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Ssam Bar (Momofuku)

As far as I’m concerned, NYC is pretty much my home away from home when it comes to woes of my stomach.  This city always offers us so much and even after a hard hit to the locals here the past week and still in a tough spot for many.

Despite all the mounting reasons why it would be better for a postponement of a department training, we continued.  To make the best I could for my time in the city, I still tried to give my business to the proprietors of the city.  This evening, a group of 8 hungry, hungry hippos (yes, it’s a MEGA version of the game) made its way down to East Village for Ssam Bar.

The last time I was at this Momofuku establishment was back in March, but it left a specific memory for myself – we need more people to eat!  Last time, it was only my friend KF and myself.  We did our fair share of sampling David Chang’s signature dishes, plus staff favorites.  This time, we had more than enough mouths to sample even more!

shanghai noodle – chanterelles, hearts of palm, trout roe

This was a cold, small dish of noodles that was dressed in what seemed like some sort of sesame sauce.  The roe added the little salt and the hearts of palm seem to freshen up my bite.  It was good, but not stellar.

crispy pig ear ssäm – yuzu kosho, umezuki, thai basil

Wow….the pig ear was fried super crispy and seasoned so well that I thought I was eating chips!  If you weren’t told you were eating pig ears, you could easily pass this for fried jerky.  Yums!

honeycrisp apple kimchi – maple labne, jowl bacon, arugula

This pretty much explains itself: kimchi-ed apples with bacon and arugula.  This is served with a maple yogurt that cuts the pickled apples.  The reason I ordered this dish for the table was because I remember this dish being the big surprise from my first visit.  It was unexpected in how much I liked it!

steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions

bbq bun – crispy pork belly, coleslaw, smoked mayo

lobster sandwich – sour cream crisps, iceberg lettuce

Yes…we had a LOT of the bun appetizers (actually we ordered all of them).  Everyone was floored at how good the steamed and bbq buns were.  Seems like the consensus at the table was that the bbq buns were the favorite of them all.  I personally had a gripe this time about the steam buns – the bread itself was too dry and just made me sad!  The buns used for the bbq version were nice and soft and fluffy.  Why?!?!  As for the lobster roll…it’s nothing special at all.  I would suggest skipping this one and go else where if the craving is lobster roll.

roasted quail – pineapple, spaghetti squash, vadouvan

I didn’t get to try the quail itself, but my colleagues seem to really like it.  One even said, “I wasn’t expecting anything and it is better than I thought it would be.”  I did try the spaghetti squash that was coated with what tasted like curry and it was good.

 

spicy pork sausage & rice cakes – chinese broccoli, sichuan peppercorn

This was the dish that I would say, should be the signature entree of the restaurant.  It was just as good as the first time – spicy, tangy, savory, cripsy, chewy, meaty, crunchy.  There is no way I was going to split one order with 7 other people, so I insisted on ordering 2 of them!  Everyone was loving this dish as well and diving into them.

charred spanish octopus – pine nuts, celery, black olive

O.M.G…this dish was MY highlight of the evening.  During my first visit, KF and I saw people ordering the octopus and it looked soooo good.  That’s why this time, I was determined to get it!!  Gee willikers batman! That is a darn good plate of octopus!! I mean…it was cooked perfectly that this was one of two times I’ve ever had octopus in my life when it was NOT chewy (like rubber). One thing I did have an issue with this was that it was overly salted.  Other than that, give. me. MOAR!!!!

After two visits during different times of the year, I found Ssam Bar to be addicting and consistent (more or less….fix that dry bun issue!).  The staff is attentive but not overly bearing and even took the time to talk to one of our colleagues because she wanted to modify an overly strong drink.  Would I be back?  Heck. YES.

Ssam Bar | momofuku
207 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Gaijin Noodle + Sake House

After our first Padres evening game, CP and I had to find some food afterwards to wash away the sad outcome.  I had read about a new place opening in the Gaslamp last month, and decided that it was the perfect time to check it out – Gaijin Noodle + Sake House.

After mapping it out and walking closer to the location, I then realized that the restaurant was where the old Cheese Shop location was!  Hence the restaurant is narrow and opens deep into the building.  Off to the right hand side is where the magic begins with the grill lined with rows of skewers of meat.  Let’s get started!

For all patrons, they provide for you a complementary “salad” of shredded cabbage, dressed in a “kimichi” spicy-sour dressing.  Nothing mind blowing, just additional water-based vegetables to consume.  I personally love cabbage, but not the biggest fan for the dressing so this dish is not something I would want again.

Our bowls (or in this picture, just mine) of the Spicy Miso Chasu Hakata Ramen.  Accompanying the spicy miso based soup were slices of chasu, bamboo, mushrooms, naruto (no, not the anime character, the swirly fish cake), bok choy, and cabbage.

It was a good bowl of noodles, not ramen.  I say this because it was not the “hakata” style ramen I’ve come to know while in Hawaii and New York.  This is definitely passable and suitable for a “Gaijin” who is looking for something to eat after a night of drinking.  I don’t absolutely hate this bowl of noodles, but I wouldn’t call it ramen or even recommend it as a bowl of ramen.  I will tell you that it’s a nice bowl of noodles and that’s about it.

The true star of the night were the skewers of chicken thigh meat, marinaded with red miso.  These skewers of savory meat were juicy and tender and I could probably eat about 5 skewers by myself!  I mean, there was nothing better that I could think of than to eat more of these skewers and makes me wonder how the other options are.  If this is any indication, then I would not mind having a meat fest with Gaijin Noodle + Sake House….mmmm….meeeeat.

Overall?  This is a nice new addition to the Gaslamp Quarter, and I sincerely hope they expand their yakitori options!

Gaijin Noodle + Sake House
627 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101


Atlanta, GA – Week 2

After a LONG week of eating in Atlanta, we were all pretty worn down.  We were all just very tired and I don’t think we fully digested the first week’s food from our stomachs.  Hence, week 2 was much “lighter”…though the highlight of week 2 was on Monday when we visited:

South City Kitchen

Bread basket came with fresh, hot cornbread and biscuits!

After this basket…I strongly believe ALL restaurants should only serve (especially to me) one of the 3 options for a “bread basket”:

  1. Cornbread and/or biscuits
  2. Popovers (see Island Prime post)
  3. In-house made herb bread

And all these options must be FRESHLY MADE and served WARM!  Delighted Palate has spoken!

Our appetizers:

Hot Ham & Cheese - H&F bread, pimento cheese, Benton’s ham, pickles

Fried Catfish with minted zucchini slaw and red chili mayo

Fried Green Tomatos with goat cheese and red pepper coulis

Our entrées:

Smoked Pork Chops with spiced carrot puree, Swiss chard, and peanut-green chili pesto

In the words of my colleagues, “The smoke flavor is intense!  I don’t know how they got this much smoke flavor into this…I still have the smokey flavor in my mouth after eating!”  In other words, this was one kicka** pork chop.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with "bliss" potatoes, honey-thyme jus and (this one) peas

Though this was not my entree, I had wish I had a second stomach so that I could have ordered this as my second entree!!!  This was one of the most flavorful, juiciest, piece of fried chicken I had ever tasted.  The chicken, which you can see is primarily breast meat, was so tender and juicy that it boggled all of our minds!  I’ll never look at a fried chicken the same ever again (sadly :(…).

Shrimp & Grits with poblanos, tasso ham, in a smoked tomato gravy

Ok, there is no doubt that South City Kitchen knows how to smoke their food. This shrimp and grits was heightened by the tomato gravy to ridiculous levels.  The gravy was smooth, tangy, spicy, and smoky.  I don’t know how they did it and the only think I could think of was one of two possibilities:

  1. They intense, smoked the tomatoes before pureeing them for the gravy, or
  2. They add liquid smoke into the gravy

One way or another, I want this gravy slathered all over everything I eat now! The pieces of tasso ham added saltiness perfectly to each bite, and the shrimps were cooked just right.  The grits?  Well my friends, they made one smooooth vehicle for all the awesomeness that I had just ranted about.

Desserts:

Chocolate Ganache Torte with toasted coconut and crème anglaise

Banana Pudding - banana pastry cream, ripe bananas, homemade vanilla wafers, fresh cream

Cheesecake Bread Pudding - baked brioche, rich white chocolate and cream cheese custard, blueberry compote

Let’s just say if there was one overall theme to each dessert at SCK – they are sinfully rich and packed with flavors as advertised.

We all walked out of that restaurant with painfully full tummies, and despite the groans and insistence that we will NEVER eat like that again, we were all very, very happy customers.

As for the rest of the week?  We revisited Fat Matt’s, then the next two days, we decided that we all needed a break from the eat-a-thon and truly attempted to eat “moderately” again.  Thus, I am sad to report – SCK was the true encore of our ATL exploration.

I would just like to thank Atlanta for bringing out the fatties in us, and making us all a little softer, a little rounder, and a lot more of a nightmare for physical check-up at the doctor’s.

