House of Skip

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dream Cuisine Cafe, Cherry Hill

My dining companion went to a really cool place right before Christmas called Dream Cuisine Cafe in Cherry Hill NJ, with all the chaos of the holiday season, I seem to have blanked on some of the things we ate. I wish I could remember the specifics, but I do remember that I enjoyed it. So, I'll try to tell you a little about it.

Dream Cuisine has unique atmosphere, it is a small place, so you may want to consider making a reservation. The tables and booths have nice pillows on the bench seats and lots of cool tapestry all around. The night we were there they had live music and that was really enjoyable.

I do remember that we had a great waiter, the kind of guy that takes the profession of waiter seriously. He made conversation with us, had a great attitude and really made our experience there fun.

I also recall that the food had interesting flavors. I had a grilled shrimp appetizer that was served over ratatouille. My only complaint is that for $14, they could have given me more shrimp, I think there were only 2 or 3 on the plate, but they were delicious, the shrimp were seasoned and cooked perfectly. The ratatouille was also very good, nice soft veggies in a tomato sauce, you can get that by itself as an appetizer too. We did make a smart decision which was to order our meals "Prix Fixe" for $45 to $50 per person which was a great price to 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 desserts.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Dream Cuisine is BYOB? Well it is, which is always great. We brought a nice French Red Wine with us to go with their "Authentic Provencal Fare". So, my dining companion's appetizer is a little fuzzy, he thinks he had scallops, but neither of us remember how they were served or what flavors were involved, which is unfortunate, it does not appear on the menu online so I suppose it must have been a special. Anyway, for entrees, I chose the grilled lamb chops, they were free range which was an added bonus. They were delicious and cooked perfectly, they were served with a lovely tomato sauce and a black olive Nicoise, very rich flavors that were just terrific. My dining companion ordered the fish of the day which was a sea bass topped with fresh sweet jumbo lump crab meat. The fish was beautiful and the crab succulent and definitely fresh. He enjoyed it very much and it was a wonderful presentation.

Our waiter checked on us often, but was not intrusive, he always had a smile and we were glad to let him know we were enjoying ourselves. Since we went with the Prix Fixe, we had to get dessert, oh darn! Ha, Ha! I of course, opted for the chocolate souffle, because I rarely say no to chocolate. It was warm and delicious and super chocolaty. My dining companion went with the apple tart served a la mode and it was equally wonderful.

I wish I could remember more details and feel awful that I blanked on my companions appetizer choice, but don't let that stop you from heading to Dream Cuisine Cafe and making it a memorable experience.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cork- Westmont, NJ

It's no secret that my companion and I love wine, so when I spotted a place called, "Cork", I knew we had to go. Westmont is a little southern NJ town just past Haddonfield. Cork has there on parking lot and sits back a little off the street, so don't go too fast or you might miss it. The place definitely has a very hip vibe to it, cool modern decor and lots of wine and cork paraphernalia to boot. The bar was more of the happening scene on this Friday night that we were there, but the longer we were there the more the tables filled up.

Because the place had a fun vibe, we were in the mood for a pre-dinner drink, that and we had no idea what we were eating, so it was too soon to order wine! I ordered the Cucumber Cosmo which was Gin, Triple Sec, Lime, White Cranberry Juice a very unique and refreshing twist on my favorite drink. My companion went with the Spicy Lime Margarita Tequila, Simple Syrup, Fresh Lime, Jalapeno because he is always in search of something spicy!

The first thing we decided is that we would order a "meat board", often times referred to as Charcuterie, any one that is not new to HOS, knows this is a favorite of ours. The way it works at Cork is that they give you a selection of meats and cheeses to choose from, since we've recently been trying to stay dairy free, we went with all meat. All boards come with bread, olives and a fruit spread, for $12 we chose 3 meats from the list, Prosciutto di Parma, Hot Coppa, and Dry Cured Sausage. We had fine playing with the different flavor combinations of the fruit, meat and bread. Cork also has an interesting selection of small plates for sharing, one I'd like to try if we go back is the Korean Tacos- shredded beef and pickled onions, sounds good, right? But we just stuck with the Meat Board, which was excellent.

On to entrees. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love pork. All pork, chops, tenderloin, roast, osso bucco, ribs, bacon, ham, I could go on and on. So, when I saw, Pancetta Stuffed Pork Roast on the menu, my decision was made. My dining companion had a more difficult time making a choice so many of his favorite options, steak, scallops, yellowfin tuna, he went with the Hanger Steak, which came with asparagus, being is favorite vegetable it did factor in his decision. He was amazed at how good the steak was and that the gouda cheese and red wine sauce were a perfect complement to the dish.While my pork roast was tasty and juicy, the meat was very fatty and I could not really taste the pancetta, the roast did not appear to be stuffed at all. Other than that, it was good, the mushroom stew it came with was great. If I were to do it over, I might have gotten the scallops or even the hanger steak. Ideally, if I went back again, I'd like to sit in the bar and just get a bunch of small plates and share.

The wine list at Cork is not huge, but it does offer a good variety of wines, almost all available by the glass or bottle. It was great to see wines like Cotes Du Rhone, Barbera d’ Asti, Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Torrontes on such a short menu. I think I had the Barbera and my companion had the Cotes Du Rhone, but I could be wrong as my memory is not the great right now (need more Gingko Biloba).

All in all, it was a good experience and I wouldn't say no to going back again. 

90 Haddon Avenue
Westmont, NJ 08108

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paleo Pad Thai

Okay, so I neglected to take a photo of this one, but I'll share the recipe anyway and if I make it again, I'll try to remember to take a photo.

1 spaghetti squash, roasted and scraped
1/2 lb to 1 lb of shrimp (depends on servings, I did 2 servings with a 1/2 lb)
1 red bell pepper sliced thin
1/2 onion sliced thin
1 cup green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons sunbutter
2 teaspoons chili paste
vinegar to thin out the sauce (I just eyeballed it)
juice of one lime
the following spices I added to the sauce per my own taste, again I don't measure so just go ahead and do what you like
garlic powder
chili flakes
nut of your choice (optional)
lime wedges for garnish (optional)

It is a good idea to roast and scrape your spaghetti squash ahead of time, you could even do it the day before and store your "spaghetti" in an airtight container in the fridge.

In this case, I had been at the gym and so I put the squash in a 375 degree oven while I took a shower and put away some laundry, about a half an hour should do it. Let the squash cool while you assemble the rest. I put the veggies in a pot with some coconut oil and let them saute up and get nice and soft 5 to 10 minutes, I hit them with salt, pepper and some lime juice. Meanwhile, I took a bowl and a whisk and put in the sunbutter, lime juice, chili paste and gave it a good whisk, then I used some vinegar to thin it out a little (you could also use tamari or coconut aminos, but I had vinegar so I used that). Then I seasoned it up some more with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili flakes.

I set my sauce aside and then I peeled my shrimp and cut them into bite size pieces (you can leave them whole if you want, but I wanted to get a bites of shrimp throughout the dish). I added the shrimp to the veggie mix and let them cook for probably about 5 to 7 minutes, until they started to look done. Then I added the spaghetti squash into the skillet and gave it a good mix, then I poured the sauce on top and mixed it until the sauce coated everything. Then I plated the mix with a lime wedge and sprinkled a couple pine nuts on top for some crunch. Traditionally pad thai has peanuts on it, but since this is a peanut free recipe I experimented with the nuts I had. You should do cashews, sunflower seeds or anything really, I would just make sure they are chopped, so they just add a little texture to the dish.

I really wish I had a picture to share with you, but I guess I'll just have to make it again soon!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Paleo Burritos" AKA stuffed collard greens

I recently discovered another use for collard leaves, a replacement for our old friend known as tortillas or wraps. After removing the stems and taking a quick 3 to 5 minute bath in boiling water they are ready to go. They are more durable than lettuce and fold over a little easier after being boiled. I have used them to make a variety of lunchmeat and grilled chicken wraps recently and then I got to thinking, couldn't I make a burrito out of them? Once I assembled them, it reminded me more of stuffed cabbage than burritos, call it whatever you want, they were still yummy. So, I'll share the recipe with you.

This recipe should be considered a guide and you can change and swap any way you wish.

Approximately 4 collard leaves
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion sliced thin
1 green bell pepper sliced thin
1 4 oz can green chiles
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
the following spices can be added to your taste (I don't measure)
chilli powder
garlic powder
cayenne pepper

I started by removing the stems from the collard greens, making 2 "wraps" out of each leaf, then placed them in boiling water (just enough to cover barley the leaves no need to fill the whole pot) for about 3 to 5 minutes and then set them aside.

Saute the onion and bell pepper in a little olive oil (you can use whatever fat you want, coconut oil, bacon fat) after about 2 minutes I added the ground turkey and stirred it until well broken up and cooked throughout. Then I added the tomatoes (save about a 1/2 cup to top them with later) and diced chiles. Stir all of this together and then add the spices, allow it to simmer for about another 5 minutes so the tomato sauce heats up and the flavors combine. Turn the heat off, get out your baking dish and line up your collard leaves. Place a spoonful of the turkey mix in the middle of the leaf and then roll it up as you would a tortilla and continue until you run out of leaves or turkey. Once all your wraps are all nestled nice and cozy in the dish, top with remaining tomatoes that you saved earlier (or even some of the turkey mix if you ran out of leaves and still have some mix left) and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes, just enough to warm the burritos up and get those leaves nice and toasty.

Again, the finished product looks more like stuffed cabbage, but the flavors are definitly burrito-ish. :)

Take a look:

Stage Left, New Brunswick

New Year's Eve Wine Dinner

What do to on New Year's Eve is always the big question here at our house. And often one we don't start asking until the week before. Most years it involves us going out to dinner, coming home and trying to stay awake until the ball drops. As our food and wine adventures continue to go on and get more exciting, we thought we'd end 2011 with a great food and wine experience.

My dining companion has been dying to get to Stage Left in New Brunswick and we've just never made it there, as there are so many great place on our "to do" list. So, in looking up restaurants that might have nice New Year's menu's, I came across Stage Left's wine dinner. Apparently, this is some what of a regular occurrence at Stage Left, usually featuring the wine maker or vineyard owner presenting their wines over a dinner served by the exceptional staff at Stage Left. For New Year's Eve, one of the fabulous co-owners at Stage Left, Francis Schott, hosted a dinner featuring "new wines" that he selected to accompany the offering from their kitchen.

My dining companion and I could not pass up a night in New Brunswick (a quick train ride from nearby Princeton Junction station) with great food and wine. We arrived and were asked to wait at the bar until they were ready to seat everyone for the wine dinner. We opted to not get a drink as we were excited to see what was to be offered to us when we got seated. Judging from the others in the bar it was obvious we'd be the youngest people at this dinner, we appreciated that it would be a quiet night after witnessing some of the crazy partyers on the train headed to NYC.

As they came to get people from the bar and seat us in the room where the wine dinner was to take place, it was clear that there was assigned seating and that a lot of these people new each other. My dining companion and I were lead to our table which was empty, we waited with anticipation to see who would end up at our table. And as it turns out, not knowing anyone made us lucky enough to end up sitting with the co-owner, Francis Schott, his lovely girlfriend and Master of Wine, as well as friends of theirs who are a most extraordinary couple and great company. You may not be impressed, but we were in heaven. Okay, okay, I know you are here to read about the food and not how much fun my dining companion and I had.

It started with a champagne cocktail with actual rose petals in it, fun, fancy and tasty. As we enjoyed those cocktails staff came around with Hors D'Oeuvres, including mini crab cakes, spring rolls, mini beef wellingtons and many other assorted miniature treats. We were eating, drinking and getting acquainted with our table mates, we learned so much about wine, mixology and food. After the last of the hors d'oeuvres were passed, we started on the journey through the rest of the menu, which began with a lovely seafood bisque with a poached Maine lobster tail floating in it, heavenly really. It was paired with Trebbiano d'Abruzzo which is a lovely white wine that was surely a good pair with the rich, velvety soup. Trebbiano is the white sibling grape to the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Trebbiano that we had that night was from proprietor, Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, Italy.

Next we move on to possibly one of the best things I've ever tasted, our "small plate" for the evening was Prosciutto Wrapped Foie Gras Pate with Applejack Cherries. It was tart, rich, creamy, salty, the multiple combinations of flavors and textures as incredible. This course was paired with a wine from Hungary, that we had never heard of called, Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos which was a lovely light red that was really enjoyable. Regrettably, it is the only plate I took a photo of all night because I was too busy, eating, drinking and talking. I wish I could show you all the beautiful courses we were served, but just this one photo will have to do.
Our next course involved an itty bitty member of the poultry family, a Roasted Griggstown Quail served with Lentils and Grilled Mushrooms this delicious little bird was paired with a deep, dark and lovely Cabernet Sauvignon. You don't always think big red with a bird, but this roasted, gamey dish was begging for something with a little body to it and the Cab Sauv obliged.

After enjoying that last course we were starting to get full, but we weren't done yet. Next they wowed us with a Lamb Loin stuffed with Grilled Merguez Sausage. The lamb was perfectly cooked and the sausage provided just enough texture and spice to complement the tender lamb. The lamb was served over a lovely puree of polenta and was accompanied by extremely delicious oyster mushrooms. With this fantastic dish, we had a fantastic wine,  Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 1999; Dante Marramiero; Abruzzo, Italy. All I can say is what a pair!

Were were so full at this point but you can't turn away dessert at a tasting event! So, onward we went as midnight was slowly approaching. And of course they couldn't just send us off with one lovely dessert, but instead offered us a sampling of desserts. On this lovely plate we had an Almond Tart, Ginger Crème Brulee, and a Petite Financier. The almond tart was sweet and certainly would have been a star all on it's own. Probably my favorite on the plate was the Crème BruleeCrème Brulee which was the only thing on the plate I finished, I am pretty sure my dining companion finished all three.

We finished up this lovely feast just in time to run out front of the restaurant and catch the fireworks shot off the top of the Heldrich Hotel across the street. We counted down the New Year, watched some fireworks and then ran off to the train station and were lucky enough to catch a train that was lacking in the drunk and loud revelers we traveled with early and enjoyed a quiet train ride home talking about the incredible food and wine we had and the lovely company we enjoyed.

Whether it is for a wine dinner or other special event or just to go in and enjoy the regular menu, we think you'll enjoy Stage Left, so go ahead and check it out and tell Francis that Skip says hi.

Happy New Year from House of Skip!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Redstone Grill, Plymouth Meeting, PA

After some Christmas shopping and the never ending hunt for an "ugly sweater", my dining companion and I were in much need of food and festive relaxation. We decided to try the nearby, Redstone Grill which we had heard of, but never had a chance to get to. Since we were near one we thought we'd take the opportunity to try it. And boy are we glad we did!

The place has such a great atmosphere, big fireplace, huge bar, giant rotisserie ovens all lend to a cozy feeling. Redstone is hip, the kind of place you can come for food or just to hang at the bar. It didn't take long for us to find a festive treat to lift our spirits, we both ordered the holiday special drink, a candy cane martini. It was delicious! We also ordered some homemade pickles (one of a few side dish that can be ordered) they were so yummy, just the way I like them, not too sour and still with that cucumber crunch! I ordered the spinach salad that came with Redstone's famous rotisserie chicken and also had hardboiled eggs, bacon, apples, grapes and nuts. It was really good, I love fruit on a salad, I know it's not everyone's favorite, but I enjoy it. The chicken was excellent, really tender and full of all that rotisserie flavor goodness. The dressing was walnut bacon vinegrette, it was very good and the salad was not swimming in it, there was just enough to coat the greens and add some flavor to the salad. My companion went with a special menu item, lamb flatbread. It was really good, when they say flatbread, they mean flatbread, this thing was cracker thin, not that bubbly stuff other places try to pass off as "flat". The lamb was perfectly season and cooked.

Redstone definitely put us in the holiday spirit! We enjoyed sitting in the big comfy booth, eating, drinking and relaxing after our long day of shopping. For my NJ friends and readers, there is a Redstone in Marlton, but I hope we get one closer, because I could for sure see myself making that a regular stop for food and drink.