LA and San Diego

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This past week, my company sent me out to Los Angeles and San Diego to visit some of our top clients. And lucky for me, my husband agreed to tag along! I had some free time on the weekends and the evenings, so we got to see quite a bit of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Burbank, Hollywood and San Diego. It was definitely a whirlwind of a week!

Last Saturday, we started off our day in Los Angeles with

a quick trip to In ‘n’ Out. Eric had been to LA a few months ago to see Michigan State win the Rose Bowl, and he came home raving about In ‘n’ Out. I’m not a big fast food person, so I’ll be honest…I wasn’t expecting much. But oh my goodness, is In’ n’ Out delicious. Their burgers and fries are made fresh for every order and you can definitely tell. I honestly think this was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Well done, west coast!

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Since we arrived on a Saturday, we had a day and a half to explore the touristy parts of LA before I had any work appointments. We started our Sunday morning with a visit to Griffith Observatory, where we had some incredible views of the city.

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Next we hit up Hollywood to see the “walk of fame.” I had to snap a pick of Barbra’s star for my mom, as we share a love of Funny Girl.

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Later we strolled around Beverly Hills and were far too intimidated by the high end stores to go inside, but window shopping was fun nonetheless!

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We then wandered through the Beverly Hills hotel, which was like a time capsule of the 1950s. The whole hotel just oozed old Hollywood glamour. I’d love to stay over night some day, but for now I will stick with my cheap Hilton employee rates!

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The best thing about the trip, was getting to see some of my best friends from home. Lo moved out here 3 years ago, and it was wonderful to see her and spend a little time in her new city.

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We even got to see her band, LoJo and the Truth, perform live. They are incredibly talented and it was such a great show

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After the show, we spent the evening with Lo and our friend Jon. Lo, Jon and I met in high school, and though we didn’t know each other during childhood, I still feel like we “grew up together.” We got each other through the angsty high school years, the first broken hearts, the transition to college, and later the transition into adulthood. We often go a long time between visits, but as soon as we’re together, we’re able to pick up right where we left off. Prior to this trip, I had had a rough week at work, and was just generally feeling a little down. But being back together with two of my closest friends left my heart feeling full and my mind feeling refreshed. Sometimes a quick visit with friends is all you need.

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After four days in the Los Angeles area, we were off to San Diego for my last round of appointments.

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San Diego is one of the coolest cities I have ever visited. The weather is absolutely perfect (and apparently stays this way year around) and the views of the ocean are stunning. We only had a day and a half to explore, but we quickly decided that we would love to come back. Our hotel was situated right near San Diego’s Gaslamp District, which is a fun downtown area filled with restaurants, shops and bars. We had a great time strolling around, people watching, and enjoying the weather.

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Before we knew it, it was already time to go home. It was such a fun trip, and we hope to visit again to explore the west coast a bit more. But for now, I will leave you with a few “food pics” of our LA/San Diego Eats.

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Fonuts featured baked or steamed vegan donuts. My favorite was the Strawberry Buttermilk. Delish!

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Housemade veggie burger and sweet potato fries from Lab Brewery. This baby was topped with caramelized onions and tasted way more decadent than any veggie burger I’ve ever had.

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Eric’s BBQ bacon burger from barleymash in San Diego. #typicalboyfood

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Kale salad with quinoa, goat cheese, grilled chicken and peaches from barleymash. This was SO good and I am dying to recreate it at home.

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Veggie and hummus sandwich from Joan’s on Third. I heard about Joan’s on the Food Network and was so glad we stopped by. Everything was so fresh and delicious.

Weekend in Milwaukee

I’m a little bit behind on blogging, but I thought I would share a little travel recap from our recent trip to Milwaukee over Memorial Day Weekend. I work for Hilton Hotels, and one of the perks of the job is some amazing discounts at Hiltons all over the country. Because of this, Eric and I decided we really need to take advantage of my super cheap hotel room rates for quick weekend trips. This time around we were lucky to be accompanied by two of our favorite people- Eric’s parents!

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Eric had been to Milwaukee once before and insisted that our first stop in town was the Mars Cheese Castle. And yes, you did read that correctly. We visited a castle full of cheese. My husband was one happy camper

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It was basically a large gourmet market that specialized in a variety of cheeses. We had the chance to try some different types of cheddar cheeses, some flavored cheeses and even a chocolate cheese that tasted like a mix between cream cheese and fudge. We left the Mars Cheese castle with some smoked cheddar cheese and some of the most amazing honey pecan barbeque sauce I’ve ever had. Who knew you could find such great barbeque sauce at a cheese store?

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Later that day we went to the Miller Brewery and took a tour of the facility. I was surprised that the tour was completely free, as they not only took as through the entire brewery operations, but they also gave three free 6 oz samples of some of their beers. Trying the beer was definitely a nice part of the tour, but it was really fun to learn the history of Miller. For as large of an operation that it is today, it was nice to hear that it grew from a very small family business.

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The first night we roamed around Downtown Milwaukee and we could not have asked for a more beautiful weekend to walk along the river.

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The next day was filled with another brewery tour, but this one couldn’t have been more different than the Miller Tour. While the Miller Brewery tour was very planned and informative, our tour of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery was pretty much the opposite. But it was an absolute blast. The tour guides were hilarious and had us cracking up the entire time. They told the story of how the brewery came to be, but at times I felt like we were watching a stand up comedian for how funny their stories were. And the beer was pretty darn good as well. We even got to try their award winning East Side Dark Lager, which according to the New York Times, is  the second best dark lager in the US.

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We also tried the Wisconsonite, a summer weis beer, Fixed Gear, their red style beer, and the White, which is their belgium white. It made for a very fun afternoon.

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Later that night we visited The Safe House, which was a spy themed restaurant that you need a code word to gain entrance to. From the outside, it looked like we were entering an abandoned building, but inside it was covered with tons of spy memorabilia.  It was definitely a fun little venture. And with that, our short weekend getaway was over. But it was a great quick trip with fantastic company.

Chicago Weekend

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This past weekend, Eric and I took a quick little trip to Chicago to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. The nice thing about having Eric as a travel companion, is that our vacation philosophies are very similar. We both like to get up early and fit in as many activities as we can. And I’ll be completely honest.. about 90% of these “activities” typically revolve around food. No wonder we get along so well. We scouted out quite a few places beforehand, and were able to hit each and every spot in the short time we were there. The first stop was of course a quick trip to the well known “bean.” Because you can’t really visit Chicago without a few obligatory “bean shots.” Next up was a trip to Sprinkles Cupcakes.

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As a huge fan of the show Cupcake Wars, I was pumped to taste the cupcakes from one of Cupcake Wars’ judges. And these cupcakes did not disappoint. I had a Peanut Butter Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. It was perfectly sweet and delicious. Eric had the classic Black and White Cupcake and was also a huge fan. Nothing starts off your day better than a cupcake.

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Later on we stopped by Eataly, which is a gourmet Italian marketplace owned by Mario Batali. There was delicious, high end food in every corner, and a huge selection of Italian wines. There are even areas for shoppers to stop and enjoy a glass of wine or a charcuterie platter during their shopping trip. We didn’t end up eating anything, as we were still on a Sprinkles induced sugar high, but I would love to go back and roam around again.

Our next stop was a trip to a bar we had seen on Bar Rescue. If you’ve never seen the show, it is definitely worth a try. A “bar expert” remakes failing bars throughout the U.S., and though the host is incredibly obnoxious, the show is one of Eric and my favorites. The bar we visited is called Blue Frog’s Local 22 and it was remade to be a burger and beer bar. We just went for a beer, and it was nice little reprieve from walking around the streets of a very snowy Chicago.

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For dinner, we went to RPM Italian, which is owned by Guiliana and Bill Rancic. A few years back, when I worked at a country club, I had a crazy work schedule and was only able to see Eric for a few hours on Monday nights. And since I was too exhausted to ever do anything, we spent a lot of our Monday night date nights watching TV together. The only problem was that there is absolutely nothing to watch on Monday nights in the summer. So somewhere along the road we started watching Guiliana & Bill’s reality show. When we used to watch the show, they talked a lot about opening up an italian restaurant, and eventually RPM Italian came to be. We thought it would be a fun little anniversary date to visit the restaurant we had heard so much about. We started with an appetizer of grilled baguette served with fresh ricotta and marinara sauce.

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It was so delicious, and we both said we easily could have eaten 3 pieces each, but we had to save our appetites for the main course. I chose Mama DePandi’s bucatini and it was definitely one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a while.

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Eric had the spaghetti and meatballs and loved his as well. It was an all around successful anniversary.

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To end our night we did our own little Irish bar crawl with my cousin Kristin, who lives in Chicago. She was a fantastic tour guide and it was so great to catch up. And with that our little weekend trip was over. It was a nice little break from the norm and a fun way to celebrate our last “dating anniversary.” Because in a little less than 3 months we’ll be Mr. and Mrs. Jones…Crazy!

Falling Down Brewery

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As I mentioned once before, Eric and I are on a mission to visit every brewery in Michigan, and this weekend we knocked another one off our list. And our trip to Falling Down Brewery in Warren was a perfect example of finding a diamond in the rough. Falling Down Brewery opened about a month ago, and though it doesn’t look like much from the outside, it was absolutely fantastic. I’ll be honest, when we drove up to the brewery, I was pretty skeptical. Eric commented that the building must have been a McDonald’s at one time because it certainly looked like one…even down to the plastic marquee outside. But as soon as we sat down and were given the menu, we had a feeling there might be a little more than meets the eye. And boy we were right. We started with flights of beer, which is always such a fun way to sample all of their brews without…as the brewery name implies..falling down at the end of the night. We got to try 2 oz samples of all 4 of the beers on tap. My favorite was the Amber Ale which was an American Amber with a slightly carmel taste to it. And though we liked the beer, what we really loved was the food. The menu consisted of mostly fun and unique sandwiches that packed in a ton of flavor. My choice was the spicy chicken sandwich:

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The Spicy Chicken was blackened rotisserie chicken, topped with bacon, arugula, avocado and spicy Sriracha aioli. The sandwich had so many different layers of flavor and textures. And served with tangy cole slaw and house made chips, this dinner hit the spot. We kept saying we would definitely have to come back to sample some of the other menu items. Like the BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders or the Cuban Sandwich. The fun thing about our little Michigan Brewery Challenge is that we probably never would have given this spot a second glance but is definitely a place we will most likely visit again. A hidden gem with good beer and good food is a great spot in my book. Happy Sunday!

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Dinner at Red Crown

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I live in a relatively small town, so when a new restaurant opens up, pretty much the whole town is abuzz. And that was definitely the case with the newly opened Red Crown. The building started as a Standard Oil gas station but was recently transformed into this trendy new restaurant. Ever since it opened earlier this month, the parking lot has been absolutely packed with new patrons, so my family and I decided to give it a try as well.

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I had heard that the drink menu was going to be quite impressive, and it definitely did not disappoint. They have an extensive wine list and a number of Michigan beers on tap, but it’s their cocktail menu that really jumped out at us. Each cocktail listed a number of different liquors, liqueurs and juices, many of which I had never even heard of. Since my mom and I are not too adventurous when it comes to drinks, we both played it safe with the only vodka cocktail on the menu- The Moscow Mule. This cocktail featured vodka, ginger beer & fresh lime juice and was served in a copper mug. It was so unique and the ginger flavor really shined through. My dad chose a rum based drink that he wasn’t too crazy about, but Sean and Eric both chose the Paper Plane. A drink featuring Maker’s Mark bourbon, aperol, amaro montenegro and lemon juice.

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Next up was dinner. The menu had a mix of barbeque and classic comfort foods like meatloaf and shrimp & grits. We all decided to sample the barbeque and we all ended up very happy with our picks. I chose the Brisket Sandwich which featured spice rubbed brisket and cole slaw served on an onion roll. The brisket was tender and juicy and full of flavor. It was served with delicious fresh cut fries which were right up my alley. In my book, the crunchier the fries, the better, and these were perfect.

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Eric went with the ribs with a a side of mac and cheese. I’ve heard that you can always tell if it’s good barbeque if you don’t need to put extra barbeque sauce on them. Well, Red Crown’s ribs definitely delivered on flavor sans the extra sauce.

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Eric’s meal also came with some delicious cornbread and honey butter, which he let me take a bite of. (what a guy)

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All in all it was a great meal with my favorite people.