Capital One Cardholder Exclusive events: two awesome experiences

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Several months ago, a reader gave us a tip and I think we were the first blog to cover the story about Capital One cardholder exclusive tickets to Major League Baseball games. As soon as the calendar opened for June and July games, my wife redeemed miles for tickets to a New York Mets game that was played yesterday. A couple of days before that, she and I attended an entirely different cardholder exclusive event: Capital One recently invited me to attend last week’s Destination Dining event in New York City, a “Scandinavia” themed meal at famed two-Michelin-star restaurant Aquavit that also welcomed the chef from another Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago called Elske. Both events were fantastic — one is clearly a better value for the miles, but I walked away from both really excited about the experiences and looking forward to seeing what Capital One is cooking up next at Capital One experiences.

a man holding a glass of wine

Full disclosure: My wife and I redeemed our own miles for the New York Mets baseball game and we made that redemption (from her account) as soon as tickets were released in late April. About a month ago, I wrote about getting an extension on our Hilton free night certificates — we had gotten that extension to use them on our weekend trip to New York City for this game. Bottom line reviews of the Conrad New York Downtown and Conrad New York Midtown to come.

Separately, about a week before the Thursday, 7/21 Destination Dining event at Aquavit, Capital One invited me and a guest to attend that event at no cost. I was curious about the event both from the perspective of covering one of their sort of “flagship” cardholder exclusive events and as someone who enjoys gourmet food, so I gladly arranged childcare and made a separate trip to New York, redeeming 25,000 Hyatt points for the Thompson Central Park New York in order to attend. 

Capital One Cardholder Exclusive Major League Baseball tickets: An amazing redemption

In what is likely my best Capital One redemption to date, I redeemed 20,000 Miles for four tickets in fantastic club-level seats to a New York Mets game that retailed at $203 per ticket (the price showed up in the app when I opened the tickets before the game). Just a few years ago, 20,000 Capital One miles would have only been able to offset a travel purchase of $200. This redemption bought an ~$800 experience for my family of four (we never would have paid that much for it, but this was really cool nonetheless!). That’s awesome. I love international premium cabin award redemptions as much as anyone, but as far as a non-travel redemption goes, this was about as good as it gets.

a man in a hat in front of a building

For what it’s worth, I’m not really a huge baseball fan — nor am I a die-hard Mets fan. I grew up in a state of confusion about my fandom. My first Major League Baseball game was a Mets game with the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts (I can’t remember which) and soon after I had New York Mets posters of Daryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden on my wall. But a local minor league team was a Yankees affiliate, so I also grew up going to local games and seeing some players that went on to become New York Yankees (Bernie Williams was particularly memorable as my dad and uncle often used to talk to him and buy him hot dogs at the end of the stands). I have pictures with Bernie as a little kid, but this picture of my sister and I with the local team manager is the only minor league game pic my parents could come up with in time for this post (I didn’t think to find one of mine and snap a picture of it before leaving home).

a man and two children posing for a picture

So while most people who have worn a New York Yankees hat will find it heretical to have attended a New York Mets game that wasn’t the Subway Series, the truth is that it’s complicated for me :-). I picked Citi Field and the New York Mets for two reasons: first, they had a Sunday afternoon 1pm game available and second because I found that the Club Level seats would include access to an air conditioned dining area, which I figured might be clutch with temperatures in the mid 90’s in late July (and I wasn’t wrong about that, even once Major League Baseball changed the schedule and made it a night game).

The experience itself was pretty cool. Workers were herding most ticketholders in through a single entrance at the front of the stadium, but I had read that we should enter through the Hodges gate. A helpful employee pointed me toward the right side of the stadium as we faced it leaving the subway and we easily found the Hodges gate (pictured here at night as we were leaving because I had forgotten to snap a pic on the way in). There was literally no line for entry or security when we arrived about an hour before game time.

a sign on the front of a building

It was fitting that we entered the Hodges gate on the day that Gil Hodges was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — and we each got a Bobblehead commemorating that.

a hand holding a toy in a box

The reason we were entering via the Hodges gate is because of the club-level seats we scored through Capital One. As we wrote about several times, Capital One has been offering a great deal on terrific seats in every Major League Baseball stadium this season. Capital One has had 4 seats in each stadium that are “Cardholder Exclusives”. These seats are typically very close to the field (many members of our Frequent Miler Insiders group have posted pictures right behind the dugout at various stadiums). There are only 4 Cardholder Exclusive seats in each stadium and they are the same seats for every game. These Cardholder Exclusive seats cost just 5,000 miles per ticket despite the fact that the cash price of the seats would be a couple hundred dollars in many cases.

