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

Fruitcake!

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For Christmas day I give you a lovely little treat: genuine homemade fruitcake! A colleague’s grandmother in Texas made this, and it was really delicious. Oddly enough, I’ve never actually had fruitcake before and it wasn’t quite what I’d expected. It was quite good — reminded me a lot of a really tasty granola bar.

Camden Delight

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I ducked into the Camden Deli while visiting the beautiful seaside town of Camden, Maine. I was starving, so I got myself a little treat to begin with: a lemon cupcake with raspberry filling (above). It made a delicious appetizer, and was really cute as well. For my entree, I ordered sandwich #37: the Lazy Jack (below). This vegetarian sandwich is served on the bread of your choice, and comes with Monterey jack cheese, fresh avocado, black olives, tomatoes, and mixed greens. All of the ingredients were fresh, and the sandwich was very tasty.

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Of course, once I finished my entree, the friend I was with opted for some Maine blueberry pie (below). I helped her out by having a couple of bites, and I have to say that it was a very yummy pie. The blueberries were especially flavorful, and the pie itself was quite good.

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While I don’t eat meat, my Maine-blueberry-pie-eating friend (who is also a native Mainer) opted for the Lobster Roll. I thought that, since I was in Maine, I should probably mention the Lobster Roll at some point. I’ve included a photo of her Lobster Roll (below), which she told me was not bad, but was also nothing special. It certainly looked pretty, though!

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Finally, I have to point out the very best feature of the deli: the view! I’ve included a photo from the second floor patio, because it’s pretty much everything a visitor could wish for from a restaurant in Maine. Overlooking a quiet waterfall that feeds directly into the harbor, it was a lovely way to spend an hour as we enjoyed our sandwiches and sweets in the sunshine.

Camden Deli on Urbanspoon

Afternoons in Maine

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The afternoon I arrived in Portland, Maine, I stopped by a cute little cafe called Mornings in Paris. I just wanted a light snack and a refreshing beverage, so I picked a mini cupcake out of the case — a chocolate cupcake with strawberry frosting made from real, fresh strawberries (above). To complement the cupcake, I ordered a Green Tea Frappé (below), which was light and airy. The cafe itself was super cute, with bright table cloths on all the tables, tin ceiling tiles, and eclectic decorations. Even though I was only there for half an hour, this was a really great little place that I could see myself spending long hours in if I lived nearby.

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Mornings in Paris on Urbanspoon

A Moody Dessert

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On the way home from a long day on the town, I swung by Moody’s Falafel Palace in the Central Square area of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was just looking for a little bit of sweetness, and I found it here with a piece of baklava and some lady fingers. The prices were super cheap, and the treats were good. While there’s no place to sit inside Moody’s, it’s a cozy little place nonetheless and the food was nice.

Moody's Falafel Palace 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

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

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

Green Food

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I found the vegan restaurant Cafe Green (Dupont Circle area) on the internet, and I’m so glad I did. I went in alone on my first night in town (it was a short 5-minute walk from my hotel). What a great decision! The staff wasn’t just friendly, they were downright conversational and fun. I ordered the Mac & Cheese Platter (pictured above). The noodles were made of quinoa, and the vegan cheese sauce was creamy and delicious. It was served up with the corn bread, steamed kale (doused in lemon juice, which was incredible), and candied yams. It was really, really good. You really have to go here if you’re in town! It was so good I grabbed a mint chocolate cupcake (pictured below) to take back to my hotel room. This was by far the best dining experience I had in Washington, DC. I’ll be back next time I’m in town!

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Cafe Green 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

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