Archive for May, 2009

The Flying Biscuit (Brunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American
Ambiance: Casual Upbeat
Address: 7930 A Rea Rd (Stonecrest Shopping Center), Charlotte, NC 28277
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Phone: 704.295.4440
Web Site: http://www.flyingbiscuit.com
Must Taste (Brunch):

  • Biscuits: Obviously! Whenever a food item is in the name of the restaurant, you know you have to try it. The Flying Biscuit doesn’t disappoint with their tall + fluffy biscuits topped with sugar sprinkles and served with apple butter. Though the biscuits are available in whole wheat, and I’m all for whole grains, I’d stick with the regular biscuit.
  • Eggs: Scrambles – The Flying Biscuit overs several lovely scramble choices. I’m hoping to eventually try one of each.
  • Sweet: Oatmeal Pancakes – I haven’t had the opportunity to try these yet but I can’t wait to – I hear they’re awesome.

Best For: Dinner with Friends/Family, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual
Fave Points: Healthy options like soysage instead of sausage, grass-fed beef, farm fresh eggs and other high quality ingredients
My Fave Dish: Southern Scramble – from the menu – “crisp turkey bacon, spicy collard greens, onions and cheddar cheese scrambled with three large farm fresh eggs.” I love this flavor concept in breakfast/brunch form – the turkey bacon helps give the dish a slightly healthier kick.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

My friend from San Francisco was visiting for the weekend, and I wanted to take her somewhere to get a knock-out brunch.

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Though there are tons of great brunch choices in Charlotte, I decided to take my friend to The Flying Biscuit, a regional chain restaurant, for it’s casual atmosphere, healthy options, and affordable prices.

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The weather outside was a perfect spring day – sunny and warm, but not too hot – so we decided to eat on the outdoor patio to get some fresh air. I started brunch with a nice, hot mug of coffee.

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There are tons of great options on the breakfast menu, but I decided to get a repeat of what I ordered the last time I was at The Flying Biscuit – the Southern Scramble.

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Southern Scramble – from the menu – “crisp turkey bacon, spicy collard greens, onions and cheddar cheese scrambled with three large farm fresh eggs.” I’m a big fan of breakfast out, but I’m used to seeing the usual suspects – traditional fried eggs, pancakes, and omelets. This dish offered a new combination of flavors in scramble form, which I absolutely loved. The salty turkey bacon (healthier than standard bacon) paired nicely with the onions and collard greens and cheese is a must for me and eggs. I also liked how you could get a full bite with each of the flavors representing, thanks to the ingredients being cut to size nicely.

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For my side option I selected fresh fruit. The fruit was ok – nothing special and I’ve had fresher, but the rest was so fab, I didn’t care.

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The biscuit was great, too, especially with that yummy apple butter they serve. I also really liked the sugar sprinkling on top of the biscuits and think it’s a nice touch.

Final Dish

The Flying Biscuit is a simple restaurant with simply great food. Though the wait line can sometimes be a bit of a hassle, I usually find it worth the wait. Perhaps one of my favorite features of this restaurant is their dedication to high-quality ingredients by using ingredients like farm-fresh eggs. Their healthier ingredient options like turkey bacon and soysage also catch my attention and are much appreciated. I’d have to say that The Flying Biscuit is one of my favorite brunch restaurants in all of Charlotte. There are other brunch spots I’d hit up if I were looking for something more ritzy or romantic, but for the days when you don’t want to dress up just to get some good food, The Flying Biscuit hits the spot and fits the bill with its reasonable prices.

Sole Spanish Grill (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Spanish + Tapas
Ambiance: Intimate
Address: 1608 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Phone: 704.544.7918
Web Site: http://www.solespanishgrille.com/main.htm
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Tapas: Gambas Picantes – Shrimp in a spicy tomato broth. This is no longer on the tapas menu, but they can make it upon special request. I highly recommend it if you like shrimp dishes with a spicy twist. Use the leftover sauce as a dip for your bread.
  • Tapas: Patatas Bravas – $6 – from the menu: “fried potatoes with a mildly spicy alioli sauce.” The sauce was quite creamy (possibly mayonnaise-based) so it’s a little rich, but full of flavor. I love it.
  • Drink: Pitcher of Sangria – though the sangria is a bit on the expensive side when sold by the pitcher, the pitcher contains quite a bit of sangria and no ice or fruit. The fruit is served in a cup with ice which you can fill with the yummy sangria of the restaurant – the flavor is awesome. Should you choose the pitcher, be prepared to drink up! Perhaps I’m a lightweight, but my friend and I struggled just a bit to finish the pitcher between the 2 of us.
  • Dessert: Tres Leches – one of my fave Charlotte desserts. This dessert is deceptively simple in flavors with a milky, almost vanilla-like taste (vanilla as in simple…the cake doesn’t take much like vanilla to me). The first time I had this, I thought the first bites were pretty plain, but if you’re not careful, you’ll unwittingly fall in love with the dessert like I did. Luckily, the other restaurants (Miro, Zen Asian Fusion) under the same owners serve this dessert, too.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • Tapas: $3 – $9
  • Dinner: $11-$22

Best For: Romantic Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Cozy patio and the fact that I always have a hard time picking between tapas and full entrees when I go here – too many good options
My Fave Dish: This is a tough choice between the Gambas Picantes and the Tres Leches dessert, but I’m going to have to go Gambas Picantes because it’s the first thing I think of every time I go to Sole.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

My friend from San Francisco was visiting for the weekend and I wanted to take her somewhere “chill” with a real local feel for her first dinner with us.

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Hubby and I decided on Sole, one of our local faves, so we took our friend on over in search of Spanish tapas. We really wanted to sit out on the patio to take advantage of the warm April night, but there was a bit of a wait, so we headed over to the bar area for some sangria.

My friend and I split a pitcher of sangria while my husband started on some beer. We were a little surprised to find out that the pitcher was almost $30, but we did get a lot of sangria out of it. Seriously, the pitcher was all sangria, no ice or fruit taking up space – our fruit and ice were served in our glasses when the pitcher was delivered, so you get your bang for your buck if you’re ready to drink a fair amount. If you just want a little sangria, you may want to order by the glass.

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As someone who refuses to put their purse on the floor, I was very thankful for the hooks just under the bar where we could hang our purses while we waited for our patio table.

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Soon enough, our table was ready and we headed out to the patio area to enjoy dinner. I thought patio area was really cute – especially the lighting.

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We started dinner with some hot rolls and butter. I thought the (free) bread was nice because I’ve noticed a lot of places seem to want to charge you for bread these days.

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When it came to picking out tapas, I quickly scanned the menu for my personal favorite: the Gambas Picantes tapas. I was sad to see it wasn’t on the tapas menu any more, but more than happy when the owner told me they could still make it. Phew!

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We also got another of our faves: the Patatas Bravas, which have a slighty-spicy alioli sauce – a bit on the creamy side, but I really like it.

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We also went with an order of the ever classic Empanadas (from the menu: “Traditional Spanish turnovers with beef“), which were very good with that yummy, crunchy outside.

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And, to round things out, we also ordered the Croquetas de Pollo – from the menu: “Chicken croquettes.” The croquettes were pretty good, but I thought they were slightly on the bland side along with the accompanying sauce. This tapas was probably my least favorite of the group but probably because everything else was so amazing. Not to mention, it’s hard to compete when you have a tried and true go-to dish, like me and the Gambas Picantes. Regardless, I’d order these chicken croquettes again.

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Though we didn’t order that many tapas for 3 people, I was, personally, saving room for dessert. When we decided to go to Sole for dinner I had 2 things in mind: 1. that shrimp tapas and 2. the Tres Leches. The Tres Leches cake is one of my favorite desserts in all of Charlotte. I remember the first time I ordered it, I got it because the menu touted that the dessert had won a “Best of” award. I thought the first couple bites were rather simple and wondered what the big deal was. However, as I continued to work my way through the cake, I fell more and more in love with it with each bite. Nowadays, I have a hard time resisting this dessert whenever I see it on the menu at Sole and its sister restaurants – Miro, Zen Asian Fusion. I’ve even actually ordered this cake (and this cake alone) for take out a couple times.

Final Dish

I highly recommend Sole Spanish Grill for a near-future restaurant experience for you. I love the intimate, welcoming environment, their sangria, and their menu. I’ve dined at Sole several times before enjoying both the tapas and the entrees. I always have a hard time choosing between the 2…especially when I’m already trying to save room for dessert. To me, Sole is a great restaurant no matter your occasion – whether you’re on a romantic date or catching up with a friend. Relax into your conversation over a variety of Spanish flavors and check out the patio if the weather is nice.

Crepevine (Brunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American
Ambiance: Local Cafe/Joint
Address: 624 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Sunset
Phone: 415.681.5858
Web Site: http://www.crepevine.com/
Must Taste (Brunch):

  • Obviously…the crepes! Def try the strawberry-nutella crepe (if you like chocolate and strawberries) – there are plenty of delicious savory crepes, as well.

Best For: Nice-casual brunch with friends, family, or SO.
What to Wear: casual to nice-casual
Fave Points: interesting crepe flavors – low-key atmosphere and lack of waiters (yea, sometimes you just don’t want waiters – makes you feel less like you’re imposing on someone’s section and more like you can kick back and take your time).
My Occasion: brunch with friends
My Fave Dish: The strawberry-nutella crepe – so simple but oh-so-good.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

On Sunday morning, the last day of my San Francisco trip, my friend helped see me off in style with a crepe brunch. Creperies seem to be quite popular in SF.

We headed back to Crepevine, which was the restaurant we tried to visit the previous day but skipped due to the long line and our eagerness to hit up wine country.

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Although Crepevine is a regional chain, the restaurant had a real one-off feel to it, which I liked in addition to the laid-back atmosphere.

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We ordered at the counter and got a # for our table – we were #20 – so the restaurant knew where to deliver our food, since Crepevine doesn’t really have waiters (they do have people who will help you though, but no dedicated waiter).

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We enjoyed more coffee and conversation whilst waiting for our crepes.

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Our crepes were out before we knew it. We ordered 2 crepes to share – a savory pesto chicken crepe

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(here’s a closer look)

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…which was served with a nice, fresh salad with a light salad dressing (the light dressing seems to be popular in SF. Next time, I’ll buy some to bring home) and some potatoes.

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We also ordered a sweet Nutella and strawberry crepe, which was my fave! The crepe had a nice balance of crepe to chocolate to strawberries and the crepe itself had a nice texture.

I finished off the sweet crepe and left a bit of the savory for my friend to enjoy later. The crepes were amazing and made me wish we had a creperie in NC. If nothing else, I very well may try to make my own crepes some time soon. The crepe dinner I enjoyed on my exchange trip to France was my fave and this brunch reminded me of just how good crepes can be!

Final Dish

Brunch at Crepevine really hit the spot. Some days you really want an eggs and pancakes kind of breakfast and some days, you want to experiment. If you’re feeling frisky, check out the interesting flavor combos are Crepevine, which are deceptively simple yet still invoke the feeling of a new taste adventure. Crepevine does offer non-crepe entrees in case any one in your party wants a more traditional breakfast. I’d definitely return to Crepevine on a future trip, and I’d go crepes all the way.

Park Chow (Coffee + Dessert) »

The Basics

Cuisine: American
Ambiance: Casual-Chill
Address: 1240 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Sunset
Phone: 415.665.9912
Web Site: http://www.chowfoodbar.com/
Must Taste (Dessert):

  • Ginger Cake – It’s an unusual dessert – one I’ve never seen before. This dessert was a rich cake sans frosting, but don’t worry, you won’t miss it. The Ginger Cake is served hot, topped with a syrupy sauce, and served with a scoop of pumpkin ice cream…so good.

Best For: casual date or meal with friends/family.
What to Wear: casual to dressy-casual (mostly casual)
On the Speakers: Smashing Pumpkins
Fave Points: that “where the locals eat” feel, the fact that they support local farms and utilize wild seafood, organic free-range chicken, and all natural beef.
My Occasion: coffee and dessert to catch up with a friend
My Fave Dish: The Ginger Cake – though the Huckleberry cobbler was darn good, too.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

Although we got a recommendation to try out a local, Healdsburg haunt for dessert (while we were in the area after dinner), that place and everywhere else seemed too booked up to serve my friend and I coffee and dessert. After circling the restaurants in Healdsburg, CA and finding zero good coffee + dessert options, and then getting a recommendation on a great spot back in SF (from my friend’s sweet-tooth roommate), we spent a long (almost 2 hour) car ride back to San Francisco, CA in search of dessert (my friend lives in SF, so we had to head that way anyways).

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We ended up at one of my friend’s roomie’s fave spots in town – Park Chow . I loved the ambiance in Park Chow. The place seemed very local-centric, one-of-a-kind, and super chill. Park Chow would turn out to be the perfect spot for us – somewhere where we could relax and enjoy some dessert and coffee without feeling like the restaurant and/or waitress was rushing us out the door to turn a table.

I was also intrigued with the menu there, which I perused while my friend ran to the restroom, even though I knew we wouldn’t be having a second dinner. All over the menu were the buzzwords I’ve been looking for when I grocery shop: organic, local, + sustainable. I was so impressed! I want to eat a whole meal there next time so I can check out their regular eats.

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My friend wanted to order a latte but didn’t see one on the menu. I suggested she just ask if they could make one and they said they could. Not only that, they could make what she really wanted – a soy latte. I’ve tried soy lattes before. I figured since I liked chocolate soy milk, I’d like a soy latte, too, but I wasn’t that impressed with them the first time I tried them. Fast forward to our SF dessert-meal at Park Chow, and I figured I’d go with the flow and try a soy latte again.

I guess the 2nd time was the charm for me because it was love at first sip. That soy latte was one of the best lattes I’ve ever had…ever! I seriously savored every, single sip. Just look at that froth. I can’t believe they can get froth like that from soy sometimes.

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As for dessert, the weather had been overcast and rainy all day, so I wanted something cozy and warm besides the soy latte. I thought about getting the cobbler, but my friend was ordering that, so I went with the Ginger Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream. Turns out the Ginger Cake is served warm, too. Sweet!

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My friend ordered the cobbler – huckleberry and (I think) apple a la mode! We shared a few bites of dessert with each other, following our sharing theme from dinner. I don’t think I’d ever had huckleberries before, but they were quite good. I’ll have a hard time choosing between the Ginger Cake and the Cobbler next time I visit Park Chow.

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The restaurant was busy and a bit loud, but also relaxing and casual. Our waitress gave us space but also gave us enough attention, which I definitely appreciated. My friend and I happily eased into our lattes and desserts and enjoyed some good conversation to round out an overall amazing day in California.

My Dish

Sometimes, it’s hard to find a good restaurant where you can kick back and enjoy a slow coffee + dessert over a long conversation. Though Park Chow is not a coffee shop (where I normally think of relaxing over coffee), they took great care of us and left us enough space so we didn’t feel like we were imposing. To top that, their lattes and desserts were so warm and cozy and tasty – they were the perfect end to our awesome day of wine tastings and good eats. I’m looking forward to returning to Park Chow next time I’m in San Fran, but next time, I’ll be sure to try out some of their entrees to help them support their local farmers and try out some of those interesting-looking menu items. Don’t be surprised if I save room for dessert, too.

Ravenous (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American
Ambiance: Cozy Cottage
Address: 117 North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Neighborhood: Sonoma
Phone: 707.431.1302
Web Site: no site found, click here for their yelp
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • According to the man at Trentadue, the burger is a must-eat. Although we really wanted to try the Ravenous burger we heard so much about, we were persuaded away by the rest of the menu, but if you try it, let me know what you think.
  • Bravette Steak – $26 – “Creekstone grilled spice-rubbed bravette steak lime chipotle sauce peppers + onions…roasted potatoes” – the steak had an awesome flavor and I really enjoyed the sides, too.

Best For: Semi-casual/romantic date (because of the laid back atmosphere) or dinner with friends/family.
What to Wear: dressy casual to dressy
Fave Points: that “where the locals eat” feel, interesting menu selection, location
My Occasion: dinner with friends
My Fave Dish: That bravette steak – the flavor combo was out of this world – loved it!

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

After wrapping up our *sniff* last wine tasting of the day at Rosenblum Cellars , we were seriously ready to get our eat on and headed back to Ravenous (Trentadue’s dinner recommendation) to see if they were open yet. It was Saturday night, sure to be a busy night for the restaurant, so we were lucky we got there early at around 5:15pm.

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The restaurant was located in what looked to be a renovated house. I loved the interior – it was so cottage-y-cozy. I love these local-type restaurants – they are so fun to visit.

The place was empty when we got there, which was good because we beat the crowd. Ravenous had quite a few reservations booked up apparently, because I watched them have to turn away a couple groups. If you want to hit up this spot, I suggest you make reservations ahead of time or get there early! The bar area filled out pretty quickly since most of the tables seemed to be saved for reservations.

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We grabbed a table with a half booth along the wall where my friend and I could both fit on the cushy booth-side and were promptly greeted by our waiter…

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…and 2 copies of a hand-written menu, presumably by the chef. The selections all sounded really good, so my foodie friend and I happily split a few courses so we could try out more flavors.

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The table had pitchers of water with lemon and (I think) cucumber slices.

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The table also had a lovely loaf of bread – I think it was wheat sourdough.

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We started with a mixed green salad – can you believe this is “half”?! The portion was more than generous, and the salad was really good – the dressing was so light that I hardly noticed there was any on the salad at all (a good thing IMO).

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We also got an appetizer of crab cakes to share. These came with another little salad. My friend absolutely loved the crab cakes, and though I thoroughly enjoyed my share of the dish, I couldn’t help but think the ones from Eclipse were a wee bit better. My friend confirmed her enjoyment in the dish with her look of pure crab-cake-enjoyment that I noticed as she munched on hers.

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Now, the entree was another story. We got the bravette steak – from the menu: “Creekstone grilled spice-rubbed bravette steak lime chipotle sauce peppers + onions…roasted potatoes.” The steak was a little cool (heat-wise) when it came out, but the flavor more than made up for it. The spice rub was subtle but delicious and paired well with the cilantro lime sauce that lightly flavored the meat. The roasted potatoes were nice, hot, and tender, but not too soft. The carrot and asparagus were good, too, as was the roasted red onion quarter. The steak was by far the star of this meal!

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After our main meal was over, we received another hand-written menu for desserts. We looked it over but remembered another recommendation by Trentadue to try Hotel Healdsburg for dessert, so we got ready for some sweets (even though we were pretty stuffed!).

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Before leaving Ravenous, I snapped a couple shots of the fireplace that added extra coziness to the atmosphere.

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As we left, the restaurant was just picking up steam. The place was really filling up and must be popular with the locals.

Unfortunately, Hotel Healdsburg was closed for the evening for a special event, so we headed back to San Fran in search of sweets…more on that next time.

Final Dish

I really loved how cozy our dinner at Ravenous was. My friend and I were so comfortable there dining with the locals. I enjoyed the simple, little touches, like the handwritten menu and roaring fire in the background. Our waiter did a nice job taking care of us without rushing us and the food itself was really great overall, as well. I’m a little sad I didn’t try that burger the man at Trentadue suggested, but there’s always next time. I think I’m also going to stick around for a Ravenous dessert next time, as well.

Rosenblum Cellars »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Winery
Ambiance: Jovial
Address: 250 Center Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Neighborhood: Sonoma
Phone: 707.431.1169
Web Site: https://www.rosenblumcellars.com
What to Wear: casual to dressy casual
Fave Points: location and the $5 shipping on 6 bottles of wine
My Occasion: catching up with a girlfriend
My Fave Wine: Désirée Chocolate Dessert Wine, California

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

After leaving Trentadue Winery, we headed over to Healdsburg, CA for a snack. It was about 4:30 pm and we’d had a late breakfast, but no other food…just lots of good wine. We got a couple recommendations for restaurants in Healdsburg by the peeps at Trenadue and decided on hitting up Ravenous where we heard they had a great burger. Unfortunately, we were a tad early and the restaurant didn’t open till 5!

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Although we were a bit hungry, we decided more wine sounded like a good idea still, plus my friend said most wineries closed after 5/6 pm-ish, so we hit up Rosemblum Cellars. Rosenblum’s Healdsburg tasting room was actually in the city of Healdsburg, so the place was packed! We had to wait to get a spot for tasting. A spot opened up but the people on either side of it spread out so we couldn’t fit. Luckily, the nice man behind the counter kindly asked the gentlemen to help us make our way to the tasting counter. How nice!

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The tasting room was super cute and there was wine everywhere!

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There was a cozy sitting area across from the tasting counter, but this area stayed pretty empty while we were there.

