after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

g & t meet MTL

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t says:  We visited MTL for a super-long weekend and it. was. awesome.  We ended up airbnb-ing a super-great little apartment in Le Plateau, which was perfectly located for exploring the supposedly hip area of town (we could tell by the graffiti and 20-30-somethings that it was hip).  And while we didn’t hit up every tourist-obligatory destination (e.g. we skipped Old Montreal entirely), we pulled off a nice mix of chillaxing, eating, and touring, the former two of which , resulting in the following photostorm:

Absent is a photo of the Ramen we ate on our first night there.  While definitely not particularly Canadian, Ramen-Ya’s slurpable broth definitely hit the spot after a seemingly endless car ride (for some unknown reason, it took us 10 hours to get there!  Only 8 for the return …)

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We visited Le Couteau Cafe.  French for “the knife” (and given my affinity for knives, how could I not go there?), Le Couteau was FABULOUS.  It is probably the best cafe we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting (Paris, Vienna, US).  You know you’re at the right place if you see a giant knife on the outside of the building …

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… meanwhile, on the inside, it was nothing more than just a very well done cafe.  Nothing was at all that crazy-exotic or over-the-top – it just had great coffee (we brought some back for a), great pastries (omg the pistachio croissant has changed my life – I will never eat an almond croissant ever again – and g nearly lost her mind with the strawberry turnover seen above), great service, and a tasteful assortment of minimalist decor.  If we lived in MTL, I’d live around this coffee shop just so I could go there every day.  For real.  Don’t test me.

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… here is that pistachio croissant (and cortado) I raved about … pictures do not do it any justice at all.

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We went to the super-famous Schwartz’s for some “smoked meat” sandwich.  It was good … but I can’t say that it was impressive.  It was essentially the same as you’d get from a Jewish deli.  I have no idea why people are so ga-ga for this thing.  It’s meat and bread.  No amount of seasoning/cooking will make it “to die for” – it’s certainly NOT worth waiting in line for.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad we went – but I have no intention of ever going back again …

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Above is the menu for Joe Beef (and some random stranger).  None of the pictures of the food turned out, so I’ll just say my piece here …  Joe Beef is VERY over-hyped.  It does not serve the “best food in the world”, or whatever accolade that Dave Chang put on it.  Sure, it serves “good food”, but “best” is a tough superlative to attach; it’s good raw ingredients, done very nicely, and with a dash of “extreme”.  For instance, the steaks are huge.  Foie is everywhere.  They use off cuts of meat all the time.  So … it’s like [what I think would be] a chef’s dream come true: good ingredients, done in a not-fussy manner, but done very well, and served in a very friendly, bar-like environment.  Unfortunately, Joe Beef is less a gathering place for locals, rather a tourist attraction for people looking to get that stupid Foie Double-down (google it).  So what did we eat?  g went for “Lobster Spaghetti” … and despite my previous rant, I now have to admit that it blew her face off.  She initially said “gee, this is huge – I’m totally taking some of this home” when it first hit the table, and then she took a bite, and then she completely blacked out for about 15 minutes, and when she came to, her pasta was gone.  And it was a HUGE dish.  It had 1.5 lbs of lobster on it!   I did sneak some, and it was quite tasty – not like elegant, complex or anything like that – it was just straight-up “good” – I’m not a huge lobster fan, so I didn’t also lose control, but I can see how some people might (g chimes in: i feel a little ashamed – i mean – how did I eat it all?).  It’s rare for g to eat herself into a stomachache, so this is pretty high praise for Mr. Beef.  As for me, I asked the server for “something piggy” – and he instantly responded “go for sauerkraut” … so I did.  Despite not having anything piggy in the title, it features two cuts of pork and two giant sausages.  It was quite solid – it was like something out of Cochon’s playbook – once again – my socks remained on my feet, but I was net-happy with what I got.

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We did Fairmount bagel despite everyone saying St. Viateur was better (Fairmount was closer).  The fun was that while walking there, I witnessed three females beat the crap out of a male after a disagreement while exiting a cab.  I have no idea if they were Canadian or not (they weren’t yelling in French which makes me think not), but it was a sight to see!  And to watch the natives spring into action: cars pulled over and guys jumped out to restrain the one dude so he wouldn’t hit back.  Cops were called (and showed up in urban camo pants and bullet proof vests! Montreal cops are serious … no Mounties though …).  It was crazy!  … The bagels on the other hand, weren’t crazy; delicious, yes, crazy, no.  But it definitely allowed me to see where Spread Bagelry is getting their inspiration from. A nice start to the morning (even if I was wishing it was a pistachio croissant instead …).

