Restaurant: Travail, Robbinsdale, Minnesota

Travail dessert | KaleAndAle.com

One of four desserts I had at Travail. This kouign amann with maple syrup crème fraiche, chocolate, blueberry and wild rice granola was my favorite.

A few months ago I went to the Rookery bar in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. It’s in the back of a building that also houses Travail Kitchen & Amusements, a chef-driven restaurant known for its, well, amusing takes on food in presentation, taste and flavor.

Travail Ron Burgundy | KaleAndAle.com

The Ron Burgundy drink from Travail was fantastic.

I often use going to the bar of a restaurant as a way to check out either how vegetarian-friendly a place is or if its worth my time and money. I was surprised and eager to learn that Travail can accommodate a number of dietary restrictions, including both vegetarian and vegan meals. I was told that the tasting menu is usually 15 to 20 plates, and I might have to sit a few out that that can’t be made vegetarian. That didn’t deter me and I decided right then and there that’s what I wanted to do for my birthday earlier this month, and Aaron made reservations and got tickets for our seating.

Travail prep from seat | KaleAndAle.com

Great seats in the action!

We were seated at the end of a table-height bar, which I thought was kind of an afterthought seat at first, but I’ve decided is probably a really good view in the action compared to other seats. We were put on the end (tables are family style seating) probably to keep track of the vegetarians. I couldn’t confirm visually that the first plate was vegetarian so I asked. I felt bad doubting they didn’t have their stuff in order, but you just have to be sure! They did and I was quickly put at ease that I would be taken care of.

Travail soup | KaleAndAle.com

My favorite course: Red pepper soup with baguette and topping.

The courses were incredible, every one of them. And I could, in fact, have every one that night, so that made me excited and feel great on my birthday. Every dish was a wonderful sensory journey for taste, smell and sight, and sometimes sound and touch. It was incredible, interactive, entertaining and great to watch each dish be prepared, presented and explained.

Travail interactive potatoes | KaleAndAle.com

Walking the potato bar stations at Travail, so fun and tasty a course.

Our  meal included 18 courses; we got a photocopy of the handwritten menu for the day at the end of the meal. The courses ranged from three different soups, pasta, a course where we walked through the kitchen to different stations and were explained what different foods were, a point where we shoot a raw egg (this was the most difficult part but they assured us it was OK and they have to convince a lot of people) and four—yes, four—desserts, including root beer float pop rocks. Needless to say, I was full and happy when I left. And don’t get me started on that whiskey drink I had. It might not be for a while, be I would love to go back and experience it all again, especially during a different season.lSns8u

Another wonderful note is as we were leaving the person at the host stand (but not the host, maybe the manager?) stopped us and asked how the vegetarian meal was, if we would offer suggestions or come back, that type of thing. It was great to know that he cared and wanted to make sure we were satisfied.

I’m 30. Now what?

Cumpleaños Carolina

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Carolina Hornig

Three weeks ago, I turned 30. For the past 12 months, I had fretted the event. The first six months I was in denial and feared starting a new decade. The second half of the year I accepted that I was getting older and reflected on my 20s a lot. In the end, like the Y2K bug, turning 30 was a lot of hype with little problem.

Thirty is slowly starting to sink in. I have began to realize it is here to stay, and I’m not about to dwell on the past but am learning to embrace it.

When I was 20, my path for the decade was certain: I would finish college and start my career in journalism. My professional goals were to land a design job at a well-designed and -respected newspaper. I was single when I was 20 and my main concerns were schoolwork, my jobs and hanging out with my friends. I lived two hours from my family and saw them what was the right amount at the time.

During my 20’s I had great experiences: I met a wonderful person and, despite a long-term, long-distance relationship, we lived in the same city and worked together after college. I worked my way up through newspapers to be a 1A designer at a mid-sized paper in a competitive market that is never short on interesting news. I moved from Iowa to Georgia and now Florida.

No longer am I trying to find and establish myself, but work on becoming a better version of me. I can apply everything I have learned about life in the past decade and use it for the future.

The problem is, I don’t know what the future holds. What comes next? Sometime I would like to move closer to family, buy a house and start a family. I work in an industry that is — and may always be — downsizing. I probably can’t stay a print journalist forever. I’m not sure what my next step is; I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was 13.

I would love to have some goals for this or the next few years. I would love to start something with which I could see progress. I’ve never been into running in the least, but have thought about possibly training to run a 5k. It would get me moving with a clear goal accomplished in the end. Or maybe I should kayak or bike to a campsite and camp for a night; I have always wanted to be more outdoorsy. I would love to put another stamp on my passport soon, maybe to South America, though I don’t know much about the area.

The more reflection I have done, the more I realize I had a great time in my 20s, and it has helped make me who I am, but I’m ready to embrace my 30s with open arms and a new sense of adventure.