Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Caio Bella

John had received a Ciao Bella gift card from his team  at work for the holidays, so we recently went for dinner. We made a reservation in advance, I am not sure it was necessary, this is a very large restaurant, but we did not have to wait for a table this way, even though it was not crowded when we arrived.

John had never been to Ciao Bella and I had not been for many years, probably since I worked in Bloomington, so it took us awhile to decide on our selections from the large menu.

John had the cacao e pepe, the grilled shrimp with pecorino, cracked peppercorn and parmigiana reggiano served over spaghetti. There were six large shrimp over the spaghetti and it was a large portion.
I had the short rib and roasted tomato ravioli with caramelized onion and thyme. The ravioli were stuffed with the short rib meat and were cooked perfectly. The tomato and onion were served on top and added a lot of savory flavor to the dish.

The service was very good and we both enjoyed all of our food a lot. For some reason we usually do not crave Italian food, but whenever we have it, it is very good and we enjoy it a lot, when it is done well, so we should give it a try more frequently.

Ciao Bella
3501 Minnesota Dr
Minneapolis, MN 55435
Phone: (952) 841-1000

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


John and I went to Travail for our December holiday meal this year. I've been a couple times, but he had never visited and I was quite sure he would enjoy it once I got him in the door.

We were seated at the rail facing the kitchen so we had a great view of everything being prepared. It is like a front row seat at the theater as it is great fun to watch everything going on.

 table side grill for sausage
 Compressed apple, thyme, sugar, apple gel
 Royale Hawaiian
 oyster with cucumber, chicken sushi, lemon, ham
 gougere (savory bread), parsnip, escargot, chicken stock, lemon
 foie gras with smoked foie, apricot, grapefruit, salmon tartare. The salmon was under the wood bowl. 
 soup with delicate squash, smoked ham hock, herbs, brown butter
 gnocchi, potato broth, truffle
 chicken thigh, bulgur wheat, herbs
 grapefruit ice/sorbet
 Back to Kali
 salmon with root vegetable, auguachile, chorizo
 blood sausage, celeriac broth, apple
 pork belly, fig char slu, pickled black walnut
 salmon belly, chicken dash, herbs, shitake
 leek, sun choke, button mushroom, sage
 ribeye, beef fat vinegarette, chermoula, whipped potatoes
 apricot slushie 
 rib with fresno vinegar
 roasted chicken, saffron sauce, pan roasted gnocchi 
 danish, pecan chocolate mousse, truffle
 frozen yogurt dippin dots with cake
chocolate cake

I think I may have missed a couple courses, things come pretty fast sometimes and one course we got up and food was put on your hand. I think that was agnolotti, chicken liver, Tasmanian honey, black truffle and rutabaga. The only reason I have all the details I do is because they gave you a menu with the bill at the end with details on everything, which I greatly appreciated, as I don't like to take notes, I want to enjoy the experience.

We had a really fun time and John enjoyed it a lot as well. The atmosphere is very festive and fun. It is a lot of food and I was totally stuffed at the end even though it seemed like I never ate that much at one time, it adds up quickly. It is expensive, but worth every dime. It would probably cost far far more anywhere else anyway for this type of food.

4124 W Broadway Ave
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
(763) 535-1131

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New York City 12.1-5.2016

Right after Las Vegas we had a trip booked to NYC. In hindsight, it was not the best idea, (so exhausting) but we really did not have a major choice in dates as we were going for a North Dakota hockey game.

Chicken enchilada from Barrio at Terminal 2 at MSP. 
Al pastor burrito

Our flight was on Sun Country and was on time and uneventful. We got our bags and took Uber to Manhattan as there was still a promo for a free ride from select airports over the holiday. It would have been a $70 Uber ride, so it saved us a ton. Though the 17 mile ride took almost an hour. Traffic.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square on IGH points from a contest last year and from credit card sign up. Check in went smoothly and we got a nice view of Times Square. The room was nice, but a bit worn in some places, like the head board of the bed and scrapes on the furniture. Also, I don't think I'd say so close to Times Square again. There is no reason to stay there and it is just a crazy busy, congested area.

After settling into the room, we went to the lobby to watch the second half of the Vikings game and use some free drink vouchers we were given at check in.
Times Square from room
After the game we went to Reunion Tiki for a couple drinks. I had a man tai and John got a couple cheapo beers for free from the bartender who was quite fun and amusing to talk to once the place slowed down for the night. We ended up staying out kind of late and got back to the room around 1:30am.
Reunion Tiki sign

We were up around 9am, a little late due to the previous night's drinks.
subway station mural
subway train

We took the train all over, as it was a quick and easy way to get around. Though it was one of those things that makes you feel like you spend more time in a train station than actually seeing the city. 
We had breakfast at Bubby's on Hudson Street. It is Southern food and everything was very good. John had the Griddle Special.
I had the jalapenjo scramble. It was on a biscuit with grits and very delicious. The service was good and were got a table easily.

