¡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

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

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

Marvelous Maribelle’s

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While in Cincinnati I ended up at a trendy restaurant called Maribelle’s Tavern. The service was speedy and good, with friendly and happy staff. And the food was delicious. I ordered the Black Bean Burger (which is just what it sounds like), and it was really tasty. I mean really tasty. I’ll remember this burger for a while. For the included side, I ordered the Roasted Sweet Potatoes which are served up with whipped goat cheese and candied pecans. For dessert I grabbed a slice of carrot cake (to go), and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was moist and flavorful. I can’t explain in words how delicious this meal was, but if you have the opportunity to find out for yourself you should swing by Maribelle’s and do so.

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Maribelle’s in Cincinnati
-Roasted sweet potatoes with whipped goat cheese and candied pecans
-Black bean burger

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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Slate's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Savory, Indeed!

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One drizzly Wednesday morning, I ended up in an eclectic little restaurant called Savory Maine, located in the village of Damariscotta, Maine. Savory Maine is housed in an old church, and they’ve made it a wonderful space. It’s full of character: one table is housed up where the altar would have been located, and the tables in the main body of the room incorporate old pews into the seating against the walls. The walls are covered with local artwork, and the food reflects this interest in the local. One feature of Savory Maine’s food is that 90% of the ingredients come from Maine, and 99% of the ingredients are organic. The result? The food is wonderful. I ordered the breakfast sampler (and the waitstaff was more than willing to substitute strawberry rhubarb for bacon to accommodate my vegetarian needs), which was delicious. It was a simple assortment of foods — a pancake, an egg, and home fries — but was very nicely done. I’ve had my fair share of mediocre breakfasts, and this was definitely not one of them. I also ordered a nice hot cuppa tea, which was delightfully presented: the tea selection came in a cute wooden basket, the cream came in a ceramic cow, and the hot water came in its own ceramic tea pot. Savory Maine is a lovely place, and the food is truly exceptional. If you’re in the area, you should definitely make time for a visit to this great little restaurant!

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Savory Maine, Dining & Provisions on Urbanspoon

A (Yummy) Elephant in the Room

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I went to Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro in Portland, Maine, and it was such a treat! First off, the decor was really lovely — contemporary chic meets classy & cozy. I was with friends, so we ordered several dishes and sampled off of one another’s plates. I started with the Fresh Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce (above), which were extremely light; they were mostly lettuce, with carrots, avocado, rice vermicelli, and mint wrapped in rice paper and served…and they were great for a warm summer day.

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I also tried the Hot & Spicy Soy Sticks (above), which were made of soy chicken on bamboo skewers and were covered in a spicy garlic-chili-cilantro sauce. I also sampled a friend’s salad (below), which was a seasonal special topped with fried fiddleheads! I’d never had a fiddlehead before, let alone heard of one, and they were really scrumptious!

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Finally, to finish everything, I had a cup of tea. Green Elephant serves teas by a local company called Homegrown Herb & Tea, and I had one of their hibiscus fruit teas that was absolutely delicious. It was a nice, light way to round off a fresh dinner.

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Green Elephant on Urbanspoon

Best. Galaxy. Ever.

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The Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It’s an entirely-vegetarian restaurant, but not even the most avid meat-eaters would be able to find fault with it. The food is incredible. The staff is friendly and fun, and really quirky. The diner is super-cute inside. And have I mentioned the food? The food is to die for. I wish I lived in Cambridge just so I could eat at the VG every day. The first time I went (because, yes, even though I was just visiting I ended up making return visits to the VG) I ordered the Cambridge Street Omelette (above). Oh my goodness, was it delicious! The omelette is stuffed with chipotle black beans, roasted red pepper puree, Vermont jack cheese, and sweet corn…and the whole thing is topped with a homemade shallot and apple salsa. It was so good I almost want to fly back to Boston and stop by right now.

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Of course, I also ordered their hot tea, because that’s what I do with breakfast. I had several options to choose from, and was also offered not just cream, but regular milk and soy milk as well. It’s wonderful to have options! And speaking of options, have I mentioned the dessert case yet? The vegan dessert case? I took a picture of it (below) because it was so amazing.

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I ended up walking away with a slice of the Coconut Citrus Layer Cake (front and center in the picture below), and a friend of mine walked away with a slice of the cheesecake (that beautiful concoction that’s topped with strawberries and blueberries in the picture below). I have never had vegan cheesecake, but this one was every bit as delicious as any non-vegan cheesecake I’ve ever had. I don’t know how they did it, but boy oh boy did they ever do it! Both desserts were incredible.

So you can imagine why I went back for more. I returned another day and ordered the Stuffed French Toast for breakfast (below). *Best. Decision. Ever.* What’s it stuffed with? Vanilla Nut Vegan Cream Cheese, that’s what! And it’s topped with Caramelized Banana Butter, Strawberry Basil Sauce (an unexpected but absolutely delicious choice), and Maple Syrup. It was so good! As I mentioned earlier, the Veggie Galaxy is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the world. It’s at least in the top 5, but might be right up there at #1. You definitely have to give it a try if you’re ever in the area. You won’t be disappointed!

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Veggie Galaxy on Urbanspoon

A Kashmir Surprise

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I didn’t intend to dine at Kashmir, but when the restaurant we were looking for in Boston’s Back Bay area turned out to have gone out of business, this is where I ended up…and I’m glad I did! The attentive and unobtrusive waitstaff brought us a plate of bite-sized appetizers (above), which turned out to be crispy and delicious. (They were also free.) There were so many vegetarian options on the menu that I had a hard time choosing, but ultimately I went with the Shahi Paneer Korma (below). I always have been a sucker for cheese, and paneer is no different. This paneer is sautéed with ginger, garlic, onions, and tomatoes, and is cooked in a creamy tomato sauce. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

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Of course, I also saw that they had fresh watermelon juice on the menu, and I just couldn’t say “no” to that so I went ahead and ordered a glass (below). It was every bit as tasty and refreshing as I thought it would be. Kashmir was an exceptional dining experience, and I will definitely be going back next time I’m in Boston.

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Kashmir on Urbanspoon

Dado Tea + Coffee

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Dado Tea + Coffee was the first place I ate in the Boston area. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Dado on Church Street was a cute little establishment with lots of fresh air and sunlight pouring in the large windows and open doors. The friendly and down-to-earth staff made ordering fun, and set the mood for the entire meal. I was delighted by the fresh and original menu options, and once I saw the Monkey Wrap (above) I knew I had to get it. The fresh apples and bananas in this whole wheat wrap were held together by peanut butter, and while I’ve made several of these on my own since visiting Dado, the ones at Dado somehow tasted better. I also couldn’t resist getting myself a little treat when I saw a giant glass jar of Sabbiosini cookies (below) by the register. It was a simple and quick dining experience, but one of my favorites nonetheless.

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Dado Tea on Urbanspoon

Have a Ball-o

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On my last night at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, I went to Ballo Italian Restaurant for a nice meal. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, and very romantic. The waitstaff was friendly and fun, which also added to the overall experience. I ordered the Artichoke Pizza (above) for my main course, and was surprised to find that they had used fresh artichoke hearts (as opposed to the standard jarred fare you usually find on pizzas). This was an interesting and unexpected twist, and I quite enjoyed it.

Of course, what meal would be complete without dessert? So I decided to try the cannoli (above), which were chocolate and pistachio flavored. They were not only beautiful, but also really scrumptious. And they were my first-ever cannoli experience. I enjoyed them with a cup of tea (below), which I’ve included in this post mostly because of the cute tea cup and saucer it came in. Overall, a great food choice!

Ballo Restaurant and Social Club on Urbanspoon

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

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