House of Skip

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Monks Cafe, Philadelphia

~Originally posted 3/23/09
A friend and I traveled to the city of brotherly love this weekend to check out some American history. That's right folks, Skip is a history buff too. My friend and I went to check out the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House and Independence Hall; if you haven't been or if it's been awhile I highly recommend it. You've got to have a great appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice that went into the founding of our country. But I digress, you've come here to read about Monk's Cafe!

After taking in a healthy dose of history, two girls were in need of a good beer. My friend had suggested Monk's as she had been there before, it did not take much to convince me, I read they had a beer list as big as the phone book! And boy, they weren't kidding. There were so many beers I found it difficult to choose. Monk's is on S. 16th Street between Spruce and Locust in Philadelphia, it's a charming little place. You walk in through a plain black door, into a dimly lit bar area, beyond that the walls are lined with wooden booths and tables. Monk's has a bit of a rustic feel, some might even describe it as a dive bar. I thought it looked like a fun place to hang, like a friend's basement.

I've been told they have great muscles, but since neither my friend or I eat them, I cannot report on that. However, the menu looks like a typical bar menu, appetizers, salads, burgers and sandwiches. They did have some unique entrées that I would not expect at a bar, such as, spicy polenta and duck ragout, not to mention a veal cheeks appetizer. Needless to say, there are some things that make Monk's special. My friend and I both happened to want to try the same thing for lunch, chicken and apple sausage on an Italian roll. We both agreed it was very good, it was the least greasy sausage I have ever had (because it was chicken) but still had a lot of flavor. They put a spicy raspberry mustard on it, which was a perfect combination. Despite the fact that, as with most bars, there was a lack of "healthy' food on the menu, this sandwich did come with a mixed green salad on the side. We also split a basket of fries, they give you way too many, I don't think we even ate half of that basket. The fries came with a great dipping sauce, Bourbon mayo, to borrow from Rachel Ray, YUM-O.

Okay, on to the beer! I was getting dizzy trying to read all the beers, but I finally decided on Alvinne Podge Stout. I am a fan of a nice stout, I like a dark beer, usually if I am having just one or two (they are just too heavy for multiple beers). I really enjoyed it. My friend, as I said, had been there before and was some what familiar with the beer list, she started with Lindemann's Cassis Lambic Belgian Beer, it was on the sweet side, but a little tart too. She then moved on to Bezelbeth French Malt, which she shared with me, it was interesting, but not terrible.  I hope that my friend will comment and elaborate on what she thought of her beers and Monk's in general.

So, bottom line, Skip recommends a trip to historic Philly, especially if it includes lunch at Monk's. Of course, it helps if you have good company too.
Skip gives Monk's - 4 cosmos

try it for yourself--

Full Moon Cafe, Lambertville

~Originally posted 2/14/09~
If you have ever been to Lambertville, you may have noticed this cute little cafe with all the lunar decorations. They are right on Bridge Street and are usually only open for breakfast and lunch. There is only one occasion for which they open for dinner, a full moon. They recommend reservations, there are quite a few regulars who do not miss a full moon dinner at the Full Moon Cafe, as I found out recently.

I had been to the Full Moon Cafe for breakfast once, I had a fabulous crab and brie omelet, I suggest you try it, even if it was a little light on the cheese, but then again, I love brie. Since a full moon dinner is there specialty I thought I would try it. I invited some old friends to join me there for a bite on the last full moon (February 9th).

I will say this, when I was there for breakfast the service was fast, they are very efficient about getting folks in and out, so don't expect to lounge at this cafe. However, the wait staff are very intuitive and considerate of special circumstances. When I arrived for my full moon dinner, the rest of my party was not yet there, I was seated and the wine I brought, the cafe is BYOB, was immediately put on ice. Upon two of my guests arriving we discovered the last guest would be delayed, our waitress was very courteous about this matter and gave us ample time to review the menu, taking time to explain things to us, as it was our first visit.

On to the food, we started with a salad of mixed greens, tomato and mozzarella, all very fresh and the perfect amount of dressing. For the main course I chose a white fish called Barramundi, it was cooked to perfection, I always worry about it being overcooked and dry, but no worries that night! Other guests with me that evening tried a dish that would have been my second choice, Chimichurri steak with kalamata olives, they told me it was wonderful. With your meal you can choose to sides, I picked (and would highly recommend) the roasted fingerling potatoes and the sautéed spaghetti squash, they also offer brussel sprouts, even though I still don't understand why any one eats them.

The Full Moon Cafe had quite a few tempting desserts, but we decided to pass, others around us seemed to be enjoying the key lime pie and carrot  cake. As I mentioned, they are BYOB and upon making my reservation the hostess took my email address and emailed me the menu one week prior to the full moon dinner so that I could choose a beverage accordingly, I think that is a great feature. I had a fantastic time at the Full Moon Cafe, but I will warn you this, some of the menu items are a little pricey, we paid $5.50 for a pre-dinner salad and some of the other appetizer choices were as much as $9.50 and were not necessarily meant for sharing.

One other thing to remember, if you are not familiar with Lambertville, there is only metered street parking, so make sure you bring quarters.

The Full Moon Cafe is definitely worth a visit:
23 Bridge St
Lambertville, NJ

a list of the full moon dinner dates can be found at

Ajihei, Princeton

~Originally posted 2/9/09

So, I love sushi and there are so many places now to get it in my area. I just found a new great place, or shall I say my dining companion found it, after all, he does most of the research. Ajihei is a sushi place in Princeton, on Chambers Street. You have to go down some stairs to get to it and it is so small, you just might miss it. But I recommend you look hard, because you don't want to miss this place.
The place is tiny, but home-like. There are small wooden tables, no frills here. There is a man behind a counter rolling sushi while you dine, the fish is on display behind glass, it looked really fresh, and it was! We started with wasabi shumai. Now, I highly recommend shumai, those little dumplings are one of my favorites, but if you are not that into wasabi, you may want to get another version. The wasabi shumai at Ajihei will cure any sinus problems you have.
I had a spicy tuna roll and a shrimp tempura roll, both delicious. My companion had a sashimi dinner, which he enjoyed very much, all the fish was really, really fresh. It was a very cold night that we were there and our waitress came over with hot green tea as soon as we sat down and she refilled it often, which was excellent, because it was yummy and I was cold.
If you are looking for the ultra-modern "fusion" type sushi places, don't visit Ajihei. However, if you want to feel like a Japanese family invited you to their house for dinner, then wander down Chambers Street for this basement gem.
Ajihei does not have a website, but here is there address so you can easily find them:

11 Chambers St
Princeton, NJ 08542

Happy dining!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yummy Jambalaya

Yummy Jambalaya

1/2 a white onion diced
1 red bell pepper diced
3 cloves of garlic chopped
4 slabs of bacon diced
2 links chorizo sausage (or sausage of your choice)
1- 28 oz jar of diced tomatoes
to your taste:
Chili powder
Celery Salt
crushed red pepper flakes
Cayenne pepper
Ground Black Pepper
1 lb Mahi Mahi (or fish of your choice) -note Mahi holds up well to stew-type dishes
1 lb shrimp (cleaned and tails removed)

Start with a large pot, I like to use my Le Creuset dutch oven. Over medium heat, add a little olive oil to the pot, add onion, garlic and bell pepper, let them sweat it out for about 2 minutes and add the bacon, let the bacon cook until it starts to crisp up and stick to bottom of the pot. Now you want to add the sausage, I used hot chorizo, but you can chose anything you like, be sure to scrap the bacon off the bottom of the pot so the flavors mingle.

After the sausage has had time to brown (probably 3 to 5 minutes) you now want to add the can of diced tomatoes, again being sure to scrap the bottom on the pot to get all the juicy bits of bacon and sausage incorporated in the sauce. Add all your spices, I don't measure I just dump to my taste, I recommend you do the same, some like it hot, some don't, ya know? Give it a few good stirs and put the lid on and walk away, I found something else to do for about 10 minutes so I could let that pot simmer and all of those flavors infuse themselves into the tomatoes to make a yummy sauce.

Now, after that I chopped my Mahi Mahi into bite sized chunks and threw them in the pool, I let that go for a few minutes while I prepped the shrimp, then the shrimp joined the party too. After adding the shrimp, I probably only left it on the heat for another 5 to 7 minutes, I didn't want the shrimp to get tough. I was making this ahead for later in the week, if you are going to eat it immediately after cooking, just wait until the shrimp turn from opaque to that nice pink color.

I took the pot off the heat and let it cool off (those cast iron babies get hot!). Once it was cook, I put it in the fridge for safe keeping. I had made this ahead of time so that on a night where my companion and I were on different schedules (him golfing, me at karate) we could both come home and heat it up and eat whenever it fit into our day.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Spice Loaf

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Spice Loaf

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup of honey
4 eggs
2 zucchini - shredded
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips,plus a handful of chips

Set your oven to bake at 375. In a large bowl combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix eggs with oil and honey. Combine wet ingredients with the flour mixture and then add the spices and zucchini. Mix until well combined and then stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the mix into a loaf plan and top with a few more chips.

Bake for an hour, but keep an eye on it depending on the consistency and your oven it could be done sooner but this was the first time I tried this and it took about an hour til the middle was not still wet. I would also alert you that I eyeballed it with the spices, and so the measurements above may not be exact, but they are close and I would say use each to your own taste.

I think it is delicious!