I’m Back…Again….

The last time I was at Issian, the owner Sugi asked why I hadn’t been blogging. This inspired me to start up again, and hopefully, my goal is to blog at least once a month going forward. I figured I couldn’t go back to Issian without putting up a blog post, so here I am. We’re heading there for dinner tonight, and I didn’t want to disappoint! So thanks to Sugi for the inspiration!

But before I go into what this post is about, here is one of the most delicious bites I’ve had in a long time (from Issian, of course). I present to you the Happy Hour Shooter, a shot glass ponzu, quail egg, dashi, and green onions with a shrimp “garnish”. It was so good, we quickly ordered another “round” the last time we were at Issian.

Issian shrimp shooter

And now, to the story at hand. As a way of saying thank you to my sister Shannon for being such a fantastic Maid of Honor, I had the brilliant idea to take her on a Crab Cake Crawl! Crab Cakes are one of her favorite foods (I’m quite partial to them, myself), so I thought it’d be the perfect way to spend a day. Boy, was I right! I won’t go in chronological order, I’ll just start with the best and work my way down.

Hands down the best crab cake in Seattle, dare I say the best I’ve ever eaten, is definitely at Palisade. Not only do they have minimal filler, but they are pan fried on one side then oven roasted for a crispy outer layer that gives way to the succulent crab within. They pair it with a salad and a delicate butter sauce. We ate at the bar and since my sister and I were sharing, they split it up without us even asking. I love that! If you love or even just like crab cakes, I’d recommend heading to Palisade immediately (after my first visit a week prior to the Crab Cake Crawl, I went twice within two weeks, it’s that good)! The food alone is worth it, but the view makes it even better!

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While the crab cake at Palisade was head and shoulders above the rest, the crab cake and accompanying spring roll at Shuckers is a good choice if you are downtown and want a nice crab cake. Shuckers overall has a great menu and the bar experience is a great time (read: good cocktails and delicious complimentary bar snacks), but that is another blog post in itself!

Once again, it’s a good choice as there isn’t much filler, so you’re getting as much bang for your buck in terms of crab meat. It is a bit heavier, but the micro arugula and micro bean sprouts (I had no clue they existed prior to this) salad on top balance things out. I think I’d like the dish a lot better it didn’t sit atop the heirloom tomato jam as the flavor from the jam overpowered the other flavors. Since this was actually the last of 4 stops on our Crab Cake Crawl, we opted for the Appetizer portion (one instead of 2 crab cakes), which makes for a good sharable start to a meal. I will say that the 2nd time I ordered their crab cake, there was no claw piece on top and the spring roll was greasy, the crab cake itself was still tasty.

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The crab cake at Purple Cafe & Wine Bar was okay but not something I’d order there again as they’ve got many other items I like better there. I think had the crab cake not been a bit overdone and the remoulade wasn’t as oily, I would’ve liked it. Oh, and if the salad had been more than just frisee. Yes, it does say that it comes with a frisee salad, but I figured it would have been more than just frisee.

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Our first stop was actually at Le Bon Ton Roule in Ballard for a New Orleans style crab cake. While the flavor of the blue crab, which I love, and bay shrimp was fine, the crab cake wasn’t crispy at all on the outside despite being pan-fried and more importantly, the remoulade although quite yummy was way too powerful and heavy, taking away from the flavors of the crab and shrimp. I will say though, it does make me want to try this style of crab cake again, just from somewhere else.

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Well, it’s timed to head for Issian, I finished writing just in the nick of time! I’ve still got a backlog to post, so fear not!

I WON!!

So I am still behind on the blog posting, but I promise I am working on some new posts!

However, I do have awesome news, well, a couple of bits of awesome news. I got married recently, so that was pretty exciting!

And today I won the Summer in Seattle Giveaway! Thanks to the awesome vendors, I cannot wait to enjoy the rest of Summer in Seattle! Check out what I won!

· One night stay at Best Western PLUS Executive Inn, including free parking & breakfast for 2 (Valued at $269)
· Two Mt. Rainier Gondola tours ($89 each) from Tours Northwest
· A $100 gift certificate for Broadway Market shopping center on Capitol Hill
· Passes for six to a DJ’ed Dance at Century Ballroom (Value up to $100)
· A $100 gift certificate to Uber, your favorite town car service

Check out the awesome local businesses on Facebook and Twitter (links below). Perhaps, I will write up a small review of each (someone hold me to this).

Broadway Market: http://www.facebook.com/BwayMarket
Best Western PLUS Executive Inn: http://www.facebook.com/executiveinnseattle
Century Ballroom: http://www.facebook.com/centuryballroom
Tours Northwest: http://www.facebook.com/ToursNorthwest
Uber: http://www.facebook.com/uber

@uber_sea
@ToursNorthwest
@execinn
@centuryballroom
@BwayMarketCH

Now, back to work!

Cha:n – Striking a Balance Between Traditional Korean Food and Modern Cuisine

When I heard a new Korean place was opening up Downtown, needless to say I was very excited since most of my go-to Korean restaurants are a ways north. My best friend (half Korean like myself) Jenn (author of Jenn Dot Com) and I quickly made plans to check Cha:n out! And boy, am I glad we did.

I opted to walk from my office in Lower Queen Anne to the restaurant. I arrived early, and I was greeted by Fox the restaurant manager and Nikki the bartender. While waiting for Jenn, I decided to sit at the bar. I struck up a conversation with Nikki going over the cocktail menu, which inventively uses Korean wine and liquor. I ordered a vodka gimlet, my usual drink, and Nikki asked if I liked raspberries and lime. I said yes, so she asked me to trust her. I figured I was in good hands, so I let her work her magic resulting in a vodka gimlet with Bokbunja, Korean raspberry wine. It was beautiful and delicious!

raspberry vodka gimlet

Later on in the meal, I also enjoyed a sojito, a Korean twist on the mojito made with soju, a clear Korean spirit. It’s a perfect summer cocktail.

sojito

And for a more “dessert” like cocktail, I tried another Nikki creation, the yet to be named brown sugar-ginger-soju martini which used bekseju, another Korean wine flavored with herbs predominantly ginseng. It was bright, refreshing, and just sweet enough.

ginger soju brown sugar martini

As for what food to order, Jenn and I had a difficult time trying to decide. One thing we did know was that we wanted a good mix of the Traditional and Modern items. To start, we ordered one item from each side of the menu.

mung bean kimchi pancake (traditional)

kimchi pancake

and the bulgogi beef sliders (modern)

bulgogi slider

I really liked that they use mung bean flour for the pancakes, but the kimchi flavor didn’t come through enough for my liking. I could see it as a milder “starter” appetizer for someone trying kimchi for the first time, but I personally like kimchi pancakes to have some bite.

The bulgogi beef sliders, on the other hand, I could have eaten at least five more! The cucumber kimchi added both a freshness and contrast in flavor to the sweet bulgogi marinade as well as provided a crunch. Also, the quality and flavor of the beef was superb. The dish definitely showcased the locally sourced market ingredients and quality meat from Painted Hills.

After finishing up those two dishes, we chose two more dishes to complete the meal.

Spicy kimchi pork belly with poached tofu (traditional)

spicy kimchi pork belly

and the kimchi bacon paella cheese gratin (modern)

kimchi bacon gratin

Both of these dishes hit the spot. The spicy kimchi pork belly with poached tofu is one of my favorite Korean dishes to begin with, and I was definitely pleased with it at Cha:n. The tofu had a really great texture and flavor. The preparation of the dish with the mound of spicy kimchi pork belly sitting atop the tofu was perfect for getting a bit of everything in each bite!

As for the gratin, while on the Modern side of the menu, this dish took me straight back to Korea! It’s comfort food for sure with a bit of a Western flair. The kimchi really was the star of this dish! I think that even someone who may not think they like kimchi might change their mind after one bite!

While we weren’t necessarily going to go for dessert, Fox insisted we couldn’t leave without trying the ginger creme brulee. I am a sucker for creme brulee but I am not always up for ginger flavored things as I can only handle so much ginger. Let me say though that this ginger dessert hit the spot. It had just the right amount of spice and the creme brulee itself was cooked perfectly! It tasted just like these round fortune cookie type treats coated with ginger icing my mom used to buy me when I was growing up, and it was a great way to end a fantastic meal.

