after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says


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t says:  It’s my fault.  It’s not due to a lack of eating.  It’s not due to a lack of photo-taking.  It’s not even due to a lack of time to type.  I’m not sure what’s gobbling up my time (it’s clearly not because Scrubs is now on … ok … maybe it is …).  Let’s play some catch-up:


While in SF, we went to Nopalito, where g had her most “craveable” meal. I mean, we ate a LOT of good things, but she chose this place when pushed (g confesses: I think it’s dumb when t asks me these questions, like, “what was your best meal?” – they were all fantastic meals – for different reasons – how do you choose? [t breaks in: ok “every-parent-ever”; “no I can’t choose between my children – I love them all the same – just differently] back to g: *rolls her eyes* whatever … anyways, I was telling t that when I look back, I’d definitely “crave” the food at Nopalito – it’s simple but it’s soooo good, and it’s not too fancy of a place, and the prices are reasonable and it’s not too much of a production when you get there – you pick up a menu, you order, and delicious food comes out! done!)!  t takes over: so above is a seafood and avocado “soup”/gazpacho thing that was wonderful opposite the ?Brussels sprout quesadilla?.  Yes.  Brussels sprouts.  In Quesadilla.  Boom.  Mind blown.  Brain bits splattered on the wall behind you.


And of courrse, the carnitas, which is like the best tacos I could ever put together. Oh, and the empanada in the foreground? See all those bright colors. As good as it looks, it was 10 times better to taste. Gawd we love this place.  g says:  and it’s different than when we get “fancier” Tex/Mexican food in Philly.  Our dishes weren’t “too heavy” or “too oily”.  I mean this was heavier than Don Pepe that cm’s parent’s delivered, but it still was much lighter than here in Philly.


Oh yes … Griddle Fresh for brunch … first page of the menu blew my mind – I had no need to read anything else on the pages that followed.


green tea latte – exactly as you imagine it would taste. It did look like a milkshake, however, which was a funny incongruence with what it tasted like (it’s a warm drink).


This mess-of-a-dish was fabulous. I should incorporate more parm-reg in all of my morning breakfasts. The savory-salty note really helped me consume more sweet-juicy strawberries and syrup-laden French toast. Dangerous …


k had some issues with her pancakes. she asked if they were going to be “too cheesy”. The guy said “no – not at all – they’re pancakes”. I think the miscommunication centered around exactly how cooked through the marscapone/ricotta pancakes were going to be. It’s ok – they were delicious.


If your corned beef hash experiences are like mine, they are courtesy of a Hormel canned product … but not in California … where they use real corned beef slices and real potato chunks to make their hash. I swear cm must have had a whole cow’s worth of beef in this thing (don’t be fooled by the photo – it was a lot of hash – I’m pretty sure he had some leftover).


g went fruit + egg. No frills. Just fruit and an egg. Snoozeville, right? I agree. Well … just so long as she’s happy …


Dinner at Redd was “ok”. I mean, the food was good, and in line with what we’d expect to pay for fine dining in Napa. However, they didn’t quite nail the dishes as they did the first time we went. We missed the “spark”.


I have no idea where I ate this.  I distinctly remembered “wanting to be healthy” … so I got a “salad”.  Of course, it had these little pork cubes on the side – so as a “salad” and it was fabulous. I should routinely take some shreds of pork and fry them together into a chicken-nugget-like objects more often.


my name is t, and I have a problem. No, the problem is not alcoholism, the problem is that I only have 12 spaces in my wine-bottle-carrier for the airplane. Fortunately, I’m also a master probem-solver (we had to drink a bottle or two right then-and-there …).


kp has bigger problems than me. He lacks the 55-bottle wine fridge I have. So he had to perform a “draft” of which of his bottles were going to be stored in perfect conditions … and which ones were going to be in “near-perfect” 65-degrees of his SF apartment … cuz, you know, temperatures don’t really get much colder than that in SF … *looks out the window at the 27-degree weather outside right now in Philly*


We hit up brenda’s “Meat and Three”, which is probably kp’s most frequented restaurant/take-out. This is their watermelon sweet tea. Yes it’s outrageously good. Can’t believe I’ve gone this long without Snapple bottling this stuff. Sooooo good.


