Took the train to NYC to visit a very good friend, yesterday. She has the best taste in chocolate and cookies and all sweets in general (probably because she is very sweet, herself). Once again, she introduced me to amazing flavors.
Best. Cookies. Ever!The most amazing cookies can be found at Levain Bakery. They are the puffiest cookies I’ve ever seen and they almost completely covered the palm of my hand. I had to use a knife to cut a cookie to share with Bob. (Yes, it’s truly amazing I didn’t gobble them up on the train ride home.) It slices like cake! And it tastes heavenly! Moist with just a hint of a crispy shell and absolutely full of flavor! YUMMMMM!!!! I got the dark chocolate chocolate chip (pictured above) and the dark chocolate peanut butter chip. Both were incredible and I can’t wait to go back and try more! MMMMMmmmm!
How many times is too many to visit a restaurant for a delicious meal? I know it’s not three days in a row, because I think I could go back again today to Bridge.
The restaurant is located in Westerly, RI, right on the Pawcatuck River, which means if you sit on the patio you get gorgeous views of said river.
Bob and I stopped here for dinner because it was close to our hotel in Stonington, CT. The menu was mouthwatering and I was sad I couldn’t try everything listed.
We started off with one of the specials of the day: Maine steamers. (Apologies for the blurry photo – I only had my iPhone with me.) Bob and I love clams, but we’d never had these before. WOW! My new favorite! They were amazingly sweet for clams!
For our mains, Bob had the ribeye which was also one of the specials. I followed suit by choosing a special as well:
Wild Coho salmon with a honey-dijon glaze. Amazing! The item that almost caused me not to order the dish was the Brussel sprouts. I have never had a Brussel sprout. All the jokes and complaints about them kept me away. As I speared a sprout, I said to Bob, “Here it goes. My first Brussel sprout.” That caught our waiter’s ear and he couldn’t believe I’d never eaten one before. I took a big bite and….Hey! It was good! Our waiter said they are best fried in bacon fat! LOL I can’t imagine anything tasting bad when cooked in bacon!
The next day, I went to lunch with a new friend and guess where we went? Yep! We sat on the patio in the warm autumn sun and enjoyed a great meal. No photos, but I did thoroughly enjoy the fig and brie on toasted baguette! I had a peach crisp for dessert. Sweet and tart and yummy!
And last night? Bob came back from work tired, and it was raining, so we opted to go back to the Bridge again! My third day in a row – and we ended up with the waitress who’d served me lunch the day before. 😉 This time I decided to go for the prie fix menu. I started with the New England clam chowder and fritter:
I am a huge fan of New England clam chowder. When we lived in San Mateo, Bob, our teen daughter, and I would drive almost 2 hours to Monterey Bay to The Fish Hopper just for the clam chowder. Now that we’re in New England, I am thrilled to know I can get great clam chowder any time! The Bridge’s chowder was my favorite of all the clam chowders I’ve had yet! Creamy, clammy, and just mmm, mmm, good!
My next course, grilled fish tacos. VERY delicious and I ate both of them! Bob ordered:
For dessert, I had the pumpkin bread pudding, which I coveted when my friend ordered it the day before. It was, no surprise, amazing – pumpkiny but not too sweet with a hearty dollop of fresh whipped cream.
If you ever get a chance to dine here, DO IT! And if you visit me, I’ll take you there! 😉 (PS – they have a great selection of vegetarian/vegan items, too.)
And for you careful readers, yes, we just three days ago moved here to New England from California. Look for posts of our brand new adventures, here!
After a few days exploring and enjoying Portland, it was time to move on – to the coast of Oregon where John and Gail have a cute beach cottage. Before we headed off on the 2 hour drive to the coast, we had to fortify ourselves.
That’s Crave Bakeshop! Cupcakes? Oh yes! I was all over it, especially when Gail told me that owner/founder Kyra Bussanich won a big battle on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars! I drooled over the offerings.
Then, I noticed that all the offerings were gluten-free. Um. I don’t really have anything against gluten-free, but my past experience didn’t really make me a fan. I did recall reading that the owner’s motivation to create her shop was to make gluten-free delicious. I was willing to give it a try. Oh. My. God. Seriously, some of the BEST cupcakes I have ever had! There are not a lot of cupcakeries I’d go out of my way to re-visit, but I will most definitely be heading back there the next time I’m in Portland! Everything was amazing. I had a sample of the scones – delicious! But I had my eye on the cupcakes. I did break with my usual tradition of only buying cupcakes to purchase a couple of their cake bites. A small sphere of cake rolled in chocolate. I had the chocolate mint and the mocha. So moist, so flavorful. I wanted so much more than a bite each! Then, the cupcake! What to choose? I went for the hot chocolate and it was amazing! Again, moist, but not so moist that it fell apart at the first bite (I hate that). Full of flavor and the right ratio of cake to frosting. The marshmellowy buttercream frosting was just the right amount of sweet. Mmmmmm! I also took a bite of my sister’s birthday cake cupcake – I tend to keep away from vanilla flavored cakes (I love chocolate) but this one was pretty delicious – I’d buy it again! If you’re lucky enough to live in Portland, I highly recommend eating your way through the menu! 🙂 It changes daily!
So the coast. Gorgeous! I’ll write more about it later. I want to talk food! The first thing we did was stop here:
and picked up freshly caught oysters and clams. The owner of Kelly’s (Mr, Kelly?) was a hoot – ebullient, friendly, and funny! Bob and John made plans to return in a day for crabbing. John prepared the oysters and grilled them. I’d never had grilled oysters before. I am a full-fledged fan of oysters on the half-shell and didn’t know what to expect from grilled oysters. WOW! Incredible! Still briny (in a good way) and just a hint of smoke – just barely cooked, it seemed. I’m a fan! Bob prepared the clams for linguine and clam sauce which was fab, as always! Gail asked him for the recipe. With the leftovers, Bob made clam chowder. Gail and I devoured the “taste” he let us have while he was finishing it up.
The following day, Bob and John headed back to Kelly’s Marina at low tide to go crabbing. Gail, her daughter, and I headed to a nearby town for shopping (and mostly salt-water taffy). We kept our fingers crossed that they’d catch enough Dungeness crab for dinner…and they did! Five!
Kelly’s cleaned and cooked them, and we all enjoyed the most delicious Dungeness (my favorite) crab I’ve ever had in my life. In fact, I’m worried that I’m spoiled now and won’t be able to enjoy crab as much now that I’ve had such freshly caught ones. (Bob? You may have to take up crabbing….!) I’m drooling now just remembering that meal.
There were nightly campfires – that included hot dogs, S’mores, roasted oysters, and amazing sausage sandwiches. Those three days at the beach house were blissful, relaxing, fun, and delicious!
One of our favorite things to do when visiting a city is to eat! We love all kinds of food from the dive to the finest restaurant – as long as the food is good! (And a clean environment is key too – sadly, there have been good restaurants we stopped going to because of visible grime.) We’ve always loved eating in Portland and this trip was no exception – YUM! Here are some of our favorite stops from our recent visit.
1. Queen of Sheba – Ethiopian restaurant
This place started off in the 1990s as an Ethiopian market and became a restaurant in 1996. Since then it’s received rave reviews. This is one of my favorite spots in Portland, ever since John and Gail (my brother-in-law and sister) took me there years ago. This was Bob’s first time there. The night we went, the service was unusually slow – I suspect someone must have called in sick because usually service is friendly and brisk. This did not detract from our experience, however. The food, as always, was superb. Ethiopian food is served family style on a tray of special bread (injera) and menu items are placed in dollops around the tray. You tear off pieces of the spongy bread and scoop up whatever item you want and place it all in your mouth. Fabulous! Some of my favorite items to order are Kik Wet – Split pea stew with warm spices, Misr Wet – Lentil stew with warm spices, Tibs Siga – Spicy sizzling beef in a hot berbere sauce, and Yedero Wet – Lemon washed chicken legs stewed in a spicy sauce topped with a hard-boiled egg. All the food is amazing and I always, always eat too much! For vegetarians, there are options for no meat meals.
2. The Cheese Plate – food cart
I can’t recall exactly, but I think Portland was where I first heard of food carts. Now they are prolific and everywhere! Surprise surprise, I had yet to eat at one! Gail indulged me one evening and took me to The Cheese Plate at 2231 NE Alberta Street.
We arrived early enough that there were no lines and we were able to secure a picnic table for the three of us (my 4-1/2 year old niece joined us). It was hard not to just order everything on the menu, but we did manage to narrow it down some. We ordered kale chips, soft boiled eggs with caviar, hazelnut and popcorn party mix, olives, the cheese plate, and fried cheese. Everything was fresh and delicious but my favorite was the fried goat cheese which was wrapped up in philo dough (I think).
And of course we had to get dessert. Now THAT was something to write home about for sure! If you are ever in the area, it’s worth a visit to this cart just for their fudge brownie with blue cheese topped by a port wine drizzle! The combination of chocolate and blue cheese sounds weird, but they are perfect together! Slightly tart but not overwhelming. My niece practically devoured it on her own! I may have to try playing with a recipe to see if I can make something like that at home.
Need I say more? This doughnut shop has been featured on numerous food and travel shows and in magazines for their wild doughnuts, like voodoo doll, maple bacon bar, and dirt (oreo cookies) doughtnut, along with some more slightly risque choices. 😉 It may seem like a gimmick, but those doughnuts taste amazing! The flavors are fabulous and the doughnuts supremely fresh. Truly the best doughnuts! There’s a reason why there’s a long line out the door! Ah, but we have an in….
That’s my stepson (Bob’s son) Jason who is a manager at Voodoo! WOOHOO! We stopped by for a boxful and skipped the line (thanks Jason)! YUMMMMM! (Good thing I don’t live there because I’d be a billion pounds from eating my way through their menu!)
My brother-in-law, John, is a bit of a beer connoisseur, so when he learned that the Whiskey Soda Lounge served jelly beer (bia wun), he had to visit and we wanted to, too! What is bia wun? It’s basically slushy beer. Now, I am not a beer drinker and typically don’t like beer, but this beer? Delicious! Bottles of Singha beer (which are pretty light as beers go) are placed in a special machine that churns and cools the beer until it’s slushy. The waitress gives a quick pound of bottle to floor, pops off the top, throws in a straw (!) and hands it to you to make sure the foam doesn’t overflow – and after a time, it stops foaming and you can enjoy this amazingly refreshing drink! We also ordered appetizers and my favorite was a special – fresh corn fritters with chili oil dipping sauce. So fresh and delicious! Those of you in the foodie know have undoubtedly heard of Portland’s best Thai joint Pok Pok. The Whiskey Soda Lounge is owned by Pok Pok’s owner so expect the same outstanding food without waiting in a long line. Or at least wait there until your number is called (since it’s right across the street).
5. Thai Peacock
A great find! Jason, Bob’s son, recommended this place while the three of us were looking for lunch after visiting the Japanese Tea Garden. The food was delicious – some of the best Thai food I’ve had in a while. Plus Jason introduced me to a great dish I’d never had before: pad se-ew – kind of like pad thai but with wide noodles (think chow fun over chow mein). I hope to order it the next time I find myself at a Thai restaurant. Oh and big plus for the restaurant? It’s located just across from one of my all time favorite bookstores ever – Powell’s Books! And yes, we went there, and yes I bought books! Lots!
Bob and I celebrated our 14th anniversary a few days early by dining at Beast in Portland, Oregon. I first heard of Beast when Chef Naomi Pomeroy competed on Iron Chef America (and if I remember correctly, just narrowly lost). She was recognized in Food and Wine Magazine as one of ten best new chefs in 2009. Her restaurant has also received numerous accolades. If the name of the restaurant doesn’t already make it obvious, the web site states that vegetarians would find eating there a challenge. There are no substitutions as the kitchen is small (and in view of the diners which makes for great entertainment).
Imagine being invited to a large dinner party. That’s what it’s like at Beast. Community seating (two large tables) and a set menu give the meal an air of being invited to someone’s home for dinner. Dinners are only served Wednesday through Saturday twice with seatings at 6 and 8:45 PM. The 6-course menu changes weekly. Bob and I were wowed for sure by every single course! I’m still thinking about the dishes and wishing I could revisit them all. There’s great attention to detail for flavor, freshness, and plating.
I didn’t take photos of every course, I was too focused on just relishing every bite. The first course was a carrot veloute with fried pickled ramps and parsley oil. The soup was sweet but not overly so, and the fried ramps and parsley oil were fabulous accompaniments. I wanted to be able to drink an entire bowl of this fabulous soup!
The main course featured duck breast with cherry-pinot noir duck jus and new potato salad with summer herbs and bacon. Probably some of the best duck breast I’ve ever had – perfectly seared with a crisp skin on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Not at all chewy. The potato salad was slightly tart and delicious. I overheard the young man to my left say to his date, “I don’t like potato salad, but I really like this!”
Course four was a salad of mixed greens, albacore tuna toasts, with Sungold tomato vinaigrette. To me, the proof of the genius of Chef Pomeroy was in the salad. I mean, it’s salad! Green stuff with dressing. But….this was the most amazing salad I’ve had in my life! It was fresh and not overdressed. I could taste every element of the salad including leaves of chiso (I don’t know the American word for this crisp sour leaf often used in Japanese cooking for wrapping sushi and pickling umeboshi). In fact, since returning home, Bob and I have started adding chiso (from our garden) to our salads. Love it!
The fifth course was a cheese plate with Angelino plums, candied hazelnuts, anise shortbread, and wild flower honey. I can’t recall the names of the cheeses, but they were all spectacular (I happen to love love love cheese)!
Oh! I’m drooling right now just looking at this picture of our final course – dessert! It was a chilled vanilla créme with apricot granite, and thyme tuille. As with all the other dishes, every element was perfect – delicious, flavorful, and working in perfect harmony with one another. I will reveal here that I have a bit of a strange allergy to dairy. I can eat cheeses, sour cream and butter (in small quantities) without any adverse affects. I can eat foods with dairy cooked into them in small amounts. However, I am unable to eat ice cream, cream cheese, or drink milk. Sigh. So when I saw this amazing dessert, I nearly wept knowing I couldn’t do more than take a little taste. Um…except after a nibble, I couldn’t stop eating it. The texture was that of thick custard, and the vanilla flavor fresh and sweet. I ate almost all of it and then worried about the negative after effects — which, miraculously, never happened! I’m deeming Chef Pomeroy a magician!
While we were feasting on our last couple of courses, the kitchen staff started preparing for the second seating. They worked like a well-oiled machine despite being on the quiet side. It was fun watching the action, but the best part was definitely eating the outstanding meal! Bravo Beast!
5425 NE 30th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97211
Reservations are a must!
We live on the Peninsula of the Bay Area in California. We get warm sunny summer days that cool off in the evenings through the mornings. Perfect, for me! San Francisco, on the other hand, can be covered in fog and be on the cool side in the summer. (I always think fall is the best time to visit San Francisco.) Bob and I debated, one sunny Saturday morning, whether or not to risk a morning drive into the city to go to the Ferry Building and Farmer’s Market there. We bundled up in layers (always the best option when heading out and about in the Bay Area) and drove the short twenty-five minutes to the Ferry Building. It was still early, 10:30 AM, but as we walked from the parking structure to the building, it was already warm enough for us to peel off a layer. Gorgeous weather!
We started off by walking all the way down to Pier 33 for our early lunch reservations. The restaurant we went to was fine, but doesn’t warrant the time and space for a write up. We did pass another restaurant on our walk back to the Ferry Building that we hope to try next time.
By the time we arrived at the Ferry Building close to 1, it was bursting with people. It felt like summer with sunshine and warm temperatures. We spent a good couple of hours wandering the building, tasting, buying, and then heading outside to the Farmer’s Market for more tasting and shopping.
Our favorites stops in the Ferry Building include Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone (sausage/salami slices in a paper cone!), Cowgirl Creamery (great variety – and we end up buying different cheeses every time, although we prefer stinky salty cheeses), and Recchiuti chocolates! Recchiuti is currently my favorite chocolate confectioner in the area – introduced to me by my Manhattan friend, Daphne (thank you)! The chocolate is creamy and rich and the flavors, amazing! My current favorite is the sesame nougat (milk chocolate caramel ganache and a crunchy sesame disk), but I also love the force noir (their darkest chocolate ganache with a touch of vanilla bean) and the fleur del sel (burnt caramel with French sea salt). Actually, I love them all and always have a hard time choosing which to bring home with me. I tried Miette for the first time, although I’ve always been tempted by the gorgeous cupcakes and pastries in their display case, but never patient enough to wait in the long line. This time I did and bought each flavor of macaron offered. While I still favor Lette in Newport Beach, CA (which are comparable to the macarons I had in Paris) – Miette’s macarons were indeed fine. My favorite was the vanilla (which is odd for me since I’m a chocolate girl) and the hazelnut.
It was a lovely way to spend a sunny summer morning!
This dinner ranks in my top three favorite fine dining experiences of all time in the world. In fact, just looking at these photos again makes me drool.
On Friday night, Bob and I headed to The Four Seasons hotel to dine at L’Atelier (Joel Robuchon).
I won’t state the obvious more than to say that the service, the ambiance, the food, the everything were outstanding – as expected for a Michelin two star restaurant. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed even a little bit.
Bob and I both love foie gras, so we were thrilled two types of foie gras starters were offered.
Our mains came soon after our starter plates were cleared.
Bob ordered the sliced Wagyu beef with wasabi spinach and peppers. He declared the beef perfectly done and delicious, however, he was a little put off by the strong taste of peppers. He still cleaned his plate. Bob never eats something he doesn’t think tastes great – so this was high praise from him.
When I ordered the steak tartare, the waiter informed me that Joel Robuchon himself personally orders this every time he visits this restaurant. He claims that the NY restaurant has the best tartare, even better than his Paris restaurant! I had to agree – it was the best tartare I’ve ever had. (The second best being the one I had at La Palette in Paris last year.) The seasoning was perfect and the beef amazingly delicious. Mmmmmm! The frites were good, too, but I saved my tummy room for the tartare!
Finally, dessert. It was hard to choose because the menu was so tantalizing with items that sounded so creative and scrumptious. When I pointed to the item I was considering, the waiter fully approved.
It is as amazing as it sounds. The pastry chef uses a hand pump to blow a clear bubble of sugar – it looked like a Christmas ball. It was filled with the Elderflower cream and pineapple sorbet and the lemon jam. It was so beautiful that I almost didn’t want to break it. Almost. I had to hit it firmly with my spoon to crack the shell. OH! It was so heavenly! The crisp sugar shell, the sweet cream, the cold sorbet and the tart jam. All the flavors melding together fabulously. I am not positive what those pink flowers are on the side – I think the waiter said chiso flowers. When I ate those, I was filled with nostalgia for childhood Christmas. I can’t explain it – it was an amazing and magical experience.
Sorry, I’m not even going to bother talking about Bob’s dessert (mango mousse) that he quite enjoyed, because I want to end on this note – on the note and photo of that perfect sugar crystal ball of dessert.
Worth every pretty penny of this meal! Expensive? Yes! But totally worth it!
We love good food. It can be something as simple as a hot dog or a fabulous piece of fresh baked bread. We love dives and we love five star restaurants. There are a few dining experiences, however, that will forever be engraved in my memory. One of them is the first real “fine dining” experience I had when Bob took me to Jean-Georges for a birthday about ten years ago. I think my mouth hung open with awe whenever I wasn’t putting delicious food into it. Everything was just amazingly spectacular from the ambiance to the white-glove service to the food – oh the glorious food! When we moved to Shanghai we were thrilled to discover a Jean-Georges there! We dined there so often, the maitre de recognized us and always seated us at “our table” by the window, and served us complimentary champagne. It was there that we met Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten himself!
While walking in mid-town on Friday, searching for a place to have lunch, we stopped at a restaurant I saw when meeting up with my friend the previous day. I hadn’t looked closely at the menu but liked the look of it and the name of the restaurant, JoJo. We discovered with glee and surprise that it was a Jean-Georges restaurant. Not only that, but the maitre de informed us that it was the chef’s first location, 20 years ago! Of course we had lunch there!
We started with the most amazing pea soup ever! As was reminiscent of my first soup experience at Jean-Georges, the bowl came only with a pool of Parmesan foam with Parmesan croutons. The waiter then poured the soup from a silver pitcher into the bowl, causing the foam and the soup to meld. The soup was fresh and delicious, with the Parmesan foam adding a salty accompaniment. Truly the best pea soup I’ve ever had! (Although Bob was kind enough to say that mine was just as good.)
Our mains were just as delicious – I had oven roasted chicken and Bob had grilled shrimp with ramps and artichoke hearts. We cleaned our plates. And because we wanted to walk down memory lane, we ordered the molten chocolate cake. While many restaurants serve this, Jean-Georges version is incomparable. He “reinvented” this cake in 1987 by accident when he pulled out a chocolate sponge cake too early (according to an article in the outstanding food magazine Lucky Peach – and yes, of course we subscribe). I’d forgotten just how good his molten chocolate cake was – you think they all taste the same? They don’t. It’s the best and it’s a sensual experience. (You chocolate lovers know what I mean!) I didn’t take a picture – sorry. I was too busy eating!
Stay tuned for part 2 because it was not only the best meal we had in NYC, it will be forever in our minds as one of our favorites (including my first Jean-Georges experience)!
Thursday was perfect! The weather was gorgeous!
In the morning, I met with a dear friend who is also a writer. She met me in the lobby and we caught up on life and talked about writing. The time sped by too quickly! We made plans to see each other again! At 1, I walked over to Alice’s Tea Cup to meet another very good friend (also a writer). It was almost a year since we’d seen each other last (we have a vow to see each other at least once a year). She introduced me to the best scones ever! Friendly staff, prompt service, delicious food, fabulous tea (I loved Anna’s Earl Grey), and like I said, the best scones ever! We split the chocolate chip scone. We strolled over to Central Park and she took me on her favorite walk – so pretty! People were out and about, lounging on benches and rocks, walking, laughing, talking. Then we took the F Train to SoHo and did a little shopping. She introduced me to Uni Qlo – and I ended up buying Bob a shirt. We walked around a bit. I lusted after Michael Kors purses. Then, we walked to Do Hwa for the seriously best Korean food I’ve ever had! I ordered the Kimchi Bokum Bop (fried rice with beef, kimchi, and a fried egg). YUMMM! Everything was lovely! It was a truly perfect day!
One of our favorite things to do while traveling, along with booking reservations at top restaurants, is wandering around until we stumble upon a restaurant we want to try. We did that last night after we arrived in NY and found this place:
FYI: I love love love risotto!!!! The restaurant was nestled among other small restaurants – and located just above Jukai where Bob had enjoyed a fabulous dinner with customers his last visit here. Back to Radicchio – we immediately loved the atmosphere. Tiny place with maybe six wood tables, very cozy and intimate and welcoming. We started with a sausage appetizer – sausage and spinach. The sausage was juicy and delicious, but the spinach was amazing! I can’t believe I’m saying that! 😉 It was cooked in pork fat, I think. Very delicious!
But by far, the star of the meal was the risotto. I ordered the special – risotto with Bolognese and topped with Asiago cheese.
Best. Risotto. Ever! (And I’ve been to Italy.) I wanted to eat it all, and I almost did. Too bad I got full! Every bite was amazing – full of flavor, sweet with tomatoes and full of spices (but not spicy)! YUMMMMM!!
Bob had the sausage risotto and he loved his as well.
I had a bite and yes, it was good, but I loved mine better. 🙂 The risotto was cooked to perfection – not mushy, not undercooked, just right! It was an amazing meal – a perfect way to start my NY trip!