Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Germany 2012: Wiesbaden

I LOVE Wiesbaden (pronounced VEE-Spa-Den)!  Last year, I stayed in Frankfurt (huge financial city), but this lovely suburban town just outside of the busy city was just my cup of tea.  From the traditional and modern architecture, cute cafes and deliciously decorated restaurants,  to the clean streets and sidewalks, and town squares filled with people speaking in different tongues, everything in this town just made me fall in love.

 I love the town squares in Germany!

Cathedral on a gorgeous, brisk, fall day in October

 Der Andechser Im Ratskeller

This was one of my favorite eating spots for dinner because inside, you just feel like you've been sent back in time to old Germany (not that I would know what old Germany's like). I was told that there are many Ratskellers around in Germany and they are always located in the basement. I dined here two nights in a row  with some colleagues and seriously could not get enough of their huge portions of MEAT! That's one thing they're not stingy about, and to see the abundance of beef, lamb, and pork was just unreal. Oh yeah, and their beer. I actually made the mistake of asking for iced tea and the waiter yelled at me, "Iced tea?! No iced tea here, only water or BEER!" Right, I'll take a beer then. Now on to the amazing Bavarian dishes!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Germany 2011: Frankfurt

Last year was my very first time visiting Germany and what an experience I had!  I stayed in Frankfurt for most of the trip, but did venture out to Heidelberg for a day... but no matter where I was, I was surrounded by beautiful architecture, churches, castles, palaces, and amazing eateries.  I'm actually in Wiesbaden, Germany right now as I type so I thought it would be an appropriate time to post pics of my first visit this time, last year.

All their club sammiches had a fried egg in the middle... NOM!

I loved passing by all the bakeries every morning and seeing all their freshly baked bread.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Special Guest Review: Gordon Ramsay Steak

A few months ago, the dude went to Vegas for his best friend's bachelor party and when he told me that he was taking the boys to Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant, you can imagine how jealous I was! First of all, we were both obsessed with Master Chef (Team Christine!) and watched Hell's Kitchen this season, so for him to go to the famous Chef Ramsay's establishment WITHOUT me was just plain mean. Secondly, the dude could have an opportunity to meet Gordon himself and/or HK's winner! He was living out my dream and every foodie's dream. 

To make it up to me, he promised me an epic review with photos... and he's no doubt a man of his word. Get ready, your eyes will be drooling by the end of this one!

Gordon Ramsay Steak by The Dude
Going to Gordon Ramsay Steak was a happy accident. As we were driving down the strip, I noticed a blatantly conspicuous sign for GR Steak out in front of Paris and I exclaimed, "YES! WE'RE GOING HERE!" Everyone agreed immediately. I called for two days to make a reservation (please note that they don't open until 5pm) and once we got the reservation, we almost missed it. I had to call to push our reservation from 5pm to 10pm. The anticipation of going to Gordon Ramsay Steak was unbearable. Out of the five in the bachelor party, four made it. As corny as it is, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Except for this review, which I felt obligated to share with the world. 

The decor was great, but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. My one and only focus here is on the Prime Rib.

The dude said if you stood directly underneath this and looked up, you see Ramsay's face.

Hell's Kitchen in real life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Words from a Crossfit Addict (April 2012)

This might be the only non-food related post that I'll ever post on this blog, but it does explain how I can eat as much as I do. In my last post, I introduced some healthy foods that I eat at home on a regular basis, but failed to mention the other main component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, mind, and body: EXCERSIZE! While looking through the list of blog posts that was published this year (not many), I came upon an old post (that never saw the light of day) about Crossfit that might interest some who want to start getting into shape and join the fitness world, but don't know where to start or lack the motivation. Crossfit isn't for everyone, but if you are interested, read my story and fitness experience below.

This could be me. Oh wait, this is me!

