Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Alma Cocina

Finding myself in the Bay Area the night before my birthday meant that I had to make an important decision; where to have my birthday dinner. Given logistics, I narrowed it down to somewhere that was comfortable and affordable, and close to the yellow BART line.

With that in mind, I'm glad to have made a discovery in the relatively new Peruvian restaurant, Alma Cocina, located in Mission.

M & I are always down to have Peruvian food. I suppose it comes down to a sprinkle of nostalgia for us, having hiked in Peru last September. Alma Cocina fit our low-key nostalgia & celebratory vibe perfectly.

Their menu is not large, but everything we tried was very good. For starters, the BBQ ribs:

BBQ Ribs
Crispy ribs, tossed in their rich BBQ sauce, complete with crunchy cartilage...I loved it. A perfectly sized appetizer for two; any more would have been overkill given the complexity of the flavours.

Moving onto the mains, we shared half a chicken with sides:

Pollo a La Brasa
The rotisserie chicken tempts you from behind the counter of the open kitchen. It's not hard to see why this appeared to be the most popular order on the menu. Crispy skin, juicy tender meat, and a heavy-on-the-garlic marinade made for a great roast chicken.

Yucca Fries
This was accompanied by the crunchiest yucca fries I've ever had, and a serving of vegetables (for balance of course).
Side Vegetables
I washed it all down with a gigantic glass of California Cabernet Sauvignon and at that moment, all was right in the world.

We hadn't brought much of an appetite (traveling does that to us sometimes), but we couldn't leave without having dessert. More specifically, a dense slice of gluten-free dark chocolate cake. With a candle for the occasion.

Gluten-Free Dark Chocolate Cake
This was washed down with a glass of sparkling. 

I can't recommend Alma Cocina enough. It's almost enough to make me want to move back to SF, just to get back into the amazing food scene. The dishes were delicious and affordable, the vibes were laid back, and the service was absolutely stellar (shout out to Jose in particular for keeping me buzzed, and also for letting me practice my terrible Spanish).

SF, every time I'm back, I miss you more. Happy birthday to me.

Alma Cocina
2801 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Mon - Sun 11:30am - 10:00pm

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Collins Quarter

The depths of winter in Chicago are pretty miserable; icy winds and short days make one long for warmer climates. It was on a freezing cold weekend that we spontaneously booked flights to Savannah, Georgia, lured by the promise of good food and sunshine.

It was with great delight that we discovered this Melbourne-style cafe in the historical district. There's no doubt we miss Australia; sunshine, warmth, friends, and great coffee are just two plane rides away, but on the other side of the world.

The Collins Quarter was a comforting reminder that home will be waiting there for us when we wanted to return. With high vaulted ceilings, plenty of wood, images of Melbourne, and that all important slightly-too-loud-to-be-comfortable acoustics, I'd say they'd nailed the vibe pretty well.

Of course, when I excitedly said to M that we were going to The Collins Quarter for lunch, his first comment was "They'd better have Piccolos". While they didn't have piccolos exactly, they did have cortados which are pretty much the same thing.

Long Black & Cortado (Piccolo)
He deemed it decent (hooray!). I indulged in my first coffee in 20 days after a self-imposed ban, and it was good. Not perfection (where is the crema after all), but good enough, especially given this is America and not Melbourne, no matter how close we come.

Exceptionally pleased with my coffee
The menu was extensive, with the all-important smashed avocado on toast up on offer. Eggs Benedict also made an appearance, as well as Brioche French Toast.

We skipped on all those (I still prefer to make smashed avo at home, because, how else am I supposed to afford a mortgage) and ended up ordering very different meals.

Chicken Quinoa & CQ Burger  
M had the CQ Burger, with Angus beef, caramelized onion, garlic-onion aioli, cheddar, and dijon slaw on a brioche bun, with fries. It was a good hearty burger with an intense beefy taste and a decadent bun. He probably would have preferred it with a fried egg in true Aussie style.

