Sunday, March 29, 2009

Restaurant Review: Lumi Empanada & Dumpling Kitchen

Eric and I were in Uptown Dallas Friday night, so we decided to stop by the new dumpling kitchen next to Primo's - Lumi. Luckily, we got there right before seven, so we were able to enjoy their happy hour for a few minutes (2.50 domestic beers and half price for some of their dishes). Lumi is a tapas style asian/brazilian restaurant that specializes in empanadas (ok not so asian) and dumplings. Note - don't park in the adjacent parking lot that looks like it's 100% Lumi parking - it's Hook, Line, and Sinker only.

We had the Thai Panang Curry chicken dumplings, the Hearty Beef & Yukon Potato empanadas, the Ahi Tuna nachos, and the Chinese 5 Spice Duck & Leek dumplings. Each dish was full of flavor, some strong and some nuanced. The chicken dumplings (we ordered them pan fried) were full of traditional Thai flavor, and the beef empanadas were perfectly cooked. The potato within the empanada was a perfect complement - nice to get your meat and potatoes in one convenient package! The ahi tuna nachos were a bit too oniony for my taste, but it was easy to scrape off some of the onion to enjoy the beautiful ahi tuna set off by cilantro, jalapenos, and wasabi aioli. Eric and I both agree that the duck dumplings (we ordered the steamed) were the highlight of the evening. The spices in the duck were quite layered and complex, and the spicy plum dipping sauce really complemented the flavors.

We definitely enjoyed our quick, casual dinner and the vibe at this converted house. If you visit, be sure to check out the bathrooms - I am in love with the wall tile!

Fun in Chi-Town for Paddy's Day!

Eric and I were lucky enough to get to make our almost annual pilgrimage to Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick's day, but the most wonderful part of it was getting to spend it with my best friend Kristina, her husband David, and her sister Ingrid! Eric and I arrived in Chicago around lunchtime on Friday, 3/13, and made our way into the city to our hotel, the Westin Michigan Ave. The staff was great, and they gave us a lake view room on the top floor. My only gripe about this hotel was the bar, or lack thereof. There was a bar in the Grill on the Alley, the restaurant attached to the hotel, but it closed early and there was not really a 'hotel bar,' if you will.

We had some chicago style pizza for lunch (nothing to rave about, but satisfied the craving), and made a beeline for H&M. I really don't know why we don't have an H&M in Dallas - if anyone wants to open one I will be happy to go in with them!! Eric and I stocked up on our spring wardrobe basics - it was a pretty sucessful shopping trip. Have I mentioned how nice it is to have a husband who will shop with you? Then it was back to the hotel to rest up before meeting our friends for dinner.

We met Kristina, David, Ingrid, Ryan, Jeremy and Romy at my favorite Tapas place in Chicago, Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (side note, I want to expand my horizons and try Cafe Iberico next time we're in town). It was so great to see everyone! Jeremy and Romy are in the midst of planning what promises to be the most fabulous wedding ever, and Ryan is living the fabulous life with his job at Northwestern. Everyone seemed to be doing well! We had a great waiter and had lovely tapas and lovely Sangria! The menu had changed since our last visit, but we were still able to find all our old favorites, as well as enjoying some of the pintxos - the bite size tapas that are new to the menu. I particular enjoyed the short rib stuffed piquillo pepper, the house plate with Manchego, jamon serrano, chorizo, salchichon, the best pan con tomate ever, and the bacon wrapped dates. This was the first time we had room for dessert, and we thoroughly enjoyed the truffle chocolate cake and the butterscotch custard creme mini desserts. I love the option of getting a couple small desserts to share rather than one huge dessert! Anyway, dinner and the company was great, and I really do love our tradition of going here on our Chicago visits.

After dinner, Jeremy and Romy took us to a nearby neighborhood bar - the Marquee Lounge - for more fun and conversation. We had a great time and it was so great to see the happy couple. Can't wait till August for the wedding!

The next day was the big St Paddy's day pub crawl. Ingrid, Kristina, David, Eric, and I piled into a taxi (thanks to the taxi gods for always providing us with a van size taxi!) and headed to the Irish Oak Pub. Although just after noon, it was already packed with fellow Paddy's Day merry makers! We found a spot in the back and tried to catch up with the already drunken crowd. It was so great to get to catch up with our friends - really a breath of fresh air after how hard we have been working lately. We are so lucky to get to see Kris and David so often, even though they live across the pond. After a few hours at Irish Oak, we headed to Sluggers.

Now, if I lived in Chicago, Sluggers is the kind of place I would never go to, but as a tourist, I freaking love it! We were lucky enough to find a couple tables in the back, which was nice to sit down for a while after standing for hours at the previous pub. Then came the jello shots, which led us upstairs for some drunken batting cages, air hockey, and dueling pianos (how weird is it that a bar has all this stuff???). We had such a great time and were sad to go home. We finished the day with a quick snack at the grill on the alley and into bed by midnight. I think for a bunch of 27-33-year-olds, we did quite well!

