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Redd Wood – Yountville, CA

Whether you’re spending your day wine tasting or are just looking for a great spot for lunch (or breakfast/dinner), you should definitely stop by Redd Wood in Yountville.  Located next to the boutique hotel North Block Hotel (and not far from French Laundry), it’s the perfect place to have an easy, unpretentious meal that’s satisfying, not super heavy and overall a place that you’ll want to go back to.  This is Michelin-starred chef Richard Reddington’s second Yountville spot, his first being Redd which is equally fabulous but oh so different.  *You’ve got to try that spot if you haven’t already!

The decor is very current/urban and comfortable.  Kind of reminds me of a place you’d find in Soho with a California feel.  There’s outdoor seating which is always a great option, especially for someone like myself who doesn’t get the opportunity to eat outside a ton at home.

I stopped in midday for a bite in between wine tastings and was very happy with my order – the shaved summer vegetable salad which couldn’t be fresher and the proscuitto, arugula and parmesan pizza.  I’d love to go back for dinner to try some pastas and main courses.

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Agrodolce – Seattle, WA

Located in the old 35th Street Bistro spot in Fremont, Agrodolce has knocked it out of the park!  The atmosphere is welcoming and charming and our server couldn’t have been more enjoyable which was very refreshing.

The food was to die for!  I seriously would go back tonight for the exact same meal I ate last night.  We started with the burrata with beets, a citrus honey gastrique and mint…as delicious as I expected!  For my main course I chose the ricotta ravioli with roasted garlic, green garlic and stinging nettle.  Everything about this dish was perfect!  You would have thought I had licked my plate based on how clean it was at the end of the night.  Do yourself a favor and go get this before they take it off the menu.We also got the seared broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts to share…all of which I would order again.  For dessert we got the rice pudding fritters with a citrus honey, vanilla dipping sauce and powdered sugar.  Nothing to complain about there!

Something notable about Agrodolce is how organic the menu is.  It took us a bit to realize that the few things on the menu that are unlined are those ingredients that are NOT organic.  Just to be clear, there are hardly any.  Pretty impressive!  Not to mention on the reverse side of the menu there are vegan and gluten free options.  This isn’t something I’ve seen yet in Seattle but I think it will soon catch on.

Overall, Maria Hines has outdone herself and I can’t wait to go back!

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Osteria delle Tre Panche – Florence, Italy

For those that love truffles, consider this place heaven!  I have NEVER seen more truffles in my life!  First off, this teeny little locals spot is about a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the center of Florence.  Some have said they’ve walked but at night I would recommend the ride.  Reservations are a must and don’t expect to see any tourists here.  “Tre Panche” translates to three benches which is exactly how much space there is in this restaurant – it’s small!  It’s truly a hidden gem.

Because we were only in Florence for a few nights, we indulged in every meal.  We ordered way too much but I have no regrets.  There are definitely dishes I would recommend, and others that I would say you can skip.  For water, 2 bottles of wine (yes…we had 2 bottles of wine:)) and 7 dishes, our meal ended up being €148 which is about $192.  The truffle beef tartare was exactly what you would expect – a delicious starter to the meal.  The artichoke pie with truffles was very good!  Large enough for a group to share and smothered with truffles.  The cheese ravioli with fresh truffle was rich and creamy as it should be.  Not something I could eat an entire plate of but perfect to share with someone.  The cheesecake for dessert is a MUST!!!  It’s unbelievable!  I’m not even sure how to give it justice so just know that you need to save room for it:)  Truly the best I’ve ever had!!!

Dishes to skip are any without truffles…well, maybe that’s just me:)  As much as I love ragu, this one was over salted which was a shame because we probably would have eaten the entire plate no problem.  I would probably give it a second chance though.  The fried veal milanese was a disappointment.  It was pounded so thin that after being breaded and deep fried – you couldn’t even taste the veal.  I wanted it to be great but it was a definite miss.

Next time you’re in Florence, make this a must but shhh…don’t tell too many people about it!

Ballard Pizza Company – Seattle, WA

Ethan Stowell just doesn’t stop…and I couldn’t be happier about that!  So far each restaurant he’s opened has had it’s own personality.  His latest – Ballard Pizza Company – serves up huge slices of pizza for lunch and dinner everyday and is even open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays…that could be trouble:)  Along with pizza there are fresh pastas each day and a selection of salads.

I ordered a slice of the mushroom pizza as well as a mixed green salad.  The pizza was very good and I was pleased to see that the bottom of the slice was nice and crispy, not soggy.  Perfect!  The salad was good however my only complaint is that it was over dressed…so much so that I couldn’t eat half of it and normally the salad is my favorite part.  Next time I’ll just have to order the dressing on the side.

I look forward to going back – maybe for dinner next time – and trying a new slice!

North Bondi Italian Food – Sydney, Australia

Owned by the same people as Icebergs, North Bondi Italian Food (located in North Bondi:)), doesn’t take reservations and is very popular so you need to get there early to put your name in.  But it’s worth it!  The restaurant itself is lively, young and a fun place to end the day with drinks and yummy Italian food.  And let’s not forget about the view…stunning beach view, toned surfing bodies, sunset…doesn’t get much better than that!

To start we got the Beet Salad with goat cheese, spring onions, and beet juice…deilcious!  I’d love to recreate this at home for guests.  The beet juice drizzled on top was so pretty and accentuated the distinctive beet flavor that I love.  For my entrée, my eyes immediately caught the Spaghetti “Arrabbiata” Crab – cooked in a paper bag…what?!  Arrabbiata is one of my favorite Italian pastas and overall I was just curious.  I have before and after photos below of the presentation…clever.  It was interesting eating out of a bag but the flavors were there and I loved the addition of crab…yum!  I would definitely get this again.  My mom got the Pork Schnitzel which was incredible.  So tender and juicy.  The breading was crispy and not too heavy.  If you like schnitzel, this is a winner!

For sides we got the crispy garlic and rosemary potatoes…whoa…those were good!  And the steamed broccoli with garlic and chili.  I always have to have some green in my meal.  It wasn’t anything crazy but exactly what I wanted and very good.

Overall I really liked this spot and if I lived there I would go here often, assuming I could get in:)  I think this restaurant is perfect for many occasions and situations – birthday get togethers, girls night out, date night, etc.

Beef Stroganoff

I have to admit I’ve only made this recipe a couple of times but every time I love it and can’t wait to eat it again.  It’s meaty and comforting all the while slightly refreshing from the the lemon and créme fraiche.  I always serve it over buttered noodles but rice would be just as great.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb. top sirloin, cut into thin strips about 1
    inch wide and 2 inches long
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green portions only,
    cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, brushed clean and
    sliced
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups beef stock
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
In a large fry pan over high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef strips (do not overcrowd the pan) and sauté until nicely browned but still a little pinkish on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 Tbs. of the oil and the remaining meat.

In the same pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the leeks and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until nicely browned, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.Stir in the tomato paste and cook until blended in, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to incorporate. Increase the heat to high, add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the crème fraîche, mustard and lemon juice and cook for 1 minute more to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings.Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan and cook just until the beef is heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serving Tip: Stroganoff, though not technically a braise, has a similar consistency when finished. It is traditionally served over wide egg noodles.

Braised Short Rib Pasta

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

I found this recipe by watching Giada’s show on the Food Network one day and have loved it ever since.  It’s hearty and perfect for any winter night.  It’s also great for informal entertaining and will please any crowd.

YIELDS 4-6 SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • 1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 pound penne pasta (*I use fresh and local Lagana Foods strozzapreti pasta)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the ribs with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or ovenproof stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine and mustard. Bring the mixture to a boil and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the ribs to the pan. Add the beef broth, cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours until the meat is fork-tender and falls easily from the bone.

Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid. Using a large spoon, remove any excess fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a ladle, transfer the cooking liquid in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat into small pieces.  Stir the shredded meat into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and add to the pasta. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the pasta. Toss well and thin out the pasta with more sauce, if needed. Sprinkle the pasta with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley before serving.

Bon Appetit!!!

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