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Dining out in Quito

Thanks Bunny, we are planning some time in Quito next month and this is welcome information!

May 16, 2014
caffey in Latin America & Caribbean

Nicaragua visit

Hi Veggo, thanks for your reply. No one forced us to eat anywhere, so I have no one to blame but myself. What do you mean, that part of the lake? Ometepe is agrarian. I was told that the famous Finca Magdalena is probably the only worker owned farm that has been successful (one of many land distributions that occurred after the revolution). Ometepe is worth a visit to explore the sustainable agriculture initiatives occurring there.

Jan 05, 2014
caffey in Latin America & Caribbean

Nicaragua visit

Hi Chowhounders,
I was recently in Granada and Ometepe, but when I consulted this board looking for culinary advice, there didn't seem to be any recent threads. So I thought I would pass along what we discovered or wish we had known.

Granada
By far the best dining experience was at Espressonista Coffee Bar. The co-owner Andreas, a native Nicaraguan who speaks several languages knows how to make every guest feel welcome and comfortable, and his partner runs the kitchen. The menu, especially at night, is extremely limited. We had an absolutely lovely beef cheeks mole, a leek vinagrette, and a delicious roasted vegetable salad. They source local ingredients and look for the 'terroir' of Nicaragua. The desserts are a standout- we tasted a chocolate fondant cake which was crumbly, nutty, and decidedly unsweet- just the way we like it- and a refreshing yoghurt and berry kind of cheesecake. Ambience here felt very international, almost European.

We also enjoyed El Marlin. Seafood that was beautifully plated. We tried a ceviche which was a colorful layer cake, and baby lobster tails. The lobster dish looked stunning, but the lobster was a bit over cooked. This is another restaurant where the host is warm and welcoming, and goes out of his way to please his guests.

In the central district, we dined one night at Bistro Estrada. This is a more tourist-oriented place- the patio was also a reception area for a hotel. We tried their three course menu which was OK. One of our party instead ordered individual courses which were more interesting. The Nicaraguan specialty of assorted meats and sauces and fried plantains and squeaky cheese could have fed three people.

A big regret was eating at Ciudad Lounge. It is far and away the most expensive restaurant in Granada, and we were expecting something innovative or 'wow'. Instead, we had a really ho-hum meal that was three times more expensive than that at El Marlin. The best dish we had was an appetizer- a plate of some excellent homemade bread (a yeasted bread with I believe pumpkin and maybe yucca), sliced, along with spicy green olives and a couple of fingers of hard cheese. The other dishes were not so pleasing. Mahi mahi on top of carrots on top of a rum/coconut/pineapple sauce (yes it tasted like pina colada), with a GIANT mound of mashed potatoes and three browned yuccas stuck in them. Oh, and off to the side of the plate two baby courgettes, lightly steamed and kind of watery when you bit into them. It was not an integrated dish. Other plates were similarly disappointing. Nothing was awful, but nothing was great. We were surprised that one dish featured beef from Omaha. We didn't order that one. Shrimp dish was tasty, but served on top of penne pasta from a package (for $24 US?). Although the atmosphere/decoration of the restaurant was stunning, the hostess was very cool and formal, lots of missteps in service such as incorrect utensils, no filtered water was ever offered, and the bill was expensive even by American standards ($60 per person, starter and main course, with house wine but without dessert). What a waste of a meal. I wished we had just had a drink and that bread-based appetizer, then left.

On a brighter note, we had an excellent drink and plate of Ropa Vieja at Nektar, a sidewalk cafe on the main restaurant drag east of the square. Also terrific pizza at Mona Lisa, further east on the same street.

Unfortunately, we did not get out to the cemetery, where I understand there is a terrific traditional Nicaraguan restaurant for lunch. Has anyone tried it?

On the island of Ometepe, I can heartily recommend Cafe Campestre- an ex pat hang out with a great selection of dishes. Try their curries, and don't miss the banana cake with chocolate ice cream. The cake is out of this world.
On the same street in Balgue, we had the very best traditional Nicaraguan food (with a bit of a twist in the sauces) at Chiquitos. Chicken with onions tossed in a crema sauce, a really interesting salsa, rice, beans, and the best fried plantains- it was delicious. Be prepared to speak Spanish- no English spoken here.

Hope someone finds this helpful, and would welcome any feedback.

Jan 05, 2014
caffey in Latin America & Caribbean

Trip report, and thank you note

Yes, the hazelnuts are heavenly. We took home a few packages as gifts and for ourselves!

Jul 08, 2013
caffey in Italy

Trip report, and thank you note

Yes, thank you allende for the recommendation. We did try both the culatello and the prosciutto as part of a tasting appetizer at dinner. It was our first taste of lardo- delicious. The prosciutto was notable to me because it literally melted in your mouth. Ivan was nice enough to slice some more for us in the morning at breakfast.

