Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Heading to Salem in October means...

A lot of tough luck, really!

Turns out that for us fear finders out there, Salem, Mass in October books up about ten months ahead of time!

I know everything will be jammed with crowds in Salem, and Chris will hate that but we're going for Salem Horror Fest so I can meet a childhood hero and see Wolfman's Got Nards- a doc based on the canonization of my fave childhood movie, Monster Squad.

The flights to and fro were cheap enough (for most but not cheap enough for me!) and I figured we would wait on booking a hotel because you tend to get screwed the earlier you book! (Case: I booked an LA hotel for $179 because is looked DOPE and then when it came to a day before check in I saw the price went down almost $70! AND it wasn't that dope.) But now I may be rethinking that because of how fast I hear the festival is booking! Whoops.

I usually check out Hotels.com, of course, because I find good deals AND because I've got 9 of 10 bookings on my account and so my second night in Salem should be free BUT I just recently learned about another hotel deal app from a fellow blogger that I'd like to check out; HotelTonight.

So, let's compare, shall we?

HotelTonight: It is cool, but it is just what it sounds like- a very last second booking site. So I can find deals for tonight, but the deals aren't a'plenty for booking ahead. It's cashing in on the last minute cancellations and empty rooms, which I love! (However, I'm finding that it's a bit of a panic right now trying to find a room to stay in. Chris is not the fly by the seat of his pants kind of guy and since he's indulging me in going on this trip, I feel I should at least have it booked!)
Eyeball those prices- WHAT? Site promises -$235 hotels on average? 

One of the main issues with this specific hunt is that there are ZERO hotel locations open in Boston Proper, for which I was looking. They're all in the outskirts, which, for someone planning to Uber the whole trip, isn't as convenient because it's spending money on top of money. Also their pop ups seem full of bologna. If you just ignore what it's trying to tell you about other people you'll be fine.
:(

So, this app seems cool and I will def keep it around BUT mayhaps not for this particular tourist trap.

Hotels.com: Typical stuff- Boston hotels start at their advertised special of Marriott for a low, low price of $399 a night. I'm not seeing a lot of actual deals on this one that are worth a damn. May keep it as a last minute attempt, but again, for this trip, I will most likely pass despite it being my tenth night. We'll see.

Airbnb: This seems to be the best bet, even though most of the homes are out of Boston proper. But luckily they are close enough to walk to buses and trains and what not, so spending $60 to be out of the direct area is better than paying $150 at a hotel in the same area of Dorchester or Lynn. Plus, the homes are Victorian in a lot of neighborhoods, which is bad ass, and run the risk of old crotchety Irish ghosts who have forgotten everything but the grudges! (Irish Alzheimer's joke)
This is our likely candidate, which is LESS panicky and more affordable than waiting on a hotel to open up. Plus, I actually trust Airbnb to clean their sheets.
Update: Booked!
And they have a doggo!


All in all, if you're planning a hefty weekender like this, it's best to plan ahead. For things like Salem, MA in October it's not always feasible to wait because things will book without you and you may be stuck paying that $399 a night price. Best advice- do your homework here. If you know it's something that an entire tri-county area will be a part of then don't expect much in the realm of last minute deals because there may not be anything offered. In general, sure, by all means improv it. Go with the flow. But for something major in the holiday way in a touristy destination already- PLAN!

As always, be kind! Look out for one another and follow me in Insta

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Choose Your Own Adventure- West Coast Never Agains

While visiting friends and SoCal a few weeks ago, Derek and Ivette, we did a lot of things. A ton of things! Derek insisted we see and do some things, and Ivette had a few ideas herself- like the Donut Bar where I want to live.  But San Diego's Little Italy was meh, Mamba-Con (the candy) was rad and I realized that San Diego proper is just another city.

Ivette and I later were discussing a list of things that she always recommends as a resident versus stuff that is built for tourism. I found I mostly agreed with her side of it, and would rather spend time doing normal things than wasting time driving here and there, overpaying for food and getting the stereotypical California experiences. (I expanded into all of the vacation spots we hit)

So, on to the BEEF!


