Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Night of Culture and Rickshaws

For Christmas I bought my special someone tickets to the NC Symphony. I selected Friday night, the 18th, because they were highlighting jazz. More on that later..

For dinner, I wanted to try The Mint. This evening was, after all, a present, so a fancy restaurant was justified. I couldn't really judge the place until experiencing the food. Thinking that I didn't need reservations for a 6pm dinner, we just walked in. Note to self - make reservations next time. So we ate at Riviera, still one of my favorite places. The pistachio crusted trout was very tasty. The salad was simple but had lots of flavor, and the wine was great as usual.

We skipped dessert and decided to have a beer at the new Landmark Tavern before heading to the concert. The place was very crowded, it was opening night, but from the outside you could see the smoke. We opened the door and sure enough, the odor was too much. On another night perhaps we would have braved the smoke, but I really didn't want to sit in a nice concert hall reeking of cigarettes. It makes me feel so old to say something like that, but I just can't deal with smoke anymore. Sorry. I look forward to Landmark - I've already heard some great things, but I think I'll be visiting during the week when there's not a big crowd.

Since we still had about 30 minutes, guess where we went? Back to The Mint! I decided to try that $14 glass of chardonnay. And I have to confess, it was really, really good. The bartender let me try all of the wines before selecting one, but like any good bartender, he started with the good stuff and I just couldn't say no.

The concert was good. The highlight was the talented Jubilant Sykes. I was expecting a lot of jazz music, but as a celebration of African American composers, Mr. Sykes sang quite a few songs. His range was amazing. What an incredible voice. You know, it's nice to go and do something you would never normally do. It keeps the mind fresh. This evening was definitely a treat for us. Raleigh has some great activities to choose from. Step outside your comfort zone! Do something different one weekend.

Speaking of doing something different, the best part of the evening was the ride back to the car in the rickshaw! I've seen these guys everywhere but never needed a ride. I think it's such a great idea and I am so impressed by the athletic ability of pulling 300+ pounds on a bike. So we hailed one after the concert and enjoyed a nice ride for 4 blocks. Great ending to a nice evening.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Mint is Open

For months now, those of us at YSU downtown have watched the progress across Fayetteville St. The alley beside One Exchange Plaza was turned into a lovely outdoor seating/patio area. And finally, The Mint opened.

We knew it was going to "upscale southern cuisine." And from a few peeks in the window, the interior looked to be quite plush. So we couldn't wait to go. Last night at 5:30 the office shut down and the whole gang walked across the street for a drink.

As mentioned in several articles, the building used to be a bank. And at the main entrance is the vault door. But once inside, and maybe I was just too overwhelmed to notice, the interior didn't feel anything like a bank. My favorite were the huge, high-back, tufted booths. It seemed the perfect place to hang out with friends and enjoy a fabulous dinner.

We were just there for a drink, so we headed up the spiral staircase to the bar. I would hate to have too many drinks and have to go down those stairs. The pattern on the carpet combined with the spiral stairs could make for a nasty accident.

Anyway, the bar is spectacular, with several high tables and a lounge area. The whole place is very impressive and once you see the menu you'll know that you're in a unique place. The wine seemed a little pricey. I'm a chardonnay drinker and used to paying $7-9/glass, but the "good" chardonnay was priced at $14/glass. So I opted for the $5 Amstel Light. They don't really have appetizers that you can share at the bar. We did try the crab cakes, and while they were tasty, they were the size of a 50 cent piece and you only got 2 to an order. So, what I'm trying to say is that this place is fancy.

I love a good restaurant, and upscale is fine, but I guess I'm just disappointed that it's not going to be the kind of place I can stop by regularly after work. It's just too expensive. I think it will be a destination restaurant, for special occasions and entertaining business clients. Riviera, The Globe, and several other places have many entrees for less than $20 and they have really good food. Having said that, I hope it does well. Especially after learning how much we all paid for it.