Baxter’s at the Lake

Greetings from Lake of the Ozarks! It has been a little while since our last post so we thought what a great time to write another one…on our anniversary!

We came down to the Lake to spend a little time getting away while celebrating…wait for it, wait for it…our 1st year of marriage! We made it (sometimes surprisingly so! ;) ). We are so fortunate that we have this little get-away to go to and relax. Anways…on to the main part of the blog.

Last evening we had our anniversary dinner at Baxter’s Lakeside Grille ( http://baxterslakesidegrille.com/ ). This is the second time visiting this establishment; we had been there the first time after rave reviews and recommendations from my sisters and parents. We enjoyed it so much that time that we thought it was the perfect place to celebrate.

We made reservations through the website with Open Table ( http://www.opentable.com ) which is such an easy, simple way to choose a time you wish while also being able put in special requests ( view of the lake, non-smoking, etc.). I had mentioned in that comment section that it was our anniversary and when the host greeted us he wished us Happy Anniversary. How thoughtful! He also upgraded us to a nicer table and low and behold it was the same place we sat the first time we came! How neat was that?! It had a beautiful view of the lake but also was far enough away from the bar to be intimate.

We started out with the Spinach and Artichoke Dip which was piping hot, creamy, and complex while also coming out very quickly. Baxter’s menu is not too big but with so many good choices I had trouble deciding whereas Dan took one look and said “I’m getting the sirloin” and shut his menu. Lucky! One great thing about Baxter’s is they allow you to bring a bottle of your own wine in for a $10 corkage fee as long as it is not one of the wines they sell. We brought a bottle of red wine we bought on our Kentucky trip which we had fallen in love with- Black Barrel Reserve from Wildside Winery. The wine is aged in bourbon barrels from one of the local distilleries.

For our main course Dan got Baxter’s Sirloin steak with Wasabi smashed potatoes and a Caesar salad and I got the Seared Ahi Tuna Salad. Both dishes were savory, cooked to perfection, and satisfying. After finishing our plates, April, our attentive waitress, brought us out a piece of cheesecake on the house as a anniversary surprise, as well as taking our picture for a “surprise gift”. When she brought the bill she also brought us our picture she took in a congratulatory photo memento.

We would highly recommend Baxter’s to anyone traveling down to the Lake. Not only is the food delicious and fresh and the atmosphere inviting, but also a dress code ranging from formal to casual lakeside attire is acceptable. This is a perfect place for an intimate dinner for two or a family who wants to enjoy spending time together while getting a great meal. Enjoy!

Thank you for reading,

Denise

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The Story About “A Pizza Story”

It’s been quite some time since our last blog post, so we thought we’d take a moment to tell you about a new restaurant that opened a few months ago in Maplewood. It’s called “A Pizza Story.” I guess this is a story about A Pizza Story. :)

Denise and I have been very busy lately, so a couple weeks ago we decided to go out and try the new, much-anticipated pizza restaurant: A Pizza Story. It was a Friday night, the weather was beautiful, so the place was packed, both inside and out. We arrived and were shortly greeted by a busboy (who gave us menus), and the owner then came by and took our name for the next available table. The service was off to a good start. The wait was not too long, but it was enough time for us to grab a drink at the bar. Denise ordered the sangria special, and I had a glass of red wine. Both our drinks were refreshing, and the bartender did a great job, especially given the busy night. Soon our table was ready. We were lucky enough to get an outdoor table! I love people watching.

