Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

When I told people I was going for dinner to a restaurant that focuses on highlighting seasonal Canadian culture and cuisine, I was greeted with bewildered looks and many questions such as, “what is Canadian cuisine?” Excellent question! I myself was quite confused and unsure of what to expect when I walked into Keriwa Cafe with my dining companions. But after smelling the delicious scent of smoked meat and eyeing wooden tables and serving pieces, I knew we were in for a treat.

Homemade bread with butter, olive oil, and smoked pork fat

Keriwa’s menu is constantly changing and evolving to reflect the seasons and Canada’s heritage. Bison tongue, nettle soup, red wife wheat angolotti were ingredients and menu items that were intriguing and out of the ordinary. Our server was extremely knowledgable and took his job very seriously (maybe a little too seriously?) and I have not one complaint about the entire meal.

Bison slider on bannock bread with a fruit chutney

Wild mushroom soup

Red fife ravioli filled with creme faiche. Place in the soup and magic happened!

Being burger week in Toronto, this slider was a special on the menu…and we almost didn’t order it. What a mistake that would have been! That bannock bread was definitely a highlight and the fruit chutney really complimented the meaty bison flavor. The mushroom soup was another winner. I was expecting the typical cream of mushroom soup. Far from typical, the cream portion came when biting into the delicious creme fraiche filled angolotti. The soup was earthy, rich, and light all at the same time. This was definitely the winner of the night.

Spring chicken with buttermilk, rapini, farro, rhubarb

Rainbow trout with sea buckthorn, fiddleheads, nettles, celeriac

The mains were no slouches either. Perfectly cooked proteins, sauces and sides that were just so flavorful and really made you want to lick the bowl clean.

So now, when someone asks “what the heck is Canadian cuisine anyways?” I can reply, it is simply delicious!


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I feel like lately, I’ve really been digging Mexican food. Maybe it’s the warm weather or maybe it’s my love for corn tortillas or maybe it’s the delicious guacamole that accompanies every meal…whatever the reason, there is nothing better to me than sitting outside on a warm day and enjoying a fresh margarita, guac, salsa and chips.

In hearing many of the reviews for Playa Cabana, a Mexican restaurant that prides itself in fresh and local cuisine, it immediately moved to the top of my list for restaurants to try upon my return to Toronto. And thankfully, a friend of mine had yet to dine there and was up for an early dinner to try to beat the crowds and long waits we had read about.

Guacamole and homemade corn tortilla chips

The guac was good, the chips were fresh, but something was lacking. Maybe it all needed a bit more salt or a bit less heat on the guac…but I think this was the first time there was actually some guacamole left in the bowl for the waiter to take away. Little did we know, this was probably a good thing as the rest of the food was so delicious.

Tacos de pulpo: Grilled octopus tacos with charred jalapeno salsa

Tacos de pescado (baja style): Grilled white fish tacos

Have you ever had octopus tacos before??? Well, you are missing out! And the fish tacos, (now don’t all yell at me here) were some of the best I’ve ever had. Next time, I definitely want to try to score a spot on their patio to satisfy my summer time cravings.

Another restaurant that was on my radar even before moving back to Toronto was Acadia. A southern inspired spot in Little Italy, it has a very small, but unique and inventive menu. I already knew what I was ordering when I arrived there with my friend…and I am glad that I was not swayed by the other delicious sounding menu items.

Anson mills grits: gulf prawns, oyster mushrooms, pimento cheese, ham hock consomme, parsley

Yarmouth Albacore: blackened spices, chickpea, brown butter emulsion, maque-choux, dill

Wild rice and quinoa pilaf with golden raisins and pecans

I honestly can NOT stop thinking about these grits. Creamy, cheesy, salty, sweet, and that smokey ham broth…I would be happy with a double order of these grits on my next visit. And there will be a next visit…anyone craving some southern comfort???

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So here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! My thoughts on who has the best pizza, pasta, Mexican food and more in all of New York! Some things to note: I had many amazing meals and dishes that are not mentioned here. These are just some that really stood out to me…not to say I didn’t enjoy many many more! I also didn’t cover “the best of” every possible food category because that would just take way too long…both to write and read! And of course, I was not able to get to even half of the restaurants on my very VERY long list. This may shock some of you with the plethora of restaurant related posts on this blog. But trust me, there are just so many good restaurants here…it’s kind of overwhelming (and very stressful!) But I did what I could, and without further adieu and in no particular order…

The Best Appetizer: Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with truffle honey butter and burnt orange toast from Locanda Verde (review)

The Best Brunch: Cookshop (review #1 #2 #3)

So I think the fact that I went back to this place three times speaks to how good it is. From the ideal location right next to The Highline, to the wonderful and homey atmosphere, to the absolutely delicious food! Let’s look back at some of my favorites, shall we?

Scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, smoked salmon, caramelized onion, served on homemade biscuit and watercress salad

Pastry board: chocolate chip scone, sweet potato bread, apple muffin, pecan sticky bun, blueberry jam and butter

Poached egg popover: poached egg, popover, leek and cheddar fondue

The Best Mexican: Barrio Chino (review #1 #2)

I originally fell in love with their strong margaritas and fish tacos. A return visit showed me that their enchiladas were truly top notch.

achiote and citrus rubbed tilapia served with avocado salsa and pickled onions

Enchiladas Verdes: green enchiladas stuffed with zucchini and mushrooms and melted oaxacan cheese served with black beans topped with queso fresco

The Best Vegetarian: Pure Food and Wine (review)

This is definitely a special occasion vegetarian restaurant but truly delicious! Even for the non-vegetarians among you!

Chocolate mint sundae with thin mint cookies, chocolate ice cream, mint ice cream, and whipped cream and chocolate sauce…never knew a vegan raw sundae could taste so good!

Zucchini and local heirloom tomato lasagna with basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta

The Best Dessert: The salted caramel sundae from ABC Kitchen (review)

I know what you’re all thinking…yes, I do love me some Big Gay and Ample Hill, but those are in a category all to themselves. This is the best plated restaurant dessert…come on, totally different!

Sundae: salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts, popcorn, whipped cream, chocolate sauce

The Best Sandwich: The scuttlebuck from Saltie (review)

Homemade foccacia bread with pickled veg, hard boiled egg, greens, feta, house-made aioli, olives, and capers

The Best Salad: The kale salad from Northern Spy (review)

Kale salad with cheddar, delica squash, almonds and pecorino (the potato gnocchi on the right were excellent too!)

The Best Meatball: Piccolo Angelo (review)

Meatballs the size of my head! In a marinara sauce

Honorable Mention: Chicken meatballs from The Meatball Shop (review #1, #2)

Chicken meatballs in tomato sauce topped with grated parm and foccacia bead

The Best Pasta: House made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs from Frankies Spuntino (review)

House-made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs

The Best Pizza: The stracciatella and spinach pizza from Co (review), the margarita from Keste (review), the overall experience and uniqueness from Pauli Gee’s, (review #1, #2) and the bee sting from Roberta’s (review)

So I know it may not be proper to name FOUR places as “the best pizza,” but I think pizza is a very complex dish and there are many different kinds. When craving the traditional margarita, none is better than Keste. For your white pizza, head to Co. For the ultimate pizza parlor experience and very unique pies, travel to Greenpoint to see and meet Paulie Gee himself. And for fantastic sweet sauce mixed with spicy sausage and sweet honey, Roberta’s is truly top notch. All the crusts were fantastic, the sauces well seasoned, and the pies perfectly charred.

Stracciatella: crushed tomato, stracciatella, arugula, black pepper from Co

Regina Margherita: tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes, basil, and extra virgin olive oil from Keste

Grapeful dead: Baby spinach, olive oil, mild gouda, shaved parmigiano reggiano, and pickled red grape halves from Paulie Gee’s

Three pies from Roberta’s: From right to left: the margarita, the bee sting (spicy salami, hot honey) and seasonal (kale, parm, fontina, lemon garlic oil)

The Best Asian Food: Talde (review)

Yes, I realize this is quite a broad category. But, Talde really wins for me for it’s perfectly cooked and flavored whole fish and it’s wacky over the top cereal bowl dessert.

Whole market fish: banana leaf roasted topped with tumeric-tomato chutney

The Best Burger: The lamb burger from The Breslin (review)

Chargrilled lamb burger with feta, cumin mayo, and thrice cooked chips

Best Ice Cream: Anything from Ample Hills (review)

Seriously…any of their hand crafted, small batch ice cream is absolutely delicious. And they make EVERYTHING in house…from the butter cake in the ooey gooey to the oatmeal cookie dough in Nona D’s oatmeal cookie. I have yet to find a place EVER to match these cups and cones.

Nona D’s Oatmeal cookie on the left and pumpkin with graham crackers and marshmallow on the right

Honorable Mention: The salty pimp from Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (review #….too many to count!)

This sweet and salty cone should really be in a category of its own. In fact, the whole shop should be! From it’s eclectic decor, to boisterous servers, to a menu filled with names like Bea Arthur (which is also delicious btw) and Affo-“gay”-to, how can you  not fall in love with it?

The Salty Pimp: I think you’ve seen this maybe one or two times here before! Caramel line ice cream cone with sea salt and chocolate

The Best Overall Dining Experience: ABC Kitchen (review)

This award  is based not only on the food, but the whole package…service, atmosphere, and the all-round feel of the place really makes a difference to me. ABC kitchen was a stunning restaurant with fantastic service, beautiful food, and obviously, so delicious!

Line caught tuna sashimi marinated with ginger and mint

Roasted beets with homemade yogurt and balsamic

Honorable Mentions: Traif (review) and Degustation (review) and Allswell (review)

Traif’s unique combinations and flavors really blew me away. The 5 course tasting menu at Degustation was so impressive…if they only had better service, I think this could have been a winner! The fact that I am STILL thinking about the pork from Allswell is definitely worth noting. Also worth noting is I visited all three honorable mention-worthy restaurants with the same friend…I think she may be just as food obsessed as myself!

Crispy pork belly, caulilflower, peperoncini, romesco, parsley-garlic from Traif

Third course: seared trout with chard leaves on a bed of corn, farro, and pea succatash with chorizo oil from Degustation

Roasted pork with aioli, anchovies, capers, and homemade olive bread from Allswell

I think that I could have really gone on and on…I will never forget the arepas from Caracas or the tofu from Gwynett St. or the octopus from Kefi…but I had to cut it off somewhere! I hope I have helped you sort out where to eat in a place where you will never EVER run out of restaurant options. I have already had some fantastic Toronto restaurant experiences and have many home-cooked meals to share with you. So please, STAY TUNED!

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Yes, it’s true, the final week of NYC restaurant reviews has arrived. Don’t fret…I may have some special meals in my back pocket, you know, saving them for a rainy day! But I am looking forward to getting back to sharing some fantastic recipes with you and some more delicious meals here in Toronto (as in the restaurant I just visited last night!) So GET PUMPED!

Photo from Zagat

Our first of the last dinners brought Adam and I to Pok Pok in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I have to say, since honeymooning in Thailand last April, we haven’t been able to find any Thai food that felt truly authentic. Well, once we stepped into Pok Pok, that all changed. Pok Pok’s interior really made us feel like we were back at one of those family run restaurants on the side roads in Chiang Mai. And the amazing back patio, where they have a grill and beer slushie, was also fantastic. Again, twitter friend to the rescue, I discovered my new favorite cocktails.

The Stone Fence: Applejack, Som apple drinking vinegar, draft cider, and bitters. AKA my new favorite cocktail in NYC!

Pok Pok makes these “drinking vinegars…” may sound weird but trust me, just order a drink with it and prepare to have your mind blown! The rest of the food was simply amazing and the serious heat coming off the papaya salad brought us right back to our Thailand honeymoon.

Het Paa Naam Tok: Spicy forrest mushroom salad with soy sauce, lime, and chili powder dressing, shallots, mint, cilantro, and rice powder

Cha Cha “La Vong:” Vietnamese catfish marinated in tumeric and sour sticky rice and fried in tumeric oil with scallions and dill. Served on rice vermicelli. You smelled this from across the room! This was my fave dish of the night!

Papaya Pok Pok with sticky rice: spicy green papaya salad

Our last dinner, just the two of us, took us back to the restaurant where we had our first dinner in Brooklyn way back in May, 2011. Al Di La in Park Slope has such a cozy vibe, and as we settled into our booth, we felt like we had just moved to Brooklyn again. Famous for their homemade pasta and rabbit dishes…you can guess what we went for!

Red beet and ricotta ravioli with melted butter, parm, and poppy seeds

Braised rabbit with black olives and polenta. Basically tasted like a richer chicken but that polenta…so creamy!

Homemade tortelloni with mascarpone and artichokes

On our first visit, the table next to us ordered their ricotta doughnuts for dessert and the smell alone made us order our own batch. This visit was no exception and they were just as delicious as the first time!

Ricotta doughnuts with melted chocolate and whipped cream for dipping

My parents arrived for the weekend to help us move and drive all of our stuff home. Don’t worry, in between lots of packing, I made sure we had time to hit up two more restaurants. Juventino is a Mexican inspired fusion restaurant in Park Slope. A beautiful rustic interior, the service and food was truly top-notch.

Bread plate. Served with roasted garlic, goat cheese, and honey butter with sage

Mushroom soup with truffle oil and crisp egg. This was the my favorite. The egg was soft boiled, breaded, and fried and sitting on a bed of delicious tomato sauce. So unique!

Seared scallops with corn puree, glazed carrots, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. This corn puree tasted like pure roasted corn. So good!

Seared cod with tomato rice, citrus beurre blanc and caviar

Roasted free range chicken with sous vide breast, roasted vegetables, pickled carrots, and white truffle honey

The owner noticed that we had been waiting a very VERY long time for our entrees (re: over an hour). He wasted no time in coming over and was so apologetic, he comped the entire meal. We were all kind of shocked but he was insistent that our whole meal (we were a table of 6 who all ordered apps and mains) was on the house. I was blown away…the food was delicious and beautiful and service like that, really just can’t be beat.

The final meal also showed how good the customer service can be in some of New York’s restaurants. Aquagrill in Soho seemed to be the perfect spot for a fish loving family.

Complimentary tuna tartare on potato chip

Onion foccacia, jalapeno corn bread, ciabatta

With little touches, like complimentary tuna tartare and fantastic bread service, we were off to a good start. The waitress was extremely helpful in helping us all choose our orders and the smells coming from other people’s tables made our mouths water!

Grilled striped bass with parmesan gnocchi, maitake mushrooms, and mushroom gravy

Caramelized mango tart with mascarpone cheese and macadamia ice cream. Surprisingly very bland.

Adam, has you may have noticed from his love of Kraft dinner and really, anything I make, is not a picky eater. So when he commented about how his fish tasted “off,” I knew something must be wrong. The manager immediately came over, apologized profusely, took his entrée off the bill and gave us a free dessert. Might not have been the best dessert, but it was a very nice touch.

Miso glazed sea bass with Korean kimchi, twice cooked string beans, and a wasabi miso sauce

My fish however, was perfectly cooked and I literally licked that plate clean (okay, so maybe not licked but mopped it up with the delicious onion foccacia).

So how’s that for a final week of eating? Not bad, if I do say so myself! Next up, what you’ve all been waiting for, my “best of” New York list. So stay tuned!

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Well, we are winding down on my NYC restaurant posts…only a few more to go before “The Best Of” can be revealed. I know, you all must be on the edge of your seats!

Remember when I talk about not being the only “lady who lunches” in New York? Well, to prove my point even further, let me share my experience when meeting Katherine for lunch on a random Friday at Cafe Gitane in Nolita. I had heard rumors about how busy this small Moroccan/French cafe gets on the weekends. So, being a lady of leisure, I figured a week day lunch would be the perfect opportunity to finally cross this spot off my list. How wrong I was! Katherine and I arrived there to a 20 minute wait with no chance of grabbing an outdoor table. Once seated, we were elbow to elbow with our neighbors and the place was so loud, I think we were practically screaming at each other while we caught up on our latest running and restaurant adventures. Can someone please explain to me how the citizens of New York City have the time and money to take extra long, mid-week lunches?? I appreciate your responses.

The menu at Cafe Gitane was quite appealing…there were many a dish that sounded extremely tasty and all of the food looked so fresh and delicious. I already had my heart set on their famous avocado toasts and luckily, Katherine is always up for sharing!

Avocado toast with lemon and chili

Smoked trout salad with arugula, lentils, goat cheese, dried cranberries, walnuts, avocado, and cherry tomatoes

Avocado on toast–sounds so simple, right? The addition of lemon juice and red pepper flakes on delicious toasted multigrain bread really elevated this dish to the next level. But be warned, the toasts do pack quite a bite! The salad was actually my definition of a perfect salad with so many different flavors and textures: salty and smoky trout, creamy goat cheese, sweet cranberries, rich avocado, crunchy walnuts, and filling lentils…I am already crafting my recipe re-creation, so stay tuned!

My other weekday lunch took me to the very popular Madison Square Eats. If I thought Cafe Gitane was crowded…Wow! Literally PACKED with people escaping their offices to try out a very large selection of eats. From Momofuku Milk Bar to Eataly to Mile End, this place had it all. But I had my heart set on Roberta’s, a Bushwick spot famous for their pizza that I had not been able to get to as of yet.

Roberta’s built a wood burning oven right in the middle of Madison Square

Three pies from Roberta’s: From right to left: the margarita, the bee sting (spicy salami, hot honey) and seasonal (kale, parm, fontina, lemon garlic oil)

The bee sting definitely echoed Paulie Gee’s flavor combination, but I think Roberta’s crust and sauce may be just a smidgen better (don’t worry…I still love me some Paulie!) The seasonal pizza was also delicious, but there’s something about the sweet, salty, and spicy combo of the bee sting that won me over. I highly recommend you brave the crowds and the heat and give MSE a chance. I wish I could return to try some Arancini Bros…so go try them for me please!

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While I may have journeyed from The Big Apple on a long 9 hour car ride north to Toronto, I still have a few more blog-worthy NYC restaurant visits to share. It was hard to keep up while eating out at least one meal a day for the past two weeks, rough life I know, so I have a bit of catch-up to do!


One of these meals was dinner with a lovely girl friend at what I now consider to be the most beautiful restaurant in New York. Salinas, a Spanish restaurant in Chelsea, is truly a stunning spot. With gorgeous high ceilings and decor, my friend and I could not stop looking around and staring…not only at the beautiful surroundings, but the beautiful people dining there as well. The menu items all sounded very intriguing and different, divided into tapas, small plates, and entrees, everything is designed to be shared. With help from our knowledgable server and some twitter friends, there was not one dish that disappointed.

Spanish flat bread, dry aged Mahon cheese, honey, thyme and sea salt

Fried Brussel sprouts, green cauliflower, citrus zest, mint yogurt, pimento

Blue fin tuna, tomato escabeche, pickled seasonal baby greens, chickpeas, red onion, sherry vinagrette

Fideos Negros: Crispy vermicelli, shaved sepia, watercress, roasted tomato, sofrito, and beet powder. It was then all mixed together into a creamy delicious mass of noodles!

The fideos negros was definitely my favorite and also the most unique dish we ordered. So richly flavored and richly colored, this intensely black dish just blew my mind! My friend favored the special of the evening…

Halibut with multigrain smoked octopus risotto

The smoky and grainy risotto paired with the flaky and melt-in-your mouth halibut was simply divine. And to think…we almost didn’t order this dish!

While this restaurant may not be as well-known or popular as another much talked about West Village eatery, I highly recommend you check it out! One of the best meals to date! On that note…stay tuned for a later blog post featuring “my best of” New York eats. But, if you can belive it, we have a few more meals to get to before that!

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Yes, I have in fact become a “lady who lunches.” Not a bad gig, mind you. And what I have found the most interesting is how in fact, I am not alone in this. Restaurants in NYC are very busy mid-day. Sure, a lot of people are probably on their lunch break, but it also seems a lot of people just have the time for a long and leisurely mid-day lunch. Oh how I wish this was always the case for me! But the past two weeks, I have joined this group of well dressed women and men for many a delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch.

