Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cracker Barrel

No, this restaurant was not on my list of places to eat, it was just a convenient place to stop for a meal during a very long drive. My friend Vicky had helped me pack my stuff when I moved out of Columbia, and we were driving from Mizzou to Chicago when we decided to stop for lunch. I believe we were somewhere near the border of Missouri and Illinois when we saw the sign for Cracker Barrel. I told Vicky I'd never eaten there, so we chose that place to have lunch.

The restaurant had a sign outside that said something along the lines of "everyone here is welcome, regardless of race, age, etc." I forget the exact words, but that was the gist of what the sign said. I took note of this sign, which I thought was interesting. Cracker Barrel, aside from being a restaurant, also has a country store which sells little bric-a-bracs. I wandered around the store for a bit before we were seated, but saw nothing I particularly wanted to buy.

I looked at the menu, and it had typical offerings in US restaurants- fried chicken, porkchops, roast beef, etc. I decided to have the "Spicy Grilled Catfish Fillet". The fish was okay, it was tasty enough. And the three sides complemented it too. Nothing amazing, but it was filling comfort food.

Spicy Grilled Catfish Fillet

A few days later, in LA, I told Felicity and her boyfriend Blaine that I had eaten at Cracker Barrel. Blaine told me that there had been several lawsuits against Cracker Barrel involving being racist and sexist. I looked it up on the Internet, and sure enough, there were stories about the lawsuits that had been filed against the restaurant. That certainly explained the sign outside the restaurant saying that they didn't discriminate against customers. Maybe it was part of the settlement agreed upon in the course of the lawsuit. If I had known that the restaurant had such a history, maybe I wouldn't have stopped for lunch there. Maybe there is something more to the restaurant's name...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Trattoria Strada Nova

Another restaurant on my Columbia list was Trattoria Strada Nova, since my friend Felicity had told me good things about it. So on one of my last days in town, I went there for a late lunch. To start off, I had the Grilled Portobello. This picture isn't very appetizing, but the mushrooms (drizzled with olive oil) were really good.

Grilled Portobello

For my main course, I had the Grilled Tuna. According to the menu, it was to be "served rare, with traditional nicoise accompaniments in dijon dressing". Sounded promising, and besides, in my limited experience, it's hard to go wrong with grilled tuna. However, the dish proved to be a bit of a disappointment. It tasted bland, fish included, which I found strange. Usually, tuna is very tasty even by itself (raw and unseasoned). The dressing was unremarkable, and as mentioned, even the tuna lacked flavor. I was not very satisfied with the dish, so I decided to have dessert to feel better about the meal.

Grilled Tuna

I chose the Flourless Chocolate Cake, which is another favorite dessert of mine. This managed to save the meal for me. It was so good; moist with just the right sweetness. It was even the right size- not so big that I couldn't finish it. The cake made me feel so much better about the disappointing main course.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I had heard and read so much about this restaurant that my expectations were pretty high. I do wish I had ordered something else for my entree, but I guess two good courses out of three isn't all too bad.

Trattoria Strada Nova
21 North Ninth Street
Columbia, Mo 65201

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cafe Berlin

I discovered Cafe Berlin through my good friend Felicity Duncan, who brought me there when I was in the mood for a hearty, post-hangover breakfast. I had slept over at her apartment after a night of partying, because she had been in no state to drive me home. Apparently, Cafe Berlin is a great place to eat after waking up from a late night out, because they serve breakfast fare until 3pm.

I like the place because they serve organic food (including ketchup), offer vegetarian options, and employ a very, very cute waiter. Felicity pointed out this last one to me, and even in my post-party haze I could totally appreciate the beauty of this man. He had longish curly blond hair, and fantastic blue eyes. I've gone to Cafe Berlin several times, for all the reasons mentioned above.

Anyway, before I digress any further, I will start talking about the food. Usually, I have the Eggs Benedict with the vegetarian sausage in place of the Patchwork ham. I like the veggie sausage because it has the herb/spice that I remember tasting, from the time when I used to eat meat sausage. The time I took these pictures though was a weekday, and so I couldn't have the Eggs Benedict which are offered only on weekends. Instead, I had the Yankee Breakfast, composed of two sunnyside up eggs, the veggie sausage, and a homemade biscuit. Downed with a bottomless cup of coffee, these meals at Cafe Berlin are the perfect way to start a late day after a night of indulgence.

Yankee Breakfast

Cafe Berlin
Corner of Providence Rd. & Walnut St.
Columbia, MO

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sophia's, Columbia MO

I'd been studying in Columbia for going on two years, and just recently realized that I had not really documented much of my eating experiences there. Also, I had not taken time out to visit the restaurants which old-timers in the college town have said to be the best. In true crammer fashion, I left this all until the last minute. I took the food and restaurants there for granted simply because I lived there, and assumed that I would always have lots of time to go to my favorite places and visit new ones. As my graduation day loomed, I realized I had very little time to do either, so I had to step up the eating.

Sophia's was at the top of my list of places to go. It's a sister restaurant of my favorite restaurant in downtown Columbia, Addison's. I asked my friend Holly Villines to have lunch there with me, and we were both happy with the menu. Neither of us eat meat other than seafood, and there were a lot of dishes we could choose from. To start, we shared the Spinach and Portobello Quesadillas. Then I had the Wild Mushroom Farfalle as my main course. I had intended to have dessert, because I've always liked the desserts in Addison's. But I really had no more space for it, because the food was rich and heavy on my tummy. I didn't regret it, though, since I really liked both dishes.

Spinach and Portobello Quesadillas

Wild Mushroom Farfalle

Holly and I went back after a week, again for lunch, and we were once more very satisfied with our choices. I had the Ravioli Aragosta, which was lobster, shrimp and scallop ravioli, while she had the Pasta Buonasera, which was cheese-filled tortellini with pine nuts. We didn't mind the richness of the food. The calories were well worth it.

3915 South Providence Road
Columbia, MO 65203

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Finbars Italian Kitchen

This is the last of my super-delayed entries from the holiday season (haha how's that for late) which I spent with my family in the LA area. We spent one whole shopping day in the complex of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa (mostly digging for bargains at Nordstrom Rack). An important part of the shopping process is fueling up for all that walking and carrying of shopping bags. We were all hungry by late afternoon, since we had not had lunch yet. We looked for restaurants in the complex so we could still shop after eating.

We found Finbars Italian Kitchen a few meters away from where we were shopping, so we went in and quickly ordered our food. We were all famished. To start, we had the Caprese (fresh mozzarella with sliced roma tomatoes), then for my main course I had the Southwest Portobello Mushroom Ravioli. I often have dishes that have portobello here because these mushrooms are very expensive back home.

The food actually took some time to be served, so we were all so very hungry and also a little grumpy when it arrived. Also, we wolfed it all down so quickly, which is why I totally forgot to take pictures. However, I remembered to do so after I was sated and ready for dessert. We had chocolate cake a la mode and tiramisu. I am not particularly fond of tiramisu, but John and Tintin are constantly in search of the best tiramisu, so they always have this whenever they go to an Italian restaurant. I don't remember the exact rating they gave the Finbars version, although I do remember that they didn't say it was the absolute best they'd ever had. I myself was happy with the cake and ice cream.


Blackout Gelato Cake

Finbars Italian Restaurant
Metro Point at South Coast
901 South Coast Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mimis Cafe

I'm now on vacation since I just graduated (yay, me!) so I have more time to update this blog. I've been looking at pictures of food that I've taken in the past months, and sometimes I have to think about where I ate particular dishes. Before I totally forget details of more meals, I'm writing another much-delayed entry. This is about my last meal in Southern California before heading back to Columbia, Missouri for my final semester (that's how long ago it was).

On my last night at my brother's before I flew back to Mizzou after the holidays, my family had dinner at Mimi's Cafe. The restaurant supposedly has French and New Orleans-inspired decor and food, so I thought it would be interesting to eat there. I had the Blackened "Soul" with Shrimp Creole, while my sister-in-law Tintin had the Scallops with Butternut Squash Ravioli. We agreed to divide our portions in two, and exchange halves so we could try both dishes. I ended up liking Tintin's dish better, because I particularly like both scallops and butternut squash.

Scallops with Butternut Squash Ravioli

Blackened "Soul" with Shrimp Creole

Although we were very full (which is usually the case after eating full portions in restaurants in the US), we still made some room for dessert. I ordered the Banana Foster Mud Pie, because I can't resist having any dessert with the words "mud pie" in its name. I thought it was pretty good. Then again, it's hard to go wrong with ice cream, caramel, bananas, and a graham cracker crust.

Banana Foster Mud Pie

Mimis Cafe
12727 Towne Center Drive
Cerritos, CA 90703