After a few short moments our waiter arrived and took our drink order: another sangria special for D and a beer for me! Our drinks were promptly delivered, so we placed our dinner order (we were starving!). Denise ordered the Fantasy and I ordered the Thriller (yes, these are just a couple of the pizza names). Basically my pizza was a pepperoni pizza, except substitute the pepperoni for Spanish chorizo. Denise’s included mushrooms, red pepper, oregano, and parmigiano reggiano (cheese). Once our order arrived, we were immediately impressed by presentation. You could tell that the pizzas were hand made with fresh ingredients… this is definitely not “fast food” pizza. While smaller than I expected (~12″ diameter) considering the price (~$15 each), both pizzas were very good! The crust was amazing, as it was cooked in a wood fired oven (this is what sets this place apart from other St. Louis pizza restaurants). In all honesty, the crust just might have been my favorite part of the pizza. Check out the link below for menu information. If you like pizza (who doesn’t?), you must try this place! I know we’ll be back.

http://www.apizzastory.com/

Thanks for reading!

Dan and Denise

 

House Tour

We are back and with a great new experience. You know how sometimes you like to just drive around neighborhoods and check out the houses? Usually they are a little out of your price range (ok…or maybe a lot!) or possibly an older neighborhood or even some place that you are NOT suppose to be. ;)

Well we got to do that and more on the 44th Annual Central West End House & Garden Tour. For a small ticket price, Dan and I, along with our cousins, walked and toured five mansions and a garden on historical Portland Place. Designed in 1888, Portland Place is one of the few St. Louis World Fair-era private streets (meaning you cannot be in there unless you live there or are invited!). Each house featured on the tour allowed you to walk in and see much of the inner parts of the house. Wearing hospital style booties, the four of us began our exciting and lavish tour. To describe all the different houses would take a huge blog but I can give some highlights. One of the first houses we went in had a 14 foot stain glass window in the foyer which had a large sitting room off to the left where ladies and gentlemen would wait to be greeted by the host and hostess. Within this house there were 22 rooms and the entire third floor was a formal ballroom (we did not get to see that floor)! Another mansion had a beautiful mural painted on the ceiling that they just uncovered within the last 40 years. Some of the bathrooms we saw I never wanted to leave! There are pictures of all the houses we saw on the tour.

Overall, we had a great time. Seeing these beautiful and spectacular homes was not only amazing, but truly worthwhile. Spending a sunny afternoon walking around such history was rewarding and we love hanging with our cousins. Both Dan and I highly recommend going on this tour next year even though it will be different homes, it will still be incredible.

Thanks for reading,

Denise

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Coffee Crawl Fun

I know I know…we have been bad and not written a blog in a while. Well…we are back and with a great new adventure. Earlier this month Dan and I along with his cousin and his wife participated in the annual Maplewood Coffee Crawl.  For five dollars a ticket, you received a complimentary Coffee Crawl mug, a ticket, and map of the event. Also, with the ticket you got free samples at the participating locations. This year there were 12 businesses involved in the event.

The Coffee Crawl was from 8am-1pm so Dan and I wanted to get started in the beginning after receiving the advice that later on in the day gets pretty crazy. We began our tour at Stone Spiral ( http://www.stonespiralcoffee.com/ ) which Dan and I both have been wanting to go to for a long time. Upon arriving, the roaster from Rileys Coffee Co. (rileys-coffee.com) was doing a demonstration with his special Stone Spiral blend. We loved the coffee and the shop is incredibly neat and eclectic. They have a great patio that looks into a park which makes a very relaxing setting for sipping coffee.

Leaving Stone Spiral, we made our way to Great Harvest Bread Co ( http://greatharvestmaplewood.com/ ) to see our friends at La Cosecha ( http://www.lacosechacoffee.com/ ). Jamie, John, and Greg are both wonderful guys, who truly care about their product and customers. For the crawl, they roasted one of their coffees at different temps and gave samples of each to see which one people liked best. Of course we loved how they normally roast the beans the best since the flavor was very apparent without being bitter. Besides sampling coffee, we obviously had to try some of the breads being sampled at Great Harvest, which were delicious as always. Denise even bought two loaves of Honey Wheat shaped as bunnies for Easter!

Meeting up with our Coffee Crawl cohorts we continued on to Vom Fass ( http://slmo.vomfassusa.com/ )  to sample some of their Kili Caffe which was absolutely delicious. Grown on Mount Kilimanjaro and roasted in Sicily, it had great flavor while still being a dark roast. From Vom Fass we went to Foundation Grounds ( http://www.foundationgrounds.com/Default.aspx ) where they were not only giving out free samples but also gave out free small bags of beans. We spent time outside on their patio enjoying our beverages and catching up.

Kakao Chocolate ( http://kakaochocolate.com/ ) was our next stop where we sampled Stringbean Coffee (http://stringbeancoffee.com/)  and some espresso chocolate. This is one of Dan’s favorite shops in Maplewood and would spend all our money there if he could! ;) After leaving the chocolate heaven we ventured to Dan’s other favorite place, Schlafly Bottleworks, where Dan was certain they would have samples of Coffee Stout. To his surprise, they were actually serving Kaldis coffee, which Denise really appreciated. They had both hot and cold samples, which was a nice change.

Next, we headed down Manchester Road to Cheryl’s Herbs ( http://www.cherylsherbs.com/ ) to sample tea. Never being in this store before, we spent time looking around and petting their adorable Pekingese. Making our way back up Manchester Road we stopped at Mystic Valley (  http://mysticvalleyonline.com/ ), another store we have not been in (which is a shame). What a cute and ecletic business with great coffee to accompany it.

We ended our tour by grabbing a “done” (code for donut) at Strange Donuts ( http://strangedonuts.tumblr.com/ ) while sampling Kuva Coffee ( http://www.kuvacoffee.com/ ), trying outstanding chai at Traveling Tea ( http://www.traveling-tea.com/ ), and rounding out the morning by visiting Art House Coffee, which also had samples of homemade butter spreads.

Overall the day was a blast. We got majorly hyped up with all the good coffee, had great company along the way, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We can’t wait for next year!

Thanks for reading,

Dan and Denise

Barcelona, Spain- Honeymoon Day 2

Beginning where our last blog left off, we have just arrived in Barcelona, Spain and are making our way to our hotel. Our cab driver was a young man, most likely college age, who was outgoing and pointed out many landmarks and features of the city we would have never known otherwise. He wanted to practice his English and in return we got a great history lesson and tour of the city. Arriving at our hotel, Hotel Caledonia ( http://www.hotel-caledonian.com/en ) we paid our informative cabbie and went inside. Being only 9:00 in the morning, we obviously could not check into our room, but the hotel was kind and let us leave our luggage in a locked room in the lobby until we could check in that afternoon. The gentleman at the front desk then gave us a map and pointed out different places we could walk to. Exhausted but excited, we headed out to find a cafe for coffee and some relaxation. As we began walking, trying to follow the guides instructions, we stumbled upon this square with a cute corner cafe with outdoor seating. It was absolutely beautiful that day so we wanted to spend the day in the sun. Even with our limited Spanish, we ordered our drinks and enjoyed people watching and the architecture.

Not wanting to just sit all day, we began walking and happen to stumble upon La Rambla, a famous tree-lined pedestrian mall, famous in Barcelona to tourists and locals alike. Flower shops, souvenir stands, and gelato establishments are just a few of the different businesses that line this pedestrian walkway. In addition to the main road, there were what Denise called “alleys” which branch off of La Rambla which had more boutique shops and restaurants. We loved venturing into each of these which somehow always seemed to round back to La Rambla. We even made it to a famous marketplace which was FILLED with people and fresh produce, meats, cheeses, etc. Denise started to get a little claustrophobic so we left to continue exploring. Shopping is not the only thing that La Rambla is known for. Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s renown opera house, Teatre Principal, the oldest theater in Barcelona, and Palau de la Virreina, a Baroque palace that houses museum exhibits and cultural events all call La Rambla home. Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside and explore but it is definitely a reason to go back! ;)

After eating a delicious lunch, Denise got fried eggs and Dan a burger, we leisurely made our way back to the hotel to check in. One thing Dan’s aunt and uncle insisted was that we do NOT go to sleep until the evening in order to combat jet lag. They lovingly scheduled a city tour for us in the late afternoon to keep us awake. After checking in, we went to our room to get ready for the tour. Let me tell you, after being up over 24 hours and long flights, a shower never felt SO GOOD! Cleaned up and refreshed we made our way to the bus terminal where our tour was headquartered.

Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, and Santa Maria Church were the three sites we would be stopping and exploring along our bus city tour. Our tour guide, Maria, could speak seven different languages in addition to the two more she was currently learning. We were so impressed with how well she switched between English, Spanish, and French, the three languages aboard our bus that afternoon. Winding our way to our first site, Parc Guell, we began learning about the architect Antoni Gaudi, a prominent architect in the early 1900s who was responsible for many different buildings around the city. Pictures will do all these sites justice so we will let them speak for themselves. However a little history on all three.

Parc Guell originally started out as a failed commercial housing venture that in the end only two houses were ever built, neither one designed by Gaudi. Parc Guell was inspired by the English garden city movement which is why it made sense to turn it into a Municipal park. We were lucky to visit it when we did because starting in October they would begin charging admission due to the high level of traffic each year.

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church also designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction on this massive cathedral began in 1882 and to this day it is still not completed. We were told the anticipated completion date is either 2026 or 2028. To go into the history and meaning of the cathedral would be an entire different blog but we hope our pictures inspire you to research on your own.

Santa Maria del Mar was our final stop on this amazing tour of Barcelona. An old Catalan Gothic church which was a major contrast from the Sagrada Familia. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words

Being completely exhausted, we walked back to the hotel, along the way grabbing some food and a little beer we finished this amazing day eating and drinking on our balcony overlooking the Gran Vie. What an wonderful and entertaining city! Next stop…the cruise ship! Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading,

Denise and Dan

Driving to our hotel

Driving to our hotel

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Walking to La Rambla

Walking to La Rambla

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Dan's throat hurt

Dan’s throat hurt

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Relaxing with our coffee

Relaxing with our coffee

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Love this hat!

Love this hat!

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Alleyway!

Alleyway!

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We found a pet store!

We found a pet store!

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Yummy

Yummy

Sheep head! Gross!

Sheep head! Gross!

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Giovanni!

Giovanni!

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Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Gaudi's house

Gaudi’s house

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Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

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Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar

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Night scene from our room

Night scene from our room

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Bacardi Breezers!

Bacardi Breezers!

What’s a Blind Tiger?

It’s about time we write a blog about one of our new favorite places in downtown Maplewood: The Blind Tiger. It’s been open for only a few months and is already creating quite a presence in the local St. Louis editorial scene (see below for links). Good food and good drinks, with an emphasis on top shelf whiskey, sounds likes a recipe for success!

A quick Google search for “Blind Tiger” will tell you the technical definition is an “illegal bar” or “speak easy”. While The Blind Tiger is neither of these, its owners have done a good job of transforming the former Jive and Wail (and later Jumping Jupiter) space to incorporate a speak easy theme without coming off as “douchey”. The lights are dim with a combination of small low level over head fixtures and a vast array of candles and oil lamps. The space is spacious with a sizable seating area as well as a full stage for shows/events (remember this space used to be a piano bar). The bar is sophisticated, with a wide assortment of whiskeys, craft beer, and wine. No vodka or gin though as this is a whiskey bar.

Since it opened, I’ve been fortunate to visit twice: one time with friends for a casual night out and the other with friends and co-workers for a birthday get-together. While the whiskey selection is vast, the other highlight to this establishment is the menu. The Blind Tiger advertises itself as “pizza, ribs, and whiskey.” I have yet to try the ribs, but if they’re even half as good as the pizza, I’ll be satisfied. Four different pizzas are available on either New York- or STL- style crust. Denise and I have tried two of the four, the cheese and “hog mess,” a mixture of vegetables and numerous meat toppings, and both were outstanding. I wish I could speak for other menu items, but the pizza is so good that I’m afraid to switch things up!

Now on to the whiskey. If I had to guess, the bar is home to at least 30 or 40 top shelf whiskey varieties. If I remember correctly Maker’s Mark is the “cheapest” whiskey on the menu… the selection is that good. Drinks can be ordered to your liking, and the bar manager has recently rolled out a few high end cocktails. However, if whiskey isn’t your thing there is always beer and red and white wine available. While one may wish for spirits, this is a whiskey bar, so no clear options. You may be surprised what a good Kentucky bourbon or blended scotch can offer!

The Blind Tiger gets an A in my book. Not because it filled the prime spot on Manchester and Sutton in Maplewood, but because they really have a winning combination: Delicious food, inviting environment, and sophisticated bar. Stop in sometime and try it out! I know Denise and I will be back again soon.

Links to third party reviews:

http://www.alivemag.com/blog/index.php/2014/02/destination-the-blind-tiger-at-sutton-place/

http://www.feaststl.com/dine-out/where-we-are-dining/article_755360a2-886c-11e3-a3a2-001a4bcf6878.html

Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/blindtigersuttonplace

Thanks for reading!

Dan

Leaving for Spain- Honeymoon Trip Day 1

Since we had an absolutely amazing honeymoon trip, we decided to take you through our first journey as a married couple. Denise had us write in a travel journal everyday so that we would remember the nuances and funny tidbits for years to come. So let’s begin!

We were so graciously and lovingly given a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon that included departing from Barcelona, Spain and stopping at ports in France and Italy before returning back to Barcelona to fly home. There are not enough thank yous in the world to get across how much we appreciated this amazing trip and opportunity.

We could not begin to tell about our trek across the Atlantic without including the somewhat funny (and scary) start to this wonderful vacation. Denise remembered that Dan had a big project going out at the exact same time we were leaving for our trip, so he worked tons of overtime to get it done. For instance, he worked a 17 hour day and didn’t come home until 1:30 am the day we were leaving. Being a kind wife, Denise decided to make him breakfast in bed before leaving for the airport. Fresh ground coffee, eggs, toast, and OJ were on the menu as she brought the meal on a tray to his bed. Chatting for a bit while he woke up and ate, Denise left to start cleaning up when she smelled like something was burning. She went downstairs and the STOVE WAS ON FIRE! AHHHH!!!! Denise had accidentally left one gas burner on and set the coffee press on it, causing it to catch on fire. While Dan struggled to get the fire extinguisher to work, Denise turned off the stove and then just threw water on it (Do NOT do this at home). Luckily there was no grease on the stove so the fire went out easily, but boy was it hard to clean up!

After almost burning the house down, we finished last minute packing, checking and re-checking, and giving our puppies many kisses. Dan’s mom was so nice by taking us to the airport and taking our picture outside the terminal, so we could start our journey right. We had a delicious lunch at Chili’s (killer margarita for the win!) and then had another drink at Schlafly before we boarded Air Wisconsin (U.S. Airways) bound for Philadelphia. From Philly we then would have approximately an eight hour flight to Barcelona where it would be 8:00 AM the next day.

We were given several pieces of advice to aid us in our travels overseas. Number one was that when we arrived in Barcelona we could NOT go to bed. In order to counteract jet lag we needed to stay up (thus we were scheduled for a city tour later in the afternoon!). Number two was that in order to get some sleep on the plane we should order a glass of wine and take a Tylenol PM. The first piece of advice we definitely followed, but as for sleeping on the plane…that did NOT happen.

Needless to say we made it to Barcelona safe and sound at around 8:00 AM, right on time with our schedule. We grabbed our luggage, hailed a taxi, and began making our way to our hotel. In order to leave some suspense, we will leave off here until next blog where we will tell the tale of our time in Barcelona.

Thank you for reading and see you soon.

Dan and Denise

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