Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

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Rain and Wine: Two of My Favorite Things (But Not Necessarily Rain IN Wine)

(This was written this morning, but I ran out of time to spell check and edit before having to head inside….And I was waiting on a few pictures (ahem, Aaron).  So, just pretend that you were reading this 5 hours ago for optimum effect!)

I am currently sitting outside in the perfect, cool, overcast early morning doing my blog catch up.  We had another fantastic, slow drizzle last night, so everything smells dewy and rainy (try topping that scent description, Pottery Barn!).  Add the yummy chai flavored coffee that I discovered at Trader Joe’s, and you get an Amy who has no desire to head inside to get ready for work.  I wonder if I could work from home today…

*Also, just a point of clarification.  When I said my long run this weekend was within my goal pace, I definitely did not mean that I ran it at my marathon goal pace.  I ran it at my long run goal pace which right now is between 1 minute and 90 seconds slower than my marathon pace (by the end I want it to be between 30 seconds and 1 minute slower).  This is the first long run of marathon training that I’ve actually hit those numbers, so I’m really excited, however I’m not quite cool enough to be running 14 miles at an 8 minute mile pace without actually being in a race situation.

This past weekend we headed up to Santa Fe for the Santa Fe Wine Festival.  If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of wine.  We have two local wine festivals that we go to every year.  The New Mexico Wine Festival is the next town over from Albuquerque during Labor Day weekend, and is the largest in the state.

But our favorite is the Santa Fe Wine Festival held over 4th of July weekend.  It is much smaller, but the lines are shorter, and the servers are usually actually the vinters as opposed to help hired off craigslist who wouldn’t know a dry red vs. a sweet red if it bit them in the face.  I wish I was kidding.  New Mexico is actually the oldest wine region in the country. Before Napa, little monks were growing and fermenting here way back in the early 1600’s.  Most wineries here still are family owned and have that “quaint” feeling as opposed to the ones in Napa that herd you in on guided tours (not that I’m complaining…I love Napa and Sonoma.  I’ll hang out at the Chandon complex anyday!).

I wrote an extensive post with lots of pictures of both the Santa Fe Wine Festival and the living history museum that hosts it last year, so I didn’t feel the need to go picture crazy this year.  We also didn’t buy any bottles since we’re still working on the 4 cases we bid on during the silent auction last month.

{We were pretty “wined” out, so we got glasses of bubbly}

After the wine festival, we were hungry, so we headed to a microbrewery near our house to get some grub.  The ladies next to us asked the server which beer was closest to Bud Light.  In a microbrewery.  Now, as far as running goes, I am 100% supportive of everyone and the journey they are on.  Fast, slow, short races, ultra distances, whatever.  I am excited for each and every one of you and where you are at.  But, if you ask for something that tastes like Bud Light at a microbrewery, oh my goodness I will go beer snob on you.  Might as well go to a Wolfgang Puck restaurant and ask for the thing on the menu that tastes most like a Big Mac (This may not be the best comparison…I’ve never actually been to a Wolfgang Puck  restaurant.  For all I know, they could offer something that tastes like a Big Mac).

I let out my rage on Facebook (which in retrospect, wasn’t the most classy thing I could have done, but at least people agreed with me!). For the record, if Bud Light is your drink of choice, more power to you.  I myself was a fan in college.  But maybe don’t advertise it at a place where someone has made it their life’s work produce something much better…and maybe try some of the good stuff every once in awhile.

Later, that same lady said something about the lack of domestics on the beer list.  Because beer brewed in the next room definitely isn’t domestic.

We took a picture of them, but I decided that it probably was a good idea not to post it lest they be part of the mafia.

SIGH. I’m fun to be around, I promise.

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Last night Aaron and I suited up and took Giuseppe for a run/walk in the rain.  I knew I wanted to vary it up a bit yesterday after all the running I did this weekend, so we walked around the neighborhood, let the puppy splash in the puddles, then found our way to the park to jog around the perimeter before heading back home.  Aaron splurged on some of that K-T tape because he’s willing to try just about anything right now to get back in the running game (you should see the arsenal of homeopathic products he’s been putting on his foot).  It is supposed to stay on for 4 days (good, since it is pretty pricey), and we definitely put it to the test by running around in the rain!  It might not help, but at least it stayed sticky.  Jogging on the grass also seemed to be more comfortable for his foot than jogging on the pavement.

