Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I finally made a meatloaf that I like!

One thing that I have never liked, that everyone else seems to love, is meatloaf.  Since Jonathan likes meatloaf, I have been saying for a while now that I will try different recipes until I find one that I like.  Today, I was flipping through the newest issue of Food Network magazine and the Mix & Match feature was Mix & Match Meatloaf!  So I felt like today was a great day to try the first new recipe.  I started to design my meatloaf, but it was starting to sound like the flavor profile of all the other meatloaves I have had and disliked.  My goal with this was to make a meatloaf so different from all the others I have had that I would have no bias.  Mission accomplished! 

Here is the recipe:

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
2/3 C. plain breadcrumbs
1 C. shredded carrots
2 stalks celery
1/4 C. pickled jalapenos
1/2 medium onion
1/4 C. ketchup
1/2 T. basil
1/2 T. chives
1/4 T. oregano
2 eggs
1/2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Chop carrots, celery, jalapenos, and onion in a food processor.  Mix all ingredients with hands until just combined.  Form into an oval loaf and place in baking dish.  Bake about halfway, 30 minutes. 

Then there is the glaze, make this while it's in the oven.

Spicy Barbecue Recipe:

1/4 C. barbeque sauce
2 t. honey
1 t. chipotle chile powder
1 t. cider vinegar

Brush the top and sides of the meatloaf and continue baking, about 25 more minutes.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing. 

I actually did let it rest, I recommend it.  (Mostly, I let it rest because Chef Kevin Gillespie explained the importance of resting meat this Friday.)  If you don't like spicy things, don't make this, you probably won't like it.  I did think it was funny that the only things I had to stop at the store for were the meat, carrots, and breadcrumbs...which means I had chipotle chile powder in the pantry.  Yep, that's how I roll. 

It was delicious.  Jonathan had seconds, I would have had seconds except I knew I didn't need them.  It took a lot a self-control though.  That was my whole excitement for the evening.  Nothing very exciting in the food department, I suppose.  But the day as a whole just nuts.  Completely pistachios.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Austin Weekend

Chef Kevin Gillespie, prepping for class.
This weekend, Jonathan and I went to Austin.  We left on Friday morning and got there late afternoon.  We went to a cooking class at Central Market and got to meet Top Chef Kevin Gillespie.  We wandered around Central Market for a while before the class started and snacked on some Tarragon Chicken Salad.  Neither of us knew if we liked tarragon, I'm pretty sure we have both tasted it before, but without knowing it.  We liked it though, so that was good.  Then we waited outside the kitchen for the class to start and I kinda creeped and took a few pictures of Kevin while he was prepping for class.  We also met the other guy that was waiting early and struck up conversation, which worked out well because we all sat together in the front row then.  His name was Joe. 

Chef Kevin Gillespie looking out over the crowd. 
He was very focused before the class started,
but as soon as it was time to start,
was very personable, interesting, and entertaining.
When we finally got to go into the kitchen area, Jonathan, Joe and I scored front row seats in front of the main cutting board, not the stove.  We watched as they continued to prepare stuff for the class and I took some more pictures.  Not very sneakily, but no one seemed to mind.  I also decided that the cooks that work for Central Market in the cooking school have some of the most awesome jobs ever because they get to meet all these incredible chefs and work alongside them and get delicious food.  This might be my new aspiration in life.  If I ever live near a cooking school that is.

Buttermilk-marinated Fennel with
Satsumas and Jalapenos
For the first course, we had Buttermilk-marinated Fennel with Satsumas and Jalapenos.  Of two things on the menu that I was unsure of, fennel was one of them.  However, I told myself that I was going to try everything since tastes change.  Sadly, fresh fennel is still on my list of things that I just don't like.  I tried, I swear I did, it is just too licorice-y for me.  Same with anise, I keep trying it and everytime it just makes my stomach turn.  I did eat everything else on this dish though.  The fried croutons were incredible, no surprise there because when is it ever bad if something is fried or bread?  Satsumas, as it turns out, are mandarin oranges, who knew?  I don't mind the herby part of fennel either, just not a fan of the root part.  There were also green onions involved, which I love, so I got on board with everything else.

Sage-battered Mushrooms with Cheddar Fonduta
The second course may have changed my life.  And Jonathan's.  Until recently, I did not like mushrooms.  According to Fire In My Belly: Real Cooking, neither did Chef Kevin!  However, it is one of the foods that I have continued to try over the years in an attempt to change my mind because so many delicious things have mushrooms in them.  If anyone else is not a mushroom fan, I dare you to try this recipe from his book because you will be an immediate convert.  If you don't feel up to making it, come on over and I will happily share them with you, not that I will need any more excuses to make these.  And now for what I have been talking about: Sage-battered Mushrooms with Cheddar Fonduta.  These little babies were incredible from start to finish.  When he started describing them, he mentioned candied garlic syrup and I was immediately interested.  Especially once we started to smell it.  Then there's the cheese dip.  It's called cheddar fonduta, but he said, "That's really just a fancy name for cheese dip, but if you go to a fancy restaurant, no one is going to pay for fried mushrooms with cheese dip, but if you put fonduta on the menu, it's 'Oh, fonduta!'"  Whatever you want to call it, it was delicious.  Finally, though, there are the mushrooms, they are lightly breaded, delicate, delicious, and just all together fantastic.  If I had not been in public, I would have licked my plate.  I debated doing it anyway.  Joe and I actually had a conversation about whether or not we could drape our napkins over our heads and get away with it.

Butter-basted Scallops with Cauliflower
We were sad to see the plates go, especially with little bits of fonduta and garlic syrup clinging to them, but it was time for the third course and the second food that I was unsure of on the menu.  I had never had scallops before and wasn't sure that I would like them, but I was determined to try them.  The official name of the dish was Butter-basted Scallops with Cauliflower.  I forgot to take a picture of mine before I started eating it, so I took a picture of the sample plate, sorry, I was excited.  This is what I learned about scallops: they aren't bad!  I don't know that I would order them off a menu, but if they were served to me (and done correctly) I wouldn't have to feign an allergy.  We learned about grapeseed oil during the preparation of this course and bought some after the class.  For me, the best part of this course was the roasted cauliflower, which is under the scallop.  It was delicious and I plan on making it at home.  We also learned about Espelette pepper during this course and bought some of that on Saturday so that we can make the roasted cauliflower at home.  The cauliflower puree was also super tasty and was so creamy it was almost like having super smooth mashed potatoes on the plate.  I ate all of the cauliflower parts and ate the majority of my scallop.  For some unknown reason, while I was eating the scallop and enjoying it, Jonathan thought it was a good time to tell me that it is best not to fully chew the scallop because they can sometimes have sand in them.  Guess what I didn't need to know?  That ruined it a little bit for me, but at least I know that I'm not completely disgusted by scallops now!

Pan-roasted Pork Chops with Apples and
Redeye Gravy.  I forgot the picture until
after I started eating again...sue me.
The entree was next and was part of the reason I was able to convince Jonathan to go with me.  Pan-roasted Pork Chops with Apples and Redeye Gravy.  Oh. Boy.  First off, I love pork, it may be my favorite protein.  Second, doesn't that sound awesome?!  And it was.  We learned a lot about cooking meat, particularly about how long to let things rest.  I wasn't sure that I would like the redeye gravy since I am not a coffee fan, but it didn't taste like coffee at all!  The other thing I learned is how to make these incredible apples.  Chef Kevin described them as, "applesauce before it has been pureed" and that was a totally accurate description of the taste.  And super easy to make, I will be recreating them.  You just slice apples super thin, put them in a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and microwave it for about 5 minutes.  Then, take it out of the microwave and let it sit.  Delicious.  This dish also had roasted turnips, which somehow didn't make the title.  I had never tried turnips, though I have always been curious about them.  Turns out, they are very good!  They tasted a little like a carrot, I guess that is the root veggie connection, but they also have their own flavor.  They have a soft crunch to them that is very pleasant.  We also learned about how to buy turnips, which is useful information.  Directly from Jonathan's notes: "Turnips: get small ones, use big ones for holding open doors, throwing at cars, etc."  Which was a direct quote from Chef Kevin, so if we end up in jail for throwing large turnips at cars, call him to bail us out.  The pork tenderloin was delicious.  Lightly seasoned and super yummy.  That little piece of fat on my plate is a bad representation of how good the chop was because that was pretty much the only thing I had to cut off.  I was just too busy eating it to be bothered to stage the picture and take another one.  Be glad I thought to move my utensils out of the way. 
Warm Banana Pudding

