T and B Do Italy: The Food

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the final of those posts.

So much food eaten in so many days … might be easier on all of us if I do this in a modified list form …

Tuesday, April 10:

Breakfast: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the DIA Delta Sky Club.
Lunch: Shake Shack at JFK, veggies in the Delta Sky Club there.
Dinner: Delta One pod life, baby.

delta1_appetizers
Appetizers. “Grilled apricots with whipped ricotta, truffle honey and crispy prosciutto;” “Baby iceberg wedge salad with chives and cherry tomatoes served with creamy dill dressing” Also had the opportunity for a tomato bisque (which B ate and liked), but I didn’t take it. Not usually the biggest fan of wedge salads, but this one wasn’t bad. The apricots (not something I would normally eat, but hey, adventure) were surprisingly good … but probably would have been better warm.

delta1_dinner
Dinner. “Cacio e Pepe ravioli – parmesan fondue, asparagus tips and blistered tomatoes” Actually was interested in the salmon option, but got the ravioli. Which I think I’m ultimately okay with (plane fish? could be sketchy …) … mostly because it was delicious.

Dessert: continued pod life.

delta1_lemon_tart
Lemon Tart. B did not get one. I think one of the (good) flight attendants saved it for me due to something that happened before we even took off that I would prefer not getting into on here, but had me crying for a good hour or so. I am thankful for this, because it was AWESOME.

delta1_ice_cream
Best part of international first/business class is the make-your-own-sundaes. Mmm.

Wednesday, April 11:

Breakfast: more pod life.

delta1_breakfast
“Potato and gruyere frittata with tomato hollandaise and asparagus” It was this or some homemade granola cereal with yogurt, which I didn’t want to take my chances with. I know I wouldn’t have been happy with that … but I wasn’t particularly happy with this, either. Blargh. The croissant was tasty though …

Dinner: Panino Gusto

panino_gusto_panini

We kind of slept through lunch, so dinner was just a place we found out walking – a fancy Italian sandwich shop. Apparently it’s a chain around Milan, but it was really tasty. We also had our first of many trip cappuccinos there.

Thursday, April 12:

Breakfast: free at our hotel. Great spread, though – eggs, meats, cheeses, assorted pastries, yogurts, fruit, several fruit juices …
Snack: croissant and cappuccino at Marchesi in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuale II.

marchesi_croissant_cappuccino

Lunch: a massive slice of pizza we split from somewhere near the Navigili canals.
Dinner: savory crepe from some restaurant we found – cheese and ham and mushrooms and it was pretty terrible but it was food. Also fries from Amsterdam Chips because we needed something better for our taste buds.
Dessert: gelato from some cart near the Duomo.

milan_gelato
He got cherry, I got coffee (caffe). Like cappuccinos, gelato is so much better in Europe.

Friday, April 13:

Breakfast: hotel, once again.
Snack: cappuccino and croissant at Pan Brioche in Milano Centrale. Partially to waste time, partially because mmm, cappuccino.

pan_brioche_snack

Lunch: Impronta Cafe, Venice, Dorsoduro district.

impronta_cafe_sandwich
This place was highly rated in “best places to eat in Venice” – B found it. Maybe if we had eaten something other than just sandwiches … B was meh on his. Mine was actually tasty after I peeled off all the olives. Ugh, olives.

Snack: gelato from some tiny shop near some church somewhere in Venice. Could not recreate where. But I got more caffe gelato and it was good.
Dinner: a prix fixe menu at Bacaro Jazz. Wanted to keep it a touch cheaper and their menu looked okay. Food … was there.

bacaro_jazz_mussels
Their version of a mussels au gratin. Not the greatest I will say. I forget what B did as his first course … lasagna, maybe?

bacaro_jazz_chicken_milanese
Main course of chicken milanese. This was good. I was happy with this.

Saturday, April 14:

Breakfast: well, our first “snack” was a pastry and a cappuccino at a small cafe near our hotel after some sunrise wanderings, but breakfast was actually just at our hotel. Less “Americanized” than in Milan, it was pastries, cold meats and cheeses, yogurt, and, thankfully for my protein-needing belly, hard-boiled eggs.
Snack: random stuff on our train ride, plus I saw donuts (donut cioccolato) in the train station. Had to buy one.

donut_cioccolato
Looks normal …

donut_cioccolato2
… but oh wait, it’s not. It was … weird. Edible, but weird.

Lunch: a sandwich we bought at the same place we bought the donut that we split once getting into our hotel room in Florence. Also some gelato, because, duh. Went to a place called Perche Non (literally, why not). Had good reviews, upped it to two flavors – cioccolato along with my caffe. The chocolate was SO RICH OMG and it overpowered the coffee to the point that the coffee was almost flavorless. Don’t know if I would actually recommend them.
Dinner: the first of three eventual trips to Gusta Pizza (Gustapizza? might be one word …)

gusta_pizza_margherita
Pizza margherita. I wish I could be eating this right now …

Sunday, April 15:

Breakfast: hotel. Not as wide of a variety as in Milan, but probably ultimately overall tastier. Scrambled eggs, strange bacon, pancakes (that I didn’t try), various pastries, meats and cheeses, yogurts …

hotel_berchielli_cappuccino
… and cappuccinos that I got designs in every morning. So tasty.

We also got a cappuccino while out wandering at the Corona Cafe, but I don’t want to consider a cup of coffee a “snack,” so I’ll just mention it here.

