Saturday, May 28, 2011

Two Steps Downtown Grille, Danbury, CT

Someone asked me where I find these restaurants and my answer was that they were either recommended or we saw them in passing. Sometimes I do some research and look online for someplace new and that's why we tried Two Steps Downtown Grille in Danbury. I Googled Danbury restaurants and saw this place and it, and the menu, looked good.

The GPS got us there easy enough, it is only about 2 miles from the mall. We were there in the mid afternoon and there were no crowds. We were seated right away and given menus by one of the owners. The waitress came over after and offered some suggestions.

After looking over the menu I ordered the burger for nine bucks. You can get anything you want ('cept Alice) on it at no extra charge so I opted for bacon and Swiss. Then you have a choice of fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings and salad. I got the sweet potato fries which were just right, but I saw an order of onion rings go by and they looked good. Next time. The picture below is the half-eaten burger so you can see the medium that I ordered it is how it came. Good quality burger, cooked just right. Actually a very good burger.

Teresa got a chicken panini that was done on sourdough bread. She got the salad as the side. She said it was good and it looked it.

Bottom line is good food, good service, good prices. We'll be back again. They have a website for more information.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ming Jie's House revisited.

One of our favorite places to eat is Ming Jie's House in Walden. To the left is shrimp wrapped in bacon with an egg foo yung over it. Next is cold sesame noodles. Below that is the seafood in the bird's nest. Shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops and vegetables in a white sauce, served in a molded and fried bird's nest made from noodles. Not bad. My favorites is the dragon and phoenix, shrimp and chicken as well as the crispy scallops and shrimp with chili sauce.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Steel House Restaurant, Kingston, NY

The waterfront in Kingston, the one by the Rondout Creek that is, is an area that has been gentrifying over the past few years. Many new restaurants have opened and it is a hopping place on a nice day. Today wasn't a nice day, rainy, so the place was deserted at four o'clock when we got there.

After looking around at some of the restaurants, and realizing that a couple of them didn't reopen for dinner until five, we decided on the Steel House Restaurant. We went in and were seated right away. It was quiet in there and they were starting to get ready for a school prom that night.

We looked over the menus and debated a few choices. I looked at the burger, but the menu said it was char burger, and I'm not crazy about burgers done in the broiler. We decided on seafood, Teresa got the shrimp scampi and I had the shrimp puttanesca, each were sixteen dollars. Both were good with plenty of shrimp. Mine had a slight heat to it, with a hint of something sweet in the background, perhaps the red onions.

The manager came over and chatted with us for a bit and the service was good. They have a website for more information.

Friday, May 13, 2011

DeStefano's Olde Erie Pub, Middletown, NY

DeStefano's, Chi Chi's, Scali's, Diana's, Tony Boffa's, are all names of good old school Italian restaurants in Middletown, NY. The only one left from the old days is Tony Boffa's, but DeStefano's is now called The Olde Erie Pub and is located on West Main. I shouldn't really say now, as they've been there for a few years. We've been there a couple of times for functions and always been pleased, so when we were going out with friends we decided to try them for dinner. In short, it was a good decision.

We got there at six-thirty and there was a crowd. The Kiwanis were meeting in the front room and there was an umpire's meeting upstairs. The bar was crowded, some of them people waiting for their meetings to start. We were shown to our table in the back room and given menus. I looked the menu over and there were some interesting choices. I decided on the Veal Savoya, beaded veal with prosciutto, roasted peppers and cheese with a lemon sauce. Teresa and Kathy got the Italian sampler special and Dan got pasta with scallops. We shared breaded and fried calamari as an appetizer. Everything was delicious and the portions were huge.

The bottom line? Good food, large portions, excellent service, good prices. You should stop by and pay them a visit. Skip the chains and eat good old school Italian food in a family run restaurant. They have a website for more information.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pimento Burger and LA burger from Bobby's Burger Palace

No need for any comments here, the pictures speak for themselves.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Maya Cafe revisited

Yesterday was Teresa's birthday but she was too busy for us to go out. That was just as well since we like to have Mexican on her birthday, it is Cinco de Mayo after all, and Mexican restaurants are always busy then. We decided to go out the next day and there'd be no crowds. After deliberating where to go, we decided on Maya Cafe and Cantina in Fishkill, a place we've been to before and liked.

It wasn't crowded at five o'clock, but by the time we left there were a few people in there. We were seated right away and or waiter, Carlos, was very attentive and helpful. We both asked him for suggestions and he was spot on.

I was deciding between two dishes and I asked Carlos whether to go with the one I liked, or try something new. I followed his recommendation and got the shrimp tacos, just what I was craving, and Teresa got the three enchiladas. Both dishes were just right and delicious. I even had a Corona and ordered desert.

Note the top photo which is a chimi-banana. That's cheesecake and a banana wrapped in a tortilla and fried golden brown, then dresses with caramel and chocolate with whipped cream. Five bucks and worth every penny. It was a nice mix of hot from the fried and cold from the banana and cheesecake with just the right amount of sweet.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Will Work for Food Photography

Sometimes I wonder which part of this I like best. Is it eating the dishes? Is it taking the pictures? Or is it writing about the food? Then I wonder what the readers like so feel free to comment on whether you want more words or pictures, or whether should I keep doing the same as I've been doing.

The photography part all started when my daughter lived in Chicago and I started to take pictures of all the places we ate when we visited. That escalated into taking pictures of what I ate and the blog came when I had a whole bunch of food pictures and needed to do something with them.

Now, let me share a few secrets with you on how to take better food pictures. First, start off with a good camera. I've taken quite a few very good food pictures using a simple Kodak point and shoot digital camera, in fact the photo of the seafood dish was taken with that camera. Now I use a Nikon DSLR, the D3000. My favorite lens is the 35 mm f 1.8. It allows close-up shots, the close focus is about a foot. I usually shoot in program mode and I have the ISO set to automatic with a minimum shutter speed of 1/30th. I use the program shift mode to decide the aperture when I want to blur out the background.

I don't eat many desserts when we go out, but they photograph so well. This was shot with available light at the New-Cavu and the white plate set off the desert perfectly. I use the camera flash when the lighting is dark, and sometimes as a fill. The idea is to fill the frame with the food and make it the star of the photo. Keep in mind the fact that I'm usually shooting just after the food arrives and I'm trying not to get noticed while doing it. I've had a few waiters and waitresses see my taking the picture, but no one has objected to my doing so. If I were doing this without trying not to be noticed I would take the food near a window or search for a good background.

Even food that isn't all that great can photograph well, case in point this panini. It was a bit dry but the picture came out great. For something like this I like to get in close and make it bright. A shot of the whole plate would have been too much, and uninteresting, but the close-up makes your mouth drool. The restaurant was bright and we were seated near the window, so the available light worked out well.

Burgers and fries can be a bit too brown and tend to wash out. I ordered this one with salad as the side so there was plenty of green to give a balance, as well as the red from the tomatoes. I often have to do some rearranging on the plate for a burger to make it look better. Some places deliver the burger with the lid off and the bacon placed on it in a cross configuration. I put it together and it looks better. This one from The Basics at the Cotton Exchange in Wilmington didn't need any doctoring. This is how I got it.

For the cupcake photo I went in close too and I blurred the background by using a wide aperture, about f 2. The tabletop had a cool pattern which set it off nicely. By the way, this is indeed a bacon cupcake and it's from the Hot Pink Cake Stand in Wilmington.

To get back to the secrets of food photography there are only a few things to be mindful of.

1. Lighting. Try to use available lighting when possible and use the camera flash as a fill.

2. Composition. Don't shoot straight down on the food, it usually looks looks terrible. Get a good angle and try a couple of shots.

3. Background. What's behind the food can make or ruin the photo. A dirty plate or a person's hand is not what you want to see.

4. Exposure. Play with depth of field to get rid of the background, or to make it clearer.

5. Have fun with it. Remember, you get to eat it when you are done.

6. Some dishes just won't photograph well at all. For instance a Fetuccini Alfredo on a white plate sitting on a white tablecloth will just wash out.

Lastly, if you are a restaurant owner and you need some good photos taken, e-mail me and we can talk about my taking pictures for you. That is if you are in the Hudson Valley of New York, Southern Pennsylvania or Wilmington, North Carolina. Just click on my profile and you'll find my e-mail. Prices are reasonable and I'll let you have the photos on a memory stick and you'll have all rights to them.