Monthly Archives: March 2014

Twigs & Rocks

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We had a girls’ dinner night out in Rochester a few weekends ago. Our friend Stacy gave us many choices of restaurants to try. Surprisingly, we did pretty well getting it narrowed down to one restaurant in particular:

Twigs

Twigs Tavern & Grille intrigued us with its Hot Rock Grilling concept. It’s something I hadn’t heard of before. The owners of the restaurant brought back the idea after cooking on a hot rock at a restaurant in Spain.

I wanted to try this myself!

What’s more is that it is quite a healthy preparation. We’ve heard Hot Rock Grilling described as “fondue without the oil.” Basically, you cook your meat atop a 650-degree rock right at your table. I knew this is something I’d never be able to do with my husband. Rob thinks it silly to go to a restaurant and pay to cook your own food. 😉

So this was my chance…

Apparently, they like dogs here, because there are photos of them on the wall as well as one as part of the logo, holding a twig in his mouth.

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We started with a bottle of Rosenblum Zinfandel. Just as I experienced the last time I dined in Rochester, some things are just cheaper than in the Twin Cities. Our bottle of red was just $23 for a perfectly decent wine!

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And then there is the Hot Rock menu…

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As you can see, there are three steps to placing your Hot Rock order:

  • Choose your meat – Stacy, Kim and I chose the Combo Platter for Two and the Shrimp to split amongst us so that we could try many different sources of protein. We were in a shrimp-sort-of-mood that night, so that’s where the extra shrimp came into play.
  • Choose your sauces – Since it was the three of us ordering, our server just brought us one of each sauce to try them all.
  • Choose your side – Ours consisted of veggies, cilantro white rice and sweet potato fries. We each ate one of them. It was just too difficult to share/split them with our small plates. Or maybe just too confusing that we didn’t think of it?

First, we received our rock, which looked like more of a slab of marble than an actual rock to me:

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Then our raw meat arrived:

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Combo Platter – 3 oz of each: Filet Mignon, Tavern Cut Steak, Babcock Pork, Scallops and Shrimp

We received our additional six ounces of shrimp, too. Then, we just put our meat atop the rock!

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Interesting tidbit: You are not supposed to season the meat before grilling or the seasoning will burn. The sauces are meant to be the flavor boosters.

You flip your meat and cook to your desired doneness. Although I love, Love, LOVE scallops, I couldn’t get mine to cook evenly. My favorite ended up being the steak. The shrimp were excellent, too. And I adored the horseradish sauces.

But overall, it didn’t feel like enough food to me. We did each have about 7 ounces of meat and I had my side of cilantro rice and a pre-dinner roll. That seems like it should have been more than enough. But I was not satisfied. I’m not sure if that was the nature of the meal or if I just hadn’t really eaten much that day before venturing on our little road trip down to Rochester.

The one thing I knew, I was ready to get back to the house with the girls and indulge later in a little cider, wine and the cupcakes I had brought!

Stacy said that if we ever come back to Twigs, we need to try their regular menu. She’s had a few full-flavored items, like the Peri Peri Shrimp. The rest of the menu does intrigue me! There are a lot of unique dishes like the Babcock Pork Quinoa Chili and the Shrimp Nachos with Caribbean Jerk Sauce. Okay, now just thinking about this, I’ve got the urge to go back…

Tip: Twigs also offers an extensive gluten-free menu for those who are sensitive.

Have you ever done any Hot Rock Grilling when dining out?

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Bottle Room

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

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We found The Bottle Room completely by accident, as we were driving back to my parents house while there for a weekend in 2012. Rob spotted it and I took the roundabout all the way around to go back to it!

A wine bar?

In Green Bay?

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When I moved to the Twin Cities from Green Bay in 2002, there wasn’t even a coffee shop near my parents’ place. Not even a Starbucks in the entire city.

Now I can’t even think of a decent wine “South of the River” in the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs where we live. Not only was this wine bar in Green Bay, but it was just minutes away from where my parents lived.

While I was growing up, there wasn’t really anything nearby because we lived more on the outskirts of Green Bay near the villages of Howard and Suamico. Ordering pizza in was unheard of. But now, Lineville Road is lined with restaurants, grocery stores, multiple gas stations, an auto parts store, a Shopko, a bowling alley and now…

A WINE BAR?

We walked in that evening to find a much larger than expected space filled with people, live music and great ambiance. We were highly impressed and felt instantly at ease…

We’ve been back to The Bottle Room every visit to Green Bay since then.

They have a lot to offer… For instance, their Wine Flights:

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When I told my fellow Wineaux friend Jenny about this place, she knew she wanted to stop there when she came to town for a Packer Game. These next several photos are courtesy of her. {Thanks, Jenny!}

That night, most of the gang went with the wine flights.

Wine Flight Delivery...

Wine Flight Delivery…

My dad with his whites and Rob with his reds:

Jenny ordered a mixed flight of sorts that was available at the time:

That night, I wasn’t feeling the flights, so I went with a cocktail:

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Can you guess which cocktail I enjoyed?

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I like, too, that they offer liquor flights. What a better way to learn what you like than spend a ton of money on a bottle of liquor at a store.

And there is more to their menu than the usual run-of the mill wines. They do have some interesting lesser-known options.

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But I do wonder how the business thrives here. The prices seem more on par with the Twin Cities, not those of Green Bay. I couldn’t imagine that a lot of people would pay these prices in this area. But the place was packed that first night we were there and when we went back with Jenny!

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One of my favorite things to order here, though, is a flight of ports. It comes with a chocolate truffle!

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Those truffles are sooooo good, that I’ve been known to just order a glass of port and a few truffles a la carte… 😉

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But wait… There’s more….

They have a few ever-changing craft beer selections on tap, too:

You can even take home the draft beer in a refillable growler! There’s also an extensive list of beers by the bottle:

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With over 75 wines and all of those beers, you’d think that’d be enough to be called The Bottle Room. But it is also a retail space. You can buy any of the wines that you liked to take home with you.

The selections line the wall:

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There is food, too. They describe it as tapas-style. I wouldn’t go that far. It’s more a selection of small plates, mini pizzas and sandwiches.

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Rob adored the Truffle Pizza on our first visit so much that he was disappointed that he tried the Old World Pepperoni the next time. Besides $14 – $15 is a lot for such a small pizza. I mean, even we wouldn’t pay that in the Twin Cities.

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One day, as I was thumbing through an issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, I saw The Bottle Room listed with an Award of Excellence! If I remember correctly, it was noted as a new wine bar and a new winner of that award. I wasn’t surprised.

I dream of having a place like this “South of the River!”

I only have one gripe about The Bottle Room. We visited one afternoon with my mom and were the only people there. My mom ordered a cup of coffee. When she finished her cup, she had to ask for a refill. When we got our bill, they charged her for two coffees for a total of $6. That just seems kind of ridiculous to me. They had to brew the pot regardless if she had one cup or two. It wasn’t like it was an espresso or specialty coffee.

Still, we’ll continue to return because we love the selection and ambiance and don’t know how long The Bottle Room will thrive in this market. We sure hope it does. It’s a little slice of heaven in Green Bay, if you ask me…

Do you have a favorite wine bar near you?

What’s the best wine bar you’ve ever experienced?

Cheers~
Carrie

Taco Tuesday

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Taco Tuesday!

It’s everywhere. From school lunch rooms, to bars, to full-blown scratch and farm-to-table restaurants. Who doesn’t love a good taco? So when we were in downtown Minneapolis on a Wednesday night on our way to a show, we were surprised when we saw a sidewalk sign beckoning us to try their 75-cent Wednesday night tacos. What’s more? They were also advertising Johnny Jump-Ups. We never see advertisements for those! When cider and whiskey are available, Rob will just try to order one, hoping that the bartenders knows what they are. Or a simple, “It’s just a pint of cider with a shot of whiskey added,” works, too. I don’t tend to drink them because that whiskey is so overpowering, but Rob and my friend Jen love them!

We made a mental note to stop at

Maruso Street Food Bar

after the show.

The thing is, this is right in the heart of the Theater District in downtown Minneapolis. How did we not hear of this place before? How did we not notice it before? Crazy.

We did make that stop there after our rockin’ Pentatonix show. And for 75-cent tacos, they were pretty damn good! I’ve had the both the 50-cent Happy Hour Tacos at Sweeney’s (St. Paul) and the Taco Tuesday $4.75 basket of 4 tacos at Carbone’s (Burnsville). Although enjoyable, I find the tacos at both to be a tad greasy. I also preferred the fresh onion and tomatoes on Maruso’s tacos! {There may have been some cilantro in there, too.}

There was also a DJ spinning some pumpin’ grooves that was not only perfect after the concert, but also brought Rob back to his DJ days. He was feelin’ the vibes. 😉

It seemed that most of the clientele at Maruso’s knew each other. Here we are in the biggest city in the state and this bar seemed to attract a crowd of 20 and 30-somethings who know each other, or have come to know each other, well. Maybe we didn’t exactly fit in, but we still liked it.

Here are some reasons we’d come back:

It’s Tuesday. Now, go eat some tacos!

Where’s your favorite place for cheap tacos?

What is your favorite kind of specialty taco?

Cheers~
Carrie

Running Again!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Did you see my {Shamrock} Saturday post revealing his breeds from the DNA kit we used? If not, check it out. He’s a-dog-able.

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I have great news. My broken toe is pretty much healed! I walked on the treadmill this weekend a bit and decided I’m going to give the Couch to 5k another go. I’ll start slowly. I’m not going to worry about speed at all… I’ll go slow if I have to and back off if I have toe or back trouble. But I’m just going to do it!

I ran my first 5k about two years ago. Then last year, while recovering from back surgery, I participated in the same 5k. Only, I had to walk it. It was then that I decided that I’m going to be a part of the Challenge Obesity 5k every year as a re-commitment to health each spring.

The great news is…

The Challenge Obesity 5k normally takes place in April. However, it’s been scheduled about a month later this year – on May 17th. This gives me just enough time to complete the Couch to 5k program. And if for some reason I need to slow down and scale back… Well, then I can always walk it!

I want to incorporate some yoga to continue to build my core and some strength training, too. And I’m looking for recommendations. I did find this 5k training program, which includes links to stretches and yoga workouts, those of which I’m going to try to add to the Couch to 5k program. What do you think?

Do you have specific yoga moves you’d suggest? Also, does anyone have an easy, beginner strength training program that you’d recommend? How ’bout links to your favorite stretches or yoga poses post-workout?

Now it’s time for…

planning

Food

Dinners:

  • MondayOne Pot Ravioli Lasagna from Tiffany at Cute Dogs and Hugs. She had me at San Marzanos. This makes eight servings, so we’ll have plenty of leftovers for lunches and such this week!
  • Tuesday English Muffin Pizzas <– We finally had these this weekend! The recipe makes eight English muffin halves. I made the sauce for all eight, but only put four in the oven. We’ll have the other four (two halves for each of us) this week. They are so good!
  • WednesdayGarlic & Herb Pork Chops with Parmesan Asparagus
  • Thursday – Dinner at a friend’s place.
  • Friday – We are going to see the Sing-Off Live. I’m proposing dinner out beforehand at the Loon Cafe. I haven’t been there in years and even then it was only for drinks. They’ve won awards for Best Burger and Best Chili. We’ll be the judge of that. 😉
  • Saturday – TBD
  • Sunday – It’s my turn to choose for our girls’ dinner night out. Only… I chose breakfast at Victor’s 1959 Cafe. I’ve been there for dinner with my mom, but the breakfast menu looks even better! Can’t wait for more Cuban coffee! Oh wait. That’s breakfast. Dinner with Rob TBD.

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness:

  • Monday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Day 1
  • Tuesday – Cross train/Yoga
  • Wednesday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Day 2
  • Thursday – Cross train/Yoga
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – RUN: Couch to 5k – Day 3
  • Sunday – REST

This week, I’m looking for some of your strength training and yoga links for runners!

Please share!

Cheers~
Carrie

Shamrock’s Breed(s) Reveal!

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It’s time!

It’s the Breed Reveal of our very own Shamrock Bugaboo!

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We’ve already revealed Shamrock’s breeds at a couple of parties in the past four or five months, so this may not be news to some of you… But I’m also reviewing the product we used to determine his breeds.

We found Shamrock completely by accident almost a year ago. Rob was emailing me pictures of pooches to cheer me up. He sent me a link to photos of adoptable Shih Tzu Mixes, in hopes that some Sophie Jean look-alikes would make me smile. But up popped this picture instead:

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Cocker Spaniel/ Shih Tzu Mix

What? A Cocker Spaniel-Shih Tzu? That’s a Sophie-Benny blend! To read more about how we scooped up Shamrock and made him ourts, click here.

We definitely saw the Cocker Spaniel in him because he looked very much our beloved Benny Bear, who was also a Cocker Spaniel mix. But I did not see the Shih Tzu at all. I am fully convinced that Sham was meant to come to us by mistakenly being put in the Shih Tzu category.

But what else could he be? The breed we kept circling back to was Corgi because of his long body and short legs, which Rob dubbed, “tomato soup can legs.”

The vet wouldn’t really give us his opinion either. “We’ll never really know…” he said. Come on! Play along! Maybe he didn’t want to be quoted.

Then Rob’s friend Rob told us about a DNA kit he had used to determine his dog’s breeds. {Rob works with about five other Robs. No kidding.}

It’s called Wisdom Panel and it runs around $80. That seemed like a little steep just to satisfy our curiosity; so we waited to see if a deal would be offered. Sometimes you can find them on Coupaw. But our friend Rob tipped us off to a certificate for half-off on Woot.com. When all was said and done, we paid $55 including shipping both ways. What do I mean by that?

It was so easy!

Once the kit arrived, I just swabbed the inside of Shamrock’s mouth with the enclosed swabs. Then, I let them dry and sealed them in the enclosed packaging. I put them in the prepaid mailing box and dropped them in the mail. Then we waited.

You send them no other information about your dog. Not the age, nor the weight, nor any photos. Nothing. Pure science at work here.

I didn’t think I got anything on the swabs because I couldn’t see anything. Not even saliva. That made me nervous that we just wasted $55. But apparently I did collect something. Because a few weeks later, I got an email like this:

Shamrock-email

I guess I wasn’t aware how in-depth this was going to be. There are videos on how traits are inherited and lots and lots and lots of information!

Shamrock - traits

Included in the email was an attachment:

An 11-page document of Shamrock’s DNA results!

The first page read:

Shamrock-results
Is that what you would have guessed?

We gave prizes for correct guesses at my final Open House Wine Tasting and a Poker Night around the holidays. No one was spot on, but I was really surprised that two people got two out of three breeds correct with with one guessing Cocker and Pekingese and the other guessing Cocker and Bichon.

And of course, Shamrock is clearly more Cocker Spaniel than anything else. Take a look at this break down:

Shamrock-chart

Also included is full-page information on each of the main breeds to determine if we can pick up out any physical or behavioral traits in Sham.

Cocker Spaniel

We noticed the hunter in Sham right away. Not only does he go crazy over squirrels like most dogs; but he also goes batty whenever he sees any sort of bird! Sophie couldn’t care less about birds. And of course, Shamrock is very playful. He wants to play with every dog he meets!

Bichone Frise

The Bichon was hard for us to see; but it may account for his long body. Although the main photo above doesn’t show a long bodied Bichon. But Shamrock has a long body, long tail and a low-pitched bark kind of like our friend Jen’s Bichon, Finnegan.

Pekingese

Shamrock has the softest coat. We thought it was just his puppy coat and he would lose it. He’s almost 17-months old now and still hasn’t lost it! It’s soft, but gets matted very easily. Like every day. I’ve read that a Pekingese coat is hard to keep neat. I try to brush him every day, but we can’t get it all done in one sitting. We often cut out little matted chunks that would just hurt to brush out. Because of that, we call him our Patchwork Dog. Although, Sham has attained a lot of nicknames by now: Bugaboo, Rubber Dog, Mr. Nibbles, Shamalamadingdog, Shampoo, Shamu, The Sham, The Rock…

But there were some detections of other breeds in him, further back in his ancestry, of course:

Shamrock-other breeds

At first I thought Shamrock had Cocker Spaniel ears because of how much they looked like Benny’s ears:

But then, when we first received these results, I thought maybe he had Pekingese ears. But when Sham is standing, his ears appear to be so much longer!. Perhaps he inherited them from a Saluki?

S&S

So why would you want to know the breeds of your mixed breed dog?

All breeds have different health and behavioral tendencies. Sometimes it’s good to know what’s in store for your dog. Or, if you are having issues with him or her, you can learn what approaches might be best to take to correct such issues. Or, like us, it might just be pure curiosity. People are asking all the time. It’s a great topic of conversation!

We know that we will probably always end up with a mixed breed dog. We love to adopt, so breed generally doesn’t matter to us. We just need to find the right dog at the right time. When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be… It doesn’t matter if he was really part Shih Tzu or if that’s just the way we found him. 😉

Shamrock makes us laugh every day. And Sophie now has a playmate! She and Benny never played. But she and Sham were practically best buds from the very beginning.

We are so lucky to have found our Shamrock.

May the luck of the Irish be with you, too.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

Sláinte,
Carrie

Five Links for Friday

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I’ve been collecting a few links that I’ve wanted to share. There’s no theme here. Or the theme may be that these posts don’t relate to each other. I enjoyed them, so I thought you might, too.

1)  Perspective: When your Body Feels Like a Burden…

2) I am already a pretty light packer, but I could travel more fashionably. I love these combos: Packing Math.

3) Lost in translation? I’ve, too, felt like the French overuse our “F” word. It’s strength and vulgarity are misunderstood. Some examples: La Bombe d’F.

4) Can you live on $35 for groceries each week? That’s what food stamps will get you. Take the $35/Week Challange.

5) How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Bitter Drinks – A step-by-step guide on how to enjoy bitter cocktails. Seriously. I. Had. No. Idea.

Please share one article or blog post that intrigued you this week!

Cheers~
Carrie

Vivo

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Yes, our once-per-month girls’ dinners out are the best because we rotate who chooses the restaurant. It’s almost always something new to us. In January, Kim chose the Mill Valley Kitchen. In February, Jen suggested Vivo in Apple Valley, which now occupies the old Enjoy! digs.

What does Vivo mean?

From their website:

In a home, the kitchen is the spot where families gather, parties migrate, and food draws friends around. That’s also the spirit of Vivo kitchen: we are a place to come as you are. We use local, seasonal ingredients to prepare food that’s delicious without being mysterious.* Vivo translates as “life” — and that is what we want every guest to experience to the fullest. We look you in the eyes, care for you personally, and make you feel as welcome as if you are in our home. Because, for us, a kitchen is the heart of a home — and great hospitality is the heartbeat.

The space was only updated a bit. Gone was the Tuscan feel of the restaurant. In were shapes and flowers. It’s a little strange; but I always love the concept of fresh, seasonal and local ingredients.

Jen tried to make a reservation, but there weren’t any available. We decided to meet at 5:30 on Saturday night, intending to wait at the bar if need be.

But there was an hour and a half wait!

Boy, was this place popular. And I don’t think it had even been open for a full month! The bar was completely full, too. The only thing we could find was a table top with an awkward pole in the middle of it, which made it hard for the three of us to even talk face-to-face. We barely ordered our drinks when we saw three seats at the bar open up and snagged them as quickly as we could.

It was Happy Hour (every day from 3p – 6p), so a cocktail was in order!

4 or A nge b L ossom sparkling wine, orange bitters, st germain elderflower liqueur

Orange Blossom – sparkling wine, orange bitters, st germain elderflower liqueur

I never go wrong with a St. Germain – bubbly cocktail! We also ordered an appetizer from the Happy Hour menu to start. It was highly recommended by our bartender.

Ahi tun A crisps spicy mayo, avocado, sweet soy, sesame

Ahi Tuna Crisps – spicy mayo, avocado, sweet soy, sesame

He was right. They were soooo good! But don’t be thrown off by the “mayo” in this dish. You’d be surprised how many dishes these days have mayo “sauces.” Here, they just didn’t use the fancy buzz word: aioli. And people, don’t be fooled. Ail is the French word for garlic. Aioli is just garlic mayo. Get it? Got it? Good. The mystery is forever solved.

Jen started with a the side salad version of my dinner (see below) and then chose this flat bread:

Wild Mushroom mozzarella, gruyere, brie, truf e oil 11 Flatbread

Wild Mushroom Flat Bread – mozzarella, gruyere, brie, truffle oil

I tried a piece and loved that the flavors were so subtle!

Kim’s dish:

Pesto Crusted Seabass white & wasabi mashed potatoes, crispy fried onions, thai chili beurre blanc 28 Ciao Baby organic greens, pine nuts, local goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette 6 / 10

Pesto Crusted Seabass – white & wasabi mashed potatoes, crispy fried onions, thai chili beurre blanc

The mashed potatoes aren’t pictured in the photo because Kim substituted a Ciao Baby Side Salad with organic greens, pine nuts, local goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. The seabass was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Kim loved it!

I was in the mood for a salad:

Rocket apples, arugula, spinach, lavender vinaigrette, spiced pecans, local blue cheese 7.5 / 13 + grilled chicken breast 4

Rocket Salad – apples, arugula, spinach, lavender vinaigrette, spiced pecans, local blue cheese {I added grilled chicken breast}

This salad had everything I loved, but they may have sold me on the lavender vinaigrette. But it was a bit overdressed. The chicken was the perfect addition to the salad.

Believe it or not, we didn’t have room for dessert.

I’m looking forward to going back again because there are so many interesting things on the menu I’d like to try… Not only the dishes, but I’ve been wanting to learn about Bourbon. And they have a Bourbon Flight. I think that’s a great place to start.

When a new restaurant opens up are you the first to give it a try or do you like to wait until they have their “kinks” worked out?

Cheers~
Carrie