Sauce

More vacation fun! I wanted to get this amazing meal recap out before I spill the beans of my next vacays scheduled! :D You can check out what else I loved eating on vacation here.

I eat at this restaurant (Sauce) every year when I travel to San Fran for work and I fell in love the first time. They had me at mushroom jenga.
Sauce sign
Sauce serves this ap of lightly breaded mushroom “fries” stacked like jenga or lincoln logs. It comes with ranch dipping sauce. Even people who don’t like mushrooms like these.

mushroom jenga
After another crazy-filled day of sightseeing Mr. J and I were starving (as in this was the day we didn’t have Ghirardelli sundaes for lunch). We also had endured a somewhat impromptu hike. I don’t mean the regular crazy hills, I mean up the side of a peak.

I mentioned this spot and the menu caught Mr. J’s eye too. Sold! It was near our hotel and I was pretty jazzed at the prospect of splitting a bunch of small plates.

Needless to say, I got the portabello fries. Mr. J got bacon wrapped mini meatloaves served on mashed potatoes with gravy. What a fun idea for a potluck or dinner party?! Then we split everything else. Put your fat pants on, there was a lot of food.
mini meatloaf
We got Dungeness crab rangoons. It was pretty much all crab, no filler. Swoon. They were really good. I kind of changed my tune when we calculated the cost per Rangoon. Whatever, we were on vacation.
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Next up was a side of Mac & Cheese. It was baked with a delightful cheese and cracker topping. I’m pretty sure the deliciousness came from a good quantity of butter.
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And then the server asked us about dessert. Mr. J felt like we had to get the mini doughnut holes with vanilla bourbon dipping sauce. I wasn’t impressed with them earlier in the week because they weren’t warm and soft. Same story this time. Womp womp. We did a good job at them nonetheless.
mini donut holes
I was really interested in the PB&J cake with strawberry perserves, chunky peanut butter layer, and vanilla ice cream center.
pb & jelly cake
That’s when it went downhill. There was a sampler and we went for it. You can see above that it had the doughnuts, the PB&J cake. It also came with rum raisin cookie dough ice cream sandwiches.
cookie dough ice cream sandwich
They put some strawberries dipped in whipped cream and brown sugar on for good measure too. Why? Probably because these are full servings and intended for 4 people.

Mr. J was adamant that we finish. We were laughing so hard about how stuffed we were that we gave it a good shot but it was a doozy. I had a serious case of the giggles and Mr. J was doing some Lamaze breathing. Our waitress kind of thought we were insane.

It was such a fun meal. I kind of love the last night of vacation. Do you? I means it is almost time to go home and by the end I’m ready. It was such a fun dinner of sharing and there was PLENTY of food. Mr. J and I truly got to just enjoy ourselves and relish the moments.

source: Sauce

Best Fries of My Life

Want to hear all about my vacay? Ok, great!

I feel like I’ve been traveling non-stop for work. Luckily, I get to go to pretty great places (love Chicago, and San Fran x2) but it definitely makes me focused on maintaining my everyday life when I am home (seeing my people, going to the gym, cooking real food, blogging, etc).

As much as I was tiring of living out of my suitcase every other week, I stayed after one of my trips and Mr. J came to meet me. I was really tempted to opt for a more relaxed getaway but I do truly love San Fran and I was psyched to share it with Mr. J for the first time.

You might think that spending time in a city I’ve been to about 5x might be relaxing, but he and I are like sightseers on speed. We literally race around a city to see all the sites, learn the history, do as the locals do, all while capturing the best photography light (for him) and eating fun local finds (for me- as seen here) . This is precisely why our honeymoon cruise through Europe was so appealing to mix up the relaxing I-don’t-have-to-think (as in I’ll just show up for dinner after lounging by the pool) with how-to-see-Rome-in-a-day.

I have a few meals to share with you from this trip. They are actually both restaurants I’ve been to before. I know that might not seem exciting, but I’m telling you. After running up & down hills for about 7 hours a day without stopping for lunch meant that by dinner time we were starved and trying to regroup after a busy day. Even I don’t want to browse reviews and price ranges at that point. Our hotel did have homemade cookies all the time and that’s quite the treat when choosing a dinner location ;)

With that long winded recap, I give you Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen!
Jasper's
I ate here after working a 24-hour event. We work for a million hours through the night, sleep for a few hours then everyone is up and ready for food. A group of us ended up here and I thought it was just so charming. They have this crazy-good side of brussels sprouts pedals with bacon and filberts…sooo good and definitely I want to attempt to recreate. This time I brought Mr. J back and he loved it too.

I was sad that they don’t have a veggie, turkey, or chicken burger since I can’t eat red meat, but I do get that chefs are sometimes quite against fake-burgers. It’s not really a burger-joint per se, but that’s what I had in mind. I did 100% get on board with a grilled cheese with pork belly.
Jaspers Pork Belly Grilled Cheese
Seriously best grilled cheese I’ve ever had. It was perfectly grilled on some quality bread. This was a substantial sandwich served piping hot. There’s not much worse than a limp, tepid grilled cheese. I liked the tomato and onion relish on a few bites too.

Mr. J got the “J Burger” how appropriate?! It had blue cheese, bacon onion marmalade…after that topping, need I say more? I’m sure it tasted better than my fuzzy-low-light photo makes it look!
Jasper's burger
Now, one of the best parts: the fries. This restaurant has a French. Fry. menu. The fries are seriously good enough to deserve their own menu. We splurged and got a side of fries to share in addition to the fries that came with his burger.
Jasper's fries
We had the regular thin fries and thick cut truffle parmesan. I was so impressed that Jasper’s really knows what they are doing with the fries and does it really well. These suckers are seriously addicting. I couldn’t stop reaching for more.

Needless to say we were wayyy too stuffed for any dessert. I learned a lot about their desserts from an obnoxiously loud table nearby who our sweet server humored and unfortunately the owner seemed to dote on. Chocolate cake with toffee ice cream dipped in chocolate does sound delicious now though.

Our server was from MA too and was so full of personality. She was great and I was FLOORED that she remembered the work group when I mentioned I’d been there a month ago. She remembered where we had been sitting. This gal was so great, attentive, and made us feel at home. Speaking of feeling at home, the fries didn’t hurt either.

Taste of the South

Charleston, SC was awesome. I love cities that feel like my own and I LOVE going places that just feel so different. Charleston definitely felt like we were away and exploring somewhere different.Sis and I discovered boiled peanuts. I’ve never seen such a thing! We got them from a crazy stand on the side of the road. Yes, we ate something that came from this hut.
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The peanuts were soft and squishy and super salty! They came in flavors of regular, ham, or cajun. I liked them but sis wasn’t impressed. They “double bag ‘em” as the guy told me so we could drop the shells inbetween the two bags. He also gave us paper towels for our hands. How thoughtful!
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We also stopped by a farmer’s market that was really cute. The produce was beautiful. Check out the peppers!
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We couldn’t resist the mini doughnuts.
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They even show you how them make them.
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I breakfasted one day on biscuits and gravy. Ohh wow. This biscuit was colossal and was pretty impressive. I rounded it out with a fruit parfait but that wasn’t as exciting.
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Charleston also introduced us to pink chips for breast cancer. That definitely dates how behind this post is ;)
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These cashew turtles brought me back to my high school job working at a gourmet candy store.
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We had barbecue at Sticky Fingers. The sweet potato puree was my inspiration for my own sweet potato puree! The smoked wings were amazing.
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We had a great time in Charleston!

As Southern as Fried Chicken

I went to Charleston, SC to celebrate my favorite sister’s 30th birthday. These posts are wayy overdue but you know how it is. One day it’s a beautiful early fall day and the next a turkey is on the table!
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I did my research before we went as in I perused menus and took a gander at historical sites. I actually included a list of foods we had to eat in the south including: fried chicken, fried pickles, grits, fried green tomatoes, dirty rice, and bbq. I have to say we did a pretty good job.For her birthday we enjoyed a totally memorable meal of fried chicken. Finger lickin’ good. We went to Jestine’s Kitchen and loved every bite.

They brought some homemade pickles to get us started. Yum! Totally tart and crunchy. I love when people give me pickles!
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Then we got an order of corn fritters. They were more filler than corn but they were good…especially with the spicy compote.
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I got the fried chicken basket which meant I got 2 pieces of chicken, a side, and slaw. I chose fried okra because fried + fried = delicious. It was so good! I’ve only ever had pickled okra but even that is rare and not something you see in the north.
jestines_chick_basket_590_390This was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

Sis got the fried chicken plate with collards and mac & cheese. It was all really good and was wayyy too much.
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The atmosphere was really nice. I liked how casual it was. It felt homey and friendly. There was a line around the corner when we left.Pssst! I have some tastes of the south coming up as well so stay tuned!

Better Than Ice Cream

Happy almost weekend. Don’t ya just need some ice cream? I could probably go for some ice cream any day, anytime. BUT there’s ice cream, and then there’s gelato. One of my favorite things in Italy is all the gelato. It’s so amazing. I also just looks so much nicer than American ice cream too. I remember how much I loved it the first time I had some in 2011 in Rome.

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It was just as delicious this time. I was also psyched to introduce Mr. J to it. Of course he loved it! He imagined it to be more icy and less creamy than it is.

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Gelato was our “meal” during our six hours exploring in Florence. In Spain we spotted this stick place that had it coated in a hard shell. Mr. J had to try one. Afterwards we kind of felt like just experienced a European tourist trap.

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It wasn’t as good as regular gelato. It also was quite pricey…darn those euros.
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Gelato is so pretty piled high overflowing from the metal containers. I scooped ice cream for a good portion of my high school & college life so I feel qualified to attest that 3 gallon tubs we hung over to scoop from never look this nice.

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The crisp stuck in is the perfect touch for gelato in a bowl. Love it!

Honeymoon Eats Roundup

I’m still recuperating from the wild blogaversary…just kidding! Here’s a rare weekend post because since the honeymoon, I’ve been to New York city and Charleston and have so much to catch up on! I photographed all my meals on the honeymoon. I’ll spare you a week’s worth of delicious three course meals but I wanted to document our favorite dishes.One of the beauties of cruising around Europe was that I got to eat anything I wanted and since meals on the boat are included, I never cheaped out! The downfall is that we weren’t ever in these amazing cities (Florence, Rome, Naples, Palma) at dinner time. Mr. J and I hurried to get  to see all the sites we possibly could in each place so we rarely even stopped for food! Eating buffet breakfast before entering the city kept us full anyway.

We got in the habit of relaxing poolside after running around all day and before dinner. Then, here’s where it got tasty. We would make a cheese plate and go to our balcony to watch as the ship pulled out. That is the life I tell ya.

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Now, let’s get to the meals. I had this pear salad with blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. What wonderful combos of flavors.

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My number 1 best meal I had was risotto with shrimp. DELECTABLE. I think I ate every bite. I loved the arugula on top. Remember risotto is on my list of dishes to make soon.
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Mr. J’s favorite meal was this angus pot roast. It was falling off the bone and he was really happy with this choice. Also, this guy loves any meat that comes with sauce/gravy.
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I ate fish at every opportunity I had. One really good one was tilapia over peppers and potatoes. The sauce was light but creamy and the fish was cooked perfectly. It didn’t look amazing but it was soooo good.
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Mr. J had a NY strip that he liked a lot too.
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Our favorite desert was a bread pudding with sticky toffee sauce. It was sweet without being sickeningly sweet and the egg flavor came though. The top was crispy, the underneath was soft, and the sauce was sticky…wow. There wasn’t definition from one bread chunk to another.
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All the meals were really good. I love Norwegian Cruise Line because of their freestyle dining options. We could show up to dinner at any of the restaurants at anytime and be seated alone. This was especially nice after racing around the cities and taking time to relax by the pool. I highly recommend NCL and hope to go on another soon (hint hint, wink wink)!

Spanish Winery Tour & Tasting Fun

One of the most fun cities on our honeymoon cruise was our visit to the city of Palma. Mr. J thought just saying Island of Majorca was pretty fun before we even got there.It was a surprise of sorts because my research suggested this coastal resort city wasn’t going to be as touristy or have as many sites we had to race around to get to.In Florence, Rome, and Naples we did our own thing since the excursions seemed too rigid and slow for us who wanted to see everything (read as: run around every minute we had in each city). In Palma, we opted for a winery tour and tasting the cruise offered and it was awesome. We went to Macia Batle Winery.
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The tour was super informative. I’ve been on winery tours before and I love them. It was so impressive that the tour guide was originally from Germany. She moved to Spain a few years ago. She’s fluent in German, Spanish, and English. Makes me feel like our education is lacking.