After breakfast we took the train down to Battery park to see the Statue of Liberty. We had bought tickets to get into the pedestal ahead of time, but which line to get into was very confusing. There were huge lines for security to get onto the boat and also security again to get into the pedestal.

It was chilly and windy but it was cool to see in person. Also lots of stairs just to go into the pedestal. Must be a million to get to the crown. 

view of Manhattan from Liberty Island

Next, we grabbed late lunch at Joe's Pizza. Pizza slices are certainly a controversial topic, but we found these to be very good. We went wth slices with real mozzarella as it was what was ready. It was quite good.
After pizza, we stopped back at the room for awhile to rest and then headed through Times Square on our way to Grand Central Station.
I do not see the allure of Times Square. It is a lot of people in what is basically an outdoor mall. Most of the stores are the same as we have at home anyway, so I didn't shop much.

Grand Central Station ceiling. We also walked through a holiday market in a hall off to the side. I did find a cute glass christmas ornament.
Oyster bar at Grand Central Station

The variety of oysters was quite large and everything was very fresh tasting. We sat at the diner style table in the middle. Looked like there was a bar on one end and full service seating on the other.

After eating we walked around the shops in the station and looked at some of the other dining options downstairs.

We had a dinner reservation at Craft so we headed over that way eventually. We were a little bit early for our reservation so we sat at the bar for a round of drinks.

lights like Craftsteak in Vegas
aligot potato- very cheesy
Brussels sprouts
Beef short rib 
doughnuts with carmel and chocolate sauces
sorbet sampler
comp truffles

The food and service at Craft was perfect and impressive. The food was all very good, but not especially memorable, except for the prices, which were very high.

After dinner we walked up the street to a Marshalls and TJ Maxx and wandered around. Didn't find anything interesting, so we headed back to the hotel and called it a night. It was a long day and I had over 19,000 steps on my Fitbit.

Saturday, we started in line for breakfast at Evergreen Diner near Times Square. The food was OK, nothing great, would not go back.
We walked over to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree, skating rink and NBC studios.
Taping for the day was over by the time we went by.

We went to the Empire State Building where we encountered more lines for security. Don't forget to add in extra time for that these days.

from 86th floor looking up to the antenna
Can see Central Park in this one
We also went up to the 102nd floor observation area for an extra $20. Very compact area, but the line was short. Very small area as well.

We grabbed lunch at Shake Shack. They are everywhere and very, very popular, for good reason. The food is affordable and fantastic.

We went back to the hotel to rest a bit and get ready for the evening plans. We had some extra time so we went to the Union Square holiday market. There were some cool vendors, but things were high priced overall and it was quite crowded.
Up next, a bit of a warmup for the North Dakota hockey game at Beer Authority (the place was PACKED) before heading to Madison Square Garden to play Boston College. North Dakota won the game handily and the facility was very nice. Tons of North Dakota fans there as well, probably made up 90% of the crowd!
Empire State at night
After the game we found a random dive bar on Yelp called the Holland Bar. We had a couple and called it a night.
Sunday morning we tried to go to a couple popular places for brunch, but everywhere had two hour long waits. So after wandering all over the place we ended up grabbing bagels at Heaven's Hot Bagels.
Bagel sandwich for John
Everything bagel with cream cheese for me. I have no idea if this place was on any top bagel places lists or not, but it was what was nearby at the time and it really hit the spot.
We took an Uber over to the Word Trade Center area to save time. One of the reflecting pools is shown above.
This is the new World Trade Center Building. We also wet through the 9/11 memorial and museum. It was a very well done museum, but very intense to relive that day with the all the video and audio and photos. The room showing photos of everyone that died is especially moving.
We walked through the fancy new Westfield mall adjacent to the WTC and found an Eataly in Buiding 4. We ate the Il Pesce fish restaurant.

tuna steak
spaghetti busara
High Line park & walkway
Chelsea market
We had a dinner reservation at the Redhead on 13th Street. It was not busy, so I guess a reservation was not necessary. We started with chips and dip.
burger topped with bacon
shrimp and grits

The food and service were all great, though the server mentioned they were closing at the end of December.
stopped by the Ed Sullivan theater on the way back to the hotel

Monday morning we grabbed breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. We had gotten coupons for the buffet for $10 and we wanted to allow enough time to get to the airport before our 11:30am flight. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, though having TSA Pre-check helps lot. In other news there is a Dunkin Donuts and Shake Shack at JFK, which is nice.

We enjoyed our visit to NYC, but next time around I would not go so close to another trip. Two trips with tons of people around got to be a lot. It would be nice to go when the weather is a bit warmer so we don't have to rush from place to place.