Friday, October 28, 2016

Vudu Larder Cafe


This place right here!!! Vudu Larder Cafe is probably one of the best places I have ever enjoyed breakfast in all my travels. Have breakfast there just once and you are under their spell. Located on the pier in downtown Queenstown, Vudu will help you get off to a great start .

Their daily specials are enticing, fresh and oooh,  so delicious! Vudu actually grows their own herbs outside the door facing the pier. That was the first good sign of this great restaurant. The other is the line out the door. You stand in line in front of a case filled with homemade pastries and literally imagine yourself devouring every morsel! After placing your order, you can choose to sit inside or outside with view of the snow capped mountains and the lake. There are sometimes street musicians performing on the pier. On one of my frequent visits, the performer was a singer/ guitarist and his comically singing pooch!

Now for the food...Breakfast - Day 1:  Breakfast Hash. Poached egg atop of bacon, spinach, roasted cubed butternut squash with fresh herb sprinkles and think sliced dried tomatoes.  Day 2:  Organic scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes on top of whole grain toast. Day 3: (and my favorite) spicy homemade chorizo sausage, sautéed mushrooms in a light cream sauce, topped with poached eggs, fresh herbs & feta cheese. All this with a base of fresh baked wheat bread! Day 4:  Buttermilk & buckwheat pancakes, topped with date caramel, raspberry & lemon mascarpone and half a roasted banana garnish. It this doesn't have your mouth watering, take a close look at the photos.

I cannot speak on any other breakfasts cafes in town. I'm sure they are good. But once Vudu gets its hold on you, it doesn't let go! And that fine by me.

5/5 Valcooks Aprons/Golden Apron Award

Vudu Larder Cafe (Original location)
23 Beach Street
Queenstown, NZ 

"Live life with an exclamation point!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mudbrick (Waiheke Island) Auckland, NZ

Life cannot be finer than a cool, crisp New Zealand Spring day and a leisurely lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant. Take a ferry ride on Fullers Ferry from Auckland, rent a car and whist away to one of the most gorgeous views on Waiheke Island. Snuggled on top a hill awaits a delicious meal prepared to perfection and sites to make you "ooh" and "aah"!

You will not only marvel at the view, but also the cuisine. I was tempted to try one of their world renowned wines, but it was going to be a long day. Instead I chose to enjoy a refreshing Sidra Del Verona apple, peach and apricot cider. Luscious and a perfect pairing for my meal.

Perusing the menu briefly, I knew just want I wanted - the Saffron Papardelle consisting of prawns, clams, market fish, cherry tomatoes and fennel in a delicate broth. It was divine! All the seafood was extremely fresh! It was as if they caught it that morning. The table also partook of the market fish of the day, topped with a cauliflower purée, candied grapes and a jamon & anchovy brown butter. The roasted chicken & jamon croquetas and the wilted beetroot with lentils and walnuts were also enjoyed. We finished the meal with shared fried doughnuts accompanied with lemon curd and raspberry purée.

I can assure you, Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant was the perfect way to start my culinary quest through New Zealand! You definitely need to make reservations for the main dining room. But, the casual dining room was just perfect for me. Both have spectacular views and serve the same menu.

"Kia ora!" (Translation: "Be well/healthy " in Māori)

5 of 5 Valcooks Aprons 

Mudbrick Winery & Restaurant
126 Church Bay Road, Oneroa, Waiheke,
New Zealand

"Live life with an exclamation point!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Truluck's - Austin, TX

Austin, you did it again! Truluck's seafood restaurant provided the perfect meal from the wine, appetizer, main course to the dessert. It's no wonder they are ranked in the top 100 restaurants in the country in 2015. So it's also no surprise it received 5 Valcooks Aprons and the Golden Apron Award - my highest ranking.

Truluck's is located at 400 Colorado in downtown Austin. I knew this was going to be a special treat from the moment I entered the restaurant. The first thing I  noticed was the lively bar in this upscale setting with very talented live entertainment. The maitre'd warmly greeted me and directed me up the winding stair case where the hostess seated me at a table with spectacular view of downtown Austin. The manager, Pedro introduced himself, welcomed me to Truluck's and provides me his card just in case I required his attention. Sean was the server and graciously detailed the menu and specialties.

The wine list was extensive to compliment the meal. I selected a 2013 Chardonnay. The bread was freshly baked and brought to the table. To begin my meal I chose the soft shell crab lettuce cup hot appetizer with gastrique cherries and spicy slaw. It was the perfect combination with hot & cold, spicy & sweet and absolutely divine! My main course consisted of the crab cakes that were chock-full of jumbo lump crabmeat served on top of a very mild, homemade tarter sauce. The table also ordered the Chilean sea bass cooked to a firm, moist perfection that sat atop a bed of specialty crab rice. Are your taste buds tingling yet? Just wait...the desserts! The table couldn't decide on which scrumptious dessert to choose, so the tasting trio of carrot cake, chocolate cake and carmelized topped flan was chosen. Dessert heaven!

Truluck's is the complete package! The restaurant is ideal for romantic dinners, business meetings or just the desire for a memorable night out. The menu is pricy, but well worth the experience. Upscale business casual attire required. Valet service is available.

Truluck's was the "icing on the cake" for my final gastronomical experience in Austin! 

5 Valcooks Aprons/Golden Apron Award

400 Colorado
Austin, TX 78701

"Live life with an exclamation point!"


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Max's Wine Dive - Austin, TX

I am not easy impressed by many restaurants, but Max's Wine Dive in downtown Austin, truly blew my taste buds! The restaurant came highly recommended and it did not disappoint.

Max's Wine Dive is located at 207 San Jacinto Blvd., in the heart of downtown Austin and just 2 blocks from the Neal Kocurik Memorial Convention Center. 

Gourmet southern comfort food is the best way to discribe their menu. They have amazing wines from around the world. Popular dishes include: shrimp and grits, fried egg sandwich and the "piece de resistance" - Max's Wine Dive's Famous Fried Chicken! 

I sauntered in for Sunday brunch. I walked out with a food savoring smile on my face. I ordered what they are most known for - the fried chicken which is placed on a bed of vegetarian collard greens with a side of creamy grits. This is a meal you will need to share! The plate consisted of 3 large bone out, skin on chicken breasts, pressure fried in a buttermilk, perfectly seasoned floured crust! Simply AMAZING. Yes, the best fried chicken I have ever tasted! The grits were smooth and just melted in your mouth. The greens were fresh, cooked perfectly tender and prepared vegetarian style. Baby, you are in for one heck of a treat! You'll definitely need a take out bag. Not only because you cannot finish it all, but because you will want to experience this pleasurable culinary satisfaction later. Can I get an "amen"?!

Friendly service awaits you at this casual, trendy hot spot. Prices are reasonable and they are open 7 days a week. (Check their website for details.) Valet parking available. Definitely make reservations ahead of time. You'll want to make sure you have a seat at their table.

So on you next trip to Austin, make Max's Wine Dive your very first stop! Your taste buds will thank you. And a special thank you to my friend Nikki for the recommendation. Girrrl, I will be back!

5 Valcooks Aprons/Golden Apron Award

Max's Wine Dive
207 San Jacinto Blvd.
Austin, TX 78701

"Live life with an exclamation point!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Goody Goody - Tampa, FL

Goody Goody is back! Any Tampa native will tell you, this was THE place for burgers and pie "back in the day" of the old fashion drive-ins. Restauranteur, Richard Gonzmart (of the Columbia Restaurant & Ulele's fame) has brought this retro-modern restaurant back to life.

Located at 1601 Swann Ave., the trendy South Tampa Hyde Park restaurant does not disappoint. Lines for the restaurant were out the door! Fortunately, I knew about the NoWait app for my phone. NoWait allows you to place your name on the Goody Goody waiting list before you even leave from home. It tells you your wait time and how many people are ahead of you so your wait is at a minimum. If you don't use NoWait, your waiting time could be an hour or more. But no worries. There are a plethora of new trendy shops in the area to occupy your time.

Goody Goody is known for their burgers and desserts. They also serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. I met up with a high school friend for dinner. Goody Goody offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, and main course dinners of beef, seafood and chicken. We chose a variety of items to share starting with the black-eyed peas salad. Cold, fresh and delicious! I recommend ordering a little extra of salad dressing to really make it pop! It is a meal in itself. We also ordered the beef patty melt and the meatloaf dinner. Both dishes are made with Florida beef and locally grown vegetables. But whatever you order, SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT! With 5 pies to choose from, I HIGHLY recommend the banana cream pie. Best I've ever had!! Light, not too sweet, ripe banana slices and freshly whipped cream. The chocolate cream pie was just as delectable. Their specialty is the butterscotch cream pie. Yes, they have coconut cream pie as well. All homemade!

The staff was very friendly and attentive. Our server, Jennette was outstanding. Any questions were pleasantly answered and even sent the salad specialist over make sure we were satisfied with the additional salad dressing we requested. Now that's customer satisfaction at its best!

Goody Goody offers a variety of seating. Cozy up to a stool for counter service, or enjoy the comfortable booths or tables. Take a glance at the retro-modern decor including reconditioned chairs from the original Goody Goody's founded in 1925. View the original restored sign from the 1940's that sits above the restaurant. See if you can spot the framed Prince guitar! (The owner is a guitar collector.)

Goody Goody is the ideal family-friendly restaurant and open from 7am to 10 pm daily. Pricing is reasonable - $10 is the average, with the most expensive being $14 for a fresh Florida grouper sandwich. They also serve beer and wine.

Native Tampians welcomes Goody Goody back and happy to share those great memories with a new generation!

4 of 5 Valcooks Aprons

Goody Goody
1601 Swann Ave
Tampa, FL 33606

"Live life with an exclamation point!"


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Guerriero's - Morristown, NJ

A pictures says a thousand words; but let me add a few more to Guerriero's Italian Restaurant nestled in the quaint neighborhood of Morristown, NJ.

The restaurant boasts of homemade pastas and dishes that takes you back in time to when Mama lived in the kitchen preparing delicious meals for the family using her handed down authentic Italian recipes. And what a feast it was! 

Let's just start with the homemade Italian bread, sliced and topped with light olive oil, and moist, flavorful white beans. That alone told me the table was in for a treat! Might as well start with the appetizers. My favorite was the homemade sausage and roasted hot  peppers topped with freshly made potato chips. It's been a while since I've had sausage that tasted so satisfying! (Rome 2013) I highly recommend the meatball in red sauce and fried calamari.

The table ordered the spaghetti in pomodoro sauce and mozzarella cheese, jumbo shrimp in a Fra Diavolo sauce and the daily special - snapper perched on spaghetti with clams and mussels in a light, fragrant white sauce. We share it family style because we all wanted what each of us had ordered.Delizioso!!

Obviously, there was no room for dessert or after dinner drinks. Guerriero's is a B.Y.O.B. restaurant. We had a lovely bottle of Valdeorras Cosecha 2014 to compliment our meal! (Note: cash or checks accepted only. No credit cards.)

Thanks to my niece, Kendall for the fine recommendation!

4 of 5 Valcooks Aprons 

162 South Street, Morristown, NJ 07960 

"Live life with an exclamation point!"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Rustic Oak Gastro Pub - Houston Texas

I have fallen in love with a restaurant! As a foodie, it was inevitable. I've admired it from afar and have been entised by photos of its culinary delicacies for months. Finally, I have partaken of its cuisine and now engaged in a gastronomical romance! Rustic Oak in Houston, TX has stolen my culinary heart!

Why do I love Rustic Oak? Let me count the ways:

1.  You feel like you've walked into the rustic chic home of a dear friend or family member for a dinner party (or in my case brunch).

2.  Warm & friendly hostesses guide you to your table, where attentive service awaits.

3. Charming bouquets of fresh flowers    decorate each table while great music from Sarah Vaughn to Beyoncé softly plays in the background.

4.  The decor has unique accents that are also a feast for the eyes. Search for the door turned chandelier!

5. You can be assured Chef Wendell Price has cooked up something phenomenonal! 

6. The open kitchen where you can view Chef Price preparing food to literally "rock your culinary world"! 

And now the Sunday Brunch Buffet:

7.  Barbecued Shrimp - straight out of the Gulf and absolutely tender and juicy with just the right amount of spice.

8. Shrimp & Grits - Smooth, creamy texture and full of shrimp with every spoonful. 

9.  Crayfish Etouffee & Rice  & Salmon Etouffee - plum bodacious! You'll want seconds of this combo. Actually, you'll want seconds of everything!

10.  Red Velvet Pancakes - light, fluffy and a taste of heaven.

11.  Eggs - Scrambled moist, fresh and flavorful.

12.  Bacon - crispy & delicious

13.  Collard Greens - tender, tasty and made with smoked turkey. ( Only item I could not try due to turkey allergy; but so I'm told.)

14. Fresh fruit to compliment your brunch menu.

And the best for last...

15.  BANANA BREAD PUDDING - I cannot even describe how good this was! It will tantalize your taste buds and is mind blowingly delectable!!

Top off you brunch at Rustic Oak with a fine wine or in my case mimosa, and toast to your new food crush.

Want to learn to cook some of Chef Wendell Price's amazing recipes? He hosts group cooking classes! Check with Rustic Oak for more details. If you're in Houston and can't make it to the restaurant, order via Uber Eats. I'm sure there is even more on the back burner to come from Chef Price!

It's only been a few hours and I'm missing Rustic Oak already. It is #1on the Valcooks list of all around dining experiences and surpassing my expectations! I shall return...

5 of 5 Valcooks Aprons

Rustic Oak Gastro Pub
511 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77006

"Live life with an exclamation point!"