Lincoln….. A Great Choice in Washington DC

IMG_0440This is a another long overdue post (you’ll see a theme here!), as I first visited Lincoln during restaurant week last  fall and have been a few times since.  On each visit I’ve been impressed with the menu, which is unique and changes seasonally, as well as with the exceptional service.   My first visit was on a very crowded weekday evening and I sat at a table in the bar; I was by myself.   The waiter was perfect – not too pushy and didn’t make me feel like I needed to rush to finish my meal.  His recommendations were spot and he even came by to chat occasionally; I suspect he was curious about the notes and photos I was taking!

The selection of wines by the glass is a bit limited, however the options they do have are excellent.  One of my favoriteIMG_0441s was the Beuhler, California Chardonnay.  There is an extensive choice of spirits and some very unique cocktail options, including infusions such as Bacon Bourbon and Serrano gin.

Back to the menu, which is one of the most interesting I’ve seen in a while.  Most ingredients are locally sourced and it includes unique combinations of ingredients.  This is definitely a good place to venture out of your comfort zone;  everything is small plates or tasting portions which provides the perfect opportunity to try several different things.  I found it very hard to decide on only a few things, which is why I’ve gone back on nearly every trip to DC.  Also, since the menu changes each eason I’m always excited to see what is new.  When they are on the menu, I would say the  seasonal mason jars are a must try.  I also loved the Maryland crab tots with Old Bay aioli. One the menu now is a Chef’s Seasonal Tasting; a great option if you want to have someone else decide for you!

For dessert it was Corn DonughtIMG_0443s with sweet summer panna cotta and chilled blueberry compote.  YUM!!

This is a very hip space and you must be sure to check out the floor, which is made from pennies.  I’ve read some complaints that it is noisy, which is true, however it is a great bar scene and the noise is worth it when you consider the excellent food!




Amber Turkey Chili

My favorite chili recipe includes ground beef and spicy turkey sausage, however I have a few friends that don’t eat red meat, so I created this option for them.DSCN0266

1 tbsp olive oil

1 C. chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb ground turkey breast

1/2 lb ground turkey thigh

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground chipotle

1 tsp dried cilantro

12oz amber ale

28oz can crushed tomatoes

15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

juice and zest from half a lime

For topping:  greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, cracked pepper and wildflower honey

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, sauté for 1 minute.  Add turkey, brown until crumbled and cooked through.  Add chili powder, stir to combine.  Add remaining spices, stir and cook 30 seconds.  Add amber ale and bring to a boil.  Add tomato and black beans, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and zest.

Top with greek yogurt, shredded cheddar, cracked pepper and wild flower honey.  Add mini corn muffins for a twist.


Farallon – Coastal Cuisine in San Francisco

Earlier this year, on a trip to San Francisco for work I had the pleasure of dining at Farallon with my family; I grew up in the Bay Area so San Francisco is a frequent meeting spot for us.  If you are a fan of seafood, this is a place that will never disappoint.  The menu is varied and changes seasonally.  The interior of the restaurant has a very whimsical design; an underwater motif with unique glass sea creatures hanging from the hand-painted mosaic ceiling.

You can expect outstanding service from a top-notch waitstaff who will be happy to assist if you need help navigating the menu; all recommendations were spot-on.  As you may have noticed, I’m a fan of sharing food and small plates, as this means I can try more things!  My sister and I decided to create our own tasting menu, which turned out to be fantastic.

We started with Dungeness crab,which is one of my favorites.   This  version is served with lemon aioli and drawn butter, which make perfect compliments.  We then moved on to the heirloom tomato salad and the mushroom risotto.  We finished with the Diver Scallops, which were seared to perfection.

The wine list is extensive, with something for any taste either by the bottle or the glass.

This is truly fine dining and should not be missed if you are in San Francisco!




Blackfinn Ameripub – It Really is an Upscale Sports Bar!

This might be the world’s longest overdue post however, since football season has officially begun,  I thought now would be a good time to finish it!

I don’t typically write about chain-type restaurants, however I decided to make an exception in the case of Blackfinn.  Sunday NFL football comes right behind food and wine as one of my favorite things.  I’m a California native and a die-hard 49ers fan, so finding a place to watch the game can be a challenge, even more challenging is finding a place to watch football where I can actually drink decent wine.  Then, along came Blackfinn.

While it is still bar food, it is definitely upscale and really quite good with some unusual twists such as the Southern Nachos with BBQ pulled pork or the Blackened Brie.  I also really like the flatbreads, with the BBQ Chicken being my favorite.  They have a broad selection of entrees and salads as well.

The wine list is very good, with several options of each varietal by the glass and even more by the bottle.  On Wednesday nights they have half price wine; both bottles and glasses are included.

If there is a Bears game on, I’d definitely suggest reservations, which they take in both the bar and the dining room.  They show multiple games at the same time,  which makes me a very happy person!


Enolo – Chicago’s Newest Wine Bar

IMG_0715I’m never going to be one to pass up checking out the latest wine bar, so when a friend suggested we try Enolo, I was happy to agree.  Other than a quick review of their website,  I had heard nothing, so had no expectations.  From the minute you walk in it is warm and inviting;  a cozy atmosphere with unique decor.

The 25 bottle wine list, made up of mostly small vineyards, provides for some excellent wine flights.  You can choose glasses, bottles or flights of wine.  If you are a beer drinker, they also have a nice selection of craft beers. We each started with a wine flight, sampling both red and white options,  and then picked our favorite for a glass.  The flights were nicely balanced;  while I had a clear favorite, I would have ordered a glass of any of the three.

The menu is fairly simple, made up of small bites, salads, bruschetta and panini selections.  There are a few entree choices as well.  We started with the Artichoke and Leek Dip from the small bites portion of the menu;  it was fantastic.  We then moved on to bruschetta and salads.  The bruschetta selection is amazing  – each option includes four generous pieces and you can easily make a light meal of this with one of their salad selections.  I’d recommend ordering a few different ones to share.  I think my favorite was the salmon, though they were all so good it would be hard to pick just one.  My friend ordered the beet salad, while she said it was good, apparently the beets were a little under-cooked.IMG_0718

Like any new place, there are a few kinks to be worked out, however I will definitely go back, probably many times!

Grilled Corn Salsa

3 ears corn, husks removed

2 tbsp garlic olive oil

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 C red onion, diced

2 small plum tomatoes, diced

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

3/4 tsp garlic salt

1/2 C cilantro leaves, chopped

Brush corn with olive oil, reserving remaining oil (should be about 1/2 tbsp for salad)  Heat grill to medium (about 375 degrees).  Place corn on grill, cook for 25-30 minutes , turning frequently, until tender and slightly charred. Remove corn from grill and let cool. Remove corn from ears with knife or corn tool and place in medium bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, including reserved olive oil, and mix throughly.   Chill for at least 30 minutes to let flavors meld.

Note:  If you make corn salsa frequently I recommend the OXO Good Grips corn peeler,  $9.99 from  It makes removing corn from the ear much easier!

Grilled Fish Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Sauce

I’m a very big fan of seafood, however don’t cook it a home as often as I would like.  I wanted to create a quick, flavorful option for fish tacos.  You could do this as an easy week-night meal, or for casual summer entertaining.

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp onion powder

2 tbsp olive oil

1 pound tilapia or orange roughy

6-8 corn tortillas

1 avocado, diced

1 green onion, diced

2 oz Queso Fresco, crumbled

4 tbsp lime-cilantro sauce (see below for recipe)

In a small bowl, mix cumin through onion powder.   Brush fish with olive oil and sprinkle with spice mixture.  Heat grill to medium low (about 350 degrees), place fish on grill and cook 5 minutes.  Carefully turn fish and cook for 4-6 minutes or until done.  When you turn the fish, place tortillas on grill to heat.  If you have several burners on your grill, turn one to high and try to get the tortillas slightly charred on the edges.

Remove fish from grill and let cool slightly.  Use two forks to pull fish apart.  Place 1-2 tortillas on each plate, divide fish evenly amongst the tortillas.  Top with avocado, green onion, Queso Fresco and lime-cilantro sauce.  Serve immediately.

I serve the tacos with a simple green salad or my grilled corn salsa (see separate post for that recipe).

Lime- Cilantro Sauce

1 6-oz container plain greek yogurt

pinch sea salt

1/4 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp lime zest

1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped

1/4 C cilantro leaves, chopped

1/4 tsp jalapeño, very finely diced

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Bottlefork – Possibly My Favorite Chicago Restaurant

Bottlefork is a new endeavor by Kevin Hickey, former Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Chicago, and Rockit Ranch Productions.  The focus is on locally sourced ingredients and unique cocktails.  To really be part of the action,  sit at the bar and watch cocktails being made by the highly skilled bartenders, or ask for a seat a bit further down where you can see the kitchen team at work.  The space is really narrow, and can get very crowded, however I think that just adds to the atmosphere.

IMG_0654The menu includes a variety of small and large plates, with some interesting options.  I think the most unusual item might be the homemade spam!  I’m not sure about this one, but would love to hear from someone who has tried it!

We sampled several different dishes – my favorite of the evening was the potato gnocchi with mushrooms and fresh goat cheese.  The flavors were very balanced and the sauce was a nice complement to the dish.

It is hard to go wrong with a lobster po’boy especially when it is topped with crispy oysters!  The seafood was very fresh and perfectly cooked.  We also had the lamb ribs;  lamb is not always one of my favorites however these were very nicely done with a tangy sauce.

And what meal is not complete without tater tots; this high-end version is well worth the calories!

The wine menu has limited selections by the glass, however the options they do have are very good.  There were four choices for white, and of those three were something I would drink.

I went for a second visit and just had cocktails, which definitely did not disappoint!  We had fun watching the bartender make drinks and chatting with him about the different cocktails and what is most popular.  The focus of the bar menu is really their craft cocktails so stop in one night for a drink and try one, or a few.  My favorite so far is the Little Miss Dynamite!



The Berkshire Room – A Craft Cocktail Lounge

This is a relatively new addition to the Chicago bar scene, opening earlier this year in the Acme Hotel on Ohio.  This is a very intimate and classy cocktail lounge, serving unique hand-crafted cocktails. The menu includes a variety of house cocktails or you can create your own, which is the option I’d definitely recommend.  You choose your spirit, your flavor profile (fruity, spicy, sweet & sour, smokey) and the type of glass; from there the bartenders work their magic.

There is a also a good selection of craft beers and a well-rounded wine list.

They have a nice menu of small bites and desserts;  the Dealer’s Choice bar snacks are a fun way to start and go well with a variety of cocktails.  I’d recommend the Pulled Pork sliders if you want something more substantial.  They were so good we ended up getting a second order.

Unless you are going early,  you’ll probably want to make a reservation, as it gets crowded later in the evening.  This is a fun place for girls night out or a great option for a before or after dinner drink on a date.

Venturing out again in Washington DC – Range

On a business trip to DC my friend took me to Range in Chevy Chase Pavilion.  According to their website Range “offers modern interpretations using seasonal ingredients from the Mid-Atlantic region prepared through classic and progressive techniques”.  At first I was a little skeptical, as this is a massive space that is located in the middle of a shopping mall, albeit a very high-end shopping mall.  My skepticism was quickly erased when our first starter arrived!  This is a newish venture from Bryan IMG_0515Voltaggio of Top Chef.  We started with the charcuterie board, which was a mix of  fresh-baked, crisp grilled bread, some thinly sliced salami and a delicious pate.

We then moved on to the Hamachi crudo, which was my favorite dish of the evening.  It was ultra-fresh, melt-in-your-mouth tuna.  For an entrée I had the swordfish, which is one of my favorite choices for fish.  While the fish itself was quite good,  I didn’t love the preparation, as it distracted a bit from the nice fresh fish.

Wine by the glass a theme for me.  I’m a big Chardonnay fan, and also often like to switch wines during the meal as the food changes, so I frequently drink wine by the glass, which makes a good selection of by the glass choices especially important to me.  They have a nice selection by the glass and the wait staff was quite knowledgeable in terms of the wine menu.

With so many innovative options on the menu, this is definitely a place where you want to try a variety of dishes to share.  Overall, we had a good experience and I’d recommend checking it out if you are ever in the area.