Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Golden Nugget Pancake House - Dayton, Ohio

My good buddy Hump was in town and we wanted to take his friend, a Gem City newb, to a "very Dayton" lunch.  I don't mean the very best of what Dayton has to offer as far as dining, I mean more like what would be featured on Dayton's episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  An institution, if you will.  With me in Moraine and them in Centerville, a few places I thought of were a bit too far to drive for lunch, so we settled on The Golden Nugget.  I lovelovelove the Nug, and had only managed to make it there once since they've rebuilt.

I absolutely adore seeing the same faces waiting tables as the ones I saw 13 years ago, the first time I set foot in this place.  For a lot of restaurants, the lack of change - be it menu, employees, or ambiance - can be a death sentence...but not at the Golden Nugget.  There's always (let me repeat - ALWAYS) a line,  but it moves quickly, so don't be discouraged.

We were seated in less than 10 minutes and had our drink orders taken. Our waitress was, in typical Nug fashion, attentive, super friendly, and not shy to give us a hard time. It's not every day that you can find a menu with a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato, so I went balls out and ordered a sandwich (which I rarely to never do) with cole slaw.  My buddies opted for the fried fish sandwich and the grilled BBQ chicken club, respectively.

After just enough tie to chat and catch up, our food came out within about 15 minutes.  The fish sandwich was giant...
And at just over $4, the BBQ chicken sandwich was nothing to scoff at.  

But my tricked out grilled cheese?  Well, just look at all this damn bacon.

Oh, and y'all know I'm picky about slaw - but no worries here. It was a solid, traditional dairy-based slaw, and near perfect.  I didn't pick up the check, but my guestimate is less than $20 for all three of us.  Service was aces and the food was great. Not surprisingly for a trusty old stand-by, 5 out of 5 sporks!

Golden Nugget Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Simple Suppers - Chicken Tikka Masala

Let me preface this by saying - and you may want to sit down - but, prior to this, I'd never eaten Indian food before. I used to be a real nervous Nelly about trying new things, but once I got past that - I just never got around to trying it.  So, I really haven't a clue how authentic (or not) this recipe is.  But, aside from a few spices I needed to pick up, it was something I already had all the ingredients for and seemed easy enough. Here's what you'll need: 
    2 Tbsp olive oil 
    1 cup diced onion 
    1 1/2 tsp cumin powder 
    1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom 
    2 tsp coriander powder 
    1 tsp turmeric powder 
    1/4 tsp ground cloves 
    1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
    1 tsp to 
    1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
    2 tsp minced fresh ginger 
    2 tsp minced garlic 
    2 Tbsp tomato paste 
    1 can petite diced tomatoes 
    3 chicken breasts, 
    2 chicken breasts, diced (raw)
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sautee until golden brown. In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, cardamom, coriander, tumeric, cloves, cinnamon, and red pepper fakes. Add the spices all at once to the onions and sautee for another minute. Add the ginger, garlic, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add a little bit of water. Add the raw chicken cubes and mix well. Simmer 10-12 minutes, until chicken is cooked.

You can serve this over brown or white rice, and it's pretty damn delicious.  I was, for heat sissies, a bit on the spicy side - but the other flavors are so rich, you don't get too overwhelmed. 

Note: The turmeric will turn almost anything it touches an orange-yellow color.  So, if you refrigerate leftovers, be sure to spray the container with some non-stick spray to prevent hardcore staining. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lasagna Squash Cups

Mr. FvF and I have been trying to eat fairly healthy at lunch and dinner to combat all the other carb-o-riffic holiday treats that are finding their way into our faces. Last week, I was craving Italian - specifically, something swimming in a rich bolognese. Other than piling on pasta, there aren't tons of options. Then, I came across a South Beach dieter's blog with a recipe that used zucchini and squash as vessels for fillings, the same way I do my stuffed shells. Then I slapped myself for not thinking of that on my own. I started to choke myself, then I remembered that I'm not Rob Schneider. Even I was skeptical, and I was almost sure the husband wouldn't dig this, but it turned out surprisingly kick ass. Here's what you'll need:

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1/2 jar pasta sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
1/2 C mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
2-4 zucchini or yellow squash
(each squash will serve about 1 hongry person)

Brown and drain your meats.  Mix in the pasta sauce and pepper flakes and let it simmer for a few. While it's simmering, clean your squash and cut it into about 2" slices.  Be sure to keep the cuts straight (not bias).  Use a melon baller of baby spoon to scoop out the innards, leaving about a 1/4" on the bottom and sides.  
Turn the heat off on your sauce mixture and add the cheese, reserving just a few tablespoons for later.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, top with some more cheese and pop them back in for another 5 minutes.

I WAY underestimated the amount of zucchini we'd need, so we still ended up having it with a bit of whole grain spaghetti.  Spicing up the sauce really goes a long way in not noticing the blandness of the squash. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Antojitos Criollos - Dayton, Ohio

After a very long day of stimulating the economy on Friday, I wanted to grab a quick dinner with the mister before going Krogering.  Ever since hearing about the opening of a new Puerto Rican restaurant, Antojitos Criollos, right down the street, I'd been itching to try it.  That spot across from the Eastown Shopping Center has sat vacant for at least 5 years, formerly housing the Mexican restaurant El Rincon.  

