Slated for Celebration

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I went to Slate’s Restaurant in Hallowell, Maine, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Slate’s is an eclectically decorated, cozy, contemporary space that is both inviting and spunky. The friendly waitstaff was energetic and welcoming, and made our dining experience a lot of fun. We started with the Homemade Hummus and Tarratore Plate (below), which was a great dish to split between the three of us. It made for a light and nutritious appetizer that suited the social situation and eased our very empty stomachs. For my entree, I ordered one of their grilled pizzas on the homemade whole wheat crust (above). The one I chose was Slate’s version of the traditional Margherita pizza, and was topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and parmesan with a delicious balsamic drizzle.

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Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without a fancy beverage to spice things up. Our enthusiastic waitress told us about some fresh ingredients they had at the bar, and offered to have some cocktails specially made for us. I ended up with an extremely large and delicious Melon Purée Margarita (below), which was not only fun to look at, but fun to drink as well!

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Splendour at the ‘grass…Lemongrass!

I’ve walked, biked, and bused past Lemongrass Fusion Bistro in Columbus’ Short North innumerable times, and I finally made it in for a quick bite. I was not disappointed! Since we stopped in in the middle of the afternoon, we were the only customers there. Our waiter was more than helpful — he helped us make our selections, and accommodated our unusual eating and drinking habits (these included one vegan, one vegetarian, and one alcohol lightweight). Eating at Lemongrass was tasty, and it was also fun. The three of us passed an hour or two in a table by the window, experiencing fantastic food and impressive service. While we ordered mostly desserts and drinks, Lemongrass also boasts an impressive sushi menu, and serves lunch and dinner as well.

I ordered the Mango Teardrop (why dine when you can dessert?), which was incredible. It was light and fluffy, and nicely flavored. As you can see (pictured below), it was also beautifully plated.

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A friend of mine ordered the Fresh Berries with Chambord (also on the dessert menu; pictured below), which was not only beautiful but also delicious — she let me try a few bites. The fruits were fresh and ripe, and the Chambord and whipped cream were excellent complements to the fruit.

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I also ordered the Partly Sunny, Mostly Lemon to drink, which is typically served with gin, tessera lemon liqueur, simple syrup, and “fresh lemon squeezes.” However, since I’m a total lightweight, I requested that the gin be left out. Our waiter, also the bartender, took it upon himself to modify the drink so that it was well-balanced, and he really delivered. The result was a splendid, mildy-carbonated, refreshing treat that actually went with my Mango Teardrop surprisingly well. If you have the chance, you should definitely swing by Lemongrass.

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Lemongrass Fusion Bistro on Urbanspoon

incredible edibles

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Mouton is one of my all-time favorite places in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an intimate space with fun artwork on the walls and a really fabulous staff. They specialize in “vintage cocktails” and serve up a fantastic assortment of European-style tapas (my favorites are the artichoke stems and the castelvetrano olives). They also have these delicious little individual-sized cheesecakes that come in little jars (pictured above), which are super-tasty!

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I always order the Chef’s Board (pictured above), which basically comes with a random assortment of cheeses, spreads, and veggies (they come with meat, but we order them without since I’m a vegetarian). I also always get a dish of olives and an order of Dan the Baker‘s bread (pictured below) because they’re just sooooo good.20120520-142344.jpg

On top of that, I usually don’t know what I want as far as drinks go. I’m quite a lightweight, so I can’t handle the cocktails that have 2 or 3 different kinds of liquor in them. Luckily for me, the awesome staff is always willing to humor my broad requests. Recently, I requested a cocktail with some sort of fruit juice, sparkling wine, and whatever else the bartender wanted to put in it, and the result was incredible (pictured below). I don’t know what to call it, but it was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had.

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Mouton on Urbanspoon

In Wonderland

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Madhatter is a remarkably fun little place in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle district. The Alice in Wonderland theme manifests itself in large full-color images from Lewis Carroll’s classic story and a giant top hat above one entrance (see picture at bottom). In keeping with this theme, our waitress brought us all a small cup of the house tea — a gingery concoction that was mildly sweetened and surprisingly delicious (penultimate picture).

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I technically ordered two appetizers: the edamame (immediately above — so delicious!) and the Hatter’s House Pizza (pictured at top). These two appetizers made for a very satisfying meal. The edamame was lightly salted and perfectly delicious, while the pizza was fresh and crispy.

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But I think the best thing about Madhatter was the atmosphere. It was interesting, eclectic, and really pleasant. In fact, as I was taking pictures of the cute dining area, one of the managers happened by and invited me to come upstairs to their private party space (he was showing a couple the space so they might use it for their engagement party) so I could take pictures from the little balcony that looks down into the dining area. All of the staff turned out to be really friendly and helpful, and it made for a really great dining experience.

Madhatter on Urbanspoon

Cantina Deliciosa

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While wandering around Chicago’s River North district, I ended up at the Cantina Laredo. I didn’t know at the time, but it’s actually a large national chain. Regardless, their food was delicious. We had them make their “top shelf guacamole” (pictured above) for us, and it was fresh and spicy — just what we wanted.

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I also ordered a mango margarita (above), which was delicious — not too sweet, not too strong — and the Enchiladas de Avocado (below). I never would have thought to put avocados and artichokes together in an enchilada, but it was incredible! Of course, nothing was as incredible as the dessert.

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For dessert, we ordered the churros, which came with strawberries and a delicious chocolate-y, caramel-y, Grand Marnier-y sauce. Oh. My. Goodness. These churros were … I don’t even have words. Crispy and fresh on the outside, warm and melty on the inside. Cinnamon and sugar dusting the outside and sticking to your fingertips. I wanted to lick the plate when they were all gone. Seriously.

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Cantina Laredo on Urbanspoon

Food on the Fly

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I don’t even know where to begin with San Francisco’s Fly Bar & Restaurant. I went to their Sutter location with a small group of friends, and it was a good experience. First off, the restaurant is really cute — they have some really interesting mirror and bottle cap wall-art, they have some great exposed brick walls, and their menu is really creative. We ordered the Hummus & Tapenade plate (pictured at bottom) to start, and our server was more than willing to bring us extra pita bread at no extra charge when we ran out. For my entree, I ordered the Southwestern Pizza (pictured above) which comes topped with black beans, corn, roasted red peppers, onions, pepperjack cheese, and cilantro. It was surprisingly light, even with all of those toppings, and the flavoring was really nice. Finally, for dessert I just couldn’t resist the homemake chocolate chip cookies (served warm) and glass of milk (pictured here). Overall, it was a delicious meal with friendly service and a nice atmosphere.

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Fly Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Laughing Seed Cafe

I ended up at the Laughing Seed Café somewhat haphazardly as I wandered around downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was one of the best mistakes I’ve ever had. The service was friendly and quick, and the ambiance was cozy and romantic.

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The beverage pictured above is their Freaky Tiki smoothie: a delightful concoction composed of strawberries, coconut milk, pineapple juice, mango, and lime. I downed it in no time, it was so good!

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For the main course, I had the Low Country Rollups — tofu BBQ wrapped in whole wheat tortillas and drizzled with house-made tahini-mustard sauce. On the side you can see the brown rice and “southern slaw” that come with this amazing dish. I couldn’t finish the entire thing, but I sure tried! It was sooooo good, and I’m glad I got to experience “Carolina barbecue” while I was in the area. When in Rome….

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To wrap things up, my husband and I split this dark cherry and chocolate chip cookie. It was a hearty cookie, and went perfectly with the Earl Grey tea I ordered. I can’t emphasize enough what an amazing dining experience the Laughing Seed was. At the end of a very long, tiring day, this little restaurant was a haven of warmth and great food. If you’re ever in Asheville, you have got to go to this place!
Laughing Seed Cafe on Urbanspoon

brie and kiwi delight

Photo by Anne Jansen

I’ve been to Spagio before, but I had to write about the Brie Pizza I tried the last time I was in. It’s a taste-explosion in your mouth: apple butter, brie cheese, pears, and candied walnuts make this one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had…and incredibly innovative at that! The flavors were rich and thick, but the pizza itself was nice and light.

Photo by Anne Jansen

Every time I go to Spagio, I order their lemonade-of-the-day — this time, it was Kiwi Lemonade. The playful flavors were exactly the refreshing treat I needed on a hot summer’s day, and it was an oddly suitable complement to the Brie Pizza. The original combination of ingredients and tastes in Spagio’s dishes is what makes me keep coming back for more. Awesome, as usual!

