Saturday, August 27, 2005

Farm Fresh

How I love going to the farm! We have a share at Goodwill at Homefields Farm, a community supported ag program. It's great. Once a week, we go and pick up our share and then bring it home. No worries about fighting pests or rabbits or pulling weeds AND we're doing A Good Thing by supporting the program.

Usually, I try to go on Thursday or Friday, but that just didn't happen this week. I had planned on going yesterday, but instead spent almost 5 hours trying to set up my grandmother's computer. Actually, it was 10 minutes worth of computer set up and nearly 4 1/2 hours worth of figuring out how to rearrange her apartment for it so she wouldn't have a heart attack when she got home. But it was worth it, actually. Normally, we would have picked up potatoes in addition to what you see here (just a sampling and hey, I'm still learning all about this photo thing):

But by the time I got there today, they were nearly out of potatoes. So... I received a really cool Asian eggplant! I have no idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but I'll figure something out.

Today's share was:

  • Sungold cherry tomatoes. These look a little green, but that's on purpose. I snack on them as they are and I love the hint of tartness at this stage.

  • Onions and garlic

  • 3 pounds of carrots

  • Bell peppers

  • Spaghetti squash

  • 6 pounds tomatoes. These will make an awesome sauce.

  • Melon

  • Eggplant
I could have picked more cherry tomatoes, basil, okra, tomatillos, hot peppers and herbs, but it was beginning to rain and I'm still pretty stocked from last week.

My husband is away for the next week or so - now I have to figure out just what to do with all of this!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blue Pacific

After Roo got her hair done today, we crossed the street to Blue Pacific for sushi, something my daughter has been craving on a regular basis lately. A craving I'm only too happy to oblige when I can. It's certainly better than craving a burger and fries from a fast food place!

It's always quiet there during the lunch hour, especially mid-week. Service has always been prompt and pleasant and today was no exception. We were greeted and seated quickly, right near the sushi bar.

It only took a moment to decide what we were having. I had a sushi sampler that wasn't quite up to their normal standards, but my daughter seemed very happy with her Rainbow Roll, which came with a few assorted sushi pieces and hamachi. See how happy she looks?

You can't see the hamachi because it was on a separate plate, which I found unusual, since she'd ordered it all together. She doesn't bother with anything beyond wasabi, no soy sauce for her, thankyouverymuch!

Now that I've typed this out, I'm feeling hungry and I don't know what to do about dinner. There are these cherry tomatoes that are just begging to be eaten, though.......

Monday, August 22, 2005

And off to Mesa Grill we did go

Ah, what is there to say about Mesa Grill?

Not much, actually.

My brother and his friends had gone to Mesa Grill recently, to celebrate their liberation from Penn State University. He had raved about the rabbit dish there, so we thought we'd give it a try. I mean, really - an American Iron Chef. Had to be decent food, right? Well, decent was really all it was.

We started with squash blossoms and queso fundido. The squash blossoms were a lot of fun to eat, but the queso fundido was inferior to versions I've had of the dish in hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. It was good, but not great.

My daughter, Roo, was disappointed to find that the venison noted on the website was not available, so she ordered a steak. She was assured by the server that it "wasn't boring." While it wasn't boring, it wasn't a dish that could hold anyone's interest for very long, either. I ordered the pork, which came with an attractive sweet potato tamale that seemed to be missing something spice-wise. LdyMlissa enjoyed the rabbit, from what I understand, and the risotto it was served with. The meals were huge, actually, which many people do consider to be a plus. But I wasn't looking for quantity, I was looking for quality - something different. Something unique.

Roo found something unique in her dessert. On a creme brulee kick, she ordered a peanut butter and chocolate creme brulee that she wouldn't share ;) My chocolate plate was very nicely presented and the hazlenut tres leches with cherry granita LdyMlissa ordered did seem to go over very well.

Maybe we'd been spoiled rotten the night before. Maybe I would not have been so disappointed in Mesa Grill had we not enjoyed ourselves so thoroughly at One if by Land and had our expectations set so high. I'd go back, but maybe just for lunch.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

I had been looking forward to dining at One if by Land since LdyMlissa and I had first spoken of it. I love tasting menus. In my experience, they are a wonderful way to get to know the chef's abilities and talents, while tasting a wide variety of menu choices.

OIBL did not disappoint at all. We entered the restaurant, a quiet, nondescript storefront in the middle of the block. At first my daughter wasn't sure - "There's no name!" - but a glance at the menu outside proved to her we were where we wanted to be.

After a long, hot walk (my sense of direction is terrible, I need a compass on my person at all times), the darkened, cool interior of the restaurant was just what we needed. We had made reservations, of course, so we were seated immediately upstairs, overlooking the dining room downstairs. We were offered menus and I am ashamed to say I didn't even glance at mine. We knew what we wanted!

The amouse bouche that arrived, along with our sparkling water and the wine for our first course, was a simple affair of flavored goat cheese on a toast round. Just right for starting one's appetite.

Our first course was a lovely little dish of tuna tartare, foie gras and caramelized pineapple. I believe it was the first time any of us had foie gras. My daughter mistook it for grilled tuna and ate it in one bite, only to find out she was wrong. Foie gras, might I say, does not really impress me! The riesling that accompanied the dish was from the Fingerlakes Region of New York and is one I would like to add to my wine list at home.

The second course was a spice roasted lobster and what a nice little morsel that was. Perfectly seasoned, with tender bits of asparagus on the plate.

The third course could have been a meal all by itself. I'm still surprised Ro finished it! I've never been very thrilled when it comes to clams, but these worked very well with the dish, which was grouper on top of pasta with a clam sauce.

The fourth course was one none of us were very impressed by, however - one stumbling block in an otherwise perfect menu. Rabbit Basteeya is, apparently, shredded rabbit formed into a block and served with an apricot coulis. We were told it was a traditional celebratory Moroccan dish and that "many people" do not care for the mix of meat and fruit. Now, since I tend to cook my meats using cinnamon and fruit, that didn't quite hold. The plain fact was that the apricot coulis was just far too sweet and overpowered the rabbit. The wine that accompanied the course was a very dry red that did go far to help cut the sweetness of the apricot, but not far enough. And, of course, since Ro is only 12, she did not have the assistance of the wine in tempering the flavors of the dish. Again, however, the course itself could have sufficed as an entire meal!

Our entree was very impressive. Roo chose the rack of lamb and that was the only dish I remembered to take a picture of. I snapped a fast one because, well - that flash of light in a dark and intimate restaurant is somewhat jarring. You can see how prettily it was presented here:

LdyMlissa and I chose the beef wellington. The filling around the beef was a touch on the mushy side for me, but the flavors were wonderful.

The entree was followed by an 'exploratore cheese mousse' that was accompanied by a bit of frisee salad. I would have liked to have seen a touch more green on the plate, as the meal was very fish/meat heavy, but the cheese was delightful.

Ah, and then there was dessert. Both Roo and LdyMlissa ordered the chocolate souffle and oh, my. The large souffles were brought to the table where they were punctured and warm chocolate sauce drizzled in. I ordered the chocolate trio, and was just as pleased with my choice, though I do believe the look of sheer pleasure on their faces could not be surpassed. We are talking chocolate here, after all!

The server came up to us with a creme brulee, which she placed on the table. "I overheard you ladies talking about how much you liked creme brulee. This is compliments of the chef," she said (or along those lines - it was a few days ago now!). What a fun creme brulee that was, with a flavor like toasted marshmallow, without the mess!

Three hours, many courses and glasses of wine later, we left the restaurant to wander back to our room. I'm planning on returning as soon as I can, with my husband, for a quiet romantic dinner.

(and I'll fix this post as soon as I figure out how to do special characters - missing the accent on a few words here!)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Bad Food. Great Views.

Those four words sum up our quick trip to Niagara Falls, ON this past week. The views were spectacular - the food? Not so much.

First night: Rainforest Cafe. It was crowded so we went to the bar to get a drink. It took forever to get a dry martini and a Sol from a bartender who called me Babe. From there, to the table. The server was bouncy and happy and it more than made up for the restaurant chain food. Nothing terrible, but nothing that made me go "oooh" and want to have seconds.

The next morning: Breakfast at the Sheraton on the Falls' Penthouse Fallsview Dining Room. Lovely view from our table. Horrible food and even worse service. Ro enjoyed her dippy eggs, but beyond that, it was overpriced breakfast items that could have been done better (and were, the next morning) by Perkins.

Second night: Edgewater's Tap & Grill. Very bland and salty food, but the view more than made up for the food. It was very nice, sitting there, listening to the falls across the road, sipping a glass of wine and just relaxing with my husband and daughter. The picture is a little dark, since it was nearing dark - shortly after this was taken, the lights were focused on the falls. Unfortunately, no photos of that came out well.

Following morning: Perkins. Slow service, but they actually managed to do the eggs hard for me. Yes, I can hear people groaning now, but as my husband put it, I eat eggs like they were medicine. I need protein with my carbs in the morning so I'm not a grumpy person by mid-morning and most breakfast meats are so salty they're just ick, so... eggs it is.

That night: Fast food in a small town somewhere in PA, late, late at night when we realized that there would be no real food between there and home.

We're going back for the view. And maybe to see if we can find real food!