Sunday, February 20, 2011

ele Cake Company

Last weekend, Mr. FvF and I played it fancy and decided to go out of town to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Well, not really. We were in a hotel, but it was just across town because of a freebie I'd won at a Chamber event.  And we don't really care much about V-day, we just wanted an excuse to GTFO, turn off our phones and not tell anyone where we were going.  We already had dinner reservations at Abuelo's in Beavercreek, but nothing in mind for dessert. So, we swung into ele Cake Company just before they closed and picked up a couple of treats.  I already knew he would be getting the Peanut Butter Brownie, layered with PB buttercream and topped to a hard shell of dark chocolate and candy pieces.  

 But nothing was really appealing to me until I saw this 'beaut...
A salted caramel and dark chocolate cupcake.  Now, you guys know how I feel about salted caramel (ass yes!), but I'm not sure I've elaborated on how I feel about cupcakes.  Regular cupcakes that someone brings into work for a birthday:  fine.  I'll probably scrape half the icing off and only eat the top part.
The "gourmet" cupcakes that endless shops have been selling like gangbusters at $4+ a pop ever since Sarah Jessica Parker shoved a Magnolia cupcake into her big horse face on Sex and the City?  I'll show you what you can do with those, if you'll kindly bend over.  The icing-to-cake ratio is way out of whack, and usually the flavor is only in the icing, not the cake itself.  At best, you're looking at 40 cents worth of product and these assholes are selling it down your gullet for just under five bucks.

Well, it seems that now ele has a new line of these fancy treats - I'm guessing to compete with the Gigi's Cupcakes that opened recently in The Greene. This presented me with somewhat of a dilemma.  Want salted caramel - which was not only in the frosting, but the chocolate cupcake was filled with it.  Do not want expensive cupcake. Do not want to be a lemming to food trends.  DO WANT salted caramel!

Naturally, I bought the cupcake.  It was okay.  Not overwhelming.  Not gross.  The cupcake itself was surprisingly fresh, considering we waltzed in just before they closed their doors and it could have gone stale in the near 20 minutes they took to ring up the purchase.  The salted caramel filling was pretty great, but the icing wasn't doing anything for me.  I slid half of it off and back into the box, which Mr. FvF kindly took care of later.  It just wasn't that far off from regular buttercream, and I think even my own first attempt at salted caramel frosting might have faired better.

The Mister's brownie was just as tasty, and a much more reliable choice.  I've always felt that ele was a bit of a rip-off, and this doesn't really change my tune.  The poor gal in front of us coughed up over $60 for an 8" round birthday cake, decorated in buttercream.  Tasty?  Sure, but I find it hard to believe you couldn't make an equally fresh and tasty cake at home, probably double the size, for under $10.

I'm also of the mindset that people think ele is great because they haven't bothered to try out other local bakeries.  From here on out, I'll refer to this as the Thai 9 effect.  Sure, it's better than the Kroger Bakery, but it's not the end-all.  Nothing I've ever had from ele tops anything I've ever had from Granny C's or Rinaldo's.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Olive Garden - Beavercreek, Ohio

Okay, so we went to Olive Garden.  If you want to get up and leave in a huff now, I understand - but you'll come crawling back during grilling season.  Remember the Applebee's incident?  This is similar.  Mr. FvF will pretty much eat anything that's not nailed down and doesn't have onions in it.  So, when someone does something nice and buys him a gift card for food, they probably don't painstakingly think it through as much as they might if it were for me.  I mostly got soured on OG because my former boss is vegetarian and made us have lunch meetings there ALL the time.  Oh, also - it's kind of gross.  There are a handful of things on their menu not solely based around pasta, but I'll be damned if I'm ordering a steak at Olive  Garden.  I may as well go into Pottery Barn and ask them to make me a slab of ribs. I would normally order something involving chicken skewers and rosemary potatoes, but that wasn't on their dinner menu.  I settled for the Stuffed Chicken Marsala.  

The Mister got some kind of Pork Milanese with cheese tortelloni.  I think sometimes Olive Garden doesn't look up the meanings of words before they use them, because tortelloni is supposed to be a giant, beastly version or tortellini.  These suckers were about the size of a silver dollar.  I won't even get started on the ridiculous words they make up for their half-assed, unoriginal recipes.  

Here's the thing - I can't say anything was bad.  Our server was nice and attentive and the food was good, but it all tasted the same.  If I took a bite of mine and a bite of the Mister's, I could hardly tell the difference.  Here's what gets my goat:  the prices.  If you're not ordering from the "Classics" pasta menu, you're looking at the $12 and up range, which is ridiculous for food that's been sitting around all day, soaking in a vat of hot water to stay warm.  This isn't exactly culinary expertise.  It's the same shit Fazoli's is selling, plated up nicely and served with sub-par breadsticks and salad swimming in rancid dressing.  Both of our entrĂ©es were damn near $15 each.  I know we weren't paying for it, but it's the principle.  And everyone around us was sitting around with their pinkies in the air like this was their big fancy Saturday night dinner.  Have you people ever eaten anywhere else?  Do you know that this exact same meal can be made for a family of four for less than $10?  People who really like Italian food don't like Olive Garden, and vice versa.  

