Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The French Laundry - Yountville

5/5 stars

Not everyday a girl starts her third decade :-)

My husband pretty much summed up our magical experience at the French Laundry in one sentence: "How do I grow carrots that taste like that?"

C'mon! I mean ... a carrot ... a carrot blew us away.


The above was the short review. This is the long one.

So, we arrived dressed to the nines 15 minutes early to our 5:30pm reservation January 27th. We had called 2 months earlier on the dot. It took only about 20 mins to acquire a Monday and a Friday reservation, but we were hoping for a Saturday one. We gave up after over an hour of re-dialing and settled on the Friday reservation.

Before getting out of the car, I screamed a little. I have been planning my 30th birthday at the French Laundry for years now and I couldn't believe it was finally happening.

It was still light out so we were able to walk around the FL garden across the street. I visited the chickens and hoped that I wasn't meeting my dinner. Then, the hubby and I walked across the street to peruse their lovely "backyard." A very polite hostess saw us milling around and came out to tell us that our table would be ready shortly.

A few minutes later, she came back, wished me a happy birthday, and led us to our table by the window. Everyone wished me a happy birthday - even Timothy Hollingsworth (who's a cutie, btw)! He's also cool as a cucumber under what seems like a lot of pressure - being the head chef and all.

Our server's name was Andrew and he was a sweet, charming, down-to-earth gentleman. I adored him because he was easy to talk to. Our sommelier was more business-like, but still nice.

My only moment of overwhelmness / nervousness came from ordering wine. I didn't know how much we wanted to spend, but knew that the hubby and I wanted to share the pairing. Sharing wasn't what we did per se (I realize now that they probably didn't want us sipping from the same glass), but what the sommelier ended up designing for us was perfect. He didn't recommend a glass of wine with each dish and we didn't want to do half-bottles of white and red. We wanted more variety so what he did was:

* glass of bubbly to start (with the gruyere pate chaud and salmon tartare cones)
* hubby and I each had our own glass of DIFFERENT white for our hors d'oeuvres
* hubby and I each had our own glass of the SAME white for our seafood courses
* SAME red for the pork belly
* DIFFERENT red for our meat course
* hubby finished with a glass of dessert wine and I finished with a glass of champagne (my request)

Some of the glasses were full glasses and some of the were half-glasses. To be honest, we couldn't tell the difference. What was miraculous was that our palettes were never exhausted and everything he picked seemed to have been "made for me." I was really worried about that, too, and didn't really get a chance to tell the sommelier what I didn't like, but somehow he nailed it. The bubbly was not too dry and the prettiest color. My Hungarian white was honey on my tongue and the hubby's riesling was one of the best I've ever had. The wine I was most excited about was the red that was served with my "cap of rib-eye." It was so dangerously soft.

So, the FL closed for two weeks in January so the staff could take a break. Right when they opened, I stalked the website every day for menu updates. And every single day, I went, "I hope my menu will be just as good." Well, ladies and gents. My menu kicked all those menus' butts. Again, it was as if it - in all its lobster, pork belly, rib-eye glory - was made just for me.

Everything was delicious, impeccably made works of art, but if I had to rank the dishes:

1. salmon tartare cones
2. pork belly
3. butter poached lobster
4. rib-eye cap
5. donuts and coffee
6. oysters and pearls
7. the 40-million salt that came with the foie gras
8. the assortment of Bouchon bread and unsalted / salted butter
9. the mignardises (highlights: pumpkin-filled chocolate truffle and insanely good chocolate & toffee covered macadamia nuts)
10. pommes anne
11. gruyere pate chaud
12. foie gras - only because I prefer seared
13. scallops - the cod was the better choice

We asked to see the kitchen and one of the oldest staff members (16+ years) obliged. It was fun seeing the pristine kitchen that inspired Pixar's Ratatouille. The staff moved like waves lapping at sand - calm, but with clear purpose.

Even though the cost - though expected - was staggering, we thought the experience was worth it and are already planning a return visit this summer! I mean, if Thomas Keller can do **THAT** with a carrot, what can he do with an heirloom tomato?


Orenchi Ramen - Santa Clara

5/5 stars

I don't usually HAPPILY wait 45+ minutes for any place.

I've been to Japan and this place is authentic in every way possible: the wait, the look, the service, but most importantly - the ramen.

The only problem, aside from the wait (which I have no control over), is that I always order the same thing because I CRAVE it at least 2x a week. The tonkotsu is creamy, savory, pork-y, chicken-soup-perfection. It comes with a single slice of pork, an amazing soft-boiled egg, mushrooms, scallions, and seaweed. I always order an extra egg because the egg = win. Oh, and the noodles? Thick and chewy.

I've also had the chicken karaage (must order), the rice and pork (decent), the bamboo shoots (decent), and the egg rolls (OK to skip).

The service is quick, loud, efficient, and friendly.

I'm glad they're doing so well, but really, I wish there wasn't a 45 minute wait EVERY SINGLE TIME. That won't stop me from going, though. Best ramen in the Bay Area IMO.


Shabu House - Burlingame

4/5 stars

There were 12 of us. We were loud. We ate and drank A LOT! A LOT! A LOT! But the service was awesome. They were attentive and polite. Great place for big groups. It was a modern, clean space. Wear a t-shirt, though. It gets super hot!

I got the all-you-can-eat-and-drink for $41 and I thought it was great. You can choose from 3 broths (water, spicy miso, and chicken ginger) and 3 meats (beef, pork, and lamb). Dessert - green tea or red bean ice cream - and soda is included.

The veggies plate was clean and fresh. There were two kinds of mushrooms, cabbage, spinach, udon noodles, and tofu. You could also ask for white rice. When you asked for anything extra, they brought out a ton of it. Shabu House is definitely NOT skimpy.

I really enjoyed the two sauces that came with the meats. One was a soy and tasted great loaded up with garlic and green onions. The other was a creamy peanut.

There were three beers to choose from (I prefer Kirin) and house sake.

Thank you, Shabu House. We had a great time celebrating my dear friend's 30th birthday here.

FYI: unlimited alcohol apparently has a two-hour time limit.


Watercourse Way Bath House Spa - Palo Alto

4/5 stars

For $90 (1 hour massage), I think that you definitely get your money's worth.

This is the second time that I've been here and I am already planning on returning. My sister (who got me the massage as a very generous Christmas present) and my mom are also planning on returning. Since we are all very opinionated - that says A LOT!

Watercourse is a great value IMO because it includes a hot stone massage and hot towels for your feet and face - these are not included at Preston Wynne in Saratoga.

The massage seems to last longer than usual because of all these "extras" and both the masseuses I've had are wonderful and really listen to your needs. I asked for extra shoulder, neck, scalp, and face attention and I got it. I would recommend Amy, Ali, David, Yvonne, or Jeneane.


Kai Kanani Sailing Charters - Wailea, HI

5/5 stars

Pick these guys!

I did a ton of research and, with the Four Seasons' help, picked these guys. They were a fun, incredibly friendly, attentive group. There's a biologist on board who snorkels beside you, pointing out fish and telling you their names, as well as a certified scuba instructor.

Molokini was beautiful and amazing, but the most amazing thing EVER is swimming with wild sea turtles (we saw 3!). Put that on your must-experience-in-life list. Breathtaking.

The ride was smooth (no seasickness here, and I'm prone to it), the lunch was good and simple (make-your-own sandwiches, salads, and chips), and the mai tais were, hands-down, the best I had my entire honeymoon. Really. Pick these guys.


Duo Steak & Seafood - Wailea, HI

3/5 stars

When my husband learned that they have an all-you-can-eat raw bar for $60, we had to make a reservation. It was a steal, IMO. Freshly shucked oysters, LOBSTER tails, and an assortment of poke & ceviche ...

I don't do raw, so I went the rustic pork pâté route. I probably ate way too much pâté (it was fine, but I've had better). My wine cocktail did help everything go down nicely. It was a really wonderful drink. The sommelier makes them to order, picking a wine to suit your taste.

The restaurant wasn't as pretty as the other two at the Four Seasons, but the service was just as nice. I didn't think the Maui onion soup was too special, though. It was only okay.

A nice evening, but I wasn't blown away.


Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar - Kihei, HI

1/5 stars

It must be a sin that a sushi restaurant in HAWAII has fish that isn't fresh. How is that even possible? Did they forget that the ocean is in their backyard?

This place is a tourist trap and was our least memorable meal during our almost two weeks on Maui and Kauai. If you must come here, stay away from the sashimi and order the rolls.


Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice - Lahaina, HI

5/5 stars

This place really is the best. I did not find better shave ice in Maui or Kauai. The ice here is soooooooooooo soft. Like fresh snow. And, my favorite part, the pineapple syrup actually had fresh pineapple chunks in it! Even so, the coconut syrup was probably the best of the three that I tried (pineapple, coconut, and mango). The boys behind the counter were super nice and I really wish I could've eaten here at least a half a dozen times.


Cool Cat Cafe - Lahaina, HI

4/5 stars

After a fancy-pants meal at Spago's, we were ready for something chill. Couldn't have gotten more chill than Cool Cat Cafe. Got a seat outside with a view of the ocean (across the street, but still, I could still see blue water). The service was friendly and attentive, the burger was JUICY, and the onion rings were really, really good. I had a mai tai and it was, simply, all great.


Spago - Wailea, HI

5/5 stars

I couldn't have picked a better way to spend the first night of our honeymoon!

Spago's at the Four Seasons is a gorgeous restaurant. Half of the seating is outside in the open ocean air, with a view of said ocean. One warning, though: Maui is WINDY! So, if you're eating after the sun has set, I would say eat inside. The walls are made of glass windows that slide open and close, turning it all into an open-air restaurant. The inside of the restaurant is just as beautiful, with huge, stunning photographs of sea anemone.

The service and cocktail menu are both excellent. I started with a lychee martini and because I had been on the famous "no-carb wedding dress" diet, I had a lot of fun devouring their bread (sweet, Maui onion rolls, parmesan crisps, and sourdough). Spago's was a great place to not be on a diet anymore! The menu is actually quite small, but I made a rocking meal out of the appetizers. I had the tomato soup (sweet and creamy) and the seafood risotto with lobster butter (rich! rich! rich!)

I didn't think I could eat another bite, but my amazing husband talked to the restaurant manager and had a yum molten chocolate cake sent over. Then, after that, the waiter came over with biscuits. We had to pack those up because after the flight, the sun, and the decadent dinner, I was ready to fall asleep at the table.

Warning: Spago's Maui is one of the more expensive restaurants that I have been to. The appetizers' prices are what you would normally see as an entree price at another restaurant and the entree prices are double.


Four Seasons Resort - Wailea, HI

5/5 stars

I could go on and on and on, but I'll just say that from now on, I'm going to see if there's a Four Seasons wherever I'm vacationing.

Oh! And best customer service ever, ever, ever. My shiny new husband left his toiletries scattered on the bathroom counter. When we came back from the beach, the maid had organized them all nicely on a pretty bamboo mat. He or she also noticed that he had a Kindle and left behind a Kindle light for him. The pool guys also noticed that I was burning and brought over aloe for me to soothe my skin. They simply blew us away.

Four Seasons convert!!


808 Bistro - Kihei, HI

3/5 stars

Right after stepping off the plane and getting lei'd at the airport, we began our honeymoon here at 808 Bistro with whale pie.

Whale pie is hash browns, ham, egg, and cheese smothered in brown gravy. This is where I discovered that (A) Hawaii puts gravy on lots of stuff and (B) gravy makes everything automatically delicious.

The restaurant is, unfortunately, not on the beach, but we got to eat outside. The menu was kind of limiting, but my *new word alert* husband had the short rib omelette and it was tasty. It was a nice time, but wasn't exciting enough for me to want to come back on my vacation.


Pho Wagon - Sunnyvale (closed)

4/5 stars

Ever since Superbowl in the Ranch 99 plaza in Cupertino closed down, I haven't had a reliable place to get my pho fix. I'm so glad I found Pho Wagon!

It's absolutely THE cleanest pho restaurant I have ever been to. Really well put together. And they have banh xeo on the menu (Vietnamese crepe), which is hard to find. I like the eggrolls, too.

The broth is clear and not fatty, they're really generous with the meat, and the staff is attentive and nice.


Nam Vang Restaurant - San Jose

5/5 stars

This place is not much to look at (and unfortunately, not so clean) and there's ALWAYS a line out the door, but you'd be very hard-pressed to find another Vietnamese restaurant that serves their signature dry noodle bowl. And even if you did, it wouldn't be as delicious as they make it at Nam Vang.

So it's basically a bowl of cooked, thin, rice noodles. It's dry because the broth is served to you in another bowl on the side (in the bowl, you'll even get a chunk of bone with bits of tender pork to nibble - it's the bone that was used to cook the broth with). The noodles come with an assortment of thinly sliced meat and / or seafood like imitation crab or shrimp, bean sprouts, celery leaves, and drenched in a garlic-minced pork-soy sauce concoction. I highly recommend drenching it with lemon or lime as well. When it comes to you, you pour some or all of the broth in (I prefer a little at a time instead of all at once) and slurp. It's amazing. Def one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. Even more flavorful than pho!

Cash only.


Yard House - San Jose

3/5 stars

My fiance and I have the best luck here. 3x we've gotten a seat in 20 minutes or less. Sometimes, it takes us longer to find a parking spot at Santana Row!

The beers are why you should come. I really like the small appetizer plates (the truffle fries and deviled eggs, especially) - and the prices for them are reasonable - but the rest of the menu is fairly standard (up to expensive ... they have lobster on the menu ... I don't really understand). Overall, it's pretty much what you'd get at BJs or any other American brewery. But don't order their wings unless you like A LOT A LOT of salt. It's probably their way of getting you to drink more beer.

So back to the beers. There are over a 100 and they're gorgeous. So many different types for you to try, you could really learn something. The bartenders are fairly knowledgeable about what they're pouring, but my fiance has them beat. He knows more than they do about the beers and always manages to stump them. He should get a free beer every time that happens :-)


Squeeze Inn Hamburgers - Napa

5/5 stars

I learned about the Squeeze Inn years ago from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. We make the drive through Sacramento every few months and I have ALWAYS wanted to stop in the original Squeeze, but alas, we never made their store hours. So I was thrilled to learn that there was a shiny and new Squeeze Inn in Napa. A greasy burger is the perfect way to sop up all that wine-tasting if you ask me!

We ordered the traditional Squeezeburger and a side of onion rings with ranch dressing. We sat at the counter to watch him make them. We practically had the place to ourselves on a quiet Saturday night. I hope his business picks up.

The burger fixings were simple. Clean, green lettuce, a couple slices of tomatoes, onions, pickles, and a smear of mustard and mayo. All the flavor was in the sharp, crispy cheese. I ate a bit of the skirt by itself and then folded the whole thing into the burger. The flavor of the cheese was really strong and I loved the extra crunch it added. It paired well with the juicy beef. It was, simply, wonderful. I am wondering if I can make burgers this way at home.

Honestly, though, the best part of the whole mess? The bun. Soft, chewy, perfect burger bun. I wish they sold this stuff in the stores. I would never use any other burger bun for the rest of my life.


El Farolito - San Francisco

1/5 stars

I came here with some visiting New Yorkers who had heard about this place. I think El Farolito is supposed to be one of the Burrito Gods of San Francisco or something. And yes, the burritos are solid, but nothing special. I mean, you can get an extremely well-made burrito with delicious carne asada or carnitas in a ton of places in California (thank God for that). But what really stood out for me was the mighty quesadilla. I have learned, by dining in Mexican restaurants where actual Mexicans eat, that quesadillas are not just thin, lifeless flour tortillas with melting yellow cheese in the middle. Heck to the no. True quesadillas are more like monster soft tacos. The exterior (the flour tortilla) should display an array of beautiful, golden markings received from being pressed to a hot griddle while the interior should be filled to bursting with meat, cheese (usually white), and avocado. The carne asada really shone in the quesadilla.

My only problem is that this place is extremely filthy and they allow the homeless to come in and attack you while you eat. One star because the owner should probably do something about this. Oh, and there's powder in my horchata.


Aqui Cal-Mex - Cupertino

2/5 stars

I want to like this place, but their food is SO bland. Can't healthy food be tasty?? The swirls are quite dangerous though and it's one of the few places in Cupertino where you can dine outside. And they're really nice here and the aguas frescas are yummy. I also like their salsa bar. Truthfully, I wish I could order their drinks, but eat at Smokeeaters...


900 Grayson - Berkeley

5/5 stars

Why don't deliciously trendy brunch places like this exist in the Bay Area? Sure, we got our mom and pop shops, but they don't know how to make a cocktail like 900 Grayson does. Heck, even their home-made limeade rocks my socks. If I was wearing them. I came in flip flops. But I ordered the juicy, seasoned-with-a-kick chicken n' perfectly cooked, crispy n' thin waffles and, trust me on this one, get the gravy. Always get the gravy.

I'll be back if I'm ever in the neighborhood!


Sam’s Chowder House - Half Moon Bay

1/5 stars

I was going to give this place 3 stars, but I should probably stop being so generous. This place is touristy. Pretty much end of story. The clam chowder is the only good thing, I'd say. Oh, and the band that was playing was great (sorry - I don't remember their name). Even the drinks were touristy, if that makes any sense. Too syrupy sweet. And the prices O_O

(P.S. Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco has better clam chowder.)

I ordered the baked oysters and it was served on a mountain of salt. They were definitely no Hog Island oysters. This place just feels like ... a Chili's. Not good, dudes.

Half Moon Bay is super purdy, though!


Savvy Cellar Wine Bar & Wine Shop - Mountain View

4/5 stars

A fun new spot for my friends and I. I really like their small plates - especially the chorizo and house-made crostini roma. My only complaint is that the food is sooo expensive, especially for the amount! It's almost all over $10.

When I go, I do their tiny bubbles often. I've had some solid sparkling wines here, but because they change their menu often, it's hard to be able to buy the same thing twice! It's okay, though, I keep hoping to discover something new. They also started making sangria! I wish they had a Happy Hour.


Iron Horse Vineyards - Sebastopol

2/5 stars

I really, really, really wanted to like this place. I'm quite fond of the Fairy Tale Cuvee served only at Disneyland, which is made by this company, so I was eager to visit Iron Horse. The view is absolutely 5 stars, and the service was nice enough, but the sparkling wine is no Domaine Carneros. I want to be fair, though, and say that if you're a fan of bone dry champagne, you may like Iron Horse more than me. Since I'm a fan of the sweeter, more delicate champagnes, this place was not my cup of tea. Some of it even tasted sour ... And the pinot noirs were nothing to write home about.

The tastings are also expensive (I think it was around $13) and the pours were not generous.


Dim Sum King - Sunnyvale

5/5 stars

A genius idea! I wish I would've come up with it. Dim sum to-go, anytime I want it. Not just for Sunday mornings anymore! I haven't been to a dim sum restaurant ever since I discovered this place.

The dim sum pieces are huge, very fresh-tasting, and the prices are super reasonable. They have all the usual suspects: shu mai, har kow, sticky rice with Chinese sausage, shrimp and chive dumplings, and BBQ pork buns.

The women who work there are very nice. I ordered a ton of dim sum for my bridal shower and every single piece was devoured. When I got too eager and ordered way too much, they even suggested I pare it down a bit instead of being concerned about making more money. Didn't take advantage of a girl whose eyes are sometimes bigger than her stomach!


Loves Cupcakes - San Jose (closed)

5/5 stars

My new favorite cupcake place! The cake is fluffier and moister and less dense than Sprinkles. The frosting more whipped. And way more flavors than Kara's.

My amazing sister surprised me with two dozen of these beauties for my bridal shower and I highly recommend them for any special occasion. They were so good, I ordered them for my engagement picnic photo shoot.

My favorite flavors include: the Oreo, the white chocolate and raspberry, and the caramel fleur del sel.

A bargain at $20 for a dozen minis, IMO!


TOWN - San Carlos

3/5 stars

Extremely price-y (breakfasts are around $20 and the drinks $9-$15), but I haven't found a place in the South Bay that serves bottomless mimosas so I'll probably come back.

I had the prime rib hash and it was very tasty, but the prime rib was sliced too thin. I prefer a thicker cut when it comes to prime rib. I asked for a side of au jus and that made it even better.

The service was hit or miss. Our server forgot about refilling my fiance's champagne glass, but there were others who made sure to keep it full.


Hog Island Oyster Company - Marshall

5/5 stars

My fiance and I had our engagement photo shoot here and they were so accommodating! Enthusiastic and incredibly sweet, too. My bottle of Domaine Carneros sparkling wine had gotten warm during the journey, but they had a chilled one that they cheerfully traded with me. They even cooled our beers. I made reservations and they gave us a nice picnic table by the water - there was even a bachelorette party celebrating next to us! I took it as a good sign.

I had packed quite a scene for the engagement shoot and attracted a little crowd. There were flowers in mason jars, a cupcake tower, a bowl full of lemons and limes, and a wicker picnic basket to admire. I even had marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate, but we were so stuffed after the 2 dozen oysters, a loaf of sourdough and dreamy Cowgirl Creamery triple-cream brie - oh! and those gorgeous cupcakes! - that we didn't have room for the s'mores. Btw, extra garlic on the BBQ'd oysters really make a difference!

I loved the smell of the bay and the weather was kind to us and gave us sun! The last time I was here, you needed a parka. So bring one, just in case. And they've really spruced the place up. There seem to be more picnic tables and The Boat (an oyster bar) was an awesome addition.

Bring your own coals to BBQ!


Zuppardi’s Apizza - West Haven, CT

5/5 stars

I can't believe I'm saying this - ducks from foreseeable flailing New Yorkers - but if you're in New York for pizza ... leave. Leave now and drive the very short distance to West Haven, Connecticut. Specifically, to Zuppardi's.

When you get there, you must order the following as fast as you can:

The sausage pie with Zuppardi's house-made sausage was "I want to eat two large pizzas all-by-myself" delicious and the fresh clam pie is sooo unique and briny tasty. Get it with garlic and grated Romano. No cheese. Wait till you're sopping up all those clam juices with the crispy, chewy crust (no soggy crust here) ... mmm ... *wipes drool from keyboard*


Grimaldi’s - Brooklyn

4/5 stars

I was expecting at least a 45 minute wait. Possibly even prepared to stand there for two hours to try the famed Grimaldi's.

Well ... I gotta say ... and I hardly ever swear, but ...



Scalding hot out of the oven, the pizza's crust has a tasty hint of charcoal, but because the fresh tomato sauce is so hot, the crust got soggy really fast. The best part was definitely the globs of cheese and the thick coins of pepperoni (we ordered half pepperoni & mushroom, half sausage & mushroom).

Even though the pizza was very, very good, it wasn't the best I've ever had. *squeaks* It wasn't even the best pie I had that trip (you guys gotta try Zuppardi's in Connecticut).

Grimaldi's is definitely an institution and not just all hype. I would definitely try it. When you're done, take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and be glad you're in New York.


Babbo - New York

5/5 stars

Oh, Batali. Oh, Babbo's.

You're my favorite Iron Chef (sorry, Morimoto)! Don't get me wrong, my meal at Morimoto's in Philly was amazing. But, there's just something about non-raw, cozy, savory, Italian magic.

I need to start with the service, even though the food was definitely the star. Because if it weren't for the polite, accommodating service, I wouldn't have gotten to create my own tasting menu. I'd studied the menu for a couple weeks and had my heart set on a few items. Problem was that the tasting menu didn't include everything I wanted to try, but ... well ... I wasn't going to come to Babbo's and only order one entree.

So, the staff let me and my beau pick our top 3 choices and they created a pasta tasting menu just for us! They even suggested the order the pastas would come out in to make sure the flavors melded well.

We started with the dish I was most excited about - the spaghettini with spicy budding chives and a one pound lobster. Yup. One whole pound.

Next, we got the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab and black truffles and then the bucatiniall'amatriciana with guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's jowl), hot pepper, and pecorino.

The bucatini was my favorite noodle. It was something I'd never had before. It was a thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center.

Now, I never order ravioli because it's never done well. They're usually overcooked and you get tired after the third one. But Batali's beef cheeck ravioli was the best I've ever had in my life. I highly recommend you try one of their raviolis when you're there. But, if I had to pick a favorite dish, I can't NOT choose the spaghettini with the WHOLE POUND of lobster. :-)

For dessert, the staff suggested the most delicious dessert wine: Castel de Paolis, Muffa Nobile. The beau ordered the saffron panna cotta with quince, pink peppercorn and quince sorbetto. I was super surprised that I LOVED it because I don't usually like panna cotta. It was also refreshing after such a rich meal. The gelato in both desserts were amazing.

My ONLY complaint: even with a reservation (that I had to confirm), we had to wait 30 minutes.


Sancho’s Taqueria - Palo Alto

3/5 stars

This may be oversharing, but I'm the type of person who needs to eat spaghetti after watching Lady and the Tramp. I get this intense craving and it's all I think about.

So, when my mom texted me from San Diego gushing about fish tacos, all I wanted was a fish taco. Specifically, I wanted fish tacos from Nick's in San Francisco. But because I didn't feel like battling rush hour to SF, I looked on Yelp for some place closer. Btw, I gotta tell you, It is NOT easy to find a fish taco in this here town. Seriously, what did we do before Yelp?

After doing a quick search, I found Sancho's and headed over there even though I was due at Pampas for Happy Hour soon. But I figure I could put my body through just one lil' taco. The crazy things I do for food.

So I got my taco and ate it in my car and was blissfully happy :-)

It was lightly fried, which I liked, and Sancho's was really generous with the fish, but I kinda wish that the batter was seasoned. I guess that's where the sauce came in (which was good), but the pico de gallo wasn't anything to write home about. And I would've liked another flour tortilla (because there was so much fish!) and a lime wedge instead of lemon.

It definitely wasn't an exciting fish taco, but it satisfied my craving (for about $4).


La Costeña - Mountain View

4/5 stars

When I asked for a carne asada burrito, he took out a slab of raw steak and threw it on the hot grill. No re-heating pre-cooked meat here! The flour tortilla was placed on the grill, too. Way better than just being steamed.

I got refried beans (they're really good beans, btw), moist spanish rice, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes, cilantro, extra onions, corn, pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce. All for under $8! They have more fixings than any other burrito place. There was also black beans, grilled peppers, olives, and lots more salsas.

I don't think they season the beans or steak, but combined with everything, they don't really need to It just all tastes really, really good and fresh.

I have to admit that the burrito wasn't as flavorful as the ones at Chavez supermarket (my favorite place for burritos and horchata), but it's a solid, heavy, non-greasy and definitely better than La Bamba's next door burrito.

La Costena is a hole-in-the-wall that doesn't have any character, so just grab and go.


Serendipity 3 - Las Vegas

4/5 stars

I went here because of John Cusack!

No idea there was a Serendipty in Vegas, but I'm super glad there is.

And even though tall, dark, and handsome wasn't there, the famous frozen hot chocolate was. I'm so happy it wasn't over-hyped. Tasted like ... creamy, slushy Ovaltine. With real whip cream. If I had enough room, I would've wanted another one.

It's way expensive ($16.50 for a burger!), but it's Vegas. At least the portions are HUGE. The boy ordered the steak sandwich and it was as long as his arm (it was really good, too). I had the uber juicy burger with avocado, brie (my favorite cheese on a burger - you don't see it often as an option), and caramelized onions. The onion rings were crispy and the batter was tasty, but I didn't think it went with the parmesan that was dusted on top. Big con was that the french fries were OVERLY salted. AND because it was sea salt there were huge chunks of salt everywhere.

The outdoor area is nice, the indoors is fun and flirty, and the fried oreos are ... sin. Try one. And one is pretty much enough.


Wynn Buffet - Las Vegas

5/5 stars

Went here for my birthday! Celebrated the last year of my twenties with the best buffet I've ever had - not just in Vegas.

Dinner starts at 4PM and is only $39. For $7 more, you can get all-you-can-drink champagne! Score!

+ clean and well-lit
+ really nice ambiance with tall flower displays
+ pre-split Alaskan king crab and chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and melted butter
+ succulent prime rib (carved to your liking) with creamy horseradish and au jus, awesome, buttery mashed potatoes, and caesar salad
+ butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sauce and pesto gnocchi
+ charcuterie and cheese
+ spicy panang with naan bread
+ a WHOLE BRIGHT AND SHINY ROOM just for desserts including red velvet cupcakes with gold glitter, mini-churro-like donuts, chocolate-covered marshmallows, raspberry mousse, and the BEST (creamiest, vanilla-est) vanilla bean creme brule ever (cue *drool*)

And that's just the stuff I ate. There was also sushi, salmon, sea bass, lamb, veal, creamy soups, really cute little salads, made-to-order pastas, roasted chicken, pizza, ice cream, bread pudding, and made-to-order crepes.



Singlebarrel - San Jose

4/5 stars

My favorite bar in the entire world is in SF. Too much of a trek when I'm craving a good cocktail. I was perusing ye ol' Yelp, looking for something that resembles the drinks served at my favorite bar and found singlebarrel.

On a Friday night, the wait is about an hour long. No place to stand if it's raining. Going on a Sunday at 5PM for a girls night was definitely better. It's, hands-down, the nicest bar in the South Bay - quiet, clean, even a bit romantic with dim lights, deep, leather chairs, and well-dressed boys. The bartenders are knowledgeable who make high quality cocktails, which you pay for because the drinks are in the $10-$12 range.

You can tell them what you like - champagne - and they'll make a cocktail featuring your liquor of choice - French 75. Or you can get something off the menu - they're known for their gin fizz which is only served from 5-6PM because it takes 8 minutes to make. It tastes like an orange julius AND you get refills! Oh, and right now they're making 7 different hot toddies.

Thanks singlebarrel for opening a decent, low-key bar into the Bay Area. It was much needed!


Bleacher Bar - Boston, MA

5/5 stars

5 stars for the view of 2nd and 3rd base! A must-see for a Red Sox fan.

No comment on the food or beer. Or the chaos that must be during an actual game.


Anthony’s Seafood Restaurant - Middletown, RI

5/5 stars

If there was a title I'd like to have, it'd be "Lobster Roll Connoisseur."

* The lobster MUST NOT be overly-mayo'd. The mayo has to lightly coat the claw meat. Think barely there. Really, the mayo's only use should be to help stick the lobster pieces together and to add a touch of wet to the roll. There should be chopped celery in the mayo.

* The lobster meat must be FRESH, SWEET, and CRISP! Lobster meat to bun ration should be 3:1. There should be at least 5 claws, mixed in with some succulent tail meat.

* The roll should be lightly toasted, warm, and buttery. Texas toast works well.

* The lettuce should be green-leaf and crunchy not cut up.

* A wedge of lemon should be squeezed over the meat.

Anthony's roll was all of the above and more.

Their kung-pao calamari was unique and very good!

Their clam strips were not overly-breaded, the clams were sweet, chewy, and tasted fresh.

Their clam chowder was creamy, well-seasoned, but needed more clams.

Newport blueberry beer tasted like pie.

Tried the Rhode Island specialty: stuffed quahog (a clam shell stuffed with clams, chorizo, peppers, onions, and spices). It was the only meh thing. Way too much breading. It tasted like day-old bread. Barely there seafood.

All in all, a fantastic, non-touristy seafood market! Chow here before doing the lovely Cliff Walk and don't forget to visit the GORGEOUS, monumental Breakers mansion.

(Oct 2010)

Mac’s Kosher Style Delicatessen - Santa Rosa

5/5 stars

If I lived in Santa Rosa, I'd probably get fat off these sandwiches.

After a morning of wedding venue touring, we stopped in here for a quick bite. Settling down into a booth, I felt like we were in some Great Aunt's kitchen - friendly, easy, inviting. With lots of cooked-with-love meat warming in the kitchen.

Ordered the hot pastrami with slaw on a soft onion roll and it was phenomenal. The pastrami was perfectly-seasoned, juicy, and piled high Seriously tasty stuff.

The slaw and macaroni salad were homemade and not overly mayo-ed. I almost always order macaroni salad and, unfortunately, almost always never find a salad that isn't drowning in mayo. Boy always wonders why I order it if I never end up eating it. Answer is because sometimes, I'll get lucky and find a macaroni salad like the one made at Mac's.

And it all came with a crispy dill pickle.

Can't say much more than: perfect.


First Awakenings - Pacific Grove

3/5 stars

I had a calamari steak for breakfast.

And that's why I may not survive in a land-locked state.


A Slice of New York - San Jose

5/5 stars


TLDR: We had our wedding reception here... that's how much we love this place.

I used to come every two weeks or so after karate, but ever since the beau moved and my commute got worse, I haven't stopped in as much as I'd like. SUPER GLAD to report that the slices are just as good as I remember!

Going to NY in a few weeks and I'm afraid the pizza won't be as good as this. What does that say about how delicious this place is?


JOYFUL: Greasy. Authentic. Foldable. Huge. Thin. Delicious.

I've been driving past it for awhile now and have always been itching to stop in because I absolutely love New York-style pizza. Sadly, the only way I've been able to satiate my NY pizza thirst is by buying Pizza Hut's New York pizza. Oh, the shame!

Today I got my chance to stop by A Slice of New York and conclusion is: I'm so freaking happy that I have a place like this to go to now. And BONUS! They're open till 1AM on weekends! Nothing (except for Taco Bell and Jack in the Box) is open that late around this here suburbs. Now I have a place to go when me and my friends are hungry, but indecisive. Ever happen to you?

THE ATMOSPHERE: It's closet-sized (with just 6 stools), but I think that adds to its charm. Cool NY memorbilia including an awesome graffiti on the back kitchen wall honoring the firefighters of 9/11. There's also a pile of magazines/books (incl. Curious George's visit to a pizza parlor) and a Wall of Shame that brings to mind that classic soup Nazi "Seinfeld" episode (disrespectful people - NO PIZZA FOR YOU)! Really enjoyed meeting the owner - really nice, talkative guy with good things to say with a trace of a New York accent.

THE FOOD: Again, I'm so happy. I ordered a slice of pepperoni and they were out, but I was more than willing to wait for 5 minutes for a fresh pepperoni pie. Score! The first bite scorched my mouth, but it was worth it. Plenty of pepperoni, fresh-tasting, tomato-y sauce, stringy cheese (you know, when you bite and pull back and a thread of cheese refuses to give), and the crust was crisp and perfect. Had to use a couple napkins to soak up the grease pools, but that's what makes a New York pizza a New York pizza. Oh, and yes, it was a huge slice (for only $3.50!) and foldable. On the counter, there were a chili flakes shaker, a bottle of hot sauce, and a shaker full of garlic powder. I used the garlic powder shaker generously and thanked the Pizza Gods that I can get a slice this good without having to fly across the US.

They now serve the best darn garlic rolls in the world. Eat em' while they're hot - the bread is just absolutely perfect - crisp on the outside, soft n' chewy on the inside, and freakin' covered with garlic swimming in good quality olive oil. Also new on the menu as of August 5th, EGGPLANT PANINIS with BALSAMIC VINEGAR brought all the way over from ITALY. I seriously love this place to bits.


Hanna Winery - Santa Rosa

4/5 stars

I said to myself: I don't need to buy any more white wine.

But then I had the best chardonnay ever.

Buttery. Caramel. Creme brulee. It's the chardonnay that just kept on giving, even after you've swallowed your sip.

Their pinot was also easy to drink. And the drinks! They kept on flowing. One price gives you everything on the list and even some things off of it (we probably tasted around 10 wines). Tasting fee is waived when you buy a bottle. The women were friendly, the grounds, lovely.

A great find in Santa Rosa!


Taqueria La Bamba - Mountain View (closed)

3/5 stars

After 5 years of hardcore burrito devouring, I finally tried La Bamba and it was good, but ... what's the big deal?

I thought I heard something about the tortillas being "pancake-like," but maybe that was a thing of the past. The carne asada was tasty, but didn't blow me away. Beau's chicken was boring and on the dry side. Salsas weren't unique. Beans and rice didn't shout: Remember Me.

Yeah, they're kinda big, but I devoured mine in less than 20 mins while walking from La Bamba to St. Stephen's on the Green so ... they weren't that big. Honestly, I prefer Los Charros down the street. BUT! My favoritest of all burrito shops is in the back of Chavez Supermarket in Sunnyvale. Can't beat being RIGHT NEXT to a butcher (now THAT'S some special carne asada). Their tortillas are also better, IMO. Oh, and their horchata.


Preston Wynne Spa - Saratoga

2/5 stars


Got a call + email from the manager. She apologized profusely, said she was on vacation when all this happened, and offered me some gift certificates to try their services again. I'm impressed that she reached out and tried to fix the problem. I will report back after!


Extremely disappointing.

I took my mom and sister here for a girls' day. We rarely get a chance to spend the entire day together, so I'm sad that we had such an awful experience.

It was not worth the $375 price tag.

- the aestheticians were almost AN HOUR late to our appointment. It was a very stressful way to start what was supposed to be a relaxing day. Worst of all, we didn't get very much of an apology. While we sat, waiting, the front desk only came in to check on us once - to tell us that they were running late. Once in a WHOLE HOUR! We had no idea what was going on. I had to go downstairs myself to talk to the front desk. No sincere apology when they finally arrived either. We should've just left then and there.

- a 1 hour facial usually includes at least ten minutes of massage. I got 10, my sister got 5, and my poor mom, who was really looking forward to her facial massage, she only got TWO. Two minutes!! The aesthetician was so lazy! She didn't listen to her needs at all.

- every five minutes, they tried to sell us a product.

- we spent time filling out these forms about our skin and our facial likes / dislikes, but the aestheticians didn't go over the forms with us. What was the point of the forms then?

- I was promised a scalp massage that I never got.

- they hardly did any extractions for me and they didn't do ANY extractions for my mom. The only person who got a thorough extraction service was my sister. The service and aestheticians are definitely inconsistent.

I do not recommend Preston Wynne at all.


Smokeeaters - Santa Clara

5/5 stars

I went to school across the street but never ate here. Not when it was Cluck U or University Chicken. Now ... I can't stay away!

Hello. My name is Christine and I'm a buffalo wing addict.

It's the mild, tangy, lip-smacking sauce. It's the Red Sox on the TV. It's the celery+ranch. It's the high quality chicken and the light batter.

Am so, so, sooo stoked that they're opening a place in Cupertino!


Cascal - Mountain View

5/5 stars


My favorite place in the South Bay for Happy Hour. Always a good time!

Met my girls there 2 weeks ago to surprise them with engagement news!

+ The drinks are really well made. I love the orange-vanilla bean caipirinha, the mojito martini, and all the sangrias. The beau is a fan of their pisco sour.

+ Half-off tasty appetizers like chorizo, calamari, queso, black bean dip (my favorite!), and house-made guac. Splurge and get their paella.

+ Our server was awesome! He even surprised me with a molten chocolate cake! When we sit at the bar, the bartenders have always been great, too.


For 3 years, I've wanted to try this place. Finally, my fabulous friend Cameron sets up a double date for dinner (spoiler: this place is fantastic for groups). Then, BAM! two weeks later and I get to go again. 3 years, zip. Two weeks, 2x. Isn't that how it goes sometimes?

ATMOSPHERE: chic, too loud, and always busy. seriously always. make reservations whether or not it's a saturday night or a wednesday night. the first time, our waiter was super attentive, friendly, and all around awesome. second time our waiter was aloof, forgot our drinks, not so friendly, and hardly around. so... hit or miss with the service. both times, party of 4... both times, our bill was in the 200s or so. kinda pricey. oh, and did I mention it was too loud?

FOOD: I provide you, fellow Yelpers, with ingredients and review

Queso Fundido (Oaxacan cheese and smoked mushroom fondue, grilled poblano chiles, warm corn tortillas) was kick butt. Hot, gooey cheese with 'shrooms and chilies all wrapped up into your own mexi-melt. Even though this was quite the good food for a cold day, I'd prefer ordering the chips n' dips. Not only do you get the queso fundido, but you also get the best black bean dip I've ever had, and Cascal's house guac + chips. It was the highlight of my second dinner.

Beef Shortrib Adobo (Mexico City style braised beef shortrib, red onion-cilantro salad, fresh corn arepa) was praised by all. Meat was falling off the bone and it had intense flavor.

Mexican "Sopes" (Duo of chicken picadillo and Cuban roast pork with mole verde, fried plantain) is a great order and I'd recommend it, even though it's A) hard to split between 4 people or more, B) messy, C) got a lot going on so the flavors kinda get lost and mingled together

Albondigas (Spicy Moroccan style lamb meatballs, piquillo pepper and smoked paprika sauce) was devoured and loved by the lamb eaters at our table. i, sir, am not a lamb eater.

Beef Kabob (Marinated beef brochette, Rioja wine, smoked paprika, garlic, grilled vegetables) was flavorful beef (though not as tender as the shortribs) and perfectly grilled (read: not soggy) veggies on a stick. A worthy substitution to the lamb.

Shrimp Tostaditos (Crisped corn tortillas topped with fresh Dungeness crab, shrimp, chipotle aioli, guacamole, shredded romaine) is hands down my FAVORITE small plate at Cascal's. The shrimp are cooked perfectly and soo juicy and steamed "crunchy" (not breaded, but not overcooked shrimp). The tostaditos are piled high and all the ingredients are fresh, fresh, fresh. A delight for your mouth.

Brazilian Moqueca (Fresh salmon and rock shrimp in spicy coconut and corn broth, saffron, bell peppers, green rice) is a Thai-like dish. It was pretty.

Spanish tapa sampler included: Serrano ham, eggplant tian, seafood salad, marinated shrimp, Serrano ham wrapped stuffed dates, tuna escabeche, mussels vinaigrette, Spanish tortilla, paella roll, chicken liver mousse, fried almonds, olives, anchovy tapenade, Spanish chorizo, deviled eggs, Manchego cheese & quince. I WOULD NOT ORDER THIS AGAIN. Not a good idea. All the stuff on there was meh. It's A LOT more fun and the small plates are all so much more delicious than anything on this sampler. The sampler was also overpriced, IMO.

Peruvian Ceviche (Fresh halibut marinated, fresh lime juice, red onion, fresh ginger, chili arbol, sea salt) is very, very well made here. I have a friend who would be more than happy to just come to Cascal's, order this, and perhaps, eight Caipirinhas and call it a good night.

Paella Cascal (Saffron rice, chicken, pork, chorizo sausage, shrimp, mussels, clams, smoked paprika sofritto, peas, piquillo peppers) is the BEST paella I've ever had. I think it's because of the chorizo.

Caipirinhas (The national cocktail of Brazil, premium Leblon cachaca, which is distilled juice of sugar canes, muddled fresh limes, sugar) are very strong here. They're like Brazillian mojitos. I like them a lot and can't wait to try the other variations of the Caipirinhas.

House Made Sangria (Sparkling with fresh citrus, apples, brandy, spices, and triple sec) was one of best sangrias I've ever had. I am so super stoked to learn that you can make sangria with sparkling wine! Time to copycat.

Last word of advice, stick with the drinks menu and ignore the bland desserts.


Brilliant Earth - San Francisco

5/5 stars

Once Upon a Time ...

It was my birthday and we took the day off to visit 3 jewelry stores and to celebrate with a sumptuous meal at Gary Danko. It was a really great day!

I wanted the day to go back to my two favorite jewelry stores and narrow it down to "The One." I had excellent experiences at both Diamonds of Palo Alto and Brilliant Earth.

When I googled "conflict free engagement rings," Brilliant Earth was one of the first results that came up. I really liked their website - their mission, their conscience, and the variety of setting styles. And the reviews on Yelp were great! So I made an appointment and had such a wonderful - all-important - first impression. The second trip was just as good.

When you first walk through the door, you quickly realize that you're not in a regular jewelry store with glass cases and other couples browsing around. You get your very own Brilliant Earth specialist (ours was Danielle, but we also worked with Beth and Ryan) and you're in this nice, bright room with a whole selection of diamonds and settings for you to try on. When I had made the appointment (via email), I had requested to see 3 different styles. Not only did Danielle have the three settings I wanted to try on, she also had 20 similar settings she thought I'd like. That's how I found setting for me: the Heirloom! It had the "antique" look I wanted, but was not an estate piece. At the time, I was also interested in the square halo and the trio. It was soo no-pressure, and Danielle answered all the questions we tossed at her. You get a whole hour all to yourselves - to try and re-try on rings.

What blew me away was that the customizations weren't going to cost the bf an arm and a leg. That's when Danielle was REALLY helpful: coming up with ideas on how I could customize the engagement ring. We left happy campers.

After visiting Diamonds of Palo Alto and then making a quick stop at Dianne's, I had the feeling that even though those two jewelry stores were great, Brilliant Earth really made me happy and had more of what I was looking for. So we went back to look at diamonds. Of course, I couldn't help but try and re-try all the rings I had liked before ;-) and even sampling some new settings. After all that was said and done, the bf and I kept going back to the Heirloom. It was something I could see myself wearing everyday.

So we met with Beth, the gemologist, and she showed us a stunning selection of cushions and radiants. The bf actually picked out the rock - a diamond so frosty and clear, it looked like ice.

Over the next couple of months while we worked on creating my customized ring, Danielle and Beth were the definition of patient. They answered a hundred of my questions, made themselves available, met with us to go over the models (we received a computer-generated model and a wax model), and made sure we were involved during every step of the process.

The ring is hand-made and one-of-a-kind, the diamond is gorgeous and conflict-free, and the engagement was what fairy tales are made of. Our appointment with Danielle was only the beginning of our life together.

Thank you, Brilliant Earth!

Sept 14, 2010

ZuZu - Napa

5/5 stars

I can't stop thinking about their paella ...


Peju Province Winery - Rutherford

4/5 stars


Jeff is awesome.

Not only did we taste the four wines that were listed, but he overheard me talking to a friend about their Carnival (a lightly sweet, perfect summer wine - IMO), and opened a bottle of that for the group. Next, he threw in a taste of their Provence (red+white blend), port, AND two tastes of their newly released chardonnay (one at room temperature, and one at cold, just so we could taste the difference).

That was 9 free tastes, my friend. Yep. Jeff rocks.


I've been to Peju a couple times before and they're so consistent. I have ALWAYS had wonderful, cheerful, engaging service. I LOVE their Carnival wine - it's fruity and refreshing. The perfect summer white. I've bought their wine as gifts before and will continue to do so. This time, I went with their Estate Syrah with its hints of jam, cocoa, and spices.

Peju is always our last stop of the day because they're one of the only wineries open till 6PM. Peju is pretty - with a grassy area, a fountain, and a patio. Tastings are done in groups and the fee is waived with purchase.


Farmerbrown - San Francisco

3/5 stars

My girls and I had brunch here before the Cartier (*tiaras*) exhibit at the Legion of Honor. I can't complain when starting a day with fried chicken and mimosas!

The fried chicken was solid - not too greasy or heavy on the batter. They were fried almost lightly. The pieces were small, which I appreciated. No giant, hormone-pumped chickens here! If you wait for fresh-out-of-the-fryer, it's worth it. Mixed it up with some ketchup and maple syrup and I felt all Southern. The real winner of the meal, though, was the biscuit. Melt-in-your-mouth, you could eat them plain, or with fresh jam, or smothered in incredibly tasty sausage gravy. I can't say this about the chicken confidently, but those buttery, flaky biscuits were probably some of the best I've ever had.

Brunch also came with pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, grits, fruit, and dessert (sweet potato pie or a really dark, dense chocolate cake). I was a little disappointed that the red velvet wasn't available and that they stopped serving all-you-can-drink mimosas.

My only complaint is that the buffet could've looked a lot nicer and that they threw in drumsticks instead of just wings / breasts. $16 for all-you-can-eat ... worth the price? depends on how much you eat.

The service was friendly and I really enjoyed the vibe and the live jazz. A great concept.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Bi-Rite Creamery - San Francisco

5/5 stars

I don't think I've ever reviewed a place with over 2,000 reviews on Yelp before.

We didn't plan on Bi-Rite. We said that if the creamery was still open after a late dinner at Delfina, we'd try it. Imagine my glee when we arrived 5 minutes AFTER closing time and they were still open.

They people there were friendly. And cool. And hot.

I got a giant-sized kid's scoop of the salted caramel. It was made of dreams.

2,000+ reviews. What else is there to say? Just go.


Pizzeria Delfina - San Francisco

5/5 stars

Took about 30 minutes to park. And waited for about an hour on a Monday. But when the beau and I took our first bite, we turned to each other, grinned like fools, and said, "The wait was worth it."

Delfina has been on my wish list for awhile, but I finally pushed myself to go after reading about the restaurant in a Sunset magazine where it (and 6 others) were featured under an article called, "The Best Bay Area Pizza."

The women who work there are SO incredibly nice. And efficient. I watched as they served pie after pie, swooped in to greet and bid farewell guest after guest. When we were finally seated at the tiny bar, the waitress took one look at me and smiled. "You're so excited to be here," she said. She was right.

We ordered both of the specials: the Purgatorio and the Gricia. The Purgatorio reminded me of the pizza I ate in Paris. It was made with a very mild, spicy tomato sauce, two farm-fresh eggs, and I added pepperoni. If you've never had eggs on pizza, you have GOT to try it. Egg yolk does something magical to pizza crust, I'm telling you. The Gricia was also incredible. It had spring onions, guanciale (read: pig jowl), panna, and black pepper. It was creamy, salty, delicious. All that paired with a bubbly red wine (Gragnano Frizzante) and ... what can I say. This is what I like to do.


Pampas - Palo Alto

5/5 stars

With all-you-can-steak, EVERYDAY is Christmas at Pampas!

We were able to get a table for an early birthday dinner without reservations and I was soo excited. I was not disappointed when things just kept getting better and better and better ...

They don't just give you free bread, but delicately fried plantains and cheese-filled biscuits. The service was extremely polite and attentive and the restaurant was Über chic, clean, and modern. The cocktails were exotic, crisp, and perfectly-made, and the food ... Oh. The. Food. The $44 all-you-can-eat food.

The meats just melt in your mouth. Most were perfectly seasoned, though, I must admit, there were a couple items that were allllmost too salty. But it's okay because there's a ton of food. If you don't like something, try another. There are more things to like than to not. My favorites included:

* Picanha (Brazilian cut top sirloin with rock salt and olive oil)
* Medalhao Com Alho orCom Queijo (filet seasoned with garlic/herbs or parmesan)
* Maminha (tri-tip seasoned with rock salt and olive oil)
* Frango (chicken marinated with smoked paprika and lemon)
* Abacaxi (slow-roasted pineapple)
* Peru (turkey breast wrapped in smoked bacon)
* Fraldinha (skirt steak with onion-herb marinade)

Are you drooling yet? I told you. Christmas.

And I haven't even mentioned the side bar. There are delicious cheeses, salami, cold pasta, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, beans, rice, cold soup, and tossed salads.

And dessert! The chocolate torte came with BACON-TOFFEE and sea salt. It was definitely a treat. This whole experience was a treat!


Jeffrey’s Hamburgers - Menlo Park

2/5 stars

This place is boring.

If you want a place where you have access to fresh, all-you-can-eat burger toppings, go to Clarke's instead. Their buns / meat is 10x tastier.

Only plus: plates and plates of dill pickle spears.


Vive Sol - Mountain View

5/5 stars

How have I not yet written a review for this place? Vive Sol is my favorite date place!

There are a ton of awesome taquerias in the Bay Area, but since most of them are fast food-y / hole-in-the-walls, they may not be best place for a nice date. That's where Vive Sol comes in.

They have a tiny bar area, but they serve the best margaritas in the area. Fresh-squeezed lime juice really does make a difference.

Their chips come with not one, but 3 incredibly fresh salsas (my favorite is the bright red one, very smoky). They specialize in sauces and it shows! Try: the pollo guajillo (Grandma's special!) or the enchiladas with guajillo sauce. It's sour-cream based, rich, and decadent. Really, really tasty. (oh. hello saliva.) If you don't want something too creamy, try the enchiladas suiza with both red and green sauce.

If you want to order an appetizer, their guac and mushrooms con chile seco are my picks.

Service is friendly and the restaurant is warm, cute, and inviting! I can't wait to go back again and again ...


Cook’s Seafood Restaurant & Market - Menlo Park

5/5 stars

We arrived near closing time, but the staff was *so* nice to us! Even though they had already packed away all the oysters, one of the ladies offered to shuck some for my friend. Said friend, who loves oysters more than anybody I know, was ecstatic.

I had the calamari and chips and a cheap beer. It was perfect! Everything at Cook's is so fresh and reasonably priced. I especially like how their fried seafood is not overly greasy. The only suggestion I have is to get the coleslaw instead of macaroni salad.


Prager Winery & Port Works - St. Helena

5/5 stars

+ prager's is cool and they make incredible port
+ tiny place with walls covered in autographed dollar bills and cobwebs
+ service is always super friendly and flirty!
+ try their white port. trust me.
+ finally caved and joined their club!


Sunce Winery & Vineyards - Santa Rosa

3/5 stars

+ What a nice family winery!
+ Their wines are decent and cheap! The kind of place where you can buy 6 bottles and not feel guilty. Good random Tuesday wine. Or good wine to make sangria out of.
+ I really like their whites and port

- Since they were so busy, they didn't pay a lot of attention to us. They were still polite, though.


Pellegrini Wine Company - Santa Rosa

3/5 stars

+ they were doing a special, buy a bottle and get another for $1 :-)
+ the guy who was there was soo friendly, he treated my family really well
+ don't believe the sign! you don't need an appointment and the tasting is free!
+ they have cheese!

- wasn't a fan of their wines, but $1? Can't complain!


Harvest Moon Winery - Santa Rosa

3/5 stars

+ lovely little place
+ our pourer was knowledgeable and very pleasant
+ their late harvest zin was unique - not too sweet and fills your mouth with dark, rich mocha with a hint of raspberry

- their ice wine could not compare to *real* Canadian ice wine


Matanzas Creek Winery - Santa Rosa

3/5 stars

+ GORGEOUS! This winery has the prettiest landscaping in wine country! It was like a picture-perfect Japanese fairy land.
+ I can't wait to come back to see the Lavender Gardens in bloom

- The wines were pretty pricey ($30s)
- there was a tasting fee


Larson Family Winery - Sonoma

5/5 stars

+ incredibly friendly staff
+ if you're a club member, $10 JUGS!
+ everything here is delicious and reasonably priced
+ they have picnic tables and a great outdoors area including a bocce court
+ their motto is: "We drink what we can and sell the rest!"
+ new favorite winery! (may have something to do with the fact that they have 3 sweet labs, one of each color!)


Viansa Winery & Marketplace - Sonoma

4/5 stars

+ pretty, pretty views
+ lots of outdoor seating
+ their Frescolina dessert wine
+ their 2009 sauvignon blanc
+ really friendly staff
+ free wine / food pairing if you're a member
+ they have cheese!

- most of their *good* stuff is pretty pricey


British Bankers Club - Menlo Park (closed)

3/5 stars

How can you not like a place that serves an authentically awesome champagne cocktail? Had my first Lanesborough here (Gran Gala, pineapple, cranberry, & champagne) and The Most Dangerous Cocktail on the Menu delivers (apple-y and vanilla-y). Swirly swirl with a cinnamon stick :-) The food was another pleasant surprise! Shared the filet mignon with a friend and it was cooked perfectly, with a really yummy veal demi-glace.

Downsides: the place was musty with a haunted British parlor look and loud, because of the live band (the band was good, though). Everything on the menu was extremely price-y. They shouldn't also charge a $5 cover with those prices.


Bakesale Betty - Oakland

4/5 stars

Our Valentine's Day menu:

1. Betty's chicken sandwich for breakfast
2. Celebrator beer fest for lunch
3. Fenton's ice cream sundaes for dinner

The slaw was fantastic. I gobbled it up even though I can't tolerate spicy foods and there were jalapenos everywhere. The chicken was fried to a beautiful golden brown and seasoned well (mayhaps a touch too salty) so I didn't need any ketchup. I loved the buttery french roll it was served on. Overall, a solid package. I love shops that do one thing really, really well.

P.S. eating outside on retro ironing boards was kinda a neat idea!


Ray’s Boathouse - Seattle

5/5 stars

Oh, what a PERFECT way to spend our first official night in Seattle.

We started with champagne cocktails and the best seat in the house - a giant, cozy booth facing the windows and the view straight on.

For appetizers, we ordered the Shilshole Sampler (dungeness crab, penn cove mussels, alaskan red king crab, mahogany clams, alaskan snow crab) and the geoduck. The sauce on the clams and mussels really stood out. I was not a fan of the geoduck. Next time, I'd like to try the Coquille Saint-Jacques (scallops).

I couldn't decide between the sablefish or the salmon, so I was stoked to get both + crab cake. The Alaskan salmon was perfect, but my bf's smoked sablefish was the real winner of the night. It tasted exactly like BACON! An amazing piece of fish - definitely one of the best we've ever had.

One of my favorite parts of the meal was the liquid desserts. I ordered the Chocolate & Port sampler (1 oz. each of 2000 Quinta do Noval, 2003 Burmester LBV, and Kopke 10-Year Tawny) and couldn't have imagined a more tantalizing finish.

Attentive, polite, friendly service, cozy, romantic atmosphere, and great for a fancy group date - thank you Ray's for welcoming me to Seattle.


Sebastiani Vineyards - Sonoma

2/5 stars

There was an UNFORTUNATE tasting fee of $10. My two friends and I each bought a bottle of their Chardonnay, but none of our fees were waived. That wasn't very nice. Our server was friendly, but she was NOT GENEROUS at all. I wanted to try their port because I was looking for Christmas presents, but they weren't offering it on their tasting menu. Even though there was a bottle open, she made me switch out one of the reds for a taste of the port. It was pretty ridiculous.

Sebastiani, you've got to learn a thing or two about customer service from other wineries. There are TONS of wineries in Sonoma that waive the tasting fee with purchase. There are EVEN MORE wineries that offer additional tastings without making you substitute.


Domaine Carneros - Napa

5/5 stars

Forget the mall! The best way to spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving is to go wine tasting! My girl friends and I started our gorgeous (slightly windy) Fall day at a favorite - Domaine Carneros.

ATMOSPHERE: Really, really beautiful. The kind of place that makes a girl sigh and want to get married there. Tastings are $15+ but worth it. You get 3 generous pours and a table to take the view in. Service is very polite. They were so busy on Saturday, we were seated upstairs in their private tasting rooms. That was a plus and a con. Plus: we got to see a new area of the winery. Con: it took several tries to get our server's attention because she was so busy.

WINES: We tasted the traditional Brut Cuvee, the exceptional Brut Rose, and the limited edition Vermeil Demi-Sec. They were all fantastic, with gorgeous, tiny bubbles.

The Brut Cuvee was dry, but not bone-dry. It was nutty, with just a HINT of berry and lemon, with a creamy finish. I ended up with two bottles - one as a gift and one to serve at Christmas dinner. A reliable, wonderful sparkling wine at only $26.

The Rose is my best friend's favorite - and mine. It has a lovely, light pink color and a mouthful of strawberries and peach. Not sweet at all.

This was the first time I tried their Vermeil and it was amazing. I kind of wish I had bought a bottle. It was lightly sweet, with hints of baked apple, caramel, and vanilla. Love the finish. Highly recommend this wine.


Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard - Santa Cruz

3/5 stars

Tasting fee was only $3! They were really nice and there were plenty of dogs to pet. I enjoyed their wines and will come back to purchase someday.


Pelican Ranch Winery - Capitola

2/5 stars

Had a lot of fun at Pelican Ranch. The gentleman who was pouring for us was friendly and funny, but I'm sorry to say that I don't really like their wines. There was a tasting fee and I think I bought a bottle of their gewurtz. According to their website, the Pelican Ranch gewurtz is dry, with the aroma of lychees and scented roses. Since I had to use their website to jog my memory, I'd say that the wine was not worth remembering. 2 stars instead of 1 because of the service.


Rexford Winery - Santa Cruz

2/5 stars

I think we were one of the first people to try Hillcrest. The wines tasted very new, very young. The man pouring for us was nice. He even admitted that the wines will get better with age. We bought a bottle of their sauvignon blanc (tasting fee is waived with purchase), but was not impressed. I think I'd like to try Hillcrest again, but in a couple of years. I'm interested in seeing improvement.


Bonny Doon Vineyard - Santa Cruz

4/5 stars

ATMOSPHERE: The Bonny Doon tasting room is really nice and large. It's located on Ingalls St. The awesome thing about Ingalls St. is that you can find several wineries all in one place. You can try a lot of different wines and not have to worry about driving.

WINES: We always leave Bonny Doon with at least 2-3 bottles. I prefer their sweeter, dessert wines. There's a $7 tasting fee (boo!), but they're really nice about letting you try additional wines that aren't on the menu.


Bargetto Winery - Soquel

3/5 stars

A little behind on my winery reviews. 2009 shall hence be known as THE WINE TASTING YEAR!

ATMOSPHERE: Situated in a residential neighborhood with lots of trees, they have a great patio. Very quiet - with a quaint creek. There's a little gift shop inside and the people are very friendly. Tasting fee was $5 for 5 wines.

WINES: Plain comes to mind when drinking Bargetto. The only thing that was special was the dessert wine. They have a handful of dessert wine flavors, such as the olallieberry and raspberry. We ended up buying 6 bottles (a mix of red and white, including the gewurtz) for 20-30% off. I probably wouldn't buy Bargetto again, but at a discount, they make a decent weekday wine or as a base for sangria.


Rosamunde Sausage Grill - San Francisco

5/5 stars

Had the chicken sausage with cherries tonight. It went really well with the onions and sweet, red peppers.

But the winner of the night was clearly the all-beef knockwurst. Do not order this if you don't like hot dogs, because that's what it tasted like: a really high-end, juicy, perfect, fat hot dog. I love that it had an outter casing with snap!

$3 pint and a Rosamunde sausage? What a way to start a Friday night!


North Coast Brewing Company - Fort Bragg

2/5 stars

Not really impressed with the beer. I tried the Blue Star Wheat but it was un-exciting. Not enough fruit aromas. The bf has always loved the Old Rasputin and tried the Old Stout for the first time and really liked that, too. Go with those if you like dark. Ton of flavor.

Didn't eat the food, service was really slow.


Mendocino Village Inn - Mendocino (closed)

2/5 stars

THE INN: This property is owned by the MacCallum House. If I ever vacation to Mendocino again, I think I'd rather stay at one of the cottages or at the main MacCallum house. The Inn was really old and kinda quiet and spooky at night. The garden was also not as well maintained as the main house's garden.

THE ROOM: Clean, but really old and shabby. I hated the sink and the shower was tiny. The carpet also needs to be replaced. The highlight was most definitely the jetted tub big enough for two comfortably. The fireplace was a plus, but they forgot our matches! So, in the middle of the cold night, we had to go back to the main house. Luckily, the restaurant staff was cleaning up, so we were able to ask for matches. If the restaurant had been closed, we would've been out of luck. There were no stores open past 11PM and the Village Inn doesn't have a front desk. The front desk at the main house was also closed for the night. Round the clock service would've been nice - especially for this price! At $275 a night, I'd say the Mendocino Village Inn was way over-priced.

THE FOOD: Two $7 tokens came with our room. They can be used from 5PM to 9PM. We stopped in to use our tokens for drinks - sat in the cozy parlor. If it was snowing outside, it would've been a picture-perfect setting. Hot, locally made apple cider with brandy if you please! Breakfast also came with the price of the room. It was really fresh and well done. I had the breakfast burrito and the ground, housemade sausage was tasty. A fresh-squeezed mimosa also came with the meal. We lucked out when it came to the weather and were able to enjoy our breakfast out on the sunny porch overlooking the greenery.


La Petite Rive - Little River (closed)

5/5 stars

An elegant 5-course meal for $35???

La Petite Rive proves that all you need for affordable fine dining is local produce and a few table-clothed tables.

Amuse Bouche: a generous cut of filet mignon, stuffed with dried apricots and blue cheese, served with a glass of red wine to compliment the beef

I could've eaten a whole steak of this. The filet was incredibly tender and I don't normally like blue cheese, but the hint of it went with the beef and sweet, dried fruit really well. An exciting way to start the meal. We knew after the first bite that the rest of the courses were going to be delicious.

Soup: Mushroom and Red Peppers

The soup was pureed and creamy, with a hint of curry. It was a touch too salty, but it was certainly cozy in a bowl.

Salad: Red-leaf lettuce with a citrus vinagrette

The weakest part of the meal. The greens were fresh and the dressing was refreshing, but I wasn't a fan of the vinagrette (too sour). The salad was also overly wet.

Palate Cleanser: Fresh raspberry sorbet with a lemon crust

It was sweet, tart, homemade - the perfect palate cleanser.

Entree: Roasted Duck with a ginger, blackberry sauce

I don't normally like duck prepared the French or American way because it can be too dry or game-y. But after reading the reviews, it was clear that the duck was La Petite Rive's signature dish so I just had to try it. I also have a weakness for berry reductions.

Again, I go back to gawk at the price. $35 for half a duck plus all of the above?! Wow. The duck was mostly lean, with a delicious crispy skin. Not at all game-y. The sauce had a great balance of ginger and blackberry and didn't overpower the unique flavor of duck. It was great and I had a ton for leftovers.

IN A MOUTHFUL: La Petite Rive is a dream restaurant. Intimate, caring, with an efficient staff and a talented chef who supports his community by buying local produce. Call ahead and cross your fingers that you'll get a table, there are only 7 available. I'd also recommend the 8PM seating so you don't feel rushed to finish.


Anderson Valley Brewing Company - Boonville

5/5 stars


Died of the cuteness so.many.times.

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. doesn't serve food. You should know that right off the bat. And if you're going, you should totally do the laid-back tour for $5, because it includes 2 free tastings. The other thing you should know is that their Summer Soltice beer is cool, creamy goodness. And finally, you should know that UNFORTUNATELY, the 8-week old puppies (Flex and Knuckles) will probably not be tiny, wiggly, melt-your-heart 8-week-old puppies forever. So, you should go right.now.


Xanh Restaurant - Mountain View

1/5 stars

When the only decent thing is the dipping sauce, something is very wrong.

Been wanting to try this place for awhile, so we stopped by for Happy Hour and was SO disappointed, we left to hit up Cascal's down the street.

My mojito was incredibly bland and weak! The garlic noodles were BORING BORING BORING!! It was basically just spaghetti noodles stir-fried in dark soy sauce and served with some fried onions and parmesan. Definitely not enough garlic or anything exciting. Strait's garlic noodles are so much more superior than Xanh's noodles. And for $8 - it was a TOTAL rip-off!

We also ordered one of the rolls and the only good thing about the kobe roll was the dipping sauce. Kobe is supposed to melt in your mouth. Xanh's "Kobe" was chewy and flavor-less. The meat to noodles to lettuce ratio was also off.

The service was pretty much non-existent. We finished our appetizers and drinks and were going to order more. So we waited for our waitress. Five. Ten. Fifteen minutes later and still no waitress, so we gave up and went to Cascal's. Their cocktails, food, and service are 100x better.

Remind me to NEVER go to a pretentious, Americanized, *we have to add dry ice to our dishes to make them appear awesome* Vietnamese restaurant ever again.


Zuni Café - San Francisco

5/5 stars


For years, I've been reading about Zuni in Gourmet magazine. "The chicken! The burger! The fries!" the food critics would shout from the rooftops.

After RENT (which was so awesome), we decided to see if we could get into Zuni without a reservation. Yeah, we totally did and we didn't even have to wait!

We ordered the heirloom tomato and arugula salad, the shoestring fries, and the chicken!

The salad was really refreshing - with an extremely light, flavorful olive oil. The shoestring fries were fried in peanut oil and salted juuust right. Oh, and I LOVE homemade ketchup!

Okay, so was the $50 chicken that took an hour to make worth it?

Wow. Yes. I mean, I think everyone should order it for the experience. And then, just be really, really happy because it's, well, the most perfectly cooked chicken you will ever have. It's melt-in-your-mouth juicy, brined in salt for 24 hours but not salty, and the bread salad is where the wow factor comes in. The best stuffing ever - vinegar-y, crunchy, moist, sprinkled with pine nuts and currants. I want to figure out how to make it for Thanksgiving.

Service was polite, but aloof and the mojito was bland, but those are really the only cons. Sure, $50 is a ton of money for chicken, but you can feed 3-4 people with it.


Toronado - San Francisco

5/5 stars

I wish I had a neighborhood bar like this in the South Bay!

Pints were only $3 during Happy Hour and there were at least 20 beers on tap (from around California and Europe).

I had a peche (peach) beer and a hefeweizen from Belgium. The peach beer was very peachy, but tart. The hefe was refreshing and easy to drink, with a slightly fruity finish. They were both served in their appropriate glasses!

The bartenders were super chill and nice (will give you recommendations if you ask), the Red Sox were playing on the flat screen, and ... *best part ever* ... Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door!

Brats, beer, and baseball? Best Friday things.


South Pine Cafe - Nevada City

4/5 stars

Pear cider mimosa? How about an olallieberry one? and lobster on the menu?

Hello, Sunday brunch.

PROS: fresh food, creative menu, super friendly service, BEST HOMEMADE BREAKFAST SAUSAGE PATTY KNOWN TO MAN

CONS: slightly pricey, toast can be overbuttered, expect to wait!


Monk’s Cafe - Philadelphia

4/5 stars

The bf LOVES beer. He's taught me a lot and has definitely expanded my palate in regards to beer. So when we were in Philly for a biz trip and learned about Monk's, we had to make a stop. According to "All About Beer Magazine," Monk's is one of the top 10 places in the world to have a beer before you die. That's serious high praise. Monk's is a serious beerlover's haven.

We arrived around lunchtime and stayed for about two hours. We didn't have to wait for a table and we didn't feel rushed.

The beer selection was astounding. I've only seen more choices in Belgium itself.

For food, we ordered the mussels & frites (one was in a standard, white wine broth and the other was cooked with bacon). Unfortunately, they were both bland and didn't taste super fresh. The frites were limp and got cold fairly quickly.

I wouldn't come here for dinner, but I'd ordered something to go with the beer (beer tastes better when you have something to munch on IMO). Take Monk's for what it is: a place where you can get beer you can't get anywhere else and you won't be disappointed.

If you're not a beer drinker: this is a GREAT place for you to learn/find something you'll like since they have so much stuff. They have beer that doesn't taste like beer.


BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse - Cupertino

4/5 stars

I don't normally review chains but ...

When my hole-in-the-walls are closed. When San Francisco is too far away. When the beau and I want "know the menu/know what we're going to get" and a GOOD BEER LIST, we go here. We've started to fall back on BJ's so often, it's kinda grown on us. We kinda heart it.

++ They've got a more than decent beer list - with a whole page of Belgiums. I LOVE their berry cider and Jeremiah Red combination. They compliment each other so well.

++ Solid food! If you don't know what you want to eat, but at least know you want American food, this place is great. My favorites: chili (it's made with beer ... how can you can go wrong?), the Santa Fe salad with shrimp, their burgers, the California chicken sandwich, the steak cut fries, the buffalo wings (fried and drizzled with mild hot sauce), their HUGE baked potatoes (where else can you order a baked potato as a meal?), the fresh tortilla chips and fire roasted salsa, and their hot-outta-the-oven pizookies (deep dish cookie topped with ice cream).

++ The service is always friendly, but sometimes, it's awesome. The other night we tipped almost 25% - I think her name was Jackie - she was so fast, generous, and attentive.

Minuses: Being the only brewery (and the only restaurant open past midnight) in Cupertino, the wait can be awful (45+ min). Parking is a PAIN. I don't like being forced to valet. Also, sometimes, the service can be really slow.


Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery - Moss Landing

5/5 stars


I'd seriously eat here every week if I could.

Wait! What's stopping me??

After a fun day @ the Salinas Air Show (omg-Blue-Angels-are-so-l33t-omg), the beau and I stopped here for dinner. They added a bar and we were super lucky to snag the last two seats. This place was busy before but now it's CRAZY BUSY because Phil's delicious cioppino was featured on Bobby Flay's Throwdown. Moss Landing used to be MY secret (!!!) but I'm glad Phil's getting the business he deserves.

The bartenders, John and Bernardo, were, hands-down, awesome guys. They were super friendly, laid-back, and oh-so-sweet. Fantastic service. Right when they heard that I was ordering the cioppino, they recommended a syrah to go with it. Recommended as in: they poured me half a glass to try. Then ... they put the entire, freshly-opened bottle down and left it there. When I told them that they were right (the syrah was dry with a mildly sweet, berry finish that complimented the zesty, seafood-Heaven cioppino), they kept re-filling my glass all night long and only charged me for one glass in the end! They sure make you feel welcome.

The cioppino was magical as always. They aren't skimpy on the seafood and I seriously could just drink the broth and be blissed out.

Other pluses: the creamy Italian salad dressing, the garlic bread (to soak up the tomato-y goodness), and the fire-roasted artichoke (looove the aioli)!

After 4+ years, Phil's still rocks ... even with the extra crowd.


FOOD: fried oysters are the yum. sooo sweet! and I especially like how their fried seafood isn't more batter and oil than seafood. I ordered the mussels this time, swimming in a broth of white wine, lots of garlic, and tomatoes - for only half an order ($9.95), I was fed like a princess. That's what's greatastic about Phil's - reasonably priced, FRESH FRESH FRESH seafood.

their cioppino is pure crab, mussels, clams, scallops, squid, tomato-ey heaven. best in the west coast (possibly, IMHO, the world). I even bought half a gallon of this joy home for my mom. cioppino in a bucket! I was sooo happy!

ATMOSPHERE: crowded, loud, no frill's, family, seafood shack

IN A MOUTHFUL: Take a detour on your way to Monterey (ie. expensive tourist trap) and make a cioppino stop in Moss Landing. I promise it'll be worth it. This "doesn't look like much" tiny fishing town gots a big seafood heart and they know how to serve it right.


Honey’s Sit-N-Eat - Philadelphia

5/5 stars

Yelp, I don't know what I did before I met you. You make eating whilst travelling so much better.

I was in Philly for the weekend and I wasn't stuck dining at chains or tourist traps because I had my trusty iPhone and my trusty Yelp. It was Saturday and we needed brunch, STAT!

FOOD: Erm. I had a little too much free champagne to drink the night before so I needed something greasy so I ordered a custom omelette that was not only GENIUS and one of the TASTIEST OMELETTES EVER, but ... it was also the FATTIEST omelette ever and I probably hurted my heart. Oops.

I asked for pastrami and BOY, did I get pastrami. Half-a-pound of slightly sweet/maple, perfect pastrami. On top of my pastrami, there was a pile of sliced avocado, tomatoes, and ... *dramatic pause* Velveeta cheese. I've never been to a breakfast place that serves Velveeta before! This was one makes-your-tastebuds-water omelette.

I also ordered:

* orange juice - fresh-squeezed, delicious
* FRIED GREEN TOMATOES were soooo good, served with a side of homemade ranch
* a potato and onion latke - it was too fried, oily, and salty for me

ATMOSPHERE: Honey's was local, eclectic, laidback, homemade, and our waitress was super friendly, chatty, and tattoo'd. Thanks, Honey, for a great breakfast!


Roshambo - Sonoma (closed)

5/5 stars


My friends and I attended Roshambo's Annual Rock-Paper-Scissor competition and HAD A BLAST!

We met a bunch of awesome people (consensus is: people who drink Roshambo wines are the coolest people around), drank delicious wine, and busted out smooth rock-paper-scissor moves. There were crazy, fun costumes, friendly judges, a hot DJ, and fake money to place bets with. The bf even made it to the 3rd round (there were 4 in total, a little over $3000 was the grand prize).

I can't wait for 2010!


ATMOSPHERE: My kind of joint includes huge, iron bird cages, an old-school Ms. Pac-Man table-top arcade console, jr. high school gym lockers posing as wine racks, and wines with names like "Marry Me" and "Frank." It was love at first sight.

WINES: "Eccentric, solid, and slate" come to mind. Tasting fee was waived with wine purchase and we were so lucky - the bf got a whole case of their pinot noir for a mere $150!

POURER: Steve was the man - outgoing, knowledgeable, and super nice. I am JUST now showing an interest in wine and have so much to learn. I asked Steve totally basic questions and he made a newb like me feel 100% comfortable. This place is a must-go.

GOODIES: Roshambo is a winery for the laid-back, the biker, the punkster, and the awesome.


Tony Luke's - Philadelphia

5/5 stars

We said "Hello" to Philly with a cheesesteak, it was only fitting that we said good-bye with a cheesesteak as well. I picked Tony Luke's because he beat Bobby Flay's sandwich on Throwdown!

CHEESESTEAK: At least 4 inches longer and 20x tastier than my sandwich at Pat's. This was a hot, amazing work of sandwich art. I got it with whiz and brocolli rabe and piled on the dill pickles. It was so juicy, I was dripping all over the place. The whole package - quality/cut of meat, the bread, the cheese, the unique flavor of the rabe - was perfect. The bf ordered it hoagie style (lettuce, tomato, mayo) and the sharp cheddar was really good. Pat's may be the original, but Tony Luke's makes it so much better.

ATMOSPHERE: There was a long line - mostly baseball fans - but very limited outdoor seating. Service was nice and the "take-as-many-pickles-peppers-as-you'd-like" was convenient. Menu is super impressive: you can get chicken, pork and veal sandwiches, and breakfast, too!


Morimoto - Philadelphia

5/5 stars

For years I've watched Morimoto kick culinary butt on Iron Chef. So when I learned that his restaurant was based in Philly, I was super excited to make a reservation. So how was dinner you ask? Well, it freakin' kicked culinary butt.

I was a little hesitant about ordering the Omakase (the tasting menu) because I'm not a fan of raw fish, but I really wanted to order the Omakase because I wanted to experience Morimoto's talent and depth. When I asked the waiter if I could do the tasting menu sans sashimi, his answer was a confident, "Don't worry, I'll take care of you." And boy, did he ever. The lesson here: if you're going to be dining at an Iron Chef's restaurant, trust the Iron Chef and his staff completely.

The bf and I went with the $120 menu (there was also an $80 menu) because we wanted "the higher quality ingredients." Yes, the lobster and the kobe beef were worth the extra $40.

1st course
mine: a HUGE chunk of fresh snow crab mixed with crunchy fried scallions and topped with buttery avocado (you know how much work it takes to retrieve that much crab meat from a crab?)
the bf: tuna tartare + caviar (his favorite dish of the night)

2nd course
mine: kumamoto oyster tempura with 3 sauces: japanese salsa, ceviche (it was amazing - green, fresh, lime-intense - my favorite), and thai fish sauce
the bf: raw, kumamoto oysters with the above 3 sauces

3rd course: seared scallops for the both of us (definitely the highlight of the night - I can't stop thinking about this dish!! the scallops were sliced thin and were so delicate and fresh, but it was the sauce that blew us away ... the most perfect sauce that ever was made!!!!)

4th course:
mine: seared sashimi microgreen salad (least favorite dish of the night)
the bf: sashimi microgreen salad

home-made berry/vinegar soda to cleanse our palette ... this is where we learned that dinner was going to be 8 courses! We actually thought it was going to be 5 or 7 ... what a pleasant, belly-bustin' surprise!

5th course: Lobster 'Epice for the both of us - loved it, especially the chive creme fraiche

6th course: melt-in-your-mouth Kobe steak - really, really loved it, especially since I saved some of my lobster to eat with my Kobe ... can we say decadent??

7th course:
mine: the best, darn California rolls that ever existed (chock full of snow crab, avocado, cucumber, and black sesame seeds - Morimoto didn't even have the need to use any mayo)
the bf: nigiri that rivaled the nigiri he had in Japan

8th course: green tea tiramisu - at first, I was a little wary/disappointed because I don't like green tea BUT it didn't taste like green tea at all! It had a white chocolate bottom and a green tea caramel sauce and it was really light and refreshing and COMPLETELY cleansed our mouth - magic!

Drinks: I don't think you can go wrong with any of the cocktails - I ordered the lychee cosmo and it was really good! The bf ordered the Morimoto Rogue beer tasting and loved it.

Overall: We couldn't stop smiling. We smiled while we ate. We smiled while we chewed. We smiled while we swallowed and drank and before, after, and in-between courses. Everything was delicate.

ATMOSPHERE: Um ... this place is really, really cool. I love the hip, artsy, long, narrow, clean white+changing colors design of the restaurant. The ceiling is made of wood and is in the shape of a wave of water. The chairs ... they are the most comfortable restaurant chairs ever. Since you're going to spend at least 2 hours dining, comfy seats are a major plus. And the service is top-notch. *Applause*