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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cosimo's Brick Oven in Middletown - Remodeled

I've been to Cosimo's a few times over the years and most recently celebrated my sister's birthday on a weeknight with a fairly large crowd. Tonight I was meeting a new friend, sort of a ladies first date and through the years, I have discovered this is quite important to not only maintain long friendships with women but to develop new ones. We women are complex creatures and sometimes we simply find comfort or companionship with someone who shares a particular point of view, or is going through a similar chapter in life, or simply because we enjoy their company.  I have firmly shifted my belief from having that one close confidant (or so I thought she was) to expanding my circle and deciding the level of intimacy with each friendship.

About the restaurant, the interior has been reworked and this is a partial view of the result:

We were immediately greeted by a lovely server who we established some light conversation with before ordering two cucumber martinis.  She was young, enthusiastic, and we chatted about her hair color, which led to her revealing a bit of personal information (she changed her appearance as the result of a break-up) and of course, a few changes to the menu to reflect the altered decor.

Cucumber Martini

In today's restaurant world, a wide variety of options is simply necessary to accommodate the general populations gastronomical needs.  My friend requires gluten-free dishes and I quickly discover, this dietary concern can be quite limiting without a bit of willingness to compromise and forego certain dishes.  However, Cosimo's offers a number of choices which require no thought because no gluten is included as well as gluten-free pizza dough and pasta.

Chicken Scarpariello 
The online menu description: Murray's Chicken, Fennel Sausage, Cherry Peppers and Roasted Potatoes.

Pasta Fagioli 
Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup with Ditalini Pasta and Parmigiano (contains pork) - is the online description and answers the vegetarian question...

I ordered both the soup and an appetizer as my meal.  I was asked how I would like my food to come out and opted to just have both when my companion's main course was ready. Thoughtful consideration and foresight of our server.

Two views of the Stuffed Portobello with Gorgonzola Sauce

The mushroom does provide a steak-like feel and heartiness.  The stuffing consists of caramelized shallots, spinach, and tomatoes.  I especially appreciated the sauce on the side to allow me the option to dip or pour and smother.  Wonderful.

We talk of life - a grand topic which includes a peek at our families, an overview of our work, a bit of criss-cross in the area of mutual friends and of course, food.  A lovely meal with fabulous company.

Our server closes the evening by asking if we are teachers.  She gushed that she made her guess based on the way we were dressed - with clothing that was accessorized with jewelry.  Well, we were sorry to disappoint and without revealing too much about ourselves simply generalized our professions as leaning toward creative fields.  I smile inside when I think of her, she appears to be on a path of discovery and trying to figure it all out.  Hope she has some great girlfriends to talk it over with and be Fed Well.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Open Letter to all Restaurants

I go out to eat at least once a week, but on an average I'd say three times per week.  Quick common core math makes that about 150 meals per year (although I know it's more) which include breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  I'm not in my 20's and have been going out to eat for quite some time.  I'm just explaining some of my background before I get to the point.

I understand anyone can have a bad day or night.  I appreciate servers, wait staff, those who clear, set, bartend, cook, prep, host and clean the rest rooms.  I can be empathetic when things don't go as planned.  I allow for the human condition - people have emergencies, get sick or simply do not show up for work.

However, I think it is fair to say, I expect a certain level of service as part of the experience when dining out.  Typically, I imagine the experience to include being greeted, seated at a clean table with appropriate place settings for all guests, presented with menus (at times wine lists, cocktail menus, specials,etc.) and asked if I would like something to drink.  Next, I feel it is common to be brought the beverage and many times this is the point of placing the order.  

Some restaurants may then bring breads, rolls or other complimentary (figured into the meal price) small food item.  If so, I would like a bread plate, please.

The next course may be tricky - could be salad, might be appetizer or soup.  Many variables. However, if it seems the bread basket or plate has taken up most of the space and the diners are struggling to find room for the food being brought out, ask to clear the bread.  Please.

Please do not hand me a hot bowl or plate of food with the hopes that I will find a place for it on the table.

Once this course has been eaten and before the next round of plates are brought out, please clear the dishes.  Again, it is awkward and uncomfortable to be brought more food when the table is already covered with dishes.  

I recently was forced to accept a plate from a server and had my fingers covered in sauce as a result. We were the only diners in the restaurant and when I was able to try my food -  it was cold.