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This blurry picture is from the Big in Japan Bar (not to be confused with Big in Japan Restaurant).  This bar is super-awesome.  It’s a little stupid as well (unmarked door … you know … to add to its exclusivity … even though anyone can just walk in) … but more awesome than stupid, as it had a pretty cool setup for a bar and featured Japanese whiskey!  While it only had three or so available, and none of them were all that rare (all were available in the US, and none older than 12 years), it was still a great experience to be sitting down at a classy bar, enjoying my whiskey, and pondering the pre-paid bottles they had hanging from the ceiling (patrons can “buy a bottle” and they’ll save it for them, to have whenever they come back to the bar).  Now if only they had Taketsuru 17-year …

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Dinner at Bouillon Bilk was SENSATIONAL.  We loved it.  While not particularly “Canadian” or “French” in cuisine, it was superb flavor combinations, cookery, and service.  Maybe the one drawback is we would have preferred a slightly more interesting bread than what was provided (it was a little anemic for our taste).  However, whatever points they lost on bread, they more-than-made-up-for with that Bourgogne I drank.  It happened to be from Guy Amiot et Fils – the winery we happened to visit when we were in Beaune!!!  It was everything Bourgogne should be: light-to-medium weight, some snappy fruit up front followed by a nice evolution of savory/dirty flavors afterwards, and a mouthwatering acidity to prepare you for some more food or drink.  Loved it.  Would buy it by the case if it were available here.

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This is a “dumpling” topped with mushrooms, fruit, corn, and other various things.  It was like an Asian dumpling, but take every possible flavor and make it more pronounced, but at the same time, balanced.  Like even if I had all these ingredients on hand, I doubt I would ever be able to strike the balance of sweet (from fruit and corn) with the savory.  I would have eaten three of these … and trust me … I love bashing crappy wonton-wannabes, which this was not.

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Tuna amuse.  They lose points for presenting an amuse on a GIANT plate.  That’s pretentious and stupid.  Don’t do that.  They also lose points for it being larger than one bite.  BUT … they instantly gain it back because this was perfect, and I was happy I had a second bite left after my first.  I had no idea what was in it but damn they nailed it.

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And then g had the crudo (g says: surprise!)  This yellowtail was nicely done, with great textures put in there (there was some kind of foamy cracker and some gel).

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The “veal dish”, which was a special, rivaled the best thing I’ve eaten in the past few months (which was Fond’s Pork Belly).  Perfect sweetbreads.  Perfect veal medallions.  Perfect greens.  Perfect gnocchi.  I died and went to heaven.  And then I took a sip of the aforementioned Bourgogne, and then I went straight to hell, because to taste that good must be the work of the devil.  Drawback?  I have none.  In the background was g’s fish.  I completely forget what she ate, as I blacked out like g’s experience with Joe Beef’s lobster spaghetti, so anything g said during that time, I can’t remember …  Oh, and did I mention that they gave me a non-serrated steak knife!  Hooray!!  I mean, it could have used a sharpening, but at least it shows that someone is taking pride in their work so as not to force me to tear it apart with jagged points.  Very nice.

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So I was too full for dessert.  But how could we not have dessert on our last night in MTL?  C’est impossible!  So I went with the “yogurt”.  This was crazy.  It was like everything I want a yogurt parfait to be: bold fruit, smooth yogurt, and candy (those little petit-four-ish things were like currant candies).  Those white chocolate pieces added another flavor which somehow fit seemlessly – and I hate white chocolate!  It was as if Bouillon Bilk could do no wrong …

Believe the hype of Bouillon Bilk.  Yea, there are some yelp tourists, but even the Canadians are dying to get in.

And then, on the morning we left, we visited Guillaume boulangerie, which had a great assortment of baguettes and other baked goods.  Definitely a place we should have used more often during our trip (it’s one of the top three baguettes in MTL!).

Finally, here are some random other photos:

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we thought about getting a this shirt … but it was more than $5 …

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Japanese paper (for origami) store … with an origami grasshopper hanging outside!

 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

26 October 2014 at 8:27pm

whiskey thoughts

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t says:  I came across this article the other day, and consulted a and drb to ask their opinions.  They had a lot to say …

http://www.eater.com/2014/10/23/7038697/Pappy-van-winkle-price-alternative-overrated

a says:  I agree with the article completely. Whisky is no different than wine, you may enjoy a $400 bottle more than something cheaper but anything well made, over $15 is getting into personal preference, not actual quality. I’ve had most of the whiskeys on this list and agree that they are excellent alternatives. Willet (rye) is the only one I brought back from Kentucky so you know I love the distiller – the bourbon is available in PA I believe. Never had/heard of Larceny. Michter’s is awesome but still quite expensive. Can’t say I’ve had Glen 15 but it ain’t American whiskey so whatever for this conversation. Finally, I have a bottle of EW SB in my home right now. It’s one of my go-to bottles between $20-$30 – the others being Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Craig 12, and Weller 12 (the “poor mans Pappy”).

http://www.gq.com/life/food/201311/bourbon-whiskey-family-tree
http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for-men/pappy-van-winkle-idiots-guide

drb says:  I’m not much of a bourbon drinker as I drink mostly scotch if I’m going for something high-quality.  I don’t have anything against bourbon, I just know more about scotch, and if I’m going to spend 60 euros on a bottle of something I want to be sure I like it!  The only whiskey on the list I’ve tried is the Glen 15.  It’s good but the one time I bought a bottle of it I still had some Glen 12 lying around.  I tried to see if I could tell the difference between the two and I couldn’t.  Also, a, since your a whiskey fan. A couple months ago I got a bottle of this: http://www.masterofmalt.com/whiskies/talisker/talisker-storm-whisky/ and it was fantastic. Competes with Lagavulin for title of “drb’s favorite whiskey”.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

25 October 2014 at 7:05pm

Posted in Happenings

best yelp argument yet!

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

23 October 2014 at 5:57pm

Posted in Happenings

Lightning Round!

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t says:  My phone has sooo many photos.  And while I wish I could have posted on each one, I know it just isn’t going to happen.  So get ready for another lightning round!!

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Nom nom ramen has opened up an outpost in University City.  And you know what, despite our lack of enthusiasm when the original Center City location opened up (over 2 years ago!), this spot is actually pretty good!  I think you just have to go in with the mindset: “I’m here for a quick lunch”, and alluvasudden, their ramen really hits the spot.  Does that mean I have lower expectations at lunch?  Maybe.  But really, I suspect there is an element of Nom Nom stepping up their game – their broth is just so much more flavorful.  Be prepared if you order to go: they will pack it in separate containers for you to assemble at your leisure.

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Nestled deep in Vineland is an eatery called Chestnut Diner.  They have a pretty amazing pancake with nutella, grama cracker, banana … and it’s pretty amazing.  Fancy?  No, but it sure hit the spot – and you know we’ll be back with this amount of sugar …

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We held a farewell ceremony the other day … a farewell to summer.  While some people hold barbecues, g and I do something a little different.  You see, there is a dish that we can only make outside due to how much it reeks, and that is kimchi jige.   At the risk of patting myself on the back: it was damn delicious.  If you have access to kimchi, shove it in the fridge for at least 2 weeks (sealed), and make yourself some dinner … outside …

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I didn’t actually have this one, but it looked awesome.  Talula’s Daily looks like it’s still killing it out there – we’ve gotta do dinner there again.

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And, in our ode to kp (who we’ll be visiting in November), here’s some southern inspiration in chocolate form.

 

 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 October 2014 at 8:30am

A Petruce Surprise!

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t says:  g and I hit up Petruce et al the other night.  Yes, we know, Petruce has been out there for a while now, getting rave reviews – people have already been there and opined, so there’s no need for another blog post about them.  Right?  Ah, the glory of having a blog: we can write about whatever we want, whenever we want!  And this time, we’re writing about Petruce et al!

October 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 2.  Although we arrived on time, our table wasn’t ready, so we took up residence at the bar and began constructing a plan to attack their wine list.  Would we be disappointed like at Townsend, where I boo’d their no-BYO policy?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t even ask if Petruce allowed outside wine!  WWHHAA!?!?  Have I taken ill?  Did I run out of wine?  Did I suffer a blow to the head?  Not at all – I knew their wine list was actually going to be interesting.  Like wine-nerd-interesting!  Not a single Cali-cab on the list!  No boring Chardonnays!  And do my eyes deceive me – are those boxed wines on that list?  So I was down for paying by the glass, ready to see what the wine program could surprise us with.  For our meal, we did an Elbling (super-tasty – a nice lighter white wine with good acidity and surprising length for a white) and a not-on-the-menu Cava.  Why cava?  Well, g was originally going to go with a Cremant de Limoux (Domaine Collin – a super-awesome sparkler we’ve had before) but the bartender offered the cava, and then was able to compare-contrast the wine to the Domaine Collin to see which she’d prefer – that’s some good wine-nerdery right there – we were impressed!  And then for the main, I ventured for a Cahors (i.e. Malbec from a specific region in France), and for her main, a pork shoulder, the “wine guy” recommended a rich off-dry white (that’s right – not a red!), which was perfect.  So Petruce gets some big points for their wine.  Will it appeal to everyone?  Nope.  Will it appeal to wine snobs?  Not really – it’s not like these are big-name bottles or anything.  But it will appeal to wine nerds.  Yay!

Ok, enough about wine.  Let’s talk food … with pictures!

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beans, chorizo, and cheese.  Imagine, if you will, a cold mid-January night, as you sit cocooned in a blanket, staring out the window  watching the sky cover the earth in forgetful snow … this is the dish you would eat to warm your soul.  It was just a notch below the lentils underneath Bibou’s pig’s foot.  The perfectly cooked, rib-sticking beans along with scattered chorizo adding both meatiness and spice … mmmmmmmm.

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The carrot dish was a little quirkier.  The bagna cauda and pistachio was a fun accompaniment, but it seemed like the carrots were of various levels of doneness that confused me.  Were some pickled and some cooked?  I don’t know.  They were good, but just too heterogeneous for my taste.

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Ahhh … the duck.  g thought it was the rarest duck I had ever eaten.  Maybe that’s true – but I think it’s because it’s the first duck I’ve had that was this superbly cooked.  The fat was unctuously delicious with excellent greens and eggplant.  Although it was a small-ish dish, it was so rich that I doubt anyone could eat more (even I had a piece left!).

Not pictured was the pork shoulder.  And with that pork shoulder, g felt like she “won” dinner.  That’s a pretty impressive statement coming from g, and here’s why: the usual course for dinners is that g goes for either cow (she loves a good steak frites) or lighter fare (seafood, veggies), often foregoing pig as it’s often too fatty, too rich (usually I get the pig and she’ll take a bite … before claiming that her steak, veggies, or seafood is superior).  But not this time – she went for the pig, and it blew her away.  I agree – the pig was delish!  I don’t know if it “won” – as it was equal to the duck for me – but I will say that the leftover pork shoulder made for a super-awesome omelette the next day.

Other awesome things: service was spot-on the whole night.  They cleared the tables with efficiency.  The chef occasionally delivered dishes (our table was right next to the kitchen), with a smile.  They did give us an extra course (spicy octopus) because the server felt like g’s wine would also pair well with spicy, and nothing we ordered was at all spicy (so he did it for the fun of the meal, it seems!).  g recognized one of the chefs as one of her faves from Little Fish.  What were the bad things?  Well … there wasn’t really anything to complain about.  While nothing we had was quite gotta-have-it-can’t-live-without-it-crack-addictive, it was indeed some excellent food, excellent wines, and excellent service.  It’s going to go toe-to-toe with Serpico for us, which is amazing.  Maybe it’s more along the lines of a Talula’s Garden (but without the cheese … which is a big minus, but more interesting drinks)?  Bravo for a great new restaurant for Philly!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

11 October 2014 at 7:45pm

forgetting Townsend

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t says:  It had been a while since the four of us (g, t, a, v) went out to eat for dinner, so we were super-psyched when v’s new resolution – “New Restaurant Fridays” – took us to Townsend on East Passyunk.  You see, we’ve been so strapped for time lately that g and I just kept on going back to our favorites: Serpico, Sotto, Mercato, etc.  Not only that, we couldn’t even make it to all of our favorites (it’s been ages since we’ve been back to Talula’s Garden!)  So the real question was going to be this one: could Townsend put on a strong enough show to be added to the rotation?  Let’s find out …

September 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  To get things started on this very special occasion, I called up the restaurant and asked them if they did corkage.  Nope.  That’s a big fat negative.  They played it as, “we have a wine list that pairs excellently with our food – we don’t allow outside wine”.  Now, I’m ok if a place just doesn’t want us to bring wine – that’s fine – just say: “we have a full bar and we don’t allow outside wine” – and I’d give you more props for saying: “bringing your wine eats into our profits” (because really, that’s what restaurants really mean).  But if you’re going to have the audacity to promote your excellent wines, you better back it up with … some excellent wines.  When we arrived, we were greeted with a wine list … and no actual suggestions on what they recommended to pair with each dish.  That was weird: what happened to the excellent pairings?  That’s ok – this wasn’t a’s and my first rodeo.  Next we were surprised by the markups.  Like “holy crap” markups.  Spending over $40 for a bottle of Gruet is insane.  Absolutely insane. Finally, the wines kinda sorta sucked.  I had a rose that tasted like water-downed grenache (a felt it was more like rubbing alcohol), a mediocre red (and a steal at $8/glass!), and a pretty run-of-the-mill French chardonnay.  Basically, not a single “oh I can’t believe they have that” or “whoa – where is that from?” … just “meh” after “meh”.  Ok – time to step down from my wine soapbox and get on with the food:

The escargots were "ok", but the real winner was the surrounding broth, full of usual bait.

The escargots in the foreground were “ok”, but the real winner was the surrounding broth it was in, full of a creamy delicious savory broth that we just couldn’t get enough of (it was full of bait: mushrooms, bacon, etc).  The ramekin in the back held a foie mousse which was fine, but not really at all that special.

hamachi was ok

hamachi was crudo hit the usual notes one would expect for a crudo, while the tartare had some nice mustard accents.

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my skate was tasty but a little overcooked.  That bed of corn was delectable, however, allowing me to believe that I won dinner.

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v’s chicken was nice – solid, but nothing that extraordinary.

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g’s fish was also nicely done, on a bed of smokey paprika-fied accompaniments.

As you can see, our descriptions here are a little on the light side.  Normally we gush or put forth some real criticism.  And you know what, we did have some things to say about their food as we were leaving that night – we had some real strong opinions … but we forgot them all … because we immediately had our brains melted … by this:

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after dinner at Townsend, the gang went to Fond for some drinks and dessert.  and that’s where a and I saw it: the pork belly was on the menu.  Would it be ridiculous to eat pork belly for dessert?  Not if you’ve ever had this pork belly.  You see, Lee Styer is such a stud; his pork belly is the softest, most flavorful pork product we’ve had this year, and that’s even before taking into account that thick crispy crust that mocks the “braised pork belly” on any other menu in the city.  It’s just not even fair.  Bibou had once stolen the adsz award for “best pork belly” from Lee a while back (with a special that was on for only one night), but with this show, Lee has reclaimed the belt.  And, as we sat there at the bar, a and I greedily eating this belly, ignoring for a moment the incredulous smirks from our life-mates g and v, we realized that we had forgotten all the nitpicky details about Townsend’s food, as they melted away into a single problem: they had no Fond Pork Belly.  There was not one bite that would haunt us like this one.  Even now as I write this, I find myself ever so slightly on the verge of drooling.

So I guess that’s it.  Townsend was fine for food, but not better than another’s in the immediate area.  Then consider their wine list which got 8 thumbs down from the gang, both for assaulting our wallets and our palates.  And while their very attentive and kind service tried to save the night (they’re not Talula’s Garden good, but still good), ultimately, we expect the noise will die down, as people go back to the restaurants like Fond that sparked the dining explosion in Philadelphia … and could very well keep it burning for years to come.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 September 2014 at 9:48pm

Posted in Happenings

Tagged with , ,

the new Lolita

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t says:  g and I hit up Lolita for lunch on a lazy Saturday a little while ago.  I had to admit that I was a bit reluctant at first, as they were no longer BYO; I was afraid that Lolita had lost the one distinguishing feature that set it apart from the rest of the restaurants in the Marcey-Valerie empire.  While most people tended to bring tequilla to Lolita for margaritas, I routinely brought wine, as there were several dishes on the dinner menu that were serious enough to demand a serious drink.  Nevertheless, for lunch, wine was not a necessity for me, so we walked on over to 13th street and got down to business …

September 2014, Saturday Lunch, Party of 2.  God the menu looked good.  It was insane.  g and I wanted one of everything.  Maybe we were starving?  In the end, we settled on the basics:

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pineapple guacomole with plantain and yucca chips: it really hit the spot perfectly: a finger-food that you could just keep on dipping while conversation rambled.

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pork cheek and more on a taco; g did the chilaquiles,in the background.  At the risk of oversimplifying everything, all I can say is that everything was “right”.  The tacos were well-balanced with just the right proportion of meat and non-meat.  The chilaquiles reminded g of the ones she had in San Fran, but done up a little more classily with short rib.  Everything met expectations, which I think is an incredible compliment given how jazzed we were about the menu after reading it.

g and I will be back to Lolita – and we’ll bring along a and v, too!  But of course … we’ll have to go for lunch, as I think for dinner, we’d miss bringing our own wine and/or tequilla …

 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

24 September 2014 at 4:26pm

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