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Cajun/Creole

Restaurant Week – The Red Door

Restaurant Week has all of San Diego out and dining about the city.  CP and I was part of the Sunday evening crowd, for the first day of Restaurant Week.  Although we both have been to this establishment, I wanted to return because I thought that our first visit was not the best representation of what the restaurant could offer.  Therefore, our first restaurant was a return trip to The Red Door in Mission Hills.

Appetizers

So CP did not go with the pre-fixe menu, but still had a starter.  His choice – the Crab Cake, with fresh lump crab and no fillers.  It is paired with roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives and sun dried tomato with sweet basil dressing.  Now the order actually comes with TWO crab cakes, and as you can see that was not the case.  However, they quickly realized their mistake and added the additional cake (with all the fixings) immediately.  They also took off this order on the receipt because of the mistake, which I found to be a nice touch of customer service.  Kudos!

My first choice in my three course meal was the Shrimp Creole, which I had the first time I came here and fell head over heals for it.  The dish was presented in a skillet rather than a composed plate, but still as delicious as I recalled.  I couldn’t get enough of the sauce again!!

Entrée

CP’s entree of choice: the Red Door Burger – char grilled ½ lb meyer natural ground beef, buttermilk bun, American cheese (but CP didn’t want it), caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and house burger sauce (aka thousand island).  The shoestring fries were crispy, just the way I like it.

My entree, my second choice, was the Lamb Meatballs – ground Colorado lamb with roasted garlic, feta, pine nuts, home made gnocchi, tomato, spring raab, and chimichurri sauce.  Um…how could I describe my thoughts?  Let’s see…THIS is one of the MANY reasons why I am finding my personal desire to give up lamb to be SO hard!  It was great dish as a whole, but one area of improvement – the meatballs could be a little more tender.  After that, you have achieved perfection my SD friend.

Dessert

Last time, I tried their fruit cobbler (which is one of two choices on the RW menu) and it was not that good.  So I tried something different this time!

For my finale, I chose their signature dessert: the Banana Cream Pie with graham cracker-walnut crust, and chocolate & caramel sauces.  I think this could be a good dessert if: 1. tone down the whip cream a little, and 2. increase the pastry cream filling.

I still love the restaurant and this time around, the service was much better.  It’s a perfect time for you to try The Red Door during Restaurant Week to sample some of their signature items.  The menu will be available through the end of the week on Friday (1/20).  Bon Appetit!

The Red Door
741 W. Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103


What a slacker I am…(and NOLA – Pt. Deux!)

Now that I have time again in my life, I find that I am slacking off on things!  I have to exert extra effort to do things and that kind of enthusiasm quickly declines after one day.  Allie of Hyperbole and a Half did a wonderful illustration that pretty much depicts this…in comic form actually!

Over the weekend, I attempted to organize my memory card’s ridiculous crap-load of pictures and realized, “Sh*t!  How did I let it get this bad??  I haven’t even uploaded minuscule percentage of it for my friends!”  Because some of the pictures actually have people in them!  And it’s not just food!  They know that it takes me forever to upload pictures for them, but because they love me (I hope), they allow for me to continue on with my ways.  However, this weekend was to make up for it!  For almost a year’s worth of photos, I planned on organizing, backing up, and uploading them for all to see!

…………….yea that didn’t happen. *sigh*

AND to add salt to the wound – I am falling behind on my weekly posts!  *double sigh*

Well I did promise myself and you, that I would tell the rest of my New Orleans Adventure!  Here goes!

NOLA – Part Deux!

Cafe Beignet

So as you can see…my first official NOLA beignets were NOT from the famous Cafe Du Monde.  I was tired, and still reeling from the whole event of the previous night (see Part 1), so I was in NO mood to stand in line for a beignet.  Hence, this little cafe on Bourbon Street was our savior – Cafe Beignet.

Now, I had enough sense in me to know NOT to eat only sweets (and nothing else) as a meal.  That is why you see an order of jambalaya and a shrimp po-boy.  They were mostly to coat CP’s and my stomachs before the main attraction…

The FRESH beignets!  Oh man…even though our actual food was sitting there, I dug into one of these puppies immediately.  And honestly, it was good…yet at the end of the day – they are powdered doughnuts.  Don’t get me wrong!  I have nothing against it!  Or hate it!!! I loved every bite of it, that I came back with CP the following day for another round.  However, for me…it wasn’t something that made me go: this is genius!  It’s simple, done well, tastes good…there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Commander’s Palace

That evening was done in high style and tradition.  CP had made dinner plans for our last evening in NOLA.  He wanted to keep it as a surprise from me (which is a hard thing to do!) and I must say, he did extraordinarily!

Warm Garlic Bread to start

Gumbo du Jour (Tasso and shrimp)

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish

Seared Sea Scallops (my fave)

Simple scoop of vanilla ice cream for CP

Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé (and that whiskey sauce was NOT kidding around!)

Just all around amazing restaurant.  Sitting in the main dining room on the first floor, you can feel the history.  That place has seen it’s fair share of faces, lived through disasters, survived through wars, and still manages to show up every night with its bells and whistles on.  I loved Commander’s Palace and I would come back again.  Although it isn’t cheap, it’s worth every penny for the experience and great food.

So going from the blazer type restaurant, to the down to the basics simple but still delicious, the following day…

Gumbo Shop

This was our last official meal of New Orleans and we wanted something simple, but still good.  The Gumbo Shop delivered us just that:

(left to right) Crawfish Étouffée, Jambalaya, & Shrimp Creole

(left to right) Red Beans & Rice, Jambalaya, & Shrimp Creole

Simple, delicious, and warmed our stomachs to a state of blissful contentment.  What more do you need?

So that wraps it up for CP’s and my first trip to the Big Easy.  There were extreme highs and extreme lows in this trip, and not for the reasons most people associate this town with.  Our time there was short lived, but the memories of the sounds, smells, and sights are forever with us.  New Orleans…you are one H*LL of a city!  As they say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Cafe Beignet
311 Bourbon Street
334-B Royal Street

Commander’s Palace

1403 Washington Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130

Gumbo Shop
630 Saint Peter St,  New Orleans, LA 70116″


Trip to New Orleans

I think there has been enough time since we came back from New Orleans that I can look at my pictures again.  A little more than a week ago, CP and I headed off to New Orleans for the Bowl game.  We had our hopes high and we were excited for not only our first visit to this infamous city, but for the game.  Let’s just say…it still hurts to think about the game itself.

Instead, I’ll focus on telling you about the food we had.  Shall we start?

Cajun Cabin

Our first stop was off of Bourbon Street.  CP and I had been traveling practically all day and we hadn’t gotten lunch thus, we were famished.  This dinner was a little later than we would have liked because we wanted to go to the “pep rally” for the Bowl game!  Hence, we practically walked into the first decent looking place off the street.

CP and I both wanted Jambalaya and Red Beans n’ Rice.  Hence, I suggested we both order each and split our dishes, welcoming us to this great city.  Though the restaurant isn’t the well-known type and those that get hyped up, but it was delicious.  Both dishes were flavorful and made you wanted to lick the plates clean.  Also, the Red Beans n’ Rice at the Cajun Cabin was my favorite from the entire trip.

Nola

The next morning, we had a late start and went to one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants – Nola, for lunch!

The space was modern industrial and gorgeous, with an open kitchen and woodfire oven where they made their pizza appetizer. However, we weren’t here for the pizzas…

To start – warm herbed roll and bell pepper cornbread, served with room temperature butter.  This was a great start!

CP and I both had the gumbo of the day as our appetizers.  It was pretty chilly outside and this warmed us right up.  The gumbo that day was andouille and smoked pork.  I could use some right now!

Our entrees: Grilled Atlantic Salmon with black bean-sweet corn succotash, chimichurri butter sauce and tomatillo salsa (top), was CP’s choice.  My entree was the Shrimp & Grits – grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-abita butter sauce.

The salmon was cooked wonderfully to the point where even I liked it!  Cooked salmon is not my choice of fish most of the time (unless it is sashimi grade) since it tends to be a little “fish” for me.  However, Nola’s was just perfect and we both loved it.  The shrimps in my dish were huge and perfectly sauteed, keeping its juicy and tenderness.

You see that?  You see it?!  ‘Cuz I did!!!  Pumpkin Bread Pudding!!!!

Mmmm…this bread pudding, though small, was packed with the flavors of the season!  It was moist, spiced, warm, and melts in your mouth.  The gingerbread-molasses ice cream that was paired with it, complemented it so well.  Oh man…so good!

After our lunch, we walked along the river walk, did some shopping, and made our way to Mardi Gras World!  We took the tour of their warehouse, looking at all the floats that had been used and will be used for Mardi Gras parades!

As part of the tour, they also serve you some King Cake!

Unfortunately, neither CP nor I got the baby so we were not royalty after all :(.  Oh well, still had a delicious piece of cinnamon swirl pastry.

After the tour, CP and I just walked more around town sightseeing, before going back to the hotel to rest up for the game!  Now…just looking through a few pictures, I feel immense sadness still, but I must continue!

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is truly an amazing venue.  The place was enormous and just trying to imagine the conditions of the place during Katrina…it was hard.  Anyway because I had to give the food vendors a little nod because they didn’t just serve the standard stadium fare:

Food choices included Jambalaya with hush puppies (which were dry as rocks…sadly) and alligator sausage with some remoulade sauce.  The best of the two?…Alligator Sausage by a LONG shot!  However, to make it better – ditch the cold bun and mix with the rice…perfection.

After the game…CP needed some more food…as part of our “drown out the sorrows and frustration”.  Therefore, we found ourselves in a quite little bar at the end of the hub of downtown – Coop’s Place.

Simple order of Red Beans n’ Rice with smoked sausage, plus a side order of fries.  Worst plate of food from our trip.  The beans were cold and tasteless.  However, we were both so tired and dejected that I didn’t even bother voicing the fact it was cold.  Saving grace – sausage was good and the fries were good too.

That is part one of New Orleans, part deux will be later this week! :).

Cajun Cabin
503 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA 70195

NOLA Restaurant
534 St Louis St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Mardi Gras World


The Red Door

Seemingly appropriate given the holidays are in full swing right now!  It has been the first time in the last three years, that I have truly felt the holidays.  The past three years had been so ridiculously hectic due to my old job, that I rarely got into that holiday spirit.  I have to be honest, I think my spirit was plainly exhausted and maybe even a little jaded.  The work before was not only mentally draining, but physically and most of all – emotionally draining, that when it was time to take some “time off”, all I wanted was to sleep.

This year however, it is totally a different story!  I can FEEL the holidays growing in my bones and I am LOVING IT!! 🙂

Anyways, the reason why I missed last Sunday’s post was because I was celebrating with friends and family all weekend long.  “For what?” You may ask.  Well, it was for my birthday!  Another year older, maybe another year wiser?  Who knows, but I looked back and thought to myself, “Man…what a f***ing year!”

To celebrate with my family, we had a very nice dinner at The Red Door in Mission Hills.

The restaurant is small and cozy.  The decor very much a wine country setup and the main dining room has a full wine rack wall.  Dim lighting really sets the mood for an intimate evening.  I can imagine that during the mornings and afternoons, it is bright and cheery and perfect for a nice, cozy get together.

Now that is enough about the restaurant, let’s get to the real matter of things: the food!

Appetizers:

Signature Cornbread Muffins

Shrimp Creole

I do believe appetizers are suppose to wet your appetite for the main course, but the first course was my absolute favorite part of the meal.  The cornbread muffins are made to order, so the waiter will warn you it takes about 15 minutes for the prep.  Trust me – it’s worth it.  The cornbread is light, fluffy even, with a touch of creaminess from the white cheddar.  The muffins also come with a honey-rosemary butter which just helps the muffin to melt more in your mouth.

Then comes the Shrimp Creole in a white wine and cream sauce, spiced with the flavors of the “Big Easy”.  Though the portion size is small, the flavors are HUGE!!!  A thick tomato sauce filled with smokey, spicy, tang goodness.  I used the fried polenta to mop up more of the sauce, then when there was no more polenta, the cornbread went so well with it.  Man…this place knows how to start off a good meal.

Wild Mushroom Scallop Risotto

Pork "Schnitzel"

Red Door Burger

Garden Vegetable Plate

Red Door Chicken Roulade

The entrees on the other hand…was not memorable.  The scallops were nothing extraordinary.  The Schnitzel was not quite what I knew Schnitzel to be (more like fried pork chops to me).  CP’s burger though looked juicy enough.  My sister’s vegetable plate was as advertised and she liked it.  And the roulade was dry…=\.

I feel like the appetizers set my expectations higher than it should have been because the delivery was there in the beginning!  Yet, Red Door’s entrees barely raised above an “inside voice” level.  The appetizers would be like an opera singer – belting out beautiful notes.  Perhaps the encore would help save a poorly performing middle?

Brownie Sundae

Apple Walnut Cobbler

Well…how should I start off?  The brownie was probably the winner of the two.  It was a DENSE chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drenched in fudge.  Definitely quite delicious.  I had a bite and loved it.  The cobbler on the other hand…it was nothing specially about it.  I’ve had much better cobblers and given that my ice cream was FROZEN solid turned me completely off.   One of two, 50/50, those aren’t bad odds at all.  I’ll take that any day!

Red Door is definitely worth a revisit, with different orders.  I would stick with my appetizer choices, but I would try something else on the menu for my entree.  Would I recommend this restaurant?  Yes – I would just stay away from the chicken and scallops…you can get much better elsewhere.

The Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar
741 West Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103


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


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

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! 🙂