Blackfinn Ameripub

On one of the nights our group walked to the EpiCentre in downtown Charlotte to find somewhere relatively inexpensive to eat. We were originally going to go to Fleming’s but it had four dollar signs next to its name on the restaurant list. We had to keep it three or under because some people ate at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and already blew the dinner budget. Yup. That happened the night before I arrived. I totally missed out!

To David’s credit, he did get one of our vendors to take us out to dinner one night. They must really like David because they took us to a fancy restaurant called the Capital Grille. The food and service was fantastic. It was a wonderful dinner.

Anyway, he tried to find a different vendor to take us out the next evening. No luck. That happens when you’re just window shopping I guess. Vendors only like to wine and dine you if you’re actually in the market for their product. Our other existing vendors were busy courting new customers. We were on our own.

We ended up at Blackfinn, a two dollar sign restaurant that’s conveniently located right as you arrive at the EpiCentre. Several people in our group wanted to check out Howl at the Moon, a piano bar in the same area so it was perfect.

Here are some pictures of our food…

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I think these are the crab cakes.

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Steak!

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Meatloaf.

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Blackfinn Ameripub on Urbanspoon

I had the grilled mahi, except I subbed spinach for broccoli because I love spinach.

I didn’t get a picture of the other plates because they were either duplicates or too far for me to reach. To check out the other foods, I guess you’ll just have to go to the restaurant. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

Overall, I really liked Blackfinn. The food was good and the prices were reasonable. The menu is extensive so there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a steak or seafood person or you just want plain ol’ chicken, you’ll find something on the menu that appeals to you. It’s great for large groups with different tastes. No one will end up starving.

They also have a great selection of starters, some of which are quite filling. Blackfinn is a great choice for if you just want to have appetizers and drinks. We got to try the crab cakes and ying-yang shrimp starters. Both were very good.

They have flatbread pizzas; all sorts of salads; pork, chicken, steak, and seafood entrées; sandwiches and burgers; pasta and noodle dishes; and they even allow you to order extra sides for sharing. The dessert options looked really good too, but we didn’t have any. No one was interested after all of the cheesecake and other desserts they were feeding us at the conference. LOL.

After dinner Sunni and I walked back to our respective hotels. I registered late and ended up the Hilton Charlotte Center City, while everyone else in our group got rooms at the Westin. I found out the next day that, since Howl at the Moon wasn’t open yet, the group ended up at the Tendril after party at Whisky River, where they had an open bar all night long. They said it was a great time; even better than the piano bar.

I was bummed about missing out at first but, after finding out that some of them stayed out until 2 AM, I didn’t feel as bad. I really wanted to be at breakfast early the next day to get a good seat for Shawn Achor’s keynote so there was no way I could hang. Walking back to the hotel right after dinner was a good call.

Mimosa Grill

Mimosa Grill was my favorite restaurant out of all the restaurants I got to try in downtown Charlotte. I think I liked it so much because the food is so fresh. Our server made it a point to tell us that the vegetables are all locally grown at least half a dozen times during our meal. It was almost comical.

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Jokes aside, what I really liked best was the mimosa tea. It’s the most delicious non-alcoholic beverage I’ve had in a long time. I’ve had Arnold Palmer’s (half lemonade, half iced tea) before but their tea takes it up several notches. Chad liked it so much that he got multiple refills. I can’t pick on him too much about the refills because I did too. It was delicious. I wanted to go there again and again just for the mimosa tea.

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I had the lobster mac and cheese. Not the best choice. That part of the meal was just okay. I prefer the one here at Wine Dive better. I though the mac and cheese was a tad greasy. The salad was great, though. Probably because the veggies are super fresh. The super delicious tea made up for the lackluster mac and cheese so I forgave them.

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David had the sea bass.

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Chad had crab cakes, which is what I wish I would have ordered. The crab cakes were piled on top of each other with fried green tomatoes sandwiched in between. He said they were just as scrumptious as they looked. After seeing his plate, I really wanted a do over.

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Mimosa Grill on Urbanspoon

Alex got a very healthy salad, which looked amazing also. I bet it was really good. You know, because the vegetables are super fresh, being locally grown and all. LOL.

I joke around but, truly, I really liked Mimosa Grill. The prices were reasonable and the food was delicious and I wish I could have bottled that mimosa tea and brought it back with me to Kansas. I tried to talk the group into eating there again on our final day in Charlotte but no one really wants to eat at the same place twice, no matter how great it is. Usually when you’re out of town, you want to try a bunch of different restaurants. Specially ones that you can’t find your hometown. Such is the case for me, anyway.

Although, Brian seemed really interested in the Nascar Hall of Fame so I see another trip to Charlotte in my future. See you soon, Mimosa Grill!

Martin’s Tavern

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Martin’s Tavern is actually where we ended up eating dinner. It’s a cozy, little restaurant in Georgetown with limited seating and the smallest restrooms ever built.

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They put us in a couple of booths at the very back of the restaurant. Brian and I ended up sitting at the Sam Rayburn Lyndon Johnson booth.

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Here are some photos of our delicious dinner, starting with the potato skins.

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Calamari and shrimp.

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Crab cakes.

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I think this might be the lobster risotto.

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Leave it to Brian to order the most basic thing on the menu.

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Filet mignon.

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The chocolate awesome lived up to its name. This was Brian’s favorite dessert in DC. He said he liked it even better than the Open City.

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Martin's Tavern on Urbanspoon

I’m so glad we had the opportunity to dine at Martin’s Tavern when we were in DC. The food was fantastic and not to be missed.

A word of advice, if you go, do not sit in the very back corner of the restaurant. That’s we were seated and it was hot. It felt like we were in an oven. Maybe we were closest to the kitchen and that’s why it was so hot? The tavern may be small but there are better places to be seated. Don’t let them put you in back.

Another thing to consider is to avoid drinking so much. The restrooms are in the same corner of the restaurant, right above where we were. To get to them you have to ascend stairs that are both steep and narrow. I’m not sure what the men’s room was like, but the women’s restroom is barely enough for one person. It reminded me of a restroom that you would find on a plane. Actually the whole back section of the restaurant where we were is so narrow and compact that it made me feel like I was on a ship, without the rocking side to side with the waves.

Given the setup, the best advice I can give is to enjoy the food but refrain from excessive drinking. The stairs will be hard to navigate when you’re inebriated. They were challenging enough for me and I was sober. Also, the less you drink the fewer restroom trips you’ll need to make.

District Kitchen

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District Kitchen is this really cool restaurant in Woodley Park just around the corner from our hotel. With its exposed brick walls and hip ambiance, the restaurant reminds me of 715 in Lawrence. Maybe it’s the lightbulbs.

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It didn’t take long for the restaurant to get packed.

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It was a busy evening so it took a while for our food to arrive. It was well worth the wait, though. Here are some pictures.

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These brussel sprouts don’t look like much but they were quite popular. Everyone who tried a bite loved it, except for Ginger who found it too sweet. I didn’t try it myself though, so I wouldn’t know.

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After dinner we got three of the desserts to share and sample.

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This is the apple and fig bread pudding with vanilla ice cream.

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This is the banana créme brûlée.

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Brian didn’t have dinner because he already had dinner earlier that evening (the babe calzone from Open City, which was his favorite meal DC) but he did enjoy the triple chocolate brownie. It was quite decadent and super delicious. I know because I shared it with him. It’s definitely not to be missed.

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Another thing that’s not to be missed is a trip to the restroom.

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Theis is definitely one of the coolest restrooms I’ve ever used.

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I also liked this sign on the wall which is a clever way of saying not to flush anything but toilet paper down the drain. It’s in keeping with the bathroom theme and decor.

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District Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I really liked District Kitchen. There are lots of neat little restaurants in Woodley Park and I think this is one of the better ones. Darcy did a great job in picking it out.

If you are ever in the area, District Kitchen is definitely worth checking out. And, the best part is that it’s only a metro stop away. (At least check out the restroom.)

Dad’s 60th Birthday Dinner

And we take a break from all of the DC blog posts to show you pictures from dad’s 60th birthday dinner at Cy’s Hoof & Horn.

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They say that it’s better to spend money on experiences rather than buying things so rather than buying a present for dad we opted buy dinner for the family instead.

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For dad’s birthday Brian and I took mom, dad, and Jenni to our new favorite place to eat steak. Jenni got the filet mignon, which is what I had the last time. I thought it was good but I really, really liked Brian’s chicken fried steak so I ended up getting the chicken fried steak this time around.

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Brian and dad both got chicken fried steak also.

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I don’t know why we each had to get one, all three of us could have shared one piece. The chicken fried steak portions at Cy’s are enormous.

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Mom got a steak salad. Only my mom would get a salad at a steak place. LOL. At least her salad was topped with slices of beef, I guess.

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Brian and I can’t wait for his mom and dad to visit because we want to take them to Cy’s also. Now that we’ve discovered Cy’s we just want to bring everyone there.

Cy’s isn’t just a great place to eat steak, it’s a great place for a nice family dinner. I hope dad enjoyed his 60th birthday dinner just as much as we did.

Open City

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Brian and I found this neat restaurant by our hotel called Open City. It’s so close that you can see the hotel from the restaurant’s patio.

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The big windows fold out of the way so that even when you’re inside it feels like you’re outside. We asked for a table on the patio, but we didn’t really have to be outside to enjoy dining al fresco.

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The cover of the menu has a drawing of the restaurant’s facade.

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Lots of great items on the menu, including gluten free pizza. I’m not sure I’ve come across any other restaurant that offers these. Probably because it’s a risky thing to offer considering the crust ends up tasting like cardboard sometimes (or so I’ve heard). We found positive feedback about Open City’s gluten free pizzas online though. Someone sitting at a table close to us who had it even mentioned that they couldn’t tell the difference. That’s huge. I wonder if cooking the pizzas in their special firebrick pizza oven makes the difference?

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Oh, and the best part about Open City is they serve brunch all day long.

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I ate at Open City a couple of times with Brian (on our first day and also our last day in DC). I think he ate there more than that because (a) it was cheaper than eating at the hotel, (b) the food is great, and (c) it’s just a short walk from our hotel.

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We shared the carnivore pizza on our first time at the restaurant. With its generous smattering of pepperoni, bacon, ham, sausage, etc. it’s the perfect pizza for meat-lovers like Brian and me.

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We had to try one of their pies for dessert because they bake their own pastries. This pie consisted of chocolate mouse and chocolate ganache. They serve it topped with whipped cream. It was delicious! If I didn’t know it was so bad for you, I would have had one every single day I was in DC.

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There were lots of delicious pastries to choose from in the pastry case. They even had some vegan options.

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Brian and I decided to go to Open City again for our final meal in DC. Brian had the babe calzone the day before and he just had to have it again. It doesn’t look very appetizing but, after he had me try a bite, I realized why he liked it so much. The calzone was filled with the perfect combination of sausage, ham, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. Almost like the carnivore pizza folded over.

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I got the Open City grilled chicken wings with blue cheese. They were perfect. They were so good that I wanted to eat them all, except I couldn’t because I got so full.

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Open City on Urbanspoon

It didn’t help that I couldn’t stop eating the vegan, gluten free homemade potato chips. They weren’t greasy like they sometimes are at other restaurants.

If you ever find yourself in the Woodley Park area in DC, I highly recommend checking out Open City. There are many reasons I can think of why it’s popular with locals and visitors alike — they have great food; they offer lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options; they serve brunch all day; they bake their own decadent pastries; and they’re conveniently located close to a metro station. It’s definitely worth checking out!

BonChon Chicken Fairfax

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We had the opportunity to try Korean chicken wings at BonChon Chicken in Fairfax, VA on Sunday. Thanks to Cousin Joy and her husband Erwin for picking us up from our hotel and taking us there. We never would have ventured out that far on our own.

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We were told up front that chicken wings would take a half hour so we started with some fries and fried calamari.

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The fries and calamari were delicious, and were great for munching on while we waited for our chicken wings, but we had to be careful not to get too full because we wanted to save room for the chicken wings, which are the stars of the show.

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We shared an extra large order of wings but we asked for a combination of the regular soy garlic and spicy hot garlic.

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BonChon on Urbanspoon

Brian and I had never had chicken wings like these before and, for the record, they were worth every minute of the wait. The breading had a wonderful texture that was the perfect combination of crispy and crunchy. The chicken wings had excellent flavor, though I will be completely honest, I did not try the spicy hot garlic because I can’t really handle spicy foods. Brian had both flavors so I will have to rely on his assessment. He said the spicy hot garlic was delicious but the spiciness catches up to you after a few. I could tell they were spicy because they were making Erwin sweat. LOL.

The restaurant is a great value, specially since you can share the food and eat family style. I sort of wished we had a BonChon Chicken back in Wichita because it’s a great alternative to fast food. It’s a nice, casual place to eat but the food is good and doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Since we don’t have a BonChon, Brian has been tasked with figuring out how to replicate the Korean chicken wing flavor. Stay tuned because we may be serving it soon at our next party. Who’s in?

Super Pi Day

We had the most amazing Pi Day celebration this past weekend thanks to our awesome friends who stepped up to the occasion. Check out these photos.

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Brian made mini Nutella pies.

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And also a Nutella star tear-and-share bread. It was a bit of a disaster actually but Brian managed to find a way to save it.

We didn’t plan very well when we were making it. We assembled the bread on our large cutting board and by the time we were finished it had gotten so heavy that we couldn’t move it without obliterating it. We tried to use various spatulas. Even our largest spatula wasn’t big enough to lift the heavy lump. We almost scrapped the whole thing if it weren’t for Brian coming up with a brilliant idea.

Rather than moving it, Brian devised a plan to just flip it over on to a pan. Except it looked horrible because we had jabbed it underneath so many times already with all those spatulas. So we flipped it over again and it didn’t look as bad. I’m glad Brian didn’t let us give up on it because it was delicious. At least now we know for next time that we need to assemble the bread on the pan that we shall use to bake it.

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The Frito chili pie didn’t take as much work.

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Neither did the Papa Murphy’s pizzas.

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Pizzas are pies! We took the easy route. LOL.

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Brian also made chocolate pie. The other pies in the photo above are banana pudding pies and were made by Kristen’s sister Cynthia.

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Shanda made cookie sandwiches.

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Nykole made cheeseburger pie.

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Sunni made quiche.

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Jay and Becca made a Whole 30 compliant pie.

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Kate’s shepherd’s pie. I was too late to take a picture of it intact.

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Hideki’s clever contribution to the pie theme was a huge hit.

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Another contribution from Jay and Becca. While technically not pie, it was delicious and we enjoyed it all the same.

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Meader and Holly’s avocado pie.

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We also had lumpia, courtesy of mom. Brian did not get to have any because by the time he got around to having some they were all gone.

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April made Nutella cheesecake.

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Thank you so much to all of our friends and most of all to Kate who celebrated not just Pi Day or Super Pi Day but also her birthday. Until the next century!

Because We Absolutely Love Food

Cy's Place (Hoof & Horn Supper Club, etc) on Urbanspoon

Because we love food, here are some more food pictures for you. These pictures are from our dinner with Jim and Karen (aka our favorite neighbors) last Saturday at Cy’s Hoof & Horn in Sedgwick.

Brian had the chicken fried steak. It was big enough for three people to share and it was fantastic. The breading had excellent flavor and texture. This was easily the best chicken fried steak I’d ever had.

I’m totally getting it on our next trip there.

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Jim had the prime rib, which is on special every Saturday. I hear that it is amazing.

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Karen and I both had the filet.

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I’m not much of a steak eater but my filet was perfect. I asked for it medium well because I don’t like any pink in my steak. My steak was pretty darn good. I didn’t even need any steak sauce.

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For dessert we got to try their lemon merengue and chocolate pies. Both were very good.

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Cy’s Hoof & Horn is known by many names. I’ve heard it referred to as Cy’s Place or just Hoof & Horn. The sign out front reads The Hoof & Horn Supper Club.

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That’s also the name listed on the menu.

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We arrived a little after five thirty, which seemed to be the perfect time. More diners arrived shortly after and the place started to get pretty busy.

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Here’s a picture of Brian with our neighbors Jim and Karen.

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This is only the second time we’ve been out to dinner with Jim and Karen but we really enjoy their company. We had good conversation and the food was great. I’m really glad they recommended Cy’s Place or Hoof & Horn – whatever you want to call it.

The food is so good that we can’t wait to return. We are definitely taking Brian’s parents there on their next trip to Wichita. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend going. It may take 30-45 minutes to get there depending on where you live in Wichita, but it is totally worth the drive.

What Happened Last Week

Wouldn’t you know it? I’m still behind on posting blogs. My life needs to slow down a little. LOL. Here’s what happened last week…

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We got to check out Satish’s fancy new limo. If the logo looks familiar, it’s because Satish owns Quick Stitch — the best alterations places in town. You can find out more about their services by checking their web site. Now they have a limo!

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It makes sense because they work with a lot of brides.

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This thing is awesome, though. It comfortably seats eight people and it’s got multiple video screens. It even has one in the back along with a killer sound system. It’s the perfect vehicle to take to your next tailgating event.

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It was so cool I almost wished I was a true sports fan. Unfortunately, I’m more of a casual spectator. I have teams I like but I’m mostly just a fan because I graduated there (Wichita State) or the team colors coordinate with other teams that I like (KU, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots). LOL.

The other night I showed up to Jay’s Super Bowl XLIX party in my Pats shirt. I just have the one and it comes in handy every now and then. Rune was like, “Do you really like the Pats or are you only wearing that to be nice to Jay?”

It’s a little of both. I mostly like the Pats because their colors go well with my Red Sox gear, which I have more of, and my KU shirts. I’m already invested in red, white, and blue so I can’t like any teams whose colors do not coordinate.

Although, no matter how hard I try, I will never be as stylish as my little sister.

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She looked adorable in her lace dress, jean jacket, scarf, and boots when we went to the movies last week. She looked absolutely darling! I could learn a thing or two from this little fashionista.

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On Thursday night we met a bunch of friends at Taste and See for dinner. I was really disappointed that they’re no longer doing $12 sangria pitchers. Regular price is only $18, though, so it’s still a really good deal.

Here are some pictures of our delicious food…

The cornucopia is my new favorite starter at Taste and See. Brian and I used to be on a queso fondue kick there for a while but, since I’ve discovered the cornucopia, it’s what I always order as an appetizer any more.

The dates are another delicious starter. I’m really glad Chef Jason sent it over because it’s mot something that I would normally think of ordering.

It should come as no surprise that Brian got the Cuban. That’s what he always orders.

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Taste & See on Urbanspoon

Instead of getting the same old thing, I decided to try something new this time. If you can guess which meal I had from the pictures above, I will take you out to dinner at Taste and See and throw in a pitcher of sangria. LOL.

Honestly, I will use any excuse to go back. The food is fantastic. And, the sangria is delicious and reasonably priced. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. When you go, tell Chef Jason I sent you!

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