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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Go Out? - Pork Chop Sammie


Ingredients:

1 6 oz. pork chop, lean & trimmed/bone out & butterflied
2 tbsp. mayonnaise (your favorite kind is fine; I used the reduced fat olive oil version)
1 tsp. sriracha
2 slices of your favorite bread (this version was done with a fresh challah)
1 cup fresh spinach
½ cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
½ cup yellow onion, sliced thinly into strings
1 tbsp. butter
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Moroccan Spice Blend seasoning (can be purchased here: http://www.spiceandtea.com/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=Moroccan )


First, take your pork chop and rub it with olive oil. Rub in the Moroccan blend to cover both sides of the chop. Add salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Add your butter to a medium-high nonstick skillet, and once it is melted, add in your mushrooms and onions. Sautee until the onions are translucent, adjusting the heat to low. Sprinkle in your garlic powder and stir, allowing to simmer 5-7 minutes more.

Start your grill and bring it up to 400 degrees. Once heated, throw your chop on and cook until slightly pink in the middle, about 5-7 minutes a side (depending on the thickness of your chop). Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes so that the juices flow back into the meat.

In the meantime, lightly butter one side of each bread slice and toast to your liking. Take your mayo and sriracha in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Spread liberally on one side of the bread (preferably the buttered side, as that will go on the inner works of the sandwich).

Take your spinach and place it on one side of the bread. Top that with your mushroom & onion mixture (they will slightly wilt the spinach, which is what you want). Top THAT with the pork chop and close the deal with the other slice of bread.

Serve it up with some homemade slaw, sweet potato fries, or kettle chips. What you'll get is the juiciness of that perfectly grilled chop, the Middle Eastern flavors of the rub, that heat spike in the mayo, the crunch of the toasted bread and the garlicy pop of the veggies.


After all…why go out? You’ve got Da(m)n Good Food right here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Relish

Price: $$$
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5
Quality of Service: 5 out of 5
Food Overall: 5 out of 5

The word ‘relish’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as “Enjoyment of or delight in something that satisfies one’s tastes, inclinations or desires.”  The gourmet burger joint Relish in West Palm Beach, FL is defined as…well, the exact same thing, really.

I had first learned of this place when a few of my friends on a popular social network were ‘liking’ the page of this eatery. I checked out their website and was intrigued by the innovative menu, so I grabbed the wife and trekked out there.

I say trekked because for us, it’s a 45 minute drive in low traffic. I mention the traffic here not as a means to deter you, but to amplify a point: I don’t drive 45 for WORK, let alone for lunch. However, I’d gladly add another 45 minutes to that time clock just to visit Relish again. THAT. GOOD.

A word of advice: If you plan of going, hit up their website first. They have so many choices and combinations that it will take you a bit to decide what you want. Basically, you get your choice of meat (ranging from good ol’ American ground beef to Lobster. Yes. Lobster.), choose a ‘relish’ (these flavor dynamos run the gamut from an artichoke and spinach spread to teriyaki pineapple sauce), and if you like they have various handmade sides, like sweet potato fries or polenta fingers (all with your choice of 4 different salt combinations!).

Throw in a unique shake and you’re in for a ride to TastyVille, my friend. But I think it’s time we got into the review before I salivate all over my laptop…



Ah, the milkshake. Truly a holy trinity staple (Burger-Fry-Shake), Relish is doing these up fresh-to-order and they’re doing them big. This is the Salted Caramel shake, and that wedge on top? It’s a 4 oz. piece of actual salted caramel, kind of brittle-like in texture, and love-like in flavor.

The shake was creamy and rich, but not so that it ruined your meal by filling you up too quickly (of course, I did split it with my wife). It was absolutely fabulous. They have several other flavors to choose from, like Espresso Bean or Cracker Jack, and I’m looking forward to a new selection on my next visit.



This was my wife’s burger: Ground Beef with Drunken Onions (sweet onions sautéed in beer). This was one of the juiciest burgers I’ve ever had. It was magnificent in its simplicity. You got some salt and pepper, and a good crust on the burger, but really they let the meat shine through.

The onions had that distinct beer taste, almost stout-esque in flavor. However, the beer taste still allowed for the sweetness of the veggie to come through first and foremost. These guys have it down to a science.

The fries are almost like shoestring style, with sea salt. Crispy and fresh cut, with the tender middle and crunchy outside, just like a quality fry should be.



And now, the showstopper: Wild Boar burger topped with brie and blackberry compote. Good. Frakkin. Night. This was just a collision of tastes that took me a minute to think on, but I am so glad I ended up here.

First, the boar: I’d never had it before today, and I was expecting a similar flavor to pork. Not true. It’s really very comparable to beef flavor-wise, with a touch of game to it, but not offensively so. I was juicy and had an sort of ‘leanness’ to it. Delicious.

The brie was the perfect complement to this burger; sharp and pulling up that boar taste to new horizons. And the blackberry compote was tart and sweet enough to mellow everything out and put it all on a level playing field. It’s mana on a bun. Speaking of which, the bun is toasted so that the edges just get a char to them, adding yet ANOTHER flavor profile to your sandwich.

The sweet potato fries, like the regular fries, were crispy and perfectly cooked, and were picked at the right time for that sweet flavor to come through. I accompanied mine with the garlic salt to knock the sweet back a notch, and it worked out beautifully.

They also have desserts, like a DIY S’mores Kit, but by the time we were finished, we were stuffed. In fact, we really didn’t eat dinner that night. Throw in a nice little atmosphere and service with personality and you’ve got a burger joint well worth the drive, no matter where you are.

After all….it’s just Da(m)n Good Food.

Relish
401 Northwood Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33407 
(561) 629-5377
http://www.relishburger.com/

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Rustic Inn


Price: $$$$$
Atmosphere: 3 of 5
Quality of Service: 3 out of 5
Food Overall: 4 out of 5


I’ve covered all kinds of dishes so far on this blog, but I think the one edible ecstasy I haven’t touched on yet is seafood. Why, you ask? Well, I’m not a real big seafood eater. In fact, I’m not too big on fish at all, save the occasional Mahi taco.

Shellfish, on the other hand, I tend to enjoy. Especially crab. Crab to me is the steak of the sea. I know I know, most folk say that about lobster. While I do enjoy lobster, I just crab to have more of a meat consistency and just more flavorful.

The thing is though, crab is expensive. And if I’m going to eat it (or at least pay to eat it), it better be of the top quality crab. Also, crab can be difficult to get at, especially for a novice such as myself. I smash and crack for that little taste of meat, but that’s a lot of work for a little pay off. So as I said, it better be worth my effort.

Welcome to The Rustic Inn, my friends. A South Florida staple (nay, icon) for over 50 years, if you’re going to eat crab I strongly suggest you do so here. This is my wife’s favorite restaurant, and in her first trimester when she was nauseas at the thought of ANY food, this was the one thing she could scarf down and feel totally at peace and somewhat normal.

These people do crab right. In fact, they do all kinds of seafood right. My usual favorite is the ‘All Hands on Deck Platter’, which is a ½ rack of their tangy BBQ ribs, a good size bowl of peel and eat garlic shrimp, a cluster of decadent Alaskan Queen Crab (the easiest to crack and eat, next to King), a boat of these awesomely crunchy potato wedges and the sweetest cornbread you’re gonna find dining out. All this for $26.99, and you don’t leave the table hungry.

The main attraction is my wife’s usual, and I’ve attempted to tackle it a few times myself: The Crab Sampler (That picture up above with the cafeteria tray covered in 1/3 of the ocean’s creatures). This is I don’t know how many pounds of crab, but it comes with their famous garlic crabs, golden crabs, Alaskan queen, and Dungeness crab, plus parsley potatoes.

It’s an insane amount of food. I don’t order it because honestly, it’s just too much for me. My wife and her sister however knock this thing back like it was an appetizer to the ACTUAL Sampler.

But about the flavor: Man. This is top of the line crab. The garlic crabs (note: you MUST be a garlic lover, as this is some potent shellfish) are sweet and pungent with that herby-buttery-garlicky love. The queen is well, just the meatiest, creamiest crab you can get on this tray. The goldens are a nice palette cleanser from the garlic, and everything is so fresh it’s like you were eating on the beach.
It’s a ton of food, and this particular dish is ‘Market Price’ (which means if you need to ask, you probably shouldn’t be eating here). After all, great seafood isn’t cheap my friend. But as I’ve said before, you get what you pay for.

The environment is a child’s dream: It’s loud. It’s packed. You get to destroy things with a mallet. And if you’re prone to headaches, be advised: This is a birthday hotspot. Why does that matter? Because they announce your birthday over the loud speaker and as is tradition, EVERYONE in the restaurant slams the bajeeus out of the table with their crab hammers for about a minute each time.

It’s not a romantic night out, for sure. But it IS a ‘grab a couple friends, head down, have a brew, nosh a crustacean or 15, and just have a good time’ night out. Get there early: they fill up quickly. So bring your wallet, grab some Advil, and don’t forget your appetite.

After all, it’s just Da(m)n Good Food.

The Rustic Inn
4331 Ravenswood Road
Ft. Lauderdale, FL. 33312
954-584-1637
http://www.rusticinn.com/

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Meals on Wheels - Cheese Me



Price: $$$$
Atmosphere: Depends on the location
Quality of Service: 4 out of 5
Food Overall: 3 out of 5

On our recent trip to Bedner’s, the wife and I chose to check out the Cheese Me (http://www.cheeseme.com/ ) truck for our vittles decision. As she’s pregnant, her main craving has been grilled cheese, any which way. So, it made sense that she flocked directly towards this mobile restaurant.

The guys working inside were incredibly friendly and eager to serve you. Of course, when you pay $30.00 for two grilled cheese sandwiches and two cokes, you expect top dollar service. I also decided to try their ‘Truffle Waffle Fries’, as I am a huge fan of truffles, yet I just find better things to spend my money on than truffle oil. You, know, like rent.


For those of you unfamiliar with truffle oil, it is extremely potent, very fragrant, and oh-so-yummy. It’s also about $20.00 for 2.5 oz. of the stuff. So, when I ordered the $6.00 side and only about 8 waffle fries showed up in a little basket, well, it sort of made sense.

I’ll tell you what though: These things were delicious. That truffle flavor was infused in every bite of these crispy, hot fries. It really started the meal off right.


Now, the Sammies: First, let’s review my option: The McShane. This was pulled pork, homemade coleslaw and vintage cheddar, all nicely griddled between two pieces of garlic Texas toast. It was very good, very creamy and extremely rich. There is some sort of creamy sauce on it as well (I think it was mayo), and there was quite a bit of it. A little less of the mayo concoction and this would have made it just a bit more satisfying. But still: Great grilled cheese.


My wife’s choice: The Cheese Us Kryst. This was two pieces of sourdough bread, and in between was provolone, cheddar, mozzarella and American cheeses. This was, quite possibly, the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten.

What makes it so good is that despite its intimidating cheese overload factor, it doesn’t show in the actual taste. Oh yes, it’s VERY cheesy, but you don’t get that heavy ‘Ugh, I just ate four cheeses fried on buttered bread’ feeling. It had a…daintiness to it, if you will.

If this truck passes down our way again, I’d definitely stop in for a nosh. It brings you back to that simple time when a good grilled cheese fixed everything, but it also brings some grown up to the party to remind you that, “Hey, it’s life but it’ll be ok. Here, have a sammich.”

After all, it’s just Da(m)n Good Food.

Meals on Wheels - The Fire Within


Price: $$$
Atmosphere: Depends on the location
Quality of Service: 3 out of 5
Food Overall: 1 out of 5

Ah, food trucks. Those mobile little venues of mouth treats delivered to a destination within 10-25 miles of your couch.  I’ve always read about food trucks, seen them on TV, but I’ve never really had the chance to get into them (unless you count those so called ‘roach coaches’ that used to pull up at the warehouse with a sammich or sodas during lunch time).

A few weeks ago at Bedner’s Fresh Market (See the ‘Porky & Beth’s BBQ’ review form more info), they had a few food trucks come by to sell their wares to the masses. I grabbed the little woman, my buddy Warren, and his wife and hopped in the car for what we hoped would be a taste extravaganza explosion type of day.

Warren opted to go to The Fire Within (https://www.facebook.com/TheFireWithinFoodTruck ) for his first go ‘round. He ordered the skirt steak skewers on a bed of beans and rice. Now, food trucks can gather quite the line rather quickly, so it took a good 20 minutes or so to get these meat sticks in his mitts, but steak can take time to do right.


Which makes me wonder what took them so long, as this dish did not represent quality in any way, shape or form. You get two decent sized skewers, with a mini-skirt on each stick, and covered with a thick salsa type of chimichurri. Ok, so first things first: If you do something on a stick, it’s ill advised to cover it in a chunky, non-adhesive condiment. As soon as you pick it up, that stuff slides right off.

But in this case, that was ok because for a salsa/chimichurri, it was virtually flavorless. It’s like they sucked the taste right out of the onions, tomatoes and peppers that looked so bright and inviting. Regardless, it’s a condiment. Yes, it should be tasty, but to be honest, he paid 14.00 for the steak, not a spoonful of veggies.

Unlike the salsa, there was nothing ‘virtual’ about the skirt steak. It was COMPLETELY flavorless. No seasoning (that includes SALT) at all, and what’s worse, the steak was cooked to death. Now I get some people have an aversion to rare meat, and that’s ok. But this was dry, chewy meat that just tasted disappointing. In fact, if disappointment was a purchasable spice, I’d say they marinated this steak in it for a week.

The rice and beans were either out of a can (garbage or otherwise), as they too were dried out and flavorless. It just goes to show you kids, looks can be deceiving. I write this review as a warning. Not to stray you from food trucks (see my review on the ‘Cheese Me’ food truck), but to stay away from this Fire.

After all….this food sucks.

Sabor




Price: $$$
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5
Quality of Service: 4 out of 5
Food Overall: 4 out of 5

By now I’m sure you know that I am a Cuban food junkie. And the best part about living in South Florida is that you are literally surrounded with dozens of choices in any given county of delectable Spanish cuisine. Even better? They spring up all the time so there’s always something new to try, and even better than that is a lot of them are originals: No Chain Required.

This particular restaurant, Sabor, is located in Boynton Beach, FL. Is one such ‘original’ eatery. My wife and I (I spend a lot of time with her judging from my posts, don’t I?) actually found this place through Groupon and figured we’d give it a try. I am so glad that we did.

The first time we ate there we were impressed, however they had just opened and the chef at the time was a BIG fan of cumin. I’m not sure how familiar you are with this lovely spice, but trust me when I say that a little goes a loooooong way. She however, had a difference of opinion. The black beans and mojo were just doused with it, and it was kind of off-putting. However, the rest of the meal was very good.

So, when Groupon offered up another coupon for them, we bought it instantly and returned to this lovely little restaurant. It’s simply decorated, yet has that ambiance of romance and privacy to it. Light colors and intimate lighting are perfect for date night. The servers are bubbly and have great personalities, and are very knowledgeable about the menu.

Our waiter this time recommended we start off with the Quesadillas De Camerones, and we went with it. These things are now a must for us on our next visit. These are not your basic quesadillas. Filled with meaty shrimp, velvety cheeses and a spicy little house sauce for dipping, it’s a great way to whet the palette for the meal to come.

Their salads are crisp and always have that fresh quality to them, and the homemade dressing is just fabulous.  

The actual meal though? Wow. Leaps and bounds above our first visit (we were informed after the meal that they hired a new chef who now does his own spin on the recipes left behind. Kudos for that type of forward thinking, as we both agree on the proper usage of cumin).

We both had ordered the Churrasco, which is a marinated skirt steak, cooked to perfection and covered in a scratch made chimichurri sauce. The steak was juicy, with a wonderful blend of spices and herbs coating the outside, char-grilled and covered in this cilantro-y, garlicky love topping. The black beans and rice were definitely changed, with subtle hints of bell pepper, onion, and cumin (subtle, but present). And the plantains were sweet and fried up nicely.

Top all that off with a Cuban coffee and some of the richest flan I’ve ever had, and you’ve got a great meal in a unique spot. Be sure to keep an eye on Groupon, as they love to use this site. Snatch it up and take your favorite person (or persons) along with ya. We’ll see you there.

After all, it’s just Da(m)n Good Food.

Sabor
220 N Congress Ave Boynton Beach FL, 33426

California Pizza Kitchen

Price: $$$$
Atmosphere: 3 out of 5
Quality of Service: 3 out of 5
Food Overall: 3 out of 5



Chains. Some people swear by them, while others (read: my wife), not so much. But chains can be useful, no? Chains restrain murderous criminals from choking you to death in a courtroom. Chains keep that heavy machinery suspended so when you walk under it you’re not instantly destroyed.

But of course, this is a food blog, and the chains we talk about here are food related. Chili’s. Duffy’s. La Bamba. While these places are good for the quick fix (La Bamba is actually one of my favorite Mexican joints), they’re not necessarily ‘unique’. Today’s spotlight is on California Pizza Kitchen (CPK).

This place has multiple locations across this great nation of ours, and although it is a chain, it’s one of those ‘higher end’ chains. For example, McDonald’s is a chain, but it’s a bottom feeder and not worth another mention on this blog. It serves a purpose, but mostly to late night drunkards and recreational narcotics users.

CPK is a chain in the realms of Grand Lux Café or J. Alexander’s. Better quality of food, finer quality of service (usually), and it definitely comes with an amped up price tag. However, I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for, which is why I don’t eat at CiCi’s.

My wife had received several gift cards for CPK as a holiday gift, so we decided to have dinner on the fine students at Ideal Middle School. We started with these little BBQ tacos, part of their Small Cravings menu. Simple enough: Two flour tortillas, stuffed with cilantro, Korean style BBQ’d beef in this nice soy-based sauce. They were a tiny bit dry for my tastes, but the flavor profile was definitely present.

We had our dinner salads which were just salads (good, but not worth a paragraph here), but they’re a ‘Pizza Kitchen’ for a reason. I ordered their new Habanero Carnitas pizza with thin crust. This was a really good pizza. It’s got layers of slow roasted pulled pork, tangy red onions, a mild cilantro pesto that only comes through at the end of your bite, quality cheeses that add that creaminess you’d expect in a pie, without being overly cheesy.

The key to this pizza however is the habanero salsa. It comes on the side so you don’t have to worry about igniting your tastebuds on bite#1, however, you’re really gonna want to dive into this stuff. It’s spicy, don’t get me wrong, but it brings a new level of flavor that really takes the pizza to another plateau.

The service was good enough and the décor is appealing to the yuppie crowd (we were in Boca, after all).My wife ordered the spinach and artichoke pizza, which was delightfully creamy with the perfect amount of spinach flavor flowing through the entire dish. Again, while chains may not be ‘diamonds in the rough’, you can find a gem or two if you hit the right ones.

After all, it’s just Da(m)n Good Food (For a chain).

California Pizza Kitchen
http://www.cpk.com