Friday, October 17, 2014

The Cauldron Revisited.

One of the things about doing this blog is trying out new places, but we often forget about our old favorites and neglect them. The Cauldron is a good example. We ate here a few times and liked it a lot, but we hadn't stopped by in some time so we decided to pop in. 

I'll have to say that I was glad we did. We shared an appetizer of Prosciutto e Formaggio Rotolo wich consists of Prosciutto di Parma, Fresh Mozzarella, and sliced Figs wrapped in filo dough for $11.25 and it was delightful. 

I decided on a burger instead of my usual veal dish and went for the Arrostito Maiale e Uovo Burger which translates to ground sirloin topped with prosciutto, sharp provolone cheese, an over easy egg, mesclun mix and a roasted red pepper aioli for $11.25. I ordered it cooked medium and that is exactly how it came out. It was a darn good burger.

Teresa got a Shrimp Napoli Panini and while it was good, she saw the entrees going to other tables and wished that was what she'd ordered. Well, next time. I just won't wait so long to go back.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spain 92- Raritan, NJ

Spain 92 is one of those places that we've passed close to fifty times and said, "Hey, we should stop there sometime." Well, today was that sometime and I must say that it is something we should have done sooner, and will do again.

We stopped by at five o'clock on a Friday and there were only a few diners In the nicely decorated dining room with a clean and modern, yet European feel. We were seated near a window and given menus and water. Nice fresh rolls followed and we made our choices. 

I decided on the Ternera 92, veal stuffed with ham and cheese, and cooked in a lovely sherry sauce with capers for $24. The flavor profile was quite nice, think chicken cordon blue with a Spanish twist to it, and I used the remainder of the bread to mop up The sauce so I didn't miss a drop.

Teresa had one of the specials, a combination of shrimp and chicken with veggies and rice for $22. I tasted and it had a fresh, clean taste with a nice sauce. Very nice. They gave us a rather large plate of yellow rice, and a dish of fresh and hot home-made potato chips. Oh, and there was a soup course with a nice chicken soup while waiting for the entree. 

The service was excellent with a Continental feel, the food excellent, the prices reasonable, the ambiance pleasant and inviting. I definitely recommend Spain 92 and we will be back again.

Spain 92 Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Best of 2014

Here we are folks, the most anticipated, and longest, post of the year. That's right, this is the annual wrap-up of my yearly culinary adventures. I know, it's only October and here I am talking about the best of 2014 as if the year were over. I do have several places I want to squeeze in a visit to before the year ends, but most of my serious traveling ends when school starts. Besides, Hudson Valley Magazine has already done their Best of 2014, so why can't I? 

You may note the presence of a quite few seafood dishes, and shrimp seems to be in many of them. All of the restaurants listed are independents, no chains here with the exemption of one or two that have more than one location. I may add a few more entries before the end of the year. The links on the names will lead you to my original reviews. 

Best Burger- This was a tough one to decide on as there were so many to choose from. As a result I decided to do the best burger in each of the four regions I travel through, and write the most about. 

East Coast Burger Company
North Jersey- East Coast Burger Company in Ridgewood, NJ gets the nod here, edging out places like Smashburger, Vinburger, Bobby's Burger Palace and a few more. What the folks here have done is to take the concepts of the up and coming chains and improve on them in a local restaurant. They also have some amazing lobster rolls.
Wyebrook Farm Market and Cafe

Philadelphia- In the Lancaster area is a small town called Honey Brook. In the countryside you can find Wyebrook Farm Market and Cafe, a place that has taken farm-to-table to the max. They raise the beef, and the veggies right there and the cow you saw yesterday may be in your burger today. 


Fairfield CT- O'Brien's Sports Pub and Restaurant in Danbury makes a proper burger cooked exactly as ordered, and at a reasonable price.

Whisky Creek

Wilmington, NC- Whisky Creek Sports Pub is our new find in the Wilmington area. My favorite is the Jamie's Way burger which has a nice thick slab of capicola and a fried egg on a seriously good burger. Family friendly place too.

Cape Fear Seafood Company

Best Overall Seafood Dish- Grouper Saltimbocca at Cafe Fear Seafood Company, Wilmington, NC gets the nod for the most creative seafood dish I've ever had. Taking grouper and making it a saltimbocca is taking a risk, and creating an amazing dish. 

Royal Fish and Chips
Best Fish and Chips- Royal Fish and Chips in Bethel, CT has what I consider to be even better Fish and chips than any I've had in the UK and Ireland. Everything is cooked to order, and to perfection. Actually, they have ruined me for fish and chips anywhere else. 

Best Breakfast- One of the more interesting breakfasts I've come across is the shrimp and grits with an egg from The Dixie Grill, Wilmington, NC. Shrimp and grits is good anytime, and I could eat it everyday. Add the egg and there is a whole new dimension.

Joe Willy's
Best Seafood and Pasta- Shrimp Ravioli at Joe Willy's Seafood, Fishkill, NY is a delightful dish, especially when served over spinach drenched in garlic. 

Best Indian Food- This one goes to Citrus in New Windsor. I have an Indian friend who gave me the recommendation to try this place and it was amazing. My favorite, the shrimp Tiki Masala.

Chops Deli
Best Deli- Cold cuts are nice, but it takes some talent to create combinations which elevate simple cold cuts into a culinary creation. Chops, Wilmington, NC does that. 


Best Italian North- I couldn't make a final desision on the best Italian restaurant so I went with my favorite in the north, and my favorite in the south. Close to home the Nu-Cavu has been one of our favorites for years and my go to dish is the stuffed veal shown above. 

Terrazzo Trattoria

Best Italian South- South of the Mason/Dixon Line my favorite Italian place is Terrazzo Trattoria in Wilmington, NC. My favorite dish here is the Veal Margherita shown above. My second is the seafood Positano. Everything else there is great too. 

K-38 Baja

Best Fish Tacos- K-38 Baja Grill on Oleander in Wilmington is owned by the same people as Las Olas, Tower, and K-38 in Porter's Neck. The menus are similar and my favorite is the seafood tacos. 

Mister Sushi
Best Sushi- Mr. Sushi, Middletown, NY is hands down my favorite sushi place. Try the uni, sea urchin, sometime. 

Molly Maguire's

Best Irish- Molly Maguire's in Downingtown sits in the old firehouse and has the feel of a classy pub in the old country. I liked the Guinness and beef pie shown above.

Best Pan-Asian- One of the places I have to get to when we go to Wilmington is Indochine

Casey's Buffet

Best Buffet- Casey's Buffet and BBQ, Wilmington, NC. Southern home-style cooking and plenty of it. Everything on the buffet was very good and the staff made us feel like we were long time regulars. 

Epic Foods

Best Fresh Food Concept- Epic Foods, Wilmington, NC. Fresh food and fresh concepts. My favorites are the burgers and the salmon. 

Best Whisky- Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Deep smokey taste. 

Well, this was one darn fine culinary year for me. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Greenwich Wine and Food Festival 2014 Recap

Rafael Palomino and Matt Storch
The 2014 Greenwich Wine and Food Festival is now in the archives, but the memories of some amazing food, as well as the memories of meeting and listening to some amazing chefs, lingers.  This year was even better than last year and the set-up was better organized giving an easier flow through the festival.

Anne Burrell
CTbites, a premier food writing community, along with Serendipity Magazine, set up the blogger lounge once again and many of the celebrities were there to speak and pose for pictures. It's interesting to see some of the people you see on TV in person and realize that their persona is the same as on the screen. 

Geoffrey Zakarian and Adam Richman
Geoffrey Zakarian is much taller than I thought and he has a very firm handshake. He was an economics major in college before going to France and falling in love with food. 
Chef Fritz
The proceeds from the event went to The Hole in the Wall Camp which is an amazing charity giving camp experience to childhood cancer patients. Many years ago my nephew attended their camp in New York and he still remembers it fondly.
Kathy Lee Gifford
Kathy Lee Gifford was there promoting her new line of wines and she was much more interesting live than on TV.  

The food was of course the real star of the event as many fine restaurants offered samples of their fare. I loved the burger battle and sampled a few, but by this time of the day my stomach couldn't take any more food. I really need to learn to pace myself better. At any rate, here are a few more pictures which will speak better than my words.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BGR The Burger Joint- Danbury, CT

BGR the Burger Joint is a small chain of burger restaurants that started out in the Philly area and now has spread to just under twenty locations scattered over the East Coast. I noted that there was one in Danbury, not sure how long it's been there, and we decided to try them out.   

Teresa went with the kids meal at $5.99. There were two sliders, fries and a drink and it was probably the best value there. She said her burgers were good and we shared the fries. The fries were quite good. Simple, yet seasoned properly, hot, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. 

The regular burgers cost $6.99 and you can add lettuce, tomato, onions and a few other things at no cost. Cheese, bacon, avocado, and other items cost .99 each. I decided to go with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles to keep it simple and get the true taste of the burger.

They say that you can order the burger cooked the way you want it. Well, you can order it how you want, but they may not do it the way you want it. I ordered mine medium and it came well-done. This isn't a big deal, but please don't tease me with a choice only  to let me down.

The burger, overall, was good. The meat, in spite of being overcooked, was tasty and seasoned properly. The brioche bun was not quite fresh, and not quite stale. Let's call it middle-aged. A slight toasting would have taken care of that problem.

I got a chocolate shake for $4.99 and it was okay, if a bit thin. 

So, the bottom line. Two of us ate for about twenty bucks, the price we usually pay at places like this. The food was good, but nothing stellar. If I were to rank BGR on a scale from Five Guys to Smashburger, I'd place them dead center which would be three stars out of five. 

BGR the Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FAQ about this blog

Some of you have some questions about this blog, and my policies, so I thought I could clear them up for you. I may add more if the need arises.

Q- Why did you change it so that I have to be a member of this blog to comment?

A- While some comments are interesting, most of the comments I have been getting of late are people who want to spam me by adding a link on their comment to their useless web page. Others are anonymous ones which are usually negative, think comments made on Amazon reviews, and I'm not going to post them. Sorry, it is my blog and I'll do whatever I want. 

Q- But I disagree with what you said. I need a forum to express my hatred of you.

A- Start your own blog.

Q- Are you available to judge cooking contests and competitions?

A- Yes, if it fits my schedule. I'd love to be a judge on a Food Network show. 

Q- Can I get you to join my network/page/site/cult/etc? I will give you a badge/hat for your page that directs traffic to me.

A- Um, probably not. I get at least one request per week and after reviewing their sites I see no advantage for me. All they want is for me to drive traffic to their page. Besides, we don't need no stinking badges. If you e-mail me I will most probably ignore you.

Q- But you do it for Urbanspoon.

A- I like them. Also, having those links save me from having to manually add restaurant info.

Q- Can you put a link to my product? I'll give you some crappy software for free. 

A- No!

Q- Do you take advertising?

A- Not at this point. I tried Google ads and after two years I still didn't meet the threshold for payment. The only ads I currently have posted are for my own books. However, I am amenable to an advertiser or two if it is the right fit, say a winery, a brewery, or a  restaurant supply company. I won't take ads from restaurants though as that would change the integrity of my reviews. If you are interested, e-mail me and we can discuss it.

Q- I want to advertise with you, what are your demographics?

A- About 55% of my readers are women between the ages of 25 and 50 from the Hudson Valley of New York, Wilmington, North Carolina, Eastern Pennsylvania, North Jersey, and Fairfield County Connecticut. 

Q- Do you take food and chef pictures for restaurants?

A- Yes, e-mail me for info. I'd be happy to do some work if your location and time fits my schedule, location, and my mood. Rates vary with location, time, etc. 

Q- Can I invite you to eat at my restaurant and write a review?

A- Yes, but that doesn't mean I'll be there. If the concept and location interest me, I may pop in. 

Q- Can I invite you to my food festival/beer festival/wine festival/ cheese festival/etc? I'd love for you to cover it.

A- Yup. Send me a press pass and I will go if it fits my travel and time schedule. I'll write a nice piece on the blog and give advance notice for the following year. 

Q- I don't like the review you wrote about my restaurant. Can you change it? Can you come back again?

A- If I didn't like it, I probably won't go back. Remember, I pay for my meals and I have so many places I want to eat at, so I'm not inclined to return to someplace that was really bad.

Q- How can I help you so that you keep writing this blog?

A- Click on one of the book links and buy a book or two.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tony Luke's- Philadelphia Airport

The Philadelphia Cheesesteak in its purest form is nothing more than steak, cheese, and bread. It is the quality of those ingredients, and the preparation thereof, which make the final product a masterpiece or a dud. I have had a few that were amazing and used fresh meat and more than a few that were nothing better than I could get by buying a package of steak umms and a jar of cheez wiz and making them at home.

In the case of Tony Luke's at the Philadelphia Airport, it was the latter. We were between flights and having heard that Tony Luke's is one of the best cheesesteaks I decided to try one. Not being all that hungry I decided on the Jr (half size) at $6.59. I watched as they threw some frozen meat on the grill and about five minutes later they called my name. 

The end result was a rather sad and pathetic wannabe cheesesteak with that classic steak umm taste. Wow, what a letdown. Overpriced (yes, it was at the airport so I expected to be overcharged) and underwhelming. I don't know how Tony Like does it at their main locations, but I would take a pass on this location. 

Tony Luke's on Urbanspoon

Chops Deli- Wilmington, NC

Chops Deli on Front Street In Wilmington has a sign proudly proclaiming that it's a Boar's Head deli. Coming from a land where delis abound, and are usually stocked with Boar's Head Cold cuts and some which are even better, my initial reaction was a disinterested yawn. Chops does have a stellar reputation, and I tried and liked their new location near the beach, so I put it on the list. 

The cold cuts are good, and give the pallet by which masterful sandwich creations are made. It isn't just the good product, it is the interesting combinations they have come up with, all named after cities and places. I had the Tripoli which had pastrami, roast beef, Corned beef, provolone, Swiss, and more. Teresa  and Rachel had the Marseille which had chicken, brie, and greens on a baguette. Sarah got the Plymouth which was turkey. All were excellent. 

My sole complaint is that they need better ventilation in the cooking area. Bread and butter meeting a hot panini press give off enough smoke to make one feel like they are in the midst of a Journey song. That having been the case, and it being a delightful day, we ate outside.

Overall, quite good but a bit pricey given that it was close to forty bucks for four sandwiches with only a small bag of chips as a side. I will be back to try some of the other creations.

Chop's Deli: A Boar's Head Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 30, 2014

TJ Smiths Restaurant and Bar- Warrington, PA

We've driven past this place many times, saw that the parking lot was full, and said that we have to try this place. Well, we did and I was a bit underwhelmed. It wasn't bad, it wasn't great, it was, well  let's say mediocre. Mediocre in the sense that it is on a par with most casual dining chains.

I had the Rueben at $9.50 which was okay, but could have used some seasoning. The fries were okay. Teresa ordered the quiche of the day and Caesar salad at ten bucks. The quiche was billed as Buffalo chicken but there was no heat to it, and very little chicken flavor, a rather lifeless dish. 

So overall, we went in hungry and left not hungry. The service was okay, but we were in the bar area and the bartender was our server so he was busy answering the phone and making drinks. Perhaps this was an off day, or perhaps other dishes are better. At any rate, if you like places like Appelbee's and Friday's go here instead and support an independent place.

TJ Smith's Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon