i absolutely love to try new restaurants when i travel.  below are a few of my favorites~

cityfish, orlando

good lobster rolls are very simple so i'm going to keep this short and sweet. the one i had at cityfish in orlando, florida had just enough mayo to bind it together and was kissed with hints of lemon and herbs. the lobster was rich, tender and served up perfectly on a buttered, thick-sliced piece of toast. french fries with old bay were just icing on the cake at that point!  check it out, chill atmosphere, lots of beers and one seriously good lobster roll.

savory spice
like i was saying, be sure to go to savory spice if you're in the st. petersburg area. they have tester jars of nearly everything so you can taste a dash of this or a pinch that before you purchase!  you can also buy in different quantities, large or small, so don't be shy : ) i like the layout of the store as well, each section is organized by taste or culture. bbq has its own dedicated area, asian spices and all grouped together and my personal favorite were the european blends. go, taste, enjoy!

siam rice thai cookery school

our day started bright and early with a trip to the local market. our chef in training toured us around the different stalls and pushed the fresh, fragrant ingredients under our nostrils so we could experience the splendor of the thai ingredients first-hand (i enjoyed this until the shrimp paste came around : ). after she walked us through what we'd be using to cook that day, we had a few minutes to wander around ourselves. we saw piles of freshly salted fish, meat being broken down on butcher blocks, plenty of deep fried chicken legs and prickly fruit that i couldn't begin to tell you how to eat or what it's called. that was when jack and i vowed to never again make fun of tourists that come to new york with fanny packs on their hips and nikkon cameras around their necks. we stopped to take a picture of everything! i'm sure the locals thought we were being ridiculous but it was so interesting to see so many new ingredients and products.

once we made our way over to the school, we stared our lesson with a basic soup. we chopped fresh lemongrass, ginger, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, kaffir lime, chicken and whole thai chiles. the soup started with coconut milk and chicken stock and then we dropped in our ingredients. surprisingly, the secret to delicious thai soup is to leave it be. you don't want to overstir, the ingredients just want to marry on their own. we also added in fish sauce, oyster sauce and some raw sugar. after we'd each finished, we sat and enjoyed our dish together and washed it down with the local favorite, chang beer.

it was then back to the chopping block to prep for the pad thai. i've eaten pad thai plenty of times but never realized how simple and straight forward this dish is. again, just a few ingredients (tofu, chicken, mung bean sprouts, chives, pho noodles, an egg), a hot wok and we were all set. no boiling your noodles separately for this dish either, you get everything going along with some water and toss the noodles in with the rest of the ingredients until they soften up, genius! finally finish with a little palm sugar and crushed peanuts on top.

the finale for us was making our own curry. i'd never attempted to make one at home, it's a decent amount of work. in order to make your own curry paste, you have to spend serious time with the morter and pestle. lots of dry ingredients go into the paste; dried hot chillies, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, anise seed, ginseng, corriander root, turmeric and of course, shrimp paste. once the paste was done though, it was back to the hot wok to get the goods simmering together. you want to add cooking oil, coconut milk, curry powder and your curry paste to a hot wok and cook on low heat. add more coconut milk and add chicken, fish sauce and palm sugar at the end. finish with potato and large onion and simmer until cooked down and thickened.

we found that these dishes were very flexible and we could make them as sweet or spicy as we liked. and no need for salt or pepper, the chillies take care of the spice and oyster and fish sauce give a briny finish. if you're in chiang mai, definitely take a day and do a cooking class. nancy and pot were warm, friendly, funny and taught us to seriously throw down with a wok!

franky & johnny's, cape neddick, me
franky & johnny's

can you say lobster purse? yes, that's right. wonton wrappers stuffed with lobster, marscarpone cheese and truffle oil. this was one of those bites that makes your eyes roll to the back of your head; it was so delicious and fresh!

this past weekend, my friend and i, along with my parents, made our way up to ogunquit, maine (pre-hurricane sandy) to visit my aunt, andrea, and her boyfriend marc. they have a beautiful house on perkins cove and lucky for us, can both throw down in the kitchen. on friday night, they did homemade fish chowder, scratch made ceasar dressing over romaine, steamed lobsters and grilled steaks. if that had been my only meal over the weekend, i would have been a happy girl!  it gets better though... on saturday night, we checked out one of their local faves, franky & johnny's. andrea and marc have been going to franky & johnny's for quite some time and were able to point us in the right direction when we started to peruse the menu.  

franky & johnny's is known for their aesthetically pleasing, naturally prepared cuisine. for starters, we did lobster purses and a special duck confit spring roll. rich and luxurious are the two words that come to mind when describing these dishes. after that, i think just about everything we ordered was one of the specials for the evening.  marc did a gorgeous seared duck, andrea did the fish tacos and my friend leon had a seriously impressive seafood array. my dad had a steak and i was very pleasantly surprised at how well it was prepared. you're talking to a girl that lives right down the street from peter luger's. franky & johnny's steak was thick, had a tender, juicy center and a seared crispy exterior.  well played, johnny.

two very cool things (besides the food) about franky & johhny's. 1) two of johnny's dishes are featured in a cookbook called 'dinner for eight,' written by ny times food author denise landis. after our meal, i was able to hang out in the kitchen for a bit with johnny and his crew and he signed my book for me. he's totally down to earth and all about bringing fresh food to his customers table. 2) they're a byob establishment. you can actually bring in your own cooler and they'll cork your wine for you. i love this concept! you can sip on your favorite adult beverage of choice and let the folks in the kitchen focus on what they do best.

if you're in the cape neddick / ogunquit area and you're looking for a spot to eat, be sure to check out franky & johnny's. it's humble atmosphere and original menu will keep you coming back~

Frankie & Johnny's Natural on Urbanspoon

oyster club in mystic, ct

we started with the quahog clam chowder, new england style. chowder is normally a little heavy for my taste but oyster club really focused on the clams, leeks, potatoes and bacon (yes, bacon), rather than a heavy broth. our incredibly sweet server also took the liberty of dividing our single order into two smaller bowls for us. bless her...

we never actually made it to the main dishes after our chowder. we focused on the appetizers and ordered just about one of each. we sampled oysters from three different regions, each with their own briny flavor and then followed that up with mussels in a cocunut and lemongrass broth, beef carpaccio and a deliciously sinful goat cheese risotto ball.

the wood paneled walls and warm ambient lighting really make you feel like you've washed up into a little beach-side oyster shack. once you have a look at the menu though, you'll know there was some serious thought behind each of the dishes and you can tell they only pluck ingredients at their peak freshness. i can't say enough good things about oyster club. we really enjoyed the visit and may be making a special trip to mystic soon~

scott's restaurant in mayfair
scott's in mayfair
whether you’re looking for a fresh, sautéed filet of seabass or would rather kick back a dozen oysters, scott’s is the place to go for all things seafood in london.  upon visiting, you’ll first fall in love with the neighborhood.  it’s nestled on an expressive little street in mayfair so you feel a bit like you’ve been swept away from the hustle and bustle of central london. you’ll also smile when the polite chap at the door greets you and welcomes you to the restaurant.  as we hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, (you’ll definitely want to reserve a table in advance) we tried our luck at nabbing two seats at the bar.  lucky for us, 4 o’clock was pretty slow and we were sipping prosecco in no time.

we started off with olives, almonds and of all things, pork rinds.  i’m sure they have a fancier name than pork rinds but for all intents and purposes, we were snacking on deliciously salty, super fried pork bits and were quite happy to do so!  after perusing the menu, we decided to have ceviche first.  my mother-in-law makes the most delicious ceviche ever so i’m a bit of a snob when it comes to this dish. scott’s did it right though; just fresh lime juice, olive oil and a bit of diced red pepper for color and texture. it was topped with fried plantains that doubled as scoops.

moving along to the mains. not that my husband’s seabass in lemon butter sauce wasn’t delicious.  it was phenomenal but i think my lobster and avocado salad took the cake.  there’s really nothing richer and more decadant than huge hunks of lobster lightly dressed, tossed with small bits of grapefruit and slivers of endive. the salad looks petit in the picture but i assure you, your palette will be quite satiated once you’re through.

for us americans, the conversion rate from dollars to pounds doesn’t do you any favors when you go to pay the bill here but if you want to treat yourself to a sophisticated seafood experience, be sure to check out scott’s!

Scott's on Urbanspoon

kings arms
kings arms
so once you’ve done the fancy, upscale dining thing, you’ll likely be ready to dive into what the brits do best.  a serious hunk of fried fish piled atop crispy fried chips (french fries, as we know them!). the spot we landed is in a gorgeous little town about a half hour outside of central london called teddington. we were there visiting dear friends of ours and decided to spend the afternoon strolling through hampton court palace.  after learning all about henry VIII and the love scandals that riddled the royal court for the past few hundred years, we decided to go for a late lunch just off the palace grounds. 

as americans, when we think of pub food, we tend to think of fried chicken wings, greasy chili and soggy nachos.  britain’s pub food is wholly different though.  it’s not healthy but it’s heartwarming and downright delicious. bacon and brie on fresh baked multi-grain bread, what?  i know, so good.  and the bacon isn’t skinny and crispy like ours, it’s thick sliced and just tender enough that your teeth sink right through it. the fish and chips had to be the most impressive though.  the hake was served golden crispy with a splash of vinegar and dipping sauces on the side.  and of course, all had to be washed down with pints of fresh tapped ale.

especially on a rainy day, if you find yourself anywhere near teddington, i’d definitely recommend a visit to hampton court palace followed up by some hearty pub grub at the kings arms. cheers!

west hollywood's, 'the eveleigh'
the eveleigh
key eveleigh attributes: seasonal, farm to table, rustic garden setting and fancy cocktails. this sunset boulevard hot spot is tucked away and feels a bit like a secret garden when you walk in.  there are communal tables, a large hearth-type bar in the center of the space and gorgeous views of l.a. from the open air dining room in the back. 

we started with an array of charcuterie. normally you'd get a few toasts or baguette slices on the side but eveleigh steps it up with fresh baked salted brioche rolls. after we'd nibbled on that for a while, we ordered spinach and the heirloom tomatoes & burrata.  the tomatoes were sweet, succulant and perfectly seasoned.  the bloomsburg spinach was the star though.  i'm not quite sure how it's prepared but it's infused with garlic, preserved lemon and olive dust.  olive dust?  i know.  i have no idea what it is or how to cook with it but this dish was so good we ordered a second round of it.  after that, we followed up with french fries covered in a delicious truffle mayonnaise and asparagus with hollandaise sauce. we couldn't finish up without trying the donuts.  as you'd expect, they came out warm and were served with a decadant caramel dipping sauce.  as you can imagine, i'd had a few glasses of wine by this point and forgot to take a picture of the donuts before we dug into them.  trust me though, these should be on your list the next time you make a reservation here.  

five stars for the eveleigh! the food was the kind that makes you close your eyes, roll your head to the side and offer a smile after every bite.  the decor and ambiance heightened the experience and the staff was knowledgeable and attentive.  the next time you're in l.a., be sure to check out the eveleigh~

The Eveleigh on Urbanspoon

maryland & d.c.
bethesda crab house

as everyone well knows, a trip to maryland isn't complete without a crab feast! this past friday night, we went to a place called the bethesda crab house. the menu is somewhat limited but this family run business just focuses on a few things and they do them really well.  the crabs (steamed and fried soft shell) were big, fresh and slathered in old bay. as you can see, we snacked on a few other seafood delights as well. the beer is always cold and the vibe is very casual.  we opted to sit at community style picnic tables but you can also sit inside if the weather's not ideal. go hungry and be sure to pack plenty of wet naps : )

Bethesda Crab House on Urbanspoon


after such a big meal friday night, for lunch on saturday we were in the mood for something light.  we went over to sequoia near washington harbor in downtown georgetown. we could not have asked for better weather!  we sat outside under a shaded umbrella and had a gorgeous view of the potomac while we snacked on watermelon and feta salads.  sequoia was the perfect afternoon spot to grab a quick bite and a cocktail.  

Sequoia on Urbanspoon

after a little afternoon nap to re-energize for the night, we put on our fancy duds and headed over to sei in downtown d.c. chic, modern and ultra cool are among the adjectives i'd use to describe this place.  we parked at the bar for a cocktail before we were sat and really enjoyed the inventive twist on the drink menu. there were lots of bubbly, fresh concoctions to choose from.  i opted for an asian pear sangria and jack got a no. 6, blanco tequila, strawberries, cinnamon and ginger soda.  both were excellent-

after soaking in the atmosphere for a bit, we went over to our table and decided to start with sei's twist on a classic guacamole.  i'm not usually a wasabi fan but the wasabi guac was delicious. it had just enough heat to open up your senses and was paired with crispy homemade chips.  we had a few other small plates to start; some asian-fusion chicken wings and sliders which each had distinct and original flavors.

for our main, we did a number of rolls; the most interesting being the SOS (salmon, strawberries, avocado and miso sauce).  it was sweet, succulent and melt in your mouth good.  i'd have to say that for the rest of the rolls as well.  great service, food and a sleek, sexy setting made this a perfect saturday night dinner spot.

SEI on Urbanspoon

we didn't have room for dessert but managed to squeeze in some cupcakes from baked & wired before we left town on sunday.  think maple, caramel glazed bacon icing.  oh yeah, they do that kind of stuff!  this pic isn't mine but whoever took it captured the essence of what wired or baked is all about.  beautiful little delicacies, ready to be hand-picked.  this place is definitely worth a visit!

baked & wired

the forge
the forge

opulant, chic and dramatic are just a few words that come to mind when i describe the forge in miami beach.  my designer / architect friends will also appreciate the rich cultural history of this site which now serves as an inspired farm to table restaurant, wine bar and social staple.

the forge has been reinvented many times over the past 90 years but what i love about the history is that in the 20's, it started literally as a blacksmith's iron forge.  dino phillips designed decorative iron gates and sculptures for miami's wealthy which included the firestones and the vanderbilts. not too shabby as far as clients go...  in the 30's, phillips converted the space to a restaurant and casino, attracting starlets, musicians and famous actors. there was another large renovation in the late 60's and yet another just a few years ago.  today, the space feels like a sexy, loft speak-easy with signature furniture and lighting accents.

the forge continues to attract a-listers and travelers like us alike.  while waiting for our table, the enomatic wine system caught my eye.  you can sample any number of wines by a tasting size, half or full glass.  i learned the enomatic system perfectly seals the wine bottle after every pour, ensuring the freshest taste possible. we could have happily stayed at the bar all night, the bar tenders were quick to serve and there were plenty of seats so we could sit back and relax.

when we eventually got to our table, our server ran us through his menu favorites and offered up recommendations from the wine list.  he was a stellar salesmen, we pretty much ordered everything he had described...  how can you go wrong when you start with a few stone crabs, follow that up with what's known as lobster pb&j sandwiches and finish off your meal with an insanely tender bone-in steak and succulant three mushroom risotto?  you can't.  the meal was over the top.  not that we had an ounce of room left but somehow we managed to take down a s'mores souffle for dessert. this thing even came with a fluffernutter cream on the side and warm chocolate syrup to douse over the top.  i'm very, very sorry i don't have a pic of this one.  we were too excited and dug right in!

put on your fancy duds and strut over to the forge if you find yourself in miami beach~

The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


contemporary italian cuisine is the name of the game at this open kitchen in boston's harbour walk in the north end. they specialize in hand-made pastas, prime meats and New England seafood, using quality, local farm-raised ingredients.

first things first, the cocktail menu here was tempting and original.  usually our men stick to 'kettle on the rocks,' but no one could resist the moscow mule.  that's what inspired my monday night mixer i made with fennel and green beans a few weeks ago.  anyway, the moscow mule was light, refreshing and had just the right about of zip and tang from the ginger. 

after our drinks were served, we decided on a few starters for the table.  lobster mac & cheese was a must, burrata & prosciutto salad and the baked veal & pancetta meatballs with soft polenta were what we decided on.  although there were seven of us, there was still plenty to go around.  i think the polenta may have been my favorite; it was creamy, buttery and delicious!

for entrees, we were all over the map.  there were a few fresh pastas, a special fish entree and an ahi tuna flatbread but the most gorgeous dish brought out was the parpadelle bolognese veal cheek and ox tail ragu with porcini powder (whew, that one's a mouthful!).  it was all wrapped up in a hefty spiral of saucy goodness.  we passed the dishes around for all to taste and i have to say, this is the best way to experience a meal~

we finished up with a few cappuccinos and espresso's and then hit the town.  whether with a group or if you're looking forward to a hot date spot, aragosta's solid.  i'd highly recommend it!

Aragosta Bar + Bistro on Urbanspoon

woodman's of essex

woodman's of essex

lobsta!!! it was wicked!  ok, i can't fake the boston accent very well but you'd be shouting out those same phrases if you had had the same lunch i did.  woodman's is in a sleepy little beach town called essex but they clearly have the clambake thing down to a science.  we jumped on line and were about 20 people deep but only had to wait about 10 minutes before we placed our order.  the kitchen is open too so you can see all of the hustle and bustle behind the counter. here there are no waitresses, you just take a number, wait for your food and either park it inside or head out to the community picnic tables and claim a spot.

$45 dollars later, a golden toasted lobster roll, jumbo shrimp plate and clam chowda found themselves in front of me.  wow, yeah, the lobsta roll was heavenly.  straight forward and simple, they didn't over-mayo the roll or add fillers.  just pure, delicious lobsta chunks.  well worth $20. 

you know how sometimes when you get a big fish fry, everything on the plate tastes the same?  not the case at woodman's. although the jumbo shrimp plate looked like a heaping pile of fried mess, each of the shrimp, onion rings and french fries were lightly battered and cooked up to crispy perfection.  dip the shrimp in a little hot sauce, mmm.

if you're in boston and you want to sneak away from the city for an afternoon, essex is a great day trip.  crane's beach is just a few miles from woodman's and there are pockets of antique shops you can wander in and out of.  you can finish off your day like we did with a way too big serving of homemade ice cream from downriver ice cream.  wicked awesome!

jeff ruby's steakhouse
jeff ruby's steakhouse

when i'm back in my hometown and there's a special occasion to celebrate, my dad always makes a reservation at jeff ruby's.  mr. ruby actually grew up on the east coast (you can tell by his nod to peter luger on the menu) but now serves up his incredible raw bar and dry aged beef in the mid-west.  you'll notice a bit of a broadway theme when you enter the restaurant and on any given night there's a pianist tickling the keys to greet you. 

you have to start with the bread here.  there's a salted rye that's to die for, a sourdough option and a fresh, crispy breadstick.  the butter is always served at room temp so it slathers all but too easily.  other favorite signature items on ruby's menu include the lump crab appetizer, chop salad and potatoes anna as a side.  the flavors are bold and mouth-watering, just what you would expect from a high-end steakhouse.  stuffy attitudes are left at the door though.  diners are welcome to wear jeans and the staff are down to earth and friendly.

the next time you pass through cincinnati, be sure to stop by one of jeff ruby's restaurants and don't even think about counting calories while you're there-

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

the wilmington inn
scallops & lamb

if you happen to be in vermont in the adorable little town of wilmington, be sure to check out the wilmington inn.  why do i like this place?  because it's a farm-to-table localvore restaurant that serves homemade, seasonal, fresh food from local farms. as far as the physical space goes, the roaring hearth and solid wood interior add to the warm and cozy ambiance.  we ordered scallops and lamb; each were delictable and beautifully presentetd.  wine prices were fair as well.  also, don't shy away from the potato chips as an appetizer.  enjoy and don't even try to count calories! 

last tip...  if you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, leave your skinny jeans and burberry scarf at home.  vermontonians like turtlenecks and patagonia snow boots, even on saturday night.  enjoy!

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