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Peasant – New York, NY

Our trip to New York this past December was different from our others in the past such that we didn’t have any agenda nor did I make any reservations ahead of time.  Typically I set my alarm for 6am 2 months in advance and call to get into whichever restaurant I have on my list and then I go back to bed.  We’ve done the 3 hour Michelin star meals, the fussy food where you debate grabbing some street food on the walk home.  This time we wanted to eat like locals, explore the different neighborhoods and that’s exactly what we did.

Our first night there we got in late and asked our concierge what they recommended for great Italian food near the hotel (The Mercer Hotel in Soho).  Immediately she said, “Peasant!” and off we went to dinner.  The ambiance is great, rustic but refined.  Chef Frank DeCarlo really prides himself on the kitchen which is meant to be exactly like a true old world kitchen in Italy or France.  Rustic brick wood-fired ovens, a rotisserie…the only gas is so they can boil water we were told.  Let’s not forget to give credit where due…he laid the brick himself!

The food…where to start?!  We couldn’t help ourselves and had to order the Burrata with wood-roasted tomatoes and the Polpi in Purgatorio (baby octopus, hot chiles).  Both were outstanding!  Perfectly presented, cooked, prepared…delicious and I would order them again in a heartbeat.  For our main courses we chose the Gnocchi al Funghi (brown butter, sage, mushrooms) and Tagliolini al Ragu di Vitello (homemade tagliolini, veal ragu).  I never use this blog as a forum to talk badly about a restaurant or dish (I just don’t write about them) but in this case I wanted to because I love this restaurant so much but this is where we felt there was something lacking.  Neither dish had much flavor which was surprising seeing as our starters were incredible.  The pastas lacked salt for one which probably would have made a huge difference.  This all being said I would most likely order one of the pizzas and/or meat/fish dishes next time (we were told by other locals after the fact that their pizzas are to die for).  For dessert we went with the Budino di Pane e Cioccolato Bianco (white chocolate bread pudding with almonds, figs and white chocolate gelato).  I typically stray away from white chocolate but I’m a sucker for bread pudding and I’m glad we tried it because it was incredible!

One more thing to note, I guess there’s a great wine room down below that wasn’t even on our radar.  Just something to note!

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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:)

Bar del Corso – Seattle, WA

If I lived in Beacon Hill I’d probably frequent this spot more than I’d like to admit.  It’s got that laid back neighborhood feel while serving food that proves why it earned the title as one of the best new restaurants in Seattle.  Jerry Corso uses his impressive pizza oven to fire Neapolitan style pizzas with seasonal ingredients that will have you not wanting to share.  It’s a popular spot and because they don’t take reservations, don’t be surprised if there’s a wait but just get a glass of wine and be patient…it’s worth it!

I love octopus and tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu.  This version was well done except I felt the peperonata overwhelmed the dish, not letting the octopus stand out.  But…it was still a great dish and sopping up the leftover sauce with bread was amazing!  Our salad was perfect…there was a great balance of sweet and acidity that made all the ingredients work together.  And the pizza!!!  SO good!  I’d love to go back and try all the others but I have a feeling I would probably want to get the fungi again it was so good:)

Grilled Octopus - with heirloom peperonata

Arugula & roasted sunchokes - Pink Lady apples, pecorino, agro di mosto & extra virgin olive oil

Funghi pizza - crimini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, housemade sausage, pecorino & fontina

Harvest Vine – Seattle, WA

Harvest Vine has long been a favorite of mine in Seattle – but under specific conditions.  If I can’t sit on the top floor of the restaurant, I’d rather just go back another time.  I know that might sound picky of me but if you’ve been there before then I think you can understand where I’m coming from.  The bottom section of the restaurant doesn’t have nearly the same appeal that the top section does.  The best seat in the house (in my opinion) is at the bar where you’ve got a front row seat to all the action.  It’s like watching a symphony right in front of your eyes but rather than instruments being played the chefs sing and whistle while plating gorgeous dishes from the smallest and cutest little sauté pans that you’ve ever seen.

During the summer on warm nights the garage door walls are rolled up and you’re able to fully enjoy a beautiful Seattle summer night.  It’s a great spot year round and should definitely be on the top of your list if you haven’t already been there.

If you’re a beet fan definitely get the beets to start.  You’ll want to sop up all the yummy olive oil and vinegar with bread once the beets are gone.  If mushrooms are on the menu get those for sure!  You really can’t go wrong here.  I’m always amazed at the wonderful creations the make and each time I go back there’s a new menu.

Plato de Boquerones – vinegar cured anchovies with anchovy stuffed olives & piparra peppers

Remolachas – red & golden beets, olive oil, sherry vinegar & garlic

Coliflor – roasted cauliflower with onion confit & olive oil

Coles de Bruseles – brussels sprouts with béchamel, tomato frito & bread crumbs

Vieriras – seared scallops with fingerling potatoes & scallop reduction

Pulpo – grilled octopus with garbanzo bean puree

Bacalao Ahumado – smoked, salt-cod with grilled spring onions & hazelnut romesco

Flan de Almendras – spanish style toasted almond custard

Tarta de Queso de Cabra – creamy goat milk cheese cake with honey poached rhubarb & strawberries

Uccello – Sydney, Australia

With the nice warm weather Uccello seemed like the perfect lunch spot, especially considering it’s on the top floor of the ivy overlooking the rooftop pool.  Eugenio Riva’s restaurant reminds me of mid-century Palm Springs (there are a number of Jonathan Adler pieces accessorizing the space) mixed with rustic Italian.  I loved how open and airy it felt and how relaxing it was.  I couldn’t help but notice all the other diners there in suits.  Talk about a great business lunch spot:)

The food was vibrant in color and taste and everything was so seasonal and fresh.  My snapper was perfect for lunch – light, perfectly pan fried and seasoned and the accompaniments paired with it weren’t fussy or overwhelming, simply great texture and taste to go along with the star of the plate.

I highly recommend this place for lunch or dinner.  I’ve heard that the pool bar can get quite busy at night along with the restaurant so unless you’re planning on a big night out lunch might be the better option.

San Daniele prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, figs, marinated Spanish onion salad

Roasted Spatchcock, corn and basil risotto, marsala reduction

Roasted snapper fillet, giardiniera and octopus salad, salsa verde

Broccolini, cherry tomatoes, chili, garlic, parsley

Zen – Hakuba, Japan

Although Zen is known for it’s Soba, their Japanese small plates are a great option as well, especially for larger groups.  Reservations are recommended although not necessary.  Typically tatami mats can be a little uncomfortable but here they have seat backs to help your back and make it a little more comfortable.  Below are my favorites dishes of the night.  The menu is quite large so if you have a good group you can get away with ordering a lot of dishes for everyone to try.

Sashimi – Salmon and Tuna Sashimi

Tataki Kyuuri – cucumber with spicy Japanese sauce

Chicken Karaage – Fried Chicken

Agedashi do-fu – deep fried tofu in soup

Yanaimno – yanaimo and spicy roe pizza

Tako no peperonti-no – octopus with spicy olive oil and garlic sauce

Assorted Tempura

Gobou no Karaage – deep fried burdock

momofuku noodle bar – New York, NY

I’m a big fan of David Chang’s and have been dying to try one of his restaurants.  What’s funny is that the whole time we were in NYC I thought we were going to momofuku ssåm bar but when I googled the address this one came up instead so we went there by accident but things happen for a reason and this was a great mistake.

We got to the restaurant at 11:50am only to be greeted by a line.  Luckily it wasn’t too large and by the time the doors opened we got a prized spot at the bar overlooking the kitchen.  In any restaurant that has counter seating by the kitchen, I LOVE sitting there.  I enjoy seeing the chefs at work, hearing their conversation and jokes and as one of my culinary instructors once said, “the ballet”, referring to the chefs working together in a small open space without talking but avoiding getting in each others way.

Back to the food:)  Everything we ordered was so good!  My favorite thing of all were the shrimp buns.  Wowzers…I could eat a lot of those!  I also ordered the special ramen of the day – a red miso ramen with prawns and arugula.  Great choice by me:)

Next time I’m in NYC I’d love to try the ssåm bar since we missed it but so far I can say David Chang is living up to my expectations.

Brussels Sprouts – spåetzle, sausage, mustard (there was also some fresh cubed apple on top which added a nice touch of acidity)Grilled Octopus – scallion kimchi, Chinese sausage, squash (pepitas and arugula added a nice touch to this dish as well…fresh greens and a little texture is always good)Shrimp Buns – spicy mayo, pickled shallot, iceburgI love you!Red Miso Ramen – Mayan prawns, hijiki, arugula

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