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Reservations - timing

Thanks, all. Last week I started emailing places we are interested in regarding holiday schedules. Glad to know we can book a few days out. As folks have mentioned, not ideal to be *too* scheduled so we'll have some plans A and B and go from there. Will report back!

Dec 14, 2013
spicygal in Italy

Reservations - timing

Visiting Parma, Bologna, Orvieto and Rome from Dec 27-Jan 7. We plan to dine primarily at the types of less touristy establishments recommended by posters on this board, as well as our Slow Food Guide and Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (thanks to this board for sending me to this great resource, I love this book). Can anyone give a general guideline as to how far in advance we would need to make reservations - if at all - for lunches or dinners? Again just looking for general advice here. Thanks.

Dec 13, 2013
spicygal in Italy

Parma / Bologna - Cooking Class & Bologna New Years Eve

My husband and I will be in Parma on December 27th and 28th and in Bologna from December 29-January 1. Two rather specific questions:

1. Can anyone recommend a PASTA MAKING class in Parma or Bologna that we could take during this time? We are not looking for one of the general-type cooking classes as we are fairly experienced home cooks.

2. Having never traveled abroad at this time of year, what can we expect on New Years Eve in terms of dining options in Bologna? Any specific restaurant recommendations for this situation? We are definitely not looking for a "special event" type new years eve dinner like what is often on offer in American restaurants (and which we avoid like the plague).

Thanks.

Dec 04, 2013
spicygal in Italy

One night in Seattle & one near Redmond

Wanted to thank everyone for the suggestions and thought I'd give a recap of the trip.

We were staying in Redmond with family. Our first night we went to Anthony's HomePort in Kirkland for late night happy hour bites. Food was solid, nothing to write home about necessarily, but after a flight and just wanting something casual and inexpensive, it hit the spot.

The next day we did lunch at Monsoon in Capitol Hill - very good - all of the dishes were spot on. That night we ended up at Spinasse. Even though I'd been before, so glad to revisit. It was wonderful. Food, ambience, everything. We shared the appetizer sampler, I had the small size pasta with ragu, my husband had 2 small size pastas (one was the night's special - a stuffed bowtie shaped pasta w/braised goat filling and the other a ravioli), and brother had the rabbit main with a side of the pasta with butter/sage.

Saturday we had a late breakfast at The 5 Point Cafe in Belltown. It wasn't planned, we just walked by it, saw it had a good crowd and thought it would be a good place to stop. Service was not great but my husband's breakfast was quite good - some sort of Mexican omelette - HUGE portion. That night we dined at Staple and Fancy in Ballard. We did not opt for the family style tasting menu, though I've heard that's the way to go.

Finally as to Redmond, we stopped in to Redmond Bar & Grill for a quick lunch during the Seahawks game. Good bar food and the service was actually somewhat remarkable given how packed they were for the game.

Sep 30, 2013
spicygal in Greater Seattle

NYC style Chinese food in Los Angeles

Second the recommend for Fu's Palace. I grew up in the NJ/NY area but have been in LA half my life - this is the only place so far where I've found Chinese food that tastes like "home". Friendly servers, good service, good food.

Sep 30, 2013
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

One night in Seattle & one near Redmond

Looking for dinner recommendations - will be in Seattle one night and in the Redmond area the other, in a few weeks.

On prior visits to Seattle, I've dined at Spinasse and Quinn's - really loved them both but want to try something new. Any recommendations for a place with a similar "feel" in terms of ambience and style of food would be great.

Know very little about Redmond although based on searching the board, it is looking like we may need to venture to Kirkland or Bellevue to find better food?

Sep 09, 2013
spicygal in Greater Seattle

The wonderful "Le Saint Amour" in Culver City reportedly (hopefully just temporarily!) closed

Completely agree that Saint Amour's departure leaves a hole in the Culver City dining scene. Really liked the food and the vibe and was so sad to see it close. Very authentic, good wines, those amazing house cured olives and the house made sausages especially. We seem to be a bit oversaturated with the gastropub concept in downtown CC - City Tavern, Ford's Filling Station and now the new place taking over the former Fraiche location which is touting itself as a gastropub by the owners of the Daily Grill chain. (The name escapes me). Not sure how to classify Rush Street but that too could somewhat fall into the gastropub category.

Sep 19, 2012
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

New York Pizza in Clver City

La Rocco's is a real winner. It is the closest thing I have found nearby that is like the pizza I grew up with (central NJ). I've tried Abbot's/Grey Block and, IMO, find La Rocco's to be much better, both in terms of taste and quality, and price. The prices at Grey Block definitely seem rather high to me for what you get. Reasonable 'hounds will disagree / debate these two places, I'm sure.

Rocco's is basically a loud sports bar for the 20-something crowd; can't speak to their food as I haven't tried it.

Sep 19, 2012
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

Late night eating

We're arriving into PDX Wednesday night at around 9:30. We will have access to a car. Any recommendations for late night places to grab a drink and something tasty (not dessert )?

Aug 03, 2012
spicygal in Metro Portland

Best seafood-based Vietnamese dishes in Little Saigon/Westminster

Thanks for the recommendations. Will report back!

Mar 02, 2012
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

Best seafood-based Vietnamese dishes in Little Saigon/Westminster

I'll be in the Little Saigon / Westminster area on Saturday and even though I am off meat for the time being, I'd love to have great, authentic seafood-based Vietnamese food while I'm there. Any recommendations for particular dishes and places to visit?

Thanks!

Mar 01, 2012
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

Barcelona in November

I dined at Hisop last month. It was wonderful. I seem to recall not seeing the wine pairing option on the menu, but we did ask our server about it (luckily she spoke a bit of English, as we were fumbling around with our phrasebook) and the option was available. I recommend the pairing, thought they did a very nice job. And if you are into cheese, definitely get the cheese course.

Oct 24, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Spain Report Part 1 - Barcelona

First, a thank you to everyone who posted on this board in response to my earlier queries, especially PBSF and Erica. We were in Barcelona for barely three days (9/17-20) – great city and great food, and I know we only barely scratched the surface in that short time.

Day 1

Our first lunch was at BAR PINOXTO in the La Boqueria Market. I’d read that it’s always crowded and it certainly was, but it was pretty easy to muscle our way in and order (and eventually get one seat). We shared a few things – a dish of white beans and baby squid drizzled with olive oil and balsamic; an order of croquettas (ham and mushroom/cheese) and a third plate of small whole fried white fish served over salad greens with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. It seemed a bit pricey but overall worth the experience of eating inside the market. IMO, La Boqueria is a must see for any food lover. It’s sensory overload in the best way possible. We bought some of the high end jamon to nibble on and also visited the juice vendor at the entrance to the market which had more choices and combinations of fresh juices than I’d ever seen. We settled on a strawberry mango juice which was refreshing and sweet on a hot day.

Dinner our first night was at HISOP (Passatge Marimon, 9; www.hisop.com), which I had seen recommended many times on this board and which I’d reserved a few weeks in advance of our trip. It did not disappoint. We each had the tasting menu and wine pairing. The menu we were given did not specify that a wine pairing was available but our server was very helpful and spoke English well enough for all of us to communicate. The tasting menu with wine pairing was 70 Euro per person. Courses were:

Amuses: (1) Clam served in a shotglass with a sea water and vanilla foam and (2) Anchovy tartare, not sure of the sauce it was in but it seemed like a romesco or similar to a romesco
First course: 2 slender prawns with tarragon and almond puree
Second course: Monkfish over saffron rice
Third course: Squab with Armagnac sauce, served alongside julienned mango and a small quenelle of lavender ice cream
Fourth course: Cheese plate
Fifth course: Dessert – dense (possibly flourless) chocolate cake with cool yogurt and (I'm pretty sure) an eggplant-based ice cream. Instead of wine with this course, it was paired with a beer which really worked. This course blew me away, and I’m not a dessert person, so that’s saying something.
Everything was excellent – the monkfish and squab were my personal highlights for the non-dessert courses.

Day 2

Lunch at EL XAMPANYET (Carrer de Montcada, 22). A lively place to grab some pinxtos conveniently located just down from the Picasso Museum. We were there for lunch on a Sunday and the place was packed, mostly with locals. We did not see many other tourists. Service was fast, even with the big crowd. We nibbled on smoked mussels, marinated fish and sweet cherry peppers stuffed with a soft, fresh white cheese.

For dinner we did a pinxto crawl in the El Born based entirely on recommendations from this board and it was wonderful. Our first stop was LA VINYA DEL SENYOR (Santa Maria, 5). Wonderful little wine bar, with an impressive, lengthy selection of wines by the glass. We each ordered glasses of wine and shared a dish of raw salt cod, a dish called “inch of foie gras” which is foie on two small pieces of toast sprinkled with sea salt and a meatball with porcini sauce.

Our next stop was SAGARDI (Carrer de l'Argenteria, 62) which was probably our favorite stop. Wonderful olives and peppers, piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna, blood sausage, croquettas.

Next we tried EUSKAL EXTEA (Montcada, 1), which had similar offerings to Sagardi and the pinxtos were top notch. We preferred the ambience in Sagardi a bit more.

Our final stop was BAR DEL PLA (did not note address). It was about to close when we arrived so I can’t say definitively whether I’d recommend it or not as we didn’t stay long or eat much - my BF ordered the Crema Catalan and thought it was OK but nothing spectacular and I finished my evening with their house cava which was nice.

Day 3

Dinner at TAKTIKA BERRI (C/ Valencia, 169), Basque fare. Good, simple food and a good value. The portions were larger than we expected. We shared a huge omelette with salt cod (Tortilla Bacalao), white beans in broth (Pochas de Navarra), fried pork cutlets (Lomo de Cerdo) and the winner of the evening – hake atop a garlic butter sauce sprinkled with crispy fried garlic and rings of dried red pepper (Tronco Merluza, which is apparently their signature dish). Entire meal including bread charge, bottle of water, bottle of a local white wine (only 8,50 Euro and it went great with the food) and an after dinner drink for the BF came to just under 64 Euro.

Basically, everything we ate and drank in Barcelona was good, from the cheap sandwiches we'd grab on the go in the mornings before heading out for the heavy sightseeing to whatever inexpensive house wines we'd order with our pinxtos.

Will post reports for Sevilla, Granada and Madrid separately.

Oct 13, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Madrid - reservations required or recommended at these restaurants?

Does anyone know if reservations are required (or recommended) at these places for dinner:

La Cabrera
Gabinoteca
Arzabal
Biotza

The website for La Cabrera is particularly confusing to me as I don't speak the language and I cannot tell if there are different locations for "Gastropub" versus "Casa de America" - they are different tabs on the site.

http://www.lecabrera.com/gastro.html

Thanks.

Sep 07, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Sunday and Monday in Barcelona - questions

We are staying in the Barri Gotic for 3 nights (17,18,19 september). I have searched the board - here are my specific questions, if anyone can help.

Based on my searches, lunch in Barceloneta on Sunday could be a fun thing to do. La Cova and Can Mano come up frequently on this board. Is it recommended to have a reservation at either of these?

Based on my searches, a pinxto crawl in El Born is one of our options for Sunday night. I have seen recommendations on this board for Euskal Extea and Sagardi. I am having a hard time confirming if these places are in fact open on Sunday night. Are they? I assume you do not need to reserve but if I am wrong please let me know.

I have not come up with a plan for dinner on Monday night. Saturday night we have reservations at Hisop which we are looking forward to. One restaurant I was thinking of for dinner on Monday is Gresca. A concern is that it will be too much like Hisop. Critiques / thoughts / alternate suggestions for Gresca welcome.

Thanks.

Sep 03, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Barcelona: 1 must have dinner, some mid-range options and tapas

Thanks so much PBSF and Erica - we're now reserved at Hisop. I'm very excited. I'm going to do some additional research on other meals and will probably hit you both up for thoughts once I've narrowed things down more. I realize my initial post was a bit unfocused.

Aug 23, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Barcelona: 1 must have dinner, some mid-range options and tapas

Thanks Erica and PBSF. All of your reviews on this board are great. I would like to try Hisop for dinner - it will be on a Saturday night in mid-September. I tried reserving through the restaurant's website and I am not sure it worked - I got a strange automated message when I went to enter the reservation, saying something about "2 days." It's unclear to me what it means. I have been searching all over the internet for their reservation policy but cannot find anything. Any information you have on whether there is a particular reservation policy for Hisop (like Cinq Sentitis - it is clear with them that reservations open up 2 weeks in advance) I'd be most grateful.

Aug 22, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Barcelona: 1 must have dinner, some mid-range options and tapas

I will be in Barcelona for 3 nights in September. There is so much information on this board that it makes it difficult to sort through. We are staying in the Gothic Quarter and will rely on walking, public transport or taxi to get around.

I was thinking of planning one dinner at a must-visit restaurant, a lunch and a dinner at solid, mid-range good quality places (but preferably not too touristy) and a night of tapas.

I am looking for recommendations for:

(1) The must-visit restaurant. Based on my searches, I have Cinc Sentits, Alkima, Hisop and Gaig on my list.

(2) The mid-range places. For these, I was thinking at least one lunch in Barceloneta on a Sunday but need advice as to which places are good.

(3) Tapas crawl. Any suggestions?

Thanks for any advice you can give.

Aug 19, 2011
spicygal in Spain/Portugal

Woodinville - wine tasting & lunch

Thanks to all for the recommendations. I wanted to share my trip report for others on this board.

Before our excursion out to Woodinville, we'd stopped by Salumi in Seattle for some sandwiches to go. The line out the door was worth it - the sandwiches were very good, and generously sized. We stuck to pretty basic combinations - basic salumi with provolone, soppressatta with mozzarella) but they were enjoyable and filling.

In Woodinville, we tasted at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Brian Carter and the tasting room for Delille, which is right next to Brian Carter. We were able to eat our sandwiches inside at Chateau Ste. Michelle - it was raining and not conducive to sitting outside, which was a shame because the property is quite nice. The people there were very friendly and welcoming and escorted us into a large room in the back with a few tables where we could spread out and enjoy our sandwiches. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give their wines a 7 - the Merlot that was on their tasting menu was the standout, IMO.

Next we tasted at Brian Carter and this was by far my favorite place. They had a Rhone-style white, a lovely Sangiovese-based rose, a great "Super Tuscan" style red, a Tempranillo based red blend, a Bordeaux-style red and a fantastic Chateauneuf du Pape-style red. We enjoyed them all, found them well structured, well balanced and food friendly (alcohol levels on all the wines were between 13.5% and 14.1%).

Delille was our final stop of the day. We enjoyed all the wines, although the ones that really stood out on the tasting menue were all $75/bottle which, for my budget, is pretty darn pricey. As between Delille and Brian Carter, I thought the Brian Carter wines were the better bang for your buck - all were high quality and $30 or less.

One more thing to report was our dinner in Seattle. My brother and I went to Cascina Spinasse, and really enjoyed it. The service was excellent and the suggested wine pairings with the meal were spot on (we went by the glass). We shared an appetizer - crespelle with ricotta and wild ramps - very good and paired with an Arneis that our server had recommended. I'd heard that their pastas were highly recommended, so I tried the magtaliatte (sp?) with pork braised in milk. The texture of the pasta was fantastic - so light and airy. The meat was also very good and fork tender, but I wish there had been more of a "sauce" aspect to the dish. My brother's dish was the standout - whole trout. It was simply outstanding. Perfectly moist flesh on the inside, perfectly crisped skin on the outside, sitting on a very light, broth-like sauce. Our server told us that the base of the sauce was a simple fish brodo, but the chef added a sweet and sour-type element (I am thinking some sort of vin santo or high quality vinegar) and also some olives and pine nuts.

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Salumi
309 3rd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

Cascina Spinasse
1531 14th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122

Jun 01, 2010
spicygal in Greater Seattle

Woodinville - wine tasting & lunch

Thanks for the recommendations. I guess I should have been clearer when explaining varietals. Of course many of the classic french wines are made with CabSauv, Merlot, Grenache, Syrah, I was thinking more in terms of varietals not as often seen in American wines but sometimes more often in European wines (France and Italy in particular) - Picpoul Blanc would be a good example for France and Italy, well, there are just so many obscure italian varieties it makes the head spin.

Tedfood, I'm interested in your recs regardless of Old World v. New World styles as I'm totally unfamiliar with what Woodinville has to offer. THANKS!

May 19, 2010
spicygal in Greater Seattle

Woodinville - wine tasting & lunch

I will be spending a Saturday in Woodinville near the end of the month. Looking for recommendations for good wineries and also for places to grab a light lunch.

While I like most wines, I would be interested in any places doing more old world style wines, whether with French or Italian varietals, if they exist in this area.

May 17, 2010
spicygal in Greater Seattle

Cinque Terre Finalists (does Il Pirata really serve frozen pasta?!!)

We ate at Cantina di Mananan in Corniglia in September and really enjoyed it. Corniglia is small and probably the least touristy of the Cinque Terre towns. Before dinner we ducked into a small bar that was a door or two down from the restaurant and enjoyed some nice local Ligurian white wine. I'd definitely recommend this place.

May 06, 2010
spicygal in Italy

Mezza - Chow Alert for Excellent Lebanese Cuisine in the Southern Hemisphere of the Westside

We've been twice now and have enjoyed it both times. A good addition to the neighborhood, for sure.

On our visits, we've had:

Apps:
-falafel. Good flavor, crispy outside and moist without being mushy.
-grape leaves. These were a HUGE hit with the table.

Salads/Mains:
-Chef Najwa salad. All ingredients were fresh, the apples were a nice touch, amount of dressing was just right.
-Vegetarian plate.
-Kafta Kabob
-Musakaa (as a main, it's also on the appetizer portion of the menu)

All of the above were good, portions are big. The baba ganouj is yummy - another poster above mentioned the smokiness which I love so if that is your thing, I'd definitely order it here.

At one of our dinners, our guests ordered the half and half kabob and the gyro. While we did not taste their dishes, they gave them a thumbs-up.

Service has been good both times. A little over-enthusiastic on our first visit -- which we found out was when the place was only open a few days. A few too many people asking us how our food was which can be a little bit annoying (once or twice is fine but it happened, like 5 times in the span of less than 20 minutes). 2nd time was better in that regard.

I hope the place does well.

Apr 19, 2010
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

Paso Robles - Panolivo / McPhee's?

Just wanted to report back. We ended up at Thomas Hill Organics for dinner. For starters, I had the beet salad with goat cheese and beet reduction (very large portion, great tasting beets, and the BF had to help me finish) and the BF had a shaved romanesco and cauliflower salad with candied olives and kumquats. Both were really good. For mains, I had something from the app / starter menu - the halibut cheek salad, and the BF had the black cod. We enjoyed both dishes, but each of us thought that there was a little too much "going on" on the plate in terms of flavors and maybe the chef could've used one less ingredient or flavor profile in each dish so as to make what's there more accessible.

We would definitely go back and try the pizzas next time - they looked quite good.

A note about the service - it could use some work. It was a bit disjointed and my observations of watching the wait staff come and go struck me as a them being a little bit confused as to who was covering what tables. Also, I had made a reservation early that week and they did not have our table when we got there so we ended up with probably the worst table in the house (in the bar area, next to the bathroom and the door to the outside patio).

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Thomas Hill Organics
1305 Park St, Paso Robles, CA

Apr 12, 2010
spicygal in California

Paso Robles - Panolivo / McPhee's?

Has anyone been to either of these two restaurants recently? I am trying to decide between the two of them for dinner. I have dined many times at Artisan and Villa Creek - both have always been good - but want to "change it up" a little this time.

I have never had dinner at Panolivo and my last dinner at McPhee's (~ 2 years ago) was not nearly up to par as compared to prior visits.

Thanks.

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Villa Creek Restaurant
1144 Pine St., Paso Robles, CA 93446

Panolivo
1344 Park St, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Apr 05, 2010
spicygal in California

Good breakfast or brunch in Silverlake?

Thanks for the suggestions. We ended up at LA Mill. We had the butternut squash polenta (YUM, I could've licked the bowl) and eggs in cucotte with Dungeness Crab. They were a little stingy with the crab but overall a good meal. Good coffee, good service. Only wish the portions would've been a bit bigger ;)

Apr 05, 2010
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

Good breakfast or brunch in Silverlake?

Any suggestions for a good place for breakfast or brunch in Silverlake? THANKS.

Apr 02, 2010
spicygal in Los Angeles Area

Best Gelato in Florence

We liked Grom the best.

Mar 25, 2010
spicygal in Italy

Visiting wineries in Italy

See my reply (and the others) at:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690153
Generally speaking, our experience was that it was not easy to drop in the way you can in Napa.

The Chianti Region is lovely countryside. I believe we drove the "Chianti Road" if memory serves and it snakes through the small towns in the region. We visited in September and had a lovely time. If you are in the Chianti region, I recommend stopping in Panzano in Chianti. We tasted at Casaloste without an appointment - this was down the road from where we stayed in Panzano. Very enjoyable wines and a very nice young woman who served us (and also spoke English quite well):

http://www.casaloste.com/main.htm

There was another winery we tried in Panzano - Panzanetto. Also did not have an appointment there but were able to drop in and taste.

The highlight of our time in Panzano was visiting the famous Dario Cecchini butcher shop - Antica Macelleria Ceccini - and our dinner at the shop's restaurant across the street, Solocicco. It was a great experience - 2 hours at a communal table, you can bring your own wine - wonderful. We loved the food so much we went back the next day for lunch and had the Mac Dario. Information at the link below. I cannot say enough good things about this place and our experience. I don't believe you'd need a reservation for lunch but almost surely for dinner if you were to do that. Truly, it was one of the highlights of our trip:

http://www.dariocecchini.com/

In Florence, there was a wonderful little place in the Oltrarno neighborhood, only a few blocks from Ponte Vecchio, called Le Volpi e L'Uva. They had a great selection of wines by the glass from all over Italy and a nice menu of smaller bites.

Have fun!

Mar 04, 2010
spicygal in Italy

Recommended wineries to visit in or near Montepulciano?

We went to Contucci in September and had a very nice time. There were a decent amount of people there but not overcrowded. Festive and fun. A few of their wines were quite nice, too, and we picked up a few bottles to bring home. I'd recommend it.

I don't know if you've heard this from others, but we found tasting in Montalcino/Montelpuciano a bit on the difficult side, unless your plan is to have a set agenda and reserve a tasting or two in advance in which case, I think it will be fairly easy to find information online. We found that tasting in/around these 2 towns wasn't like tasting in the US or NZ/Australia - where most wineries are open to the public and display signage (e.g., open 10-5) or have detailed "wine touring" brochures/maps which makes it easy to take your time and drive around the countryside, not being tied to a particular agenda. We drove ourselves around both Montalcino and Montelpuciano and only happened to find a place in Montalcino that was open for tasting by pure happenstance - Casanova de Neri - FABULOUS. Otherwise, a lot of places it seemed required a reservation or were not generally open to the public.

In Montelpuciano, other than Contucci, it seemed like signing up a tour would be the way to go. I recall a place in the town itself where people could go to sign up. Another option, as one American couple pointed out to us (we'd met them @ Casanova di Neri) - hire a driver. After getting lost - a LOT - looking for wineries, if I had to do it all over again, I'd probably hire the driver.

Mar 04, 2010
spicygal in Italy