You Asked, We're Answering, Part II

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a great weekend! I spent mine wandering around Chelsea Market with my sister Christine, finally sampling Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken (aka The Cake Boss) and staying up way too late watching the Giants lose last night. But today is a new day and I've already hit the gym and had a giant bowl of oats. Today we're kicking off this hoilday week with another roundup of FAQ's that Shaun and I often get. This time, we're talking restaurants and our going-out-to-eat habits since I often write about lots of fab places that we visit. Ready for the inside scoop?

 Our 2nd wedding anniversary at Madame Janette's in Aruba

What do you like to go out to eat for?
Shaun is as much of a foodie as I am, if not more so. While there was a time when I’d order the same, familiar dish at restaurants over and over, Shaun broke me out of my shell since he always likes to try new things at new places! Now we have both become samplers, so we will divide and conquer menus to get the most tasting for our buck...and stomach space. We really love all food and try to pick places that have things we don’t usually make at home. You can often find us dining on Italian, Mexican, Indian, Greek, steaks, sushi, good ol’ burgers, pizza, pastrami sandwiches...we really don’t discriminate!

post-pastrami sandwiches at Katz's Deli
Do you have a go-to spot?
If we are free on Friday nights we like to meet at South City Grill in Jersey City for happy hour after work. It’s near our old apartment and they have a fantastic happy hour - cheap drinks and fabulous appetizers! We usually share fried calamari, Kobe sliders and/or a Mediterranean sampler which includes hummus, tsaziki, and feta on grilled pita pieces. Aside from that, we try to find new places to dine at as often as possible! Since we live just outside the culinary hub of the world, there’s really no reason to try a place twice (though we do if we like it enough!). We have gone to Mesa Grill a couple of times, once as a surprise for Shaun's birthday and once to celebrate his promotion at work!

What are the places that make the cut to go back to, over and over again?
While we always want to try new places, there are a few that we find ourselves back at over and over again. Our short list includes Rosa Mexicano and Gyu Kaku (where we often go with our good friends Brandon & Nikki), BLT Burger, Michael Anthony’s & Lighthorse Tavern in Jersey City, and I often revisit La Carbonara and The Dove Parlour for ladies nights!

How do you decide where to go?
We keep a list of things we want to do, and on it are lots of restaurants. Our short list of NYC places to try are Locanda Verde, Artisinal, Babbo, Grammercy Tavern....Shaun? any others I'm forgetting?

What are the best restaurant meals you’ve had?
Rachel: This is a tough one. One that really stands out for me is a delicious dinner we shared with my sister Kimberly in Budapest. I don’t even know the name of the cafe (that was in pre-blog days) but it consisted of wiener schnitzel, beef goulash and apple turnovers. I still dream about it. Aside from that, I’d be remiss not to include our anniversary surf-and-turf dinner at Madame Janette’s in Aruba and Shaun’s birthday dinner at Mesa Grill.
Shaun: My favorite meal was a breakfast that we shared in Paris at a small cafe overlooking the Notre Dame Cathedral. We both had croque madame - essentially a decadent ham and cheese sandwich with an egg on top. Though I don't eat ham anymore and I usually hate runny eggs, it was one of the best breakfasts ever. The service was good, the coffee great, the scenery unbelievable and the company wasn't bad either!

I’m coming to NYC/going out to dinner/meeting friends, can you recommend some restaurants to try?
Sure, I’m working on a by-neighborhood roundup of places I’ve tried! Stay tuned! Meanwhile, check out our Restaurants tab for a giant list of restaurants and links to reviews.

Are there any dishes that you always like to sample?
Um...everything? But seriously, we always love to sample as much as possible, especially when there are specialty or local dishes involved. Shaun always likes to sample microbrews. Here he is in Aruba sampling some Balashi, the local beer of Aruba!

That's also one of the reasons I love food fests or walking/eating tours which I sometimes do with my mom and sisters. I love trying a little bit at each place! Here I am at San Gennaro in 2009 sampling a giant cupcake (one of many unhealthy delights from that evening...)

What are some places that you’ve traveled to? Any noteworthy foods?
We absolutely love traveling. Over the last 10 years together, Shaun and I have traveled to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Paris (which was when we realized we were meant to be, since our hotel didn't have our reservation and we ended up trolling the streets looking for an open hotel. There may have been tears on my part and Shaun somehow didn't go running for the hills - see Shaun's fave meal above - this was the day after my meltdown on the streets en Paris), Budapest, Prague, Sweden, Estonia, Aruba, Antigua, Yellowstone National Park, Boston, Washington DC. A quick list of The Best Thing I Ever Ate Travel Edition include lots of microbrews everywhere, hot wine, lattes and fried cheese sandwiches in Prague, fry bread with garlic sauce in Estonia, and various cheese plates in Paris and Germany.

How much money do you spend on going out to eat every month?
Can I tell you something? Promise not to judge? I have no idea. Though I’ve tried to put aside a budget for this kind of thing, Shaun and I often just go out for dinner when the mood strikes. Since we do like to cook (and do almost every night), going out to eat has taken a back seat to eating in. We also don’t limit ourselves since we don’t go out that often. So when we want to order dinner on a busy Tuesday or just head out for a date night on Friday, we go for it.

Do you buy or bring lunch to work?
We will usually bring lunch to work 4 out of 5 days. I always let myself buy lunch one day a week, which usually is reserved for sushi (something I obviously do not bring from home). When it comes to packing lunch, we will each take leftovers or a simple sandwich or salad with some fruit and other snacks. Shaun is actually way better at packing lunch than me. In fact, he often packs my lunch. And I secretly pretend to forget to pack my lunch so that he'll make his signature chef's salad (complete with ham and cheese pinwheels) for me. Don't tell him I said that though.

I think that's it for today's FAQ! I hope you enjoy reading a little more about our going out to eat habits, and if you have anymore questions for Shaun or me, please leave it in the comments or send me an email! Meanwhile, the question of the day is: What is your favorite restaurant? Or the best meal you ever had at a restaurant?

 Psst...missed Part I of our FAQ? Find out how we get down in the kitchen right here.