We saw the bottling machines and all the wine barrels. Some hicks on the tour were surprised that wine is stored for lengths of time. Wine aged? Shocking!
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I LOVED that they have local artists or artists with connections to the area design the labels. The art was hung throughout. I wanted to buy prints but they don’t sell them. What a cool souvenir!
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Now for the tasting…They had snacks too. I loved this place!

We tried 3 wines and several foods. The wines were so good. This was just the perfect setting to be poured wine, and told about it, and had plenty to drink and ponder. Marcia Batle grows herbs, grapes (obviously), olives, and have honeybees so we had wonderful things to try.
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Their olive oil is delicious. I wished it was bread to soak it up more, rather than our crackers. Then they sprayed the crackers with wine infused fleur de sel. Ohh my salty goodness. Amazing. I bought some fleur de sel with rosemary and cannot wait to use it. Sorry for the blurry photo…I was so excited to see the food!
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They also served some tapanades…three of ‘em. I’m not a huge olive fan, but these were very good. I probably liked them more than usual because of what else was in them. The roasted red pepper one was my fav and it was delicious with the wine.

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The winery served a local pizza too. It had a crisp crust with peppers and artichokes on top.  I wasn’t a big fan. Maybe because we’d just come from Italy or maybe because the spreads and crackers were so good, but this just didn’t do it for me.
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There was jam made with their grapes. Delicious! This was on a biscuit-like cracker. It tasted more like grapes than any grape jam I’ve ever had. Ever. We had it with a dessert wine which was think and syrupy.

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Marcia Batle had lovely frosted glass wine bottle lights and really creative decor. Now I want to try to make art out of my favorite wines. I was so in love, and so happy to be there. Mr. J and I left with a lovely wine-induced haze and lovely memories.

Sangria Kickoff

Before the honeymoon, I’d never been to Spain before. I’ve been to England, France, Italy, Greece, and all sorts of random countries in Eastern Europe but never Spain. Barcelona definitely made me want to go back. I loved it! It’s such a beautiful city. We landed, checked into our hotel, and immediately started to explore. I chose a hotel just steps off Placa de Catalunya. What a lovely area! It was also a holiday so it felt like our honeymoon was really off to a great start.We were starving and strolled past a bunch of out door cafes on las ramblas. We found a spot at one and began with some sangria. Ohh. The. Sangria. This is a half order! Mr. J tried it as well only because a when-in-rome mentality and loved it too!
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We each chose a dinner option for 3 house tapas and our choices of paella, pasta, or pizza. The tapas was heavy on fish, but I didn’t mind at all. Mr. J didn’t seem to either. One was a warm potato wedge with a sweet & creamy dressing. I liked it. Another was a crustini with tomato and a sardine. The last was a cold pasta salad with tuna. The sampler was good since we would’ve spent forever picking piece by piece.
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I went with the seafood paella. It was so good! I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’ve always wanted to try and and I got my most authentic chance ever! There were huge shrimp (with the heads), scallops, muscles, and some sort of tougher fish…calimari-esque but not exactly the same. I could definitely taste the saffron but it wasn’t overpowering.
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I loved it. I ate my first shrimp head since apparently that’s where all the flavor is. I’m not sure if that will happen again or not.

Mr. J got pasta that was good, but not as blog-worthy as paella!

I fell for Barcelona while sipping my sangria, munching on paella, and watching a street festival unfold before my eyes. I guess there were fireworks but I was too tired/jet-lagged to even stay awake until 9 PM (also known as when locals eat dinner).

Happy Halloween!!

