The Best Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Period.

I am breaking one of my own rules, and I don’t care.

I have always said I would not claim something as “the best I ever ate” if I had not tried enough of a particular food to compare.

Scratch that.  For now, at least.

This past week, I had the opportunity to try a local Italian restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Casa D’ Angelo.  I have wanted to try this place for a while now, but it is pretty pricey and shocking, not in my current budget.  What do you do when you really want to try a restaurant and can’t afford it?  You wait for your family to take you there.

I had family visiting from NY who suggested we all go to Casa D’ Angelo for dinner.  That’s right, I didn’t even have to debate internally whether it was rude of me to pick such an expensive restaurant because they picked it themselves.  Amazing.  The food here was so good and so authentic Italian, as judged by my relatives from Italy, that we ended up going back AGAIN before they left.  I seriously hit the food lottery that week.

One of the main persuasive forces of returning a second time was this risotto.

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

I ordered it on a whim as an appetizer for my boyfriend and I because I have never had a truly authentic risotto, and I certainly don’t have the time or willingness to add 5 sticks of butter to make this on my own.  I don’t care that I have not tried other risottos, and I don’t care that this is one of the least photogenic dishes ever- this risotto was pure heaven.  The truffle oil and porcini mushrooms added just the right amount of flavor on top of the divine creaminess of the cheese and other goodness in here.  The rice itself was perfectly al dente.  My hard to impossible to please Italian grandmother raved about this risotto.  This was seriously one of my favorite appetizers from a restaurant ever.  You can also order it as an entree, but I think the appetizer portion was plenty satisfying.

If you are ever in Ft. Lauderdale and looking for the best Italian food, go to Casa D’Angelo.  Order this risotto whether or not it is on the menu that day.  Somehow.

Every other part of my dining experience was delicious and blog-worthy as well.

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I ordered the linguine positano as my entree, which is linguine with shrimp sauteed in white wine, with garlic, fresh tomato, and arugula.  I thought this dish was phenomenal- fresh, simple yet flavorful, and filling.  The shrimp were a bit on the firm side, but I suppose that is better than overly cooked, rubbery shrimp.

So, my recommendations to you all:  1. Plan a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t live nearby.  2. Invite family to cover the bill (joking, kind of.) 3. Demand to try the mushroom risotto. 4. Order anything else as an entree 5. Drink wine to enhance good time and better tolerate family and 6. Pass out in food coma.

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Life moves pretty fast….

Within a time span of seven days, from February 27-March 6 to be exact, so many parts of my life began to fall into place.  It’s crazy how everything exciting in life seems to happen all at once.  This week has been an absolute whirlwind.  I have been dying to blog about all of the exciting and scary changes ahead, both to share and to to have a moment of reflection for myself.

February 27: We took home this little bundle of joy.

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Macy

Macy

Her name is Macy- Macy Mae to be be exact.  We had been talking about adopting a dog for the longest time now, but we never felt 100% ready for the added responsibility.  Then, it hit us.  We will never be 100% ready!  Life is always crazy and always busy and we are never going to want to walk a dog at 6am.  But, as any dog owner will tell you, the payoff is so worth it.  We finally just took the leap and did it.  We said ‘yes’ to the dog.  I would be lying if I didn’t mention the insane anxiety that the added responsibility gave us at first, but a little over a week in, we have fell into a routine and love her to death.

Obligatory rant:

Please, please, please if you are thinking about getting a dog, ADOPT!  The Humane Society and Rescue groups are loaded with the sweetest, kindest, friendliest, healthiest dogs of ALL ages and ALL breeds.  You can be placed on a list for a certain breed or seek out breed-specific rescues in your state, if you have a breed preference.  Of course, I’m partial to mutts, but to each is own :)  Not only are you adopting a family member for life, but it opens up a spot for another precious dog to come in from a kill-shelter or owner surrender.  I am so passionate about this, I could go on forever.  But, I’ll leave it at this: don’t shop, adopt!

March 1:  Celebrated Ryan’s 26th birthday

It is so crazy to admit, be we are getting old!  My man is in his last year of his ‘mid twenties’.  We went out to a nice dinner at J. Alexanders on Friday and celebrated out with friends on Saturday.  We really enjoyed the food at J. Alexanders, but I have to admit that I am partial to Houston’s [for that price range and cuisine].

Celebratory Drinks

Celebratory Drinks

Grilled Artichokes

Grilled Artichokes

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

Salmon

Salmon

The grilled artichokes were delicious!  The foodie in me is embarrassed to admit, however, that I have no clue how much of an artichoke to eat.  Oops.  The ‘not your ordinary’ mac and cheese was also delicious, but practically swimming in the cream and cheese.  I felt as though I were eating cream with macaroni in it.  Two bites was plenty.  My salmon was very good, served with a dill sauce on the side.  However, I have had better salmon at a restaurant [Bonefish Grill and Season’s 52 to name a few].  Either way, it was a lot of fun to have a reason to try a new restaurant.  Happy Birthday Ryan! … (Let’s see if he actually reads this)

March 1:  Signed up to run my first 10k

True story: I talk about “goals” and things I want to accomplish, but then, surprise, life gets too busy and it doesn’t happen.  Case in point: run a 10k.

Funny story:  I decided, after a particularly unproductive and difficult gym session, that it was time to 1) get back in shape, and 2) accomplish this frickin goal.  So, I came upstairs, and in the heat of the moment, signed up for the 1st 10k that takes place on a Sunday in my area (because I work on Saturdays).  I didn’t care about the cause, I simply wanted to cross this item off of my bucket list and have a reason to push my butt to run every week.

So, I am now signed up to run the “Gumbo Lumbo Green Turtle Gallop” on April 7.  Yes, I am running 6.2 miles for sea turtle conservation, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Sometimes, you have to stop talking about things you want to do, and just do it!

March 6: Official Job Offer!!!

I was officially offered a full time pharmacist position post-graduation.  And the kicker?  It is located right where I live.  Those of you who aren’t currently on the hunt for full time, well paying, post-grad school jobs in desirable/saturated areas may not fully understand, but this is huge!  I finally feel as though my hard work is paying off and I am getting what I deserve.  I can officially say I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is bright!

Honestly, I have been through some rough patches these past few years, and it feels pretty amazing to feel all of these good changes on the horizon.  It is not always easy to “just stay positive”or “just keep pushing on”, and many times I wanted to seriously punch people in the face for uttering those phrases to me.  But, life really does move in cycles, and things really do get better.  And sometimes, good things do happen to good people.

So many of our days are spent wishing more exciting things were happening or yearning for x amount of days/weeks/months to pass.  Then, when we finally arrive at that accomplishment/goal/vacation/ending we want so bad, it all happens so quickly, that we don’t even appreciate it as it’s unfolding.

This week was splendid and eye-opening for me, and I want to cherish this feeling of happiness, gratefulness, and uninterrupted joy.  I want to forget about my anxieties and fears of all the added responsibilities ahead of me, and just savor this feeling.

Because really, life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around one in a while, you might miss it.-Ferris Bueller.

One Sweet Day

I hope everyone had a great Valentines Day yesterday.  Whether single or with someone, it’s a great excuse to eat chocolate and drink wine!

We split Valentines into two nights, with Ryan taking me out for a nice dinner last night and Sunday night I will be cooking him a dinner.  What I’m making Sunday was intended to be a surprise but he already knows what it is, so I will just have to keep it as a surprise for you guys.  Can’t spoil a good blog post, can we?

Last night we went out to Mortons Steakhouse for a special dinner and oh my gosh were we blown away.  We had only been one time before, but we each ordered the same thing as last time because it is that good.  Ryan got the 12 oz. filet and I got the shrimp alexander.  In case you are wondering what type of  crazy goes to Mortons and doesn’t order steak, it’s me!  For those of you who haven’t noticed, I don’t eat red meat.  Not to worry- Ryan will be guest blogging on here for all of this blogs meat needs.

