Saturday, December 31, 2011

A's Top 10 Food Memories of 2011

2011 was a hard year to peg for "top food memories" for me. Sadly we didn't do anything overly remarkable outside of our trip to Europe, and I think that's reflected a bit in my choices. Aside from the 6 items from that trip that are listed, I had at least 5 others that were maybes that just missed the cut. I may add pictures of the dishes later, but right now I haven't prepared that. So in random order, here are my top 10 food memories from 2011!

Tzitzikas Salad from Tzitzikas kai Mermigas
This salad was part of our first full meal in Greece, and it was such a fresh and delicious salad. So much of our trip stands out with regards to food we ate, but this was the start of our adventure, and it also was really healthy and really tasty.

Mushroom Pie from Ariston
A rich, buttery, flaky crust on both sides surrounding garlic and butter sauteed mushrooms. If the thought of that doesn't make your mouth water, you probably shouldn't read this blog anymore. No, I'm serious, just leave now. Ariston is a well known bakery in Athens, and of all of the pies we tried, this was my favorite. The crust was similar with most of the pies that they offered, but the mushroom filling was just amazing. A little buttery, a little garlicky, and unbelievably moist.

Mercimek Kofte from Antalia
It's not a stretch to say that M and I order in a lot. M orders more than I do due to her work schedule, but we both do order from time to time. One thing that we both fell in love with was the Mercimek Kofte from Antalia. It's a kofte made out of red lentils, and it is unbelievable. The first time M ordered it, she used all of her will power to not finish eating it all and actually save me some. Since that time, she has never saved a single bite for me, but we've ordered it together so that I've been able to eat it more.

Fish from Kounelas
We've had a lot of fresh fish, but this was something different. It was a simple preparation of being grilled over a wood-fire grill seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon. It was such a fresh and tasty preparation, and the fish was excellent. It was our last meal in Mykonos, and it was the perfect end to that leg of our trip.

Stuffed Vegetables from Lefteris
Lefteris is a restaurant in the small village of Apiranthos on the island of Naxos. You need to rent a car to get there, and it's a long and winding mountain drive to get there. But it's totally worth it. The food is extremely fresh since it's all grown in the garden just downstairs from the actual restaurant. The stuffed vegetables were literally picked that morning, and you could taste the freshness. While I doubt we'd ever make that drive again, we're so glad we did it this time to have that great meal.

Chicken and Tomatoes in Balsamic sauce from Homemade
This may not have been the greatest dish ever cooked, but it was special to me. I made this at home, and it was a tasty dish in my opinion. This was the first dish that we made out of the cookbooks we received from our wedding, and we were very excited about it.

Loucoumades from Regina Rose Amat
Loucoumades are Greek pastries that are made of fried dough and soaked in honey and cinnamon. They're round balls, but they're not like little donut holes like you'd fine here in the US. They're light and chewy with a good bite to them. I've had loucoumades before here in the states, but this little store in Halki specialized in them. They tasted incredible. They had the perfect texture, the honey was layered perfectly, and they were a great snack on our drive to Apiranthos. What made this even better was that we ate these while relaxing in the shade of a quaint little street in the middle of a small town. The atmosphere was fantastic, and it just felt so relaxing.

Pappardelle Bolognese from Babbo
M and I fell in love with pasta bolognese after our trip to Amsterdam in 2010. We had one of our many "versary" dinners at Babbo, and this was one of the dishes that we got as part of the pasta tasting menu. It was a rich meat sauce with veal, pancetta, and proscuitto. The tomato sauce was balanced and really absorbed a lot of the flavor from the meat.

Crab Toast from abc kitchen
This dish was part of our wedding anniversary dinner so it already had a special place in our hearts. The crab toast is something that is highly recommended at abc kitchen so we had to try it. It's loaded with sweet, succulent crab, and it has just the right amount of citrus from the dollop of lemon aioli on top. What made this meal even more amazing was that, in the middle of it, Chef Jean-George Vongerichten came in for a meal with his family, and his table was right next to ours.

Naxian Potato Salad from Meze Meze
Naxos is known for growing some of the best potatoes in the world. At our first meal at Meze Meze, we ordered way too much food as usual. However, one of the highlights of this meal was the Naxian Potato Salad. Loaded with onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, a local cheese called xinomizithra, and obviously boiled potatoes. The salad was loaded with flavor and freshness, and it had just the right amount of creaminess and saltiness from the cheese. It was a great dish, and it stood out even though we ordered 3 or 4 potato dishes and had to roll ourselves home.

M's Favorite Food Memories of 2011

Another year in the books, another year of good eats. It's always hard to narrow down all the good food we had over the past year to 10 memories but I think in the end I'm usually happy with my choices (see last year's favorite food memories here). After making some difficult cuts, I came up with the following 10. Looking over the list for some overall trends, some things were not a surprise (not many desserts or sweet items on the list) but some things were a surprise (not much from food fairs or food trucks). So, here's my 10 (in no particular order):

1. Crab toast from ABC Kitchen

We went to ABC Kitchen for our anniversary dinner this year (wedding anniversary, not the other 4 we celebrate). We got the crab toast with lemon aioli and it was fantastic. The toast was crunchy, but not too hard to bite. The crab was light and flaky, and full of flavor. The lemon aioli tied it all together with a nice light creaminess. We would definitely get this again. I know we didn't blog about it, but ABC Kitchen is a fantastic restaurant committed to local and organic ingredients and we highly recommend a visit (or more than one).

2. Santorini salad from Anemomilos

In May, we went on our (delayed) honeymoon to Greece and had a fantastic time. On our last day in Santorini, we were seeking a long leisurely lunch before heading to the airport, so we went to Anemomilos, a hotel just down the block from where we were staying, and ate at their outdoor restaurant. It was fantastic, a little cheaper than the touristy places in the heart of Oia and it had really delicious food.

We went for a "greatest hits of Santorini" sampling at lunch, getting the Santorini salad, fava spread, dolmades and tomatokeftedes (fried tomato balls). The salad was incredible. Santorini is known for their cherry tomatoes, and this salad consisted of tons of cherry tomatoes along with cucumbers, green peppers, red onions, capers, and a local Santorini cheese. The salad was light, refreshing, fresh and fantastic. It's been over 6 months since our trip but I still can't stop talking about how good it was.

3. Mushroom pie from Ariston

We previously blogged about our love for the pies at Ariston, a small but popular bakery in the heart of Athens. While the signature cheese pies were great and all of the vegetable pies we tried were also tasty, the mushroom pie stands out for its buttery crust and rich mushroom inside. I think any visit we make to Athens will include a trip to this excellent bakery.

4. Aushak from Ariana Afghan Kebab Restaurant

This year wasn't the first time we have had the aushak from Ariana, but this particular time is such a vivid memory. Aushak is an Afghan dish of boiled dumplings filled with leeks and spices, topped with yogurt and a spicy meat sauce. It's always tasty when we get it but this time was special. It was a Friday night and I had just been released from the hospital about an hour earlier, having been there since Tuesday morning when I was admitted with an extremely high fever and severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. I had survived for a week on mostly mediocre hospital food and had very little appetite (rare for me, even when I'm sick). I decided I wanted something small when A ordered dinner and got the appetizer size of the aushak. It was amazing. I loved the intensity and diversity of the flavor and the spices, and I felt like a real person eating real food again. I also felt like my sense of taste was more sensitive after so many days of no flavor food that I noticed every nuance in the complex flavors, and I felt more aware of what I was eating than I had for a long time. I will always remember this meal for being the first moment when I knew that I was on the road to recovery.

5. Bulgogi slider by Danji from Taste of Korea truck

We still haven't been to Danji (always crowded). But in the spring, the Taste of Korea truck spent a few weeks on the road giving out food from Korean restaurants in the city. I went on the first day when they were serving Danji's slider (despite just having a piece of my eyelid cut out and barely being able to see; the sacrifices I will make for good food). Danji's bulgogi beef slider (also on their regular menu) consists of the bulgogi, spicy pickled cucumber, and scallion salsa on a buttery slider bun. It was so good. I really hope we can try to get to the restaurant this year.

The slider from Danji is also representative of one of my favorite general food memories of the year - free stuff! I love all the opportunities for free food in the city, especially since sometimes it introduces you to things you've never had before, but might love (like the Danji slider). Over the past year, I've gotten for free (and clearly have not blogged about them all): sliders, cupcakes, hot dogs, ice cream, whoopie pies, dumplings, iced tea, Asian rice bowls, Turkish tacos, Korean tacos, pizza, a panini, energy drinks and a French sampler platter. One huge trend this year has been discounts and deals (with the proliferation of Groupon, LivingSocial, Scoutmob, Gilt City, Google Offers, etc), and what discount is better than free?

6. The Haribo section at Edeka

I wasn't looking forward to the end of our honeymoon, but I was definitely looking forward to the Munich airport, which we planned to explore during our layover. We had an excellent meal at Airbrau, the beer garden in the airport, and we also took part in one of my favorite activities in other countries - visiting the grocery store. Since we were in Germany, I was hoping there would be lots of Haribo candy, since, as I mentioned last year with the Smurfs, I love Haribo. I was not disappointed in our visit to Edeka, and in fact, there was more Haribo candy than I could have ever imagined. (I had not yet seen the video of the factory store in Bonn.) I was able to get a tub of smurfs, sour mangoes, juice-filled gold bears, all variations of gold bears, jelly beans and so much more. I completely lit up when I saw the giant Fruchtgummi sign and row after row of my Haribo favorites.

7. Stuffed vegetables from Cafe Lefteris

Our favorite place on our Greek trip was the island of Naxos. A little quieter and less touristy than the other places we visited, we really felt like we got more of a sense of the island, its culture and its people. (I put this list in no particular order, but Naxos comes up a lot in this second half.) One day we drove all over the island and visited the town of Apiranthos, thought by many to be one of the most beautiful towns on the island. We had also heard about a great place to eat called Cafe Lefteris. Once we finally found it, we stopped in for an early dinner filled with delicious fresh vegetables. Naxos is one of the most fertile islands in the Cyclades, and you could tell how fresh the vegetables were. One thing we love about Greek food is taking something that is really simple and just making it so well. This was the case with these stuffed vegetables, the special of the day. Fresh vegetables stuffed with rice, simple but incredible.

8. Loucoumades from Regina Rose Amat

On our way to Apiranthos, we stopped at two other small towns, Halki and Filoti. In Halki, we ventured into the town square and got a snack from Regina Rose Amat - loucoumades. Loucoumades are Greek donut balls with honey, cinnamon and sugar. These were sweet, delicious and the perfect snack.

9. Mercimek kofte from Antalia

Earlier this year, a new Turkish place opened near my office called Antalia. The second time I ordered from them, I decided to get mercimek kofte (red lentil patties). I thought they would be fried patties, but instead they were a cold appetizer of mashed lentils. The lentils are mixed with scallions, parsley and pepper salsa, and served with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. The combination was so good that I have gotten it every time I've ordered from Antalia since then. It's an addiction.

10. Naxian potato salad from Meze Meze

Another thing Naxos is known for is its potatoes. I'm not really sure what makes a potato a "good" potato, but there was just something about the potatoes we ate in Naxos at Meze Meze, a restaurant near the harbor in Naxos Town/Chora, that was just better. At our first dinner at Meze Meze, there were potatoes everywhere. We got fresh Naxian fried potatoes with kefalotiri local cheese, the octopus special which also came with fries and a Naxian potato salad. The Naxian potato salad consisted of boiled potato, tomato, pepper, onion, caper, olives, oregano, and xinomizithra local cheese. It was incredibly tasty and, as I said, something about the potatoes in Naxos was just better than other ordinary potatoes.

It's probably obvious that the majority of my choices came from our honeymoon, but the food we had was incredible and made such an impression on me. I can't wait to see what 2012 will bring!