Spagio on Urbanspoon

hearty & healthy

Photo by Anne Jansen

The Northstar Cafe is one of my favorites, but I rarely make it there for breakfast. On this particular day, I not only had breakfast there, but also lunch. For breakfast, I started the day with their fantastic strawberry smoothie and a day-old oatmeal cookie. Both were fantastic, and together they were light yet filling. I’m addicted to this strawberry smoothie, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Photo by Anne Jansen

I also stuck around long enough to have lunch (Northstar is the kind of place where you can eat, study, and eat some more — they don’t mind lingerers). I chose one of my favorites from the menu: the Square Meal. It’s spicy and flavorful, and loaded with veggies of all kinds. It’s also incredibly filling (I was only able to eat about half). I love Northstar, despite the sticker shock; if you go with a partner, a single meal is the perfect price and proportion. The large crowds during busy hours are an indication of how worth-it the food is, even for lone eaters.

Northstar Cafe (Clintonville) on Urbanspoon

no place like home

Photo by Anne Jansen

Just around the corner of Canal Street and Magazine Street, there was a surprise waiting for me: the Ruby Slipper Cafe. It’s a cute little cafe tucked away in a quiet corner bordering the French Quarter. They had the BEST PANCAKES I’ve ever had — they were the daily special: Cookies ‘n’ Cream Pancakes. They took the cookie part of Oreos and crushed them up, baked them right into the pancake. Then they took the cream part of Oreos and melted them down, poured the syrup right on top of the pancakes. They were absolutely amazing. They were positively heavenly, and perhaps the most creative take on pancakes I’ve ever had the opportunity to eat. If you have the chance, head to the Ruby Slipper Cafe and try out their special pancake of the day.

While I was there, I also had an Abita root beer. Abita’s a local brewery, and the root beer was tasty. Sweet without being saccharine, nicely carbonated, and with a nice aftertaste. If you see this stuff in your local convenience store, pick up a bottle and try it out. It’s quite good, as far as root beer goes.

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

Finally, the interior of the cafe is also really cute, so here it is — for your viewing pleasure. It’s clean, airy, and nicely decorated with beautiful chalk menus and stories (like the story of how the cafe got its name — because when the owners returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, they felt that nobody said it better than Dorothy did: there’s no place like home).

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

The Ruby Slipper Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

mumbo gumbo

Photo by Anne Jansen

Oh yes, I went to the Gumbo Shop while I was in the French Quarter, and it was a great experience. Besides being super cute (see bottom picture), it was delicious! I ordered their black beans and rice (with a corn salsa), and it was simultaneously scrumptious and inexpensive! It was so affordable, in fact, that I ordered this drink:

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

That’s a virgin strawberry daiquiri, made with fresh Louisiana strawberries…and it was TASTY! Notice that drip making its way down the side of the glass. I licked it up after I took this picture. That’s how good this drink was! And it was the perfect refreshing beverage for the end of a long, hot, humid day filled with walking and snapping photos.

To top it all off, the Gumbo Shop has character, too! For proof, look at my next photograph. I’d suggest you give this place a try if you’re looking for some gumbo, some local flavor, and an affordable but yummy place to eat.

 

photo by Anne Jansen

Gumbo Shop on Urbanspoon

 

napoleon’s legacy

Photo by Anne Jansen

By far the best culinary experience I had in New Orleans, the Napoleon House is housed in a building that is nearly two-and-a-quarter centuries old. Their menu selection was varied, offering everything from New Orleans’ famous Po’ Boy sandwiches and Muffaletta to Cheese Plates (pictured above) and other light dishes, this was my favorite restaurant in the Paris of the South.

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

I liked it so much I even tried a sip of their house-recommended drink, the Pimms Cup — a refreshing treat of Pimms (a British gin-like liquor), lemonade, a splash of lemon-lime soda, and a cucumber garnish. In addition to being pretty, this drink was strangely refreshing — and this comes from a girl who doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. That says a lot.

But the best part about the Napoleon House is its character. As I mentioned earlier, this place is oozing character from every pore, and that truly made the experience. If you are in the French Quarter, you definitely need to stop by the Napoleon House, even if it’s just for a snack.

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

Napoleon House Bar & Café on Urbanspoon

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