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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Launch at Millbrook Vineyard and Winery Autumn 2013

*Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is abbreviated to HVRW and can be found on Instagram, Twitter and all the popular social media sites. For a listing of participating restaurants and more information, click here.

I have attended several HVRW launches in the past and thank you meals for being a guest blogger. I have been lucky enough to dine at Kittle's Crabtree House, Restaurant X, the Culinary Institute of America and now the Millbrook Vineyard and Winery.  

Here is how the day looked for me (and yes, I did leave my day job for a half-day - who wouldn't?):

I started out clicking my ruby shoes together and hoping for an adventure!

It was a 90 minute drive from the day job to the winery. The bonus was that I did not get lost.  

What did we all do before the magic of a GPS?

The Winery:

Participating Chefs and Vendors

Vendors offered tastings from fresh, raw produce to gourmet pizzas topped with ingredients like kale and bacon or truffles. Some of the offerings were:

Dutch's offered a seasonal apple cocktail and was the first taste of the day.

All of the cheese were delicious. The Margie, which was compared to a brie, was smooth, creamy and lush. Many commented about loving the slate display.

The bounty of the harvest was beautifully staged and served:

A selection from Cosimos Restaurant Group

Action all around as press/media try to do their jobs as well:

A time for first Foie Gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras:

Black coffee? Not normally something I indulge in, but Irving Farm Coffee Roasters made it something I might actually begin to crave.

Adams Fair Acre Farms was on hand with some very important goodies;  bottled water, bags for all the swag, fresh apples, and cheese platters.

Black Dirt Distillery from Warwick offered a selection of liquors, gin and more...

 Acorn Hill Farm located in Walker Valley, NY was on site with soft cheeses including ricotta, chevre and chevre with lavender and honey (my favorite of those offered).

Chef prepared venison stew with cheesy grits was simply  the star of the day. Unfortunately, the photograph was the worst of the event. The meat was tender, soft and succulent. I have eaten venison since childhood in a number of preparations and found this to be the best bite of the afternoon.

Time for dessert from Tantillo's Farm:

What did I enjoy from the Millbrook Vineyard and Winery?

The group photo was taken, some opted for tours of the winery with the promise of participating in a "crush" and since I am not a wine enthusiast and I do have about a 90 minute drive home, I opt instead to say my good-byes and pet the dog before heading off.  

I look forward to the meal I will have during HVRW and sharing the journey here on Fed Well.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Impact of Government Shutdown - Posts Suspended to Fed Well

Our household has been directly impacted by the government shutdown and Fed Well restaurant review posts will therefore by suspended until government employees begin receiving paychecks.  Posts may be created featuring home made dinners and recipes.  Thank you and please continue to check back or revisit your favorite posts.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Monday Lunch Date with the Mr.

This was not just any Monday, this was the Mr.'s actual, calendar official birthday and so we decided to spend the day together and have a lunch date.  The details aren't very exciting - he had a doctor's appointment for the late morning and I happened to have a gift certificate to Olive Garden and so a rendezvous was planned and I took the day off from work.

Part of my past life includes a 7 year stint working as a manager in a service industry that was part of a large retail corporate world. Planograms.  District meetings.  Goals.  I left as the goals of others became an increasing part of my responsibility and yet, they were something I had the least amount of control to grow. However, that experience has certainly taught me many chapters in life lessons and has given me an appreciation for those who continue to work in that general outline.  Chain restaurants such as Olive Garden seem to fall into the category.

I am certain management requires all restaurants have a shared decor and that each member of the chain follow guidelines.  It's not that this is unreasonable, the diner's experience should meet expectations as they travel to a location outside of their neighborhood.  After all, if you are a fan of a particular restaurant you want the same experience when you visit one in another geographical area.  

Our server is well trained.  We are greeted, offered specials, shown particular items on the special menu and brought drinks within moments.  

I am overwhelmed.  I have specials on a tent, on a stand up menu, and two fold out menus.  When I have too many choices in life the first thing I tend to do is eliminate.  I decide to NOT look at the tent or the specials standing on the table and focus on the traditional menus. Our attentive server returns and I apologize that I am not ready to order. Usually the Mr. is the one who reads and rereads but orders chicken.  I struggle for a few minutes then finally decide.

Part of the comfort in eating at a chain is the familiar tastes.  I see the bread stick basket and I am happy. Warm, soft and perfectly sized.  Who doesn't love a bread stick?

The Mr. and I order the same soup.  This never happens.  Since Olive Garden offers the large bowl of salad, one of us usually orders that and the other has soup and then we share.  So cute.  So practical.  Not today. 

Today is a day for Zuppa Toscana and it is exactly what I expect.  Sausage, potatoes and kale in a not really creamy, but not completely thin broth.  The Mr. leaves behind about half a cup of potatoes.  I try to avoid a few of the hot/spicy sausage crumbles.  I wonder what the residents of Tuscany would say about the soup?

A million years ago when we were new parents and our older son was to celebrate his first birthday, we held a family party at our home and I prepared baked ziti.  It was my first time hosting everyone and I will never forget the moment my mother came in the kitchen to see if I needed help and when she saw the ziti edges had pasta that were not coated in sauce she said, "Ziti is supposed to be covered in sauce with no white pasta visible."  This was not a dish my mother frequently prepared (though she does make an epic lasagna) and for this occasion it was too late, but I assumed everyone could either mix the ziti once it was on their plate or simply pile on more sauce if desired.  

Now, when I see pasta that is presented like the one I received (it happens quite often) I think of that story. Food and cooking shows most times show the pasta being coated with sauce before being served. They talk about simply draining not rinsing so that the starch helps the sauce stick.  

However, my linguini with grilled shrimp is presented with near precision plating appeal that must surely be on a laminated photo in the kitchen or part of a video or something.  Planogrammed Plating 101.  Not a criticism, just an observation.

The Mr.'s calzone is placed in front of him and we look at each other and communicate silently like a married couple of 26 years.  My eyes say, "Wow, that's not very big. You are going to be hungry when you finish, but don't worry, I will supplement your meal with some of mine."  And his say, "This is small."  Even in eye language I am wordy and he is brief.

I can't take my eyes off of the placement of sauce on the calzone.  It is stiff and nipple-like.  I don't like it. A calzone should never remind someone of a fake breast.  Sorry.  So if any district managers, regional managers or other Olive Garden representatives who can initiate change ever read this review, my one take-away would be to either allow the sauce to gently cascade over the crispy crust or simply serve it naked with sauce on the side.

We talk about life; surgery that may be needed for his arm, the main floor bathroom remodel, and the required trip to the big box home improvement store.  Yes, more corporate America.  We enjoyed a simple lunch and once we paid the bill we were given the small aluminum foil wrapped chocolate mint candies and a website address for a survey I will never complete.  Fed Well, we set off for the rest of our day and know Olive Garden will be waiting for us when we are ready to return.  Which of us will be different?

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back to Mountain View - Mother and Son

A night out with just my younger son.  We need time to decompress, catch up, simply eat and relax. Life gets busy, schedules are filled and crazy. I commute and work Monday through Friday as well as hold a second job that can require few or many hours per week - demand varies.  He attends college full-time and holds a 3/4 time retail job.  Chatting can be hit or miss and so this hour or so of face time is quite valuable.

Some days are for dressing up, or down, formal or comfortable. The same rules can apply to food. Meals do not have to be formal or trendy to be just what we crave. Not a new concept by any means since food writers referenced "comfort foods" probably since words were put together about what we eat.

Restaurants can also be categorized this way and it doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with price. Just as designer jeans can be at the opposite end of the spectrum as practical denim work pants, Moules Frites may sound super fancy, but simply find a decent local place that serves mussels and french fries and voila - modern spin.

Here are my plates:

The Fries

The Mussels

The french fries were absolutely perfect.  Golden brown, crispy, tender centers and sprinkled with salt.  They are my first food love.  

The mussels were succulent with a touch of briny flavor and smothered in a creamy garlic sauce that was also perfect for swirling fries around in a savory swim.

My son may sometimes hate to admit how like his father, but it can be exhibited by a newly noticed trait. Though the Mr. prefers Chicken Marsala as a rule, I notice our younger son tends to order chicken Cesar salads as his "go to" and on this night he simply ordered it in a wrap. The other variation was the chicken was grilled rather than fried.  We almost cleaned our plates and were only stopped by full bellies under protest.

We are in casual clothes and a comfortable family restaurant.  No pretense or fussiness. We talk about school and work and cars and of course, the food. We talk about upcoming weekend plans. We talk about life and family. We talk. We are just a mom and a son in a local restaurant having dinner and we are Fed Well.

Mountain View Bar Restaurant and Pizza on Urbanspoon