T and B Do Italy: April 10-12

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 first of those posts.

Tuesday, April 10:

We woke up early Tuesday morning to head to DIA for our 7am flight to JFK.

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Me at the airport.

I read on the plane, but I also finally got B to watch “Coco,” which we sort of managed to do together. I really do enjoy that movie.

We landed in JFK, got some Shake Shack, and then headed to the Delta Sky Club since we had a few hours to wait before our flight to Milan.

That flight was nice since we were able to get upgraded to Delta One.

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Brandon in his pod.

In true me fashion, I didn’t sleep at all on the flight (except wanted to in the final hour or so when it would have been pointless). I did watch “Cars 3” since B has been bugging me to do so for a while. Definitely not as cute as the original, but not bad. I also watched “Pitch Perfect.” I attempted to journal, but the turbulence was pretty bad so that didn’t happen.

Wednesday, April 11:

We landed in Milan with me half asleep … and I somehow left my nook charging cable on the plane. I realized it right as I exited the plane and went back on to look … but it was nowhere to be found. I think it got caught up with the Delta headphones (which were picked up immediately apparently …?) and I filled out a lost item report, but, as of today, still haven’t heard anything from it. But it’s okay, because B ordered me a new one on the internets and it got here yesterday.

We got some euros out of an ATM in the airport and then proceeded to catch a train into the city and then the subway to our hotel … right off the Duomo stop. Our room was actually ready within 15 minutes of getting to said hotel, so that was amazing. I got on our internet to figure out why my international data plan wasn’t working (had some setting switched off. Oops.) and then proceeded to take a three-ish hour nap which was NOT intentional, but hey.

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View from our hotel window.

We ventured out in the rain for some food. We tried a grocery store, but couldn’t find anything easy that didn’t require thought/assembly. We then found a sandwich place around the Duomo area which was really delicious. Post-paninis, we had the first of very many Italian cappuccinos.

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Gustave the coffee dinosaur approves.

I will say right now that I am typically NOT a latte/cappuccino person. I am iced coffee all the way. But Italian cappuccinos? Starbucks (and, quite honestly, most coffee shops) is complete trash comparatively.

Food eaten, we went back to the hotel to go sleep a lot more.

Thursday, April 12:

We woke up relatively early (unsurprisingly) and ate a really delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our hotel actually had a fitness center too (SO WEIRD for Europe), so we hit that up for a super quick lifting session that felt amazing. We showered after and then ventured outside for a few hours.

Our first stop was to get tickets for the Duomo … which took us no time at all because the cathedral was barely open at that point. Hooray for keeping weird American hours! We walked around inside and went up on the terrace.

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Replica of the Madonnina that’s on top of the cathedral.

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Inside.

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Archaeological site underneath. A lot of the cathedrals seem to have been built on the same sites as former churches, so there’s history beneath them.

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On the terrace/roof.

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Dinosaurs with the city behind them.

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B taking in the view.

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Gothic architecture.

We left the Duomo and headed essentially next door to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an insanely awesome shopping center. We grabbed some waters as well as a snack and cappuccino inside.

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So gorgeous.

Our next stop was the Milan canals, which I had read about. Got turned around a bit on the way, but eventually made it there. Definitely not as impressive as the Venetian ones, but fairly off the tourist beaten path which was nice.

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We split a massive (and delicious) slice of pizza for lunch. It reminded me of my favorite place back in Boston (T. Anthony’s, if you don’t remember), but not *quite* as good. The still-shining sun provided us a pleasant and much more direct walk back to the hotel.

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Random church we saw on the way.

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Duomo with clouds rolling back in.

We realized we still needed to visit the Duomo museum (admission as part of our cathedral entrance), so we did that.

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Scale model inside.

After, we decided to go back to the hotel to chill for a while. We’ve found when traveling that it’s wise to give ourselves some downtime. B ended up napping while I killed the rest of my nook battery to FINALLY read T. Kingfisher’s “The Wonder Engine,” which I had been saving specifically for this trip. It was amazing as I expected it to be.

We wandered out to find food that evening and it ended up being fairly snacky and fairly terrible. It also started raining again, but it meant for some fun night shots of the Duomo.

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We then found ourselves the first gelato of the trip from a cart (the shop we had been eyeing had just closed as we walked in), but it was delicious.

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We packed up and headed to bed – we were out of town the next day.

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Root Down DIA

Back in July for my birthday, Brandon surprised me with a quick jaunt to Vegas. I was totally cool with this … if we got to the airport early enough so we could head over to Concourse C and get breakfast at Root Down.

If you recall, we tried their main Denver location back in March (blogged about it in April). So, since I had heard decent things about their breakfast, we decided to take the time and do it.

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Entrance.

As it should be, the decor/design of the DIA location is very similar to the Denver location in that it’s all been repurposed from something else – most of it with an airport vibe.

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Globes hanging from the ceiling. Totally cool.

A menu doesn’t really exist online for the DIA location, but I took pictures of our food anyway.

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Brandon’s meal. Simple scrambled eggs, bacon, croissant and roasted potatoes. Including purple potatoes – so awesome.

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My meal. This was very similar to the breakfast sandwich off their brunch menu, which is:
Fried Egg Sandwich: Croissant, Romesco sauce, Grilled scallions, Iberico Cheese, Avocado and Tomato

Mine didn’t have the scallions and it came with bacon. I also asked for none of the sauce, because according to the waiter’s description, it was spicy, and I don’t do spicy. It was absolutely delicious and TOTALLY better than Brandon’s breakfast. I highly recommend this sandwich.

DIA has breakfast options. There’s Pour La France!, Einstein’s, McDonald’s, Jimmy’s, Caribou, Timberline Grill … and most of them aren’t terrible. But if you’re going to choose to sit down at a place anyway, get to the airport a bit early and head to Root Down. It’s about the same, price-wise, as Timberline Grill or any of the other sit down places, but you know you’ll be getting high quality food that’s insanely delicious.

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Restaurant logo on the water jug.

Root Down Denver

A few weeks back, Brandon and I met our friends Nic and Leanne for dinner at Root Down, a restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver. The restaurant, located at 33rd and Osage, resides in a former garage.

Root Down has become known in the Denver dining scene for their cuisine which, according to their own words, follows a “field to fork” mentality, trying to stay as organic, natural and local as possible. The menu itself has a list of all of the local farms/distributors on it. As a result, the menu also changes seasonally, so very few things are constant on the menu. We figured this out while reading Yelp reviews of the place waiting for our friends to show – people were recommending dishes that weren’t on the menu currently.

We’re pretty basic when it comes to food – we don’t experiment too crazily and a lot of “exotic” foods make us a bit nervous, but we decided to take the plunge and finally accept Nic’s invite to Root Down (she’d been insisting we go for months) … and were glad we did.

Since we were early for dinner, we sat and waited … and I commented to Brandon that the chairs we were sitting in seemed familiar. I mentioned the possibility that they came from the old Stapleton Airport – Brandon thinks that’s exactly where they came from. Just like Root Down tries to go local with their food, they did the same with their building materials – the floor was an old gym floor, repurposed. It makes for a funky, eclectic, slightly hipster, but very cool, vibe.

Nic and Leanne came and we had some wine (well, the girls; Brandon had to work that night). I don’t remember the red I had – I’m still very much a wine newbie – but it was actually fairly tolerable. Nursed one glass all night, but eh.

We shared two appetizers:

Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad
Tender Belly bacon, quicos, pecorino, compressed apple, fried sweet potatoes, and roasted garlic vin; and

Edamame Hummus
Sesame seeds, medjool dates, olives, radish, chili oil and flatbread (we got gluten-free flatbread for Nic’s celiac)

The Brussels sprouts and kale salad was a lot going on at once, but it all worked at the same time (how, I don’t know). I had quite a bit of it. The hummus was definitely different from other types of hummus I’ve had, but at the same time, it was quite tasty. I had it with cucumber, the surprisingly tasty gluten-free flatbread and watermelon radishes, which I regret not getting a photo of because they are cool looking.

For the meal, Brandon and Nic ended up getting the same thing and Leanne and I did as well. Nic and Brandon had the following:

Colorado Lamb Sliders
Ground lamb, aged white cheddar, harissa aioli, arugula, sweet potato fries and mint-garlic (and curry-lime) yogurt

Nic had hers with gluten-free buns, of course. Speaking of which, the menu is clearly labeled in regard to vegan and/or gluten-free items and has specific cooking areas on their grills as to accommodate as many people as possible. To quote their Web site – “At Root Down we pride ourselves on striving to solve the ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’. We have created a dining spot where all dietary needs will be accommodated, including vegetarian, vegan, raw and gluten free; also allergies or intolerances are always handled professionally by the kitchen team. Our menu has icons reflecting this philosophy, though we always request you notify your server of specific needs.”

I tried the sliders; something on them – probably the aioli – was way too spicy for my tastes, but I probably ate more of Brandon’s sweet potato fries than he did. Oops.

In reading the reviews, a lot of people said to try the seasonal gnocchi, so that’s exactly what I (and Leanne) did:

Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi
Roasted Hazel Dell mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, red kuri squash, poached egg, piquillo-almond pesto and bacon vin

It. was. fantastic. I inhaled it. It was a decent-sized portion and I devoured it. Definitely try the seasonal gnocchi if you go.

While we were all fairly full, we still decided we needed dessert … so we split one:

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Chocolate Truffle
Coconut chia sorbet, carrot-honey coulis, port wine raisins and candied almonds

While it looks fantastic, this was actually my least favorite part of the meal. I’m glad we split this between the four of us because I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to eat this all by myself.

Dinner was a bit pricey for the four of us, but it was well worth the good food, good friends and good conversation.

If you’re in Denver – or even the airport! Root Down has an outpost on Concourse C at Denver International Airport – and are looking for locally-sourced cuisine and/or have special dietary needs, give Root Down a try. We’re glad we did.

Honeymoon Trip: Post One

I went on my honeymoon/first anniversary trip back in mid-September, but it’s taken this long because of a.) life (work, injury, etc.) and b.) my typical photo-uploading site, Webshots, is changing and being stupid. Therefore, I can’t add photos the same way. *siiiiigh*

In other words, this meant the revival of my very old Photobucket account, since I’m not the biggest fan of how Flickr works and I refuse to link to/put my entire life up on Facebook.

Regardless, I’m here now and I’ll do these posts as a series, doing the posts almost entirely as they appeared in my journal as I wrote them on the trip, adding in a few photos as they fit in.

So, without further ado, Post the First.

11 Sept. 2012
6:55 pm Denver time

Doing this on local Denver time asI’m not planning on changing my watch until we hit our final destination …

So right now, we’re on our flight to London. We didn’t fit in a run this morning before we left, which kind of bums me out given that we’re running a half-marathon in (eep!) 11 days.

And that transition made no sense. Let me start off with the beginning of today …

We woke up too late to run. Granted, we still could have chosen to fit in a small one but, given everything, thought it best if we didn’t bother. Why stress ourselves out? Just makes me even more thankful I got in a 10-miler on Saturday!

I finished the iTunes project (finally!) and we finished packing, only leaving the house 10 minutes late which isn’t too bad, all things considered!

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First flight was a very full one – Denver to D.C. Fairly typical, uneventful flight. Listened to my iPod and read my nook the whole flight. Landed in D.C. and was ravenous. Barely had any time to grab food (and the place i went was ridonk slow), but grabbed a muffin, sandwich and chips. Snarfed the muffin while Brandon was talking with the captain.

We were kind of hoping – but by no means expecting! – to get upgraded to first on the flight to London. Dad had gotten us Economy Plus and Brandon got us an exit row online, but we knew the flight wasn’t full and had a slight hope!

Happily, talking with the pilots (who talked with the gate agents, who were ultimately probably the ones responsible), got us upgraded to business first! Nice way to start off the honeymoon, eh?! And yes, business first means pod seating, full recline, etc. The kidlets will probably expect this from now on …

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So food. First was a cold appetizer – I had salmon-wrapped shrimp (all cold) and Brandon had something on a skewer. Oh and there was bread. Always bread. Next was a basic salad, which we had with a parmesan pepper dressing (needed less pepper). Both of us chose a beef tenderloin for dinner with roasted potatoes and green beans. Not bad for plane food. Then cheese and grapes for dessert followed by ice cream. Not too shabby.

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Transcontinental flying also means … movies! We watched Men in Black 3 on our flight from DEN to IAD. Not as good as the original, but possibly better than #2. Josh Brolin did an outstanding job as a young Tommy Lee Jones. The ending was also quite cute, with essentially seeing a young Agent J. However, I don’t think the script writers essentially wrote Agent K to be a cheating whore, as that’s what he was with O … because in movie 1, we know he misses his wife and didn’t have his memory erased. So who knows.

I got to see Disney Pixar’s Brave, which I kind of wanted to see when it came out. It bucks Disney tradition in that there’s actually *gasp* a mom! And she lives! Sure, she gets bewitched, but (spoiler) that was only temporary! Strong, SINGLE female character and a living mom? Geez, Disney, what the hell? It’s like you joined the 21st century or something.

Brandon’s currently watching The Hunger Games, which made him pretty giddy. He’s so cute.

My hand’s starting to cramp and I need to pee, so I think I’ll wrap this up for now. Rest of the flight will consist of going through the magazines I brought so I don’t have to lug those still, probably more nook reading and posibly more movies … but who knows. I should check out the Newsroom (TV show) because I have the capability and because, you know, trained journalist and all, but I dunno.

Until next time …