Sunday was a relaxing day of - shock - more eating and enjoying the city. We started with brunch at Rockit, one of my favorite places downtown. They had really great live music and just such a relaxed, Sunday vibe. My turkey burger with goat cheese was fab - and they had the best chips/potato wedges. Then we walked around town, visited Millenium Park, and a quick trip to Filene's basement. We capped off the evening with drinks on the top of the John Hancock Tower to enjoy the sunset and fabulous views, followed by dinner at Quartino, which is basically an Italian tapas restaurant (yes, I freaking love any place with small plates as I have a hard time deciding on one food to eat). This was our first time to Quartino but it came highly reccommended by our Chicago native friends, and they were right. Everything from our waiter, Zack, to the lovely Chianti, to the fabulous caprese salad and braised lamb shank was was just lovely for our last night in Chicago. The only thing we didn't love was the gnocchi, which was sad because I have a love affair with the potato pasta heaven that is gnocchi - but all of the other fabulous dishes overshadowed this one less than perfect aspect.

Kristina and I spent Monday boutique shopping in the Halsted/Armitage area. The most exciting event of the day was finding a shop that was moving location and scoring Rich & Skinny jeans for $60 dollars reduced from $200! They are my new favorite jeans!! We also had a lovely lunch at Toast.

Then, as quickly as we arrived, it was time to leave. Oh how I love Chicago. The fact that I've never been between October and mid March probably contributes to my love as I have never experienced the painful cold that I hear so much about. And oh how much we will miss our friends. We are so blessed to have them, and seeing them a few times a year is certainly better than not at all. Can't wait for our Greece vacation together in June!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I love my AeroGarden

At long last, Eric and I received our AeroGarden Space Saver6 in the mail last Sunday. It was so easy to setup - we had it up and growing within 30 mins of ripping open the box. We're trying out the gourmet herb kit (Basil, Thyme, Mint, Chives, Oregano, and Dill) first - we love fresh herbs and are hoping that it results in lots of savings, esp. once mojito season rolls around! After just one week, all of our lovely plants have sprouted, and we can't wait to harvest once they get old enough. We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Restaurant Review: Bruno's Italian

So my BFF Kristina's friend had been raving to me about this random looking italian place in a strip mall by our house, so Eric and I decided to drag our neighbors Jerry and Dawn to it as well. We had eaten at a few other "great" italian places by the house and had been sorely disappointed, so we didn't get our hopes up about this one. When the four of us walked into Bruno's we were immediately suprised by the lovely atmosphere. There was a pianist playing in the corner, and the restaurant was split up into a few little rooms as well as a glassed in patio. The atmosphere was great (def more on the grown up side, but not too stuffy), and we had a lovely evening. Eric and I enjoyed a simple, perfect Caprese salad to start, followed by the Veal Samtimbocca (him) and the Pan Seared Orange Roughy (me). They were both fantastic - so good in fact that I doubt I will ever be able to order anything else than this delightful, light, fresh fish. We both cleaned our plates, and Jerry and Dawn thouroughly enjoyed theirs as well.

We'll definitely be going back to Bruno's, especially when we want a dinner on the fancy side but don't want to venture too far from the house. Salad, dinner, and a bottle of wine was about $100 including tip. Hooray for a fun, yummy, independently owned restaurant close to the casa!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Holiday Bowl

So, one thing that I think is important to capture in our blog is our fun adventures away from good old DFW. Eric and I had a fabulous trip to San Diego at the end of the year to cheer the OSU Cowboys on at the Holiday Bowl and stayed on to ring in the New Year. We stayed at the W San Diego (thank goodness for all of Eric's hotel points). We were met with a chilled bottle of bubbly upon arrival, so we got the party started and then got ready to head to the game. We were very excited!
Unfortunately with our quarterback's shoulder issues we didn't come out on top, but we had a great time checking out the stadium where the Chargers play as well as cheering on the cowboys. I also had one of the best Italian Dogs of my life!
We did also manage to enjoy a fair bit of the gaslamp quarter during our visit. A particular highlight was the incredible sushi we had on New Year's Eve at Taka. We sat at the sushi bar and our chef was as delightful and lovely as the fish! We also had a quick glass of wine at The Grape before heading back to the hotel to enjoy the New Year's festivities. San Diego was a great relaxing trip and great way to start the year off. We still hold out hope that in five years or so we'll be living in Cali - I guess we'll see what happens!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year, New Goal

Happy New Year! Well, my goal this year is to start a blog, so here's my first try. The funny part is that I'm so self conscious that I am not telling anyone that I'm starting a blog, it's more of a diary for Eric and I. Maybe after a few months if I really keep up with it I'll open it up to others, but right now I'm too shy. So, if you stumble upon me, I hope you enjoy and that I'm not too lame.

Other New Year Goals:
1. Get back into new music and bands: I used to be in the know of new upcoming bands and musicians that were really getting out there with new ideas, but since moving back from London I've let my knowledge start to slide. So, I promise to start experimenting with new music and reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly right here!
2. Support the arts in DFW: OK, so if I check out new local bands (see #1) I will be killing two birds with one stone, but I also mean other types of music and other types of art. I feel like Eric and I should take some of the money we spend eating out, and instead, cook at home and use that to attend more lectures, musicals, plays, art shows, etc.

3. Paint: So, almost six months ago I bought some acrylics and canvases, but have yet to jump in. I have loads of ideas but I'm almost afraid to start. If I ever paint anything I can stand to look at I will post it here, I promise.

To those of you that have goals for 2009, good luck!