We were soaked! You can see the one little dry spot on Aaron.

Eventually, we think we’d like to settle down somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.  Even though I LOVE my sunshine and warm weather, I’ve been really craving a rainy climate lately.  I think becoming a runner has made me appreciate cooler/less barren desert places. And I get really jealous anytime one of you posts pictures of your green, lake/beach side runs.  Anyone want to give us jobs in Portland or Seattle?

I finished out the remaining .8 miles of the 3 on the treadmill which actually worked out pretty well.  I got a good combination of walking, running, and splashing into my workout!

It looks like we have one more day of rain before the temps start heating up and drying out again.  But this Tuesday morning has been perfect.

Shout Outs and Friday Rest Day Randoms

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

1) Hyedi is running the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon!

2) Carly is competing in her first Tri this weekend!

3) Anna Catherine is running a 10 miler this weekend…her longest race yet!

4) Lauren, my friend since 6th grade who kicks my butt at every local race, is running her first marathon, Grandma’s Marathon, this weekend.  If anyone can qualify on her first try, it’s this girl!

Good luck to you ladies, and anyone else racing this weekend! 

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REST DAY! Woo hoo! Let the Randomness ensue!

Last night we spent a few hours in Amy and Aaron Heaven.

Our Natural History Museum hosts occasional “Margarita and a Movie Nights” with the movie portion being shown on an IMAX (or DynaMax as our museum calls it) screen.  At this moment in time, the IMAX theater at the museum is the only one in Albuquerque, so seeing something on the BIG big screen is pretty exciting around these parts. To me, anyway.

{I’m pointing to the ticket that says Margarita and a Movie so you know I’m not lying to you}

Before the movie, they get you all liquored up with a mini margarita! Then you proceed to theater to watch the movie.  (Also, since Friday night booze consumption is off limits to prevent miserable Saturday morning long runs, I figure a margarita on Thursday (the day before our designated rest day) is an acceptable substitute).

Yesterday the movie was BACK TO THE FUTURE.

We are crazy about Back to the Future.  On our first date, we realized we both had an unnatural love of that movie, could both probably quote the entire script, and would both gladly purchase a DeLorean if the opportunity arose.  After our first date dinner we headed over to Aaron’s apartment to watch it. And now we’re married. Back to the Future = Love.

So we have margaritas (+1 point), IMAX screen (+1 point), T-Rex sightings (+2 points), and BACK TO THE FUTURE (+10000 points).  It was a fabulous event!

Before the movie, we stopped by to visit Friend Peter at his newest restaurant endeavor, Q Burger downtown.  If you’re in Albuquerque, you should check this place out! The burgers are yummy and are made of local grass-fed beef, all the produce is local and seasonal, and the bread is baked here in town. The sweet potato tots are to die for, they have local brews on tap along with local wines AND THE ATMOSPHERE IS AMAZING! And I’m not just saying this because he’s our friend.  Completely Amy approved.

{Please ignore the red meat and bacon in this picture}

{Aaron’s gluten free version.  There is a turkey burger somewhere in there}

In other news, I wouldn’t be a true Disney diehard if I didn’t mention that CARS LAND opens at Disneyland’s California Adventure today and I am pretty much having a panic attack because I’m not there. In addition to Cars Land there are also some other park perk ups like the addition to mountain climbers on the Matterhorn and a new “Buena Vista Street” in California Adventure.  Ever since I ventured into the magical world of Disneyland on my 5th birthday, I have been obsessed.

{Everyone wears Minnie Mouse ears to their wedding, right?}

I introduced Aaron to Disneyland on his 27th birthday 3 years ago, but we haven’t been back since.  I think now is the perfect time to plan a vacation.

{Riding the Carousel in 2009.  I’m jealous of  younger Amy’s hair.}

Lululemon just announced that the headliner for the post Sea Wheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver is going to be FUN.  (The Sea Wheeze is the Lululemon sponsored race). This only makes me about 10,000 times more sad that I’m not going to be there.  Dear RnR Arizona, can you please secure Fun. as your concert headliner? Nate IS from Phoenix.

