Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Black Sheep Cafe

Where: Black Sheep Cafe, 19 N University Avenue, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey & Sidney

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Chile Verde Navajo Taco and Bleu Burger

What It Cost: ~$25 (including tip, at lunch hour)

What We Thought:


I've been hearing lots of good news surrounding this new and trendy restaurant Black Sheep Cafe, and decided to check them out with my friend for lunch the other day. We went on a normal weekday at noon, so they weren't super busy, though the service wasn't exceptionally fast. I loved the rustic interior, natural lighting and wood paneling, which really added to the Southwestern feel of the restaurant.



I can't even remember the last time that I had a Navajo taco, but I can definitely guarantee it was nowhere near the level of this one! The frybread was crisp and savory, but not loaded down with grease or heavy at all - probably the most delicious piece of fried food I've had in a very long time! And I loved the sweet spicy green chile pork on top of the taco, which was full of huge chucks of juicy pork and loaded with flavor. There was just the right amount of chopped tomato and cream to balance the whole thing, and even though it was more than filling, I forced myself to eat every last bite because it tasted so good. The one thing I did regret was that since there was so much chile verde topping on the taco, it kind of made the frybread less crisp in the middle towards the end of my meal, so I think next time I would try one of their Navajo tacos with a less liquid topping.



Next up, the Bleu Burger. If it was a little cheaper, it would easily climb the list of my favorite burgers! The beef patty was so thick and juicy, bursting with fresh flavor and tenderness. There was just the right amount of blue cheese on top to give it a nice bite, and was paired with savory bacon, caramelized onions, and fresh mixed greens. I was a little confused as to how a burger fit into the whole Southwestern theme, but served in this unique flatbread wrap, it somehow seemed just right. I really loved the flavor of the sweet potato fries - and the fact that they were actually made with sweet potatoes, not yams (unlike many other alleged "sweet potato" fries)! They weren't as fried or crisp as many people are probably used to, but I thought that they were a perfect balance to this intensely flavorful burger.

What You Should Do: Though it is a little pricier than your typical burger or taco, it is definitely worth it! Black Sheep Cafe manages to manipulate familiar flavors into new and exciting entrées, and I can't wait to take Owen here so he can experience it. The only tough decision will be choosing between the heavenly fried Navajo tacos or the succulent and scrumptious burgers! Who would have thought Southwestern style burgers would be so amazing?



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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Carrabba's Italian Grill

Where: Carrabba's Italian Grill, 683 E University Parkway, Orem

Who Went: Chelsey & Owen

What We Ordered: Antipasti Plate (containing calamari, mozzarella sticks, and bruschetta), Chicken Marsala with Cavatappi Amatriciana and Lentil Sausage Soup, and Chicken & Spinach Cannelloni with Side Caesar Salad

What It Cost: $53.00 (including tip)

What We Thought:


It never ceases to blow my mind that whenever we drive by Olive Garden on University, there is always a huge line out the door! I understand how people could be sucked in once by the appeal of endless breadsticks and salad (I've been there), but Olive Garden is not a good deal people! And it is not good food! All of the food is overly-processed, straight from a package, and flavored with cheap and heavy ingredients. And yet people still flock there like it's the greatest thing on earth, despite the fact that you usually have to wait 45 minutes because they don't allow you to make reservations.

So my outrage with Olive Garden has encouraged me to find a suitable alternative Italian restaurant to recommend to others, and Carrabba's seemed like a good target. Cute trees on the roof, they let you make reservations, and the menu online seemed promising enough (though mysteriously with no prices).

When I first entered the restaurant, I was immediately turned off. The main dining area was just a big open room with all of the tables crammed in on the same level, so it appeared to be more like a giant mess hall rather than an intimate Italian dining experience. Though we were lucky enough to get a booth since we only had two people, there was absolutely no privacy and we could easily observe basically every other person in the restaurant. Which I guess might be a good thing if your date is really boring, but it was a little unsettling for me.