As good as everything was, dessert took the cake.  And the pudding.  Oh.  My.  God.  Homemade vanilla pudding.  Pound cake.  Bananas.  Meringue.  I can't do this justice.  In that bowl, it doesn't look particularly appetizing.  In the pan where it was before, it looked like a masterpiece.  I should have taken a picture of Joe's because his meringue was balanced perfectly on top and would have made a much better picture.  But I had eyes only for my banana pudding.  And the little bit of Jonathan's that he didn't finish because I couldn't let it go to waste.  It was one of the best things that I have ever eaten and it didn't even involve chocolate.  Though chocolate probably wouldn't hurt it now that I think about that...not the point.  This was warm, creamy, decadent, home-y, comforting, and just completely...YUM.  There aren't enough words to really get the point across, just go make some.  Then bring me a bowl.  Please.  I'm making this for Thanksgiving, I just decided and Jonathan said he is completely on board with that.  I might make it for Christmas too, it'll be a different crowd anyway, plus that means I will get to eat it again.

There was also wine with dinner, I forgot to take pictures of it.  There was a white with the first three courses and a red with the pork.  They were quite good, but not the highlights because the food was just that awesome.

After dinner, Chef Kevin was signing the copies of his book that we got with the price of the class.  I had my copy that I preordered...at home...on the coffee table...where I forgot it.  Which was completely depressing.  Whatever, because we now have 3 copies of the book, 2 of them signed.  The best part of the whole experience though, was when we got up to the table where he was signing.  We walked up and he said, "And I feel like I already know you!  You keep tweeting!"  I swear I almost passed out.  Then I mumbled something about when he commented directly to me on Facebook and I called my entire family to tell them about it.  I honestly don't remember what all I said, I was so shocked that he recognized me.
Chef Kevin Gillespie and me!

I pretty much skipped down the stairs squealing after we took that picture.  It was awesome.  I called my mom, I called my grandma, then I called my mom again.  I totally turned into "that girl" and didn't even care. 
Chef Kevin cooking scallops
Chef Kevin answering questions about his new
restaurant.  Coming February 2013!!!

