Food

Smoke Restaurant

Barbecue, Upscale, Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ fries, Dallas, Food

This place is worth the visit!

Since moving back to America, Matt and I have been trying to expand our taste buds and try out the best food Dallas has to offer. We’ve hit some oldies (but goodies!) and are trying new haunts to test our palettes. I’ve had a hankering for barbecue lately, which Matt satisfied by taking me to a restaurant called Smoke on the southwest side of Dallas.

It wasn’t Matt’s first visit to Smoke and he raved that I would love it. He can be kind of a picky eater, so if he raves about cuisine, it must be good. Located in the Bishop Arts area of Dallas, my first impression of Smoke hit me as we opened the door and the most amazing and woody aromas wafted my way.

However, the atmosphere was not what I expected – an upscale barbecue and smoked meat joint, the inside provided a mix of dark woods and chic decor. Antique-looking chairs and couches surrounded a smoldering fireplace and adorable animal designs in blues and pinks adorned the menus and china.

As for the food…oh my melt in your mouth! I ordered the All Natural Pulled Whole Hog, NC Style with Red Vinegar, Mustard & Blue Cheese Cole Slaw. I was told that it came with a salad, which I was fine with at first, but then Matt let me know that their BBQ fries are insane, so I asked for a side of those as well. I absolutely loved the way they put together my sandwich…piled high with cole slaw! And the pulled pork was full of flavor, meaning it wasn’t smothered by the intense serving of cole slaw. A win in my book.

Barbecue, Upscale, Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ fries, Dallas, Food

My pulled pork sandwich and slaw. Yum!

Matt ordered the Chopped Coffee Cured Beef Brisket with Bread & Butter Pickles, which he let me have a taste of, and I’ll tell you what – the smoky flavor of the brisket mixed with the sour pickle and smooth BBQ sauce made for the perfect flavor combination. And those BBQ fries he recommended? I refused to dip them in ketchup or add more BBQ sauce because they were perfectly seasoned and fried to a crispy golden brown.

The BBQ sauce they offer is a treat in itself. After setting down our sandwiches, our very friendly and attentive server went through the four sauces he brought to the table. Unfortunately, I can’t remember them exactly and they aren’t listed on the website. What I can tell you, though, is that there was a traditional Texas sauce, a spicy sauce, one with a mustard base and a tomatillo (roasted tomato) sauce. I put together a combination of the traditional Texas BBQ and the spicy sauce, because I LOVE spice.

While enjoying our lunch, I took a look around and saw someone at another table enjoying a traditional plate of barbecue – we’re talking sliced brisket with what looked like their Cheese Grits & Hominy Casserole and their BBQ Beans. I also noticed that their wide, U-shaped bar looked cozy and comfortable for an evening drink.

I can’t say enough about my first experience at Smoke. The inviting atmosphere, warm ambience and delicious food provided a great way for us to beat the winter weather. Don’t just take my word for it…check out their website where they have videos about their restaurant and reviews from publications. And next time you have a hankering for some good, Texas barbecue, DO take my word for it and stop by Smoke Restaurant!

Smoke – Dallas
Address: 901 Fort Worth Ave, Dallas, TX 75208
Phone: (214) 393-4141

Barbecue, Upscale, Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ fries, Dallas, Food

Matt’s brisket sandwich with pickles.

That awesome bar I was telling you about...

That awesome bar I was telling you about…

Barbecue, Upscale, Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ fries, Dallas, Food

The adorable table settings and menus.

Barbecue, Upscale, Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ fries, Dallas, Food

A look at my complete lunch, with those perfectly seasoned french fries.

Barbecue, Upscale, Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ fries, Dallas, Food

That surprisingly chic and southern decor.

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Taverna – A Personal Favorite

Restaurant Review, Food, Italian, Dallas, Pasta, Risotto, Tortellini

A view from our table into the quaint restaurant.

My love of Italian food doesn’t really work well with my waistline, but there is just no way I’ll ever give up pasta and pizza for the sake of a thinner frame. NO WAY.

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in Dallas is called Taverna. My obsession with Taverna started years ago when my friends and I would go for Sunday brunch almost every weekend. They offered $5 bottomless mimosas, which is a great pull for a young crowd! Coupled with their fabulous eggs Benedict, Taverna carved out a small hole in my pocket once every couple of weeks.

Another interesting fact about Taverna – Matt and I had our very first dinner date there. We enjoyed a scrumptious meal followed by ice cream at Paciugo. Matt’s also been a fan ever since!

After the angst of the missing kitten came to a close, Matt and I decided that we needed to unwind and enjoy a night out together. All of those hours at home, worrying about the General and searching the neighborhood, Taverna was just the ticket to kick the icy temps and for a much needed romantic evening.

Restaurant Review, Food, Italian, Dallas, Pasta, Risotto, Tortellini

My tortellini – I wish it wasn’t just a special!

Since moving abroad, Taverna moved locations from the little cottage on Armstrong to a larger space on Knox. Located just next to Toulouse (same owners) by the Katy Trail, Taverna’s popularity is evident by its much larger patio and more spacious interior. Though they’ve opened up and made more room, they certainly have not killed the cozy atmosphere. The decor is very much the same and the ambience is very intimate – low lighting, glowing candles, etc.

The only downside to the space, one that hasn’t changed from the original location to the new, is the area left between tables. At times, Taverna can feel slightly claustrophobic, especially for a large guy like Matt. When they went to seat us the other evening, we asked to be moved to the heated patio because we noticed there was slightly more room. However, Matt and I spent quite a bit of time in Italy, and this setting certainly matches the Italian feel – limited space included!

You know what makes up for the space, though? The food. Matt stuck to his tried and true Fiocchi al Gorgonzola e Pera, which is gorgonzola & pear filled pasta with walnuts, arugula & a dolce latte cream sauce. Matt always enjoys it and our date night was no different. I decided to stray away from my favorite (Paglia e Fieno, green & white tagliolini with chicken, wild mushrooms, truffle oil & cream) and try one of their specials. Boy was it special! My meal consisted of tortellini stuffed with a ricotta and porcini mushroom filling, and was served in a white wine marinara with Italian sausage and peas. The combination of flavors were spot on – the spiciness of the sausage, the delicate sauce and rich filling all worked perfectly together.

To celebrate our evening out and the return of our kitten, we enjoyed a champagne apéritif and with dinner I went with an Italian chianti. Our spirits were so high after the stressful weekend and the food was so delicious that it truly made for a perfect evening out. I’ve recommended Taverna to many friends and family, and can assure you that I will be back; the service is always impeccable and the food on point. Whether it be pasta, pizza, seafood, risotto or the chef’s focaccia, if you are ever able to make it to Taverna, I hope your meal is fabulous!

Taverna – Dallas
Address: 3312 Knox Street, Dallas, TX 75205
Phone: (214) 520-9933
Reservations for 6 or more

Restaurant Review, Food, Italian, Dallas, Pasta, Risotto, Tortellini

A truly Italian feel.

Restaurant Review, Food, Italian, Dallas, Pasta, Risotto, Tortellini

It’s dark, but here is a closer look at my delicious meal.

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Healthy Livin’

Central Market, Kale, Quinoa, Healthy Living, Salmon, Salad, Food

My delicious kale and salmon salad! I know dark soda isn’t the healthiest, but I desperately need one halfway through the school day.

As I mentioned yesterday, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. However, the one downfall to this holiday is that all of the great food isn’t actually healthy and I always stuff myself full. Then, when you factor in leftovers, that’s even more unhealthy and gluttonous (but delicious!). Even more so, if you were me this year, you celebrated Thanksgiving three times! By my calculations that is three Thanksgiving celebrations + leftovers = I may need new pants soon.

Therefore, I am officially on a “health kick” – until Christmas. Come on!!! I’m allowed to enjoy all the goodness of Christmas treats, right? In all seriousness, though, it’s time to revamp my pantry and fridge. As good as holiday food tastes, it doesn’t feel good once all is said and done.

A couple days ago, I made a trip to Central Market. We didn’t have those in Ireland or Spain, so a  once normal thing to do back when I lived here turned into an extremely overwhelming shopping experience. I mean, there is a regular grocery store AND a pre-made section…how does a girl choose? In the end, I visited the gluten-free aisle because Matt and I have decided to cut back on our gluten for a variety of reasons. I also stocked up in the pre-made section with kale (I’m jumping on that bandwagon!), salmon, quinoa, fruit and veggies.

As a result, I’ve been bringing kale and salmon salads to school when I work. I never thought I’d like kale, because I heard it was similar to spinach, which I’m not really a fan of unless it’s doctored up with lots of cream and cheese. And alas, that would defeat the purpose of this exercise. I’ll tell you what, though, Central Market does this pre-made kale salad with nuts and cranberries, and I am in love. I’m also a huge fan of salmon, and since I’m buying that pre-made as well, I can stick in my freezer pack lunchbox and eat it cold while still getting all of the flavor.

So far, it’s going well. Matt and I even made a healthy, homemade pizza the other night with chicken and lots of veggies. If anyone has any suggestions on how to cook and prepare kale and quinoa in yummy ways, please comment here! I’d love to expand my knowledge of healthy, flavorful living.

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Lately…

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

That is one beautiful bird…and it was delicious too!

Matt and I have integrated ourselves back into the Dallas scene lately with a couple nights out to watch the Stars, to celebrate at baby showers, and to spend time with friends and family over the holidays. There never seems to be a very dull moment, which is a nice way to start off our time back in the States.

Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday since it is the trifecta of festivities: food, family and football. We got to celebrate not one, not two, but three Thanksgiving bashes this year! The first kicked-off with our friends, Brittain and Aaron, when they hosted Friendsgiving in their home. This would be my first Friendsgiving and I certainly hope it is not my last. Aaron smoked the turkey on the grill and we all brought something to contribute to the potluck dinner. What a fun night!

Our other Thanksgiving celebrations occurred with our respective families, all festive and fun. There is nothing quite like a home-cooked holiday meal to put this girl into good spirits. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing…yum. And with Christmas right around the corner, the good food and time spent with family are just going to keep on coming.

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

Awesome seats to catch my first professional hockey game!

Other than holiday festivities, Matt and I have attended a couple professional hockey games. Now would you believe that as much as I love sports, I’ve never been to a live, professional hockey game? When I watched hockey on TV in the past I thought it was a pretty boring sport, but after going in person, I am hooked! It is so fast-paced, there is constant action and when the Stars score a goal, mayhem! We are very thankful to our good friend who helped us gain tickets to both games we’ve gotten to see so far (thanks Dallas!).

And of course, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve gotten to attend a couple baby showers for my sweet friend Taylor. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be able to celebrate my friends, in person instead of from afar, when big things happen in their lives. I was lucky enough to attend her couples shower in the Dallas area with Matt, and then to tag along to Oklahoma to see her one more time at her other shower before baby Blake arrives.

There is much more to come in the month of December – a Beyoncé concert, Melissa’s company Christmas party (I’m her date!), more holiday festivities – so stay tuned!

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

The beautiful table at my parent’s house for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

Getting to hang out with my sissypoo all the time for the first time in years!

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

This little guy is adjusting well. He’s even starting to go outside – with my supervision of course.

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

Our Friendsgiving assembly line. That is our beautiful hostess leading the way.

Thanksgiving, Hockey, Stars, Dallas, Baby Shower

A pre-hockey cocktail and dinner. Oh how I missed a good dirty martini!

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The Perfect English Muffin

Marbella, Spain, cafe con leche, eggs benedict, breakfast, brunch, English muffin

Enjoying a cafe con leche at Pan & Mermelada in Marbella.

My hiatus is officially over. I wish I had a really cool reason as to why I haven’t been blogging…like, I’ve been on an African safari or jet-setting around the world writing for a travel magazine. Alas, I’ve just been very busy at work and planning the wedding, so I let some of my extracurricular activities slip.

However, with the Spanish summer officially upon us and some fun things happening in our area, I figured now was a better time than any to do what I love doing the most – sharing some of our cultural experiences that make living over here so unique! What a better way to start that than to tell you about a little gem we found in Marbella over the weekend…

I wish I could take credit for finding this amazing spot on my own. However, the discovery was made by a co-worker and relayed to some of the other foodies in the office (ironically, the details were shared over lunch), which really, is an even better way to discover amazing restaurants – word of mouth. Pan & Mermelada is a Canadian-owned restaurant, located about 45 minutes up the coast in Marbella, and on Sunday, I dragged Matt there upon rumours of eggs Benedict with real English muffins! Be still my heart.

Marbella, Spain, cafe con leche, eggs benedict, breakfast, brunch, English muffin

Just a little peek at the quaint atmosphere.

See, one of my favorite breakfast meals is eggs Benedict. The problem over here is that I can rarely find it on a brunch menu and when I do, it is not served over an English muffin, my favorite breakfast “grain.” If you are able to find eggs Benedict on a menu, it is often served on a “bap,” which is really just another word for hamburger bun. Bleh. So you can imagine my glee when I heard that this restaurant made eggs Benedict the proper way.

And boy were they worth the drive! I ordered mine with bacon instead of their usual ham or salmon, to which the owner declared, “great choice!” Served with potatoes and a salad, these eggs Benedict really hit the spot. Salty, creamy, with runny yolk and the most wonderfully toasted English muffin on the bottom. Matt enjoyed a breakfast burrito complete with scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, fresh lime, tomato and sour cream. He devoured that burrito in minutes. And because they are Canadian, the buttermilk pancakes are served with traditional maple syrup – enticing enough to go back next Sunday!

The food isn’t just wonderful at Pan & Mermelada – the setting is delightful as well. An eclectic taste prevails with interesting art, rustic birdcages and lanterns, smooth wood finishing and large open windows that let you enjoy an outdoor atmosphere even if you are at a table inside. We spoke a bit with the owner (it is refreshing to hear an accent so similar to ours) and she encouraged us to come back on Friday evening when there would be live music. Based on the photos I’ve seen on their Facebook page, I’m pretty sure reservations are required to secure a spot to enjoy what looks like an equally delightful dinner menu and the cool music.

I highly recommend this spot to anyone in the Marbella area. With outdoor seating, the perfect breakfast menu (I’ll keep you posted once we’ve done dinner!) and a wonderful atmosphere, I know we’ll be back.

Marbella, Spain, cafe con leche, eggs benedict, breakfast, brunch, English muffin

Trust me – they tasted as good as they look.

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Camuri – A Restaurant Review

A couple weekends ago, Matt and I finally ventured out of our little area of Spain to sample the nightlife and cuisine located up the coast. It’s just too easy to become a creature of habit – we typically stick to local places when it comes time to decide where to have a dinner out. Many of these places you’ve heard of multiple times on this blog, Pura Tapa and La Finca being the most popular. However, in the winter season La Finca closes, and Matt and I have discussed trying to get up north a little more. So that’s exactly what we recently did.

On a low-key Saturday night, we wandered up to Laguna Village, an outdoor shopping area about 20 minutes up the coast with fabulous restaurants. We’ve eaten at Terra Sana, also located in Laguna Village, many times and enjoy it so much that we’ve brought most of our visiting family and friends there for lunch. This night, however, we chose to visit Camuri, an oriental restaurant with a fabulous menu. Located right on the beach, the floor to ceiling glass walls open in the summer, but with the cool winter temperatures, they were closed for our visit.

Laguna Village, Camuri, Food, Cuisine, Restaurant Review

Not the best picture I’ve ever taken, but you get the drift. The sushi is in the top left, the chicken wings just to the right of it, the crab roll close to me and the beef tips in the far right of the photo. {Click to enhance}

As for the food, we decided to choose from their “to share” menu so that we could sample a few dishes. We enjoyed crab spring rolls with a ginger dipping sauce, beef tip skewers, chicken wings in an oriental sauce, and a Nobuko sushi roll comprised of seared beef fillet with rocket leaves, crunchy tempura and a hot chili sauce. Their menu includes traditional sushi rolls like the California roll, but the appeal for us are those unique to the restaurant. When we go back, we plan on trying the Age salmon maki, which is a fried salmon roll with two sauces – orange tobiko and mango. The words “sushi” and “fried” together sound quite tasty!

I’m glad we stepped out of our comfort zone for once, because it ended up being a lovely evening. We will definitely be going back to Camuri, especially in the summer months when the doors open to the beautiful Mediterranean. We’ve also decided that this will start our “tour of the coast.” We plan on continuing our exploration in an effort to find more hidden gems like Camuri!

 

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Shrimp Tacos with Green Apple Salsa

I was browsing Cooking Light’s website for dinner ideas yesterday before heading off to the grocery store and stumbled across an interesting recipe. I had a hankering for fish and saw this shrimp taco recipe with a home-made green apple salsa. The combination of olive oil, lemon juice, lemon rind, apples and jalapeños seemed like a unique mixture (what do I know, I’m no chef connoisseur) so I thought I’d give it a shot. At only 300 calories, it was definitely worth taking a shot!

Both Matt and I were sceptical as I threw this dish together, which only took about 30-40 minutes. For one, I don’t like corn tortillas, but I decided to stick to what the recipe called for. Secondly, the apple “salsa” didn’t seem like a salsa at all – even Matt commented as I mixed it together that it didn’t look especially appetizing. I told him that you can’t judge a book by its cover and that there was nothing else in the kitchen to serve in its place, so we were having this green apple salsa. Matt skipped the shrimp (not a huge fish-lover), which I’d foreseen – instead, I bought him a flank steak that he could grill up in no time. 

Any previous worries I had that this dish wouldn’t satisfy our taste buds was quickly crushed when we took our first bite. These tacos were so good! The sweet of the apple mixed with the spicy of the jalapeño and savoury of the shrimp was incredible. According to Matt, the steak went with the green apple salsa just as well, declaring the meal a huge success. Though I have all of our groceries purchased for the rest of the work-week dinners, I think a quick trip to the supermarket before the weekend is in order. I see shrimp tacos for Saturday/Sunday lunch in my near future!

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Mongolian Beef

Mongolian beef, Recipe, Table for Two blog

Our Mongolian beef basically looked just like this copycat recipe of P.F. Chang’s! {photo courtesy of mommysavers.com}

This week I made a delicious Mongolian beef recipe, courtesy of a P.F. Chang’s copycat recipe I found at Mommy Savers. Since Matt is a huge fan of Asian food – Japanese, Chinese, Thai, sushi, beef, noodles, you name it – I’m always trying to find new recipes I can do at home that taste like the real thing. This recipe seemed not only doable, but easy enough that I’ll be happy to remake it often.

Matt and I changed ours up just a bit from the original recipe, though, because we love adding veggies to our rice. We used brown rice instead and cut out the green onions, since neither of us is really a fan. Matt loves broccoli, so he steamed some broccoli to add to his dish. I prefer carrots, so we sautéed some chopped carrots and added that to mine. The beef was easy to make and the sauce was a winner – Matt claimed that this may be one of his favorite dishes that we’ve made in recent months.

It’s just too bad that I forgot to take any photos of our end result – we were just too excited to dig into our dish! However, ours looked almost exactly the same as the photo featured on Mommy Savers. I definitely recommend this dish if you have a hankering for Asian take-out, but want to leave all the nasty preservatives behind.

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

Asian food, Chinese food, Thai food, Cooking, Recipe

The fruits of my labor!

One thing is for sure in our household – we love Chinese and Thai food. We eat at the local Thai restaurant once a week at least, so that right there is proof! However, eating out all the time isn’t necessarily feasible or financially ideal. Therefore, I’ve made an effort lately to incorporate Asian meals into our menu. In doing so, I’ve had to learn how to actually cook these dishes. I’m currently a novice, but I love cooking and I’m happy to learn, so trial and error isn’t an issue for me.

My first attempt was a slow-cooker beef dish that was so easy to throw together, that it made for a great place to start. The good news – Matt and I loved the dish! It simply called for slicing the beef and covering it with a sauce that consisted of soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, beef consumme (I used broth since I had it on hand), and garlic. When we got home at the end of the day, the house smelled amazing and all I needed to do was thicken the sauce a bit with cornstarch and add the broccoli to cook. Easy and delicious!

While the Asian beef dish was beyond tasty, I was even more successful this week with a sweet and sour chicken recipe I found via Pinterest. Super simple and it rendered great results. Matt was raving about it and telling me I must make it again. Success! All I had to do was lightly brown the diced chicken in oil using egg and cornstarch, then I dumped it in a baking dish and poured the sauce over the top. The sauce consisted of sugar, ketchup, distilled white vinegar, soy sauce and garlic salt. The original chef made fried rice with hers, but Matt made brown rice instead.

I’m thinking I might try to make one Asian dish each week if possible. I’ll keep you posted about my attempts and the results. In the meantime, this great meal may make an appearance again soon. 🙂

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Home-made Pizza

Morrison's, Gibraltar, Spain, Pizza Delivery, Pizza-Making Kit, Dinner

Our home-made pizza straight out of the oven!

Here’s the thing about Spain, and in particular, the town we live in – delivery pizza doesn’t exist. Go on, I’ll give you a moment to think about that.

Pizza is just not the same over here. In Ireland, we had Domino’s, and we could even order the pizza online and then track the order like the Domino’s back home. Who doesn’t love to order a pizza for delivery on a rainy night, or for a football game, or just because? Well, after a year of living in Spain, we’ve done tons of research into the ability to order pizza to the house, and it just doesn’t seem to be an option. The pizza places we’ve contacted either don’t deliver, or won’t deliver to our town, Alcaidesa. Therefore, we’ve come up with our own solution: home-made pizza!

Don’t get too excited, though – I don’t make the dough on my own. That’s just a feat I’m not willing to tackle any time soon. After all, how many baking posts have you seen on my blog in all 200+ posts? I actually discovered a pizza-making kit at Morrison’s that works time and time again. It includes the dough, which just needs to be rolled out, and the sauce. It makes two small, square pizzas and any time I make it over to Morrison’s in Gibraltar, I pick it up. The expiration date on it also allows us to keep it for awhile before needing to use it, so I usually stock up on a couple. 😉

Last night, we pulled out the pizza-kit for a quick and easy dinner. Though not the same as delivery, we still get to choose exactly what goes on the pizza and the preparation is simple. We put together a simple combination last night – cheese and salami. We also sprinkled a bit of oregano and red chili flakes on top for added flavor. Thanks to our convection oven (which are a staple in Europe), the cook time was quick and we were eating in no time. From start to stomach, the process most likely took the same amount of time that a delivery would have with an end result that was just as yummy.

Morrison's, Gibraltar, Spain, Pizza Delivery, Pizza-Making Kit, Dinner

Cooking away in the convection oven. Seriously, everyone should have one of these.

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