{ Slate Bleu } ***

Escargot en Croute
100 South Main Street
Doylestown Pa 18901
215.348.0222

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My friend Liz and I constantly find ourselves asking the question, “where should we go for dinner tonight?” We live in a small town with fairly limited dining options, which leads us to frequent the same four places over and over again each week: Domani Star, Ooka, M.O.M.s, and Quinoa. But tonight we were longing to break out of our little routine so we ventured to try the French restaurant Slate Bleu.

It is by no means new to the neighborhood—if fact, it has established a sort of cult following—but it always falls of my radar because its location is slightly hidden. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

Tonight we arrived without a reservation and found ourselves seated without a problem in the elegant downstairs dining area (I prefer this downstairs bar area to the upper tier dining room, which is a bit more removed from the pulse of the restaurant). The décor is very chic and modern, and lends itself well to an impressive first-date kind of place.

After looking over the cocktail list, I decided to try the Bourbon St. Ginger on the rocks, made with Elderflower liquor, bourbon, and a splash of ginger ale ($9). The slight fizz was refreshing, but the drink was definitely potent. I also recommend the Frozen Grapefruit Martini made with absolut vodka, dry vermouth, sorbet, and grapefruit segments ($13). It is certainly pricey, but so unique and delectable that it can commend the price point.

To start we ordered the Salade Ardoise with mixed greens, figs, French bleu cheese, Prosciutto, pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette ($12.50). We had the intentions of sharing the salad, but ordered a second to each have our own after the first bite! The bleu cheese was excellent and the figs were so good with the salty ham and vinegar.

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The Escargot en Croute, a classic French appetizer of snails with garlic and herb butter baked in pastry ($12.50), was also very tasty. It was my first experience with escargot and I expected to be leery about the texture, but the flakey and buttery croute provided enough contrast for me to enjoy them. Caution: there is a TON of garlic used in the making of this dish!

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For dinner I ordered the Thai Steamed Mussels with coconut, ginger, and lemongrass with a side order of fries ($15.50). I found the broth bland because they used coconut water instead of coconut milk. I thought it was a bit too light without the creamy component, but the mussels themselves were nice and plump. The fries were also excellent!

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Liz had an order of the Chicken Paillarde with artichokes, nicoise olives, and saffron risotto ($14.50). She is a risotto kind of girl due to her gluten free diet, and she claims that this is the best risotto that she has ever had. As for the rest of the dish, chicken is chicken….

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Since my initial visit, I have gone back and tried the Bar Steak Au Poivre, which is a pepper encrusted petit NY steak served with fries ($20.50). I was terribly disappointed by the steak, which I requested at medium rare temp and was served more than well done. The piece of meat shrank down to nothing, but I was so hungry that I continued to eat after bringing it to my server’s attention. Unfortunately, they did nothing to rectify the situation, which I found to be a bit of a turn off and I certainly won’t suggest that anyone order a steak there. The French are infamous for under cooking their beef, so to be served so well done is a bit odd.

Steak Au Poivre

Overall, I like the idea of going back for a nice meal at the bar with a friend or on a date. Get a cocktail and either a cheese platter or one of the lighter menu items to share. I would try the mussels in traditional white wine garlic sauce next time, and steer clear of steak.

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{ El Vez } *****

 Chicken Chopped Salad1
 
121 S 13th Street (on corner of Sansom)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215.928.9800

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No one enjoys Mexican food more than I do. I know it’s a bold statement, but I dare to make the claim and stand behind it. I could literally eat a taco for every meal, each day, for the rest of my entire life….and be perfectly happy about it!

Naturally, being a Philadelphia resident and a Mexican food slut, I was very anxious to try Stephen Starr’s trendy El Vez restaurant, located on the corner of 13th and Sansom. The décor is fitting for a place located in the heart of Philly’s Gay-borhood; the colors are loud, bright, and fun with retro wall hangings, and uniquely structured booths. The bar is certainly a scene, drawing quite a noteworthy crowd throughout the evening (Charles Barkley was there the last time that I visited!).

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I suggest that you grab a margarita at the bar before your meal but then head to a booth for your actual meal. Personally, I like to be out of the public eye when eating Mexican food, so I can get my grub on shamelessly. …Although sometimes I do get caught!

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#I’mNotPrettyWhenIEatMexican

My two favorite cocktails on the menu are: (1) Perfecto Margarita made with el jimador blanco, Cointreau, grand marnier, and fresh lime juice (on the rocks with salt, of course!)

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(2) Guava Mojito made with Bacardi, Cruzan guava rum, pink guava puree, lime, and mint. El Vez is quite famous for their Blood Orange Margarita, but I not a fan of frozen margaritas, and it cannot be served on the rocks so I have yet to try it for myself (Yelpers rave about it though!).

Guava Mojito 

I have also tried the Pina Especiada with jalapeno-infused tequila and pineapple puree, as well as the Granada Margarita, which is their version of a pomegranate margarita. The pineapple one was too acidic and the pomegranate was very generic.

Pomegranate Marg

As far as food orders go, you MUST try the Taco Tasting Platter if you want to experience a variety of flavors in one convenient and satisfying plate ($25).

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It comes with an assortment of 5 soft-shell tacos, including: seabass, beef, chicken tinga, carnitas pork, and mahi mahi. The Mahi tacos are my absolute favorite and I usually ask for two of those, in place of the one seabass taco. The Mahi fish taco is life-changing, I kid you not!

Carnita Pork Steak Spicy Chicken

I also like their guacamole, which is an enormous portion to share for a table of 3-4 people. The Bazooka Limon with goat cheese, pistachio, chile flakes, and roasted tomatoes was recommended by my server on my first visit to El Vez, and it has remained my favorite. The creamy goat cheese offsets the acid of the roasted tomatoes and the pistachios add a lovely crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth Guacamole.

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Next on my list of suggestions are the Macho Nachos with shredded steak, black beans, smoked chili salsa, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and monterey jack. These can be ordered in a half portion for just $6!!! It is a steal because the portion is still massive. If you are dining on a budget, this is the best bang for your buck!

Macho Nacho Upclose

If your looking to keep your figure, try the Mexican Chopped Salad with Blackened Chicken, which combines romaine, watercress, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, chayote, corn, and black beans with queso fresco, crispy tortillas, and both chipotle ranch and cumin-lime vinaigrette. It looks pretty straightforward when it arrives at the table, but the layers of flavor are complex and delicious. I like to switch between the two dressings with each forkful!

Chicken Salad

Lastly, I recommend the Creamy Poblano Corn Rice as a side dish. It is similar to a rich and creamy risotto, and it packs a tiny bit of heat. Ultra decadent, but delicious.

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This is a great place to celebrate a birthday, or go in a large group because the atmosphere is fun and loud. There is also a great little photo booth near the stairs to bring home memories of your experience!

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{ The Down to Earth Cafe } ****

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1141 N 5th St
Perkasie, PA 18944
(215) 258-2233

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Eating out at a restaurant is often an experience that is driven and dominated by the desire to socialize. People go out for a meal to spend time with the ones that they love, and the food serves as the unifying element that brings them all together. Sometimes the food is very well prepared and someone will comment on its palatability, and other times, the food is just present as a mere necessity for sustaining life and a backdrop for the conversation.

What I am trying to say is that very rarely do people make an emotional connection with their food when they dine out. After all, they are not involved in the direct preparation of their food, nor do they often get the opportunity to watch as chefs transform raw ingredients into the entrée of their choice. The food arrives at the table, they eat, and go home.

The Down to Earth Café in Perkasie Pa offers a different kind of dining experience though—one that is atypical of the norm. In all facets of the restaurant, there is a permeating sense of community; a genuine connection established between every person, object, and meal that one comes in contact with. The servers feel familiar and their smiles seem genuine, as if they would rather be nowhere else in the world. The kitchen is partially within the customer’s view so that patrons can watch as their food is being prepared, and see who is responsible for crafting their meal. The food itself is sourced locally and organically—whenever feasible—and the menu showcases how simple high-quality ingredients can come together to create something delicious.

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I went for brunch this weekend and had very few expectations for this little café tucked away in a rather non-descript and rundown strip mall. But from the moment that I walked in, I knew I was in for a good meal! I ordered the Anti-Salerno Sandwich with grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers, topped with melted goat cheese on a fresh ciabatta roll ($8.95).

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I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and it was delightful! The veggies were chopped up nice and small so that each bite was clean, and the side of balsamic and grape quinoa salad was super tasty. I wish there had been a bit more than the level tablespoon that was dolloped on the plate, but it was excellent.

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My boyfriend ordered the Farmer’s Panini Special with scrambled eggs, Blooming Glen scrapple, cheddar cheese, and baby spinach ($9.95). I am not one that cares for scrapple, so I did not sample his dish, but he said that it was hearty and delicious.

Scrapple Sandwich

To drink, I sampled one of the new Sipp organic sodas that they offered in the Mojo berry flavor with blackberry juice, mint, lime, and a touch of agave nectar. It was very refreshing and much less syrupy than a typical soda. Dare I say a healthy soda?

Menu and Soda

All in all, I cannot wait to go back and try some of the other fabulous meals offered at the Down to Earth Café…in particular the smoothies, which looked incredible!

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{ Yerba Buena: Savory Brunch } *****


Huevos Rancheros
 
212.529.2919
23 Avenue A
New York, NY
{ Lower East Side  – between Perry and Greenwich Ave)

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Brunch is a time-honored tradition in Manhattan. And I must admit–with slight guilt–that it is also one of my favorite meals to partake in when I visit the city. My girlfriends and I usually put a “brunch plan” in place at the pre-game Saturday night, and then on Sunday morning the first person to arrive at the destination watches as the rest of the group arrives in increments, dressed like refugees from the night before. Might I suggest that you wear your over-sized sunglasses and take your Advil though, because brunch is becoming so popular amongst us yuppies, that you may find yourself waiting in line on a sidewalk for upwards of an hour before being seated (damn you, Il Bastardo...).

Now there are two different approaches that one can take when choosing a brunch spot: the first is a bottomless boozey brunch centered around socializing and possibly even dancing on table tops, the second is a food-centric brunch where the objective is obtaining a delicious and filling meal that combines the best elements of breakfast and lunch. As a foodie, I am partial to the latter and Yerba Buena (YB) is one of my favorite places to enjoy a savory (and usually spicy!) mid-day meal. If the previous night was well-oiled then a mimosa or bloody Maria is necessary, and YB does offer an unlimited cocktail cocktail hour for just $15. I am not a huge fan of their Sangria, but I do LOVE the Poquito Picante cocktail made with bulldog gin, jalapeno-infused cointreau, cilantro, cucumber, and lemon juice ($12). It is refreshing, spicy, and very unique to YB (just make sure to pull the floating red pepper out before the drink gets too spicy!!).

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Things you should definitely order include:

1. The homemade Chips and Guacamole seasoned with Chipotle and Queso Fresco ($10), It is a great starter for the table and guarantees that tense group moment when you get down to the last chip.

Guacamole and Chips

2. The Huevos Rancheros which is a thin crispy tortilla, topped with black beans, charred tomato, cascabel salsa, queso fresco, and two fried eggs ($13). Pop those yolks and soak up that runny goodness with each and every forkful. The dish is satisfying and a great value for the price. One of my all-time favorite takes on huevos rancheros.

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3. The Cachapa Eggs Benedict prepared with sweet corn cake, asadero cheese, poached eggs, serrano ham, and a Yerba Buena-aji amarillo hollandaise ($14). I am not normally a fan of eggs benedict, but this unique spin on the classic is exciting and delicious.

Cachapa Eggs Benedict

4. Finally, if you want something starchy, I recommend the Pan Dulce which combines sweet and savory flavors to create a hybrid dish between a French Croque Monsiur and French toast, with overriding South American flair. It is french brioche toast, with melted manchego cheese, dulce de leche sauce, and fresh bananas. Need I say more?

Pan Dulce

The service is also attentive and pleasant. More importantly, they aren’t rushing you from your table to turn it over for the next guest, despite the tiny dining room space!

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{ Wishbone in Brixton } ***

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Unit 12, Coldharbour Lane
London SW9 8JX, UK
+44   20-7274-0939

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Fried chicken is quintessential American food. As a tourist in London, I was on the hunt to experience all things un-American so I was pretty disappointed when my friend–a London native–suggested we visit a fried chicken joint for my final lunch in the city. However, in my effort to be a low-maintenance visitor, I kept quiet and braced myself  for some dirty, deep fried, dude food.

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When we finally arrived at Wishbone, I was pleasantly surprised by the modernized, no-frills, hipster vibe. Could this be posh fast food? Fuck yea. I was now pumped for some fierce hot sauce and finger-lickin’ fun.

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All-natural, free-range chicken is the Wishbone hallmark, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that this stuff is healthy or good for you food. No, no, no….these are meaty chicken thighs, double coated in bread crumbs, deep fried to a rich golden crisp, served in the style of your choosing: Korean, Thai, traditional Buffalo, or the Moorish Salt N’ Pepa.

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I kept things simple, opting for the traditional Buffalo style with tangy hot sauce and served with side of creamy bleu cheese dressing. The buffalo sauce was blatantly rich, with pools of butter collecting at the bottom of my paper lined wing basket. And although I thought the chicken itself was moist and delicious, I found the sauce a bit too tangy–it begged for the blue cheese to tone down the vinegar.

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To “cleanse” my oil-saturated palate, I nibbled on bites of Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese. They sound aggressive and trust me, they are. After eating just one square–and four come to a serving--I knew they were a bad idea.

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It never ceases to amaze me how extreme hipsters are when it comes to their food habits. Either they’re preaching vegans or absurd junk food artists, creating unique delicacies by combining multiple bad-for-you items using only the best artery-clogging processes (i.e. deep fried oreos, french fry burger buns, chocolate covered bacon strips, and poutine pizza). These fried mac ‘n’ cheese squares are the epitome of a hipster snack–highly indulgent and bordering on sickly.

Although I enjoyed the meal while seated at Wishbone, I can’t say I enjoyed the 10 minute walk back to the car. I felt extremely lethargic and downright greasy from the inside out. It wasn’t until 3 cigarettes and an espresso later that my body returned to normalcy.

Overall, I think that Wishbone is a great, simplified, food concept but I opt for chick food over dude food any day. And how posh can a piece of fried chicken really be after all?!

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{ Yauatcha in Soho, London }

R0062306

15-17 Broadwick Street
London, W1F 0DL
+44 20-7494-8888

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By my third night in England, I was craving sushi. I googled a handful of different Asian hot spots throughout the city but was unable to snag a last minute reservation before 11:30 pm. This may not have posed a problem for a posh English chick looking to grab a light bite before the club, but for my hungry American ass….no can do! I needed food and I needed it fast, so I settled for the first Asian restaurant that I could get into:  Yauatucha in Soho.

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Yauatucha is a Michelin star-rated Chinese restaurant, specializing in dim sum. I would also argue that they specialize in the art of perfect cocktails, with unique recipes and beautiful garnishes for the glass. The specialty cocktail list is longer than most restaurants’ a la carte menu! After much deliberation, I opted for a Black River Martini, made with Johnnie Walker Black label, apricot liqueur, Drambuie, blackberry and apple juice (£10.30). It was the perfect blend of strong liquor and sweet fruit–a little dangerous, might I add!

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Choosing from the extensive dim sum menu is a rather difficult task. All of them are incredibly original, fusing flavors from the East and West in little dough balls that keep you longing for just one more bite. My personal favorite was the Roasted Duck Pumpkin Puff with Pine Nuts (£5.50). 

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Let me break it down for you: Melt-in-your-mouth roasted duck and pine nuts stuffed inside sweet and sticky pumpkin rice, deep fried to a golden perfection, and topped with delicate greens to make the dough ball resemble a pumpkin! This is certainly not traditional dim sum, but it damn sure is memorable.

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Next in the plate rotation was a more traditional steamed dim sum with Spicy Pork Szechuan and Peanuts (£4.60). If this had come to the table first, I probably would have loved it, but it seemed so uninspiring following the decadent Pumpkin Puff. It was tasty, but boring and predictable.

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The final appetizer to arrive at the table was the Prawn and Beancurd Cheung Fun. I’ve never had cheung fun before so I didn’t gravitate towards it on the menu, but the waiter convinced me to order it, claiming that it was one of his favorite meals. I was disappointed and thought the dish was barely mediocre, with too much prawn filling and too little rice noodle. I didn’t love the way that the textures came together, but I am glad to say that I tried it.

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I’m all about symmetry, so to follow my 3 rounds of appetizers, I decided to keep things in balance by ordering 3 main plates. I am obsessive….I am aware.

I’ll start with my favorite of the three entrees, which was the Mongolian Style Venison with Butter and Black Pepper Sauce (£20.50). As a Pennsylvania resident, venison tends to conjure up images of the Poconos mountains and my Uncle poking fun at reindeer stew. It is not a protein that would consider a delicacy or decadent. Again, the waiter persuaded me into ordering this dish and boy did  he redeem himself for the Cheung Fun mishap! The meat was lean and well seasoned, and the veggies were crisp and bright. The black pepper sauce was rich but complimented the tender venison.

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Up next was the Stir-fry Rib Eye Beef in Black Bean SauceI thought the meat was good, but the sauce was way too salty. I found  myself washing down each bite with a large gulp of water to rinse out the sodium. Skip the bean curd.

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Lastly, I tried an order of the Stir-Fry Vermicelli with Prawn and Squid (£10.30). I had high hopes for this traditional noodle dish, but they fell flat because the seafood was almost non-existent. There were two or three baby prawns and only a handful of squid. The noodles had great flavor and it made for a nice side to the rich meat entrees, but I wouldn’t suggest ordering this as one’s main dish.

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Overall, I would definitely go back but just for the exotic cocktails and inventive dim sum! The over-priced entrees are hardly worth it and limit the number of flavors that you can experience during your meal.

 

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{ Bowman’s Tavern } ****

bar

1600 River Road
New Hope, PA 18938
215-862-2972
 

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I am definitely NOT a creature of habit; I am the antithesis of anything routine, especially when it comes to my food! I like exotic meats, unusual vegetables, and all kinds of different ethnic cuisines. But provided that I live in a small town with limited dining options –only 114 according to Trip Advisor–I have inevitably become a regular at some of my more preferred restaurants. There’s Domani Star for Sunday brunch, El Tule for my Latin American cravings, and Ooka for my sushi fix.

Lately though, my parents have been frequenting a restaurant that I’ve never visited. They go at least once a week on their “date night” or bring friends for a casual dinner and drinks. I wanted to find out for myself what all the hype was about, so tonight I begged them to change their reservation for two into a both for three! They agreed and thus I had my first–of what will become many–meals at Bowman’s Tavern in New Hope.

The food earns 5 stars and the value for what you pay deserves 6 stars. Factor in the cozy atmosphere and the pleasant service, and you’re looking at a fabulous dining experience. To top it all off, there is a very active owner circulating the dining room to ensure that all of his guests are tended to and happy with their food.

To start I ordered this weekend’s special Salad with Pickled Maitake, Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Pumpkin Seeds, Garlic Vinaigrette, and White Truffle Oil ($10). The portion was a bit smaller than the other salads I saw leaving the kitchen, but it was very tasty. The goat cheese and the roasted beets were plentiful, and the pumpkin seeds added a beautiful bit of crunch to the dish. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of truffle flavor in the salad. I did not taste this ingredient at all, but the salad certainly did not taste bland without it.

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We also ordered a plate of the Semolina Crusted Calamari topped with Garlic Aioli, and Spicy Cherry Pepper Relish, with a side of House Marinara ($9). These were hands down THE BEST fried calamari that I have ever had because of the spicy cherry pepper relish. It really brought a new spin to the traditional fried appetizer, and the semolina breading was delicious. These are reason enough to return to the tavern!

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For my entree I ordered the Steamed P.E.I. Mussels in Garlic White Sauce ($10). The mussels themselves were meaty and plump, but I thought that the sauce was a little bland. It needed some more garlic, lemon, or shallots, or parsley. My parents have had the mussels in red sauce and said that they were much better, so I would recommend the tomato herb broth to those of you ordering the bivalves! I will restate though that quality of the mussels were beautiful though, and not a single one in the heaping bowl was closed!

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My mom ordered the winning dish of the night, which was the Seared Scallops over Creamed Corn, with Roasted Mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Salad ($23). The truffle oil was added in just the right quantity without overpowering the dish, and the scallops were just unreal. They had a lovely, golden, caramelized exterior with a tender and creamy inside and the sweet corn underneath made for a perfect compliment to the protein. The mushrooms were used sparingly but they were packed with flavor and so each forkful that contained one was treasured.

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My dad ordered one of the specials, which was a Grilled Mako Shark, Spaghetti Squash, Braised Beans, Broccoli Rabe, Pesto, and Romesco Sauce ($23). The shark was tender and well-seasoned, especially when combined with the pesto and Romesco sauces drizzled on the plate.

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The place is great during winter months because it is warm and cozy inside, and they have live music performers that effectively draw in the crowd, inviting guests to come up, sing, and dance. It is just an all around homey place with friendly service and top notch food at a great value!

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