Sincerely,

Delighted Palate & Crew

(See Week 1’s post here)

South City Kitchen
2 locations:
1144 Crescent Ave, Atlanta, Ga 30309
1675 Cumberland Pkwy, Smyrna, Ga 30080


Atlanta, GA – Week 1

First job at the new work place turns out to be in Atlanta.  Now, you all should know by now, I never travel without doing my research on where to eat.  Thank goodness my colleagues are equally open to my gluttonous ways (and frankly encourages it).  Behold our week long feasting:

Firkin and Gryphon

This was dinner on our first night because by the time we landed and got to the hotel, nothing was opened.  My manager and I managed to make it to a pub, which we thought would still have something to eat.  Upon entering, we were told it was the “late night” menu only – aka fried appetizers.  Within minutes of sitting, we were told the kitchen was closed for the night to the waitress regret.   However, we were set on getting something so I begged for them to at least let us have dessert.

Hence, you see before you the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and the Seasonal Cobbler (Strawberry-peach).  Both came with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  Both were ridiculously delicious and probably not the best way to start our week…or best way to frame the rest of our week.

JCT Kitchen and Bar

Appetizers –

Angry Mussels - Peppered bacon, Serrano chile & onion

Truffle Parmesan Fries

Carolina Gold Rice Aracini - Butternut squash, crispy brussel sprouts

Entrees –

Lamb Shank - spinach-creamed, Carolina gold rice, garlic chips, preserved lemon

Shrimp & Grits - red mule grits, deep fried soft poached egg, smoky tomato “jam”

Fried Chicken - benton's bacon macaroni & cheese, local farmstand vegetable of the moment

Desserts –

Chocolate Pudding - salted caramel, chewy peanut butter cookies

Butterscotch Bread Pudding with bourbon cream

Apple Fried Pie - butter pecan ice cream, bacon-caramel drizzle

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

Ribs - great stuff

BBQ Chicken (1/2)

Chopped Pork Sandwich

Sides: Mac n' Cheese, Coleslaw, Baked Beans, and Brunswick Stew

Slope’s BBQ

Pork and Chicken Combo with Fried Okra and Jalapeno-Cheese Grits

Pork, Ribs, and Brisket - with Jalapeno-Cheese Grits and Brunswick Stew

Chopped Chicken and Pork with sweet potato fries and baked beans

Seasons 52

Maui Tuna Crunch Salad sushi-grade seared tuna, tropical organic greens, toasted almonds and miso vinaigrette

1. Organic Baby Spinach Salad with sliced seasonal pears, toasted pine nuts and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. 2. Chipotle-Glazed Shrimp with guacamole and tomatillo salsa verde

Gyro Pizza and Chipotle-glazed Shrimp

Pumpkin Pie Shot

Wildflour

Jalapeno Lime Sandwich - grilled chicken smothered with poblano pepper and onion mix, melted provolone, jalapeno lime sauce and pico de avocado.

Fogo de Chao

The Strip

1. Volcano– tuna tartar, cucumber topped with tuna, mango, avocado, Jimmy’s sauce, teriyaki. 2. Dynamite– spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, masago, seasoned asparagus

Bread Pudding with Ice cream

Googie Burger

Flying South Sandwich - Seven spice crispy chicken breast, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, signature hot sauce, & blue cheese slaw, with fresh cut fries & sweet tea

Ship & Anchor

Shepard's Pie

Shepard's Pie - Innards

Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Salted Caramel and Rosemary Olive Oil Flavors

And that is just week one.  We still have another week ahead…I hope my stomach can hold on.

Firkin and Gryphon
4764 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338
http://www.firkinandgryphon.com/

JCT Kitchen and Bar
1198 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318
http://jctkitchen.com/

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
1811 Piedmont Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30324
http://www.fatmattsribshack.com/

Slope’s BBQ
Multiple locations in Atlanta area
http://www.slopesbbq.com/

Seasons 53
Two locations in Atlanta
http://www.seasons52.com/

Wildflour
5815 Windward Parkway, Suite 210
Alpharetta, GA 30005
http://www.wildflouratlanta.com/page/page/5668614.htm

Strip
245 18th Street Northwest Ste 5100
Atlanta, GA 30363
http://www.h2sr.com/strip/

Googie Burger
190 Marietta St, (Centennial Olympic Park)
Atlanta, GA 30342
http://googieburger.com/

Ship & Anchor Pub
5975 Roswell Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30328
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ship-and-anchor-pub-atlanta


Del Mar’s Gourmet Food Truck Festival

The Del Mar Fairgrounds was the host of the first ever Gourmet Food Truck Festival.  It was a gorgeous day out and perfect for gorging ourselves with amazing food.  Now as  I seat here after some “down” time, I am going through all my pictures and reminiscing about the eat-a-thon with my friend, LA.

