Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sabai - Yeah We All Need Some of What They Got

Enjoy Thai food? What about a tiki-like bar? Have you ever had a kick-ass Mai Tai? I mean one with lots of booze and none of the artificial sweet? What about sno-cones of the adult variety? If you answered yes to any of the above, then get yourself over to Sabai.

We sat at the bar and watched the bartenders work and listened to them jaw about vintage cars (think El Camino). We had a grand time.

Sabai Bar

The cocktails are heavy on rum, but also offer some fine tasting whiskies as well. We tried the Mai Tai because we were in a tiki bar. And over the top it was. Lots of rum, crushed ice, blue curacao with an orchid garnish. As pretty as the Caribbean sea. I'm sure the Pacific is just as stunning.  Next time I'll be aiming for the sno-cone.

Mai Tai Duo

The food was also tasty and reasonably priced. The fried calamari was plentiful and crispy with a lovely fish sauce.

Pla Muk Tod - Crispy Calamari

The Basil Chicken with Fried Egg was slightly spicy with peppers, onions, and eggplant. The dish was so big, we took half of it home and enjoyed some wonderful leftovers the next evening.

Pad Krapow Gai Sap Kai Dow - Basil Chicken with Fried Egg

Great place. Fun atmosphere. Ya gotta go.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Every So Often One Needs Some Nuevo Mexico Restaurante

It's not over-the-top, but Nuevo Mexico Restaurante is quick, fun, and tasty for lunch. The Chicken Enchiladas Verdes with Spanish Rice hit the spot a couple of weeks ago.

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes with Spanish Rice

Monday, September 07, 2015

As Always - Tasty Offerings from Camden's Dogtown Market

I never get over to Camden's Dogtown Market as often as I would like. The food is delicious and plentiful and the wine is only $10 over the retail price. What a winning combination!

Recently, I enjoyed the Blossom Chicken - yogurt-marinated chicken breast that is panko-crusted and fried and served over a green bean and potato salad. Yummy!

Blossom Chicken

And I could enjoy one of my favorite reds for a very reasonable price.

Field Recordings Fiction

So, what are you waiting for? If you go on a weeknight, specials make your efforts even more rewarding (if only I could remember what they were or they listed them on Facebook). Don't forget to read the entire menu for a sarcastic quip or two.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summertime Labor - Tomato Sauce

It's summer and tomatoes flood the Farmers' Markets this time of year. While I am not a fan of raw tomatoes, I do love tomato sauce. This year I've been making Roasted Tomato Sauce. Here is sort of a recipe. Your results may vary, but using your home-grown or your trusted farmers' market vendor should produce tasty results.

First of all, get about 10 pounds of tomatoes. This past Saturday Casselmonte Farm had 10 pounds of organic San Marzano tomatoes for $2.50 a pound at the South of the James Market. Because you are making sauce, the look of the tomato is not as important as the taste. Casselmonte Farm usually carries "seconds" as well, and I will cut those up to make sauce and they are cheaper. Bottom line - obtain some good tomatoes.

San Marzano Tomatoes

Rinse the tomatoes in water and turn your oven on to 425 degrees to preheat.

425 Degrees

Cut up the tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Cut away any brown spots and discard or compost. I keep the skin on since I puree at the end and the sauce seems thicker with the skins.

Halved Tomatoes

Grab about 7-10 springs or fresh oregano. De-stem and add to the bowl of tomatoes. Oregano is my go-to herb for roasted sauce. Try others like sage, thyme, or even a jalapeno pepper depending on your mood and taste preference.


Roughly chop up a head of garlic (or more or less depending on preference). Add to bowl of tomatoes.


Add a teaspoon of salt and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil to the bowl of tomatoes.

Olive Oil and Salt

Gently mix to coat the tomatoes with the olive oil. Vigorous mixing might generate escapees, so be careful.

Mixing Ingredients

Get a few rimmed pans (I used four for 10 pounds of tomatoes) and line with parchment paper. My pans are the bottoms of the broiler sets. I have accumulated a few over the years.

Place tomatoes in a crowded single layer on the pan. Pop in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how brown you want the tomatoes and how much liquid you want to retain.

Tomatoes on Parchment Paper

Let the tomatoes cool.

Roasted Tomatoes

Once cool, place the tomatoes in batches in a food processor or blender and puree the heck out of them.

