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Posts tagged “bakery

Restaurant Week 2012 – La Bastide Bistro

My SD Restaurant Week restaurant number 2 was with a coworker of mine, JT (and no, it’s not that JT).  Since she was working during the MLK holiday (in lieu of another holiday), we choose a place closer to the office.  Our selection was because of the number of choices the restaurant had for the pre-fixe menu, and here were our choices for La Bastide Bistro in Scripps Ranch:

Appetizers:

Crab Cake Served on Spinach with Orange Reduction Sauce

Warm Goat Cheese Crouton, Drizzled with Lavender Honey, Candied Walnuts, Mixed Greens with Apple, Bacon, Mushrooms &Truffle Vinaigrette

I have to say, this was our favorite course of the meal.  According to JT, the crab cake was loaded with lumps of crab meat.  She loved it and it did look pretty darn good from where I was sitting!  My salad was absolutely delicious!  The best part is the highlighted item – warm goat cheese, drizzled in the lavender honey.  My goodness, I could have eaten TEN of these croutons!  Paired with a fresh salad, it made me feel like I was eating something healthy and good.  Althought I would have to say that those mushrooms were a bit out of placed.  Had they been marinated mushrooms, that would have made the dish twice as good.

Entrees:

Fisherman’s Stew with Mussels, Fish, and Potatoes, In a Saffron Lobster Broth with a Rouille Crouton

Duck Confit with Fries & Salad

Our entrees was not our first choices, because they ran out of the Cassoulet (White Bean Stew with Duck Confit, Bacon & Sausage). 😦  JT enjoyed her stew, and it smelled nice, but it was not what I would want either.  My Duck Confit was sadly under seasoned and a little dry.  Also, my fries should have been crispier too.  There’s nothing worse than a limp fry!

Dessert:

Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream

JT and I both ordered the Tartin, but again…much to our disappointment, the apple filling was too sweet for us.  It felt like canned apple pie filling to me, but I cannot confirm that this was the case.  The best part of this dessert was the ice cream.

Overall, La Bastide Bistro completely failed my expectations and they were not even set high to begin with!  That was probably the worst part for me.  Would I come back?  For the prices they are charging both in their lunch and dinner menu, I think I’d rather opt for a different option.

La Bastide Bistro
10006 Scripps Ranch Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92131


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


Last Days in Paradise

Day 5

Today, we started our morning with a quick fruit breakfast before heading off to the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites.  Other than the Pearl Harbor Memorial, there are also retired WWII vessels that you can visit.  The Memorial is actually completely free and a ferry takes you to it approximately every 15 minutes.  The other military vessels do cost, but you can buy a package to save some money.  CP and I visited the USS Blowfin submarine and the USS Arizona.  I’ll let the pictures do the story telling.

After our memorial visit, but before the USS Arizona, we needed lunch and we were not going to settle for a crappy hamburger or hot dog.  Instead, we hoped in our car and drove a bit to get to Tanioka’s.  This market was recommended to me by my colleague, an ex-pat, for having the best poke and other great bento items.

Once we were there, the large number of choices made it really hard to for us to decide what to get.  In the end, we bought more than what we could really eat…but the bounty cost us about $35.

Shoyu Poke

Lomi Poke

Spicy Tuna with Sushi Rice

Fish and tofu cakes

Fried ahi with wasabi aoili

Best things we ate out of this massive pile of food?  The Lomi Poke and the Spicy Tuna with the sweet sushi rice.  The lomi poke had a subtle sweetness to it, and a hint of garlic or something else.  The soft cubes of tuna melted away and the seaweed gave away to a wonderful crunch.  Best poke I ever had and not sure how others will hold up to this one.

After that big meal, we had visited the USS Arizona as you saw above.  The winded down pretty quickly after that and we headed off to Paradise Cove for our luau.  Unfortunately…as we got closer to the east side of the island, the sun we had was going away and we were driving into showers, to rain, to heavy rain.  Obviously, the luau was cancelled and we had to reschedule it.

