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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lunch at Imperial Dynasty

The work week lunch varies from a quick bite at the desk to meeting with a group of friends in a conference room and having either last night's left-overs or the cafeteria special to the indulgent full hour off site.  For the past 6 years or so I have tried a few Chinese restaurants in Suffern and the surrounding area with a preference for 1 in particular so I hesitated to try something new.  One trusted co-worker went to Imperial Dynasty with another friend and came back with the following review, "It was less expensive then the place we usually go, they served crunchy noodles and ice cream was included."  Well, the bar has been raised.

So, one day 4 of us set out to make up our own minds about Imperial Dynasty.  Located in a strip mall, I am surprised by how well decorated it is and yes, they are fresh flowers on the tables.

We are given a laminated lunch special sheet and

a book of regular menu items.

So far, the only problem is the service seems to be fairly slow though the dining room is hardly full.  I am from New York and on my lunch hour.  I like my drinks to arrive quickly, along with the crispy noodles and yes, please do bring a second bowl.  Sound too snappy?

Here is my unique view of the decor:

Although it seemed to take too long, the noodles, soup and drinks all arrive within moments of each other and though the pace is off, maybe we will be able to catch up.  The noodles are very wide and the shape adds to the unique visuals found throughout our dining experience.  No waterfalls or cherry blossoms, no fish or silly statues can be found.

Mid-stream, our server has changed though we still see the young lady that took our order, a young man brings our entrees from the kitchen.  He checks our tea and drink levels, asks if we need anything and seems to be far more attentive and professional than his counterpart.  Like a restaurant super-hero, he has swooped in and saved the day.  If we had waited much longer, we would have been late back to work.

A very traditional, simple and tasty chicken and broccoli.  The veggies are crisp, the sauce is not too thick or gooey, the chicken tender and I am impressed with the size of the serving.  I happily end up taking half home (I have to leave room for the promised ice cream!)

For the vegetarian - she was happy and that's all that matters.

 Chow mein.

Despite a blatant language barrier when ordering, the double shredded pork with cabbage was thoroughly enjoyed by a member of the group.  It has since become her new favorite.

What do 4 women discuss over lunch?  Work, the work place, and weekend plans.  We throw in a few current events and a sprinkle of celebrity gossip just to keep things balanced and a bit of speculation about rumored upcoming layoffs.

Ah, time for dessert!  3 of us had the pistachio and 1 opted for green tea ice cream.  A perfect scoop placed in each modern shaped bowl.


We have decided we will return and try to overlook whatever the hiccup was during the initial slow service.  We are happy to expand our restaurant choices by one and leave feeling content and Fed Well.

Imperial Garden Chinese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brian's Backyard BBQ - Middletown, NY

Friday night, date night for the Mr. and me.  Location - his choice, but he's not sure where he wants to go.  

"What do you feel like having," I ask.

"Some place with ribs."

I am not a ribs or wings kind-of-gal.  I'm not sure if it's that it is simply so messy, so much work for so little food or what the problem is, but I prefer to use fork and knife unless it is a hamburger and french fries (plus tearing the meat off the bone with my teeth just can't be made to look dainty or delicate).  BUT, I can work with his request for ribs.

"What about Brian's Backyard BBQ," I suggest and we look up the online menu.  I am happy with the idea of a margarita and know everything else will work out.

Off we go.  

Any place that serves barbecue or smoked foods and orders of meat on the bone is likely to be on the casual side and Brian's is no exception.  We are given paper menus that are meant to be taken home so we can keep the advertising information.  I took one home to share with our grown sons, but really, they didn't need it either since they could look at the online menu (just like you can by clicking here).

The dining room is not very busy, but it is early on a Friday night and they are expecting a live performance at 9 p.m.  We are typically early birds, dining between 6 - 7 p.m. since we are at our jobs by 7 a.m.  Moving on to that margarita...

Have I ever mentioned that in addition to carbs, I am addicted to salt?  Oh how I love salt.  I sometimes joke I could have a block mounted in the house for snacking.  I love to see the margarita's glass rim heavily coated.

"Let's split an appetizer," I suggest and of course the Mr. leaves the decision up to me.  He knows after 27 years of marriage plus another 4 together of dating, that I know what he does and doesn't like to eat or at least what he is and is not willing to try.

Most folks like fried foods and really, the cooking method can make almost anything taste great so I order the oysters with a remoulade dipping sauce.  They were sizzling hot and just needed a pinch more salt (surprised?)

The pace suits us just fine.  We like to have a little bit of time to talk and digest before moving on to the main course and at the same time, we don't want to feel forgotten.

For me, well, I may have given a clue earlier, but I had the hamburger and fries.  I still dream about the perfectly cooked potatoes that had a balanced crispy exterior and fluffy white interior.  The fried onions were grown locally in Pine Island and the burger was prepared medium-well as requested.

Now, you may remember how this all started...the Mr. said he wanted ribs.  The funny thing is, he ordered brisket.  Not at all the same.  Even funnier, I knew that was what he really wanted. Remember, 27 years of marriage.  Two people get to know each other eventually.  At least it wasn't chicken.  I also could have predicted those baked beans as a side choice - the macaroni and cheese, well, it was on the list of possibilities.  I tried the pasta and the beef and yes, the brisket was a winner.  Delicate in texture, it broke apart easily and the best part for me what that the first taste was not pure smoke.  I prefer the smoke to be the second or even third flavor I am aware of rather than having it assault my taste buds.  On the other end of the spectrum, the macaroni and cheese, while traditional was somehow not very exciting.