I'm so annoyed by all of this that I really don't even want to rate them.  Good thing for you guys, I got lucky last night and I'm feeling pretty generous, so I'm going to give them 2 out of 5 sporks.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ye Olde Trail Tavern - Yellow Springs, Ohio

You've probably noticed a trend of fried pickle reviews, and this is no different.  The night we headed to Superfly Comics in Yellow Springs for the Adam Warrock in-store, we stopped at Ye Old Trail Tavern to grab a bite. I'd actually made dinner for Mr. Warrock and Mr. FvF, but made mine separate with a Japanese gluten-free (and practically calorie-free) noodle called Shiritaki.  Given it's guiltless nutrition facts, I really wanted to love it, but EW.  It took ages of rinsing and some par-boiling to get rid of the barf-o-riffic fish smell, and they had a rubbery chew and clumped together like hipsters trapped in Sears.  So, I picked the steak and snap peas out of my dish and figured I could grab an appetizer later.

The dudes bother ordered burgers, and my sister ordered the Pesto Grilled Cheese, which I may or may not have forced her into just so I could have a bite.  The pickles had a liquid-based batter on them that had quite a kick to it.  They were served with a creamy wasabi dip, which I originally thought was the source of the heat. But, even when I backed off of the dip, they still bit back.  They were definitely good, but we could have used a more attentive server to keep the water coming.

The burgers looked good, but the patty-to-bun ratio didn't impress me.  If there is any excess bun, I really don't think it should exceed 1/8".  This was more like 1/4-1/2".  But, keep in mind, this place is pretty cheap for a sit-down joint.
The grilled cheese that Skillz got was pretty amazing.  She shared a bit with me, which could either be contributed to sisterly love and the instinct to make sure your younger siblings are fed, or that she's afraid I'll hit her in the head with a sleeve of frozen bagels again.
More than likely, it's the latter, which led me to bartering further with her - a fried pickle for an onion ring.  That reminds me - restaurants who are crumb-battering your onion rings:  What the hell is your problem?  No one likes that shit.  Beer batter'em or GTFO.  Anyway, Ye Olde fry cook is smart enough not to pull that crumb mess with us, and they were delicious. 

I don't have a lot to base this on since I didn't have a full meal, but I did get to sample a good bit of everyone elses.  Service was so-so, food was cheap and tasty, and full glasses of wine were $4.

4 out of 5 sporks! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grody-free Gluten-free: Chocolate Chickpea Cake

I discovered this gluten-free cake recipe on Serious Eats a couple of weeks ago and have been apeshit over it ever since.  I know a lot of you are probably thinking, "I'll have to go buy some $6 bag of almond flour or something, and for the price I may as well have ordered some fancy g/f baked goods online!"  Calm down there, lunchbox.  First, nothing is as good as warm cake out of the oven.  Secondly, this cake uses chickpeas in place of flour.  I almost always have the stuff on hand to make this cake.  A lot of gluten-free baked goods can be mealy and weird, and mostly I'd rather just mill around near the bathroom and have a real piece of cake or a brownie.  But, this cake is top notch, and doesn't leave you with a ton of leftovers.  It has a brownie-like flavor and a pound cake consistency.  Even after 3 days in a Ziploc container, it was still gooey enough to stick to your fingers.  

Even for people who aren't looking to avoid gluten but are trying to avoid being a total fat ass, this treat will be right up your alley.  I calculated the nutrition facts and left them at work, but if memory serves, a pretty good estimate is about 150 calories, 4g fat, 19g carbs and 3g fiber in a 1/12 serving (about 1/2" loaf cake slice).  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunrise Cafe - Yellow Springs, Ohio

It's sad that I'm still doing Restaurant Week shit from almost three weeks ago, but it's really pathetic that I have a good five posts prior to that still needing edited and posted.  I'm sure you'll find a way to deal with it, Chubs.

So, our first RW experience was at Dublin Pub, and was mostly assy.  For the big-baller event, I wanted to go to Sunrise Cafe. (I always *try* to go The Winds, but am never impressed with their menu.)
Despite the fish offerings, Mr. FvF took one look at Sunrise's menu and he was all, "Ewwwww, that's bourgie.  Do not want!"  Luckily, my homegirl Carly was into it, so she and I made it a gal-date.  

We both ordered the same appetizer - Toasted Sesame Flatbreads with Caramelized Onions, and the same entree - Garlic-Stuffed Wagyu Kobe Sirloin (mid rare), with polenta and roasted carrots.  The starter came out quickly and looking great, but it was astonishingly a little too much onion.

Now, considering that I can barely get caramelized onions into recipes because I stand over the stove and eat them with a fork, that's a really bold statement.  I will say they were caramelized perfectly, though.  Sweet as jam.  What I actually liked more was some sort of bacon-infused butter that was in the center of the plate.  I ended up scraping off 90% of the onions and smearing it with the pig-buttery goodness, and that took it up a notch.  The flatbread was more like a really weak pita, too - not exactly the thin & crispy goodness that I had imagined.  

We were both such Motormouth Mabelles that we weren't even halfway through our apps before out entrees were on the table.
The photo doesn't do the steak justice at all.  It was beautiful and the chianti-sundried tomato reduction over top of it had a great aroma.  It was perfectly cooked, and the garlic stuffed inside it was surprisingly not overwhelming.  The only thing I would change is the seasoning.  A cut of meat that nice isn't helped by much but a good pinch of salt, but it needed it.  The carrots were - well, they were carrots.  A bit hard to fuck that up.  But, letting them swim in the juices and reduction rendered by the steak dialed them up a notch.  I'm not a huge polenta fan, and this wasn't out of the ordinary.  It was pretty, but bland.  I highly doubt that blending it with ricotta, the Jennifer Aniston of cheeses, helped matters much.  

The desserts were both seriously kick ass.  I had the chocolate hazelnut flourless torte, which knocked my socks off.  It didn't have the sometimes annoying gooey, pudding-like consistency that some flourless treats have.  It was dense, rich and so good that I kept eating, regardless of how full I was.  

Carly ordered the biggest piece of carrot cake in the Midwest, wearing big gems of candied ginger as a crown.  The cream cheese icing was tops, and there were plenty of tiny bits of carrot dotting the body of the cake.  

Service was pretty great, too - no complaints.  They went up a notch when we realized you could bring your own wine in.  They have a somewhat limited wine menu (but at reasonable prices - under $7 a glass), so that's a nice touch.  The ambiance is interesting, as with most places in Yellow Springs.  Sunrise Cafe is a very quaint, unassuming and tiny restaurant.  Older floors and furniture, nifty art on the walls, and the clientele is a mixed bag.  Older folks, hipsters, couples - a little bit of everyone, but very comfortable.  

THIS is what I'm in the market for when I'm paying $25 for a Restaurant Week meal.  No surprises, no tiny portions, and very little of the dumbing-down of dishes that I've witnessed in previous RW week meals.  

4.5 out of 5 sporks! 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dublin Pub - Dayton, Ohio

  Twice a year I get excited for Restaurant Week like a kid at Christmas.  I make it a point to always make my choices places I haven't eaten before, or haven't been in a long time.   I try to pick one high-falutin' place where I normally wouldn't splurge on a meal, and choose one of the restaurants doing a two-for deal.

Normally during RW, you get a 3+ course meal for around $20.  The price has always followed the year, so logically, this year it should be $20.11.  However, the powers that be decided to change it to $25.11, which a lot of people are pretty peeved about.  While I completely sympathize with the rising cost of food, a 25% hike is a bit much all at once.  So, for five extra bucks, per person, I'm looking for something pretty high end.  Hell, for some of the participants this was an all around price hike.  You could probably eat a two, maybe even a three course meal not even ordering from the Restaurant Week menu.  But, when you're splitting the five on dinner for two, it doesn't seem like such a gouge.  Dublin Pub had by far the most expansive menu options for their two-fer, so we met my sister and her fella there Wednesday night for dinner.

They got there at 5 and grabbed a table, and said there wasn't a soul in the place besides them.  But, by the time we arrived just a few minutes after 6, it was uncomfortable packed.  Dub Pub has really small, cramped booths anyway - so when they're all full and people have coats hanging everywhere, it's a pain in the ass.  To boot, we had a semi-shared booth with some of the most uppity people I've ever seen.  While we tried to politely pile into our booth, they huffed, scowled and scrunched together like we were carrying the great plague.

Our server took our drink order then looked sort of bewildered when we ordered from the RW menu.  My sister and her beau started with the Black & Tan Onion Rings, and we opted for the Corned Beef Sliders.  
The onion rings had a great batter on them, but they used a really potent white onion, rendering them almost inedible.  The corned beef sliders were pretty good, but the addition of herbed cheese (something like Boursin, I assume) really helped them out.

Our entrees were taking ages to come out, so we decided to have a smoke.  There are a few magical things about leaving the table and/or lighting a cigarette that makes food appear magically.  Even though the RW menu notes that the sirloin is only 6 ounces, we all chuckled at the meat-to-potato ratio when my sister and I got our plates.
I had to remind our server that we were supposed to get side salads with our meal, and I was kind of tired of fooling with him. So, I asked the  much more attentive bus boy for steak knives when I realized our server hadn't brought us any.  The sirloin entrees both came with an herbed butter that was good on both the steak and potatoes.  Considering what it lacked in size, the steaks were well-seasoned and cooked nicely.

The gents both ordered the Pub Burger - a burger topped with the Pub Fries (steak fried with bacon and white wine cream sauce) that helped make the Pub a notable eatery.  And arteries be damned, more fries were served alongside the burger.  This was really great timing considering Mr. FvF was having his blood drawn for a health risk assessment at work the next day. High cholesterol, ahoy!  The boys both said there burgers were good, just not remarkable. The famous white wine cream sauce was almost absent from the "pub fries" part of the burger as well, which disappointed them.

Once we finished our meals, our server came back and asked us if we were thinking about having dessert.  Yet again, I had to remind him that dessert was part of the meal we had ordered.  It should have been brought to the table with little more than asking if we were ready for it.  Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the "Must Be 21 Sundae" because my phone batteries were too run to take a flash pic. Just trust me when I say that booze, cinnamon ice cream, chocolate drizzle and whipped cream are all very good things.  We were pretty full, though, so no one finished theirs.

The food wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't outstanding, and DubPub has some serious service issues.  The big thing that's saving them here is the bang we got for our buck during Restaurant Week.  I won't be too eager to head back, though.

2.5 out of 5 sporks! 

Pecha Kucha Dayton, vol 6

Mr. FvF and I were both honored to be asked to present at Dayton's 6th edition of Pecha Kucha.  Wondering what the hell that even means?  The official PK website offers plenty of explanation.

I'm guessing there were well over 100 people in attendance (even the mayor!) - their biggest turnout yet.  I wasn't exactly prepared for that size crowd (well, at least my knockin' knees weren't), but I got a few laughs and plenty of oooohs and ahhhhs over my photos.  Naturally, I also worked in a few dick jokes.  Hopefully there will be photos,  NOT video (still working on that ferocious 7 pounds), coming soon.

I want to give a big, fat thank you to the PK crew and all of my readers for actually giving a shit about what I do. You guys are the best little eaters a gal could hope for.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Skyline Chili - Kettering, Ohio

Skyline is still awesome.

5 out of 5 sporks! 

BW3 - Troy, Ohio

A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of not reading the fine print on Groupon and ended up with a $20 gift certificate to BW3 in Troy.  The nice part is, I used my Groupon Bucks for it, so free food is still free food. What's a tiny road trip for some free wings?  Aside from my mildly retarded GPS, it was pretty easy to get to and find.  That reminds me:  A traffic circle Troy?  Really?  At least we got a laugh by yelling, "Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!" 

We didn't think things through very well on this at all, considering we ended up going on a big game day.  The only time I seem to find myself near football is when there are large quantities of free snacks involved, so this wasn't exactly a huge departure.  We waited about 10-15 minutes for a table before the incredibly apathetic hostess finally seated us.  Thankfully, our server was a lot more approachable and attentive.  

We ordered some fried pickles as an app, but devoured them before I thought of taking a photo.  They were good, but I still have a hard time finding anything that even comes close to the panko & parmesan-breaded pickled at DoubleDays Grille in Centerville.  I ordered the Naked Tenders with Spicy Garlic sauce and slaw, and the Mister opted for his usual wings with Asian Zing.  If you slathered that stuff all over Sarah Jessica Parker's big ol' foot face, he'd probably still lick it off.  

My tenders were good.  Cooked well, as it's easy to ruin and overcook grilled chicken (not that I've ever done it, of course).  It's grilled chicken with little seasoning - it's not monumental, so there's not much commentary needed here.  The Spicy Garlic sauce, however, was FOUL.  So salty that I felt my wedding ring tighten after the first bite.  even aside from salty, I couldn't keep eating it since I'm allergic to nasty.  The waitress gladly obliged my request for another sauce, too.  Not wanting to fuss over it, I just picked something totally pedestrian like Honey BBQ, which was also just fine.  Nothing to write home about.  The cole slaw would have been great if it were dressed a bit more heavily.  It wasn't dairy-based, but a sweet vinaigrette, which I've grown pretty fond of.  But, you could only taste a tiny bit of it, because the cabbage was almost bone dry.  
Mr. FvF loved his Asian Zing wings as much as he always does, and broke a sweat about half way through.  If I could get my heat tolerance up just a smidge more, that's what I'd be ordering.  I'm a huge fan of sweet chili sauces (Frank's, Bahn Mai, and even the philistine in me wishes McDonald's would bring theirs back), but B-dub's Asian Zing is just too much of a kick in the nards for me at this point.  

I'll give it a solid 3 out of 5 sporks.  I wasn't impressed, but I wasn't grossed out, either.  BW3 probably just isn't my thing.