Category Archives: Italian

The First Time

It’s always better the first time around – more exciting, more memorable, more fun. That first time you try out that new restaurant, and it then becomes your favorite. That first time you take a mouthful of the ramen, and the springiness of the noodles and the richness of the broth is forever ingrained in your food memories. That first time you meet someone new over a meal, and time just flies like the conversation is endless. When the second time comes around, it is less exciting. You know what to expect, you discovered most of what is new about the person, the place, the thing. It is that uncertainty, whether it will truly be as good as everyone says it is or be a complete disappointment, that makes the first time so great. Treasure the first time, savor the moment, because it will only happen once.

These are my first moments at the following restaurants in Chicago. Even though the food may be the same the second time around, it will never exactly feel or taste the same as the very first time.

Vinci – Lincoln Park

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I came here with my sister to use a Groupon deal that I bought a while ago. $20 for $40 to spend at an Italian restaurant, count me in! I got the Spinach pappardelle – hand-made spinach pappardelle with roast duck, mushrooms, ovendried tomatoes, truffle oil, parmigiano. I loved the noodles. It definitely tasted very fresh. The slight chewiness and springiness of the noodles were perfect. The meal was great, and we even got a table right next to the window. A lot of the guests at Vinci that night were there for a pre-show dinner. I wish I knew about this show that was going on, because I would have liked to go.

Wasabi – Logan Square

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My friend invited me here, because her friend from NYC was visiting Chicago for the week. I am a huge fan of ramen restaurants if you haven’t noticed already, and I was excited about trying another ramen place in Chicago. I’ve had some pretty excellent ramen in NYC, but none that have really stood out to me in Chicago. This place was excellent. As good as or even better than the places in NYC. I loved it! I got the Tonkotsu Ramen – egg noodle, rich pork broth, berkshire pork cheek, soft boiled egg, marinated bamboo shoot, scallion, sesame, kikurage mushroom. The thing that makes or breaks a bowl of ramen is the broth, and this broth was spectacular. I was tempted to drink all of the broth after I finished my noodles! I loved the richness of the broth. The ingredients in the ramen were also quite tasty. The soft boiled egg, which isn’t quite as runny as a poached egg, but not quite as solid as a hard boiled egg, was the perfect texture for the ramen. 

The Girl and the Goat – West Loop

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My friends have been raving about this place for a while, and I finally got to try it. This restaurant owned by a Top Chef contestant is known for having one of the best foods in Chicago. I had high expectations for this place, and I was not disappointed. The small plates are meant to be shared, but my friends and I weren’t too hungry. We each ordered one dish. I ordered the scallops served with squash, onions, and other ingredients. The scallops were so soft. I took the first bite, and I couldn’t believe what I was eating. These are the best scallop I ever had! I hope the next time I go, the scallops will be as good as I remembered it being.

Cafe Iberico – River North

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I came here to meet up with a Georgetown friend who just recently moved to Chicago for his job. I am so excited more fellow Georgetown Hoyas are here in the city! Cafe Iberico is a Spanish tapas restaurant. The highlight of the meal in my opinion was the Iberico Styled Paella – chicken, pork, and rice baked in a pan with saffron sauce. All of the flavors from the meat and seafood infused into the rice making a fragrant and delicious dish. I could eat this for lunch any day!

My firsts with all four of these restaurants were spectacular. I don’t know what the second time will be like, but I hope if I return again it will be good as the first time.

 

 

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Everyday is a Magical Day in Disney World

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day Weekend! Over Labor Day weekend I went to Disney World, “the most magical place on earth“. I didn’t quite believe in this Disney magic till I got to Disney World, and every conversation with a Disney employee ended with “Have a magical day”. Wandering around Downtown Disney, a large outdoor shopping and dining area, all the trees were twinkling with white Christmas lights. There was even a store that sold Disney themed Christmas items year round called 365 Days of Christmas!  Booths sold light up Mickey Mouse ears that made for a festive night. A colorful merry-go-round spun around to the tunes of classic Disney songs.

Most importantly the continuous stream of Disney songs that brought back childhood memories of watching the classic Disney movies. For a twenty-something college grad like me, it is fun to pretend to be a kid for a weekend. The entire ambiance of Disney World brought out the kid in me. Thrilled and ecstatic to be in Disney World. To pretend to be a child, free of responsibilities of the real world, even if it is only for a weekend.

Downtown Disney

Let the magical memories begin in a place where all dreams come true!

dragon made from Legos

enjoying a drink at Paradiso 37

cilantro rice, fried sweet plantains and griddle corn cakes

Paradiso 37, a restaurant that features food from North, South and Central America, was a great place for a upbeat dinner. We sat outside overlooking the lagoon. There was also a live singer singing old and new hits. We made this dinner into a karaoke session belting out hits such as Adele’s Someone Like You to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. Not only was the atmosphere terrific, but the food was delicious too. I got a combination of different sides. I really enjoyed the cilantro rice. It was the perfect texture with just the right amount of flavor. I never had griddle corn cakes before. Tasted like a softer, moister version of corn bread. Yum!

Rigatoni Calabrese – Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, escarole

On our last night at Disney World we ate outdoors at Portobello, an Italian restaurant. I really enjoyed this dish. It was one of their lighter pastas with a chicken broth reduction sauce. The rigatoni was cooked to perfection, and really absorbed all of the flavors of the broth and the other ingredients.

the wonderful world of Disney

I’m a princess

Had my little kid moment, and tried on Belle’s dress from Beauty and the Beast. I love the weird looks I am getting from the man and his daughter in the back. I could just imagine them thinking “Why is that big girl in a princess dress?” Well this is Disney World, and I can totally try on a princess dress if I want to. My shining Disney princess moment!

Disney’s Coronado Resort

These are pictures of the Coronado Resort where we were staying. A beautiful Southwestern themed resort with a gorgeous lagoon in the middle. The luscious greenery added to the picturesque resort. I loved how the water had such perfect reflections of the resort.

The pool area in the resort. Funny story about our pool adventure. My friends and I were standing around in the pool bopping to some poolside Disney songs. This preteen boy swimming underwater resurfaced in the middle of our circle. This happened more than once. The final time he resurfaced in the middle of our circle, he appeared out of the water. He then proceeded to do that hair flick, where you whip your head back and water flies out of your hair, and gave me this face. I didn’t realize what was happening until my friend told me that he must have thought I was a preteen, and subsequently tried to put his flirting skills to use. I do look young, but preteen young? Must find a way to look older, or more my age. I don’t think putting on that Disney princess dress helps in looking older. Oh the wonders of Disney!

I have only seen a couple of rainbows in my life, and this was just so breathtaking to see. It’s a circular rainbow around the sun. How magical!

Check back on Sunday for a post on the rest of my trip: Universal Studios Orlando and Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens!

Hello DC, I’m just visiting

You never realize how much you miss a place till you leave and come back. The comfort of a familiar place that you spent so long living and learning in. When I left DC in May without plans to permanently return back, I felt excited about leaving DC. Free from what I thought was a suffocating atmosphere. During my visit to DC this week I felt so sentimental and a wave of nostalgia hit me from out of no where. Though I always expressed my dissatisfaction with DC noting how it doesn’t provide that urban feel that Chicago and NYC has, I realize now that DC will always have a special place in my heart. It’s cleanliness, quaintness, and all the memories that have been made in DC I will always remember. It’s good to back even though I’m just visiting.

Ingrid Michaelson Concert – Wolftrap, Vienna, Virginia

Ingrid Michaelson!

My roommate from college and I went to two previous Ingrid Michaelson concerts before, and this one is our third one. She was opening for Rufus Wainwright, so not exactly her concert but still worth going to. She sounds the same and maybe even better live! Love her.

Wolftrap music venue in Vienna, VA

Wolftrap is an outdoor music venue with a very wooden, camp-y feeling with typical seating and lawn seats. It was out in the middle of nowhere which added to the outdoorsy and natural feel of the place. Perfect summer night.

Here’s just one of her many great songs. She sang this song during the concert, and it gave us all goosebumps.

Georgetown University Georgetown, Washington, DC

Georgetown University

I never really appreciated the beauty of the Georgetown University campus as a student. I guess once you get use to something for so long you stop appreciating it as much as you should be. A gorgeous day roaming around the Georgetown campus.

The famous Healy Hall clock tower. During my last week as a senior at Georgetown University somebody climbed the tower and managed to steal the clock hands. I guess they are safely returned now.

Sweetgreen – Georgetown, Washington, DC

The thing that I love about Sweetgreen froyo is that tartness of their yogurt. There is only one flavor of yogurt which makes things simple. Plus that one flavor of yogurt is really good. Sometimes froyo could be too sweet, almost like soft serve. Sweetgreen’s froyo is known for being on the more tart side which I love. I got mine with fresh peaches and strawberries. Perfect treat for a hot summer day.

Pizzeria Paradisio – Georgetown, Washington, DC 

Bottarga – Paradiso Tomato, Minced Garlic, Parsley, Parmesan, Egg*, Bottarga

I’ve been here a couple of times, and they have really good brick oven made pizza. There is a slight burnt, crispy taste from being cooked in a brick oven. I especially love the Bottarga, because they put eggs on top of the pizza. Never can go wrong with putting eggs on anything!

More DC adventures to come.

NYC, big city of dreams

There’s something surreal about NYC that leaves you captivated, wanting more. During my most recent trip there, I finally realized how dirty, how crowded, how dark NYC really is. Yet even though I realized it I certainly didn’t mind. There seemed to be a whimsical quality of NYC that constantly draws me in, and leaves me wondering what new things NYC has for me. I was walking down the streets of NYC with my very good friend from NY, and she exclaimed to me “I think you are more in love with NYC than I am”. I think that is true. To a budding new romance with what seems to be the big city of dreams. Here is a tidbit of what I’ve been up to in NYC.

Ai Fiori – Midtown, Manhattan, New York

I came here for Restaurant Week Lunch. Sometimes Restaurant Week is a hit or miss, but this place was definitely worth it. The atmosphere of this place, and the dishes were really great. This is what I got.

Zuppa di Zucchine – chilled zucchini soup, basil, lemon

For my appetizer dish I got the chilled zucchini soup. I appreciated the portions of this restaurant. My friend and I were worried that we would be too full for exploring afterwards, but the portions were just right. I loved all the different flavors of the soup – the slight sourness from the lemon, the sweetness from the zucchini and basil, and the chilled quality of the soup.

Razza – pan roasted skate wing, baby romaine, white bean purée, preserved lemon jus

The highlight of my lunch was definitely the pan roasted skate wing. I was a little scared that the skate wing would taste really fishy, but it tasted great. It was extremely tender and flavorful. The lemon sauce that it came with really helped to add flavors.

Tartaletta – chocolate creameaux, salted caramel, hazelnut, fior di latte gelato

This was my least favorite part of the meal. Perhaps it is my fault. I didn’t realize that this dessert had so much caramel in it. It was like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but completely filled on the inside with caramel. It would have been great if only I didn’t hate caramel so much. Caramel is too rich, too sweet for me. I picked at my dessert trying to eat the chocolate. The gelato was excellent. Really helped to tone down the bit of caramel that I did manage to eat.

8th Street Wine Cellar – Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York

wine and tuna sliders

What an amazing happy hour. Entire bottles of wine for $18. My friend and I decided to split a bottle of Riesling. Sipping wine and eating the tuna sliders from 4PM-7PM. We were the first ones there, before anyone started rolling in after work. I loved the intimate atmosphere of this place. Casual, comfy, and cozy. Nothing like catching up with a friend at 8th Street Wine Cellar. Especially over a good bottle of wine which we almost managed to finish, but did not want to feel to inebriated on a Tuesday night when the sun was still out. In the big city of dreams anything goes. Sharing a bottle of wine on a Tuesday night at 4PM, why not?

Hudson River Pier – Manhattan, New York

sunrise

What a wonderful view from the pier! This place is the perfect spot to hang out and wander around. It definitely felt like an escape from the commotion of downtown Manhattan. Watching families enjoy a family outing, couples being in love, friends laughing and catching up, and people walking peacefully around on their own.

lady walking a kitten

Not expecting to see this happen at all. A lady was walking her very reluctant kitten at the pier. As a cat owner I know that my cat does not like to be walked. She would sprawl out on all four legs clutching to the ground as we try to tug and pull her along. Poor kitten… She must not be very happy.

NYC has been good. The freshness of the sounds, sights, people tickle my senses. Till we meet again my love.

Back to Blogging

Hello world! Sorry that I have been MIA for about two months. It’s been quite a long time since my last post on April 10th. Now that Summer has officially begun I will document all of my summer shenanigans and happenings as a recent college graduate! Blog from the viewpoint of a real person in the real world.

Time to play catch up with all of my food adventures. Here are just a few of the food adventures I have been up to these past couple of months.

NYC Chinatown Food Carts – NYC 

the expression of the guy on the right is great

When I visited NYC Chinatown with my sister and my dad, we stopped at this food cart to get fried fish balls. It comes on a skewer. A perfect snack for strolling the streets of Chinatown.

The Sparrows Tavern – NYC 

This place was featured on Food Network’s show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Conveniently we were in the area, and looking for something to eat besides nasty beer garden food. We decided to give this place a try, since the host of the show raved about the veggie burger. Too bad the veggie burger did not live up to the expectations. It was a good veggie burger, but I wouldn’t say it is the best. The fries were really good. The show said that they fry their fries with rosemary in the fryer. It definitely gave the fries a unique taste.  The place did have a really nice ambiance. Moody lighting, candles flickering, hipster crowd.

Highline – NYC 

biting into the ice cream sandwich

Highline is a rennovated, abandoned, elevated train tracks in NYC. It now functions as an elevated park trail for leisurely walks amongst flowers and greenery. My cousin and I shared a green tea ice cream with ginger cookie ice cream sandwich. Nothing like munching on an ice cream sandwich while taking in the NYC environment from above the bustling streets.

Matchbox – DC 

Stopped at Matchbox for lunch. Matchbox is known for their pizzas and sliders. I love tiny foods, so I had to give the sliders a try. The sliders were delicious! The beef juicy and well seasoned. The sliders came with onion straws which were extremely tasty. Couldn’t stop eating them, even though they gave me onion breath. eww..

Paulo’s Ristorante- DC

Every year Georgetown University has a big outdoor celebration called Georgetown Day that celebrates the Georgetown community. It was originally created in the memory of a Georgetown student who died from alcohol poisoning. Ironically Georgetown students over the years have turned it into a day dedicated to day drinking. Oh college! On Georgetown Day my friends and I went to Paulo’s, an Italian restaurant, for happy hour. $3 mixed cocktails including Butter Nipples and Apple Kamikaze. Cannot beat the price for the tasty drinks! They also have a list of happy hour appetizers priced from $3-$6. I got the eggplant parmesan. It was surprisingly very large. A little bit too much cheese for my taste, but still good.

Shake Shack – DC 

Why would anyone go to Five Guy’s when Shake Shack is available? I have fallen in love with the Shake Shack burgers. They use potato bread buns which hold the burger juices and keep the burger together a lot better than your regular burger bun. The beef patty is well seasoned. With minimal toppings including lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle you are not overwhelmed with a collision of toppings and burger tastes. The toppings are always so fresh. If there was a Shake Shack in Chicago, I would make weekly trips for my burger cravings.

Cafe Milano

Restaurant week lunch at Cafe Milano with my friend who just recently turned 21+1. Soo and I decided to go check out Cafe Milano for her birthday lunch.

Cafe Milano 

3251 Prospect St NW
Washington, DC 20007

outside of Cafe Milano

Cafe Milano is an Italian restaurant in Georgetown, Washington, DC. When we arrived the place was pretty packed. Perhaps because it was restaurant week. With restaurant week participating restaurants offer 3 course lunches and dinners for discounted prices. For lunch it is $20.12 and dinner is $35.12. I really like going to participating restaurants for lunch, because it is much more affordable for a college student budget. Plus sometime dinner portions just over stuff me, and I leave feeling bloated and food coma-ed.

Butternut squash soup puree

For first course I got Butternut Squash Soup Puree with Crumbled Amaretti and Mascarpone Cheese Crostini. This was my favorite part of the meal. I was afraid the soup would be too thin, but it was exactly the right texture. The crostini added a nice touch to the soup. It was crispy yet soggy from sitting in the soup. Perfect texture. I personally am a huge fan of soups, and this is one soup that was spot on.

Baby Arugula and Heart of Palm Salad

Soo got the Baby Arugula and Heart of Palm Salad with Fig Vincotto. She said that it tasted really fresh. It looked super fresh as well!

Parma Prosciutto and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli

For the second course I got the Homemade Parma Prosciutto and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli in a Lemon Sage Sauce. This dish came out too salty for my taste. I think it might have been a combination of the saltiness in the prosciutto and the cheese. The actual pasta part of the ravioli was really good though. Not too soft. Not too hard.

Egg and Spinach Fettucine Pasta in a Veal and Bolognese Sauce

Soo got the Homemade Egg and Spinach Fettucine Pasta in a Veal and San Marzano Bolognese Sauce. I got to taste it, and it was bursting with flavors and colors. Love a dish that is appealing to the eyes.

Cheesecake

Finally dessert time. I got the Italian Nutella and Espresso Ricotta Cheesecake Garnished with Whipped Cream. I personally am not a huge fan of cheesecake, but there were only two choices for dessert neither which I am huge fans of: tiramisu and cheesecake. This cheesecake sounded interesting, and it was good. The ricotta cheese was so creamy without being too heavy. I really liked the cookie,cracker like bottom.

Tiramisu

Soo got the tiramisu. Classic tiramisu composed of mascarpone cheese with marsala and ladyfingers soaked in espresso. The tiramisu tasted good. By the end of the meal we could barely finish our dessert. Fully stuffed and satisfied.

look at the spoon!

Cafe Milano has funny spoons. It is like a spork but without the prongs at the end.

Overall this place was pretty good. I really like the atmosphere of the inside. A chic, sleek Italian restaurant. My only complaint is their complimentary bread. The bread was very hard. I could barely bite into the sides. Hard not in a stale way, but in a purposeful way I suppose. Other than that Cafe Milano was great!

Stars – 4/5

Francesca’s Forno

Fourth Annual Secret Santa Exchange, and this time we decided to have at Francesca’s Forno – Italian restaurant located in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. Reservation for 14 made. Gifts wrapped and ready. Excited to see high school friends again.

Francesca’s Forno 

1576 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

A lot of restaurants won’t let you be seated without your full party. Knowing my group of friends some people were bound to be late, but Francesca’s Forno allowed us to be seated while waiting for the other people to come. In fact the manager even brought out a mushroom flat bread appetizer for free complimentary of the restaurant while we were waiting. He exclaimed that we shouldn’t fill up on bread and told us to munch on the flat bread.

No. 2 Pizza complimentary of Francesca's Forno

 No.2 Pizza – Mushroom, taleggio, mozzarella, fontina, grana padana, truffle oil

The flat bread was delicious! It was the No.2 Pizza. The truffle oil really brought out the flavors the mushroom. The combination of all the cheeses was just heavenly. The combination of all the ingredients together was perfect! I thought it was so nice of them to offer a complimentary flat bread/pizza for us while we were waiting. Brownie points to Francesca’s Forno!

No. 4 Pizza

No.4 Pizza –  Tomato, mozzarella, Italian sausage, salametti, onion

For my meal I got the No.4 Pizza. For some reason I was in the mood for pizza. The pizza was okay. Perhaps I should have gotten the No. 3 pizza with  spinach, mozzarella, ricotta, and shaved parmesan. The thing I really liked about the pizza was the mozzarella cheese. It was so good! It tasted really fresh and the abundance of cheese on the pizza was really great! The pizza crust was pretty good too. Not too crunchy, not too soft. Just right.

When I passed by this restaurant from the outside I thought it was a Potbelly Sandwich Shop. I walked right past it without realizing. The inside was warmly lit with candles placed in the center of the tables. The inside actually reminded me of a Potbelly as well, but a classier Potbelly. Nothing wrong with that. I really like Potbelly!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from the Very Secret Chris Chu Christmas Extravaganza. What a wonderful name hmmm? I think from now on all parties and events will be some variation of this.

Stars – 3/5

Il Canale

I went here for an end of the year dinner with my very good friend J.S.. We have this tradition where we have end of the semester dinners together. Reflect, laugh, joke, make fun of each other.  We decided to pick a restaurant on the fancier side, and Il Canale was a good choice.

Il Canale

1063 31st St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Il Canale is an Italian restaurant known for their pizza. I made a reservation beforehand, and upon arrival we were immediately seated. To my surprise when I walked inside the restaurant there were sample pizza slices right next to the entrance. For guests who are waiting to be seated they can enjoy a sample slice of their delicious pizza. What a treat!

No need to browse through the menus, because us foodies already knew what we wanted. J.S. ordered the Spinaci salad with chicken (because she always orders salads wherever we go), and I got the Margherita pizza. Yelpers were raving about their pizza, and since it is their specialty I just had to try their pizza.

Margherita Pizza

The pizza was really good! Reminded me of NYC styled thin crust pizza. My fave! Since I’m from Chicago I clearly have to root for the Chicago style deep dish, but secretly deep inside I am a huge fan of the NYC styled thin crust pizza. This pizza was great. The ingredients tasted really fresh. The dough was just the right amount of chewiness and crunchiness. The sauce soaked right through the thin crust dough really giving it lots of flavor. The one problem that I had was that the mozzarella kept falling off. Perhaps more mozzarella on the pizza would do the trick. Can’t go wrong with more cheese no?

The thing that I also really loved was the olive oil that came with the complimentary bread. I am a huge fan of garlic. Garlic breath not so much, but garlic powder, garlic chunks, garlic anything give me.  Soft garlic chunks soaked in olive oil. They were just so delicious.

Spinaci Salad

Got a tasting of J.S.’s Spinaci salad. It was all so fresh, and came with a flavorful dressing. J.S. really enjoyed her salad.

For an Italian restaurant this place has a very modern feel. The furniture was all very modern. Quite different from say Filomena with the traditional Italian atmosphere. The pizza was very fresh, the ambiance  modern, and overall a good place to celebrate any special occasion in my case the end of my very last Fall semester at Georgetown.

Stars – 4/5