Jul 07, 2013
caffey in Italy

Trip report, and thank you note

Hi All,
We just returned from a lovely week in Piemonte (and a less lovely week in Chianti). Thanks to the recommendations on this Board, we found some terrific places to eat and rest.

For example, due to the the advice we received here, we went out of our way to stop overnight at Hosteria Da Ivan on our way to Piemonte. Our meal there was probably the best we had in Italy (better than the michelin starred restaurant in Chianti!). The Zabaglione and Ivan's prosciutto are outstanding! But really what makes this hosteria special are Ivan and Barbara- they are so welcoming and kind. What hospitality! After one night we felt as though we left as friends.

In Piemonte, we stayed at the Agriturismo La Toricella (thanks I believe are due to CH'er 'Parmasam'). They are a working winery, and also produce hazelnuts and honey. Stunning setting atop a hill, and a restaurant that serves great home cooked meals. We ate dinner there twice because we enjoyed it so much. My husband said it was the best gnocchi that he ever had. The wine list was small but had good choices that were well priced. Desserts were also lovely- a stand out was a hazelnut cake with a side of gelato.

Della Posta is just down the road, so of course we ate there. Their pasta is 'to die for.' Wine list is great, but we were not that happy with the Barbaresco that I chose with the server's assistance. Oh well, live, taste, and learn. Everything else about the meal was lovely, and service is very, very good.

Also tried Da Felicin in the town of Monforte d'Alba. We were not all that impressed with the food. My cold tomato soup appetizer was full of seeds. The rabbit cooked in wine was good, but anything cooked in wine and onions for many hours would taste good. For such a fussy restaurant, it was a disappointment. We felt as if we could have prepared and presented the dishes ourselves much better (and we are not professional chefs). It appears that they get by on their cellar.

That's all I remember at this jet-lagged moment. Thanks again to everyone who posted their recommendations. It helped enormously in planning our trip.

Jul 06, 2013
caffey in Italy

Il Capriccio Review

Hi Everyone,

Thanks to this board, we were in Waltham last night looking for a nice place to eat. We managed to score a reservation at Il Capriccio for a Monday night (very busy- good sign). We had a lovely dinner. The staff are well trained, especially our waitress who was very well informed. But best of all, the food was perfect. We had the mussels, the sweetbread ravioli with mushroom sause, duck cooked two ways with french lentils, and the beet chevre salad. Everything was perfect. I also liked that the wine by the glass selection was small and welll curated. A definite revisit should I ever be back in Waltham. Thanks for the great recommendation Chowhounders.

Caffey

Feb 19, 2013
caffey in Greater Boston Area

"This" & "that"

Yes, I forgot those, Thank you! And if I missed your thread, I apologize. I meant to post this comment a few months ago as well- perhaps we were thinking of it at the same time. Regardless, if the food is good, I'll eat there, but these ampersand names are starting to get 'corporate'. I think the trend is over, or at least for new restaurants I would want to try.

Feb 19, 2013
caffey in Greater Seattle

"This" & "that"

Why are so many of the newish restaurants named "This" & "that". For example, Walrus & Carpenter, Sitka & Spruce, Hook & Plow, Anchovies & Olives. Did I miss any?

Feb 18, 2013
caffey in Greater Seattle

Best Bread in Seattle?

JayDK, you took the words (bread?) right out of my mouth. While I was in the Bay Area, I was willing to live on that walnut levain from Acme instead of any other food, but when you move on, you need to move on.
Seattlecubsfan, you will not find the same bread here, but you will find something as good in a different way, I promise, if you keep tasting. My new fave is Seedy Sour from Pane d'Amore, based out of Port Townsend. They ship to some of the supermarkets in the area. They make a walnut (on Saturdays only I think) that you can try but it is different. As it should be.

@cburns, I also loved the cheeseboard. Dare I say it on this thread, but I preferred their baguettes to Acme. Went so well with their cheese!

Dec 12, 2012
caffey in Greater Seattle

Gorges du Tarn- Chateau de la Caze

My sincere apologies for the delay, but I did want to report back on our meal at the castle.

First, we sat out on the veranda and perused the menu. Each table seemed to have their own young intern taking care of them. Finally, we were asked for our apertif order, and eventually a somewhat sorry plate of olives, nuts, and a smoked fish on toast. We tasted. We lowered our expectations.

After a while, we were invited into the dining room and shown to our table. It was a wonderful table. My DH ordered a nice bottle of wine, and the dinner began. I don't remember all the details, but the dinner was one of the best we had in a long time. It was as if there were two chefs in the kitchen, because the chef who sent out those apertifs could not have been the same person who prepared our dinner. First, an amuse bouche, a terrine of three provencal flavors striped like a flag. It sang of the flavors underneath. The starter was an incredible construction of a mushroom ravioli made with tender pasta, topped by a perfect scallop sandwiching a slice of black truffle, and surrounded by a mushroom cream. It was poetry. I don't remember the main course, except it was wonderful, and the desert was delicious and seasonal (dark cherries). But I did envy my daughter's dessert, which was a chocolate lovers dream. It looked and tasted beautiful. Since we were staying at the Chateau, they didn't bother us with the check until the next morning.

I don't know why I read criticisms of the service. Once we were led to our table, the service and pacing of the meal was impeccable. It looked as though they were training some young people using the appertifs, but they were not going to take any chances on the meal. All in all, a lovely experience. But if you are going to go out of your way to get there, use a sports car, the road is windy and can be fun with the right suspension.

Oct 23, 2011
caffey in France

ferme-auberge in provence

Hi Eva,
We don't go until June. Will definitely post on anything great that we find.
Best,
Caffey

May 20, 2011
caffey in France

Gorges du Tarn- Chateau de la Caze

Thanks bill1jan for the suggestion, we are looking forward to staying there.

Apr 02, 2011
caffey in France

First Immersion Blender. What to do?

An immersion blender is great to use for stinging nettle soup- gives it just the right texture. And they are in season right now!

Mar 28, 2011
caffey in Home Cooking

Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island

For fresh NW/European-inspired food, Hitchcock is the best restaurant on Bainbridge. We've eaten there at least a dozen times, probably more, now. Chef just has an excellent palate, a sense of adventure, and the energy to butcher/cure/smoke everything from scratch. He watches every plate that leaves the kitchen, and checks in with every table. Once we did the "name your price" option, and we almost died (it was that great).

The only meals that didn't blow me away were on two nights that the chef/owner Brandon wasn't there (I think they were both on a Thursday, but don't rely on me). They were OK, but missed his eagle eye. Service has gotten much better since last summer.

Hitchcock is in a different league from Madoka- much, much, much better than Madoka ever was. But Madoka is gone, so I won't "speak ill of the dead."

I didn't find Hitchcock too noisy, but the Four Swallows is a certainly quieter and another good choice. Their menu doesn't change much, and it is not as adventurous, but it is reliable and good.

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Four Swallows
481 Madison Ave N, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Madoka
241 Winslow Way West, Bainbridge, WA 98110

Mar 28, 2011
caffey in Greater Seattle

Gorges du Tarn- Chateau de la Caze

Hi Chowhounds,
We are stopping there this summer for a short visit. Has anyone ever eaten there? There seem to be mixed reviews of the cuisine, although the castle is gorgeous.
best,
Caffey

Mar 28, 2011
caffey in France

ferme-auberge in provence

Thanks Parigi and boredough for the recommendations. We will definitely try at least one of these three, if not all.

Feb 27, 2011
caffey in France

ferme-auberge in provence

Dear Fellow Chowhounds,
Early this summer, we are spending 6 days in Provence, 3 in Vaucluse area, then 3 in the Grand Luberon. I have a list of great cafes and restaurants to try, but am looking for a farm restaurant to have a casual and unique experience (avec vin!). I already know about Auberge de la Loube near Buoux, but I am hoping someone on this board can tell me about other great casual farm experience that hasn't made it into Rick Steves/Lonely Planet, etc.
All the best,
caffey

Feb 25, 2011
caffey in France

Hungarian wedding soup

Oct 10, 2010
caffey in Recipes

Seattle restaurant recommendations needed!

Restaurant Zoe in Belltown. Very northwest. Great service.

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Restaurant Zoe
2137 Second Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121

Jun 23, 2010
caffey in Greater Seattle

What are Seattle's best ?

Don't forget Restaurant Zoe, on Second Ave in Belltown. I find it hard to drag DH out anywhere else, he loves it so. Excellent and consistent, very knowledgeable and gracious staff. I highly recommend it- if you have only three nights, it should be on your list.
As a previous poster mentioned, the chef/owner of Cascadia, Kerry Sears, is now in charge of Art in the Four Seasons. Haven't tried it yet, but from the menu it seems a bit more restrained (corporate?) than when he owned his own place. But we plan to go there the next time we have kids to impress, his Space Needle Sundae is legendary.

Feb 24, 2010
caffey in Greater Seattle

Poulsbo

Not too far from Poulsbo is Silver City Brewery in Silverdale. Fantastic beer brewed on site (mmmm, Whoop Pass IPA), and some of their food is great-- I recommend the Big Daddy Burger and the ribs. It is family friendly with a kids menu that even has some healthy food that isn't fried (my dd loves the grilled salmon and coleslaw).

Feb 24, 2010
caffey in Greater Seattle

Coconut Cream Pie

Full disclosure- I don't like coconut pie. But I could live on Tom Douglas' triple coconut pie. The recipe is in his cookbook (I can't remember which one), but I tend to just go and buy one when the urge hits. It is not too sweet, and uses top ingredients.

Feb 24, 2010
caffey in Home Cooking