You guys, I have been in such a writing funk since I have gotten back from vacation. I don't know what is going on! But I do want to tell you about the restaurants we visited while we were in San Francisco, and I will try to post more frequently from now on. Kailey, my sister-in-law (who we were visiting), is a chef in SF (here; that's her at 0:35 and 1:35), so we let her take us on a culinary tour of her favorite spots. But I determined on our first day that I was just going to enjoy the vacation and not worry about taking photos. So I don't have any food photos to show you, sorry!
Before we get to food, I should mention that we stayed at the Hotel Drisco and really enjoyed it. We had a corner room on the top floor and the views were amazing - we could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the city. All the windows really helped because, like many older buildings in the city, Drisco has no air conditioning. Opening all the windows made for a lovely cross-breeze, though it was too noisy to leave them open at night. The hotel includes a continental breakfast, and I am not talking about just cereal and muffins. They have all kinds of pastries with homemade jams, spreads, and toppings. Also fresh juices, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit salad, hot oatmeal, smoothies, salami and cheese, hard boiled eggs, and antipasto style veggies. In addition to various coffee blends, they will also make espresso drinks to order. It is a very nice perk. They also have a wine tasting every evening with cheese and salami, coffee all day, free wifi, free bikes, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.
I know, I know - Restaurant Week was last month. I'm slow, get over it. So I had heard that Kaz was some people's favorite sushi joint in town and we hadn't tried it out yet. Well, that's what RW is for! Except that we got to there and Jasper promptly threw out the RW menu, crying "I want to eat whatever I want!". This is not the first time this has happened. Oh well.
First thing's first - the sake. They have a couple of sake tastings, and one of them is all nigori, so of course we ordered that! It was fun to try out a couple different ones, and all of them were new to us. We picked out favorite of the three and ordered a bottle.
First up - pork belly appetizer. Yummy, I mean - it's pork belly. Liked the presentation, too.
Okonomiyaki - Japanese pancake with cabbage, bbq pork belly, mayo, and bonito. I scarfed this down before taking a photo, so obviously I liked it. But I did think it was too heavy on the bbq sauce.
Next up, sushi - lots of sushi. Standouts were the Hawaiian Walu special with wasabi leaf (top center), lobster with wasabi mayo (bottom right), and seared salmon belly (bottom center ) - though the salon belly was not as good as Kushi's. Toro, uni, and unagi were standard. The foie gras miso on the tuna and masago and creme fraiche on the salmon didn't really add anything, I wouldn't get them again.
We had two different events planned in two different states in the weeks before Christmas: a weekend-long birthday party in the Outer Banks and a family get-together in Nashville, TN. We decided it would be fun to connect the events via a long roadtrip, stopping at the Biltmore Estate in NC before continuing on to TN. Biltmore is HUGE. The house is the largest privately owned house in the US, and the grounds cover 8000 acres. It takes 30 minutes to get from the Inn on the property to the house.
We stayed for two nights at the Inn, which is a really nice hotel and spa. They were all decked out for Christmas, and had a gingerbread house replica of the Inn. There are multiple restaurants on the Estate - we ate at the Inn Dining Room the first night, and like it so much we decided to eat there the second night too!
The Dining Room is seasonal, farm-sourced fine dining. I really liked their small plates and respectful treatment of produce. The amuse bouche was a different cream based vegetable veluote both nights and they were both outstanding. I could have eaten a bowl of that for dinner and been happy.
My favorite dish was the fried brussels sprouts with a farm egg, frisee, and bacon. This is seriously the BEST brussels sprouts dish I have ever had. It was eye-rolling good. I ordered it both nights and asked for the recipe, which they gave me! I'll post it at the bottom.
Another standout was the roasted corn and lobster soup with piquillo peppers. This has been added to my list of favorite lobster dishes, and is in the top 3 lobster bisques for sure.
The pork belly with apple tart and goat cheese ravioli appetizers were also very good and I would highly recommend them. The gnocchi with brie, figs, and bacon was not enjoyable, though. The brie overpowered everything else and the bacon was way too salty. It sounded great on paper, but didn't work.
The artisan meat and cheese platter was very satisfying, with lots of variety and good portions. I didn't order any entrees, and Jasper ordered specials both nights. He really enjoyed the seafood special the first night, but did not like the steak special the second night.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad here and I would recommend trying it out if you are ever in the area.
In addition to our awesome holiday meal (read more here), we also ate out a lot while we were in Bend, OR last week.
We ordered breakfast from room service at our hotel, The Oxford, a few times and it was really good. The french toast with berry compote, in particular, was awesome. Right next door to the hotel is a brand new doughnut place (as in they opened their doors for the first time the Saturday after Thanksgiving) called Luvs Doughnuts. They make small batches and sell the day-old doughnuts for 50 cents! I had a glazed-yeast raised and Jasper had a chocolate-dipped blueberry cake doughnut - they were pretty good! I also enjoyed my chai latte from there - nice strong flavor.
We also ate at a local breakfast/brunch institution - Chow, which is open every day from 7-2. They focus on local vendors and sustainability and accommodate pretty much any diet. They are happy to make up a unique dish just for you if nothing on the menu suits you. They also have some killer guava mimosas (or man-mosas if you want a bigger drink). This is the only restaurant I thought to take pictures at, so enjoy!
Bagel with cream cheese, pickled veg (celery, carrots, green beans), salmon, and sprouts.
Chow has a number of signature egg dishes. This one is the blackstone - with poached eggs, cornmeal crusted tomatoes, spinach, bacon, and bearnaise over polenta. Super yummy.
This was the omelette of the day with house potatoes. They make their own hot sauces here, and from what I heard the Carrot-Habanero was amazingly hot and tasty.
I don't really know what to say about this place. The reviews were all great, and my husband really liked it, but I wasn't impressed.
We tried plenty of sushi, as you can see, and I thought it was just average (especially for the price). Taro and Kushi are way better in my opinion.
I was more impressed with this creamy lobster and scallop dish, but not enough to make me come back.
There was nothing really wrong with any of it, but it didn't stand up to my expectations. My husband might disagree, but I found it to be overpriced for average sushi. The pear martini, however, was delicious.
Earlier this year I wrote about a restaurant called Sea Pearl, mostly in regards to their brunch. That review was pretty positive. I've been back a few more times for lunch with more mediocre results.
This lobster roll was pretty decent, but not my favorite in the area. It's very herby, which isn't bad - I just don't prefer it personally. I would say that Coastal Flats has better. Also, though the garlic rosemary fries were good, I wasn't a fan of the boring side salad that came with.
This burger was pretty good with the caramelized and pickled onions. But the foie gras was unnecessary. I can't believe I'm saying that because it was the main reason I ordered the burger, but it just felt like it didn't belong (unlike the stellar version at Mockingbird Bistro in Houston, TX).
Lastly, the Hudson Valley roll was a huge flop. Seared foie gras, raw tuna, and green apple with a balsamic plum wine reduction. This just didn't work, and the foie had a weird bitter taste. I noticed it on the burger, too, so however they are cooking their foie here is no good.
I think I'm going to be sticking to brunch for awhile.
Ah, the ever-continuing quest to find good sushi in VA. The menu for Sushi Prince had such unique stuff on it that I had to try it out. A few good items, but mostly this was a disappointment - not worth a return trip.
This is the item on the menu that really caught my eye - the Viagra Shooter. Sea urchin, salmon roe, and raw quail egg in ponzu and sake. What?! It was really good, but impossible to actually shoot. I had to get my chopsticks in there and pull out the uni, then shoot it. Super fun, though.
Another super weird combination - Monkey Fingers. These are bananas wrapped in basil, then beef, then fried and topped with a creamy sauce. It does actually work, somehow, but not perfectly. Very interesting, but I don't know that I would order it again.
This was probably my favorite dish - big chunks of white tuna with avocado and nuta (sweet miso sauce). The tuna was fresh and I liked the thick, sweet sauce with the avocado.
BBQ eel bowl with rice, avocado, and tamago. This was pretty good (it's hard to mess up unagi), but the tamago was AWFUL - you can tell just by looking at it.
One of their creative rolls - a BLT made with shrimp tempura, asparagus, bacon, and tomato with balsamic glaze. Cool idea but it didn't really work - the bacon wasn't cooked enough and it was too big of a bite.
Another creative roll that fell flat. The carbonara roll has scallop and shrimp with tamago, bacon, asparagus, and creamy masago with balsamic glaze and pesto. The flavors didn't really come together, it just didn't work.
We did order some normal sushi, it was pretty "meh".
The kushi yaki was alright.
All in all this was pretty disappointing and below average, I wouldn't recommend it.
The new Mosaic Shopping Center in Merrifield, VA is super cool. There's a Target, an indie movie theater, a gym, boutiques, and cafes. Sea Pearl is one of the larger, less casual restaurants in the center. The website describes it as "Asian inspired modern American cuisine." The main focus is seafood - they have both cooked dishes and sushi - but they also have some meat dishes and a pretty good brunch (on Saturday, too, which I love). It's quite large and the decor is really lovely. It's a little on the feminine side, which would make it perfect for ladies' brunch or girls' night out (the drinks are good, but with DC prices). I've never seen it packed, so large groups could be seated easily.
Let's start with Brunch, because that is what I go for most often.
Cinnamon churros with warm chocolate dipping sauce: these are super awesome - hot, fresh, crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Love it.
Ricotta fritters with honey and seasonal fruit (this time it was apple): these are good too, fluffy and rich. If you had to choose only one pastry though, I'd go with the churros.
I recently returned to Rice University, my alma mater, to celebrate their centennial - 100 years since the founding! There were all kinds of events - a football game (which we won!), parties, galas, picnics, speeches, lectures, you name it!
And our first President - Edgar Odell Lovett - finally got his own statue! About time! William Marsh Rice (Willy) may have provided the money for the institution, but Lovett provided the vision for what it should be.
For something really incredible, click HERE to see a video of the Spectacle - an amazing work of art combining architecture, history, and technology into something the likes of which I have never seen before. Seriously - watch it. For real.
Ok - moving on. Most of my food was provided for me at the events, but I did have the chance to eat out one night and was fortunate enough to go to Kata Robata - a sushi restaurant and Japanese grill. Headed up by Manabu Horiuchi (aka Chef Hori), my favorite sushi chef from college, the concept is Japanese tapas and the food is AWESOME. The service is pretty incredible, too. Our server, Thai, was very knowledgeable and comfortable making suggestions. The pacing was good and we always felt like we were being taken care of. I tried to order a good balance between sushi and tapas to get a really good idea of the place.