Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holy Smoke, Mahopac NY

A friend of mine, Ernie Davis, told me we had to try this place. He said the barbeque was excellent and the beer selection amazing. I'd been waiting for the opportunity to stop, it is a bit off our beaten path being in southern Putnam County and all, so today when we went to Danbury we detoured on the way home and stopped off for an early dinner.

Holy Smoke is a large red building located on Route 6N in Mahopac Falls, just south of Secor Road off the Taconic Parkway. Easy to find, but we did overshoot it and had to turn around. Entering through the bar I can see that Ernie was right about the beer. I saw quite a few tap handles and some signs announcing that they carried some good brands, including Victory. I decided to pass on the beer as it was early and I had a long drive to get home. Water would be a good choice.

One thing that struck me as we entered was the smell of smoke, the smell that should be present in a barbeque place. That smell was just right. It didn't knock you out and make your eyes water like some places I've been. That was a good sign. The really nice and pleasant waitress told us to sit wherever we wanted as it wasn't crowded at that time. We found a table and she brought us menus and the water we asked for. We looked over the menus and the waitress answered questions as she cleaned off the table next to us.

Well, we decided on the "PigNic", a combination that said it would feed two, for $32.75. It came with four items and the choices were; 1/4 rack of St. Louis ribs, 1/4 roasted chicken, Carolina Pulled Pork, Chorizo or Brisket and four sides. We doubled up on the ribs and had the pork and chicken (we substituted pulled chicken for the roaster) and for the sides had baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and creamed spinach. Our waitress said it would be ready quick and I was relieved as the menu said that some of the items slow cooked for seventeen hours. I'm glad we only waited about ten minutes as the smell was making us hungry. Seventeen hours would have been hard.

The food was delicious. Quite possibly the best barbeque I've had, even better than Dreamland in Alabama. There was a smoke flavor to the meat that didn't overpower it, just right and with the right amount of heat. The Ribs were very good, the chicken was good and the Carolina Pork was excellent. The sides were great too, especially that creamed spinach with a hint of cheese in the background. The only thing wrong with the food was that there was just too much of it. The menu said it would feed two, but we could have fed four with the portions served. Trust me, we tried our hardest to keep eating but we filled up. We brought enough home for tomorrow's lunch, and a bit more.

If you like barbeque you really need to stop by and try this place out. Good food at good prices, friendly service and a good beer selection. Visit the website for more information.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garrison's Tavern and Wine Cellar, Montgomery, NY

We've been to Garrison's Tavern and Wine Cellar a couple of times before and had appetizers at Happy Hour, the calamari and chicken strips were very good as I remember, and we've been meaning to stop by to eat for a while. The other day our son Mark was over and he asked if we'd been there recently and we said no. He then told us on Wednesdays they have some $5.00 specials and we made up our minds to go. It turned out to be a good idea.

The location of Garrison's, 11 Union Street in Montgomery, once housed a place called The Daily Bean, a coffee and sandwich place. When it changed hands they renovated a bit and added a bar that is now home to 35 beers, sorry there are none on tap, and a good selection of wines. We both ordered the five dollar burger special and it included the cheese and fries. I'd recently had a fifteen dollar burger at another place and here this five dollar burger was every bit as good, for one third of the price. The regular menu has a couple of interesting burgers, including one that has pulled pork ribs, roquefort cheese and Vidalia onions mixed in for fourteen bucks. That sounds interesting, as do some of the other selections on the menu.

We also had a dozen steamers for five bucks. They were steamed in a delightful broth with lots of garlic. I asked for spoons so we could finish the broth. It was that good and it would have been great over a plate of fresh pasta. I will do the steamers again next time we go.

I had two Goose Island IPA and with the three items the total bill came to $27.00, plus tip. Good food, good friendly service, nice atmosphere. Well worth a visit. They have a website for more information.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grilled Twinkies Recipe

I decided to delete my recipe blog after checking the stats and finding that I have no readership. I did however notice that one recipe does get hits and that's the one for grilled Twinkies, so I transfered it to this blog. Try it sometime, you'll find it interesting and delicious.

Grilled Twinkies, that's right, grilled not fried. Now the fried ones are amazing and have a unique flavor, but there is the whole deep fried aspect. Grilling is healthier (marginally anyway) and imparts a flavor that is a cross between toasted marshmallows and toasted sponge cake, with a hint of smoke.
First, unwrap the Twinkie (the plastic would melt into it otherwise) and spread some butter on the bottom. Get your grill fairly hot, then place the Twinkie bottom down. They will be some quick flames as the butter burns and this adds to the flavor. Give it about a minute and a half on the bottom and a minute or so more on the other three sides. Be careful or the Twinkie will stick to the grill. Get it browned like the top photo, or the bottom one. You decide how brown you want it.
Next, plate it and eat. You can add some ice cream, chocolate syrup, anything you like. It's your Twinkie.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New World Home Cooking, Saugerties, NY

Ric Orlando, the owner of the New World Home Cooking in Saugerties was on Food TV's Chopped three times. The first time he won, the second was for champions and he won the first round as well. Unfortunately after making it to the final two, he was chopped. He was also at the Garlic Festival this fall giving a demonstration which we watched. So having watched him on TV three times and once in person, we decided to visit his restaurant.

We had gone up to Woodstock Chimes for the annual factory sale and took a drive over after wandering around Woodstock for a short time. We were early, they don't open until five, so we sat at the bar for fifteen minutes and read the menus. This way we knew what we wanted when Josh came to take our order. We started with an appetizer, the Saigon Street Calamari with peanut and chili sauces for 9.95, see the picture above. It was delicious. The calamari was cooked perfectly and the chili sauce had just enough heat without being obnoxious. Good start, especially with the Hurricane Kitty I'd ordered. By the way, Ric was in the kitchen cooking along with his chefs as you can look right through windows and see the kitchen. That's something I like, a restaurant that has nothing to hide.

I had the Northwinds Farm burger (named for the farm the beef came from) with blue cheese and bacon with fried plantains for my side. I'd ordered it medium, but it arrived much closer to well. Even so, it was still juicy and had a nice fresh taste that comes with quality beef. There was a charred sear on the outside, like a steakhouse burger done in the broiler. The bun was a brioche roll and the cheese was melted perfectly. The bacon was delicious too. The plantains had a slight sweetness and were a nice change from fries. Oh, and that green thing on the lettuce . . . it was a pickled caper berry and it was delicious with a nice tart bite to it.

It was a good burger, but be aware that this was a fifteen dollar burger. That's right, a fifteen dollar burger, thirteen for the burger and a buck each for the blue cheese and the bacon. Like I said, it was a good burger but for fifteen bucks it had better be (I'm going for a twenty dollar one in Ellenville at some point and that one better just amaze me). Teresa had the Ropa sandwich for 11.95 which was a roast done somewhat like pulled beef on a roll with a rice side dish. It was good, but she did have to take quite a bit of fat out of it before she could eat it. She said it was good, but nothing great.

Total bill? $42 buck plus tip for an appetizer, two dinners and a beer. Definitely worth the trip. The service was excellent and very attentive. They have a website for more info.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cauldron Restaurant and Bar, Montgomery NY

I've been meaning to go to the Cauldron Restaurant in Montgomery for months now, but it seems that I never travel that section of the road anymore, so I always seem to forget. The restaurant is owned by the family of one of my former students, Giovanni La Piana (one of my favorite former students), and I've tried their food at Montgomery Day and The Walden Harvest Festival and liked what I had. Well, today we were out and couldn't decide where to eat and suddenly it came to me. We've gotta give the Cauldron a try. We're glad we did and we've added a new favorite to our list.

The Cauldron isn't big. There is bar area with a few tables, and a small dining room. It's decorated in red and white with a warm feel and posters on the wall. Giovanni seated us, gave us the menus, and explained the specials. He told us that all of the pasta is homemade and all of the vegetables are local. From farm to table is how he explained it. If you're a localvore this will make you happy. Shortly after we ordered we were given fresh baked focaccia bread,

We ordered off the specials menu and I had the Cioppini (see the top photo). It was clams, shrimp, calamari, in a spicy sauce with carrots and celery over home made linguini. The best description is delicious with just the right amount of heat. The calamari was cooked perfectly and it almost melted in my mouth. The shrimp and clams were just right too, as were the carrots and celery. The pasta was amazing. There was so much on my plate I had to bring half of it home, and that's rare for me, but I have a nice lunch waiting for me tomorrow.

Teresa got the butternut squash ravioli with a nice white sauce on it. I took a bite and it was very tasty. Both of our meals came with a choice of salad or soup. Looking at the soup choices we decided that was the way to go. I got the French Onion, which was excellent. Teresa had the Tuscan soup with broccoli rabe that had a nice flavor that even I liked. She loved it.

Both dishes were eighteen dollars and worth every penny of that. Overall, this was a great meal out and I highly recommend the Cauldron Restaurant. They are located at 631 State Route 17K in Montgomery New York, next door to the Spruce Lodge. The phone number is (845) 567-1760. They also make a pretty mean pizza and they used to be known as Colletta's Pizza. Stop in and you'll be glad you did. Tell them I sent you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beacon Falls Cafe, Beacon, NY

Beacon New York is one of those small American cities which fell into a steep decline a couple of decades ago and it looked like it was never going to come out of it. Well, that all changed a few years ago when a few art galleries opened, along with some antique shops and some specialty stores. That brought a new crop of restaurants so that Beacon is now a destination.

Teresa and I went over to Beacon today to try something different. First choice was Poppy's, he's a champion on the Food Network show Chopped, but we decided to do that another time so we headed down the street to where we'd spotted a Mexican place once in passing. We parked and wandered around for a few blocks looking into some shops and we looked at the menus in a couple of restaurants. One choice was Thai, but it was pricey and I'm not a huge fan anyway. The Mexican place held promise, shrimp tacos being one of my favorites, but we decided to do that another day. What struck my eye was a small place called Beacon Falls Cafe, near the corner. There is a small waterfall nearby that was once used to power a nearby factory. We looked that the menu posted on the window (I love it when restaurants do this as it makes it so much easier to see what they have to offer, as well as the prices) and decided this was the place.

We entered and were told to sit wherever we wanted. The outside tables were full, and I'm not a fan of eating on the sidewalk anyway, the smell of diesel exhaust while eating isn't my idea of fine dining. There were a few tables available and we chose a table by the window as I wanted good lighting for the picture. It isn't big inside, but it is bright and clean and well decorated with the paintings of a local artist.

We were asked a few times what we wanted to drink and each time we said the water they'd already given us was fine. I'm a huge fan of tap water at restaurants and rarely order a drink while eating, especially if I'm driving. They do have a good wine and beer selection, but we passed on that. We were given menus and we watched them bring food to other tables. I like to look at what passes by as I decide what to order and everything looked good.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a soft spot for a bacon and blue cheese burger. There's something magic about that combination so after perusing the menu I ordered my usual. Teresa ordered a special.

It took a little long to get the meal and the waitress apologized for the delay. No matter. When my burger arrived I smiled and took the camera out to get a portrait of my meal and placed the burger in the sun so it had a nice halo affect, kind of an ethereal glow. After the photo shoot, I took the top bun off and realized there was no bacon. Hmmm. Then I noted that the cheese was yellow. This wasn't my burger! I called the waitress over and said, "This is a beautiful burger, but not the one I ordered." She apologized and said she'd correct it. I told her it was okay, I'd eat this one. I was salivating over it anyway and it really didn't matter all that much.

Now here's what separates an ordinary restaurant from the really good ones, how they handle a mistake. The really good ones make up for it immediately. I received so many apologies as I ate that I think I got to know the entire staff. I kept saying it was all right and it really was. The burger I got was delicious with fresh meat cooked to perfection, on a fresh kaiser roll. The fries were crisp and hot and they had a small pasta salad with it too. Teresa said hers was good, I just can't remember what it was. Not a good thing for a food critic to do, but maybe I was so wrapped up in what I had. After we finished, and the bill came, we were told that the chef wanted to give us desert. We were full, but after hearing the choices, we decided we'd share a delightful chocolate mousse cake. So rich and tasty! Good thing we shared it as neither one of us could have finished it on our own. I also had coffee. Good coffee.

Now it is possible that I got made as a food critic, especially when I took a picture of the food as that's not something the average diner does, but I may be experiencing a bit of hubris if I think I'm that recognizable. I think they are genuinely concerned about customer service and that makes them a really good restaurant. No, maybe a great restaurant.

The bill came to $20.00, tax and tip included, for a great meal with great service and atmosphere. I'm definitely going back again, this time I do want that bacon and blue cheese burger. They have a website for more information.

Update- I did get back for that bacon and blue burger and it was worth the trip. Service was excellent and food terrific. If you haven't been there yet, what are you waiting for?

Another Update- Since this review we've been back quite a few times and the food, service and ambiance have been excellent. I've gotten to know Bob, the chef and owner, well. I have to say that BFC is truly a gem and is fast becoming my favorite place in the Hudson Valley to eat.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival 2010

We just got back from the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties New York and you can probably smell the garlic reeking out of me from a mile away. Garlic everything. I had garlic clams to start, followed by a hot dog with garlic salsa. Next we shared a steak sandwich (not as flavorful as I would have liked) followed by garlic ice cream. That's right, garlic ice cream. What they do is mix roasted garlic into vanilla ice cream. The roasted garlic has a sweet taste made even sweeter by the ice cream. They have garlic gelato which may be better, I'll try that one next year. Oh, I had a garlic and beef empanada at the end. See where the smell is coming from?

In between these delightful things we tasted garlic, had shots of garlic vinegar, and sampled garlic flavored dips, cheese, and all sorts of tasty things. We also saw chef Ric Orlando do a cooking demonstration. He's a champion on the TV show Chopped and he's in the final four for the top chef. I'll post a picture of him cooking after the final airs on Tuesday. He made a risotto and strawberry, chocolate and garlic desert that tasted interesting. Plus, he gave some great cooking tips.

Overall, we had a great time and the weather was perfect. If you've never been, keep it in mind. The Garlic Festival is held on the last full weekend in September and is open from 10:00 to 5:00. Check out the website for more info.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Freskada Mediterranean Kuzina, Exton, PA

I know I've said this before, but I like Greek food and it's always nice to find someplace that does a good job. Freskada Mediterranean Kuzina in Exton, PA is one of those places. The menu isn't extensive, but they had quite a few good choices on it. I debated on a few dishes and finally decided on my favorite, the gyro. But first, a dish of stuffed grape leaves, or dolmades, to warm up.

The gyro was as delicious as it looked and it was full of thick-cut gyro meat in a grilled pita. The sauce was good as well. The fries were a bit lacking though, they could have been crisper, but they weren't bad. I should have substituted a Greek salad instead.
Nicole had the Grilled Chicken Roma sandwich and Teresa had the Grilled Hummus Chicken sandwich at $8.95 each. Bpth were good too. They actually had to take some of the chicken off as there was too much on it. They don't skimp on the meat here. Between the extra chicken on the two sandwiches, we brought home enough chicken to make another meal.

They have a website for info and the menu. Pay them a visit next time you're in Exton. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zaxby's Chicken, Wilmington, NC

I only had Zaxby's twice before, and only when someone else had gone there and had some left over. This time when my daughter and son-in-law wanted a quick bite I suggested the Zaxby's on Gordon Rd in Wilmington, and I tagged along. We did the drive-up and got the twenty piece chicken nuggets and an order of fried pickles, shown above.
Well, the chicken was good and we got it with the Zax sauce (very much like Mac sauce) and an extra hot sauce (that one was real good). The fried pickles at $2.75 were tasty too.

Zaxby's is a Southern chain, started in Georgia back in the '80's. They have a web site too for more info.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Main Street Bistro, New Paltz, NY

People have been telling me how great Main Street Bistro in New Paltz is for quite some time and we finally tried it. After having experienced it, my advice is to finish reading this and go there. This place is great and is one of my new favorites.

I had the Guaca Baca Burger, guacamole, bacon and muenster cheese on a fresh kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato and pickle, for $6.50. That's right, only $6.50 and it came with choice of regular fries, sweet potato fries or salad. I opted for the salad and there was plenty. Teresa had the Bistro Barn Burger, bacon, cheese and salad for $5.95. Total bill was under seventeen dollars tax and tip included. The burgers were not just cheap, they were very good too. I ordered mine medium and it came cooked just right.

They have a breakfast menu and a dinner menu too that include pastas, sandwiches and a whole lot more. Check out their website for menu and hours.

Update 9/18/10- We stopped by today and I got the same burger, even though I wanted to try something different. I just couldn't pass up this amazing burger and it was every bit as good as the memory of the first one. This may be the best burger I've had in the Hudson Valley, and I recommend a Hurricane Kitty, a hearty IPA from Keegan Ales to complement it. If you haven't been there yet, what are you waiting for?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Maya Cafe and Cantina, Fishkill, NY

About a year ago we visited Maya Cafe in Wappingers Falls and really liked it, so we decided to try the Fishkill location. Turned out to be a wise choice. They are located on Route 9, just below the Hess Station across from the Dutchess Mall, or what's left of it, in what used to be a bar many years ago.

Maya Cafe is brightly decorated inside and the staff is very friendly. Our waiter, Alejandro, was sincerely polite and accommodating, as were everyone else. They give you a bowl of salsa, just a hint of heat, and warm nacho chips. The problem we had was that there were too many choices on the menu.

After some deliberation I decided on the Tacos Camaron (shrimp tacos) at $10.95. Two deep-fried tortillas with shrimp, pico de gallo, and avocado. It came with rice and black beans. You can get the dinner portion as well, which is larger and comes with plantains for $14.95. Very tasty and the lunch portion was quite filling, but I had room left to order one of the interesting looking deserts. Or so I thought.

Teresa decided on the Tacos Barbocoa at $9.95. This was a delicious marinated steak that had a slightly spicy, slightly sweet flavor to it. There were three on her plate and I had to eat one of them as two were enough for her. So much for that desert idea. Next time I'll leave room. Although I could have sat there until I was hungry as they don't rush you. Not that they are slow, they just give you space, which I like, while making sure everything is good. A nice balance.

Needless to say, Maya Cafe is becoming a favorite. Try them sometime, you won't be disappointed. They have a website for more info.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cookout, Wilmington, NC, Revisited.

About this time last year I posted a review of the Cookout Restaurant in Wilmington, NC and it has become one of the most popular reviews I've done. I'm a bit surprised since the review panned the ordering system and talked more about a mistake in the order. After some careful thought I decided that maybe they deserved a second look so I hit them the other day to see how it was.

The menu hasn't changed, it's still hard to read (lots of pretty colors and fonts are used) but this time I knew ahead of time what to order. I got two small cheeseburgers with ketchup, mustard, and pickles. I tried to get jalapenos so it would be the same burger I get at Five Guys for a comparison, but they don't have them. The burgers were cheap, real cheap. I paid about $2.70 for both of them. There were good too, in a fast food sense. I'd rank them as better than MacDonalds and Burger King, on a par with Checkers and Andy's, and nowhere near a Five Guys.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Olympia Restaurant, Wilmington, NC

I like Greek food, and my favorite dish is the Gyro, so when my daughter Rachel made the suggestion that we try the Olympia Restaurant on Oleander Dr in Wilmington, NC, I quickly agreed. It turned out to be a very nice Greek restaurant. Not too big and not too small, but they have a small party room and outdoor dining. Not that I’d eat outdoors when the heat index was well over a hundred degrees mind you.

We looked over the menu and I was leaning toward one of the seafood dishes or a pasta dish, but changed my mind. I wanted what I consider traditional Greek food. We shared the hummus with pita for $6.95 (it was a very large portion) and I had the Gyro Pita at $7.95 (please note the picture above), in fact we had three more of them at the table plus another one with chicken. The tzatziki sauce was excellent, creamy and garlicky and the pita was fresh too. The kids had chicken fingers with fries off the children’s menu and Teresa had the Greek salad and a side of Greek potatoes. Everything was great and all told it was just over ninety dollars, less tip, for six adults and three kids, including two bottles of Mythos. I had the Mythos, the kids had seltzer water. The lunch menu is a bit cheaper.

It’s a nice place to eat, and the bathrooms are clean too. That’s important when you take the family out for dinner. They have a website for more information.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn, Wilmington, NC

Hot, Fast, Cheap and Easy, that’s the motto of Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn on Oleander in Wilmington, NC. They have other comments too, like; if your food doesn’t arrive in five minutes, it probably will in another five or ten minutes, if it’s too loud you may be too old, lighten up, just because we call this a barn doesn’t mean you have to act like you were raised in one. The sign on the door says, no smoking, no idiots. I like that last one, but I wasn’t sure if I could go in. I did anyway and I was glad I did.
You enter and stand in line for the counter. The line can get long; in fact the line went out the door as we were finishing our meals. The line does move fast though and you have time to look at the menu on the wall to decide what to order. When you get to the counter you order and they give you a number for the table, the tattooed waitress brings you the food. The place has an interesting rough and kitschy feel to it, but good for a family.
I got the Big Fat Greek Burrito, black olives, banana peppers, spinach, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese and your choice of meat. I got the chicken. Teresa had the Big Jerk, roasted red peppers, pineapple jalapeno salsa, sour cream, cheese, rice, beans and chicken. They each cost $6.95 and came with nachos on the side. Add a soda and it all came to $17.12 tax included. They have several specialty burritos, and you can custom order whatever you like. There are also quesadillas and nachos.
One of the neatest things is the salsa bar for the nachos. They have nine different kinds and my favorites were the chipotle tomatillo and the wasabi avocado.
Overall it’s a fun place to have some good food for a reasonable price. Check out their website for more information.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Country Griddle, Flemington, NJ

This is another place we've driven past countless times and wondered what it was like. The parking lot is always full, and there are some cheap specials listed outside. Well, today we decided to stop and try it. It's an older restaurant, styled after the homestyle family dining concept of the 70's and it's probably been around that long.

We looked over the menu and they had some nice specials. What caught my eye were two things; Country Fried Steak and eggs, and French Toast with eggs, bacon and sausage. The latter won out and we both ordered it. The portion was huge. Two filling meals for $16.00, plus tip.

They are located on Rt 202, just south of the traffic circle (or roundabout as my GPS calls it) in Flemington, NJ. Give them a try.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

le Steak frites, Montreal

We wandered around Old Montreal a few times trying to decide what to eat when we saw le Steak frites on Rue Saint Paul. It looked interesting and I knew that frites means fries, and that steak means steak, so we stopped in.

I got the steak frites at $18.00 (Canadian) which was a nice cut of shoulder meat cooked medium rare, just as I asked, with green beans, a small salad, and fries. They give you a couple of good rolls too. Very good rolls. I also ordered escargot for an appetizer, good as well. Teresa just had French Onion Soup and some green beans, but I did get her to try a snail.

It is a BYOB restaurant, but they have soft drinks available. I'm a big fan of tap water myself. Food was good, service good, overall a nice experience. They have a website where they show you what some of the entrees look like.

Creme de la Creme Cafe, Montreal

Montreal is a very European city, and is probably as close to being in France as one can get without leaving the continent, this continent that is. The city is small and easy to get around in, and full of places to eat. Many of them are excellent and full of old world charm. Situated at 21 Rue De La Commune is a neat example of this called Creme de La Creme Cafe.

At first glance one sees a stone building with outdoor table service. We stopped to look at the menu and it was interesting, but we were still shopping for lunch and started moving on. What changed my mind was when I saw the waitress deliver two delightful looking melted sandwiches to a table. I got as close as I could to get a better look, and smell, without being blatantly rude of course, and decided this was our place. We decided to eat inside as the sky was getting dark and threatening.

Inside was stone and wood with a long bar. On entering we heard French music playing, a female vocalist. We chose a table near the door so that we could watch the passersby, and the impending storm. Our waitress came over and said, "Bonjour!" When we replied "Hello," she immediately switched to English with a lovely accent, more French than Canadian, and presented us with menus. We asked for ice water and I got a local micro-brewed stout. I forget the name, but that's probably because the beer was unremarkable.

What was remarkable was the food. I got baked pepperoni, ham and cheese with a spicy mustard. I came with a salad. Teresa had an open faced turkey melt with salad and coffee. The bread tasted fresh, as did the rest of the ingredients. Also remarkable was the service. Very polite, quick, and amenable. Très agréable, as the French say. Our waitress even saw me reading the local newspaper, I was looking at the horoscopes, and she asked if I wanted her to read and translate them for me.

It turned out to be a stroke of genius, or more like a stroke of pure dumb luck that we chose Creme De La Creme as it started to pour the minute we sat down and continued until we finished our meal. This did give a nice cool breeze and even more entertainment as we watched the pedestrians running down the street.

Good food, good service, and tons of atmosphere. Like most European restaurants, there is more than meets the eye. There is an upstairs as well which seats many more. If you are ever in Montreal, stop by.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Alaska Pete's Road House Grill, Stroudsburgh, PA

We've passed by Alaska Pete's a few times when we travelled through the Poconos to avoid interstates on holiday weekends and it looked interesting, but the timing was never right to eat. This time we'd spent two hours in traffic and were hungry so I pulled in. Inside it's a bit like Northern Exposure meets Outback. It is large, and they have a large parking lot so I assume they must get busy here at times, but it was fairly empty when we stopped in.

The menu is typical roadhouse with the usual steaks and sandwiches, plus a couple of burgers. I was a bit burgered out so I decided to try the Alaska Pete's Cheesesteak at $9.49 and Teresa had the Chicken Cheesesteak for the same price. They turned out to be good choices. The rolls seemed fresh-baked and the insides were flavorful. The fries were hot and crispy too.

We'll stop by again. Check out their website for more info.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lancaster Brewing Company, Lancaster, PA

Pennsylvania is full of brewpubs, one better than the other. One nice find is Lancaster Brewing Company in Lancaster. It sits in an old building on North Plum Street, a few minutes away from the shopping outlets, and they kept the rustic charm. Lots of wood and beams with the brewing kettles exposed.

It took a few minutes to look through the menu, it isn't huge but I like a limited menu sometimes because when a restaurant limits the menu, they do things right. Brian said this and I agree with him. I decided on the Angus Burger, pictured above, with bacon, cheddar cheese and fries. A plate of deliciousness for nine bucks. Teresa had the Brewer's Chicken at eight bucks, Nicole had the Black Bean Burger at eight bucks and Brian had the Turkey Dagwood for eight-fifty, with a delicious bowl of white chile for five bucks. All told, four meals and four beers for under sixty bucks plus tip. Good bargain for good food.

My favorite beer is the Milk Stout, it has a good flavor without being heavy, a good summer stout. Pictured with the burger is the Hop Hog IPA, a nice hoppy IPA. I had one of each. Ashley did a nice job waiting on us, and apologized profusely that the chile came out with the meal, instead of before and said they'd take it off if we didn't want it. That was fine with us though as the chile was worth waiting for.

Overall, a great dining experience and I recommend them. Check out their website for more info and stop by to eat if you happen to be in Lancaster.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guido's Pizza, Walden, NY

Walden has a surplus of hair dressers, Chinese restaurants and pizzerias. At latest count there are five pizzerias in a village of under seven-thousand people, and at least a dozen more in a five-mile radius. There were a couple of others but they saw fit to close up. That said, the quality ranges from really good to something that the box it came in tastes better than. Trust me, I've tried them all.

My current favorite is Guido's Pizza located at 35 East Main Street, in the mini-mall. This pizza parlor has been a favorite for years under different names too. Lisa's Pizza (owned by Lisa Cerone) gave way to Cosenza's Pizza (run by Brian), then came Guido's. Actually it started as a Grand Union supermarket when I was a kid.

The pizza is good, very good, and it is consistently so. Some places are a crap shoot and you never know what it's going to be like when you get it. Not so with Guido's. It's always good. They make the standard pie, Margarita pie, Sicilian, and a few more. The sandwiches, paninis, calzones, wraps and strombolis are also excellent. Please note the picture of the small stromboli I had for dinner tonight. Stuffed with ham, pepperoni and sausage for only $5.95. They make gyros too, and I hear they are good too.

The people are nice too, and they hire a lot of the kids from the high school where I teach. From what I've heard, they treat them well too.

No website here, but you can call them at (845) 778-5878 to order. Stop in and try them. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Romano's Macaroni Grill, Ramsey, NJ

Years ago we discovered Romano's when we were returning from someplace in Jersey and it became a favorite. Every time we went to Jersey we'd stop and eat. Often there was a long wait, sometimes up to three-quarters of an hour, but we didn't mind since we really liked the food. It tasted fresh, the bread was good, and the prices were good. Well, we stopped going a few years ago for some reason, I think it was because we decided to head further up the line before we ate.

At any rate, we stopped by today for a change and the place hasn't changed. It still has that rustic look, the Italian lessons in the bathroom, the house wine bottles all over, the wine glasses on the tables, the paper and crayons on the tables, and the waiters and waitresses dressed in black and white. The menu has changed however. They dropped the lighter fare, like the skinny chicken, and added a few pricier items like veal chops. They have also added a few Mediterranean items which looked interesting, but I wanted something I was familiar with.

After some deliberation, I ordered the Penne Rustica (pictured above) for $12.99. It had chicken, shrimp and prosciutto over penne pasta. Now this is a dish I've had there a few times in the past and I remember it as being a much larger portion. So much larger that I used to take some of it home. This time I finished the dish and was still a bit hungry later. Teresa had the Eggplant Parmigiana for $9.99. It was okay, nothing special, and the portion seemed a bit smaller than we remembered it as having been.

Overall, it was okay. Nothing special. There are some areas where this would be considered good Italian food, like in Alabama maybe, but here where we have some real Italian restaurants. Romano's is nothing more than chain Italian. It is better than an Olive Garden, but I'd recommend a good local Italian place first, unless you are traveling. Then places like Romano's are a nice safe bet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Johnny Rockets, Pentagon City Mall

I was in Washington, DC over the weekend, along with twelve other adults and 147 ninth graders, on a school field trip. Yeah, I know I'm crazy. We were at the Pentagon Mall for dinner One of the chaperones suggested Johnny Rockets. Since I never tried them, I agreed and six of us went to Johnny Rockets. The other six hit a few other places.

Now Johnny Rockets is one of those fifties' retro places with plenty of chrome and formica and fake jukeboxes on the counter and the staff dress like they belong in the movie Pleasantville. They started out in LA back in '86 when the big fifties' craze in diners was at its peak. Their claim is that the burgers are fresh and hand pressed and that the shakes and malts are hand dipped. The menu looked interesting, and the prices reasonable.

I had what I think was called the Houston, or Dallas. I can't remember exactly and I can't find it listed in the online menu. At any rate, it was a burger with jalapeno peppers and pepper-jack cheese. I ordered it medium well and it came closer to well. I found it rather pedestrian. Oh, sorry. I forgot I don't use words like that on this blog. Let me rephrase it as boring. Not that it was a bad burger, I just wasn't all that impressed. I think my biggest complaint was that the bun was too big for the burger, so there was quite a bit of dead space on the bun. I hate dead space. I'd rather have the burger overhanging the bun. The meat was okay, though a bit dry, and the cheese was melted properly.

I had a vanilla shake and it was very, well vanilla. I don't mean that in the flavor sense, but in the boring sense. No real flavor. The fries were very good though. Fresh tasting, crisp, and hot.

The company website can give you information on locations and menu.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Uno Chicago Grill, Wappingers Falls NY

Today we found ourselves on the East side of the Hudson River debating where to eat, when I said, "Let's go to Unos in Wappingers." We used to go there quite often when our daughter tended bar there, but we haven't been in over a year since she moved south.

Unos started in Chicago on East Ohio Street about sixty-five years ago serving deep dish pizza. They have grown to over 160 locations, some of them franchised and if you like deep dish pizza, and you're not in Chicago, Unos is the place to get it. The one in Wappingers is franchised by Banta Restaurants and sits on the old Steak and Stein location. They try to buy locally as much as they can.

We were there at lunch during the week so they had some nice specials available. Teresa got a quesadilla and she had a choice of unlimited soup or salad for under eight dollars. She looked at the soup and decided that was for her. Good choice as they had several to choose from, and she sampled them all. I took a taste of each too and my favorites were the clam chowder and the vegetable, with the French Onion coming in close. Teresa liked the broccoli and cheese and the clam chowder.

I got the "Bring home the bacon" burger, pictured above. It was cooked medium, just as I asked, and served on a fresh Challah roll, with spicy cheese and crisp bacon. Delicious.

Unos is a nice place to get a bite to eat and they have a nice beer selection as well. They sometimes carry Goose island Honkers Ale on tap, and they have their own Uno Amber, which has a nice clean taste. Happy hour specials include some cheap appetizers too. The inside is brick and is decorated with pictures of Chicago, memorabilia, and TVs in the bar area. It has a nice warm look to it.

For more info, check out the website.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bacon cheeseburger from Ward's Bridge Inn.

No need to comment, other than to say delicious.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Philly Burger from Applebees

I haven't been to an Applebees in quite a while so we stopped off today in Middletown. I had the Philly Burger and Teresa had one of the salads. Hers was pretty much unremarkable, but my burger was good. It has sauteed onions, peppers, melted cheese and a burger on a toasted hoagie roll.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rosy Tomorrows, Danbury, CT

Buckshot Burger

If you're in the mood for kitschy, try Rosy Tomorrows in Danbury Connecticut. Part of it is an old railroad caboose attached to an old house. The place is full of remnants of the old Danbury Fair including the fortune teller, the funny mirrors, and other fun stuff. A train even runs above the bar, you just insert some coins and the money goes to charity. Model airplanes and rowing shells hang from the ceiling.

The food is good, my favorite being the Buckshot Burger shown above. It has horseradish dressing, onion straws and cheese on a nice toasted kaiser bun. With it you get a generous portion of sweet potato fries for $10.50. My second favorite is the blue cheese burger where the blue cheese is put in the middle of the burger. That one has bacon on it. I also like their French Onion soup and they make an interesting six-layer flower pot salad.

They have a good beer selection too, including a house ale which is pretty good. We've been there a few times and we took the grandchildren once. They loved all the stuff hanging on the walls and from the ceiling.

Overall, an interesting dining experience with good food at reasonable prices. Check out their website for more information.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Terrazzo Trattoria

With apologies to my Southern friends, about twenty-five years ago I remember getting a pizza in the South and thinking the box it came out of tasted better than the pizza. All that has changed over the years as good food has made its way south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the larger cities you can get some darn good pizza and Italian food, plus the grocery stores are stocked with better selections. Its gotten much more cosmopolitan over the years.

If you are in Wilmington, NC you definitely have to check out Terrazzo Trattoria at 1319 Military Cutoff Rd. It is a nice Italian restaurant with good food at reasonable prices, and good service. We went there with seven adults and four children (one of whom is only four months old, so he didn't eat) and the bill was about $133.00. Not bad.

I had the Penne Positano, a nice penne pasta in a creamy pesto sauce with mussels and shrimp for $17 and added a side salad for .99. The pesto sauce had a nice garlic taste, without being overpowering and the pasta was cooked just right. There was plenty of shrimp and mussels in it too. We shared calamari and chicken tenders, and the some of the other dishes my party had were: Chicken and Penne Naxos, Chicken Satlimboca, and Eggplant Parmigiana. All were good.

Now back to that pizza. We ordered a pizza, half cheese, half pepperoni, for the kids and I tried a piece. It had a nice crispy crust, good flavor, and wasn't greasy. A cold piece later that night was just as good.

Terrazzo Trattoria is family owned and they are nice people. They are closed Sundays, and are only open for dinner on Saturday. They have lunch and dinner during the week. For more information, check out their website. Better yet, check out the restaurant some time. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Checkers, Wilmington, NC

Checkers is a Southern chain featuring some darn good burgers, at darn good prices. We stopped at one in Maryland last year on the way home and I thought it was one of the best fast-food burgers I'd ever had so when we headed south this spring, I had to try it again. Now please note that I ranked Checkers #2 in fast food burgers in this blog.

I got the Fiery Jalapeno Double, only $1.50 since for three dollars you can get this and a shake. Well, this was one fine burger. Hot, juicy and flavorful (Flavourful for my English fans). We got seasoned fries for the kids, not overly seasoned, and shakes that were so thick they were hard to get through the straws.

For those of you who've never been to a Checkers, they are set up primarily as a drive through with a line on either side. I imagine it would be harder to reach across the passenger side to get your order if you are alone, so I recommend the line to the right. There is no inside seating, or counter. There is a walk-up window in the front, and ample parking, so I get out and order. I don't eat in my car, and I like to look at the menu for a few minutes before ordering, especially when I'm trying some place I'm not all that familiar with.

So if you've never been to a Checkers, give them a try. The burgers are surprisingly good, and cheap.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cafe Mayo, Wappingers Falls, NY

Here's a place we've been driving past for a few years now and always say, "Hey we should stop there sometime." Well, we finally did today and I have to say it is good Mexican food. Now to start off, I'm not a huge Mexican food fan, which is surprising because I love cilantro, lemon juice and pico de gallo. Maybe its the meat I don't like because when we have Mexican lately I've been ordering seafood and I'm fast becoming a fan.

Tonight I had the Tacos de Camaron, shrimp tacos. Three tacos filled with grilled shrimp, black beans, lettuce and tomato covered in a nice sauce with fresh avocado slices. A couple pieces of grilled plantain, and some refried beans and rice on the side completed the meal. All for $16.95. Teresa had chicken enchilada for $13.95. My dinner was delicious and fresh tasting. There were many flavor notes that combined perfectly.

For desert I tried the fried ice cream. They take vanilla ice cream, coat it in frosted flakes and coconut, and fry it. Then they pour on caramel and chocolate, and add whipped cream. At $4.95, I had to try. It was okay, but not as fantastic as I thought it would be.

Give them a try sometime and you'll not be disappointed. They have another location in Fishkill and you can get more info from their website.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cafe Mio, Gardiner NY

Gardiner New York is just off of Route 208, between Walden and New Paltz, and is remarkable for its view of the Shawangunk Mountains. It is now remarkable for a cute little bistro called the Cafe Mio. We tried to go there when they'd first opened a few months ago, but they didn't take credit cards then, and not having cash we left. Tried again recently and they take credit cards so we were all set.

Inside it's a nice restaurant with the paintings of a local artist shown, and for sale. The kitchen is exposed and you can see the chef at work, nothing to hide here. I had the shrimp po' boy at $10.50 and Teresa had the pesto, fresh mozzarella, and tomato panini at $8.50. Both came with a small side salad, note the picture above of my meal. Both were good, the bread was fresh, and the portions were good. The only slight negative we found was that we thought the pesto was just a bit too oily for our taste.

We'll be back as there were a few things on the menu I want to try, plus they are nice people. Check out their website for more info.