Browsing: Restaurant Features

Casa Grande

May14

My husband and I have been together a very long time and he is a very thoughtful partner.  Anticipating a week that he was going to be out of town, he asked me out for a Saturday night date.  It was a tough decision to figure out where we wanted to go.  We have a long list of  “want to” visits.

Every so often, we get a yearning for real Italian food.  By “real” I mean, not the Olive Garden version, that was in fact lined up out the door as we drove by.  There are many authentic Italian restaurants in the city but one of our favourites has become Casa Grande on Sargent Ave.  Our youngest was jealous when she heard our destination because it is her and the Frenchman’s “place”.

We were escorted to the second floor which I recall from long ago being more like an eating balcony.  Our server was over quickly to light our Chianti bottle candle and offer us the menu.

The Frenchman had suggested their house wine which was Giacondi Sangiovese Merlot.  I am not accustomed to many Italian merlots but found it to be a lovely dry, earthy flavour to offset our menu selections.

I started with the antipasto plate which was little morsels of capicola, salami, a firm and nutty cheese, tomato, olives and an extra dose of marinated eggplant with a liberal sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

D had a light Italian salad including shards of what I thought might be the same cheese.

Both were served with garlic toast that we used like crostini as we placed our antipasto treats atop of the crunchy, garlicky bread.

I knew that I was going to select the seafood spaghetti but did not know if I should choose the mussels, clams, scallops or shrimp.  As I often like to do, I let our server decide for me and I was delighted by the buttery fresh clams that arrived still on the half shell.  The unadorned spaghetti with a simple garlic and olive oil toss was perfectly satisfying without being overwhelming.

D on the other hand, might have been overwhelmed. Daughter #2 suggested that he order the carbonara and even though it was not the tradition recipe that we are accustomed to, he was delighted with the addition of a cream sauce, mushrooms and caramelized onions.  The pancetta added richness to an already rich concoction but he loved every single bite.  It did mean that we had to go for a long walk when we got home, but that was not an issue.  It was a beautiful evening, the sun was setting and we love our neighbourhood.

Casa Grande Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Kaths quote: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”-Sophia Loren

Old Ebbitt Grill-Washington DC

May8

Upon checking in at The Madison in downtown Washington DC, I did the same thing that I do in any new city that I travel to-I started researching where to dine!  The helpful concierge handed me a five page restaurant list.  I scoped out the places which were on the same street as the hotel for a starting point and then cross-referenced them with Urbanspoon.  I had made a selection and just had to run it by Lynn, my roomie for the weekend, who had not yet arrived.

While she was freshening up, I went back downstairs to speak to the handsome concierge again, this time to determine if there were any other sights that we might see on our walk to and from Old Ebbit Grill. Did I feel like a hick from the sticks when he pulled out a tourist map and showed me that the Old Ebbitt Grill was next door to the White House!

We knew before arrival that they were fully booked for the evening, but we decided to take our chances and find a stool at the bar.  This turned out to be the perfect choice as our bar keep was a feisty little thing with a big personality.  I haven’t seen a multi-tasker like she was in my life.  So too, we got to witness the dining room servers with their variety of world accents, requesting their wine and cocktails from our bartender.  Well in truth, they shouted their requests at her.  This turned out to be part of the charm of this bustling place.

My first beverage choice was a DC Brau “The Public” which was a local pale ale.  The flavour was very hoppy, which made me very happy…. (sorry I could not resist).

I was delighted to see that they identified that their mussels were from the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island but decided upon a cup of chili to start.  I loaded this up with the available options of chopped white onions, sour cream and cheddar.  Lynn took our server’s recommendation and choose the bacony clam chowder (Boston style).

We took time to pause before we selected our main courses to soak in the cozy ambiance of the room.  It was not hard for me to imagine whispered and highly political conversations taking place in the low lit booths or the deals that must have been negotiated by lobbyists at the bar top.  Imagine the number of fascinating people who have passed through these doors since 1856?  I noticed as I walked down the white marble stairs and passed the “Cabinet” room, that they had been worn away in the centre of each step by constant use.

I had my first taste of  Lynne’s soft shelled crab.  I was fascinated by textured and the taste was sweet and succulent.

I chose a jumbo lump crab cake.  It was stacked inches high, was crunchy on the surface and meaty and delicious on the inside.

We were perfectly satisfied and content to be on our way but our server insisted that she treat us to dessert ( there had been a temperature issue with my meal).  I couldn’t resist the strawberry short cake made in the authentic style and crowned with local strawberries.

Lynne, the baker, was delighted with the strawberry and rhubarb pie and commented particularly on the skill displayed in the making of the crust.

We did find our way for a view of the White House that night.  I was especially thrilled when I saw a light in a room go off and another go on.  My imagination was stirred again of Michelle putting the girls to bed….

Old Ebbitt Grill on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods.  A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building.” –Carlo Petrini

Tigh Neachtains in Galway

April30

We wanted our last meal in Ireland to be a special one.  Galway was on the chilly side and the drizzle was on and off.  A helpful person working for the Galway Food Festival suggested her favourite pub as a place where we might want to have some lunch.

She indicated that because it straddled two corners, there was a greater chance to see the sun and she added that the people watching was fabulous.  Well, she was right on both accounts.  What she neglected to tell us was that the 19th century pub was a fascinating place with all its snugs (little cubicles which provide privacy for your table) and that the food was exceptional.

The official name of the place is Seagan Ua Neaccain but is commonly known as  Tigh Neachtain’s or in Canadian English-Neachtain’s Bar.

The lively pub was once a meeting place for Peter OToole and I could absolutely picture him here sharing a pint of Guinness with some blokes.

But onto the food!  It turns out that the award winning restaurant the Artisan, which occupies the space above the pub, is responsible for the food offerings.

D and I shared an organic soup of the day which was parsnip and honey-the perfect choice to chase away the chilliness of the day.

Next,  we ordered one of the dishes that inspired our trip to Ireland-Connemara Mussels in an amazing garlic cream sauce.  Both the soup and the broth were so rich and savoury that we requested more of the nutty oatmeal bread, which was cheerfully provided, to ensure that we were able to lap up every single drop.

DK chose the Slow Confit of Pork Belly which was melt in your mouth and perfectly prepared.  Must be hard to imagine that we were sitting out on a sidewalk and being served this amazingly, gorgeous food.

This was all washed down with our last pints of Guinness and D’s new favourite beer-a Galway Hooker.  The latter is an IPA (IRISH Pale Ale).   D loved the tangy bitterness of the beer so much that he purchased a six pack to bring home to the “boys” in the family.  I came upon him sitting at Neachkin’s with a Galway Hooker but I forgave him and love him just the same….

Kaths quote: “It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to bursting point on anything from quail financiere to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly.”-M.F.K. Fisher

 

Galway and Ard Bia at Nimmos

April27

We knew weeks in advance of our arrival in Ireland that we would be there in time for the Galway Food Festival.

We strategically chose Saturday to make the drive to Galway City.  We wandered down Quay and then High Street (which are both restricted to pedestrians only) to find the Festival Village.

Along the way we also came across the Galway Market.  In the end, when we arrived at the Festival we had a quick look around and then decided to head back to the market and the quaint shops of the outside mall.  Since the intent of the festival is the celebration of Galway as a good food destination with a strong focus on artisan, seasonal and local produce, the festival was a success, even though we decided not to stand in the lines at the individual booths.

In the mean time, we accidentally found Ard Bia at Nimmos.

I was enthralled by the amazing little space and by the name and went on line to find out the source.  Ard Bia was on Quay Street five years ago then moved into Nimmos and both places were run by the same owners for two years.  In 2008 they moved Ard Bia to the Nimmos building in the Spanish Arch. The space is now the combination of both Ard Bia and Nimmos.

We warmed up with tea and sweets and then ventured back to explore the town.

Browsing and shopping was wonderful fun as the shops were as beautiful on the outside as the inside.

Ard Bia on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “A woman is like a tea bag — only in hot water do you realize how strong she really is.”-Nancy Reagan

Luxalune

April2

We were on a double date with J1 and J2.  To kick off the weekend of our trip to Ireland, we decided that we would love to have a pub supper.  We headed downtown (and downstairs) to an unnamed location and decided to get back in the car and aim for Luxalune on south Osborne St instead.  I was so glad, as I have wanted to visit this Gastropub ever since they opened.  I loved the wide open space and the cozy couch pit.  We sat at a table in front of the big screen as a Jets games was on.

I do not profess to be a beer aficionado but J1 certainly knows his stuff.  He chose a really spicy selection with tastes of citrus and coriander. Later in the evening D ordered one with essences of coffee and chocolate.  Who knew that beer was such a culinary experience?  Certainly not I.

So what to eat, to complement these libations?  We each chose a tapas and then shared everything that was plunked on the table.  The presentation with a number of items in cast fry pans was very much to our liking.  The blueberry brie was delicious on points of a savoury bread.

I selected the fries loaded with seasoned ground beef and cheese.  I remembered delectable hand cut fries at the Warwaruk brothers’ former location that we loved and visited frequently called Lux Sole.  I was a little bit disappointed that the fries had not followed the brothers to Luxalune.  However, the sauce duo that was served for dipping, redeemed the dish.

Similar toppings were served on the nachos, but for some reason they tasted so much better on nacho chips (perhaps it was the addition of hot peppers and black olives).

The fourth dish were tomato wraps stuffed with a smooth and delicious cheese.  I often consult an on line menu to discover the details of a dish which I particularly like, but I was unsuccessful in my search.

The Jets won in overtime, the company and food were wonderful and the beer unique and tasty.  We were all set for our next Pub supper-in Ireland!

Luxalune on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “There was an Old Man of Columbia,
Who was thirsty, and called out for some beer;
But they brought it quite hot, in a small copper pot,
Which disgusted that Man of Columbia.”
-Edward Lear

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