Saturday, June 23, 2012

Liluma

I finally got to cross a long-standing and quite successful restaurant off my list after visiting Liluma last week for a Father’s Day dinner. My parents were kind enough to take me, even though they have been there several times, but it says a lot about the restaurant if they enjoy repeat visits.

I am very familiar with Jim Fiala's name since I just love Acero in Maplewood, although I still have yet to visit The Crossing and the Side Door, next to Liluma.

As per my usual, I selected a quartino of their Sebastian Riesling, so it was very sweet. I was disappointed by the limited “by the glass” selection and their menu was also quite small. I guess it just wasn’t what I expected.

I didn’t see too many small plates that caught my attention and the pastas I was interested in had bacon in them. I could have ordered pasta without any bacon, but my stepmom’s salad still came with bacon in it when she requested that it be held.

I was torn between the sea scallops or the beef tenderloin and my Dad ate his scallops too quickly before I could get a good look at them. I ended up skipping the starters completely so I could have more room for the beef tenderloin. That’s right, I had beef with a Riesling. Oh, the horror! But it ended up working out great because the bitterness of the sauce was tamed by the high sugar of the wine.

I probably need to go back and try more of an appetizer combination meal but I think I’d go to Acero instead.

Resources:

Fiala Food = http://www.fialafood.com/liluma/

Taqueria Durango

In case you thought I eat out constantly trying all these restaurants, well, the perception has been quite accurate this past year with my latest job since every Friday, my department goes out to lunch and you know who is “lunch coordinator”. (I may have to put that on my resume.)

Luckily, social media expert, Chris Reimer (aka @RizzoTees) just happens to work down the street from me and knows all the best restaurants in the area. Chris frequents Durango a lot and is constantly talking about it and I knew I just had to persuade my team into going there at least once.

We were smart and went right at 11:30AM sharp to beat the rush because by noon, it was packed! Folks even had to sit outside and several others left when they saw there was no room left. They also didn’t mind that we pushed several tables together.

Durango has a lengthy menu but I didn’t see the fish tacos I was looking for so I played it safe and went with a chicken quesadilla. I ordered a large quesadilla and this was plenty of food, especially since I was busy trying the three different types of salsas that they delivered in squeezable bottles. This worked out great so that there was plenty of salsa for my meal as well.

While we all got our food somewhat quickly for a large party, after sitting for quite awhile at our table, we finally had to go up to the counter to pay so we could get out of there. It was pretty much all hands on deck cooking and preparing the food behind the counter and we probably might have sat a long time if we didn’t approach the counter.

I certainly would like to try a few more items but that might have to wait until I’m with a smaller group or not at lunchtime.

Resources:

Taqueria Durango = http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/gutcheck/2010/05/review_taqueria_durango_10238_page_avenue_overland_mexican_cuisine_st_louis_food_blog_restaurants_052610.php

Diablitos Cantina

I recently picked Diablitos as a pre-Fox show dinner location because I kept hearing so much about their drinks and their patio. While the patio isn’t huge, I did enjoy the fast-spinning fans to help keep me cool in the warm St. Louis summer. Now inside the restaurant, it IS quite spacious and there were plenty of tables, even with a large birthday party going on that night.

Since I arrived early and hungry, I knew I had to get an appetizer and I had my sights set on the guacamole. There were huge chunks of tomatoes and onions in every bite! This was only $5 but it would barely be enough for two.

Diablitos are known for their various tequila drinks and I was happy to find so many foo foo sweet drinks that I love. I started with the El Pepino Grande since it had a lot of fruity ingredients (raspberries, lemon, lime, pineapple, and coconut nectar so I felt confident it would be mostly sweet tasting! With my meal, I then switched to the El Pelo del Perro, which is an orange infused tequila cocktail with a lot of orange-flavored ingredients. I could not taste any alcohol in either drink, and they’re quite refreshing to cool down the spice in the food.

When my friends arrived later, they ordered the salsa bar and I had to try it myself out of curiosity. For $2 per person, the unlimited chips and salsa bar has a rotating selection of quite a few salsas! There were a couple of hot ones, a few different types of fruit salsas like mango and pineapple, and then a couple of salsas that were completely different than anything I’ve ever heard of before. What’s smart is when you find the salsa you like best, you can fill a few containers of it and use it for your meal!

I ordered my favorite, Baja Fish tacos, and it worked out well that they only came with two tacos on the plate because I was already so full from guacamole and the salsa bar. I probably could have made a dinner out of another appetizer, especially the generous portion of Queso that my friends shared with me.

Resources:

Diabolitos Cantina = http://diablitoscantina.com/

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Greek Yogurt Taste Test

Since I kept hearing so much about Greek yogurt, I decided to try a few out at the grocery store and see if I could find one that I could tolerate. My initial attempts months before immediately generated a “grossed out” reaction since Greek yogurt is nothing like all the other types of regular yogurt I’ve tried. When I posted my “Greek yogurt” tasting results on Facebook, I was surprised by the large amount of strongly-opinionated comments, most of which were people recommending their favorite brand.

After following some of the recommendations, I ended up sampling quite a lot of Greek yogurts and I thought this might be worthy of a blog post all unto itself. Although I do admit, Greek yogurt is nowhere near as fun or exciting as the Wing Challenge found at http://offtheeatenpathstl.com/?p=3035.

It took me a few tries to realize that I needed to just accept that Greek yogurt is a completely different texture and I needed to get past that in order to focus on the flavor and taste.

Oikos - I was grossed out at first when I opened it up (watering and cottage cheese looking) but after mixing in the fruit, it actually had a decent texture and taste.

All Natural Brown Cow - Much like Oikos...gross looking at first until you mix it up. It was too thick...I thought I was eating whole cream.

Chobani - I was most disappointed because I got so many comments raving about this brand. This was super thick and I had trouble mixing in the fruit. I just don't think I was meant to have fruit on the bottom. :/

Wallaby – This was my first time with packaging where the fruit was in a separate compartment from the yogurt. I decided to use my own bowl and mix the two together and this helped me have a successful experience! Since I had more room in a bowl to mix the two together, I was able to get a smoother flavor, much closer to the yogurt I was used to. The yogurt tastes so much better with the fruit mixed in evenly.

Fage – Much like Wallaby in that there are separate containers so it was easier to use a separate bowl to mix the fruit and the yogurt. These two probably are my favorite but only because so much stirring went on.

Athenos – Another yogurt with separate containers, but was still way too thick even after mixing. I definitely liked the fruit the best because it wasn’t overly sweet but more of a tart flavor, and has the lowest amount of sugar.

Yoplait– I was back to a single container and therefore I wasn’t able to mix the fruit from the bottom as well. I thought I was eating sour cream. Just awful. Perhaps I need to try one of my preferred fruit flavors and mix it better in a bowl like the others. Note: My favorite flavor, peach, tasted way better than my first attempt. I also took the time to mix the fruit with the yogurt in a separate bowl and made it so much better!

Anderson Erickson Peach – I didn’t have to stir it and it tasted the most like regular yogurt. Of course you can only get this in the mid-Iowa area.

Siggi’s – This turned out not to be Greek Yogurt but an Icelandic style skyr with no artificial flavoring so of course this tasted awful and was even thicker than Greek yogurt. They sweeten the skyr, or thick yogurt, with organic agave nectar. Can’t get any healthier than that!

Liberte – This yogurt was smooth but the fruit was on the bottom and really needed to be mixed separately to avoid the sour cream taste again.

The Greek Gods – When I first opened up the container, I assumed the fruit was on the bottom so I dumped the yogurt into a bowl, but there wasn’t any fruit. I had gotten Pomegranate flavor but couldn’t tell it was actually flavored. This one tasted actually pretty good for being “mixed together” already and it wasn’t overly sweet. It had more of a frozen yogurt texture than the watery, sour cream like some of the others.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Via Vino

For Mother’s Day, I finally got to try Via Vino, which is another restaurant by Michael Del Pietro. Right next door is Sugos Spaghetteria, but it’s a little more casual and I saw pastas and sandwiches listed on a chalkboard hanging on one wall. Via Vino on the other hand, definitely looks like it belongs in the Frontenac area. You can see what the inside looks like just by going to their website: http://www.viaviavino.com/

Studying the menu in advance, the small plates really called to me and again I had the usual problem of trying to narrow it down to just a few selections. On the cold small plates list, I was very tempted by the oysters and other seafood items, but since this was a Del Pietro Italian restaurant, I went for the hot small plates instead.

Actually, I decided to start with the Del Pietro salad and native St. Louisians understand that this is a must.

My first hot plate selection was the House Made Gnocchi with creamy blue cheese and shaved parmesan. I probably could have just ordered a few more dishes and been just fine for the evening. Not only is gnocchi one of my most favorite dishes, but covering it in a couple of cheeses makes it brilliant.

I couldn’t pass up all the seafood dishes so I selected the Seared Scallops with cauliflower puree, shitakes, and miso reduction. There were only a few scallops on the plate but it was a very rich taste and allowed me find some room for the other two hot plates.

My last dish was also as heavy as the gnocchi since I picked out the Tagliatelle Pasta with poricini mushroom broth and truffles. This dish also stood out with its rich and heavy flavors and I loved the thick noodles drenched in the creamy sauce. This was so filling that it definitely could be the perfect size meal by itself with the salad.

Both of my parents decided to go with the chicken entrée, instead of the fish like I expected, and the plates came out with two full breasts along with spinach gnocchi. This easily could have been a dish for two, which meant there was plenty left over for me to try. The entrée was very rich and filling, leaving me with comfort food warmness.

As for dessert, you know my favorite is anything chocolate so I’m biased towards the Chocolate Amaretti Torte, but we got to try a three scoop sample of Serendipity ice cream: salty caramel, dark chocolate, and vanilla bean. Again, I am incredibly biased to say that the dark chocolate flavor was just amazing.

Resources:

Via Vino = http://www.viaviavino.com/

Serendipity Ice Cream = http://serendipity-icecream.com