Category: Guest Blogger

With superheroes like The Avengers, Ant-Man, and the Fantastic Four taking the world by storm this summer, we were looking for our own ways to be “super” this summer. The answer is…with SUPERFOODS! Powered by a team of nutrient-packed foods, you’ll be kicking butt in no time…without all the Spandex, of course.

We’ve got all the need-to-know info on some of these powerful foods, 15+ recipes you’ll love, and more!


What is a Superfood, anyway?

The “superfood”  label is no new term. But if this is your first time learning about it, there are a few crucial things to know. No, it isn’t some sci-fi hybrid food product engineered by a mad scientist. Generally speaking, “superfood” is a basic term for “nutritionally-dense” foods full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that do wonders for our bodies and minds.



Lovingly-known as the “supergrain”, quinoa is a quick-cooking, whole-grain seed. Known for its protein content, this gluten-free food is famous for being one of the only plant foods containing complete proteins, offering all essential amino acids. According to the Whole Grains Council, quinoa is also a good source of iron, fiber, copper, thiamin, and vitamin B6. This jam-packed balance of nutrients can aid in lowering cholesterol, help digestion, and offer many other anti-inflammatory and heart benefits.

Word to the wise: high nutrients don’t always equate to “low-calorie”. While quinoa is said to have as many calories as brown rice, it can still be a great substitute nonetheless!

For more information on QUINOA, check out this great article by Eating Well!

Dishes you’ll CRAVE:

GardenGrazer_QuinoaPowerSaladThe Garden Grazer’s Quinoa Avocado Spinach Power Salad

The name says it all. This super salad has all the fiber, protein, and good fats you need to sustain your appetite AND satisfy your cravings for something delicious.




EatGood_QuinoCasseroleEat Good 4 Life’s Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

For those chilly nights at home…All the warm, cheesy home-made goodness boosted by broccoli, spinach, and quinoa! Bonus: this recipe calls for pesto – the perfect opportunity to try a KALE PESTO! (See below for the pesto recipe)



Back2HerRoots_GreekQuinoaSaladBack To Her Root’s Cold Greek Quinoa Salad

Cucumber. Kalamata olives. Feta cheese. Red bell peppers. Sounds like a great reason to get down with quinoa this summer.





Kale has topped the “Superfoods” lists for years. Said to contain well over a day’s worth of vitamins K and A, and more Vitamin C than an orange, kale is known for its star-studded roster of nutrients reported to reduce the risk of certain cancers (including breast and ovarian), provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and aid in brain development – among others.

Variety is key!

While kale is often the most celebrated, you can actually get many of the same nutritional benefits from its cousins in the cabbage family including broccoli, cauliflower, and collards. Like any food, it is important to include a variety of greens in your diet. Mix any of those mentioned here and include other leafy greens like spinach or swiss chard!

There are numerous types of kale available, the trick is to look for dark, crisp leaves. There are even more ways to incorporate kale in your meal!  Sauté in olive oil and garlic for stir-fry or a side of greens, swap out your romaine or iceberg lettuce for kale in salads, or lightly coat chopped kale with olive oil and roast it for kale chips. Kale is also a great green for juices and smoothies, however some have reported digestion issues with raw kale if consumed more than a couple times per week.

Dishes You’ll CRAVE:

GlowingFridge_SpicyKaleQuinoaBBSaladThe Glowing Fridge’s Spicy Kale Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Want to “spice” up your healthy habits? With quinoa, black beans, and kale, this dish packs a punch both in taste and goodness! Flavor and nutrients to boot.




Food52_KalePestoFood 52’s Kale Pesto

Pesto is the best-o. Much simpler to make than a good marinara, yet still so flavorful! As promised, here’s a can’t-beat recipe for a kale pesto sure to have you raving (even if you’ve never had pesto before!).



JoytheBaker_KaleSmoothieJoy the Baker’s Kale Spinach and Pear Smoothie

The recipe that proves eating well can be delicious! All it takes is kale, spinach, a pear, a banana, and some almond milk. “It doesn’t taste like you’re drinking kale and spinach. It tastes like you’re drinking good.” Violá!



For additional KALE information: check out what Cookie and Kate has to say. And even more facts at the Huffington Post!



