FLy Away to St. Pete

In mid-December, A and I took a long weekend jaunt down to Florida with my family in Massachusetts to see my sister and her family. Not only was it nice to get out of dodge for a few days, it was great to be able to attend their 10th annual Christmas party at their beautiful home. While they live outside of Tampa, A and I stayed in St. Petersburg for a night when we first arrived. I had only been through there briefly and he had never been, so it was fun to scope out a new scene together.
 
For a song, we stayed at the Ponce de Leon, a boutique hotel that was no frills, but very cute and clean with a comfortable bed and a central location. The first night, we ate (outside! bliss!) at Ceviche where we split a bunch of delicious tapas and a pitcher of cava sangria. Despite A having had sangria with me before, he never realized it also had booze added to the wine, so he was surprised when it hit him (which I found hilarious). After dinner, we walked down to the waterfront and all along Beach Drive, a ritzy street filled with a lot of restaurants, bars, shopping and pricy high-rises all decked out for the holidays. Unfortunately, we all know the struggle of capturing lights with a camera, so none of my shots quite did it justice. We ended the night at Try Wine, a wine shop that also offers the ability to pull your own pours from 88 different bottles! You put a credit card on file, they give you what looks like a hotel room key and you choose between three sizes of pours (pricing varies depending on the bottle and the sample size). We had a blast and once we found the wine we liked best, each got a full sized glass and sat down to enjoy it. We were still full from dinner, but they also offered cheese and charcuterie boards plus some other bites if you were so inclined.

 

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The next morning before leaving the hotel, we got brunch at The Mill which opened in 2015 and was named best new restaurant– in the state! Let me tell ya– it was a well deserved distinction! We shared apple fritters with a cinnamon Greek yogurt dipping sauce to start. They were a taste of heaven, but we had to take most of them to go so we could eat our meals. I ordered steak and eggs au poivre. Oh. Wow. Everything from the steak to the zucchini fritters was top notch… and believe me, I finished it all. From brunch, we walked a bit to grab a coffee at Brew D Licious, a spot that also brought us for a stroll down Central Ave, which had a wonderful artsy vibe. I really make a point not to visit chains on vacation (unless they’re unique to the area) and I’m so glad I got to try their smooth (yet strong!) iced coffee.

 

 
We made one last pit stop on our drive back to St. Pete Beach, which was so lovely. The white sand! The clear blue water! We just soaked up some sun and put our feet in the water watching boats go by and fisherman use nets off a pier. A is an avid boater and fisherman himself, so I think his only regret was watching vs doing 🙂

 

 
I’m very glad we took a little time out of a wonderful family weekend to make some memories and see a new city as a couple. I certainly hope to go back!
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Steak Me Out

With our hectic schedules, and family/friend commitments, it can be difficult for A and I to find solo time. With that in mind, we try to experience new things together to make the most of the time we do have! So a couple of months back, I saw a Gilt City for Taste Buds Kitchen’s BYOB cooking classes and immediately jumped on it. While I’m far from a culinary genius, I can cook, but there’s certainly room for improvement. While all of the workshops sounded incredibly yummy, the Steakhouse course took the (beef)cake. What is it that seems so daunting about cooking a steak well? Is that just me?

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Once I received the voucher, I emailed TBK and an actual human(!) nicely responded right away with instructions on registering. You know how sometimes places can be snooty if you have a voucher? Not here! With our uber busy fall, the first Steakhouse workshop we could attend was last week, but they have plenty of different events and workshops happening so I imagine it would have been fairly simple to have gone sooner as well.

Last Thursday night, we finally headed out to North Andover for our class! TBK was easy to find and there was ample street parking out front. When you walk in, the space manages to look both inviting and extremely clean. Andrea, Lisa and Gigi warmly greeted us, told us to wash our hands and to pick a station. We signed a waiver form, put on an apron and nametag and waited for the others to arrive (…I’m always early). There was pita bread and dipping oil to snack on and once everyone was in place, we opened our bottles of wine (why hello, Kim Crawford Pinot Noir); stemless wine glasses and water are provided!

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Next we got down to work, first watching Andrea do each step, then going back to our station and working (in two groups of 5) to mimic what she had demonstrated. I feel like it was informational, but also laidback. No one seemed stressed about it and all the couples were having fun together. And man, what I wouldn’t give to have everyone do all the measuring for me on a nightly basis. I’d definitely be making more meals at home! We put together wedge salads with homemade blue cheese dressing, red bliss mashed potatoes with truffle oil (on the side, used to taste) and pan seared flank steak. The potatoes were boiled for us after we cut them up, but we seared the steaks in groups ourselves. I have grilled and broiled steaks before, but never done them in a pan. It was easy! You just need to know what temp and what indicators to look for in doing so. Next we made a red wine reduction for the steak, something I have never even dreamed of doing. Again, it was just a matter of understanding what to do at what point, but overall fairly simple. The three instructors were always available for guidance, but also weren’t micromanaging our every move, so it was perfect.

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After everything was ready, we all sat down in place to enjoy the meal we had prepared together. Being a social person, I thought it was fun how the class brought everyone together and we all enjoyed the absolutely delicious food as well as each other’s company. We were able to pack up any leftovers and there were pamphlets with the recipes available to take home for reference.

In case this isn’t already clear, I thought it was an amazing experience from start to finish and I’m so glad we did it! Next time, I really want to try their brunch workshop with the girls. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, whether you go as a couple or with your lady friends, it was something different to do that also boosted my cooking confidence. Plus, how could you hate on anything BYOB?! Give it a go!

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p.s., if you have little ones, they do children’s workshops during the day. If you live outside of the greater Boston area, there are TBK locations in a few other states as well.