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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

La Boca – Santa Fe

Posted by moderndaygourmet on November 8, 2009

I haven’t written about restaurants in awhile, despite visiting some good ones, but I loved this one so much that I had to document it here.

On a weekend trip to Santa Fe, we had dinner at La Boca, a tapas restaurant in the historic area near the plaza. I almost could not decide what to try because so many things looked good. We ended up sharing 3 plates:

Trio of 3 spreads with flatbread:
– Carrot/garbanzo hummus with cumin
– Fire roasted eggplant puree
– Mint-feta cheese spread
Mashed butternut squash with melted manchego cheese and pumpkin seeds
Panko fried calamari

There were many other items that looked amazing as well, such as:

Bruschetta with mushrooms and truffle oil
Roasted artichokes with Spanish goat cheese, orange zest and mint
Fried potatoes with sea salt and olive oil, served with roasted garlic aioli
Mediterranean salad with figs, olives, feta, honey viniagrette, and greens
Panko crusted fried oysters
Canneloni with lump crab, scallops and manchego cream
Spiced lamb kebab with mint yogurt and cucumber salad
Hangar steak and grilled shrimp with manchego creamed spinach

See what I mean? I think I should visit again for about a week and eat there every night till I’ve tried it all. Well….that might be a little crazy. But the food is simply amazing.

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Seattle restaurants

Posted by moderndaygourmet on March 5, 2008

I was in Seattle for work this week and got to try a couple of good places. Seattle’s downtown is similar to Dallas, which is to say, not much action after business hours, but there are a few good places to eat at least, so I didn’t have to drive anywhere.

The first night, I went to Sazerac. Turned out they were participating in this “30 for $30” local restaurant promotion, so I ended up ordering off that menu. The “30 for $30” is similar to Restaurant Week in many other cities, including Dallas and NYC, where restaurants participate in a promotion in which they offer a special menu at reduced prices, which hopefully inspires more people to try their restaurants. This menu had wine flights to go with the food courses and I ordered that as well. I started with the Caesar salad. I know that’s not too adventurous but I was in the mood for one. It was fine, but I don’t love Caesar salads with the leaves left whole, so I have to cut them. Nevertheless – a regular Caesar, as expected. That was served with an Abbey Paige chardonnay. The main course was the grilled hangar steak with horseradish stone-ground grits. The steak was cooked perfectly and the grits were really tasty with just enough bite from the horseradish. For dessert I ordered the “Small Box of Brownies, Cookies and Sweet Thangs” mostly because I just had to know what exactly constituted such a thing. It turned out to be brownies, gingersnaps, and a sugar/almond brittle type of thing, very similar to what is usually used to make baskets for ice cream, berries and such. All of it was tasty but it was too much for just me; I finished only about half of it. They served that with sherry. I don’t normally drink sherry but this was pretty good; just sweet enough to go with dessert.

The next night I went to Tulio, which was highly recommended on Chowhound. I had eaten a big lunch from my client meeting so I wasn’t really very hungry. So, I decided to have just an appetizer and dessert. That turned out to be just enough food. I had the sweet potato gnocchi – delicious, perfectly crispy on the outside and the butter was a great accompaniment. I told the waiter I wanted a glass of Chardonnay, fruity and not too dry, and I got exactly what I asked for. For dessert I had the crostata (pear tart, with honey gelato) which was delicious. And it was not a huge portion, which is a typical problem with desserts. It was sort of like a mini galette (French free-form tart) with the fruit wrapped up in the pastry. Also, their focaccia bread was terrific. I had a hard time not filling up on it!

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La Bella Italian restaurant (Bedford)

Posted by moderndaygourmet on January 21, 2008

Last weekend, we ate at La Bella in Bedford for our anniversary. I had been trying to decide between La Bella or Ferrari’s. I ended up deciding that we wanted to try the small local place. From what I have read, they have been in business for 20 years or so, and I read some reviews online that seemed promising.

When you drive up to this place, you wonder what you are in for, since it sits between a Big Lots and a Little Caesars in a strip center. However, once you walk inside, the atmosphere is totally different. It’s dark and cozy, and the whole place is basically a square room and it’s fairly small. There is live piano music which is a great touch and we enjoyed that very much.

When we got inside, it took 3-4 minutes for anyone to notice we were there as there seemed to be no host(ess). Finally someone came over and asked if we had a reservation; when we told him we did and told our name, he led us to a small table. We had no sooner sat down than someone else came up and also asked if we had a reservation, then told us that we were to sit at a different table. Weird, but OK. So we moved. Also slightly weird – several people eating there were wearing either rock concert T-shirts or hockey jerseys. Now, I’m not one to obsess about dress in a restaurant, but this was clearly an elegant place and that did lower the tone of it considerably as far as I was concerned. I had made special efforts to get dolled up for a nice evening out. I mean, jackets and ties I can live without but at least put on a golf shirt?

Anyway, after some more delay we were brought menus and the wine list. We started with a bottle of Chianti Ruffino and each had a salad (greens with creamy Italian dressing – the other dressing choice was a viniagrette). I was disappointed to see no insalata caprese on the menu, since I often get that when I go to nice Italian places, but not a big deal. The bread was clearly not homemade and the butter was the kind in the little plastic containers, like one might see at a coffee shop.

I ordered the chicken carciofo (chicken with artichokes and mushrooms in a white wine garlic sauce) and DH ordered the shrimp and crab La Bella (linguine in a white wine cream sauce with shrimp and crab). Both were delicious. I was really happy with both our entrees and that was doubtless the best part of the meal. Yes, I know red wine doesn’t really go with chicken and seafood, but we always drink reds. It’s just our thing.

For dessert we had cheesecake. We were tempted by the flaming desserts (they have bananas foster and cherries jubilee) but decided that for $25 we could do without. The cheesecake was perfectly fine; I’ve never had a bad cheesecake, but neither was it anything to write home about.

We were not rushed and it was nice to enjoy a leisurely dinner without anyone trying to hurry us along to turn over the table. We rarely take a long time over dinner and this was a nice way to spend an anniversary, just chatting and enjoying the music.

So, my experience was mixed. The atmosphere was nice with the dark cozy room and the piano music, but the dress of some of the other diners (of course, not the restaurant’s fault) and the spotty service in the beginning took away from the experience somewhat. The food, while perfectly fine, was not as fresh and homemade as I would expect from a higher-end restaurant. I was fairly underwhelmed on the whole.

We’ll try Ferrari’s sometime to compare and then I will write about that.

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Grimaldi’s Pizza – Dallas

Posted by moderndaygourmet on January 7, 2008

We had dinner last night at Grimaldi’s, in the West Village area of Dallas. This is a new location of the original Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, which I mentioned in a previous blog entry here

I think the pizza here is just as good as the original. Nice crispy crust a little charred from the coal oven, very fresh toppings (we had pepperoni, Italian sausage and mushrooms). The atmosphere was better in my opinion, not nearly as densely crowded with tables. We did not order salad as we were in a rush, but reviews on Chowhound indicate that the salads are all very good and also quite large, so presumably a small size salad could easily be shared by two people.

We’ll definitely go back, and I work downtown so I could see picking up a Grimaldi’s pizza on the way home from work as well. Currently they are only open for dinner, but maybe soon they will expand their hours to include lunch as well.

ETA: I returned a few weeks later and ordered a salad this time. It was one of the tastier Caesar salads I have eaten, and three of us shared a small and had plenty.

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Restaurant reviews – NYC

Posted by moderndaygourmet on October 5, 2007

Just a short post about a few other places I visited this past weekend and prior:

Grimaldi’s Pizza

This is in Brooklyn, right under the bridge. We spent a while walking around Brooklyn Heights to work up our appetite. Incidentally, a curious thing I have noticed about NYC restaurants is that they never seem to open before noon for lunch on weekends. I guess that is because so many people do brunch there? So, we got in line about 20 minutes till noon and it was a good thing. It is very popular and the line was way down the street by the time they opened. I liked the feel of this place as it was basic and unpretentious, which personally I tend to associate with good food. We got the pizza with sausage, olives and mushrooms. DH doesn’t like mushrooms and I don’t like olives, so we figured that one of each was fair. LOL. I did like this pizza but it wasn’t quite as good as the pizza I got at John’s on Bleeker. It was more watery somehow; I suppose from tomatoes not drained enough. The ingredients were obviously very fresh and it came steaming hot from the brick oven. We got the “small” pizza which was 16 inches and plenty for two people. I have read some reviews on Chowhound that say Grimaldi’s had started putting too much cheese on their pizza in an attempt to cater to the tourists, but I can’t say I agree with those comments. The cheese was in chunks, which is inferior to John’s since their cheese was more evenly dispersed. All in all a good meal, but given the choice I would go back to John’s. On future visits I would like to try Joe’s on Carmine and Patsy’s in Harlem, as well as possibly DiFara in Brooklyn even though it is quite a hike. Some say DiFara is the best pizza you can find but it is a matter of whether you’re willing to spend two hours round trip just for a pizza.

Shake Shack

I wish we had a place like the Shake Shack at home. It’s great fun because it’s outdoors and you walk up and order your food from the little shack and then go sit at one of the tables surrounding it in the park. It’s only open from spring to fall because you can imagine how many people want to sit outside and eat a burger in January in NYC. We stood in line about 30 minutes which is about average from what I understand, and then it took quite a while after that to get our food. I took that as a sign of their making everything to order. We had burgers and fries but no shakes. I thought the burgers were quite good, very fresh and a good size. DH complained that they were too small but personally I think most places these days give you too much burger. When I have to always eat only half and take the rest home, there is something wrong. The fries were good, crispy and well seasoned, but I was a bit disappointed that they were frozen, not freshly made on the premises. Still, they tasted good. This is where In N Out burger has the edge over Shake Shack.

Overall it was good food and a fun experience to eat outdoors since the weather was very nice that evening. I’d go back again.

