food

Restaurant Review: Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar

Last weekend, I got together with a few friends for lunch. It’s been a few months since our last get-together, so I was ready for some time with the ‘gang’.

We decided on Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, since they appeared to have a little something for everyone. The restaurant is conveniently located right off of Interstate 64 West in Henrico County, Virginia. I’m glad that this one is so close to my home because, while the chain has a few other locations, most of them are over one hour from my home.

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The restaurant describes itself as contemporary Italian food, and I’d have to agree. There wasn’t an abundance of traditional Italian dishes on the menu, but what I did notice was a focus on giving a fresh take on an otherwise simple dish. I ended up trying the zucchini frite (fried zucchini slices) and the shrimp messina with a side of Brussels sprouts.

Travinia’s Shrimp Messina

Both dishes were tasty albeit not strikingly unique. The flavors were good and, while the restaurant puts a new spin on traditional Italian cuisine, they don’t stray so far away from the standard seasonings and flavors that the food doesn’t fit the Italian flavor profile. I appreciate the adherence to tradition while still injecting creativity into the dishes. Good job, Travinia, for walking a thin line and doing it well!

I would return to the restaurant, though I’d probably choose to go in the evening as opposed to lunchtime. I’m curious about the wine list and I generally prefer pairing wine with dinner over pairing it with lunches. It’ll be nice to see how the after-five crowd differs from the lunch crew.

That’s all for my quick review of Travinia. I have to get back to my writing (NaNoWriMo calls!) so that’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow.

international · travel

Cruise 2018: Dining on the Sea

If you all didn’t know, I love to dine out. I actually think I like eating out a bit too much, which is why I’ve cut down significantly over the past few months. That being said, I still got excited at the dining options available on my latest cruise.

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The Allure of the Seas (a Royal Caribbean ship) has multiple restaurants on board, as well as several cafes, wine bars, and snack bars. My family and I dined regularly at the main dining room at American Icon Grille. This restaurant  published a luxe menu every evening, featuring various appetizers, entrees and desserts. The restaurant changed up the menus every day, so there was always something new to try. There are also a few other themed restaurants, such as Silk (Asian foods) and The Grande (American foods).

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A typical breakfast that I’d order from room service

There is also a buffet located near the pools (the Windjammer Cafe), which has a few of the food items featured in American Icon Grille but also other dishes that aren’t available in any of the dining rooms. To be honest, I had the best time dining at the Windjammer in the evenings. The buffet had a different chilled fruit soup every night which were delicious and I could literally eat every day without getting tired of them (think the world’s smoothiest, most delicious smoothies . . . yes, it was as tasty as it sounds).

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A menu from one evening at American Icon Grille

Oooh, not to mention, there is a Sorrento’s pizza, which makes fresh pizza until 3 AM. Who doesn’t love pizza? And the room service has lots of delicious fresh options available all day long.

I won’t continue to talk about the foods: let’s see some pictures, shall we?

Lobster bisque and Tiger shrimp

Left: Shrimp ceviche; Top right: Shrimp and potato salad; Bottom right: Lobster

Desserts!!!

Enjoy your Friday, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

food · travel

Review: Another Broken Egg Cafe, Morrisville, NC

Back in August, I spent a few days in Raleigh/Durham, NC. While I was there, my friend and I stopped for brunch at a little restaurant that I’d never heard of before: Another Broken Egg Cafe. This restaurant – located in the small town of Morrisville, NC – features a variety of breakfast delights. My friend and I decided to try a few dishes and here’s my review of the experience.

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It took a while before the server greeted our table, but the restaurant was very busy so we understood why there was a delay. We got coffee and ordered the Crab Cake Benedict, Lobster & Brie Omelette, pancakes, fresh fruit and biscuit beignets.

Pancakes and berry medley

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(Clockwise from top) Crab Cake Benedict, Lobster & Brie Omelette, toasted English muffins

Everything was cooked to perfection, piping hot and delicious. I was particularly fond of the omelette: it was flavorful, fluffy and sumptuous. The portions were generous and everything tasted wonderful. The only thing I’d change about my visit would be coming at a different time, so I could have more interaction with the server. But other than that, it was a great experience.

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Biscuit beignets

If you’re ever in the Durham/Raleigh/Cary area, you should definitely check out this restaurant! Or, you can always go to the one nearest you, since it’s a nationwide chain.

