May 31, 2013

Somerset Diner (New Jersey)

Despite all my time on the East Coast, I don't think I've ever eaten in a Jersey diner-- until this summer! It was for the non-bachelorette weekend of That Sara, and after a night of celebrating, we all needed some REAL FOOD.

We waited about 30 minutes for a table here at the Somerset Diner-- this place was never less than packed.

I started with the a cup of strong, hot coffee. Thank you!
That Sara ordered a macchiato, I believe, and it sure was pretty!
Complete with rock candy stirrer! 

Amid a sea of options, I finally settled on the Irish Scrambler skillet (9.99!) with corned beef, onion, potatoes, and Hollandaise sauce. However, I found out they had CHIPOTLE Hollandaise sauce, and asked if they could sub that in my dish. Yeah, I was kind of THAT person. It was good, but I wish there had been more of a chipotle flavor to it.

We all had some spin on eggs that morning.. eggs with a lot of other stuff to bring us back to life again. V had the Farmer's omelette, with fresh, oozy mozzarella and lots of veggies.

That Sara got another skillet, hers with basted eggs and bacon. I was so close to getting hers, but the corned beef and Hollandaise won me over. If I could have had my eggs basted instead of scrambled, that would have been ideal --but I didn't want to get TOO demanding.

The staff was super friendly, and our server didn't even blink at my special request. There was a bit of wait for coffee, but our server was working a ton of tables and made sure the coffee we did get was fresh. I think I had at least 3 cups that morning!

The food was hot, fresh, and came quickly, the price was right, the service was great, and overall, my first Jersey diner experience was a delicious success!

Somerset Diner
1045 Easton Ave
Somerset, NJ 08873
(732) 828-5424

May 29, 2013

La Fondita (Happy Start of Summer!)

Summer has unofficially kicked off, and if you're heading out east on Long Island, ABF & I have a great place to recommend: La Fondita! And as of today, La Fondita is open 7 days a week for the summer!

Thank you, Foursquare, for introducing BBF and me to this jewel of a place! It was close by, affordable, and OPEN, which is rare at that time of year (this was a few weeks ago, not quite full-blown summer season).
La Fondita is located right on Montauk highway, so whether you're coming or going, it's an easy stop.

Everything there is made fresh and it shows--both in looks and flavor. I went with one single fish taco and two shrimp tacos. They're small tacos, so 2-3 per person should do the trick.

Fish taco-- get 2!
That fish taco was phenomenal-- I'd settle happily for two of those on my next visit.

Shrimp Tacos
The shrimp, fresh, crunchy veggies, and homemade tortillas were tops. My shrimp taco was a bit too liquidy and my tortilla fell apart, but that did not stop me from devouring it.

ABF ordered the seafood burrito: a fried fish fillet wrapped up in a freshly-made tortilla. OutSTANDing, though admittedly not so photogenic. I went back for two bites of that seafood burrito-- perfectly-cooked fish, crunchy slaw, and tongue-tingling salsa.

Jarritos & Mexican Coke (real sugar, no HFCS)
 Bonus: they also have one of my favorite sodas: Jarritos, and another favorite of both of ours: Mexican Coke. These are made in Mexico and use real cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. If you have not yet tried one of these, make this the summer you do so!

While we contentedly finished our food, we saw a lot of people came into get take out. There's also a decent outdoor seating area that will no doubt be full once the warmer weather gets going. The staff are friendly and welcoming, our food was fresh and arrived quickly, and it's a great spot to fuel up before getting back on the road.

We loved every morsel of our meal at La Fondita, and will be sure to swing by a few more times this summer. I can imagine grabbing a fish taco and a Jarrito at the end of a sunny, sandy day-- bliss!
La Fondita

74 Montauk Hwy

Amagansett, NY 11930

(631) 267-8800

May 28, 2013

Peaches Hothouse

Peaches Hothouse has been on my infamous, ever-growing "List" for years now-- and thanks to 2 friends as game for good food as I am, we recently made it happen!

We got there a bit before the dinner rush, so there was no wait (rare!) for our table.

Peaches offers all sorts of Southern fare, but we were all about their famous "Nashville-style" Hot Chicken. I got the plain old hot chicken, while my 2 friends, K & M, ordered the EXTRA HOT. They will warn you that the EXTRA HOT is painfully hot. In fact, our server said "I don't recommend it to ANYONE." We decided to live a little and proceed anyway.

We also ordered some drinks! Cheers!

My first drink was the Ma Rainey, made with Ciroc peach, peach Schnapps, and fruit juice. This tasted dangerously like the best fruit punch you ever did drink. Yum.

K ordered a Lightning drink-- I can't remember what's in it, but I know K liked it.
M ordered the Howling Wolf (ginger beer, goslings and lime - aka dark and stormy) and enjoyed that, too!
But back to the chicken-- it's heavily spiced, I think mostly with cayenne pepper, and it's juicy, delicious, and yes, a little hot. But only a little! I ate the hot and while I enjoy hot food, I do not enjoy melting my face off, so I felt like this was just right.

My regular hot chicken with mac & cheese
I don't care what is in this chicken-- I have never devoured a fried chicken like I did this day. Normally gristle and tendons and snappy things hold me back-- not at Peaches! There was little more than bones left on my plate when it was all over. Easily some of the best friend chicken I've ever had the pleasure of eating. The mashed potatoes and mac and cheese were both excellent-- I only had a bite of the cole slaw, and I thought it was okay, but generally I do not like it anyway, so what the hell do I know?

Extra hot w/mashed potatoes
Extra hot with "crispy" cole slaw
It was hot, yes, but a slow, building, prickly heat. By the time you finish your meal, you might be sweating a little, but you're not in pain. You're just full and happy and you're maybe a bit warm. Have an ice-cold drink!

For round 2, K & I ordered the Georgia Peach, sweet tea with a kick. This was good and comes in a big Mason jar, but it wasn't quite as good as the Ma Rainey. I did enjoy it, but I'd rather have had another Ma Rainey.
We even went for dessert: rum cake with ice cream for K & me, and the chocolate cake for M, who isn't a fan of rum. I have to say I tasted more coconut than rum in the cake, which was buttery and light and way better than I expected. This was a winner.

M shared some of her chocolate cake, which was also delicious and had plenty of rich chocolate icing. Good, but not as good as the rum cake.

By the time we left, there was a growing group of people waiting outside for tables. This food is worth the wait, but I'm happy we didn't have to go through that part!

Service was excellent, we ate every bite of our food, and our eyes almost popped out of our heads when we saw our drinks were FIVE DOLLARS EACH. That's unheard of in NYC. One more reason to love Brooklyn!

Peaches Hothouse
415 Tompkins Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11216
(718) 483-9111

May 10, 2013

El Chico Cafe (OK)

I recently traveled to Oklahoma-- one of the 5 states (MA, RI, TX, OK, and now NY) where I have lived my fabulous life, to welcome my Very First Nephew to the world. This week's posts are all about the yumminess I got to eat while there. Hey, a girl's gotta eat, even if it's around the very demanding schedule of a baby in no particular rush to get here!

While I was initially dragged kicking and screaming (okay, more like sulking and crying) from Massachusetts to Oklahoma, I have to admit the state gave me my love for Tex-Mex and spicy foods (along with some amazing friends whom I still treasure). In fact, a chain restaurant still holds the title of best chimichanga in my book: El Chico. I love this dish so much, I actually went there THREE times in one week! THREE. TIMES.

Let's start at the beginning though: El Chico is famous for their flaky crispy chips and salsa. The salsa is rich,  tomato-ey (sp?) and has a decent, peppery kick. It won't burn off your tongue, but you will feel a nice prickly heat. The chips are the perfect consistency: not too large, just thin enough. Okay, they may occasionally the break off in the salsa, but I prefer that to crunching through too-thick chips.

My sister opted for the chimichanga trio, which came with cheese, beef & chicken. Don't be fooled--these are good, yes, but not as craveable as my must-order dish! Confession (I secretly hoped this spicy food would kick my sister into labor. No dice. Stubborn baby!!)

El Chico makes an outrageously spectacular chicken fajita chimichanga. It's filled with seasoned chicken fajita  meat,  Monterey Jack cheese, and fresh crunchy bits of green jalapeno. The chimichanga manages to be crispy, yet not greasy. The cheesy filling oozes out of it in the most delicious way. I tried chimichangas at many different restaurants, and they just don't compare to this one. Yes, it's a chain, with locations in several states, but the consistency of the deliciousness is what wins it for me at El Chico.

The fact that their house margarita is 20 ounces for $5.55 (!!) that certainly doesn't hurt either!

A few days later, my mutha &  I slipped out of the hospital for a much-needed meal. My mother told my sister 'Don't you dare have that baby while we're gone,' (she didn't!) and then we zipped down to the Promenade Mall location of El Chico.

This place is maddeningly dark inside, but service was quick and efficient. I ordered the same thing: house rita & chicken fajita chimichanga. There's a slight difference in presentation here: no tortilla cup of queso, no squiggle of chipotle on the chimichanga, and the refried beans are puréed (whereas at the BA location, it was half purée, half whole beans). Good, but it's maybe just not quite as cracktastic. I still ate almost all of it, but the Broken Arrow location is the tops to me.

If you have room at the end (and I only did once), share the sizzing skillet apple pie, which has a brandy butter sauce. Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaacktastic! I believe they used to serve it with vanilla ice cream instead of the current cinnamon-- I liked the vanilla version better. Oooh! That brandy butter sauce..

This was my first meal in Tulsa, and one of my last. I went here three times in a week, people. THREE TIMES. And I got the same thing everytime: chicken fajita chimichanga. ZOMG.
(They have 3 locations in the Tulsa area, but the Broken Arrow one listed below is by far the best!)
El Chico Cafe

732 W New Orleans St Broken Arrow, OK 74011

(918) 451-0633

May 09, 2013

The Vault (OK)

I recently traveled to Oklahoma-- one of the 5 states (MA, RI, TX, OK, and now NY) where I have lived my fabulous life, to welcome my Very First Nephew to the world. This week's posts are all about the yumminess I got to eat while there. Hey, a girl's gotta eat, even if it's around the very demanding schedule of a baby in no particular rush to get here!
I had a quick Happy Hour one night with some of the former coworkers, now fabulous friends, from my days in TV News. Seeing as Tulsa is practically unrecognizable from the days when I lived there, I left the locale up to them, and they suggested The Vault, a former bank turned restaurant/lounge. Formerly the First National Auto Bank (built in the late 1950s), it was, at the time, the world’s largest auto bank with 6 drive through lanes. That equals ample close parking now. :)

I had the Lovely Rita, made with Luna Azul reposado tequila, house made beet syrup, lime juice & agave nectar. This was silky smooth and absolutely delicious. It's not often that I sip a cocktail that exceptional-- I highly recommend the Lovely Rita! (PS: I had TWO--they are sublime!!)

Lovely Rita

Someone ordered some bruschetta 3 ways for the table: tomato, basil, feta & olives, a crab, veggie cream cheese & capers and a Chef’s choice, which had shredded chicken, red onions, a hefty layer of avocado, and bacon. They were all delicious, but the chef's choice was cracktastic. This bruschetta was anything but boring.

I also tried the pretzel roll, but this wasn't my thing. I'm not really a pretzel person in any form, actually. Back to more bruschetta!

LKP in the TomTom room
Upstairs, the Vault has a separate, casual lounge called the TomTom Room. It wasn't open at the time, but they let us in for a peek and I copped a seat in this sweet chair. This space looks like a lot of fun.

TomTom Room
 The Vault is a gorgeous, sun-soaked spot, with tables downstairs and up, lots of room, friendly service, and an interesting, inspiring choice of drinks (including choices from NYC's famous watering hole McSorley's and Brooklyn's Red Hook ESB!) and nibbles. It's spacious, you can actually hear your friends without yelling across the table-- and look at that view from above! All that personal space is just dreamy to this New Yorker! Dreamy!  I'd head back here for sure...

The Vault
620 S Cincinnati Ave
Tulsa, OK 74103
(918) 948-6761

May 08, 2013

Andolini's Pizza (OK)

I recently traveled to Oklahoma-- one of the 5 states (MA, RI, TX, OK, and now NY) where I have lived my fabulous life, to welcome my Very First Nephew to the world. This week's posts are all about the yumminess I got to eat while there. Hey, a girl's gotta eat, even if it's around the very demanding schedule of a baby in no particular rush to get here!

Towards the end of my trip (Nephewpalooza 2013), I went out for a meal of New York style pizza with my mother and friend of hers, who is a former New Yorker herself. They were excited to bring me to Andolini's, a pizza place started by two brothers from New York. New York style pizza in the middle of "Amurica?" Bring it to my skeptical tastebuds!

We started with the strikingly presented antipasti plate-- which came beautifully arranged prosciutto twirled to look like Roses. Prosciutto rosettes! Rich, thick, sweet balsamic vinegar was drizzled all over the plate of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.
I happily ate some sweet briny olives and delicious roasted red peppers, but left the mushrooms for the other ladies.

You have plenty of options at Andolini's, but we ended up choosing the Vesuvio: smoked mozzarella and diced chicken breast with, of course, red sauce. I love me some red sauce! (I mean I LUUUURV it-- would happily eat it with a spoon right out of the bowl! Dinner!)

Coming from NYC, where excellent pizza is everywhere (and even the dollar-slice joints are often damn decent), I was a quite skeptical, but this pizza was delicious. The crust was light, airy, toothsome and not greasy AT all. I had two slices and enjoyed every crispy, delicious bite.

Andolini's also has some great outdoor seating on the side street, away from the busier bustle of Cherry Street. It was a bit too chilly for us to sit outside that day, but there were still a lot of people there.
Rufus would love a bite...
But the true test of Andolini's? How it fared as next-day leftovers. I heated up a slice of the Vesuvio pizza in a pan and I swear it was even more delicious. The flavors had marinated marvelously and the crust was still crispy and chewy- I can't believe how good this was. Doubting Thomas= convinced!

I couldn't get over how much the food scene certainly has changed since I lived there (more than a decade ago now), and of course, of course. If you're looking for a family-friendly spot for pizza, or just a great spot with friends or dates I give Andolini's two thumbs up. Save some red sauce for me!
Andolini's Pizza
1552 E 15th St
Tulsa, OK 74120
(918) 728-6111

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