Katz’ Deli

This is an institution in NYC; the classic old Jewish deli. When we went there, it was a madhouse. It’s always a madhouse. You stand in line and tell the guy cutting meat what you want and he will give you a taste, then make your sandwich. You’re lucky if you can snag a table. This was without a doubt the best pastrami sandwich I have ever eaten. It was huge – two of us shared it and an order of fries and it was plenty of food. The fries were quite good which is not something you usually associate with NYC delis.

Virgil’s BBQ

One word; stay away. How could I have thought that NYC would have good barbecue? Hello, I’m from Texas. The time I went here, I actually had reservations at a good place a ways away but it was pouring rain and I knew I could never get a cab, so I just said the heck with it and ate here since it was right across the street from my hotel Bad decision. The sides and bread actually weren’t bad (garlic mashed potatoes and fried okra if I recall) but the meat was not good. It was tough and stringy and I did not care for the flavor of the sauce at all. Since my hotel was near Times Square I suspect this place caters strongly to tourists from the South who just can’t go a day without eating barbecue.

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Restaurant reviews – Dallas and NYC

Posted by moderndaygourmet on September 28, 2007

I decided that I may also use this blog to talk about restaurant reviews. I have been to a few places worth writing about in the past few days and will visit more in the future, which I’ll also blog about.

Sambuca

Sambuca is in the Uptown area of Dallas. I went there awhile back when it was in Deep Ellum and it was more of a Mediterranean feel. The menu is somewhat different now than I remembered, and it’s not quite as Greek as it was. However, we did have a great meal there. We started with martinis. I got a bellini martini, which was tasty but not too remarkable, and my coworker got a key lime martini which tasted exactly like key lime pie. It was delicious. Not too tart, not too sweet, and the similarity in flavor to the actual pie was remarkable. I definitely want to order one of those on a return visit. Then we ordered two appetizers. One was calamari, which was light and not too greasy, and not rubbery like calamari so often is. We also had the beignets, which were savory, not sweet. They were filled with prosciutto, mozzarella, and jalapeno basil, with a balsamic glaze. These were terrific. I ate two, but could have put away some more as well. The proscuitto and cheese were the perfect blend of flavors and the glaze really added a nice touch. I am not always a fan of balsamic reductions but this one worked really well. Then I ordered the petite filet mignon, which was a nice 6 ounces (most small filets tend to be in the 8 oz range). This was the perfect size, really. It was cooked exactly right and came with some tasty au gratin potatoes and green beans. For dessert, we ordered the sticky toffee pudding to share. It was a toffee bread pudding that came with a candy cup (brown sugar, really) filled with ice cream. This was not what I would have chosen, since toffee isn’t often something I crave, but it was surprisingly good. I would order it again. It tasted rather like a spice cake with toffee sauce.

Agave

This is a Southwestern place on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, in Greenwich Village. I had looked forward to trying it for quite a while. First I ordered a mojito, which was perfect. Just perfect. It had exactly the right blend of rum, lime, mint, and sugar. Next I ordered the guacamole for an appetizer, which came with three salsas and blue corn chips. It was fresh and had a nice hint of cilantro in it. However, it did have a little much onion for my taste, but I am not a fan of onions in guacamole. The flavor of raw onions is too harsh, I think. Also, it was served on a bed of shredded lettuce, which to me is reminiscent of cheap Mexican places which serve you frozen premade guacamole slopped on a bed of lettuce. Why do restaurants do this to perfectly good guacamole? It gets all muddled in the lettuce and gets wasted. Good guacamole needs no lettuce or garnish, just the bowl it’s served in. Anyway. The tomatillo salsa had a good flavor and plenty of heat. Then I ordered the blue corn enchiladas stuffed with chipotle chicken breast. These were quite a disappointment. The tortillas had not been oiled, which was nice because they weren’t greasy, but this caused them to be very dry and tough and even crunchy. Not what you expect with enchiladas. The chicken was dry also. There wasn’t a ton of cheese in these, which I did appreciate. I liked the cilantro scented rice on the side. This place came highly recommended and I think I would return and maybe see if I should have ordered something else. In general I love Southwestern food and rarely find some I just don’t like. Some would say that New Yorkers can’t make good Southwestern food, but I disagree. Hello? Bobby Flay? Now NYC barbecue on the other hand…well, stay away is all I have to say about that.

John’s Pizza

I had been to John’s Pizza on 44th before but this is the original (I think!) John’s on Bleeker St., again in Greenwich Village. I had the pizza with mozzarella, sauce, and mushrooms. That’s it. I usually eat meat or other veggies on my pizza but I thought I would be a purist with this meal and see what I could tell about the basics of the pizza. This did not disappoint. I know that “what’s the best pizza” is a subject hotly debated among New Yorkers, and I don’t intend to get in the middle of that, but this pizza was extremely good. Nice crispy crust from the brick oven, fresh tasting tomato sauce and mushrooms, and nicely dispersed cheese that was just the right amount. Not Cheese City like some pizzas. Now I love cheese, but there is a limit and John’s has it down just right. I love the feel of this place too. Small, with old booths and carving on the walls. It’s a dive with really good food. My kind of place.

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