Asador Etxebarri – Bizkaia, Spain

Another restaurant that we tried during our honeymoon was Asador Etxebarri. If you’ve ever seen the Anthony Bourdain episode where he goes to Spain, Bourdain stops by a place that is famous for grilling meats. It is also one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, according to San Pellegrino’s list. Supposedly they have the best grilled shrimp in the world. My husband loves shrimp so we had to find out!

We started with chorizo. It was thinly sliced and had intense flavor. One of our friends said for such a thin slice it was very meaty. It also wasn’t too greasy for sausage.

Next was the shrimp! They were prepared very simple…isn’t that the best way to do it? It was cooked perfectly, you didn’t see any grill marks or anything burnt about it…but you could taste the grilled flavor. They were lightly salted. The best part was how sweet the shrimp were. I’ve never had shrimp so sweet. Prior to this meal, we thought maybe it IS the way they grill it. But after having shrimp throughout the trip, the shrimp in Spain is AMAZING. For one thing, the shrimp is already bright pink/orange in color while live. The closest thing in California would be the Santa Barbara Spotted Prawns…which come at a pretty steep price (unless you get them in the Asian markets like 99 ranch!). Awfully sweet shrimp + grilled to perfection = absolute shrimp bliss.

 

Then we had clams. They weren’t grilled but perfectly cooked! Sweet, buttery, and you could taste some white wine. It was great to dip with bread.

Up next, the beef chop! We had it rare and split among 3.25 folks (the 1/4 being our friend who doesn’t eat beef at all, but for this occasion she decided to give it a try!). It was a lot of beef and SO good. I also liked that it was grilled, some restaurants char the steak and I’m not a fan of that style. Oh and as you can see, they also served salad with the beef.

At this point I gave up eating and it was up to the men to finish the beef. What a dilemma 🙂

We then had dessert. I don’t even know how I managed to eat any because I was soooo full from everything else! It was smoked milk ice cream…which tasted more like frozen yogurt. It looked heavy but was actually light tasting. It was a pleasant surprise.

This was a pretty satisfying meal. If you happen to visit Bilbao and San Sebastian, this is definitely worth a visit. Besides having great food and a break from the drive, the area where this restaurant is situated is lovely. You’ll see pretty green hills full of sheep! How cute! This concludes me posting about the food during our honeymoon.

So where to next? I feel like I’m running out of time to travel! We’re debating between Thailand or Vietnam for our next trip to Asia. For Europe I’d like to visit Greece, specifically Santorini or Mykonos, or is that too touristy? I’d also like to visit Istanbul, Turkey…and I’m interested in Croatia. I heard Croatia’s pretty and they even have vineyards! I’m definitely keen on visiting anywhere that is known for wine! Maybe Champagne, France? I figure it’s best to visit the places that are 12+ hours of flying now, while my body can handle these long haul flights!

Asador Etxebarri
P
laza San Juan I
48291 Atxondo, Bizkaia, Spain

 

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Mugaritz

I haven’t posted about our meal at Mugaritz which according to San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna is #3 best restaurant in the world! We were fortunate enough to score reservations, given that we booked our flights a month before our trip. We also tried to make reservations at El Celler de Can Roca and Asador Etxebarri. We didn’t luck out on the former but was able to go to the latter which I hopefully will post soon. Anyway, the reason we were lucky to book Mugaritz is because they were on their winter break. The restaurant closes down for the winter and re-opens in the spring…we got the third service for 2012, which means they were open for two days! During the break the entire team goes off in R&D mode, discovering and experimenting with new flavors. So the staff was very excited to serve us this very new menu. We even got to try items that did not appear on the menu. Mugaritz’ food should evoke different senses. Even the way they word the dishes sounds fancy!

Mugaritz is located outside of San Sebastian, we had a rental car and GPS, thank goodness because no one tells you about the numerous roundabouts in Spain!

So let’s get started!

“Satiation eludes bread and olives…” Is it sad that the Robuchon bread cart is still the most epic bread cart I’ve ever had? Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of their bread tray 😦  Anyway, get it? Instead of bread you got paper, instead of olives you got butter that tasted like olives! Yes it looks like paper and even has the texture of kraft paper. There is this one snack that is sold at the Vietnamese supermarkets…it looks like white crackers that have roasted peanuts held together by a hardened sugar. I don’t know the name of this snack but the white cracker part tastes just like this paper! It was served with olive oil tasting butter.

“Grilled toast of bone marrow with herbs and horseradish ash” That’s a whole piece of bone marrow, it was like meaty butter on toast!

“Flax and wheat “Kraft” paper with roe and Arrow-grass buttons” Underneath this “paper” there was roe!

“crunchy sauce with citron and peppers” this reminds me of shrimp crackers, the same concept but much thinner. However when you bite into it, it immediately melts in your mouth like a creamy sauce! the black dots represent the peppers…it definitely balanced out the creaminess of the sauce.

“Lukewarm cannelloni of sea urchin and milk” Looks like cheong fun from dim sum, doesn’t it? Except the texture/flavor of the “cannelloni” piece does not taste like rice noodles, it tastes like non fat milk in…noodle form and when you bite into it you have HUGE pieces of sea urchin.

“Strings of skate and chard with Molli made with sunflower and pumpkin seeds” The strings of skate…also reminded me of another Asian dish, have you had dried cuttle fish? It’s like that but as if it’s been moistened in water, except in this case it was moistened by a sunflower/pumpkin seed sauce. Very interesting take on a childhood snack!

Here’s the bonus dish! Looks like de-skinned grapes right? When we bit into it it tasted like winter melon soup! The staff eagerly watched us eat this one to see how we reacted. When we finished they asked us what we thought it was, husband said winter melon soup and they said yes!

“cured cheese, in its own rind, mushrooms and coastal herbs” This one tasted as described, like a very creamy cheese, even creamier/softer than brie.

“Vegetable noodles in a meat and toasted onions consomme” It was like french onion soup, without the gruyere cheese. Without the cheese it tastes a lot lighter!

This next dish was fun:
“Bonding…” Toasted seeds and spices served in a Mortar with a paste of chopped shrimp
Yeah that’s exactly what we got, except the “bonding” part is where we did some work! This is what we received:

Once you smashed the seeds/spices, you received the broth:

And you also received a bowl of chopped shrimp, the shrimp looked like they were toasted or baked until it was crunchy:

And then you mix it altogether and had a yummy soup!

Back to more eating and less working! “Tagliatelle of concentrated milk lightly soaked in a silky juice of roasted squash and tomato.” The “tagliatelle” part of this was really interesting! It was like the texture of the part of the creme brulee or flan where the edge tastes harder than the rest of the custard, but harder and chewy, but tasted milky. Hope that makes sense.

“slices of monkfish cooked with the steam of its bones. crispy stew of roasted rinds and lilies.” There’s a steamed fish that my mom would make which included dried lilies…this dish reminded me of my mom’s dish. the fish was perfectly cooked, the crispy rinds/lilies were a nice compliment to the firm fish.

“Coastal fish with crunchy trimmings of aged sourdough and sweet pickled daikon.” This fish didn’t taste like monkfish bc of its thickness…it was very thin like sole but rolled up. It was well cooked too!

“Breast of guineafowl with lobster emulsion and its roasted skin” I’m not sure what guineafowl is but it tasted like a very tender chicken breast!

“Tender sweetbread with roasted parsnip and artisan praline” This was ok, maybe I’m just not a fan of sweetbreads in general…

“Light dices of sculpted apple with figs. Crunchy dark chocolate and mint” The apple part tasted like super thin slices of…apple pie crust!

“traditional almond fairy cake” I really liked this one…it tasted like very light vanilla ice cream with a nice coating of crushed raw almonds…it was a lovely, light dessert!

“Forgotten memory from childhood. Small bite of milky wafer with lemon ice cream” This ice cream was nice because it wasn’t pucker-y lemon. I’m not a fan of lemon/lime desserts but I was ok with this because of that.

Nails and flowers. Looks like rusted nails but it was chocolate shaped into nails, dusted with chocolate powder!

Candies of frankincense. The perfume of eucalyptus barks. After having the nails we weren’t sure which part to eat on this one! Turns out you eat the incense that was still burning! The texture reminded me of cigarette candy that I had as a kid but tasted a little anise-y. I wonder if it was intended to be another rendition of those cigarette candies?

Overall I really enjoyed the experience. Everyone was super helpful and well versed in their new menu. It was cool how they had so many renditions on Asian dishes. Fun times indeed!

Mugaritz
Otzazulueta baserria, Aldura-aldea 20,20100
Errenteria, Spain

Guy Savoy – Paris

Our “splurge” meal in Paris was the one and only Guy Savoy. We didn’t do Joel Robuchon as we went to the one in Vegas in November 2009. We wanted to try a different chef this time. Let’s start off with location. Guy Savoy is located by the Champs Elysees boulevard, literally two streets down from the Arc de Triomphe. Since Guy Savoy doesn’t have as much “buzz” as some of the newer restaurants, we were able to make reservations through the normal process. When we walked into the restaurant, we were warmly greeted by three hostesses. Everyone wore a charcoal gray suit, very business professional looking…like being in a bank. Make sure you dress in business casual, at minimum! Everyone working in the restaurant greeted us. That’s quite lovely. The restaurant is divided into separate rooms. Each room had 4 tables. You can easily arrange to have a family dinner in one of the rooms, semi-privately.

Onto the amuse bouche – asparagus soup

underneath the soup cup was a beet tart!

As we reviewed the wine menu THE chef came out. Yes, I mean Guy Savoy came out and welcomed us to his restaurant. Holy cow, my jaw dropped. Does Thomas Keller greet his customers at Per Se or French Laundry? Does Robuchon greet his patrons at any of the Robuchon locations. This was a first for me!

their bread cart. impressive but if you’ve seen Robuchon’s bread cart, this one seems OK. It’s because at Robuchon they had more than 8 different types of breads and they warm the bread for you.

My appetizer: chicken breast, foie gras and artichoke, with a truffle dressing. It was presented like a terrine and I absolutely terrines. It was served cold but it was so fitting. I was suprised by how MOIST the chicken breast was, that it totally matched the texture and consistency of the foie gras.

❤ had the artichoke and black truffle soup. It also came with a layered brioche with muchrooms and truffles topping the soup off. Do I really need to describe to you how awesome the soup is? Well you have to like artichokes first and foremost. Because this soup tasted like liquid artichoke hearts…to me that’s yuumy!

I had the springtime veal. This time I had green asparagus, versus the white asparagus in my appetizer. I really like asparagus and didn’t feel it was redundant.

❤ had “Foie gras and radish,” just fried turnips and “roasted-caramelised” duck. The interesting thing about <3’s dish is that they showed us how it looked before they cut the duck. It was cooked in a foil case that had a clear window. WHen they came out with the foil, they pulled open the clear window and you were overwhelmed with the smell of duck. MMmm.

:

A palate cleanser

Their ice cream cart is so smart looking!

❤ had the Mille-feuille pasry with vanilla pod (made to order). I loved the vanilla in this dessert, but it was a little hard to eat. Like you can’t just run your fork through it.

I had the “strawberry textures” and indeed it was full of textures. The best part? No rhubarb! Thank you! There was freeze dried strawberries, slightly sweetened strawberries,  strawberry ice, and a bit of a strawberry glaze. Everything tasted like the sweetest, freshest strawberries you’d find at a farmer’s market. I loved this dessert!!!

We even had a bit of ice cream!

Overall I really enjoyed our meal. Like I said before, I feel like Michelin’s ratings sway more towards “fine dining” and exceptional service. Guy Savoy definitely fit that criteria. My favorite dishes were the appetizer and dessert that I ordered. Anyway, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Enjoy!

Guy Savoy
18, rue Troyon
75017 Paris France

Nomiya – Paris

Pop up restaurants…I’ve been to a few in LA and have been disappointed. Yatai for its barely warm ramen and LudoBites for its overcooked quail eggs, among other things. I think these fail because the staff is not working in their own territory. At least, that’s what I hope it is. So when the new york times posted their latest 36 hours in Paris list and featured a pop up bistro, I was a bit resistant. However, because this one had a gorgeous view of the one and only tower, I figured let’s give it a shot! First off, the restaurant was originally supposed to close summer 2010. Due to its popularity, they continued to run it a bit longer! In order to make reservations, you have to go to Nomiya’s website which is sponsored by Electrolux. The restaurant features all Electrolux appliances. Reservations can only be made online and the day that you want becomes available one month in advance. The restaurant only offers one seating for lunch and dinner each day. Also note that the restaurant only serves 12 patrons for each seating.  That’s where Google calendar comes in handy!

The restaurant sits on the roof of the Palais de Tokyo, a modern contemporary arts museum.

This is how close the Eiffel tower was to us!

Here is the inside of the restaurant. First you see the kitchen. Through the kitchen you see the main dining area.

The view from the inside dining area:

They were very generous serving champagne and wine as we waited!

As you may have guessed, because the place only fits 12, you’re sitting with 10 other strangers. In our seating, everyone was a local from Paris. The locals were surprised that two Americans were able to get reservations! They told us how difficult it is to make reservations. I told them it helped that we were in a different time zone when we booked! 😉

Onto the food! The server told us what the food was in French. Due to our limited French, we used our other senses to guess what we were eating!

Thankfully we cook with different colored beets all of the time, so we knew instantly this was beet ravioli! One was made of golden beet and the other from the pink beet. It was also topped with baked to a crisp red beet. The inside was filled with crab meat! They served this with avocado sauce on the sides.

The next dish were slices of raw scallops topped with a citrus sauce. It also had thin slices of lime peel and pieces of

orange peel. It was so refreshing!

Our main entree was beef topped with chopped tomatoes and cilantro/green onion foam. I remembered this one because it reminded me of eating a carne asada with salsa fresca. On the side was a rattatuoille. The inside had fresh carrots, peas, onions and was wrapped in zucchinni. Eventhough beef is a “heavy” dish, it tasted so refreshing because of the produce.

Our dessert was a blanched strawberry/rhubarb tart with ice cream. I know people like to pair strawberries and rhubarb together, but I personally do not like it. I don’t like rhubarb because it reminds me of celery. I hate eating celery because it’s so thready! Anyway, the rhubarb in this dish was prepared such that the “stringiness” of the rhubarb wasn’t so bad.

This has got to be the best pop up restaurant I’ve been to thus far. I believe it’s because this pop up has been around for many more months than the ones I’ve been to in the states. I also liked how we dined with complete strangers who obviously loved food as much as us. It was a great time for us, interacting with local foodies and enjoying the amazing view!

If you have a chance to dine here, I highly recommend it! Enjoy!
Nomiya
13, avenue du Président Wilson
Paris, France

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – London

My next favorite meal on our Europe trip was Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Prior to arriving in Europe, we didn’t have any intentions of coming here. We knew that it would be super cool to go to the Fat Duck but we didn’t want to spend 160 pounds per person on the tasting menu, especially when you add wine to the bill. The couple that we met in Paris told us that they went to Blumenthal’s pub, the Hind’s Head and recommended that to us. Our plan was to go there. However, on our train ride from Paris to London, the Metropolitan magazine mentioned Blumenthal’s new restaurant. Located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Dinner is bigger with over 100 plus seats and lower priced than Blumenthal’s Fat Duck. I told my London friend about it and we attempted to make reservations. Open table didn’t have any availability for months. Wait, we know better than to just rely on opentable! We called the restaurant and they told us that dinner reservations were fully booked until July! Whoa. Ok, what about lunch? Apparently they had availability for two on Thursday. Score! We had lunch…at Dinner. Ha!

Between Monday to Friday, they serve a set lunch menu with three appetizers for 28 pounds a person! I wasn’t really interested in the set menu (because we had quail a few times during our trip already) and wanted to try something from the a la carte menu. You’ll notice that after each dish there is a year next to it. This date represents the year the actual recipe came from. The back of the menu also shows which book the recipe came from.

We’ve read that the meat fruit is popular. Good thing I didn’t research what the meatfruit would look like. It was so cute when it arrived! The outside was mandarin with a texture similar to a really moist fruit roll up. The inside had super smooth chicken liver. This was really tasty. The mandarin flavor replaced the typical cornichons you usually get with pate. The grilled bread was nicely grilled, not too tough (I hate when it’s super hard and hurts the roof of your mouth).

I had the powdered duck. The waiter told us that the duck was cooked for over 12 hours. It was sooo moist, fall off the bone tender. It was on top of roasted fennel. Fennel has a subtle anise-y taste to it and complimented the roasted duck well.

❤ had the roast turbot. It was topped with cockle ketchup and leaf chicory. His comment: second best fish I ever had! (first best being Le Chateaubriand).

For dessert I was so full that we shared dessert. In the beginning the waiter told us that the most popular dessert was the Tipsy Cake. It has a spit roasted pineapple that you can see on the spits in the kitchen. If you want to have this dessert, you have to let them know when you order your main entrees. However, we opted for chocolate and ordered the chocolate bar. The inside of the chocolate bar had passion fruit jam and it was served with ginger ice cream. As a side note, we saw the play “Children’s Hour” and during the intermission they served ice cream. Ice cream at a play?! We had the ginger ice cream there and it was yummy. If we hadn’t had the ginger ice cream at the play then this would’ve been a pleasant surprise! Still, it was a great dessert.

In general food in London was meh so this was a pleasant surprise meal for us. Dinner had well executed, tasty dishes. If you’re planning a trip to London, make sure you book reservations the moment you book your plane tickets! This was definitely worth it and I’m so glad we tried it.

Enjoy!

Dinner by Heston
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
+44(0)20 7201 3833

Le Chateaubriand – Paris

I wanted to post about my favorite meal in Paris. This is in line with how we are always in search of good food, the trials and tribulations we’d go through to get to that food.

I’ve been relying on San Pelligrino’s world’s best restaurant list for awhile now and I feel like it’s a good resource on where to go for different types of cool dining experiences (Biko and Pujol in Mexico City were pretty spot on). In this case, San Pelligrino listed Le Chateaubriand as one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world. It sounded interesting enough, chefs trying to change up French cuisine at reasonable prices. At 50 euro a person, you are indulged in whatever they feel like creating for that evening. Sounds like our type of place! The night before arriving in Paris, San Pelligrino announced that they were awarded #9 best restaurant in the world. The highest ranking for a French restaurant this year! Knowing this I wanted to go there the evening we arrived. Unfortunately, they were CLOSED. WHAAAAT? No signs, nothing, just..closed. Another couple looked equally disappointed as us…luckily they found out the restaurant would be open the following day!

So the trick to going to this restaurant. You can try to book a reservation, though you need a local phone number to accomplish this. Iff you don’t have that as an option, you must wait in line at the restaurant. It’s not as bad as it seems. Well, first you need to mentally prepare yourself to eat dinner at 10pm. I really mean that. This is the norm in Latin America and Europe that you will be dining “late.” Good thing ❤ got me accustomed to eating our dinners normally at 9pm! So, get yourself to the restaurant by 9pm and stand in line. At 9:30 most diners will start leaving and the staff will let you in the restaurant to the bar area. From here, chill out and get a glass of wine or something. The chalkboard tells you what’s available.

By the time you have a nice little buzz you’ll be seated! The couple we met the night before came 15 minutes after us and were seated at the table next to us! On to the menu. You don’t even have to think about what you’re going to eat, they will tell you what will be served (just make sure you tell them what allergies you may have). And off you go!

I almost forgot to take a photo of this. It was little puffs of bread with a cheesy taste. You know how pao de quejo has a chewy/mochi like consistency? Well these have the same flavor as pao de quejo but with fluffiness.

Our next plate was ceviche. When we saw the bowls we were like…where’s the ceviche?! When I drank it I felt like I just had ceviche. Whoa, what powerfully pink liquid ceviche you are. Tricky, tricky. Who knew what looked like a diluted mess would pack such a ceviche punch.

Next up were duck hearts. Whoa, hearts? I’ve had hearts before but I still feel a little sadness because it’s the little critter’s HEART…uncooked! My sadness quickly faded and I enjoyed how the seeds on the hearts added a crunchy texture to an otherwise sad chewing experience. The flavors of the seeds also adds a nuttiness to the gamey flavor.

Next up, artichokes. I really do like artichokes. I especially like them grilled. This may seem like a simple dish but it’s cooked so well. For one thing the outside of the artichoke, the leaves where you can suck on the underside to get some meat…were steamed. However, the heart of the artichoke…they sliced it thinly and grilled those guys. Oh, what a nice transition. Usually you have grilled artichokes and the outside becomes dry and the heart isn’t necessarily grilled perfectly. Then they topped it off with a bit of cheese, kind of like queso fresco. Delightful!

We then had a seafood bouillobaise. See the little radishes? ❤ made a comment saying “did he get these radishes from San Diego? haha.” This is in reference to the little radishes/carrots that SAAM served us. At that time, the chef told us that those radishes were from SD! Such a little bowl of soup but packed full of flavor. that’s the nice thing about teeny tiny radishes…it’s like 1 big radish packed into the size of your pinkie!

This next dish was OK for me. I’m not really a fan of cucumbers. But if you like persian style cucumbers and you like oil that tastes refreshing like cucumbers, then you’d like this dish. The fish tasted watered down, as if this was the fish that lost all its flavor from the ceviche and ended up on this plate…soaking up the cucumber. Yeah, so you have to like cucumber.

Oil poached fish. This was perfectly cooked fish! They poached it and then crisped the skin. Wow, just wow. Oh and the carrots are a nice touch because they were slightly raw, for crunch.

Our next dish was pigeon. I remember tasting five spice in the seasoning. As far as I know, game bird and five spice is always a win win. Maybe this goes back to how my mom would prepare quail. She’d always put five spice in it. It must get rid of the gaminess?

I couldn’t even finish the pigeon because I was getting so full! Anyway on to dessert. You get TWO. The first one was a fruit sorbet, I believe it was peach. I don’t remember exactly but it was tangy, but not sour. They put coffee grounds underneath it. Very refreshing!

The next dessert had chocolate cake. It was topped with flakey pieces that tasted like…an ice cream cone! It’s like a broken ice cream cone in a bowl!

Lastly, strawberries with sides like fennel on it. It was like a strawberry mint, similar to the stuff they give you after dinner at an Indian restaurant!

Overall, the food was pretty good. I would definitely recommend Le Chateaubriand as one of your $$$ dining experiences. That’s the nice thing about a San Pelligrino versus Michelin rated restaurant – don’t walk into this restaurant expecting world class service as you would a 3 star Michelin. They just serve food their way and well. It’s totally different from traditional French cuisine. It’s no wonder they climbed higher in ranking this year. They are doing something different and it works. Enjoy!

Le Chateaubriand
29 Avenue Parmentier, Paris 75011, France
+33 (0)1 43 57 45 95

Anderson’s Pea Soup – Buelton

Before heading back home, we went to Anderson’s. Because if you don’t know by now, I LOVE PEAS. I loved peas so much that I would put extra frozen peas in my cup o noodles. I always have frozen peas in my freezer. Peas are one of my “staple” foods that I enjoy eating. Like if I’m too lazy to cook or there’s nothing in the fridge, I will heat a bowl of peas, top it with butter and salt. I’ve made split pea soup twice. Once I followed Alton Brown’s recipe and the second time I followed Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc recipe. I was quite excited to try a famous split pea soup place!

As I took the photo above all I could think about was “aww, just like on tv!” I know, how touristy! 🙂

I had the all you can eat soup special. They have a big pot where the servers readily refill bowls. So when you order it, it comes out in seconds!

First I wanted to try it without all of the toppings. OK to be honest, after making the Ad Hoc split pea soup this soup was very underwhelming. It tasted really thick, like did I get the soup that collected at the bottom? I mean it was good, but this is one instance where I felt like the soup I made tasted much better! I think it’s because their soup didn’t have much ham to it? It did come with a cup of chopped up ham but I think having the ham bone actually cooked with the soup develops the flavors more.

❤ had eggs. Not much to say here because we know what this will taste like!

Overall, I think it’s worth checking out this place if you happen to be in the area. The restaurant also has a bakery where they sell danish pastries and cookies, just like in Solvang. If you forget to buy any souvenirs while in Solvang, you can also find tons of things here. Or you can even purchase some dried split peas!

Anderson’s Pea Soup
376 Avenue of the Flags
Buellton, California 93427

Anniversary dinner at Root 246 – Solvang

For our “official” anniversary, we wanted to go where it became “official.” Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez was our first road trip and first wine tasting trip. This time we stayed in Solvang. For our anniversary dinner we ate at Root 246. I found Root 246 through a cnn article that I bookmarked months before. The restaurant uses fresh, local produce. Located in Solvang, it was a convenient walk from our hotel. Since we were there during Valentine’s Day weekend, they had a special menu. We opted for a la carte.

We started with the cheese plate.

I can’t remember the names of the cheeses but I do remember there was the simmered red onions on the side, it was a nice touch compared to having jams/jellies. The cool thing about cheese plates is that you get to try a little bit of every cheese. Like we would never get a wedge of goat cheese to eat, but a teeny sample is lovely!

Our next appetizer was the pork belly. It was well prepared. It had slices of dried blood orange. I really think the fattiness of the pork belly went well with the citrus on the plate. It does “cut” through the fat.

I had the pan fried chicken. At first I was like, what’s the difference between fried-fried chicken and pan fried chicken?? So what they did was flour the chicken and cook it in the pan instead of deep frying it in a pot of oil. I really liked the seasoning and flavor the pan fried chicken had. The apple slaw complemented the saltiness of the fried chicken. I was so full!

❤ had artic char. Artic char is similar to salmon but didn’t taste as fatty as salmon. It was in between a sockeye salmon and a king salmon. Personally my favorite salmon EVER is sockeye salmon that we had in Seattle. After that, salmon has never been the same. Well, <3’s dish was really good too!

Root 246 also has a lounge area if you just want to have a drink. They had a lovely wine cellar display. They take reservations which I highly recommend making.

Root 246
420 Alisal Road
Downtown Solvang

Local spots in Mexico City

Besides proper sit down restaurants, we did eat at taco stands and bars.

I think my favorite experience was going to Coyoacan, another neighborhood in Mexico City. As one person in the office said, it’s very old and feels like you stepped back into time. I think that’s the best way to describe this area as you see older buildings but it’s not to say it’s ugly at all. It’s a nice change of pace from how busy the rest of the city feels. Thanks to the turibus (which is a super convenient way to see most of the city), we were able to stop by for a few hours. According to lonely planet, one of the places to eat at was Tostadas Coyoacan. Based on lonely planet, I really had no idea what to expect. We walked into the Mercado, which is in a large building that holds numerous vendors. We walked towards the back of the building and all you could see were stalls that had large tray fulls of what looked like different types of ceviche. You could see that the “line chefs” were yelling at the servers and vice versa, if you didn’t understand Spanish then it looked a little bit like madness. The servers warmly greeted us, inviting us to sit on one of their booths to eat tostadas. but wait, we wanted to go to the “Tostadas Coyoacan” one! We walked through this row and towards the end we found it. Tostadas Coyoacan actually consisted of 4 stalls! When I told them we were a party of two, the server pointed me towards the back of the stalls where  there was a line of people waiting to be seated. Ohh this must be the place to be then! Since we were just a party of two and service is really fast (you’re just eating tostadas!), they seated us in a few minutes.

We luckily got to sit where the action was! Basically we were sitting at the stall that had the trays of seafood, which means we saw the line chefs take all of the orders and quickly pile each tostada with whatever toppings were being barked at them. It was really cool to see how quickly they moved! I was a little intimidated to order because we didn’t know what to get, there were so many to choose from! We ended up getting octopus and shrimp. They were so tasty!

What made this food adventure so memorable was how FRIENDLY everyone was. I even took my SLR out to take a photo of all of the food. The cool part was that the patrons sitting next to me even moved out of the way for me to take photos! How sweet is that? That’s never happened to me in the US where people kindly allow me to take a photo (I feel like in the US people would sarcastically sigh out loud to show how annoyed they are). The girl sitting next to ❤ even told me I should take the photo from her angle! The line cooks even smiled in the photos. Man, I wish people in the US were this friendly about letting me take photos in a restaurant!!!

Another place that we ate at was Tacos Chupacabre which is also located in Coyoacan, but away from the historical area. This was located next to a mall (also next to a Turibus stop). Rick Bayless recommended this taco stand. Here the cook greeted us by saying “konichiwa!” 🙂 The patrons were telling us that the tacos here are really good. I don’t have any photos of the tacos but yes, they are tasty! I loved how even here the patrons were cool with me taking photos of stand. Even the cooks let me take a photo of them (eventhough I didn’t time it well :().

Again, I love the hospitality that Mexico City has been for me on my many trips to Mexico City. I must warn you, if you do visit Mexico City it really does help to know some Spanish. I can’t say enough positive things about the hospitality and the amazing food! People in the US have this pre-conceived notion of what Mexico is like because of their experiences in TJ/Rosarito/Cancun/Puerto Vallarta and the drug wars that we see on the news. Mexico City has a totally different feel and moves to a metropolitan beat. Mexico City definitely changed my perspective of Mexico and I hope people get to see this for themselves.

Dulce Patria – Mexico City

Another place that comes up among the must go restaurants in Mexico City is Dulce Patria, a fairly new restaurant that opened in the Polanco area of the city. Apparently everyone knows this chef, Martha Ortiz, and they were eagerly anticipating the opening of her new restaurant for awhile. Like Izote, Dulce Patria serves Mexican food with a modern twist to it. Unlike Izote, when you walk into Dulce Patria it feels romantic. It has a red/white decor to it with red lighting. The dark/red lighting gave it a more romantic feel. It’s amazing how lighting can totally change the ambience of a place, right? Like Izote, it’s a small restaurant but they can easily accomodate a large party, IF you reserve in advance.

We started with the Vampire Cebiche. I remember it having mangos in it. It was pretty tasty! The name makes it sound like it’ll be spicy but it was actually a sweet tasting ceviche.

We then had the tuna tostadas (I don’t remember the actual name of the appetizer). To be honest I remember it was good, but nothing else. The Vampire was memorable because of it tasted sweet, not sour like most ceviches (due to the limon).

For my cocktail, I had a drink that had mezcal, ice and mangos blended together. The drink was actually a little bit larger than a shot glass. If you haven’t had mezcal, it has a distinct smoky flavor to it. The smokiness goes well with citrus, so you generally have mezcal with slices of orange. In this case, the mangos were a nice compliment to the mezcal’s bold flavor. At first I was thinking why is my glass so small and then you realize, oh…mezcal is kind of strong. 🙂 We actually wanted to see the wines but the waiter only brought us the cocktail menu, so I’m not sure if they have a wine list.

One of the cool things that the restaurant served was the bread. They had rose, cheese, bean and sweet flavored bread. We tried all of them! I don’t have a photo of the rose flavored bread but I didn’t like it at all. It’s shaped like a brioche but when you bite into it, you see the pink colored dough. You know how the rose soap from L’occitane smells? Imagine eating that. It was just a big blast of rose! I couldn’t take more than one bite of it. My favorite was the bean filled bread (on the right) and the sweet bread (on the left). The bean filled bread tasted like black beans and the sweet bread tasted like King’s Hawaiian’s bread!

I had the filete de huachinango a la marimba veracruzana con arroz verde. Huachinango is red snapper, at most seafood restaurants in Mexico City you’ll find red snapper! Because my dad is an avid fisher, I know for a fact that red snapper can be caught in the Gulf of Mexico, hence you’ll find red snapper readily available in Mexico! As far as I know, when you fish for red snapper, you have to go deep into the gulf, you have to put your line almost to the bottom of the gulf and that’s where these guys will be swimming (please correct me if I’m wrong, as I haven’t done the actual fishing myself). Anyway, the red snapper was prepared Veracruz style. Since I’m not too familiar on what makes a dish Veracruz-like, what I know from MY dish was that it had green peppers, red peppers, onions, and other vegetables that I can’t remember that tasted like they were slow cooked with the red snapper, most likely in the oven? But the distinct flavors it had were green and red peppers. It was a great red snapper dish. But I personally do not like green and red peppers slowly cooked (I like them to still have crunch and freshness to it). Sorry the photo is so dark, I’m telling you, it was pretty dark in this restaurant!

Overall? We really liked the food. If you had the same food in the US, you’d pay 2x more for the same quality of food and drink. I definitely liked the ambience of Dulce Patria more than Izote. I would recommend Dulce Patria as a restaurant where you want to get dressed up and have a romantic meal. The restaurant is located in the Los Alcobas hotel in Polanco, just south of the main street Masaryk. Since this restaurant is fairly new, plan ahead and make reservations!

Dulce Patria
Anatole France 100
Col. Polanco, Mexico City, Mexico