Sunday, April 3, 2011

St. Louis, MO

A few weeks ago, I took another road trip adventure with the Cline Family for an extended weekend in St. Louis.  The main purpose of the trip was to cheer on these guys....
Wichita State Shockers
Although, I think Jordan secretly wished we were there to watch him play some ball.

Jordan posing with his "twin" for Missouri State.
They were all playing for the Missouri Valley Conference post season championship, also referred to as Arch Madness.  The winner of this tournament would be granted a spot in the NCAA tournament.  Unfortunately, the Shocks lost in the 2nd round.  But the Cline's still had fun!

Jordan and I before Game 2, looking hopeful...
One of my favorite spots we hit up was Anheuser-Busch.  It's the world's largest brewing company and got its start in 1860.  Eberhard Anheuser bought the brewery and married the daughter of Adolphus Busch.  Budweiser became the first beer available across the US when Busch decided to use refrigerated rail cars and set up ice houses to distribute beer across the country.  Today, the company has 12 breweries in the United States, and 2 overseas.  The St. Louis location is the largest.  I know my favorite part of the brewery tour SHOULD have been the free beer in the hospitality room, but it was actually getting to see the Clydesdale's.  And even better, the Budweiser Dalmatians.  The dogs roam free in the stables for the visitors to pet.  As a dog lover, I was in love!
After the brewery, we were hungry.  Hmmm...what goes well with beer?  Custard!  Not really, but we had some anyway.  Ted Drewes Frozen Custard has been open since 1931 and has become a St. Louis tradition.  It's a little white stand with a walk-up window to place your order.  There are two locations in St. Louis.  And this place is SOOOOO good that one of the stands stays open year around.  It's so good, people walk up in the freezing cold to enjoy some freezing cold custard.  And even better, they sell Christmas trees during December!  Custard and Christmas trees, they go together if you live in St. Louie. 

I have been lucky enough to visit once before, but this was a first time visit for the rest of my family.  As a chocolate lover family, they were a bit disturbed when they found out you can only get the custard in vanilla.  But once we arrived, and the menu of "mix-ins" was provided, only silence could be heard as we all carefully weighed our flavorful options.  We all decided to get a concrete or crete if you are a regular.  It's a milkshake so thick they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inserted.  The lady at the counter could tell we were family visiting from out of town.  Although, I'm not sure what gave us away?  Maybe it was because we were all dressed alike in our Shocker gear, OR, the fact we all ordered Oreo Cretes.  I'm sure it was one or the other, or maybe a combination of the two.  
Jordan demonstrating the "thickness" of the Concrete.
Me vs. Jordan...When it comes to sweets, I win EVERY time!
And last but not least, we visited the St. Louis Arch.  Because who visits St. Louis and doesn't see the Arch?!?!  Jordan does!  His beloved Jayhawks were playing when we scheduled our trip to the Arch.  Gag!  So, he elected not to come.  This was my 4th trip up in the Arch, and I still think it's pretty cool.  Here are some little history tidbits for you.  At 630 feet above the Mississippi River, the Arch is more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.  It represents the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the United States when the US payed France $15 million for a stretch of land from New Orleans to Montana that totaled 530,000 acres.  Lewis and Clark met in St. Louis after Jefferson sent them to explore the land. St. Louis became a major stop for people heading to Santa Fe, California, and Oregon.  It became known as the "Gateway to the West."

Although Jordan wasn't with us, he stayed with us in spirit.  Our hotel was one block away from the Arch, and you could view it from our window.  Jordan told me to call him when we reached the top.  And in true Jordan form, he mooned us from the hotel room.  I have to admit, it was pretty funny.  And for some reason, my sweet mother thought she needed a picture from the top of the Arch zoomed in on Jordan's bright white buttocks pressed up against the hotel window.  After some careful persuasion, I was successfully able to convince her that it would be weird to take a picture of her 23 year old son's bottom. Whew!  Awkwardness adverted!

My Aunt and Uncle also came along to cheer on the Shocks.  On our last evening, we met them in "The Hill" for dinner.  The Hill is a residential Italian neighborhood.  What makes the neighborhood so unique is its collection of Italian restaurants standing in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  This neighborhood is not listed in my book, and I am very surprised.  We ate at Rigazzi's and it was deliziosa.  I had the Pasta con Zucchini with Chicken.  It's grilled chicken, zucchini, mushrooms, and red peppers in a garlic butter sauce served over ziti noodles.  MMMM.  I didn't get any pictures, but you can visit them here

Minus the Shocker's loss, it was an excellent weekend getaway!

Quote of the trip:  "What's wrong with my straw?"--Mom
Family:  "Uh, it's a coffee stirrer!" ;)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bobo's--Best known diner in Topeka, KS

A few weeks ago I found out I would be spending three weeks in Topeka for work.  Some people would hate receiving news like this, but I was pumped.  My former (she asked that I refrain from using the word old) college roommate, Michelle, lives in Topeka.  She insisted we re-live our college days as roommies.  So far, our evenings have been filled with wine, yummy food, and Oprah.  When I arrived, Michelle had 87 unwatched Oprah episodes saved on her DVR.  Wow!  I LOVE Oprah.  So, watching 87 unwatched episodes of her doesn't even phase me.  BRING IT ON!  We've been able to knock out 3-4 each night.  Our evenings together may not be as crazy as our college days, but I'm lovin' all the time I'm getting to spend with Shell!
This week, she took me to Bobo's.  Bobo's is a small countertop drive-in diner.  You can take a seat inside or receive old fashion car hop service outside.  The diner has been operating since 1948.  In December of 2007, they were featured on the famous Food Network series, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  So, in order to truly appreciate my culinary experience, Michelle insisted I watch the Food Network segment before stuffing my face with greasy goodness.
After watching all of the yumminess on the computer, I was ready to dive in.  I started out with a cheeseburger and homemade onion rings.
And then, I moved onto the homemade apple pie, a la mode style.  I blame the Food Network viewing on this decision.  And it just seemed wrong to order the pie without ice cream on top...
After my delicious experience at Bobo's, I'm sure I'll be a repeat offender.  After all, there is a reason it was featured on
Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives.
Quote of the Trip: 
"Do you want fries with that?"--Bobo's waitress...What kind of question is that?!?!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

San Francisco, CA

After our day in Sonoma, we headed back to San Francisco to meet up with my great-aunt Margaret. She lives in Menlo Park, CA, which is just south of San Fran. It had been 10 years since I'd last seen her so I was excited for the time to visit with her. I have actually only seen her 4 times during my life, but still feel connected to her. She has done a great job staying in contact with phone calls, letters, and emails. When I was 6, I went to California with my parents. My dad and mom had a business meeting to attend, so they left me with my Aunt Margaret for a couple of days. I still remember that trip well and all of the fun we had together. She loves to reminisce with me about that trip as well and tell me how "cute" I was as a small child. Who wouldn't want to hear that kind of praise?!? She rode the Bart, aka subway, into San Francisco to meet up with us. I found that to be impressive since she is 80 years old.
Aunt M and my Mom.

Aunt M treated us to dinner at Fisherman's Wharf. I stuck to chicken since I am not a fan of seafood, but everyone else raved about their fish. After dinner, we treated her to dessert in Ghirardelli square. As a self-proclaimed lover of chocolate, I would have been just as satisfied if she would have taken us here for dinner! Jordan and I getting ready to enter heaven!

Can you say yum?!?! Here, we have a banana fudge sundae, a dish of Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream, a brownie fudge sundae, and a strawberry fudge sundae.

Inside the store, you can view the heavenly chocolate being made right before your very own eyes. Don't you just want to put your finger in it and have a little taste?

Day 2 in San Francisco was dedicated to baseball. We started out the day with breakfast at Lefty O'Douls in Union Square. The restaurant is named after famous major league player/coach, Francis Joseph "Lefty" O'Doul. He was a famous left handed pitcher. As you can probably guess, this selection for breakfast was made by my dad. The food was good and it was fun to look at all of the baseball memorabilia on the walls.

After breakfast, we headed over to AT&T Park to take in a Giants and Dodgers game. AT&T Park is actually listed in the book as a must see, and after walking through the front gates, I could see why. This place was amazing!

The park overlooks the McCovey Cove. They actually keep a record of "Splash Hits." I was hoping to see a home run hit into the water, but only got to see a foul ball. I thought tailgating on a boat sounded fun!

Just having some fun inside the park!

As you can probably tell, it was a beautiful day for baseball!
We made a pit stop at a 4 story GAP after the game. The GAP headquarters is located in San Fran. And of course, I had to make a small purchase to document the occasion. And then we headed back to the hotel in Japantown for some rest. Even the street signs are in Japanese.

After a little resting, we decided to spend our last night in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Bridge. You can walk all the way across the bridge, but we settled for the half way point because it was a little chilly by this time in the day.