We arrived at the fairgrounds with a tentative game plan: hit as many trucks as we could, and share everything we get.  Oh look!  This sign told us where our adventure would begin…

To kick off the eating, we started at Dogzilla:

To wet our appetites, we started with the Yakisoba Dog ($6) – a spicy hot link topped with stir-fried Yakisoba noodles with cabbage, bean sprouts, and green onions, Okonomi sauce, red ginger, finished off with Ao-Nori.  I was excited to try this because it was everything I love, in a bun!  And not just any bun, but a sweet Hawaiian bun.

The sausage gave the meal the spicy kick I prefer my meals to have.  With the lack of Sriracha and only ketchup, the sausage provided that spiciness that made my tongue happy!  The yakisoba was good, slightly sweet and salty, and the sweet bun helped wrapped everything for mobility.  I think this was one of the best starter for this food adventure!

Next…Great Balls on Tires:

Specializing in well…great balls!  Of meat :).  While waiting in line, we talked with two fellow foodies and had a great conversation with them!  As LA said, I make friends where ever I go and you know what?  Food always tastes better with great company! 🙂  Also, during our conversation, LA came up with a perfect phrase that even our new friends found to be quite amusing, and reflected myself perfectly – “food stalker”.  There needs some definition to go with this new phrase….here’s a shot: a food stalker is one who stares at others, known and unknown, solely to drool/obsess/investigate food that is not at one’s own plate.  Who will ask many questions to inquire about the food item being consumed and occasionally proceed to request for some.

Maybe that’s what a food stalker is?  If anyone has a better definition, send it to me!  For now, under this definition, I am a bona fide food stalker extraordinaire!

This bona fide food stalker and her accomplice went for an order of the Ballywood and Buffalo Balls (respectively and $6 per item).  The Ballywood was garam masala chicken balls, topped with coconut madras curry, crispy fired onions, and served with saffron basmati rice with tomato and cilantro chutneys.  The Buffalo Balls were buffalo style chicken ball, mac & cheese, blue cheese dressing, and served with celery and carrot.

The meatballs were amazingly juicy and tender – both of them!  The curry was not spicy (how I like mine), but rather on the sweet side.  However, it was flavor packed and I couldn’t help but lap it all up (my half) along with the somehow decently cooked basmati rice!  The buffalo sauce on the other hand was not spicy, and was sweet with a bit of vinegar tang.  Again, not my usual go-to flavor combo, but the meatball itself was so good, plus when I took a bite with the mac & cheese (with panko bread crumbs at top!!!), it made for a great bite!  Overall – this red, black, and white truck satisfied me and LA.

Next stop – the Tornado Potato:

We went for the “Tornado” with cajun seasoning.  As you can see, it’s a towering spiral of a whole potato on a stick!  LA and I had this at the County Fair this year, but we both wanted a fried potato item so we went with this place!  We both agreed that the potato should be sliced thinner to get that crispiness of a chip on the exterior, while remaining fluffy inside like a fry.  It was still tasty and we both love our potato treat!

Having had so many savory items, plus with the sun baring down on us for sometime now, we both needed a cool off and something sweet.  The answer to our prayers?

Longboard’s Ice Cream:

The recipe of this truck is simple: pick your ice cream flavor on a stick, then your chocolate coating choice (milk or dark) and finally your topping to coat the whole thing.

My choice: coconut ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with half graham cracker crumbs, and half rainbow sprinkles.  I loved the idea of how this worked and I loved the freshly dipped items, but my only issue was that ice cream bar on the stick was too icy.  It must be from keeping the ice cream frozen in order to dip them, so I can understand yet it did bother me a little.  However, it was still quite enjoyable!  Oh!  And since I forgot to take an individual pic of LA’s pop, she chose: pistachio ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate, and covered with rainbow sprinkles.  According to LA, the pistachio ice cream was only ok and didn’t have enough pistachio flavor to it.

After our pops, we decided to sit and rest for a bit, to let all the food mix in our stomachs and begin to really process it.  That was when the food coma started creeping in!  Oh man…I knew from there, it was only going to go downhill.  However, after sitting, then walking, and watching a race, we dove back into the crowds (which only grew even larger at that point).  I met up with a couple of friends and a colleague, watched what they ate and decided I had to make one more last haul!

Hence, LA and I made our way to Tapa Boy:


I ordered the Pork Longanisa Bowl with garlic fried rice (sinangag), an egg, and a side of papaya relish (atsara) with tomato and cucumber.  Man…when they say garlic rice…boy, oh, boy…did they really mean it!  The rice was packed with garlic and I loved it!  Their longanisa was sweet, which surprised me a little because I was expecting something spicy (are you noticing a trend here?…because I am).  The meat was super tender and yield to a plastic fork with ease, so it was still quite good. Though it didn’t blow my mind away.

To end a long day, though I didn’t have any…a friend bought herself a decked out waffle from Waffles de Liege:

This here is a liege waffle with chocolate drizzle, almonds, and topped with a giant scope of Fosselman’s English toffee nut ice cream.  I only had the ice cream and it was amazing!  My friend “Channy” dove into this with a huge smile on her face.  Judging from her expression, I think she liked it ;).

Well my friends, that was my first ever Gourmet Food Truck Festival!  I can’t wait for the next one, but until then…I am going to start having to find these food trucks around town for lunch!  Bon appetit my fellow food stalkers!

For more information on the food trucks visited:
Dogzilla
Great Balls on Tires
Tornado Potato
Long Boards Ice Cream
Tapa Boy
Waffles de Liege

Northern Nevada Trip

So where was my next stop after my time in New York?…

RENO!!!!!!

Thank goodness we also had a stop in Tahoe as well during our visit to the Northern Nevada casino properties.  Being my first time in Northern Nevada, I was shocked at the decay of the city of Reno.  As we drove through the main road of the city, I could see how this was once the hustle and bustle of Northern Nevada.  Now, it is a sadder scene with areas of abandonment and memory of the old days.

However, granted I was traveling with others this time aka – there was no excuse to NOT eat with tons of people and way too much food.

I will just go down chronologically of the meals that we had shared and consumed:

Santa Fe Hotel

235 N Lake St
Reno, NV 89501

This was a Basque restaurant, serving traditional Basque cuisine.  I had never heard of Basque food before and the only time I had even heard of “Basque” was during my travel to Europe and was given a brief history during our drive into Spain from France.  So I was excited to see what this food was all about.

First, the dining room reminded me of an old bar or saloon.  There were rows of long tables that you would share with other parties when it was a full house.  However, that night, the place was already winding down due to the fact it was a late Sunday night. The meals were served family style with a choice of entrée for yourself.  The entrees differ each night and so…let the food precession begin!

Soup

Chorizo

Beans

Fries

Lamb Chops

As you can see, they pretty much covered the bases with a soup starter, meats, and starch.  The food was good overall, but it did not exactly blow my me out of the water.  Still…it was a good start to the trip.

The Cheese Board

247 California Avenue
Reno, Nevada 89509

The following day, after our morning of walking the floors, we met up with another team working on another property for lunch at The Cheese Board.  This place would be considered a casual French/American Bistro. They had sandwiches, salads, specials and of course – wine (which we did not have because we were all on ‘work hours’ and we were being good to stick to it).

Brie

This was so good! I don’t know how you cannot like warm, melting, good quality cheese.

Cheese Board

Because this was the namesake of the Bistro…and the selections were all quite yummy.

Steak Fajitas

Quiche

(It was one of the better quiches that I had ever tried)

Pasta Chicken Salad

Sante Fe Chicken Sandwich

Overall?…A wonderful lunch spot and reminds me that Reno is still alive!

Wild River Grille

17 S. Virginia St. #180
Reno, NV 89501

Since we had such a nice lunch that day, we hoped that this recommendation we received from a fellow colleague would not fail us.  Plus, it sat right by the river so it was the closest “seaside dining” we could muster for Northern Nevada.

Pear & Goat Cheese Crostini

Taste was there, but there was no texture.  It was just a pile of mush on mush…sad 😦

Artichoke & Brie Dip

(Just…no)

House Salad

Possibly the best thing I ate there that night.  Fresh greens dressed in a delicious vinaigrette (plus there was texture here at least!)

Now our entrees:

Meatloaf

Grilled Salmon

Lamb

Good lamb…even better polenta that was served under it.

Pork Chops

Rib Eye

Desserts (I laugh and make a face as I write/think about this):

River Mud

The way they described it on the menu sounds interesting, yet it came out exactly as I had imagined: a brownie with a Klondike bar sitting on top.  =\

Bread Pudding

Disgusting.  Let me describe to you why: imagine cubes of stall bread that was pressed together and re-baked with no liquids to make it remotely moist and then try to cover it with chocolate sauce.  This was the bread pudding.  UCK!!

Crème Brulee

Now for this one – it was scrambled eggs in a dish with caramelized sugar.  Yea…

Crumble

(Chuckling) Ok…on the menu it does not tell you what kinds of berries are used, just that this was a berry crumble.  So we asked the waitress and she tells us, “It’s a deep berry the chef uses.”

….Did you all catch that? “Deep berries.”  If you were like us, you’d be asking (like we actually did): “What (the hell) are ‘deep berries’?” Are they berries deep within a forest? Are they philosophical fruits?  What?!  Let’s just say the waitress could not talk herself out of this one.  (By the way, it ended up being strawberries…because they were out of deep berries apparently.)

My recommendations to you?…Skip the appetizers and desserts, go for the house salad and entrees only.

Golden Flower Vietnamese

205 West 5th Street
Reno, NV 89503

The place is pretty self explanatory of what we had for lunch.  However, in addition to our bowls of pho, we had orders of the Fresh Spring rolls and Fried Eggrolls

Vietnamese Eggrolls

Fresh Spring Rolls

Now…on to Tahoe!

Lone Eagle Grille

111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village, NV 89451

For our first night in Tahoe, we joined with the group at their hotel for dinner.  Let’s just say we ordered more than what we all really needed.  Let the bingeing begin:

Calamari

Pork belly

Quail

French onion soup

Wedge salad

Lamb

NY Strip

Ribeye

Buffalo

Short ribs

Grilled Chicken

Dessert platter

I think the end of the meal was the favorite part of the meal for me that night.  Look at that spread of delicious, fatty, sugary goodness.  We had (going from left to right): Apple Trio; Mud Pie; Cheesecake; Crème Brulee; Chocolate Pear Nougat; Walnut Tart w/ Dolce Dulce Ice Cream.

My gawd…it was an overboard of sugar and we were all already at our breaking point but we were all very dedicated foodies (and a newly initiated one who was brought on to help us and was floored by the amount of food that we ate).  My favorite from the platter?  It would have to be the Walnut Tart with the ice cream.  By the way…this was the platter at the end:

We CRUSHED this platter!

Latin Soul

168 Hwy 50
Stateline, NV 89449

For our last lunch, we headed for some Mexican/Spanish food.  However…it was not that good sadly.

Mushroom & Cheese Empanadas

Tacos – Lamb & Carne

Tacos – Lamb & Al Pastor

The meat tasted fine for the tacos, but not astounding.  Worst part was that the tortillas were too thick.  You needed thinner tortillas to just hold the meats and let the (good) meat do all the talking.  This place’s tacos were just a mumble in the air.

Kalani’s

1001 Heavenly Village Way #26
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Our last night in Tahoe, for dinner, we opted for something amazing to make up for lunch, but yet, staying away from the steakhouses (we both needed seafood to balance out all the red meat).  Thus, it was Kalani’s that really saved the day.

Lobster Bisque

They were kind enough to split an order into two little cups for us.  Thick, flavorful, sweet, a tinge of spice…wonderful.

Pulehu Baby Back Pork Ribs

Sweet, salty, sticky, and fall-off-the-bone tender.  Though we both had enough meat the past few days, this was a great addition to our meal.

Pan Caramelized Miso-Yaki Sea Bass

O.M.G.  I cannot tell you how much I LOVE sea bass and its buttery texture.  This fish really does fall to the slightest force from your fork and melts in your mouth as if it was butter.  Amazing piece of fish and cooked with a crispy side to add a little texture.  Suberb!

Ahi tuna

The special of the night was an ahi tuna steak topped with sweet, fresh crab meat, served on top of kimchi and “veggie sticks” (aka julienne carrots, zucchini and squash).  This was good, but it was not a sea bass.

Coconut Creme Brulee

To round off the night, we finished with this delicious and wonderfully made creme brulee.  The coconut flavor was in your face, but pleasantly so.  By far…it was our best meal to date during this trip!

5th Street Bakery

953 W 5th St.
Reno, NV 89503

Last day in Northern Nevada…back at Reno to grab a quick bite before we headed to the airport.  We wanted something simple and quick.  This little café had a great spirit and a hard working woman who I can only assume was the owner.  She worked the counter, cash register, and waiting/bussing the tables.  Naturally, you see her just running around the little café at great speeds.

While sitting there, you could watch your food be made fresh and also watch them bake their own breads for the menu items.

Morning Cuban

This was toasted bread slice (freshly made in-house), roasted pork, swiss cheese, ham, eggs overeasy, green salsa.  With a little hot sauce, it is the cure for hangovers.

Mediterranean Salad

A mixed organic greens salad with tomato, kalamata olives, red onions, red bell peppers, feta cheese, avocado, procsiutto, house croutons.

We kept it simple and clean….well I did with my salad, can’t say the same for my colleague.

