Westside Local’s cheese plate does not disappoint.

My body was yearning for another cheese plate. And KC was yearning for a new cheese plate review. So we took one for the team (with pleasure), and rolled out with our pooch to Westside Local.

Tucked away in one of KC’s cutest and quietest neighborhoods, Westside Local’s food and signature cocktails draw people in any day of the week. Farm to table dining with trendy urban decorations— you can’t not enjoy this place.

We sat on the patio and were immediately greeted with a dog bowl of water and FREE BONES?! Our girl was in heaven. D ordered an Old Fashioned, myself – the house red wine. Cheese plate had been ordered, now we patiently waited.

Laurie delivered our plate in a very timely manner. It… was… stunning!  Westside Local gets 5 out of 5 for presentation. The fresh nature-y look of the creamy cheese, fresh fruit, crispy bread, and garnishing all atop a thick dark-wooded platter. Straight outta the Shire y’all.

cheese, cheese plate, cheese review, westside local, kansas city

Hootie hooooo!!

So we read up on the names of the players in this cheese game going down on the patio. Our tastebuds were ready. Let’s do this.

First up:

Cottonwood Cheddar

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You cheddar believe it was amazing.

Cut into thick cubes, this dry aged white cheddar cheese was like seeing an old friend. With a creamy yellow hue, this cheese was good on or off the cracker chips. Cottonwood cheddar will never get old, thus making it dangerous for people with cheese addictions. My only qualm with this beautiful cube of cheddar was just that, it was a large cube. Making it awkward to eat with the crackers. Nonetheless, it was delicious.

Homemade Ricotta

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My favorite DIY is DIY formaggio.

I did NOT expect to see ricotta this evening, what a surprise! Westside Local makes their own peppered ricotta, shaped like mashed potatoes with a pool of olive oil in the middle. Easy to spread on a cracker, slightly cooled. I’m not the world’s biggest ricotta fan, but DIY stuff is dope. So points for that.

A Green Dirt Farm Brie-Type Cheese

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Just brie yourself.

While we were never able to figure out its exact name, we can confidently say it was a sheep cheese (if its from Green Dirt) and its consistency was that similar to a brie. This cheese desperately needed its honey counterpart, bringing the sweet to the salt from the cracker. The honey was a must— the yin to it’s yang.

Other honorable mentions would definitely have to be the fresh fruit all up in the middle of the board. Delicious, and quickly devoured. The Farm to Market cracker chips were good, but not great. I was hoping they would crumble and crack with every bite, but they weren’t as crispy as I was hoping.

cheese, cheese plate, cheese review, westside local, kansas city

El fin!

We’re always looking for dog friendly patios around KC, and Westside Local set the bar pretty damn high. They even brought out fresh bacon for her while we waited for our check! Westside Local has been my requested birthday spot for the past few years, so my expectations were high for this cheese plater. For $14, you get your money’s worth that is for damn sure. If your looking for a filling snack in a dope atmosphere, Westside Local is where you need to be.

See where it falls on our list of KC’s Best Cheese Plates!

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Midi Approved Cheese Platter.


Rome in Quattro Days

Alright, so I’ll be honest. I’ve been avoiding this post because it is intimidating. Rome. What can I say? Rome was charming yet intense, classy yet demanding, busty yet dainty. With its 290 fountains and 900+ churches, there are endless sights and ruins to see. Trains are cheap and VERY easy to figure out. I think we did a pretty damn good job gettin’ er’ done in four whole days. Thiiiisss is hooowww weeee (did) itttt.

Day 1

Our train arrived in the city around 3:00 pm. We decided to opt out of a taxi ride to our AirBnB, that way we could see sites on foot along the way. Our AirBnB was east of the Colosseo (Colosseum). Come to find, we were living in the heart of the gay district in Rome! Rainbows, delicious drinks, and the BEST PIZZA IN ITALY (more on that later…). PRO TIP: Stay within walking distance of a train station. It makes life VERY accessible in Roma.

Roman Forum
After we settled ourselves, we wandered to the Coloseo and Roman Forum. We bought the 2-day pass which allows you to see both sites ONE TIME OVER a 2-day period. Many tourists were confused, but we figured it out eventually. We decided this day was for the Roman Forum. The ruins were amazingly old, beautiful, and religious. To my excitement, there were columns laying in the walking paths for guests to sit, stand, or touch. I have a thing for ancient columns.

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Our stomachs were growling, so we decided to hit Coming Out Roma for dinner. We sat outside at a table on the street. D to my front, and to my right, the sun setting through the empty arches of the Colosseum. We ordered Long Islands, they were perfect. We totes ordered more than one. I ordered their Quattro Formaggio pizza, my date ordered the Diavola. The pizza came out complete smothered in mozzarella, thick slices of smoked gouda, and sprinkled with parmesean -reggiano. Oh. My. Gaw. Literally no words except for this. And that I will dream about that pizza just as much as I will those mozzarella di bufala balls from Pompei.

We grabbed some snacks and a bottle(s) of wine from the supermarket. Called it a night to catch up on some Z’s.

Day 2

Bright and early, we headed to the Colosseo. To be brutally honest, it wasn’t as life-changing as other things I had seen on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely surreal being in such an important, ancient, brilliant masterpiece of a structure. Those Romans knew their shit. We snapped some pics, read some plaques, and got the heck out.

Vatican City
MAKE A RESERVATION BEFORE YOU GO. Thank the good Lord Jesus (literally) that the building is shaped to block the sun for most of the three hours -okay it was more like one- you will wait in line if you don’t make a reservation. We didn’t. We toughed it out, and once inside it moved very quickly.

