Category Archives: Restaurants

Tao NYC

Oh, New York City.

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You will forever be a place I regret not living for at least a year.

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When I was 22 and graduating college, more than anything, I wanted a job in a city, where I could work in a glamorous high rise building, pay exorbitant rent, take a subway to work, have drinks outside in the summer with friends & coworkers and eat at every amazing restaurant around. I got 3 job offers my senior year, 2 in cities and 1 in Madison, CT. Guess which one I picked? In retrospect, I probably picked the best “job”, but I will always regret not living in a city at some point in my life. Ulysses absolutely despises cities. Part claustrophobia, part obsession with land, garages, and cars. So we will never live in a one, and to be honest, at this point in my life it wouldn’t make sense but, at 22 and single it would’ve been cool for a little bit.

Living only a little over an hour away by train, I try and find any excuse to get into the city and yesterday I had a good one! I met my friend Corinne, who I hadn’t seen since her wedding in November, for dinner at Tao. Corinne actually lived in Florida the same time we did. She was my only friend down there and we bonded together over our hatred for FL and desire to move back north (my, how things have changed since then, for me at least Winking smile). We both enjoy food as much as the other so our get togethers are usually centered around a good meal.

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The atmosphere at Tao is pretty cool. It’s almost pitch black inside (hence the dark pics) but then there is this giant buddha statue that is literally 2 stories high with those colored lights around it. We ate upstairs and with a 6pm reservation were one of the first people in there but it was packed by the time we left.

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I started with a Bamboo Gingerita.

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Delicious. Kinda strong, but that just means I only need one then. Smile 

I try to take advantage of any chance to have tempura. It’s one of the few fried things I actually really like, mainly because it’s usually so light. So we decided to split a sweet potato tempura as an appetizer.

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Unfortunately, it was super greasy. Still tasty, but I’m pretty sure tempura is supposed to be a bit lighter than what we got.

We also split a spicy tuna roll that was really good.

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Shoestring onions on top? Yes, please.

Ok, I have a pad thai weakness. Anytime I see it on a menu I feel like I have to get it. It’s something I would never make at home and I just absolutely love it. Funny side note though, although I’ve never had any allergic reactions to food, I’ve been tested for allergies multiple times for my shots and each time it comes back saying I’m allergic to soy and peanuts. The doctor doesn’t get it and I continue to eat both without any reactions. Every time I order pad thai though I think to myself, “what if this is the time I react?” and then check to make sure I have my inhaler with me before I stuff my face. Well, I saw pad thai tonight and came sooo close to getting it but ended up with the wasabi filet with tempura onion rings instead. Corinne actually got the pad thai though so I got to taste it. Both meals were great. My beef was cooked perfectly and the wasabi crust was just enough to taste, not incredibly overpowering as wasabi can sometimes be.

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Neither of us was really feeling dessert, although the people next to us had this giant fortune cookie filled with chocolate mousse that looked pretty cool.

Corinne caught a cab to the bus station and I had enough time to walk the 16 blocks back to Grand Central day dreaming about the city and pretending I lived there.

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Maybe in another life?

 

Do you live in a city? Love it? Hate it? Where was your first job?

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Ireland Day 4 & 5: Cork and Kinsale

We spent all of Monday getting the local’s tour of Cork by Liam, an uncle of a friend who lives in the city. We even met the mayor. The Lord Mayor actually. Doesn’t he just sound way more important with “Lord” in front of the title? Liam knew pretty much everyone in Cork as we walked through the city, the mayor included because we had an 11am appointment to meet him! We definitely weren’t expecting that and probably would’ve been dressed a little nicer or at least prepared with some sort of semi-intelligent thing to discuss but, instead we sat there talking about his recent trip to NY with mayor Bloomberg for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and the Queen’s visit a couple of days prior. He also had the biggest beer belly I’ve ever seen and actually rested his hands on top of it much like a pregnant woman would. I found myself staring more than once and had to force my eyes away. It was a quick visit as I’d hope he has more important things to do than meet with 4 young lads from the states but it was fun to say we met him nonetheless.

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The Lord Mayor’s room across from his office.

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Liam taught us all about the old city and how it was surrounded by rivers and walls back in the day. We pretty much walked the entire city seeing the old walls, churches, the University and my absolute favorite, the English Market. It was kind of like a smaller scale La Boqueria for anyone that’s been to Barcelona. The best part of the tour was when he took us to where he was born and raised and showed us the river they used to swim in as kids. You could tell how emotional and nostalgic he was about his youth and even though all the buildings and history are interesting, I thought that was one of the more insightful things we learned all day.

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The food in the market looked so good from the fresh seafood, to the butcher shops, to the produce stands. I wish we had a kitchen to cook it all in!

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Adrian finally got his wish Monday night when we found a pretty legitimate Irish pub and drank our dinner. Smile 

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Dark, dingy and everything a pub should be.

Tuesday morning we knew we wanted to hit up the English market for breakfast. After some fresh juice, scones, and coffee we were on our way to Kinsale, about 30 minutes south of Cork for the day. Kinsale seemed like the Irish version of a Rhode Island shore town. Quaint, beautiful water views and expensive.

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We walked around the cute shops, tried on hats a la the Royal wedding and contemplated buying handmade woolen blankets, gloves and scarfs but eventually decided against them and their price tag (sorry Mom, it would’ve been for you).

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After the shops we went to check out Charles Fort. More amazing views.

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We ended the day at Café Paradiso back in Cork. Doreen and Adrian saw this show on Food Network a couple of weeks ago where Bobby Flay went to Ireland and highlighted a bunch of different restaurants throughout the country. We’ve basically been following in his footsteps since we got here. It started with fish and chips at Leo Burdocks, ice cream at Murphy’s, smoked fish at the English market, and finally dinner at Café Paradiso. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with a local sourcing flare that was insanely delicious.

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They had a pretty reasonably priced “theater menu” that included 3 courses for 30 Euros. The wafer looking chips were a sunflower seed brittle with sea salt. A nice deviation from the usual bread basket starter.

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First course starters of wild garlic gnocchi, mixed salad with green beans & fennel, and sweet potato curry spring rolls and brocolini.

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Main dishes of beet root risotto with arugula & cannellini beans in a lemon thyme oil, feta pistachio couscous cake with a coriander yogurt, spiced eggplant gratin with fennel in a citrus cream sauce (or as Doreen referred to it: “sunshine sauce”). Adrian was a rebel and ordered off the main menu with the caramelized mushroom gnocchi dish. It was hands down the best one of the four and they were all really good, this one was just mind blowing. I’ve never tasted mushrooms like that before. They almost tasted like a roasted sweet potato, but even better. I could be a vegetarian in a second if all my meals were from here.

Dessert:

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Vanilla ice cream with Italian cookies and a shot of espresso. Chocolate pecan brownie with white chocolate ice cream. There’s really nothing to say here, they were both as good, if not better than they look. Great, great dinner. It was actually the first “real” dinner we had on the trip and I’m glad we saved it for a place like this. It’s been a week now since I’ve run, my pants are getting tighter every day, and it’s been worth every single indulgence. Smile

Killarney, The Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, and Cliffs of Moher are up next!

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Dublin Day 2

After a fish and chips induced 5 hour coma we actually made it back out at 10:30pm last night. The weird part…it was still light outside. I had no idea Ireland was like Alaska and stays light that late. It really messes you up. We also wrongly assumed that Ireland, being a European country and all would be like Spain, France and Italy and serve dinner really late by American standards so we went out for a drink before finding a place to eat only to find out every restaurant was closing for the night. Fail. We had 2 choices, Indian Curry House or Ray’s Pizza. After the fish and chips sitting like rocks in our stomachs we choose the safer option of pizza. It was really good pizza but it didn’t really scream “Irish”.P1012895

Lesson learned, eat earlier.

After pizza we wandered around a bit until we found a bar called Harry’s that was a great time. The bar tender, who was amazing and super nice, is actually moving to NYC to take a job there, small world. He hooked us up throughout the night and suggested some sort of espresso martini for Doreen. Amazing.P1012900

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These pictures are horrible with the flash but it was basically pitch black inside.

We also all had a round of “baby Guinness”. I think they were Kahlua and Baileys. Cute and tasty.

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And that’s the most drinking I’ve done in one night in ages. Not sure if I should be happy & proud or ashamed of that?

We ended the night around 3am, still a little out of it with the time change. It was a late start this morning but I’m hoping sleeping until 11am got us all sorted out with the missed sleep from the day before. We decided to take a day trip to Bray, about 30 minutes by train from Dublin to hike up a mountain and explore the seaside town.

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That mountain behind their heads is what we climbed up.

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Ulysses finally found something with his name on it. We always look for his name on key chains and mugs in souvenir type shops just to see if they ever have it (they don’t) so finding this place which I think was a B&B was funny.

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It was windy. The hair only gets worse from here on out.

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The view facing Bray from the top. It was about a 1.3 mile hike up. Makes me feel better about not having run for 4 days now. Winking smile I actually did bring a Jillian Michael’s workout DVD. I’ll put money on not actually using it though. We’ve been walking so much there’s no way I’m even thinking about extra exercise when we get back to the hotel.

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It was so windy at the top, I think if I jumped off I seriously would’ve been able to fly.

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This picture is probably giving my mom an anxiety attack just looking at it. Pictures don’t really do justice to how high up this was.

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We followed the trail around the top of the mountain a little until heading back down. Apparently they use donkeys or horses on these trails too.

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Yum.

After the hike, we were more than ready for lunch. Ulysses has a knack for picking places that look horrible from the outside but end up being great on the inside and serving amazing food. This was one of them, Porterhouse Brewery. No outside pics because it was cold, windy and we were hungry! The inside was dark, and everything you’d probably think of when you think Irish + pub + good food. We sat next to a fireplace and warmed up with some beers. Doreen and I shared a sampler including a stout of theirs that had won all sorts of awards. It was really good and I’m not even a huge stout fan. It tasted like it had hints of espresso, kahlua,  and licorice. Nothing wrong with that!

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Restaurant lighting here is not conducive to pictures.

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The food was incredibly good. That is a wooden dowel holding the burger together, not a toothpick, to give you an idea of size. I actually had a vegetarian chickpea and vegetable stew that was excellent. I think it was the first taste of vegetables I’ve had in 2 days.

After a sleepy train ride back to Dublin we walked around a little more before heading back to the hotel around 8pm. Just as we literally said how great the weather held up considering it was supposed to rain all day, the skies opened up into a downpour 5 minutes from the hotel. We were drenched. The heat is currently blasting in the hotel room to attempt to dry sneakers and pants.

Tomorrow we leave Dublin headed to Cork. We’re spending the day visiting places in between the two cities including Cashel and Blarney. If we make it out of Dublin without getting lost or driving on the wrong side I’ll call it a win. Smile

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HOHA 5 mile race recap

Yesterday morning started out like every other race morning, EARLY! Every single race I’ve done I wake up with the same thought: “why, oh why did I sign up for this? I could totally just go run X miles myself today and not have to be up this early.”

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(Hi, it’s 5:30am on Sunday)

The weather was horrendous and as I listened to the rain that was so hard it sounded like hail hit the skylight in my bathroom I’d be lying if I said the thought to just skip the race and forfeit the $20 registration fee didn’t enter my mind. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was meeting my brother and his girlfriend in Hoboken and that I had blogged about it already, I might’ve just gotten back in bed Winking smile

Of course in the end it’s always worth it and the satisfaction of another race under your belt definitely trumps the wake up call. It’s just a little hard to remember that when this is what you’re driving through to get there.

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Note that the windshield wipers are on their “frantic” speed here. You know, the highest one where they’re going so fast you think they might just fly off.

Side note: improper frequency of windshield wipers is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It has to be coming down in buckets for me to even contemplate using that speed. This was the kind of rain that is so loud and hard you can’t hear your radio and your hands are on the steering wheel at 10 & 2 like you’re 16 taking your driving test. I probably shouldn’t have been operating a camera at the same time. The things I do for blog content!

1.5 hours later I got to Hoboken and thankfully the rain had stopped. We picked up our bibs, used the nasty port-a-potties and headed to the start.

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Adrian was a spectator/cheerleader/photographer this year so he got to eat yummy chocolate, pear croissants while Doreen and I stretched.

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Scary and how ‘bout those bags under my eyes!

They changed the course a little this year so we had to walk a few blocks to the start.

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Why do we look insanely white compared to everyone else?

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And, we’re off!

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Doreen’s super excited to see Adrian taking this picture!

We discussed paces right before the start so we knew we wouldn’t really be running this “together”. Doreen is super fast! Even with me thinking I’d be about 20-30 seconds faster per mile this year than last, she still paces quite a bit faster than that. Her goal was to beat Adrian’s time last year of 36:08. So after about the first 1/2 mile I couldn’t even see her anymore.

The course was very similar for the first 4 miles even though they started in a different place so I knew what to expect. Mile 1 was flat and fast but at mile 2 you enter Stevens Institute of Technology’s campus which is full of hills! Last year it kind of took me by surprise so it was nice knowing what to expect this time around. The next 2 miles were again very similar and flat. Smile  The last mile they added in a loop through a new park to make the course an exact 5 miles. Last year the course was short (4.94 miles) and while that was great for reducing my pace and time, it’s nice to run a course that’s the exact length it’s supposed to be.

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Doreen on the final stretch.

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Take the damn picture Adrian, I’m done pretending I’m happy right now!

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“Sprinting” at the end

I looked up about right here to see the clock say 40:38 and I really wanted to clock in before the 41:00 mark. Mission accomplished, new PR 40:54!!

Mile splits:

  • Mile 1: 8:02
  • Mile 2: 8:20 <—hills! (last year this mile was 9:02. Improvement!)
  • Mile 3: 7:58 (!!)
  • Mile 4: 8:18
  • Mile 5: 8:16

Average pace: 8:11

Last year’s time was 42:46 and considering the course was short by .06, I beat that time by more than 2 minutes! Next year the goal will be under 40:00 Winking smile

Curious if Doreen beat Adrian’s time? Sooooo close! She clocked in at 36:51. I told you she was fast! She killed it!

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That’s not an awkward wave, it’s a “5”.

Then onto the best part about any race, food! We headed to La Isla, just like last year for their famous “stuffed french toast”. It was on Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Bobby lost.

The place is kind of a hole in the wall but, like most of those places the food is delicious.

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Thank you, Omar. Your french toast rocks.

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This picture doesn’t even come close to doing this bad boy justice.

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We all split everything and left perfectly satisfied. Smile

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And then it started raining again.

Anyone else race this weekend? How’d you do?

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Airport insights & Mildred’s Big City Food

Yesterday started here.

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Westchester County airport. I love flying out of here because it’s only 45 minutes from my house and beats the hell that is traveling to and from JFK. This is the entire gate area. I’m standing in one corner of the room, yes 1 room, and you can see the other end pretty clearly. At 6:30 in the morning with 4 flights boarding at the same time it’s much like herding cattle. Or at least what I’d assume herding cattle is like as my allergies would never let me get close enough to experience that!

Any airport makes for excellent people watching material, but I really enjoy this one. There are mostly 2 types of people who fly out of Westchester.

  1. The “high profile” (or at least they think so) business travelers who probably work in NYC making bank and use this airport because it’s close to their home in Greenwich/Stamford/Westchester. They can be identified by their expensive suits, Rolex watches and refusal to look away from their smart phones at all costs.
  2. The same “high profile” business traveler who is just now into retirement from that life, still living in their affluent suburban neighborhoods, but now flying to their second home in Palm Beach, Boca Raton, or Fort Lauderdale. The men can be identified by their pink or yellow polo shirts and navy blazers with gold buttons. The women by their ridiculous amount of gold jewelry. 

