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chocolate

D Bar

My first time at D Bar was with two lovely ladies from my old job – KF and LT, when LT who had left SD several years back, was coming back to visit.  I had to catch up with two wonderful and extremely driven ladies.  We had a great afternoon catching up and just seeing what everyone was up to since we were all tied up in life itself.  That day, we had sampled several dishes to just get an idea of what D Bar could do – just desserts or food as well?

d Bar collage

On the left hand side, from top to bottom:

Crue Fries – their signature starter of garlic parmesan fries (perfectly fried), mac sauce, melted cheddar jack, bacon, ranch, and chives.  This appetizer is salty but so addictive!

Naan-Burguesa – kobe burger, grilled naan, black bean hummus, chipotle mayo, havarti, avocado, and a side of chips.  Since I don’t eat beef, KF and LT both were a little underwhelm by this  burger.  In part, the use of a grilled naan didn’t hold everything together so when you bit down, everything tends to slide out.

Tahini Grilled Salmon – on a bed of mixed greens, grilled baby bok choy, tossed in a ginger soy vinaigrette, and topped with toasted almond and edamame.  This salad was again only ok and slightly underwhelming.

Now the real reason why we were here: desserts!

Molten Cake Thingy That Everyone Has – just the name itself made us want to order it.  Plus the three of us have had really good molten cake thingies before, so we had to try it and see where D Bar’s stacked up.  Their version is comes with raspberry compote and Sicilian pistachio ice cream, but we wanted to try their salted caramel ice cream and so we requested the swap.  Well we can say that their cake thingy was quite good.  Was it the best?  We were all hard press to jump up and exclaim this was the best version we’ve had to-date, but it is a darn good contender!

Ch Ch Ch Churros! – Made. To. Order.  Those are the three words that almost always ensures that you are going to have a great churro.  And boy, D Bar knows their churros alright! It was the best freaking plate of churros ever!!! And it comes with a little dish of melted dark chocolate for dipping which was more for scooping out and eating straight.

On my second visit with two other wonder ladies – LA and JW, I knew there were two items I couldn’t go without: crue fries and churros.  Except this time, it was for dinner so ordered more items to try in hopes that it would turn out better, but first…some drinks!

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Normally, I don’t drink so I wouldn’t be posting about drinks, but my gals do and one drink intrigued us all – the Fresca Picante (martini glass one).  This was a strawberry jalapeno infused tequila with agave and lime.  I had taken a sip and the jalapeno is this after kick that happens a few seconds after drinking.  It was such an interesting taste and experience that it had all three of us just inspecting it as we waited for food.

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Oh these wonderful babies again…come to mama! NOM NOM NOM!!!

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Bacon Mac & Cheese – because we were all feeling like mac n’ cheese.  Don’t question us! We wanted this ooey, gooey bowl of melted goodness.  It’s a four cheese mac, with bacon and cheese nips and panko crumb top.  It was as decadent as it sounded, but good for sharing!

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Lobster Risotto – grilled lobster tail with rosemary butter, served with roasted poblano risotto and broccolini and pea tendrils.  The lobster was sweet and tender and I could have eaten several more of that tail!  So good…

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And since we were ordering so many rich dishes, I felt we needed at least one salad to help balance it out a little.  The Grilled Caesar salad, drizzled with balsamic glaze  and topped with shaved parm, it help give us that fresh crunch we needed.

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Oh the desserts…delicious, delicious desserts…I pretty much dictated this order:

Chocolate Souffle – 65% chocolate souffle, nutella filled beignets with chocolate sauce, and praline ice cream.  The souffle was not as airy as I’ve had in some places, but still delicious and fluffy.  The beignets were too thick and not fluffy enough.  Beignets are suppose to be little pockets of fried heaven (as I have experienced before in NOLA), so I was a little sadden to eat these little guys here.  As for the chocolate, we learned from our waiter that they “pay more for the chocolate per pound than we do for the steak”.  Now that’s something to be proud of! If I do say so myself!

And those churros, I ordered it knowing what I would get, but my friends were both skeptical.  I told them that I swear by them and upon their first bites, I just ruined their ideas of churros forever.  LA was just peeved at me for making her taste a damn good churro and now other churros will never be the same.  Job. Well. Done.

D Bar as a whole, I love – from the food, atmosphere, venue and the people working there.  It’s a great place to gather, enjoy a few dishes and drinks.  Although I did not have pictures of my take out desserts from D Bar, I did try their macarons and chocolates.  The macarons were much too dry!  I was quite disappointed, but at least their chocolates were superb!  I really hope the restaurant will continue to do well, so that I may keep coming back and try everything on the menu (but always with the churros).

D Bar
3930 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103


Market Restaurant + Bar

Last month, I finally crossed off a restaurant that I had wanted to go to for ages.  This place got on my list of restaurants to try back in 2006, not long after it had opened.  The rave reviews from fellow local bloggers, to Yelpers, to magazine reviews, the restaurant had a laundry list of positive feedback.  Yet, the reason it took me almost six years to get there are due to various reasons:

  1. It’s slightly off the beaten path in Del Mar, and not in the main strip of Del Mar restaurants off the coast.
  2. The end bill is not exactly cheap, so that would limit this place to special occasions.
  3. Once, when I got close to going, there were no reservations open for that evening that was before a 9pm seating.

Then comes along my old colleague and friend from my previous job, who was coming to San Diego (technically, it was Valley View Center) for a job.  We scheduled for a dinner meet up and she told me to pick.  Considering she was all the way up in the mountains, though an area I’m familiar with, it is not my first choice for dinner spots.  Hence, I knew I would be choosing something in the northern area of San Diego.  That is when it came to me: we could go to Market Restaurant + Bar!  I knew this would work out since my friend was traveling on the company and would have a food allowance.  Since I didn’t mind picking up my own tab, I quickly jumped on it.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, it was as if time had stood still for the place ever since I saw it all those years ago.  I thought to myself, “I’ve passed by this place enough times during the summer (for the Del Mar County Fair), now I will finally get to see if it was worth the wait!”  (Side note to future patrons – there is no parking at the restaurant and is valet only, but it is free!  Just remember to tip the man.)

The interior is intimate with dark lighting, but it is very simplistic modern feel.  The bar at the entrance is definitely darker with darker colors of deep red, but the main dining room is lighter with persimmon colored walls, accented by lines of “sage” and “avocado green” (according to their website, those are the color names).  The minute I walked into the restaurant, I loved it.  And this is not always the feeling I get when I go to restaurants.  (I can only think of maybe a handful of instances where a restaurant’s décor was an instant love for me.)

On to the food!!!

To start off the evening, our server put in front of us the modified Amuse Bouche of a Ricotta, Pesto, and Tomato Crostini.  My friend AS is allergic to shellfish and apparently the amuse bouche of the night featured shrimp, so hence, we received this one instead.  It was good regardless – simple, fresh ricotta, and not too overpowering.

For our shared appetizers (there were three of us):

The Blue Cheese Soufflé & Shaved Persimmon-Fuji Apple Salad was in our server’s opinion, “Not that rich!  The salad helps cut the cheese down.”  Um….I’ll tell you right now that the soufflé itself, even with the salad, was downright rich.  I could see someone trying to finish this, then take two bites from their entrée and call it a night.  With that said, this was delicious and packed with blue cheese.  For those who do not enjoy blue cheese, do NOT get it!  It’s not just a hint of blue cheese, it’s in your FACE cheese.  The persimmon and Fuji apple salad was light and sweet to accompany the soufflé in perfect harmony.  *cue the harp music*

Our other appetizer was a recommendation from the server (I was hesitant in taking her suggestion considering her advice about the soufflé) when we asked which of the salads was better.  The one we ordered was the Grapefruit and Avocado Salad.  Grapefruit is not a fruit I eat at all because I find the bitterness too overpowering.  I decided to go in with an open mind and took a bite of the salad with a bit of every component.  That is the whole point of a composed dish right?

The bite consisted of the only slightly bittersweet grapefruit, with the creamy avocado, the tangy goat cheese, and mixed greens dressed in Arbequina Olive Oil (which was smooth and fruity like), I was surprised how much I liked it.  I never thought I would, but I did!  The salad is beautiful to look at, as well as to eat.  The flavors all worked with each other and I could not think of anything wrong with the combination.

Entrée time! 🙂

This was the special duo of the evening and AS’ choice!  The duo included Cabernet Braised Shortribs (Buttermilk Fried Onions, Vegetable Roast, Horseradish, Sweet Onion-Potato Purée) and Wagyu Skirt Steak (Aged White Cheddar Braised Potatoes, Broccolini, Roasted Tomato, Crispy Bacon).  Since I don’t eat beef, this was AS and JD’s reactions to the dish: “ZOMG the beef falls apart!  It is so good!  I can’t believe how tender it is!!!”

That was the general thought of the dish as a whole.  And according to the two ladies, they both liked the shortribs more than the skirt steak.  I did try the accompaniments and enjoyed the flavors of them too.

JD’s (a new coworkers of AS and a fellow foodie!) entrée was the Crab & Shrimp Stuffed Salmon with house made gnocchi, mushrooms and broccolini.  I had a bite of the fish with some of the stuffing and was surprised that I enjoyed it.  I am not a fan of cooked salmon; I like mine raw…in a sashimi form!  However, Market seasoned it well and the fish did not have that yucky, “fishy” smell or taste to it.

My selection should not come as a surprise since I never pass up this option.  The Spice roasted Maine dayboat scallops were superb.  The dish was accompanied by black rice, roasted Brussels sprout, fennel, and (if I recall correctly) a red pepper sauce.  My giant scallops were tender, flavorful, and oh so *gurgles in own saliva*.

………………Sorry, I had a moment there but I’m back.  Anyway, I don’t believe the dish is always on the menu since the restaurant does change every so often to reflect the season.

Honestly, the restaurant has yet to show me that they cannot execute a well-composed and cooked dish.  Kudos Market!  Ok, onto our last course!

Dessert!!! (Best part of any meal right?)

For AS, the S’mores – a warm chocolate and graham tart, with toasted brown sugar marshmallow swirl top, and topped with some sea salt.  The dessert comes with a scoop of the malted chocolate ice cream.  It is definitely s’mores for adults and packed with chocolate.  I liked it, but was not in love with it.

For JD, her Crème Fraische Panna Cotta was the disappointment of the evening.  The Panna Cotta with the tangerine sorbet was just too…plain and underwhelming.  I think those were the words we came up with to describe the dessert.  All of us love fruit-based desserts and a clean dish.  This one just did not cut it for any of us.

For moi, give me the Butterscotch custard and chocolate soufflé with espresso-bailey’s ice cream baby!  The dessert comes out as three mini desserts on a plate.  From left to right:  The ball of espresso-bailey’s ice cream is covered with what reminds of coco pebbles at first glance, but I think they are just pieces of chocolate wafer cookies, and it sits on a dollop of caramel – loved.

Then comes the little cup of butterscotch custard, with fresh vanilla whipped cream (and you can see the vanilla beans still!) topped with toffee pieces.  This was butterscotch all right!  Not my usual preference for custards or puddings, but this was small enough so it was still good with its other dessert members.

Lastly, the chocolate soufflé was a miniature “lava cake”.  The cake was good, but when it comes to “lava”-like cakes, my favorite still goes to Roy’s and Café Japengo’s.  Those are the bomb diggity!  Still, Market’s version was a fair in comparison to some I have had at other restaurants.

The desserts seem to be underwhelming overall for the three of us.  After having a stellar start and continued amazement for our entrées, the end was only “ok”.  Despite that, all three of us had an amazing dinner that evening.  I knew there was a reason this place has remained on my list of restaurants to try for years.  And the reason why I could still visit it after all this time, is that they make and serve outstanding food.  That is the why they are still thriving notwithstanding their isolated location.  Market Restaurant and Bar will have to be on my list of best places to go for special occasions.

Market Restaurant + Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014


Best of Park Ridge, NJ

While traveling for work the last two weeks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, wasn’t exactly the most thrilling and exciting trip ever, it wasn’t the worst.  There were some real gems in the surrounding area (especially Ridgewood) and here were my best of Northern New Jersey!

Best List / Must Eats

Fire & Oak – come Monday night and you can get $1 oysters and I’m talking about BIG, good oysters.  However, skip the sushi and the seafood entrees.  The sushi was terrible and the entrees were so bland that my coworker were passing the salt between us throughout the meal.  So after you down as many oysters as you can, order yourself a slab of their chocolate peanut butter pie.  It comes ala mode (but you can’t see it due to the mountain of whipped cream) and it is ridiculous how rich this dessert was.  I had to pull myself away because it was just that good, yet I knew I shouldn’t polish it off on my own.

Sushi Village – Do NOT be alarmed by the fact this restaurant is in a strip mall, nor it’s exterior outlooks.  Once inside, you’ll be completely transported to a modern, fresh feeling restaurant.  The reason this place made it on my list is not because it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.  The sushi was good (far, far better than Fire & Oak’s), but there were two things that got me:

  1. All you can eat sushi dinner for $19.99!  It is a freaking deal no matter how you swing it.
  2. The “Spicy Seaweed Salad” – this concoction is pure genius! Take the usual seaweed salad, but add spicy krab and mix it in with some tempura crunchies…it becomes a mouth of happiness.  So simple, yet so addicting and delicious.

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – straight up good, wood burning oven, pizza in the area.  I personally enjoyed our pie and I know how strongly people feel about pizza in that state and it’s neighboring one too.  However, I found it to be delicious and I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing. (Note: it’s cash only business)

Bricklane Curry House – my gawd…this place was the place that gave me one of those food-awe-haze moments.  The Butter Masala was incredible to the point where I would say it comes close to my fave at Punjabi Tandoor’s Makhani.  And their paneer pakora (which my friend has coined as “pan-pak”) was amazing too.  I don’t know if I like Village Indian’s pan-pak or Bricklane’s more!  AHHHHHH THE DILEMMA!  (Oh! Don’t forget to order yourself a mango lassi – thick, creamy, and packed with mango goodness!)

Organic Tofu House – when I think of middle of nowhere cities in the woods…I don’t automatically think amazing Korean tofu stew.  Who would??  However, this Korean tofu house was a real diamond in the rough.  It’s in a strip mall and on the other side of the main street through Ridgewood.  Complete unassuming and yet, for those who venture in, they are met with a quaint little restaurant that whips out a pot of bubbling, scathing hot, organic tofu stew!  Man oh man…my coworker and I dove into our bubbly pots with little care for our tongues because we wanted the stew!!

Fire & Oak
2 locations in New Jersey

Sushi Village
700-90 Broadway
Westwood, NJ 07642

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria
15 Oak St
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Bricklane Curry House
Multiple Locations – NJ and NY

Organic Tofu House
88 Godwin Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450


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


San Diego Restaurant Week 2011

Last month was San Diego’s 2011 semi-annual Restaurant Week.  For those who aren’t familiar with Restaurant Week, here is the quick break down: for a week, restaurants all over San Diego county have 3-course (sometimes optional 4th course) prix fixe menu showcasing at times the restaurant’s best-sellers and/or customer favorites for dinner.  However, this year’s fall round of RW included lunch prix fixe menus of 2-course options at certain restaurants! Some restaurants will also extend to a second week, but they don’t usually announce that on the website til the day before.  For those wanting to dine at the 5-star restaurants, but don’t have the pocket change to spar, this is a great way to get the full experience of the restaurant at a discount!

This time, I made it a mission to hit up at least one restaurant…and ended up going to TWO restaurants with CP.  Granted, it does get expensive if you’re going to more than one restaurant, but reading ahead of the menu choices and you could be walking away with a steal.

1. Whisknladle

Our first restaurant of the week was a restaurant CP and I had  already visited before, but I love – Whisknladle.  The best part of their menu during RW was: their ENTIRE menu was part of the event.  You could select any appetizers for your 1st course, any entree for your 2nd, and any dessert as your closer, all for $40.  Now if this is not a deal…then I don’t know what is!

First Courses:

Caesar Salad – whole romaine lettuce dressed in “made-to-order” dressing (according to their menu), topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and croutons.  Nothing special, just a refreshing salad for CP and always a favorite for him.

Potato Gnocchi in a brown butter-ale creme, finished with a gratinee of Brie de Meaux and chives.  Luscious!  Wait…is that even an adjective to describe food??  Not sure, but that’s how this felt.  The little potato pillows were just firm enough. with a little chew. to give you a bite, but somehow still remain light feeling.  Then the rich, brown butter-ale creme that coated each and every single pillow was ridiculously rich and guilt ridden,  but you couldn’t care.  No, you couldn’t get over how smooth, a touch of sweetness, and creamy it felt in your mouth.  Then that brie!  Oh that brie…sweet, tangy, more oozing of creaminess.  Man…this appetizer made me ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ as I devoured it.  Needless to say that I enjoyed my appetizer very much!

Second courses:

Taglietelle with house made spicy pork sausage sugo, pepperonata, and a light sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Beautiful, wide, ribbons of pasta cooked just perfectly to uphold the even more amazing sausage sugo.  That sauce held itself could have held its own against a battle of sauces.  The weak, basic “bolognese” of tomato sauce and crumbled pork would cower in fear of Whisknladle’s sugo!  I cannot keep myself from shouting, “SUGOI!!!” (sorry…I know…very cheesy >.<)

Seared Maine Scallops in a chilled green curry, roasted squash, tinkerbell peppers, spinach & capelin roe.  What can I say?  Can I ever escape ordering scallops when given the choice on the menu? Very, very rarely (if ever) would I pass up scallops.  Whisknladle did not disappoint in preparing my favorite shellfish.  Perfect sear to give the nice, crispy, caramelized crust, without overcooking (too many times that has happened to me).  Sweet, salty, cripsy, soft, buttery, bitter (from the peppers), and light.

Third course:

Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme topped with a layer of salted caramel and served with roasted banana cake.  Ok this pots de creme was magical, but  cloyingly sweet after your second or third spoonful.  I suppose that’s why they had the banana cake, but I almost wanted something something salty on the side.  However, I would have taken some ice cream to go with it, or whipped cream to just help break that sweetness.  Still delicious, although it was the first time I had to leave a dessert unfinished (*GASP!*).

Oh look! There’s the vanilla ice cream that I needed!  Except this was CP’s dessert and even though I had a little bit (to go with my dessert), I didn’t want to take more.

Our server was great – helpful, friendly, and attentive where needed.  Again, Whisknladle remains on my top list!

Whisknladle
1044 Wall St.
La Jolla, CA 92037

2. Crab Catcher

Now this is one restaurant I have never been to and had been in my “maybe” list of the Restaurant Week choices for several years.  This time however, CP did not partake in the RW prix fixe menu since he did not find pairings that suited his taste.

First course:

Crab Bisque – roasted red bell pepper broth, Meyer lemon crème fraiche.  This was not mind blowing, but I did enjoy the bisque.  I could have used some more crab, but the bisque was thick and rich, and citrus from that lemon crème fraiche did help enhance the flavors.  Although, I will say this bisque went great with the complementary foccaia they provide as part of the bread service.

CP’s Caesar Salad….told you – it’s a standby fave of his :).  Different presentation (pre-cut for the lazy), same concept – romaine lettuce, croutons, parma, and dressing.  “All hail Caesar!”

Second course:

Dungeness Crab Pappardelle with sweet heirloom peppers and lobster mushrooms, in a creamy Thai basil garlic sauce.  Man, oh man, where do I begin?  Let me count the ways this was a fail for me:  1. Not nearly enough crab, 2. Pasta was cooked a little more than I like, and 3. This was the weakest sauce on pasta I have had in a REALLY long time.  When I see “Thai basil garlic sauce”, I expected to get basil (I barely), garlic (not sure if there was any), and flavor – this was definitely NOT there.  This pasta made me so sad.  So very, very sad.  The crab mound on top was the best part of this plate and I ate it all up.  Everything else…I wanted to return.

Sea Bass with Maryland lump crab stuffing, fingerling potato, Haricots Verts, with a lemon thyme mustard sauce.  For once, I was seriously jealous of CP’s entree – I WANTED IT FOR MYSELF!!!!!!! The sea bass was tender, falls to the slightest pressure of the fork, and the perfect sear.  The crab added that extra natural sweetness, and I wanted it!  *Sigh*…but next time, I’ll just order this one for myself!

Third course:

Warm Chocolate Torte with candied macadamia nuts and topped with Tahitian vanilla gelato. This dessert should come with a warning: “You are about to enter chocolate nirvana!”  I think this torte has to be, hands down, one of the richest, chocolatey-est, dessert I’ve had in town.  They got it right by giving you a giant mound of vanilla gelato because you DO need it.  Also, in the center of the torte is a mountain of oozing, warm, lava pool of salted chocolate.  The only thing that could have made this better?…ANOTHER scoop of ice cream!

I would come back for the sea bass and the torte.  Those are a must!  Everything else…I can live without it again.

Crabcatcher
1298 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037

Dungeness Crab Pappardelle locally grown sweet Heirloom peppers, lobster mushrooms,creamy Thai basil garlic sauce


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.