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Friday, December 26, 2014

Mahwah Bar & Grill

Not far from a busy office in Suffern, NY is the Mahwah Bar & Grill in Mahwah, NJ. In a matter of weeks, my department visited twice.  On the first occasion, we were all in a bit of shock after learning our beloved leader had passed away, far too young at just 57 years old, and so we decided to lean on each other a bit. Isn't a meal powerful? It brings people together in times of joy and sorrow, to find comfort or celebration, as well as sustain us physically.

One of the features of Mahwah Bar & Grill that many of my coworkers enjoy is the ability to custom order a salad - on paper with check boxes next to each ingredient.  This method if fairly fool proof as the preparer can repeatedly confirm the salad choices, the diner does not have to get on a buffet line and can enjoy the same level of being waited on as the others in the group, plus the food may be fresher than if it were set out all day in a salad bar.

Some of us prefer burgers to salads - even if it is a veggie burger.

Or smothered in onions and mushrooms...

Our second trip was for a far merrier reason - we were celebrating Christmas as a department.  Our director, who shares my first name (I still turn my head when our name is called, even when I am fairly sure the person does not mean me.  This reflex also occurs when I am in a public place and hear a child call out, "Mom," even though I KNOW the voice is not directed at me.)

We begin with a few appetizers including mozzarella sticks (not shown) and

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Warm, soft, doughy pretzels which we cut in half with 3 dipping sauces - cheddar and 2 varieties of mustard.  Heavenly.  Salt is the way to my heart.

Again, a number of carnivore burger options:

For me, a popular sandwich choice, "The Godfather."  Roast beef with melted provolone and a garlic aioli.  

The Portobello

A grilled portobello mushroom on brioche with spinach and fresh mozzarella.  The sandwich also includes roasted red peppers my friend asked to have omitted.  Looks delish.

Also, on this particular outing I passed my cell phone around so my coworkers could photograph their plates for me with the least amount of intrusion.  They are mostly used to my behavior though our Director had some questions.  

A salad with fried shrimp the size of small lamb chops:

And so, we concluded our department gathering and many were out of the office for the remainder of the year after this celebratory luncheon.  I enjoyed the week of Christmas off and will only return to the office the Monday and Tuesday prior to New Year's.  Love it.

Time off to be Fed Well with family and loved ones...fabulous.

Mahwah Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Texas Roadhouse

Chain restaurants.  Many thoughts...they are convenient, they are perfect for families with children of all ages, they are generally consistent, dependable, fairly modestly priced and great as a go to when traveling and you are not sure of the locally owned restaurants.  However, as a rule, the Mr. and I try to avoid them for date nights.  We are at a place where our children are adults, we do not have grandchildren, we can enjoy a leisurely paced meal and sometimes I am more concerned with food quality and preparation than meal price.  With that being said, it's not that I will not eat at a chain, but it's simply not typically my first choice.

The Mr. and I celebrate the anniversary of our first date.  Once upon a time about a million years ago, we went on a double date with a couple and since it was the beginning of December we thought it would be safe to simply go to the mall and do some holiday shopping.  If we didn't like each other, we could go home early and no big deal or if we hit it off, additional plans could be made.  Now, in modern time, we not only celebrate that first date and the funny things that happened, we make it our holiday shopping night and start formulating our plan of attack for Christmas.

Since I almost always pick the restaurant, I left it up to him and that is how we ended up at Texas Roadhouse.  It is convenient to shopping, the menu is appealing to men - easy to eat, no questions about fussy ingredients on the menu, and quick service so we could get on with our plans.

I do love the bucket of peanuts.  It gives our hands something to do unrelated to scrolling through our phones and we make eye contact.  Oh, hello, Mr.

The vinyl easy clean menu cracks me up.  The cowhide Flintstone print is a great touch.

I'll start with a salad with dressing on the side please.  It's fine. Nothing great, nothing awful.  At this point, we are plotting our destinations for after dinner.  The servers gather a few tables away to sing some sort of festive birthday song at one of the guests.

For the Mr., chili is the beginning of his meal.  I had a taste, I liked that it wasn't mouth on fire spicy hot.  Nice.

Main course - here is where my fussiness comes in.  I ordered sirloin tips with mashed potatoes.  The server carefully asked if I wanted gravy on the potatoes and I said no. I had no idea the meat would be pooled under it as well.  It was well, gloppy.  And yes, I know I am being too particular, but the plate was messy.  Yes, I stuck my finger in gravy when I tried to turn it.  The meat however, was tender and it was quite a large portion.

The Mr. was perfectly happy with his half rack of ribs and french fries.  Food that can be eaten with fingers and he gave me a piece of the well sauced meat.  Nice.

My only negative thought here is the portion size of fries.  Seem small to you?

We finalized our shopping plans and headed off into the cold, dark, wintry night.  It does not matter where or what we had for dinner, that first date included a pit stop at McDonald's after all - what mattered more that night was that we had each other and felt Fed Well.

Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Return to Airmont Diner for Eggplant

Among the short list of restaurants and diners I frequent for lunch near my daytime job is the Airmont Diner.  The most awesome aspect about going to a diner is the extensive offerings one can have at any time of the day.  How spoiled are we?  Not only can we have a hamburger for breakfast or pancakes for lunch, we can also customize orders.  Instead of hash browns, how about french fries with gravy and cheese? Well, I was never a huge fan of disco fries, but I can't think of a time I said no to a regular old french fry.

Every once in a while I have cravings for good and bad foods.  I wish the salad could really control the damage of the yummy fried deliciousness.  Those who dabble in nutrition/innovation - could you please start some work on this possibility?

And so, the fried eggplant over a fresh spinach base with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and yes, a side order of french fries. That's what I wanted and I have to say, I was food happy!

For my friend, an eggplant sandwich which included a side order of fries.  Again, happy on a plate.

Another fascinating and entertaining aspect of eating in a diner is the free people-watching, eavesdropping, ability to make up a story to go with the way folks seem, entertainment.  The writer side of me is constantly creating stories to go along with the folks both working and eating at a diner.  Love it,

We were away from our desks, chatting and at ease, Fed Well and content at the Airmont Diner.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Potato Waffles

What to do with holiday leftovers...At our house, a day or two after Thanksgiving means I will make Turkey Stew just like Grandpa Mac used to make - well, with less black pepper.  Basically, he took all of the holiday leftovers minus the cranberry sauce and dumped it into a pot, cooked dumplings on top and fed the family. I still mostly follow the same format, but this year I switched out the sinkers, I mean dumplings with re-purposed mashed potatoes.

I blended left over mashed potatoes with some garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of basil.  I spooned a generous palm size portion into the waffle iron and let it cook until browned.  The perfect new base for Grandpa's Turkey Stew.

You know left-overs are a win when your family wants you to prepare them on purpose.

We were Fed Well before, during and after the holidays this year.  Looking forward to a fabulous Christmas and Happy New Year!

Aurora Soho

Every once in awhile the Mr. and I take a day trip down to Manhattan.  Sometimes we have a particular destination in mind (that's what he prefers) and on occasion we just wander around a general area.  We always drive in and that can be its own adventure, especially when it comes time to park, but on this day we definitely had Lady Luck on our side.

I drove.

I never drive into NYC with the Mr. as my passenger, and yes, we got slightly turned around because I think my GPS doesn't always understand what I tell it, but we found the Stevie Nick's selfie exhibit and wait for the best part, I found on street FREE parking. No parking garage.  No ticket for being illegally parked (ok - that's another story from another time and it's the Mr.'s to tell).  Already this was a win.

I had the Mr. take a photo of me standing in front of one of Stevie's, but I could never share it with you.  Just know and trust that it happened.

Back on the street - we saw this:

The cobble streets, this particular area, the store fronts, the whole atmosphere...

We walk.  A few turns, a few blocks and we stumble on Aurora Soho.  Ok, it was a little more work than that, we read a few menus outside a number of restaurants that just didn't fit us before we cam across the winner.

We were hours early from the busy dinner crowd, but fairly close to our work day dinner schedule.

The look, the decor, the wood, the brick

I hate it when I fall in love with the look first.  What if it turns out to be a vapid blonde - all looks and no soul?

A peek at a little snippet of the menu
Foreshadowing of food to follow.

Bread and dipping oil

The golden candlelight, I am falling head over heels here

My cocktail was strong and for sipping while working my way through the dense bread.

Although you cannot appreciate the contents of the soup from a photo in the bowl, it was by far the best minestrone we have ever had and the surprise? Stretchy and delicious mozzarella.  A gentle and soothing soup with an edible prize at the center.

What's next?  An appetizer from foodie heaven.

Prosciutto e Burrata

The paper thin and aged, salty ham...I close my eyes and honor the memory of this dish.
The Burrata - mozzarella with a creamy center - it is lush and decadent.

We make our own crostinis and for a moment, nothing else exists.  This food, this restaurant and us eating is the whole world.  

Main Courses:

The Mr. went out of this comfort zone and ordered one of the specials which included a slowly cooked and fork tender beef over polenta. Deep flavors, hauntingly familiar notes that have been modernized, the beef tops the pillowy and creamy polenta perfectly.

le Papparedelle al Vitello

Spinach Pappardelle with veal ragu & gremolata

As soon as I see pappardelle on a menu, I am smiling and happy.  Ribbons of pasta.  Homemade? Bonus.  Spinach - indeed, bring it to me immediately.

Guess what?  I ATE IT ALL!  I had to waddle all the way back to the car and the Mr. drove home because I had also had one of the strongest cocktails of my life.  It was an amazing meal and one we will use to benchmark other dinners against I'm sure.

We were Fed Well, content and had a memorable day and dinner out in the Big City.

Aurora Soho on Urbanspoon

Bernie's Holiday Restaurant

Billboard advertising is alive, well and effective.  If not for the huge road sign calling out Bernie's Holiday Restaurant on Route 17, I wonder if I would have ever suggested it to my family. Though it took a little while to get to it, we made it to Bernie's or BHR as it is also known.

The night we went, it seemed a flurry of activity was happening in the "other" room beyond the sliding partitioned door and guests continuously arriving caused a bit of a blustery commotion, but the inconvenience was temporary.  I happily sipped a well prepared Cosmopolitan and took in the decor.  I imagine a private party at Bernie's must be amazing.

We are brought out a bread basket and small bowl of dipping oil.

I don't know exactly what the bread pictured below was, other than to say it was delicious and eaten first.

Salads are presented with dressing on the side.  I go back and forth about being a fusspot in not wanting the dressing container (who knows where the bottom of it rested) being placed on my salad. I'm partly phobic I think, but the salad was crisp and chilled.

Next course was soup.  I had the New England Clam Chowder which is a frequent go-to for me.  It was a healthy portion that looks small in the oversized bowl.  It was delicious, hot and creamy.

At one point, I was able to speak with April, the owners wife, who was very friendly and helpful about the restaurant and surrounding shops and The Sullivan Hotel.  Lovely.

Main courses:
NY Strip Steak with smashed potatoes

Steak & Shrimp with rice

I sampled the steaks and they were delicious.

My own meal was ordered from the appetizer section of the menu.  

Lobster Au Gratin

It was a sizable portion for an appetizer and I have a healthy appetite so I can't imagine anyone needing much more to eat after finishing this deep dish serving.

We were Fed Well and happy to try someplace new. I strongly recommend the detour from the highway on your way to Monticello Raceway, Bethel Woods for a concert or any other Sullivan County destination.  BHR, we will return and I can't wait to try more of the menu.  It also looks like a great place to have a private party.  

Bernie's Holiday Restaurant on Urbanspoon