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Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Under the Williamsburg bridge sits Bia, a Vietnamese grill and beer garden (with a loud, but fun, rooftop).  We wanted some small plates after having happy hour oysters at Maison Premiere and Bia was a perfect choice for some small dishes.

Summer spring roll with shrimp - A light and balanced spring roll with the right amount of cilantro, greens, pickled carrot and shrimp.  The best of the appetizers!

Vegetable dumplings - These were a little on the gummy side, but not detrimental to the greens that packed tons of flavor.

Steamed roast pork buns - Pork buns can be a hit or miss and these were a miss.  Although the pork was good, buns so rarely have a good pork:bun ratio.

Vermicelli noodles with quartered spring rolls and grilled pork - I adore vermicelli dishes, but could have done without both the pork and fried spring rolls.  They didn't provide any flavoring and the noodles with greens, cilantro, onions, peanuts, and rice vinegar/fish sauce was perfect on its own.

All this with 2 beers - $40

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Fork in the Road: The Kitchen (Boulder, CO)

The Kitchen on Pearl Street has been regarded as one of the better restaurants in the Boulder area, so naturally, I was excited to try it.  It certainly may be one of the better restaurants in Boulder, but I wasn't sure if it was because it was trying too hard to be a 'world-class neighborhood restaurant' or farm-to-table.  My thought is they should stick to farm-to-table, then you don't go in with super high expectations.

The ambiance was enjoyable enough, but I found the food to be bland at best.

The ubiquitous grilled octopus with salsa verde - too chewy, though the tentacles were good mix with the greens and salsa verde and well-seasoned roasted root vegetables.

An insanely dry pork chop with a winning, creamy polenta.

Non-seasoned steak atop white (and pinto?!?!) beans.  At the very least, the chef should have used more salt.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Bellissimo (Houston, TX)

Family-owned Bellissimo is in Houston's lovely Heights and also happens to be one of the more neighborhood-y joints in the area.  This growing neighborhood seems to be attracting more restaurateur types, so this is a distraction from the loud, indulgent menu restaurants.  It is a dark, quiet atmosphere that is BYOB (see my smile) with heavy Italian fare.  One thing I love about this menu is make-your-own pizza and pasta which can translate into putting together an entree pretty much any way you want.

Garlic shrimp appetizer - large shrimp in a puddle of butter, garlic and lemon. 

Red Snapper with a white wine, caper sauce served with angel hair pasta and sauteed spinach.  The diced tomatoes just don't do anything for this dish.  Unless tomatoes are vine-ripe, just forget them all together! 

It looks like alot 'cause it is alot!
I might have gone a tad overboard ordering the Red Snapper served with sautéed shrimp, crab meat, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil served in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  Not only did I get a hefty seafood portion, I just had to try the namesake pasta jalapeno fettuccine served with grilled chicken, black beans, fresh cilantro, diced jalapenos and tomatoes served in a Parmesan white wine butter sauce.  The pasta was a bit of a disappointment.  I think perhaps I was looking for a cream jalapeno sauce?  I don't know what I was thinking, but the 'jalapeno' pasta had no kick and dry to boot.  My suggestion is go with angel hair and a green.

Dessert special - Bavarian berry cream cake...lighter than you would think and delicious! 

BYOB, moist fish and price make Bellissimo a favorite; though I wish they would change the plate presentation.  It looks like something I'd get in a casino restaurant. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Capital Club 16 (Raleigh, NC)

Raleigh's Capital Club 16 isn't just a great restaurant with traditional American food, but the building itself has historical significance as well.  It was home to a men's literary and social club in the 1930's (more history here) and has been decorated to reflect the time period.  It is open and airy during the spring and summer and cozy in the winter.

We start the table with sliced bratwurst and a tomato curry sauce with fries.  For some reason, I always love starting a meal with fries and the zing of the tomato sauce was subtle and pleasant.

On to one of my favorite Southern dishes: pimento cheese.  These crostinis featured the spread with figs and Dutch apple jam.  Yum yum!  The sweetness of the jam and figs cut into the rich cheese. 

Arugula salad with local asiago and a lemon-pepper vinaigrette, which surprisingly didn't take away, to the already peppery arugula.  The oven roasted tomato was nice addition.

Chicken Valdostana - rolled chicken with Black Forest ham, provolone over a spaetzle, mushrooms and tomato sauce.  Easily the best dish we ordered and the spaetzle was cooked perfectly.

Local Catch of the Day

The Farmer's Wife - seasonal vegetable dish of cabbage, collards, roasted potatoes and spaetzle.

My 97 year old Grandma who still makes it out to 8pm dinner, Dad and me

Prices are extremely reasonable and atmosphere lovely.  I'd get there before popularity starts driving those prices up!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hudson Common

It had been many, many years since I went to The Hudson Hotel for drinks, much less a meal.  The past few months, the hotel has been testing new concepts such as the Hudson Lodge in the winter and Hudson Tequila Bar (coming this summer).  While the outdoor area was getting utilized, the indoor Cafeteria was undergoing an entire renovation, to be called the Hudson Common.  The concept is a common area with communal tables as well as reserved private tables/booths, but you order your food at the counter.  TVs are hidden in the walls since they did not want this to become a 'sportsbar', although it could be a 'refined sportsbar'.

Hanging lights and Sputnik everywhere

The menu was created with the help of Chef German Villatoro, and he has definitely created one of the best newcoming burgers in the city.  This fairly extensive menu is a variety of upscale bar food.  My absolute favorite item on the menu (and trust me, it isn't because I am a woman who picks at salads) is the kale Caesar salad. 

It has large leafy greens of kale and Romaine hearts with a tangy vinaigrette Caesar, not creamy.  It gives me just the right amount of healthy in a sea of butter, cheese and bread.

Another surprise was the Veggie burger.  When I think of veggie burger, a think, dense disk comes to mind; but not Chef Villatoro's burger that's packed with...ready for this?  Faro, shoshitos, mushrooms, red pepper, cauliflower, tomatoes, edamame, falafel and spices!

Spicy kimchi pickles - though these are quite large pieces, it helped keep the crunchy texture of the zucchini, squash and cabbage.  The uncommon crudite is also something unique with its radishes, beans, kale, and carrots in a ginger-soy vinaigrette.

Getting to the decadent stuff, the French Toast Grilled Cheese is something sent from heaven.  Texas Toast with seven cheeses and maple drizzle is the paragon of savory-sweet foods!

This gem was only available for a week, but I feel obligated to write about it.  The Salted Caramel Angry Lobster Fatty Melt.  The name of that sandwich gets its own sentence.  This red chili-chipotle lobster salad was stuffed between TWO seven cheese (with curds) grilled cheeses topped with a salted caramel drizzle.  Gluttonous, no?  Perhaps if you ate the entire sandwich, but this was split by 3 people, so not too bad.  In fact, it was not as 'Fatty' as I imagined, but instead a damn tasty combo. 

Duck fat thrice-cooked fries
Not-so-favorite items: Peanut Butter BBQ ribs - boneless, but messy and taste of the meat is lost.
Pork Katsu BLT with apple bacon, guanciale, and pancetta - don't know if it was over-porked, the flavors didn't mesh well or the pork was a bit dry.

Great atmosphere and great food that keeps getting better.  Just love the seasonal concepts outside!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Underbelly (Houston, TX)

You have to write fairly quickly when it comes to Underbelly given the frequent seasonal menu changes at Underbelly, but it is still blog-worthy.  Chris Shepherd is certainly considered one of the best chefs in Houston, if not the country; although I am not too sure how the menu tells 'The Story of Houston Food'.  He does use local ingredients, but the Creole-Houston story is confusing.  The menu is mostly family-style which didn't fare well with my folks and their friends, but it was somewhat enjoyable. 

Beet and goat cheese mixed greens

These market vegetables in caramelized fish sauce almost didn't have a photo at all!  I love when restaurants use fish sauce and these wax beans handle it well.  (Oh, please order the sourdough bread with chive butter that you see in the background.)

Seared duck breast - I've had better.  This was too chewy and under seasoned.

My favorite dish was the whole fish with roasted root vegetables.  They ask if you like it filleted or whole and I opted for the whole fish to practice my culinary school techniques.  Chef Gabe at ICC would have been proud!  Heck, the waitress even told me I was doing a great job.

One negative aspect of dinner at Underbelly is the noise level.  Now, I am not outdating myself, but it was even too loud for my club-loving ears.  My friend, Liz, said it is much more enjoyable at lunch.

Monday, March 11, 2013


The first time I dined at Tertulia, I thought these were better tapas than I had when I went to Spain two years ago!  Way better.  Of all the tapas ordered, not one dish was 'off'.  We arrived at 6:30 and no wait, but anytime after 7:30, you will definitely have upwards of an hour, or more.  During our trip, no one really understood the allure of pan con tomate, but somehow ate it everywhere we went.

The simple dish of bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and oil really boiled down to the bread at Tertulia.  I don't know what purveyor they use for the bread, but it is a crusty sensation. 

There is a variation of this oyster special every night
Oysters with fino sherry, celery mignonette, crispy shallots and jamón serrano - if you haven't tried this, it is not to be missed.  It is such a unique way of serving oysters on the halfshell.

Grilled octopus with a hearty kale pistou which I found to be forgettable.

Holy sh****t ham croquettes.  We also ordered the bacalao (I'll get to that in a second) and when I took the first bite of a croquette, it was so smooth and whipped, I thought it was the bacalao.  All who read my blog know how much I love a salty and sweet pairing and this was perfect with the membrillo (quince paste).  Sidebar - for a small, imported and inexpensive Portuguese groceries go to Soho's M&O Market Deli at 124 Thompson...they also have one of the best sandwiches around.

Bacalao with baked egg and roasted peppers - When there is a chance to eat more of that fantastico bread, get it, period.  The bacalao is made with potatoes, oil, garlic and egg for cream.  Similar to the dish I had in Sintra at Tulhas.

My ears only heard one word...uni.  Anything with uni I will order, so I thought I would keep the richness theme up with Arroz Negro, a frequent special of squid ink rice topped with the delicacy and tiny pieces of squid. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Stick with extra small plates when thinking about desserts. I have yet to have a dessert at Tertulia worth writing about.  Additionally, the service and food have been inconsistent as of late; however, it is worth the money and you should at least go once.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Lucille's (Houston, TX)

There are a few Southern restaurants in the Houston area and the Museum District Lucille's shows some promise in the category.  Chris Williams has created a menu from life experiences...spending summers with his grandmother cooking and traveling after graduating Le Cordon Bleu in Austin.  Williams traveled to Portugal and discovered the cooking of fresh fish and coincidentally, I began to have serious thoughts of attending culinary school after having a similar experience at Apeadeiro in Portugal.  His unique Southern cuisine does not include a heavy take on the dishes, rather a lighter approach. 

Fried Green Tomato appetizer with spicy aoili.  I wasn't blown away as I like the tomatoes a larger, but the bite-size chili biscuits were delish.

I was completely blown away with the entrees.  Blown away.

Purple nailpolish courtesy of Lauren Levicki
If there is one dish you should get on the menu, get the pork & beans.  This is not your typical sweet, saucy pork and navy beans, rather a hind shank with lima beans, English peas, black lentils agrocdolce reduction (in this case, an Italian sweet sauce).  The braised meat fell right off the bone and was truly sensational.  Very forward thinking when it comes to Southern dishes.

