A Few Final Israel Moments

My last post mentioned some of the meetings and educational tours I had during my last Israel trip, and here are a few of the food and location shots that didn’t make it in…

One of my favorite meals during my recent Israel trip was this outdoor lunch at Cafe Greg at the Old Port in Tel Aviv:

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Cafe Greg is a chain around Israel, but I actually really love their salads and, especially, their version of Israeli breakfast.

The group also took a spontaneous trip to Cinema City:

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Besides playing with the new lifesize Star Wars figures, I also snagged lunch at Moshe Burger (see my post here for pictures of their food). The burger was great!

I spent a nice afternoon at the Tahana Rishona – one of my favorite Jerusalem spots!:

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While it was hard to saw goodbye to Israel at the end of the trip, I was so happy I was able to visit so many favorite spots (and favorite meals!) during my trip. It also helps that I know I’ll be back there again next winter. 🙂

 

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, and Oude Kerk

While I was able to get advance tickets to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, there were no online advance tickets available for the Anne Frank House. From the website, it seemed as though there are only a small number of advance-purchase tickets available to the Anne Frank House for any given day and they sell out well in advance (I didn’t see any tickets available until late May!). Since this is one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam, I knew we would should expect some high waiting times in line (and, in the days prior to the visit, I saw long lines snaking around the blocks near to the museum).

The House opened at 9:00am, so Noah and I got to the line at about 8:30 – there were already over 100 people in front of us (yes, that is the line snaking up the block and curving to the right):

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Within the next half hour before the museum opened, the line increased to a few hundred (I couldn’t even see the end!):

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Holy cow – this was quite the line! We waited close to two hours in line before getting into the museum…good thing I brought my book! Inside the House, no photos were allowed, and it was very crowded. Basically, everyone walked through the rooms in a line, reading the information on the walls and looking at some of the artifacts on display. It was definitely a worthwhile visit, and I found it particularly interesting to see who was in the crowd of visitors. The Diary of Anne Frank is the Holocaust book that has achieved the greatest degree of worldwide popularity, and as such it seems to have become a symbol and point of connection to the Holocaust within communities and people that might not generally have much in the way of Holocaust education and exposure. As someone who has had a higher degree of Holocaust education (and especially after my Heritage Seminars trip to Poland in January), I found it very interesting to see the difference in people and feeling at the Anne Frank House.

After the museum, Noah and I visited the Amsterdam City Museum. This museum is enormous – something we unfortunately didn’t realize until we were already there. The museum includes a ‘DNA’ exhibit where visitors can learn about the basic history and ‘makeup’ of Amsterdam:

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Beyond the DNA exhibit, there are exhibits on art, culture, and social movements throughout essentially all of Amsterdam’s history. We were disappointed we didn’t realize how large and thorough the museum was before going because we timed the visit in such a way that we were tired after only an hour or so there – I felt like it could have taken half a day at least to see everything!

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Before too long we left to rejuvenate with lunch at the Luxembourg Cafe (my burger was great!):

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A complete pick-me-up wasn’t complete though until post-coffee. Coffeecompany is a chain around Amsterdam, and the swanky looking interior caught my eye:

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It turned out this was a very nice coffeeshop – high quality espresso, freshly brewed coffee for each order, and some interesting espresso drinks (like a more authentic version of the flat white – Starbuck’s new menu addition). I ordered a regular coffee which was brewed in front of me using an aeropress:

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After coffee and lunch, we did some sightseeing around Dam Square. Dam Square is in the center of the city and derives its name from the fact that it was at this location that the Amstel River was dammed and, thus, Amsterdam was created – originally, Amstelredam. Today, the square is bordered by some pretty impressive buildings. Most namely, the Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam’s principal church when it was built in the early 15th-century):

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And the Koninklijk Paleis:

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This building’s current name (Palace), however, is slightly misleading because the building was originally built to be the city’s town hall and didn’t have any royal occupants until the French occupation of the city (1795-1813).

