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.