Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Home cooked Vermont Breakfast!

Good Morning Friends!

Oh, I'm sitting here blogging as we get feet of snow!  Well, at least a foot - possibly a food and a half... Look!

This was about 8:30am - and last night, we could see the ground!  Its 3 hours later, and the snow is still coming down - a terrific day-before-spring in West Dover Vermont!! 

So what better time to build a fire, make some comfort food and bundle in for the day!

So,  here is my recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bread French Toast:

Ingredients needed:

Three eggs
A splash of Milk
A larger splash of Vanilla
Cinnamon (to taste...I do about four to five shakes)

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (this one came in a round, so I cut big slices and then halved them to fit the pan).

Beat the eggs, milk, vanilla and Cinnamon - while you heat some butter in a pan.

Soak the bread into the egg mixture - about 20 seconds per side

and place into the hot pan

Cook on each side for about 3 - 4 minutes, or until golden brown

Serve with a touch of butter on top - and some real Vermont Maple Syrup....


It really was worth getting the Cinnamon Raisin Bread...I'd recommend getting it fresh from the Bakery, however I have tried it with the name brand breads sold in stores... it turns out good, but I like to be able to have thicker slices so the bread doesn't fall apart!

OK - enough blogging for today.  I have games to beat Dave in... Backgammon, Mexican Train and Yahtzee!!

Until Next Time...

A Jezebel vs. A Nonna...?

Hello Friends! 

Our first full day in Vermont consisted of nothing but pure and sheer relaxation!  With a side trip into Wilmington for lunch...a quick ride a few blocks over for dinner...and then just vegging, relaxing and a game or two.  Perfect vacation so far! 

Look at this gorgeous morning view out side the condo!  This was about 9am Monday morning...

And this is about 10pm Monday night!  Snowing and gorgeous lights...How absolutely pretty!  We're expected to get 16" by tomorrow...then, Dave and I will go snow shoeing!
But let me tell you about our Lunch and Dinner...
Lunch was at a local eatery called Jezebel's.  Dave and I had dinner there the last time we were in Vermont, which was about three years ago.  We were there with the family - about 8 of us and had a fantastic time.  It used to be a back room in an Ice Cream shop, if memory serves... and the food was great!  They had that night a wild mushroom and brie bisque (unusual, right?!?) that to date in my memory was just about the best soup I'd ever had! 
Sad to say - Hurricane Irene hit Wilmington with such devastation... Very nearly wiped out the charming town... Take a look:
Dots Restaurant - a breakfast favorite for Dave and I... on a normal wintery day

The water, rising... Keep in mind the Deerfield River is usually
many, many feet below that bridge (as you will see in the last photo)
Flood waters roaring in...

For reference - this is the normal level of the Deerfield River!
Dot's is rebuilding and unfortunately 1 1/2 years after Irene, they
are not open yet - but will be!
Keep in mind that Dots is just down the road from Jezebel's ... so the damage there was significant as well (as it was for all of Wilmington!).  For reference - I'm 6' tall... and the water in the restaurant would have been over my head if I could have walked in the door. But happy to say they are open for business!
So Dave and I went in for lunch - Dad recommended it as they have "the best soups and sandwiches".  In we go, excited to try their soup for today and taste a few other goodies.  Jezebel's has a very quaint New England town feel when you walk in the door, and is a perfect place to lunch after an hour of walking the streets of Wilmington and shopping in the stores that are open.
What is the chances....seriously, what are the chances that TODAY.... they have Wild Mushroom and Brie Bisque?!?!?!?!   Are you KIDDING ME?!?!   I nearly passed out, I was so excited.  Now, keep in mind, I'd have tried just about any soup they had...but after THREE YEARS to be able to taste that wonderful memory again... my heart sighed...just a tiny bit.
I just don't know if the dictionary has enough words to describe this most unctuous, flavorful, earthy, creamy bowl of delight.  Every single mouthful explodes with a different flavor...a richness and suppleness that I just haven't found in any other soup I've ever eaten.  I want this recipe.  I need this recipe, frankly. How can I deny my taste buds these flavors?? I don't think I can go another three years with out eating this soup.  Lucky I have leftovers for tomorrow, but what about the next day, and the next??
While we shared our appetizers...I'll say this one was Dave's...as I refuse to give up the soup as MINE.  We ordered the Hummus platter...
Please note that my soup rave should not, by any means overshadow the fantastic flavor of this dish.  There were lovely toasted pita points, cucumber slices, olives and a pile of perfectly flavored hummus, topped with pesto and feta cheese...and anyone who's made or tasted hummus knows that not all is created equal.  I'm horrible at making it, though I do practice and plan to perfect!  This hummus was perfect.  No one flavor over powered the other - creating a amazing blend of a nutty, bean taste.  The pesto and feta cheese add the perfect finishing touch of a flavor boost to really make your mouth happy! Layer the perfect bite, with a slice of cucumber on a pita, the hummus with some feta and pesto...a bit of the greens and an olive... bite...and bite again.  Your mouth will thank you for it.
Now, at this point, Dave and I realize that between the soup and the hummus - we had no need to order anything else... but too late!  We both ordered sandwiches.

At the back ... a classic Rubin.  To the front ... Steak and Cheese with the "works" (peppers, onions and mushrooms). Keep in mind - we now both have half of each of these sandwiches in the fridge for lunch tomorrow - and that thought will keep me in heavenly dreams tonight!
Now, know that I eat Rubin sandwiches very often.  It is a particular favorite of mine...and I can now honestly say, I've had a taste of what is the best Rubin sandwich I've ever tasted.  The corned beef was so tender - seriously if I just laid it on my tongue, it would just melt - no need for chewing.  The thousand island was perfectly blended...the marble rye was toasted exactly as it should have been and the sauerkraut - delicious and not over done as it can be on most sandwiches.  This Rubin highlights the Corned Beef - and does it very, very well! 
The Steak and Cheese, loaded - well, honestly as soon as I saw Dave's Rubin - I wanted to switch.  I am SO glad that I didn't.  The roast beef on this sandwich was cooked perfectly tender.  Yes - I did have a slight complaint...it was a tad salty... but honestly it didn't distract me from the tender meat, crispy but caramelized veggies and cheesy goodness on the still crunchy bread.  No way to pick up this sandwich - you have to eat it with a fork and knife... but you'll be OH so glad you did!!
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention their fresh, hand cut french fries that were perfect...and while they boast an "award winning" cole slaw... it is good, but I wouldn't give it an award.
But that aside .. I'd give them an award for their fabulous food.  So...my ratings for Jezebel's:

So - my ratings:

Food:  A ... I just simply can't justify going any lower.  Even though the meat was salty - I'd order it again!

Price:  We were there for lunch only, and to me it was typical moderate lunch prices... about $10 - $15 for huge entree sandwiches 

Service:  Here is where I go B- ... and I'll tell you why... Our waitress (no, she never told us her name) was efficient, prompt and knowledgeable.  When we arrived, she had 2 people at the bar and a table of four ladies in the dining room ... and she was the only person on the floor.  It didn't help that with in 20 minutes, another two tables came in as well as a few more at the bar.  She was overwhelmed ... as she was waitress, busser, bartender and food runner - she was swamped.  That is the reason why she got a B to begin with - there wasn't any help and she did float the crowd decently.  

However, the 'minus' comes in with regards to attitude - in the service industry, no amount of overwhelming can justify what at times seemed to be curt, unfriendly or flippant answers.  Even as I thought I was being too hard on an obviously stressed server, the table behind us asked a simple question "Is the owner cooking today" to get a swift, nearly snide comment of "not to-daaay".  Even the three of them commented on the attitude of the waitress.   Will it stop me from going back - no.  I understand a restaurant can't predict the busy nature of the day - and at the end of the ski season in Vermont, I'm sure Mondays are the slowest of slow days - so even if they can't staff the restaurant to predict a busy day - the server needs to realize that customer service is... customer service, no matter how busy or not they are.  Their attitude does reflect on the Restaurant as a whole.

Now... after a meal like that - you think 'how on earth can you eat another meal?' 
Easy..only eat 1/2 of your lunch and then take a nap! (or write a few blogs!! lol) The lovely thing about that is - we both have a fantastic lunch for tomorrow (and oh!  We're making Cinnamon raisin bread french toast for breakfast...stay tuned! =)
On another of Dad's recommendations - we are off to Nonna's in West Dover.
A very quaint Italian restaurant on the 2nd floor of the Saw Mill Farm Inn... Dave and I were so pleasantly surprised at the romantic atmosphere and a completely charming Vermont Inn.  Lots of wood and large planked floors - huge fireplaces and plenty of seating right out side the restaurant for the guests to lounge.  If we weren't there to eat, I'd have loved to take a book and sit by the fire.
But dinner awaited us - and we were already 15 minutes late from our reservations due to faulty directions from google maps, and my refusal to call to ask for directions (damn, if I can't get directions from the Internet, why do I have a smart phone?!?). 
We had a delightful dinner.   And yes - we ended up taking 1/2 of our entrees home (which is a good thing... as with the snow predictions, we won't have to go out on Tuesday to eat!).
For starters,  Dave ordered the chef's special bruschetta - Italian bread slices, topped with arugula, artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan cheese...  Delightful flavors that mixed very well together and tasted wonderful.  Both Dave and I felt the only change we would have made was make the bread crispier... but it was delicious!
My appetizer was recommended by my dad - a wild mushroom ravioli. 
They were presented in a truffle butter with pine nuts and asiago cheese...a wonderful appetizer - that could really be a meal! The truffle butter was light and not overpowering the natural taste of the pasta and the chunks of earthy, tenderly cooked mushrooms or the saltiness of the cheese.  A truly delightful burst of flavor with every bite!
Between our entrees - Dave's was much better than mine.  Not that mine wasn't good - I just loved the flavors of the Chicken Barbara that he ordered:
The Chick Barbara was pan seared chicken with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and baby spinach in a white wine, lemon butter sauce... and served along side a fantastic Fettuchini Alfredo.  I don't usually order an Alfredo as it can be very heavy - but this was light and flavorful - simply delicious.  I was particularly loving the acidity of the sauce on the chicken.  Most places say a lemon sauce, but you only get a hint of it...this was strong and bold, yet didn't over power the other flavors of the dish.  I'd order it again with pleasure - and try to make it at home as well!
My dish was very good and very flavorful (it seems that last night I was just more in the mood for tart, not creamy and sweet).  I ordered the Four Cheese Lasagna:
It was a huge portion and really was delicious, with Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheese... the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and Nonna's Marinara sauce was very good...the sweet tomato flavor was perfectly seasoned.  I did miss the meat - and the menu did give you an option to order it with either Italian sausage or meatballs, which I think would have added a nice texture to the dish overall.
Dessert - Dave always has to have dessert - was chocolate torte with a cup of cappuchino:
The torte was home made and had a perfectly blended flavor of chocolate fudge like cake consistency.  It wasn't has heavy and dense as some tortes can be...and with the raspberry sauce and whipped cream - it was a nice touch to end the evening.
So - my ratings:
Food:  B ... Really delicious - but maybe coming from NY, it was really good Italian food for Vermont.

Price:  Very reasonable!  They had specials that came with a Caesar salad (which was delicious) for 14.95.  Appetizers were around $8-$10 dollars.   

Service: Here is where I go B+ ... interesting enough, Ashley was also alone in the dining room as hostess, server, busser, bartender and food runner... and Yes, there were only four tables - she handled them all with a bright and cheery attitude.  That is a huge difference  

So - is it possible that a Jezebel can outshine a Nonna? In this case... Yes and No!  When it comes to food - Jezebel's took the day with amazing flavors and reinforcing a fantastic memory.  When it comes to service - you know you can always get a friendly smile and cheerful atmosphere at Nonna's.

All in all we had a great, restful, relaxing day.  Going to bed knowing we'd wake up to a fresh snow storm and have a cozy fire and hopefully I'll whip Dave's butt in Backgammon gave me happy dreams!

Until Next Time...


Monday, March 18, 2013

What Season is this??

Why, it's Seasons 52, of course!
Hello Friends! I wanted to tell you about a dinner I had with some of my friends from work recently!  I write this from Dave and my mini vacation in West Dover, VT ... (at the base of Mt. Snow).  We're hunkering down by a roaring fire...
Dave is currently napping...and waiting on the snow storm they're predicting for tonight into tomorrow... 16" - give or take... Woo Hoo!!
But - a few weeks ago, I experienced Seasons 52 in Garden City.  They believe in seasonal, fresh flavors and living well - which is why EVERYTHING on the menu is 475 calories or less. 
And NO, this doesn't mean they skimp on portion size - Its a good, hearty, healthy portion and just delicious!  I'm going to tell you about what I ate...
As my natural indecisive nature (when it comes to choosing food!) popped into play as I read the large menu, I decided to have a few appetizers, rather than locking myself into one entree.  I am very, very glad I did!  I started my meal out with this luscious looking dish:

These are the shrimp and crab stuffed mushrooms...served with a Parmesan and panko topping.  Looks like escargot, right??  These perfect little bites of sea flavor were one of the most delicious stuffed mushrooms I've ever had.  Seriously, it seemed like there was a small shrimp and a lump of crab in every bite!  Very little filler, other than the crispy Panko that gave just the right texture balance to the soft, supple mushroom.  I will have this again, and not be ashamed that I've ordered it twice in a row!!
Next I had (a special for the week we were there) Lobster Spring Rolls with three dipping sauces.
Now, let me quickly tell you the 52 in the name is a nod to the fact that each of the 52 weeks of the year, the chef will have different seasonal specials to compliment the seasonal menu.  So while I had these spring rolls, they may not be available when you go....  I will say... They were tasty, fresh and with plenty of lobster - however, they were not my favorite dish of the night.  There was something in the texture I wasn't thrilled with and honestly, I wouldn't order them again. 
My third and final appetizer (and yes, portions were big enough I took about 1/2 of everything home with me!) 

This is one of their flat breads - and one that is right up my alley!  Artichoke Hearts, goat cheese, spinach, balsamic caramelized onions and red pepper.  Oh. My. Goodness.  A meal in itself, these are some of my favorite flavors to put together.  The flat bread is exactly that...not doughy...light and crisp...Perfect!
I did have a chance to taste two dishes that friends of mine ordered... below is the Double Hummus and Crisp sea salt Lavosh... These two hummus flavors were amazing!  One was roasted red pepper...such flavor!  The other was minted edamame ... really, I'm not kidding.  It was delic!! I am going to try to make them at home... that is how delicious it was!!

The last dish I tried was actually some one's side dish from the weekly specials - spinach stuffed mushrooms.  So simple, but so flavorful... really a great side to any dish on the menu!

Now... desserts.  They serve them in single servings - shot glass size, which for me (as we all know I'm not a big dessert girl) was perfect!  I had the Key Lime Pie - though I almost went for the Pecan Pie... each little glass was 275 calories!  The Key Lime was just the right amount of tart, a hint of sweetness and lots of graham cracker crust...who doesn't like graham cracker crust?!

Notice there isn't a picture of that...I ate it way too quickly to remember to take a photo...I will next time!

We all know I'm not a calorie counter...I'm a flavor seeker.  This restaurant has dishes with plenty of flavor!  While this isn't a full review - it is a full recommendation.  Go - enjoy - I know I will again - and I'll bring Dave with me!

Until Next Time...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Calamari & Quartet

Hello Friends!!  I had a lovely dinner with friends and saw a great movie...  I'll tell you about both! 

I met friends in Huntington a few weeks ago (and yes, I've been too busy to blog about it sooner!)... at  Black and Blue... to have dinner before some of us went to a book signing and the rest of us went to a movie.

I've never been to Black and Blue... but have known about it for a while...it is close to a dear place in my heart... Cassis.  I was super excited to eat here, having past by it several times on our way to Cassis.

Well, we were sat and our waiter introduced himself to us - Rocco... and was such a help.  I asked complicated questions...others in my party asked simple questions...but I will have to say that during our entire meal, our server was there...knowledgeable and offering suggestions during our ordering process.

If I was being picky... and we all know I can be... my only 'complaint' was after our main meal was served...he never came by to say "hey, how's it going"... as one of our party ordered a meat dish (that came with asparagus and potatoes...and she asked for double asparagus/no potatoes...and got three ... yes three stalks of asparagus on her plate... and we had no one to complain to as our waiter didn't come and check on us...)

Well.. I will tell you about what I tasted...

For my appetizer I ordered (on my servers recommendation) the Sweet Thai Chili Calamari...
I loved it...it was perfectly cooked, the flavor was amazing..served in the chili sauce with peanuts... If I had any 'negative' comment about it... I would have liked it more spicy... but other wise - a lovely appetizer!

and two at our table ordered the Gorgonzola fondue with filet mignon and bread... and YES, I did have a taste...
What a tasty appetizer... and while the menu said it was great for two, this portion would be a good app for four, for sure!  They were able to cook the meat to order...1/2 was medium well and 1/2 as medium rare to accommodate everyone...the fondue was not at all strong in the Gorgonzola flavor...but just perfect... and if I could say a fondue was "light"... this one was.  Delicious!!

For my Entree... I got a Cajun Lobster pasta dish, with sun dried tomatoes and artichokes.  Oh My God... Delicious!!

This dish had just the right amount of spice to it, a tangy-sweet-tart bite to it with the sun dried tomatoes and a creamy sauce that was just the right combination ...It was really hard to put my fork down when I was full... I did bring my left overs home - but <sigh> I ended up eating them for dessert!

So - my ratings:
Food: a very hearty B

Price:  Steak house prices... So I'm going with Expensive on this one... $30 plus or minus on the entrees... but - for a special occasion, worth the effort!  

Service: B+ ... We were served promptly and efficiently.  Our server was (other than one instance) amazing and I'd ask for him again.  

Now...on to a brief bit about the movie... If you get a chance to see Quartet...SEE IT!!  All I knew about the movie was Dustin Hoffman directed it...and Maggie Smith was in it.  That was enough for me to say - hey...lets go!  So a friend of mine and I did after dinner.  I will keep this simple, as I'm not a movie critic... but the best thing I can say is:  Most any movie I go to with this particular friend...ends up being nap time.  However in this case...she stayed awake for the entire movie!  It was light, but heavy at the same time - but the humor and the story warms the heart completely. 

On my (and my friends no sleeping during this movie) recommendation... My Mom went to see it recently and called me to Thank Me for telling her it was a MUST SEE.

Go See it.  NOW.  You'll not regret it!!

Ok Friends... I'm so late on this blog (you have no idea!) but I have a few others up my sleeve...and I'll be posting them this weekend....  Dave and I are headed for Vermont for a few days of well needed rest and relaxation...  Not even the Kids would be with us!! 

xoxo as Sam, Lilah, Sage and Sophia will  get Grandma to watch them!!

Until Next Time...