The Big Easy

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The Big Easy in Raleigh, North Carolina, was a pleasant little place that I stumbled upon shortly after checking into my hotel just down the street. The atmosphere was really low-key, and the facility was nicely adorned with New Orleanian decor. This 3 Cheese and Spinach Ravioli, doused in gorgonzola cream sauce, was rich tasting while managing (somehow) to be light. It was the perfect lunch for a day of exploring the city.

Big Easy 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

going up…

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I had to start with a photograph of the interior of the Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus because it’s so beautiful inside. The building is a historical landmark, built in the late 1800s as a billiards hall and maintained to near-pristine detail in the decades since. That being said, I have to comment on the food, because it was gooooood. So I’ll start with the free bread:

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This homemade multi-grain bread was hearty and light. It’s served with an herb butter that makes for a nice topping, adding scrumptious flavor to the simple “dish.” And the appetizer…

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…ARANCINI! Oh how I love these delicious dumplings (if that’s the right word). They were made perfectly (warm and moist on the inside, crispy and breaded on the outside. They were lying in a pool of rich cream sauce, with a small dish of house-made marinara to accompany them.

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For dinner I had a relatively simple salad. This is where the restaurant’s shortcomings come into play: their menu was relatively limited when it came to vegetarian options. Of course, I say that while knowing full well that there was supposed to be a dessert order at the end of this meal, but I was far too full to even consider placing such an order. So with the robust serving of bread, the perfect appetizer, and this light salad with pine nuts (one of my faces!) and a mustard vinaigrette (really tasty, and I don’t even like mustard!) I’d say vegetarian options or no, Elevator is a great place to go on a date!

Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus on Urbanspoon

best sandwich EVER!

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The Brown Bag Deli is probably my favorite find in all of Columbus! This great little sandwich joint has redeemed an otherwise lackluster and disappointing deli scene in this city. They have tons of options for toppings, a wide variety of interesting breads (pictured here: cheese roll), and a host of side dishes and desserts available in their front case. I can sum it up in one simple word: TASTY!

Brown Bag Deli on Urbanspoon

diasporic fusion

Photo by Anne Jansen

There’s a little restaurant near the Ohio State University campus called Diaspora. This small place is unexpectedly contemporary inside, and the food is delightfully fresh. There are plenty of options for vegetarians, including the Vegetarian Roll which is made according to your personal choice of fillers. I ordered this roll with avocado and tofu, and it was a perfect blend of sweet and savory. The best surprise? All this fresh, made-to-order food costs so little — in this case, about $5!
Diaspora on Urbanspoon

fun lunch

Photo by Anne Jansen

There’s no place quite like the Surly Girl when it comes to a unique dining experience. The décor is a wonderful blend of cowgirl and skeleton, but it’s the food that ultimately makes me love the Surly Girl. During my most recent visit to the saloon, I tried their super-yummy japapeño poppers…or at least, a new twist on an old fried favorite. These “poppers” (pictured above) are jalapeños cut in half and stuffed with a blend of cheeses that made my mouth water just looking at them. And eating them…YUM! Of course, I also had one of my favorites: the Surly Girl Pizza (pictured below). With its dried cranberries and walnuts and the balsamic vinaigrette drizzled on top, it’s an original and delicious twist on pizza. Seriously, if you haven’t gone to the Surly Girl, it’s worth the trip.

Photo by Anne Jansen

nice ice

photo by Anne Jansen

If you’ve ever been to Columbus, Ohio, you have probably heard of Jeni’s Ice Cream — an amazing local ice cream chain that serves up some of the most inventive and tasty flavors ever. Take the ice cream in the picture above: the top flavor is (obviously) chocolate — Jeni’s signature Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate; the flavor on the bottom is Jeni’s seasonal Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries. The official description of that flavor, taken directly from their website, says that “Buttery, milky sweet corn gives way flawlessly to sweet-tart black raspberry jam. Breath of honey on the finish.” Mmm mmm mmm! And it’s tasty, too! Add to that the company’s policy of using local and organic ingredients, and you’ll understand why this ice creamery is one of the most popular places in Columbus.

surly feast

photo by Anne Jansen

The Surly Girl Saloon is a little hole in the wall restaurant and bar, and it’s one of my favorites because of its unique and creative menu. This time, I had the southwestern shells & cheese. It has tomatoes and peppers and corn and black beans in it, and multiple kinds of cheese. It’s one of my favorite comfort food dishes in all of Columbus.

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