Back to this shrimp alexander.  Before attempting to describe something so heavenly, I’ll give you  a visual.

Morton's Shrimp Alexander

Morton’s Shrimp Alexander

I hope you all appreciate the picture because honestly, it is a little embarrassing to snap a picture of your meal at a very nice restaurant, especially when everyone around you is on an intimate date.  I think this should be an initiation act for rookie food-bloggers .  I feel more official now ;)

Now, my attempt at giving this amazing dish a description.  These large, succulent shrimp are wonderfully breaded (don’t believe they’re fried, not sure though) in the most perfect mix of seasoned bread crumbs.  The real out-of-this-world part is the sauce.  Now, normally I am not a “sauce girl”.  I feel sauces usually just add empty and unnecessary calories to a dish that already tastes great.  So, if I am raving about a sauce/dip and practically slurping it up (i.e. this tzatiki sauce), you know it is awesome.  The sauce is a Beurre Blanc sauce- a wine and butter mixture- that is heaven to your mouth.  It is buttery and creamy without tasting too rich, and it pairs with the breaded shrimp beautifully.

Ultimately, this shrimp was so amazing that I can say without a doubt it is the best shrimp I have ever had.  Therefore, I will most definitely be adding this to my “Best Thing I Ever Ate” page.  And for those of you who would love to try this dish on a special night out at Mortons but can’t bear the thought of not getting a steak- worry not!  This dish is available as an appetizer!  But I warn you- an appetizer portion of this will be nothing more than a tease to your tastebuds.

I do have to mention that, surprisingly, the side dishes and desserts at Morton’s do not overly impress me (for $12 a pop).  We tried the potatoes au gratin (which has bacon although not stated on the menu- annoyance #1), the truffle fries (good but can get elsewhere), and the chocolate soufflé (good but can get elsewhere).  In my opinion, you go to Morton’s for the entrees, plain and simple.

I know some feel Valentine’s Day is a silly, commercialized holiday, but I am a sucker for it.  Even though we should treat our loved ones special every day of the year, realistically life gets busy and stressful and that doesn’t always happen as intended.  Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to relax, appreciate the important ones in your life (significant other, parents, friends, pets, yourself), and most important of all, eat chocolate and drink wine!

My Valentine & I (photo not taken on Vday)

My Valentine & I (photo not taken on Vday)

All my favorites

All my favorites

How sweet was it of Ryan to get me all my favorite candy.  Can you tell I like “red” flavors?  And dogs?

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Misha's Black Bottom Cupcake

Misha’s Black Bottom Cupcake

And no occasion would be complete without Misha’s Cupcakes (read about my obsession here).  We finally branched out and tried some new flavors.  This one is is a black bottom: chocolate cheesecake cupcake with buttercream frosting.  Yum.

Now that is what I call one sweet day!

How did you all spend your Valentines Day?  What delicious treats did you eat?

Cornbread Panzanella Salad w/ Blackened Shrimp

Tonight for dinner I accomplished many things: 1) I tried a new restaurant 2) ordered something unique 3) ordered something healthy 4) ordered something delicious.  These 4 simple goals are not easy to come by, believe me!  This cornbread panzanella salad with shrimp from The Floridian in St. Augustine served all my purposes and left me one happy camper.

For those of you not familiar with Florida geography, St. Augustine is about 4.5 hours north of where I live.  I am here [by myself] for one night to attend a Board of Pharmacy conference tomorrow morning.  What is a girl to do who is alone in a new city with only a few hours to spare?  Three things come to my mind: eat delicious local food, explore, and shop.  Shopping was out of the question because besides the fact that I am broke, I have no interest in buying “colonial” hats, I <3 St. Augustine t-shirts, or magnets with a lighthouse on them.  I explored as much of the historic town as I could, but I arrived at 4:30 and was limited to the few sites still open.  By 7 pm, I was left with one option and one option only: EAT!

After performing a very thorough search of St. Augustine restaurants and eateries, and consulting Yelp, Urbanspoon, and the like, I decided to try this restaurant called The Floridian.  This place was totally my kind of spot: cozy, homey, outdoor seating available, and decorated with local beachy trinkets in the cute, not tacky way.

This place is known for lots of gluten free and vegetarian options, as well as their seafood, but they have plenty of things for everyone on the menu.  Everything here is made with locally grown/raised/made  produce/meats/cheeses, which I find so wonderful.  I had a hard time deciding what to get, but I was in the mood for something on the lighter side, so I opted for the Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

If you are not familiar with a panzanella salad, it is typically made with croutons (preferably home-made), tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and mozzarella cheese with a vinaigrette type dressing.  The main caveat  being that there is no lettuce or leafy vegetable included.  The panzanella salad I got tonight had many twists to it.  They used cornbread to make the croutons, there was fresh arugula included, I opted to add blackened shrimp, and they served it with a homemade basil-buttermilk dressing.  Additionally, the salad included heirloom tomatoes, strips of red bell pepper, and freshly made tomme cheese.

The salad was really great.  Everything, from the produce to the cheese to the bread, tasted so fresh!   The cornbread added such a sweet taste and comforting aspect to the meal.  The only downside to using cornbread is that it naturally does not get as crispy as other bread types.  Not to say that it was soggy, but it was definitely softer than expected.  The shrimp was a bit on the salty side in my opinion, but still tasty.  Lastly, I prefer the traditional vinegerette to the buttermilk dressing they used (and I forgot to ask for it on the side), but that is just my personal preference.

Because this was a “me” night (did I mention the glass of wine I enjoyed?), dessert was a requirement.  I knew from the moment I walked in and spotted the homemade pecan caramel bars that I would be ordering one, and that is exactly what I did.

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

My foodie experience at the Floridian in St. Augustine was wonderful.  It made this undesirable, lonely trip way better.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone in the area, as well as the specific dishes I ordered.

Now, it’s off to bed for an early conference in the morning.  If only the complimentary breakfast were half as exciting as my dinner tonight.  A girl can dream!

XO

Fried Mac n Cheese: What Heaven Tastes Like

I wouldn’t normally be one to blog about a dish from a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant such as the Cheesecake Factory, but I have the itch to blog and this appetizer was a-maz-ing.

What brought us into the Cheesecake Factory in the first place was the fact that we had a $75 gift certificate from the holidays to use and a free slice of cheesecake (admit it- their cheesecake is to die for).

Fried Mac n Cheese

Fried Mac n Cheese

We started off with this fried mac and cheese appetizer that was seriously delicious.  The fried portion was perfectly crispy and seasoned, and the inside was ooey and gooey macaroni and cheese.  Not questionable cheese filling with a piece of pasta, but actual macaroni and cheese that would have been awesome on its own.  Equally as delectable was the sauce served on the bottom of the plate.  The best way to describe the sauce is creamy tomato sauce meets romesco sauce.

Our entrees were ok but nothing to write home about.  Our cheesecake of choice was the Oreo cheesecake which is not pictured because it wasn’t around long enough to capture a photograph :)

I highly recommend that the next time you are in the mood for a drinks and appetizer type night with your friends or hunny, hit up the Cheesecake Factory and order t0 this fried Mac and Cheese.  We have $10 left on our gift card (don’t you love it when that happens),and our plans literally include a return trip for Fried Mac n Cheese and wine.  And maybe cheesecake…

We all know that chain restaurants are not quite as exciting as home cooked meals or fancy dinners out, or even hole-in-the-wall foodie finds, but sometimes we just end up at one of these places for a meal and are pleasantly surprised.  Similar story? Share!

