Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tampa Staycation October 9-10th 2010

This weekend we decided to explore our own city. We headed down to St Petersburg to check out the Saturday public market. We were really impressed. The market had a lot of stands selling a variety of canned foods, vegetables, fruit, clothes, jewelry, and food vendors.

We loved the sausages we bought for lunch at Kurt’s All Natural Meats.

After the public market, we headed to an Italian market nearby. The market was insane with people. We could definitely see the draw – lots of fresh meats, cheeses and varieties of gourmet sauces, olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

We headed back toward Tampa to check out the  Cigar City Brewing Company tasting room. It was really cool. It’s located in a non-descript warehouse since the brewery is in the same location. The tasting room is basically a bar. We tried eight different types for $12. Between Glenn and I, we tasted most of the beers on tap. We even lucked out and got to try an Apple Saison they had only produced 5 gallons of. The highlights for us were the Brown Ale and the Rye Porter so we purchased a quart of each to take with us.

Drinking all the beer worked up an appetite so we headed to one of our favorite BBQ places – Smoke. They have great BBQ and even better sides. We really like their grilled wings.

After Smoke – it was time to head to the hotel. The evening festivities included quite a bit of drinking so we used points to get a hotel room downtown. It’s much cheaper than a cab! Our hotel was the Marriott and we got a great room with a terrific view of the Bay.

We could even see the port and the Carnival Inspiration getting ready to set sail.

After some pool time, we headed off to the Aquarium for the Brews by the Bay Oktoberfest. We stopped on the way to the St. Pete Times Forum for a quick beer with our favorite bartender.  The Brews by the Bay event was fantastic. We tasted a lot of different craft beers and several restaurants had food samples to try. Our favorite beer was Widmer Prickly Pear Braggot. It was so delicious. We went back a couple times.

Our favorite room was the Shark Tank. They had an acoustic guitar player. You can see the Weeki Wachee mermaids in the tank in the background.

The mermaids were replaced with a scuba diver dressed in full German beer-drinking gear.

The event also featured a DJ and a live band. We had a ton of fun!

Sunday morning, we headed to one of our favorite restaurants in downtown Tampa: Datz Deli.

It’s more restaurant then deli. The food is fantastic. We ordered monkey bread – only to discover it could feed a family of 10. Our corned beer hash and eggs Benedict were fantastic. We were home in time for the Colts kickoff.

Overall, it was a great weekend. We definitely have a lot more exploring to do in the Tampa Bay area. It’s fun to play tourist in your own city.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baseball and Homecoming: Milwaukee, Valpo, and Chicago

Last weekend, we embarked on a multi-city trip. We have a goal of visiting all the Major League baseball parks in North America. By some miracle, the Brewers, the White Sox and the Cubs were all home and it happened to be my college homecoming so off we went to the Midwest for 5 days.

AirTran had a great deal where we could fly into Milwaukee and out of Chicago for less than $250 per person. We flew into Milwaukee on the first flight of the day. We wanted to maximize our time in Milwaukee so we made a list of fun restaurants and bars that we wanted to visit.

We started the morning at Comet Café – a restaurant known for “slow food”, locally sourced ingredients and everything made from scratch. Glenn had an awesome BLT with a fried egg and I tried the bacon pancakes. Both were very good. After Comet, we headed to the Milwaukee Public Market in downtown. It was a little smaller than we were anticipating, but it had a great mix of artisans. We discovered a great Spice Shop where we picked up some flavored salt and Himalayan salt slab. Unusual souvenirs, I know.

From the Public Market, we walked through downtown to the Safe House. We had seen the Safe House on TV and wanted to check it out. It did not disappoint. We entered through a non-descript storefront, figured out which lever to pull and then entered through a secret book case door. Exiting the bar was just as challenging!

The next stop was Miller Park. We had purchased tickets for the 1:30 pm tour. It was a terrific tour. We got to go down to the field, hang out in the dugout and the press box and learn more about the history of baseball in Milwaukee and the construction of the park.

After the tour, we checked in at our hotel – the Intercontinental. I was able to use points and they still upgraded us to a suite. The hotel location was fantastic and everyone was really friendly. We headed out to explore Old World 3rd Street and ended up at the Cheese Bar. All I can say is that it had Wisconsin cheese plates

with matching Wisconsin beer flights.

Hello lover.

After having our fill of cheese, meats and beer, we headed to the Brat House to try some WI sausages. The Brat House did not live up to its name, but it did provide an opportunity to same some Schlitz and Pabst. After finishing up on Old World 3rd Street, we headed to the bus stop. Getting to and from the game was so easy on the dedicated ball park bus line. We took our seats behind home plate and really enjoyed the game. We even got to see Bernie head down the slide after the homeruns. We really enjoyed our time in Milwaukee and will definitely be headed back.


Friday morning, we got up and headed to the Amtrak station at the airport. Riding the train from the Milwaukee airport to Union Station was fantastic – definitely the way to travel. Glenn even got a seat side Bloody Mary made to his specifics – Worchester sauce, hot sauce and extra fresh ground pepper. It was a kick. After getting into Chicago, we headed to M’s house and decided our next stop had to be Hot Doug’s. The line around the corner demonstrated we weren’t the only ones who had seen one of the many TV specials that has featured this gem of a restaurant. The sausage list was amazing and it worked like a well-oiled machine. Glenn had the duck sausage with foie gras and an Italian sausage. I had the special smoked pork and whiskey sausage and a traditional polish. We topped it off with duck fat fries. Yum!!

After Doug’s, we headed to Map Room – a bar with too many craft beers to count. We sampled a couple beers and then headed back to M’s to get ready for dinner. Some of our dear Chicago friends had agreed to meet us for dinner at Café Iberio – one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. In fact, it’s a running joke that if I am coming to town, we are all going to Iberico. We drank sangria and sampled plate after plate of delicious tapas. So good to be back in Chicago!

Saturday, we headed to Valparaiso for VU’s homecoming. It was great catching up with good friends. I can’t believe it has been 10 years already. Glenn got to see campus and experience the dive bar we hung out every week. Good to know the wood paneling and skunky taps haven’t changed. (Well, actually that is kind of gross.)

Sunday, we headed back to Chicago for Glenn’s first visit to Wrigley Field.

The sun peaked out every once in a while and we had a great time with three of our good friends. After the game, we headed to Sheffield’s to have some local beers and BBQ. Sunday night, I believe we were all asleep on one of M’s couches by 8:30 pm.

Monday – We enjoyed breakfast at Wishbone – cheese grits, black bean cakes, and the omelet of the day. We dropped M off at home and we headed out to check into our hotel near Midway and then check out downtown. We both got to see Millennium Park and the Bean for the first time.

 Then we headed out on a food tour of our making. We sampled;

The double cheezburger at Billy Goat Tavern

The great cheese plate the Purple Pig: Truffle Tremor, Bleu di Bufalo, and Prairie Breeze

The Italian Beef at Al’s Italian Beef

Goose Island beers and Poncho Wings at Jake Melnick’s

After our tour, we headed down to US Cellular Field to meet back up with M and see the Red Sox beat the White Sox.

After the game, we headed back to our hotel because we had a 5:15 am flight home. It was brutal getting up that early, but totally worth it when we had the whole afternoon to chill on the couch and catch up on DVR.

Another great adventure!! Special thanks to M for your great hospitality and to everyone who made the time to meet up with us while we were in town.