Dining Like Royalty at “The Whitney”, Detroit!

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A piece of history exists on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Built in 1894, the 21,000 square foot home was designed for lumber baron David Whitney, Jr and was described as the most elaborate and substantial residence in this part of the country. It is currently owned by Bud Liebler, a former Chrysler executive, and remains a treasured icon. We discovered it by researching local places for live music and ended up being some of the lucky visitors dining like royalty at The Whitney, Detroit.

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What brought us to the Whitney that night, was their Jazz in the Garden concert with Alexander Zonjic. Unfortunately, due to Detroit’s often inclement weather, the outdoor Jazz concert on the property was cancelled due to rain. In an effort to turn lemons into lemonade, we decided to enjoy royal treatment dining in one of their private dining rooms inside. It was quite an experience! 

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I was dining with my family and they sat us in a beautiful room adorned with a fireplace, sideboards and one long table. The room was exquisite and our server was delightful and fun. We were able to enjoy the afternoon as though we were royalty in someone’s beautiful private estate. To further enhance the ambiance, we were serenaded by lovely piano music being played in the lobby just outside of our room.

IMG_2240An occasion like this called for some nice wine, so we ordered a bottle of 2011 Simi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley. It was delicious!

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We were each served a delightful “amuse bouche” of cucumber with a smoked salmon pate and cherry tomato.

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 Below is a selection of items that we enjoyed for our meal:

Char-Grilled Filet Mignon with Haricot Vert

Char-Grilled Filet Mignon with Haricot Vert

Prime Riv au jus with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Whipped Cream

Prime Rib au jus with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Whipped Cream

Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon with Haricot Vert

Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon with Haricot Vert

Crab Cakes w/ Arugula Salad and Lemon Butter

Crab Cakes w/ Arugula Salad and Lemon Butter

Jalapeño Creamed Corn

Jalapeño Creamed Corn

Grilled Asparagus served with Peppercorn Cream

Grilled Asparagus served with Peppercorn Cream

Rosemary Shrimp Twice Baked Potato

Rosemary Shrimp Twice Baked Potato

For the most part, we enjoyed the food. Our only disappointment was that the Prime Rib was served cold and too well done and the potato, although quite interesting, did not deliver as much in flavor. The rest of the meal was very good, plated well and thoroughly enjoyed.

We did indulge in several of their dessert options as well, our favorite being the berry pie:

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Overall, it was a wonderful meal in a beautiful setting and certainly a treasure to be able to spend quality time with those I hold most dear. It’s really nice to know there are hidden treasures like this still existing in Detroit. Next time we’ll try to make it on a clear day so we can enjoy a garden concert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Frills Chinese Food at it’s Best!

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Do you remember back when you ate plain, unsophisticated Chinese food and loved it?  Well, that’s what I was craving from my Detroit visit – No frills Chinese food at it’s best! My brother recommended The Golden Bowl in Oak Park, Michigan. We were served in a highly lit, sparsely decorated room delivered with understated service. Every meal begins with sweet chili sauce, hot mustard and fried wonton skins.

Sizzling Rice Soup

Sizzling Rice Soup

My favorite soup of the time was Sizzling Rice Soup. Although it was not on their lunch menu, the restaurant happily accommodated my request to serve it to us. I was pocketing my plea backed with a compelling story about my long journey from California hoping only to enjoy their delicious sizzling rice soup… but never had to use it as they were more than glad to respond favorably! The broth was silky and flavorful and it was packed with memorable ingredients. A strong competitor to my favorite Jewish Chicken Soup as a cure for any ailment.

Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Young

This is the first time I have had Egg Foo Young as I remember it. Since my childhood years in Detroit, I have ordered this item many times only to get some altered version or other interpretation of it. Wonderful to enjoy it as I remember and loved; thick and substantive with a yummy creamy gravy.

Chicken Chow Mein

Chicken Chow Mein

Plain old ordinary Chicken Chow Mein served with white sticky rice and fried noodles. It hit the spot!