This tiny strip mall sits so close to the road that parking is a little strange. Easy enough to get into, but difficult to back out of if there's traffic on Linden.  We scored the one empty spot in front of the cleaners, but I couldn't figure out why the lot was full when the cleaners, the smoke shop and the restaurant were practically empty.  That is, until we entered the restaurant to find what I can only assume are the employees' friends and/or family taking up two huge tables in the front. We walked past them and seated ourselves, since no one else was doing it.  A girl who barely spoke took out drink order and gave us menus.  The menu was only 2-3 pages, and very limited.  The longest list was appetizers, and even most of those were just smaller versions of entrĂ©es.  The only thing I noticed that looked appealing was the empanadillas, but I turned my nose up pretty quickly at the $12 price tag.  The entrĂ©es consist of mofongo (mashed plantains w/garlic) and a choice of meat, which I think there were five of.  And that's IT.  No pollo fricasse, no pasteles, nothing. Again, most of the price points over $10, which really surprised me.  I'm known to be a bit of a penny pincher, but I know where to expect higher price points.  I can see paying $12 for an appetizer at El Meson, or even The Green Plaintain, but not a dive like this.  I don't say dive in a bad sense, either - I love dives.  I was hoping for a little hole-in-the-wall with great food and reasonable prices.  

But, I do use the words "abomination" and "shit hole" in a bad sense.  Once the waitress begrudgingly took our order and brought out our canned drinks (which loyal readers know I think is total bullshit), we waited thirty minutes without  a word as to why our food was taking so long. To boot, during that entire thirty minutes, we couldn't hold a conversation because of the ruckus being brought by the two full tables of loiterers in the front, playing cards and yelling like they learned their inside voices in a sawmill.  

When another guy gave my husband the "Are you going to be the one to ditch this place first, or are we?" look, we knew it was time to GTFO.  We would have just left a few bucks on the table for our drinks and split, but we didn't have any cash.  When we finally caught our server again and waited for her to get off her cell phone, we told her we had an emergency and needed to leave, but could pay for our beverages on a card. She didn't look the least bit bothered by losing one of their TWO paying customers, and said "Don't worry about it," and walked away.  

I can't give them a rating since we didn't even eat there, but I can tell you we won't be giving them a second chance.  
Antojitos Criollos on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cookie Party!

We were invited to a cookie exchange this past weekend - something I'd never participated in before. I can cook up a storm, but baking is a whole different ball game, and I don't feel it's my strong suit. Too scientific. I turned to my favorite trusty food blog, Serious Eats, to provide me with a recipe that was easy and versatile. I found this recipe for a drop cookie dough that you could easily turn into at least three different kinds of cookies, and it made about 50.

The dough was a breeze to whip up and add to, but once I started seeing the results, I realized I should have taken the high road. The oatmeal raisin cookies plumped up pretty nicely, but weren't remarkable in flavor, even though I added some Saigon cinnamon. The chocolate chip cookies, however, turned into a hot mess in the oven and all ran together, leaving me with thin, lifeless treats.

I was more than happy to be wildly upstaged by some of the other cookies at the party, namely Cindy's red velvet whoopie pies. Dang. Double dang! These suckers were amazing, and apparently a surprising cinch to make.
Other cookies present included cinnamon butterscotch, peanut butter chocolate chip, cowboy cookies, toffee chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip, sugar cookies, mint chocolate chip, spritzes, chocolate chip with walnuts, peanut butter kisses, and of course regular chocolate chip. One of those host's friends from Columbus played an ace with his banana-peanut butter-chocolate spring rolls, too. Magical! Then of course, there were Good Josh's "Shitty Christmas Cookies."

No, really - the label just out of frame says "Josh's Shitty Christmas Cookies."

Can't win'em all, Pillsbury!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food vs Face-Off: Fast Food Breakfast Challenge

Two different hangovers, two different (and new) fast food breakfasts. Which will prevail? Allow me to escort you through the calorie-laden Thunderdome that is our first fast food challenge.
Let's travel back a few weeks. I wasn't quite hungover, because I didn't exactly wake up sober. I had pies to bake and didn't want to ruin Thanksgiving, so Mr. FvF was nice enough to go get me breakfast. Taco Bell was the only place open, so it was as good a time as any to try their new breakfast menu. We couldn't find the menu anywhere online, since this is apparently regional (yay test market!) - so I just told him to order one of anything that sounded good, and we'd have ourselves a pig-out.

First, the Skillet Burrito. Or, as I called it, the answer to all of my prayers. Scrambled eggs, sausage, fiesta potatoes and cheese, all swimming in gravy and wrapped up in a tortilla. I'm normally a bit weirdy about fast food eggs, but these were fluffy, even if they were undoubtedly frozen. Did I mention it's covered in gravy? It was like a coronary bypass wrapped in paper, and it was delicious.

Next up, the Steak & Egg Burrito. Not too shabby. Mr. FvF loved this one. I thought it was pretty okay, considering the thought of "steak" from Taco Bell probably comes from the same place as the Mongolian Beef at New China. It did have a nice smoky sauce, though.

The Jimmy Dean Morning Wrap. A sausage patty, cheese and again with the fluffy eggs. Not impressive, but not gross.
Of course, no fast food breakfast would be complete without something sugary-sweet and made with plenty of lard. Enter, Cinnabon Delights! A bready little concoction, filled with Cinnabon's famous "hot jizz" icing and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Nothing like Cinnabon, otherwise, though - mostly a donut hole with ooze in the middle. They were pretty delightful, but I was beginning to toe that delicate line of how much you can eat when you're drunk or hungover without horking.

Fast forward to the day after our "company Christmas party." Neither of our companies give enough shits to throw a holiday party for their employees, or they decide that going bowling in an abandoned church camp with no music or prizes and serving jail food would be SO fun. So, we have one of our own, which consists of going to Shag's and watching a costumed Santa drown his sorrows in High Life and talk to hookers.

Mr. FvF promised me another fast food breakfast if I didn't make him stay at the bar until closing time. We had Taco Bell breakfast last week and even my beloved Skillet Burrito didn't agree with me, so it was time for a change. I haven't seen tons of advertising for it, but knew Burger King had some new items on their breakfast menu. Unlike Taco Bell, BK seems to have rolled out their new items nationwide, so you can view the menu on their website.

The Mister stuck with his ol' standby of Bacon, Egg & Cheese Croissan'wiches, but I opted for one of the new offerings - the Breakfast Ciabatta Club Sandwich. Whole grain ciabatta, smoked ham, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, eggs and smoky tomato sauce.

Surprisingly, it actually lived up to what I had imagined. The eggs weren't exactly scrambled, but more like a patty. Yet, not like McDonald's gross, hard and slimy egg patty. I took the first bite with egg for the full effect, expecting to yank them off after that. But, they were pretty passive except for adding some girth to the sandwich. The bacon needed a little help, but BK's bacon has always suffered a bit in that department. The tomatoes were good (season considered), the ham was good, the bread was ciabatta-like for fast food, but not authentic in the sense that you could barely bite through it and it tears up your mouth. The "smoky tomato sauce" wasn't very tomato-y, but it was incredibly tasty and took this Club up another notch. If anything, it reminds me most of ranch dressing and hot sauce, maybe with some smoke flavor.

We also got hash browns, which at BK are tots. I still curse their name for taking away cheesy tots, because their regular ones just don't measure up. I'm sure they might be okay right out of the fryer, but I can never seem to make a sweet score like that. But, if I can have this sandwich, I don't need their damn tots.

All things considered, I liked BK's better. Taco Bell's was certainly better than I was expecting, and I'm sure I'll eat it again at some point. But as far as actual flavor, quality and crave-ability, I'll stick with BK. I've never been a huge fan of the breakfast burrito, and I like a lot of textural differences in my food. So, TB's "everything soft inside a soft wrapper!" just isn't what gets my goat. I only have fast food breakfasts once in a blue moon (obviously, more often around the holidays), so this isn't like choosing the best fast food burger. It'll really come down to what you like.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pearl Bay - Fairborn, Ohio

I never thought the day would come that my husband tired of Ticket's Pub and their delicious, carnivorous Greek Hot Plate. We've been known to make several excuses and maybe even get unnecessary hair cuts, just so we could say, "Might as well grab a bite at Ticket's. It'll be too late to cook once we get home." While I still have a Pavlovian response to the words "Greek Hot Plate," the magic seems to have faded for him. I suggested the usual post-haircut dinner there and he suggested trying something new instead.

After signing up for North/East Dayton's Sudden Values, I kept getting coupons for a Thai place called Pearl Bay, which was only about a mile from the salon we go to. Plus, I had a coupon for free crispy Thai rolls. I'm always on the hunt for solid Thai places, and I'm a sucker for a good coupon.

We walked in and the place was totally empty besides a table with two guys. We weren't really sure if we should seat ourselves, but no one came out right away, so we picked a spot. Shortly after that, the super-friendly and adorable waitress came out, apologized for missing us, and took our order for drinks and appetizers. From the outside, you can tell 100% that this place used to be another restaurant, but on the inside, they've done a fine job masking the fact that it's an old Lee's Famous Recipe. With a lot of warm burgundies and golds, the decor is classy without being stuffy.

These Crispy Thai rolls were great! Thinner and crisper than your average egg roll, and there was enough chicken present to taste it. But really, they had me at sweet chili sauce. I'm not above eating that sweet nectar off of a dirty sock. Love.

Our entrees got to the table pretty quickly, which wasn't surprising given their lack of customers. I have to admit, I was starting to wonder if this place was a hidden gem, or had really shitty food and their few customers were college kids who only came to flirt with the waitress.
It didn't take more than one bite to realize my first hypothesis was right.

My Beef Massaman Curry was so magically delicious. Quite a bit spicier than I'd normally go for, but it sounded so good that I was willing to step it up a notch. The flavors were rich and intense, the veggies all cooked perfectly and the beef was very tender. I think our server knew this was above and beyond my normal heat tolerance, so she was an absolute peach to bring me water and making sure it was kept full.

Mr. FvF ordered the Roasted Peanut Chicken at a spice level of 3. He claims that it wasn't very spicy, but that's coming from someone who eats and craves spicy food all the time. I think his dish and mine were probably at about the same heat range. More importantly, he did love it and remarked that it's a good way to get him to eat his vegetables.

Places like Pearl Bay and Bahn Mai really make me wonder why people continue to shell out loads more money to eat at Thai 9 and pretend it's the best Thai food ever. I'm starting to think those people have never had Thai food anywhere else.

5 out of 5 sporks!

Pearl Bay Thai & Asian on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dayton Restaurant News

I've been busy pushing maximum density lately, which has left me with a whirlwind of Gem City restaurant news to catch up on. First off, a ton of new eateries are opening.

Olive, an Urban Dive will be opening (hopefully) in January, in the former Wympee Restaurant at the corner of Third and Wayne. I'm pretty sure I'm into it. I'll at least try it once, regardless of price points, because these mofos actually raise and chase down their own chickens. That's free range, son.

Company 7 BBQ opened this week in Englewood, founded in part by one of my former clients, Patrick Murty. They're serving up (duh) slow-cooked BBQ, housemade sauces and plenty of other vittles, surrounded by 1920's style firehouse decor. In keeping with their theme, they also give a 10% discount to any first responder (with ID, of course), which encompasses police, fire, EMS and armed service. Respect.

De'lish opens today, across from the Victoria Theater. They'll be serving burgers, pizzas, soups, salads and sammiches, as well as a light breakfast menu. According to Dayton Most Metro, there's also rumors of a Sunday blues brunch.

Oh, and Oink-a-doodle-Moo is open in Kettering now, in the place where even Chipotle couldn't survive because of the shitty parking and location.

I'm not sure if this qualifies as news, but the ownership shift at Pearl Bay Thai in Fairborn didn't change or hurt a thing. Mr. FvF and I had dinner there last night and it was top notch. Full review to come, when I'm not four White Russians into an empty stomach.

