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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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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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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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!

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Tuscan Treat

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I recently found myself at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, and to my delight there were some wonderful dining options there. The first one I tried was Todd English’s Tuscany, a romantic little place behind a waterfall near the heart of the casino. The service was friendly and fast.

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I ordered the Caesar Salad (immediately above) to start, and then split the 4 Cheese Ravioli (below) with a friend. Both were delicious, and then I was free to try dessert. As usual, dessert was my favorite part of the meal. I had the Dessert Ravioli (pictured at top), which consisted of two kinds of raviolis: banana-filled (those would be the lighter ones in the photo) and chocolate-filled (darker). It also came drizzled in caramel, with a side of caramel ice cream to boot.

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Todd English's Tuscany 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

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

Tabard Inn Restaurant

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We The Restaurant at Hotel Tabard Inn is a lovely old joint. It’s full of nooks and crannies, and the bar staff is incredibly sociable and nice. While I was a guest at the hotel itself, I made a habit of swinging by the bar in the evenings on my way up to my room and grabbing a hot cup o’ tea to take with me. They serve Harney & Sons tea, and always gave me my tea with a side of cream, sugar, and lemon. I also ate at The Restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. Oh man, this was the best complimentary breakfast I’ve ever had. The scones were literally fresh out of the oven (I was there really, really early), so they were all warm on the inside, and steamed when I broke them open. They were some of the best scones I’ve ever had. So yummy! On my last day in town, I also spent a few hours in the lounge portion of the restaurant — a cozy room with dark wood walls, an eclectic assortment of old stylish old furniture, and a cozy candlelit vibe.

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Tabard Inn on Urbanspoon

Creative & Fresh

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Floriana is located in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC. It’s a lovely little establishment with a creative menu, friendly staff, and good food. The restaurant itself is in a converted house, so each room is very intimate. We were in what I presume was once a living room space, with a fireplace, a large bay window, and deep red walls.

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The complimentary bread (pictured at top) is served with a mild and refreshing minty spread. The drinks (pictured above; they made me my favorite non-alcoholic drink: a ginger ale with cranberry and lime juices) were yummy, and the food was even better. I ordered the Gnocci al Pesto (pictured below), which is relatively self-explanatory — although the pesto is a Walnut Pesto that gave the dish a nice nutty flavor. While my picture doesn’t do the dish justice (the lighting was very low and romantic at that point), I will say that it was a very tasty and satisfying meal.

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Floriana on Urbanspoon

Rainy Day Fare

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I had never heard of Le Pain Quotidien prior to the day I ended up on their doorstep during a rainstorm. I was wandering around Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, when this happy bit of inclement weather occurred. Luckily, Le Pain Quotidien’s Dupont Circle location was nearby, and what a great place it ended up being for me to dry myself off and have a delicious lunch. The waitstaff was friendly and efficient, and the food was really tasty. I started with the Organic Black Bean Hummus Tartine (pictured below) — one of their signature open-faced sandwiches. In this case, it was served with avocados, roasted red peppers, radishes, black bean hummus spread, and spicy tahini (which I opted not to use). I did use the lemon wedge to spritz some extra tartness onto the tartine, and it was a yummy choice.

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After my main course, I ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea (below), which came in the cutest little tea pot and bowl-like cup ever. To complement my tea, I ordered a tart sampler (pictured at top) consisting of a chocolate tart, blueberry tart, pistacio tart, and (my personal favorite) a lemon tart. It was a delicious experience, and even though I’m not usually a fan of large chains (and Le Pain Quotidien is a huge worldwide chain!) this one is vegan-friendly, healthy, and fun. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re caught in the rain while wandering around Dupont Circle!

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Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

Hot Chocolate!!

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I think my favorite restaurant in Chicago is Hot Chocolate. It’s this great little place in Bucktown where they serve the best damn cup of hot chocolate I have EVER had. I started with the Medium hot chocolate, which their menu describes as “milk chocolate with a touch of dark chocolate and a hint of caramel.” It tasted like heaven. Pure heaven. Warm, with a home-made marshmallow on the side.

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I also got the Napolean au Chocolate & Pear (above), which I can only describe as the best invention in the history of food. The menu describes it as “bittersweet chocolate sabayon mousse, port wine pear sorbet, almond feuillantine, 2hr dehydrated port wine poached pears, local honey cream”…also known as delicious. When we finished the dessert, we weren’t ready to leave so we got the Assortment of Artisan Cheeses. Our wonderful waiter selected the cheeses for us at our request (all we told him was that we had a preference for hard cheeses and mild but interesting flavors) and he totally delivered! In addition to the cheeses, there was a smear of fresh apple butter, a selection of breads, and some fresh fruits and veggies. This was the best, most delightful surprise. I wish I could go to Hot Chocolate every single day! (I’m not kidding….)

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Hot Chocolate on Urbanspoon

A Rosebud by Any Other Name…

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…would taste as sweet! And oooooh how sweet it tastes. While wandering around Chicago’s River North district, I stumbled upon the Rosebud Trattoria. I ordered the Antipasti Misto (above), which was very tasty. The olives and cheeses were flavorful and delicious, and the Margherita Pizza (below) was that perfect balance between crispy and soft. Perhaps most surprising was the friendly and fast service, and the romantic atmosphere (from the outside, the place didn’t look like all that much). It was a really good meal, and a nice dining experience.

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