That’s it for today, folks: I hope I haven’t made you all too hungry! Talk to you all tomorrow.

food

NuVegan is Coming to RVA!

I am beyond excited to share this news with you all! One of my favorite vegan restaurant, NuVegan Cafe (formerly Woodlands Vegan Bistro) of Washington, D.C., is opening a restaurant in my hometown of Richmond, VA! I spend a lot of time bouncing around in the Midatlantic region but when I’m home, I am always eager to try new vegetarian options. This technically isn’t new to me – I’ve been enjoying NuVegan for at least 4 years – but I’ve always had to be in either D.C. or Maryland if I wanted their food. Having the restaurant so close to home is going to really have me spoiled!

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The Richmond location will be opening on June 30, 2018. Part of me wants to attend the grand opening . . . The other part of me is pure introvert and would rather avoid any potential crowds! We’ll see how I’m feeling on June 30th and if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll make a special stop to check out the restaurant.

vegetables

Plant-based foods are awesome!

If you want more information about NuVegan Cafe in Richmond, VA, be sure to follow the NuVegan Cafe Richmond Twitter page @NuVeganRichmond.

Have any of you eaten at NuVegan yet? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below!

food · international

Review: Le Mandigue Restaurant

Happy Friday, friends! Today is a first for me: it’s a West African food review!

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(photo from Le Mandigue website)

I have never been a fan of the West African dishes that I’ve tried. I’ve had egusi, fufu and jollof rice, but I just wasn’t wowed. However, I really wanted to try something different. So I decided to give West African food another try.

I order from Le Mandigue in Philadelphia. As an aspiring vegetarian (that fails frequently!), I wanted to opt for a meatless entrée. So I got the vegetarian fried rice and steamed vegetables. I also got degue, monie callama and kallah, which I didn’t realize at the time were all desserts.

Here are some photos of the meal:

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Fried vegetable rice and steamed vegetables (cabbage, peas, corn, potatoes)

Dege (dessert)

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Closeup of monie callama

I ordered through UberEats and my food arrived quickly.

The fried rice was tasty and substantial. The steamed vegetables were well-seasoned and weren’t overpowering at all.

And the desserts! I How did I not already know about these amazing deserts?! These were the most interesting part of the meal. Dege reminds me of the rice pudding or tapioca pudding available at some Indian restaurants: creamy, sweet with a hint of sourness (probably because it’s made with sour milk). It’s the mix of flavors that make this such a multidimensional dessert. Monie callama is like a liquified jelly, yummy and smooth, with tapioca-like starch suspended within. Just yum!

I wish I could have enjoyed this in the restaurant but alas, I ordered it to my room. However, I will be sure to visit the restaurant in person when I return to Philadelphia. I’m so looking forward to it!

food

Review: Horace & Dickies Food Truck

Several weeks back, I visited a food truck I’d never tried before. I didn’t have a taste for anything in particular, but I decided to do seafood for lunch because, generally speaking, seafood never lets me down.

My lunchtime adventures led me to Horace & Dickies, a restaurant that expanded its enterprise to include a food truck that serves lunch at different popular locations within Washington, DC.

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At the truck, I ordered the crabcake and fries, a simple meal that I thought wouldn’t take very long to prepare. I wasn’t disappointed: the crabcake was prepared quickly. I was handed a bag and I returned to my desk where I ate my meal.

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An abbreviated but adequate menu

My short explanation is this: I liked the fries more than the crabcake. Don’t get me wrong: the crabcake was good. But I wasn’t blown away by the flavor of it. I’ve eaten many crabcakes and have a good basis for comparison (not to mention, I’ve made some incredible crabcakes from scratch, as well), so I know when a crabcake is “good” and when it’s “awesome”. And this one was “good”: not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth the money and a solid effort.

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My meal

To be fair, I probably would have enjoyed it more with remoulade sauce (I asked for some, but it wasn’t in my bag). Also, the sandwich cooled a bit on my walk back to the office: everyone knows that piping hot food is better than when it’s cooled down.

Would I eat here again? Absolutely. The food was good and I suspect that, if eaten immediately, the sandwich would be outstanding instead of just “good”. I’m really looking forward to trying Horace & Dickies again so that I can give a followup review for the crabcake!

 

food · international

Review: La Tasca Restaurant

So, for a few weeks, I was craving tapas. Tapas – those small, flavorful plates of Spanish cuisine – are light but satisfying: they are perfect dishes for hot summer days. Eventually, my craving got the best of me, and I started researching local Spanish restaurants.