We started out with the antipasti plate, since I love both calamari and bruschetta, and it was cheaper just to get the fried cheesesticks as well, I mean...hand-breaded mozzarella marinara... The calamari definitely was the highlight of my meal - it was perfectly battered and fried, crispy but not too heavy, and wasn't too fishy. Usually calamari is so excessively breaded that you can't even taste the delicious squid inside, but that was not the case here. If I ever went back to Carrabba's, it would definitely be just for the calamari. The bruschetta was nothing memorable, and the mozzarella sticks were, well, fried cheese, which always tastes good no matter what. I didn't really enjoy the marinara sauce it was served with - it had this weird fishy taste and seemed almost more like a shrimp cocktail sauce than marinara. 


The Caesar salad was what I expected - nothing too exciting, a good dressing, and two kalamata olives tossed on the side to make it seem more interesting. It was basically just a filler until the rest of my food came.


Owen thought that his lentil soup had pretty good flavor - it was a little greasy and very filling, so by the time our food arrived, he was already pretty stuffed. But the lentils were well-prepared, the consistency was nice, and the meat had a rich enough flavor to make the whole thing taste like sausage. And sausage is good. It's not really the prettiest thing, but in the dim lighting of the restaurant, who can tell anyway?


Then our entrées arrived. First up was Owen's Chicken Marsala with Cavatappi Amatriciana - those fancy words basically just meant curly pasta with red sauce (asking for the side of noodles would probably be easier than trying to pronounce those words...!) I had read lots of great things about the chicken marsala, which was why I was so surprised when I tasted it. Sure it is a huge portion and they give you lots of food, but the whole dish was WAY too salty! We could hardly take a couple bites without having to rinse with water. I'm sure the cream sauce and mushrooms were nice, but you couldn't really taste anything beyond the oversalted chicken. We ended up only eating half of it at the restaurant and cutting up the second chicken breast into small pieces for a salad the next day at home, which was the only way we could balance this super saline dish. And unfortunately, too much salt on a dish really sucks out moisture, so the chicken was pretty dry as well. This is partially masked by the sauce, but was really a disappointment for us. 



As if the chicken marsala wasn't disconcerting enough, my stuffed pasta was also sadly too salty and just not that great. The menu described this dish as having fresh herbs, chicken, spinach, with fontina and romano cheese, but all I could taste was too much cream, salt, and butter which completely overpowered any subtle or fresh flavors. The pomodoro sauce tasted identical to that on Owen's side pasta, and I suppose those little green flecks on top of my pasta could potentially qualify as the "fresh herbs" they are talking about, but you couldn't taste them at all.

What You Should Do: Though Carrabba's IS significantly better than the glorified Olive Garden, I still felt like it was overpriced, too heavy, and not very authentic. The layout and seating of the restaurant reminded me of my high school cafeteria, but our server was very nice and helpful, which helped partially make up for the environment. I definitely did enjoy the calamari at the beginning of our meal, but if I'm spending upwards of $50 for two people, I really would expect more out of the main dishes as well. Ostentatious Italian names on the menu won't cut it for me, and my search for Italian food that I actually think is worth the bill shall continue.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Terra Mia

Where: Terra Mia, 1050 S 750 E, Orem (across from the theater at University Mall)

Who Went: Chelsey & Owen, Chelsey & Family

Number of Visits: 6

What We Ordered: Many kinds of pizza - on this visit we had the Terra Mia & Mamma Mia pizzas

What It Cost: $26.37

What We Thought:


When Owen's former Italian roommate told us that Terra Mia had the most authentic Italian pizza he had ever had here in Utah, we knew we had to try it. Since our very first experience at Terra Mia, we have always looked forward to coming here and enjoying their fresh, light, and amazingly delicious pizza. I've never been to Italy, so I can't vouch for his roommate's claim, but I do know that we have eaten at Terra Mia many times, and it still proves to be one of our favorite pizza places nearby!



The pizza above is the Mamma Mia pizza - topped with loads of fresh, piquant arugula, shaved parmesan, and thin, savory prosciutto on top of a classic margherita. I love this pizza, with all of its fresh ingredients on top of a fantastic chewy crust. I love the taste that comes from the wood-burning oven and that authentic Neapolitan style!



The Terra Mia namesake pizza is my absolute favorite - loaded with grilled chicken breast, heavenly toasted pine nuts, salty Italian salami, and provolone cheese. I have wonderful dreams about this pizza. I especially love dipping the extra remains of crust in the olive oil and balsami vinegar that accompanies each table - there's nothing better!

What You Should Do: If you haven't tried Terra Mia yet, add it to the top of your list! They have incredible authentic pizza, approved by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, and is a real hidden gem here in Utah County. Definitely my favorite pizza here!

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

El Gallo Giro

Where: El Gallo Giro, 346 N University Avenue, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey & Sidney

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Taco Special & Chicken Enchiladas

What It Cost: ~$12

What We Thought:


The other day, Sidney took me out to one of her favorite restaurants - El Gallo Giro. Located within easy walking distance of BYU, quick service, and hearty meals for under $5 all made this restaurant seem like a great option for convenient and delicious Mexican food.

When we got there, it was mildly busy - about 5 other tables seated. We had barely enough time to visit the salsa bar and try all of the flavors before our food had already arrived! I was impressed with their incredibly fast service, especially considering that all of our food still tasted very fresh and flavorful.


I loved their salsa bar, and all of the different flavor options! The chips were nice and crisp, and the house salsa was a little waterier than I usually prefer, but still had great flavor and they gave you plenty of it.


My tacos were way more flavorful and tasty than I had anticipated - they were filled with savory chicken and crispy bacon, complimented by light iceberg lettuce and a sprinkling of cheese. Normally I'm not a huge fan of when people just throw bacon into a dish because I feel like it overpowers all of the other flavors, but I was pleasantly surprised with how it really enhanced the flavor of the chicken without making the tacos too greasy. The rice and beans were good but not amazing - a nice side filler that rounded out the meal.



Sidney loved her normal choice of chicken enchiladas with a mild, not-too-sweet verde sauce. They were fresh and filling, substantial but not heavy, and served with the rice and beans as well. They definitely weren't the most authentic or most delicious enchiladas I've ever had, but they are a great price and super conveniently located.

What You Should Do: If you're looking for something new, fresh, and cheap close to BYU campus, take a 4 minute drive down University Avenue to this fun little Mexican restaurant. They have a ton of options, really quick service (at least when we were there), and lunch specials that will fill you up without making you feel gross for the low price of $3.99!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cubby's Chicago Beef

Where: Cubby's Chicago Beef, 1258 N State Street, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey & Owen

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Cockadoodledoo Chicken Sandwich, Tri-Tip Steak Sandwich Cali-Style, & Blue Cheese Buffalo Fries

What It Cost: $19.90

What We Thought:


Finally! A place so much more worthy than Little Caesar's, Carl's Jr, or Sonic to eat at that is within walking distance of our house! I've been really excited to try this restaurant ever since I saw the sign pop up around the corner, and am pleased to announce that it more than lived up to my hopes and dreams.

When we first entered Cubby's, Owen immediately loved the chic wood and chalkboard interior. When we asked Cubby what was "Chicago" about the beef, he explained that the meat is from local sources (making it extra fresh and delicious) but is prepared in traditional Chicago styles, like the steak sandwich and hot dogs.


I'm a huge buffalo sauce lover, so I knew we HAD to try the blue cheese buffalo fries. The blue cheese was milder than I had anticipated, so it really was a great balance for the spiciness of the buffalo sauce on the fries. I usually prefer thicker fries, but these ones were great with just the right amount of sauce and flavorings.


I never thought I would be so pumped about a chicken sandwich - usually chicken sandwiches are just the more boring and healthy alternative to burgers. Not this sandwich, my friends. First off, the chicken is cooked to perfection - flavorful and surprisingly moist. The Swiss cheese paired great with the meat, there was just the right amount of mixed greens, and the homemade avocado spread really brought it all together for me. We loved the whole wheat roll it was on, and were altogether impressed with how incredible this normally-boring option was!



I knew the tri-tip steak sandwich was going to be good, and it totally lived up to my expectations. I ordered it Cali-style, which added thick slices of avocado, melty cheddar cheese and crispy maple bacon, and opted to get spicy rather than sweet barbecue sauce. It probably would have still been delicious without the bacon, and I was glad that I chose the spicy BBQ sauce - it was a great combination with the creamy avocado. There was so much meat on the sandwich, all richly seasoned and tasty, and I also loved the grilled onions, which added a perfect savory sweetness to the sandwich. Someone asked me the other day what kind of bread it came on, and to be honest with you, I don't really remember much about the bread except that it wasn't horrible, it held the sandwich together, and I was way too distracted by the wonderful things that were going on inside the bread!

What You Should Do: Definitely check them out. Keep on walking past that cheap-o, horrible Little Caesar's and get yourself a real treat here at Cubby's. The sandwiches were unique and gratifying, and we will definitely be coming here again to try some of their other menu options!


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Thursday, July 5, 2012

India Palace

Where: India Palace, 98 W Center Street, Provo

Who Went: Chelsey & Owen

Number of Visits: 1

What We Ordered: Vegetable Coconut Korma, Lamb Bhunna, Gulab Jamun (not pictured) and Naan

What It Cost: $40.00 (including tip)

What We Thought: 


Let me just start off by saying that I was really sad when I first got to this restaurant because I realized that I had forgotten my camera! We were kind of in a hurry so I didn't want to go home and grab it, so we decided to take pictures on Owen's work phone. So, I apologize in advance for the less-than-stellar photos, but considering they were taken on a cell phone, I think they are pretty good!

It seems like in Provo there is a pretty big rivalry between the two big names in Indian food - India Palace and Bombay House. Though I have to admit that my loyalty lies on Team Bombay House, we've decided that India Palace is pretty good too. Between the two, I've had better service at Bombay House, am obsessed with their Peshawari Naan, and like the environment better. But if the line at Bombay House is out the door or you're in the mood to try something different, India Palace is an excellent choice.


Owen started out with the Lamb Bhunna, which contained onions, ginger and large hunks of green pepper. It had a unique blend of spices that wasn't too overwhelming, and the lamb meat was really tender and delicious. Their portions were quite large, and we easily took at least half of our plates home with us.


The rice was actually one of my favorite parts of the meal - this is the one aspect that I liked better at India Palace than Bombay House! Their rice was light and fluffy, with unique flavors added in that really enhanced our individual dishes. And unlike most rice sides, it was still good the next day!


I love getting vegetarian dishes at Indian restaurants because I feel like the mix of the vegetables that they use in the sauces is much more interesting and delicious than a one-note meat dish. This korma dish proved me right, including chickpeas, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and more in a creamy curry-coconut sauce. I thought that the dish was good, but not anything amazing or new. For dessert we got the gulab jamun, which tasted like a hot doughnut soaked in syrup - we've never had gulab before and thought that it was kind of fun! Of all the things we ordered though, we felt like the dessert was kind of overpriced for the amount of food it was. Everything else seemed to be pretty standard prices for the quality of Indian food that it was.


What You Should Do: If you're tired of Bombay House and want to try a different location, India Palace is a good bet. They are typically less busy and have a great range of meal options. I've heard that their buffet is one of the best in the area, but I've been conditioned since a young age to be kind of wary of buffets, so I'll have to take your word for it! We liked India Palace, felt like it was a decent price, and were satisfied with but not astonished by our meals.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ruby Snap

Where: Ruby Snap, 770 S 300 W, Salt Lake City

Who Went: Chelsey & Michelle, then Chelsey & Owen

Number of Visits: 2

What We Ordered: Trip 1: Zoey (Lemon Blueberry), Maris (Chocolate Caramel), Frida (Molé Chile de Arbol & Cinnamon), Ricki (Coconut Almond Chocolate), Vivianna (Mango Dark Chocolate Citrus), and Evia (Pear Marzipan Pine Nuts). Trip 2: Vivianna, Zoey, Nina (Coffee Toffee), Lilly (Lemon with Lemonheads), Virginia (Molasses Ginger), Betty (Oatmeal Apricot Cherry), Judy (Orange Cream Cheese), and Maria (Banana Crème Brûlée)


What It Cost: $12.50 for 6, plus you get a free cookie coupon for next time!


What We Thought:


It's so funny - I never thought I would go so crazy over some cookies. I mean, everyone likes cookies, but also everyone can make cookies and they're no big deal.

But then I went to Ruby Snap Bakery up in Salt Lake.

Wow.

Could I have been more wrong?


When you enter Ruby Snap, you are greeted with that wonderful aroma of freshly baking cookies - I seriously need to get a job there because smelling that 24/7 is my idea of heaven. The friendly staff welcome you and tell you about some of the incredible flavor options they have - things you would never think to combine in a cookie, and yet somehow, when you taste it, it's like they were meant to be in a cookie from the beginning of time. It's a little confusing at first since they have so many different flavors that are named with sexy little pin-up girl identities, but they have convenient little cheat sheets for you, and the staff offer to let you sample any flavor you like. And we're talking real samples here - like quarter-of-a-cookie-sized samples! Then they wrap your cookies up in the cutest box you've ever seen - I'm just so glad that they are all the way up in Salt Lake or else I'm pretty sure I would stop by there every single day.


Let's start with our favorite - the Zoey. You've never had cookies as thick and chewy as the ones at Ruby Snap. I have no idea how they do it! They manage to be amazingly soft while still cooked all the way through. Definitely my kind of cookie. As well-established in previous posts, I'm a lemon addict. Throw some blueberries in there, and you've won my heart. The Zoey cookie was the favorite for both me and Owen - it was like the best lemon blueberry muffin you've ever had hopped up on steroids, with a delicious glaze to complete it. It was seriously incredible. I could eat one of these every day.


Next, the Maris. This was a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips and a caramel center. I mean, really? How could you go wrong with that kind of flavor combination? You can't, and Ruby Snap does a fabulous job with it. I expected it to be delicious, and it definitely lived up to my expectations.


Then the Frida. I was a little nervous for this one since the description reads "Molé dough with a chile de arbol ganache center. Topped with cinnamon-toasted pepitas." I'm pretty sure the last time I had a cookie with chile in it was...um...never. But I decided to be adventurous, and boy, was it worth it. What a unique flavor explosion - and it came from a cookie! The chocolate was rich and sweet enough to balance the hint of spiciness, and it reminded me of delicious Mexican hot chocolate.


The Ricki - basically an Almond Joy candy bar translated into cookie form. I love Almond Joy, so naturally I thought this cookie was amazing. I was really impressed by the coconut flavored dough - I would have thought it would be easier to make the dough with the readily-available almond extract, but the hints of coconut in the dough really made the cookie incredible.


Next up was their flavor of the month, the Evia. The only thing that made me upset about this bakery was the fact that this amazing cookie is only available for one month out of the whole year! Of all the cookies we tried, this one surprised me the most - who would think that a vanilla bean dough with bits of pear, a marzipan center, and toasted pine nuts on top would make for such an incredible cookie? I only ordered it because the combination of flavors seemed so bizarre, and the final result completely blew my mind and my taste buds.



Finally, the Vivianna. This citrus dough cookie comes packed with chunks of dried mango and dark chocolate, a knock-out combination for any of you folks who may like fruit and chocolate together. This is their most popular cookie according to the staff at Ruby Snap, and it's clear why it is so desired. Both times when I ordered this cookie, I savored every bite, wishing that it would never end!

The next time I visited Ruby Snap, I didn't manage to get any pictures of the cookies since I grabbed them in preparation for a 12-hour road trip to Washington. They definitely made the trip way more endurable! Once again, the cookies were delicious, though this round wasn't quite as life-changing as the first batch we ordered. We really liked the Betty - a twist on your typical oatmeal cookie, and the Virginia and Judy were as soft and delicious as I had hoped. The Lilly was good, but kind of weird - the baked-in lemonheads definitely give you a unique texture for a cookie that we couldn't decide if we loved, and the Maria, their special for the month, was actually kind of disappointing. It basically tasted like a slice of banana bread with a little caramel disc on top. But I gotta say, one not-so-amazing cookie out of the twelve flavors we tried? Those are pretty good odds to me!

What You Should Do: Definitely add Ruby Snap to your list of places to try! In fact, put it at the top of your list. This place is amazing. They have wonderful staff, to-die-for-cookies, and are an all-around great place to visit. The cookies are baked fresh every day, and at the end of the day, they donate any leftover cookies to local food shelters. You know I'm a sucker for a company that supports the community. Their cookies are also available at the SLC Farmer's Market, and I hear that they will be carried soon in local Harmon's and Whole Foods grocery stores. There is definitely a conspiracy between Ruby Snap and Tillamook ice cream to give me diabetes, I tell you.


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