• Check my Insta

  • $15 OFF COUPON

  • Leftovers (Archives)

  • Popular Entrees

  • Still Hungry?

  • About Me

    © 2008-2017 Nicole (a.k.a. Bay Area Foodie)
    =

JALEO by José Andrés

Best meal ever. If you are in Vegas this is a must. Really delicious food. Minus 1 star for leaving smelling like a camp fire. They have an open spit in the dinning area of the restaurant and they were roasting a baby pig and that bad boy was smoking up a storm. I had to air out my clothes when we got back to the hotel. 

Favorite dish: white asparagus with lemon, thyme and idiazábal cheese. Not crazy about food served out of a shoe.

Website: http://www.jaleo.com/

Rating:

drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating drumstick rating

Grandma’s Coffee House, Kula Hawaii


Not to be confused with Mama’s …Grandma’s is a tiny rural coffee shop in Kula where you can get a mean breakfast and sensational baked goods. We rolled out of bed early to go try the the highly regarded eggs benedict. This turned out to be one of my top 5 benedicts…it comes on a cornmeal waffle w/ lemon hollandaise and home fries with a kick! Super delicious. I’m still kinda bummed that I shared it with my sister. Mike had an omelet with basil, tomato & feta and my bro-in-law feasted on something I think was called the bullseye which was a spam, rice & egg concoction. I also devoured a slice of banana cake and a coconut pineapple bar (don’t judge). Arrive early with a pile of CASH and enjoy!

Website: http://www.grandmascoffee.com/

Mama’s Fish House


On our fifth trip to Maui we finally decided to try the famed Mama’s Fish House. It may sound like a rustic joint but it is one of the most expensive restaurants on the island so we saved this for a special occasion…our 6th wedding anniversary.

Mama’s is located right on the beach and is decorated in the old Polynesian style. Think dark woods, antiques, staff dressed in colorful aloha gear and Hawaiian music. We arrived a bit early so we could check out the beach but since it was drizzling we decided to wait it out in the bar. The drinks were big and tasty. Our table was ready right on time and we were seated at a window table with a fantastic view. We made sure to make our reservation just before sunset.

view from our table

Our meal started off with a treat from the chef…a ginger soup. Then we shared the Ahi sashimi salad with crispy won ton strips, pohole fern, wasabi goat cheese, Kula vegetables and roasted sesame seed dressing. It was super fresh but could have used a bit more dressing. I already knew what I was going to order after looking at the menu online – Mahi mahi stuffed with lobster & crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust. Mike decided to go with a luau style plate that included Mahi mahi and slow-cooked Big Island Wild Boar with baked Hana rainforest banana, Molokai purple sweet potato, Lomi-lomi and fresh poi. Cool note about the menu – all the fish is wild and each dish lists the fisherman who caught it that day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The presentation and taste of the food was wonderful. At this point we were stuffed and were going to pass on dessert but because we were celebrating our anninversary we received complementary scoops of their homemade ice cream (strawberry bannana). Sweet ending to the night. I now know why everyone says you have to go to Mama’s.

Note:  Although you will pay a pretty penny don’t worry about the dress code – there were tank tops and board shorts galore!

Rating:

Website: http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/

Maui O’o Farm Tour & Lunch

view from the farm

My sister just finished building a beautiful home in a town called Kula (Upcountry Maui). When I read about an organic farm tour and lunch 10 minutes from her home I knew we had to do it (thanks for the tip mom). The farm supplies many of the high-end dining establishments in Lahaina.

The tour starts in the coffee tree lined parking lot and moves through the fruit trees up to the outdoor kitchen and dining area. There you meet the dedicated farm chef and he describes the gourmet menu he is going to prepare while you continue the tour through the garden. When the lunch bell rings a beautiful buffet of delicious food awaits you. Everything is harvested/caught earlier that morning.

Our farm Lunch included: salad (with greens we gathered from the garden), fresh caught mahi mahi w/ maui onion & fennel, fried tofu w/ beets, farm egg frittata w/ maui onions, raw veggie platter, crusty bread, brewed coffee & chocolate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next time you are in Maui take some time to venture away from the beach and check out Kula. You can’t beat the amazing bi-coastal views!

Note: Be sure to wear long pants, sneakers and pack a sweatshirt and umbrella. It is chilly up there and it may sprinkle on you even in the warmest summer months.

Website: http://www.oofarm.com/

Greenwich Village Food and Cultural Walking Tour‏

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … the best way to check out a City is with a food tour. We chose Foods of New York Greenwich Village Food and Culture Walking Tour. We arrived at 11am on Bleecker Street with empty stomachs. Our guide was a friendly young actress who had definitely done her homework. She was chock full of food & Village knowledge. We walked the charming neighborhood for 3 hours and were stuffed by the end.

Here is what we ate:

Stop 1.  Cheese pizza slice @ Joe’s Pizza
Stop 2.  Olive oil tasting @ O & Co. 
Stop 3.  Mac & Cheese @ Home restaurant
Stop 4.  Rice balls @ Faicco’s Italian Specialties
Stop 5.  Four tasty bites @ Centro Vinoteca
Stop 6.  Chocolate chip cookie @ Milk & Cookies
Stop 7.  Cheese @ Murray’s Cheese Shop
Stop 8.  Cannoli @ Rocco’s Pastry Shop

There are a bunch of historical stops on the tour too but I’ll let you see that for yourself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If anyone says the food is not enough they must have a tape worm because we were completely full with 3 stops to go. I had to bag my cookie, pass on the cheese and I FORCED myself to eat the cannoli!

Website: http://www.foodsofny.com/

48 Hours in New York City


We headed to NYC for the premiere of Mike’s latest documentary “Gringos at the Gate.” If you are into soccer especially the US -Mexico rivalry check it out (shamless plug). Anyways, I went mainly for the food. I had each day planned out weeks before we left. Here was our itinerary…

DAY 1

Our flight arrived at JFK at 8am and by 9:30am we were waiting in line for a table at Clinton St. Baking Company – yes, there was a 30 minute wait on a Tuesday. But it was voted best pancakes in NY by New York magazine and Martha (Stewart) is on their website homepage so I knew it had to be good. I ordered the eggs benedict -poached eggs, maple cured ham, classic hollandaise,over a toasted buttermilk biscuit. Awesome. Loved the biscuit and the chopped onion/ bell peppers on top gave it a zesty kick. Mike chose the famous wild maine blueberry pancakes with warm maple butter. Super light and fluffy. Worth the wait. CASH ONLY! This held us over till dinner.

I had to hit at least one of Mario Batali’s NY restaurants and we chose LUPA OSTERIA ROMANA which is a casual spot specializing in Roman trattoria fare. This was our best meal of the trip. Everything tasted superb. We had some great wine and service. Prices were reasonable but make sure you order a couple courses per person or you will leave hungry.

Apps: Seasonal salad with asparagus and peas

and

Roasted Mushrooms w/ Cavolo Nero & Ricotta Salata

Mains: *Special of the day* Fresh pasta with braised pork
and
Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Fennel

We skipped dessert and walked to Puddin’ a sweet shop that serves up different flavors of pudding. I know, brilliant idea! We ordered some of the signature (pre-made) minis so we could sample a bunch.

My favorite was the Caramel Macchiato (coffee /chocolate puddings, brownie pieces, salted caramel sauce) followed by Banana Cream Dream (banana pudding, graham cracker crumbs, banana cake,whipped cream). Before arriving I would have bet that my fav would have been the Coconut Cruise (coconut pudding, pineapple, coconut-soaked lime cake, graham cracker crumbs) but it had a weirdly thick consistency that didn’t move me.

DAY 2

With all that eating I had to schedule some sort of exercise. We had never been to Central Park and after some research many said the best way to see it all (since it is 843 acres) is by bike. We took a guided 2-hour  Bike Tour and had a beautiful ride. Look for coupons …they are out there. I found one for $10 off each person!

We finished up around noon so we walked to Shake Shack for lunch. This is NYC’s version of In-N-Out.

2 burgers and fries

We added a Fair Shake to our burger order -vanilla shake featuring 100% certified organic Arabica Fair Trade coffee. Yum! Something different for a fast food joint …they serve beer & wine too.
I was worried about eating a burger in the middle of the day since we were having dinner early but it was miniature…more like a slider. It was a very fresh and tasty burger. Did it put I-N-O to shame? I think not. Both do things well so I’m gonna leave it as a tie.

cereal milk soft serve with corn flakes – tasted best when it was all melted.

Next stop momofuku milk bar to pick up some treats for the plane ride home. Cookies and crack pie. I tried to make this pie at home a couple years ago. Mine came out good but this was mind blowing. Made the flight much more enjoyable : )

I couldn’t pass this soft serve up since it was really HOT out. I needed the energy to walk back to the hotel. Sooo much walking in the city!

Our final dinner was at The dutch. I had heard tons of good press about this place especially for the lunch/brunch. We were in a hurry because we arrived late and had to get to the premiere so we didn’t get to experience all it has to offer (namely THE PIE) but what we did have let’s just say I was not impressed. The food was just so-so and really expensive for what you got. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all!
I still ♥ NY

Note: The next morning before we jumped on our plane back to CALI we took a walking food tour of Greenwich village. Check it out here

72 Hours in Seattle


Mike and I spent a long weekend in Seattle visiting friends. We had never been so we arrived with a long list of things we wanted to check out and luckily our hosts were game to show us around. Here are the highlights!

Day 1

We arrived around noon and it was amazingly sunny and warm. Everyone said it was the best day of the year so far. To take advantage of the nice weather we decided to tool around Kirkland and grab a bite to eat at the Purple Cafe and wine bar.

I had seen a clip about Purple on the Food Network’s  “Best thing I ever Ate” where Melissa D’Arabian said the calamari was to die for. For the table we ordered the calamari, a cheese plate, a bunch of spreads with flatbreads/crackers, bruschetta and lots of wine. I should have known better than to trust the opinion of a winner of  “The Next Food Network Star” because I hate that show. The calamari was nothing special AT ALL! It was good but no better than any other calamari I’ve had.

Hey, Melissa! Next time you go try the bruschetta with cambozola cheese, prosciutto and red onion jam …now that’s something to drool over!

Day 2

Before we went on BILL SPEIDEL’S UNDERGROUND TOUR we walked up the street 2 blocks to Built Burger. Built specializes in burgers made with all natural meats from the Northwest. The meat, the buns, the toppings were oh so fresh! Check it out for sure if you are in the area. By the way the tour was fun too.

On our walk back to our car we ran into a little food cart called Street donuts. They serve mini donuts fried to order. We chose coconut with caramel…sooo good! Glad I don’t live here or this could become an addiction.

For dinner we went to a Tom Douglas joint. We had to because he is the king of Seattle. The Palace Kitchen features food cooked in its apple-wood burning grill. We feasted on the following: goat cheese and lavender fondue w/wood grilled bread, palace olive poppers,summer vegetables,washington flat iron steak,tagliatelle w/braised leg of lamb,warm roasted beets,smoked salmon chowder,peach-wild huckleberry crisp and the dahlia triple coconut cream pie. My personal favs were the fondue & coconut cream pie. Now I know why Chef Douglas has such a big following.

Day 3


Today was a little cool and cloudy and rained for the latter half the day but that didn’t stop us from strolling through all the hot spots of Pike Place Market. We hit up Daily Dozen Doughnuts (good stuff), Piroshky-Piroshky (I preferred the sweet over savory) and Pike Place Chowder (better than Boston). It was a slow Monday morning so no flying fish : (

Following that we jumped on a ferry to do some wine tasting in the small town of Bainbridge. The 30 minute ride was relaxing and had fantastic views.

view from the ferry

Walking distance from the boat we found 2-3 tasting rooms. We stopped at Island Vintners which featured wines from 3 local wineries and Eleven Winery. We were very surprised with the high quality of wines sampled and the woman working the Island Vintners room was hilarious.

For our last evening we headed to Bellevue to have apps and drinks at Black Bottle  (cool spot) followed by dinner at Din Tai Fung. Din is an award winning Taiwanese run dumpling house that serves up dim sum like dishes all day long. We shared a bunch of entrées like steamed pork soup dumplings, pork buns, shrimp shui mai, green beans and fried rice. Everything tasted great but I gotta admit my favorite thing was the garlic green beans.

We had a blast in Seattle. Shout out to CB & DB for showing us a wonderful time.


Cambridge: Hungry Mother & Toscanini’s Ice Cream

For our last evening in Boston we headed to Cambridge. We decided to first check out a small restaurant called Hungry Mother that serves up seasonal southern grub. We ordered the following:

GREEN TOMATO GAZPACHO: maine crab salad, cherry tomatoes, cornbread crumbs
FRIED CHICKEN: sautéed collard greens, compressed watermelon, tabasco honey
LOCAL CATCH: summer corn maque choux, cherry tomatoes, lobster-basil emulsion
SKILLET CORNBREAD

All the food was very tasty and well prepared. My favorite was the compressed watermelon. Now I know why the locals love this place.

I highly recommend making a reservation because the space is small. There was a long line when we left.

Rating:
Website: http://www.hungrymothercambridge.com/

Hungry Mother on Urbanspoon


We took off without having dessert because I had read about a place a few blocks away that was named by the New York Times as having the best ice cream in the world!

We arrived at Toscanini’s Ice Cream and looked over the menu of over 20 super unique flavors like bourbon flake, salty saffron, vienna finger cookie, bourbon chocolate chip & goat cheese brownie. After trying about 6 my head was spinning and in a hurry to order and not hold up the line any longer I ended up blurting out green tea and cake batter. Yes, two flavors I could easily find at home. Oh, well. Mike won on the selections … he chose salted caramel and fluffernutter which were incredibly good. The ice cream was sooooo rich and creamy that I barely made a dent in my one scoop. It may also be that I had been eating like a pig for 3 days so I had hit a wall…

Note: if you get a small you can still ask for two flavors!

Website: http://www.tosci.com/

Toscanini's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

SPORTELLO restaurant & DRINK cocktail bar

On our second evening we ventured to the waterfront area for dinner and drinks at Sportello and Drink, both owned by one of Boston’s most renowned chefs Barbara Lynch.

Sportello (Italian for counter) is a modern Italian take on a diner. The restaurant is composed of almost all counter seating with an open kitchen. The vibe is young and hip…you have to be to sit on a stool for 2 hours : )

We started with the beat, avocado & crab salad and they brought some of the softest bread I’ve ever had along with a cheese, oil & jam concoction that was to die for.

    

Mains included: tagliatelle pasta with sauce bolognese and fried basil for me and anson mills polenta with wild boar ragu for Mike.

 

We finished things off by splitting an ice cream sandwich composed of salty pistachio cookies and chocolate gelato (grand combo). All the food was simply prepared and presented but tasted fantastic. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Bravo Barbara!

Website: http://www.sportelloboston.com/

Sportello on Urbanspoon

Located under Sportello is the bar Drink. This was the first time we had been to a bar that specializes in the art of cocktails. When you arrive you can’t just belly up to the bar and yell at the bartender. You have to wait for the hostess to show you to a spot either at a stool at the bar, or at the standing only counter tops that run along the walls. Then a server will come and take your order. There is no drink menu (except if you have wine) you simply tell your server your favorite flavors, liquor, or mood you are in and they will return with a drink prepared especially for you by a mixologists. We normally don’t drink cocktails so we had no idea what to order but our server returned with two really nice drinks without much input from us: Gimlet (gin/lime) for Mike and a Bohemian (vodka/grapefruit) for me. This was the perfect ending to our night out.

Website: http://drinkfortpoint.com/

Ratings:

Drink on Urbanspoon

Sam Adams Brewery Tour


BEST FREE TOUR EVER!!!!

If you have time to go out to Jamaica Plain and do this tour I highly recommend it because you get to drink beer for free ~kinda (they suggest that you leave a couple bucks that is donated to the local community).

Mike and I are not big beer drinkers but we still had fun. Our guide was a funny young guy that showed us around their small brewery which is now only used as a testing facility. We were schooled in Sam Adams history, tasted the malts, smelled the hops then went on to try 3 different beers in our free tasting glasses. Yes, more free stuff!

Note: arrive early in the day (b4 noon) or you may not get a tour ticket. No reservations.

Website: http://www.samueladams.com/share-passion/tours.aspx

Mike & Patty’s

if you blink you'll miss this corner store

I had heard that an itty bitty sandwich shop in Boston’s bay village neighborhood serves up some killer breakfast eats so on our way to the Sam Adams brewery tour we stopped by for some morning grub. You don’t want to drink on an empty stomach 😉 !

We ordered 2 sandwiches:
– fancy bacon and egg with cheddar, avocado, red onion and house mayo on toasted multigrain bread
– classic bacon and egg with cheese on an english muffin

We arrived on a Friday around 11am and there was only one person in front of us but it still took at least 20 minutes to get our food. It felt like the dude working the grill was movin’ in slow mo, but I would too because it was like 110 degrees inside the tiny shop. There are a couple stools to sit inside but we chose to sit out on the curb to avoid drippin’ in sweat. If you are in a hurry I’d call your order in.

Both sandos were good but it’s all about the fancy. The spicy chipolte mayo mixed with the cool avocado, salty bacon and oozy egg on toasty bread was a match made in bfast heaven. I will be trying to recreate this at home in the near future!

oh so fancy!

Website: http://www.mikeandpattys.com/

Mike & Patty's on Urbanspoon

Flour Bakery


Joanne Chang is the chef/owner of Flour Bakery. The Harvard grad turned pastry chef beat Bobby Flay in a Sticky Bun throwdown so of course we had to stop by one of her 3 locations to see what all the hype was about. We arrived at 1pm so it was a bit busy with the daily lunch crowd but the line moved fast and there was plenty of seating. I was worried they would have run out of buns by that time but they had a bunch of them stacked on a display. We also ordered the grilled roast chicken sandwich with brie, arugula, roasted red peppers & caramelized onions, a slice of banana bread and a chocolate chip macaroon. The baked goods were good, nothing earth shattering, and the best part of the sandwich was the bread. It was really fresh and nicely toasted. I gotta admit when I tried the sticky bun I was not impressed. It was not straight from the oven so it wasn’t warm and when I took a bite the nutty caramel topping was solid. We decided to take the rest back to our hotel and by the time we returned it had gotten all ooey-gooey in the box due to the summer heat. I gave it another try and it was 10x’s better.

Moral of the story… make sure you ask them to warm it up if you are going to eat it immediately.

THE sticky bun

Website: http://flourbakery.com/

Flour Bakery + Cafe on Urbanspoon

Neptune Oyster


Our first meal in Boston had to be seafood and all reviews pointed to Neptune Oyster. I knew ahead of time that it was difficult to get a table because they don’t take reservations and they only have 6 small tables and a long bar. Protocol is to arrive and put your name on the list and wait it out at the park across the street, or come at 4:59pm (like us -it was our first day so we were exhausted from our red eye flight) and grab one of the last remaining tables.

We started off with the fried ipswich clams with lemon tarter sauce and the P.E.I. mussels in a red curry broth. Both were great but I preferred the clams and Mike the mussels. He made sure to order a basket of bread to sop up every drop of that broth. Next up the Maine lobster roll served hot and drenched in butter. I think it could use a tad more butter if you can believe it. I’m so bad… If you don’t want to feel totally piggy nix the fries like we did and order a salad. It’s nice and fresh.


The service, setting and food were all wonderful. I hope to return to try the lobster pasta.

Note: If you like oysters (we don’t) boy do they have oysters …there were too many varieties to count.

Rating:

Website: http://www.neptuneoyster.com/

Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon

Boston 2011

View from the top of Bunker Hill Monument

We had an awesome trip to Boston the first week of August. We stayed at the Omni Parker House Hotel which is not only in a super location it’s the birthplace of the original Boston Cream Pie! The pie is actually a cake with a custard filling and if you order room service they will bring you a little mini version. So cute! I didn’t realize that the hotel was haunted by Mr. Parker himself until after it was too late to cancel our reservation but luckily we saw no site of him. They say if you want to get a glimpse you must stay on the 10th or 3rd floor. I made sure we stayed clear.

The legendary Boston Cream Pie

The first thing we did when we got off the plane was hit the freedom trail. I signed us up for one of those walking tours with a guide dressed in an 18th century costume. This was a highlight of the trip. Our guide was funny and very informative.

We also took the Upper deck trolley tour and learned very little historic facts. If you have a choice choose the walking tours and if you need transportation get the 7 day T (subway) pass  – it’s the best deal ever!

Website: http://www.omnihotels.com/findahotel/bostonparkerhouse.aspx
Website: http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/

Tropica Restaurant

This Tropica Restaurant image ©Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali

For our one special dinner out in Maui we decided to eat at Tropica, our hotel restaurant because it was outdoors overlooking the beach and had a lovely prix fixe menu. We were seated at a romantic table with a fantastic view of the water 20 minutes before sunset.

We decided to start the night off with cocktails. Not something we usually do but it was early and we wanted to take in the scene. I chose a cocotini (like a coconut martini) which rocked my world. I can’t even remember what Mike had because we were all about the cocotini! You gotta try one.

view from our table

After our drinks we proceeded to order the 3 course tasting menu with wine pairings, which was very reasonably priced for Maui.

First course:

Lobster Chowder - tabasco butter, chives, smoked bacon. Served with Sonoma Curter Chardonnay, 2007, Russian River Ranches

Pohaku Seared Beef - prime flatiron steak served on a hot cooking stone, ponzu, kula onion confit. Served with Charles Smith, "The Velvet Devil" merlot, 2007, Columbia Valley, Washington

I chose the soup which was creamy and rich and had lobster so I was super happy. Mike’s steak arrived sizzlin’ … be sure to take cover with a napkin because oil and beef juice flies everywhere. Mike loved the beef even though he had to  “shout out” his shirt when we got home.

Mains:

Oriental Mushroom Linguini - grilled tiger shrimp, hamakua hon shimeji mushrooms, asparagus, mushroom sake broth. Serves with Lioco Chardonnay, 2007, Sonoma

Ahi - charboiled to medium rare, roasted tomato cous cous, sea beans, mushrooms, opal basil reduction. Served with Cartlidge & Browne, 08 Pinot, CA

My pasta was delicious with giant plump shrimp in a light tasty broth. Mike’s tuna was cooked perfectly and he cleaned his plate.

Dessert:

Green Tea Creme Brulee- grilled pineapple, berries, vanilla anglaise

Pineapple Fritters -fresh pineapple-apple banana donuts, raspberry, coconut

By the time dessert arrived I was stuffed to the gills and buzzed (by the way, the wine pairings were right on point). I could barely eat another morsel which was good because dessert was the weakest course of the night. The creme brulee was pretty good but the fritters were just okay with not much flavor. It did not damper the meal though (for the price we paid it was like the dessert was free anyway). We left very satisfied and would definitely return.

Note: The 3 course tasting menu is available ONLY from 5-6 pm and 8:30-9:30pm ($33/person or $43 with wine) Wednesdays – Sundays. Make a reservation!

Rating:

Website: http://www.westinmaui.com/dining/tropica/

Tropica Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Hali’imaile General Store


Bev Gannon is a super famous chef on Maui so we decided to give one of her many restaurants a try. We headed to the Hali’imaile General Store which serves up fresh island cuisine in a refurbished plantation store located Upcountry in the middle of nowhere.

We started off with the popular Sashimi Napoleon:

 

Crispy won tons layered with smoked salmon, Ahi tartar, sashimi and wasabi vinaigrette.

Then we shared the Chinese Chicken Salad:

Grilled chicken breast sliced over island greens, tossed with baby corn, water chestnuts, curried coconut, raisins and cashews with a sweet oriental dressing. Topped with crispy fried wonton strips.

We made sure to leave room for dessert….Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (the real reason I chose to come here)

A caramelized Maui Gold pineapple baked with a buttery vanilla pound cake. Served warm with whipped cream.

The food was fresh and delicious. I’d make the drive again just for dessert – oh so decadent. If you are looking for a tasty meal off the beaten path check out the general store.

