Thursday, August 21, 2014

Villa Ravenna...the Godfather of REAL Italian Cuisine!

Villa Ravenna, celebrating over FIVE years in Tulsa, it's no wonder reservations MUST be made to get a table...especially on a Friday or Saturday night!

     I took one of my favorite "couple" clients to dinner at this authentic Italian eatery. I didn't choose this, they did. Why? Because it's their "go to" Italian restaurant in Tulsa.  And they know Italian food because the husband of this dynamic duo is from Italy.

    As we walked into the restaurant, being that my clients frequent Villa Ravenna quite often, we were greeted by the owner, Sergio Orioli. He and my client began the greetings and short conversation in Italian as we were led into the dining room to our table. I completely left the ordering up to my clients... who quite frankly, I now consider friends. They ordered well.  

     We started with the Prosciutto Wrapped Figs, drizzled with a sweet balsamic vinegar, then topped with gorgonzola cheese then baked and topped off with a crunchy walnut.  So good!!

     Next, we had the Cantaloupe and Prosciutto. Fresh cantaloupe, draped with prosciutto and a sprig of mint. Simple but delicious.     

     Next, was the main course. I was going to order the Veal Piccata but it was suggested I order the Veal Parmigiana.  You know when you see movies, and the setting is in an Italian restaurant or eating Italian food and the food looks phenomenal...yeah, that's so what this tasted like.  The sauce was fresh, not heavy but PACKED with flavor.  It was savory, and deep, deep umaminess.  The homemade pasta was exceptional to say the least. Everything tasted like you would EXPECT Italian food to taste like...only, I've never experienced anything quite like this in Tulsa.  

     And for desert, in addition to the lemoncello liquor...excuse me HOUSE-MADE lemoncello liquor, we indulged in a lemoncello moist, tart yet sweet slice of heaven. Heaven I say!

       Below is the photo of the lemoncello in the's a beautiful site, isn't it?

     The service rivals Tulsa's TOP restaurants, the atmosphere is pure romance...okay, it's down right sexy. I literally felt for a brief moment that I was in an Italian restaurant in Italy. No joke.  Next time you crave real, AUTHENTIC Italian cuisine, get yourself to Villa Ravenna, hidden elegantly in a corner in the Farm Shopping Center at 51st & Sheridan. Cent Anni e Salute!

Villa Ravenna on Urbanspoon

My Thai Kitchen...Family Thai Goodness!

I wished I hadn't waited so long to try this place.  Family owned and operated, non-chain goodness :-)

     I ordered a few things, and made a few meals out of it all.  I started with the Tom Kha, a soup made with straw mushroom, lime leaf, lemon grass, chili pepper, galangal (aka blue ginger), and a touch of lime juice combined in coconut milk broth, topped with cilantro.  You can smell the aromas of the lemon grass and ginger. Delicious.

          Next I had the spring rolls. Yes, it's typical and traditional in Asian cuisine but these seemed to be loaded with flavor in addition to the freshness. I opted for the fresh, non fried shrimp spring rolls, wrapped in the moistened rice paper and it came with a peanut sauce that rivaled other places. Tasty.

     I also ordered the Pad Cashew Thai.  It's served with steamed rice and has carrot, celery, straw mushroom, onion, bell pepper, dried chili pepper, scallion, and cashew nut. It was savory, sweet and spicy. Perfect.

     The food is awesome, the place is clean and the family is friendly.  I highly recommend giving My Thai Kitchen a taste, especially if you're a fan of Asian/Thai cuisine. ไชโย! (Cheers!)

My Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bluestone Steak House & Seafood: A Wine Dinner To Remember....

...and all I could say was WOW!

Okay, so my spin off the famous An Affair to Remember line may be a bit cheesy, but I'm still under the spell of the food and wine that was consumed by all of us in attendance.  And for the record, all I REALLY could say was WOW!!  Special thanks again to Bill and Sharon Tackett for their kind and friendly hospitality.

     As I arrived, I was greeted ever so kindly by Bill and Sharon Tackett, owner/operators of the Bluestone Steak House and Seafood. Then I ran into the lovely Renee Profitt, of In House Advertising, marketing/branding guru extraordinaire! It was great seeing some long time friends, Stephanie and Bill Cottam, and making some new acquaintances, Ken and Ty...all lovely people with whom to enjoy the palatable wine and heavenly food that was to come.

     They started us off with the appetizers.  A plate of Triple Cheese Gougère
 and Baby Tartine.  In French cuisine, a Gougère is a baked savory choux pastry, made of choux dough (dough used typically for éclairs, French crullers, and beignets) mixed with cheese. The Baby Tartine (a savory French open-faced sandwich) was unique with chilled lamb, the lavendar hummus and roasted cauliflower and tomato/bacon jam...yes TOMATO/BACON JAM! . And can I just say, never doubt a talented chef.  In this case, how they put things, simple things like a cheese and fruit and make it taste like a complex, sweet and savory cheese cake is beyond me.  That is what the Irish Cheddar and strawberries on a skewer tasted like...especially with the house-made pomegranate honey drizzle. This was paired with Chandon Sparkling Rose. It was light and fabulous!

Tripple Cheese Gougere, Irish Cheddar and Strawberry Skewers with house-made pomegranate honey drizzle.  Baby Tartine with chilled lamb, roasted cauliflower, lavender hummus, and tomato/bacon jam. Paired with Chandon Sparkling Rose.

    Next came the salad course.  A watermelon and tomato salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette (An Asian citrus with the flavor of mandarin, Meyer lemon and grapefruit).  The Yuzu Asian flavors with the fresh tomato and watermelon made this salad unique as the fresh flavors. This was paired with Chateau Minuty. 

Watermelon and Tomato Salad, w/Yuzu Vinaigrette, paired with Chateau Minuty.

     The Fish was next on the menu. A Tuna Crudo (raw sliced tuna) with Fig Vincotto (a fruit flavored, aged balsamic vinegar) and smoked olive oil.  Again, an uncommon flavor profile with the smoked olive oil.  While the tuna was raw (raw tuna tastes like steak), that olive oil gave it a smoked taste and blended with that Fig Vincotto, wow. Sweet, smokey and fresh.

Tuna Crudo with Fig Vincotto and smoked olive oil. Paired with 
Chalone Estate Pinot Noir.

     Next came the Meat course.  Without taking away from all of the other dishes, THIS, was my favorite. It was Orange/Ginger braised short ribs (I love braised proteins), Ginger/Orange Gremolata, parsnip vanilla mashers, roasted baby brussels sprouts and caramelized julienne fennel in sherry vinegar and sage butter.  As I'm eating this, I'm also reading the guide menu, noting each flavor with every bite.  The Parsnip Vanilla mashers, really? Who would've thought to fuse those flavors? That combined with the fall-off-the-bone braised, savory short ribs.  And that caramelized flavor of the julienne fennel. I kept having thoughts of the French eating like this (French-style cooking methods are my favorite).  All of this mouth-watering lusciousness was paired appropriately with Numanthia Termes & Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon (new favorite).

Orange/Ginger Braised Short Ribs,  ginger/Orange Gemolata, parsnip vanilla mashers, roasted baby brussels sprouts and caramelized julienne fennel with sherry vinegar and sage butter. Paired with Numanthia Termes & Newton Unviltered Cabernet Sauvignon.

     Last but certainly not least.  The Dessert or "Sweet Ends" portion of the evening.  A Chocolate-Chili cake with tequila-cinnamon chocolate ganache and raspberries.  I just love rare unthought of combinations that one would never think to combine. It makes me excited to know that I've not tasted something already but that there are so many combinations I have YET to taste.  This cake was a culinary explosion in my mouth.  From the first bite, you get CHOCOLATE...then the chili spicy flavor sneaks up then BAM, the tequila-cinnamon chocolate ganache pops then melts in your mouth.  This wine dinner exceeded my expectations and I'm pretty sure it excelled in the minds and mouths of everyone there.  This was paired with Bailey's Vanilla Cinnamon.

Chocolate-Chili Cake with tequila-cinnamon chocolate ganache and raspberries.  Paired with Bailey's Vanilla Cinnamon.

     It really was such a wonderful evening, surrounded by exquisite food, wine and people.  Special thanks again to owners Bill and Sharon Tackett as well as consulting chef Marc Lane and Executive Chef Jose Garcia.  I'd also like to thank the hard working staff at Bluestone Steak House and Seafood.  They hustled and worked so very hard to ensure that we all were taken care of, but also so that this entire wine dinner went smooth. And it did. 

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Monday, August 18, 2014

La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant...Andale, Andale Right On In There!!

La Hacienda, located off 45th and Peoria area is an ideal spot for when you crave authentic Mexican, fused with Tex-Mex style food.  It's tasty!

     Don't you just love it when business and pleasure meet?  I had the opportunity to take a client to lunch, who also happened to be a long time friend of mine and my family.  We opted for La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant.  It's been a while since I'd been so I was pretty excited.

     They start you off with chips and homemade salsa...of course it's homemade. But not just cause they say it is, but it's literally traditional Mexican homemade salsa...I can taste the roasted tomatoes in every bite.

     My guest and friend ordered the smothered beef was HUGE. And, like most entrees, comes with Spanish rice, refried beans, guacamole and sour cream.

     I ordered the fresh grilled shrimp tacos...because I can't eat like a man anymore, being that I'm not getting any younger, and I'm a girrrrl.  My tacos came fully loaded with fresh lettuce, pico de gallo, sliced avocado and drizzled with their homemade salsa.  Serious. Fresh. Goodness.  Sadly, I ate it all in one sitting :-( But it was worth it! 

     Chad and I enjoyed our lunch, conversation, catch up time AND business dealings.  We left stuffed and  happy.  Can't wait for our next business/friend lunch.  See his smile on his was the food leaving it's happiness.

     Go grab you some of this Mexican food deliciousness...impress a client or have some catch up time with a friend. Buen provecho!


La Hacienda on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tallgrass Prairie Table: Elegant and Rustic Farm to Table Deliciousness

I visited Tallgrass Prairie Table when they first opened, and then this week alone, I've been TWICE!  My most recent visit was wicked cool...

...and I felt like a groupie at a rock concert who got to meet the the lead singer, but in this case, it was Executive Chef Michelle Donaldson...she brought us our main course! Slightly embarrassed by my "groupie" like reaction to her, I still think it's so important to let the most learned and talented chefs know their food rocks your world. Every chef I've met as a food blogger have been an honor to meet and tonight, was equally phenomenal. 

     I've seen some "diner" reviews on this place and the ones that claim the food to be "flavorless" are obviously chain diners. They don't know what REAL good food is and are used to the sodium salty chain food.  That or they which case your taste buds aren't able to fully take in the flavors.  Okay, off my soapbox and on to my review of Tallgrass Prairie Table's elegant, rustic, delicious food! :-)

     So my first visit this week was with my little sister Alex. She ordered the Smoked Brisket Burger...see it pictured above AND again below.  I ordered the small plate of Belly and Scallops.  You can't imagine the flavors. Farm to table, fresh, local. You can taste each ingredient to it's fullest, bold, ripe and amazing, again, without being overly seasoned. 
 Short Brisket Burger--House Grind, Brazzo’s Cheddar, Carmelized Onion, & Homemade Everything. $14 
Add Fried Farm Egg $2Add House-cured, Smoked, Thick-cut Bacon for $2

Belly and Scallops--Smoked Carrot Puree, Sweet Hot Tomato Jam, Fresh Herbs $16

     Last night, my second visit in two days, I was with my friend and fellow foodie Kirk Williams, (He and his team won last year's Oklahoma Steak Championship Cook-Off) he knows good food.  He really enjoyed it all. He had the meatloaf and I, I had the Spicy Hot Fried Chicken.  Oh, it sounds basic...doesn't it? But if you've ever eaten at Tallgrass, you know it wasn't!!!

     First, they brought us a small plate of Ham and Farm Eggs...amazing. UH-MAAAY-zing! It came with house-made Tasso ham, cast iron skillet padrons, and shirred farm eggs with white cheddar, oh and fire-grilled jalapenos on the side.  Are you getting a picture here? It was like a soup of white creamy cheddar and then a surprise of two whole shirred eggs. So the eggs are slowly warmed by the hot was wicked tasty.  And of course, I didn't get a picture of that luscious bowl of cheddar-egg goodness :-(

     I had a bite of Kirk's meatloaf, and it was nothing short of savory and meaty goodness.  Unfortunately, I didn't have my "good" Canon camera with me, I only had my smartphone camera so his pic didn't turn out.  Okay, the fried chicken, not your grandma's chicken for sure.  The crust was spicy but not too much, it sneaks up on you, which is why I loved it so much. You get the full flavor of the delectable, fresh chicken and then the taste of the perfectly spicy and crisp coating follows. Not greasy or soggy, just perfect.  It came with roasted fingerling potatoes and the gravy, oh that creamy flavorful panang curried gravy. Yes, I said panang curried gravy.  The fusion of country-style food with a hint of Mediterranean flair made this dish so unique. Then there's the lime-leaf slaw that balanced the richness of the gravy and hearty savoriness of the fried chicken beautifully.
Spicy Hot Fried Chicken--Panang Curry Gravy and Lime-leaf Slaw  $19

     Service was great, the bartender took great care of us as did the bar manager, Johnna Hayes.  The entire staff is knowledgeable as they are hard working. It's like their ultimate goal is ensure you not only have smooth service, but that your experience is a memorable one. You know you wanna go now have some of that fried chicken...Cheers!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mmm Pahhhpi! Papa Ganouj That Is!...All Mediterranean Cuisine Fusion!

     I mean, really? This place, Papa Ganouj, needs to be in Bon Appetit's next article on BEST RESTAURANTS TO VISIT in the U.S.  WARNING!! Send the kids out of the room before viewing. The images you're about to view are rated XXXXX in foodporn ratings. 

     I've been hearing the buzz and as a food blogger, I knew I just had to hurry on in and see what all the fuss was about. I wanted to break out into "that" cafe scene on When Harry Met know the one!  But I wanted to reenact it after each and every bit, no joke.  And the presentation of each and every dish is a feast for the literally begin the taste experience from afar. 

     Two of my co-workers/friends and I were starving and Papa Ganouj was the remedy. We started with hummus and pitas off the Mezze section of the menu . There was some kind of oil drizzled over the hummus, not sure but it may have been a roasted pepper oil of some kind. Wasn't spicy enough to be chili oil.  The texture of the hummus was not superfine, which really makes it tasty because you can get a full taste and bite of the chickpea.

Hummus and Pitas- (2 of any Mezze items) $6

     Next we ordered our main course.  My friend Dawn ordered the Nicoise Pita with Beet Pickled Jicama and Carrot, Lindsey ordered the beef, chicken Kebob and I, I ordered the Coq au Vin Blanc.  I'm a fan of French style cooking methods and I was really intrigued by what was to come because of the Mediterranean flavors.

Nicoise Pita-- with Beet Pickled Jicama and Carrot $10

Kebob— beef, chicken, grilled vegetable, hummus, pita, hashwa $12

 Coq au Vin Blanc— chicken, white wine, garlic, basil pearl pasta, fennel $13

     I got to sample of bite of my friends' food, and they sampled mine.  All of it, every dish tasted like what you would dream each ingredient and dish should taste like in a perfect world.  The textures and flavors were nothing short of savory, flavorful heaven.  

     The Coq au Vin Blanc was literally foodgasmic.  The chicken was wrapped in a nest of filo dough, so the flavors and textures married together in such a heavenly way. Exquisite!

     Okay, don't hate, the next dish was literally the icing on the cake...okay, no cake, but a chocolate donut bread pudding.  And no icing, but it did come with a side dipping of coffee mocha mousse ganache.

“Coffee & Donuts” — chocolate donut bread pudding, coffee mocha mousse, ganache $9

     What happens what you eat out with the girls and no kids in site?  Hey, don't judge, you'll do it too when you savor this chocolaty posh, divine sweet bite!

     The service was great, the place is clean with creative decor, the food is upscale tasty art, the chef, obviously Top Chef worthy and more. Oh, and they clearly put a lot of thought into the amazing wine list, varying from regions, fitting to the Papa Ganouj brand. I can't urge you enough to go...I hope Tulsans frequent this eatery often. I don't want it to ever close and I would like to see them thrive and prosper for the fruits of their labor and talent. Καλή Όρεξη! בתיאבון! Buen provecho! بون الشهية!  Bon appetit in any language!!!

Papa Ganouj on Urbanspoon