Hot Cocoa in the Pacific

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I went to Honolulu Coffee at the Moana Surfrider hotel in Waikiki (because, yes, I need my hot chocolate fix even when I’m in the tropics) and not only was the coffee shop super cute and clean, but also the service was amazing: friendly, prompt, and clear. I’ll be going back for sure, and definitely recommend it if you find yourself in the area looking for a good cup of anything hot and energizing!

Wynwood Wonder

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My experience at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar in Miami was an exceptional one! First off, the plantains were cooked to perfection (just hot enough to caramel use the edges, not hot enough to burn them) and drizzled with two different kinds of cheeses. Second, the service was excellent and the location was unbeatable (right at the entrance to the Wynwood Walls. Third, all the food was amazing, the ambiance was intimate and great for conversation, and the prices were reasonable for a trendy eatery in a hipster part of Miami. Highly, highly recommended!!

¡Salud!

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Santé is, first and foremost, a wine bar — and they do have an impressive selection of wines on tap. They also have beer and other beverages, and their food (which is the primary reason I go there) is very tasty. They serve up small bites (I’ve heard these referred to as European-style tapas) that are pretty damn good. I’m a big fan of their walnut and blue cheese spread (it looks like a brown ball in a bowl in the picture below), but pretty much everything I’ve eaten at Santé has been fantastic. I’ll admit that the service is hit-or-miss depending on who you get, but on a sunny day their patio can’t be beat and is well worth the slow (bordering on neglectful, with the wrong luck) service.

In addition to wine, Santé really does dessert right. If you take a look at the picture above and the last picture of the post, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. In my opinion, their desserts are the best-plated, best-tasting, and best-designed dishes of all.

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Santé on Urbanspoon

Wicked good!

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Wicked Weed is a great place to end up on any day of the week. Sure, it’s a microbrewery…but it’s swankily decorated and has a creative menu that’s veg-friendly (sometimes hard to find in a brewery). Oddly enough, I usually end up here for dessert (hence the picture), and let me tell you, their dessert is no joke. It’s worth it all on its own! I’m not a beer drinker, but my husband is and this is one of his favorite microbreweries in town. Add to that equation their sunny downstairs patio out back and their generous fire pit out front, and you have a truly choice establishment here for pretty much anyone in your party.

Wicked Weed Brewing on Urbanspoon

What possibiliTEAs!

20140718-161401.jpgDobra Tea is an excellent place to go if you’re looking for a low-key hangout where you can take your time, enjoy yourself and your company, and just lounge for a few hours. Their service is interesting: upon arrival, they deliver a menu and a bell to your table. After that, whenever you want or need something, you ring the bell and their friendly staff will come over to help you. (This means that if you never ring the bell, nobody will ever come to your table — an important point to listen to when they stop by your table to greet you.) At first, I didn’t know what to make of this kind of service, but it grew on me. Mostly, it means that their servers are not in a rush to get clients in and out; instead, you’re welcome to take your time and stay at your leisure.

The small menu of food items is fresh, locally-sourced, and tasty and the tea selection is…quite frankly, it’s off the hook. This means you won’t run out of good options to keep your table stocked if you decide to sit for several hours (as many of their guests frequently do). Their service is friendly and informative, and the atmosphere is unique. Definitely worth a visit to see if this is (ahem) your cup of tea!

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Wicked Weed Brewing on Urbanspoon

Oh, honey!

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The first thing you should know about Tupelo Honey Cafe is that they will offer you a free biscuit when you arrive. Say yes. Oh man, say yes! Their food is delicious, but that big fluffy biscuit is like 75% of the reason I brave the lines and take out-of-town guests to Tupelo. It’s indescribable (and if you buy their first cookbook, the recipe for the biscuits is in there but you don’t get the secret to the herb & butter deliciousness they spread on it in the restaurant) and totally worth the wait.

But their food is no slouch — I tend to go for the Breakfast Bowl (pictured below), but on occasion I get their famous Sweet Potato Pancakes (pictured at end of post). To be honest, I only order one because it’s the size of a dinner plate and as thick as two ordinary pancakes combined. Still, it’s delicious. Everything here’s delicious. Nom nom nom. I mean, this is a great place for foodies looking to experience some Appalachian-inspired cooking.

*Note: I’ve categorized this restaurant as a “Local Chain” despite the fact that Tupelo is spreading to multiple states; given its roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I didn’t feel right lumping it together with the really big chains that have lost their region-specific flavor.

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Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

How do you take your eggs?

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Over Easy Cafe is one of those tiny little breakfast joints that’s so top-notch you wonder how they fit all their customers into such a limited space. Their food is locally-sourced, fresh, and well-prepared. I typically go for the Basic Breakfast (pictured above), and it may be “basic” but it’s definitely a cut above the rest. That’s their house “soysage” you see between my scrambled eggs and side of fruit, and yes, you can opt for a biscuit instead of toast (at no extra charge).

In addition to breakfast, Over Easy has an impressive selection of juices and smoothies (that’s the Waking Up juice pictured below) which they make right there when you order. Yup — freshly juiced fruits and veggies to round out your meal. I really, really love this place. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that they have excellent service!

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Over Easy Cafe on Urbanspoon

When life gives you limes…

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Limones is a Mexican restaurant, but on weekends they serve up a mouth-watering Mexican-inspired brunch. (Yes, those are churros with a cup of hot chocolate pictured above!) They have some brunch classics, like the scone pictured below, but they also have a comprehensive menu of unique brunch dishes. I ordered the Three Cheese Chile Relleno with two fried eggs, home fries, guacamole, creme, and cascabel sauce (see final picture below). I loved it. I’d eat it again right now if I could. You should go eat it. Seriously. Go!

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Limones on Urbanspoon

Southern Comfort

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First and foremost, The Southern has one of the best patios in Asheville. Additionally, their food is premium quality. (Oh, and they also have a full bar.) You’d think a dish like mac ‘n’ cheese would be, well, fairly generic. Honestly, I ordered it because I wanted something hot and cheesy, and that’s exactly what I got. What I didn’t expect was the waitress’ *amazing* suggestion: that I try adding some sriracha to the dish. Let me tell you, that one tip revolutionized the way I eat mac ‘n’ cheese — it’s delicious. This is pretty much what you can expect from The Southern: classic food served up quick and well, plus some friendly advice from your server. A happy surprise!

The Southern on Urbanspoon

High Five!

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High Five Coffee Bar is one of my all-time favorite coffee shops (and it’s a good thing, too, since I live in Asheville now). Why? Because it’s a great place for locals to hang out, get some work done, and enjoy some high-quality beverages and small bites. My favorites are the hot chocolate (not made with syrup — a rare find for most coffee shops, but often a good indication of the best ones out there) and the fruit + granola bowl.

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High Five Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

Best “lounge” ever

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The French Broad Chocolate Lounge is known for (you guessed it) its chocolate! Yes, their delicious truffles have been making news for years, and it’s no wonder given the amazing care and ingredients that go into these chocolates from seed to table. While the line may often wind out the door and down the street, it’s worth the wait for the patient chocolate lover. Not only do they have a vast array of delightful and creative truffles (just a few of which are pictured in this post, and a healthy ratio of which are seasonal treats), but they also have a surprising variety of drinking chocolates. Two of my favorites: the cold sipping chocolate, which is served in a wine glass and is elegantly refreshing (see photo below); and the Indian Kulfi hot chocolate, which is amazing (and too incredible to actually put into words). If you’re visiting Asheville, you really should stop in and treat yourself to some world-class chocolates.

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French Broad Chocolate Lounge on Urbanspoon

A Pleasant Surprise

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I ate at the Writer’s Bistro (the Renaissance Marriott’s hotel restaurant) in Asheville, North Carolina, while visiting the city as part of the job interview process. This may be a hotel restaurant, but their breakfast left nothing to be desired. It was tasty, fresh, and delicious — just like most of the food I’ve discovered in this city since I made it my home a little over one year ago. I’m a pretty big fan of pancakes, and I can tell you that theirs didn’t disappoint!

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