IGK Rice Box

At some point I finally decided to try something other than the noodles at IGK. Every day I kept seeing this "weekly special" for their Jae Yook Bok Eum. It was funny to me since this weekly special was the special since I started coming here. As it was, I had tried their noodles plenty of times, and I felt it would be a good idea to try one of their rice dishes.

Jae Yook Bok Eum

The spicy pork is very tasty and is heavily flavored by gochujang, a traditional Korean spicy/sweet sauce. It's cooked with long-cut scallions, mushrooms, carrots, and is finished off with some sliced scallions, sesame seeds, and a pinch of pickled ginger and pickled radishes. If you don't know what gochujang tastes like I don't know that I can do it justice in words. I would just recommend seeing if you can try some of it at some point to see if you like it. This dish was good enough to me that I got it again right before the holidays. I'd be interested to see if it's still a "weekly" special after the new year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Nissaki Beach is Awesome

On our first morning in Naxos, we went down to the dining room in the lobby of our hotel, the Nissaki Beach Hotel, and saw a breakfast area about the same size as that of the Rochari. But it quickly became apparent, as they took us on a tour of the dining area, that the options at this breakfast were nothing like what we found at the Rochari.

After passing the coffee and tea area on the left side of the buffet, you hit a long table with a bunch of both sweet and savory options. There were multiple plates of cheese, sliced meats, a bowl of Greek salad, eggs, hot dog pieces with peppers and onions, a marble cake, spanakopita and other pies, toast with tuna and capers and a quiche. The right side of the U-shaped buffet had cereal, yogurt, bread and pastries, fruit and other sweet options. The breakfast offering was plentiful and incredible. We were so happy.

A got a sampling for his first plate (spinach pie, quiche, hot dog pieces, Greek salad, Greek cheese). In addition, they brought out from the kitchen some freshly squeezed orange juice. It was so good.

In addition to his plate, A (shockingly) also got Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts.

M's first plate was very similar to A's - spinach pie, hot dog pieces, toast with tuna, quiche, Greek salad, turkey slice and cheese. M was so happy with all of these savory options. And it didn't just look good. It was so, so tasty.

With all of these delicious options, it was hard to choose what to get for plate #2. M got more Greek salad and hot dog pieces as these were a little bit healthier and they were really good. If we ate more rich Greek pies and cheeses, they might have had to roll us out of the dining room.

M also got some yogurt with fruit salad (strawberries, apples and bananas). Yogurt with fruit is definitely her preferred combination.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel was, like the Rochari, included as part of our room rate. The difference was that there were so many different items to choose. It was so good that we couldn't wait to see what they would have the next day! Even if they repeated the exact same slate of dishes, we would be happy. There were so many good savory options and we couldn't wait to get some more. After filling up on breakfast, we ended up skipping lunch during our sightseeing. So much good food!

Cuban Send-Off

The last work lunch of the year felt like such a big decision. After eating at so many good places over the past year, what place should get the distinction of being my last lunch of the year? I was originally planning to walk over to a food truck on the east side but in the end decided to stay closer to the office. I had to choose between taking a long walk at lunch or enjoying the almost 50 degree (!) weather by leaving early to go for a run. As I'm quite out of shape, the run won.

Thinking about the places close to the office, the choice for my last lunch of the year became clear. What better way to close out the year than to go to the same place that I went for my first lunch of the year? With that plan, I headed over to Sophie's Cuban and got another baked chicken sandwich. Sadly, this was my least favorite of the sandwiches I got from Sophie's this year as the mayo was a bit too salty and there was a massive piece of chicken skin on one side of the sandwich. But the green hot sauce was just as good as always.

How did you celebrate your last (work) lunch of 2011? We're currently working on our 10 favorite food memories of 2011 posts and will hopefully get those up by the end of the year. Can't wait to share our memories with you!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve! In honor of the Italian tradition of the feast of the seven fishes, we have a Christmas Eve tradition of going out to eat at least seven fishes. But we do it in a slightly different way.

First sushi plate: Mexican roll (spicy tuna crunch, avocado), red dragon roll (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cucumber), crazy dragon roll (eel, tuna, crunch), spicy whitefish tempura roll

Second sushi plate: scallop lover roll (shrimp tempura, spicy scallop, crunch), yellowtail scallion roll, eel avocado roll, spicy king crab roll (with crabmeat inside), salmon avocado roll

Sushi! This year we ended up getting 8 fishes/seafood types: yellowtail, tuna, salmon, eel, crab, scallop, shrimp, and whitefish. Delicious success!

All sushi from AKA Sushi, Eltingville, Staten Island.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

45th Street South Side (5-6 Ave)

I started the block by block challenge the first time over a year ago (never finished) and I am proud to announce that I have finally finished my first block! It's a much harder task than you would imagine, considering all the specials and free lunches, the sheer number of places there are to try in midtown, and that I like to walk during lunch. But, a month and a half after I started this block, I am done!

So, let's take a walk down the south side of 45th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

First, I tried the spicy chicken at Cafe 45 and thought it was just OK.

Next up, Ambrosia. I'm glad that they have recently stepped up their signage as the best Korean food in the area because their Korean counter is better than Cafe 45 and their Korean-style chicken fried rice is delicious.

The next place, Point Break, I skipped because it's more of a sit-down place and too expensive for lunch. It was also so expensive that I couldn't rationalize ordering it for dinner. I think getting tacos was close to $20. They have a cute snowman though.

Freefoods was also too expensive for my lunch budget (at least, if I don't want to be hungry an hour later), so I ordered it for dinner and had some nice healthy organic food.

I had no idea what I wanted at Milk n' Honey so I got an onion bagel and was quite happy with my choice.

I went back to Karam II (the former Bread and Olive), ordered my usual small vegetable combo, and delighted in the garlicky goodness.

I skipped the next place, a French brasserie called Gaby, because that's way out of my price range and I don't even think they do takeout. I've been there once on a work lunch. I have no memories of what I ordered but thought it was fine.

I loved the character of Park Italian Gourmet, got a tasty sandwich and pondered what to get next.

The brand new Pret a Manger opened today and was my last stop. I went for my usual holiday sandwich and it was fantastic.

Pret will not be the last eatery on the block. The new BLT is opening soon but I consider this block done now because there is no way BLT (or the lounge) will fit into the lunch price range anyway.

And that's the block! It's crazy to me how these places are so close but many of them I've walked by hundreds of times and just never gone in. I love how the block by block challenge gets me to try new places. I think I shall do the other side of the street next!

New Pret Old Sandwich

The new Pret by my office (on 45th Street) opened today (and it just happened to be the next stop on my block by block challenge). I love the design of the new place, so good job Pret! It's only 2 blocks from the next Pret but it was fairly busy when I went for my late lunch. I decided it would be a good day to get the holiday sandwich before the seasonal items were off the shelves.

The Pret holiday sandwich is probably my favorite thing there and I look forward to its return every year. This year, the recipe was a little different. Instead of sausage stuffing, crispy onions and oranges, there was veggie stuffing and apples. I could definitely taste the difference. And as much as I loved the sausage stuffing and onions, I think the changes made the sandwich even better. That's high praise coming from someone who doesn't love fruit mixed in with savory food.

The contents of the holiday sandwich this year are roasted turkey, veggie stuffing, cranberry sauce, walnuts, apple, mesclun, mayo, Pret's seasoning and Pret's granary. It was really delicious. I hadn't read the ingredients closely before I ate the sandwich and only knew that the stuffing would be different, so when I took a bite and felt the crunch and juiciness of the apple, I was surprised. But I loved the combination of the apple with the cranberry sauce and the stuffing. It worked together really well and made the sandwich more refreshing than it had been in past years. This was the first "holiday sandwich" I ever really had and I think it's still the best. Even better - with every purchase, a donation is made to City Harvest. Good sandwich for a good cause!

On the side I also got a love bite. It's a soft and chewy fruit and nut mini-bar which makes a perfect sweet snack.

