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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More than just cakes: ele Cake Company Cafe

Last week I had a lunch meeting in the party room of ele Cake Company in West Carrollton, mostly because they were one of the only places in town letting us use a large private space for free on such short notice.

For about a year or so, ele has been serving lunch out of their cafe, where they previously only served coffee and of course, baked goods. If you're not already in the know, ele was founded by some of the gals who used to work in the Woody's Bakery. At least, I think that's what happened. I had a hard time fact-checking this one, so please feel free to correct me here. ele actually started out as Taste of Elegance in the late 90s/early-oughts, serving up some of the best specialty cakes and baked goods in the Dayton area, most of them showcasing the fantastic buttercream icing that Woody's was known for.

They now have a pretty diverse lunch menu, with soups, salads, sandwiches & wraps, as well as different items like pita pizzas and specialty sides like their 4-cheese penne. I ordered the avocado BLT and the white bean chicken chili. The sandwich was top notch, with the tangy sourdough, roasted garlic mayo and fresh spring greens complimenting the perfectly cooked bacon and fresh avocado. The soup was good, but could have been better. The good news is, there was plenty of white meat chicken used - the bad news is it was mostly all in one piece. I had a piece of chicken breast the size of a massive mcnugget in my soup, and I had to try and break it up with my soup spoon. It could used a bit more seasoning, too. I'm always skeptical when trying soups at a restaurant that I've mastered at home, though. So, take that with a grain of salt since maybe I'm a bit bias.

It's counter service, then they bring your food to where you're sitting, so there's not much to make mention of here. No one seemed to go out of their way to help, but we didn't ask for much, either. Sorry for the lack of photos, but it was a very hurried lunch meeting. Plus, I like to keep Food vs Face as far from "work me" as possible, so you'll just have to deal with it, eaters.

4.5 out of 5 sporks!

Ele Specialty Cake Shop and Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Heather's Cafe - Springboro, Ohio

Earlier last week during the beautiful fall weather, I met some gals at Heather's Cafe on Main St. for lunch. I'd never heard of it before since I rarely make it to that part of town, so I checked online beforehand and saw that they had a decent cafe lunch menu of sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads.

I ordered the BLT salad and chicken tortilla soup, and both were good. The soup was a bit on the spicy side for me, so I didn't finish it due to developing heartburn. The salad was great and had plenty of bacon on it (bonus points!), a nice mix of greens and a wonderful dressing. They also brought a small tray of cheesy triangle breads fresh out of the oven, and those were tops. Garlic-y and lots of flavor, but still small and light enough that we didn't feel guilty polishing off the whole tray.

I couldn't quite tell how much inside seating there is, but the outside seating is ample. Another detail of note is that Heather's serves wine and craft beer, and has tastings throughout the year. You can get more details from their website, which I've linked to above. The only thing that bugged me is that their website/online menu contains a few typos that I would *love* to fix for them. I wrote the owner an email offering my editing services, so I sure hope she takes me up on it!

5 out of 5 sporks!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Simple Suppers: Chicken a la King

I couldn't believe my husband had never had a dish that contains his own surname. I mean, if you're bob Smith and there was a dish called "Pork Chops a la Smith," wouldn't you have tried it by now? Well, now that it's my namesake, too, I figured it was time to try recreating another one of my childhood favorites - Chicken a la King.

It's really a lot easier than I figured it would be. Some butter, flour, veggies and milk - then serve it over noodles, bread, or both. Here's what you'll need (serves 2):

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 2/3 C hot water
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked & chopped
  • 2 oz chopped pimento
half of 1 small can mushrooms, drained, liquid reserved

Melt butter over medium heat and add drained mushrooms and green pepper, cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Blend in the flour, salt, and pepper and cook over low - stirring constantly, until it's bubbly.
Stir in instant bouillon, milk, water, and reserved mushroom liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly and cook for 1-2 minutes without reducing heat.
Stir in chicken and pimiento and heat through.

Golden Jersey Inn - Young's Dairy, Yellow Springs

Last weekend we headed to Young's Dairy for the first time with our buddies Matt & Ginger and their baby nerds. We goofed around, looked at the baby goats (Satan's most adorable creation) and their creepy sideways pupils, then sat down for an early-bird dinner at the Golden Jersey Inn. Basically, I was only interested in the fried cheese curds, but I knew if I just ordered three plates of them for dinner, I'd be hawking Activia harder than Jamie Lee Curtis by Monday.

My pork tenderloin & taters
Matt's Cheese Curd Salad
All cheese curds, all the time!

Basically, the cheese curds were stunning and everything else was okay. My pork tenderloin was good, but no better than I've had anywhere else. The meat-to-potatoes ratio was pretty out of whack, but I didn't personally mind, since I try to steer clear of a lot of starch. Besides, I was saving my fail for dessert, which would have been tops if it was put together right.

Mr. FvF and I both ordered the mini buckeye sundaes, which came out with no buckeyes. the girl brought them a few minutes later, so it was fin watching my ice cream melt during the interim. But, it was damn good ice cream. I actually wanted gelato, but they only serve that in the ice cream store, not the restaurant. What the ass? Surprisingly impressive, though, was Gin's bread pudding (a la mode, duh). It wasn't Christopher's good or anything, but I wasn't expecting their non-ice cream desserts to wow me. I finished my sundae and helped her finish this beast.

The service was pretty meh - our cups were frequently empty, the waitress didn't point out where the kids menus were, forgot tons of stuff, then messed up the checks - twice. The food wasn't outstanding, but it was good. Plus, they get extra points for bringing gratis goodies to the table while we waited on our meals - like some sort of ginger-spice bread with pumpkin butter, cottage cheese and cole slaw. Odd combination? Completely - but still tasty and appreciated.
This is a tough one for me to rate, but I don't think I can be too generous without coming off like some paid food writers who questionably never seem to have a bad meal anywhere.

3 out of 5 sporks!

Golden Jersey Inn on Urbanspoon

Simple Suppers: Chicken Chilaquiles

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to make chilaquiles for dinner. It's one of the easiest dishes ever if you use pre-made ingredients. Even if you make everything from scratch, it's still only about a 30 minute dish. Here's what you'll need:

10 corn tortillas*
1 C canola oil
1 jar salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1 C chicken, cooked & shredded (rotisserie chicken works great)
1/2 C crumbled queso fresco
1/2 C crema (just water down some sour cream if you can't find it)
2 tbsp minced cilantro
1/2 C shredded Monterey Jack

*Or just buy tortilla chips!

If you're making your own chips, let's start there first. Heat about 1 cup of oil over medium high, until it spits back at you a bit if you drop water into it. Slice the tortillas into wedges and drop them in bunches at a time, for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until they're light brown in color. Drain on paper towels. Burnination note: If they won't all fit at once, just lather, rinse and repeat - but be SURE to keep some in the skillet at all times. Otherwise, the oil will get antsy in the pantsy and you'll start a big ol' grease fire, dummy.

Empty all of the salsa into a large skillet over medium-low until it's warmed through (about 5 minutes). Add about 3/4 of the chips until they start to get tender, then add your shredded chicken. Now, seriously - you're almost done.

Layer a few of the remaining still-crunchy chips on your plate, then top with the salsa mixture. Then add your fixins - crema, cheese, more cheese and cilantro. The chilaquiles will be hot enough to melt your shredded monterey-jack cheese, but the queso fresco will NOT melt. You can add pretty much anything else you want to this - tomatoes, onions, black beans, etc. Whatever you fancy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Table Scraps 10/5/10

Wendy's Pick Two: Their new deluxe salads are totally legit, and now you can opt for a smaller salad and pair it with one of their value menu items for just $4.99. Today for lunch I had the chili and BLT chicken cobb salad and it kept me full until well into dinner-cooking time.

Penn Station Halloween Hangman: Penn Station East Coast Subs brought back Halloween Hangman so you can all score some sweet deals and win coupons! Sign up at their website if you're not already on their mailing list.

OinkaDoodleMoo: Their Kettering location opens tomorrow! Remember where the Chipotle was on 48 near Stroop? Yeah, right there. I'm seriously considering partaking in their eating challenge, regardless of the full-body heartburn that will result from it.

Skyline Chili: Sport your favorite Reds gear in any Skyline tomorrow, purchase anything on the menu, and you'll get a free cheese coney. You get to support your home team on their way to the playoffs AND get free food? It's a win-win, lunchbox.

Amber Rose: No, not the big-assed model, the German Restaurant. They're serving up your first draft beer for only 10 cents, and each additional pint is only $1. And they say the Micks are cheap drunks.

Big Baller Alert: I got a new stove. Do I think I'm fancy? Well, yeah. After working magic on a 30 year old Tappan range for the last 4 years, this black and stainless number is like a gift directly from Jesus. Or my in-laws. Whatever. Excuse the egg bake, the recipe for that is coming later.

Granny C's Bakery - Huber Heights, Ohio

Long story short, we made some big mistakes with a client and I needed to smooth things over. Nothing really says "mah bad" better than baked goods. I'm usually at a loss for family-owned bakeries in Huber (besides Old Glory, which is pretty out of my way) - but last week Dayton Dining/Dayton Most Metro had a little blurb about a place on 202 that I wanted to check out. It sits in the partially hot pink parking lot that used to be Patty Cakes, just past Harshman.

I picked out a myriad of goodies for my customer, then something for me and Mr. FvF to split after dinner. After I got to talking to the gals that work there (who couldn't have been sweeter), she stuffed another sweet into the cardboard box for me - an orange cupcake. She said to imagine Hostess's old orange-filled cupcakes, but a hundred times better.

She couldn't have been more spot-on in her recommendations. We split the orange cupcake - a mild orange cake topped and filled with orange icing and whipped cream, and the peanut butter cookie bar - a square of peanut butter cookie, topped with chocolate ganache, peanut butter frosting, and PB cookie crumbs.

Both of the sweet treats were spectacular. Frankly, much better than I was expecting. They were delightfully sweet without being so rich that it hurts either your teeth or your tummy, well-executed, and presented nicely. I know where I'll be going from now on for any kind of baked goods if I'm in the Huber Heights area - whether it's for a client or for myself.

5 out of 5 sporks!

Granny C's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Soup Weather: Super Secret FvF Family Chili

As much as I give Mr. FvF a hard time about being a picky eater, I used to be one too. I still am in some capacities. When I was little, I hated onions. I'd really only eat them when they'd cooked down over several hours, in my mom's soups and my dad's famous chili. Turns out, that's a great way to get my husband to tolerate them, too.

This chili is one of the many comfort foods from home that I craved when I lived on my own. I learned how to make the basic recipe, then tweaked it a bit to my own liking. Once the air starts to cool down in the Gem City, I start craving it again. When I was single and had the recipe firmly cemented, I'd make a big pot of it and invite all of my dude friends over. Then, naturally, they started craving it, too.

Now, this chili is not Texas chili, not Cincinnati chili, and above all, it's not complex - it's very basic. It has what, for some people, is an unexpected element that gives the chili it's own unique flavor: brown sugar. Here's what you'll need:

3 lbs ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
5+ tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tbsp salt
1 large can tomato juice
2 10 oz cans dark red kidney beans

In a large stock pot over medium heat, start browning your ground beef. About halfway through, add your diced onion. By the time the meat is cooked, your onion should be soft and translucent. Here's a tip - if you like your beef super-granulated (a la Skyline), use a higher fat content and cook it in a little beer. It'll just fall apart. If you like bigger chunks of ground beef in your chili, use a leaner meat and don't stir as often to break up the beef.

Drain any fat and liquid from the beef and return to the stove on mid-low heat. Add your spices, salt and brown sugar, stir and cook for a few minutes. Now, add your kidney beans and your tomato juice, increase the heat and bring to a low boil. Once it's started bubbling, reduce the heat a bit and simmer for at least 2 hours. About 1 hour through, it's safe to have a taste test and check it for seasoning levels. Adjust any way you like it, for heat, salt or sweetness. As with most soups and chilis, the longer it simmer, the better it tastes. Don't make the mistake of trying to taste test it any sooner than one hour, though. I did that the first time I made it, then called my dad in a panic because it tasted like rancid V8. The flavors have to cook and jive together for a good while before the flavors started to meld.

This chili is more than hearty enough to eat on its own, but we Southern Ohioans like to serve it over spaghetti with heaps of shredded cheddar.

Product Review - Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bugles

Bugles have always been awesome. One of the fondest memories of my Grandpa (which all involve food, by the way) was when he'd bring a bag of Bugles home and place them on the ends of his fingers and eat them that way. I was pretty easily amused, and this was one of my favorite means of entertainment, aside from a trip to Woody's Grocery (which is another entry entirely).

Last week I was at Dot's Market and the cashier sneaked a bag out from under her register like it was contraband. It was a bag of Chocolate Peanut Butter Bugles and she said it they were the bee's knees. The manager walked by and confirmed that yes, I HAD to try them.
They're not overwhelming of either chocolate or peanut butter, really. The important thing is, they're delicious and will likely sassify a sweet & savory craving.

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraine

We have BFD at least once a week here, and usually we're fine with bacon, eggs, and some fried taters (mmmhmmm). But, sometimes I like to switch it up and use a different breakfast meat, or find something fancier to do with the eggs. Making a quiche has always been my greatest culinary undoing. It always overcooks on the bottom, and is never fluffy and decadent like it should be. This may have something to do with my 30 year old stove - which thankfully, since I've made these baby quiches last week, is now with Appliance Jesus in Stove Heaven.

I found a basic quiche filling recipe from a Julia Child recipe and tweaked it with the fillings I wanted. Here's what you'll need:

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 C half & half
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1/2 C shredded Swiss cheese
6 strips of bacon, cooked & crumbled

Coat a mini or regular muffin pan with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, whisk your eggs, cream, salt and pepper (I like to add a pinch of cayenne, too). Divide the egg mixture evenly between the cups until they're about 1/2 to 2/3 full, then sprinkle each cup with bacon crumbles and Swiss cheese. Of course, you can use any kind of quiche-friendly meat and cheese you like, but this is Quiche Lorraine, fools. So, the bacon & Swiss are a must.

Bake about 25 minutes or until centers are completely set. You can tell by slipping a toothpick into the center - if it comes out clean, they're good to go.