Tag Archive | Food blogger

Yountville

Napa County, California

 

The town of Yountville, California will always hold a special place in this girl’s memory. This little intimate community is home to my very favorite hotel and one of my favorite restaurants.

Yountville is located in the very heart of Napa Valley wine country. This quaint, manicured town was named for early pioneer George Calvery Yount who was responsible for establishing the first vineyard in Napa Valley in 1867. I wonder if he ever knew what he was setting in motion? Great foresight there, George!

 

Today Yountville is known as the “Culinary Capital of Napa Valley.” Bouchon Bistro and The French Laundry are both Michelin-starred restaurants. Redd, Ad Hoc, Lucy and Bouchon Bakery are all first-class eateries with world-renowned chefs. One of my favorite restaurants was Bottega, where my husband and I had a delicious four-course meal and first fell in love with the Napa Valley “buttery” chardonnays. My memory of our dinner here was of impeccable service, elevated Italian cuisine, a stunning wine list, and a delectable parmesan-garlic spread to enjoy on their fresh-baked ciabatta bread. My dining experience at Bottega was a love affair from the first bite! 

 

Not only is Yountville full of world-class restaurants, there are gourmet shops, boutiques, wine tasting rooms, art galleries, top-notch accommodations, and incredible natural surroundings – all in the immediate area. You can casually stroll down the main drag of oak-lined Washington Street and find almost every kind of shop, restaurant, bakery, and spa within walking distance. Be sure to keep your eye out for the over 40 works of art and outdoor sculptures scattered throughout the beautifully landscaped scenic downtown area. 

 

For some day excursions, how about golf, a wine tour, a hot air balloon ride or a bike tour? David and I took off on our own and toured some of the local wineries. Domaine Chandon (owned by French Champagne Moet and Chandon), Frog’s Leap and Goosecross Cellars are all located in close proximity. It is not a far drive to most of the Napa Valley wineries or vineyards from Yountville. Most Napa wineries close at 5:00 p.m. so enjoy your winery visits, have a nice lunch, and come back to Yountville. You can then park your car and walk to one of the 15 tasting rooms. No need to drive any more – just stroll and sip!  

 

If you are wondering where to stay, there are plenty of up-scale hotels, quaint country inns and a few bed & breakfasts. My favorite hotel “of all time” was the Bardessono, located in the heart of Yountville. This was an excellent hotel for location, service, and amenities. With automatic blinds and toilets, a jacuzzi tub, a steam shower, and an outdoor shower on our private patio – I did not want to leave this hotel! The entire place was very “Zen-like” with beautiful flora, fruit trees, fountains, gardens and art work at every turn. The entire Bardessono property was very peaceful and quiet – with the exception of the lively bar, outdoor fire pits and the Lucy Restaurant in the evenings. We also enjoyed the lovely pool and private cabanas a couple of afternoons after returning from our winery expeditions. There may have even been a nap or two in those relaxing roof-top cabanas – just sayin’.

 

This stay in Yountville was one of those trips that we keep saying we want to repeat – and that doesn’t happen for us too often. We visited in October and the weather was absolutely perfect.  Combine the wine, the weather, the hotel, and the meals we enjoyed – and it makes perfect sense why we want to return.

 

My suggestion – set a date, plan ahead, book a couple of restaurants on Open Table and mosey over to Yountville for a great Napa Valley getaway! We may see you there. Cheers!!

For you foodies, here is the recipe for the Bottega Parmesan Garlic Spread: 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, 1/2 tablespoon of fresh chopped chives, 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until well chopped and combined. Spread on fresh ciabatta bread and enjoy!

Abacus

Dallas, Texas

I look forward to August every year because that means Dallas Restaurant Week is here! For a certain week(s) during August, many prime Dallas restaurants will offer a price-fix menu and give proceeds to the North Texas Food Bank. It is a great way to try new places and sample their menus (at a considerably lower cost) and it helps benefit a very worthy cause .

One of my restaurant choices this year was Abacus. I have heard about this high-end restaurant for years but never had the opportunity to dine there. Luckily I got reservations on a weekend evening and anxiously looked forward to our visit.

From the moment we stepped into the foyer, I was impressed. Two friendly hostesses greeted us and we were seated at a romantic table for two with a white tablecloth and napkin, candle, fresh flowers and a beautiful place setting. The noise level was energetic, but not too loud, as most of the sounds were coming from the open kitchen and bar area. Our waiter was very professional, friendly, and provided just the right amount of attention. I was very impressed with his knowledge of the menu and the wine list.

The restaurant’s ambiance is sophisticated and romantic. The upscale decor, music, lighting, and art all spell out “fine dining.”  There were many couples dining out this particular evening as well as large groups and a few families. It was perfect for a date night but not too stuffy for a business dinner or a nice dinner with friends or family. 

We began with a couple of the Abacus signature cocktails. The Lucy in the Sky was a fruity, champagne drink and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Gin Basil Gimlet was very tasty and refreshingly good. We were brought a nice bread basket with 3 choices of freshly baked breads and seasoned butter. All were delicious, especially the raisin & nut bread!

Our menu for Dallas Restaurant Week offered a choice of a small plate or appetizer, an entree and then a shared dessert. We opted for the Crispy Coconut Rock Shrimp and Texas Melon plate for our starters and both were great choices. The rock shrimp had a crispy tempura batter and was served with sliced jalapenos, toasted cashews and a mango and red curry sauce. The Texas Melon appetizer was a tasty as it was colorful. Chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon were arranged in a circle around shaved hearts of palm. It was topped with queso fresco, red onions and a cilantro and lime vinaigrette dressing. This was my favorite dish and the combination of colors, textures and tastes was sheer perfection. Delicious!

Next, our server brought over a complimentary Watermelon Mojito Mint Shooter to clean our palates between courses. It was served in a shot glass and tasted like watermelon juice with minty tapioca balls. Loved it!

We both ordered the Blackened Sockeye Salmon for our entree and it was cooked to perfection. The portion was quite large (2 fillets per plate) and the salmon was well-seasoned, but not overly seasoned, as I prefer for blackened dishes. Each entree was beautifully plated with the fish being served over blue corn grits and a red pepper butter sauce. Once again, the dish was visually appealing as well as being satisfying to our taste buds. Our server had suggested a perfect Merlot wine-pairing for this dish and it was spot-on. 

Dessert consisted of a shared plate with small servings of a chocolate and caramel torte, a scoop of chocolate chip mint ice cream and a fruit tartlett. Each one was enjoyable and ended up being a perfect end to a perfect meal.

We had a most pleasant dining experience this particular evening. I am always impressed when you get high quality food, top shelf spirits, innovative dishes, unique flair, and stellar customer service all at one time and in one place. Dining here is certainly not cheap but when all expectations are met, the cost seems justified. 

If you are interested in dining at Abacus, check out their diverse menu on-line. They have a wide variety of menu choices including fresh sushi, lobster shooters, buffalo tenderloin, and black truffle risotto. Monday through Thursday evenings they offer a 5 or 8 course Chef’s Tasting Menu with or without wine pairings. I hope you get to check it out!

Abacus is located in the Knox-Henderson area on McKinney Avenue. Complimentary valet parking is conveniently located out in front of the the restaurant.

Dalrock Diner

Rowlett, TX

This is a nice little diner located near the intersection of Highway 66 and Dalrock Road in Rowlett, Texas. It feels like you step back in time when you enter through the front door. This old-school diner has the black & white checkered floor and red & white booths that take you back to the 1950’s. Everything is very clean, neat and intimate.

I have dined here several times now and have really enjoyed it each time. Dalrock Diner serves American homestyle breakfast, lunch and dinner. The surprise for me was the Greek influences throughout the menu.

The menu is quite varied – with breakfast foods, sandwiches, salads, and “down home” foods. Breakfast choices include Tex Mex migas, omelets, pancakes, fried chicken & waffles, breakfast skillets, and a gyro breakfast. Their burgers and sandwiches are all delicious and come with French fries. (The Yankee Ruben is my favorite!) They also have a few seafood and cajun options, which are very good. The Greek salad (with gyro, grilled chicken or grilled shrimp), the gyro sandwich and chicken souvlaki are especially tasty and a welcome change when in the mood for something different. The meat is very tender and perfectly seasoned. This diner also serves the usual comfort foods – chicken fried steaks, chili, smothered steaks, fried chicken, and a variety of homemade country vegetables and sides. The food is served in a timely manner and is always piping hot. All the meals have nice-sized portions and are very reasonably priced.

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Chicken Souvlaki

Each time we have dined here, the service has been very attentive. The servers are very personable, helpful, and are on hand to refill your drinks and check on you. The owner is present most days and personally greets patrons and visits with regulars. Dalrock Diner is definitely a little neighborhood gem and is perfect for dining solo, couples, or families.

Be sure to check out the glass display up front when you enter or when you pay your check. It is filled with all types of delicious house-made pies and cakes. Have a slice for dessert or buy a whole one to take home. 

Dalrock Diner is simply good food at good prices – nothing fancy – no more, no less. Check it out.

 

Sassi

Scottsdale, AZ

Sometimes you manage to stumble across perfection without any effort. That is exactly what happened to me on a girls’ trip with my daughter and sister-in-law a couple of weeks ago when we visited Scottsdale. A friend has texted me the name of this restaurant and bragged on the beautiful views. I checked reviews on Trip Advisor – all were fantastic, so I made reservations. Why not?

Sassi is located in North Scottsdale in the Troon area. It was just a 20 minute drive from our hotel near Old Town. The building is beautiful and you feel like you have arrived in Tuscany when you drive into the parking lot. The sunset was breathtaking and I wish we had arrived a few minutes earlier to see Pinnacle Peak and the beautiful backdrop it provided. Everyone highly suggested having drinks on the patio but it was closed this particular evening due to cool winds and inclement weather. I bet it is a sight to behold. The sunset photos I included in this article were actually taken by me from the parking lot before we went inside the restaurant.

The interior of the building is traditional Italian. We were told by the friendly hostesses that it was modeled after an Italian farmhouse – a very nice one, for sure! We were greeted warmly and seated in a lovely room with a large-topped corner table and a roaring fireplace on one end of the room. The lighting was low and the ambiance was quiet and serene. Our server Maureen was wonderful! She walked us through the specials, drink lists, and menu items. The menu is set up for an authentic Italian meal with several courses. We had eaten a late lunch and were not terribly hungry at this point, so she helped us with items to share to get a true taste of their foods. It was a perfect suggestion.

First of all, the wines were amazing! (see my smile and rosy cheeks?!) We were soon served warm mixed nuts and fresh baked Italian bread. Both were delicious. We shared two appetizers: a caprese salad and a prosciutto plate. The caprese salad consisted of lovely heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and a ball of Buffalo mozzarella flown in that day from Italy. The prosciutto was thin, lean, flavorful and very close to what you get in Italy. It was served with halved red grapes that were seasoned with orange, olive oil, salt and pepper and were a most delicious accompaniment to the salty meat. Loved it all.

My sister-in-law ordered the grilled octopus with microgreens and olives and I must say, it was very tasty. I am not an octopus fan (mind over matter), but this was very tender, smoky and well-seasoned. My daughter and I actually split a pasta dish, Sassi’s Orecchiette. It had small cup-like orecchiette pasta shells, housemade sweet/spicy Italian sausage, broccolini and pecorino. It was FABULOUS!  For dessert, we had the most wonderful cappuccinos, almond biscotti, and a butter pear cake.

The company, the views, the ambiance, the excellent service, and the impeccable food was sheer PERFECTION.  We had a truly amazing night.

One of the best parts of the evening was when my daughter stopped stressing over the food to serve at her wedding this summer and decided this was it….Italian it is! Sassi is now her menu blueprint and this proud Momma could not be any happier.

This is a first for me in my blog, but I am including the wonderful recipe for the pasta we enjoyed so much. Try it….you will not be disappointed.

 

recipe

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Ida Claire

Addison, Texas

When I first heard of this restaurant called “Ida Claire,” I knew instantly that this was for me! While growing up in Mississippi, I know I heard my grandmother exclaim, “Well, I declare!” hundreds – if not thousands – of times throughout her life. With this phrase meaning “I am surprised to hear that” or “my goodness!”, those words brought back memories.  This was definitely a restaurant calling me back well south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Ida Claire is located in Addison off Beltline Road and the Tollway. The building itself is the warehouse style that is quite popular now. The interior is very open and welcoming. The noise level is energetic. The design and upcycled decor can be described as quirky and/or funky. There are beautiful hanging lamps, bird cages, decorative plates, blackboard signs, open books nailed to the wall, an Elvis bust and Buddha statues. Right outside the front door is an Airstream trailer used as a cozy “hippie-esque” dining space. There is also a well-lit outdoor dining area with tables and umbrellas. It is quite eclectic and very appealing.

The two times we dined here the service has been really impressive. We had brunch the first visit and dinner the second time. The cocktails were very enjoyable. The Bloody Mary, Pear-fect Martini, Margarita Julep and Hurricane Punch were all cold, strong, and delicious. For appetizers, we sampled Ida’s Biscuits (with butter & jam and bacon gravy), Fried Green Tomatoes (with lemon herb dipping sauce) and the Low Country Chopped Salad (fresh butter lettuce, okra, pickled peppers, boiled egg, bacon and a honey mustard dressing). All were delicious, but this Southerner will readily return for the fried green tomatoes – perfection!

We enjoyed sharing the Coffee Crumble Pancakes for brunch and did not leave one single bite. These pancakes were light & fluffy with a blueberry & cardamom topping, maple flavored butter, whipped cream and toffee crumbles. Delicious! The Muffuletta with sweet potato chips was very good. The Wild Isles Sea Trout was very similar to salmon and was served with yellow and red roasted beets. The Nashville Hot Fried Chicken was my favorite entree. The chicken was moist and very flavorful (think Buffalo style) and was served with pimento cheese toast, pickled cucumbers and onions. The smaller brunch portion was also served with a crunchy okra salad. The chicken was quite spicy…..thankfully I had plenty of ice cold rum punch to cool my mouth off. 🙂

For dessert we ordered Ida Claire’s special Vice Cake. Wow! It consisted of a huge slice of stout cake, layers of coffee buttercream icing, and chocolate ganache topping. It was decorated with a piece of candied bacon (yep….I ate that too!).

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Vice Cake

If you are looking for a new place to have brunch or dinner, I hope you will try Ida Claire’s. They do have a bit of a limited menu, but what we have tried so far has been delicious. The restaurant also serves burgers, shrimp & grits, sandwiches, turkey & biscuits, crawfish beignets, etc. They have definitely taken Southern food, updated it and added a twist. I think there is more of a Louisiana feel to their dishes – rather than just pure ole “Deep South” cuisine.

Both of our dining experiences here were quite enjoyable. More fried green tomatoes and okra, anyone?

If you have eaten at Ida Claire’s, please share your experiences in the comment section. I would love to hear from you! If you enjoy reading my dining and travel blogs, please subscribe in the upper right hand corner.  Thanks.