Well friends…that was my first time adventure in Reno and Tahoe.  Will I be back? If it’s for work, I won’t have much of a choice, but if for pleasure, then I will definitely be back to Tahoe.


Chicago – Again and again

The past two weeks I have been on travel for training and have been getting as much as I could in every aspect: knowledge, networking, and most of all – FOOD.

Last week, I was back in the great city of Chicago and this time, I was actually in the city versus my first trip to the Second City where I was mostly there to sleep.  Granted, it helped that my fellow colleagues all wanted to go out each night to get the most we could together.

However, when I first arrived in the city on Sunday night I was on my own since I had yet to know who was in town.  I quickly checked in and headed straight out to take the metro to my first food destination: Blue 13.

I found this restaurant from researching online and had great ratings, along with fabulous raves from foodies like myself.  When I arrived, it was quaint little restaurant with a warm overall feel to it in its minimalist interior design.  As far as I could tell, there was only one server and one host who bus tables when it became busier through the night.

To begin the meal, I ordered a simple Mixed Green salad:

The salad of mixed greens, shaved carrots, and radish tossed with Dijon vinaigrette and topped with a generous amount of pecorino.  A great, refreshing start to the meal.  There is little for me to say about the salad other than it was a great salad.  Plus, the fresh, hot bread that came out along with olive oil to dip in made a delish start to the meal.

For my entrée, as I was dining for one, I ordered the highly recommended “3 Birds” Lobster Pizza:

I know what you’re thinking already. Yes, I did know I was ordering a thin crust pizza in the city known for deep dish.  However, if you come here, I am going to echo what I had found during my online research – this is a must have dish.

The crust was charred perfectly and thin so that you would have to do the fold right down the middle to make sure everything stayed on.  This is a white pie with a roasted garlic puree base, caramelized onions, chunks of lobster, and manchego cheese to hold it all together with a sprinkling of herbs.  This pizza has the sweetness that reminds you of a cheesy, yummy, lobster bisque.  It all balances so well together that I couldn’t stop eating it.  I pushed myself beyond the point of bursting because it was that delicious.  However, I sadly left behind two slices that were stripped of their lobster pieces because my stomach said, “Please…no more!!”

Despite my comatose state at that moment, I still ordered a dessert because how can I call this meal completed until I did?!  So of the 3 dessert choices, this was the one that perked my interest: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Waffle.

Understand that I had no more intention of stuffing myself, but when I saw “candied bacon” I knew I had to try it.  What came out was a waffle, drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with candied bacon and hazelnut, and paired with butter pecan ice cream.

First off – the candied bacon was the best part of the dessert.  You’re wondering what did it taste like right?  Just imagine breakfast, where you have a side of bacon with your pancake/waffle, and the maple syrup drips over to the bacon.  It was sticky, sweet, crispy, and salty.  The waffle did not have chocolate chips and needed more peanut butter.  Overall, I would suggest you skip this dessert, try a different one, or just order yourself another lobster pizza.

This is the type of restaurant you go to with friends to just catch up, share some good food, and enjoy the evening.  The two servers were great and attentive, but when it got a little busier by the time I had finished my meal, the lack of staff was apparent.  Still, friendly service and great food is the equation for a satisfied customer who will return.

Blue 13
416 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654-5714

The following night, after our first day of training, a group of us went out to grab dinner at The Publican where if it oinks, it will end up cooked at this restaurant.  I loved the open space design which was to resemble a barn.  To add to that, their booth seating had little doors to encapsulate diners as if they were in a pig stall.  The rest of the restaurant was set up with communal tables where you could be sitting next to a complete stranger on one side and your friend on the other.

We went family style and ordered various dishes off the menu to share.  I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, with a few inserts by me, so enough grazing through the pictures!

Beets with Clementine segments and yogurt – this was my favorite side that we had ordered that night.  Sweet and tart, great palate cleanser.

Charcuterie plate: pork pie, trotter-foie gras terrine, head cheese, milano, morteau sausage, pickles & mustards

Turnips with rosemary

Cajun Shrimp with Grits – the grits had soaked up all the Cajun spices and shrimp juices.

Fried Smelt with mustard greens and raw onions

Country Ribs with mustard greens & grilled red onions

Sweetbread with sweet potatoes, black trumpets & green garlic-watercress pesto

Pork Belly with fresh chickpeas and stuffing – decadent and you feel so guilty for eating this fatty yet delicious piece of the pig. (*gurgling sound*)

Lamb Sausage with lentils, mint, meyer lemon & yogurt – I love lamb…I love sausage…I loved, LOVED this dish.  The mint and yogurt balanced out the gamey flavor of the sausage and the casing had a great snap to the bite.

Yams

Frites

Apple & Rhubarb Crumble with crème – heaven in one’s mouth.

Waffle with pear butter & plum marmalade – highly suggest that you do not waste your time with this one.  It was nothing special at all.

Dark chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream – a darker heaven in one’s mouth.  Then again I am the biggest fan of dark chocolate, so if you don’t like dark chocolate (WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!) then this is definitely not for you.

The Publican also has a wide beer and wine selection, as well as servers who are willing to mix you up a great cocktail if you desire it.  The restaurant has a fun atmosphere especially for big groups.  Just make sure you don’t have any vegetarians in the group otherwise they will most likely go hungry.

The Publican
837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

On our last night in the city, our dining group only grew to an even larger number than the previous night.  This time around, upon my insistence on move to more ethnic flavors, we decided upon a restaurant that has several locations throughout the country, but still supposedly made great food.  That night…we our taste buds did the samba at SUSHISAMBA!

Once again, we ate family style and tried a little bit of everything.

Edamame organic soybean, sea salt, lime

Tiger shrimp tempura

Salmon sashimi seviche marinated in mizuna, aji amarillo, and orange

This dish was the sunshine of my night (wait…um…yea, I’ll still stand by my description)!  It was fresh, bright, sweet, spicy, turns your life around because it was just that amazing.  It would even put a smile to the worst Debby Downer that you know! (Unless he/she doesn’t like fish…but even then! This dish may convert him/her!)

Yellowtail sashimi seviche marinated in ginger, garlic, and soy

Tuna sashimi seviche marinated in coconut, lime, and serrano chilies

Of the 3 seviches we ordered that night, this was the most disappointing for me.  It didn’t have the vibrant flavors of the salmon nor yellowtail seviches. 😦  However, our fish adventures had just started because out came our platter of various sushi rolls:

(Going from left to right): Spicy Tuna; Bobo - brazil seared kobe beef, avocado, kaiware, shiso, red onion, chimichurri ponzu; Unagi tamago - freshwater eel, zuke tuna, cucumber, tempura flake, wasabi crema;Rainbow dragon - freshwater eel, red bell pepper, cucumber, mango, avocado

Charcoal roasted mussels garlic, white wine, Peruvian chili

Unfortunately, the mussels did not taste fresh (consistently) and so we asked for them to return it and traded for:

Spicy Popcorn Shrimp – sweet and spicy, fried tempura shrimp.

We also ordered the churrasco “supreme” (aka meatfest) with: rio grande grilled hanger steak, ribeye, pork tenderloin, chorizo and linguica.  This was served with sides of white rice, black beans, collard greens, and farofa.  Additionally, various dipping sauces including malagueta pepper oil and chimichurri:

Meat-palooza!

The Miso-marinated Chilean sea bass roasted organic vegetables is one of those dishes that I still think about.  This is the perfect example of a perfectly cooked fish that is so smooth, so fresh, so buttery, so fracking delish that I gurgle as I giggle with giddy.

Whole crispy red snapper spicy red curry sauce, scallion, ginger, coconut rice – the rice was good! The fish staring at me…not so much.

Side of Peruvian corn – it’s like hominy; I wasn’t much of a fan.

And of course, we had to have desserts.  Note the plural form of that: desserts.  We really went all out for dessert and there were no regrets what-so-ever afterwards because they were all delicioso!

Coco duo: Brazilian dark and white chocolate custard, chocolate pearls, praline

Peruvian hot chocolate served with traditional churros

Rosca: housemade doughnuts, vanilla glaze, chocolate hazelnut sauce

Warm chocolate banana cake maple butter, banana chip, vanilla rum ice cream

Cassava carrot cake brown butter ice cream, cinnamon cream, rainbow carrot chip, orange reduction

Carmen Miranda:  seasonal fresh fruit, pop rocks, lemon sorvete…sorry, no pictures for this one :(.  I can describe to you what it was: a bowl of fresh berries that included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, with a sprinkle of pink pop rocks (not enough apparently since the tasters didn’t feel the effects of it) and a scoop of lemon sorbet.

I don’t know which one I liked more, but I did know I had a taste of everything and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like!  Even though it is not a local restaurant, this place has a fun atmosphere and serves stellar food with great service.  SUSHISAMBA…I think you will have to be part of my favorite small, national chain!  One note though: of all the food we ate, it unanimous that the “sushi” part of the restaurant was something that fell short on with the exception of the “seviche.”

SUSHISAMBA
Several locations in the US

Thank you Chicago for showing me yet another good time! 🙂