I can personally attest to the latter as I lived in West Palm for 2 years and there would be more NY, NJ and CT license plates on the road than FL ones most of the time. The best part about these migratory retirees though is their incredible ability to have forgotten all they know about airport security from their golden years of travel. No matter how many times a TSA agent shouts to remove laptops or DVD players from their bag and put them in their own bin, someone inevitably neglects to do so holding up the whole line. “Do my shoes need to come off?” Oh no, of course not, everyone else is just standing barefoot for the heck of it. We like the feel of the lovely airport carpet under our toes. “Liquids?, I can’t take my liquids!?” Have you been been living in a bubble for the last 5 years? Yes, it’s been 5 years since the 3 oz. liquid rule has been in effect. Why do I know that? Because, it was the weekend of my bachelorette party that they initiated it.

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(actually from a second bachelorette party, but same wonderful tiara. The expression is thanks to a “surfers on acid” shot…yum)

Not having accumulated any 3 oz. bottles to travel with yet (now I hoard them from hotels), I checked my bag on the way to Baltimore to party it up with my bridesmaids. It was the one and only time my bag has ever been lost. I spent my bachelorette out in Fells Point wearing one bridesmaid’s skirt, another’s jewelry, and the granny panties I had on from that morning. Many drinks later, some random guy in a bar decided it would be a good idea to pick me up in the chaos of the bar/music (people just get crazy when you’re wearing a “bachelorette” tiara). I started screaming to put me down as that borrowed skirt was NOT long enough to cover the granny panties when lifted in the air. And that, is why I will always remember the liquid law being started in August of 2006. Before you think I’m incredibly insensitive, as these are “older” people, let me say that I do not get annoyed when families with children don’t know these things or people who just “look” like they don’t travel frequently. The people I’m talking about are EX-BUSINESS MEN/WOMEN who probably used to travel weekly and still travel back and forth to their “winter homes” yet somehow think they are above the TSA regulations.

I could probably write an entire blog dedicated to airports and the crazy things and people you see in them but back to food…

If you read yesterday’s post you know we were headed to Mildred’s Big City for dinner in Gainesville. I was a little leery about the place at first considering their website was still advertising 2010’s New Year’s Eve menu but boy was I wrong!

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Apparently this place doesn’t really want to be found because it’s in a pretty run-down strip mall, it’s plastic sign on the strip mall frontage was blown on to the roof so you couldn’t read it, and the entrance is on the side covered in vines. Combine that with their website and they are pretty much a marketer’s worst nightmare. The food however, is obviously what makes them successful. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much from Gainesville’s cuisine and I’m kind of shocked there’s even a market for a place like this when the rest of the “city” is littered with fast food meccas (nothing wrong with a little Chick-fil-A though!) and populated with 50,000 students.

The first thing greeting you when you walk in are the lovely desserts. Mostly different cheesecakes, but there was a carrot cake in there too.

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Dessert is the best part of any meal so I was sold immediately.

Two things caught my eye on the menu. First, the beet salad.

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Second, the flounder. I was actually going to go with the Salmon at first but then found out it was farm raised in Scotland and I’m just not down with my fish coming that far only to have been farm raised. I think farm raising is disgusting. Have you ever seen a fish farm? There are so many fish in such tight quarters that if you tried to walk on top of the water I bet you could. Gross.

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This was off.the.hook good. You see that stuff on the left that looks like whipped cream? It was goat cheese. Goat cheese with a whipped cream consistency. The perfect bite included a little zest of that lemon preserve for the zing factor but, also some of that pistachio cream sauce which bordered on the sweet side.P1012461

The flounder was definitely good, it just didn’t have anything that made it outstanding (like the preserved lemon zest in the beets). I’d never had flounder that was that thick before. It was almost as thick as halibut.

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Those would be marble cheesecake and chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. Four of us shared these two and there were still leftovers. The chocolate peanut butter cheesecake was so thick and rich that if you took a forkful you couldn’t actually get it all off the fork with one try without it looking like you were making out with your utensil. 

Glad we fit this meal in because today includes a hotel breakfast, hotel lunch and airport dinner. Not really looking forward to it…

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