After the cooking class, we went to see Ellen's improv show.  It was pretty hilarious and she did a great job.  I volunteered Jonathan to participate (he was not very happy at all about that) and it was pretty funny to watch.  There was this other guy that went on the stage to participate and he was stoned/drunk out of his face and almost fell asleep on the stage, it was more than a little bit ridiculous.  After that, we went out to a bar for a drink and I got to talk to Ellen.  We left after a bit because we were exhausted and it was late. 
When we woke up on Saturday, we got ready for the day and headed out to get breakfast.  We weren't sure where we wanted to go, but headed back in the direction of Central Market.  We ended up seeing a place called Kolache Factory.  It was awesome!  I got a Ham and Cheese that tasted like a ham and mozzarella butterhorn from Charlie's.  Jonathan got a Texas Hot Polish Sausage.  We shared, by which I mean Jonathan had a bite, the monthly special, Heavenly Walnut.  It was heavenly.  After breakfast we wandered around for a while, then headed downtown to meet Logan and Heather for lunch.
Reuben Fries at Frank
We found the place we were meeting them and then walked around to see what was around.  After wandering, it was about time for them to be there, so we got a table and started looking over the menu.  The place they chose was called Frank.  We ordered some drinks and started reading the menu.  Our waiter's name was Giovanni and he was awesome.  Super helpful and had tried everything on the menu.  Everything.  Whoa.  That is a feat on its own.  We ordered the Reuben Fries for the table and they were pretty incredible.  I mean, look at them.  How could they not be delicious?
Southern Belle at Frank
I couldn't decide what to order for my meal.  If you look at the menu, it will make sense.  I ended up asking Giovanni for suggestions.  I really wanted to try one of the weekly specials, but the one I wanted he said was massive and said that if I wasn't super hungry, I shouldn't get it.  I ended up torn between The Notorious P.I.G., solely because it has mac 'n' cheese on it, and the Southern Belle.  I ended up with the Southern Belle because he talked it up and then I ultimately made him choose since I could not.  Giovanni recommended getting the Southern Belle on a pretzel roll, so I went with that.  What you're looking at over there is after I started eating it because I was pretty excited.  This is the description on the menu: Blackened, split Vienna Beef Hot Polish link dressed with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, Cajun Remoulade and scallions.  I'll be honest, I could have just eaten the pretzel roll with the pimento cheese.  I wasn't able to finish it, I was just too full.  But I did eat the three slices of fried green tomato that were on there because I had never had it before and it turns out, I like them a lot!  We were ready to burst after lunch, so we said good-bye and went wandering around. 
I had never seen 6th Street and was curious, so we wandered that way first.  It was early afternoon, but already there were people milling around.  We talked about coming back later that night, but I was unsure if I would like that.  I'm kind of over the whole bar thing.  Now, if we had a ton of friends that we were going out with, absolutely, but just the two of us for no real reason?  No thanks.  We wandered all over downtown and when we were starting to get worn out and figured we had seen enough, we headed back to the truck and set off for a spice store that we learned about at the cooking class the night before. 
We got cards that said we would get a free sample if we went into the store, but it turns out everyone gets free samples because you get to sample everything!  The store was called Savory.  It smells incredible when you walk in and the woman who runs/owns(?) the shop was very helpful and nice.  You get to taste all the spices that they have in the store!  They also have dried herbs, but there is no point in tasting those because that's weird, but you can smell them.  We spent a long time in that store and eventually walked out with Espelette pepper (thanks Kevin!), Hot Oriental Mustard Powder (to make our own mustard), Vietnamese Saigon Cassia Cinnamon (our favorite of the cinnamons), and Vanilla Bean Sugar (Jonathan wants it sprinkled on gingerbread cookies). 
After that, we went to Half Price Books.  Now, here is my question to everyone who knows me and has ever known that this store exists: why did no one tell me about it sooner?!  Jonathan gave me time constraints (we bartered and I ended up with 37.5 minutes) which I completely disregarded once we set foot in the door.  I didn't mean to, but once I get wrapped up looking for books, I can't be held responsible.  I could spend hundreds of dollars and hours in there with no problem.  As it happened, I only spent $32 and got 8 books.  Two of those were books that I read recently from the library and loved.  One of them was new-ish though and I got them both for $4.99 a piece and they are hardcover.  Pretty awesome.
When I was finally coaxed away from the shelves, we met up with Ellen at her apartment, where we were supposed to stay for the night.  As we chatted and she got ready to go to dinner, Jonathan's allergies started to kick in.  Her old roommate had a cat and even though she cleaned really well after the cat and roommate moved out, his allergies didn't stand a chance.  We ended up at Opal Divines for dinner.  We sat around for a while, had some drinks, and finally ordered when we got hungry.  I didn't have anything super special, just some chicken strips and pepper fries.  Everything was good, it just didn't quite blow me away, but my tastebuds were a little spoiled by that point.  Jonathan and I were planning on going to the Alamo Drafthouse later that night, but we got really tired. 
We took Ellen back to her apartment, which involved sitting in ridiculous amounts of traffic because Comi-Con was happening downtown plus Halloween.  We saw entirely too many adults in costume.  6th Street would have been hellish if we tried to go.  We ended up taking Ellen home and heading back to the hotel.  We checked in, then ran to the Cheesecake Factory for a slice of cheesecake that ended up in the fridge in the room.  We went to bed by about 10.  We're just that lame.
We woke up this morning and had the free breakfast downstairs.  I ate the panhandle of Texas.  And the western panhandle.  (It was a waffle, don't worry.)  Then we talked about different state-shaped waffles and how ridiculous they would be.  Michigan for sharing...here, you have the lower part, I'll just have the U.P. I'm not too hungry.  Rhode Island bites...conveniently bite-sized.  Hawaii...family pack.  Why is my waffle a square??  Oh, that's just Colorado.  Yeah, we had too much fun with that one. 
Anyway, then we went to Whole Foods (this is the part where my grandma said, "You two are the only kids I know that go out of town and go grocery shopping!!") and looked around.  We got pumpkins to carve later this week and got some drinks.  Also, some really cute reuseable shopping bags. 
We hit the road after that, stopped briefly in San Angelo to say hi to Mama Jo and Aunt Netha, then sped on back home.  (Sorry we didn't get to see the Nelson's, it was a super quick stop.) 
That was the weekend, I'm exhausted and have to start working out hard again tomorrow because I ate a lot this weekend and it was just nuts!  Completely pistachios.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Weekend Trip to Albuquerque!

So this weekend, Jonathan and I took a last minute trip to Albuquerque.  He had a flight voucher that we cashed in for super cheap flights on Southwest.  It was one of the greatest weekend we have had in a while!  We left at 8:30 Saturday morning and because of the time change, got there at 8:30 Saturday morning!

This was Saturday:
We woke up ridiculously early, flew to Albuquerque and picked up the car.  Then the awesome began.  We went to Frontier Restaurant for their famous sweet rolls, which were amazing and tasted like Texas Roadhouse's rolls with the cinnamon butter.  They were pretty awesome.  After breakfast, we hit up the Albuquerque Biological Park, specifically, the zoo.  I was not sure what to expect, but I LOVE zoos, so I was willing to give it a try.  Let me tell you what, if you like zoos, you need to see go to the Albuquerque zoo.  (Big bonus, it's only $12 for an all day pass for the ENTIRE biological park, which includes the zoo, aquarium, and botanical gardens.)  First off, the zoo is much bigger than you might expect it to be, with a ton of animals!  My personal favorite animals are orangutans and there were 5 orangutans at this zoo.  One of them was a baby, named Reese, born in 2008.  The zoo also has these great signs that tell you if there is a Zoo Baby in that exhibit, with the animal's name and birthday.  There is also an orangutan, Tonka, who everyone called Chewy, because he totally looks like Chewbacca (the link is a picture, I recommend looking at it).  We saw a ton of different animals, but the orangutans were far and away my favorite. 

I also got to feed a giraffe!  It was incredible, but went very quickly, so we couldn't get pictures of it, but Jonathan got one of the giraffe's head near mine.  I fed the lorikeets too, specifically one named Velcro.  He drank some of the nectar and promptly climbed up my arm and sat on my shoulder.  He tried to eat my earrings and also licked nectar onto my ears.  Apparently, they thank you by sharing the nectar, AKA, rubbing it on you.  It tickled so much when he licked my ears, I couldn't stop laughing.  When he started to pull on my earrings, I tried to stop him and he decided to bite my finger instead!  That beak hurts!!!  I had little dipples on my finger from where he bit me twice.  The little booger.  I actually fed the lorikeets before I fed the giraffe, but the giraffe was more notable because I have fed lorikeets before when we were at the San Antonio Zoo.

After the zoo, we went to Pita Pit because we both miss it a lot and have to have it everytime we see one.  After lunch, we went to a great brewery called La Cumbre.  They sell these 4oz. glasses for a buck each, so Jonathan tried 4 different kinds.  Let's see if I can remember which ones...Jefe's Hefe, Miles from Cologne, No, You're a Dort!, and Malpais Stout.  I actually ended up drinking half the No, You're a Dort! because it was delicious.  The Malpais Stout was so dark you couldn't see through it at all, not even when Jonathan tried to see if his phone would show up through it.  He said it was good, and it has won awards, but not my cup of tea (or beer).

We went back and checked into the hotel after the brewery.  We stayed at Hotel Parq Central and oh my goodness, it is GORGEOUS.  We wandered around to check it out, it was really neat looking.  Plus we discovered The Apothecary Lounge, which is a rooftop bar on top of the hotel.  It's part indoor, part outdoor with a ton of seating, both tables and chairs and wicker couches.  There were also these three huge saucer chairs that could seat a family of four easily, complete with cushions and pillows.  We decided that we would definitely go back there later in the evening. 

During our wandering, we also found the hot tub at the hotel, which is open 24 hours!  We decided that we should end our evening there after the Apothecary Lounge, but we did not bring our bathing suits.  So we decided to go buy some.  Target was far away, but we had passed a K-Mart earlier that day and I figured I would be able to find just a plain, solid color suit for cheap.  Boy was I wrong.  The only suits they had were terrifying and looked like a pattern that a cheap hooker might have on her fake nails.  Awful.  Needless to say, we decided to hit up Target even though it was farther.  On the way there, we saw an Old Navy, so stopped in there.  Great decision, all the women's suits were on super sale for $8 a piece.  So $16 later, I have a suit that will not only work for the hot tub, but that I will wear again!  By that point we were hungry so...

For dinner, we went to The Standard Diner.  We shared an onion tumbleweed that is served with garlic aioli; yum.  Jonathan had the fish tacos, made with swordfish, and served with Israeli couscous.  I went in knowing that I was going to have the Bourbon Butter Burger because it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  It is a burger served with a huge (I'm talking as thick as the burger itself) slab of bourbon maple butter compound on it.  I went against my gut, which I should never, ever do when it comes to food, and ordered the burger even after looking over the menu.  Next time, I will definitely be trying the Osee's Tomato soup served with a garlic crostini, mozzarella, and basil oil, it is a customer favorite and sounds incredible.  For dessert, I ordered a dark chocolate truffle, which I ate later in the night.  Holy crap, it was everything you could ever want in a truffle.  Rich, dark, yummy.  Jonathan ordered a cream puff.  We expected it to be like a normal sized cream puff, but it was gigantic and the top of the pastry was dipped in chocolate.  It was pretty darn good too, but we could not finish it. 

We went back to the hotel after dinner and decided that we would go up to the roof for a while.  When we were up there earlier in the day it was pretty much vacant, so we didn't think that it would be super busy and decided to take our books up there and read in one of the aforementioned huge saucer chairs.  Well, we were wrong because it turns into a hot spot for both guests and locals around dinner time!  We scored some seats on a couch where we could watch the sunset and kept our attention on the great chairs.  There was a huge thunderstorm rolling in from the west, which made for an incredible sunset.  The clouds glowed orange and the lightening flashed, it was awesome.  It also cooled off considerably, so it was very pleasant.  I don't have a picture of the sunset, but I have a picture that shows off the storm pretty well:
I had a glass of wine and Jonathan tried a couple of cocktails.  He said the Pimm's Cup was really good and we will be making them at home.  His second drink, the Aviation Cocktail, was totally a girly drink and our obnoxious waitress told him he would "totally love it, darling" (she was super annoying and called him darling all night).  According to him, it was awesome if you enjoy drinking lemon Pledge.  Eventually, the storm caught up with us and it started to rain.  The roof cleared off pretty quickly and we decided that it would be a great time to try out the hot tub.  Of course, by the time we got down there, it wasn't raining anymore, but it was still very enjoyable.

Finally, we went to sleep and Saturday was over.  Now, onto Sunday!

Sunday did not start out so hot.  We wanted to go see the hot air balloons since we were in Albuquerque and that is pretty much exactly what they are known for.  We got up at 5:30AM to go out and see the balloons.  We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate and went out.  We drove around, waited, drove around, waited.  And guess what, no balloons.  We still don't know if we were in the wrong spot or if there just weren't any balloons going up that morning, but regardless, we didn't see any.  I was pretty frustrated, so we decided that since we were awake, we should go watch the sunrise from the top of the hotel.  So we drive back to the hotel, keeping an eye on the mountain behind us where the sun would make its appearance and manage to make it to the hotel before it comes up.  We go up to the roof of the hotel and...a building is COMPLETELY blocking the stupid mountain and sunrise.  I almost lost it; definitely not my best moment of the weekend.  We went back to the room and I decided that I would go back to sleep for a little bit and then restart the day and forget about the ridiculous start that had already taken place. 

When I woke up about an hour later, we bummed around for a while watching TV, then headed down to breakfast to see what was offered.  The hotel includes a complimentary breakfast, but we weren't sure if we wanted to have that or go back to Frontier Restaurant since their menu was huge and we were too overwhelmed to look it over on Saturday morning.  When we got down to breakfast at the hotel, we were very impressed!  There was quiche, fancy pastries, yogurt, cereal, toast, fruit salad, etc.  It was pretty nice, so we stayed there and ate some breakfast!

After breakfast, we got all showered and headed over to the aquarium, which we did not make it to on Saturday.  The aquarium was pretty awesome and we saw some amazing creatures.  Of course, the jellys are my favorite.  They had moon jellys which are always a fan favorite.  Lots of really neat fish, stingrays, mantas, and sharks.  There was a shark that kept swimming by with its mouth open and I was able to see his teeth up close, they were crazy!  We also saw these lobsters that were massive and a puffer fish the size of my head. 

We walked through the botanical gardens after the aquarium.  It was pretty cool and had a big open space in the middle of it where you could have picnics or just relax.  There was also a spot set up where people could get married, it was gorgeous.  We saw a lot of beautiful flowers and scenery, there were ponds and waterfalls, but Jonathan has those pictures.  This was one of my favorite flowers that we saw.

We stopped for lunch at JC's New York Pizza Department.  It was pretty tasty.  We both had a slice, side salad, and a drink.  No pictures of that or much more to say.  It reminded me a lot of Boiler Market at Purdue.

After lunch, we went back to the zoo because they had a new amphibian exhibit that opened on Sunday, so obviously we couldn't see it Saturday.  I made a deal with Jonathan that we could go through that as long as I could go see the orangutans again.  The amphibian exhibit was pretty awesome.  We saw some frogs that were smaller than my pinkie fingernail.  They were itty bitty.  There was also a bullfrog that I couldn't see, but when I was looking for it, the moss started moving, so I'm assuming it was under there.  It was pretty crazy, but also pretty cool.  There were also these little tree frogs that were such a bright green that they looked like chewed gum. 

When we went to see the orangutans, Reese was being much more active than the day before.  She was hilarious to watch and was carrying a piece of a fern around like a security blanket.  She swung all over the habitat and then would stop to chew on it and realize she had dropped it while she settled in.  You could just tell that she was exasperated that it was on the ground again.  At one point, she took the plant and swung up to where a giant plastic trash bin was suspended.  She threaded the plant through hole where the chain was.  She slowly tested her weight on it to see if it would hold.  Of course, as soon as she thought it was good and that it would hold her, she put all of her weight on it and fell to the ground.  She played it off really well though and took both pieces and hopped back up to the top of the tree she was in before.  Reese also squatted over the edge of that hanging bin and peed, which I had never seen before.  Then she kinda stood on her head and sniffed it...it was really weird, but hilarious. 
We were super hot after the zoo, so we went to the Flying Star Cafe, which is known for their desserts.  We both got the mango iced tea that they brew in-house and it was awesome.  Jonathan had Key lime pie that he said was very good and I got the Raspberry Blackout Cake.  I took a picture, but not until I had already started eating it.  Sorry.  It was awesome.  And the picture shows the colors kind of off because those two layers look pink when they are actually brown.  It was layers of dark chocolate cake and chocolate mousse topped with raspberry preserves.  It was amazing with just the right amount of raspberry.  The whole venue was really cool.  And massive.  There were study rooms where college groups could meet for projects and alcoves with comfortable seating.

We were still worn out and didn't really want to do anything else, so we found a Barnes and Noble to hang out in until it was time to go to the airport.  We stopped at Pita Pit on the way to the airport so I could grab one last pita before we left the wonderful land of pitas.  We dropped off the rental car and got to the airport a full two hours early and literally walked up, showed our IDs, walked through security, didn't even have to way wait behind a single person, and sat.  We got there early because it is a larger airport and figured that it would be better to get there early.  Two hours was entirely too early though.  Oh well, we got there in plenty of time and got back home in one piece.

All in all, it was a great weekend and felt like much longer than two days.  It's amazing how finding a cheap flight can make two days feel like a real vacation.  It's just nuts.  Completely pistachios.