Lunch: random paninis we picked up at some cafe wandering around that we ate outside the Duomo.
Dinner/Dessert: a full three (well, four with dessert) course meal at La Sosta de’Golosi, a restaurant right down the street from the Duomo area. Super nice staff and really delicious food.

la_sosta_dei_golosi_prosciutto_melon
Course one, that we split – prosciutto-wrapped melon. So tasty.

la_sosta_dei_golosi_mushroom_papparadelle
Course two – mushroom papparadelle. I was quite happy with this, while B was happy with his … spaghetti bolognese I think …

la_sosta_dei_golosi_main_course
Course three – chicken parm for me, beef entrecote for B, and fries to split. I’m not sure how authentically Italian chicken parm is necessarily … but it was some of the best I’ve ever had.

la_sosta_dei_golosi_dessert

la_sosta_dei_golosi_cake
Course four – dessert. I got gelato affogatto (essentially ice cream and espresso) while B got some cake that the mom of one of our servers made and brought in. It was good but way too sweet; I’m glad we each got what we did.

Monday, April 16:

Breakfast: hotel noms.
Lunch: sandwiches at some tiny cafe right near the Leaning Tower in Pisa.

pisa_lunch
The chicken, on the left, was really good. The ham and cheese, on the right, got a bit much.

“Snack”: quotations because it was cappuccino at Corona Cafe again.
Dinner: Il Bottegone, in the Duomo square. Mondays mean a lot of stuff closed in Florence, but if you want to eat, you can always count on the touristy areas. Even if it means you’ll pay a bit more.

il_bottegone_beef_entrecote
My turn for the beef entrecote. Pretty good. I do regret not trying actual Florentine bistecca, but, cost. We also split more prosciutto melon which was predictably delicious.

Dessert: gelato at Ristorante d’Orologio.

ristorante_l'orologio_gelato
This caffe gelato may have been quite tasty, but it was also SO EXPENSIVE. Our two gelato cones were damn near 14 euro, which is INSANE. Not worth it. AT ALL.

Tuesday, April 17:

Breakfast: hotel, as per usual.
Lunch: sandwich pizza from some cafe. No, really, that’s the best way I can describe it:

florence_lunch_sandwich
While it looks weird (and was quite greasy), it was actually really good.

“Snack”: apparently we’re on an afternoon cappuccino kick, and this day’s infusion was provided by Caffe Mario near S. Croce church.
Dinner: more delicious Gusta pizza.

Wednesday, April 18:

Breakfast: hotel, because of course.
Lunch: at Il Borghetto, on the other side of the river. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and head up toward the Palazzo Pitti and you’ll find it.

il_borghetto_sandwich
A touch dry, but otherwise not bad.

Snack: one final scoop of caffe gelato from Festival de Gelato. Maybe not as good as Ristorante d’Orologio, but definitely a lot f’ing cheaper.
Dinner: one final visit to Gusta. I miss you, delicious pizza.

Thursday, April 19:

Breakfast: one final hotel breakfast.

hotel_berchielli_breakfast
Pictured: cheese danish thingies I ate at least two of every morning, B’s duck cappuccino, my name cappuccino. Not pictured: the pile of eggs I ate every morning.

Lunch: random sandwiches we bought from some place in the Florence train station that we ate on our train back to Milan.
Dinner: so there wasn’t much by our Holiday Inn Express, but the Crowne Plaza down the road had a restaurant, La Brughiera, so we ate there.

la_brughiera_gnocchi
Gnocchi that we split for a first course. This was to die for.

la_brughiera_entrecote
Oh hey, more entrecote! With really terrible roasted potatoes.

Friday, April 20:

Breakfast: a hard-boiled egg that I grabbed from our hotel in the five minute window we had between breakfast opening and our hotel van as well as cappuccinos, mediocre sandwiches, and pastries from InAmore cafe across from our gate in MXP almost four hours later.

inamore_breakfast
We may have had two cappuccinos each … knowing that we’d miss them terribly when we got home. Which is 100% accurate.

Lunch: some chicken and risotto something or other we got back in coach on the airplane. That wasn’t actually all that bad, really.
Snack(s): Magnum bar on the flight, some turkey and cheese croissant thingy on the flight, a metric crapton of cucumber in the Delta Sky Club in JFK … Pringles on the flight home …

delta_coach_snack
Back of the bus plane snacks. Not quite as pretty as up front … but tbh I would have rather had this for breakfast as opposed to that frittata on the way out …

Dinner: Chick-fil-a of shame on the way home. Too tired to do/think of anything else, and only picked it up because we knew we needed to eat SOMETHING.

Advertisements

On Shanahan’s

Denver Restaurant Week has come and gone once again, and B and I were able to sneak in on the tail end of it, trying out Shanahan’s. Shanahan’s is a place we’ve been meaning to go to for DRW for ages, but it’s never worked out. Thankfully, it finally did (and also became March date night; we went this past Sunday).

On the surface, Shanahan’s is essentially your basic, super expensive steakhouse. Same general food, same exorbitant prices, etc. However, the experience is different in a few ways:
– natural light. A lot of steakhouses are dark holes with very few windows. Shanahan’s, in contrast, has a complete wall of windows which, while we had the light, made the atmosphere a lot less stuffy.
– the music. Our favorite Pandora station is called “Beach Bar Lounge Radio,” which is essentially smooth trance. We were joking that Shanahan’s was playing that station with the request for no songs with lyrics, as we heard several of the same songs at dinner that we’ve heard on Beach Bar.
– the decor. Smooth, modern, clean. Again, not stuffy like steakhouses tend to be. Essentially, Shanahan’s is a steakhouse for the modern era which is probably why it has survived (and thrived) while others have fallen by the wayside in Denver.

To make things a touch more affordable (obviously), we both ate off the restaurant week menu, only adding to it with our drinks (a glass of Pinot Noir for me and a Ketel and tonic for B).

I didn’t get a picture, but we both got the Shanahan’s Salad: iceberg, spinach, and romaine lettuces, English cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, crisp bacon, Champagne herb vinaigrette. It wasn’t bad. The croutons were a bit odd, so I didn’t eat those.

The main course options were a salmon or a filet; we both got the filet. It came with grilled asparagus and roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

shanahans_dinner
(phone pic; sorry)

The filet was cooked perfectly. The sauce was okay – I didn’t really eat the bleu cheese crumbles. The grilled asparagus was delicious and while the mashed potatoes weren’t mine (that is, the best ever), they were better than those at Prime Bellagio.

Dessert was an espresso chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream, a raspberry, and raspberry sauce in an edible chocolate cup.

shanahans_dessert

It was rich, but tasty. We both thought the espresso either needed to be taken out or amped up, as it was barely noticeable. I ate most of my chocolate cup, but it ultimately proved to be too much for me.

All in all, a delicious meal and we’re glad we finally were able to make it to Shanahan’s. The big question obviously becomes, will we go again? The answer: possibly. If we feel like a super fancy schmancy dinner and don’t feel like trying a new place, we would consider going back. Especially because their patio is apparently awesome.

Disneyland Adventure, Part Two

Back with part two of my Disneyland trip. If you missed part one, click here.

Since we figured out the Starbucks situation the previous day, on Tuesday, February 13, we headed to the park early again, thinking it opened at 8am. Nope, it was at nine. Happily, this meant even more time to get B and I coffee (and we ended up getting my sister-in-law a latte as well). Sweet, beautiful caffeine, how I love you.

2-13disney
Fountain (with rainbow!) in Downtown Disney.

Apparently, the thing to do with Disney California Adventure, is to gate rush the Radiator Springs Racers (do that as your very first FastPass of the day) and then, get another one for later … since if you do it an hour after you ride, your FP will probably be for sometime that afternoon. Yeah. It’s that popular.

2-13disney3
Decor in the line.

We rode this one with Stefan and Amelia; it was a fun, Cars-themed ride (pseudo-coaster). We won, so woo!

2-13disney4
With a cow tractor.

Our next FP wasn’t for a little while, so we split up from my family for a little while and walked around. We did The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure on a whim since there was no wait. The ride was a super loose retelling of the movie and super, super cheesy.

2-13disney5
On Pacific Wharf.

2-13disney7
All dressed up for Lunar New Year.

2-13disney10
We’re both year of the pig/boar.

When they opened up the bridge over to the other side of Paradise Pier, we popped on over. As we were still waiting for the family (we all had FPs together), we popped on King Triton’s Carousel.

2-13disney11
I rode a dolphin.

It’s really funny how much a carousel can make you dizzy … even with the Dramamine. Just made me even more happy I avoided the damn tea cups the day prior.

Our next pass was for Toy Story Midway Mania!, another shooting-type game. We did this with all six of us. My brother got the highest score, then Brandon, then me in a distant, distant third. Jax, our 1.5-year-old, got none. I would have found it hysterical if he had gotten *something*.

B and I split off again to go do some rides on our own. B stopped at a cart for a churro and I hopped into Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe for a croissant/cinnamon roll hybrid that was DELICIOUS as well as a miniature California Adventure Starbucks mug.

Post-snack, our next FP was ready, so we did Soarin’ Around the World. There’s a huge error in Patrick Warburton’s costume in the mini video they show before getting on … which you probably won’t catch unless you’re really familiar with the aviation industry. Like we are. The ride itself was okay. Apparently it was better when it was Soarin’ Over California. I think it would have been better had the trip around the world made better geographical sense (like let’s *actually* go in the correct order guys).

Since it was kind of cold and therefore had no line, we next hit up Grizzly River Run. It’s one of your generic water splash rides (like Disaster Canyon at local park Elitch Gardens), but I like those. We got sufficiently wet – B moreso than I. I got myself some popcorn while he attempted to dry out. I’m thankful I had an extra pair of socks on me, as he soaked his. He had his wet pair hanging out of his bag to dry out … but they became our second and only park casualty (the other being a hair tie I lost on Space Mountain the previous day).

Our next FP was at Goofy’s Sky School (because why not).

2-13disney14
Getting more flight certs.

It was a tiny, short, fun little coaster.

We were trying to be smarter about eating, so we got soup in breadbowls (me clam chowder and B broccoli cheese) at the Pacific Wharf Cafe. The soups were average, but I love good sourdough and this was some of the best.

Food eaten, we strolled over to Hollywood Land and chilled out in the atrium of Disney Animation for a while, sitting down and chilling out to clips from Disney movies. It was quite glorious.

The official reason for sitting around a while was waiting for my brother and family to wander over. Our next FP was for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!. Stefan’s wasn’t until a bit later … but he weaseled his way on saying his FP wasn’t working or something. Apparently this was something they did at Disney World a bit … but. Please don’t do this. The guy let him on, but he clearly knew he was gaming the system. Customer service standards dictated that he couldn’t tell my brother to eff off, but I know he wanted to. People, don’t be assholes. Just wait your damn turn.

2-13disney16
The ride itself, the former Tower of Terror, made me very happy for the Dramamine. I will say that had I been more familiar with GotG I may have enjoyed it more.

Stefan went off for chowder and beer after this while his wife and daughter hit up Frozen – Live at the Hyperion … we wanted to do neither so we actually finally utilized our Park Hopper and escaped back over to Disneyland. Our first stop was at B’s favorite, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters … where he proceeded to destroy me. My forearm also cramped up pretty badly (stupid barista arm).

Since it was Mardi Gras, our next stop was back over to New Orleans Square. B got another frozen Mickey bar of death (well. frozen Mickey ice cream sandwich of death to be accurate), which we ate while watching a jazz band. We also got B another character picture.

2-13disney17
With, as he reminded us, Captain Jack Sparrow.

One of the “rides” I missed the day previous that I really wanted to do was the Enchanted Tiki Room, so that was next.

2-13disney19
So cheesy. But why the eff not?

Then back over to New Orleans Square since I knew Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog was wandering around and since it was Mardi Gras, I wanted a picture with a character from the New Orleans-based movie.

2-13disney21
Success.

Because we could – and, well, Indy – we rode Indiana Jones Adventure again too. It didn’t break down which was wonderful *and* B asked if we could ride so I could be up front at the wheel of the car which was totally kind of fun.

2-13disney23
Because I didn’t get a good picture of the sign the day previous.

We split up afterward – I hit up the French Market Restaurant to purchase some beignets for everyone as a Mardi Gras treat while B got in line for the Astro Orbiter. Thankfully I made it over to him right as he got on the ride.

2-13disney24

We did some more Astro Blasters afterward (because why not) where I destroyed B – therefore winning the best-of-three series – and went back to the Market House so I could get a full-sized Disneyland Starbucks mug for my sister-in-law and a mini one for us before heading back over to California Adventure.

2-13disney25

I delivered beignets to the fam, we all walked back to Cars Land. From here, we all split. Nicole took Amelia and Jax to “meet” Lightning McQueen and a few rides, my brother absconded with B for another ride on Radiator Springs Racers … and I peeled off to get some sunset photos.

2-13disney29
Magical sunset in a magical place.

2-13disney30
Got super lucky with a break in the people for this one.

2-13disney31
Cars Land is magical at night.

2-13disney36
B said that if you weren’t familiar with the movie, you could easily think this was taken on the actual Route 66.

We all met up to do Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. B and I took Amelia while Stefan and Nicole rode with Jax.

2-13disney39
In line, straight out of the movie.

2-13disney40
In line. My brother bought Star Wars ears.

The ride itself was okay. Definitely more fun for smaller kids. B bought a Dinoco shirt at a shop dressed up as the Radiator Springs Curio shop and I took a few more photos on the way to dinner.

2-13disney41
As someone who loves neon, I loved Flo’s at night.

2-13disney42

Nicole made reservations for all of us at Wine Country Trattoria. The pinot noir I had was okay (I think B’s was better). The caprese salad we split was delicious (and photogenic).

wine_country_caprese

Between the four adults, we ate about half the menu. Nicole had the shrimp fettuccine alfredo (I had a bite of noodle. It was okay), my brother had osso buco (did not try), B got chicken parm (average), and I got the ribeye (because it came with sprouts and mmm, plants)
(not my most favorite meal, but also not the worst I’ve had).

Post-dinner, the park was unfortunately closed (or closing) – 8pm. Shorter hours that day at California Adventure, maybe?

2-13disney44

We popped into the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney on our way out and got me a shirt and a few more ornaments for the tree.

It was a long, exhausting day. As you can see, we fit in a LOT of rides and attractions. The Park Hopper was definitely worth it as it was nice to get out of CA for a little while. It might have possibly been a bit too much time around my brother (I love him, but I don’t always like him) and his cute, but energy-sucking kids (this introvert was dying).

We had a lazy morning on Wednesday, February 14, and we unfortunately weren’t able to do anything together for Valentine’s Day, but we did hit up the beach for a few minutes before B had to drop me back off at the airport.

2-14beach2
Perfect, peaceful way to end the trip.

Disney was fun for my first time back in damn near 30 years. We’re discussing doing Walt Disney World in a year or two. Will I be back to Disneyland? Probably … but I don’t honestly think I need to for at least five years.

Disneyland Adventure, Part One

I have a lot of photos and we crammed a lot into two (three? four?) days, so I want to split up this post.

A few months ago, we learned that my brother and sister-in-law were planning on taking their kids to Disneyland in February. B likes Disney and hadn’t been in about ten years and I haven’t been since the late-1980s. Possibly 1990. A long time ago, in any case. So, with permission, we decided to loosely tag along, since we mostly did our own thing.

Thanks to flights the way they were, we had to skip curling Sunday afternoon to catch a flight to LAX. We ate snacks in the Delta Sky Club (I pretty much ate lunch thanks to some salad-y type stuff) before picking up his car and driving to Anaheim. We stayed at the Anaheim Marriott, right near the Convention Center (less than a mile away from Disney). We considered going out to dinner, but decided to do it on the cheap thanks to the schmancy lounge at the Marriott having really delicious chicken wings. A stop at Target was made that evening, however, for some Dramamine so we didn’t vomit everywhere.

(My equilibrium changed sometime in college and my life has been hell since. I used to do spinny rides and roller coasters (and read in the back of a car) no problem. However, I can no longer read in vehicles and it’s hard for me to be in the back seat of a car for more than an hour. It’s terrible. As a result, I haven’t been on amusement park rides in a very, very long time.)

We woke up early on Monday, February 12, so we could get in a quick run. Breakfast was at aforementioned schmancy lounge in the Marriott. Brandon got coffee at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf while I decided to wait for Starbucks until we got in the park … not realizing that the ‘Bux I wanted to hit up was actually in Downtown Disney. Oops. As a result, I didn’t caffeinate myself until late morning (when I found the licensed store on Main Street).

2-12disney

We met up with my brother and his family as soon as we entered the park. We all agreed to buy FastPasses for Space Mountain, but first, we went on Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

2-12disney5
Amelia and Jax.

