Bonus Food Pic: Handsome Devil’s Hot Mess

handsome devil hot messA few months back my in-laws discovered a new barbecue place near us called Handsome Devil that happens to be inside the local ice rink. This past weekend we celebrated Father’s Day by heading back over there to get some food on Saturday. As we have in the past, we had a great time with wonderful food and a nice selection of beers on tap. We all started off with some fried pickles (forgot to photograph because I got so excited for one of my all-time favorite apps). The pickles themselves were nice and briny, but they also came with some sriracha mayo dipping sauce that was fiery and fun. I’m just recently discovered the wonder of sriracha, so this was auspicious timing.

Better than the appetizer, though, was the meal I got. I wasn’t hungry enough to tackle my usual barbecue meal of “as much meat as I can stuff into my face,” so when I saw the Hot Mess on the menu, I was sold. The dish has a layer of beef brisket topped with mac and cheese which has pulled pork on the very top. This was a great choice because you not only get the best side of all time — mac and cheese — but also a sampling of their brisket and pulled pork. Considering their food is so great, this is an easy sell for anyone looking to try a few different elements all in one big pile.

My wife also had the Three Little Pigs smoked ham sliders which were just bonkers good. I was lucky enough to get one half of those little sandwiches and could have eaten about 10. The salty, smokey ham worked so well on the sweet bun and covered in Gruyere cheese.

As an added bonus, Lu got to watch some hockey because there was a kids game going on and you can walk into the stands right from the rink. I bet they do a pretty great appetizer/beer business during those games.

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Disney World 2014 Bonus Food Pics Part 2

lu, anna and elsaLet’s get right back into the Disney World goodness! (If you missed part 1, click here.) On February 5th we spent three hours waiting in line at Epcot to meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen. In that time, my dad and I ran over to the cafe in Paris called Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie and had sandwiches which were awesome. I was too perturbed from the line to snap a picture, but I did last time. Still, it was worth every minute because she still talks about meeting her favorite charactera and having them sign her Frozen book which we read at night sometimes. wave

That night we headed back to The Wave…Of American Flavors inside the Contemporary. Wave has easily become our favorite sit down restaurant at Walt Disney World thanks to its nice, quiet dining room and wonderful selection of entrees. I can’t quite remember what I ordered, but it looks like a steak from this picture (did I mention, it’s nice and dark in the restaurant?). The menu there changes with the seasons, so it’s probably different by now. If you’re looking for a nice sit down dinner that’s outside the parks, but still on the Monorail system, this is one of the best. disney jr character breakfast

The 6th was my 31st birthday, so we celebrated by going to Hollywood Studios and doing the Disney Junior breakfast buffet at Hollywood & Vine. Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to keep consistent and tasty in the buffet style, but this one was pretty darn great. It had all the basics which were all super tasty. Even the eggs were good and that almost never happens. However, the real delight here was seeing my kid’s eyes light up as she got to meet Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Jake. She had no idea who Handy Manny was and kind of looked at him like you might someone dressed the exact same way on the subway. spirit of aloha

For dinner we went to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian. I’ve wanted to do ever since I first heard about it a few years back. Even though the weather got a little dicey, the show was still pretty great, filled with a variety of different dances from all over the world. My daughter and dad even got in on the dancing action. See if you can find them in the picture above. The food itself was served in an all you can eat, family style manner with platters. I remember the bone-in chicken being particularly good as were ribs. As a birthday bonus, I had a large drunk in a coconut shaped to look like a monkey which I was able to bring home with me. pinocchio italian sub

On our last full day, the 7th, we went back to Magic Kingdom. We’re big fans of starting and ending these kinds of trips there. The weather was a little difficult as it was misting rain and chillier than the other days, but we still had some great food. For lunch we stopped in at Pinocchio Village Haus which actually had my favorite single piece of food of the whole trip, the Italian Flatbread Sub which includes Italian Meats, Cheese, Dressing, and Balsamic Glaze on a warm Toasted Flatbread. There was just something so balanced, with the smooth tanginess of the balsamic glaze and salty meats with the melty cheese that hit a lot of my moutbuttons. I also think this might have been my first flatbread sandwich. I’ve got to get more of those in my life. As an added bonus, you can eat over by a window that looks down on the It’s A Small World ride.

from from pinocchio's

For our last dinner we went to Be Our Guest which was…interesting. We had to wait out in the rain for our table along with everyone else which wasn’t the most fun thing in the world. And then, partway through, Lu got scared about the idea of seeing The Beast there. Now she’s seen Beauty and the Beast plenty of times and doesn’t get scared, but she got very adamant about not seeing him. It wound up not really mattering because she fell asleep on me before he even showed up. I can’t say for sure because I ate around a toddler the whole time, but I think I had the Braised Pork (Coq au Vin Style), described as Eight Hour Slow-cooked Pork with Mushrooms, Onions, Carrots and Bacon served with Puréed Cauliflower and Seasonal Vegetables.

I know we also had a lunch poolside at our hotel The Grand Floridian and my wife grabbed a cronut in Epcot, but I think that about covers our food adventures earlier this year in Disney World.

Disney World 2014 Bonus Food Pics Part 1

magic kingdom main streetAt this point, I think we all know that I’m way behind when it comes to posting about recipes and bonus food pics. Case in point? Here’s a whole bunch of pictures from early February when my parents, wife, daughter and I spent a delightful week in Disney World. I had a good time going through our meals day-by-day when we went last spring, but since we’re so far out, I figured a pair of recap posts about all the delicious food we had while in the Happiest Place On Earth would still be fun and hopefully helpful if you’re on your way to Orlando. One quick note before jumping in, on this trip we didn’t opt in for the Disney Dining Plan like last time. While it worked pretty well that time around, we realized that we were eating way more dessert than we would have normally just because it was there. I’m not much of a sweet fan, so I was glad to have more options.

chef mickeys

We all got into Disney World on February 1st and went right to the Magic Kingdom as is our custom, but I didn’t take any photos, so I can’t remember what we ate. On the 2nd, we went back and I did a better job of documenting meals. For lunch we had seafood at The Columbia Harbor House. Again, no pics, but I remember the fried food being nice and crisp without being too heavy. For dinner we hopped on the Monorail to have dinner at Chef Mickey’s, a buffet style place inside the Contemporary that features characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto (sorry Daisy fans) walking around taking pictures with the kids. Lu loved the place and I’ve got to say that we were all pretty impressed with the food. You might think something like that would offer the lowest common denominator because you’re already there and it’s aimed at kids, but it was one of the better buffets I’ve had in recent memory. tutto italia

Again, I don’t have documentation of what we ate for lunch on the 3rd, but we did spend most of the day at Epcot. For dinner we went to Italy in the World Showacse where we had reservations for Tutto Italia Ristorante. There I had the Gnocchetti which is described as Cavatelli pasta, sweet sausage ragu, tomato and Pecorino. This was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time. It might seem simple — and it was — both it tasted like each of those simple ingredients was the best it could be and combined for an excellent, rich dish. 1900 park fare cinderella dinner

Finally (for this post, come back tomorrow for the rest!), on the 4th we spent most of the day at Animal Kingdom where we had Pizzafari for lunch. I have a picture of the tiny, tasty pepperoni pizza I had along with the Cesar salad, but I compared photos and it’s almost the exact same as the one I took several months earlier. That night we headed back to our hotel, The Grand Floridian, where we went to the Cinderalla-themed character dinner at 1900 Park Fare. I don’t remember this meal, another buffet, for the food nearly as much as I do for watching our daughter show zero interest in Cinderlla’s stepmother, warm up to the very funny stepsisters and glow when Cinderella came around. I gotta give it to those step sisters, they were pretty funny, tossing tame insults and one-liners across the room at one another and convincing the kids (and me to a lesser extent) that they were the evil, mean, awful creatures seen in the Disney classic.

