Monday, September 28, 2009

Pocahontas Pancake and Waffle Shop - Virginia Beach, VA

Breakfast selection

Back in the mid eighties I used wake up at the crack of dawn and peddle my beach cruiser from 20th Street down to 35th Street to serve up breakfast in this place. I would even change into my little Indian dress when I got there. The food has always been good, and the owner is very kind. This former attachment makes me ineligible for reviewing Pocahontas Pancakes personally. However, take a few moments and read Alina's review. I think she is spot on. This is the most refreshing restaurant review I have read in a long time. (I have got to start looking underneath tables now!) You can't beat a kid when it comes to honesty.
food network logo
Additionally, Pocahontas Pancakes was voted the "Best Pancake House in Virginia Beach in 2002" by "The Food Network".


3420 Atlantic Ave
Virginia Beach, VA 23451-2834
(757) 428-6352

Pocahontas Pancakes and Waffle Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Tides Inn - Irvington, VA

Wine Spectator LogoYou know that you are about to fall off the edge of the planet when your GPS, which has been faithfully steering you towards your destination, suddenly announces that “your guidance has ended” because the approaching roads are not in the system. Since I had wanted to get away from it all, it appeared that I was heading in the right direction. The Tides Inn has been around for a long time, but this was my first adventure to Irvington and the resort. I could not have hand picked a better weekend weather-wise. Low 70’s during the day, low 60’s at night were perfect for hanging out, playing golf and sleeping with windows open.

Our first meal on Friday night after check in was in the Chesapeake Club. This is the less formal dining room on location. Everywhere in the resort has a water view. Being seated in front of Rappahannock river views and docked boats was very relaxing after a typical Friday night of combat driving through Hampton Roads. I started out with a cocktail. It was after all, Friday night. This is where I first noticed a slip in the service. Stolichnaya VodkaThe waitress was very nice and accommodating, but she was slow. For the remainder of our meal drink refills were not timely. I love it when martinis’ are brought out to the table in the shaker and served. I had a Stoli’s (Stolichnaya ) Cosmopolitan and it hit the spot. A friend who truly cares about my happiness and well being once had me do a vodka “blind taste test”. I have not wavered from Stoli’s since that fateful day!

I ordered the Romaine Hearts salad and Teriyaki glazed Grilled Salmon for dinner. My husband ordered Oysters on the Half Shell and the Snapper special for the evening. The Romaine Salad was nothing terribly exciting, but I didn’t want it to be either. Consisting of Romaine leaves, roasted garlic vinaigrette, shaved Parmesan and Ciabatta Crustini it was the light, crispy intro that I wanted. My entrée arrived in a timely manner and as I dove in it came to my attention that it wasn’t cooked thoroughly. The only non-sushi fish I like rare is Tuna, so I had to send this back for a couple more minutes on the grill. When it returned I was completely satisfied. The salmon was served on top of a mixture of local tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet onions, delicately seasoned with light vinaigrette. The additional side was a new potato medley which surprising consisted of new potatoes of varying colors, making for an eye pleasing presentation. For desert I ordered the Vanilla and Chocolate Mouse. This came served topped with Blackberries, not my personal favorite, but coincidentally my husband’s favorite. Portions are not really sharing size, but being rather full a few bites each had us satisfied.

wine bottleThe Tides Inn offers quite an enterprising wine list, and is a 2009 recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. There are pages and pages of choices. Only wanting a glass (okay, maybe two) I selected Kings Estate Pinot Gris. I had tasted this for the first time last year on my anniversary and remembered enjoying it. Still good and very reasonably priced by the way. My husband prefers the red, and settled on Acacia Pinot Noir. This really hit us right and we ended up ordering a bottle for dinner the following night. I predict there will be a few bottles in our wine cooler in the very near future. pinot noir label

Following a fun round of morning golf at the resort’s Golden Eagle course, we had lunch Saturday afternoon on the outside brick patio. Honestly, this may have been the best meal we had there all because of two little words, “BLUE CRAB”. They have an appetizer called the Blue Crab Quesadilla. Sounds pretty pedestrian, doesn’t it? This darn thing was unbelievably delicious. The purest, chunks of blue crab I have ever seen in my life were layered upon a thin and crispy tortilla, and a very thin splash of Boursin Cheese, then drizzled with a light crème fraiche sauce. Guacamole was placed in the center with the triangular slices arranged around it in a circle. Rich and totally worth every calorie it contained. My husband ordered the Crab Salad sandwich, essentially more chunks of that same pure white crab meat lightly dressed on bread. Unbelievable! My grilled Portobello sandwich was another crowd pleaser, presented on whole wheat focaccia bread with Pesto mayonnaise and served with a fruit salad side.