Imagine banana chocolate chip pancakes you might have had at Honey’s. And make them better. Like WAY better. Much fluffier, with a richer more buttermilky taste. I’m thankful my pants couldn’t expand anymore, otherwise I would eaten myself into insulin resistance.


Meanwhile … back in Philly … a and I hit up Zavino for lunch. Here they started off with a bang – a delicious “ricotta of the day” that was light and sproingy (“sproingy”? is that a word? is it onomatopoiea? sure, why not?) Not as decadent as Barbuzzo, but at least they give you ample bread …


Also had top-notch meatballs – I was afraid the sauce was going to be too sweet, but these were solid.


And now: bacon pizza … BACON PIZZA. Slam dunk, right? WRONG. a and I can’t figure out what went wrong. It had bacon and onion and arugula. But it just couldn’t get itself together. It also had some pickle on it, which made it weird – it made it come off like “all-the-toppings-you’d-want-on-a-burger-but-no-burger”. Weird. We won’t be ordered that again. We missed the ‘Stache pizza. Teaches us for committing to “trying something new”.


As I’ve been eating out a lot, my waistline is growing. It was hard to notice because I spend so much time in pants with drawstrings … but it was noticed! As a result, I had to miss out on a bakesale. How good could the “Ultimate Bake Shop Triple Choc Cake” be? I don’t know.


g and I hit up Pizzeria Vetri the other day as well. The salad was an interesting concoction of cauliflower, kale, raisins, etc. I felt like it was the best thing we ate!


This cinnamon-roll-looking thing was actually dough, rolled up with a layer of prosciutto and topped with nuts. It’s funny because all of the visual cues and proprioceptive cues (like the feeling of the fork as I was cutting it) and textural cues were that of a cinnabon … but it tasted like meat and nuts. So bizarre. It didn’t stop me from finishing it.


g loved the pizza. Personally, I felt like it was a little sweet, but she loved the fennel-on-fennel-sausage combo. She housed it.


But for me – I saved room for one of the most delicious affogatos ever. Affogato made with soft-serve? Yes please!

Ok, so now my iPhoto is all caught up.  Hooray!  Now I feel far less guilty about not updating the blog.  Ahhhhh.  I’ll be sure to try and keep up with the holiday eating season.  It’s tough, but I’m up for the challenge.


Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 December 2014 at 10:36am

It’s that time of year again …

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t says:  no, not Christmas … Girl Scout Cookie Time!  And it seems like this year, I can order them digitally!  Our bank account is afraid …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 December 2014 at 4:52pm

Posted in Happenings

California Photo-Storm (pt 1)!

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t says: g and I are in the Golden State once again – we just can’t stop visiting!  Between the friends, the food, and the wine – it’s a triple threat!  We would have mentioned weather for a quadruple threat, but today, it decided to rain on us … hard … so we’re deducting points.  But at least it gave us time to stop and make this post.


Ridge Vineyards: go there and look out onto Cupertino/Palo Alto/whatever it is that lies below.  And wines are quite good – lots of varietals to taste!


Anyone want to start up a library of Ridge Monte Bellow cabs?  The cost is steep … but doable …


 Just watch out for rattlesnakes (there are a lot of signs warning visitors … although we saw no rattlesnakes – much to k’s satisfaction).


We went to Gabriella Cafe for dinner.  It’s a little, unassuming place tucked away in Santa Cruz … and they served things like this: mushroom-stuffed gnocchia with a pesto and butternut squash.  I was floored.  I did not expect this non-descript eatery to nail this dish, but they did.  Never have I seen gnocchi injected with something like mushroom, but they did it!  I guess that makes it more like a ravioli?  I have no idea.


g’s tortilla soup was also quite nice.


the next morning, we went to Kelly’s French Bakery, where we enjoyed a few morning treats.  Above is a chocolate “goodfellow”.  I have no idea if it was done “properly” or not, but it was quite good and something I wish I could find elsewhere.


Coffee at Verve roasters was a highlight as well.  We snapped this photo because a had mentinoed that his heaven would be a cafe that also served bourbon … so here’s a coffee drink that uses some kind of Bulleit mixture (I assume they burned off the alcohol?).  So, it’s final: heaven is in Santa Cruz.  Next time, we’ll have to try it (they were out of it the day we visited).

There were lots of awesome photos of us scaling rocks in Monterey … but they reveal our identities, so we’ll skip them.  Let’s just say that I’m pretty agile on those rocky shores …


La Bicyclette in  Carmel-by-the-Sea offered up some simple breakfast items done very well …


… like the prototypical “California” breakfast featuring tomatoes, eggs, avocado, and a green of some sort.  Not pictured was the flakiest, lightest croissant we ever had in the states.  Rock on La Bicyclette.

hiking ...

We did some pretty awesome hiking around Point Lobos.  We were tempted to do the 17-mile drive … but refused to pay money to see beautiful sights when we saw plenty of beautiful sights for free!

driving ...

This was followed by a twisty-turny drive down US-1, with some of the craziest views ever!

pit-stopping ...

By the end of our drive, we were a little tired, so we stopped at San Simeo, where I was able to walk up to these seabirds and they didn’t flinch at all!


Enchilada at Estrella in Paso was unfortunately mediocre.  The wine list was a little too focused on nearby producers – which would be fine if they would offer some small flights or something like that for tourists like us.  However, given the quality of the food, we’d pass on Estrella in the future – Artisan and La Cosecha looked great.


The diner across from our hotel was hi-lar-i-ous.  Take a look at these menu shots!


lo-cal plate, anyone?


these are the banana pancakes at Margie’s.  the syrup packet is there for scale.  they were enormous.  and don’t be fooled – they were chocked full of bananas (to be seen on the underside).  I only finished half the plate.  WHY on earth would anyone need pancakes to be this huge?  I don’t know. But if we were staying in Paso Robles for more than a day, I would have brought them with me to the hotel to reheat for later (they had a microwave!).

We did a variety of wine tastings in Paso.  Our fave was Clos Solene.  Sure, their wines are a bit pricey, but Guillaume and Solene are gracious hosts with absolutely superb wines.  Definitely the best Syrah I’ve ever had in the US.  And the barrel-sampling of rose and white wines were fabulous – we’re totally in for some Clos Solene next Spring.


Inbetween wine-tatings, g and I finally conquered In-n-Out Burger – something g had been wanting to do for years!  Welcome to the “animal style” burger with a “well done” set of fries.  Personally, I think that the “secret menu” is kinda silly.  But whatever.  Grub’s good – I’d go back.  It’s a notch above Mickey-D’s.

On the way back from Paso, we stopped in Mountainview to visit some friends, who treated us to this great little Indian restaurant nearby.  I have no idea what it was called, but all I can say is that it was tiny and had great food.


After returning to SF, we went to a restaurant called Saru for lunch.  cm unerwent an 8-piece tasting which made his eyes roll to the back of his head a few times out of pure enjoyment.  They did look fabulous …


I did some fancy yellowtail sashimi (it was some special kind of yellowtail I don’t recall), as well as some way-off-the-hook Chirashi (in the background).  Seriously.  This Chirashi was like full-on 8 slabs of sashimi with egg, mushrooms, and rice for around $15.  This was some of the best raw fish I’ve ever had (up there with Kiss Seafood, also in SF).


welcome to the grilled yellowtail collar.  keep in mind that we, a bunch of silly sushi neophytes (face it, if your only experience with sushi is Philly nigiri and an occasional o-toro  or “sushi tasting” when you want to feel “spendy” … you’re a noob), had no idea what we were ordering.  now, having googled it, we understand where on the fish this piece comes from.  And let us tell you: it was crazy-good.  I haven’t had grilled fish this good in years.  YEARS.  If you go to Saru, you HAVE to order this and share it with a tablemate or two.


We brought a bottle of Quintessa with us from Philly to share with kp.  A 2007, it was drinking beautifully, with a purity of fruit that was only beginning to gain some age.  What a treat.


And now, for the grand finale of this post: our meal at State Bird Provisions.  kp is a SBP veteran.  He knows the standbys like the back of his hand.  And, because of the dim sum style, there were SO many dishes that it was hard to keep up.  The details are fuzzy, so if you are dissatisfied, you’re just going to have to go there yourself for the full experience.  Above is the pork loin with an apple mustarda.  A great way to start the meal (that one was early on).


Lamb pierogies in its own braising liquid.  You know – how can you go wrong?  Take some pierogies, which are inherently good, and jam some lamb up in there … and you have heaven …


… well … you had heaven until you ate this, and then you transcend to a whole new heaven.  This was  the “burrata on a sourdough garlic knot” topped with 5 spices.  Easy enough, right?  you figure, “oh, this is a bullshit dish – it’s all bait, and I’ve had it at Barbuzzo, so it can’t possibly be better”.  WRONG.  It can.  And it was.  I don’t know why or how.  Was it the texture of the burrata?  Was it the spices or infused olive oil?  Or maybe it was the pull-apart texture of the bread.  Well, whatever it was, it has taken over as the new Best Burrata to have ever touched these lips …


This is the dish that made g drool.  Correction.  The food didn’t make her drool – the smell did!  It hit the table  right in front of g, and she immediately started drooling based on smell alone.  She had to wipe her mouth because she was drooling too much – I took a picture of it, but she threatened to delete it if I posted it.  So what was the dish, you ask?  It was the signature “California State Bird with Provisions” – fried quail with strips of cheese and herbed braised onions underneath.  Now, I missed out on the onions (cm interjects: t, your meal must have sucked not having had those”; g agrees: big mistake … huge.), but the quail was juicy and delicious.  To be fair, it could have broccoli for all I cared – it was so fabulously fried – but the quail did complete the dish nicely.


Yet another dish that sounded underwhelming but delivered the goods: sourdough, sauerkraut, and ricotta.  They look like benign little pancake thingees … but what you got on the palate was a luscious burst of cheese and onion that made you want to order 10 more …


… but don’t order 10 of those, order 10 of THESE.  These are the dumplings.  They are filled with guinea hen and a combination of spices that was insane.  The waiter’s description required like 3 sentences, 4 dependent clauses, and 5 breaths to finish.  And it killed it.  After that, there was simply nothing else I needed or wanted.  Now the broth that you see it sitting in is the real dark horse.  kp and I could have downed it by the cup.  Meanwhile k spoke out: “you know … it’s too salty”.  We were flabbergasted.  No way.  It was perfect.  I guess you’ll just have to go and decide for yourself.


The desserts sound lame on the mnu.  Trust us: they aren’t.  They are full on flavors and as complicated as the regular menu items.  I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that they keep the party going and aren’t in the least bit “phoned in”.  cm wants there to be special mention of the huckleberries on the apple cake you see in the background, “they really made the dessert”.

Happy Anniversary [To Us!]

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t says:  Four years ago, we (g & t) went on our first food-centric outing with a & v.  We chose Modo Mio, as we heard about this “great tasting menu option” … and it was FABULOUS.  Fast forward 4 years, and here we found ourselves: four friends, with a helluvalotta good food and stories.  And guess what: Modo Mio is still killing it:

November 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  The challenge of the evening was: “who could eat the most eggs?”  You’ll see what I mean in a second …


My appetizer was the chestnut crepes.  It was amazing.  To this day, I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but I was amazed.  I remember thinking to myself, “this  is kind of like breakfast … but boy am I happy to have it now at dinner.”


There were lots of fried eggs topping a lot of the dishes.  Consequently, we have no idea what was under each …


And here’s another fried egg!  We swear the things under the fried eggs were great.  one was a lasagna, while another was a “special appetizer” featuring some other vegetable concoction.  Darn.  I wish we wrote down notes …


Another special, this wrapped up thing included a variety of veggies and meats that I remember wishing they would have put together with a normal noodled pasta (or something thicker like a lasagna noodle – but overall, the flavors were spot on.


I remember that v got the papparedelle, which included mushrooms and chicken liver.  The pasta and chicken livers were both fantastic – we hope that the mushrooms were acceptable to v.


No wait … THIS was the lasagna … right?  No?  I’m so confused …


gnocchia and shortrib … classic …. delicious.


My pulled pork was “like  a roast pork sandwich …”.  Except even better.  I don’t know how they treated it, but it was so incredibly savory and sweet at the same time – but not like a “sugary” sweet.  Gawd – is there any animal tastier than pig?


ah, yes – a steak hides underneat that egg.  g demolished it.  it’s always good here – but don’t think something like a refined piece of meat cooked perfectly medium rare, meant to stand alone – this is a fixed-up piece of meat with a ton of additions.



a went for the veal as his main.  It was one of the best veal parms I’ve ever had!

You know – I know we’re light on details – so sue us.  But know that the meal was fabulous.  The price was right (did I mention it was BYO?)  And we’ll go on recommending it friends and family alike … just so long as they bring us with them when they go …


Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 November 2014 at 12:42am

i’m … so … ashamed …

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t says:  I was cleaning out the pantry the other day, and look what I found.

4 bags of chocolate chips ... kinda ...

4 bags of chocolate chips … kinda …

Why on earth would someone require so many chocolate chips?  I’m not sure.  I mean, I am known to eat a few chips from time to time when I need a hit of something sweet … and somehow I managed to have three open bags at once … with an unopened one “just in case”.  I’m going to say that it’s because our pantry is just soooooo big that I couldn’t keep track.  Sounds plausible, right?  Right?

(I think I have a problem.)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 November 2014 at 1:00pm

Posted in Happenings

Preach on …

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t says: sometimes, someone just hits the nail on the head:

Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 November 2014 at 1:06pm

Posted in Happenings

knead bagels – like a caterpillar waiting to pupate

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t says:  Sooo, I was a little bored-and-hungry after work the other day, and, having read all about the coverage on foobooz, decided to venture on out to Knead Bagels.

November 2014, Thursday Morning, All by Myself.  It was a quaint little operation they had going on there.

a several-person operation

the counter-person in action …

Now, there is some be some sort of bohemian anti-efficiency clause in Philadelphia – like you can’t open up a cool-but-quick place to eat – it must be the least efficient, most confusing process ever.  Now, I realize that this was only their secon day open, however, I foresee an operation very similar to Spread Bagelry and Rotisseur.  You go in, place an order; they work on the order, and then when it’s ready, it comes back out to you.  Simple, right?  Kinda.  But this arrangement is fragile.  Take Spread for example – you walk in and place an order.  That order gets put in line while some suer-cool dude with his hair tied back takes his sweet time cooking eggs whilst singing along to whatever’s playing on overhead.  But of course, your order then needs to be proof’d by the person who took your order before it goes out … but that takes away from her ability to continue taking orders … oh and did I mention the pick-up and order-taking occurs at the same place?  The result is a giant cluster-storm, as the line extends out the door.  Oh – and because the customers tend to be quite the self-entitled Rittenhouse type, the idea of a “line” eventually breaks down and it’s a free-for-all with people huffing-and-puffing, rolling their eyes, coppin’ ‘tude, and placing orders out of turn).  If only Spread’s bagels weren’t so damn good, I would have written them off a long time ago (btw – be careful – their inefficiency at keeping track of fresh vs. not-fresh bagels means I got a super-stale most-likely-day-old one – I would have gone back to exchange, but the ginormous line of Lululemon gear and tight-jeans made me too self-conscious about creating too big a scene).  Ok, so we’ll see if Knead Bagels also has the same systems issues.  I will say that Rotisseur, after many-a-months, did manage to streamline their operation – they can keep up with the lunch rush without issues now – so there is some hope!

Now, as for the bagels.  What did I think?  Well, I tried the togarashi-scallion-lime as well as the black-sesame-kimchi.  You know – I can say they were “ok”.  The flavors were great!  But ultimately, I was underwhelmed.  I couldn’t figure out why.  So I thought: these flavor combinations are something that I’d expect in a small plate of some sort at a restaurant – not a huge bagel.  Consequently, to have the staying power to last through a full bagel, balance is more of an issue.  While they were tasty at first (probably because of the novelty), I grew a bit tired of them after a few bites – there’s just something about having that much cream cheese that was distracting.  If only there was a way to put more flavor in the bagel, and let the cream cheese be more of an accent.  For example, what if instead I had a scallion-onion bagel with togarashi-lime cream cheese?  Or a garlic-kimchi bagel with a sesame spread?  I don’t know if it can be done, but if it could, I’d totally get those again.  Now, there is a bagel that was on my radar that needs to be sampled because it sounds awesome (spiced apricot, lemon-goat-cheese spread) – so I’ll be back.  We’ll see how they fair on round 2.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 November 2014 at 12:59pm


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