Once in the walls of the city, we felt like herded cattle. I was scared I would drop something and be trampled by the thousands of tourists surrounding me. We were in a maze of the dopest paintings, rugs, and statues my eyes have ever seen. No time to take more than one picture and DEFINITELY not enough time to ask someone to take a pic of the two of us. The maze was heading in the direction of the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, prepare for your mind to be blown into millions of pieces all over the Vatican guards. The Sistine Chapel is just as majestic as you would imagine. NO PICTURES though and be sure you “KEEP MOVING OR MOVE TO THE SIDE.”

We hit up St. Peter’s Square to see where Frances does his THANG. It was pretty incredible being in such a holy important place. We opted out of the rumored 2.5 hour line to get into the basilica. I’d had enough cattle drives for one day.

PRO TIP: Eat at restaurants AWAY from touristy spots. You’ll wind up ordering a pizza and then read the fine print that says, “Items with * are frozen meals.” *eye roll*

Trevi Fountain
Hit this babe at night, it will be worth it. The walk from the train station to the fountain at night isn’t uncomfortable, a lot of cute cafes to stop in for gelato or wine.

No matter the time of day, it will be packed. Touch the water to ensure you’ll visit again and throw in a euro or two for good luck. The oldest water source in Rome collects about €3,000 a day and gives that money to Caritas, which helps those in need.

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So wealthy with coins, yet still Baroque.

Day 3

We found ourselves back at Coming Out Roma for brunch. It was amazing– those boys just don’t stop. Today was just a wander day. We wandered to the EU building part of town and eventually stumbled upon the Spanish Steps, which like many structures, were being renovated. We stopped at a recommended pizza place called Pizza Ciro (thanks, Jen) and enjoyed a delightful pizza. I recommend you sit by a window towards the front, it got stuffy in the back.

We walked up and down the designer streets, trying on hats we’ll never buy and gorging ourselves with gelato and espresso. Having no plan seemed like a good plan that day. The Pantheon is a must. A dome building with no lights, except for a circular skylight at the top, accompanied with an opera singer inside.

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For dinner, go find deep fried spaghetti. We found ours at a market next to our apartment called D Auria Palmina. It looks questionable, but it is worth every calorie. Trust me, boo.

Day 4

The beginning of the end of our journey. PRO TIP: Make sure that you notice if you flight is AM or PM, because we found out early that we had about 9 more hours to kill than we had planned. In ways, it was great, more time in Rome. In other ways, it was the longest, day, ever.

Due to this slip of the eye, we were able to see more than we planned. We planned out our day’s with destinations near train stations (less walking, more seeing). We stored our bags in a locked closet provided from our AirBnB host, and we hit the town for one last time.

Train Stop: Flaminio
Worth it? YES
Things to see:

  • Piazza del Popolo- beautiful gardens, walking/bike path, benches, etc. Bring a deck of cards and a cup of espresso and enjoy the quiet for a bit.

Train Stop: San Giovanni
Worth it: Kind of?
Things to see:

  • Market- sort of took me back to China… everyone wants you to buy their overpriced knock offs. Honey, I know that scarf ain’t made of real Pashmina! SHOOT!
  • Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano- beautiful church. We didn’t go inside because I was not appropriately dressed (sorry I wore a tank top with a heat index of 110….)

Train Stop: Castro Pretorio
Worth it?  NO
We came thinking we’d go to the National Library, but we didn’t. We got a snack and walked around the block.

Train Stop: Circo Massimo
Worth It? Hell to the yes.
Things to see:

  • Circo Massimo itself. This is the old ancient track that was said to be used to train for the ancient Olympics. You can walk/run on it today.
  • Trastevere neighborhood. This place is where all of the Italian hipsters were hiding the entire time! Just across the Tiber River, this place was so beautiful, rich with culture and arts, and hidden from most public transit. We wanted to spend more time, but our dogs were killin’ us and we had a plane to catch.
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Tiber River

While we may have arrived to our airport literally 7 hours early, I was happy to have a seat and looking forward to home and creating my Shutterfly book. More DOs and DON’T of planning a European trip to come in the future, thanks for reading!

Keep cheesin’!


Three steps to experiencing your vacation the right way.

There’s an entire world out there for us to explore. It’s much more vast than the 100-mile radius the majority of us confine ourselves to. You want to see it all, whether that’s in Europe, Asia, or here in US. While how you prepare, what you bring, and how you get there varies from trip to trip, there are some universal tips that all but ensure you have an incredible vacation. Here’s a few we abide by whether we’re camping for one night or leaving home for a few weeks.

1 – Research, plan, prepare, and repeat

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Plan, plan, plan

After finally pinning down the destination, know that the more time you put into the trip before you even hop in the car, plane, or train is time well spent. Locating a home base is best done by figuring out what you want to do first. If you’re aware of a few attractions you know you’ll want to hit, find a spot that’s easily accessible by them all. We always recommend an AirBnb, but there are also great options in hotels, campgrounds, rentable cabins, and more. Your destination can sometimes offer unique living quarters, too, so look for something weird!

2 – Give yourself plenty of time

“Vacation” is defined as “an extended period of recreation.” Although hiccups happen, combining tip #1 with giving yourself plenty of time can pay dividends in enjoyment. If you identify an opportunity to leave earlier, do it. This also helps with visiting those hot spots on your vacation. Most “tourist traps” have high traffic. Look into when those periods take place. By rule of thumb, you should hit your more high-traffic enduring attractions early in the morning and early in the afternoon. Less congested attractions means better pics, better experiences, and more thorough enjoyment.

