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FINALLY! Parker’s Grille, reviewed

Parker’s has been open in SF for a few months now and I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to go there (except for the brief visit during Tastes of Downtown in which I ate nothing and felt my drink tasted watered down).  But the place is always packed.  I mean PACKED – you can see diners crowding up the place, no parking in front, etc.  Which is what usually happens around here when a new restaurant opens up.  Anyway, I wasn’t willing to deal with the crowds.  However, on Saturday afternoon, after a late breakfast and a leisurely couple of hours exploring the first garage sales of spring, we found ourselves at the Copy Shop picking up tickets for Pirates of Penzance at the Smith Opera House, decided we were hungry, and traipsed across the street to a fairly empty Parker’s.

The front room, with its several two-top tables flanked by pairs of mismatched fancy chairs, is really quite cute.  The chairs range from cushy (but too low for the table) bucket-types to colonial and queen anne-type armchairs and side chairs, with pretty upholsteries.  The artwork is a little mismatched, but perhaps mismatching is the name of the game in the front room.  The bar area is just what you’d expect – tables and booths and far too many televisions.  Actually that is probably something I would change about the front room – take out the TVs.  If you want sports-bar atmosphere, sit in the other area.  The front room is loungey and nice for sharing a meal, conversation (granted, I do think the volume on the sets in the front room was off), and watching the goings-on of Seneca Falls’ main street.

The food was very simply not worth the fuss.  I ordered a side salad, plus their half-sandwich and cup of soup combo.  The salad was plain jane – iceberg lettuce (!), no onions, no croutons, the carrot was a long, leathery piece shaved with a potato peeler, and the cucumbers were puckered about the sides from sitting in the refrigerator case.  So unimpressive.

I opted for safe with my sandwich choice – tuna salad on wheat.  It was not too mayonnaisey, but it was a bit salty.  Overall it was fine.  It was served on a plate alongside a handful of potato chips, although the menu said that sandwiches were served with tortilla chips and salsa.  I wouldn’t have cared either way, but no one mentioned the substitution.  They were kettle chips, which are crunchier and yummier than regular potato chips.

The soup I ordered was soup of the day – which was labeled as a summer squash soup.  It was a thickened broth with bits of yellow squash and halved grape tomatoes floating in it and it was actually very tasty.  I’m pretty sure the thickness came from the squash itself, blended into the broth, rather than any cream-based roux, and I didn’t detect any evidence of corn or other starchy veg to thicken it.  It was good but unfortunately, it is not a regular menu item.

Hubby ordered a grilled chicken Caesar salad, which was pretty good.  The chicken was freshly grilled and coated with a nice spice combination.

Afterwards we headed back across the street and stopped into Zuzu’s for a cappuccino.  I realized then that we should have just made Zuzu’s our lunch spot.  Quieter and a less-friendly atmosphere, but the lunch menu sounded much more delicious and fresh.

Bottom line on Parker’s:  go there if you want pub food (think potato skins, wings) and a casual, sports-bar atmosphere.  I don’t think we’ll be back unless I want a burger or something deep-fried.

Parker’s Grille & Tap House

86 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY

www.parkersgrille.com

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Reviews

 

In like a lion, out like a lamb?

The title of this post has nothing whatsoever to do with the weather, although if this March IS going out like a lamb, it’s a smelly, wet, unpleasant lamb.  The title has more to do with the shameful fact that my last post was the first of March, and here we are on the last day of the month (having skipped the ides completely), with not much new to report!  So out of obligation, a post is born.

I actually meant to post a few weeks ago, as hubby and I joined some friends for a night out -quite literally- on the town. Downtown, that is.  The local middle school put on some function co-sponsored by a number of restaurants downtown to support the boosters or some such school-related charity.  Maybe it was the high school.  I’m not sure – but it was called “tastes of downtown” and by virtue of numbers, it appears to have been a success.  By virtue of having been an attendee, I would beg to differ.

The concept was fantastic – a moveable feast.  Start with a drink and a nosh at one restaurant, move the party to another for a different menu, then another, and so on.  Unfortunately it was a bit poorly organized and not well-advertised.  Also I think the local contributing restaurants could have participated with a bit more gusto.  However, at least there was some participation.  I’m a little disappointed by how many local joints opted out of what could have been both a real money-maker for the school and great publicity for themselves.  

We started at the extremely-crowded Red’s, which we have never been to before, after living here for over 2 years.  I’m not sure if it was so crowded because it was around 8, during an event that took place from 7-10pm, or some other reason.  Red’s is the local pub where, late at night, many a drunken and poorly-dressed person who I can only recognize by the moniker “redneck” can be found smoking just outside the door, sporting an open container.  So the biggest surprise of the night was when we realized that was the best food we’d eaten.  To be fair though, we didn’t even eat at the last 2 places.  We were tipsy and on the verge of full, and couldn’t be bothered with the soggy-looking sandwich offerings at Parkers (good job, new place – way to make a first impression!) and Divine @ the Clarence (so much for upscale).  Even more disappointing, particularly at the Clarence, was the lack of drink specials to accompany the “tastes” that were offered.  We paid as much for a cocktail, a beer and a soda at Red’s as we did for one glass of wine at the Clarence.

Other participating eateries were Bull’s Run, which was predictably blah but at least there was room to sit and breathe without the suffocating crowd of Red’s.  Nonni’s Italian Market subbed for Downtown Deli, handing out meatball sliders and odd bits of broken-up chocolates (really?).  Like I said, we also went to Parker’s and the Clarence, but didn’t feast at either because the offerings weren’t too appetizing.

Not participating that evening, and hence deserving a place on my wall of shame:

Zuzu’s – hello… new ownership, new “scene” with extended hours and live music – maybe participating would have brought more people in?

Happy Family – you have a perfect bar area where you could have laid out dim sum-type foods without disrupting your diners, and you missed a chance to win over the residents who might still choose Lin’s

Lin’s Kitchen – I am surprised that you would miss an opportunity to get back some of the business Happy Family might have taken from you!

Jeremy’s Cafe – I have never been here, have no idea what you sell, but hey!  That’s EXACTLY why you should have participated!

Avicolli’s – I can kinda let this one slide, because you’re a LITTLE far off the downtown strip and maybe not too many people would have trekked down there for a free garlic knot or whatever.  But that’s also kind of the reason why you should have done it.

All in all, it was a fun night out.  We spent time getting to know new friends, saw several familiar faces, and got to do something different, as we don’t often go carousing downtown (or really anywhere, for that matter).  However I am happy to offer my services to the booster club or whichever school organization was responsible for this event, because our students. and some local businesses, could have benefited much more given a little marketing pizzazz and some good old-fashioned strong-arming (or friendly charm, whatever) with the local eateries!

And now, onto April showers … at least according to www.weather.com!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Reviews

 

Happy March!

So far my re-entry into the blogosphere has been pretty underwhelming.  We’ve eaten out a few times, but not anywhere new, and although I have made both some lovely red velvet cupcakes AND a rich, yummy cookies-n-creme cake, I am honestly too lazy to upload the photos to turn the recipes into a worthwhile blog post.  But now it’s March, and March means spring, and spring means new beginnings and turning over a new leaf and all that.  So I thought I’d share some information, on the extremely unlikely chance that anyone is reading this AND is in or around Seneca Falls, looking for some yummy food.  Here are two mini-reviews on two local eateries – one upscale, one not.

1.  Happy Family Chinese Restaurant.  To be fair, I have never been to Lin’s Kitchen, because I heard horror stories that couldn’t even tempt my curiosity to try them out with my go-to “new Chinese place” order: pork lo mein and wonton soup.  That is unfair to Lin’s, and so maybe one day I will check it out, if only to quell my conscience that I was NOT being snobby by continuing to boycott the place after its only positive review came from a drunken redneck running up the street with an open container, trying to dissuade us from going into Happy Family. 

All that aside, people should know that the food at Happy Family is good, always fresh, and the portions are reasonable (i.e. they neither overfeed nor starve you).  Their dumplings are light and delicious, the boneless spare rib tips are smoky and sweet and just delicious – normally I would avoid this meal but I find myself stealing pieces off hubby’s plate all the time!  My favorite dish is NOT on the eat-in menu but it is on the take out menu (???) – Lin’s Special pan-fried noodles is a combination of beef, chicken and baby shrimp in sauce with noodles and perfectly cooked vegetables.  The broccoli is still green, people!  So, so good.

Other than Maneki Niko (the cute lucky cat figurine that seems to be waving to everyone) and a few lucky bamboos, the decor hasn’t changed at all since it was Henry B’s.  You would think that might be strange in a Chinese restaurant but it imbues the atmosphere with an elegance that enhances the dining experience.  The bar is now a tea bar and display combined with a pickup area for to-go orders, which is usually a complete cluster but has gotten better. 

2. Divine Kitchen & Bar at the Hotel Clarence.  I have been here only twice, but oddly enough the two experiences were vastly different!  I had my birthday dinner here in December 2009, not very long after it had opened.  I ordered the Chimichurri Steak, which was, in fact, divine.  However I’m not too sure why it’s called that – I make a killer chimi (thanks to the recipe from my friend John) and this steak had nothing going on that resembled the parsley-garlic-vinegar combination traditional in a chimichurri sauce.  I asked the waitress about it and she had no idea what I was talking about.  I suppose I could have asked to speak to the chef or whatever but it’s not like the food was BAD – so I let it go.  Hublet had the pork chops and loved them – also the side dish he had, which was some kind of potato gratin with sweet and white (maybe yukon gold?) potato, was fantastic.  I don’t remember my side dish but I remember it being good.

Since it was my birthday, we had dessert.  Like most couples, when we order dessert out, we share it … although by “share” I mean that he gets a spoon and usually has at least 2 or 3 chances to dip it into whatever happy ending I’ve ordered.  This time I was really loath to share – not because dessert was soooo fantastic but because it was the size of a mini muffin.  Seriously.  It was the flourless chocolate cake, a la mode, with berries.  Really good, and if I recall the ice cream was homemade, but it was child-sized, which wasn’t reflected in the price ($7!!!).

My OTHER experience at the Divine Kitchen was for lunch.  It was for a lunch meeting actually, so I scoped out the menu beforehand to decide which median-price range lunch dish would cause the least mess while simultaneously preserving my breath and allow me to look neither like a salad waif (which would be really, really hard to do) or a ravenous and sloppy eater.  Boy, did I choose wrong.  I chose the chicken salad sandwich … suffice it to say that the chunks of chicken were so large, I was better off eating them with a fork.  The sandwich was overstuffed, which is a feature I NEVER appreciate in a sandwich (mainly because I have a small mouth but also because the flavors are not evenly distributed if it’s almost all filling … let the bread shine!).  So the salad was falling out all over the place, and I wound up eating a bunch of french fries for lunch – NOT the image I wanted.  And overall, even though it was chock-full of fresh fruit and not overly mayonnaised, the chicken salad had almost no flavor.  I was really surprised, considering how delicious my last meal there had been.

So as I was writing this post, I checked the restaurant’s website to double-check the menu items.  The chimichurri steak is no longer on the dinner menu, and the pork chops have been replaced by a pork loin.  I don’t know how often the chef changes the menu but I’m sad to see that steak go – it was really tender and flavorful, even if I didn’t recognize any of the chimi components.  Also? The lunch menu is gone.  Weird!

That’s all I have for today.  I’ll get around to uploading those photos so I can share recipes soon … especially since the countdown to fresh veggies from the farmer’s markets (and my own little “kinder” garden) has begun!

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Reviews

 

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new Mexican in Auburn

How exciting, my first restaurant review!  We definitely eat out enough to warrant this!  I’m not too sure of the proper etiquette here, so bear with me. 

Mi Casa Mexicana, the new Mexican restaurant in Auburn, is in the tiny strip mall by Cameron’s bakery and our awesome State Farm agent, Mary Andrews.  Last night we stopped in for a pre-Valentine’s dinner since this year Valentine’s Day is most disagreeably on a Monday night. 

When we drove up, it looked as if people were waiting to be seated and my husband does NOT wait for food, so I ran in to see if there was a wait.  The restaurant is small, with maybe 15 tables, and there is a take-out section with a cashier a little further in.  I was seated right away but as the restaurant was about 80% full, we were seated at a table that could not POSSIBLY accommodate more than 2 people.  I will assume that the crowd was due to the relative newness of the place, which just opened a few weeks ago.  By the time we left, around 8:30, it was nearly deserted.

The decor is quite nice – the colors are muted and earthy as is to be expected from a Mexican restaurant, and there are cute little touches like hand-painted ceramics and decorative sombreros on the walls.  The tables bear real tablecloths, which is nice, and atop each is also a brightly colored serape-type fabric like a family-size placemat, or in lieu of a table runner.  There is a vase on each table with layered beans, which is adorable, but the fake flower arrangements, which include unfortunate mini-gourds, say “autumn” more loudly than they do “Mexico,” as do the curtains at the front of the restaurant which are adorned with a fall-foliage arrangement up top.  Still, it is pleasant and the tables are not too close together.  I could hear my neighbors’ chatter but only because they were a little on the loud side.

We ordered the choriqueso as an appetizer.  This is a dish that I fell in love with years ago at another Mexican joint in another city altogether.  It is basically melted cheese and chorizo (sometimes you get the Mexican, raw chorizo and sometimes the Spanish, cured chorizo) with spices, melted under the broiler until bubbling and served with chips or tortillas.  The choriqueso at Mi Casa Mexicana was adequate – it appeared to be a mix of cheddar and monterey jack cheeses, but there was little or no spice added to the mix, and the chorizo was more like seasoned ground beef.  It was good, but very, very mild and a little on the boring side.  If you have had this dish before and love it – don’t order it there.  You will be disappointed.

For our entrees, I order the steak and chicken fajitas, and hubby ordered a 3-item combination (quesadilla, burrito, and taco).  The fajitas did not arrive on a sizzling platter, leaving a trail of smoke and delicious aroma that makes the rest of the patrons turn and drool.  The meal was served on a plate!  There were almost no onions, but plenty of tomato and green peppers.  Again, it was adequate.  The chicken was tender and flavorful but the steak was a bit chewy – I’m not sure what cut they used.  I was given pico de gallo, guacamole, and something called charro beans on the side.  The guacamole was perfect.  Not too chunky, perfectly salted, not too much lime, it was really, really good and I wished I’d had more.  The pico is also really fresh and delicious.  The beans are interesting – pinto beans with maybe chorizo and bacon, served in a small bowl with liquid.  I don’t know how authentic this dish is – I’ve been to Mexico 3 times and have never been served beans like that, but the flavor was good.  However, I wish they had been drained before serving – it just seems like a dry cleaning accident waiting to happen.  Oh and the tortillas were also delicious – served hot, slightly charred … I think they were made on premises.

I didn’t eat any of hubby’s meal except the rice (eh) and the refried beans (delicious).  He loved the burrito and enjoyed the crunchy taco, both of which he got with the ground beef.  He did not enjoy the bean and cheese quesadilla.  I think he would have liked it much more had he ordered a quesadilla with some kind of meat rather than beans, but he never listens to me.

Since I’d already decided that I was going to start a food blog, I had a perfect excuse to order dessert – something we don’t often do (not because we don’t like dessert; we are just usually too stuffed).  We shared the fried ice cream, and it was delicious.  I haven’t had fried ice cream in years, but I always remember it having a cinnamon-y coating.  This hefty scoop of vanilla was coated in what we  decided (and the waiter later confirmed) was corn flakes, coconuts, and oreos.  It was a really nice combination; the corn flakes gave it a pleasant chewiness and the chocolate was a nice change.  The coconut was barely discernible and they should probably let patrons know about it considering all the food allergies these days, but I think we would have missed it if it wasn’t there.  Overall, this was the best dish we ate.

I DO recommend this place.  The service was good, the food was fresh, and I think there are other items on the menu which would probably do the place more justice than the old standby-type dishes we ordered.  I think they could bear to kick it up a notch or two with the spices – not because I like spicy food but because I think the recipes are a little too bland for their namesakes.  It might be that they are pandering to the area, but in that case they should offer a “more spicy/less spicy” option as many other restaurants do.

I’m sure we’ll go back sometime, and when we do, if we’re still not wowed by the food then we’ll probably not visit again.  But I think it’s a lovely new spot, where the colorful, cheery decor (and maybe a margarita or two – come to think of it, I’m not sure if they had drinks!) can help you forget the cold outside for a while.

Highlights – guacamole; fried ice cream

Mi Casa Mexicana,  171 Grant Avenue, Auburn NY, 315.255.CASA

www.micasamexicana.com

closed Mondays

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Reviews

 

Hello world!

So blogosphere, we meet again.

In searching for this blog name, I came across a fellow finger lakes food blogger (whom I plan to “follow” as soon as I get set up here).  I connected with her instantly …why?  Because she’s a female? In the same upstate NY region?  Who ostensibly likes cake?  Who writes intelligibly with clean syntax and without Random Capitalization Disease?  Is possibly the same age group as I am?  Yes, yes, for all of those reasons.  But also because, her initial post said that she became obsessed with blogging after watching Julie & Julia, and really – how cute is that? 

I have blogged before, but it has been years and my old blog was really just personal meanderings; nothing that would be of use to anyone.  Here, I hope to be slightly more helpful.  I was out shopping with my hubs, and we decided to stop into a new restaurant for a pre-Valentine’s dinner.  And as we were sitting at the too-small table, I thought to myself … I should send a facebook message to [insert friend name] and tell her about this new place.  And then I thought … maybe I should write on urbanspoon.com or whatever and tell EVERYONE about this new place.  And then I thought, nah.  But THEN I thought, ooh maybe I’ll blog it.  You know, like Julie & Julia, only not really.  And as I explained to my poor, bored husband what I thought I might do, I decided to, in fact, do it.  So here we are.

However – this being the pre-Valentine’s Saturday night, I don’t think I will continue blogging just now.  It’s enough to set it up and lay the stage.  Tomorrow I will regale you all (and by “you all,” I mean the precisely 0 people who presently know about/are likely to read this blog) with my review of …crap, where is that business card?… of Mi Casa Mexicana in Auburn, NY.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Uncategorized