Posts Tagged ‘Breakfast’

Should Restaurants Get Second Chances?

February 13, 2011

Have you ever had a good and bad dining experience at the same place?  It catches you off guard, like a 70-degree day in the middle of January.  You can’t help but wonder what went wrong and if it was the dish you ordered or if the chef was just having an off-day?

This was the recent experience I had at the new Eden Restaurant in Hillcrest.  I want to preface this by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Eden for it’s food and ambiance (they’ve catered a few events for my company in the past and I loved the food).  I went out for brunch and I didn’t like the particular breakfast item I ordered, which is not to say their other items aren’t great because they all sounded ah-may-zing, but I was looking for something healthiful that day (yes, I totally made up that word).  Now I’m rambling but it’s only because I really do care and love this company as a whole, and I don’t want my review to negatively reflect them in any way.  But, I disgress… let’s get to the food!

I recently went out for San Diego Restaurant Week, an entire week where restaurants in San Diego create a prix fix 3-course menu.  It’s a great way to get out and try new restaurants in San Diego at an affordable price.  In fact, I went to two dinners that week.  My second dinner was at Eden in Hillcrest and consisted of a three course menu with several options for each course.  I happened to choose the following:

Appetizer Course

Gumbo di Vinci

Bayou fare simmered with soul and served with a Dungeness Crab Hushpuppy.

Main Course

Porcini Pillows

House Ricotta Pasta Pillows, Porcini Browned Butter, Wild Rocket and Sun Dried Tomato.

Dessert Course

Banana Cream Pie

Chef Scotty’s Favorite since Kindergarten…comforting, sweet and delicious.

Sadly, I didn’t get a photograph of the first dish.  I was so hungry that I just dove into the food when I arrived and didn’t even think twice until after I had scarfed down the gumbo.  I enjoyed the gumbo even though I am not a huge fan of spicy foods.  I felt like this dish had a nice balance of heat and wasn’t over-powerful to the point that I wouldn’t be able to finish it.

The porcini pillows were amazing.  That is a dish that I could eat over and over again.  I never used to be a fan of mushrooms but in the last few years they have really grown on me, and this dish definitely reminds me of what I was missing out on all of those years!  The wild rocket salad tasted like it had a hint of truffle oil, which sealed the deal for me.  I also just discovered truffle oil last year and every time I see it on a menu I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

Last, I chose banana cream pie for dessert.  It seemed like a strange thing to find on the menu of a gourmet restaurant in San Diego.  For me, banana cream pie is reminiscent of Indiana and pot-lucks on a hot summer day.  However, Eden’s executive chef, Scotty Wagner, is from Wisconsin so I could definitely see the connection.

Bananas are one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  I know that seems like an exaggeration, but it’s true.  I LOVE anything with bananas.  Banana pudding, bananas in ice-cream, banana ice-cream, banana’s foster, banana bread—you name it.  So when I ordered the banana cream pie, you have to know that going into it, I had HUGE expectations.  Was the pie good?  Yes.  Was it the best pie I ever had?  Not by far.  I have a recipe for the BEST banana pudding you will have ever unleashed your tastebuds on, and there is no question that my banana pudding could have easily trumped this pie.  It is a Paula Dean recipe, after all.

I did, however, get to try my friend’s dessert, which was their Pana Cota with Kefir Lime Dust, Fresh Pineapple & Kiwi-Lime Coulis. Three words: to die for.  Looking back, I would have totally gone for that instead.

So, getting back to my original story about the good/bad restaurant experience, after Restaurant Week I returned to Eden to check out their brunch.  I heard many good things, especially about their $10 bottomless mimosas which sounded too good to be true!  My friend and I decided to check it out one morning after yoga.  Unfortunately, I was not feeling the mimosas at the time since it was the morning after an evening of wine drinking.  Also, the yoga before and some recent lifestyle changes towards a more health-conscious diet made me skip over all the really great sounding dishes, for something simple and healthy.

I tried their Omelet Caprese since it was the most healthy looking thing on the menu.

It was meh.  Yes, official food blogger terminology—respect.  Compared to my last breakfast at FARM, there was no comparison (pictures don’t lie).  I wasn’t feeling the “three eggs with buffalo mozzarella, basil & sun-dried tomatoes.”  The eggs were rubbery and flavorless—overall a huge disappointment.  Had I ordered the menu items that truly captured by attention, like the crabcake benedict or their angel toast, a spin on the classic french toast using angel food cake soaked in frangelico (DROOL), it may have been a different story altogether.  Note to self: splurge when going to brunch.

I guess the moral of the story is don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in my case don’t judge a restaurant by one bad experience.  Luckily I had the good experience first, which is why I came back.  But I guess what I realize is that a particular dish should not be representative of all that a restaurant has to offer.  That dish may not be the restaurant’s strong point.  Maybe the dish is too simple, or maybe healthy-fare isn’t that establishment’s specialty.  Whatever the case is, I think it’s important to give restaurants another shot before writing them off completely.  You may be surprised what you find.

FARMbloomington: Putting the Comfort Back into Midwestern Comfort Food

January 2, 2011

We all have our favorite comfort foods.  Foods that we grew up on, meals that we ate for special occasions, Sunday suppers, or that special meal our mothers prepared for us when we were sick.  The smell or taste of a particular dish can elicit memories of the time and place when you first had it. So, when asked to write a restaurant review on comfort foods, it only seems appropriate to come back to the place where my food memories started, back to a small town in Southern Indiana.

When I went home to spend Christmas with my family, I decided to check out FARMbloomington, a relatively new(ish) restaurant in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana.  The chef, Daniel Orr, was originally from Columbus, Indiana (where my mom grew up) and went away to school to study restaurant management.  After graduation, Orr traveled all over the world, working at restaurants in France, Belgium, New York City, and Anguilla before settling back into Bloomington’s quaintly world-class dining scene.

FARM’s focus is on using fresh and local ingredients, fusing together the flavors of island cuisine and Midwestern cooking.  The best part about the restaurant is the ambiance.  Filled with vintage 1950s memorabilia, the overall feel and decor is convincing enough to take you back to your grandmother’s kitchen.

Old Stove

I had heard that FARM has an amazing brunch on the weekends, so my dad and I decided to check it out.  No breakfast would be complete without biscuits and apple butter!  I ordered their biscuit bowl—four homemade biscuits served with real butter and apple butter.  As far as food goes, biscuits and apple butter are a true Southern Indiana staple.  Even better is when the biscuits are fried, which you can get at the Nashville House in Brown County.

FARM Menu

The South has grits—we have apple butter.

 

Biscuits Bowl

Biscuits with applebutter

But that was just an appetizer!  For breakfast, I ordered their special of the day, the vegetarian omelet with root vegetables and my dad ordered their take on eggs benedict.  Both came with a side of “homies” and not the kind wear baggie jeans and say “sup?”  These homies were french fries pan fried with tomatoes, red peppers and onions.

Eggs BenedictEggs Bennies

Vegetarian OmeletVegetarian Omelet

My veggie omelet was tasty, but I think my dad ended up with the winning dish.  Their poached eggs were stacked on top of flaky homemade biscuits instead of the usual english muffin.  I think it was that simple touch that satisfied my Midwestern tastebuds.  What would have been even more of a comfort food for my family, at least, was their biscuits and gravy.  My mom used to make biscuits and gravy for us when we were growing up, but being the picky eater I was as a child, I would not touch the gravy with a ten foot pole.  These days, I love a good plate of biscuits and gravy.

If you’re looking for some good ‘ol Southern Indiana comfort food, FARM’s the place to go.  In addition to a well-known brunch, FARM was recognized in ’09 by Food Network Magazine as having one of the best burgers in the nation for their bison burger.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, FARM is a nice change of pace from the usual with their fresh spin on traditional favorites.

Crepe making 101 with “Chef” Nate!

April 5, 2010

My roommate Nate has been talking up his crepe making skills for awhile now.  All talk and no game, right?  Well, last Saturday I finally got to try his famous crepes and they were ridiculously good!  Nate was very kind to share his recipe with me and to demonstrate how to make crepes step-by-step.  Anyway, I will let the pictures speak for themselves… 🙂

First thing’s first… COFFEE!

Chef Nate

Didn’t you know coffee is the most important ingredient for any good recipe?  (Especially Starbucks coffee!)  Load yourself up on caffeine before you get started because you are going to need to pay very close attention to the rest of these instructions!

Dry Ingredients

First you will need to gather your dry ingredients and mix them together in a large bowl.  1 cup of flour, 1/8 of tsp salt, and 2 tsp of sugar.

Next gather up your liquid ingredients.  You’ll need 1/3 cup of water, 3/4 cup of milk, 4 tbsp of melted butter, 4 tbsp of brandy, and 3 eggs (1 egg, 2 whites).

Mmmmmmm… brandy!

Quick fact: Did you know that brandy is made from wine?  The difference between brandy and wine is that brandy undergoes a distillation process which concentrates the alcohol, turning fermented wine into what we know as brandy.

Next you want to add your liquid ingredients in this order:


Add water & milk, then mix!

Add butter & mix!

Add brandy & mix!

Add eggs & mix!

My roomie was feeling lazy and didn’t want to separate the egg yolks at the time, but you definitely want to make sure you use 1 egg and 2 egg whites otherwise the flavor will be a little off and the crepes will taste more “egg-y”.

After all the mixing is said and done, you want to coat your skillet with butter spray and scoop a generous portion of the batter into your ladle, pouring it into your skillet in a circular motion (think of a clock).  Cook on one side until the crepe begins to form and flip to cook on the other side using your spatula or do it Nate’s way by using your fingers.  Using your fingers will give you more control so the crepe doesn’t break.

Your finished product should look something like this!

That’s basically it.  The best part is getting creative and adding all of your toppings!  The sky is the limit when it comes to crepes!

I got a little excited and dug into my first crepe before taking pictures!  WHOOPS!  You can’t go wrong with Nutella and bananas 😉

Anyway… This is what a proper crepe should look like!

But I almost forgot the most important thing…

COFFEE!  Crepes and coffee make great companions.

And remember ambiance is everything!  Nate picked up some lovely flowers for our crepe extravaganza but you could just as easily use fake flowers, a candle, or nice dishware to jazz up your kitchen table!

Good luck everyone and let me know how your crepes turn out!

Cheers,

Jess