Friday, July 6, 2012

Judging La Capilla in Madrid, Spain

Where:  Madrid, Spain
When:  March 10 & 16
Restaurant:  La Capilla (de la bolsa)

I've been back in the US since March 20th, but I can't get the Italian restaurant La Capilla in Madrid out of my mind!  I think I'd hop on a plane right now and travel to Madrid just for the tuna bolognese on pappardella, if it weren't such a crazy, expensive idea.  It may be the best pasta dish I've ever had in my life and that's saying something! I eat a lot of pasta.  I happened upon La Capilla as a friend and I wandered around Madrid my first night in the city.  The next day I left for 5 nights in Segovia, but as soon as I returned to Madrid I headed back to La Capilla with another friend.  I just had to see the place again to make sure I hadn't dreamed it the first time.  It's that incredible.

La Capilla sits in the center of the Puerta de Sol district of Madrid.  (That's Spanish for "shopping and restaurants.")  The building appears to be an old bank, but I can't be sure because of the renovations.  The interior is incredibly elaborate with a crazy light show and giant Italiante murals.  There's a loft area with a white baby grand piano and a pianist in white tails playing 1940s musical medleys.  The only way to describe the decor is it looks like my gay cousin in Rome and his Iranian boyfriend dropped acid and went to a Sherwin Williams paint store.  Then the Sherwin Williams guy also dropped some acid and everybody picked out paint.  In other words, if Liberace walked in to La Capilla he'd say "whoa! This place is crazy over the top!"  If you think I'm exaggerating, click on the link above.

A trip to La Capilla would be worth it just to see the decor.  The fact that the food is amazing makes it so much more fun - and fattening!  The menu is an interesting Spanish interpretation of Italian food.  The seafood risotto is really paella made at your table by a gorgeous Spanish man who speaks little (or no) English and just keeps smiling at you and he spoons more rice and seafood into your gigantic bowl.  The seafood in the risotto included clams, calamari and langostinos that were perfect.  We shared an order as an appetizer and could have quit there. Correction:  We should have quit there.  Spaniards would never eat as much for dinner as we two Americans did that second night.  However, they were very polite to us as we ordered more and more food.  I've tried to duplicate the Strawberry Gazpacho with Lobster Meat at home, but it comes out like a smoothie with fish when I make it.  When La Capilla makes it, it's heaven.  I'm going to try to duplicate the tuna bolognese at home from a compilation of recipes I downloaded.  However, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to replicate the velvety texture of the La Capilla version.

Remember - it's Spain!  So take a "disco nap," get up and have a cup of coffee and head out to dinner at 11 pm. TLa Capilla is packed by midnight.  And as they say in Madrid......"Ciao Adios!"  Auntie

Passing Judgment - MELT in Leesburg, Virginia

Today my husband and I went out to Leesburg, Virginia to do some shopping.  After a strenuous one and half hours of shopping we decided to have lunch at a local burger place, MELT. I had read about MELT on another blogger's site (this guy is trying to eat at every Leesburg restaurant) and he gave it a rave review. So we decided upon it and were not disappointing. I had the classic cheeseburger and my husband had the diner special - burger includes bacon, pimento cheese, and a fried egg.  We also shared the sweet potato fries.

Everything was very good and also very filling cause the burgers were huge. We were very impressed with the homemade rolls and quality meat, which is not just beef, there's also turkey, salmon, tuna, crab and lamb. The restaurant is family owned and the locals love it.

Judged as a GREAT burger place and definitely where you should go if you are craving a really good burger.   

I apologize for the lack of pictures -- I started eating too fast.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Judging Water Tower Food Court

Place:  Water Tower Food Court, Chicago
Date:  April 23 & 25, 2012

What?  I'm reviewing a FOOD COURT??!!  What the heck?
Yes, I am really going to tell you about the best food court in the world.  I love this shopping mall in downtown Chicago so much that as soon as I land at O'Hare, I head to the Miracle Mile and the Water Tower Mall Food Court.  Yes, me.  The big foodie snob heads to the Food Court.  My only question is "Why can't every food court in the country be run by whoever runs this place?"

