March 18, 2009

Aziza - a Perfect Meal

I now have a new favorite restaurant...

Friday evening Jonathan and I had dinner at Aziza. This Moroccan restaurant, in the Richmond district of San Francisco, has received many accolades and complimentary reviews. After watching Chef Mourad Lahlou on Iron Chef America, we decided we had to visit his restaurant.

Walking out of the cold foggy San Francisco evening, the interior of Aziza is reminiscent of a faraway place. The dim light and colorful décor create a warm and romantic atmosphere.

The menu here is unique – each dish is named after the primary ingredient. I ordered artichoke and lentils. Both were simple and perfect – and intensely flavorful! For meat, Jonathan ordered the squid and riblets – and said both were superb. We also shared olives and flatbread chickpea, piquillo-almond, and yogurt-dill spreads. Each spread spread has a unique flavor – from rich chickpea to spicy piquillo to cool yogurt – very yummy!

Then for dessert we had the yogurt mousse – which was light, fluffy, and beautiful – with white tea.

Everything was amazing – a perfect meal. Yes, Aziza is my new favorite restaurant!

March 16, 2009

Wine on a Sunny Afternoon

A quiet afternoon at Ottimista Enoteca Cafe, Union Street, San Francisco, California

March 12, 2009

Courtyard in a Church

San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines

More Adventures in Chattanooga

So, my five days in Chattanooga have come to an end, and I am back in California now. When I flew east I had a very narrow view of what to expect at my destination. But, during my stay I was pleasantly surprised that some of my preconceived notions turned out to be false.
Food. I will admit I was very worried about food in Chattanooga. Being vegetarian and used to eating lots fresh California vegetables and cheeses, I was concerned that my sustenance options in Tennessee might be limited. (Previously my image of southern food was fried and greasy – period.) So, I was happy to find whole wheat pizza for dinner the first night, vegetarian samosas at a reception on Thursday evening, and an excellent cheese plate on Friday evening. And during my whole trip I only had one encounter with local fried food – a fried pickle. I tried this unique breaded and fried pickle at the small (and aptly named) Pickle Barrel on Market Street. It was interesting... I'll leave it at that!

Then on my last day in Tennessee I went to the Historic St Elmo district of Chattanooga for lunch and to ride the Incline Railway. I was joined by coworkers and we had a fabulous meal at Blacksmith's Bistro. The menu at this friendly cafe is fresh and creative. I enjoyed a roasted tomato and Point Reyes blue cheese (from just north of San Francisco) salad with crispy pommes frites – and ended my meal with profiteroles.

Following lunch we rode the Incline Railway up to Lookout Mountain. I had expected the terrain around Chattanooga to be flat and boring – not covered with rolling hills. At the top of Lookout Mountain the view is amazing – green fields and rolling hills stretch for miles and miles. Beautiful and stately houses stand guard on top of this natural watchtower. Lookout Mountain is actually a plateau and played a role in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

I have to admit several things in Tennessee – the food, the landscape – me. And I ended up having a much better trip than I had foreseen!

March 4, 2009

Small Surprises in Chattanooga

I love to travel and experience new places. I have always had a curious desire to explore every corner of the globe – no matter how small or far flung – and learn about each and every destination. That said, I will admit I had no desire to come to Chattanooga. My preconceived notions of what I would find caused me to totally dismiss the place.

So, yesterday afternoon – unwittingly – I arrived in Chattanooga. The initial drive from the airport to the hotel did little to change my outlook. I looked out the car window at dingy strip malls, chain restaurants, and square nondescript buildings. Past the yellow Waffle House signs. Past the pawn shops. The air smells faintly fried. Southern suburbia. Having spent the majority of my life living in New England and California this is a difficult place to feel comfortable in.

Then the neighborhood began to shift. Historical buildings started to line the streets. Walking into my hotel I felt like I was walking back in time. The hotel building is beautiful and ornate – and reminiscent of this region's historical past.

Later in the evening I decided to walk down the street in search of dinner – and was excited to find Lupi's Pizza [] – a funky little pizza parlor with a great selection of fresh vegetables to put on their whole wheat pies and calzones. I had a warm whole wheat calzone with lots of spinach, roasted peppers, and ricotta cheese – very yummy! An surprising – and excellent – find in Chattanooga!
The next surprise came on the walk back to the hotel. A quiet shuttle bus went by – with the words “Chattanooga Free Electric Shuttle” painted on the side! So, here in a place that I dismissed as one I never wanted to visit there is free public transportation in zero emissions vehicles! Wow!

Of course, not everything defied my expectations here in Chattanooga. From time to time I get reminded that this is an area of the country that is very different from where I am from. Patrons still smoke in restaurants and bars. My questions get responses of “Yes mam” and “No mam”. The historic flag display in a downtown window prominently gives honor to the confederate flag. I am a far way from the North here.

SoCal Architecture

Santa Barbara, California