Tag Archive | Travel

Madden’s Brainerd Vacation


Madden's, Lake, Gull Lake

Almost every year my family gets together at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd. It is one of my favorite places in the world because I have memories from there when I was very small. It was the one thing I always looked forward to during the summer as a child.

Golf, Maddens, Brainerd,

Mostly, I looked forward to spending all day at the swimming pool and when I got older playing in the golf scramble with my aunts, uncles and cousins.

Golf, Maddens, Sun

Now, I like the nostalgia of coming back to this place that I loved as a child and slowing down for a few days. I know that each year I will come back and get to participate in the traditions of Madden’s.

Social Hour, Maddens, Family

On Sunday nights when we first arrive, we eat at Parfecto Pizza.  On Monday nights we go the social where we get to meet other families and have appetizers before we go out on the town.  But, one of our most beloved traditions is playing Bingo on Tuesday nights.

It is important that we hang on to these traditions and remember the magic of when we were younger and won loser bingo, spent hours in the pool, and rented a pontoon that fit our whole family.

This year I get to head up to Madden’s for a second time to attend Food and Wine Weekend. This is my first time attending this event and I am looking forward to learning from many different chefs and drinking wine in the sun.  I might even jump in the pool if there is time.  I can’t wait for a weekend full of delicious food. Is it the weekend yet?

because family traditions should live on. We can always add new ones.

@mplsgossipgirl

Is there something you do every summer with your family?

Day 3 Turks and Caicos – Coco Bistro


TC Day 3 2 (2)

*This is part of a series of posts about my Turks and Caicos Vacation from April 2013.

Today was a very relaxing day. This was exactly the type of vacation I needed to get back to the slow pace of life. It was cloudy which was nice because the sun can be a bit intense sometimes. It was still warm enough to go swimming and spend time lounging outside reading a book.

TC Day 3 2 (1)

One of the best parts of staying at Ocean Club East was that it was at the end of Grace Bay.  This provided a more secluded feeling since there was an open part of the beach right next to the resort. It feels as if you are the only people there.

TC Day 3 3

I went on many walks down that beach. If you walk around the end of the beach you will come to Leeward Beach. Also, a very nice place to spend some time. When I was visiting Leeward beach was empty which made it a nice place for adults to spend time swimming or soaking in the sun.

TC Day 3 4

One thing I appreciated about Ocean Club East is that I never had to fight over chairs, tables, or umbrellas. There was always enough for everyone. Other guests were respectful and not too loud.  Since some of them live there for a few months out of the year they are willing to share some of their favorite places. Suggestions from “the belongers” were always spot on. I would suggest that you spark a conversation with people who seem like they have a set tan and are used to the slow pace of life.

TC Day 3 6

That night I went to eat at Coco Bistro. If you read any of the travel sites this is the one restaurant that according to reviews that you must go to when visiting Provo. I took their advice.

TC Day 3 9

It was raining the night I went but they still kept my reservation. They have a large outdoor dining space and only a small space inside. It was a bit cramped but the restaurant was doing the best that it could trying to keep everyones reservations. They looked completely shocked that it was raining because the weather is usually perfect.

I would highly reccomend coming here. The food was very good, local and fresh. Plus, the service was top notch. It has a feeling of an oaisis with the palm trees that line the restaurant.

TC Day 3 7

This was the most expensive meal that I had while I was on vacation. But, it was worth it. I would suggest ordering an appetizer, main, and dessert. You can always bring some of it back to your place to eat as a late night snack.

TC Day 3 8

For an appetizer I tired both the lobster spring rolls and the conch two ways; both delicious. You cannot make a bad choice with the selection that they have on the menu. Conch when prepared well is something that I could eat almost every day.

TC Day 3 5

I tried the special drink that they had which added to the fun of the special dinner. The drinks here are fun, tropical, and mixed well. I might stop by next time I visit Turks and Caicos just for a drink at the bar.

TC Day 3 10

For mains I tried the lobster and grilled wahoo which was on special for the night. They put whatever fresh fish they may have on the special. So, it is a safe bet when you order. The lobster, since it was lobster season in Turks and Caicos, was fresh and locally caught as well.

TC Day 3 11

I cannot tell you how fun it is to order these items off a menu and have them be fresh and local. When you are on vacation, learn about local foods before you go.  That way, you know what to order off the menu.  In the case of Turks and Caicos, go for the local fish, conch and lobster (when in season). Do not order beef. Do you see any cows on the island?

TC Day 3 12

For dessert I had the coconut sorbet. It is made in house and was a refreshing way to end the night.

I cannot wait to go back and sit outside at Coco Bistro. Although, Coco Bistro is not on the water the food makes it a can’t miss on a Turks and Caicos vacation.

because fresh and local is best.

@mplsgossipgirl

Reuters: 48 hours in the Twin Cities: What you really should do


Travel, Twin Cities, 48 hours

Reuters shared this article on their website about 48 hours in the Twin Cities and what you should do if you are traveling here. I honestly would suggest very little on their list and I am guessing whoever wrote this did a google search and did not actually come to Minnesota since Potbelly is not open for breakfast during weekends. It is too bad since we have some neat things going on in the Twin Cities.

Dear Mark,

We are all wondering who are these local Reuters correspondents who sent you to these places? You need some new friends in Minnesota.

I know you are catching a lot of flack from us local experts but we hold the Twin Cities very dear to our hearts and we are sick and tired of people telling us that this is not a place they want to visit. I know you tried to make it look great, but telling people about the tornado shelters and the ‘tram’ does not put the city in the greatest light. Can we really blame you for some bad advice from your correspondents? No.

I am sorry to tell you that you missed out on the best that the Twin Cities has to offer.

This 48 hour itinerary is what I would love to do if I were coming here to visit.

Here is what you missed:

Friday:

5 p.m.- Head right on over to the W hotel in Minneapolis. It is located in the historic Foshay Tower. See if you can find the speak-easy bar.

7 p.m.-Go to the Smack Shack in the warehouse district and spend the night checking out the Marvel Bar and other hot spots in the area. It is the newest up and coming food scene in Minneapolis.

9 p.m.-If you are into music we have First Avenue, the Dakota Jazz Club, and many other places you can hear a good set.

Saturday:

 

9 a.m.-  Hells Kitchen is right by the W Hotel and has some awesome lemon ricotta pancakes.

10:30 a.m.- If you want to get some exercise Core Power Yoga is doing morning classes at Lake Calhoun during the summer for free.

11:30 a.m.-Take a walk around Lake Calhoun or Minnehaha Falls. If you are really adventurous take a bike ride with Nice Ride bikes that are located all over the city.

1:00pm-Eat lunch at one of the outdoor restaurants such as the newly opened Sandcastle or Sea Salt Eatery.

2:00 p.m. -If you really want to go to the MOA, I guess you could go there. It is a really big mall. I think the Mall of America is a whole day event and if you only have 48 hours here with good weather this would not be my first choice.

Instead you should go to the Como Zoo and Conservatory to see the new bonsai garden and gorilla forest. If you are looking to go shopping head to Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.

4:00 p.m.- Fulton Tap Room and eating from a food truck. Located near Target Field this is a must go to place before the big game.

6 p.m.- Walk over to the game. Find the AZ Canteen booth and get a burger.  Then pick up a Surly beer.

10 p.m.- After the game and when you have digested a little bit walk over to Butcher and The Boar. The beer garden has a wonderful feel and the food is excellent. This place is all about the atmosphere and the meat.

SUNDAY:

10 a.m.- Breakfast at Lucia’s in Uptown and get whatever is on special. Afterwards walk to one of the local coffee houses and explore Uptown.

1 p.m.- Either head to Secret Beach to enjoy some relaxing time with a good book or walk around historic Saint Paul and snap some photos.

3 p.m.- Grab and go at Cosetta’s in Saint Paul.

I would love if you would come to Minnesota and try some of the items on my list and tell me if you had a good time. I can guarantee that you will. (Reuters you should send him back with the company credit card and this awesome list)

because if you have 48 hours in Minnesota you should do what the locals do

@mplsgossipgirl

What advice do you give someone who is coming to the Twin Cities and only has 48 hours to explore?

Turks and Caicos Day 2 – Sunset Cruise


TC Day 2 Sun Charters

Day two started with a leisurely breakfast in my room. The nice part about staying at the Ocean Club is that they have full kitchens. I sat on the patio and enjoyed the perfect weather when eating my toast with guava jelly.

TC Day 2 Toast

It is important when you plan a vacation to Turks and Caicos to not over schedule yourself. It is nice to be able to do whatever you feel like on that particular day. I only did two planned activities and had three restaurant reservations and thought it was the perfect amount for a 7 day vacation. If you are going during Spring Break you may want to make more restaurant reservations since it gets very busy on the island.

TC Day 2 Booze Store

I then set off to get some booze for the week. I headed to the Wine Cellar which is by the IGA on the highway and looks like a castle. They are open from 9am-6pm and not on Sundays. I leave Minnesota and still can’t buy liquor on Sundays.

TC Day 2 Turks Head

I choose Turks Head Lager a local beer made on the island and white wine. The Turks Head was $41.99 for a case and the wine was comparable to what it costs me in Minneapolis. It felt amazing to be able to sit in a lounge chair, drink a beer, and read a book.

TC Day 2 Beach

Most of my day was spent at the beach on a floatie. You can get them at Target for $4.00 before you go and I highly recommend it.

Remember to put on sun screen and a lot of it, reapply every so often.

I was enjoying the beach so much that I ate a late lunch at the Cabana Bar again. I had the ocean burger which is a fish sandwich slathered with a great tartar sauce.   The Cabana Bar is a very relaxing place to lunch and the drinks and service are great.

The service I had was great and the drinks are good as well.

TC Day 2 Potcakes

That night I planned a sailing trip with  Sun Charters. Before the trip, we ran into some Potcakes which are the local dogs on Turks and Caicos. They are called Potcakes because they were fed the caked on food that was leftover from the cooking pot.  You can adopt a Potcake or help by donating or being a courier. There is also the Potcake Place located in the Saltmills shopping area where you can get more information.

TC Day 2 Sailing

After playing with the potcakes, I set out on the sunset cruise. It was relaxing and a great way to meet other people staying on the island. Junior kept the rum punch flowing and we sailed down Grace Bay beach and back. I would highly recommend going sailing with Sun Charters.

TC Day 2 Sun Charters sailing

Sun Charters would be a perfect boat to book for a sea bound wedding or for a family get together. I have heard that both weddings and family reunions are popular on the island due to the fact that there are many large rental properties. The owner of Sun Charters was very nice and seemed like he would be willing to accommodate a customizeable charter.

TC Day 2 The Upstairs

It was past dinner time but I was hungry and headed to The Upstairs which is in a little shopping mall near the main part of Grace Bay. I had a delicious dinner and met Kenny who grows “tomatoes” and you know other things that grow in the ground.  The service was excellent and the food was good. I tried the jerk chicken pizza and wrap.

I would highly recommend The Upstairs during the first part of your stay. The portions are large and make great leftovers.

If you are used to sleeping in the city. You will sleep like a baby when you are here.

because keep the rum punch flowing.

@mplsgossipgirl

Turks and Caicos Day 1


TC day 1 Beach pic

Over the next week I will be writing about my latest vacation to Turks and Caicos. This was the first out of country, seven-day, tropical vacation for me. Now, I see why people flock to beaches during the long winter months in Minnesota. I guess I could say long Spring months now, since it is snowing in MAY!

Turks and Caicos is located in the Caribbean close to Cuba. I chose Turks and Caicos because it was a less touristy place than Mexico or Jamaica. Also, I wanted to be able to explore the island and eat at many different places versus an all-inclusive type vacation.

Most of the research for this vacation was done on Trip Advisor. I do have to say that most of the reviews were accurate and the suggestions from the destination experts were very helpful. I read the travel forum for Providenciales or Provo as the locals call it, the specific island I stayed on. I also used the Provo Bums website often http://www.provobums.com/html/links.html for links to local businesses.

You will have to make reservations for certain restaurants and excursions before you go. Many restaurants and businesses  will not take reservations by email. Be prepared to make a few phone calls to Turks and Caicos before your trip.

Also, many places do not take American Express or credit cards at all. It would be smart to bring cash. It came in handy for me and it was easy because everything was in US dollars. I have heard that the credit card transactions fees are fairly high so I would open a Visa card without foreign transaction fees to eliminate the problem. Don’t forget to call your credit card companies to let them know that you are going on a trip.

I had a hard time finding any information about Provo other than on Trip Advisor. So, I thought I would share detailed information of my trip to help you, if you decide to plan a trip to Turks and Caicos.

TC Day 1 Plane photo

The flight from Minneapolis to Turks and Caicos was only about 5 hours in total with Delta. I could see myself traveling here for a long weekend in the future because the travel was very easy. It was made even easier with the Delta application on my phone which updated which gate I needed to get to because the layover was a quick one.

I would suggest bringing only a carry on bag even for a week. Honestly, you need a few swimsuits and a few cover-ups. Everywhere on the island is casual and I ended up walking right from the beach to a meal several times. You can buy sunscreen when you get there at the local grocery store for about $10 and you don’t need make-up. I spent most of my time relaxing in the water or on the beach.

Once I got to the airport in Turks and Caicos, I was very underwhelmed. It was dirty and not updated. It was not a good first impression. Let’s all hope that they do make the updates that are scheduled to happen. The airport was the only ‘bad’ part of this vacation.

When you get there remind yourself that you are now on “Island Time” and things will not happen fast. Stay calm and remind yourself you are on vacation and not in a race. It can take a while to get from the airport to where you are staying.
If you are picking up a rental car at the airport go to the desks with the Avis, Budget and Thrifty signs. I saw a Grace Bay Car Rentals worker there even though there was no sign.

TC Day1 Car pic

I chose to go with Avis because of the rate. The car was tiny but had good gas mileage. It only cost about $35 for 7 days of driving wherever I wanted to go on the island.

Before you go you may want to look up a map of the island online. The one that they give you does not have road names on it which makes it a bit harder. We picked one up at our resort when we got there that was much more helpful. Remember, most likely you cannot access google maps when you get lost.

When driving take it slow. People go above the speed limit they do not mind going around you. Once you get a handle on the roundabouts and driving on the other side of the road you can go above the 40 mph. Oh yeah and the cars are in kmp, have fun with that.

TC Day 1 OCE sign

I made it to Ocean Club East at the end of Grace Bay. Check-in was a breeze and the staff were friendly and helpful. The room had fresh flowers, a full kitchen, and a washer and dryer. If you stay here I would recommend a third floor room because of the high ceilings and the view from the porch. You do have to walk up the stairs though. The porches are the best part of the rooms, my room had a table to eat at and a lounge chair. At the Ocean Club each room is different so if you find one you like request it the next time.

TC Day 1 Room pic

You can contact the resort before your trip and let them know your travel plans and any requests that you may have. They were very helpful and had my room ready when I arrived at the resort even though check-in was at 4:00PM.

TC Day 1 Cabana bar

I was very hungry and decided to go the Cabana Bar at Ocean Club East for lunch. You do not need reservations here and can just walk up and pick a table. I ordered the drink special and the fish tacos.  They were both great! I liked the grilled fish that was in the tacos and the balsamic that was served with the salad. The service was friendly.

TC day 1 beach pic with boat.

The view from here was unreal, it is right on the beach. I was unsure if the water would be a beautiful as it was in pictures online and it was.

TC Day 1 IGA

Since the rooms at the Ocean Club have a full kitchen, I made a stop at the IGA which is the one on the highway to get some groceries for breakfast and some snack items for between meals. I thought the prices were not outrageous but what you would expect for being on an island. Some items are much more expensive, others are the same. If you are smart and buy some items that are different than when you buy at home, you will get out of there without spending a huge amount. I got eggs, butter, bread, guava jelly, and a few other items. Most of them only about a dollar more than what I pay in Minneapolis.

TC Day 1 Flamingos Pic

For dinner I made a stop at The Flamingo which is between Ocean Club East and Club Med. You do not need a reservation here. I would recommend either the curried grouper or the jerk chicken. Remember to wear bug spray when you are out at night. The Flamingo is right on the beach has great sunset view.

Providencailes does not have a night life. It is a place where people go to relax and get a good night sleep. Most of the people at the Ocean Club were either retired or families. If you want to go to a club or dance all night coming to Provo may not be your cup of tea.

Day one was the beginning of a very relaxing vacation.

@mplsgossipgirl

North Shore, MN


NS5 (Logo)

I love the North Shore in the wintertime. Yes, it can be bitter cold. But, it is simply beautiful as well.

NS6 (hike 5)

On the way up to the North Shore I always stop in Duluth to get a bite to eat. I can never wait long enough to make it to Two Harbors, so Duluth it always is.

My stop in Duluth included a trip to Duluth Grill. I have been talking up this place with many friends and on here after my summer trip. You can read about it HERE.

ND Duluth

Duluth Grill serves really good food. The portions are huge and there are so many options I think it would take me a year to eat all of the combinations. I stopped here for dinner this time and because it was a Friday they had fish specials. I tried both the meat loaf and salmon. Both were delicious. I cannot remember anything that I have ever had there that I did not like though. The salmon came with smashed sweet potatoes that were cooked just right with a bit of brown sugar on top. The service was great and made me sad that we don’t have a Grill in Minneapolis. Hint, Hint.

North Shore, Fish Market

NS Fish

Another stop I have to make is in Grand Marais at the Fish Market. I always pick up fish to make during the trip. It is always fresh and cooks up quickly. I also like the salmon dip from here as well. It is a wonderful appetizer for a wintertime party (see below). I have never eaten at the Fish Market because it does close after New Years for a bit and by the time I get there they are done serving food. I am going to make it a stop on the next summer trip I take.

NS1 (Ale and dip)

Also in Grand Marais I like to stop in all the local stores especially the Sivertson Art Gallery with work from artists like Dave Gilsvik and Jim Brandenburg. It is fun to look at all the different artwork and sip tea. Many of the artists live in the North Shore and their art reflects many of the sites of the North Shore. It would be like taking a piece of the shore home with you.

NS4 (Hike 3)

In Grand Marias I also enjoy the trading post because of all the great brands that they have there. I can always find something to use. This year I bought a pair of gloves with fur that are missing the fingers. I like them when it is not too cold outside because it is easy to grab my bus pass.

NS3 (1) (Hike 2)

We always stay in a VRBO rental (Vacation Rentals By Owner). It is a great way to do a vacation with a larger group or if you like to cook. This year we stayed in Tofte, MN. I liked Tofte because there are a few shops and gas stations not too far away for supplies. I haven’t stayed in any of the hotels in the area but, I am curious as to what they are like as well. I am a sucker for a pool. Also, stay on the lake because the views are breathtaking.

NS3 (2) (Hike)

If it is not too cold out, take a hike. There are so many places to hike in the area. If you have snow shoes there are cleaned paths that you can take as well. Many of the local gas stations and stores have maps. My best suggestion is to ask a local.

NS Sir Bens

On the way home I stopped at Sir Ben’s. Deli by day, bar by night. I love the relaxed atmosphere and the beer selection. It is a really fun place to be. Try whatever their special is that day or whatever on the menu speaks to you. I have yet to be disappointed.

because you gotta get, get, get away.

@mplsgossipgirl

mplsgossipgirl in Chicago (or what to do on your way back)


I apologize for my long absence. I feel like these last few weeks have gone by quickly and with the gray skies and dreary atmosphere in Minneapolis I really haven’t felt like being bubbly and writing posts about how much I love everything. Because frankly, I want to curl up in bed, order in take out, and nap for 75% of the day. I haven’t been doing that but have been very tempted.

My distaste of the inter webs may have also contributed to the bout of laziness because of  all the ignorance that I have witnessed on social media during the election. I had to shut it down for a while. Seriously, people, I can hardly stand the completely untrue statements on both sides of the aisle that are being made on social media. Please if you have not read an unbiased opinion, news article on a reputable website, don’t know that the New York Times has an online version, never been to politifact, please just don’t post it at all. I do appreciate witty banter and educated opinions. So, thank you to most of my facebook friends for that.

So, why would mplsgossipgirl spend the weekend in Chicago? Well, I was celebrating a friend’s wedding. It was a wedding in a beautiful old church with a beautiful bride. The reception had a candy bar and an open bar. Who could ask for more?

On my way to Chicago I made a stop at the newish Surdyks in the MSP airport. That is a bit of heaven in the busy bustle of the airport. I had a flight of spanish wines and pretzel before my actual flight. I sat by a family with younger children and the server was very accommodating of them and even gave the children a few candies for their flight. It was freaking cute. Surdyk's Flights on Urbanspoon

When I got to Chicago I made a big mistake of going to Eddie Merlots. I needed something quick and Rock Bottom looked busy, so I gave this place a try. I did spare you the picture of a hunks of fat on my black and blue pizza. Let’s just say I had a few bites and when I saw that I couldn’t eat any more. Plus we ended up at the bar next to some “regulars” of Eddie Merlots. Why somewhere that would serve that crap had regulars I have no idea. But, one of them couldn’t figure out why their college age child didn’t want to party with their parent, so maybe that explains something.

Then did the whole wedding thing.

After that was all over, I spent a little time in the actual city of Chicago, I did visit old town and had breakfast at Nookies. The omelets are huge, cute pumpkin pancakes, generous portions, and good company.

On the way back to Minneapolis and had to stop for cheese in Wisconsin. How do you drive through Wisconsin and not get some delicious cheese? Well, this girl couldn’t do it. I like the Carr Valley Cheese, personally. And made a stop in none other than Wisconsin Dells.

If you haven’t been to Wis. Dells the best way to describe it is: Waterpark Central.

After getting some cheese I was hungry, naturally, so I asked the cheese lady where I should go to get something to eat. I am glad that I did that. She directed me to a restaurant called the High Rock Cafe.

The High Rock is not your typical tourist destination restaurant. It actually has good, fresh food. There were people there during off-season on a Sunday night which is a good indcation that it can survive the off-season. I was pleased to see they had quite the beer selection and had a large menu. Whatever anyone in your family might feel like that night, I am sure you can find something to satisfy the need. I went toward the sandwiches because I felt like melty cheese.

I started with the soup which I could tell was made with real ingredients and did not come from a can or a bag. For potato soup it was light and fresh not too thick and creamy. Although, I like thick and creamy sometimes it can be too much.

I then ordered a sandwich off of the seasonal menu. I had never thought about putting squash on the sandwich. It was pretty good and the way that it was made it did not make the bread squishy. It was thanksgiving in a sandwich with turkey, squash, and some sort of jam.

But the best part of the whole meal was the broccoli salad. Right? It is strange.  It was perfect! The dressing and freshness of the broccoli that was used made this the best broccoli salad that I have had. I even ordered a side of it to go to bring as a lunch the next day.
High Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

I also had a pumpkin ale.

It was just a nice stop about 2 hours away from home to sit down have some food and buy some cheese.

because sometimes you just need to stop when the sign says cheese.

xoxo

@mplsgossipgirl

Indianapolis, Indiana


I am not sure if I ever would have thought of traveling here if it was not for my cousins wedding.  But, it ended up being a pretty good vacation. If you are looking for a city that is relaxed and easy to walk around, Indianapolis would be it. Indianapolis is only 10 hours away from Minneapolis and the drive is not too bad unless you hit traffic near Chicago.

Firstly, I have to mention our hotel. It was great! I have never had this spacious of a room. They also had water in the lobby and two attached restaurants. The beds were comfortable and the halls were quiet. The pool area was a bit small and it was really hot that weekend. So, more pool area would have been better, but not a deal breaker.

There were also some great views right outside the hotel. You can walk to many of the monuments and historical areas.

I wouldn’t recommend the breakfast at the hotel. The service was not great, they wouldn’t let my family sit by each other but still charged a group rate. One of my cousins was served a moldy bagel and did not apologize or take it off the bill. I had one experience there and it was also not good. I needed something to go and it was foreign to the worker, even when there was a posted take out menu.

My favorite part of the trip other than the wedding was going to a small town called Zionsville. It had it’s own Bentley dealership.

It is a town that is full of little shops and quaint restaurants. We had lunch at the Cobblestone Cafe. I wish it was not blisteringly hot as it was because they have a wonderful patio in the alley. Instead we sat inside and ate wonderful food. I had a salmon plate and a taste of a few other items on the  menu.

If you go to Zionsville you need to stop at this cafe. It is everything I love about a small town restaurant especially the fresh food.
Cobblestone Grill on Urbanspoon

We also made stops at a chocolate shop called Ghyslain which was completely unexpected. It was housed in a beautiful old church with artwork on it’s walls.

They had a lunch menu and a case filled with desserts. I bought a box with many different kinds of chocolates.

We also stopped at a wine shop called The Wine Guy where they had an excellent selection on reasonably priced wines. I would love to have a shop like this right near my home. They also sold gift baskets and gourmet food items.

After this trip to Zionsville we explored more of downtown Indianapolis. We saw this large glass structure when we were walking around before and wanted to see what it was. It was a garden/concert venue that spanned the area between the streets in downtown.

When we got there there was a concert going on. What a great little venue. I would love to see some of my favorite bands in this close and unique setting.

That night we went to eat at the Colts Grill which was the only restaurant that could house my whole family without a previous reservation. I now know why it was so easy to get in there.

This restaurant committed some major fouls in the restaurant industry. First, it sells itself as a bar with craft brews, when I asked what was on tap the server could not tell me he had to find a menu and that took at least 10 minutes. I ordered a beer off that menu and it turns out it is not actually on tap right now and I ordered another one. It took almost 30 minutes to get a drink.

We ordered and waited and waited. Which was fine because we had good company. But, when the food finally came out, I had a completely different meal then I ordered. I told the server that I am a vegetarian. So, I purposely ordered a pasta dish that came without meat. He must have ordered the wrong one when entering it in the system.  He apologized and brought out the right dish. Which was not good anyways.

We got the bill without any comp on it.

Then to make things worse I went to the restroom and of course picked a stall without toilet paper. Only to come out of the bathroom to find about 8 workers standing around the hostess stand.

The bar area had a good vibe. But, I definitely would not recommend going here if you make the trip to Indianapolis. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it already closed.
Indianapolis Colts Grille on Urbanspoon

While we had some free time during an afternoon we spent time at the monument. There was a flash mob there one day when we were hanging out. It was really neat to see a bunch of people dancing together.

We then made a big mistake by thinking we should climb up the stairs in the monument. BAD IDEA. Especially, if you get a little claustrophobic. This is not the time to be a cheapskate.

331 steps later I made it to the top and then took the elevator back down.

All in all, it was a great trip. There is not too much to see in Indianapolis so a weekend is the right amount of time to see the sights, try some food, and go to Zionsville.

Because it is nice to get away to somewhere you have never been before.

@mplsgossipgirl

Minnesota State Fair – 2012


The Minnesota State Fair is one of my favorite times of the year. I love everything about the fair from the donuts, to the roasted corn, and last but not least to the people watching. The fair is fun on a stick.

It is almost a right of passage for every young Minnesotan to work at the fair and for every other Minnesotan to visit at least once a year.

It is one of those magical places where you can go and be who you are and eat fried foods without judgement. Okay, maybe a bit of judgement, I mean really, did you wake up today and think today is the perfect day to wear my utility kilt.

Each fair-goer has their favorite things to do and eat at the fair. These are my favorites.

Deep Fried Candy Bars are always on my list of must haves. They are a great way to dive into the fried world that is the Minnesota State Fair. Warning: these are very rich! I would only get one to share for 3 people.

This is a deep fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The breading is fantastic and fried to perfection. The inside is gooey, peanut-buttery, and chocolaty. I usually get the deep fried Snickers bar which is equally as good, if not better. I would avoid the deep fried Oreo’s. They are just not as good because they don’t melt like the other candy bars.

Although, you cannot eat the food on display. I love to go to the Creative Arts building to check out the prize winning foods and crafts. I am someone who believes in the homemade local foods movement and want to learn how to can food myself. It is amazing what some people can do.

It is my goal to at some point in my life win a baking ribbon at the State Fair. It would be even more kick-a** if I could win with a Vegan cake. It looks like I have some pretty stiff competition.

Need some “real” food at the fair? Try Giggles. It is the “La Belle Vie” of the Minnesota State Fair. This year their new food item is the Walleye Roll, which is pictured above. It is walleye mixed with mayonnaise and wild rice on a buttery brioche with fresh shredded lettuce. They also serve up other great items like the elk burger and walleye cakes.

You have to go and see the crop art in the Horticulture building. Many this year were political. I got a few good laughs from this cake which says, “Defending Marriage Sanctity” and then has names of several politicians who have had some “trouble”  in their marriage. It was all decorated with seeds. Also, stop by the Minnesota Craft Beer section as well. It is new this year and serves craft brews by some of my favorite breweries like Surly, Harriet Brewing, and Boom Island.

All of this eating made me thirsty. Thirsty for some local wines. This was a great new addition to the fair this year. Right outside the Horticulture building you will find Minnesota Wine Country booth. It is simply beautiful and it offers flights to try many different Minnesota wines. It even comes in the shape of Minnesota.

The Cannon River Winery had my favorite red wine with the Mill Street Red. The Minnesota Wine Country booth also had food available. I didn’t have any but the people around me looked like they were enjoying themselves.

If you need to cool off, you should head to the Fine Arts Building and the Eco Experience building. They are free to go in and usually there is some pretty neat stuff to see.

Time for more food. I wanted something healthy with some greens and choose this tabbouleh from the Pita truck it was delicious with the garlic sauce. It is outside the merchandise mart.

O’Gara’s is my favorite place to people watch at the fair. They have lots of tables outside and some inside as well. They usually have live music and during hot days the roof mists you to keep you cool. They have beer and a great food selection. I love the tater tots and the air conditioned bathrooms.

Last but not least, I had to have a final snack as I was leaving.

Because our state fair is the best state fair, don’t miss it, don’t even be late.

@mplsgossipgirl

What is your favorite food at the fair?

Duluth, MN


Looking for a weekend trip in Minnesota? Try Duluth and the North Shore. It is a beautiful place to visit all four seasons during the year. I have been there during the Summer and Winter and I am hoping to make it up to the shore for Fall this year.

The best part of going to the North Shore is that you can find so many different things for free. For my recent trip, the most costly expense was gas and then food. Not that the food was expensive, I just kept eating. :)

One of the first stops we made when we got into town on Friday was Lake Avenue (called Lake Ave by the locals).  A cozy restaurant located by the famous smoked salmon shop in Canal Park.  It is a great place to get a drink with friends, with a really great late night menu. Below is the Mixed Olive Bruschetta ($5 on late night). It was good and I wished I would have eaten a meal here and had a few cocktails. They have a great beer list as well. Next time I am going to try a concotion that was suggested by a server there, Crispin Cider with a shot of Ginger Liqueur. You know it is a good restaurant when the servers stay after their shift to eat a meal and suggest different items because they have eaten it before. Lake Ave has music as well. Check the schedule on their website.

Going camping? I did!  It is a great cheap way to travel the North Shore. The best way to do it is to have friend that have camping equipment. Thanks to everyone in Duluth that so graciously borrowed your equipment to me. Our Saturday started off with a trip to the local Co-op which had lots of choices for camp food and a great breakfast selection (Vegan Mocha Chip Muffins). We made a stop at a beach, the picture at the beginning of this post is from that spot and spent the afternoon waiting for the sun to go down a bit. We chose a site that was at the turn off for Wolf Ridge and had to hike about a mile or so in with water.  Pack light and bring bug spray. We ran into some Boy Scouts who were preparing for a hiking excursion in New Mexico and took in the beautiful views (see picture below).

If you don’t camp or like to glam-p. There are several places you can find a room and lots of vacation rentals on VRBO. I would suggest staying in either the North Shore or Duluth. That way you can have enough time to experience each place. If you have more than a weekend I would travel to Duluth and then to the North Shore or the other way around.  You could also try what we did where we started our trip with a day in Duluth and went up to the North Shore for a night and then back to Duluth. It made the drive much shorter. Below is the view from our campsite.

On Sunday, we headed back to Duluth and on the way we did a few scenic stops. It is really easy to do, when you are driving up from Duluth or down from the North Shore you can just turn off where the signs say. The picture below is from Palisade Head one of the most popular places on the route. Really, all you should do is make sure you have enough time to make this relaxing drive and stop along the way for things that look interesting.  I am not one for gift shops, but next time I make the trip up the shore I want to stop in Castle Danger at the new brewery that they have going there.

When we got back into Duluth we headed to Park Point to swim in Lake Superior. I cannot express on here how much I love to go swimming there. I feels like you are in the ocean in Minnesota. This year the water is pretty warm and it felt good to get in and cool off. There is quite a bit of debris on the beach left over from the flooding but it didn’t bother anyone and helped with creating some shade. I unsuccessfully tried my hand at paddle boarding, lets just say my middle name is not grace.

The next day we went to my new favorite spot to get a meal in Duluth. Thank goodness I was in Duluth with some friends who had lived there before and knew all the really great places to eat. Duluth Grill is a must. If you haven’t stopped there yet, you need to stop there because the meals are simply amazing. So good in fact that I had more than one meal here during my short trip. This is one place where if you are Vegan or Gluten Free you are not sacrificing any taste. It also does not compare to any place in the cities. Sort of like a Perkins (decor) with REALLY GOOD food.  It was recently featured in Diners Drive-Ins and Dives and even though I think Guy Fieri is a total tool box, he made a good decision when he decided to come here, I cannot say the same about his haircut. Duluth Grill strives to use quality ingredients and the food shows that. Plus, there is something on the menu for everyone. For dinner you can order a burger, buffalo tofu melt, or a smoked salmon wrap.

Their breakfast is also great! Take a look at that cinnamon roll it is one of the ten choices of a side that you get with many of the breakfasts (the flannel hash is good too). Duluth Grill serves cage free organic eggs and has some unique options for breakfast. I really liked the curried polenta skillet, kinda spicy and very filling.
Duluth Grill on Urbanspoon

I got the french toast with apples on it. YUM! I got about 1/4th of the way into it and was full. I shared it with the rest of the table who loved it as much as I did. Even though Duluth Grill is not located in Canal Park it is worth it to drive there. Way better then the chain restaurants in Canal Park, what a waste of beautiful space.

We spent more time at the beach in Park Point and ate some smoked salmon spread from Lou’s and headed over to Northern Waters Smokehaus for some more salmon sandwiches. You must go there as well. One of the best sandwiches I have ever had and even bought some more salmon spread to bring home.  As we loaded back into the car for the ride home to 100 degree plus weather in the cities, I was sad this adventure was ending, but excited to do this again. New Ulm Oktoberfest anyone?

I have links on most of the places that I went and you can click on them for more information.

because traveling with friends is the best way to travel.

@mplsgossipgirl

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