Thursday, January 01, 2009

Odds & Ends

Last year I visited a number of places that while they were interesting and definitely blog-worthy I didn't always take time out to make note of them. As it's the start of a new year, it's probably time I mention them in the order they pop into my mind.

After driving by one of those little roadside trailers a few times while heading to Little Rock, we finally remembered on one of those trips to not eat lunch before leaving town and make a stop there. I don't even know the actual name of it, other than it's the only place to eat in Amagon, Arkansas short of visiting family or killing whatever lives in the swampland nearby. So despite chiding from friends that we were eating what was "cooked using swamp water" we stopped in for lunch one day. The burger and tater tots were cooked just right and flavorful. Topping the meal off with a homemade apple fried pie reassured me that the risk of swamp water infection was worthwhile.

I've also had my eye on another place, this one leaning quite the opposite direction in atmosphere and style. I bookmarked Bailey's Chocolate Bar in St. Louis a number of months ago and had planned to put that on my next trip that direction. On my most recent trip there, I was able to fit it in the schedule. It was a little hard to spot at first, just a small nondescript entrance mixed in a few buildings near downtown. Once my husband & I convinced ourselves we should go see what was waiting inside, it was an experience. Seated in one of the larger spaces, we relaxed at a tall table to one side of the room and could take in the whole place. The restaurant was divided up into smaller areas, all with dark walls, velvet & candles draped around each space. As far as the food, the white hot chocolate was very good, and the Chocolate Inebriation cake was good, but the cinnamon ice cream on top was something to write home about. The Lover's Plate featuring a variety of delights had some interesting sauces and truffles, but the nuts included were so odd we had to bring some home. The exact flavor is indescribable, other than I didn't like it but I could not stop eating them either. I'm not sure what exactly they put on them that can create that sort of desire to eat something that just isn't that good, but I'd like to buy a few ounces and introduce it to some broccoli.

Since I've had a sudden shift of thoughts to breakfast, I'll jump back to Arkansas and the Green Tomato Cafe. Located on the square in Pocahontas, it's easy to find and will be wonderful to visit when warmer weather arrives. I've sampled both breakfast and lunch and would go back anytime I get the opportunity. The menu has a range of staples such as eggs, hash browns and classic southern fare meats. They also have very good pancakes, with a slight touch of citrus in them. It's not overpowering, but definitely adds a little something worth noting to the taste. At lunch the vegetable beef soup got rave reviews from our table, and if the two guys with me whose tastes are somewhat opposite ends of the spicy-heat index to agree it's good, that really makes a statement!

While on yet a different trip to Little Rock last year, we happened to get a late lunch at Cantina Laredo, a place that labels itself as gourmet Mexican food. I don't know I'd quite call it gourmet, but it was a nice change from the same menu we get at all the local "Authentic Mexican" restaurants that dot every busy street corner in my hometown. I'm not a fan of guacamole, but they make it tableside, and the menu had enough variety that I didn't go away hungry. It's in a handy location near The Container Store, a place where I could spend too much money in a very short time. The location alone puts it in my book as a worthwhile stop.

This past year I got the opportunity to try a tapas restaurant, and I can't wait to go to another. After my enthusiastic reviews to friends of the place, I think I may need a bigger car for my next trip down bite-sized goodness lane. I love the whole "small plates" concept. At a new restaurant, I always want to try a little of several things on the menu, especially if it's in a place where I'm not sure I'll be back soon. So I either feel like a glutton ordering too much food and wasting it because I can't begin to eat it all, or just roll the dice and hope I choose something great. Enough about the joys of going tapas... the specific Tapas restaurant I went to was BARcelona in St. Louis. I sampled a variety of dishes, all of which were good. Just like Il Vicino, which I mentioned in a previous post, the cozy, small space atmosphere seemed fitting. This place however was buzzing with chatter from full tables of happy patrons downing pitchers of Sangria and nibbling at all the tasty small plates. It's probably best that I don't have a handy tapas restaurant just around the corner or they would certainly know me on a first name basis.

This isn't an exhaustive list of good eats I found along my travels last year, but it does cover just a few that were blog-worthy and that somehow failed to make it into a previous post. When there's good food and good fun to be found, I can't keep all it to myself!