Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Positano eats: La Sponda

Positano couldn't be prettier. I've wanted to go to this visually stunning place ever since Only You with Robert Downey Jr (*swoon*). Positano was planned, La Sponda (Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30, 84017 Positano SA, Italy), on the other hand, was not.

That is... until I saw this photo on Instagram and just had to have it (I guess I eat with my eyes first): 

Not only was the spaghetti vongole as delicious as it was pretty, the restaurant itself was the most beautiful restaurant hubby and I have ever been to. It was also the only Michelin-starred restaurant we went to in Italy.

Ask to sit outside if you can, where you'll overlook this:

Everything was perfect: the attentive service, the well-executed food, the gorgeous view. Even the dinnerware was whimsical. But my favoritefavorite part was this happy little champagne cart that a jolly man pushed around. I mean, how can you not be jolly pushing around a cart like this:

Of course we had to get something from the cart:

Pink just felt like the right color for a celebration at La Sponda. It went well with my vongole, hubby's John Dory, and this silky eggplant:

La Sponda is not easy to get to, because Positano is not easy to get to, but I think... that's what makes them even more magical. You count your blessings here. 

Oh, and the olive oil is stunning. 

Rome eats: Pane & Vino

I really like sandwiches. But I loooooooooooooooooooooove porchetta sandwiches. I literally hunted down porchetta sandwiches when we were in Italy. One of the best eats near the Colosseum is Pane & Vino (Via Ostilia, 10, 00184).

It's a teeny tiny shop with a very friendly, English-speaking owner. His porchetta is delivered fresh every morning. Get the special porchetta with everything and just... eat in silence. And, if you're like me, grin like a fool.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rome eats: Hostaria Romana

You want to eat with locals? You want to eat trippa alla romana? You want a simple, unfussy, non-touristy place to rest your feet after playing tourist? Eat here: Hostaria Romana (via del Boccaccio, 1, 00187).

They're known for their fish and their carbonara, but we went bucatini amatriciana, fettuccine with mushrooms, and trippa alla romana. The food was cozy, peasant-like. Bonus: the waiters gift you little plates of delicious (albeit salty) things, like beans, croquettes, and even pasta (!), while you wait for your dinner. We got lucky and were seated by the windows (make reservations) and got to see Roma grow dark.

You know what the perfect thing to do after dinner at Hostaria Romana is? Walk to the Trevi to see it glow: 

Rome eats: La Prosciutteria Trevi

You like pig, wine, and rock n' roll? Welcome to La Prosciutteria Trevi (Via della Panetteria, 34A, 00187).

This place is run by some bad-ass ladies who build a mean board. Said board is made of olive wood and every inch of it is covered with Italian goodies: meat, cheese, grilled veggies, more meat, and bruschetta.

The music is fun, the place is itty bitty, and the wine is gooood. Try the lambrusco.  It's not sweet at all, but dry, fizzy, and berrylicious. It goes perfectly with the board. By the way, the one that we ordered was a medium and it was already over 2 feet long. Yeah, it comes in bigger sizes. Have fun 😉!

I recommend going here when Roma is napping (i.e., not at lunchtime and not at dinnertime). 

Rome eats: Taverna Trilussa

Do you get get giddy when your dinner is served in the pan it was cooked in? Because I do. I don't need any plates, dude. Just give me that steaming hot pan of magic pasta water tossed with cheese and freshly ground black pepper!

Taverna Trilussa (via del Politeama, 23/25, 00153 Roma, Italy) is a bustling bistro in hip Trastevere. Reservations are a must. They have a romantic outdoor area, but we sat inside, past the ham stumps. 

It seems like every other restaurant in Roma is known for their charcuterie. We ordered the prosciutto with creamy, dreamy mozzarella di bufala and the sampler. 

And if you're the kind of person who likes to put an egg on it, here's some #yolkporn for you: 

That's bombolotti (mezze maniche) alla carbonara with glistening ridges and a happy pool of yolk at the bottom of the bowl. Yum-o. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rome eats: Roscioli

Ah, Rome. Where the pasta is almost too al dente, almost too salty, and for sure bleeping delicious. You'll eat rustic pasta with just pecorino and ground black pepper doused in the pasta's own water and you'll say "Please, sir. I want some more."

#1 on the list is Roscioli (via dei Giubbonari, 21/22, 00186 Roma, Italy). I can't ever imagine traveling to Italy and not eating here.

Roscioli was so tasty, it was the only restaurant we went to twice during our 14-day vacation. You read any foodie list on Rome and Roscioli is at the top of the pack. Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, me: we all say go faster. Actually, first you must make reservations. The deli moonlighting as a restaurant is tiny, with less than 20 tables. If you can, ask to sit in Daniel's section. He's charming and knows his prosecco, champagne, and sparkling wine. And he doesn't try to sell you the 100 Euro bottle. Instead, he finds you a small producer that's in your budget and somehow nails your taste buds with just one look.

I studied the menu months before our trip and already knew what I wanted to order before we sat down.

Must order: La matriciana o amatriciana (bombolotto paffuto pasta tossed with campanian region tomato sauce, crispy pig cheek, and roman pecorino). It tasted like it had heavy cream, without the heaviness. I'm not sure how they sauced each individual pasta so perfectly without making it saucy, but this was so delicious, I wanted to order it again for dessert. It was in the top 3 things I ate in Italy.

Do you know what echire butter demi-sel is? Yeah, I didn't either. Then I ate it and now I want it forever in my life. The burro e parmigian "Francescana" is short pasta rigatone with echire butter demi-sel, 3 kinds of parmesan cheese made from red cow (aged 36 mos), bruna alpine (aged 30 mos), and classic reggiano hills (aged 36 mos). Wait until you see the pool of butter at the bottom of the bowl. I dare you not to squeal.

Burrata con perle di tartufo (burrata cheese from andria with winter black truffle pearls) + selezione di prosciutti italiana = party in your mouth. If you can, travel to Italy in October. Two words: truffle season.

This is real carbonara (large spaghetti tossed with crispy pork cheek, malaysian black pepper, paolo parisi eggs, and roman pecorino). It's decadent, but not heavy at all. Eating it makes you feel giddy and naughty. Slurp it like you slurp ramen.

And finally, if Rome had a pasta mascot, it'd be cacio e pepe (fresh pasta with roman pecorino, cacio from moliterno, pecorino di fossa from sogliano del rubicone, and mayaysian black pepper). This is adulting. With adult mac n' cheese. Oh, and bubbles (another small producer). Cin cin!

The Italy Series

Hubby and I celebrated 5 years of bliss with an epic trip to Italy. It took about a year of planning, but we were rewarded with a flawlessly delicious 14 days in Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Tuscany. Do you know how many food articles, Instagram photos, Mario Batali, Eater lists, Tripadvisor reviews, and Rick Steves I had to sift through to make sure that every single meal we ate and every hotel we stayed at was The Best? A bajillion.

So, for anyone who wants to vacation in the Tastiest Country in the World, look for my upcoming posts. I already did the legwork and traveling for you. I'll start with the food, because that's the most fun 😍

The Colosseum is kinda a big deal

Have you seen Robert Downey Jr. in Only You? You go do that and you'll want to go to Positano, too

Capri, we're kinda in love with you

Tuscany is so beautiful, it must not be real

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Alexander's Steakhouse - Cupertino

3.5/5 stars

We tried the new location tonight!

I think I'll always miss the old, cozy, candle-lit location, but the new Alexander's is bright, airy, and modern. They not only have a new space, but we met new-to-us Justin & Ryan. Great guys. Great mixologists. Justin's Father Thyme (Michters rye, velvet falernum, St. Germain, lime & fresh thyme) and Weekday Retreat (Selvarey rum, velvet falernum, yuzu, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and a black rum float) were delicious. If you want something a bit more sophisticated (and hella STRONG), his barrel-aged 007 is smooth and oak-y. I couldn't NOT order his namesake even though the drink was more my hubby's style than mine. Happy to say that Max (the somm) is still there and he gave my family a tour, including the cellar.

My mom thought the hamachi shots were salty and I thought the cheese plate was perfect. The wagyu sliders were indulgent and the prime rib, though not medium-rare like I asked, was yummy. And honestly a steal at $40.

This place is still Alexander's and yet... it isn't. If you used to be a regular at the old location, you'll know what I mean. If you're new to Alexander's, you'll still have a nice time.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Forthright Oyster Bar & Kitchen - Campbell

3.5/5 stars

I want to thank The Table owners for giving us South Bay people multiple places to drink. And to drink well. Thank you, Justin, Lane, Eric (or is it Erik?), and, of course, Jimmy. 
Jimmy, who runs the Forthright like it's his baby. This guy has got mad skills and dedication.

Jimmy is the reason why Forthright Oyster Bar & Kitchen is worth visiting. The soft-shell crab and cinnamon biscuits don't hurt either. It's reallyreally hard to find soft-shell crab around here and they fried it and seasoned it perfectly. And the cinnamon biscuits with peaches and vanilla ice cream just screamed perfect summer.

The only cons: the oysters we had didn't taste fresh and the mignonette needed work. Dishes are on the pricier side. If I had to pick, I'd rather go to The Table.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen - Mountain View

5/5 stars

I loved everything I slurped here!

The curry & rice was the best I've had in the South Bay. The red curry was not too salty. It was yummy and flavorful with bits of meat and went perfectly with the sticky, Japanese rice. The pickled radish added a nice crunch.

And I lovedlovedloved my Tsukemen (dipping noodles). It was delicious AND fun to eat! It came with a pile of cold ramen noodles, sliced pork, an egg, bean sprouts, green onions, and mushrooms. You warm the noodles by dipping them in a deep bowl of broth that was hot and spicy. Yum-o.

I've never had Tsukemen before, but I'm in love with the concept!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Eureka! - Cupertino

3/5 stars

New restaurants are popping up all over Cupertino! Growing up here, there was only BJ's. Now Lazy Dog, Alexander's, and Eureka are right next door to each other. It's madness!

Took my parents here for Happy Hour.

Cocktails: The Industry (tequila, pineapple, ginger, orange & cilantro) was very good, but def needed more tequila. The Sour was pretty standard, but bonus: real maraschino cherries! Cocktails were a step up from what you'd get at BJ's or Yard House, but were made pretty weak. I wouldn't order them again. Stick with the beers.

Food: The corn dogs with the porter mustard & glazed brussel sprouts were the winners, but I wouldn't order the following again: the mussels were NOT fresh at all (and too salty) and the nachos were super sparse (i.e., it needed more stuff on it so you didn't feel like you were just eating tortilla chips).

Honestly, if I had to pick, I'd rather go to Lazy Dog. I think their food is better.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Eight Bridges Brewing - Livermore

4/5 stars

GIANT Jenga! That's what we saw right when we walked through the door. How can a place not be awesome with giant Jenga? And indoor cornhole? And Yahtzee? AND PUPPIES?!

Puppies and beer. It's just... it's just... it's fluffy, hoppy awesomeness.

Oh, and have you ever heard a tower of giant Jenga blocks fall? It's quite impressive. Like thunder in a bottle.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

3 Steves Winery - Livermore

3/5 stars

3 Steves was super friendly, but the wine wasn't as tasty as what we'd get in Sonoma or Healdsburg. I'm also not usually a fan of non-champagne houses making champagne... it's not easy! There was a brut, white wine blend (not bad), chardonnay, three cabs blend, chilean blend (this was pretty good), younger vine zin, "Three Brunettes" blend, merlot, cab franc, cab sauv, and a port. Even though the wines weren't our style, we still enjoyed the $10 tasting and sitting outside, breathing in the clean air and watching the hawks fly across the green hills...

A nice place to celebrate Valentine's Day :)

Altamont Beer Works - Livermore

4/5 stars

Altamont was FUN. Very chill with attentive staff despite the crowd. We found a nice spot at the bar and chatted with regulars while sipping super hoppy beer. We tried the Hella Lite, Rich Mahogany, Shot Away IPA, New Kids on the Hops, Ganja Juice, and the Something New stout. Hoppy is not my style, but the Ganja is worth a try. I'd go back for the Berry White: a summer wheat/cream ale brewed with pale malt and white wheat; finished with natural blackberries...

Wente Vineyards - Livermore

2/5 stars

Valentine's Day weekend, hubby and I decided to discover Livermore. Did you know Livermore has craft breweries? Did you know Livermore has wineries?


So we started our adventure with Wente. It. Was. Packed! I think the staff was overwhelmed. We were overwhelmed. So instead of doing a tasting, we escaped the crowds and ordered 2 glasses of wine (the sauvignon blanc and the riesling) and walked the property. It was HUGE. Very mission-style. Unfortunately, the white wine was served warm (ick) and was either bland (the sauv blanc) or syrupy sweet (the riesling).

We left uninspired...


Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino - St. Helena

5/5 stars

This place was very special. And, it was FUN.

Super friendly staff.


Laid-back atmosphere.

Bruschetta food truck.

We accidentally "crashed" the rose of grenache launch party. All our wine was paired with yummy snacks. It is, HANDS DOWN, the BEST rose I've ever had. If you think you don't like rose, you should try this "ballet slipper" rose. It's extremely lovely and the prettiest pink. Bright, with aromas of pear, mandarin, and watermelon Jolly Rancher, I am kicking myself for not buying another bottle. We're just going to have to go back.

Laura, the winemaker, spent time with us and we enjoyed speaking to her. She speaks like a teacher. She's wonderful.

We went home with half a case! Including the rose, the gewuztraminer (dry! which is the best way to have gewuzt so it's not too syrupy sweet), and the sauvignon blanc (a treat of peach)! We also tried the prochetta bruschetta and the arancini. The bruschetta (Long and Bailey Farms pig, garden herbs, red onion, aioli, and parmesan) was awesome, but the honeynut squash arancini stole the show. It tasted like macaroni and cheese! We would've ordered more if we didn't have dinner reservations at Ad Hoc ;)

Honestly, I would've signed up to be a club member if we lived closer to attend the parties!

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Bywater - Los Gatos

5/5 stars

I am obsessed with this place. 

Since January, if anyone asks me where I want to eat or where they should eat or where their mom should eat... I say TheBywaterTheBywaterTheBywater!!!

The first time we went for my birthday and I was *so* giddy, I want to take this moment to thank the staff for putting up with me. I mean, I literally squealed like a fangirl when David Kinch stood by my seat at the bar. Squealed. Like. A. Pig.

I think the Birthday Gods were kind because we found parking right away and there was NO LINE! Woo! 

Right when we entered, we were ushered to an empty spot near the bar with a great view of the kitchen. We started with half a dozen oysters (my favorites are from St. Simone), and a Hurricane for me (jamaican rum blend, passion fruit, campari, lemon) and a Sazerac for him (rye, armagnac, hermsaint, peychaud's bitters, gomme). Hubby said it was the best Sazerac he's ever had.

Actually, everything you drink at The Bywater will be the best you've ever had. Reason: Tin Roof Drinking Company. Claire & Chad are not rising stars in the cocktail scene, they ARE the stars. They've created a menu highlighting New Orleans ingredients, dazzle, and idiosyncrasies. Yes, they're talented, but they are also super humble and thoughtful. Claire spoiled us and spent the evening talking to us. I had such a wonderful time because of her. She even made me a birthday cocktail: tequila, lemon juice, honey, herbsaint, sparkling cava, and the fluffiest egg whites ever.

We also had the:

PRAH-LEEN (bourbon, pecan, banana & lime): tastes like pie

Frappé (herbsaint, apple & lime): this has a very distinct taste (anise) and if you want a cocktail you've probably never tasted before, get this one

Irish Channel (whisky, cognac, nitro cold brew coffee, cynar & spice mix): it goes really well with the butterscotch pudding

Shrimp Po' Boy: BEST SANDWICH IN THE BAY AREA (possibly the world)

Red Beans & Rice: succulent, tastes like bacon

Butterscotch Pudding: I'm christinepuddin and I adore pudding

Now you wanna hear about my other visits here? (I told you I was obsessed.) I'll keep it short and just tell you that we were spoiled silly by the awesome Jeremy & Nikki. This is what we had:

West Indy Sour (cabernet wine, cognac, all-spice dram & lime) 

No Mayo (gin, aperol, St-Germain, lime & champagne)

3 Dots and a Dash (2 types of rum, falernum, lime, all-spice dram, bitters, honey, oj, and tiki love)

The Maguey Sour (the only mezcal I've ever liked, orgeat, lemon, egg white & benedictine)

And because it was almost-Valentine's Day (and because it's SO hard to get): Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year... and in case you were wondering, hubby said that Pappy wasn't just hype ;)