Tag Archives: casual dining

Weekend in Coral Gables, Florida

Are you looking for a warm weather getaway?  Perhaps a nice place to relax poolside, choose from a wide variety of cuisines, even a bit of shopping, in a bike-friendly and very walk-able community?

Throw in a dazzle of 1920’s vintage charm, and you have Coral Gables.

Located within the Miami-Dade county of Florida, and a short drive from the Miami International Airport (MIA), Coral Gables was the perfect relaxing weekend getaway. Continue reading Weekend in Coral Gables, Florida

Visit London’s Borough Market

The Borough Market in London is a foodie lover’s dream come true.  With fresh fruit and produce stalls, meals to go available in every type of cuisine that you can imagine, nibbles galore, and refreshing beverages of all kinds there is still more to explore.Visit London's Borough Market

Located a few feet from London Bridge tube station for easy access and nestled against the spectacular Southwark Cathedral, the Borough Market is one of the oldest markets dating around 1,000 years in some form, and certainly a permanent fixture in London. The market is a mix of mobile kiosks, tents, and built in structures. Continue reading Visit London’s Borough Market

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Lounge

Earlier this week we attended the Rush 40th anniversary concert at US Airways center arena in downtown Phoenix.  Not wanting to miss a moment of the show, we called our Uber car and arrived almost 2 hours early.  Our plan was to avoid traffic, and get a light snack & beverages at Cityscape before the show, since we had plenty of time.  Great plan, except that every lounge and bar was packed!  We could see the bar at the Blue Hound, but it was so crowded with people it was impossible to order a drink.

Bitter & Twisted bar and a few signature cocktails
Bitter & Twisted bar and a few signature cocktails

Feeling frustrated and claustrophobic, we wandered toward Central Avenue and discovered the most delightful cocktail lounge.  Bitter & Twisted is deceptively simple on the outside, and a wonder on the inside.  Reclaimed red brick from Chicago and a massive bar, complete with old-tyme bar stools, greeted us on entry.  There are luxurious BT_Wallgolden upholstered booths along the outer wall and a stunning wall canvas.  The atmosphere is glorious!  There were only a few people, which we later learned is because B&T opened on their normal day off to serve the concert-goers (thank you, thank you!).

Fish & Chips
Fish & Chips

The drinks are exquisite.  Each one is poured with skill and attention to detail.  Average drink price was $12 and took a couple minutes to make – worth it.  We ordered cocktails exclusively, but they do serve wine and other beverages.  I shared the Fish & Chips with my friend, and it was the best that I have had in Phoenix!  Next time I will not eat before going, so that I can try more menu items.

BT_drinkB&T are self-proclaimed “Purveyors of fine cocktails, spirits, and good times” and that is the honest truth.  We had such a nice time before the concert that we all met back at B&T for a post-concert beverage before calling our car to take us home.  Traffic and crowds were overwhelming after the concert, so it was a strategic withdrawal to B&T.

The bartenders are funny, charming and talented. Explaining each drink ingredient when we asked, and offering dead-on suggestions for the next delicious beverage to try.  The staff is clearly having a good time, and they ensure that everyone around them has a pleasant evening, as well.  The bartenders were telling us about the New Year’s Eve party, and a few other events that we need to attend.  Turns out, B&T hosted a fabulous Villain’s Ball during Comicon – I missed out!BT_Menu

B&T is located at Central & Jefferson, close to US Airways arena, the Phoenix Symphony, Phoenix convention center, and many downtown events.  Bitter & Twisted is my new top pick for Downtown refreshments!

Introducing Earnest

Earnest Restaurant opened in Chandler last week after a menu and atmosphere re-design from my beloved Cork.  Even with all the reassurances from the owners and staff before the redesign was unveiled, I was worried!

Earnest EntranceExecutive Chef Brian Peterson is still creating the same style high-quality American cuisine with more focus on comfort food and larger portions.  Pastry Chef and Partner Danielle Morris is still serving her amazing Banana Cream Pie and continues to amaze with her delicious desserts.

Earnest DiningThe changes?  Earnest is a casual dining experience, rather than the more formal fine-dining from Cork.  There are several community tables that can be converted to accommodate various size groups.  It is louder.  Earnest can seat more people, and due to the more strategic seating arrangement, there are simply more people than can get reservations and just walk-in for a table.  The decor is modern industrial, yet the overall feeling is simple comfort.

What is the same as Cork? The same owners Chef Brian and Chef Danielle, the same Manager Winston, and the same level of service from the (same) servers.  Saturday was busy, they were clearly short-handed, but the level of service stayed exceptional through-out dinner!  Tuesday evening they were not as busy, Chef Danielle came by to talk to me before my meal to ask about my thoughts so far.  Then Chef Brian came by after I ate dinner to ask how I was doing and what I thought of my Buffalo dinner.  The owners listen to feedback and genuinely want everyone to have a great meal.  Chef Brian assured me that he would continue to offer seasonal menu changes and continue to experiment with his entrees so it will never be boring. The staff is still very knowledgeable on the food and beverage selections.  At seating, each table is provided with an iPad loaded with an interactive Wine menu, which I occasionally flip through.  Then, I ask for wine recommendations from my server and am always pleased with the selection.  These folks know their wine and have a fantastic selection.

Earnest Scallop CassaroleThe food – AMAZING.  Seriously, the scallop-tuna casserole was delicious.  The scallop was cooked perfectly (Chef Brian nails it every time), and the onions on top were the perfect flavor enhancement to the delicate scallop atop tuna.

Earnest Lamb meatballsThe next visit I started with the Lamb meatball appetizer.  The feta was light and did not distract from the savory lamb that explodes with flavor in every bite.  It is now my new favorite appetizer, until the next menu change.

BBQ pork ribs is a comfort food staple, which Earnest manages to class up with bacon mac & cheese served with pork belly, and a side of coleslaw.  The mac & cheese was so rich, I was glad there was only a small scoop, otherwise I would have eaten way too much.  The coleslaw was light and tangy to perfectly compliment the sweet BBQ and savory mac & cheese.

Earnest Buffalo BrisketThe Buffalo Brisket is served in a gravy-like au jus with bratwurst over cabbage and potatoes.  The brisket melted in my mouth and was worth waiting for – they ran out Saturday night, so I had to wait until Tuesday night to try it.  The bratwurst was good, but I think more vegetables would be a better accompaniment.

Earnest Dessert Menu

 

The dessert options are the most noticeable change on the menu, there are more of them. Most of the dessert items are based on desserts we ate as children, such as cookies, house made “snickers”, and pb&j creme brulee.  Of course, I sampled the Banana Cream Pie to confirm it is the same recipe when served under Cork, and it is the same.  Whew.

 

Earnest Bread PuddingThe Bread Pudding is served with goat milk caramel and creme fraiche ice cream.  It looks small, but be sure you have someone to split this with!  There was not enough ice cream for the amount of bread involved, but the caramel was so enjoyable I got past that by the third bite.

I am excited for Earnest and looking forward to many more great meals!

Update:  March 2016 Earnest announced final meals end of March and closing the restaurant.  Half price wine and final reservations until the end of the month.

Classic Italian Pizza

Began’s Classic Italian Pizza just reopened!  Fondly shorted to Classic Italian Pizza, or just CIP, this is a Tempe Treasure – and we have missed you.  This week marks the Grand Opening of the new Tempe location on the Southwest corner of McClintock & Guadalupe, in the same shopping plaza as Changing Hands (Tempe).

CIP_OpenThis little 12 table restaurant still has a temporary banner, rather than a fancy sign, but the tables were packed and we even had a 10 minute wait.  There are 6 regular tables, 6 high-top style tables, and bar seating.  The hostess informed of us the wait time, took our phone number and encouraged us to browse in the shopping area.  The other local business are certainly going to benefit from Pizza patrons waiting for the next table, we had time to browse the outside rack of Changing Hands and a quick peak into Turn Style.

The house made mozzarella caprese salad did not last long enough for a photo.  Oh, I forgot how good fresh, house made, small batch mozzarella can be. Yum.

We were half-way through both pizzas before I got my camera out.  The pizza is really CIP_sausage CIP_4seasonsserved as a whole pizza, I promise!  The pizza is cooked in a wood burning oven to perfection, served with only the best & freshest ingredients.  Jarrod, the bartender, is proud to tell new patrons that the beer cooler is the only freezer at CIP.

CIP offers a limited selection of perfectly paired craft beers, select wines, liquor, and espresso.

Like everythingCIP_Tiramisu on the menu at CIP, the Tiramisu is house made to an authentic recipe. It is so moist and delicious melting in your mouth.

Classic Italian Pizza is open and ready for lunch, dinner, and late night happy hour.  Many of the former staff have returned for the new location.  They are re-opened, better than ever – go get some Pizza!!

CIP_tables