Posts tagged dinner

I know you food snobs are thinking “REALLY?”, but hear me out:

Pasta Pomodoro is one of those chain restaurants that masquerades really well as a local spot. With locations all over California, it somehow manages to keep it’s cozy and one-of-a-kind feel. Having grown up in a small suburb in Los Angeles, I’ve eaten at many chain restaurants in my day and still get excited when I think of Red Lobster’s biscuits, McDonald’s fries, and Claim Jumper’s portions. That same familiar (and almost predictable) taste can also be found here–

Pasta Pomodoro Dinner

Left: Wine List, Right (top to bottom): Tortellini Soup, Calabrese Pasta, Polpette Pasta

Don’t get me wrong– Pasta Pomodoro is good. Their pastas are perfectly al dente, their veggies are cut fresh, and the meals themselves are satisfying. The food just isn’t amazing. This is the kind of place you go when you’re too lazy to cook at home and looking to eat something fresh, tasty, and just plain unadventurous. For that kind of food, this hits the spot every time.

But Pasta Pomodoro does do one thing far superior than any competitors: the brilliant (and free!) pesto dipping oil that accompanies their rosemary focaccia.

Pasta Pomodoro Bread

Rosemary Focaccia and Pesto Dipping Oil

This pesto-like dipping oil is magical. It’s like a tart chimichurri with the fruitiness and fragrance of an Italian pesto. I’m sure it’s a simple recipe, but every time I eat here, I can never point my finger on exactly how they prepare it. Either way, I pretty regularly embarrass myself with the amount of times I ask to refill the sauce.

On a recent trip here, we decided to loosen our belts and order dessert. The Dolce Cioccolato sure was decadent. It was a rich and heavy bittersweet chocolate cake with a molten center. Although not the most memorable part of  the meal, it was a perfect ending to our dinner.

Pasta Pomodoro Desserts

Left: Affogato, Right: Dolce Cioccolato

Think what you will of this unassuming chain restaurant, but as simple or predictable as the food may be, I have never been let down.

Every year for Thanksgiving, my family seems to outdo itself in terms of a bigger, better, gut-busting food fest. The holiday itself is much more important to us than Christmas, birthdays, or any other event we celebrate during the year so it’s crucial that we feast appropriately. This year, it was a Turkey Duel.

BBQ'd Turkey and Deep Fried Turkey

Left: BBQ'd Turkey, Right: Deep Fried Turkey

With a battle of  BBQ’d Turkey vs. Deep Fried Turkey, all of us guests seemed to be the default winners. The BBQ’d Turkey was seasoned simply with garlic salt and lemon pepper and was a tender, beautifully-smoked masterpiece.  The deep fried turkey was injected with a rosemary garlic marinade and was extremely  juicy with a delightful crisp skin. Both were unique and equally delicious. The duel ended in a dead tie, as both birds were a hit and there weren’t many leftovers to judge!

As anticipated, there was a Smörgåsbord of food, both traditional and unusual. Basically, we love to eat and there is no better way of getting together than with a buffet of classic comfort food and some of our favorite Japanese-American dishes.

Thankgiving Main Dishes

Clockwise from Top Left: BBQ'd Tri Tip with Red Wine Ajus, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Bacon-wrapped Dates, Classic Stuffing

Of the classic comforts, mashed potatoes and stuffing (with our secret family ingredient) are predictable hits. There is always a delicious gravy to smother it in, usually with a hint of soy sauce to deepen the flavors. Tri tip has also become a family fav, with my stepdad Bobby being quite the Grillmaster. Also on the yearly menu, my Aunt Amy’s bacon-wrapped dates (no, they’re not her own recipe, but oh-so-worth the calories and are a huge crowd favorite).

We also make sure to include some Asian flavors in our holiday feast.

Thanksgiving Asian Dishes

Clockwise from Top Left: Deep Fried Wontons, Hijiki Rice, Stir-fried Green Beans, Maze Gohan

My personal favorite (and a food request I give my mom months in advance) are the Deep Fried Wontons. Filled with seasoned ground beef, chopped onion, and water chestnut, these ‘tiny tacos’ (as we refer to them) always hit the spot– crunchy, savory, and satisfying. Hijiki (Japanese Brown Seaweed) Rice is also a dish to look forward to. With tofu skin, fishcake, and a sweet soy sauce, this rice dish satisfies both sweet and salty cravings. Similarly, Maze Gohan is an interesting Japanese rice mixture. This one, however, includes sushi rice vinegar, renkon (Japanese Lotus Root), pickled carrot, and dried seaweed. To round out the Asian flavors, we also had some stir fried green beans (a twist to the much-loved green bean casserole).

While most families finish their meal with a traditional pumpkin pie, my family likes to mix it up.

Thanksgiving Desserts

Left to Right: Pumpkin Spice Cake w/ Chocolate Chips, 2-layer Strawberry Jello, Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can’t do Thanksgiving without a little pumpkin, so we had two pumpkin spice cakes. My mom’s famous 2-layer Jello also made a short appearance (before being gobbled up by the younger kids). And new to this year’s desserts were Auntie Em’s paper-thin chocolate chip cookies– buttery, crisp, and a great way to round out the meal.

Interested in any of the dishes featured above? Drop me a line at or leave a comment below and I can definitely hunt down the details (and possibly share some secret ingredients) of your coveted dish!

Who would have known such a tasty little gem was tucked away in Upper Lake, CA?

On our weekend getaway to Clear Lake, we were recommended to a few local restaurants by the owners of the B&B where we were staying. We happily took their suggestions but did not have high expectations with our spoiled city tastebuds. I guess I have to say that we were wrong in that assumption but ended up being unexpectedly pleased.

Blue Wing Saloon is a quaint restaurant recreated in the likeness of the town’s original saloon which was built in the 1880′s. With the rich wooden panel interior and the vintage lighting, it really seemed to be something out of an old country western. This strip of downtown Main Street is also fashioned to its 19th century roots with a sidewalk of wooden slats and somewhat colonial architecture.

Blue Wing Saloon Menu

Blue Wing Saloon Menu

We were warmly welcomed (don’t you love small towns?) and were seated by the window with a generous bread basket. Oh, the bread basket. Both famished and exhausted, we went through TWO full baskets before our meals came (Although I’m certain that hungry or not, we would have eaten our way through the exact same amount). Their bread was dense, doughy, and brushed liberally with fresh garlic butter. The crust was soft and chewy like the texture of fresh bagels and quickly perked us up for our entrées.

Blue Wing Saloon Pasta

Wild Mushroom Ravioli w/ Herb Cream, 2005 Local Cabernet Sauvignon

I ordered their Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Herb Cream and Pine Nuts. It was delicate, sweet, and earthy. I was particularly impressed with the texture of the pasta: firm but gummy with a touch of salt. Alex ordered a “Tallman Burger” which he said was both tasty and satisfying. We also shared a glass of their local 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and were so happy with the selection, we bought a bottle to take home.

Lake County is definitely out-shined by Napa in terms of popularity, but not outdone in terms of taste. Both the delicious meal and fantastic wine made Blue Wing Saloon a must-visit-again restaurant. Actually, the whole trip to Clear Lake was a must-visit-again experience. A charming B&B, a delectable dining destination, and excellent wine–what’s not to love?

This area will probably never become the suburban getaway that Napa has, but if you’re willing to go a little further, the country charm is quite enchanting.

Izumi of Hybrid Hunter is both a food and fashion lover. As an edgy and creative lifestyle blogger, I’ve asked her to share a little taste from her recent trip to New Mexico… 

When I told people I was going to New Mexico for a vacay, the first piece of advice they gave me was “try the green chile!” and I definitely did.

The first night of our trip, my family and I went to Monroe’s Restaurant in Albuquerque. The place itself was homey and kind of reminded me of a church cafeteria (haha). I found it comforting, in an unusual way, and it certainly felt very American.

They give you the option of ordering your meal green, red, or “Christmas” (green + red). I went with green, after the advice of my friends, when ordering my chile relleno plate.

Monroe's Dinner

Left: Monroe's Menu, Right: Chile Relleno Plate w/ Green Chile and a Sopapilla

The green chile was citrusy, bold, and a tad bit spicy. It had a fresh taste that you just don’t get with red chile. Monroe’s chile was chunky, with a few seeds mixed in for taste. It complimented the chile relleno perfectly, which wasn’t greasy at all. With a side of hearty rice and slow-cooked refried beans (I love refried beans!), this was quite a meal.

Probably the most surprising part of the meal was the sopapilla that came on the side. Apparently there are many versions of this bread served in different Latin countries, but the ones they serve in New Mexico are pillow-y pockets of fry bread. They were rustic, simple, and came with a side of honey for dipping. The slight sweetness of the bread and honey went well with the spiciness of my entrée.

Given that this was my first meal in New Mexico, I was excited for what was to come on the rest of my trip; not only the food I was going to taste, but the beautiful landscapes I would see, and the cultures I would experience. I made sure to document my Meso-American cultural adventures here and here.

After such an amazing trip, I know I will be visiting New Mexico again!

Climbing, climbing, climbing… this place is quickly making it to the top of my “Favorite San Francisco Restaurants” list. It’s a lot of hype, I know.

Here’s the story: My boyfriend recommended Zero Zero a few months back, stating it had some great cocktails and pretty awesome pizza. Although I’m usually a bit of a control freak about my dining choices, I decided to drop any skepticism and go with his suggestion. Boy, was I in for a surprise. The meal we shared that night was the best meal (start to finish) I’ve had in the city within the past 2 years. FULL STOP.

So when my best friend Kari (an Italian food fanatic) came into the city for dinner last week, I knew exactly where we’d take her.

Zero Zero Menu and Small Plates

Top to bottom: Arancini w/ Black Garlic Aioli, Brussel Sprouts w/ Asian Pear, and Spicy Meatballs

Their insanely delicious cocktails were first– concoctions of Limoncello, Pluots, and even Jalapeno Marmalade are mixed into these expertly crafted drinks. Let’s consider this the starting bell to the main event.

All of the write-ups and even the name, Zero Zero (the type of flour used in their dough), seem to speak to their pizza, but their Antipasti menu is the true star. These small plates, all succulent and delectable, are worth ordering over any pizza (or salad, for that matter) on the menu. Though a bit counter-intuitive, your best dishes will undoubtedly be from that Antipasti menu.

Or, if you’re a healthy eater like Kari and I, you order a little bit of everything. This is how we did it:

Cocktails (La Grenada, The King’s Fool, English Mistress, Terroir)

Ahi Tuna Crudo w/ Olive, Apple, Parsley

Fried Brussel Sprouts w/ Pancetta, Asian Pear, Lemon

Taleggio Stuffed Arancini w/ Black Garlic Aioli

Slow Cooked Pork Belly and Roman Style Dumpling w/ Crispy Broccoli, Poached Egg, and Harissa

Pork and Veal Meatballs w/ Spicy Tomato Sauce, Fonduta

Seasonal Pizza of Chanterelle Mushrooms, Crescenza Cheese, Sausage

Vanilla Ice Cream with Da Vero Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Ricotta Doughnuts

Even with a bit of a cold coming on, the flavors of these dishes were bold and well-balanced. Crudo is not something I’d typically order, but it was delicate and sweet while the arancini (although I’ve had it before) was crisp, creamy, and rich. I’d even go so far to say that their arancini is better than I’ve had in Italy. The fried brussel sprouts were pretty memorable for me. I love a bit of tart in my food and their mix of lemon, pancetta, and Asian pair really brought out something new for me in the sprouts. I was a bit hesitant about the Roman style dumplings as the name is a bit odd, but the sweet pork belly with the gnocchi-like dumpling was heavenly! Both the meatballs and pizza were superb as well, but were outshined by the other small plates.

We finished off our meal with this beautifully decadent frozen butter ice cream and ricotta doughnuts.

Zero Zero Dessert

Left: Make-Your-Own Dessert Menu, Right: Ricotta Doughnuts and Vanilla Ice Cream w/ Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Seriously–it’s so good it’s offensive.