My search ended when I landed on La Tasca Restaurant. It’s been years since I’ve dined there, so I was overdue for a trip. This Chinatown restaurant has become something of a DC standard, especially since there isn’t an abundance of Spanish restaurants in the District. I decided to stop in for lunch and I was eager to see what delights the restaurant had to offer.

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I ordered a lunch special, complete with four tapas. My server was friendly and made sure that I had a table with a great view. As I sipped my iced tea, I watched the hustle and bustle of people milling around in Chinatown. Soon, my first order arrived- except it wasn’t what I actually ordered. The pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) that arrived at my table looked appealing, but I knew I hadn’t ordered it. When my server returned, I let him know that I’d gotten the wrong dish. But he then let me know that the dish was no mistake: it was complimentary. I was surprised and delighted to get an additional tapas plate at no cost.

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My complimentary appetizer: pan con tomate

Then, my actual order started to arrive. My gazpacho was a chilled, creamy delight, bursting with freshness and flavor. Every mouthful was a gourmand’s dream.

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Gazpacho

Next I enjoyed fried manchego cheese bites, manchego frito. These crisp and lightly salted morsels were perfectly complimented by the honey orange marmalade dipping sauce that came with it.

Yummy manchego frito

Then I had the fresh tomato and lettuce salad, the tomatina. It’s been years since I’ve had sweet, fresh tomatoes (most of what’s available in stores is tart). The dressing enhanced the sweetness. I really enjoyed this!

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Tomatina salad

I ended my tapas experience by eating gambas al ajillo, the garlic shrimp. I love garlic and, when I’m not doing the vegetarian/vegan thing, seafood is always on my list. The garlic was subtle but undeniable. And the shrimp were cooked perfectly. This was accented nicely by the red pepper flakes: they added a little heat but weren’t overwhelming.

Gambas!

Overall, my meal at La Tasca was superb! It was a great value and experience. I can’t wait to return for lunch sometime in the near future!

 

food · travel

Review: Wiz Kid Restaurant

Happy, happy Monday, friends!

After the auction I attended a few days ago (you can read about it here and here), I was famished. I didn’t know how hungry I would be, but I think I underestimated how long my breakfast would stave off hunger (something about travel throws off my ability to correctly gauge when and how much I need to eat, but I digress). In any case, I figured I could probably grab something suitable close by. I looked up nearby restaurants and learned that a vegan restaurant was just around the corner from the auction house. So of course I had to check it out.

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(from the Wiz Kid website)

I stepped into Wiz Kid and was instantly charmed by the intimate size and hits from bygone years playing in the background. The restaurant boasts a small but flavorful vegan menu. I was greeted by a friendly cashier as I looked over the menu. I decided to try the Yucatan chopped salad and rhubarb-ade.

My tasty Yucatan chopped salad

The salad was large and filling. This was a delicious vegan take on the southwestern-style salads that can be found at many popular restaurants. According to the website, the salad features, “black beans, grilled zucchini, pico, poblano, cauliflower, tortilla crumble, cilantro goddess”. I can confirm that all of those ingredients were in my salad, and it came together beautifully.

I really liked the crunch that came from the tortilla crumbles: that variance in texture went a long way in making this salad more interesting. The cilantro goddess dressing was creamy and delicious. I was really impressed with this hearty salad.

The rhubarb-ade was also a hit! Tart, sweet and unique: it was the kind of original take on lemonade that I’m always looking for when I go out. Rhubarb is such an unusual choice: I liked it a lot!

Photo taken from outside of Wiz Kid

Overall, I really enjoyed Wiz Kid. My only wish is that they expand the menu, but I can also appreciate the carefully curated selection. Why mess with a good thing, y’know? So, on that note, I must recommend Wiz Kid in Philadelphia, PA. It’s located at 124 S 19th Street. Make sure you check it out when you’re in the area!

food · international

Review: Absolute Thai Restaurant

A few days ago, I went out for lunch because, well, I needed a break from the office LOL! I decided to try Absolute Thai restaurant (which is different from Absolute Noodle, which I’ve reviewed previously). I figured I would treat myself, since I hadn’t gone there in years and I remember that I enjoyed their food before.

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The restaurant is conveniently located right behind the Verizon Center, at the corner of 6th and G Streets NW. It’s a 3 minute walk from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop to the restaurant’s front door. Like many of the restaurant in this area, there isn’t a lot of interior space but the restaurant does a good job of maximizing what’s there.