A view of San Francisco from the bridge.

Jordan enjoying the view.
Oh, California, I will miss you!

Quote of the Day: "I didn't realize there would be so many hills!"--Mom
Explanation: We decided to walk the 1.3 miles from Union Square back to our hotel instead of taking a bus. Jordan and I checked with our parents first to make sure they were okay with that distance. They both eagerly replied with, "We walk that distance all of the time at home!" .5 miles later, we were all out of breath...

Sonoma, CA

If you know me well, then their is a large chance you also know I am a huge fan of wine. When my parents asked me what I wanted to do on our trip to Cali, visiting a winery was my top pick. We didn't have time to visit true Wine Country, Napa Valley, so we settled for a close second. Sonoma vineyards are known for producing Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. They have over 250 wineries to chose from. Deciding which one to visit was an overwhelming task so I turned to my trusty book to decide. The book suggested visiting Buena Vista Winery.

It was established in 1857 and was one of the first wineries in California to plant the European vinifera varieties. Translation: they took common grape vines from Europe and planted them in California. I visited Buena Vista's website and even made a phone call as part of my research before deciding on this location. And I must unhappily report that my book failed me for the first time! I am assuming the location is listed as one of the must sees before you die because of its origin. Buena Vista's website lists wine tastings for $10, which is a bargain. But it didn't say anything about tours, so I made a phone call. The gentleman on the phone informed me they have self-guided tours. This worked for me since I have toured wineries before and was more interested in walking around the grounds than hearing how wine is produced. Upon arriving to the winery, we were all eager to get started. The drive up to Sonoma was beautiful and from what we had seen so far, the property Buena Vista was located on was gorgeous. We made the 1/4 mile trek up to the front entrance. Around the main entrance they had picnic tables and several signs with information to read about the history of the winery. We tried to walk around the property, but everywhere we turned was blocked off with signs that read "employees only." So, I went inside to speak to someone. I was then informed that the signs located right outside was what they considered the "self-guided" tour and you couldn't actually walk around the grounds. But you could pay $10, sit inside, and drink some wine at their bar. I was disappointed...I could do that at home. The guy could sense the disappointment in my voice and was kind enough to suggest a different winery up the road, so that's where we went.
Up the road to Benziger family winery.

This place was a pleasant surprise. It was beautiful, gave a very detailed 30-45 min. tour of the grounds, allowed 4 wine samples, and only cost $15. They are also a Certified Sustainable Biodynamic winery. What's that you might ask? In short, they use all environmentally sound growing methods to produce their wines. Biodynamics is the highest level of organic farming. They avoid using synthetic chemicals on their vines and use all natural methods to control insects and to maintain the health of their soil. The staff was incredibly informative and the wine was so good I brought some home with me.
One the way back to our hotel, we spotted this little diamond. I couldn't help but wonder if I could have scored some free wine since I share it's namesake. Dang! I hate missed opportunities!
Quote of the Day: "I'm sure people get crocked up here!"--Dad
Translation: "I'm sure people get s*** faced up here!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monterey, CA

After traveling up Highway 1 to Monterey, we decided to stop for the night and spend the following day there. I was okay with that plan because it allowed me to see some more sights from the book. Monterey was the original capital of California, a little fact I was unaware of before this week. The town is beautiful and still contains more than 40 buildings built before 1850. We started the morning out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

We saw lots of fish and sharks...


and more jellyfish...

Pink flamingos...

Sea horses...

and even cooler sea horses...

and the cute penguins.

I thought this was funny, but maybe I am just immature.

After the Aquarium we headed over to Pebble Beach. You don't have to be a golfer to enjoy the holy- grail of golf courses. But if you are, you can play a round for $450. Or, you can pay $10 and just view the course along the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. That's what we did. Here are few goodies from the many pictures I took along the way...

Check out the fog...

Those are Sea Lions on the right side of the rock!

After Pebble Beach, it was time to head to San Fransisco. We booked our hotel off of We were expecting some sort of national chain hotel, but were surprised when we found out we'd be staying at Hotel Kabuki in Japantown. As soon as we walked into the hotel, we were all excited to stay there. The hotel has beautiful accomodations and I think it's safe to stay we've never stayed in a neighborhood or a hotel quite like this one before. Upon entering our room, we had Japanese robes waiting for us.
Jordan getting some relaxation in...
Quote of the Day: "War! Huh-yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing..."--Jordan, impersonating Jackie Chan from Rush Hour.