Also, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! I have a pretty cool dad as you can tell by the picture below! Thanks Dad, for: all your support, help with math homework (even though engineers make algebra 10X more complicated than it needs to be), making sure my taxes were always filed on time, fixing car problems, and financing things like college, my wedding, and that 90’s Nike wind suit that I just HAD to have (truly tragic).

And Happy Father’s Day to all you other dad’s out there! Happy Weekend to everyone else!

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Durango Pictures

So, I know everyone knows we went to Durango (and everyone is thinking, seriously, it’s not Paris, stop talking about it), but for such a small vacation, we took an insane amount of pictures that will sit forever in my computer, unloved and neglected.  I hate making anything feel unloved and neglected.

I love our camera (and Aaron LOVES our camera), so between us we take a lot of pictures with lots of different settings, often of the same thing over and over.

So, if you are interested in looking at a ton of pictures of water and trains (and a few other things), here is our Durango weekend in 87 pictures.

And then we will move on!

Birthday Weekend Getaway to Durango

Aaron (who reads my blog but only comments in real life), sends a 30-years-big THANK YOU to everyone for the birthday wishes!

He also thought that I had an “interesting” choice of pictures in the post yesterday, so I thought I’d throw another one in the mix!

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SIDENOTE: We have had non-stop birthday action since Friday, so this will be a short on words post with a lot of unedited pictures (I’ll actually share about 10 million train pictures another day)

We celebrated Aaron’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Durango, CO (home of Zuke’s dog treats…thanks Ellie for that tidbit of information!)

Durango is a quick 3 hour-ish drive from Albuquerque, but pretty much a whole different world.

Durango is a small, ski resort town with an old western feel, and as a college town, almost everyone is 22 and beautiful (and drunk).  It is also pretty affordable and unpretentious unlike some of the other Colorado ski resort towns like Telluride, Aspen, and Vail.

We started off the drive on Friday afternoon, and immediately encountered a traffic jam in the first town out.  Fun.  We also ate potato chips for dinner because we had no other options in the middle of nowhere.  (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I actually eat pretty healthy most of the time!).

After an uneventful drive, we pulled into Durango.  I hadn’t been in about 12 years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see an adorable town appear in front of the bug-gut covered windshield.

Despite being such a touristy spot, hotels are kind of hard to come by (condos, cabins, and vacation house rentals are plentiful however).  Low-budget options like Econo Lodge and Best Western were available in the north end of town, and the two options downtown (where all of the restaurants and action are) are really old.

We opted to go with really old to stay within walking distance of the action and chose the General Palmer Hotel (The Strater is the other, far more expensive option).  It was very cute, very convenient, provided free breakfast, had Keurig coffee machines in room, and real keys (as opposed to the magnetic swiper ones).

Even though Durango is a ski town, there are plenty of things to do during the summer including white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, hiking, and…THE TRAIN!

Without getting into too much of a history lesson, the Durango-Silverton Line was a pretty big deal back in the day.  These days it is quite the experience, with authentic trains chugging customers through the mountains from Durango to Silverton, an old west mining town revamped into a tourist destination.  The 45 mile trip takes about 3.5 hours, but the time investment is well worth it because of the amazing mountain views! Also, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed along this stretch of railroad! Paul Newman and I have been to the same place!

We opted for an open-air car which allows for better viewing (though we did get cold, and soot covered).

Silverton itself is about 2 streets worth of restaurants and shops (apparently the mines were active up until the 90’s, but now the only thing supporting this town is the business from the train passengers).  You get to spend about 2 and a half hours exploring (or saloon patronizing) before getting back on board.

After the 3.5 hour ride back into Durango, we went exploring the various microbreweries and bars that Durango had to offer.  Durango actually has 4 microbreweries in town, two within walking distance to our hotel (more on that later).

Sunday morning we got up for a trail run (more on that tomorrow) to explore the amazing landscape that Colorado has to offer.

Sunday also happened to be the Taste of Durango event where local restaurants give small samples of some of their food in exchange for tokens.  I guess the token sales go toward Charity, but you are essentially paying $4 per sample portion.  It was ok, but we didn’t spend too much time there.

We opted instead to eat at this adorable French restaurant!