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Most amazing of all is that you get all of this food, enough to feed the three of us with plenty of leftovers, for a mere $23.33! Unbelievable!!

 

A Blast from the Past – Greektown, Detroit

IMG_2203There isn’t much left there as I remember it, however it still facilitated me getting a blast from the past in Greektown, Detroit. In my younger days, I can remember the after hours dining at our favorite stops in Greektown and was surprised to hear they are still open for customers until 3:00 AM on weekends! These days, 3:00 AM is closer to my waking hour, than when I go to sleep:)

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They say there are only 3 officially Greek restaurants remaining in Detroit’s Greektown. We held a family gathering for lunch at Pegasus Taverna and it still had all of the charm and authenticity of a full-fledged Greek restaurant. It was lively and crowded, which was a delight to see. 

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The item on top of my list to re-visit was the Saganaki; Flaming Greek Kasseri Cheese. It is set afire with brandy which helps give it a unique taste and toasts the outside to a wonderful sear. You can eat it alone or as I prefer it, pulled and picked up with some fresh made pita bread. So delicious!

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Next on my list was a Klassiki Salata-Classic Greek Salad.  Simple but clearly authentic served with a vinaigrette that is purely Greek. Garnished with the necessary accouterments of peperoncini, tomato, beets, olives, cucumbers, red onion and a nice chunk of Greek feta cheese.

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It was difficult to decide on a main entree as there are many favorites that I would have liked to re-visit. However, I decided that lamb chops were probably my most cherished item on the menu so I ordered the Spesialite Pegasou (Pegasus special).  

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IMG_2221Two lamb chops and three broiled shrimp served with spanakotiropeta, rice and vegetables. The Spanakotiropeta is their traditional spinach-feta pie made with fresh leaf spinach, imported Feta cheese and spices in thin, delicate layers of filo. The lamb chops were cooked to perfection, done exactly the way I like them. The spinach pie was delicate and delicious. The rice and vegetables, not so appealing visually and just average.

Here are some photos of other items our table ordered:

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Gyros, Pastitsio and Chicken Lemonato. Everyone was pleased with their selection and the food was plentiful. Several of us were able to share meals as they were quite large. It was a true representation of days gone by and I enjoyed the whole experience. Pegasus Taverna was a good choice!

 

 

 

The Toast of the Town!

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Toast Birmingham has been awarded 2014 Best Brunch (top 100 brunch restaurants by Open Table) and 2014 Michigan’s 15 Top Restaurants outside Detroit by Thrillist Detroit. It is clearly the Toast of the Town!

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We arrived there on a Sunday morning for breakfast/brunch and my husband declared, “Look at that line; are we really going to wait there to eat?” At which I responded, “I picked the best place; look how popular it is!” Well you guessed it; yes, we waited for a table. Fortunately, they gave us a time estimate which allowed us to take a nice stroll along the beautiful streets of Birmingham, MI to window shop and work up our appetite. After about 30 minutes, we were seated at a small table in the middle of the bustling restaurant. Although it was a bit noisy, the energy was positive and we were excited to see what they had to offer. Our waitress was delightful and attentive making the experience that much more pleasant. (She even agreed to pose in a photo with my husband; above)

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We began our meal with brimming hot Cappuccino’s that were quite delicious. The menu was fun and offered way more interesting items than your average breakfast menu. Their omelets come with a variety of different combinations of ingredients and had amazing selections such as their Thom’s Bomb – chorizo, queso fresco, corn salsa & chimichurri or Parisian – spinach, caramelized onions, sun dried tomatoes & chèvre. My husband opted for the Gourmet Mediterranean Omelet that he ordered with egg whites which had spinach, tomato, kalamata olives, pine nuts & feta. It was very yummy even though I usually prefer whole eggs. They made it moist and fluffy with a perfect amount of ingredients served along side artisan whole wheat toast and juicy red tomatoes.

