Pomodori – Hilton Head Island

It’s good to reflect on this summer’s vacation and delicious eats as we head into our first few snowflakes flying at home soon.  While searching for new eateries on Hilton Head Island we came across some rave reviews for Chef Amanda Russ’s Pomodori and knew we had to give it a try.  And what a delight it was!!

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Hidden in a small small collection of boutique shops, you wouldn’t know this place is there unless you were looking for it.  Comfortable and island casual, you can dine both inside or out for a relaxing weekday meal or a special occasion.  Our wait staff and everyone else we encountered were charming and helpful.  The personal touch of our name written on slate at our table (we had a reservation) was a nice touch.  There’s an eclectic wine list and good selection of cocktails.  Once we settled into drinks we perused the menu filled with classic Italian dishes and many that included local seafood.

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My wife ordered the pappardelle con costolette brasate – this was a wonderfully rich short rib ragu over handmade ribbons of pasta.  There’s no doubt this feels like a signature dish with visions of old Italy and the recipe having been perfected over centuries.  I dove into the zuppa di pesce con arrabiata which takes advantage of the plentiful seafood on the island.  A spicy tomato sauce complimented the shrimp, mussels and scallops over a bed of linguine.  There’s nothing I would change about this amazing combination of spicy, briny and yet somehow light, dish!

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I love when we find someplace new that feels like we’ve belonged there all along.  Pomodori is an absolute must-try when you’re on the island.  Bravo, Chef Amanda, on your culinary expertise and business savvy.  There is no doubt that you will be a permanent fixture for locals and visitors for many years to come!  Visit gopomodori.com for the full menu and additional information.  Dig in!

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Poseidon – Hilton Head Island, SC

Summer adventures on Hilton Head Island have been a family tradition of ours and others for years.  Excited for old favorites, we’re also always interested to try new food adventures.  Poseidon was one of our best finds this year and made for a memorable vacation dinner for the 14 of us!  Located in the Shelter Cove Towne Center, you’ll see this prominent two-story location and be drawn to the inviting patio, great music and rooftop bar.  Of course, the food is what makes it so special!

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We had a large group, but were able to make a reservation during the height of the summer season.  Following the friendly staff out to the patio, we found ourselves at a large table with shade and fans to make the evening comfortable in 90-degree heat.  With a large selection of wine, beer and cocktails, we settled on several local taps while we perused the huge menu.  Known for steaks, seafood and raw bar, there is something for everyone on the vast menu.  Local favorites along with Asian-inspired dishes celebrate the regional seafood.  My nephews loved the experience of their first raw oysters – well, at least one did!  They were sweet and briny and perfect with a cold beer on a hot day.  The tomato pie was also a taste of the south – pastry crust filled with ripe tomatoes and savory cheeses.  I even tried to make a version at home!

We were all over the menu with our entrees.  From steak to cioppino to lobster pasta, everyone ordered something different.  Of course, you can get the typical array of steamed and fried seafood dishes, but this menu is worth shopping in a different aisle so to speak!  I ordered several sushi rolls which were both beautiful and delicious.  My wife decided on one of the features and absolutely loved her grilled halibut with spanish-style rice, avocado and cilantro cream.  It was an impressive and tasty execution of very simple ingredients.

I wish I had taken more photos because everything was prepared beautifully – it made for a special night for all of us.  While the menu isn’t inexpensive, we all thought it was well worth the prices and deserved given the setting, selections and super-helpful staff.  We even managed to come back later in the week for a little live music and cocktails on the rooftop bar!  Lunch, dinner or drinks for locals and visitors alike, Poseidon is one of our new “old favorites” on the island.  Check out their menu and event schedule at poseidonhhi.com.  Dig in!

Calaveras Cantina – Jupiter, FL

Working in south Florida recently, I happened on this modern Mexican restaurant that’s a game-changer.  You can find all manner of terribly ordinary Mexican restaurants around the country with typical fare and average food.  However, when we stepped into this beautiful spot with authentic fare and a modern twist, we were psyched!  By land or by sea, a stop at Calaveras Cantina in Harbourside Place will be well worth your trip.

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We walked into the bright open space and were greeted by friendly staff and the aroma of onions, spices and fried deliciousness.  The space is quite large with a bar, comfortable booths and outdoor seating to enjoy Jupiter’s weather and harbor.  The bright wall decorations and colorful glass lighting make for a lively environment.  We settled into the menu while sipping some Casa Margaritas.  There’s a lengthy selection of margaritas and other cocktails, available by the glass or pitcher (dangerous!).  You should try their Watermelon Jalapeño for a sweet-hot twist on the original.

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There was no doubt we needed fresh corn tortilla chips.  We also quickly realized that table side guacamole was a no-brainer.  Fresh, creamy, spicy and citrusy, it was the perfect pairing with our margaritas and chips.  I was impressed with the servers who were attentive and clearly “guac experts”!  There’s a dizzying selection of traditional favorites on the menu with a modern twist – think duck confit empanadas or pork belly tacos with kimchi.  I settled on the traditional tacos al pastor with spicy pork, pineapple, cilantro and chihuahua cheese.  How happy were my tastebuds??  Wow!

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I don’t get to Jupiter enough, but when I do, I will certainly make Calaveras Cantina a regular stop for lunch or dinner.  Whether a casual afternoon lunch or dinner with clients, this is an experience that everyone will appreciate.  Curtis Peery and friends have built a fantastic concept that warrants kudos on many levels – food, service and atmosphere.  Check out more of Palm Beach’s tequila-serving gem at calaverascantina.com.  Dig in!

POUR Kitchen & Bar – Petoskey, MI

We’ve hit the middle of summer and most families are likely taking time to get away.  If your summer vacation or other travels bring you to northern Michigan, you need to find your way to POUR Kitchen & Bar in Petoskey.  Nestled in the heart of downtown, it’s surrounded by the array of restaurants and shops you’d expect to find in a small lake town.  With an unassuming exterior, you’d not expect the modern shotgun-style interior. Filled with reclaimed wood, leather and metal, the comfortable setting feels like the work of Chip and Joanna.

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We were seated for a business retreat dinner with some fixed menu choices, but I had to take a look at what this lovely place had to offer.  A small menu, it boasts a variety of starters, salads and mains that take advantage of the local ingredients and still feels like you’re at a trendy spot in the big city.  I started my meal with an evening special Thai salad.  Mixed greens with peppers, onions, sesame seeds and avocado cream, it was dressed with a tasty combination of soy, sesame oil and spices.

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I next tried a simple sushi roll.  It was well-executed, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary.  However, the regular menu boasts some exciting choices including a striped bass oshizushi with Korean BBQ and miso mayo – yes please!  Finally, I had the tuna poke nachos.  Served on crispy wontons, this combination of fresh tuna, mango slaw, pickled jalapeño and avocado made the perfect bite every time.  They definitely struck a balance between sweet, spicy and salty along with varying textures – amazing!

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Oh how I wish POUR was close to my home!  It’s a special spot with great service and wonderful food.  If you have the opportunity you need to experience the vast draft list, unbelievable wine selection and delicious work of Chef Colin.  You can find out more on their website at pourpetoskey.com.  Dig in!

The Broadway – Boston

On a recent business trip to Boston, I had the opportunity to have lunch on the south side at The Broadway.  While I get to the city regularly, I don’t often get to venture outside of the normal spots close to where I do business.  What treats we found from this scratch-made kitchen!

Set in a storefront locale, this semi-industrial restaurant boasts a large open feel with exposed air ducts and rustic wood.  The expansive bar allows plenty of room for enjoying craft cocktails, an ice-cold local draft or glass of wine while noshing on their delicious menu.  We were quickly seated and greeted by a friendly server who knew their menu really well – I love that!  Starving, we decided to start with shishito peppers and tuna tartare.  These were tough decisions given the array of choices, but we were thrilled.  The blistered peppers were coated in lime and sea salt, a perfect execution of a popular small bite.  The yellowfin tuna was prepared with tagarashi, avocado and cilantro and served on crispy wontons – excellent!

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We moved onto entrees and were equally impressed with the freshly prepared ingredients.  I had a plate of perfectly-seared fresh scallops with sautéed spinach and included asparagus as a side dish.  They were sweet and creamy and tasted like a mouthful of the sea.  My coworker dove into the cedar-planked salmon with simple baked potato and roasted brussels sprouts.  Both the preparation and the glaze on the fish made it top-notch.  While the sprouts were underdone for our taste, it’s sometimes just preference.  In any event, we thought both meals were worth ordering again!

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Whether out for lunch or dinner, you’ll find an unbelievable selection of starters, salads, entrees, sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas at The Broadway.  Dress up or dress down, you’ll fit right in and feel comfortable with the friendly staff and tasty selections.  Check out their menu at thebroadwaysouthboston.com.  Dig in!

Wine Down – Fort Wayne, IN

On a recent business trip I found myself in America’s heartland of manufacturing, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Of course I did some pre-trip research and found some great reviews for a upscale tapas bar in downtown near the convention center.  I was surprised and delighted to find Wine Down just a short walk from my hotel.  A wonderful selection of wine, craft cocktails and fine food were just ahead on a rainy evening.

Located next to the minor league baseball stadium, you’ll find this cozy dark spot with a wine cellar feel.  The surroundings are upscale, but not stuffy and provide a great atmosphere for a glass of wine and a small plate or a full dining experience.  We settled into a tall table in the bar area and were greeted by a friendly server.  She explained the vast array of wines and showed us the beautifully created cocktail menu.  From classics to inventive drinks made with liqueurs and aromatics, you can hardly pull yourself away without trying something.  The old fashioned served in a smoked glass was excellent!

Looking at the menu, it’s hard for me to pass up a great charcuterie plate.  Wine Down’s was a well-curated mix of salty meats, full-flavor cheeses, quince paste and the like.  This was a hearty plate, but a little variety with a blue cheese and/or pate would make it perfect.  We also sampled the three-cheese arancini, which were rich, gooey and perfect offset by the slightly spicy marinara.  The sautéed Brussels sprouts with apple, bacon and blue cheese were excellent, even if the sprouts got a little lost in the other ingredients.  Finally, we split a filet burger and papas fritas.  Cooked to perfection, it was juicy, decadent and the perfect bun-to-meat ratio – bravo!

Honestly, there wasn’t enough time to taste and imbibe in all that I wanted to.  It’s a beautiful place with a surprising and fresh mix of fine food and drinks for a business dinner, cocktail night or a special occasion.  I honestly look forward to coming back soon.  Check out the menu and read about the owners, The Skeels, at winedownfw.com.  Dig in!

Salazar – Cincinnati, OH

Do you ever walk or drive by somewhere often and always say “we really should go there”?  Salazar New American Restaurant has been THAT place for over a year now for me.  Fortunately, I finally made it to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood specifically to have dinner there.  And I am happy to share that they did NOT fall short of the rave reviews and high expectations.

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A farmhouse-like setting in a historical building in downtown Cincinnati, there is a comfortable feeling when you walk through the door.  It’s cozy, and I mean small, but not loud or overcrowded.  As we looked at the menu, our server approached us with specials and recommendations.  What I love is that she told the story behind the restaurant, the local vendors they procure their food from and why they do what they do.  I love when you get an experience vs. an in-and-out meal.  She made a recommendation of a delicious wine and we made some selections from the farm-to-table menu.

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We began with simple warm marinated olives and manchego cheese, which were a perfect compliment to our wine.  Next, the duck leg rillette with pickled onion and jalapeño jam on Blue Oven toast.  The richness of the duck was expertly balanced by the acidic condiments.  Finally, the starter du jour was Blue Oven toast spread with spring pea puree and topped with cured meats, pickled vegetables and edible flowers.  It was almost too pretty to eat!

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I had the roasted sea bass with spring peas, potato puree and hazelnut butter.  My artistic plate was rich, tasted of summer and somehow tasted like everything was separate and perfectly combined at the same time.  My fellow guests all had the steak special which was a hearty portion of local beef.  We finished dinner and could barely utter the words fast enough that we wanted dessert.  The warm chocolate cake with coffee cremeux was a decadent treat!  And how could you not love the berry fry pie with chocolate ganache and lemon buttermilk ice cream?  Every day, I want to eat it every day…

Chef Jose Salazar makes this experience one that you’ll want to relive over and over again.  Local ingredients, beautifully prepared and served by passionate experts.  This is everything I had hoped it would be.  Find out more and make a reservations at salazarcincinnati.com.  Dig in!

Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill – Leith, Scotland

On the way back to Edinburgh from playing golf, we asked our driver for recommendations for dinner.  He said we absolutely needed to eat down by the water in Leith so we made a reservation for Loch Fyne.  A small UK chain, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but read lots of great reviews.  We were welcomed to a beautiful store on the pier with modern nautical-themed interior.  It was open, comfortable and casual.  It also wasn’t too busy on a weeknight, which was fine by us.

Our server was swamped and a little slow, but she was charming and super-sweet.  After running through specials and recommendations, we settled on a bottle of wine and a couple starters.  The king prawns were sweet and firm and fresh.  The smoked ham hock terrine was surprisingly light and a tasty combination of salty and fresh pops of sweet peas.  I also had to have a few of their signature oysters.  From the brackish waters of Loch Fyne, they were beautiful mouthfuls of sweet ocean candy.  There is NOTHING like them!!

The selection of mains celebrates all that the area has to offer in fresh seafood.  The seafood pasta in a light cream sauce was rich and full of perfectly-cooked scallops, mussels and shrimp.  The seared cod with fresh pesto was simple, but well done too.  My father couldn’t pass up the ridiculously-huge platter of steamed seafood.  A hubcap-sized plate piled with prawns, clams, oysters and mussels was enough to keep my dad quiet for the next 30 minutes.  While nothing was unusual about the preparation, everything was exactly as you hope such local fare would be.

Cappuccino and a mixed-berry crumble rounded out our evening and a delightful dinner  on the water.  Given the number of locations, you should be able to find one near you while in and around the UK.  It’ll be tough to beat the experience and location of the Leith store however.  Find a spot and for God’s sake have some of those oysters!!  You can take a look at their menu and particulars at lochfyneseafoodandgrill.co.uk.  Dig in!

The Gourmet Mash Bar Company – Edinburgh

I expected a hearty dose of good food when we spent some time recently in Scotland.  And nothing could’ve been more satisfying than our first night’s dinner at the highly recommended Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar Company.  Sitting atop The Mound between Old Town and New Town, this cozy spot gives you beautiful views of the city, especially at sunset.  The GMB fulfills all of my checklist items in a new eatery:  craft beer/cocktails, locally sourced ingredients, regional cuisine, great service and an un-fussy atmosphere.

Seating no more than 50 people, this shotgun-style eatery was busy on a Tuesday evening.  Our attentive server shared a few recommendations and quickly took orders for our local beer and wine selections.  We perused the menu of inventive combinations of rosti’s (a potato fritter stacked with meat and vegetables) and mains with varying selections of mash.  The aromas wafting in the dining room had our heads turning every time a new dish was brought out!  Given the wide selection of delicious mashes, we all settled on one combination.

The confit duck with orange marmalade glaze on traditional butter/cream mash was crispy, tender and just sweet enough.  The wild boar sausages were some of the finest I’ve ever had.  Robust with herbs and spices, I still could appreciate the perkiness of the boar.  These guys are experts at braising!  The ox cheek and lamb shank were rich, tender and decadent like a holiday dinner at your grandmother’s house.  All of these we ordered with the Scottish cheddar/chive mash which was over-the-top indulgent.

We honestly couldn’t have chosen a better place or felt more welcomed on our first night in Edinburgh.  I highly recommend making this a stop on your next trip to the area – and make a reservation for their busy dining room!  Take a look at their menu, suppliers and story at gourmet-mash-bar.com.  Dig in!

Burger & Lobster – London

When you’re looking for surf-n-turf, but want to dispense with the maitre de and suit you find a Burger & Lobster location and get after it!  Friends of ours recommended this spot from their recent visit to London as did a few books and websites.  My dad was also obsessed with the idea of this narrow menu done very well.  While there are plenty of locations in London, Bangkok, New York, Dubai and others, we settled into the location on the top floor of Harvey Nichols.

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A casual, but refined interior was a lively place filled with shoppers, date-nighters and all manner of guests.  Our common bond?  Devour the delicious choices of surf and turf in front of us.  We ordered a few cocktails and a particularly tasty watermelon iced tea concoction and reviewed the small, but delicious menu.  The Nebraska beef burger was thick and juicy topped appropriately with bacon and cheese.  It was served with crispy salty french fries and their signature salad.  While not the best burger we’ve had, it was a top-notch sandwich for sure.

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Our lobster rolls were some of the best we’ve had!  The traditional buttery toasted bun, lightly-dressed sweet lobster and touch of chives came together for a Cape Cod-worthy sandwich.  Add those fries and salad and you will be one happy customer.  My father tried the lobster burger (think of the two dishes above combined on a single sandwich) and raved about how much he loved it.

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Whether you want the burger, a whole lobster or some variant in between, you’ll want to  make this a priority if anywhere close to one.  Functionally descriptive, calorically excessive and potentially addictive, Burger & Lobster will quickly become a favorite.  Find out more and view their locations at burgerandlobster.com.  Dig in!