Montaluce Winery and Restaurant ~ Dahlonega, GA

Driving through the gates of Montaluce Winery and Restaurant you forget that you are in rural Georgia. The sloping vineyards, the Italian style villas, the beautiful tasting room and restaurant transports you to wine country (or perhaps even another country!). Fortunately, Montaluce is only a beautiful two hour drive from my home so it makes for the perfect get-away on a spring day.

Yesterday was my second time visiting Montaluce and it was just as enjoyable as the first. While the food and wine are great anytime, the real treat is to visit on a beautiful day and sit outside on the large terrace overlooking the vineyards for a three hour lunch or dinner. Of course, you can enjoy a faster meal if your time is limited, but try to allow plenty of time to take advantage of the full experience and allow your shoulders to relax as you settle into the first course of your meal. I already look forward to returning again in a couple of weeks!

The menu changes regularly as local produce, cheese, and proteins are available. The local providers are listed on the menu which is always a great touch for those of us who like to know from where our food comes. Typically, there are several small plate options for both vegetarians and pescatarians, as well as a vegetarian sandwich, a vegetarian entrée, and a fish entrée. And be sure to save room for dessert ~ the chocolate cremeux with olive oil and sea salt is amazing!!

Vegetarian Options

  • creme of celeriac soup, charred onion jam, citra hops
  • san marzano tomato soup, citrus, ginger, black garlic, fried brioche
  • hydroponic salad, grapes, radish, pine nuts, sherry vinaigrette
  • 5 types local cheese, lavash, accompaniments
  • grilled goat cheese sandwich, san marzano tomato soup
  • pancake fat stack, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes
  • brioche french toast, vanilla caramel, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes

Pescatarian Options

  • cured salmon, mustard, cucumber, preserved lemon, galangal sorbet
  • smoked trout, quinoa, kale, bentons country ham, satsuma, champagne vinaigrette (request no ham)
  • sapelo island clams, saffron risotto, charred garlic, sundried tomato, truffle fat
  • carolina trout, red kurri squash, hon shimieji, cranberry beans, miso, brown butter, yellow curry oil


5 & 10 ~ Athens, GA

Being an educator has its perks – summer vacation, spring break, fall break – just to name a few. Another perk is finding a particular field of interest and being able to further your knowledge and personal growth in regards to that topic. This is what I have found in the field of creative thinking. Fortunately, the stars have aligned many times for me over the years allowing me to collaborate with one of the most renown centers for creative thinking in the US. This collaboration takes me to Athens, GA a couple of times a year and 5 & 10 is a restaurant I always visit when I’m there.

I enjoy trying new restaurants when I travel, but there are some that I always look forward to visiting. I first found 5 & 10 while reading about its chef, Hugh Acheson (Restauranteur, James Beard Award winner, author, Top Chef contestant and judge). There are plenty of options on the menu to satisfy a fantastic, relaxing, long, vegetarian/pescatarian dinner. In fact, the pasta entrée I enjoyed on this most recent trip could the best pasta dish I have ever experienced. And be sure to ask about the specials!

The eclectic wine list is another reason I love this restaurant. Not only are there bottles that you rarely see on a list but each wine has a narrative written by Hugh. We are familiar with many of the wines on the list (having visited several of the wineries) and are acquainted with a few of the winemakers. My favorite narratives from this most recent trip include “major oomphage,” when describing a wine from Mas Doix, a Priorat winery, that we visited in 2013 and have since become “American Ambassadors” for the brand, and “Limestone site+Joe Davis+age=drink up,” when describing Arcadian Syrah and the winemaker who was kind enough to open his home to us last summer.

The menu changes regularly so this is just sample menu of what is currently posted on the 5&10 website.