3 – Bring a journal

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Field Notes, man. This is my favorite edition. Got that clean look and the white cover turns blue in the [enter your destination] sun.

Pick yourself up a small, easy-to-carry journal – I like Field Notes (pictured above) – and at the very least, get some of your experiences down on paper at the end of the day. Sure, you’ll always remember the highlights, but it’s easier than you think to forget about the way your destination sounds, feels, looks, and even smells. We pulled ours out on train rides, bars and restaurants, and park benches. You worked hard to get here – don’t let yourself forget how incredible it was!


5 Train Tips for Europe

There are quite a few things Europeans understand better than Americans, one of those things being the train system. Now, during our travels, we opted NOT to use the Eurail trains, only because we were staying in two countries, primary Italy for most of our trip. Having no clue how to begin booking trains in a foreign country, I mentally screamed “YOLO” and got on my computer. Here is what I learned.

If you are going to stay local, then train local.

For local trains, you really don’t need to book that far in advance, especially if you are staying within a couple hours of your destination. Several times overseas, we took a chance and booked the morning of, and it was easy peasy. In Germany, we used the Deutsche Bahn local trains, available at pretty much any train station in Germany. From Munich, we traveled to Garmisch Partenkirchen and Salzburg, Austria, all on the DB Trains. In Italy, we used the Trenitalia trains to each of our destinations. Both trains systems are nearly identical, minus the country and language (duh). English is always an option on the machines. You simply walk up to the machine, type in your destination, time, and coach class of your preference. Most machines take cash or card, but take note before you start the process. Check the departure board to find your platform, and enjoy the ride.

For trips over two hours, book ahead.

Knowing we had longer train rides in our future, we did book some trains in advance. We booked trains in advance from Milan → Cinque Terre, Cinque Terre → Pompeii, and Pompeii → Rome. If you think booking flights is easy, booking trains is easier. We only booked ahead on our Italian trains through Trenitalia, but the website literally walks you through it. The only hiccup I ran into was the Trenitalia website note translating from Italian to English. I was able to cross reference previous reservations and with the help of Google Translate, we had no issues!

Get motion sick? Plan accordingly.

Coming from someone who can’t swing on a damn swing set anymore, make sure you select seats that are comfortable for you. We opted to get seats facing each other on each train, that way I could face the direction the train was moving, while Derek could lovingly gaze into my eyes (really, it was better for playing cards).

You don’t have to get there super early!

My over-planning-paranoid brain was ready to be at the station at least 30 minutes in advance. The trains are very punctual and leave exactly when they say they will, never earlier. There is no security check-ins, some places didn’t even have anyone checking tickets before the platforms. Don’t be a total buffoon about it, but you don’t have to get there as early as a flight.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times!

Train stations are bustling with people coming and going, some just hanging out. Keep your bags close and pay attention to everything around you.

So that’s it! We entertained ourselves with the views and a deck of cards. It’s cheaper, more scenic, and less stress to travel Europe by train.

Bon voyage and keep cheesin’!


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My new favorite way to travel.

Pompei and Pompeii. Let’s learn the difference. Together.

Odds are, if you’re going to Europe, you’re going for the history. Pompei is a history goldmine. For us, Pompei was our fourth stop. We arrived after wining and hiking (and wining some more) in Cinque Terre’s Corniglia. It was going to be a tall task to top it, and turns out, Pompei didn’t come close, but that’s okay! You don’t go to Pompei for the relaxation, or to get away from it all – you go for the history! Within the city itself lies the ancient ruins of Pompeii (note the two “i’s”) – an ancient Roman city whose citizens lived luxurious, pampered, and alarmingly sexual lives. Oh, and there’s a fucking active volcano here. Let’s dive in, but before that, let’s review:

Pompei = City and commune in the metropolitan city of Naples

Pompeii = Ancient Roman city whose fate was brought to you in part by ash blanket suffocation and molten death

Pompeii, Rome, Ruins, Vesuvius

A statue stares out at the range surrounding Pompeii.

Welcome to Pompei!

We had three full days to spend in Pompei, and our plate was full. No different than our other stops, we booked an AirBnb in the heart of town. Our host was Serena, and although we did not get the chance to physically meet her, she was by far the most accommodating of our hosts. She helped us book trains and travel for nearly all our Italian destinations, and her pal Alfonso even picked us up from Napoli Centrale. This sounds sketchy, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. It was immediately apparent he was not a crazed axe murderer – he was just a life-loving guy with a passion for his city. On our way to the Airbnb, he stopped at a local shop and ordered fresh mozzarella for us – which was such a life-altering, beautiful moment that I was immediately saddened I would rarely, if ever, get to experience such a thing ever again.

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You can’t buy it like this in the US, folks.

The Ruins of Pompeii

In an effort to combat this unexpected depression, we opted to fight fire with fire and visit the Pompeii ruins the afternoon we arrived. After Alfonso left from getting us situated at the apartment, Cate and I hopped outside to walk there. From Serena’s Airbnb, the ruins are a mere 15 minute walk away. Pompei is a bustling town, and locals stand beside their storefronts desperately inquiring you to buy their things. Fair-skinned and blonde, Cate and I were remarkably American and thus ideal targets for the store workers. Be prepared to say “no thanks” plenty of times. An interesting tactic some of the tour stop workers would employ is asking us if we’re going to Pompeii, and then telling us we’re going the wrong way. Don’t worry – you’re going the right way, they just want you to buy into their tours. Another thing – please do not get frustrated with this – it’s their well-being!

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Once inside the confines of the ruins, you’re immediately hit with the realization that you’re deeply immersed in one of the most historical areas in the world. Excavations are still taking place, and efforts to immortalize the ruins are ongoing. As you venture inward, the understanding of how great a place this once was will hit you. Pompeii, and most of the Roman Empire, was vastly ahead of its time. Technology like running water and warm, community baths will amaze you, and the artistic creations, whether decorative or architectural, will overwhelm you. Then you will realize this entire place was completely buried when Mount Vesuvius blew its top in 79 AD. There are casts of Pompeii’s citizens on display here – people covering their faces and protecting their children – you will also see the casts of dogs, as well. It’s all quite morbid and sad, really, but it’s humbling to observe. The most fascinating of it all is while you wander through the ruins, you will run into ancient depictions of Vesuvius, and you will notice the top goes to a point, rather than the flat-top it shows today. For me, this illustrated the magnitude of Vesuvius’ eruption – it literally blew its top off – encasing Pompeii and its citizens in thick ash for hundreds of years.

History is terrifying, but it’s important. We reflected over pizza and wine.

Mount Vesuvius


Volcanoes, man. They’re kind of a like a highway to Earth’s core. Occasionally, the Earth gets aggravated and spews its wrath in a demonstration of monstrous power. As mentioned above, Vesuvius had one such eruption in 79 AD, and it did its best to completely erase a once thriving town. If you’re in Pompei, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

We walked the same route we took to the ruins, and the same gal told us we were going the wrong way. NICE TRY. The shuttles to Vesuvius pick you up at Pompei Scavi train station. From there, you start heading up to the rim. About halfway, you stop for a moment and switch into a vehicle better suited for the terrain awaiting you on the journey ahead. It looks like this:

Mercedes-Benz, 4x4, ATV

If you have any tendency to be susceptible to motion sickness, I recommend bringing along some dramamine or rocking some seabands. It’s a bumpy ride. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the bus drops you off, and leaves you with a 15 minute hike to the top. As with any hike, always remember to take your eyes off the ground every once in a while. From up here, you see the cities surrounding Vesuvius spread out around you. In the distance, you can see the Isle of Capri fighting the fog to meet your eyes. You see Pompeii, and you begin to fathom the magnitude of the infamous eruption. Once you reach the rim, you can peer into Vesuvius’ top. It’s covered in gravel, but steam still seeps out in some areas. To be honest, it’s alarmingly ominous, but you’ll notice there are sensors everywhere monitoring Vesuvius’ state, so any eruption can (theoretically) be predicted. Taking in the views around you, you realize that such an activity would pair beautifully with some wine. Conveniently, there’s some for sale up there, and it’s as intoxicating as it is affordable (very). Don’t overdo it though – you’ve got the commute back down to endure.

That night, we enjoyed some pasta and pesto, and cheap wine. The European Soccer Championships were on, and Italy was playing. I had always known that soccer was huge in Europe, but when Italy won that night, Pompei sounded like a war zone. I became a soccer fan that night.


Capri, Italy, Island, cliffs, ferry, boat, sea, Mediterranean,

On our final full day, we wanted nothing more than to have caprese on Capri, so we did just that. We took some rickety trains, and then a ferry across the Mediterranean to Capri. The sights were breathtaking, and the island became more beautiful as we inched closer. A bustling port greeted us as houses overlooked the bay. The first bit of depressing news hit when we discovered that the Blue Grotto was closed due to the tide. This is one of the primary attractions on the island, so we were left to explore and find Cate her caprese salad.

Before moving on, I need to admit something. The lack of the Blue Grotto, and the outrageously expensive, forgettable merchandise started getting to me. I got wrapped up in the disappointment and failed to absorb the world around me there. If you sense this happening to you, do everything in your power to stop it, or else you’ll end up feeling good about telling people Capri is “kinda like a floating Bonner Springs luxury outlet mall,” – which it most certainly is not.

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Caprese in Capri

Anyway, Cate and I found a nice spot with Caprese on the menu. It was well enjoyed, and after a bit more exploring, we took the ferry back to Pompei and the rickety train back to our Airbnb. I would like to go back some time to get a more adequate serving of Capri.

Our final day in Pompei came to a close.

In short, here’s your Pompei to-do list:

  1. See the ruins
  2. Go to Mount Vesuvius
  3. Purchase and consume fresh mozzarella
  4. Eat pizza
  5. Learn stuff!


Champagne and Cheese: Ça Va’s Got It

It has been many moons since our last cheese platter, and we apologize for that. We’re still on the hunt for KC’s best cheese plate. Our latest stop was at Westport’s Ça Va. Ça Va is a French Champagne cocktail hot spot, best known for the exclusive list of bubbles and the like. To be honest, I still don’t know how to pronounce it, but boy did we feel fancy being inside.

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Oui oui!

Our date turned into a double date. When we called for a reservation, we specifically requested a table in a corner or a secluded area. We arrived and were placed in the first table in front, stuck between the front door and the patio door. Humph. We asked to be moved: wish was granted.

The atmosphere of Ça Va is classic and chic. Very busy on a Wednesday at 7:00 PM, not many seats left empty. There is a huge French flag hanging in the window with corks everywhere for decor. Large candle castles were a nice touch, feeling like this place has been here for 100 years worth of candles. So we sit down and order our drinks from our lovely waitress, Solace. For me- prosecco and for Derek, a Dapper Sipper (don’t tell me that’s not fun to say). We put in our order for their cheese plate and waited in extreme anticipation.