Processing Tomatoes

The 10 pounds of San Marzanos yielded about 9 cups of sauce. Keep to use right away and freeze in batches.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Delicious. It takes some time, but having a taste of summer in January is worth it. And the sauce is flexible. I can use as is with some fresh tagliatelle or add sauteed onions and ground pork for a meat sauce with penne. Oh the possibilities!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dinner at Rhubarb in Asheville

While the dining room at Rhubarb was packed on a weeknight, the bar was readily available with a cozy corner table near the front window. The menu offers Southern fare with a twist and a whole bevy of local cheeses.

Entrance to Rhubarb
The bartender was happy to answer our questions about the menu and we had some mighty fine eats.

Fried Hominy with Chili and Lime
Fried Hominy with Lime and Chili - Great item to share
Berber Pie with Rhubarb Jam, Benton's Prosciutto, and Spiced Onions
Berber Pie - I had no idea what a Berber Pie was. Turns out to be a hand made savory pie. This one was stuffed with Rhubarb Jam, Benton's Prosciutto, and Spiced Onions. So tasty!
Wood Roasted Whole Sunburst Trout with Fennel Confit
Roasted Sunburst Trout stuffed with  Fennel - Delicious local fish
Cheese Plate
Local Cheeses with Rhubarb and Chutney

The menu tends to change seasonally and with the variety of large and small plates, everyone should find something to make their taste buds happy.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Breakfast at Early Girl Eatery

We had a delicious breakfast at Early Girl Eatery. The farm-to-table establishment is laid back and sunny. The breakfast menu contains all of the traditional Southern favorites (and Benton's bacon!), but also features vegetarian and vegan fare.

Enjoy the pictorial.

Early Girl Eatery
Early Girl Eatery located in downtown Asheville
Early Girl Supports Local
Early Girl supports a whole host of local producers
Early Girl Condiments
Wildflowers, salt, and raspberry jam
Eggs Bacon Potatoes Biscuit
Traditional country breakfast
Breakfast at Early Girl Eatery
Breakfast scene at Early Girl

Since we arrived on a weekday and after 8 AM, we were easily able to snag a table. I've heard tales of lines on the weekends.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Two Chocolate Places in Asheville

We experienced two mighty fine purveyors of chocolate while we were in Asheville. Our hotel included a turn-down service and provided us with two delectable and exquisite chocolate bites from The Chocolate Fetish. The package enticed us to drop by the shop for another free sample. We did. These guys were definitely artisans. We took our free sample and then loaded up on some of their other temptations. The sea salt caramels were my favorites.

Enjoy and Give the Best

We discovered the French Broad Chocolate Lounge after dinner one night. We thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to get dessert here, but it's after 9 o'clock." Lo and behold, this joint is open until 11 PM on weeknights! And contains all types of ways to enjoy chocolate - chocolates, brownies, cakes, ice cream, drinking chocolates, and the Mudwrestler (ice cream, local nitro stout beer, and espresso). And the Lounge was packed. We opted for a couple of chocolate milkshakes.

Order Up at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge

Artisan chocolate and a late night lounge - gotta love Asheville.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Amazing Pubcycle

While we did not take a tour on the Amazing Pubcycle, it looked like the folks were having a blast on a Spring evening.

The Amazing Pubcycle

Two questions we had: How did this concept pass the NC ABC Board? and Wouldn't this be fun in RVA?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Table in Asheville

Table is a modern farm to table restaurant concept in downtown Asheville. We kind of stumbled upon it and the menu looked delicious. The place has lots of windows giving the place a light airy feel.

The menu can change up depending on the season. When we arrived ramps were in heavy rotation which prompted us to order the Whipped Feta and Grilled Ramps as a starter.

Whipped Feta with Grilled Ramps

Most of the meats are from local farms in the area. Hubby ordered the Hickory Nut Gap Pork Chop with turnips and apple butter. A Winter into Spring kind of meal.

Hickory Nut Gap Pork chop

I had the Brasstown Coulette Steak with crispy potatoes and duck egg. The ravioli-type item was supposed to be filled with a runny onion soubise. It didn't quite work. The filling was more solid and did not add much to the dish. Everything else was divine and I enjoyed the runniness of the duck egg adding body and cohesiveness to the entire dish.

Brasstown Coulotte Crispy Potatoes Duck Egg

Our waitress provided attentive service and happily answered our questions about the various dishes. I would welcome a chance to return.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nightbell in Asheville

We stopped by Nightbell for a cocktail before dinner. This speakeasy bar and restaurant is the little sister to Curate (which we did not get to try).


The decor is eclectic with accents of turquoise.

Nightbell Sofa

And while we had bourbon and scotch based cocktails, the most popular and eye-catching concoction was definitely the Cold Roses.

Cold Roses

Rose-infused Tito's vodka, St. Germain, lemon, soda, berry ice, and lavender foam. And garnished with dried rose petals. Wow. We sampled a bit of the lavender foam and it was divine.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Alleia Restaurant Chattanooga

Our second evening in Chattanooga we dined al fresco at Alleia. The place features a dark cavernous interior and a bright side patio. We ate on the bright side since the weather was perfect.

Busy Kitchen

Alleia features Italian dishes with a nod to the local food scene. Wood-fired pizzas, pasta, and a wide variety of starters tempted us. Cocktails were thoughtful and inventive; wine prices a bit high (maybe this is the norm here?).

We experienced good service for the most part except at the very end. We were very full from our pasta dishes, but decided to at least look at the dessert menu. Upon relaying this to our waiter, he brought us the check instead. Hopefully, it was a misunderstanding? In any case it was a missed opportunity.

A few highlights of our meal:

The Awakening - Bufflo Trace Lavender Cynar
The Awakening with Buffalo Trace, Lavender, and Cynar. Great to see bars utilizing an amaro for its cocktails.
Benton's Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Dates wrapped in Benton's Bacon and drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar. Benton's has some of the best pork products in the nation. It was great to see Alleia make use of some local fare.
Tagliatelle with Rabbit and Ramps
Tagliatelle with Rabbit and Ramps. What a wonderful Spring delight! If you are in the Chattanooga area, it's worth your while to order while the menu still offers this dish.

Despite the question mark of service at the end, Alleia was a delicious choice for our last night in Chattanooga.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chattanooga Whiskey and Tennessee Stillhouse

Downtown Chattanooga features the Tennessee Stillhouse, a micro-distillery for Chattanooga Whiskey. They proudly proclaim "Whiskey to the People" and "Making Up for 100 Years of Prohibition." My kind of place.

Whiskey to the People

Making Up For 100 Years of Prohibition

The Stillhouse features two whiskeys: 1816 Reserve - a bit mellow and good neat or in a cocktail. The 1816 Cask is 113,6 proof so while tasty, a bit harsh due to the high alcohol content. For $12 you get a personalized tour and a taste of both whiskeys and a sample of four different cocktails made with the whiskeys. The place is open until at least 9 PM most days and I'm sure regulars now skip the tour and just sample the goods. It's also the only place to buy a bottle of whiskey on Sunday in Chattanooga.

Tennessee Stillhouse

1816 Reserve

1816 Cask

Chattanooga Whiskey had to lobby the state legislature to change some of the alcohol control laws in order to begin their endeavor. It's nice to see folks forging ahead and turning their whiskey dreams into reality.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Easy Bistro and Bar - Chattanooga

Without realizing it I think we just happened upon the best restaurant in Chattanooga - Easy Bistro and Bar.


The space soared up two floors with black walls and well-placed mirrors.

Easy Bistro and Bar

Robin, our most excellent server greeted us with a lovely spring green amuse bouche and a vinegar based tiny cocktail which turned out to be an amazing pairing.

Amush Bouche with Cucumber

We didn't stop at the tasting cocktail. We had to try the Dixie Smash which featured Chattanooga 1816 Whiskey, lemon, and cinnamon syrup. So delicious that we had to visit the distillery, which happened to be a few blocks away.

Dixie Smash

While sipping cocktails we enjoyed a Smoked Pork Belly with Watermelon and Rhubarb. So, yummy. Throughout the menu, Easy Bistro featured local and seasonal ingredients.

Pork Belly with Watermelon and Rhubarb

We selected a Tuscan wine for our entrees. Easy had a nice list, but prices were a bit higher than we are used to. The wine prices were the only slight drawback to the place. And while we paid a bit more for the red, the wine service couldn't have been better.


For the main course, hubby selected a Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut with Ramps. Ever since we were on the Oregon coast a few years back, hubby had been hankering for halibut, and not just any halibut, but Pacific halibut.  He was not disappointed.

Halibut with Ramps

I had to have the Smoked Duck Confit with Favas, Charred Okra, and Morels. Yes, I am partial to duck. The smokiness with the fall-from-the-bone meat was a bit between duck and pork. A Southern twist on a classic dish. And when I visited Oregon, I fell in love with morels. The only mushroom that I don't just tolerate, but venerate. These were awesome!

Smoked Duck Confit with Favas and Morels

To complete the evening we splurged on a spring-time dessert - Strawberry-Rhubarb Panna Cotta with Chartreuse Ice. So lovely.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Panna Cotta

Our server Robin also recommended other places to eat the next evening. Since it was a Monday, she made sure the places were open before handing us her list. Service + Excellent Food. We did dine at the best restaurant in Chattanooga.