Thursday, December 27, 2012

Archer's Tavern - Centerville, Ohio

Archer's Tavern has been open for a couple of years now, and I'd heard almost a 50/50 share of great and terrible things about the place.  It's close to Ma and Pa FvF's, so we figured when we could give it a try before picking up Lil FvF from a night with the grandparents.  We're not college football watchers, but we were still aware of the OSU/Michigan rivalry game - but we figured we'd be going for lunch early enough to miss most of the hooplah and fanboys.  The parking lot had enough spots left that I figured we'd made a safe bet - but the second we opened the car doors and heard the yells coming from inside, we knew we were wrong. I'd promised this review to another entity (who later decided they didn't want it), so we pressed on instead of trying to find a quieter eatery.  This is my warning to all of your Archer's loyalists (I can tell there are a few) that yes - I realize I chose a bad time to review them - but a restaurant should be on their A-game for new patrons at ALL times.

The roars got louder as we approached and opened the door, and I could feel my blood pressure rising.  The hostess was perfectly pleasant, as was our server.  As we were lead to our seats, we noted the layout that the bar was mostly separated from most of the restaurant by a wooden and glass partition, which would contain a lot of the whooping going on toward the game.  Unfortunately, there some serious assholes there that think it's kosher to bring your wife and small children to the main dining room, pound almost half a dozen Captain and Cokes, and scream at the TV in the main dining area.  It became painfully and quickly evident that this family are probably regulars and the staff made zero effort to ask this douche to bring it down a peg or two, regardless of the other families with children and older patrons trying to have a meal near them.  They just kept letting this guy breathe up all of the good air and run up his bill.  Sorry, natives - but this is the kind of drunken entitlement that Centervillers are known for.  This is why I almost never, ever eat in your town.

Anyhow, the food was par.  We ordered fried pickles, the Mister had a Brat Burger and I had a cheesesteak.  His burger was actually pretty impressive, but cancelled out by how dry and bland my cheesesteak was.  Yes, I just said a DRY cheesesteak.  I actually had to ask for mayo to get through it.  \T

The pickles were pickles - nothing to write home about.  I'm sure there's some inside joke or bizarre logic to the pricing, but nothing was a nice round number.  This annoyed me for an unknown reason.

We just didn't care for the place, and we won't be back.  We've also told anyone thinking about going not to waste their time.  It's bar food, done sub-par, quite a bit of it overpriced and with no regard for non-regular customers.  Same reason we never set foot back in Bunker's in Vandalia, and they had much better, cheaper food.  

1 out of 5 sporks.  

Archer's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 25, 2012

BFD: Pitch-perfect Quiche Lorraine

For all of the years that I've loved quiche, making a good one has always been one of my greatest undoings as an unprofessional chef.  I've tried the most basic recipes to the most complex, all with lackluster (and sometimes inedible) results.  It dawned on me that since buying a new stove and pie pans, I hadn't given it another go.  I'd looked at so many recipes that I felt cross-eyed, so I decided to Frankenstein them together into what seemed like it would turn out best.  The recipe itself was incredibly simple - the secret is in the temperature adjustment.

1 refrigerated pie crust
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 C heavy cream or half & half
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 C onion, finely diced and sauteed
6 slices bacon (or more), chopped and fried crisp
1 C shredded Swiss cheese (bonus if you have gruyere to throw in, too!)

Pre-bake the shell in a pie plate or custard dish in 425 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown. Don't forget to poke it with fork tines or a toothpick before baking, or it will be a bubbly disaster!  Pie weights or dry beans will also keep it from bubbling.

Bake 15 min at 425, reduce to 300 and bake another 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Street Cred: Senate - Cincinnati, Ohio

My buddy Tim from YouIndie and I fumbled our way through Cincinnati traffic (note to self: never complain about Dayton's again) on an unseasonably warm and sunny Thursday afternoon last month to see the Afghan Whigs.  Since this is basically my Metallica/Beatles/fillinsuperfanboyanswer here band, the meal needed to live up to the rest of the evening.  We had a few recommendations, but everyone had mentioned Senate in OTR.  They refer to themselves as "Pushers of beer, wine and gourmet street food," and are also known to sell some pretty fancified hot dogs.
Everyone watches their funds these days, but I've been pinching pennies since the day I got my hands on a nickel.  I loaned my sister a dollar once and tried to charge her interest on it, and told me 2nd grade teacher that I "wanted to be a loan shark when  grew up," based on my mom's commentary about the aforementioned loan.  So, a $10 hot dog seemed a little steep to me - but I figured there had to be something to it if people keep paying the $10 for them.

 Pretty much street parking only, but my pilot TimDogg scored a sweet spot right in front of their door.  In warmer weather, it's a very open air eatery, and aesthetically every bit of on-trend.  Small and bustling, but the service is top-notch.  The host told me it would be about 20 minutes (which is still less than what I expected), but it was really less than 5.  Every employee is clean cut and sharp-dressed, which goes a long way with me.  Especially when every single one of them is as handsome as the day is long.  Our server was knowledgeable about the drink and food menu, and had plenty of recommendations to help me make up my mind between all of the offerings.  I opted for a seasonal pumpkin cocktail and the Trailer Park dog, and my bro-date and I would split the truffle fries. If you're dying to know what a Trailer Park dog is comprised of and are too lazy to look at the website, it's an all beef dog wrapped in bacon with American cheese, creamy claw and crushed BBQ Grippos on a brioche bun.  Are you salivating yet?  Because I AM.   

The cocktail was perfect and distinct, and funky in the same way that grass-fed beef is the very first time you taste it.  The dog was not only only the best actual frank I've ever tasted, but the best all-together hot dog and probably in my top ten stateside food experiences, period.  $10 seems negligible once you taste it, because I'd gladly pay $20 for one right now.

I'm really glad our server recommended the truffle fries over the duck fat fries, because I really don't see how anything could have been better than these little sticks of heaven.  I've find most fries not to be worth the calories contained, so I'm not a big fry eater.  I'd rather skip'em and go whole hog on an entree or dessert.  But these?  These I could eat everyday, and probably die at a very young age or coronary heart disease.  If clouds were made of fresh butter, then somehow made slightly crispy on the outside, that's what these truffle fries taste like.  They're the unicorn of the french fry world.
You all know I rarely give 5 out of 5 sporks - but Senate really won me over.  For the quality you're getting, the price is perfectly reasonable and the service was unparalleled.  I've tried to think about any way one could improve upon the food, but the only answer is "MORE OF THAT."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

GoodGreens Bars: What's so good about them?

When the company emailed me and wanted me to try and blog about their bars, at first I was all, "Yeah, they're gluten-free!"  Then I saw "vegan & raw," and have to be honest that I was a bit put off.  But, I'm an equal opportunity eater, so I'd give'em a whirl.  They arrived at just the right time, too.   After a little surprise appendectomy a few weeks ago, I found myself housebound with lunch and dinner prospects, but nothing for breakfast.  I figured if I tried a different flavor GoodGreens bar every day of my confinement, my research would be thorough and complete.  Mr. FvF shared the duplicate flavors, and we gave the coconut ones to my dad because ewwwww.

I've always enjoyed eating fruits and veggies in their original state, so I never enjoyed or understood products aimed at cramming as much of your daily intake into a juice, bar, sauce, etc.  GoodGreens claims to get 100% of your daily fruit and veg in these little bars, no bigger than your average protein bar.  If my husband was still sure that he didn't like any vegetables besides potatoes and corn (I know a lot of you have an eater like that in your house), these would be ideal.  We both enjoyed the same half of the flavors - Chocolate Mint (tastes a lot like Thin Mints), Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Raspberry.  The Mixed Berry bars lacked the faux-chocolate coating that I thought helped balance out the slight grittiness of the texture.  I'm not necessarily saying gritty like it's a bad thing, but they have a similar mouthfeel and aftertaste as a lot of protein bars.  Mr. FvF and I actually enjoy protein bars and don't mind that taste, but Pa FvF did not care for them at all.  So, don't get carried away thinking this will solve your picky eater problem.    All things considered, I'll buy these with my own American dollars if I see them in the store.  Right now, you can buy them by the box at the GoodGreens website - or if you're on the OSU campus, you can find them just about anywhere.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Buffalo Chicken & Potato Casserole

Wings, dip, now casserole.  Is there any format that you can't find Buffalo chicken in?  I would say milkshake, but I'm sure it exists somewhere.  I didn't come up with this recipe - Betty Crocker did, but wanted to share it with you guys, because it was easy and damn tasty.  Follow your nose!

I cooked my chicken halfway through prior to tossing it in the wing sauce, because I'm funny about tossing raw chicken into a casserole with other ingredients.  Yes, I'm a spazz - but it didn't dry out.  Here's a photo of how ours turned out. The only thing I might go flip mode on next time is cutting the bleu cheese dressing a smidge with some ranch.  It was a bit overwhelming for a couple of folks who never use that dressing.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I love inviting folks over for dinner, even though we have nowhere but the floor to sit and eat.  Mr. FvF threw me a curveball a few weeks ago by inviting a vegetarian over for dinner.  I love a challenge, and as long as it's not vegan cooking - I'll rise to the occasion.  After giving it some thought, I realized I really love a good roasted veggie lasagna with bechamel, but have never attempted one on my own. Time to Frankenstein some recipes from the webbernet!  This is the part where I'll try desperately to remember how I did everything, since this all happened over two weeks ago.  Here's what you'll need:

1 box lasagna noodles*
1-2 jars alfredo sauce**
squash & zuchinni, 2 of each, sliced thin
1-2 large carrots, sliced thin
1-2 C fresh spinach
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 container ricotta cheese
1/2 C shredded parmesan (or any hard Italian cheese)
1C shredded mozzarella (the part skim stuff is fine here)
1 ball/container of fresh mozzarella, sliced
White wine
olive oil

*I prefer whole wheat, and I do NOT recommend the no-boil noodles for this.  This isn't a high water content dish, so they may not cook thoroughly. 
**Sure, about 2 cups of homemade bechamel would be great, but I don't have a sous chef or an extra hour in my day.  I used roasted red pepper for some extra flavor.  

First thing's first - get your noodles boiling in a big stock pot, so you'll have time to cool them before working with them.  Heat your oven to about 300 (350 tops) and start chopping your squash and carrots.  This was my first opportunity to really use my mandolin. Almost every other recipe I read said to "cube the veggies uniformly before roasting." In my opinion, paper-thin veggies make a much better looking presentation.  But, do whatever floats your boat.  If you're using a mandolin for the first time, for the love of God - be very careful. Fingertips in, knuckles out.  Even the cheap ones are seriously sharp and one fast move will leave you looking like your junior high shop class teacher.  Especially if you already have a mustache and a drinking problem.

