Monday, November 30, 2015

Essen Hotel Review: Mercure Hotel Plaza Essen

I recently went on a work trip to Europe and one of the towns we stayed in was Essen, Germany (we also spent about two days in the quaint, wonderful town of Mechelen, Belgian which I will write about soon).

The Mecure Hotel is located near the city centre of Essen (5 minute walk to lots of restaurants and shops), about a 15 minute walk from the train station. 
The room was just the right size for two people, even better for one. In the room there was a closet, desk, sitting chairs with a table and a tv. I had enough space to unpack and hang up my clothes, as well as set up my laptop for work. I thought the bed was comfortable but I am not picky-I loved the fluffy comforters though. 
There was enough space in the bathroom for all of my junk to be spread out on the counter. Plenty of towels were around, and they also had a combo body-wash/shampoo dispensers. I have noticed that Europeans (at least Germans and Belgians) are more environmentally conscience. They had signs on the towels asking to reuse them if possible instead of getting new ones everyday. 
For a fee, ~17 euros (approx. 19 USD), the Hotel Mercure serves breakfast. It is quite a spread, and different from your typical American breakfast. They offered the familiar scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes. There was also an impressive variety of baked goods, sliced meats, cereals, fresh juices and other odds and ends. Every morning I had eggs, bacon, fresh smoothie/juice, bread, tea and sometimes a small bowl of cereal. I basically just tried little bites of everything. The bar area was great to hang out in - we hung out there one night and I did some work there during the day. 
This hotel was great, very visually appealing. If I need to make a complaint, the carpets/hallways on the floors with rooms are a little outdated. If you are visiting Essen for a conference, vacation or the reason I was there, Essen Toy Fair (Spiel Essen) this is a great place to stay. 

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Alexandria: Lena's Wood-fired Pizza & Tap

If there is one thing about me you should know is I have a serious weakness when it comes to pizza (and guacamole...and fries...and sadly many other things). I can not turn it town, nor can I stop eating it. Naturally when I spotted a coming soon sign for Lena's Wood-fired Pizza and Tap it was added to my to try list for the immediate future. I waited a couple of weeks after their opening to make sure that if they had kinks, they had time to work them out. 

I convinced my friend Jasmine to join me and we went for lunch and sat at the bar. To start off our meal we got some beverages - a lovely rosé for me and an IPA for Jasmine. The bartenders were great - she let us try a little sample of each before we committed to a full glass. I love it when restaurants allow that - makes me much more inclined to order a beer or wine when I know I will like it. 
Below is the Happy Hour menu for Lena's Wood-fired Pizza & Tap ... you know, because Virginia is pesky like that and restaurants are not supposed to list it online.
When going to new places, Jasmine always has to try their Caesar Salad $9 and I was more then happy to partake. Their dressing was tart, acidic and very caesary. We both loved it. Word of warning - the dressing is a tad potent, I had to brush my teeth after lunch. Worth it. 
I went with my usual when it comes to wood fired pizzas - the Prosciutto & Arugula $14 while Jasmine went with the Meatball $14. Both were great. The prosciutto melted in your mouth (this pizza is a fav of several of the workers). The meatball was seasoned well and we both liked how they were sliced thinner before being put on the pizza.  
The bartenders were great - very friendly and knowledgeable. Quality ingredients. 

Would I come back? Yes! I am looking forward to trying their happy hour and some other things on the menu - stay tuned for that review!...However, I wish they had some sort of lunch special as it is a little pricey to go for a workday lunch. 

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Clarendon: Cava Mezze Brunch

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It's been awhile since bottomless brunch has happened. While I love them, they tend to get a littleeeee crazy. This trip was no exception and made for a wonderful Saturday. Not feeling like heading into DC, we decided on Cava Mezze in Clarendon - a place many of us have been for dinner and loved.

Totally unlike myself, I didn't plan ahead and make a reservation. Luckily Cava was extremely accommodating when we called the morning of and managed to fit us in.  

Often times for bottomless food there are a lot of hit and misses, but Cava kept up to it's standard and delivered mostly hits which is extremely impressive. Between all 8 of us, I think we managed to try everything on the menu. I love my friends and their willingness to share. I tried all 3 mimosas (OJ, grapefruit, apple cider) and the Grapefruit was my favorite. The table was split between the 3. 
Hands down my favorite savory option was the SPICY LAMB BENEDICT poached egg | spicy lamb $8. It was the first thing that caught my eye, and it was everything I thought it would be and more. It was spiced well, had a nice kick and the perfectly poached egg went incredibly well with it. The second photo is their CLASSIC BENEDICT poached egg | canadian bacon | tomato | hollandaise $8. A classically delicious benedict that will not let you down.
The VILLAGE FRITATTA spinach | feta | leeks | green onion $7 had the potential for greatness but unfortunately whoever prepared this had a heavy hand with the salt and it was borderline inedible. Prepared with the appropriate amount of salt. Although not for everyone because of it's fattiness, if it's your thing, then the PORK BELLY & EGGS poached egg | pancetta | hollandaise $7 is the dish for you. Pork belly, pancetta, poached eggs - enough said.
We LOVED all the sweet options for brunch. NUTELLA WAFFLE walnuts | nutella | bananas | cream $8. You can't go wrong with Nutella or a waffle, and come on, just look at the below picture and tell me it doesn't look good. FRENCH TOAST thick cut challah | honey |  berries | cream $6. Thick cut challah is the way to go, french toast normally isn't my thing but we ordered this multiple times - it's hard to explain, but the bread burst in your mouth with every bite. I can't find the description online, but the Greek Yogurt, Fruit and Granola was a surprising favorite. I love a think, tangy, Greek yogurt and this stayed true to its form, allowing the sweetness to come from the fruit and granola. This option almost took away the guilt of all of the other items consumed. BANANA FRITTERS honey | walnuts | sugar $9. If I am going to eat a banana, it needs to be served fried and drizzled with honey and sugar. 
There were only a few dishes that we did not enjoy. The first being the CAVA HOME FRIES potato | tomato | onion | basil | mushroom 6 which were unfortunately on most plates. After initially trying this, we did not touch the potatoes for the rest of the meal. The second was the CHICKEN SAGE SAUSAGE house made chicken sausage | sage 7. I love sage breakfast sausage but this was just not good. Important to note, their "grilled cheese" was a huge let down, not necessarily because it was bad, but because it was a pita with cheese on it…not a grilled cheese. 
We tried everything else on the menu and can recommend everything but the potatoes and sausage. 

Sometimes service can be a bit spotty for bottomless brunch but Cava managed to keep it going with large, slightly obnoxious groups of people - keeping the mimosas flowing and the food a coming. They do have a two hour time limit, which let's be real, is probably best for everyone.

For vegetarian friends, there are not many light options (as in 90% were carb heavy), but if you are not concerned about that, then you will be fine! 

Would I come back? Yes, I am pretty much in love with Cava Mezze and Cave Mezze Grill. This has got to be one of my favorite overall brunch food experiences in awhile. 

2940 Clarendon Blvd
Arlington, VA
Clarendon Metro
Cava Mezze Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Other Bottomless Brunches I enjoy
PJ Clarkes
El Centro 
Acre 121