From Dam Square, Noah and I ventured further into the city center to see the Oude Kerk and have a peek into the Red Light District. The Oude Kerk is one of the city’s most beautiful churches…and it happens to be right in the middle of the Red Light District. The church has been here since the mid-13th century and became something of a pilgrimage site after there was a purported miracle that occurred here. The story of the miracle is as follows: a dying man took communion here and threw up his Host. When it was thrown up, the cracker was thrown onto a fire, but it didn’t burn up. The un-burned cracker was then put on display and people would come to see it – hence, pilgrimage site.

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The church was quite impressive, but I felt most of place’s spirituality was dampened through distraction from the rest of the environs:

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After the Oude Kerk and Red Light District, we walked to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest green area, to relax and stroll around a bit before dinner:

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On Saturday night (two nights before), Noah and I had tried to go to Moeders one of the [few] Dutch restaurants recommended in our guide book. Unfortunately, when we got there we were told that they were totally booked. I called later to make a reservation and they didn’t have any availability for two days (!), so I made a booking on the only available night. If difficulty to get a table corresponds to quality of food, then this place must be pretty good!

The environment at Moeders is a lot of fun (the name means ‘mothers,’ and the walls are covered with pictures of peoples mothers!

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Noah ordered a fish special and I ordered vegetarian hotchpotch – a Dutch dish made with mashed potatoes, veggies and cheese:

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We shared a dessert called ‘Dutch delights’ that had small samples of a few traditional Dutch desserts: spiced biscuit ice cream, small pancakes, and custard with fruit curd.

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Yum!

Coming soon…a recap of our last day in the Netherlands and a trip to Rotterdam!

Other Amsterdam Posts

Travel day and hotel
Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhof Gardens
Canal Cruise, Museum of the Canals, and the Old Jewish Quarter
Day trip to Rotterdam, architecture tour

 

Wonderful Weekend

People often ask, “what was something fun you did this weekend?” Sometimes the question puts a lot of pressure on because if nothing immediately comes to mind I think, “oh no! Did I do nothing fun?!?!”

But, right now I would love to hear the question.

you: What was something fun you did this weekend?

me: EVERYTHING!

Yes, I had an absolutely phenomenal weekend. Not only was the trip to Stillwater great, but the rest of the weekend continued to be full of fun shenanigans with the love of my life, man of my dreams.

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Yes, I made that meme and am very proud.

The man in question planned a surprise outing for Sunday that I was looking forward to with great anticipation. I hopped on my bike without too many questions and followed the leader until we got here….

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Paint Your Plate is a make-it-yourself studio where you can select from a variety of dishes, figurines, and trinkets what (and how!) to paint. When we walked in, the average age of people in the store went up by about 10 years. But, no matter!

There were a lot of items to choose from, so we took some time decided what we wanted to paint:

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Eventually, I settled on a bowl and Noah chose a mug. We chose a seat at one of the tables and lightly cleaned our pieces to wipe off any dust:

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Next, it was time to choose paint colors, select stencils and stamps if we wanted, and sketch the outline of what we wanted to paint on the outside of our piece with a pencil. While we were there, we hardly talked because we were both so engrossed in our work. 🙂

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Noah put a geometric diamond design on his mug and it looked great:

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I decided to cover my bowl with stars, flowers, and polka dots.

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And since I am planning to use it for breakfast in the morning, I put a sunny message in the bottom:

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We couldn’t take the bowl and mug home with us because Paint Your Plate will glaze and fire the pieces over the course of the next week. When they’re ready, they’ll give us a call to come pick them up. I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like!

By the time we were done at Paint Your Plate, it was past 6:00 and we were ready to bike home and go for dinner. Since we are leaving the Twin Cities soon, we are eager to go back to some of our favorite restaurants one more time. We settled on The Lynn on Bryant which we visited about a year ago and loved. As we remembered, the food was great. We even saw the Vermont-born head chef and owner sitting and talking with some customers!

We ordered the gnocchi to share as an appetizer and it was fabulous:

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The sauce was creamy and smooth, and we both especially liked the bread crumbs on top. For my entree, I ordered the Bryant Burger (veggie burger with chickpea fries).

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This is the same dish I ordered last time we visited the restaurant, but it was so good I knew that I had to get it again.

Noah ordered a lamb dish that came with a small pot pie as a side. He also thought it was excellent!

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Our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs though, and we ended up ordering dessert even though it meant we left pretty stuffed.

Noah ordered an affogato (vanilla ice cream topped with espresso) and I ordered the warm chocolate cake:

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The chocolate cake was very dense – almost more like a thick mousse – and the ice cream on top was the perfect compliment to the warm chocolate.

This restaurant is SO good! It can be quite expensive or affordable depending on what you get. The burgers and sandwiches are $15 or less, but the regular entrees are closer to $30. So, you can definitely come on a smaller budget but be conscientious about what you order! Either way, I would say this place is worth a splurge. 🙂

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

I have a bottle of teriyaki sauce in my fridge leftover from when I made Asian Turkey Meatloaf several weeks ago. I’ve been wanting to make something else with the stuff in an attempt to use a little more of the bottle, and I thought teriyaki burgers could be a good solution. Plus, I could also use the leftover roasted garlic from the Roasted Tomato Coconut Soup! *full recipe below
First, chop one small onion:
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Combine the onion with 1.25 lbs lean ground turkey and one egg:
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Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and 1/4 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs:
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Add in the roasted garlic – I used a lot:
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The flavor of roasted garlic is much milder than raw, so you should use it in much larger quantities to get the flavor. Mix everything together:
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Divide into 6 patties on a baking sheet:
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Bake at 375° for 15 minutes on one side…
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…and then the other:
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Serve with potatoes and cheesy cabbage bake:
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Ingredients
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1.25 lbs ground lean turkey
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons garlic
- 2 tablespoons roasted garlic (this is an approximation of what I used)
Method
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until sauce is distributed.
Divide into 6 patties on a baking sheet and bake at 375° for 30 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes.

Highland Grill

This morning I had eggs again for breakfast. Instead of making eggs plain though, I cooked them into some Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain cereal. I got the idea from my roommate who made savory oats a couple weeks ago. For this breakfast, I cooked 1/4 cup of 10-grain cereal with slightly less than 1 cup of water. After cooking for a couple minutes, I added in one egg, one mini-babybel cheese wedge, a roasted tomato, and 1 tablespoon of pesto. I served it with a sliced banana.

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This breakfast was very good and I will definitely make again. The savory cereal was very satisfying, and the eggs really thickened the whole dish.

For lunch, I met a couple friends at the Highland Grill in St. Paul – which seems to be a favorite eats spot for almost everyone I know in St. Paul. Highland Grill serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they have a nice combination of creative meals and comfort food dishes.

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The atmosphere inside is casual and comfy – as evidenced by the fact that all of their coffee mugs are unique and similar to something you might find in your own cupboard:

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Every day there are featured dishes. Today it included buckwheat pancakes, a fried chicken sandwich, cajun pork chop with risotto, and chili prawns:

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In addition to featured dishes, there is also a daily deal. Tuesday’s deal is half price on all bottles of wine. Obviously, too good a deal to pass up:

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After much deliberation (and by that I mean wondering if I should maybe order something ‘healthier’)*, I decided to order Peter’s burger. The burger came with sweet-mustard pickle relish, a fried egg, ketchup, grilled onions, and sourdough bread. I ordered it with sweet potato fries:
*see below for further explanation

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One of my lunch companions ordered the fried chicken sandwich special with a side salad:

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The other ordered buckwheat pancakes with a side of fruit:

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Everything was delicious! This is a great spot for any meal of the day.

Going back to my wondering if I should order a ‘healthier’ option…
Often when I go out to eat, I feel a slight sense of anxiety regarding the calories and fat in the meal. When I was struggling a lot with my eating disorder, I would often try to get out of eating meals I didn’t prepare for myself. Or, if I did eat out, I would try to stick with salads or things that didn’t include extra sauces or oils. I would stress out about butter or oil being added to bread or meat, and would try to alter my orders to make them as low-caloric as possible.

Now, I realize that eating out should be something enjoyable. Yes, a meal at a restaurant will almost always have more calories and fat than one that I prepare for myself at home, but I will also have the added enjoyment of dining with friends, testing out a new restaurant, and trying a meal that I would not ordinarily eat or prepare for myself.

When selecting what to order at a restaurant now, my primary goal is not to determine what will be the ‘healthiest’ but, rather, what sounds the best to me and what will be unique. I know that if I choose the ‘healthiest’ item for its calorie count and lack of added fats, I am not truly being healthy but am instead letting unhealthy rules and restrictions make decisions for me. When I was in recovery from my eating disorder, one of the most important things I learned was that health is about lifestyle – not about one meal or one day or one workout. Real health is understanding that it’s okay to have sweet potato fries and a burger once in a while, and it’s okay to enjoy that meal while dining with great friends and not feel guilty afterwards. Hallelujah, amen. 🙂

Bryant Lake Bowl: an Uptown classic

If you have ever lived in or visited the Uptown Minneapolis area, you have probably heard of Bryant Lake Bowl.

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Located right in the heart of Uptown at Lake and Bryant, it’s the sort of place you go to when you can’t make up your mind. Why? Because it offers a little of everything. It’s a bar with daily happy hours during the week and a live DJ spinning on Tuesday nights. It’s also a restaurant serving three meals a day, offering a mix of creative and standard fare (all delicious). It’s also a theater showing everything from comedy to movies to stage performances to drag shows. And, last but not least, it is also a bowling alley:

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Not wanting my family to visit and miss seeing such a unique gem, I brought them to Bryant Lake Bowl on Saturday night. The restaurant and bowling alley was packed. Luckily, we only had to wait about 15-20 minutes for a table. We put our name on the bowling wait list before we were even seated. Immediately after looking at the menu, we decided to order the homemade tater tots as an appetizer to share:

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They were large and in charge and DELICIOUS. I’ve never had something quite like it (except maybe a regular tater tot…), but they were big, crunchy, soft and super hot on the inside, and seemed to have some additional spices (and maybe some sweet potato?) even though I can’t identify exactly what they were. Bottom line: get these now.

I ordered another appetizer for my meal. Mock duck spring rolls:

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These were another winner. They came with a ginger tahini sauce, and the rolls themselves were superb – full of veggies and flavor. They were pan-fried, so the exterior had that delicious crunch to it…yeah, you know what I’m referring to. 🙂

My mom ordered a roasted mushroom and squash risotto:

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My brother ordered a caesar salad which came with grilled tofu on top:

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And my dad got a burger with mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were weirdly liquidy (see below):

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Overall, the food was really good but the service was definitely lacking. There were two mistakes to our order: I never received a small house salad I ordered and my brother’s salad came with tofu on top even though he ordered chicken. It didn’t bother us too much because I was full anyway and my brother didn’t mind, but it wasn’t the greatest reflection of customer service.

Unfortunately, when we finished our meal there were still six names ahead of us on the bowling list! Since there are only 8 lanes, we were worried it could be a really long wait so we decided not to stay. Plus, yogurt lab was calling our name again. 🙂 Nonetheless, this is a really fun location that I would recommend going to – especially with friends or a date – if you are in the area. They have a date night on Mondays for $28/couple which includes two entrees (you have to choose from a pre-selected list though), a bottle of wine, and a round of bowling. Definitely a good deal!