NY Munchies with Darcy

Darcy and I stopped at several places while walking around New York. First stop was Brasserie Cognac at around 11 AM. This was the place with the snobby waiter who said we couldn’t stay for just coffee because of their non-existent lunch rush. I’m not an alcoholic but I did end up ordering a peach bellini. Darcy had a glass of sangria. We finished our drink and continued our NY adventure.

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Next stop: Ivy in Hell’s Kitchen. This place had huge accordion windows that open completely so you feel like you’re outside inside. It was awesome. It was like we were out on the patio but we had the comfort of AC. We stay by the window which made for some great people watching.

At one point one of the NY bus tours was stopped in front of the restaurant. That’s NY traffic for you. I waved at the people on the bus but none of them waved back. They all had this uniform look of disdain. Not sure if it was the heat or what, but not one person was smiling. We had walked by several people peddling bus tours. It’s great for if you can’t walk long distances or don’t want to, but Darcy and I agreed it didn’t look like much fun. Seeing those people’s faces just proved us right.

Darcy and I ate a substantial breakfast at the hotel before we left so neither of us were really hungry for lunch. We decided to just get the artisanal cheese board and a pitcher of sangria. We were already drinking so might as well keep going.

Darcy knows more about cheese than I do so I let her do the picking. She chose Brie Fermier Jouvence (cow), Westfield Farm Capri (goat), and Pyrenees Brebis (sheep) so all the animals were represented. They were all really tasty with the grilled baguette but the honeycomb stole the show. I’d never had honeycomb before. It tasted amazing. Darcy recommended spreading both honey and cheese on the grilled baguette. I’d never had cheese that way before either. It was so good. The honey really highlighted the cheese flavors. My favorite combo was the honeycomb and capri on a baguette.

Love, love, love! Now I’m craving honeycomb. I don’t know where to buy it here, though.

We walked around some more then when we were ready to stop again, we stopped at Hudson Station. They mostly had bar food which didn’t really appeal to us so we just had drinks and left. Darcy found a place with good reviews called Marseille so we walked over there. Except our timing was a bit off. The kitchen was closed at the time and didn’t open again until 5 PM. We ended up going to Nizza down the street instead. The host at Marseille recommended it.

The best part about being in Hell’s Kitchen is all of the great restaurants. There’s so many of them. Although, out of all of the stops we made that day, Ivy was my favorite of all. I’m totally taking Brian there when we return this fall.

Efes Restaurant

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Darcy and I ended up at Efes on our first night in New Jersey because we didn’t want to be too far from the train station. We walked up and down the street and didn’t really find anything that appealed to us. Efes looked quaint and promising.

The naan and the sauces were good. Service was super slow, though. I was really thirsty and I think she only refilled my water once. I had to ask for a water refill and had to wait a really long time.

The hummus and falafel were good but neither Darcy nor I liked our entree, which was a bummer because it was one of the house specialties and came highly recommend by our server. We should have known she was clueless.

The description made it sound yummy and the server’s recommendation sold us. We both got the chicken dish, which Darcy describes sweet and sour chicken without the sweetness. It had a very pronounced sourness to it. Maybe we just don’t know our Turkish foods.

I wish that I would have ordered the salmon dish instead. It was that or the chicken dish. However, the chicken dish was a house specialty and our server told us it was her favorite and very popular. Usually, the house specialties are a good bet. Oh, well.

Maybe we just ordered the wrong thing because the restaurant is rated pretty well on Zagat. So disappointing.

The poor service didn’t help matters any. Our server never came unless we tried to get her attention. And, I really, really needed some water to tone down the sour flavor of the sauce. Darcy recommended just having more bread. I wanted my water, darn it!

The best part was the upside down “wash your hands” flyer in the restroom. The person who posted it couldn’t be bothered to make sure it was right side up. Seriously. You had one job! I had to take a picture.

Maybe this restaurant was good at one point but I’m guessing it’s been a long time since anyone who works there really cared.

Belated Anniversary Treat for Mom and Dad

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During last weekend’s visit, we treated Donna and David to our favorite steak place — Cy’s Hoof & Horn Supper Club in Sedgwick. It’s a long ways from our home in Southeast Wichita but totally worth the drive. They have the best chicken fried steak I’ve ever had and it’s a huge portion. It’s more than enough for two people to share.

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Of course, I ordered the chicken fried steak because it’s my favorite thing on the menu. Donna ordered the same. David had the prime rib special.

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Brian wanted to try one of Cy’s legendary burgers but, after he told them to take everything out of it, it wasn’t so impressive. LOL.

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He said the onion rings were good, though.

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The homemade dessert that night was banana walnut cake with ice cream.

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I’m not sure what was going on that night. Maybe they were just super busy. The food was good but not has good as we’ve had it there. The service was slow and my mashed potatoes were on the cold side. Though I wished that it was hotter, I didn’t say anything. I hope that mom and dad enjoyed the dinner despite the service shortcomings.

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Belated happy anniversary, Mom and Dad B!

Grandma and Brian’s Joint Birthday Celebration

Brian and I are not really huge fans of Olive Garden but we had dinner there last weekend in honor of Brian and grandma’s birthdays. They’ve celebrated their birthdays together since the dawn of time (or really since Brian was born) and have only missed three years. The missed years were when Brian lived in Memphis.

