Friday, July 23, 2010

Portland Restaurant: EaT: An Oyster Bar

Posted by Kelly

What: EaT: An Oyster Bar
Where: 3808 N. Williams Ave
When: Sun, Mon, Wed 11:30am-10pm & Thurs, Fri, Sat 11:30am-'round midnight

Regrettably I don't make it up to North Portland as much as I'd like to since graduating from UP last year, so when I was going to be on N Williams anyway and my mom was in town to treat me to lunch, I thought it was time to try Eat: An Oyster Bar.

We began our southern dining experience with fried pickles and it's accompanying homemade sauce. The pickles were awesome and the sauce was SPICY, but good!

For my main meal I ordered the gumbo. Full of meat, clams, prawns and of course a couple oysters. It was also SPICY, but still had great flavor. I'm not usually an oyster fan so I picked around them. Mostly, I enjoyed it though! 

My mom opted for the Shrimp Etouffee, which was once again SPICY, but still maintained a its flavor. I hate when food is so spicy that is just takes over the dish and looses it's flavor, that's definitely not the case at EaT though. It was a lighter, more tomatoey etouffee than I have ever had. I might be slightly biased, but I think I like my mom's Etouffee better...but I'm supposed to say right?!

I would definitely say that EaT is worth a visit! The food was tasty  (I also hear the Jambalaya is good) and on a sunny day the funky mix and match of tables and chairs opens up expanding onto the courtyard area. Great for a summer day!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Boston Restaurant/Happy Hour: Church

posted by Katie

What: Church of Boston
Where: 69 Kilmarnock Street, near Fenway
When: Free chips and salsa and $5 margaritas on Thursdays
Honeys Heart: The 7 Deadly Sin martinis

Last Thursday, Shannon, Anna, and I met up at Church in the Fenway for dinner.

Church is owned by the same folks who own The Regal Beagle, and the restaurants share a head chef, Laura Henry-Zoubir, which explains why some of the menu items looked familiar to me.

Both restaurants focus on high-quality comfort food, but when it comes to drinks, I think Church comes out on top with its fun and creative "7 Deadly Sin" martinis and "4 Horsemen" drinks.

Now, I'm sure Kel and I have mentioned our love of Gluttony martinis from Vault in Portland, and I have to admit that I was at first a little disappointed to see that Church's take on the 7 Deadly Sins is quite different than Vault's. But then I got over that real fast.

That's because I was drinking this:

The Lust martini ($10) "is a floral, gin-based drink made with purple flowers picked from the base of the Austrian Alps, accented with ginger." You can't really tell in this picture, but it was a very pretty purple color, as you might expect. Shannon and Anna both thought that it tasted too strongly of gin, but I thought the combination of gin and ginger was well-balanced and refreshing. A very good start to my visit to Church.

Anna went with Vanity.

Vanity ($10) is "a vodka based cocktail made with fresh squeezed, sweetened, ruby red grapefruits." Very fruity and very sweet. Anna has a predilection toward the saccharine, so it was perfect for her.

I'll send you over to Church's online menu to read about all the other specialty drinks they feature, including Gluttony, which is made with rum, thai coconut milk, and mint chocolate, and Conquest, which is made with rhubarb tequila, agave nectar and strawberries.Yum.

Shannon ordered the house margarita. Decent, but nothing to get too excited about really. Not when you can drink the 7 Deadly Sins or the 4 Horsemen instead. 

As an appetizer, Shannon and I shared the flatbread special of the day ($6) which was piled high with ham, arugula, caramelized onions (my new favorite), roasted red peppers, cheddar cheese and wasabi-garlic aioli.

There was more than enough for two people to share and I thought the flavors of the ham, the sweet caramelized onions, the bitter arugula, and the unexpected wasabi aioli came together perfectly. Too bad they don't have this particular flatbread every night...

For dinner, I ordered the buttermilk fried chicken with smashed Yukon gold potatoes and green bean and red onion salad with buttermilk dressing ($16).

 It was quite a decadent dish. The fried chicken was crispy and very flavorful and I'm always a sucker for smashed potatoes. The green bean and red onion salad rounded out the plate nicely by bringing in some crisp freshness. Definitely not something you would want to eat all the time, but a great treat once in awhile.

Shannon had the baked mac & cheese with truffle oil, Ritz crackers and sea salt ($12).

Talk about comfort food. The mac was cheesy and delicious and I loved the little bit of crunch from the Ritz crackers on top. My only complaint is that I would have liked to taste more of the truffle oil because I love the stuff. Probably I'm just being greedy though...

Anna went with the pan seared crab cakes with gazpacho, roasted corn salad, and garlic aioli ($10) and a side order of truffle french fries.

I was glad that the crab cakes had a bit of kick to them and the fries were heavenly. No lack of truffle oil there. Loved them.

In addition to the restaurant where we ate, Church also has an adjacent club which serves food from the restaurant until 11pm and has live music every night. Sounds like fun!

Two caveats about Church though:
1) Make sure you plan to spend a good amount of time in the restaurant if you have drinks, an appetizer, and dinner as we did. We arrived a little after 6:30pm and didn't get our bill until around 8:30pm.

2) Be sure to confirm with your server that he or she knows that you would like the Thursday $5 margarita special when you order. Shannon didn't mention that when she ordered and when the bill came, she had been charged the regular $7.50 price. I'm sure our server would have gladly fixed the bill, but by that time we were tired and full and quite ready to head home so we just let it go.

Overall, however, we had a great time and a delicious meal and I plan to go back to try another of the 7 Deadly Sins or maybe one of the 4 Horsemen in the near future.

Also, you should probably follow @ChurchBoston on Twitter so you can know about all their special deals including their Twitter Tuesday specials.

Thanks to Church for their generosity in comping my meal. It was a pleasure to review your restaurant!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tacoma Happy Hour: Stanley and Seaforts

Posted by Kelly

What: Stanley and Seaforts
Where: 115 E. 34th St, Tacoma, WA 98404
When: Mon-Fri 3-6pm, 9-close & Sat-Sun 2-6pm, 9-close

I know I have been a little MIA on the blog, so this is the first of many new posts. I have been good at going to new restaurants, but bad about writing about it!

Last time I visited Jen, and her fabulous roomies, in Tacoma we went to one of her favorite happy hours, Stanley and Seaforts. The drinks were good, and also discounted which is always a plus, and the food was great. Stanley and Seaforts has a beautiful view of the sound and is a "classy" restaurant, so thank goodness for happy hours so we could afford to enjoy it!

Jenna, Jenna, Me and Shelby. Love these girls! 

Jen and I started with Cranberry Mojitos, while Blonde Jenna (she's actually the tall brunette in the pic, but she was blonde!) opted for the Pomegranate Margarita. Both drinks were part of the $4 drink special menu, so of course I ended up having two!

 Stanley and Seaforts begins your happy hour experience with a basket of garlicky, buttery, herby bread. Yes please!

While we snacked on that we looked over the large, diverse, and delicious appetizer menu which is all half off, allowing the four of us to order a variety of items. Since they had all been here before we ordered a favorite, the Classic Sampler ($14.50) with is a tower of crab and artichoke dip, teriyaki tenderloin, and chili-smoked tiger prawns. Quite a terrific tower! It was all delicious, but the tenderloin is a definite favorite!

To accompany our sampler we ordered the Sweet Potato Fries ($3) and since calamari had been recalled in the area at the time, we went with our waitress' suggestion of Warm Brie with Macadamia Nut Crust ($6).

You can't really go wrong with fries, they weren't the best I've ever had, but they were fries.

The brie received mixed reactions. The balsamic glaze was sweet, and the cheese was warm. I didn't love it at first, but it grew on me....I generally don't complain about cheese! Not sure that it will be ordered again next time, but it was worth the try.

Here's the menu, we will definitely be back when I return to Tacoma!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

DIY: Lavender-Infused Vodka and Spiked Lavender Lemonade

posted by Katie

This is really a two-part post. First, how to make lavender-infused vodka, and second, how to make spiked lemonade with that vodka. So here we go:

Lavender-Infused Vodka:

I've been planning to make an infusion ever since I tasted Kel's refreshing cranberry vodka infusion on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, by the time I got my act together and got a jar (thanks Peg!), cranberry season was long over. It then took me, oh, only about 4 months to decide I wanted to make a lavender infusion. After that, it became a matter of tracking down fresh lavender, which I finally found at Whole Foods. 

What You'll Need:
- 1 bottle of vodka
- Fresh lavender stems (I used 2 packets from Whole Foods)
- Glass jar/container of some sort

Step 1: Put washed lavender stems in glass jar

Step 2: Fill jar with vodka

Step 3: Keep jar in fridge for at least 10 days, shaking jar once a day.

When it's done, it will look a little murky, like this:

But you'll need to taste it too. My infusion did not taste like I expected, almost cinnamon-y more than flowery. It was good though and I knew it was ready because I could drink it straight. That vodka bite should be gone.

Step 4: Strain the vodka

I first strained the vodka through our pasta sieve to get out most of the stems.

Then I poured it through the small drink strainer.

Step 5: Keep the infusion in the freezer until you're ready to drink it.

Spiked Lavender Lemonade

You can really spike lemonade with anything, but if you're going to go to the trouble of making lavender-infused vodka, I highly recommend trying this recipe. It's quite refreshing and flavorful, and if you add the strawberries, pretty too.

What You'll Need: 
- Lavender-infused vodka
- Frozen lemonade concentrate
- Lemon-lime soda
- Ice
- Fresh lemons
- Fresh strawberries (optional)

Step 1: Follow the directions on the lemonade concentrate to make lemonade

Step 2: Combine ingredients over ice

- Pour 1 1/2 oz of lavender vodka (or a little more, if you want) into glass filled with ice
- Fill glass 3/4 full with lemonade
- Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice
- Optional: add quartered strawberries
- Stir
- Top with lemon-lime soda 

Step 3: Garnish with lemon slice and straw


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boston Restaurant: The Barking Crab

Posted by Katie

What: The Barking Crab
Where: 88 Sleeper Street, Fort Point Landing (10 min walk from South Station)
Honeys Heart: The fun atmosphere, the great location by the water, and theBoss fresh seafood

Before Nick and I jetted off to Europe, we met up with my Boston friends for dinner at The Barking Crab

Since The Barking Crab is on the expensive side, we decided to order a few dishes and share. We went with the Fried Calamari ($9), Lobster and Crab Dip with cheese and artichoke hearts ($12), Old Bay Crawfish ($10), and Peel and Eat Shrimp ($13).

The calamari and the shrimp were definitely the group favorites since Anna and Katie H. were kind of grossed out by the crawfish. (Scott didn't get a vote because he's allergic to seafood...oops, will remember that for next time!). Shannon, Nick and I had fun pulling apart the crawfish, though it was a lot work for what you actually got, as tasty as it was. The dip was good, but nothing special. Probably would skip it next time in favor of the other 3 dishes that we got since they showcased the fresh seafood a bit better.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: Hungry Girl Happy Hour by Lisa Lillien

posted by Katie 

Last week I received a review copy of Lisa Lilien's latest book of recipes Hungry Girl Happy Hour.

If you're not familiar with the Hungry Girl brand, you can learn more about the series' author, Lisa Lillien, here.

Hungry Girl Happy Hour, with its promise of "75 recipes for amazingly fantastic guilt-free cocktails & party foods" sounded almost too good to be true...and it sort of was.

Lisa and her team were very creative when it came to thinking up ways to reduce the calorie count in the drinks featured in the book. The problem was, when I read the ingredients for drinks like the Peach Melba Daiquiri Slushie (rum, frozen unsweetened peach slices, sugar-free calorie-free raspberry-flavored syrup, no-calorie sweeter packets, ice cubes), I tend to think Oh, that sounds kind of refreshing. But what if I swapped the frozen peaches for fresh peaches, and pureed raspberries instead of buying syrup, and then threw a little simple syrup in instead of those gross sweeter that would be really good. And that kind of thinking really just negates the whole point of the book.

So I guess what it comes down to is if you're okay with using powdered mixes and sweetener packets instead of fresh, natural ingredients, then you're going to really love this book.

But if you're like me, and don't like the idea of artificial sweeteners, especially in drinks, this is not the book for you.

As far as the food portion of the book, Lisa basically just takes your favorite party recipes and tells you to use low-calorie, non-fat ingredients anywhere you can. Not that groundbreaking, but again, good for those who are into that sort of thing.

So yeah, I probably will not use any recipes from this book, but I will at least say, it sure looks cute sitting on my shelf!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Europe 2010: Dublin

posted by Katie

Dublin was the last stop on our trip and therefore our time there was bittersweet. We arrived in Dublin from Venice around 2pm and our first order of business after dropping our bags off at the hotel was lunch.

Nick thought that fish and chips would be an appropriate lunch, and I agreed, so we wandered around Temple Bar until we came across Quays Irish Restaurant, which offers 10 euro lunch specials.

Nick really liked the fish but I thought it had kind of a funky taste. The chips were very good though, nice and meaty.

I also got to have my beloved Magners Irish Cider, called by its original name Blumers in Ireland, and Nick had a Carlsberg.

For dinner, I convinced Nick that we had to go to Gallagher's Boxty House since the boxties (I guess that's the plural) there were so good when Lauren, Kerry and I ate there a few years ago.

However, by the time our reservation rolled around at 10:30pm, Nick and I were sill pretty full from our late lunch. There was no way I was not going to have a boxty though, so Nick and I decided to share a boxty and a salad.

A boxty is a thin potato pancake folded over some sort of filling. Nick and I went with the Corned Beef and Cabbage Boxty which was served with a rich parsley cream sauce. So tasty!

The rest of our time in Dublin was spent exploring the city, shopping at Pennys (aka Primark) and Top Shop (yay!) and watching the cutest swan family ever in St. Stephen's Green :

So that's it...Not really sure how to wrap up all these Europe posts other than to say that I'm so grateful that I got to go on such an amazing trip and I hope you've enjoyed reading about all our dining adventures abroad!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Europe 2010: Venice

Posted by Katie

Since Venice was our second to last city to visit on the trip, and our last stop in Italy, we wanted to dine well. The library on the ship had Rick Steves' Venice book, so I spent a good amount of time copying down his recommendations into my journal so we would know where to go.

And then I left my journal on the ship. Oops. More on that later...

Our day in Venice started out with an excursion to two neighboring islands: Murano and Burano. If you've been to Venice, you probably recognize the name Murano from the glass that is sold throughout the city. Our stop in Murano revolved around a visit to a glass factory where we watched a master glass blower form a horse from molten glass in about 2 minutes...and then light his cigarette on it because it was so hot. Classy.

While the part of Murano we saw was nothing special, Burano was actually very pleasant.

Every house on Burano is painted its own bright color. Local legend says that wives started painting their houses different colors so that their husbands wouldn't "accidentally" go into the wrong house and climb into the wrong bed after a long day of fishing. I feel like I heard a similar story when I was in Dublin learning about the painted doors there...But whatever the reason for the colorful houses, they certainly make the island quite enjoyable to walk to around even though there's really not much else to see.

After our visits to Murano and Burano, we finally got to Venice proper. We spent some time wondering around, working up an appetite before stopping for gelato. Since we had already had some gelato on Burano (yeah, forgot to mention that) we shared a double scoop of stracciatella and frutti di bosco. Yum.

We walked around a bit more and then decided we needed a bit more sustenance, so we stopped at a small pizza place near The Rialto Bridge.

We shared the biggest slice of sausage and pepper pizza ever. And we started a bit of a trend. A bunch of people saw us eating our slice on the stairs of some random building and decided to join us after purchasing their own slices. The more the merrier...

As we explored more, I kept noticing that lots of people were drinking the same bright orange aperitif. I decided that the drinks had to be good, since everyone had them and I immediately wanted one. Now, after some research, I can tell you that they were drinking Spritz, which is typically made from carbonated water, white wine, and either Campari, Cynar or Aperol. In other words, it's very Nick found out when he ordered it with our dinnner. I think he had about two sips before he gave up on it. We won't be ordering that again anytime soon.

So yeah, about our big Venetian dinner. It was horrible. And that was probably my fault. First of all, I was the one who forgot to bring my journal with the recommendations, and second of all, that thing happened again where I got really hungry and tired and grumpy and unreasonable and therefore forced Nick to eat at a super touristy place along The Rialto Bridge. I know, embarrassing. And it really was soooo bad.

The waiter promised us the "best seat in the house" right next to the canal with a great view of The Rialto. What he didn't mention was that every time a boat would go by, nasty canal water would splash up through the cracks in the floor, covering our legs. 

And the bread was stale, never a good sign. Although things weren't looking good, we forged ahead. I ordered gnocchi and Nick got Spaghetti di Mar.

Nick proclaimed his dish "Olive Garden good" (not a compliment in our book) and I agreed that my meal could be placed under the same description. So disappointing.

So to make up for our lousy dinner, we had to have some gelato. You know, to make sure we left Italy with a good taste in our mouths. Nick had stracciatella and I got stracciatella AND caffe (coffee). It's the most delicious combination ever and I would have gotten it more often, but coffee in any form, including ice cream, sometimes makes me sick. I was feeling reckless though...and it was worth it.

We also had some pretty amazing scenery to help console us: 

And from earlier in the day:

Coming up next: Our final stop, Dublin.