May 18, 2009

London: Wodka

Last month, when I was in London for the Book Fair, I had the opportunity to try out a couple new restaurants.

I met up with a client at Wodka Restaurant located at 12 St. Albans Grove in the Kensington area. I had a long leisurely walk from my hotel in South Kensington through some gorgeous domestic neighborhoods to arrive at an unprepossessing restaurant-front that led to a clean and crisp interior with an elegance that belied its simplicity.

Originally, I had very much wanted to try their foie gras blinis, but was regretfully told they were not serving them that night. Instead the two appetizers ordered were kaszanka and pelimeni. The former is a grilled black sausage, somewhat similar to blood sausage, and served with pickled red cabbage and pear -- the pear added a nice counterpoint, I thought. Pelimini harks back to Siberian sources -- they are veal dumplings with bread crumbs and butter. Very rich and quite filling, I didn't make it through the entire serving before deciding I needed to pause to be sure I had room for the main course.

For entrees: We ordered spicy beef goulash with potato dumplings. This came served in a cast iron staub pot. I must admit, it is nothing like the goulash I ate as a child which was an American imitation (it didn't even have smoked paprika in it) that put me off the dish for years. This had a rich sauce and was full of roasty flavor. For the other dish, there was roast guinea fowl stuffed with goat cheese and herbs. Very tender and tasty.

The wine chosen for dinner was Cotes du Rhone Villages "Nature", Domaine La Fourmente, Visan 2007. This is a mix of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah from clay soils and mature vines (25-55 years). A lovely dark red with a peppery and fruity taste.

By the time we finished, we just didn't have room for dessert. I was very tempted by the poached pear with chocolate sauce, evenso.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 3, 2009

Glastonbury: Max Fish

Located at 110 Glastonbury Boulevard, Max Fish is part of the Max Restaurant Group centered around Hartford, CT. Seating is available in both the retro-chic dining room and at the casual U-shaped Shark Bar.

Opened the meal with their tuna wonton tacos, which were amazing and delicious. They come with a lime cilantro dressing and mango. The textures in this dish are perfectly balanced and the flavors well-matched. I could eat these a lot more often and my mouth would be happy.

For entrees: From the specials, trout served with fennel, fingerling potatoes, arugula and a grapefruit salsa. The fish was perfect and flaky. The only complaint? Not enough of the grapefruit salsa which had a tempting flavor that the dish only hinted at. Accompanied by a glass of Sauvignon Blanc Les Deux Tours 2006 from the Loire Valley (the wine selection is nicely varied and there's a decent selection by the glass). Also, a blackened tuna with andouille and potato/onion hash, and a mango salsa. Just the right amount of spice in this one. Served with Allagash Black. Portions were reasonable.

Dinner finished with two desserts: tasty apple bread pudding and a lovely creme brulee.

Service was friendly, helpful, and prompt. Partway through our meal, a noisier party was seated nearby and from the acoustics in the room, one suspects the noise level could rise quite dramatically on crowded nights in the restaurant. Still, it's probably a worthwhile price to pay for the excellent food.

[note: This much-delayed review was for my friend Michael's birthday dinner back in February.]

Posted by Jennifer at 3:44 PM | Comments (1)
September 30, 2008

Dagmar's Desserts

A couple weeks ago I managed to make a trip to the local farmer's market and enjoy the diversity present there. I came home with some delicious small potatoes, a blue hubbard squash (that I hope to make holiday pie out of), some acorn squash (which will be featured in another entry), got to sample some fresh goat cheese and brought home half a lovely six-month aged semi-soft round, and these amazing desserts from Dagmar's....


Birnen-Creme-Kuchen
short crust filled with a light almond-vanilla cream and fresh pears.


Brownies with Forelle pears poached in white wine with cinnamon and cloves

These were so very tasty. I loved the spice in the cake and the lightness of the tart. If this is a sample of what they supply, their holiday selections might well be worth a visit to Deep River. Dagmar's Desserts

Maybe this will even inspire me to make a more serious attempt at some fancier baking this winter....

Posted by Jennifer at 8:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
August 8, 2008

San Francisco, CA

This year's RWA conference took me to the city of San Francisco and I took the opportunity to try out several restaurants.

First stop: Lunch at The Lark Creek Steak House located in the Westfield San Francisco Centre at 845 Market Street on the 4th Floor. Lovely genteel, urban chic decor, and a very fun menu. I had the the jb black truffle steakburger with truffled brie cheese, black truffle vinaigrette, frisee, and caramelized onion marmalade. A nice blend of flavors and very rich, though my medium rare was a bit more rare than I anticipated.

That afternoon, I had high tea at the Neiman Marcus Rotunda. I had been teased by the idea of tea at the Windsor Tea Room in the King George Hotel, but alas it was only available on the weekend and one had to "make do" with the Neiman Marcus, which serves it every day. It came with a lovely assortment of tea sandwiches and tarts, but the tea selection was somewhat limited. I still enjoyed the White Lotus, though. And the view from the Rotunda is impressive.

Late that night, I took in dinner at Michael Mina's, located in the Westin St. Francis hotel on Union Square. Michael Mina has been named Bon Appetit's "Chef of the Year 2005", San Francisco Magazine's "Chef of the Year 2005", and "Restaurateur of the Year 2005" by the International Food and Beverage Forum. The restaurant features an opportunity to create your own prix-fixe, three-course dinner. The restaurant boasts two Michelin Stars. I chose the foie gras appetizer, a selection of three tasting dishes, including sleek cigars with pressed watermelon and serrano ham, a grilled sample with melon compote, and a terrine with a short rib base. All were expertly rendered, of course, though I discovered I wasn't personally fond of the texture in the third part of the dish. I followed this with three slices of duck breast, each accompanied by a complimentary fruit: apricot, cherry, and a tangerine/peach compote. I finished my meal with a selection of cheeses -- monte enebro with tomato compote, malvarosa with dried figs and red onion marmalade, and brescianella stagionata with a porcini syrup and some toasted hazelnuts. Our server - Drew - was perfect. It was an amazing meal. Possibly one of the best I've had in my life. But the meal I had five years ago at Jean Georges in New York still reigns supreme.

The next night I had dinner at Le Colonial, hidden away on Cosmo Place, a small unprepossessing alley. It led to a surprisingly lovely courtyard with open-air seating. The cuisine is French-Vietnamese. I started with Goi Cuon Ca Thu, a seared ahi tuna roll with rice noodles, English cucumber, and cilantro, served with ponzu sauce. It was crisp and wonderful - perfect for summer. For my main meal, I chose Suong Ham, braised short ribs with leeks and shiitake mushrooms and an anise broth. It was a marvelous dish - the beef so tender and full of flavor. For dessert: the mango tart -- sweet mangos sauteed in brown sugar and mango rum, served inside a puff pastry, with coconut macadamia icecream. Decadent, and a wonderful end to a great meal.

My final culinary stop was Asia de Cuba, located at the Clift hotel on Geary Street. I was drawn to this one because of the unusual flavor combination of asian and cuban food. The meal opened with tunapica, a tuna tartare picadillo style with a poignant soy-lime vinaigrette and interesting texture added by the wonton crisps. And then for my main dish I had the calamari salad, with chayote, hearts of palm, banana, cashews, chicory, and a sesame orange dressing. Really enjoyed that one. It was only afterwards that I learned the same group owns a restaurant in New York, which I will have to find an opportunity to try out.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
May 12, 2008

Olean, NY: The Old Library

On the occasion of my sister's graduation from college, my family and I had the opportunity to visit The Old Library Restaurant to celebrate. It really does stand at the site of a former library and is a national historic site, as well as boasting a decor that features walls lined with book shelves. Our little alcove had several old law tomes to peruse.

The menu was varied traditional American. I ordered a special -- a filet stuffed with crab with a lemon buerre blanc sauce. Others at the table had a roast half-duckling with a plum sauce. I stole a few bites and thought that the better dish of the two. For dessert the table split the very berry tart and a piece of chocolate chocolate torte. It seemed as if everyone left with their appetites satisfied.

Posted by Jennifer at 3:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 28, 2008

Madison: Icon

State Street in Madison boasts a number of restaurants and boutique shops. From the university to the capitol building is a bare 1/2 mile. Among others is a new tapas restaurant called Icon. Two colleagues and I relaxed there at the start of a conference and shared a number of dishes between us. Our choices were:

* Roasted Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes, Scallions and Red Onions
* Imported Cured Spanish Meats with Shaved Manchego
* Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce and Toasted Garlic Bread
* Jamon Wrapped Sea Scallops
* Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with pickled vegetables and piquillo mustard
* Rioja Braised Short Ribs with Manchego Mashed Potatoes

I admit my favorite was the goat cheese dish, but I have a thing for it so I wasn't surprised. The eggplant I tried on a dare, essentially, having had eggplant parmesan some years ago and concluded I didn't like the vegetable. Given the seasoning, I can't conclude whether I like eggplant or not. The short ribs were perfectly cooked and amazingly tender -- can't recommend them enough. Admittedly we ordered the cured spanish meat dish in order to get the shaved manchego but we certainly weren't disappointed.

I also tried the Osborne Solaz Tempranillo and it was a great match for these dishes: Intensely fruity with deep aromas of ripe raspberry and black cassis subtly highlighted by notes of leather and peppery spice. A finely structured full-bodied wine showing lots of fruit. It is both elegant and complex with a lengthy finish.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
March 19, 2008

New York: A Voce

Located at 41 Madison Ave, A Voce is a trendy Italian mid-town restaurant. The decor is contemporary and the mid-day hustle was apparent.

I started with "Crostini alla Toscano," a mixture of chicken liver, foie gras, and moscato d'asti, served with garlic toast. The texture of the pate was lovely and the taste was evocative.

For my main entree, I had farfalle with lamb bolognese and sheep's milk ricotta. I was less impressed with this dish. The pasta had an odd texture. And the lamb was somewhat bland. If it had more cheese that may have helped as it was quite good. Overall, just not great, though. And I was disappointed since I had wanted to try this restaurant for a while.

I had hoped to try the cheese plate for dessert but wasn't afforded enough time. Perhaps I'll give the place one more shot in order to fit that in and try a different entree.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 18, 2008

New York: Il Bastardo

Meeting up with Jackie Cantor, the talented editor who bought Ladybug Farm, at Il Bastardo was an unexpected pleasure. I was surprised to find such a lovely restaurant just a few blocks from our office that I had never known was there. I suspect I will visit it much more often.

I started with a lovely spinach salad with mushrooms, bacon, and goat cheese. But the main dish of pan seared trout with marinated artichoke, almond, sage, and dry white wine was just perfect. The fish was flaky, the almonds toasted on to give it great texture. I very much enjoyed it (though I had hoped to try A Voce -- perhaps on a future trip).

Posted by Jennifer at 8:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New York: Molyvos

Molyvos is one of my favorite restaurants in the city and I'm glad that lunch with author Jo Ann Ferguson afforded me the opportunity to revisit it. My number one choice in dish would be their Rabbit Stifado but that's only available on their dinner menu. So, instead, I had:

appetizer: Saganaki -- this is a cheese dish covered in Ouzo and then "set on fire!" and doused with lemon juice. I've only had it once before (while at the Seton Hill conference). The cheese in this one was saltier and I had the sense that it was home-made.

main dish: Molyvos' lamb sandwich -- this a lovely dish with marinated lamb and yogurt in a wrap with veggies

dessert: baklava -- of course -- this is my #1 favorite dessert (the 2nd being creme brulee)

Posted by Jennifer at 7:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 13, 2007

New York City: Tia Pol

Tia Pol is a classic Spanish tapas restaurant. I wouldn't recommend it for a romantic dinner. It's noisy and the space is narrow, perhaps even slightly claustrophobic. However, the food is absolutely amazing. Because it was tapas and I was there with two other people, I got to try quite a variety of dishes, among them a couple specials plus the following:

*pinchos morunos lamb skewers - exquisitely seasoned and tender
*chorizo con chocolate palacios chorizo with bittersweet chocolate - chorizo isn't usually my favorite (I've had it on pizza and been unimpressed) but this pairing was excellent
*patatas bravas rough cut potatoes with spicy aioli

I think I could eat here every week!

Posted by Jennifer at 8:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 12, 2007

New York City: Giorgione

Located at 307 Spring Street, Giorgione is owned by Giorgio DeLuca, who first helped create the groundbreaking Dean & DeLuca. It's classic Italian.

I started with the artisinal cheese plate, which included the pecorina brinata (a sheep's milk aged 6 months), caserficio dell atta Langa Latur (a mixture of soft cow, sheep and goat's milk from Piedmont), and a parmigiano reggiano (cut from DOC wheels). From there, I moved on to the cheese tortellini in roasted duck broth. The waiter recommended the panna cotta for dessert, which could not be beat. And the classic cappuccino was perfect. My lunch companion, editor Kristin Weber, had the thin-crust margherita pizza, cooked in a wood oven. She granted me a piece and it was delicious.

The decor is classic and elegant and the custom-made fireplace adds warmth and personality. Service was prompt and excellent.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 27, 2007

New Haven: Ivy Noodle

Just prior to an extra and unexpected Vienna Teng concert (I'd been to one the night prior at the Iron Horse in Northampton and Vienna convinced me to attend the one in Westport), woj and Michael and I stopped off at Ivy Noodle to grab a bite to eat. I'd been here once before and suggested it as an alternative to Towne Pizza. I had the most lovely roast duck on rice and stole a taste of Michael's spare rib with black bean sauce on chow fun. Very yummy. This place is small so seating is always a risk, but the food is yummy and most affordable.

Posted by Jennifer at 7:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
October 23, 2007

New York: Basso 56

A restaurant that I utterly adored, Basso Est, has now moved to midtown and is called Basso 56. Lunch with an editor from Random House (it's only a block away) gave me the chance to try it at its new location and it certainly did not disappoint. The editor declared it her new "go to" place and I will hope to entice many other colleagues to try it out.

I started with the Rughetta e Pere Al Capreno, a salad with arugula, fennel, goat cheese, and pears in a champagne vinaigrette. Very tasty. My main entree was Fagottino alla Polpa di Aragosta, crepe purses filled with lobster and a confit, served with tomato and chive velute sauce. OMG. I ate every bit and didn't have enough room for dessert, even though I recall this place having most excellent panna cotta.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 22, 2007

New York: Tabla

A lunch date with a client who is vegetarian afforded me the opportunity to try out Tabla, an Indian restaurant known for its innovative cuisine. We stayed in the Bread Bar which has the more authentic menu. I had Parsi style mussels steamed in chili, tamarind and jaggery, which were absolutely exquisite and then treated myself to pear poached in saffron and served with an Earl Grey tea sauce.

I didn't know what jaggery was, but wikipedia, the always helpful, indicates it is "the traditional unrefined sugar used in India." Further, "Jaggery is used as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes across India and Sri Lanka. For example, a pinch of jaggery is added to sambar, rasam and other gravies which are staples in southern India. It is also a delicacy in its own right. The Indian chef and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey writes about a "jaggery board", like a cheese board, as a dessert course in a Bengali dinner, with varieties of palm and sugar cane jaggeries offered, differing in taste, color, and solidity."

Posted by Jennifer at 5:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 9, 2007

Albany: Buca di Beppo

I took my sister to Buca di Beppo for lunch to celebrate her birthday. It's quite charming for a chain restaurant. I very much enjoyed the calamari and the homemade spaghetti sauce is to die for. (I really need to work on my own sauce.) The tiramisu family-size serving is truly intimidating. I think this would be a great place to go with a large group.

Posted by Jennifer at 3:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 1, 2007

West Hartford: Pho Boston

En route to a concert by Richard Shindell at U. of Hartford, dinner took place at Pho Boston in West Hartford. It touts itself as authentic Vietnamese cuisine. I haven't had very much of it, so I can't speak to its authenticity, but it sure was good.

Appetizers: Goi Cuon -- fresh spring rolls with mint, vermicelli, pork slices and shrimp served with peanut sauce. The last time I had spring rolls of this style was in Toronto and it had this huge salad exploding from it in order to give it height. This really didn't add to the experience. So, I'll pick the more authentic one because it was quite tasty. Also had Chim Cut Chien -- roasted quails. They were crispy and very tasty. I ate them with gusto.

Main Dishes: Sate Dac Biet -- AKA Pho Boston which was a special spicy sate with rare steak served in Vietnamese beef noodle soup. I only had one spoonful because this was Michael's entree, but it was very fragrant and rich. My entree was Ca Hap Gung -- steamed fish with ginger & scallion. The fish of the day was tilapia and they brought the whole thing with the head and tail still intact. It was so tender and flaky it fell apart on the plate. I ate the whole thing.

Drinks: Michael had iced Vietnamese coffee which tasted a little like really bitter coffee icecream. I had iced lemonade tea, which pretty much tastes like it sounds.

I would definitely eat here again. Probably for lunch on my next trip to A-Dong, the Asian grocery store in the same plaza.

Posted by Jennifer at 7:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
August 1, 2006

Atlanta: Pittypat's Porch

This is another restaurant that saw quite a lot of action from the convention attendees mentioned in my entry on the Pacific Rim Bistro. Everywhere I went during the conference, if I mentioned Pittypat's Porch, there was someone within earshot who had also tried it out. And it was certainly worth it for a taste of something southern and out of the ordinary. After getting a wonderful assortment of homemade biscuits and corn bread, I decided to try out Aunt Pittypat's Filet, which is a beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served with southern mashed potatoes, complete with a white gravy that had a perfect taste and texture. I cleaned my plate. My dinner companion opted for the pork tenderloin with curried peanut sauce that came with an apple and sweet potato puree. I stole a couple of bites and it was delicious. I also snagged a taste of her georgia peach cobbler in between polishing off my classic pecan pie. Supposedly Pittypat's is named after Scarlett's aunt who always prepared her best recipes and often served them on the porch.

Posted by Jennifer at 3:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Atlanta: Pacific Rim Bistro

While in Atlanta for business, I had the opportunity to try out the Pacific Rim Bistro, in the restaurant group with Hsu's and Silk. With its proximity to Peachtree Center and several hotels, I'm sure they see quite a lot of business, and they certainly did that weekend. I saw a number of people from the same convention I was attending at nearby tables. In any case, I ordered the Vietnamese Spring Rolls to start and then, though tempted by the kobe steak, I instead opted for a partial rack of lamb (3 chops) crusted with goat cheese and wasabi and a spiced asian pear compote on the side. The first bite struck very strongly -- there was a lot of goat cheese, but luckily I am rather fond of it and found the overall combination very compelling. Their background is as varied as their menu: the owners are a married couple with one half that hails from Hong Kong and the other of Chinese descent and a Korean home.

Posted by Jennifer at 3:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 20, 2006

New York: Red Garlic

This time my lunch with an editor from Random House led me to the Thai restaurant on 8th Avenue (between 54th and 55th). It was a marvelous choice. A cozy decor and a wide variety of dishes to choose from. Service was quite prompt and friendly. We started with Steamed Thai Dumplings (stuffed with Ground Chicken, Shallots, Peanuts and Preserved Radish) - they were quite good, sweet and not too soft. I could not resist the duck in ginger and garlic sauce for my main dish and was not disappointed. My companion tried Kow Mok Gai (Roasted Rice Chicken, with Seasoning, Curry Powder, Shallots, and Garlic, Wrapped with Banana Leaf). Neither of us had had roasted rice before and it was a very interesting texture. She then persuaded me to try the thai iced coffee. I was at first dubious because I am not a coffee drinker but it was quite good, rather like drinking a rich coffee icecream.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 11, 2006

Dublin

The Hairy Lemon

Met up with C.E. Murphy for a couple days in Dublin. Our first stop was a pub known as the Hairy Lemon on Lower Stephen Street near the Green (where I also got to stop off and buy some lovely tea from Bewley's). I had the most marvelous Irish stew with a very tasty brown bread and a baked potato on the side (as my companion said - they like potatoes with their potatoes here!).

Foley's Pub

Had a very proper Irish breakfast here. And glad to finally get one. I even tried the blood pudding (but I still can't quite make myself get through it). We also ended up back here in the evening and got the best Scottish floor show Ireland has ever seen. I had a proper pint of cider and Catie had a Bailey's while we enjoyed the live performer and the singing along.

Elephant and Castle


Photo Credit: C.E. Murphy

Originally, we'd thought to have dinner at the Tea Room, but upon reviewing the menu decided we just weren't in the mood for something that was trying that hard. So we strolled through the Temple Bar area and stopped to ask directions to a CD shop we were looking for and someone mentioned the Elephant and Castle, which I had heard of before. We decided to head over there and it turned out to be a lovely choice. First we split a goat cheese and tomato tart that was absolutely perfect. And then we both decided to just go with burgers (they had a bunch of different ones listed). I ordered the stilton, which as Catie said came with an absolutely absurd piece of cheese. Have a little cheese with your burger? We had a grand time and though the place got rather crowded, I'd definitely recommend it for good solid comfort food at reasonable prices. I had creme brulee for dessert. It's the one I find second hardest to resist. (Turns out they also have a location in New York that I'll have to try out though the menu isn't even vaguely the same.)

Posted by Jennifer at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 25, 2006

Boston: Tapeo

Located at 266 Newbury street, Tapeo lays claim to being the only authentic Spanish restaurant in Boston. It's a busy place on the weekends, and they don't take reservations. I attempted to go there once before (when I was in town for a conference last summer) and the wait was well over an hour. This time I was determined to be more stubborn, and luckily for my starving dinner companion, they quoted only 25 minutes.

It seemed like a no-brainer to order from the tapas menu and get a wide sampling, so here's what we tried out...

Setas y Caracoles (Snail in Herbed Mushroom Nest)
Albondigas de Salmon (Salmon Balls w/Caper Sauce)
Codorniz de Castilla (Broiled Herb and Garlic Quail stuffed with Bacon)
Conejo Escabechado (Braised Rabbit w/ Red Wine, Juniper & Garlic)
Queso de Cabra Montanes (Baked Goat Cheese w/Tomato & Basil)

The goat cheese came out first and was a perfect start with the roasted taste of the tomatoes complimenting the tangy flavor. Not far behind were the salmon balls and the snails (which are a special of the month). We disagreed over which of those was the best (I liked the snails more), but they were both very good. However, the rabbit and quail put the rest of them to shame. The rabbit had a delicate hint of spices, and was so tender it just fell apart on the plate, and the quail was quite possibly one of the best things I had tasted in weeks. The servings were reasonable and the five samples we ordered definitely filled us up, which was too bad because I had been tempted by the Lomito al Cabrales (Pork Tenderloin w/Blue Goat Cheese & Mushrooms).

We only passed up dessert because we had leftover baklava from Cafe Jaffa waiting for us. I whole-heartedly recommend the place. Unless you can't stand a high level of din. I might nominate it for most noisy restaurant I've ever eaten in, and we were protected by the back corner wall. It's worth it, though. The food just can't be beat. I sure hope I get the opportunity to go there again.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
November 20, 2005

West Hartford: The Elbow Room

En route to last night's Susan McKeown concert at the University of West Hartford, had the opportunity to sample another restaurant in the area. Located at 986 Farmington Avenue, The Elbow Room claims to be "hip" but "agreeably dislocated." They offer rejuvenated American comfort food (their macaroni and cheese is supposed to be quite good) and other contemporary dishes. The decor is somewhere between classic diner, updated cafeteria, and evening restaurant -- it's going for comfort there too, and achieving it.

Small Plate: hand cut potato chips with gorgonzola dipping sauce -- fun to try.

Large Plates: (1) "everything" encrusted tuna with basil-mashed potatoes, (2) pan seared scallops with lobster ravioli in a tarragon dijon sauce -- both very filling (good portions) and well-executed.

Dessert: Vanilla creme brulee -- nicely done.

Overall feelngs.... it was fine food, it was good food. I'm not quite sure that it was worth the rent on West Hartford's restaurant row. I'd rather go around the corner to the Thai place and eat for half the cost. Or across to lovely Murasaki which I tried out last month. I'm glad to have had the chance to see what the Elbow Room was like, but looks like it won't be making my top 10 list. I'd recommend it to people who are looking for a relaxing feel with a reliable menu.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
October 29, 2005

West Hartford: Murasaki

A couple years ago, while parking en route to Grant's Restaurant for dinner, I noticed the little window-front of Murasaki and thought that I should try to get back there someday and try it out. I'm very sorry it took me so long. It's quite possibly some of the best sushi I've ever eaten. Going the a la carte route, here's what was ordered:

*appetizer -- mussels Murasaki: Steamed pacific green mussels in garlic, tomato, onion and lemon sauce. Served chilled. This was very tasty and quite unlike anything I've ever had before.

*the Murasaki roll: with snow crab, veggies and egg
*toro (belly tuna)
*uni (sea urchin)
*sake (salmon)
*unagi (eel)
*hotate (scallop)
*quail egg on masago (smelt roe)

Unangi is a long-time favorite of mine, and this was even better than usual, the sauce being that much higher in taste and quality. The new things that I tried were the sea urchin, which I liked very much and will definitely have again sometime, and the quail egg, presented raw and nestled in the roe. I thought that last would seem more adventurous but only in thought, not in deed, as it turned out. I'm glad to have tried it out but it wasn't quite exciting enough to order again. The tuna belly was very rich and the price matched. Overall I decided it was a bit on the extravagant side and not quite worth the cost. However, everything was prepared absolutely perfectly, and I have not a single complaint as to the food itself. The service was lovely as well. I'll definitely be visting this place again the next time an opportunity presents itself.

Posted by Jennifer at 1:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
October 24, 2005

New York: Basso Est

En route to see the lovely and talented Vienna Teng at the Living Room (10/20/2005), we stopped around the corner to try out this nice-sounding Italian bistro: Basso Est (Italian for "lower east"), located at 198 Orchard Street. For a difference of approximately five dollars, we had an experience so much different than the one at the Greek restaurant earlier the same week that it was stunning.

A cosy dining room with open kitchens and additional bar-seating with brightly painted walls gave the restaurant a homestyle feel. Each table is served complimentary bruschetta (the tomatoes had a very fresh taste) by the smiling and eager staff.

Main Dishes: I opted for the ravioli of the day, which was stuffed with sweet pumpkin and served in a butter sauce with fried sage leaves. It was, simply put, exceptional. And I tried the Pinot Grigio-Ca’De Mocenigo-2004-Grave-Friuli along with it which turned out to be a well-matched choice. Michael had the papparedelle with wild boar ragout sauce (Abruzzese style). All the pasta is homemade, and it makes one feel extravagant and indulged. (And tempted to buy a pasta attachment for the KitchenAid.)

For dessert, we selected the panna cotta, which was quite rich and tasty. And Michael sampled the house grappa.

Two thumbs up -- even the menus are delicious (according to the two year old at the next table). Definitely worth repeating the next time there's a show at the Living Room nearby.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
October 20, 2005

New York: Delphi

This was not the restaurant I intended to go to on Sunday night when I was down in the city catching the Kristin Hersh show at the Knitting Factory (Michael's review). I had done my research and come up with an extremely close by Korean restaurant: Kori. But apparently I hadn't looked hard enough because they are closed on Sundays.

Thus, the thing one always wishes to avoid in New York occurred: the wandering of the streets in search of a decent place to eat. And, as so often happens, we failed. It looked like a likely place. Cosy. Warm. Intriguing varietal menu. However, the food was indifferently prepared, and more to the point, the service was the worst I've had in a while. And it made us late to the concert. When we ordered (two different lamb casseroles), we were told that it would take half an hour to prepare. As it grew close to an hour and we had already been unimpressed by the appetizer (a cheese puff), our moods turned sour. If the food had been exemplary, perhaps that would have moderated the thinnest tip I've left in years.

So... Delphi at 109 West Broadway: not recommended.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
October 3, 2005

Boston: The Blue Room

In the interest of making Friday night's excursion as rich as possible, I made a reservation at The Blue Room, 1 Kendall Square, for dinner before seeing Neil Gaiman's and Dave McKean's Mirrormask (Michael's review here). I'm hard put to say which part of the evening was better. The food was superb, and the movie was magical.

Appetizer: One Perfect Cheese -- served with an apple compote, and it was absolutely and truly tasty. An aged cheddar and I wish I'd written down what our server said it was because I would love to eat more of it. I reluctantly had the mundane version from my 'fridge today and it didn't even come close to that pervasive rich and almost-nutty taste.

Entrees: I ordered two more appetizers as it happened - the fisherman's soup, which had a lovely texture with pureed fish and saffron and other rich flavors, and a blue squash and feta tart, which had a very light and flaky crust and a contrasting taste that offset the soup very well. Michael had the shrimp and chorizo, which was scotch bonnet marinated (that was a lovely little kick in the taste-buds) and came with crispy yucca.

Dessert: We were tempted by the lemon-goatcheese cheesecake but couldn't resist the molten chocolate cake with the raspberry sauce.

The restaurant itself is very cosy, a long narrow space bisected by the bar. When we first got there it was fairly quiet, but by the time we left, it had gotten much busier, and the low ceilings and exposed brick, while visually appealing, didn't make for the best acoustics in that respect. Still, it had an air of sophistication, but not to the extent that it seemed it was over-impressed with itself. There were nice touches, such as pouring the wine at the table and allowing for a brief tasting first. I must say that our server was outstanding. Everything was well-timed, and we made it to the movie on time even though we were just over half an hour late for our reservation due to traffic.

Posted by Jennifer at 7:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
September 18, 2005

Glastonbury: Max Amore

After eating out a couple of very appealing places in New York City, I was in the mood for a home-cooked meal, but the trip home proved I wasn't ready to tackle actually being in the kitchen again. So, from the train station, I went to Max Amore in Glastonbury (9/15). It's a very popular local place. Always crowded. Quite noisy, but with good acoustics so one can hear one's tablemate(s) amidst the din.

Appetizer: Carpaccio Classico -- I have a weakness for carpaccio in many forms. I've tried tuna and salmon variations. But the beef sirloin is always the one that I want to come home to. The first time I ever had it was across the street from Max Amore at J. Gilbert's. Max Amore's version is a stiff competition.

Main Dishes: I had the lobster pasta special, which was quite tasty if a bit drier than I anticipated from its description. My companion had Fresh Black Pepper Pappardelle, prepared with prosciutto, sweet English peas, and a parmesan cream sauce. It was the better of the two dishes.

Dessert: We split the "Baci Ball" -- a hazelnut and chocolate covered gelato with black raspberry cream anglaise. Yum.

My meal was accompanied with a glass of Pinot Noir Mark West 2002, which seemed to suit the various dishes fairly well. Robust with a good balance of flavors.

Posted by Jennifer at 11:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
September 17, 2005

New York: Home Restaurant

Lunch date #2 (9/15) -- this time with an editor from Penguin Putnam. She took me to a little local place at 20 Cornelia Street. It's small and deserves its name: Home Restaurant, since it goes out of its way to have a cosy, home-cooking atmosphere. I was lucky to find on special that day a molasses-glazed squab, which turned out to be ever so tender and tasty. My companion had the 3 egg omelet with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and herbs and made a very brave attempt to eat the entire generous portion. We had a slight mishap with dessert, having decided to split the chocolate pudding and receiving instead the butterscotch. Quickly rectified by the apologetic waitress, we then enjoyed our sweet treat before heading back to our respective offices.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 16, 2005

New York: Landmarc

A trip down to visit the home office and fit in a couple business lunches, among other things... Had lunch (9/14) with an editor from Harlequin at Landmarc: 179 West Broadway.

It had been a beastly hot day so I wanted something light and refreshing. Instead of a heavy meal, I chose the salmon carpaccio appetizer and a large-sized endive salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and sherry vinaigrette. I discovered I had ordered exactly what I needed. The carpaccio was cool and slightly lemony; the salad had a nice contrasting robust flavor. My lunch-date, who had the endive salad as well, started with the chilled tomato soup that was on special that day and declared it excellent. We ate in the cafe portion of the restaurant (there's also an upstairs) and enjoyed the open and airy decor.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 22, 2005

New York: Pasha

When Michael and I went to see Emily Bezar in New York we tried out Turkish restaurant Pasha at 70 West 71st Street.

Appetizer
Sigara Boregi: pan fried filo dough filled with feta, parsley and dill

Main Dishes
*Etk Yaprak Sarma: grape leaves stuffed with lamb, rice, tomatoes, mint and herbs, served on a homemade yogurt sauce
*Chicken special, marinated and stuffed with rice and currants

Dessert
Baklava

I must admit our favorite Turkish restaurant, and still current champion, is the Istanbul Cafe in New Haven. Their sigara borek (an alternate spelling?) is lighter and crisper. And I have to admit that I wasn't enamored of the main dishes (especially since nowhere on the menu did it mention that there were bell peppers in the rice dressing). The food was still satisfactory, the prices reasonable for the West Side, and the decor was comfortable. We weren't entirely impressed with the service, nor with the difficulty in getting our bill since we had somewhere we wanted to be. Overall, I'd give it 3 out of 5 forks.

Posted by Jennifer at 7:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
April 10, 2005

New Haven: Bentara

Last night en route to a Richard Shindell concert, we got the opportunity to revisit the Bentara Restaurant on Orange Street. I admit that it's pretty much been my only exposure to Malaysian food at this point so I have no strong basis for comparison to the cuisine as a whole. However, I have very much enjoyed the dishes I've tried. This was our third meal at this restaurant (though I haven't reviewed it previously), and I highly recommend it. The service can be a bit uneven depending on the staff assigned to the table. No complaints about last night's. My water glass was never empty and the dishes were prepared exactly as requested and delivered promptly as we finished each course. The decor has very clean lines and the high ceilings and angled tables give the floor an open and spacious feeling.

The meal began with roti chanai, unleavened bread which is griddle-fried and served with a thin (and very tasty) curry sauce.

For the main course, I chose kerutuk. It's a stew-like dish with beef (the restaurant also offers chicken and vegetarian options) simmered in a mixture of spices (coriander, fennel seed, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and chilies) with potatoes and a cocunut milk reduction sauce. I really enjoyed the mix of spices though the anise was perhaps the most pronounced. Overall, nicely blended. The "heat" of the dish can be ordered as mild, medium, regular, or hot. I went with regular and found it quite spicy. Michael had nasi lemak (which had been the first dish I tried there and we both agreed it's a favorite). It's a spicy stir-fried beef dish served with crispy dried anchovies, cucumbers and sliced boiled eggs on the side. Despite not liking anchovies in any other way, I find the fried little fish quite addictive.

For dessert we had a coconut sorbet served in a coconut half-shell. One of these days, I'll try the pear version. But the coconut is such a sweet and cool counterpart after the spicy dishes that it's just perfect for cleansing the palate.

Posted by Jennifer at 3:14 PM | Comments (0)
October 10, 2004

Toronto: Feathers

There's a place.... Way the heck out somewhere past Victoria Park subway station, towards the area known as "The Beaches." The address is 962 Kingston Road. The neighborhood seems an unlikely place to find a secret as sophisticated as this -- a pub with 430 single malts!

The interior certainly harkens to the classic sense of a pub of the Isles. Dark wood. Cosy tables. There are pictures on the walls, many featuring the owner of the establishment, taken at various distilleries. The menu is typical fare - I had the fish'n'chips (which I practically lived on the semester I spent in London) and Michael had the prime rib special which came with his first ever serving of Yorkshire Pudding.

We weren't there for the food, though. After the meal, with which we had water, we got down to serious business. The proprietor was kind enough to loan us the pub copy of The Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch to assist us in making our choices. We each ordered four singles to try...

Michael:
Cragganmore Doublewood 1984
Highland Park (sherry cask) Cask Strength 1988*
Macallan (Speymalt) 1978*
Auchentoshan 21 yr Cask Strength*

Jennifer:
Bunnahabhain 10 yr*
Bowmore Dusk*
Edradour Cask Strength 1976*
Mortlach Cask Strength 1980*

*Private import (which means it's pretty hard to get elsewhere)

Barely scraped the surface. Will need to revisit. Definitely.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:33 PM | Comments (3)
October 1, 2004

Toronto: Rashnaa

I was up to Toronto again last week for my annual pilgrimage. Good food was had at many of the usual places: Ginger's (ate there 3 times), Ethiopia House, Pita Break, and of course, I had the ever-yummy eternal special of "Icky Spicy Octopus Babies" at Garlic Pepper. This year's new experiment was in Sri-Lankan food at the chowhound-recommended Rashnaa (which means tasty in Sanskrit, a much deserved moniker).

We walked 20 minutes to try the place out as the map of Toronto is much trickier to us than that of New York. An unprepossessing space....indeed, one felt as if one was eating in the living space of a welcoming family. Just lovely and homey; nowhere near fancy. In an attempt to get as authentic experience as possible, we started with Ulunthu Vadi - a crushed lentil dumpling, deep fried and served with coconut chutney. I though it looked remarkably like a donut, and the taste didn't quite work for me, though the texture was very interesting. For main dishes, we tried String Hoppers Kottu with chicken -- rice flour noodles chopped and sauteed with onion, green peppers, eggs and spice. Spicy and very tasty. Also, Masala Thosai - Rashnaa's most popular dish, crepe grilled and stuffed with masala potato. Another extremely delicious choice. Portions were generous, and though it pained us to not consume the dishes in their entirety, we stopped to have dessert, Vatalapam -- flan with tikkul syrup, shredded coconut and caradmom. I'm glad we saved room -- it was excellent. A much recommended experience.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:53 PM | Comments (3)
July 11, 2004

Boston: Choe's Cafe

Located near the BU West Campus area at 957 Commonwealth Ave, this restaurant was chosen based on comments made on Chowhounds and its proximity to the Paradise Club where the Dresden Dolls were playing on Friday. I've actually only eaten at one other Korean Restaurant, so it was interesting to see the differences. The menu at Choe's definitely had a greater variety of Korean food, with a wide selection of Bibimbap and other spicy entrees. I don't know the names in Korean for the dishes eaten. (I really need to learn to write that down when we order.) Michael's could best be described as stir-fried squid with vegetables and noodles (it might have been o-jinga bok-kum). I had a sample and the squid was very nicely done and the sauce quite spicy. For myself, I ordered a version of bibimbap which substituted barbecued sea eel for the usual beef. I very much enjoyed it. The place itself was comfortable and very casual in its decor. Servings were generous and the prices reasonable. If we're out that way for another show in the future, we're very likely to try out more at Choe's (though there are also a couple good Thai places nearby).

Bibimbap means (roughly) "to stir together (bibim) with rice (bap)." The best kinds are served in a hot stone pot (dolsot) and usually contain handfuls of different marinated vegetables, a handful of beef (or in some cases tofu or raw fish), some shredded lettuce, and a barely cooked egg. The fun part is when you mix it all together with the kochujang (hot pepper sauce) that's served on the side. It makes a great crackling sound and the food stays hot all the way through the meal. At the end, you can enjoy the rice crust that has formed on the bottom of the bowl.

Most bibimbap is Chonju style. Chonju is about 240km south of Seoul, in a rich agricultural area that provides plenty of vegetables for toppings. As many as 30 ingredients might appear in a Chonju bibimbap. The city is regarded as the cuisine capital of South Korea, and bibimbap one of its most popular dishes. It is thought to have first appeared in the 1800's, traditionally eaten after rites honouring departed ancestors. While bibimbap itself has many ingredients, it is sometimes also served with many side dishes.

And here's a thread on my favorite cooking forum about making this great stuff at home. Guess I need to figure out where I can get those stone bowls...

Posted by Jennifer at 4:49 PM | Comments (0)
May 2, 2004

Boston: China Pearl

Last Sunday (April 25th). I accompanied Michael to a Sleater-Kinney concert at Roxy. Beforehand, we had the opportunity to dine out at China Pearl, mention of which was made on the Chowhounds site. Located in Boston's Chinatown, this place has earned a lasting reputation and received a few awards -- mostly in the area of dim sum (which is a particular favorite of mine).

Because we'd never had it before, and watch far too many Iron Chef episodes (okay, we haven't watched them all yet, so I guess it's not quite "too many"), we felt we just had to try the Shark Fin soup. I'm glad I had the chance, but I'm not quite sure I see what all the fuss was about. The cosistency was a bit odd, and got odder as the soup cooled. I liked how it tasted, but it didn't change my culinary world (like the first time I ever had truffles). We also split an order of Peking Ravioli (better known, perhaps, as pot stickers - pan fried dumplings filled with spiced pork and spinach tastiness).

For my main entree, I had deep fried squab. It tasted vaguely duck-like, but lighter. I was most intrigued by the fact that the presentation included the poor guy's deep fried little head, complete with a tongue sticking out inside the beak. Michael had beef - Hong Kong style. I'm not sure if it had an official title. I tried a piece or two and found the sauce tangy, with a taste that nudged me towards thinking about good barbecue. All in all, a filling and very pleasant meal.

China Pearl touts its great ambiance, and we had an extra treat that night -- entertainment. There was no translator available, so we made our best guess as to why most of the dining room (we sat in a small little side alcove with only a few tables) was filled. Our first thought was a wedding reception, and then a business award dinner. But we finally concluded it must have been some sort of talent contest or variety show as we were treated to various groups performing traditional-seeming singing and dancing. Mostly children. There was even someone dressed up in a Chinese dragon outfit.

I'm not very good about reporting on the restaurant side of my pursuit of the next great taste experience. I have a significant backlog. I think I'm going to have to see what I can do about that.

Posted by Jennifer at 1:24 PM | Comments (1)
November 16, 2003

NYC: Borgo Antico

I'm definitely overdue to remark on the occasion afforded me the evening prior to my birthday for dinner and concert in New York. The aformentioned took place at Borgo Antico, located at 22 East 13th Street (details on the latter can be found here).

This season the restaurant is featuring specials focused on wild game, though not everything on their website is available each evening. On the night we ate there, I chose a pasta dish with a venison ragu, and Michael had the wild boar stew. Both were very, very tasty. And for dessert we went out on a non-chocolate limb and had a lemony bread pudding that was just marvelous.

The downstairs level has a bar and open tables that promote a friendly atmosphere. The upstairs - where we dined - is a cosy and warm affair conducive to conversation. And I certainly enjoyed myself very much.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:51 AM | Comments (0)
November 5, 2003

D.C.: Capitol City Brewing Company

A stone's throw from the capitol building, this brewpub has three additional branches. Luckily, this place was far less crowded than we expected. So, we had a chance to sit and relax and enjoy the meal. We began with the eastern shore crab dip (a spinach and artichoke mix with crab added) -- very tasty. For the main entrees: bistro beefsteak garni (a lovely tender center cut with a peppery garlic seasoning) and a salmon stack (maple glazed filets on couscous). Both were delicious and my only complaint might be that I wish the portions had been larger. We rounded out the meal with the sampler of the local brew - the porter didn't prove to our liking (but I'm never fond of that), and the pumpkin ale was a spicy surprise (and much more appealing than my one and only attempt to homebrew the same). The other three flavors were smooth if perhaps a bit too similar too each other to warrant more mention. Overall, a fun place for dinner and the kitchens are to be complimented for not letting the brew carry all the load.

Posted by Jennifer at 3:43 PM | Comments (0)
November 4, 2003

D.C.: Anatolia

Located in the Capitol Hill area at 633 Pennsylvania Ave SE, this Turkish restaurant is one in a string of nearby ethnic eateries. The food was appealing, though the extremely tender lamb shank doesn't strike one as middle eastern (it's rather almost Irish). But the kebab was authentic enough. And the meal was entirely saved by the tasty baklava. Overall, though, I'd have to say that I'm spoiled by The Istanbul Cafe in New Haven where the hospitality and the amazing food make one feel as if they were being welcomed into a traditional home for dinner.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:25 PM | Comments (0)
October 22, 2003

Toronto: Ethiopian House

I can't believe it's taken me nearly a month to finally finish commenting on the restaurants of note visited during ACN. This one should do it though and perhaps next year, since I'll be likely revisiting a few favorites, there will be less of an inventory.

Ethiopian House is located at 4 Irwin Ave (just north of Wellesley off Yonge St.). It's another place that we only go when we have sufficient time as the service is slow, but pleasant. The food, though, is incredibly good and we invariably enjoy scooping up the spicy Ethiopian mixes with tasty injera. If you're up for a leisurely dinner with delicious food, I recommend stopping off here.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:00 AM | Comments (2)
October 15, 2003

Toronto: Garlic Pepper

This excellent restaurant at 578 Yonge Street is always, always, always on my list when I visit Toronto. This time I made it there twice during the week of ACN. The first time was for a dim sum lunch. I definitely have a weak spot for shiu-mai and steamed BBQ pork buns. I also tried out the crispy seaweed rolls, and added them to my list of favorites.

Later that week, we went back with a whole gang of people for dinner. Naturally, we ordered at least one dish of crispy spicy baby octopus. It's been on the specials list at Garlic Pepper for years, and it deserves to stay. Several other people tried it out too. For our experimental dish, we tried "funny-tasting" shrimp (exactly how it's titled on the menu). It was hot and unique. Definitely interesting. Can't wait to go back next year!

Posted by Jennifer at 2:10 PM | Comments (1)
October 13, 2003

Toronto: Mr. Maharaja

Located at 7 Balmuto Street, and lauded by The Globe and Mail as "a plain-Jane little place with divine Indian food," Mr. Maharaja was chosen as one of the top 10 Taste Adventures in 2001. In 2003, the food was still incredible. We ordered "lamb with spinach" (lamb cooked in onion, ginger, garlic, and tomato sauce with spinach) and "daal curry" (lentils cooked with tomato and seasoned with spices in the Hyderabdii style). There were a number of other thngs we were interested in trying, and we may return there. But only when we have sufficient time to spend. While the food was simply amazing, the service was, well, atrocious. Another couple of people sitting nearby had similar difficulty getting the attention of the waiter at any time, so we, at least, didn't feel singled out. I'm used to eating in NYC often - where the waiters seem to take pride in being difficult - but this place left them looking like amateurs. At least, the food was good.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:35 AM | Comments (0)
October 12, 2003

Toronto: Pita Break

Okay....I really need to push through these reviews of all the yummy food I ate in Toronto, because now I have two places in New York City to go on about from a business trip last week. I'm beginning to think I'm traveling too much and not giving myself enough time to experiment in my own kitchen, even if I did manage to fit in a trip to Wright's Orchard to pick apples and make the first pie of the season yesterday!

In any case... a wonderful place to grab lunch is the Pita Break at 565 Yonge Street. The first year I stopped there, I remember returning to the hotel and going into a game session where I noticed the huge number of fast food wrappers and bags. Considering how affordable Pita Break is and how utterly delish their fresh baked and warm pitas full of stuff (one gets to choose the meat, sauce, veggies, etc.) are, it seemed a shame to me that anyone should be eating McLunch. In any case, this year I had a warm falafel pita with tahini sauce and lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts. It was ever so satisfying. And I got baklava for dessert too!

Posted by Jennifer at 3:31 PM | Comments (1)
September 29, 2003

Toronto: The Artful Dodger

Around one of the other corners from the hotel we stay at for ACN, there's a comfy little pub called The Artful Dodger. I like this place because they've got Strongbow Cider on tap. When we first found it, it was something of a treat as I hadn't had the stuff in nearly ten years -- not since my term abroad in England. They also have tasty Smithwick's. Their pub fare is decent -- good for a fish 'n' chips fix, and I appreciate the fact that one of their dining rooms is non-smoking. We usually stop in at least once during the trip and relax and enjoy.

Posted by Jennifer at 7:56 PM | Comments (4)
September 25, 2003

Toronto: Tantra

At 634 Church Street, not even an entire block from the hotel, is a small Italian restaurant. The patio outside looks just like half a dozen other patios nearby, and gives away none of the interior atmosphere, which has quite an individual flavor. As does the food. Unable to decide, we started off with two appetizers: a bruschetta with goat cheese (note: Jenn has a secret weakness for goat cheese apparently -- oops, not so secret) and a plate of tender escargot. Marvelous. Risotto with wild mushrooms for me, and gnocchi for Michael went nicely with a half litre of the house red wine. We rounded out the meal with a slice of excruciatingly good chocolate mousse cake (taunted into it by the snappy waiter). This is our second time visiting this restaurant and it looks like it's becoming tradition.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:05 AM | Comments (1)
September 24, 2003

Toronto: Ginger

As evidenced by the fact that we ate there three times in one week, this Vietnamese restaurant in the trendy Yonge/Bloor area is one of my favorites. The cafeteria style somehow gives the meals a more home-cooked feel, and the menu is varied and interesting. I've yet to try a dish there that I didn't like. This time I had three different versions of pad thai: (1) hot and sour chicken, (2) coconut grilled shrimp, and (3) chicken with ginger and mushrooms. Michael also had the hot and sour chicken pad thai, and tried a spicy chicken with lime leaf over rice. On top of all the great food, the price can't be beat. It's no wonder we go there year after year.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:35 PM | Comments (1)

Not quite Toronto: Sergi's

Having spent a few years in New York State's North Country for college, I became quite fond of an entree that, to date, I have discovered is only available at Sergi's Italian restaurant in Canton (or at the nearby St. Lawrence Northstar Pub): pizza rolls. Pizza dough wrapped around a filling of sauce and cheese, sometimes with pepperoni, and then deep fried. The restaurant itself may be unprepossessing, but the pizza rolls are still a treat that wakens my tastebuds in a unique and very tasty way. No calzone or "flat" pizza compares, and I'm glad to get the chance to stop there while en route to Ambercon North.

Posted by Jennifer at 4:47 PM | Comments (9)
September 3, 2003

Korean Food: First Time

I've been remiss. A couple weeks ago, Michael took me out to try a Korean restaurant. The place is called simply: Korea and Japan, and serves traditional dishes from both cuisines.

I ordered Bul-Go-Gi, which was described in the menu as thin sliced barbecued beef with special house sauce. I rather thought it would be a safe place to start, and expected it to be somehow similar to other Asian barbecued dishes. However, I had to admit that its taste was entirely unique. I quite enjoyed it. Not to be entirely safe, I also decided to try an appetizer, which I believe was on the specials list: the basic description amounted to cold squid noodles. It was, um...interesting, and I felt adventurous for having tried it.

Michael had Stone-Bowl Bi-Bim-Bob, a mix of rice, vegetables, and (I think) beef in a spicy sauce that's served in a flaming hot stone bowl. When the dish is received (with a raw egg on top), the customer stirs it to combine the ingredients. The food is bound together as the egg cooks - yep, that's how hot the stone is. The excitement is listening to the rice crackle as it roasts when hitting the side of the bowl. I got a taste, and I again, despite having eaten many other varieties of Asian food, had a singular, and yummy, experience.

As for ambiance....well, the restaurant is in a strip mall, and from the outside, it doesn't look like much. The interior, though, is very cosy and neatly decorated. I'd definitely go there again.

Posted by Jennifer at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)
September 1, 2003

Toronto, Take One

Back from Worldcon... Watch for Toronto, Take Two when I return to the city in just two weeks for Ambercon North.

Joe Badali's: An Italian restaurant and bar, which likely got a lot of traffic during the weekend as it was close to the convention center and the prices were reasonable. My choice for dinner? Vitello Marsala. Reasonably tasty but not particularly exceptional food. I think the menu overall reflects the theme of appealing but not perhaps as imaginative as one might hope. Though I hear the tiramisu was quite delicious. Perhaps I would've tried the buffet if it was available so as to sample more of their dishes.

Dhaba: An Indian restaurant rated as one of the top ten restaurants in the city in 2001. I took David and several friends (Deb, Kev, Mike, Al, eBear, Big Steve) there for lunch and as celebration for David's birthday. We all had the buffet, which featured several delicious dishes. It seemed to me that we all had a lovely time, and the rendition of the SCA version of "Happy Birthday" was just not to be missed.

Benihana: A branch of this dependable chain was located in the main convention hotel. A convenient place to stop for a quick lunch of sushi. And I got to have my favorite: unagi.

I also spent a fair amount of time at the EPIC in the Fairmont Royal York. In the mornings, I treated clients to their wonderful brunch (but not on Sunday, when the $19 version was replaced with the $50 version!). My favorite treat (and thanks to Deb for turning me on to it), a pastry with a sweet glaze and nuts that was somewhat reminscent of baklava in flavor.

Posted by Jennifer at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)
July 23, 2003

Dining Out

It's been a busy couple of weeks, which I largely blame on RWA National. Sadly, it's kept me from the kitchen, in all but the most expedient ways. However, it did afford me the opportunity to rediscover a restaurant or two, and to revisit a favorite.

On Thursday the 18th, I had the opportunity to take a client to La Bonne Soupe. This is a cosy little place with homestyle French food - soups, crepes, fondue, and so forth. I can best describe it as comfort food with heart. Unassuming from the street, the upstairs level (my preference) has hanging plants that lend the room an air of French country. Opting to skip my favorite - the best onion soup I've ever eaten Stateside - I had "La Canadienne": a crepe filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and scallions. Magnifique!

The next day, another client and I lunched at Limoncello. It had been some time since I had the opportunity to enjoy this lovely light place, and I was relieved to find its quality as high as ever. The service is so good one feels like visiting royalty, which is not a bad thing as this place is not easy on the wallet - but the food is worth every penny. After introducing my client to the pleasure of carpaccio, we both indulged in a plate of "Zuppa di Pesce Alla Marsigliese" - a delightfully spiced thick bouillabaisse.

On the way home, Michael treated me to a reward for the grueling weekend of work: We stopped in New Haven for dinner at one of my favorite places: Istanbul Cafe on Crown Street. Authentic Turkish cuisine featuring some wonderful shish kebabs. We bracketed the meal on either side with Sigata Borek (an appetizer made of rolled filo dough stuffed with feta) and delicious baklava - my absolute favorite dessert. Having each had our own serving of the latter, I couldn't resist the luxury of splitting yet another helping. I really must learn to make it myself.

Posted by Jennifer at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)
May 4, 2003

The Best Little BBQ Around

With plans for dinner to include ribs that are going to marinate all day in the BBQ sauce I've been working on developing, I was thinking this morning about Little Mark's Big BBQ. Unfortunately, they don't have a web page. But if you're ever in the neighborhood of Vernon, CT and you'd like an amazing BBQ experience, stop off at this restaurant, well-known and well-favored by locals.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:40 AM | Comments (6)