Vegetarian Options

  • Chickpea Hummus ~ Urfa Chili, GA Olive Oil, 5&10 Crackers
  • Carrot-Coconut Soup ~ Strained Buttermilk, Toasted Cashews, Cilantro, Urfa Chili
  • Classic Caesar ~ Romaine Hearts, Parmesan, Garlic Confit Fried Bread (request no bacon)
  • Mixed Greens ~ Asher Blue Cheese, Spiced Pecans, Apple, Shallot-Thyme Vinaigrette
  • Coddled Farm Egg ~ Asian Mustard Mix, Garlic Bread Crumbs, Garlic Bread Crumbs, Cured Egg Yolk, Cracked Black Pepper ~ pictured above (I loved this dish! Although I forgot to ask for no lardons I was able to eat around them.)
  • 5&10 Pasta Ribbons ~ Oven Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Cherry Tomato, Red Onion, Jalapeno, Parmesan Mozzarella, Basil, Arugula ~ pictured above ~ I LOVED THIS DISH!

Pescatarian Options

  • Oysters on the Half
  • Roasted Gulf Snapper ~ Carolina Gold Rice Grits, Local Mushrooms, Crisp Coppa, Dried Figs, Lemon Emulsion
  • Panko Crusted Carolina Catfish ~ Buttered Red Mule Grits, Tomato Chutney, Fennel Slaw, Vermouth Emulsion

*And of course save room for dessert! (Gâteau Basque pictured above) 



Miller Union

Miller Union is often found on the James Beard list of nominees for their wine program. Although we live less than two hours from Atlanta we rarely spend time there, and going down just for dinner is not really an option unless we want to spend the night. While two hours is not a far drive, it’s tough after a nice dinner with great wine!

Miller Union is a restaurant that has been on my list to visit for a while. Earlier this winter I was in Atlanta visiting art galleries for a local event and found Miller Union around the corner from one of the galleries. Stumbling upon the location encouraged me to make a special effort to visit soon. Fortunately, I had a meeting to attend at the University of Georgia, about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta, so I was able to stop for lunch at Miller Union followed by a quick trip to the botanical gardens to walk off the large meal and prepare for the rest of my drive. It was a fantastic experience. The food, the service, and the wine were all impeccable. My server was able to recommend great options to accommodate my diet, he was also pescatarian, and was incredibly knowledgable about the wine. I look forward to returning with my husband one day soon!

The menu changes daily and is updated weekly online:

Vegetarian Options

Lunch Menu:

  • feta snack
  • black eyed pea & benne seed hummus, housemade lavash
  • lentil salad, seasonal vegetables, feta, sherry vinaigrette
  • cornmeal & scallion hushpuppies, spicy aioli
  • kale, escarole, apple, radish & pecan salad, shallot vinaigrette
  • winter greens salad, maple roasted acorn squash, apple, pecan, shallot vinaigrette
  • seasonal vegetable plate
  • smoked beets & grilled vidalias
  • roasted parsnips & fennel
  • sautéed mushrooms & grilled vidalias
  • sautéed local greens
  • fries

Dinner Menu:

  • feta snack
  • black eyed pea & benne seed hummus, housemade lavash
  • farm egg baked in celery cream, grilled bread
  • local lettuce, radish, beet, herb-buttermilk dressing
  • kale, escarole, apple, celery & pecan salad
  • pear, blue cheese, radicchio, watercress, walnuts
  • goat cheese & green onion tortellini, mushrooms, grilled vidalias, kohlrabi
  • seasonal vegetable plate
  • sauteed local greens
  • celery root, rutabaga, leek
  • mushrooms, kohlrabi & new vidalias
  • baby carrots, turmeric, salsa verde
  • smoked beets & grilled vidalias

Pescatarian Options

Lunch Menu:

  • carolina trout, parsnip, new vidalia, fennel, blood orange
  • littleneck clams, butter, white wine, leeks, garlic, chile, escarole

Dinner Menu:

  • seared diver scallops, rice grits, fennel, hakurei turnip, kumquat
  • wild striped bass, parsnip, new vidalia, fennel, blood orange

Easy Bistro and Bar, Chattanooga, TN

Easy Bistro and Bar is one of our favorite haunts in Chattanooga. Our favorite Saturday afternoons are spent having a lazy brunch (they truly have the BEST Eggs Benedict in town!), followed by a few glasses, or bottle(s), of wine on the sofas at the bar. In the past I’ve struggled to find many things on the dinner menu that would satisfy a complete meal, lately, however, I haven’t had any trouble at all. In fact, the last few meals I’ve had at Easy Bistro have been absolutely incredible. The menu does change regularly so the options below are just a sampling. Of course, if you love oysters and mussels this is your place anytime. My husband would eat the oysters or moules frites any day – I’ll share his fries 🙂

If you ever have the opportunity to enjoy a wine event at Easy Bistro be sure not to miss it – you won’t be disappointed!

Vegetarian Options (Dinner)

  • Grilled Radicchio and Freekah Salad – Smoked and Confited Local Egg Yolk, 2 year “Red Cow” Parmesan, Roasted Garlic Purée, Lemon (I LOVE this salad!!!)
  • Easy Salad – Bibb Lettuce, Asparagus, Fine Herbs, Champagne-Citrus Vinaigrette
  • Black Truffle Winter Risotto – Wild Mushrooms, Local Chestnut, Chive, Parmesan, Black Garlic
  • Crispy Brussel Sprout Petals – Mint-Walnut Pesto, Capers, Lemon
  • Selection of Vegetable Side Dishes

Vegetarian Options (Brunch)

  • “Atlanta Fresh” Vanilla Yogurt & Seasonal Citrus – Candied Pecans, Local Honey
  • Egg White & Asparagus Omelette – with Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, & Frisee
  • Eggs Benedict (just ask for no meat on which ever option you choose)
  • Bakery and Pastry Assortments

Pescatarian Options (Dinner)

  • Wild Alaskan Sablefish Tartare – Local Horseradish Creme Fraiche, Cucumber, Sorghum Popcorn, Benne Seed Cracker
  • Crawfish and Artichoke Dip – with Toasted Flatbread
  • Sautéed PEI Mussels – Mussels, Grilled Crostini
  • Pan Seared Rainbow Trout – Salisfy, Baby Turnip, Salsa Verde, Winter Root Vegetable Puree, Beurre Blanc
  • PEI Mussels and Fried (Moules Frites) – Lemon Aioli
  • Grilled Gulf Shrimp
  • Oyster Raw Bar

Pescatarian Options (Brunch)

  • Eggs Norwegian (One of my favorite dishes ever!) – English Muffin, Smoked Salmon, Poached Eggs, Hollandaise
  • Fish Tacos – Flour Tortillas, Salted Cabbage, Pico De Gallo, Guacamole

Quiessence at The Farm

When we have the opportunity, we try to find at least one “splurge” restaurant that really represents the local food culture. Quiessence at The Farm was definitely that place for our recent trip to Phoenix. Located near South Mountain on a property that is often rented for weddings and other large parties, Quiessence is settled at the end of a long, tree-lined drive with lights adorning the trees, crossing the path, and surrounding the structures. Needless to say, driving to dinner is the beginning of this special experience.

With a focus on fresh, local food, some of which is grown in their own gardens, Quiessence is a easy stop for pescatarians and vegetarians alike. We loved listening to the stories our server would tell of most of the ingredients, where they came from, who produces them, why they chose this farmer, etc. Yes, it felt a bit “Portlandian,” but it demonstrated the pride they felt in the ingredients they chose instead of seeming at all pretentious. The presentation of the food was incredibly beautiful – we had to pause at the beginning of each course just to admire the creativity, time, and care they took into plating our meal.

We also enjoyed trying the Arizona wines on the menu. Our server paired each course with a different Arizona wine and explained each wine as it arrived. Arizona is not well known as a wine region, and much of the wine coming from Arizona is not really our style, however, the wines Quiessence paired with our meal were very impressive.

We were the first to arrive and among the last to leave. We loved the slow, relaxing atmosphere and the knowledge that was gained from the meal. If you’re looking for a special treat in that area give Quiessence a try. I do recommend reservations – the restaurant may not seem overly busy, but I think that feel is intentional. I also think they only seat each table once per evening so that everyone can enjoy their meal without feeling rushed. If you love eating outside there is a patio and one very special table off to itself near a large wood burning oven that looked like the perfect setting. We were there in the fall and the evening was very cool so we sat inside, but on another, warmer evening, we would love that table. The items listed below should be considered only as a sample. The menu changes regularly depending on the season. Check the website or call for a more current/specific menu if needed before you go. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Options

  • Artisan & Farmstand Fromage Board – Local Cheese, Brick Oven Bread, Artisan Loaves, Seasonal Pestos and Jams (This was beautiful and incredible)
  • Parsnip Soup – Crispy I’itoi, Opal Apples, Parsnip Chips (This comes with bacon that can be left off)
  • Roasted Beet Semi Salad – Smokey Blue Cheese Dressing, Goldren/Red Beets, Sunchoke Chips, Arugula, Hazelnuts
  • Quiessence Seasonal Green Salad – Preserved Meyer Lemon Dressing, Pistachio, Shaved Kolrabi, Parmesan
  • Maya’s Foraged Garden – A Daily Offering from Maya’s Garden of Seasonal Vegetables
  • Potato Gnocchi – Mascarpone, Rainbow Chard, Portabella, Tomato, Fried Sage (this often contains a meat component that can be left off in order to make a vegetarian version, however, chicken broth may be used in the sauce – it’s worth and ask before ordering)

Pescatarian Options

  • Hamachi Crudo – Citrus Salsa Verde, Citrus Caviar, Micro Cilantro, Garlic Chips
  • Wild Black Cod – Sweet Potato Fumet, Eggplant Chips, Poached Tomatoes, Chive Creme Fraiche, Braised Greens, Baby Beet Tops

Nobuo, Phoenix, AZ

This fall, after a long day at a conference in Phoenix, I treated myself to a meal at Nobuo. Often when visiting a restaurant in a city I don’t visit frequently I sample several things off the menu. This was not my original intention for this meal, but after trying the house-cured salmon I was intensely curious about their other menu options – so I ordered a couple more small plates, and another glass of sparkling Vouvray from one of our favorite producers ( The food (and wine) was amazing. Although this is definitely a place for pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans will have no problem enjoying lunch at Nobuo. The dinner menu, while loaded with fish options, has very few vegetarian options.

Vegetarian Options

  • Mixed Greens
  • Sugar Snap Peas – sesame sauce, bonito flake
  • Teeter Tots – panko fried tofu, spicy miso sauce
  • Tofu Salad – yuan marinated, grilled tofu , udon noodles, cucumber, greens, sesame sauce

Pescatarian Options

  • Kimuchi – nappa cabbage, dried shrimp, sesame oil, red chili
  • House-Cured Salmon – soy glazed almond, basil oil, pecorino romano
  • Grapefruit & Hamachi – avocado, white truffle oil
  • Tuna Tataki – seared with roasted beet puree
  • Ebi Salad – grilled shrimp, rice n0odles, purple basil, mint , cucumber, soy glazed peanuts, nuoc cham
  • Panko-Fried Soft Shell Crab Cake – homemade focaccia, cucumber, kanzuri aioli
  • Oysters – spicy daikon, ponzu sauce or uni, tomato water, wasabi oi
  • Sashimi of the Day
  • Yellowtail Ceviche – myouga, sesame seed, fried shredded taro
  • Usuzukuri – thin sliced fluke with ponzu sauce
  • Shiromi Carpaccio – ginger, yuzu kosho, sesame oil, garlic, house-made focaccia
  • Tako and Tomato – fresh grilled octopus, house-made mozzarella
  • Fried Soft Shell Shrimp – curried green papaya slaw
  • Soft Shelled Crab Salad – panko-fried, rice noodles, shiso, cucumber, peanuts, nuoc cham
  • Seabass and Mushroom – baked in parchment, garlic-butter, sake, soy
  • Gindara Saikyo Yak – miso marinated black cod

Barndiva, Healdsburg, CA

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While we had many incredible meals this year in California, Barndiva was one of our favorites. Our first night in wine country was spent at a lovely table on the back porch of Barndiva. After a week of hot, sticky days, the cool evening air of Sonoma County was a welcome addition to our meal.

I was drawn to Barndiva by their motto “Eat the View,” as well as their commitment to use fresh, sustainable ingredients. Not to mention their beautiful website. If you’re in the area, and don’t mind a pricey meal, Barndiva is a real treat. Of course, you can skip the wine pairings and have a much more affordable meal, but this was our time to enjoy it all. Oh, and be sure to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail at their bar next door!

Vegetarian Options

  • heirloom tomato salad, burrata, garlic crouton, basil, spanish sherry vinegar
  • heirloom beet salad, cowgirl creamery mt. tam, strawberry, almond
  • mt. tam cheese, huckleberry jam, toasted brioche
  • bd frites, fresh cut kennebec potatoes, spicy ketchup
  • goat cheese croquettes,tomato jam, lavender honey
  • butter lettuce, bacon, blue cheese, asian pear, garlic croutons (ask for no bacon)

Pescatarian Options

The Loeb Boathouse Central Park, NYC

Yes, it’s touristy. However, don’t let that deter you from a great meal at the Loeb Boathouse Central Park. Having only one full day in the city I knew I wanted to visit the museums around the park, as well as explore the park itself. With a day this busy lunch reservations are a must, and since I would already be in the park it was the obvious, and admittedly exciting, solution.

Rain was looming all day, fortunately it held out until I entered the boathouse, and then it poured. It was great fun to watch the rowers try to rush to the shore, even though they were already soaked. It was a rain that just dropped all at once and stayed for a while with no warning sprinkles. However, the covered porch at the Boathouse could not have been a better place to enjoy lunch and the rain. After an extremely hot and humid day, the cool breeze coming off the rain and lake was refreshing and relaxing. While I try to take each experience for what it is, I do have a habit of comparing to previous experiences. The Loeb Boathouse Central Park reminded me of a great lunch my husband and I enjoyed in France a few years ago (I now realize I never wrote about that experience – that will be my next post!). Throughout my lunch I could not have felt more fortunate – fortunate to have the summers off, fortunate to be in such a beautiful place, fortunate to have avoided the rain, fortunate to have other amazing experiences to reflect upon, and fortunate to be comfortable enjoying time alone.

The menu examples below are from the lunch menu. There are separate menus for brunch and dinner on the website:

Vegetarian Options

  • Roasted Beets, Dandelion Greens, Sunflower Seeds, Poblano Vinaigrette
  • Mixed Lettuces Basil Sherry Vinaigrette, Snipped Herbs, Shallots
  • Housemade Cavatelli, Roasted Cauliflower, Toasted Almonds, Shaved Ricotta Salata
  • Celery Root Ravioli, Shitake Mushroom, Braised Herbs, Saba

Pescatarian Options

  • Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Cucumber, Tomato, Onion Salad, and Caper Remoulade Sauce (Delicious! Do not miss this if you are a crab cake fan!)
  • Black Sea Bass Crudo, Julienne Mango, Pickled Shallots, Coriander
  • King Fish Escabeche, Frissee, White Asparagus, Grapefruit, Shaved Bottarga
  • Sautéed Skate, Fennel, Italian Parsley, Kalamata Olives, Red Onions, Orange Supreme
  • Scottish Salmon, Chickpea Puree and Grilled Baby Romaine Salad
  • Sautéed Sea Scallops, Nappa Cabbage, Scallions, Ramen Noodles, Oxtail Broth

Reservations are encouraged – otherwise, expect a long wait:

Sophia Wine Bar, NYC

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Our experience at Sophia is one that we may never forget. In fact, it was so great we’ve even said we would hesitate to go back only because we can’t imagine it being that great again. But of course, I would go back in a heartbeat.

The small plates were delicious and are one of our favorite ways to enjoy dinner; the wine list is good; the atmosphere feels like a hidden neighborhood gem which for my first night in NYC was a perfect way to get a break from the chaos of the city. While these three things are enough to make a great dinner, our server was really what made our experience fantastic.

For a wine bar, I mentioned the wine list was good – although not great. The Italian heavy list did have some great options, but was actually small for a wine bar. However, after great dialog with our server he continued to bring us glasses of wine that were either not on the list or were only available by the bottle. We rarely order a bottle as we like to try different wines, but sometimes we do miss out on some of the best wines by doing this. At Sophia, we just got lucky to have the perfect server on the perfect night. More than three hours after our arrival we left with a round of hugs, happy bellies, huge smiles. It was a great way to begin our trip!

Vegetarian Options

  • Pizza – create your own with ingredients including arugula, mushrooms, onions, and olives
  • Vegetarian Lasagna
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Assorted Olives
  • Mac n’ cheese
  • Cheese Platter
  • Mozzarella Crostini (Made in house)
  • Bruschetta trio (Tomato, Olive blend, ricotta)
  • Burrata
  • House Made Mozzarella and tomato salad

Pescatarian Options

  • Crudo & Melon
  • Crudo & Mozzarella
  • Jumbo Shrimp cocktail
  • Colossal Lump Crabmeat
  • Tuna TarTare

Jory, Willamette Valley, OR

Recently we had the opportunity to visit a couple of wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Since the James Beard nominee list was released as we were planning this trip we decided to use it as a guide to great restaurants. Jory at the Allison Inn and Spa was nominated for their wine program. As wine lovers this was very appealing – and in such a perfect setting in the Willamette! We decided to have lunch here and use their wine list as our final stop of the day. The location, food, and wine were all perfect. If in the area, this is a perfect way to treat yourself to a great experience. Oh, and even though it’s pricey, don’t miss the Beaux Freres Pinot Noir by the glass!

Vegetarian Options:

  • green salad – dried cherries, red onions, roasted filberts, muscatel vinaigrette, pecorino romano
  • asparagus salad – garden arugula, radish, speck prosciutto, garrotxa cheese, hazelnuts, hazelnut vinaigrette (ask for no speck)
  • vegetables on herb focaccia – smoked mozzarella, olive salad, butternut squash, marinated mushrooms, harissa aioli , petite salad
  • foraged mushroom soup – crispy morels, green garlic relish, saba, crème fraîche
  • beet salad – citrus supremes, petite greens, candied marconas, chevarino, preserved meyer lemon vinaigrette
  • Veggie Sides: citrus-braised garden beets, roasted root vegetables, roasted potatoes, caramelized brussels sprouts, grilled broccolini with almonds and brown butter
 Pescatarian Options:
  • pacific seafood stew – rock shrimp, manila clams, halibut, mussels, garlic sausage, fines herbes, crostini
  • pacific oyster tasting | half dozen – pickled citrus–pink peppercorn mignonette
  • grilled wild king salmon – warm potato salad, house bacon, garden greens, tarragon-buttermilk emulsion (ask for no bacon)
  • spring run chinook salmon – corona beans, roasted radish, fennel, king trumpets, pea shoot pistou, fumet
  • wild pacific halibut – white bean purée, fiddleheads, garden broccoli, red pearl onions, lovage oil, beet jam

And of course yummy desserts!