On our way out of town, we stopped at Ska brewing company.  I don’t know if it is as widely distributed in other places as it is in Albuquerque, but the brand is completely comic book themed.

But…it is closed on Sundays, so all I could do was take pictures of the sign.  Bummer.

So, even though it was just a quick getaway, hanging out in Durango was relaxing and fun, and at such a close distance, a destination I wouldn’t mind going to a couple of times a year.  Sometimes, just escaping to a different place can make life a little more exciting.

Phoenix In January is Heaven

In the middle of a cold, dark January, Phoenix is a warm haven of happiness, al fresco dining, and palm trees.  During the summer it gets pretty dang warm (and by warm I mean cooking an egg on the sidewalk warm), but this weekend, 70 degrees has never felt so good.

In addition to the Rock n’ Roll race that brought in hoards of runner people, Tough Mudder Arizona  and some sort of big deal Super Cross event happened on Saturday, so the city and every restaurant/bar/hotel in it were pretty full of crazy athletic types along with Super Cross types (whatever that means…they were all wearing “Monster” shirts).

We went for the half-marathon and made a long weekend out of it.  Aaron actually lived in Phoenix for a few years during college, so he knows his way around the city.  This is a good thing because it is one of the sprawling urban masses and I would have gotten very very lost had he not been navigating. Not good when it seems every freeway exit lets you off in a different suburb.

Even though I’ve probably been there well over a dozen times, I’ve never really explored all there is to do in Phoenix.  Of course I’ve been to Scottsdale’s Fashion Square and toured the ASU campus in high school, but surely a city that size has more to offer than Louis Vuitton and dorms.  At least let’s hope.

Unfortunately we didn’t really explore this time either.  With all the race weekend activities, we didnt’ have too much extra time to get down and dirty in the desert.

But we did….

…stay at the Doubletree on 44th Street (all the rooms are suites, and you get free breakfast). We made friends in the hot tub with marathon people from Montana and Tucson.

…run through Papago Park (an inner city desert and likely home to lots of rattlesnakes but oh so scenic).  Also, I’m going through a weird phase where I make myself look ridiculous in  photos.  It just happens. I can’t stop it. I call the thumbs up pose “The Cheryl”  after its creator, my sister.

…ride the Light Rail ($3.50 for a day pass.  HELLO cheap public transit!).

…go to the awesome RnR Race Expo.

…enjoy the really good beer at Four Peaks Brewing Company (if you like microbreweries, this is the place for you in Phoenix).  I recommend the Oatmeal Stout and Kilt Lifter. Notice that we are seated OUTSIDE!

…carb load at Oreganos, where once again we ate OUTSIDE!

race our little Rock n Roll hearts out.

…jam to the B-52’s.

…eat at In n’ Out (a Phoenix/ California MUST in our book). We may have missed out on some of Arizona’s natural wonders, but by golly at least we got our Double Doubles with Cheese. You’ve got to have priorities.

…go to Four Peaks again to meet up with a Beer Runners Group (Run4Beer) I found on facebook (the couple who runs it is from Florida and they post running/ beer drinking inspiration all day long.  They were also in town to run the race and organized a happy hour). Very cool meeting people with similar interests from different parts of the country! If you like running and beer, you should “like” them on facebook!

meet my college friends Luke and Allie for dinner and drinks at Z-Tejas in Tempe. I’ve only seen them one other time since Allie and I graduated 5 years ago, so it was great catching up.  I’m also a little freaked out with how grown up we all look.  Weren’t we just 21 the other day?

Here’s what we looked like when we were 21 (College 70’s night.  It was the only picture I could find with all three of us in it…I promise we didn’t dress like that all the time!). How far digital cameras have come! (I’m the one in the center, Allie is to the left, and Luke is in the back).

shop at Ikea (we don’t have one so we have to stock up on the unassembled goodness when we can).

eat at In n’ Out. Again. Ok. If you are wondering why I would pass up what I’m sure is plenty of Phoenix culinary goodness to visit a fast food joint twice in a 24 hour period, let me just say, BEST BURGER EVER! Five Guys doesn’t come close.  Barbara Streisand used to fly to California just to eat there.  That’s saying something.

It was a short vacation, but a wonderful, somewhat relaxing and warm one. Even though we didn’t get to do a ton of stuff, we met some great new people, reconnected with old friends, ran the good race, and enjoyed some tasty food and beer. And really, what else is there?

What I’m Loving Wednesday, September 28

 

The weather was warm, the week is more than halfway over, and two new studies have justified my coffee addiction (it reduces depression risk and my career choices warrant it).  Wonderful Wednesday so far!

Linking up with Jamie at This Kind of Love to list the other things that I’m loving this last Wednesday of September and first Wednesday of Fall!

1. Lululemon: I know I’ve said it before, but I love Lululemon.  They have great athletic wear, and since I now spend so much time working out, I really appreciate the quality and design of their clothes.  I just bought the Full Tilt Pullover, and it almost makes me want the weather to cool down so I can wear it! The selling point was the ruffled reflectors.

lululemon.com

2. Pumpkin Flavored Things: I love the taste of pumpkin, so I get as much pumpkin stuff as I can during the fall months.  Pumpkin Spice Latte, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spice cupcakes, pumpkin beer, you name it.

3. Pan Am, the ABC Series (though I’m sure the airline was cool too): This has also made my list before, but it premiered on Sunday night, so I can say with authority that I actually love it and not just the idea of it.  I think I shall be a Pan Am 1960’s stewardess for Halloween.

screenrant.com

 4. Lion King (3-D): We saw the Lion King in 3-D last weekend.  I don’t think the extra price for 3-D was worth it, and the glasses hurt my temples, but Lion King is SUCH a great movie! We were easily the oldest people in there without kids, but I’m ok with that.

 5. Hibachi/Teppan/Japanese Grills: We have several of these in our town, but a new one just opened up in our neighborhood so we tried it out with friends Rebecca and Dave last weekend.  Totally cheesy I know, but I love having a nice chef cook my meal in front of me while telling jokes and playing with fire. Also makes for some tasty leftovers.

6. Balloon Fiesta: Albuquerque’s claim to fame fires up again this weekend! I can’t wait to have the sky sprinkled with hot air balloons every morning for the next week.

7. Journey: I won’t say they are the greatest band that ever was (not even I think so), but boy do they know how to create a catchy tune.  I don’t really like any of their new stuff, but I am perfectly satisfied to watch them relive their glory days in concert (minus Steve Perry)!

2 days until (Balloon Fiesta) Weekend!

I Wish Every Day Could Be A Summer Weekend

Another great weekend is coming to an end.  We’ve had some absolutely wonderful weekends this summer.  The weather has actually been (dangerously) full of sunshine (great for being outside, not so great for the city’s water supply)  and it seems like there is a never-ending supply of new places popping up around town, and we’ve been trying to get to as many of them as we can in between our regular weekend chores and our long training runs.

Take me to the car wash, baby!

My poor car gets washed about once a year which makes it quite embarrassing to drive around.  Apparently, though, not embarrassing enough for me to do anything about it I guess.  I’d rather spend money on almost anything else than a car wash, and the thought of doing it myself brings up bad memories of high school car wash fundraisers and having to wash dirty, dirty cars for dirty old men who liked the thought of scantily clad teenagers washing their car.  Aaron on the other hand tends to keep his car in much more pristine condition.  Probably doesn’t hurt that he has a much nicer car than I do and drives his around much more than I drive mine.  Because we’ve had about 2 days worth of rain since last summer, we decided it was safe to wash both cars, and I even helped…even though it doesn’t look like I did more than take pictures of Aaron.

Around Town

We probably hang out around Nob Hill every weekend.  We do a lot of our shopping there, and the restaurant/bar selection is great.  This weekend we also took a quick stroll around Downtown.   I try not to hang out in Downtown Albuquerque as much as possible.  There isn’t much there except office buildings and a bunch of bars that we don’t like with crowds that we don’t like.  But there are a few neat little corners of Downtown (The Kimo Theater, Chama River Microbrew, and Gold Street Cafe), and the area is in the middle of what is looking like a fantastic urban renewal.  We even stumbled upon the 2nd location of the cafe that inspired Giuseppe’s name! (The other one is of course in Nob Hill).

