¡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

Wicked good!

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Wicked Weed is a great place to end up on any day of the week. Sure, it’s a microbrewery…but it’s swankily decorated and has a creative menu that’s veg-friendly (sometimes hard to find in a brewery). Oddly enough, I usually end up here for dessert (hence the picture), and let me tell you, their dessert is no joke. It’s worth it all on its own! I’m not a beer drinker, but my husband is and this is one of his favorite microbreweries in town. Add to that equation their sunny downstairs patio out back and their generous fire pit out front, and you have a truly choice establishment here for pretty much anyone in your party.

Wicked Weed Brewing on Urbanspoon

Oh, honey!

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The first thing you should know about Tupelo Honey Cafe is that they will offer you a free biscuit when you arrive. Say yes. Oh man, say yes! Their food is delicious, but that big fluffy biscuit is like 75% of the reason I brave the lines and take out-of-town guests to Tupelo. It’s indescribable (and if you buy their first cookbook, the recipe for the biscuits is in there but you don’t get the secret to the herb & butter deliciousness they spread on it in the restaurant) and totally worth the wait.

But their food is no slouch — I tend to go for the Breakfast Bowl (pictured below), but on occasion I get their famous Sweet Potato Pancakes (pictured at end of post). To be honest, I only order one because it’s the size of a dinner plate and as thick as two ordinary pancakes combined. Still, it’s delicious. Everything here’s delicious. Nom nom nom. I mean, this is a great place for foodies looking to experience some Appalachian-inspired cooking.

*Note: I’ve categorized this restaurant as a “Local Chain” despite the fact that Tupelo is spreading to multiple states; given its roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I didn’t feel right lumping it together with the really big chains that have lost their region-specific flavor.

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Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

How do you take your eggs?

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Over Easy Cafe is one of those tiny little breakfast joints that’s so top-notch you wonder how they fit all their customers into such a limited space. Their food is locally-sourced, fresh, and well-prepared. I typically go for the Basic Breakfast (pictured above), and it may be “basic” but it’s definitely a cut above the rest. That’s their house “soysage” you see between my scrambled eggs and side of fruit, and yes, you can opt for a biscuit instead of toast (at no extra charge).

In addition to breakfast, Over Easy has an impressive selection of juices and smoothies (that’s the Waking Up juice pictured below) which they make right there when you order. Yup — freshly juiced fruits and veggies to round out your meal. I really, really love this place. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that they have excellent service!

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Over Easy Cafe 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

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

Snappy Snacks

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Snappy Sushi is a small, contemporary Japanese restaurant in the Back Bay area of Boston, Massachusetts. They have very prompt and helpful staff, and their food was fresh and tasty. I ducked inside during a thunderstorm, and ordered a couple of items from their a la carte menu. The one that jumped out at me immediately was the Veggie Futomaki Big Roll (the more colorful one in furthest from the camera in the photo above), which had cucumbers, peppers, avocado, and other assorted fresh delights in it. Of course, I’m a sucker for avocado, so I also ordered the Avocado Roll (in the foreground, above), which had a pleasantly (and unexpectedly) included sesame. I also ordered some tea, since it was so wet outside, and enjoyed sipping my post-snack tea while looking out the large picture window from my communal table. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in town!

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Snappy Sushi 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

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

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

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