Monthly Archives: March 2011

Watch out boys…

…there is a new grill master in town. I haven’t told the hubster yet, but since last week’s lesson on grilling, I may force him to let me run our massive Brinkmann this summer. Why should he be the only one with tong privileges anyway?

I’m a bit behind in blogging about week 5 of Viking University (seeing as how earlier today was week 6, the last of the series) but that’s largely because I’m lazy. Thanks to my readers for being okay with that.

Week 5 was obviously all about grilling with a menu that read thusly:
Grilled NY Strip with cabernet butter
Rosemary chicken breasts
Grilled veggies with basil and asiago
Miso-glazed salmon
Garlic bread
Mixed greens with blue cheese, candied walnuts and lemon-basil vinaigrette

Have I mentioned that I’ve gained 5 lbs. since joining this class?

Chef

Before I forget, want to give a shout-out to Chef Knifong. He rocks. If you ever decide to take classes at Viking, try to get into the sessions he teaches. Side note: he reminds me of my pal Dave Weaver. Really. They could be brothers. So, that’s cool.

Anyhow, let’s talk about my favorite dishes from this class, starting with the miso-glazed salmon. Now, miso is generally one of those things that it has never occurred to me to purchase for home use. That has now changed, as I will be adding that to my list before my weekly excursion to Tom Thumb or Albertsons-I-hate-you. Yes, I do hate Albertsons, but that is a subject for another time.

The recipe is super-easy and has a small number of ingredients. Moreover, I think because most people are like me and don’t think about cooking with items like miso, sake or mirin on a regular basis, this would have a decent wow factor should you decide to serve it to friends.

Miso-Glazed Salmon

Grilled deliciousness...steak, chicken, salmon

1/4 c Japanese rice wine (dry sake)
1/4 c Japanese sweet cooking wine (mirin)
1/2 c + 2 tbs white miso
1/4 c + 2 tbs sugar
4 salmon filets
pickled ginger, for garnish

Combine the sake and mirin in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat; boil for 20-30 seconds to cook off the alcohol. Reduce heat to low, stir in the miso and continue cooking, stirring constantly until the miso has completely dissolved. Increase heat to high, add sugar and cook, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove pan from heat and cool the miso marinade to room temp. Reserve 1/4 c of the marinade for garnish. Pat your fish dry with paper towels and generously coat with the marinade. Place in non-reactive container, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. When ready to cook, remove fish from marinade and grill. You could also do this in your oven, but isn’t grilling more fun? Grill presentation side down first. I’m not going to give grill times here because every grill is different. You’ll just have to watch it and you’ll know when to flip and then when to remove.

Serve with some of the reserved miso mixture and definitely use the pickled ginger. For me, the glaze is a little on the sweet side, so the tang of the ginger is a perfect complement. Then again, I love ginger in all its forms, so do what works for you.

The other item from class that made want to wax philosophical was the garlic bread. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking – in a class that is meat-tastic, you’re going to talk about garlic bread? Yes. I am. Here’s why. When I was a kid, garlic bread meant regular sliced bread (or sometimes hamburger or hot dog buns) with margarine and garlic salt toasted in the oven. Not bad – gets the job done – but not exactly gourmet stuff. Sorry mom. You’re still my favorite cook in the world.

This garlic bread uses real live, actual ingredients like roasted garlic, butter and Parmesan. And its absolutely rich and sinful in the best possible way.

Mmm...garlicky

Garlic bread

6 cloves of roasted garlic
1 tbs finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 tbs butter, at room temperature
salt
12 (1/4″ thick) slices French bread, cut on diagonal

Preheat grill to medium. Mash roasted garlic with a fork then mix with the parsley, Parmesan, pepper and butter. Taste and season with salt as needed. Spread butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Grill the bread, buttered side up (recipe says buttered side down, but that’s just messy and you’ll lose some of the yumminess to the grill) until golden brown.

Simple, simple, simple. And – there was not a single slice of this bread left when class was over. Some of us (ahem – me) had more than their fair share.

Finally – let’s talk cabernet butter. Yes, I know, this item isn’t grilled. But it goes with items that are grilled. And let’s be honest, a great grilled piece of meat is awesome. But one topped with cabernet butter is enough to induce slightly more than a tiny o. I mean, it consists of wine and butter. If no one was looking, I’d just eat some with a spoon with a look on my face that says “what? I don’t know.”

