Great Global Tapas with a Latin American Edge at Cascal in Mountain View

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It ain’t easy finding great restaurants out in Silicon Valley, but they do exist if you look hard enough. Downtown Mountain View has proven over and over again that it’s loaded with great spots and the Latin inspired tapas joint Cascal is no exception. Buckle up, this is gonna be a long one. But I guess that’s bound to happen when you dine tapas style as a party of eight. I’ll try to keep my commentary concise because honestly all of the food was really awesome.

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Fancy, Futuristic Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream at Smitten in Hayes Valley

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As a youngster growing up in New Jersey I frequently visited Six Flags during the summer. In between lines and massive roller coaster rides, our trips always required a refreshing pit-stop at Dippin’ Dots, the ice cream of the future. These little vendor carts served a unique treat of little ice cream pebbles produced by liquid nitrogen flash-freezing. I’d often wondered why this interesting technique wasn’t more common since the people seem to love it and it didn’t seem that difficult to do.

Well I don’t need to wonder about that any more. While exploring San Francisco, I stumbled across an outdoor shanty in the middle of a park in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, where Smitten is making ice cream to order using this very technique.

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Old-World Formality & High-End Cajun Cooking at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans
Formality & High-End Cajun at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

Old-World Formality & High-End Cajun Cooking at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

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When’s the last time you put on a suit to go to dinner? I can’t really remember the last time, but I think it may have been my sister’s Bat Mitzvah 10 years ago? And yeah, I was probably wearing the same suit. In my experience, I’ve found that New Orleans is an amazing place to visit whether you’re looking for great music, great dining, or great drinking. But, if you’re looking for a really special meal, there’s one very famous restaurant that seems to keep on living in a completely different, older era.

This restaurant, Commander’s Palace, is housed in a Victorian mansion right in the middle of the primarily residential Garden District neighborhood and has been a staple of the New Orleans fine dining scene since 1880. As you could imagine, many famed chefs have passed through these kitchen doors including the esteemed New Orleans celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse.

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A Whimsical Edible Danish Date Night at The Copenhagen in NYC
A Whimsical Edible Danish Date Night at Aamanns-Copenhagen NYC

A Whimsical Edible Danish Date Night at The Copenhagen in NYC

*Editor’s Note 11/13/14: This restaurant used to be called Aamanns-Copenhagen NYC but is now simply referred to as The Copenhagen.

*Editor’s Note 10/15/15: I’m sad to report that The Copenhagen has permanently closed.

When you hear Danish food, what comes to mind? Maybe that eponymous jam filled pastry? Maybe you literally have absolutely no clue what Danish people eat. I know I sure didn’t. That is before I checked out the New York outpost of the Scandinavian imported restaurant Aammanns-Copenhagen, known as The Copenhagen.

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Great Silicon Valley Izakaya Open Late at En Japanese Tapas in Santa Clara

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One of the biggest takeaways I’ve gotten from all of this time I’ve been spending in Silicon Valley is that everything in California closes early. Offices become ghost towns at 6:00. Most Happy Hours end at 6:00, maybe 7:00 if you’re lucky. Bars stop serving at 1:30 AM and worst of all, most restaurant kitchens close at 9:00. If you end up working late ’til say 9:00 or later you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to getting a decent dinner.

In all of my digging, I have thankfully found a few places that keep their kitchen open ’til around 10:00. But there is one place I’ve found in Santa Clara for quality late night dining called En Japanese Tapas Restaurant where the kitchen stays open until a glorious 11:30 PM.

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An Exciting, Sexy, and Modern Italian & American Date Night at Perla

*Editor’s Note 6/4/15: Perla has completely overhauled their menu, decor, and have lowered the price point substantially since posting

Drop everything, I’ve got a new favorite restaurant in NYC. On the day we visited, Amy and I were in a celebrating mood. She had just started a new job and I’ve was just about to begin a new job of my own. On this occasion we were looking to treat ourselves right, to splurge on something extra special.

After seeing numerous end-of-2013 lists that included the nearby and recently opened Perla, I knew I wanted to try it out and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to do it. We made a reservation only a few days in advance and were able to snag seats at the chef’s counter for a Sunday evening at 6:30. It was a bit earlier than we usually dine, but what the hell, it was a Sunday night anyway.

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Flavorful Vegan Food that Even Carnivores will Love at Rockin’ Raw
Flavorful Vegan Food that Even Carnivores will Love at Rockin’ Raw

Flavorful Vegan Food that Even Carnivores will Love at Rockin’ Raw

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I am no vegan. Really, I’m the farthest thing from it. I am meat obsessed. Pork, lamb, beef, you name it, I love it. But, every now and then I want to eat something that’s actually good for me that’ll leave my body feeling great afterwards.

After moving to Greenwich Village I noticed a vegan sit-down restaurant just two blocks south of my apartment with a rather eye-catching name. With a name like Rockin’ Raw, I wondered how rockin’ raw vegan food could be? You’ll be pleased to hear that I this food was actually some of the most flavorful, vibrant vegan food I’d ever tasted.

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Eat a Filipino Feast with Your Hands on Kamayan Night at Jeepney
Eat a Filipino Feast with Your Hands on Kamayan Night at Jeepney in NYC

Eat a Filipino Feast with Your Hands on Kamayan Night at Jeepney

I want to share one of the most fun, excessive, over-the-top meals I’ve recently had with you all. On the northern edge of the East Village on 1st Ave. at 13th St. there’s a cool, newish place called Jeepney. You won’t be able to miss the gigantic, bold, yellow signage. Jeepney is a self-described Filipino gastropub that serves hearty Filipino specialties alongside Southeast Asian inflected cocktails. Jeepney is owned by the Maharlika guys and has the same hip, cool vibe as the sit-down spot. I’ve gotta warn you though, the hip decor at Jeepney isn’t exactly Safe For Work.

On this particular Thursday evening, Amy and I were accompanied to dinner by two of my close friends from Foodspotting, Meng and Dr. Klein. We had all heard great things about a special feast at Jeepney served every Thursday (and has subsequently expanded into Wednesdays too) by reservation only called Kamayan (kuh-MY-uhn) Night. We were all very excited to check it out. Before arriving that night, I had no idea what I was getting myself into except that there was going to be a massive amount of Filipino food that we would be eating it with our hands!

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2013

Given the number of insanely delicious things I’ve eaten over the past year, selecting the best of the bunch is a very difficult task. Over on Foodspotting I’ve released a long version that’s over 200 items long which includes every single dish jaw-dropping dish from the last year. Here, instead, I’ve chosen the very best in select categories. In no particular order, let’s begin!
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