The first issue was the time it took to be acknowledged by the staff. I waited at the door for at least 3 or more minutes while 3 waitstaff members were milling around and not looking toward the door. 3 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, except standard restaurant procedure is to acknowledge guests within 30 seconds of arrival (that’s why most restaurants have a designated host/ess that spends the majority of the time at the door). The hostess was nowhere to be seen during the 12 o’clock hour (crazy, right?) I received no assurance that I would be helped momentarily, nor any other acknowledgement. I wasn’t acknowledged until two gentlemen arrived and, as they waited behind me, the staff must have assumed that we were all together, and then someone spoke to us.

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Gilded artwork in the restaurant

I ordered the Thai tea lemonade (basically, a Thai version of the Arnold Palmer or, if you’re from DC, a half-and-half),  tom yum goong soup and the “Jungle” entree, a mix of bamboo, eggplant, peppers, basil and green beans. I asked to reduce the heat of the entree from the standard “hot” level to “medium”.

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My yummy Thai tea lemonade

My tea lemonade arrived quickly. It was a little sweeter than I expected, but very good. Kudos to the restaurant for adding a moderate amount of ice – I really feel like I got a lot for the cost. The beverage was ample and tasty.

I then got my soup. It looked a little creamier than I anticipated, so I tasted it. I order tom yum but the server delivered tom kha (a coconut based soup). I actually like tom kha but I’m unable to eat a full-sized bowl because the coconut milk is a bit too rich for me. It took a moment, but the server returned and when I pointed out the error, she was pleasant and immediately returned it to the kitchen. My new soup arrived several minutes later, and it didn’t disappoint.

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The Jungle entree: this is where things started going downhill

Next was my entree which, I’ll admit, is when I realized that I may have to give my first negative restaurant review (I know, I’m shocked that I have to do it, too). The dish was far too spicy to be “medium”. I’ve eaten Thai food regularly for about 15 years, and I’ve eaten at a variety of Thai restaurants – including this one in the past! – so I have a good handle on spice levels. This dish had not been adjusted to medium-spicy level. When I pointed this out to the server, she didn’t seem to comprehend what I was saying, though she repeated my order back to me at the beginning of the meal. I could only take a few bites before I told her that I would take the entree back to my office and rinse off the spice, which is what I did. It was still a little hotter than my normal but at least the heat was tolerable after the rinsing.

Overall, the experience was just okay. The food was good and fresh, and the order arrived in a reasonable amount of time. But the time it took just to have a staff member acknowledge that I was there, and having two big food mistakes in one meal was a bit more than I’m willing to overlook. I don’t think I’ll be returning to Absolute Thai any time soon. After all, there are several other Thai restaurants in the area – and an overall plethora of them in DC – that will get my order correct on the first go round.

food · international

Review: Carnivore Restaurant

While in Nairobi, I made the pilgrimage to Carnivore restaurant. This meat lovers haven is similar to the Brazilian churrascaria, with endless rounds of barbecued meats. While I’ve never eaten at a churrascaria, I couldn’t leave Nairobi without trying the local fare.

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Yes, I ordinarily adhere to a vegetarian/pescatarian diet. I was a bit nervous about eating meat after going so long without it. However, the meat served at Carnivore is all local animals that have not been fed the toxic ingredients often provided to animals sold commercial in the US.

I tried the following meats, which were barbecued and sliced at my table:

  • Ostrich
  • Crocodile
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Turkey

My camera was dying while I was out, so I didn’t get as many pictures as I wanted. In any case, here are a few photos from my Carnivore adventure:

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Grill as seen when first entering the restaurant.

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Place setting and fresh maize (corn) as an appetizer. Maize isn’t as sweet as what’s usually offered in American restaurants. I prefer this more savory varietal.

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Soup prior to enjoying our meal. I meant to ask what kind of soup this was, but I forgot to inquire before the entrees were served.

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Lamb and beef. I haven’t had either meat in many years: it was tender and savory, just like I remember LOL

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One of my favorite desserts, the blondie. It was delicious!

I enjoyed my Carnivore experience immensely! While I wouldn’t make it a habit (I don’t know if my body could handle so much meat on a frequent basis), I’m glad that I tried it during my Nairobi visit.

Have any of you visited Carnivore? Let me know all about your experience in the comments below!