Unfortunately, the “Cardholder Exclusive” seats to most games are sold out at this point. When they are available for a particular game, you’ll only see those 2 or 4 seats available for sale. If you see many different ticket types for sale at different prices, then the “exclusives” seats for that game are gone and Capital One is displaying other seats that are available through its partnership with Vivid Seats — those tickets are not a great redemption. You can read more about this redemption and how it works in this post.

As expected, the seats for this game were great. While farther from the field than the seats I saw in most parks, it was still hard to beat getting to see big league baseball from a vantage point so close to the field in a city like New York.

a man taking a selfie in a baseball stadium a man and woman holding a trophy in a stadium

a baseball game in a stadium
Our seats really provided a great view of the action!

The seats themselves were padded and comfortable in this section like movie theater seats.

a row of seats in a stadium

In addition to good seats, we had access to the Delta Sky360 Club before and during the game. This is an indoor, air-conditioned area exclusively for people seated in the club level / suites section. There was no complimentary food or drinks, but there were plenty of places to sit and escape the heat and/or grab a bite to eat at a table. Some pics:

a boy sitting at a table with a slice of pizza
If the traditional “hot dog” isn’t your thing, you can get a slice of pizza at the park.

a room with couches and a television on the wall people in a room with tables and chairs a man wearing glasses and a hat

people in a restaurant with people standing around a counter
In the Delta Sky360 Club, you could walk up to food counters to order a variety of ballpark regular type items and some things that aren’t available in the rest of the stadium.

Food wasn’t cheap. We got 3 slices of cheese pizza, a hamburger with fries, and two soft drinks (one in a souvenir cup) and it came to about $55. I expected to pay ballpark prices, so this wasn’t surprising.

If you don’t want to wait on line, you don’t need to. That’s because in the Delta Sky360 Club section where Capital One’s Cardholder Exclusive tickets are, you can order directly through the MLB Ballpark app (which is what you need to download in order to display your tickets). You’ll find the “Mets Mobile Express” section in there.

a hand holding a phone

Since the app already has your tickets loaded, it knows your seats. You select the food or beverages you want and pay in the app and an attendant brings your order directly to your seat. The apps showed the earliest delivery time as being 20 minutes from the moment I placed my order at 8:09pm. However, I literally had my food delivered at my seat in 3 minutes at 8:12pm.

The Sky360 Club also has a restaurant and a couple of bars, though I hear they are all quite expensive. It also has the cleanest sports stadium bathrooms I have ever seen. This was a family restroom where I changed a diaper and this restroom didn’t look as clean as the men’s room. No, there’s no typo there — restrooms were this clean or better (the men’s room had a dedicated attendant who was constantly wiping down the sinks).

a bathroom with a toilet and sink

This game was originally scheduled to start at 1pm. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball changed the schedule a couple of weeks before the game and made this a 7:08pm start. My kids are usually in bed at 7:30pm, so we knew there was no way they’d make it through the whole game. We stretched it to almost 8:30pm before making our way toward the elevators to leave. I made a quick run around the Sky360Club to get some pictures for this post and as I did that, Mrs. Met, one of the two Mets mascots, walked right by me in the club. It happened so fast that I didn’t get a great picture.

Then I joined my wife and we went to the elevator to leave. As we were waiting, the attendant in the elevator area got our attention to say “Look, it’s Mrs. Met!” and we looked up as she darted past the elevator and through a door into a restricted area — unable to get our phones in time to get a pic again. The attendant told us that sometimes the mascots ride right in the elevator in this area, almost apologizing for alerting us without a chance for a pic.

A second later, the elevator opened and a few people got off. Because of the way they exited the elevator, it blocked me from getting my stroller through and the door closed before we could get on the elevator. My wife groaned for a second that we missed the elevator. It was late and the kids were ready to go. However, I thought to myself that sometimes those things happen serendipitously — and wouldn’t you know it, less than a minute later, this happened at the elevator!

a person in a baseball uniform
That’s Mr. Met, the other Mets mascot!
a person in a baseball uniform
My son may be a Mets fan for life now!

Sure enough, he ended up sharing an elevator with us on our way out!

a man smiling with a mascot

I immediately sent a text message to some family Mets fans, who were certainly jealous that we met Mr. Met!

Overall, this redemption was a blast. Unfortunately, we missed all the excitement of the last few innings because we needed to get the kids back to the hotel and off to sleep, but they had a blast while they were there.

a child in a stadium

Destination Dining: Scandinavia at New York’s Aquavit

a menu and glasses on a table

Capital One has upped its game in the experiences department this year. In addition to the Major League Baseball tickets that I got to experience, Capital One also offered exclusive ticket packages to the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four several months ago.

But for those who aren’t into sports, Capital One is offering a really interesting series of high-end dining experiences this summer in New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami. The theme is “Destination Dining”, where guests can experience the cuisine of a specific destination — giving diners a chance to let their tastebuds “travel” around the world without leaving their home city.

On Thursday night, July 21st, Capital One invited me to attend their Tase of Scandinavia event, which took place at two-Michelin-star restaurant Aquavit in New York City and was a collaboration between Aquavit’s star chef Emma Bengtsson’s and her team together with Chicago Chef David Posey of one-Michelin-star restaurant Elske. 

My wife and I enjoy fine dining experiences and over the past six or seven years we have enjoyed chef’s tasting menus at Michelin-star restaurants like The French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park, and the kitchen table experience at Alinea. I was curious how the experience at Aquavit would stack up, particularly given the unique opportunity to experience a collaboration between two different Michelin-starred restaurants. Truthfully, I didn’t know whether I would enjoy the cuisine. I have some Scandinavian roots (there is a little Finnish ancestry on one branch of my family tree), but I generally don’t care for fish or seafood — and I expected those would be heavy features at a Scandinavian restaurant. Still, if I’m going to step out of my comfort zone, what better way than with the best of the best?

Again, for full disclosure, I did not buy my ticket for this event — Capital One invited me to check it out. Tickets to the New York Event were already sold out by the time Capital One’s invitation came in, so I’m not 100% sure what the ticket price for this event was. However, upcoming events in Miami (Destination: Korea) and Washington, DC (Destination: Mexico) cost $250 (Miami) or $500 (Washington) per seat. There are two seatings in Miami on July 27th and then two seatings each night over two nights in Washington, DC (August 18th and 19th).

a screenshot of a menu

a screenshot of a menu

While those prices surely seem astronomically high compared to a normal night out at a restaurant, they are likely in line with what you would expect to pay for a chef’s tasting menu dinner and wine pairing at the host restaurants. In this case, you get to experience a very specific collaboration menu designed just for that night for Capital One cardholders. The opportunity to sample dishes from multiple Michelin-star restaurants in a single sitting is unique and is what I think makes this experience so intriguing; in a sense, I got to try both Aquavit and Elske, two restaurants with Michelin stars, in one shot (and with both of the executive chefs prominently in attendance). It is worth noting that there are also some other Capital One Dining experiences available in addition to these Michelin Destination Dining events, so there are also other culinary experiences at different price points for those who enjoy fine dining.

Unfortunately, these dining experiences aren’t great mileage redemptions. Both events yield just 0.8c per mile, which is less than the value you can get by redeeming your miles for travel purchases (which yields a value of 1 cent per mile). That said, these are unique events that you couldn’t experience otherwise given the collaboration menus, so whether paying cash or redeeming miles, I can understand why some people may be interested. I’d rather use miles to offset travel purchases and/or transfer to airline partners than use them at 0.8c per mile, but if you are very flush with Capital One miles and you aren’t traveling right now, I could see the potential appeal of at least buying an experience that you can’t otherwise get.

As for the experience itself, it was memorable. The 7-course tasing menu rotated dishes from both Aquavit and Elske and paired wine with each.

a menu with black text

I can’t immediately remember a time when I have had more than two glasses of wine in a single sitting (and even those two-glass instances are rare), so seven glasses was far more than I am used to, but the pairings here were wonderful. The Riesling they paired with the Leek dish in particular was downright magical — if you took a bite and a sip at the same time, it was hard to tell where the flavor of one ended and the other began. The sommeliers were also very enthusiastic about their jobs, which I find can really make the experience at a gourmet restaurant. A too-serious attitude can limit the enjoyment in the moment, whereas a sommelier who is really passionate about wine and its connection to food and who can laugh about it at the same time adds to the festive atmosphere, and that was the case here for sure.

Again, I don’t generally tend to eat fish or seafood. That said, in previous tasting menu experiences at places like Alinea and The French Laundry, I have enjoyed plenty of dishes that I would not ordinarily order, so I couldn’t miss the chance to sample things that I knew were beyond my typical comfort zone. After all, I may not like X or Y food because I’ve never had it prepared properly — at least this would give me the opportunity to really know whether or not I liked the included dishes when presented with the highest-level preparation.

And this experience was certainly every bit as good as one would hope from a restaurant of this caliber. The dishes were not only artfully prepared but also artistically presented. We very much enjoyed all but once course and the wine pairings contributed to each dish in exactly the way you would hope.

food on a plate
An amuse bouche. This bite included some sort of peppered crab on top of a cracker and it was surprisingly delicious — I don’t tend to enjoy crab, but this had a perfectly soft and light texture and flavor that I found to be a great prelude to the night.
a piece of cake with green powder on top
A second amuse bouche that was a very rich take on foie gras.
a white round object with green liquid on it
This dish may not look appetizing, but this was the leeks in hollandaise and it was phenomenal. Leeks grow in the woods near our home and we eat them in the fall each year. I told my wife that she’s going to have to up her game this fall :-).
a bowl of food with black and green food
Caviar with hand-shucked split peas. My wife *loves* fresh peas from the garden, so she found this combination absolutely irresistible.
a plate of food on a white surface
The only dish I really didn’t care for was what amounted to a pork belly cold cut. We both agreed that this dish didn’t do it for us at all — which was surprising since I expected to love it. My wife was turned off by the stout jelly and neither of us liked the meat or the radishes here.
a plate of food on a table
Artic char
a man in a suit serving food to another man
A member of the waitstaff was pouring bone marrow over my rack of lamb. Service was provided by many people throughout the night as is common at Michelin-starred restaurants. We asked a few questions throughout the course of the evening and every waitstaff member seemed intimately familiar with every dish on the menu, not just the ones they served.
a woman sitting at a table with food and drinks
The Krumkake course utilized champagne and caviar to help transition from savory to sweet as a lead-in to the dessert course.
a plate of food with flowers and berries
The Arctic Bird’s Nest dessert. This was a work of art — as delicious as it was gorgeous. The powered sugar was sprinkled on top to evoke snow and the white-chocolate eggs were filled with a goat cheese parfait that essentially tasted like sweet cream on a bed of fruit flavors. One of the things I like the most about gourmet dining is the creativity both in terms of flavor combinations and presentation. Making a dish look like a work of art is an impressive part of the experience.
people in a restaurant
A quick snap of the magic happening in the kitchen. I love restaurants where you can get a peek at what’s going on.

There was a brief speech made by a representative of the Michelin guide, where he presented chef David Posey with his 2022 Michelin star. Then, a representative of Wine Access spoke and alerted us to the fact that the wines paired with the meal could be ordered via a special page that could be accessed via a QR code on the back of the menu. I actually loved that — we have walked away from plenty of tasting menus without being able to remember exactly what was paired with each dish. Having a dedicated page where we could order our favorites (and get 10% off) was something I really appreciated.

After the event, each attendee received a goodie bag that included a Capital One Michelin star apron, Aquavit’s excellent bread and butter, and a couple of other things.

a black shopping bag with white text

Overall, this experience was a culinary delight, a lot of fun, and a great night out. While we certainly wouldn’t splurge on something like this with reckless abandon, we do enjoy high-end culinary experiences and the chance to try a restaurant that I may have otherwise missed due to a lack of familiarity with the cuisine was a nice treat. Furthermore, it gave us a new way to try to prep leeks this fall — and I can’t wait to give it a shot!

Whereas I was excited but uncertain how I would feel about Scandinavian fare, I love Mexican food. We ate at Mexique in Chicago several years ago, a Mexican-French fusion restaurant with a Michelin star at the time (since closed) and it was outstanding. The Destination Mexico event features teams from two restaurants that have two Michelin stars and a restaurant with one Michelin star — I imagine that will be an incredible menu and experience for cardholders.

Bottom line

Both of these experiences were unique opportunities for Capital One cardholders. While many rewards programs have moved toward more experience-based award redemptions, Capital One is offering some fairly unique opportunities. The cardholder exclusive baseball tickets were offered as a substantial discount (I’m not sure if any teams still have games left for this one unfortunately) and offered a highly elevated fan experience. While other card issuers offer ways to score reservations at high-end restaurants, Capital One is offering unique collaboration menus that you wouldn’t otherwise find if you dined at the included restaurants. They are offering a number of other Capital One exclusive events right now and I understand that there are more experiences coming in the not-distant future. If you are a Capital One cardholder, it is worth keeping your eye on the Capital One Experiences page to see if something comes up that strikes your fancy as you might find something really unique in their offerings.

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