Some California stuff that costs a lot that you can probably just skip:
  • Some of the more touristy trap stuff like LegoLand or SeaWorld are not necessary. Especially if you don't have kids because over 50% of the Lego park is kids only stuff so you'll feel creepy and walk around aimlessly a lot. 
  • In'N'Out Burger, Carl's Jr and Jack in the Box- If you're a vegetarian you won't die of starvation (vegan maybe because who knows what's in their stuff), and I GUESS these are what Californians call a staple, but it's fast food garbage. At In'N'Out I got a grilled cheese which was literally just one slice of melted cheese on a not toasted at all bun. It cost me $2.60 and about 6 minutes of wait time. Not worth it. Better to go to a real restaurant for your meal if you're looking to eat out at a true CA place, not a chain. I don't know why people ask if we've gone there when we get home instead of actual places worth going and talking about like Miguel's in Chula Vista where we watched them make masa. Way more fun.
  • Derek insisted that we need to see Balboa Park in SD because it's "what to do in town for tourists." It had some cool views but nothing that you couldn't see in almost any other area. Plus, seeing a botanical garden in late July in 95* heat- everything's dead or dying. So, not as pretty.  Not a waste of time, but I think it wouldn't have mattered if I saw it or not. Did catch some Pokemon, though, and pet a tiny dog. 
  • Wonderspaces art installation at the Port of San Diego. Pretty cool stuff, and Ivette had gotten us tickets on the encouragement of a work friend. It was really clever but not for the price and the time spent waiting just to get in. I think it's so popular because it's more exclusive- they have an allotment of tickets each day and that's it, unlike a regular gallery. So that exclusivity is the trendy must-have thing, not the art itself. Sorry.
  • Speaking of, Port of San Diego is something I guess everyone is "supposed to do" while in town. It's nice and all, and the ocean is always magical and some of the street artists rule, but meh. We stopped at Buster's Beach House for lunch and I had horrible and overpriced soggy cheese pizza but pretty good overpriced iced tea. The rest of the area was almost as bad as the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood for trying to get photos of anything worth a damn. 
  • Julian- as mentioned, we went and it was nice but touristy. I know it's a real small town where real small town people live and bake pies and all that, but seriously, not ALL pies can be "THE BEST" like they all say. Everything there was the best of whatever it was according to many wooden signs posted in font of everything. It took us longer to get to Julian from Chula Vista than it did to actually walk Julian, because it's tiny- about a block and a half front and back. The cliffs were really cool, but again, you could see similar views from almost anywhere on that side of Cali. 
  • Santa Monica food: Pretty much anything in LA traffic is a bust. We attempted to park a few times for the US Bank tower and just wound up driving all the way to Santa Monica instead, where I fell in love with Venice Beach for no real reason! The Ice cream at the pier was delish but almost all the other food was a bust. Chris and I went to Seaside for some chow (I got the overly salted spinach dip and he got a pizza with the largest pepperoni I have ever seen in my life). We met up with an online friend Kiyoko on the pier, walked the boardwalk and got some dry-ass macarons together. It was an expensive day in food but I still liked it at the piers. I'm just saying- if you can avoid restaurants, do it.
  • Most of LA stinks, really. If you're not working in LA and you're there on a weekday it's strange. Everyone around you is walking about during their work errands (but there's something fun to be said about being able to do work errands that require walking in the sunshine with headphones on while in business casj) but really, you'll stick out as a tourist AND feel like one no matter what you do, and that will get you some nasty glances and eye rolls. Also Hollywood is kind of disgusting. The Hollywood you see at awards is cleaned up and roped off for special occasions like the time Detroit hosted the SuperBowl and they cleaned up the litter and shuffled the homeless into distant shelters for a few weeks. That Hollywood is not real and the real one is trashy. Worth seeing once, but not a place to live or visit again. 
Grand Canyon stuff worth mentioning:
  • Grand Canyon Destinations bus tour: I'd recommend the tour but only if you're in Vegas for quite a while, not just a few days. Also if you're a vegetarian or vegan- bring your own lunch. The salad option you're given on the tour will not only not fill you up, but the injustice of it compared to the carnivore's lunch will annoy you all day. (I got a half salad and tortilla chips while my meat-eating hub got a full turkey sandwich, cookies, apple and chips) Then we stopped at In'N'Out for dinner- which again, vegetarians- not the best. So I was hungry almost all day and super grumpy about it. So, plan ahead. 
  • At the Canyon itself there is a hotel and diner- but it's so expensive (and busy) that it's almost worth the money and time saved to just eat a snack and be hungry for a while. We did get ice cream, though! 
Vegas stuff that's fun in theory but just a disappointment once you're there:
  • Casinos- they're packed with everyone. I expected them to be packed but not like high school hallways. Or kids. So many kids and teens! It's 2am, why is your baby out on the street holding hands with a toddler?? Plus they no longer supply free alcohol to keep you there. So if you don't care to gamble much more than a few bucks there's nothing worth staying for unless you want second-hand smokers cough from the ladies at the slots next to you.
  • Freemont Street Experience- really cool stuff but almost too much. I love kitch stores with dollar shot glasses and 13 cent postcards BUT it's hard getting there (and around once inside) because everyone moves like molasses here and the "band" on the loud speaker is just a bunch of pop covers sung off key. If you hate crowds like Chris does, you will hate this place. Some of the artists here are great, like the bucket drummers or authentic looking superheroes but you will also see a lot of scantily clad females shaking things for dollars, which works for them but is also kind of sad that they do it and that people pay for a photo with a girl in a bra or a guy in a banana hammock. Like Hollywood, saw it once, marveled at a few things, never have to go again. 
  • Circus Circus Hotel- fun in theory and in photos, and marketed well but when you get there- the room is nice but there are too many kids, too many people who don't understand elevators (what?) and the shows they promote having in their midway are 25 minutes of waiting for a 4 minute show. Really good customer service, though. 
  • The Flagship Taco Bell Cantina: As I had mentioned- it's a disappointment.  If you've seen their posts on it, they make it seem like the ultimate TBell experience with merchandise, retired menu items and booze parties. But in reality it's a regular TB Cantina, the merchandise is just the stuff from Forever 21 last year and some towels, the music was too loud and the menu is the same at home. But the patio is nice. And filled with drunk girls in rompers. So many rompers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Detroit- My Hometown History Lesson for Tourists


When people think about unique travel destinations around the US, Detroit doesn’t really come to mind. And that’s fine; Detroit is not a tourist town. You won’t find a Macy’s or a pay to enter photo op spot here. What you will find is centuries of rich American history from cars to music, gangsters to sports. You’ll find city pride and a heartbeat, a world of different cultures of food and art.
From a Detroiter’s perspective, here are a handful of my favorite walkable Woodward spots to take out of towners that show true Detroit love. There is much much more to see and experience here, so think of this as more of a small walking tour of the Detroit River side of town.

Hart Plaza Intersection:
At the corner Jefferson and Woodward are Hart Plaza, the Fist of Joe Louis and the Spirit of Detroit- all iconic spots for any Detroit OR traveler. This trio is as touristy as we get, really. Hart Plaza is home to the Electronic Music Festival, the Cultural celebrations and festivals, the Target Fireworks VIP party and much more. At its back end Hart Plaza serves as the dock for the Detroit Princess riverboat and the landmark of Detroit’s Gateway to Freedom for the Underground Railroad. Detroit was one of the largest terminals helping people to safety and freedom; Detroit’s Underground Railroad name was Midnight.
The Fist of Joe Louis was commissioned as an anti-Jim Crow monument to legendary Boxer Joe Louis to celebrate the Detroit Institute of Art’s 100th birthday but now serves as the backdrop to wedding photographs.
The iconic Spirit of Detroit is just about 10 sidewalk squares away from The Fist on Woodward in front of the Municipal building. The Spirit of Man holds God in one hand and humanity in the other, but became a specific representation of Detroit over the last century. A favorite icon of the city, it represents a rebirth of man, which is part of Detroit’s motto, Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus, and is captured in every film, show, commercial and literature piece about the city.

Michigan Central Station (Corktown):
The landmark of all Detroit Landmarks. Explorers from all over the country have come here to sneak in and get their photos taken within the decrepit walls of this monument. Built in the early 1900’s, Michigan Central Train Station boasted office space, a hotel, a barber, shops, an arcade and cafes.  The Roman inspired architecture is still standing, mind you a few coats of spray paint are holding some of the walls up (load bearing graffiti?), but it doesn’t stop people from sneaking in and climbing the 18 stories to the roof for the spectacular views. To some it’s an eyesore, to many it’s the beauty of the decay that makes it magnificent. Hopefully Ford will keep her how she is with the new architecture repairs.
Rooftop views- 18 stories up
The Renaissance Center:
I've been here for a myriad of reasons; fashions shows and photo shoots, Galas, Opening Ceremonies for museums, sometimes just to walk around, stalking the rumors that Jimmy Hoffa's body was put into the concrete at the time of building...and lately to visit my favorite restaurant downtown, Granite City. (Though not born in Detroit, GC has far and fast become one of it's hotspots right along the river). 
Serious Nacho mood at Granity City.

It used to house the luxury spot Coach Insignia, a fine dining restaurant at the very top of the RenCen's tallest tower (72 stories!),  which is rumored to be getting something new soon. But the best part is the 360* views from the top, plus the glass elevator ride up.
That's Belle Isle on the right! (Not walkable from here)

Detroit Streets:

One of the best parts of Detroit is the street art. Some real talented people come through these streets to make their usually anonymous mark- Banksy included! Though Banksy’s pieces are all long gone, power washed or literally stolen brick by brick, a few notable pieces in the city always seem to smile for the camera. Some tell a story, some are just something cool and special, and some, though well meaning (or just someone's dumb name), are just layers upon layers of color and memories that cause a full on collage of hooliganism.
Top of Michigan Central
These rings lit up all over Woodward
Dequinder Cut
Me standing in Kelsey Montague's famed wings. Notice the Detroit theme.
Banksy in Detroit- On Cass Ave: I got to this one the day after it was power washed off, but you can still see the outlines of a boy coloring. The locals brought chalk every day for a month or so and recreated the colorful part of the wall the the boy was "drawing" which is one way the community showed Banksy some love and respect. It was eventually painted over to be a gray wall again because some people just don't play along. (Another disrespectful act was 555 Gallery literally stole a piece of wall that Banksy tagged the same night and tried to get people to pay admission fees just to see it- which is SO against Banksy's message.)
Eastern market

Plus we get some pretty great skyline shots!



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All photos are mine or with the special courtesy of my galpal Angie at ANB Photography 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Best Of Aoibhneas: May through July

So, it's been a while!

I've seen a lot of people post some of their trip itineraries, claiming summer's coming to an end (it's not) and talking about their Best Of moments. So in an effort to catalog my slowness to post recently, from May to July, here's a timeline of the adventures I had, and how I'm crushing 2018's resolution to be more adventurous. I've done more traveling since May 1st than I have in pretty much my entire life combined. I've visited 7 new states including DC, revisited some old spots and in those spots, found new ones! I've ridden planes, cars, buses, a trolley, trains, a motorized skateboard, Ubers (first time Uberer!) a people mover railway, bikes and a roller coaster.

On May 1st I took my first SOLO trip ever to Dublin and Amsterdam. To get there I had to get to Boston and take a train to Providence (it was cheaper that way by half price or more). So off to Boston I went with my happy ass at 5am.

Boston: I took myself on a walking tour from South Station to Chinatown to the Wharf and so on, overpaid for a museum and also a bagel sandwich, saw Paul Revere's house and church, hung out with a Salem Witch Trial catalyst, Cotton Mather at Copp's Hill Burial Grounds and got a chance to see the city for the first time.
I then hopped a train to RI (which was not supposed to be free but was somehow) and hopped a direct flight to Dublin by 8pm at PVD.

I really like the decay and history here

Dublin: My happy place. I stayed in a hostel for the first time, Abbey Court, with a review posted here, got another city card and did a small chunk of things that I felt I missed out on the first time. I walked the Ha'Penny Bridge, "borrowed" a pint glass from the Guinness Storehouse, tried some more desserts, toured the Long Room at Trinity and walked St. Stephen's Green. I also made some new friends, went on my fist ever pub crawl and stayed out until 4am most nights like a 20 year old. I felt alive. I walked all over this city- from the Storehouse all the way past the Samuel Beckett Bridge and through the regular parts of Dublin where actual Irish people live. I could live here. 

Amsterdam: Spent some time with my best friend, Suzanne. I wanted to go back to Amsterdam proper one day, but the rest of our time was spent doing fun Dutch stuff like visiting Haarlem for the Dutch Liberation Day Festival and getting ice cream at both of the very best spots to do so in the Netherlands. I saw some of Utrecht and Lisse, saw the church my fiends got married in, visited her mother's grave and lit candles together. Last time I went it was tour this and that and see all the things. This time it was more about quality time with my bestie penpal of 18 years. 

Washington DC: A mere ten days after coming home from my first solo trip I took my nephew Will on his first flight to Washington DC. We were met by my sis and other nephew, Justin, who was "not ready for flying", he said. So they drove the 10 hours down a day ahead, which saved us the trouble of needing to find a car down in DC. Pro tip: It SUCKS having a car in DC. Parking and tickets are extremely expensive and you will absolutely get lost and drive in circles for an hour. DC was neat but it's basically a college town. Everything closes early on the weekdays and it's a mad rush to get anywhere. We flew into Maryland and hoteled there, went on a lunch trip to Virginia where I had the second best French macarons of my macaron-lovin life (Bake Shop), went to lunch in Delaware on our way out, stopped in West Virginia because we could, dined in Pennsylvania and drove through a mountain. I knocked off 5 states and DC on my Caft Map. So that's cool. 
I do have a fun possibly ghostly story about being at the Lincoln Memorial!

Traverse City area: Hubby and I went upstate to visit friends the next weekend. We stayed at their half-mansion (I swear so huge!) and I went to my first wine tasting, ran after chickens and did some wall climbing for the first time since 1995. We made some new friends, played some games and made pizza on the BBQ. I dove into a lake that pretty much still had ice, but I went head first because it seemed thrilling. It was- but beware, it's so cold that you feel hot. That can be damaging to your health. So jump in wisely. 

July- San Diego area: We went back and visited Chris's childhood bestie and his wife (we were there in '14), and they took us to some must see parts and also some parts they they like going to visit as residents. We made the mistake of going during Comic-Con so everything was jammed. Pro-Tip: Don't come to CA at all during Comic-Con week! I loved the mountains of Julian a lot and was mesmerized by the views for a while, but the town of Julian was a little too touristy for me. I LOVED going to the Donut Bar and eating possibly the best donut of my life, Miguel's Mexican food in Chula Vista had great queso (seriously great) and Balboa Park was meh. In my second trip to La Jolla I learned how to paddle board and surf, collected a load of shells and was horrified about sand craps. We went to Port of San Diego twice and took in a viewing of Wonderspaces- which seems like it was built specifically for Instagramming only and had more hype than it was worth, to me. Also, Derek fell in love with shaved ice and we heard about it for the rest of the trip. Basically, Derek wanted us to see all of the touristy stuff and Ivette said they were boring- and I tended to agree with her. It's more fun just to be in the city and fly by the seat of your pants than the "Must See/Eat/Do" stuff anyhow. Plus, seeing a botanical garden in late July in 95* heat- everything's dead or dying. So, not as pretty.
Mexico: We did a day trip here just because we could. The gang and I headed out after breakfast to Puerto Nuevo to the original Ortega's on the water for some lunch. We walked into a few blocks worth of shops, got harangued a few times and damn near everyone is trying to give away a free shot of tequila just to get you inside. It's the Mexican version of free candy, I guess. I got a mini sombrero to be like my friend Drew and to put it on my cats, some bracelets, snack cakes and something that Ivette says it NOT caramel. A Mystery! It was terrible. We also stopped at a bakery in Tijuana.


Los Angeles: Did touristy things like get the City Pass because there were still things I wanted to do. We rented a car (which I hate doing) but the hybrid was really cool and I liked it a lot. We drove around to try to find parking and then just drive straight to Santa Monica instead. Definitely save one full day for Santa Monica and Venice Beach, the new stateside city love of my life. I love skate culture and being able to see Dogtown was really cool for me. Next day we were staying in the Hollywood Historic Hotel which looked straight out of Gatsby (review to come?) but our main goal was to do a bunch of outside things like the the US Bank building and the Warner Brothers lot tour. We biked a little and it was humid- keep your asthma inhaler handy! I said a prayer at Judy Garland's memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery an we ate brunch at Raleigh Studios. Most things aren't walking distance unless you're in Hollywood proper, so keep good shoes in mind.

Vegas: We took a Greyhound from LA to Vegas, which I can't recommend, really. It wound up taking 8 hours because traffic happens. I don't mind the dry heat so I felt pretty comfortable the whole time here. Our goal was to check out the Strip but we never got there because the bs took longer than expected and it was already after 8. Be advised- if you're staying on the Circus Circus side of the Strip you will NOT want to walk to the Strip. So we instead got an Uber to go to The D to see the Blarney Stone and the Freemont Experience. There were a lot of butts out and a lot of children under 10 out for it being 1am. But the Red Bulls were cheap and the heat wasn't bringing me down. The next night we went to the Taco Bell flagship store, which was a disappointment. What a drag. But still a good meal because I love Taco Bell. We spent the rest of the evening at our hotel. So for being in Vegas for two nights, we didn't Vegas much. Whoops, guess I had better go back soon! #KTBSPA

Grand Canyon: What can really be said? It's the Grand Canyon! No photos can do it justice. We did the South Rim tour, as mentioned in my last post, which I thought would mean we could walk lower down the canyon, but I guess not. We didn't have time to charter a donkey or horse like everyone keeps asking. It was amazing. I perched on as many cliffs as I could to soak up the views. Chris stood back patiently but also showed nerves at me being so close to the edge. I felt like a bird. Or a 30 Seconds to Mars song. I'd recommend the tour but only if you're in Vegas for quite a while, not just a few days. 


So, that's just about everything. Quite an impactful summer of sight seeing, and I'm already booking a trip to Salem, Mass for October. I do have two weeks off in December- what do you suggest I do next?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Vegas Bound- Here's how I'm doing it on the cheap.

Let me start of with a big, fat I've never been to Las Vegas. Gasp! I didn't really know where to start looking for deals since Vegas doesn't seem to have any downtime so I took to the interwebs.

Well, my usual sites and apps are fine for flights, but my Hotels.com account really let me down. I had to get more creative than usual just to be able to find any deals at all and make my money last. Sometimes saving $10 on a hotel price just isn't great when the hotel is over $150 a night. But, as you well know, the Vegas Strip is a tourist zone so nothing is cheap.

My first thought was to get an idea of the Strip and what I wanted to do. Like the Taco Bell Flagship store. My list essentially stopped there.

I know that we wanted a nice hotel for Las Vegas. I love being able to stay with friends (and for free) but it's nice sometimes to splurge and just do something fun as a couple. Hotels.com was kind of letting me down, as I mentioned. I knew LV would be pricey but  man alive! One night in one hotel there cost more than my RT trip to Dublin last month! I decided to look elsewhere. Thankfully I have Ebates, because I booked our hotel, Circus Circus (with free live trapeze shows inside, its own casino *duh*, an indoor theme park and pool) with a 60% off voucher from Groupon and earned $40 cash back on my vouchers from Ebates. I love them both and for some reason always forget that Groupon is an option when looking into new cities. So, don't be fooled- Groupon rocks and Ebates is amazing; together they make traveling, nights out and even just idea hopping THAT MUCH better! I booked a $300 room for $166 each night PLUS two vouchers each night for the buffet. (I've heard they're not the BEST but it's free food including breakfast)

I know Chris has always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, and aside from packing up to visit Arizona for some crazy, asthma inducing reason, I looked into the cost of a tour from Vegas. (Digression coming) I play a free Facebook slot machine game called MyVegas Slots that my brother says cashes in for real prizes, so I slotted and cashed in a few points for the roller coaster at out hotel- but also I was saving up points for a coupon for $50 off a bus tour to the Canyon. Guess what, that tour is over $300 for two adult people. So- nope. (Still rolling in points!) So again I took to Groupon and found a deal for $78 each that includes lunch! Done! Totally worth the leg work to make one of his dreams come true.

We're mostly flying by the seats of our collective pants for Friday in Vegas. I know I'd like to visit the piece of Blarney Stone I heard was there and there's some cool are in one of the men's rooms worth sneaking in for.Chris straight up refuses to see the Backstreet Boys with me, so we will need something else to accomplish. If anyone has any tips, let me know in the comments! 

Note: I'm not sponsored by these two companies (or any companies, I should add), I just really like them because they save me a lot of money. If you don't already use one or both of these, I highly recommend checking them out. You can click the Ebates link above but Groupon has a different landing page for every area. Pro Tip: super great when looking for gift giving ideas, too.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Thirsty Thursday at Westview Winery

This week I did another new thing; just like my 2018 New Years' resolutions told me to do!

The whole place is Pinterest worthy

I went with my galpal Kat up to Westview Orchards Winery for their Thirsty Thursday food and wine pairing party held once a month at the winery. This month's theme was a nod to dads- Berry Good Grillin.

Since Kat and I go there semi-regularly to play trivia on Fridays anyhow (we won our passes to the event through a first place win like a couple'a smarties), a bunch of the people knew us. It's like our Cheers, I'd say! Well, we were warmly welcomed to their first time doing it out on their terrace, which was nice because it was great weather out and we could still see the baby goats running around in their pen. And let's be honest- I went for the goats and food. And friendship, of course!

The garden party, as I guess you could call it, started off with a watermelon salad with feta, basil and a nice balsamic glaze. For as much as I don't pick watermelon to eat- it was pretty good with everything else! A little refreshing, even if I did start taking the basil off halfway through. It was paired with the Summer Breeze Chardonnay made on site. Well, all wines are made on site, so keep that in mind. The Summer Breeze was crisp but a little too much for me.

The second dish was grilled vegetables- asparagus, cauliflower, and onion petals in the WVO's (Westview Orchards') roasted garlic oil as well as buttered and grilled sweet potatoes. This plate was served with a Catawba- which is less musky than another brand I had tried. This one was my favorite, and Kat's. She bought a bottle for home, that's how good it was. It paired well with the veggies, too, because it was the added sweetness that asparagus lacks. Only, I got so into the asparagus that I forgot I even had wine there until half my plate was gone. Oops! Guess it was tasty!

The Main Entree- meat! The heart of any BBQ, right? If you eat meat, I mean. I don't eat meat so I just tried to take in the lessons about the cook of it to try later at home. But Kat enjoyed. We had a plate of grilled chicken marinated in WVO house made honey, mustard and apple cider. It had a good cook on it and paired well with the Red we were served for this one, called Sweet Revenge. The second meat was a grilled flank steak with salt and pepper. The chef let us in on her pro tip: marinade your steaks in something carbonated to bring out more flavor and also keep it juicy longer! She used beer for this menu, I think, but she said you can use anything that strikes your fancy. She mentioned having used beer before, root beer, colas, even carbonated water once in a pinch. She said it all works, and if you pick a dark pop you enjoy, like root beer, it may linger a touch in the cook for a fun flavor. I did bring this plate home to my hubby because he loves him some steak, and he really enjoyed it. The cook was perfect and the flavor of the steak was clean with just the light seasonings to taste. He didn't get the Sweet revenge to pair it with, but I'm sure he would have loved that, too.
I realize it looks like strawberry blob but I assure you it was perfection.

Now- the Piece De Resistance! Dessert! The Westview Strawberry Donut Sundae! All the joys!!! Upon reading the menu I said "BRING IT ON, THE MORE THE MERRIER!" Keep in mind, we're in an orchard where cake donuts are made fresh. This sundae was started with said donut, vanilla ice cream and a fresh strawberry sauce from their summer stock that I swear you'll want to take a dive into! It was so tasty for such a simple idea that I'm def going to start doing it at home on special occasions. (You can buy their donuts any time- also for trivia night they do donut flights for $3 in about 8 flavors to choose from like Oreo, cinnamon sugar or Reese's peanut butter cup- and they never skimp on the toppings!) Dessert wine was served here; Just Peachy- a sparkling peach wine that I have had a few times at the winery. This one I do like! If you read me before, you know that I'm not too terribly into wine or alcohol except when it's bubbly! This one tastes like summer to me- it's light and fun, like a nice breeze. So corny, I know, but it makes me think of beaches, friendship and trivia nights.

This place, I love it here! It's so beautiful and they love playing into their theme of being a winery in their decor and kitschy knickknacks. Even if you're like me and don't drink a lot of wine, they have hard ciders, sangria and DONUTS! The atmosphere is beautiful and in the fall the orchard is open, as well as their (difficult as cripe) corn mazes, petting area and pumpkin launch at the end of the season. It's a great family spot during the daytime, but perfect for adults at any time of day. The food is good, the people are swell and there's tons of free parking and baby goats!
Our usual trivia table is the red corner spot on the left

Until next time, be kind to one another! Cheers!



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