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nonawkward

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  1. ARLnow reports that a bowling alley is moving into the space: Bowlero will move into a space once occupied by the tech company GDIT, and the Queen Amannisa Uyghur restaurant. The fate of the restaurant is a bit murky, however — a sign on the door says it will be relocating to a space next to Legal Sea Food, just down 23rd Street S., but a staff member would only tell ARLnow that the restaurant is currently undergoing renovations, and would not confirm the move. Additional information from WBJ.
  2. Went early (I thought) on a Sunday evening, just before 6. Our party of two was seated at what we were told was the last available table, a tall six top, near the door and host stand. When no one had come by our table after about 10 minutes, I asked the hostess, who had just returned to the stand, if we needed to order at the counter. (There is a large takeout counter on the right.) She assured me we had a server. It was another few minutes before he came to the table. I tried to order one of the frozen cocktails (a whiskey sour slushie…because why not?) but was told the machines weren’t on. I will note that was not mentioned when I actually ordered but rather our waiter shared that detail when my friend asked about the seasonal cocktails that were mentioned on her menu (but not mine). I ended up with a beer. We both ordered a two-meat platter with brisket and char siu pork belly. Platters come with two sides; we both had mac and cheese, she had cole slaw and I had collard greens. I really enjoyed both meats. They were well seasoned and had a good crust. The brisket was moist although bits of the pork (not next to the fat layer) were drier. The mac and cheese was made with orecchiette, had a saltine topping and was incredibly rich. Definitely not the liquid-y cheese sauce variety. The collards were good and had a significant amount of meat (I think the menu said ham hock) in them. They were fantastic with a good dousing of the Carolina (vinegar) sauce. All of the parties that had congregated around our table (because of its location) during our meal were seated by the time we finished. I’m assuming the (fairly minor) service issues were just growing pains and I will return to try the ribs and pulled pork. That being said, I don’t think it’s as good as Texas Jack or Myron Mixon.
  3. Headed to a not sold out event at the Anthem on weeknight, I didn't think restaurants at The Wharf would be too crowded. I was wrong. We tried to go to Hank's, but the packed bar and hour-long wait for a table forced us elsewhere. We ended up at Del Mar. The hostess let us know that they were "fully committed" until 8:15, but that the bar served the full menu. We were able to squeeze in, after having to ask a patron - who had no food or drinks yet - to move over one seat so two of us could sit together. I note the other patron really only because she seemed so put out by the fact that we asked if she was meeting someone, and when she said no, asked her to move. (Possibly related: She was rude to the bar tender and a high maintenance orderer.) Were we out of line to ask her to move one seat over? We started with cocktails. The Estrellas (Tanqueray n.10, ginger, lime, tonic, star anise and cardamom) and the Sangre del Toro (blood orange and rose infused vodka, pomegranate, spiced syrup, lemon and cava). Both were good, but maybe not the best choice on a cold winter night. I could see myself enjoying either significantly more when consumed outside, on a warm summer evening. My friend found the branded Tanqueray glassware a little tacky, especially at a place with $14 cocktails. . For food, two of shared (in the order they came out): Caña de Cabra - Murcia Semi-Soft Goat Cheese ~ Bright, Citrus Notes Served with quince (I think) paste; thin, perfectly sliced green apples with honey drizzled over them and a thick, sweet (you could see sugar crystals on the top) cracker. I'm not really a cheese person, I mean, I like it, I guess, but I'm not one of those crazy cheese people, so take this as you will, but I really liked this cheese. I think I would have actually preferred this as a dessert course. But as noted above, this was an almost comically small portion of cheese for $12. Chorizo Iberico - Cured Ibérico Sausage with Smoked Pimentón I am unapologetic about my love for cured chorizo. This came with garnished with two large green olives and an anchovy. A small piece of light, but crusty bread came with it. I would have eaten more bread, but probably didn't really need it. Pulpo a la Gallega - Classic Galician Style Octopus, Crushed Potatoes, Spanish Pimenton The octopus was cooked well, the potatoes were spicier than I expected and the dish was garnished with a very garlicky aioli. The simplicity of this description belies how well the flavors of this dish come together. Txangurro - Jumbo Lump Crab, Navarran Sweet Red Piquillo Peppers, Sea Urchin Sauce This dish ended up being our least favorite, not necessarily because there was anything wrong with it, but because it just wasn't as good as everything else we had. I think it needed some contrast, whether acidity - a quick pickle on the piquillo peppers or lemon somewhere - or something crunchy. Croquetas de Jamón y Trufa - Creamy Fritters filled with Jamón Mangalitsa, Truffle Alioli I am also unapologetic about my love for croquetas. (I blame the four years I lived in South Florida.) These were perfectly fried balls of mushroom (actually truffle?) bechamel , garnished with a small piece of crisped jamon, truffles and a rich truffle aioli. If I had a complaint about these, it might be that they were too rich, but sharing the portion (three), it seemed manageable. Service at the bar was excellent, considering the bar tender had other responsibilities that included lighting a cinnamon stick on fire and capturing the smoke in a rocks glass. (The Lunas Rotas, I think...tequila reposado, mezcal, lemon, cinnamon.)
  4. nonawkward

    Dining at Airports

    ORD It's been discussed here before, but Tortas Fronteras is still good. Had the Milanesa which was a chicken cutlet with a mashed black bean spread and green crema sauce. It came with a charred tomatillo salsa (not sure why, it didn't need it.) Not sure if it was just my sandwich, or if they're meant to be like this, but my sandwich came out HOT!
  5. nonawkward

    Asheville, NC

    Black Mountain My Father’s Pizza - Our table of three adults had: a small order of bruschetta, a Caesar salad, a Greek salad, an order of meatballs, a white garlic pizza and a custom pizza (with vegan cheese.) The bruschetta was good, but the bread was not grilled or toasted so got a little soggy under the tomatoes. The meatballs were not as tender as I was expecting and the tomato sauce need a little something to cut the acidity a bit. Salads and pizzas were good, but nothing to go out of your way for. Louise’s - Crowded during Saturday brunch. (It is an old house, so tables are placed in the rooms as well as possible. There is also outdoor seating on the wrap-around porch.) Our table of three adults and one toddler had: the blueberry waffle, Big Boy burrito, grit cakes and pancakes (for the kiddo). We also had the special mimosa of the day which was some sort of blackberry, lemon, mint thing. The food was not overcomplicated and everything tasted good. The grit cakes were something I’d never seen before; the black bean and corn gave it a vaguely Southwestern flavor. For the cakes themselves, picture a black bean burger, but instead of beans as the base, grits. Asheville Thirsty Monk (Downtown location) - We went for the beer and stayed for the bar food. Downstairs (or enter from the back) is all Belgian-style beers, upstairs (or front entrance) has a variety of beer types from American (many local, it’s Asheville, after all) brewers. I had two tacos, one each of the Thai pulled pork and the chipotle brisket. The Thai pulled pork was good, but the chipotle brisket was the standout for me. I think it was the balance of flavors in the taco itself, which included pickled red onions, shredded romaine and crema. The crema was supposedly avocado and the only evidence of that was a slight greenish color. NB - Make-your-own flights are priced based on the beer you select. Buxton Hall (Shares an entrance with Catawba Brewing) - After beers at Green Man and the decision to hit all the breweries in that several block radius, we decided food was necessary. Two adults shared the pimiento cheese and pulled pork plate with cole slaw and potato salad. The pimiento cheese had something I am not used to in it; I think it was mustard seed. It was served with some sort of flatbread cracker I’d compare to lavash. The pork was moist and tender and needed just a dash of the Carolina-style vinegar sauce. (They also had a mustard sauce that looked and tasted too much like plain yellow mustard. Which was a little disappointing only because I was expecting something a little closer to Myron Mixon’s mustard sauce.) The potato salad was good, but nothing special. It did have fresh basil, which I have not had before and enjoyed. I did not try to the cole slaw. I took a break from beer at Buxton Hall and had the daily slushie which was bourbon Cheerwine. And it was perfect. Curate - Go. If only for the chance to enjoy excellent food and drinks for about two-thirds of what it would cost you in DC. The hostess was a little awkward when we arrived just before 8:30 for what I thought was an 8:30 reservation. She told us our reservation was actually for 8:45 and the table wouldn’t be ready until then. Fine. But then didn’t say anything else. So we went to the bar where a few seats had just opened up. At our appointed time, we went back to the host stand. And were shown to a table directly behind where we had been sitting at the bar which had been empty the whole time. Ummm, okay… In the order they were served, the two of us over-ordered and had (including restaurant website descriptions): Croquetas de setas - sautéed mushroom and béchamel fritters When we admitted we were over-ordering, our server suggested a half order (three instead of five) of these. They were very small, about two bites. I don’t usually like mushrooms, but I like croquetas. A lot. (Chalk it up to my four years in South Florida?) These had finely diced mushrooms and the bechamel and were fried and seasoned perfectly. Pulpo a la gallega - Galician-style octopus served warm w/sea salt, olive oil, Spanish paprika, and Yukon gold potato purée Not sure if Galician-style means that the octopus is pre-sliced into little rounds, but that’s they way this was served. The smoky flavor in the paprika was a little overpowering, but other than that, this dish was perfect. Pimientos de piquillo rellenos - Piquillo peppers stuffed w/ Spanish goat cheese Exactly as described, well executed. It was garnished with micro greens and an unidentifiable (to me) green puree. Gambas al ajillo - Sautéed shrimp with sliced garlic, sherry, and chili pepper If you don’t already have bread at your table, ask for it (or say yes when offered) to soak up this sauce! The garlic was not overpowering as it sometimes is with this dish but I thought it could have been spicier since it was described has having chili peppers. (They were dried and whole, so not all that spicy unless you purposely incorporated it into the dish.) The sherry flavor really helped round out the flavors of the sauce and dish as a whole. Pincho moruno - Lamb skewers marinated in Moorish spices served with cucumber pickles Small, not quite cubes, of lamb, cooked to about medium rare. I could pick up ginger, paprika and something acidic, maybe vinegar, in the spice blend. Maybe berbere? But to be honest, I actually have no idea what that is/tastes like… The server recommended trying a bite each component of the dish, which made for a good balance of flavor and texture. I don’t generally order lamb, but I would order this again. Espárragos verdes con romesco - Grilled green asparagus with a hazelnut and almond romesco sauce My concession to my dining partner was the lamb, and this was hers to me. I just really like grilled asparagus. The romesco was fine, but in general I could take it or leave it. There was nothing extraordinary about this dish, but it was delicious because oil + salt + asparagus + grill = perfection. Albondigas - Meatballs with cured Ibérico ham in a tomato sauce that makes Felix’s mother proud There was absolutely nothing wrong with these, but I was expecting better. A bit oversalted (maybe just the ham) and with no garnish, there was room to step up this dish. Berenjenas con miel - Fried eggplant drizzled in wild mountain honey, garnished w/ rosemary Our server recommend we get this last because of the sweet component from the honey, which was a great suggestion. It was nice to end the meal on something sweet since we didn’t end up ordering dessert. I was expecting sticks of eggplant (think Peter Chang), but these were thin rounds. They were lightly seasoned and battered, served with honey and a small amount of fresh rosemary. It can be hard to fry eggplant to the point where it is cooked but not too oily or heavy and this was perfect. Although I think the thinness of the slices meant that it cooled quickly. Tied with the sauce from the shrimp (although the shrimp themselves were good) as my favorite thing we ordered. Menu, including prices: http://curatetapasbar.com/menus/web_menus/curate_lunch_dinner_menu.pdf Drinks included a red sangria and rye old fashioned at the bar (and a second one at the table) and a cocktail called 1493 which included manzanilla and orange curacao. The 1493 looked (and to me, tasted) like orange Fanta. Sierra Nevada - Sierra Nevada had only recently announced they were building at this location when I was last in Asheville, so It was interesting to see what they’d done here. The compound includes a brewery, restaurant (tap room), extensive outdoor seating and activity areas, and event space. I had the ginger soy wings and a side of collard greens. The wings were cut in a way so that there was only one small bone with a bulb (I don’t know what else to call it) at the end. The only thing I might compare it to would be those things they call “lamb lollipops” that get passed around at receptions. The glaze was not overpowering and the accompanying sriracha mayo was fine. Usually an afterthought, I really enjoyed the garnish which was ribbons of ginger pickled carrots. I also tasted the pretzels with pimiento cheese. Although not described as such, the pimiento cheese is hot and comes served in a small cast iron dish. The servers describe the menu as being “small plates” and even though they’re not really that small, they do come out as they’re ready, which is something to keep in mind if you’re with a group or kids. (They did bring the mac and cheese we ordered for the three year old in our group out first. But he was too busy playing at the sand table outside to come in and eat it…) The beer flights include four - 2oz pours, and the day we were there, included all but one of their special “Cork and Cage” selections. I tried the kellerweis, Ovila Abbey White, Audition saison and the barrel-aged Madiera Quad with Cherries. I ended up ordering a full kellerweis and drinking it in a giant rocking chair. (Seriously, these chairs are huge.) I know this is supposed to be about the food, but it’s Asheville, so… BEER! Green Man - Lots of IPAs and other hoppy ales; small inside seating area, covered and uncovered outdoor seating; grilled cheese food truck. Catawba - A wide variety of beers, spacious indoor and outdoor seating areas, taco truck. Twin Leaf - Smaller, a short but varied beer selection, board games, indoor and outdoor seating. Burial - Varied beer selection; indoor and outdoor seating; very small, but kind of fancy for a brewery popup, food menu; velvet Burt Reynolds poster inside, Sloth and Burt Reynolds mural outside. (These are all within walking distance of one another in South Slope. The Wicked Weed Funkatorium is also there.) We also checked out Chimney Rock (we did not end up hiking, but instead looked at Chimney Rock from Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery), Lake Lure and Hooker Falls.
  6. nonawkward

    Harrisonburg, VA

    +3 for Cuban Burger. Went in hoping for croquettas (none), but shared the aforementioned chicharones (awesome), Cubano, and frita with egg and cheese. Interesting, mostly local beer list and some cocktails.
  7. nonawkward

    Florida Keys

    Several recent(ish) trips led me to the Middle Keys. Islamorada MA's Fish Camp - MM 81.5 Oceanside Went in around 8:30 or 9pm on a Sunday night. Not too many people and we were afraid we had taken a chance on a place that wasn't going to be that good. I had a blackened fresh catch with vegetables. Nothing mind blowing, but good ingredients, simply prepared will always be good. (For the life of me, I cannot remember what my friend had, but probably would have if she had complained about, so I'm going to go ahead and assume it was good.) We shared an excellent piece of Key lime pie topped with a giant mound of meringue. Chef Michael's - MM 81.7 Oceanside Went around 8:30 on a Monday night, glad they were open and thinking that it wouldn't be too crowded. But we were wrong. We were able to snag a table on the side porch. Luckily we got our order in before the table of about 20 next to us! I had a catch of the day (grouper, I think) Juliette, which was "seared with shrimp, scallops, chardonnay butter and toasted almonds" according to a menu I found online. (Menu on website doesn't work. I remember this was the case when I went as well.) Friend had a seafood pasta which she enjoyed. A little more expensive than MA's Fish Camp, but could have been due to difference in entrees. I feel the same way about this place...good ingredients, prepared well, will be good. More upscale environment than MA's Fish Camp. Also more lively, but could have been the night/time/other diners. Shula Burger - MM 84 Oceanside This is listed as a Shula's 2 and was on property for the hotel we were staying at. They had half price burgers all day Tuesday, so we took advantage for lunch. I had the French Onion burger (described here) and it was awesome. Well seasoned and cooked to the requested medium rare. Bonus: They have sweet potato fries, which have become a recent favorite of mine. Sidenote on the hotel: This is my second time staying here, but I am hesitant to recommend because of current construction and, which, when completed, will most likely bring higher prices, making this property far less appealing. Lorelei - MM 82 Bayside Outdoor bar with great sunset views. For sunset, get there early if you want a table. We got there about 20 minutes before sunset, which was just enough time to grab a drink and find a seat on the rocks by the water (no tables and didn't want to stand around, blocking someone else's view.) Basically, this is Mallory Square at a bar. After sunset, we were actually able to grab a table (first come, first served), but regretted it. We only had appetizers and the service was off and the food was not that great. Marathon Key Fisheries - MM 36-37? Bayside We went to the upstairs raw bar for oysters, shrimp and stone crab ($1.50 per large claw!!! I think this was a special. Other info shows $2.50) before heading back downstairs for a blackened fish sandwich. The raw bar menu (which also included steamers, mussels and a few other items) was only available at the upstairs bar. You could bring food from the regular menu (order at the window) up though. Not really the Keys, but on the way if you're coming from Miami and points north... Homestead Mamma Mia After spending the day in Everglades National Park, we ended up at this place. Seemed like mostly families and most of them were ordering pizzas, which looked pretty good, but we went with entrees. Entrees come with (a lot of!) garlic rolls and a choice of soup or salad; I got salad, the BF had the pasta e fagioli, which was pretty good. For entrees we had the chicken parm (a whole breast, split) which came with a side of pasta, and the Trinacria risotto, which is described as being served with "crumbled sausage, prosciutto, peas, onions and mushrooms...in a light cream sauce." The sausage wasn't really crumbled, as the texture was more like a cured sausage. The sausage was not mentioned as being spicy, but it was. We were a little unsure about this dish after the server said she hadn't tried it before, but were pleasantly surprised. Left stuffed and with leftovers. With wine, under $50 for the two of us. Robert is Here Rather extensive fruit stand. They have your typical oranges, grapefruits and mangoes, but check out the other, more exotic tropical fruits. Signage is helpful. There are often samples and they will cut some fruits and wrap them if you're on the go. We got several cut mangos and put them in a cooler. It was so great to be able to stop for a picnic in the Keys break out our fresh cut mango! The smoothies (not milkshakes...too sweet) are amazing. Everything is a bit overpriced but not so much so that it stopped me from buying anything.
  8. nonawkward

    Charlottesville, VA

    From a recent trip to the Charlottesville area: Barbecue Exchange (Gordonsville) Two of us had: BBQ Lovers 4 Meat platter with ribs, pulled pork, chopped brisket, sausage, collards and mac and cheese. We also got an order of hush puppies, which come six per order. This was almost too much for two of us. But we managed... The pulled pork was the best of the meats. I would describe the "chopped" brisket more as pulled and it came pre-sauced with a tangy, tomato based sauce, which I wasn't expecting. The ribs were good and I would probably think more highly of them if the ribs and the dry rub from Martin's in Tennessee weren't so recent in my memory. The sausage had an overwhelming smoke flavor and snappy casing. The collards were excellent, in my opinion. (The BF didn't like them as much as I did.) Well balanced in terms of smoky, tangy and sweet flavors. The mac and cheese was good, but the cheese sauce wasn't as smooth as it should be. The hush puppies had excellent flavor and were not too dense. Miller's - Downtown Mall We stopped in here after a concert at the Pavilion, choosing this location mainly because 1) the kitchen was open and 2) there was available outdoor seating. The draft beer menu included a decent selection of local drafts and a 10 ounce pour option. We wanted the cheesesteak (they were out) but ended up with the roasted red pepper soup and blackened chicken sandwich. The soup had the tiniest amount of spice to it, which was nice. It also came with a large piece of toasted bread. The only thing it could have used was some sort of garnish. The chicken sandwich was a solid version of a chicken sandwich you'd expect to get from a bar. The big flaw I found with it was the potato roll, but I know I'm in the minority on hating potato rolls. I probably wouldn't recommend Miller's as a place to get food, but it is nice to be able to sit outside, have some beers and know that the bar food you'll inevitably order might actually taste okay sober too. Bluegrass Grill - Downtown On Sundays (maybe Saturdays too?), go early or expect to wait. I added our name to the list, expecting the wait to be about 45 minutes to an hour, but were able to grab seats at the first come-first serve counter after about 30 minutes. The waiting list is not managed by anyone and is posted on the wall just inside the door. We had Joan Marie's Omelet which includes herb cream cheese, spinach, swiss cheese and tomatoes. The omelets are made by folding very thin cooked egg around the fillings like a burrito, not your typical half circle shape. We ordered the omelet with cheese grits (garnished with fresh dill...an odd choice) and a biscuit, adding a side of gravy for the biscuit. We also ordered the Southern Belle Benedict from a paper specials menu. It was pimento cheese, bacon and tomatoes on an English muffin, topped with eggs over easy and a jalapeí±o hollandaise. I think there was a bit of confusion here (maybe just on my part?) because I assumed that a benedict would automatically come with poached eggs, but the eggs over easy produces the same runny yolk effect. The benedict came with home fries. The benedict was excellent because all of those things are good, but what really stands out are the home fries because they so far exceeded expectations. They were seasoned well, with onion and a small amount of garlic and rosemary, in addition to salt and pepper. The balance of soft and crispy potatoes was perfect. I had been once or twice before, six to eight years before; the BF had never been. After getting a little cranky while waiting for a table, he later commented that the food was definitely worth the wait and commented that I didn't fight hard enough for it when we discussed going elsewhere. The food was excellent and exactly the brunch food that I was in the mood for, but what struck me was how nice all of the servers were, even under the brunch crush. And they let us take coffee refills to go. Oakhart Social - Main Street Late-ish dinner on a Sunday night. There were tables inside, but we chose a table outside, between a propane heater and small fire pit, on a crisp autumn night. I wasn't too hungry after beer and cider tasting on what some people are apparently calling Alcohol Alley (Route 151 between Wintergreen and 250) so we ordered fairly light: Brussels Sprouts with Korean chili flake aioli and crispy shallot Proveletta - Caramelized Provolone and goat cheese with harissa tomato, cippolini and lemon, served with grilled bread Hanger steak with patatas bravas, chimichurri and aioli The brussels sprouts came out first, which I didn't prefer. They were good, although I expected the aioli to be a little hotter. I wanted to save some to eat with the steak, but because of the outside temperature, they were cooling off quickly. Next came the provoletta, which was served in a small cast iron dish, which going back to the description makes sense. But I was expecting something more like a pre-assembled bruschetta. The flavors of this worked well; the creamy, salty cheese with the tangy lemon and spicy (not hot) harrissa. The menu indicated this was cooked in a wood oven. Not sure if they mean the dish or the toasts... The hanger steak came out last and was pre-sliced and served on thin slices of potatoes, which were on top of the aioli. There was some sort of micro green garnish along with the chimichurri. It didn't occur to me until we got it, but we were not asked how we wanted the steak cooked; it was rare-medium rare. Which was fine for us. I thought the plate was a little heavy on the aioli, but that was easy enough to avoid. Overall, the food was good and I liked the setting, and would probably say the same if we had sat inside. I thought the service could use some improvement both in terms of the order the food came out and staff. If the menu doesn't explicitly say that food comes out whenever it's ready, shouldn't the server ask if we have a preference? Because I probably would have indicated the provoletta first, then the sprouts with the steak. I think the restaurant was coming off a busy Sunday night and the chef/owner's wife was with a group outside (I know this because one of her friends would announce the fact to anyone and everyone), so maybe our server was feeling some pressure because of it? This seems like a great place to go with friends, drink wine (they have wines on draft in quarter, half and full liter sizes) and order some plates to share. But based on the service I got, I'm not sure I'd feel that comfortable doing that. But I will definitely give it another chance next time I'm in town. Bodo's - Preston Avenue A more emotional pick than anything else. Sausage, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. The everything bagel at Bodo's has salt, which I don't think is the norm. Also, they don't toast their bagels, even if you're not getting a bagel sandwich. Carter Mountain Orchard - Charlottesville (near Monticello) We picked up some apples to take home, but had a few apple cider doughnuts and hot apple cider at a picnic table out back. A bit outside of town, we hit: Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub - Roseland (other nearby attractions have a Nellysford address) We (accidentally, I swear) tasted all of the beers they had on tap. They do flights in specified groupings (standard, seasonal, experimental.) We ordered the standard (six beers) to start, then asked for the experimental grouping. They brought the seasonal instead but let us keep it when the corrected their mistake. Because of the extra beers, we decided we should get some food before we could safely continue on. We ended up with an order of wings. Everything else seemed too heavy. We got the order split between hot and dry rub (the two flavor options.) The hot had a good flavor outside of the heat, but I preferred the dry rub, which was smoky, salty and a tiny bit sweet. I thought it was kind of weird that the order had been split so that the drums were all the dry rub flavor and the flats were hot. Greenwood Grocery - Crozet We picked up sandwiches, some Route 11 potato chips (dill pickle flavor!) and drinks for a picnic on Skyline Drive. We got: Devon - roast beef with horseradish-chive spread and arugula on focaccia Wessex - ham with brie and apple chutney on ciabatta The Devon was good, but I didn't taste too much horseradish. (Admittedly, I like a LOT of horseradish on roast beef sandwiches.) The focaccia was not overly dry or greasy, both of which can be a problem with focaccia. The Wessex was really good, but the chutney was weird. It didn't seem like it was apple based; there was some fruit in it that looked like reconstituted golden raisins. The fruit was raisin-sized and kind of light in color which is the only reason I'm saying that. I honestly have no idea what it was. But it was not apple. The chutney had an overwhelming flavor of what tasted like tamarind to me. They had a small selection of prepared foods outside of sandwiches and a variety of other foods. About a third of the store is dedicate to local wine, beer and cider. Throughout the few days we were in the area, we hit: Castle Hill Cider, Potter's Craft Cider (popup tasting at Greenwood Grocery), Bold Rock and Keswick Vineyards.
  9. Went to SER shortly after 7 on a Monday night. It was cooling off, so we chose to sit outside on the wide patio area that is set far enough back from Glebe Road to make it enjoyable to sit outside. After deciding on a liter of the sparkling sangria, the +1 and I began looking at the food menu. The sparkling sangria was not "sparkling" and if I didn't know it was supposed to be, would have thought it was a normal white sangria. (Maybe there was a mix up?) It tasted good and they're all the same price, so it didn't seem worth bring up to our server. We ended up ordering small plates and sides after having considered the seafood paella, which we were told, when asked what seafood was in the paella, had "pretty much everything except scallops." We started with the lomo (from the charcuterie section), the puntillitas (mini squids), and steak tartare. The puntillitas came out first. They were fried in a light tempura-like batter. The squids, about the size of a medium to large peanut, were garnished with lemon aioli and minced jalapeí±os and also came with a lemon wedge. Pretty much your standard calamari in a different form. Next was the steak tartare. I thought the first bite I took was a little bland, but mixed with the quail egg, and making sure you also get bits of anchovy and pickled pepper (piparra), it was better. Then came the lomo, which was excellent and came with small, cracker-consistency breadsticks as a bit of garnish. The next thing to come out were the croquettas. We got half and half, so three spinach and three chicken and ham. I was surprised by the light consistency of the croquettas and what tasted like a béchamel in the spinach ones. I could taste a bit of ham flavor in the chicken and ham ones, but other than that, it didn't seem like there was any meat in them at all. Next were the shrimp, grilled vegetables and papas bravas. The shrimp were really good, if a tiny bit over cooked. I was surprised to find incredibly thin slices of fried garlic in the oil, in addition to chopped garlic and crushed red pepper. As mentioned here, make sure you have bread to soak up the seasoned oil. The grilled vegetables (eggplant, red pepper, green pepper, zucchini, squash, asparagus) were topped with a citrus vinaigrette and goat cheese. The citrus vinaigrette was good, but I'm not sure how much it added to the dish. This is a case of using good ingredients to simply prepare foods and it will taste good. The papas bravas were fine. The spicy tomato sauce was spicier than I was expecting. I would have liked to have had more on the side, but didn't bother asking as I knew that was the dish that was going to go uneaten since we had (not surprisingly) ordered too much food. (I had already talked the +1 out of cheese and sardines"¦) I could have made a meal from the shrimp and grilled vegetables, two fairly standard dishes executed well, but am glad we tried several other dishes. Overall, everything, the food and service, was good and SER is an interesting addition to Ballston. I can definitely see myself going back for drinks in the outdoor area. (They have a small, but decent draft list and serve in liter, pint and 10 ounce sizes.) NB: The +1 asked about the baby eels, which they don't have often. Our server said that market price is usually around $120 for a three ounce portion.
  10. nonawkward

    The Bahamas

    (I really thought I had written something after my first visit back in 2012, but am not seeing it here...) I agree with your impressions of Nassau and the food. I can't remember the name of the Bahamian place across Marlborough street from the Hilton, but it's fine. Conch fritters, blackened fish, peas and rice, cold Kaliks. It may be better than I think it its, but I think it's just that I am not a huge fan of Bahamian cuisine. (It might be cash only. Or their CC machine wasn't working most of the times I've been in.) There is a Greek place past (past coming from the Hilton) the Straw Market. I entered from a side street and went up one floor to the bar area to order takeout. The main entrance may be on Bay Street. I got takeout and had avgolemono, some spanikopita and something else (I can't remember now.) A welcome change from the Bahamian food. I went to the Fish Fry one night and can't remember which place I ate at...Twin Brothers? Oh Andros? It's an interesting enough scene, but I think most of the restaurants are serving pretty the same thing. I noticed a few smaller and in some cases, portable (a smoker on a trailer) vendors, which may be a better option?
  11. There aren't that many options near the station in Sanford, but I am partial to a Publix sub for eating during the ride north. (I do not experience any of the aforementioned motion sickness on the train.) And although there is a bar car in the train, it is not always the most convenient, so I like to take a small cooler with drinks. There are coolers of ice available for passengers located (usually) near the stairs or water station. (I'm going to be honest here: I have no idea what the rules are about bringing alcohol for consumption on the train are...) Last trip north I got a pear cider called Rekorderling from a Total Wine near Orlando and it was really good, if you're into that sot of thing. (Total Wine stores in the DC area do not carry it...I asked.) Enjoy your travels!
  12. nonawkward

    Orlando, FL

    A recent stopover in Orlando led to FishBones, a Talk of the Town restaurant. For reference, I'm going to go ahead and say Talk of the Town is the Great American of Orlando, which means that all of their restaurants are basically the same, but themed differently. But it also means you know what you're getting into and likely to get good, efficient service. (I have also been to Charley's and have had Johnnie's Hideaway recommended to me.) Shortly after 9 on a Monday night, it seems we missed the dinner rush and according to our waiter, a group of 20 (from a Microsoft conference at the OCCC) with no reservation. Re: drinks we both had a drink that was advertised as a "Ginger Sage Fizz" with "Plymouth Gin, Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice, Ginger, Sage" but neither of us could taste sage, which was perfectly fine with me. It was refreshing after a long day of snorkeling, kayaking and driving from the Gulf coast. The online menu for FishBones leaves out the feature of that particular restaurant, which is the eight or so fresh fish options. I found it interesting that the name of the person or captain who caught the fish was included with the source. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures.) The night I was there, the typical seafood restaurant varieties could be found: salmon, swordfish, grouper, Chilean sea bass, trout, etc. Once you pick a fish, you pick a preparation ranging from grilled, blackened, citrus something or other, terriyaki-ish with bok choy, cedar planked or topped with crab (for which there is no upcharge!) I went in wanting scallops, but was rather disappointed with the scallop options, so two of us ended up making our own surf and turf, ordering the grouper with crab preparation and a New York strip. (The on menu surf and turf options are a chicken and fried shrimp and steak and lobster tail. Pretty weak if you ask me.) The grouper was butterflied and the crab was stuffed inside. It was described as crab with lemon, but it was mostly crab with butter, which ended up being too heavy for the grouper and could have benefited from some acid to balance it, but tasted good nonetheless. We got the fish with the vegetable of the day which was a mix of squash, zucchini, red pepper and white onion which I will say was good because the vegetables were not overcooked, which I find to be a common problem with vegetable sides in restaurants. We opted for the NY strip with Bearnaise and mashed potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare and it's hard to mess up mashed potatoes. These were of the skin-on red variety. FishBones is about two miles down I-Drive from the Convention Center on Sand Lake Road.
  13. nonawkward

    Florida Gulf Coast

    Weeki Wachee An hour north of Tampa and about an hour and a half west of Orlando is one of the most Floridian places I've ever experienced. In/near Weeki Wachee is the state park with included water park and mermaid show (seriously), kayaking the Weeki Wachee River and beaches. (I can vouch for Pine Island Park. Not much beach space, but nice for an hour or so. No rentals, so make sure you have a towel, blanket or chair.) In Crystal River (about 30 miles to the north) we used Crystal River Watersports to snorkel with manatees and Three Sisters Springs. But this is about the food... Greek City - Spring Hill Good fast casual on the main road (Route 19.) Two of us had (and could not finish): The Medi platter which included a Greek salad, spanakopita and grilled chicken breast, and gyro with feta fries. The salad was on mixed greens which included some romaine, iceberg and other assorted lettuces, and had feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes, chick peas and (strangely) diced beets. Although the presence of the beets was odd, they were perfectly diced. The dressing was a bit sweet for my taste. The chicken breast was cut into about four strips and was surprisingly moist. The spanakopita was unevenly cooked (a little soggy on one end opposite a burnt phyllo corner) but otherwise fine. The gyro was a bit salty, but isn't it always? The feta fries could have been improved with better quality fries, but this was an interesting concept as I've not seen cheese fries with feta before. Overall, this is a really good option in a sea of fast food chain restaurants. La Bella Napoli (no website, but I found this write up which includes address and link to unofficial Facebook) - Hernando Beach We started with the clams (and now I'm forgetting the exact name of the preparation; machin- something or other?) The clams were good and I never found a touch or chewy one. The broth seemed to include stock, butter (Olive oil? Both?), tomatoes and garlic. The rolls, excellent on their own while hot (and not so much once they cooled), were used for soaking up this broth. At several points, we used the spoon meant for serving to sip the broth. I'm pretty sure I feel asleep that night thinking about this dish. We also had meatballs, a side of spinach and a veal dish. The meatballs were large, tender and moist, and lacking in meaty flavor. The spinach was good, well-seasoned with red pepper flake and if I had to find a complaint it's that too much water ended up in the serving dish. The veal was thin and tender. The side of pasta was offered with the marsala cream sauce with the veal or red sauce. The +1 picked red sauce (I'm not sure why) and it tasted sweeter on the pasta than it did on the meatballs, to the point that it wasn't immediately clear it was the same sauce. Tiramisu was not good. Avoid. Another surprising non-chain find. Atmosphere is not great, servers were all incredibly nice, but not necessarily the best. $75 for dinner for two with starters, a bottle of wine and dessert.
  14. nonawkward

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Most of the restaurants on the 17th Street Causeway are a (slightly ambitious) walk, trolley, cab or Uber away from there. When in the area, I'm partial to the rather dive-y Southport Raw Bar. It's on a canal so outdoor seating is by the water where I've seen several manatees. Inside is less nice. Service is spotty. The peel and eat shrimp swimming in Old Bay butter are my favorite, but the blackened fish sandwich is also good. Siam House is not great by my standards (Sawatdee and Thai Square are my Thai standards to beat) but will do in a pinch when I'm craving Thai. I like the Panang (beef) and that it has green beans in it. The pad see eew uses thin rice noodles (like pad thai) not wide, which is a big flaw in my book. For fast casual, I like Gyroville which is basically a Chipotle for Greek/Mediterranean. The falafel are usually very good. There are a ton of other restaurants in that area as it is near the cruise port. On Las Olas. I like Luigi's, Sushi Rock (it's small and loud, taking great influence from the musical meaning of the word "rock") and the Royal Pig (it's definitely a drinking destination, but has good food and should be fine for kids earlier in the evening.) Gran Forno is a bakery that has two locations on Las Olas and good sandwiches. (I usually get the grilled vegetable.) I've been told I've been to Mango's, but I don't remember. A little further afield is Himmarshee with the aforementioned Tarpon Bend and ROK: Burger. Both solid. Not really Las Olas or Himmarshee is The Foxy Brown which has good brunch.
  15. As someone who grew up in the general vicinity, this is my understanding: Going west, Stringfellow Road is where Fairfax turns into Chantilly/Centreville. If it's on/near 50, it's Chantilly. If it's on/near 29, it's Centreville. (Which isn't counting that Union Mill? plaza which considers itself Clifton...) As for the stuff in the middle, it mostly depends on age. If it's older, it's Chantilly, if it's newer is Centreville. (Westfields is harder for me because I am old enough to remember when there was nothing there...) If you're coming from the Fairfax/Chantilly/Centreville direction (driving north-ish) into Reston, Sunrise Valley comes before Sunset Hills because sunrise comes before sunset in the day. (Sorry this was totally unrelated to the conversation, but I will check out Aguaymanto next time I'm in the area.)
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