An early morning spin class at Soulcycle (the most incredible and intense spinning class I’ve EVER taken) ended with a delicious morning breakfast in Tribeca at Kitchenette with Leticia and Katherine. This very cutesy diner/bakery serves up some delicious and very large plates of comfort food.

My choice on the recommendation of the waiter: The lumberjack: Peach pancakes, scrambled egg whites, homemade turkey sausage, maple syrup

Brioche french toast with fresh strawberries

The Kitchenless: Egg white, cheese, tomato, biscuit sandwich

The very LARGE lumberjack platter definitely satisfied after the intense soulcycle class. The pancakes were not your ordinary pancakes…made fresh from their four grain mix with sweet peaches, they were light and fluffy and my dining partners agreed, quite delicious.

From comfort food breakfast to comfort food lunch, Parm, the casual outpost from Torrisi Italian Specialties, has been on my list ever since I read about their delicious turkey platter on Mckenzie’s blog. So I knew what I was eating for lunch. Luckily, my companion in weekday lunching was in the sharing mood and we ordered enough food for leftovers the next day.

House roasted turkey platter with Sunday salad


Giardinia pickles and spicy rabe

Turkey breast has the tendency to be dry but not this bird. It was super moist and flavored with some sort of herb filled  oil. The spicy and thick sauce on the side added a really nice touch. I also have decided from here on out, asparagus should always be coated with tons of parm and tossed with buttery croutons. After all this heavy comfort food eating, a vegan lunch at Peacefood on the UWS was a nice change of pace. And lunching with new friend Ashley was also a very nice treat! Ashley had dined at Peacefood many times and was very helpful in ensuring we ordered and shared all of Peacefood’s specialties.

Indian spiced chickpea fries

Roasted brussels sprouts and sauteed kale

Roasted Japanese pumpkin sandwich: mashed and seasoned with a little sea salt, black pepper, and olive oil, topped with caramelized onions, ground walnuts, vegan cheese, and greens

The chickpea fries were not exactly what I expected…which was a good thing because they were WAY more delicious than I imagined. The Indian spices really worked well with the chickpea batter and the crispy exterior and soft interior was so texturaly pleasing. I have previously professed my love for all things gourd-like and this sandwich was no exception. The sweet filling and onions were just unbelievable. My one issue was with the very dry bread. I guess that’s what happens when you order a sandwich on all natural rye/flax seed bread. But the filling more than made up for this in my eyes.

I know some of you are thinking, “Is there any food I haven’t eaten yet???” Surprisingly, yes! In all my time here, I had yet to try the famous soup dumplings found in many of the establishments in Chinatown. Well, this all changed when I lunched with a friend at not one, but TWO restaurants for our second traveling lunch (see our Xian Famous Foods tour). The tour began at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe. After some good advice from a feisty foodie, this spot was chosen as the place to have my very first soup dumplings experience. And while we were there, we should try some of their other items from their extremely lengthy menu, no?

Steamed tiny buns with pork and crab (AKA soup dumplings). Still steaming!

Black mushrooms with rice cakes

The tiny buns are filled with tender pork and crab and a delicious broth. I would have liked a tad more soup in my “soup” dumplings but otherwise, they were everything I had read and dreamed about! These rice cakes were also a nice dish. They had a terrific chewy texture and mixed with meaty and even chewier mushrooms, this dish was also a hit! But this was a traveling lunch, right? So still slightly peckish, my friend brought me to one of her favorite Malaysian restaurants in Chinatown, Nyonya. It’s hard to believe, but this menu may have been even bigger than Cafe Shanghai’s extensive list of dishes. Luckily, my friend had been here many MANY times and knew the perfect dishes to order to satisfy our appetites.

Spicy crispy squid: Fried squid tentacles in special sauce

Homemade roti canai (Indian pancake): Crispy style pancake with curry dipping sauce

I will quote my friend to describe the roti: “Like the best pizza dough…crispy and chewy at the same time!” Those squid were like nothing I’ve ever had before. Almost caramelized and not breaded or greasy like typical fried squid. Its the type of food you could just keep eating bowls and bowls of and never get full. Like the perfect TV watching snack.  I think I make a pretty good “lady who lunches,” wouldn’t you agree?

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