Casual, comfortable and relaxed.  Probably the 3 best words to describe Brian's.

We've certainly grown, culinarily speaking, since we were teenagers and Friday nights were a guarantee that pizza would somehow be on the menu.  As young parents, Friday nights probably also meant pizza with our little family.  When we took back date nights, we started heading out for the trendy restaurants and now, it's back to comfort and whatever mood strikes.  We are enjoying our journey together and are Fed Well.

Brian's Backyard BBQ & Blues on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Village Tea Room Restaurant and Bake Shop in New Paltz

Now a semi-annual tradition, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is my favorite time to discover new restaurants, dishes and cocktails. 

Learning about The Village Tea Room Restaurant and Bake Shop in New Paltz was the result of dining out this past spring and completing a survey for Valley Table magazine with a generous gift certificate as the prize.  I asked around and also learned the son of one of my dear friends is an employee and we were double motivated to try it.

The day was the typical mix one can find during spring in New York; blazing sun and warmth one moment, breezy and cool rain storms and rainbows to follow.  We seemed to stand in the center line when we arrived with the sun at our backs. Quaint. Picturesque.  I was drawn in immediately and anxious to be inside.

As we drew closer to the front door, I loved seeing the outdoor dining space and promised myself that someday I would return when the weather was nicer and more predictable.

Even when I do a bit of investigative work by checking out reviews, websites, social media and thoughts from friends, the best part really is just trying it out myself.  The moment I open a new restaurant door, I am anxious for the smells, can't wait to see the interior, the menu, the customers and staff. The Village Tea Room offered many treats for the eyes:

How lovely to offer a listing of local farms, vineyards and distilleries!  It makes the diner truly feel as if they are contributing to an entire community by simply supporting one restaurant.

The blackboard is flanked by two sets of shelves lined with colorful bottled beverages and though I am not a huge fan of wine, I appreciate the inclusion of area vineyards as part of the available drinks.

For me, a cocktail is always the way to go and I have trouble deciding.  A champagne cocktail?  A twist on a Cosmo?  What should I do?  Ask the server.

It came down to the champagne cocktail of the Rhubarb Gin Collins.  I went with the gin from Tuthilltown Spirits.

I can't say I've ever described a beverage as beautiful, but this simply was, in both appearance and taste.  The playfully pink swirled straw was a whimsical touch, but the smooth gin taste reminded one the beverage was quite adult.

So many dining options.  I worried a restaurant which included "tea room" in the name would be too frilly, or less substantial in some way.  However, the Charcuterie Plate featuring duck proscuitto, soppressata, beets and cornichons was the hearty starter we craved and a perfect portion for the Mr. and me.  Being able to use our fingers and arrange the foods as we liked was unexpected and satisfying.

The dining room would dim and brighten as the sun and clouds continued their battle.  For me, it presented a challenge for photographing our plates.  

A full menu offers vegetarian options, tapas, light meals and we were also offered specials.  We both broke from our normal routines.  Spoiler alert:  the Mr. did not order chicken.

Our main courses arrived and I the aromas of our freshly prepared meals permeated the room.

For the Mr., a beautifully prepared steak with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes that were the perfect balance of creamy and starchy, with heirloom carrots.  I am always offered at least a bite of his meal so I can share any opinions I may have in this blog.  On this occasion, I asked if he would mind if I had a second forkful of each item.  Delicious and well prepared.  

I went for what some may consider a simple meal, but those are sometimes the most difficult to create. Penne pasta with fresh pesto.

A beautiful meal and I made sure to eat less than half of my generous serving to ensure a bit of room for dessert.  The other half of the business name is after all, "Bake Shop."

We order tea and coffee with milk and creamer respectively and a huge platter is brought out with cups, saucers, pitchers and pots.  The fussiness was well appreciated.

I have developed a crush on salted caramel in the last year or so and so the salted caramel cake seemed an obvious choice.  I truly enjoyed the large granules of salt mixed with the chocolate frosting.  All grocery store snack aisles should include places for cookies, crackers, chips and sugar/salt combo treats.

The Mr. rarely orders dessert and when he does, it is usually his favorite apple pie.  Tonight, he really stretched himself and ordered a cream puff.  It may be hard to distinguish scale in the photograph, but the pastry was bigger than the average sized fist.  It was perfectly balanced, the custard was creamy and flavorful.  I have to admit, I sampled more than one bite and wondered if I had ordered the wrong dessert or if everything he ordered really was better?

When paying the bill, I could hear a bit of clatter coming from upstairs and tempting smells filled the air.  The kitchen and an additional dining room were on the next floor and I resisted the urge to ask if I could check it out.  I will be back.  I am sure of it.

We had a lovely date night and fabulous food.  How lucky we are to live in the Hudson Valley and be able to enjoy the luxury of eating out and being Fed Well?  We are thankful and head home before the rain begins and the light fades not only behind the clouds, but into night.

The Village Tea Room Restaurant & Bake Shop on Urbanspoon