Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beaver Creek Tavern, Downingtown, PA

We were visiting our daughter and son-in-law's new place in Downingtown on a Friday night during the holidays and decided to try someplace nearby for dinner. We've hit most of the places in the Downingtown area and wanted someplace different. Nicole suggested The Beaver Creek Tavern and for some reason the name rang a bell, as if someone had recommended it once. 

We got there and the place was hopping. Most of the tables were full and the ones that weren't had reservation tent cards on them. The owner knotted his brow, gave a warm smile and said, "I have a table for you." He took a reservation card from a five top and said that was our table, and that he'd rearrange the reservation. I kept an eye out through dinner and didn't notice anyone displaced, so he must have known what he was doing.

The restaurant looks old fashioned, clean and bright in a timeless style with pastoral wall paintings and plenty of wood. As I looked through the menu there were plenty of comfort foods listed, like chicken pot pie (that's what Teresa ordered) and meat loaf (what Brian ordered) as well as sandwiches, burgers and steaks. There was one thing on the menu that was simply screaming 'Try Me!' It was the eggs benedict burger. I was really tempted, but I was on the backside of the flue and my appetite wasn't all that strong yet so I went with the bacon cheddar burger (shown above).

The burger was really good. Quality meat, cooked right, on a fresh roll with just the right amount of juices flowing from it. The fries were nothing special though, I think I'll go for the onion rings the next time. Everyone else was quite happy with their choices as well. 

Overall, nice homey atmosphere, warm friendly service, good comfort food at reasonable prices. We'll be back again soon, I want the eggs benedict burger. Stop by and give them a try.

Update- I did get that Benedict Burger and it was amazing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cosimo's Brick Oven, Middletown, NY

Cosimo's Brick Oven in Middletown has been around since 1995. That's seventeen in human years, and close to a hundred in restaurant years where the life expectancy of a restaurant is less than five years (seventy percent of new restaurants close within the first five years). I've only been there a few times, but I was satisfied each time. 

We stopped by today after nearly walking into an Olive Garden. You see, I was in the mood to try someplace we hadn't been to in a while and Olive Garden seemed worth a visit. As we were about to enter we both had the same thought, that we were going to regret it. We got back in the car and went down the road to Cosimo's.  

I decided on the tapenade flatbread pizza shown above at $13.00. It had shrimp, olive tapenade, cherry tomatoes, plenty of cheese and zucchini. It was quite tasty with a crispy crust and just the right flavor notes. Everything had a fresh, clean taste, especially the shrimp which made me think they were fresh not frozen.

Teresa got the half Margherita pizza and Caesar salad for $9.00. She said the pizza was okay and the salad looked to be of good size. 

We tried an old favorite and we were not disappointed. What I found interesting was that there was a line inside of the Olive Garden waiting for a table while Cosimo's was not all that busy at two in the afternoon. This simply proves that mediocrity sells if the name is familiar. Cosimo's is a small chain (four restaurants of that name and Torches on the Hudson) but it is locally owned and managed. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Restaurant North, Armonk, NY

Mussels on Flatbread
Restaurant North in Armonk owners Eric Gabrynowicz and Stephen Mancini believe in using local suppliers to create a true farm to table dining experience that should please the most die hard localvore. One of their suppliers is Sycamore Farms in Montgomery, owned by the Smith family, employers of my son Mark. Restaurant North has been on my short list of places to go for some time now, so when Mark gave us a gift card to go there that list got even shorter, it was simply a matter of finding the right time to go.

We made a five o'clock reservation on a Saturday, they open at five, because it was a bit over an hour's drive so we figured we'd eat, then do some shopping on the way home. As we entered I took a look and my first impression was of a refreshing understated simplicity in design. It looked like a restaurant that was saying, "Hey, we're nice, we can be trendy, but just wait until you try our food." It is what I call 'Up-County,' something you would have  found in Northern Westchester, Fairfield and Putnam Counties years ago. It has that Town and Country feel to it, city standards, or better, in a country setting. Well, country depends on where you're from. This part of Westchester hasn't really been country since Roosevelt was in office.

We were greeted and seated, given menus, water and offered bread. We had the place to ourselves for close to a half an hour. By the time we left at six-thirty (they do not rush you there as they believe in a relaxed and pleasant dining experience) the room was nearly full. Even though it was crowded near the end, the noise level wasn't bad. 

Steelhead Salmon
The menu is not huge, it is printed on a single page as it changes  daily depending on what is available. The size wasn't a problem, the problem was there were far too many excellent choices. We ordered appetizers to stall for time while we made our dinner choices. Teresa ordered the potato gnocchi over chicken Bolognese that was quite good (sorry, no picture) and I ordered the Mussels on Flatbread shown above which were amazing. The mussels were cooked in wine and lemon juice with garlic and spread over a grilled flatbread. It was quite savory, and quite delectable.  

I was down to the Steelhead Trout and the Seared Scallops for dinner. Our waitress suggested the salmon and she was right. It came exactly as I ordered it, just a shade less than medium, on a bed of quinoa, eggplant and broccolette (I think so anyway as the taste seemed to be a cross between Brussels sprouts and broccoli). The outside of the fish was crispy and the inside was a lovely reddish/pink. It was perfectly cooked and the flavor balanced with the rest of the dish.

Poached Cod
Teresa got the Poached Cod on a bed of lentils and beets. I took a taste and it was delightful. It was a simple dish with subtle flavor hints coming through, like the sea salt and horseradish.

French Toast Bread Pudding
As I looked over the dessert menu I took note of the French Toast Bread Pudding. I made one of those a couple of weeks ago to get rid of an excess of leftover French Toast when I was cooking on a retreat weekend and it was pretty good. I decided to order it so I could see whose was better, mine or the restaurant's. When it came I realized that it was far better than mine was, but then they did set out to make the dish, I was just trying to re-use some leftovers. Teresa ordered a pear tart and Chef Eric sent us out a cookie as well. We had a bit of sugar overload after that.

Chocolate Chip Cookie
The bottom line?

Decor- Simple, yet sophisticated with a hint of modern balanced with that Up-County feel.
Service- Impeccable.
Food- Amazing. Every dish was perfect.
Prices- Moderate to high, depending on what you are used to. Appetizer, entree and desert come to about $60.00 per person. 
Verdict- Must go!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Beers with Widgets

The beers in the gallery above have a few things in common. 

First, they are all from the same region, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Yeah, I know that some people don't want Ireland and England in the same sentence but I have ancestors from Ireland, Scotland and England. The English connection goes back to Sir William Forman, Lord High Mayor of London in 1538, knighted by Henry VIII. At least that's what I choose to believe, it may be a whole different Forman (Foreman) line. The Irish and Scottish connection gets a bit blurred and I'm not sure which country they got kicked out of first, but I'm pretty sure some of my ancestors oppressed other of my ancestors. 

Next, they are all on my patio table waiting to be sampled (over the course of a few days, otherwise writing this article would be difficult at best) so that I might share these pearls of wisdom with you. Oh the work I go through for the sake of art and truth.

And most important, they are all in draught cans which produce a taste close to a real draft. What produces this is a neat thing called a beer widget and some extra nitrogen. You see, beers from the UK and Ireland have considerably less carbonation than American beers. That's what this little story is about, and my opinions on the beers of course.

British, Irish, Scottish and Welsh beer is not as heavily carbonated as American Beer and most of the head comes from air introduced when the beer is 'pulled' from the cask to the tap. This works fine, but the problem is that when these beers are bottled or canned there is no head when poured. The good people at Guinness solved that by creating the widget.

The Beer Widget-

The widget is a plastic, nitrogen-filled, sphere with a tiny hole in it that is added before the can is sealed. It floats in the beer, with the hole just slightly below the surface of the beer. When you open the can, the pressure inside drops and the compressed gas inside the sphere is quickly forced out through the tiny hole into the beer. This increases the amount of foam, or head on the beer. 

The end result is that when you pour the beer into a glass you get that wonderful head so unlike the head on American beer. This head does not overflow the glass but rather cascades delightfully into the glass leaving a small foamy head on top of the beer. The beer remains unfettered with all of the unneeded gases and has a smooth taste.

Another method used, and a couple of the beers above use this, is a false bottom in the can filled with nitrogen. 

My opinions and commentary follow. 

Murphy's Stout- This is a low alcohol (4%) Irish cream stout from Cork, Ireland and I like this better than Guinness as it has more flavor. The can tastes very close to my memories of this stout in Ireland where most pubs have a Guinness tap and a Murphy's tap sitting side by side. 

Young's Double Chocolate Stout- I like this one better than Murphy's, but the comparison isn't totally valid as the style is a bit different. Brewed by Wells and Young in The United Kingdom it is a milk stout with 5% alcohol. It has a nice sweet bite to the taste coming from the chocolate malt. Probably one of my favorite stouts.

Bellhaven Scottish Ale- Brewed in Dunbar, Scotland since 1719, this is one of my favorite ales. The ABV is 5.2%. I first had this on the overnight train to Edinburgh and had a few more while I was in the city.  

Boddington's Pub Ale- Brewed in Manchester, England, the ABV is 4.7%. It starts out creamy when poured and has a nice simple taste.

Old Speckled Hen- This beer was originated in Abington, Oxfordshire in 1979 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the MG plant. Old Speckled Hen was the nickname of a service car at the factory covered in paint splotches. It is a bitter with a 5.2% ABV and has a very nice taste. 

Wexford Irish Ale- Brewed in Bury St. Edmunds, England, this ale weighs in at 5% and has a nice creamy look when poured. The taste is a bit lacking and is a bit closer to a lager. Not bad, but nothing amazing.

Tetley's Smooth Flow- This is an English Bitter with only 3.6% alcohol. My first experience with this was at a bar in Mold, Wales. This is a very good bitter. The term does not mean not bitter in taste, but rather not sweet. Bitter is another term for pale ale.

John Smith's Smooth Ale- Dating back to 1778 in Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, England, this smooth ale is the biggest sponsor of horse racing in the UK. The Smooth Ale is actually a smooth (hence the name), mild (3.6%), creamy English pale ale. I like it better than a Bass.

But the grandaddy of widget beers is Guinness, after all, they invented it. 

Started in 1759 in Dublin, Ireland, Guinness has become symbolic of Ireland. At 4.3% it is a lighter beer and lower in calories (only 125 calories for a twelve once serving). They even tout health benefits by saying, "Guinness is good for you." I run this past my wife when she starts to complain that I've had too many beers.

I discovered Guinness nearly forty years ago when it was in six ounce bottles in the local ShopRite. I've had it on and off since then, mostly when I go to an Irish place, but occasionally at home. I enjoyed a few pints in England and Ireland and the best pint I ever had was at the source when I toured the plant at Saint James Gate in Dublin. Even though there are others that I like better, I'll fall back on a Guinness often, mainly due to availability. You can get it almost anywhere.

The list is not all-inclusive, there are probably more widget beers out there that I have not yet seen. Any beer above is better than the standard mass-produced American swill and some come close to craft micro-brews. The main thing though is the non-gassy feeling after a beer or two. Try a few and see what I mean.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Frank's Italian Restaurant, Wappingers Falls, NY

Eggplant Spinacelli
We've passed his restaurant for years, always thinking about stopping but never doing so. One of the main reasons is that it sits just before a light on Rt 9 and it kind of sneaks up on you when you're going south. I usually remember it as I pass, when it is too late, or when I'm headed north and I can't make a left to get in. The parking lot is a bit tricky to get into, and out of, but there is plenty of parking in the rear. 

Anyway, we went in and it is bright and pleasant inside with stone floors, brick walls, granite table tops and plenty of natural light. We were seated in the front overlooking route 9 by the window which was perfect for the food photography. Kayleigh was our server and she was helpful, friendly and enthusiastic. We looked through the menus and made our choices.

Salad with gorgonzola
Teresa ordered the Eggplant Spinacelli shown at top for $15.50. It was an eggplant and spinach dish with a really nice sauce. She said it was probably one of her top eggplant plates she's had, and almost as good as our neighbor's eggplant. I tasted and I agreed with her. (I polished off half of the leftovers that night and it was truly good with plenty of garlic)

Both of our dishes came with choice of soup or salad and we both opted for the salad. I added gorgonzola for an extra two bucks, well worth it considering the amount they gave me. Both dishes also came with a side of pasta and you can choose whether to use the same sauce as your main course, or use a different one.
Veal Saltimbocca
I ordered the Veal Saltimbocca at $19.50, my 'go to' dish when I try a new place. I do this as a basis of comparison, but that doesn't always work out since there are so many interpretations of it. Here they did it well with plenty of veal and used a marsala sauce which worked well. The only complaint is that they put far too much sauce on it and it was more soup than sauce. I solved that problem by putting the meat on the bread plate before cutting and drained off some of the sauce. Don't get me wrong, my meal was good, but Teresa's was so much better.

Next time, and there will be a few next times, I'll get one of the other veal dishes with a red sauce as that is what I think they do best.

Overall, nice ambiance, excellent service and very good food at fair prices. Stop by sometime and see what I mean.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kibberia Middle Easter Restaurant and Cafe, Danbury, CT

We were headed to Danbury for some shopping and I decided to do a bit of research before going to find someplace different to eat. I wanted Middle Eastern, there is a large community of Middle Eastern people in the area, and I came across Kibberia so we decided to give it a try. I am glad we did.

The restaurant is in a mall, the same one with The Panda House, and what you do is order at the counter, pay, and take a table. They bring the food to you. We were looking at the menu and there were too many things to choose from. Teresa decided on the Lentil and Cabbage Salad, shown above, for $6.99. It reminded me of a Middle easter taco salad, minus the meat. It was quite flavorful and fresh tasting. The portion was so big some of it came home with us. 
I ordered the Kafta Pocket Combo shown above. Kafta is a slightly spicy beef and lamb patty and it was served in a pita with lettuce, tomato and a nice sauce. It came with a side of tabouleh, hummus and a small pita for $8.79. It was very good, very filling and very fresh tasting.

Overall, excellent food at good prices. Friendly people and a nice ambiance. We'll definitely be heading back for more. Oh, it is  very friendly for all of my vegetarian friends. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tony Boffa's, Middletown, NY

Tony Boffa's Restaurant in Middletown is a place we haven't been to in years, and a place we kept saying we needed to go to again for years. Going back made me remember why I used to like it, and made me realize I should go there more often.

They've been around for over 60 years now it still has the same feel it always had. This is an old school Italian joint in Middletown, probably the last of its kind. It isn't fancy inside or out but it is clean and bright, if not a bit shop worn. No, a better term would be lived-in. The restaurant has a comfortable feel and reminds me of my family restaurant. They have a simple, yet ample, menu and the prices are competitive with comparable restaurants.

Teresa ordered the eggplant parmesan special pictured above. It was a huge portion and it was really good. The sauce had a nice balance of sweetness with a bit of the tang of a good tomato. The eggplant was perfectly cooked, the ricotta mixture was perfectly seasoned and the cheese plentiful. 

I ordered the Veal Brasciolettini which is a thin veal that has been breaded and rolled up in mozzarella, provolone, salami and spices. Think of an Italian version of Veal Cordon Blue and you've got it. It came with salad (nothing fancy, iceberg lettuce with shredded carrots and green olives) and a side of pasta. The veal was well executed with a hearty flavor, quite delicious.

The service was good and the food delicious. Total bill for two dinners was about forty bucks. Stop by sometime and eat. I think you'll be happy you did.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gilded Otter, New Paltz, NY

Three Pines IPA
The best way to describe the Gilded Otter is to have you imagine what would happen if you built a brewpub around your brew tanks (clean shiny ones) so that no matter where you are, you can see the tanks. The concept works well here as on one side of the tanks is a large, warm bar and the other two sides are dining are. They have a second floor, more of a loft, looking down on the tanks. While it does have elements of what I call 'early modern brewpub' it is very tastefully done with plenty of wood and windows overlooking the Gunks. Oh, and some nice photographs and artwork as well.

Fried cheese curds
We went with another couple on a Thursday evening and it wasn't as crowded as the weekends. We were brought menus and asked what we wanted to drink. I ordered the beer special of the day, the IPA and my friend Dan got a blueberry beer. The IPA was good with a fresh clean taste, but I would have liked it a bit hoppier. I did have another. The blueberry beer, not my thing, had blueberries floating in it.
We decided on two appetizers to share, the calamari and the fried cheese curds. Both were good and both came with two sauces. I was tempted to get the mussels but I'll try them the next time.
Dan had the Jambalaya and I decided on the Brewmaster burger with blue cheese and bacon. My burger was good, but nothing spectacular. The fries however were excellent. Teresa and Kathy both ordered the fish and chips, a large cod loin on a bed of fries. I took a taste and they were crisp on the outside, yet moist and tender on the inside.
Fish and chips
Overall I was fairly impressed with the beer, the food and the service. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Temptations Everyday Gourmet, Porters Neck, Wilmington, NC

Temptations Everyday Gourmet has two locations. One is on Oleander, near the Mall, and the other is in Porter's Neck. We went to the one in Porter's Neck. Inside it is a cute place with a whole wall of wine to choose from, tables and an exposed kitchen. We were seated and looked over the menus (I already knew what I wanted as we picked up a menu one night passing by).

Rachel ordered the chicken pot pie, shown on top, which was more of a thick chicken soup with a pastry puff on top. It was good, but a bit heavy on the rosemary. Teresa got a chicken salad and a bowl of onion soup. I ordered the Pimento burger with onion soup as my side. 

The Pimento burger I got was really good, one of the best in the Wilmington area. The pimento was plentiful and wonderful. The only thing missing was a strip or two of bacon, and I probably could have added it. I ordered it cooked medium and that's exactly how it came, a perfect medium. The onion soup was delicious. 

We finished it off with a classic creme broulee. The portion was just right for the three of us to share after a filling lunch. 

Overall, good food at reasonable prices (all of this was about $44 including three coffees), excellent service and a warm atmosphere. I'd recommend you try them.

Temptations Everyday Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rx Restaurant, Wilmington, NC

I got a recommendation for this place from two people I trust and I was told they were doing a remix on a classic Carolina burger, they even sent me a picture. Of course I was down with that, and on my way. My first attempt to visit found the restaurant closed at noon so I left and went elsewhere. My second attempt went better and we found them open at half past five. 

Once inside I could see that someone spent a fair piece of change setting this place up. Ceramic floors, painted walls with artwork, wooden tables, each of which had a different design, and a nice wooden bar create a trendy, hip, warm atmosphere. We were seated and given menus. 

Now when I looked at the menu I saw no burgers of any kind, it was a simple menu featuring seafood, steaks, vegetable dishes and such. We asked our waiter Jason, who by the way was excellent, and he said they have a bar menu after the 10:00 which included that burger. I didn't really want to sit around for four hours so I looked closer at the menu.

I ordered the North Carolina shrimp, grits, tomatoes, bacon and corn (shrimp 'n grits) at $18.00 and added a side of mac and cheese for $5.00. Teresa got the chef's choice vegetable plate (chef decides on what goes on it at that time) for $14.00 and added a side of kale for $5.00. All of the dishes were quite good. The mac and cheese was cheesy enough and the shrimp dish was tasty. I like the fact that they removed the tails from the shrimp so I didn't have to get sauce all over my fingers as I ate. Nice touch.

Overall it was good. Service excellent, ambiance warm and trendy, food good, prices okay. Worth a visit, but I want that darn burger.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paddy's Hollow, Wilmington, NC

Paddy's Hollow is in the Cotton Exchange in Wilmington and we've passed by it a few times, mostly when I park at the Cotten Exchange and walk downtown. The entrance looks inviting and I've been meaning to try it for some time and today, when the place I wanted to hit didn't open until two, we decided to pop in. We being myself and two of my daughters for a father/daughter lunch.

Inside it looks a bit like an Irish bar with wood and brick and it is well lighted. Except where we were seated seemed like the only dark spot. Look at the picture below and you can see that, but it did make the background go to black even though I did drag the shutter at 1/20th.

After looking over the menu, I ordered the crab cake sandwich (shown here) for $8.99 with mac and cheese as the side. There are a few options for sides and the mac and cheese was a good choice. The crab cake was good and it was on a wheat roll that was fresh. I washed it down with a Guinness, it is an Irish place after all. I was going to go for the Po' Boy, but changed my mind.

One of my daughters got the corned beef on marble rye and I took a taste. Nice and lean. My other daughter had the cajun spiced chicken sandwich and she liked it. 

Overall a nice place and I'd go back again.

Blue Asia Bistro, Wilmington, NC

Blue Asia is a fusion place featuring sushi (they have all you can eat sushi for twenty bucks, twelve for lunch), hibachi, Chinese and Japanese at reasonable prices. The decor is upscale and clean and the people are very welcoming and friendly.

The food is good too. Not phenomenal, but good. I ordered the fried dumplings at $4.95 and the wrappers were light, the filling flavorful. Teresa got the Thai basil chicken at $12.95 and it was quite good. My entree was the Chen Du duck (shown above) at $16.95. It was okay, but I thought the duck was a bit overcooked and dry, something that happens when it is prepared too far ahead of time. The sauce was good though. 

Overall, not bad but nothing great. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Burgers for a Buck- Burger King

Number two in the burger chain wars, Burger King has been around for a while. The location this bacon burger came from is in Castle Hayne, Wilmington, NC.

Bun- 4

Condiments- 1. The only thing on the burger was a massive amount of mayonnaise and sliced onions.

Meat- 4

Presentation- 4

Aftertaste- 5, no repeats

Overall taste- 20

Total Score- 39 of 50

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Poor Piggy's BBQ, Wilmington, NC

My friend Samantha has been singing the praises of Poor Piggy's BBQ truck for some time now and today was the day for a visit. It was boy's day and I went with my grandson and my son-in-law for lunch.

Mike got the brisket sandwich combo with slaw, baked beans and fries. My grandson had the BBQ sandwich and I ordered the BBQ plate (BBQ, slaw and fries). Total came to $24.00. I tasted Mike's and it was very good. Mine was probably some of the best BBQ I've had anywhere. Just a hint of smoke flavor, but not overpowering. 

I highly recommend that you stop by and pay them a visit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Epic Food Company, Wilmington, NC

The picture above is salmon on a flatbread with cilantro, grilled scallions and a few other things. The best way to describe it is simply amazing and say that you really have to go to Epic Foods in Wilmington. 

The service was warm and friendly, and helpful. The ambiance is bright and inviting with a surfer theme. The prices are downright reasonable. The food is fresh and delicious. Overall, a winner that I will be going to often.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jester's Cafe, Wilmington, NC

My daughter, Rachel, has been telling me about Jester's for quite some time now, it's one of her favorite lunch places, so it has been on my 'short list' for a while now. Today I decided to do a father-daughter lunch and took her and Sarah there. I let Rachel drive and it was a good thing as I probably would have had trouble finding it.

Jester's Cafe sits on Castle in what looks to be a house with nothing but a small sign in front. Inside it is small and maintains that house look. An eclectic house look though. We looked through the simple menus and I opted for the BLEST (shown above) which is bacon, lettuce, egg-salad and tomato on a croissant. It came with a choice of sides and I got the potato salad.  It was quite good. 
It was not nearly as good as what Rachel ordered which was a pimento, grilled onions and bacon sandwich on rye toast (shown above). We shared the dishes and hers was amazing. Sarah got the black bean burger and she said it was good. 

Three good meals, a slice of key lime pie, two ice tea (unsweetened since I'm a northerner) and a Cheerwine came to under thirty bucks. The service was excellent (everyone waits on all of the tables so you never wait for a refill) and the ambiance is cool and friendly, charming in fact. 

I can see why Rachel likes it so much.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flaming Amy's Bowl, Wilmington, NC

I love Flaming Amy's Burritos in Wilmington, in fact it is one of my favorites places, but I didn't try the Bowl until recently. I discovered that I have been missing out on a great place.

Flaming Amy's Bowl is a Mongolian Grill, a flattop, whatever you want to call it. You enter, find a table, and grab a bowl. Take that bowl to the counter and fill it with whatever you want and hand it to the cook. Tell them what sauce you want and what starch (rice, spaghetti, rice noodles, etc) and they cook it on the flat top. 

My first creation is shown above, shrimp, chipotles, rice noodles, more peppers and a garlic lime sauce. It was very good, but spicy. My next three bowls (it is all you can eat) were smaller (I left out the noodles) and more focused. I made one that tasted like a Philly Cheesesteak. I left full, but not bloated. 

On Sundays kids are less than a buck (no, they don't sell kids) after five. We took four of them and five adults. Our total bill was well under fifty dollars, an amazing value. Go there.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub, Alexandria, VA

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub in Alexandria is a classic Irish pub. You know, the kind you can find almost anywhere in the world and when you find it you'll feel at home. It reminded me of a pub in Dublin where I knocked back a few pints. We stopped there because we found a coupon in a travel guide when we went to Alexandria offering 'buy one entree, get a second free'. That seemed like a nice idea, accompanied by the fact that two of the restaurants I wanted to eat at were closed between lunch and dinner.

The visit to Murphy's turned out to be a good idea. First of all it was very hot outside and the air conditioning cooled us off right away. Second there were several large screen TVs all turned to the Olympic women's soccer finals with the USA in, a rematch against Japan for the loss in the World Cup. Can there be a better place to watch a football match (soccer game) than an Irish pub? I can't think of any and the cheering during the game added that much more atmosphere. 

I ordered the Murphy Burger at $7.75. It was quite good with Canadian bacon (the proper Irish method is to use rashers, but they are hard to find here in the US and the concept is similar), provolone cheese melted and slightly charred on a fresh sesame bun. It came with fried potato disks. Teresa ordered the Reuben at $9.50. It had lean corned beef that was still moist and flavorful with the right amount of sauerkraut and cheese. Good food at reasonable prices. 

The service was good, Kim was very attentive and helpful, and they have a fairly good beer selection. I stuck with a Guinness for the first round (it is an Irish place) and found it to be served more like one might find in Ireland being slightly warmer than American tastes. My second was a Smithwich's.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Red Line Diner, Fishkill, NY

We watched the Red Line Diner being built each time we went to Sam's Club in Fishkill and we were wondering if they were ever going to finish it. It took what seemed to be a long time. Well, after it was built we passed by quite a few times before we stopped. The main reason was that it looked crowded with people waiting outside and a lesser reason was that we'd either already eaten, or weren't hungry. Today we changed that and stopped in. 

It is a large diner with a modern look to it and I saw the similarities to their sister diner, the Table Talk in Poughkeepsie. We were seated in the main dining area (right near a window  which makes for good food photography) and given menus. 
The menus featured typical diner fare and a bit more. While I wanted to get a gyro or a rueben to do a real comparison to other diners, I decided to try something different. Teresa ordered the chicken avocado focaccia panini at $9.95 and I ordered the steak and brie panini at $12.50. Both came with fries and a bowl of cole slaw with a pickle (shown at top). I tasted hers and it was good. Mine was good as well. I ordered it medium rare and it came what I consider to be a perfect medium rare. Notice that the meat is a bit purple in the middle in the photo. The onions and the brie blended nicely with the horseradish sauce, but I did have to add some salt and pepper to bring out the flavors. I think this was the case when we went to Table Talk too.

Overall it was quite good, the portions were very large as we each got two medium sandwiches and an ample amount of fries. The service was good as well. We will go back to try the Rueben and the gyro. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

PF Chang's China Bistro, Warrington, PA

I've seen the PF Chang's in Warrington many times and being reasonably bright I figured out that it was Chinese. I'd avoided it for the simple reason that it is a chain and that has proven to be a mistake. We stopped by today for lunch and we were quite satisfied to say the least.  

Inside it is large and full of stone. Stone walls, stone floors bright lighting in some areas, mood lighting in others. Overall a nice ambiance. Being that time between lunch and dinner the place was relatively empty. We were seated, presented menus and told that our server would be right with us. 

One of the main reasons for our favorable experience was our waiter, a nice young man named Phillip who was very helpful, informative, friendly and had a wonderful attitude. It is amazing how a good server can make a meal. 

I ordered the lunch portion of the lemongrass salmon with asparagus on fried rice. $11.95 plus a buck for the fried rice. Teresa ordered the ginger chicken broccoli at $9.75 and we shared a small order of egg rolls (2) for $4.95. Both came with soup, Teresa opted for the egg drop and I decided on the hot and sour. Mine was excellent, Teresa's was okay. The egg rolls were fresh tasting, light in flavor and had a dipping sauce that was a mixture of duck sauce and hot mustard. Quite nice.

My salmon was quite good. For my taste it was a bit overcooked, but I think most patrons wouldn't like it as rare as I do. I pointed this out to Phillip and he said the next time I should order it medium, or medium rare and they would accommodate. I will.

I would rate the food as Americanized (not in a bad way) and upscaled Chinese food. The flavors are clean and light tasting with a nice presentation. Can you find better Chinese at a local restaurant? Probably so, but when traveling I've found Chinese restaurants to be a crap shoot. Sometimes you find good food, sometimes you get crap. And that leads me back to that chain comment from earlier. Chains have their advantages, the biggest of which is consistency. I will go back to a PF Chang's (probably the one in Warrington since we pass it) simply because it is good food. I would rate PF Chang's as a good chain from my experience.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cascada Mexican Restaurant, Beacon, NY

Cascadas Mexican Restaurant is located at 424 Main Street in Beacon and we've been meaning to try them for some time now. Twice we went by and they were crowded and once we stopped on a night they were closed. Well, we finally got there and it was worth the effort.

Inside it is small, seating thirty or so including the bar, but there are tables outside. It is clean, uncluttered and has mexican music playing. After looking over the menu (not a huge menu) I got the shrimp tacos at $12.95 and Teresa had the enchiladas at $9.95. We stuck with water (there was no ice in it) and we were brought a bowl of nachos and salsa. The salsa was good with just the right amount of heat. You only get one round though, more costs extra.

My three shrimp tacos were quite good. The shrimp tasted fresh and there was ample fresh avocado on them. They were a bit dry until I added the delightful spicy avocado on the side (it might have been meant for the enchiladas) and that added just the right kick. 

The food was really good, the service so-so (our waitress seemed to be infected with a touch of ennui), the ambiance was okay and the prices were good. Overall quite nice and we will go back. They have a website for more information.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yard House, West Nyack, NY

Before I start this I have to make a few things clear. First, this is not really a review since the restaurant won't open until the day after I post this. We were at a preview. Second, I was invited to this preview so it isn't like I went in for dinner and wrote about it. Last, they served mini versions of the food, samples. Everything served was on the menu, but the portions were smaller. Notice the photos which are not quite up to my standards, but they give you an idea. That said, the Yard House was quite good and we will be back again to eat in a few months. I've already chosen a few items to try. 

Yard House is in the Palisades Mall, on the fourth floor, and is very large. It is part of a chain that is opening a few more places in the future, one of which will be in North Carolina. Inside it is quite large and roomy with many televisions tuned to sports and the news, a very large bar with plenty of drat handles, clean bathrooms and a high ceiling. Wood, metal and ceramics working together to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

As  food blogger I was treated as a media representative and we were given a reserved table. The first item I sampled was a burger. Well, it was a quarter of a slider but there was more than enough to convince me that they make a darn good burger. The meat was of good quality and cooked perfectly for my liking. I had another sample before we left and that was even better than the first.

 We looked through the massive menu, a large part of it given over to the beer and drink menus, and I decided on a Founder's Centennial, a bitters. Teresa ordered a mixed drink called a Limeade. While we waited I walked around the bar and looked at all of the draft handles. Hundreds of them fed by tubes from a cooler room containing the kegs. I'd hate to be the guy who has to clean them, but it makes for a huge selection of cold draft beers. 
There were many samples offered to us and we partook of most of them. The pizza was okay, the salad good, the Korean meat good, the tuna (shown above) amazing, the crab cakes delightful and the salmon (shown below) excellent. We liked the egg roll and there was some sort of cervice as well that was quite good. It must have been, I ate a few pieces. 
For my second beer I went for an Arrogant Bastard form Stone's in California (see below) partly because I like it, but mostly because I like to say that. Very good, but my next beverage was coffee because I had an hour drive home. Teresa ordered a different mixed drink that she didn't like as much as the first. 

Our server was a nice young man named Chris, but there were several people who waited on us as well. I must say that the staff seemed enthusiastic, pleasant and knowledgable. They must have hired well, and more importantly trained them well. 

Our overall impression was that Yard House is very good. Service excellent, food very good, beer selection amazing and nice ambiance. 

Here's the website for more information.