Southern Cooking in the Windy City

April 4, 2010

Gary and I had scheduled a Monday morning meeting in Chicago that required us to go there Sunday. So we decided to make the most of inconvenience and go out for a very good meal that Sunday night.  And what a meal we had.

We knew about the meeting a month out so we had time to decide and get a reservation. So we created a list of possibilities and narrowed the list down to Table 52.  This is Chef Art Smith’s place in Chicago which features Southern Cooking. I have seen Chef Smith several times on Iron Chef America and Top Chef. He was Oprah’s personal chef,  recently cooked for Lady Gaga and President Obama and Michelle ate at Table 52 for Valentine’s Day so there was a really good chance it was going to be memorable. And it was.

Gary started his meal with the Southern Pickles. The dish came with several house-pickled cauliflower, carrots and okra with micro greens, onions, two kinds of salt, baguette, smoked gouda and jelly on the side. The idea was to make your own pickle sandwich out of the ingredients trying the different ingredients. I like participation dishes like this where you can choose your own combination of food so when Gary offered a taste, I went for it.  The pickled vegetables were tender and sweetly pickled but not to the point where the taste of the vegetable was lost or the crunch was gone. The rest of elements added interesting tastes of sweet jam and salty salts along with different textures of crusty bread, crunchy pickles and gooey jam. Combining the different elements of the dish was fun but we both agreed that although the gouda cheese was fine on it’s own we couldn’t find a combination that matched well with the cheese.

I went for the Beet Salad for my first course.  The salad came with nice portions of  two colourful beets, whipped goat cheese, thyme crumble and Myer lemon puree. For what I thought was going to be a simple salad turned out to be a very complex dish by the various combination of items you could put on your fork. The sweetness of the beets matched well against the tartness of the Myer Lemon Puree and the almost metallic flavour of the Thyme Crumble. The textures of the dish also provided a spectrum of densities, firm beets, semi soft Whipped Goat Cheese and thick puree.  We wanted wine with the meal and had our waiter match a glass of wine with each course. For this course we had Acustic from Montsant (Catalonia, Spain) named ‘unplugged’ in the same way that you find ‘naked’ (oak free) Chardonnay.

For Gary’s second course, he went for the classic southern dish Fried Green Tomatoes. The two large heirloom tomato slices were lightly battered and then pan-fried giving the tomatoes a light crunch with a soft center.  Along with the tomatoes came fresh greens, creme fraise and a light tomato puree.  Like an old married couple, Gary and I ended up sharing tastes from each others dishes so I can report this version of the southern classic was great.  The sweetness of the fried tomatoes contrasting nicely with the spicy tomato puree.  The crisp greens and silky puree matched well also.  For this course, our waiter recommended the Eyrie Chardonnay from Oregon. I found the wine to have a light oakiness and a little bit fruity. A nice match for both the Fried Green tomatoes and my dish.

For my second course, I also went for a southern classic in Low-Country Shrimp and Grits. I lived in Florence, South Carolina back in the 80’s so I tried grits many times but never became a big fan but when you are at Art Smith’s restaurant you give them another try.  It was great!.  These grits were Stone-ground White Corn Grits and so different from my memories of the 80’s.  These grits were more like a risotto than the cream of wheat memories.  These grits were nice and creamy as a whole but the individual grits still had a bite to them as in “el dente” pasta. A very nice consistency.  The Wild-Caught Shrimp were tender, sweet and well-cooked.  The Spicy Tomato Sauce contrasted well with the sweet shrimp and creamy grits. Basically a very simple dish but well executed with excellent ingredients.

For Gary’s main course, he went for the Fish of the Day special, which was Halibut. I forgot to bring my recorder to get all the details of the dish but from my memory, the fish was pain fried and topped with a variety of vegetables and greens.  I got to taste the fish and it was perfectly cooked with flakes falling off with just the touch of your folk.  Halibut is my favourite fish and Table 52 did it right.

For the main course we decided to order the Braised Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey as our side dish.  Collard Greens are about as “southern” as you can get but the smoked turkey was different twist I had not seen before. The more common version I had seen when I lived in the south was with ham hocks.  The turkey version turned out fine with greens taking on a light sweet taste of the turkey but not the saltness of the ham version.  The greens were well-cooked, infusing the turkey into the vegetable but stopping the cooking before turning the veggies into mush.  This was the best dish of collard greens I have ever eaten.

For my main course, I went for the Maple Sugar Short Ribs.  These were the most tender short ribs I ever had in my life. Just using your fork you could twist the meat and it would flake off into single strands of flavourful meat.  The carmelized maple sugar matched well with meaty flavours of the short rib. The dish came with red wine reduction that match well but I was so focused on the tender meat.  A potato puree was the matching starch and a carmelized onion accompanied the dish. Our waiter recommended the 2007 Cristom Pinot Noir to go with the dish.  I thought this was an interesting recommendation given Gary’s fish and my short rib selection but it ended up being perfect for both of us.  Not overcoming the fish and not under powered for the ribs.  Nice wine selecting Justin.

I have had the privilege to eat in several celebrity chef restaurants; Emeril’s, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, BLT Prime, Daniel,  over the years but one thing was always missing, the celebrity chef. Until this visit. Making several tours of the dining room during our three courses was owner/celebrity chef Art Smith.  He stopped at every table checking to see how the meal was progressing. I thought the treat of the evening was going to be this photo of the two of us but it got better when Art joined us at our table as the restaurant thinned out at the end of service.  They say that television puts pounds on you but this thinner and fitter version of Chef Smith has been dieting and exercising lately and looked the healthiest I have ever seen him. I wish I could say that about myself but after this great meal, I wouldn’t have much credibility would I. 

It gets worse, Gary and I agreed that we were going to pass on dessert as we were both pretty full from the three courses, wine and cocktails we had already consumed. But as we sat there with Chef Smith he had the staff big over some desserts for us to try.  First came the Smith Family Twelve-Layer Chocolate Cake.  Delicious, light and a great chocolate flavour. The cake came with Vanilla Gelato and Strawberry for contrast.

Next came the Peanut Brittle.  I remember peanut brittle as a Christmas treat during my childhood but this was the best brittle I ever had.  The thick rich harden caramel sauce was chock full of fresh Georgia peanuts.  I was amazed at how thick the brittle was.  It was very good and very sweet.

Finally Executive Chef John, formerly of Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, brought over Art’s Hummingbird Cake.  I had my share of cake when I lived in the south but never had Hummingbird cake.  If I had most likely I would still be in the south cause this is great cake.  Art make his version with Banana and Pineapple flavours three layers high all coated in Cream Cheese Frosting. Served on the side is a wonderful Vanilla Gelato.  It was delicious with all the different flavours going on and amazingly light.

We had a great chat with Chef Smith during our 30 minute sit-down talking about everything from the making of Iron Chef, his diet and exercise plan, to who’s cooking in Chicago he likes (and who’s he doesn’t) and where he likes to go hear the Blues in Chicago.  The evening ending amazingly with Chef taking us to his favourite Blues Club in Chicago and having a couple of cocktails listening happily to the blues.

It was an amazing meal that will, most likely, never happen again.  Thanks Gary and Chef Smith for a great meal and a great story.

Read other reviews about Table 52 here, here and here.

Table 52 52 Elm Street, Chicago, IL  – 312-573-4000

Eating Fish in the Desert of at least on San Antonio’s Riverwalk

November 23, 2009

I went to San Antonio, Texas for the weekend and went out for Friday night dinner with a group. Anytime you get to go to dinner the big question is where do you go?  I figured since we are in Texas, we would go for some authentic Tex-Mex but the group felt more in a Seafood mood so we good a strong recommendation from the hotel conceriege and went to Pesca on the Riverwalk. Even getting there was fun as we made the taxi driver stop at the Alamo for a quick photo so I can prove I was in San Antonio if need be. LOL

I am a big fan of getting the Signature Cocktail at the restaurants I visit so when the waiter described the house special Margarita here at Pesca, I went for it and it was great. This one was made with Añejo Tequila, Grand Marnier and Lime Juice. The Anejo tequila made the drink a little smokey and a little smoother than white or silver tequila that were in most of the margaritas I have had up north in PA. The Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice provided a tartness and freshness that went along with the sweetness and orange flavours of the Grand Marnier. The top shelf ingredients required that the drink was served on the rocks with a small squeeze of lemon.  Despite the cool wet temperatures that night (did I say Texas and desert later) the drink went down well. I show restrain and managed to keep to just one.

We decided to share the Shells, Tails and Claws Shellfish Plateau as a group Appetizer. The impressive display of Clams, Oysters, Shrimp and Lump Crab Meat was a great start to a great meal.  Along with the fresh seafood items came three sauces for guests to doctor (sorry couldn’t resist since we were at a medical convention) their seafood choice. The Clams were served freshly shucked and raw. I found them Sweet and Very Meaty. Their size was impressive two-three times bigger than steamers from back home. The Oysters were also fresh and large but not as big as the clams. The Oysters were both Sweet and Briney at the same time making them a study in contrast. The Jumbo Shrimp was large in size and dense to the feel but were disappointing with a lack of flavour.  They were fresh but left a great deal of flavour somewhere else. The highlight of the Plateau was the Jumbo Lump Crab – Dense, Tender and Sweet.  There was no need to add sauce as the crab could stand on its own. This was a great sign for me as I had ordered the Crab Cakes for my main.

The Concierge at our hotel also suggest that if we go to Pesca make sure we try the Sea Scallops. Sure enough another good recommendation as we all got to try one scallop.  Served with Arugula, Lotus Root, Ginger-Sweet Chili in a Coconut Broth, the perfectly cooked scallops were excellent. Slightly carmelized on the outside, sweet and light on the inside. The Crispy Arugula and Dense Lotus Root were good contrasts to the light density of the scallops.  the Ginger and Chili went well with the sweetness of density. This was the Signature Dish of the restaurant and worth getting if you visit.

We also got to share the Heirloom Tomato Salad.  The giant pieces of tomato were seasoned simply with Salt and Pepper with some Olive Oil.  The simple presentation highlighted the flavours of the heirloom tomatoes that taste so different than the bright red tomatoes I usually buy at Giant Foods. This is the way tomatoes should taste.  Thanks Paige.

For my main course, I ordered the Crab Cakes with Dynamite Sauce. The same dense, sweet and tender jumbo pieces of crab meat in the appetizer was mixed with some bread crumbs and carefully pan-fried.  The Dynamite Sauce remains a bit of a mystery but my best guess was that it was a Remoulade Sauce with some Chipotle Chilis added for some heat.  The heat was good match for the sweetness of the crab meat. The crust from the pan frying contrasted to the tender crab meat inside the cakes. Excellent crab cakes that would give Maryland a run for their money.

For sides, we ordered family style and got (against my initial instincts) Quinoa supposedly the healthiest grain available on the earth and Deep Fried Sweet Potatoes. Both were well-cooked and great matches for the different fish dishes the group ordered.

The large portions of appetizers, heirloom tomatoes and entrees made dessert in the desert impossible for the group. We manage to barely complete the mains before calling it a night.  But before we left Restaurant Manager Michael McClellan stopped by to ensure we had a great meal and to invite us to Pesca’s sister restaurant Las Canarias next time we are in San Antonio. Las Canarias looked great and a target for next time.

Thanks to gang for making the evening great. We all shared a great meal and working for a great company.  The conversation was as a good as the food and that was really good.  I look forward to eating with them again.  Make sure you get to the Riverwalk if you go to San Antonio and if you are looking for seafood try Pesca.

Read other reviews here, here and here.

Pesca on the River - 212 W Crockett St, San Antonio, TX 78205-2520          (210) 396-5817

Fall Luncheon at Catherine Lombardi’s

October 7, 2009

 I wanted to get together with Amy to catch up and learn from her about online strategies for Managed Markets.  I have known Amy for many years since she was doing Media Strategies for our Pharma brands and Internet Media was just starting.  Amy has moved on to Managed Markets which is becoming very important to many brands.  So where do we eat in New Brunswick? I suggested we go to Catherine Lombardi’s for some classic American Italian Food.  The well decorated dining room also allows enough privacy for a business meeting a great food to nourish us. So Amy agreed to meet me there.

Prosciutto di San Daniele with Parmigiano-ReggianoAfter we caught up on what we both have been doing recently I suggest we get my Favourite Appetizer,  the Prosciutto di San Daniele with Parmigiano-Reggiano. I like this appetizer because of the quality of the ingredients and the contrast between taste and texture.  The Prosciutto is custom cut for each order at the bar allowing you watch as they cut.  The meat is moist and slightly sweet.  The Parmigiano-Reggiano is freshly cut into bit-sized cubes providing a contrast by being slightly salty and slightly el-dente.  The added feature to the dish are the Balsamic Cherries that contast with both the meat and cheese.  The size of the portion is large enough for two to share and even take a snack back to the office for a late afternoon bite. (Thanks Amy)

Pappardelle  with Bolognese at Catherine Lombardi's in New Brunswick

Amy went for the Pappardelle with Bolognese as her main course.  I wasn’t familiar with the pasta Pappadelle so Alex, who did a great job serving us so well with her partner Scott, explained that it was kinda like “Fettuccini that had been run over by a steam roller”.  Alex and Scott are exactly who you want to see serving you at any meal, attentive, informative and professional. Great job guys.  I hope to see you again.  Amy shared with me that the pasta was perfectly cooked and meat sauce was very satisfying.

Cheese and Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Cream Sauce at Catherine Lombardi's in New Brunswick

I went for the Daily Ravioli Special for my main course. Since Fall had just started the Squash and Cheese Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Cream Sauce sounded perfect for a sunny Fall day in New Brunswick.  The store made ravioli were perfect with a great blend of squash and cheese, perfectly cooked with a drop of Pumpkin Oil on each. The Brocolli Rabe was a perfect side with the pasta as it brought some bitter and garlic taste to the party matching well with sweet squash and cheese.  It was a delicious dish, well balance and perfect for the season.  Well done.

Zabaglione with Fruit at Catherine Lombardi's in New Brunswick NJ

It took a great deal of persuasion, but I managed to convince Amy to have some dessert.  After review all the delicious choices she selected my favourite dessert at Catherine Lombardi’s, the Zabaglione with Fruit. Most of the times I have had this Classic Italian Custard, it has come with Strawberries but today it came with Blueberries.  The light custard was sweet with the tart berries making a nice contrast .

Canollis at Catherine Lombardi's in New Brunswick, NJ

I had to try something different from Amy so that I could share with the readers the experience.  What I do for my readers. LOL.  I went for the Canolli. Come to find out they bake their own shells and then fill them on demand.  The filling, Alex warned was not as sweet as other canolli but the blend of Sweetened Mascarpone and Ricotta Cheese with some Orange Zest would be less sweet than I was used to but it would be very good.  The two canolli arrived on a giant plate with a dusting of Pistachio Nuts, Chocolate pieces and Powdered Sugar.  Alex was right, it was a great change from the super sweet pastries you can get everywhere and a great end to a great lunch.

Thanks Amy for playing along with my hobby, taking photos and helping me understand the state of the art of online marketing in the Managed Market space.  I hope we get to do this again.

Read other reviews about Catherine Lombardi’s here, here and here.

Catherine Lombardi on Urbanspoon 

Catherine Lombardi’s – 3 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1903          (732) 296-9463

Gourmet Fried Chicken

September 27, 2009

Donna was craving Kentucky Fried Chicken as we finished shopping in Willow Grove so we started looking for a store but no stores were to be found.  As we got closer to Doylestown, Donna remembered that beside Thompson Toyota she saw a sign advertising Fried Chicken.  That sign took us to Gross’ Gourmet Foods and to great Fried Chicken.

Gross' Gourmet Foods' Fried Chicken and Fix'emsAt Gross’ Gourmet Foods I bought Fried Chicken Breast, Thigh and Drumstick along with Potato Salad, Coleslaw and Corn Bread to take home.  The order came to $26 which at the time seemed high to me.  When we got home I fixed Donna the plate to the right for her lunch.  As I prepared the plate, I sampled each of the items so I could report to you readers (LOL).  The Fried Chicken had a great Crispy Coating and was very Moist and Sweet inside. All three pieces were huge compare to KFC pieces especially the Breast which weighed at least a pound by itself.  The Potato Salad was very good as well.  The potatoes were done el dente so they had a nice bite to them. Donna and I couldn’t figure out what was giving the salad it’s Tang, I thought mustard and Donna thought it was garlic.  I think Donna was right as they colour remained more white than any yellow tint mustard would have gave the salad.  The Coleslaw was very creamy with the Cabbage giving the salad some nice Tang and Crunch.  The Carrot gave the salad some sweetness and some colour.  The Cornbread was Moist and Sweet. The bread was dense and not grainy like many other versions I have tried.  It was almost as good as Derrick’s Cornbread so it was very good. Together the chicken, potato salad, coleslaw and cornbread  made a Classic Fried Chicken meal and Gross’ Gourmet Foods made that meal excellent.

Gross’ also sells Wings, Ribs, Brisket and Pulled Pork as well as Sandwiches and Ribs.  They operate their retail store seven days a week as well as providing catering.  The Chicken alone make the trip to Gross’ worth the trip but we plan on trying other items very soon.

Read other reviews about Gross’s Gourment Foods here, here and here.

Gross Gourmet Foods on Urbanspoon

 Gross’ Gourmet Foods – 22 Campbell Ave, Doylestown, PA 18901-2410                      (215) 345-1721‎

Ooka Lunch with Ryan

September 24, 2009

Ryan and I got to go to Ooka in Doylestown for Sushi today because Donna went bowling with Jojo and left us to make our own lunch. I have gotten several recommendations from Facebook friends and Chowhounds on how good the sushi is at Ooka so eating there has been on my Foodie to-do list for quite a while.  The recommendations were spot-on; the sushi was top notch, the venue was very comfortable and the service impeccable.

Miso Soup and Garden Fresh Salad with Ginger Dressing at Ooka in DoylestownBoth my meal and Ryan’s meal came with Miso Soup and Garden Fresh Salad with Ginger Dressing. The Miso Soup was one of the best miso soups I have ever had. A hearty broth with delicious pieces of Mushrooms, Tofu and Scallion floating in it.  The Garden Fresh Salad was pretty typical of other Japanese restaurants’ salads with the exception of the Ginger Dressing which was Creamy and with a Delicate Ginger Flavour as opposed to the usual version that comes with overwhelming ginger flavours.  We also tried some Japanese beer and went for the Sapporo brand. I actually like the match up of beer and sushi so it was working for me. Edamame and Shumai Appetizers at Ooka in Doylestown, PA

It was a little strange for me to have appetizers after soup and salad but that’s the way they do it at Ooka so we rolled with it and enjoyed them when the came.   The Fresh Edamame were served piping hot with Sea Salt. The little pods of Soy are fun to eat, slightly salty and moist to the bite. This maybe the perfect appetizer to go with beer, a sort of the Japanese version of peanuts.  The other appetizer was Shumai, little steamed shrimp dumpling with a Ginger Sauces. The dumplings were the perfect size and had a delicate flavour of shrimp and that dumpling flavour that seems to come with all dumplings. My Friend Doug over at American Greetings introduced me to Shumai a few months back and I am glad he did. They were excellent at Ooka.

Angus N.Y Steak Teriyaki Bento Box at Ooka in Doylestown, PARyan went for the N.Y Steak Teriyaki Bento Box.The Angus beef steak came with and order of rice, two California Rolls, Shrimp & Broccoli Tempura and a Japanese Treat.  The steak came medium rare and coated in sweet teriyaki sauce.  The rice was perfectly cooked. Both Shrimp and Broccoli Tempura were perfectly cooked and crispy but leaving the shrimp and broccoli fresh and delicious. The California Rolls were classic and even a little larger in diameter than I am used to getting. The dish also came with two Gyoza Pan-fried Pork Dumplings served with a Ginger Sauce. Ryan had not tried Gyoza before and despite being stuff from all the previous food he liked the delicate pork flavour, the slight char from the pan frying and the gentle ginger sauce.  He shared one with me so I knew he was pretty full when he starts to share his food.

Sushi and Sashimi Lunch at Ooka in Doylestown, PA

 I went for the Sushi and Sashimi Lunch Special.  It came with 3 pieces Sushi, 5 pieces Sashimi, and a Spicy Tuna roll.  The Special usually comes with a Salmon Roll but I upgraded to a Spicy Tuna roll. Both the Sushi and Sashimi were very fresh and the cuts of fish were perfect.  The Tuna almost melted in my mouth, the Salmon the same and Shrimp was fresh and sweet.  The Special also included Octopus.  I think Octopus is a great test for a sushi restaurant, cut it wrong and it tough, keep it too long and it’s tough, cook it too long or too short it’s tough. The Octopus on this plate was tender and flavourful. The Spicy Tuna Roll was creamy with a good tuna taste and spicy enough to make it interesting but no over powering like so many second class sushi places. The Whitefish and Yellowtail were delicate in flavour and perfect in texture almost little works of art.  The overall presentation, and I love good presentation, was excellent for this dish as well as the ones that preceded it.

Great flavours, great textures, great presentations, great service and great company – my son.  Net-net a great meal for us.  You should try Ooka if you haven’t already.

Read other reviews about Ooka here, here and here.

 Ooka (Doylestown) on Urbanspoon

Ooka  - 110 Veterans Lane, Doylestown, PA 18901-3412                             (215) 348-8185

Donna’s Birthday Supper

September 21, 2009

Tomorrow is Donna’s Birthday but many of the top end restaurants are closed on Mondays so we went out this evening to celebrate her birthday.  We took our own advice from the Best of Bucks County – Special Occasion/Anniversary Top 5 list and went to the Centerbridge Inn to celebrate Donna’s big day.  We have eaten there before, had great meals and I play poker with Chef Pete Jones and owe him money (LOL).

Cocktails at Centerbridge Inn

We started the evening with cocktails (surprize!). Donna went for the Singapore Sling and I went for the Vodka Martini. It was encouraging to see that the bartender didn’t need to look up in a book how to make this classic cocktail. He did a great job on this gin classic. My Vodka Martini was pretty straight forward but still well executed. Both drinks were great and the way to start a special meal.

Prosciutto with Melons, Peaches and Mozzarella at Centerbridge InnDonna started her meal with the Prosciutto with Melons, Peaches and Mozzarella appetizer.  The salty and thick prosciutto was a great match for the sweet melon and peaches. The fresh Mozzarella Balls were great texture contrasts for the fruit and the dense meat.  The dish was dressed by a Thick Balsamic Reduction that despite being a vinegar was thick and sweet. The main ingredients were enough but a salad of Micro Greens completed the dish.

French Onion Soup at Centerbridge InnI went for the French Onion Soup as my appetizer. Donna warned me about eating it because of the long cheese strings the soup often produces but I went it for it anyway.  What a great decision it was.  The Giant Portion was full of flavour and actually hard to get to get a spoonful of just broth. The rich soup was full of sweet Onion, Cheese and Croutons.  It was not overly salty as many onions soups I have had at other places most likely cause they used stock instead of those salty bullion cubes. It was excellent, so excellent that I brought half of it home. It didn’t make it past 30 minutes before Ryan had found it and heated it up for a snack. LOL. It was great soup and no stringy cheese on my clothes. LOL.

Caesar Salad at Centerbridge InnDonna and I decided to share a Casear Salad as our second course.  We are Caesar Salad snobs because we have made this salad so many times and we think we have the recipe down pat.  I have posted about our recipe here on the blog and other have tried it liked it too. The version at Centerbridge Inn was very good. Crisp Lettuce with a tangy Garlic Dressing. We had the option of Anchovies but we past given Donna’s sensitivity to fish. The split portion of salad was the perfect size for the second course. Refreshing and with great garlic taste.

Grilled Pork Chops at Centerbridge InnDonna went for the Grilled Pork Chops as her main course. The one giant Bone-in Pork Chop came with Roasted Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus.  The grilled pork chop was surounded by two generous pieces of Pancetta making a giant pork sandwich.  The actual chop was cooked perfectly and was thick, very moist and sweet. The asparagus was well cooked and tasty.  The potatoes were a little el-dente and could have roasted a few minutes longer for my taste but Donna like them as they were presented.

Poached Halibut with Potato Crust at Centerbridge Inn

 I went for the Grilled Halibut with Potato Crust and Wild Rice and Grilled Asparagus. The thick potato crust kept the flaky halibut flesh moist and delicate.  I love halibut but it has a very delicate flesh that carries a subtle flavour. The potato crust acted like an insulation keeping the fish protected. The wild rice was a nice change from other starches and was well cooked. Asparagus is one of my favourite veggies and the staff nailed it with a great grilling. The dish, well presented, was delicious.

So if you are looking for a great meal to celebrate a special occasion, check out Centerbridge Inn.  Make sure you ask for Chef Pete Jones and he will hook you up with a great meal.  Happy Birthday Donna.

Centre Bridge Inn on Urbanspoon 

Centerbridge Inn -Route 32, New Hope, PA 18938               215-862-2048

Happy New Year Cake

September 20, 2009

Happy New Year to all my Jewish friends and readers.  It’s also Donna’s Birthday on Monday so when I was in search of a birthday cake or cupcakes for her I went to Crossroads Bake Shop in Doylestown.  Crossroads had done such a great job on the Ricotta Polenta Pie for Easter, I figured they could do a great birthday cake for Donna. But when I got there late on Saturday I spied the Jewish Apple Cake that I had posted a few weeks back and a Jewish Honey Cake that I had not tried. Remembering that this is the Rosh Hashanah weekend, I figured it would be cook to try something ethnic that I hadn’t tried before.  The Jewish Apple Cake looked as dry as the one I tried from the Town Crier so I figured the result would be the same as in my previous post so I went for the Jewish Honey Cake.

Jewish Honey Cake from Crossroads Bake Shop

The small cake was a perfect size for dessert that night.  I learned that this cake is a tradition at Rosh Hashanah meals and there are many recipes for it but here is one I picked up from Recipe Zarr. Usually I find cakes to be either light or heavy for the size but this cake seemed to weigh exactly what it should. The Golden Brown colour showcased the Almonds that added texture to the cake.

Jewish Honey Cake from Crossroads Bake Shop in Doylestown, PAThe great news was that the slices were Very Moist and flavourful.  Donna and I seem to detect almost a Spice Cake flavour rather than a “Honey” flavour that we anticipated based on the name of the cake.  The small portion slices require me to take two slices so I could ensure for my readers that the quality of the cake was consistent. (LOL – what I do for my readers) It was good but the distribution of almonds make the bites interesting as sometime you got them and sometimes not. The moist dense cake with the interesting spice and almonds is a great cake and regardless of your holiday worth buying.

BTW – Let us know your favourite Food Holiday at this poll.

Read other review about Crossroads Bake Shop here, here and here.

Crossroads Bake Shop on Urbanspoon 

Crossroads Bake Shop – 812 North Easton Road, Doylestown, PA 18902           (215) 348-0828

Hot Hamburger, Haddock and Scallops

September 16, 2009

Comeau's Seafood Restaurant signI was born in August and my mother opened a restaurant the next May. It had a great location, right on Highway #1 between Saint John (the biggest city in New Brunswick) and Calais, Maine (the 5th busiest border crossing between the US and Canada). She ran the restaurant for 29 years until she was 69 when she retired. The restaurant lay dormant for a few years until Dave Comeau convinced my mother that she should sell it to him. She did and Dave built the Comeau’s Seafood Restaurant into a thriving business specializing in fresh cooked seafood and home-made desserts. Rachael, Dave’s wife, does the baking and oversees the kitchen ensuring that each dish is of the highest quality. Dave and Rachael have changed the restaurant a great deal since I was a kid but the flavor of the food still reminds me of my Mom’s cooking.

Hot Hamburger sandwich at Comeau's Seafood Restaurant in Pennfield, NB CanadaDonna and I went to the restaurant at lunch today for the Hot Hamburger that Donna was craving. For some reason, we have never been able to get a Hot Hamburger in the US since we moved down there. The dish is pretty simple, a large Hamburger Patty is placed on a slice of Plain White Bread, covered with Brown Gravy and then another slice of bread and more gravy.  Donna’s dish came with Mashed Potatoes, Diced Carrots and Coleslaw. Somehow the combination of gravy, hamburger and white bread are different than a burger and it always brings me back to my Mom’s cooking. The home-made gravy has obviously been simmering for hours if not days as it was brown and rich and just full of flavor. The sweet carrots and creamy mashed potatoes were nice contrast in texture and savory flavors of the meat and gravy. We still wonder why Diners across the US have not picked up this simple dish but if you are Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick area make sure you try the Hot Hamburger.

Haddock & Scallop Combo at Comeau's Seafood Restaurant in Pennfield, NB, CanadaI went for the Scallops and Haddock Platter as I knew the seafood would be fresh and it was Friday. The dish did not disappoint. With lightly battered fish and scallops, a generous portion of Fries and a side order of Coleslaw it was delicious and more than I could eat in one sitting.  The light batter on the fish easily broke away to reveal flakes of Tender Fish that were sweet.  A few drops of the tart lemon juice set up a great ying-yang of flavors. Same held true for the scallops but the flakes were replaced with a dense scallop meat that divided easily with the fork. The fries come breaded at Comeau’s so they were different than the other fries I have been eating this week and that was a welcome changed. Perfectly Cooked, as was the fish, the fries were crisp but maintaining a potato taste inside. The home-made Coleslaw was extra tangy today with crispy cabbage and a few carrot pieces mixed into what is becoming my favourite salad. It was a great dish and proved again that Comeau’s Seafood is some of the best around. Check it out if you are driving through my old homeland.

Read other reviews about Comeau’s Seafood Restaurant here, here and here.

Comeau’s Seafood Restaurant – Highway 1, Pennfield Ridge, NB – 506-755-3011

Swiss Chalet – A Canadian Tradition

September 15, 2009

When we moved to Ontario in the early 1990’s (boy does that sound a long time ago when I write it), we always went to Swiss Chalet at Christmas time and when my Mom visited us.  Swiss Chalet is a chain of rotisserie chicken restaurants that started in Canada in the 1950’s. They always had great chicken, crispy skin on the outside and moist sweet meat on the inside, great sides and great desserts.  Toblerone BarAt Christmas time, Swiss Chalet always offered a special chicken meal that featured the Swiss Toblerone chocolate bar as the dessert.  That combo is famous across Canada and when I updated my status to saying I was eating at Swiss Chalet, the first comment I got was about the Holiday Tradition. The boys (and my Mom) liked the Toblerone bars, the Swiss Chalet BBQ Ribs and the Treasure Chest they could get a toy from at the end of the meal so going there was a family affair to remember.

As Donna and I were driving through Saint John, New Brunswick, a wave of nostalgia (and perhaps hunger) hit us and we knew where we would eat that night. Unlike a lot of things these days it was how were remembered it so I thought I would share with you our flashback meal.

Harvest Special at Swiss ChaletDonna went for the Harvest Special and I went for the Chicken and Rib Combo.  The Harvest Special included a cup of Chicken Noodle Soup, a ¼ Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potato, Roll and Chalet Sauce with Pumpkin pie as dessert.  The soup was very good and gone before I could take photos. (Must be good eh?). The ¼ Roasted Chicken was all white meat and cooked to perfection – crispy skin on the outside, moist sweet meat on the inside.  The Mashed Potatoes were well cooked and creamy as required by the blogger’s wife.  The highlight to the meal or at least my son, Ryan thinks, is the Chalet Sauce. This dipping sauce is lighter than gravy but more flavorful and even a bit tangy. Dipping chunks of the Chicken into it, heck even chunks of the roll, causes one to wonder how they get the strong chicken flavor in there at the same time making it tangy. It’s a wonderful addition to the meal and would be sadly missed if not concluded. The Harvest Special did come with pie that we had packed for the trip home but it disappeared during the night with no reports on the taste. LOL

Rib & Chicken Combo at Swiss ChaletMy Chicken and Rib Combo came with the same ¼ Roasted Chicken Donna had but my dish came with ½ Rack of Roasted Ribs and a generous order of Fries.  The Ribs were delicious and fall of the rib tender. I usually like my ribs to stay on the bone but these are the exception.  The pork meat was moist and tender covered with a sweet tangy sauce whose recipe the Swiss Chalet people covet (but will sell you jars of it if you want LOL). The sauce doesn’t provide much heat in terms of spice but it matches so very well with the sweetness of the port that I bet hardcore BBQ fans in Kansas City and Memphis would enjoy.  I love the ribs at Swiss Chalet and hope you try them.

It was a fun meal for Donna and I remembering the Christmas outings to  Swiss Chalet and being comforted that the food was as good as we remembered it.

Read other reviews about Swiss Chalet here, here and here.

Swiss Chalet – 86 Consumers Drive, Saint John, NB E2J 4Z3           (506) 657-947

Lobster Roll – Part 3 – Watch out Bill Curtis.

September 13, 2009

I found the third entrant in our Lobster Roll Challenge while searching for the Internet.   My home in Canada doesn’t have Internet access since we only use the home for a few weeks each year and rely on my older kid’s access or public Internet access.  St. Andrews used to have an Internet Café but that went out of business when most of the bars in the area started to offer free WiFi service along with Moosehead and Molson’s. But it was early when I arrived in St. Andrews and the bars hadn’t opened yet (Nobody Panic – I have a back-up plan – LOL).  As I sat watching the local Famers’ Market take place I fired up the computer to be ready when the bar I had targeted did open. The Find LAN button picked up 6 bars in walking distance that offered WiFi including the Kennedy Inn across the street from where I was sitting. Since the Inn was Inn it was open.  The Inn became my Internet home for the next 2 hours and the next entrant into the Lobster Roll Challenge.

Lobster Roll at the Kennedy Inn - St. Andrews NB CanadaThe Kennedy Inn’s version of the Lobster Roll is served with Fries and Coleslaw. The Lobster Roll itself is served in a New England Hot Dog Bun jammed with Lobster Salad.  The meat again is a combination of generous chunks of Tail and Claw Meat, Mayo and Celery. This version was significantly moister than the 2nd entrant and a little moister than the 1st entrant.  The meat mixture was also colder than the first two.  The early morning time and the meat temperature suggested to me that the mixture was made the night before and stored in the refrigerator.  It was still very tasty but I think if the temp had warmed up it was increased the flavor. The Golden Fries was crispy and well done but 10 more seconds of cooking would have put them over the top into the overcooked category.  The Coleslaw was crunchy, tangy and an expected side to the roll. Net-Net a good competitor and worthy of a sample if you get to St. Andrews.

The Kennedy Inn – 218 Water Street, St Andrews, NB E5B 1B4                 (506) 529-8844


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