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Sunset Taverna – Santorini, Greece

After a 3 hour hike from Imerovigli to Ammoundi Bay at the base of Oia, we were posed with three options for lunch – all of which I’ve read are fantastic spots so we couldn’t go wrong.  We quickly decided on Sunset Taverna and we are so glad we did!  By far the best meal we had on the island!!!  We started with the delicious local fava which looks similar to hummus but tastes so different.  Made with Santorini favas – more like yellow lentils – this mild dip is the perfect start to any meal.  Most restaurants seem to serve it with chopped red onion and Greek oregano (some add tasty capers).  It’s perfect on it’s own or with some fresh bread.  Because we ordered it everywhere we went, next we had to go with the saganaki.  SO good here!  One of the best by far!  With the fresh lemon juice on top it honestly doesn’t get better.  Yum!  For our main course we chose the fresh sea bream.  Such a great choice!  Light in texture in flavor, it’s the perfect fish for a meal that won’t leave you feeling heavy.

Do yourself a favor and go here if you’re ever on the island.  They’re open for lunch and dinner and their fish selection changes daily depending on what the fisherman bring in that day.

The outdoor grill

Waterfront is an understatement

The fabulous view

Santorini’s local fava

Saganaki

Fresh sea bream

Matsuhisa – Aspen, CO

On our recent trip to Aspen for the Food & Wine Festival, I made sure to secure reservations at top restaurants in town to ensure an amazing culinary adventure from morning to night.  On our second night there we ate at Nobu’s Matsuhisa which was PACKED!  And full of culinary celebrities which was a fun treat.  Our meal was incredible from start to finish.  I would definitely order everything we had that night if we went back!  Earlier in the day when we went to see Bobby Flay do a demonstration we happened to sit next to Nobu himself so I leaned over and told him we were eating at Matsuhisa that night and he couldn’t have been nicer.  Talked to us for a while, even showed us photos of his granddaughter.  Needless to say he was so friendly when he saw us there that night and even sat down and chatted us up for a while.

Shishito peppers

Rock shrimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce

Mixed mushroom toban-yaki

King crab tempura “Amazu” sweet ponzu

There were so many different mochi flavors to choose from but we settled on root beer (amazing!), mango and green tea. Perfect dessert!

How cute is Nobu?! Love him!

 

 

Andina – Portland, OR

Where do I start?!  This place is amazing!!!  My good college friend took me here while I was in town for 24 hours and she couldn’t have picked a better place.  I now see why it’s hard to get a reservation.  What blew me away is how accommodating they are to Gluten Free people.  They have a completely different menu that’s not just a couple of items but rather a whole menu full of options…very impressive!  We started with the Sacsayhuaman (sounds like Sexy Woman) – habañero pepper vodka shaken with pureed passionfruit and cane sugar, served up with a sugar rim and a cilantro leaf garnish.  HOLY CRAP…this drink is to DIE for!!!  I would go back just for that:)

For our non-liquid dishes we ordered the “5 Elementos” cebiche (spelled with a “b” there) which was perfect.  So flavorful and fresh, I could have eaten just that all night.  The A La Chalaca (sashimi-style fish in an ajî Amarillo vinaigrette served with a corn salsa) was so delicate and clean tasting even with the vinaigrette.  Yum!  Whenever there’s octopus on the menu I have to get it so we ordered the Anticucho de Pulpo – grilled octopus kebabs served with chimichurri served over caper potatoes…yum!  Cooked to perfection and exactly what I was hoping for.  Last we got the Pescado al Rocoto y Kyon – roasted fresh fish topped with ginger, rocoto (Capsicum pepper) and scallion, basted with sizzling sesame oil served over shiitake mushrooms and bok choy in a smoked pork broth, served with asparagus quinoa fried rice…DE-LISH!

*Because the lighting was so dim, my pictures turned out horribly so I’m just giving you a teaser with our delicious drink:)

Laurelhurst Market – Portland, OR

On a quick trip down to Portland I did a little restaurant research without any suggestions and stumbled upon Laurelhurst Market.  GREAT choice!!!  It’s got that neighborhood feel all the while being super current and hip!  Everything we ate was divine.  Not one morsel was left on the plate.  And because there were 6 of us we were able to order a lot of shared plates to get a better idea of what this place has to offer.

We started with the charcuterie plate which was a must considering they have their own butcher shop attached to the restaurant.  Wow…that’s all I’ve got to say:)  Next were the deviled eggs topped with pork belly.  Really?!  I think we all could have eaten a lot of those:)  There was some mac & cheese, fried cauliflower (amazing!), steaks, fish and then dulce de leche cheesecake to finish…whoa!

If I were back in Portland I would definitely want to go here soon and I would feel very confident recommending this spot to anyone!

Charcuterie Plate

Steak Tartare – vodka, chives, shallot, farm yolk

Marrow Bones – toasted soft pretzel, pickled mustard seeds

Deviled “Dancing Chicken Farm” Eggs – braised tasso ham, pickled fennel

Shrimp & Grits – griddled scrapple, gulf shrimp, cauliflower chow chow, spring shoots salad

Queets River Steelhead

Mac & Cheese with Tim’s Chip Crust

Braised Local Kale with Housemade Bacon

Fried Cauliflower with Parsley, Lemon & Caper – on cauliflower puree

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

MoVida – Melbourne, Australia

Everywhere I searched and everyone I talked to recommended MoVida in Melbourne as a spot not to miss.  I had a night to myself and because it was too late in the game to get reservations I decided to just cozy up to the bar.  The wait was 45 minutes but it was well worth it.  Located in a funky alley right off of Flinders Street and across from Federation Square, the door and signage is discreet but it’s not that hard to find.

Because I was ordering for one I decided to stick mostly to the tapas side of the menu where you can order by the piece but I also decided to order a couple of the specials since they sounded so good.  The first were the Padron Peppers.  OMG I love those!  Whenever they’re on a menu I have to order them.  If you haven’t had them before they saying is “some are hot, some are not”.  The majority (I would say 9 out of 10) are sweet and mild, however there’s always one in the batch that is hot and spicy.  The order was large and the people next to me had befriended me so I offered to share.  Unfortunately the guy next to me got the hot one:)

Next I had the Gamba – prawn and romesco pincho.  The presentation wasn’t what I was expecting (beautiful, clean and simple) but the flavors were definitely there and I honestly could have eaten a lot of those.

The Cordero al Chilindron was also calling my name – Pyrenees wet roast lamb breast with fino and paprika sauce.  Delicious!  So tender and juicy, the meat pulled apart so easily.  This dish was great and the portion size was perfect for just one.

To finish I went with the special fish of the day.  I can’t remember what it was now but the fish distributor happened to be the guy I was sitting next to and I ordered it because I saw the dish come to him.  It was fantastic!  Pan fried perfectly, the fish sat in a lovely broth with chorizo and clams…my kind of dish!  I ate the entire thing and was very happy about it:)

Overall I have to say this place really reminds me of The Harvest Vine in Seattle.  Not so much the atmosphere but the food most definitely.  MoVida is a little more progressive but it’s nice to know I won’t have to go so far to get the same type of meal.  If you’re in Melbourne go!  It’s the spot everyone is talking about but be sure you go to the original MoVida…their new sister restaurant is next door but this is the one people keep going back to.

Robataya (Roppongi) – Tokyo, Japan

This is by far the best meal I’ve had in Tokyo.  I honestly couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this place!  The experience was so fun and entertaining and the food couldn’t have been fresher and more delicious.  There isn’t a menu because the ingredients are bought in fresh everyday and gone through every night assuring that nothing is old and needing to be sold off the next day.  I don’t think you can make a bad order here.  All the ingredients are recognizable so just order based off of what you like and you’re safe!  The preparation is simple…lightly seasoned and grilled right in front of you.  I highly recommend this place.  There are only about 20 seats in the whole place and reservations are necessary!

The amuse bouche – tuna sashimi with fresh tomatoes, onions and a light vinaigrette

The sashimi plate

Fresh asparagus

Waygu beef – seriously the best I’ve ever had!

Fresh grilled peppers

Whole fried snapper (if I remember correctly:))

Cinnamon and sugar mochi that was made right in front of us!

The Coterie Room – Seattle, WA

In the former Restaurant Zoe space, The Coterie Room is a breath of fresh air.  I love everything about it.  From the white subway tiled open kitchen to the distressed wood floors and lone yet stunning chandelier, everything is perfectly balanced here including the food.  Chef Brian McCracken (a fellow Seattle Prep alum alongside my husband) has outdone himself yet again!  A nominee by Food & Wine for ‘People’s Best New Chef’ he’s proving that he’s deserving of the attention.

Our meal was outstanding from start to finish.  I would order everything I had again in a heartbeat.  My fish was a special of the night so chances are it won’t be on the menu next time but it was outstanding.  I am now a huge fan of Turbot…a fish I didn’t know much about before this dinner.  And my husband’s duck leg confit was seriously the best duck confit I’ve ever had…absolutely amazing!!!

The only thing I wish I had done differently is order the “six pack of beer for the kitchen crew” for a mere $10…totally worth it.  Having worked in a kitchen myself I can tell you the first thing you do once your shift is done and the kitchen is clean is crack open a cold one by the walk in and dish about the night’s events.  It’s the perfect cap to the evening…and then you wake up the next morning and it’s a brand new day.  Next time!

Endive Salad dressed in a tarragon mustard vinaigrette with candied walnuts and aged gouda (I held the gouda although I’m sure it’s great)

Poutine – braised pork shoulder gravy, fried Beecher’s cheese curds and tender herbs

Market Fish of the Day – Turbot over a parsnip puree and roasted brussels sprouts

Duck Leg Confit – crispy pan seared duck leg with buttered farro, arugula and a mission fig conserve

Chocolate Caramel Tort – covered in an orange ganache with candied hazelnuts

Brilliant!

