Los Tarascos

Got together with some friends to celebrate a birthday (not mine) recently and got to check out another new (to me) place in Ft. Collins. This time it was Los Tarascos.

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Love Mexican food so I was quite excited about this. We were meeting at 6pm, but I was told to get there a little early to make sure to get some Happy Hour specials. Well, I got there at 5:45pm and I happened to be the only one to arrive early. I easily chose a Classic Margarita and dang, that thing was good. Since I knew there would be several more people coming, I ordered a few pitchers of the amazing drink. When the other attendees arrived, they were quite pleased.

At this place, they bring you chip baskets…of course. I surveyed the table and was wondering about salsa. Then I found out they have a salsa bar. You get to pick what you get to dip those addictive pieces of corn in. Dang, talk about trouble. Now, the only problem is, the containers they give you for the salsa are small. But, you can make do. They have many choices and I liked how I saw one person use a menu as a tray to carry several cups of salsa back to their table.

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Somebody at the table ordered some guac and I grabbed a bite — very good. Excellent consistency and nice spice.

As I looked through the menu I found what I love at this type of establishment — ceviche. This one was Ceviche a la Tequila — Shrimp cured in lime juice and tequila mixed with tomato, onion, and jalapeno. And for a few more dollars, you could add Octopus, which I totally went for.

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This stuff was good, with the different texture of the octopus. The only downside was that the jalapenos made it very spicy for me. I don’t have a huge heat tolerance. I picked as many pieces of it out as I could. But, I will totally go back and get more of this.

So, between the delicious margaritas, tons of salsa, good guac and octopus ceviche, this place is definitely one I’m checking out again.

Salud!

Jax Fish House

Slowly but surely checking out more restaurants in Fort Collins, CO. One of them was Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. It’s a cozy place where you can sit at the bar for happy hour and watch the oyster get shucked or get a table.

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Went on a Thursday night and though we had a reservation, we had a high top-like table facing the bar. It was quite loud and in one of those areas that was sort of ignored because it was almost invisible. It was between support beams/dividers and almost seems like it was more used for people to lean on while socializing during happy hour, but would be used to maximize table space.

We did get some service eventually and chose to start with some drinks while looking over the menu. I chose to go with some bubbles.

When the waitress came to take food orders, I decided to go totally hard core on fish that night for both courses. Started with the Fruit De Mer ($9) – Squid, shrimp, mussels, octopus, basil, jalapeño, red wine vinaigrette.

It was similar to a ceviche. And, there were green olives in there. Bring it on! Good amount for the two of us at the table.

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For the main course, I opted for the Seared Scallops ($32.50) – parsnip hummus, balsamic roasted beets, belgian enive, carrots, bourbon pecans.

Overall, each component tasted fine, but the bourbon pecans did not fit with the scallops. They just went against their taste and texture. The sweet didn’t work. The pecans go with the thought/taste of fall roasted veggies, but not scallops. I was pretty disappointed.

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The other entree ordered at the table was the Cast Iron Seared Salmon ($28.25) –
brown butter cappelini, roasted celeriac, butternut squash puree, crushed hazelnuts, roasted root vegetables, sage.

I was told it tasted quite good. The celeriac was a unique twist on traditional tastes.

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I took quite awhile for these entrees to come out — maybe 40+ minutes. It didn’t appear to be that busy of a night. And just getting our water refilled was a challenge. I was happy to go to the restaurant, there was nothing wrong, cooking-wise, with my food, but it’s not a place I am putting at the top of my list to return to.

 

Thai Pavilion

Was at National Harbor, MD and checked out Thai Pavilion. They have quite nice decor and just the doors to get in the restaurant are intricate — thick and metal with much design. You need to use both hands to open them. Couldn’t wait to get to the food!

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The menu blew me away. So many choices! It was very traditional Thai food, too. I flipped through the menu for quite awhile before finally deciding what to get. Went with a soup/salad meal:

AmNat ChaRoen or TOM YUM. Fresh mushrooms in lemon grass soup, galangal and Thai spices with chili paste. Your choice of chicken or mixed vegetables.

This was such a good soup. Just everything the description says. I got it with the veggies. Could easily have enjoyed more.

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PatTaYa orSOM TUM MA LA GORE. The most popular Som Tom. Julienned green papaya, roasted peanuts, tomatoes, and string beans tossed with spicy lime dressing.

This was so interesting because the papaya was crunchy. It wasn’t the taste I was expecting (which the waiter warned me of). It was all quite good and was brought together nicely with the lime dressing.

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Also enjoyed some Sauvignon Blanc with this. A very nice Thai dinner and this is definitely a place to return to so that more (of the many) menu items can be tasted.

I Am the Walrus

Well, actually, I just went to a restaurant called The Walrus. National Harbor, MD.

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First great/fun/cool thing about them – they have wine on tap. This perhaps used to be looked upon as an odd thing, but it’s great. Makes the wine last longer, it won’t go bad, and keeps it at the right temp. Cheers to that! I opted for the Rose (non-Moscato, of course). Nice and dry, light berry taste and perfect temp. And during happy hour, $2 off per glass.

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After looking over the menu, food-wise I went with the Butternut Squash Soup – Fresh Maryland lump crab, local butternut squash, chives and JO Spiced pepitas.  Very nice size for the dish, perfect thickness. It cooled down quickly, but nonetheless, with the crab it was even more delicious!
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Wanted more veggies and a soup/salad theme, so opted for the Roasted Beet Salad –
Roasted golden beets, goat cheese, baby greens, candied pecans, honey balsamic vinaigrette with sautéed shrimp. Good flavor and it came with both thinly sliced beets and cubed beets. The shrimp were also very nicely cooked.
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Liked the place and the service at the bar was pretty good. The initial bartender we had was perfect, then the amount of staff in the bar dropped so it was harder to get service, but it was not the end of the world. Check this place out if you’re at National Harbor.

Grand Ole Wasabi?

Was in Nashville recently and had to visit the Grand Ole Opry. Before the show started, there was time to roam around the Opryland Hotel and enjoy some dinner. After looking over the menu at the many restaurants the venue offers, we decided on Wasabi’s.

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When our waiter came over to take our drink orders, at a Japanese restaurant, we asked what they had to offer. He mentioned the traditional stuff, along with the local offering — the Gaylord Opryland 77 APA by Blackstone Brewing Company. Why not go local? Nice amber beer with a good history, so had to pair it with asian food, right?

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They have a traditional Japanese menu so deciding what to eat was sort of hard but sort of easy, in the sense that we knew what was on the menu. Ended up starting with some Seaweed Salad. Very nice taste to it.

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For the main course, we went with the Wasabi’s Sushi Sampler:
California Roll (6 Pcs)
Tuna Sashimi (3 Pcs)
Nigiri (3 Pcs): Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp

It was a very nice size and very well presented. Quite tasty, too. Now, since two of us were splitting this, we weren’t really full at the end. So, come the end, we opted to get one more bite to eat, which was/were some edamame. Perfect.
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And after dinner, the fun truly started…

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Sfoglina, DC

A restaurant visited in DC earlier this year in the Van Ness area was Sfoglina. It’s a ‘Fabio Trabocchi Restaurant, named for the female artisans and Italian cultural icons that carry on the tradition of rolling sheets of pasta by hand with a rolling pin, a technique passed through the generations.’

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Since it is a pasta house, they have quite the selection of that on the menu. There are some other choices, as well. I found some other stuff that sounded far too good not to try. So I went for the Grilled Spicy Calamari, Romesco Sauce and Maria’ Chilled Tomato Gazpacho, Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Pepper. There were both very tasty. The calamari was just quite spicy. But I will say, quite the good size dish.

My friend opted for the special of the night, which was a spinach and veggie pasta dish. It was apparently quite good.
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Overall, the place was good. Fairly pricey for what it offered, but it’s DC. Service was intermittent. Simply getting water (re)filled was tough. We sat outside on the patio, which was nice. Glad I was able to check it out.

Black Market

Black Market can mean many things. Well, the most recent place I tested the name was at Jeff Black’s version of it in Garrett Park, MD, Black Market Bistro.

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The last time I visited the place was probably 12 years ago and that was for brunch. Wow, it’s changed – it’s gotten much more popular and the menu is different.

Went on a Wednesday night and it was a solid 30 minute wait at around 7:45pm. Once we sat down, it didn’t take too long to decide what to get because we’d had a chance to glance at the menu while waiting. I will say, I ordered a heck of a lot of seafood!

So for the first course, the food that came to the table included:

Marinated Warm Grilled Squid Salad | $14 | Over Arugula in a Red Wine Vinaigrette with Kalamata Olives, Chili Flakes, Feta Cheese, Red Onions, Pine Nuts & Lemon Zest

First — the feta was genuine feta, so I could eat it. Everything other than the lettuce was hot-warm (which was perfect), and the squid was perfectly cooked. Heaven! I had to not eat it all because of the 2nd course.

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Cornmeal Crusted Oysters | $13 | House Made Tartar Sauce

The plate was demolished, or the food on the plate was. Apparently perfect — crusted and cooked to perfection, with quite a tasty tartar sauce.

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Second Course:

Swordfish special of the night. Can’t remember the entire description, but solid steaks, lettuce, nice vinaigrette, and delicious!

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New Orleans Style Barbeque Shrimp | $27 | Sweet Corn & Scallion Grits, Wilted Swiss Chard & Toasted Baguette

Bring on the grit drool and mouth watering shrimp is what I determined/heard from across the table.

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I took home a good amount of leftovers because both courses were big. The service was a bit slow and it was hard to get the waiter at some points, and then at others he was always there. But, as mentioned, it was a busy night.

A couple good wines were enjoyed, but forgot to take note of those. I think the food was the highlight of the night.

Check it out if you’re in the area. It’s definitely a hidden gem. Even if you know the area, you might have to pull out your phone to get you there from Strathmore Ave.

Cheers!

Satt, Reykjavik, Iceland

Our final night in Reykjavik, Iceland was short & sweet. We returned from Greenland and had just 12+ hours, including sleeping and getting to the airport the next morning, which was over an hour away. So it was just a matter of enjoying a final dinner. We decided to just stick with what was in the hotel, because we weren’t really near anything. The restaurant was Satt, which is Icelandic for true.

 

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As we read over the whole menu, we opted for an appetizer, the Bruschetta 2150 kr.

Grilled sourdough bread, smoked salmon, watercress

This sounds great and a nice way to start off the meal. Well, after waiting a long time, it came out. You can see to the far right that there is a bit of cream colored stuff. Well, they add a dairy-based spread on top of the bread before topping it with the salmon. This was frustrating because it’s not noted in the description and I had told the waiter I was lactose intolerant when asking questions about the menu overall. Once the bruschetta eventually came out again (honestly about 20 minutes, and the place wasn’t busy), it was quite good.

 

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Main courses at the table came down to:

Risotto — Fennel, tomatoes, fava beans, herb salad, Parmesan cream 2790 kr.
Good, traditional risotto, per the one who enjoyed it.

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My main course was a 1/2 Satt House Salad with Chicken, 1890 kr. Nice and filling — delicious, huge croutons. A good basic salad.

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We had also ordered a half carafe of wine to go with this, some Drostdy Hof Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact. Nice body to this, not overly heavy for a cab, and some nice fruit notes.

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When we had problems with the bruschetta, the manager came over to apologize. And it took so long to get the bruschetta that our wine was gone (and we were not drinking quickly). She very kindly brought us a 2nd carafe (that was topped to the brim, so more than the normal amount) and it was comped, as was the bruschetta. While our waiter wasn’t up to par, the service from the manager was outstanding.

So, we had a final meal in Iceland, have had better meals, have had worse. It was mostly the service from the waiter that made it not great.

I will also say, their brunch the next day was quite nice, so their food is decent.

Welcome to Greenland

After Iceland, I traveled a bit West, and North, before returning to the US. I wanted to check out Greenland and visited Ilulissat, which is north of the Artic Circle. And, hey, even got to stay in a 4-star hotel!

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Being in the far north right around the summer equinox, the sun never set (see below). And 30 degrees wasn’t that bad for June! It got up to the upper 30s by mid day and the sun was pounding on us (side note, we didn’t see a drop of rain after having it pretty much the entire time in Iceland).

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The night we arrived in Greenland, we received a Welcome Dinner. This was with the other tourists, most of which happened to be on the same plane. It was a two-course meal with a quick bite before.

The bite was fish skin with an asian-like flavoring on it. Good to try but not going to add that to my list of favorites.

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The first course was halibut, or shall I say happiness. I was pretty much halibut carpaccio. Super thinly sliced with garnish. So nice to have this!

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The main dish was Muskox, served two ways. The one on the bottom right was a tenderloin and underneath the onion was some of the meat that just melted in your mouth. Almost BBQ-style. Very nice taste to all of it.

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Very nice intro to Greenland cuisine.

Skólabrú, Reykjavík, Iceland

On the last night in Iceland we were in Reykjavík. We strolled down the ‘main’ street and looked at various menus to see what might be a fun place to eat. I had been wanting to try puffin so was also looking for a restaurant that offered that. We finally decided on Skólabrú.

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We opted to split a first course, which offered the bird I was looking for. Villibráðar tvenna: Léttretyktur lundi með geitaosti; kryddjurtum og ferskum berjum og gæsa carpaccio með rauðlauk á salati, trufflum of sítrónu sósu, or in English, Wild-duo: Lightly smoked puffin with goat cheese, herbs and fresh berries and wild goose carpaccio with red onions, herb salad and truffle-lemon dressing. ISK 2,500.

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The smoked puffin (the one on the left) was nice – in addition to the magnificent presentation! Very tender, mild unique taste. This is what’s great about traveling, enjoying different food. The goose was also amazing. Very different – a bit chewier. Very glad I got to try this.

For the 2nd course we went with Steinbítur með mango, chili og engifersóso, grænmeti og hrísgrjónum or Seawolf with mango, chili and ginger sauce, roasted vegetables and rice. ISK 4,200.

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Had never had Seawolf which is what tempted me about this. It was a bit sweet of a fish, had some ‘body’ to it and just great taste. Another one that would be nice to find at the store at home.

The wait staff was excellent and attentive so check this place out if you are in Reykjavík.

Prior to all this, had a great time seeing some points of interest while driving down to Reykjavík that day.

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