Hard to believe, but 6 hours later we were ready to eat yet again! Dinner was in the more formal East dining room, one wall away from the Chesapeake room. I must say that our server Saturday evening, Jason, was the best. I overheard him tell another table he had been working there for 5-6 years, and it showed. After all that seafood we were ready to revitalize our inner carnivores. I opted for the Grilled Filet Mignon with Cabernet Reduction, Wild Mushroom Ragout, garlic mashed potatoes and Asparagus. What can I say, it was perfection. My husband ordered the special, which was Prime Rib, with similar sides. I tasted it and personally thought mine was better. For dessert I ordered the “Tides Inn Chocolate”, and was told that it was a “good choice”. As I said to the waiter, I wasn’t going to be able to get it anywhere else! From the menu description I was not clear on what I would be receiving; a cake, pie, truffle…? When I was served I still wasn’t sure and had to ask! It was a half circle of chocolate about two inches in width placed next to a dollop of vanilla ice cream about one inch in width. The waiter informed me it was a French, flourless cake, the name of which escapes me. It was tasty, but nothing to get crazy about. I would not order it again.

The Tides Inn is a beautiful, relaxing place to visit. Everyone working at the resort is extremely friendly and service in all areas is very solicitous. Its proximity to our area makes it the perfect weekend get away. It is also a popular wedding location.


To view the Summer Menu click here

The Tides Inn is located at 480 King Carter Drive in Irvington, Virginia 22480
The Tides Inn on Urbanspoon

Doumar's - Norfolk, VA

Exterior of Doumar's

Growing up in West Ghent proper, I frequented Doumar's as a child, sometimes with my father and often with friends. Doumar's became especially important in middle school when most of my childhood friends took up a string instrument, which became quite frightening and deafening for our parents. For us, orchestra concerts meant a trip to Doumar's afterward. We would pile in the 'back room' which was a corner room with four tables, booth seating and some chairs. We ordered lots of French fries, shakes and ice cream and probably tortured the poor souls that had to wait on us. I am sure our parents were close by, reprimanding us as needed. I remember eating a lot of fries and ice cream, not much else.

Doumar's itself is historically significant for Norfolk, but its newsworthy claim to fame is the invention of the ice cream cone. First setting up shop in the Ocean View Amusement park, Doumar's became known for its cones and barbeque. After a hurricane destroyed the amusement park in 1933, the Doumar family built a location on Monticello Avenue, where the diner still stands today. My parents frequented Doumar's in their younger years and when I was in high school, still playing the violin and going to Doumar's, one of the waitresses remembered my father from when he ate lunch there everyday in his 20s. She even remembered what he ordered, 'The Usual' which, for him, was the infamous Taylor Pork Roll, sliced & grilled pork on a roll w/cheese, lettuce, tomato & mayo. Back then waitresses roller skated to the cars! While there are not roller skates today, you can still enjoy service to your car with Doumar's drive-in style parking and overhangs.

Laine and I decided it was time for a visit to Doumar's. To eat in our car or inside was the big decision of the day. Laine had never eaten inside and I have done both, so inside it was. It is definitely a step back in time. I arrived first and sure enough, Doumar's was as busy as ever. We thought about sitting at the counter, but it was filled up so I grabbed one of the last open booths. We did not get a spot in the former orchestra part-ay room, but we got a seat and at this busy time, that's all that mattered. When Laine arrived, it was literally standing room only. A waitress with some great eye shadow colors came to take our order. I decided to try the fried egg on toast with cheese. In all these years, I have never had that, amazingly. I also had to have some fries and a chocolate shake for old times' sake. Doumar's BarbecueFood comes out fast and get ready, all sandwiches are wrapped in plastic with a toothpick holding it intact. The only silverware I received was a long plastic spoon for my shake. No problem though, this is Doumar's and I was not looking for white tablecloths or cloth napkins. My fried egg and cheese on white bread was exactly as named, no frills. It was good, but if you are a hungry, hungry hippo, you better order three or four, as this is not a filling 'entree'. The fries were as good as I
remembered. A little ketchup and pepper and my meal was complete. Truthfully, the chocolate shake was the nuts and bolts of my meal, the exciting part. Like when I was a kid, I only ate 'real' food to get to the dessert. If my mom had let me, I would have foregone the real and gone straight for the treats! You can order your shakes 'old fashioned drug store style' which is thin, but for me, thick is the way to go for a shake. Theirs are still homemade just like they were years and years ago, and on this day, the shake was as good as ever. They have vanilla, strawberry, pineapple and banana as well (shakes and soda
floats). Egg Nog is offered as a shake, soda float and ice cream flavor when in season. I had one last year and it was absolutely delicious and by far my favorite Doumar's flavor. I told Laine we have to go back when Egg Nog appears on the scene.

Doumar's is not fancy and offers burgers, dogs, barbeque, the Taylor Pork Roll, breakfast all day, fantastic shakes, soda floats, ice cream cones (of course) and a variety of ice cream sundaes, such as the Ringo and Strawberry Willy, which you can customize to your liking. A fun gift is to buy the souvenir jar of two dozen cones. I bought these for someone last year and they were a huge hit. Ask and Doumar's will give you print out of an article about the diner and the cones. I wanted to include this since the receiver of the gift lived in another state and had no knowledge of Doumar's. Without that, someone might wonder why you are giving them two dozen cones. Gotta show them why they are

Do the Dou and get on over to Doumar's and get yourself a Taylor Pork Roll, barbeque and some cones. Even if it is busy, the wait is not going to be long.


I don’t have a colorful history with Doumar’s, so I see it a little differently that someone who can tie in happy childhood memories. To me there is only one reason to go to Doumar’s, to get the Doumar’s experience. That means seeing all the kitsch, taking a step into the past, and of course looking at the cone making machine every time. It is not where I go if I want a great lunch. To me, the food is secondary to the experience.
Doumar's Interior
As Alex mentions, I had never been inside before, and was looking forward to the adventure. I was not disappointed. I have seen a lot written by the GP (general public) about how dirty it is. I didn’t see dirty. It’s just OLD. Tables, floors, counters, etc. are all wiped down and clean. We sat next to a window ledge and picture. They had been dusted and cleaned. Stuff is just worn out and old in some places. The service is snappy and clipped. Know what you want, and be prepared to order. Servers are not rude per se, but they are slamming busy at lunch time. When the average meal is going to total somewhere around $5, you are going to make your tip money on quantity, not quality. Get ‘em in, server ‘em quick, get ‘em out.

Doumar's Shake
I usually get a burger there, which is about the size of a happy meal burger, but thought I would go out of the box and order the Barbecue. I chose the “minced w/slaw, our best seller”. Millions of people can’t be wrong, right? It was just okay, served on bread similar to grocery store Mary Jane buns, light on the slaw. Like Alex, my beverage was the show stopper. I ordered an Ice Cream Soda, Orangeade w/Sherbet (2 dips). Ice Cream Sodas are a rarity now and hard to find on any menu. Wowza! It was over the top! Topped with whipped cream and a cherry in an old fashion soda glass; it made the entire trip worthwhile.

You see a real mix of demographics at Doumar’s. From senior citizens to seniors in high school, it seems to have an appeal that crosses age boundaries and prices that fit most budgets.

Doumar's is open Monday through Saturday all day and is located at:
1919 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517.
No reservations needed or taken.
Doumar's Cones and Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Have You Ever Been a Waiter?

Not having been anything at all in the restaurant industry, I always wonder 'what is it like to be a waiter or chef' and 'is it something I wish I had done'. Knowing myself fairly well at this point, I would be the first to want to strangle the customers who gave me any lip and therefore, would have had to work with what Anthony Bourdain calls the 'pirate crew', the kitchen staff. I still live vicariously through all of the restaurant crew and enjoyed reading this op-ed article on waiters.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mocca - San Francisco, CA

Exterior Mocca San Francisco Restaurant
San Francisco's alleys house splendid treasures; restaurants, boutiques and pedestrians taking detours from the busy main drags. Another beautiful day and another mission to find a charming cafe, outdoor seating preferred, led us to Union Square where the action is. We strolled past the Square where many people were taking their lunch breaks. It was very busy and why not, this large block is situated such that people can sit on the stairs, benches and chairs that are
often set out for an even from the evening before or an upcoming soiree. They may have brought their lunch, grabbed something nearby or be starting, completing or taking a break from a potentially endless shopping spree. Excitedly, we poked our heads around corners and into potential eateries and then we saw a bass player and a trump player in front of an alley cafe. We knew that was us!

There were two open tables outside and while one of us stood guard, the other two ventured in to preview the selections. Inside, the cafe was small with a few tables and a large display case. A chalkboard displayed the menu. There was a beef tip sandwich, a grilled vegetable sandwich, various salads, vegetable sides and a plethora of desserts. I had to focus on the food and not the desserts. I get distracted by beauty easily! The day before I had the grilled eggplant sandwich, so I decided I needed to have something different this day. The fresh tortellini salad caught my eye. A bed of greens topped with ricotta-filled spinach tortellini and chilled shrimp. This dish was beautiful. The pasta was marinated in vinaigrette and the chef topped the entire dish with a little extra. Laine had already ordered, but hailed me and suggested we split the Caprese salad, which looked tasty from our side of the line. I agreed and moved down the line. Amazingly, I passed up dessert because I knew I would have something divine later and did not want to have the sugar crash when we had the entire day in front of us. It was hard, I will admit. I paid (almost $30 for my salad and the salad Caprese) and trotted out to meet Laine and Maryland at our table.

Sitting outside was a treat and the live music made it even more so. My tortellini salad was delicious, decently-sized shrimp and very fresh pasta. Laine and I concurred that the salad Caprese was not to be celebrated. The mozzarella was fresh, but the tomatoes were terrible. They were the large, pinkish variety and had absolutely no flavor and this snack was $12, so it certainly should have been better. We did not let this ruin our lunch and finished up to get on with our day. I do like Cafe Mocca but would be leery of the salad Caprese.

Maryland ordered the beef tip sandwich with a side of greens. It was plentiful and she said scrumptious. Cafe Mocca offers a lot of choice and was very busy at lunch, which is a good sign. I believe sitting outside is more enjoyable as you have people standing in line right next to the inside tables. Prices are a little higher for lunch,
but the choices are unique and overall, the quality was very good, aside from the 'mators'. My salad was $14 but it was worth it. Gourmet lunches always are. The folks at Mocca move you right along in line, so I recommend you take in the selections before getting in line. They don't play during the bustling lunch hour.

After wandering aimlessly the previous day, Alex and I decided we wanted a plan for our Saturday lunch. After lightening our wallets in some of our favorite stores in Union Square that fine morning, we spied Mocca down an alley. Jackpot! They had a beautiful Caprese salad in the window that I knew I had to try and an “authentic” Nicoise salad. When we arrived back at lunch time they were swamped. One table was open outside so we grabbed it and took turns placing our orders. I have read a lot of reviews that talk about this place like it is run by the “Soup Nazi”. That may be so, but was not my experience. I did ask a few questions and they were politely answered. I had forgotten to order the Caprese and reminded Alex to add it to her order for us to split.
Nicoise Salad, Mocca San Francisco Restaurant
The good news: Mocca has one of the best Nicoise salads in the history of the world. I loved it! It comes with a couple of pieces of crusty bread which were excellent. Very hard and buttery flavored. Everything about that salad was fresh and flavorful. Bravo!

The bad news: the Caprese salad stunk. The one on display looked so lovely. Two large tomatoes, sliced and restacked in a ball, with fresh mozzarella and basil slices slipped in-between. A very unique presentation. The one Alex brought to the table looked equally appetizing. The first bite was a gigantic disappointment. I swear they bought those tomatoes at a grocery store. They had a mealy texture like those tomatoes that come in a three pack covered in plastic. You know the ones I mean! I was hoping for some fresh summer tomatoes. What a let down.

Oh well, it was going to take a lot more than a couple of bad tomatoes to ruin my mood and my day. Mocca is on the pricey side for lunch, but I don’t mind paying a little extra for location, ambiance and good food. Steer clear of the Caprese and enjoy their other offerings. There is enough variety to offer something for everyone. They also serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks for those enjoying a day off and seeking such libations with their meal.


Mocca is open 8am-6pm Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4pm Saturday and closed on Sunday. I assume they have some very interesting breakfast/brunch treats.

175 Maiden Lane
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 956-1188
Mocca on Maiden Lane on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

La Briciola - SOMA, San Francisco, CA

A South of Market recommendation from a wonderful friend, Briciola has a wonderfully bright, yet cozy atmosphere. Candles, white tablecloths and white cloth napkins calmed me instantly. This weeknight was not extremely busy, but there were a few other tables filled with diners. That is a better sign that the empties Laine and I have experienced at times in the past. Upon my friend's suggestion, we let the waiter know who had sent us and this was followed by delivery of Tagliere di Salumi, coppa spek prosciutto, salami, olives and marinated vegetables. Full of flavor and a nice way to begin the meal, we were very appreciative of the gesture. As I am steering away from meat, I concentrated on the marinated vegetables and olivees and they were phenomenal. The fresh bread and olive oil also met my expectations for fine Italian dining. Bread is a good meter by which to judge a restaurant. The menu has a lot of options, many pastas such as, ravioli, gnocci, linguine and many more with wonderful sounding variations such as pesto, string beans and potatoes or sausage and broccoli rabe. I was having a very hard time deciding, but after pondering and asking Alessandro's opinion (our friendly, very pleasant waiter), I ordered the Ravioli di Cernia, seabass filled ravioli with a lobster reduction. Upon its arrival, it also had baby prawns in the lobster reduction. Can you say oh my! Honestly, this was one of the most interesting pasta dishes I have ever consumed and what taste. Very different and all of the flavors complimented each other like nothing I could have imagined. The portion was generous and I was happy as a clam. Maryland ordered the Agnello al Brunello, the rack of lamb, green peppercorn and Brunello red wine eduction. Her plate was completely filled with succulent-looking meat and vegetables. She was excited and very pleased with her selection as well. Because we love dessert, we had to end with something dolce and the Profitterolles alla vanilla, pastry puffs with vanilla ice cream and chocolate had our name written all over them. This is such a wonderfully
presented and fun dessert and Briciola did not disappoint. We were fully satisfied and so glad my friend had given us this wonderful suggestions. Prices are reasonable for fine dining and Briciola specializes in Tuscan and Piedmontese cuisine. I will definitely visit Briciola again.


La Briciola is Italian for "The Crumb". This seems an odd name choice to me. There are too many derogatory ways you can play on that word, but I am sure they had their reasons to use it. I was significantly wiped out by the time we made it to Briciola. The walk from our hotel was further than I expected. Additionally, it was about 9pm PST, making it 12am EST according to my stomach’s clock. Way too late for me to be that interested in eating. I decided to keep it light and opted for combining a salad and an appetizer, rather than selecting an entrée. Of course, you end up spending more when you do that, but I didn’t really care at the time. Briciola has a nice wine list. I love Italian wines and they are a staple in my family wine collection. I selected a glass of 2007 Pinot Grigio Le Notti, Friuli and liked it so much I had another before my meal was over. My salad choice was Spinacina, a spinach salad including honey caramelized walnuts and goat cheese. It had a delightful vinegar based dressing and garlic seasoning. Quite nice! My appetizer was the Sfogliatine con gamberi e asparagi; a puff pastry roll with asparagus, shrimp and crab reduction. The preparation and presentation was flawless, and I liked it, but it didn’t knock me out. I don’t think I would order it again. As an appetizer accompanying an entrée it would be on the heavy side.

I was not as enchanted with Briciola as Alex. Our server started out very charming and attentive, but disappeared by the end of the meal. (See my pet peeves). Perhaps we were not so charming? By this time we were one of only two tables still dining. It made me wonder if he liked the person who referred us. Why would you neglect the table of diners who were referred to you by a friend? I had to get up from my seat, walk over to the bar where he was laughing it up with his co worker, interrupt the joke and request the check. Basta! Of all the places we dined in SF, I would have to put this one at the bottom of my list.


Briciola serves lunch between 11-3 Monday through Friday and serves dinner seven days a week between 5-11.

489 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
South of Market District
La Briciola on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tortilla West-Norfolk, VA - Salt....less is more

Salt Packet
Recently, I visited Tortilla West in Norfolk for brunch. Last year, they did away with lunch and now open daily at 4pm except Sunday when they serve what I once considered one of the better casual brunches in town. I noticed a few things. First, they have always had pretty large portions, but that has changed. A frittata that once consumed a large square plate (your side was in a side dish since no room could be made on the main serving piece) is now served on a smaller triangular plate with your side...on the side of that main plate. Second and this was during a different dinner visit, the chips were not seasoned as they usually are. Let me be honest, I go to T-Dub, as the Dub G Crew (West Ghentiles) coined Tortilla, for the chips. I like their food, but I love their chips! The tri-color chips usually come seasoned so you have an added punch with your chips and guac or salsa. Thankfully, I did not encounter the chips sans season at the soon to be understood 'blood pressure brunch'. The last and most significant item of interest is the overabundance of salt. For brunch, I ordered my usual, the Garden Frittata, which is usually spectacular. While the smaller portion perplexed me slightly, the amount of salt in the eggs almost made me fall out of my seat. I thought 'maybe its the cheese, maybe its something else, am I losing it', but no, there had to be a salt shaker worth of salt in my eggs. I ate my cheesy grits, which were not that cheesy and picked at my eggs and almost developed high cholesterol before leaving completely annoyed and parched. Chas' breakfast burrito was fine but he said that the last few bits extremely salty.

T-Dub, what is with the salt? I did mention to the waitress to tell Chef Salty Pants to lay off the salt if he wanted to avoid patrons keeling over at their tables. T-Dub needs a new symbol for their menu...there is a 'hot' icon and now, they need a 'SALT ALERT' symbol. I was really hoping that I would venture to T-Dub more when the smoking ban is passed, but only if Chef Salt is gone. I'll surely have to wait now unless I want second-hand cancer and high blood pressure.


Tortilla West is not a place you are going to stumble upon while driving down the road. Located next to the entrance of Lambert's Point Docks and close to the Midtown Tunnel, it is definitely a destination restaurant. With no available lot, parking is on the street and is very limited in front of the building. I have eaten there several times for dinner and a few at lunch (when they were open for lunch.) I have always liked the food, so hearing about the salt makes me a bit sad. As Alex says, the chips are spectacular and a must with some guacamole. They have a pork burrito that I was in love with for a while. The atmosphere turns "Bar" as you head into the evening hours, and with that comes a bar crowd with noise, smoke, etc. The service has never wowed me. Once at dinner with my husband the server came to our table 5 times.
1. To greet us
2. To take our order
3. To deliver our Drinks
4. To deliver our meal
5. To give us the check.
No refills, no "How is your food?", that was it. How can you eat spicy Mexican food with nothing to drink? I was dying for una mas cerveza! There are plenty of great places to dine in Norfolk. Tortilla West is a crap shot, at best.

Tortilla West on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 11, 2009

Aberdeen Barn - Virginia Beach, VA

Logo Aberdeen Barn
Considering The Aberdeen Barn on Northhampton Blvd for dinner tonight? Better to go with a plan B. This may be the most violations I have ever seen in a single restaurant inspection. Holy Cow!

View Restaurant Inspection Here

Aberdeen Barn of Virginia Beach on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Café Metropol - San Franciso, CA

Sign Cafe Metropol San Franciso Restaurant
After walking around a good deal of Union Square and the Financial District on Thursday, we were pretty sure that finding another café style bistro for lunch on Friday would not take long. How many people work downtown? They’ve all gotta eat somewhere right? Maybe it was the heat or maybe it was because we were still getting our bearings straight, but we seemed to roam aimlessly for quite some time without stumbling upon anything that might measure up to our expectations. Then, while wandering down Sutter Street we came upon Café Metropol. One peek inside at their showcase of offerings and a few words with the charming man in front (had to be an owner) and it was a done deal.Cafe Metropol San Francisco Restaurant and Pastries

Metropol has a few tables in front for dining al fresco, and again, these were popular due to the heat. We opted for a table as close to the front door as possible. The owner really was charming, in a very European way. We asked his recommendations and he made everything sound like manna from heaven. When it came to salads, his number one choice was the Ceviche. I followed this queue and ordered it. Our friend Jackie could not decide on one and opted for their salad sampler, which gives you up to 4 salads to sample, a great idea. My Ceviche was wonderful. They didn’t vary much from the traditional recipe of fish, peppers, tomato, avocado, onion, cilantro, olive oil, and salt. Why mess with a good thing. They did add small shrimp and crabmeat, two of my favorites, and some sort of noodle I couldn’t quite place. Perhaps a rice noodle? The portion was perfect. I was full, and satisfied. Jackie enjoyed her sampler, favoring the beet salad with pears and blue cheese on organic mixed greens, as her top choice. They had a lovely dessert tray which was brought out upon request, but I will let Alex wax poetic on that course…

Cafe Metropol, San Francisco restaurant and barThe service was attentive and friendly. The interior has a modern European flair. I saw quite a few people order pizza which looked and smelled good. I saw one child dining there and I would take a child there for lunch, but I can’t speak to whether or not I would at dinner. Overall the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. If we were not tasked with getting to a concert that afternoon, it is the type of place where we could comfortably linger over a drink and chat. I noticed that the employees seemed very familiar with several diners. It’s nice to see local regulars dining in a restaurant. That is a sign to me that there is consistency in their service and menu. Bien cuit, Metropol.


I was determined that we were not going to eat somewhere mediocre and we would stop and look, maybe go in and then decide we could find something much better. I was looking for a bistro, with which I have had the best luck, especially if I am wandering a little aimlessly. Becoming a little frustrated as I do when I am in the middle of a city and cannot find somewhere to eat and the problem usually is that you are one street over from 'restaurant row', at least in my experiences. When I spotted the wicker chairs and bright yellow awning, it was almost as if Metropol popped up just to serve us! We could only be so lucky. We quickly perused the specials board and decided this was a fit.

Seated quickly at a cute inside table that was dangerously close to the dessert case, we excitedly scanned the menu. Everything we saw come out looked delicious. Grouper, salmon, white and black bean salad, meatloaf, ravioli, pizza and many others. On the outdoor patio, a little girl had a lovely looking Pizza Margarita and while it was a pretty good size, she was munching away at it with no problem. I would like to have had a bite!

Maryland opted for the Salad Sampler, which she could build with her salad choices. Some she included were the Slow Roasted Beet Salad, the Chicken Caesar Salad and the Ceviche Salad. She was very pleased and said the beet and ceviche were her favorites.

Another hard decision for me, but if these were the only hard decisions I ever had to make, I would be one joyful person. I finally settled on the Grilled Eggplant Focaccia Sandwich with fresh Mozzarella, greens, tomatoes and Dijon mustard. Served with a perfect little mixed greens salad (one of my favorite additions to a burger or sandwich), this sandwich was perfect. The focaccia was very fresh with herbs and olive oil and the grilled, marinated vegetables and mozzarella were made to perfection. I could eat this sandwich daily. Perfect in size, it did not stuff me but I was fully satisfied. I say that but then I had to again investigate the dessert case, at which I had peeked previously. There was a chocolate three-layer cake, a few berry pies and then there it was...the pear almond cheesecake. WOW! I did ask our waitress, to be sure, if she had a favorite and without hesitation she said the cheesecake. I needed no other reassurance. A light, almond-flavored cheesecake filling with fresh, poached pears atop, this variation of the popular dessert is definitely the best I have ever had. I am saying that with all honestly and truthfulness. I talked about it for the rest of the day and told everyone I knew what I had had. Calls, text messages. I would have emailed had I been near a computer! Unbelievable. Whatever you do while you are in the Bay Area, visit Cafe Metropol and order this dessert.

Prices are reasonable, service was good and the atmosphere was lively, yet relaxing, like any European cafe should be. Metropol serves lunch and dinner daily.


Café Metropol
168 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
Tel: 415.732.7777
Fax: 415.732.7778
Cafe Metropol on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Café Claude - San Francisco, CA

Cafe Claude sign San Francisco restaurant
My good friend Melissa offered up three suggestions for my first day’s lunch in San Francisco. The one that struck me as most appealing was Café Claude, a Parisian style bistro. Alex found this ironically delightful, as it is one of her favorites! After navigating across country, through airports and a hotel check in, I was starving when we arrived there on Thursday afternoon. Café Claude is situated on more of an alley than a street, close to both Union Square and the Financial District. The café has outdoor seating available, but since we had arrived during an unseasonable heat wave, all these tables were taken. I found this odd until I quickly learned that many businesses (and homes) do not have air conditioning due to the rarity of hot days. Inside was a tad on the warm side.

Since I was on a mini vacation, I completely abandoned my usual MO and ordered the pasta special for lunch. Good choice! Consisting of penne pasta with chicken breast, arugula, sundried tomato pesto (this is what did it!), and sautéed cauliflower. I don’t even like cauliflower. In fact, it is accurate to say I DISLIKE cauliflower, but for some reason, this preparation had me devouring it. If permissible, I would have licked the bowl when I was done, it was that good. Melissa said her she loves their Nicoise (funny right!) and it was her order for the day. It looked fabulous, coming with fresh tuna, cooked to order. She said it was delicious.

In addition to being adventurous in ordering my entrée, I added wine too. Two diners at our table opted for French wine, Macon Villages at $9 a glass. Since I was in California, I thought I only appropriate that I order a “local “selection. The server didn’t really say the label, simply asking if we wanted French or CA. I ended up with Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay, which at $15 a glass, it cost more than my $14 entrée. Can you say “SUCKER!”? Actually, it was a very nice wine, and prices on the bottle range around $45. Considering that I sometimes pay as much as $3 for 15 cents worth of diet Coke, I shouldn't complain.

I would definitely head back to Café Claude again, for lunch, dinner, dessert, or an afternoon respite from sightseeing and shopping. Live jazz is provided Thursday through Saturday nights 7:30-10:30pm.


A San Fran friend recommended Cafe Claude to me and when Melissa suggested the same location, I thought 'genius! I have dined there previously and it is nothing short of fantastic'. Cafe Claude has always been busy the times I have dined there and this time was no exception. I love French bistros because of this. People drinking, eating and looking happy and relaxed but chatting and gesturing as they share stories and catch up. Initially, I judge a restaurant by its bread, if offered. Claude offers French rolls, crusty on the outside and soft in the middle. Just right and incredibly delicious. Butter is served room temperature which makes for easy use. I hate cold blocks of butter. On this particular day in time, I opted for the Lasagne, a vegetarian version of fresh egg pasta, roasted eggplant, zucchini, spinach, tomato, béchamel and herbes de Provence. Another in our party, Maryland, also dined on this selection and we agreed that it was mouth-watering and wonderful. It was the perfect portion for lunch and with the fresh pasta large assortment of vegetables, it packed flavor. Lasagna can often have more pasta than meat and vegetables but this was not the case. The vegetables and cheese ruled the roost here. For a dish that can be heavier with the cheese and pasta, lasagna at Claude's is filling but not dauntingly large. A good thing for a midday meal.

My first visit to Claude was also during lunch, with Nikki. We sat outside and it was a wonderful day, as it so often is in the spectacular city of San Francisco. Going with my usual desire, I opted for the onion soup gratinée with Gruyere cheese and baguette croutons and the pan seared salmon with fava beans stew, pistou, egg plant caviar, and basil leaves. Onion soup is at its finest with Gruyere cheese. I have had this adaptation in a few other establishments and yes, the top shelf cheese makes a difference. Others work, but be honest with yourself about quality. The salmon was fresh and the mixture of the accompaniments was delectable. Nikki ordered the Endive Salad with Belgium endives with blue cheese, walnuts, diced apples, tomatoes and chives and for her meal, the flank steak, marchand de vin sauce, served with pommes frites. All exceptional, particularly the pommes frites. I will eat those at any time of any day in a French bistro. That should sum it up! Nikki was very pleased with her meal. I enjoyed some of the Endive and was also very pleased.

During another visit, Maryland and I sat at the bar for a drink. As I have still not mastered the art of drinking regularly, I am careful as to what I order. No fruity drinks with umbrellas or mixed drinks (read bad hangover), but I like something to soften the edge of liquor. Vodka has proven the safest vice for me and some brands offer flavors, such as lemon, orange, blueberry, espresso, caramel and bubblegum is the latest of which I have heard. Maryland is always up for anything, so we asked David, the friendly bartender for their flavored vodka selection. They do not carry any, he said (I decided this might be a good thing later)! But, he calmed me when he said he would make us something similar but nicer. It was a smooth vodka with fresh lemon rind finely grated into the drink and a slice on the rim of the delicate miniature champagne flute for garnish. Ah, the presentation. It was picture ready. Delicious, fresh and my new favorite drink. Who needs run of the mill, mass-produced flavors, anyway. We enjoyed our drinks and chatted with a friend who manages Claude and had a fine afternoon break. Our drinks were $8 each, a deal in all many ways, I must say.

If anyone informs me that they plan to visit the Bay Area, my first suggestion is to find Café Claude, tucked in a bright and relaxing alley right off of the busy streets of downtown. My second piece of advice is to start shopping after lunch...great treasure to be hunted, mates.


To view a 1 minute video of Café Claude "Click Here"

Café Claude
7 Claude Lane
San Francisco, California 94108
Monday-Saturday: 11:30am-10:30pm
Sunday: 5:30pm-10:30pm
Happy Hour: Mon-Sat 4-6pm

Cafe Claude on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blossom, Charleston, South Carolina

Sign at Blossom, Charleston South Carolina Resturant
Right up there with Peninsula Grill, Blossom is one of my top recommendations for Charleston dining. I have been a few times for dinner and once for lunch. I fell in love with Blossom my first visit. Buttermilk Fried Calamari and Buttermilk Fried Oysters...can you say 'fried is wonderful'. Now, not everything fried or every restaurant that fries meets my standards, but Blossom offers gourmet fried! That makes it different (and better for you, eh?). I do not enjoy oysters any other way and yes, I have tried raw, so I am partial, but I highly encourage you to order the fried oysters which are prepared “Rockefeller style” with creamed spinach and glazed hollandaise. The creamed spinach is some of the best I have ever had, seriously. You will not be disappointed. The calamari is equally good, but the oysters receive the platinum star. The Spinach and Artichoke Dip is another good choice and I have spied two Heirloom Tomato starters that I must try during my next visit.

Both times I have been for dinner, I have chosen the Wood Oven Roasted Salmon with summer squash ragout, tomatoes, spinach, goat cheese mousse and tomato butter. Have you ever! It is one of the best preparations of salmon I have had (second to my mother, Nikki's of course, as not many can outdo her with salmon). The fish was cooked to perfection and the mixture of vegetables, goat cheese and tomato butter makes your mouth water. On one of our visits, Chas ordered the yellow fin tuna special and it arrived atop a platform of rice, a wonderful sauce beneath. The rice was held together with seaweed and looked like a very large rice-only sushi roll. The display was as nice as the taste. My favorite menu item on which to report is the Red Velvet Bread Pudding. Three words, TO DIE FOR! I am attempting to become a connoisseur of anything red velvet and this is by far, my most beloved find. If ever you are in Charleston, visit Blossom and order this dessert, if nothing else. Other menu choices that look divine are the wood oven pizzas, house made pasta, duck, steak frites and fried shrimp with hushpuppies. Their menu notes that they use local pork, poultry, beef and and produce whenever possible. A great thing to hear. A restaurant buying locally always wins in my book of tricks.

I will share one less than stellar experience. I mentioned my distaste of pre-fix (with the knowledge that this is sometimes the only way with larger parties) and Blossom lost a little of my adoration during a lunch there. The appetizers were fine and the lunch choices were the Blosson Caesar Salad, the French Dip or a Fried Flounder Sandwhich. None of the three are entrees that I would order, but the Caesar seemed like the lesser of the evils. I was horribly mistaken. The lettuce and chicken were drowned in dressing. It is hard to say whether or not I would have enjoyed it had the dressing portion been appropriate, but I can say I picked the chicken off until I could not longer stomach it. A Caesar dressing is tricky and Blossom should let their kitchen know that less is more with any salad dressing, especially this one! Dessert was a raspberry sorbet with a piece of ice cream cone as a garnish and that was lovely. The salad also made me appreciate anything else at that moment. I am not privvy to how the pre-fix items were chosen and I would not say to not choose Blossom for an event, but these surely ask for the dressing on the side of any salad. Pre-fix is not my favorite way to go and usually, but not always, it seems the food is a little lacking in quality. Mass preparation is a hard feat to conquor well. Peninsula Grill does a good job with their coconut cake, but that is a rarity.

The atmophere is what you expect for a nice meal, quiet, yet the suttle bustling with the activities of excitedly hungry patrons and the pleasant, knowledgeable staff. There is an inviting bar where you can enjoy a drink or two before or after dinner and there is also a private dining area for a party of twenty-ish, should you have a special event. Prices are reasonable with no dinner entree exceeding $30. Make a reservation, as Blossom is typically packed during dinner. There is parking next door but it is limited and shared by Magnolia's, Blossom's sister restaurant. There is a third locale, Cypress, nearby as well. See the website for all three menus.

Blossom is located at 171 East Bay Street in downtown Charleston, SC 29401. For reservations, call (843) 722-9200.

Blossom Cafe on Urbanspoon