Some Coffee Shop - I've heard rumors of a coffee house opening in Belmont. I know how important my opinion is to everyone, and I give you a resounding "ass yes!" on this one. If you live in Belmont or East Dayton, there's no place to get a fancy pants coffee. The calorie-laden garbage that McDonald's served comes out of a machine, so you can't get a decaf. Sure, there's a Starbucks near University of Dayton, but I don't have a beard, a bicycle, a laptop or the feeling that I'm better than you (even though I probably am), so I have no business there. And the one inside Kroger? Get bent.
Attention franchise buyers: Are you interested in millions of American dollars to make and spend? I'm talking "build your own robot army" money. Kettering/East Dayton is completely devoid of a Starbucks and a Chick-fil-a. You're welcome.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Angie's Firehouse Tavern

With a massive hangover in tow, we decided to check out Angie's Firehouse Tavern last weekend. I'd been meaning to try it since it re-opened in Belmont a while back, but it just became one of those things we never got around to.

We scored rock star parking and walked in to a practically empty scene around noon, seated ourselves (props for having a sign telling us so, so we didn't stand there like morons), and were greeted quickly by our server. I was pleased to see they had Diet Dr. Pepper until she informed me they just changed the tap, but they did have Diet Mt. Dew. Any place serving Pepsi products that doesn't have any other diet options will swiftly lose a $2 soda sale to a Diet Pepsi-hater like myself.

The menu wasn't exactly vast, but there were plenty of options. Still, we both leaned towards burgers. I decided on the Bad Lieutenant, regardless of the images it summoned of a full-frontal Harvey Keitel. BBQ sauce, cheddar and haystack onions? Don't mind if I do! I also opted for cole slaw with mine, and planned on stealing just a few of Mr. FvF's fries. When I asked about the slaw, the waitress told me it actually comes from the Mel-o-Dee Restaurant in New Carlisle, and was dairy-based. I'd heard tell of this legendary slaw from at least three people, so I figured I'd made the right choice. Mr FvF, with his simple tastes, chose a bacon cheeseburger with provolone.

Our food came out pretty quickly, just as the place started to fill up with Steelers fans, who made quite a commotion moving all available tables together and talking about their new-foundteam swag. I was glad we arrived and ordered when we did, otherwise we may have had a substantial wait to get our food - considering I only saw one waitress and one bartender.

I sampled the Mister's fries first - top shelf! They very well could have been frozen, but they had a well-seasoned batter on them and were the perfect crispy/tender combo. Next up, the cole slaw - not so impressed. I guess I can see what all the fuss is about, but daaaaaamn this slaw was sweet. Too sweet for me, without a doubt. I'm sure if Angie's was making their own, they could do 100% better than this. Good, traditional slaw is SO easy to make, it amazes me how easily it gets screwed up. My burger was aces, though. Not an overwhelming amount of bun; the bread to meat ratio was just right. I figured out quickly why our server put so many extra napkins on the table, because we went through every last one. It wasn't too greasy or dripping in the BBQ sauce (another perfect ratio), but it was simply juicy and messy, the way a good burger should be.
Scoring more points was the super crisp, garlicky pickle spear that came with all of the sandwiches. It may not be a big deal to everyone, but nothing puts a damper on my appetite more than a flaccid, neon green pickle. Even worse? No pickle at all. Just ask my sister, who got all in Pan(t)era's ass for forgetting her pickle twice in a row, resulting in two free meals. Score!

Basically, we really enjoyed our visit with one exception. I think it's weird that they outsource a lot of their sides and desserts to other places, albeit local institutions like Mehaffie's and the Mel-O-Dee. If you're going to outsource - by all means, please keep it local. But, for such a small operation, it seems like it would be much more cost-effective and appealing to customers if these items were actually house-made.

4.5 out of 5 sporks!

Angie's Firehouse Tavern on Urbanspoon

Simple Suppers - Peanut Beef Satay

I found this recipe on Yahoo a couple of weeks ago, and my husband and I were both stunned at how good it was (not to mention easy). Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 small yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
    1 lb beef sirloin, cut into 1-2" cubes
  • -------------------------------
  • 1/3 C chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Once your sirloin is cut and trimmed of fat, put it all in an airtight container or zippy bag, leaving room for the marinade. Then, toss all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor and give it a few pulses until well blended. Pour the marinade over the beef, seal tightly and let it mingle for at least 4 hours, but over night is better.

Heat your oven to broil, thread the sirloin cubes onto skewers and place on a broiler pan prepped with a little baking spray. Broil close to the heat source for about 8 minutes total for a nice mid-well. You could also easily translate this to grilling, just use high heat and cook quickly.

For the sauce, combine the last 6 ingredients and heat in a saucepan until it's warmed through.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hawthorn Grill - Kettering, Ohio

For almost a month, I'd been holding on to a gift certificate to The Hawthorn Grill, which I scored for half price at Living Social. We decided to make good use of it one night when our cupboards were bare, before going Krogering. I'd heard great things about this place from people who actually know what food is supposed to taste like, so I sort of had my hopes up (editor's note: never a good idea). Besides, the price points are a bit steep for our budget ($15-25 per entree), so I was excited to be able to give it a whirl for a reasonable amount. I'd also perused their fall menu online, which had plenty of selections that weren't centered around a bread or pasta, plus plenty of familiar stuff for the, ahem - selective eater in the household. Having done that, I already had a good idea what each of us would be ordering.

We arrived at 7pm, expecting a packed dining room since we had to park in the back lot, but only about half the tables were full. We were greeted & seated quickly, and our server came to introduce herself and get our drink order. She was a very friendly young gal that had an air of experience serving in a higher-end environment, which is a compliment. The same can't be said of some high-dollar joints where your server can't pronounce the wines and can be found conspicuously texting between tables. Speaking of Madison Avenue, Hawthorn Grill had a very different atmosphere than what I had expected. Chef-owned restaurants are usually swank while still being easy-going and hip - like Meadowlark, for example. But, we found this to be more of a hip replacement crowd. We were the youngest folks there until a middle-aged couple brought their children with them. Ever get the feeling like everyone is looking at you like you don't belong, regardless of whether or not you actually do belong? Bingo. Welcome to The Hawthorn Grill, home of old Kettering money.

Mr. FvF went back & forth, but ended up going with the Chicken & Pasta (which is what I originally thought he'd order) - Ed Hill Chicken Breast, cheese tortellini, broccoli and Boursin cream sauce. Naturally, I went for the pig and ordered the White Wine Braised Pork, which was billed as pork shoulder, white wine gravy, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. I also ordered a glass of very forgettable red wine, which was reasonably priced at around $7. When I saw Layer Cake on their list, I was hoping they'd carry the primitivo, but no dice.

Let's start with the photos and go from there. I'll note that these photos are so bad they're barely worth posting. But, this is not the kind of place that one can get away with sneaking a photo, even though I'd brought my good camera. I had to use my phone cam, and the place was very dimly lit.

Below is Mr. FvF's Chicken & Pasta...or is it?
Do you see any tortellini? Broccoli? Cream sauce? You do see chicken and pasta, so they got that part right. There's also some truffle oil, squash, dates or figs (I'm convinced no one knows the difference) and maybe apple.
The problem is, which any woman can verify, that men will usually just start eating whatever you put in front of them, not usually asking questions or considering if their order was right. So, neither of us realized until we left the restaurant that they'd given him the wrong dish entirely. On the way to Kroger I said, "Wasn't that supposed to have tortellini?" My husband thought for a minute, then said, "Yeah. And Broccoli. And Boursin!" I looked at their online menu when I got back home and realized they'd probably given him the Pan Seared Chicken instead. That said, I will tell you that it was beautifully plated and had outstanding flavor. I only had one tiny bite, but tasting fresh pasta makes me curse the gods for my issues with gluten.

Now, on to my dish, and another horrible Sasquatch picture.

Uh, this really wasn't what I was expecting. The plating left a LOT to be desired. Mashed potatoes on the bottom, topped with the veggies, then the pork and gravy. Where have I seen this before? Oh, right! Bob Evans. For $10 less. Everything was so jammed together that it was difficult to taste anything individually. I couldn't tell if the potatoes were any good, or even if the veggies were fresh or frozen. The gravy seemed like your run-of-the-mill beef or pork gravy, devoid of even a hint of white wine. The pork was good. Not outstanding, but good. Kind of hard to mess that part up, though. It was basically pot roast, all tarted up with a steep price tag.

The verdict: The service was great, but the food was not on par with what they're charging and the vibe was downright stuffy. I hope they get some younger diners in there before people start mistaking it for a makeshift Medicare office.

2.5 out of 5 sporks!

Hawthorn Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Side Dishin' - Corn Pudding

Corn pudding is one of the greatest and most comforting Southern side dishes to ever grace a table. If you're hard up for sides, or tired of the ol' green bean casserole, toss this amazing dish into your Thanksgiving lineup next week. This particular recipe is adapted from Alton Brown's recipe. Basically, I just removed the (based on the end product, unnecessary) bread, and some of the fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme) because I didn't have them.
Here's what you'll need (serves 4-6):

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 tbsp butter
1 14 oz can creamed corn
1 C heavy cream
2 eggs
1/2 C Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 C shredded colby jack cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, saute onions and herbs in butter until the onions are translucent. In a large bowl, mix the onions with all the other ingredients and stir. Pour into a greased casserole dish, greased muffin tins, or ramekins. Bake the casserole for about 45 minutes or until golden and set. If you're using ramekins or muffin tins, start with 20 minutes and keep checking them until they're soft-set and golden brown on top.

Monday, November 15, 2010

P(f)arting is such sweet sorrow

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you Food vs Face will no longer be working with Man-B-Que. As hurt as I am over the ordeal, and as much as I'd like to take this opportunity to verbally spank them in front of all of their friends on the information super highway, I will not. I'll only say that they are a young and fledgling organization with a lot to learn about how to conduct affairs, and the pitfalls of doing business with friends. I wish them the best in their future endeavors, and hopefully the Man-B-Que tradition can still carry on here in Dayton, without my help.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thai Stir Fry Salad

Anytime I get an inkling of something new Mr. FvF discovers that he likes, I try to find a way I can create a meal around it. I can't remember how, but he realized he liked Asian-style sesame, dressing - so I figured I could make a spinach salad of it. But, just any regular spinach salad wouldn't do. Unlike lettuce, green leafies like cabbage and spinach are sometimes even better when they wilt under a bit of heat, so I thought I might try putting a chicken stir fry on top of a bed of it.

Here's what you'll need (serves 2):

2-3 tbsp oil
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1" chunks
1 zucchini, juilenned
1 carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped or julienned
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh spinach, or cabbage if you prefer
crushed dry roasted peanuts
chopped cilantro

You could really use about any kind of stir-fry veggies that you dig, like baby corn, peppers or water chestnuts. This is just stuff that I know we both like.

Start the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet, and add the diced chicken. Cook it all the way through (til no longer pink), then add all of your veggies and pepper flakes, stir and cook about another 4-5 minutes until they're tender, but not thoroughly soft.

Serve over the spinach, then top with dressing (we used sesame ginger, but you any Asian-style dressing would do), peanuts and cilantro. As you can see, it plates beautifully - plus it's ridiculously healthy.

Here's my one big caveat, so you don't ruin the dish like I did. DO NOT eyeball the red pepper flakes. I'm pretty sure I ended up getting a lot closer to a full teaspoon on my dish, and it was so face-meltingly hot that I couldn't bare to finish it. You all know I'm a sissy about heat, but even my husband was sweating buckets and didn't finish his, either. Otherwise, this would have kicked some serious ass. I'll definitely be making it again with some different veggies (probably a mixed frozen bag, to be honest - julienning is for chumps) and a measured 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Pub - Beavercreek, Ohio

I love my friends SO much that I'll let them make me go to the same shitty place more than once. I like to think that placed in a similar situation, they would do the same for me. I've never decided to go to The Greene, Dayton's fancy outdoor walk-around mall, on my own. Aside from trekking out there to meet one of my favorite authors, my visits have always been at at least somewhat at another person's request or invite.

You see, the first time I went to the Greene, something weird, embarrassing, and life-alteringly shitty happened there. I'm not going to go into detail, but let's just say I think of it as my personal Vietnam. So naturally, I don't like the place too much. Besides, although I love commerce, places like this exemplify my hate part of our love/hate relationship. The food options are really not much more impressive than your regular indoor mall eating options, they're just far more overpriced. They all have $10+ appetizers and outdoor patios and verandas, and if you're a smoker, everyone looks at you like you're eating a live baby. It's all your standard fare of Brios and P.F. Chang's, occasionally a chain restaurant masquerading as an independent, but their decor and prices aren't fooling anyone. Then of course, there are your Fleming's and McCormick and Schmick's, where you don't even know if you're ordering up, because there aren't always prices on the menu. Oh, then there's this nest of turds called The Pub. Not to be confused with Dayton's original and independent Dublin Pub, which happens to have delicious food, stellar service and a staff who know a it's a dick move to review an Irish pub based on ordering the fucking filet. They have steak on the menu at Denny's, too - but that doesn't mean you should order it and base your opinion of their food as a whole on an item that's clearly not within their realm of expertise - but, I digress.

Back to my original point that one of my best gals craves the curry fries at The Pub. I'd never had them, or even seen them - but I assumed they must be worth the trip. This day was all about her, and I made sure to eat a decent lunch so that I wouldn't order much there. I ordered the Cheese Bollocks, large balls of mozzarella, beer battered and deep fried.

Of course I want to say they were terrible, but they really weren't. The batter was on the bland side, but it's still beer batter, filled with melty cheese. Gin got the fries and their soup of the day, corn chowder, which she just said "tasted weird."

I started to post a photo of her curry fries, but frankly, it's not even worth the effort. They're frozen, Oreida-variety, bland, dusted with sea salt and served with red and yellow curry. Granted, the curry is tasty - but by no means worth spending two hours in this place. Why did eating some side items take two hours, you ask? Well, if you're not a dude looking at drool over some almost-bare ass, the waitresses treat you as such. They assume if you're not DTF, you'll be a shitty tipper, so they don't really waste their time. Getting drink refills and putting our orders in took embarrassingly long, and getting our checks felt like it took longer than waiting for the results of your AIDS test. Not only have I done my friend duty by going to this place twice, but I'm going to learn how to make the curry sauces so she never has to waste her money in there again, either.

1 out of 5 sporks
Pub on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Simple Suppers: Chicken & Noodles

A while back, Mr. FvF and I stopped into Bob Evan's for lunch and he went on all day about how great the chicken and noodles were. I'd had it before, and it was no match for my mom's chicken and noodles, so I realized I was going to have to whip up a batch soon for him to realize Bob's wasn't all that. This will feed a small army, is fairly inexpensive and WAY easy. Here's what you'll need:

4-6 chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup sliced/coined carrots
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 32 oz carton chicken broth
1 bag Reames egg noodles (frozen)
salt/pepper (duh)

Blanch your chicken before you start on anything, which will help you multi-task later. Just toss is into some salted boiling water, with a bay leaf, if you like. You can use bone-in or boneless breasts, it really doesn't matter. Usually takes about 25 minutes, depending on thickness, or until it reaches an internal temp of 165. Remove & cool on a cutting board.

Combine the broth and all of your cleaned & cut veggies in a medium stock pot, throw in some salt & pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes. While it's simmerin', chop up your cooled chicken and set aside. Add the entire bag of frozen egg noodles to the pot and simmer another 30 minutes. This is a good time to check your seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Add all of the chicken and cook another 30 minutes and check seasonings once more. Boom. Done.

This type of noodle is *very* thirsty and will suck up all the extra broth once you put it away, so be sure to have extra chicken broth on hand for your leftovers.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple Suppers: Dorito Dogs

Danger, danger - high voltage! By voltage, I mean cholesterol. For the most part, I try to cook healthier meals here at Chez FvF. But, once in a while I see something so sinful that I simply must recreate it here at home. Enter: Dorito Dogs. While not nearly the arterial Hoover Dam that BBDs are, these still aren't anywhere near good for you. But, your husband and kids will treat you like you've just cured cancer for at least 6 hours after serving them. Well, my husband is always that nice and we have no children to please, so why do I still make shit like this? Because I can. As the great Roseanne Rosannadanna once explained, "It's always something. If food doesn't kill me, I'll get hit by a bus!"

This is adapted from a Pillsbury recipe (hence the crescent dough), and after making them, I've thought of all kinds of variations that can be made - like andouille sausages and fancy cheeses, and using panko for breading. But, for the basic version, you'll need (serves 4):

4 all beef hot dogs
1 can crescent dough (seamless is easiest to work with)
4 slices American Cheese
1/4 C milk
1 small bag or 1 cup crushed Doritos

Roll the dough out and cut into 4 rectangles. If you bought the perforated stuff, make sure you press into the perfs, so that they seal back up. Place a slice of cheese on each rectangle, then your hot dog. Roll them up like you're rolling a burrito or egg roll, tucking the sides in so there's no leakage.
Once they're snug, brush them with milk, then roll them in the crushed Doritos. Bake for about 20 minutes at 375, until golden brown.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brunch at the Barnsider

A few weekends ago, before the great plague fell upon our house, Mr. FvF and I decided to take a trip out to Wasserstrom Restaurant Supply. I'd always wanted to go, and now had an excuse because I needed some pro gear for my Swedish Chef costume. Long story short, the trip was a bust - they didn't have what I needed and everything was ridiculously pricey.

Just before we'd left the house, Dayton Dining posted on their Facebook page that Barnsider was serving a brunch buffet on Saturdays and Sundays from 9a-2p for only $7.99. That's not just a hell of a deal for brunch, that's a hell of a deal for a place like Barnsider - which is normally more of a special occasion restaurant for me. They were still serving, so we drove up the road another mile or two and dropped in to fuel up for the massive day of errands ahead of us.

We were greeted and seated quickly, and had our drink orders taken. The hostess and server were both as sweet as could be, and attentive without being annoying. After all, it IS a buffet, so you only need so much tending to. On par with everything else I've had at Barnsider, their brunch did not disappoint.
Clockwise from top to center:
Pepper, onion & bacon quiche
French Toast Casserole
Double chocolate muffin
Maple sausage links
Scrambled eggs
Amish Casserole
Hashbrown Casserole

Other things they had that I couldn't fit on my plate were DIY omelets, coffee cake, fresh fruit, biscuits & gravy, french toast wedges, hash browns, waffles and cinnamon apple pancakes.
The only part that was a slight let down were the scrambled eggs. They simply weren't well seasoned and were a bit overcooked. But, with all of the other dishes available, it's hard to see that as a valid complaint. Baked in a quiche is better than scrambled any day. The casseroles were tops, especially the French toast casserole. I would probably succumb to diabetes for this stuff. It took every bit of willpower in me not to fill up an entire second plate with it. To put it simply, it's the French toast version of bread pudding, with candied pecans on top. The bacon was some of the better tasting I've had in my time (which is saying a LOT), but a bit on the greasy side. As for savories, the Amish casserole was tops, made up of eggs, sweet onion, shredded potatoes and tons of cheese.

I really hope Barnsider keeps this deal going as a permanent fixture, because I can see making a monthly venture out of this, and it's a great excuse to meet friends for brunch on a weekend morning, when schedules are less hectic. Oh, and for those of you with kids - the buffet is only $4.95 for the little ones!

5 out of 5 sporks!
Barnsider on Urbanspoon

BFD: Cheesy Ham & Egg Bake

Another installment of Breakfast for Dinner! It's also great for brunch, or of course - just regular breakfast. This is one of Mr. FvF's absolute favorites, mostly because it's heavy on the bread and the epitome of comfort food. It's also great with some veggies in it, like onions, peppers or broccoli, but greens in breakfast food doesn't fly at my house. The awesome part is, it's stuff mostly things that you'll always have in the fridge. Here's what you'll need.

2 eggs, one yolks (or you could use 1 white)
2/3 C milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne (or hot sauce)
1/2 C diced ham (sausage crumbles or bacon would work, too)
3/4 C shredded sharp cheddar
4 biscuits (canned or frozen & thawed), cut into quarters

Mix all of the liquids and seasonings, then add the cheese and ham to that mixture.
In a loaf pan prepped with baking spray, place all of the cut-up biscuits along the bottom, then pour the egg mixture over top of it. Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes or until set in the center.
So easy to whip up, and everyone will go apeshit over it. In theory, it serves 4, but we usually end up eating the whole thing between the two of us pretty easily.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Woody's BBQ - Dayton, Ohio

I used some of my e-Reach Big Deal Bucks to grab up a $20 gift certificate to Woody's BBQ for only $10. Unless I find a helluva bargain, going out to dinner is a relatively rare occasion for us.
I'm not sure why the photos look like still from a David Lynch movie, but eerie BBQ is okay by me, as long as it's good BBQ - and Woody's IS.

Mr. FvF had the Pork Sampler, with BBQ pork, Carolina pulled pork, spare ribs and smoked sausage, as well as two sides. We agreed that he could have some of my chicken if I could try a bit of his pulled pork and sausage. Don't think for a second that all of this meat innuendo missed us for a second. It was such a nice family place, I was borderline surprised they didn't ask us to leave over some of the jokes we were making.

Speaking of "family place," I should go ahead and mention now the only bad part of our experience - some of the customers. There was a gal sitting near the door who, no matter how far apart we were, had a dead-locked stare on me. We got quite a few other stares, and frankly, this happens a lot. I'm not gonna front here, eaters - we're an attractive and striking couple. We're also a mixed-race couple, which will draw some glares in the right/wrong crowd. I also tend to be pretty tarted up no matter where we go, and at Woody's, it seemed like if you weren't sporting mom jeans, loafers and some sort of seasonally-themed cardigan, folks probably thought your date was paying for more than just the dinner.

Anyway, the food: Based on my sampling, the pulled pork was great and the sausage was super great. Having married a former Texan, I'm starting to get pretty picky about what I consider top-notch smoked sausage, especially at a BBQ joint. It was straddling the line between sweet and just a little spicy, and had a perfectly cooked skin that popped when you get into it.

I ordered the Taste of Woody's (heh heh), which includes spare ribs, BBQ pork loin, beef smoked turkey, broasted BBQ chicken, and of course, two sides. Oh, and Texas toast. I wanted cole slaw and onion rings as my sides, and they didn't even up-charge me for the rings. Score. I actually wanted to order a different sampler, but they were out of brisket. This was fairly late in the dinner hours for this sort of place, so I wasn't too miffed about it, since they had plenty of variety in their combo platters.

This, clearly, was a heapin' helpin' of food. Very rarely do I not clean my plate at a BBQ joint, but I know once I saw the plate that I was doomed. 3-4 slices of beef, 3 slices of turkey, a chicken leg and thigh, 2 good-size spare ribs, and a few slices of pork loin.

I tried my sides first - top notch. Perfect creamy slaw, the classic kind that goes best with BBQ. I like some of the vinegar-based slaws, but they don't have much place in a BBQ joint. The onion rings were giant and delicious, even though they were crumb-coated and not beer battered (my personal favorite).

I moved on to the big-ass plate of meats and sampled everything without any sauces. I was pleased as punch - absolutely everything tasted just as it should and stood on its own. All of the meat was very tender and juicy, and had incredible smoke flavor (though I'll admit, I had a hard time telling if it was real smoke flavor). It was a tough call, but my favorites were all surprises: the smoked turkey, the chicken and the spare ribs. I'm not normally a huge fan of turkey, dark meat poultry, or spare ribs - but these were all done SO well. The skin/crust on the chicken was good enough to roll around in, the spare ribs were just as meaty as baby backs, and the turkey had the best flavor I've ever tasted on that particular bird.

Service was great, from the front door until after getting our checks. We were greeted pleasantly, seated and got drinks quickly, and were informed right away about any menu changes or specials. Our food came quickly (but not suspiciously fast, as though it'd been getting the lamp treatment), and the server checked in on us often and made sure we hadn't gone thirsty. They forgot one of each of our sides, but that was remedied in no more than 60 seconds, so I can hardly count that against them. We were offered dessert, but of course, couldn't bare the thought. Before we got up to pay, the manager came around and asked how things were, and encouraged us to sign up for their email list for coupons.

This was major bang for our buck, and I was shocked at how good it was. Frankly, I'd never heard a peep about this place until I passed it and looked it up, and most of those reviews weren't very good. I have zero bad things to say about the place, and you know what that means...

5 out of 5 sporks!

Woody's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oakley Pub & Grill - Cincinnati, Ohio

Wednesday night, I headed to Cincinnati with Tim & KG to see THE Greg Dulli. I rarely talk about my likes outside of food here, but let me make this very clear - Greg Dulli (of Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers & Gutter Twins fame) is the only man besides my husband that I will love until my dying breath. Not the same way, of course. I love the Dulli in a mildly creepy, obsessive way - not an ironing his shirts and dealing with his mother sort of way.

So, on to the food. I'd done my research on the area, and though there's a Dewey's Pizza *right* there as well, Oakley Pub was voted to have the best burgers in Cincinnati. I can have Dewey's right here in Dayton, but I had to see what the fuss was about with these burgers.
Sadly, it was dark and I'd forgotten my camera anyway, so no pics for you.

Wednesday's special happens to be "build your own burger" night for around $6, but I'd been eyeballing one of their specialties, so I ordered the Soul Burger - a jerk seasoned Angus patty with grilled onions & peppers, bacon, mayo & American cheese. Not being a fan of processed American cheese food, I subbed provolone instead and ordered the "unique slaw" as my side instead of fries.

The burger was LEGIT. It was perfectly cooked (just above medium), spot-on with seasonings and the toppings worked very well. Note to the owners/chef: Why the eff would you serve this burger with American cheese? Switch to a stronger white cheese to tango with the jerk seasonings. I think the bun may have been just slightly toasted, but it worked.

The server explained their "unique slaw" as one with an Asian vinaigrette and show mein noodles, which sounded deeeeeelicious. Well, it would have been if there were more than 1 tablespoon of dressing over all 2 cups of the damn cabbage. This is a small, low-maintenance place, otherwise I would have asked for a little extra dressing from the back. I'm sure I'll find my way back there someday, so I'll know to order that ahead if I do (because frankly, the fries looked weak).

After my visit, it's pretty easy to see why they're winning all sorts of accolades for their burgers. It reminds me a lot of Tank's in Dayton - one of my favorite places in town for a burger. The menu is on the small side, but it's almost like everything is their specialty. Limited seating and no hostess - so if they're full, you're outta luck. There's always things you want to tweak about little places like this - but if you did, they would be just like every other eatery on the avenue.

4 out of 5 sporks!

Oakley Pub and Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bahn Mai Thai Cafe - Centerville, Ohio

This was the second stop on my free-food extravaganza for the week. I met a colleague here for dinner before a class we were taking. I'd always wanted to try it, and no better time than when someone else is picking up the tab.

My dinner buddy ordered the cashew stir fry with shrimp...

And as much as I wanted to try the Drunken Noodles, I went for the Tamarind Beef.

The portions are huuuuuuuge, considering the price. You could easily order one dish between two people, like most Asian-fare restaurants. I only tried a nibble of the stir fry, since I was trying to avoid the shrimp, but what I had was great. Crisp veggies, light sauce, and beautifully plated.

My tamarind beef was top notch. Tamarind is an odd, sour flavor that not everyone is into - but this gal is into it. I can't withstand that much heat in my food, but I'll put tamarind in everything from sauces to cocktails. I think I ordered my dish on a 1 or a 2, just for safety's sake, but probably could have gone just one notch higher and managed. The veggies were all perfectly cooked, the beef was soooo tender - I encountered not one piece of fat or strange chewiness. I had so many leftovers that there was enough to snack on later that night and take for lunch the next day.

We also ordered some of their award-winning garlic rangoon sticks for an appetizer. They came with a sweet chili sauce, which we all know I'm a sucker for - but the sticks could definitely stand on their own. I'd gladly eat them for every meal, including breakfast.

Our server, Amanda, couldn't have been more pleasant - not to mention helpful. My colleague had never eaten Thai food before, and knew very little about the dishes. Our server was glad to help explain things to her and get an idea of the kind of foods she liked, as to make the best recommendation.

The joint is small, but big on ambiance. Plus, with only a few tables, you won't have to worry about talking over 30+ tables of people during your dinner.

5 out of 5 sporks!

Bahn Mai Thai Cafe on Urbanspoon