Saturday, October 24, 2009

Terra Mia

All I can say is, I'm glad I finally got to eat here, it was well worth the wait!

The first time I wanted to eat at Terra Mia, it was packed and there was a 40 minute wait. A good sign but I did not want to wait. The second time I wanted to eat there, we went on a Sunday afternoon, only to discover they are closed on Sundays! Third time's the charm, right? It was.

We called on a Friday night to find out how late they were open. 10 PM. Great, it was already 9 so we figured we'd catch them right near the end of the evening when things were slowing down. Wrong! We got there after 9:30 and the place was packed. Fortunately, a large group outside had gathered around one table leaving an empty table with no chairs. We were offered that outside table and promptly waitstaff brought us chairs from somewhere around the side of the building (I think they "borrowed" them from another establishment that was closed! No matter, we were seated promptly outside on a very pleasant October night. is good.

My Corona (with lime, thankfully) and my friend's iced tea arrived promptly, as did some delicious bread and an olive oil and herb & cheese dipping sauce. It was delicious. And the bread and oil was good too!

I ordered the Pizza Salomino, a huge 11" pizza with cheese and ham and a great pizza sauce. It was hot, huge, and delicious. Everything a good pizza should be. Though called a personal size pizza, it was big enough for two. I ate half of it--and the one more slice. It was so good.

My friend had the Lasagna Bolonese. It was truly delcious. There was not over blending of tastes here. The meat was distinct and flavorful, the bolognese was fresh, bright, not overly tomatoey, and delicious. And the cheese flavorful and distinct. The noodles did there job in providing a good supporting structure while not being evident with starchy taste. It was a truly well put together dish.

Our total tab including tax and two Coronas was about $35, not bad for some very good food. And not I know that there are three, yes count them, three really good pizza places in Lake Mary: Terra Mia, Giovanni's, and Caffe Positano. I suggest you give Terra Mia a try if you have not already. I can't waith to go back for more of their food!

Oh, and by the way, they were still busy when we left, the staff was still attentive, and we never ever once felt that they were closed and it was time to leave. I suspect they stay open till everone is ready to leave, no matter how late they linger. And the outdoor patio is a nice place to linger on a beautiful evening.
terra Mia on Urbanspoon

Morgan's Burger Bistro

I had eaten at Morgan's Burger Bistro several times in the past and always enjoyed it. So on a Friday I invited three co-workers to venture to downtown Sanford with me for lunch. I am a hero! All four of us agree: best burger ever!

We arrived shortly before noon and were promptly greeted by both the hostess and by Jane, Michael Morgan's mother. In true mother form, Jane constantly made sure we had everything we needed and that all our questions were answered. What great service.

We started out with the deep fried green beans and quite a variety of the sauces. We all were amazed by the great sauces, made by Chef Michael Morgan, and tried many of them. We each had our favorites. The beans did not last long.

My burger and side salad arrive shortly thereafter and was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was dressed with just a bit of lettuce and a thin slice of tomato and served on a kaiser roll.  It was a half pound of black angus grilled to absolute perfection. I decided to try it without any condiments, just to see what it was like. It was heaven. Absolute heaven. I never did put a single thing on it--that would have been a sin. I hate to admit it, but I ate the whole thing. It was so good.

The side salad I had did help assuage my guilt over eating the whole burger. I dressed it with a bit of spicy thousand island/french dressing. I'm not sure exactly how to describe the dressing, except to say it was fantastic.

I did sample some of the go-withs of my co-workers: regular fries, sweet potato fries, and onion rings--all were very good and made even better by the variety of dipping sauces.

My friends also had a variety of burgers and were similarly impressed. Joe was surprised and glad that they'd cook his rare as requested, and loved it. Bob and Dale both had sauteed mushrooms and cheese on theirs and loved them as well. Dale could not finish hers, but fortunately Bob did--I felt a bit less like a pig then, thank you Bob! My total for the 1/2 pound Black Angus Burger with a side salad, Deep Fried Green Beans, a Iced Tea was about $17 with tax. The Burger with side alone is $6.95--a great value for sure.

In the past I've had a few other dishes here such as the Duck Quesadillas, Cajun Burger, etc. All have been very good. If you are in the mood for a burger, not just an ordinary burger, but a good, even great burger, try Morgan's Burger Bistro. It is the best I've ever had, beating even the popular 5 guys place. Best burger in Orlando, I promise!
Morgan's Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 19, 2009

Red Brick Pizza

I was in a mood for pizza last Sunday afternoon. Our first choice was closed, so we settled on Red Brick Pizza which is nearby, in Sanford. It was just past midafternoon and not very busy, but no matter, we were hungry, and pizza sounded just right. We planned to order one small, one medium, and thus have a few slices for later in the evening.

My friend ordered the $7.99 special--a small (9") pepperoni pizza and a soft drink. I ordered the medium (11") Pizza Rustica, advertised as "new." 

The pizza was OK. I had a bite of the pepperoni, it was decent pepperoni pizza, not bad at all. I'm not sure it was really 9 inches, it sure did not look that big. But my "special" Pizza Rustica was somewhat of a disappointment. It was a very, very thin crust topped with mozzarella, parmesan, fresh basil, spices, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms, olive oil, and garlic sauce. Sounds good, right? Well, there were just a few wisps of basil, a very few pieces of mushroom, and I "guess" some other "spices." The flavor was not bad, but it was not exceptional or anything above ordinary, actually. And for the $11.25 price tag, not much of a value. i ate the whole thing--but there was not very much of it. I have had much better pizza from the frozen foods case at Publix--and for a lot less. I've even had better pizza from Papa John's and Domino's--and those places bring it to my door for me.

So my message for all of this is that I found Red Brick Pizza to be overpriced and underwhelming. I probably will not go back. Next time, I'll save a few bucks (well, more than just a few) and get a frozen "gourmet" pizza at Publix and cook it myself. Even when not on sale, I'd be getting a better value than we got at Red Brick Pizza. Save your money--for good pizza, look elsewhere!
Red Brick Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stone's Throw Bistro

I had eaten once before at Stone's Throw Bistro and had a good meal. Then I sampled their food at Taste of Sanford but was not totally impressed--however, there were extenuating circumstances. So I was excited to go back and have another meal there, hoping for the best. I was not disappointed. 

My friend and I arrived at a Saturday night and were promptly greeted by a waitress. She said there would be a short wait while she got the hostess. A few minutes later, we were seated. There was live music (guitarist) and quite a crowd. It was a bit noisy. We asked for a bit more "out of the way" table and were seated towards the back, right near the kitchen. It was a good table. Still quite noisy at times, but I also got to see a lot of amazing food coming out. As a matter of fact, the chef/owner even popped his head out once to survey the goings on.

We had a very good meal here, no doubt. We started with a Shrimp and Grits appetizer. Three truly huge shrimp sat on a bed of bacon and pumpkin grits. The shrimp had a slight bit of pumpkin BBQ butter on them--not really a BBQ sauce as you normally think of it, but a good, savory flavor. The shrimp were just a bit overcooked. Not badly, but just a bit. It is hard to cook such large shrimp to perfection, especially if they are not butterflied (these were not). However, all the flavors of this dish were spot-on. The subtle pumpkin flavor in the grits gave a unique sweetness to the dish. Home run here.

We both had the Southwestern Soup, and it was delicious. Just a hint of sweet (probably some butternut squash, I'm guessing) and with a nice heat (spice) to it. Those were some good chiles in it. There was a mix of navy and red or kidney beans in it, and a nice creamy broth. Another home run for me and my friend, we both loved the soup.

I had a side salad. Mixed greens with fresh chopped tomatos and onion and a balsamic dill dressing. I notice their online menu lists goat cheese, but I did not spy any in my salad. No matter, the salad was delicious and the dressing wonderful. I licked that plate clean!

Bread. Well, we did have to ask for bread. And then ask again. Same as last time we were there. Our waitress said she could have it for us right away if we didn't mind unheated bread. We didn't though it makes me wonder, how difficult is it to pop a few rolls in the microwave for a few seconds. No matter, the bread came, we like it, it was delicious.

Now for the main course. I had the Sage-cruste Sport Fish. The fish was red snapper. My very first bit was a bit alarming, the bite of fish was a bit dry. But it was the very end of the fish portion, the thinnest part. Fortunately, my next bit and all succeeding bites were great and not at all dry. Whew! This dish was absolutely wonderful. A nice crispy breadcrumb and sage topping gave the moist, tender fish a wonderful flavor and aroma. It sat on a bed of butternut squash and bacon risotto, and was topped with a bit of sage butter. Also serverd were several slices of squash, slightly fried and delicious. There was not one thing about my entree that I did not like. It was simply wonderful, delicious, creative, and flavorful.

My friend had the Filet of Beef, a perfectly cooked medium filet of beef served with a potato and roased red pepper has and a bit of roated red pepper bearnaise. We was surprise to see no bernaise sauce on the plate when his meal arrived (the bearnaise was already drizzled over the hash), but when he asked our server, she promptly brought out a small container of the bearnaise. With sprigs of tarragon and chunks of roasted red peppers, it was delicious and my friend was satisfied. The hash and sauce were very good, but then there's the filet. I had a bite and I'll tell you, it was as tender and flavorful as any steak I've ever had anywhere, anytime. But my friends opinion? He said it was the best ever filet--ever! "Melt in your mouth" is how he described it, and it truly was outstanding. 

You may notice the fall theme of the meal. Butternut squash. Pumpkin. These flavors permeated the whole menu. If the small sampling of the fare that we had at Stone's Throw Bistro last night is indicative of the rest of the menu (and I'm guessing it is), then this is a truly outstanding place to eat. I have a hard and difficult decision to make because my favorite restaurant is less than a block away. If I eat here a few more times, I may have a new favorite, based on flavor.

We had an ice tea and three (!!) glasses of wine (wine tab alone was $25), and our total meal with tax came to $97. But that was with wine, appetizer, two soups, salad, and two entrees. Was it worth it? Yes, every last bite. I'll be sending my friends here from now on, a great little gem of a place in downtown Sanford. I highly recommend it!
Stones Throw Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Caddies Pub

I was at Alive after Five in downtown Sanford a week or two ago, and one booth was handing out some very flavorful samples of their food. They said they were a new place in Lake Mary, not very far from my home. The food was good, so last night my friend and I decided to try it out.

I'd done a bit of Internet research first and there was little to find about this new place on the Internet. They do not have a web site yet (get with the program!). But they are new, I'll cut them some slack. I did find mention of them in one blog and I did add them to But we decided to try them out based on the samples they had at Alive after Five. 

We arrived around 8 on a Friday night. Caddies Pub is a pretty large place and definitely a sports bar type atmosphere with large flat screens TVs everywhere and a few sports games playing (Pitt was playing Rutgers, not that I really cared). They have a large well-stocked bar area and a large dining area with a mix of low and high top tables. Very nicely decorated and definitely the golf theme going for them. They also have another bar in the patio area out back--that bar was not open, but the patio is very nice and opens onto the "commons" area bordering the Marriott hotel in back and adjacent to the patio area for Fish Bones restaurant.

As I mentioned, the place was pretty empty, but then again, they've been open less than a month. The waitress--who was very attentive--was a font of info. She said that business had been spotty, with it being very busy at times, and slow others. To be expected in the first months. I mentioned the lack of the web site. She said that yes, the owner knew that, but has been very busy and also owns a bar/restaurant in Mount Dora. Good for them!

They had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap, a plus for them. Yumm! That's what I had to drink, my friend stayed with iced tea.

We were not that hungry, but I ordered the patty melt with a side salad instead of fries. First, the salad. It was huge! The homemade pineapple viniagrette (on the side as requested) was very good, a nice compliment to the salad which was fresh and tasty. Mostly iceberg lettuce, but still a very good salad, and generous portion with diced tomatoes and croutons and no cucumbers--as requested. My patty melt was good. Not exceptional, and pretty ordinary, but still good. The grilled onions were a bit tough, that was a negative. And I'd have liked a bit more cheese on it, the cheese seemed to have melted into the bread (perhaps they did not butter the bread first, that would have helped); for $8.95, I think more cheese was in order. Still, it was a tasty sandwich, the bread was excellent, and it was nicely toasted on the grill. The meat patty was very good and flavorful and well cooked, though I note they never asked how I wanted it cooked--often the case for such a sandwich, I guess. But anyway, it was good. 

My friend had a sandwich called "The Rough"--a breaded and fried piece of pork tenderloin on a roll. It was very good! He also had the coleslaw, and for my money, that was the hidden gem of our whole dining experience--excellent coleslaw. There was something in it that was very intriguing. I believe it was vanilla. What an amazing idea. It gave the the coleslaw a whole new exciting flavor and smell. Definitely a big hit! As a matter of fact, I'd go back there just so I could have my own order of coleslaw--it was that good!

Our service was attentive and our experience positive. They have a very nice menu. I'd love to come back and try one of their wraps. I think I'll put this place on my lunch roll call--will bring some work friends here for lunch one day, I think they'll enjoy it. It would also be a great place for an after work hours get-together. You know, a few beers, maybe an appetizer or a sandwich. It's a nice place in a great location. I wish them well. There are at least 5 restaurants in this same plaza, and all pretty good. But it's a busy area. I wish them all the best!
Caddies Pub on Urbanspoon

Macaroni-less Mac & Cheese

I've had macaroni-less Mac & Cheese at one of my favorite restaurants, Two Blondes and a Shrimp, and I wanted to try making my own--it is that good! So the other night I tried it and it was a great success. Here's what I did.

The dish I envisioned was a cross between lasagna and macaroni and cheese. Layered lasagna noodles, but with the cheesy flavor of macaroni and cheese. I searched the Internet high and low for such a recipe--in vain. Apparently, no one has done this before and documented it. Well, Two Blondes has done it, but now I have documented it--at least my version/interpretation.

I started with some flat lasagna noodles. All I could find were Barilla brand no-boil noodles. Hmm... that could be a problem. So I layed them flat in a half sheet pan (8 of them) and poured boiling water over them and left them sit while I made the rest of the stuff. After about 20 minutes they were softened but still al dente.

On to the filling. I got 12 slices of sliced fontina and 8 of asiago cheese from the Publix deli. My thought: layer the pre-sliced cheese with the noodles and add a creamy cheddar sauce to hold it all together and melt everything in the baking process.

For the cheddar sauce I cooked two Tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until it foamed, then added a small onion, finely chopped and a half teaspooon salt and cooked until soft. I added a dash or two of cayenne, a Tablespoon of dry mustard powder, then two Tablespoons of flour and cooked about a minute (yes, making a roux). Then I added two cups of 2% milk and cooked this until it came to a boil and thickened. Off heat i slowing whisked in 9 ounces of grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used Cabot seriously sharp cheddar)--the sharper the better! I reserved another 3 ounces of shredded cheddar for the top. I added a bit more salt and pepper to taste (ended up with about a Tablespoon of salt--remember, the noodles will be a bit bland. [hmm...maybe next time i'll use salted boiling water on the noodles??]

Now I was ready to begin assembly. I used a 9x9 glass dish, buttered. I added a half cup of sauce to the bottom, then a layer of the noodles. Then a layer of fontina (four slices), another half cup of sauce (spread all the way to cover everything), and 4 slices of asiago. Repeat for the next layer, skipping the asiago. Repeat again for the third layer with the asiago. Top with the last of the noodles, the last generous half cup of sauce, and sprinkle with the reserved cheddar. Finally I grated some parmigiano-reggiano (good quality parmesan cheese) on the top.

I covered with foil and baked in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, removed the foil, and baked at 375 for another 10-15 minutes till the top was browned and bubbly. I removed from the oven and let cool for quite a while until it was cool enough for me to steal a corner from it.

Wow, it was very good. The flavor was spot-on. Extremely cheesy, like a good mac and cheese should be. The noodles were there, but not the dominant taste. They added a nice form and structure to the layers of flavor. This dish was certainly a winner.

Will I make this dish again? You bet. I've had a half dozen friends sample it and all the comments so far have been exceedingly favorable.

Are there things I'd do to improve? Yes. The dish was a bit "greasy" or "oily," a result of some slight bit of cheese separation. Next time I will not put shredded cheddar on top, but mix it all into the sauce. I think next time I'll pass by the asiago in favor of maybe some Emmentaler or gruyere--or maybe both. I'll keep the fontina as well, but cut down a bit, I want cheddar to be the predominant flavor. When I shred the accompanying cheeses, I'll toss them in a bit of corn starch, that should alleviate any greasiness.

For the sauce, next time i'll chop the onions even finer and also add some garlic--that would have been a great flavor to have in the sauce. I think i'll strain the sauce as well to remove the onions--i'll already have all the flavor from them and that will make the sauce even creamier.

I'm also rethinking the top. Perhaps it would be nice to have a more traditional crunchy top to offset the extreme creaminess of the rest of the dish. Maybe some buttered panko crumbs, perhaps tossed with a bit of mozzarella to give it some form and texture.

So there you have it. What do you think? Your comments are always much appreciated. When I make it again, I'll let you know what I've done to perfect it even more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beef Stew

I decided to experiment with food last night--one of my favorite things to do. I had some leftover beef sirloin tip roast that I'd previously pounded to 1/2 inch thick, sliced with the grain into 2" strips, then cut against the grain into 1/2 inch strips (these were leftover from the sirloin tip roast I bought for my Skillet Beef Stroganoff, posted previously). So what to make with this? Stew!

I heated a small saute pan with 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil over medium hight heat until it started smoking, then browned the beef, a few minutes on each side (I'd previously seasoned it with some salt and pepper). Once browned, I set it aside in a bowl. I heated another 1-1/2 Tablespoons (or so) of oil till hot again, then added: about 4 oz mushrooms, sliced; one small onion, finely chopped, one stalk celery, sliced. I added a bit of salt and sauteed about 8 minutes until most of the water was released. Then I added about 2 Tablespoons flour and cooked about a minute. I slowly added 1-1/2 cups of low sodium beef broth and 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (since I'd run out of beef broth!), stirring constantly.

Time for the secret ingredient. I added about 2 Tablespoons of brandy. Then I added one large carrot, sliced, and the meat and juices. I added one large russett potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch (or so) chunks and one bay leaf. I simmered on low, low, low, for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After the long and slow braise, the meat was tende and the carrots and potatoes cooked through. I removed the bay leaf and added just a teaspoon or so of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Then I tried a bit. Wonderful. Fantastic. Outstanding. I was impressed. The simplicity of the fresh ingredients worked wonders. This was a truly outstanding stew, if I do say so myself... and I do. I hope you try these simple ingredients and techniques the next time you want to make a stew. You will be handsomely rewarded, trust me!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Skillet Beef Stroganoff

I'm all for less dishes when cooking, so when and episode of America's Test Kitchen (or actually, it was their new sister show from featured one-pot Beef Stroganoff, I took note. Last night I made it for dinner. It is indeed fairly easy and done in one pot. The final product was absolutely fantastic. The tiny bit of lemon juice added at the end brightened the flavor, and the bit of brandy in it added a rich note of meaty, woodsy complexity, aided by the meat and mushrooms. It was soooo good I could hardly stop eating it. 

Though called a "skillet" dish, i did mine in a large saute pan. I pounded the pound and a half of trimmed sirloin tip into about a half inch or so thickness, cut into 2 inch with the grain strips, then into 1/2 inch across the grain strips. They were sauteed in two batches in a tablespoon of oil and set aside. A few more Tablespoons of oil and I sweated 10 oz. of sliced baby bellas and a finely chopped onion till dry, then a couple tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Slowly adding 1-1/2 cup each of chicken and beef broth, then 1/3 cup brandy and finally the meat and juice and simmered on low till tender. Finally about 2/3 pound of wide egg noodles added and cooked al dente. Finished of with 3/4 cup sour cream and just two teaspoons of lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste and you're all set.

This is an excellent, excellent dish and fairly easy to make. It can be done in about an hour. The recipe is on the Cooks Country web site. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Key Lime Pie

My friend and I ventured to College Park last night and had dinner at the home of our good friends Joe and Ewa. Dinner was excellent in all respects. Our main course was Cornish Hens baked over a bed of rosemary potatoes, and glazed with an orange glaze. It was "to die for." But this post is not about our great dinner, it's about our outstanding dessert.

Now to set the stage, I rarely eat desserts. I usually pass them by, or if a guest at family or friend's, I'll take the smallest possible taste or slice. Most desserts are just to sweet for me. Enter, Ewa and Joe's Key Lime Pie.

Florida Keys: Look Out! The Key Lime Pie last night was better than any I've ever had, either in the Keys or out. It was simply outstanding. They key: it was not overly sweet. Credit for the pie goes to Chef Ewa. Credit for the topping goes to assistant Chef Joe.

First the crust. It was indeed the typical graham cracker crust. I'm not sure what her secret ingredient was, but I'm guessing it was a lack of too much sugar. The taste we excellent. The butter made it very nutty. You could actually taste the crust. Yumm.

Next the filling. No canned or bottled lime juice here. They have a Key Lime tree and used them. Talk about fresh--how much more fresh you can you get. Some of the lime zest was also used, and condensed milk, none of that sweetened stuff. You could actually taste the lime--nice and tart without being bitter.

And then the topping. Now there was some debate over this, but Joe hand whipped the cream and added just a touch of honey. Right call, Joe. The bit of honey left the cream to stand on its own, but with the delicate hint of honey-sweetness--the perfect compliment to the pie. 

I ate every last crumb of mine and would have licked the plate, had no one been looking--it was that good. I hereby proclaim Ewa and Joe's Key Lime Pie to be the best ever, anywhere!

Gourmet 2 Go

Talk about a hidden gem! I first heard about Gourmet 2 Go in downtown Sanford from it's chef and chief publicity hound, Michael. At any Sanford event, and on almost any given busy day or night in downtown Sanford, you're liable to run into Michael giving out handbills and pushing his place, Gourmet 2 Go. He is a great marketer, but that's only made possible because he had a great product to market, the fresh food at Gourmet to Go. 

I've eaten there several times now and stopped in a few times for drinks and to listen to the free music (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights). It's always been a good experience. And once you meet Michael, he's your friend and will remember you the next time you come in--guaranteed!

My last foray to Gourmet 2 Go was to take three coworkers there for lunch last Friday. The hits were the Cuban sandwich (excellent!), the Tomato Florentine Soup (totally awesome), and the Black & Bleu sandwich--very, very good. My Cream of Mushroom soup was excellent, so nice and rich and creamy that I was able to save half of my Black & Bleu sandwich to take home for another meal. My friends and I totally enjoyed ourselves (though there was no Michael at this time). The chef/waiter (whose name I've unfortunately forgotten) was very attentive and helpful. We had a very nice meal here and I'll be back for sure.

By the way, in the past I've had a few other things on the menu, certainly worth mentioning. The Cream of Celery soup is so very good and a Sanford "tradition"--probably because at one time in the past, Sanford was a large producer of celery. Nowadays, developments have replaced those celery fields. Sigh! The Asian Pulled Pork is also very good, and the DJs Macaroni Salad is wonderful. I'd say fresh ingredients, attention to detail, and made-to-order seem to be the hallmarks of Gourmet 2 Go. I'm a big fan, I hope you will be too!

A sandwich, soup, side, drink, and a free dessert shooter, total bill, about $13. Worth every bite, especially later that evening when I had the other half of my sandwich and was able to relive the earlier dining experience. Yumm!
Gourmet 2 Go on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Graziano's Pizza

I had dinner with a friend at Graziano's Pizza in South Daytona the other night. It was pretty good pizza.

This appears to be a family owned and family run business. Our waitress is the daughter-in-law of the owner. She was a lot of fun and very pleasant. As the only "front of the house" person on a slow Sunday night, she did a good job of multi-tasking and took good care of us, the two or three other tables there, and the occasionally carry-out order, as well as served as the phone order-taker, and appeared to also be babysitting a younger child. Whew! But she did a good job of it all. We learned that they used to have a restaurant on "the strip" in Daytona, right on the beach, but moved here when the building they were in was torn down for "redevelopment."

The pizza was very good pizza, nicely done, and reasonable. We had sausage, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes--very yummy. A 14" fed the two of us--stuffed us, actually--and left two slices to take home. My side salad was ordinary, but good. We also had an order of deep fried mozzarella stick. The marinara was very good, the sticks good but usual. I also had a Corona with my meal (no lime--dang!) and my friend an iced tea. The total bill was about $27. Reasonable, it seemed to me, very reasonable. And it was very good pizza too. I'd eat here again.
Graziano's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Daily Grind Burgers

My friend and I decided to try Daily Grind Burgers for lunch today, and we're glad we did! My only regret is that I did not order a burger. What was I thinking?? We went to the Daily Grind in Port Orange, just south of Daytona Beach, FL. We've been to a neighbor restaurant, Monterrey Grill, a few times and loved it a lot. It was hard to pass it by. But a good thing.

My friend ordered the Black & Blue burger, a tender, juicy burger topped with bacon, blue cheese, onion petals, and chipotle mayo. I had a bit--a very, very bit bite. It was awesome! Flavorful and juicy. It was about the second best burger I've ever had in a restaurant--second only to Morgan's Burger Bistro in Sanford. But that is a compliment. It was very good. The onion rings he had as a go-with were also very good, juicy and flavorful.

Trying to be a bit healthy, I had the Buffalo Chicken sandwich, a piece of chicken breast with a buffalo sauce (somewhat spicy/hot) and provolone cheese. It was pretty good. I added tomato and lettuce from the fixin's bar. Only two complaints. One part of the chicken was just a tad stringy, though the rest was very good. And the bun seemed a bit tough. Not sure what caused that, it just was a bit tough as if not quite grilled right. Still it was a pretty good sandwich and I cleaned it up.

I also ordered a side salad, a big salad in a huge bowl. Too much shredded cheese for my tastes (trying to be healthy) and a packaged raspberry viniagrette dressing, but it certainly met my goal of having some green veggies.

I would certainly eat here again, but next time I'm going for what they do best, the burger. Yumm!
Daily Grind Burgers on Urbanspoon

Aunt Catfish's on the River

Note to self: call ahead for seating next time. Aunt Catfish's is a popular place for a reason, and we did have a bit of a wait. The originally stated 1:20 wait ended up being about 40 minutes, and the beautiful evening and walkway out over the Halifax River (Intracoastal waterway) made for a very pleasant wait. 

We were fortunate to be seated outside as well, on a gorgeous Saturday evening. Service was prompt, attentive, and full of advice! My friend quickly ordered the Lobster special, a whole Maine lobster (around a pound or so) with a side and the salad bar. It was very good.

I originally was going to order the Southern Style Rock Shrimp and Grits, but the waitress quickly nixed that, telling me there were much better selections on the menu. I appreciated the guidance and eventually settled on the 2-dozen Rock Shrimp, broiled, with garlic butter. They were very good, though on the smaller size. Still, they are in season now and fresh-caught off of Cape Canaveral, she said. They were indeed excellent. 

My go-with of Scalloped Tomatoes was good, nothing too out of the ordinary, but still quite tasty. The salad bar was awesome, very fresh with a nice selection. I also tried the "fixin's" bar which had awesome cheesy shrimp and grits, two types of coleslaw (the vinegar-based one very good), and some really good pork and beans. Good thing I took small portions of each, I had more than enough food to eat.

We started out meal with an appetizer trio: onion petals, chicken strips, and fried green tomatoes. They were all good, the onion and chicken pretty ordinary, but the fried green tomatoes were very good. I'd have liked them a bit thicker, but that's a personal preference.

The total bill for our meal came to about $53, and did not include any drinks (we'd ordered those at the bar during our wait). It was a good meal and worth it, I'd say. I recommend Aunt Catfish's, you won't be disappointed nor go away hungry!
Aunt Catfish's On the River on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Who Stole the Kiszka?

Kiszka (pronounced KISH-ka) is a Polish "delicacy." Technically, what we had is also called kaszanka and often referred to as "blood sausage." It's a pork sausage with grain, often buckwheat or barley but can be rice or other grains, stuffed into a pigs intestine (the casing) and often eaten for breakfast. As a child, remember eating this at my Uncle Frank's parent's house. I'm sure I had it other times as well.

Last night, my dear friend Ewa cooked kiszka for us at my house. It was delicious. My what a meal that girl can make! How'd she do it? Well, I'm gonna give out her secret, right now! She layered a bit of bacon on the bottom of a roasting pan, then put on the kiszka with some potatoes (in chunks) and onions, then topped with a layer of bacon (you know that it'll be great if pork fat is involved! We baked it at 385-400 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the potatoes were done. Then we broiled it for about 5 minutes to crisp up the bacon on top, then added sauerkraut to the top and baked another 10 minutes, until the kapusta (sauerkraut) was cooked through.

For a "go with" Ewa made a delicious carrot and sauerkraut salad, basically grated carrot with sauerkraut, a bit of sugar, some lemon juice, and grated apple. It, too was delicious.

But the star of the meal was the kiszka. It was delicious. A hearty meal but a good meal. Ewa is the queen of the kuchnia (kitchen) when it comes to Polish cooking, and last night was no exception! Super Yummo! Bardzo dobrze, Ewa! And of course, after the meal we did enjoy a bit of Luksusowa--Polish potato vodka, served frozen of course, and in frozen shot glasses.

A good time was had by all!

Outback Steakhouse

I ventured out the other night to celebrate a friend's birthday, and we went to Outback Steakhouse in Sanford. I've eaten here and at a number of other Outback's over the years and have always had a decent meal. Tonight was a repeat performance. 

First, they were running a special--AAA members get a free bloomin' onion. How could I resist that? I will say it was a tad overcooked, or maybe the oil was near the end of its life. It tasted OK, and the remoulade is always good, but it was just OK, nothing special. The bread was good as always--nice and dark, warm and flavorful. Likewise with the salads, they were very good, typical salads. My dressing was a tomato based, french-like dressing. It was good.    

For my entree, I had the Shrimp en Fuego. I did lament the fact that they no longer had Boomerang Shrimp on the menu, and our waiter offered that they could make that for me. I debated a moment, and appreciated the offer, but decided to try the Shrimp en Fuego anyway. It was pretty darned good. The veggies, haricot verts, were excellent, not overcooked, nice and crispy and quite tasty. The shrimp were fried and in a cream sauce with mushrooms and tomatoes and very tasty, served with a bit of baked potato. It was quite good, though not the outstanding shrimp I've had with the boomerang shrimp. Still, it was quite good--I'd order it again.

My friend had the prime rib, medium rare. It appeared to be perfectly cooked though he did find it a bit stringy, but still tasty. He took the leftovers home, always a good sign.

Another good meal at Outback, for sure. I find them to be very consistent in good food and good service. Perhaps a bit on the pricey side, but you do get what you pay for, and I'd consider them a value. Our meal without a generous tip came to about $53 (and remember, there was a free Bloomin' Onion) and included a large Foster's (beer). All in all, another good dining experience at Outback Steakhouse
Outback Steakhouse on Urbanspoon