House of Skip

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ploy Siam, Robbinsville

My companion and I have visited Ploy Siam in Foxmoor Shopping Center a number of times. And we continue to go back because not only is it close to our home, but it is also really yummy.

The only complaint is that the service is often very slow. The staff is really super nice and accommodating and very apologetic about the slowness. After several visits with the same issue, we think it has to do with a couple issues. The kitchen seems to be the cause of the slowness, it seems to take awhile for things to come out. Also, they seem to be understaffed and rather than one waiter or waitress being assigned to each table, they just kind of serve all the tables.

When it comes to Thai cuisine, my companion and I love the spicy, flavorful soup, Tom Yum Koong. It is a spicy and sour broth with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and chili paste, with tomatoes, mushrooms and shrimp. The heat and citrus make it a nice clean taste with a kick. I'm convinced it will cure any cold, in fact after this most recent trip to Ploy Siam, we vowed to eat the soup once a week all winter and see if we can avoid getting sick!

We waited a long time for the soup after we ordered, it was bordering on ridiculous, but it was so worth the wait. One of the waiters told us that the kitchen was really backed up. It was astonishing given the place was busy, but not packed, there wasn't even a wait for a table. The presentation of the soup is almost as awesome as the soup itself, a large order (good for two) comes in a large soup bowl and we each got our own little soup bowl. The plates and bowls at Ploy Siam are very simple and basic, white with just a little design, really pretty. We did not have to wait as long for our entrees.

I of course could not go without ordering my favorite thai dish ever, green curry. I got the green curry with seafood. It is so yummy, I love the spice and the creaminess of the coconut milk. The veggies were perfect, still a little crisp to the broccoli and sugar snap peas. The seafood combination consisted of scallops, shrimp, calamari, and mussels. All were very delicious in the beautiful green curry sauce. My companion branched out and got the Plum Duck. It was a half duck (de-boned) served crispy with a beautiful reddish plum sauce, really the sauce was an amazing color and the duck was smothered in it. My companion thoroughly enjoyed it, making sure to sop up the sauce with some of the rice served with it!

All of these wonderfully spicy and delicious things went perfectly with our floral Sauvignon Blanc wine that we had brought, as Ploy Siam is a BYOB, again another plus for us.

To summarize:

Pros: close to home, yummy food, BYOB, inexpensive.

Cons: slow service.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Morimoto, Philadelphia

For the anniversary of my birth, my dining companion had something special up his sleeve! Leaving the house, having no idea where we were headed, I was shocked and amazed when we ended up at Morimoto. It is unassuming from the outside and I had no idea what we were walking into as we approached the glass doors. The inside is sleek and modern from the front door all the way back to the sushi bar.

The tables are slim and the chairs, very modern and quite comfy actually. The light fixture in the middle of the table is a little phallic but still interesting. I would classify this design as minimalist and very sleek. The restaurant itself is very narrow and goes very far back, past the tables and to the very cool, open raw/sushi bar. The walls have a carved wave design in them that really lengthens the space.

We were seated and immediately greeted by waitstaff who presented us with menus and offered us a beverage. Just water while we decipher the menu please. I had known that Morimoto was on my companions "to do" list for quite some time, and the main reason was because of, omakase the chef's tasting menu. So, we went for it. And we did the beverage paring too. The omakase comes at different price points which really reflect the number of courses and the ingredients used, you can view their website for a limited explanation of it.

What is fun about this type of tasting menu is you have no idea what is coming out next. You get that anticipation and the fun of guessing what type of course it will be. We started our journey with toro (tuna belly) tartar which was paired with a cava (Spanish sparkling wine). The tuna was rich, fresh and delicious, the sauce, slightly salt, slighty sweet perfect for this fatty portion of the tuna. And the cava, those bubbles clean your palate for another taste. Really delicious and really great presentation.

Next we were treated to something from the raw bar, my companions favorite and slowly becoming mine, oysters. We were each given three oysters with different accompaniments. The first featured an orange salsa which was fresh and zesty, the second was cilantro lime which was tart yet refreshing and the last was jalapeno bacon which was spicy and smoky and oh so good. They really were the best oysters I had ever had, really unique, great size, super fresh and definitely memorable. This course was served with sake, light, perfect flavor to not overpower the oysters.

We then moved on to another seafood course, this was a snapper carpaccio with sea urchin. The fish was perfect. A nice sliver of beautiful white fish drizzled with yuzu and topped with a morsel of sea urchin, which is rich and creamy. This course was served to us with a nice red wine from Oregon.

Next was our salad course, it was sashimi served over micro greens with a lemon chive oil. This was paired with an Albarino, a nice, crisp white wine that went well with the fresh sashimi.

After that we received an "intermezzo" to cleanse our palate, some places give you a sorbet, not Morimoto, no here we got a Japanese Apricot and Plum soda. It was sweet, yet tart and the bubbles definitely help to cleanse your palate.

Our first "main course" was another seafood offering, this time lobster. It was a spicy half lobster tail, grilled and served with carrot, cauliflower and bok choy. It was accompanied by a creme fraiche, which was to help cool your mouth from the intense chili spices on the lobster. Due to the spice and the grilling, this was actually paired with a Pinot Noir, the light yet smoky red wine was a surprisingly good choice for a food that is typically paired with white wine.

The next offering was a waygu beef entree served with a panko crusted piece of mozzarella and summer squash. There were two sauces on the side, both made with pepper, one was a sweet sauce made with red pepper and the other was a spicy sauce made  with yellow peppers. The portion of beef was small, but we'd had so much food that it didn't really matter at that point, but it was delicious.

Sushi came next. We received five pieces of sushi each. More Fatty Tuna, then Striped Jack, Fluke, Mackerel and Squid. All were extremely fresh and very tasty. What do you pair with sushi? More sake of course! It was crisp and clean and just a little sweet to balance the salt of the soy sauce.

Finally we arrived at dessert. And what a unique experience it was. We were amazed at the beautiful presentation of this pistachio cake served with Chevre cheese and figs. It was wonderful, sweet, nutty, tangy, all amazing taste and texture differences that made for a very fun dessert. And what else do you drink with dessert but the sweetest of dessert wines, an ice wine. Cold, sweet and perfect to end our evening.

So stop by Morimoto, check out the omakese menu or just pick from the great and exotic menu.

I'm a lucky girl.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Philadelphia Pub Crawl

Friends of ours, let's call them Captain and Tennille, are huge fans of a show all about adult beverages, Drinking Made Easy starring Zane Lamprey and Steve McKenna. In the show, the two go out on the town and discover what and where to drink in different cities. Prior to Drinking Made Easy, Lamprey had a different show called Three Sheets, which was similar except he was without McKenna and was mostly international. 

So, after watching many episodes and living vicariously through Lamprey, who states it is his job to drink,  we decided we needed to conquer a nearby city and do the same tour as the Drinking Made Easy team. Philly is close and so we figured it was doable.

We grabbed our pal Pleepleus and hit the streets of Philadelphia. We had a big agenda and set out with the goal of hitting as many as possible. Our game plan was to have one or two drinks only at each bar, drink water and eat something at at least every other place.

We started our journey at a place called McGillins Old Ale House. We parked (love the pay stations, swipe your card, chose the amount of money to put in based on how long you'll be there and go).  A short walk, past some dumpsters in an alley, from where we parked we found the first pub. Seemed like a big college hangout, lots of young guys with popped collars and flip flops.  Not exactly our scene but they had beers, yum. Well, the rules were broken right off the bat as Captain and Tennille opted to share a "tasting" of beers rather than just get one drink each. The place was packed and after standing and looking confused for a minute, we were able to find a couple seats at the bar. Sports were on all the TVs lining the wood paneled walls at McGillin's.  There were quite a few beers so the logic of getting the tasting does make sense. I started with the McGillins Ale and my companion started with the McGillins lager. Captain and Tennille were unable to really know what beer was what in their tasting because the bartender, who was very sweet, could not remember what order he poured them in. While talking to our bartender and another who was also working that end of the bar, we got to talking about stouts (some of my favorite beers) and so in addition to my ale, I also got to taste two stouts they had on draft (see photo). Oh boy.
Sly Fox O'Reilly Stout, O'Hara's Irish Stout and McGillins Ale

Next my companion decided we could walk to the next place and come back for our car. The walk was a little longer than he expected, I asked "are we there yet?' at least twice. Feeling bad for underestimating the walk my companion suggested he go get the car and come back to get me, Captain and Tennille to go to the place after that. Our long walk got us to one of the most unique places I have ever been. Eulogy Belgian Tavern is a narrow building with a bar and dining area both downstairs and upstairs. Seeing that the downstairs bar was quite full, we headed up stairs. On the steep, narrow staircase, I felt like I had been transported back to the row home I grew up in. The upstairs bar was cool, hip with an aura of secrecy. And you soon realize why they refer to this as beer heaven, the menu has more than 300 international beers. Our bartender, also super hip, must be used to the bewildered faces staring back at him, because he quickly offered that if we tell him what we like he'll pick us something. Still at a loss as to what we wanted, he started to name characteristics of beer, we stopped him at bacon. Yes, bacon. You know Skip and her companion love bacon, but Captain and Tennille (in addition to drinking buddies, are also fellow foodies) love bacon too. So, Tennille and I get them smokey delicious bacon beers, pictured above. And my companion and the Captain get lighter, fruity and yes even floral brews. All were very tasty. Also tasty was the food we had at Eulogy. We ordered two things to share. We got a dozen steamed shrimp, seasoned with old bay (great with the bacon beer by the by) and a duck confit strudel, which was yummy, juicy duck meat wrapped in buttery, flaky pastry dough, yum. We enjoyed our snacks and the atmosphere at Eulogy, the bartender was fantastic, really a great place to hang if you like beer and like to try new things. While my companion walked to get the car, Captain, Tennille and I shared one last beer. The next stop ended up being a closer walk than the our last walk, so my companion parked and we met him out front of City Tavern.

If you are a history buff, you'll love City Tavern, it is ripe with Philadelphia history. Given that, it is much less of a "hang out" type pub like the places we'd just come from. In this historic restaurant and bar, there was more formal seating for a meal, but we opted to sit on the back veranda and enjoy a couple drinks. My companion and I drank the same thing Zane did when he was there, the City Tavern Cooler, which is whiskey, rum, peach brandy and apple cider. It was really yummy and something that could easily sneak up on you because it is so sweet and refreshing you might forget there is alcohol in it. Again, Captain and Tennille ordered a beer sampler, but also shared a City Tavern Cooler so they could have the full experience. We stayed there long enough to have our drinks and chat and relax a little after our last adventure. It was a lovely day to sit outdoors with an adult beverage. Then it was time to move on again.

Dueling Pianos at Jollys
Next up on our itinerary was place I had heard about on local radio stations for years, always announcing shows that were happening there. So, we were not all that shocked when we arrived at the Blockley Pourhouse and were told they were only open for shows and you could not just go in and sit at the bar. So, we were directed to their neighbor, Jolly's. It happened to be a piano bar with dueling pianos. Given the time of day (at this point and time I am completely unaware of what time it was, but it was still light out) there was no one else in Jolly's but the four of us. By this time we were all feeling pretty good and so our memories from this point on are a little fuzzy. There was a cute, young, female bartender working who was very friendly and we harassed her for quite awhile. I remember having a watermelon beer by 21st Amendment. They have a great beer selection, including quite a few local beers on tap. I think Captain might have had the Lancaster Strawberry Wheat because he likes fruit beers. I have no recollection of what my companion or Tennille drank or how many we had. I know, I know, but we were having so much fun! So to keep things going we decided to move on to the next destination where we planned to eat.

On next stop is a Philadelphia legend, Monk's Cafe is a great bar and restaurant with an extensive beer list and awesome pub food. By this time we'd picked up a 5th, as we'd been joined by a friend of Captain's. We sat at a large round table and enjoyed food, drinks and laughs. The specifics are fuzzy, but I know that Tennille and I both had the pulled pork sandwich. It is possible that someone had the chicken apple sausage, I had it once on a prior visit and it is delish. The pulled pork was awesome the BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy and the pork was really tender and they really piled it on the sandwich, good for soaking up all the beer we'd had. My companion insists he had fish, he thinks it was tilapia, but there is only salmon and trout on the menu, so I am not sure what to tell you about that one.

We decided to trek to one last destination. As we arrived at the Ugly American, the power went out. It was only momentarily but it was interesting that it happened right as we arrived at the door. I recall feeling confused and a little unbalanced at this point. I think I had one beer and then some water. To be completely honest, I did not even remember the name of this place, I had to ask my companion prior to writing this. Upon consulting Tennille about this, she said, "we went somewhere after Monks?". So, beware, pub crawls are dangerous. Lucky for us, my companion had been drinking a lot less than everyone else and so after dropping off our 5th, he got us home safe and sound as the rest of us slept off our day.

Any of the places mentioned here are worth a visit. And Drinking Made Easy is worth a watch. So, check it out at


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Alps Bistro, Allentown, NJ

Good German food. Not something we often hear a lot about in the restaurant world. French, Italian, Asian and Latin seem to rule the roost. But every once in awhile you want the comfort of Spätzle. So, grab your favorite Riesling and head to Alps Bistro in quaint Allentown, NJ, right on Main St.

It really feels like you are walking into some one's living room when you walk in to Alps Bistro. The place is small and narrow, there are probably about 8 tables in the whole place. The decor is cute and very homey. The tables have nice cloth place mats and instead of plain cloth napkins there's are plaid. A couple Eastern European knick knacks and mostly country style art line the walls. The waitress dressed in German attire, is the owner/chef's wife. She is very sweet. My companion and I started with a pate platter as an appetizer. There were two types of pate, we weren't told what they were (we also did not ask) but they were both wonderful, we are guessing one was chicken liver and one goose liver, as one was definitely more gamey than the other. The platter also had crackers, various cheeses, dried apricots and an awesome honey mustard dip. Oh I almost forgot!! Before our appetizer came out we were presented with an adorable little cloth lined basket that contained magical little pretzel rolls. They were crusty on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, just like a pretzel, but round like a dinner roll, they were fantastic. Okay, so back to the pate, we ate as much of it as we could, it was a lot of cheese for two people, but it was yummy. Our waitress brought over our salads (all entrees come with a salad) and took away what remained of our cheese and pate. The salads were a typical house salad except they had beets on them, yum! My companion gave me all his beets, double yum!

The menu at Alps Bistro is chock full of all the classic German style comfort foods, pierogi, kielbasa, Sauerbraten and more. My companion got the Rouladen, which is bacon, onion and peppers wrapped up in thin sliced beef and served with Spätzle. He said it was very good. It looked awesome. Of course they have schnitzel and it changes daily with the specials, the night we were there it was pork schnitzel, covered in a pretzel breading, guess what I got? Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! You win. I got the pork. And it was awesome, truly awesome. The breading was not thick, but you could definitely tell it was pretzel, gave it a unique flavor and crunch. The pork was pounded thin and cooked perfectly. The Spätzle was great too, we both couldn't get over how tender they were, sometimes they are too chewy. The other side was red cabbage, it was sour and soft and oh so delish. I am a cabbage fan, so I always like it, but my companion who can usually take it or leave it said it was really yummy.

We were so full from all the pate, cheese and meat that we hadn't even thought of the idea of dessert and so just asked the waitress for our check. Right after we brought it the chef came out to our table with a gorgeous looking piece of cake and said it was on the house. We had seen him sitting in the back talking to other guests and he had come over once before to ask us how everything was. I love that about small mom and pop restaurants. While he was there he explained that this little chocolate cake he was giving us was an Austrian dessert known as Sachetorte and traditionally has an apricot filling but this one had a raspberry filling. It was great, chocolate and raspberry always go well together, the cake was sweet, tart, and delicate. We devoured it. And then rolled home.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Francisco's on the River, Washington Crossing

My companion and I had been wanting to try Francisco's for a long time, but once got turned away because we did not have a reservation. So, when our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Tabata agreed to join us for dinner, I quickly made a reservation there. That was no easy task either since they don't open until 5 pm, there is no lunch served at Francisco's. But I managed to get us in!

Now the question was, will it be worth it? Francisco's on the River, in not technically "on the river" the Delaware River is across the street, but let's be real, that's not "on the river". Their parking lot is all gravel and can be tricky to walk in the dark if you like to wear 4" heels like I do, if not you'll be fine. On the plus side, it is BYOB, so we waltzed in with 4 bottles of wine, we figured one each would work! Oh, I'm so funny, actually we only drank 3 of them and rumor has it Mrs. Tabata was not feeling so good the next day.

But you really want to hear about the food right? In addition to a menu full of Italian specialities, they also had a nice specials menu. Mr. Tabata and I both had a mushroom soup from the special menu, it was soft and creamy, without being heavy. If you love mushrooms, you'll love the soup, much like Mr. Tabata and I did. My companion got the mussels in red sauce as an appetizer and as usual I conned him in to giving me a couple, delish. Salty, seafood should taste like the ocean and the sauce was awesome. Mrs. Tabata had a house salad.

 So far the four of us were enjoying the evening, wine, good food and laughs. On to entrees, my companion went with something from the special menu that should come as no surprise to regular reader, Ahi Tuna. It was a nice piece of tuna and he enjoyed it. Mr. Tabata and I had ordered the exact same thing, a special featuring Turbot, a white, mild fish that was topped with lump crab meat and a white wine sauce. Several minutes after ordering the waiter came back to tell us that there was only one turbot left, being a gentleman, Mr. Tabata left me have the turbot and told the waiter he'd have the other fish special, the tilapia. The waiter, whom was great to us all night, offered to ask the chef to make the same dish as the turbot, just with the tilapia instead. Both came out and looked great. There was a good amount of crab meat and all was delicious. As for Mrs. T she had the Linguine al Frutti di Mare Fradiavolo, which as some of you know, linguine with seafood in a spicy tomato sauce. The seafood was fresh, the sauce tasty and the linguine must have been great because there was none left when she was done. 

We were having so much fun and still had more wine to drink so we decided to stick around for dessert. Alright, the waiter had a tray of desserts and despite our intentions to say no, you cannot look at amazing desserts and turn them down. All restaurants should bring you the tray without asking, they'd sell so much more dessert that way. My companion and I shared a flourless chocolate cake. It was awesome. Rich, chocolaty and divine. The Tabatas shared the cheesecake, it had a fruit topping, could have been blueberry or maybe blackberry? Hopefully one of them is reading and can correct me. I do remember that they enjoyed it and it looked amazing.

It is always fun to spend time with Mr. and Mrs. Tabata and Francisco's on the River was a good setting for this evening. The staff was friendly (and put up with us being the last table to leave!) and the food was top notch. Just watch out for that gravel parking lot and make sure you have a reservation.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to get drunk in St. Michaels, MD (Part Two)

After our lunch at Ava's we stopped by a shop called Candleberry, had an amusing conversation with the shop owner and bought a couple of candles. Having had enough shopping we headed back to the Inn at Perry Cabin. The Inn is beautiful, really intimate space, friendly staff. We thought we might get rain that day, but since we did not, we thought we'd take the opportunity to sit by the pool and relax. We put on our suits and headed out to the pool area. It was a very inviting infinity pool with chaise lounges lining the patio and just our luck there was a bar!

We got comfortable in our lounge chairs, ready to soak up some rays and my companion was off to the bar to scope out drinks. I courageously left the decision in his hands. He came back with a frozen, mango mojito. It was a bright orange color and looked really refreshing and it was. Perfect for a hot day, ice cold, sweet, and minty! We sipped our drinks, took a dip in the pool, basked in the beautiful sun, oh it was wonderful. It was so nice out that when we were done the first drink we thought, ah why not one more? This time I ventured up to the bar, which was a cute caribbean style white building with shutters and an awning, there was seating under the cover of the awning and they did serve small plates out there too. I ordered myself the same drink because I thought it was super yummy but my companion wanted something different. The bartender suggested a frozen margarita, it seems appropriate in this setting so that's what he got. There were three bartenders working back there and they were all very friendly. We enjoyed our second drink and a few more dips in the pool before heading back to our room to rest before dinner (see previous post on Bartlett Pear Inn).

After a nice rest back in our room, we headed into Easton to walk around and maybe get a drink before dinner. When we parked we noticed Bannings Tavern, which was someplace we'd considered for dinner during our pre-vacation research. Since we chose Bartlett Pear instead we thought it was a good idea to stop in there for pre-dinner drinks. Turns out they have a great beer selection, so we were back to beer. It was packed when we walked in and so we were standing at the bar. I ordered an Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, it was dark and slightly creamy, but not too heavy. Now if you read Part One of this post, you know that we'd had a lot to drink at this point. So, I don't really recall what my companion started with except that it was a Yards and he had asked the bartender to "give me something you think is good" which he is famous for doing and thinks it's cool, I think it's annoying, but it seems to have worked well for him so far. As we were drinking our first beer, seats opened up and we sat down, a group of nice older gentleman had moved down so we could both sit. We later learned as we sat there longer and talked to the one man that one of the others was the owner and they were all his friends. It was nice to sit and chat with this "local" and learn a little about the area. I had moved on to a lighter beer, though for the life of me I cannot recall what it was. While my companion had begun taking part in something that other bar patrons were doing, he purchased "wooden nickels" and he could turn each one in for a sample size beer, so he really go to try a lot of what they had on tap, but I bet you by now he couldn't tell us what they were.

When it was time for us to head to dinner, we said our goodbyes and strolled down the lovely streets of Easton.

How to get drunk in St. Michaels, MD (Part One)

So, I've told you about some great places to eat in St. Michaels and the surrounding area and I've alluded to our other activities. But let me tell you about some great places to visit in St. Michaels.

Starting our day with breakfast at Sherwood Landing restaurant at our hotel, The Inn at Perry Cabin. The Inn was beautiful, our room, which had a loft was cozy and super cute. A short walk to the patio was the start of a wonderful day. My companion had coffee, but despite my love for coffee, I was really in the mood for tea and so I had a jasmine tea which was incredibly floral and light. There is nothing better than breakfast with a view of the water and as we watched boats come and go we enjoyed a breakfast that would take us through the day. I chose something called the BLT with farm fresh eggs. Bacon, roasted tomatoes and a fried egg on brioche toast. YUM. It was a great breakfast. My companion was feeling sweet and had the bananas foster waffle. What's not to like? A giant delicious waffle topped with bananas, pecans and maple caramel syrup? Oye. He enjoyed every bite.

A nice walk around the grounds followed our leisurely breakfast. We then took a walk up the main street of St. Michaels, Tablot St. We hit a couple of cute gift shops, enjoyed the neighborhood and then stopped by St. Michaels Winery. There tastings are offered in flights, white, red or sweet. I chose red and my companion chose the whites, but we tasted each others so we really got a feel for the wines. The tasting room was pretty busy considering they had just opened and it was only noon. Their whites were pretty good. The reds were ok. We also tried their chocolate zinfandel which sounds really good and has a unique taste, but the chocolate flavor has a little bit of an artificial after taste which I did not like. The tasting room is adorable and their dry wines are pretty good. The woman helping us with our tasting told us that the sweeter wines are big sellers and that they buy the grapes from Welch's! Haha! It's grape juice people! But to each their own.

We left the winery with the intention of hitting some more shops and then having lunch, but got distracted by the big barn like building next door to the winery tasting room. What distracted us? A big sign that simply said, BEER. We stopped, looked at the sign, looked at each other, said "ok" in unison and walked in. I noted on the way in that there was an old fashioned red, British style phone booth outside the entrance so they must be cool. I was not wrong, of course I rarely am :) Just ask my companion! This magical place we had wandered into was Eastern Shore Brewing. Their tasting room was super cool and eclectic, wooden bar, mix of antique Victorian furniture and lounge seating that could have been stolen from Hefner's house.

There was another couple in the room sitting in the lounge area, they had two beautiful dogs with them. My companion and I sat at the bar. The man behind the bar told us that they had 3 beers available to taste and for $5 we could taste those three plus have a second taste of our two favorites of the 3. Sounds good to me. We sat, enjoyed the beers, talked with the bartender and the other couple. The beers were great. We had the St. Michaels Ale that we'd had at St. Michaels Crab and Steak the night before, plus a Magic Hefeweizen, which was indeed magical. Had a creaminess to it but was still somewhat light, I chose it as one of my repeats. Delish. The third beer available was a Belgian Golden Ale and was the highest alcohol content of the three, it was also very good but definitely dangerous if you have too many. Eastern Shore Brewing was impressive, they brew onsite and have a unique tasting room, we were bummed that they do not sell their beer anywhere that we could get it at home. But if you are in the area you can visit them and buy growlers to take home. Once we paid our tab and said good bye to our new friends, we headed back out onto Talbot to seek out lunch (see previous blog about Ava's Wine Bar).

We were having a blast but we weren't done yet. To be continued.....

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bartlett Pear Inn, Easton, MD

After our day of shopping, sitting poolside and drinking we decided for dinner to take a drive back to Easton, MD. We'd heard wonderful things about Bartlett Pear Inn and so we made a reservation before our trip. We arrived a few minutes early and our table was not ready, but we were encouraged to enjoy a drink at the bar. Now, we'd had a wine tasting, a beer tasting, drinks at the pool and a couple beers at nearby Bannings Tavern, but we were on vacation, so more drinks!

The bar at Bartlett Pear Inn was small and cozy, our bartender, Justin, was a true mixologist and we had a great time watching him make drinks and chat with the waitstaff as they came in and out of the bar. I had a lovely peach bellini and my companion had the classic sazerac which was made with rhubarb syrup that made fresh on site. Both were yummy and eventually we were seated at our table.

The Bartlett Pear Inn is quaint, like most things in Easton, situated in an actual Inn which was probably built sometime in the 1700 or 1800s, the rooms were small and had lovely old wood floors and decorative modeling throughout. The menu was equally impressive. We each had a glass of wine, my companion choosing a Sauvigon Blanc since he was ordering seafood and I choose a Malbec to go with my meat dish.

For starters, I had a lovely garlic soup with pork belly and thinly sliced potatoes, while my companion had a nice ceviche. My soup was soft and velvety, the garlic was not overwhelming, but had a nice roasted flavor. You can never go wrong with pork belly, it was crispy and tasty, perfect with the soup.The ceviche was fresh with lots of citrus flavor, judging by my companions reaction I'd say it was good.

We'd had a lot to drink that day and were really looking forward to a good dinner. We were not disappointed by the entrees at Bartlett Pear Inn. I had a delicious beef wellington. It was perfection. Golden pastry crust, perfectly done beef, a wonderful rich wine sauce on top. It was classic and classy, I enjoyed and savored every bite. My companion was equally wow'd by his scallops. How many times can I describe perfect scallops on this blog? Perfect crust on the outside, soft and sweet in the middle, tastes like the sea. Paired with fresh veggies, it was a perfect meal.

What could make this night better? Dessert! If you are a regular reader here at HOS, you know my companion and I do not always eat dessert. Since this was a vacation and we'd had such a great day, we thought, heck let's have some sweets! What a good decision. I had the chocolate tart and my companion had the peach tart. Typical. Both tarts started with a buttery crust, mine was filled with amazing chocolate mousse and topped with silky chocolate ice cream. Heaven. My companion's tart was brimming with fresh, delicious, sweet peaches and topped with vanilla ice cream. There was silence, well maybe a few moans, as we devoured our desserts.

From drinks in the cozy but modern bar to dinner in the quaint, historic dining room this evening at Bartlett Pear Inn was superb. Go there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ava's Pizzeria and Wine Bar, St. Michaels, MD

After a busy morning of shopping, walking, tasting wine and beer we decided to stop for lunch along beautiful Talbot St in St. Michaels. We wandered into Ava's Pizzeria and Wine Bar and were seated at a nice high top table in the bar near a window looking out onto the street.

We'd just visited the lovely folks at St. Michaels Winery and Eastern Shore Brewing. We were definitely in the mood for some lunch and why not some more wine? My companion ordered a glass of Zinfandel and I decided to try their house made red sangria. We decided to split a salad and a pizza for our little lunch. We went with the market salad, which is their "salad of the day" on that day it was fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella with basil. It was super fresh, the tomatoes were so awesome and refreshing and I think you can never go wrong combining basil and mozzarella. For our pizza, we ordered the Margarita (more basil!) and got two topping, bacon and kalamata olives, yum! The sauce on the pizza was fresh and very tasty, just a little tang to it, the bacon and olives were my companions idea but he was not wrong, they were a winning combination.

We had a delicious, relaxing lunch at Ava's and were ready for a little more shopping and maybe a little time at the pool.

Monday, August 20, 2012

St. Michael's Crab and Steak, St. Michaels, MD

After a tough round at River Marsh, we were sweaty and tired and in need of nourishment. After checking in at the adorable Inn at Perry Cabin, we showered, changed and ventured out to St. Michaels Crab and Steak. We sat outside, right near the water at an old style wooden picnic table.

We started off with a local beer, St. Michael's Ale which is made by Eastern Shore Brewing, we visited them the next day too. The beer was great, light, refreshing, a nice way to start our meal. We continued with a dozen oysters, horseradish, cocktail sauce, yum. They were so fresh. I'm still new to oysters and after a few the sliminess can get to me, but my companion had no problem putting away the rest of them!

For entrees I got the broiled scallops and my companion got soft shell crab, he was quite surprised when he was given the choice of fried or sauteed, usually they are just fried. The waitress said she liked them better sauteed so he gave it a try. We also got the choice of two sides with our entrees, I had brussel sprouts and sweet potato fries, my companion had apple sauce and sweet potato fries. We also moved on to mixed drinks with our entrees, we tried something called the grapefruit crush, which was grapefruit juice, Absolut Ruby Red, triple sec and a splash of sprite, it was tart, refreshing and the perfect sipping drink for an outdoor summer dinner.

We really enjoyed our entrees, my scallops were great, sweet, nice crust on the outside from the broiler. The brussel sprouts were good too and the sweet potato fries, well, how can you really go wrong with sweet potato fries? They were sweet and salty, crunchy on the outside soft in the middle. My companion loved the sauteed soft shell crab, he agreed with the waitress, much better than fried, you taste more of the crab without all the breading that comes with frying. All in all, we were happy and ready to head back to Perry's Cabin to relax.

So far we were really enjoying St. Michaels and I couldn't wait to get up the next day and check out all the shops! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Out of the Fire- Easton, MD

After a quick and easy drive from our home in Central Jersey to the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland, my companion and I needed some lunch before hitting the links at River Marsh.

We drove into quaint Easton, the streets lined with shops and pubs that all were so cute. We had a lovely lunch at Out of the Fire, a cute bistro with a huge brick oven. Despite the wonderful smell coming from the oven we did not get any of their pizzas, we just were not in the mood for that. But we did have a delicious lunch.

Out of the Fire has a nice decor and attentive staff. Our waiter was quiet and very professional. I had the Out of the Fire Cobb Salad which was served over a bed of greens and had chicken confit, bacon, granny smith apples and Gorgonzola. It was incredible. The chicken was tender and juicy, had a little smoke to it. The apples added a little crisp tartness and was refreshing in contrast to the smokey bacon. The cheese gave it just a little tang. They served it with a balsamic vinaigrette it was the perfect amount, it was not swimming in dressing.

My companion chose the mussels. A giant bowl of mussels arrived at our table and the smell wafting from them was amazing. The tomato broth had garlic and capers and was really great. The mussels were also very big, we'd never seen mussels that size, my companion was quite happy. Judging form the smell and all the action coming from the open kitchen, I'd say you can't go wrong with anything on the menu.

Don't forget to hit a couple of shops too!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Red's Lobster Pot, Point Pleasant Beach

When looking for a great place to eat fresh seafood, outdoors, "down the shore", I kept coming across reviews for Red's Lobster Pot in Point Pleasant Beach. Between all my usual "research" sites I found there were mixed reviews, but I know from experience, there is only one way to know the truth and that is to check it out for myself.

So, on a Friday night, I gathered up my dining companion and traveled to Point Pleasant. We winded down Inlet Drive, along the dock where all the fishing boats come in and out of and across from the Coast Guard Station is little Red's Lobster Pot. It is pretty small and has a small lot, but there is plenty of parking nearby (that you have to pay for at the pay stations). Usually there is someone outside to help direct the parking in their tiny lot, but he just happened to not be there when we drove by, so we parked in a nearby public lot.

Red's is pretty much a shack. You walk onto the patio and can go up the stairs and into the indoor dining room or you can step into the line for the outside patio order window and place your order and find a seat at one of the tables on the patio. If you are smart like my dining companion and I are, you look at the menu, then divide and conquer. I stayed in line to order our food and my companion got us a good table by the water and scouted out cups for us to drink our wine from. Red's is BYOB which is always a plus for us. I am not sure there is a better way to spend a summer night than drinking white wine outside while eating fresh seafood and looking out over the water that said seafood came from. Red's will also make your wine into sangria for $10, we just drank ours as is.

Now, I mentioned finding mixed reviews online. So, some of the reviews claimed the patio was dirty, not so, it was very clean for an outdoor seating area and we saw several workers who constantly scrambled to wipe down tables and chairs and clear garbage as soon as a table opened up. Many of the poor reviews talked about the indoor dining experience, now I cannot comment on that directly since we were outside, but I have friends who dined inside once and to quote them directly, they were "underwhelmed". The dining room is very small, so I can imagine the atmosphere is much different, also the inside and outside have different menus.

I thought the outdoor menu was great. Upon stepping up to the order window, the kitchen was visible and clean and smelled phenomenal. We ordered 1 dozen pick and peel shrimp, a 1/2 dozen steamed clams and two entrees from the special of the day menu. I had grilled swordfish with a fruit salsa and my companion had soft shell crab. Both entrees come with fries and coleslaw. After ordering at the window you give them your name and they call you when your order is ready. So my companion and I sat, sipped wine and admired the view and in a short while they called my name and he went to retrieve the first part of our order. Not long after that the rest of our order was ready. Your food is handed to you on a plastic, cafeteria type tray. The shrimp were amazing! They were large and fresh and tasted so good, we easily devoured the dozen. The clams were OK, my companion liked them a lot but I was on the fence, they were rather large and that made them kind of chewy, it may just be my personal preference for smaller clams as they are not my favorite shellfish. The entrees were great. The swordfish was grilled perfectly, nice grill marks and flavor, the fresh fruit salsa was great, mango, pineapple, cilantro, a little spice went great with the fish. They give you a mound of fries and if you love fries like we do, you'll love the fries at Red's they are hand cut and fresh. My companion despises all things with mayo, so no coleslaw for him, but I thought it was good, how can you mess that up?

They also serve whole steamed lobsters which we did not order, but saw other people getting and they looked really good. Menu lists market price, but I am sure it is cheaper than ordering at any other place, they come right off the boats docked next to Red's. I think it's worth a return visit to check that out, oh what I do in the name of research.... :)

The other complaint I saw in other online reviews was the price. Let's talk about a couple things here, is this five star fine dining? No. It's picnic tables and plastic chairs on a patio next to the fishing dock. You will not be served by a waiter or drink out of glasses, you will order at a window wait for your food and drink your wine out of plastic cups. Do I like fine dining, yes on occasion. But I also love great food and adventure, Red's has both. We got two fresh seafood appetizers and two great, fresh, seafood entrees for just under $80, I don't think that is unreasonable. If you ordered the same food in a high end establishment where you had a waiter, sommelier, bus boys, etc and could not bring your own wine you'd pay double that at least.

To me, Red's defines summer in Jersey, simple, fresh seafood, outdoors, drinking and enjoying the summer breeze at the shore.

If you want to check out Red's I suggest eating outside, but as usual, I always say judge for yourself so if you want to check out the indoor dining, please do and let me know how it was, or if you've dined indoors at Red's and had a good experience, please share that too!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Accidental Paleo Ice Cream Cake

Sometimes good things come out of mistakes. I wouldn't say what happened was really a "mistake" but it just didn't work the way I thought it might. So, first it started with trying to make ice cream. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer and I also have the ice cream attachment, which is just a bowl that goes in the freezer and then you "churn" the ice cream batter with a special mixing paddle in the frozen bowl. 

I had found a new recipe recently that claimed if I added a mixture of coconut milk, honey and cocoa  powder to my ice cream maker it would come out like soft serve. Usually recipes require you to make some sort of custard base first and then after the churning you usually freeze it for a little while to make hard ice cream. I was a little skeptical, but I tried it. My fears were confirmed, after several minutes of churning the mix was not changing consistency. I decided to remove the paddle and cover the bowl and place it in my freezer. The next night I took it out to thaw for about an hour and then scooped it like hard ice cream, my companion and I agreed it was yummy. Therefore, it was not a complete failure.

But, alas, I would stumble upon another way to make this creation even more spectacular. Enter, coconut brownie bites.

I combined coconut flakes, cocoa powder, honey, and coconut oil in my food processor, expecting when I pulsed it around a few times it would become dough like and I could bake them as little cookie/brownie bites. They did not form into a dough and left with this crumbled mess I decided to bake them anyway thinking I could use it like granola to top fruit or ice cream or whatever. I bake it, take it out of the oven and test a little with a spoon, it reminded me of crunchy cookie stuff that Carvel uses in their ice cream cakes. Right then and there my brain started working overtime.  And something amazing was created.

I call it Accidental Paleo Ice Cream Cake. So, I let the "cookie crumble" cool and took my container of paleo ice cream out of the freezer to thaw. When they were ready, I took a pie tin and spread the "cookie crumble" in the bottom, I dumped the thawed ice cream on top and spread it around, trying to make the layers even. I covered it with foil and put it in the freezer.

Later that evening I told my dining companion I had a special dessert. I took it out of the freezer and cut it like a pie slice. It was delicious. I can't believe how much it reminded me of Carvel Ice Cream Cake. When I asked my companion what he thought he said, "I could eat 5 more". I guess that means it was good.

I think next I'll try using vanilla and chocolate ice cream and put the layer of "cookie crumble" in between. Yum. Drool.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Via Napoli, Philadelphia, PA

In this special edition of House of Skip, we have a lovely dinner before a night of gambling and laughs at Parx Casino. This post is also special because it features a special guest, la mamacita numero uno, Skip's mom.

For those of you that know Skip personally, you know that my mom is my partner in crime. Shopping, eating, drinking, gambling, we know how to have fun. So, my dining companion has to make sure every event revolves around fine dining. When my mother requested a trip to Parx, he said, "oh, let me pick a nice place for dinner before we gamble". Skip and her mom say, "ok!".

We arrive a Via Napoli, which is tucked away in a random strip mall of Roosevelt Blvd (referred to simply as the Blvd for locals). Seriously, there was a sneaker store, a bank and a gym in this strip mall, so we were a little suspicious. But when you step through the doors at Via Napoli, you are transported away from the streets of Philadelphia. The quaint, larger than it looks restaurant has sleek wooden booths and tables and soft lighting. One of the first things that caught our attention after being seated was their unique menu. Not only are the offerings unique, but so is the presentation. The menu is printed to look like a small newspaper, it is folded like a newspaper and features facts about Italy, in particular about Naples and the people who live there.

The "front page" of the newspaper menu was drinks, including a lovely list of wines not only by the bottle but also by the glass. The first page inside had appetizers, soups and salads. Then there were also pizzas, pastas, grilled items and of course the back page included some desserts.

The place was not that packed when we arrived, but there were a decent amount of people seated and the numbers grew as we were there. We were surprised that our waiter seemed to be a little slow. We did wait a little long for him to come over and greet us and ask for a beverage order, we were totally amazed by the menu so we did not notice at first, but eventually we stared to wonder. It also seemed to take a long time for him to bring our wines over once we ordered them, but after that things seemed to be back to a normal pace.

We ordered an appetizer to share which was the Salumeria an assortment of delicious meats like Prosciutto, Coppa, Sopressata and Mortadella. The amount was perfect for us to share, I don't know what we would have done if my Dad had joined us! We ate it all up! Around the time the plate of meat came out we also got what we soon learned was Via Napoli's famous bread. It was a giant pizza/flatbread type of shape that was crisp and warm, lightly dusted with cheese and herbs. The bread was simple and delicious.

After careful examination of the menu we had finally all decided. I ordered one of my most favorite things on the planet, sausage and peppers. It was delicious Italian sausage, sliced and grilled with peppers, onions and roasted potatoes. My dining companion ordered the Baccala, it was fresh cod served in a giant bowl of tomato broth with clams, mussels, herbs, and olives. Skip's mama went traditional with the Eggplant Parmesan, but since she is being health conscious,  she asked for no pasta, which is the usual side with that dish, so they gave her veggies and roasted potatoes with it.

We laughed, we drank wine, we enjoyed our food. My sausage and peppers was delish. The sausage was spicy, sweet and grilled to perfection. My dining companion loved the Baccala, so much so that he has requested I try to recreate it at home. The fish, clams and mussels were so fresh and the broth just wonderful. My mother had no complaints, she loved the thinly sliced and perfectly cooked eggplant and ate up all her veggies with just a taste of taters.

If you want to have fun bring your companion and your mama to Via Napoli and enjoy authentic and delicious Italian dishes!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


A while ago, I learned of a guy making t-shirts and stickers with the phrase Eat More Kale on them and I was like "wow, I love kale, I need those!". And upon going through the process of finding Robert Muller Moore's website I found out more about him and learned some shocking stuff that he is going through.

If you live in an area where the fast food chain, Chik-Fil-A exists you may be familiar with their slogan and signs (including a cow) that read, "Eat Mor Chikin". So, they have been fighting to keep Robert from using the phrase Eat More Kale as they believe it is too similar to their slogan.

I support the Eat More Kale website, I'm a fan on facebook and I try to follow the story as best I can. Recently, I saw another blogger share a post about this struggle, including the Letter of Protest (see end of this post for reference) that Chik-Fil-A submitted, as I began to read it, I became very annoyed. Chik-Fil-A claims that because they believe the phrases are too similar that "consumers who encounter Eat More Kale will be confused". They believe that the American public is too stupid to realize that Kale and Chicken are too different things. They further argue that consumers will think they have expanded what they offer to include Kale (oh the horrors!) or that the products made by Robert Muller Moore will be assumed to be made by Chik-Fil-A because of the similar phrasing.

Ok, here's my attempt to clarify this:
Photo A
Photo A is of _____________

Photo B
Photo B is of _____________

If you answered that A is a photo of Chickens and B is a photo of Kale then you are correct. And are smarter than Chik-Fil-A, who doesn't even spell the word Chicken correctly in their slogan, thinks you are. So, just to make sure we are clear I'll also show you exhibits of the products in different states.

 This is a cooked chicken:                                                       This is kale picked and ready to be used:


This is chicken as you might see it at Chik-Fil-A:
This is Kale as you might see it at my house:
And yet, even though many of us know the difference between Chicken (even when it is spelled Chikin) and Kale, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has decided that Eat More Kale is likely to cause consumer confusion. 

Even the Government thinks the average consumer can't tell that these two items come from different sources.

I think this is insane. First of all stop eating at Chik-Fil-A, it is fast food and is making America unhealthy, second they insult the intelligence of our population and encourage misspelling to our youth with their Eat Mor Chikin slogan, I'd like to sue them for that! Second, Robert Muller Moore making t-shirts, stickers, and other products is aimed at encouraging a HEALTHY lifestyle, why is that frowned upon and being punished? After all, the creation of this slogan came from someone asking Robert to make such a shirt because of how much they love kale.

I beg you America, EAT MORE KALE. And yes, Eat More Chicken, but not from Chik-Fil-A, buy free range, vegetarian fed chicken products and stop eating fast food. If not for your health than at least because they have insulted your intelligence.

Ok, I'm done. This rant has been approved by The House of Skip. Thank you that will be all.

Visit this blog to see the link to the Letter of Protest and more facts around the case:

Follow this link to read the United States Patent and Trademark Office's response:


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Breakfast in Chicago

There are just as many choices for breakfast/brunch in Chicago as there are lunch and dinner spots. Our search led us to two to great places.

The first was, Over Easy, on a block where there isn't much other than houses and a laundry mat, the only way we found Over Easy was because of the large crowd waiting outside.

Always a good sign that the food is on point, we didn't mind the 30 minute wait, especially since they had free coffee out front for those waiting. The decor in Over Easy was adorable, one wall was covered completely in white, plastic eggs.

The menu was just as interesting. Of course we had more coffee once we were seated and then had the difficult task of choosing from their creative breakfast/brunch menu.

They have your standard eggs any way, omelets, scrambles, pancakes, french toast. But they also have some interesting twists like blueberry crunch pancakes that have granola in them. They also have a special menu that changes weekly. My companion and I both happened to order items from that menu. Mine was a take on Eggs Benedict that was served over an English Muffin of course, but also had beets on it. It was really unique, really fresh and really tasty. My companion got an omelet that had ham and some veggies in it, he also commented on the freshness of the ingredients and really enjoyed it.

We were both impressed with the service and the charm of Over Easy so make sure you stop in next time you are in Chicago.

Our second great breakfast find in the Windy City was The Original Pancake House. With several locations around the US, The Original Pancake House is known for their "dutch baby" and their apple pancakes. On of their locations just happened to be within walking distance of our hotel, so we thought we'd give it a try.

They have an extensive list of pancake options, as well as eggs, waffles and crepes. We sat outside which was nice on the lovely morning that we were there. We did not try a "dutch baby" which is extremely large and puffy, it looked delicious but we thought we'd stick with pancakes. I was so intrigued by the bacon pancakes that I could not say no. And they were awesome. It would be difficult to eat a lot of them and they are probably something you only need to try once, but I am so glad I did. If you love bacon (and come on, doesn't everyone?) then you will love them. They are nice, fluffy, airy pancakes, filled (and I mean FILLED) with crispy, beautiful bits of bacon. With just a little syrup they were perfect. My companion opted to go the fruit route, I suppose trying to feel better about his pancake indulgence. He ordered the banana pancakes and they were equally delicious and full of banana goodness.

We left there completely stuffed and did some more walking to try and make those pancakes disappear. :) If you aren't into bacon or bananas you should be shot, no, no, I kid, there are plenty of other options for pancake or other breakfast stuffs at The Original Pancake House so try one of their many locations for yourself:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Purple Pig, Chicago

Wow. In planning our trip to Chicago, I came across the Purple Pig and new immediately by their slogan,  "Cheese,Swine, and Wine" that we had to go. I had great expectations upon going there and was not disappointed. When my companion and I arrived at the Purple Pig we were amazed from start to finish. The place is pretty big and has giant wooden communal tables (for some reason this is big in Chicago, I think a couple of Paul Kahan's places are like that too). We opted to sit at the large bar so we could have our own space. Our waitress/bartender was awesome, totally friendly, fun and guided us through the process so we could have the best experience! Purple Pig's menu focuses on small plates so you can pick and choose and share all the good stuff they have.

A bonus was we could partially see the kitchen area and that was totally fun to watch. We had had pre-dinner drinks at LuxBar (highly recommend) and so we dove right into wine. I believe at the recommendation of our lovely bartender we had a white wine to start us off since our first dishes were vegetables, followed by a fatty dish that would require something to help cut through the fat.

Beets, peas in background
We started with fresh peas with bacon and spearmint. I can't tell you how good this was the peas were sweet and fresh, the bacon salty and fatty and the spearmint was so refreshing and added a brightness to the dish. We also had salt roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette. I love beets, my dining companion, not so much, but he did try a few of them, he did like the goat cheese. Beets and goat cheese are often paired together and for good reason the earthy sweetness is so good with the creamy, tangy cheese and the pistachios added a nice crunch and flavor.

Yummy Marrow
Next up was by far both of our favorites. Roasted bone marrow with herbs. Nothing is better than a plate with bones on it and that juicy, fatty marrow sitting in there. We used the little knife they gave to dig the marrow out and put it on the crusty, delicious bread they provided. The marrow was listed under the category of "Smears" with other yummy friends like caponata, rillette and foie gras. The veggies we started with were under "Antipasti". Next we moved into "Fried Items" there is bound to be goodness there but there was just one thing that grabbed our attention. Pig's Ear with crispy kale, cherry peppers and a fried egg.

Pig Ear
Ok, get over the shock, now focus. It's not what you picture, I know you are imagining a plate with a giant ear like a dog's raw hide toy. No. This was a thinly sliced, deeply fried, served in a bowl with kale and topped with a fried egg. Mix that all up and you've got supreme flavor. The ear was crispy and yummy, we love kale anyway (EAT MORE KALE) and the egg, oh my.

By now we had moved into red wine. I got so excited with the menu and  I couldn't stop ordering. We moved into "cured meats" and got a lovely dried chorizo. It wasn't greasy at all, it was moist yet had a snap to it, perfect seasoning, just a little spice. I'd say it was a great mid-way point on our food journey.


We ended our journey with two items from the menu category of "a la plancha" or items from the grill. My dining companion was dying to try the sweetbreads and I talked him into the turkey leg confit. If you are not familiar with sweetbreads they are glands from an animal, usually thymus or pancreas. The ones we had were from a pig, yum. They were soft and creamy, perfectly paired with fennel and apricots. The sweetness from the apricots was excellent with the fat from the fried sweetbreads. The turkey leg. Oh my again. My companion didn't want it but I talked him into it and he was so glad I did. You can't go wrong with confit, cooking something slow and low on the bone, there is nothing that beats it. The meat just melted in our mouths. The seasonings was salty and herb-y just what you'd want with a meat like turkey.
Turkey Leg

There are so many choices at The Purple Pig, you can't go wrong and the staff is there to help you out and answer any questions you have. The place lends it self to fun, laughter and getting to know your neighbor, we shared a few items with a couple next to us at the bar and talked food and then also were joking with some people standing behind us who were coveting our seats, we promised they could have them when we got up but that they had to order the pig's ear. What a fun night. We had so much meat we didn't have room for dessert but the list looked awesome. 

So, if you find yourself in Chicago, oh hell, go to Chicago just so you can experience this place, there is no other like The Purple Pig. Amen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frontera Grill, Chicago

What does it mean when one guy has 5 eateries in Chicago, with 3 all on one city block? That he's probably pretty good and in demand. This is certainly true of Rick Bayless and his Chicago establishments.

On a Saturday night at 5 pm there was already an hour and 45 minute wait for a table at Frontera Grill, the casual Mexican bar and restaurant that is right next door to the more upscale and spendy, Topolobampo and on the other side XOCO, a small torta shop. Considering we were on vacation and there was room to wait at the bar we put our name in.

Tamarind Margarita
We absconded a small high top table in the bar and ordered drinks and an appetizer. I started with the tamarind margarita which was very yummy, but too sweet to have more than one of, so after that I switched to the same thing my companion was drinking which was the Topolo margarita, the most popular drink at both Frontera and Topolobampo. For our appetizer we had the amazing and really delicious Oyster and Ceviche platter. I am not a huge oyster fan, so the plan was my companion would eat the oysters and we would share the ceviche. He talked me into trying an oyster and if you follow me on Twitter you may have seen my post were I proclaimed that it wasn't totally gross! Ha, Ha. Still a little slimy and watery for me and my texture issues but I would try them again. The ceviches were excellent.

Topolobampo Margarita
There were three ceviches served to us, Frontera Ceviche which was Hawaiian albacore, lime, tomatoes, olives, cilantro & green chile, Tropical Tuna cocktail which was Sashimi-grade Hawaiian bigeye tuna, tomatillo guacamole, honey Manila mango salsa and Herb Green Ceviche with fresh Pacific yellowtail, spicy roasted tomatillo, lime, cilantro, and avocado. They were fresh and yummy, a perfect way to start our meal.

The wait was actually shorter than the told us and we were seated after just about an hour of waiting. We continued with the signature margaritas and looked over the rest of the menu, boy it was hard to make a choice.

Black Mole with Lamb
I finally decided on the Mole Trio which had a mole poblano enchiladas, lamb in a black mole and vegetables in a green mole. The enchilada was most like traditional moles I have had before, smoky and a little sweet. The black mole with the lamb was my favorite of the three, a little spicy, but also sweet, it was dark and yummy and went perfect with the lamb. The green mole reminded me of green curry, it was creamy, a little spicy and very similar to green curries I have had.  The presentation was super cute, the three moles all came in their own little cast iron bowls on a long narrow plate. Very cute, very yummy and so Skip was very happy.

My dining companion was equally happy with his duck dish.He had ordered the Duck with Pasilla-Huitlacoche Sauce: Red chile-rubbed duck breast, pasilla-huitlacoche sauce (garlic, dark beer). Field corn torta, sweet corn esquites, anejo cheese, shoots salad. The sauce was really tasty and the duck tender, really a classy dish that you wouldn't find at any other "Mexican" restaurants.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Lou Malanti's

Pizza. It can be a big debate. What is pizza? Who has the best? Is it Philly, New York, Chicago, Trenton style tomato pie?

If you are not new to House of Skip you know that my companion and I are connoisseurs of tomato pie and are die hard DeLorenzo's fans. We've tried other local pizza places and agree we like tomato pie better than "pizza" and while we think other joints do a good job, DeLorenzo's will always be #1 to us.

So, while in Chicago we felt it was our duty to try deep dish. We can't claim tomato pie is king without trying the competition.

The verdict? Well, let's talk about it.

There are various places in Chicago to get "deep dish" there are probably as many local arguments there as there are on the East Coast about who is better or who is the originator. Well, according to most Pizzeria Uno (now known as the chain bar/restaurant Uno) was the original deep dish pizza place in Chicago but another just as famous and possibly disputed as doing it better is Lou Malnati's. After much research and contemplation, my companion and I decided on Malnati's.

We had shopped some of the places near our hotel on the Gold Coast and were getting ready to hit the Magnificent Mile and so we thought we'd stop for lunch at Lou's. We were seated and found that the interior did remind us of Uno's, which means that maybe they were trying to copy the original. We started with an antipasto salad since we were pretty hungry. It was a nice salad, it came out in a serving dish and our waiter kindly served our first plate for us each. The lettuce was chopped small, it was full of tomatoes, salami, cheese, pepperoncini, onion, olives and my personal favorite, giardiniera (spicy, pickled veggies).

We enjoyed our salad and then the main event arrived, we had ordered a small (9'inch) with black olives. This size was perfect for us because it gave us both 2 decent sized pieces. The sauce-yummy, the crust-thick and chewy, the cheese- too much. Now, you may have been able to guess (although I did keep an open mind) that I do still prefer a thin crust. The deep dish crust is tasty, but as a personal preference, and my companion agrees, we like that crispy cracker think crust of tomato pie. The sauce was fantastic, nice chunky pieces of tomato, Italian seasonings, garlic, it was definitely good. I could have done with less cheese, but I know that is also a personal preference and that many people look for and enjoy that long draw of cheese that comes off when you bite into a piece of cheese pizza. But, that is one more reason I prefer tomato pie, I like think crust, good sauce and little cheese. And for me, Chicago deep dish only delivered on sauce.

This is only the opinion of Skip and her trusty dining companion. If you like cheese and thick crust, fly to Chicago and grab a seat a Lou Malnati's, you'll love it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my lunch, but my heart will always belong to tomato pie.

Places to check out in Chicago (according to Skip)

Looking for something sweet? Apparently Chicagoans like Starbucks even more than us East Coasters, there was one like every other block in Chicago, most likely next to a Walgreens. This was great for my coffee addiction, however if you are looking for a sweet treat, try something different than the 1 million calorie frapp or pound cake at the 'bucks and head to More.

More Cupcakes. Another spectacular place that my companion and I saw on a food show. This cute cupcake boutique displays their delish treats in a glass case like they are jewelry. Each cupcake is beckoning you with it's fluffy icing and a trinket on top to tell you what is inside, like the Bacon cupcake that has a little piece of crystallized, sugared bacon on top? Lovely. I did not chose the bacon cupcake, despite my love of pork, as I had just had bacon pancakes (that's another story for you to look forward to). I instead went with the salted caramel, an amazing vanilla bourbon cake with molten caramel on the inside and a pinch of decorative salt on top of incredibly fluffy icing. My companion got the s'mores which was a chocolate cake, with a marshmallow filling, cinnamon butter cream icing and a toasted marshmallow on top, based on the facial expressions and moans I can only assume it was as amazing as my cupcake.

We were lucky enough that More was around the block from our hotel, if you find yourself in Chicago, seek.them.out.

How about some whiskey? We found ourselves in Chicago during the NATO Summit, there were police barricades, protesters, helicopters and traffic. We were tired, we were hot, we were a little frustrated. What on earth do you do then? You drink whiskey. Well at least Skip and her companion do. We found ourselves at Longman and Eagle to take a load off.

The list of whiskey's, scotch's, bourbon's and rye's at this place was amazing. They had whiskey flights which looked cool, but we were in the mood for something refreshing so our mixologist recommended some cocktails for us. We each had a variation on something called a daisy which is a classic cocktail with whiskey, simple syrup, some flavoring like grenadine and something bubbly like club or seltzer. Mine had some kind of fruit juice in it and my companions had a rosemary syrup in it. I liked his better so for our second round I got that and my companion had the bartender make him something else, I think it had lemonade in it, but after all that whiskey who can keep track? They also had a good selection of craft and local beers so I could not leave without trying one. I had Goose Island (which is a Chicago made beer) which was called Matilda, it is a Belgian style ale, it was refreshing and had unique flavors.

Longman and Eagle does serve food, but we arrived just as the kitchen was closing from brunch (around 3 pm) and before they were ready to open for dinner (5 pm) but they do offer bar snacks and we had a lovely assortment of marinated olives that we chomped on while drinking our whiskey drinks.

Kuma's Corner, Chicago, IL

Lot's of people claim to have found unique places, but there is no place more unique than Kuma's. And if you don't agree, I'll punch you in the face. Oh, sorry, I got a little swept up in the moment there.

Kuma's Corner is a bar/burger joint in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood that has a focus on heavy metal. Yes, you heard me right, heavy metal. But don't let the tattooed staff, loud music and threatening signs (like the die emo die sign taped to the thermostat) scare you from having one of the best burgers of you life.

Kuma's isn't great just because it is a bar that plays heavy metal and serves burgers. It is great because they serve ridiculously good burgers with insane toppings and then name them after heavy metal bands.

In addition to the burgers, they also have some great craft beers on tap. My companion had an IPA, sorry I do not recall where it was from. I had something called Zombie Dust from Three Floyds which is a brewery in neighboring Indiana. It was very nice, it had a refreshing citrus character to it.

On to the burgers, I know you are dying to hear about the burgers!!

So, if  you recall all the burgers are named after heavy metal bands and as my luck would have it one of my favorite bands happened to have a burger named after it that had one of my favorite things on it! The Led Zeppelin burger is topped with pulled pork, pickles, bacon and cheddar. WOW. A burger with pig and more pig. I couldn't resist. My dining companion went with the High on Fire burger which had Siracha, Prosciutto, Roasted Red Pepper, Grilled Pineapple, Sweet Chili Paste.

The burgers a huge. I cut mine in half because I could barely lift it up in one piece. You can choose to have fries, chips or a side salad with your burger. Since we were on vacation, we both ordered the fries, but I could barely touch mine since my burger was so massive. The burger was perfect, full of flavor, they don't just throw some gross, hockey puck on there since they are topping it with so much stuff, they still give you a quality burger. The pulled pork was amazing, I could have eaten a mound of that by itself. They also didn't over do it with the cheddar or bacon, it was just enough to give you a taste of it with the pulled pork and the burger. Oh my goodness! I almost forgot to tell you! They serve all burgers on a pretzel roll! YUM-O! So, my companion's burger was no slouch. The prosciutto was piled on high and was super tasty, the pineapple and roasted red pepper were the perfect sweet and cool contrast to the spice of the siracha and chili paste.

Since it is so super cool, Kuma's gets packed. We got there pretty early (we were starved from our travels) and got a seat at the bar, when we left there was a line out front. Get there early or prepare to wait, but it is worth the wait. 

Many people asked us why we chose Chicago for our vacation. Food. That is why. Places like Kuma's that we've seen on more than one Food Network/Cooking Channel shows that offer a unique experience and delicious food. Take a journey of your own and as always, tell Skip about it!

  2900 W Belmont Ave Chicago IL

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mustache Bill's Diner, Barnegat Light

No mustache required at this cash only, tiny diner on Barnegat Light. Mustache Bill's has been featured TV shows, such as Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and is also a James Beard winning restaurant. I know you are thinking the same thing I was, a diner won a James Beard? Shocking, but outstanding food comes in all styles and forms.

Now, I did not set out to Bill's because of all these things, I didn't even know all that before going there. My dining companion plotted out a day trip for us, doing what we love to do, drink wine! And this is where he planned for us to have breakfast to start our journey, so I got in the car and went. My companion is lucky I like him so much, what a long drive for breakfast (and without any coffee, grr!).

Bill's looks like a normal diner, booths, tables, counter. The place is fairly small, well at least the main dining room is, you can also be seated on the porch. We were greeted kindly by our waiter who then brought us coffee, directed us to the special menu on the wall and gave us time to look over the menu. The menu has your typical diner breakfast items, but also some unique combinations and choices. The specials board also has some great omelet creations and other yummies.

I had an omelet from the special board that had sausage, zucchini, and tomato. It was really delicious. The sausage was flavorful without being spicy and the veggies were nice and fresh. My dining companion had a sweet tooth that morning and went for the cinnamon raisin french toast. It was awesome, not some kind of super fancy, crazy big slices, just regular cinnamon raisin bread made into yummy french toast. By the smile on his face and the empty plate, I'd say my companion enjoyed every bite. 

There was a discrepancy with the bill, but our waiter was super cool and very apologetic about it. We probably wouldn't have noticed if the two of us hadn't commented earlier on how reasonable the prices were there, so the bill seemed kind of high for an omelet, french toast and two coffees. Well, because I ordered an omelet from the special but then asked them to omit cheese from it, he had trouble putting in the computer system the use and ended up charging for it twice instead of once. It is an understandable error and we didn't think it was a big deal, but we appreciated how apologetic the waiter was about it. We got our new, correct check and we were on our way, still happy and very full.

So, don't take Guy Fieri's word for it or mine for that matter, check Bill's out for yourself. Mustache optional, but I believe shirt and shoes are required.

Have fun!

Mustache Bills Diner
W 8th St at Broadway
Barnegat Light, NJ 08006