2-12disney7
Amelia loves Nemo.

I vaguely remember this ride from way back in the day when it was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-themed and it had the scary squid of doom try to eat the Nautilus. I think I liked it better then, too. The loose “plot” of this ride … didn’t work.

Post-ride, we hit up Space Mountain (otherwise known as the first test of the Dramamine).

2-12disney10
B and I went on it first – no nausea! woo! dizziness, though … – and then watched Jax while Amelia and the parents rode.

2-12disney11
… I’m pushing around a stroller. This will never be my future. Unless I’m borrowing other people’s kids. Like I am here.

Afterward, Stefan and Nicole took Jax over to Toontown to get in line for characters because Amelia wanted to ride with B on Autopia.

2-12disney12
In line. Someone behind us was like, “your daughter has her shoes on the wrong feet.” B was right on it – “she’s not my daughter, she’s my niece.” “Well your niece has her shoes on the wrong feet.” Meh. She said her feet didn’t hurt so whatever. (I did tell mom later though.)

Autopia was okay. Would have been better without other people (that is, the other idiots on the road/track). We walked Amelia to Toontown to dump her off with her parents and then wandered off to find me some coffee.

2-12disney15
Saw the Mad Tea Party (i.e. Tea Cups) on the way. Did not ride. Did not want to test the limits of the Dramamine. They looked pretty, though.

Stopped at the Market House (which has a licensed Starbucks inside) for some much needed caffeine (that is, iced coffee) and a cheese danish. I think B got extra coffee too. We then stopped at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe for more food. It was technically past 10:30 (like 10:37) and therefore officially lunchtime, but they still had bacon, egg, and cheese croissants on display, so we bought one and split it. It was food. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Our next FastPass was for the Haunted Mansion, but I’m pretty sure we walked through Tarzan’s Treehouse on the way there (another thing I vaguely remember from back in the day … when it was Swiss Family Robinson themed and WAY COOLER). Haunted Mansion was much like I remembered it.

Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t have a FastPass, but we decided to wait in the line for it anyway. It has been redone to be heavy on the Jack Sparrow, but there’s still some “questionableness” to it with the wench/wife auction bit. Makes me happy they didn’t completely overhaul it.

At that point, our FastPass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was just about ready, so we walked over there and met up with Nicole who was sitting with Jax waiting for Stefan and Amelia to ride. While chatting, B got a Mickey Bar.

2-12disney17
Damn things are frozen solid.

Ride wasn’t bad. Kind of disappointed there were no cameras to take pictures on it. We knew we needed more food, so we wandered around looking for it … stopping at Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition on the way. It’s one of those cheesy shooting gallery things that costs 50 cents … but we enjoy them (and I’m actually pretty good at it), so we stopped and spent the dollar.

We split (okay, B more ate) a hot dog and chips from the Refreshment Corner and then a root beer float (one of the best deals at any theme park) from the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. We also took this opportunity to sit for a moment.

Food eaten, we finally did B’s favorite ride ever, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. When he visited with his parents back in 2009, he kept emailing me photos from the ride. I crushed it (and him), beating him by like 30,000 points. He was stunned. And happy, yet annoyed. I think his parents were secretly happy about this.

Since I didn’t get to really see Mickey’s Toontown earlier, we walked up that way next to explore it, walking through Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse and then wander around a bit until our next FastPass was ready.

2-12disney19
In front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

2-12disney23
B wanted to meet Moana, so we met Moana.

2-12disney24
It’s A Small World.

Our next FastPass was for the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Fun ride … yetis inside the mountain were definitely creepy … and it broke down on us, right before the finish. It was actually nice to just chill for a second, we were right near the waterfall, good ambiance … it wasn’t bad.

2-12disney28
Being stopped meant I could take pictures of us.

Thanks to the ride breaking down, we got another FastPass to use at almost any ride, so we decided to use it for Indiana Jones Adventure (so ride it at 5pmish as opposed to our 8pm scheduled FP time). we quickly saw the family and learned that poor Nicole was dying, so they skipped their dinner reservations and made it an earlier night so they could get in a second day okay. We got in line … and right afterward … the ride breaks down. We had the option to hang out and wait for it to reopen, so we decided to do that. I was checking the Beanpot score while I had reception and B decided to do some yogic legs up the wall to stretch out.

2-12disney30
We ended up averaging about 28,500 steps each day, so this was a lifesaver for him.

The ride was actually really fun and I do love me some Indy.

Afterward, we went on the Jungle Cruise (which is apparently better at night) … it was okay. So many one-liners. I hear Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is in talks to redo it and I’m excited to see what it will turn into.

At this point, we really wanted actual food (not just snacks) and I wanted to try to watch the final bit of the Beanpot (despite BU sucking), so we exited the park and went to the ESPNZone in Downtown Disney (and saw the two Starbucks). I couldn’t get the Beanpot on TV (fail. but given how it went …), but got a beer and ACTUAL FOOD OMG (cobb salad). We finished, walked outside … and lo and behold, it was raining. We weren’t quite finished yet, so we hopped the Monorail back into the park pretty much just so I could ride It’s A Small World. Mostly the same as I remember it, except it’s been updated with actual Disney characters tossed in when appropriate (like Lilo and Stitch in the Polynesian area). It also had a creepy Mountie, which was hysterical. It wasn’t as crappy as I remembered, but this could also be because we made snarky comments about everything? Who knows.

I’ll end this here, and come back next time with day two … which was a touch of Disneyland and a lot of California Adventure!

On Helga’s German Restaurant

We tend to get in food ruts.

If you pay attention to my travel posts – particularly the ones on cities I’ve visited several times – you’ve probably noticed that we often migrate toward the same places. We’ve tried to get a bit better with this in Las Vegas (and are going to start this in Tucson) … but we’re super guilty of sticking with our old favorites at home in Denver.

Therefore, in order to MAKE US PICK SOME NEW PLACES DANGIT, I actually started a page for “new restaurants tried” in the super loose bullet journal I’ve got going this year.

First new place tried? Helga’s German Restaurant and Deli, in Aurora.

It was a touch obnoxious to get to (sometimes, Google Maps, I swear …), but it’s basically off Exposition sorta behind the train station near Aurora Mall. We went on January 31st at around 6:45 pm. They had some soft pretzels and a beer cheese sauce that looked outstanding, but we decided if we wanted anything extra, we’d rather have dessert rather than an appetizer.

Ambiance was what you’d probably typically think of a German restaurant (that is, Bavarian-style). B I believe had a Paulaner Wheat, which he liked. I abstained since I’m not the biggest fan of German beers.

We both had schnitzels for dinner – his was the traditional, with green beans and fried spaetzle on the side. I had the rahm schnitzel – “Your choice of Pork, Chicken, or Veal: breaded or floured, then fried and topped with our chef’s made-to-order sauce using rich cream, mushrooms, and our brown sauce to create a creamy mushroom delicacy” – with more traditional spaetzle on the side as well as the kroketten (fried potato dumplings … which I was hoping would be the smaller potato balls I fell in love with over there ages ago … but alas, no.).

helgas_rahmschnitzel
Tasty.

Our dinner took a bit longer to come out – even compared to a table that got seated after us – but I think it was probably due to the above-mentioned made-to-order sauce. We’re really pretty patient, but it’s hard seeing people in a larger party than yours who got seated after you get their food first.

(I should mention that we also apparently got soup with our meals and we chose the potato. It had a weird spice in it that was a tad too much, but other than that, we enjoyed it.)

We did decide to do a dessert and split the apple strudel (which we got a la mode):

helgas_apple_strudel

My only complaint with it was that I wish it had been a bit warmer.

Overall, it was a good meal. Would we go back? Probably, but given how heavy it was, not for a good few months.

Tucson, January 2018

I seriously go to Tucson/Arizona enough at this point that I’m just titling these posts as to when I go. Which I’m pretty sure I’ve also intro’ed with before. *shrugs*

In any case … I had a serious, serious hankering for Mexican food. Not the green chile-based crap that you mostly find in Colorado. Oh no, I wanted the deliciousness I get in Tucson. As I don’t work … I felt like adventure. I was considering going on my own … but B wanted to come … so we went together.

We tried getting Hamilton tickets in the DCPA presale the morning of Monday, January 25th … but our random lottery numbers were way too far down. I also in theory had a Global Entry appointment that afternoon, but thanks to the government shutting down, that was also cancelled. So, we decided to get a bit more time in Tucson and bust out of town Monday.

Dinner was at K Bob’s in Las Vegas, N.M., and we stopped for the night in Albuquerque. Got up earlyish Tuesday morning and continued on driving. I mostly just snacked for lunch and dinner was at the glorious, wonderful Casa Molina. Cheese crisp, beer, bean burrito … and instead of a green corn tamale, I decided to try a chicken enchilada.

casa_molina_enchilada
It was pretty dang delicious.

After dinner, we met up with our friends Seton and Debbie for a drink at the Tucson Hop Shop … and to pick up Girl Scout cookies. Mmmm, Thin Mints.

We found out late Monday night that the government was reopening, so I called on Tuesday to try to reschedule my Global Entry appointment at DIA. Yeah, unless I wanted to walk in that day, they weren’t going to help. I got on the site to reschedule when we got to our hotel … and the next appointment in Denver? July. Not helpful. I checked Tucson … February 3. Also not particularly helpful. However, I saw a spot for Nogales (the border) … they had a ton of spots open. I picked an early spot for the next morning.

So, Wednesday morning, we woke up early, got breakfast at the hotel, stopped for coffee, and then took I-19 south out of Tucson to Nogales, Ariz., just at the border. 20 minutes later, Global Entry appointment was taken care of, easy peasy.

We stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac on our drive back to Tucson. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before – I did have a great-aunt who was a nun, after all – but I definitely didn’t remember it. So, we stopped.

tuc_1-24mission

tuc_1-24mission3

tuc_1-24mission5

The Mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, which is pretty dang cool. It also still has Mass to this day, even as they continue to renovate it. Plus we saw a few crested saguaro on the drive, so that automatically made it worthwhile.

After, we drove back to Tucson to pick up a tote bag at a visitor’s center that I won off the @visittucson Instagram feed, Bookman’s to check out the used books, and then some In-n-Out Burger for lunch.

Afterward, we spent some relaxing time by the pool (even though Tucson was kind of cold … well … comparatively) before heading off to Saguaro National Park. We picked up a few items at the Visitor’s Center (because it’s been closed most every other time we’ve been), went for a short run, and then caught the sunset – something I’ve been trying to do for a while.

tuc_1-24snp
B and saguaro.

tuc_1-24snp2
Crested!

tuc_1-24snp4
Sunset.

tuc_1-24snp5
Almost doesn’t look real.

Pics taken, we did our standard Tucson meal for dinner – Eegee’s (where I tried their flavor of the month – prickly pear – and it was weird), a stop at Wienerschnitzel for fries and good ketchup, and then Lucky Wishbone. I got my usual shrimp, but B actually decided to try their fried chicken:

lw_fried_chicken
It was surprisingly good.

While tasty as always, I think I might actually be able to skip Lucky Wishbone next trip. And only mooch off of B’s eeg.

Headed out early the next morning and decided to do the whole drive in one day.

tuc_1-25drive
New Mexico state monument as seen off a rest stop somewhere near Truth or Consequences. Have always wondered what it was for. Monument was closed. Remains a mystery.

tuc_1-25drive2
El Camino Family Restaurant, Socorro, N.M. (no web site). Lunch stop. Average BLT. Glad I got cheese on my fries.

tuc_1-25drive3
We get bored, we take selfies. Okay, I do.

Dinner to make it quick and easy was Golden Corral in Pueblo, Colo.

Short little jaunt, but always nice to head to Tucson for a visit.

Vegas, December 2017

This was a trip that was planned sometime earlier this year (I forget when, exactly), when we got a mailer from the Wynn for some screaming deal – two nights, two buffets, and two tickets to Le Reve for $400. Depending on how you look at it, we either ended up getting the stay free or the show/meals free.

In any case, we flew out to Los Angeles early the morning of December 4th to grab B’s car and drive to Vegas.

Monday, December 4:

Our flight was super early and we didn’t really eat much prior (well, B; I had eaten more), so we grabbed a bit more food when we landed as well as some coffee. We then started the drive to Las Vegas.

We took a small detour just outside of town to see the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation, which apparently has been around since May of 2016 and will be on display until May of next year.

12-4_7magicmtns2

12-4_7magicmtns3

It was a bit windy and cold, but still super neat. I would recommend checking it out before it ends, as it’s a quick and easy drive outside of the city. I don’t know Uber/Lyft/taxi rates, but you could seriously rent a car for an hour and go.

Our next stop was the Wynn, where B dropped me off with the bags and then went to go park the car at the Mirage, the closest MLife property (free parking). I hung out waiting for him. We then got checked in and quick ran across the street to Fashion Show for a bite to eat. I tried a new lobster roll in Luke’s Lobster.

lukes_lobster_roll
Close-up.

lukes_lobster_roll2
With the bag.

Spice blend was a bit weird – it reminded me of the shrimp/spices Noodles and Company uses on the Buttered Egg Noodles and Parmesan – but it definitely wasn’t the worst lobster roll I’ve ever had. Proper bun … I’d put it about average.

Snack eaten, we wandered around the Wynn a bit before doing a quick workout.

12-4_wynn_holiday3
Some of the holiday decor.

12-4_wynn_room
View from the room.

12-4_wynn_room2=
Room.

We weren’t too terribly hungry, so we just grabbed a snack waiting for the show to start – a very expensive beer and popcorn that we split.

Le Reve, however, was AMAZING. A bit abstract for sure, but visually stunning. I wish I had seen they allowed photos (just not flash) as I would have taken a few, but on the other hand, I’m also glad I didn’t as it really allowed me to be immersed in the show. Both of us highly enjoyed it. It is an expensive ticket for sure, but totally worth it.

12-4_wynn_theater3
End of the show.

Ate: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the Delta Sky Club in DIA, plane snacks, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwich, road trip snacks (including tasty doughnuts at some random place in Hesperia, Calif.), Luke’s Lobster lobster roll, half a Jamba Juice, popcorn and beer.

Tuesday, December 5:

The original thought was to run in the morning – north side of the Strip, could run without all of the stupid stairs and bridges – but Las Vegas was actually kind of cold this trip (silly desert) and we neglected to bring proper running clothes. Oops. So we figured we’d get our workout in later when it warmed up.

So, first things first, we hit up the Wynn buffet.

Visually, it was gorgeous.

12-5_wynn_buffet2
Inside.

12-5_wynn_buffet5
Close-up of one of the displays.

However, the food? Actually fairly mediocre. I’ve eaten at enough Vegas (breakfast) buffets to know that a regular salad bar is usually a thing; not at the Wynn (unless I wanted a Caesar salad, which no.). So that was disappointing. The eggs Benedicts were very hit or miss in terms of the ham/Canadian bacon on them (I picked up one to try it; no meat; had to grab another one); the bagels were tiny and since they toasted them for you, got kinda burnt; desserts were terrible. Very glad we got it free and didn’t pay for it. You should not finish a buffet feeling full yet terribly unsatisfied. Ugh.

Walked over to Fashion Show to get coffee afterward (Starbucks for me, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for B) and since it was still too early for anything to be really open there, grabbed the car and headed to the Gamblers General Store, a place B wanted to hit up. Not entirely my scene, but it was still pretty cool. Want to buy a full-sized craps table or just some playing cards/dice/chips for the house? This is your place.

Headed back to Fashion Show after to officially walk around since we never (I have, but years ago) have officially OFFICIALLY walked around.

12-5_fashion_show
USA Hockey has a store there!

We were debating on what to do for lunch and ended up deciding on Ra Sushi. Nigiri was great, as was the cucumber roll. The shrimp tempura roll? Something was off about it. The hot green tea was also some of the worst I’ve ever had. Would not recommend; would not go back to.

Felt like death afterward, so moved the car back to the Mirage and headed back to the hotel to chill a bit.

12-5_mirage
Holiday dolphins in the Mirage.

After things settled a bit, we headed down to the Wynn fitness center again (which is AWESOME I might add) to get in a quick mile or so on the treadmills and then a lift. We were initially going to meet up with a pilot friend of B’s (and his wife) for a drink before they headed to the Golden Knight’s game, but they were running late so no meet up for us. We still got ready for our (late) reservations because we wanted to walk on down to the Bellagio.

12-5_wynn_fountain
The Wynn has a baby fountain choreographed to music … competing with the Bellag?

12-5_bellagio
Conservatory at the Bellagio. Love the little detail like the hook.

12-5_bellagio2
Stunning as always.

12-5_bellagio4
B and one of the polar bears. I think Coca-Cola was a sponsor …

12-5_bellagio7
Frolicking polar bears. I think I like the murderous penguins from a couple years ago better …

Dinner that night (December’s date night) was at Prime Steakhouse. We had kind of hoped for patio seating (out by the fountains), but would have had to wait an extra half-hour for it. Since it was pretty cold out … we decided we’d pass and just grab a table. We got led to the table … and it wasn’t officially ready, so we got herded back to the bar area. A few minutes later, table is ready, we go back for good … and got free drinks for the inconvenience? Which, given that the glass of Pinot Noir I ordered was $20ish, I’m not really complaining about, but I feel was also unnecessary as seriously, shit happens.

We essentially ordered the same thing – filet mignon – with Yukon gold mashed potatoes to split as well as Brussels sprouts, and the Market Tomato Salad to split.

prime_tomato_salad
Essentially a twist on a Caprese salad, it wasn’t bad. A bit too much arugula for my tastes (so. peppery.) and the burrata cheese was a bit too smooth (?)/off texture for me, but the tomatoes? Delicious.

prime_dinner
Potatoes, steak, sprouts.

prime_sprouts
Close-up of the sprouts, with pears, bacon, and chervil.

Okay, so the main course. If I’m going to eat at a ridiculously schmancy steakhouse (and pay $68 for a piece of meat), I expect the quality of that piece of meat to be way up there. I’ve eaten at enough ridiculously schmancy places* (thanks, dad) to know that a properly well-cooked piece of beef? Should not need sauces to make it taste good. We think it was under-seasoned, for one (where’s my salt crust pre-cooking?), and secondly, the parts that were more well-done (we ordered it medium-rare and it was cooked properly, but the outside bits are more done; you know how it goes) didn’t taste of high quality beef and rather had the texture of something you’d get at more of say, a Texas RoadHouse or something. Which yeah, is good, but not at that price point.

The potatoes weren’t bad (and quite good when eaten in combination with the filet)(even though I make a better mashed potato) and the sprouts … well, let’s just say that B ate most of them. Not cooked well, too mushy, bacon needed to be crispier, and the pear, which took the texture role, was too sweet for how they were prepared.

(I think I watch too much Chopped.)

Dinner took a bit of time to come out, but I wasn’t too worried about it since these schmancy steakhouses tend to do that. However, our waiter and like two other people came to apologize about the wait (or say that the food was coming right out or whatever). In apology for the wait … we got free dessert (and coffee). Um, okay?

(for you keeping track at home, this means that our drinks and our desserts (that we probably honestly weren’t going to order as it was) were going to be free, and not due to anything on our parts. we said absolutely nothing and honestly didn’t care about the slight delays.)

We got two desserts – a molten lava cake made from Valhrona chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream and a New York style cheesecake with cranberry sorbet.

prime_lava_cake
Made me think of D Bar’s “molten cake thingy everybody has”. Pretty dang delicious.

prime_cheesecake
Didn’t eat the sorbet/cranberry stuff (don’t like cranberries), but the cheesecake was really good.

Dinner, in short, was ass expensive, but it could have been a lot worse. Would I recommend Prime? Maybe. Depends on if you like dropping a lot of money on food. While I don’t like frequenting those types of joints often, I’d be intrigued to see if say, Fix, is better.

Walking home was really nice after that dinner. Urp.

Ate: Wynn buffet, Starbucks/Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Auntie Anne’s, Ra Sushi, Prime Bellagio

Wednesday, December 6:

We woke up and legitimately had a food hangover. Oh dear lord. I did something I don’t really ever do and worked out without eating food first. I am very much a creature of habit and like breakfast FIRST THING. This morning? Nope. Sweating a bit made me feel a bit more human, which was nice.

I had a couple options for coming home as B started a trip later that day, with, ironically, a Vegas overnight. I could …
– head back home on a flight that morning
– stay in Vegas by myself for the day, spend the night with him down at the Signature, and leave on a flight the next morning
– drive back to LA with B and catch a flight home that night while he goes off to work.

We ultimately decided on option three, which was nice since I usually always have to take the first flight out of places. So, we packed up, I hung out while B grabbed the car, and we popped over to the Peppermill for some breakfast, because as much as we didn’t particularly feel like eating ever again, we knew we needed breakfast.

peppermill_breakfast
My type of breakfast.

12-6_peppermill2
Love this place.

12-6_peppermill3
B likes getting pancakes the size of his head.

We grabbed coffee and some Christmas presents at Starbucks on our way out of town (and I had a conversation about dinosaurs with one of the baristas) and settled in for the drive back.

I bought a cookie at Starbucks just in case … and I eventually ate it sometime in California … but my stomach was still not happy with me from the vast amounts of food I had consumed the day prior. As a result, dinner ended up being snacks (cheese, cucumber, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, and ramen) in the Delta clubs. I got home super late, but it was worth it.

Ate: Peppermill, Starbucks, Delta Sky Club noshes, plane snacks

We did talk a bit about the stay on the drive back to LA, and we determined that while the Wynn was nice, it’s not the place for us. It was also a bit too far north – we love our Bellagio, basically. Definitely worth the experience, though.

*While I am familiar with eating at the “high rolling” places, mostly from my relatively extreme youth, it does not mean that I am comfortable at them. That’s for the rest of my family. Typically the more expensive the place, the stuffier it is … and I just don’t do stuffy.