It’s about time Arlington started getting restaurants the likes of DC. Willow is one very notable Arlington restaurant. It has some kinks on the menu, but it has some solid offerings that will make me continue to return.

Willow has been classified as modern, continental cuisine. They’ve done a good job creating a unique menu. I’ve really enjoyed their appetizers, flatbreads, and absolutely love one dessert in particular. Their entrees have been very hit/miss for me. The menu is constantly changing, so I’ll just report on those items that seem to be constant.

The Fritto Misto appetizer plate, consisting of prosciutto fritters, fried chorizo stuffed olives, and blue cheese dates, is a fun starter, and a steal at only $7. The chorizo stuffed olives are the best! They always have a ravioli offering on the appetizers as well. Once I had one filled with goat cheese. I can’t remember the accompaniments, but I know I loved the dish. A gratin concoction always seems to be offered as an. I had one with chorizo ( and gnocchi I believe), that was delicious! Flatbreads are an absolute must, and perfect for sharing as an appetizer. My favorite is the “Willow”, topped with wild mushrooms, lemon, thyme, fontina, parmesan, and white truffle essence. The truffle flavor is very pungent and wonderful.

I’m not as enthusiastic about the main courses. Looking at the current menu, some of my previous experiences are no longer being offered. I once had a potato wrapped salmon with ricotta pancakes. I found the salmon to be flavorless and dry. I don’t think it was seasoned prior to being wrapped in the potato. The best part of the dish was the ricotta pancakes. But, the miniature rack of pork w/ house made sausage (which is still offered) is a winner. It’s very flavorful, and the accompaniments of bitter rapini (broccoli rabe) and ham hock jus, really complement the dish. I also loved the mild pork paired with the salty sausage. Another entrée of filet mignon medallions were cooked nicely, but under seasoned. I had to salt them!

The only dessert I’ve had, and will continue to order over and over again is the sticky toffee pudding cake. It is absolutely decadent. It’s an extremely moist date cake topped with ice cream and literally covered in caramel sauce. It’s the best sticky toffee pudding cake I’ve had for sure.

Willow is a fairly large restaurant, decorated with a lot of red accents (curtains, lamp shades, etc). I like the red, as I think it increases the appetite. The bar section is also big with ample seating. It’s a great area to order a selection of appetizers and wine as your dinner, and definitely more lively, than the dining room. The dining room tends to be pretty quiet, with an older crowd.

We went for my cousin’s bday once, and they really added nice touches to make her night special. They had a menu waiting for us with her name on it, and they gave her a wine glass filled with biscotti after dinner. Little gestures can go a long way, and I could see that she was very happy. Kudos to Willow!

4301 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203



Executive chef and owner, Jeff Tunks has an impressive list of restaurants in DC, with Ceiba being my favorite of the bunch. His other restaurants include: DC Coast, Acadiana, and Tenphen. I’ve tried all but TenPhen. With the recent explosion of exciting dining options in the area, this restaurant group hasn’t held the same popularity as previous years. Some consider it “old news”. But, Jeff Tunks restaurants were some of the first to give the upscale DC dining scene some character and atmosphere, and rid of the stuffiness that DC is stereotyped to be. Ceiba deserves praise, and I still thoroughly enjoy it.

Ceiba has a modern, Latin American menu. The restaurants décor adds to the theme. The interior is tropical, sophisticated, and painted with bright, colorful murals throughout. You can see brightly fanned green leaves of the Ceiba tree in the restaurants exterior windows. The ambiance instantly gets you in the mood for an island cocktail, like one of their refreshing mojitos or caipirinhas.

Jeff Tunks created a menu inspired by South and Central America, and a very tasty one at that. They start you out with complimentary tortilla crisps and a tasty dip, which I believe is made of pumpkin. Moving on to the menu appetizers and dinner, we’ve tried the following:

- Crabmeat fritters- these have tasty chunks of crab with a nice spice
- Shredded Duck and Chili Relleno- I was surprised and ecstatic to find goat cheese in this dish. I loved it! Neil, of course hated it, as he can’t stand goat cheese. More for me :)
- Queso Fundido- Everyone seems to love this blend of steak, poblano chilis and oaxacan cheese served in a molcajete. I like the concept, but the grease level was way too much for me. The queso was floating in a pool of oil.
- Brazilian Shellfish Stew- This is excellent, and one of the best items on their menu. It has a thick stew with nice hint of coconut milk with spices, and large chunks of seafood. I had it over a bed of polenta which was a perfect accompaniment to the stew.
- Red Snapper Vera Cruz- This is a very authentic dish. It is serve whole, so don’t order if you can’t handle seeing the head. But, it is so flavorful and has a really nice spice level. If you like things even hotter, they’ll make it spicier for you. The fish is also perfectly crispy.
- Sugar Cane Skewered Shrimp- Served with an avocado mash, crispy onion, and chipotle butter, this is a really yummy dish. But, after the first couple bites, it can get a little old.
- Grilled Free Range Chicken Breast- Don’t order it. It’s kinda bland and with all the other menu options, probably the worst choice.

I’ve only tried one dessert on the menu, because I refuse to try anything else. The warm sugar dusted churros with a hot chocolate sauce and marshmallow is so delicious. The churros are perfectly fried to a crisp, with a soft interior. It’s tasty enough to be eaten alone, but dipped inside a super thick, rich, dark chocolate sauce takes it to another level. The marshmallow that tops the warm sauce is not your typical marshmallow either. Let it slowly melt in and scoop out…yum!

With your check, comes a little bag of caramel popcorn. It’s a fun touch.

Ceiba also has a nice sized bar with ample seating, and a fun menu. This is a great happy-hour spot for refreshing cocktails and a few tasty nibbles. My favorite drink there is the caipirinha, a concoction of cachaca (sugar cane liquor), muddled lime, and more sugar. It takes me right back to Costa Rica, where the caipirinha was a daily part of my diet. There’s a lot more latin libations to choose from. Bar nibbles are substantial too, consisting of empanadas, crab/shrimp nachos, and fish tacos just to name a few.

Dinner prices are indicative of an upscale restaurant. The bar menu is pretty reasonable, so give that area a try!

701 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005


A La Lucia

Alexandria’s, A La Lucia definitely is deserving of the buzzword title, “neighborhood gem”. It’s a lively restaurant, decorated with bright colors, paintings, and has a neat layout. It actually has different rooms, each having its own style. The back room is a quieter, more formal dining setting. The front room has booths and appears much more casual and lively. Both serve the same menu. There are also other sections which I’ll get to in a bit.

I can’t say that A La Lucia serves the most amazing Italian, but I don’t think our area has “amazing Italian”. It’s just great neighborhood restaurant that serves very good, consistent Italian food. They give complimentary crostinis to start with that change constantly. I had a lovely white bean crostini once. The menu gravitates towards southern Italian, but I’ve seen a lot of cream and tomato sauce dishes on the menu. One of my favorite dishes there is actually a creamy, vegetarian spinach and cheese manicotti. It has a perfect balance of cheese to spinach and a really nice saltiness to it. It’s also extremely rich, so maybe better suited to order as an appetizer to share. Their veal scaloppini dishes are also solid, but I have to admit not as good as Landini Brothers. You can’t go wrong with the pasta dishes here either. They always have specials on the menu too. I tried a scallop special, and it was really simple and tasty, consisting of seared scallops with capers and a lemon sauce. It’s one of those meals that you feel really good about eating, b/c it’s light, refreshing, and flavorful…and you don’t go to bed feeling guilty.

They have typical Italian desserts of tiramisu, cannolis, panna cotta, etc. I tried the tiramisu, and it was pretty decent.

A La Lucia has nice sized wine bar in a separate section, which is a great place to have glass or two with some apps while you wait for a table. The wine list has a nice selection and is very reasonably priced. Near the wine bar, is an intimate private party room (and appears to double as a wine cellar). My cousin had her engagement party there. The staff was more than accommodating, and the food was fabulous. There wasn’t any change in quality even though they were serving 40. Wine and food was abundant, and everyone had a great time!

This is definitely the type of restaurant you can go to every couple weeks and not get bored. I can easily tell that it has a lot of regulars, my cousin being a weekly regular! The prices are very reasonable, and it has nice ambiance, food, and wine. Also, you don’t have to travel to DC to get there! The service is a little scattered, but it has never been less than satisfactory.

Btw, I just noticed that they started serving pizza, which means I’m due for another visit :)

A La Lucia
315 Madison Street
Alexandria, VA 22314



I never expected to eat dinner at Indebleu. I’ve only heard negative things over the years, and just didn’t want to waste my $ on a place that I always considered to be better suited to as a lounge/club versus a dining venue. However, I had the opportunity for my friend’s 30th bday dinner in March, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Let me preface by pointing out that Indebleu did get a new chef, which is why they have been enjoying more favorable reviews as of late. I believe the cuisine use to be Indian/French fusion, but now it has Indian accents with modern cuisine.

The service was fabulous all night. We were a group of 10, and our waitress was very patient and attentive. She explained the menu well, indicating that the new menu encourages sharing of small plates and large plates. She also made a few mentions of the new chef, implying tastier options.

We were started off with a really tasty basket of bread. The bread had a nice topping spinach, onions and cheese. They were delicious, and we were asked all night if we wanted more. I couldn’t decline, but I should have, b/c they were very filling!

So, my side of the table shared the following mix:

Small Plates:

- Ahi Tartar w/ sweet pepper mousse, jalapeno raita, and papadom- Simply refreshing, and the raita was very tasty. The crispy papadom was fun to eat with the tuna too.
- Caper crusted Diver Scallops w/raisin puree- The scallops were really nicely charred, without being chewy, and also quite large. I didn’t care much for the raisin puree.
- Wild Mushroom Dosa w/ saffron pea coulis, and manchego cheese- This was our favorite small plate. There were a generous amount of perfectly caramelized mushrooms. You can’t go wrong with manchego and mushrooms, and stuffed inside a crispy fried dosa is even better! I couldn’t taste the saffron in the coulis though.

Large Plates

- Butter Chicken w/ naan and rice- The size of this dish was actually bigger than you get at most Indian restaurants. It was good, but I would stick w/ an authentic Indian restaurant for butter chicken. There was nothing special about it here.
- Ravioli of turmeric dill pasta, stuffed w/ paneer and rapini- This dish had 6 large raviolis that were very generously stuffed. The combination of flavors and texture was really tasty and different.
- Lamb Chops encrusted in thai basil w/ Chinese eggplant and bell pepper coulis- This consisted of 3 large chops that were charred to a nice medium rare. The chops were very flavorful even without the coulis and eggplant accompaniments.

Overall, I didn’t think the prices were bad, given the decent sized portions. Also, most of the food is meant for sharing, and we were very full. However, the wine list is definitely on the pricey side. There are rarely any bottles in the $40 range. Mostly all are at mid $50 and above. They should try to readjust their wine list to be comparable with the dinner menu prices.

We didn’t order dessert because we had a cake for the bday girl. But, the options looked very delish, particularly, the l’opera cake, consisting of kahlua cream, chocolate ganache, and pistachio ice cream. I love pistachio ice cream!
The dining room is located upstairs and is decorated beautifully and very trendy. The main floor does turn into a lounge/club after hours, so the décor reflects that vibe. The dining room is laid out nicely, and you have more than enough privacy at your table.

So, for those that had a negative experience long ago, or that have never been, I suggest giving it a chance. Maybe, I enjoyed it so much because I went in with low expectations....I'm not sure. But, I hope the chef remains consistent.

707 G Street, NW
Washington, DC

Mark & Orlando's

Mark & Orlando’s probably doesn’t get all the hype that others do, but that’s a good thing. It’s not trendy, posh, or all the things that most every restaurant is trying to be. It’s a small, cozy, welcoming restaurant. My visits there have been very enjoyable and make for a wonderful evening. The location is also great, being in the heart of Dupont Circle.

Owners, Mark & Orlando, offer two dining scenes in the same restaurant. Mark serves a simple menu of mainly sandwiches and salads upstairs, while Orlando serves a fancier, contemporary American menu on the main floor. I’ve only had Orlando’s menu, and have been pleased with the overall experience.

They start you off with a basket of breads that are accompanied by 4 yummy spreads. The spreads change constantly, and usually consist of 2 butters and 2 jams/vegetable purees. I once had a strawberry butter there that was amazing. The whole table couldn’t get enough of this.

Orlando’s menu is always changing, and what you see on line isn’t indicative of their current offerings, but it gives you a good idea. One thing that’s always on the menu is the grilled caesar. Neil is obsessed with their version, and has me making it at home now almost weekly. I’ll post the recipe one of these days. The appetizers and entrees are hit or miss. I’ve had some amazing dishes, and some just a little “blah”. I suppose this is because they are constantly testing out new concoctions. I had an appetizer of crisp goat cheese grit cakes w/ shaved fennel and ancho chili aioli. This sounded like a winner, but there wasn’t enough goat cheese flavor for me. Neil, who can’t stand the smell/taste of goat cheese, was even able to eat this! There was an amazing entrée of seared crab cakes over risotto and spinach coulis. This dish was delicious, and the blend of flavors so perfect. A venison they featured on the menu ranks as one of the best I’ve ever had. The little medallions were so tender and not a bit chewy. They just melted in your mouth. A mahi mahi with date puree was a little too bland for my taste, but loved by another at the table.

Desserts here are tasty for the most part, and they are usually constant offerings with seasonal additions. A crème brule was a tad bit underdone, but the flavor exceptional. The blueberry financier, which is basically a small blueberry muffin/cake, is a must have. It’s a little crispy on the outside, but so soft, moist, and buttery on the inside. The blueberry flavor is very pungent and sweet. It’s served with fresh whipped cream, which is the perfect compliment. A bourbon bread pudding just wasn’t rich enough for me, and was too French toast like. I like my bread pudding to be much moister, sweeter, and richer than French toast. One dessert I haven’t tried is the warm chocolate cake, but I’ve read that they make the best in town. So, I’ll have to try it out next time.

Other than that, the wine list is decent…a little small, but I haven’t had trouble finding a nicely priced bottle.

This is a great venue for a date or intimate dinner amongst friends. Mark & Orlando are usually there, and will often personally greet you. As previously noted, it’s a small place, so make reservations. Also, don’t be deterred by the size. The tables are nicely spaced for privacy and ample conversation. Prices are a little steep, but the portions are a nice size for the price.

Mark & Orlando’s
2020 P Street, NW
Washington DC 20036



The metropolitan area is finally getting a nice collection of wine bars, and Penn Quarter’s, Proof is at the top of the bunch. A group of us went there for dinner, and overall, it was enjoyable. It serves “modern cuisine” in a very trendy dining room. Wine is obviously the focus, and there are some great ones to choose from. It can be a difficult choice, so Proof offers wine in 2 oz., 4oz, and 6 oz pours.

I think what sets Proof apart from wine bars like Veritas and Vinoteca, is that the menu is substantial. However, the portions are pretty small, and the prices are steep. I don’t think the food was spectacular enough for me to return often for dinner (given the prices), but I will return for some wine and cheese.

We ordered wine by the bottle, and I can’t even remember what it was. All I know is that it was yummy, and I don’t think you can go wrong w/ most of the wine list here. Their sommelier, Sebastian Zutant , is becoming a local celebrity, and has some great selections.

For dinner, they start you off with a citrusy yogurt/mascarpone (I think) mixture accompanied by flatbread crisps. What followed was tasty for the most part, but small. Below is what I can remember from our order:


- Charcuterie- the meats were fantastic. We got an assortment of Serrano, bresaola, prosciutto, coppa, speck, and even some chicken pate. There were some really nice cheeses on the plate as well.
- Gnocchi w/ chanterelles- It was ok, not very pillowy.
- Braised meatballs w/ goat cheese angolotti- The meatballs alone were not very moist, but the angolotti and the sauce were fabulous.
- Tuna Tartare w/ avocado and tempura- This was beautifully presented and very refreshing. The fish was also very fresh.


- Miso Glazed wild Sablefish- The fish was very tender and flaky, but a little on the bland side. There wasn’t enough flavor from the sauce.
- Venison w/ Brussel Sprouts- This was amazing, and one of the better venison dishes I’ve had. The sauce was perfect and the venison extremely tender and flavorful. Even the brussel sprouts were good! I believe they were flash fried.
- Grilled Hanger Steak- I didn’t get to try this one, but those who did liked it. I wouldn’t order steak at a place like this though.


- Goat cheese cheesecake- Served in a glass, the presentation was really neat. But, I found it to be too heavy, and not sweet enough. I also didn’t like the goat cheese flavor as a dessert (even though it’s one of my favorite cheeses)
- Sticky Pudding Cake- It wasn’t sticky enough , kinda dry, and didn’t have the flavor I was looking for. Willow in Arlington has a much better version.

I wasn’t very impressed with the desserts, and I recommend sticking with a cheese course and wine to finish. In fact, maybe go to dinner elsewhere and come to Proof for some after dinner wine and cheese. It would be a perfect end! But, do give dinner at Proof a try. I don’t think I got a wide range of food there, so I may have missed out on some great eats there.

775 G Street
NW Washington, DC 20001


I’ve been to Dino several times over the years. It’s got great atmosphere, décor, food, wine, and it’s just an overall fun place to spend your evening.

Let me start with what makes Dino so great….their wine list! They have an enormous wine list and tons of great bottles in the $40 range. They also have awesome wine deals. On Sunday/Monday, all wines over $50 are 33% off. And on any night, they have free corkage if you buy one of their wines. Their wine list includes a lot of wines from the Montalcino region of Tuscany, which was where I fell in love with Brunello. Get the owner talking about wine…Dean is very friendly, knowledgeable and loves to share what he knows.

You won't find the typical italian fare here. Their focus is on Tuscan cuisine, so you’ll see crostinis, wild boar, polenta etc. They have a lot of seasonal offerings as well that can be seen in their crostini assortments and entrees. I actually do consider Dino to be on my “favorites” list, but ever since they got a new chef, the food isn’t quite as I remember. I’m still on the fence. I was obsessed with their original wild boar pasta and the béchamel lasagna w/ pork and veal. I recently tried both under the new chef, and both were still really tasty, but just a little different. Maybe I just don’t adjust well to change, and it will take me a while to get use to the new slant. The food is still really good, so I will continue to go back. They still have a lot of “small” plates, so I like getting a bunch of those to share. Last time I went, we got the crostini assortment, braised meatballs, mushroom polenta, potato/prosciutto fritters, and the burrata to start with. All were delish. The burrata is to die for, and I will continue to go back for that alone. This freshly flown in buffalo milk mozzarella is so creamy, smooth, and just perfect.

The owners are always on sight and super friendly. They check up on the tables quite often, which is a nice touch. Likewise, the service has always been excellent. They are very friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. I had my birthday party of 15 people there in 2006, and the service could not have been better. We even took a few of our bottles that we bought from Tuscany, and they were corked for free. Neil even organized his grad school dinner here, for a group of 30, and it also worked out w/out a hitch.

Dino gets really packed on the wkds, so the wait times can be long, sometimes even with a reservation. I once waited over 30 minutes with a reservation. But, we were given free prosecco during the wait, and that more than salvaged it :)

Btw, if you are planning a trip out to Italy, you must check out Dean’s suggestions on the website. Actually, it would be even better to just go there for dinner and get Dean talking. He’s great!

I recommend going to Dino with a group, so you can get a good assortment of the small plates. There’s a lot to choose from! Prices are very reasonable, especially with a group. The downstairs can get really noisy, so request upstairs seating.

3435 Connecticut Avenue NW
Cleveland Park, Washington DC 20008

Me Jana

Let me start off on the positives. The restaurants is strikingly pretty. It has a great bar to grab some drinks, and very attractive décor throughout. The owner is also especially nice and welcoming. That’s where it ends for me. I just wasn’t that impressed with the food, and I’m not sure what all the hype is about. We went with a group of 6, and our overall consensus was to stick with Neyla (and even Lebanese Taverna). Neyla, my favorite Lebanese joint, serves a much tastier version of everything we ordered. Now, had I not experienced great Lebanese food before, I might have actually enjoyed Me Jana. So, maybe it’s the Lebanese “newbies” creating all the hype.

We started out with super warm pitas that came with olives, yogurt dip, and spices. The bread was great, but wasn’t superior to other places. Actually, the bread was the best part here, so I pretty much filled up on a lot of that. It kept coming all night, so that was a plus.

So, we ordered mezzes for the table as follows:

- Hommos- The texture wasn’t creamy enough for me and almost a little grainy.
- Kafta Kebob- Not enough spice for me.
- Lamb Chops- These were inherently flavorful, as the lamb nicely charred to medium rare. But, again, I wanted some more flavor!
- Potato Kibbe stuffed w/ spiced feta and pine nuts and served w/ baba ghannouj- Just nothing special, and the baba was your typical fare. Not much bite
- Chicken Shawarma- this was the most disappointing of the dishes. There was barely any spice and the chicken was really dry. It looked so appetizing…the shawarma was stuffed into mini pita sandwiches. But, it just didn’t deliver. Neyla has a phenomenal shawarma that’s presented the same way, yet very tender and the perfect level of spice.
- Manchego and feta inside phylo- Can’t go wrong with this one. It was good. We should have ordered more.
- Lahem be ajeen (pita topped w/ ground lamb and spices)- Again, no spice and bland!
- Zucchini Fritters- I make a better version at home.


- Molten cake w/ ice cream- this was your typical gooey center. The ice cream was a pomegranate flavor, I believe, and just didn’t work w/ the bittersweet chocolate. The tanginess of the ice cream did not compliment it at all.
- Phylo w/ banana, custard, and honey- I actually liked this one, but the rest the table didn’t care for it.

I guess I’m being too harsh. Everything we ordered wasn’t bad. It was decent, but just lacked the flavor that I’m use to with Lebanese food. I didn’t even need a breath mint!

The restaurant also has a small wine list, but we were able to find a nice Pinot.

Overall, I thought the prices were a little steep for the portions you get. The portions are definitely on the smaller side, even for the mezzes.

So, in short, if you live nearby, I think it would be a nice place to go with a group, take in the pretty ambiance, and share mezzes. But, for real Lebanese food, go to Neyla. Actually, there’s another place that I plan to try soon, called the Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church. From what I hear, it’s better than all of them. They even have their own slaughter house in Warrenton!

Me Jana
2300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201


Farrah Olivia

I was really excited to try Farrah Olivia, as Chef Morou Ouattara from the Iron Chef is the owner and chef. I love that we have a local celebrity here! My foodie coworker had recently been there and loved it, so I took her advice and organized our team dinner there. Overall, I was very pleased with the restaurant and would definitely return. The restaurant is located in Alexandria, right next to Balduccis. The location is a little secluded. But, it’s very pretty, and Chef Morou adds a personal touch by decorating it with candid photos of his daughter taken around the metro area. It gives the restaurant a very homey and welcoming feel.

Dishes can be ordered a la carte, or as 5, 7, or 14 course tasting menus. They even offer a substantial vegetarian tasting menu for less than the regular tasting menu. We decided to do a la carte. The night started off with a lovely Malbec that was actually under $40! We were presented fresh breads with an eclectic selection of spreads: bok choy pesto, sundried tomato pesto, fig jam, and honey-lavender butter. The butter was awesome! We then ordered a cheese plate. It was this night that I discovered my new favorite cheese, Bonne Bouche, a Vermont goat cheese that is just so creamy, mild, and heavenly. You can find it locally at Cowgirl Creamery or Cheesetique. I’ve even seen it at Whole foods once, but that’s rare. Moving on, we were presented a nice amuse bouche from the kitchen, but I can’t remember what it was…it was tasty though! We moved on to appetizers and entrees below. We’re a pretty laid back bunch, so we all tried each other’s selections too. I’m glad we did! Originally from the Ivory Coast, all of the food that Chef Morou prepares has an African influence and a very diverse use of spices. Her goes:

- Diver Scallops w/ bacon powder and melon seed milk- This was delish w/ 2 huge scallops swimming in a lovely, creamy sauce. The scallops were seared to a perfect crisp as well.
- Cinnamon Quail w/ Figs- I didn’t really care for this one. The quail was very tender, but the cinnamon flavor didn’t work for me. But, it was cool how he wrapped two of the quail legs in figs…that part was yummy.
- Shocked Escolar w/ soy pearls and wasabi- Now this was a really fun app as the “soy pearls” were tiny “caviar” balls that burst in your mouth with flavor. Chef Morou makes them using agar powder, oil, and flavoring. It really is the coolest thing ever! The escolar was also excellent with the wasabi sauce. I would have liked to see more sauce on the dish though.

- Slow roasted lamb- This was just amazing and cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was covered with a really tasty spice blend too. The sauce that accompanied it tasted very close to an Indian tandoori sauce, but not exactly. Again, wish there was more of the sauce
- Venison w/ sweet potato truffle- Extremely tender, very pretty. The cuts of meat looked like absolute perfection. The flavor was good, but I have preferred the Venison at Mark & Orlando’s and Proof to this one. The sweet potato truffle was decadant.
- Filet of beef w/ corn truffles and raisin emulsion- I really liked the raisin emulsion and corn truffles more than the meat itself
The portions are on the smaller side, so I suggest you order an app and entrée, or do one of the tasting menu options. The presentations of all the dishes were beautiful with most of the plates having a “deconstructed” theme. Most of the spice blends were extremely flavorful. However, I have to admit that the spices/sauces presented on the dishes just weren’t enough, and left me wanting more. I wanted to have the spice flavor on every bite. Maybe that’s the Indian in me. Can’t get enough spice!

I wasn’t as impressed with Farrah Olivia’s desserts. We ordered the following:

- Chocolate brownie w/ toasted marshmallow and raspberry beet sorbet- I thought the chocolate brownie was on the dry side, and didn’t care for the marshmallow topping. I personally didn’t like the flavor of the beet sorbet either…it was just too weird for me.
- Lemon cheesecake- This was perfectly light and tasty. It had a nice thick crust too. But, I didn’t find it to be better than cheesecakes elsewhere, or even ones that I make at home.
- Selection of Sorbets- I’m just not into sorbets, especially ones with flavors such as beet. But the person that ordered this at our table really liked it.

But, Chef Morou did send us a special nightcap of macaroons, in all sorts of flavors. They definitely rate as some of the best macaroons I’ve had, being perfectly crispy, moist, and having a wonderful hint of nuttiness.

Overall, we had a really great experience. We were definitely all “giddy” by the end of the night. I think we were there close to 4 hours!!! At one point, Chef Morou was kind enough to come out and greet us. He really is such a nice, completely unpretentious individual. He even remembered my coworker that had recently been! He spent a decent amount of time talking to us, as busy as he is, and explained how he makes those very cool “caviar” balls. He uses 1 tsp Agar powder to 1 cup flavored water and the droplets go into room temperature oil, where they solidify. My dad works at the Washington Hospital Center, so I got some syringes, and hope to try this at home :)

I forgot about our waiter. He was young and very friendly. He was also honest. We wanted to order the poached lobster, w/ tapioca pudding (one of the pricier items on the menu), and he pretty much said it wasn’t one of his favorites, and he found it too sweet. I like honesty.

I definitely recommend going to this restaurant if you are feeling adventurous. All of the unique flavors you will taste in one night are nothing like you have had before. It is on the pricier side, so not really for a casual night out.

Farrah Olivia
600 Franklin Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


Ray's Hell Burger

This one doesn't need an introduction or write-up. Michael Landrum is creating a mecca in Arlington! Hands down the best burger in DC and the cheapest also. All the toppings are very enticing, but go easy to let the meat shine. Get a cold bottle of cheerwine along side and ur in "heaven"!!

Ray’s Hell-Burger(Butcher Burgers)
1713 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA



We went to Italia back in July, 2006 for 10 days. I wish I wrote about it immediately upon my return, b/c I have already forgotten so many details. Being first-timers, we did the typical route of Roma, Firenze, and Veneto. If I had to rank my favorites in order, it would be Firenze (due to Tuscany), Roma, and lastly Veneto. But, I loved them all!! Oh, and Italian cuisine is by far my favorite, and Italy only reinforced that. Going there for the food alone is worth it!


An Italian friend, and several recommendations online led us to stay in the region of Trastevere just outside the city. It was the best decision we made.. I don’t think we would have enjoyed Rome as much, had we not chosen to stay in this area. It was charming, quaint, and not nearly as touristy as downtown Rome. It was also just a short, 15 minute walk to all the major attractions. We stayed at the Santa Maria bed and breakfast. The b&b was nothing spectacular, but it had a very homey atmosphere, and wonderful to come back to after dealing with all the crowds and chaos in Rome. They served free breakfast and a had nice, complimentary antipasti spread at 5:00…perfect timing, b/c that’s the time we always got back from sight-seeing and were ready to just unwind on some yummy foccacia and wine. Our days were spent seeing all the history of Rome, which is absolutely beautiful (Coliseum, Vatican, Steps of Rome, etc). Check out the slideshow! I would get a gelato or two on our walks, and Neil would get a Panini or two (which I also picked at). The gelato in Italy is so creamy, yet light. I wish I could have had one at every gelatria we passed. The paninis in the streets of Rome are also awesome, much better than the ones in Florence or Venice. You can get all sorts of fillings (prosciutto, peppers, eggplant, basil, mozzarella, etc). The bread is so moist, and pressed firmly against the filling…almost like a stuffed pizza. It was the perfect lunch/snack to have on the go, as we were constantly on the go in Rome. Bring good walking shoes!! We did most of our dinners in Trastevere versus the touristy restaurants in the heart of Rome. Our favorite restaurant in Trastevere was Taverna Trillusa. They are known for their homemade pastas which they serve right in the pan in which they were made. We also had a veal tenderloin dish there, which I still remember to this day. It was super thick, so tender, and each bite so flavorful. Dinner time (around 10pm) and after dark is when Trastevere really shines. Everyone is out just enjoying themselves, from local families to college students. It’s full of energy and life…even on a Monday night! We loved just walking around at night and feeling the energy. We also frequented a chocolate bar every night…can’t remember the name. But, right after dinner, we went there to get a shot of rum in mini chocolate cups. On to Firenze….


We got on the euro-rail and were on our way to Florence. The euro-rail is such a great way to transport between cities. It’s fast, comfortable, and so easy to buy tickets. We spent 4 nights in Florence at the Villa De Medici Hotel. This hotel was also about a 15 minute walk from the major attractions. The hotel was beautiful, with a nice pool in the back, and a lovely complimentary breakfast. I love staying in hotels that are right outside the touristy area. During the walks to/from , you get to see so much more that you would have otherwise missed. Again, we spent our days seeing the major attractions (Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, etc), and grabbing tasty bites along the way. So many cafes and gelaterias to choose from!! We would go into multiple ones in a given day, because I just had to be sure to try everything.

I found the food to be better in Florence than in Rome. I really enjoyed the Tuscan influence...wild boar, prosciutto w/ melon, ribolita, and crostinis galore. The memorable restaurants I remember are Il Latini and Acqua Al 2. Both were touristy, but you would never know by the food. Il Latini was family style, with several courses of authentic Tuscan food and flowing drinks. The staff there is on a mission to get everyone loaded. They gave us limoncello shots followed by grappa…and yes, we were LOADED. We were seated with people we didn’t know, but we got to know each other by the end of the night! Acqua Al 2 was equally memorable. The staff was super friendly. Their concept is sampler courses. You can order the pasta sampler, in which they bring out 8 courses of different pastas from gnocchi to fusili. All were so tasty. The pasta everywhere was just heavenly…always done al dente, and so flavorful that it didn’t even need sauce. Acqua Al 2 is also known for their blueberry steak, which sounded weird at first, but it was so perfect. The tanginess and sweetness from the blueberry reduction sauce complemented the filet so wonderfully. I’ve been trying to recreate it at home unsuccessfully. If anyone has any recipes, please send!! They also have a dessert sampler, but we were too full for it…can’t believe I was too full for dessert!

The highlight of our trip was our day trip to Tuscany. We decided to go to the region of Montalcino versus Montepulciano. Everyone was raving about the Brunello di Montalcino (a red Italian wine, and similar to Sangiovese). Brunello is one of the best known and expensive wines of Italy. We rented a little baby blue panda car and decided to go out on our own and just discover. Another bad decision! We got lost constantly…and of course that meant we fought constantly. But, we finally made it to Montalcino with some other scenic stops along the way (Sienna and San Gimignano). The drive is so amazing and serene (even though we got lost). Tuscany is absolutely beautiful with its rolling hills, vineyards that go on forever, castles, etc. The drive is just breathtaking. So, once in Montalcino, we had some yummy crostinis and wine in town before going to the vineyards. The waiter at the café and several others recommended that we check out Altesino and Carpazo vineyards. It was a rough drive getting to the vineyards…all dirt roads. Altesino was closed L But, Carpazo was open, and we spent a good 2 hours there! The young woman who worked there was so incredibly friendly. She taught us so much about the wines and the region. The brunello, btw, was incredible!!! I’m sooo stupid for only buying 3 bottles. They were only like 25 EUR, while they sell for over $100 bottle here. She also did some olive oil tastings, and OMG…I have never tasted such fresh, fruity extra virgin olive oil. It didn’t need anything added to it. It tasted absolutely perfect on its own. I bought a bottle…it’s finished now :( By the time we were done with Carpazo, it was time to head back. I hear the Altesino is even better than Carpazo, which means we have to return. So, we left and drove thru Chianti. Another breathtaking drive! We stopped at Rocca De Macie vineyard on the way…..bought some more wine and more olive oil. The olive oil tastings are such a cool concept! The wine at Rocca was decent, but nothing like Carpazo. Rocca De Macie distributes heavily over here, but since we were there, why not just buy straight from them. On our way back to our hotel, we got lost again, of course… and somehow ended up on a pedestrian street in Florence. That was scary! My next trip to Italy will focus on Tuscany. A day there wasn’t enough, and there’s so much more wine to try!! I also would do a winery tour this time. While it was fun exploring on our own, I feel that we missed out on a lot.


Venice was our last destination on the trip. We were there only 2 nights, and I thought that was enough. While Venice was absolutely gorgeous and unique, we didn’t enjoy the food as much as we did in Florence and Rome. That’s probably due to bad choices on our part. We didn’t research the restaurants there ahead of time, and ended up just restaurant shopping. We also found that the people in Venice really don’t like tourists. I guess, it’s understandable, given that their entire city is constantly flooded. So, we were pretty much left to fend for ourselves on the trip. The hotel and people were generally not helpful with recommendations and suggestions on good eats. The restaurants we ended up at weren’t terrible, but not memorable either. Regardless of the food, Venice was a sight worth seeing. I mean it’s a city on water after all! The views of Venice from our hotel patio were so beautiful. One thing worth consuming in Venice are their bellinis. And where else to try it, but Venice, where the bellini was born. The bellini is a mixture of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach puree. Everywhere we went, they were serving it blended with fresh peaches. The end result was a refreshing, frothy, yummy drink. I’ve made them at home too, and will post the recipe one of these days. On the last day of our trip, Neil was totally sick of Italian food. I just didn’t understand, b/c I can eat Italian food forever, even in Venice. So, he had to just have Micky d’s for that greasy taste of America. I sat with him, looking in disgust as he chowed down on his burger. But, one cool thing was that they had mini calzones on the menu. So cute, and not bad tasting either.

Italia was a trip of a lifetime, and I am dying to go back. So, I can continue to write on. But, I don’t want to bore you anymore. If you are going to this beautiful country, and have specific questions, please let me know. I’d love to help! Ciao for now! I’m heading back to Rome in July 2008 for 3 days on the way to Turkey. I’ll take good notes this time and report back!.

Costa Rica

We went to the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica and stayed at the Paradisus Playa Conchal resort back in 2005. It is a part of the Melia hotel chain. It was a while ago, so I apologize for my lack of specifics. We were accompanied by close friends as well. I would definitely recommend vacationing with friends so long as everyone is easy going. We all loved the country, the food and the people. The locals were extremely friendly and just had a different perspective on life in general. As they say ‘Pura Vida!’ which means ‘Pure Life’. They take this saying to heart. The people also really care for their land. Every local we met was so friendly and spoke enthusiastically about their country and the importance of preserving it. We went in July, during rainy season. It did rain a good hour every day, and by rain, I mean torrential downpour. Other than that, it was hot and sunny throughout the day. The rain was actually refreshing. Also, going this time of year allowed us to see the beautiful green of the country. The other time of year is considered the ‘dry season’ and Guanacaste resembles a desert.

The Hotel had beautiful grounds and was very well kept. It was absolutely massive. You basically get around in golf carts. They also had bikes that you could use to get around. Neil loved the golf course. I loved biking on the resort and taking in the beauty. The pool is also the largest in Costa Rica (at least back then)Pool and believe it or not, the food on the resort for the most part was great! I usually don’t like all-inclusive resorts due to the food, but we were generally happy. We did a lot of dinners off the resort, but the lunches and dinners at the resort were definitely above par.

Off the resort, is where we had the best food. We ate in the nearby towns of Brazilito and Tamarindo. I can’t recall the names of the restaurants we ate at, but all left us wanting more and reminiscing about the food for days to come. We had one of our best meals in Brasilito. We were seated right on the beach! Costa Rica has some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever had. We had lobster, grouper, shrimp , etc that were all so fresh, and so much tastier than the best seafood restaurants here. “Gallo Pinto” is pretty much everywhere . It’s rice and beans cooked with various spices. We came to love this side dish, and I haven’t been able to get a version of it since. Arroz con Pollo is also very common in Costa Rica. It usually consists of rice, sofrito, chicken and saffron. The combination is very aromatic and hearty. We had this at a lunch spot that we stumbled upon during our Canopy/Zip-line tour. That was one of our best lunches in Costa Rica.

While the food in Costa Rico exceeded our expectations, there’s obviously much more to do besides eat ...rain forests, waterfalls, zip-lining, snorkeling, atvs, monkey park etc. We did it all! My favorite activity was zip-lining. We did the canopy/zipline tour in the Rincón de la Vieja canyon, where we zip lined, rappelled, and climbed our way through the canyon. It was really an amazing experience. ZiplineWe found a local guy off the resort to take us to all our excursions. None of us were into doing an organized tour. So, we rented an SUV and took the local around with us. Some might find that a little sketch, but he was totally harmless. And besides, there were 4 of us, and I’m pretty feisty.

We thoroughly enjoyed Costa Rica, and there’s so much more of the country to see. Hopefully, I make my way back one day.

Until then, PURA VIDA !!!!

2 Amys

Pizza is by far my favorite food and 2 Amys makes the absolute best pizza in DC. I think it’s better than any pie I’ve had in the US, and even in in Rome, Florence, and Venice. I haven’t been to Naples though, which is where this pizza was born. I’ve been obsessed with 2 Amys for years now. By obsessed, I mean that I go there almost every 2 weeks, and drive pretty far to get there! It is a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which means that they follow strict requirements to create truly authentic Neapolitan pizza. Now, that’s a great honor to have, but it has nothing to do with my love for their pizza. I judge a pizza based on its toppings and crust. Keep in mind that this is a Neapolitan pizza, not NY pizza. I don’t think that the two can be compared.

2 Amys outer crust can be described as puffy, yeasty, and soft. I’ve never bitten into a crust so tasty with an equally wonderful texture. It’s perfect for dipping, so I always get a side of marinara to go with the pie. The inner pizza crust is super thin, so I get the best of both worlds. The quality and uniqueness of toppings surpass any other joints I’ve been to. My favorite pizza is the Etna, which consists of eggplant confit, olives, capers, oregano, and grana. I also add some fresh mozzarella…can’t have a pizza w/out it! The pizza has the perfect blend of flavors…saltiness from the olives/capers, grana and sweetness from the eggplant. Neil opts for the Norcia (my 2nd favorite), which has tomato, salami, grilled peppers, mozzarella, and grana. Now, 2 Amys also has some of the best salami. I wasn’t a salami lover until I met it here. Needless to say, I gotta have both, so I pick at his pizza too. The traditional way to serve Neapolitan pizza is uncut, so if you are sharing each other’s pies (like me), ask for them to be cut. All of their pizzas are drizzled with olive oil just before serving. It makes for a gorgeous, tasty pie!

There's a whole lot more than just pizza. The small plate specials are always great and change weekly and seasonally. I’ve had crunchy zucchini fritters, potato prosciutto croquettes, eggplant parmesan, summer heirloom tomato salads, roasted root vegetables, and the list goes on. They also have everyday small plates, such as the cod croquettes and the arancini (fried risotto balls filled with gooey mozzarella). Get a side of sauce with that too!! The wide selection of cured meats is exquisite and served alongside crusty, soft bread. Crostini specials are always on the menu, and presented in fun combinations, such as prosciutto and white bean puree, caponata, wild mushrooms, etc. I almost forgot about the polpettine… tender and succulent meatballs made of veal/pork/beef. I get them as a side versus on my pizza, b/c that way you can have some of the marinara that they bake in. It’s great for mopping up with the accompanied bread or even your pizza crust. You can’t have all of these treats in one night, so you gotta keep going back to try them all!

2 Amys also has a decent selection of italian wines, with several offerings by the glass. They are known for pretty generous pours, so I usually get a glass…or two :) Neil always gets one of the beers on tap, which they switch up quite often.

After all this, is there still room for dessert? You can’t ever forgo dessert here. They have the best homemade ice cream in the city, with ever changing flavors. The mint chocolate chip had the aroma and taste of fresh mint leaves that just burst on your tongue. The dessert specials change constantly, so anytime you see something new, try it, b/c you don’t know if/when it will be back!

Now, 2 Amys has a lot of criticism due to the long wait times, overcrowding, noisy children, and sometimes inattentive service. If you are looking for a romantic/quiet night out, stay clear of this place. But, if it’s excellent food you desire, just relax and you will thoroughly enjoy the experience, falling into a state of bliss that I’m constantly in. Even I get very frustrated at the evening’s start, as I hate crowds and am very impatient. But, the moment I start eating, my mood does a 180, and all is forgotten. Neil still comments on my bizarre transformation every visit :) The staff there is also friendly, so long as you are not pushy, and realize that they are also trying their best not to lose it amongst the chaos.

A big plus is that they recently opened adult only seating upstairs. Request that area if you are looking for a more quiet/private setting. I usually starve myself on “2 Amys day”, so I take whatever table they give me.

I feel like I haven’t written enough about why I love this place, but the post is getting long! Just go and experience it, and let me know what you think!

2 Amys
3715 Macomb St. NW
Washington, DC

Ray’s the Steaks

I don’t think I need to write much on Ray’s the Steaks. The chef and owner, Michael Landrum, has created the ultimate of steak houses. If you live in this area and love steak, you’ve already heard of it, and hopefully share my sentiment. After Ray’s, I refuse to go back to Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, or any of the like. I find the selection of steaks to be far superior, inexpensive, and with complimentary sides, and a VERY affordable wine list, there’s no reason for me to go back to those stuffy, lifeless places.

They start taking reservations, in person, at 4pm. I work in Crystal City, so I stop by Ray’s on my way home to put our name on the list. We’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes with the reservation, except once, only b/c a member of our party was late. On the flip side, if you show up on a Thurs/Fri/Sat around dinner time without a reservation, expect to wait up to 2 hours.

My favorite steak at Ray’s is the filet with the mushroom brandy sauce. I also love the filet with diavlo sauce, b/c it adds a spicy kick. The diavlo sauce is also very good on the jumbo shrimp. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. I recently took my cousin from New York City to Ray’s. He’s been to NY’s high end steak houses, so was skeptical that Ray’s could deliver. After his experience, he admitted that the steak was not only comparable, but surpasses most in NY. Desserts are also good here, so save room. They’ve actually expanded their dessert list to now include a rocky road pie and fudge cake! It sounds so tempting, but I can’t help but stick to the mousse. Neil gets the milk chocolate and I get the dark chocolate. The two are actually very different. The milk has the perfect, velvety/light texture, but a little too sweet for me. The dark has the perfect flavor, but it’s more fudge like in texture, and not “mousse” like. So, I eat some of both :)

The atmosphere is super laid back, and everyone is there to simply eat great food and have fun. Why would anyone want to go to a dark, dull, pretentious steak house, where you can’t even relax? NOT ME! Ray’s is always crowded, but, it’s not an annoyance at all. I’ve always been able to conversate with my party without any problem. I’ve also never had a problem with the staff. They’ve given us great service, even once giving a free amuse bouche of crab bisque with a huge scallop (yum), because we had to wait 30 minutes after our reservation time. It wasn’t even their fault, since one of the member’s in our party showed up late. This is another one of those places, where as long as you are nice, they will return the favor. It is true that sometimes they try to rush you out for the next party. However, you will want to leave anyways, because the next party will literally be glaring at you. My work around is to just request a later seating time, when things are a tad slower.

Ray's the Steaks

1725 Wilson Blvd.

Arlingon, VA 22209


Playa Del Carmen


I consider Neyla to be the best Lebanese restaurant in the area, and I know some Lebanese folks that share the same sentiment. It’s also my sister in law’s favorite restaurant in DC, so I get to go quite often. We just recently went in May since she was visiting from San Fran, so I thought now would be a good time to write about it. Neyla does all of the Lebanese offerings with authenticity, but also add a touch of fusion and innovativeness to their menu. I’ve never had a bad dish, and it’s my go-to place whenever I’m in the mood for Lebanese food (or when the sis in law is in town).

So, what sets Neyla apart from Lebanese Taverna?...Everything. Everything that Lebanese Taverna makes, Neyla does better. It’s as simple as that. All of the staple items are solid: shawarma, kabobs, lamb chops, hommus etc. All of the meats are always cooked to the right tenderness and spiced perfectly. This is also one of the few Lebanese places that has a very moist chicken shawarma, that’s served sandwiched between mini, grilled pitas. It’s so damn cute and equally delicious. We often go in a large group and order a huge sampling of mezzes (the Lebanese tasting) to start, and few of the kabob “mixed grill” entrees (lamb, kafta and chicken) for the table to share. This is the best way to sample a good variety of the food, and there is more than enough to go around. The traditional mezzes consist of hommus, baba ghannoug, grape leaves, kibbeh, shawarma, phyllo cheese rolls, falafel, and much more. I’ve enjoyed every single mezze there, and honestly have no criticism. Freshly baked, hot pita bread from the open kitchens brick oven is also flowing all night long. While it’s easy to fill up on the mezzes here, do save some room for the “mixed grill” kabob entrees. As previously mentioned, Neyla knows how to spice and cook their kabobs with precision. And the sumac spiced onions and vermicelli laced rice served alongside is the perfect compliment.

Neyla has a lot more to offer than the traditional Lebanese dishes. A vegetarian version of the traditional beef kibbeh is made of pumpkin, mushrooms, and shallots. This fried concoction is yummy. Calamari, fried in a crust of chickpea flour and paprika, giving it a completely different, exciting flavor. Lamb chops sitting in a bed of chick pea confit was equally appetizing. Although, I have not tried them, the menu also delves into other tastes of the Mediterranean , offering Spanish paella, a Moroccan tagine, and even French and Italian entrees. But, I like to stick with the traditional Lebanese/fusion offerings. If I want French food, I wouldn’t pick Neyla to eat it.

Along with great Lebanese food, is great ambiance….that is if you are into that type of scene. It’s not for everyone. As you enter, it feels like you are walking into a club. Neyla is adorned with very dim lights, swags of romantically colored drapes, chandeliers, candles, mirrors, trendy music, and tons of attractive people to liven the restaurant. It’s loud and packed all night long. A large bar with an equally large mirror is the focal point. As for seating, they have nicely spaced out marble top tables. They also have a number of booths with comfortable pillows to rest against. There’s a large high-top communal table along the middle, which is usually where my group sits. And there’s a private room in the back that has extravagant chairs, tables, and chandeliers, almost resembling that of a palace. I’ve been to a couple parties hosted by friends in the back room, and it has worked out great, holding at least 30 people. Neyla’s location is also great, in the heart of Georgetown, a short walk to all the after-dinner venues.

Skip dessert. I don’t think you’ll have much room for it anyways. The baklava was too sweet, buttery, and soggy. Other desserts with sweetened middle eastern cheese were just too rich and “thick” for me. Maybe I’m just not into Lebanese desserts.

The wine list is a typical size, and I’ve always found something decent. It is on the pricier side in comparison to the food prices. Lebanese beer is on the menu. They also serve sangria there…not the best I’ve had, but fun to order nonetheless.

The service is decent, but it’s really hard to get their attention once your order is taken. The wait staff is running around constantly, as they are usually to full capacity and have swarms of people just hanging out at the bar. The floor manager is walking around all night long, and is very attentive if you need anything.

If you are new to Lebanese food, this is where you should try it. And if you love Lebanese food, like I do, I think you'll agree that this is one of the best in DC.

3206 N Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

San Francisco

San Francisco

Napa & Sonoma

My sister- in- law lives in the heart of San Francisco. While we are sad that she lives so far away, we get the benefit of visiting one of our favorite cities. The rolling hills, european architecture, breath taking views, skyline, golden gate bridge, coast line, and so much more make it hands down the most gorgeous city in the US. SF is also close by to some of the finest vineyards in the world, with Napa Valley and Sonoma about an hour drive away. It is also a dining mecca and definitely hosts one of the top dining scenes in the US (if not the best). You will never run out of things to do in SF. Much like NY, you can find a new venue every day.

What to do in the city:
Union Square- Walk around for some high end shopping, great eats, and you might even catch a festival.
Embarcadero- This is the gorgeous waterfront drive that runs through several neighborhoods. The walk itself is so peaceful and scenic. Take a camera!
Ferry Building- This is a great little marketplace on the Embarcadero. They have some great little shops, markets, and eateries inside. You can get wonderful wines, cheeses, oils, crafts, etc. There’s a wonderful dessert shop inside called , “Miette”. The ferry building also hosts a farmers market on select days.
The Union Square Mall- Yes, of all places, the mall! This mall has the most amazing food court I have ever seen. You can get fresh crepes, sushi, barbeque, thai, fresh pastas, gelato, éclairs…and the list goes on. Everything’s served in real dishware too. This isn’t your typical mall food.
Fisherman’s Warf- Historic waterfront, with fresh seafood, aquarium, and a wide array of things to do. Get your clam chowder in sourdough bowl and fresh dungeness crab here! Definitely a heavy tourist spot.
Alcatraz- Not really my thing, but Neil loves it. It’s a former federal maximum security prison open for touring. Need tickets for this one.
Sausalito- Quaint, charming pedestrian area along the water. It’s very serene and has some great restaurants. Check out the houses there too!
Napa Valley- Hit the major wineries if it’s your first visit. We’ve been to Coppola, Sterling, St. Supery, Beringer, Mondavi, and a few others. Coppola was probably my favorite. Napa is a bit commercialized. Go to V. Sattui midday as they sell a ton of gourmet food and have great picnic grounds. It’s a nice place to unwind and have a glass of wine and cheese. Check out the highly acclaimed “Ubuntu” restaurant for dinner. There’s always “French Laundry” as well, but good luck with reservations.
Sonoma- I really liked Sonoma much more than Napa. I only visited 3 wineries, but each one gave such personalized service and really took their time with us. Sonoma has a more quaint, and homey feel. We went to Ledson (gorgeous castle winery), B.R. Cohn, and Chateu St. Jean. All had excellent wines…I was partial to the reds at all. B.R. Cohn makes an exceptional extra virgin olive oil. Next time, we’ll head over to the Healdsburg area of Sonoma. I hear that their wines are amongst the best in all of Sonoma.

As far as where to eat, the possibilities are endless. The general SF areas to stick to for good eats are North Beach, Mission District, the Marina, and Sausalito. My experiences are .01 % of what the city has to offer, but here are some places I’ve enjoyed.

• Mall Food Court- You absolutely have to check this out for lunch
Mijita- in the Ferry Building. Fast food Mexican. It has great fish tacos.
Miette- in the Ferry Building. You must get a dessert from here. They are all beautifully presented and taste even better than they look. They have the best macaroons ever.
Townsend- Go there for a yummy brunch.
Yank Sing- A must go if you are into dim sum. They have this down to a science. Just don’t let your eyes take over your stomach, because you’ll end up grabbing a hell of a lot more food from the carts than you can finish.
Slanted Door- Excellent modern asian food.
Kokkari- Delish, and very authentic greek food. The dining room is absolutely beautiful too. Go with a group so you can share all the mezze. Didn’t particularly enjoy the grilled whole fish, but the lamb chops and all of our mezzes were wonderful. Ask for the table near the fireplace.
Pre Sa Vi- Ecclectic, fun food having different ethnic flairs. Really pretty dining room as well. Get the lamb burger sliders off the bar menu!
Medjool- Really fun Mediterranean tapas restaurant with a lively atmosphere. Great place to go with a group.
Foreign Cinema- You’ll feel like you are in the “in crowd” here. It is an absolutely gorgeous restaurant with major flair. The food is great for brunch and dinner. It was actually featured on “Giada’s wkd Getaways”.
• Azuma- I’ve had some of the best sushi here. Although, I don’t think SF can have bad sushi. It’s on the water! Try Blowfish and Sushi Ra as well

We also went to some fun venues for evening drinks. Try the Redwood Room, W Hotel, Ducca Bar, Bin 38 wine bar, bar at the Clift, and Americana

We’ll be heading back to San Fran soon, so I’ll definitely update this.


July 2009 update- I haven't confirmed, but I think Gaujillo has changed their recipes. The fish tacos weren't as good, nor were the tortillas. I found the same w/ the pork tacos..they were a bit dry. The ceviche is still going strong as are their drinks. It's still a fun place to go, but I think their tacos have taken a fall :(

I would say Mexican food is second in line to Italian as my favorite foods. However, our area seems to be lacking any authentic Mexican like I experienced in Mexico. Guajillo, pronounced wa-hee-yo, is the closest I’ve found to simple, authentic Mexican cuisine. This tiny family owned restaurant is on Wilson Boulevard in between Rosslyn and Courthouse, in a dinky strip mall. But, walk inside, and the scene completely changes. It’s a venue of bright colored walls, exquisite Mexican paintings, and loads of people just having a great time.

The biggest challenge of going to Guajillo, for both Neil and myself is to fight our temptation to put our name down at Ray's the Steaks next door…another favorite of mine, and the best steak experience in the area. But, when you have a Mexican craving, a steak simply cannot satisfy. Now, if both of us aren’t craving Mexican that night, then we have a problem. It hasn’t happened yet…

Guajillo, makes for a festive, lively dinner. It’s a great spot for a happy hour, a 3rd date, or dinner with friends. It is very crowded and drinks are always flowing. I think it has the best sangria and mojito in our area. The mojitos by the glass are pretty big too, and so refreshing. You can’t taste a bit of alcohol, but trust me, they are potent! Neil loves the margaritas. All three are available by the carafe too!

The drinks are great, but what makes this place so popular is the food. To start off, house fried, super thin, crispy tortilla chips with a roasted salsa perfectly spiced, and not watered down like most other salsas. I can’t stop munching on the chips and salsa here. Guajillo has so many fun dishes to choose from. The shrimp ceviche appetizer is one of the best ceviches around. It’s served up in a huge glass, enough to share amongst 4 people. Their house made mole sauce is also very rich and earthy. I think the sauce shines in the enchiladas mole entree. But, there are several other mole dishes to choose from. Or even better, they have shrimp and goat cheese enchiladas that is making my mouth water right now. It’s chunks of shrimp inside tortillas, and smothered in a rich goat cheese sauce. It is then topped with fresh sliced avocado, and served with a corn salad and beets. I love goat cheese, shrimp, and avocado. This combo had to be made with me in mind!!! I have a hard time deciding between the goat cheese enchiladas and their tacos. Their tacos are fabulous and almost like the ones I had in Los Cabos. I get a trio of pork, lamb, and fish tacos. The tacos appear to be tiny, but it’s definitely more than enough. Neil gets the taco trio all the time, and is totally stuffed. My favorite is probably the fish taco, consisting of perfectly salted, flash fried fish, topped with radicchio and a yummy chipotle crema sauce. YUM!! Oh, and their tacos are served in soft, corn tortillas…the way they should be. The only dishes that I don’t really care so much for are the guacamole and burritos. The guacamole isn’t chunky enough for me, and a little heavy on the lime. I think that a good guacamole should have very little lime, only for preservation. As for the burritos, I find the filling to be a little bland. So what?…there’s more than enough other fabulous dishes to choose from.

If you still have room, finish off your meal with their sopapillas and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The sopapillas are enormous, soft, and puffy, served up with honey drizzled all over. This is a great dessert to share, unless you’re dining with me :)

I find the service there to be just fine. The waiters are running around a lot, but they are attentive and friendly. Wait times can be long. I would suggest calling on your way there to put your name down. Their reservation policy isn’t consistent. I’ve been able to make reservations on occasion, and other times not. Even if you have to wait, the bar area is very lively, and you can munch on chips and sangria to pass the time.

The owners opened up a sister restaurant in DC called Casa Oaxaca on 18th Street. I still haven’t gone, but I'm sure it won't disappoint. I’m hoping to make my way there this summer. Can’t wait!

1727 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

Los Cabos

Since we went to Italy in 2006, we decided to have a more relaxing vacation in 2007. So, we chose Los Cabos, Mexico located on the Baja Peninsula. We went in Aug 07, and it was HOT, reaching 100 degrees almost everyday. But, I love the heat, and it made for very pleasant nights. We stayed at the Pueblo Bonito Rose resort. Neil’s coworker hooked us up with his timeshare since he wasn’t using it, so we got a sweet deal. It was a beautiful resort, with an excellent location. We were able to walk to the beach bars, town, marina, etc in no time. I love walking on vacation, because it’s the only exercise I get. And, you get to see so much more by walking around, and getting lost.

Our days started out with breakfast in the room. I actually made breakfast every morning. We bought coffee, eggs, bread, jamon, cheese, etc from a grocery store nearby. Then, we would grab some lounge chairs at the hotel pool or the beach. The beach was gorgeous, but I thought the water was a little rough, so I stayed clear. Neil would read, and I would get restless. I’m not one to relax…ever. Neil got hungry for lunch pretty quickly though, so I didn’t suffer too long. We would grab lunch at one of the beach bars, or walk into town. The beach bars were a lot of fun. We went to The Office, Mango Deck, and Baja Cantina. Margaritas and daiquiris were a daily and refreshing part of our diet. All the beach bars were really touristy, and “spring-break” like, but it was quite entertaining….as long as you aren’t the one doing the entertaining. There are A LOT of vendors on the beach. You just have to learn to ignore them. Also, be aware, that EVERYONE there is trying to sell you a timeshare. Again, just politely say no, and all is good. They are just doing their job. None of this really bothered me at all.

One thing I didn’t expect was authentic Mexican food in Cabo. I expected it to be touristy and overly commercialized. Touristy it was, but we ate some mouth watering, authentic Mexican throughout the week. We found a taco place in town, called Gardenias. It was a total hole in the wall, but wow. For $2, you will eat the best tacos ever. The shrimp and fish tacos were my favorite. They even give a personal fixins bar that contains fresh crema, pickled veggies, salsa, etc. We loved this place, and haven’t had anything as good over here. We ate at some other great places too, which I’ll get to a little later.

Some days, we’d walk over to the Marina. The marina is packed with more restaurants, bars and enormous yachts. It’s a really nice area to stroll through during the day and evening. There’s a great gelato place on the Marina too, called Senor Sweets. We took an afternoon trip to Pueblo’s sister resort, the Pueblo Sunset Beach resort, which is located on the Pacific side of Cabo. While, the location isn’t ideal, the views alone are worth it. The entire resort has breathtaking views of the Pacific ocean and you can literally see out for miles. The resort itself was also gorgeous, laid out with villas and beautiful landscaping throughout.

Ok, so back to the food. Here are the places we ate at, and a couple that we missed out on:

The Office
On the beach. Food is really good, but very pricey. They serve pina coladas in a pineapple. Also, they serve Micheladas, a spice mix that you add to beer. I had a sip of Neil’s, and it was pretty tasty.

Mango Deck
On the beach. This was the most “spring break” type place. There’s a “tequila man” running around pouring tequila shots down people’s throats. It was a fun break in the afternoon to see people makes fools of themselves. Food not great, but 2 for 1 specials on drinks!

Baja Cantina
On the beach and Marina. Food is also not great, but 2 for 1 specials on their drinks!

Best tacos ever!!! Super cheap! Need I say more?

Mariscos Mazatlan
In town. We went for dinner. It wasn’t as touristy as other restaurants, with a lot of locals eating there. The food was decent. Very inexpensive. I don’t think I’d go back though.

Peacocks Restaurant
Beautiful restaurant with lovely décor that serves excellent seafood. It wasn’t as lively as others, but, this may be due to being there in the ‘off’ season. But, the food was delicious and the presentation also very artistic.

Mi Casa
Really touristy restaurant in town, but surprisingly very authentic. Everything we ordered was fantastic, from duck carnitas to spiced sea bass. This place also makes the best margarita in Cabo! I was smashed! Prices are reasonable.

Nick San
In town. Upscale sushi infused with Mexican. This was the best sushi I’ve had next to San Francisco. Must go! It’s a little on the pricey side.

Sunset De Mona Lisa
Italian/seafood restaurant with breathtaking views of the sunset and ocean. We went on our last night and got a table on the terrace that overlooks the ocean. The food was decent and definitely pricey. You are paying more for the ambiance and views though. Be sure to go before the sun sets! We barely made it! Also, make sure when making a reservation that you request a table next to the railing overlooking the sea.

Missed out on this one, b/c we couldn’t pass over doing lunch at Gardenias. But, my friends said that it had awesome pork tacos and was really cheap.

El Meson De Zapata
Missed out on this one. My friends went, and they said it was one of the best restaurants they ate at. A lot of locals go there too. They enjoyed the seafood and Molcajetes with tortillas there.

Missed out on this one too :( This is one of the restaurants featured on Giada's Weekend Getaway to Cabo. It’s touristy and pricey, but I hear the food is worth it. Ceaser salad is made table side, although that’s something that all the restaurants here have picked up on. The lobster is suppose to be amazing.

Other than eat, we tried to hit up some of the nightlife. We went to the Passions lounge at Nikki Beach, Cabo Wabo, and the Zoo. Nikki Beach was my favorite. We also did a few water activites, such as parasailing and jet skiing.

Los Cabos was definitely a fun, relaxing vacation. It’s nice to be able to switch it up between relaxation and exploration. I’ll definitely go back, hopefully finding more “hidden” authentic restaurants in town. This year, 2008, we’re switching it up to Turkey though…doubt I’ll be relaxing, but I’m guaranteed to dine well :)

Blue Duck Tavern

Let me start off by admitting that I’ve only been to Blue Duck Tavern once. But, that one spectacular visit has made it one my favorites.

Normally, the ambiance of a restaurant is the last thing I care about. I tend to go to restaurants based on food, and food alone. But, the décor of this restaurant is well worth the mention. Situated inside the Park Hyatt in DC., Blue Duck Tavern has a super sleek, posh, contemporary setting without being pretentious. It has mahogany wood, high ceilings, huge windows, stainless steel, and glass enclosed areas thrown into the mix. Some have compared it to a maze. It also has a beautiful open pantry and kitchen where you can see the chefs at work. All the fresh ingredients are laid out so beautifully, like a work of art. I usually find the “modern” look too edgy and uninviting , but Blue Duck Tavern is the exact opposite, being so warm and homey.

Blue Duck Tavern is classified as “American” cuisine, but it is helping to redefine the meaning of that term. The menu is so innovative and unique, consisting of seasonally farm-fresh produce, meats and seafood. It is also surprisingly affordable. We went in a group of 4, and so glad we did. Next time we’ll go with more, b/c I have a lot more to try! The menu is a la carte, meaning that it’s perfect for sharing and even recommended. That’s definitely rare at upscale restaurant restaurants. We had a wonderful family-style dinner, passing our dishes around all evening. Deciding amongst the menu’s eclectic choices is a difficult task. We finally came to a decision and ended up ordering the Spiced Pumpkin Bisque, King Crab “Mac and Cheese” Gratin, House Made Pappardelle Braised Barbecue Beef ‘Long Rib’, Roasted Duck Breast, Angry Pocono Trout, Hand Cut BDT Triple Fries, Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts, Mashed Potatoes with Soft Garlic and Chive, and the Caramel Cheesecake.

Ok, so where to begin?. Well, to our surprise, along with bread, we also were given complimentary prosciutto. The prosciutto was sliced so thin and tasted so buttery, that I didn’t even bother to butter my bread at all. Moving on, the spiced pumpkin bisque was perfectly creamy with hints of nutmeg and ginger. There was even a little ravioli at the bottom. The crab mac and cheese is a must have for every visit. It is loaded with huge chunks of fresh meaty crab along with a wonderful cheese sauce, then perfectly browned on top. The house made papperadelle was a vegetarian option, served up with goat cheese, spinach and mushrooms. I’ve been tracking Blue Duck’s menu overtime, and they seem to always have an exciting vegetarian option, not bland vegetable sides as you often see. The papparadelle was so fresh and light tasting. The braised barbecue beef was ever so tender that it easily falls off the bone. The winner of the night was the duck breast served with a braised duck leg and medjool date puree. OMG, this dish was phenomenal. Neil steers away from duck b/c he thinks it has a “gamey” flavor, but, decided to give it a chance anyway. It was juicy, incredibly tender, and the broth is salty, sweet, and tangy. The flavor is just wonderful, with just a hint of the rich medjool dates. You don’t even have to like dates to love this dish. Also, the huge chunks of fat you normally see on duck, was non-existent. The sides were also so yummy. The fries are a fun treat to try. They are cut super thick and so soft on the inside. The brussel sprouts were the favorite side of the night…can’t go wrong with anything braised with bacon. The mashed potatoes were also great, but nothing different than any other place. The loser of the night was the angry trout. It was presented beautifully, and seared crisp, but there was quite a bit of cartilage throughout. It took away from the dish, which was otherwise very flavorful. This was the only dish that wasn’t cleaned up. Not a problem though, b/c we were in a food coma from everything else! We were all stuffed, so the guys decided not to have any dessert. My girlfriend and I couldn’t resist, so we ordered the caramel cheesecake. This is an incredibly rich and dense cheesecake. It was very tasty, but a little heavy for my taste. I prefer a lighter, creamier textured cheesecake.

The wine list is very extensive and they have some bottles in the $40 range. We got a nice bottle for $40…I think it was a Malbec, but can’t remember. Wine by the glass is at least $10 though. It may seem to be a lot, but, I noticed they were being generous with their pours, which may justify the high price.

Next time I go, I plan to try the Roasted Stuffed Quail, Braised Veal Cheeks, and Wood Fired Bone Marrow (yes, bone marrow!) I also have to have the crab mac again. Now you see why I need a bigger group?

All this about food, and I totally forgot about the service. I guess that’s because it was satisfactory. Our waiter was fine. He was attentive and friendly. He just wasn’t as knowledgeable as I would have liked. It was our first time there, so we had a lot of questions on what the popular items were, and such. He wasn’t really able to answer our questions, and simply said “everything’s popular”. Who knows…judging from the large majority of our dishes, maybe he was telling the truth?

If you decide to go, request a table near the kitchen so you can see the chefs in action. Or sit in one of the glass enclosed tables in the bar area. They looked so cool! Really, any table is fine, since they are all spaced out well for ample privacy.

This probably isn’t a place for a casual night out, but perfect for a first date, birthday, a trendy night out with friends, etc. Just be sure to go in a group and feast!

Blue Duck Tavern
24 & M Streets, Northwest
Washington, D.C 20037


Greece Post


I would love to eat here over and over again, but I would go completely broke. In the past few years, Komi has gotten so much acclaim that their dinner tasting menu jumped from $56 to $84! Of course, I didn’t join the bandwagon till it hit the $84 mark. Hopefully, the prices don’t keep creeping up, b/c I would like to go at least once a year.

Neil took me to Komi for our anniversary in September, 2007. It was a truly amazing 3+ hour experience. So much food, wine, food, etc. It was the absolute perfect night, and I really didn’t want it to end. Chef and oner Johnny Monis has made greek food so exciting, and far better than any greek food I had in Greece. Every dish he makes has at least some greek influence. The menu gives you the option to have the prix fix dinner or degustazione. The dinner includes a variety of surprise mezzathakia (starters/mezzes), an appetizer, dinner entrée, and dessert that you choose from the menu. For the degustazione, your fate is left in the hands of the chef all evening. You also get a larger variety mezzathakia (if that’s even possible), more appetizers, a cheese course and dessert. Wine pairings exist too, but, at an additional cost. The current breakdown of the costs are:

  • Dinner $84
  • Degustazione $104
  • 3 glass wine pairing $36
  • 6 glass wine pairing $61
Based on reviews on the amount of food they give for the “dinner” option, we decided to stick with that. The sommelier suggested the 3 glass wine pairing for this option. I was hesitant, b/c being a “wino” myself, I thought I would run out. However, the pours were very generous, and it took me all the way to the end. The sommelier was exceptionally attentive and friendly. He explained each wine to us thoroughly and the pairings went great with the food. The pairings included both red and white wines. Neil wasn’t really in the mood for white that night, so, the sommelier gave him a small glass of red along with the white pairing. Along with the sommelier, the entire staff was super friendly and knowledgeable. I think there were at least 3 staff members that came to attend to us constantly throughout the night. They weren’t stuffy or pretentious at all. This was the by far the best service I’ve ever had at any restaurant, let alone a high end restaurant!

Ok, now onto the most important part…The Food.. I read a lot of reviews about Komi, so, I knew what to expect. I was so excited about the mezzathakia. It definitely met my expectations. The mezzes almost seemed endless, and we were anxiously awaiting each one. Each mezze was presented beautifully, and was so different from the previous. I think there were a total of 9 different mezzes. From what I remember, we had the following:

  • House cured olive- This was a bright green olive, and perfectly salted.
  • Feta fritter skewers- crunchy and warm, soft on the inside.
  • Roasted Red Pepper Gazpacho- This was the one mezze that I didn’t really care for.
  • Mascarpone Stuffed Dates- This is a staple; I read so much about this one mezze in particular, and it definitely lived up to the hype. It is a caramelized, salted medjool date, and once you bite into the warm exterior, you get creamy cheese oozing out. It’s total bliss! I think he stuffs it with a combination of mascarpone and greek yogurt. I just haven’t figured out the perfect proportion yet. My version at home is not nearly as creamy. I’ll just have to keep trying.
  • Radish piped with a soft butter, and topped off with a sliver of fish
  • Amberjack coated with oil and lemon- so simple, yet so refreshing.
  • Octopus topped with slices of avocado and a beautiful quail egg- There was something else on top to complement it, but I can’t remember now. Anyways, the presentation was gorgeous, and I loved every bite.
  • Mini Gyros!!!!!- I think this was mine and Neil’s favorite mezze. It is a soft pita, tzatiziki, tender marinated meat, and some tangy reduction glaze inside. It was the most flavorful gyro ever made. I would have loved to have eaten a whole plate of these. WOW!!

On to the appetizers and dinner: I ordered the pappardelle with baby goat ragu and Neil ordered the corn ravioli. Both were excellent, but I preferred the pappardelle. The housemade pasta was cooked perfectly, and the baby goat was so soft, creamy, and tender. The texture was so comforting. The chef actually posted the recipe online, and as soon as I can find a good cut of goat, I’m making it! You can see the recipe here. For dinner, I chose the hen stuffed with fois gras and Neil chose the beef entrée. The hen entrée even had a little serving of moussaka on the side. I’m not sure if it went with the hen, but it was incredibly tasty on it’s own. Neil’s beef was equally good. It was yummy, b/c my fork kept going back and forth between my hen and his beef. He also had flash fried brussel sprout leaves with his dish We loved both of our dishes, but at that point were still reflecting on the mezzes :)We were in a serious food coma.

But, wait...there’s still dessert!! Yes, I forced myself to eat dessert. I ordered the greek donuts with chocolate mascarpone pudding on the side. The velvety, warm pudding is what made this dessert so fabulous. I finished every drop of it and the donuts :)

The dining room itself is small, warm, cozy, and quiet. In no way does that mean you can’t make some noise. We saw a group of 10 having a very joyful gathering. The décor is very simple, yet elegant and the lights are softly dimmed. It’s just a very intimate, lovely environment, perfect for a special occasion with one or with family and friends. The vibe of the restaurant is simply comfort.

The menu has completely changed since I went. So, I think I’m due for another visit. I noticed a tagliatelle with veal sweetbreads, lobster and hedgehogs on the menu! Make reservations well in advance, as it books up fast. Oh, I almost forget, they gave us an orange lollipop at the end, that had a bit of a spicy kick. I was sad to leave.


1509 17th St NW

Washington, DC 20036