When I was a kid, I hated exercising. I did not enjoy running or doing sit ups or liked any type of sport that involved sweating profusely. I wasn't an athlete and didn't understand why people liked being so active. So what if I liked to eat a lot and just sit on the couch while watching 5 hours of television? So what if I was skinny or if I was fat? I was happy and fine with not exercising. I thought gym class was a complete waste of time and I dreaded it. I also hated having to change into big t-shirts and shorts. I already looked like a 12 year old boy with long hair, the t-shirt just made me look younger and more like a boy. So if I was too lazy to shave my legs, I would settle for my only pair of sweat pants, even in the summer time. Man, it was a very awkward time for me. Now let's fast forward to after college, shall we? All I have to say is I regret not doing any type of sport. I realize now that I had so much potential if I could have just found it in me to do something that I liked. Could I have played a sport like soccer or field hockey back in high school? Probably not. But there are so many things outside of school that I would have been a fan of.

The first time I lifted 65lbs, I fell in love with the feeling of a barbell in my hands
It's been 6 months since I started crossfit and every time I go into the box, it still feels like the first day. I should really go more than 3-4 times a week, it's now become an addiction. There is a new Workout of the Day (WOD) everyday and it's because of that that makes it so much fun! You feel unstoppable after each WOD, once you've grabbed it by the horns and own it! At the start of every WOD (most of them anyway), I get nervous and start to doubt whether I can finish it or not.
"How long will it take?"
"Is it going to be hard?"
"Am I going to hate this one?"
"What if I just can't finish it? This one might finally break me!"
All these thoughts make my stomach queasy and then I remember all the other times I felt this way. As soon as the clock starts, you give it your all, there's no turning back now. Usually, you're off to a great start, feeling good, no problems at all. Then after a couple minutes, you start to sweat and slow down a bit. It's only been a couple minutes, how can I be slowing down already? Well, in our minds when we're working on anything and trying to be as quick as possible, it feels we've been working for 20 minutes, when in reality, it's been two. Then you start to struggle and for me, I just want to stop, take a break, and hope that I don't have to keep going. My body screams for me to stop, but I can't. I will feel miserable if I just give up without trying to finish. Actually, it's not my body that's telling me to stop, it's that one lazy part of my brain. It tells me that I can't do it and always tries to take the easy way out. Always. It tricks me into thinking that my body is super duper tired and can't keep going anymore. It's just too easy to follow that way of thinking and take a break every second that I can. My body is tough, I know that, but just like everyone else, I treat it like it's so fragile. Now that I know how far I can push it, I don't listen to the lazy mind anymore.

Deadlift: The best lift for your entire body!
Yesterday was a long WOD: running 2.5 miles and deadlifting 55 reps of 95 pounds. It was a WOD that I liked because I don't mind running and deadlifts make me happy. Put them together and I'm set. I was off to a good start on my first lap of 400 meters. Came back and did one deadlift. Then ran again with Andy on my tail and did two deadlifts. The boys finished the deadlifts before me and ran off ahead. That was when I started to feel a bit slow. But there's no such thing as giving up at gym, you keep going and give it all you got. It didn't matter how slow I ran, I just took it one step at a time, one round at a time. It helped a lot that Andy and Tony became my support team after they completed the WOD... they pulled me through the last two rounds no matter how much I wanted to throw in the towel. That's what we do in Crossfit, we support one another like a team. We are always reminded to "check your ego at the front door" before we step into the box because the only person you should be competing with in the gym is yourself! Of course there's no better feeling than at the end of the WOD when you're drenched in sweat and so exhausted you fall to the ground gasping for air knowing it's over. It's just so satisfying to know that you completed something that seemed challenging on the board and then halfway through the WOD, you want to give up, but chipped away at it until it got done! It just goes to show that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, that's one of the things I love about Crossfit.

Deadlift Form: Angry gorilla back + Shoulders in my back pockets
Other things I like about it include:
~Getting stronger with every WOD (Strong is BEAUTIFUL)
~Seeing muscles that you never thought you could have (Beach body 24/7)
~Setting goals and achieving them in the gym
~Personal trainers that watch you so no one gets hurt & give you feedback on how to improve your skills
~Meeting different (& awesome) people & making new friends
~A lot of energy that keeps you going like an Energizer bunny
~Having a support team that pushes you to your max capabilities
~Doing things you never dreamed of or could do at a regular gym (Olympic lifts, muscle ups, handstand pushups)
~Challenging yourself
~Overcoming fear and learning to try before you saying "I can't"
~It's so much fun!!!

Things I personally could live without:
~Expensive but you get what you pay for (see above)
~Sweating like a motherf*cker after just the warm ups (Sweat angels anyone?)
~Waking up feeling like a truck ran you over after a hard workout (Obviously didn't eat enough protein)
~Breakouts on my neck and chest due to sweat (I hate my acne-prone skin)
~Getting attacked by mosquitos/gnats in the summertime (Always remember bug spray if you're outside)
~Butt crack blisters from 1000000000x sit ups

Shout outs to everyone at Torque Athletics for motivating and inspiring me! Big thanks to Julie, Andy, Tony & Greg for being amazing coaches and Mary Jane for introducing me to the Crossfit world! 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Crossfit in any way and am not getting paid for this blog post. This is not an advertisement or promotion of any sort, just my own words and honest opinions! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You Are What You Eat

It's true, you really ARE what you EAT!  It's a no brainer really: If you eat healthy, you'll look and feel healthy! Here are some of my favorite dishes that I eat at home on a regular basis:

Steamed Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (pretty much the sexiest veggie out there)

Sauteed Beef and String Beans

Tofu with Scallions & Ginger (So simple, yet so good!)

Steamed Bak Choy (Delicious in noodle soups)

Beef with Tomatoes, Egg & Tofu and side of Leafy Greens on Rice (Never gets old)

Beef with Cauliflower, Onions, Scallions in a Light Sauce

Salmon and Tofu in a Special Sauce (Nom!)

I have been planning to do a YAWYE (You Are What You Eat) series for a while now and talk about different diets for those dealing with acne (been there, done that), those who are sick (down with a cold or flu), those who want to clean up their diet or those who work out and need more protein for their sore muscles... etc.  Now I'm not a dietitian or nutritionist by any means, so I won't have all the answers, but I do like to eat clean and healthy foods. If you couldn't tell from above, I LOVE vegetables! But I still regularly incorporate meats, rice, bread, fruits, nuts, yogurt.. etc. into my diet as well. More to come soon!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Recipe: Quinoa Tabouli

She did it again! MJ made another fantastic meal for dinner and was sweet enough to bring some in for me to try. I love tabouli salad, but never had it with quinoa before (not that I know of anyway). Quinoa is supergrain but actually a seed, contains a perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, gluten free and usually found in health food markets, not in regular supermarkets, it's special. She used a recipe from and the author includes step by step instructions on how to make super fluffy quinoa!

1 cup fluffy, cooked Quinoa
1/2 cup peeled Cucumbers, chopped
1/2 cup chopped Tomato
1/4 cup chopped Red Onion
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
3 Tbs. chopped Chives
1 cup chopped Parsley
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
Toss all ingredients in a bowl and mix it up! Top it off with some avocados or fresh whole olives (or other superfoods) and you've got one Super Tabouli Salad! Thanks again MJ for sharing!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pretty Special: Pizza by Elizabeths

One beautiful Saturday, sometime ago, the dude and I went on a lunch date at a fancy pizzeria in Greenville, followed by a lovely stroll in the park. Pizza by Elizabeths is a pizza place co-owned by two Elizabeths (creative no?). They keep that theme going by naming their pizzas after famous Elizabeths of all time and decorating their walls with framed black and white photos of Elizabeths we know and love. This was my second time dining here and knowing they had outdoor seating, I wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous sunny weather by eating outside. Well, it didn't go as planned because I forgot there was a ceiling that covered any amount of sunshine there was that day. It was still a very serene atmosphere with a fountain, strings of white outdoor lights decorating the fake trees (at least I think they're fake), but we couldn't eat pizza in the dark.

