Thursday, January 14, 2016

Joya Restaurant & Lounge - Palo Alto

2/5 stars

Teeter-tottered between 2-3 stars... how about a 2.9?

Truth is, Cascal's is way better than this place. First off, the cocktails were either too sweet or quite plain. The too sweet included the Joya Hibiscus Paloma (milagro silver tequila, hibiscus syrup, grapefruit, aperol, fresh lime) and the Sparkling Pear-rection (grey goose pear vodka, st. germain, rosemary, sparkling rose cava). The paloma was heavy on the hibiscus and there should've been more grapefruit. It was a paloma after all. And the white peach sangria was bland.

Overall, the food was pretty good, but, again, I prefer Cascal's tapas. The paella came with an impressive bunch of seafood, but lacked Cascal's tastiness. I wouldn't order the burgers again, but I'd vouch for the scallops (butternut squash-goat cheese purée, grilled corn, dino kale, pioppini mushrooms, garlic-parsley lemon butter) and the papas bravas (pimenton, garlic aïoli).

The pros: nice place to lounge. It's a lot more spacious than Cascal's. And the service was good. And fried Oreos. Because. Fried Oreos. (I liked them better than the churros. They were light and fluffy, but needed more cinnamon sugar. Disneyland's churros are the best.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Hog & Rocks - San Francisco

4/5 stars

Hog and Rocks was fantabulous. Btw, did you know that fantabulous was an actual word in an actual dictionary?

Hog & Rocks has been on my SF-must list since I discovered that Hog Island oysters were, but I had no idea they were right across the street from Lazy Bear! Hubby and I arrived 30 mins early to our Lazy Bear reservations and instead of standing outside in the cold and rain, we decided to "just go look at Hog & Rocks' menu." Once inside, I was delighted to learn that it was HAPPY HOUR. Magic words.

We only had 30 mins-ish, so we had to drink and go, but omg, was it memorable. First off, the folks there were memorable. The hostess was nice and the bartender was very friendly and very good at what he does.

Due to our time constraints, we, unfortunately, did not have time to order any hog (a shame, I know), but we got some rocks. Hammersely (Washington) to be exact. They were only $1 because it was Happy Hour and they were meaty, creamy, and mineral-y AND what is it about mignonettes? I adore mignonettes.

To drink, I wanted something light so I got the Spiced Pear Whiskey Bellini (pear infused bourbon, spiced pear liqueur, lemon, cava). It was lovely. I chugged it. Hubby got the Arbequina (olive oil washed gin, gran classico, dolin blanc).

I wish we had time to linger, but we had tickets, so off we went into the night!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Cavalier - San Francisco

3/5 stars

Christmas shopping date with my mama! We wanted to stay close to Macy's and I was tickled pink to find that The Cavalier was within walking distance. Yeeess, cocktails and a Marlowe burger coming right up!

The place was really cute and cozy. I liked the decor. Who doesn't like red-leather booths? It *felt* like a swanky brasserie! Service was nice enough.

I've been following Anna Weinberg on Instagram and drooling over The Cavalier's gorgeous cocktails so I couldn't wait to order the Bramble. Unfortunately, my Bramble didn't look anything like what she posted:



It was skillfully constructed, but didn't blow me away. My mom's Pencillin was really smoky with its Great King's St. scotch, honey syrup, ginger juice, and lemon. She said it tasted better with food.

The food was really solid. We got the Shakshuka and the famous Marlowe burger. I adored the Shakshuka. I've never had it before. Egg yolk + spicy tomato sauce = dreamy. Dip, dip, dip with the toasted baguette.

Unfortunately, the Marlowe burger didn't meet my expectations. Maybe they were too high. It was good, not great. Certainly not the best burger in SF. It could've been my fault. I made the mistake of ordering it medium-rare and it came out more rare/more cool than I prefer. But no matter, the thrice-cooked chips were just the right amount of crisp. I guess thrice does the trick. Yummy dipped in the horseradish aioli. Do you like aioli more than mayo? I can't decide.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Naschmarkt Restaurant - Campbell

5/5 stars

This place is unreal.

Naschmarkt is really quite perfect. The owners remember you and make you feel like family. And the mixologists are truly some of the best in the Bay Area, and they are more than willing to make me something *amazing* off-menu. For that, I am thankful :)

Hubby and I celebrated Christmas early with date night here. They were serving my FAVORITEFAVORITE soup (Naschmarkt's perfect garlic soup)

and my new favorite pasta (fresh tagliatelle pasta with braised beef shin, pearl onions, escarole, shaved cremini mushrooms, bitter sweet chocolate and beef jus). The pasta is cooked in the beef jus and is a light tan colour, and is just heavenly. I could eat that pasta every day.

We were stuffed to the gills and couldn't fit in dessert, but we could not resist Alan's nog. His egg nog is the stuff that every kid and grown-up should ask for when sitting upon Santa's lap. It's thick, rich, and delicious. It's what egg nog is supposed to taste like. It's certainly a magical gift. (That and his guava-champagne cocktail. Zomg.) Make reservations here. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. I feel like I'm sharing a secret with you ;)

Naschmarkt is romantic and exceptionally executed. Bravo!


El Sinaloense - San Mateo

4/5 stars

We were originally going to take my visiting in-laws to Don Pico's. They live in NY and you know they don't have great Mexican in NY (compared to Cali). Don Pico's was my favorite Mexican restaurant when I worked in San Bruno, but the recent reviews told a sad story. Hubby and I decided to take a chance with El Sinaloense instead and it was exactly what we were looking for: family-friendly and tasty!

Hubby and I arrived about 15-20 minutes before his family. We checked in with the host and asked for a table for 6 before sitting at the bar with warm tortilla chips & good, spicy salsa. They served thin tortilla chips which are my favorite kind! We decided to share a pitcher of margarita ($26) and it was great fun! Not that artificial stuff. We ended up ordering 2 more after his famly arrived. The service, especially Mario, was warm too, albeit a bit slow. Mario even squeezed extra lime into my margarita for me :) I'm def a fan of this place now! It's small, with loud, Mexican music, and legit dishes.

The food was SUPER tasty! I ordered fajitas with shrimp, chicken, and steak and it came with flour tortillas, beans, rice, guac, and sour cream. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and the whole plate was deliciously seasoned. It could've used more shrimp... My family shared the shrimp & octopus ceviche as an appetizer (because El Sinaloense is supposedly known for their ceviche) and even though it was weird that it was served with a side of mayo, it worked. My hubby's molcajete was bubbling when it arrived at the table. It had a tasty sauce. Overall, I was very pleased with the food. Hit the spot!

It was great place to start Christmas break with my family :) Thank you, El Sinaloense!


Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers - Broken Arrow, OK

5/5 stars

We were only in Oklahoma for 3 nights, but we went to Freddy's 3 times... because Freddy's is AWESOME!

Truly one of my favorite burgers. It's certainly not gourmet or In n' Out, but it's the smush-iest. As in, they smush the heck out of their burgers so it's nice and thin. It's got a nice crust, but is still incredibly juicy. The cheese is ooey, gooey perfect. You take a bite of the burger and then wash it all down with some sweet tea and it's just delightful.

The frozen custard is like... a thick, creamy brick. Actually, they call it a "concrete." Anyway, I know bricks can't be creamy, but well... a frozen custard concrete from Freddy's just *is*. Just try it and you'll get it. I had mine with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff and I highly recommend that combination. I'm nuts about marshmallow fluff :)

Thank you, Pioneer Woman, for telling us about Freddy's!!!


Elote Cafe & Catering - Tulsa, OK

1/5 stars

I should've turned around and left as soon as I smelled this place. It sort of smells like rotting garbage...

1. My margarita was WAY WAY WAY too sweet!
2. The corn tamales were even sweeter than the margaritas! They tasted like dessert!
3. The elote tasted like it was previously frozen. The mayo was no bueno.
4. My father-in-law and I got horrible food poisioning...

Yelp fail.



Burke Williams Day Spa - Orange, CA

5/5 stars

Camille was, hands down, one of the best massage therapists I've ever had. She was very meticulous and worked long and hard on my knots. She did wonders to my back!

This Burke Williams was on the smaller, narrower side and I thought it was a bit odd that the lockers were right by the saunas. Not a lot of privacy for changing and stuff. But even though it was small, it had everything I needed: aromatherapy towels, razor blades, body lotion, face lotion with spf, and lots of fluffy towels.

The place was also decorated nicely for Christmas. I appreciated the fire, hot cider, lemonade, Christmas cookies, and magazines. Lots of comfy places to sit and rest your feet.

I felt extremely at ease!


Three Restaurant & Bar - San Mateo

2/5 stars

Meh. I really wanted to like this place, but I just can't rate this place 3 stars.

First off, our server clearly didn't want to be there. He was just going through the motions. He was also extremely uninformed. I asked him to recommend a cocktail made with one of the infused liquors on the chalkboard, but he just waved at the menu and told me to pick something from there. Then, when my cousin ordered an old fashioned and asked him what bourbons were available, he just gave us a blank stare. He didn't even know if they had Bulleit!

Unfortunately, it just never got better. The old fashioned tasted watered down. And the yolk in my egg sandwich was cooked through. A hard-boiled egg sandwich makes me a sad panda. Apparently if you want a nice, runny yolk, ya gotta ask. The bun wasn't toasted either. And, the sandwich didn't come with potatoes, fruit, or fries. Pretty expensive for just a mediocre sandwich.

And they moved us mid-brunch to another table because they needed our table for a large party.



Javi’s - Santa Ana

3/5 stars

Yeah, surprisingly yummy for airport food!

The chips reminded me of Chevys and I mean that in a good way. I love thin tortilla chips fresh from the fryer. The salsa is super spicy (pro), the margaritas were super weak (con). Another con: the service was fairly slow. Thankfully, we weren't in a rush to catch a flight. It would've been a major problem if we had been.

The steak in the tacos was cooked really well! And they were generous with the meat. It came with tomatillo salsa and guacamole. I also liked the fluffy, flavorful Spanish rice.

Expensive, but at least it was good airport food.


Napa Rose - Anaheim

5/5 stars

It's hard for me to a review a place like Napa Rose. It's just so darn special to me. The first time I ate there was when my guy proposed. To be honest, I remember our server, Wendy, SINGING TO US, but I can't remember what anything tasted like that night because of sheer gleefulness!! However, I certainly remembered every time after that :) We've been 5 more times since and it just keeps getting better.

The staff is outstanding: Chef Gloria, Chef Andhi (who has gifted me a lamb chop), David, Saucy, Kym, and Ryland. They're sunny, talented, and enchanting. Def Mickey Mouse material. Bonus: everyone there knows their wine.

My most recent meal there was just 5 days ago. We treated our parents to an early Christmas present. And gosh, did Chef Gloria deliver the treats! She made sure that I got things I've never had before. The standouts included:

* The amuse bouche! It was an extremely tasty sweet potato puree with creme fraiche, chives, and maple-glazed bacon. It was one of the best bites of the meal.

* A delicate sea bass with black garlic and baby scallops

* An intensely comforting pot of chicken n' dumplings that you just want to hug

* Being surprised with shaved white and black trufflestrufflestrufflestrufflestrufflestruffles :) It was an early Christmas gift from the Chef! I blushed like mad.

* The best hot chocolate in the world (no joke)

* My all-bubbles wine pairing :)

We had *so* much fun. Probably too much fun. Thank you for always making us feel so special, Napa Rose.


Omee.J Fusion Sushi Bar & Grill - Santa Clara

4/5 stars

Omee.J Fusion was excellent! First off, everyone was really nice. Second, the place is great for a date. Third, and the best part, their menu was super fun to read. It's huge and they had rolls with creative ingredients like potato chips and shredded coconut. Lots of fun sushi to choose from if you're into rolls.

We started with the Garlic Chicken Karaage and were surprised by how much chicken we got! Enough to feed 4 people! The portion size at Omee.J is extremely generous.

The chicken came with a tasty, spicy mayo and was fried perfectly. Not oily at all. Even though we filled up on the chicken, I also ordered the Crunch (crab meat and avocado inside, shrimp tempura and eel sauce outside) and the Shiitake Mushroom (shiitake mushroom and cucumber rolled in seaweed with sliced avocado and shiitake mushroom on top). The tempura was slightly sweet which was different, but in a pleasant way. And the Shiitake roll is a mushroom lover's dream roll. Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere!


La Victoria Taqueria - San Jose

5/5 stars

I finally made it to La Vic's! La Vic's is the kind of taqueria you hear about when first moving to the Bay Area. Their orange sauce is the stuff of legends and it certainly lived up to insanely high expectations. Seriously, what's in that stuff? Lard? It's the definition of mmm mmm mmm.

Instead of ordering mediocre, overpriced food at the Shark Tank, we got burritos to-go after our very first Sharks game. We somehow beat the late-night crowd and were in and out in 5 minutes. Score!

We came home happy with heavy carnitas and al pastor burritos. The al pastor was spicy! I didn't expect that. My favorite part was the flour tortilla that had been toasted on the flat top. I love it when taquerias do that. These are flour tortillas you can't get at the store!

Are flour tortillas greater than bread or vice versa?


The Rotunda - San Francisco

4/5 stars

I am a sucker for tea sandwiches. I could eat, like, a hundred of them. The problem is, you're never given a hundred :)

The ladies and I had reservations at 1:15 PM, but weren't seated until 2 PM. Usually I'd be annoyed, but this worked out for the best. We got an excellent table by the window overlooking the Christmas tree and the skating rink. Fills you with Christmas joy.

We started with drinks. I settled on a glass of the elegant, layered Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial, Epernay NV. All afternoon teas must start with bubbles IMO.

Before tea service, we were served a simple, yet delicious chicken consommé that warmed the soul and a hot popover with strawberry butter. That butter was one of the best parts of the tea service.

Next, came the three-tiered tray! Slightly salty scones that I used to spoon lemon curd into my mouth. Grapes, honeydew, and the piece de resistance: the tea sandwiches.

At The Rotunda, they're pretty good. My favorite was the roast beef + horseradish on rye. There was also an egg salad with bacon, the classic cucumber and cream cheese, and a chicken salad. There were also these tasty prosciutto roll-ups with walnuts. I usually don't like walnuts in things, but it went well with the thinly-sliced ham.

Desserts were average. The best ones were the fruit tart and the chocolate whoopie pie.

Our server Nick was lovely and the stained glass ceiling was even lovelier with the light shining through it.

This was definitely a treat.


Q Sushi - San Jose

5/5 stars

If anybody can build a castle made out of sushi, it's Chef Billy and Jackie.

Q Sushi is a SUSHI POP-UP in downtown San Jose. Talk about hidden gem. I adore pop-up restaurants because it's all about crazy-delcious food by crazy-talented chefs who are super passionate and driven.

Q Sushi didn't disappoint! It was the BEST sushi I've had in the Bay Area. And I'm not saying that lightly. You know how many sushi restaurants there are in the Bay Area? I bow down in reverence.

I don't think I can pick the best part. It could be how incredibly fresh everything is. The only place I've had fresher sushi is at the fish market in Tokyo. The salmon on the Lion King is sooo rich and good... maybe that's the best part. Or... it could be the fact that the terriyaki steak is made with RIB-EYE. I also liked how the chicken karaage wasn't oily at all.

Honestly though, the best part of Q is how freakin' innovative the sushi chef is. You NEED to get the Red Eclipse... it's like a sushi art sculpture! Everything is too jaw-dropping to eat. Almost.

Come! Live in my sushi castle with me!


The Standard, High Line - New York, NY

4/5 stars

The service at the hotel was one of the best parts. Terrell at the front desk was kind, out-of-his-way helpful, and a gentleman. Thank you, Terrell!

I got upgraded to a King with a huge, rectangular, container-ship-like bathtub. The bathtub was the best! The hotel even included bubble bath :) It was super nice being able to soak your feet after a long day of walking and exploring the city. It would be large enough for two. But you'd have to come here with someone you're comfortable showering in front of because the wall between the bathroom and the bedroom is glass.

The rooms were tiny and mostly clean (mine needed better vacuuming). I also thought it was strange that there weren't any electrical outlets near the bed or the desk/banquette bench area. This is a business hotel after all. More outlets, please. Other than that, I loved everything about this hotel: the bed (it was super duper comfortable), the tall windows, the many bars and restaurants open until 4 AM.

We had drinks at the Plaza and it was very relaxing. The servers there were nice and patient. We asked a bunch of questions, trying to understand the differences between the bars at the hotel. There are, like, 5 or something. The Plaza is pretty, like an outdoor garden. The perfect place to chill since it was VERY warm for October. Tip: the margarita was way better than the sangria.

Next, we tried drinks at the Standard Grill. Now they know how to make a good cocktail. If I had the time and the people to help me drink it, I would've gotten one of the $65 champagne punches. I settled on the Professor & Mary Ann (gin, strawberry-champagne shrub, lime, prosecco) and it was delicious. Unfortunately, the service here was aloof. The bartenders and servers at the Grill were more interested in flirting with each other than paying attention to us. I didn't try the food, but someone I was traveling with got some food to eat in their room and HATED it. Apparently the octopus didn't taste fresh at all (soft... mushy... super fishy-smelling). Yeah, octopus isn't supposed to taste like that. She also didn't like the marinated beets.

We also checked out the Top of the Standard. It was a nice rooftop bar, fantastic view, but we didn't stay. Not really our scene. We didn't make it to the Biergarten unfortunately. Next time :)


The Rum House - New York, NY

3/5 stars

It was our last night in NY and we wanted to do something fun so we decided on a piano bar. I yelped and found The Rum House. It wasn't bad! The drinks could use work, but our server was very nice (she's a cute, young woman with awesome, big, black hair).

We arrived 10 minutes before the music started and were able to snag the last two seats in front of the piano! Score!

I loved the pianist and the vocalist was flirty and fun. It was a very chill evening.

I had the Imperial Punch (el dorado white rum, pineapple, cinnamon, lime, angostura bitters, myer's dark rum float) and the Fair Maiden (brugal anejo rum, lime, mint, and cucumber). I can't remember having rum and cucumber before. It was a great idea! P.S. The Dark n' Stormy was on the too-sweet side.


The NoMad Bar - New York, NY

5/5 stars

I am in freakin' love.

I had ONE night to see a dear friend and her wonderful husband. They wanted to take me to drinks after dinner so, being me, I googled "best cocktails in NY" and discovered The Nomad. I suggested The Nomad to my friends and got this email back: "you read our minds! we're planning to take you to the NoMad. it's suuuper awesome--very classic new york place."

Color me stoked.

Nomad was dark and beautiful. I was clearly underdressed, but no one treated me that way. Our server was very sweet and even gifted us delicious french fries complete with mayo & ketchup (the only way to eat french fries IMO).

I honestly want to try every.single.drink on the menu. I mean just look at these concoctions:

Genever gin, aquavit, amontillado sherry, vanilla, velevt falernum, orgeat, pineapple, lime, and nutmeg

fino sherry, suze, grapefruit oleo saccharum, fresh cranberries, cucumber

cabernet franc, moscatel sherry, maraschino liquer, yellow chartruese, lemon, blackberries, mint, and orange

venezuelan rum, fernet branca, ginger, lime, cucumber

angostura bitters, blackstrap rum, foro amaro, toasted coconut, yaya carrots, and pineapple

venezuelan rum, amontillado sherry, squash, lemon, and spices

Yup. I want to try every single one. Life goal. But it was a school night, so I settled with the START ME UP (bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon, and orange bitters) and then shared a nightcap with my two friends. Our server even brought us 3 straws :)

I wish I could remember what it was, because it was amazing, but our server selected it for us and I can't recall the name.

I didn't want the evening to end.


Shake Shack - Queens, NY

4/5 stars

I almost missed my plane for Shake Shack. But I just had to see what all the fuss was about and if the Shack was really better than In n' Out.

I was in NY for work and it was fun asking folks who they thought was better. Everybody had an opinion and sometimes, it was a heated discussion :)

I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a vanilla frozen custard shake and ate the whole thing on the plane.

First of all, that's a tiny burger dude! I think it's smaller than In n' Out's cheeseburger.

Meat: you could tell that Shake Shack's juicy meat was made from high quality beef, but I prefer thinner patties.

Toppings: In n' Out's super fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, grilled onions, and pickles are better. Regarding the sauces: In n' Out's is a basic thousand island, but Shake Shack's was an interesting ketchup-mayo with just a hint of spice. I really liked it.

Buns: In n' Out's squishy buns were my favorite hamburger buns, but I also loved Shake Shack's soft potato bun. Tie here.

Fries: Shake Shack's crinkle fries win, especially with ketchup mixed with mayo.

Shake: I got hooked on frozen custard when I was in Oklahoma so I was excited to try Shake Shack's vanilla frozen custard shake. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as the stuff I had in OK. In n' Out's secret menu Neapolitan shake is my favorite.

The flight attendant walked by and asked me what I thought. The truth: it was really good, but I'm an In n' Out girl :)


Tony’s Di Napoli - New York, NY

4/5 stars

Finding a non-touristy restaurant near Times Square is difficult. We got lucky with Tony's.

Tony Di Napoli's was loud, informal, and hearty with super friendly service. It was comfortable. Kinda like a Buca di Beppo, but with talented chefs. Because we can't get lobster fra diavolo in SF, I had to have it here. I almost ordered a salad to go with it, but our attentive waiter advised against it. I didn't mention the meatballs I wanted to order too. Or the chicken parm.

So I sipped on a frozen bellini while we, a table of 2, waited. Soon, we were delivered a mountain of al-dente linguine with what felt like a bushel of fresh, perfectly-cooked seafood (and a whole lobster!). There was enough food for 4.48790 people. You were right, I told our waiter. He gave me a cheeky wink.

The calamari was especially good. The shrimp was succulent and the soft-shelled lobster was easy to dig into. I got red sauce everywhere.


Santina - New York, NY

3/5 stars

If this is the Almafi coast, sign me up!

Santina wasn't on my to-try-in-NY list, but I was tired from a very long day at work and didn't want to venture far from the High line. My friend recommended Santina so that's where I went. Later, I learned that Santina belonged to Chef Mario Carbone of the famed Carbone. I wanted to go to Carbone. I still do, but I have to say: Santina was okay. I hope Carbone is better.

Santina was packed with business men in suits and women out with their friends for the night. I loved how lively it felt, with its bright colors and tiki-decor, all tucked inside tall glass walls. The next table wasn't going to be available until 10:30 PM, but we were lucky enough to snag the last two seats at the bar. I'm glad we did, too, because the service at the bar was amazing.

We started with a cecina (a wispy chickpea-flour crepe) because I have never had one and I like trying new stuff. It was served with an almond-studded guacamole and a darkly-red, roasted salsa.

One of my favorite things about Santina was the ceramics: vibrant dishes, bowls, and drinkware. My Manganelli punch was served in a darling, ceramic pineapple with a hat.

For dinner, we ordered the blue crab pasta and the rigatoni norma. Unfortunately, our two pasta dishes were EXTREMELY salty. They weren't I-don't-eat-as-much-salt-as-my-husband salty. They tasted like you were eating spoonfuls of salt. I'm guessing it was an accident, but since we were hungry and the food had taken an hour to arrive, we powered through. I was extrememly disappointed because you could tell that if the salt catastrophe hadn't happened, these entrees would've been delicious. The blue crab pasta was chock-full of delicate crab. You were even given two tiny, adorable claws. The rigatoni norma with its eggplant and tomatoes was tasty and silky.

We tried to wash all the salt away with two awesome cocktails: the Manganelli punch (tequila, banana, pineapple, and cinnamon) and the Amalfi Gold (bourbon, orange, ginger, and creme de peche). I would've ordered more if I wasn't feeling a bit under the weather.


Gaonnuri - New York, NY

4/5 stars

I was a bit worried that Gaonnuri was going to be all view and no substance. But it wasn't! Yes, the view was amazing (how could it not be from the 39th floor), but the food was pretty good too. It's fancy-Korean, which I've never had before, but it was delicious and that's what matters. And there was a TON of it. Seriously a lot of food.

1. crispy fried calamari tossed in a sweet n' spicy sticky honey wine go-chu-jang sauce
2. super tasty jap chae with beef
3. dumplings
4. galbi with caramelized onions
5. incredibly buttery broiled black cod in deonjang sauce (this was the group favorite)

By now, you're probably wondering how I could possibly eat anything else. I was wondering that too. But somehow, I was able to find room for sticky rice & spicy kimchi stew with pork, tofu & vegetables. It was fun dipping spoonful after spoonful of rice into the tasty, flavorful broth.

I didn't have room for dessert, but I did try their Korean pear margarita but it was waaay too sweet.

Thank goodness we walked back to the High line after that. I was still full the next morning!


Gramercy Tavern - New York, NY

5/5 stars

I've been wantingwantingwanting to dine at Gramercy Tavern for 5 years and one of my dearest friends made my foodie dreams come true last Monday. We dined in the tavern area and I ADORED it. There are no faults.

What does a NY restaurant look like in your head? Because in mine, it looks and tastes like Gramercy Tavern. Dark wood. A gorgeous bar. Waiters in suits. Women in cocktail dresses. Mirrors. Dried flowers. New American cuisine.

My friend and I decided to create our own tasting menu and it.was.magical.

I can't recommend the raw & roasted vegetables enough. It was served with 3 dipping sauces: grenada pepper, cauliflower caper, and walnut miso. I'm not one to order raw vegetables (are you?) but I was just so curious about this plate. It. Was. Amazing. First of all, it was a feast for your eyes. The colors just popped. But most of all, it was just sooo fun meticulously sampling the vegetables, comparing raw to roasted, and trying all the sauces.

Then we shared the sea bass with pole beans, cucumber, and lobster and the grilled pork shoulder, fingerling potatoes, cabbage, and scallions. Everything was cooked and seasoned perfectly and did you know that pole beans + cucumber + lobster go together? I think it was the dill that tied the three together. It tasted like a lobster salad. Everything was impeccably fresh. Gramercy Tavern is a fine example of farm-to-table.

I'm not quite how sure we managed it, but we didn't say no to dessert. My friend knows I can't say no to pumpkin anything so we got the pumpkin spice sundae with walnuts, specullos cookie butter, and cinnamon MASHMALLOW FLUFF. Honestly, I would've ordered the whole dessert menu if given the chance.

Oh, and finally, the cocktails. If I hadn't been so sleepy from taking the red-eye from CA to NY, I would've ordered something stronger than the Orange Blossom (sparkling wine, elderflower, orange bitters), but it was a lovely, light drink. I stole sips from my friend's Concord Crush (Tito's vodka, concord grapes, and lime) and it was one of the best cocktails I've ever had. It's a dangerous, thick, grape juice.

This may be one of my favorite restaurants in the world.


Ladurée Soho - New York, NY

4/5 stars

An incredible pastry chef at Google once told me that you can tell if a pastry chef is talented if they can make a good macaron. I don't bake, but I know how hard they are to make because it's VERY hard to find a good macaron.

The best macarons are from Laduree on Av. des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Their macarons are delicate and airy, they're not too sweet, and if you get the framboise macaron (one of my favorite flavors), you'll feel like you're eating homemade raspberry jam. Though, beware, some flavors are sweeter than others.

I was delighted when I learned that Laduree had come to New York and decided to make the long trek there. Even if it's just to longingly gaze at their desserts. They're just so pretty!


Ippudo NY - New York, NY

5/5 stars

I was in NY Mon-Fri for work, but only had 1 lunch and 2-3 dinners unaccounted for so I had to choose wisely. I have a mile-long list of must-try restaurants in NY and Ippudo was at the top. They didn'tdidn'tdidn't disappoint.

We arrived 30 mins early before they opened Monday and there was noone in line so we decided to adventure to Milk Bar instead of waiting outside. When we came back, there was a line, but it wasn't bad. We made the first lunch seating and got to sit at the bar. It's the BEST place to sit. You get to watch pork buns being built, fish being torched, and fresh noodles being boiled. Everyone is sooooo nice too!

Of course I had to try the hirata buns filled with pork, mayo, and lettuce. It was most certainly the best pork bun I've ever had. The bun itself was steaming hot and pillowy. The pork was fatty and glistening. The mayo and lettuce a nice touch. I would've ordered another plate if I had another stomach. The ramen was extremely filling. For ramen, I chose the akamaru modern which is their perfect Tonkotsu with "Umami Dama" miso paste, chashu, cabbage, kikurage mushrooms, scallions, garlic oil, and a seasoned egg. Their Tonkotsu was incredible. Some Tonkotsu broths can be salty, but Ippudo's was perfect. The flavors were so deep. It was clear that this broth had been simmering for hours on end. The noodles here are on the thinner side, which I don't normally prefer, but they were fresh and springy.

Ippudo was a dream foodie destination for me and I'm so glad I got to cross it off my list. Even though there are a hundred other restaurants to try in NY, I'll be back to Ippudo.


Momofuku Milk Bar - New York, NY

3/5 stars

I've never been to MilkBar in person so was excited to visit. I did get a batch of their creative cookies for Christmas a few years ago so I kinda knew what to expect. What I didn't expect was how tiny the place was.

I was a little early to Ippudo so cereal milk softserve for breakfast it was! I got it with the cornflakes and I'm glad I did. The crunchy, sweet n' slightly salty cereal added much needed texture and flavor to the cereal milk. My cereal milk flavor tasted more like a mild vanilla. I should've tried the crack pie.

It was a very expensive visit. $11-something for half a dozen cookies to bring home to the hubby. $5-something for the softserve. $3-something for gratuity. I'm not sure I'll be back, but I am still fond of Christina Tosi. I met her once when she came for a talk in N. California. She was sweet and down-to-earth. I love the Milk Bar cookbook, and her story, so I'd recommend getting the book.


State Bird Provisions - San Francisco

5/5 stars

State Bird makes eating FUN.

If you didn't know already, State Bird Provisions is... American-style dim sum. It's passed hor d'oeuvres, the most amusing of amuse-bouches.

A party in your mouth.

It was an inimitable experience. Hubby and I were utterly delighted and ordered 21 dishes. Yes, there were only 2 of us.

The rockstars:
1. the ice cream sandwiches & 'world peace' peanut muscovado milk... PURE FAIRY DUST.
2. pork belly pluot salad... this one blew us away. We would have never in a million years put together pork belly and pluots!
3. smoked trout-avocado 'homemade chip & dip'... how could smushed fish be so tasty??
4. state bird (which is basically the best fried quail ever made) with "french onion soup-like" onions
5. sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino & ricotta pancake... I honestly could eat a pile of these!
6.. 'nasukatsu' japanese-style fried eggplant with miso, ginger, okra, and tomato... eggplant makes me swoon.

And hubby couldn't stop raving every 1.222346 seconds about the duck liver mousse with almond biscuits. Pssttt... the biscuits are made with duck fat.

We also ordered a few other things...

guinea hen dumpling with aromatic broth
necatarine with whipped crescenza & pink peppercorn
shishitos with cumin-goat cheese fondue
sweet corn polenta 'elote'
heirloom tomato bay shrimp 'louie'
chanterelle, ham & fregola summer salad
garlic bread with burrata
heirloom tomato cabot cheddar whole-grain pancake
CA state bird with provisions
air-dried beef with red chili vinaigrette
hog island oyster, spicy kohlrabi kraut & sesame
and I somehow got tricked into eating gizzards

SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT to my fellow foodie, Jen, who gifted me her reservations!!!


MOD Pizza - Santa Clara

3/5 stars

We tried the newest addition to our neighborhood after a visit to the farmer's market today. It was basically Chipotle... for pizza.

The crust was actually seasoned well, and cracker-thin. I made half a supreme pizza and half a meatball+ranch concoction. Word of advice: garlic is key. It helps with the flavah. I would also add basil and oregano.

Service was friendly, but you can tell they're still brand new. We took our order to go so didn't get to try the beer, wine, or fancy iced teas & lemonades.

My only con was that for about $17, I would rather order a large from A Slice of New York.


Hokkaido Ramen Santouka - San Jose

4/5 stars

I felt like I was transported back to Japan!

Small and booth-like, Santouka lives inside a Japanese supermarket called Mitsuwa. We arrived 10 minutes before 11 AM and there was already a line. The menu was a delightful display of plastic food behind a window. Super easy to pick what you want. The ramen came in small, medium, or large bowls, with or without a rice accompaniment. You order at the counter, cash only, and then wait a little bit (15+ minutes) for them to call your number. You pick up the ramen yourself.

I decided on the tokusen toroniku, which is made from pork cheeks. The toppings were served separately. The medium bowl was plenty! Hubby went with the spicy miso and was pleased with the slow burn.

My ramen was a delicious sight! It looked uber rich and creamy - and tasted like it looked! Almost a touch too salty for me, but it was still mouthwatering. The ramen came with a generous serving of jowl and, my favorite ramen topping, wood ear mushrooms. I added an egg even though it was hard-boiled (I prefer soft-boiled). The noodles were neither thick or thin, but somewhere in the middle. I would have to say I like Orenchi's noodles better.

It was fun finally trying this place and we'll probably be making a stop every time I need a new bag of rice!


The Grill At Forty 1 North - Newport, RI

3/5 stars

We came because of the view. Sitting outside, you're right there, seemingly _in_ the gorgeous, crystal blue water.

After ogling fantastic boats, we wanted to linger in Newport a little longer so we decided to give the bar here a try. Though we were underdressed, service did not turn us away. We detected no snobbery.

Prices were, no surprise, high, but the white, modern, Hamptons decor was relaxing. The white sangria was thoroughly well made. Hubby stuck with beer, mom stuck with wine.

A nice place to rest your feet.


CREAM - Palo Alto

3/5 stars

Finally got to try the popular CREAM tonight with my sissy-poo. There was no line so 5 minutes and $2.99 later, we had warm cookies in our hands.

I went with half a red velvet white chocolate chip cookie with strawberry ice cream. Sissy-poo went white chocolate macademia nut cookie, green tea ice cream, and coffee ice cream.

The cookies were the best part: warm, soft, and chewy. The ice cream was only okay.

For only $2.99, a sweet treat with lots of combos to choose from!


Scales & Shells - Newport, RI

5/5 stars

I don't think my mom or I will ever forget this place.

This place is where we had Lobster Fra Diavolo for the first time and it was everything we thought it'd be.

Homemade marinara that was slightly spicy. Al dente linguine. AND MORE SEAFOOD THAN WE COULD EAT.

It came with sweet, sweet clams, a mess of mussels and squid, and a whole lobster. *cries*

Pretty much slurpable Heaven.

Oh! And this place is the only time I've seen Fish House Punch on the menu. Oldest punch recipe in history. Lookit up.


CabbyShack - Plymouth, MA

4/5 stars

I liked it here! Yes, it's touristy. But yes! It has a great view of the water. A view of the water makes everything better.

I liked this place so much we came here twice during our short visit to Plymouth. The first time, I ordered a 2lb lobster and a rum drink that was served in a little plastic bucket. Man, nothing makes you feel like you're on vacation than drinking rum in a bucket! The lobster was a beast and totally satisfying. Also, +1 to the whole-belly clams.

The 2nd time, I ordered the lobster scampi. The lobster:pasta ratio was awesome, as in, there was more lobster than pasta. The lobster came riding the pasta like a king on a throne. It was scrumptious.

Oh, and the clam chowder was really, really good. Beware, it comes with a pool of butter floating on top...

Service is super, place gets super busy.


Blue Eyed Crab Caribbean Grill & Rum Bar - Plymouth, MA

3/5 stars

It's strange, but the mai tais are REALLY good here. I know, Plymouth is a wee bit far from the Caribbean, but the bartenders know how to make tropical refreshments. However, the food is only OK. We've tried the squid chili and the grilled fish tacos. They were mediocre. Corn bread is good. Overall, a chill place to chill.