Madeo – West Hollywood, CA

This was my first time dining at the popular Northern Italian restaurant Madeo and I can tell you that it won’t be my last.  It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had.  I normally opt for fish dishes (and I still did this time) however I always rely on my husband for a bite of pasta.  He chose wisely and went with the classic Spaghetti alla Bolognese made with a veal meat sauce and honestly…it was probably the best we had both had.  Simple and far from fussy, the tender meat and perfectly cooked pasta intensified with every bite.  It was sad when it was gone.  My sister-in-law went for the special Veal Meatballs which I think we all assumed would be coming with pasta however it didn’t BUT, these meatballs were melt in your mouth good.  Perfect from start to finish.  They were delicate and soft not over mixed, hard or dry.  They (aside from my Cafe Lago meatballs) are the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.  Next time I go if these are on the menu I’m getting them!  Another dish in the mix on our table was the Osso Bucco which was also to die for.  The veal shank was cooked the way it was supposed to be with the meat falling off the bone.  Absolutely delicious.  I guess what I’m getting at is that you can’t really go wrong at this restaurant, or at least that’s what my first impression has led me to believe.  The ambiance won’t blow you away but there’s something nostalgic about it and you’re bound to find some famous faces in there which is always fun:)

Carciofi e Parmigiano – baby raw artichokes and Parmigiano cheese and rucola  *SO good!  A light dish that got eaten quickly…everything about it was well balanced and seasoned perfectly.

Prosciutto e Melone – Parma ham and melon  *Classic Italian dish…how can you go wrong?

Fagioli e Aragosta – Italian Cannellini beans with diced lobster and Rucola salad in a lemon dressing  *This was such a beautiful flavorful starter.  Plenty to share but honestly something I could eat everyday.  DE-lish!

Calamari Affogati – sautéed squid in tomato sauce  *Some of the best calamari I’ve ever had!  you need a spoon to get some sauce with every bite:)

Branzino di Mare al Carciofi – filet of wild sea bass baked with white wine and artichokes  *On the special menu…VERY good!

Vitella Arrosto – sliced roasted leg of veg from the cart  *We didn’t order this but as we were paying our bill…STUFFED…we all salivated while the chef started carving this beautiful meat and then carefully coated each delicate piece with some au jus.  Thankfully our waiter saw our oh-so-descreet drooling and had the chef make us a plate.  I can’t describe how flavorful this was.  It was on the special menu but seriously if you go and it’s on there and you have enough people to share with…GET IT!!!

I feel lucky to have the Pike Place Market so close to my house.  Does that mean I go there as often as I should?  No.  My excuse?  I’d probably default to the lack of parking but at the same time there are lots you can pay for so that’s not good enough.  The truth is I have no excuses and should go there more often.  It’s not just a tourist’s destination.  It’s a local market full of farm fresh produce, seafood, affordable fresh flowers…it’s our local farmers that we should be supporting more.  Not to mention all the ready-to-eat food.  Where do I start?!  I’m a sucker for Beecher’sDeLaurenti Specialty Food & WineThe Crumpet ShopPiroshky-PiroshkyLowell’sLa Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods…the list could go on and on.  My advice is to go in the late morning and eat your way through for lunch:)  Go with a friend and share so you’re not stuffing your face but so you can try enough different things without feeling like your pants are going to pop.

La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods – go for some great wine tasting and tastes of truffle goods…yum!

Mr. D’s Greek Deli – great gyro’s here!

Beecher’s Cheese – there’s a viewing window to show you how and where the cheese is made not to mention plenty of delicious foods to buy.  The “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese is pretty amazing…the name says it all.

Piroshky – Piroshky – Does it get much better than a beef and onion piroshky?  Nope:)

Joe Jack’s Fish Shack – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

My dad and his wife have a home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where we’re lucky enough to go visit from time to time.  I always get my Mexican food fix while down there but I also indulge in all the fresh seafood.  One of my favorites spots is Joe Jack’s Fish Shack.  Chef Joe Jack moved from San Francisco (previous owner and chef of Luna Park…another old favorite of mine in SF) to PV and opened the Fish Shack in 2005 in hopes of showcasing traditional seafood (and Mexican comfort food) at the same time creating a great vibe.  The best spot in house is on the exposed roof deck.  You don’t have to worry about rain that often in PV which is nice.

My all time favorite dish (that I think about quite often) is the Whole Pacific Red Snapper.  It’s covered with roasted chilies, garlic and lime and couldn’t be more tasty.  I LOVE it!!!  Their ceviche is also amazing…so fresh and full of flavor.  Talking about it makes me want to fly down there just to have this:)

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