Since that plan went out the door, we decided to head to one of the beaches we saw on our drive the previous day.  We already had all our swimming gear in the car in case of anything and good thing we did!  So instead of a luau, we had a sunset swim on a secluded beach on the northwest side of Oahu.  It was a wonderful way to watch the day end (and to have your honey attempt to block a wave from getting you by doing a head dive as if to take a bullet for me.  Except this was water and it just ended up splashing us both completely).

For dinner that night, we ended up at Duke’s Waikiki to satisfy CP’s craving of surf and turf.  I wasn’t completely hungry, so we followed CP’s craving this time.  One thing that I didn’t know, was that the restaurant company that owns Jake’s Del Mar, owns Duke’s as well.  I was a little surprised by this and found it funny we ended up at a place that had a little bit of San Diego too.

CP’s surf and turf – sirloin and lobster tail, with mashed potatoes and green beans.  He lapped up his meal with a smile on his face…guessing he really like it huh? J

My lomi lomi chicken with rice pilaf was not amazing, but not terrible.  It was just kind of boring and I did not particularly like it.  However, not to fear! Dessert comes and saves my night!

The Hula Pie!  It is macadamia nut ice cream, sitting on a chocolate cookie crumb shell, covered with a layer of chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate fudge and more macadamia nuts and whipped cream.  Man…it was a cold, creamy party in my mouth.  Even CP joined in the dessert (he just steered away from the chocolate, which was fine by me)!

Day 6

Our last full day in Hawaii, we headed straight to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling!  Unfortunately, we did not bring nor buy an underwater camera, but the experience was surreal.  Since we were there early in the morning (granted…it was chill waters for Hawaii given the storms and cloudy start to the day), the fishes were all out and feeding.  The waves were really mild, so it made for a great snorkeling experience.  We saw many of the species of fishes that we saw also at the aquarium, so both CP and I were super excited about that.

As the day progressed, more sun came out, but the waves started getting a little “rougher” for the bay.  It was harder to find the fishes at that point as they most likely took refuge in their coral homes. At that point, CP and I decided that after 4 hours of snorkeling, we decided to call it a day (for snorkeling).

Since we both worked up an appetite, it was time to get another food icon of the island:

YES! Malasadas! And not just any malasadas, but the famed Leonard’s Bakery malasadas!  We bought a box of 6 with the cinnamon coating, and 1 haupia filled sugar coated malasada.  I was giddy with excitement and joy as I tasted the warm, fluffy, sugary pastry.  I felt my eyes roll behind my head as the wonder that is a fresh malasada can do for me.  CP was looking curiously at the box and my reactions to eating it, and finally was convinced enough to try one.  He was hooked, no questions about it.

After having our fill of malasadas, we went back to clean up and headed off to our luau!

Paradise Cove

Upon entering the cove, you receive a shell or flower lei (depending which package you bought), plus a mai tai or a non-alcoholic beverage.  All around the cove, there were free activities that were happening for the guests such as spear throwing and weaving a head band made from palm leaves.  Since we bought the basic package, I did not have any flowers on me, I immediately went to make myself a headband and bracelet made from the same flowers.

After properly decking myself out, there were several pre-luau shows that we watched including: the flower drop (a guy climbs up a palm tree and lets out a sack of flowers…and he climbed that tree super fast) and demonstration of how fishermen casts out the nets from the shore to reel in dinner.

Then came the revealing of the pig ceremony and a traditional hula dance:

Finally, it was dinner time!  The offerings: kulau pig, baked fish, fried chicken, salad, pasta salad, bread rolls (butter and taro), rice, and poi.  Desserts included: coconut jello, vanilla and chocolate cakes, and pineapple.

The food? It was a buffet, what did you expect? I got exactly what I expected: fair to bad food.  The pig was good, and that was about it on the savory end. The coconut jello was the best dessert since it’s a lot like what I eat at home.

After we all had our fill, the show began!

That was both CP’s and my first luau and we both had a great time actually.  True, it is completely and utterly a tourist attraction, but it was something that had to be done.  Would I do it again?….nah, once is more than enough!

Day 7 – Last day :(…

Sigh…like all good things, it must come to an end.  I was sad waking up that morning, knowing that it was time to go home.  Prior to going, I had to pick up some cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company to bring home.

I picked up the mix tin box with 15 flavors and a total of 32 cookies.  The flavors include: Butter Macadamia, Pineapple Macadamia, Mango Macadamia, Lilikoi Mango, Kona Coffee, Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Macadamia, White Chocolate Kona Coffee, Dark Chocolate Kona Coffee, Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Lilikoi, Coconut, Dark Chocolate Coconut and White Chocolate Coconut. My favorite?  The Dark Chocolate Coconut!

Also, we decided to make one last stop to Puka Dog for a to-go lunch.  Just because I wanted to bring something else to eat on our plane ride, just in case that the meal served was not good.

That was our week long adventure in Hawaii.  It was everything I thought it would be and at the same time, the island gave me surprises that I did not expect.  I can see myself definitely visiting the islands again!

Pearl Harbor Historical Sites

Taniokas Seafoods and Catering

94-903 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797

Duke’s Waikiki
On the Sand at the Outrigger Waikiki, Oahu
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 116
Honolulu, HI  96815

Hanauma Bay

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Paradise Cove Luau
92-1089 Alii Nui Drive
Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

Honolulu Cookie Company

Multiple locations and online ordering available


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.


Work, life, balance…no? Then it’s time to eat.

I was provided the Work Life Balance Equation by a co-worker of mine.  His original equation was something along these lines:

Work + life = Work life balance
I have no life, thus…
Work life balance = Work

This was passed along to other co-workers and one suggested that we needed to use a weighted average model:

Work(8hrs) + life(8hrs) + sleep(8hrs) = Work life balance
Work(12hrs) + life(6hrs) + sleep (6hrs) = I better be making 6 figures and partying every night
Work(12hrs) + thinking about work(2hrs) + trying to forget about work(2hrs) + restless bad sleep dreaming about work(8hrs) = Public Accounting

Now which one applies to me? That is the real question at hand and I can definitely tell you right now that I do NOT make 6 figures. If I was, life would be quite different and I wouldn’t really be thinking about my work life balance as much because I am getting compensated to not dwell on such things.  The first thing that actually came to mind was that this person was at least getting 8 hours of sleep each day, so I am already very jealous of this person.

The best equation for me would be along the lines of:

Work(12hrs) + personal hygiene (2hr) + life (3hrs) + trying to forget about work(1hrs) + restless bad sleep dreaming about work(6hrs) = My Public Accounting Life

Now where do I factor in my eating?  I guess that’s part of the “life” variable because I live to eat, but although I sometimes eat to live because I need the energy to keep up that 12 hour work variable.  However, when I eat, I try to eat things that I enjoy and makes me smile from the inside out.  This is when we need that special treat every now and then.

When I was up in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, I had stopped by the Kara Cupcakes in Ghiradelli Square for a cupcake.  I will admit that this was definitely influenced by the show Cupcake Wars on Food Network.  The judges GUSHED over Kara’s cupcakes and my curiosity of whether or not it was founded drove this trip.

The shop was simple and let its cupcakes be the star of the decor:

I contemplated for sometime on which cupcake to get and given the season, the Pumpkin cupcake almost won out.  However, the Chocolate Fleur de Sel had me convinced that if I was to try any of the cupcakes, this was the one to be inducted to her line of cupcakes.

It took everything in my power to limit myself to only one cupcake, so I got myself one and a bottle of water.  To my surprise, the bottled water was made especially for the store!

Here was my little afternoon sweet snack.  See that cute bottle?  I was truly and highly amused by it.  To think they put that much effort to their water bottles was a nice surprise.  Also, I loved their boxes that they had to hold their cupcakes for transit.  Although my cupcake didn’t need to go far (just to a table outside), it is a good idea for bakeries to have these holders because there’s nothing worse than a messed cupcake.

Look at my little baby.  All safe and sound, neatly tucked in its own individual carrying case.

I don’t have a shot of inside the cupcake, but it was filled with salted caramel.  The cake was a deep, dark, luscious chocolate cake and it was the moistest cupcake I’ve had in awhile.  Topping it off was an equally delicious chocolate ganache frosting with a light sprinkle of fluer del sel.  You would think that this cupcake would be immensely sweet, yet it wasn’t!  The flavors were all there: sweet, bitter, and salty.  The cupcake was balanced and it was a simple, really well crafted cupcake.

In retrospect, I feel like I could have had some more, but I was restraining myself from going completely overboard.  It is all about balance in life right?

I don’t have a balance in my life and I can feel it.  However, I am really bringing it upon myself by my own choices.  I guess I just haven’t learned how to say no to my own life events.  Just like how I learned how to say no to myself when I wanted more than one cupcake, I need to apply the same to my life at times.

My desire?  To achieve this equation:  Work(8hrs) + life(8hrs) + sleep(8hrs) = Work life balance.

Kara’s Cupcakes
Multiple locations in California


Joliet, IL

Oh Joliet…what can I say about you?  You remind me of a bi-polar classmate of mine.  On one side, you have such beauty and quaintness about you.  On the other side, you are a scary, somewhat sketchy kind of personality.  The fact that I spent less than a week yet I was pleasantly surprised every now and then.

Al’s Steakhouse

This place was definitely a local steakhouse joint and very old school.  We had heard we needed to come here for the French Onion soup and that was exactly what I got.  It was the best thing I had that night here, but the guys said the steak was good.  I’ll take their word on that one ;).

Truth Restaurant

My gawd…one word about this veggie burger: cardboard.  I’ve eaten plenty of veggie burgers and I know the wrong kind of veggie burger, that’s overcooked, it is the saddest meal ever like this one was.

The Department

The restaurant is unassuming and a diamond in the rough.  It has a lot of potential and we were all equally surprised at how good the meal was.  I loved the soup, a little over salted yet still good.

Chicago Street Pub

This was the best surprise we got while in Joliet.  One of our waitress suggested this place to us and we had to try it (considering there was also nothing nearby either).  Look at our appetizer!  Chili-cheese tater tots!!  My gawd..so simple and it is not like you cannot get chili-cheese fries, but I have not seen any place that did it with tater tots!

Gji’s Sweet Shoppe

Had to get some ice cream but it was just too sweet for me :(.  It was the Hershey Cappuccino Crunch made with Hershey’s dark chocolate and it was overkill.  Ugh..

Giordano’s

Yum yum!  The appetizer was a mixed fried sampler of mushroom, zucchini, and mozzarella!  The mushrooms were my favorite with its molten, juicy, hot innards held in by a crunchy coating.  Our pizza order was sadly taken erroneously :(.  We wanted deep dish but the waitress thought (for some reason beyond our knowledge) we wanted the thin crust!  Geez…who comes to Chicago to eat thin crust?!  Well at least it was still delicious!  To wrap it up: store bought tiramisu that was frozen. BLEH!

The Reserve

Our dinner at The Reserve was actually more funny than anything else.  We were informing one of our party members about amuse bouches and palate cleansers for multi-course meals. Best thing out of those pictures above?…My main entree – a seafood cappellini! It was light, flavored rather than just tomatoes and it was great! However, by this time, I was done with seafood and wanted nothing more than vegetables and tofu.

Even then, of course we need to have dessert!  Except my dessert, the molten lava cake, was TERRIBLE.  Um first off when you hear the name of the dessert…is it too much to expect that your cake to be well…molten on the inside?!?!  Well what I got was like an over baked brownie topped with ice cream and whipped cream.  I get a little angry thinking about this.  However, my colleague got the caramel pecan bread pudding.  Oh lordy…it was amazingly delicious.

Potbelly

To make up for terrible dessert, we have the amazing Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from Potbelly.  Our Senior Manager brought us a bunch and I was HOOKED.  They make it just the way I like them: underbaked!  Mmmm…
Oh Joliet…the disappointments and surprises you had for us.  Not exactly a destination, but at least I will know where to go (and not go) if I ever find myself out there again!


Chicago Part Duex

My colleagues and I unfortunately had to work a little during this weekend.  Normally, it would not be an issue but the fact is that we were in Chicago for goodness sake!  I was about to chuck my laptop out the 19th floor window being stuck indoors, in a city that I had never been to!

“What the shit?!…”

That was the phrase of the week, literally.  This is why I took the initiative in deciding for the team as a whole that we needed something great to break up this crappy start to the weekend. Thus, I ordered for us the Chicago icon: deep dish pizza!

