Trattoria Sostanza – Florence, Italy

I think this is my favorite restaurant in Florence.  I just can’t believe I found out about it a decade after I lived there for a year and that it’s blocks from the pensione where I lived.  Small, casual and far from touristy, I make a point to go here every time I’m in town.  The staff is no nonsense but friendly in every way.  The food speaks for itself.  The first time I found myself in the kitchen learning how to make the artichoke pie and the last time it was our friend standing in front of the stovetop trying to memorize their method.   Take my advice and definitely order the artichoke pie, butter chicken and the meringue cake with fresh berries for dessert.  I PROMISE you…these dishes will change your life.

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Raoul’s – New York, NY

An acquaintance in NYC recommended this spot as a place that locals frequent and as a must try for all!  He was right.  We walked in at 11pm on a Friday night after seeing a Broadway show only to be greeted with a packed restaurant, energy buzzing all around and the friendliest staff.  This is a great example of why I love NYC.

Raoul’s is your classic French bistro with dishes that will leave an impression on your palette for a long long time.  Don’t skip the artichoke or Steak au Poivre (it’s been on the menu for 40 years) and be sure to get a reservation.

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Bigeye Tuna “Saisi” with avocado, blood orange & yuzu citronette

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Grilled Octopus with artichoke confit, olives, saffron-fennel purée & pomegranate

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Steak au Poivre with hand cut pommel frites

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Crispy Hampshire Pork Schnitzel “Holstein” with pea greens, sunny side egg & caper rémoulade

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Warm CasaLuker Chocolate Fondant with pomegranate & vanilla ice cream

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RPM Italian – Chicago, IL

Not going to lie, I’ve been a huge fan of Giuliana and Bill Rancic for a while now, so ever since they opened RPM Italian in Chicago I’ve been dying to go.  What a beautiful cool and modern space!  The place was packed and rightly so, the food is incredible!  The fact that I’m still thinking about what I ate says a lot.

The stand outs for me were the toast with homemade ricotta and marinara, the artichokes, the spicy king crab pasta (this is the dish I’ll be dreaming of until I go back again) and the budino.  Everything was stunning and packed with flavor.  You can tell a lot of love goes into this food.  Let’s also not forget to mention the staff who were so fun and full of personality.  Our server truly enchanted our evening.

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Fresh Homemade Ricotta – Ciabatta Toast

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Roman-Style Artichokes – Lemon Aioli

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Burrata Stuffed Squash Blossoms – Homemade Marinara

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RPM Caesar Wedge – White Anchovy

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Spicy King Crab – Squid Ink Spaghetti, Fresno Chili

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Pappardelle Bolognese – Hand-Cut Pasta, Short Rib Ragu

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Braised Duck Agnolotti – Black Mission Figs

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Whole Grilled Branzino – Mediterranean Sea Bass, Oregano, Capers

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Bill’s Chocolate Budino – Salted Caramel, Cocoa Nibs

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Bomboloni – Cooked-to-order Italian Brioche Donuts with Nutella and Vanilla Sugar

Sushi Kashiba – Seattle, WA

I had the pleasure of eating here on my birthday this year…what a treat! This is Chef Shiro Kashiba’s new sushi venture located next to Pike Place Market where the old Campagne used to be.

If you don’t know anything about Chef Shiro, let me give you a quick little breakdown.  Before starting his own restaurants in Seattle, Shiro spent many years working alongside his sushi mentor Jiro Ono (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi), who many consider to be the world’s greatest sushi chef.  He eventually made his way to America, convinced that in the Pacific Northwest he could keep the integrity of the way sushi is made in Tokyo.  He was right!  Fast forward to today – he has opened four restaurants, Sushi Kashiba being the only one he owns today, and has been nominated for the James Beard Award twice.

My husband and I decided to go with the “omakase” menu – chef’s choice sushi dinner.  Overall it was enough food, not too much, not too little.  Everything was outstanding!

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Saint Helens – Seattle, WA

Saint Helens is exactly what the North Seattle neighborhoods have needed for a long time. Located right off the Burke Gilman Trail on NE 45th, it’s the perfect location for all the surrounding neighborhood folk to meet.  Whether by bike or car, stop on by anytime of the day.  Summer days and nights will be perfectly spent on the outdoor patio area fit with a fire pit to keep you toasty at night.

Open morning to night, you can stop in for the most perfect coffee and pastry (the scones are to die for), tartine sandwiches, or linger at dinner with some wine and cocktails.  The patio/deck is the perfect summer hangout!

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Workshop Kitchen + Bar – Palm Springs, CA

One of my favorites in Palm Springs!  This time I was with a group of girlfriends and we sat outside which was so lovely (hence the dark photos sorry).  Because there was a good group of us, we were able to order a lot of plates to share.

Not pictured was the Valrhona Flourless Chocolate Terrine with salted peanut butter ice cream and housemade marshmallow – do I even need to say how good it was?

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Crispy Local Goat Cheese, braised lentils, glazed beet, scallion

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Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Temecula farms avocado honey, avocado oil, black garlic, county line farm baby mustard greens

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Wood-Fired Pizza – daily special

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts, red currants, rising c ranch pomelo pipits, cabernet vinegar, pumpkin seed oil, pecorino romano

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Marinated Baby Market Beets, local arugula, weiser farms carrot, harry’s strawberries, dill créme fraiche, grilled rye

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Market Veggie Enchiladas, poblano roasted peppers, spaghetti squash, kale, grilled tomatillo sauce, cotija cheese, topped with a fried egg

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Grilled Organic Jidori Chicken Diabolo, spicy mustard rub, sage red quinoa, rapini with garlic

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Local Goat Cheesecake, ha’s pear compote

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The Wandering Goose – Seattle, WA

Why don’t I go here more often?!  This place is ridiculously good.  I was in the mood for a biscuit sandwich this time which didn’t disappoint.  I added homemade sausage to it and ate every crumb on my plate.  I’ve had their Little Gem Salad with fried chicken in the past and that was equally as scrumptious just not as breakfast savory.  Don’t hold back here – let yourself be tempted by the gorgeous cakes and treats – just don’t count your calories.  You’ll want to try them all!

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The Easy – egg & cheese biscuit sandwich with sausage added

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