I chose the Chicken Quinoa Salad with basil pesto marinated grilled chicken breast, smashed avocado (zing!), diced red and green pepper (capsicums), cucumber, cilantro (coriander), and quinoa salad, with cilantro cream dressing. A good healthy and filling salad, with a decent balance of flavours and freshness. My major criticism was that the ingredients were not appropriately named ;)

Overall we had a great time. We had coffee that was better than expected, the service was efficient for a super busy cafe, and if I just closed my eyes, I could almost pretend I was back home.

The Collins Quarter
151 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Wed - Sun 6:30am - 10:00pm, Mon - Tue 6:30am - 3:00pm

The Collins Quarter Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 13, 2018

Roof on TheWit

Having lived in the Chicago area now for 4 years (where the heck did the time go!?), we'd long heard about the rooftop bar in the DoubleTree hotel in downtown. It was high time that I checked out the ROOT on theWit. Given it turns into a nightclub bar after about 9pm, I was pretty adamant that we would check it out for an early dinner and drinks - I've long left my clubbing days behind.

We still wanted to live it up and celebrate - so a glass of champagne to start my birthday celebrations it was!

The space itself is wonderfully open especially with the high ceilings and large sliding doors that lead out to a narrow balcony that overlook the Chicago streets. You can make out the DJ behind me spinning tunes (at a reasonable volume, at least for this time of the evening), and there's moody purple lights to add some fanciness. 

We ordered a range of dishes, and found them all pretty good. We started with a La Palma Coca - in other words, a pineapple flatbread. No arguments here about pineapple on pizza.

La Palma Coca - Spanish Chorizo, Tomato Sauce, Smoked Mozzarella, Aleppo Cured + Roasted Pineapple
What a fancy version of a ham and pineapple pizza, with fairly spicy chorizo, creamy mozzarella, and luscious sweet pineapple. I approve.

Continuing on the Spanish theme, we also had a seafood paella.

Seafood Paella - Clams, Mussels, Shrimp, Spanish Chorizo, Pickled Peppers, Piquollo Pepper Aioli, Saffron
Once again with the high quality ingredients, I liked this paella but I didn't love it. The flavours were there, but the burnt crust was missing. So it was acceptable, but nothing striking, and made me miss being in the streets of Barcelona instead. 

I did love the potatoes though - but it's not hard to love crunchy potato wedges.

Torn + Fried Potatoes - Honey, Scallions, Paprika, Mint, Curried Aioli
The wedges were perfectly cooked being crunchy on the outside and filling and smooth on the inside.I wasn't entirely sold on the aioli, but it was certainly unique in its sweetness and flavour, and I'll admit a plain garlic aioli would have been quite boring. 

All the dishes we  tried certainly had a heaping of flavor - they're not shy here.

Their cocktails were not shy either:

The Last Word (?) + Airline Controversies
These were strong. No masking the alcohol flavour with syrupy sweetness here. I didn't make a note of what M ordered (boo), but both cocktails were tasty and fun. And with my alcohol tolerance being almost nothing these days, got me quite tipsy, just in time to marvel at dessert.

Because, look at it.

Strawberry Ice Cream Crunch Bar Bites - Pistachio, Cookie Crumb, Strawberry Rose Preserves
Oh this dessert was divine.

Strawberry Ice Cream Crunch Bar Bites - Pistachio, Cookie Crumb, Strawberry Rose Preserves
The almost sickly sweetness of the preserve was offset by the cool velvet of the ice-cream, and the salty rich crunch of the pistachios. What a beautiful presently, fun, brash yet classy dessert. Love from first bite to last. 

By the time we left, the nightclub vibe was taking over, so we made our exit. Not before taking in once last view of the Chicago streets though.

A fun ambiance, creative food and drinks, and excellent service. What else could you ask for? Just make sure to come for an early dinner if you want a dining experience rather than a clubbing experience.

ROOF on theWit
201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Mon - Fri 2:00pm - 2:00am, Sat 2:00pm - 3:00am, Sun 2:00pm - 10:00pm

ROOF on theWit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sociale (Como, Italy)

I'll keep this post less detailed than usual, because after all, aren't holidays about trying to relax as much as you can?

After a few days wandering the streets of Prague, we made our way to Italy, more specifically, Como to spend some time with family by the lake. After a day visiting the beautiful (touristy) towns of Varenna and Bellagio, and enjoying the fresh lake breeze under the warm sunshine, we decided to head into the main town of Como for dinner.

The streets certainly are pretty:

After being vetoing a few restaurants we walked past, and being turned away from a restaurant due to lack of space, we ended up at Sociale, a homely restaurant tucked away near the cathedral. 

Our waiter was mostly attentive throughout the evening, and well versed in Italian, English, and French, among other languages too I'm sure. We started off with the obligatory bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a bottle of red: 

and some cold appetizers,

Affettato misto da
 and warm appetizers to share.

Antipasto caldo del Sociale

Tonda di polpette
 For mains,
Spaghetti alla carbonara

Osso Buco

Proposta di pesce del giorno 
As you can see, the food couldn't be considered light by any standards. Hearty and filling, it was perhaps over-seasoned with salt and/or MSG (we were all very thirsty afterwards). Reasonably priced however, we left with full bellies and in a happy mood (good food, good wine, and good company will do that after all). 

A nice evening walk along the lake capped off a pretty superb day.

Como, you were so touristy but still so lovely.

Via Rodari, 6, 22100 Como CO, Italy
Wed - Mon 12:00pm - 230pm, 7:00pm - 10:30pm

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Milk & Honey Nashville

I've been to Nashville quite a few times now, but rarely have I had the chance to grab a good brunch. Luck would have it that on a lovely Friday mid-Spring, I would up in Nashville within walking distance of Milk & Honey, a cafe that came highly recommended by a local friend.

Milk & Honey Nashville
A charming cafe by day, and a hip bar by night, it's a beautifully laid out, casual space with a great breakfast menu, and extensive drink options. Of course, I settled for a cold brew with a splash of coconut milk, perfect for the early heat of the day.

Cold Brew
Smooth and delicious, the delicious drink boded well for the food to come. The brunch menu has a heavy focus on sandwiches and bagels, but also has a reasonable selection of what they call "Other Good Stuff", including Shakshuka, Omeletes, Chicken & Waffles, and my order, the Hodgepodge Hash.

Hodgepodge Hash
This was a lot of food. With roasted red potatoes, sweet potatoes, pastrami, sausage, sauteed veggies and peppers, caramelized onion, pickled red onion, chipotle crema, feta, and cilantro, all topped with an egg, it was certainly a busy dish. Busy, but undeniably tasty. And filling. 

With a choice of sides, the fresh fruit seemed like the sensible option to offset the heaviness of the dish. All pretty reasonably priced too at $14 (pre-tax & tip of course).

My dining companion chose something a little less messy, but no less indulgent and delicious.

Alabama Pork Biscuit
Because when in the South, why not have a rich Biscuit for breakfast? With pork confit, caramelized onion, Alabama white sauce, white cheddar, onion spread, and an egg, it's a gratifying breakfast, smothered with silky yolk. What's not to love. 

Milk & Honey is a great choice for brunch to celebrate and indulge in food and life, with rich dishes and smooth coffee. Good service and a fun atmosphere top it all off, and I look forward to returning next time I'm in Nashville.

Milk & Honey Nashville
214 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN, USA
Sun - Thu 6:30am - 10:00pm, Fri - Sat 6:30am - 11:00pm

Milk and Honey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, April 27, 2018

Miss Marple's Tearoom

With just a week to spend in the Melbourne Autumn, I had to get out of the city and into the Dandenong Ranges. After an ambitious climb up the 1000 Steps (I say ambitious because it's been at least 5 years since I last went up them), we made the short trip over to Sassafras for a return visit to Miss Marple's Tearoom.

As before, it struck me how quaint the tearoom is, how busy it is (we were lucky to snag a table for two straight away even though we only arrived 30 minutes after opening), and how eye-watering the prices were. But you go in knowing what to expect, which is all of the above.

To start things off, we had a pot of the Yorkshire Gold tea.

Yorkshire Gold Tea
I'm not entirely sure that I would call this the "best cup of tea in England", but it certainly was pretty good. With the requisite milk of course. 

From there, we moved onto a few dishes to share.

Soup of the Day (Cream of Broccoli) & Pimlico Pastie
First up, the soup of the day. On the day of our visit, it was a Cream of Broccoli rendition, that was silky, rich, and was obviously made with extremely fresh produce. Indulgent while feeling healthy at the same time, this was accompanied by slightly salty, freshly baked bread. 

We also ordered the Pimlico Pastie. The accompanying salad was nothing to get excited about, but the large-sized pastie itself had a wonderfully buttery pastry and filled with a soothing variety of vegetables (including onion, celery, and potato if my memory serves me). At $17, it's pretty expensively priced, but you pay for the venue and atmosphere as much the food itself. 

To finish, of course we had the Devonshire Scones.

Devonshire Scones with Raspberry Jam & Cream
Far from traditional, these rectangular, mostly-crustless scones were light, but incredibly filling. After trying both cream first (Devonshire) and jam first (Cornwall) methods, we decided the best construction came from the jam first method - sorry Devonshire. 

Miss Marple's Tearoom is decidedly a tourist destination, and one you would be advised to try and visit shortly after opening to have the best chance of getting seated without a wait. The food servings are generous, but pricey. And while you don't have to, I recommend getting the Devonshire Scones (their star menu item after all).

Which has left me a craving for these scones all the way over the ocean in the USA. Time to track down a recipe...

Miss Marple's Tearoom

382 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras VIC
Mon - Fri 11:00am - 4:00pm, Sat - Sun 11:00am - 4:30pm

Miss Marple's Tearoom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Rudie's Seafood & Sausage

2017 passed by in a blur of work, travel, and bursts of activity followed by bursts of hibernation. We did somehow manage to summon the energy for a road trip down to Nashville after Christmas, and so found ourselves at Rudie's on NYE.

Which turned out to be a pretty great thing, especially in the biting cold. It's a warmly lit, well-heated, neighborhood restaurant in East Nashville, filled with comfort food options. Not much more you could ask for right on the cusp of healthy new years resolutions.

Resolutions for me which include a Dry January, so I was definitely ordering a Vesper Martini:

Vesper Martini
Smooth, intriguing, and full of alcohol - perfect.  

As mentioned, the menu is comforting. Which means indulgent. Wanting to warm up from the inside out, I ordered the Half Hog Stew.

Half Hog Stew
This consisted of a stew of tender braised pork (including unctuous pieces of fat), red potatoes, leeks, rosemary, accompanied by a gig and cave-aged cheddar grilled cheese, drizzled in honey. Sweet, salty, rich, and crunchy, all rolled into one dish. Heaven on a plate (and a bowl). 

Friends ordered similarly decadent dishes (but from the Chef's Specials menu) and were similarly happy with their choices:

Lobster Pot Pie
Lobster Pot Pie with lobster tail, lardon, fennel, leek, and grilled corn, accompanied by a lobster butter popover.

Pork Chop Tomahawk
Pork Chop Tomahawk (16oz!) with collard greens, black-eyed peas, and a sweet potato and relish puree. 

From a glance at some of the blackboards decorating the joint, the sources for the meat and seafood can be attributed to single farms across the country. Which would cater for the hipster-vibe of the place. 

Even with all the decadence, we couldn't pass up on a chocolate lava cake for dessert - split three ways of course. 

Dark Chocolate Lava Cake
Which came out not looking quite like a lava cake, but did have an interesting blueberry-lavender ice-cream (give me all the lavender ice-creams please) on the side. A perfect end to a wonderful NYE meal.

Overall, Rudie's is deserving of its high rating. The ambiance is cozy, the servers are efficient and friendly, and the food is rich and decadent. Definitely a nice dinner date location, or for an indulgent catch-up with friends. If only I lived closer to Nashville.
Rudie's Seafood & Sausage

1402 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN
Mon - Fri 4:00pm - 10:00pm, Sat 1:00pm - 10:00pm, Sun 11:00am - 10:00pm

Rudies Seafood and Sausage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato