Posts in Restaurant
CAL PEP- ROUND 2

The first time we went to Cal Pep was when we were in BCN last May. I had heard first hand from friends how great it was and had read numerous reviews touting the same. I looked up the opening time for dinner and made sure to be there 30 minutes early since I had heard the line builds quickly. After a much anticipation we filed in to grab our seat at the long bar facing the chefs and our servers for the evening. I will preface the next part with this- you are not given a menu and we weren't sure if you got to choose any of your meal, whether you spoke Catalan and/or Spanish or not but we decided to go with the flow and just let our server bring us what he thought we would like. The only guidance we gave him was, we eat anything and we want vino blanco. The meal was off to an ok start with padron peppers and a fried mix of seafood. Next came croquettes and then tortilla española. The meal continued along in that fashion, it definitely felt like we had been pegged for a typical tourist. Not to say it wasn't good but looking around at the Spanish and Catalan speaking patrons who were getting razor clams and tuna tartar and steak, we felt a little stereotyped. All in all, the meal was a bit of a let down. The service was excellent, but we obviously hadn't conveyed that we weren't your average Americanos. 

Bringing you to the present, last night we were hoping to make it into El Xampanyet for a late (for us) dinner and to no surprise, it was packed at 9:30pm. So we thought "should we give Cal Pep another go? They will probably be swamped too, but maybe it's worth not writing off just yet." So we head over and it looks like we got lucky, only 9 people were ahead of us in line! Side note- no one in Barcelona is ever in a hurry to turn over seats so 9 people ahead of us meant an hour of waiting. While in line though we made sure to note all the amazing food things that we would insist we wanted. We finally sat around 10:15, the last seating of the night. Our server came up and asked "do you eat everything? may I order you the mix of tapas?" Part of me always wants to say "YES! I love when the server orders for me!" but I knew better here. We had to be more assertive. So we said "we were here a year ago and had a decent meal, but we want something different." We were delighted when he asked us what we actually wanted. We picked out botifarra with beans as well as padron peppers and left the rest to him. What came next was hands down one of our favorite meals in Barcelona. We had confit octopus with potatoes, berberechos in a briney, garlic broth, creamy tortilla española, sauteed spinach and squid and crema catalana. WE ATE IT ALL. We had a fantastic rapport with our waiter, he guided us to all the right places with our meal. At the end, he treated us to shots of an herbal Galician liqueur and cervezas as well as toast with chocolate and sea salt. He tried to keep us longer with offers of more shots and beer and chocolate, but we didn't want to ruin the fantastic feeling of that great meal with a hangover the next morning. 

Needless to say, we couldn't have been more excited and surprised by trying Cal Pep again, it was totally worth the wait!

 

Staycation at The Ace Hotel in NOLA

What better way to spend the hottest, stickiest, sweatiest part of the year waiting for your next big adventure than to treat yourself to a staycation in your hometown at a hotel with a pool? That's just what we did this weekend in New Orleans. The newly opened Ace Hotel is super stylish and will definitely make you feel like you have left New Orleans once you step foot inside. The lobby is furnished with antique rugs and sofas, great pieces of art, and a cocktail bar- it has a "come in and stay awhile" vibe that reminds me of being in my grandparent's living room. The first floor of the hotel also holds a hugely popular Stumptown Coffee and the very tasty Josephine Estelle restaurant. 

We opted for a medium room and it is a pretty decent size. I loved the special touch of leaving music on in the rooms, it made me instantly feel at home. Our room was on the 3rd floor but faced the front of the hotel so we still had a good view from our windows. The rooms are a mix between sleek and modern and hip and vintage. There was a retro style avocado green refrigerator stocked with goodies and a guitar (tuned, might I add) ready for you to start composing. 

We spent most of day dodging rain drops by ducking into Willa Jean for lunch and a glass of their signature frosé. Once the rain let up we made our way up to the rooftop pool. I've been to quite a few hotel pools in New Orleans and I must say this one is the nicest. They have a great pool bar with an interesting selection of wines and house made frozen daiquiris as well as a grill in case all that swimming makes you hungry. It was unseasonably cool for August 14 and the pool itself was nice and crisp so we mostly lounged and dipped our toes in. 

After sunbathing we went downstairs to the freshly opened Seaworthy for happy hour oysters and txakolina. The gulf oysters were a perfect compliment to the refreshing Basque wine. I am looking forward to checking out the rest of the menu soon! We finally wrapped up the evening with a spectacular dealer's choice meal at Josephine Estelle. The snapper crudo and JE salad are to die for! We also tried EVERY pasta on the menu and to be honest, I couldn't tell you which one was my favorite, they were all amazing. We finished our meal with the ribeye and the soft shell crab and while they were pretty good, the pastas and small plates stole the show for us.

In short, our staycation was pretty baller. We didn't really have to leave the hotel which made it feel even more like we were in a different city altogether. Even though we weren't playing tourist at home, we definitely felt like we were on vacation, if even for 24 hours.

Santiago- Peumayen

On our last night in Santiago we decided we just wanted to relax and grab a bottle wine and maybe a hunk of cheese and relax on our balcony at The Aubrey. So we headed over to Vinomio to browse and started a great conversation about Chilean wines and how the US, the south specifically, gets very few quality Chilean wines even though there are so many amazing ones being made. They told us that every bottle in their shop was small production and local (obviously) and that most were made using biodynamic methods. After tasting an awesome Pipeño Nouveau with them and picking out 6 bottles to bring home we asked for a recommendation on where we could pick up something simple to bring back to our room. They enthusiastically insisted that we eat down the street at Peumayen, a wonderful restaurant specializing in Chile's ancestral food. They even walked us over and finagled a reservation for us on a packed Saturday night. They were not wrong about this place, the food was incredible as well as the wine list and pisco list. If only we had discovered this place before tonight! This restaurant is not for the picky or the squeamish, we had horse tartare and llama stew as well as razor clams and seaweed salad. They represented every part of Chile, from coast to mountains and from desert to glaciers. This was an unforgettable meal, and dare I say, more interesting and passionate than Borago. 

Santiago- Borago

Borago is definitely worth the trip when in Santiago. Everything we tasted was unique to Chile and its landscapes, including the wines. Borago is known for not only the quality of ingredients but the length at which they will go to forage them. Many things on the menu we had never even heard of. The chef and owner Rodolfo Guzman takes great pride in his country's biodiversity and native culinary traditions. After working for years in Spain under Chef Andoni Luis Adruiz of michelin starred Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Guzman returned to his home to open Borago in 2006. Last year Borago was rated the number 2 restaurant in all of Latin America. 

Upon arrival I was a little underwhelmed with the stark interior and the silent dining room. We chose the 16 course "endemica" menu with wine pairings. We had rainwater from Patagonia, cuttlefish, seaweed and conger from the Pacific, black beans disguised as rocks, deer crudo, mushroom ice cream, a pirouette cookie called cuchuflis dusted with roses that only bloom in the desert- and that's just to name a few things. Each course that came out had such unique flavors and story behind the ingredients. We became so enamored with the plating and the history of the food that we soon forgot about the lack of ambience. The focus was TRULY on the food and for good reason. If you want to experience the purity of Chilean foods, go to Borago. You won't be disappointed.