Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FvF on the Road: North Carolina (Carolina Beach/Cape Fear)

Wake &Bake Donuts - Carolina Beach, NC

I always meticulously plan our meals while on vacation so that we don't go out for any meal too often. If you pay for breakfast every morning, that adds up quickly. I always plan on going out for at least one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner throughout the week-long vaca. Everyone from the area, or who's ever visited the Cape Fear/Carolina beach area will give you a fire-and-brimstone speaech about how great Britt's donuts on the Boardwalk is. I've never had them, so I can't say either way - but they only serve plain glazed yeast donuts, and that doesn't appeal to me. As with cupcakes and french fries, you better get pretty creative in terms of a flavor profile for me to blow calories on some donuts. the other option that popped up in my Yelp! app, though, was Wake & Bake, which had opened fairly recently. Good choice! The flavors were as colorful as the staff themselves, and my son almost had blacked out when he saw a trough of donut holes o the counter, just there for the taking. We got the cinnabomb, fruity pebbles, Wake & Bake (maple bacon), peanut butter sriracha, s'mores and strawberry cheesecake. I fully expected to swoon over the maple bacon. It was good, but the cinnabomb blew it away with all of it's buttery goodness - like the very last inner bite of a cinnamon roll when you eat it from the outside in. 5/5

Island Hots - Carolina Beach, NC
Stopped by here for a quick lunch after a visit to the Port Fisher Aquarium (which is awesome, by the way). Hot dogs w/stuff on them. Think Zombie Dogs, but slightly less adventurous with their flavor profiles. Served on a coney-style bun with all beef franks, they offer toppings like chili, pulled pork, baked beans and slaw. We all enjoyed our dogs, but my only wish is that the frank was a little bigger. Service was counter-style, quick & friendly, and your kids might go apestuff because their combos will be served on a frisbee that they get to keep. 4/5

Frank's Pizza - Carolina Beach Boardwalk, NC

New York style pizza, but a little overpriced and not impressive. Maybe we caught it on a bad night (or I was butt-hurt about the claw machine eating my money and management not offering to refund it), but it just wasn't good. The FvF family REALLY likes pizza, but this didn't do it for us. Lil FvF still had no problem polishing off a whole slice as big as the paper plate it was served on, but the grown-ups thought it was overcooked. You should be able to fold a slice of NY-style pizza. When we attempted to fold our respective slices, it crackled and the top of the crust just crumbled like a cracker. 2/5

Island Ice Factory - Carolina Beach Boardwalk, NC
Finally got the kid the damn sprinkles ice cream he wanted. For a beach, the place isn't exactly overrun with ice cream shops and for a place that makes fresh ice cream and rotates flavors, we were really rolling the dice that we could score rainbow sprinkle anything. But lo, birthday cake ice cream. I got a scoop of salted caramel, and while the flavor was just okay - the texture was rich & dense. Reminded me a bit of frozen custard. Won't be on my "MUST revisit" list next year, but that's not to say we won't go back.  3.5/5

Fish Bites - Carolina Beach, NC
Let's be very clear: I don't like fish. I'm always a sport to try it when my husband orders it, but rarely do i taste something that I like enough to order myself. That is, until my son ordered the fish sticks here and I was trying to convince him that he was full so I could have the rest. You're right on the beach here, so the first score is that you're eating fresh fish. Their fish sticks are hand-battered north Atlantic cod pieces as big as a Twinkie. I wish I would have taken photos, but I didn't expect it to be this good. You can find plenty on Yelp, though.  I ordered a margarita chicken dish that was good, but not nearly as memorable as the fish or the side I ordered - zucchini fries. I don't mean the bullshit ones you bake up at home as a healthy side to your grilled chicken. I mean julienne-cut, perfectly seasoned, batter fried goodness. I've thought about them weekly ever since. Mr. FvF also raved about his Old Bay broiled grouper and cajun shrimp. Oh, and he insists that I mention that they have Cheerwine on tap. That pushes them to a full 5/5. Also, while none of us are lobster eaters, the lobsters served here appears to be roughly the size of a cat.

The Basics - Wilmington, NC
Half a smoked chicken with a hoppin' john. That's all I'm sayin'. I mean, I'll say some more, but just gaze upon it for a minute.

 The Bird is the word, y'all. 
Yeah - you like that, don't you? This was one of the best chickens I've ever had, only to be outdone by Dayton's own Nelly's. It shared a lot of the same great characteristics, though - well-seasoned both under and atop its crispy skin, juicy without being greasy, and good enough that you'll embarrass yourself by picking every last piece of edible chicken from the bone using any means possible. The slaw was different, and I can't quite place the flavors. Definitely creamy, but seems like there had to be some sort of mustard in the base. The hoppin' john was easily the best I've had. Sassy, but not so much that it would keep a spicy sissy like me from finishing it. they had a decent craft beer list and a great kids menu. We were actually hesitant to eat there with the little because their website didn't show a kids menu, but we heard so many great things about it that we risked it. They were very accommodating and Lil FvF flirted so hard with our server that she blushed. Mr. FvF ordered the shrimp and grits, but didn't quite finish it since it had a small heap of onions (new readers: the dude haaaaaaaates onions) nestled between the grits and shrimp, but he did enjoy the part he did eat.  Great services, reasonably priced and amazing Southern food. Would nom again. 5/5

Monday, August 3, 2015

Chappy's Brunch - Dayton, Ohio

It's difficult for me to get out to new restaurants because of our family's schedule, but a weekend brunch is a pretty easy one to pull off. The only thing better than brunch is a boozy one, so I was stoked when I heard Chappy's was starting weekend brunches. Craft beers would be a great change from the usual mimosas that accompany that not-quite-breakfast meal.

My sister, my Dear Prudence and I embarked upon Chappy's that day with big hongries (and some thirsties for cold ones). I'd been daydreaming about the praline bacon, and the order is around half a pound (it's actually considered an entree). It was a bit difficult to find something on the smaller side to go along with that as the menu is limited, so I opted for a biscuit & gravy. Both the other gals went for chicken and waffles, one with regular syrup and one with spicy syrup. All of the food was amazing - but for a sissy like me, the gravy was too damn spicy. I've never seen red pepper used in gravy before, and I grew up eating biscuit & gravy every weekend in two different households (my own and my grandma's), as well as occasionally at friends' homes, but never encountered it. It was just too much. The biscuits were great and the gravy had a good texture, but it was inedible for me. Also,  it's nearly impossible to take an appetizing photo of sausage gravy - so I won't subject you to it. Just trust that it's as big as advertised.

I sampled the chicken and waffles from the other side of the table and they were outstanding! I'd heard Chappy's had great fried chicken, but I'm always tempted by the siren song of the beer-batter fried chicken. The tales proved to be true, though, and they know how to make a mean Belgian waffle as well, with plenty of deep pockets for sizzurp. 

The praline bacon was a great balance of sweet and salty, and a level of doneness that would appeal to anyone - not chewy like bubblegum, not super crispy (probably due to the saturation of the sugars).

Just perfect. It was big enough that someone with a small appetite could easily get away with ordering just that and an egg or two.

Our waitress was top notch (never had bad service there) and she knew all about their beer choices, even recommending a few beers that taste great when mixed half & half together. So many brunch options are popping up around Dayton, but I'd definitely do another brunch here just to order my own chicken and waffles. And if you're a fan of spicy, their Big A** Biscuit and Gravy is right up your alley.

4.5 out of 5 sporks!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tom + Chee - Cincy/Sharonville

I'd been dying to try Tom + Chee because it's something Dayton doesn't have. Remember in the early 2000s when Time Warner kept showing Sonic ads to the Miami Valley and the closest one was 30 miles away in Middletown, and we all went apeshit when they opened six of them at once? Then we were all, "Oh, that's it?" Similar experience at Tom + Chee. I'm not saying it's as bad as the experiences I've had at Sonic, but at least Sonic has their "system" down. Let me explain.

I managed to drag Mr. FvF to a mid-century furniture show in Sharonville. Normally, we'd hit up Izzy's when in that part of town. Alas, Izzy's is closed on Sundays, co-conspiring with Chick-fil-a to ruin my Sabbath and not give me the foods that I want. We were both newbs to the dine-in experience, even though he'd had one of their sandwiches at a con a few months prior.

Yeah girl, you like that sucky photograph? There's more where that came from.

Contrary to popular belief, I actually hate shit-talking any eating establishment (especially local or regional) unless they've somehow personally wronged me (this is why I'll never eat at Disalvo's) or I know them to be unclean. My first experience with T+C was way below par. It's an order at the counter joint, and they bring you your food - similar to a deli. The line was to the door and the place was already at capacity, so I couldn't help but wonder where the hell all these people will go, and hoping some orders are to-go.

We picked up our drink cups and waited behind four people at the soda fountain, then started circling like vultures to catch a visual or verbal cue from a family or couple about to vacate a table. We finally caught one and wiped down the sticky table ourselves, and our food arrived about 5-10 minutes later. I got the Flying Pig - roasted turkey, bacon, smoked gouda on white (grilled), along with a dipper of the creamy tomato basil. If you're wondering what the hell a dipper is, it's basically a shot of soup just for dunking your sandwich. My sandwich was pretty good, but just not mind-blowing. I'll admit, my taste buds may have been predisposed to harsh judgement because of the Thunderdome experience of vying for a table. The soup was not something I'd get again. I didn't exactly find it creamy, and it was way too sweet.

Given the right circumstances, I'd try it again but I certainly wouldn't wait in a long line or arm wrestle for a table. The cost was pretty reasonable, though. Two sandwiches, two soups (one big, one small) and two beverages came to just over $20. As much as fast food prices have risen, you'd pretty easily pay that for two combos at most places - and I would pick Tom + Chee over most of that crap any day.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

FvF on the Road: Cleveland

Mr. FvF and I took a quick weekend trip to Cleveland recently, and left the boy behind at Nana's so we could pretend to be young again. As much as I was hoping to come back with a laundry list of dining experiences, a traveling weekend is really only one full day. On the way there, we had lunch at a BBQ place just outside the city that was less than memorable. I'd also love to tell you we dolled up for at least one fancy dinner out, but in late April, we were still wearing our winter coats in Cleveland. After walking our asses off to get back & forth from the Rock Hall, we felt like we deserved ALL the food (not to mention all the sangria). We made a reservation at Mallorca, a Spanish restaurant within walking distance of where we were staying. I'd heard they serve a lobster the size of a cat, so I figured their other portion sized would be similarly shameful. I was right!

We started with a pitcher of sangria and Chorizo a la Plancha. this was the dry-cured type of chorizo, sliced into coins and broiled, and it was delicious. Better still, there was a nice plump black olive for nearly every piece of sausage.
I chose one of their veal scallopini dishes (yes, they have more than one!)...

and Mister went for the shrimp as usual. I can't recall the name of his dish, as it's not listed on their website now, but it looked impressive and he was a very happy man.

Did I mention that's not all of the food? Because that's not all of the food. We also had salad, freshly steamed veggies, housemade chips and yellow rice with pigeon peas.

It's a million wonders that they didn't have to put wheels underneath me and roll my big ass out of there like Violet Beauregarde.

The next morning we trekked to the other side of town to check out the West Side Market on 25th Street. I was bound and determined to find all of the carbs possible at the public market, and it didn't disappoint. I ended up with a shit ton of fresh pasta and sauces from Ohio Pasta Company, as well as enough petite desserts to make Wilford Brimley shiver in his therapeutic loafers. The Market also happens to be just around the corner from Great Lakes Brewing Company.

We had a very boozy lunch there and tried some new brews that weren't yet being bottled and sold, and I was very happy to get to cross this off my list. The brewery and restaurant itself is a very nifty, historic building complete with much of the original woodwork and the telltale narrow stairs leading up to another dining area. Our server was very knowledgeable about the beers and the food, and was happy to let us taste anything we wanted to prior to ordering (without charging us, of course). The Mister had fish & chips, battered in their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. I'll remind you that I'm not a fish eater - I always try a bite of what he orders and decide I'd eat it if I were starving, but not order it. This fish, I'd actually order. Aside from some seafood I've had on the coast, this is the best fish I've had. Note that I'm not a fish connoisseur. I'm one of those people that doesn't want their fish to taste much like fish. That said, my husband (who loves virtually all fish) really enjoyed it, too.

I had the Old World Burger, a big-ass patty swimming in a porter BBQ sauce, smoked cheddar, bacon and fried onion straws, all snuggled up in a pretzel roll. According to the menu, both the beef and rolls are sourced locally from Westside Market vendors. It was a hell of a burger, and our server had a little "I told you so" moment when I asked for a box for the remainder.
Also, I chose tots over fries and suggest you do the same. These aren't your every day tots. They have a "tot of the day" that's creatively seasoned, plus they're all handmade and huge. The flavors of the burger were all perfect together, but I will admit the grind of the meat was a bit too find and it got just dry enough to crumble with each bite. It was easily masked by all of the gooey toppings, but I doubt I'd have wanted to eat the burger without them. the rest of the experience was so pleasant, though, that I hesitate to dock them too many points for that. While I may not order a burger next time, I'd absolutely visit again if we find ourselves in Cleveland another time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Greek Speak: Souvlaki

Don't call it a comeback, eaters - but I am trying diligently to post on the regular. Something that's difficult to remember when you're busy adulting is that sometimes you should do things because you enjoy them, not because you make money doing them. And as a working parent, you have to make time for those things. It was a nice kick in the pants to have more than one person tell me they miss my entries. So, here I am, making time for that thing that I love. Food. Making it, eating it and talking about it. 

Anyhow, technically, I've posted a souvlaki recipe here before, but it was more of a link to a souvlaki recipe. Considering the recipe is mine and I no longer work for that organization, I hosed the old entry and now you can find my recipe for souvlaki here. On thing I've changed - I no longer bother trying to make my own tzatziki. The FvF family is lucky enough to live by The Market in the Kettering/Centerville area, which meets all of our Greek food accouterments and craft beer needs. the owner makes his own tzatziki and stocks killer feta (imported and domestic), along with fresh pita bread. If you're not lucky enough to have a Greek deli or grocer nearby, try Frankensteining some of the recipes together you'll find on the internet. 

  •  pork loin chops trimmed of all fat and cut into 1" cubes
  • 4+ whole wheat pitas                                                                                                          For the marinade
Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in an air-tight container and place the pork cubes in the same container. Shake it up to make sure they're all coated and stick it in the fridge. 
1-2 hours will do the job, but the longer you marinate, the more flavorful it'll be. 
Before you're ready to grill, thread the marinated pork cubes onto skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 30 min). Grill about 12-15 minutes total, or until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Enjoy! That's really it! I like to serve it hot plate style, with sliced veggies, pita, feta and tzatziki. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

FvF on the Road: Atlanta

The A is one of my favorite places to visit for great company and food. Chronologically, here's a detail of how I ate my way through town.

Killer Grindhouse Burgers - Tarantino-themed burgers (that IS a tasty burger!), fried things, snooty cocktails and boozy shakes. Tell'em Large Marge sent ya! Kitschy decor, friendly service, a nice patio and great food. Perfect way to forget about how much I hate airports. 
 Terrible photo, awesome grub & drank.

Jeni’s Ice Cream - I know, I know. I live an hour from the original. But I can never get there! Hit up the Westside provisions district for a walk and tried the sweet cream biscuits and peach jam flavor. Only in the south, limited edition. 

Sobban - Southern-Asian fusion joint. We drooled over pics of the Korean fried chicken wings with sweet chili ginger sauce that not only lived up to the pics - but outdid themselves. The sauce was the perfect marriage of sticky, sweet and a little heat. I'm usually not one to eat messy foods in public, but I would eat these until downright ashamed of myself. You know, given the opportunity. I had the enormous Pork Chop Donkatsu, which was so delicious that I forgot about everything else that was on my plate. I remember some kind of fruity hot mustard sauce, but that pork chop tho! 

Eleanor’s - A speakeasy! Well, kind of. I'm sure the law knows they're operational, but you have to enter through an accompanying restaurant (Muss & Turner's) and walk through what appears to be the door to their walk-in cooler, keep winding down a dimly-lit hall into a not-much-brighter small bar area. The offerings are simple - wines, a few well-chosen craft beers and a couple of really outstanding cocktails. I ordered the Bad Apple - Bourbon, apple, lemon, maple and cinnamon. Perfection. I really appreciated that while it was crowded, and probably attracts its share of regulars - service was still top notch. 

Chicken Salad Chick - almost 20 kinds of chicken salad. Really! Not for all, but surely for me and my bestie, who've both been known to extol the merits of a well-made chicken salad on the regular. I had the classic, friend had the Sassy Scotty (bacon!).  Skip the soup. Make sure you get the pickles and cookies though. I doubt this concept would fly North of the Mason-Dixon, but I'd love to find some offerings this good in Dayton (besides DLM, and with more variety). 
The Butcher and Baker - Nestled in the cute, trendy area of Marietta Square - we dropped in here for a drink while waiting on our table at Kiosko. Again, a crowded weekend night, but we were still seated quickly at the bar and still enjoyed some good back and forth with the bar staff. Nice tap selection, and the menu looked outstanding. Definitely want to go back here for solids the next time I'm in town. 

Kiosko - Again, Marietta Square. Perfectly sized Colombian restaurant - about 8 tables plus two on the sidewalk. Service was tops and food was some of the best I've ever had. Ever. In any state, city or country. Everything was daydream-inducing good, but I still can't get over how great the beans were. Daytonians, if you think Nelly's is good - you have to go here if in or near the A. 

Marlow’s Tavern (Boozy brunch) - Bottomless mimosas?  sign me up! Probably one of the most well-done brunch buffets at which I've had the pleasure of eating until I hate myself. The mimosas aren't strong, but I definitely got my money's worth at the $15 bottomless price tag. the brunch offerings were vast and impressive. Fried chicken, honey chicken, deviled eggs, creamed spinach, shrimp & cheddar grits, so many different salads and a nice offering of petite desserts. Definitely packs a crowd on a Sunday, and a smidge on the loud side - but totally worth a trip. This will be on my "must" list every time I visit. Plus, the surroundings encourage drunken shopping, which is a favorite pastime. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dewey's Pizza @ Austin Landing

Mr. FvF and I were lucky enough to be invited to the pre-opening friends & family event at the new Dewey's Pizza at Austin Landing. For you suburbanites that tend not to venture too close to downtown Dayton - I can sum Dewey's up pretty easily by just telling you it's killer pizza. Perfectly chewy crust from a Hades-hot brick oven, high quality (and several locally sourced) toppings, a few calzones and a handful of good salads. They keep the focus where it should be - on the pies. With some quirky names (like the Dr. Dre) and nicely profiled flavor combination, even the pickiest eaters would be hard pressed not to find something they love. While Dewey's pies appeal to people like me who would order something way of the pizza map like their seasonal Porky Fig (fig jam sauce, prosciutto and gorgonzola) - you can also pacify the less adventurous 'za eaters with the X-Pepperoni or just build your own.

I can get pretty wonky when it comes to pizza toppings, but the mister likes to keep it basic. Their special was The Don - all of the good Italian meats and plenty of cheese. We did that one half, and on the other half, the Meatball (pretty self-explanatory).

One of the things I love is that they're not dicks about doing half & half pies, as long as the sauce base is the same. So, if you have wildly different taste than your dining partner, no sweat. Both sides tasted amazing, but I stopped just short of hating myself...or so I thought. Did you guys even know Dewey's had dessert? I'm betting a lot of people don't, because who can suffer dessert after eating their pizza?

Well, when I joked with our server (who was rad, by the way - knew the menu AND the beers) that I hadn't eaten enough to be ashamed of myself, he mentioned that they had a pumpkin cake from Ele in West Carrollton. In chatting with their regional manager Eric and getting a tour of the kitchen, turns out Dewey's locally sources desserts in every market. Here are a bunch of other things I didn't know...

  • Can't recall the name of the maker, but Dewey's sausage is made by a Cincy-area purveyor and can only be found on their pies.
  • While the dough is fresh, it's aged 2-3 days, which gives it the chewiness that their customers love.
  • Their current stores are in the major Ohio markets, and St. Louis. Never would have guessed, but apparently Dewey has family there.
  • Dewey is a real guy! 
  • In all of their markets, beers are also locally sourced and some are exclusive to their restaurants.
  • An eatery after my own heart - they love wine so much, they made their own. I didn't get to try this because I was busy sampling beers and turning into Violet Beauregarde, but it's on my to-do list. 
  • There's a good chance they're working on a gluten-free pizza dough. According to the head honchos, they won't put anything on their menu that they don't love themselves, so I'm guessing it will be more than passable.
  • Those dudes in the kitchen can spin some serious dough. 

If you like pizza and you haven't been there, stop making excuses and go fill your gullets with Dewey's. I feel like I've given you more than enough reasons. Go, already!