Thursday, June 9, 2011

Santa Barbara FisHouse

Here's a quick reco for those traveling to Santa Barbara:

Every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Santa Barbara FisHouse, they offer a special: a 1.5 lb Maine lobster for $19.99. I've been to the FisHouse before and they have a number of good things on their menu. But a $20 Maine lobster deal for a California restaurant is something one has to consider.

Bacon wrapped scallops with onion rings and BBQ sauce

Santa Barbara FisHouse monster bowl of clam chowder

$19.99 Lobster special

In addition to the lobster, Santa Barbara FisHouse offers a tasty bacon wrapped scallop appetizer with a small stack of onion rings and BBQ sauce.

The chowder is solid, not great, but tasty.

My recommendation would be to start at Enterprise Fish Co., just down the street and get a bowl of the famous lobster bisque covered in puff pastry. They also have a tasty seared ahi appetizer (half price happy hours) with caramelized onions, eggplant and red peppers.  Enterprise Fish Co. has locations in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica.

Lobster bique topped with puff pastry from Enterprise Fish Co.
Also, seared ahi with caramelized onions, eggplant and red peppers.

Tapas from List in Belltown, Seattle, WA

Lounge, tapas, great seafood, generous happy hour...sign me up. 

When I made plans to meet up with someone for dinner in Seattle last week, in knowing the person quite well, I was at ease in allowing her to make the decision as to where we should go eat. And I couldn't have been happier.

We went to List, in the Belltown section of Seattle. List has a great happy hour deal, with drinks and great priced tapas cut to half-price. We had a total of 5 tapas, 3 white wines and 3 grey goose and tonic for a total price of $60. Note that draft beer for happy hour is only $2.95, so for many, that $60 cost might be cut in half for a dinner for two.

Be sure to take a look at their's pretty impressive and the quality of the food superb.

Happy hour:  
Sunday and Monday all day
Tuesday through Thursday, 4-6:30 + 9-midnight
Friday and Saturday 4-630
Grilled chilean sea bass

Cannelloni with spinach and ricotta

Bacon wrapped wild florida prawns

Gnocchi with black truffle cream

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Seattle Breakfast Restaurants near Belltown

After many trips to Seattle, it seemed like it was time to finally write a piece dedicated to breakfast options the city has to offer in Belltown and the tourist area of Pike Place Market.

So if you find yourself planning on being in the Belltown area, here are three places to try:

This french cafe is a place I find myself going to often. With a traditional menu of French food offerings, there is plenty of quality to choose from. If you are a breakfast traditionalist, you might not find it to be your kind of place. There were group of southern Americans who sat next to us and opted to leave when they were told "no" the the question one of them posed: "Do you have any taters?".

Œufs plats, jambon et fromag with Saucissons séchés à l’huil
Pain et Beurr

Bacco Cafe:
Another great breakfast option located on the southern end of Belltown, just a few blocks from the tourist haven of Pike Street. Like Le Pinchet, Bacco has a menu with a less than typical American breakfast feel, with a heavy Italian flavor. But it does have a number of more traditional options. You're best bet though is to try something outside your comfort won't be disappointed.

Italian sausage hash with red peppers and egg whites with a bagel

Market Crab Omelet

Farm fresh eggs and slices of avocado,
with Market fresh Dungeness crab.

Sweet Iron Waffles:
I'm almost including this as a joke since a waffle is so easy, any place can make them. But when you go most of a year living in a country without much in the form of syrup, good bacon, or even waffles, you find the best way to get a fix is the quickest. Sweet Iron is located downtown, which is a ghost town on the weekends. But for a good price, you can get one of their waffles made to order in about 3 minutes.

There are a number of good options of their Liege waffles to choose from. You'll find the traditional Strawberry & whipped cream. But you can also try their Banana Brulee with Caramel Sauce, Brie & Basil, and my choice, the Bacon & Maple Syrup waffle.
Sweet Iron Bacon Waffle with Maple Syrup

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Food Vendors at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle

It's always great when you are traveling and when in a city, they happen  to have a local festival with a strong focus in food.

And that was the case this past weekend in Seattle for the Northwest Folklife Festival.

With about 50 food vendors, we had some tough choices to make. In the end, our  choice was to go for the more obscure cuisine options...culinary types I personally seldom find with ease in Buenos Aires or US cities.

So our choices at the 2011 Northwest Folklife Festival were:

Russian Beef Dumplings from Pel'meni:

Pork Lumpia which is a Philipino pork eggroll from Espi's:

And Spicy Beef Sambusa from one of the Kenyan food vendors, Kenyan Kitchen.

