Foodie Fridays-Mesa

I am so way behind!  Right after I decided to move back to Portland, the bestie and the biffle and I tried to go to a few of the restaurants on our must eat at list.  We actually did pretty well, I think we hit four or five of them in about two and a half weeks!

One of them was Mesa, Bobby Flay’s restaurant.  This happened to be right by the biffle’s work so it was easy peasy for her to make it and the bestie and I met her at her office.

Mesa is definitely Mexican food and I am quite sensitive to spice (although I have gotten better with the years) AND I HATE HATE cilantro (so does my mom-genetics!) so it was somewhat difficult finding stuff that I would like and the other two would feel had heat but we did good.

We started off with some drinks (all virgin tonight, it was a work night after all)

Drinks-Mesa

 

The bestie got a beer that I couldn’t describe because I’m not a beer drinker.  The biffle got a lemonade but quickly switched to my beautiful pink drink.  I got a virgin prickly pear margarita and it was DEEEELICIOUS!  I definitely could have had more of these and would have loved the tequila in them as well.

We split two appetizers: Rough Cut Tuna Nachos with Mango-Habanero Hot Sauce and Avocado Crema and Cremini Mushroom Quesadilla with fontina, ricotta, a fried egg and salsa verde.

Mesa Appetizers

 

Both were really good but I definitely found that there was too much hotness and cilantro in the rough cut tuna which made me sad because I love raw fish.  I ended up enjoying the quesadilla much more.

The bestie went pescetarian and got the side of spinach.  He got the Ancho Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon with a spicy black bean sauce, tomatilla salsa and a roasted jalapeno crema with a side of spinach.  Not my personal choices but I didn’t have to eat them and he really enjoyed them!

Russell Main Course Mesa

 

Sorry for the horrid photography-I’m working on that one :).

The biffle and I split two main dishes: Grilled Lamb Porterhouse Chops with blackberry-cascabel barbecue sauce and collard greens with smoked chiles and Crispy preserved duck with a pink peppercorn-honey lime glaze served with wild rice tamale and sage butter.

Rachel and Jen Main Mesa

 

Both were incredibly tasty but I actually fell in love with the rice stuffed tamale.  So good and delicious!

Three of us so three desserts to split:

Mesa Desserts

 

The one to the left is sticky toffee pudding with salted cajeta and vanilla bean ice cream. The top one is deep dish banana pie with praline wafer and hazelnut brittle and the bottom right one is Chocolate pretzel tart with spicy peanut butter-chocolate swirl ice cream.

I went in expecting to love the last one because seriously, what could be better than chocolate and peanut butter mixed together?  Then I took one bite of the spicy ice cream and was no longer so happy.  I am not a huge banana dessert fan but I ended up LOVING that banana pie.

Overall, Mesa was a good restaurant albiet probably not one I would run back to when I visit.  But I enjoyed.

Foodie Fridays: Cafe Blossom and Molly’s Cupcakes

Last weekend my roommate and I decided, after both working all day Sunday, to go to the West Village and eat at one of our favorite vegan restaurants, Cafe Blossom.  Yum!  We’ve been coming here for over a year now and enjoy every visit!

Cafe Blossom

 

Cafe Blossom has quite a few locations around New York and we’ve been to two of them, the one in the West Village, on Carmine and the one in Chelsea on 9th Avenue.  My favorite by far is the one on Carmine-I love the West Village and I love the menu at this once.

We started off with drinks, Russell had a Sangria and I had the Montague which was had tru gin, fruitlab jasmine liqueur, lakewood pomegranate, prosecco. . . . YUM!!!

Cafe Blossom Russell Drink  Cafe Blossom Rachel Drink

Russell looks all snazzy because he is a principal and had class that day–he’s wearing his American tie in honor of a debate he had for a program  I, on the other hand, look every bit the camp director in my fleece.  I had been up at camp for a tour and didn’t think I should show my camp t-shirt while I was having a drink!

I definitely have two favorite appetizers there.  The first is trumpet mushroom scallops, cauliflower puree, sweet onion jam on potato crisps.  True story, the first time Russell and I ate there, Russell asked the waiter if these were real scallops because we don’t eat scallops. The waiter wasn’t sure what to respond to that!  Sadly this time, the potato crisps were not as crisp as usual.  It was still good though.

Second appetizer was fresh, made to order guacamole with corn chips.  I LOVE avocado and guacamole but cannot stand cilantro or raw onion so one of the things I love about this restaurant is that you can get the avocado (with a touch of lemon juice) and then you can get the pico de gallo on the side.  Perfect because Russell can get his spicy kick and I can enjoy my avocado goodness!

Cafe Blossom Trumpet Mushroom Scallops Cafe Blossom Guacamole

We each chose different main courses.  Russell chose the Seitan Marsala which came with roasted potatoes, sautéed spinach, shallots, beets, jalapeno, figs, marsala jus.

I got seitan and mushroom sliders, caramelized onions, pesto mayo, housemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, salt and vinegar garlic fries.

Cafe Blossom Seitan Marsala  Cafe Blossom Seitan and Mushroom Sliders

 

So generally speaking I have enjoyed every meal here.  This time was less than fabulous.  The guacamole was really good and the sliders were great and Russell loved his marsala.  My complains were that the potato crisps were kind of soggy and they actually goofed up my main order, bringing something else so then it took another ten minutes to prepare the correct order.

I would still recommend this restaurant because it is generally quite good.

Afterwards, because we were in the neighborhood and because we are huge cupcake nerds, we walked around the corner to Molly’s Cupcakes.  Yummy!  Here are some pictures from there.

Molly's Cupcakes  Molly's Cupcakes

 

Molly's Cupcakes  Molly's Cupcakes

Molly's Cupcakes

So unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the cupcakes but we had some amazing ones.  Russell got a Nutella banana cupcake, cookee monster, and the mixed berry.

I had the creme brûlée  dark chocolate something and birthday cake.  Very tasty cupcakes always!

 

All in all, it was a fun evening and we had a great time hanging out in the West Village.  Now, as I am winding down my time in New York, we are trying to hit as many of the restaurants that are on my list as possible.  You will definitely see a ton of NY restaurants in the next few weeks!

 

 

Bumming around Brooklyn

So last weekend my roommate, Russell, and I decided to bum around Brooklyn.  The day was beautiful and we just wanted to take advantage of the amazing weather.  We also had a few things we wanted to do.  We started by walking to BAM-Brooklyn Academy of Music to catch a showing of 42-the Jackie Robinson movie.

BAM-Brooklyn Academy of Music

42_teaser1sht_blackborder_homepage_hires

 

This movie was especially poignant for me as the Dodgers, especially the Brooklyn Dodgers have a special meaning in my life.  I may have already written about this but my dad was born in Brooklyn and legend tells a few stories about the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The first being that my grandparents had actually broken up at one point and my grandmother had a friend give my grandfather a ticket to the Dodger game and she “happened” to be there.  Second is that my family lasted one season after the Dodgers left Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles.

The movie did not disappoint!  It was a wonderful story of how Jackie Robinson was the first black player in Major League Baseball and Branch Rickey, the manager who got him there.  I loved seeing different parts of Brooklyn and loved thinking that we were on Flatbush Ave-only a few short miles away from where the Dodgers used to play at Ebbets Field!

Even the walk was beautiful:

Texas Bluebells and Tulips

Texas Bluebells and Tulips

IMG_0453

Russell in front of Barclay's Center

Russell in front of Barclay’s Center

We walked back up to Prospect Heights after that and ended up getting some Mexical for dinner–hard to find good stuff in NYC but this wasn’t bad:

IMG_0461    IMG_0462

 

We also just played around with the camera:

IMG_0456  IMG_0457

IMG_0460  IMG_0458

 

There was another reason I wanted to end up in Prospect Heights  I had read about an Ice Cream place called Ample Hill Creamery.  And let me tell you, the line was out the door and around the corner!

IMG_0464 IMG_0465

It took us about 45 minutes just to get into the store and then the line wound around the restaurant.  I felt like I was at a ride at Disneyland.  It didn’t hurt that there was tons of cool murals and stuff on the walls!

IMG_0470   IMG_0468

IMG_0467    IMG_0466

Some really interesting stuff about the owner:

IMG_0471

 

And we finally got the front and by goodness, the ice cream did not disappoint!

I had Salted Crack Caramel: salted caramel ice cream with pieces of Deb’s famous crack cookies (saltines, butter, sugar, chocolate) and Ooey Gooey Butter Cake: The smoothest, creamiest vanilla ice cream with gobs of St. Louis Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Pieces.

IMG_0472

 

Russell had Bananmom: a twist on banana pudding: organic bananas, Saigon cinnamon and vanilla wafers and Sweet As Honey: homemade honey comb candy in a sweet cream ice cream.

IMG_0476

At the end of the day, thanks to my handy dandy UP by Jawbone bracelet, we had walked nearly 7 miles.  A very good chill day in Brooklyn!

 

Foodie Fridays: Tea for Two

I love the act of tea.  I love having a traditional tea.  I’ve been to a few really great places over time.  My biffle, Jen, and I went to The Empress Hotel tea on our Alaska cruise in September, we did a tea at Disneyworld, one of my favorite tea places is in Springfield, OR-Ruthie B’s, which sadly has since closed.  I also have a favorite in Lincoln City, OR-Serindiptea-which apparently is also out of business. . . . thanks internet for dashing all my tea dreams right now!

But living in New York there is definitely no shortage of awesome tea places.  I have had the opportunity to visit two of them this year.  Jen actually went with me to both of them!

The first one was at The Plaza, ahh the epitome of class and style.  When I think of stylish places to go to, this is definitely the first one that comes to mind.  My parents came to visit in October so Jen and I decided to take my mother there for a girls afternoon.  My father had his own great time-attending a football game with his brother, much more his speed anyway!

The Plaza was definitely very elegant and I felt very much like a little girl living her big girl dream.  They had a few different options for tea meals and were very good about changes if needed.

The Plaza

I definitely loved the Eloise plates even though I never really read Eloise growing up.  The ceiling was impressive as were the pillars!

The second tea place in New York that I’ve now been to twice is Lady Mendl’s.  This is located in an inn in Greenwich Village and is very unassuming.  The first time we went, we almost walked right past it.  That was for my birthday in August.

The second time we went, Russell took Jen and I for our Hanukkah gift.  We had a fabulous time!

decorationEverything is super beautiful and set up extremely elegantly.  The services is impeccable-with people always making sure you have exactly what you need.

 

 

 

 

teapots

 

Of course, being the three of us, none of us wanted the same type of tea.

Our tea types:

Rachel: Lavender Mint

Jen: Assam

Russell: Orange Pekoe

Very reflective of our tastes 🙂

 

mains

 

Every tea starts with a butternut squash tartlet (bottom left) which is tasty.

This is followed by an assortment of sandwiches:

Smoked salmon on pumpernickel with sunflower seeds.

Cream cheese cucumber on white bread

Egg salad on rye-with raw onions-yuck

Turkey cranberry on wheat.

Then then give you a butter scone and cranberry scone with raspberry jam and, my personal favorite, devonshire clotted cream. . . you will see later on, I am addicted to this stuff.

dessert

 

Then comes the desserts.  The main dessert that they are known for is a multi crepe layer cake that is french vanilla with raspberry creme–super yum.

There was also an assortment of tea cakes and cookies as well as a chocolate covered strawberry but the cake is usually more than enough.

The extra clotted cream that may or may not have been brought just for me.

 

randoms

 

 

 

At each setting is a sugar cube with a rose on it.  The tables are elegantly set.

Jen drinking her assam.

Me with my bowl of clotted cream. . . I promise I didn’t just eat it plain . . . not much of it anyway!

 

 

 

 

The decoration is very much British Victorian in flavor and they do a great job of paying attention to detail.  Both times we’ve been there, there have been private events going on-baby showers, bridal showers, etc.  Definitely a place I love and would return to again!

Tea times are absolutely one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.  In fact I am currently very jealous of Jen who is in London and just posted on Facebook a teatime service. . . . I wish I was there!!!  What are some of your favorite tea spots?  Are there any good ones on the West Coast I should know about or in New York?

 

Foodie Fridays: ABC Kitchen

Way back also in February (it was a busy month!) we went to ABC Kitchen.  Jen had been talking up ABC Kitchen for a long time-it’s near her work and it’s apparently the restaurant the celebrity chefs go to (see my post on Elizabeth Falkner).   Jen has had a reputation of picking very cute restaurants with not so great food but with this restaurant and Beauty and Essex, she’s redeemed herself greatly!

Jen at ABC Kitchen entrance

Jen at ABC Kitchen entrance

The restaurant is very beautifully designed, straight to the entrance.  It’s also attached to a store which has an eclectic arrangement of furniture, jewelry, housewares and other stuff.

ABC Kitchen Collage

The one inconsistency was that the music didn’t seem to fit with the decor.  But the food more than made up for that!

We started with drinks.  Jen and I had a blood orange Bellini:

Blood Orange Bellinis

“A real panty dropper”-Jen as she enjoyed her second.

Russell enjoyed a Sour Cherry Old Fashioned and didn’t seem quite as excited as Jen but still enjoyed it.

We then shared several appetizers: line caught tuna sashimi with fresh ginger and mint,  housemade ricotta yogurt with apple compote, roasted beets with homemade yogurt, wood oven roasted sunchokes hazelnuts and herbs, roasted kabocha squash toast with fresh ricotta and apple cider vinegar and roasted butternut squash with goat cheese, hazelnuts and spicy onions:

ABC Appetizers

I personally found the squash with the spicy onions too spicy for my taste but loved the kabocha squash and the sashimi.

For our main courses Jen and I split a burger and Russell had the ricotta ravioli.  It was all very good:

Cheeseburger with rosemary herbed mayo

Ricotta Ravioli

 

We then split desserts:

Red Wine Poached Pear with housemade gianduja ganache and hazelnut ice cream

Red Wine Poached Pear with housemade gianduja ganache and hazelnut ice cream

Honey Cheesecake Tart with grapefruit candied kumquats, meyer lemon buttermilk and blood orange sorbet

Honey Cheesecake Tart with grapefruit candied kumquats, meyer lemon buttermilk and blood orange sorbet

Sundae with salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn with chocolate sauce

Sundae with salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn with chocolate sauce

All the desserts were delicious but I was completely in love with the sundae-the salty and sweet was AMAZING!

And one final shot of glamorous Jen looking super hot:

Glamour Jen

The food was definitely wonderful-Jen has redeemed herself in restaurant findings!

 

 

Foodie Fridays: Beauty and Essex

I’ve decided to post all the food based posts on Fridays because well, I like the name Foodie Friday :).

In February (yes forever and ever ago) I took an HTML class.  During the class, my biffle, Jen, texted asking if I wanted to do dinner in the city afterwards with my roomie, Russell (all common characters in my blog).  She chose the restaurant, Beauty and Essex.  Beauty and Essex is owned by Chris Santos, one of the Food Network chefs and a frequent Chopped judge–one of my faves!

Let me just say the restaurant was OUTSTANDING and the decor was so cool!  I definitely need to go back there.  The restaurant is actually kind of hard to find.  It’s on the corner of Delancey and Essex but is fronted by a pawn shop.  It looks like it’s in an industrial building and I honestly would have walked right past had Jen and Russell not been standing there waiting for me.

Because we had reservations we were taken in very quickly.  As I said, the front room is an operational (I think) pawn shop.  Then there is a grand foyer that looks like the entrance to a house.  There are apparently many different rooms.  We were in a room right off the bar.  The dishes are all meant to be shared so we went through and picked a plethora of dishes that at least two of the three of us found appealing.

Jen and I started off with drinks that were delicious.  Russell had a beer that he accidentally dropped but still managed to enjoy most of.

IMG_0920            IMG_0919

Jen had a drink called Broken Blossoms with bourbon, vermouth and lemon.  I had a Ruby Mojito which had rum, St. Germain, lemon, mint, and raspberry-lemon soda.  Yum!

They then brought us a pre-appetizer:

Cracker with beet puree and creme fraiche

Cracker with beet puree and creme fraiche

The menu tends to follow along a general meal idea so you started with the cold bar, followed by hot appetizers, followed by heavier items followed by dessert.  Here are the amazing dishes we tried:

Cold Appetizers:

Smoked Pepper Crusted Beef Carpaccio-housemade beef marinated in hearts of fire

Smoked Pepper Crusted Beef Carpaccio-housemade beef marinated in hearts of fire

Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos-micro cilantro, wasabi kewpie

Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos-micro cilantro, wasabi kewpie

Hot Appetizers:

Classic Pan Con Tomate with fresh burrata

Classic Pan Con Tomate with fresh burrata

New York Pretzel-shaved NY strip, mustard aioli and crispy shallots

New York Pretzel-shaved NY strip, mustard aioli and crispy shallots

Crispy Eggplant Pizzetta-charred san marzano tomato sauce, whipped ricotta, chile oil

Crispy Eggplant Pizzetta-charred san marzano tomato sauce, whipped ricotta, chile oil

Wild Mushroom Pizzetta-roasted garlic-green peppercorn puree, robiola

Wild Mushroom Pizzetta-roasted garlic-green peppercorn puree, robiola

'Chle Relleno' Empanadas-poblano, manchego, jalapeno-lime crema

‘Chle Relleno’ Empanadas-poblano, manchego, jalapeno-lime crema

Vidalia Onion Ring Tempura-homemade blue cheese dip

Vidalia Onion Ring Tempura-homemade blue cheese dip

“Main Courses”

Oven Braised Chicken Meatballs-sheeps milk ricotta, wild mushrooms, truffle

Oven Braised Chicken Meatballs-sheeps milk ricotta, wild mushrooms, truffle

Beauty and Essex Burger-spicy roasted garlic aioli, beefsteak tomato, goat feta, crispy bbq fries

Beauty and Essex Burger-spicy roasted garlic aioli, beefsteak tomato, goat feta, crispy bbq fries

And desserts:

Molten Chocolate Bread Pudding-hazelnut ice cream

Molten Chocolate Bread Pudding-hazelnut ice cream

Hot Chocolate Affogato-espresso ice cream, dried cherry biscotti

Hot Chocolate Affogato-espresso ice cream, dried cherry biscotti

Peanut Butter and Jelly Creme Brulee-raspberry peanut butter macaron

Peanut Butter and Jelly Creme Brulee-raspberry peanut butter macaron

Black Bottomed Butterscotch -coconut chantilly

Black Bottomed Butterscotch -coconut chantilly

Each of us had our own personal favorites.  I personally LOVED the PBJ creme brulee–PB&J for grownups!!!!

Every piece of the restaurant was well thought out, down to the restroom:

Fancy Bathroom

Yes, there’s a bar in the lady’s room!

Awesome Flower Wall Sculpture

And awesome art throughout the entire restaurant!

I told Jen that I definitely want to go back there for my birthday this summer–I loved the ambiance of this restaurant and also would like to try Chris Santos’ other restaurants as well!

Meeting a Culinary Idol

On Monday night I went out to dinner with my usual crew, Jen and Russell.  We went to ABC Kitchen-an amazing restaurant that I will blog about later on.  I was busy taking pictures of the beautiful tableware and the interesting elements of the restaurant when Jen and Russell started poking at me.  Seated at the next table over was my personal culinary idol, Elizabeth Falkner.

For those of you who don’t know, Falkner, has competed on a variety of cooking shows including Top ChefThe Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef: Redemption.  It was during The Next Iron Chef where she came in second to Geoffrey Zakarian that I fell in love with her.  I was devastated to learn that she had restaurants open but only in the Bay Area.  Imagine my thrill when she was on Iron Chef: Redemption (which she was sadly thrown off way too quickly) and I discovered she was opening a restaurant in Brooklyn.  It is high on my list to go to Krescendo, a southern Italian influenced restaurant, although I’ve not gotten the chance to go yet.

I was completely star-struck seeing her and tried to get a picture of her by taking a picture of Jen:

A picture of Jen with Elizabeth Falkner in the background!

A picture of Jen with Elizabeth Falkner in the background!

So clearly that picture didn’t work so well.  Well at a certain point the person she was with left to go to the bathroom or something and I went over and told her what a big fan I was.  Jen came over and took a picture of the two of us.  I told her that I had yet to go to her restaurant but that I really wanted to and that I was blogging and writing about restaurants that I went to.

Me with Elizabeth Falkner

Me with Elizabeth Falkner

Jen did a fabulous job of taking a picture and afterwards, as she was leaving, Elizabeth came over and gave me her card.  I am not generally star-struck by meeting famous people, I also tend to be somewhat oblivious-I’ve only noticed famous people when there is a big crowd (for example I saw Jessica Alba once at a Starbucks in New York but really only because the paparazzi was following her) but Elizabeth Falkner is really someone I admire and feel that she has a unique talent that I would like to emulate.  I hope one day I am half of the amazing and creative chef she is!  She was very gracious and sweet and I very much look forward to eating at her restaurant in the very near future.