Smoky Weeknight Chili – BHG Recipe

I subscribed to the Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It brings me so much joy when it shows up in the mailbox each month. If you follow them elsewhere (Facebook, Instagram), then you’ll find even more inspiration. I thought that I would challenge myself this year with making one of the recipes that comes each month in the magazine. I…decided to do this starting last week, so I hadn’t made anything from the January or February editions. So, here you are, the Smoky Weeknight Chili, featured on page 101 of the BHG February edition. (I’m going to have to do something hunting for the January magazine…I can’t seem to find it anywhere…)

Now I’ve never made chili before. This looked like a fairly straightforward recipe, so I figured it would be a good one to start with. Plus, there is cocoa powder, and when you grow up in Cincinnati, you know that cocoa powder can make the chili. This recipe makes 4 servings of 1 1/2 cups each. I also added ground beef, because I cannot serve a meal to the Huz without meat…and I prefer meat in my chili as well.

Smoky Weeknight Chilichili 140307

Prep Time: 10 mins (unless you’re like me and prep while you cook)
Cook Time: 35 mins

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium green sweet pepper, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 15-16 oz can chickpeas (Garbanzo), rinsed and drained
1 15-16 oz can great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp chili powder (more or less for taste)
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 1/2 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
*1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
*1 tsp cinnamon (optional for more of the Cincinnati variety)

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add sweet pepper and onion. For great tip on how to cut bell peppers, which I did not do, click here. Cook and stir 4-5 minutes, or until tender. This took a bit longer for me, maybe 10 minutes. I think I had my heat turned down though.

2. Add beans and chili powder. Cook and stir 2 minutes.

3. Stir in tomato sauce, undrained tomatoes, ground beef, brown sugar, and cocoa powder and cinnamon, if desired. Bring to boiling and reduce heat. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Serving style: Optional toppings of sour cream, green onions, and chili powder. I shredded a bar of my Tillamook cheddar cheese and we used that as topping. It was so yummy!

Health details available (sans ground beef) at the original recipe link above. I revised the recipe format a little. They had steps 1-3 all compiled into one step, and that makes too much reading through while I’m cooking, so I separated it for you.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did! Have any chili recipes that YOU love? Care to share them?

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Homeymoon!

We don’t have many pics from the wedding just yet. People were very gracious with not taking photos during the ceremony, and our hired photographer has been very busy, what with it being wedding season and all. We do have one preview from her and a few others though to share. Also, I apologize for the pics being stacked one after another; I didn’t have time to edit them into multi-images.

meandlanna sadiepreviewFirst Dance - Lanna cake

Isn’t that fun? I am dying to see more photos!! Honestly, pins and needles here.

We decided not to spend a great deal of money right off the bat (especially with all the money we spent on the wedding) and so we stayed put and had what we are calling, a Homeymoon. We didn’t go anywhere, get away from The House or anything, didn’t put any major time constraints on ourselves. And it was glorious! This was my first time living in The House and it was nice to get acclimated to the territory. Plus, I was exhausted. Very wiped out.

We were instructed to open our cards the very next day (well, at least one of them) and discovered a gift card to Ruth’s Chris Steak House in downtown Cincinnati, a note of a reservation made for the next night, and tickets to the Reds game! It was our first time out of The House, since I had stocked us up with food. We really didn’t need to leave just yet.¬†We had a blast. We got an appetizer of veal-stuffed ravioli. So wonderfully good! I got lamb chops for my main course and Matt got the steak filet. It was very upper-crust and way pricier than we would ever have done ourselves. They knew we had just got married too, so they came and chatted with us quite a bit, put rose petals on the table and gave us a complimentary dessert!

130608 ruthschrisdessert

The seats to the Reds game were pretty amazing too – just about 100 ft from 1st base. We only ever go if the tickets are free, or if there’s a large group of friends going and we’re sitting in the cheapo nosebleed section. They won, too! That doesn’t normally happen when I come to a game so that was a very nice treat!

130608 redsgameWe also went to Target and picked up a bunch of the bigger items we had wanted, but didn’t get in gifts. We now have a pretty good amount of storage in the bathroom and have most of our kitchen supplies and bed linens. It’s been great getting everything put together. Another great was checking out with $740 worth of stuff and only having to pay $40 above what the gift cards would pay for. We definitely made out like bandits! And Matt was excited because he had things to put together. ūüôā

The only other big outing we did was to the Cincinnati Museum Center. The original plan was to go to the zoo, but it was raining cats and dogs. By the time we got downtown, we thought that was enough wildlife for the day and decided to romp around indoors.¬† 130608 unionterminal02130608 unionterminal01130608 butterfliesThey are showing a special on the monarch butterfly at the Omnimax. It was really beautiful. They did a preview of the dinosaur show coming up, but there’s not much to report on that except for the baby in the third row’s reaction. She kept crying and saying, “Bye bye! Bye bye!” lol. Sad that the mom did leave with her right after the film started; I think she would’ve liked it once it got started, but I’m glad she wasn’t in there crying the whole time.

We also went up to Tower A where they used to control all of the many trains that went through the terminal. I love the art deco appearance of the building, but it was completely functional in its day. Now, there are still trains that come through, but not nearly the same volume. The tower has some really cool artifacts and an incredible view!

130608 trainsThe Huz and I love learning about how things work and the more technical and mechanical, often, the better! There were some really fun vehicles that would drive over the rail cars and pick them up then rush all over the place, sometimes putting them on a truck load. The guy driving was suspended way above the ground and it was crazy how fast they could drive!

130608 unionterminal03I love this city. Cincinnati breathes home to me and even though the highway system drives me nuts, I love driving into it and seeing that familiar skyline. I’m so glad that we chose to have a Homeymoon and spend time around the city and in our home.

130608 us

Getting Married: 1 Week – I’m Really Glad That…

This last weekend was my bachelorette party. In tradition of my bff-MOH, Lanna, I would like to style this post in the same manner of many of our conversations where most sentences, if not all, begin with the phrase, “I’m really glad that…” So, here it goes.

I’m really glad that I have one more week until the wedding!!! Eek!

I’m really glad that I have a small group of close friends who are willing to come out for my bachelorette party for as long as they can until their wifey-motherly responsibilities call them elsewhere. It is entirely acceptable and I am just glad to be wedged into busy schedules that I myself am captive to.

I’m really glad for pastor’s wives who are dear friends and mentors as well who are willing to throw brunches for an unknown number of ladies involved in the wedding. What a blessing!

I’m really glad for flower girls who come to said brunches and refuse to kiss my cheek but want me to catch them to kiss theirs.

I’m really glad for flower girls who interrupt their mommy’s stories to tell them, “Why did you say you were still eating? You’re not holding your fork…”

I’m really glad for practical married friends who give comfortable and realistic gifts at bachelorette parties. They were all very pretty too. It pays to wait to get married when you’re a little older.

I’m really glad that my friends will try new ethnic foods with me. Eritrean/Ethiopian food is so yummy and communal – sorry Emily for all the spices.

I’m really glad that I charged my camera all day to just not take it with me and that I only took¬†this picture the whole evening.

week 1 girls

I’m really glad for the tradition of The Blind Lemon in Mt Adams.

I’m really glad for ordering a strawberry colada with alcohol this time.

I’m really glad for Virginia. (I can’t explain this here, but it wouldn’t be right to not mention it.)

I’m really glad that I did not actually witness Virginia, though. Poor Lanna and Amy.

I’m really glad for a very dear friend who gets visibly angry that she hasn’t seen the new Iron Man movie …and upsets the baby.

I’m really glad for dressy flip flops.

week 1 flips

This is what I wore for the night. Disregard the feet marks and general wear.

I’m really glad that Friday was my last day floating to the other Cincinnati branches for work. I will now only be in two branches and the second is within 10 minutes of The House.

I’m really glad for hole-in-the-wall, Tardis technology antique malls. This place was bigger on the inside!

week 1 antiques

Clockwise from top left: hand-painted table; beer mugs; cardboard Titanic; C3PO Mister Potatohead.

I’m really glad for vanity tables to rehab for only $38.

week 1 vanity

I’m really glad (this one is kind of hard) that I have such an amazing church. This Sunday is my last regular attendance there and it’s going to be really sad (not really glad), but I am trying my best to look beyond that to what God might have in store for us. I’ve left the church before, but that was always with the knowledge that I would hop a big plane in a certain reasonable period of time and be back. Please pray for me.

I’m really glad for a fiance who takes pictures of the flowers at The House for me to see when I’m not going to be up there for a few days.

Such lovely tickseed. Our wedding colors AND it's a native Ohio flower!

Such lovely tickseed. Our wedding colors AND it’s a native Ohio flower!

I’m really glad for pottery that turns out exactly how you envisioned it when you first put the glaze on.

week 1 pottery

It’s a piggy bank and he has a cute little red tail to match his wings. I think I’ll call him Stewart.

Did I already mention that I’m really glad that I’m getting married in a week’s time? Because I am…

I’m really glad that Matt and I are staying home for the week after to get used to The House and relaxing together.

I’m really glad that I have to work only three days next week.

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Review: Taz Mediterranean Restaurant – Cincinnati, OH

Taz Mediterranean Restaurant

8950 Governors Way
Cincinnati, OH 45249
513 774 7600

Website
Facebook

When I tell people that¬†I like to use Groupons, the reactions run in¬†a few¬†directions.¬† Many people haven’t even heard of Groupons¬†and think it’s a cool idea.¬† If the person is a regular Groupon¬†user, the reaction is usually enthusiastic.¬† For businees¬†owners, though, I think the reaction is becoming very mixed.¬† The heat comes when the users become just that, Users.¬† They abuse the system for their own personal gain.¬† I think the original intent was to provide a way for local and smaller businesses to get the word out about what they have to offer to a large group of people in order to have a new stream of loyal customers.¬† However, it’s a catch-22.¬† Many who now use Groupon¬†are the modern-day coupon chasers, missing only the curlers, horn-rimmed glasses and bright red lipstick smashed beyond the lips.¬† Ok, ok, that’s a harsh image.¬† But in reality, businesses are re-thinking the use of Groupons to drive in new business.¬† It becomes a “hit and run” for the customers and then they’re gone, on to the next deal.

This ugly picture is just to clarify that it is not what I do, nor what I think my friends do.¬† We don’t sit around and wait for a Groupon¬†to come available from our already-favorite restaurant and then stock up on the deal.¬† I love to find¬†a new place on Groupon in my area (and sometimes beyond it) so that I can explore and try out a new thing – with the hope that I can add the new place to my favorite places list.

My friend¬† recently bought a Groupon¬†for a local Mediterranean restaurant called, Taz.¬† Ever since I went to Cairo, I’ve been wanting some good Med-¬†cuisine.¬† So, she invited me to head over to Taz.¬† It has a pretty good reputation for having wonderful Med- food.¬† Several friends said that we would not be disappointed and, in regards to the food, we weren’t.¬† I don’t like writing reviews that may be bad, but there are some things you should know.

When we walked in, there was a “Now Hiring” sign on the door.¬† I’m hoping this explains the slow service.¬† If I’m remembering correctly, there was something blocking our way into the building – like a bucket and mop.¬† We had to step over it, or go out of our way to step around it.¬† It was awkward.¬† The exterior (which I don’t usually judge) gave no indication of “good food” being inside, but¬†I don’t want to hold that against them.

We were seated pretty quickly, given menus and brought our waters fairly quick.¬† But that was where the speed stopped.¬† There were only two other groups of 4 in the restaurant when we sat down.¬† A couple more came in by the time we received our food.¬† We didn’t know if we were supposed to wait for her to come back, or if we went up to the counter to order our food.¬† The waitress (the only waitress) was nowhere to be found, so I asked a guy who was standing in line what we were supposed to do.¬† He said that she would come to us.¬† At this point (maybe 15-20 minutes after sitting down with menus), we were talking about how the food would probably be amazing and stay our growing hunger.

By the time she did get over to us to place our order, she was not very courteous – but, again, I’m hoping it was because they had just lost another employee and she was doing her best.¬† We waited for a long time again.¬† We ordered appetizers of yalanjie (stuffed grape leaves) and falafel.¬† They were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed them.¬† It took a long time for them to come to us and they were quickly followed by our main dishes.

I’m sorry that I can’t remember what my friend ordered, but she loved it.¬† I ordered a Kofta¬†Kabab Sandwich.¬† I didn’t¬†realize how much would be pickled though, so on my part, I was able to enjoy as much of my food as I could have (I’m allergic to vinegar).¬† But, it did taste really good and we were really glad of that.¬† However, with the wait, and the cost, it wasn’t worth much more than the Groupon, in our opinions.¬† We will continue our search for a favorite Med- restaurant.¬† There are a few in the area that we’re excited to try out too (Sultans, Aladdins).

So, here’s the breakdown:

The food: Very good.¬† Not as good as some other Med-cuisine I’ve had, but still, I can see why it has the reputation it has.
The help: Our waitress was the only one in the restaurant.¬† I believe I saw someone in the kitchen, but really, there was no other visible life besides the other customers.¬† The “Now Hiring” sign suggests that they are aware they are understaffed and are working towards fixing that, but still, be prepared to wait.
The parking: They have their own parking lot.
The accommodations:¬† The interior was really lovely.¬† They had one sections, which we weren’t seated in, with couches and curtained off sections.¬† I think i¬†read that they also have sheesha pipes available, but I didn’t see any out.
The price: Kind of pricy.  The Groupon really helped.
Returnability: Probably not.¬† If I have a group of friends who really want to go there, then I’ll probably go again, but there are other restaurants that have a little better reputation and image than this one.¬† I’d give it a 35%.

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.¬† Go ‚Äėhead, you know you want to.

Review: Teak Thai Cuisine – Mt Adams, Cincinnati, OH

Teak Thai Cuisine and Sushi Bar

1049-51 St. Gregory Street
Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, OH 45202
513.665.9800

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For my bff’s¬†26th birthday, a group of us went down for some dinner at Teak Thai in Mt. Adams.¬† Mt. Adams is like the college/young adult/cool place to go in Cincinnati.¬† I really like the area whenever I am down there (both day and night).¬† It’s up on a big hill in Cincinnati, so fairly close to whatever’s going on downtown.¬† It’s also a mishmash of residential condos/apartments/homes and small businesses with a bunch of restaurants and bars – yes, the bars are what really makes Mt. Adams.¬† The only one I’ve gone into down there is The Blind Lemon, which I love!¬† And I only ever get a virgin something or other, usually a pi√Īa colada, or when I’m really adventurous – a coffee.¬† Yep. I know, I know. I’m one wild child.¬† They also have some fun live music each night.

But this is not a review on The Blind Lemon, or Mt Adams, no matter how fabulous I think they are!¬† This review is on Teak -yummy, spicy, lovely Teak.¬† Despite much discussion and debate, this WAS my first time at Teak.¬† I enjoy Thai food, although it isn’t my favorite East Asian cuisine.¬† I believe I only got one picture of my food, but I’ll go right into it.

Matt and Lanna (birthday girl!) of BeardedLadyPics, got an appetizer of Gyoza, er, Dumplings, which were delicious.  As were the crab puffs (rangoon) that Amy got.  My lovely dish to your right is Yellow Pork Curry, with a spicy level of 4.  The levels here are 3-10 (I know, I was a chicken that night) and I have no idea what happened to 1 and 2. I feel kind of sad for them.

My food was very good. The rice came with the meal and they even gave me chop sticks to eat with, so I was happy.

The food: excellent (all around, people said they loved their food)
The help: Our waitress had an accent, but she was very understandable, if that’s a turn-off for you.¬† She was very helpful and remembered what we ordered even if we didn’t.
The parking: They have a parking lot across the street and down the hill a little.¬† There isn’t a ton of parking that I could see, so we parked on the street as usual.¬† You may have to drive up and down the hill a couple of times to find a spot if you’re not into parking garages (which there is one nearby).
The accommodations:¬† Lots of tables inside.¬† There are two stories and I think the downstairs is more of a bar area.¬† There’s also outdoor seating which is open during the warm seasons.
The price: Average.¬† I think my meal (and water) came to about $15 with tip.¬† I can’t eat sushi, so I can’t account for the cost there. Sorry.
Returnability: Again, Thai’s not my favorite East Asian food, but if I’m basing it just on service, comfort, cost and quality, I would give it an 80% rate.¬† (It’s also a bit of a drive for me (~ 30 minutes) so that’s a factor as well.)

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.¬† Go ‚Äėhead, you know you want to.

Review: Paint by the Glass – West Chester, OH

 

A month or so ago, I logged into my email and found a Groupon in Cincinnati, OH for Paint by the Glass in West Chester, OH.¬† I had never heard of this place, but I love painting and upon reading more information, I was pretty sure I’d have a good time.

Here are the specs: 

Paint by the Glass
8179 Princeton-Glendale Rd.
Suite G.
West Chester, OH 45069
(on 747, it’s across from the Kroger)
513.874.1101
Facebook

The schedule really varies, so I’m not going to put their hours up.¬† Generally, the adult classes are in the evenings and the kids classes in the afternoon (2pm) but you’ll have to go to the website to check out the calendar.¬† The calendar features which painting they are working on which night, so you can choose the class you’d prefer to attend.¬†

My friend, Lanna and I went the Saturday before Valentine’s Day and had a really great time.¬† The painting was called “Love Tree”, for obvious reasons.¬† I was surprised to see so many men there, but it was a predominantly Valentine’s Day theme, so, I’m sure many of the guys were forced into it.¬† I did see one couple in particular, where the guy was just observing his SO painting and didn’t seem to be much preoccupied with anything else.¬† Anyways, since I’m not really a fan of Valentine’s Day, to spend an evening doing something crafty with my best friend was all I could have asked for this year!¬† We also sat at a table with a cool, trendy Christian couple and had a lot of fun talking and joking with them.

Here’s how it went:

At each table there was an easel with an unpainted canvas, an assortment of brushes, and a plate with all the primary/secondary colors and white.¬† Oh, and of course, a cup of water.¬† On the canvas, as shown to the right, the basic picture¬†is sketched in pencil, so it’s like a paint-by-number without the numbers.¬† I wasn’t sure how I would feel about that, but it was really nice.

The artist (I forget her name! boo) was really great at helping us through the process.¬† It’s been ages since I’ve painted on canvas, so getting the pointers was really helpful.¬† Like, wetting your brush before blending colors.¬† When I paint on wood, that’s not helpful, because then it thins out the color which means I have to do multiple coats and if it’s a blended color, I don’t always have a lot of it.¬† But this tip was good for both surfaces: Start from the furthest area “back” and come forward.¬† Basically, start with the background and build on top of it. I usually do this when I paint on wood, but I wasn’t thinking about it for canvas.

So we built and built and painted and painted and blended and blended.¬† At this point, we took a “break” and were able to eat some of the yummy hors d’oeuvres they were serving; chocolate-covered strawberries, meatballs, veggies.¬†

By the way, they serve wine and such in the evenings.¬† If you’re not savvy to that, they also have pop available (not a huge selection, but good enough).¬† They also have a kids class called “Canvas & Cocoa” which is in the afternoons on Saturdays, with age-appropriate paintings with a drink/snack served as well.¬†

I’ve also seen a “Canvas & Causes” class posted on their calendar where certain amount of the class fee goes to a good cause.¬† The painting seems to be related to the cause.¬†

While we were painting, the artist/teacher was painting along with us, at pace, so we could see technique, ask questions about brush selection and blending, etc.¬† What I really enjoyed about the class is that everyone was of a different level of ability.¬† No one was excluded.¬† Also, you could choose whatever colors you wanted, and the style of painting could be whatever you felt most comfortable with, or maybe thought would best fit your home decor.¬† She coached but didn’t dictate or criticize.¬† I felt like I was back in any of my high school art classes where creativity and exploration was encouraged and only technique was taught.¬†

Oh, and if you’re worried about drying time, don’t be.¬† They have blow-dryers handy to help you get your painting nice and dry for the ride home. (Acrylic paint is a quick dry-er anyways) ūüôā

I am fully expecting to go back sometime.¬† My only negative is the cost.¬† $35 for one class, and as far as I could tell, that didn’t include the drinks. (I had to pay for my Coca-Cola.)¬† So, here’s the breakdown:

The class:¬† Really fun. Casual.¬†Definitely felt like an art studio.¬† Our class was scheduled to go from 6:30p-8p. I don’t think we left until a little before 10p.¬† But they were gracious hosts and didn’t make us feel rushed or try to shove us out the door.
The food:¬†For hors d’oeuvres, excellent.¬† Just don’t go expecting them to take care of a meal.¬† You’re there to PAINT not dine!
The help: Everyone there was great.  The artist/teacher, it was apparently her first night, and she did a wonderful job!  Whenever we needed something, extra paint, another plate, more water, a paper-towel, etc, they were quick to get it to us.
The parking: It’s in a strip-mall across from Kroger and there is lots and lots of parking in the lot there.
The accommodations: The room is narrow but it’s easy to get yourself around the table to the food, drinks, restroom.¬† I was sitting pretty close to the artist/teacher, so I didn’t have any problems seeing.¬† I didn’t check from other parts of the room though.
The price:¬†For the adult class, it’s kind of pricey, by my scale.¬† $35 for adult classes. $17.50 for Canvas & Cocoa.¬† There is also the option to schedule a private party, but there are no pricings available on the site for that.
Returnability:¬† It was a lot of fun.¬† And if I see a really wonderful painting on their calendar, I may fork over the moolah, if I have extra in my budget.¬† But really, to go back on a regular basis, it’s more than my budget of a post-college grad paying off student loans.¬† I’m more open to the Canvas & Cocoa though…so long as I can kidnap a kid to take with me. ūüôā

from the Paint by the Glass Facebook Page (click picture to view)

Review: Virgils Caf√© – Bellevue, KY

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710 Fairfield Ave
Bellevue, KY 41073
859.491.3287

Website
Facebook
Twitter

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Per Cincinnati Magazine:

Virgils¬†feels too fancy to qualify as a burger joint.¬† Clean and crisp black linen tablecloths¬†covered with butcher paper and overly polite waiters just don’t scream out “Burger time!”¬† But don’t let that fool you: the modestly named “beef hamburger” – grilled, succulent beef topped with saut√©ed mushrooms and caramalized¬†onions on a multigrain kaiser roll – equals hamburger heaven.¬† And do not miss out on their sweet potato fries with a side of ancho-mayo.

Why not hit two birds with one stone?¬† Christmas Eve Eve, I got to hang out with my bff, the lady half of Bearded Lady Pics, AND check out another restaurant in the greater Cincinnati area.¬† We snagged my Burger Edition of Cincinnati Magazine and flipped through until we settled on Virgils.¬† Being on the Kentucky-side of the Ohio River, it was one that I was looking forward to visiting and meeting up with Lans¬†was a perfect excuse.¬† We called the restaurant around 6:15 to make our reservation, arrived at 6:30 and were seated immediately.¬† I understand that it was a Thursday night and Christmas Eve Eve, so I’m not sure if that makes a difference in the speediness¬†of their reservations/seatings. I was majorly pleased.¬† FYI: Parking is on the street, but it’s in historic Bellevue which is just about the cutest place on earth.

I cannot vouch for the hamburger that is mentioned above, but I will say that the descriptions match the dishes we ordered to a T.  Our starter was, in fact, the sweet potato fries with ancho chile mayonnaise.  I was never a fan of sweet potato until living in Japan (they have a way with potato and squashes) and I have only seen sweet potato fries in the last two years.  I LOVE them and these were no disappointment.  I do not usually eat mayo, but the ancho was irresistible.

As CM’s review says, the restaurant does feel fancy but it’s still comfortable and intimate.¬† The lights are dimmed and there are so many nooks and crannies that you feel you can be off by yourself.¬† We were seated to the right of¬†the entrance, on a platform featuring the bar and the entrance to the kitchen – where the magic takes place.¬† There was a lot of activity around us, being so close to the kitchen, but we didn’t mind it at all.¬† I’m sure that the other end of the restaurant is more subdued, but we enjoyed being close to the action.¬† Our waiter was Ben, who I found out later (through Twitter) was tending the bar for the first time that night.¬† He did a great job of keeping tabs on us and the one other table as well as holding his post behind the counter.¬† His back-up/co-waiter was Darius and between the two of them, our glasses were kept full of¬†drink, our plates full of food and¬†our mouths with laughter. (This isn’t a hard thing for me and Lans, but it helps to have really fun waiters) The other thing I’d like to note is that there is a whole hip-vibe in the place, but it’s not so trendy as to exclude a princess coloring book on the counter next to our table.¬† We enjoyed that touch.

Our meals were the Fresh Pasta – with seasonal veggies, beurre blanc, and chicken and the √Čtouff√©e – chicken, homemade andouille sausage, dirty rice and garlic bread.

I know my étouffée looks awful, just blame it on my you-, I mean, camera.

This was my first time eating √©touff√©e and I loved it. The sauce was a mix of sweet and spicy and the sausage had a lot of kick to it.¬† Rice is always a winner for me and the chicken broke apart when I began to cut into it.¬† The only negative I have about this dish was the overly-crunchy garlic bread.¬† I managed two bites into the center of it and then had to discard the rest, but I’m chalking this to personal preference.

There is no dessert¬†menu and the options are sort of limited…but if you hear your server say the three most beautiful words – Chocolate Bourbon¬†Torte – place your order right away.¬† Lans and I shared a slice of it and, though I missed the proper “before” shot, I’m sure this one gives you an idea of the deliciousness.

It was like a rich waterfall of burning ice and decadence cascading down your throat. (how’s that for descriptive?)

This is definitely on my list of top fave restaurants now.  I think what I like the most about it is what I learned after eating there.  On their website the owner, Matt Buschle, talks about how they seek out locally-grown ingredients and work to build relationships with local farmers.  Most of their furniture, equipment and a plethora of other items are reclaimed from other places and forgotten warehouses.

The food: excellent
The help: awesome (in the words of our waiter)
The parking: on the street, but there’s a ton that you can find.¬† It’s a really nice area.
The accommodations:¬† I’m not sure I would go there with a group of more than 6.¬† It’s intimate and cozy.
The price: Between the two of us, the meal was close to $50 (sans tip).  That was with one starter, one dessert, and two entrées, oh, and one Coke.
Returnability: For special occasions – 100%. For casual “I’m hungry tonight” dining – maybe 35%.

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.¬† Go ‚Äėhead, you know you want to.