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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cosimo's in Middletown

A work week ends and I look forward to the reward of 2 consecutive days without commuting, without "reporting in" and a slower pace with family.  I am thankful and happy when those 2 days commence with a shared meal and yes, it is over the top joy when we can all be together in a restaurant.  This past Friday we found ourselves at Cosimo's on Route 211 in Middletown.

We were seated quite quickly and I am relieved because a party of 5 at 6:30ish on a Friday can be a risky bet.  I scan the blackboard specials before we walk to our table and take a bit of time looking over the specialty drinks.  Though everything sounds appealing, you guessed it, I still order my classic Cosmopolitan.  

The bread basket is brought out quickly and we each take a slice of the room temperature foccacia leaving behind the traditional bread.


After scanning, no make that studying, the beer list and asking our server a few questions, our younger son very seriously decides on a beer.  I don't claim to know a single thing about beer, but I do know what I like and this selection is a bit stronger and maybe denser than what I am used to while still having a nice flavor.


I am happier when my Cosmopolitan arrives in a tall glass with ice and a strainer.  Two drinks in one!  


We ask for and quickly receive a second basket of just the foccacia bread.

I decide to break the rules a little and order a soup that caught my attention and an appetizer as my main course.  I am a little uncomfortable to eat my first course alone and I always think it strange when a small house salad is not included with dinner for the rest of my family.  The soup includes broccoli rabe, beans and is simply delicious.


My next course includes horseradish mashed potatoes and grilled shrimp.  My plate is reminiscent of Jackson Pollock's work, don't you agree?  Most importantly, the food is flavorful and the heat in the mashed potatoes is just enough to keep them from blandly fading into the background.  Nothing overpowering.  The generous portion makes this appetizer a perfect main dish when paired with the soup.


For the Mr.?  Chicken.  I know you are surprised. Chicken parmigiana with penne. Remember, he is fussy about sauce and though the taste seemed fine and he said nothing, I am sure he would have preferred to see a red pool ladled onto the top of the pasta.


Our older son's girlfriend opts for the tilapia topped with capers and cherry tomatoes, which she praises and finishes.


Our older son selects a stuffed chicken dish which includes cheese and Prosciutto. Underneath the chicken is a risotto cake and brocolli rabe. For a few moments he left one half of the poultry and I thought the dish must be extremely filling as he has a healthy appetite. Turns out he was having an intermission and also finished the dish.


The theme of brocolli rabe, which I have learned is also known as Rapini, carries over to our younger son's plate as well.  It serves as a base which is covered by crisp french fries and the Tuscan Ribeye prepared medium-rare.  He shares a few french fries with me and no flaws can be found.  The meal also mostly disappears. He grew weary of the greens and I took the liberty of helping finish most of them.


Two of the same desserts are ordered and beautifully presented. We share the Raspberry Tart and I admire both the decorative plating and the taste.  I enjoy the tart which reminds me of a shortbread cookie, the filling, the sauce and raspberries. Without explanation or reason, I left the cream to the side.


We truly had a nice night.  Laughter, talking, no tension, good food and a fabulous kick-off for the weekend.  I remember a time when my days off were split, my husband worked shifts and life had a frantic pace between our sons school and activities.  This is a comfortable time and place in all our lives, more like being able to gently float once in awhile and simply enjoy each other and everything that leaves us feeling Fed Well.


Cosimo's Brick Oven on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rock Center Cafe

A quick overnight trip to Manhattan which was centered around a lovely dinner at The View led us to needing breakfast the next morning.  We had strolled Times Square the night before, so venturing in the opposite direction led us to Rockefeller Center and Rock Center Cafe.

Like good tourists we watched the ice skaters for a few minutes before searching out food.  A bit of wandering around in the maze under Rockefeller Plaza until we finally found Rock Center Cafe and it seemed like a good choice.


After scanning the breakfast menu posted by the door, it was a surprise to receive a printed menu that only offered "Brunch."  Nothing against brunch, but if that is the only option the menu in the waiting area probably should have been removed to prevent confusion.  The tourist couple seated next to us were audibly distraught over the lack of hot oatmeal available during brunch.

Seated by the window, we were warned it would be cold, but the view of the rink was impeccable.  A basket of room temperature breads and muffins were placed on the table.  I am always disappointed when they are not warm so cold butter can melt in and spread easily.



The Mr. is happy with the coffee and this is a major potential deal breaker for him.  He prefers a smooth and mild blend and was quite unsettled with the $5 cup from the hotel before we left.  Good coffee = happy Mr.

All hopes of breakfast were not lost with the brunch menu.  The Mr. orders the American Breakfast which included 2 scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes. Again, happy Mr.



For me, well, I confess I am madly in love with Eggs Benedict. When I saw the Cafe's version included home-made kielbasi, I was quickly sold.  Though the English Muffins serving as the base were a lovely and crispy golden brown, I push them aside and enjoy the rest of the plate.  Breakfast potatoes are lightly crunchy skin and fluffy center that I realize I did not have to add salt or pepper to enjoy.  The kielbasi is flavorful, leaner and deeper in color than the mass market links sold in the grocery store. My only slight critique would be of the pudding like consistency of the Hollandaise. 



Provided with table side entertainment, we watch as the Zamboni operator power slides the machine through the turns on the ice and takes two complete laps over the entire rink.  Skaters are released on to the ice and the pack is quickly divided by levels of experience.  Some clutch the hand rail and are simply determined to not make fools of themselves while others zip in and out of the masses with ease and finesse.  One lesson is given in the middle of the ice and our server shares that at least one marriage proposal occurs about every 2 hours.



Again, in true tourist fashion we asked our lovely server to take our picture and she not only did so with a smile, she asked us to check and offered to take a second in the lobby since the lighting is "not quite right" when you sit by the window.  Lovely offer but we were fine with our less than perfect souvenir.  

It took a little while longer than expected to receive our check and pay.  One thing we noticed on our receipts in NY this weekend was a tip chart at the bottom that listed what 15, 20 and 25% of our total would be as a suggested gratuity.  Many thoughts about this and wonder what you think?

Back on the street and off to St. Patrick's Cathedral which is clearly under going a renovation.


Yes, it is Sunday and mass was being said when we ventured inside and stood behind the red velvet ropes.  Lines of visitors wound through the aisles and people were being seated based on their desire to receive communion.  It may sound sacrilegious, but I couldn't help but smile and think, "Smoking or Non?" as if the ushers were asking, "Communion or Non?"  Oh boy.



Back outside and though the day is cold and windy, the lack of snow falling makes walking around far easier than the previous night.

In a matter of minutes we are back in front of our hotel.  I may become a traveler that brings their own pillow in the future.  Does that make me old, fussy or simply practical?  



A bit more waiting as the car is brought to us, about 90 minutes later we are back in our own territory and I suggest a pit stop.  One last Valentine's weekend treat - the Dunkin Donut cookie dough filled donut.  While pretty to look at, I could have lived without.



Yes, it's cliche and true, the best part about going away is coming home.  Our family and our Yellow Lab, Maddy are happy to see us.  We will cherish these memories of a little time on our own, some great food, tourist experiences and best of all, we feel Fed Well.


Rock Center Cafe on Urbanspoon



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The View

Discovering where to eat can be an adventure all its own.  When searching for a Christmas gift for my sister, I came across a website for The View restaurant in the Marriott on Broadway in New York.  I fell in love and so I did what most people do and gave my sister a gift I wanted for myself.  I then told the Mr. who turned around and gave me a gift card to the same place.  Love.  A many splendid thing indeed.

I could hardly wait, but even when I opened the gift, I knew I would save it for "something special."  Well, what's more special than Valentine's Day?  But, wait a minute, I cannot stand eating in a restaurant on a holiday.  The menu is usually limited, the crowds overwhelming and the service may be poor so when I used Open Table to make a reservation, I realized February 15 is a holiday in itself and booked our table.

The Mr. drove slowly through one of the really fun Northeast snow storms we have been having lately and it took us quite awhile to reach our hotel.  Though we could have stayed in the Marriott, I found us a room at a nearby Hilton for a fraction of the cost.  We valeted the car, checked in and power walked to the Marriott.  


The express elevator takes guests directly to the 48th floor in a glass walled lift that reminded me of Willy Wonka.  The blur included a greenhouse roofed gym with guests working out.  I feel a brief flicker of gluttony as the bell announces our arrival.


We are directed to a waiting area with a number of other guests and it takes a moment to adjust that the path of flooring that includes the tables is slowly moving in a circle around the windows.  We are in the stationery center when our hostess directs us down one flight of stairs.  We were waiting in the lounge which includes a buffet dinner and separate bar area.  Our reservations were for the dining room.



We are seated almost immediately and the dining room is fairly empty though more guests arrive throughout our meal and is mostly full by the time we leave.  Yes, as tourists we struggled to take a flattering "selfie" with the celllphone camera, but our server smiled and took several photos of us while making us laugh.  I embrace being a tourist whenever possible.  The acknowledgment simply makes it easier for everyone.




A Winter Pear Cosmopolitan to start.  Yes, it was $17.  It was also fabulous and amazing.  Smooth, clear pear taste without the firewater afterburn of alcohol.  A dangerous cocktail for a lightweight who may risk ordering a second and then not be able to function.



We look through the Prix Fixe menu though I have already previewed it online at The View NYC Restaurant's website and am well aware of my choices.  I thought the Mr. would venture out and try the venison as he is an avid hunter.  "I don't want to eat farmed venison," he claimed.

So, to start...

The Crab Cake

I was able to fight my way in for a sample forkful.  It was a perfect ratio of crab to binder and I swirled mine through the mildly heated horseradish sauce.  Heaven.


For me, the Parsnip Bisque.  Described on the menu as having white miso and honeyed chestnut crema.  I'll be honest here, I have no benchmark for those flavor descriptions/ingredients.  What I can share without any doubt is the soup was delicious, smooth, the correct temperature throughout and I finished my portion with a shadow of the bisque remaining on the dish.

Main Course

Yes, the Mr. ordered the chicken.  Listed as:  

Roasted Breast and Leg Confit, Fregola Sarda, Parsley Root, Porcini Madeira Sauce 


He was not overly excited about the Fregola Sarda.  We had asked our server about it and the description was "couscous like, but larger."  The Mr. would have preferred a risotto if he had a choice, but he did enjoy the chicken and some of my carrots.

For me:

Tenderloin
Salsify and Onion Pot Pie, Heirloom Carrots, Grape Mustard


I will go around the plate.  The tenderloin was absolutely cooked to medium-rare as requested, almost fork tender, quite thick, succulent and truly tasted of beef.  The sauce was decadent and used with every bite.  Mini onion pot pie was not only the cutest item on the plate, the crispy top broke with the side of the fork and yielded soft, warm onions...I will dream of them.  The carrots were just crisp enough and the Mr.'s favorite part of my dinner.

We watched the ever changing skyline as much as the weather permitted.  Billowing clouds of snow would kick up every so often and interfere.  Our inner voyeurs were revealed as we looked in the open windows of hotels and yes, saw people perhaps getting ready for their evening, in various states of undress.  Maybe they wanted to be seen.


Yes, that is the Empire State Building in the very background of the photo.  Landmarks are the proof of a tourists visit.

Desserts:



A classic New York cheesecake for the Mr.  Fresh strawberries and a sauce that was not coyingly sweet, but rather actually tasted like the fresh fruit.

Banana and Pear Jaconde for me.

The accompanying caramel ice cream resting in a bed of what reminds me of Carvel ice cream cake crunchies are all memorable and fun.  I finish the ice cream and also thoroughly enjoy the sugared and flamed banana slice.

What's next on the agenda?  We stroll through Times Square of course and though the wet snow flakes and bustling wind keep the tourists moving, we still want to take our photos and laugh at the dressed up characters.  


Next up, a visit to Madame Tussaud's wax museum and the camera battery begins to fade.  We retrace our steps to the hotel and still feel a bit of bloat from our indulgent meal.  Fed Well and content, we will continue our culinary NYC adventure the next day.



View Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon



Friday, February 14, 2014

Danny's in Wurtsboro - Winterfest After Party

On a wintry Saturday in Wurtsboro, the Board of Trade holds, "Winterfest."  For me, the highlight is the ice sculptures and carvings.  I walk from one end of town to the other with 2 girlfriends and we also check on the art exhibit in the Wurtsboro Art Alliance Gallery as well as the chili contest in the firehouse. 

When the day's fun has come to an end, the winners are announced and the crowds disperse, we opt for our own private after party at Danny's.

 A penguin sculpture outside of Danny's facing Sullivan Street.

I've been to Danny's a number of times and for some reason order a Whiskey Sour when I am there. They are wonderful and the fruit adds to the celebratory vibe.  One of my friends joins me with the same cocktail while the other sticks to coffee.


It is an in-between time as far as eating and I'm not yet hungry so snacks are in order.  I suggest to one of my friends that we split an appetizer and we somehow end up sharing two.  Our other friend orders a bar pizza.  

When any group of friends gathers, everyone is coming from a different place in their life or even their day.  One of us has a lot to talk about and the role of the other 2 is to listen.  Advice and suggestions may be given, but mostly it is a time for one person to simply talk things over with like minded women. The beauty of friendship is knowing you can trust people with whatever is going on in your world and they will not share the information nor place blame or judgment.  The friend dealing with a struggle actually apologizes for sharing and though I understand why a woman would do such a thing, but really, we have to stop.  We need each other to help keep us balanced and assured that we are not the crazy ones.  We are not alone.  No need to apologize.  Our after party had no agenda and if it means holding up a friend, then that that is what is all about.

Out come the appetizers.  First, steamed clams.  The problem here is I just had some really exceptional clams at Vic's in Montgomery and while I should not compare, it is simply too fresh in my mind. Danny's clams were good, but Vic's happened to be better.


Potato skins.  I used to love them about 20 years ago or more when I worked in the Newburgh Mall and they had a Ground Round.  I don't think I've had them much since then.  Danny's were filled with a liquidy cheese that could be associated with nacho cheese sauce and crispy bacon, served with a side of sour cream. They were quite satisfying and the salty snack accompanied by the Whiskey Sour made my mouth happy.  

So many memories swirl around while I eat and listen.  I remember going to Danny's with my mother and sister around the time of my sister's wedding since we patronized the dress shop across the street. I also think of my father when I eat potato skins because we ate regular baked potato skins before it was a cute culinary treat. It would be nice to sometimes tune out parts of the brain's inner-workings and multi-tasking to allow one function at a time the opportunity to really soak up the present.


Pizza.  Classic.  I cannot resist trying a piece.  The crust is crisp, sauce is mildly sweet and the cheese is ooey-gooey stretchy and delicious.  Why don't I think to come here more often just for pizza?  One friend shares it used to be "THE" place to get pizza for the area and I have to say, it was fabulous.


Danny's is comfortable with no fuss, practical and solid.  The service was friendly and the bar and dining room were busy.  I've been there before and I'm sure to return since I leave feeling Fed Well.

Danny's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ruby Tuesday for Lunch

Saturdays at the mall...for some it is a dream, or a way of life, or a necessity, for me, it is dreadful.  Yes, dreadful, which is of course the polar opposite of fabulous.  Ugh.  

I had to go to pick up my new eyeglass lenses.  Long story, but my recent experience with lenses that were coated to avoid glare, etc. was a yearlong nightmare that included returning the lenses once because they were so horrible I could no longer see.  So, this year, new vendor, same frames and new lenses from a place at the mall. Ick again about the Galleria.  On pick up day, they would need my frames for "about an hour" so I would need a pair of eyes to accompany me and either scrutinize size and price tags or drive me someplace else while I was temporarily blind.  The Mr. is such a good sport, we shopped, left and had the car washed then decided on lunch at Ruby Tuesday to finish off the errands and my good behavior in a place I am most likely to throw a tantrum.

No lines, no waiting, it is exactly noon and time for lunch!  We are seated near the bar area and yes, the television sets are both a distraction and fuel for conversation.  I may not be an avid sports fan, but I have an interest and can hold my own as long as the topics are not hockey or car racing.  It is an awkward time for sports between the end of football and the opening of baseball.

Time to order and yes, I can't help myself, a cocktail is in order to take the edge off of the shopping experience.  Strange thing is, I was that teen girl who LOVED going shopping; every weekend, in and out of stores, dressing rooms, then off to plazas or boutiques when possible.  Now, I think I would break out in a rash.

So, yes to a Cosmopolitan.  Our lovely server did not even seem to judge me.  Instead she brought out Ruby Tuesday's latest attempt at competing with the awesome cheese biscuit from Red Lobster.  Sorry, but as far as chain's go, the Red Lobster and Olive Garden pre-meal carbs are the leaders for me.  Drowning the biscuit is also frowned upon as I had to eat it in bite size forkfuls rather than simply pick it up and enjoy.


Our lunches:


Yes, chicken for the Mr.  Who is surprised?  The club sandwich with a generous helping of french fries are a thumbs up.  While I write this blog I am aware of the Mr.'s creeping cholesterol numbers and have since eliminated fries as an option for him when we are together.  I know he sneaks them at work, but I will no longer contribute to the possibility of him needing medication to fix unhealthy choices.  


As for me, my cholesterol remains in the low 100's and I thoroughly enjoyed my turkey avocado burger though I boxed up half with half of my fries.  I was offered a second drink and I laughed, "No, I am one and done."  After all, I have to get used to my new, better, stronger, prescription progressive lenses that make me feel like Mrs. Magoo.

The lunch was delicious and thought provoking.  Once again, the Mr. and I are Fed Well.

Did I mention I dislike the mall?

Ruby Tuesday on Urbanspoon


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Benchmark Pizza

A food blog without a photo of the food.  I know, it seems crazy. However, the point of this piece is merely to explain a bit about my theories in food blogging and especially about pizza.

Pizza is a wide world of culinary interpretation.  For the Mr., anything from a hut or chain of any kind is simply unacceptable.  I tend to agree most times.  We are from New York state and for us, crust is fairly thin, preferably crisp, bubbles are a bonus.  Cheese should be stretchy, ooey, gooey, but without a river of orange grease running down our arm when the slice is folded.  Sauce is a point where he and I can sometimes differ in opinion; a bit of sweetness is fine, but I feel the crust, sauce and cheese should work in balance and harmony with none being a main focus while he loves to taste and feel plenty of sauce.

In any case, Colandrea's pizza is our benchmark.  All other pizzas are judged and compared in relation to the Pizza King.

We recently had take out pizza and when the Mr. walked in the kitchen after a long day at work said, "Oh my, is it my birthday!" 

THAT is how special Colandrea's is to us.



The pizza that leaves us all feeling Fed Well and can turn an ordinary day into something fabulous.


Colandrea's Pizza King on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Happy Year of the Horse

Where does the time go?  Not only did 2013 pass quickly, but the weeks from when we went out to celebrate the Lunar New Year to this day, this moment, when I can post about our meal has flown by. Snow storms, colds, and the fatigue of winter feel like heavy weights chained to us and so a reason to celebrate is embraced with a bit more enthusiasm than usual.  So it was on a Friday night that coincided with the celebration of the Year of the Horse and the 4 of us decided on Pine Bush Chinese Restaurant after a hard day of work and a quick trip to the grocery store.

Here is the special celebration menu:


I decide to veer off course and try the new-to-me items.  While we are ordering, the restaurant is quickly filling and I spot a friend.  We act like we haven't seen each other in ages (maybe it's been a few weeks at best) and call out across the restaurant.  Good thing it is a fairly casual place and we didn't seem to disrupt anyone.

To start, a few bowls of won ton soup and I try the seafood tomato bisque.


I love the symbolism; the red especially for money luck and while I do not know the meaning of the seafood in my soup, it simply feels decadent to have scallops and shrimp in the uniquely flavored broth that is not fully sweet nor savory.

The appetizer from the holiday menu:




A steamed bun with pork inside.  The bun is reminiscent of marshmallow mixed with mashed potatoes in consistency and mouth feel.  However, the flavor of the bun is not very easy to describe though the dryness, perhaps baking powder, can be associated with a southern biscuit.  Soft, pillowy bun encases plush pork in a sauce that also seems both familiar and yet not like anything else.  Not everyone is enthusiastic about trying new things, but the Mr. has a forkful or two.

A bit of lag time between the appetizer and dinner allows the family to chat and I also have a bit of text messaging going on with the friend across the restaurant.  I send her a Mai-Tai and she seems to enjoy it.

Main courses begin to arrive:


For the youngest, the sizzling steak.  It was and he was happy!


Continuing from the special menu, I had "Blossom" as my main course.  I just could not imagine shrimp stuffed with ham.  My choice turned out to be exceptional.  

Our older son had the boneless ribs and I did not photograph them, but he always enjoys them at Pine Bush Chinese Restaurant.

The Mr. ordered a dish with chicken, shrimp and scallions.  Yes, of course he had chicken.  

 

I felt as though an observer would never be able to tell I ate from my plate as I asked for a heaping amount of food be wrapped to take home.  I also had a hard time finishing my generous pour of plum wine. However, I always make sure to leave a little room for a dish of pistachio and the few bites it takes to finish a fortune cookie.

When our check arrives, our older son graciously treated his family to dinner.  A lovely surprise.  I could not resist playing a prank though on my friend and asked the hostess to bring our check to my girlfriend and let her know we said thank you for treating us to our meal.  My friend's face at first was priceless as we waved, put our coats on and said thank you.  Once she realized it was a joke, she yelled out, "We'll all have to pay the old fashioned way and help out with the dishes."  Life in a small town.

As we left, we added our son's business card to the community style bulletin board by the door.


We will enjoy the Year of the Horse and continue to be Fed Well.  Wishing you a prosperous New Year.

Pine Bush Chinese Restaurant Inc. on Urbanspoon