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We don’t really care where we eat as long as we are all together. Brian’s mom and dad came up from Oklahoma. Kevin, Kasey, and their kids Kyndra and Andrew were able to join us for dinner as well. Here are some fun photos we took at dinner.

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It took some doing but I finally got a good photo of David, Kevin, Andy, and grandma.

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Here’s a good one of Andy and grandma.

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Brian and I got grandma a gift card to the Nifty Nuthouse, everyone’s favorite candy shop, and she got a bunch of other goodies from Brian’s mom and dad, including these giant chocolate covered strawberries.

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These strawberries are the size of apples!

Brian got a couple of Superman prints from his mom and dad, which are now hung in his bathroom in the basement. The placement is a little awkward but to each his own. Besides, we’re have a bathroom decorating contest in the basement and I’m convinced that my bathroom, which has the lithos we got from Julie and Viktor eight years ago, will win (with or without the help of the awkwardly positioned Superman prints).

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Brian really loved his prints! Thank you, mom and dad!

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Here are some pictures of food.

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Brian got his usual.

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David got his usual.

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Donna and I both got the chicken and shrimp carbonara.

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I was disappointed that they no longer put frozen peaches in the peach bellini iced tea but they let grandma order out of the kids’ menu and they gave us a whole basket of Andes mints at the end of our meal so all was forgiven.

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We had a great time at dinner (perhaps a little too much in Brian’s case). Thank you so much to everyone for celebrating with us.

Brian’s Birthday Weekend

Here’s the long story about this weekend for those who are interested. Last year I took Brian to the Dominican Republic for his 40th birthday. This year I wanted to do something special but not that grand. We were initially going to Kansas City, Missouri or somewhere drivable. Jay and Becca mentioned they were going to be visiting Sandals Whitehouse over Brian’s birthday and, if we wanted to tag along, we could get a really good deal now that Brian is moonlighting as a travel agent.

We’d been to Jamaica a few times already but we’d never been to Sandals Whitehouse so we were kind of excited about it. We were to leave on Brian’s birthday, Saturday, and return on Wednesday so I’d only miss three days of work. Since it was kind of a last minute trip, the hotel was already fully booked on one of the days so we just couldn’t make it work. Lucky for us, we held off purchasing airfare until we could secure our rooms so we weren’t out anything (except for some clothes and shoes I’d bought specifically for the trip but I can wear those this summer).

Because the Jamaica trip fell through, we had absolutely nothing going on. Naturally, I was accepting invites left and right. We got invited to a tasting lunch at Gianni Bacci’s, and then the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Beta Kappa Omega chapter’s 80th anniversary gala on Saturday, and then on Sunday we had a birthday dinner for Brian at Bonefish Grill (Thank you, mom!) and the Down to the Wire: 24 Hour Film Race showcase at the Wichita Orpheum Theatre. Had it not been Brian’s birthday weekend, I probably would have said yes to even more stuff. LOL.

SIDENOTE: It’s not very often that I have this much freedom on weekends because I teach Zumba every Saturday and Sunday at Andover YMCA. I just happened to have subs lined up this past weekend because I thought I was going to be in Jamaica.

Here’s our conversation leading up to the weekend…
BRIAN: You hijacked my entire birthday!
CHING: What do you mean? We had nothing planned.
BRIAN: That’s what I wanted to do.
CHING: Nothing? You wanted to do nothing at all? You are such a bump on a log! You need to live and do stuff.
BRIAN: I’m not a log.
CHING: No, you’re a bump.

I’d normally feel bad about taking the whole weekend over but we’d been celebrating his birthday pretty much all month (last weekend we had Abuelo’s and Redrock Canyon Grill) and we’re going to continue celebrating when his parents visit this weekend. On top of that, the weekend turned out fantastic. Even he will admit that he had a blast.

Anyway, we’ve been together for about 16 years now and we are compatible in every way. I think the only thing that really causes a bit of tension (though nothing serious because we don’t really have serious fights anymore, we make such a great team) between us is that Brian wants to do NOTHING and I want to do EVERYTHING. I suppose that’s how we balance each other out. I would probably die of exhaustion if it weren’t for Brian and he probably wouldn’t experience life as much if it weren’t for me.

Headed to Gianni Bacci's for lunch. Things were going swimmingly until it started raining. LOL.

This is a picture of us on our way to the tasting lunch at tasting lunch at Gianni Bacci’s. We had to pull over on the way there to roll the top up because it started raining.

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Brian got to try a couple of different beers with lunch.

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Thanks to our friend Ebony for the gala tickets.

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I don’t know about Brian but hearing Sheinelle Jones‘ keynote at the gala was definitely the highlight for me. She’s so inspirational.

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We got to hang with the Shermans also, which was an added bonus.

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On Sunday we met mom and Jenni at Bonefish for a birthday dinner in Brian’s honor.

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Mussels! Mmmm!

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Can’t go to Bonefish Grill and not have bang bang shrimp.

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Brian had the sirloin and crab cake with double mash side.

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Jenni had the fontina chop with au gratin potatoes.

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I had the imperial tilapia with double jasmine rice. I don’t care what they say about tilapia. I still like it.

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Mom had the bang bang shrimp tacos.

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We all shared a creme brûlée for dessert.

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We ended the evening at the Orpheum for the Down to the Wire: 24 Hour Film Race. What a wonderful weekend!

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P.S. This one is our favorite out of all of the film entries.

Lemon Parade from Eron Rawson on Vimeo.

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.

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