Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Times Square

Interior

Exterior

Cold appetizers

Side of meatballs

Penne Alla Penne Alla Vodka

Tugboat (1/3 of a Titanic)

**** (4 stars)

When someone tells you a restaurant serves large portions, you probably think you know what to expect. You don’t.

Carmine’s is a restaurant you want to go to as a group of eight, and then order two dishes. I’m not kidding. You’ll leave full. Four of us ordered two dishes, and left with an eight-pound bag of food.

We started with the cold appetizer plate. The calamari salad was particularly noteworthy.

The Penne ala Vodka was very good, properly al dente. Truth to be told we also had a side of meatballs. A side is eight meatballs the size of baseballs.

Service was good, and the large, crowded dining room is not as loud as you might expect.

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Times Square
200 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-3800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/carmines-italian-restaurant-times-square-new-york-3

The Goblin Market Restaurant

Exterior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going here for over twenty years, and it just keeps getting better.

First off, there isn’t a restaurant in Central Florida with better atmosphere. The place is divided up into a collection of amazingly cute and cozy rooms, each with the feel of a private library.

The food is great, too. I’ve only been at lunchtime, when you can’t go wrong with any of the sandwich choices. I’m not much of a wrap fan, but I love the ones here. And for something less healthful try the grilled cheese. Their fries are good, but the homemade potato chips are even better.

Service is friendly and attentive.

In case you’re wondering about the name Goblin Market, do a Google search for the poem by Christina Rossetti.

The Goblin Market Restaurant
330 Dora Drawdy Way
Mount Dora, FL 32757
(352) 735-0059
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-goblin-market-restaurant-mount-dora

West Orange Creamery and Soda Fountain

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This delightful local creamery serves my very favorite ice cream–Hershey’s–in a wide range of flavors. This Hershey’s is unrelated to the candy company; it’s actually older. Their flavors a rich and complex, with great consistency.

I usually just like a scoop or two in a cup, but West Orange Creamery have everything from waffle cones to genuine banana splits. The employees and owners are really into it, and can give you great advice about their favorites.

West Orange Creamery and Soda Fountain
1575 Maguire Rd
Ste 101
Ocoee, FL 34761
(407) 656-6066
https://www.yelp.com/biz/west-orange-creamery-and-soda-fountain-ocoee

Village Inn

Ultimate skillet, all Bacon

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Village inn has always been my favorite breakfast chain, and this location is just as good as any of them. I really like their breakfast skillets. They’re a great combination of eggs and whatever other ingredients you like all on top of nicely crisped home fries. I also like that they come with a side of pancakes, so you don’t have to decide between savory and sweet.

Village Inn
6275 Westwood Blvd
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 352-1997
https://www.yelp.com/biz/village-inn-orlando-4

Creamistry

Affogato

Freezing the cream

LN2

Menu and interior

**** (4 stars)

I always like places that let me assemble my food step by step, so Creamistry was a great find. You pick your base (regular, organic, coconut milk, etc.) and your flavor, and then your mix-ins, and they freeze it to order, using liquid nitrogen. It’s fun to watch, and a great way to get lots of flavor choices you wouldn’t normally see for an obscure base like coconut milk.

Is it better than pre-frozen? Probably not, but it’s all about the choices. Of course, the downside is it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get your order, but then again, where else are you going to get a coconut milk espresso affogato with heath bar crunch?!

Creamistry
253 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(424) 777-0964
https://www.yelp.com/biz/creamistry-beverly-hills

Harajuku Crepe

Egg spinach cheese tomato

Interior

Menu

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

This small counter service crepe place makes tasty dessert and savory crepes. You can customize everything about your crepe, including batter type, contents, and sauces. I had an egg, cheese, spinach and tomato crepe, with Tabasco, and really liked it.

The crepes are folded into an ice cream cone shape and placed in a paper wrapper, which makes it easy to eat them on the go, which you’re going to want to do, because the sun beating into the place through the glass windows makes it hot as an oven!

Harajuku Crepe
9405 S Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 285-3946
https://www.yelp.com/biz/harajuku-crepe-beverly-hills

Jeremiahs Italian Ice

Exterior

Salted caramel and vanilla

**** (4 stars)

A wide range of flavors, plus the ability to interleave them with vanilla (the result is strangely called gelato, but it isn’t) is the draw here.

I really liked the combination of salted caramel and vanilla, and it was a very generous serving for the price.

Jeremiahs Italian Ice
3150 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 757-0427
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jeremiahs-italian-ice-orlando-4

State and Lake Chicago Tavern

**** (4 stars)

At first glance this place appears to be a fairly ordinary tavern likely to have a sports bar menu, but the food and ambience are both better than that. The stylish surroundings and pleasant lighting create a relaxed dining environment, and the menu offers some interesting and healthful items.

Yes, they’re known for their hamburgers and pretzels, but I had something completely different. I started with the charred broccoli, a generous serving that’s lightly seasoned and nicely cooked, although I could have done with a bit more char.

As a main course I had the Cobb salad. I like it when a Cobb is served un-tossed, as was the case here, allowing me to pick and combine ingredients at will. The perfectly seasoned avocado, bacon, cubes of Parmesan cheese and house-made ranch dressing were standouts.

Service was friendly and attentive. Altogether the meal was a very pleasant surprise.

State and Lake Chicago Tavern
theWit Hotel
201 N State St
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 239-9400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/state-and-lake-chicago-tavern-chicago

Grace Restaurant

***** (5 stars)

Grace is certainly deserving of its two Michelin stars. Everything about the experience is near perfection, from the extremely professional yet friendly service to the plating of the food, which turns each dish into an individual work of art, combining delicate and varied flavors in surprising and visually appealing ways.

The dining room is sophisticated, understated, and calm, a serenity that extends even into the visible kitchen, yet the contemporary soundtrack keeps the experience upbeat and fun.

My only quibble is with the winelist, which has a strong focus on wines from the Loire region, not my favorite. ┬áThis focus extends to the wine pairings served with the meal, some of which didn’t seem a great match, although the friendly and articulate sommelier explained the reasoning behind each match in such a captivating manner I was glad we had selected the pairing, even if next time I will strike out on my own.

Grace Restaurant
652 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 234-9494
http://www.yelp.com/biz/grace-restaurant-chicago

Linz and Vail on Central

**** (4 stars)

This place has the atmosphere I’m looking for in a coffee house, and also makes some excellent coffee. The Macchiato is perfect, not a trace of bitterness. Also some great gelato. Ignore that Starbucks down the street; this is the real deal.

Linz and Vail on Central
2012 Central St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 475-1381
http://www.yelp.com/biz/linz-and-vail-on-central-evanston