 Pretty, but too romantic for afternoon pizza

So we ate inside, which is fine too because it's quite pretty inside. The decor was glamour meets vintage and made me feel feminine and happy, so I can look past their overpriced food. They have a rather swanky bar for those who just want to enjoy a nice cocktail. Actually one of the things that struck me the first time I ate here was their beautiful bathrooms! Next time, I will bring a camera in with me just to show people and prove I'm not crazy for saying, "I felt like a princess in there! It's like my dream bathroom." Each stall had a picture of an Elizabeth hanging above the toilet, mine was Shannon Elizabeth. Now I wonder if they do the same for the men's room. The dude refused to check it out since he didn't have to go, but I should have fed him more liquids so he could tell me if he had to pee in front of a beautiful Elizabeth. Next time...

Spinach & Artichoke Dip ($14): Dare I say it's better than Homegrown's?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lovers: Sake Bar Hagi

We were three girls (like triplets wearing similar shades of blushing nude & black) with no plans with our male counterparts on Valentine's Day, so we decided to hit up the highly rated Izakaya, Sake Bar Hagi for dinner. Peach sake, Japanese tapas, and spending Vday with my two favorite girls in the big city... how could the dude top that? 

We had some trouble finding it at first because the sign wasn't very clear. We hopped into another Japanese sake bar next door, but immediately knew it was not it after seeing all the empty tables inside! But we politely asked, "Is this Sake Bar Hagi?" "No, that's next door. But we have sake too!" They must get that question a lot, but props to him for trying to get some business from us! The sake bar was downstairs in the basement and I must warn you, it's a tight squeeze to get in there. They don't take reservations, so you just have to try your luck with this one. The fact that it's always mad busy does not help, and for us, it was also Valentine's Day. We were lucky enough to only have to wait 15-20 minutes after signing in on their clipboard when we arrived. You have to add your name to the list yourself, otherwise you'll be standing there thinking you're waiting in line for a really long time, while others that arrive after you have long gone and past you.

I suppose the inside decor would be what you would imagine a traditional Japanese sake bar to look like: cozy and filledd with wooden tables that were placed rather close together. If eating close to strangers and listening to their conversations is not your thing, maybe you should skip this place. They do have a bar area in the back with flat screen tvs as well, although I only saw it when I first walked in. This is also another one of those places that attracts a lot of Asians, but I'm sure there's been an increase of non-Asians eating there after Anthony Bourdain featured it on his show. Maybe the non-Asians didn't think a sake bar was romantic enough for Valentine's Day, I don't know.

LC said we should try their Peach sake, apparently it's fantastic! We might as well get it, even if it's $40 for a baby bottle. How disappointed would you be if I told you I went to this great sake bar but didn't even try their sake? But no worries, we ordered it and it was like love at first drink after we toasted with our Peach sake (sorry, no picture of the pretty bottle)! It was so sweet and had no traces of alcohol, almost like sparkling apple cider! For those out there that have had bad experiences with sake and love fruity drinks, I highly recommend you try this one at Sake Bar Hagi! 

Fried Pork Belly, Chicken Gizzards, Sashimi

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Frenchie: Les Halles Park Ave.

I was in NYC for a conference last week and decided to meet up with some friends for dinner one night. JB suggested Anthony Bourdain's famous restaurant, Brasserie Les Halles for French cuisine. I'll admit that I've never seen his show (No Reservations) or know too much about him, but I immediately replied with "OKAY!!" because I have never had French before. Ever. So in one night, I tried: escargot, foie gras, magret de canard, crêpe suzette... it was like love in Paris!

Half price wine on Mondays, why go on any other night?

I usually don't order fancy, schmancy wine, or any type of alcohol during dinnertime (with the exception of Happy Hour), but it's 50% off on Mondays! And taking after my mother, I really can't resist a good deal. Call me cheap or a discount monster, but I'm proud to save $10 on this $20 bottle of wine! It was crisp and fruity, but I couldn't finish my glass because I'm a total lightweight. 

Gratinee de Halles ($9)

The famous onion soup was something JB had to order and while I did not get a taste of it, he seemed to have enjoyed it. Every last spoonful of it! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipe: MJ's Fab Tuna Cakes

MJ brought in this fabulous meal for lunch the other day and to my surprise, they were leftovers from dinner the night before! I wish my leftovers looked this good! She was kind enough to share the recipe as I was sadly heating up a $1 Banquet boxed meal (which was so small and unhealthy and unsatisfying).

1 small can of solid white tuna in water
2 tbsp. unsweetened yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. each of minced onion and celery
couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
dash of Old Bay seasoning
(or garlic powder/pepper)

Add extra breadcrumbs if it seems to runny. Make 2 patties about the size of a hamburger and saute in olive oil or Pam til golden brown on both sides. Put a lid on for about a minute so it gets hot inside.

For salmon lovers (like me), you can make salmon cakes by substituting the can of tuna with salmon! Add a side of veggies, like steamed broccoli and you've got a delicious & healthy meal for lunch or dinner. So easy! Thank you MJ! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Valentine: Corner Bistro

Instead of going out on the 14th of February to celebrate that funny thing called love, we thought it would be smart and go out the weekend before. Why on earth would anyone plan to go out and enjoy the company of that special someone knowing that every other couple around you is also doing the same? Not to mention how packed most restaurants will be and all the special Vday courses ($$$) they'll only be serving for that one night, it's sheer madness! I'm a simple gal and don't need all that fluff (we even agreed not to exchange gifts), so we dined at a local restaurant,

Love the glass water jug and baby salt & pepper shakers!

This is truly a hidden gem in the suburbs of Wilmington and has been sitting under my nose for nine years without me knowing! How is that possible? I literally pass it everyday on my way to work, but never once noticed its presence in the little rundown shopping center on Silverside Road. Okay, that's not true, I've seen the generic sign that reads "Restaurant" in big bold letters (with "Corner" and "Bistro" in tiny font on the top left and right corners above it), but just didn't think twice about it. I was recommended by some Crossfit members at my gym. Thanks to "T" and "A", I've found a new favorite foodie spot!   

The dude was surprised to see how lovely the restaurant's decor was when we stepped inside. I was told they had renovated the whole place to keep up with the fancy restaurants that were popping up on Rt. 202. If you've never been here before, you would think it was a brand new restaurant! It had a classy, romantic atmosphere, with a nice bar in the front and a spacious dining room in the back. We were lucky enough to get a corner table with an L-shaped couch alongside the walls, how cute! No complaints about their service or their food, this must be too good to be true. "A" told me their chefs are constantly changing the menus with innovative, seasonal dishes to surprise guests. This is great for those that always want to try new dishes, but are afraid... now you they FORCE you to broaden your palette by mixing it up every once in a while! Now that's my kind of restaurant!

Crawfish Risotto

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Much love to my readers and thank you so much for reading my litto foodie blog. My Valentine sent me a surprise at work last week... Cupcake Flowers (not edible)! Shout out to the best dude a girl could ever ask for! Stay tuned for my date night post at the Corner Bistro coming up soon! 

 What's the sweetest thing you've gotten from a Valentine?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Philly RW 2012: Tinto

I finally took the dude out for his first Restaurant Week experience in Philadelphia! Can you believe he's never been before? Me neither! I wanted to give Jose Garces another chance, and picked Tinto, which was superior to Amada (review here), in my opinion.

The restaurant is quite dark, like Amada, and the tables for two are all very close in proximity on the first level. In fact, it was more narrow than Amada, like a hallway with rows of tables placed on either side against the walls. When the waitress first took us to our seat, we walked past all the occupied tables (the place was packed) and towards the kitchen in the back. I held my breath as I was overcome with fear that we would have to eat next to the kitchen, especially when we dressed up fancy! What would the dude say? "This was my first time trying RW and we eat next to the kitchen!?" Luckily, we made a sharp turn and went downstairs where there were plenty of empty large tables and couches. It was more private and quieter downstairs, even when all the tables were filled with foodies. Still very romantic.

Before we get to the food, I would like to mention that Tinto had fast service. They did not keep you waiting at all after you order, so you don't have to sit awkwardly and participate in small talk when all you're thinking about is where your food is. Kidding, I don't always do that. The dude's only complaint on service was that the waiter never refilled his drink. There's always something. His other dissatisfaction was towards the food, apparently nothing REALLY stood out to him. Overall, he enjoyed his first restaurant week experience and was happy with my choice of restaurant. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Special Guest Review: The Silver Palm Chicago

Surprise! I have another Special Guest Review to share with you all... from Chicago! Thank you Tank for sharing this delicious review with my readers. I'm glad you can eat more than me, you're built like a tank! When I saw all the gorgeous pictures, I couldn't believe it was taken from you cell phone! 

So without further ado, I'm pleased to present, my second SPECIAL GUEST review for: 

The Silver Palm by Tank

Howdy foodies! I would like to say how honored to be part of this blog. I was a fellow Loveboater in the same summer class as Panina. I travel a lot for work and my company sends me to crazy places across the US. I was in the Chicago downtown area for work this time. One sandwich popped in my head and it was THE "Three Little Piggy" sandwich. It was claimed to be the best sandwich in America by Travel Channel's “No Reservations” host, Anthony Bourdain.

Silver Palm was a bar connected to a train car. I meet the owner and he was a real chill So Cal kind of guy.  I had to take it TO GO due to my work. My order was the "Three Little Piggy" sandwich and an order of onion rings.  

The onion rings were delish paired with some spicy chipotle dipping sauce. The outside breading looks like coconut shavings. Each bit was crispy from beginning to end. The fries that came with it was nothing special….Now, the main entrée…

Friday, February 3, 2012

Past Philly RW: Haru, Amada, Valanni (Pic Heavy)

Since Philly's Restaurant Week is still happening (until this Sunday!), let's take a look at a few more restaurants that I've tasted in the past years (after Estia).

Fall 2010- Haru 
(update: closed)

Where are the fun rolls?

That's a whole lotta whipped cream! 

Have to be honest here, I don't remember Haru all that much. It was just another modernized Japanese restaurant. There was nothing special or memorable about it. Actually, I do remember whispering about how cute (and nice) the young waiter was... but besides that, nothing on the Restaurant Week menu stuck out to me or my friends. In fact, only a few of us participated in RW's $35 for three courses at Haru, everyone else just ordered sushi from the regular menu. That never happens! They might have good food (since Yelpers give them such high ratings), but their RW menu was just very average and not worth $35. Also, I just found out they've closed the one in Old City, so now I'll never know. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Philly RW 2010: Estia was my first!

Continuing from the last post about Philly's Restaurant Week, here's my first RW dining experience!

 Estia's the one that started it all

You know what they say... You always remember your first! Honestly, this has to be my favorite out of all the restaurants I've been to during Restaurant Week in Philly. If you love Greek food or are in the mood for something new and different from the usual, I highly recommend Estia! I loved the beautiful decor, romantic lighting, candles & music, and awesome service. They even busted out the crumb scrapers and that's when you know it's legit! Everything about that evening was memorable. It's a great place to impress a date, celebrate a birthday, or just wine & dine with good friends! They have big booths in the back for special occasions and various table sizes to accommodate your party size. I believe you can also book the whole banquet room downstairs, which my friends and I got to see when we went to the bathroom (located downstairs). Before we left, a server (that was preparing to go home after a long shift) saw us taking pictures (my idea, of course) and gladly helped us with our photoshoot session! If you appreciate wonderful decor like I do and decide to check out Estia, don't forget to go downstairs (where the bathrooms are), because it's just lovely.  

Okay onto what you came here for: GREEK FOOD! To start, we got our first courses, Spread Pikilia, two plates of Octupus & Calamari, and a Greek salad. All the appetizers were delicious. Z's three spreads tomato, greek yogurt, mushroom (or eggplant), and pita bread was everyone's favorite. She was nice enough to share with all of us too. This is a great starter to get if you're dining with 2-3 people. Enchante and I both ordered the chargrilled octopus and stuffed calamari, and let me just say, most well cooked octopus I've ever had!  It was sliced so thin and was so crispy, I didn't even know I was eating octopus. We made Z, who does not eat any type of seafood, try it and she actually liked it too! Did it make her cross over to the fishy side? No, but at least she can say, "I don't like the taste of seafood, but I liked Estia's octopus!" On the other side of the plate was grilled calamari that was stuffed with Greek cheese. It was tasty, but didn't live up to its big brother, the Octopodi. I wonder if that's why the RW menu this year only offers the Octopodi... 

Spread Pikilia: tzatziki, htipiti, melitzano
(AMAZING! Everyone's favorite)

Octopodi & Stuffed Calamari
(New found love for chargrilled octopus because of Estia)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Philly Restaurant Week!

It's that time of the year again! Philadelphia's Center City District Restaurant Week is happening now!

(image taken from OpenTable)

If you've never participated, what in the world are you waiting for? If you don't live in the Philadelphia area, no worries, many big cities (and local towns!) have restaurants that participate in RW at least once a year. It's a week (or two) where everyone can get dressed up and dine like you've never dined before, with 3 or more courses, and without breaking the bank. It's like Fashion Week in New York, except instead of starving ourselves to wear a gorgeous size 0 dress and celebrate with artistic designers in the fashion world, we get to eat amazing food, made by talented chefs, at the best restaurants! I attend both (when I can), but I find myself a bit more excited about dressing up for an amazing dining experience and stuffing my face with things that I might never get to eat again. I also enjoy researching restaurants (Yelp!) and looking at the RW dinner menus when reserving the perfect restaurant for the snobby foodie in me! Thankfully, they make it easy for weirdos like me by posting a list of all participating restaurants (and menus!) in Philly.

Some things to keep in mind for RW noobs:

1. The RW deal does NOT apply on Saturdays! 
RW use to run all week to Saturday, but it was chaotic and they already get enough patrons on a normal Saturday. (I know, that's the only day that most people with busy schedules can venture out into the city for Restaurant Week)

2. BOOK ASAP! makes it so easy, you really have no excuses. (Don't wait until a week before because your chances of reserving a table for the restaurant on the top of your list & at a specific time quickly decrease the longer you procrastinate)

3. Not sure where to START?
Check out restaurants that are the most expensive of the bunch or have high ratings to get your money's worth! (But make sure to research because high prices on their regular menu does not mean "amazing, blow your mind" quality food)

4. Read MORE than one REVIEW!
This is exactly why I started this blog, to help those that want an incredible dining experience, but most reviews are so limited and you don't know who to listen to. (Everyone has a different palette, so it's nice to know who the person is behind the review, and food bloggers help a lot)

5. Plan with FRIENDS!
My favorite part of going out to eat, besides the food, is sharing the meal with friends and family. A party of 5 is more fun than table for 2, so find out which day everyone is free and agree on a place to eat TOGETHER! (It's more work, but worth it! Plus carpooling together lowers parking costs in Philly)

6. Have a BACKUP restaurant just in case!
You might not get your first or even second choice depending on when you decide to reserve a table. If you're planning with a big group, reserve a couple restaurants for different days and times in case people change their mind or something comes up. (There's no rule that you can't have backup reservatons, and most restaurants give you 24 hours to cancel at no charge)


Please share your Philly RW experience with me! 
(Pictures are always welcome!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Midnight Snack: Tea Station Las Vegas

Revisiting my crazy reunion in Las Vegas on MLK weekend, this was the first stop on the foodie train for my fellow Loveboat friends and I, Tea Station!  And how appropriate, as most of the items we ordered were popular snacks and desserts that we had devoured the summer of 2006 in Taiwan where we first met.  For those that don't know about Taiwan's "Loveboat" summer abroad program, it is basically a chance for teens/young adults (16-27 years young from N. America) with Chinese/Taiwanese heritage to explore their cultural background by traveling all over Taiwan, taking classes to learn or improve Chinese, and meeting fellow North American Asians that are in the same boat!  So what's with the nickname Loveboat?  If you don't care, by all means, skip the next paragraph to continue my review for Tea Station.  Really, I won't be offended. 

I only heard this during the end of the trip, and was told that some parents send their children to Taiwan's yearly summer camp to meet an Asian American boy or girl to court (and then marry).  Say what?  Well, not every parent knows what shenanigans go on during these trips, in fact, my parents thought it was going to be cultural experience for me and at a great bargain too ($500 for one month)!  And it was.  We did take Chinese classes every morning, do Chinese homework at night, learn songs on the buses, practice singing/dancing before performing as a group, explore all Taiwan had to offer, eat Taiwanese meals every day, enjoy the night markets, go clubbing in Taipei, AND started friendships that have lasted 5+ years so far!  And that's why it's called Loveboat.

Now back to the review for Tea Station!  So after getting off the plane around 11pm and getting settled in my hotel room close to midnight, my Loveboaters and I decided to feed our hungry bellies and catch up on life since summer of 2006.  This cafe is a great hang out spot for people who like to drink bubble tea (or any other Asian drinks/tea) and order small plates while catching up/chatting with friends.  Since it is in an Asian shopping center, it shouldn't be a surprise that to see this cafe, well, full of Asians!  But don't let that stop you from trying their delicious drinks and snacks.  

NOM NOM NOM like we're in Asia! 
(except we're in Vegas' "Chinatown")

Spicy Fried Chicken 
(way better than KFC!)

Fried Squid Balls
(basically fried fish balls)

Red Mung Bean Shaved Ice- 红豆刨冰
(much better than Rita's Italian water ice)

Green Mung Bean Shaved Ice- 绿豆刨冰
(My favorite, and healthy too!)

I don't remember what this was but it was yummy.

When deciding what to order to drink, a friend (JB) was having a hard time choosing a good tea from the "Hot Traditional Chinese Tea" list to drink.  He told me he had been eating a lot of  热气 (yeet hei, a Cantonese term literally translates to "hot air" and basically means inflammatory) foods and asked me what teas would help cool/calm his body down.  I'm not an expert in teas, but I do know that herbal and green teas are the best things to drink if you're stressed, feel 热气 inside your body, or have been eating a lot of unhealthy foods.  I told him to pick any herbal tea (亮茶) or a decaf green tea, since it is packed with antioxidants that can cleanse your body from the inside and lower the temperature so it is more balanced.  So after my tea lesson, he asked me again, "What should I get?"  To which I replied, "I don't know, my dad always chooses the right tea for me.  Try Jasmine Blossom, that's a green tea."  So he did.

"The flower is going to open! Watch!"

"Still blooming..."

"It's beautiful!" 

Meet JB and his Jasmine Blossom! 

The main reason we came here was for their bubble tea 珍奶茶.  Gee, who lives in Las Vegas, told us this place has really good bubble tea, but we were disappointed to hear that they had no more Tapioca pearls that night.  Milk tea is just not the same without the pearls, so I ordered a Mango Jelly Ice.  It was the size of my head, but oh so delicious!

An excellent drink for hot summer days!

No joke, it's the same size as my big head!

4355 Spring Mt. Rd. 
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Overall Group Grade: A
Great hang out spot for young adults who love Asian drinks & snacks.

Do you & your friends have a regular hang out spot?  Where & how often do you get together there?
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