Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dumont Burger: 314 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY

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Every eight weeks, my boyfriend I have what we call ‘blood donation and burgers day’. We try to eat pretty healthfully most of the time, so we REALLY look forward to our iron-replenishing meal and often decide well ahead of time where our next burger will take place. This time, we were VERY excited to try the famous burger at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn. I’ve had the steak there and was dying to try the burger. Well, silly me, I totally didn’t think we’d need a reservation for a Sunday mid-day burger and I was very wrong. When we arrived and were told in a fairly snotty way that it would be at least 45 minutes, we decided to leave to go to Dumont Burger instead. I’ve had this burger before- but it had been a few years, and I remembered it being one of the best I’ve ever had. I also remembered the staff being super friendly and laid back, not at all like the hoity-toity Luger’s people.

When we got to Dumont and were warmly welcomed by the waitress, we had our choice of seats in the nearly empty restaurant. I should mention that by the time we left, the place was totally full, so I suppose it’s just hit or miss regarding wait times. We each ordered a burger (mine with a side of onion rings, and topped with gruyere and mushrooms and Gabriel’s with a side of fries, and topped with caramelized onions, bacon and gruyere) and a half and half (vanilla and chocolate) milkshake to share. The burgers came out quickly, with some of their housemade pickles on the side. I’d ordered my burger medium rare and it was more like medium well, or even well done. There was no red or pink anywhere in sight and I was a little annoyed but didn’t want to send it back because I was starving. Other than that, I have no complaints at all. The burger is on a delicious brioche bun, with melty cheese and meaty mushrooms and was totally delicious. The onion rings were perfect, not too greasy, but hot and crisp. The fries that came with G’s burger were also awesome. Our milkshake, though not quite as out-of-this-world as I’d remembered, was quite good and creamy- but not very sweet. I did LOVE that it was so thick that the straw could stand straight up in it. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t get light-headed trying to suck up a milkshake with a straw, it’s simply too thin.

As good as the food was, with a bill over $40, I felt this was really overpriced. I’d be happy to pay that much in a nicer, more comfortable setting, but to sit atop bar stools in a dark, drafty, small restaurant seemed a little ridiculous. I think their prices should be much lower than they are…or the seating should be much more comfortable.

After lunch, we stopped by Dumont-to-go next door intending only to get a hot cup of coffee. When we realized that they make homemade donuts to order, we felt it was really quite important that we fill in any remaining empty spots in our stomachs with fried dough and sugar. On the suggestion of the cashier, we ordered the cinnamon donuts with dulche de leche sauce and the plain donuts with chocolate sauce. They are tiny and polishing off 2 each took about 30 seconds. We both preferred the cinnamon/dulche combo over the others. The chocolate ones would have been about a million times better if the sauce had been warm- but a piping hot donut with cold chocolate sauce seems somehow wrong to me and left a bit to be desired. I’d recommend stopping by for these anyway, especially on a chilly day when a little extra fat and carbs will feel like a big hug. Enjoy!

Cafe Boulud: 20 E. 76th st. New York, NY

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Having been to a wonderful meal at Cafe Boulud in the past, I was really excited to see them on the  list for NYC Restaurant week . For $25, you get a 3 course prix fix meal at a restaurant that is normally rather astronomically priced. My grandmother lives right around the corner which makes it an ideal spot for a family get together. I’d made a reservation for 6 people a week prior, and called the morning of our lunch to change it to 7 people. I was given a rather odd response of, “We don’t take parties larger than 6 people. Did you already invite the 7th?” When I explained that it was a family gathering and we’d all be coming, she still said it wasn’t something they do. I went on further to say that we are a very petite family and didn’t mind squishing a bit, she went to ask the manager and finally came back with an ‘ok’.

When we arrived and were seated, the bread tray with 3 choices was brought around. The butter roll, the plain roll and sourdough bread. I decided to try all 3 of them and it’s a good thing because It’s basically what ended up making me feel full by the end of our meal. The breads were very good, but nothing to write home about. Next, an amuse-bouche of fried truffle/risotto balls were given to us. Though they were crispy, warm and melty, I couldn’t taste the truffle at all, and they were pretty unremarkable.

I shared all 3 courses with my boyfriend so that we could taste more of what they were offering. We started with the arugula salad with quince and bacon, as well as the fluke carpaccio with jalapeno. The salad was a bit over-dressed for my liking, and it was pretty boring. Just because it’s unique to use quince on top, does not make this interesting enough to win any prizes. The fluke, however, was marvelous. The flavoring of fennel and hot peppers brightened the dish and awakened the mild fish. This was the most noteworthy dish of the day.

For our first entrée we shared the winter squash ravioli with pecans, brown butter and sage. It was sweet and rich, but honestly, I didn’t think it was any more gourmet than the frozen ravioli you can buy from Fresh Direct. Our other entrée, the grouper, was a complete disaster. When I order fish at a high-end restaurant, I expect it to be exquisitely cooked and seasoned. This piece was so over-salted that it was a disaster. Did the chef accidentally spill the salt on top? The collard greens that came with it were also over-seasoned, not to mention cooked into to a soggy pile of mush. It was really kind of awful. I could not eat it and informed the waitress as such. What a disappointment.

The dessert course, as is often the case, redeemed the meal’s shortcomings. We were given a molten chocolate cake for the middle of the table (presumably because of my fish-complaint) and it was delicious. Crusty outer layer and hot, melty, rich interior. A perfect scoop of vanilla bean ice cream sat alongside it making for a lovely presentation. I will never tire of molten chocolate for dessert, passe as it may be. We also shared the chocolate mousse with pear compote and hazelnut ice cream. It came enrobed in a dark chocolate ganache layer and the inside was creamy and decadent, with the pears as a lovely unexpected touch. Finally, I moved on to the butterscotch gateaux with marscapone and devil’s food. YUM. It had little crispy bits on the cake and it was impossible to not finish it in 30 seconds flat. By then, even though we were totally stuffed but the waiter came by with little buckets of mini Madeleines and we managed to make a little bit more tummy space for them. Worth every confectioner’s sugar topped bite.

Overall, this meal was a let down. My expectations were high, true, but that’s because I’ve had such great experiences there in the past. I feel that the patrons who order from the restaurant week menu  do not really get a fair representation of what Boulud can do. Not only was the food only so-so, the portions were so itsy bitsy tiny that if I hadn’t indulged in all 3 types of bread and all of the extra desserts, I would have left still feeling very hungry. That’s not the way it should be at all! At their regular prices, this may be my last visit to Cafe Boulud.

Chez Carey: baby shrimp wontons, wonton soup and squid with mixed veggies

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I am on the email list for http://www.hungry-girl.com/ and recently got one that highlighted wonton wrappers as a great low calorie food to work with.  Inspired, I decided to look for them on my next supermarket shopping trip. My boyfriend and I got excited about something new to get creative with and started thinking about the rest of the meal. We picked up a package of frozen, whole, baby squid, some assorted veggies and a few bottled sauces and we were on our way.

This was officially the first meal that we prepared as a team and it was a great success! What better activity than hand-filling and wrapping wontons and prepping tons of veggies? Well, I suppose the ‘eating it’ part was pretty awesome too.

Anyway, here’s the basic idea for the 3 dishes we came up with:

1. Spicy wonton soup

Ingredient list:

wonton wrappers

chicken broth (allow about a cup per person)

red cabbage (about 1/2 cup)

carrot (about 2 carrots)

garlic (a few cloves)

ginger (about a tablespoon)

sriracha sauce (be CAREFUL, don’t use too much- I used about 1 tablespoon)

soy sauce (about a teaspoon)

oyster sauce (about a teaspoon)

honey (half a teaspoon)

celery (1 stalk)

egg white (about 1 egg worth)

mushrooms (about 6 large)

scallions (about 4)

cilantro (a bunch)

a can of baby shrimp, rinsed (or fresh shrimp, cooked and diced would be great too)

Cut up all of the veggies into tiny pieces. If you have a food processor, this would be  great time to get it out. If you don’t, like us, be prepared to chop for a pretty good chunk of time. Put it all into a bowl. Add all of the liquids (except the chicken broth!) to taste. Mix everything really well. Put about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of a wonton. Wet the edges of the wrapper with water using your finger and seal it up as best you can (we found there were a few different effective ways to do this). Fill as many wontons as you can, leaving about a 1/4 cup of the mixture in the bowl. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Carefully drop in a dozen or so wontons (3-4 per person) and bring back to a boil for a few minutes. Add the rest of the mixture from the bowl into the pot, stir carefully and continue boiling for another minute or 2.

Meanwhile, with all of the those wonderful leftover wontons, spray a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil with Pam. Put the wontons on it. Spray the top of the wontons with a little more Pam and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until brown and crispy. Let them rest on paper towels for a few minutes before serving. These are also great floating in the soup when you eat the rest of the ones that were in there already and end up with a bowl of broth.

2. Baby squid and veggie dish

Ingredient list:

Baby whole squid, cleaned. (you can find these frozen in asian supermarkets if you can’t find them fresh)

red cabbage (about 1/4 cup, sliced)

bok choy (a whole head, sliced into 1 inch pieces)

garlic (a few cloves, sliced)

ginger ( 1 tablespoon, shredded)

baby corn (1 can)

mushrooms (about 10, sliced)

bamboo shoots (a small can)

coconut oil spray

soy sauce (a few teaspoons)

duck sauce (a few teaspoons)

oyster sauce (a few teaspoons)

apple cider vinegar (a few teaspoons)

honey (a teaspoon)

chinese mustard (a teaspoon)

lemon juice (a few teaspoons)

cilantro (a bunch)

Whisk all of the liquids and the cilantro together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside. Spray a little coconut oil in a wok and get it up to a high heat. Add in the veggies in small enough batches to stir fry them and transfer to a bowl as needed. Re-spray the wok in between batches and continue until all of the veggies are in the bowl. Saute the squid for just a few minutes and then add some of the sauce on top for a few more minutes. Add the rest of the sauce over the bowl of veggies and stir everything together.

Serve over rice if you like, or just with a massive bowl of soup with extra wontons on the side. YUM. (This meal is definitely more fun to make and eat if you prepare it with someone you love.)

Enjoy!

The verdict is that we are most *definitely* going to be buying more wonton wrappers to play around with. I feel like the possibilities are endless and I’m thrilled to have a new ingredient under my sleeve to experiment with. I plan to fill them with crab-stuffed mushrooms next…stay tuned!

Seahorse Tavern: 303 E 85th st. New York, NY

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A couple of months ago, my wonderful boyfriend gave me the most awesome shock of my life with a surprise 35th birthday party at Seahorse Tavern. I was so overwhelmed that day that I totally forgot to write about this awesome restaurant and figured that we’d just have to return another time to do so. When we found a 50% off deal on Scoutmob, we jumped at the chance to go for brunch this weekend.

I’d called for a reservation the previous day, but no one returned the call. When I called again in the morning, I was told that the messages were never listened to but that we could come in whenever. Ok. I guess reservations aren’t necessary. When we arrived, there were only a couple of tables full and we had our pick of spots. We chose a 2 top next to the window in the corner and the waitress brought over our menus and water right away.

Brunch includes a choice of entree and a drink  (bloody mary, wine, beer, or mimosa) for $14.95- it’s a fantastic deal. We remember loving the fried oysters appetizer from the party and even though they weren’t on the brunch menu, they were happy to serve them to us as our starter. YUM. SO good. Little toasted sesame seeds in the batter make for an interesting flavor and crunch on these perfectly cooked oysters. They each sit in their own shells atop a lovely tartar sauce and it’s all presented on tiny mounds of crushed sea salt. Great presentation, even better taste.

Next I had the goat cheese, arugula, mushroom omelette with home fries. This is a gorgeous, fluffy, omelette, cooked to perfection with a creamy, cheesy, mushroomy interior. My only complaint about it is that I only saw one tiny piece of arugula in there- it was mostly cheese and mushrooms. Still delicious, just not as green as I’d hoped. The home fries were wonderful- not greasy, cooked just right, and a bit spicy with various peppers mixed in. The bloody Mary is one of the best ones I’ve ever had- and was even better once I asked for a few extra olives. Gabriel ordered the Eggs Benedict over fresh crab meat and it was amazing. The crab was so fresh, flaked and chilled and piled underneath the most beautifully poached eggs. We both pretty much licked our plates clean.

The service at Seahorse is casual, low-key and friendly and the food is fabulous. I love the mix of a casual, laid back atmosphere with somewhat fancy food. This is definitely one of my favorite neighborhood spots and we’ll be going back again soon. Try it out!

Pho 501: 501 Main St. East Hartford, CT

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I SERIOUSLY miss this place. Total hole-in-the-wall…BEST shrimp pho you’ve ever had in your life. $5 gets you a bowl that is the size of your head. I live in NYC now and still catch myself dreaming about my favorite cold weather meal. Sometimes I’m tempted to rent a car and drive 2 hours just to go get some. Sigh.

Saigon Market: 91 University Place. NY NY

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I’ve walked past Saigon Market a bunch of times and never realized how enormous it is inside. My friend and I were seated right away and given menus and water. Even though the space is cavernous, it has a strangely cozy, warm feel to it anyway. It must be the lighting- which I really liked. The fixtures look sort of like little, golden, hot air balloons. Very cute.

The menu had a lot of great options with just about all of the lunch deals under $10. I scanned the menu and chose the basil chicken with brown rice.  My friend ordered dumplings and vegetarian spring rolls for herself. I had one of her spring rolls and thought it was pretty good, though kind of boring. I did really like the light, peanut-y sauce she ordered instead of the plum sauce that usually comes with it. My entree was great. Nice, large slices of white meat chicken, an assortment of veggies, and tons of basil. The portion size was perfect for me, as I didn’t really want to be taking leftovers with me since I wasn’t going straight home.

Overall, I think this is a convenient and thrifty place to meet someone for lunch and if I’m in the area I might go back. I’d like to try the Pho next time I’m there. Someone next to me was slurping down on some and It looked and smelled delicious. I’m slightly hesitant about ordering Pho from anywhere since my standards are crazy high and nothing really compares to: http://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-501-east-hartford#hrid:cT65iBDIPa7vY2LEC7gAEA/src:self

Hmmm. Great. Now I want to rent a car to drive up to East Hartford for a bowl.

Rocco’s Italian Sausages & Philly Cheese Steaks: 5010 Northern Blvd (in front of Home Depot) Long Island City, NY

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This is a perfect example of why I run. I had started the day off on the right track. I had my typical breakfast which consists of a banana with a little peanut butter and a coffee with skim milk and honey. Lunch was Chobani greek yogurt, topped with blueberries, strawberries and Vanilla Almond Special K cereal. So far, so good.

Gabriel and I had to stop by his place in Queens that afternoon, and then had some errands to run at the Home Depot near there. When we finished up and we heading out, we noticed a tiny, little building attached to Home Depot that smelled marvelous. Rocco’s. He had noticed it a million times but never tried it. I, however, was very intrigued and had to look it up.  A quick Iphone search on Yelp made it clear that this 4 star Philly cheesesteak and sausage place couldn’t rightfully be skipped over.

We went in and scanned the menu.

It was aaaammmmmmaaaazing. Worth every ridiculous carb, calorie and fat gram. Hot and melty, the cheese was the perfect creamy compliment to the thin slices of steak and veggies. The hot sauce was a little too close to eating fire for my taste, but Gabriel slathered it on his half. This sandwich is no joke and it kind of makes me wish I had to go to that Home Depot more frequently. My waistline, however, thinks once in a very blue moon is plenty.On the recommendation of the very full-of-pride people working there, we ordered a large classic cheesesteak with onions, peppers and a side of hot sauce for us to share. This sandwich and a bottle of water cost about $11, so not dirt cheap. As we were about to find out, it turned out to be ohhhhh so worth it.

So, yes. I will be running extra miles this week to make up for it. I will also be loving every minute of it with the delicious memory still lingering. Check this place out and then thank me 🙂

Chez Carey: Glazed tilapia and asian veggie stir fry over coconut/ginger rice.

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I usually avoid cooking fish in my apartment because I hate the smelly aftermath that lingers for days when it’s too cold to leave windows wide open. I recently found out that for some reason, tilapia isn’t nearly as smelly as other fish, so I decided to play around with it for tonight’s dinner. It’s so easy to get into a poultry cooking rut and this was a nice, refreshing change for me.

I decided to do an Asian spin on the flavoring and began by making a a glaze for the fish. Into the mix went: a TON of fresh, chopped ginger, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, a ton of chopped cilantro, some apple cider vinegar and a little bit of honey. I painted this mixture onto the filets and did a quick, hot, pan saute using spray coconut oil so it wouldn’t stick.

While that was cooking, I stir fried the following in my beloved wok (again using spray coconut oil) chopped bok choy, chopped exotic mixed mushrooms, baby corn, sliced water chestnuts, chopped green beans. When that was done I finished it with a squeeze of lemon juice, chopped cilantro and a little of the leftover fish glaze.

Admittedly, I cheated on the rice. I used a box of ‘A Taste of Thai’ coconut/ginger rice for this one. It’s really quite good, and SO much easier than making it myself.

I love when healthy cooking also equals a great dinner! 

Chez Carey! (Casa de Carey :) Chicken Enchiladas!

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Unfortunately, this photo really does NOT do justice to how amazing these tasted. This is my healthy chicken enchilada creation that fed my boyfriend and I for 3 big dinners. It goes a long way indeed and just tastes better each day. I served them with diced avocado mixed with lemon juice and cilantro and a dallop of salsa on the side. It was a great belly warming meal on chilly winter nights and I’ll definitely be making it again.

As always, my ‘recipes’ are just concepts that can be altered to your likings. I don’t give quantities because I hardly ever measure anything. Just play around with the idea to get it the way you want it.

Here’s the basic idea: Throw the following in the crockpot: cut up boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut up onion, can O’ rinsed/drained black beans, can o’ rinsed/drained corn, bag O’ frozen mixed veggies, half cup chicken broth, some chili powder, fresh chopped cilantro, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, chipotle tabasco sauce, cayanne powder, garlic powder, onion powder. Cook that all on high for 6 hours or so.

Next, preheat oven to 350. Get Smart and Delicious Tortillas (50-100 calories each depending on what size you get). Put a scoop of the chicken mixture into a tortilla and roll it up tightly. Put in baking dish. Continue filling and rolling and putting them in the dish tightly packed together. Seam side down. When they are all lined up, spoon the rest of the chicken chili-thing soup that’s left over the top of the dish. Spread about a cup of salsa over the top of everything. Cover that with about a cup of cut up lowfat cheese of your liking. (I used a combo of a few kinds) Bake the whole thing for about 25 minutes and broil for a few minutes at the end to get it all bubbly.

Viola! YUM! Enjoy!

Club A Steakhouse: 240 E. 58th St. New York NY

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My friend and I had a prix fix dinner deal for 2 from Living Social that we finally got to use tonight. It was $69 and included 2 apps, 2 sides, 2 entrees and 2 desserts. What a great deal! I walked in and was greeted by B, sitting at the bar, sipping a glass of red wine. It was a beautiful atmosphere to walk into with an abundance of warm red fabrics, candlelit tables and red roses. The host asked if we’d like to be seated downstairs or upstairs, and told us that upstairs had banquets instead of tables. Wanting the cozy warmth of a booth, we opted to go up. What a great decision. As soon as we got up there we noticed the red quilted ceiling and the huge window looking out on twinkling, white, Christmas lights in the trees outside. We settled into our seats and I ordered myself a glass of Malbec, my favorite red wine.

A basket of lovely rosemary bread, onion bread, and breadsticks were brought out along with butter and ice water. The waiter brought us our menus a few minutes later. We had about 6 choices in each section- better than most prix fixes I’ve seen, and just about everything sounded appealing. B and I are EXCELLENT at sharing and we always seem to agree on the same dishes which, along with a easy, lively conversation, makes us perfect dining partners. We opted to share everything.

We started with the caesar salad and the fried calamari. The salad was covered in delicious shavings of parmesan. The homemade dressing that came with it was perfect with just enough anchovies to give it great flavor- but not totally too many which can be overpowering. The calamari was ok- a little too breaded for my taste, but nice and crunchy and accompanied by an awesome spicy marinara.

Next we shared the hanger steak and the filet mignon and both were cooked to absolute perfection. The filet was SO buttery and tender and actually had a lot of flavor. We expected that of the hanger but not the filet which I often find is sort of flavorless but a great consistency, so that was a pleasant surprise. The hanger was our favorite though. It was still very tender but also extremely juicy and flavorful. It was cooked to the exact specification that we requested, medium rare. For our sides we asked for the mashed potatoes and the truffle infused creamed spinach and were delighted when they surprised us with the mac and cheese as an additional side. Yes, surely a nice, light dinner. Haha. The dishes were all so generous that I was able to bring home some of everything to enjoy the following day. All of the sides arrived in their own little crocks, an adorable presentation of delicious and hearty food. What a great meal for a cold, winter night with a dear friend.

Our desserts were pretty good but not outstanding. Then again, that might have just been because we were already stuffed to the brim. The tiramisu was fine, but not terribly exciting. The cream puffs were tasty, but boring, simply filled with cream and covered in more cream. It definitely could have used some berries to brighten it up a bit. Those were the only 2 choices for dessert and I was pretty unimpressed with them considering the quality of everything else. No chocolate option? No ice cream, sorbet, pie or fruit option? That was the only part of the meal that wasn’t awesome.

The only other thing that I think is worth a mention is the service. Although they were very professional, polite and friendly, they were slow as mud. We didn’t really mind since we wanted to chat and they didn’t seem to care if we lingered for hours, but it would have been nice if they checked in on us a few times during our meal and in between courses. We literally sat for an hour sipping the end of our glasses of wine waiting for the check and eventually flagged someone down to bring it over. Again, I’m not sure that this is a negative…just something worth mentioning.

Overall, I really liked Club A. I thought the atmosphere was incredibly romantic and sexy and would be a great place for a date on Valentines’ Day or another romantic occasion. I will certainly consider a repeat visit…especially if they run another fantastic deal like this one!

ADDENDUM!!

Gabriel and I returned to Club A to celebrate Valentine’s Day and WOW, what a special evening it was. 

There was SO much food we practically rolled out of there at the end of the night, but the overindulgence was worth every single calorie and  I can’t possibly say enough good things about the way we were treated and the food we consumed.

We were treated like absolute royalty by the staff and Bruno, the owner. First, a bottle of champagne and a basket of bread was brought over. Next a complimentary bottle of wonderful red wine was elaborately decanted for us.

Two of the largest shrimp cocktail were our next surprise, YUM!

We shared a caeser salad and a garden salad and I must rave for a moment about the outstanding caeser dressing. It was thick and creamy, with a lovely anchovy flavor and a hint of parmesan. One of the best caesers I’ve ever had.

We were then surprised yet again with a treat of lobster ravoili. The chunks of lobster inside were so decadent and fresh, this might have been my favorite part of the meal. At this point, we already felt SO full, but there was still a ton of food coming so we prepared ourselves. I began thinking that my skintight pencil dress might not have been the best choice for my outfit.

Out came our hanger steak and NY strip, cooked to perfection with the perfect amount of pink in the center. The outside was crisp and had so much flavor and juice inside…we were in meaty heaven. We also shared 2 wonderful sides of truffle oil creamed spinach and amazing mashed potatoes. We took some of the steak home and began thinking that perhaps we’d opt to take our desserts home too… Just then, out they arrived before we even ordered them! A PLATTER of sweets for us to squeeze into our bellies. It’s funny how there always seems to be just a little more room when you absolutely need it. We shared a gorgeous array of chocolate heart-sharped cake, cream puffs AND tiramisu and were blown away by the beautiful presentation of fruit that arrived  shortly after. WOW.

This was seriously the most food I’ve put away in one sitting. I was still full the next morning! Thank you SO much to Arben, Bruno and the whole staff at Club A. This was a night we will cherish in our memories forever.