throughout the trip.

Afterwards, we headed to the National Museum of Wildlife which had giant binoculars that allowed us to finally see the elk (and take a photo through the lens). If seeing the elk this way isn't close enough for you, you can also take a wagon/sleigh ride through the herds, as you can see in the center of the bottom photo. The museum was full of art depicting wildlife and accompanying scenery. They had bronze and blown glass sculptures and paintings that varied in style and approach. Brian made his own zoetrope of a water drop (pictured).
In all, it was a great way to spend a day in between all the eating we did in the last post. Thanks for stopping in and checking out our adventures.

Monday, February 16, 2015

48th State: Stuffed

On our first night in town we ate at The Rose, known best for it's craft cocktails (not pictured). We learned on the second day we were here that there are 97 restaurants nestled in this town of less than 10,000 people which explains why I had such a hard time choosing where to eat. Although the lighting was not ideal for photos, the food was delicious -- I had the salmon on a bed of cheddar grits with steamed asparagus. For dessert we walked over to Local and ordered a takeout portion of bourbon chocolate mousse that was amazing and hard to share.
After our dog sledding adventure, which included lunch, we stopped by the cozy Persephone Bakery for a snack before our late Valentine's Dinner. Brian had a pot of tea and I had a delicious cappuccino and a heart-shaped cherry macaroon. We were there at closing time and they sent us home with four more on the house!
We dined at the Snake River Grill for Valentine's. The decor was rustic cowboy and a giant see-through fireplace sat in the middle of the room. The food and drinks did not disappoint. Counter-clockwise from top right: cocktails (left: Brown Derby - Woodford Reserve Bourbon, honey syrup, grapefruit, right: Trout Saddle - Stoli Citros, fresh orange, lime and cranberry juice), Branding Iron of Sweet Onion Rings which are green due to the batter including cilantro, poblano peppers and pesto, Tatsoi Lettuce Salad - cucumber, crispy lotus root, watermelon radish, and miso dressing, Fennel Crusted Ahi Tuna with avocado butter and citrus-endive salad, Pumpkin Pomegranate Porridge, and the Butterscotch Pudding with sea salt and vanilla caramel sauce. If you read through all of that, you are about as full as we were.
The next morning we headed to Nora's Fish Creek Inn for breakfast. This James Beard Award-winning restaurant was recommended to us by some people we met dog sledding and was also featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives last year. We both ordered the huevos rancheros and shared a giant blueberry pancake. Breakfast was served with locally roasted coffee from Snake River Roasting. 
Our final dinner in Jackson Hole was at Trio. I started off with a blood orange margarita and we shared the hamachi ceviche (which disappeared before I remembered to take a photo). For the main course, Brian had the wagu beef special and I had the lobster gnocchi. We topped off our calorie-laden weekend with the iron skillet smores, which was so amazing I forgot to stop after two bites. In all, it was a great end to the culinary vacation I was hoping for.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

48th State: Dog Sledding

Today we embarked on our dog sledding adventure. We drove an hour north of Jackson to Togwotee Mountain Lodge, home of the best snowmobiling in the U.S. On our drive up we saw a wolf, two moose and this beautiful view of the Teton mountains.
We were in for a wild (and stinky) ride behind twelve eager dogs ranging in age from eight months to 15 years. The scenery was beautiful and the dogs were raring to go. When we stopped for them to rest they would bark like crazy and strain to keep going. We did a 10-mile loop but the musher said they can easily go 100 miles a day, making them the fastest land mammal (as they can cover the most ground in a day). The dogs were super friendly and playful. There were a few puppies on our team and they were quite rowdy -- starting fights, running on the wrong side of the line -- but they are in training to become champion sled dogs.

On the downside, you sit nose level to the back of a dozen dogs and as my great luck would have it, a pooping dog in motion is bound to crap on someone. The other four sleds in our group were all fearful of the exact thing happening to them but, alas, I was the only one given that honor.

For a glimpse of the overall experience, check out the video below.

Friday, February 13, 2015

48th State: Wyoming

Made it to the antler arches in the middle of downtown Jackson Hole, WY. Each corner of the park in the center of town has an arch. This officially marks my 48th state visited in the U.S. - only North Dakota and Alaska to go. At first blush, the town reminds me a lot of Tahoe, without the lake. It's been unseasonably warm this year so the shorter mountains aren't covered in snow but the ski resort that is attached to our lodge is active.
We're staying at the Lodge at Jackson Hole which was recently renovated, has a lovely on-site spa, is reasonably priced and is less than a mile from downtown. There are wooden bears climbing all of the outside of the hotel. Some of them are even looking into room windows - I wanted to ask for this feature but chickened out.
After landing, we picked up our rental car and headed downtown for some lunch. We ate at the Backcountry Delicatessen which has an endless selection of unique, gourmet sandwiches. I had the Sherpa (pictured right - grilled eggplant, asiago, sweet roasted red peppers, tomato, romaine lettuce, garlic mayo) and Brian had the Backcountry Cuban (smoked ham, slow roasted pulled pork, jarlsburg, chopped pickles, hot cherry peppers, mayo, yellow mustard). Both were delicious.

Afterwards, we walked around, checked out some shops and plotted our next meals. We even met a shop owner from Kansas, with family still in Kansas City.  We discussed our mutual love for KC and got some additional food/beverage recommendations for the weekend. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Where to go in 2015

As you might expect, after two months, I am mourning the loss of a job full of travel a bit. In order to keep myself balanced, I need to figure out how to get in adventures like everyone else does - on three-day weekends and during my vacation time. Not one to be daunted by a challenge, I have a few ideas to stretch out the time I do have to include some memorable experiences. In case you wondered what that looks like, here's my calendar so far:

January - I will finally travel to my other "job" city of St. Louis. I've been twice before but I haven't explored it much. I'll be there at least once a month, so that will pepper my year with mini-adventures.
February - I only have three U.S. states left to visit, so we're starting the year off with a trip to one of them - Wyoming. In hindsight, I should've checked the average lows before booking, but we'll be nice and cold as we check out Jackson Hole for some skiing and dog-sledding adventures over Valentines/President's Day weekend.
March - I've been to SxSWi twice before but this year it will be extra special because my best friend will be bringing down the house as a featured speaker. Although 'South by' gets a lot of flack for being overgrown, there is nothing better than listening to an interesting talk followed by a stroll around the streets of Austin with a free grilled cheese, your friends, a warm breeze and a beer.
June - If you've been reading along for awhile, you might remember the trip we took last summer (here and here) to scout out the location for Brian's mom's side of the family reunion. We're looking forward to the whole family getting together and making new memories.
July -The summer of 2013, my dad cycled in the Senior Olympics in Cleveland (here and here). He qualified again this past summer, so he'll be competing again in Minneapolis this year. This year my mom and Brian will join in the fun.
August - (tentative) Last summer, I had this magical plan to escape the KC heat in August with a working vacation in Vancouver, BC. I found the perfect ocean-front cabin with wifi but Brian wasn't game. So, I've started talking about it earlier this year (with the promise of a laptop so he can actually work) and he seems interested. I also need to put out feelers at the new job about a week or two remote. We'll see.
November - After a great time in Costa Rica this past November, Brian is up to coming along with me the next time. Against my normal tendency to go to new places, I would like to repeat everything about my last trip.

So, that's what is in store for my 2015. Where are you headed?