Website: http://bevgannonrestaurants.com/haliimaile/

Hali'imaile General Store on Urbanspoon

Geste Shrimp Truck


Finger lickin’ good! Who would have thought that one of the best meals I had in Maui would be served from a truck? I read all the stellar reviews about the Geste Shrimp truck on Yelp and had to give it a try. It is located less than 10 minutes from my sisters’ house on the side of the road next to the beach. All I have to say is …prepare to get dirty! Since they leave the shells on the shrimp there is a bit of work to do before you can grub, but it’s well worth it. I think leaving the shell on keeps the shrimp from getting dried out. They were plump and tender. We tried 3 out of the 4 flavors (hawaiian scampi, spicy pineapple, lemon-pepper). I really enjoyed them all but if I had to chose a favorite I would go with the scampi. I love garlic! Next visit…I’ll be back.

scampi

lemon-pepper

spicy pineapple

Tip: If you have a big order call in ahead of time and avoid a wait. They like that! Also, don’t wait till the end of the day because they do run out.

Kahului Beach Rd
Kahului, HI 96732
(808) 298-7109
Tue-Sat 10:30 am – 5:30 pm

http://www.yelp.com/biz/geste-shrimp-truck-kahului

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice

The Lahaina

Shave ice… where have you been all my life? Don’t be confused…shave (not shaved :cool:) ice is nothing like a snow cone. Forget about sugary syrup and chunky ice cubes piled into a paper cone that leaks from the bottom. Shave ice takes fun frozen treats to a whole new level. While in Maui we finally tried Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice which prides itself on using high quality ice and additive-free syrups made from local ingredients. Mike and I shared a small “Lahaina” which includes 3 tropical flavors: Pineapple, Coconut & Banana — I wish we got a large. It was super flavorful and melted in our mouths. And if you can believe it, it had a creamy consistency that was truly delicious.

Note: All shave ice is not created equal so be sure to go to Ululani’s!

I don't want to share...

Website: http://ululanisshaveice.com/

Momofuku Milk Bar Cookies

Momofuko Milk Bar, the super popular bakery in NYC, has started shipping their goods (cookies and pies) just in time for the holidays. We needed to bring a dessert to our annual pre-thanksgiving dinner for 10 and I knew this is what I wanted to get.

I ordered 4 varieties:

blueberry & cream: dried blueberries, white chocolate

compost: pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips

corn: corn powder, corn flour

cornflake: cornflakes, marshmallows, chocolate chips

Here is our critique…

blueberry & cream
flavor – buttery, sugary, mild blueberry
texture – firm but moist (kinda raw dough like)
compost
flavor – oatmeal, chocolate, burnt caramel
texture – dense
corn
flavor –  smelled like corn on the cob, tasted like sugary corn muffin
texture – undercooked (in a good way)
cornflake
flavor – buttery, salty, caramel
texture – chewy with crisp edges

Everyone raved about the cookies… for days. It was hard to choose a favorite because they all have something uniquely delicious about them. So what are you waiting for? Go order some and be ready to salivate upon delivery.

Note: I ordered the cookies on a Thursday night and they arrived the following Wednesday morning using standard shipping and they stayed fresh for a full week! Yes, they did last that long —  they are super rich and need to be eaten in moderation.

Website: http://momofukustore.com/

* We did not buy a pie but I did make one earlier this year. Check it out.

O Chateau French Wine Tasting in Paris

While in Paris I wanted to make sure Mike had the opportunity to do a tasting of French wines. O Chateau fit the bill perfectly. It is a fairly new establishment right near the Louvre. We chose the 1 hour  introductory tasting which was held in O Chateau’s intimate wine cellar. Leading our tasting was Lionel, a very informed handsome young French sommelier (he spoke English of course). Our tasting included 3 French wines: a Sauvignon Blanc from the Val De Loire region, a Cab Sauv/Syrah from Sud-Quest and a red blend from Rhone.

While tasting we learned about the different French wine regions and what varietals they produced as well as wine tasting techniques and how to read a French wine label (it is different than the US).

Mike and I were very impressed with the amount of information provided as well as the quality of the wines poured. We would highly recommend this activity to any wine lovers.

Tip: if you purchase a Paris Pass this tasting is included for free (usually 30 Euro/per person)! And you’ll need to make  a reservation with or without the pass.

Website: http://www.o-chateau.com/

L’Avant Comptoir


We ended up at Chef Yves Camdeborde trendy wine bar “L’Avant Comptoir” two times on our trip. The first was on our food tour and the second we came on our own to get a crêpe. We were told they were the best in Paris. We actually attempted to have dinner at the famed bistro “Le Comptoir” next door but the wait was 1 hour and I was hungry. The procedure for ordering a crêpe begins by walking up to a little window of the bar. There you’ll find a bunch of different ingredients to choose from written on a chalk board or you can opt for the special of the day (of course we didn’t notice that until we had already ordered). I had chicken w/ Gruyere &  Mike had artichoke w/ Gruyere. They were huge and very tasty. I could only finish half. If you find yourself in the Latin Quarter it’s definitely worth a trip.

Address: 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, M° Odeon.

Paris Left Bank Food & Wine Walking Tour

After hours of online research on Paris restaurants and food I was overwhelmed and decided I needed help. When I found Wendy Lyn’s website on Paris I knew she would be the best tour guide. Wendy, originally from the South, has been living in Paris for 20 years, works as a food writer and is very well connected. Our tour began with a visit to Eric Kayser’s boulangerie. Kayser is known throughout Paris as one of the best bakers. Here we sampled a traditional french baguette, chocolate croissant and little airy sugar coated balls of dough all while hearing about the history of bread making.

Then we headed to the local farmers market to chat with vendors and sample their goods. We ended up purchasing salted caramels, Foie Gras and a dried herb and vegetable bouillon pack. Unfortunately, the cheese shop Wendy usually includes on the tour was closed for renovation so we didn’t get to see that but she did give us some information on how a cheese shop operates.

Next stop Chocolatier Patrick Roger’s Boutique. Roger is known as a chocolate artist in France. In addition to his edible creations he makes chocolate sculptures. On display the day we visited was a giant elephant. My favorite confection was hands down the hazelnut praline chocolate bar which Wendy referred to as “chocolate crack”.

Our final destination was Chef Yves Camdeborde’s tiny wine bar “L’Avant Comptoir” where we drank wine, ate ham croquettes and BUTTER while learning about French wine varietals.

Mike and I had a blast on this excursion through the Left Bank. Wendy was super sweet and full of knowledge about the French food scene. We can’t wait to go back.

Website: http://www.thepariskitchen.com/

San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián is a gorgeous beach town located in the Basque country and is known as the Culinary Capital of Spain with the highest concentrations of Michelin stars in the world. We were in San Sebastián for a family reunion. Mike has a cousin that lives there so we were not visiting to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy meals but to eat as the locals do.


Our first food adventure: Pintxos (Basque tapas). The old part of the city has streets full of Pintxos bars where you order a drink and start noshing on the plates of small bites arranged on the bar. Get ready to get your carbs on – most are slices of bread topped with different goodies. Each has a toothpick in it and when you are ready to leave you hand over your toothpicks to the bartender and he will let you know the amount you owe.


2nd was a traditional meal at Aldanondo restaurante which specializes in grilled steak. Our group of 10 shared a bunch of appetizers and then each ordered a main course. Apps included: white asparagus, tuna salad, prawns, green beans and my new favorite thing grilled peppers with salt. For our main dish Mike and I shared the steak which was HUGE. The meat was perfectly cooked and well seasoned. It came with a simple mixed green salad which we requested instead of fries. Delicious! website: http://www.aldanondo.com/

Our final dinner was at La Fabrica. Here they prepare classic dishes with a new twist. We all decided to order the 3 course prix fixe menu which was cheap by American standards. I started out with the mushroom ravioli with foie gras cream followed by a local white fish with tomato sauce and for dessert an apple tart. Everyone loved the food.  website: http://www.restaurantelafabrica.es/home.html

We had a fantastic time in San Sebastián. It’s a very relaxing destination. Mike and I plan to return when we win the lotto so we can try some of the spots with stars.

Non Foodie Note: if you do visit make sure you take a day trip to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim. Out of the 6 museums we visited in Spain/France that was my favorite.

Chocolateria San Ginés


Before leaving for Madrid I did some online research and one place kept popping up as a must do activity — eat Hot chocolate and Churros at Chocolateria San Ginés. We arrived at 11:30pm (early by Spanish standards) and the cafe was about half full. We easily found a table and immediately ordered …2 hot chocolates and 1 plate of churros. No menu necessary. When everything arrived it looked beautiful. The churros are not like what you find at Disneyland covered in cinnamon sugar and doughy in the middle. It was a slightly sweet crispy dough and when dipped in the warm milk chocolate it was the ultimate combination. The chocolate is really not for drinking but dipping because it is so thick and rich. This is one of those don’t miss opportunities when in Madrid and since it’s practically open all day and night you have no excuse not to try it.

Note: I found the recipe on the Food Network. I haven’t tried it so I can’t vouch for its authenticity but if you can’t make it to Madrid and you want to give it a try this may be your best bet.

Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 11

Mercado de San Miguel


Mike has a cousin that lives in Madrid and one of the places she suggested we check out was the Mercado de San Miguel – a hip new indoor farmers market filled with over 30 vendors selling seafood, sandwiches, fresh vegetables, sweets, baked goods, tapas, wine, ham and more (similar to Oxbow market – if you’ve been to Napa). Mike and I hit up the Mercado for a light bite a few hours after we landed in Madrid. We arrived around 3pm on a Friday and the place was packed. Not a free seat in site. Many locals were enjoying plates of oysters and bottles of wine. Mike and I decided to share a simple jamon sandwich and a beer. Our internal body clocks were totally off so we didn’t want a big meal and this hit the spot.

Website: http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/

Adventurous Appetites Tapas Tour – Madrid


For our first foodie adventure in Spain Mike and I decided to go on a Tapas tour since we had limited time in Madrid and no idea where to go. Our walking tour started in the heart of the city at the Puerta del Sol where we met our guide James. We had a fairly small group of 6 people which was nice because any more and you would have difficulty finding spots in bars where we could all be together.

Mike pouring cider

Our first stop was a bar known for Asturian cider and blue cheese. The cider was alcoholic but not like what you would expect in the states. It tasted like olives or a dirty martini. Definitely an acquired taste. Along with the drinks came plates of complimentary ham and cheese as well as a cold potato salad. Then came the creamiest blue cheese I have ever tasted. It was like pâté and was spread on sliced bread. Awesome! We also tried some tasty chorizo and potatoes with paprika before heading off to our next location. While walking James gave some basic history of Madrid and the food culture.

blue cheese

Next stop:  Jamón!
Here we tried the daddy of all Spanish ham — iberico along with manchego cheese, salami, olives and washed it all down with Sangria. Yum.

Destination #3 was a small wine bar. Here we drank terrific red wine while feasting on blood pudding, roasted peppers with salt, lamb sweetbreads, steak w/ mushrooms, croquettes with prosciutto, tripe with chick peas and paella.

You’d think that was the end but we had one final spot for Seafood. While we sipped white wine a bevy of sea creatures were placed on our table… octopus with potatoes, anchovies with potato chips and olives, garlic shrimp and barnacles ( looks like a tiny elephant foot and tastes like a salty clam). Everything was fresh and delicious.

This was hands down our favorite event on our European vacation. When the night is over you will be full and content. We would highly recommend taking this tour. James is a fantastic guide.

Note: In order to try and keep the tours bar/restaurant locations from becoming overrun with tourists I did not reveal the names.

Website: http://www.adventurousappetites.com/

Merriman’s


For our one big night out in Maui we took my sister and husband to Merriman’s to thank them for hosting us. Mike and I became familiar with Merriman’s on our honeymoon in Kona where we had a fantastic meal so we were excited to try the Lahaina location.

We arrived at 6pm just as the sun was setting. The views from the restaurant are breathtaking. It’s situated right on the ocean. Before dinner we had a drink at the bar and enjoyed the scene. After the sun disappeared  into the horizon we were seated. We decided to start things off with the “Pupu” taster which included: Kalua pig quesadillas, sashimi and surfing goat cheese with beet chutney. Chef-Owner Peter Merriman is a pioneer in the “Farm to Table” concept and serves all fresh local ingredients. We also got the beet and Kula strawberry salad to share. Everything was lovely.

For my main course I chose the Filet with sauteed Maui onions and mushrooms, Mike went with the signature Ahi tuna & pumpkin puree and my sister picked the Lamb with gnocchi and her husband the Ribeye. Each dish was delicious and the portions were huge. You have the option to order a full or half portion …we got the full and if I went again I would get the half because I couldn’t finish my entree and that is rare! Even though we were all truly stuffed Mike insisted we order dessert. We decided on the Maui pineapple upside down cake with coconut gelato which was a sweet finish.

One of my favorite parts of the night was the 2 person live band that played throughout the evening. Imagine an older lady and gentleman with acoustic instruments playing War’s “low rider” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya” (it made me chuckle). It’s not the kind of music you’d expect to hear in this type of establishment.

If I had to compare the two Merriman’s restaurants we have been to I would say the food was better in Kona but the ambiance ruled in Maui. This is an expensive restaurant but the atmosphere and tasty eats are worth the hefty price tag.

Tip: bring a jacket — the restaurant is open so it’s as though you are sitting outside and can get chilly.

Rating:

Website: http://www.merrimanshawaii.com/

Merriman's (Kapalua) on Urbanspoon

Surfing Goat Dairy


Mike and I headed to Maui to visit my newly relocated sister and her hubby & kids in early December. One of our day trips took us upcountry to Kula where there is a cool goat farm. When we arrived 2 baby goats (boy & girl) were being hand fed. They had just been born a few hours before our arrival. They were super cute. We then headed out on the tour which is a 15-20 min walk around the farm where you hear a bit about the history, see the goats and feed them.

Girls with the Goats

The tour ends with a sampling of about 6 different goat cheeses. I’m not a big fan of goat cheese but this stuff was good and there were like 34 varieties. My favorite was called “Canada” which has goat cheese mixed with cranberries, cinnamon and honey. We ended up bringing some home on the plane along with the Tzatziki flavor. If you have goat cheese at any of the finer restaurants on Maui it’s most likely from the Surfing Goat Dairy. It was a fun adventure.

Here is a little video of the goats in action:

Website: http://www.surfinggoatdairy.com/

Sucré


I first heard about Sucré Sweet shop on our visit to New Orleans in August. The Pastry chef  Tariq Hanna had just won TLC’s “Ultimate Cake-Off” so he was all over the local TV news. I really wanted to stop by while in town but time didn’t allow. Then 2 months later I received an email from one of their reps asking if I’d like to sample the goods. What a coincidence…. it was heaven sent.

Soon after I had my hands on a selection of Sucré chocolates. We received their Sugar & Spice collection which is handmade for the holidays. It includes 3 varieties of truffles: gingerbread milk chocolate, candy cane white chocolate and eggnog dark chocolate. Since I’m a sucker for anything eggnog I grabbed one of those immediately. I was worried that the dark chocolate was going to mask the eggnog flavor but it didn’t. It was a perfect silky bite. The candy cane was next and it had a velvety texture with a minty fresh flavor. The final offering was the gingerbread. I knew even before tasting that it would be my least favorite. I’ve never been a gingerbread fan. This was spicy and a bit more dense than the others. Mike enjoyed it but he is a “hot” guy :wink:.

We were also sent a milk chocolate bar with Sicilian pistachios and candied rose petals. I know … really unique combination. It was almost too pretty to eat. The bar itself was creamy and the nuts and petals didn’t add any prominent flavors but it did add a delightful crunch.

Good news — I’m not the only one getting a treat this year! I have been given a discount code for my readers so you can also indulge in the Sucré goodness this holiday season. For $5 off shipping use code: SPCA (expires 11/30/09).

What makes this deal even sweeter is that a portion of every dollar spent online will benefit the animals of the LA/SPCA. As you’ve seen on our blog we are dog lovers. Our Edison was a pound puppy so we think this is a great way to support a good cause. Sucré luxury chocolates would be great stocking stuffers!

To buy go to: http://www.shopsucre.com/

Luke Restaurant

lukesign
pasta fish This was my overall favorite dinner in New Orleans. John Besh’s Lüke is a French brasserie paying homage to NOLA’s past. The decor is bright & simple with a business casual vibe. We were seated in the back room in front of the kitchen. The menu reminded me of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon (which is a good thing). Lots of hearty bistro dishes with a Louisiana spin. Many entrées were calling to me (mussels, steak & frites) but I went with the redfish amandine since it was a more local ingredient. Mike decided on the nightly 3 course special. His meal began with a crawfish bisque, a light and flavorful soup. Then came lamb shoulder in a giant house made ravioli with a tomato sauce. It was delightful. My redfish had a light, flaky, salty crust and a wonderful almond butter lemon sauce. It was perfect. We finished the night with Mike’s third course a pecan bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream. Simply scrumptious. The only thing that was a little off during our visit was our server. She would come and ask if we needed anything but you could tell her head was somewhere else and she was not really listening to our response. No big deal. I would return in a heartbeat.

Rating:
Website: http://www.lukeneworleans.com/

Lüke on Urbanspoon

The New Orleans School of Cooking

nolacooking
We went to New Orleans in August because Mike had a convention to attend (not because we are gluttons for punishment!). While Mike was away I had to keep myself busy so I decided to take a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Every morning they hold a 3 hour session where you watch local dishes be prepared and then eat them. Our cook for the day was Miss Barbara a native of Louisiana. The menu was a cajun feast: chicken & andouille sausage gumbo, chicken & smoked sausage jambalaya, pina colada bread pudding with a whiskey sauce and pralines. Along with the lesson you learn about the differences in cajun and creole cooking styles and cultures.

nolafood2

They may not be the most beautiful or colorful dishes but they sure tasted good. I left with a packet of recipes to try at home, a full stomach and a cold Abita beer. What a wonderful find.

Tip: make a reservation in advance and bring a coupon. You’ll find one in the visitors guide.

Website: http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com/

The Kupcake Factory

kupcakes

banana on top

Would I pass up trying a gourmet cupcake shop? Hell, no! The Kupcake factory is a chain in New Orleans and they just happen to have a location down the street from Cochon. By the look of the place I really wasn’t expecting much. The decor/presentation was lacking.

We bought 2 cupcakes: banana and hummingbird (banana, pineapple and walnut cake with cream cheese frosting). I was pleasantly surprised with the banana. It was the first time that I’d had a cupcake that is cut in half and frosting is layered in the middle. This made the cake a little messy to eat but worth the trouble. The banana flavor was on point. The hummingbird, although it had a cute name, didn’t taste like anything at all. Conclusion… I wasn’t blown away but, I’d come back to try some more.

Website: http://www.thekupcakefactory.com/

Kupcake Factory Gourmet Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Cochon Butcher

butcher
When I read about a new hot spot in the warehouse district of New Orleans that featured the pig I put it on our list of things to do. Cochon butcher is the tiny sister cafe for Cochon Restaurant. It serves up house made meats in different forms, beer, wine and also has a full bar. We popped in for lunch one afternoon and ordered the pastrami with sauerkraut on rye and the BBQ pork with potato salad.

pastrami bbq

The pastrami tasted nothing like the pastrami I’ve had in the past. Covered in thousand island dressing and kraut the flavor became unrecognizable but still tasty. The pork was smokey, spicy but a bit dry. We are guessing it was a vinegar based BBQ sauce cause we couldn’t see anything. It could have used a little KC Masterpiece. The bread and sides for both sandos were very good. If you’re looking for meat this is the spot to come.

Warning: when we left we smelled like fried food for the rest of the day (not sure why). I would have preferred to smell like bacon…

Website: http://www.cochonbutcher.com/

Cochon Butcher on Urbanspoon

Cafe Du Monde

cafe du monde
I arrived at Cafe Du Monde thinking we were walking into a tourist trap. I expected mediocre food for outrageous prices but knew this is something you just don’t skip when in New Orleans. We sat down at one of the many outdoor tables and a waitress came by and took our order… 2 orders of beignets and 2 cafe au lait. A few minutes later we were covered in powdered sugar and happy as clams. I was soo wrong about this place. The beignets were hot, light, fresh and under $2 for 3! They could be making so much more money – I would pay double.

Website: http://www.cafedumonde.com/

cafedumonde

Cafe Du Monde on Urbanspoon

NOLA Restaurant

nola
You can’t go to New Orleans and not eat at one of Emeril’s many restaurants. We decide to try NOLA located in the French Quarter. It’s a 3 story building so we needed to take an elevator to get to our table on the 2nd floor. Mike thought this was so cool. The cuisine is an updated twist on classic New Orleans fare. For my main course I chose the shrimp and grits and Mike ordered the hickory roasted duck for his. Our dinner arrived within minutes. No joke…in under 8. It kinda felt like a fast food joint it came so fast. I took a bite of my dish and it was delightful. Cheddar grits with smoked bacon and mushrooms topped with plump shrimp in a creole tomato glaze and a butter sauce. It was a salty, sweet slightly spicy masterpiece. Unfortunately, Mike’s meal wasn’t as good. His duck was cooked well and was smokey but the whiskey caramel glaze wasn’t really there which left the meat a bit dry. It was accompanied by cornbread pudding and a green bean/corn salad which were great. It would have been a knock out dish if only it had more sauce. Maybe they left something out in the rush to get it to our table? As soon as we placed our forks down our plates were whisked away and we were handed dessert menus. We didn’t order appetizers because we knew we wanted to have dessert. We went with the banana pudding layer cake and fancy coffee drinks with liqueur. Both were tasty but nothing to write home about. We paid the bill and were in and out within an hour. The evening felt rushed. It was as though they were in some kind of competition to see how many tables they could turn in a single night. In the end there were ups and downs during our NOLA visit so we left with mixed feelings.

shrimp duck

Rating:
Website: http://www.emerils.com/

NOLA Restaurant on Urbanspoon

New Orleans French Quarter Culinary History and Tasting Tour

foodtour
When I heard there was a food tour of NOLA I was intrigued. This was a 3 hour walking tour (mostly inside!) that covers the rich culinary history of New Orleans. Here was our tour schedule:

1st stop – the historic Antoine’s where we received a tour of the many dining rooms as well as the kitchen.
Tastings: Gumbo creole (Louisiana gumbo with blue crabs, oysters, and gulf shrimp)
Crevettes remoulade
(boiled Louisiana shrimp served cold in Antoine’s remoulade dressing)

2nd stop – Supposed to be Leah’s pralines but it was closed on Sunday (we went back the next day and tried some)

3rd stopBrennan’s for a tour of the restaurant (no food)

4th stopKitchen Witch (new & used cook book store)

5th stopTony Seville’s Pirates Alley Cafe
Tasting: Rum cake

6th stopLa Divina Cafe
Tastings: Muffalino (twist on the classic Muffuletta sandwich – same ingredients but in panini form)
Coconut Gelato

7th stop: Creole Delicacies (small grocery)
Tastings: Pralines & Red Beans & Rice

8th stop: Tujague’s Restaurant
Tasting: Beef Brisket with Creole Sauce (horseradish ketchup)

The pics:

Overall Mike and I enjoyed all aspects of the tour especially the food. All the dishes were wonderful. Antoine’s deserves all the praise it gets and the muffalino is better in my opinion to the original Muffuletta. Our journey through the French Quarter led by a local former chef passed quickly and our tummies were full at the end. The concept of a food tour is brilliant. Being able to sample different cuisines at one time is awesome. Each major city should have one.

Website: http://www.noculinarytours.com/

Dante’s Kitchen

dantes
So I wanted to go to a neighborhood gem. Something away from the French Quarter. After doing some research I came up with Dante’s Kitchen which is located in Uptown. The best way to get there is to hop on the St. Charles streetcar and get off at Carrollton & Maple (close to the end of the line). When we arrived at the cute cottage for Sunday brunch (15 minutes before the restaurant opened) there was already a line of about 6 people. I was immediately reassured that we had made a good decision about making the trek from our hotel on Canal (~30 min streetcar/15 min taxi). When the doors opened we were quickly seated and proceeded to look over the menu. It was difficult to decide what to order since everything sounded delicious. I ended up with the brioche french toast with peaches and Mike had the debris with poached eggs (biscuits topped with pulled pork, eggs and hollandaise). Yes, we reversed our usual orders. We had a 3 hour walking tour following our meal so I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy. Both dished were fabulous. I can only imagine what dinner is like.

frenchtoast debrisbene

Tip: There are no reservations for brunch so if you’re not going to arrive before the doors open come about 30-40 minutes after because the entire dining area was filled within 10 minutes of opening and you don’t want to stand out in the heat waiting for a table. It’s brutal or maybe it’s just me. No one else seemed fazed…maybe we were the only tourists?

Website: http://danteskitchen.com/

Dante's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mother’s Restaurant

mothers

This was our first stop after getting off the plane in New Orleans. Mother’s is a well known establishment featuring down home Southern/Cajun fare. A couple people who are from the area had recommended we come at some point on our trip. When you arrive there will most likely be a line outside. The operating procedure is to get in line and wait until the bouncer at the door gives you the okay to enter the building then order and pay for your eats at the counter BEFORE sitting down at a table. The setting and service is not the best… just remember you are there for the food. We ordered the fried chicken, famous Ferdi Po’Boy and the bread pudding. We started off with the Ferdi which is baked ham, roast beef and debris (the yummy drippings left in the pan after the meat is roasted) on a soft roll. It was tasty and my first experience having debris. Where have you been all my life? I am a fan! The fried chicken came 25 minutes later because it is made to order — it’s not sitting under a heat lamp (they tell you this before you order). The chicken was wonderful – cooked perfectly with a thin crispy, salty skin. We finished with the bread pudding which was good but not the best I’ve had. It was the perfect meal after a long day of traveling. I see why this is a NOLA institution.

Website: www.mothersrestaurant.net

Mother's on Urbanspoon

New Orleans Vacation Wrap-up

Mike and I just returned from our trip to the big easy. We had a blast eating our way around NOLA. When people said it’s hot in August I figured I could handle it since I went to school in Arizona but this was a heat that I had never experienced. I could only make it one block before the sweat began drippin’ everywhere. Since we new it was going to be steamy we planned to keep our adventures casual and fun. Here was our itinerary:

Day 1 (Sat): Dinner at Mother’s, walk down Bourbon Street

Day 2 (Sun): Brunch at Dante’s Kitchen, Ride the St. Charles Streetcar, French Quarter Culinary history tour and tasting

Day 3 (Mon): Air-boat Swamp tour, Dinner at NOLA, walk around French Quarter

Day 4 (Tue): Breakfast at Cafe du Monde, Lunch at Cochon Butcher, Cupcakes at the Kupcake Factory, Vampire tour

Day 5 (Wed): Cooking class, Check out farmers market, dinner at Luke, Music on Frenchmen St.

Day 6 (Thur): Muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery

*I will write a separate post for each of the restaurant reviews over the next few days.

Non-Foodie Highlights:

SWAMP TOUR – We went on an air-boat tour of the Louisiana swamps. It was fast and furious. This is not a nature tour, this is a high speed excursion through the swamps on a search for alligators… and there were plenty! Check it out:


Website: www.airboatadventuresllc.com

MUSIC – Walking back to our hotel on Monday we ran into a 7 piece brass band on the corner of Canal & Bourbon St. in front of the Foot Locker. They were fantastic and they played for a couple hours for tips. What made it even more entertaining is that people would just start dancing in the street. It was hilarious to see some battle as if they were on “So you think you can dance”. This location seems to be where many groups come to play because we saw a 10 piece band on Wednesday night but they were not as good. Here is a sample of the boys from Monday:

vamp tour

Start of Vamp tour - St Louis Cathedral (check out that full moon)

VAMPIRE TOUR – Interesting tour about the history of vampires in New Orleans. We also saw some of the sites from the movie “Interview with the Vampire”. I gatta be honest it kinda creeped me out. Tip: wear your bug repellent. We didn’t and we have many bites all over (weird… no other night did we even see mosquito’s…)

Website: www.hauntedhistorytours.com

PEOPLE – everyone from the tour guides, to the taxi drivers to the hotel staff were really friendly. Very polite folks.

Low-light:

BOURBON ST – We had no idea that Bourbon Street was just a string of bars blaring cheesy karaoke type music, strip clubs, daiquiri/pizza joints and more strip clubs. It’s Vegas to the 10th power. Don’t expect cool jazz clubs cause you won’t find them here – go to Frenchmen St!

We did everything we wanted to do except eat a peanut butter bacon burger at Yo-mama’s bar. We just couldn’t get ourselves to do it. Maybe next time.

Tip: if you’re going make sure you have a tourist guide mailed to your home before you go. You can get one here. This was the first city I’ve been to that didn’t have millions of “things to do” kiosks and flyers/brochures all over the airport. The place was a ghost town.

Bouchon – Las Vegas

bouchonvegas
I finally made it to Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro! The restaurant is tricky to locate in the Venetian hotel but well worth the search. We were lucky enough to get a table outside in the sun (which is next to one of the pools). It took an extraordinarily long time to decide what we wanted to order because everything sounded fantabulous. As we sipped on mimosa’s we needed to have the specials explained at least twice. bouchonbeneRachel and I ended up with the Croque Madame which is toasted ham & cheese on brioche with a fried egg and mornay sauce (Béchamel) and a side of pommes frites (fries). It was beyond good. It was sinful and I ate the entire thing without batting an eye. Dena had her first benedict. Unbelievable, right?…at our age! Well, her first was a doozy — Eggs Florentine (substitute spinach and smoked salmon for the ham). I loved everything about our long relaxing brunch and I can’t wait to return. I’ve already decided what I’m having next time.

Website: http://www.bouchonbistro.com/
Bouchon (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

Burger Bar Las Vegas

burgerbar

Hubert Keller, best known for his upscale restaurant Fleur de Lys, has a burger joint in the Mandalay Bay hotel. I’d heard good things about the restaurant so I wanted to give it a try. Keller is supposed to be a burger master (he’s even written a book about burgers). When we arrived it was not what I envisioned. I thought it would be more high end but it’s really just a sports bar. It was filled with men yelling at TV screens. As we were seated I thought to myself… I’m here for the burgers not the ambiance. Looking over the menu I was surprised to find only 4 chef created burgers to choose from and none were appealing at the time. I ended up making my own mushroom & swiss burger with Black Angus beef — not very exciting. The beef was really fresh but overcooked. The fries were hot and tasty but nothing special. They were just piled on a plate and didn’t come with any dipping sauces. Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed — I expected more from a potential Top Chef Master…

Rating:  drumstick ratingdrumstick rating
Website: http://www.mandalaybay.com/dining/burgerbar.aspx

Burger Bar (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon

FIX Restaurant

FIX_Venue_L05

images © FIX Bellagio

I took an impromptu trip to Las Vegas with my BFF’s from college (Hi- Rachel & Dena!). We stayed at the Bellagio hotel and after walking around for hours earlier in the day we were in no mood to leave so we ended up at Fix for dinner. Fix is like eating in a night club. The music is pumping nonstop. I had to hold back busting a move during dinner. Many of the songs played were from the 90’s which was cool since they brought back some college memories. We decided to get a bunch of small plates to share. We went with the soft shell crabs (special of the day), crispy rock shrimp, lobster tacos, BLT wedge salad, yellowtail sashimi and spring rolls. Everything I tasted was great but I do wish the tacos were larger (see picture below).

FIX_Lobster_Taco_L

the lobster tacos (each was the size of a pinky finger)

I couldn’t leave without dessert because the choices were so enticing. We (I) chose  the banana bread pudding with coconut ice cream and the espresso milkshake with warm chocolate cake/brownie. The bread pudding was the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot). The milkshake looked just like a hot cup of espresso (foam and all). I almost called the waitress over to say we got the wrong order then I took a sip and it was a chilly shake. Excellent presentation. Overall, I enjoyed the vibe and food but felt it was overpriced even for Las Vegas standards. I will return for dessert at the very least.

P.S. The pineapple mojito was awesome.

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratinghalfdrumstick

Website: http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/fix.aspx

Fix (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

Georgetown Cupcake

georgetown cupcake

This was at the top of my list of things to do when going to Washington DC. Mike’s brothers’ eldest daughter graduated (with honors 🙂 ) from Georgetown University last weekend (Good job Christine!) so we made the trek east to be part of her big day. Georgetown cupcake seems to have a legion of fans. When we arrived there was a loooong line outside the tiny shop so we decided to come back at a later time. Christine had already warned us that these cupcakes were not as good as Sprinkles so I wasn’t gonna wait in line, but I had to try for myself. On our second visit the line was gone and so were most of the flavors I wanted to try.georgetown cupcake2We ended up with lemon, carrot, toffee crunch and red velvet.  The best was the lemon. That cupcake could give Sprinkles a run for their money. What made it special was the lemon zest throughout the cake and frosting. It tasted really good even though the humidity had made the frosting melt. I would actually wait in line for another one of those…the others — not a chance.

Website: http://georgetowncupcake.com/

Enoteca San Marco

On our last night in Vegas we decided to have a light, casual meal at Mario Batali’s Enoteca San Marco at the Venetian. The restaurant is located in the Grand Canal Shoppes area of the hotel.

We started things off with a Caprese salad. It was the most interesting and tasty version of a caprese salad that I’d ever had. No sliced tomatoes and cheese. What we received was a ball of mozzarella surrounded by roasted tomatoes and covered in garlic pesto and pinenuts. I actually found a version of the recipe on epicurious. I plan on making this at home. Recipe link

or you can find the original recipe in Mario’s cookbook: Molto Italiano

Mike and I then shared an order of veal and ricotta meatballs and the cavatappi primavera which is corkscrew pasta and fresh veggies tossed with olive oil and cheese. Both were outstanding. We of course couldn’t leave without getting dessert. We had seen gelato shops all over Vegas for 2 days and we waited until now to get any. We chose 2 sundaes to share. Yes, two! The first was banana gelato with walnuts, chopped banana, carmel sauce and mini banana muffins. YUM!! The second was espresso gelato with marscapone, espresso bean chips, chocolate sauce and lady fingers. YUM YUM!! Both were deliciously sinful. Enoteca is great for lunch or dinner. In addition to the pasta they offer thin personal pizzas and many antipasti dishes. We highly recommend you visit.

This was a wonderful way to end our Vegas vacation. In regards to the weekend battle between Flay and Batali… Who’s cuisine reigned supreme? Chef Batali!

Rating: halfdrumstick

Website: http://www.venetian.com/ENOTECA.aspx

Enoteca San Marco (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

Picasso

picasso

For our “Big” night out in Las Vegas we decided to dine at Picasso which is located in the Bellagio Hotel. Mike had always wanted to go. Picasso named after artist Pablo Picasso serves elegant French cuisine with a Spanish influence and is prepared by chef Julian Serrano. The award winning restaurant has paintings and ceramic art by Picasso throughout the dining room. When we arrived for our 6pm reservation (the first seating of the night) we were offered the option to sit outside on the terrace. Since it was a gorgeous night (mid 70’s, no wind) we said yes. I love dining al fresco. We were ushered to a 4 table balcony overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. Every 30 minutes we viewed an amazing water/light show as relaxing music played throughout the night. If you ever have the opportunity to dine at any Bellagio restaurant and sit on the terrace…go for it. It really is an experience to remember. As we sat and enjoyed the view we opened the menu and SURPRISE we saw 2 prix fixe menus. One with 4 courses the other with 5. We didn’t realize you only have two menu options. After we made our selections we were promptly served an amuse – bouche which included potato leak soup and a smoked salmon spear. It would be a waste of time for me to go through all 8 dishes that followed and describe what we liked because we loved everything. ALL the food was wonderful and prepared perfectly. The service was impeccable. The only negative thing we can think of is the wine menu. It is EXTREMELY pricey. One of the cheapest half bottles was $70 and a glass was $22. When you are having a dinner like this you have to have wine. It really enhances the flavors of the food. The wine in conjunction with the 4 courses is what actually made this the most expensive meal of our lives (so far), but well worth it.

Since we sat outside we didn’t get to see much of the art so as we left we quickly checked out the paintings inside. After completing our 2 hour excursion I don’t regret making the decision to come to Picasso and if I am in Vegas, and I hit the jackpot, I will go again! As we left the hostess handed us a gift box. Inside were 2 cinnamon pastries. I am not sure why we were given this but they were great in the morning and a little reminder of our fantastic night.

Check out the slideshow of our evening below. Cue the Andrea Bocelli music…

Menu (Nicole):

Pea Soup
with Mint, Shrimp, Creme Fraiche

Kobe Beef Spheres
with Lentils

Veal Chop
with Mushrooms, Potato, Beets, Dash of Horseradish, Pinot Reduction

Chocolate Fondant Cake
with Espresso Toffee Ice Cream


Menu (Mike):

Crispy Squab Salad
with Micro Greens, Beets

Salmon
with Cauliflower Mouse

Sautéed Medallions of Fallow Deer
with Caramelized Apples, Zinfandel Sauce

Banana Walnut Torte
with Banana Ice Cream

Website: http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/picasso.aspx

Rating:

(If the slideshow is not running above, click the PLAY> arrow in the bottom left corner)

Picasso (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

Mesa Grill

mesa grill

As you may have guessed from the previous post Mike and I spent the weekend in Vegas. Since I am a food network fanatic I decided we would check out a couple of the iron chef restaurants while in town. We started things off with brunch at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace. I was really excited about finally getting to try out some of the grill masters food. We arrived at 10:45am with an appetite. Mike and I both ordered egg dishes since it was still early in the morning. I picked the spicy chicken and sweet potato hash with poached eggs and green chile hollandaise. Mike opted for the scrambled egg enchiladas with chorizo, red chile sauce and goat cheese. I didn’t want anything too spicy but when I asked the server about the heat he said all 6 of the egg dishes have a kick. I thought to myself “how bad could it be?” I didn’t want a salad or burger so I didn’t have much other choice. The brunch menu which is served on weekends until 3pm is very small.

When my dish arrived it looked good. I soon learned that looks can be deceiving. I then glanced at Mike’s dish and actually laughed. His enchiladas were so tiny they looked like taquitos. There were two extremely small tortillas filled with barely any eggs on a plate with some sauce. For $16, I expected A LOT more. I then took a bite of my bfast and immediately felt fire swirling in my stomach. I could not taste any flavors of sweet potatoes, chicken or egg. The spice totally overpowered the dish. I needed a swig of water between each bite. I could only stand to eat half. Mike ended up liking his highly overpriced miniature meal. Since his chile sauce was on the side he could control the hotness.

Continue reading

Double Helix Wine Bar

wine

If you’re in Las Vegas and looking for a wine bar, stop by Double Helix in the beautiful Palazzo Hotel. They offer VERY generous 2 and 5 oz. glasses of wine from around the world. Due to their unique preservation system they are able to offer highly sought-after wines not usually poured by the glass. Mike was impressed by the selection. A light menu designed by Emeril Lagasse is also available if you are hungry. At the moment the hotel is not completely finished so Double Helix is not overcrowded which is rare in Vegas. This is a great find — check it out before it becomes well-known!
Double Helix Wine Bar & Boutique on Urbanspoon

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Growing up I was not into sweets. My mom would have to toss my Halloween candy in December because it was still sitting on the floor of my closet. As I have aged things have changed. I now really enjoy desserts. In 2006 Mike and I were in Beverly Hills and as we were driving down Santa Monica Blvd. looking for a place to eat lunch we saw a line of about 10 people outside a place called Sprinkles. We had no idea what it was but we decided to stop by after lunch. What we found was a tiny storefront with 4 stools a counter and a display of delectable cupcakes. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. I had a new found love …cupcakes. My favorite flavors SO FAR include: red velvet,banana & coconut. Note: if you want to make your business look like its always busy design it like Sprinkles (have absolutely no space for customers).

I have also tried cupcakes from “Icing on the cupcake”(Rocklin) & “Kara’s Cupcakes” (SF). Both are good but can’t beat Sprinkles. I really wish they would open a branch in Los Gatos…

Tip: You can buy Sprinkles mix at Williams-Sonoma! It takes a bit of work but they turn out pretty good. Eat them asap or they get hard. If you choose red velvet be advised that your hands will be dyed red.

sprinkles cupcakes
http://www.sprinklescupcakes.com/

%d bloggers like this: