Gap Eul Restaurant (Sancheong, Korea)

Some of the best food in Korea is found in the mountains!

After a day of traveling to Jiri mountain in South Korea by car, we spent some time looking at the beautiful streams of Daewonsa (대원사).

Beautiful streams at Jiri mountain!
Beautiful streams at Jiri mountain!
At any mountain in South Korea, you will find stone mountains that people made. Each stone symbolizes a wish!
At any mountain in South Korea, you will find stone mountains that people made. Each stone symbolizes a wish!
Me adding my own stone to the pile!
Me adding my own stone to the pile!
My brother's masterpiece!
My brother’s masterpiece!

Before we knew it, the time was around 6:30pm and we were worried that the restaurants would be closing, since many restaurants in the mountains close early. There was a closer restaurant to the stream, but it was already closed so we made our way to the next closest restaurants. There was a street with many restaurants about a five-minute drive from the stream.

After seeing that the sign at Gap Eul restaurant still flashed “open,” we quickly ran inside. The owner, who was just about to close, showed a little bit of reluctance when we asked if we could still order, but luckily allowed us to put in our orders.

Entrance to Gap Eul restaurant
Entrance to Gap Eul restaurant

The menu consisted of common foods that you would find at mountain restaurants, such as scallion pancakes, gelatinous squares made of acorn powder, chicken stew, and handmade tofu, depending on seasonal availability. Since the restaurant is by a stream, they also had daseulgitang (다슬기탕), which is marsh snail soup. The owner harvested the marsh snails and all other fresh ingredients right from the mountain and stream.

Menu
Menu

The restaurant has extensive indoor and outdoor dining spaces, and you could probably do take out for some items, but they do not offer delivery as it is located in the mountain.

Extensive outdoor seating
Extensive outdoor seating

Since the owner was the only worker, we helped her set the table, and were soon given an array of banchan, side dishes consisting of various marinated vegetables such as garlic flower root, radish, dried persimmon, and mountain herbs.

banchan
banchan
The garlic stalk was so crunchy and fresh!
The garlic stalk was so crunchy and fresh!

We ordered one of every dish, except for the chicken stew, which would take at least an hour to make. The owner suggested that next time, we call an hour in advance to order the stew so that we won’t have to wait.

The Pajun (파전), or scallion pancake, was perfectly crunchy on the outside, and filled with chopped scallions, little pieces of squid, and spicy sliced Serrano peppers.

Pajun
Pajun
Look at this crispiness!
Look at this crispiness!

This dish is a staple at any mountain restaurant, and tasted amazing especially with makgeolli (막걸리), Korean rice wine that was made at Jiri mountain.

Makgeolli
Makgeolli

The handmade tofu was very firm and went well with the fried kimchi on the side.

Handmade tofu with fried kimchi
Handmade tofu with fried kimchi
Kimchi and tofu pair so well together!
Kimchi and tofu pair so well together!

Bibimbap was also good, as all of the various marinated vegetables complimented each other perfectly and were not too salty.

Bibimbap
Bibimbap

The muk (도토리묵), gelatinous squares made of acorn powder, was very tasty and interestingly had various marinated vegetables on top. The marinated vegetables was a different touch from any other muk I have had, and I greatly enjoyed it!

muk
muk
Muk mixed with veggies
Muk mixed with veggies

I usually am not a huge lover of daseulgitang (다슬기탕), or marsh snail soup, but this soup tasted very clean, with sliced zucchini, scallions, and pieces of round rice cake. The marsh snail had a tender and chewy texture (and was not fishy tasting at all), and the sliced peppers added the perfect spicy kick to the soup.

Daseulgitang
Daseulgitang
Bite of daseulgitang
Bite of daseulgitang

Overall, I loved how fresh everything tasted since all of the produce was locally sourced from the mountain. All of the food had a home-cooked taste to it, as nothing was overpowering or artificial tasting, and the owner definitely had great cooking skills, or 손맛, as they say in Korea. You could tell that the owner and chef put her soul into her dishes.

From our outdoor dining table, we could see a great view of the stream and mountains, providing the perfect scenery to compliment the delicious meal. My family and I left with our stomachs full and vowing to visit again next time to try the chicken stew.

The restaurant also sells homemade honey and different herbs, depending on availability.

Homemade honey for sale
Homemade honey for sale

I highly recommend enjoying some quality cooking made from fresh ingredients at Gap Eul restaurant any time you are in the Jiri mountain area!

Address: 24 Yupyeong-ri, Samjang-myeon, Sancheong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do

Cali Soft Serve (Geoje, South Korea)

I have ice cream on my mind…

Especially since I got my wisdom teeth extracted so I’m restricted from eating hard foods at the moment!

Since ice cream makes everything better, I’m featuring Cali Soft Serve (캘리 소프트 서브), an ice cream shop that is sure to make you smile, on the blog today!

Cali Soft Serve in Geoje island, South Korea, is known for their vibrant colors of ice cream, with the color of their ice cream changing frequently for variety.

Exterior of Cali Soft Serve
Exterior of Cali Soft Serve

The building of the shop is also colorful, with an electric blue outer and blue and pink interior, which instantly caught my eye as we were making to Maemi Seong, a castle by the ocean.

Interior of shop
Interior of shop

Their menu is simple, as they offer three choices of soft serve flavors: vanilla (4,000 Korean won; ~$3.5 USD), chocolate (4,500 Korean won; ~$4 USD), or mixed (4,500 Korean won; ~$4 USD).

Menu
Menu

I love how they use fresh organic milk from Sangha Farm to make their ice cream. Quality ingredients made a difference as the ice cream tasted very creamy, not overly sweet, and absolutely delicious!

Sangha farm milk is used for their ice cream!
Sangha farm milk is used for their ice cream!

The waffle cone was a thin, black cone that was light and easy to bite into. They also give a circle to put around the cone to catch any drips.

Mixed waffle cone
Mixed waffle cone

The shop is small so there are only a few benches to eat inside and one bench outside. You can always take your cone to go and eat while exploring the path to maemiseong. This path is lined with eateries, like the popular shop Mr. Oksusu (미스터옥슈슈), that sells bread filled with delicious corn.

Mr. Oksusu (Mr. Corn) shop
Mr. Oksusu (Mr. Corn) shop

Once you follow the path you will see Maemi Seong, which was named Maemi (after the typhoon in 2003 that devastated the island’s plant life), and Seong, meaning castle in Korean. Amazingly, this castle was built single handedly by Paek Soon Sam, a local farmer who wished to protect the town’s crops after they were destroyed by the typhoon.

Maemi Seong
Maemi Seong

The castle has many layers and even a passageway inside with a window that overlooks the beach. It is beautiful and impressive, built with a European architecture style.

Intricate layer of rocks
Intricate layer of rocks

There were plenty of tourists on this beautiful day, so the castle was crowded, but I was so glad to get to enjoy this view!

Wonderful view of the ocean!
Wonderful view of the ocean!

Hard to believe that all this was built by one person!

I highly recommend visiting both Cali Soft Serve and Maemi Seong on your trip to Geoje!

Palsunlu 팔선루 (Geoje, South Korea)

My search for a warm bowl of noodles near the Gohyun bus station after I arrived in Geoje brought me to Palsunlu (팔선루), a Chinese bistro that serves Korean/Chinese fusion food.

Palsunloo entrance
Palsunloo entrance

It was located on the second floor of a large building. They did not have outdoor seating, but plenty of indoor seating that was spaced out.

Interior
Interior

After filling out the mandatory information book with name, phone number, and temperature, we were seated at a table and given menus.

Dumpling varieties
Dumpling varieties
Noodle choices
Noodle choices

Their menu was extensive, so we ordered a variety of dishes to share.

Pork dishes
Pork dishes

I love getting tea at Chinese restaurants, as it compliments the dishes very well!

Tea
Tea

We were given some banchan (side dishes) consisting of pickled veggies and radish, as well as some roasted peanuts. The peanuts were the perfect mix of salty with a slight sweetness.  

Banchan
Banchan

We started with the housemade Pan Fried Pork Dumplings (수제만두; 6,000 Korean won, ~$5.50 USD). These were very crispy and had such a tasty filling packed with juicy ground pork and plenty of chives. This was my favorite of all of the items we had. My dumpling craving was satisfied!

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings
Pan Fried Pork Dumplings
Dumpling filling
Dumpling filling

The Beijing Style Deep Fried Pork (찹쌀 탕수육; 22,000 Korean won, ~$20 USD) was different from traditional Korean style Tangsooyook (deep fried pork) as it does not come with the traditional sauce with vegetables and fruit, but instead a sauce made with a vinegar base that was tart and sweet.

Beijing Style Deep Fried Pork
Beijing Style Deep Fried Pork

The fried pork was crispy and slightly chewy on the outside and the sauce went well with the pork because it was not too heavy, although it tasted a bit plain. You can ask for sauce on the side or on the pork itself, and they cut the pork in small pieces for you after they bring it out, which was a nice touch.

I had high hopes for the Seafood Jjamppong (짬뽕; 9,000 Korean won, ~$8.50 USD), a spicy noodle soup with seafood and vegetables. Visually it was very impressive, with plenty of clams, squid, shrimp, onions, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, and bean sprouts. The seafood was all very fresh, and the noodles were cooked well, but the broth was just missing the spicy kick that I was expecting. It was actually the mildest Jjamppong I have ever had! You could definitely have this even if you are not good with spicy food.

Seafood Jjamppong
Seafood Jjamppong
Noodles were tender
Noodles were tender
Seafood was fresh
Seafood was fresh

The Sichuan-style noodle soup (사천탕면; 10,000 Korean won, ~$9.50 USD) was surprisingly more spicy than the Jjamppong even though it had a clear colored broth. This noodle soup was also filled with fresh clams, onions, zucchini, carrots, and peppers, and had a spicy aftertaste to the tasty broth.

Sichuan-style noodle soup
Sichuan-style noodle soup

At the end of our meal, we were given a complimentary small dish of Pineapple sorbet, which was a nice touch and very refreshing at the end of our meal.

Pineapple sorbet
Pineapple sorbet

I appreciated how our server was very friendly and service was very fast.

Even though the dishes were on the mild side, I would still recommend trying Palsunlu if you are in the Gohyun area and would like some fresh food!

Location: 971-6 Gohyeon-dong, Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnam-do

Oedo Nursery (Geoje, South Korea)

After walking through a hill to see the Gujora Fortress, a fortress built during the Chosun time period in Korea to protect against foreign invaders, I definitely needed some refreshment!

Path to Gujora Fortress
Path to Gujora Fortress
Gujora Fortress (구조라성)
Gujora Fortress (구조라성)

Tip: bring comfortable shoes if you are going to visit the fortress, as the path is very rocky!

Comfortable shoes are a must!
Comfortable shoes are a must!
This view was worth it though!
This view was worth it though!

After the hike, my friends and I were relieved to see Oedo Nursery café, located close by the fortress. It was only about a 10 minute walk away.

This nursery themed café was one of my favorites from my trip to Geoje island! You instantly feel like you are entering a secret garden when you enter the walkway to Oedo Nursery café surrounded by tall trees. The building is made of clear glass with green structures.

Path to Oedo Nursery
Path to Oedo Nursery
Oedo Nursery
Oedo Nursery

The head chef pâtissière is Kim Jisu, who trained under Paul Bocuse (a Michelin star chef) at the Institut Paul Bocuse.

Head chef pâtissière Kim Jisu
Head chef pâtissière Kim Jisu

They have displays of their desserts and pictures of each drink. Their desserts ranged from madeleines to various shiny and colorful cakes.

Display of desserts
Display of desserts

Since we were parched from walking in the heat, we ended up just getting some drinks. The drinks were pricey, ranging from 7,000-8,500 Korean won (about $6.5-8 USD), as is expected for a tourist location by the beach. They are worth it if you want that gorgeous aesthetic!

Once you order, you are given a buzzer to alert you when your drink is ready.

Buzzers
Buzzers

Gujora Ade was definitely beautiful, combining the tart taste of yuja citrus ade with lavender tea. Since the lavender tea comes separately in a small bottle, when you pour the lavender tea into the ade, it creates a magnificent color meant to symbolize the sunset on Gujora beach.

Gujora Ade
Gujora Ade

The Brewing Tropical Ice Tea was delicious with brewed tropical crimson tea and a jelly-like green grape syrup on the bottom. Make sure you mix this drink together to get the full conglomeration of flavors.

Brewing Tropical Ice Tea
Brewing Tropical Ice Tea

If you like tart drinks, the Raspberry Mojito is also a great choice with lime and apple-mint flavors mixed with raspberry. This drink is non-alcoholic, so it is perfect for any age!

Raspberry Mojito
Raspberry Mojito

The interior was definitely full of people but did not feel overly crowded because of the very high ceilings and the sunshine shining in through the windows. Being surrounded by plants also created a sense of peace in the midst of everything.

Interior of cafe
Interior of cafe

Since the weather was sunny, sitting outside in the back was a must, as you can get a very nice view of the Gujora beach. I just wish they had more shade as it did a bit hot after an extended time, but I still enjoyed the peacefulness of looking at the water while sipping my drink!

Outside seating in back
Outside seating in back
This view makes the drink taste even better!
This view makes the drink taste even better!

They also have a small nursery and garden in the back, where they host private events.

Back garden and nursery
Back garden and nursery

I definitely recommend Oedo Nursery if you are looking for a place by Gujora beach to sit and enjoy drinks with friends or with a loved one!

Location: 21 Gujora-ro 4-gil, Irun-myeon, Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea

Jeonwon Charcoal Grill (Daegu, South Korea)

Yesterday was a national holiday in South Korea- Buddha’s birthday celebration, which takes place on the eighth day of the fourth month (lunar calendar).

Grateful for a day off, my parents and I visited a nearby mountain, Ch’orye-bong (located: Ansim 3(sam).4(sa)-dong, Daegu) to do some hiking.

I had really missed mountains while in Florida since there are no mountains to be found there- only swamps with gators!

It was a beautiful spring day and I enjoyed the serenity of being surrounded by trees, with the only sounds being flowing water from the creek and the chirping of birds.

Parents hiking!
Parents hiking!
Trees and rocks
Trees and rocks
Beautiful purple flowers
Beautiful purple flowers

After the two hour hike, we made our way to get some Korean BBQ!

We went to Jeonwon Charcoal Grill as it was just a 7 minute drive away from the mountain.

Outside the restaurant
Outside the restaurant

The restaurant was not too crowded when we arrived, and we had to take our temperature and sign the book for guests. Every restaurant in Korea has a policy where you need to sign in or use a designated registered QR code.

Check in area
Check in area

Korean restaurants are also very strict about not allowing any groups of more than 4 people as is the law at the moment.

Since BBQ needs to be grilled with charcoal at the table, there is only the option to sit indoors. It did get a bit crowded well into dinnertime, but the tables are spread apart. You could also get meat to take out, and they are actually offering discounts for takeout orders!

You order the meat in portions (1 portion is usually enough for 1 person). We ordered 2 portions of marinated pork galbi (쪽갈비) priced at 9500 Korean won (about $9 USD) per portion, 2 portions of plain pork shoulder (생목살 구이) priced at 10,000 Korean won (about $9.5 USD) per portion, and 2 portions of marinated pork shoulder (양념 목살 구이) priced at 9500 Korean won (about $9 USD) per portion.

marinated pork galbi and shoulder meat
Marinated pork galbi and shoulder meat
Plain pork shoulder meat
Plain pork shoulder meat

After you order, someone brings the burning charcoal to fit into the grill at your table, and your table gets filled with delicious banchan (side dishes), which come complimentary to your meal. Some of my favorite banchan that the restaurant had was dotori mook (도토리 묵), a savory dish made of gelatinous jellied acorn powder marinated with a soy sauce based sauce and tossed in mixed veggies, mushroom tangsooyook (버섯 탕수육), and mulkimchi (물김치), a watery version of kimchi that is mild and delicious.

Charcoal added to grill
Charcoal added to grill
Banchan (side dishes)
Banchan (side dishes)
The whole spread!
The whole spread!

At Korean BBQ, it is tradition to cook your own meat, which may seem daunting to some, but it is part of the fun! Just be careful not to cook the marinated meat on too high heat, as it can easily burn.

Meat on the grill
Meat on the grill

Remember to also throw the garlic onto the grill along with the meat so you can get it nice and cooked!

Meat cooking with garlic and onion
Meat cooking with garlic and onion

The best part of Korean BBQ is definitely when you get to triumphantly grab the perfectly cooked slice, steaming hot, and place it into your mouth.

Meat is cooking well!
Meat is cooking well!

There are many ways to eat the meat once it is cooked. You can eat the meat by itself- if you are a ‘purist,’ or you can wrap it in some marinated lettuce.

Cooked meat with marinated veggie
Cooked meat with marinated veggie

The plain pork meat tasted best simply dipped into salt.

Plain meat dipped in salt
Plain meat dipped in salt

One of my favorite ways to eat the meat is to make ssam (쌈), which is when you layer lettuce, meat, onion, garlic and some ssam sauce (쌈장) to create a beautiful wrap to shove into your mouth!

Ssam (meat and lettuce wrap)
Ssam (meat and lettuce wrap)

After eating some meat, we ordered some rice and noodles.

My parents got the Gondeure namul bap (곤드레밥), which is a stone pot rice steamed with Indian thistle.

Gondeure namul bap
Gondeure namul bap

There is a specific way to eat this rice dish: Scoop all of the rice into another bowl and fill the empty stone pot with rice water that they give you in a kettle. Then, cover the stone pot and once you finish your meal, you will have nurungji (누룽지), which is crispy rice crust that is very grainy and delicious.

Scooped rice
Scooped rice
Pour rice water into pot
Pour rice water into pot
Covered stone pot
Covered stone pot
nurungji
Nurungji

As for the rice that you scooped out, you can eat it with the dwenjangjjigae (soybean paste stew) that they serve it with, and marinated herbs (나물), as well as other banchan.

dwenjangjjigae
dwenjangjjigae
Gondeure namul bap with dwenjangjjigae
Gondeure namul bap with dwenjangjjigae

I got the mulnaengmyeon (물냉면), which is a chilled buck wheat noodle dish with meat broth, sliced pickled daikon radish, sliced pear, a hard boiled egg, and mulkimchi.

Mulnaengmyeon
Mulnaengmyeon

You can add mustard/wasabi sauce and vinegar to your liking.

Mustard sauce and vinegar
Mustard sauce and vinegar

This dish is perfect for the summer, as it has chunks of ice floating in it, and pairs so well with the cooked meat. One of my favorite food combinations ever!

Mulnaengmyeon pairs perfectly with grilled meat
Mulnaengmyeon pairs perfectly with grilled meat

I was beyond full after this meal and had massive food coma, but had absolutely no regrets!

Location: 625-6 Sinseo-dong, Dong-gu, Daegu

Sensei Asian Bistro (Gainesville, FL)

I was happy to hear that there was a new Asian restaurant that opened in Celebration Pointe mall a few months ago, so I knew I had to check it out.

Sensei Asian Bistro is open for dinner on Mondays-Wednesdays, and from lunch to dinner Thursday-Sundays. They have outdoor and indoor dining spaces, or you can get takeout.

Exterior
Exterior

Sensei is equipped with a full bar and has a modern feel to it with gray floors, wooden tables and black accents.

Bar
Bar
Group seating
Group seating

Their gold silverware and white rose details on the tables added a nice touch.

Indoor seating
Indoor seating

Sensei offers a variety of Asian fusion dishes, from Sichuan Chili Chicken to Sushi, to Thai Curry.

Extensive drink menu
Extensive drink menu
Starter and sides
Starter and sides
Entree and dessert
Entree and dessert

We started with a side of Spring Roll ($3), which came with three very crispy spring rolls filled with vegetables and served with a standard sweet and sour spring roll sauce. They were freshly fried and I enjoyed these a lot!

Spring rolls
Spring rolls

My favorite dish was the Chicken Katsu ($19), which came with a large portion of chicken cutlets breaded and fried, on top of a very small amount of lettuce and two sweety drop peppers.

Chicken katsu from side
Chicken katsu from side
Chicken katsu from the above
Chicken katsu from the above

The katsu was crunchy and cooked well, although I wish it came with a bit more veggies. I enjoyed the togarashi seasonsing and sweet brown sauce that was drizzled on top. This was my first time having sweety drop peppers and I really enjoyed them! They are not spicy at all, but rather sweet and very juicy on the inside. It really added elevated the look and taste of the overall dish. The portion is large so you can definitely share it or have leftovers!

Sweety drop peppers
Sweety drop peppers

I had high hopes for the Sichuan Chili Chicken ($17), but while the presentation was impressive, the taste was a bit bland. The sauce was a soy sauce base and was slightly sweet. You can choose the spice level so we got it hot, but the sauce itself was actually not spicy at all. Maybe if you eat the thai chili pepper you can get extra heat, but these peppers are extremely spicy so be warned. The dish also had caramelized onions and a small amount of spring mix veggies on the side. The portion for this was just standard.

We were told that we could try “roasting” the chicken in the fire before eating it, which we tried, but it did not really make a difference in terms of taste.

Sichuan chili chicken
Sichuan chili chicken

Also, I was disappointed that the entrees did not come with rice, despite prices being on the higher side, so you had to add a side of rice.

On the flip side, our server was very friendly and was very attentive throughout the meal. She even boxed up our leftovers for us!

Overall, price of the food is pretty steep for the quality, but Sensei could still be a nice place for a quiet and classy meal if you are in the Celebration Pointe area. 

Location: 4860 SW 31st Pl Ste 10, Gainesville, FL 32608, United States

Scuola Pizza (Gainesville, FL)

Gainesville is blessed with many great pizza options, but Scuola Pizza offers something unique with their food and décor!

You can dine in their beautiful indoor space, or pick up to go. They also offer delivery through uber eats, grubhub, and 352 delivery, which is good since the location could be a bit far if you live around campus.

Scuola Pizza, which opened in March of 2021 by the Sinis family, has a modern vibe with wood and black colored interior accented by bright colored walls.

Interior
Interior

The interior choice that caught my eye most was the collection of bright and colorful books lining the walls, and also the open book mural made with tons of real books!

Open book wall
Open book wall

The many books not only add a unique touch to the interior space, but also provide for some good reading while you order or eat.

When I asked about all of the books aligning the walls, our server kindly explained how Scuola means school in Italian and how the owner used to teach English in Greece so he wanted to share his love for books! I also love reading, so I was delighted to see some of my favorite books being featured. The space almost seemed like a café with the cozy and calming atmosphere.

Books along dining area
Books along dining area

We got started with some water and this is a small detail, but I like how they were using biodegradable straws made from agave!

Agave straw
Agave straw

The dishes at Scuola Pizza are inspired by European and Mediterranean cuisine ranging from salads to pasta, burgers, gyro platters and more. They also have Craft-Your-Own pizzas ranging from $10.95 for 12 inches or $14.25 for 16 inches.

Menu items
Menu items
Pizza menu
Pizza menu

Since I went when they were doing a Buy One Get One Half Off deal, I chose two options from their variety of specialty pies.

The Scuola pizza ($13.95 for 12 inch) was my favorite pizza that I tried as it was topped with plenty of pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers. Some pizzas with sausage and pepperoni can be a bit too salty, but this one did not feel overly salty at all. I liked how the meat and bell peppers were cut in smaller pieces to create a more even texture as well. The ingredients tasted fresh and complimented the cheese and crispy texture of the crust really well.

Scuola pizza
Scuola pizza

The Margherita pizza ($11.95 for 12 inch) was also very good with fresh mozzarella, grated pecorino romano, olive oil & basil. Their pizza is flame baked in a wood fire oven and it was very tasty. Another small detail that I liked was that they designed a newspaper for their paper lining the pizzas. Such a great design idea that provides some history and a crossword puzzle!

Margherita pizza
Margherita pizza
Loved this newspaper lining for the pizza!
Loved this newspaper lining for the pizza!

They also have local and imported beers, as well as wines.

Beer and wines
Beer and wines

We paired our pizzas with some Greek beers and went for the Mythos beer (est. 1997, $3.50) and the Fix beer (est. 1864, $4). I liked the taste of the Fix beer a lot better; it was light and went really well with the pizza.

Fix beer and Mythos beer
Fix beer and Mythos beer

I was too full for dessert but want to try their Baklava Cheesecake and Athenian Chocolate Mousse in the future.

Specials!
Specials!

I would definitely visit Scuola Pizza again for some food for my stomach, as well as my brain!

Follow @scuolapizzagainesville for the latest updates!

Saporito Oil Vinegar Spice (Gainesville, FL)

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all of the wonderful mothers out there!

I am so lucky to be able to spend mother’s day with my mother this year. She is the strongest and most energetic woman I know, and I strive to be as kind, dedicated, and loving as her.

If your mother loves cooking as much as mine does, oil, vinegar, and spices from Saporito would make a great gift for her!

My mother deserves nothing but the best, so when she asked me to bring her some quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar on my flight to her, I began searching for olive oil tasting rooms and found Saporito.

Saporito Oil Vinegar Spice (OVS for short) specializes in bringing high quality extra virgin olive oil to Gainesville. They are a family owned business that started in 2015.

Saporito exterior
Saporito exterior

Right when I walked in, I was surrounded by many different types of oils, vinegars, and spices. The shop has clear labels of all the different types of oils and a binder of information explaining what the difference between extra virgin olive oil and other olive oils, as well as the background and chemical analysis of each type of oil. A credentialed lab tests the olive oil to ensure premium quality. I found all of the information to be a little overwhelming, but at the same time reassuring as I could see the exact ingredients and purity of the oil quantified.

Detailed info on olive oil
Detailed info on olive oil

Since they also offer a tasting room, you can also taste all of the products before buying them if you want extra reassurance of the flavor!

They have many infused oils and vinegars, but since my mother wanted non-infused ones, I went for those.

They have many different extra virgin olive oils, ranging from mild to strong intensities. I chose the Chiquitita olive oil ($20 for 375ml bottle), which had mild intensity. This oil originated in Portugal and is described to be delicate and sweet with notes of almond and berry. The harvest date was November 2020. I liked how much information Saporito gives on the origin and exact chemical composition of the oil as well. The chemical composition of this oil is: Biophenols: 169.5, FFA: 0.13, DAGs: 97.2, Squalene: 5232.3, A-Tocopherols: 240.9. When I tasted the oil at home, I liked the taste, as it was not overly sweet or strong.

Chiquitita extra virgin olive oil info
Chiquitita extra virgin olive oil info
Chiquitita extra virgin olive oil
Chiquitita extra virgin olive oil
Chiquitita extra virgin olive oil back
Chiquitita extra virgin olive oil back

They have some very interesting flavors for infused vinegars such as the Espresso and Dark Chocolate infused Balsamic vinegar!

Balsamic vinegar choices
Balsamic vinegar choices

I chose the 18 Year Traditional Dark Balsamic vinegar, ($13 for 200ml bottle) which tasted very rich and smooth. My mother commented on how much she enjoyed the flavor and it was not too overpowering.

Traditional balsamic vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar back
Traditional balsamic vinegar back

My mother and I have been really enjoying a combination of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar as salad dressing. Here is a salad my mother made!

Salad with greens, mozzarella tomatoes, avocado and olives, topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Salad with greens, mozzarella tomatoes, avocado and olives, topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

The White truffle oil ($31 for 200ml bottle) was pricier than the other oils but definitely worth it if you like the pungent and unique taste of truffle. The flavor was strong, which I liked, and had a shallot-like taste to it. This oil would be lovely in pasta, on top of fries, or in salad as well!

White truffle oil
White truffle oil
White truffle oil back
White truffle oil back

I highly recommend Saporito’s for any of your oil, vinegar, and spice needs!

You can visit Saporito’s online shop for their full list of products: https://saporitoovs.com/

Location: 4401 NW 25th Pl d, Gainesville, FL 32606

Vegan Gator Food Truck (Gainesville, FL)

It’s Wang Wednesday and Vegan Gator’s cauliflower wings are perfect for any celebration including Cinco de Mayo and Meatless May!

Vegan Gator, which opened in at the end of 2020, has been elevating the vegan food scene here in Gainesville!

This local food truck is located at 220 NW 8th Ave, next to the Flashbacks parking lot, starting noon Tuesdays-Saturdays. They do not have seating or delivery, so you would need to drive there to pick up the food.

Vegan Gator food truck
Vegan Gator food truck

Their menu consists of delicious plant based burgers, wings, and fries made from locally sourced ingredients.

For Wang Wednesdays you can get vegan cauliflower wings with a variety of flavors! For today they have Carolina Gold BBQ, Sweet and Spicy Korean Glaze, Lemon Pepper, and OG Buffalo.

Last week I tried the Carolina Mustard BBQ wings ($8.99), which were slightly crunchy on the outside with a mustardy-tangy BBQ sauce and scallions on top. If you like Carolina BBQ, you will like these.

Carolina BBQ cauliflower wings
Carolina BBQ cauliflower wings

I really liked the Thai Sweet Chili cauliflower wings ($8.99) as well, as they were very crispy and the sauce was a good mix of sweet and slightly spicy. The sauces were very flavorful and good, and the softer texture of the cauliflower inside complimented the crispiness of the batter well. I only wish the portion sizes were a little larger for the wings.

Thai Sweet Chili cauliflower wings
Thai Sweet Chili cauliflower wings

The White Truffle and Rosemary fries ($7.99) were also very tasty, with a creamy, truffle sauce, herbs, and rosemary on top of crispy crunchy fries. As a fan of truffle, I thought these were solid and very filling.

White truffle and rosemary fries
White truffle and rosemary fries

The Poutine fries ($7.99) were also good with plenty of mushrooms, cheese, white béchamel sauce, mushroom gravy and scallions on top of the fries. While I enjoyed these fries since it has been a while since I had poutine, these do get a little soggy with time so just be aware of that! They are also definitely heavier than the truffle fries.

Poutine fries
Poutine fries

Be sure to try their Vegan Cowboy burger ($15.99)! It is pricey for just a burger but it is packed with BBQ Jackfruit, crispy onion straws, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, and LTP. This burger is very big and is sure to fill you up! I liked the combination of flavors created by the BBQ jackfruit and the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. It’s a very good option for a vegan burger. I’m not even vegan and I thought this tasted amazing!

Vegan Cowboy burger
Vegan Cowboy burger
Vegan Cowboy burger cross section
Vegan Cowboy burger cross section

I was fortunate enough to enjoy this delicious food with a nice cold beer and amazing company! The drink of choice was Guinness Draught Stout and it was dark and delicious.

Guinness Draught Stout
Guinness Draught Stout

I am very happy to support this local black owned food truck that has been providing quality vegan options! Make sure to follow @vegangatorfoodtruck for the latest updates.

Hana Sushi (Gainesville, FL)

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month!

Today I’m highlighting one of my favorite sushi restaurants: Hana Sushi!

Hana Sushi, established in 2019, is located across the street from Celebration Pointe. They offer popular Japanese items such as sushi, sashimi, hibachi, bento boxes, and more. They have both outdoor and indoor seating, as well as takeout. They also offer delivery through Door Dash and Uber Eats. Their interior has a clean, modern look with dark tiles, high ceilings, wooden tables, and leather seats.

Hana Sushi exterior
Hana Sushi exterior
Outdoor seating
Outdoor seating
Indoor seating
Indoor seating
sushi bar
sushi bar

This time I tried the Love Boat ($55.95, feeds two), which came with 10 pieces of sushi, 16 pieces of sashimi (chef’s choice), 1 tuna roll, and 1 dragon roll. This boat was really more of a garden with a tree and flowers. Just a tip: only get this if you like raw fish, as the majority of items are raw.

Lover's "boat"
Lover’s “boat”

The Love Boat meal also includes a bowl of miso soup and salad. I liked the salad dressing, which was standard Japanese restaurant-style dressing, and the miso soup was also very flavorful.

Miso soup (above); salad (below)
Miso soup (above); salad (below)

As a lover of sashimi, I was pleased to find that the fish was very good quality and fresh. The sushi and sashimi featured a mix of yellowtail, salmon, tuna, white tuna, shrimp, snapper, and surf clam. My favorite was the salmon sashimi. It was thick, tender, and had the perfect texture between firm and smooth. I also liked the surf clam sashimi, which was very tender, chewy, and slightly sweet.

Yellowtail sashimi
Yellowtail sashimi
Salmon sashimi
Tuna sashimi
Tuna sashimi
White tuna sashimi
White tuna sashimi
Red snapper sashimi
Red snapper sashimi
Surf clam sashimi
Surf clam sashimi

As for the rolls, I liked the rice to fish ratio because sometimes restaurants put too much rice in the rolls, but these rolls had just a thin layer of rice that complimented the texture and flavor of the fish.   

Tuna roll
Tuna roll
Dragon roll
Dragon roll

The dragon roll, which was stuffed with cooked eel, cucumber, and covered with avocado, sauce, and fish eggs. This roll was nicely flavored with a mix of crunchy and creamy textures.

So was it worth the price? I would say so, because of the quality of the fish and the amount of rolls and sashimi you get. However if you really like a particular type of fish, you may just want to get individual rolls or sashimi.

The boat was certainly enough food to feed two, but just to go overboard (excuse the pun), we also got the Hawaiian fried rice. This dish was around $15, but it could easily feed two people as the portion was extremely large. The fried rice has a savory, strong curry flavor to it, along with sweetness from raisins and crunch from cashews on top. It also has chunks of shrimp, chicken, pineapple, and peas. I personally liked the curry flavor and thought this was definitely worth the price. There were enough leftovers for the next day! This is also a good dish if you want cooked meat or a rice dish.

Hawaiian fried rice
Hawaiian fried rice

Definitely try Hana sushi to fill your next Japanese food craving!

Location: 3147 SW 45 St Ste 10, Gainesville, FL 32608, United States

Lulu’s Gelato (Jonesville, FL)

Ever tried a boba float?

It’s just one of the options Lulu’s offers at their gelato stand!

Lulu’s Gelato is only open on the weekends, so make sure to get your fix! You can usually find their stand from 2-6pm at the Jonesville Persimmons and Fruit Tree Nursery, but this Sunday they will also be at the Food Truck Rally/Arts & Crafts Extravaganza (GNV Commons at 100 SW 1st Ave).

Lulu's Stand
Lulu’s stand

I finally got the chance to visit the Jonesville stand and it was easy to find with plenty of parking. The setting is beautiful as well with lots of trees and plants at Tropical Roots Plant Co. right behind the stand. There is plenty of outdoor seating as well.

Outdoor seating
Outdoor seating
Tropical Roots Plant Co.
Tropical Roots Plant Co.

With the rise of AAPI hate crimes in the U.S., I love how they are donating tips for the months of April and May to Apex for Youth, an organization in NYC that helps underserved Asian and immigrant youth.

Tips for Apex for Youth
Tips for Apex for Youth

Lulu’s offers delicious flavors of gelato and sorbets all created by Chef Johnny, boba floats, which are soda, gelato, and chewy boba, as well as beignets.

Menu
Menu

Not only is their Gelato delicious, but they also offer many flavors you would not find elsewhere like Black Sesame, Sweet Taro, Honey Lavender, and Butter Finger.

Since you can choose up to 2 flavors, I chose Black Sesame and Sweet Taro gelato, which ($4) came with crushed nuts and black sesame seeds as toppings. The Black Sesame gelato had a really robust, nutty flavor mixed with smooth milky creaminess. The sweet taro flavor was also so delicious and the flavor was strong! I am already looking forward to having these flavors again. 

Black Sesame Gelato with Taro Gelato
Black Sesame Gelato with Taro Gelato

 I also added boba as a topping for $1 and the boba was very chewy and on the firmer side, but really good.

Taro flavor tasted great with boba pearls!
Taro flavor tasted great with boba pearls!

For the Boba Float ($5) you get to choose a soda (Sprite, Root Beer, Orange Soda, Coke) and add any flavor of Gelato or Sorbet. This is such a genius idea and so refreshing on a hot day!

Boba float with Sprite and Pina Colada gelato
Boba float with Sprite and Pina Colada gelato

I chose Sprite and was recommended the Pina Colada gelato to pair with it as they were out of their Vanilla. They even gave me some extra soda left over and it was the perfect mix of bubbly carbonation and sweet cream, along with the chewy boba.

The Beignets ($3/4 pieces, $4/6 pieces), a deep fried pastry delicacy, were fried fresh and warm with a crunchy outer shell and tons of powdered sugar on top. I tried to stop myself but ended up having five pieces!

Beignets
Beignets
Beignet close up
Beignet close up
Inside of beignet
Inside of beignet

I loved supporting this friendly family owned business that is serving up delicious desserts! Follow @lulusgelato for more updates and pop up locations!

Paramount Grill (Gainesville, FL)

I’m still thinking about the clamtastic (not a real word but accurate in this case!) pasta special offered at Paramount Grill last weekend. The food was good, but the service was what made the dining experience even better!

They have a lot of seating and the restaurant was not very crowded that night so it left plenty of space for social distanced dining indoors. They can also set up tables outdoors by request, and takeout is available as well.

Indoor dining room 1
Indoor dining room 1
Indoor dining room 2

Our server was really friendly and started us off with some fresh spinach and feta muffins and butter made in house. The muffins were very flavorful with a slight crust and buttery soft on the inside.

Spinach and feta muffins
Muffins with butter
Muffins with butter

The soup of the night was a Portobello and Gorgonzola cheese soup. It had a slight taste of mushroom mixed with the slightly sharp, pungent flavor of Gorgonzola cheese.

Portobello and Gorgonzola cheese soup
Portobello and Gorgonzola cheese soup

Paramount offers seasonal dishes based on availability of local ingredients. I knew I had to try the special dish of the night, which was Fettuccini ($28) with local clams from Cedar Key, cheese, and local chestnut mushrooms.

Fettuccini with clams, mushrooms, and white wine sauce
Fettuccini with clams, mushrooms, and white wine sauce

The fettuccini was on the thinner side than what I am used to, but soaked up the creamy white wine sauce well. My favorite part of the dish was the mushrooms, as they were really tender and went perfectly with the sauce. I only wish there were more mushrooms! The clams were also tender with a slight crunch.

The food here is on the pricier side, but I did like how they use local ingredients and the dishes tasted fresh. I enjoyed the fine dining experience with classy jazz tunes and antique pictures on the walls.

antique photos
Antique photos

Try them out for brunch of dinner in downtown Gainesville and follow @paramountgrill for the latest specials!