Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: The Grove Cafe & Market - Albuquerque, New Mexico

I used to have a lot of business meetings at The Grove. The location is ideal; it's close to me during working hours, and pretty centrally located for anyone that wanted to meet during lunch. It's on Central Ave. as your headed into downtown. I absolutely love this place. The decor is beautiful and the food is divine (does that sound pretentious?).

The restaurant has been open since 2006.According to their website the owners, Jason and Lauren Greene, are "bringing the community a team of professional, high energy, food savvy individuals that have one common goal in mind…to serve the highest quality food products while focusing on a neighborhood friendly environment.  We create and offer the best food experience in the city, and never forget to connect to our customers." They also proudly serve local and organic produce, as well as all-natural meats, breads, and cheeses.

I just started a lunch club with my new friend Meredith and old friend Chuck. The three of us are foodies, and love to explore new places. Visiting the Grove was our second outing, the first being Scalo Northern Italian Grill, which I had written about it before so it didn't dawn on me to bring along my camera for the event.

We got there early to avoid the usual lunch crowd. I highly recommend that you try and get there before or around 11:30 or after 12:30. Lunch hour is a killer and you will wait in a long line to order and a long time to get your meals. There was a pretty decent crowd when we arrived, but it wasn't to bad. We had to wait a little while to order since there were some older ladies holding up the line with indecisiveness and A TON of questions. Also, there was only one counter open (they have 2). The menu is written on a huge chalk board above the registers, so it takes a while to spot exactly what you want. I think that this adds to the indecisiveness that people have there, but I wouldn't change it. After we ordered we found a table right away, and our food came out very quickly.

I ordered my favorite favorite salad in any restaurant in any town, the chopped salad. It has lettuce, bacon, avocado, blue cheese crumbles (or maybe Gorgonzola),  grape tomatoes, turkey, and egg. It's usually served with a homemade ranch dressing, but they have this lemon basil dressing that is amazing so I get that every time instead. The flavors of the fresh crisp vegetables mixed with the sharpness of the cheese and light lemon flavor of the dressing make my mouth jump for joy with every bite. Looking at the picture above is making me salivate, and sadly we won't be going back anytime soon. Lunch club has already made it's choices for the next 3 weeks!!!

Both Meredith and Chuck ordered a sandwich called The Beef; thin sliced housemade all-natural roasted sirloin, caramelized onion, arugula, horseradish crème fraiche, whole grain mustard, Havarti on sourdough. I wanted to ask for a bite, but was scared of the reaction I may have recieved...It looked delicious. It was served with fresh fruit and sweet pickles on a metal sheet pan. Very nice presentation.
The Grove also boasts some of the best homemade cupcakes in town. They are amazing! Meredith got a Coconut and a Chocolate one for her husband (later, she told me that when she took a bite she let out a huge "ummmm," I thought that was funny and definitely the right reaction).While I was tempted by the Red Velvet ones, I resisted the urge! It was so hard to walk away from the counter without one, but I've been dieting and working out regularly and I just couldn't do it.

I highly recommend visiting the Grove for breakfast or lunch; breakfast is served all day. They also have an amazing brunch on Sunday's...or maybe they have the same amazing breakfast menu. I 'm not sure, I thought I had read that somewhere though. There wasn't any information on their website about it.

The prices are a little high, BUT since you are guaranteed a delicious natural and organic meal it's totally worth the splurge.

Grove Café & Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recipe: Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp

I had a crazy craving for shrimp and I found this recipe on (my favorite recipe source). I knew this is exactly what I was wanting - tasty, quick, easy! My top three recipe requirements.

This pasta is Amazing! It tastes so light. The lemon makes this dish flavorable, but it's not overwhelming. Of course it's an Ina Garten can find it here.


  • 2 Pounds (17-21 count) shrimp, peeled and deviened (I accidentally grabbed a bag of smaller shrimps and they worked just fine)
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Place the shrimp on a sheet pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss well, spread them in 1 layer, and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, just until they're pink and cooked through.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the angel hair, and cook al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Quickly toss the angel hair with the melted butter, 1/4 cup olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the shrimp and serve hot.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: YardHouse - Denver, Colorado

We ended our quick trip to Denver at the YardHouse at the Sheraton Hotel.  Surprise, Surprise it's another chain; one that's not in New Mexico and one that we never heard of. I guess that's what happens when you eat locally all the time, you kind of forget about everything else - except for the Olive Garden. We will never forget the Olive Garden. 

Anyway, this restaurant had just opened a week before our visit and was open late AND attached to our hotel. This was a bonus since we were going after the basketball game to have a few cocktails to celebrate M's birthday. Another bonus was it was late night happy hour so our drinks and appetizers were half price.

We were greeted a seated right away. The decor inside was very cool and contemporary; Lots of dark furniture. There were plenty of tv's playing ESPN, and classic rock jamming loud on the overhead. I loved the music, but I think M was annoyed hearing me randomly belt out Def Leopard and Bon Jovi.
Instead of getting a huge meal, we decided to get a couple of appetizers. We chose the Chicken Nachos with spicy pinto beans, cheddar and jack, red and green sauce, tomato, cilantro, onions, guacamole and sour cream and the Firecracker Wings that were tossed in a spicy sesame garlic plum glaze garnished with green onions. We were pleasantly surprised when the the nachos came out. It was a huge portion with lots of chicken and toppings. It tasted really good too. We're such Mexican food snobs, we're kind of hard to please when it comes to tacos, burrito's, enchiladas, and nachos. 

The firecracker wings were really tasty too. They were Asian inspired and just a little spicy. I think that they gave us a dozen of the little suckers, so we had to leave a few behind. That made me sad, but we were traveling and there was no where to keep them overnight.
Even though it's a chain I'd go back. The staff was really nice, and the food the good. I loved the loud music playing (I normally don't, but this time I was having a blast), and the easy going atmosphere. The prices were really reasonable too. They even gave M a free dessert for his birthday...which I think was a miniature chocolate souffle with vanilla bean ice cream. Even though we were stuffed we managed to find room for it!

I know that I had a blast on this short trip. I really hope that M did too... Happy Belated Birthday Baby!!!

Yard House on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Smashburger - Denver, Colorado

Smashburger was a last minute decision for us on M's birthday. For breakfast, we decided to stick around the hotel and ate at the buffet in the hotel. Surprisingly it was really good. After that, went to the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. What an amazing place! I wasn't really impressed with the King Tut exhibit, but the rest of the museum is huge and there are some really amazing works. King Tut was PACKED and HOT! So packed that we could barely walk around, much less look at anything close up. That was really disappointing, since it was M's birthday and we were doing something that I wanted to do. After all the walking we did, we were famished so a late lunch was next on our itinerary.
M chose The Cheesecake Factory as his birthday lunch spot (Chain - I know, I know - but we don't have one in Albuquerque and it was his birthday). There was hardly a crowd, and when we arrived we were seated right away...and then we waited and waited and waited to have a server come over. After 15 min of waiting, another table was seated and immediately after they sat down a server was by their side. We got up and left. No one would have ever noticed either, but I complained to a manager (that took another 10 min) who blamed it on the shift change. He offered to seat us in another section and said he would comp a appetizer or dessert, but we were already thoroughly disgusted with the place that we left. So much for that!

Smashburger was right next door, so we got our grub on there. I had no idea it was a chain, until I looked it up online; New Mexico doesn't have one. Everything in the joint was very localized! They had mostly local beers and a Colorado Smashburger.
I had the Avocado Club Smashchicken sandwich and M had a bacon cheeseburger, both with Smashfries. The chicken sandwich was good, however kind of small...well flat is more like it. More avocado would have been appreciated too. The flavor was good though. As you can see from the picture above, they were a little skimpy on the bacon and cheese on M's burger, but he enjoyed it. The fries were good...fresh and crispy...just the way I like them. They were tossed with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, and other herbs for a great savory taste.All in all lunch was pretty good - and not too expensive either. I'd go back for sure, and now that I know that they're kind of all over the place I may be there sooner than later.

Here's M enjoying lunch. Despite the Cheesecake Factory mishap, I think that he had a great day. Especially when we went to the Nuggets game!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Venice Ristorante & Wine Bar - Denver, Colorado

I am way behind on reviews! Christmas break sucked the life out of me and I am just now feeling motivated to get back in the swing of things. M and I took an extended vacation from work; this meant 12 luxurious days off for me and 14 for him. We did a lot of nothing, cooking, eating, baking, partying, visiting, traveling, shopping, returning, and sleeping. We had a ball! Oh, and I did get that wok!

M's birthday is just after Christmas and I wanted to do something really special for him. After weeks of bouncing around ideas, I settled on taking him up to Denver for a Nuggets NBA game. It turned out to be the best gift I could've given him! We stayed in a super HUGE suite at the luxurious Sheraton Denver Hotel (thanks for the free upgrade Sheraton), which is walking distance from just about everything. 
We were only going to be in Denver for 2 nights, so on the first night I took him to a fancy Italian birthday dinner at Venice Ristorante & Wine Bar in Downtown Denver. I did a lot of research to find the perfect place...there are a ton of Italian restaurants in the city, but none of them had reviews remotely close to those of Venice. We took the 16th Street Mall free shuttle down to Wynkoop Street and walked a block to get the restaurant. We arrived around 7 because we were starving after the drive up, and I was surprised to find that the restaurant was virtually empty. We were seating immediately, and the server greeted us promptly. The atmosphere inside was very modern and contemporary; lots of clean lines, and crisp colors (black, white, greys). So far, we were totally impressed.
We ordered drinks, but not wine. M and I are not wine enthusiasts. I'll drink a glass on occasion, but it gives me such a headache the next day. It's pretty unfortunate at times, because this restaurant had what appeared to be a fantastic wine list!

The menu is pretty extensive. All of their pastas are made in house, and it appears that their specialty is gnocchi (which neither one of us ordered) and ravioli. We started with our usual favorite, the Calamaretti Fritti. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It was fried to perfection, and we especially loved the the pesto sauce that it was served with...Another thing we loved, was that it was just the right portion. We were able to enjoy it without getting so full that we couldn't touch our main entree.
For my entree I chose the Polletto ai Carciofi e Capperi (Chicken breast with baby artichokes and finished with a lemon butter sauce over baby vegetables). The chicken was so tender that I could cut it with my fork, and the lemon sauce was light and very flavorful. There was just the right amount of lemon. For my side dish I ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo; and this was delicious.
M ordered a ravioli dish from the daily specials menu and he can't remember much about it, except for that it had chicken in it and it was really really good. I ate most of those mushrooms! 

We had a great time at this dinner. I'd definitely go back! We loved to food, atmosphere, and service.

Venice Ristorante on Urbanspoon
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