Friday, January 28, 2011

Tank's Bar and Grill - Dayton, Ohio

You porkchops must be chompin' at the bit for another entry by now!  We're still experiencing technical difficulties at Chez FvF, so I'm rotating between my Droid and the Mister's lappy trying to get some reviews and recipes drafted.  

When our buddy Adam Warrock was in town for his show at SPT, we decided to take him to what we consider one of the most "Dayton-y" places of all, Tank's Bar, for lunch.  Due to my allergies and fat ass, we hadn't been to Tank's in ages.  Having taken the day off from work, I got up that morning and hit the gym, paying my penance in advance for the bacon cheeseburger that I planned on murdering. 
I always said I'd save my running for when the cops discovered my meth lab, but perspectives change when you hit 30 and start to resemble a something from a Flemish painting more than something on the side of a WWII bomber. 

Naturally, Mr. FvF and I both ordered bacon cheeseburgers, mid-well (this is one of the few areas where we agree on food).  He chose the fries, while I opted to sub my chips for their cole slaw, which I'd never tried. 

The burger, as always with Tanks, was stellar.  A huge, nearly one inch patty that was well-seasoned and cooked perfectly.  Toppings all on the side (including pickle chips *and* a spear), with plenty of melty cheese and enough bacon to cover your burger and still have a little nibble for yourself.  If I'm going to have bread, it's nice to have choices - so I'm always thrilled to be able to get my burger on an onion bun (they also have white, wheat, and kaiser).
The cole slaw, though, did not wow me.  See how dense and creamy it looks in the photo? that's a very accurate portrayal of how it tasted.  It was very thick with mayo, almost like a cream-based potato salad.  That left the veggies with little to no crunch, and there really wasn't a hint of sweetness to any of it.  Next time I'll just stick with the chips and pawn them off on my husband.  Our guest got the super-stuffed ham & cheese on rye with chips and was very happy with it.

One thing I wished I would have noticed before we ordered, is that Tank's now serves breakfast all day, every day.  Even when I lived across the street, I never managed to make it there for breakfast, so I sort of blew my first opportunity without even knowing it. But, apparently they've been doing this for ages, so it's no fault of the server for not mentioning it.  Speaking of which, our server was quick, friendly, and kept our drinks full - even bringing Mr. Warrock an entire carafe of coffee when he ordered a cup.  Some diners might see that as lazy service, but I think it's just working smarter, not harder. 

A pleasant experience at one of Dayton's finest institutions for lunch.  Only a scant half point off for that funky slaw.

4.5 out of 5 sporks! 

Tank's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whoopie Pies from Cake Mix

When our friends hosted a Christmas cookie exchange last month, you may remember me telling you that our friend Cindy totally pwned everyone by bringing two kinds of whoopie pies.  I was more than surprised when she said the recipe was just cake mix, 2 eggs and half a cup of oil.  Naturally, I wanted to try them myself, then pawn them off on the girls at my office because I don't want them staring me in the damn face every time I walk into the kitchen. 

I used dark chocolate fudge cake mix, added the eggs and oil, but though the mixture was still very dry. So, after perusing some other whoopie pie recipes, I added about 1/3 C water to make it a bit easier to handle.  I dolloped about 1 rounded tablespoon of batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper* and popped them into a 350 oven.  The timing is the tricky part. The batter is spread so thin that you have to watch it very closely.  I took the baking time for mini-cupcakes and cut it in half, at about 15 minutes.  That was probably still a bit too long, as the cakes on the darker cookie sheet had a bit of a crunch to them.  Not the worst thing ever, but they were more like soft Oreos than full on whoopie pies.  So, I'd say about 10-12 minutes would be sufficient.  Mine were also a little on the thin side - not fat and fluffy like the ones I'd had at the cookie party.  I'm going to have to work on how to remedy this when I try again in spring with strawberry or lemon cake mix.  

You might be wondering how to make the filling.  Well, you could get all Martha and do it from scratch, but you can also half-ass it with the best of them.  I took a can of cream cheese frosting and mixed in about 1/3 C smooth peanut butter.  It was all I could do stop just eating it right out of the bowl and keep using it on the pies.  The cream cheese frosting would be aces on carrot cake or red velvet whoopie pies, too.  

*DO NOT even attempt this without parchment paper.  I know - it's $4 a roll, but you'll thank me later.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Greek Pasta with Sausage

Okay, I've been dying to post this, and I think I have just enough daylight hours to do so (the electric is out in the FvF offices).  It's also an incredibly short post, as I found the recipe on my beloved Serious Eats - so I can just link you to the recipe.  Mr. FvF agreed, it was one of the very best things I've ever cooked up.  I found it pretty difficult to track down cured Greek sausages, so I went with the substitution of sweet Italian sausages. 

It's simple, and incredibly rewarding. By no means on anyone's diet, considering the inclusion of pasta, white wine, cheese and sausage - but it's worth every bit of penance you'll pay at the gym later.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Simple Suppers - Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

The holidays are way over, and all of the pants in the FvF household are way tight.  I'll remind you all that I used to be a real porker and worked like a champ after my divorce to lose almost 30 pounds.  I managed not to gain a single pound for nearly two years.  I did the whole lifestyle change thing and eliminated most simple carbohydrates.  Unless it was donut day at work or something.  Don't you judge me!  
Anycrap, after my brief match with Prednisone in October, about 8 pounds have crept back on, and I simply am not havin' that shit.  So, our lunches and dinners are going back to the lower end of the glycemic index, as to make nice with our waistlines again.  

A lot of South Beach recipes don't appeal to me that much, so sometimes I'll take Adkins recipes and cut a lot of the fat out of them.  Everyone loves the lettuce cups at PF Chang's, but i don't have the patience to dice chicken or the stomach to put it in a food processor and think it'll ever be clean enough again.  I really don't care for ground chicken, either, since I'm allergic to nasty.

1 lb lean ground pork 
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups coleslaw mix w(I used broccoli slaw)
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp Splenda 
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp sesame salad dressing (optional)
8 lettuce leaves
Fresh cilantro and chow mein noodles, for garnish, optional

Brown the pork and onion in a skillet and drain the fat very well.  Add ginger, garlic and slaw until the veggies are crisp-tender - continue cooking over medium for about 2 minutes.  
Combine the next seven (or eight, if you're using the salad dressing) ingredients in a small bowl and add them to the pan, cooking another minute while stirring.  

Allow the pork to cool a bit before serving so that the mixture doesn't completely wilt your lettuce.  Because no matter what KFC would have you believe, no one likes hot lettuce.*  I used red Boston Bibb lettuce for it's sweetness,but it didn't hold up very well. I think next time I'll try Romaine leaves.  Spoon the lettuce into the cups, top with fancy garnishes and get down on this.  

*Damn you, Lorne Michaels, for crushing my dreams every time I want to post an SNL clip. Nothing would have illustrated this point finer than the KFC Shredders clip. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

SideBar - Dayton, Ohio

Thanks to the recent goings-on around my office, I found myself in an offsite meeting all day at the Marriott near UD.  No one else there knew the area we were in, so it fell on me by default to decide where we'd lunch.  No problem!

We were initially going to hit Brown Street and see what we could find, but I wasn't paying attention to where the driver was going, so we quickly ended up downtown.  One of my dining companions mentioned she'd had a great dinner at Jay's seafood, but after parking, we realized they weren't open for lunch.  The other two aren't huge Thai food fans, so Thai 9 was out.  I hadn't been there yet, but figured SideBar was worth taking the gamble on.

It's set up the same way Pacchia was, with the coffee bar entrance to the restaurant. The only problem is, I couldn't seem to find a hostess stand - or a hostess.  Regular readers will know it takes me about 60 seconds of waiting to find out how I'm to be seated before just dipping out and finding another place.  In just under that 60 second mark, the hostess finished her cell phone conversation and we were seated.  Our incredibly friendly server took our drink order and gave us a few to peruse the menu, and explained that they'd revamped the lunch selections.

Once I saw the Pork Churrasco with chimichurri, I was sold.  My co-workers chose the white fish, eggplant, and shrimp salad, respectively.  The food came out relatively quickly, despite the awkward lingering silences involved with dining with people you don't know very well.  I tore into mine like a well-mannered wild animal, slowly noticing I'm always the only one at business meetings to clean their plate.

The pork was well-cooked and seasoned, as well as super tender, and the chimichurri was bonkers with flavor.  The veggies were all cooked well, too - just soft enough, but with a little bite left to them. The Spanish style rice & beans, I could have lived without, but I usually don't eat rice anyway.  But then, the dish completely won me over again with the fried plantain chips.  Nice touch. Plated really nicely, as well.

Unfortunately, my co-workers were not equally impressed with their selections.  Apparently the eggplant was mushy, and the house-made vinaigrette for the salad had zero flavor.  But, considering I don't know most of these people well enough to pass judgement solely based on their opinion, I can only rate Sidebar on my personal experience.  MY food was tops, and the service (aside from the hostess) was great.  Pricing was fair, considering the scale of restaurant.  So, half a point off for the hostess and half a point for unhappy lunch buddies.

4 out of 5 sporks! 

The Side Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Simple Suppers - Sautéed Chicken with Wilted Spinach

    This is all comprised of shit that we almost *always* have on-hand at Chez FvF.  Wicked easy, and the dude loved it.  Here's what you'll need:
    1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs, if you prefer)
     2 tsp olive oil  
     2 minced shallots 
    3 tbsp dijon mustard 
    3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar works, too)
    1 tbsp butter 
    7-10 oz fresh spinach 
    salt and pepper
Trim all fat and weirdies off chicken, salt and pepper both sides. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet and saute until golden brown (around 4 min per side). Remove from the pan and set aside, either in the oven or microwave so it won't lose much heat. Add the shallots, cook until soft (3 minutes-ish).  Be sure to incorporate the tasty brown bits of chicken left in the pan! Stir in mustard and vinegar, cook 1 min. Remove from heat and add butter, stir. Add the juice from the plate where the chicken has been resting, too, if there is any.

Spoon half the mustard sauce over the chicken. With the other half, you can either add it to the spinach in a bowl to make a salad, or you can add the spinach to the skillet and wilt it a bit.   I also tossed some pine nuts onto mine, for no other reason than pine nuts make most things better.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rosemary Thyme Quick Bread

A few weeks ago when old man winter decided to start showing his ass, I realized I'd forgotten to pick up a good loaf of bread to go along with my delicious Tuscan Wedding Soup.  I like to avoid driving in snow at all costs, so I figured there had to be a yeast-less recipe out there somewhere for a bread that would compliment the meal.  I looked up quite a few, took the base recipe and kind of threw in whatever else I wanted.  I ended up with a pretty decent, dense quick bread that accompanied it perfectly.  Here's what you'll need: 

2 C A/P flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 C milk

You might need:
extra flour for surface shaping

Sift all of your dry ingredients together in a bowl, then fold in the liquids.  Brush the top with some olive oil or melted butter.  And uhhhh....that's basically it.  A lot of the recipes said to flour a counter or board to shape the loaf, but it had pretty much done that on it's own, so I didn't bother.  One HUGE caveat - choose a baking sheet with sides.  A loaf pan takes too long to bake this in, and when I opted for the regular side-less cookie sheet, I wound up with melted butter and oil run-off all over the bottom of my oven.  

Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 425.  

Ertel's Winery and Bistro - Batesville, Indiana

Mr. FvF's lovely grandma has started a new tradition of taking us to a nice dinner the day after Christmas.  Everyone loved Ertel's Winery and Bistro so much last year, we decided to make that our designated place.  Rural southwestern Indiana doesn't exactly have a plethora of fine dining choices, so it's a good thing Ertel's is pretty legit, or we'd be having Christmas dinner at Long john Silver's.  

When we went last year, mostly everyone else has steak or lobster.  The Black Forest Pork was calling my name, though, and I wasn't disappointed.  But, I'll admit I was a little jealous of everyone else's succulent looking rare steaks when they cut into them.  So, I'd promised myself I'd get cow this go'round.  We got in and poked around the front area doing some wine tasting and checking out the specials and BOOM - blackened sirloin with whiskey glaze?  Decision made.  

This is a piss-poor cell phone photo that doesn't even close to doing the meal justice.  The potatoes were whipped into submission and buttery as the day is long, and the green beans were nice and garlicky. But the steak - oh, sweet sassy molassey.  I started out telling myself that this was the best sirloin I've ever had (by far my favorite cut of steak, anyhow), but this was hands-down the best steak I've ever had in my life.  Normally I like my prime cuts to be kept simple - just salt, pepper, and garlic - no fancy glazes or reductions.  But, this whiskey glaze was an elite exception to the rule.  Smokey and sweet, it complimented the steak so perfectly.  I've never seen a cut of beef cooked this well in my life.  A flawless bright, warm red all the way through, and practically fork tender.

Mr. FvF had the pan-fried grouper, which I finally found time to ask him about after I finished dry-humping my plate (you can stop wondering what my in-laws think of me now).  He said it was top notch, as well - and he is now officially a panko convert.  Funny thing, he's lived on or near a coast for the better part of his life, and never really ate seafood until he moved to Ohio.  I guess everything that comes out of West Virginia is backwards in one way or another.

Can you believe I went to a winery and I'm talking more about the food than the booze?  Well, that part was amazeballs, too.  Ertel's specializes in heavily fruit flavored wines, which isn't always up my alley.  I like some noticeable currant and berry notes to my reds, and the occasional super-apple-y riesling, but if I liked the taste of Arbor Mist and Boone's Farm, I would have just stayed in junior high.  All of Ertel's fruit-based wines somehow toe that very fine line between wine your white zin-drinking mom would like and the $20 Pinot Noir that you only buy on special occasions.  The only had two bottles of blackberry left for the season, so I got all up on that before some other sucker could.  I mean, I didn't drink all two bottles with dinner.  It's Christmas, and Jesus was watching.

Oh, and although it's usually the last thing on my mind there, service at this place is always top shelf.  I think if I asked them to chew my food up and spit it back into my mouth like a mother bird, they'd do it.

5 out of 5 sporks!