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Once we got a spot at the tasting counter, it was vino time! My friend and I each got the reserve wine samplings. I was most intrigued by the wine they said was for barbecues and grilling-out parties! Those wines really did taste like they’d go great with some nice, smoky summer-grilled foods! I didn’t get any bottles of these BBQ wines, but wish I did!

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More etched-glasses! I loved how each winery had their own etched tasting glasses.

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Seriously…wine everywhere!

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Love those pour spouts.

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Though this place was busy, we had a good time with our wine tasting. Oh, and do you see that decorative vase-looking-thing in the background?

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I’m talking about this thingy – the blue, green, and yellow vase. If you’re not familiar with wine tasting, you may not know what this is. This receptacle is where you pour the wines you don’t want to drink any more. I know…it sounds almost impossible to not want to finish your wine! But, if you’re up for a serious day of wine-visiting, you can easily visit 5+ wineries, so at some point, you may wish to not finish your entire tasting glass, especially if you’re driving! In that case, simply pour your wine into this vase. Done and done.

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Specials.

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Rosenblum has a stimulus plan, too.

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My friend and I wrapped up our wine tastings and even got to try some of their delicious dessert wines, including one that is flavored like chocolate!

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I probably would have only been able to get 1 bottle of wine, but due to luggage space, not budget. Like I said, I had budgeted for some vacay shopping. Lucky me, the winery offered $5 shipping to select spots if you purchased 6 bottles of wine or more. Now, I say I budgeted money, but I didn’t budget 6 bottles worth! As it worked out, my friend got 3 and I got 3, which they let qualify my order for the shipping…yay! The people at Rosenblum were so nice! I picked up 2 dessert wines and 1 white. There they are on the counter while our wine helper prepares my goodies for shipment.

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Friends at Rosenblum. :)

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Corks by the entrance/exit. Info on the wine club, too. Each of the wineries we visited had their own wine clubs, which I didn’t research, but seemed to get you free tastings and discounts on wine. If only I lived in Cali…I would be all about a wine club membership! In fact, my friend said she wants to retire in California wine country and now that I’ve seen what it has to offer…I want to retire there, too! It’s beautiful and so relaxing!

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After finishing our tasting at Rosenblum Cellars, we headed back to Ravenous for sustenance. More on dinner + dessert next time!

Final Dish

My friend and I really enjoyed our trip to Rosenblum Cellars. The place was packed, but we still got a lot of attention from the man helping us. The $5 shipping really saved me because I wouldn’t have been able to buy those extra bottles of wine if they didn’t ship them to me (all bottles arrived safe and sound a week-ish later). My suitcase was already packed! I also really liked the location of Rosenblum’s tasting room – right in the heart of Healdsburg, CA – a cute wine country town. There were tons of restaurants and shops nearby – all within walking distance. In fact, we ended up walking to the restaurant where we had dinner and we really enjoyed looking in all the little shop windows and what not. Definitely try the dessert wines if you go…I know I will next time! I’ll look for that BBQ wine, too!

Trentadue Winery (Wine Tasting) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Winery
Ambiance: Friendly, Welcoming, + Chic
Address: 19170 Geyserville Ave, Geyserville, CA 95441
Neighborhood: Sonoma
Phone: 704.433.3104
Web Site: http://www.trentadue.com/
What to Wear: casual to dressy casual
Fave Points: friendly people, laid back atmosphere, free tastings
My Occasion: catching up with a girlfriend
My Fave Wine: 2006 Trentadue Sangiovese, Alexander Valley Estate

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

After leaving Bella Vineyards + Wine Caves , we headed over to the next stop on my friend’s winery list – Trentadue Winery . This was a winery my friend had never been to, but heard good things about. We lucked out that my friend happened to have a winery map complete with winery addresses, along with a GPS system so we could enter the addresses and get directions. The GPS was very handy to have on our little road trip to easily get from one winery to another.

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We passed the gate and drove down a red-leaved-tree-lined road towards the winery.

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The wine tasting area was very fru-fru-looking from the outside and very pretty. It’s no wonder they do so many weddings here! In fact, there was one wedding going on while we were there!

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I loved the fountain outside…especially the lions!

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This winery had more counter space for us, so we grabbed a nice corner spot. Trentadue Winery offered free wine tastings from the left side of the menu – any choice of (about) 8 wines! Free wine tastings are always nice. See the etched wine glasses again?

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My friend got the port tasting…

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…while I got the regular wine tasting flight.

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The glasses were totally different sizes! My friend’s glass was so cute and mini! I sampled a couple wines off the free list and all the ones on my tasting flight. I even got a couple sips of my friend’s port tastings. The wine tastings were all delicious. Additionally, I really liked the staff at Trentadue. They were very personable and energetic.

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Yay for wine tastings with good friends!

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The ladies next to us had the cutest dog! This is (I believe) a Mi-Ki. I hear it’s a new breed? I’ve certainly never heard of it before.

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They even showed us some of their dog’s tricks like how she could stand.

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So cute! I realize dogs have little to do with wine, but I think that this little story of the winery welcoming the dog adds to the personality of the place and shows how friendly they are.

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After our entertainment, we wrapped up our wine-tasting and discussed wine-purchase-options.

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I got 2 bottles! I purchased 2 reds:

I couldn’t decide between these 2 bottles of wine (both from the free list, surprisingly enough), and since they were reasonably priced, I figured it was ok to get both (especially since I had some spending money budgeted for the trip and wasn’t just charging up a storm). I can’t wait to enjoy them now that I’m home!
Anywho, after Trentadue Winery, we were off to Healdsburg, CA to get a snack, then more vino!
Final Dish

I think Trentadue Winery was my favorite winery of the trip. I felt very comfortable and relaxed during the tasting, and my friend and I were really able to kick back and have a great time between tasting wines and just catching up in general. Besides having great wine, wonderful customer service, and a welcoming environment, I had an overall feel-good-feeling after leaving this winery. I’d happily return to Trentadue next time I’m in the area.

Bella Vineyards + Wine Caves »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Winery
Ambiance: Inviting
Address: 9711 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Neighborhood: Sonoma
Phone: 866.572.3552
Web Site: http://www.bellawinery.com
What to Wear: casual to dressy casual
Fave Points: the tasting caves! I believe these can be rented for special events.
My Occasion: catching up with a girlfriend
My Fave Wine: 2006 Sonoma Country Syrah

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

My friend has already been out to wine country and since she lives in San Francisco, was able to gather a slew of good winery recommendations before our trip. She hand-selected a handful that she thought would be good to visit, which was awesome because I knew nothing about the wineries out in the Sonoma area.

First up on the agenda was Bella Vineyards + Wine Caves . Thanks to our staying up late chit-chatting, sleeping in, and late breakfast, we didn’t make it to the first vineyard until about 2PM, which was fine with us because neither me or my friend like to rush around.

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The weather was a bit uncooperative and scheduled to be rainy and overcast. Luckily, we mostly just had overcast with some peeks of sun throughout the day.

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After seeing the Bella sign at the entrance, we drove up a little hill and parked. The view from just the parking lot was spectacular! So scenic!