Equally exceptional was the fish fry.  A whole fish facing you with sweet basil succotash and fresh greens.  Like the pork, the fish could be pulled off the bones.  I fancy this presentation and eating with your hands!

Less successful were the oxtails with sweet potatoes.  I find oxtail difficult to eat when not prepared in a stew, but on the bones.  It ends up being alot of work for little reward.

The go-to Southern mac & cheese side
The desserts needs an entire makeover; so much so I didn't even like the bites  I had :-( and the presenatation was inconsistent from the first part of the meal.

The bread pudding was missing the vanilla-y gooey, bread in addition to the hard topping, but had the caramel.

A strawberry shortcake that I don't know could be considered as such.  Dry, tasteless cake with stems on the strawberries?  No, no, no!  Get a pastry chef in there!

Lucille's is the type of place I want to see succeed.  It has family history, Texas history, family values, passion and outdoor backyard with food and drink!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Giovanni Rana

If you find yourself wandering through Chelsea Market, make a stop at Giovanni Rana, even if it is just to check out the homemade pasta bar.  You can choose from a variety of fresh pastas, and for only a few dollars more than store bought.  In general, I have an issue with spending more than $15 on a plate of pasta unless you are dining at Babbo or Felidia.  Typically, the restaurant pastas aren't worth the dough you are shelling out.  Now, in Rana's case, the pasta is worth the money (buy the fresh pasta), but the dine-in prices are steep for what I thought was a little above average plates.

Loved the copper pots hanging from the ceiling
I went on New Years and this I can say, worth every penny to not go to a restaurant with a prix fixe menu. 

Stuffed artichokes with a wonderful fruity Taleggio tang

The light,  'somewhat gratuitous for $24' lobster mezzaluna with Chanterelle mushrooms and adored the plating.

Spinach and ricotta girasole (essentially ravioli shaped like sunflowers) in a Parmesan reggiano basket...the basket, not so much a fan.

My advice: don't overpay for pasta unless it is something special.  Rana also offers a takeaway menu that is very affordable with all pastas under $12

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Lucile's (Boulder, CO)

Lucile's, a 32-year old family establishment, is the breakfast institution of Boulder and its surrounding areas.  It also comes with a lengthy line that is totally worth the wait and the portions :-)
We had a large group which works out well for the reviewer who wants to try a bit of everything.  It's amazing Creole can taste this good in this part of the country.  We began with beignets and unsurprisingly, these weren't that good.  Unlike Cafe du Monde, they are not soft and doughy.  These are way too hallow and crispy; but on to better dishes....

See the partial piece behind?  It is a quarter of my biscuit!

Me first!  Eggs Rockefeller - scrambled eggs, steamed spinach, fried oysters and Rockefeller sauce which is essentially cream, herbs and a Pernod or Herbsaint liquer.  As if this isn't enough food already, they serve it with a side of grits and a HuGe biscuit.  The biscuit could be a meal itself, or broken into quarters to serve four....not joking.  Of course this was heavy, but given I hardly ate the grits or biscuit, the portion was great for me.  The Rockefeller sauce was good, but could have used a tiny more Pernod.  It needed a little BAM! ala Emeril.

Creole Omelet with spicy sausage and delicious.  I am a big fan of tomatoes integrated with eggs, but not the tomato/seafood combo with eggs.  This worked much better for me with the sausage/ham.  For a couple extra bucks, order the cheddar chive grits.  It is worth it.  Trust!

The simple Eggs Eisenhower of poached eggs, grits, bacon, and biscuit.  You want heavy?  Order Carlin County (background) sausage gravy over a biscuit, red beans and grits.  The sausage gravy was good, but could have used a little more sausage dripping with pepper instead of a cream, roux and sausage mix.

Lightest of the bunch was Eggs Jennifer with spinach, tomato, avocado, and poached eggs. 

The idea here is go big!  Zero portion control.  It's what Creole is all about.

Gorgeous drive to Boulder