Italian Done Different: North vs. South

So it might have been obvious to you guys a little while ago, but I just realized my writing transition from fashionite to foodie. Maybe not a total transition…probably just combination (gotta look nice to eat nice!)…but all I’ve done is eat. And, occasionally, write about eating. No wonder my clothes have been a little tight this season! It seems like every time I run into friends and family, I’m at a new restaurant or trying a new dish. Most recently, I had the absolute delight of trying two versions of incredible Italian food: La Tavola in Waterbury, Connecticut (website currently being revamped), and Renato’s in West Palm Beach, Florida. Continue reading

Red Stripe: A Classy, Casual Favorite

Guys, I finally did it.

I went to a favorite restaurant and ordered something new. Not even something on the official menu. Something I trusted the chef to produce well, and something that’s normally out of my seafood comfort zone.

And the reason I was able to do it was because I know the quality of food, service, and experience is A-grade.

I give you…(drum roll please)…Red Stripe of Providence, RI.

Image

courtesy of redstriperestaurants.com

Jake and I discovered Red Stripe during our freshman year of college. He was visiting me for a long weekend, and we asked my foodie aunt for nearby restaurant recommendations: “somewhere cozy, yummy, but not pretentious and outrageously priced.” This was in the top three on her list, and I don’t even remember the others because this place is still our go-to for date nights, four years later.

Usually, we split some dishes. The paella is a personal favorite, accompanied by some pasta dish or appetizer (or meat, when it’s Jake’s turn to choose), and occasionally a dessert. This tends to be our pattern because I can never finish a meal by myself and he pushes me to try new things. Though I instinctively leaned towards the paella this past weekend, something told me to hear the specials. And thank G-d, because it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. Sea scallops with butternut squash risotto, grilled asparagus, and lindonberry chutney.

Saturday Night Dinner!

Saturday Night Dinner!

Anyone who has ever had a meal with me would be floored by this selection. Sea scallops? Lindonberry? (“Julie, do you even know what a lindonberry is?”) (The answer is no) Chutney? I love my taste bud comfort zone, and I love looking forward to those same favorite restaurants and meals, but this was truly fantastic and i was grateful for my trust in their cooking. I paired it with the red wine special of the evening based on our waiter’s recommendation (Meiomi Pinot Noir), and spent the next 45 minutes in a glorious dinner experience.

Though I can’t completely recall  Jake’s particular thoughts – blame it on the wine; some words along the lines of “tender” and “delicious” – he definitely enjoyed his beer-braised short ribs and the local beer on tap. And yes, you guessed it, he’s a beer guy. Who knew we had it in us to be such cuisine connoisseurs?

** I should note here that the manager paid for Jake’s beer after some minor spillage. Great guy with a passion for perfect service! **

Anyway, every few months we come back for the smart-casual attire (read: excuse for me to wear heels without being judged), soft lights, and a comfortable volume of conversation so that we’re never whispering or yelling across the table. And the fact that it makes me want to eat something  I associate with this moment in cinema history…well…all the better, I think.

Do you have any favorite restaurants that earn your loyalties year after year? For date night? Or girls night? Or guys night, for that matter? Leave your comments and suggestions for a potential post in your honor.

Stay beautiful (and hungry).

 

Basic Updates: Oliphant and Nerja

IMG_1663Another five weeks flown by. How does this happen? The last month and a half has been a sunny blur of tapas, classes, excursions and Spanish. I’ll work my way through everything eventually.

First things first: I’ve officially received my first freelance paycheck! $100 to be spent on my upcoming long weekend in London, if not on souvenirs for my sisters and friends. The full story about Oliphant – an interior design and jewelry store – can be found here. Its sister piece – a list of the storeowner’s favorite spring selections – is also available.

Second, a heads up that my next few posts are about things that have happened between today and spring break (which started on March 20th). A lot to say about dressing European, recommendations for restaurants and accommodations throughout Spain, Italy, and France, and various lists of favorite things thus far.

That being said…let’s start with Nerja. At the beginning of our time in Spain, Jake and I took a long weekend together on the southern coast. We stayed in Hostal Plaza Contarero – a small, family-owned hostel that gave us one of the best and least expensive accommodations I have ever experienced. Our private room ended up being about 75 euro for three nights (with its own bathroom, cleaning service, tea and coffee, etc). A 3 minute walk from the bus station, a 10 minute walk to Balcón de Europa, and a 7-minute drive to the caves. On top of the budget-friendly price and ideal location, owners Tanya and Pepe were wonderful. They gave us the most romantic room available with a perfect view of our street (see below), restaurant recommendations, and made sure that we were no less than thrilled with our stay. I can’t recommend them enough.

If any of my readers are taking this advice seriously, I also need to emphasize the following recommendations for restaurants: La Taberna and Pinocchio. The former is a traditional Spanish restaurant with great service and even better sangria; the latter a romantic italian joint with some of the only real pesto I’ve seen in the country. Both provide menus for English and French speakers.

Dinner at Pinocchio

Finally, make sure to make the caves of Nerja a priority during your hypothetical vacation. At first, I was hesitant. Cold, dark, damp caves? When I could be at the beach or sipping margaritas? No, thanks. But Jake convinced me and I immediately withdrew my qualms.

The caves are a natural piece of artwork, adapted into an annual concert hall and attraction. In addition to being a natural piece of artwork carved by elements and time, they are especially moving in their exhibition of music from prior years’ “Festival of Music and Dance.” I was lucky enough to experience Strauss’ “Emperor’s Waltz” – a piece I find to be cathartically soothing and simultaneously exciting, so my prior bad mood was squashed. Tickets for the live concert are difficult to obtain, but information can be found here.

Another post to come later with wardrobe selections for the semester (how to blend in), and eventually some favorites from Florence and Paris.

Stay beautiful.