Bonus Food Pics From Yummy Taco, Handsome Devil & Fiddlestix

yummy taco chicken and beef burrito

One of the more frustrating things about where we live is that there’s not a great taco place that we can run into when we have that hankering. There’s a nice Mexican place, but it’s sit-down and sometimes I want to just call in a bag of tacos and have my wife pick them up on her way home from work. So, we got pretty excited when we were leaving Target one day and saw a new place called Yummy Taco opening up soon. Well, the other weekend it was actually in business, we gave it a shot and all had pretty delightful food. Above you can see the chicken and beef burrito I had which was more of a giant taco, but who’s counting? I will say that this is a rather interesting establishment because everything about it screams “Chinese food place” from the decorations and staff to the picture menu above the ordering station. But, none of that matters when you realize they’re making their own tortillas on the spot and making killer food. It’s still not super close, but it’s nice to know there’s a solid taco joint nearby we can hit up while running errands.

handsome devil bbq

About a month ago, my inlaws came into town and watched our daughter while my wife and I went out for a nice Italian dinner around Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile, they discovered a new barbecue joint we didn’t even know about called Handsome Devil that’s actually above an ice skating rink (that we also didn’t know about). We’ve actually got a lot of solid BBQ joints nearby, but I think this one will be tops on our list. Brothers has been so-so and Johnny D’s is a bit far away for more of a casual dinner, so Handsome Devil takes the top spot. I had the ribs and pulled pork along with some mac and cheese and onion rings, all of which were delightful. Plus, they’ve got a variety of local beers on tap which I always appreciate.

fiddlestix bangers and mash

And finally, I have to sing the praises of Fiddlestix once again. The above photo comes from their St. Patrick’s Day menu which, as always, was some of the best Irish food I’ve ever had. This is the bangers and mash which was so good I wish I could have it every day. The mashed potatoes had a healthy, but not overpowering dose of horseradish which made for a delightful side. Looking at this picture is actually making me hungry.

The Triumphant Return Of Woody’s!

woody's is back

 

One of the great things about living where we do in Orange County is that there are plenty of great restaurants of all kinds, sizes and cost-levels, especially in Cornwall. The town we want to move into counts my absolute favorite restaurant Fiddlestix as one of the many placescalling it home. But, before discovering Fiddlestix we used to love going to another place called Woody’s. I’ve talked about the naturally sourced burger joint before and how it shut down, which was a huge bummer.

But, a few weeks ago I noticed that the building was getting repainted and fixed up. With each successive pass, I noticed something new until a sign appeared saying “Opening Soon!” I want to say it’s been open for a few weeks now, but we finally went over there a few weeks ago and are happy to say it’s back in force.

I went with one of their specials, a Breakfast Burger with bacon and egg on it as well as some of their excellent fries. I’m glad to say that the place hardly changed and the few changes I noticed were actually improvements. For instance, instead of a Coke or Pepsi fountain dispensary, they actually have Boylans which is an awesome smaller soda maker that specializes in Cane Cola, Root Beer and Cream Soda.

I’m really glad that Woody’s is back in action and ready to keep rolling. With them back, we now have a place to go and get a solid burger that doesn’t come from mystery meat and also offers a good deal of specials. Welcome back Woody’s!

Philly Bonus Food Pics: Pastrami Cheesesteak, Sushi & Dinic’s Roast Pork

pastrami cheesesteak Well gang, I think we’re pretty far past apologies for a lack of posting. A lot of things went down in the past few months that prevented me from posting here on MATK, but I’m really hoping to make a big push for more posts. I’m even circling around to recipes I made months ago that I never posted about so they can be refreshed in my brain. Anyway. I’m kicking this week off with a series of food pictures I took while hanging out with some college friends in Philadelphia a few weekends back (for more details on the weekend, check out the 35th episode of my podcast over on PopPoppa.com). kinish Above you can see the lunch we had at a place called The Famous 4th Street Delicatessen which had wonderful service and gigantic portions. My wife and I split a pastrami cheesesteak which was certainly filling. I also got myself a   blintz. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what a blintz was, but I enjoyed the sweet cheesy insides as well as the fried crust.

While looking for a place that could serve a fairly large dinner party, we stumbled upon Kabuki Sushi. The positives were that they took reservations and weren’t too far from out hotel. Oh, that and the food. I can’t quite remember what rolls I got, but both of them were super tasty. I also tried our friend Heather’s fried tofu which reminded me of fancy carnival food. As you can see, Lucy also had a roll which she seemed to like, though she basically just took the chicken out and ate that. dinic's roast pork Finally, before heading to the Please Touch Museum and heading back home, we went over to the awesome Reading Terminal Market and got Dinic’s roast pork sandwiches for breakfast. My wife remembered seeing these sandwiches on a food show and we were familiar with the market from previous comic convention-related visits to Philly, so we each had one. I’m not sure if I prefer these to cheesesteaks, but I will say that, while I’ve had plenty of crummy cheesesteaks, I’ve only had one awesome roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, so that’s something!

Bonus Food Pics: Gyro & The Mack Trucker Melt From P&G

gyroLast weekend, my wife, daughter and I went to the New Windsor Community Day event which was packed with various food vendors. If I’m in the vicinity of a good looking gyro (pronounced yee-ro), I’ve got to have one. I forgot to note the name of the place selling them, but I think they just do events like this and weren’t representing a restaurant. Anyway, this was a solid pita with meat carved from the spit and dosed with a good deal of tzatziki sauce and got the thumbs up. Even Lu dug the lamb, which was a bit of a surprise. p & g mack truck burger melt

The next day, we went to New Paltz to do some walking around. Before that, though, we stopped at P&G’s because I was jonesing for a beer or two with my meal. I decided on The Mack Truck Burger Melt which was described as, “8 oz. of freshly ground Black Angus beef charbroiled and topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, nestled in a grilled cheese sandwich.” This seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn’t mix well with the press of coffee I’d had that morning, the two beers during lunch and the coffee I had afterwards. Also, I’ve got to say, the sandwich was a tiny bit bland, which I wasn’t expecting. Still, I not only want to try this again, but also want to make one of my own. Finally, the onion rings were killer!

 

Bonus Food Pic: 2 Alices’ Iced Coffee & Homemade Pop Tart

2 alices homemade pop tart

Anyone who knows me or reads Monkeying Around The Kitchen on a regular basis already knows that I’m not a big fan of dessert or sweets. I’d rather eat an appetizer or more of my entree than save room for dessert. That’s just how I’m built. But, there are a few sweet treats I just can’t resist. Pop Tarts are on that list. But, because I’m an adult who knows how bad they are for you, it’s been ages since I bought any for myself.

A month or two back, I stopped into my beloved 2 Alices in Cornwall. This is the place I used to go and work to get out of the house before we had our daughter. Their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had, but they do have a variety of bakery treats on display as well. I was surprised and intrigued when I first saw the Homemade Pop Tarts. I wasn’t in the mood at the time, so passed it up. Another time, I saw they had the regular ones as well as cinnamon — my favorite take on the Pop Tart theme — but again, I didn’t partake.

Last Friday, however, Lu was in day care so I could do an interview with comic book legend Stan Lee. I decided to finish my work for the day at the coffee shop and indulged myself in a few of their iced coffees and one Homemade Pop Tart. Man, it was great! They nailed the icing the filling was even better than the overly processed thing that lives inside the brand name counterpart. Also, not for nothing, it was about two-to-three times bigger than your average Pop Tart. It wound up being the perfect combination of sugar from the treat and caffeine from the coffee to get me through my work, pick the kid up, get home and make a dinner of Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca and Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce for my parents who had driven in from Michigan.

Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

Guys, I love pretzels. Hard, soft, full of cheese, covered in eggs, I’m all-in for all the options. As you’ve probably noticed if you watch even the slightest amount of television, we’re in a kind of pretzel renaissance these days. Sure, you can still get all shapes, sizes and flavors in the snack aisle of your grocery story, but the concept of pretzel dough and bread is moving out of carnivals and sporting events to a good deal of fast food joints.

My wife and I first encountered the widespread nature of pretzel bread while on a trip to Michigan from New York. We love stopping at Sheetz and they have a full line-up of pretzel bread sandwiches, which I indulged in on both the way there and back. They were great, with that hint of pretzel flavor without being overly salty. I didn’t snap a picture because I was driving and eating already, but they were great.

wendys pretzel bread burger

When we got home, we started seeing pretzel bread everywhere, specifically at Wendy’s which is another big chain making a similar push. Last week we both got these burgers and I’ve got to say, I wasn’t very impressed. I thought Sheetz did a much better job of capturing the pretzel bread flavor while Wendy’s was overall pretty bland (it didn’t help that the burger was overcooked and a little cold).

homemade pretzelsThe biggest pretzel revelation in recent memory, though, came when my wife decided to MAKE OUR OWN SOFT PRETZELS. I was super excited, thinking back to my childhood and wondering what Young Me would have done had I presented him with something like Alton Brown’s recipe for  soft pretzels. Would I have jumped in the kitchen immediately and started making one of my favorite snacks by hand or would I have said “Cool,” and continued eating frozen ones because they’re easier?

Seeing as how I haven’t mastered time travel (yet) that’s neither here nor there. What is here AND there is that fact that these pretzels were fantastic. She made something like eight and then also made herself a bagel dog using Brown Eyed Baker’s take on Brown’s recipe. I regret not asking for one myself. Still, I’ve been enjoying the light, buttery, salty goodness of these tasty snacks for the first half of this week and am already thinking of ways to incorporate this delightful food into our regular rotation.

Bonus Food Pic: Deep Fried Oreos

fried oreo

Last week the Cornwall firefighters held their annual fair. It’s been going on for decades, but this is the first year we went. It was a nice little fair with plenty of rides, over-priced games (I remember when you got three darts for $1 instead of one for $2) and, of course, the kinds of food you can only buy from people who travel from town to town under cover of darkness. While thoughts of corn dogs danced in my head (they turned out to come from a box), I was actually won over by the six deep fried Oreos my wife requested. I actually saw the woman in the cart/thing dipping the cookies into the batter and tossing them into the frier, so I know they were fresh (or, you know, as fresh as fresh can be). The results were a super sweet combination of dough and softened cookie that was delightful.

Bonus Food Pic: King’s Meatloaf Sandwich

king's meatloaf sandwichThis photo’s from about a month ago, but I’ve far from forgotten about this wonderful Meatloaf Sandwich from King’s Pommes Frites. After writing about the burger I’d had there, I actually went out that day with my daughter, hit up the farmer’s market and decided to stop in at King’s and see what they had for the special. The idea of a meatloaf sandwich was super intriguing so I went with it and some olive sauce for the fries (my favorite one there).

I’ve had meatloaf sandwiches before, but the stroke of genius with this one was actually the condiment. Instead of going with the more obvious ketchup, they put mayonnaise on the sandwich which added a creamy, tang that made the juicy meat loaf jam really well with the cheese. Another excellent pairing from King’s!

 

Pizza Party: Luigi’s Deluxe & Hawaiian Pies

luigi's deluxe pizza

For the second half of last week and part of this week, my wife, daughter and I spent some nice time in Michigan hanging out with my parents at their cottage. We ate a lot of food on the grill which I forgot to snap pictures of, but there was one meal I absolutely, positively needed to let the world know about and that’s the pizza from Devil’s Lake’s Luigi’s Pizza. I almost wrote that it’s the one and only pizza joint up there, but it’s been a long time since I was a regular and don’t know that for sure. I do know that for a long time as a kid, it was one of the few food options that offered carry out food you could run up and get in your bathing suit and not get funny looks. It also happens that it was my favorite pizza before I moved out to New York.

Above you can see my favorite pie from them, the Deluxe which includes pepperoni, ham, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black olives and, before moving to New York. I feel like it used to include green olives at one point, but memories get fuzzy. The beauty of this pie is just how much they cram on there. You can get deluxe-type pizzas a lot of places and this one probably isn’t super special as far as toppings go, but the key to Luigi’s greatness is the crust. The crusts on these pies have a garlucy, salty quality that made this the only crust I bothered eating for a long, long time.

luigi's hawaiian pizza

We also got a Hawaiian pie which featured pineapple, ham, green peppers and extra cheese which we tried to get with bacon instead of ham (highly recommended), but they were swamped leading into Fourth of July and didn’t get the custom portion of the order. Still, this is a solid, delightful Hawaiian pizza, which is something you can’t always get easily in my area. The extra cheese really makes this pop. Man, it would have been rad with bacon.

Anyway, if you’re in the Manitou Beach, Michigan area and haven’t tried Luigi’s go do it. If you’re somehow driving through (it’s not exactly close to any highways, which is by design as you might imagine) get over there and try some of this goodness.

Bonus Food Pic: Mayor McCheese Omelet From Fiddlestix

20130618-153611.jpg I hope all my fellow dads out there had a good Father’s Day. I got booze, breakfast and smoked pork, plus time with my family, so I’ve got no complaints. For breakfast we went over to our favorite local place Fiddlestix and got yet another wonderful meal. As usual, I went with one of the specials, this one called the Mayor McCheese, which is an omelet with ground beef, caramelized onions and tomatoes topped with melted cheese sauce. Considering everything I just wrote ranks pretty high on my favorite foods, you can reasonably bet that I had a wonderful time filling my face with a cheesy, beefy concocion held together with eggs. As an added bonus, I got to dip my toast in cheese!

Bonus Food Pic: King’s Pommes Frites’ Cheese Burger & Fries

king's palm frites burger

If you live in the Cornwall/New Windsor/Vail’s Gate area and like to check out local food places, you were probably a fan of Woody’s, an all natural burger place in a yellow house in Cornwall. They had a solid staple of offerings, but would also branch out into limited-time specials based on whatever was good and fresh at that time. Well, Woody’s closed down in the past year and we’ve been left wanting for places to get a good burger that doesn’t come from a clown’s mouth.

Thankfully, my wife and I didn’t have to look around too long before realizing that King’s Pommes Frites — also in Cornwall — is killing it with their burgers. In fact, as far as I’m concerned their burgers are actually better than Woody’s were. They’re big and juicy and perfectly cooked, plus they come with King’s always-fresh fries and their signature variety of sauces.

As far as I’m concerned, King’s is doing it right. They started off with a simple idea: the fries with sauces, plus a special or two every week or so. Now they’ve expanded to a full menu PLUS unique offerings every week that you can keep tabs on by way of their Facebook page (linked above). From what I hear, they’ve also got shakes now, which is wonderful because no one else seems to be doing that in the ‘Wall.

This picture’s actually from a month or so ago and we haven’t been back in that span, but writing this post and looking at that picture make me want to head there right now. Now that I think about it, I was planning on running to Cornwall around lunch time…

Bonus Food Pics: Cranky Carol’s Fries & Cheesesteak From Slack’s Hoagies

slacks hoagies cranky fries A few weekends back my wife, daughter and I made our way to Pennsylvania to meet up with some friends and visit the Sesame Street theme park Sesame Place (hear more about it on my most recent podcast if you’re interested). The first night we got Qdoba for dinner, but after two full days in the park and being relatively close to Philadelphia, we were hoping to get cheesesteaks. Of course, the problem with traveling is that you have no idea how good anything around you is or where to even look. Fortuitously, when we got back to our hotel that evening, there was a menu waiting from a place called Slack’s Hoagies. Not only did they have cheesesteaks, but also delivered. Perfect!

slacks hoagies cheesesteak

My wife and I each went with a cheesesteak as well as the Cranky Carol Fries where had a good deal of pepper and maybe a few other spices to bring the heat. Everything tasted great, though I will say that this was not the best Philly Cheesesteak I’ve ever had. Still, after a long day of walking around, waiting in lines and dodging excited kids, it was nice to sit down with a hot, cheesy sandwich, some fries and enjoy a meal I didn’t have to make myself.

Disney World Bonus Food Pics: And The Rest

My apologies to regular readers for the intense lack of posts the past month or so. Between the lead-up to vacation, vacation itself, getting back into the groove with work and being sick and not cooking for all of last week, writing about food unfortunately fell pretty low on the priority list. I know the Disney trip seems like it was pretty long ago at this point, but I wanted to finish things out (if you’re curious to see what else we ate either scroll down or read, this, this, this and this).

pizzafari lunch

The Wednesday we spent at Disney World — which also happened to be my dad’s birthday — was spent hanging out in Animal Kingdom. As happened last time we all went there, it was a rainy day, though not nearly as bad as the previous visit. For lunch we went with a counter service at Pizzafari. When I think about food like this I always think it’s going to taste like the box it was delivered in, but I’ve got to say it was a pretty solid little pizza. I mean, it was nothing like the places around us in New York, but it also wasn’t terrible. I’m always a fan of Cesar salads and also went with the pudding for desert. I have no problem recommending Pizzafari if you’re in Animal Kingdom looking for a good lunch place.

boma soup

To celebrate my dad’s birthday, we went to the African buffet dinner at Boma which is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The last time we went to Disney World, this place was easily our number one favorite eating spot. I’ve got to say, though, that the experience wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time around. For one thing, the place was PACKED, so it was kind of hard to navigate the buffet line. Making matters a bit worse, the actual buffet is set up kind of poorly. People tend to line up for the carved meat, but are you supposed to get in that line before going after the other sections? Some people clearly think so while others did not. I went rogue when I needed to, as is my want.

But, the food was still really great. My personal favorite dish is the Coconut Curry Chicken Soup (above right). I’m also a fan of the Ginger Carrot Soup (above left). The interesting thing about eating at Boma this time around is that it wasn’t quite as revelatory. The food was still fantastic, but in the time since we ate there the first time, I’ve eaten and cooked a lot of different foods. Still, if you’re in Disney World, go eat at Boma, it’s worth it.

Croque Monsieur

Thursday was my daughter’s second birthday, so we tried to cater our dining choices to things she might get a kick out of. Since we were in Magic Kingdom that morning, we decided to try out one of the new eateries in New Fantasyland called Be Our Guest and as you might imagine, the place is Beauty And The Beast themed. This was the only place we ate at where diners could use a touch screen to order their food and while I love that idea, the practice was difficult because most people apparently can’t fathom how to use such a system just yet (even the helper at our station took longer to input our desired meal than it would have taken me). Anyway, my wife and I decided to split two different sandwiches because we couldn’t decide. So, we each had half of the Croque Monsieur (“Grilled Sandwich of Carved Ham and Gruyere Cheese and Bechamel with Pommes Frites”) and the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich (“Served warm on a Baguette with Horseradish Sour Cream and Pommes Frites”) both of which would make fine choices for a hungry dining party.

Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich

To say a few more things about this restaurant, I really appreciate the theming they did. When you walk in you’re given a plastic spherical bar with a rose on it. You tap this to the screen when you order and then it acts like a GPS so the servers can find you. The servers themselves roll the food out in covered serving carts that both look neat and keep the food warm. Speaking of neat, the place is broken up into three different dining rooms, Belle’s Library, the West Wing and the ballroom. I’m actually not sure which one we were in, but one of the other rooms featured Beast’s flower and the other had windows set up to make it look like it was a dark and stormy night (though it was raining that day, so maybe that’s what it was). Anyway, if you have a BATB fan in your life, they’ll love eating at Be Our Guest.

princess dinner

For dinner that day we hoofed it over to Epcot’s World Showcase for the Princess Storybook Dining at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. Lu absolutely loved getting to meet and have her picture taken with Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella and Belle so it was worth it for that alone. It was also nice that they had a great drink menu and rad food like Traditional Kjøttkake also known as, “Norwegian Meatballs served with Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Lingonberry Sauce.” It’s like that stuff they have at Ikea, but roughly 7 billion times better, plus you get the added bonus of knowing you don’t have to put frustrating furniture together after eating. They also do a complimentary buffet called “Taste of Norway,” but I don’t remember much about it aside from a sweet brown cheese that half the table enjoyed and half was not into at all.

kat korra dinner I din't eat

Unfortunately, I was not feeling very well for our last full day at Disney. I had some weird stuff going on with my stomach that was probably compounded by drinking more coffee and beer than water while on vacation. Not smart, people, be sure to stay hydrated. I really wish I had because we went to Kouzzina by Kat Kora for dinner and it was one of the restaurants I was most interested in checking out going back to the early days of planning this trip. Unfortunately, the strong Greek smells and flavors did not work well with my wobbly tummy, so, even though I ordered the Briami — “Oven-roasted Vegetables with Oregano, topped with Greek Cheese, served with Herbed Orzo Pasta” — I was only able to look it, sigh and go back to the room to take a nap. So while the Disney trip didn’t end on a high culinary note for me personally, I’ve got to say that, overall I probably haven’t had a better week of meals ever. Also, get the Dining Plan if you can!

Disney World Bonus Food Pics: French Breakfast & Moroccan Dinner

french breakfast You know what I love in pretty much any combination? Ham and cheese. You really can’t go wrong there, you guys. One morning we decided to hit Epcot and to start our day we headed over to the World Showcase to get breakfast in France at a place called Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie. When you add ham and cheese to a buttery piece of bread you’re really onto something. Good on the French for figuring that out.

moracco salad

For lunch we went to a place in Epcot where I not only had a bad experience but also didn’t enjoy my food, so we’ll just skip right past that. That night, my wife and I had planned on going out for a date just the two of us. We wanted to try something new and interesting so we decided on going to Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco back in Epcot in the World Showcase. We both went with the Taste of Morocco – Royal Feast which included (*deep breath*) “Jasmina Salad: Lettuce, Tomato, Olives, and Feta Cheese in Mustard Vinaigrette, Seafood Bastilla: Layers of thin Pastry filled with Grouper, Shrimp, and Mushrooms, Lemon Chicken: Braised Chicken seasoned with Green Olives and preserved Lemon, Roast Lamb Meshoui (A Moroccan tradition – Roasted Lamb Shank in Natural Juices),  Couscous with Seven Vegetables and Assorted Moroccan Pastries.”

moracco entree

As you can imagine, it was quite a meal. First off, everything was fantastic and interesting. I was a big fan of that salad, which is kind of a strange thing to single out when talking about so many different kind of food. The lamb fell of the bone and I don’t have much experience with that particular protein, but I enjoyed it. The lemon chicken was also nice and tangy. I even dug the desserts which is something I don’t always say. So, if you’re looking for something unique and packed with variety, do yourself a favor and hit up Restaurant Marrakesh.

Walt Disney World Bonus Food Pics: BBQ At Whispering Canyon Cafe & Pork Belly From Waves

bbq On Monday my wife, dad and I went on the Disney Backstage Magic tour which takes you on an all-day tour of the park behind the scenes. Since it really does last all day they stop at a place called Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge hotel that’s got a real country western theme. They’ve got a regular menu, but also a family style barbecue thing where they bring big plates of food to your table and you all just dig in. As it turned out, there were the perfect number of people on the tour to fill three big tables and then one with just three people. We were that table of three which was great because I don’t like the idea of other people accidentally touching my food.

Anyway, the food itself was pretty great. The menu describes the Family Platter as including “Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs, Herb-baked Chicken, Hand-carved Oak-roasted Beef Strip Loin, Citrus-crusted Market Fish, Western-style Sausage Sides fro Sharing: Seasonal Farm Fresh Vegetables, Herb-crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Cowboy-style Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob.” I’m pretty sure we didn’t have fish or beef stip loin, but the ribs were fall-off-the-bone cooked and super tasty but the real star of the show was that sausage which I could have eaten a whole plate of. I’m not sure if a huge heavy barbecue lunch is the best idea when doing a Backstage Tour, but it was tasty.

waves pork belly and tenderloin For dinner we ate at a restaurant called The Wave…Of American Flavors in the Contemporary Resort. I feel like I kind of screwed up while eating at The Wave. While my family went with some fancy steaks, I decided to try the “Thompson Farms Naturally Raised Pork Belly and Tenderloin with White Bean Cassoulet and Locally-sourced Vegetables.” What drew me to this dish is the fact that so many chefs and food personalities that I like and appreciate say that pork belly is supposed to be one of the best foods around. Unfortunately it didn’t do a whole lot for me and just kinda tasted like fatty bacon. It wasn’t bad and I didn’t really know what I was expecting, but it didn’t exactly send fireworks through my brain like in Ratatouille. However the tenderloin — small as it was — was fantastic as was the cassoulet, though I wound up passing that to my daughter who really loved it.

waves sherbert dessert

Since the Disney Dining Plan comes with dessert (I’d personally rather have an appetizer, but I’m a team player) I had a lot more dessert during that vacation than I normally would. The desserts at The Wave are pretty neat because they all come in little tiny dishes and you get three of them. I went with “Our Spring Gelato Trio: Mandarin Orange Gelato, Chocolate Malt Gelato, and Toasted Marshmallow Gelato” because I didn’t want to pile it on too heavy. And it was actually really tasty. My favorite was the marshmallow gelato because it really did taste like toasted marshmallows which are one of the desserts I really enjoy.

Walt Disney World Bonus Food Pics: Studio Catering Co. & Sci-Fi Dine-In At Hollywood Studios

studio catering company We spent the second day of our Walt Disney World vacation walking around Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a place that had great food at both the counter service and sit down levels. For lunch we hit up Studio Catering Co. which is supposed to be set up like the commissary of a studio, but, you know, right around the corner from Star Tours and butting up against the Honey I Shrunk The Kids playground (which is a childhood favorite of mine).

The way places like this work is that there’s a menu posted up high where everyone can see it (those yellow signs in the above picture). When you know what you want, you approach one of many very nice people standing at a computerized register. Once your food is ordered, you move up and pick it up from the people working in the kitchen and prep area, so it’s a little nicer and more organized than your average cafeteria, which you’d expect from Disney.

studio catering turkey panini For lunch I went with the Pressed Turkey Club which includes “Turkey, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Swiss, Roasted Red Pepper, Arugula, Multigrain Ciabatta Bread.” It was a really solid, tasty sandwich that didn’t feel like something slapped together. It seemed well thought out and well balanced. I also got the cole slaw which was better than average and think I even had a little cheesecake dessert, though the for-a-limited-time-only Worms & Dirt Cupcakes you see in the background were enjoyed by my family.

sci fi dine in reuben That day we had dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater which is a fun place where you actually sit in tables that look and feel like old school convertibles. Those car-tables are “parked” in an area that’s set up like a drive-in theater complete with a movie screen running film clips, cartoons and trailers of stuff from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

We weren’t sure if the atmosphere — which was fantastic — would outshine the food, but I really enjoyed the Reuben I had. You might think that a sandwich with such basic ingredients (corn beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and rye bread) would be difficult to screw up, but that’s not been the case in my experience. For one thing, you can find a wide spectrum of quality in just those five things, but the way a place treats their corn beef is also really important. The Sci-Fi Dine-In seems to treat its beef really well because the meat was nice and juicy and not dried out at all. In fact, all the ingredients felt top notch and tasty. I’ve probably had better Reubens in my life, but not while sitting in a fake car watching trailers for Plan 9 From Outer Space and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman. Oh, the cucumber salad was actually super tasty as well, it was a kind of sour, pickle-y alternative to fries if that’s something you’re looking for.

Walt Disney World Bonus Food Pics: New York Strip & Shrimp Combo At Big River Grille

Hi folks, it seems I’m apologizing more and more for my lack of posting these days. I apologize for that. Things were crazy work-wise two weeks ago as I was doing my best to get all my work done before heading on vacation and then spent last week computer-less at Walt Disney World with my wife, daughter and parents. I’m back in action now, though and have plenty of food pictures to show off from our vacation! My dad and wife did a fantastic job figuring out the whole trip while also mapping out the restaurants. We went with the Disney Dining Plan, which gives each person in your party one snack, one counter service meal (basically any place where you’re not being served by a waiter) and one sit down meal per day. It worked out really well for us and I recommend giving the plan a look if you’re even remotely interested. In addition to having a lot of different options, we really enjoyed the break that a sit down meal gave us from all the park hopping.

steak and shrimp at big river grille

Our first meal was at a place called Big River Grille & Brewing Works on the Disney BoardWalk which was right across from our hotel room at the Beach Club. As it turned out, our flight from New York was right on time and without complication, but my parents wound up having to sit on the runway pre-takeoff for 90 minutes. As you can imagine, they were looking forward to getting some food and a drink, so Big River — which had been planned out months in advance — became an even better choice thanks to its proximity to our hotel and availability of beers brewed in house and a healthy list of cocktails.

The beauty of the Dining Plan is that you can choose anything on the menu from the cheapest to the most expensive offering and it all costs the same (though it doesn’t include alcoholic beverages, just FYI). With a healthy appetite, most of us ordered the New York Strip & Shrimp Combo which is described on the menu as “Grilled 8oz. New York strip with large scampi-style shrimp, served with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.” I also went with a couple of the Steamboat Pale Ales which had that bitterness that all pale ales are known for, but didn’t pack that real soul-punch that some of the more intense ones feature.

I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp, in fact I tend to avoid the tiny sea bugs most of the time, but figured I’d give them a shot and they were pretty good. I’m just not a big fan of that flavor/texture combination though I guess as I’m still not won over. The steak was also great, but not the best I’ve had. I think what I actually liked best about the meal was the garlic mashed potatoes, but then again, I’m a sucker for mashed taters. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with a nice steak and some beers on a warm Florida day after doing some hefty traveling.

Stay tuned here for more Disney food posts. If you’re more interested in our trip, keep an eye on Pop Poppa where I’ll be catching up on Photo Diary posts and also posting the latest episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast which will be all Disney!

Belated Bonus Food Pic: Fiddlestix’s Irish Lunch

fiddlestix st patricks day

I can’t believe this picture is almost a month old at this point. Sorry about the lack of posts the past few weeks, hoping to get back on the horse. Anyway, even though I had this fantastic plate of Fiddlestix food on St. Patrick’s Day, I can still remember how fantastic it was. If memory serves you’ve got corned beef, braised cabbage, mashed potatoes (possibly with horseradish?) and Irish soda bread that was quickly cooked or warmed on the stove. I can’t remember exactly how it was prepared, but there was something special about the corn beef. Maybe it had Guinness involved? I think that might have been it. Anyway, this is what I think of when I think of amazing corned beef. I’d love to see this meal on the regular menu which is made all the better by that delightfully crisp soda bread!

Bonus Food Pic: Piece Of Fish

piece of fish

There’s a place around the corner from our house. It’s a tiny one room operation that’s served as several different kind of carry out food places since we moved to the area back in 2006. Its specific location is in kind of a dead zone as far as our travels go. It’s on a stretch of road that we often use, but take various other routes to get to meaning the place isn’t always on our radar. When we first got here it was a hot dog place, but we didn’t make it over there before they shut down. I think it was empty for a while and then a nice little wrap place opened up called Wrap and Roll. My wife and I loved that place because, not only were they not your average deli — and I’d say most of the delis around us are pretty average — but they also had this killer southwest pasta salad that I should have asked for the recipe for. After that it was a Philly cheesesteak place called Billy’s Phillies (or something). They were okay, but inconsistent.

Now there’s a new place in there called Piece of Fish which, as you might be able to guess, serves fish. I stopped in a few weeks back for lunch. The menu is pretty limited at this point, but I think that’s a smart movie. Start off with some items you can really knock out of the park and if they do well, start bringing in specials and other new menu items as you grow. And that’s what POF seems to be doing. I went with an order each of Whiting and Tilapia with regular fries and sweet potato ones and my wife and I were pretty happy with both results.

My main worry with fried sea food is that it will be super heavy and greasy, but that wasn’t the case here at all. Both fish has a really nice, light breading and fry to them that didn’t take away from the taste of the fish. I had never had Whiting before, but it was my favorite out of the bunch. We haven’t had the opportunity to get back there, but I’m definitely adding Piece of Fish to my mental liste of worthwhile, quick, in and out restaurants in the area to hit up.

Bonus Food Pic: The Cool Ranch Dorito Taco From Taco Bell

cool ranch dorito taco For all the writing I do about grinding my own meat, trying to find more local sources for produce and protein and keeping an eye on my caloric intake with the Lose It! app, I’m still the kind of guy who dreams about heading to Taco Bell, throwing down a few bucks and scarfing down a small mountain of faux Mexican food. I like to think I come by it honestly. You see, Toledo, the town that I’m from actually has three T-Bells on one of the city’s major thoroughfares with the two furthest ones only about 20 minutes from each other. As a kid and young adult, we’d head there and get food and I kept that tradition alive into my adulthood our here in New York. Heck, I even stopped there the day I heard about a rash of Bell-based food poisoning outbreaks about five years back. After hearing the news on the radio I thought, “Mmm, Taco Bell. I’m sure I won’t get food poisoning (and I didn’t, at least that time).

There was even a part of me that was ashamed that it took me so long to actually taste a Dorito-flavored taco shell at the restaurant. It’s the same part of my brain that misses seeing big-time superhero movies in the theater on opening night. It’s just something the old me would have done in a heartbeat that older me can’t without lots of scheduling and worries of health and whatnot.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I both checked our points and decided to get some dinner at T-Bell while we were out running some errands. Of course, we both had to try the Cool Ranch version of the taco, something we were both excited about. Heck, much like the above commercial, I was one of the people who immediately said, “They should do Cool Ranch” as soon as I heard about the regular Dorito taco shell. As it happens, Cool Ranch is my favorite Dorito flavor, though much like Taco Bell, they’re not really a regular part of my life anymore because I will eat a ton of them in a single sitting and that’s not good for someone who counts going to the grocery store as exercise.

So, I should get to the main event. I tried the taco and it was pretty good, but definitely salty. My wife read some account that said the flavor of the heavily spiced meat tends to wash out the Cool Ranch flavor, so I went in making the conscious decision to put my tongue directly on the shell every time I bit. That way, I definitely got the flavor every single time. And it definitely worked. I’m still not one hundred perfect sure if this fits in with the “two great tastes that taste great together” category as one definitely seems to outdo the other, but I’d say it’s a fun experiment with pretty good results.

Bonus Food Pic: The Parker’s Special From Parker’s Maple Barn

parker's breakfast Last weekend we took a trip to New Hampshire to visit my wife’s parents. On Saturday morning, a day I usually get to sleep in, we all got up early and headed to a place called Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, NH. It was early, kind of a far drive and we waited mostly outside for about a half hour before getting seated. Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? No way man, this was one of the best traditional breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.

Parker’s is a sugar house which means they make maple syrup and other maple-flavored products. As I was informed on the way there, we’re in the middle of sugaring season, which means we actually got to see a little of the process, though we didn’t take the tour. Anyway, I perused the menu and after realizing I was pretty darn hungry, I went with the Parker’s Special which featured two eggs (over easy), a piece of ham steak, two pieces of sausage, two pieces of bacon, wheat toast, home fries and  piece of deep fried French toast.

Man, that was a great plate of food. I love getting crazy stuff at places like Fiddlestix on a regular basis, but sometimes you just want one big plate filled with well-made versions of all the classic breakfast foods and this was that. Plus, that deep fried French toast is a real thing of beauty, especially when devoured with a healthy dose of legit maple syrup. This was all so good and filling that I didn’t wind up eating anything else until my wife and I went out for a date and got some appetizers that night.

Bonus Food Pic: The VIP From The Stage Door Deli NYC

stage deli A few weeks back I found myself down in New York City covering an event called Toy Fair. After hitting all my meetings and checking out everything I intended to, I made my way back to Penn Station with almost two hours to kill. I thought about taking the connecting train over to Secaucus and just hanging out in that station maybe getting something from the Dunkin Donuts, but then I remembered eating at a place right across from the station called the Stage Door Deli that my dad and I went to a year ago before seeing Van Halen. This place has gigantic sandwiches and I hadn’t eaten anything that day since breakfast (the food at the convention center looked dubious) so I decided to go for it.

After perusing the menu and remembering that whatever I got the first time was a little dry, I decided to try The VIP which comes stacked with “Turkey, Baked Virginia Ham, Swiss Cheese, Coleslaw and Russian Dressing.” They also automatically bring out some cole slaw and a few pickles, but I decided to go for a few beers (Stellas) and had a nice little meal for myself. And by little, I mean stomach-bursting. Just look how big that sandwich is!

Is this the greatest sandwich I’ve ever head? Nah, man, not even close. But, it’s a cool NYC experience to have every now and then when you haven’t eaten all day and want to stuff what looks like at least a pound of lunchmeat in your face. Good times.

Bonus Food Pics: Pre-Birthday Dinner & Dessert

short ribs horseradish potatoes - gilded otter

As some of you may know, today is my 30th birthday. I’m going back and forth between not thinking about this new decade and trying to figure out how I’m going to not trust anyone over 30 if I’m now included in that bracket. Last weekend, my parents came in for a visit to celebrate a little early. As I mentioned in a recent Photo Diary, we went to New Paltz on Saturday and while I originally thought we might come back closer to home for a mid-day dinner, I changed my mind and decided to head over to New Paltz’s Gilded Otter. Both a restaurant and a brewery, I decided to start off with their beer sample which not surprisingly lead me to order their India Pale Ale to go along with my meal of Stout Braised Boneless Short Ribs. I haven’t had shortribs too often, but have always liked their juicy tenderness. The meal was served with veggies and some super fluffy, bite-y Horseradish Mashed Potatoes. I scarfed this all done pretty quickly, so it must have been good.

pre birthday cheesecakeFor dessert, my lovely wife Emily made Michael Ruhlman’s Classic New York Cheesecake from Ruhlman’s Twenty (page 113). She wasn’t super thrilled with some of the vagueness in the recipe, but I thought the results were a real treat. More lemony than I would have expected, the mixture of acid and creamy cheese with the best graham cracker crust I’ve ever had made this aces in my book. I should say, I’m not much of a dessert fan, but I do love cheesecake and even had two pieces of this on Saturday.

A Few Forgotten Recipes: Giada’s Orzo Stuffed Peppers & Jeff Mauro’s Meatloaf Sandwhiches

giada's orzo stuffed peppersOne of the problems I have with this blog is that, even when circumstances come up that delay me from posting, I’m usually still cooking. That means, when I do get the chance to sit down and write about what I’ve cooked, I’m often left with several pictures of food that looks good that I vaguely remember making and don’t really remember eating. But, I hate just deleting all these pictures and hope that some day I might have a spontaneous memory that pops up. By posting about these forgotten meals here, I hope to give my future self a record of what I cooked.

Anyway, above you can see the finished product of my attempt at making Giada De Laurentiis’ Orzo Stuffed Peppers. I want to say that we enjoyed this meal and from looking at the recipe, it doesn’t look too difficult to put together. I like that she mixed it up with this one and included mint and orzo, which I’ve also used when making food in my wok instead of rice. This isn’t the first of De Laurentiis’ stuffed pepper recipes I’ve tried, I’m a big fan of her Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce, which I’ve made a few times now. jeff mauro's meatball sandwichesHere you can see my attempt at making Jeff Mauro’s All-American Down-Home Patriotic Meatloaf Sandwich which, again, I want to say turned out well. You basically make a meatloaf and a sauce and combine the two on bread with cheese and pickles (I went with dills because bread & butter pickles gross me out). I also tossed on some mayo because it’s not really a sammich without mayo.

I want to reiterate that I haven’t forgotten about these dishes because they were bad, I would have definitely remembered something bad, it’s just that my memory — especially my taste memory — fades more the longer away I get from something unless it was mind-blowingly amazing.

Bonus Food Pic: Janie’s Uncommon Breakfast Sandwich & Potato Hash

potato hash at janeysWhile visiting my inlaws for Christmas we went to our usual breakfast spot, Janie’s Uncommon Cafe. I like Janie’s because the food’s always good, they’ve got a solid regular menu and also usually have some interesting specials. The last time we visited, I wasn’t feeling super hungry, so I went with the Uncommon Breakfast Sandwich which the menu describes as “A fried egg with bacon, sausage, black forest ham and cheddar cheese on an English muffin.” I wasn’t sure if that would be quite enough food and I happened to see something called Potato Hash on the menu and decided to try that.

The sandwich was good, but that hash was ridiculously good. “Shredded Idaho potatoes grilled with sauteed peppers, onions and cherry bacon.” It’s such a simple sounding dish with only four ingredients, but it tasted so damn good with the saltiness of the bacon mixing in with the starchiness of the potatoes and the crunch of the vegetables. This doesn’t usually happen, but I liked this dish so much that I want to try and make it myself. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Bonus Food Pics: Grinding Meat For Chili

As I mentioned in my Christmas post, I got a meat grinder that attaches to the Kitchenaid mixer. I finally gave it a run through the other day in an attempt to make Pat Neely’s Famous Beef And Pork Chili again, which involves both ground beef and pork butt (I think the beef was tenderloin, I wound up grinding two different kinds of beef for two different recipes).

Anyway, the process I read about for grinding in Ruhlman’s Twenty suggested throwing them in the freezer for a while to get them cold and tight. Then you cut it into cubes and put it through the grinder and bingo-bango, you’ve got ground meat. One thing I noted, though, was that I should have trimmed some of the fat off the pork because it got pretty stringy in there towards the end. That made the cleaning process a bit difficult, but otherwise, it was super simple.

The recipe itself turned out okay. I know I praised this recipe before and I don’t think the fault lies in there, but instead in my lack of seasoning. I ran out of cumin and don’t think I properly replaced it. I also added some chicken stock for reasons I can’t quite remember forgetting that this recipe turned out a little bit watery the first time I made it. Ah well, it’s still super good and even though I didn’t get that strong bacon flavor as much this time around, it felt good knowing I ground everything myself.

Bonus Birthday Food Pics: Sushi From QQ & Brothers Barbecue

qq sushu1One of these days I’m going to remember to write down what I order from our favorite nearby sushi place, QQ Asian Bistro. I want to say that these are pictures of the 007 Roll (above) which consists of “Spicy tuna, crabmeat, avocado,lightly deep fried, eel, spicy mayo sauce, topped with scallion, masago” and the Spider Roll, but I can’t quite be sure. qq sushu2

Anyway, when my parents were in town for Second Christmas and New Year’s we decided to celebrate another holiday: my wife’s birthday. Instead of going out for a big meal, we instead ordered the big meal and ate it at home. It was a great experience and as usual, the QQ food was wicked good. IMG_2474But that’s not all the food goodness we enjoyed to celebrate my lovely wife’s birth. On her actual birthday I made her a cake and we also went and got dinner at Brothers Barbecue. Brothers actually opened a while back, but they had a fire and shut down for around two years or so. Well, they’re back open and we had some awesome food there. Above you can see the corn bread which was super thick and sweet and yummy. IMG_2478And then there’s the entree. I had the two meat plate with two sides and decided on Kansas City ribs and pulled pork with mac & cheese and collard greens with bacon. The ribs were delicious and fell right off the bone, the pulled pork was perfectly tender. Both were complimented very well by their barbecue sauce which reminded me of a homemade version of Arbys Sauce. The collard greens were really tasty too, I don’t think I’d ever had them before, but they had a very cabbage-y flavor to them. The mac and cheese was alright. Having made several versions of that as a main course and as a side, I know how hard it can be to keep in good shape. It wasn’t bad by any means, just not mind blowingly awesome like everything else. Welcome back, Brothers!

Bonus Food Pic: The P&G Dip

p and g dipA few days after Thanksgiving this year, my wife, daughter, parents and I went to New Paltz to walk around and do some shopping. I was personally thankful for this trip because it gave me the opportunity to eat something aside from turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I liked how my turkey turned out, but I can only take so much of the same thing. We went to a place in town called P&G’s that we’ve been to a few times and always enjoyed.

I went with the P&Gs Dip and a side order of mac and cheese. The sandwich is described thusly on the menu: “Thin sliced roast beef with melted Provolone cheese on a garlic hard roll, served with dipping jus.” And it was just that! Beef, glorious beef with melty cheese dipped in beef juice? Yes, I’ll take that all day long. The mac and cheese was good too, but the real star of the side dishes we ordered were the eggplant fries served with marinara sauce. Holy crap, what a great idea that is and a great alternative to regular fries, especially when you’ve got a kid like ours who loves herself some fries. Gotta figure out how to make those at home now!

Bonus Food Pic: Cheddar Cheeseburger At Burger Heaven

burger heaven Last week my wife and I traveled down into the city to meet with her doctor. We got the excellent news that she is cancer free. To celebrate, we met our friend Rickey for lunch. We didn’t have a plan, just met at a particular subway stop and walked around until we found a place. Burger Heaven happened to be that place.

Em and I split a black and white milkshake that was really tasty. Then, once Rickey got there we ordered and got our food pretty quickly. I went with a cheddar cheeseburger which was pretty good, though nothing mind blowing or spectacular. I actually kind of wish I had tried the Burger Heaven Burger which also had carmelized onions and special house sauce. There wasn’t anything wrong with the burger by any means, it just wasn’t spectacular either. I was surprised at how good the cole slaw was, though. I’ve had more bad slaw while eating out than good, but I’d put this strongly in the good column.

Bonus Food Pics: French Onion Soup & A Ruben At Fox Fiddle

The week before last I didn’t write any posts here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. I played it coy a bit, but as I explained over on Pop Poppa in my Photo Diary posts, I was actually commuting into the city with my dad and mother-in-law to visit my wife who was in the hospital post-surgery. Everything went well and she’s back home healing up.

Of course, you’ve still got to eat and after a few days of hospital cafeteria food, we decided to head out and get something. We were originally going to go to Chickpea, but it happened to be pretty full and I saw the sign for Fox N Fiddle and redirected us thataway. It’s an Irish pub which meant there would be two things there that I wanted: non crappy food (or at least less crappy food, depending on how Irish it really was) and beer.

I wound up getting a few Samuel Adams’ winter seasonal beers, then had a crock of French Onion Soup and followed that up with a Ruben. I probably wasn’t the best judge of anything that day, but I thought both the soup and sandwich were pretty darn good. I left very satisfied and didn’t feel like it was too expensive, which can easily happen at places in NYC.

I’m Thankful For Fiddlestix

 

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this Turkey Day. My folks have come in from Toledo to share a meal with Em, Lu and I so that’s great. But, since this is a food blog and there’s no way I’ll be able to turn around photos of our Thanksgiving prep until next week, I figured I would keep things on topic.

Regular readers will know that I love Fiddlestix. I’ve never had a bad meal there and love the variety of specials they present every week. Here you can see a collection of photos I’ve taken in the past few months. I can’t quite remember all the details. Up top is some kind of breakfast quesadilla. Then you’ve got a roast beef wrap above this paragraph followed by a double whammy of a sausage omelet and what I believe are raspberry and something pancakes.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about this, but even the sides at ‘Stix are something to talk about. At a lot of other places, breakfast potatoes feel like an add on, but theirs are always crisp and paprika-y. Better than that are the lunch sides which consist of homemade potato chips and what seems like a different pasta salad every time.

I hope you’ve found a great place like Fiddlestix and go there on a regular basis. It’s important to support local restaurants, especially when they’re awesome.

Bonus Food Pic: Great Wall Chinese Food

Even though I make a lot of recipes in my wok, there’s just something awesome about getting Chinese food carry out. Maybe it’s because I mostly try recipes of dishes I’m not familiar with or maybe it’s because I lived behind a Chinese food restaurant growing up, but I feel a connection to this food, even if I only ate white rice with soy sauce for YEARS.

We ordered House Lo Mein, Sesame Chicken, Crab Rangoon and Pork Egg Foo Young with some pretty spectacular gravy. The food came from a place literally two minutes down the street called Great Wall, but I’ll be honest, all the Chinese food I’ve had around here has been pretty darn solid with the exception of a now-closed buffet place that was truly awful.

I Finally Had My Own Under The Big Top At Fiddlestix!

Guys! Guys! I finally had the breakfast I couldn’t stop thinking about it for myself! We went to Fiddlestix in Cornwall this weekend and I immediately stopped reading the menu as soon as I saw something called Under The Big Top on the weekly breakfast special menu. As soon as I saw “pretzel” I was super in. This version was actually written a little differently than the one my wife had as it was supposed to have sausage, but they were out of sausage, so they put bacon on. That made things a bit salty in some bites (pretzel plus bacon, you know how it is), but overall this was delightful. The pretzels and bacon were joined by a wonderful cheese sauce and a pair of poached eggs. Man oh, man. This was amazing. I need to figure out how to make pretzels and try this out at home!

Snack Attack: Original Beer Nuts Peanuts

 

While driving to New Hampshire a few weeks back, we stopped at a rest stop to get gas and I went in to get a drink and a snack. I wound up discovering Beer Nuts, which I know have been around forever, but I don’t remember ever having them. They reminded me of honey roasted peanuts with their sweet and salty combination, but that’s pretty much the idea, right? Get people drinking and eating these cheap snacks that make them want to drink more. Brilliant! It also happens that they’re quite tasty and while not the healthiest snack in the world, seemed like a better choice than a candy bar or something.

Bonus Food Pic: Shawarma, Pesto Hummus & Sides From Chickpea

 

Last week my wife and I were in the city and found ourselves eating at a place called Chickpea. If you’ve never been, it’s kind of a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern version of Chipotle. You walk in, decide what kind of delivery system you want for your food (platter, salad, pita, etc), what kind of meat or main dish you want, a special kind of hummus and three side salads. As you can see above, I went with the platter, got the chicken shawarma, some basil and pine nut hummus and a trio of sides I can’t quite remember. Since I’m not super familiar with this kind of food, the place was loud and I couldn’t fully understand the guy scooping the sides, I didn’t really know what I ordered, but it was good.

Actually, it was all good. I chose shawarma right away for one simple reason: they talked about it in The Avengers and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I have no idea how authentic this was, but it was actually super good. I can’t quite place or remember the flavors at this point, but I ate this all up with a quickness and it’s not just because we had to get to an appointment. Also, pesto hummus was kind of an awesome revelation, I’m going to make some of my own once basil is back in season (or I have some leftover from another recipe).

New Hampshire Bonus Food Pics: Steak Bombs, Cinnamon Buns & Breakfast

Two weekends back, we headed to New Hampshire to attend the surprise birthday of my wife’s long time friend. While there we hit up a few restaurants and ate some food I just had to brag about.

Just take a second to behold the glory that is a New England steak bomb sandwich. I don’t even know what’s in it, but I love it and want to eat one every day of my life, a life that would probably be all the shorter for such an experience. Anyway, this particular sandwich of the gods came from a place near my inlaws’ house called Giovanni’s and I highly recommend getting this food in your face if you can. Even after sitting in a bag on the way home, this was still a wonderful, cheesy thing of goodness.

Before heading home on Sunday, we went to breakfast at my inlaws’ favorite place, Janie’s. We’ve been there lots of times and I like that they always have a list of specials in addition to their regular menu. This time I got a bratwurst and sauerkraut filled omelet that was pretty tasty, but probably could have used more kraut. The real spotlight of the meal for me was that giant cinnamon roll I only ate half of so I could eat the rest for breakfast the next day. Man, I really need to get my oven fixed so I can figure out how to make these things, they’re my one real dessert weakness.

Bonus Food Pics: Ruby Tuesday’s Black & Blue, Fish Tacos

As I snapped a picture of my food at Ruby Tuesday’s a week ago, my wife asked why I was bothering. I thought about it for a second and said that I should give chain restaurants the same opportunities on MATK as local ones. I’m actually a big fan of Ruby Tuesday’s and have been since one opened in Toledo as a kid. I’m a sucker for a good salad bar and think they’ve got a pretty good one.

Anyway, I started our meal off with a Black and Blue, which is a combination of Guinness and Blue Moon. I don’t think I’d ever had even a black and tan, but the combination was fun. I’m a big fan of combos, so this was up my alley, especially because they gave me the can of Guinness, so it was like getting two beers.

For dinner I went with the fish tacos which were alright. I’ve definitely had better, but I’ve also had worse. They were a bit spicy, but not too bad. Overall it was a good dinner with good service and the quality salad bar, so I left happy.

Bonus Food Pics: Fiddlestix Breakfast

A few weekends back the family and I headed over to Fiddlestix for lunch, which wasn’t particularly new or shocking in and of itself. It’s become our favorite breakfast place around and always has really great food to stuff our faces with. However, this day was a bit different. Why? Because I had one of the greatest dishes of my life and no it’s not the wrap above…It’s the above work of art. What’s that, you say? Well, I don’t remember the name of it which is fine because, like everything we order, it was a special that week. But it’s actually a large soft pretzel topped with two poached eggs and cheddar cheese mixed with ham and peppers. Eating this meal was like what I assume it’s like on one of the cooking competition shows when great chefs are asked to make spectacular meals out of mundane ingredients.

Better yet, or possibly worse? I didn’t even order it. My wife did. I got a few bites, but those bites have lingered in my memory. I won’t say that I can’t stop thinking about it, but I would jump at the chance to order this plate again. Also, don’t get me wrong, the meat and egg filled breakfast wrap I ordered was pretty great, but it didn’t have one of my favorite foods of all time (pretzels) covered with another favorite (cheese with ham in it).

Vacation Bonus Food (& Beer) Pics: Salem Beer Works

Hey look, I happened upon a few more photos from vacation that I forgot to post. One day while in Massachusetts we went to the city my wife and I got married in back in 2006, Salem, MA. After walking around and seeing the familiar sites we stopped in at the Salem Beer Works for a couple appetizers and beers. The inlaws, wife, baby and I split a big plate of nachos and fried pickles while enjoying our own beverages of choice. I started off with one of their IPAs, can’t quite remember which one, but it was good and bitter, just the way I like it. I followed that up with the Pumpkin Works Ale which is one of the best pumpkin beers I’ve ever had and is also accompanied by some sugar and cinnamon on the rim of the glass. I’m a big fan of pumpkin flavor and like it when the beers supposedly sporting that flavor do it with gusto and that’s what the Beer Works does. Kudos to them for that, as well as producing some pretty great nachos and fried pickles. Definitely hit them up if you’re anywhere near the Salem area.

Vacation Bonus Food Pic: Supreme Roast Beef

One of the greatest points of food contention between my wife and I revolves around roast beef sandwiches. See, I come from Toledo, Ohio where you can only really get roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s, one of my all time favorite fast food restaurants. For years she’d tell me how gross Arby’s was and how great these little roast beef sandwich joints in New England were. I’ve had a few of these sandwiches and while they’re good, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the fast food version — heck, I might literally have a soft spot BECAUSE of said love.

Anyway, while on vacation last week, my wife had a hankering for a roast beef sandwich so I did some searching and found a place in nearby Gloucester, MA called Supreme Roast Beef. As I usually do when ordering such things, I just put a “X2” behind my wife’s order and wound up with a large roast beef with pepper sauce (basically the same thing as Arby’s sauce), mayo and pickles. And you know what? It was a damn tasty sandwich, no doubt about it. I guarantee I’d hit up a place like this here at home if there was one. So, Supreme Roast Beef, any interest in expanding to New York?

Vacation Bonus Food Pic: Willow’s Rest Sandwich

One of my favorite things about going someplace new is stumbling across really great restaurants. That’s what happened with a place near the house we rented in Gloucester, Mass last week called Willow Rest. Technically my mother in law had been there before so we already knew it was good, which was great because otherwise we might not have gone into this place that just looked like a gas station. In fact, it’s a full restaurant with baked good and also a pretty good sized market inside.

We stopped by for lunch and I got the above sandwich, which is called the Riverdale and featured sliced black forest ham with swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and honey mustard. It was a really solid sandwich with a really strong and awesome honey mustard that had a goodly amount of horseradish to my palette. Everything we got was great and I highly recommend hitting them  up if you can find a space either in the always-packed parking lot or the tiny dining room. It’ll be worth it.

Vacation Bonus Food Pics: The Lobster Pool

The Lobster Pool

My wife, daughter and I just got back from a nice week away in Gloucester, MA with her folks, hence the recent lack of posts. But, I did eat a lot and snap a lot of pics, in hopes of making up for it. The first place we ate at after driving to the house and unloading all our stuff was actually a place I’d been to with a bunch of friends years earlier called The Lobster Pool. I snapped these pictures of the outside and inside of the restaurant, but completely blanked on getting a picture of the food. My wife and I split some muscles and fried haddock bits. I dug them both as did our 16 month old daughter which I thought was impressive.

The Actual Lobster Pool

Here’s the thing I’ve realized about seafood, though, I don’t really know it well enough to judge it. Either I’ve been really lucky and always had good muscles, clams, scallops, lobster, crab and the like, or I just like it all. I do know that I prefer the non-fried variety because I feel like you get the flavor of the thing you’re paying a fairly good amount of money for better than when it’s fried. I also know that I’m not sure if the high cost — even at a place like Gloucester where they’re literally pulling the stuff out of the water that day — is worth it as far as I’m concerned, but it is something I like to partake in about once a year when we take these trips.

Bonus Food Pics: Geeky Chocolate At Krause’s

I am not a chocolate fan. I do like the occasional truffle, but it’s not the kind of thing I normally jones for. When we were walking around New Paltz this past Saturday, we stopped in a place I never noticed before called Krause’s Chocolates. We walked around a little bit, but didn’t want to get anything, but I did see a few things I just had to snap pictures of and write about. Above you can see chocolate pops based on Spider-Man (come on with the hyphen guys) and Batman. But the most impressive geek treats I saw were…

Star Wars chocolate! The picture isn’t great, but you’ve got C-3PO on the far left, then Chewbacca, R2-D2 and Darth Vader! They were about 6-8 inches tall and probably look tasty if you’re into chocolate. Anyone every been there and sampled these geeky delicacies? How do they compare to norm candy?

Bonus Food Pic: Steak Teriyaki Sandwich In New Hampshire

One of the great things about traveling to different parts of the world is getting a chance to check out local foods. We go to New Hampshire roughly once every two months to visit my wife’s parents and there’s an aspect of the local food scenes that I’m a huge fan of. No, it’s not seafood (though I do like that), it’s local sandwich shops.

Where we live in New York, we have some sandwich shops, but they’re more delis than anything and they ALL feature Boar’s Head lunch meat exclusively. I’m not sure what the deal is there, but since I worked in a sandwich place in high school and college that used some really great meats not sold by BH, I’m not as big of a fan as everyone else.

Aside from that, though, you’re SOL. What NH has in spades is steak sandwich places. The favorite one of my inlaws is called All American Subs, I believe. The above picture was taken at a newer place that opened in the last year inside an old Taco Bell that I stopped in on one of my few solo outings in the past 15 months of fatherhood. It’s so simple to cook a bunch of steak or chicken, throw some cheese on and grill that I don’t know why more places around here don’t do that. Roast beef sandwiches along the lines of an Arbys are also very popular there. I hope to pick up some of those sandwiches in the next trip or two to the Hampsh.

Bonus Food Pics: Homemade Cheeseburgers

Since I’ve already written about how I make burgers, I figured I’d skip the process shots this time around and just show off the results of my most recent burger-making experience. To the ground beef I added a handful of herbs from our herb garden, some chopped up onion, spices I can’t quite remember, a torn up piece of bread and an egg. Everything else was pretty standard. We wound up with a great summer dinner that everyone, including Lu, enjoyed.

Bonus Food Pic: Mini Corn Dogs At The Renegades Game!

A few weeks back we went to a Hudson Valley Renegades baseball game with some friends. The game actually wound up being a pretty good one, but I was more impressed with the food. Actually, I’m not sure if “impressed” is the right word. It’s not like I was moved by the experience, I’m just a really big fan of corn dogs. How can you go wrong with tiny corn dogs that are even easier to eat? Back in high school, one of the few days I would actually buy lunch was corn dog day and then in high school, I loved when the cook in our fraternity house made them for lunch. I also am drawn to them every time we go to a fair and whatnot. Corn dogs forever!

Bonus Food Pics: F’Real Gas Station Milkshake

 

This is something you might never see again, but you’re looking at the second post in a row about dessert type foods. Again, I’m not a giant fan of sweets, but I do like when food uses technology. Have you ever seen those ice cream vending machines that open up a cooler and then a vacuum tube drops down to get your selection? I love those things. So, when we stopped at a Sheetz on our way to Ohio and I saw this thing called F’Real, I got excited and curious.

Here’s the deal. You see the same blue machine that caught my attention. Underneath that is a small freezer filled with potential shakes of all different flavors (basically ice cream in a small container). You pick your poison, tear off the top, then put it in the silver holder and choose your preferred thickness from those flashy green buttons. Your treat rises up into the machine and a few minutes later you have your very own milkshake. I thought this was ridiculously cool and it was a nice cool treat on a hot drive, but I think it might have been a little too much sweetness, especially when combined with the other road food we had.