We celebrated my wife’s birthday at Coda Di Volpe Southern Italian Restaurant located in the Lakeview area on Southport Avenue of Chicago last evening.
It was a fabulous choice with a very attentive service staff and fantastic food. Our family always loved Italian food, but we have not experimented that much with Southern Italian food with its distinctive flavours and superb taste. This was probably the first time that we delved deep into that cuisine, I would say.
I did not drink wine during the dinner (is that not very surprising), but my wife and daughter tried a Pinot Noir, the Terre Nere Nerello Mascalese 2015, which they said was excellent.
Our selection of dishes was amazing – for appetizers we selected the Bruschetta di Burrata (the puglian Burrata cheese is rather enticing) and Vegetable Antipasti. The Antipasti comprised of marinated black and green olives, pickled veggies, eggplant and grilled summer squash – a great choice for wine drinkers, I would say.
For the main course, we ordered two pizzas and two kinds of pastas. The pizzas were Quattro Formaggi and Funghi – both vegetarian, and the pastas were Bucatini Pomodoro and Ricotta Gnocchetti, again both vegetarian. All were outstanding – flavourful, tasty, and healthy. I loved the Funghi Pizza which had roasted mushrooms (I have always love mushrooms), cherry tomatoes, mustard greens, garlic, oregano, fior di latte cheese, and pecorino blue cheese. My son went for Chicken Diavola which he said was very good as well.
Since this was a surprise dinner ahead of the actual birthday, my family arranged with the chef for bringing out a nice cake at the end of the dinner with a candle on it, and my wife was very close to guessing it. However, before any further deliberations, the cake arrived, with again a detailed explanation of the constituents of the cake by the senior service staff member who attended to us throughout the dinner. This is a big difference from anywhere else – knowing that most of the clientele are not well versed with the unique characteristics of the exotic food from Southern Italy, the service staff are trained to explain every nuance of all the dishes in great detail. I believe that such explanations go to serve a greater understanding of what we were having for dinner, and develop a keen sense of appreciation for specific food choices. The knowledge of food makes us wiser when suggesting restaurants or food types to our guests – be it in corporate or private setting.
Overall, Coda Di Volpe was an excellent restaurant with great service. If I have to call out one deficiency, it was the portion size for Pastas – too small for one person I should say. This forces people to order the bigger portion, which is probably the right size for one person!
I would strongly recommend this restaurant to all Italian food lovers.
30th June 2017
On the first day of our visit to Dallas, we wanted to try out Indian food (this is the default choice when there is a group of Indians trying to explore the local culinary scene, I am sure you can believe this!). We asked the concierge at our hotel, and he said that there is only one in the downtown area within walking distance and so we set out to discover how Indian food is faring in the heart of downtown Dallas.
We went to “Spice in The City Dallas” on Commerce Street. The restaurant looked stylish and different from the regular run-of-the-mill Indian restaurants. It looked like a fine dining restaurant from the outside surrounded by office blocks.
We were hungry and did not waste time exploring the whole menu. We ordered Papad Basket, Saag Paneer, Vegetable Korma, Yellow Lentil Dhal, and Garlic Naans. We were surprised and disappointed when the dishes arrived at our table.
The Papads were extremely oily (dripping with old oil). None of the dishes were tasty and each one of them lacked even little amount of salt or spice or chilli. The dhal was a huge disappointment with the lentils individually sticking out of the bowl with no creamy hold on the dhal surface providing an even taste. The korma was messy. The naans were actually thick flatbreads. Overall, it was a bad lunch. I don’t understand how Trip Advisor and Yelp could have given such positive ratings. We later told our colleagues to give this restaurant a miss.
On the other hand, our experience at Cafe Herrera and Meso Maya, both serving Mexican food in downtown Dallas, was very good – the food was excellent, the service was great, and the menus were comprehensive. Mexican food is a good alternative to folks seeking spicy food, and we were not disappointed. The only challenge is that the wrong choice of sauces could send you scattering looking for an exit, so be very careful when you insist on spicy sauce for the Mexican main course. It could simply stun you out of your senses. There is nothing like that in Indian or Chinese food.
We thought the hotel food (at the hotel where we were staying in downtown) may not be great, but we were surprised to see a fantastic breakfast spread for USD 15 (cold) and USD 22 (hot). There were some unhealthy offerings at the breakfast, but then most of the choices were good – like the amazing variety of expensive fruits for example, hot potatoes with red skin, hot medley of vegetables with lots of onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, scrambled eggs, omelettes made to order, a variety of breads, nuts, yoghurt, etc.,
Dallas is a great place for Mexican food – of course, I have not tried much of the other foods that Dallas offers, but my guess is that Dallas specializes in Mexican.
One of our colleagues had brought MTR fast food from Singapore, and so we tried that food in our hotel room late into night along with some drinks, and that was an outstanding experience as well.
It was good to be back in Dallas after a gap of two years.
28th May 2017
My readers have come to expect atleast one weighty topic of global importance every weekend. I usually like writing about topics which are of public importance in a global sense. Of course, I also love writing about my wines and sundry things that I have accomplished in my life. Life is interesting if we set out to make it more colourful in a passionate way. I try to do that occasionally, and nowadays more often than not.
I read about this new Cafe in Changi Village called “Chock Full of Beans” which serves unique lattes with 3D art and a rose latte. I was intrigued. What is a rose latte and why haven’t I heard of it till now, not seen it at any of the myriad coffee shops that I have patronized for so long?
So I decided to check it out. My wife and I drove 25 KMs to reach Changi Village (I have been to this place only twice in the past so far) – probably considered as a “long distance” drive in Singapore! On the way back, we drove nearly 30 KMs. All just to have a latte? Looks like, right?
Well, we reached Changi Village with all its limited parking availability, and were lucky to find one just opposite to the block housing the Cafe. There was a lot of people milling around due to the ferry terminal just next door, though the vehicular traffic was light. We located the Chock Full of Beans Cafe, which was not crowded at 4:45 PM, though one would expect it to be. Later I found the reason – there were a series of cafes around the place, and many local eateries wherein one can get coffee for SGD 1.80. Further, had Chock Full of Beans were not covered in the newspaper, I would not have discovered it. My guess is many people don’t know about such cafes, and even if they do, would find it difficult to traverse the distance for just having a coffee.
Now, let us look at the real product offering. Of course, we came for Rose Latte and so we ordered the hot one after engaging in a conversation with the waiter on which is better – hot or cold, and which one is more preferred. The answer was typical – 50:50! We also ordered some truffle fries so that we can check out how they are in the food department. We did not try anything else from their Western Food Menu (you can view the same at CHOCK FULL OF BEANS), so we cannot comment on their overall food quality.
It took a long while to get even the coffee (more than 10 minutes), which is fine with us, as were anyway chatting about everything under the sun and what was going on around us. We noticed that there were several restaurants across the road in the opposite block – a French restaurant (!) and an Indian one with “Shalom” written on their banner outside (!!). I did not see any ferry travellers in the Cafe. I told my wife that travellers will usually be in a rush to get on to their ferry, and upon returning will rush back home, so it is unlikely that they walk around looking for coffee with their luggage.
Th Rose Latte finally arrived. My wife liked the rose petals floating on the coffee and the bunny pic on the face of the coffee. The Cafe would do 3D art on the coffee provided they get adequate time to do the art work. The coffee smelled nice, and tasted fine with the rose essence emanating from it. My wife liked it, but then she asked me to finish it off as she could not take a lot of it. As we had originally asked for very less sugar, it was fine with me, though I don’t understand why almost all cafes deliver the lattes at lower temperatures – my wife says that they mix cold milk instead of hot milk like what we do at home. So, if you order latte, ask the cafe to deliver it real hot. I would give only a passing grade to their Rose Latte, may be 3.5 out of 5.0, so there was some disappointment in my face.
The truffle fries were a bigger disappointment. The quality was not great, and the quantity was small for the price they were charging. Truffle fries usually are more expensive than the normal fries due to the cheese, but I have had far better quality and quantity at similar prices in the town itself. So, on this count as well I have to state that the cafe quality was average.
Overall, it was OK to have travelled more than 50 KMs in all to have a coffee; the question is, what else can we do in Singapore and how to optimize available time. One has to try out new things which crop up, and one has to express what one thinks in a blog post like this!
Thanks for reading a not so great post about an average experience. Let me look for better experiences.
14th May 2017
I don’t know how many people read about this report by the U.N. which was presented to the Security Council last week.
Starvation. Famine. Deaths. Irreversible losses in economic development. 20M people affected. Scary headlines, covered in almost all major news media. But does anyone care?
Most countries are currently in the process of getting their national budgets approved by their respective parliaments. During the year starting 1st April 2017, more than a trillion dollars will be spent just by the top 20 countries in the world, just only on defence – military expenditures and investments. The U.S. alone will spend nearly 600B dollars on its defences, dwarfing every other nation on the earth.
How much money flows to impoverished countries on the planet? Far less than a trillion dollars every year. The U.N. Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien says that he needs USD 4.4B by July 2017 if significant positive impact needs to be made to save people from disaster and death. Is that too much? It is not even 1% of a trillion dollars, and here we are talking about children dying because of lack of nutrition, food, water and shelter.
This is a very precarious situation, not just for the four affected countries (Yemen, South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria and Somalia), but is likely to spread across Africa if urgent actions are not taken. The U.N. should be ashamed for not pushing the envelope on this matter to all its member countries and demand that immediate financial assistance be rushed to the affected countries. Yemen is plagued by a non-stop war which is utterly destroying that country and its people, and the U.N. has failed to stop the war. Things are going from very bad to really worse, and should the rest of the world take urgent notice? It should, and take expeditious actions to avoid the onset of famine and deaths (especially among children).
Intervention is key to not just halting the war in Yemen and South Sudan, but also to stopping the famine from taking root. Other countries have to intervene and stop the people from self-destruction and warring.
If children under the age of 5 are malnourished or severely impacted by famine, then the results will be disastrous for their future. The world cannot afford to let this situation continue.
Saudi Arabia should stop bombing Yemen which has caused untold misery amongst the people of Yemen. While there is not much news coverage on the Yemen situation, it can be culled out by concerted searches which would reveal the scope of the disaster confronting the poor Yemeni people who have been bombed out of shape by Saudi Arabia with military aid from the U.S. and the U.K. This is not a positive situation, and over the past two years, Yemen has gone from really bad to really worse. And continuing military actions have to completely stop with full access to the U.N. Humanitarian teams to provide urgent relief to the people.
The latest U.N. report covers only 4 countries, but makes for a very sorry reading. Can the world devote resources to avert famine and malnourishment in the affected countries – can each nation dedicate at least 0.1% of their national budgets to Africa? Can the U.N. Security Council act fast? Can the U.S. step in and show its magnanimity? Can Europe do something? Can China and India do something positive to alleviate the sufferings of these folks? We are talking about the poor people of Africa, who are already totally impoverished and with no access to food or water.
Come on, we just cannot sit there quietly and read the news papers and the internet and watch the cable TV channels. We got to do something impactful. Let us write to our respective governments. How about contributing just USD 10 every month to the U.N. Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund? Let me go and check on that.
OK here it is –
Look up for yourself. Your money will go directly to the emergency relief fund. There is no politician here!
Cheers, and No Cheers,
12th March 2017
Even if I eat a little food, I feel full in the stomach. Such is the situation for several years now. I did food analysis, consulted doctors, talked to friends, researched on the internet, and what not. No use. The moment I complete even a small meal, I felt like bloated. This was lousy feeling to say the least.
However, I noticed one thing. If I just eat cooked vegetables (without rice), I felt good and not so full. Increasingly, I went for baby kai lan, greens, bean sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, some potato, bitter gourd, etc., with some little rice topped with chicken gravy. It resulted in good feeling after the meal. I strongly believe that “good feeling” is a critical ingredient for success in everything one does, so I shifted my food habits.
In case I went to an Indian restaurant (as against the Chinese food described above), I prefer to eat dosas – such as plain dosas or masala dosas. The lunch should never consist of heavy Indian meal with rice and a variety of other stuff. If I went to an Italian restaurant, I take some penne pasta with chicken (since there is not much choice for an anti-carb person).
In between meals, I take some nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios) and tea. The tea is a good anti-oxidant. Plant nuts are excellent for general good health. Sometimes, I take yoghurt with fruits on top of it (like grapes, blueberries, et al). Again, this is a wonderful component in one’s food composition.
In all of the above, I tried to eliminate white rice as much as possible. The past couple of weeks of “no rice” has produced excellent body response to my dietary changes. I have been challenged many a time by folks at home as to my antipathy towards taking rice, and it has been difficult to explain matters of health to regular family folks who do not subscribe to dietary restrictions or changes which they think are weird to start with.
However, if you overcome these challenges and adopt a “no rice” food regimen, I guarantee that you would see the improvement in just a few days. You would feel “light”, energetic, active, and cheerful. I am not joking, just try it for a week and then tell me if I am correct. I know for sure that Indians cannot stay away from rice for too long. But, I am determined to carry on with my new food regimen for as long as possible despite objections from family members who think I am crazy.
At the end of the day, I feel good with myself, and that, I believe is very important. I don’t wish to feel bloated and heavy. I want to feel good. I wish to feel active and energetic all the time. I don’t want to fade out however, so I watch my movements carefully and keep myself hydrated and ingested with some nuts or fruits most of the time.
I am observing the results, and will wait for a month before declaring success.
Worth trying out for all of us, I guess.
9th October 2016
Our family decided to go for a real “bistro” experience in Singapore recently over the past weekend.
We chose the Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro in Tanglin after some research. There are many bistros in Singapore, so choosing one is a tough proposition. One has to take a chance and try out a few.
The Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro experience was good, I would rate them good on the food and service. The ambience, while offering a decent environment, was marred by a lot of noise from a very crowded place on a Saturday morning, with many folks waiting to get in without making a reservation. I would not go for breakfast or lunch, but may be for a nice cup of coffee and pastries another time.
While my family members liked their respective food choices, I had some trouble dealing with an average spaghetti with mushroom meal (vegetarian) which was rather oily (a bit soggy) and defunct of a mushroom density that I had expected while ordering. I ordered the full or larger portion, but I got what appeared to be a half portion, so I checked with the waiter who confirmed it was a full portion indeed. I was surprised. In any case, this spaghetti was not on par with my other spaghetti experiences in Italian restaurants on the island.
The Truffle Fries was really good (better than the one at the famous PS Cafe), the Brownie Parfait and the Triple X Chocolate cake were simply outstanding. I would clearly vote for the Triple X spongy chocolate cake anyday – very well made and very delicious, though I had only couple of small pieces sliced off the big traingle of a cake.
I did not have the Erdinger beer (which I prefer while the choice of wine is limited) for two reasons – it was lunch time and I was driving. Almost everyone in the lunch scenario was having either a beer, a stout or a wine…….giving the impression that Singapore is fast approaching an European ambience at lunch, if only you care to walk into a tavern-based bistro like this one.
I was unhappy about the parking charges in the post office building in which the bakery bistro was located – they were overcharging……for a little over 2 hours, I paid SGD 7.81, which is rather criminal, given that outside the Central Business District (where this building is located, though very close to Orchard Road) it cost an average of SGD 2 per hour or even less. Unfortunately, such overcharging spoils one’s mood when one is exiting after a good lunch, though there may be no connection between the parking service and the bistro bakery itself. May be the bakery needs to advice the patrons to park elsewhere, may be at the cheaper Tanglin Mall across the road for instance.
In a nutshell, the Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro is a good choice for bistro lovers with a penchant for Western food, and eclectic drinks (such as the Berry Green which I tried out). Not inexpensive though. It was apparent many of the diners were there for the first time, as they were focused on taking pictures of the surroundings (the tavern experience), and taking selfies/mulfies, and even asking the waiters to take pictures of themselves.
7th August 2016
My family was looking for dinner options, and my wife came up with this suggestion of a Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant – the Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant located at Quality Hotel Marlow in Balestier Street.
This locale for a restaurant is not usual. I was not even aware there was such a place as the “Quality Hotel Marlow” in Singapore. After finding the place, we located the Lotus restaurant on the second floor of the hotel, and it looked like a traditional Chinese restaurant [we came to know that they are from Taiwan].
The food was good – all 100% vegetarian. But the service was terrible. In fact, it is better not to expect any service at all. Everything is self-service anyway. The variety of the spread is very good, lots of dim sum, vegetables, tofu, et al. Ice Kacang, anyone ? Ice Creams as well, but not great. Salads, pastas, available from special counters. Desserts were good. You have soups and drinks as well included in the buffet price of SGD 26.
I loved the brown rice and the variety of fried noodles. Good quality food.
The crowd inside the restaurant mostly appeared to be tourists staying at the hotel. There were few locals and hardly any Indians. I am used to my almost daily Chinese lunch, so the variety at Lotus proved to be a great enhancement.
Some folks won’t like it though. The taste buds may not work after all !
I would recommend this place for an early evening dinner, but go with a reservation. And, do not expect great service of any sort. Take care of yourself, all by yourself. Then you won’t regret.
Good Chinese food.
13th March 2016