Dinner at Franco in St. Louis

Franco

KP and I find ourselves in the St. Louis area every few months or so, and we almost always try to go and check out a new (to us) spot for dinner. There have been places we’ve liked so much that I’d go back in a heartbeat (Sidney Street Cafe, Brasserie), but we try to branch out. Recently when we were in St. Louis, we checked out Franco, a casual French restaurant right next to Soulard Market.

I love a good French bistro, but that’s not the vibe of Franco. It feels more… rustic urban. Is that a thing? It sits on the corner of the first floor of a building that dates back to 1899 and previously housed a shoe company and a baby carriage factory. Like so many places in St. Louis, Franco has an industrial loft feel with its high ceilings and exposed duct work, but there’s plenty of stone (check out that tiled bar) and wood (see the wave-like wooden structures hanging from the ceiling in the dining room). When we arrived, KP and I cozied up to the bar. And a cozy bar it is. Dimly lit, it’s one of those bars that you can just sit at for hours and maybe order something to nibble on when the mood strikes. There are also these cushy window seats in the bar area, perfect for a more intimate affair.

Our party of four shared oysters and a cheese & charcuterie flight to start. We were surprised when our waiter delivered the oysters and announced that they were from New Zealand, since that’s not what he originally said when we ordered them, but they were nice and meaty nonetheless. Two of us had the mussels and pommes frites, and the other two had the grilled rib-eye. Delicious meal, good portion sizes and the greenest, freshest brussel sprouts I may have ever seen (and tasted). We shared two desserts, too — the flourless chocolate cake and Tahitian vanilla crème brulée. I don’t usually opt for dessert when we’re at restaurants, but I had a taste of each. Nothing to write home about, but a sweet finish to the meal.

One of the things I liked most about our dinner at Franco was the speed of everything. I hate rushed meals, when each course is brought out the second you finish the prior course. They got it just right at Franco so we had plenty of time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. Franco is definitely on my “I’d go back” list.

My Favorite Travel Partner

Researching the best gelateria in Nice
Researching the best gelateria in Nice

Today I’m celebrating KP, my favorite travel partner. It’s his birthday today. We’re not jetting off to any place warm or fun, although we often travel on/around his birthday since Thanksgiving always falls somewhere near it, so we’re inevitably en route to spend the holiday with family somewhere. No, this year it’s just us and Nora, and we’ll host his family here for Thanksgiving.

Travel has always been a big piece of who KP and I are together, even from the very start. After all, we met when we both started working for a travel company in Boston. We were young globetrotters back then, both having a thirst to see new places and experience new things. We both traveled a fair bit before we started dating. And a month into dating, we decided to do the one thing that I think can make or break a relationship: we took a road trip together for a weekend getaway. And it was for Valentine’s Day, so that really upped the ante. But here we are, so I think it’s safe to say how that first trip went.

Since then, we’ve logged lots of miles and collected new stamps on our passports. We were really jet setters in the first few years of our relationship, but travel came to a screeching halt when Nora arrived. That was inevitable. But shortly after her arrival, we got her on her first airplane ride and are slowly getting back into traveling a little bit. She doesn’t have a passport yet but that will come soon enough.

Traveling with someone can teach you a lot about that person — and about yourself. It can teach you that you never want to take a trip with that person ever again, or it can teach you that you only want to travel with that person ever again! Luckily, the latter was the case after traveling with KP. And here’s why:

  1. He has patience when I don’t. (Yes, this is usually always.) This enviable trait of his comes out most often during the actual act of travel itself. We took a two-week trip to Europe one summer, and after finishing up our time in Nice we were heading to Monaco. We were trying to figure out the best way to get there, which in my mind meant taking a car service. In KP’s frugal mind, it meant taking a bus. Maybe he briefly forgot about the one time he made me take a bus in Boston and how that ended (hint: not well), and maybe I forgot, too, because I begrudgingly agreed. It wasn’t pretty. The bus itself was fine; the situation wasn’t pretty. Neither of us can say much more than “bonjour” or “merci,” so trying to communicate when we needed to get off the bus was a bit of a challenge. And once we were off the bus, hauling our over-packed luggage down an endless flight of stairs along the roadside to walk to our hotel was even more of a challenge. I had passed meltdown point but luckily KP held it together.
  2. He opens my eyes to new places and experiences. I have a bucket list of must-see destinations in my head. Ireland was never on that list. I’m sorry, Ireland. My lesson has been learned. KP was traveling to London for work and we were trying to decide on a place to meet after his trip was finished. London is lovely, but we’d both been there/done that plenty of times. He kept talking about Ireland and how he’d always wanted to go there, and I kept trying to think of other places I’d rather go. But I gave in. (Aren’t relationships all about compromise, people?) It wasn’t that I had anything against Ireland, it just wasn’t on my radar. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so wrong about something. Our trip to Ireland is quite possibly my favorite trip… ever? The country is so incredibly beautiful and the people are like none I’ve met anywhere else. We encountered so many friendly, accommodating folks. Case in point: after spending a few days in Dublin, we took a taxi to the airport to get our rental car to go see other parts of Ireland. Once we were in the rental car office waiting for our car, we realized we left our camera in the taxi. To make a long story short, we got in contact with someone at our hotel who miraculously got in contact with the exact same taxi driver who drove us to the airport, who drove back to the airport and returned our camera. I feel confident saying this would never happen in America.
  3. His sweet tooth inevitably introduces me to some bakery, ice-cream shop, cookie shop, gelateria or other place that doles out copious amounts of sugar. KP loves his sweets. And that’s great, because if that wasn’t the case, I probably would’ve never popped into Ben’s Cookies, and that would be a shame.
  4. He’s my own personal pack mule. I lost my “I can do it myself” attitude pretty quickly after I started traveling with KP. Who doesn’t appreciate someone who stows their bag in the overheard compartment for them? And now that our travels include Nora and her endless amount of stuff, we really do look like the Clampetts any time we go somewhere. Thank goodness for car seat and stroller bags, which KP straps on his back as we make our way through airports. (Note: it looks nothing like this when we do it.)
  5. He serves as comic relief. KP is a funny man, mostly when he isn’t trying to be funny. But he’s a good sport. There are countless anecdotes I could share from our many road trips that involve spotting cops or more typically, some pop culture reference that he gets wrong. But it’s his birthday and this is supposed to be a tribute to him, so I’ll save those for myself (and my sisters who I immediately text when something funny is said or done).
  6. He’ll sit on the beach with me. I am a sun-worshipper. KP is not. Our honeymoon was spent sitting on a beach in St. Thomas for a week, and our baby moon was spent sitting on a beach in Riviera Maya. I’m certain he would’ve rather been exploring a medieval museum somewhere.
  7. He’s the human version of XE.com. Admittedly, I’m terrible at math. KP is like a human calculator, including doing conversions in his head. This came in quite handy when we were at Dilli Haat and I was trying to figure out how many U.S. dollars a scarf or handbag cost.
  8. His sense of direction is usually spot-on. Despite living in London for the better part of a year, my sense of direction was completely lost when we visited a few years later. KP led us around as if he lived there.
  9. His travel interests mesh well with mine. I find that when you travel with someone, it’s best if you don’t have the exact same interests. Having some things in common is good, but not everything. After all, isn’t traveling about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing something new? KP and I fit so well together in this sense. We have enough in common to be compatible, but we force one another out of our comfort zones a bit. And that’s usually met with, “see, I told you so!”
  10. He still loves me when we get home. I can think of a few trips I took with people other than KP that confirmed that I never, ever wanted to travel with that person again. But we’re married, so he doesn’t have much of a choice if I piss him off too much on a trip. We still have to share the bathroom when we get home. Luckily most of our trips have gone well so we get home and then start thinking about where we want to go next.

Happy birthday, KP! And here’s to many more years of travel and adventures with you.

Tips & Tricks to Pack Efficiently

One of the busiest travel weeks of the year is upon us, and I can’t express enough how content I am to be staying at home! This year, Thanksgiving guests are coming to us. And while I don’t have an iota of travel stress to worry about, I’m sure I will still sufficiently stress myself out with the feast that we’re preparing (my planning spreadsheet is complete).

If you’re going to be flying the friendly skies this Thanksgiving week, check out these tips and tricks for efficient packing.

Courtesy of: Bluegala

The Week That Was: November 14, 2014

Pumpkins & mumsThe patio isn’t looking quite as cheerful these days. Now the mums are mostly brown and the pumpkins are starting to get prune-like skin. It’s cold! Despite the snow flurries we had on Halloween, I would say we had our first real snowfall yesterday, as there was actually a light dusting on the ground and cars. Brr.

While Nora is back to normal, I still can’t seem to kick this pesky cold. It’s the reason I’ve been awake since 4:30 a.m. So congested and such an itchy throat. I’m sure the bags under my eyes will look lovely for our family Christmas card photos we’re having taken this morning. Nothing a little Photoshop can’t fix, right? After all, if they can make Kim Kardashian’s butt look that good, I’m sure our photog can do something about my eyes…

We’re heading out of town for the weekend to visit my parents. I wish it was a tad warmer there like it typically is, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case… cozy sweaters and the puffer coat are ready to go. Isn’t it too early for this?

Stay warm and have a good weekend.

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I love a good road trip. And I love a good Christmas flick.

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I’m fascinated with dreams. And here’s proof to KP that even though he swears he never dreams, he does.

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There are probably more than 24 reasons why elementary school teachers deserve more appreciation, but this is a good start. I have no idea how my sisters do it. (Also, #21!)

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Our trip to Ireland was one of my favorites. I’d go back in a second.

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If you haven’t booked your Thanksgiving travel yet, you might want to check out these tips.

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So many pretties for your Thanksgiving table.

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Have a lovely weekend.

The Week That Was: November 7, 2014

Autumn in ChicagoCough and cold season has made itself known at our house. Nora has it and I have it. As usual, KP remains unscathed. Luckily we don’t have much planned for the weekend,  though I’m sure it will be spent consuming copious amounts of orange juice, chicken noodle soup and vitamin C.

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The thing I hate most about travel begins when I step foot in the airport and ends when I walk out of my destination airport. Apparently I’m not alone. Grab your barf bag before you check out Passenger Shaming.

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I’m skeptical of buying airline tickets on a specific “cheapest” day of the week, but I can get on board with the idea of booking 50 – 100 days out to save some money.

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Thank goodness we aren’t boarding a plane with Nora this Thanksgiving, but here are some tips if you’re flying with little ones. I second the idea of flying on the holiday (and heading home the Saturday after Thanksgiving).

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Last weekend I practiced some of my Thanksgiving recipes, including these beautiful honey butter pumpkin dinner rolls. The honey and pumpkin give them just the subtlest sweetness which pairs nicely with the savory flavors of Thanksgiving. Making any bread product from scratch intimidates me (yeast!), but I showed these rolls who’s boss.

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Sometimes I let the little things in our fine city annoy me (traffic!), so this was a refreshing take on Chicago from a first-time visitor.

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KP recently instituted “fun cocktail Thursday” in our house. It was my turn this week but we took a rain check due to the fact that I couldn’t breathe out of the left side of my nose. But here’s what I’ll be making after the DayQuil wears off.

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Hope you have a lovely, cough and cold-free weekend!