I'm a foodie and I'm not ashamed to say so. I can eat well no matter where I am or what kind of budget I have. I even know how to make Pop-Tarts taste good. Stick with me and you'll never eat boring again!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Make reservations immediately.

Iron Hill Brewery, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Attended the soft opening on Sunday evening and we were already impressed. Timing was generally good, service was super friendly and competent. Management was an obvious presence. Love the arts & crafts meets steel & industrial decor.

Started with soups (only critique was that they came out at the same time as the other appetizers, but temperatures were good on everything so it was not an issue really). Shrimp and scallop bisque was what you'd expect, creamy but with hint of cayenne. Gumbo was prepared correctly, rice not mixed in, but underneath, spiced for a northern audience, but definitely not for the timid. Could easily identify the okra and filet gumbo powder in spite of the heat.

Cheddar plate offered a flight of mild to sharp (Ale & mustard, Welsh extra sharp, and double Gloucester) served at the perfect temperature and with pear chutney and candied walnuts - all combinations of which were wonderful. Thought I tasted a hint of ginger in the chutney? The raspberry wheat ale was really nice with this dish.

Stan had the Voodoo shrimp in a barbecue sauce with streamed rice and sour cream and pronounced that it was mildly spicy with good flavor.

Garcia pizza had portobella, shiitake, oyster and crimini mushrooms, red onion, fontina, mozzarella and herbs. This one was even good cold as leftovers for lunch today. Crust of medium thickness and though a fair amount of flour underneath, had a good flavor and texture on it's own.

Come hungry if you plan to order the four cheese and woodland mushroom lasagna. It is a hefty portion, beautifully presented. This is a sturdy dish that does not fall all over itself when you cut into it. The flavors are savory and earthy and I really liked the inclusion of pine nuts here. I would have liked a hint of sweetness somewhere in this dish to balance it out for my taste buds, but not everyone would want that I am sure. I have leftovers, so I am going to hit it with a tiny bit of balsamic reduction to see how that is...

My second beer was Pig Iron Porter which will win over even ardent Guinness drinkers. I find it less bitter than Guinness with a more complex flavor.

The food was even pleasing to discriminating younger diners at the next table who reported the mac and cheese to be "great."

Iron Hill has a cohesive menu with a good mix of beef, poultry fish and vegetarian options. Presentations are interesting, flavor profiles are solid. Appetizers are imaginative and full of flavor. Beer, though not featured in the food (maybe it should be?) makes itself the star of the show. A note: definitely try the beer sampler - 6 or more 4 oz. glasses, of which even the light beer is good.

The Lancaster location opens to the public on Wednesday, November 28. I am not sure that is soon enough.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Places to not go.

The Farmhouse, Stanley, Virginia
This was dinner the second night of our most recent trip to Virginia. A big disappointment after dining at Joshua Wilton House.

Why? The appetizers were completely forgettable. So much so, that I actually can't remember what they were. The entrees however were not forgettable because they were awful. The scallops were bitter and though creatively plated, I ate two of them, then gave up.

Stan requested a butterflied filet, medium rare. It arrived unsplit, and though cooked correctly, it had not been cut properly and an uncomfortable wrestling match ensued as he tried to saw through it.

"Did we want dessert?" they asked. Mmmmm, no thanks.

To be fair, the staff was very friendly, including the chef whom we met. We really liked them, which made us want to like the food. But I won't lie to you, it was just bad.

The marketing quotes Bobby Flay who seems to have had a great meal there. But I think his comments are from about two years ago, and either no longer apply, or maybe he only had breakfast. Now breakfast was a whole different animal, actually quite good, but cooked by a woman who told us she was not a chef, but just liked to cook a little. Go figure.

Funck's Family Restaurant, Annville, Pennsylvania
Went for dessert. Had a slice of red velvet cake (because there were no better options), and it was very cold, and bereft of flavor. They should not be permitted to give it away.

KoKoMo's Sports Bar, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Ordered a coke and a diet coke. BOTH tasted like diet. Then found out, that the waitress knew this before we ordered and didn't tell me. Probably an oversight.

Ordered the appetizer sampler. Mini-burgers could have been more interesting - some condiments, or onions or something? Please? Potato skins were good. Chicken strips, mozzarella sticks & fries & boring sauces to dip stuff in. Well, it was only $10 - not a big loss. Seafood bisque was way-thick and yucky and tasted like seafood base. Ordered ribs - pre-cooked, but okay. It's a sports bar, we weren't expecting slow-roasted or anything from scratch. Ordered stuffed shrimp - yuk. THEN - we want to pay and leave - and their credit card system isn't working. So the waitress asks me to go to the ATM they have in the bar. (So now it's going to cost me extra to pay for my meal, but, you do what you gotta). ATM goes out of service as soon as I try to use it. I tell the waitress and she tells me I have to go and stand at the ATM and wait for the manager so he can see that I can't get money out. (What the heck?) So I wait. He doesn't show.

Then my waitress tells me it's now obvious that the machine is out of service, the manager is not coming out and could I go to the bank across the parking lot. So I did and I even still left the her a tip.

We try to be understanding and reasonable, but this is the single worst dining experience we have had in years.

Fatt Boys Steakhouse and Tavern, Lebanon, Pennsylvania
No avoiding this one, as Stan loves the whole biker vibe and this place sort of has that (upscale, wannabe biker who spends mega-bucks buying Harley-branded everything that is). A place that truly caters to the biker crowd would probably not serve $7 Cosmopolitans.

I have to admit that the work on the restaurant decor was done well, it is pretty in there. But that's really not what I was looking for. I was looking for solid bar food at a reasonable price and if they had good ribs, that would be a bonus. No luck.

To be fair the food was not bad, it was just boring. Crab cakes were bland, and we are nearly certain the ribs had BBQ from a bottle - and not even a good bottle.

We also found our bill at nearly $60 for 2 (including 3 drinks, 1 appetizer, 1 entree and 1 sandwich) to be a little hefty.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Worth the drive (from nearly anywhere):
Joshua Wilton House, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Wow. My friend Josh (who is a native Harrisonburger - but not related to anyone named Wilton) told me that the food here is "Fu*king delicious." (His words, don't get mad). He was right.

It started with the bread. There were three kinds: crusty French, baguette-style with raisins and Kosher salt crust, herbed biscuits (herb, yet to be determined) - all worth ruining your appetite for.

First course was a grilled peach w/chevre; Stan had the scallops with cheesy grits. Peach was very good, but the scallops made me wish I'd ordered a double batch for my entree - I think they would have done this for me.

Entrees were locally-raised pork with pineapple chutney, cherries, & cauliflower/mash; and spice rubbed Opah (Moonfish, I am told) with finely diced onion, peppers, and mushrooms in fresh corn tortillas and a sweet-potato risotto cake. To be honest, the description given by the server was more pretentious (not her fault), but it was good solid food, and portions were hefty. Room for improvement on the fish - as the whole dish seemed a little under-spiced - but it was cooked perfectly - and still quite good. Pork chop also was perfectly cooked and all of the flavors played nicely together.

Dessert! A milk chocolate Napoleon and Creme Brulee. Now I am not a big fan of milk chocolate (Stan ordered that one!) but it was rich, creamy, and had solid chocolate flavor. If milk chocolate tasted this good all the time, I am sure I would order it more. The Creme Brulee was sable brown. So many times, it seems the chef is too scared to take it as close to burned as it should be - I suppose afraid of ruining the dish and having it come back. No!!! If you are a pastry chef, please make the dish the way it should be and as it was here - perfect. Custard was closer to room temperature then what you are usually served - again, I say, thank-you to the chef - dairy is so much better when it is not suffering from hypothermia.

Sadly, this was the best meal of our journey this weekend. Had we known what we were in for, we would have made a second reservation at this restaurant and better spent our resources.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

This week's food adventures actually started last Saturday.

We had dinner at Blue Pacific Sushi Grille. I admit I am not as familiar with Sushi and its variations, so hubby had to order. We got the Rainbow Sushi Combo (Rainbow maki, tuna nigiri and salmon nigiri) which at first I wasn't sure about. Within minutes I had to restrain myself from eating everything on the plate. Lovely stuff, that Sushi. It was served with slices of ginger and wasabi and the flavors blended well as you could hope.

I ordered the shimp satay and also some soba noodles to try them. Satay good, soba, not so much, as I didn't expect them to be cold. I am sure that I should have, but again, this is new territory for me, having only recently overcome my reluctancance to eat ahi tuna - which I now love.

Sunday we had lunch at Ruby Tuesday. I don't want to even talk about it, it was so depressing. In my part of the world, this is the crowded restaurant, because there are so few other choices. I will admit that I like their salad bar, but they have to stop burning crab cakes. Even Mojitos can't fix that.

We ate at home rest of the week... where we are currently drowning in Girl Scout cookies. Stan was only going to buy a few boxes, then came home with 24. I am not making this up.

So here we are on another Saturday, and though chain restaurants are not usually my first choice, tonight we went to Houlihans, which I do really like. As always ordered too much...

Started with the bruchetta, great flavor profiles with the olives and goat cheese... Also got tuna wontons (yum!), and fish tacos (messy!). Stan ordered ribs with shrimp, french onion soup (salty, too much cooking wine + salt?) and the "crispy prosciutto flatbread pizza" which I also liked. "Would we like to consider dessert?" (Even though we just shoved 50% of dinner into take home boxes? Ummmn, yeah! He got what would usually be called apple pie ala mode (but they call the "big yum") and I got creme brulee (don't look for appropriate accent marks because it is late and I don't feel like looking them up) - you know perfectly well that I mean custard w/burned sugar. Maybe not authentic, but it's nice and I like it.

Just noticed that I feel like I could nosh a little... I don't think midnight is too late for leftovers, do you?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I mentioned the hot dogs, then never wrote about them.

Here goes. Years ago, passing through Allentown, there was this sign. [Yocco's, the Hot Dog King]. Inwardly I groaned because I knew.

I knew that we were going to stop, and there would likely be some excuse for stopping such as the need to go to the bathroom. Sure enough, princess running-water, errr... my husband nearly wrecked getting into the parking lot. "I've got to pee..."

Yes, I know these things. I also knew that no matter how reasonably priced, these would not be cheap. I am told, "The secret is in the sauce..." but I am sure I don't really want to know this. My husband discovered that night that he likes the ones that soak in the "secret" all day long. They don't work for me, as one of the secrets tastes suspiciously like chili. [Please don't send nasty letters. I do like Cincinatti chili, but that would not be practical on hot dogs.]

But I did like the cheese dogs. And the pierogies (fried, yay!). And the Birch Beer, even if it is Fanta - which is lucky for me since now we go there anytime we are within 50 miles of the place, and you'd be surprised at how often Stan can make that happen. So there is the must-have hot dog.

Now for the coffee. I won't even pretend to know how to describe coffee. My friend Leon does however. I think he knows more about it than your average Brazilian. He loves coffee. So much that he bought his own roaster.

My first batch of Lonely Monk Coffee came in a jar. Up to this point I'd had no idea that coffee beans are oily -- but they are. He blended and roasted the beans and then described the contents of the batch to me -- I admit my eyes glazed over after the first two sentences. But when we brewed some, they popped right back open again. Deep, rich, doesn't need cream. That is the best I can do in the decription dept. The endorsement? Comes from my husband who hates cheap coffee. Stan won't touch Starbucks, but he loves Lonely Monk.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Foodie Picks

Okay, I promised to sing the praises of food - so this time I will.

I have included just a few links on my blog to companies that produce food items I LOVE! I'd had the Original Carlsbad Oblatens (from Award Baking) few times before I actually knew what they were. The first time was in a dessert at The Trellis in Williamsburg, a restaurant that makes the most expensive grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever eaten. The chef owner is Marcel Desaulniers writer of the celebrated "Death by Chocolate" cookbook. The second time, they came with my gourmet cookie selection from Stash Tea.

Now to describe them - they are wafer cookies with subtle flavors of vanilla, lemon, cinnamon or carmel. They are simple, elegant and a great complement to sweet dips, sauces, ice cream - or all on their own with coffee or tea.

Less extravagant, but still wonderful are the Maple Donuts (indigenous to York, Pa.) I like the maple-flavored Maple Donut, however, this company's standout is the Carmel donut! Unlike a certain potato chip though, you really can eat just one - because they are rather sugar-intense.

Tune in next time for the must-have hot-dog and the best available small-batch roasted coffee in Lancaster, Pa.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Style over substance

Due to an excessive work schedule, this week in food has been - well abysmal.

Since we had no food left in our house, we broke down and stopped at Bahama Breeze yesterday on the way back from - well you really don't want to know where we were, but it was on the way home.

Bahama Breeze is the kind of a place that you really, really want to like because the atmosphere is relaxing and they have a great decorator. It's a fun place really and you want the food to be fun too.

The Mojitos are fun. The Bahama Mamas are fun. Sadly the tres leche cake, is not.

By the way waiters should never say, "So I guess you've never been here before." –Well, actually we have four times...

Trip #1 - not excited about the Coconut Shrimp and wish I could remember why;

Trip #2, not excited about the onion rings, because the only part that had flavor was the breading and the dipping sauces couldn't save them;

Trip #3 - the Tropical Bread Pudding was way too sweet (nothing to balance it) and the Paella was just a bad choice for a person who doesn't love vegetables (my fault);

Trip #4 - well you know about the cake but I forgot to mention that the menu said it was topped with dark chocolate mousse - and I found it had the milkiest version of dark chocolate I have ever tasted - hmmmn, maybe that is where they put all the milk that was supposed to be in the cake.

All of this said, I am determined to find something on the menu that I like (to eat) because I still like the place. Maybe the sorbet could work...