Here's how it works:  You go to the entrance on the 2nd floor and a hostess asks you how many in your party.  Then a very nice assistant takes you to a table and flips over a sign that says "reserved."  She hands you a blank plastic card and you are off and running.  You can now put down your coat (it's Chicago after all) and visit all the food stations, booths, wine bar and ice cream shop.  Order whatever you want and the attendant will put it on your plastic card.  No need to worry about cash or debit cards.  No money handling to slow things down or spread germs.  You can order a little bit here and a little bit there and not worry about grabbing your wallet at every cash register.  Save the wallet until you're finished with your meal (and dessert?) and then head out to the cashier with your plastic card.  She'll ring up your order and you can pay by cash, debit or credit.  That's it - you just pay one time for everything.  There's also a sit down restaurant and a take-away food market with another wine and full-service bar. It's really amazing and the take-away is gorgeous appetizers, sandwiches and mac & cheese.  I can't understand why everybody in Chicago isn't obese.  Oh.  Wait a minute.

My personal favorite meal is a giant baked potato from the "Comfort Food" guys topped with some veggie chili from the soup place.  Then I go overboard with the sour cream and cheese.  This festival of carb and fiber pairs nicely with a glass of California Viognier.  The wine bar has a great selection of wines by the glass.  Can you get great wines by the glass at your Food Court?  I think not.  Over the past few years, I've sampled the pizza, pasta, ice cream and Thai spring rolls at Water Tower Food Court.  I always look for Oprah because I heard she lived in the condo building over the Mall.  I've never seen her, but I'm not going to stop looking for Oprah or eating at the Water Tower Food Court.

- Auntie

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Passing Judgment: Lunch in Richmond

Urban Farmhouse Market on E. Cary St in Richmond VA. Judged as cute place and a great grilled cheese.
urban farmhouse market, grilled cheese
Urban Farmhouse Market Grilled Cheese
Cozy Interior
Wall of doors open to the street.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eating in Sonoma - We're Fancy Now and Still Judging

Earlier this month I found myself in Northern California with 36 hours to spare before my flight out of Sacramento.  I needed someplace nice to relax and it was a toss up between Tahoe (37 F) and Sonoma County (82 F).  Weather was the key here, so off I went to Sonoma. 
 Besides the obvious weather considerations, I wanted to see Sonoma because the The Bachelor filmed there last Season with local boy Ben.  As fans of the show know (and who isn't a fan!), Ben took front runner Kaci B. to dinner at The Girl and The Fig.  That was all I needed to make Girl/Fig my destination! 

I checked into the El Dorado Hotel on the plaza and a very nice girl at the desk gave me the "Internet special" even though I was a walk-in.  While I did love the California coolness of the El Dorado, I'm not sure I'd stay there again.  It's was great to be right on the plaza, but after midnight the motorcycle noise went on all night.  Apparently, the Harley noise in California is just as bad as the the Harley noise in Florida.  Can't say I'm surprised.  Sonoma sort of reminds me of Truckee, California meets Leesburg, Virginia.  There's a blue jean, wine-snooty, ex-hippie vibe in both places.  Shopping and wine are probably better in Sonoma.  People watching better in Leesburg.

Restaurant wise, I'm now a big fan of the El Dorado Kitchen.  The Kitchen has to be the best place in town.  There's a wood and whitewash feel to the place that is quintessential California.  The menu is what you'd expect with a few nice touches and tons of avocado.  It would have been very, very easy to pick something healthy and low-cal.  But, of course, I didn't.  My salad of heirloom beats, goat cheese mousse, orange, ruby grapefruit, arugula and marcona almonds was spectacular.  The chef was very accommodating and made me a vegetarian version of the pasta special: pappardelle with green garlic cream, peas, wild mushrooms, baby carrots and chiles.  He left out the sausage and it was not missed.  I am not exaggerating when I say this might be the best meal I've had this year.

Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of The Girl and The Fig.  Maybe my expectations were a bit high.  Maybe I was just too excited to eat at a restaurant featured on The Bachelor!  Maybe not.  The Girl/Fig can only be described as "Goodwill Chic."  That's my term for something one or two steps below "Shabby Chic."  The furniture is first apartment shabby and the lighting is bright to highlight the fact that the place is dumpy.  I suppose that's what they are going for, but with the El Dorado Kitchen across the street, you'd think they'd try to up the ante. 

Although it was a Tuesday in the middle of low season, they could only give me a reservation for 9 pm.  OK.  I can be European now and then.  I ordered the mussels because it looked like a specialty.  The french fries showed up in the little cone, but were stone cold.  What is worse than cold fries, I ask you?  The mussels seem to be made in a big pot in the back and most of the meat must drop to the bottom because I had way too many empty shells in my dish.  To be fair, the waitress did not charge me for the mussels after I complained about the fries.  Excuse me, frites.  Since I was already in a foul, cold-frites sort of mood, the two girls sitting next to me talking on their cell phones did not help.  I like restaurants that have a no cell phone policy and enforce it. 

Good food was also had for breakfast at the Sunflower Caffe for breakfast and The Red Grape for lunch.

- Auntie

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Judging - I'm Not the Only One...

From NeverSeconds
Check out this new blog, NeverSeconds, created by a student who photographs their school food everyday.  As you know, I'm very concerned about healthy eating for kids and so I love this blog.  Judged - a great view into what's going on with school lunches.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Passing Judgement - Healthy Greek Lamb Burgers

Tonight we had a WW recipe for lamb patties with a creamy cucumber sauce.  They were so good, it was almost as good as the Mediterranean kabob place we normally order from and pick up cause they don't deliver. So this was a good "no driving" alternative and it was fast.








  • Spray the grill rack (or grill pan) with nonstick spray. Preheat the grill to medium or prepare a medium fire.
  • Stir together the yogurt, cucumber, mint, and the pinch of salt in a serving bowl. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.
  • Mix together the lamb, ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl just until well blended. With damp hands, form the lamb mixture into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) oval patties. Thread one patty on each of 8 (6- to 8-inch) metal skewers.
  • Place the skewers on the grill rack and grill, turning, until the lamb is browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the patties from the skewers. Spread the romaine on a small platter and place the lamb patties on top. Serve with the yogurt sauce. Yields (1/2 cup romaine, 2 lamb patties, and 1/4 cup yogurt sauce per serving. 
For the above items it's 9 points +

I also made a side of rice and a side of tomato cucumber salad because that's our normal take out meal and it was great. Judged - awesome "Greek takeout," fast, and healthy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Juding Jane's Cafe Naples, Florida

Place:  Jane's Cafe  Location: Old Town Naples, FL
Date:  April 15, 2012
Meal:  Brunch

If you are looking for the most expensive breakfast in Naples, look no further than Jane's Cafe.  Located in the tres-chic 3rd Street area of Old Town Naples, Jane's is the place to see the rich and famous (mostly rich) residents of Naples.  Tucked away behind the upscale, shop lined streets is this little jewel of a cafe buzzing with energy.  Don't even try to go there after church on Sunday because that's when the Naples super-rich head over there for the $24 lobster omelets!

Waiting for a table at Jane's is your first wait of the day.  After you are seated, you're going to wait for the waiter.  (Maybe that is why they call him a "waiter?")  After that, there's a wait for the food.  I also waited for coffee this morning.  But my shrimp, lobster, asparagus and Swiss cheese omelet was very yummy and I ate every bite.  But, at $18 for just an omelet, English muffin and fruit garnish, it was a tad expensive. No potatoes!  I suppose it's a GOOD thing that there are no potatoes at Jane's.  No hash browns or home fries drenched in butter and sour cream.  Yes, I suppose that's a good thing.  It's one of the things that makes Jane's an almost healthy choice for brunch.  The "Organic Plate" is also very healthy and calorie friendly - eggs, whole wheat toast, tomatoes and spinach.  (Boooor-ing!)

If you are the "bread for breakfast" type then steer away from the "Organic Plate" and head to the "Chocolate Monkey French Toast."  yup - chocolate and bananas with monkey bread and syrup.  If it doesn't kill you, you'll probably enjoy it.  The waffles look very good, light and fluffy, covered in fresh fruit and whip cream.  Don't let the fresh fruit kid you, this breakfast is also packed with calories.  As you waddle out of Jane's you'll probably be in the mood to walk off some of the calories.  The shops of 3rd Street are great and there's a new gelato place next to The Island Company.  Go ahead and have some dulce dessert because it's not like you're going to fit into anything they sell at The Island Company if you keep eating like this.

Enjoy Breakfast on 3rd Street!  Auntie

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Passing Judgment - Kate Middleton's Hair

Courtesy: The Huff Post Style
I love Kate Middleton - like I want to wear every outfit, dress, pair of sneakers, whatever she wears and do my make-up and hair exactly like her.  AND so does everyone else.  These pictures were first seen this weekend and I kid you not, there were at least 10 women (including me) on the train this morning, trying to wear this do.  Please keep in mind that this was just on the 1/12 of the train I could see and judge.  Judged - a great hair style and everyone wants to wear it too (also looooove the dress).

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Trip to Charleston - Yum

View from the Battery, Charleston, SC
First off, this is Charleston, South Carolina - everything is going to be good.  I have an event coming up for work so I was in town doing the planning and my sister met me there. It was great and we pretty much ate our way through town. If you are vacationing or visiting Charleston in the future, this should help plan the dining portion of your trip. Note: I wrote that last sentence for search engine optimization reasons.

Shrimp and Grits from the Hominy Grill
First stop, Hominy Grill for brunch. We went here straight from the airport and immediately ordered John Daly's (ice tea and lemonade with alcohol) while we waited for a seat.  For brunch we ordered fried green tomatoes, corn bread, a biscuit, and the shrimp and grits.  The Hominy Grill is known for its shrimp and grits and for a good reason, these are out of this world. The combination of shrimp, bacon, green onions, and the acidity of lemon on top of creamy grits is fantastic.  The biscuit was wonderful as was the somehow creamy corn bread (I don't know how, but I'm sure it's not good for you). The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the fried green tomatoes, they were just okay, not worth the calories, spend them on something else, like the fried chicken on a biscuit. Judged - great food, great place for brunch.

Oysters from Amen Street
Oyster Shell Chandelier
For dinner that night we went to Amen Street for some oysters and fresh fish.  We had the oysters (of course) and then split two entrees, because we like to try everything we can. One of the entrees was the Hot Shrimp and Crab Sandwich - Judged as ridiculously good.  The magic to Charleston's great food is that while they don't shy away from the fat, they use fresh ingredients and acid (meaning lemon, lime, or vinegar) to create a well rounded flavor. I loved this sandwich, but I don't think one can eat the whole thing, I was glad I split it with my sister.  The other entree was the fresh bass with a risotto.  The fish at Amen is brought in fresh every day and there is a list of the fresh fish they are offering that day, the bass was on the list and true to their word, it was fresh and delicious.  Amen Street - Judged as a great place for seafood. Also, I loved the oyster shell chandeliers.

Shrimp Po'boy at Hyman's
Lunch on day-two was at the famous Hymans Seafood.  Here we ordered shrimp po'boys in cajun sauce.  So rather than fried shrimp they sauteed the fresh shrimp in cajun seasonings.  We got lunch at their to-go counter because we had a meeting to get to and the line for the restaurant was long.  The great part about this was that we could watch the cook prepare the shrimp, which was done in her frying pan on the stove-top.  The po'boys were really good, but the best part were the hushpuppies, which where were the best I've ever had.  They were more like donuts, but whatever! So good..... Judged - classic institution for a reason.

Dinner on day-two, 82 Queen.  This is a nice place for a date, but I went with my sister because I was there and it's one of my favorite restaurants, so we had to go. It was romantic.  As they say on their website, "Nothing compares to the fine dining experience offered by this charming restaurant nestled in Charleston's historic French Quarter." The ambiance is wonderful and the food is amazing. I especially love their collared greens - I know this is a beautiful, fancy place, but they have amazing collard greens!  My sister ordered the brisket which was good and moist and laid on top of mac and cheese and collard greens.  After trying her dish she said, "let me try your collard greens because mine have barbeque sauce on them." then she realized that collard greens, cooked the right way, are actually just that sweet.  I had the fried fish over collard greens with pimento risotto. Good, but I had a hard time with the bones in the fish and it really got in the way of my collard greens and risotto.  I had the fried chicken there before but unfortunately it wasn't on the menu because it was really, really wonderful friend chicken.  Judged - a beautiful, romantic spot for a date in Charleston.

You think I'm done, but no, we kept eating. 

Inside Fort Moultrie
Day-three, I had lunch at the Mills House.  This is a historic hotel that sustained some serious damage during the American Civil War, but has since been rebuilt. I had lunch here with the tour guide who is going to lead a tour for my upcoming work event.  The food at lunch was fine, but the location and history of the hotel is really what it's about.  I suggest stopping in and peeking around.

On day-three we went out to Fort Moultrie, which was a fort from the Revolutionary War to WWII (if you're a real nerd, like me, check this out it's a 3D walk through what was once Fort Moultrie). 

Since we were out at the beach already, we decided to stay at the beach for dinner. We did a quick web search and found Bowens Island Restaurant. On our way we stopped at a great farmers market in Mount Pleasant and found a caterer for my event as well as some delicious kettle corn. 

Steamed Oysters to Bowens
Bowens Island Restaurant is off the beaten path, literally, you need to take dirt roads to get to it.  The base of the restaurant is cinder blocks and the main level, where you eat, is kind of like a giant deck.  There are walls around the deck (also a bar), which I believe are made of plywood and there are windows cut out with screens in them.  These windows are all open, letting the breeze through and allowing everyone to see the beautiful view and lovely sunset.  Bowens does not have an extensive menu, but what they do have is perfect and as fresh as you can get.  The oysters, which come steamed, are freshly harvested from the water you are looking at while dining.  These oysters are the best I've ever had, you do not need all the fixins' they are perfectly flavorful all by themselves. Order them by the tray (yes, the lunch tray) or "all you can eat."  Then go downstairs to the cinder block area to pick them up from the oyster cook, who will rinse them off with the hose, throw them into a pot of boiling water and then hand them over to you. The oyster cook and I had a nice conversation about where they oysters come from and how they are harvested.  Only, being a novice, I didn't know that I had to tip the cook and that's how he gets paid, so be sure to leave him some dollars on your way out. Judged - one of my favorite places to eat - it's relaxed, the food is fresh and delicious, the staff is friendly, and the ambiance is nature at its best. Be sure to seek out this hidden gem while in Charleston.

The view from Bowens

I can't wait to go back to Charleston, there's so much more to eat!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Place:  Grandma Dot's
Location:  Sanibel Island, FL
Date:  April 14, 2012
Meal:  Lunch

You have to know about Grandma Dot's dockside restaurant to get there because you are not going to find it driving around looking for restaurants on Sanibel Island, Florida.  Located at the Sanibel Marina,  there are no signs at the turn off and you need to drive all the way to the back of the property between two rows of yachts to find it. Even though it's located at the fancy marina, it is not a fancy, fine-dining establishment.  It's a wonderful, family-owned place with big screened windows and views of the harbor.  There's lots of wood and sailing memorabilia  - think "old school Florida yacht club" - for the decor.  Even if the food wasn't great, it would be worth coming here for the ambiance.  Lucky for us, the food is great.

The "high season" of Sanibel runs from Christmas to Easter and that's when it's going to be hard to just walk in and get a table.  There are only 59 seats and 15 of those are at the bar.  In season, there's usually a wait for a table by noon.  But Grandma Dot's is so good, it's worth the wait.  Take a walk around the marina and enjoy the view while you wait for them to call your name.  The service is so fast that the table turn-over goes quick.  Plus, it's not the kind of place where people are lingering over appetizers and cocktails.  The bar serves wine and beer which is all you need for the simple, delicious seafood offered up by Grandma.
I've never had a bad meal here and everybody I bring seems impressed with the food as well as the location, view and yachtsman-for-a-day feeling.  I'm particularly partial to the fried oysters.  (Ask anyone.)  These oysters are fresh, briny and lightly breaded.  I've sampled fried oysters all over the country and these are tops.  You look at the basket and say "I can't eat all of these!" and then you do.  I know I should have ordered the lobster salad or steamed shrimp as healthier options but I love these fried oysters so much I had to go the calorie route today.  The lobster salad, grouper sandwich and 1/4 lb of steamed shrimp are all tempting. Everything comes with a generous supply of homemade potato chips.  Grandma doesn't offer fries which may be why all the food comes out of the kitchen so hot and fast.

I'm happy to start off my blogging on "Hot Plate of Judgment" with a place that I really love.  If you're in SWFL, you should go there and you'll love it, too.  Love, Auntie

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Passing Judgment - Charlie Chang's Ping

Recently Charlie Chang's started delivering to my neighborhood. So I decided to order it for dinner the other night. I have had sushi at the restaurant and it was fine, so I ordered the sushi. Judgment - The california rolls were fine, the Salmon Nagiri was fine, the "special" soft shell crab roll was disgusting. I don't say that too often.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Brunch or How I Ate a Loaf a Butter Covered Bread

For Easter brunch I made two dishes found on Pinterest (of course). 

1. A crock pot egg bake.  This would have been easy to make, if I had been better about my timing.  This dish needs to bake for 8-10 hours on low. I needed it for brunch at noon, so if you are somewhat good at math (I'm not, I had to ask my husband) you can figure out that I needed to wake-up at 2am to start the egg bake.  The good news is that I put everything together in the stoneware that night before going to bed, stuck it in the fridge, and then at 2am I just woke up and stuck it in the heating device (I don't know what that part is called).  This was easy for me because my 8-month-old and husband both woke up at 1am. 

So I'm not going to write out the recipe for you, because another blogger already has. Check out the recipe here at A Latte' with Ott A.

Here is the judgment - This is great if you plan to have breakfast 8-10 hours after you go to bed.  The flavor was really good and it was a hit with my guests.  It's also really easy and if you use low-fat cheese and lean bacon, it wouldn't be that too bad for you.

2. The other dish was a lemon monkey bread.  This is where I ate a loaf of bread covered with butter and sugar - literally.  This was really, really easy to make. Just take pre-made buttermilk biscuits - you know, the kind in a can that you pop. Then you cut them up and coat them with sugar.  You put them in a bread pan and cover with a melted butter, sugar mixture.  Finally, you bake.  JUDGED - one of the best things I ever ate and probably one of the most unhealthy things I ever made.

Here is the recipe:

1 can of buttermilk biscuits
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar

1 stick of butter
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar

1. Cut biscuits in quarters and place in a greased pan.
2. Mix lemon zest and sugar together in a bowl, throw in the biscuits and coat with the sugar.
3. Melt the butter together with the lemon juice and sugar
4. Pour butter over biscuits, this will look like it's too much, but it's okay.
5. Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.
6. After 15 minutes, remove from pan.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I'm Pinteresting

It has been a long time since I posted on my blog and yeah, I judged myself for that.  I left my blog high and dry and thought of myself as one of those people - the people that think writing a blog is a great idea and then don't follow through.

Then one magical day Pinterest came along and as I started collected recipes and trying them. Suddenly, I had gone back to my roots - judgy. I started collecting recipes, trying the recipes (not everyone does this on Pinterest, some are just collectors - yeah, you're judged) and then providing my opinion.  AND people liked what I pinned, what I had to say and then *here's the magic* they started following me.  So, I thought, "it's time, time to start writing my judgmental thoughts again." 

So here we go. Thank you Pinterest.  My husband is going to be so excited, he really loved it when I took pictures of our food when we went out to eat.