Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington, D.C.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We had a wonderful morning leisurely strolling around the Mall and the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. We walked the good 6 blocks to this famous lunch place that Jackie reported he goes to every year with the Levee Board crew. This year Chloe and I joined him and we were promptly seated in a booth, Chloe's favorite type table.

Old Ebbitt Grill opened in 1856 just steps away from the White House and museums. It has been a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt. It is decorated with velvet booths and a Beaux-Arts facade with mahogany and marble. And we were blessed with a wonderful waiter, Greg.

We were offered beverages, Jackie got a Bloody Mary and loved it. It was made with a spicy mix and served with two huge green olives. I had a glass of the house Cabernet. The place was nearly packed when we arrived at 11:30, amazing. Jackie ordered up a 1/2 dozen charbroiled oysters that Old Ebbitt's is famous for. They were good, Jackie saved one for me. I liked the unique cocktail sauce.

Chloe was served a great kid's menu and crayons and picked the grilled cheese with applesauce. It was perfect for her and she made it disappear fast. Jackie ordered the Senator. It's a smoked turkey and ham sandwich with Boursin cheese (one of my favorites) and roasted red peppers and arugula on potato bread. He loved it but couldn't finish it. If our senators are eating this, they must be out of their BMI! I got the "Veggie" sandwich that Greg recommended. It was great, the bread was actually thinly sliced fried eggplant (and not greasy at all), filled with portabella mushroom, zucchini, onions, arugula, feta cheese and red pepper hummus. It was perfectly warm and sized for me. Mine was served with fresh fruit that was refreshing after all the junk food we'd snacked on while traveling.

We enjoyed our lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill. Jackie made sure we went there to see it and have those oysters. Our tab was $67 for the three of us. I loved the kid's menu, service and that sandwich. We were off for more sightseeing around the capital.

I added pictures of Chloe on our way to Old Ebbitt's and a picture that night of the Lincoln memorial.

Old Ebbitt Grill, 675 15th St. NW, Washington DC, 202-347-4800 www.ebbitt.com

Tortilla Coast, Washington DC

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On our last day in the Capital, Chloe and I had a tour of the White House scheduled through Rep. Marion Berry's office. But...the health care bill was passed Sunday night and was to be signed on Tuesday at noon at the White House, the exact time of our tour, dang it. So Chloe and I got a tour of the Capital Building by one of Berry's staffers, Jonathon Bunch from Batesville, Ark. Jonathon was wonderful and welcoming to us knowing we were disappointed about the White House tour. He gave a great tour including history of the art work and rooms and wings of the building. On his recommendation, Chloe and I had lunch just a few blocks away at Tortilla Coast. He said lots of political figures and staffers eat there. We didn't recognize any but were thrilled with his recommendation.

We arrived and the place was packed, a good 15 minute wait at 12:30 wasn't too bad I thought. We were seated near the bar and had the wonderful Jose tending to us. Chloe was seated with a great kid's menu with tons of selections. She decided on Pineapple Juice and soft tacos with rice. She wanted chicken instead of beef so we had to send back Jose's first delivery. I got the veggie combo which was huge but I loved it. It had a spinach and mushroom enchilada, guacamole taco, black beans and rice with a side of pico de gallo. I added a side of japs to it also, Jose didn't even flinch when I added them. It was ultra fresh, the tortillas were house made and super thin, the way they should be. With Chloe's juice order, I got a beer, Shiner Bock, it was a perfect beverage for my lunch. They served complementary chips and salsa but I didn't partake as I was still giving up chips and chocolate for Lent.

No dessert for us, Jackie joined us right before we left, killing time before heading Senator Lincoln's office. We enjoyed watching the basketball highlights from the bar. We were headed back to the hotel to pack, our flight out of Baltimore was to leave first thing Wednesday.

We loved Tortilla Coast, it's location and price, just $32 for both of us. There were a lot of things I'd like to try on that menu but maybe next time!

I added a pic inside the Capital and a picture of Chloe and Biscuit the minute we got home, she missed him so much!

Tortilla Coast, 400 First Street SE, Washington DC, 202-546-6768 www.tortillacoast.com

Mike's, Springfield, VA

Sunday, March 21, 2010

After spending two days in DC, Jackie, Chloe and I took the Metra train to the end of the line in Springfield, Virginia to spend the afternoon and night with one of my college roommates Dana Sherwood Holroyd. It was a short train ride and her fabulous husband Troy picked us up at the station and drove us to their home. I hadn't seen Dana in probably seven years. We had a wonderful time catching up on her patio where Chloe and her two children Sydney and Aidan played so easily. I brought them both a little gift of toys with Chloe's favorite loud silly putty called Flarp. They had tons of laughs with the $1.99 gift. When the sitter arrived we were off to dinner.

Troy and Dana both remarked they don't eat out much and always wanted to go to this restaurant. Mike's is an American restaurant with a beautiful open lobby and huge bar with tons of tv's and seating. We were quickly seated in the rear of the restaurant in a booth which we loved. We had a wonderful young waiter named Anthony, (Anthon E was on the receipt), and he brought the boys beer and Dana and I a glass of Arido Mendoza Malbec. We loved it and the wine was served in a small beer glass, very unusual but a nice touch. Anthony also served ice-less water as well which I loved. We all enjoyed visiting and telling old stories on Dana and I, lots and lots of laughs.

Dana and I met in Fayetteville on campus in 1989...we were pledge sisters, she from Magnolia, Ark., and me, of course, from Oklahoma City. Dana and I had a lot of things in common but one thing Dana taught me about was recycling. There is a bad story on me littering out her car door and she stopped her 1985 Impala Hatchback to say, "Keeli, get that and pick it up, you're not littering in my car!", I have never been the same since. Dana is a true Southern lady with all the etiquette and manners you'd expect. Too bad she's so dang far away...she's the same as always, we just pick up where we left off....

On to dinner, I ordered the special that was recommended, the Hickory Grilled Rockfish with basil redskin mashed potatoes and cream sauce. It was really good. I don't have Rockfish very often and I loved its meaty texture. Jackie ordered the Filet and Crab cake and remarked his steak was perfect, "one of the best steaks I've had," and added the crab cake was one of the best. It was a nice combination.

No dessert for us, but we were all surprised when it was 7 p.m. and we were done with dinner. The restaurant was packed when we left, we were surrounded by a huge family in the booths around us with infants to grandmothers. We enjoyed watching them with all the kids and action. Dana stated it was no time to go home since we had a sitter we were sharing so they voted to go to Kate's Irish Pub around the corner. Well, we did and it was empty on that Sunday night but we enjoyed visiting more in it's pool hall. It looked like a real festive place.

Mike's was a fabulous find for Dana and Troy and us. You'll love the efficient waitstaff, excellent seafood and steaks and the place was very neat and clean with lots of wood and good lighting. I can also report when you find the bathroom on the bottom floor, it was in perfect shape. Mike's is definitely a restaurant Dana and Troy will have to go to again for good food and lots of laughs.

I added a pic of the kiddo's Monday morning before we left, they all played so well together!! We'll have to get Dana and Troy to come to the Delta next...

Mike's American Grill, 6210 Blacklick Rd., Springfield, VA, 703-644-7100 www.greatamericanrestaurants.com/Mikesmain

Brassiere Beck, Washington D.C.

Friday, March 19, 2010

After spending most of our day traveling to DC with Chloe for Spring Break, we arrived at our hotel and ventured across the street to this restaurant Jackie found on the Internet. I was thrilled it was so close to the hotel, we were tired and hungry. We'd driven to Nashville, flown to DC (barely making the flight) and then took the train to DC.

Jackie was worried that they didn't have a kid's menu but he said he did find a waffle on the menu that he thought Chloe would like. Of course I thought, "is there a restaurant on the planet without a kid's menu?", the answer is yes. What that really means is that children aren't preferred and our 9 year old was the only child in the restaurant. Jackie loved looking at it over the Internet because it's a Belgium restaurant with 50 Belgium beers. I was just tired at this point, 9 pm, and ready for dinner. We snacked on the airplane and train ride but it was a full day of travel and we were pooped. And I have to say Jackie gave Chloe and I an ultimatum on packing, that this trip would be a test for taking us on an international trip, so packing light, a backpack for each of us with a small roller bag was all he'd allow. Chloe and I were proud to have followed the rules and Jackie was equally proud of our performance.

But now it was time to eat...we were welcomed and seated immediately in the nearly packed restaurant. I loved the feel of the restaurant and admired the Chef's tasting table that we had to walk past to get to our booth in the back, you can see the table on the website. I wonder now if we were seated there because of Chloe. Then at the end of our meal, a young and pregnant couple were being seated next to us, but the gentleman looked at Chloe and I and said, "No, seat us elsewhere." I just smirked thinking of the awakening he'd have when that baby was born soon. If he's anything like us, his life will change and he'll start eating at and appreciating the kid friendly establishments out there. If I weren't from the south, I'd have given him a dirty look or rolled my eyes.

Jackie ordered up one of those beers he'd come to DC to partake of, the Antigoon Double Blonde Ale. I sipped it just to see and I thought it was horrible, but that is coming from a non-beer drinker. I ordered a glass of Cabernet but the waiter suggested a Bordeaux half-bottle. I have never had a French wine before in my life and I loved it's depth. It was a Chateau Haut-Beausejour, 2006 Saint-Estephe, France.

Chloe, of course, ordered the Belgium waffle with chocolate sauce and ice cream for dinner. It almost put me over the edge but it literally was the only thing on the menu for her and she loved it, but didn't care that much for the chocolate sauce. Jackie had the fillet served with very thin, crispy french fries that he loved. What an unusual touch. I had the Trout with lemon caper sauce and creamed potatoes. It was the right size plate, I was thrilled it wasn't huge, it was perfectly cooked and sized for me.

We really enjoyed the meal and our waiter, El Most Afa (that name was printed on the receipt), was really efficient and accommodating. I recommend this restaurant and hope to go again. The next day Jackie went back to watch the basketball tournament while Chloe and I napped after all the museums and touring around. The bar was packed that afternoon when we came in to take him to eat sushi, he loved getting another one of those unique Belgium beers. And I can report the ladies room was in perfect shape with those towels by the door.

Braissere Beck, 1101 W. K, NW, Washington D.C., 202-408-1717 www.beckdc.com A very upscale website, one of my favorites!

The Daily Grill, Washington D.C.

On the recommendation of our hotel, The Mayflower, we had lunch a short 2 blocks away. We were the first to arrive at the upscale restaurant at 11:30 in a rain shower, we tried to get in but the door was locked, I did see someone inside but they ignored us. Luckily, the bellman at the Mayflower, loaned us a huge umbrella that we stood under for I'd say 5 minutes. Yes, I was amazed at this, when I actually caught the eye of the waiters and host behind the hostess stand. Hmmm...luckily 11:31 rolled around (ha!), and we were welcomed in and seated near the window in a booth. I've learned over the years to not complain in restaurants with Jackie so I held in my past comments of, "let's go somewhere else," or even tougher to the waitress, "I can't believe the host, which acted like the restaurant's manager, ignored us, standing in the rain trying to get in the place," and "how rude". But I've learned after 17 years, I'm wasting my breath. I do think most of the time Jackie is right here.

We loved the feel of the well-lighted large restaurant and we had a wonderful waitress, Anika, that came on over and got our drink order. Chloe was starving, so with her order of lemonade, we ordered her lunch. This is something I've learned over the years when taking children to lunch, don't make them wait with the adults for their meal when they're hungry. Chloe ordered the kid's spaghetti with marinara. She was so excited because she hadn't had spaghetti yet on our trip. And it was out first and she went to town on it. My Itouch was the perfect thing to whip out of my purse, they didn't have crayons and the usual coloring book menu, so she enjoyed watching "G Force", which is about Guinea pigs. I think she watched that movie 10 times on this trip!

I ordered off the specials menu and got the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with two fresh corn tortillas with cabbage, radishes, cilantro with a chipolte aioli sauce with black beans and rice. I loved, loved the freshness of the tortilla and the crunch of the cabbage and radishes and you know I love cilantro. These were some of the best fish tacos I've had. I mean that.

I did pull a rare thing and ordered an appetizer with Chloe's lunch. I ordered the Trio of Hummus for a light snack, we all were really hungry since we got up at Dana's and took the train in from Springfield to DC and had to check in. I enjoyed comparing the three dips and liked the Kalamata Hummus over the Sun-dried Tomato and Traditional Hummus. I loved the fresh, thin sliced cucumbers and flat bread to dip with. Jackie wasn't too into the Hummus, but what do you expect from an appetizer-hater?

Jackie ordered the fish sandwich served with shoestring fries also off the specials menu. He did make the comment that he liked the fries back at Beck's but these were good nonetheless. Luckily he shared a bite of his sandwich which was Mahi Mahi topped with red onions and a remoulade slaw. Very good and very huge!

To my surprise while researching this good restaurant, I found out it is a chain with locations all over the country. Amazing! We did like our experience at the Daily Grill, the place was very packed when we left, full of professionals galore.

I added a picture of Chloe climbing the steps of the Supreme Court!

The Daily Grill, 1200 8th St. NW, Washington DC, 202-822-5282 www.dailygrill.com

The Gage, Chicago

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It was another beautiful day in Chicago! Even though I knew about the time change this morning, I was still up at 'em. Wendy had another working day, so she and the girls slept in. I was ready to move it along, and ran another 6 miles then got inside just in time during a spring rain shower. I was ready to get packed and out of their way. Her girls are so sweet in the morning...I love, love the mornings, that's where I just am every day...nights, not so much...

We got it together and ventured downtown before her workday. We were headed to the Chicago Institute of Art for lunch, but they were going to charge us the museum fee to eat at the cafe so we went across the street to the Gage. We had planned to tour the museum but ran out of time. The Gage is located just around the corner from the Symphony Hall. It featured a nice cold air nook over the front entrance, and we were delighted to be seated right away on this Sunday afternoon. We were offered bottled or tap water and of course, we got tap. Unless you live in area with bad water like a third world country, why would you ever get bottled? What a waste of bottles and energy.

Our waiter offered the day's specials and we both went with the daily soup and half sandwich. The soup was Turnip Soup, it was so creamy but really needed some salt and pepper. Wendy and I both agreed it was quite bland. But oh the sandwich....I ordered the Fire Roasted Chicken sandwich with blue cheese, fresh basil, Frank's hot sauce on Cuban bread. I loved, loved it. Wendy ordered the Roasted Woodland Mushroom sandwich with watercress, radicchio, pecorino and truffle ailoi on a toasted malt roll. Of the two, hers was our favorite! Both our orders came with french fries and Wendy asked for mayonnaise instead of ketchup for hers because everyone in Paris does that...okay, I tried it and it wasn't bad I will say. Another new thing to try back home! We loved our efficient waiter and having another meal to talk about old times and our girls.

The Gage is a beautiful restaurant located across the street from The Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Ave. You'll love, love the feel of the restaurant. Wendy says the symphony goers rave about dinner before a performance.

The Gage, 24 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago,IL 312-372-4342 www.thegagechicago.com Check out this beautiful website!

Gaetano's, Forest Park, IL

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

On my second day in the windy city, Wendy and Eran took me to one of their favorite restaurants only a mile away from Forest Park where they live. We had a 6:30 reservation for the bar where we could see the kitchen. Gaetano is a middle aged culinary wonder. He is a musician himself and made a memorable performance in his kitchen for us last night. He was so welcoming to us, like seeing old friends. When Wendy told him she wanted him to cook for us the Chef's Tasting Menu, he took up our menus (which I have to confess I wanted to see) and gave us ice-less water with a thin slice of cucumber and opened a bottle of Pino Grigio. He said he wasn't a big fan of the Grigio but he liked this one because it was similar to a chardonnay. It was hearty and smooth, we all enjoyed it.

When the waitstaff brought over fresh made bread sticks with chickpea garlic puree, Eran immediately said to me, "you better hold off on that, you'll get full quick". I wasn't sure if these two had ever eaten here off the menu, they were such regulars and knew what to expect. But of course, I had to try this appetizer, little did I know the three of us would be served 9 courses. Yes nine, that's not a typo.

The first course was sashimi tuna with sesame vinegar and toasted garlic....we all were amazed, good crunch, delish. Second course, celery root with stuffed morel mushrooms and butternut squash...this one was really good and earthy. Next, shaved pear and cucumber salad with tomato vinegar, salt and pepper....a really light salad that was so, so fresh and crunchy. Sauteed spinach was next, super fresh and just right. Next was cooked Tuna with truffle aioli sauce, then cream of eggplant with fresh mozzarella and pancetta, keep in mind here that there were only three servings of each of these tastings...when I read this it looks like some kind of ginormous feast. In the middle of really enjoying the complexity of each tasting, we rehashed the Brian Koons slapping incident. Brian is Wendy's brother who is ten years older than us. Let me set it up for you...I spent the night with Wendy when we were in the fifth or sixth grade and Wendy's parents made a sit down meal. Brian was there, he was at least a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma. During dinner Brian kept grabbing my feet under the table with his toes. I believe I kept telling him to stop, it was totally embarrassing me. So the next round of pinching I just slapped him in the face...I guess we were sitting next to each other and I don't know where that came from because I don't hit and wasn't raised in that type of family, but the table erupted in laughter, I was totally red and embarrassed again and so was Brian. I think this is a favorite story to tell among the Koons. Wendy and Eran and I just laughed rehashing that night....hahahaha!

Well, let's move on to the tastings, we were served a fabulous bottle of Cabernet for the rest of the meal. It was a Vaca California Cab, 2006 small lot reserve, that Gaetanto said wasn't sold to the public. We loved its depth and was great with the complexity of the each course. Next was a brie and crawfish beignet with ginger sauce reduction, grits with marscapone and morel mushrooms topped with pecorino cheese, these were among our favorite. Although we loved them all because of their size.

By this time, Eran and I were done, totally full, I didn't have the strength to write down two of the next courses, as we sipped on the fabulous cabernet. When we told the waiters that we were done, to hold off bringing us any more dishes, another one arrived.

Thankfully dessert was next and I ordered up coffee to help me come back to earth. The dessert was the most unique, as if the previous courses were so usual. It was three spoons of panna cotta cheese, drizzled with olive oil with tiramisu in a flower pot (pic #4). Eran blurted out, "that just says *&^%!", we all erupted in laughter. I was through at this point but was forced, of course, to try it. I did and it was one of the best things I have ever had for dessert.

This is an outstanding restaurant, one of the best dining experiences in my life. None of us slept that night because of all the rich food! You must, must go to this restaurant, request the Chef's Tasting and arrive hungry. You will not be disappointed.

Gatonno's, 7676 W. Madison, Forest Park, IL www.gaetanos.com

Lao Sze Chaun, Chicago

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wendy picked this award-wining Chinese restaurant located in Chicago's Chinatown, which was just a few miles from the Symphony Hall on Michigan Ave. I got to drive in Chicago for the first time picking Wendy up from rehearsal for the Chicago Symphony's performance of Bach's Saint John's Passion. I was thrilled to get to see Symphony Hall again. She invited me to see Sting perform on a Tuesday night last May in the Hall and it was unbelievable, so I was equally excited about Friday's performance in the Hall. On my driving in Cook County, it was a little scary for this Memphis driver, the cabs were in and out of traffic like mad. And I certainly didn't want to be in charge of repairing Eran's Maxima if I wrecked it. Luckily, no wrecks were had so we were off to her favorite China Town establishment.

It was a healthy-packed restaurant located in a strip mall in China Town. Lae Sze Chuan opened in 1998 by Tony Hu, after graduating from the Culinary Institute in Sze Chaun, China. This restaurant is world famous and recognized by the motto, "one style for one dish, a hundred dishes have a hundred different tastes". And that's exactly what we got...We were seated immediately and our waitress brought water and spicy cabbage to the table. Wendy loved the cabbage and I did too. We had to wait on high school friend Brett Gardner to show up for dinner and when he arrived he said, "this reminds me of Garfield's". And it did to both of us since we've been friends with Brett and his family for more than 22 years. Wendy, Brett and I all went to different high schools in Oklahoma City, having a friend in common during those years, and remain a close crew always reminiscing about old times with each other. We would eat out at the Oklahoma City chain Garfield's a lot. And it's ironic that Brett and Wendy live in the same town now, fun times!

So with our cabbage going on empty, Wendy ordered up the Szechuan String Beans, Crab Ragoon, Sliced Tender Pork with garlic sauce, Tony's Chicken with Three Chili and last and overly not least, the Chinese Eggplant in garlic sauce. If you read my blog, you know I try and never splurge on a giant meal due to my calorie counting, etc, but good lord that was a lot of food! My favorite was the Chinese Eggplant, Wendy and Brett both loved the pork and spicy chicken. The food was delicious and we enjoyed Tsing Tao beer and white wine with our dinner. The eggplant was great with the steamed white rice. I loved the crab ragoon as well, crunchy and perfect. The spicy chicken with three chilies was crispy chicken with red pepper flakes cooked in red chilies. I loved it's spicy kick and went well with the rich eggplant. Our conversation was great, it is always divine to catch up with old friends when the conversation is so easy. Brett owns a very successful lighting business in Chicago, he just got back from the Grammy's, Wendy is hugely successful with the CSO and then there's me, busy with work and community service. What a great time catching up!

No dessert for us but we, of course, opened our Fortune Cookies. Mine said "you will have success in your business", Brett's said something about love and Wendy didn't get one, dang it. We all cracked up at the cookies, I think mine was meant for Brett!

Lao Sze Chaun is a really good, authentic Chinese restaurant and reasonably priced, our food and drink tab was $70 for three. It is a great place to go for real Chinese food and a great place to catch up with old friends.

Lao Sze Chuan, 2172 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL, 312-326-5040 www.laoszechuan.com Check out the many awards and compliments they've received!!

Birdeye Daffodils

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh...it was a busy day today! I rarely blog about anything not food related but after school Chloe greeted me with a huge bouquet of Winnie Bob's daffodils. She did this too last Wednesday that I've had on my kitchen island for a week. I am blessed to have Winnie Bob's legacy of flowers that usually start Valentine's through April 15, that's two months of being able to have fresh flowers in my home. I am so thankful for this.

I was busy today packing for a weekend in Chicago with best friend Wendy who will be taking me to see her symphony Friday and tour me around her fabulous city. But it was so sweet to me when Chloe said, "mom, I have something for you....(when I was packing in the back)....here, these are for you!". I had the good goose bumps realizing how much I'll miss her for a couple of days.

Of course I've left Jackie four days worth of duties including Music Club Friday, an overnight Birthday Party for her best friend Bailey Bigger, piano practice, and a chapter of math practice to be done by Monday. I haven't listed the chicken chores, refrigerator duties and picking up before Donna comes, but I guess Jackie won't be sitting on the couch....

I look forward to my first trip to Chicago this year. I love, love Chicago and it's culture, arts, food and of course, the best symphony in the world. I'll blog soon about the places we eat....safe flight!

PS. I will add flowers throughout this spring, we have over a dozen varieties of daffodils that will come up over the coming months...

PSS. I will take time to write in my journal for Chloe. This is a tradition I started for her when she was born. For some reason, I want to write to her in case I'm not there to tell her about all the wonderful things she's doing and I've included her growth in stories, how she surprises me and shows me what an individual she'll be. It's amazing this motherhood. Chloe is a gift that I'll treasure in my heart forever. More journaling tonight, it's my habit when I get on a plane or travel without her. She's the love of my life. (That journal is in my nightstand Kara, just in case...just sayin...lol!)

Ashley's, Little Rock

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jackie picked the Capital Hotel via Travelocity for the Little Rock Marathon. It was his second and my third Little Rock Half Marathon. The Capital Hotel was just two blocks from the start line of the race, and is popular for it's luxurious rooms and southern charm. Kara made reservations for the runners in the hotel's famous Ashley's restaurant. Our table of 12 was seated right away in the middle of the dining room. We were offered cocktails when we were seated but since Kara already told me about the Chef's Tasting Menu that comes with wine pairings, I passed on the cocktails but others in our party ordered up beverages. Five of us were running the race in the morning so none of us were interested in doing anything else than carbing up and going to bed early.

We had a wonderful, attentive waiter that presented the Chef's Tasting Menu. Due to the complexity and length of the menu, he asked that the entire table participate in the tasting menu. For the first time in the history of our friends, we all agreed to the $95 per person order. I wondered if it was a full moon when we all ordered, it wasn't. Nevertheless, we all had a good time catching up and talking about our children, friends and colleagues. And Jessica and I were busy planning this year's girls trip. We can't wait!

Now to the menu, I'll try to shorten it but let you in on the entire dining experience, it was over the top, perfect. The food and the pairings were divine. L.B. was so sweet, a romantic, he kept giving his gluten-free portions to Jessica, I thought that was so sweet. The small courses featured Char Grilled Oysters, Rabbit Loin, Mississippi Sole, Veal Skirt Steak, Artisanal American Cheeses, and the wonderful dessert of Creme Brulee served in an egg, it was so good. I needed a bigger egg!

We were also blessed at the end of our meal with a tour of the kitchen. Yes, Kara knew about this. A waitress showed us the stove, pots, dry storage, pastry section et all. Amazing, I think she said the stove was $250,000. The kitchen is overseen by Chef Lee Richardson, a native of New Orleans, he was nice in meeting all of us in his kitchen. I kept thinking not to touch my hair. The Chef is nationally known and was a finalist for the Best Chef in the South for the James Beard Award two years in a row. I added a pic of our kitchen tour!

Chloe also ran her first foot race, the Little Rocker's Marathon. Children ages 8-11 run 25 one mile jaunts in the three months previous to the race. She and best friend Anna Claire Burrow ran together on Saturday and she had a great time.

Ashley's was a wonderful experience for all of us. I loved the pairings, we didn't get a full glass of wine with each tasting which was perfect due to our early rising on Sunday for the race. If you order off the menu, entrees run around $45. Ashley's is well worth the splurge, you'll be blessed with local grown produce and items that are innovating and fresh. We also enjoyed the fresh baked bread that kept coming from the kitchen that we all wanted for the race. We had a wonderful time Chef Lee, we'll be back, and thank you for the tour of your wonderful kitchen.

PS. A shout out for the Capital Hotel...our Travelocity reservation was $128 for the handicapped room. When we checked in, the heater was stuck in the on position. You know me, I need hotel rooms cold, so I called for engineering to come up. They couldn't get it repaired so wonderful Leslie in guest services called us up and moved us to another room. The hotel was booked so we were moved to the Presidential Suite. It was unbelievable with a full dining room, two baths and a huge bedroom. It had an adjoining door to another part of the suite. When Chloe walked in to the new room, she started doing the Cabbage Patch dance singing, "look at our new room, look at our new room!" We loved it!! And we enjoyed our $128 tab for the giant suite!

Our pre-race photo is in the lobby of the Capital!!

Ashley's, Capital Hotel, Markham & Louisiana, Little Rock, AR, 501-374-7474 www.capitalhotel.com/Ashleyswebsite

Bread Winners Cafe, Dallas

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On this beautiful Sunday morning in Dallas, Leigh Anne, Doug and I ventured into this Dallas chain. Luckily we beat the Sunday church crowd when we got there, the place was packed when we left. We were promptly seated by the window with a good view of the cafe. It was new with stained concrete floors, brick walls and lots of windows. Very clean and the cases were full of pastry delights and homemade dog treats that I got for Chloe's dog Biscuit.

Our waiter was Snowden and offered us all coffee and Doug ordered the sticky bun and OMG, it was divine. Once we got into it, I wanted to put it in my carry on but decided I better not. Jacqueline also joined us and it was great to see her again. She's so sweet and very fashionable. I think Leigh Anne and Jacqueline should be personal shoppers. They have the "know how" on clothes and accessories. It's always fun to be with them. I added a pic of some of the hostess for the shower, Jacqueline is second from right.

Back to the food, there was a menu with Sunday Brunch items and the waiter suggested I order the Benedict special which was the Club Benedict with bacon, asparagus and those wonderful poached eggs on top. It was good and huge as I left half of it in tact. It was served with Rosemary Brunch Potatoes that were really good. Leigh Anne ordered the Special Casserole with asparagus and ham. We all enjoyed re-hashing the wonderful baby shower which was hosted by Leigh Anne's Junior League friends and of course me, Jacqueline and Maria. It was a wonderful weekend in Dallas.

Bread Winners is a good bakery bistro that also serves dinner. Leigh Anne and Jacqueline said that dinner was good but overpriced. Our brunch today was perfect and only $21.00 for my part but the coffee was $2.59 per cup. I picked up a loaf of the Cinnamon Raisin Bread and those dog treats for Biscuit. That bread was amazing and Biscuit said the treats were good since he and Tu Jague finished them off late that night.

Bread Winners Cafe, 5560 Lovers Lane, Dallas 214-754-4940 www.breadwinnerscafe.com