Here's the complete list of food vendors. Many will be there again for the Taste of Seattle event on July 15th.

Food Vendors

Get your tastebuds ready…

Bagley Roadway and Food Triangle

Center Square

  • Klassique Kollections- Delicious Cajun cooking
  • Peanut Butter Goodness- Deep-fried PB&J… yes, you read that right
  • Seoul Short Ribs- Kalbi marinated chicken and beef


Key Roadway

  • Ahepa- Authentic Greek food, fast!
  • Asian Breeze- Small bites of Pan Asian cuisine
  • Big City Burritos- Vegetarian burritos, a Festival favorite for over 25 years!
  • Blue Elephant- The ever-popular elephant ears and more
  • Bombay Grill- Healthy Indian cuisine
  • Crab Cakes and Seafood Specialties
  • Horn of Africa- Authentic food from the East African coast

Kobe Bell

  • Bahn Thai
  • Crepealicious- Savory and sweet crepes with a Seattle twist
  • Eloi: Taste the Caribbean
  • Island NoodlesBuckwheat yakisoba noodles with fresh veggies
  • Kaleenka PiroshkysFreshly made bread dough and authentic fillings, a Festival staple for over 30 years!
  • Shishkaberry’s- Chocolate-dipped fruit on a stick

Mural Roadway

  • Bumpus Burgers
  • Gyros! Gyros! Gyros!- Authentic Greek cuisine
  • Hi’s Fruit/New Orleans Beignet- Frozen chocolate banana, fruit smoothies, beignets and more
  • Kenyan Kitchen- Dine on Sambusa , beef, veggie or chicken Piripiri, followed by a jolt of Matunda juice
  • Pat’s Philly Steak Sandwiches
  • Pel’Meni-Popular Russian dumplings with a Northwest touch
  • Southern KitchenDown home cooking featured on the Food Network’s program “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

20 Free iPhone Food Apps for the Traveler

Later today I'll be getting on a flight from Buenos Aires and heading to the United States, where I'll be spending a month in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. And with every trip, I only have so many meals in a day and try to be careful not to waste one on subpar food.

So for the past 4 years as an iPhone user, I've been using a number of apps to help avoid any culinary mistakes. I thought I'd share a few of these.

If you have any others to recommend, do so in the comment section below.

+ menus
+ ratings
+ prices
- US only
- Limited cities
The app I rely on the most is MenuPages. Unlike many of the other options, MenuPages gives you reasonably updated menus for each restaurant. This on top of the standard info you'll find on other applications: price range, ratings, reviews, and address. But like the app name tells you, it's the menus that make this app the most useful.

Using the MenuPages app is a sintch too. Just need to type in a cuisine your looking for and it will give you a Google Map with available options. When you click on an listing, it will give you the address, price range, ratings in stars and reviews...and with a click, the menu.

I've been using Menupages for years on the computer and the past few years on the iphone. But the biggest drawback is that the available cities are very limited.

Originally, MenuPages was just a New York based tool. Over the years, they've had new ownership, and started to expand...but at a snails pace. The only cities available are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. They've recently expanded with London and Paris, seemingly following Yelp's lead. Luckily, these are all cities I frequent. But the app is only useful if you happen to be in one of these select few cities.

+ reviews
+ ratings
+ price range
+ many US cites
- US only
- no menus
Probably the most popular app for the hungry on the road. A quick search will give you a Google mapped result that with a single click, gives you price range, hours, address, ratings and reviews. They also include discounts from time to time for a location, like some of the other services like Foursquare, etc.

I'd likely only use Yelp if it included one more item: menus. I can read all the reviews I want and people's recommendations...which are helpful. But in the perfect world, one would be able to see the specific menu as well. And with so many restaurant official sites being in flash, it' snot always as easy as clicking the link to the official site and give the menu a look. I find I use Yelp hand-in-hand with the MenuPages app to cover that base.

+ reviews
+ ratings
+ price range
+ many US cities
- US only
- no menus
There are plenty of people who appreciate the risk in eating more than I do. And by risk I mean a menu that might not be to ones suiting. For the adventurous, there is UrbanSpoon. It's a simple interface, you can shake and assuming you're in the United States, it will give you a random restaurant to try. You can also click the "browse" feature and do a more detailed search by cuisine, neighborhood, etc. Upon viewing a cuisine, you'll get the high-level name, address and price range info. And with a 2nd click, you'll get a rating calculated by a simple "like" or "I don't" option. Photos are also a helpful tool they provide.

+ international
- not as detailed
as Yelp, etc
Google Places:
The Google Places app is basically the Google attempt at Yelp and other local resources. For food hunters, it's a handy tool. But mostly when you are outside of the US and don't have access to apps like Yelp. Sure, you can at times get free app alternatives for a given international city. But Google Places gives you some quick ideas, reviews, ratings, etc.

+ International
options in
one app
Google Maps + My Maps:
It might seem pretty redundant to include the most basic of iPhone apps, Google Maps, on the list. Especially since it comes pre-installed on all iPhones. In the United States, it's where so many of the other apps like MenuPages and Yelp are pulling their map data. That's all well and good in the United States, but when you are traveling outside the US, you need something more broad. And Google delivers that. With the simplicity we're all used to with Google Maps, you can type in something as simple as "restaurants" and be given some helpful information. If one is planning a trip, you can also create your own Google Map with pin points to places (restaurant locations) of
interest. Due to a hiccup in the Google Maps technology though, you'll need the next app mentioned to access your customized map.

+ access to your
Google Maps

My Maps is a simple app that accesses your Google account. When you create a map on your computer using Google Maps and save it, you currently cannot access that via the official Google Maps iPhone app. My Maps is free and upon clicking, just presents you with a list of your saved maps. When you click a map, it loads it in Google Maps. Tis is especially helpful if you are are traveling outside the United States and want to have a layout of restaurants you intend to visit.

Upon searching the App Store today, it does appear that the free version I currently use might no longer be available.

+ international
+ map view
+ ratings & reviews
The TripAdvisor app gives you all the info you get from their helpful site, but in a much easier method. In a foreign country and want a specific cuisine?. Just click "restaurants", type in your city, click a price range, and you're good to go. It's that simple. The results are given in list form with the star ratings, number of reviews and the handy "see on map" option, which launches all the listings on a Google Map. Granted, I've personally spent more time outside the United States the past year, but even when in the US, I find myself using TripAdvisor often.

+ most US cities
- US only
Nationwide Happy Hours:
There are a number of different Happy Hour apps out there. But this one covers the United States while many others are limited to a single city. Search is done by entering the city and then a Google Map appears with the various listings. A single click gives you a high-level look at hours and prices with more details in the second click.

+ most US cities
- US only
GoTime Happy Hours:
Another United States national source, Happy Hours is a collection of listings brought to you be some of the various local publications through

Some other happy hour apps for specific cities include HourDrinks (New York) and Venga (Maryland/DC/NoVa).

+ extremely detailed
info with
restaurant reviews
- Only city of SF
is a free app
This is one of the best apps for a food traveler. Just like their paper books, you get access to restaurant reviews, local food festivals and street fairs, phrase books, history, and everything else you could possibly need. The offline maps are the most helpful tool...allowing you to have the accuracy of a Google Map, but without the roaming charges.

If you are visiting San Francisco, you're in luck...the Lonely Planet app is free for the Bay Area. Each other city costs $5.99...but since SF is free, it made the list.

+ number of free
cities such as
NY, Chi
- $4.99 for other cities
The popular travel book also has it's own iPhone app. Unlike some of the other travel guide apps where you can download specific cities from within the app, TimeOut has unique apps for each city. There are a number of free cities including New York and Chicago. If you've worked your way through Yelp, MenuPages and the other apps, TimeOut is worth some use.

+ dining, transit,
parking all
in one app
Another cool United States based app. Originally, the app was just for New York. In time, they have expanded to include a large number of other cities. The level of info each city app provides is very deep. You'll find a dining guide by cuisine or via your local in the "around me" section. There's individual sections for nightlife, local events, coffee, transit, parking and much more. With this one little app, you can plan where you're going to go eat, but also what subway to take there or where to park.

There is the all encompassing "USA" app, as well as 9 international cities and 22 US cities.

- only negative is
it's only for
Buenos Aires
Guía Oleo:
Here's a great app for anyone living in or visiting Buenos Aires. Guía Oleo is essentially the BA version of Yelp. Same handy map options, reviews, ratings, etc.

Other Quality iPhone Food apps:

It's a somewhat helpful app, giving you a basic feel of a place based on photos.

The app is primarily for social networking and seeing where people are in an area. But it does offer discounts and deals too. So you can open the app on the fly, and it will tell you local deals in the specific area you are in.
If you're looking for a deal of discount, you'll find some options here in many different cities.

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For the past 4 years as an iPhone user, I've been using a number of apps to help avoid any culinary mistakes. I thought I'd share a few of these. Take a look and if you have any others to recommend, please do so!
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