Posts Tagged ‘Macaroni and Cheese’

Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by virginia

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Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s is a restaurant in Hilton Head that I’ve wanted to try for years, but it’s got a reputation for being hard to get into. The daily hours vary depending on whether Dye is catering a party elsewhere. We were finally able to snag a reservation last year and I was thrilled to be able to taste home-style Gullah cuisine for the first time. Per wikipedia, the Gullah are descendents of African slaves who reside in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia. The cuisine reflects a blend of these African and Southern roots, and so it is a bit different from the usual Lowcountry fare we’ve eaten before in terms of flavors.

The menu isn’t very long and is pretty straightforward. We ordered a few appetizers to share, and we indulged on the complimentary cornbread with sugar cane syrup on the side. The cornbread was deliciously moist and didn’t even need the syrup or extra butter that came with it.

Cornbread with cane syrup

Cornbread with cane syrup

We got a few orders of the shrimp devil eggs, which were deviled eggs with shrimp mixed into the mashed yolks. These were well seasoned, not too heavy or mayo-y, and made for a nice bite to start.

Shrimp devil eggs

Shrimp devil eggs

The seafood hush puppies were fantastic. They were served to us piping hot, and had a delicately crisp outer shell. There was a mixture of crab and shrimp on the inside, and these were surprisingly light, not too dense. The hush puppies came with a homemade tartar sauce, and they were one of our favorite dishes of the night.

Seafood hush puppies

Seafood hush puppies

We also got steamed shrimp, which were bathed in a garlic butter and served with cocktail sauce. The shrimp were cooked just right so that they were tender and plump. Simple, yet tasty.

Steamed shrimp

Steamed shrimp

Lastly, we all shared a crab cake plate as part of our appetizers. The crab cakes were two big patties bursting with blue crab meat and very little filler, aside from a few veggies and seasonings. Since this was technically a dinner plate, it came with our choice of two sides. We opted for collard greens, which were more rustic in flavor than the typical collard greens we’ve tasted before, allowing the slight bitterness of the greens to shine through. We also chose the mac n’ cheese, which was baked and on the dry side, though had decent cheese flavor.

Crab cakes with collard greens and macaroni and cheese

Crab cakes with collard greens and mac n’ cheese

For our main course, Josh and I split the country fried chicken and the smothered shrimp and grits. The fried chicken came with a breast, thigh, drumstick, and wing (half a chicken) and was nicely crisp on the outside, not the least bit greasy. The meat was tender and juicy, and everything was well seasoned. We had a choice of two sides and opted for more collard greens, plus lima beans, which were savory in flavor and buttery in texture.

Country fried chicken with collard greens and butter beans

Fried chicken with collard greens and lima beans

The smothered shrimp and grits were covered in a rich brown gravy and came with bacon and smoked sausage on the side. While I liked that you could crumble in the bacon yourself, thus ensuring that it stayed crispy, there was too much gravy on the plate. I get that it’s supposed to be smothered, but the grits were totally lost in the sea of thick gravy. The shrimp were also overcooked, rendering them tough and chewy. It was too bad, because I like the flavors of the dish, but it got to be overwhelming very quickly.

Smothered shrimp and grits

Smothered shrimp and grits

Overall, we were generally pleased with our meal at Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s. Everything is homemade, and you can see the thought and care put in every dish. The only miss of the evening for us was the smothered shrimp and grits, but everything else was fantastic, especially the appetizers. The hush puppies, the crab cakes, and the fried chicken were our favorites f the evening. The food and the ambiance are nothing fancy, but that’s part of the charm. Dye herself was in the kitchen and came out to speak with us several times. She’s pretty straightforward and no nonsense, but you can tell she’s passionate about her cooking and about sharing Gullah food with newbies like us. Her niece, who was about 12, was our server for the evening, and she was extremely polite and efficient. J took a particular liking to her and wouldn’t eat unless she was around, which we all thought was pretty adorable. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, if you can get a reservation!

Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s
840 William Hilton Pkwy.
Hilton Head Island, SC

Willie Mae’s Scotch House – New Orleans

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 by virginia

 

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Our last sit-down meal in New Orleans was also one of the best we had during our vacation. The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is pretty legendary, and I didn’t want to leave town without trying it. After picking up our rental car for the rest of our trip, we drove straight to Willie Mae’s in Mid-City for a fried chicken breakfast.

The area surrounding Willie Mae’s is definitely a little bit more depressed than the touristy French Quarter or Garden District. The neighborhood was hit hard by Katrina, and volunteers actually helped rebuild the restaurant which had been completely destroyed. I don’t know what it was like pre-Katrina, but it looked to us like a charming old school luncheonette located in a white house on a corner of a mostly residential neighborhood.

The unassuming white building that houses Willie Mae's

The unassuming white building where Willie Mae’s Scotch House is located

The restaurant opens at 11 and we got there around 11:30 so I was worried that we would have to wait in line or deal with the lunch rush. Fortunately we got there just in time and were seated immediately, though the place was full the entire time we were there. We knew that we were ordering fried chicken but we debated for a bit whether we should get two orders of fried chicken, or if we should just get one order and try something else from the menu. Since three pieces of chicken come to an order, it was easy for us to share a plate and get something different as well. We opted for the country fried pork chop, which is coated in batter and then fried. The crust is more tempura-like than the fried chicken’s coating. It was not as crispy but was well seasoned, and the pork chop inside was still juicy and tender.

Country fried pork chop

Country fried pork chop

We got to pick a side dish with the pork chop and opted for red beans. The side portion turned out to be a huge bowl of soupy beans served with a mound of rice. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten red beans before and therefore have no basis for comparison, but I thought these were fantastic. Simple but well seasoned, flavorful, and perfectly balanced with the rice, I couldn’t stop eating it. I’ll need to see if I can find a recipe somewhere!

Red beans and rice

Red beans and rice

But back to the main event: the fried chicken. Just to preface, I am by no means a fried chicken connoisseur. Any fried chicken craving that I have is easily satisfied by a run to the nearest KFC, and I’m just as happy eating the prefabricated, commercial grade sludge that passes for frozen chicken fingers. “Upscale” restaurant fried chicken has been pretty hyped this year, and I usually don’t buy into that. Why should I pay ~$15 for two or three pieces of fried chicken when the same amount can get me a 6-piece bucket plus biscuits and sides? Well, if all of these restaurant fried chickens are like Willie Mae’s, then I’ve been missing out. It is unbelievably good and definitely the best I’ve ever had. And at $10 for three pieces with one side plus a vegetable, it’s a bargain. The chicken is perfectly fried to a deep brown color, and the crust is feather light and not greasy in the slightest. It shattered spectacularly when I bit into my piece (I took the thigh while Josh ate the breast; we split the wing), and was well seasoned. J loved eating all the fragments of crust that came off the chicken and couldn’t get enough of them. The chicken itself was also super juicy and flavorful throughout, like it had been brined. I like dark meat because it’s usually more tender and less prone to drying out, but I took a bite of the breast and was just as pleased with the juiciness and flavor.

Fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and peas

Fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and peas

For the side, I chose macaroni and cheese. It was casserole style so baked and on the drier side, but still cheesy in flavor. It just needed a dash of salt to liven it up a bit. The vegetable of the day was peas. Both were fine, though nothing special. Everything just paled in comparison to the fried chicken.

Overall we both absolutely loved Willie Mae’s. The fried chicken was beyond my expectations, and I still drool a little every time I think about it. I was happy to have tried the country fried pork chop, but I also regret not getting a second order of fried chicken. We heard people ordering fried chicken plates with an additional side of fried chicken (3 pieces for $7.50), and now I understand why. The food in general was just simple and homey but expertly prepared; it was the ultimate comfort food destination. Service was fast and friendly, and both the sweet tea and the lemonade were great accompaniments to the meal. Don’t let the fact that it’s far away from the touristy areas of New Orleans deter you from going. It’s truly a special dining destination that should not be missed.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House
2401 St Ann St.
New Orleans, LA

Muffaletta Round-Up – New Orleans

Sunday, January 5th, 2014 by virginia

Muffaletta, a sandwich made from round Sicilian bread stuffed with Italian cold cuts, cheese, and olive salad, is another iconic New Orleans food. During our last trip, we tried the “original” muffaletta from Central Grocery and loved the combination of the soft focaccia-like bread, the savoriness of the cured meats, and the sharp brininess of the olive salad. I enjoyed it so much that I made Josh bring home a whole sandwich (they’re so big that they’re sliced into quarters and can be bought as a half or a whole; a quarter is a good-sized sandwich for one) after his conference ended. The bread suffered a bit from the travel/plane ride, but that olive salad was still great.

This time around we decided to try out some other muffalettas. The version from Cochon Butcher, the more casual sandwich outpost of Donald Link’s Cochon Restaurant, has gotten great buzz, so we headed over there for a late breakfast/early lunch.

Cochon Restaurant actually played a small part in the inspiration for this trip. We had been watching a movie with Jason Segel called Jeff Who Lives at Home, which takes place in Louisiana, and Cochon was featured in one of the scenes. While the movie was on, I was reading articles about it and learned that Jason Segel had gained over 20 pounds during filming because of all the great food in New Orleans. The funny part about the weight gain is that the movie is supposed to take place over the course of one day, so you can see his character thinner in one scene and then visibly bigger in another, even though no time has passed in the movie itself. It made me think about all of the great food we had eaten in New Orleans on our previous trip, and all of the great food we didn’t get to eat.

Josh and I usually don’t like to travel back to places we’ve been before because we feel like there are so many places we haven’t seen yet. With the arrival of Baby J, however, we’ve had to amend our way of traveling – less exotic, more low key – so I suggested making New Orleans the starting point of our trip, but also adding in cities where we haven’t visited before. It was a win/win situation.

Anyway, while I would have liked to eat at Cochon Restaurant, I thought that J would be better off in the less formal Cochon Butcher. She’s pretty good in restaurants but still has a habit of throwing food all over the floor, and I was afraid of her making a mess or causing a scene. Unfortunately, we got there right when a huge medical conference at the nearby convention center let out for lunch, so there was a huge line of doctors waiting to order food. J was getting fussy so I walked her around the block a few times while Josh stood in the line to place our order. Cochon Butcher is pretty small inside and I didn’t want to try to navigate her stroller around all the people. Luckily there were a few tables outside and I was able to nab one and park her stroller away from the crowd. It was a warm day and sitting outside was actually quite nice.

The long line outside Cochon Butcher

The long line at Cochon Butcher

Our food was delivered to us shortly, including the much-anticipated muffaletta. It’s definitely a “chef-y” version of the sandwich, with high quality, thicker cut meats that are cured in-house. It’s also a lot smaller than Central Grocery’s version, although still plenty of food.

Muffaletta sandwich

Cochon muffaletta

The bread was fluffier and lighter, which was also different, but the biggest disappointment was the olive salad, which I don’t think was as briny and didn’t have a lot of impact. The biggest issue was that there simply wasn’t enough of it, so it got kind of lost between all the bread and the meat. Don’t get me wrong – the sandwich was still delicious. It was served warm and the cheese was all melty, which I liked. But it was more of just an upscale Italian style sandwich rather than what I think of when I think about eating a muffaletta.

Autopsy shot

Autopsy shot

We also ordered the pork belly sandwich, which came on white toast and was topped with a cucumber-mint salad. The pork belly was tender and flavorful, as you would expect from good pork belly. However, I thought it was just maybe slightly underdone. The pork belly was definitely cooked through, it just wasn’t as caramelized as I thought it would have been so that it would melt in our mouths. But maybe that’s just how the sandwich is supposed to be. It was still a delicious sandwich, with the refreshing salad to cut through the fattiness, but it didn’t have that wow factor.

Pork belly with mint and cucumber on white

Pork belly with mint and cucumber on white

We also got an order of boudin, which is a Cajun style sausage that is made with ground meat and rice mixed together. We were looking forward to eating the boudin in Lafayette, where it’s more well-known, but Michael the concierge told us not to miss Cochon’s version. It was intensely meaty, with a bit of a funk to it that I think comes from chicken liver. It was the first boudin we’ve ever tasted, and we were big fans. It was wonderful with the whole grain mustard and sweet pickles on the side.

Hot boudin

Hot boudin

Lastly, we got some pancetta mac and cheese, which was our favorite dish of the meal. The sauce was creamy and cheesy, as expected, and the pancetta added a savory, smoky aspect. The top was nicely browned, and it was just a bowl of comforting umaminess.

Pancetta mac-n-cheese

Pancetta mac-n-cheese

Overall I really liked Cochon Butcher, although the sandwiches themselves didn’t knock my socks off. It’s a great place for a low key meal with quality ingredients at a reasonable price. Plus when he dropped off our food, the waiter said, “nice order, bro”, which made me a bit proud and predisposed to enjoy it.

Josh was more disappointed with Cochon Butcher’s muffaletta than I was, so we decided to pick up a half from Central Grocery the next day and eat it back in our room later that evening. This was after our breakfast/lunch at Domilise’s and Casamento’s, and our long walk from Uptown back to the French Quarter. Since Central Grocery closes at 5 pm, we got half a muffaletta to go, and then walked over to the Napoleon House for a drink and late afternoon snack/early dinner.

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Napoleon House is known for two things: inventing the Pimm’s Cup, and their hot muffaletta sandwich. We were hungry but not starving so we decided to share a half; it’s size is more similar to Central Grocery so a quarter for each of us was definitely plenty. I actually thought the sandwich would be hotter and more toasty, but it was just slightly warmed through and the cheese was barely melted. It was fine though, and the flavors were generally spot-on for me. However, visually, the proportions were off and the sandwich is constructed differently from Central Grocery’s version. Here, the bread is thicker and softer, and the cheese acts as a barrier between the olive salad and the bread, which prevents the olive oil flavor from soaking in. Nevertheless, there was a lot of olive salad, which I liked because the flavor was nicely pronounced, and there was a fairly thick layer of meat to balance everything out. While I enjoyed Napoleon House’s muffaletta quite a bit, Josh was still focused on the Central Grocery muffaletta.

Hot muffaletta

Hot muffaletta

The Pimm’s Cup was a pleasant surprise for me, since I typically don’t like gin-based drinks. It’s a combination of Pimm’s #1, lemonade, and 7-Up, garnished with a slice of cucumber. However, this tasted mostly like potent lemonade and was actually quite refreshing. It wasn’t overly sweet, and I could enjoy drinking a lot of this on a hot summer’s day.

Pimm's cup

Pimm’s cup

We also ordered a portion of jambalaya with our sandwich for J to snack on, but she was more interested in running around. It was a pretty good version, not too smoky, with lots of sausage mixed throughout.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya

The atmosphere at Napoleon House is part of its appeal. The bar has a ton of history and looks it on the inside. It’s dark with a classic, European feel to it, and old pictures and paintings hanging on the walls. We were a bit nervous about whether it was baby-appropriate, but the hostess was very gracious and seated us in a near-empty room where J wouldn’t bother anyone. Our waiter was great too, attentive but unobtrusive. He didn’t mind when J started taking a few laps around the empty tables. It’s definitely a place where I could see hanging out for a quiet drink in a historic setting away from the craziness of Bourbon Street.

The interior of Napoleon House

The interior of Napoleon House

After Napoleon House, we walked around a little more and then called it an early night. We knew we’d be hungry later so we picked up another fried shrimp po’ boy from Verti Marte to go with our half muffaletta from Central Grocery. When we finally cracked into the muffaletta, it was just as we remembered. Soft bread, not too dense or too fluffy, slightly oily from the olive salad soaking into it, and the perfect ratio to the meat and cheese. And that olive salad – bright and briny with a slight kick – it packs a punch of flavor into the sandwich.

The original muffaletta from Central Grocery

The Central Grocery muffaletta

I guess it’s no surprise that Central Grocery reigns supreme as our favorite muffaletta. What really puts it over the top is the tangy and spicy olive salad that just bursts with flavor. It’s also the first muffaletta sandwich we ever ate and is the standard that we use to compare all other muffalettas. That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy the other versions we tried on this trip. I thought Napoleon House had a pretty good example of a hot muffaletta, and I enjoyed the slight meltiness of the cheese in the sandwich. And Cochon Butcher’s muffaletta was still delicious, with the best meats and cheese out of the bunch. If I had to deconstruct a muffaletta and eat each component separately, Cochon’s would be the one I would prefer to do that with. But as a whole, nothing beats the original.

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Cochon Butcher
930 Tchoupitoulas St.
New Orleans, LA

Napoleon House
500 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA

Central Grocery
923 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA

Blue Duck Tavern – Washington DC

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by virginia

blueducktavern

Last July (yes, over a year ago, in 2012), Josh took me to Washington DC and Philadelphia for my birthday. Both are places we’ve been to before, but I was seven months pregnant at the time and feeling a bit down about not being able to go on our annual “big” trip (ie., Peru, the Galapagos) due to my condition. Physically, I probably could have traveled overseas, but I didn’t want to go anywhere exotic or new/exciting for fear that I wouldn’t be able to fully partake in all activities, especially eating and drinking. DC and Philly were a great weekend getaway for us, with enough sights and foodie destinations to keep me occupied and happy.

I had a half day Friday at work so Josh picked me up in the city at 2 pm and we made the drive to DC in pretty good time, not hitting too much traffic along the way. He had made reservations for a relatively late dinner at the Blue Duck Tavern, which gave us plenty of time to check into our hotel and make our way over to the restaurant. That was fortunate because we were at a different hotel from where we thought we booked. Rather than staying at the Westin Georgetown, which is right across the street from the Blue Duck Tavern, we were actually at the Westin City Center, which is a mile down the road. It wasn’t a bad walk, although we were a bit hot and definitely hungry by the time we arrived.

The restaurant itself was not what I was expecting. When I think of a tavern, I picture something a bit rustic, with exposed beams and rough wood. The Blue Duck Tavern had extremely modern decor, with contemporary furniture and lots of clean lines. It was also a little more casual than I expected. We did have a nice view of the open kitchen from where we sat.

Open kitchen

View of the open kitchen

The menu looked incredibly appealing, with lots of options for appetizers and main courses. Josh and I decided to go a bit crazy and ordered lots of dishes, creating our own mini tasting menu. We told our waiter that we wanted to share everything, and that he should bring the dishes in whatever order the kitchen thought was appropriate.

We ended up starting off with the oven roasted bone marrow topped with ramp butter, which was decadently delicious. It was served with a head of roasted garlic and grilled country bread.

Bone marrow

Roasted bone marrow with ramp butter

We spread some cloves of roasted garlic on each piece of toast, then topped it with the melty marrow and ramp butter. The marrow was rich and flavorful, and it was an ample portion to split between the two of us.

Roasted garlic and bone marrow spread on grilled country bread

Roasted garlic and bone marrow spread on grilled country bread

Next up was the spinach and smoked ricotta tart, which was like a savory ricotta cheesecake. It was served cold, and we could really taste the smokiness of the cheese. It came with a side salad of fresh baby spinach leaves and toasted pine nuts, which helped cut through the richness of the ricotta. It was a simple dish but packed with lots of flavor.

Spinach and ricotta tart

Spinach and smoked ricotta tart

We moved on to the 12-hour roasted suckling pig, which was very tender, as expected. There was a mustard jus in the pan that definitely packed a mustardy punch, but overall I thought the dish was just ok. It wasn’t as intensely pork-y as I had hoped, although the big piece of fried pork skin on top was a nice touch. It was served with a gorgeous pile of roasted baby vegetables.

12-hour roasted suckling pig

12-hour roasted suckling pig

The next dish was butter poached lobster on top of crispy pork and split pea emulsion. It was really an interesting dish, with the tender lobster paired with what was essentially pulled pork formed together into a cake, breaded, and fried. The split pea emulsion was creamy and sweet. It was a nice mix of textures and flavors.

Butter poached lobster with crispy pork and split pea emulsion

Butter poached lobster with crispy pork and split pea emulsion

I was not a big fan of the course that followed, the braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce. Part of it was probably because I was very full by this point, and this was an extremely heavy dish. The beef rib itself was huge, incredibly meaty, and fork tender. However, I found the steak sauce to be completely overwhelming. It just covered the beef and was all I could taste. We had a hard time finishing this one.

Braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce

Braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce

On the other hand, I loved the crispy fried veal sweetbreads with mac and cheese and morel mushrooms. It seemed like this dish was made just for me! The sweetbreads were nicely fried, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The morels had a nice earthiness to them. The mac and cheese was more creamy than cheesy though, and it could have used a touch more seasoning, but otherwise, it was a well composed dish.

Crispy veal sweetbreads with mac and cheese and morels

Crispy veal sweetbreads with aged cheddar mac and cheese and morel mushrooms

Lastly, we got a side of sauteed wild mushrooms. It was completely unnecessary – we had more than enough food on the table. The mushrooms were sauteed with olive oil and garlic. I found them to be a bit chewy, and the texture was sort of a turnoff. Too bad, because I usually love mushrooms.

Sauteed mushrooms with olive oil croutons, garlic, and parsley

Sauteed mushrooms with olive oil croutons, garlic, and parsley

Overall we enjoyed our meal at the Blue Duck Tavern, although there were a few hiccups with some of the courses. We generally found that the “appetizer” dishes (the bone marrow, spinach and smoked ricotta tart, butter poached lobster, crispy sweetbreads with mac and cheese) were better than the “entree” dishes (the suckling pig and the braised beef rib), though we may just have ordered poorly. The smaller dishes ranged from $11-$16 and the larger courses were mostly in the $25-$30 range. The appetizers were all shareable portions though, so it would be easy to make a nice meal out of several selections. We liked crafting our own tasting menu, and the waiter was very accommodating. The ingredients are obviously all fresh, and the menu even tells you where it comes from. The dishes are seasonal and the menu changes often, so I would definitely make a return trip if given the opportunity.

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th St. NW at M St.
Washington, DC

Hilton Head 2011 Day 3 – A Lowcountry Backyard

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 by virginia

I did do a little bit of research on Hilton Head restaurants before we went down, and one restaurant that I found was called A Lowcountry Backyard, which featured local lowcountry cuisine. My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew left that afternoon so we had a slightly smaller group for dinner, though there were still 12 of us. This restaurant also does not take reservations, though they said that if we called ahead they would put our names on the list and try to accommodate us. We arrived at the restaurant, they told us the wait wouldn’t be too bad, but we ended up waiting for over 45 minutes. The restaurant is on the smaller side so we had to stay outside. There’s a pretty garden with tables and chairs but the wait was uncomfortable because the mosquitoes were relentless.

We were bitten up and slightly annoyed by the time we sat down. Again, we had to split up into two tables because they didn’t have anything large enough for a group of our size. Josh and I sat with Jessica and Eric while the “adults” were squeezed into the other table. We started off with a round of local beers as we perused the menu. The menu wasn’t very long but there were lots of things that I wanted to try. We ended up getting a few appetizers to share. First up was the fried green tomato stack, which was pretty self explanatory. A few pieces of lightly breaded and fried green tomatoes were stacked together and served with pickles and ranch dressing on the side. The breading was well seasoned though slightly soggy. We could taste the sweet/sourness of the green tomatoes though, and overall we enjoyed the flavors of this dish.

Fried green tomato stack

We also shared the blue crab dip, which was lump crab meat blended with cheese to make a warm and creamy dip. I always thought that seafood and cheese shouldn’t go together, but the combination worked well in the dip. We could taste the sweet brininess of the crab meat while the cheese added a rich tang. The texture was smooth and creamy, with little lumps of crab. There was flat bread and tortilla chips on the side for dipping.

May River blue crab dip

Lastly, we got an order of pimento cheese with grilled flat bread and tortilla chips. I was curious about pimento cheese since it’s pretty popular in the south, but I hadn’t really ever tasted it by itself. Basically it’s a combination of cheddar cheese, mayo, and pimentos all blended together. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. I found the spread to be too chunky and the texture was slightly off-putting for me. There would be little lumps of cheese and little clumps of mayo, and the flavors didn’t meld for me. We ended up passing the dish over to the “adult table”, where it was quickly gobbled up. The adults raved about the pimento cheese, preferring it over the blue crab dip that we liked. I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste!

Homemade lowcountry pimento cheese

For our entrees, Josh and I shared the shrimp and grits and the Bischick. The Bischick was a lightly breaded and pan fried piece of chicken breast served over a homemade biscuit and topped with lowcountry gravy. The chicken breast was thick, juicy, and tender, and the breading was well seasoned. The homemade biscuit wasn’t as salty or as buttery as the fast food biscuits that I’m used to, but it had a nice fluffy texture to it and stood up well with the chicken. The gravy was thick and creamy, adding seasoning and richness to the sandwich, though the amount was slightly overwhelming and I ended up scraping some of it off. I did enjoy the dish as a whole, as it was fun and flavorful.

The Bischick

The Bischick came with a choice of one side dish so I opted for macaroni and cheese. It was a very good version with lots of tangy, sharp cheese. The noodles were al dente, the sauce was creamy, and there was shredded cheese on top that added an extra punch of flavor.

 

Macaroni and cheese

The shrimp and grits were a combination of sauteed shrimp and sausage slices mixed with a creamy bacon sauce and served over grits. This dish definitely packed in a lot of flavor, though it was on the border of being just slightly too salty for my taste. But the shrimp was cooked perfectly so that they still had a light, bouncy texture. The bacon cream sauce was truly decadent, and the creamy grits had soaked up all the flavor of the other ingredients. It was a pretty heavy and rich dish so I was glad that we went halfsies, since I think it would be hard to polish off a full portion of this by yourself.

Shrimp & grits with sausage and bacon cream sauce

We also got an extra side dish of collard greens, which definitely helped to counteract the richness of our two entrees. The greens were just a little bitter with a slight tang to cut through the rich gravy on the Bischick and the creamy bacon sauce on the grits.

Collard greens

Jessica ordered the potato chip meatloaf for her entree, which was something I really wanted to try. She generously gave us tastes of her dish, and although I couldn’t taste the potato chips (which they use instead of breadcrumbs), the meatloaf itself was well seasoned and flavorful. They use a combination of ground pork and beef, and they grill slices in a skillet before serving so that there’s a nice outer crust while the inside has a softer texture. The meatloaf was glazed with a peach barbecue sauce that was sweet and tangy.

Potato chip meatloaf

Overall I really did enjoy the food at A Lowcountry Backyard but the wait for a table was kind of ridiculous, especially since we had called before we went and they said we should be ok. It seems unavoidable to wait because the restaurant doesn’t take actual reservations and the place is pretty small. The food was flavorful and well seasoned, though the preparation is simple. It’s definitely home-cooked food, hearty and comforting, but not refined or mind-blowing. Portions are big and prices are extremely reasonable. Perhaps that’s why the restaurant is so popular; I just wish they would take reservations. If you have the time and the patience – go. If not, you might not think it’s worth the wait.

A Lowcountry Backyard
32 Palmetto Bay Rd.
Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head 2011 Day 2 – One Hot Mama’s

Saturday, September 17th, 2011 by virginia

One of the restaurant suggestions made to us by a reader was One Hot Mama’s, a barbecue restaurant whose chef, Orchid, participated in The Next Food Network Star competition. I don’t watch that show so I had no idea who she was, but the menu looked good and I always like to try barbecue when we’re in the south.

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations but you can call ahead and put your name down, telling them approximately what time you want to come by. They’ll try to accommodate you as best as they can but it’s not a guarantee. Since we had 15 people in our group, we ended up waiting past the time they said to come in. We actually ended up splitting up into two separate tables to shorten our wait. The “kids” sat at one table while the adults sat at the other.

We decided to get a few appetizers to share. The restaurant offers a wide variety of wings, including their award-winning “Hot Asian” wings, so we knew we had to try some of them out. We ended up getting a mix of Hot Asian, Backyard BBQ, and regular Buffalo wings. The Hot Asian and Backyard BBQ wings ended up being pretty similar. They both had a smokey grilled flavor and sticky sauce, though I think the Hot Asian wings were a tad sweeter with maybe just a hint of spice. The buffalo wings were pretty standard with a vinegary buffalo sauce that had a decent kick to it but wasn’t too spicy. They were served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks on the side.

Hot Asian and Backyard BBQ wings

Buffalo wings

We also shared a platter of pulled chicken nachos. The chicken was tender and flavorful, and there was lots of it piled on top of the tortilla chips. There was also cheddar cheese sauce, melted monterey jack, pico de gallo, scallions, and jalapenos. The flavors were well balanced and we ended up polishing off the entire plate.

Pulled chicken nachos

Josh and I wanted to try as much of the barbecued meats as we could so we split a rack of baby back ribs (also award winning) and a BBQ combo with hand pulled pork and sliced beef brisket. The rack of ribs was simply ginormous, and the meat was falling off the bone tender. It was slathered with Mama’s Red BBQ sauce, which was a good mix of sweet, sour, and spicy. I really enjoyed these ribs but there was so much food that we only ended up getting through half the rack. We boxed up the rest for lunch later in the week. The ribs came with a side of french fries (perfectly crispy but standard), honey jalapeno cornbread (a bit crumbly), and coleslaw (crunchy, tangy, and not too mayo-y).

Baby back ribs with cole slaw, fries, and honey jalapeno cornbread

The BBQ combo was also supposed to come with fries and cole slaw on the side but we were allowed to substitute for two other sides. We ended up choosing collard greens and macaroni and cheese. The collards were great – intensely leafy but not bitter at all and soft but not mushy. The mac and cheese had a nice tangy, cheesy flavor to it, and the pasta was perfectly al dente. It was a good combination of creamy and gooey, and one of the best mac and cheeses we’ve had. As for the barbecued meats, the pulled pork was soft and melt in your mouth tender while the brisket was smokey in flavor and quite tender as well. We did douse more barbecue sauce on both for extra flavor, a vinegary bbq sauce for the pork and more of the fantastic Mama’s Red BBQ sauce on the brisket. Again, the portions were enormous, and we took home lots of leftovers.

BBQ combo platter

Slice Texas beef brisket

Hand-pulled pork

Macaroni and cheese

Collard greens

We also got an order of onion strings to share for the table. In retrospect, that was definitely way too much food, but the onion strings were actually really tasty. They were very sliced thin, lightly battered, and perfectly fried to a nice crisp. The strings were not greasy at all, and they were perfectly seasoned. There was ranch dressing on the side for dipping but we were happy eating them plain.

Onion haystack

We were much, much too full for dessert, plus we had eaten Spiderman birthday cake before dinner. We also had tons of leftovers that we ended up doggie bagging for lunch later in the week. Overall I think everyone was pretty happy with the food at One Hot Mama’s. It wasn’t anything fancy but the food was hearty and solid. Prices were incredibly reasonable, especially for the amount of food we received. The only downside of the evening really was the fact that they don’t take actual reservations so we ended up waiting a long time, plus we had to split our party into two groups. Nevertheless, once we were seated, the service was fast and efficient, and the food was really good. Authentic barbecue? Perhaps not, but I’m no expert. I have to admit, I had some reservations, especially since the place and a commercial, chain restaurant vibe to it, but in the end, I was won over. I don’t know how well Orchid did on The Next Food Network Star, but I definitely have to give her props. I would happily come back here the next time we’re in Hilton Head.

One Hot Mama’s
7 Greenwood Dr.
Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head 2011 Day 1 – Red Fish

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 by virginia

As I’ve mentioned, we don’t really have a “favorite” restaurant in Hilton Head right now, but Red Fish probably comes the closest. We went there last year and enjoyed our meal so we decided to go back again this year. We had quite a large group and they were able to accommodate us easily, giving us a large table in the back room where we had plenty of space.

For our appetizer, Josh and I shared the special of the day, which was fried green tomatoes with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. The tomatoes were crispy on the outside and slightly tart on the inside, though I wish they had given us more than just two small pieces. The mozzarella was fresh and soft, and the accompanying cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy. I was worried that the fried green tomatoes wouldn’t work well with the cheese but the textural contrast was pleasant, and there was a bright basil pesto sauce on top that tied all the components together.

Fried green tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil pesto

Eugene and Chris shared an order of crispy calamari with smoked tomato sauce, which they enjoyed. I nabbed a piece and the calamari was fried perfectly, with a crispy, non-greasy coating, and the calamari itself was tender. The smoked tomato sauce kind of reminded me of barbecue sauce, and though it seemed a bit strange, it did work well with the calamari. Jessica and Eric raved about their tuna tartare appetizer, which was served on edamame wasabi wontons.

For our entrees, Josh and I went halfsies on a special of the day, a pan seared grouper, and the Cajun shrimp and lobster burger. The grouper had a nice blackened crust that was flavorful but not too spicy. It was served on a bed of grits, which I love, and covered in a rich, creamy sauce. There were also little shrimps on the plate that were sweet and delicately meaty, as well as some slightly bitter collard greens that helped cut through the richness of the dish.

Blackened grouper over creamy grits with shrimp and collards

The Cajun shrimp and lobster burger was huge, with a thick patty made from chopped up shrimp and lobster. Although the flavor of the seafood kind of melded together, it was definitely a meaty burger without too much filler. The burger was served on a ciabatta roll that I thought was slightly too big and dense for the patty but it did its job of keeping everything together. There was a sort of remoulade sauce on the side that I enjoyed slathered on the burger. The dish came with french fries on the side that were well seasoned with lots of salt and pepper but sadly, the fries were kind of limp. Alexander absolutely loved them though and would make ecstatic faces every time I handed him a fry. Too cute!

Cajun shrimp and lobster burger with seasoned french fries

Autopsy shot

Josh and I also shared a side of lobster macaroni and cheese. The first dish we got was pretty cold and the cheese sauce had kind of congealed into an unpleasantly gritty paste. I asked our waiter if he could have them heat up the dish for us, and we were presented with an entirely new plate that was much hotter and creamier in texture. The pasta still had a good amount of chew to them, and there was definitely lots of lobster in the dish. We were too full to finish the serving so I had them box it up for me and we ate it for lunch a few days later. If anything, it was even better later on, as the lobster flavor infused into the sauce, making it a truly rich and decadent dish.

Lobster macaroni and cheese

Overall I think that we all enjoyed our meal at Red Fish. For the most part, the portions are pretty generous and the food is well executed. Service was friendly and efficient, and I thought they did a good job of handling our table of 15 people. The restaurant isn’t cheap but prices are reasonable, especially given the quality of the ingredients used. There’s a wine shop inside the restaurant and you can purchase bottles to drink at your table for a small corkage fee, or you can just order from the wine list. I would definitely recommend Red Fish if you’re looking for a nice restaurant that still has a casual vibe and good food.

Red Fish
8 Archer Rd.
Hilton Head, SC

Grand Cayman Day 2 – Seven Mile Beach Bar and Deckers

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by virginia

Our second day in Grand Cayman was full of fun and action. We didn’t get a super early start but we dragged ourselves out of bed to meet up with the Comfort Suite contingent in the lobby area for breakfast. Breakfast was included as part of our stay and while it wasn’t anything exciting, it did the trick. There was cereal, breads, fruit, yogurt, and, best of all, make your own waffles. We loaded up on some carbs, then took a quick walk to the nearby Texaco station to pick up some waters and snacks at the convenience store.

Our next stop? The beach! It was only a short walk from our hotel to the beach, maybe about 50 yards down a narrow path. I would say the hotel is pretty much on the beach. We frolicked in the water for a short while and then we had to bid half the group goodbye, as a few of us were scheduled to participate in the rehearsal event for Claire and Sean’s wedding and had to make our way toward their hotel, the Grand Cayman Beach Suites.

Rather than taking the scary sidewalk route on West Bay Road, we decided to walk along the beach down to their hotel. It was a MUCH better option, and we enjoyed the lovely views along Seven Mile Beach. The rehearsal event started at one o’clock and we got to the Beach Suites a little after noon so we decided to grab a quick lunch by the pool, at the Seven Mile Beach Bar. We got a round of frozen drinks to start and quickly placed our order, since we didn’t have much time.

I saw conch fritters on the menu and really wanted to try them. I’ve never eaten conch, and it’s supposed to be the local specialty. Josh, Mike, and I split an order to start. The fritters were made of ground up conch mixed with breading, spices, and diced vegetables. They reminded me of mini crab cakes, though I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t really taste or detect conch in the mix. The fritters were tasty, but they could have been made from any kind of seafood. I also wished that they were slightly crispier.

Blurry conch fritters

For our mains, Josh and I split an order of fish and chips and a blackened fish sandwich. Again, I wished that the fish in the fish and chips dish were crispier, but I liked that they were big, meaty pieces of fish. I dipped them in jerk-flavored tartar sauce while Josh used malt vinegar (Claire would approve!).

Fish and chips

The blackened fish sandwich was a bit of a disappointment, as it was nowhere near as flavorful as the jerk fish sandwich we had at Stingers. The fish was also a bit too flaky and fell apart when we picked up the sandwich. The bread didn’t help either, as it was slightly stale and crumbly in texture. I did like the fries though, which were on the thinner side.

Blackened fish sandwich

While we weren’t crazy about the food at the Beach Bar, the drinks were really good. In addition, the views were pretty nice and service was great. We told our waiter that we were in a rush and he made sure to get our food to us quickly. We found that the service at the Beach Suites was always great, since we ended up seeing some of the same waiters and bartenders for most of the wedding events.

After we finished eating, we met up with the rehearsal group in the hotel lobby. Claire and Sean made a few quick speeches thanking the people involved with the wedding, and then off we went on the rehearsal adventure. Instead of having a traditional rehearsal dinner, Claire and Sean organized a boat excursion for us where we would get to snorkel at a coral reef and visit the stingrays at Stingray City. I had been researching a boat trip before we went to Grand Cayman, so I was super excited that this was what they had planned.

We were picked up in vans by people from Red Sail Sports, the company that ran our boating excursion. We drove a little ways to a dock on the bay side of the island which was the launching point for the boat.  After we signed our waivers (which always makes me a bit nervous!), we boarded the ship. It took about 45 minutes to get to our first destination, a coral reef where we could snorkel for a bit. The boat ride itself was pretty relaxing – we enjoyed the breeze and took in the views. It was a bit overcast when we set off, but the sun started peeking out more when we got to our destination. The water there was crystal blue and just gorgeous.

Boats along the way right after we set sail

The blue water as we approached our destination

Other boats letting their passengers off to snorkel

Another red sail boat similar to the one we were on

We donned our snorkeling gear (masks, snorkels, and flippers, plus a snorkeling vest for me) and went into the water. The waves were a bit rougher than I expected, considering how calm the water on the beach had been, so it took me a little while to get used to snorkeling again. We haven’t snorkeled since we were in the Galapagos, and I was a little rusty. I was also having trouble getting a good seal with the snorkel, and ended up with mouthfuls of salt water – blech! But once I got in the groove, I could see some of the coral formations and lots of cool plant life. There weren’t too many fish swimming around but we did see a few schools of small, colorful fish.

A coral formation

Close up on the coral

Bubbles! (and I think Claire's arm?)

 

Little blue fish

Cool plants

I have to admit, I got a little seasick from bobbing on the waves. We didn’t snorkel for too long though, about 20-30 minutes, and then we got back on the boat to head off to our next destination, Stingray City. The area is located on a sandbar so even though it looked like we were in the middle of the ocean, the water was only about waist deep. It was also crystal clear, and there were lots of stingrays swimming around our legs. It was a bit freaky at first, but then we got used to them brushing past us. The sand underneath our feet was super soft, and we were happy just standing there watching all the stingrays. Some of them were just enormous, and some of them were cute itty bitty ones.

Stingray popping into view

One of the larger stingrays

Top side view

One of the smaller ones being chased by a larger one. You can see how close they were to us as they were swimming around.

Some of the tour operators would “catch” a stingray and hold them up for us so that we could pet them and take a few pictures. The stingrays felt like wet, bumpy portobello mushrooms. Some of the braver folks (Mike, Sean) actually held the stingrays as well, propping them up with their arms underneath.

One of the guys holding up a stingray

Stingray waving its wing

Close up of the stingray skin

Soon it was time to say goodbye to the stingrays, and we were on our way back to shore. We all gathered at the front of the boat and relaxed with some Caybrews, enjoying the breeze once again. Once we were back on dry land, we returned to the Beach Suites to do the actual rehearsal. I practiced walking in a straight line, Silva and Josh learned their marks for their readings, Felipe thought about his signature, and Mike rehearsed his best Casey Kasem voice.

The start of the "aisle" for the ceremony, a long walk down to the beach

Claire and Sean had organized some welcome drinks for the wedding guests later that evening, so after the rehearsal we rushed back to the Comfort Suites to shower and get ready. Actually, we didn’t really rush, since we took the beach route back and stopped to take a few photos of the gorgeous late afternoon light on the water.

Back at the Comfort Suites, we cleaned ourselves up and met up with the rest of the crew for dinner. We decided to go to Deckers, a seafood restaurant across the street from the Beach Suites.

The restaurant has a large outdoor and indoor sitting area, and while we sat inside to seek some relief from the heat, the open air concept meant it was still pretty warm inside. Nevertheless, we were glad to be seated immediately and quickly ordered a round of drinks to start. I got a blood orange mojito, which was a nice reddish color and pretty refreshing.

Blood orange mojito

The menu had lots of interesting dishes, but I zeroed in on the Caribbean lobster mac n’ cheese. It featured a mascarpone, havarti, and grana padano cream sauce and was topped with bread crumbs and cheddar. There were lots of little chunks of lobster mixed throughout, though it wasn’t heavy on lobster flavor. I still really enjoyed the dish though, as the sauce was creamy, cheesy, and well seasoned. It was a whole lot of comfort in one big bowl.

Caribbean lobster mac n' cheese

The mac n’ cheese was pretty rich so Josh and I went halfsies on his entree, the catch of the day, which was escolar. It was served on an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, warm potatoes, pine nuts, and a passion fruit dressing. There were also a few pieces of coconut shrimp on the plate. The fish was delicious – well seasoned and meaty. The dressing was sweet and tangy, and I’m always a huge fan of arugula salad.

Catch of the day - escolar

Overall we were all very pleased with our meal at Deckers. The food was well prepared and everything tasted great. In addition, service was really fast and efficient. We told our waitress that we were in a bit of a rush, and everything was delivered right away. Coincidentally, Claire’s family was there for dinner as well, and they liked it so much that they went back the next day, for an all you can eat lobster special. The restaurant was definitely one of my favorites on the trip. It wasn’t cheap but it also wasn’t so expensive compared to a lot of restaurants in Grand Cayman. As I said previously, the island is pricey in general. The lobster mac n’ cheese was C$18 and the catch of the day was C$26. The ambiance was slightly more upscale but it still had a low key vibe. I’d definitely recommend it for a nice but not overly fancy meal.

After dinner we crossed the street to the Beach Suites where Claire and Sean was hosting welcome drinks at the pool bar. Their signature drink was the Cayman Blue, which featured Bacardi Razz, Blue Curacao, and 7-Up. It was candy sweet and deceptively alcoholic. I was definitely feeling it after a few of those drinks! We had a great time that night, drinking and chatting with everyone who was attending the wedding. We got to know Claire and Sean’s families a bit better, and learned that Sean once fed his little sister pennies and dimes. All in all it was fun and exciting day, filled with good food, lots of drinks, and plenty of stingray.

Seven Mile Beach Bar
At Grand Cayman Beach Suites, West Bay Rd.
Grand Cayman

Deckers
Next to Hyatt Regency, West Bay Rd.
Grand Cayman

Del Frisco’s

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 by virginia

Del Frisco’s is a steakhouse in midtown near Rockefeller Plaza that Josh says is his favorite steakhouse in Manhattan. He goes to lots of steakhouses for work dinners and I never get to tag along, unfortunately. Josh has been raving about Del Frisco’s for years so I was thrilled when I finally got an opportunity to try it, because I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was all about.

The restaurant is huge, with two floors and a big bar that always seems to be packed, especially after work. The clientele is mostly business folks -  lots of people dressed up in suits, but the restaurant also appears to draw in tourists as well. We had a reservation for four (we were dining with Dave and Mike) and had to wait about 15 minutes before they seated us. We pushed our way to the bar and got a round of drinks. The hostess found us shortly afterward and we were shown to our table in the back. We kind of joked with our waitress that this was where they stuck the unattractive people, as we were pretty tucked away from the main dining room “scene.” To be honest, I didn’t mind – I preferred the dark nook in the back where we were seated because it was not as noisy, and we could actually hear each other without having to yell across the table.

We looked over the menu but basically all we were deciding was what cut of steak to get. We were at a steakhouse, after all. They had a few special cuts available (though Josh says they’re always the specials, so I wonder why they don’t just put them on the regular menu?) that most of us wound up ordering. We also got a few sides to share, and some crab cakes to start. The bread they served us was soft and fluffy, like large dinner rolls, which we tore apart and slathered with some sweet whipped butter.

Bread and sweet butter

The crab cakes were pretty fantastic. They were made from jumbo lump crab meat and basically had no filler in them. The crab broke off in huge, meaty chunks, and we could really taste how fresh the crab meat was. The large cake was sitting in a pool of remoulade sauce that was nicely seasoned and paired well with the sweetness of the crab.

Jumbo lump crab cake

Our steaks were served just a short while after they cleared our appetizer plates. When they bring your steaks, they have you cut into the meat right away so that you can see immediately if it’s done to your liking. I ordered my steak medium rare, and it was perfectly pink throughout, just the way I wanted it. It’s important to note, however, that the temperatures here are probably just a little under what you would normally expect, so adjust your order accordingly. Dave ordered the bone in filet mignon (one of the special cuts) medium rare as well, but he thought it was just slightly more rare than he preferred. Still, it was cooked exactly the way our waitress described it would be.

Bone in ribeye with a cut in the middle to check the doneness of the meat

Josh had suggested that I order the bone in ribeye, another one of the special cuts. It turned out to be the perfect choice – tender and flavorful, with little pockets of marbling that just melted in my mouth. I thought the ribeye was perfectly seasoned, with lots of cracked black peppercorns on top that added a nice bite. The meat itself was beefy and flavorful; it was pretty much the quintessential steak for me.

Beautifully cooked on the inside

Josh ordered the eight ounce filet mignon black and blue. It was cooked as requested and very tender. We ended up going halfsies, and while he loved the ribeye, I wasn’t a huge fan of the filet. Because it’s such a lean cut, I find the meat to be less flavorful. I think they tried to overcompensate for that and ended up over-salting the meat. I have a pretty high salt tolerance but I found the steak difficult to eat. Josh seemed to enjoy it, though he did prefer the ribeye. A little bit of fat really makes a huge difference flavor-wise I think.

Autopsy shot of the filet mignon

We ordered a few side dishes that were big enough to share. After they put a portion of each item on our plates, they left the platters on the table so that we could continue to serve ourselves family style. We ended up getting macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach with bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and onion rings. The macaroni and cheese was pretty fantastic, with lots of stringy cheese mixed throughout and just the right amount of creaminess. The creamed spinach was rich and flavorful, though the bacon might have been a bit overkill. The sauteed mushrooms were well seasoned and had a nice texture to them.

Macaroni and cheese

Creamed spinach and sauteed mushrooms

The onion rings arrived in an impressive tower, with large slices of onion covered in a light, crispy batter. While the batter was well seasoned and crunchy, it didn’t adhere well to the onions and completely fell apart once you bit into the onion ring. The onions themselves were also slightly undercooked and had a raw bite to them. Too bad, because they looked so good.

Tower of onion rings

We were pretty stuffed but made some room for dessert. We all shared a slice of lemon cake, one of the restaurant’s specialties. It’s a moist yellow cake with layers of lemon icing in between. It’s pretty rich, though the lemony flavor makes for a nice and bright finish. I also liked that it wasn’t too sweet or cloying.

Lemon cake

While we were eating our cake, Dave introduced us to a Canadian after dinner drink called blueberry tea. Surprisingly, the drink doesn’t involve blueberries. It’s two ounces of Grand Marnier and one ounce of Amaretto poured together in a large snifter glass. Then you add hot black tea (Dave used Earl Grey) on top of the liquor. The aroma is supposed to be similar to blueberries, though I found it more orange-y and fruity. Flavor-wise it was actually quite nice. I could taste the Earl Grey, which was slightly sweetened by the Grand Marnier, and the almond flavor of the Amaretto lingered on my tongue. I really enjoyed the blueberry tea and could see myself drinking this more often in the future.

Overall I really enjoyed the food at Del Frisco’s and thought their steaks were pretty top notch. While I don’t eat at a lot of steakhouses, I do eat a lot of steak and would happily eat that ribeye any day of the week. The crab cakes were wonderful, and I also enjoyed most of the side dishes. The menu is your typical steakhouse fare but they do execute it very well. Our waitress was friendly and had a good sense of humor, which was important when dealing with the corny jokes that were being made at our table. The restaurant “scene” itself at the bar and the outer room might be a bit much for me, but the in the end, food trumps all. I would happily go back, though the prices might make it a bit prohibitive. It was pretty expensive, almost shockingly so, but the food was really great. I can see why Josh thinks of this as the best steakhouse in Manhattan.

Del Frisco’s (multiple locations)
1221 6th Ave. at 49th St.
New York, NY

Lansky’s Old World Deli

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 by virginia

Lansky’s Old World Deli is a place that I’ve walked by many times but never really thought about trying. One night Josh had a craving for a corned beef sandwich and all the delivery options we had seemed unappealing, so I looked up the menu for Lanksy’s and we decided to walk over there to check it out. The restaurant has kind of a classic, retro diner feel to it, and the menu is pretty extensive. It’s a kosher style deli, though it’s not actually kosher because they serve meat and dairy together, plus you can add bacon to any sandwich.

It didn’t take us long to figure out what we wanted to order, and then we dug into the bowls of pickles and cole slaw they brought us. Sadly there was only one half sour pickle in the bowl. Josh and I both prefer half sours because they taste fresher and are crunchier as well. The full sours weren’t overpoweringly sour, but they had a slightly metallic taste to them that I didn’t like. We probably could have asked for more half sours but we knew we had ordered a lot of food so we wanted to save the stomach space.

Pickles

Josh doesn’t eat cole slaw or any mayo based salads (ie., potato salad, macaroni salad) but I took a few bites and thought it was pretty tasty. It had a nice crunch and wasn’t overly mayo-y, with a nice tang. It made a good side dish to munch on with our sandwiches.

Cole slaw

We decided to go halfsies on a corned beef sandwich and a pastrami sandwich, both on rye bread. The sandwiches were pretty thick but nothing like the monstrosities that you get at the Carnegie Deli, for example. Still, they’ll fill you up and they’re more reasonably priced at $10.95 each. The corned beef wasn’t as flavorful as some other places, but it was pretty soft and had a nice texture. We just used extra deli mustard to boost up the flavor a bit.

Corned beef sandwich

The pastrami, on the other hand, was fabulous. Juicy, smokey, and tender – this was some of the best pastrami we’ve had. There was tons of flavor throughout, and we could taste the seasonings and spices they used on the meat.

Pastrami sandwich

From the “nosh” section of the menu, we got an order of the macaroni and cheese to share as a side dish. It was made with four different cheeses (sorry, I don’t remember what kind!) and was super creamy. It was served in a big bowl with a breadcrumb crust on top that could have been browned a bit more. The mac and cheese was definitely cheesy, and while we enjoyed it a lot, it was super rich so we only managed to finish off half the bowl.

Macaroni and cheese

We also got a side of french fries. They were made from freshly cut potatoes and fried to a deep golden brown. They were great when they were hot but did get a bit soggy as they cooled down.

Fresh cut french fries

Instead of dessert, Josh got a chocolate egg cream to finish off the meal. It’s basically seltzer, milk, and chocolate syrup mixed together. This version was nice and bubbly, not too sweet, but definitely chocolaty. It was quite refreshing.

Chocolate egg cream

Overall we enjoyed the food at Lansky’s, although the corned beef sandwich was a bit disappointing. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great. The pastrami, however, was great. I would definitely come back just to eat another one of those sandwiches. Portions are big and prices are reasonable. Service was pretty slow but it looked like there were only two servers working the entire restaurant. Our waitress was apologetic about it but we did have to wait a while to flag her down every time we needed something. Lanksy’s probably doesn’t rank up there with the “best” delis in the city (Katz’s, 2nd Avenue – both places we have yet to try) but it’s a nice neighborhood joint serving solid kosher style deli fare. For those not interested in corned beef or pastrami sandwiches, the menu is pretty extensive and there are lots of other items to choose from. They also serve a brunch on the weekends that I’d be interested in checking out sometime.

Lansky’s Old World Deli
235 Columbus Ave. between 70th and 71st St.
New York, NY