Practically The Weekend

In my book, Thursday night is practically the weekend.  Which means it is the perfect time to justify having some delicious cupcakes (if you are the type that needs to justify it).

I don’t know about you guys, but this was one of those weeks that dragged on forever.  I have a big presentation to give tomorrow for my current rotation, and I may or may not have spent a little too much time cooking, drinking wine, and watching reality TV last week instead.  Either way, once the presentation is over tomorrow I can officially cross rotation #7/9 off my list.  That is another reason (still assuming we need one) to have some cupcakes!

(L): red velvet with buttercream frosting (R): vanilla with buttercream frosting

(L): red velvet with buttercream frosting (R): vanilla with buttercream frosting

These cupcakes are from Misha’s Cupcakes in Miami, FL.  There are about 4 store locations total, but the cupcakes can also be found at various locations such as the Nordstrom Cafe (Dadeland Mall location) and the University of Miami.

These are by far the best cupcakes ever.  I have tried Georgetown Cupcakes, Crumbs, and many others, and it is not even close.  My absolute favorite is the red velvet but the vanilla comes in a very close second.  The red velvet has the tiniest hint of chocolate chips that just adds the perfect touch.  These cupcakes are beyond moist and incredibly flavorful.  What sets these cupcakes apart from others is the fact that the cake, not the frosting, is the best part.  And that is not to say that the frosting isn’t absolutely delicious, but the cake is what steals the show.

Ryan and I recently got into a very heated debate with friends about cupcakes.  Our friends believe that the cake component to these cupcakes are too heavy and “muffin-like”.  They prefer a lighter, more airy cupcake with whipped-type frosting.  Now, call me crazy, but I disagree.  I want my cupcakes to  live up to their name and be round, scrumptious pieces of cake with more delicious frosting on top.  Feel free to weigh in on this debate.

For those of you in the South Florida area, you need to make a trip to Mishas ASAP (as in tomorrow) and try these cupcakes.  For those of you not in South Florida, I’m sorry.  Luckily for you, South Florida is a pretty nice vacation destination and if the beaches don’t do it for you, these cupcakes will :)

Now, if you assumed that because I am blogging I am done with my presentation for tomorrow, you are incorrect.  I am blogging because I am not done with it.  I think I have officially exhausted my procrastination options and have no choice but to be productive.

Happy almost Friday everyone!  Was this week as long for you as it was for me?  I would love to know: where was the best cupcake you ever had?  

 

Fresh Spinach Konafa

Since the image of this glorious appetizer is most likely what lured you in, I must admit right off the bat that I did not cook this!  This fresh spinach konafa is from a Greek restaurant, Taverna Yiamas, in Hollywood, Fl.

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This dish is very similar to spanakopita.  It is made with shredded phyllo dough, feta cheese, and spinach, all sandwiched together and grilled (fried?) to perfection.

Now, over the past year or so I have developed somewhat of an obsession for Greek Food.  I have tried numerous Greek restaurants and have strong, unwavering opinions of who makes the best kebobs, saganaki, tzatiki, hummus, spanakopita, etc.. Let me tell you, Taverna Yiamas makes the best konafa/spanakopita I have ever had.  Period.  The service/ambiance at this place leaves much to be desired, but that becomes irrelevant as soon as you bite into the konafa.

What makes this dish outstanding and different from other spanakopita-type dishes I have had is the crispiness of the shredded phyllo paired with the creaminess of the abundant feta cheese and fresh spinach.  We always order the exact same thing (konafa appetizer with schwarma pitas), so that is the only food I can vouch for from this restaurant.

Ironically, we stumbled upon this place via Groupon, and it was definitely one of those places that surprised us for the better.  Like I said, the ambience and service is sub-par at best, but the konafa is so good I would eat it off the floor if that were my only choice (kidding.. kind of).

Anybody else obsessed with Greek &/ Mediterranean food?