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Monday, January 26, 2015

Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, NY

We are very lucky and I find myself frequently pausing to reflect on how grateful and thankful I am for the life we have - our health, our adult sons and their happy lives, great friends and family as well as the fortune to have had the world's best neighbors at both our old and current address.  Our current neighbors gave us a generous and well appreciated holiday gift in the form of a gift certificate to a fairly local restaurant and I couldn't wait to go.

I confess, I was a bit worried the Mr. would not like it.  No Chicken Marsala at Aroma Thyme Bistro

I reviewed the menu in advance and with the knowledge they would also have daily specials, I was pretty confident he would find something he would like and I wanted to try everything.

When I parked the car (I always drive to the restaurant and he drives home so I can enjoy a cocktail with dinner), the lot was almost full and I worried we wouldn't be able to get a table.  We are not patient folks who will just pull up a chair at the bar.  The hostess asked if we had a reservation and when we said, "No," she said, "that's fine. Please follow me."  Whew.

I did notice what seemed to be ample seating available, but the mystery of the empty tables would soon be solved.

I like the look, the vibe, atmosphere.  Awards and recognition hang on the walls.  Warm and welcoming.  

We are presented with, "The Binder." Specialty cocktails, beer, wine and the specials are all available in The Binder and I choose a Pear Martini.

 Pear Martini

We were brought a bread basket that included a lovely and unique crusty bread with a white bean dipping sauce.  It was both hearty and light.  Lovely.  Unfortunately the ambient lighting in the dining room was slightly challenging for a simple cell phone camera to capture.

I select an appetizer for us to share from The Binder.  Sometimes I opt for things simply because I am fairly certain the Mr. will also enjoy it and who can find fault with soppressata and cheese?  The plate also included an organic fig jam and walnuts.  Sweet, crunchy, savory, salty and soft.  Yum.  I enjoyed every bite.  A great start.

The main courses:

The Mr. and I each went out of our normal routine.  For him, Bouillabaisse.  


The dish included seafood and potatoes in a fragrant and flavorful broth.  Yes, we did dip some of our bread in the remaining liquid.  

For me:

Silver Fern Farms 10 oz Grilled Ribeye Steak
Crushed Yukon Potatoes, Roasted Garlic & EVOO
Asparagus, Crimini Mushrooms, Red Onions, Basil Oil & Aged Balsamic
Silver Fern Farms is 100% grass-fed & finished

The potatoes were the base on the plate, with asparagus and mushrooms the next layer and the steak sliced on top.  It was amazing.  The beef was tender, flavorful and beautiful.  Again, I enjoyed playing with the available textures and flavor combinations in each forkful.  Swirling through the sauce (or not) also made this meal fun and light while quite satisfying.

Once our plates were cleared, the Mr. confessed he had a bit of empty belly space and so I knew dessert was going to be ordered.  We chose to share the Wild Maine Blueberry Crisp a la mode. 

Silky, smooth, and cool on top of warm, bubbly berries...

We were also brought a french press of coffee, a pot of tea, a timer and instructions not to pour or drink our hot beverages until all of the sand had emptied from the top to the bottom of the timer.  I just love these little touches.

It was a great date night.  We laughed.  I think that's one of the best signs of a great time - laughter. A funny face, an inside joke, a bit of teasing, a great story - whatever the reason, laugh a little, together.

Oh, and the mystery of all the empty tables in the front of the restaurant by the bar? Well, they were filled before we left.  We found out it was a special beer pairing/dining event with Captain Lawrence.  Folks reserved a spot, paid one price and received a particular beer with each course as well as a side of education. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and every seat was taken.  Other events are regularly held at Aroma Thyme Bistro and you can learn more by either visiting their website (here's the link again to Aroma Thyme Bistro) or their Facebook page at Aroma Thyme Bistro's Facebook page.

A question I ask the Mr. and/or our family when we go out is, "Would you come back here?"  Tonight, the answer was yes. Whew. And I was nervous.

Thanks again to our lovely and fabulous neighbors.  We were Fed Well and had a great date night. 

Aroma Thyme Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 19, 2015

Friday Night Dinner Date at Nina's in Middletown

Deciding where to go for a dinner date is part of the entire date experience, isn't it?  First you have to talk about the type of food, whether you are looking for something casual, convenient and nearby, are up for something new and unknown, or maybe finally try that place you've been meaning to get to. For the Mr., the answer to "What do you want for dinner," is comprised of 2 possibilities:  chicken (whether home or out) and Italian.  Typically, he wants an Italian style chicken dish when possible. However, he does look the menu over, listen to specials and will still break out of his comfort zone once in awhile, but he has to have that safe dish of Chicken Marsala or something similar on stand-by.

On this cold winter Friday I asked the question of "where" and was answered with "what."  I made a few suggestions and he agreed to one that was in nearby Middletown.  However, when we arrived the restaurant had an hour and a half wait time due to a nearby performance at the Paramount Theater. Back out into the cold we walked just a few doors down to Nina's.  Please do not be upset that this wasn't our first choice, we sometimes forget what else is in the area and were happy, not resigned, with our selection.

I was worried for a moment we would encounter the same problem with a long wait time at this location.  However, we were seated almost immediately and this was my view:

I wondered if the large table was reserved for a group that would be seeing the comedy act at the Paramount.  Later, I would have my answer.

To begin, a leather bound wine list and a separate cocktail menu are left on the table.  Hmmm. Many look amazing...

I do believe if a dish or a drink is named for the restaurant, it must be fairly amazing for them to build a reputation from it or put their name on the line.  I begin with a Ruby Red Nina.

We are told the evening's specials from appetizers, salads, soup, and entree choices.  I changed my mind about how to begin and selected the night's soup - I have forgotten the name, but can tell you it was a seafood with potato creamy blend without being a puree.  And this is how it looked at the start:

The bread was served warm with a generous portion of creamy butter.  The soup was delicate in flavors with just a few small pieces of seafood.

Our main courses...

No chicken for the Mr.  He does sometimes switch things up and seafood will certainly be a reason for him to try a new dish.  He hesitated about this one, but I promised he could pick out the peas and no one would judge him.

This oricchiette dish was prepared with sausage, broccolini, and sun dried tomatoes.  Yes, I had to pick out an ingredient as well.  The Mr. takes a few of my unwanted sun dried tomatoes and when we decide to surrender and admit we can't eat another bite, our server laughs at our little mounds of peas and sun dried tomatoes.  The remainders are wrapped without the offending bits.

In the meantime, a large family has arrived for the reserved table.  A young girl, perhaps 6 years old, is seated at one end.  She has a large orange flower in her hair and is likely wearing a specially selected outfit for the occasion.  I notice her first as she is quietly pouting, full bottom lip out, no tears and no words.  It seems she did not get to sit next to the person she wanted.  The table is full with 2 other young ladies, perhaps siblings and a handful of young 20-somethings and perhaps an almost 30 something as well as "Mama."  Everyone is happy and on their best behavior.  Gathering for a full table selfie, taking turns with cell phone cameras and eventually plugging 2 in to charge during the meal.  I can't help it, I am tuned in.  This table could be a future story prompt.  What were they celebrating? What were the relationships? Who will the young lady with the flower in her hair grow up to be?  I am fascinated, but know my interest can easily be misinterpreted.  The Mr. laughs at me.  He knows and understands.

Dessert? Why, yes.  Although I ask for it be packed to go and I order a cappuccinpo while the Mr. sips a coffee he fills with creamer and sugar.

It was a wonderful date night.  The food was expertly prepared, well seasoned, and served while piping hot.  The conversation flowed well and I was just as entertained as if I had attended a show. The potential story still simmers in my mind's back burner.

The next night I enjoy half of my "mixed berry tart" which I would rather refer to as a galette. I wonder if menu items are named so the masses understand what they are ordering, rather than for accuracy.

We had a wonderful time at Nina's and my senses, as well as my belly, were Fed Well.

Nina's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Blue Horizon Diner - Monticello, NY

When I was little my dad's advice for selecting a diner was, "Eat where the truckers eat."  In the 1970's, when we really didn't eat out that much, it was a perfect rule. As an adult, I have taken his words of wisdom and tweeked it a bit to be, "Be wary of the empty parking lot."  A diner should be booming, unless it is the middle of the night or off-hours and should be staffed to accommodate busloads of customers. Diners are known for lengthy menus, being able to select any type of food regardless of the time of day or night, and fairly quick service so they can clear your table for the next customer.  We were out and about, running Sunday errands and decided to stop at the Blue Horizon Diner in Monticello for brunch.

We were seated fairly quickly by a friendly and attentive hostess.  She asks if we want the breakfast buffet or menus and we say no thank you to the buffet.  Giant, spiral bound menus were placed on the booth table and a waitress/server materialized from nowhere.  Perfect.

I'll start with a cup of hot tea with milk, please.

Something about the dishes I just love.  Cute.  Comfy.  Inviting.

For the Mr. a ham and egg sandwich on a hard roll with hash browns.  I stole a bite of the perfectly pink pork - a balance of sweet and salt with no visible fat, lightly browned and I enjoy the sample.

For me:  Well, I decided to be super bad this gray, cloudy, January Sunday in New York and opt for two fried eggs with bacon and potatoes with whole wheat toast.  The toast is mostly a vehicle for dipping in the orangey-yellow egg yolks and sopping up the goodness.  I share my bacon with the Mr. in exchange for a bite of ham.  The potatoes are mixed with a bit of green bell pepper and onion and have a mildly crispy edge. Everything I hoped for in a plate of perfect brunch.

Though we are more than 30 minutes from home, we see someone we know but let them eat without disturbing them.  Both a blessing and a curse when you live in the same town you grew up in and many others have stayed - you are likely to run in to someone within a one hour radius.

We talk about our older son's wedding plans, the errands we have to run, and our meals.  We count ourselves lucky and Fed Well.  Simultaneously, in another town, our older son and his fiancee are out for a a diner.

Blue Horizon Diner Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Il Villaggio - Take Out at the Day Job

At my day job, we have a wonderful (she'd laugh at that description - she is known for being direct, not touchy/feely as "wonderful" may imply) department Admin. who will occasionally order lunch for all of us to be delivered and we then eat together in a conference room. On this day, it was from Il Vilaggio and the link to the menu was sent to each of us in a group email and if we want to place an order to have it to her by 11 a.m.  The "or else" was silent.

Like family, we have days and times when we like to face things together, bond and laugh as well as days when I can barely stand the sound of my own breathing, let alone the voices and stories of a few of my co-workers.  It's not as harsh as it sounds, really. Overall, I find our current mix and combination of personalities to be more than compatible and appropriate for the work place.  We have had many lively discussions around the conference table about politics, celebrities, nonsense, holiday traditions and our families. We have as many things in common as differences and though I'm not one for forced workplace bonding, lunch together once in awhile is fine (and it gives me fun dinner stories for at home).

Sometimes I am thankful for this option, although other times I am anxious for a break from the work day and prefer leaving the building for an hour.  When ordering from Il Villagio I have always ordered pizza and watched as a few of my co-workers enjoyed their crispy chicken salads.  

Fine, I gave in on both counts and tried the crispy chicken salad:

The fried chicken is crispy, but moist and the salad ingredients are crunchy and fresh. The foil package on the left is some squishy bread and the dressing on the side was barely touched. A winning combination of textures and flavors made me forget that basically I was eating a salad for lunch.

Even in the company of my day job coworkers, I am Fed Well with food and stories. However, I wish Monday wasn't coming up so quickly.

Il Villaggio Pizzeria & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dress up Pizza at Home

Pizza! Pizza!  

I love pizza on those nights when you get home from work, are just exhausted and have no idea what to do about dinner.  I usually love plain cheese.  Sometimes, we all want something different and on those nights, I hit the produce drawer and sautee veggies then add then on a person's slice once the pie is here.

On this particular night it was black olives (left over from holiday celebrating), sliced mushrooms and some onion.  

Heaven on a plate, little fussing and cheesey goodness!

What are some of your kitchen cheats to get you through a week night dinner?

Perkins - Middletown, NY - Gathering for Sunday Brunch Therapy

Every so often I have cravings.  Sometimes I want a salty snack, something sweet, or I miss someone or a group of someones...Being Fed Well is not just about the food, although I love a good meal, it's also about those who are gathered around the table with you.  I like to mix it up.  Family meals, extended family meals, lunch with coworker friends, and meeting the women of my life - cocktails and appetizers, lunch, dinner or brunch all works.  It doesn't have to be fancy, new or trendy.  Just us, well taken care of with solidly good food.  

I missed a particular pair of friends and so we gathered at Perkins in Middletown for brunch as we have for years.  Ah.  It is the equivalent of putting on your favorite old jeans; you feel good, comfortable and at ease.

No pretense.  No need to impress.  The conversation flows and we each take a turn letting it out, listening, nodding, offering advice or a different point of view.  Our children are grown or growing and while we may be at different phases of parenting, it's still parenting and we worry, compare notes and reassure each other that what we are doing is perfectly fine.

Here is a peek at our meals:

Ham and Swiss Omelette with Breakfast Potatoes

Side order of French Toast

For me:
Country Eggs Benedict (minus cheese) - poached eggs over biscuits with sausage and gravy

A Veggie Scramble (with real eggs please), bacon, potatoes and toast

I listen, ask questions, eat, talk, laugh and make jokes.  I feel myself recharging as my craving is satisfied.  We do not talk every day, or even every week, but what we have is a solid foundation I can depend on. Fulfilling.  They have taught me that hugs aren't so bad after all and it has become our greeting and parting sign of affection.  They are my friends and we keep each other Fed Well.

Perkins Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon