Sarcoa Restaurant and Bar

Spontaneity is a wonderful thing.

A last minute decision to spend our summer night on a patio for dinner with my family turned out to be a wonderful experience. I haven’t made it down to Hamilton’s waterfront in a long time and was excited to try out a place my father suggested for dinner (his treat)! We wanted to enjoy the beautiful warm summer air, and could not have chosen a better place to do just that.

Sarcoa is located right on the waterfront with a beautifully designed patio and bar large enough to accommodate the many number of guests. The patio directly faces the water which offers the perfect backdrop for a sunset dinner.

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We started off at the bar and had a few drinks before heading over to our table. When I sat down, I immediately felt like I was on vacation, the atmosphere outside pulls off a classy, relaxing, resort-like feel which instantly calms you (the alcohol probably helped too).  The bar is long and spacious, the chairs are very comfortable and it provides a wonderful view of the water and passing boats. There were large umbrellas everywhere which I was happy to see, as it offered ample shade.

As we took our seats we were greeted by the chef who was also our waiter for the night – Ben. What a delight it was to share our evening with him. He knows the menu inside and out and his passion for great food is infectious.

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When we got our starters I knew I would have a lot to write about. The smoked brisket poutine is definitely something you need to experience. Although, I would recommend sharing it with a partner – the brisket was perfectly tender and the juice that came from it created a light savoury gravy that you most certainly didn’t feel guilty eating. The fries were crispy and thick with just a touch of salt – not soggy or greasy. Another starter we tried was the arugula salad. The  arugula was fresh, crisp, and topped with walnuts, feta, red onion and drizzled with a light dressing. The bitter and nutty flavours in the salad made for a delicious start to the meal. The caesar  salad had a creamy but light dressing with large strips of smoked bacon. I believe the croutons were toasted sour-dough, but I could be mistaken. Regardless they were a nice compliment to the salad that had the perfect amount of lemon tart and bite from the parmesan cheese.

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Our main dishes didn’t disappoint either. We were all equally pleased with the quality, quantity and level of freshness from our meals.

Chicken and waffles: I was especially looking forward to trying a bite of the chicken and waffles. It sounded amazing on the menu and when it arrived at our table, it looked even better. Although this dish is listed as an appetizer on the menu, the portion size could easily make it qualify as a main. The herb waffle was very interesting and played well with the white sausage gravy which was creamy yet not too heavy. It coated the chicken well and I was told there seemed to be hints of nutmeg in the dish.

Flank Steak: This dish was amazing – full of flavour. The bed of kimchi provided a nice, crisp and flavourful base for the steak to rest on.  Although the kimchi sauce was a bit too spicy for the person who had it, the heat didn’t stay on the tongue for long. Again, the sauce was light and didn’t overwhelm the dish. The steak was tender, juicy and cooked to medium rare. The dish also came with mushrooms and a smoked pepper puree.

Roasted Chicken: I chose this dish after long contemplating the daily pasta. I was very pleased with my choice (although the pasta was just as delicious – more on that in a second). The chicken was cooked to perfection. The skinless breast was lightly browned to a satisfying crisp and was so juicy and tender. My favourite part about this dish was the gnocchi. In the beginning we couldn’t figure out how they managed to bring so much flavour to what can normally be a bland dish. The large cubes were hand made early that morning, cooked and seared in a pan briefly in butter which provided a nice smoky flavour. I also enjoyed that the chicken came with edamame as it added nice colour to the dish and a contrasting texture.

Daily Pasta: The pasta of the day came with chorizo, red onion, cherry tomatoes, spinach and a creamy white wine sauce topped with parmesan on a bed of Tagliatelle pasta. The reason I was so torn between this dish and the chicken was the chorizo. I love chorizo. I knew I would be able to sneak a couple bites of the pasta so decided I’d be safe to try the chicken. The pasta itself was cooked well, not too soft or undercooked. The sauce was full of flavours which balanced well with the thick chunks of chorizo. There was a healthy amount of spinach and tomatoes making this a very colourful and filling dish.

Bed of Greens with Pan Seared Arctic Char: For a lighter meal, if you’re full from your chicken and waffles appetizer, the salads are a great option. A wonderful feature on the menu allows you to add their grilled flank steak, berbere rubbed chicken, or pan seared arctic char to the salad. The greens came with a light tangy dressing, shaved carrots, pickled mushrooms and asparagus. The Arctic char was obviously fresh and flaky with a mild flavour (not too fishy) and minimal seasoning. A very refreshing summer option!

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You’d think we were full by now (we were) and rolling around on the floor, but we couldn’t pass up a glance at the desert menu. Of course an innocent glance resulted in us all ordering desert. I had the cocoa nib crusted milk chocolate cheesecake that came with a home made pistachio ice cream. The cheesecake was out of this world. The coating was crunchy and chewy and the cheesecake was moist and rich. The ice cream was full of pistachio chunks which were so tasty. It also came with dark chocolate ganache, which was out of this world. It was so rich and went wonderfully with the chocolate cheesecake.

We also ordered the green tea creme brulee with caramel foam (yes, caramel foam) and banana ice cream. This desert is new to their menu and the flavour combinations are so creative and well thought out. I got a chance to try the caramel foam, but was too slow for the creme brulee. Not to worry, I hear it was delicious! The caramel foam was light and airy and had just enough caramel flavour to compliment the green tea brulee.

As Sarcoa states itself, this restaurant is a beautiful place with beautiful food. The atmosphere is inviting and trendy and the food matches this style with beautiful presentation and creative pairings. All dishes are made from scratch in house.

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Oh, and don’t forget the view of course!

Sarcoa Restaurant and Bar is located at 57 Discovery Drive in Hamilton, ON.

Happy eating!

-Rach

Sarcoa on Urbanspoon

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Melodia Mediterranean Cuisine and Bar

I went out for dinner with my grandma (cute, right?) and one of my moms friends last night to Melodia in Burlington. It’s a fairly new restaurant located across the street from the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. Their menu is quite large, with a variety of options to serve all dietary needs. I chose this placed based on this perk and the fact that they had a nice selection of seafood too. I had spoken to a few of my friends and family members who live in Burlington about Melodia and a common theme was that it didn’t seem to be very busy – even though its located in a prime spot in downtown Burlington. This worried me but based on some positive reviews I read online, I decided to try it out anyways.

When I arrived, there was no one in the restaurant. Granted I got there at around 5:45PM, over the course of our dinner only two other parties showed up by the time 8:30PM rolled around. Yes, its a Tuesday night but the downtown was bustling and there were people walking around everywhere.

If you care at all about the interior, it was very open and bright with lots of windows. The decor was nice and the restaurant itself was clean and inviting.

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When I came into the restaurant our table was set and ready with chilled water. I’m mentioning this only because I think it was a nice touch having the water ready to go as I arrived. As the first person there I had something to sip on without having to wait for the server.

I really wanted to try the mussels and had been planning on ordering them in a lemon dill cream sauce. I had been dreaming about them all week and was pretty disappointed when I was told they didn’t have any. The owner confirmed with me that the batch they had wasn’t fresh enough to serve and in the end I’m thankful he made the decision not to serve them.

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Instead of the mussels, I tried the Greek bruschetta which was really delicious – the toasted baguette was crispy on the edges and fluffy on the inside with lots of fresh toppings. I really enjoyed the feta cheese, it was perfectly moist and not overly salty. I finished all four of these (I was hungry!). My grandma ordered a creamy lemon chicken soup which was the soup of the day. She enjoyed thoroughly. Luckily I managed to sneak a spoonful before it was all gone. It was a hearty soup, lots of ingredients and shaved pieces of chicken – the seasoning was nice and had the perfect amount of lemon. This bowl was also cleared out (she was hungry too!)

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Before our meals arrived, we were brought a basket of warm pita wedges with oil and vinegar mixed with spices and herbs to dip. This was SO good. I couldn’t stop eating it. I love balsamic, but whatever combination of herbs they got goin’ on in there – its perfectly yummy!

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For our main courses we ordered the lamb chops, shrimp a la scampi and Melodia’s rolled chicken breast. I have to be honest and say I was a little underwhelmed with my shrimp dish. The vegetables were great but the rice was somewhat bland and the shrimp didn’t ‘wow’ me. I admit I’ve never had shrimp a la scampi before, so correct me if I’m wrong, but when the menu says the shrimp comes “with garlic butter sauce” I expected to see some sauce on my shrimp. What I got was basically shrimp topped with a seasoned bread crumb mixture, with butter and garlic – then toasted in an oven. I will say that the shrimp was cooked well and flavourful, however it just didn’t meet my expectations.

The rolled chicken dish came with roasted lemon potatoes. The lemon flavour was very strong and if I had ordered that dish, I would barely be able to finish them. The chicken however was delicious, tender and stuffed full of spinach, roasted red peppers and cheese then topped with a lemon raspberry sauce. The sauce was very interesting – it complimented the flavours in the chicken well and added to the overall dish.

I didn’t manage to try a bite of the lamb chops as I’m not a huge fan of them to begin with, but the woman eating them could be considered one of the worlds greatest critics of lamb, so I trusted her opinion when she told me the lamb was “very good”. Both the chicken and the lamb dishes also came with Greek salads, which were enormous. I obviously had to offer my assistance and take some salad off of their plates for them. The dressing was light, flavourful and was coated evenly on the lettuce (the salad wasn’t drowning in dressing).

As you can see from the pictures, the portion sizes are quite substantial. You’re getting your moneys worth when you come here. On that note, the menu is reasonably priced as well. I didn’t damage my wallet coming here. The service was prompt (keep in mind we were one of the only tables in the restaurant), friendly and patient. One issue I had was the lack of parking, you’re basically limited to parking on the street as they only have a couple tight parking spots behind the building and one handicap spot on the side. I believe it would be hard to find a spot on the weekend or in the week during the day. However, as I mentioned before Melodia is located in a great area. One street over from Brant and Lakeshore, there are lots of businesses and residential areas near by that people could easily walk over.

In conclusion, Melodia is a nice restaurant with decent food. I wasn’t completely won over with their dishes, but it’s a place I would recommend if you’re looking for a simple, casual dining experience. They also have a beautiful patio to enjoy a few appetizers and drinks 😉

Melodia Mediterranean Cuisine and Bar is located at 1445 Elgin Street in downtown Burlington.

Happy eating!

-Rach

 

Alfredo’s Place

Here’s to another quick n’ easy post folks! And another pizza post as well. Oh god. This has to stop. Someone set up an intervention. I’m sorry, I just love pizza! Actually I’m not sorry, because I found another great pizza joint just down the road from my place. I’ve driven past it multiple times and just never thought anything of it. The exterior is nothing exciting to look at, so it never caught my attention. It’s just one of those hidden gems that if you don’t give it a chance you’ll just keep driving by it every day. So, I’m glad I took a chance a couple weekends ago and walked in to grab me some grub.

The owners have kept it simple, nothing fancy, just the essentials to make a superb pizza (and from what I could see on the menu, a whole list of delicious Italian dishes). The kitchen was clean and well maintained. The couple who made our pizza (which I believe are the owners) were especially friendly and lovely to talk to. You just know they pour their heart and soul into this place and really have a passion for the food they are making. I love family owned restaurants. Their pastas, salads and sandwiches also looked delicious, but I’m here to talk about the pizza because unfortunately, that’s all that I ordered. Next time for sure – everything in moderation right?! (as my mom used to say).

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We ordered a large three topping pizza special with pepperoni, bacon, mushroom (half), and onion (half). I watched as the gentleman (must get his name next time) made our pizza because I had read in a previous review that they take care and time to place the toppings evenly. The review was right because he made sure to cover the pizza fully and evenly instead of just sprinkling them on in clusters. I’m sure this helped to have the pizza come out evenly cooked as well. The sauce was very nice, wasn’t too sweet or spicy, or overpowering in flavour. It also wasn’t greasy, at all, which is always nice. The toppings were fresh and not lacking on the pizza, in every bite you got a nice mouthful of veggies and meat. We asked for our pizza well done as we like it a bit crispy, however I can say this pizza is probably just as good cooked the way they typically do it.

The prices are fair and the walk-in specials make it even better. I will definitely be back to try other parts of their menu. Especially the BLOOMING ONION! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blooming onion on a menu at a pizza place like this. Pretty dang awesome!

NOTE: I didn’t see any fridges were you could buy a can of pop or bottle of juice, and also didn’t see any beverages listed on their menu. I’ll need to confirm this next time I go, so don’t take my word for it. But for now, if you want to be safe, have drinks on hand when ordering take out.

Alfredo’s Place is located at 931 Fennel Ave East in Hamilton.

Happy eating!

-Rach

Alfredo's Place on Urbanspoon

Chuck’s Burger Bar

Oh, Chuck’s Burger Bar! 14 hours later and I’m still not hungry.

Let me start off with, yes, it is worth the wait. From the time we parked the car to taking the first bite of our burgers we waited approximately an hour and a half. I know that might sound a bit absurd but I can only blame myself as we went on a Friday night, to a place that only seats 28 people, during the dinner rush. The hostess/server  was so friendly and sympathetic in a situation she really had no control over, but handled it really well. The guests we were waiting with told me stories about their experiences at Chuck’s and what their favourite burgers were, which convinced me I should stick around. Even the people leaving the restaurant  were telling us on their way out that it would be worth the wait, this I was guaranteed each time. SO, we waited! And I am so glad we did. I had looked at the menu the day before and knew exactly what I wanted, especially since one of my co-workers told me about the Southern BBQ Beef Burger. I was sold.

When we finally sat down at the bar, we obviously ordered our beer first. They have Mill St. Organic on tap which I was really excited about, and for those craft beer enthusiasts out there, they had an amazing selection to choose from.

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The inside was small but warm and comfortable. I didn’t feel too cramped or pressed against my neighbours in any way. Lots of elbow room. What I also liked was that we could watch the cooks prepare our meals, flames, smoke and all! I was warm just sitting there, so I can only imagine how they felt working their butts off all night to feed everyone. Kudos to them!

As I mentioned, I ordered the Southern BBQ Beef Burger. This thing came decorated with Monterey jalapeno jack cheese, Texas BBQ pulled beef and onion rings . I could barely fit my mouth over it, so resorted to taking off the onion rings and eating them on their own. They were DELICIOUS with a firm, crispy batter they never got soggy. The burger patty was cooked medium well, and perfect to my standards. It was juicy and had just the right amount of char grill. Some burgers that are made fresh on the grill can turn out with burnt edges that just don’t taste right, but that’s no place you wait an hour and a half for. The pulled beef was such a nice addition with its savoury BBQ sauce. I really enjoyed this burger. While we were waiting to be seated, all I saw were sweet potato fries coming out of the kitchen with the burgers. They were thick cut and looked so good, I had to try them. Good choice on my part if I may say so myself. The burgers also came with their in house slaw and side pickle – also very tasty!

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We also got the Lamblicious Burger which was AMAZING. It came decorated with Swiss cheese, sauteed wild mushrooms, onions and Chuck’s roasted garlic mayo. The garlic sauce went so well with the lamb. The patty itself was juicy and if I may quote my boyfriend “the best lamb burger I’ve had in the last 5 years”. I don’t know where he got the “5 years” from. This was hotly debated over dinner. I’ll tell you about their regular fries because I do believe that the quality of fries is just as important as the quality of burger. A burger without good fries is just not right. They were thick cut as well, with the skin left on, a preference of mine, lightly salted and super crispy. Thumbs up!

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I want to finish off by saying how impressed I was with the staff here. Shout out to Nicole, Leah and Chantasy for being awesome! These three ladies were amazing. They had such great personalities and smiling faces which made our experience even that more enjoyable. You can tell they really enjoy working at Chuck’s, which I believe says a lot about the place and the people who run it.

Recommendation: don’t expect to come on a Friday or Saturday night to a table waiting for you. Either come before or after the dinner rush, same goes for week nights. After the dinner rush would be approximately 8:00-8:30PM.

Chuck’s Burger Bar is located at 194 Locke St. South in Hamilton.

Happy eating!

-Rach

Chuck's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Chicago Style Pizza Shack

Time for a quick n’ easy post! (while watching Hell’s Kitchen chefs make gourmet pizzas, coincidence?)

I had a friend over for some wine, pizza and lots of girl talk tonight. I’ve been meaning to visit Chicago Style Pizza Shack since I moved here back in February but every attempt to get there or order out was unsuccessful, my brother can vouch for this! When I moved to Hamilton I browsed all the pizza options close to me, and was so excited to see such a well reviewed pizza restaurant literally minutes form my apartment. When my girlfriend asked what take-out was close by I immediately thought of Chicago Style Pizza Shack. FINALLY I could try this stuffed pizza I’ve read so many good things about. No longer would I drool in my sleep over this place, it had become a reality. Every time I drive by here its packed and there’s a line-up to get a table…good sign!

My girlfriend got the small stuffed pizza with black olives, pepperoni and green pepper. The small comes with six slices which was definitely more than enough to satisfy the two of us.

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As I’ve heard a stuffed pizza should be, it was loaded with cheese and toppings, piled high along the walls of dough. I’ve never had a stuffed pizza before and I love the idea of having the sauce on top because it really gives you the chance to experience the flavour in the sauce. The dough was cooked well, browned perfectly and strong enough to hold all those toppings in. Everything tasted very fresh, was hot to order and there were plenty of toppings inside. The sauce was delicious, not too sweet or spicy, blanketing the gooey cheese and toppings underneath.

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I’ll definitely need to go back here sometime for an actual sit down dinner, and do a proper review, as I’ve been told the pastas are just something I MUST try! It’s pretty funny how my first two reviews are about pizza. I swear I’m not biased 😉 Anyways, if you want something to satisfy that pizza craving but are looking for something a little different, this is it! Give yourself a little bit of extra time ordering this pizza as it takes longer to make/cook. Also give yourself a bit more time if you intend to sit down for dinner as I’ve been by on a Tuesday night around 5:00PM and the place has been packed with people already waiting to be seated.

Chicago Style Pizza Shack is located at 534 Upper Sherman Ave in Hamilton

Happy eating!

-Rach

Chicago Style Pizza Shack on Urbanspoon

NaRoma Pizza Bar

For my first birthday in Hamilton I decided to try a place I’ve heard only great things about…NaRoma Pizza Bar. I invited 10 of my family and friends to try this restaurant with me. It was an easy choice because well, come on, everyone loves pizza! The inside is quite small but is very inviting and comfortable. They don’t take reservations but I showed up at around 6:00 on a Monday night and the place was empty until about 6:30-7:00. The staff was courteous and very attentive.

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I was blown away by the quality of the food here. The dough wasn’t thick but also wasn’t too thin that it was falling apart in your hands. This can be a common issue with pizza, especially when you load the toppings on. The dough can become too soft or greasy and just collapse under pressure. NaRoma’s has found the perfect balance of delicious tasting, fresh dough combined with equally fresh and bountiful toppings as well as minimal sauce. The possibilities are endless, however, they have provided a smart solution to the often tough task of choosing which pizza you want. They offer three different sizes on their menu: Coppia (small), Famiglia (medium) and Festa (large). The Coppia comes with the choice of two flavors, the Famiglia offers the choice of three and the Festa offers four. If there’s only two of you coming here for lunch or dinner, they’re being honest when they say the Coppia feeds 2-3 people. Sharing the Coppia between two people will be more than enough for your stomach to handle. Everyone in my party ordered their own Coppia sized pizza and could really only finish about four pieces on their own. I shared a Famiglia that consisted of the Brie e Prosciutto, Carne and Pancetta Dolce.

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The Carne has tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage, prosciutto and pancetta. The blend of these meats was incredible and I couldn’t get over the quality and flavor of the meat. The Pancetta Dolce was another fan favorite because of its mozzarella, maple bacon, cherry tomato and asparagus combo. The asparagus was fresh and crunchy and the maple bacon was thick cut and full of flavor. The Brie e Prosciutto was by far my favorite of the night, although all were delicious! Topped with mozzarella, triple cream brie cheese, prosciutto, fig jam, caramelized onions, arugula and reduced balsamic, I absolutely could not pass this one up. My mouth instantly waters at the sound of “triple cream brie cheese” so how could I not.

I managed to snap a few pictures of other pizzas at the table before they disappeared into the many hungry mouths.  My uncle had the Pollo which includes mozzarella, chicken, homemade pesto, roasted red peppers and artichokes. The other was the Quattro Stagione with tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes, black olives and artichokes.

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Another pizza I managed to snap a picture of was the Patata Dolce with mozzarella, goat cheese, sweet potato, sage and MAPLE SYRUP (left hand side of the pizza in the image below)! My bargaining skills weren’t strong enough to score myself a piece of this pizza, so I plan on ordering it next time I’m in because all I could hear was how tasty it was.

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Before coming to this restaurant I had planned on ordering one of their salads and a cannoli but once I saw the size of the pizzas I knew I wouldn’t need anything more. I’ve also never seen so many deals offered to trade slices of pizza in my life, as I did at NaRoma’s 😉

All in all I am extremely happy I chose NaRoma Pizza Bar as my destination for my first birthday living in Hamilton. They did not disappoint. They have a patio that is open during the summer so I can see myself coming here often over the next four months seeing as how I work around the corner. So much for losing ten pounds this summer! Oh well, so worth it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This pizza re-heats perfectly. I can honestly say this is the best next-day re-heated pizza I have ever had. All I had to do was put it into the microwave for about 10-15 seconds and it was perfect. The crust was still firm and wasn’t soggy at all. BONUS POINTS!

Anyways, check this place out. It’s a bit more than you’ll pay for a take out pizza from a fast food joint but who really wants that stuff anyway when you have this as an option.

NaRoma Pizza Bar is located at 215 Locke Street South in downtown Hamilton.

Happy eating!

-Rach

NàRoma Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon

Make Some Room

As an undergrad student studying at McMaster University for four years, I have had some experiences in the city. Since completing my studies, I found myself working two part time jobs in Hamilton, one working for the city and one for Mac. I accepted the fact that I was probably not leaving either job any time soon, so about 3 months ago I started to seriously search for an apartment here. The commute from Burlington had become something I just wasn’t appreciating and so found myself a great apartment on the mountain brow.

My first two weeks as a Hamiltonian could be described as stressful and liberating. I was following a path I had set for myself; to get my degree, grow up and move out. As I settled into my new digs I began to research restaurants, diners  and take-outs around my area and in the downtown. Using referrals from co-workers, supervisors and friends I came to realize that Hamilton has many gems when it comes to delicious grub. Upon my first couple experiences at small, what seemed to be family owned restaurants and diners, I came to see that the work and dedication these owners put into their small businesses was heartfelt, creative and expressive of the diversity Hamilton is known for.

I consider myself a foodie through and through. I love to cook, discover new recipes and cuisines, and am always on the hunt for a great place to eat, especially when it comes to pizza or burgers.

I came to Hamilton hungry, in more ways than one; hungry for a new life of independence and freedom, but also found a hunger for new food experiences as well.

I’d like to share the good and bad with you. Make some room!