Yes, please check on me.  Please ask if I would like a second beverage or water.  

Please clear all of the dinner plates before asking about dessert.  Please offer tea and coffee to everyone at the table (even if it does not come with the "special").

In return, I will thank you. I will spread the word about your fine restaurant and its great service.  I will recommend it to others, take photos and post all about it on social media.  I will leave a better gratuity.

So, dear owner or manager of a restaurant, please check on your staff.  All of them.  See if they are truly trained and understand or need help or are overwhelmed.  Your business is in their hands.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Shadows on the Hudson - Poughkeepsie, NY

Yes, date night is alive and well.  One Saturday night, the Mr. and I decided to cross the mighty Hudson and try a restaurant we have not yet visited.  

Shadows on the Hudson is quite popular and reservations are recommended.  Early.  In fact, we tried to go for Valentine's Day and couldn't get in.  So, if you are thinking about it, just book it.  We made our reservation using the on-line link and I requested a table by a window (though I was told not all requests can be guaranteed).

Raspberry Cocktail as recommended by our server, Raymond

We double checked the regular and special menus, checked with each other and decided on a strategy.  We know we are going to share the food we order and want to ensure maximum coverage of items we both enjoy.

It was tough deciding if we wanted an appetizer or not, but then I suggested we try the Meatballs Siciliano.  Fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce were the only descriptors, but I had a good feeling.

Meatballs Siciliano

Stretchy, Gooey, Hot - the triad of fabulous mozzarella goodness

Yes, I enjoy food, but these meatballs had me from first sight.  They were simply picture perfect. Tasting the initial forkful of tender meat, sweet marinara, and lush cheese made all of my taste buds smile and sigh with contentment.  One of those, "If I only had this one food to eat for the rest of my life," moments.  Really.  I had to stop myself from eating a second meatball because I wanted to at least sample the rest of the food I ordered.  My only consolation was in knowing I would have a second opportunity to eat this amazing appetizer.

Warm bread for dipping in the marinara from the meatballs

The Mr., as some may have come to learn, prefers tradition at the table.  He enjoys a salad and bread as part of his meal.  I mentioned to our server, "The gentleman prefers a generous portion of dressing."  Raymond kindly brought both a dressed salad and a boat of additional bleu cheese. Nicely done.

Carrot Ginger Soup

I was pleasantly surprised by the large portion size of soup.  I had only expected something similar to a coffee cup rather than a full bowl.  I could feel my stomach fill with each smooth and silky spoonful.  Would I be able to even sample my entree?

6 ounce Filet Mignon

My medium-rare beef was perfectly prepared and served next to a heaping serving of smashed potatoes and and equally large portion of root vegetables.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

The Mr. is a huge fan of chicken and this plentiful entree included two cutlets over a perfectly prepared al dente linguini.  I have a strong negative reaction with the smell of parmesan, but the Mr. was quite happy and satisfied.  I was able to sample a bite of the poulty and do appreciate the nicely crisp crunch of the crust without drying the protein. Well done.

We spoke of life, our adult children, his job, and the folks around the dining room as well as at the bar.  Shadows is also known for having a lively late night crowd.  We observed various groupings of people and supposed what they may be celebrating, saw a number of couples like us who may be either on their 400th or 4th dates and enjoyed the atmosphere.  Though we passed on dessert, the offerings were appealing.  We left quite full and feeling Fed Well.

Shadows On The Hudson Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Steak Tacos - Blue Apron Week 1

Gift giving can be tough.  Period.

Some people make it look effortless.  Receiving a thoughtful gift, one that you hadn't even known you wanted, really makes you rethink how you decide what to give others.

I received a subscription to Blue Apron as a Christmas gift from my boss and his wife (the card was signed from the whole family, but let's just imagine the children had little influence on this fabulous choice).

Yes, you will see posts about the ingredients, recipes, and results of the meals prepared from Blue Apron.  However, I also really just want to marinade in (see what I did there) the thought process that goes into selecting a memorable, and appropriate gift for someone. I will slow down, not panic, and take just a few minutes to really think about the recipient on the next occasion I am the gift giver rather than choosing something that is easy or trendy.

On an otherwise ordinary Thursday, I arrived home from work to find the first delivery box on the porch.  Here's what most of the prepared ingredients for steak tacos looked like:

sliced avocado, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, diced tomatillo and quartered lime

All of the ingredients arrived fresh, without bruising, blemishes or brown edges.  I was quite happy with their appearance.

Toasting Pepitas
(in my scratched non-stick pan)

A well seasoned steak

Tomatillos cooking down

A pan of steaming, seasoned goodness used to top the tacos

A view of a completed taco

So simple to prepare following the step-by-step instructions.  No measuring is necessary and here are my initial thoughts about why everyone should try this service at least once in their life:

1.  No thinking or worrying about what is for dinner.
2.  No wondering if you have all of the necessary ingredients.  You will need olive oil, salt & pepper.
3.  It is likely that you will either try a new food or new combination of ingredients with each box. I've eaten, but never prepared, tomatillos before and maybe I would not have been likely to slice radish on my steak taco if left to my own devices. And, honestly, I've never toasted a pepita (pumpkin seeds) in my life.

What was going on the night we enjoyed these steak tacos?  Well, it was Super Bowl Sunday. In fact, Lady Gaga had just completed her memorable performance of the National Anthem when we sat together in front of the television to watch the big game. We planned on being Fed Well, but how lucky we felt when indulging in our steak tacos.

I watched most of the first quarter before moving on to prepare the next meal from the first delivery box. You'll have to watch for the next Fed Well post to read all about it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tony & Nick's - Ellenville, NY

Special occasion restaurant shopping.  It's a thing.  We sometimes have reasons to celebrate and are looking for a restaurant that offers a private room or can accommodate large parties (20 or more seems to be considered a large party).  We also want it to look nice, serve good food, have a nice atmosphere and full bar.  At times, the location is also important.  Our quest brought us to Tony & Nick's Italian Kitchen in Ellenville.

On the table when we arrived was a bottle of spring water available for purchase.  We opted out.

However, I did ask about the available Italian soda choices and went with the one pictured below:

Classic Movie Poster Wall Decor

Not long after we placed our order we were brought toasty hot ciabatta bread with creamy butter that was ready to spread.

We selected one appetizer to share.  Who can resist a plate of cured meats?  Pictured left to right are salami, Porchetta pork and prosciutto.

For our younger son, the "Whole Hog" panini which was served with delicious, golden truffle fries.

For the Mr. - Chicken Marsala of course.  Unfortunately, he was disappointed about two aspects of this dish.  He prefers his chicken and pasta served separately - marinara sauce on the pasta and secondly, the Marsala sauce had a few flaws for his taste; it was a very strong alcohol taste, he had to ask for extra sauce (which he was brought fairly quickly) and he does not enjoy this much onion.

For me, the shrimp scampi.  I was pleased with the sauce flavors, amount of shrimp, overall serving size and honestly, I ate every bite.

Since we were on a tasting mission, I wanted to try dessert.

Not sure what the Spumoni Bomba was, I asked our server and it was well explained as chocolate, pistachio and strawberry ice creams encased in chocolate.  Accurate description and I very much enjoyed half of this decadent treat.

The service was quite attentive, the background music was appropriate and included classic Italian-ish songs many would recognize from pop culture movies.  A private five-course meal with wine pairing event was held in the private room, but since I had stated almost upon arrival our intent to scout restaurant sites for a future event, we were able to have a sneak peek before the group of 60 guests began to arrive.

Our conversation ranged from topics including the current restaurant, the black and white photo of Sophia Loren in the restroom as well as one of Rocky Marciano as well as what we think would be a good, solid commuter car for the Mr.  

Two out of three forks up for Tony & Nick's.  It is still under consideration and further members of the jury will have to try it as well.  We left feeling Fed Well and if you want to know a secret, I'm looking forward to doing further research.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Daddy's Donuts & Bake Shop in Middletown, NY

With the holidays comes a need for baked goods, whether home-made cookies by the dozens or specialty items from a beloved bakery, people seem to crave specific combinations of sugar, dough or batter.  Whether we want sprinkles, frosting, chocolate topping with or withot fillings of cream or jelly, we know we want a sweet treat after our holiday meals.  At Daddy's Donuts & Bake Shop in Middletown, NY customers can also add a touch of whimsy from childhood by creating confections topped with favorite cereals or based on flavors from popular candy bars.

I checked the website before my visit and was surprised to see they had baked goods ranging from fresh bread and bagels to cannoli, pie, cake, danish and yes, of course, donuts.

When I entered the shop, I could not resist inhaling deeply when I first detected a variety of smells associated with pastries including the powerful aroma of sugar. Everything outside of Daddy's Donuts simply ceased to exist.  All thoughts revolved around selecting just the right items while the rest of my senses tried to remain rational and coherent.  I struggled to concentrate long enough to read the menu board, but my eyes were scanning the room, the displays, the racks, the shelves and fresh items filled the surfaces.  How would I decide?

Even now, as I compose this blog, I find myself carefully looking through the photos to see if I missed anything I may want to try next time.

I decided to try to make things simple by asking for a dozen donuts including an assortment of popular and cereal donuts as well as two maple bacon donuts.  The next two photos are what I received:

Smores, Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops and M & M candy - oh my

Captain Crunch Berry & Maple Bacon are among the choices

The donuts are a light, yeasty cake and did not feel oily, greasy or heavy.  Nicely done.

I then placed an email order to be ready for pick up on Christmas Eve morning. Thought the line was a bit lengthy (to me this shows how popular and in demand the business is as they had plenty of staff working), my order was ready and accurate. Also included in the donut order was a struffoli which I brought to my son's house for Christmas brunch.

Crispy dough balls placed in a circular ring and festively topped with sprinkles made for a pretty and delicious alternative to cookies or cake.

The two donuts I tried were the Almond Joy and Maple Bacon.The Almond Joy was filled with a delicious vanilla cream, topped with dark chocolate, shaved coconut, slivered almonds and very nicely conveyed all of the flavors one would associate with the candy bar.

The Maple Bacon was a stick donut which I had to break in half for a smaller serving size. The frosting was easily identified as maple without being cloyingly sweet. Crispy bacon bits were the perfect balance in texture, salt and, well, bacony goodness! Among the other flavors we tried were the Nutella, Boston Cream and we also gave some cannoli's as gifts which were well received by a discriminating friend.

Welcome to the neighborhood Daddy's Donuts & Bake Shop. I indulged in and shared your products with family and friends who were all Fed Well this festive holiday season.  Wishing you and yours a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Appetizers at Buckalew's Restaurant and Tavern, Beach Haven, NJ

Have I ever mentioned my aversion to crowds?  Sometimes it is frustrating for me and sometimes it is frustrating for my family.  I want to enjoy my food in peace.  I also prefer to simply walk right in and be able to be seated immediately.  These are not always realistic options or expectations, especially in popular vacation areas, at popular meal times or on weekends.  Today, I wanted to try a particular restaurant so I asked the Mr. if we could go during "happy hour" to avoid the dinner rush.

The negative?

He wasn't hungry.

The compromise?

Cocktails and appetizers at Buckalew's Restaurant and Tavern.

For me, a margarita on the rocks with a well salted glass rim.  The tables are nicely covered in white paper and I asked for the crayons the children receive when they are seated.

The talent may be lacking, but the meaning is clear.  

Doesn't the image really, effectively, say all you need to know about my vacation?  Chairs in the sand, on the beach, under the umbrella on a sunny day.  The End.

So, how many appetizers should we order? How not-really-but-kind-of hungry are you?  I just need a little something to hold me over during the car ride home.  He says he isn't "really" hungry, but I know he will eat.  Three.  Yup, that seems fair.

To begin:
CHOWDER! Yes, a cup of New England Clam Chowder.

Lush and velvety with tender clams.  Yum.  Yes, we were actually able to split this cup of soup though I wanted to hog it for myself.

Clams Casino:
Oh my! This is a must have.  The menu simply describes them as "like no other", but really, they are delicious shells of clam goodness topped with a bite of bacon.  Nothing wrong with this wonderful combination and though the salad may not appeal to everyone, I loved it and ate every forkful.

Finally, a true classic - steamers in a bowl of delicate goodness suitable for dipping toasted bread or simply slurping up every last bit.

We enjoyed both our quick visit to Long Beach Island and appetizers at Buckalew's.  We were certainly Fed Well and being able to draw and color on the table covering was a joyful bonus. Vacations should allow you to both relax and perhaps enjoy life without fears or anxiety.  Fabulous and memorable.

Buckalew's Restaurant & Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato