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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

NOPA San Francisco


NOPA is located north of the panhandle in San Francisco and serves up rustic wood-fired cuisine. We stopped in for brunch on a Sunday morning and it was standing room only. Luckily I made a reservation.

We were immediately seated at a table upstairs overlooking all the action. We had a view of  the open kitchen, bustling bar and main seating area.

Since we were going to watch a movie following our meal Mike and I decided to share a few apps and a main so we didn’t feel bloated in the theater. We decided on the following…

Goat Cheese Bread Pudding w/ Sautéed Chanterelles and Upland Cress

Bread puddings can sometimes be heavy… this was light and flavorful.

Oven Baked Farm Egg w/ Spiced Tomato, Shaved Pantaleo and Grilled Bread

So,so good. We slopped up every last bite of the spice laden sauce with our toasty bread. It seemed to have every spice under the sun in it (cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, coriander) but it worked.

Grass Fed Hamburger – Bacon, Pickled Onions and Herbed French Fries

The burger was perfectly pink and juicy and the fries were a thicker version of In-N-Out but much better tasting.

This is a great spot to have a homey meal in an energetic environment.

Website: http://nopasf.com/

Nopa on Urbanspoon

The Melt


The man behind the Flip video camera has opened up a high-tech chain of grilled cheese fast food restaurants called The Melt all over the Bay area. Since we were at the Stanford Mall in Palo Alto to pick up the new S’more cupcake at Sprinkles we stopped in for lunch.

The menu was fairly simple composed of 6 grilled cheese sandwiches (called melts), 5 soups, 3 sweet melts and drinks. I was expecting some highly creative sando options but you basically just choose a cheese and bread. Mike ordered the special of the day… The Dirty combo (without jalapeños) – sharp cheddar, tomato, bacon, and BBQ chips on sourdough + Sweet Corn Tortilla Soup. I went with the Classic combo of sharp cheddar on potato bread w/bacon + Two Tomato Basil soup.

The Dirty

We took a seat and admired the cool order board that let’s you know when your food is ready. Since the menu was a bust I was hoping for a taste sensation. Unfortunately, that was also a disappointment. When biting into our sandwiches all we could taste was the cheese. The toppings were so sparse they disappeared completely. I was pumped that you could add bacon to anything for FREE (that should be a rule everywhere) but found you get what you pay for. It was razor thin, limp and flavorless.

The Classic

I can easily make better grilled cheese at home on my favorite panini grill. I will say we enjoyed the corn soup.

I guess if I was at the mall and wanted to grab a quick bite (we were in and out in 20 minutes) I might stop by again for some soup. If you are looking for grilled cheese done right, check out the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in SF.

Note: if you don’t want to stand in line you can order in advance online.

Website: https://themelt.com/

The Melt on Urbanspoon

Umami Burger

When humans eat, they use all of their senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) to form general judgments about their food, but it is taste that is the most influential in determining how delicious a food is. Conventionally, it has been thought that our sense of taste is comprised of four basic, or ‘primary’, tastes, which cannot be replicated by mixing together any of the other primaries: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. However, it is now known that there is actually the fifth primary taste: umami
Umami Information Center

Umami burger if you are not familiar is a beloved Southern Cali chain that has now opened up on Union Street in San Francisco. When we arrived on a Monday night at 5:30pm the small space was almost empty. I made sure to come at a non-peak time to avoid the long waits I’ve read about.

I went with the signature Umami burger and Mike chose the Manly burger and we shared the truffle cheese fries. When everything arrived I was surprised by the petite size of the burgers (they look larger in photos). I gotta be honest we were hungry… we both downed our burgers within 4-5 bites so I can’t give you a real in-depth evaluation. All I know was mine was sweet and had kind of an Asian vibe and Mike’s had little yummy bacon lardons. Oh, and when I took my first bite my wedding ring was swimming in meat drippings (which was a good thing). The burger was cooked to perfection at medium rare which is their standard. It was juicylicious!

Manly burger (beer cheddar, onion rings,bacon) & Umami burger (shiitake shroom,onion,roasted tomato,parm crisp)

The truffle cheese fries (not on the menu but should be) were great and not overly truffley. They came with a trio of sauces but what I liked best was the homemade ketchup which kinda tasted like it was made with brown sugar.

We will have to go back again to savor the flavor.

Note: I thought we were going to leave hungry but in the end we were perfectly full. No burger bloat.

Rating:

Website: http://umamiburger.com/

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

Fremont Diner – Sonoma

Fremont Diner is a small revamped diner in Sonoma that serves up tasty vittles like pulled pork, corn fritters, Oyster Po’Boy, mac n cheese and fried pies. Yes, another healthy meal for us! When we told a local we were heading over for lunch he said the food was good but then warned us about the service. When we arrived we put our name on the waiting list and joined the small mob that was standing in the parking lot (no seating area). It looks like it used to be open seating but it is no longer which means on a Saturday you got a good 30 minute wait for your name to be called.

When we were finally seated inside we were not only starving but knew exactly what we wanted because we had plenty of time to peruse the menu. Here is were the poor service thing comes into action. We sat at our table for at least 15 minutes before our waitress decided to come and take our order and it wasn’t like she was buzzing around helping others because the 3 tables around us had just left.

We started off with a milkshake because I had heard they were a “not to miss” item. We chose the salted caramel which had chunks of crystallized salty sweet goodness throughout. I agree, they make damn good milkshakes. Next up Mike ordered the Chicken and Waffles. Bonus was that is was a boneless breast so no dirty hands.

I went with the Shrimp & Grits which I enjoyed but it came with those tiny baby shrimps (I prefer the big guys) and was pretty spicy, but it was topped with an egg and bacon so I forgave them.
For dessert we had the peach bread pudding which wasn’t as good as I had hoped. It had the consistency of a quiche and was a tad burnt but we still ate it all. Stuffed we waited and waited some more for the bill to arrive. Our quick bite at a local diner turned out to be an almost 2 hour event. Good thing we were not in a hurry.
Overall, the positive did outweigh the negative so we will return — on a weekday– and give it another go.

Website: http://thefremontdiner.com/

Fremont Diner on Urbanspoon

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/

Old Port Lobster Shack

The Naked Lobster Roll

I gotta get this out before we leave for Boston tomorrow.

Hi, My name is Nicole and I’m a lobstaholic. I can’t believe I’ve lived in the Bay for over 24 years and never heard of the Lobster Shack until late last year.

We finally made the trek to the Redwood City Shack in December 2010.

I didn’t write this post earlier because they are supposed to open a location in Cupertino which is very close to my home so I was going to complete the review after I had tried more of their offerings but as of today it’s still not open (tear)…

When we arrived I was amazed to see a long line outside to get in. Really…at 6pm? Is it that good? After standing for 30 minutes in the cold we placed our order and were seated in a mini picnic table for two. The decor is a classic New England motif filled with fishing gear. You will feel like you have been transported to a fish market on a East Coast pier. We had come for one thing…the lobster rolls. I ordered the naked lobster roll (comes with a side of drawn butter) and Mike the Maine lobster roll (mayo, green onions, salt & pepper). Along with the roll you receive salty crispy fries, slaw and some wicked awesome sweet pickles. The lobster was cooked perfectly and as you can see they give you a generous amount. I only wish the roll was buttered a bit more…luckily I had the side of butter : )

The Maine Lobster Roll

Everything was well worth the wait. I can’t wait to try the steamers and the fried clams!

WARNING TO THE OWNERS: you will see a lot of me when you open your Cupertino location! Please open soon…

Rating:

Website: http://www.oplobster.com/index.htm

Note: they also have a food truck now so you’ll find them rollin’ around the Bay. Their Facebook/Twitter pages have the best updates on its location.

Old Port Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon

Dishcrawl San Jose


Dishcrawl is a new company that hosts walking food tours in select cities across the Bay Area. I love a good food tour where you get to sample new and unique eats. Mike and I decided to go on the San Jose crawl on Tuesday June 28, 2011 at 7pm. Each crawl features 4 destinations.

Our night started off at Billy Berk’s large outdoor seating area where we checked in and got our dishcrawl team assignment (we began as one large group then split into 2 smaller 30+ person groups). We stayed here 1 hour and were able to have cocktails (not included in price) and sampled Billy’s American fare which included very good flatbreads and so-so fried zucchini.

Next we walked to House of Siam a Thai restaurant maybe 2 blocks away. After we took off our shoes (thank goodness I wore socks!) we were seated and ate a plate of fried sweet potatoes, a pickled salad and a spicy chicken curry (I think….we were not given any formal description of what we were eating). We were here for 45 minutes which left plenty of time (maybe too much) to chit chat with our fellow crawlers.

Then we were off to the Eat On Monday food truck which was parked a few blocks away to nosh on fried pork sandwiches with wasabi slaw, beef tacos and churros with strawberry sauce. This was our favorite spot of the night.

Last stop was the Dishcrawl San Jose office to nibble on Li’l Puffs Artisan marshmallows (they don’t have a storefront). They served up mini smore’s cupcakes as well as marshmallows.

The evening lasted about 2.5 hours and was co-hosted with LikeList who gave us some cool parting gifts (tshirts/flashlights). The Dishcrawl organizers are young, energetic and ready to have a good time. The majority of the people on our tour were in their 20’s to early 30’s but there were a handful of older folks like us. Although outnumbered we didn’t feel out of place. Overall it was a fun time.

The only drawback I see is that they don’t let you know where you are going until the last minute – if at all. In the first few months they were good about telling you what restaurants you were visiting but now they don’t say anything until maybe 4 days before. If you watch their twitter feed you might find a couple hints. I don’t know about you but I’m not interested in crawling to a bunch of places I’ve already been so I didn’t order our tickets until 2 days before the event.

They seems to add new cities and states every month so there is bound to be a Dishcrawl you would like to check out. I look forward to seeing what they have planned for Saratoga, Mike’s old stomping grounds.

Website: http://www.dishcrawl.com/

Our night in pics:

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The French Laundry


What did we do for our 5 year wedding anniversary? We went to one of the best restaurants in the world…the French Laundry owned by Chef Thomas Keller!! How did we get a reservation? See below. It was a gorgeous July day in the Napa valley when we arrived for our three hour lunch. As we entered we were welcomed, congratulated on our anniversary and promptly escorted upstairs to our table. We were the first to arrive to the small dining room. As our waiter described the menu the other 4 tables in our area filled with guests from China, Florida, Arizona and New York but no VIPs or celebrities. Due to the close proximity of the tables it was easy to hear the conversations around us especially the woman who decided she was going to make and receive phone calls during the first half of her meal (she did keep them short but still so rude!).

Deciding what to order was easy as we were not going to do any of the supplements and for the few courses that we had a choice we chose one of each so we could try everything served that day. Mike instantly fell in love with the 100+ page wine list presented on an Apple ipad (the technology not the prices…). He decided on two half bottles to accompany our meal. We started with a Lazy Creek Riesling and ended with a Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel. Together they ran about $125 and were some of the cheapest bottles on the list which brought our total bill to $720. Both wines were wonderful but the Black Chicken blew us away so much that we are going to visit the winery next week.

The menu for 7.8.2011

Amuse-bouche #1
Gruyère Cheese Puffs

Amuse-bouche #2
Salmon Tartare atop a Crème Fraiche Filled Poppyseed Cone

Course #1
“ O Y S T E R S  A N D  P E A R L S ”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

Course #2
S A L A D  O F  H A W A I I A N  H E A R T S  O F  P A L M
Lychee, French laundry Garden Cucumber and Greek Basil

Course #3
A T L A N T I C  C O D  “C O N F I T  A  L A  M I N U T E”
Brentwood Corn Mousse, Summer Squash, Parsley Shoots and Demi-Sec Tomatoes

Course #4
S W E E T  B U T T E R – P O A C H E D  M A I N E  L O B S T E R  T A I L
Charred Leek, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Piedmont Hazelnuts and Vanilla-Sauternes Emulsion

S A N T A  B A R B A R A  S P O T  P R A W N S
Green Mission Fig, Young Coconut, Hass Avocado, Red Jalapeno and Cilantro

Course #5
L I B E R T Y  F A R M  P E K I N  D U C K
“Confit de Canard,” Steamed Bun, Nantes Carrots, Radish, Edamame and “Sauce Japanaise”

D E V I L ‘S  G U L C H  R A N C H  “E P A U L E  D E  L A P I N”
Summer Pole Beans, Smoked Garlic Puree and Hobbs’ Bacon “Jus”

Course #6
S N A K E  R I V E R  F A R M S  “C A L O T T E  D E  B O E U F  G R I L L E E”
“Pommes Darphin,” Chanterelle Mushrooms “a la Greque,” Quail Egg and English Peas

Course #7
“B R I L L A T  S A V A R I N”
Pistachio “Pain de Genes,” Celery Branch and French Laundry Garden Strawberries

Course #8
N E C T A R I N E  S O R B E T
Earl Grey Tea “Granite,” Honey and Grilled Nectarines

Course #9
C A R A M É L I A  C H O C O L A T E  “ C R È M E U X ”
Gros Michel Banana, Georgia Peanuts, “Dentelle” and Salted Popcorn Ice Cream

“Î L E  F L O T T A N T E”
Lemongrass, Meiwa Kumquat, Black Sesame and Ginger “Anglaise”

ANNIVERSARY BANANA CAKE

M I G N A R D I S E S:
6 Truffles (hazelnut, cherry, ginger, meyer lemon, olive oil, peanut butter & jelly)
Cold Espresso with Cappuccino Foam & Sugar Doughnuts
Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts from Hawaii

PARTING GIFT:
Shortbread Cookies

Our experience in photos:

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Lunch, like dinner, includes a couple Amuse-bouche items followed by 9 courses and concludes with Mignardises which are bite-size desserts. All the dishes were prepared perfectly and arrived at timely intervals. Mike’s favorite course was the devil’s gulch rabbit. He oohed and aahed through every bite. The thing I enjoyed most I hate to say was the desserts. Even though the beef melted in my mouth the caramel mousse with salted popcorn ice cream was off the charts. At the end of our meal we also received a small banana cake for our anniversary. As it was being placed on the table Mike told the server that banana was the top tier of our wedding cake which the server in turn said with a smile…we did our research. It was a nice coincidence.

About the service…you would think that a place that requires men to wear a jacket even at lunch (in California) would be uptight and stuffy, but our servers were all super friendly, down to earth and casual in their approach. They didn’t speak only when spoken to but engaged us in conversation about where we were from, how long we would be in town and what other plans we had while in town. We found that very refreshing.

Lunch vs. dinner… I was psyched that we got a reservation on our exact anniversary date but mildly disappointed that we didn’t get an evening seating. After finishing our meal we were extremely pleased that we had come for lunch because we were stuffed. We didn’t even finish half of our Mignardises and couldn’t imagine having to go to bed immediately following that food marathon. We couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Another bonus was prior to the sweet portion of our meal we were offered the opportunity to stretch our legs. Being able to take a short walk outside in the sun and check out the garden across the street was just what we needed after 2 hours of sitting and probably not an option if dining late at night. I wouldn’t change a thing about our time spent at the French Laundry.

Rating:

Website: http://www.frenchlaundry.com/

How to get a reservation at one of the 16 tables? Perseverance is the key… just keep trying and you will get in. I read all the tips online about how to get an elusive reservation. It really was not as difficult as everyone says. It may not be the exact time you want but you will get something, especially if you are in the area for a long weekend… although booking a table for 2 is more difficult than 4+ because they have fewer small tables. 2 months to the calendar date I began dialing at 9:58am (they open at 10am) and was able to get through to a reservation agent by 10:20ish. On the two days I called all reasonable times for dinner (before 9pm) were taken but lunch and late night dining was available. I ultimately went with a lunch opening I found on opentable because Mike goes to bed early and I didn’t want him sleeping through dinner. On opentable reservations would randomly pop up between 9:30-10:20am. Another option is to have your hotel or credit card concierge call, but in my case both only got me wait-listed. I don’t think they are hitting the phone lines at 10am…

In the late 1920′s the building housed a French steam laundry

French Laundry on Urbanspoon

Mrs. DeLish’s Cupcake Boutique


A friend (Thanks Julie!) brought Mike and I a sampling of cupcakes from Mrs. Delish’s cupcake boutique. She felt they were better than Sprinkles….

Here is what we got:


Red Velvet
– good frosting & cake but tasted like a cupcake I could make at home.
Coconut/Coconut – best of the bunch..loved the toasted coconut on top. I’d even say better than Sprinkles.
Espresso – ok flavor but I wouldn’t pay to have it again.
Cherry Bomb – really didn’t taste like anything at all except peanuts which coated the top. (I chose this flavor because I liked the name. I had just seen the Joan Jett movie “The Runaways” – As we ate this you could here me chant ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb!)

Overall better than Sprinkles…not a chance.

Website: http://www.mrsdelishs.com/

Farmstead Restaurant


Mike and I had lunch at Farmstead on one of our many trips to Napa to work on our Crushpad wine. The restaurant is unique because it sources many of the ingredients from Long Meadow Ranch including all-natural grass-fed beef, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and honey. If you venture outside they also have a garden and a chicken coop with some of the cleanest and attractive chickens I have ever seen. They serve a seasonal American menu in a modern renovated barn.

The day we arrived the special was a pulled pork sandwich with blue cheese slaw (yes, please!). Mike went with the burger with california cheddar and arugula which is pretty notorious. When they arrived they looked so good we ended up splitting the two. Both were fantastic! To push us over the top we concluded with the scrumptious chocolate cream pie.



Because we were so impressed with the meat we ate we decided to give the LMR grass fed beef club a try. So far we have received our first two shipments and we are lovin’ it.

Bonus:  there is no corkage fee at Farmstead; instead a $2 per bottle fee is collected as a donation to a featured local community-building not-for-profit organization each month.

Note: Be sure to stop by next door for a tasting of wine at Long Meadow Ranch. The wine is good and the woman pouring (at least on the day we went) was a hoot.

Website: http://www.longmeadowranch.com/Farmstead-Restaurant

Zero Zero Restaurant


We were in the city checking out the wine exhibit (which was pretty cool) at SFMOMA. After we needed to eat so I jumped on Yelp to see what was in walking distance and I was pleasantly surprised to find Zero Zero. I had heard many good things about their food. We arrived at 2pm just in time to catch the tail end of the Saturday brunch service.

We decided to go with a couple pizzas as well as the special of the day: short rib hash, fried egg & mini biscuits. Who would pass that up?!

Top: Castro - Sopressata, Sausage, Mozzarella, Basil....... Bottom: Margherita


Everything was delicious. I especially loved the Castro pie which had  really creamy cheese. We of course left room for dessert — the make your own sundae! Following your meal you receive a mini golf pencil and a piece of paper filled with scrumptious toppings. We could not decide on just one so we made two, half-orders (which were huge).

We are oh so bad…………

#1 Straus organic soft serve vanilla ice cream with Chamomile Poached Strawberries and sugar coated Ricotta Doughnuts on the side.

#2 Straus organic soft serve vanilla/chocolate swirled ice cream with Chocolate Lava Cake and Bacon Brittle.

These were oh so good………..

Some talk about how great the ice cream is but really it’s all about the toppings! Tell me your mouth is not watering…

Website: http://www.zerozerosf.com/

By the way there were 3 people eating so don’t think we are total pigs…

Zero Zero on Urbanspoon

Heaven’s Dog


A friend from LA was in town for business and staying near the Moscone center. I needed to find a place to go for dinner and drinks on a Friday night near by with only a few days notice. Heaven’s dog was one of the few restaurants I could make a reservation before 9pm and I had read that they were known for their cocktails and our friend is all about getting her drink on. I figured a Charles Phan spot had to be a safe option. He is the chef behind the famed Slanted door.

I gotta say I wasn’t impressed with the location. SOMA is not the nicest area. We had a hard time finding the restaurant as it is small with minimal signage. Inside it was modern, dimly lit, decorated in vibrant orange and brown colors and the walls were covered in cute paintings of dogs.

They serve Chinese food here unlike the Vietnamese at Slanted door. Since they had a good selection of dim sum items and apps we decided to order a bunch and share.

What we got:

shanghai dumplings – good but I’ve had better
salt & pepper local squid – delish…favorite of the night
stuffed sweet peppers w/crab, shrimp, shallots – nothing special
braised pork belly in clam shell bun – yum… we had to get a 2nd order
black pepper flat iron steak, red onions, bell pepper – tasty but not as good as the Slanted door shaking beef
shumai pork, shrimp and shiitake dumplings – a little dry
wild mushrooms w/ noodles – oh so good
lemon tart – nice… I was hoping for a more Asian inspired dessert but this is all they had

As for the drinks they were a hit with our friend. I thought my 2 rum cocktails (Savannah Planters Punch/Bumble Bee) tasted too similar. I actually preferred the wine Mike ordered. All in all it was a fun night. We hung out for over 2 hours and were not rushed. The environment is very chill. This would be the perfect spot to get a bite & a drink after work, before a show or late night.

Note: park at the SOMA grand parking garage next door. They validate!

Rating:

Website: http://www.heavensdog.com/main/HD.html

Heaven's Dog on Urbanspoon

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/

Joe’s Cable Car

Joe's is not huge but don't worry it's lit up like Las Vegas so you can't miss it.

Joe’s Cable Car is another place I saw on Triple D (Diners, Drive-in & Dives) and the owners want you to remember that. There are pictures of Guy Fieri all over the interior as well as the actual episode running on a loop on a TV. The restaurant (built to look like a cable car) opened in 1965 and was originally a drive-in but has expanded over time into a small diner. The joint prides itself on its fresh ground steak burgers which come in three sizes: 4, 6, and 8 ounces. Mike and I both went with the 4 ounce since the pictures on the menu made them look like huge flying saucers and they were $12 with cheese! To my dismay when they arrived they were the size of a slider. I guess you can’t put a price-tag on quality…. the meat was very good and I loved the little sesame seed bun. We also enjoyed the fries and onion rings which were crispy and hot. You could get a similar meal for 1/2 the price but the service was good and the food tasty so I wasn’t overly concerned by the $40 price tag. It’s an experience not to miss.

Website: http://www.joescablecarrestaurant.com/

*don’t worry this was pre-cleanse

Joe's Cable Car on Urbanspoon

Humphry Slocombe ice cream


Crazy ice cream flavors in the Mission. We finally made it to Humphry Slocombe. Although it was December and freezing outside I still had to have it. I ordered the “Secret breakfast” (cornflakes & bourbon) which may sound disgusting but was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! Mike opted for the “guinness gingerbread”. As an Irishman just days before Christmas he had no other choice. He liked it… let’s just say I didn’t ask for a 2nd bite but I’ve never been a fan of gingerbread. The ice cream whatever the flavor is super creamy and amazingly fresh. I hope to return in the summer to try other flavors like: blue bottle Vietnamese coffee, cream cheese chocolate chip, government cheese and sweet corn-blackberry.

* don’t worry this was pre-cleanse

Website: http://www.humphryslocombe.com/

Humphry Slocombe on Urbanspoon

Dynamo Donuts


I’m steadily crossing off items from my bucket list — dynamo donuts CHECK. I heard about this place on one of those Food Network “the best thing I ever ate” episodes when they revealed the “Maple bacon” donut at Dynamo. This was our last stop on my SF bday weekend as we headed back to San Jose.

What we got (in order of preference):

maple bacon glazed apple: like french toast and bacon, didn't taste any apple.

coconut: big slices of coconut were great.

lemon huckleberry: nice but didn't taste any lemon.

spiced chocolate: great chocolate flavor, spice was a little weird. I think I tasted chili powder.

caramel de sel: caramel was ooey gooey but tasted burnt. Didn't taste any de sel or orange zest.

These are some really good light and airy donuts. Most were missing one or more of the flavors it claimed to have but I didn’t mind. I’m usually pushin’ maximum capacity after 1 normal donut but I had no problem downing 2.5 of these in one sitting. They also have great decaf Americano. Stop by if you are in the area.

Website: http://www.dynamodonut.com/

Dynamo Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Wayfare Tavern


2010 has been a stellar year for Tyler Florence in the Bay Area. He has opened restaurants in San Francisco and Napa within the last 6 months with a third to come in Mill Valley in early 2011. Best know for his 14 year run on the Food Network with shows like “Food 911” and “Tyler’s Ultimate”, Wayfare Tavern is Florence’s first foray into the restaurant biz. I was intrigued to find out if the food that looked so good on TV could be pulled off in person so we made a reservation for my birthday.

We arrived at 6:30 pm on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, Florence wasn’t in the house because he was out on his cookbook tour. We were quickly escorted to the 2nd floor to a table right at the top of the stairs. Wayfare serves up American comfort food in a chic rustic setting (think dark woods, leather, exposed brick and mounted animal heads). To start things off Mike ordered a half bottle of RIDGE red wine. Mike was very impressed with the wine offerings. Unlike some other high end restaurants in the area the wine list is not insanely marked up. We then perused the menu … I really didn’t need to look because I knew they had fried chicken and you all know I never pass that up. Mike decided to go with the steak.

We shared the beet appetizer which was very nice. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the accompanying ricotta was wonderful.

roasted local beets and housemade ricotta

The mains were masterful. My chicken was juicy yet crispy and the squeeze of lemon put it over the top. It did have herbs and I usually don’t go for that but for some reason it worked in this instance.

organic fried chicken, buttermilk brine, roasted garlic, herbs, lemon

You can’t go wrong with a Santa Maria tri-tip and a boat load of fries. Mike was in meat and potatoes heaven. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal.

grilled santa maria tri-tip steak, roasted heirloom onions, truffle butter, crispy fries

We didn’t have room for coffee and dessert but we got it anyways and didn’t leave a morsel. My favorite part, of all things, was the roasted pear. It was pure sweet goodness.

Hey, Tyler…can you hook a girl up with the recipe?

sticky toffee pudding, roasted pears, black pepper ice cream

Soooo did Florence pull it off? Indeed! Yummy food, big portions, reasonable prices, great ambiance, excellent service and a super wine list. What more can you ask for? I can’t wait to try Rotisserie & Wine in Napa.

Note: When we left at 8pm the first level of the restaurant was a mad house (glad we were upstairs). It was packed to the gills with a line of folks out the door trying to get a table …Seriously people?…MAKE A RESERVATION cause business is booming!

Rating:

website: http://www.wayfaretavern.com/

Wayfare Tavern on Urbanspoon

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana


Before our trip to the Disney museum we decided to get some pizza from the highly acclaimed pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani. Tony won the award for Best Pizza Margherita at the 2007 World Pizza Cup in Italy and he’s opened up a spot in North Beach where you can try that very same pizza. We arrived at noon on a Saturday just as a line was forming at the front door. We lucked out and got seated in the back room right in front of the 900 degree wood oven where all the action happens. The place has a cool vibe. 50’s music was playing and there was a young guy with a tight t-shirt and slicked back hair working the oven. Looked like someone straight out of GREASE.


We of course were ordering the famous Margherita pizza but decided to start with the Meatballs which were moist and light — not at all heavy and the sauce was fantastic. I slopped up the leftover sauce with our bread. The pizza arrived pippin’ hot and looked scrumptious. I was worried the crust would be thin and burnt like lots of wood-fired pizzas but it was really soft and airy. How did it taste? Simply delicious. I’ll be back to try the other varieties.

Note: only 73 Margherita pies are sold a day so arrive early.

Website: http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/

Tony's Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center


It looks like food trucks are not a fad. More and more keep popping up all over the Bay Area especially in the city. I’ve wanted to check them out but to find them you usually have to follow twitter feeds and I’m way to lazy to do that. So when I heard about “Off the grid,” a collection of over 20+ trucks/carts all in one location at the same time, I added it to my SF bday weekend list. We decided to go to the Friday night location which is held at Fort Mason center from 5-8pm and has the largest selection of carts. I was worried about November rain but we lucked out with some fantastic weather.

Upon arrival we bee-lined for the creme brulee cart because I’d heard they sell out fast and I wasn’t gonna miss out.  We chose coconut and pumpkin spice. Both were creamy and delicious. We devoured them while standing in the Chairman Bao Chinese steamed/baked buns line. The buns are what everyone comes for. The line is long and stays that way the entire night. Still in line we snacked on a dim sum sampler from Tru Gourmet which was good but nothing special. Within 30 minutes of opening the Chairman ran out of baked buns (WTF!) so we were forced to have the steamed (pork belly & duck) which were awesome and well worth the wait. Next, we had a couple tacos (asian asada & char sui) from Kung Fu tacos. Interesting flavors indeed. Having had our fill of Asian cuisine we finished off with a couple Mexican tacos (carne asada & pork/bacon) from El Huarache Loco.

Although we had to navigate around people & strollers galore (“Off the grid” seems to be the place to be for Thirty-something city folks with kids) that didn’t stop us from stuffing ourselves silly. All in all it was a fun evening.

Notes: Fort Mason location is closed for the winter. Admission is free. Food Costs: $5+

Website: http://www.offthegridsf.com/

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The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen


An eatery that only sells grilled cheese sandwiches. Brilliant concept. Why didn’t I think of that? Food & Wine calls AGCK one of the Best U.S. Restaurant Openings of 2010 and I agree!

This was the first stop on my mega birthday weekend in SF. We rolled up on Friday (11/12/10) at noon and it was packed, but we scored a parking spot right in front….I took it as a sign…

We ordered:

Moscone sandwich (fresh mozzarella, fontina, roasted tomatoes, basil-lavender pesto, olive tapenade) + tomato soup

Mousetrap sandwich (Tillamook sharp cheddar, havarti, monterey jack, on artisan sourdough w/bacon) + tomato soup

Everything was wonderful and comes with an apple so you can feel like you ate something healthy when you really didn’t.

Tips:

Don’t attempt to eat the croutons on their own like I did. They are super peppery.

The soup is best when you dunk your sando in it or with croutons because it’s like a tomato puree and is very acidic.

Website: http://theamericansf.com/

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Fish Story Napa

FRIED CLAMS

The dude behind BarBersQ is now the chef at Fish Story which is located in the snazzy new Napa Riverfront area. As soon as I heard lobster was on the menu I made a reservation. The first thing our waitress told us upon being seated was that their seafood is all sourced in accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which is cool. Mike decided to go with the HOOK, LINE & SINKER 3 course meal (which was a steal at $27). It included a cup of chowder, shrimp & grits and butterscotch pudding. I chose the fried clams appetizer and the Maine lobster roll. The clams were my favorite thing of the night… plump with a light salty batter and a zingy cocktail sauce (wish it was a larger portion!). The lobster roll with kettle chips was very good, especially the super buttery bun, but I have come to the realization that I am a lobster purist. Lobster boiled or grilled and drenched in butter with a squeeze of lemon is heaven. Mike was happy with his dishes but felt the grits could have been a little creamier. We shared the pudding which was delish. If you’re looking for a seafood meal in Napa that won’t break the bank (especially if you order the prix fixe menu) check it out.

LOBSTER ROLL

SHRIMP & GRITS

Note: after drinking wine all day I wanted something non-alcoholic and the Mixed Berry Cooler was yummy!

Rating:

Website: http://fishstorynapa.com/

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Dim Sum Charlie’s Napa


I don’t know if I have mentioned this but we are making wine at Crushpad which means we spent most of the month of October in Napa sorting, punching and pressing our Pinot Noir grapes. I will tell you more about that experience in another post. On one of our many weekends we decided to check out Dim Sum Charlie’s dim sum truck for lunch. I had read about it on twitter. The airstream is located right around the corner from Oxbow market, basically in the backyard of someone’s home (I assume Charlie :smile:)

When we arrived we grabbed a pen and the menu and marked the items we wanted to order as you would in any typical dim sum establishment. We opted for the honey baked bbq pork buns, white fluffy pork buns, stiiiicky rice, pork sui mai dumplings and the ten dolla make you holla dumpling combo (7 different items). The staff was friendly and happy to serve and everything tasted as it should. My only gripe would be the price. It is really expensive. The average price is $6.85 for 4 dumplings. I thought Sino at Santana Row was the most high-end dim sum at $3.25-4.25 but it’s dirt cheap in comparison. You would think they would be able to keep the cost down since they have no real overhead.

Verdict: You gotta give it a try. It’s something different in Napa.

Note: all seating is outside so if it’s raining and cold dress accordingly. It is also surrounded by construction so beware of loud noises even on the weekend.

Website: http://www.dimsumcharlies.com/

Foreign Cinema


I’ve wanted to go to Foreign Cinema for many years. Mike and I finally made it for brunch. It was surprisingly warm in San Fran so we sat outside on the patio. I really liked the rustic feel. We, of course, started off with the ever popular pop tart which was warm, light, flaky and perfectly sweet. Very good interpretation of the childhood classic. I had remembered seeing Giada on one of her getaway shows order the Fried eggs deglazed with balsamic served w/rose potato-roasted garlic hash & tender greens so that’s what I decided to get. The dish was a perfect combination of salty (prosciutto), crunchy (potatoes), creamy (egg) and bitter (greens). When you got a mouthful of everything it was harmonious. Mike had never had a Croque Madame so I told him to give it a go. He enjoyed it but he has never tasted Thomas Keller’s so he has no comparison and there is no comparison. Keller’s is king.

We vow to return at night when we can see a film.

Website: http://www.foreigncinema.com/

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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/

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