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Ethnic Food Global Cuisine Komanfest Restaurants Thai Thailand What I ate in....

What I ate in….Thailand!

For two weeks, Jay and I ate our way through Thailand to celebrate our birthdays and first wedding anniversary.  We stayed in three gorgeous hotels, that I’d HIGHLY recommend in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

As for food, we ate EVERYTHING. We ate fancy, we ate cheap. We ate the unidentifiable and the things we still don’t know what they were (Mal, babe, that was def chicken feet). We had a lot of hits, one major miss and only minor stomach issues, so as far as a food-based vacation, I’d consider it a win.

Let’s start with the bad. The bad was so disappointing, it has its own post. We were so excited to eat at Gaggan, the #1 restaurant in all of Asia (do you know how big Asia is?). It’s also #10 in the world. The horror….the disappointment….the amount of money we spent on it. So much sadness. Click here to read about it.

But this is a happy place – so let’s talk about the things I ate that made me HAPPY. My top eats in no particular order:

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Ethnic Food Global Cuisine Komanfest Restaurants Thailand Travel What I ate in....

Gaggan-tic Fail

I’m not quite sure how to put our experience at Gaggan into words, but I’ll try.

Words we used that night were “challenging,” “awful,” “um, no,” “oh, dear, that texture,” and “why couldn’t everything have tasted like that??” Let me start from the beginning.

When planning our trip to Thailand, we learned that Bangkok has not one, but two top 25 restaurants in the world. One, Nahm, we knew about and had planned from early on to check out. But Gaggan was new to us. It was also recently voted the #1 restaurant in Asia. That’s huge. We had to go. We booked a reservation a month out and eagerly awaited. Lauding Trip Advisor reviews and high critical claim stoked our excitement

Gaggan describes itself as a “progressive Indian” menu. A set menu at 3500++ baht is a lot for a meal in Thailand, but when you’re talking the top meal in a continent, $100 pp is easy to excuse.

We arrived at Gaggan, a colonial style white house hidden down a dark alley. Awash in uplights, it was a gorgeous setting against the dusky Bangkok night. We walked in giddy. I wish future me had been able to warn present me.

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Drinks Restaurants Richmond Travel What I ate in....

What I ate in…Richmond!

I love Richmond. I’m not sure why. I’ve been three times in the past couple of years and each time I’ve only stayed for one night. But during each brief visit, I’ve had great meals, discovered some good shopping and found some quality cocktails. This past weekend was no exception.

I met my best girl Brittany, who lives in Raleigh, there on Saturday. The halfway point between DC and the Triangle, it was the perfect meeting spot for us to hang for a night.

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As great of a time as we had, we could have hung out in a Motel 6 in east bumble and it would have been perfect. With all of our “busy” schedules, I personally value the time I get to spend with my friends who live near and far. Although it was just one night, I think we were both happy to leave the kids (hers, real and human; mine, furry and canine) with the husbands and just focus on ourselves. Brittany and I went to college together, and as much as our lives have changed since our Tar Heel days, our friendship has grown stronger with time. I’ve loved watching her become the woman she is today and am eternally grateful for her friendship.

But enough mush – here’s what we loved!

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Where to stay: We shacked it up at the brand new Quirk Hotel. Beautiful rooms, comfy beds, great bar. Because of our new overlord, Rain, we didn’t get to check out the rooftop, so that was a bit of a bummer. But the hotel was charming and full of….yes, quirk! They also have Nest soaps and lotions and now I’m totally buying the Sicilian Tangerine soap because it smells amazing. Quirk Hotel, 201 W. Broad St.

Where to shop: You know when you set out to “go shopping”, but not actually buy anything?? We attempted to do that, but failed due to the cuteness of mod&soul. The shop owner was darling and had JUST opened her brick and mortar store. I bought this shirt and this dress, which has strategically placed lines and a deep-V, aka my two favorite clothing features. This dress is begging to be worn on a beach….if the sun ever decides to show itself again. mod&soul, 323 W.Broad St.

 

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Where to eat dinner: Food and drinks at Heritage were delicious. I advise grabbing a reservation as it is small and popular. The food Gods smiled on us and we got seats at the bar fairly quickly (which I actually love doing at restaurants). We chatted it up with owner and bartender, Mattias Häaglund, about Richmond, his restaurant and his 3-month old baby boy who he was smitten with. The Pork Fries were really good, but the Fried Broccoli and Thai style Soft Shell Crab stole the show. Served with a Japanese Mayo, the Fried Broccoli crunched and basically melted in your mouth. The soft shell crab special was two perfectly fried crabs served with a sweet, spicy Thai curry sauce and bok choy. Absolutely loved it. Heritage, 1627 W. Main St.

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Where to drank: Richmond’s cocktail scene is having some fun and I sampled way too much of it for one night. Mattias at the aforementioned Heritage made me a Belle Isle Brace Up, created with Belle Isle Honey Habenero Moonshine, a local product, and mixed with lemon, lime and rhubarb bitters. It was way too drinkable. I loved it. Damn you, moonshine.

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They steered us to Balliceaux for some Thai-esque cocktails (I promise, I eat/drink things that aren’t Thai-inspired). My Kampot in 1806 was a good twist on a Manhattan, but Brittany’s Rap Game was so fun. The rum-coconut concoction felt familiar, but mixed with root beer and served with a salty pretzel that muted the sweetness, this made me wish I was on a beach. Apparently, they have K-pop dance parties in the back which we sadly missed out on. Balliceaux, 203 N. Lombardy St.

We stopped at Saison for a final nightcap. I kept it simple with a rye old fashioned but it was well-made and $6. Perfect end to the night. Saison, 23 W. Marshall St. 

Where to order late night food: Because I obviously needed a second dinner, I called room service to ask if they were open. They were not, but directed me to J. Kogi, aka KOREAN DELIVERY. You know how most late night delivery is shit?? This was legit amazing. I got the soy garlic wings, which avoided the dreaded delivery sogginess and were surprisingly crispy and a bulgogi rib eye bowl with bacon kimchi fried rice. As Britt slept, I ate three wings, took two bites of the ribeye bowl, declared it amazing and promptly passed out. I hope I never change. J Kogi, Wherever you need it to be.

Where to brunch: Okay, so, DON’T go to where we ate. I won’t even mention it. Do check out the Roosevelt instead. We were told to eat brunch there, we did not, we regretted it. Learn from my mistakes. Apparently, Heritage also has a great brunch, but we thought it’d be a bit excessive to do dinner and breakfast there (although, I’d definitely try it on my next go round). Roosevelt, 623 N. 25th St.

Where to caffeinate: Before I hopped on 95 to join the masses heading north, I grabbed an iced red eye, French Bun and Almond Croissant from Whisk. Surprisingly, both pastries made it back to the District and Jay and I split them. Flaky, buttery, awesome. An adorable coffee shop and bakery. Whisk, 2100 E. Main St.  

So, my lovelies! Do you have any Richmond spots that you love? What’s your favorite easy road trip from your house?? Tell me, tell me so I can check them out, I’m always up for an adventure!

xo

Chicago Global Cuisine Restaurants Travel What I ate in....

What I Ate In….Chicago!

I casually strolled into the reputable restaurant, expecting to breezily get a table. I assumed the folks standing around were just there for drinks and headed to the host stand and requested a table for two.

“Hmm, yes – that’ll be about a 30-45 minute wait, and that may bump into when the kitchen is closing, so you may not get to eat.” Wait.

No, I was not at some new hot spot in New York at 10:00 on a Friday night. I was in Chicago on a Thursday at 2pm! I knew the Chicago restaurant scene was SERIOUS (do you know how many bars and restaurants they have that you have to pre-purchase tickets for??), but I was not prepared for potential lunch rejection from what I lovingly dub an upscale diner.

Fortunately, after about 25 minutes, our names were called and we were sat at Au Cheval. And Lord, am I glad we were. I would describe Au Cheval as kicked up diner food. Everything we had was a better version of comfort food that we love. What we ate and drank: Continue Reading

Restaurants

I’m so sorry, Rose’s Luxury.

If you want to know the full experience of going to Rose’s Luxury, read on. If you just want to know about the food, click here! 

Also, I don’t’ have a lot of pictures.  Jay hates it when I take pics in restaurants (and to be honest, so do I) so I try to get one good one and let it be.

Update: The day after I posted this, Rose’s Luxury announced they will start taking limited reservations for groups of 6 to 8. Let’s pretend this post had something to do with it. 

 I was wrong.

They say people have trouble admitting when they are wrong. I don’t have that issue. I’m wrong A LOT. So I just don’t say it often, because, guys, we don’t have that much time.

But dammit, I was wrong about you, Rose’s Luxury.

Rose’s Luxury is a newish restaurant here in our nation’s capital. It’s received high praise, both from well-renowned food critics and us lowly people who just like to eat. Some great friends of ours bought us a gift certificate to Rose’s Luxury as a wedding present. It was such a wonderful gift and perfect for us. We were stoked.

A setback is that Rose’s Luxury doesn’t take reservations. And it is incredibly popular thanks to word of mouth and stellar reviews. So what does that mean? Continue Reading

Global Cuisine Restaurants Travel

Eatin’ all over the World – Featuring a Love Letter to Thip Khao.

October 2015 Update: 2 days after writing this, we discovered the best tacos in DC at J & J Carryout on Georgia Avenue. If you’ve been in DC long enough, you know we flail when it comes to tacos. A lot of them are good, but never quite hit the spot. But these….these are special. Go check them out, they also have a great vegetarian menu and an amazing jalapeño crema. 

One of the best things about living in the DC area (or what we locals call the DMV) is how much amazing international food exists nearby.

I’ve recently found myself eating a lot of global cuisine. It’s some of my favorite because you can have a delicious, unpretentious meal at a decent price that tastes like somebody’s grandmama might have made it.

Northern Virginia is known for having amazing and authentic Asian food. Our good friends, Kristin and Dan, threw an amazing wedding in that area this past weekend (yes, her dress is BEAUTIFUL!). For every wedding Jay and I have been to the past year, we have turned it into a dumpling-hunting adventure. This first started in LA and then continued in Virginia. It was on the Left Coast that we first discovered xiaolongbao, also known as soup dumplings.

XLBs aka Soup Dumplings!

XLBs aka Soup Dumplings!

I’d always been under the impression that I didn’t like steamed dumplings. I always found the dough to be too gummy. When I finally had XLBs, I realized I’d been eating dumplings made by the WRONG people all my life. These were little chewy pockets of heaven, filled with savory soup and delicious meat. If you get a chance to try them, do! And yes, you can find pretty good ones in the DMV.

We didn’t find any XLBs this weekend, but we did stumble on the Dumpling Queen in Chantilly. Armed with a hangover, sore dancing feet from the amazing DJ (I mean, he played SPICE GIRLS!) and an appetite, we devoured the Lili’s Special steamed dumpling filled with pork, shrimp and chives. The filling was fresh and perfectly seasoned, while the dumpling had the perfect texture. They were delightful.

Thanks to moving closer to Maryland and me working there, we have been taking full advantage of the amazing amount of ethnic food in the Silver Spring area. The Big Greek Café is amazing, with flavorful gyro meat, great feta and herb covered fries, perfectly fried and seasoned falafel and (wait for it) BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE. It was a really good meal and I can’t wait to branch out to the rest of their menu.

Yesterday, not that excited for the salad I’d brought for lunch, I ventured over to Tastee Tropics in the White Oak shopping plaza. The 3 star average on Yelp wasn’t that promising for this Caribbean joint, but this Florida girl with Jamaica in her heart figured anything would scratch the itch. It was a good reminder of why we shouldn’t always trust Yelp: this food was BOMB. I got curry goat, rice and peas, collards and plantains. Everything was SO good. I was pleasantly surprised by the plantains, as so many people get these wrong. This meal took me back to many vacations in Jamaica. If you’re ever in White Oak, give it a try. Too scared of goat? Go for the curry chicken!

It may not be pretty, but damn, its delicious.

As much as I enjoyed these places, there’s a new kid on the DC block that has been near and dear to my heart for a few months. Jay and I like to think we have always been ahead of certain trends: swirl coupledom; Jay drank rosé years before it was “cool”; A mutual admiration of big butts (which let’s be honest….have always been cool, whether mainstream magazines say so or not). And most recently, a new Laotian restaurant, Thip Khao.

Thip Khao has recently received a lot of well-deserved love and attention. Bon Appétit named it one of the best new restaurants in the country. We first checked it out before it received that honor on New Year’s Eve of 2014. I still remember what we ate – the Naem Khao or crispy rice, the crispy wings, the sundried beef with lemongrass and ginger and the duck laab. Everything was great, but the Naem Khao was a revelation.

Made of crispy rice, coconut, lime, scallion, pickled pork ham, peanut, cilantro, lettuce wraps, it is sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and savory. It is every flavor profile you want in a dish. I honestly crave it regularly. Writing about it right now is killing me. It is my absolute favorite thing to eat in DC right now.

Snakehead filet topped with cashews, mangos, avocado, ginger, lime juice. So good!

Since that first trip, we’ve also tried the crispy pig ear and the crispy snakehead fish with mango, avocado, ginger leaves, spicy fish sauce, garlic and cashews. The snakehead fish was perfectly cooked and the additional ingredients were fresh, bright and flavorful. The reason Thip Khao dishes have such a dynamic flavor is because Chef Seng grows many of the ingredients she uses. You can honestly taste the difference. She’s also incredibly personable and you can tell she absolutely loves what she does. I am so happy for their success and hope they continue to thrive as they approach their second year. And give Chef Seng a follow on instagram, but know that her feed will make you hungry!

So tell me, readers. Been to Thip Khao yet? If not, let’s go! Are there any globally-influenced restaurants that you think are out of this world?? Comment below!

Drinks Restaurants Travel

Austin: Land of Hospitality, Home of Tito’s.

Friend and travel buddy, Adrienne, rounded up 8 of her nearest and dearest and we headed to Austin (aka, the home of Tito’s Vodka!) for her 30th birthday. We had an absolute blast, ate and drank our faces off and really enjoyed the town. 4 days is NOT enough time to eat your way through that city. I’ll definitely be back soon.

Coming from Mexican-starved DC, we ran to the closest place we could find to scratch our taco itch. Las Cazuelas was a close walk, cheap and delicious. The pre-meal beans were an unexpected delight and the food was great. The carnitas taco was my favorite.

We moseyed on down to Mongers Fish Market where we realized we were in for an amazing weekend of hospitality. After splitting a bottle of wine, our lovely server gave us samples of the house sangrias. The white one was made of rum and reminiscent of a rum punch. Ironically, I’m not huge on sangria or rum punch (typically too sweet for me), but this concoction was delightful! And look how gorgeous they and the birthday girl were.

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For dinner that night, we went to Uchi. Eat sushi?? In Austin?? YES, EAT SUSHI IN AUSTIN. There’s a reason Uchi is constantly at the top of many Best of Austin lists. The food is impeccable, the service delightful and the price was enough to make me consider relocating. Our big city appetites got the best of us and we ordered way too much. Luckily our waitress made us hold off for a bit. Our favorites:

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