I will definitely be bringing my fiance to Cha:n in the coming weeks as he loves Korean food as much as I do, but mainly so I can try even more items on the menu! I’d definitely recommend Cha:n if you are looking for a way to introduce people to Korean food beyond BBQ or are looking for a cozy place for a few cocktails and delicious small plates to share. Check Cha:n out on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: Does It Come With Bacon was not financially compensated for this blog post but was treated to a complimentary meal at Cha:n. All opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience.

Back, for real this time!

So yeah, no excuses just life’s been busy between work, planning our wedding (June 23!), and everything else in between.

I’ve got all these pictures of food to post, so this will be more of a photo heavy blog. For once, you’ll get a less wordy post from me!

I was going to start with the worst food I ate in 2011, but since that restaurant is now closed, I’ll spare you.

So let’s get on to the good stuff!

Happy Hour at Dragonfish!

Gotta love Monday All Night happy hours as well as a place with a nice patio! While I don’t have a picture, I thought it’d be appropriate to mention I’ve tried the Tempura Peppered Bacon ($2.95 during HH). It’s definitely something a bacon lover should try once!

dragonfish_lychee_lemondrop

Lychee Drop ($3.95 during HH), I can almost never stop at just one! Boy, do those vodka infused lychees pack a punch! Sometimes you’ll even get TWO!

dragonfish_collins

The Lemongrass Collins (also $3.95 during HH), also delicious! I think I’d prefer it without the lemon soda, but I’m more of a gimlet girl that way! Also, a good summer drink even for the fiance (hence two in the photo).

dragonfish_spicytuna

The spicy tuna roll ($2.95 during HH) is delicious, but not that great a value compared to some other HH menu items.

dragonfish_crabcakes_tonkatsu

The thai crab cakes ($5.95 during HH) are definitely worth it, in my opinion, but I LOVE me some crab cakes. The tonkatsu ($3.95 during HH) was okay, not anything to write home about, particularly when I can have a lychee drop instead! 😉

While I don’t have pictures, on a more recent visit we tried the Lime Rickey shrimp ($4.95 during HH) as well as the Albacore tuna tataki ($5.95 during HH). The Lime Rickey shrimp are now a must whenever I go for HH. The tuna tataki was good (quite good portion of tuna) as well!

Dragonfish also does ‘Girls Night Out’ every Wednesday. From 6-9, they’ve got some good $5 drink specials and they raffle off prizes!

Ruth’s Chris Steak House Happy Hour (7 days a week, 3-6)

I’ve got 3 words. Prime. Rib. Sliders. They are probably one of my Top Ten happy hour items, EVER. They’ve also got well drinks for $5.50 (mid-shelf booze like Beefeater gin, smirnoff vodka). Full disclosure, last time I went at the end of March, they were good but not as great as they usually are. Also, their crab cakes are my mom’s favorite, they are delicious. I think the obsession with crab cakes is genetic.

ruthschris_primeribsliders

Happy Hour at Japonessa
I would be in trouble if Japonessa were closer to my apartment or office. Their Happy Hour (11:30 – 8:00pm in the bar EVERY DAY, plus until 6:30 in the restaurant, *and* Late Night) is one of my faves. Good value and good quality, what more can you ask for?

japonessa_booze

$5 house bubbly, $5 house white/red, $5 house hot sake, and $4 draft beers!

And now, on to the things that keep me coming back. I can’t decide whether the Super Bad Boy Roll ($6.50 during HH) or the takoyaki ($5 during HH) are my #1 reason for loving this joint.

japonessa_superbadboy

Behold, the Super Bad Boy Roll (eel, snow crab mix, avocado, cream cheese, tempura’d, topped w/ spicy seared crab, drizzled w/ chili aioli, soy glaze). Seriously, one of these and a miso soup ($1 during HH – chock full of mushrooms, seaweed, and tofu), and you’ve got an awesome dinner for under $10! If you like each of the things listed in the roll, it’s a MUST try.

japonessa_takoyaki

Nom nom nom. There are only two places in Seattle where I’ve had good takoyaki, this is one of them. If you’ve never tried the stuff and enjoy octopus, you need to order it! I won’t go into describing it, it must simply be experienced.

japonessa_spicyyellowtail

The spicy yellowtail roll is also an incredible tasty value at $4 during HH.

japonessa_veggie_tempura

The tempura is OK ($6 during HH), just when you’ve got the other items to pick from, it doesn’t even compare in terms of “things I crave” and bang for your buck.

japonessa_lychee_martini

And while not on the Happy Hour menu, their Lychee Martini is awesome. I have a weakness for Lychee cocktails, have you noticed?

That’s all for now. A short post coming later this week about a few of my more recent HH adventures to come!

Across the Pond and Back

I know, I know. It’s been two months almost since my last post. I still have at least 4 places to review. I’ll probably be doing a “best of” the past couple of months, and the “worst of” here soon.

Between work, heading to Vegas for Labor Day weekend, and spending a week and a half out of the country (Amsterdam for a mini-vacation and Cork, Ireland for a week of work and fun), I’ve not had much time to blog.

That’s all I’ve got for now!

Review: El Gaucho Happy Hour

So we’ve been to El Gaucho’s Happy Hour three times, but the last two times I decided to take some pictures since I’d been wanting to write about it! The food below is from those two most recent times.

Just a little info on the Happy Hour before the visuals. HH is from 5pm-7pm Tues-Fri and 5pm-Close Sunday/Monday. Drink specials are okay with Full Sail IPA ($4), a red and a white wine ($5), and select cocktails ($6). The real deal about their happy hour is half off the bar food menu!

The 410 Burger ($9) never disappoints. The past two visits we’ve split the burger, the steamed clams, and the baby back ribs. They always cut the burger in half and split up the homemade taro chips, always a bonus in my book! The quality of the beef is outstanding (duh!), and they cook it perfectly (medium rare by default)! It’s one of the few burgers that I don’t think is better with bacon (Gasp!).

elgaucho_cheeseburger

The Steamed Clams ($7) were amazing on both visits, so sweet and juicy! The saffron broth is well seasoned and the fennel in it was delicious! And of course you’ve got to love the crostini/bread for sopping up the broth.

elgaucho_clams

And let’s not forget the Baby Back Ribs ($8). They are fall off the bone tender, and the BBQ sauce is out of this world! I really want to bottle it and take it home with me!

elgaucho_babybackribs

This last time the fiancee and I went, my sister met us before we headed over to The Big Picture to watch Horrible Bosses. So this time, we got to a try a few more items (we have a hard time deviating from the burger/ribs/clams combo)!

The Mixed Greens ($4.50) were good, but it could have used a bit more acidity. The sweetness of the apples and candied almonds overpowered the dijon vinaigrette. But for the price, it’s not a bad deal if you’re looking for a vegetarian or simply lighter option at the bar.

elgaucho_salad

I’d say if you were to go with the Macaroni & Cheese ($6), the Mixed Greens would be a great compliment and a great value ($10 for both). I usually find that even with exceptionally good Mac & Cheese, the pasta used is lackluster. However, with this dish the penne pasta was perfectly al dente and toothsome (in a good way). It stood its own up against the oodles of creamy cheddar (almost a sauce but thicker) and the crunchy panko bread crumbs on top. It’s moved its way into my Top 5 Mac & Cheeses!

elgaucho_macncheese

After eating at El Gaucho, we had about an hour before the movie so we headed across the street to Black Bottle for a drink. My Happy Hour app said they had happy hour going, but that turned out to not be the case. Since we were there, we ordered a round of drinks and some food. The cocktails my sister and I ordered were excellent, definitely drinks we’d order again! I went with the Rising Sun-rita (sake, blood orange puree, fresh lime), and my sister decided on the Doppelganger (pear vodka, passion fruit rum, OJ, cranberry juice). Both were fairly strong.

blackbottle_cocktails

For food, we tried the Prosciutto and Potato Wheels, not something I’d recommend. It had a balsamic glaze that really didn’t go well with the prosciutto. The rest of the food menu looks good though, so considering how tasty the cocktails were I’d like to give the food another go!

In summary, I highly recommend El Gaucho (check ’em out on Facebook and Twitter) if you’re looking for some high quality food at a decent price. For some tasty cocktails, I’d check out Black Bottle as well. Either (or both!) are perfect for when you’re going to catch a movie at The Big Picture!

Coming tomorrow or Thursday, Japonessa Happy Hour! And after that, I’ve got at least 2 more updates (Built Burger, Night Kitchen HH, and Dragonfish HH). Then, I’ll be caught up!

Hello again, Blog! Hello again, readers! Sorry for the hiatus!

So it’s been 3 months since my last blog post. Work picked up and so did everything outside of work. I’ve been taking pictures of meals I’ve wanted to blog about, but I haven’t had the time to sit down and post about it all. Over the next few days, I’ll chronicles those lost food moments – just in time for an awesome event I’ll be eager to blog about this coming Saturday! My best friend Jenn (check out her blog Jenn Dot Com) and I will be attending the Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival!

To get back into the swing of things, here’s a small taste of some scrumptious vittles Jenn and I noshed on at The Triple Door for Tweet Up for Team Up Birthday Bash! back in May. Happy Hour is 4pm-6pm everyday and 9pm-12am Sunday-Thursday, with some great food options (between $2.50-$8) and a variety of drinks specials ($3-$6 cocktails, draft beer, and wine).

If I recall correctly, I stuck to the wine – decent pours, they did me well! We started with the Indonesian twice-cooked chicken wings, a dish I hadn’t tried before. They were quite good – crispy yet tender, salty and sweet, and at $5 for 6 wings something I’d probably get again.

tripledoor_indonesianwings

Then came the fragrant duck sliders ($5). The fragrant duck at Wild Ginger (same kitchen as The Triple Door) is one of my favorite duck preparations, so give it to me already on the bun w/ the plum sauce and I’m all for it. I really didn’t think I liked fruit and meat together until I had the golden plum sauce with the fragrant duck. And the buns, such a perfect soft pillow for the duck!

tripledoor_fragrantducksliders

We weren’t quite full then, so we also ordered the peasant’s chicken satay ($2.50). I enjoyed it, particularly the peanut sauce. Their peanut sauce isn’t very sweet (which I like in this case), but full of peanut flavor. I also really like how the satay always come with the sticky rice! I’d like to go back and try the wild boar skewers during Happy Hour, not sure I’d want to pay more than $4 for 2 skewers.

tripledoor_chickensatay

All in all, I’d give Happy Hour in the Musicquarium of The Triple Door another go as I am a fan of the Wild Ginger food and the drink prices aren’t too hard on the wallet! Check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

Tomorrow, a look at the happy hour offerings of El Gaucho!

Review: .twist.

Last Tuesday, my friends and I gathered for our book club at .twist. Restaurant & Lounge. This was a great venue. I’d been here previously, but this was my first visit after they’d made some changes to the menu and to how everything was set up.

I decided it would be a great choice for my blog as the happy hour here is one of the better spots in Belltown with great food deals and good drink options. $3 house red or white and $2.50 Full Sail rotator? Yes, please! Also on happy hour are some great cocktails like the Pearl plum lemonade! They’ve got a few other Pearl vodka drinks on special as well as a few Belevedere drinks between $4-6! There are also some Don Julio and Hornitos cocktails – something for everyone!

I’d forgotten my camera that morning, but luckily Carmen always has hers on hand. So much thanks to her for taking the pictures! Also if any of you ladies have any comments on the dishes you had, please leave a comment! 🙂

We started out with an order of the deviled eggs and truffle fries to share. The truffle fries and deviled eggs were so tasty, we’d almost finished them both off before I’d remembered we needed a picture! The remainders of both are pictured below.

These were the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had! Even if you’re not a big fan of regular deviled eggs, you might enjoy these avocado filled eggs topped with creme fraiche, serrano chillies, and cumin sea salt!

deviled egg

I’d had fries from .twist. and Ventana before, which are good. The truffle fries are the same fries but topped with black truffle oil and truffle salt. These were incredible!

truffle fries

Christine had the balsamic and pepper glazed Carlton Farms pork spare ribs with pickled green strawberries, arugula, and cocoa nibs. This is a dish that’s also on the Ventana menu. The meat just falls right off the bone and melts in your mouth. The glaze is a great combination of sweet and savory. Christine wasn’t crazy about the pickled green strawberries, but I thought they were good. Mike also thought they were a little weird when we’d tried the dish at Ventana.

spare ribs

Jenny went with the fried pork tenderloin sandwich. She was quite pleased with her choice! I had a taste of the bacon on the sandwich, and it was mmm, mmm, good with an incredible rich, porky flavor! It was topped with pepper jack cheese and foie gras mustard. As with most of their sandwiches, it was accompanied with a side of rosemary fries.

fried pork tenderloin sandwich

Shannon went with the cobb salad. She said it was good as well. Just look at that crispy fried prosciutto!

cobb salad

Carmen had the Belltown burger, always a great choice also offered at Ventana. How can you go wrong with a smoked cheddar and bacon burger stuffed with a piquillo pepper and topped with a humboldt fog goat cheese vinaigrette?? The answer is you can’t!

twist burger

Silvie chose the truffle grilled cheese sandwich with a side of soup. I was really close to ordering this as well! I think I will on my next visit. She really enjoyed it. The soup of the day was cream of asparagus, which Silvie said was quite good!

twist grilled cheese

I went with the braised Painted Hills beef short rib slider topped with peppered bacon, arugula, and goat cheese vinaigrette. The flavors of the dish were awesome. However, the short ribs were overdone, so they were dry and burnt tasting on the outside. This totally detracted from the dish; I likely wouldn’t order it again.

short rib slider

Iris had the duck corn dog, a variation on the ventana haute dog. The first order that came out was cold on the inside. She told the server though, and they took care of things. The re-ordered corn dog was solid. Iris seemed quite satisfied!

duck corn dog

All in all, a great happy hour spot in Belltown and a good venue for our book club. Next time I go back, I think I’m going to try the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese made with orecchiette pasta, smoked cheddar cheese, and truffle salt or the Steak n’ Egg, which comes with baked fingerling potatoes, a fried quail egg, carrots, and a horseradish demi glace. I saw someone order the Steak n’ Egg at Ventana; it looked fantastic. I love me some quail eggs!

Happy hour at .twist. runs Sunday to Thursday 4-12, Friday and Saturday 4-8. You can’t really beat those hours, especially in Belltown! Check .twist. out on Facebook and twitter.

Venice, how nice you are!

I thought that after all the delicious food in Florence, Venice would have to be pretty fantastic to compete. This city definitely stepped up to the challenge.

We arrived in Venice early afternoon, so after we’d gotten settled into our hotel, we ventured out in search of food and drink. I wanted to go to Osteria da Alberta as the description in the Lonely Planet guide sounded good. We stopped at an enoteca along the way, and then proceeded to walk a 2 block radius for 30 minutes or so to no avail. We were about to give up when I saw the Church of Miracles, which I remembered from the map being around the corner from the restaurant we were looking for. As is evident from the pictures below, we made it and it was well worth the 2 hour adventure we had finding it.

We started with the vongole veraci, steamed clams in olive oil, garlic, and butter. The clams were little, but they were extremely tender and sweet.

Osteria Da Alberto vongole veraci

We also ordered the quatro formaggio gnocchi. According to my note written on a piece of paper, BEST EVER!!! Tasty, melt-in-your mouth potato-y pillows. The four cheese sauce was out of this world good. One of the cheeses was gorgonzola which upped the creamy/savory factor. This dish is the stuff that heaven is made of! Mike and I both ate up every last bite of sauce with our bread.

Osteria Da Alberto quatro formaggio gnocchi

And while no picture exists (a testament to its tastiness), we ended this lovely meal with the tiramisu. My notes on the tiramisu: ALSO BEST EVER!!

This was only the start to the onslaught of awesome that were our meals in Venice. On our first full day, we went searching for Osteria I Rusteghi. Like almost every restaurant/eatery listed in our guide book, it was an adventure simply locating the place. But once again, worth it. The guide book said this would be the place to make you like lardon; this is an indisputable fact. Mike and I got a small lardo di collonata sandwich, grilled eggplant, and grilled cherry tomatoes to share. Then we each got another sandwich; I went with the copacolla and black truffle, Mike with the copacolla and eggplant. Everything was quite good, particularly the lardon sandwich (creamy texture with a good cured pork flavor) and the copacolla and truffle. Just as in Florence, the use of truffles is amazing and with gusto! Every bite of the sandwich was overflowing with truffle-y flavor! Mmmm!

I Rusteghi lunch

After that, we stopped by SuSo (click here for someone else’s flickr photo) for some gelato, another randomly delicious find! On this first visit, we tried the peanut gelato and another flavor I can’t quite recall; all I know is that they were delicious, particularly the peanut! On our second visit, we had the green apple and the hazelnut; both were awesome. No pictures exist as the gelato was gone before we could even think to take a picture!

For lunch the following day, we went to Al Merca, an osteria similar to I Rusteghi. For drinks I went with the prosecco (decent, but nowhere near as good as the Collalto Extra Dry!) and Mike had the Valpolicella classico. For food, we shared a polpette di carne (meatball). I also had the parma, robiola, and black truffle sandwich while Mike had the osso collo sandwich. Both were so delicious. Once again, truffle explosions in my mouth complimented by the salty parma cut with the freshness of the robiola. We then shared another meatball and each got one more sandwich! What could beat eating delicious food and drinking wine outside on a beautiful day in Venice?

Al Merca snack

Later that day, Mike took me on a gondola ride. It was pricey but the experience was one of a kind, most importantly Mike proposing! I just had to include some pictures from that; a view from the Grand Canal, just before going under the Rialto bridge, and then a post-gondola ride capuccino photo.

gondola ride

kiss_before_rialto

DSCN0566

To celebrate being engaged, we decided to go out for a fancy-ish dinner. After reading some reviews, we headed for Anice Stellato. It was a nice restaurant known for its seafood. To start, we ordered the small misto di cichetti di pesce. Once again, another dish so tasty we forgot to take a picture until it was gone. Ultra fresh seafood cichetti. From what I recall, it included pickled anchovies which I surprisingly enjoyed. The vinegar really worked with the salty fish. We also had some of the best octopus in vinaigrette I think I’ve ever had. And to Mike’s extreme delight,the misto included fried eel, something that isn’t easily found here in Seattle!

As for things we have photos of, we started with the seafood risotto. In order to ensure you get a bit of seafood in every bite, the mussels, soft shell crab, and langoustines are shelled and chopped up into the risotto – pure genius! All I can say is that the risotto was quite yummy although I don’t have much to compare it to as I’ve only had it once or twice stateside.

Anise Stellato seafood risotto

Then Mike and I shared the pistachio crusted branzino (sea bass). Yum, yum, yum, yum! The fish was flaky and light, a great protein dish to follow up the rich risotto.

Anice Stellato branzino

And for dessert, we opted for the panna cotta with mixed berries. Neither Mike nor myself had ever had panna cotta; this was a good first! The creamy texture was incredible, and the sweetness in tandem with the tartness of the berries was outstanding.

Anice Stellato panna cotta

Our last day in Venice we were walking along the main road, and I asked if we could take a look at a menu. A pasta dish with langoustines was on it for a reasonable price (9.50 euro), so I had to get one last taste of langoustines before leaving Italy. Thus, our lucky lunch at Hosteria Al Vecio Bragosso began. We started off with the beef carpaccio; with lemon juice drizzled, each bite of sliced beef with parmagiano reggiano and arugula was a perfect start (no picture again)!

We followed that with the star of the meal, the tagliolini scampi e zucchine. Hand made tagliolini pasta with langoustines and zucchini in a light cream sauce, need I say more? It was so delicious, we only remembered to take a picture once we’d eaten about half of the dish! Check out that succulent langoustine meat!

al vecio bragosso

Have no fear though, it was so delicious that as soon as we’d eaten the last bite, we came to the instantaneous decision that we needed another plate! It was *that* good. The langoustines were fresh, tender, and sweet. The zucchini were ridiculously sweet and flavorful. Who knew zucchini was capable of such awesomeness?

al vecio bragosso 2

And that, folks, is our trip as our stomachs experienced it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed recounting it! This upcoming week, back to our regularly scheduled happy hour programming!

Florence Food Finds Day 2 and 3

On our first full day in Florence, we did quite a bit of sightseeing (Santa Maria Novella, the Duomo, the Baptistry, and surrounding area). On our way to the Santa Maria Novella, we popped into the Coronas Cafe and tried their gelato. This was a good move on our part. We went with the banana gelato and the mango gelato. The combination of the banana and the mango was like a tropical paradise in my mouth. Our only regret was not making it back here a second time!

coronas_cafe_gelato

After all that sightseeing, we were looking for somewhere nice to eat. Looking through my Lonely Planet guide book, I’d found a restaurant that was supposed to serve a great Bistecca alla fiorentina, a signature Florentine dish (basically a melt in your mouth delicious Chianina porterhouse steak).

We went to the address indicated in the book (a few blocks from Santa Maria Novella), but we couldn’t find a restaurant matching the name in the book (it escapes me now). We did find another restaurant called Ristorante La Spada in its place that served bistecca alla fiorentina, so we decided to go there.

They offered set menus, so we went with one of the “Spada’s Fantasy Menu” and one order of bistecca alla fiorentina. That way, we could try the Florentine steak and get a variety of other things. It was plenty of food!

We started with the antipasto misto della casa as the appetizer of the fantasy menu, a wonderful array of different sliced meats, pate, and bruschetta. I was impressed by the sheer variety!

Ristorante La Spada carne antipasto

For the pasta course, we were served a trio of pastas: ravioli with truffles and mushrooms, penne with a meat sauce, and gnocchi in a rose sauce. The pasta was good, but not great. It definitely pales compared to the pasta we ate during the remainder of our trip!

Ristorante La Spada trio of pastas

The steak was so delicious, we forgot about taking a picture until it was almost gone! The roasted potatoes it came with were the perfect accompaniment as well. We drank a bottle of wine with our meal. It was bottled and labeled especially for La Spada with a picture of the restaurant’s outer face on the side of the bottle!

Ristorante La Spada house wine take 2

For dessert, we had something I can’t recall along with Biscotti di Prato con vinsanto, ‘biscottini’ and sweet wine. It’s apparently only served in the Tuscan region. The wine was really sweet, but it went well with the biscotti.

On our third day, we did some more sightseeing. First off, we accomplished our goal of visiting the Uffizi, taking in Tuscan masterpieces including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. We then walked the wrong way, turned around, and headed back toward the Gallerie dell’ Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David in all his glory. That dude is frickin’ huge!

On the way to the Gallerie D’academia, we stopped by the Mercato Nuovo to check out Il Porcellino, the little pig. Rubbing his nose ensures you’ll return to Florence, so I had to give it a try!

Florence lil piggie

After our visit with David, we made our way across Florence’s city center slowly back toward the hotel. We made a short pit stop at Giubbe Rosse, one of the cafes in the Piazza della Repubblica we’d been to the day before. They had such tasty cappucinos, I couldn’t get enough! They also had cheap, yummy pasta dishes for lunch, which we’d tried out the previous day as well.

Giudde Rossa cappucino

Before heading back to the hotel, we then stopped by Le volpi e l’uva for a few glasses of wine. This was a wonderful enoteca with a great wine selection at a reasonable price. I had the best prosecco (Collalto Extra Dry Prosecco) I’ve ever had for only 3.50 euro a glass. Mike also had a few different delightful red wines. The best part, you can purchase bottles of any wine they serve! I brought home 2 bottles of the prosecco, which was even more special as this prosecco was bottled just for Le volpi e l’uva. Mike brought home a couple bottle of reds as well. I so wish we’d had more room in our suitcase!

Since we had so many bottles, we took a cab back to the hotel. And since we hadn’t stopped thinking about our very first meal in Florence, we headed back to Antica Porta. We started out with some bruschetta, which was quite good with lots of garlic. However, we ate that before we remembered to take a picture! Do you see a theme here?

We ordered the pizza again, and then for the main entree we went with the paccheri al profumo di mare con vongole e scampi (paccheri pasta scented with sea clams and langoustines). I knew gamberi was shrimp, so we weren’t sure what scampi referred to. It does not mean a way of preparing a dish like we think in English, but it’s in fact Italian for langoustine. I’d only ever had langoustines once before at Bartolotta at the Wynn in Vegas. It was one of the tastiest sea creatures I’d ever eaten; I was ecstatic to get a taste of them again. I was so excited when they brought out the dish and I saw the lobster-shrimp creatures in the dish along with mussels, clams, octopus, and squid.

The dish was incredible. We used up all the bread at our table to soak up all the sauce. I could have eaten a whole other portion of this!

Antica Porta paccheri seafood pasta

Tomorrow, I’ll recount our culinary adventures in Venice. It only gets better from here!