Always Aubrey: May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Origin in Toronto

For my last night in Toronto for work, one of my coworkers organized a group meal at Origin for ten of us.  It was a great hideout from the day's rain, and the modern interior was surprisingly welcoming.  Our long table was wooden with a topper of resin with embedded knives.  I wish I could explain that better, but it is what it is!  Quirky to be sure.  There were silent movies playing on the TVs above the bar, and finding the washroom in the labyrinthine basement was an adventure.  (Notice I said "washroom" and not "bathroom" like I kept seeing in Canada. LOL)

Since we were such a large group, they asked us to eat from a pre-determined menu to maintain a steady tapas pace.  We chose the Standard Deluxe menu, at a cost of $65 (Canadian) per person.  We definitely had some cocktails, but for the price we ate a TON of food!

OUR MENU

First Course
Bay scallop ceviche + lime + coconut + mango bisque + plantain


Tostones + guacamole


 
 Second Course
Cucumber + zucchini + nori + sweet potato + yuzu dressing
Japanese style tuna salad + nashi pear + avocado + spicy ponzu dressing

 
 Third Course
Bufala mozzarella + pear + rosemary oil + pinenuts + honey

 
Beet + goat cheese + pickled red onion + walnuts + sherry dressing + yoghurt
 
Steamed sugar snaps
 
 Fourth Course
32oz Rib-eye + chimi churri


Spicy Spanish fries + chorizo + manchego


Warm mushroom salad + smoked tofu + truffle miso + crispy wakame
 
 Dessert Course
Meringue + kalamansi curd + citrus + coconut
 
Glazed banana + hazelnut crunch + Bavarian cream + chocolate ice cream


Our servers kept the food coming at a very steady pace.  The portions were large enough that we were able to each have whatever we wanted, with a little left over.  The dishes that stood out to me most as my favorites were the mozzarella and pear (it was like a decadent dessert!), the perfectly cooked ribeye, and the spicy Spanish fries.  I was super stuffed by the end, but I definitely feel like we got our money's worth of gourmet cuisine, and it was a fun and relaxing evening out with friends.

I later go dragged out to various bars and eventually a dance club, but Origin stands out to me as the best food I ate during my trip to Toronto.

Origin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Toronto Snapshots

I spent a week in Toronto recently, and it was definitely a great mix of hard work and play!  Here are some snapshots of my time in Canada.
New PJs and shirt from Joe Fresh!

Had to drink a Molson.

These are a thing in Canada, and they are tasty.

Blue Jays vs. Indians


Tim Hortons Canadian Maple Donut
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Monday, May 26, 2014

$250 LOFT Giftcard Giveaway!

Marissa at The Modern Austen is celebrating her 2-year blogiversary, and I'm joining in the fun by helping to sponsor a HUGE giveaway!  Head over to her blog to enter to win a $250 LOFT giftcard.
The giveaway will run from 5/26 to 5/30 at midnight, only open to continental U.S. residents, with the winner chosen at random.

My Bloglovin and Facebook followers get 5 entries each!
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga

The day after the craft beer festival, Dan and I went to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.  Dan loves aquariums and museums, so it was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy Sunday.
The museum is split into river and ocean, in two separate buildings.  I really like that idea!  We were impressed by the variety of animals and fish in the exhibits.  Dan loved the reptiles and tons of turtles, especially the tortoise.
I was mesmerized by the sea horses and jellyfish.

We both agreed that with the easy navigation and smaller crowds, we preferred it to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.  It was smaller, but the up-close-and-personal habitats meant you could see way more.
It was also a very kid-friendly place.  I highly recommend you check it out while in Chattanooga!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

@Fabletics - Outfit Review v.5

Note:  After five months of Fabletics, I still love it.  I won't be doing a review post every month, but I am very happy with the service and don't see an end in sight yet for it!  You'll see my pieces in my Budgeting Bloggers post.

I had one last credit lingering on Fabletics, so I was able to order the "Cheeky" outfit for just $10 total.  I loved my previous running skirt, so I went for another one.  The outfit also included the first bra I tried from Fabletics.


Overall, this tank top is one of my new favorites!  It doesn't even look like a workout top, the cut is so nice.  The skirt, same as my other one but in another pattern, is a winner too.  They go well together and as separates, which is what I am going for these days in workout clothes.

The bra was not to my liking; I prefer a seamless band like the ones I get from Target.  I sent it back because the fit wasn't quite right for me.  It was a great quality material, but the thick bottom band and padded cups were not my style.
Overall, another great quality outfit from Fabletics!  I seriously recommend it.

Disclaimer:  I subscribe to Fabletics on my own dime, and did not receive anything in exchange for this review.  I earned this outfit for FREE using referrals!  If you're interested in signing up for Fabletics, I would LOVE if you'd use my referral link!  For every two friends of you who purchase, I can earn an outfit.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Chattanooga Craft Beer Festival (& some delicious eats!)

When I heard Dan's brewery might be short-handed at the Chattanooga Craft Beer Festival, I jumped on the chance to spend a quick weekend in the city with him.  The beer festival was packed with people!  I loved seeing him represent his brewery, as well as seeing people line up (sometimes coming back a 2nd or 3rd tiem) to sample his brews.  Proud girlfriend moment!

A jockey box Dan built from a distillery barrel; the crowds at CCBF

There were also a few local food trucks there, and I had a Marciano (basically a pollo enquesado over rice) from Izzy's Tacos.  It was amazing.  I couldn't find a website for them, but it was awesome.  It really hit the spot to fill my tummy before drinking beer.  It was a warmer day though, so I was hitting up the Woodchuck Cider table more often than others.  I always like seeing the Nashville area breweries represented.


After the festival, our little group went to Tremont Tavern, a locally loved bar that is also known for its fantastic burgers.  We talked to some of the bartenders about it; they source their own meat and fat and grind it in-house themselves.  Like 70-80 lbs a day.  And you can tell, because the burgers' meat quality is epic!  I had the Coltrane (One Eye) Burger because I love a fried egg.  We chose the tater tots as a side, because they are also known for that yummy stuff.

Tremont Tavern
Tremont Tavern on Urbanspoon

Before leaving Chattanooga, we also had an amazing Sunday brunch at Local 191.  We found it via Urbanspoon, and it was delicious!  We had two of their crushed ice cocktails, the Summer Crush and Basilberry Sapphire.  I thought the Summer Crush would be more grapefruit-y, but it was a bit more sweet.  The Basilberry Sapphire was more our style.  I am starting to like more gin drinks!


Dan had the Loaded Grilled Cheese as his meal, an epic sandwich with BBQ pulled pork, American cheese, and macaroni & cheese on a grilled sandwich.  He had a side of the Yukon Gold whipped potatoes, which were top notch.  It was delicious.  I had the egg burrito, which I promptly devoured.  Few things make me as happy as a breakfast burrito.  Okay, there are a lot of things that make me that happy, but breakfast burritos remain one of the best things ever!


Local 191 on Urbanspoon

Chattanooga, we will definitely be back for more foodie fun!

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Disney World: Citricos

On our last night at the Grand Floridian, Lindsey and I snagged a reservation at beautiful Citricos.  It is one of a few high-end restaurants at the resort, with a Mediterranean-inspired menu.


Our server, Lonzy, was attentive and kind, and we sipped champagne and noshed on a starter of charcuterie: Prosciutto de Parma, Sopressata, Dry Pork Coppa, Beef Bresaola, Palacios Chorizo, Artisanal Salame, Pecorino Romano, Medjool Dates, Pickles, and Marcona Almonds.  Whew!  That was a literal mouthful.  Charcuterie meats are becoming one of my favorite things these days; I like the filling protein.


For my main dish, I chose the Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs.  YUM!  They were super tender, served on a spicy chorizo risotto with kale, mushrooms, and jus.  I can't say enough about how yummy the meal was.


I would love to come back to Citricos someday.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful trip, and great way to celebrate nearly a decade of friendship with a great friend.

Citricos on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Disney World: Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

I didn't spend a lot of time at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, but I visited AK twice and HS briefly.  At Hollywood Studios, we did the Star Tours ride and the Indiana Jones stunt show, but sunburn and the heat drove us back the hotel.
Animal Kingdom treated us better, with great views of animals (Dan liked the anteater) and my favorite Kilimanjaro Safari.  We also enjoyed some falafel and hummus, and walking through the park. We knew we had reservations at Magic Kingdom for FastPass+ and dinner, so we didn't linger too long, but we liked the scenery.
Later in the week, Lindsey and I headed back to AK.  She actually used to be a cast member driver on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, so we braved a downpour of rain to experience that ride.  It was worth every minute!  Before the ride, Lindsey mentioned that the animals love rain... and she was right.  We saw a half dozen giraffes together, hippos and rhinos squelching in mud, a half dozen giraffes together in a palm grove, and even a lioness on top of the rocks that were too hot the previous weekend.  But my favorite?  Nearly a half dozen elephants, including a baby, playing in the water.  It was amazing!
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Kroger Grand Opening in Franklin #franklinkrogerlaunch

Disclosure:  Kroger selected several local bloggers, including me, to create posts about the Franklin Grand Opening, and provided  me with a $100 Kroger gift card, a gift bag valued at $100 and a complimentary lunch to thank me for my participation and post.

There are a couple more Disney posts to come, but I wanted to talk about a recent event I attended!

When I was invited to attend a grand opening blogger event at the new Kroger just up the street, my curiosity definitely got the best of me.  I've been shopping at a different grocery store due to location, even though I grew up in a Kroger-shopping household in Indiana.  Now, there's a brand-new store practically around the corner from our apartment!


The first thing that struck me about the new store was the size.  It's nearly twice the size of the previous store at that location, with over 75,000 square feet of retail space.  I was immediately impressed by the availability of local and locally sourced items for sale, including Tennessee produce!  They have 20 square feet of organic produce in their fresh section, with some of it sourced in TN.  I also loved the fresh flower shop upon entry, with over 250 varieties of flowers.


I think my favorite part of the store was the prepared foods area.  They have a bistro area where you can get hot meals (hello, new lunchtime hangout!) for under $7, or cold bistro items to take home.  There's even a sushi shop where trained chefs prepare made-to-order sushi.  For real, in a grocery store!  I have seen plenty of places with sushi served up in store, but never made-to-order in person.


A definite highlight of the new store is the Murray's Cheese Shop, part of a sole partnership with Kroger to install these one-of-a-kind boutiques within stores.  I loved how the cheeses were merchandised by type (not country), making it easy to find a good cheese for something like melting.  You'll look like a diva at your next house party when you have the Murray's experts help you set up a cheese board, complete with pairings you can purchase in-store like jams and pickled green beans.


Another store within a store is their Live Naturally section.  It's like having a mini natural foods store in the middle of your regular grocery.  They feature their affordable Simple Truth natural brands throughout the entire store, but in this section you can grind your own fresh peanut or almond butter and choose from over 2,000 natural food items.  I really like not having to go to another store to get these specialty items; one trip is all you'll need here.


Honestly, there's so much to tell you about this store, I could probably do another post about it.  There's a kitchen place where you can buy kitchenware, a fuel center, a drive-thru pharmacy, even a The Little Clinic for convenient neighborhood health care.  The clinic even does sports and camp physicals.


And the best part for a working couple like me and Dan?  It's OPEN 24/7.  For real.  Everything I tasted was delicious, the store fixtures are beautiful, and I can't imagine not being able to find everything on my list in this store.  I can even get a Kroger-brand lactose-free milk.  Egads!  And all milk is guaranteed fresh for 10 days.  While most of the bloggers seemed to be food or mommy bloggers, I would say that from this girl's perspective this Kroger can meet the needs of pretty much anyone, including working singles like us.

It's clear that the people of Franklin are truly excited about it too.  Even on a weekday afternoon, it was jam-packed with folks.  But you won't be waiting in line; special sensors tell the store personnel how many lanes to open every 30 minutes in order to ensure no more than TWO PEOPLE in each line at a time.  Amazing technology, all for your convenience.  Crazy awesome!

Thanks to Kroger for having us over to your new "home", and for stuffing us full of delicious sushi, stuffed mushrooms, truffled mashed potatoes, fancy grilled cheese, fresh bread, and more!  I can't wait to bring Dan along for an epic grocery shopping trip soon.

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Disclosure:  Kroger selected several local bloggers, including me, to create posts about the Franklin Grand Opening, and provided  me with a $100 Kroger gift card, a gift bag valued at $100 and a complimentary lunch to thank me for my participation and post.
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