Get all of your long veggies chopped to your liking, then toss them all in a roasting pan with a few hearty pinches of salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss around to make sure they're all covered, then roast them for about 15 minutes, watching closely that they don't get crispy around the edges.

While those are roasting, keep an eye on your pasta (never overcook your pasta, nerds) and start sauteing your diced onions and garlic over low heat in some olive oil and salt.  Remove from heat & set aside to cool off once onions are soft.

Your pasta and veggies should be done soon, so it's time to start your assembly line.  You'll be using nearly every inch of your counter space, but have everything you need out & ready with its own utensil.   You'll thank me later.  At this point, I like to take my roasted veggies, onions, garlic and spinach and toss them all on a bowl so I don't have to add them individually.  I do the same with the shredded parm and mozzarella (save the whole mozz for last, though!)

Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, then a layer of noodles.  On top of the noodles, layer about 1/3 C ricotta, then a layer of veggies, then a layer of your shredded cheeses, then another drizzle of the sauce.  Lather, rinse repeat until you run out of fillings, and make sure you are left with a smidge of sauce after layering the last noodles.  Top those final noodles with a drizzle of the cream sauce, then add your sliced fresh mozzarella.  I like to sprinkle on a smidge of extra salt and red pepper flakes at the end, too.

Gaze in awe for a moment, then bake this BAMF at 350 for about 40 minutes covered loosely in foil, then another 15 minutes after removing the foil so that your cheese gets nice and brown & bubbly.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mulligans: Turkey Tetrazzini

Another throwback from last year's Thanksgiving recipes that I never posted.  This is what I always do with leftover bird.  Works just fine with chicken, but the occasion for this much leftover chicken seems harder to come by.  This recipe is pretty easy on the fat and calories (6 servings, about 450 cal, 48 carbs, 14 fat and 6 fiber), especially compared to what you probably ate the day before.  But trust me, you won't taste anything "light" about this recipe. Here's what you'll need: 

  • 1 box whole wheat thin spaghetti
  • 1 pound turkey breast, cut into cubes or roughly chopped*
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (fresh or canned will work)
    3/4 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese (any hard Italian cheese will work)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (condensed)
  • 1/2 C panko bread crumbs, seasoned w/salt & oregano
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted\
  • *If you don't have leftovers, here's what to do. Get turkey breast cutlets and season them w/salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder and pan fry them until they hit 165 degrees, then chop'em up.
Get your whole wheat pasta cooking before you start anything else, that way it'll be ready when you need it.  
Sprinkle your mushrooms with onion powder & cook in the white wine over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes until tender.  In a large bowl, combine your peas, soup, milk, sour cream, parmesan - then add your cooked bird, cooked pasta and mushrooms and stir until everything is coated and well-combined.  
Empty your bowl into a greased casserole dish, at least 9x9" (bigger works, too).  Mix your melted butter and seasoned panko in a small cup and spoon this mixture evenly over your pasta.  Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes.  

If you consider the turkey leftovers a freebie, this dish only costs about $10 to make if you have to buy everything else.  I keep most of these staples (pasta, panko, seasonings, parm) on hand, so I usually only have to spring for mushrooms and peas.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

A couple of years ago, a friend bought me a springform pan when I was getting into cooking.  I'm pretty sure she just wanted me to make a cheesecake so we could eat it together, which I completely respect as a reason for choosing a gift.  Once I had it, though, I realized a lot of cheesecake recipes seemed overly complicated.  "Water bath" this and "adjust wire rack" that.  It took me so long to read the directions, I finished a whole bottle of wine and woke up the next day, very thirsty in a house still devoid of cheesecake.  

When I saw this recipe on the Betty Croker website, I assumed it was going to end up like one of those soft, no-bake "cheesecake pie" attrocities that you'd find at Denny's - but quite the opposite.  It's easy as all get out, and it yields a firm, true-to-form cheesecake without all of that fancy talk.  It only takes about 15 minutes to throw together and an hour or so to bake, then you have the rest of that time for getting day drunk.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

H.A.M., Dayum!

I totally love this guy.  He knows how bacon is supposed to be!  A new citizen of FvF, for sure.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We Got Apps: Bacon Parmesan Faux-caccia

Remember last year around Thanksgiving when I cooked three awesome dishes and told you I'd post the recipes? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that.  So, slightly in advance for this Thanksgiving, I'll finally be posting them - starting, naturally, with the appetizer.  I usually just do dessert or an appetizer for family dinner hosted at Ma and Pa FvF's house, but by Thanksgiving of last year, my swollen, pregnant ass was on partial bed rest and bored out of my mind. So, I insisted on making both.

1 pkg refrigerated breadstick dough
10 sliced precooked bacon*
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 tbsp herb of your choice (I used fresh rosemary)
1 egg, beaten + a table spoon or two of cold water

*Yes, the Oscar Meyer stuff that is shelf stable.  Trust me, this is one of the only things it's good for.  Real bacon just isn't pliable enough.  

Unroll the dough and separate it into sticks.  Coil the bacon and breadsticks together, pinching the breadsticks ends together as you go, to make one big, slightly loose spiral.  It's best to start on a cookie sheet or pizza stone, because this is impossible to move once you start.  Brush with the egg wash, then sprinkle your herbs and cheese over the top and bake about 25 minutes at 350.  After you've let it cool for 10-15 minutes, cut it pizza-style into thin, triangular slices.  This comes out a bit smaller than you'd expect, so I'd make two if you're serving more than 5-6 people.  Or any combination of one very pregnant woman and one or more people.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Anthony Bourdain Live in Dayton!

Say it ain't so!  Or if you're Mr. FvF, it's not so - just move along. Nothing to see here.

But yes, really!  Bourdain is bringing his one-man Guts & Glory show to The Schuster Center on November 18, 2012.  Attendees will get to spend the evening soaking up the culinary rabble-rouser's stories about his work and travels, including an open Q&A with the audience.

Tickets go on sale Saturday, August 11, 8‐11 a.m. at the Ticket Center Stage Box Office and 10 a.m. online at    Tickets will be available for purchase by phone on Monday, August 13 at 10 a.m. at (937) 228‐3630 or toll‐free at (888) 228‐3630.
I'm really only telling you that last part out of obligation, because who orders tickets on the telephone?  You're probably the same people who have to listen for the "If you're using a rotary phone, please hold for an operator" instructions.  You phone orderers probably have no way of reading this, but in case someone is dictating it to you, the internet is great. Just never Google image search stuff like medical conditions or Street Fighter characters without safe search.

You could wait until Saturday to buy tickets, like a chump.  But you know what? I like the cut of your jib, so you can just go to this presale link and use the password DAYTON to buy tickets right fucking now.

For more information, visit

Monday, August 6, 2012

Comfort Central: Tiny Sausage Casseroles

I have never been a fan of mushrooms themselves, but if you put mushroom sauce or cream of mushroom soup in something, I'm immediately interested.  The rich flavor of it has always been really comforting to me, which likely leads back to this dish that my mom always made when I was a kid.

I love using ramekins for tiny casseroles, especially when the recipe makes four. That way we have portion-controlled entrees for two nights. I tried this recipe first using lightly buttered (frozen & thawed) hash browns on the bottom of each dish, but it just didn't fit with the rest of the ingredients.  Since the wild rice always worked so well in my mom's casserole, I went back to that for the base of this one. Mr. FvF and I both agreed it was the perfect amendment to an already great recipe.  Here's what you'll need...

1/2 lb sage sausage, crumbled and browned
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup frozen peas & carrots, thawed
1/4 C cream or milk
1 pkg long grain & wild rice, OR 1 1/2 cups frozen hash browns, thawed
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 C panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter, melted

I love a good short cut, and the Uncle Ben's microwavable long grain & wild rice is just as good as the stuff you have to cook yourself.  90 seconds and it's done.  Either way, line your ramekins with about 1/4 cup of the rice and press it down in the bottom and slightly up the sides with a spatula or spoon.
Once your sausage is cooked, crumbled and drained, mix it with the soup, milk and veggies.  Peas and carrots work really well, but I also threw in some fresh spinach.  And of course, if I were cooking these for myself, I'd throw in some sauteed onion as well.

Divvy this mixture up over the rice, then mix together your melted butter and bread crumbs and divvy that up over all four dishes as well.  Bake for 20 minutes or so at 350.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant - Sevierville, TN

Thanks to the generosity of a family friend, we were able to take our first (almost) full-on family getaway a few weeks ago.  I've been dreaming of a beach since we got back from our honeymoon, but a coastal trip just wasn't practical. So instead, we headed to the Gatlinburg area to a cozy, baller Lincoln log mansion that this generous friend let us borrow.  Mr. FvF and I had tooled around Gatlinburg proper for our babymoon vacation.  We had a good time, but this time we were in the market for something more secluded. Nana and Papa FvF came along and helped with the little guy so we could do some relaxing.  We had all agreed to share the cooking, but go out to dinner one night while we were there.  I'd heard quite a bit about Applewood Farms, so I made an executive decision that our one dinner would be there.  It seemed family friendly, and had a simple, down home style menu that I knew would please everyone's palate.

We were greeted & seated very quickly, and they had no problem accommodating the little guy.  They start everyone off with a basket of fried apple fritters and apple butter, as well as their housemade Apple Julep.  If you're thinking of donuts on the fritters, you're a bit off base.  They're more like a sweet hush puppy, and they're great.  The apple butter, which my southern mother approved of, was delicious.  The Apple Julep was sans booze - a mix of a few different juices, and not memorable.

The entrees, on the other hand - were very memorable.  Pictured below, from top to bottom are the Mister's Fried Catfish, Nana's Chicken Sampler (fried chicken, pot pie, and chicken & dumplings), and my Chicken Florentine.  I sampled everyone's food, and it was all rich without feeling shamefully heavy or greasy.  Pa FvF had the meatloaf, but he was into it faster than I could snap a photo. It was very tender and tasty with a nice baste, even though I don't care for meatloaf that's not my own.   The fish was wonderfully batter-fried and and super tender and flaky.  According to Mr. FvF, some of the best fried fish he's ever had.
My Chicken Florentine was a massive, pounded-thin chicken breast, stuffed with fresh spinach, Swiss cheese and sugar cured ham, topped with an alfredo cream sauce.  As rich as the dish was, it still tasted amazingly fresh.  Kudos to using grilled chicken and not breaded or fried - it would just be too much in this dish.
 We were all quite hungry from a day on the road, but the portions were so huge that we were all lucky to even make a dent in our plates.  Everyone left with half of their meal (plus extra fritters) to eat for lunch the next day.

They had quite a few sides to choose from, but I was disappointed that a side salad was almost $4 extra.  Green beans, corn, warm cinnamon apples, fried okra - the usual Southern suspects.  My main dish was so good that I'm not even sure I touched my side items, so I don't have much to say about those.  Other than the $4 side salad, prices were somewhere between reasonable and slightly steep, considering you're in a tourist town and being served enough food for two full meals.  The bill for four people ended up around $80 or so.  I think most of the entrees were around $13-15.  As for ambiance, it's neatly decorated in a country fashion with old woodwork and a glass-enclosed aviary in one room, which is awesome for little peeps. Dining out on vacation with a baby can turn into a disaster quickly, and there wasn't a single thing amiss about our visit to Applewood farms.   

An easy 5 out of 5 sporks!  

Applewood Farmhouse Grill on Urbanspoon

My oh my, chocolate pie!

I can't even begin to take credit for this wonderfully simple recipe, but it was a BIG hit at the last family dinner. Ever wish you could combine a brownie with a pie?  Turns out you can.  I served mine with some Grand Marnier-infused freshly whipped cream and raspberries.  Then put it on styrofoam plates.  Pinkies up, bitches!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Product Review Extravaganza

There's really no sense in posting dozens of tiny updates about the new products I've loved and loathed over the last couple of months, so I'm going to try to compile them all for you.  A lot of them are things we've come to rely on after realizing that creating every side dish (or main course) from scratch becomes a thing of the past when your growing baby wants to be entertained all the time.

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Risotto - Smelled terrible.  Y'know how sometimes squash can smell like BO when it cooks with a lot of pepper?  Yeah, that.  On the bright side, it was delicious!

Trader Joe's Polenta Provencale - Boom.  Our new favorite ready-made side dish.  Little nuggets of polenta with frozen-yet-fresh-tasting veggies in a wonderful spicy cream sauce.

Kellogg's Krave Cereal (chocolate) - Tastes like the marshmallows from Count Chocula, but surprisingly not-hateful nutrition facts.  120 cals, 24 carbs and 3 grams of fiber. For being fairly low in sugars, the chocolate is very sweet, so I'm not sure I'd be interested in trying the double chocolate.

Barber's Stuffed Chicken - Available in Broccoli Cheese, Cordon Bleu, Brie & Apple, Chicken Kiev.  So far, we've tried all but the Kiev and they've all been very tasty.  Only drawback is that it's not truly a "stuffed breast."  It IS all white meat, but rib meat is also used.  I'm normally very picky about frozen chicken items, and these don't bug me out.  Especially with the convenience factor and fairly friendly nutrition facts, these are a weekly staple for us.  We've also tried the Koch Oven Cravers - which are the same idea, only not breaded.  All of those have been good as well.

Trader Joe's Better'n Peanut Butter - Well, it probably would have been great.  I remember it being too sweet for sandwiches, but it may have been great for baking.  Why am I speaking hypothetically, you might ask?  Because it was supposed to be shelf stable for 2-3 months, according to the expiration date, and the shit molded less than one week after I opened it, and the jar was sealed tight.  This is one of maybe ten times in the last year that I have either bought spoiled food from TJ's or it has spoiled within a day or two.  Boooooooo.

Honey Bunches of Oats Fruit Medleys, Peach & Raspberry - Artificial fruit flavors are usually so heavy-handed and candy-like that they're not used in grown-up cereals.   I really only bought this because it was on sale and I had a $1 coupon, so it was practically free.  Surprisingly good!  Everything else about the cereal and its general makeup are the same, except this nice hint of peach and raspberry that doesn't leave you feeling like you just ate gummi peach rings.  Not sure it will become a regular staple, but it was a nice change and well-suited for summer mornings (and nights!). 

Private Selection Sauteed Vegetable Lasagna - I have to plan ahead at least two days to eat this, since wheat and I aren't on good terms.  The catering company (Ovations Catering, I think) in the Dayton Convention Center makes a pretty wonderful white vegetarian lasagna.  I don't have a lot of time to dissect and figure out dishes these days, but was pulled in by something that looked very similar to it in the freezer section of Kroger.  Their Private Selection house brand has yet to fail me on any product.  Seriously, BIG kudos to kroger on the R&D that has gone into this line, because it's one home run after another.  This lasagna is no different.  An easy, effortless dinner for four - or dinner and leftovers for lunch if it's just two of you.  I think this would even go over well with picky eaters.  the veggies are well-masked by all the cheesy goodness.

Chipotle Cheddar Chex Mix:  Addictive qualities rivaled only by crystal meth.

Smoked Cheddar Cheeze-its:  See above.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Breakfast at Tank's

 Tank's is one of my very favorite Dayton haunts.  Always my first pick for burger joints, and someplace I always insist on taking folks new to or visiting the Gem City.  A permanent spot in my top ten.  In my twenties, I even chose a rental house based in its close proximity to Tank's.  However, they've been serving breakfast for a couple of years - even started serving it during all hours - and I had yet to try it.  I kept hearing everyone rave about it, but it was simply off our breakfast radar for one reason or another.  The morning of Memorial day, when most everyone we knew was hungover, we were up bright and early...and hungry.  Golden Nugget and Christopher's were both closed.  We started to head for last resorts like Starlite or Hasty Tasty, then put'er in reverse and headed down Wayne Avenue. 

Mr. FvF ordered gravy & biscuits with a side of bacon, and I opted for a girly-sized omlette (filled with onions, tomatoes, bacon, sausage and cheddar cheese) along with one slab of french toast.  when we got our food, I was sure the waitress had misunderstood and given my the $10 omlette.  Nope, this was the "girly" omlette.  Since this took up the whole damn plate, I can only assume Tank's had to invest in some special new plates to serve the Tank-sized omlettes on.  

Here's my whine:  I HATE it when restaurants do not specify that they use red onions instead of white or yellow.  The cook up and taste completely different, and some people don't care for them.  So, now I'm stuck with a dish chock full of sauteed red onions. Same thing happened a few weeks ago when I ordered an omlette at The Brunch Club.  I realize not everyone is going to reprint their menus, but I'm pretty sure Tank's could afford to, and could stand to replace their half-sheet paper menus once in a while.  Even other than the red onions, I wasn't impressed with much besides the size of my omlette.  Then I realized that all the fuss I had heard from friends had been about the quantity of the breakfast here, not the quality.  

That said, the French toast and bacon were excellent, and the gravy had a really unique sweetness, that I can only attribute to beer or white wine being used in it.  I'm learning the hard way that no one makes an omlette like Golden Nugget.  Sorry, Tank's - you'll always be my #1 for burgers, but breakfast belongs to the Donkey.  

3 out of 5 sporks!

Tank's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Finally, The Brie Burger

The wheel turning and burger stuffing never ends at Chez FvF.  I'd been rolling around the idea of a brie burger after something I saw on Food Network, and would not be stopped until I made one that lived up to the expectations in my head.  Luckily, I got in on the first try - because frankly, sometimes I give up easily - even with all this big talk.
I was a little bit worried about the difference in cooking times and temps since I wanted to use some sausage, but everything came out just right.  Here's what you'll need: 

Serves 2 big hongries or 3 regular-sized burgers

1/3 lb ground chuck
1/3 pound Bob Evans original sage sausage*
4 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/8 tbsp fresh cracked pepper
1/2 clove garlic, very finely minced
1/4-1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 round of double cream brie, top and bottom rind trimmed off and cut into slices

*No, you don't have to use Bob's, but I think their sage sausage is perfect for dinner dishes.  they built an empire from their sausage for a reason, folks.  

If you're a regular reader, you know the routine by now.  Combine the first eight ingredients, preferably by hand, until everything is thoroughly mixed.  Patty your burgers out and toss them onto a preheated grill, around medium-high heat, or 400-ish if you're a numbers person.  Because of the sausage, quite a crust will form on these burgers, but don't pull them off too soon.  Nothing wrong with an all-beef burger being a little rare, but you want to aim for well done when you're cooking with ground pork.  If we haven't been over this, FvF doesn't jive with the FDA on the theory that a little pink is alright in your pork.  It's just a personal preference, and I prefer mine cooked through.  If you're on a gas grill around 400, this should take about 6-8 minutes per side.  
You need to make sure you get the cheese on while your burgers are still wicked hot, but brie has a very low melting point, so adding the cheese while they're still on the grill may be a bit premature.  Take them off the grill and put the brie slices over each patty until the whole thing is covered in melty perfection.  I suggest serving these in a hearty, toasted roll, like brioche or focaccia.  This is a really rich burger that requires no condiments, but an herb aioli or chardonnay dijon would pair nice with it.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

Here we go, eaters - FvF is officially in print!  Right now, the column is running in the Xenia Gazette, and will probably branch out to the rest of the Times Community Newspapers' weeklies and dailies.  As not to deprive you of any juicy gossip, reviews or recipes, I'll be posting the links here each time my column runs in the paper. everybody wins!

You can checkout the intro and a recipe for Chipotle Chicken Tostadas here, and last week's bit on making stuffed burgers here.  Enjoy, and please give feedback on my new print adventures!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fast Food Thunderdome: Taco Bell vs Burger King vs KFC

Now that I'm fully back to my natural rhythm at work, which entails virtually living out of my car and driving around 100 miles a day, getting lost frequently and eating entirely too much fast food and takeout - I've had a chance to sample some of the new offerings from Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC.   Most times, I will order something like a salad, or a grilled chicken sandwich and eat it open-faced.  But, when the big guys offer something new, I feel like it's my duty to try it for you. Aren't you glad I'm sacrificing my own waistline so you'll know if it's worth it to ruin yours?

First and foremost, Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Tacos.  Simply put, these are their regular ol' tacos in a shell made of  Nacho cheese Doritos.  And guess what it tastes like?  Exactly that.  A TB taco covered on Dorito dust.  It's one of those borderline-shameful meals that you should have at least once to say you did (assuming these will only be here for a limited time), but never again.  One thing I will commend them on is the way they chose to package these.  When you dig into your bag, you find the standard paper taco wrapper, but inside that, your crazy taco is cupped by a thin cardboard shell of its own that helps you eat it without getting your hands covered in cheedle.

Then there's KFC's Chunky Chicken Pot Pie.  I had only caught the tail end of the ad they've been running for it, featuring a groovy ebony & ivory bro-fest and a pretty awesome car - so that's not what led me to check it out.  It's not that I don't love pot pie - let me be clear that I DO.  But, the same as Mr. FvF agreed to turn the grill over to me, I gave up the quest for the perfect pot pie recipe when I realized he's one of those people who hates all of his foods mixed together.  What lead me to try it was all of the positive reviews I kept hearing from reputable sources.  One week, I had to drive back and forth from Dayton to Columbus every day for work. Naturally, I wasn't in the mood to cook when I got home - so one night, we decided to let the Colonel take care of dinner.  I have to admit, it's among the top three pot pies I've ever had and one of the best fast food items I've ever eaten.  For me, KFC rarely gets things right.  Their chicken is always either too hot to eat, below room temp, and greasy. I don't like any of their sides, either.  So, it astonishes me that I'm calling this pie a total home run.  The crust is perfect.  Golden and flaky on top, soft and buttery underneath. The sauce is somewhere between what you'd find in your own pot pie or any number of frozen pot pies, and a creamy white gravy.  The filling is heavier on big chunks of white meat chicken than you'd imagine for the price, and the veggie ratio is pretty reasonable, though it could use a few more bursts of color.  At an ball-dropping 790 calories and 45 grams of fat, this is probably another thing that you should find an occasion to eat.  I'm sure you won't have trouble finding one, though.

Burger King is really McDonald-ing up their menu lately.  I say that in the nicest way possible - but I can't find another way to explain the addition of new all-breast meat chicken offerings, slightly healthy wraps and fruit smoothies.  They're making an attempt to healthify things, which I respect.  The last menu change they did - their new thicker-cut fries - still has me salty.  Otherwise, as long as BK keeps serving Icees and Whoppers, I don't give a shit what else they put on their menu.  I had already tried one of their new Chef's Choice burgers, and can report that it was tasty.  Higher quality bun and toppings, and a thicker, less greasy tasting patty made for a big improvement on their burgers (which I'll admit I already liked).  On a whim, I decided to try Burger King's New Chicken Strips.  I've never been a fan of BK's tenders/nuggets/whatever.  They're all the mechanically separated and processed, super soft stuff.  If I wanted that, I could eat the fake Morningstar Farms chicken and be making a much healthier choice.  I had no idea what the difference was between the tenders and strips on their menu, and I still do't know now.  So, I ordered the strips and was pleasantly surprised - they really are all white breast meat.  But, the breading leaves a lot to be desired.  It's lacking tremendously in spices and seasoning, and the texture doesn't really do anything for me, either.  They have a new line of sauces for all this new chicken, too.  People who work at Burger King don't know what the hell a food blogger is, so I can't try all the sauces unless I want to pay 25 cents extra for each one outside of the one that comes with my food.  I chose the Kung Pao, but they also have roasted jalapeno, sweet & sour and something else I don't remember.  The Kung Pao was good, but a little too heavy on the soy sauce for my taste.  Just too damn salty for a mid-day meal.  Overall, it was very meh.  If you want good chicken strips, find yourself a Hardee's.

The winner of this Fast Food Thunderdome is....

The Colonel!  KFC's new pot pie is legit. I highly recommend trying one, but make sure you're aware it is an indulgence.  This isn't something anyone should beat eating everyday, unless you want to wind up looking like this guy. Or this lady.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Brio Tuscan Grille - Beavercreek, Ohio

Last weekend, some friends of ours were nice enough to slide us part of their bounty of Brio coupons so we could both get sitters and go out for a nice, adult dinner.  As most of you know, The Greene is incredibly successful in making my blood pressure go through the roof, so I rarely go there for food or commerce.  When we want to drop a bill on dinner, we usually don't go to a chain, either.  We usually end up at figlio or Barnsider, something on the high end of local eateries.

I did a little research and it was looking like Brio actually makes their own pasta, which actually makes it worth me ordering pasta. If the restaurant is dropping some dehydrated noodles into boiling water, that's not worth me spending the better part of my evening in the john.  Since we were able to stack these $20 coupons, we spared no expense and ordered cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert.  The boys had calamari, and ginger and I had the spinach-artichoke dip.  It wasn't earth shattering, but it was tasty.  The parmesan crisps they served alongside for dipping were actually the best part.  My raspberry mojito was pleasantly boozy, speckled with freshly muddled mint and fresh berries.

Mr. FvF ordered the Lasagna Bolognese al Forno, Gin had the artichoke-crusted beef medallions, Matt had the lamb chops, and I chose Fettucine Napoli.  None of the pictures turned out that great except for my dish (natch) and the dessert.  Eating this pasta, regardless of later intestinal distress, was 100% worth it.  Smoked chicken, pancetta, broccoli, sundried tomatoes and chili flake in an oil & white wine reduction.  It was perfect in every way, really.  Not a damn thing I'd have done differently.  I stopped myself just short of exhausting myself with it since I wanted dessert, and took the rest home to Ma FvF to thank for watching the babe.  I snagged a bite of Mr. FvF's lasagna, which was good - but something was amiss for me.  He referred to it as a "windbreaker of cheese and meat," and loved it, but agreed that it wasn't quite what we normally think of as lasagna.  Now, let me clarify that I don't have Stouffer's in mind when I think good lasagna bolognese.  Mine is fairly labor intensive, and is basically this.  But, I except lasagna to have a certain construction.  This came plated in a way that felt too individual.  In other words, I think it was assembled in the dish, then maybe baked for 10 minutes.  I didn't pick up the richness in their bolognese and it sure didn't seem like this "slice" had spent an hour in the oven, letting all of its flavors mingle.

The boys had tiny red velvet cake desserts, and the gals split a molten chocolate cake, which was delightful.  It's a simple dessert, but not all that simple in making, so these little cakes often go underappreciated.

We really enjoyed Brio, but I'm not sure we'd break our necks to go back when paying full price. The service was top notch, even though our server was about as wet-behind-the-ears as our 3 months old son.  When you consider that one serving of their lasagna bolognese, with tax and tip, would run you over $20 - it's just as easy and much more enjoyable to drop that $20 on some good meat and tomatoes and labor over making your own at home.  

4 out of 5 sporks! 

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet Nothings - Dayton, Ohio

During my time off work, I was lucky enough to have a couple of great local confectioners contact me about sampling their goodies.  I love goodies!  My post-partum body may not agree with me, but I'll get to the gym eventually to make up for it.  Too bad no one thought of giving me samples when I was burning an extra 300-400 calories a day!

Last week I got a visit from Sarah Thieben, owner of Sweet Nothings.  She brought over a sampling of all of her sea salt toffees, as well as Platinum Brownies, Highlander Grogg Bundt Cake,  and Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies.   After chatting with Sarah, I realized her story may not be wildly different than a lot of folks who decide to go into business for themselves.  She worked a regular 9 to 5 like most of us, found a new passion and pursued it.  That said, her take on why she bakes the way she does stand out to me - putting an end to mediocrity.  Sarah is a self-admitted perfectionist and texture fanatic, and has owned up to baking dozens of cakes until the texture and taste are nothing short of flawless.  I love her theory: "If one is going to indulge, the experience should be so exquisite, the ingredients so good, that it eradicates later regret."  After sampling her wares, I can verify that she is 100% not bullshitting about this.

I very rarely pat people on the back for being completely original, but this is one of those rare occasions.  All of her baked goods tasted like nothing I'd ever had before.  I was most excited about trying the Sea Salt Toffee.  The Dark Chocolate Cashew was definitely my favorite.

Huge, whole cashews enveloped in this wonderfully sweet & salty toffee, then topped with a thin coating of dark chocolate.  I know some of you are still skeptical about salt in your sweets, but here are two things to consider:
- unless you're baking at home, chances are, every baked good you've ever had has been made with a fair amount of salt.
- Why?  Because salt brings out and emphasizes sweetness, dummy.
When you amp the salt up just a tiny bit, it really punches up all of the other flavors.

She also uses sea salt as a feature ingredient in the amazing Platinum Brownies.  I'm a big brownie fan, but I'm pretty particular.  I don't like them too fudgy or too cakey, and I always prefer the corner pieces.  The Sweet Nothings website has a description of these treats that claims to end the eternal debate between fudgy and chewy - and it actually does.  Each brownie is a perfect balance of texture, with deep, rich chocolate flavor, a reasonable slathering of buttercream icing in top, and just a hint of pink Himalayan sea salt.  Sarah mentioned that she considers it a cardinal sin to make something that looks better than it tastes.  So, they're not all tarted-up like a DLM Killer Brownie or those frosting-drowned monstrosities from Ele.  They're simple, and they're delicious.

To me, those two were the stars of the show, but the cake and cookies were not to be outdone.  The Highlander Grogg bundt cake captures the deep caramel notes and slight booziness of the coffee bean without being overpowering.  I had a few bites with my morning coffee, but quickly learned it paired up a lot better with a glass of cold milk.

The Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies were almost too pretty to eat, which is something I've never uttered before.  Every time I've heard someone say "That just looks too pretty to eat," I always look at them like they just said "That free money is just too fun to spend!"  But, dude...
These cookies were the only item that even slightly hinted at something I've had before. Between the density given by the cream cheese and the touch of almond flavor, these are a little reminiscent of some short breads I've tasted.  But, I've certainly never seen a short bread cookie all fancied up in poured fondant like these little beauties.  And even as good as they look, they still taste even better than they look.  

Sweet Nothings' prices are very reasonable for what you're getting. Sarah is incredibly passionate about supporting other area business and uses all locally sourced items in her baking - so yes, they're more than what you'd pay at Kroger.  As far as sweets go, I've paid a lot more and gotten a lot less in terms of quality.  I linked to her website above, but that's not the only place you can find her goods. She has a booth at the Webster Street Market most days of the week, and February 13-14, she'll be doing a pop-up bakery inside Get Dressed! Boutique on Far Hills in the Shops of Oakwood. You can even pre-order any items you want through the website and choose "pop up bakery" as the shipping method and she'll have them ready for you.  She'll also have some unique items just for those two days.  

When I get samples from big vendors, the FTC requires that I disclose that I received the items for free - so I'll do the same thing here.  If I receive free product and don't like it, I'll make no concessions about telling you it sucked.  Again, I don't get paid for any of this blog business, and free snacks aren't enough to make me mislead my readers.  In the same vein, I also want you to know when certain products are well worth the money.  

What I'm saying is, do yourself a favor and check out Sweet Nothings.  And fellas, if you have a gal or a wife that isn't psychotically obsessed with calorie counting, any of the SN treats would make a great Valentine's Day gift.  I'd choose them over flowers any day.