You’ve probably seen blueberries on many other superfood lists, and rightly so. Like other berries, they are rich in vitamins, soluble fiber and phytochemicals. The Blueberry Council states that blueberries are “low in fat, but high in vitamin C and dietary fiber, and a good source of manganese.” Among other incredible benefits, these nutrients have been found to help lower your risk of disease and cancer, lower blood pressure, and aid in healthy digestion.  Blueberries are also high in antioxidants, which help protect you against harmful disease-enabling “free radicals”.

Dishes You’ll CRAVE:

Kitchenthusiast_5minFroYoKitchenthusiast’s 5-Minute Frozen Yogurt

With just a few ingredients and a few minutes to spare, you can have yourself a simple and healthy frozen yogurt complete with an added toasted-coconut crunch! While the blueberries are the main act here, you can certainly throw in some spinach or kale for bonus goodness!



GimmeSomeOven_PinappleChickenBBSaladGimme Some Oven’s Grilled Pineapple Chicken Avocado Salad

We just couldn’t resist adding this beauty to the list. The blueberries take on a supporting role in this dish, but are an important flavor component regardless. And who could say no to a little extra sweet-and-tartness?! When it comes to taste, nutrition, and being perfectly-summery, this dish certainly has it all.



EnjoyEveryBite_BlueberryMuffinsEnjoy Every Bite’s Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

It’s hard not to love blueberry muffins. It IS hard to find a recipe without a ton of refined or processed ingredients. If you’ve been looking for a more nutritious way to indulge in this breakfast classic, look no further. This recipe uses whole wheat flour, oats, and blueberries and is naturally-sweetened!





Fish and shellfish are generally nutritionally-rich. Salmon in particular is an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals (including potassium, selenium and vitamin B12). However, the plethora of omega-3 fatty acids salmon contain is the real show-stopper. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids, meaning the body cannot produce them by itself. These fatty acids are thought to support good brain health, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, help balance cholesterol, and may cut cancer risk. Considering all these extraordinary benefits, it is suggested you eat oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and fresh tuna) at least three times a week.

Check out the BBC’s Good Food article for more information!

Dishes You’ll CRAVE:

SkinnyTaste_SalmonBurgerSkinny Taste’s Naked Salmon Burgers with Sriracha Mayo

No doubt, summer is when the burger reigns king. As tough as it might sound, try to stray away from the turf and go for the surf! This salmon burger will satisfy all your cravings for a juicy, flavorful, and hearty burger, with all of those glorious omega-3’s!



CookingClassy_SalmonTacosCooking Classy’s Grilled Salmon Tacos with Avocado Salsa

This dish will have you wishing every day were Taco Tuesday. If you’ve had fish tacos (and you should!), you NEED to try this street taco variation. Flavorful and beautifully-complemented with fresh avocado salsa and Cotija cheese? Is it Tuesday yet?



CookingClassy_BakedSalmon&VeggiesCooking Classy’s Baked Salmon and Summer Veggies

Cooking Classy is hitting it out of the park with the salmon recipes. This one would be PERFECT for a summer party, and here’s why. This is a light and nutrition-packed dish that’s, most importantly, so easy to make! The oven does virtually all of the work – which means less time babysitting the grill, and more time enjoying the party! PLUS: you’ll have a chance to use all of those beautiful in-season summer squashes from your garden (or have a reason to go to the farmer’s market asap).


Full of fiber, oats are also notable as rich sources of magnesium, potassium, and phytonutrients. They contain a special type of fiber that helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, and their magnesium works to regulate blood-sugar levels. According to the Whole Grain Council, whole oats increase appetite-control hormones, lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, help control blood pressure, and lower risk of diabetes. Oats even have twice the amount of protein than whole wheat or whole corn!

Are all oats “whole oats”?

In short, not necessarily. Whole oats are oats that still contain their endosperm, bran and germ. Oats such as “quick oats” that have been further processed to remove these essential parts also significantly reduce the amount of nutrients the oat contains.The trick is to look for “whole oat” products such as  whole grain oat groats, steel cut oats, and thick oats.

Dishes You’ll CRAVE:

WheatlessKitchen_BananaBreadOatsThe Wheatless Kitchen’s Banana Bread Overnight Oats

Yes all day to overnight oats. Easy to make, a serious time-saver in the morning, nutritious, AND filling. There’s no need to give up your appetite-satisfying oatmeal during the warm weather months! Best of all, it’s great on-the-go! Still not sure? Let this article convince you. Then check out this delightful blueberry version here.



Texanerin_OatPancakesTexanerin’s Banana Pancakes

Gluten-free. Whole grain. Dairy-free. Sounds too good to be true right? Think again. These ‘cakes are soft, moist, and as the creator describes, “banana bread in pancake form”. The star here is oat flour, which as the creator explains, is just ground up oats! (Well that’s convenient!) .



AverieCooks_PB&JGranolaAverie Cook’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Granola

You have to try this Whole Foods-inspired snack! As the creator describes, it’s a one-bowl, no mixer, easy recipe that delivers an almost unbelievable combination of sweet/salty and chewy/crunchy. And don’t worry if you’re careful of sugar, this PB&J granola actually doesn’t use jelly – it’s sweetened by dried fruit!



CRAVE-ing More?

Check out even more satisfying superfoods here:

One more note:

Superfoods – Stay informed.

While many of the foods discussed here do offer many important nutrients, consumers should always be wary of food fads and gimmicks. Unfortunately, “superfood” is often used a marketing term – the first general criticism of the term “superfood” is that, while the food itself might be healthful, the processing might not be. Food products that advertise the benefits of superfoods may also hide added sugars and chemicals. The important thing is to be informed and conscious of where your food is coming from. For more on this, check out this article at Live Science.



10+ recipes, picking tips, storage advice, and more!

Summertime is berry time. As part of our seasonal food highlights, we’re taking a moment to focus on berries. While strawberry season is sadly winding down, your other fruit favorites are just arriving. Be prepared for this joyous season of superfruit splendor. All you need to know about berry season is right here.



Thompson Strawberry Farm in Wisconsin.
Thompson Strawberry Farm in Kenosha County, WI

If you’ve decided to pick your own berries (and you should!), kudos to you!

You’ve forgone the convenient, yet questionable freshness of grocery store produce for a more homegrown selection. So go on – lace up those old sneakers, slather on the sunscreen, and head over to a pick-your-own farm. (TIP: Pick-Your-Own is a great source for finding local farms near you!) The berries will taste better after all that hard work anyways…right? Here’s some need-to-know information about picking your favorite berries this summer:

In general, berries are better-picked earlier in the day before the heat over-ripens them. When it comes to judging the ripeness of fruit, your senses are your friend. In the case of berries, color is a pretty good indicator – the brighter and deeper the color, the better! For stone-filled fruit like cherries and peaches, feel is also a factor. Softness and weight are good clues here.



  • Peak Season: June-August
  • What to look for: softer and falls off easily.


  • Peak Season: June-August
  • What to look for: uniform in color, brighter blue, and falls off easily


  • Peak Season: June-July
  • What to look for: heavier, firm, and skin is somewhat shiny


  • Peak Season: July-September
  • What to look for: easily separates from the stem, color changes from greenish to yellow. For yellow varieties: look for orange tint. For white varieties: look for yellow-white.


  • Peak Season: July-October (Summer and Fall varieties)
  • What to look for: plump and falls off easily


  • Peak Season: May-June
  • What to look for: firm and as red as possible! If mostly red, they will continue to ripen after picked. Under half red, will not ripen much afterwards.

For more in-depth information, check out these tips.



blueberry_storageWith all the fruits of your labor (pun intended), now what? If you’re not using them immediately, store or freeze them! Berries keep for months when frozen, and when stored properly can last weeks in the fridge. From rinsing in vinegar to storing in special containers, there is much debate over the most effective method for making berries last.

Consensus seems to be on one point, however: berries like it cold and dry. This cannot be stressed enough. Heat and moisture = bacteria, mush and mold.

Many recommend leaving berries unwashed until consumption, stored in a cool, dry place, to avoid these issues. If you do rinse the berries, make sure to dry them thoroughly before storing them in a loosely-sealed container lined with paper towel and plenty of berry breathing room.

For more tips and tricks, check out this article.


Recipes & Inspiration

While great as a stand-alone snack, berries are versatile, and their sweet-and-tartness can be a great complement to just about any recipe.

Quick & Easy Ideas

  • Dip in dark chocolate and freeze for a healthier treat!
  • Freeze and use as ice cubes for your favorite cold drink
  • Mix in yogurt and freeze for a delicious frozen yogurt, or make into a sorbet – see recipes below!
  • Mix into your favorite pancake or waffle mix
    • Bonus: make into a jam or syrup – use this easy recipe!
  • blend with yogurt or almond milk and ice for a great smoothie
  • Layer on yogurt and granola for BYO parfaits


Favorite Berry Recipes


Berry Bliss Iced Tea

Inspired by Starbuck’s Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher, this recipe has antioxidants, is refreshingly sweet and tart, and has enough caffeine to get you through the day.

Prepared green and hibiscus tea, a bit of sugar and ginger, ice cold water, mixed berries. Let chill for an hour for flavors to blend.


SlowRoasted_BerrySangriaA blast in a glass: Summer Berry Sangria

Sangria in the summer needs no introduction. The berries in this drink do all the talking.

Your favorite moscato wines, a bit of sugar, lemon slices, and a TON of fresh berries

BONUS non-alcoholic version: substitute the wine for sparkling grape juice or regular juice and 7-up



DomesticateMe_SmoothieBowlThe super smoothie: Vegan Berry Smoothie Bowl

Just when you thought smoothies couldn’t get better – you’re in for a treat. Easy to make, packed with nutrients, and tantalizingly tasty!

For the smoothie: frozen berries, almond milk, and agave nectar/honey. Top with fresh berries, granola, chia seeds, almonds, and coconut shavings.



Sallys_BerryCrostiniThe “berriest” simple snack: Cheese and Fruit Crostini

A snack, an appetizer…we could eat this all day! Crunchy, sweet, savory – this dish has it all! You need no occasion for this flavorful crostini creation.

Crostini (toasted slices of baguette or even use your favorite cracker – the key is in the crunch factor! Top with a soft & spreadable cheese like goat cheese or brie, drizzle on honey, and garnish with a few berries. For added flavor pizzazz, drizzle some balsamic glaze


Sallys_YogurtPopsiclesPut the “pop” in popsicles: 3-Ingredient Yogurt Popsicles

Popsicles and summer. Berries and summer. Both go hand in hand…why not unite the two? The simplest summer frozen treat! Blended blueberries mixed into greek yogurt and honey or agave nectar. Freeze in a popsicle mold and BAM. Summer on a stick. For a non-dairy sorbet version – follow these tips by The Kitchn!




TwoPeas_BerryQuinoaSaladSensational in salads: Berry Quinoa Salad

The perfect summer side dish can also make a great breakfast or healthy snack!

Mix cooked quinoa, mixed berries (fresh of course), chopped almonds, finely-chopped basil and mint leaves, and drizzle with this to-die-for “Citrus-Honey” dressing.



AppleEye_BakedOatmealOats with the most: Baked Berry Oatmeal

Even if you’re not the biggest oatmeal fan, you’ll love this. It’s perfect on-the-go breakfast, or if you need a little afternoon pick-me-up.

Layers upon layers of a mixture of oats, cinnamon, & brown sugar with milk, honey, vanilla, your favorite berries, and chopped pecans. Good morning, breakfast.



CRAVE-ing More?

LoveLemons_BerryCollectionCheck out this “berry” delicious collection of recipes by food blog Love & Lemons!

  • Muffins
  • Salsas
  • Crostinis
  • Salads
  • Ice cream
  • And more of your favorite berry-filled dishes!


They’re bursting with flavor! Firework puns because…America.

Kitchn BerrySangriaSummer Berry Sangria from The Kitchn

Start off the 4th by serving up this summery and U-S-Amazing drink decked out in red and blue.

With the tartness of the berries mixed with the sweet sangria, this patriotic take on a summertime classic is sure to get the party going!



Love&LemonsKaleSaladWatermelon & Avocado Kale Salad from Love & Lemons

Summer and watermelon go hand in hand. Looking for something light yet interesting enough to spice up your summer cookout?

Why not impress your guests with a little dose of creativity by pairing these surprising ingredients. Watermelon. Avocado. Kale. A little sweet, a little salty, and a ton of fresh flavor.


IamFoodBlogGuacHow to Make Guacamole by I Am a Food Blog

Guacamole. Sure, it may not exactly be the first thing that comes to mind on 4th of July – but it IS a great alternative to the same old, boring dips-and-chips platter.

In contrast to other dips, it offers more nutrition while still packing a punch in the flavor category. Serve it up with your Summer Berry Sangria, and you’ve got yourself a dynamic duo. There are countless different guacamole preferences: chunky, smooth, zesty, hot, tomatoes vs. no tomatoes…the best part about making guacamole is that YOU are in control. Add as much or as little extra flavor as you like!

KitchnPotatoSalad5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Potato Salad – The Kitchn

Let’s discuss potato salad. It’s commonplace at summer gatherings. Not matter what the menu, it seems with any cookout comes this dish. People seem to either love it or hate it – but when done right, it can be an excellent complement to burgers, ribs, steak, etc. Here are a few simple, but crucial tips from the pros to make sure your potato salad makes a good impression on Saturday!


PrarieHomesteadBurger“The BEST Homemade Burgers” by The Prairie Homestead

What food is more patriotic than an American classic?

The hamburger. Whether you like the simplicity of a burger and a bun, or prefer a more snazzy burger with all the bells and whistles, you can’t go wrong on the 4th with this cookout staple.

This sensationally-seasoned recipe had people raving. However….


Food&WineNachoBurgerBonus Recipe! The Nacho Burger from Food & Wine

…if you love over-the-top burgers, this is the one for you! From the ingenious mind of Chef Bobby Flay, this mouth-watering delight is complete with queso, jalapenos, salsa, AND tortilla chips. *crying* Never going back to a plain burger again.

Just be careful – with a burger like this, your guests will insist you throw a cookout EVERY weekend.


TheKitchnGrilledChicken10 Tips for the Perfect Grilled Chicken by The Kitchn

Need a burger alternative? Try the other summer classic: BBQ chicken. This dish is sure to please just about every meat-loving guest. But take note: not all chicken is grilled equally. Be sure to follow this insightful advice provided by the folks at The Kitchn to insure your chicken turns out beautifully caramelized, juicy, and tender. (The secrets lie in the cut, the grill, and the sauce…)


Food52Cobbler12 Crisps, Cobblers, and Crumbles – Food52

Crisps, cobblers, and crumbles..oh my! From Blackberry Apricot Cobbler, to Red, White, and Blue Fruit Crisp (shown here), Food52 is serving up recipes for all of your favorite summer fruits: peaches, berries, cherries, and more!

These recipes might even give your grandmother’s famous recipes some competition!


BromaBakeryAmericanPieMiss American Pie from Broma Bakery

I’m just going to say it – you can’t go more American than pie. And this is the one to top them all. The creator of this red, white, and blue beauty even explains it as “so simple and yet so festive. You can bet that if you brought this to your 4th of July it would be the star of the table.”

And have no fear. This pie is simple enough for the most novice of bakers. From the creator: “holidays should be about stress-free entertaining, so a little store-bought crust is welcomed in my book.”

MyBakingAddictionGrilledPoundcakeGrilled Pound Cake with Pineapple & Passionfruit – My Baking Addiction

After all the hotdogs and hamburgers come off the grill, why not keep it going a little longer for this sweet treat! If you need another summery addition to your menu, try this tropical dessert with the island flavors of pineapple and passionfruit. The marriage of these sweet fruits and a slice of  grilled pound cake topped with yogurt, make this dessert lightly sweet-and-satisfying enough for any summer palate.

CRAVE-ing more ideas?

Try out these July 4th recipe collections from some of our favorite food blogs!





Executive Sous Chef at CRAVE Restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez, recently won the judges’ choice and people’s choice at the Embassy Chef Challenge on May 20, 2015 representing the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Washington, D.C. The 7th annual Embassy Chef Challenge to benefit Cultural Tourism DC  gives the public access to one of DC’s best-kept secrets: world-class embassy chefs. A dozen embassy chefs presents small plates showcasing their country’s signature delicacies and battle in DC’s Premier International Culinary Competition.


Join us at CRAVE in the Westfield Montgomery Mall and meet, mingle, listen, and engage with Communications Expert Bob Paff as he speaks on his best selling book Communicating To Win: In Life, Love, and Business.


CRAVE Cincinnati’s Server Spotlight of the Week: Jimmy Houlihan 


Here at CRAVE Restaurant, we pride ourselves on providing a unique and memorable dining experience for all our valued guests. As we strive to deliver the best possible guest experience,  we are always happy to accomodate to diners’ needs. Earlier this month the CRAVE Galleria Team helped a guest, John Tsuchiya, propose to his now fiance! See below for his touching note and further details about the proposal:


To whom it may concern,

My name is John Tsuchiya and I recently proposed to my girlfriend at the Edina Galleria location! I wanted send both of you a note and let you know how grateful I am for what your company was able to help me do and the amazing service that your staff delivered. 

I have been a CRAVE regular since the restaurant opened and it was the location of my first date with Kayla over 2 ½ years ago. It is a special place for both of us because it is where we fell in love and, because of your company, it is now the place where we have more fun memories together. I was blown away by the willingness of your staff to help and cannot express how much it meant to me.  I was able to do something that many people told me would be impossible or unrealistic but your company and team made it possible.

Here is a quick list of the people I wanted to recognize for their exceptional service and going the extra mile for me.


Ø  Krista Vanmoorlehem – Krista was so helpful! Reserved the tables, placed my photographer, all logistics planning. She was outstanding!!

Ø  Chris Liskiewicz – Once Chris got ‘approval’ to do this he had emailed me, created a proof, and sent me the proof for final approval within 24 hours. Wow!

Ø  Kristi Ryan – My first point of contact and she was so fun! She nicknamed this “operation menu” She is so cool!


The plan: The plan was to have a special menu created that had one small tweak that she would have to find. I got Kayla to the restaurant without having any idea what was happening (just a normal night out). We were sat at the exact table that we had our first date at; then we were handed the ‘special menus’. It took her a minute to find it but when she noticed it and read the ingredients I got down on one knee and proposed. She said Yes and the entire restaurant started to clap and cheer. IT WAS PERFECT!! Link to pictures – Click here to view 2013 John & Kayla

Thank you for allowing this to happen and for having such thoughtful, caring, and dedicated staff. I can honestly say this is one of my favorite moments ever and CRAVE made it possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I work for Target HQ and am downtown every weekday. Please let me know if you are ever in downtown and find yourself with a little time. I would love to thank you in person, buy you a Starbucks, and give you a tour of Target. Also if you have any questions about any of this please let me know I will share any and all feedback that you are interested in.

Thank you very much!



“As a Bartender at CRAVE Restaurant in Cincinnati, I am pleased to see all the new vibrant recipes for the new menu. From the hand-made specialty cocktails to the mouth-watering culinary creations coming out of the kitchen, the new fall/winter flavors make you want to try them all!


The cocktails at CRAVE are different from other restaurants because the time and care put into making all of our ingredients in-house, from the purees to the liquor infusions. Our feature infusion here at CRAVE this winter is a Courvoisier infused with brown sugar and mission figs. Infusing the Courvoisier makes it super smooth with a caramel finish that is simply fantastic. Having the ability to make infusions is one of the things that sets us apart and is a huge benefit of stopping by CRAVE Restaurant in Cincinnati. Few-to-no other restaurants downtown make their own Infusions.


CRAVE Great cocktails and food aside, the most exciting thing to me about the new menu is our wonderful new beer selection. We have everything from an Imperial Stout brewed by Oskar Blues to a Rye Siason brewed right here in Cincinnati by our very own Blank Slate Brewery, and every style of beer in between. We have seasonal beers such as a Pumpkin Porter and Winterhook from RedHook Brewing. Having this large selection of beers enables us to pair the perfect beer for beer drinkers with the perfect meal from CRAVE. Come down and try a pairing of your own and, be sure to sample some of our new menu items!”

Joshua Jones


CRAVE Cincinnati


**Pictures: Pumpkin Spice Cocktail & Courvoisier infused with brown sugar and mission figs**



I signed up for a contest on Facebook, for a free dinner for 2 and 2 tickets to a NYE party at Aria at the Juene Lune.
I won- WOOHOO!!!


My husband, Steve and I decided to get a sitter for the evening and rent a hotel room, downtown Minneapolis so we could really celebrate.  The night began a little on the hectic side.  To start, we were late leaving our house (as a 9 month old will easily keep you) then we got lost in Minneapolis, trying to find our hotel.

After finding it and checking in quickly, we ran about 4 blocks to get on the tram and just missed it, we literally watched it drive away!  After waiting 20 minutes, for the next train, we were  finally on our way to CRAVE at the MOA.
We are at the mall, yay!  But, we’re on the complete opposite side as CRAVE, booo!  We start running through the mall (me in 4in heels and a dress) and FINALLY get there at 7:45pm (mind you our reservations were for 7pm).  I kindly ask the hostess if we are still able to get in for dinner (in my head I’m begging her) and she says absolutely, and happily, immediately seats us, with not even a little grumpiness.  As a matter of fact, every single person working at CRAVE, that we met on NYE seemed to be in a great mood.  Everyone had a smile on their face and were joking around with each other.  You don’t see that a lot, it certainly made us in a better mood as I’m sure it did others.
Melinda, immediately comes over and takes our drink order, a St. Germaine Martini for me and a glass of Hess Cabernet for Steve.  As she’s getting our drinks someone must have told her the situation and that dinner was on CRAVE.  She comes back and says we are going “all out” tonight and insists we start off with a bottle of champagne. Hey, it is New Years Eve, right?  I don’t know what kind of champagne to get so Melinda chose the Gloria Ferrier Rose champagne for us and it was PERFECT!!  BTW- Melinda, is the best waitress I have ever had the pleasure of meeting!  So outgoing and a genuinely fun person to be around, she made our night a perfect 10  🙂


We ate what seemed like a ton of food.  To start we had the Sumo roll (my fav) and the Tuna poke.  Then we each had a cup of the seafood bisque.  For dinner, Steve, had the lobster crusted filet mignon and I had the sea bass with risotto.  Oh, we also had a bottle of the Hess Cab, with dinner but didn’t get very far through that bottle.  Not because it was bad, it was really good but because we were both a little buzzed after the bottle of champagne, not a bad thing either!  For dessert, we had a huge piece of chocolate cake and Shong, the sushi chef brought us some more sushi.  I’m not sure what it was but it looked and tasted magnificent!  We also each had a shot of espresso, to keep the night going, we had awhile before midnight!


After CRAVE, we got back on the tram, to take us back to downtown Minneapolis.  We met a couple a friends and headed over to Aria at the Jeune Lune.  It was crazy busy there!!  The food was also catered by CRAVE and looked delicious but we were too full to try any of it.
We danced, we drank, we kissed at midnight…. and we ordered pizza at 3am.  It was a great night and it’s all thanks to CRAVE, T.J., Melinda, Shong and everyone else at CRAVE, that night!  CRAVE at MOA ROCKS!!!


This was not the first time we have eaten at CRAVE, nor will it be the last time (especially since we bought gift certificates. Hope we helped Mike’s team a little).  We have not had one bad experience or one bad meal.  Everything has always been DELICIOUS!!!


Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much for such a memorable evening!
Tina Poser (Guest Blogger)

I had never heard of Crave and much less that it had opened in Merrick Park two weeks ago. Luckily for me, my boyfriend had mentioned it when I was trying to think of places to go to dinner with my friends. After some research into the menu I realized this was a small national chain with a diversified menu similar to Cheesecake Factory (minus the cheesecake). The menu offers a lot of continental/new American dishes as well as a decked out sushi bar and wine list. One of my friends had visited one of their Minnesota locations and raved about it, so we decided to give it a shot. Once at the restaurant you realize how enormous it is. The outside dining area is bigger than most locally owned restaurants, venture inside and you are slapped in the face with a gargantuan space that screams, “Viva las Vegas!” The décor reminded me a lot of the Bellagio, with Chihuly-esque glass structures hanging from the ceilings and walls.

While we waited for my friends, we tried a couple of appetizers and drinks. I kept it simple and ordered their edamame. The edamame is tossed in a sriracha soy glaze that gives it a nice kick and by the time I was done, my lips were burning and tingling. The edamame was perfectly cooked and very well seasoned; luckily for me, my date was too busy with his food so I didn’t have to share.







My date had two appetizers; he started off with their Sunomono Salad (a fancy way of saying cucumber salad). The salad is really light and refreshing with cucumbers, daikon and carrots tossed in sweet rice vinegar. The presentation was also very simple and colorful with the bright greens, orange and yellow hues popping against the contrast of the white dish. The rice vinegar tasted great and was a good compliment to the thinly shredded daikon and cucumber.









Up next, my date had their Grilled Ceviche. I know what you’re thinking, “Grilled Ceviche, isn’t that a total oxymoron?” and you’re absolutely right. That’s actually what intrigued us about the dish. The menu has a simple description for this dish that states, “Shrimp, scallop, kimchee, mango and cilantro.” What we got was a bowl filled with shrimp, scallops, chopped mango and minced cilantro with 3 orange segments and 3 slices of avocado. As you can see in the photo, the avocado had some slight brown spots, but nothing that was too unbearable. As some of you may know by now, I’m allergic to shrimp, so I couldn’t try this dish and have to rely solely on what my date’s thoughts on the dish were for this post. He said that the freshness of the ingredients wasn’t top notch, but none the less it was a good dish with a great combination of fruits and savory flavors. Whether the name GRILLED Ceviche is 100%befitting is still to be determined, but it was a flavorful dish none the less. I will comment, I’ve noticed that my date’s consumption of shrimp has skyrocketed exponentially since it’s become clear that I’m allergic… coincidence? I think not.







When my friends joined us, we dove straight into our entrees and everyone ordered completely different types of cuisines. The menu is all over the place, like Britney Spears when she hasn’t had her daily Lithium dose. My friend Manny went with their sushi, his wife and my date both had pasta and I had a pizza. I’ll start off my talking about my friend’s sushi. He got two different rolls, their Sumo Roll and Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll. The sumo roll is a tempura roll with a combination of spicy salmon, mango, cilantro and asparagus with a drizzle of sweet eel sauce over the top. The Crunchy Spicy Tuna roll comes with Spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, seaweed salad, crunchy flakes, and sweet sauce. My friend was a concentrated sushi eating machine. He did at one point mention that the sushi did taste good and the fish was fresh. The fact that he inhaled his food and didn’t look up much during dinner was a positive sign.







My date had their Shrimp and Andouille sausage pasta (another shrimp dish, I smell a conspiracy!). The dish comes with linguini, sautéed shrimp, andouille sausage, spinach, broccolini, tomato and fresh parmesan all tossed in a slightly spicy vodka cream. I was unable to taste this dish, but the vegetables were all brightly colored and my date did mention the dish had a nice kick to it that went well with the sausage and shrimp.







My friend Jen is easily one of the pickiest eaters in America. I know as she reads this she is probably saying out loud, “I AM NOT!” I still love you Jen, but you are picky…don’t be mad at me! Although she was debating over two different dishes, at the last minute she decided to have their Roasted Chicken and Penne pasta. The pasta comes with roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, goat cheese, pine nuts, minced basil tossed in a romesco sauce. She enjoyed the red peppers and the fact that they were still al dente and firm. The Chicken tasted fresh and the pasta was also cooked al dente. The romesco sauce gave it all a great, slightly spicy flavor that tied together all the ingredients nicely. You can imagine our amazement when she left all but 5 pieces of pasta behind. If the picky eater of the bunch ate her whole plate, you know it can’t be bad.







I ended up having their Grape and Apple flatbread pizza. I was in a vegetarian friendly mood that night and this dish seemed relatively healthy. I really enjoyed this dish, the crust was really thin, and almost cracker like around the edges (I realize some people don’t like this kind of crust, but given the toppings it worked well for me). The pizza came topped with a ton of blue cheese crumbles, thinly julienned red apples, halved seedless purple grapes and drizzled with honey and minced parsley. The menu mentioned that the pizza comes with rosemary, but my pizza had no rosemary in it whatsoever. None the less, this giant flatbread was really tasty and the red apples and grapes went well with the blue cheese. And don’t let this dish fool you, it is actually very filling yet it doesn’t leave you asking the waiter for a wheelbarrow and stretchy pants.







My friends decided to try a couple of their ‘Crave Miniatures’ also known as dessert shots. My friends went with their Tiramisu and Salty Caramel Mousse shots. The Tiramisu was delicately layered almost like a miniature trifle and topped with a generous dusting of cocoa and a chocolate decoration to give it some extra pizzazz. My friend Jen inhaled her shot and was kind enough to grace her husband with one tiny spoonful before devouring it. Her husband ate the bulk of the Salty Caramel mousse shot that looked airy and light as a mousse should. The presentation of this shot was less decadent and fancy but it looked delicious. I was too stuffed to try either one of the desserts, but both of my friends assured me they were very good.









All in all, our meal and experience was a favorable one. Our waitress was jovial, helpful and eager to assist us with suggestions. The food was good and the restaurant was definitely busy for a Thursday night. If you’re looking for a large place to host a party or a restaurant that is a notch above the Cheesecake factory, then give this place a try. The menu does spread itself rather thin with so many various options and cuisines. As with several chain restaurants that have so many options, it doesn’t particularly excel or wow, but they execute their dishes well in an above average manner. This is their second outpost in Florida, with their first located in Orlando, and I expect more locations to pop up in South Florida.

– FatGirl Hedonist (Guest Blogger at CRAVE)