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My food choice was their Pork Belly Hash prepared with house-smoked pork belly, red skin potatoes, poached eggs, kimchi & Siracha hollandaise. A beautiful presentation and absolutely scrumptious! The bite-sized pieces of pork belly were nestled among the nicely crisped potatoes. The lightly spiced hollandaise and the pickled kimchi went particularly well with the poached eggs and hash.

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It was a delightful meal and we enjoyed their lively atmosphere. I can see why they have earned high marks and would certainly visit them again.

Experience the Culture & Flavor of Houston at “Underbelly”

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I recently took a brief trip to Houston setting out to select the best dining experience that offers a true reflection of the area. A friend recommended that I could experience the culture & flavor of Houston at Underbelly. It was a delightful example of architecture & design built with local charm offering a menu that was filled with updated southern style cooking prepared with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Just what I was looking for!

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The chef/owner, Chris Shepherd, showcases his interpretation of Houston food and culture with his American Creole Cuisine.  He defines this as merging diverse cultures with local ingredients. Chris has a fully equipped back-of-the-house butcher shop in the restaurant, allowing him to pursue his passion for butchery and processing all of Underbelly’s meats in house. There was a wonderful host of examples of these fine meats interlaced throughout his menu.

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The restaurant was bustling with staff ready to be at your beck and call.  Their open kitchen was nicely appointed with book shelves displaying what appeared to be a vast selection of personal cook books and rows of house-made pickled vegetables and sauces, that were used in the menu & also available for purchase. The atmosphere was warm & welcoming which created a feeling of being in someone’s personal kitchen.

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An assortment of original book jackets housed their current menu adding to the creativity and character Underbelly was able to achieve.

To further enhance the feeling of home, they offer a menu that is designed with “food to share”. Whether you select their Family Style Servings or Tonight’s Plates, there is plenty to share allowing you a chance to taste multiple items. 

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Our meal began with their Warm Slow Dough Bread and Honey Lardo. It arrived almost too hot to touch with a wonderfully crisp exterior and a soft delicate bread inside. The honey lardo was clearly the icing on the cake and we struggled not to devour the whole loaf in a matter of seconds!

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 We ordered all of our items at once and our server promised to deliver them slowly knowing just how to select the order they should arrive. She did a fantastic job at it too. Our first item although difficult to see in the photo was beautifully presented on a wood stave. It was titled Grilled Butternut Squash, Bacon Jam and Granola. The description hardly described the taste combination and the perfection of how they grilled the squash to tender perfection with a smoky grilled flavor only enhanced by the house-made bacon jam and chunks of fresh granola textured croutons. It was partnered with a simple, perfectly dressed green salad.

IMG_2310 IMG_2314Next up; Seared Snapper, Tomato, Eggplant, Squash was a beautifully seared and seasoned fillet of fish over poached cherry tomatoes on eggplant puree with a side of herb inflected yellow squash. Yum! Our side dish was Crispy Market Vegetables with Caramelized Fish Sauce. The market vegetable was okra and was nicely charred. Our only complaint was that it was a little too salty for our tastes and I expect that was from the saltiness in the fish sauce. 

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Of course we had to order a butcher item so we selected the Butcher’s Cut which was a Double Pork Chop, Charred Squash Salad and Vietnamese Pesto. Thank you Chris, for knowing that you don’t have to overcook pork to serve it properly! It was deliciously charred, juicy & flavorful with a perfect spice combination which elegantly paired with the pesto and salad. I really wanted to chew on the bone, but someone else beat me to it:)

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To compliment our meal we ordered two bottles of California wine. We were pleased with their selection and thoroughly enjoyed both bottles.

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Our sweet tooth was now calling and required an assortment of three of their desserts. They were all delicious with the table favorite being the Honey Cheesecake with Blueberry & Lemongrass. Close seconds were the Satsuma Roll with Ginger & Cardamom Ice Cream and the Blackberry Crumble Fried Pie with Ginger and ElderFlower Ice Cream. Originality and presentation won top marks for all three!

Our table was visited by both the chef and general manager, who were both friendly and gracious. A great personal touch to our experience. Our visit to Underbelly was definitely a highlight of my trip to Houston and I would highly recommend joining them for a meal.

In perusing information about the restaurant and chef, I later found out that Chef Shepherd leads Houston Culinary Tours in his free time. Sure wish I had been around longer to enroll in one! 

 

A True Deli Experience!

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If you are anywhere near Ann Arbor, Michigan don’t miss a stop at Zingerman’s Deli. It is a true deli experience! You shouldn’t be put off by the line out the front door. It only means you have come to the right place and by the way, they run it like a well-oiled machine so you won’t be waiting long. Aside from that, each step of the way is an experience in itself! You will travel through their vast array of displays, all done in a fun, bold style showcasing their exquisite selection of artisanal foods from all over the world. Everything there is hand-cut and sliced to order; nothing pre-wrapped, and you can really taste the quality.

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However, one stop there isn’t enough so if you plan to be in the area for a while, I recommend that you visit them first so you can go back again. The hard part is that there are so many choices, you will be saddened that you can’t try them all! If you have access to a kitchen, plan to stock up on their fresh deli and pantry items. The selection is endless and you won’t find this quality or unique variety anywhere else.

The staff there is very helpful and informed us of the procedures for ordering our lunch as well as offering several useful tips. We settled on two types of sandwiches and two deli salads to share. We then proceeded to their soda bar (referred to as “pop” locally) and I was pleased to see a wonderful selection of Dr. Brown’s diet and regular soda’s on tap! Much more exciting and tasty than the standard coke and 7-up varieties that we are used to seeing. I opted for a diet Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda. It brought back fond memories and tasted even better than I remembered!

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My sandwich choice was Jon & Amy’s Double Dip made with
Zingerman’s corned beef & pastrami, Switzerland Swiss & Wisconsin muenster cheeses, hot & regular mustards on pumpernickel & rye breads. The meats were wonderful and better than anything I could ever find in California. But the part that really sold me was their fresh baked rye and pumpernickel bread. Crispy on the outside and dense and wonderful on the inside. There’s nothing that compares to good Jewish bread in my opinion and Zingerman’s does it well!

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Our other sandwich selection was the Raisin D’etre sandwich made with curried turkey salad (chunks of hand-cut turkey breast, toasted cashews, their housemade Indian spice mix, mayo, Fromage Franc) and Garden Works locally grown daikon radish sprouts on lightly toasted pecan raisin bread. It was scrumptious! A great combination of flavors and textures. As is Jewish deli tradition, each sandwich comes with a choice of an “old dill” or “new dill” pickle. This are how they are classified in the Detroit area and are barrel cured; the old (sours or ripe) longer than new (halves or green). On the east coast, the pickles are referred to as “sour” and “half-sour”, meaning the same thing. No matter what you call them, you really can’t enjoy a true deli sandwich without it’s accompanying dill pickle!

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For our side salads, the choices were many but we narrowed it down to two  that caught our eye. The “Great Kale Caper” featuring locally sourced baby kale, tomato, green onion, thyme, Bagoss (raw cow’s milk cheese), caper berries, garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper. It was fresh, tart and had a wonderful mix of flavor that complimented our sandwich selections perfectly!

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Cindy’s Summer Broccoli Salad was our other choice packed with broccoli, bacon, red onion, green onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, mayo, sugar, ginger, apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper. Crunchy, savory, sweet and yummy! A standard fare salad made better with their perfect blend of ingredients and dressing.

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The best deli I’ve had in a long time. I only wish we had a Zingerman’s in my neighborhood as it is a long way to travel from California. So for all you lucky people near Ann Arbor, make sure to appreciate and enjoy the delicacy that you have! 

 

 

 

A Fun Afternoon at La Cosecha in Paso Robles

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We enjoyed a fun afternoon at La Cosecha in Paso Robles, Carol and Santos MacDonal’s other restaurant. Their first restaurant in town, Il Cortile has been a stunning success since opening and La Cosecha is quickly finding it’s way into many of the hearts of Paso Roblans. Situated right across from the town’s central park, it offers an eating bar facing the street that is basically outdoors yet sheltered under an awning. It’s a perfect place to sit and people watch while enjoying a warm summer day!

We were greeted by their restauranteur and host, Sherman. It is always a delight to see his friendly smiling face and converse about the current local happenings. Sherman is dedicated to the MacDonal’s and shares the same vision regarding a quality dining experience for their patrons.

Bloddy Mary

Bloddy Mary

On the weekends, they offer a custom Bloody Mary menu where you can select your own choice of ingredients. It starts with a selection of numerous vodkas at a reasonable drink price of $7. You can select one that is more premium for an additional $2, certainly still reasonable, but unnecessary since you are mixing it with tomato juice anyway. The garnishes they offer are plentiful and yummy! I decided upon celery, lime, blue cheese olives, bacon and their “spice it up” selection to  give it a little punch. It was fantastic especially the bacon which was a thick, meaty, sugar cured slice of deliciousness.

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

The Tortilla Soup which was our first course was not your typical version of an either watery or over-thickened soup lacking flavor. This was a bowl of a heavenly robust blend of flavors constituting a wonderful soup with perfect texture and minimal garnishes; just enough to finish it off. 

We were ordering from their weekend Brunch menu which offers a small selection of starters, salads, sandwiches, breakfast items and entrees. It was near the end of the afternoon, so we decided to chose fish selections from the entree list.

Grilled White Fish

Grilled White Fish

The Grilled White Fish entree was Seabass served with an heirloom tomato white wine sauce, pureed white sweet potatoes and a side of steamed cauliflower and krispy kale. The sweet potatoes are a signature item of Santos’ and are  creamy and perfect every time! I liked the combination of the cauliflower and the kale as it was good and a little different. The sauce on the fish was delicious. My only complaint is that the fish was a little well done. Although I loved the char on the outside, Sea Bass should be slightly underdone to keep the moisture intact and this fish was not, so it was a bit dry.

Salmon with Bell Pepper Sauce

Salmon with Bell Pepper Sauce

The Salmon, however WAS cooked perfectly! The red bell pepper sauce was not one that I would have thought paired well with salmon, however it did, and it was yummy. The dish included the same vegetables and a requested side salad in lieu of a starch. The leftover salmon was even delicious the following day!

Feeling full from the meal, we did not opt for dessert. However, we have eaten at La Cosecha many times before so I can share a few of my favorites from their regular menu. Their fried calamari with aji amarillo (a peruvian yellow chile pepper) and jalapeño aioli is scrumptious! The sauce is one of the best accompaniments I’ve had with calamari and I’ve eaten it everywhere! The pan seared scallops are amazing and the braised buffalo short ribs are delish! That is just to name a few. The best thing I like is that they serve small plate portions. That way you get to enjoy a variety of flavors from different dishes and don’t walk out feeling remorseful that you have stuffed yourself beyond control.

It is wonderful to have these two exquisite restaurants in our small town and we thankfully patronize them whenever we can. They are always my first recommendation to out of town guests, as I am confident that it will result in an enjoyable experience! 

 

 

 

Delish and Healthy Carrot Pancakes – Gluten Free Too!

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This is a super simple recipe and a great way to use fresh carrots. This recipe makes delish and healthy carrot pancakes that are gluten free too. The sweetness from the carrots and the tart & salty flavor from the yogurt marry very well together. The added lemony greens finish it off perfectly.

I was reading an article in Bon Appetit about a cool restaurant in LA called Sqirl. I was intoxicated by the descriptions of food on the menu and the unusual story. It all started from specially crafted jams by Chef Jessica Koslow, and a recipe for burnt brioche toast topped with homemade ricotta and one of her jam flavors such as strawberry-rose geranium. People were lined up out the door, waiting 20 minutes or more just to get a taste. The notoriety of Sqirl (est.  2012) has quickly risen and in May 2014 it was named the #7 restaurant in Los Angeles by LA Magazine. Jessica herself, has been named as one of LA’s 2014 rising stars!

Well since it’s too far to drive to LA on a whim, I decided to test out one of her recipes. Carrot Pancakes with Salted Yogurt. Super simple and delicious! I did alter a few minor ingredients based on what I had on hand, however I am sure it did not affect the taste. So here it is!

CARROT PANCAKES WITH SALTED YOGURT

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 pound carrots (about 8 medium), peeled, coarsely grated
  •  cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup chickpea flour (I used regular unbleached flour)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup plain whole yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 1 cup spicy greens (such as baby mustard greens, watercress, or arugula) (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

PREPARATION

  • Mix eggs, carrots, cilantro, and chickpea flour in a large bowl (mixture will be loose); season with kosher salt and pepper.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Scoop two ½-cupfuls of carrot mixture into skillet, pressing each to ½” thickness. Cook, rotating skillet occasionally for even browning, until pancakes are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to make 2 more pancakes, adding more oil to skillet if needed.IMG_1954
  • Meanwhile, season yogurt with kosher salt and pepper. Toss greens with lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.
  • Serve carrot pancakes with salad and salted yogurt, seasoned with sea salt and more pepper.

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  • The chickpea flour is what keeps the recipe gluten free although it only calls for 1/4 cup of flour anyway.
  • I used the grating blade in my food processor to shred the carrots and it made the job quick and easy. Just cut the pieces “like” sizes and stack them up vertically. There will be a few odd sized pieces in the bowl, but you can just snack on them while you are making the pancakes!

 

Not Your Average Tacos and Burritos!

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Reposado Restaurant in Palo Alto serves main entrees called Platos Tradicionales.  I call them Platos Especiales! These are not your average tacos and burritos. Their menu offers a nice selection of upscale entrees that will allow your taste buds to experience a very sophisticated style of Mexican cuisine. Reposado is one of four restaurants in the “Restaurants from Scratch” independent restaurant company and their motto is “simple food done well”. Their other restaurants are Scratch, Palo Alto Creamery and Gravity Bistro & Wine Bar. 

The restaurant is laid out with an open floor plan and high exposed ceilings. It was bustling with patrons and quite noisy. In addition, there was music in the background that was barely heard and we wondered why they bothered as it only added to an already noisy atmosphere. We had friendly, excellent service all the way through our evening starting with drinks at the bar and moving to the dining room for our meal.

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To enjoy something to snack on while perusing the menu, we ordered their Guacamole. They make it with avocado, cilantro, lime juice, shallots, tomato, Serrano chile, queso anejo served with freshly made tri-colored chips. It came with a variety of three salsas and all were delicious as were the chips and guacamole.

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Someone in our group ordered an Ensalada Reposado. It was made with baby greens, sweet pepper, tomato, radish, cornbread croutons and honey lime dressing. Very fresh, light and delightful and was served in an unusual bowl with a triangle center. Nice presentation!

The main entrees were all plated beautifully and offered an unusual selection of ingredients that nicely complimented each other. 

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Colorado Lamb Chops

The Colorado Lamb Chops were possibly the best I have ever had! Cooked to perfection and served with Chile Morita – a cashew sauce infused with tamarind. The sauce had a wonderful depth of flavor and went nicely with the fava bean quinoa salad and kaffir infused vegetables.  (I seriously could have licked the sauce off the plate!)

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Camarones Rellenas Con Tocino

The Shrimp were filled with Manchego cheese and wrapped in Nueskes bacon (from Wisconsin where they make the world’s finest applewood smoked meats), served with a cascabel (chili pepper) sauce and heirloom bean sweet potato hash.  The dish was topped with fresh made sweet potato chips. A unique presentation and it was good, but not my favorite entree.  The shrimp were a little dry as it is probably difficult to cook bacon enough to be done correctly without overcooking the shrimp.  

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Raviolos Yucatecos

Reposado provides a separate full course Vegetarian Menu where this selection came from. They were bean filled Raviolis with roasted tomato achiote sauce and avocado tomatillo sauce.  A beautiful plate made with a delicate pasta and savory filling that married well with the complex flavors of the sauce accompaniments. 

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Cochinita Pibil

The Conhinita Pibil is pork marinated in achiote & citrus slowly braised in banana leaves, with habanero, mango & jicama pico de gallo served with creamy jasmine rice with rajas. Rajas are creamy poblano pepper strips. The pork was rich & flavorful and fork tender served in a small cast iron casserole. It also came with a side of handmade corn tortillas.

IMG_1915IMG_1916We finished our meals with a bite of sweets. A Tart with Assorted Berries and Upside Down Caramel Banana Cake with caramel sea salt ice cream. The desserts were very good, but their home run was definitely with the Platos Tradicionales.

If you’re a fan of Mexican food and want to experience a more sophisticated version of it, then I suggest you make a stop at Reposado. Start at the bar, as I did, and enjoy one of their specialty cocktails.  It will set the stage for a wonderful evening of culinary enjoyment!

 

A Showcase of Modern Latin Cuisine!

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Joya Restaurant and Lounge in Palo Alto, California presents a showcase of modern Latin cuisine. Joya, (Spanish pronunciation -  ho-ya) means jewel, and this is surely a jewel of a restaurant!

Sous Chef Brian Grebow and me!

Sous Chef Brian Grebow and me!

We had the privilege of dining with the personal selections and recommendations from their talented Sous Chef, Brian Grebow. Being a long time family friend, we were extremely impressed with his culinary prowess and artistic presentations. Incorporating the best of Latin cuisine, Brian led us on a gastronomic journey that left us completely satiated.

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We were introduced to our first taste through an “amuse bouche” tasting spoon filled with scallop, onion, cilantro and a citrus vinaigrette that was light and refreshing. The spoonful was delicious!

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As a beverage for our meal, we shared a pitcher of White Peach Sangria, house-made with fresh fruit and Sauvignon Blanc wine. A perfect accompaniment to their cuisine.

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For our first starter, we enjoyed an Ahi Tuna Tartare made with fresh ahi, avocado, jicama, lemon, and serrano chili essence topped with micro greens and served alongside house-made taro root chips. I’ve had several versions of this appetizer before and theirs was done perfectly, with just the right amount of spice and balance between the creamy avocado and fresh fish.

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Our next tapas dish was Seared Sea Bass with an ancho chile -tapenade style sauce served over a pancetta and mushroom ragout garnished with asparagus and the chef’s “secret recipe” chile oil. A heavenly combination of flavors creating a unique and amazing dish!

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Next up, Guacamole and New World Chips. I’m a fan of guacamole and know immediately if it passes the test or not. This one definitely did. With an assortment of house-made taro root, sweet potato, yam and plantain chips, it was taken to the next level!

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An array of Grilled Shrimp, Spanish Chorizo and Summer Squash served with a pimenton sauce was our next dish. Very light, fragrant and nicely plated. The chorizo was divine, as well as the other accouterments.

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Center stage ending the main portion of our meal was an incredible Stuffed Hanger Steak that was marinated for four days, then butterflied and stuffed with a mixture of jack cheese and sautéed onions & peppers, then grilled to perfection.  This was plated over a layer of black beans and chimichurri sauce. We thought we were too full to eat until we smelled the aroma of the grilled steak and vegetables. Clearly not something we could pass up and it was absolutely scrumptious!

IMG_1899They say there’s always room for dessert and a little chocolate is good for the soul, so we opted to try their Churros with Hot Chocolate.  Argentinian doughnuts with an Ibarra chocolate dipping sauce. I don’t even like doughnuts and these were amazing! Not what you remember from your local fair or food stand. These were lightly sugared, delicately crunchy and almost creamy inside with a dark chocolate sauce that tasted like it had a hint of coffee and spice. I seriously wanted to swirl my finger in the sauce so as not to leave a drop.

Quite a wonderful finish to an incredible meal. If you get up near Palo Alto, you must stop in and try out their Latin specialties. I am surely going back to seek out other taste sensations on their menu next time I am up there!