Archive for the ‘restaurant’ Category

Lutter and Wegner – Berlin, Germany

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

According to legend, famed 19th century German actor, Ludwig Devrient walked into Lutter and Wegner in Berlin, Germany and demanded, “Give me a cup of sekt (sack), rogue!”  And with that caddish statement, new slang was born.  The sparkling white wine (or German champagne) previously known as Schaumwein would henceforth be called Sekt.  It still is today.

I didn’t know this when I walked along the Charlottenstrasse one evening.  I was trying to find a hot, new Asian restaurant nearby.  I had a serious craving for a bowl of noodles until I passed by a cozy, wood-paneled restaurant on the corner.  The small, wood plaque identified it as Lutter and Wegner.  But that one peek inside the window stopped me in my tracks.  Curious George had beckoned from the bar (or, at least, a statue of him).  How could I resist and just walk on by?

As it turns out, Curious George lured me into a fairly famous spot.  Lutter and Wegner has been making wine for over 100 years.  And serving traditional German fare at this Charlottenstrasse location for nearly as long.  (There is also an adjacent Weinstube, or wine bar).  But again, I didn’t know this until I opened the menu.  And once I read that, I was fairly skeptical.  After all, how many restaurants claim fame on the first pages of the menu?

The food convinced me.  Sophisticated, complex dishes like my creamed veal goulash served with spaetzle and cheese curd souffle in sour cherry punch had me in thrall.  The souffle was likely one of the best I’ve ever had.  And the lovely Lutter & Wegner brand white wine recommended by the staff was just as good.  Dry and subtle, with little hints of yellow flower fields, honey and sunshine, every sip satisfied.

Once I returned my hotel later that evening, I googled Lutter and Wegner and learned a lot more about them.  Mostly, that it’s considered one of the best places to get a schnitzel in Berlin.  Oops – I guess I missed the boat on that one.  So how could I not return the next night with my husband and son to give it a try?  It seemed to be a family favorite with Berlin locals, too.

But I ordered the award-winning Sauerbraten instead (which, incidentally, deserves every ribbon it gets).  I suppose a return trip is in order.


Lutter and Wegner
Charlottenstrasse 56
Mitte, Berlin
Tel:  +49 030 2029 5417


Photo courtesy of Kayt Sukel

How to Have a Perfect Day : Ra Bar and Terraza

Friday, March 26th, 2010
In the morning stroll Barcelona's Old Port

In the morning stroll Barcelona's Old Port

This is how to have the perfect Sunday in Barcelona...from my point of view of course. Sleep in, wake up late, it’s Sunday after all! Head down for coffee and a sweet focaccia slice at Buenas Migas Cafe by the sea in Barceloneta. Then, weather permitting, walk from the seashore up down the port, up Las Ramblas, and over to the CCCB Art Museum.

On Sundays, the CCCB, Barcelona’s contemporary art museum and cultural center, is open from 11 to 8pm, and is FREE from 3pm to 8pm. Pop into the CCCB, look at the exhibitions, work up an appetite discussing the, oftentimes, controversial photography and installations they have on display.

Once you have taken in the joys of the CCCB, head over to Ra Bar and Terraza. But careful! Don’t linger at the CCCB too long, you want to get to Ra before 1:30pm, if you don’t you will be waiting in line with the rest of the city to get a table at this sweet outdoor eatery. Most people have late lunch on Sundays, so at Ra, those who are used to eating at 12noon or 1pm will have the competitive edge.

Eat with the sun on your face at Ra Bar

Eat with the sun on your face at Ra Bar

I should say that I really only like Ra on sunny days. If it is raining, then Ra loses a bit of its charm, because the inside seating is nothing in comparison to the vine-covered outdoor terraza. The menu? Simplicity rules at Ra, which is great for people like me who have a hard time making up their minds. There is a black board with three Mediterranean starters, three main dishes and three desserts to choose from. Apart from this, you get wine and bread with your meal, and it all costs the set price of about 13 Euros. Coffee is extra and make sure to watch your purse, there are many pickpockets in this area (but Ra is worth the risk!).

More on Ra can be found online:

Photo Credit:

Get a Taste of the South at Loews Hotel New Orleans, LA

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Loews Hotel, New Orleans - Restaurant

Loews Hotel, New Orleans - Restaurant

Get a taste of New Orleans with a special gastronomic package deal at the Loews New Orleans Hotel. Book a room at the downtown hotel in 2010, and upgrade to the package that will entertain you and satisfy your taste buds. Located 4 blocks from Canal Street and a few more from Jackson Square, you’re staying in the heart of true New Orleans history on Poydras at Loews.

Vacationing with your children? Kids 12 and under eat FREE at the Loews New Orleans Hotel April 1 – Memorial Day.

Package includes:
* Two nights in Grand King Guest Room
* Welcome cocktail for two in Swizzle Stick Bar
* $150 credit towards dinner for two in Café Adelaide
* Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde for two
* Lunch at Mother’s Restaurant for two
* Admission for two to Preservation Hall Jazz Club
* Admission for two to the Southern Museum of Food & Beverage including Museum of the American Cocktail
* Copy of “In the Land of Cocktails” book written by Ti Martin & Lally Brennan ‘The Cocktail Chicks’

Rates start at $579 and are subject to availability.

300 Poydras St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Boston Best Largest Raw Bar – Summer Shack Restaurant

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Fun Times at Summer Shack Restaurant in Boston

Many meals we ate in Boston recently were big productions at fancy places with old friends and colleagues. We were looking for a casual and fun spot then when we took our college age niece out for lunch. We found the perfect place when we decided to head to the Summer Shack Restaurant, a block from our hotel. We couldn’t get lost finding it, yet it was still an easy distance for our niece to walk from her dorm at Northeastern.

Everyone knows that Boston has a ton of seafood restaurants. We wanted to grab a bite together and we knew she wanted to eat something that she would never pay for on her own. At the Summer Shack, they offer a huge selection of seafood cooked every which way and at a huge range of prices. Something for everyone. When we walked there from the Hilton Back Bay, we also saw right away that they catered to families and college groups. Perfect.

Maybe it was the location next to Kings Bowling Alley but lunch scored big points with our niece.  The wait staff is young (note: mostly college age) but professional.  We ordered chowder and fish and chips because we knew everyone would like that, but we also let our niece order the steamed king crab legs.  The result was that we could have skipped the crab legs but the clam chowder was killer, as was the fish and chips!  The chowder had tons of clams and the soup itself was just right, not too thick or thin. Yum!  The fish and chips were crispy and tasty. Both of those dishes made up for the crab legs being on the old and maybe over steamed side? They were dry which is odd for something that has been steamed.

Steamed King Crab Legs

Over all this is a great spot and we returned once more by ourselves before leaving Boston.  We grabbed oysters during their special half price oyster night on Mondays.  I was afraid at first since Kitchen Confidential is still on my night stand.  However as the waiter proud told us, “we are one of the only places that shuck the oysters after you order them, never before.”  Okay. And by the size of the crowd that night, everyone was loving the “raw bar” side to this place. We definitely will be back, maybe in the spring before a Red Sox game since it is walking distance to Fenway Park.

Great Kids Menu @ Summer Shack

50 Dalton Street
Boston, MA 02115

Monday – Friday 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM – During Red Sox Season Starting Monday, April 7th until October 5th

Monday-Thursday 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Friday 11:00 pm Sat. 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM Sun. 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM

Winter Hours Fall thru March Closed for Lunch
Monday thru Friday open for Dinner at 5:00 PM

More locations in: Cambridge, MA; Mohegan Sun, CT and Hingham, MA

Photos by Sharon Castellanos

La Bamba: Burritos as Big As Your Head in Indianapolis

Friday, March 19th, 2010

La Bamba's trademark

Have I ever told you the story of how bean burritos became my comfort food?

This was not a term on my radar screen until I wrote an article for Fast Casual on the topic, and analysts and marketing experts were saying comfort foods are things that remind you of good times. As in childhood, usually: visions of mom’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or grandma’s fried chicken that fill your soul and not just your stomach. Which would make my comfort foods fried spam, and cookies made from cake mix.

Epic fail for the analysts.

But shortly after that research, our craft studio/retail adventure also failed. Toward the end, when I knew how it would end, I left the studio at 3 a.m. teary-eyed and hungry. At that hour, I figured my choices were White Castle, Denny’s or McDonald’s. I drove toward Mickey D’s only to find the double-drive thru lane backed up into the main street. Either the entire south side of Indianapolis had insomnia or there were a lot of drunk people behind the wheel in that area, but I wasn’t crazy about waiting that long just to eat in the middle of the night.

In my frustration, I noticed the little Mexican fast-casual joint had an open sign. And there were lights on. And people moving around inside. I swung out of my place in the drive-thru parade and pulled into La Bamba.

Now I wasn’t a La Bamba virgin by a long stretch. Even in my corporate days in the early 90s, I would drive to the Broad Ripple location for lunch, mainly because they lived up to their slogan: burritos as big as your head. When they opened a unit on the southside, I drug everyone I knew in there. But I had no idea they stayed open nearly all night until I needed them, and that door swung right open. The cook greeted me with a big grin (Yah, we’re open until 4:30 a.m. What can I make for you?) and no questions as to why I felt the need for a bean burrito with cheese and sour cream at that odd hour. No cracks about how that gassy combination  — not to mention a large Coke — would keep me awake. Just another question: did I want chips and salsa with that?

La Bamba bean burrito

As hokey as it sounds, the world was just a little bit brighter in those 15 minutes. Especially since I was sitting down with a warm burrito in my hand watching the car that had been in front of me still crawling through the McDonald’s line.

So, bad days automatically make me crave a bean burrito. And really crappy ones nudge me to stop in at La Bamba. So if I tell you I ate there last night, that’s revealing something personal about my day <grin>. And the magic worked again. Burritos as big as your head is, more practically, “burritos as long as your napkin” but they are such fat little suckers, you can’t leave them in a horizontal position on your plate, lest the good stuff leaks right out. You have to stand them on their end after three bites, and these sturdy little numbers can handle it. No unraveling here — these owners know how to serve Mexican dishes right.

And with a smile.

La Bamba Mexican Restaurant

7910 U.S. 31 S.

Indianapolis, In 46227

(317) 203-0024

Photography: Julie Sturgeon

An Ode to Best Salsa in Indianapolis Mexican Restaurants

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Chips and salsa therapy

I’ve had a cold this week.

It’s really not worth whining about in the big picture of life. I’m on the back side of it now, and as I sit here on Friday afternoon, it only rearranged a few items on my to-do list — it didn’t cancel them. I still met my deadlines. I still worked on marketing. I still booked airline and hotel tickets for travelers, and made sure my dog didn’t run out of Purina Dog Chow and have to exist on stale bread.

And I owe it all to chips and salsa.

Mom may have had her chicken soup recipe for times like this, and my husband swears by a Big Mac and fries when he’s under the weather. Breathing is my first priority of the day, however, so I home in on a different food group altogether.

The first day, it’s Abuelos Mexican Food Embassy. Let’s face it, the congestion has yet to reach its peak, so I’m still searching for flavor along with my medicine. The tastebuds can still appreciate a bowl of queso on the side.

More cold therapy

Day two, we’re in full-blown sinus suffering mode, and only On the Border can address my pain. I don’t care about the Taco Melts, the fajitas, the tableside guacamole. Don’t talk to me about turtle empanadas.  Just keep the salsa coming, sir, because I intend to use my chips like soup ladles.  The beautiful part is that because my tastebuds are numb, I can wolf down all I need without consequences … and some bites, the flavor is strong enough it still cuts through.

The third day of a cold is a bit tricky. I still need a salsa’s mighty power, but my now abused tongue will protest if I head for the good stuff at On the Border. Not to mention their waiters will start to suspect I’m a stalker. This is a good day for Moes Southwest Grill, as they offer a buffet of salsas ranging from “is there something on my chip?” mild to “good grief, doesn’t the fact you’ve already stripped away the top layer of tissue off your tongue mean jack to you?” I can mix up the perfect, custom balance.

Day four and I’m tired of the entire routine, frankly. I’m starting to dig out potato chips from the kitchen cabinet to slap some salt on my wounds before meal time, where I will head over to Chilis Grill and Bar to see if it’s time to put a burger with these chips and salsa orders. If not, my husband will appreciate a break from tacos, burritos and enchiladas on his plate.

And he’ll be more than happy to help me finish my salsa.

Photography: Chili’s, Julie Sturgeon

Panificio, Boston, MA – Beacon Hill Bistro and Bakery

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Hot Grilled Cheese & Soup @ Panificio in Boston

When it is cold outside, isn’t it nice to find a cozy bakery or cafe to duck into for a snack and maybe a cup of coffee? While walking through the icy streets of Boston last month we found the nicest neighborhood bistro to grab a bite in, Panificio on Beacon Hill.

Besides being a chilly 40 degrees and I needed to warm my hands up, my stomach needed some fuel for all this walking we were doing.  Panificio is both a bakery and a bistro at the start of Charles Street, near many cool shops like Period Furniture Hardware. We walked in and immediately appreciated that the tables and seating by the windows, were all tucked out of the doorway and the cold wind that blew in every time someone opened the door.

Next we ordered our food at the counter and took hot cups of coffee to a table that gave us maximum people watching while we waited.  It didn’t take long before my stomach was trying to pat me on the back.

Cozy Panificio Bistro & Bakery Boston

I had their soup of the day which was a creamy white bean with chard and my favorite comfort food dish of all time – the grilled cheese on sliced sourdough bread.  Both of my items were perfect and $15 total.  My husband had their meatball sub for $9 with provolone cheese and house-made marinara sauce.  He loved it and said he had the right amount of spice for him (which meant I did not try any).

Meatball Sub @ Panificio Boston

We experienced just the bistro side of their business, but with the success we had I would love to go back and try some of their bakery items.  And like all good neighborhood restaurants, Panificio is open for dinner too.  If we go back, I am definitely trying the house-made chicken sausage fettucini with roasted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and mascarpone cream sauce! Yum! Street parking and definitely kid friendly.

144 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02115

Breakfast: Mon-Fri 8:00am-11:00am
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am-4:00pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 5:00pm-9:30pm Sunday 5:00pm-9:00pm
Brunch: Sat-Sun 9:00am-3:30pm

Photos by Sharon Castellanos

Post 390 Restaurant, Boston, MA – Urban Tavern

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Boston's Post 390 Restaurant $16 Crab & Avocado Salad

Do you eat more in the winter? It sure felt like the cold temperatures and snow had me seriously eating my way through Boston on a recent February visit. Thank goodness we walked a lot, ice skated on Frog Pond and skipped the two hour tour bus.

We stayed at this convenient Back Bay hotel and one day met some friends at a hip urban tavern that opened in September 2009 called Post 390 Restaurant.  It is the sister restaurant to Grill 23. It is located on the site of Boston’s first post office. They have free postcards of their restaurant that they will mail for you too! For free. We sent one to my pop.

They have two floors, three fireplaces and lots of cozy tables besides a busy after work bar scene.  Our waiter told us that the wine list is comparable to Grill 23 but significantly less marked up.  We were there for lunch and we sat upstairs, which gave us a little more privacy and a killer view!  We could see Copley Place and Trinity Church.  The atmosphere is really nice, the view even better but the food was good. Just alright. My crab and avocado salad was good but not $16 good.

Gorgeous Boston Views from Upstairs

My husband had the Fried Haddock Po’boy for $14.50 and I admit that was pretty tasty. It looked like a homemade Filet O’Fish was McDonald’s only three times as expensive and twice the size. Hmm so that was better than good.

Homemade Filet O'Fish with Cole Slaw

The other big bust was the Monte Cristo with potato chip crust. This was so over the top that it belongs on the show, Food Wars. The sandwich looks average but because of its crazy potato chip crust, it tastes more fattening than filling. Blerg. The price of $12 is not the most expensive dish compared to other items we saw on the “comfort food” menu and their prices. So the food was okay.  The “comfort food” menu leans toward the heavy and rich.  The service was great and the view from upstairs with the fireplace, the best!

Oh and if you can’t make it for lunch, their bar menu has most of the same choices.

Monte Cristo with potato chip crust

406 Stuart Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 399-0015

Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30
Dinner Sun-Thur 5:00-11:00pm  Fri-Sat 5:00-12:00am
Brunch Sunday 11:30-2:30

Photos by Sharon Castellanos

3 Luxury Hotels in Zurich, Switzerland

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich Switzerland has recently renovated it's rooms.

Zurich Switzerland is a beautiful city, surrounded by the breathtaking view of the Alps.  Museums, The Opera House, and more will delight you as you enjoy local food and culture.  To be pampered in style, check out these gorgeous hotels:

Baur au Lac is a high quality hotel with the guest in mind.  On the shore of Lake Zurich in it’s very own private park, this hotel is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World” and of “Swiss Deluxe Hotels” and lives up to it’s name in service and food.  The rooms are recently renovated and spacious, decorated in various styles throughout.

Hotel du Theatre boasts the La Suite Lounge on the first floor as the “perfect meeting place for moviegoers.” Now they serve Tapas for before or after the theatre.  YUM.

Hotel St. Gotthard has been open since 1889 and is now on it’s 4th generation of owners.  This luxurious legend is high in class and located in the heart of the city center.  Enjoy the lobster and oyster bar/restaurant or the Piano Lobby Bar/Restaurant or the canopied pavement café for a light meal.

{photo source Baur au Lac}

Out The Door, Vietnamese Cooking in San Francisco, CA

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Boylan's Orange Soda

The Slanted Door is a local favorite for many seeking delicious high-end Vietnamese food, and a restaurant that has been using organic produce and ecologically farmed meat from the start, even now as they open their third “to go” kiosk in San Francisco, California.

Recently I met my brother at the Westfield Center Out The Door, on the lower level near the entrance to Muni and BART. He was in town a few blocks away in the Moscone Center at MacWorld, looking at all the cool tech gear and software.

We met for lunch at Out The Door and this popular lunch place was hopping! Our solution was to grab a seat at their bar, rather than fight the crowds of mall shoppers eating their various meals at the communal tables.

My brother ordered the crispy half peppercorn duck with mixed greens for $19.50. He really liked it and I admired the lack of fat under the skin. Even though it was a large portion, it didn’t stop him from taking some of my lunch.

Did I mention he was my older brother? Always helping himself…though not offering to share his Boylan orange soda.

I decided to get a side dish of baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms for $8 along with a bowl of shrimp and pork wonton soup with egg noodles for $10.50. The bok choy was delicious with a savory sauce that wasn’t too salty. My noodle soup was just okay.

Baby Bok Choy Shiitake Mushrooms Side

In a odd twist for noodle soup, it was almost like they put in too many noodles for my taste. The dish didn’t feel balanced. The proportion of noodles to won ton was off and they two slices of so-so pork. The egg noodles were a disappoint and I have decided I prefer rice noodles for all my Vietnamese dishes.

Crispy Half Peppercorn Duck

Besides the duck, this lunch ended with a nice surprise when my brother picked up the tab. The serving size for lunch are larger when you eat there, but the price reflects that. If you take your food away and order from the counter in front, it is less expensive.

Lots of Seating @ Out The Door, Westfield Center

Westfield Centre
845 Market Street, Concourse Level
Tel (415) 541-9913

11:00 am – 8:30pm Monday-Saturday
11:00am – 8:00pm Sunday

2232 Bush Street - NEW
San Francisco, CA 94115
Tel (415) 923 9575

Monday – Friday
Breakfast: 8:00am – 11:00am
Lunch: 11:00am – 2:30pm

Saturday & Sunday Brunch: 8:00am – 2:30pm

Mid-day snack: 2:30pm – 4:30pm Daily
Dinner nightly: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

1 Ferry Building, #5
San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel (415) 321-3740

10:30am to 6:00pm Daily
Closed Sunday

Photos by Sharon Castellanos