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We saw a cute doggie running around the picnic area where people were enjoying lunch outside.

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Since we didn’t bring any food with us, we headed straight for the tasting cave.

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We first hit up the cutesy boutique area, inside the cave, where they had lovely platters, other plate ware, and random trinkets.

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Next, it was on to the tasting area. The place was pretty packed, but we waited a couple minutes till some people left so we could squeeze in.

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We selected the Tasting of Current Release Wines.

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We got started with our wine tasting.

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They had little menus printed out so you could read a blurb about the wine you were tasting.

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I loved how the tasting glasses had the vineyard’s logo etched into them. I would learn over our trip to wine country that this is a common theme for the wineries.

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Getting another taste.

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At the tasting counter!

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The inside of the cave was themed nicely – everything was muted in color, and the cave had a relaxing feeling.

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They had barrels, wine bottles, and boxes of wine piled up behind the tasting counter.

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More vino!

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We wrapped up our tasting and headed back out of the cave. My friend advised me to pace myself on wine-buying since we had 4 more wineries on our agenda, which sounded like a good strategy to me since I wasn’t exactly budgeted to go too crazy on the wine-buying. I thought the wines at Bella were pretty good, but it was tough to decide on buying something or not since I had nothing to compare my tasting to. I decided to hold off on buying any wine just yet, though I’d end up wishing later I’d gotten at least 1 bottle.   

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The winery had some proud awards and other plaques displayed throughout the caves.

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On the way out.

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Almost there.

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It wasn’t a long walk from the tasting counter to the door…I just took a lot of photos since I thought the view was interesting. Check out all the people having picnics in the background!

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Here are the hills above the Bella caves.

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The sun even peeked out for a bit.

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I didn’t buy any wine, but I did get some Zinfandel Grape Jelly! I can’t wait to try this stuff! I thought it was made by the winery, but upon reading the label, realized it was made by Zin Restaurant , which we didn’t get to visit (this trip).

Final Dish

I absolutely loved my trip to Bella Vineyards + Wine Caves. The wine caves really gave a unique flair to the winery and made it a must-stop for my friend and me. The people working the tasting counters were very friendly and quite knowledgeable. I’d love to go back to Bella some time soon, but next time, I’ll be sure to bring a picnic basket so I can enjoy their scenic setting with some tasty treats and some extra spending money so I can bring a bottle of wine or 2 home with me.

Cafe Rain Tree (Breakfast) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American
Ambiance: Simple Diner
Address: 118 W Portal Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Sunset
Phone: 415.665.3633
Web Site: no site, click here for the yelp page
Must Taste (Breakfast):

  • Banana Pancakes – regular diner-style pancakes with a handful of banana pieces – sometimes simple, is better.

Best For: family or friends
What to Wear: casual
Fave Points: standard American breakfast options – pancakes, eggs, omelets, bacon
My Occasion: breakfast with a friend
My Fave Dish: Banana Pancakes – sometimes you want a fancy crepe breakfast, sometimes you just want a tried and true pancake. Bananas help switch up this diner standard.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I was visiting my friend in San Francisco from the East Coast and my friend really wanted to take me to a local creperie. We hit up the Sunset area and headed to the creperie only to get stuck in a huge line. We had plans to head out to wine country later that day, so we decided to skip the crepes (and the wait) and stop somewhere else. We happened to pass Cafe Rain Tree and decided a traditional eggs + pancakes kind of breakfast sounded pretty good.

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The interior of Cafe Rain Tree reminded me a lot of your standard diner-style restaurant – no frills.

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It was pretty chilly inside the restaurant – we used our coffee mugs to keep our hands warm.

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I got my fave breakfast combo – pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I got 2 fried eggs over medium and jazzed up my pancake order by adding bananas. The breakfast for me. Although I didn’t think there was anything particularly special or unique about the breakfast, it was certainly satisfying.

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My friend got an omelet, which was served with whole wheat toast and, I believe, potatoes.

Final Dish

The restaurant wasn’t fancy and didn’t seem to have any over-the-top unique offerings, but it was good for what it was – nice, simple food, fresh off the griddle. Our waitress was pretty friendly, too, and everything came out quite promptly. Breakfast hit the spot and filled us up nicely for our trip to wine-country.

Millennium Restaurant (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Modern Vegetarian
Ambiance: Cozy Modern
Address: 580 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (inside Hotel California)
Neighborhood: Nob Hill/Tenderloin
Phone: 415.345.3900
Web Site: http://www.millenniumrestaurant.com
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Small Plate – Seared Brassicas – magical flavor combination – great if you like your veggies – especially cauliflower
  • Drinks – I highly recommend trying any of the cocktails, especially the citrusy Square Root and the fruity Kiwi Gimlet.
  • Entrees – Try the Chanenay Carrot Polenta Cake if you like the idea of grilled polenta being served with smokey tempeh and a drizzling of yummy beans
  • Dessert – Try one of each. Just kidding…but I do recommend saving room for one of chef Eric’s amazing desserts. Try the shortcake – whichever is in season. I found the Earl Gray shortcake dessert to be fab.

Best For: Business, romantic date, or dinner with friends.
What to Wear: dressy casual to business casual to dressy
Fave Points: amazing cocktails and some of the most unique flavor combinations I’ve ever seen
My Occasion: dinner with friends
My Fave Dish: Earl Gray Shortcake Dessert – I’m a big fan of tea-flavored foods but they are hard to find. This dessert was done perfectly with moist tea-flavored shortcakes, decadent cream, and matching Earl Gray ice cream. Top it off with candied citrus peel and…just wow.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

Of all the impressive eats I found in San Francisco, I have to say that my dinner at Millennium Restaurant was my absolute favorite. Although I’m not vegetarian, I found their online menu intriguing, and I was most looking forward to trying this restaurant out from all the ones I researched. I was not disappointed. Let me start at the beginning of this dining adventure, though.

I stayed late at the office, hit up a couple quick stores (there is lots of shopping in the area), and met up with my friends to grab a late dinner at Millennium at Hotel California. I felt like I was walking forever from the financial district to the shops and then to the restaurant…especially because I had my purse, laptop, and luggage in tow! It was a long walk to the restaurant and my feet (in my 2 1/2 inch boots) were killing me! But, the walk was well worth the dinner I enjoyed at Millenium.

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I had tried to call ahead reservations earlier in the day but was told the restaurant were booked till 10PM. Popular place! We decided to try to sit at the bar and upon entering the restaurant were greeted by a couple friendly hosts who told us that bar seats, at least 3 side-by-side, may not open up for awhile.

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My friends (1 a new friend and 1 my BFF from middle school who lives in SF now) knew how badly I wanted to eat at this particular restaurant so we got comfy in the waiting room while the host was kind enough to take my (heavy!) suitcase to the back.

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Well, it must have been our lucky night or just meant-to-be because we only had to wait about 5 minutes before 3 side-by-seats opened up at the bar!

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Cocktails were first on the agenda and I was super excited about this part. The cocktails were what made me want to come here over the other vegetarian SF restaurant (Greens) that I heard good things about (still want to try it next time). The restaurants use of organic syrups and organic fruits were so unlike anything I find around my hometown.

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The 3 of us each started with a Square Root: “Fresh muddled blood orange and mint, Square One organic vodka, Veev acai liqueur.”

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Cheers!

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The drink tasted as good as it sounded and I enjoyed my cocktail slowly over the duration of the meal.

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I am a slower drinker than most. My friends were soon ready for round #2 and ordered a Kiwi Gimlet, which I watched the bartender make from a real, fresh kiwi fruit! So cool!

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I lucked out that my BFF from middle school is now a foodie, too, because we were able to try more flavors by splitting a starter, an app, and an entree!

The appetizer list had many good options, but we chose the Black Bean Torte.

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whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantains, smoky black bean puree, pumpkin-habanero papazul, cashew sour cream, carrot & onion escabeche.” The flavors were so different and yet worked so well together. The torte portion was a bit sweet yet still a savory appetizer.

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We also got some Seared Brassicas, which we learned were veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, etc.

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capers, chile flake, garlic, smoky almond romesco.” This little dish was one of my favorite parts of the meal – the cauliflower brassicas were seasoned so nicely – they were spicy and smoky and simply delightful to eat.

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For our entree, we selected the Chantenay Carrot Polenta Cake.

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seared greens, snap peas & smokey tempeh ‘sausage’, orange scented black bean feijoada, aji coconut cream, lime & cilantro soffrito, plantain crisps, coconut cashews.”

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A little blurry, but another view of the entree. The dish was awesome – the flavors all melded together so tastefully and though it was hard to decipher individual flavors, I didn’t care. I enjoyed the entree bite for bite without worrying about what exactly I was eating. I will say I could tell when I was eating the tempeh and it was gooood!

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Here’s what our other friend got – some sort of tamale with some rice and mushrooms inside and root veggies on the side. It looked really good, too!

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Another cocktail for my friend – Union Square Sidecar – a concoction of yummy apple flavors. Seeing all the other cocktails made me wish I drank faster so I could try more! I’ll know for next time!

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A dinner for moi wouldn’t be complete with out coffee and dessert.

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Check out the cute, little sugar and creamer set they brought out – so tiny! The creamer was soy, too! The sugar was something special, but I forgot exactly what they called it.

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And now, perhaps my favorite course of this most-delicious vegetarian dinner (I forgot the exact name so here’s what I think it was called): Earl Gray Shortcake with Earl Gray Ice Cream and (I think) White Chocolate Cream. Omg…soooo unique and soooo darn good! Wow! I’ve seen a recipe for Earl Gray Chiffon Cake that I’ve been thinking about attempting, but to find it in a restaurant with matching ice cream…I’m impressed!

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Here’s another picture because it was that good! Check out the candied fruit peel on top!

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Our friend got a chocolate-y-peanut-buttery-cake with ice cream, which also looked quite tasty.

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The restaurant, itself, had a cozy + warm environment. Here were the booths next to the bar area where we sat.

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I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about sitting at the bar because I usually like to get comfortable at the table in a big chair or booth during meals. The bar ended up being the best place for us. I was able to have great conversation with my friends, and we even met some fellow foodies. A super cool French chick sat next to us and talked to us about her favorite restaurants in SF (besides Millennium, of course) and she even had tons of photos on her iPhone to share, including the one in the photo above. She doesn’t have a food blog (yet), but I told her she should totally start one. You could tell from her photos that she had great taste in food!

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As we were wrapping up our meal, I mentioned to my friends that it would be cool to take a photo with the executive chef, Eric Tucker. My brave friend quickly asked the host who said that Eric didn’t like to take photos so he wasn’t sure if he’d come out for a photo-op. The host ended up asking the manager who worked some magic, I guess, because Eric came out long enough for a couple quick photos and for me and our new French friend to tell him how amazing everything was. How cool!

Final Dish

It doesn’t get much better than this, folks. I didn’t even miss the meat from my dinner – everything was that delicious! I’m no restaurant connoisseur, but I have been getting tired of seeing the same ole, same ole at restaurant after restaurant so my dining experience at Millenmium was like a breath of fresh air for this girl! From the delicious cocktails to the tasty starters to the fabulous entrees and of course to that amazing dessert, the theme for Millennium carried through proudly and strongly – interesting and unexpected flavor combinations using fresh, healthy, and environmentally foods that will delight your inner foodie.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a meal at Millennium, so if you find yourself in SF, definitely check it out. Since I don’t know when my next trip to SF will be, I may have to get the restaurant’s official cookbook to tide me over till then. A bientot, Millennium!

Fuzio’s Universal Bistro (Lunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Eclectic
Ambiance: Simple, Warm
Address: 1 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111
Neighborhood: Financial District
Phone: 415.392.7995
Web Site: http://www.fuzio.com
Must Taste (Lunch):

  • Universal Pasta: Shrimp Pomodoro – “shrimp, garlic, pomodoro sauce, chile flakes and basil

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Best For: Business or lunch with friends.
What to Wear: casual to dressy casual to business casual
Fave Points: eclectic menu – a nice variety of cuisines
My Occasion: lunch with clients
My Fave Dish: Shrimp Pomodoro – “shrimp, garlic, pomodoro sauce, chile flakes and basil“.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

After our dinner at Town Hall, my clients took me out to lunch the next day at Fuzio’s, which is a regional chain restaurant that features a diverse menu from paninis to pastas and more themed in various cuisines – from Asian to Italian.

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The interior was decorated simply. I liked how the paintings on the walls added splashes of color and personality.

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I normally stick to water or sweet tea when I get lunch, but for this meal, I decided to try something new – raspberry lemonade. It was both tangy and sweet and overall pretty tasty.

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It was with a bit of apprehension that I ordered the Shrimp Pomodoro and at no fault of Fuzio’s. I once had a shrimp and red-sauce-based dish that was rather bland and boring that totally turned me off of shrimp and red-sauce-entrees. I decided to give the combo a try at Fuzio’s and I was not disappointed. The pasta sauce was very flavorful and quite tasty. There were also tons of shrimp in the bowl – many more than first appeared to be there. The fresh basil on top was the cincher for me and the tiny side of foccacia was just the right size.

Final Dish

Fuzio’s was a great choice for lunch. The menu seemed to have an option for every palate and the food, at least what I had, was delicious!

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Fuzio’s would make a great lunch spot for those working in the Financial District of SF since it is so conveniently located in the area. I could see myself frequently Fuzio’s if I worked around Embarcadero. I’d love to go back and try one of their other pasta or entree options.

Town Hall (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American with a Southern Twist
Ambiance: Rustic Chic
Address: 342 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Neighborhood: SOMA
Phone: 415.908.3900
Web Site: http://www.townhallsf.com/ (site didn’t work when I tried it earlier today, but this is the URL listed – could be temporarily down)
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Starter: Butter Lettuce Salad – this salad had an overall light taste, and the combination of the ingredients (fuji apple, blue cheese, butter lettuce, thin radish slices) makes this a winner. My client, who is a foodie herself, recommended this, and it was a great recommendation that I’d like to pass on.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • I didn’t write down any pricing info while I was there and the web site appears to be down, so I don’t have a lot of info here for now. My entree, the osso bucco, was around $25 if that helps.
  • Starters – $10.50 – 15 (got this from one of my pictures) :)

Best For: Business or Dinner with friends. Town Hall would make a great date, too, but don’t expect quiet romance here.
What to Wear: nice-casual to dressy – business to special occasion
Fave Points: interesting flavor combinations – slightly Southern feel
My Occasion: dinner with clients
My Fave Dish: San Francisco’s Best Hot Chocolate – so decadent and delicious. This dessert is unfortunately only available during cold weather months – Check with restaurant for availability details.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I was in San Francisco, CA on business and took 2 of my clients out for dinner at a local restaurant they selected – Town Hall . We talked about possibly going to Boulevard but after pulling up and reviewing the menus for both restaurants online, we all decided to stick with the original choice.

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We had a reservation for 5:30 pm, but we arrived a wee bit early and the hostess offered for us to wait at the bar while they prepared our table. We sat at a gigantic table next to the bar (looked like a 14-top) and ordered drinks while we waited. I ordered an Athena – “Veev acai spirit, Eli’s refresher blend of white peach & guava purees, a floater of sparkling wine, lime twist with two brandied cherries.” The drink tasted just as good as it sounded on the menu and the table was ready before I got to finish it.

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The interior of the restaurant had a really rustic-chic feel to it with exposed brick walls and lots of wooden furniture.

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I really liked the one-of-a-kind chandeliers overhead and the big windows that let lots of natural light in.

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At the table – very simple place-settings and table decor.

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The menu had lots of great options and the waitress was helpful in assisting all of us with our orders.

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We received a rustic, wooden container of bread to start the meal.

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Upon recommendation of one of my clients, I tried the butter lettuce salad, which was excellent! I don’t even like blue cheese, and I still absolutely loved this! This salad made blue cheese taste good.

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As we enjoyed our salad and bread, we also enjoyed some great conversation talking about everything from other great restaurants in SF to Casual Carpool – a concept I thought was pretty fascinating and one I’d never heard of in any other city before.

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For my entree, I had the Pork Osso Buco – “Niman Ranch pork osso buco, Anson Mills grits, black trumpet mushrooms, brussels sprouts and a coffee mushroom jus.

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The pork was fall-off-the-bone tender and seasoned very well. I really enjoyed the pork with the grits underneath the meat and the sauce really enhanced the flavors which all went quite splendidly together. I only wish there were more veggies, but at least I got plenty in the salad.

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Dessert was a tough choice altogether. I was torn between the Warm Cornmeal Crepes with Meyer Lemon Curd and San Francisco’s Best Cup of Hot Chocolate. The “San Francisco’s Best” part of the latter option completely intrigued me, and I had to have it. All 3 of us at the table ended up ordering the hot chocolate dessert – it was a real chocolate fest.

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The hot chocolate was like liquid chocolate – so rich, thick, and creamy. I added some of the chantilly cream, which was served on the side, in every other bite. I ate one of the two chocolate cookies that accompanied the hot chocolate and they were nearly as decadent as the drink itself. They were soft, moist, chocolaty, and nice + chewy – just the way I like my cookies. I could only finish half the hot chocolate, but it was worth trying! I don’t know if I’d call it the “best” of San Fran because different people like their hot chocolate served differently, but I was glad to have tried it. Personally, I like mine more on the milky side, but served this thick, the Town Hall version made a better “dessert” than what I’m used to drinking for fun. The cookies and cream really rounded out the dessert to make it extra special.

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At the end of the meal, our bill was delivered in a red book, which I believe I signed (I think there were signatures in there, but my memory is fuzzy now since it’s been a couple months). I thought the book was a unique touch.

Final Dish

Town Hall proved to be the perfect spot for our client dinner. Everyone was happily full by the end of the meal and we were all in great spirits from the delish eats.

If you’re looking for a quiet date night, you may want to look again. For me, Town Hall seemed like a better place to kick back and have fun and maybe even get a little loud. I’m not saying you couldn’t do a date night here…I think you could have a wonderful date night here, too.

As for the menu, I’m actually from the South, so I was surprised to see so many Southern options on the menu, like the Fried Chicken and biscuits. I usually try to eat whatever is special to the destination I’m visiting (and not what is normally, easily accessible), so I shied away from the Fried Chicken, though I did still end up with grits. :) Southern or not, the menu had many wonderful options – especially that dessert menu! I only wish I had enough time to try one of each.

Eclipse Restaurant (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American Eclectic
Ambiance: Simple Modern, Relaxing
Address: 5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94101 (inside the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero)
Neighborhood: Financial District/Embarcadero
Phone: 415.788.1234
Web Site: Click for Site
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Small Plate: Crab Cakes – ($15) – Delicious mix of lump and dungeness crab cakes – the jicama/corn side is amazingly simple and tasty.

Best For: Travelers, Business
What to Wear: casual to dressy
Fave Point(s): restaurant uses some local ingredients
My Fave Dish: Crab Cakes – I loved everything about this dish – from the crab cakes, to the sauces, to the side of jicama and corn…yum!

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I was traveling for work to San Francisco, CA from the East Coast and was feeling a bit jet-lagged my first day in Cali. I didn’t feel like going far from my hotel, so I just hit up the Eclipse Restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero .

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I went a bit late and the restaurant was a little empty at the time, which was totally fine with me. The dark lighting helped me relax into dinner and the candles added to the ambiance.

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I had a glass of pinot grigio while I perused the menu. I liked how there were a few references to using local ingredients on the menu. The waitress could tell I wasn’t in any particular rush and gave me plenty of space while still ensuring I wasn’t getting antsy.

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I was pretty full from my dim sum lunch earlier, so I just ordered the Lump and Dungeness Crab Cakes – Sweet Corn – Jicama – Balsamic off the Small Plates menu.

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The crab cakes were amazing – I loved the crispy sides and the creamy inside texture. The flavor was great…

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…and went really well with the accompanying sauces.

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I was really surprised at how much I liked the side dish of jicama and sweet corn – the flavors were so simple and yet went perfectly together. The dish totally inspired to make a mental note to try to make something with jicama in it at home some time.

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Since I was feeling really tired from the jet lag, a cozy dessert sounded really appealing, so I ordered the Ferry Building: Farmers Market Seasonal Fruit Cobbler with Streusel Shortcake. The dessert references the Ferry Building , which is a nearby Farmer’s Market (near by as in across the street).

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After I ordered dessert, the waitress brought me a special dessert spoon and new napkin.

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The cobbler dessert was HUGE! It was also very delicious – especially that streusel topping…mmm.

Final Dish

Eclipse Restaurant was the perfect solution for this weary traveler. Though the menu was a bit small, it was also pretty diverse and had a lot of good options and meal sizes, which should easily accommodate any traveler. I thought the entree prices were a little expensive, but you are in the heart of San Francisco, so most restaurants are pretty pricey here. I found the crab cakes to be a steal at $15, and they were the perfect size for me since I wanted something on the lighter/smaller side.

The wait staff will give you your space if you need it. For me, it was nice to not feel rushed out of the restaurant when I was trying to relax in a new city. I really appreciated the fact that the restaurant tried to use some local ingredients, and I was mostly happy with the food itself – it was wonderful! I’d definitely eat here again.

Hang-Ah Tea Room (Lunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Chinese Dim Sum (without the carts)
Ambiance: Simple, Colorful
Address: 1 Pagoda Place, San Francisco, CA 94108
Neighborhood: Chinatown
Phone: 415.982.5686
Web Site: no site, but click here to check out their Yelp page
Must Taste (Lunch):

  • Hang Ah BBQ Pork Buns (2) – I read a lot of reviews saying these steamed pork buns were delish and they were right. They are a bit larger than the ones I usually see, so start small and order more if you’re still hungry.
  • Chinese Broccoli – I don’t remember seeing this dish on their dim sum menu, but most dim sum restaurants offer this side veggie. If you’ve never had it, chinese broccoli is a lot like broccolini – a mix of spinach and broccoli. This dish is huge and piled high with fresh, crisp-tender veggies with oyster sauce. Don’t be afraid of the oyster sauce, to me it tastes a lot like a sweet soy sauce – not fishy at all.

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Pricing Samples (Lunch):

  • Dim Sum: about $2 – 8 per plate (dim sum is a lot like tapas – small plates of food you order to share, though some are larger than others)

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Best For: Quick, simple lunch with SO, friends, or family
What to Wear: casual
Fave Points: simplicity that satisfied
My Fave Dish: Hang Ah BBQ Pork Buns – I usually prefer the baked BBQ pork buns over the steamed ones, but I loved the steamed version they served here.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I was traveling for work to San Francisco, CA and spent quite a bit of time researching the available eats. I also heard there was a huge Chinatown in SF, so I knew I had to go there at least once and get dim sum because I’m a big dim sum fan. I consulted Yelp , found a few options, and decided to search for the Hang Ah Tea Room since the reviews were favorable. Most reviews indicated that the place was a bit of a hole-in-the-wall and that they wouldn’t have found the restaurant if a lady on the corner in Chinatown hadn’t been passing out fliers and walking those interested straight to the restaurant.

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The first day I arrived in SF, I had a couple hours of downtime, and decided the rest of the week would be pretty slammed, so I’d best hit up Chinatown while I still had the chance. I looked up the Hang Ah Tea Room on Google Maps and, from the Financial area, wandered down California in search of Pagoda St. I cut over to Sacramento St by way of Kearny St. and headed uphill. I was starving and walking rather quickly and almost ran over the guy in front of me at Grant St (which appeared to be one of the main Chinatown intersections) when he suddenly stopped. Turns out he had been stopped by a lady giving out pink fliers. Turns out the lady was the one I read so much about on Yelp! I asked for a flier, indicated I was interested in the restaurant, and the lady offered to walk me to the restaurant, just like the reviews said.

I snapped a quick picture of her on my way out (above) – look for her if you’re looking for Hang Ah Dim Sum. Or, just look for the pink fliers – I hear there’s a man who distributes these, as well.

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Turns out the yelpers were right – I probably would have walked right past the Hang Ah Tea Room. Good thing the nice lady helped me find it.

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As I walked inside the restaurant, I immediately noticed the bright color scheme.

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The yelp reviews I read said the interior was a bit cheesy and like a time warp. It was certainly colorful and seemed quite clean, which was all that mattered to me. Personally, I thought the decor really added to the experience.

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I took my flier into the restaurant with me and was quickly seated to one of the numbered tables – I sat at A3. I was greeted by a very friendly waitress who was very smily and nice during the whole meal. She asked for my drink order and I got hot tea. As an avid dim sum lover, I always try to order hot tea as my drink of choice as I feel it makes the whole eating experience more authentic. If you’re ever at a dim sum restaurant and don’t see sugar packets on the table, that’s because you’re not supposed to sweeten your tea. (You’re also not supposed to use a fork)

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I was glad I read on Yelp that Hang Ah didn’t do the dim sum carts you usually see – that may have been a big disappointment if I had been expecting them, but I hardly missed them this trip.

I followed the advice I gathered from Yelp and ordered the Hang Ah BBQ pork buns. These did not disappoint – they were delicious! The dough was nice and soft and the filling had a great flavor. My only problem with them was that they were so big I felt bad not being able to finish the second one. If only hubby had come along for the trip, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still order these again…I just may try to coerce someone into going with me next time since dim sum is best shared (unless you’re a big eater).

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I also got one of my all time dim sum faves – the Ha Gow (shrimp dumplings). They were great and totally hit the spot. They tasted like shrimp dumplings I’d order at any other dim sum restaurant. In fact, this dish tastes the same at almost every dim sum restaurant – the consistency amazes me sometimes.

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I ordered another one of my dim sum favorites – Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this – not because it wasn’t delicious (because it was), but because this made 2 huge plates of food that I had to attempt to finish on my own. Leftovers and traveling don’t typically mix well – especially when your hotel doesn’t have a mini fridge. I just couldn’t resist those tender leaves and crisp-tender stalks mixed with that lovely sauce.

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In an attempt to branch out, I ordered something I’ve never tried before – Sticky Rice (Veggie). For me, these were so-so. They appeared to be prepared quite nicely and the mix of what looked to be sticky rice and a doughy-outside was interesting enough. I just wasn’t crazy about the filling, which was a mixture of sticky rice and sweet peanuts. I’m not a big peanut-person. If you like peanuts, give this one a go. I think I’ll stick with the Lotus Leaf Rice next time I want sticky rice.

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Once I was done eating, I ended up getting a take-out box and bag since I wouldn’t realize until later than my hotel didn’t have a mini-fridge.

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I got all that food for a mere $16.40! Two people could have eaten off all the food I ordered. I totally misjudged the portions and could have done ordering 1 dish less, but I’ll know for next time.

Final Dish

If you’re new to dim sum, you may have a harder time ordering sans carts since you won’t be able to see the food before you select it. I highly recommend taking a look at the reviews on Yelp to for suggestions. Be brave and try to not chicken out and order the “regular Chinese food.” I read on yelp that it wasn’t that great (I didn’t try it personally), but anyways, you’re at a dim sum restaurant and those can be hard to find! Try it while you can. At these low prices, you can afford to make a mistake or two – especially if you discover something you end up loving.

As for me, I already know I love dim sum, and I really enjoyed my meal at Hang Ah. Hang Ah was just as good as any other dim sum place I’ve eaten at and those BBQ pork buns may very well beat out some of the others. I left the place quite happy, satisfied, and more than full.

If you’re looking for the entire dim sum experience with the carts, you may be happier trying somewhere else. If you’re looking for simple, good, dim sum style food without the bells and whistles, then you’ll love Hang Ah Tea Room.