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.

Sociale
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 it's 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 a 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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Next

Well made documentaries have a way of getting into your head. After watching a few episodes of Chef's Table (a series that profiles a single world-renowned chef in each episode), when we heard that the restaurant Next (by Grant Achatz) was running a "50 World's Best" menu it was merely a matter of when we were going to go, rather than if.

The allure of a short-appearance menu, featuring recreations of brilliant dishes from world-renowned chefs, was too much to pass up. 

We ended up booking the last seating on a cool Friday night, and settled in for a 17 dish extravaganza, getting ever-more sillier as the dinner and wine-match progressed. But my, what a feast and delightful time we had. 

After entering the dark but bustling restaurant, we were given orders not to touch the centerpieces. It soon became apparent why - they had edible components. 

Rose - Quique Dacosta
Our first dish was presented as part of the roses decorating our table. The rose, apple, and pomegranate bite was tart and refreshing, and just a touch sweet. 

This was followed by what seemed like a simple cracker, but really, should be the cracker-style amuse bouche by which all others are judged. 
Jerusalem Artichoke - Geranium
More complex than a potato crisp, this was salty, and crunchy, and the only disappointing thing was that there was only one per person. 

A cold, initially confusing dish was up next.


An Oyster's Frozen Kiss - Mugaritz
The idea here was to bring the ice-ball up to your lips, so that you effectively kissed the ice in order to eat the oyster. Having not made it out to Mugaritz when we were in San Sebastian, we were looking forward to trying this. We were not disappointed. The oysters had a rich taste, and were just a little briny. The radish flower was delicate and pretty to look at, although didn't add anything perceptible to the taste and so didn't take away from the purity of the oysters. Delightful! 

Eggs Benedict - Eleven Madison Park

Eggs Benedict - Eleven Madison Park
This next dish was fun. Quirky presentation in a little tin can, with bits of ham and asparagus, offset with indulgent caviar, made this the fanciest Eggs Benedict I've ever had. And with the cutest little English muffins too. Perhaps one day we'll make it out to Eleven Madison Park - after all, NYC is only a short plane flight away.

Marine Soil - Central
The next dish was beautifully presented and had me dreaming of pottery classes again. The sea urchin was creamy and custard-like, the razor clams were super sweet, and the jicama was a nice crunchy contrast. Celebrating all things ocean, this was one of my favourite dishes of the night.

King Crab - Noma
That said, this was my favourite dish. Succulent and sweet king crab, with beef garum and rose miso lending a good dose of umami, and hens egg yolk to amp up the creaminess. The smell alone was heady and intoxicating. I never wanted this dish to end (and am considering making a trip to Noma as soon as it reopens). But as always, as showstopping as this was, the show must go on. 

Tartare - Estela

Tartare - Estela
After the headiness of the king crab, this bison tartare didn't quite shine as brightly as it should have. The most filling dish of the night, it was well constructed, and full of flavour, but didn't really pack a punch. 

Badger Flame Beet - Blue Hill at Stone Farms
I'm also all for celebrating the essence of an ingredient, but as heirloom and special as a beetroot can be, and as sweet and earthy as it was, I'm not sure it should have warranted a spot on this menu. Each to their own though I suppose. 

Riso Cacio e Pepe - Osteria Francescana
I was on much happier ground with the risotto dish from Massimo Bottura. Rich with Parmesan, and touched with pepper and not much else, it really was a masterclass in perfectly cooked risotto. Soft grains, with bite, and really just a super-perfected comfort meal. Lovely.

Langoustine - Restaurant Tim Raue
With wasabi, mango, and Thai vinaigrette, this lobster-esque dish was delicate and refreshing. Not what I would have imagined German food to be, but that's half the beauty of this menu - breaking perceptions and spreading globalism, all while sitting at the same table. 

Monkfish - Aubergine
Another masterclass in presentation was this Monkfish dish. Or maybe I just have a thing for blue plates. The fermented peppers were a touch spicy, and offset the sweetness of the white fish. Which are also a hideously ugly species if you're ever inclined to look them up. 

I should mention at this point, the wine pairing was really hitting me, so while I tried to keep critical of the dishes, in honesty, I was having too much fun at this point to do more than just enjoy the experience. 

Vuelve a la Vida - Quintonil
Sweet scallops, rich tender beef tongue, and a slightly tangy salsa to tie it all together. This is what my limited experience would call elevated Mexican food. Which reminds me I do need to travel to Mexico at some point and try real Mexican food, not just tacos and Chipotle.  

All Parts of the Pumpkin - Attica
I really, really, wanted to like this dish. But I didn't. Too acidic and too jarring compared to the preceding dishes, I was hoping for a better representation of Australian fine dining. I hadn't had the chance to visit Attica back when I was living in Melbourne, and this dish hasn't compelled me to try. Which is a shame.  

Squab - Next
What I did enjoy was Next's own dish. Perhaps as a cheeky nod to the fact they're not yet in the 50 World's Best list but thoroughly deserve to be. The meat (pigeon) is tender, with a beautiful delicate herbal flavour from the lavender sauce. I can't wait to see what Next does, well, next. 

Memory - Restaurant Andre
This dish was rich. Foie gras and black truffle - what a combination. Looking like a dessert and tasting like a savoury flavour bomb, it was delicious but undoubtedly heavy. Go hard or go home I guess.

Apples - Relæ
And was immediately followed by something refreshing and light. Some crunchy chanterelles accompanied the classy apple granita, and served as a nice palate cleanser. 

Then came the bold dessert celebration, where all was swept off the dining table, and a sheet laid down turning it all into a giant canvas.

Chocolate - Alinea
An Alinea signature, dessert is a show to cap the end of a long entertaining food journey. Yogurt is treated like paint, with milk chocolate and blueberries adding substance, this is a super fun dish to see being created, and to consume. You are literally eating off the table. 

What a way to end the night.  

Next - The World's 50 Best Restaurants Menu
All in all we had a great night out. Expensive but worth every penny, the menu really did showcase the insane amount of skill possessed by the team of chefs. Served in dark-cool surroundings by super-professional yet friendly waiters, it's an experience I'm keen to return to, time and time again. Which, luckily for me, I can given the regularly changing menu. What a joy of a restaurant!

Next
953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL
Wed - Sun 500am - 1130pm

Next Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar

This was my first trip out to Washington, and what else can I say but that I am in love with this gorgeous state and its friendly people. 

I mean, how can you not fall in love with gorgeous weather and views like this? 

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
And the fresh, fresh food. The Pacific Northwest sure has a lot going for it. Perhaps that's why the people I encountered all seemed to be in such great spirits.

Perhaps I can say something else: I wish I had stayed longer. I was in the state only overnight, and so much too short of a visit there. And just one dinner. But what a dinner it was.

Given my body clock was still on Central Time when I arrived in Olympia in search of dinner, I needed to find some place that was open relatively early. Google/Yelp pointed me in the direction of Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar and I was not disappointed. 

Situated in a building shared with a few other food providers and a distillery, the restaurant is modern, bright and inviting, and somewhat dominated by a large bar. Given I was dining alone, of course I settled myself there.

The range of lush-sounding cocktails looked amazing, but I settled on a mocktail and was pretty happy with my choice. 

Marionberry Soda
Homemade Marionberry soda. Refreshing, tart, and the perfect kick to liven up the taste buds. Which were soon more than happy to delve into a few oysters.

Oysters
I'm in the Pacific Northwest. How could I not have oysters? I was lucky enough to catch the happy hour menu, and these fresh, plump, neighborhood oysters set me back only $2 a gulp. Not bad at all. 

The other items on the happy hour menu were a more complex, but equally inviting. 

Pig Ear Tacos
I can't say no to pig ear. Never. Especially after spending what felt like all night tracking down a bar that served oreja de cerdo in Barcelona, I wasn't going to turn down pig ear tacos when I wasn't expecting them. They were meaty, and chewy, and gelatinous, and offset beautifully by the cabbage slaw and salsa. Certainly not your traditional tacos, but I'm not complaining. 

I ended up having 3 tacos. A girl's got to eat!
 
Clam Chowder
Continuing the seafood theme, I tried the clam chowder, for which the restaurant is famous for. There is a more than generous number of clams, all tied together with potatoes and a rich pork belly broth.  No heavy masking from loads of cream in this dish. Not much else you could ask for out of a clam chowder. 

While I lamented the limited time I had to explore Olympia, Washington, I'm pretty pleased with where I ended up. Comfortable modern atmosphere, with great waitstaff and most importantly, brilliant seafood on offer, I couldn't be happier with my meal. And will make plans to return to Washington in the not too distant future. 

Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar
222 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501
Tue - Thu 11am - 10pm ; Fri - Sat 10am - 11pm; Sun 10am - 9pm