Top Chef

Last Meal on Earth

I’ve often wondered what my last meal on earth would be. When posed with this question people usually want comfort food: pizza, burgers, lasagna, ice cream and pie. I always thought pizza and ice cream would be my choice. After my meal at Imperial, I vote for Doug’s Fried Chicken!

Doug Adams came up 3rd place in the most recent Top Chef season. He’s from Texas but moved to Portland and has been bouncing around at various impressive Portland restaurants before become Sous Chef at Imperial under Vitaly Paley. This season of Top Chef was pretty good and from the start I was hoping Gregory would win. He’s another Portland chef at Departure (a great place!).

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In the end it came down to Gregory, Mai and Doug. I was bummed when Melissa left. I felt like she was better than Mai, who ended up winning. I thought Melissa’s dishes looked the best and she had a nice personality–Mai not so much. I was SO BUMMER when Gregory didn’t win. Loved him.

Anyways, it was Michael’s dad’s last night in Portland before flying home to Texas and Michael got us reservations at Imperial. It was crazy–a Tuesday night and the place was packed! I guess the popularity of Top Chef has caused a boom in business. 🙂

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Michael has been raving about Imperial for ages now and this was the first time I’ve been. Now I’m kicking myself for not going before all the Top Chef groupies. 🙂 What a cool place! It’s in the Hotel Lucia and the decor is modern and chic, the whole vibe is really cool.

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I wasn’t sure what to order. Everything sounded so intriguing! Even the Crispy Fried Pigtail….! I had my eye on the sausage du jour until I found out it was Blood Sausage (no thanks). In the end all three of us ordered the Doug’s Fried Chicken. We shared an order of the fries (I ate more than I planned on but not so many that I regretted it).

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Michael’s dad said they were the best fries he’s ever had. I thought they were pretty darn close (nothing compares to duck fat fries). I got a glass of a Pinot Gris that was way too sour for my liking (it was like eating a lemon) and ended up getting a lovely glass of Cab Franc (which I rarely drink but LOVED so will have to look for it elsewhere).

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This was kind of my last meal. After a weekend of indulging when Michael’s dad was visiting, it was the last decadent meal before I was getting back on track!

Michael ordered a salad and I had a few bites. It was the “Winter Citrus Salad”. It was salad greens, pistachios, grilled onions, tomatoes, grapefruit slices and an Oregon black truffle vinaigrette with the black truffle shavings on top. Holy COW. BEST SALAD EVER. I’ve never had a salad this good. I had two bites and wished I’d ordered my own. It was incredible. Absolutely, hands-down, incredible. And it was just a salad!

The waiter brought out the housemade hot sauce that was in an old-fashioned eye-dropper bottle and honey. Apparently they have beehives on the roof and make their own honey! So Portland. It was amazing, though.

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The place was so packed and service was slow, but that was expected. I figured it was the new-found celebrity. The waiter was great though and checked in frequently. The fried chicken came out on cast iron skillets atop tree stump trays. 🙂 Again, totally Portland. But the presentation was incredible.

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Two large pieces of fried chicken with a watermelon salad on the side. Sounds simple but it was so fantastic. The watermelon was perfect, which was weird because it’s off season. The watermelon chunks had pickled onions, fennel and a tart vinaigrette on it. It went perfectly with the chicken.

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The watermelon was so juicy. How was the chicken? It was pretty darn good. Most importantly: Michael’s dad said it was the best meal he’d ever had and wants to come back to Imperial every time he visits. 🙂 I loved the chicken. The hot sauce could have been a little spicier for my tastes, but other than that everything was great. I loved drizzling honey on top of the fried chicken. I’d never thought of that before. So smart!

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Somehow we got talked into dessert. I have no idea how because we were all stuffed and certainly didn’t need anymore food. It was the last dessert and we snagged it. It had been popular that night! We got the “Texas Sheetcake”.

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It was warm, gooey chocolate cake topped with honey ice cream (which I thought was pecan at first) hazelnuts and toasted marshmallow. IT WAS AMAZING. OMG. Thankfully we split it because it was so rich but seriously, I could have eaten that whole thing on my own. Wow. No words. So good.

Sadly, we did not spot Doug in the kitchen. Maybe someday. Everything tasted amazing and the service was fantastic. It was a good night all around. Yes I overdid it. I knew I was as I was partaking. This was most definitely my last meal. 🙂 Now it’s back to eating like normal–but man oh man, what memorable food!

Santa Monica Food & Fitness

Santa Monica is a total tourist trap, but a beautiful one! We arrived on Labor Day and the place was packed. I took some pretty amazing photos (stayed tuned). I feel like the restaurant experiences on the beach were much better and less hit or miss. There was still a lot of “mall” food options  (Yuck!). If you are in Santa Monica, there are a few places you should try to hit!

Father’s Office We went here because we are Top Chef groupies and I’m not ashamed to admit it! The restaurant in Santa Monica opened at 5 and we got there at 5:15. It was almost half empty but not for long. Soon it was full and there was a line snaking through the restaurant to the door.

Michael got the burger. I had a bite and it was…good…but odd. I think there were caramelized onions or some kind of jam on it that made the burger sweet. It had bleu cheese and spinach on it. I thought it was delicious, but would have been really rich had I ate the whole thing.

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I got the lamb skewers that had daikon, grilled fennel and onions and sprouts. There was a red sauce that was faintly curry-like but not sure what it was. It was spicy. The lamb was perfectly cooked and crusted in pepper. I loved my dinner! I made a good choice. We shared an order of the sweet potato fries and they were hands down the best I’ve ever had. The garlic aioli sauce went perfectly.

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I would so totally go back to this restaurant!

Sweet Rose Creamery Michael found this place from Yelp I believe. We wanted some ice cream and this place had so many reviews we had to try it. We had a hard time finding it and asked the valet guy who said “just turn the corner and look for the long line.” Apparently this place is popular! It’s located in the Brentwood Country Market.

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We both ordered a scoop of the salted caramel with hot fudge. The ice cream was great, not the best I’ve ever had, but good. We ate outside on the patio. The ice cream was slightly more expensive than I’d normally pay but it was good.

Beach Fitness

The first morning I woke up in Santa Monica I was dying to go for a run! I laced up my shoes and walked down to the pier and then ran on the boardwalk trail along the beach. I passed Muscle Beach, which was almost empty (quite the difference from the first day I was there) and made it down about a mile and a half before turning around.

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It had been a few weeks since I’d run (a knee flare-up sidelined me) and it was so good to be back at it! And with the beach as my companion, even better. I did just under 3 miles.

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On the day we were scheduled to leave, I decided to go to the nearby gym that I belong to. It was nice to find that option only two blocks from the hotel. Our hotel only had cardio equipment and with all the walking I’d been doing, I was good with cardio! I wanted to lift some weights!

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It felt good to get in a weight session after almost a week off. It’s hard to feel “normal” when your routine is totally screwed up!

More Beach Eats

Urth Caffe This place was recommended to me as a good breakfast spot. I wanted something lighter since we planned on eating at In-n-Out for lunch before flying home. 🙂 I got the yogurt bowl and it came with delicious granola and fresh fruit (California does fresh produce right!).

The iced coffee I got was perfect and one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. I wanted a second one it was that good! The yogurt was just okay. Ever since switching to Greek yogurt a few years ago I’m not a fan of traditional yogurt–it’s kind of thin and runny. The downside to this place: long lines, slow service and very very expensive.

The Misfit Restaurant and Bar On the last night in Santa Monica, Michael and I walked a few blocks to this restaurant for dinner. We made it just in time to get a few happy hour drinks before they went full price. I got the vodka basil gimlet first and then the spiked lemonade next. Both were delicious and strong!

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For the food we shared three plates. The first was the roasted Brussels Sprouts. All I wanted was some vegetables. After a week of eating less-than-healthy food, I wanted some greens. They were perfect.

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Then we shared the fried chicken. Michael loved them–the chicken was perfect, not overcooked and the skin was crunchy. I thought they were just okay. They lacked flavor, but maybe I was just wanting something else…

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Next was the bacon wrapped dates that were then wrapped with goat cheese. These were fantastic but so rich! Sharing a plate of 6 of those were a little too much for me. I think 2 each would have been better!

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Before we could leave, they brought us a complimentary plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that were lightly salted.

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They were so amazing! I think my new favorite thing is dessert that is “salted.” 🙂

Poke Poke This was on my “must do” list for Venice Beach. Da Poke Shack in Kona was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten and I wanted poke again! It was hard to find this place but eventually we did. It was more expensive than the poke we got in Hawaii, too. $11 got you a “big” serving of the fish and rice. The small portions were very small.

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The window for Poke-Poke is right on the boardwalk in Venice. The food was fantastic. I got the spicy tuna and it was SPICY. Holy moly! So glad we got a chance to try this place before leaving town.

Dogtown Coffee Our first day in Santa Monica brought us some sunshine, a cool breeze from the ocean and a very hungry Lisa. I’d gone for a run along the water and was ready to devour everything!

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I got two of their “sliders”–they had scrambled eggs, tomato, avocado and aioli sauce on it. They look huge but they were really small; the perfect size, actually.

The food we ate in Santa Monica was superior and I’m still thinking about that poke. Wish we’d made it back there a second time…