January 29, 2012

Returning to Coppi's

I remember going to to Coppi’s for pizza many years ago with my aunt and uncle on my first visit to Washington, DC. Cycling photographs and jerseys adorned the walls then as they do now. The atmosphere was warm and friendly - a great place to enjoy a meal with family or friends. And the pizza - cooked in a wood burning oven - was delicious.

Move forward an unmentionable number of years and now I live in Washington, DC. I am not sure why it took me a while to revisit Coppi’s Organic Restaurant, but I am glad I finally made it back...

After reading the menu, Jonathan and I decided to share a pizza. First we ordered two glasses of Nero d'Avola, I got a salad, and Jonathan got a appetizer portion of gnocchi alla Bolognese. My salad was fresh and good with greens, apples, and a light vinaigrette. But, the best part of the meal was the pizza! We ordered a pizza topped with shrimp, artichoke, ricotta, capers, parsley, and tomato sauce. The crust was perfect - thin and chewy. The toppings were fresh and complimented each other perfectly. Because the pizza was cooked in a wood burning oven, the shrimp had an excellent grilled flavor.

To end the meal, Jonathan ordered a latte and I finished my glass of wine. Coppi’s is still the comfy, local restaurant I remembered, a place to come and enjoy good food and wine with family or friends!

January 25, 2012

Remembering Winter in Massachusetts...

It has been a very mild winter in Washington, DC this year and we have only seen a dusting or two of snow. So, I decided to post some winter photographs from when I lived in Boston, MA.

A back alley on Beacon Hill
The Longfellow Bridge spanning the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge
Now, while these images of piles of white snow are picturesque, I am by no means hoping for that amount of accumulation here in the District of Columbia! I'm okay with a mild winter this year (and next)...

January 22, 2012

Dinner at BlackSalt - Not to be Forgotten

Sometimes life causes things to be brushed aside and forgotten, almost. In early fall my husband took me to dinner at BlackSalt. We had a fabulous evening and then the weeks that followed became hectic and I never got around to writing about the meal, until now.

Rain was pouring down when we arrived at the restaurant. We hurried inside and were led through the wine cellar to our table in the back dining. After walking through the wine cellar (nice sales tactic), we had to begin our meal by ordering a bottle of Burgundy, a recommendation from the sommelier.

We ordered the octopus appetizer to share, but did not read the menu well enough to notice that it contained sausage. So, unfortunately I was not able to eat it, but Jonathan enjoyed it very much. (But, I did enjoy my wine while waiting for the next course to arrive.)

For the main course I ordered the bouillabaisse and Jonathan got the Atlantic tuna with caramelized pork belly in a soy ginger broth. My soup was wonderful - the broth was fragrant and delicious and the seafood was fresh and perfectly cooked. Again, I was not able to try Jonathan’s food because of the presence of pork, but he said it was fantastic.

Lastly, we ended our meal with the butterscotch pot de crème. It was good, however I wish it had less elements. The vanilla whiskey milkshake layer was too sweet and contained too much alcohol for my preferences - I wish the dessert had focused just on the butterscotch and milk chocolate layers. That said, we did eat a good portion of it...

I would like to close this post by noting that the service at BlackSalt was exceptional - very attentive without being overbearing. The service in combination with the excellent seafood and good wine made this meal one I will not forget soon!

January 15, 2012

Thai Food in Las Vegas

It is in a rundown strip mall. The parking lot is dimly light. Nearby is an acupuncture clinic, a karaoke bar, and a few other Asian restaurants. This is a long way from the neon lights and mirror glass of the rest of Sin City along Las Vegas Boulevard. But if you love to eat and you love Thai food, this is the place to be!

Las Vegas is not one of my favorite cities. I do not gamble. I prefer quiet wine bars and cozy local restaurants to flashy clubs and trendy dining establishments. But, my husband’s family lives in this crazy city so I end up here often. On our most recent trip to Sin City I finally found my reason to like this desert oasis - Lotus of Siam.

Before eating at this restaurant I had read several reviews and blogs about it - the majority of which agreed that this was the best Thai restaurant in North America, if not the western hemisphere. In addition, many of the reviews mentioned the restaurant’s extensive wine list which features top quality bottles from around the world.

One of two wine cellars at Lotus of Siam
We parked in the dimly light parking lot. Lotus of Siam is marked by a neon sign like everything else in Las Vegas. Inside the restaurant was brightly light and bustling with activity. After sitting down we began studying the menu and the wine list. Yes, both are very extensive and worthy of studying. The choices and more numerous than a standard Thai food menu and include many dishes from northern Thailand. Luckily, the servers were very knowledgeable about the menu, as well as food and wine pairings. After selecting our food, the waiter suggested one of the many German Rieslings on the menu to accompany our dishes.

Tod Mon Plar
We began our meal with Tod Mon Plar, a fried fish cake appetizer that was served with cucumber salad and chopped peanuts. The fish cakes contained curry paste and were slightly spicy. This flavor was perfectly complimented by the sweet chili sauce on the cucumber salad. While some of the flavors in the dish were familiar to me - like curry paste and sweet chili sauce - but combined they created a delicious new experience.

Khao Soi
Next our entrees arrived - Khao Soi (northern Thai egg noodles with curry) with shrimp for me and barbecued chicken for Jonathan. My curry arrived in a steaming bowl of creamy coconut curry broth with thin chewy egg noodles and shrimp garnished with cilantro and crunchy noodles. The broth was spicy, sweet, and absolutely wonderful! I ate everything I could scrape from the bowl. Jonathan enjoyed his chicken and several samples of my noodles.

Thai BBQ Chicken
Even though we were quite full from our meal, we ordered fried bananas for dessert. These were good and very similar to Filipino turon. They were served warm and crispy - a lovely ending to an amazing meal...

Fried Bananas
A few days later, before leaving Las Vegas, we returned to Lotus of Siam. On our second visit we ordered Tod Mon Plar (fish cakes) again. This time Jonathan ordered Khao Soi (the curry dish I had on our previous visit) with beef and I got Pad See Ew with shrimp. With our food we again took our waiter’s suggestion and ordered a German pinot noir. As with my noodles a few days earlier, my Pad See Ew was delicious. Actually, it was more than delcious - it was the best Pad See Ew I have ever eaten!

Pad See Ew
Next time we are back in the city of neon lights I know exactly where I want to eat - Lotus of Siam!

January 11, 2012

Dreaming of Travel in 2012...

So, it is time for the monthly Travel Belles Across the Cafe Table blog chat. This month the question we are all thinking and blogging about is:


I love the travel planning process and think it an essential part of travel. Before I go anywhere I immerse myself in travel books about my destination and learn as much as I can about the culture, food, and chocolate shops at my destination. For me planning, researching, and daydreaming is part of the travel experience. Today I actually want to talk about two destinations.

First I am currently planning a trip to northern Spain with my husband. I have been to Andalusia and Cadiz in southern Spain before, but neither of us have been to northern Spain. I have been reading articles and blogs and bookmarking websites. I have highlighting and making notes in my guidebooks for several months. And I have sketched out the beginnings of an itinerary - Madrid, Basque Country, Barcelona, and some small towns in between. The next step in my planning will be to decide when to go and then start booking tickets, hotels, and making any other necessary reservations.

Another destination I want to visit is Montreal. Recently I have been intrigued by the city - it's culture, food, and the fact that it is only takes about two hours to fly there from Washington, DC. I have begun reading articles and restaurant reviews about this city and hope to be able to go there sometime for a long weekend!

Where do you want to go in 2012?

January 8, 2012

At the Zoo...

The Smithsonian Institute has some wonderful museums and attractions in Washington, DC for visitors and locals alike to enjoy. Located in Rock Creek Park the National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institute. In addition to having many varied exhibits, it is also just a pleasant way to walk through the park. I had not been to the zoo since moving to Washington, DC two years ago and did not realize what I had been missing! This weekend my husband and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and went for a walk through the zoo. Here are some photographs from our walk through the zoo.

My favorite animal at the Smithsonian National Zoo - the Red Pandas.
One year old lions relaxing on a Sunday afternoon... 

Leaving the National Zoo at sunset time...

January 2, 2012

Visiting My Favorite Places in San Francisco

One of my favorite places to relax in San Francisco is Samovar Tea Lounge in the Castro neighborhood. (Yes, there are two other outposts of this cafe, but the one in Castro is my favorite.) On my recent trip to San Francisco I spent a sunny afternoon meandering through the Mission District visiting favorite shops, walking past parks I used to visit, and eventually ending up at Samovar’s for afternoon tea.

I sat at a table against the wall. The warm late autumn sun streamed in the windows and the smell of tea permeated the air. The staff works very hard to make the atmosphere here warm, relaxing, and comfortable. They make it easy to take a deep breath, stopping rushing through the day, and become rejuvenated. Of course, the lovely tea and food they have helps with that too! I ordered a pot of their black breakfast blend tea and some cherry oat scones with clotted cream and jam.

All of Samovar’s teas are delightful. The breakfast blend is a rich, malty black tea which pairs perfectly with milk. And it is a perfect tea to sip in the afternoon, as well as the morning. With my tea I enjoyed the lovely scones with clotted cream. (Personally, I think clotted cream is divine.) The scones were flaky and were just on the border between savory and sweet - a perfect little snack.

I remember sitting at Samovar’s to study when I was in graduate school. I remember bringing visiting friends and family here for a cup of tea. And the memories I treasure most at this tea house is coming with my husband to relax on weekends - both before and after we were married. Samovar Tea Lounge remains one of my favorite places in San Francisco and I am glad I was able to go back and enjoy some afternoon tea. Next time I am in the city by the bay I will be back for another cup of tea!

Another favorite place I visited during my recent trip to back to the bay area is Alegrias Food From Spain. This is a small family owned restaurant in the city’s Marina district that serves delicious, authentic Spanish tapas and paellas. The atmosphere in Alegrias is cozy with a dark wood bar, white table clothes, and posters about bull fights and the famous sights of Andalusia. It is a place that is both intimate and comfortable.

But the best part of Alegrias is their food! They the majority of the menu is tapas style, however you can also order paella and other Spanish specialities. Everything is delicious; some of my favorites are the tortilla (Spanish omelet), crispy potatoes with alioli, and spinach with pine nuts, raisins, and apples. The paella is also wonderful and fun to share. To drink, there is a lovely selection of Spanish wines and sangria that complement the food. And, for the most important course of the meal, they serve delightful flan!

It was lovely to be able to have dinner at my favorite restaurant, Alegrias Food from Spain, in San Francisco on recent visit to the city. I look forward to dining there again whenever I am back in the bay area!