Cabernet Butter

Cabernet butter - aka - possibly the world's greatest condiment

1 c full bodied dry red wine (stuff you’d be willing to drink)
1 medium shallot, minced
8 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
salt and pepper

Combine the wine and shallots in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced to approx. 2 tbs. Remove pan from heat and transfer the wine reduction to a medium mixing bowl to cool completely. Using a rubber spatula, stir the cooled wine reduction into the softened butter. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Transfer the compound butter to a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper and form into a cylinder about 1.5″ in diameter. Close the plastic wrap around the cylinder to seal and refrigerate until firm.

You can also freeze this stuff to use for later. And, once you know the technique, you can make any number of compound butters. Some with white wine. Some just with herbs – legal or illegal. Who says THC has to be restricted to brownies?

Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll let the hubster stay on tong duty. Seems like my love is really for the grilling accoutrements. Then again, I do love a good case of the meat sweats. Should be an interesting summer. Buen provecho!

Steaks on the grill

Grilled veg

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$1 Bellinis and Stoner Waiters

Sunday was fun. So much so, that this blog is a two-fer seeing as how I had brunch with my dancing friend Kristi followed much later by dinner with the incomparable Robin. Two different restaurants – yet hilarity ensued at each.

The hallmarks of good brunch places are:

1. Serving breakfast foods until about 3pm
2. Crispy bacon, well cooked eggs and tasty French toast
3. Cheap breakfast cocktails

Fortunately – Taverna checks all of my boxes.

Kristi and I arrived around 10:40am at my insistence, seeing as how arriving after 11am would have put us in the position of waiting waaaay too long for patio seating. I was ready to get my food and drink on. We were seated at a lovely corner table at the front of the patio and promptly ordered a mimosa (for Kristi) and a bellini (for me.).

The conversation meandered, drawing the attention of the couple at the table next to us. We’re pretty sure they followed our entire chat…and even texted each other at the table to discuss it. It’s nice to feel like we’re entertaining I guess.

Anyway – time to order. Kristi ordered poached eggs with bacon and breakfast potatoes. I went for the eggs al forno alla ‘olio tartufato’. The fancy name equals pan-fried eggs with breakfast sausage over garlic bread with truffle oil and breakfast potatoes. They had me at truffle oil. One day I’ll do a post about wanting to marinate myself in truffle oil. Or at least use it as a perfume. Maybe people would nibble on me.

Kristi's slightly augmented breakfast

By the time the entrees arrived, we were on drink #3. Kristi saw the light after the first round and switched to bellinis. They’re just so delicious. And even tastier since they’re cheap. Upon taking a look at Kristi’s poached eggs, we simply couldn’t resist taking the photo at left. Our discourse roughly went like this:

K: Those eggs just look a little wrong don’t they?
S: You bet.
K: We should take a picture, right?
S: (moving sausage to plate) Way ahead of you?
K and S: (simultaneously taking cell phone pictures and giggling like 12-year-old boys

Did I mention that only classy ladies like us do Sunday brunch?

In all seriousness, I love Taverna brunch. Even though this time I opted for a savory dish, I’m an eternal fan of their vanilla French toast. It is served with fresh fruit and creamy mascarpone cheese. The slightly tangy mascarpone is a perfect complement to the sweet vanilla in the toast itself. And, the fruit helps balance it out and make you feel like you have some nutritionally redeeming component to your meal. I’m suddenly having diner’s remorse for not ordering it on Sunday. *sigh*

My eggs were very well cooked – firm whites with a slightly runny center, perfect for sopping up with the zesty garlic bread. Having learned how to make a proper garlic bread the previous day in my cooking class (that post will be next), I had a great appreciation for the richness and flavor of Taverna’s version. Add the tender sausage and savory potatoes and I was in breakfast heaven. My only regret is that my stomach couldn’t accommodate the whole meal of food.

After getting home to – um – sober up a bit (thanks to Aunt Sandy for the two-hour phone conversation; it did the trick), I went to my office to do a little spring cleaning. Right around the one-hour mark, Robin texted me about having dinner. Hallelujah!

