wine

Quick Pictorial Of Beautiful And Interesting Utica Illinois

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We love to go up and hike Starved Rock State Park as well as stay at the gorgeous lodge there (see a previous post).We always go into Utica to wander as well. A quant and picturesque place that is rare anymore. Great little bars with awesome food and a great winery (See our earlier post on August Hill). Great little trading post style shops, galleries and whisky tastings. It is just a really interesting and fun place to hang out. We travel all over but it is still a favorite to wander. Take a look at the pictures, see or other posts and comment with any questions. Glad to help. Also follow us on twitter @combatsportlife (where we are most active)

 

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Random Walk Chicago (Travel Pictorial)

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I love doing these random walk pieces as it shows my readers what a place really looks/feels like, not the glossy or pr stuff ( don’t get me wrong I love doing our reviews and pr work for travel companies/hotels/restaurants). These are just fun and real.

 

We go to Chicago often. From fighting events and martial arts tournaments to my days in the trading world. Also healthcare conferences for my wife and often just to hang out. We love it and have been over a good portion of the whole Chicagoland area. This pictorial is mostly shots of River North and the walk as well as some Mag mile. Also the awesome Eataly. I’ll do a separate piece on it all by itself. Amazing experience. Gourmet grocery, multiple restaurants plus wine and craft beer!!! Trust me. Also some shots from a great dinner in the classic O’Callaghans Pub. Great experience. Check out the pics and enjoy(ps if you want us to come to your place hit us up here or on twitter @combatsportlife to set something up. Great pr for your place. Twitter is our primary so check it out)

 

August Hill Winery Tasting Room (Travel Pictorial)

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My wife and I travel to the Starved Rock area in Northern Illinois quite often (see previous articles). It’s gorgeous and great room/cabins in the grand lodge in the park. We also love to go in to the quaint town of Utica. Historic town with so many cool things to see but always relaxing.

This was our first chance to stop at August Hill. The winery itself is a few miles away but the tasting room is right downtown. It is amazing. A beautiful mod feel that would fit in anywhere in a huge metro or Napa. Still it is in a tiny town.

A fantastic tasting setup in a stunning room. You can get small plate food items hand carried into the gorgeous lounge area if you wish to buy wine by the glass or bottle and relax. Plus wine! Guess what? The wine is excellent as well. Often not true of these smaller Midwestern wineries. This is outstanding (and yes I’ve been all over the world as a fighter/travel writer). I love the Chambourcin (in fact there is a bottle staring at me in my office!) Try it. Now check out the pictures and enjoy. Talk after the jump.

 

I can’t say it enough. Come to this area and definitely come to  August Hill when you do. Trust me. I travel all over and it’s world class yet warm and classically Midwest. I should add that the staff was amazing. Great service. Great knowledge. Go!

Follow us on twitter @combatsportlife and contact us if you want us to come to your place. Live tweets and posts.

Enjoy Downtown Champaign Including Food At Guido’s and The Esquire( Pictorial)

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When are not traveling, we love to relax in Downtown Champaign. Great bars and restaurants and a cool place just to wander around. As i’ve said before, traveling to all the places we do actually helps us look for more treasures in our own area.

Great burgers, pizza and drinks from two great places. Guidos has a great menu and bar. Lots of screens, cool look and great outdoor seating. It also has a gorgeous downtown view especially when it is snowing. I’ll do a piece on that this winter. The esquire is a classic old school bar with a broad age range and fantastic food. They also have great outdoor seating. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Check out the pictures that also include the awesome Ten Thousand Villages store and just street shots. Talk after the jump.

Get yourself down in this area if you live nearby or if you are just visiting. Take advantage of the cool things, culture and food we have here. It’s a great place to just enjoy yourself!

Want a cheap link or ad? We can do that. Better yet have us come to you. Live tweets with our responsive twitter following have a great impact on your online image. Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com today and get started. Also follow the fun @combatsportlife on twitter

Check out the very cool champaigncenter.com for more info on the area.

A Trip To Pizzeria Antica (review of a cool destination here)

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We had eaten here shortly after it first opened but I didn’t have time to take pics and think about writing on it.  First, it’s a true cool destination location restaurant. Our downtown area has become quite hip, and is often referred to as micro urban. I should say that it’s close to where I live but I’m 15 min away in a tiny town. Champaign has about 100k people which is still small to many folks. My town has less than 8k lol. So I often refer to Champaign places as home to me.
  OK on to the fun stuff. First, if straight dominoes, papa John’s etc is the only thing you like, don’t go!  I love all pizza but this is wood fired gourmet rustic. Great locally sourced meats and cheese’s plus produce. Lots of olive oil and charred edges on the crust. Very good, and the place is a true experience. It’s in an old publishing building and very industrial looking. I love that!  You can stand and Look at the specially made ovens which came from Naples Italy. Heck you can see the woodpile!!
   A few pictures and then we will talk about the meal after the jump. Enjoy.

To start of I had a great Morreti Rossa and my wife had the house Chianti. We ordered the cheese plate for a nice start. Great local area cheese’s that were fantastic as well as olives/sweety drops jam and bread. It was very good. Not too heavy or much but classically excellent. Artisan local cheese can’t be beat for an experience.

    For the main we had the pizza pomodorini. Fresh mozzarella and fresh cherry tomatoes plus prosciutto Di parma/parmagianno reggianno and fresh arugula. Excellent. Fresh and nice charcoal edges. Again if this isn’t your thing it isn’t your place. Give it a try though. I’m a Giordano’s and Filippo guy but I love this stuff as well!
  

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It was a great meal in a very cool place. Made for a nice and different experience in our area. The only downside was service this time. I never complain about that but she disappeared!  Dropped off the pizza and never saw her again. We really wanted more drinks (especially me!). Gone. We have fun wherever we go and laughed about it but it wasn’t great. Nobody seemed happy to be there. I hope it was a one off as I really like the place and will return, but that needs work. We travel often, eat everywhere and pay well as a general rule. This was off.
   Again, it’s a great place and we had a wonderful time. Check it out if you’re in the area. If you’d like to be part of our sponsor/ad/ ambassador program email us. From inexpensive links to features or social ads/spokesperson work. Hit tompkinscontent@gmail.com today. Also follow @combatsportlife on Twitter.
   Today’s sponsor is the awesome Westbrook Stables. Get a great riding and training experience in a Western family oriented environment!  https://m.facebook.com/westbrookstable/

A link to today’s restaurant
http://anticachampaign.com/

Walk Around And See Beautiful Art In Vegas ( sculpture/paintings/performance/landscape)

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I love Vegas. For so many reasons. One of them is that I love art. I know less than a kindergarten child about it but I love it. As someone who has lots of brain trauma from fighting, art helps me relax,enjoy and learn. If you wander around around Las Vegas you will find incredible art. Seriously just walking around. You don’t have to pay for a museum, installation etc. It’s just there. From expensive pieces from masters to performance art and incredible fountain/landscape pieces. It is a feast for the senses. Take a look at these pictures and get an idea of how you can view and learn just walking around.
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For me there is nothing like being able to walk and see incredible art in public areas. Yes Las Vegas is basically one big performance piece, but you can see so much more if you just open your eyes. From fountains and sculpt to opera singers wandering. From master paintings to a 28 million dollar sculp, pictured with my hot wife and her hot coworker/friend on a  trip last year.  Yep, Steve Wynn turned down 28 million for multi colored Popeye!!!
     Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com to have us market and review your business today. Large social media following, and great conversational marketing program.  Lets work together and build your business for a very affordable amount. Follow @combatsportlife on twitter.
    Get your link here for less than dinner out.
Today’s links!
http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/
http://www.palazzo.com/
http://www.venetian.com/
https://www.aria.com/
https://www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/

Quick Review of A Great Meal @ The Bread Company In Urbana ( lots of pics)

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Let me start with a couple of short statements. I’ve been going to this place with my wife since she was my girlfriend ( A loooong dang time! ). We don’t get there as much because of my travel schedule but this meal reminded me I need to change that! Awesome!!  Second, at some point I’ll do a full review and the inside pics. We ate al fresco and it’s true Street side cafe experience. Love it, but the inside is so very cool that I feel almost criminal not showing you. I’ll have to make that happen. So now on to the thoughts on food and the pictures!
The place is known for its bread obviously, and rightfully so. If you love the classic euro/Swiss feel and food this place is truly a destination for you. They are also known for fondue and it is wonderful. This time we changed gears and tried things there we had not before. As is normal for us, we just kind of ordered several things and ate whatever. And fed each other lol. Almost 50 and together for over three decades and still like young daters lol.
Besides all the bread they brought us first, we had the crab cakes ( my wife’s true love! ). Served on a bed of greens they were outstanding. Obvious use of proper breading made in house. We also ordered a pizza margherita. Let met say I am not a crispy crust guy. This was great. It had that just scorched edge to it. We both loved it.
We also had the fried goat cheese. Again an obvious perfect use of bread crumbs that just happened to be available in a place famous for bread. Perfectly crisp with creamy melting goat cheese inside. Served with a plated bed of honey and strawberry. Simple yet perfect.
Beverages you say??!!  Why yes we might have. They carry a few JT Walkers beers and that makes me happy. JT’s is literally walking distance ( done it!! ) from my house. Maybe a mile. I love the Hail To The Chief IPA. It’s one of my go to beers when I’m around here. So of course that’s what I had. Fabulous as usual. My wife had the sangria. She is a sangria snob. Orders it often. Rarely impressed lol. She liked this one!!  I have to guess that’s a good sign. Take a look at my usual random picture set and we will talk location ( and advertising/sponsorship). Take a look at things we love as well Things we love

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The restaurant is located in what we use to call the Tbird plaza. Why, because it used to house the third movie theater and tbird pizza. The theater is now the famous canopy club!  This is all on the UIUC campus on the Urbana side. Right near Krannert Center. I know we are rural farm folk ( which I love ) but I’ve traveled the globe for fighting and marketing work. This area is truly world class. Take a trip and enjoy it. If you’re from the Chambana area and haven’t been here, I’ll be coming for you!!  Seriously though go enjoy this place and this area.
If you want us to come eat,drink and review your place then contact us today. Beyond that if you want great promo/pics and chatter about yourself, hit us up. From social ads to full campaign work. Plus you can get a globe hopping beat up retired fighter as your spokesperson!!!!  I might limp but I photograph well!  Seriously, work with us. Worried about money? We can work something out. Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com today. Also follow @combatsportlife and @tompkinscontent on Twitter
Check today’s links and sponsors.
http://www.thebreadcompanyurbana.com/

Front Page

http://krannertcenter.com/

https://www.amazon.com/shop/combatsportlife

A Quick Review Of Mama Sherry’s Pizza and Wings in Destin Florida ( great meal great price)

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   So something that has become a tradition in our family trips is finding a place for pizza and wings. We all love pizza and hit that up wherever we are, but Beach locations require a pizza and wings place. Why??  First because it’s awesome!! Second,  because we spent years travelling for fights and tournaments plus dance comps for my daughter. Now fights and rodeo with my adult children. Along the way at a dance national in Daytona, we found a great pizza and wings place after finally getting back to the beach late in the evening. After all day at the comp we just wanted to hang out. Pizza and wings ( beer and wine for mom and dad) on the beach at midnight hit the spot. The fact that it was a great deal made it better. Thus a tradition began  

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We are fortunate to travel all over and have luxurious travel experiences. Still, my favorite is find that great, quaint place with a great deal on this kind of food. Frankly, it’s how I got here. My loves won’t change!!!! So on this recent trip to Destin we found Mama Sherry’s. In between the high end strip malls with chains and along the road to the marina, this oasis of family vacation fun can be found. You have to either be a local, know it’s there ( because you subscribe to this awesome blog) or know how to search these places out. That said, it is on the main drag on 98 although easy to miss.
      I’ll make this quick and to the point, then I’ll get to the pictures( what you want!!!). We had the hand tossed pizza with pepperoni. A classic without pretense. It was great. We had an appetizer of fried pickles ( my daughter’s fave from bluegrass nationals karate tourney waaay back). Excellent!! We also had wings with a honey habanero glaze. Perfect!  This isn’t molecular gastronomy. This is classic people food. Enjoy it for what it vis. I love both, but this is my world!!!! I had a couple of Mama’s Irish Red ( a private label made by Bud, think Killian’s). Big beers and cheap!! My wife had a couple bof house red wines. Again cheap!  See a theme?? Eat well, have fun, keep some money. OK so next are the pictures. Check out the food and drinks but also the place. Fancy? Nope. Awesome? Oh yeahhhh. If you don’t like this kind of thing you probably aren’t interested in what goes on here. Lighten up, I’ve been around the world and this is great. Check the pics and see how much after the jump.

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Twitter. o all that food and alcohol that was delicious, plus old school Florida ambiance. Less than $50 with tip ( and I tip really well). It more than fed three people ( with lots of leftovers ). Easily feed a family for that or less. Finding budget eats at the beach with a family is something I will always want to show you. I’m always going to be a guy who grew up in a Midwest farm town!!!
   Enjoy. Go there and tell them we sent you. If you want your place reviewed or a link here hit us up. From social care on twitter/fb to full campaigns or just getting us to stop by we want to talk to you. Affordable for any business, email tompkinscontent@gmail.com. follow @combatsportlife and @tompkinscontent on Twitter

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Today’s link! Get yours here !
http://www.mamasherryspizzawingsandthings.com/aboutus.htm

Embassy Suites in Destin Florida ( From a Fighter Who Has Been Around The World)

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I have to say that I’ve lost count of how many times and how many places I’ve stayed in an Embassy Suites. I know the first time was in the late 80s when I was young man. I was doing a kickboxing seminar in St Louis after fighting there a few weeks before. They booked me in to an Embassy in Laclede’s Landing. I was hooked!  Yes like any hotel chain there are ups and downs but for the most part I never worry when a company or dojo book one for me.

So recently my wife, on a whim booked a week in Destin Florida at one for spring break. I was already going to be in the area for a day to do a private coaching session for a fighter, so my wife decided to make a trip of it with our youngest ( my 20 year old daughter ) as we won’t have many left with her at home. Embassy suites it was then.

I like to do my reviews of a hotel or resort as a rolling conversation, but with a core. The general, the meat and the area but mostly pictures!  It gives you an idea of what its really like and as an old fighter, it’s simple!

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So here is the general. Embassy suites is known for three things. Being all suites, having a breakfast buffet with some great cooked to order items and it’s evening happy hour. The evening reception is snacks and free drinks for two hours. Wine, beer and simple mixed drinks. It is a huge draw!  Always served in a gorgeous atrium. This one happened to be under construction during our trip. They used one of their many nice meeting rooms for it, not great but they did a good job. The work was finished our last night so we go a good look and some pics( more later).
The room was very nice. Always good space. Clean and well designed. It has a good luxury feel at a less than luxury price. I always like them, and this location was no exception. Beach locations are hard to stay ahead of cleaning and maintenance but they did well here. I’ll let some room pictures speak for me.

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It’s not in the top of luxe places we stay, but for family trips for many folks it is great. I’ve been all over and we are spoiled, yet this place didn’t disappoint us.

You get private access to strip of beach. It’s a quick walk across the street and it’s gorgeous. You have numbered access through a gate. All places along this strip are like that but keeps things quiet and subdued. Upside is its clean and no drunken stripper battles ( OK upside at my age lol). Downside is that you don’t have the cool cheap Beach food stands right there. If that’s you’re thing for Beach vacation, this isn’t your place. The beach is stunning, but I’ll cover that in other pieces.

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Location wise it’s great for some things, not others. It’s a distance from some big things, harbor walk etc and clubs. If you want to party, arrange transportation or stay elsewhere. For the most part that isn’t who would be here. Harbor walk is great ( upcoming piece) but the party part is different. We stayed here and went there several times. It is very close to Destin Commons which is a cool shopping center with great views( another coming picture review. It’s also close to Silver Sands Premium Outlets if that’s your thing. They are both on 98 and within a couple of miles. Heck I walked up by Silver Sands one night. Ok full disclosure, we all got hungry late and there had been a bit of drinking. Solution, walk to Whataburger and bring food back. Easy walk, and not a bad area. I might not be a good judge as I get hit in the head often!
You can walk along scenic gulf drive, as the hotel sits on it. From Beach rental homes, gorgeous private complete es to kitschy shops it’s a cool place to walk. I’m going to post a few of that ( expect an article just on that street) along with the atrium and other amenities. Catch the final after the jump.

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A quick summation.  If you are want to yell and party naked on the beach, this isn’t you ( I’ll probably hit you ). If you need perfect luxe this isn’t you ( been to that place but still like this). Enjoy it. Enjoy the  area. Enjoy your family.
If you want your place promoted or reviewed, contact us. Want a cheap link or ad with us? Hit us up. Full creative social campaign? Got it!  Motivation for your company?  Personal coaching or private sessions for fighting?  Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com and follow @combatsportlife & @tompkinscontent on twitter. Extremely affordable, unbelievable as to how cheap ( except the fight sessions, those are expensive ♥). If I’m a few dollars and up.
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Links and PR from today
http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/florida/embassy-suites-by-hilton-destin-miramar-beach-DSIESES/index.html
http://m.premiumoutlets.com/default.aspx?id=1348
http://www.destincommons.com/
http://whataburger.com/

A Quick Taste and Thoughts on Frontera Malbec. ( yes inexpensive!!!)

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All day, every day if I can find something that is inexpensive and awesome, I’m going there!  No matter how successful I’ve become. No matter all the places I’ve traveled and been able to enjoy the world’s best.  In the end I’m a guy who grew up without much and with the work ethic of a rural Midwestern guy.  Finding something any budget can enjoy is a pleasure for me. I feel like it’s part of my job to do things like this( and punch and kick lol).

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Let me first say that I am a huge malbec fan!  Let me also say that I’m a bit more of a beer and whiskey guy. Still, I travel often. My wife runs a huge department in a major hospital and we go to many functions with incredible wines and wine knowledgeable people. We both though this was quite good. Seriously quite good! 
   Nice level of fruit. Very clean. No aftertaste. None. I like big bold things. This isn’t quite there but very good. She thought so as well. Not sure if I mentioned we travel, and have recently dined at places like nobu and various Mario Battali restaurants. In other words, we drink well!  This was pretty good. Disclaimer ( I drank a cheap domestic beer yesterday!!!)
  

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My wife and i both enjoyed this. Great for having a glass while we discussed our days and cooked. From the subjects of training ( yes she is also a black belt under me) to health care ( her expertise) and marketing. A couple of glasses while building our martial arts/ PR/social media marketing empire was a great experience. Better yet we bout the big bottle at Sam’s Club for less $7 amounting to less than $3.5 per bottle. Yep. That’s real! 
   If you want your company, wine or cocktail or any lifestyle product promoted, contact us. Marketing campaigns, simple links or reviews.   Email tompkinscontent@gmail.com and follow @combatsportlife And @tompkinscontent on twitter !!!!
http://www.fronterawines.com
http://m.samsclub.com/

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