Welcome to the new Pret!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Park Italian Gourmet

I couldn't decide what to get for lunch on Friday, so I continued to the next spot on the block by block challenge: Park Italian Gourmet. There are a few places between Karam and Park Italian, but they are definitely out of my price range for lunch.

Park Italian Gourmet is an old-style Italian deli. I loved that the guy up front was having a conversation completely in Italian with someone else. It gave the place a character that a lot of places are missing these days.

I went with the intention of getting a sandwich. I knew they had liverwurst, so I was planning to get that, turkey and provolone. Sadly they were out of liverwurst for the day so I went with pastrami.

I got the sandwich on rye bread and they gave a generous portion of meat. I topped it off with mustard, lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar.

The sandwich was pretty good. Definitely not your regular thin Subway sandwich. I might look into the hot food options next time since those looked good too. Or maybe I'd just go back to try the liverwurst.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More Goodbyes

Looks like Carrabba's started a pattern. Since learning about their closing, I also found out about many other places we've been that have closed or are closing. Places close all the time but it's not often that so many of them (in a row) are places I've been to! There's a place in Brooklyn where A got coffee and we got cake for a birthday party that is closing at the end of the year because their lease is going up, my mom mentioned an Italian place (not Carrabba's) in Staten Island closed but it's unclear if it was a management change or actually closed down, and then there were these 2.

I went to Nooi for the first (and only) time during the summer of 2010. They had recently opened and were a make your own pasta combination place. I liked the idea, it could be as healthy as you wanted to make it and it was affordable and tasty. However, it was a bit far from the office so I never made it back. I was hoping they would survive, but read on one of the food blogs (don't remember which one) yesterday that they were closed. They had really cute packaging:

And I liked their "bolo" (bolognese) pasta:

Maybe they'll reopen elsewhere. Until then, goodbye Nooi.

And then there's the place we went to with my parents for Mothers Day/Fathers Day dinner, Matsuri. The restaurant space at the Maritime Hotel apparently got sold and they're closing in March.

We got a bunch of appetizers there and also a large sushi combination. The place was pretty good. Very expensive, but good.

We probably won't go there again before they close, so, goodbye Matsuri.

Let's hope I don't have to do more of these goodbye posts before the end of the year. I still remember saying goodbye to Barros Luco earlier this year and that was really sad.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Parisian Salad Pizza

Crisp is running another coupon special this week and this time it's $5 for a pizza. The pizzas are 9 inch personal pizzas that usually cost $7.95 (for the non-basic pizzas), so this is a good deal!

I haven't tried the pizzas before so I definitely wanted to take advantage of this deal. Crisp has 4 types of pizzas - basil, cheese and tomato; Mexican salad; Greek salad; and Parisian salad. Before I got to Crisp, I planned on getting the Greek salad pizza, but after reading the descriptions again, I decided I was more in the mood for the Parisian, so I went with that.

The Parisian salad pizza, according to the menu description, has greens, roasted peppers, grape tomatoes, goat cheese and red onions. Even though the description didn't mention falafel, I thought, for some reason, that there would be falafel on the pizza, since it's in the other items like the burgers. I'm not really sure how that would work or taste.

I liked the pizza. I didn't have much of an appetite at lunchtime (rare for me), and this pizza felt really light (even if it had a lot of goat cheese on it). The crust wasn't thin or crispy, and it was more like a whole wheat pita. I liked the chewy texture. It looked like the pizza crust was baked with basic pizza ingredients and then topped with the salad ingredients. I really liked how the light, crisp salad worked with the pizza. Those who dislike garlic and onion should beware the Parisian pizza though. There were some sharp red onions and the garlic was still a little raw, so it was very strong. I like that, but I know not everyone does.

A salad piled on top of a pizza isn't the easiest thing to eat with your hands. Often the salad tumbled off the pizza, but I didn't mind since it was like having a side salad at the end. I got the Parisian falafel sandwich once during last year's coupon specials and I remember liking it, but not liking it that much in my ranking of sandwiches (which I never wrote down). I think I actually like the Parisian ingredients better on the pizza. I wonder what a African (my favorite sandwich) salad pizza would taste like.

Goodbye Carrabba's

A sent me some crazy news this afternoon. The Carrabba's restaurant on Staten Island, which isn't that far from my parents' place and which we frequent on about 90% of our visits there, closed suddenly on Sunday morning. According to news sources, the staff was called in Sunday morning and told the restaurant was closing and they were out of a job. That really sucks for the staff, especially at the holidays. The chain itself isn't gone, but since the closest restaurant is now somewhere in Jersey, it's highly unlikely we'll be going there anytime soon. So... goodbye Carrabba's. I still can't believe, after all these years of going there pretty regularly, that it's just gone. We had no idea our visit over Thanksgiving would be our last.

We will miss... the delicious bread and the special blend of herbs that came with it.

Sometimes they gave full loaves and sometimes halves, but however it arrived, we usually ate a few servings of it. Multiple plates of bread and herbs. The herbs in the olive oil are the perfect accompaniment for bread, and we will miss that.

We will miss... the lentil and sausage soup (which, luckily, was the soup of the day when we went last time), the refreshing salads, and the free order of calamari that came from the foursquare loyalty special (that marinara sauce was really, really good).

We will miss... our favorite entrees.

Looking at this collage, I realize that the last dinner we had there with my parents was a perfect representation of our meals there. My dad almost always gets the linguine pescatore, my mom almost always gets the chicken gratella/grilled chicken with two vegetable sides, A got the tagliarini picchi pacchiu (which was the very first thing I tried there), and I got the classics plate, which had chicken parmesan (another favorite) and lasagna (the first thing A ate there).

I'm still in disbelief that the restaurant is closed. I figured we would be back there the next time we went back, but apparently it's already boarded up for its transition to Bonefish Grill. I feel really bad for the staff. Not the holiday gift anyone wants. Goodbye Carrabba's.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Popi's Grill

For our first meal in Naxos, we went to a place that our guidebook and all the signs said was the oldest family tavern in Naxos. It has been around since 1948 and they served products from their own farm. With that type of "advertising," Popi's Grill sounded like the perfect place for us.

We started out with a small bottle of white wine which was made in Naxos. (As was the case at many of our Naxos meals, we focused on anything on the menu that was a product or specialty of Naxos, since we figured it would be difficult to get those items elsewhere.) We don't remember much about this wine right now but it was good.

We got our usual order of saganaki. This saganaki was fine (crusty edges, chewy insides) but it wasn't the best we had in Greece. It was like the saganaki we would get at home (but again, without the flames).

We also got a Greek salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onions, peppers and feta cheese. This was nice and refreshing. In our opinion, it's difficult to go wrong with a Greek salad in Greece. Everything is fresh, flavorful and healthy.

They gave us a platter of grilled bread. The bread was grilled with olive oil and herbs, and it was really, really good. It was nice as an accompaniment to the other dishes and also on its own.

The fried calamari was nicely fried and crisp. It didn't come with any sauces - only lemon - and was a good mix of the rings and the legs.

Our last selection was the "sausage of Naxos" (again, I think we picked everything that said Naxos in its name). It was a little dry, probably a little overgrilled, but the sausage itself was nicely spiced. It came with a side of fried potato slices.

At the end of the meal, they brought over small shot glasses. I think these were complimentary and are supposed to aid in digestion. It was a little spiced, if we remember correctly.

We had a pretty good meal at Popi's Grill. It wasn't our favorite meal in Naxos or even our favorite meal in the Chora (main town) area of Naxos, but it was solid. Sadly the restaurant was empty the entire time we were there and every time we passed by on other nights. We usually gravitate toward places that are busy (better food turnover, follow the locals, etc) but this time we had trusted things we read which said this place was good. We weren't disappointed with the experience but were puzzled as to how they could stay in business. It looked like they also had a part of the business that consisted of selling items from their farm in large quantities to other restaurants and that part looked relatively busy. We hope that's the case. The people at Popi's were really nice and, as the oldest family tavern in Naxos, we would like them to stay in business.