Robin suggested The Common Table – a restaurant in Uptown that has a great little patio. A perfect choice for a breezy spring evening in Dallas. I arrived first and, due to the lack of signage, self-parked along the street. The valet guy came by to let me know that he uses those spaces for valet but didn’t make a big deal or make me hand over my keys or *gasp* pay. Valet is a great concept – especially in busy zones like Knox-Henderson on a Saturday night – but given the relatively small group of people who had elected to patronize Common Table that evening, it seemed superfluous.

That's just a breadstick. Don't be like that.

We started with the pulled pork spring rolls, which came with a yuzu sesame sauce and a sweet chili garlic sauce. Having not bothered to commit the accoutrements to memory, we asked our waiter about the sauces when the dish arrived. Not a good sign when the descriptions rely on the phrase “it’s like a…” PS – he didn’t get either of them right. He said one was a Thai sauce and the other was a ginger soy sauce. Server fail. Did I mention his name was Jay? Not sure if that is his actual name or just his smokeable of choice.

Since I’d skipped the carb-tasticness of French toast at breakfast, I decided to opt for the papparedelle primavera – a pasta dish with sauteed vegetables, pecorino cheese and olive oil. And a suspicious-looking breadstick.

The pasta was perfectly cooked and the olive oil and pecorino were flavorful. The change I’d make would be to cut the vegetables a bit larger. Everything – except for the spinach – was so small, you couldn’t really tell what everything was and the taste of the vegetables was totally overwhelmed by the pasta and the oil. I was really hoping for the veggies to have more of a presence, I guess.

Poor photography. Great sammich.

 

Robin went for the grilled cheese, which isn’t what you’re probably imagining. This grilled cheese sandwich includes pork tenderloin (much pig was consumed at this meal) and four different kinds of cheeses along with a marinara sauce for dipping. And it comes on sourdough bread. What’s not to like about that?

Was the meal memorable? Not really – but it was a solid dinner and I’d totally go back to this place for a casual evening. One thing that wine lovers and beer fans alike will appreciate is that each dish on the menu is listed with a suggested wine or beer pairing. No one gets left out. Well, except for you boozehounds. The Groom Sauvignon Blanc was my libation of choice (after finding out the same varietal from Rodney Strong was no longer available). It was nice and acidic with great citrus notes. Everything a sauvignon blanc should be, so far as this wino is concerned.

I will say that, as a bar, Common Table delivers. The wine list is of good depth , with some interesting selections from California and Oregon, most notably. Beer selection is equally impressive and – for anyone who is a Dogfish Head fan – this Saturday you can find 12 Dogfish beers on tap, including Bitches Brew. If you’ve seen the show Brewmasters, you know that some of their beers are relatively limited in supply, so get these while you can, starting at 11am courtesy of Common Table.

All in all, a pretty nice little Sunday. It didn’t include trips to Home Depot or Bed Bath and Beyond, but who has time for that anyway? Buen provecho!

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Drrrty T and St. Ann

Spring in Dallas means two things:
1. The weather makes you long to be outside
2. On Friday afternoons, every patio from Oak Cliff to Denton is packed with people soaking up Vitamin D and various forms of booze.

Yesterday was one of those excellent Dallas days where you’d be mad not to seek out the nearest patio, claim your seat and not move the rest of the evening. So, when my pal Leanne had to postpone our dance date (sad face) and my other pal Drrrty T called to propose happy hour, it was sort of a no-brainer.

After discussing the merits of various local watering holes with patios – Sangria, The Porch, etc. – we landed on a place a bit farther south – St. Ann Restaurant. If you haven’t yet meandered that direction – and, if you’re of the Uptown or Park Cities set, this does not likely describe you – it’s worth a look.

The restaurant is next to St. Ann Court – the latest development from Harwood. The restaurant is located in the historic St. Ann’s School, which was built in 1927 as Dallas’ first school for Hispanic kids. The designers of the resto and bar integrated a school theme that is really only apparent on the website and the menu. But, maybe I was just too focused on nabbing a seat and a beverage.

If you want a patio table for happy hour, arrive early. Like, fake-a-stomach-cramp-and-tell-your-boss-you-need-to-leave-at-3:30 early. Drrrty T and I arrived around 6pm (the curse of working in the ‘burbs) and were 16th on the list for a patio table. On a perfect Friday night with warm breezes and clear skies, this mostly equates to “you will not get a table at all.” I mean, who would be in a hurry to leave?

With a sigh – and the realization that we’ve already valeted both of our cars – we accept an inside table. In the back. In the corner. With not enough room for drinks and food. Hostess fail. After trying to convince the hostess we were way too important and fashionable to suffer at that table – to no avail, might I add – we sucked it up and ordered drinks. A VT for DT and a white sangria for me. The sangria was nice, though I generally appreciate my sangrias a bit more on the tart side. The wine used for this particular one was a tad sweet for my liking. However, the large pieces of orange, lime and lemon helped balance the flavor nicely and after two or three, well…who is analyzing things at that point?

Smoked salmon appeteazer

We ordered apps too. The Atlantic smoked salmon for me – paired with crumbled hard-boiled egg, shallots and a lemon caper creme fraiche – and the hummus and grilled sizzlers for Drrrty T (who was willing to share).

The smoked salmon was nicely prepared and I liked the way the egg was incorporated into the dish. But, the reason I ordered it in the first place was my high expectations for the lemon caper creme fraiche. To be fair, I love capers. Love. So, I was hoping for some really bold flavor – both salty and tart – in this condiment. Alas, I tasted mostly creme fraiche, which is nice and all, but wasn’t what I’d expected.

Grilled sizzlers. These should have been mind-blowing because, in concept, they totally rock. Garlic chicken, jalapeno and onion wrapped in BACON and served with a side of ranch dressing. Diets be damned, it sounds like perfection, right? Well – this one was also a bit of a letdown. All of the pieces I tried were mostly on the dry side and the jalapenos had been totally de-veined, so there wasn’t much punch to the dish. Hell, I’m even going to criticize the bacon. It should have been crisper on the outside instead of so chewy. I’m actually thinking I might try to make this at home and see if I can improve upon it because I’m still sold on the idea.

Hummus

The star for me was actually the hummus. It was nice and garlicky, had great consistency, and the oil they used with it had a lovely aroma and flavor. Plus – the puffy pita slices with which it was served were crispy and delicious. I’d dip them in pretty much anything and be pleased. As evidenced by the photo, I couldn’t wait to dive into the dish. Though, I assure you, the blurry quality is due to my sub-par camera phone as opposed to any level of happy hour inebriation.

So – would I go back to St. Ann? Well..maybe. The atmosphere was nice, though decidedly not school-like, as the website would have you believe. And, while the rest of the menu didn’t have any terribly unique dishes listed, I’m always up for a good burger on a beautiful patio…assuming I can get a table. Buen provecho!

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The madame and a fish

This post is dedicated to two of my favorite Dallas standbys…La Madeleine and Blue Fish. Both of these are in regular rotation for my lunch hour which is generally restricted to the *blech* suburbs.

On Tuesday, I had a particularly lousy day and decided to do some – ahem – stress eating. Enter the chicken friand at La Madeleine. This fabulous creation is comprised of puff pastry filled with seasoned chicken goodness and topped with a creamy mushroom sauce. I shudder to contemplate the calories…so I just don’t. And this particular day, since I was feeling especially low, I asked the nice gent who prepped said friand to “get crazy with the mushroom sauce.” Bless him, he took care of me. Any more and it would have overflowed the plate. Add a small cup of their awesome tomato bisque and a Perrier and my spirits were immediately on the rise.

Um...I ate it all.

In fact, as the photo at left illustrates, I was so excited about this meal that I couldn’t bring myself to take the photo BEFORE I dug in. Instead, my anger fog didn’t clear until I’d finished the last bite. The remnants are what you see here. If and when you find yourself at any La Madeleine, you pretty much can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. I’m partial to the items off the hot bar — quiches, croque monsieur and my beloved chicken friand — but that is largely because I tend to gravitate to the most fattening items on any menu. One additional note, you can buy La Madeleine’s tomato bisque soup at the grocery store. I’d suggest avoiding this, no matter how many happy times you’ve had with this delicious nectar at the restaurant. It loses something in the translation.

The next day, it was sushi calling my name. Well, that and one of my esteemed co-workers offered to buy. And the only thing better than sushi is free sushi, you know.

I’m wildly predictable when it comes to dining at Blue Fish. Part of this is because their sushi rolls are so blasted large and unwieldy to eat, I’ve made it a priority to order those items that do not require me to unhinge my jaw to eat them. As as result, I’m devoted to the ahi tower. This delectable concoction consists of fresh ahi tuna, avocado, rice, roe, wasabi and a bunch of other deliciousness. It shows up in a beautiful stacked tower (so it isn’t just a clever name) and, if you’re lucky, when they mix it up for you, they’ll shape it into a lovely fish. I always give extra kudos to the servers who take that step.

Hello, lobster roll

 My lunch companion opted to live on the edge and try the lobster roll for the first time. The price will give you pause, but then again, sushi and cheap don’t generally go together, unless you’re the sort that likes to gamble with your stomach.

So, said lobster roll shows up and, the presentation is outstanding. The rolls are positioned on either side of a lobster tail shell, which is filled with pieces of fried lobster. Looks were not deceiving. Covered in eel sauce and a lobster mayo, this dish is just as delicious as it is terrible for you. But if you’re going to indulge, I say, go all the way.

In case you hadn’t figured out already, this blog isn’t exactly about healthy eating. But, we only live once, and frankly, life isn’t worth living without enjoying all of the great food the world has to offer. Buen provecho!

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Channeling my inner Paula Deen

Week four of my cooking class focused on those techniques I’m most likely to use: sauteing, frying and stir-frying. Well, at least I assume those are the most likely candidates seeing as how one of my biggest weaknesses is fried pickles. Followed by onion rings. Followed by…you get the idea.

Anyway, I nearly arrived late for this class due to the length of time it took me to bathe my greyhounds before I left. As you can probably imagine, trying to clean strong, lanky dogs against their will is no easy task.

I breezed into class and my hero Robin had already saved me a station, nabbed me the handouts, an apron and a name tag. She rocks, no? First up was to talk about how to set up a breading station and then we started trimming up chicken for our first dish – Chicken Parmesan. Another member of my group took care of de-fatting the chicken breasts (though he neglected to disinfect before chopping veggies next….tsk tsk….) while Robin and I took care of chopping up some herbs to be included in our breading mixture. Three steps to a good breading station – seasoned flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs (or more flour or whatever floats your boat).

Chicken Parm

Once everything gets breaded, we pan fry the chicken just long enough to get a golden brown color on each side, then into baking dishes with tomato sauce (pre-made, canned stuff. Easy!), fresh mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Bake and that’s it. Garnish with a little extra Parm and basil. No wonder the folks at Olive Garden can make this stuff. It’s crazy simple! And the technique is the same regardless of what you use. So, yes mom and dad, I can make a vegetarian version when you visit next.

Next we prepped to make a shrimp and veggie stir fry with jasmine rice. I’m generally rice-impaired but I think I may be on the path to recovery. Fortunately for me and the rest of the class, this was the teacher demo. The highlight of the stir fry? The sauce. Let’s be honest…you can throw pretty much whatever you want into a stir fry dish. It’s really about how everything comes together that determines success or failure. With that – here is the recipe for a sauce that will make everything taste delicious.

 

STIR FRY SAUCE

Shrimp and vegetable stir fry with jasmine rice

1 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs water
2 tbs dry sherry
1 1/2 tbs unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce
1 1/2 tbs toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbs peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

In a bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Really. That’s all. Trust me, you’ll want to slather everything in this stuff.

The remainder of the menu included veal piccata – thin slices of sauteed veal topped with a pan sauce made from the drippings, lemon juice, capers and parsley. This dish comes together super quickly (assuming you already have clarified butter on hand) and could even be made on a weeknight after a long day at the office. It’s a deceptively fancy dish. Would easily impress guests and only you’d have to know that you spent most of your prep time drinking wine, not slaving over the cooking. Sort of like that old commercial for Rice Krispies treats. You know – the one where the mom throws flour on herself to look like she’s been working really hard when making the treats took no time at all? It’s like that, but tastier.

Finally – crispy sauteed fish with beurre blanc. Beurre blanc translates to ‘white butter’ and is precisely that. It is a classic sauce made with butter and heavy cream. Not for those on a diet, but a most for anyone who appreciates indulgent flavor. Chef Andre suggested I not add butter to my bread for a week to make up for the calories. That is – until I asked him how long I’d have to give that up if I just downed a glass of the sauce. The notion seemed to perplex him. Good thing I didn’t go so far as to ask what would happen if I wanted to take a swim in it.

Again, this one is super easy and it just sounds fancy to say…beurre blanc.

CLASSIC BEURRE BLANC

2 tbs minced shallots
1/4 c dry white wine
1 tbs white wine vinegar
3 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 whole black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 c heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tbs) – cut into pieces and chilled
salt and white pepper, to taste

Combine shallots, wine, vinegar, lemon juice, peppercorns and thyme in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce has reduced and the pan is nearly dry. Add the heavy cream and continue cooking (reduce) until the cream has thickened and coats the back of a spoon (nappe). TAKE PAN OFF HEAT. (this is important) Whisk in the cold butter, one piece at a time, until all is incorporated. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and season to taste. Serve immediately or hold in a warm water bath (or thermos) until ready to use.

Beurre blanc - aka deliciousness

Yep. I just realized that the only thing that makes this class different from an episode of Paula Deen’s show is the lack of mayonnaise. That aside, I’m pretty sure the quantities of butter and oil that were used – and subsequently consumed – would warm her Southern heart. And probably help her husband add to his belly, making him look more and more like Santa Claus. For real. Check it out.

Just two more weeks of class. Next week is all about grilling. Finally – I’m going to get my hands on a grill, because you know that no man in my life has allowed it thus far. Watch out boys…I’m gunning for ya. Buen provecho!

Crispy sauteed fish

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My ventis will remain of the coffee variety

The instances where the hubster and I actually plan to go out to dinner are few and far between when a special occasion isn’t involved. The premeditated decision to dine out on Friday night was a rare one but seemed a good opportunity to try the new Italian place – Pizzeria Venti – that opened down the street from us recently. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure what I expected, though I think I’d envisioned more of a sit-down experience. By that I mean – one in which all of your table’s food arrives at once…or in a timely manner….or….

Service can kill a restaurant experience. Five-star food will get trumped by no-star service every single time, in my book at least. Add to that, if you really want to see how efficient an eatery is, go during a peak time. That’s what separates the okay from the sublime. Unfortunately, the folks at Pizzeria Venti were grossly understaffed for a packed Friday night and those that were working seemed completely overwhelmed and a little confused most of the time.

Upon entering, we got in line to place our order and took a moment to peruse the wine selection. Wines available by the bottle are on a set of shelves not too far from the entrance. Had I known what was to follow, I’d have just picked up a bottle of red and not let it go. Side note – now having a wine fridge, I’m immensely put off by drinking wine kept at room temperature. We’ll do a separate post on my wine snobbery another day.

I decided on a Timpanini – PV’s version of a calzone, more or less. This one featured chicken, mushrooms, artichokes and alfredo sauce. Hubster opted for a couple of slices of pepperoni, meatball, green pepper and onion pizza. Add to that a bottle of red wine and a Moose Drool beer and this casual Friday night dinner now totals nearly $50. It is important to mention at this stage, the beer was the only thing that was provided immediately. Good thing too, since that’s all he got to enjoy.

Chicken Timpanini

Somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes later my Timpanini arrives at the table. To recap – at this stage, we have one beer and one entree. Oh, and I’d managed to procure some water for myself by nabbing a to-go coffee cup and filling it at the fountain. When the Timpanini arrived, I mentioned to the server that we were still waiting on a bottle of wine a couple of slices o’ pie. He said he would check on it for us.

Another 15 minutes pass and now I go up to the counter – which finally has no line – and mention that we are still missing half of our order. The woman whom I’d ordered from about 30 minutes prior looks around, slams her hand down (clearly she’s having a rough night too) and instructs another person to bring the wine. She says she’ll bring the missing pizza to us herself.

Now…at this juncture, I’m thinking things are looking up. Alas….no. The person who comes to serve the wine happens to be a wine rep and doesn’t even work at the restaurant. As a result, our wine arrives with a side of commentary about how what we ordered isn’t one of the wines she reps and she shouldn’t even be pouring it. I nod along, hoping she will just hurry up, pour, and vacate the table when – horror of horrors – she pours the wine and sticks her nose in there to give it a sniff before handing the glass to me. Ick. Blargh. Timpanini chunks rising in throat.

Now armed with my possibly-germ-infused-room-temperature-wine I make my way through the remaining (now cold) pieces of my dinner and still sit in wait for the missing slices of pizza. Once they arrive, I’m thinking at at least we’ll now get to having full bellies. Instead, I see the hubster making a weird face when he realizes they’ve already sprinkled Parmesan cheese on the slices. Despite his culinary inclination, he generally hates most cheeses. Especially ones with strong flavor like Parmesan.

Much-awaited pizza

It is at that juncture that I find someone to round up a to-go box and we decide to put an end to this travesty. By now, you’re probably wondering, well, was the food any good? Best I can do is give it a “meh”. The innards of my Timpanini were pretty delicious – the chicken was well seasoned and tender and the sauce had a nice flavor. But the amount of cheese on top pretty much overpowered the entire thing. May as well have been a big slice of bread covered in cheese.

The pizza – well, I’m sitting here eating it now since it wasn’t consumed at the restaurant. It’s only so-so as well. And I’m a lover of next-day pizza. Again, the ratio of cheese to everything else is off and the sauce isn’t really that great. This may be that rare instance where pizza is – gasp! – thrown out in my house. Or, the dogs may get an amazing treat tomorrow.

All in all – PV suffered from a variety of issues, the largest likely being the chasm between my expectations and what actually ensued. I was hoping for something more like the experience offered by Coal Vines and got something more akin to my local Pizza Hut. From now on, I’ll stick to coffee when I’m looking for something “venti”. Buen provecho!

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Oliver with no twist

Spending the evening writing performance reviews is so NOT how I envisioned my Fat Tuesday. When I should have been out consuming hurricanes and king cake, I instead wrote glorious prose about the ability of others to meet or exceed expectations.

At least I had a nice lunch hour break today with some great friends to keep the day from being a total waste. My lunch companions are quite lovely, don’t you think?

Lunch buddies

We ended up at a place called Oliver’s Eatery in Plano. It is at the NE corner of Frankford and the Tollway. It’s sort of your standard located-in-a-strip-shopping-center-eatery. In fact, I liken it to a slightly more upscale Fuddruckers. And, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love me some Fuddruckers every blue moon or so. I think maybe it’s the bulk size canned goods they use as decor.

Upon arriving at Oliver’s, we exchanged hugs and got in line. Fair warning – you will receive your order on a tray at this place. Don’t be deterred.

A quick peruse of the menu – and a snap decision that this was not going to be a salad day – and I selected a bison burger with swiss cheese (on a whole wheat bun, thank you) with a side of sweet potato fries. Now, one of these days I will do a post solely dedicated to my quest for the most amazing sweet potato fry. Subsequent to that will be one on my quest for the best fried green tomatoes. But I digress….

After a three-minutes-too-long wait, my buzzer sounded and off I went to collect my tray. My lunch companions had received their food several minutes before me. I guess bison takes extra time? The good news is – the wait was pretty well worth it. Let’s be clear – this was not the best burger I’ve ever had. But, it was well prepared, the cheese was of good quality and had good flavor. Like a good employee should, it met my expectations.

The sweet potato fries had good flavor and consistency, but lacked seasoning. I took care of that myself with a nice dousing of salt and pepper, but there is something to be said about seasoning fries as soon as they get done cooking. Makes a huge difference. Bonus points when the seasoning is cinnamon and sugar like they do at Jake’s. If I could, I’d take the fry from Oliver’s and have the people at Jake’s season it. That would have made this Tuesday a lot tastier and much fatter.

Overall assessment – if you happen to find yourself starving and near the NW corner of Frankford and the Tollway – Oliver’s is an okay place to stop in if you’re looking for straightforward food that is well prepared. You won’t find any major surprises here, but sometimes, when you’d rather focus on good friends than your food, maybe that’s okay. Buen provecho!

(Nearly) Clean plate

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