La Buena Vida, Ft Collins, CO

Another Mexican place I have checked out in Fort Collins is La Buena Vida. Have driven by it a lot and heard great reviews so needed to try it first hand.

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As normal at this type of restaurant, one must order guacamole to begin, as well as some margaritas. Both were great! The guac was just chunky enough and the drinks were just perfect. Went so well with the chips & salsa we’d already received.

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For the rest of the meal, I opted for the Ensalada de Pollo – Grilled chicken, lettuce, onion, cucumber, tomato, sauteed apple and pumkin seeds. Served with Lime dressing.

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The other person at the table went with Enchiladas. And at lunch you can choose how many enchiladas you’d like, so they went with one chicken enchilada, which comes served with rice and black beans, topped with red sauce.

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The salad was amazing! The apples were so unique…nothing I’d had in a salad at a Mexican restaurant before, then the pumpkin seeds, too? And the chicken could not have been more perfectly grilled. Loved the whole thing.

The enchilada was apparently quite good. Nice sauce and perfect lunch size.

Great place, will also have to check it out (again) for Happy Hour. Salud!

Yum Yum(‘s, Fort Collins, CO)

I love Mediterranean food and since moving to Fort Collins I’ve had a hard time finding it. Recently, however, I was introduced to a great place that I never would have stumbled across on my own — Yum Yum’s. It’s family owned and operated, multiple award winning Mediterranean restaurant established in 1991.

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It’s so easy going and laid back in there. Casual atmosphere, also do carry-out and you truly know it’s family owned when they deliver your food to your table.

The menu is a very traditional Lebanese/Mediterranean one, which can be tough at some times because it’s hard to decide what to get. Usually when I go to these types of places I could eat just apps and salads.

I was sold right away when I found out their Baba Ghanouj had no yogurt in it — Roasted eggplant, sesame tahini, fresh garlic, lemon juice and special spices. Served with pita bread. Some places add yogurt, some don’t. Love it when it’s the latter.

I decided to go with that and some Fatouch Salad — Cucumber, parsley, green pepper, tomato and lemon juice.

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Both were absolutely perfect, and big serving sizes.

Others at the table went with Gyros and Shawarma plates. They have several beers on tap here, as well. We were talking with the owner while eating and the story is so true to a family restaurant about how it’s been taken over from a couple generations and they aim to keep in that form. The service was amazing, the food was delicious and the prices were very reasonable (especially considering the large serving sizes). If you like this type of food, give it a try!

Laundry

Laundry doesn’t normally sound like a good thing. But in Steamboat Springs, CO it’s something that is not so bad. Visited Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails one evening to check out the latter part of their name.

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We arrived not long after they opened and (nonetheless) had to wait awhile for a couple seats at the bar. Fortunately that gave us some time to pour over the menu. So, when we were able to snag some seats, we were ready to place our orders.

We opted for:

Fresh & 43 — Berry infused vodka, licor 43, fresh lemon juice, orange bitters, soda water, fresh fruit garnish

Smoke & thyme — Finlandia vodka, pear/apple puree, St. Germaine, mezcal, fresh lemon juice with a raspberry, thyme sprig garnish

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Both were amazing. So fresh, so much flavor. Definitely unique. One of the best parts was watching the bartender make them. One of those seasoned guys who can make any and everything and has a great time doing it. We would have loved to stick around for longer and even order some food, but had to get back to the house for dinner. Will definitely head back there for another round and to check out the dinner menu. Cheers!

The Cache, Ft Collins, CO

With the recent opening of Ginger & Baker in Fort Collins, CO that also meant a couple new restaurants. Had to check out The Cache.

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Made a reservation a couple weeks ahead and the only times left on a Saturday were early evening or very late night. Went with the early choice. Of course the thing to start with was wine and opted for an Erath – Resplendent. It was a Pinot Noir. Had never seen that one from them and just a nice one, not too light or heavy. Also looked for it at stores the next week and didn’t see it anywhere.

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For dinner, we opted to split anappetizer – Cache House Salad, mixed greens, crispy onion, grape tomato, sourdough croutons, lemon-olive oil $8

The dressing, so amazingly emulsified, so awesome! Perfect size to split

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For the dinner, I opted for the Seared Sea Scallops, green apple-parsnip puree, quinoa, brocollini $36. Some darn big scallops. Bring it on! And I’ll say, I don’t go shopping for parsnips, but they made they taste pretty darn good!

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The other one at the table went with the Colorado lamb shank, whipped potato, haricots verts, lamb demi-glace $34. Apparently the lamb shank just sort of melted off the bone, into the potatoes, that melted in the mouth. They were devoured.

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Overall:

One thumbs down, we wanted to nibble on something before all the food came out and bread was not free but rather $11. No, that’s not a typo…eleven dollars. Really, it’s bad enough when a place charges you 5 bucks, rather than bringing it for free. But double digits? Nix that. And prices overall were a bit high for this area.

But on the thumbs up, the food was all very good, and nice presentation. The service was also excellent. A manager came out to check on us see how things were. We couldn’t have asked for more. We had one mishap with my lactose intolerance (which I told the waitress of when ordering) and it was beyond taken care of in ways I have never seen before.

So, while I will say for Fort Collins the prices are a bit high, at least everything else was great. Worth going to for a nice dinner if you’re going to splurge.

 

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!

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.

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!

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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