Birthplace of Pizza

My honeymoon was simply amazing. Beyond words. We saw some really amazing sites in Italy and Spain and definitely have memories for a lifetime. I loved Barcelona and Florence. They were my favorites. I had such high hopes for Naples and wasn’t a big fan. It’s quite smelly and loud. I just hoped to see a charming town not infiltrated with tourists where we could wander, eat, and repeat.They’ve had a trash problem. It doesn’t explain the lack of ladies hanging their laundry out windows and the guys hanging around pizzarias I was looking forward to. This image in my head wasn’t the case. I mean, this is the BIRTHPLACE OF PIZZA! I thought it had to be amazing!We did have the most delicious pizza I’ve ever tasted. I have to tell you that before I relay our crazy pizza adventure.
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We found this pizzaria called Pizzeria Pellone that Anthony Bourdain went to. The pizza is to die for, but I’m also thankful that we made it out without losing cameras, or fingers, to an intense owner. Seriously. He was very scary and did not at all appreciate us tourists in his restaurant. At all. This blog seemed to catch him on a good day?

Mr. J has serious camera equipment. Like paparazzi style with 2 bodies, multiple lenses, tripods strapped into a camera backpack which suggests he’s hiking across Europe. (Love you Mr. J!) He took the time to put one away into the bag and the other was strung across his chest before we went in. I had my camera in my purse so other than the camera bag, the guy wouldn’t have known I’m snap-happy around my food.
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This man stands guard at the front of the restaurant while his staff scurries around. We were seated in his direct view, by the door. He immediately came over and picked up Mr. J’s camera still strapped to him. This guy wasn’t having it. The other server said something in Italian and he finally backed off. Looking none to pleased. Mr. J remained calm while this guy practically manhandled his camera. Don’t mess with Mr. J’s dog or his camera.

I’m pretty sure they only answered me as to “where is the bathroom” because I asked in Italian.

We decided it best not to take any photos. It was that intense. We hadn’t even suggested that we would be taking photos. We ate the best pizza of our lives, finished our wine & beer and got out of there. Mr. J suggested we take the leftovers to go so at least we could get a photo outside. He’s always looking out for me.

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The bottom crust was so paper thin you’d never pick it up. The sauce was light and pink. It definitely didn’t have any herbs in it. The buffalo mozzarella was to-die-for. So good! Whole leafs of basil were crisped on top.

It was so filling. I don’t know how they each eat a whole one. We split one and didn’t finish it. I’ll remember the meal forever, and especially the pizza forever. I’ll try to recreate.

Perfect Sauce at Sauce

 

As often as I travel for work, I rarely blog about my eatings during those trips. Seriously. I worked four cities this year so far and this is the first one you’re hearing about. San Fran deserves it though. I simply adore the city and I always know there will be unexpectedly amazing meals coordinated by the local staff. Did you see this other treat in San Fran?
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For the past two years we’ve eaten at Sauce, an unassuming little restaurant & bar in the Hayes Valley area. The menu features comfort food in a classy and sophisticated atmosphere. The food is not pretentious…it’s just all done really well.Feeding our large group, in a timely fashion, on a serious budget is no small feat. That’s why I greatly appreciate how generous and accommodating Sauce is.

Probably 90% of the group visited the bar before dinner. There were fantastic cocktails. I had my eye on a lemon-looking one garnished with a sugared lemon slice!

They started us off with the lincoln logs of portabello mushroom fries and fat boy ranch dipping sauce. AMAZING. These are so lightly battered and make you want to play Jenga when you see the tower. Ms. K who doesn’t even like mushrooms was impressed. We also got the meal going with some bruschetta. I loved it and could have enjoyed the appetizers as my whole meal.
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Dinner was family style with salad, buttery carrot coins, brussels sprouts, veggie lasagna, and a side of meatballs.

I’m not a huge fan of carrots but these were so delicious. They were thin and warm with the littlest bit of pepper made them this memorable.

The lasagna was so good. It was cheesy and the sauce made it bright and really flavorful without being too acidic. The crispy edges made me swoon.
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They served a really delicious chilled red wine. I knew it was coming so I hadn’t hit up the bar. The owner explained it and assured us it was meant to be chilled. Needless to say our table of 6 finished every last drop.

We even got dessert. I also knew this was coming from years past so I kept room. It was delightful cinnamon sugared donut bites with a vanilla burbon dipping sauce. Ooo that sauce! These were the perfect bites to finish the meal.
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I love this place and thought we were so well taken care of. The extras like appetizers, wine, and dessert were greatly appreciated. I loved every sauce we ate. The owner introduced himself and told us how happy he was to have us given his connection to the cause as well.