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!

IMG_0032-2

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.

IMG_0019

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.

IMG_0018

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!

IMG_0020

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.

IMG_1878

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.

IMG_1879

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!

IMG_1881.jpg

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!

IMG_1859

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!

IMG_1860

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.

FullSizeRender 3

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.

FullSizeRender 2

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!

FullSizeRender 4

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!

The Anglesea Arms – South Kensington, London

On the first night of our summer trip to the UK, we made reservations for dinner at The Anglesea Arms, a perfectly quaint British pub not far from out hotel in South Kensington.  This lively location was bustling with a huge crowd sipping pints and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes on a Friday night.  Despite all the people, the restaurant in the lower portion of the pub was quiet, comfortable an classically British.

Our friendly server offered some ideas while we perused the menu.  Settling on a scotch and a bottle of wine from the healthy selection, we also ordered the charcuterie board and baked camembert as starters.  The meat selection included salami, prosciutto, wild boar capicola, fresh vegetables and jam.  The camembert was luscious and warm topped with pecans and served with apricot jam and toast points.  Both were ample enough to be shared among the four of us.

There’s a variety of mains that utilize local fresh ingredients and celebrate British cuisine.  Two of us ordered the local bone-in pork chop.  It was beautifully pan-seared and served with potatoes, cabbage and scalloped apples.  It was both juicy and perfectly porky!  My wife had the grilled ribeye steak with herbed butter served with chips.  It was rich, juicy and expertly cooked.  Finally, I devoured the roast lamb served with fresh baby spinach and roasted fingerling potatoes.  You could taste the countryside in this dish, deftly prepared by the local chef.  I have not had a finer lamb dish!

The experience, location, food and service here was a warm welcome to the start of our holiday.  I recommend making the trip to South Kensington for a wonderful experience and a true taste of updated British pub fare.  While the menu is outdated online, you can find out more details at The Anglesea Arms.  Dig in!

Twiisted Burgers & Sushi – Medina, OH

You don’t exactly expect to find the unusual combination of burgers & sushi anywhere, but especially not 30 miles south of Cleveland in Medina, Ohio.  The surprise and delight were both there though when we settled on this spot this past weekend for dinner with my aunt and uncle.  A few miles north of the town square, this free-standing building has a modern, but causal decor split into a dining room and bar with high top tables.  We were greeted quickly on a Friday night and sat immediately at a dining table close to the sushi chefs.

IMG_0995

Our friendly server took our drink order as we settled on various martinis, wine and a Kentucky mule.  There’s a good selection of cocktails, wines and craft beers and the prices are all reasonable.  With drinks in hand, we looked over the large menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and of course their signature burgers and sushi.  While we didn’t get any starters, the duck wings and pulled pork egg rolls sounded and looked amazing.

Two in our group had burgers.  This Fun-Gi was a fresh burger patty topped with a marinated portobello mushroom, roasted garlic mayo, onion straws, melted swiss and a fried egg.  My uncle thought it was awesome and it looked delicious!  My wife had the Twiisted Classic with bacon, cheddar, pickled onion, lettuce and tomato and was equally pleased.  Both were served on fresh brioche buns and were topped with a “sushi pickle” – dill and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed.  Your choice of sweet potato waffle or regular fries were hot and crispy, the latter served with house made ketchup.

FullSizeRender 20

My aunt and I sampled a few sushi rolls which were fresh and well-prepared.  The traditional spicy tuna and Philly rolls were good and prepared well, but nothing special.  The specialty rolls though were fantastic combinations, and frankly, gigantic!  The Embassy is shrimp tempura, smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese, tempura battered and fried, then topped with spicy crab, spicy mayo and eel sauce.  The Medina Bee (the high school mascot) is shrimp tempura, spicy crab, tuna and carrots topped with eel sauce, spicy mayo and wasabi mayo.  Equally tasty, both specialties were beautiful and expertly prepared.

FullSizeRender 19

It was a surprising night out in Medina, but it won’t be anymore when we return again and again!  And there’s no doubt why the folks here have catered for the Indians, Cavs and many companies in the area.  Whether a weeknight, special night out or a group event, I suggest you add Twiisted to your list of places to visit.  You can find out more on their website at twiisted.com.  Dig in!

The Tousey House Tavern – Burlington, KY

We were looking for someplace unique for Mother’s Day dinner a few weeks ago and made a reservation at the highly-recommended Tousey House.  When we pulled up in front of the historic federalist-style home, I had a feeling we were in for a treat.  Beautiful decor throughout this period home provides a comfortable atmosphere with ample seating inside and out.  Whether inside, outside or in the tiny bar area, you’re swept away to era gone by.

IMG_0887

Our friendly server shared with us the menu and a few stories to introduce us to the location.  As expected, there’s a beautiful selection of southern fare along with some local and updated dishes.  While we didn’t have an appetizer, I was longing for the fried green tomatoes or shrimp and grits.  The goetta egg rolls really had me intrigued as well, but we were sticking to dinner and dessert.  Salads were fresh, crisp and a good portion size – the Ceasar looked especially good.  We went about ordering and enjoyed warm homemade biscuits with our drinks.

My wife ordered the ribeye which is served with a smoked tomato-rosemary demi-glace and crispy onions.  A huge piece of beef, it was cooked to perfection.  The sauce was a beautiful highlight to the tender beef.  A few people at the table ordered the Tousey Hot Brown – a traditional execution of ham, turkey, tomato and bacon served over toast points and covered in Mornay sauce and melted cheese.  While not as creamy as others we’ve had, it was delicious!  Being the traditionalist, I had to order the fried chicken.  The four large pieces (half a chicken) were lightly breaded and crispy golden brown.  It was a terrific execution and served with mashed potatoes (a bit average) and southern-style green beans.  We felt the southern hospitality as we enjoyed the home cooking and tasty favorites.

FullSizeRender

We really enjoyed our dinner as well as a few sweet treats – it’s a variable dessert menu, but the chocolate cake and berry cobbler were grandma-worthy preparations!  Executive chef Jonathan Weiss has done a beautiful job with the menu and delivers on every expectation.  Open for lunch and weekend brunch as well, you’ll want to stop in or make a reservation soon.  It’s too good to not make a special trip!  Find out more about the history, location and menu at touseyhouse.com.  Dig in!

386 – Palm Coast, FL

Nestled along the A1A on Florida’s northeast coast is a little hidden restaurant gem, at least to those that aren’t local, called 386.  Self-billed as “a fusion of fine dining”, you would never suspect the inventive and delicious menu that’s served inside the charming ramshackle building.  Having a reservation proved to be a wise move as it was packed on Friday night!  We walked through the gravel parking lot into the small rundown building unaware of the fantastic experience we were about to have.

Inside the door you are greeted by a lively crowded bar and then moved to a comfy dining room to the left.  Seating isn’t cramped, but they definitely pack in the people into their little spot.  We ordered wine and craft beer from an ample list and listened to a long selection of chef’s specials for the night.  How could we pass up the warm brie with brown sugar and balsamic served with parmesan crisps??  It was warm rich and creamy, without being overly sweet.  While the crisps were good, I thought the brie was much better on the warm bread they served as well.  We had a selection of salads next – the garden, the wedge and also the roasted beet special.  Red and golden beets with walnuts, goat cheese and vinaigrette tuned out to be a perfect choice!  Although my pet peeve is that it was served on a black plate – why mask those beautiful colors?!  I can tell you that I haven’t had better elsewhere though.

The menu has a ton of options from small plates to entrees and everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked scrumptious.  Our table had a good sampling of entrees – Kansas City pork chop, herbed lamb chops, grilled ribeye and parmesan-crusted trout.  The meats were all healthy portions, cooked perfectly and served with simple, but tasty sides (think mom’s starch and veggie).  I ordered the trout, a huge portion crusted with parmesan bread crumbs and sage.  While the sage was a bit heavy, the fish was crisp and perfectly done.  Served with a simple risotto and green beans, it was all topped with a white wine butter sauce.

Dressed up or dressed down, a large group or an intimate dinner, you will love the inventive and well-cooked food at 386.  It’s clear that locals love this place as it was busy throughout the night!  Great service, comfortable surroundings and some of the best food in the area make this a must-visit if you’re in the area on vacation or if you live close by.  Find out more and check out the menu at threeeightsix.com.  Dig in!!