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So cute.

Then…she arrived. Smaller than anticipated, we were hoping the three tiny cheeses presented in front of us would have enough bang to make us look past their minuscule size. It was pretty to look at, I’ll give them that. Our plate consisted of three cheeses, carrot paste (which I’m convinced was pickled), blackberries, and pickled shallots. Served with a side of pretzel crisps, we were locked and loaded. Hold on to ya butts…

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Isn’t she loooovellyy?

Camembert from St. Louis
This cheese looks like a love child between brie and feta. It is a soft white cheese, defined by a dusted, thick, white rind. It is fairly “stenchless” (yes, odorless is the word, but we prefer stenchless). When this camembert first hits your lips, it isn’t much, however the flavor sharpens as it makes its way towards the back of your tongue. I would recommend this cheese on a pretzel crisps and only on a pretzel crisp. This cheese is not going to impress your friends, but it won’t be a total L-7 weenie at a party. It is sort of like the second Jurassic Park movie: decent, but not life changing.

Never heard of it. SO, with my knowledge of the name and that it comes from Indiana, I hit the ol’ interwebs and I am ASSUMING this is a cheese from the Jacobs & Brichford Farms out of southeast Indiana. This cheese has a yellowish tint, semi soft, thick rind, giving the appearance of a white cheddar. To be honest, it was sort of a buzzkill. As the theme continues, it was better with a pretzel crisp. Our friend tried a bit and responded with a definite, “HUH.” Which was followed by, “If this was on a dating app, I would not swipe right.” Boom. Roasted.

We saved this one for last because, well, it looked the most exciting. This Spanish blue cheese is made from cow’s, goat’s, AND sheep’s milk. SAY WHAT. How riveting! All four of us agreed that this cheese is THE inspiration for the Stinky Cheese Man. With the other two cheeses proving to be the co-mayors of Bum-City, I was ready. Give me flavor or give me death. After so much anticipation, the truth was revealed. For me? I enjoyed it. It was soft and smooth, with that kick of blue veins to give it that extra HEYO– not bad, especially on a pretzel crisp. Everyone else? Nope. The other three describe this cheese as, “Your friend that shows up uninvited to your house,” “ Far more overpowering than I anticipated,” and last but not least, “I wouldn’t want that in my mouth.”

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So that was that. The service at Ça Va was fairly good, the ambiance was elegant, the cheese platter, however, was slightly disappointing. I would not go back to Ça Va for the cheese plate, but definitely for a celebratory drink of bubbly…and the pretzel crisps.

Check out where it falls on our KC Cheese Plate rankings.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep cheesin’.


Penicillin, Blue Cheese, and You

Want to hear a tragic love story? You’re in luck. First, let me give you a little background on this love triangle.

Me + Penicillin
When I was a young babe, the docs gave me penicillin and I more or less broke out in HELLA hives. My parents said, “OKAY NEVER AGAIN.” Now the only burden I have because of that incident is just writing down ‘PCN’ on my medical forms under “allergies.” [Full disclosure, I can’t spell penicillin without my phone so… there’s that.]

Me + Blue Cheese
Blue cheese and I were not friends for most of my life. In my mind, cheese should not be blue and… is it suppose to smell like that? Needless to say, our love slowly grew. It all started at Hi-Dive Lounge when they concocted their Jalapeño Dusted Potato Chips. It was, something from another dimension and I found myself asking for more blue cheese dressing. What had I become? From there, our love blossomed. Salads, eggs, grilled cheese– we were falling in love. But then I wondered… was it too good to be true?

For those of you that don’t know, blue cheeses are injected with a penicillin culture, creating the blue veins so commonly associated with the cheese. So, could I get sick from my newfound love for blue cheese? DUN DUN DUN.

The answer? No. From my trusty new friend at AsktheAllergist.com, Dr. Douglas Johnston told me that the antibiotic PCN is made of the fungus Penicillium chrysogenum, which is different from blue cheese, which is made from Penicillium roqueforti. SO, it’s all good in the hood! Us PCN allergy folk can gorge ourselves to our heart’s content. HUZZAH!


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Photo by CookBookMan17/Flickr.com

Wining and Hiking in Italy’s Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre. The Five Lands. How do I even begin to describe this place? It’s like a Meereen + Highgarden + Babylon. I still don’t believe that it’s a real place. But it is, and we were there for four magnificent days. Cinque Terre is a collection of five towns, cozied up along the northwest coast of Italy. All are connected by trains and hiking trails. It was the perfect vacation for us, with hiking, wine, the sea, and delicious food. They are known for their white wine, lemons, fresh pesto, and anchovies. (Yes we tried some, and they are absolutely delectable).

But first, the journey there…

We decided to take the cheapest route from Munich to Milan (then train to Cinque Terre). For frequent travelers, you would know that the cheapest is not always the smartest nor the fastest. I don’t recommend it. Pay the extra for a direct flight. ANYHOO, we ended up having a layover in Copenhagen for a few hours. Not enough time to explore, but too much time to not be a nuisance. It was where I first learned of a French Dog (hot dog stuffed in a French baguette. It looks “quite rude” according to my mother.) Finally, we boarded and landed in Milan.

Milano Centrale train station is beautiful, majestic, and a little bit confusing to find a bus ticket. Our AirBnB host told us to take the bus from Milano Centrale to her place, a 15 minute drive. Mila (our host’s name, Mila from Milan… I can’t even make that stuff up) said they were easy to find inside, but all we saw were Trenitalia machines, and no help desk. After about 40 minutes walking around the train station, I asked a man in a shop within the station and as it turns out, he sold tickets. PRO-TIP: Anytime you see a T sign outside of a shop or cafe, you can purchase bus tickets at that location. The T is for tabacchi stores.

We arrived at Mila’s apartment, which was our first and only shared AirBnB space. The other couple was from Hong Kong, and although we shared the bathroom with them, we never saw them. We grabbed some pizza, showered, and went to bed. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve- bring on para-paradise (enter: Coldplay). Mila prepared a delicious Italian breakfast for us to enjoy in our room as we got ready for our early train out. The train station was a hell of a lot easier dealing with actual trains. WHEW. Then we were off– Cinque Terre or BUST!

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Breaking our fast the right way.

The train ride was just over three hours, scheduled to arrive in La Spezia around 11:20 AM. We got to talking to some people on our train and realized we did not need to travel all the way to La Spezia, we can just hop off at Monterosso al Mare (the northernmost town of the five lands) and take the local train to Corniglia. We stepped off the train and were smacked in the face with the ocean’s scent and the most beautiful views our pupils had ever seen. As much as we wanted to keep engulfing the view with our seeing machines, we also really wanted to get rid of our crap and find our new home for the next few days. We purchased the 3-day Cinque Terre Card for €41 per person. The Cinque Terre card gives you unlimited train access from La Spezia to Levanto– the Five Towns sandwiched in between. This card also gives you trail access and bus access within those towns. We got onto the local train and were off to Corniglia, the middle town and our hometown.

Our place in Corniglia was owned by Lidia, a wonderful host who owned all apartments in the building. We had our own one bedroom apartment, kitchen, deck, and beautiful bathroom. All tenants shared the rooftop patio area. The views were like a painting come to life.

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A whole new wooooorrrllddddd!

At this point, we started the exploration of the lands. We hopped around them in no particular order, traveling multiple times to a few of them. So from north to south, here is our take on the Five Lands of Cinque Terre.

Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the only true beach town of Cinque Terre. I say ‘beach’ with the all-teeth squinty emoji face. It may be a beach, but it is a small beach covered with bros trying to sell you beach blankets and knock-off Raybans. I’m a beach snob, deal with it. We laid out just to say we did, but the sun kept hiding behind the clouds. I felt as though my eyes couldn’t open wide enough to get in all I needed to see. To my right, private beaches, coastlines and cliffs, and to my left, two more towns peaking out over the ledge to say hello. The trains and ferry boats carried loads of humans to and from this busy town.

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Life’s a beach.

Monterosso felt the most ‘watered down’ of all of the towns. Tourism has taken over Monterosso to the point of almost feeling like I was well on my way to South Padre Island (okay, maybe not that bad). Souvenirs, big-time looking restaurants, and even some cars in the streets(?!). We purchased some shampoo and moved along after about four hours of trying to get a different feel for the place.

Vernazza was our northern next door neighbor with a scenic harbor and the cutest lil’ boats you’ve ever seen. Vernazza is very busy, as the ferry boats are always coming and going. It felt smaller, perhaps because of all of the people bustling around town. Vernazza is the home to Castello Doria, a fortress built in the 15th century as a lookout for pirates. If you can handle the very narrow spiral staircase, it is worth the €1.5 to get to the top.

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Vernazza Views.

We walked to Vernazza for a visit from Corniglia along the 4 km trail. That doesn’t seem long, but that was a rougher trail than we had anticipated! A fairly drastic change in elevation made for an unintended, but much needed workout to work off all the wine, cheese, and pizza we had consumed. Vernazza, like all the towns, has breathtaking views. Views that honestly look like a fairytale land. About ¾ of the way to Vernazza, we found a small cafe with freshly squeezed lemon vodka smoothies. How could we say no? We frequented a gelato shop more than once in town and indulged ourselves over some people watching on some steps. All in all, Vernazza was beautiful, but felt small and hurried – Like that pretty popular girl in school who doesn’t have time to listen to your petty stories.

Home sweet home. SPOILER: This is our favorite of the five. A summarized list of our favorites is at the end of this post, FYI. Corniglia is the only landlocked town, sitting up powerfully on a cliff. There is no ferry access to this town, leaving it a little quieter than its four sisters. Corniglia feels like a very well kept secret. It is the smallest of the five, but we still found ourselves getting lost wandering its many narrow pedestrian-only stone paths. At one point, we ended up in the middle of the valley, surrounded by grapevines and lemon trees, looking out to the endless sea.

cinque terre, corniglia, italy, europe, travel, cheese, blog

Little boxes.

Down several flights of steep stairs and over some large rocks, there is access to the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t get your hopes up- it isn’t a beach, but a rocky water entrance that MAY get some sea gunk on your bum as you slide in, but it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. Corniglia was quaint, yet lively in all the rights ways. We tried a different restaurant for each meal, buying our local Cinque Terre wine and snacks from the market. It still had its charm, and really felt like home.

AKA Rock City. This town, once again, has spectacular views. The town’s one main street aims down at the rocks off the coast. There, you will find brave cliff jumpers and sunbathers. If you are in for a thrill, feel free to jump, just know you’ll have a crowd.

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Jump at your own risk.

The ferry is still picking up and dropping off, but there is enough room that it doesn’t feel too overpowering. The streets are full of boats, waiting to set sail. Up at the top of the town, in the church of course, the bell rang to let us know what time it is. Manarola still felt like it has its culture, even though it is busy. I kept having to remind myself that we did visit a beautiful country during tourist season…of course we’d be around people. I just wanted it all to myself. *hair flip*

This southernmost town had harbor access, beautiful views, and some cheap wine! Even though this is another one-road town, it felt large and in charge. We really enjoyed the feel of Riomaggiore, you can walk up to get lost in the lemon trees and unrealistically oversized succulents, or walk down to the rocky harbor. We found ourselves doing both, and ending up at a wine bar called Bar O’Netto Brasserie for 2.5 glasses of wine and a load off our feet.

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Sitting proud.

Riomaggiore still felt like somewhere new and different from anywhere else we’d been. It had its own rhythm that we didn’t find in the other four towns.  We got some take away from a restaurant named Mama Mia (because why wouldn’t I get take away from a restaurant named Mama Mia?) and enjoyed a tasty snack as we strolled through the towns, exploring the local shops.

SO THAT’S IT. Cinque Terre is absolutely, unbelievably, breathtakingly, stupidly beautiful. There is not a bad view to be seen. I want to make that well known before I rank the five towns, that they are all spectacular. I will be going back in my lifetime, hopefully sooner than later. It was the perfect union of adventure and relaxation.

5. Monterosso al Mare– too touristed out and busy, but a beach!
4. Vernazza- just never seemed to wow us, minus the views
3. Manarola- adorable, beautiful views
2. Riomaggiore- cultured, more slow paced
1. Corniglia- quiet, secluded, heaven like

So get out there, explore the world while you can, and keep cheesin’!



Two Gouda Day Trips from Munich

So your trip to Munich is booked, and now all that’s left to do is fill up the time you’ll be spending there. Munich itself is a beautifully historic town with plenty to do and even more beer to drink, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you to explore the idea of taking a day trip or two while you’re there. Between the hyper-efficient train systems throughout Europe and Munich’s central location, there are some incredible places within a one-to-two hour train ride away.

Honestly, the number of available options can be overwhelming, and they’re aren’t any BAD choices. Some lists can be extensive, so today we’re presenting you with something simple –  two destinations. The two day trips we made from Munich were Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Salzburg, Austria. These two trips are both less than a two-hour train ride from Munich Central Station.

Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Salzburg, Day Trips, Europe

If you zoom out far enough, Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Salzburg are a mere inches apart!

GARMISH-PARTENKIRCHEN: A fun word to say, and an even more fun place to visit

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Alps, Germany, Day trip, Munich


The mountains are always calling, and that’s how we ended up in Garmish-Partenkirchen. In our case, the mountains’ voices manifested themselves as a Rick Steves’ video about Munich. By the way – all his videos are perfect for your European trip’s planning stages, and this one is particularly proficient at teaching you how to pronounce “Garmisch-Partenkirchen.”

Anyway, Garmish-Partenkirchen is a small mountain town in the foothills of the Alps. Originally set as two separate towns, they were forced to combine by Adolf Hitler in preparation for the 1936 Winter Olympics. Looking around, it’s evident why this area would be an ideal location for the event, and many of the Olympic facilities are still standing today. It’s also home to Germany’s highest peak – the Zugspitze. On a clear day, you can see Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland from there. The peak itself is conveniently accessible via a train and cable car, and also features one of the most bomb-ass biergartens in the world.

Zugspitze, Alps, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Munich, Germany, peak, mountains

The biergarten atop the Zugspitze.

You can get there by train or car from Munich, but we opted for rail. From Munich Central Station, snag tickets to Bahnhof Garmisch-Partenkirchen, hop aboard, and enjoy the incredible sights. Odds are, it will be among the quickest hour and half commutes you’ve ever experienced.

Trains, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Munich, Day Trip, Views

Just a sampling of the views you’ll encounter from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

After you’ve arrived, find the stairs to go under the platform – this is how you get to the train that takes you to the top. Tickets are a bit pricey (50 €), but well worth it. You’ll hop on a train and have the option of switching to the cable eventually. We hopped off here, but I’m sure the view is just as gorgeous while descending. This car takes you to Zugspitze’s peak. At this point, I recommend heading right to the biergarten, where the offerings are simple and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Wine is served by the carafe, and the beer, of course, is plenty. If you’re feeling spicy, snag some gipfelschnaps (summit booze)! Take it easy, though: combining a rapid altitude increase (you’re just a bit higher than Keystone, CO) and alcohol can be…interesting.

Zugspitze, Cable Car, Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, peak, biergarten

Zugspitze from the cable car station.

After taking in the views, take another cable car to the lower part of the peak. Here, there are exhibits to explore and more sights to absorb. Pro tip: don’t allow the aforementioned alcohol consumption force you to buy food here. We did, and it wasn’t great. You’re better off getting something back in town.

Speaking of – the town(s) of Garmisch-Partenkirchen are a perfect slice of Bavarian tradition. We recharged with some espresso and wandered around for a couple hours. The water flowing throughout is a glacial-fed stream, which explains its light blue color. There are also two gorges to check out, as well, but we were unable to get there on our trip. After you’ve wandered and eaten to your heart’s content, hop back on the train and head back to Munich. THAT’S A DAY TRIP.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA – Home of Mozart and The Sound of Music

Hohensalzburg Castle, Salzburg, Munich, Day Trip,

The view from atop the Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg, Austria

Another extremely simple day trip from Munich is Salzburg, Austria. It’s a less than two-hour train ride from Munich Central Station, and the passing scenery helps speed things up. We didn’t know much about Salzburg beforehand, except that it was the Home of Mozart, the Sound of Music was shot there, and that there is a castle. After leaving the train, walk to the Mozartplatz. On this walk, you’ll go by several shops and restaurants – stop in as many as you’d like. Once at the Mozartplatz, grab a map from one of the info stations, and head to the Hohensalzburg Castle – it’s been raid-free since 1525!

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Some Mozart graffiti in an passageway

On a clearer day, I would recommend checking out the various gardens and even taking a tour or two around town. For us though, it began mercilessly pouring on us after leaving the castle. Staying dry was not an option, and we dashed in between storefronts to evade the rain. Eventually, we came across a sign for an Irish pub called “Shamrock.” Here is where we stayed, sipping whiskey until the rain held off. By late afternoon, it all stopped and we headed back to the train station.

Irish Pub, Salzburg, Austria, Munich, Day Trip

Shamrock Irish Pub – Our shelter during the storm.

Again, thanks to Munich’s central location, it makes day trips like these extremely simple things to do, and even regrettable if you don’t. Of course, there are several other options available, but we recommend these due to their short train rides and geographical and cultural differences. There’s so much to see in Europe – it’s just up to you to decide where you want to go.



Shop till you drop in Salzburg.


Be warned. There are puppets in the castle.

Munich is a can’t-miss European gem.

We all have an origin story, and those tales typically begin with an examination of your own ancestry. Part of mine begins in Germany, where delightfully repeated tales from my Grandparents inform us they met on the boat to America as they were escaping the shadow of the Nazi regime in hopes to find a new home here in the United States. It’s no mystery why I was drawn to Germany. I wanted to see the place from which many of my own family’s traditions emanate from.

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A gazebo just east of the English Garden.

Cate and I elected to visit Munich because of its rich history, unforgettable architecture, and central location to other spots in Europe. Munich was the first stop on our trip, and the only one in Germany. It’s the capital of Bavaria, and while we weren’t in town for Oktoberfest, it conveyed its culture in an array of ways including but not limited to beers bigger than your face and churches older than America.

We left Kansas City at 5 in the morning, and arrived at the Munich Airport at 1 the next afternoon. While you can save a pretty penny booking flights separately, like we did, I would recommend spending more for quicker travel, if able. The city’s center is a quick 45 minute train ride from the airport but we went one stop further – München Hackerbrücke station – to get to our AirBNB. Our host, Renate, was incredible and left us a couple beers to get us started.

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The view from Renate’s AirBnb.

After getting unpacked, we hit a nearby restaurant where I, of course, opted for the schnitzel (schnitzengruben, regrettably, was unavailable). On our way home, we stopped at a grocery shop to grab some wine and cheese, among other things. I was feeling confident from dinner’s beers, and I thought, “why not take my German-speaking skills for a spin?” Checking out, I asked the owner how old he was (wie alt bist du?) instead of how he was doing (wie geht es ihnen). COOL.


On our first full day of Munich, we wandered from the AirBnb to the Marienplatz – a piazza surrounded by historical landmarks, restaurants, and shops (mostly global, well-known brands). I can’t encourage merely walking around enough – especially in Munich. Not once did we feel uncomfortable with our surroundings. Once there, we grabbed some breakfast and got to exploring. We wandered around, into, and on top of the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall), where we met a fellow American who told us about Sandemans New Europe walking tours. One was starting outside shortly, so we joined up. Our guide led us around town, and was incredibly informative. I learned more in those three hours than I would have on my own in three days. RECOMMEND.

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The Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) in the Marienplatz

Afterwards, we visited the largest urban park on the planet – the Englischer Garten. The park was beautifully vast. We wanted to eat at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) – a multi-story structure surrounded by a biergarten. We arrived, and finally enjoyed what we really came to Munich for – alarmingly large beers! After a few, we turned around to head back. On our way out of the park, the fields had become filled with groups of people. Oddly enough, two guys were tossing an American football, and they over-threw it right into our direction. Now, I’m no Colin Klein , but I threw the best spiral of my life that day. I’d like to think those bros were impressed with the clinic I put on that day.

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Some views from the English Garden

Back in the city, the rain started to pour, so we dashed to the legendary Hofbrauhaus for a roof over our heads. We had originally planned to avoid this spot, as we had heard it was a tourist trap, but I’d be damned if we’d missed this place. Music filled the beer hall as it was played by a group of buzzed musicians adorned in lederhosen. We had some cheese dip (DECENT) with more gargantuan, locally sourced beerchachos. Once the rain eased up, we walked home, dry as a sponge out of water.

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One of the most well known breweries in the world – the Hofbrauhaus!

Munich is an incredible place, and becomes increasingly so the more you learn about it. The deeply religious background is evident in the beautiful structures throughout the city. The spot marking the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich is now a Spielzeug Museum (Toy Museum), because a child’s joy is the opposite of the hate curated there. Nearly the entire city was bombed flat in WWII, but the city chose to rebuild in manner reminiscent of its past – whereas places like Berlin elected to modernize. Don’t discount this town’s capabilities, though – it’s one of the largest tech hubs in Europe.

Munich was the perfect starting point for our European trip. English-speakers were common, but give the local language a try while you’re there! As with all new places, try all the food and drink you can, and explore until your legs are sore. Bring a journal to record your experiences while you enjoy the perfect people-watching spot. We will be back to Munich some day – i just hope that day isn’t too far off.

Earlier, I mentioned Munich’s central location was one of the defining factors in our choice to visit it. Thanks to the efficient rail system in Europe, incredible places can be affordable and simple to get to – some even can be squeezed into one day. We went on two of these trips, but we’ll talk about those later. You’ve been reading long enough!


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