Gino’s East

We were staying in downtown Chicago and Gino’s East was not all that far away!  Turns out that the place actually delivered to hotels and so we had an order of the Cheesy Bread with marinara:

and Gino’s East Supreme deep dish.

The crust had to be at least 2 inch high, which was needed for all the ingredients that were piled into this gorgeous break to a crappy day.  It had chunky tomato sauce, mushroom, peppers, onions, and half sausage patty, half pepperoni.  Of course, there was an oozy, gooey cheesy layer buried underneath all of that.  It was so delicious!

Leonidas Chocolate Cafe

Sometime between lunch and dinner, a pick me up was needed.  I was going to get coffee at first yet ended up going to Leonidas Chocolate Cafe because I needed ice cream or gelato ASAP!  It felt like an emergency and all the alarms in me were going off shouting, “I. NEEDED. THIS. NOW!”  So…

My medium cup of gelato was HUMONGOUS!  I got half toasted coconut with almond and fudge, and half Belgium chocolate.  I realized as I was eating this was that: my gawd I was so terribly depressed and this is why I am enjoying this even more.  Secondly, I should have gotten all Belgium chocolate.  It was smooth, creamy, and bittersweet.  The best chocolate gelato I’ve had in some time.

Now also in passing, I saw a plate and bags of macaroons being displayed at the cafe.  How could I ever pass up the opportunity?!

They looked much better than tasted sadly :(…I should have just stuck with the gelato and maybe some chocolates.  Oh well, how could I have known until I tried it for myself?  Live and let learn!

Later that evening, when the guys decided the stay in for the night, my new friend/colleague (PR) and I went out for dinner.  We were both craving tapas all week and decided we both needed it!  However, since we didn’t have the car, we walked the 2.5 miles through downtown to the restaurant.  It was actually a really nice walk except for a certain area we had to walk through, but we were both quite hasty in getting to the restaurant so nothing exciting happened.

Tapas Valencia

The spread included (starting from the top and going clockwise): lamb tenderloin with caramelized onions and mushroom, stuffed mushroom caps with cheese, and stuffed peppers with goat cheese.

Goodness gracious….it was an explosion of flavors!  PR and I have been feeling trapped with the choices of food we have been eating and desperately needed this change up in our diet.  However, just 3 tapas would never satisfy the two of us, so we had an order of the vegetable paella!

The paella was good and it was what we both wanted: something flavorful, fresh, and light too.  I had 2 criticisms about the dish: 1. not enough crust!  This is the best part of paella in my opinion!  Also, when one thinks of paella, one would think saffron being the key spice for the rice yet this one was more tomato base.  The entire meal was the best meal we had since arriving to the city!

The following day, PR and I went on an architectural river boat tour which was very informative and fun!  I love learning the history of a city and I realized even before the tour, how beautiful the buildings were in the city.  After our tour, we met up with  the guys to grab a late lunch.

Portillo’s

We had another staple of the city that was not all that far from the hotel again!  Portillo’s had a fun atmosphere and there were so many options to chose from.  However, what I wanted was an Italian sausage, onion rings, and a milk shake!  And that was exactly what I got:

Look at the glory that is the delicious, greasy, fatty food that you know you shouldn’t have but you just can’t help it because it has been quite “shitty”.

The Italian sausage was typical, but the bun was a soft crusty bread that was so much better than a hot dog bun!  I wish I had grilled onions and peppers to go with it :(…The onion rings were fried super crispy and even though I would normally complain at the number of rings I got that day (very few), it ended up being just enough.  The milkshake was a chocolate milkshake with chocolate cake pieces mixed into it.  W.O.W.  Talk about chocolate overload!  It was so rich that I couldn’t finish it and had to recruit my colleagues to help out.  Overall I enjoyed myself again with this meal and would do it again in a heart beat.

That was pretty much my time in Chicago.  I wish I had more time in the city, but we did our best in between work and commuting.  I would definitely be coming back to Chi-town (hopefully not for work) for more!

Gino’s East
Multiple locations

Leonidas Chocolate Cafe
59 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Tapas Valencia
1530 s. state st
Chicago, IL 60605

Portillo’s
Multiple locations