One of the new restaurants we tried out was The Slice Parlor in Nob Hill.  We walked by it last weekend during Summerfest, and thought we’d give it a try.  The pizza is New York style (thin crust, big slices), and they have the typical pizza toppings and three different sauces to choose from (tomato, white, pesto).  The food and atmosphere were good, but what Aaron enjoyed the most was the bathroom decor!

All That Jazz

I have been stalking Jazzbah since friend Peter (owner of BRGR downtown) mentioned that a new, upscale jazz bar was opening on Gold.  As the weirdo who listens to more Frank, Nat, and Ella than Katy, Bruno, or Ke$ha, I was quite excited to imagine an entire establishment dedicated to Amy music.  After “liking” their Facebook page I found out about their soft opening this weekend, and would stop at nothing to make sure we got there.

I knew I was in the right place when I saw a huge picture of Frank hanging on the wall, and comfy looking couches surrounding the tables.  In between sets of live music (last night there was a piano player and a bassist), my beloved crooners played in the background.  The menu was surprisingly CHEAP.  The entrees are smaller than the average heaping portions you find most places, but my shrimp entree was $8, so I’m not going to complain.  I think the steak was the most expensive thing on the menu at $16.

The cocktail menu is quite impressive, and our speciality cocktails actually ended up costing more than our entrees.  But our drinks were pretty and tasty, and from what I can tell on the Facebook page, the bartender is kind of a big deal.

 

Jazzbah was great.  Upscale atmosphere, good food at a reasonable price, fancy drinks, classic background music, live music, and couches to relax on while taking it all in.

I really hope that this place not only makes it, but does well enough to not lower their standards.  Albuquerque is in desperate need of places like this that offer an alternative to the usual late night bar scene where you don’t feel overdressed actually wearing a dress or button up shirt and where the music doesn’t involve lyrics so vulgar that you hope your parents (or kids) never hear them.  Jazzbah is having their grand opening tomorrow, and I’m guessing once they get the typical new business kinks worked out (for example our berry flambe dessert didn’t quite flambe because the alcohol wasn’t quite flammable enough), they will find a loyal client base.  I hope to be among them!

And so, there we are.  Another wonderful summer weekend comes to an end as the Lavenders enjoy mojitos (except Giuseppe who is enjoying his frog toy).

Farina Pizzeria and La Traviata

Verdi’s opera, La Traviata has the usual storyline: Boy meets prostitute, boy falls in love with prostitute, boy loses prostitute, boy gets prostitute back, prostitute dies in a long drawn out dramatic ending.   But even if the story line sounds like a plot not even Lifetime would touch, Verdi’s amazing music sets this opera apart and makes it my favorite.  In fact I’ve seen it 4 times now.  The chick flick movie buff may actually recognize La Traviata as the opera that Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to in Pretty Woman (probably to emphasize the point that she too is a prostitute).

Albuquerque’s  opera company, Opera Southwest, is running their version at the downtown Kimo Theater (converted from an old movie theater) complete with a beautiful set, amazing costumes and a fantastic soprano in the title role. 

For better or worse, Aaron married into a family that is a little opera-centric.  We go to two productions a year, one here in Albuquerque during the spring and one at the Santa Fe Opera House during the summer.  While both opera companies have very different ways of producing a show, Opera Southwest usually has more extravagant sets and costumes than Santa Fe making the spectacle a little more interesting to watch, plus sitting in the glam Kimo theater almost makes me feel like a 1930’s movie star sitting at a movie premier. 

 

The occasion also let us get a little swankified.  Aaron pulled out his Cole Haan shoes and the cuff links and tie clip that I bought him for Christmas (I savor the rare occasions when he dresses up…the boy cleans up very well).  I also finally wore an Anthropologie dress I bought at Christmastime.  Definitely one of those dresses that I spent too much money on only to wear once a year but I’ve noticed that Anthropologie has that effect on me. 

Before attending a show at the Santa Fe Opera House, it is customary to “tailgate” (usually with wine and steak rather than beer and burgers) in the parking lot.  Because there isn’t really a parking lot directly associated with the Kimo and no definitely no tailgaters, we usually attend a preshow dinner downtown instead.

 

I’m not sure when Farina Pizzeria opened, but sometime in the last couple of years this little restaurant popped up in the “EDo” neighborhood in downtown Albuquerque (What realtors are now calling East Downtown)  on Central a few blocks west of I-25.  While this area of town was constructed before the invention of cars making parking   harder to find, Farina actually shares a large parking lot with the Artichoke Café, so parallel parking/driving over and over around the block isn’t necessary.  On Saturday night there was even a parking lot attendant (tips appreciated but not required).

The result of trying to take an inconspicuous photo with my phone

This is one of those places that suggests Albuquerque is really coming along with the Urban Renewal.  The walls are brick and covered in art, and the restaurant is narrow and cozy giving it a San Francisco feel.  They offer Marble Brewery selections on tap along with a good wine and bottled beer selection.  The menu is somewhat limited…about 5 salad choices and 5 pizza choices along with some other non pizza options, but everything is super tasty and beautifully presented.  While similar to Nob Hill’s Il Vicinio, Farina is a little more under the radar, making it less crowded and more laid back, and everything seems a little more organic.

Verde Salad

Farinia's Saturday Pizza Special

We ended the night with a drive home under the beautifully full moon. 

Happy Spring!

-A&A

Top O’ the Evening to Ya!

After some corned beef, a Guinness, a Black & Tan, Irish folk music blaring on the stereo, and some YouTube instruction, I am fairly certain that I can be a professional Irish Jig Dancer!

Anyway….

I love holidays like St. Patrick’s Day that allow people to have fun without being disappointed by unmet expectations (unlike other holidays that require expensive gifts and grand romantic gestures that may or may not happen).  Today, as long as I wear green (check!) and can drink some Guinness (check!), all is right with the world as far as I’m concerned.  Irish jigging myself into exhaustion hasn’t been all that bad either. 

I am 100% NOT Irish (though I am a Gael which should count for something).  Aaron is just Irish enough to get the occasional red hair in his beard.  We live in a town with very little Irish influence (corned beef and green chile, anyone?).  There are only 2 Irish style pubs in town that I can think of (one now has 2 locations), and I noticed that the overwhelming majority of people weren’t wearing green today, and this didn’t bother anyone.  This hasn’t stopped the Lavenders (who actually met on St. Patrick’s Day three years ago) from trying to be festive.  For example, we like Irish things:

1)  Guinness: for some reason it tastes much better with a clover imprint in the foam

2)  Bailey’s Irish Cream: makes coffee happier

3)  James McAvoy: This married lady isn’t ashamed to admit a major crush.  I still hold a grudge against Briony for causing him to die

4)  Van Morrison: who doesn’t love a Brown Eyed Girl or a Fantabulous Night for a Moondance?

5)   Blarney:  a fantastic word that really should be used more in everyday conversation

Our quest to be festive has caused us some headaches (and not just of the hangover variety).  Last year we made the mistake of going to O’Neill’s pub in Nob Hill (one of the two Irish inspired pubs in Albuquerque).  As one of two Irish places, the line to get in was a little ridiculous, and by the time we got there, they were letting people in only as people were coming out. But we waited the 30 minutes like troopers… only to have our friends decide to go elsewhere once we made it inside. The other Irish Pub is Two Fools also in Nob Hill, which on a regular day is quite pleasant (if you don’t mind their strict “no shot” policy).  It is also rather authentic minus the cigarette smoke and the old owner/cook/waitress/bartender with bad teeth that you would find across the pond.

This year, even though O’Neill’s has opened a second location bringing the Irish pub count to 3, we decided to play it safe and go to the NE Heights version of Gecko’s.  Gecko’s, also a Nob Hill staple, is known for their tapas and Bloody Mary’s, making it a very un-Irish selection.  Luckily for us, this also made it a much less crowded place with no line and no overworked bartender. Plus, Gecko’s is only 2 blocks from our house, greatly reducing our chances of getting hit by a drunk driver (please don’t drink and drive).

We got a lovely patio table with no wait.

We got our Guinness.

We got our corned beef and cabbage.

We got our Jameson (well, Aaron got his Jameson.).

We got everything we needed to have a pleasant and successful Saint Patrick’s Day without the frustration of fighting crowds and worrying about drivers on the road. Now we can sit at home and relax with another round and some Irish jig dancing!