Monday, March 29, 2010

Allium Restaurant

Ok, so in case you haven't noticed, I've been on a bit of a tapas kick lately. I'm going to blame that all on “one of Ottawa's real foodies”, who left a comment on one of my posts a few weeks ago about her trip to Allium for their Monday night tapas. Getting out on a Monday is a bit difficult for me, so in the interim I've been jumping at any tapas-like meal I can.

Well, tonight I finally ended this charade (oh how I've been suffering), and made my way to Allium. One of my coworkers has also been at me to come here, although he felt quite strongly that I must go again on a non-tapas night when I told him I was going there this evening for dinner. What? Go a second time? Twist my rubber arm!

Since it was my obsession that brought us there, my husband and friend let me drive the boat. I immediately jumped in and started ordering.

Olives in herbs, chili, lemon, oh how delicious you are to me. We also got some bread for dipping that came with herbed goat cheese, olive oil and balsamic.

Roasted yellow beets. I love beets! As does my husband, my friend Gina, and many other people I know (Marysol!). These ones came with a pepper puree, creamy herbed goat cheese, heavenly candied pecans, radish sprouts and tiny round slivers of radish.

Another light dish as we slowly worked our way up to the heavier ones, Albacore tuna tataki with a sweet mango and red pepper salad, soy marinated mushrooms, spiced honey, lime, shiso.

This maple roasted duck breast was one of my favourites, served with red cabbage, foie gras vinaigrette and pea shoots. The menu stated it also came with candied pecans but they were nowhere to be found. That was ok with me though since they were replaced with these tiny little lentils that tasted just like homemade baked beans, yummy!

The smoked fish cakes we ordered were delicious. Smoking + fish cakes = heaven. These tasty bites were served on a bed of mango salad, guacamole, Daikon sprouts and roasted jalapeno mayo.

Then came the shrimp lollipops – so fun! Tempura shrimp, so light and crispy, melted to an oil as soon as it hit your tongue. The sweet chili sauce for dipping was to-die-for and made you want to eat so many more than the three on your plate. And the slivers of carrot on the side were doused in aromatic truffle oil.

The seared foie gras with roasted pepper French toast and maple syrup was painfully rich, but the pickled apple and apple chutney helped bring you back to normal levels of indulgence. The entire thing was like butter in your mouth.

And last, but certainly not least, the steak tartare. One of the more mild tartares I've ever had, flavoured beautifully with truffle oil, my favourite herb – cilantro, chives, lime, 8 year old balsamic, bacon candy – ohhhh bacon candy, and aioli.

Petite portions with a multitude of ingredients that made each dish unique, along with good service and a warm atmosphere made this evening one to remember. Tapas prices range from $3 to $12 per plate.

Allium on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Papas Tapas Martinis – Montreal

My husband and I were in Montreal on Saturday. The evening portion was reserved for the hockey game and yes, a hot dog. So taking the time to dine at a nice restaurant that evening was out of the question. But that didn't leave the afternoon out! During our search for the perfect afternoon restaurant, we came upon this lovely Portuguese tapas bar on St-Laurent.

We grabbed the table right at the front of the restaurant where the sunshine was pouring in. Giant white leather chairs pulled up to a table that had been hand painted by a local artist. The other tables were plain, so I say we got the “special” spot! (That's what happens when you go to a restaurant at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.)

We started off with 2 perfect bloody ceasars. Then came the hard part, making choices. The menu looked fantastic, bison rib, pan seared tuna in port sauce, oh where to begin! We finally decided to go with, what I think, were the best choices we could have made.

First, flambeed grilled octopus with sliced fennel. The plate arrived with smoking rosemary – so fragrant. The chewy octopus bathed in a yummy, slightly spicy sauce that just begged to have the warm buns (delivered earlier) mop it up. And the fennel, long slivers still crisp and fresh just completed the dish.

Then came the most amazing cod fritters. These lightly breaded, crusty fish cakes were served with a trio of dipping sauces. Creamy aioli, house ketchup and spicy. We were in heaven.

The final two dishes continued on the same track of awesomeness. Oyster mushrooms and egg sauteed with garlic.

And beef tartare, tender and piquant – I adored every bite. I was sad to see the meal end, but this was the perfect finale to this satisfying afternoon lunch.

Service was excellent and dishes range between $5 and $16. Had we been there for dinner I would have indulged in one of their older ports and possibly one of their half dozen desserts. Also if you're a martini lover, the list is pretty extensive.

Papas Tapas-Martinis

Papas Tapas Martini on Urbanspoon

Oysters and Pork

When my husband and I first started seeing each other, we ate out a lot. One thing we enjoyed doing was going to one restaurant just for apps, then to another for the main. This sort of “restaurant hopping” allowed us to get the best of both worlds and saved us the painful act of having to actually make a choice (oh poor us).

We don't do that much anymore. But we do still enjoy getting the best of both worlds. And on Friday night, that's just what we did. We actually had company coming over. But before they arrived, we snuck over to the Whalesbone for some oysters and beer. Yum!

Shortly after we got back home, our friends arrived. Donnie brought the meat (thanks Donnie!). A delicious hunk of pork stuffed with spinach, red pepper, ham and cheese. It almost seemed like pork stuffed with breakfast, the only thing missing was the eggs. He picked up these lovely rounds of meat from the Glebe Meat Market. My husband cooked them on the barbecue and served them with heavenly garlic, pureed cauliflower and sweet potato fries. What a great way to start the weekend!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

BBQ Chicken and Pork Burgers

My husband had some business to do in Almonte today and before returning to Ottawa he stopped in at Don's Meat Market for some ground chicken and pork. The results of that visit were to-die-for.

Pretty much mix pork into anything and it will be delicious. Add some Philippe de Vienne spices and it becomes phenomenal. My husband did just that tonight, following the many food pairing recommendations they have on their web site. The duck hunter's spices were the perfect match. Fennel, cardamom and mandarin peel, the mix of spices was flavourful but mild enough to not overpower this juicy burger.

My husband also served some sweet potato fries with a heavenly mayo for dipping. All he did was add some more magical spice. This time he used the cipâte du lac St Jean. Yummy!!

These spices really do bring a meal up a few notches, adding new flavours to some familiar dishes. My husband's meals are already outstanding – so you can just imagine how blown away I'm feeling right now!

Yay! An Award!

My very first blog post was inspired by a woman working at Navarra. The outstanding service I received in addition to the amazing food had me in such awe that I had to do something about it. And then it happened – Rachelle Eats Food.

Just over a year later, I returned to Navarra (I'd actually been a couple times in between) and found myself speechless when I realized that my server that evening was in fact the one who served me that first night. She had just returned from maternity leave. Nervous, but excited, I told her about that first post and how it was because of her that I started my blog. Her eyes grew wide and with sincere enthusiasm told me that at one point she had been questioning whether or not she was meant to be doing what she was doing. And then a co-worker brought to her attention my post, making her realize that she does make a difference in other peoples' lives, doing what she does best.

I now understand how she must have felt. Don and Jenn at foodiePrints have, since my early blogging days, been by my side. I believe Don was one of the first followers I had whom I didn't know (a very exciting step in a new bloggers journey!). And to have kept their interest this long, and now receive an award because of it, well, I'm extremely honoured. Thanks so much you guys!

Of course this award comes with some rules that encourage bloggers to get to know each other better.
1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.
2. Copy the award logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

Now the tough part, 7 things about myself that people may find interesting.

1. I have always loved food. But I didn't actually become obsessed with it until I moved to Ottawa. I moved here from Moncton, NB and back home, lobster was what always got me excited. I never did much cooking. I could bake awesome cookies though. My friends would laugh as I always had the same things in my kitchen – canned tuna in the cupboard, a loaf of bread in the freezer and a jug of water and a bottle of mayo in the fridge. That's it. I ate out often or would casually show up at my parents' place right around dinner time. It's when I moved here and in with my friend Zoya that I really became passionate about eating. She would cook me the most amazing meals every single night. I would sip wine as I watched her in awe. Our deal was – I cleaned, she cooked. And both being food lovers made us savour every bite we ate together. I think I'm like a magnet to those who cook, which brings me to my second point about me.

2. My better half. The man who makes me feel like a million bucks. The man who inspires me to write my blog every single night with his amazing dinners. He's also the man who taught me to take such beautiful photos with my point and shoot camera and who designed my header. I wouldn't be me without him. My husband is my rock and I am indebted to him.

3. I'm a huge dog lover. Quite a few years ago I wanted to open my own dog café and cook healthy dog treats and serve water to my four-legged friends while their owners enjoyed coffee. My Seb is my best friend, he's there when I need someone to talk to and keeps me enjoying the outdoors day after day. Seb has not been the easiest dog to deal with. I adopted him when he was 5 and he came with a lot of baggage. I believe the frustrations I've gone through because of him has only brought us closer together. Now at his ripe old age of 14, I can honestly look back and say that I've given this dog the best life ever. I love him so much.

4. Just over 10 years ago, I hated bikes and I hated biking. Shortly after I moved to Ottawa, I bought a bike. How could I not? Have you seen the beautiful paths we have!? I am now considered a cyclist, owning 3 bikes. A commuter bike to get to work and back and around the city. A road bike for long weekend rides and a mountain bike for technical trail rides. I love it!

5. My day job is in the field of advertising. I bounced from agency to agency for about 10 years until I finally settled on the client side about 4 years ago as the advertising manager for a retail company.

6. I love wine but feel I know so little about it. I've signed up for the wine tasting course at Algonquin which begins in May. Yay! Some more great stuff to write about.

7. I have the most amazing friends. I've been a pretty big loner my entire life, sticking to a few close friends. It wasn't until I moved to Ottawa that my friendship circle began bursting at the seams. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I'm glad it did. I've learned so much from all of them and am so thankful to have them there. Life would not be the same without them.

Now, to nominate 7 blogs. I thought this was going to be a tough one because a lot of the blogs I follow have been nominated already – She Eats Bears, Whisk, beFoodled, and of course, foodiePrints. But there are so many fantastic bloggers out there, it ended up being very easy.

A Kitchen Diary – This blog has a fun take on the traditional cookie-cutter layout most of us have. Beautiful photography and comforting recipes.

After the Harvest – Heather does an amazing job taking you behind the scenes – talking to chefs, bringing you good food choices and lots of fun random food posts. It's all about the food!

Girl About Otown – Katharine keeps me posted on all things Ottawa. Be it food, fashion, community or the arts. I know what's going on in this fine city.

Grab Your Fork – Every post on this site has me drooling. Helen's mouthwatering descriptions are my biggest inspiration. They make me want to eat so slowly so that I can pick out every single amazing detail that each ingredient has to offer.

How to Start a Brewery – Beau's doesn't do too many posts but I love it when they do. It's fun to watch a small, local company grow so fast. And they deserve it!

Simply Fresh – Jodi's love of fresh, sustainable and locally produced food is an inspiration. She does her best to buy the best. Great photography and some awesome restaurant posts too.

Smitten Kitchen – Two words: Food Porn. Seriously at it's best. I'm not sure I'd ever attempt to make any of the dishes but I sure love drooling over them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jak’s Kitchen

As my husband headed out the door tonight for dinner with a friend, I could see he had a worried look in his eyes. “What are you going to have for dinner tonight?” I assured him I would be fine – as he listed off all the things we had in the fridge, freezer and cupboard that were relatively easy to make. He closed the door, I finished up some chores and jumped on my bike for the 2 block ride to Jak's. Come on, you really didn't think I was going to cook for myself did you? (For the record, I actually do make the effort now and again.)

One of the things I used to love more than anything in the world when I lived in Moncton was going out for a nice dinner by myself. There's something just so therapeutic about it. Every single sip of wine, and every delicious morsel of food has your full attention. And did it ever tonight.

Ever since I saw their tasting special (5 apps or dessert of your choice for $37), I've been wanting to come back and dig in. The evening I saw it I had to be somewhere by a specific time and didn't want to rush it. It's been calling me since. However, after a few words with my server, I quickly realized that that would be too much food for me on my own (I guess I'll have to go back!). So I dumbed it down to 3. Three magnificent choices.

Before any of my apps arrived, a plate of olive bread and fresh rolls straight from the oven were delivered with olive oil and balsamic for dipping. As I began pulling the warm rolls apart, revealing their dense, doughy center, I begged myself not to eat too much. I hate filling up on bread, but it's so damn difficult to pass it up sometimes!

Luckily my soup arrived before I made it to the second roll. One of the best French onion soups I've ever had, made with rye rarebit croutons. I cut into the slice of bread with my spoon and realized that this was not your typical soup-soaked crouton. It was like a dream, melted cheese blanketing a slice of toasted bread that was still crispy, yet melted in your mouth. Each spoonful got softer as I worked my way to the other end of the slice, but the final bite still had a slight crisp. Mustard, thyme and beer were the added flavours that made your heart sing.

I love fruit in savoury situations, which is why I went for the rosemary caramelized pear and garlic confit tart as my next dish. These delectable slices of pear were framed in a light, flaky crust and served underneath a dollop of soft fromage du maison. Yumm.

Finally (and yes, I was getting full at this point), fish croquettes with smoked tomato remoulade and échalottes-lemon oil. Three tasty dumpling-shaped fritters breaded a little too dry and coarse in comparison to the succulent interior, but the mouthwatering remoulade made up for it.

This restaurant is a staple of mine for breakfast, but after tonight will have to include dinner. Although the view of the busy street outside isn't the most appealing, the warm and inviting decor inside, paired with the easygoing, cordial staff, make you feel like you're dining at a friend's place. Apps range from $6 to $9 and mains from $17 to $40. They even have smaller portion options!

Jak's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rice Wrap

Rice Wrap appeared quite a few months ago on the corner of Bank and Gladstone, taking over the old Don Alfonso restaurant. I was sad to see it go, but must say that I was happy to see a Vietnamese restaurant take it's place (because you can never have too many!). Ever since the construction on Bank, the Vietnamese Kitchen has never been revived. And I must have a spot where I can get bún that is close by and open on Tuesdays for that oh-so-sudden craving (a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in the city are closed on Tuesdays).

If you ever saw the restaurant before, you'd be surprised at the transformation. It's so fresh and bright in comparison. The soft lighting allows for a relaxed atmosphere and the service very friendly. One thing I'm not sure about is the tv. In some ways I love it – if the hockey game is on, what better way to watch it than while slurping pho. But it does take a bit away from the ambiance.

I went with my usual of course. Rice paper shrimp rolls with yummy peanut sauce. They were heavy on the mint, which I love (sorry T, you'd better not forget to ask them to omit the mint if you go!).

And vermicelli with meatballs and spring roll – crisp lettuce, slivers of carrot, cucumber and slices of meat that did not look like meatballs but sure had the texture and taste of meatballs – so tender and delicious. The spring roll was thin with a substantial wrapping, leaving little space for the filling.

My husband had the beef and egg noodle soup.

The dishes were good but not quite as flavourful as I'm used to. I found myself returning to the hot and hoisin sauces for an added kick. It's good to be the one controlling the added flavour though, rather than unwillingly pushing my sodium meter through the roof. I could add as much or as little as I wanted.

It's a great little spot that I'm sure I will be back to again.

Rice Wrap on Urbanspoon

Pascale’s Ice Cream

Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day. Oh how I long for those hot, humid summer days where the only chill I can get is through a sweet ice cream cone.

My outlet for enjoying ice cream on cold days? Apple crisp. I don't normally eat desserts, but when I do, I make sure it's worth it. And I don't skimp out on anything. How do you get the most decadent apple crisp? Top it with Pascale's Ice Cream. Not only is this ice cream locally made using all natural ingredients, they also have a ton of mouthwatering flavours from Dulce de Leche to Milk Chocolate Beau's (seasonal). My signature flavour however, is the French Vanilla, so creamy and delicious. It's the perfect accompaniment for a warm apple crisp.

Once the sun starts shining and I can barely eat my ice cream fast enough, I will be in a bind as to which flavour to start with. Dark Chocolate Bacon has been calling my name. And Vanilla Chèvre has got my heart in a flutter!

You can find Pascale at some of Ottawa's fine food shops including the Whalesbone Oyster House, the scrumptious Piggy Market (just try to leave with only ice cream!), the Red Apron, and a few other locations listed on their website:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chicken Marsala

My father-in-law is in town, and what better way to show our appreciation for his time than to cook a meal that he would love. He has spent a lot of time in Italy and enjoys Italian food quite a bit. For that reason, my husband decided to make chicken marsala. And wouldn't you know it, his April issue of Men's Health had the recipe.

This lightly breaded chicken is delicious. My husband cooked it perfectly, so juicy and with such a lovely light flavouring – the marsala did not overpower at all. Mushrooms, prosciutto and a side of linguini with parmesan make this dish a memorable one!

Season 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (pounded to a uniform 1/4" thick) with a pinch of salt and pepper. Put 1 cup of flour in a shallow bowl and coat the chicken. Shake off excess. Heat some olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and cook the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes each side. Remove and set aside.

Sauté the 2 oz of prosciutto for a couple minutes until it starts to crisp up and then add 8 oz of sliced cremini mushrooms and sauté until browned. Stir in 3/4 cups of marsala wine and 3/4 cups of chicken broth and cook until liquid has reduced to 1/2 cup. Pour over the chicken and add some parsley. Yum!

Épices de cru from Ethné and Philippe de Vienne

Ethné and Philippe de Vienne are true spice hunters. Traveling the world to bring what you need to make your dish as authentic as possible.

I'll be honest, I never heard of them until a few days ago when my father-in-law arrived. He had just spent some time in Montreal, and when shopping at the Jean Talon Market, picked us up 2 lovely kits – one of spices and the other, unique salts and peppercorns.

The packaging alone is beautiful. But what's inside is even more magical – flavours just waiting to blow me away. Who better to give them to than my husband, who I am sure will succeed at making my mouth water every step of the way. I can't wait!! I'll be sure to make a mention when they get used. Here's what each box had to offer:

Salts & Peppers
• Sri Lanka Black Pepper
• Tellicherry Saji's Estate Extra Bold Black Pepper
• Malaysian Long Pepper
• Tribal Green Pepper (India)
• Green Sechuan Pepper
• Red Sechuan Pepper
• Cubebe
• Tasmanian Pepper Berries
• Sarawak White Pepper
• Coarse Sea Salt
• Fleur de Sel from Portugal
• Camargue Fine Salt

Hunter’s Spice Kit
• Small Game Hunter's Spices (photo above)
• Large Game Hunter's Spices
• Cipâte du Lac St-Jean
• Duck Hunter's Spices
• Chili Spices
• Game Birds Hunter's Spices

I checked their site,, and don't worry, you don't have to travel to Montreal to get them. There's a store in Aylmer that sells them too, William J. Walter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St Patrick’s Day Feast 2010

Another St Patrick’s day, another belly full of goodies. Our friends Tony and Cathy outdid themselves yet again this year with their magnificent spread of heavenly eats. I just hear the word Irish and all my memories of this very party in years past start to fill my head.

All our senses were heightened within 5 minutes of entering their home. From the comforting smell of simmering curry, to the light crispness of panko crusted shrimp, the sound of laughter and vibrant music and the view of friends, some whom we hadn’t seen since the last party of it’s kind. What a night.

As if the long table of self-serve food wasn’t enough, Trish stepped up to the plate as the hors d’œuvres server for the evening. Balancing a silver platter full of unexpected little extras, she quickly became the life of the party. I was in heaven.

My first bite happened so fast I wasn’t even prepared (meaning I did not have my camera in hand). Spicy chorizo and bocconcini bites. I made sure I had my camera after that because Trish was by soon after with mouthwatering panko crusted shrimp – oh my!

One of the best bites of the evening – stuffed mushroom caps. Magical little creations filled with chopped mushrooms, parmesan, kielbasa, chives, breadcrumbs and topped with crispy panko crumbs.

As usual, the table was filled with Irish décor, almost all edible.

Sweet, festive cupcakes – really, what’s a party without cupcakes!?

Teeny little bite-size burgers that made everyone smile. I wanted to eat ten! (Don’t worry, I only had one.) I had to save room for all the warming curry dishes that sat at the end of the table.

Coconut curry chicken, probably one of the best combination of ingredients in the world. And a tomato-based curry with chickpeas, potato and cauliflower. Seriously, to die for.

And if anyone didn't get their fill on the above, the Dewie made an appearance at the end of the night as it always does. Hot out of the oven!

I can’t thank you guys enough for hosting. The countdown is now on to next year’s bash, which I’m certain will blow us all out of the water, again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tilapia with Prosciutto and Pesto and Savory Barley

I just ate the absolute best barley I have ever had. Not only is it's rich, nutty taste good on it's own, but add in the ingredients my husband did and it becomes magical. Probably my new favourite side. I hate to take attention away from the delicious tilapia we had, but oh my god, you just have to try this.

Cook barley until there are 15 minutes left in the cooking time. Throw in some whole garlic and chopped leeks. At the very end, stir it all up so the garlic mushes into everything. Add sprinkles of sage and nutmeg. Oh yeah, and lots of butter and salt and pepper. Amazing.

For the tilapia, place fillet on a hot skillet for 3 minutes. Add slices of prosciutto on top and place in the oven at 400 for 15 minutes. Serve fish side up on a bed of kale and drizzled with pesto.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Well I must say that it's pretty nice to be home again. It's also fun to be eating my husband's dinners again! It's that old “the grass is always greener on the other side” feeling. Just leave for a bit and you're reminded how great life and food is right here at home. And this was a great meal to come home to.

Our first dinner back my husband made tender chicken thighs stuffed with heavenly goat cheese, juicy red peppers and pesto. Simply flatten out the chicken, lay a slice of red pepper, some goat cheese and pesto and then roll it up. Cook where the fold ends on high heat to seal it together, then place in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes. Broil for a few minutes at the end. Serve with mâche drizzled in olive oil and dotted with chopped red pepper. Add more goat cheese if you like. Yummy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ottawa versus

After my recent visit to San Francisco I felt the need to do a post on how lucky we are in Ottawa with our magnificent restaurant options. As someone who has dined in some pretty nice restaurants not only in San Francisco but also in New York city, Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto, I must say, we’ve got it made.

We are definitely way above average in terms of food, atmosphere and service in our city. I wanted to take this opportunity to list off some of our best eats, just as a reminder of how fortunate we Ottawans are. Here are my favourites:

Whalesbone Oyster House
Murray Street Kitchen
Savana Café
Benny’s Bistro
Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro
Black Cat
The Manx

Also the Urban Element, which is not a restaurant but offers the most amazing food experiences.

And of course, the ones I still want to try:

Fraser Café

Oz Kafé
Le Resto
Juniper (haven’t been in 8 years)
Zen Kitchen
Wellington Gastropub (went when they first opened but have to go again)
Bistro Cordon Bleu
Le Baccara

Chez Panisse – San Francisco

Founded by Alice Waters, Chez Panisse has been around since 1971. The idea behind the restaurant was to make it as though you were dining at a friend’s place, with special care given to every dish. Each plate always created with top-notch quality, organic and seasonal ingredients. The push to eat well using local products goes far beyond her restaurant. Alice Waters works with youth in schools to promote healthy eating and how to grow and prepare the meals at home. She is the first of her kind and has inspired many chefs and people around the world to improve the way they cook and eat. A truly amazing woman to say the least.

Chez Panisse came highly recommended not only by our favourite little black book, but also a trusted source and friend. Perhaps I expected too much, but the food did not meet my expectations at all.

We decided to make a reservation before leaving Ottawa to ensure we were able to get in. They were booked solid the entire time we were in San Francisco, every night except our last. What a wonderful way to spend your last night in a city, dining at a renowned restaurant. We hopped on the BART and made our way out to Berkley.

The menu is a set one, prix fixe at $75 per person for a 4-course meal (prices change depending on the evening). Luckily they allow you to bring your own wine, so we did, our delicious Ceja Cab Sauvignon that we picked up the day before. Corking fee is $25.

The first course arrived, green asparagus and blood orange salad with olives and hazelnuts. This was a nice, fresh dish. The toasted hazelnuts and olives added flavour, but overall, lacked heavily in the wow-department.

Roasted Maine scallops with watercress soup and olio nuovo came next. I commented on how nicely the scallops were cooked as I desperately tried to find something exciting about this dish. That was it.

The last of the savoury was grilled rack, loin, and leg of James Ranch lamb with chanterelle mushrooms, sweet pea, fava bean, fava bean shoot, and escarole ragout. The lamb was cooked the way we enjoy it, red and juicy, but again, nothing exceptional. I’ve had much tastier lamb in my own kitchen at home.

Maybe the dessert will blow us away, we hoped. The Meyer lemon soufflé was ok.

I hate to be negative about such a highly-regarded restaurant but the food was just plain ordinary. My husband’s exact words were, “It’s a restaurant you’d bring your grandmother to”. Even the staff are so efficient and do their job so perfectly they’re almost robot-like. Everything was nicely cooked, but the plates lacked personality, flavour and excitement. For some, this is perfect. For me, I’d prefer to spend the money on a more impressive and unique medley of . ingredients.

Besides our overall disappointment, we had a great time. Our wine was amazing, and well, I got challenged to write this review.

Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon