Saturday, June 29, 2013

Panchos & Gringos, Brookfield, CT

Enchiladas Mole

I may have a new favorite Mexican restaurant, or at least one that is at least equal to my favorite which is the Cafe Maya in Fishkill. We first came in contact with Panchos and Gringos about a month ago when I heard on the radio that there was a restaurant tasting in Brookfield at the Raymour and Flanagan store. We stopped by and our favorite was Panchos and Gringos. They were sampling a pulled pork that was as good as ours and they gave us a gift certificate for a free appetizer. We put them on the short list of places to visit.

We were headed to Costco and decided to stop by and pay a visit. I only hoped it lived up to the hype we'd built up. Outside it looks kitschy and Mexican, with a life-sized fake horse in the doorway. Inside it is tastefully decorated, not over the top like some Mexican places, and there is Mexican music playing. There is also a Mexican wait staff and I'd certainly hope a Mexican cooking team. We were given water, menus and chips and salsa. The chips were warm and the salsa had just the right hint of heat to them. Oh, the water was cold.

Appetizer Sampler

Since we had the gift certificate, we decided on the appetizer sampler. Everything on it tasted fresh and good, the chicken wings being the best part. It was a nice start to the meal. 

The problem was in choosing the entrees as there were too many things that caught our eyes. I was going to go with a fish taco, but the enchiladas mole with beef won out. I'm glad it did as it was simply amazing. The Mole sauce was rich, but not overpowering, with multiple flavor notes coming through. Quite possibly my favorite Mexican dish, that is until I tasted the dish Teresa ordered.

Enchiladas Tomatillo

Teresa ordered the enchiladas Tomatillo with chicken and I tasted it. Actually I ate one of hers and she had one of mine. The tomatillos gave a delightful sour taste that made me want to lick the plate to get the last precious drops of that amazing sauce. This is why Panchos & Gringos may just be my new favorite Mexican place. Oh yeah, the refried beans were quite tasty and I even ate some of the rice.

Overall, nice ambiance, good service and amazing food at reasonable prices. We will certainly be headed back to try some of the other dishes that interested us and you should stop by too.  


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Marhaba, Lambertville, New Jersey


On our quest to find new restaurants to eat at in our travels to visit the grandchildren in Pennsylvania, the village of Lambertville in New Jersey has been giving us some nice spots. The other day when we were at the Inn of the Hawke (amazing place) on our way down we spotted Maraba, a Middle-Eastern place, across the street. A peek through the windows, and some internet research, made us realize this was the place for our return trip. 


We timed it so that we got there a little before noon on a Thursday and there were two other tables dining. Inside it is small, it might seat about forty, and rather eclectic looking. Marhaba means welcome in Arabic, and we felt welcome. Our waitress was pleasant, efficient and knowledgeable. We looked over the menus and decided to have the Babaganough appetizer. The portion was large and it had plenty of garlic flavor to it, along with seasonings I'm not familiar with, but I liked. I asked about them and one was sumac spice which had an earthy tone to it. With it came an amazing pita that was warm and seemed homemade. A nice start to the meal.


We couldn't decide what to get, there were too many interesting choices. I was going to get the gyro, but I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try something different, so we decided to get two pita wraps and split them. Our waitress knew what we were doing and she plated them so we each got a half. 

I forgot what they were called (silly me) but they were very good. The one on the left was hard-boiled eggs, grilled eggplant and pickled mangos. Multiple flavor notes and the pickled mangos were intense at first, but they grow on you real fast and they make you want more, becoming the star of the dish. The one to the right was falafel, cucumber and babaganough and it was also quite good. What I found was that the food had flavor, and a bit of heat, which is a nice touch for Middle-Eastern. I got the feeling there was a bit of Indian flare to it and everything was light, refreshing, filling and full of complex tastes. All told it was $23 before tip, quite reasonable. 


We'll be stopping back for some of the other dishes. If you go, bear in mind it is a BYOB. Not a problem for us as were in the middle of a road trip when we stopped, but something to remember if you like a drink with your meal.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Inn of the Hawke, Lambertville, NJ


I can describe the Inn of the Hawke in one word, Brilliant. In two words, Bloody Marvelous. I use the British expressions because the restaurant has the warm, welcoming feel of an old English publick house blended with Colonial American charm. Wood floors, wood tables, wallpaper, paintings, romantic soft lighting and a cool outdoor garden area make for an interesting place. 

I had done some research to find a lunch stop on our way to Downingtown, a trip we make frequently. I wanted to try something different and this was the choice. I only hoped the food would live up to the ambiance.




After looking over the menu I ordered the Special Burger shown above. It came on a brioche bun with roasted poblano peppers, onions, avocado and queso fresco with a side of pub fries for $11.25. I ordered it medium and it was cooked to a perfect medium! As regular readers know, this is a bone of contention for me. Too often my burger comes out over cooked and dry, not so here. This quality burger meat was cooked to perfection giving a juicy, but not greasy, flavor. The combination of the ingredients worked very well. This was one of the best. The pub chips were tasty and they even brought malt vinegar for them. Quite civilized. 

Teresa ordered the Hawke burger with cheese at $9.75. Hers was ordered medium-well and that's exactly how it came out. She said it was good, and that I'd made a good choice in selecting the restaurant.

To sum it all up, ambiance very nice, service excellent, food quite good and prices reasonable. Looks like we'll be headed back in the near future.



Friday, June 21, 2013

Mountain Brauhaus, Gardiner, NY

Grass fed, local beef burger on a pretzel
The Mountain Brauhaus in Gardiner has been around for 58 years, they opened the year I was born, and has been run by the same family for all of that time. I say this because when you enter the restaurant you might just feel like you've stepped back in time, in a good way. It is full of dark wood, the waitresses all wear German dresses, German music is playing on the sound system and people are friendly. Old World charm is how I'd describe it best. I haven't been there since I was little and I don't think it has changed a bit since then. Now that can be a bad thing when a restaurant doesn't change and gets stale, and the third generation runs it into the ground. Not the case here as they have taken what works well and kept it up. They didn't try to fix what wasn't broken.

Rueben strudel


We were seated and our excellent waitress, Alisha, brought us water and gave us time to look over the menus. There were too many good choices and we decided to start with the Rueben Strudel appetizer. It was quite good with some quality corned beef wrapped in a strudel and covered with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Around the edges were circles on dressing and horseradish. 

I ordered the local grass fed burger on a pretzel at $13.00. It had gouda, balsamic roasted red onion, spinach and a side of fries. There were other options. I ordered it medium and it was darn near medium, just a tad over. The beef was good and the flavors blended well. The pretzel was a bit much though and I left a bit of that behind. The fries were good too. Overall it was a good burger and I will certainly be back for another one (or another variation) soon.
Veggie burger
Theresa got the veggie burger after Alisha told her it was house made. She said that it was good, as good as one she'd make herself (Teresa said this). She had the salad and it was quite large. She originally had the onion dressing but she didn't like the dill in it (I did) and asked Alisha for a different one. The citrus dressing she brought was excellent.


Of course I had to have a beer and I chose a dark beer, a small K√∂stritzer Schwarzbier. It was good and I liked the way the bubble broke the head just as I took the picture. 

Two good burgers, a beer and an appetizer for under $36, tax included. Not bad at all. Overall, a very nice dining experience and we will certainly be going back again. There were quite a few things on that menu that interested us and we want to try them. I'd highly recommend you pay them a visit and experience Old World dining at its best. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mr. Sushi, Middletown, NY

Uni
I had a friend raving about Mr. Sushi for some time now and I finally decided to check it out and see for myself what Steve was talking about. I trust his taste in food, Scotch whiskey and cigars. 

I looked at the place from the outside and thought they had two things going against them, the name and the fact that they were located in a strip mall. Going inside you lose that strip mall feel and realize they did a nice job of decorating the place. They created a warm and inviting sushi bar without going over the top. As for the name, well it's not as hokey as something like New #1Sushi, or something like that. 

We looked over the menus and Teresa decided on chicken teriyaki instead of the chicken tempura. I'll get back to her dish at the end. I decided we should share an appetizer and that I'd get two loose pieces of sushi and a roll. 

Gyoza

We started with the chicken gyoza for an appetizer. There were six on the plate and they were quite tasty with a delicate flavor. 


Naruto Roll
I went with the Naruto roll for my main course. This is salmon, tuna and crab meat rolled in cucumber with an acidic sauce on it. It was good, but not something I want a whole plate of. This is something better shared when out with a group and ordering a whole bunch of different things. My own fault as what I know about sushi could fill a matchbook cover.


I decided to try two single sushi, the uni (sea urchin) and the red snapper. The red snapper was good, the uni was amazing. I know, Uni is an odd and acquired taste, but it was really good. I may go this route the next time and try some different items. 

The sushi and the gyoza were excellent. The chicken however was not. The first few pieces were very good, but the last were tough and rubbery, to the point of being inedible. We pointed this out to our waiter and he brought the manager, who in turn went to the kitchen and examined the chicken with the cooks. They agreed and the manager apologized profusely and comped the dish. In retrospect it could be that the one piece of chicken was over-marinated in an acidic liquid. This happens to shrimp in a lemon marinade and gives a similar consistency. 

The bottom line is how they handled it, and they did a good job of it. That impressed me. We will be going back as Steve was right. It is good.