Saturday, December 31, 2011

Restaurant Week is Coming!!!!

January 12-22!  Details Here!

Standby for full Preview Post, or review last year's here.

I count 16 additions and only two subtractions with some exciting new restaurants on the list.

Going for 5 this year, unlike 3 from last year - too bad it's tax season then or I'd do one or two a day!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kripalu Kitchens, Stockbridge, MA

If you've never been to Kripalu, well, I think everyone should go (well, that's not true, maybe not everyone....).  But anyway.  It's an amazing retreat to reconnect with yourself and nature.  There are tons of weekend and weeklong courses to be taken.  There are trainings to attend.  Or, just Rest and Relaxation get aways (R & R), including amazing spa treatments.

The grounds were once Native American spiritual grounds, then a Jesuit Monastery, an Ashram, and now a Yoga retreat center, but all of that history resonates on the property.  It's quite something.  On the property are trails for hiking, walking, biking, sauntering, a lake for swimming and boating.

Anyway, I was there for a thirteen day training and the kitchen is my favorite part.  I get so spoiled.  Someone feeds me for every meal!  There is a buffet line of the 'regular' food, a vegetarian line, a deli bar, and a basics bar (simple food, like rice and beans and vegetables for people who are maybe struggling with dietary issues or just want to eat simply).  Anyway... LOVE the FOOD!!!!

Oh, and there's the sauna and the whirlpool.

Due to...

being gone for thirteen days and NaNoWriMo as well, we here at BumbleChick Farm have fallen behind too!  and we're still looking for the notes on what did i do with those notes.  where did we eat?  hmmm.  aren't the photos good enough?

Famous Clam Box.  Ipswich, MA.
The portions were enormous!  But everything was awesome.
I had the fried clams, of course, and there was enough to feed at least four of me.  4
P had the fried chicken and gave it near a 4
It was packed, even for November, and I can't imagine what it must be like in the summer.  Whoo-eee.

Clam Box of Ipswich (Reopens Feb. 16) on Urbanspoon

The Inn At Castle Hill and Crane Estate.  Ipswich, MA.  
What an amazing place!!  We stayed a few nights at the Inn, which is owned by the Trustees of Reservations, so you know your money is going to protect the beautiful places in MA.

The Great House was absolutely beautiful and the grounds, amazing.  (I decided to use the house and grounds as the setting for my NaNo book).  There was an art show going on at the House so we were able to see inside and check out some amazing art at the same time.  We had a blast.  I wish we had been able to see inside what we thought was the kitchen, but was actually simply the Butler's Pantry and...oh, wow, indescribable.

Breakfast at the Inn was delicious.  Definitely 4.5.  One morning, we had french toast with apple cider syrup...that was incredible.

The other thing I liked about the Inn, they gave you water and tea and coffee throughout the day.  There is nothing I find so pathetic and cheezy as a, umm, well, more higher priced place that then charges for little things.  So, that upped them in my esteem.  And they tended us so nicely, offering to make fires in the living room when we were in there and giving us good advice for things to do.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Juanita Greenberg's - Mt. Pleasant, SC

The search continues for good Mexican in Charleston that doesn't come from a restaurant on wheels.  And the search continues.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Juanita's, they're just adequate food that will not satisfy anyone from or who's lived in the Southwest.  Service was very slow, despite almost no one in the restaurant.  In fact, from our seats we could watch the cook slowly preparing the group ahead of us' food, and then slowly prepare ours.  I like that they make it to order, but step it up a bit please.

The highlight of the meal was the trio of Guac, Salsa and Queso.  They were all good, and the chips were decent for chips from a bag.  3.25

The Quesadilla was well stuffed and tasted decent.  3.0

The fish tacos were a big disappointment.  When you can't even beat a fast food chain (Rubios) don't even bother.  2.25

 The waitress was attentive and the beer selection okay.  I'm not saying don't go here, but next time I'll go to Andolini's next door (same ownership - better result.)

Juanita Greenberg's Nacho Royale, Mt. Pleasant on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Charleston - Jan 12-22

Restaurant Week is coming once again.  Stand by for previews, but, in the meantime, check out last time's preview here:

And here's a link to the expected restaurants:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bowens Island Restaurant - Charleston, SC

The first time I ate here, about ten years ago, it was fifty-fifty on whether we might have turned around and walked out.  It was scary!  Graffiti everywhere, the worst furniture ever, a grumpy guy with a notebook taking our order.  It was close.  So glad we stayed, and so glad we keep coming back.  The place is very welcoming, friendly and clean (in a food safety sense.)  Now, after a fire and renovations, they continue to deliver the best oysters anywhere.  I'm not talking about foofy, fancy oysters on the half shell with gourmet names and weird accompaniments.  I'm talking about big clusters of green covered, weird shaped, cooked to perfection globs of oceanny wondefulness (according to spell-check, three made-up words of the day!).

The renovations were awesome, moving the restaurant to a lofty perch over the beautiful views.  Time your trip for sunset and you will be amazed!  (No pictures of this due to me not mastering my phone until late in the meal - I'm detecting a trend here.)  The customers are working hard to return it to a properly defaced and damaged status, but it still feels new. 

The oysters are the highlight, but the fried seafood platter was also excellent.  Fresh is best when it comes to oysters.  We give the oysters a 4.5 and the seafood plate a 4.0.  Good beer selection too.  I have an excuse to go back and get better pictures - stand by for followup, but don't wait to go to the restaurant - GO NOW!!

Bye bye oyster shells - to the parking lot with you!

Bowen's Island Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Boathouse - Isle of Palms, SC - Westbrook and Allagash Beer Dinner

Technology was the enemy of pictures this time (as opposed to the usual feeding frenzy cause.)  I tried to use my phone and couldn't figure out how to get the flash to work until too late for most pictures.  There are a couple.

Ed and Morgan Westbrook were there from Westbrook Brewing.  Ed said that he brewed the beer, and his wife did everything else.  I can believe that since Morgan had boundless energy and a sparkling golden shirt to match.  They were both very informative, without talking so much that the food got cold.  Cool to meet them.

Les Addis, the SE Sales Rep for Allagash was also there, and he spread tons of information about Allagash's specialty, Belgian Beers.  I especially liked the story of how Interlude was an "accidental" beer.  Really appreciated his enthusiasm (and the taste of Allagash Black - awesome!)

The food was exceptional, so I'll get right to it.

Salad of Local Bibb Lettuce with Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Orange:  I wish this picture had come out.  The lettuce was wrapped in cucumbers sliced longwise and was very well presented, like a bow almost.  Great creamy dressing.  A solid 4.0.  The beer was Westbrook's White Thai, one of their most popular beers, and one of Kari's favorites.  We gave this a 4.25.

Steamed Local Clams with Sausage and Ginger Broth.  The broth was awesome.  My only complaint would be that some bread would have been great with it to get every last bit of!  4.25.  The beer was Westbrook IPA, a perfect example of the style, and one of my favorites.  4.5

Smoked Local Beef, Sauteed Arugula and Onion Pie.  I have to say I was impressed with the pie crust.  Any one who cooks can tell you it's hard to execute, but this one was flaky and tender.  The steak was perfectly cooked, though mine could have been trimmed a little better - everyone else's was perfect.  We rated it a 3.75.  The beer was the last from Westbrook, their Saison Ale, a high alcohol, refreshing beer.  We gave it a 3.5.

Butter Poached Local Fish with Black Rice, Asparagus and a Vanilla-Saffron Syrup.  The fish was excellent, but the black rice stole the show.  It was sweet and savory and went great with the syrup.  We gave this a 4.75.  The beer was Allagash Tripel Reserve, crisp and wonderfully alcoholic.  It gets a 4.5.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Fig Risotto and Roasted Fall Vegetables.  If you read this blog, you know I don't like brussell sprouts or most squashes, but I can appreciate a proper preparation of them.  Serve it with Pork and BACON, and you got me.  Fig in Risotto was also awesome.  Another 4.75.  The beer was Allagash Four Ale - a quad (fermented four times!)  I love this style: 5.0!  (Photos stopped here due to feeding frenzy)

Last was an assorted cheese and charcuterie plate.  We were too stuffed to truly appreciate this, so I'll bypass scoring it.  The beer, Interlude, is a perfect introduction to 'sour' beers (this one is just slightly sour.)  They take a while to grow on you, but once they do, you'll love them.  A solid 4.75!  See below if you want more info on sour beers...

Service was great, very attentive and helpful.  The pace was good - beer dinners tend to be slow, but you still have to keep it moving.  This one hit it perfect, six courses in about 2.5 hours, plus a little more time for talking and getting checks taken care of.  Serving size of food was generous, beer size was 3-4 ounces - a good size for 6 beers.

The only negative to the night were the full glasses of beer at the next table over.  Why go to a beer dinner if you're not going to drink them.  More importantly, why not SHARE if you aren't drinking them!!

The Boathouse
Bonus Sour Beer Link

Boathouse at Breach Inlet on Urbanspoon

Reviews to Come

Due to a weird thing most of you have never heard of, NaNoWriMo, I have fallen behind on reviews.  I will try to catch up at least one per day over the next couple of days.  Here is a teaser of what to expect:

Okra Grill
Juanita Greenberg's
Bowens Island
The Boathouse
Charleston Cafe

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Queen Anne's Revenge, Daniel Island, SC - Stone Brewing Beer Dinner

Okay, this is starting to become a serious problem.  I brought the camera, I told Kari to remind me to take pictures, then, one beer later, no pictures.  The beer was so good, and the first course Sea Island Nachos were so amazing, I just forgot!  It's a good thing I'm not getting paid for this - I'd probably get fired!

Scott Sheridan, the Southeast Representative for Stone Brewing, was his usual enthusiastic and knowledgeable self.  He was funny too, except that Merry-go-Round joke.  He and the cooking staff gave us great descriptions of the beer and food, with a little history thrown in.  I was really impressed how much the chefs and management got involved in the dinner.  This was one of the best dinners I've been to.

The appetizer course was the aforementioned Sea Island Nachos.  These were nachos with a creamy sauce and large chunks of salmon.  They brought three large plates for a table of six, which, you would think would be plenty, but we finished it off and would have eaten more.  Turns out this was good planning by the restaurant as we left the restaurant absolutely stuffed.  We gave the Nachos a 4.5.  The beer was Levitation Ale, Stone's lightest beer, which we gave a 4.0.

The salad was an Arugula and Beet Salad with an IPA vinaigrette.  The dressing was a little thick, but still good.  We gave it a 3.0.

Then they brought a trio of local oysters, one fried, one Rockefeller, one with sausage.  All were excellent, and went perfectly with Stone IPA, one of my absolute favorite beers.  The Oysters were a 4.25, the beer a 4.75.

Then they brought beer braised pork ribs with sweet potato chips.  Oh my god, these were covered with an amazing, crispy layered sauce that had a slowly building heat.  Awesome, 4.75.  The beer was Arrogant Bastard - liquid arrogance.  Another phenomenal beer - 4.75!

For desert, Smoked Doughnut Holes with Chocolate served with Stone Smoked Porter.  I didn't quite get the smokiness, but they were still excellent - 4.0.  The beer was lighter than you might expect from a porter, delicious and smoky - 4.5

All in all this was a great experience.  The company at the tables was awesome, and Scott was a great spokesman for his beers.  Can't wait for the next one!!

Queen Anne's Revenge on Urbanspoon

details to come....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Charleston's Cafe - Mt Pleasant, SC

You know the food is good when you completely forget to take pictures.  I was staring at a massacre of eggs, pulled pork, cheese, spinach, biscuits...within 5 minutes of getting served.  I know you didn't want to see a picture of that!

For those of you who know Charleston's Cafe, you probably think I got one of the Island Casseroles - trick question - you didn't see chippers on the list!  One of their specials was a hash dish based on pulled pork that was amazing!  Add perfectly cooked eggs, biscuits, and awesome coffee and you have my meal.  A solid 4.5!

Kari had a Dewee's Island Casserole and a single Pumpkin Pancake with caramel drizzle.  Both 4.25!

Charleston's Cafe remains the best breakfast in Chucktown!

Charleston's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Alaska and Northwest Trip - Day 27

Super Cool Day

The primary focus of today was a visit to the Hoh Rainforest.  It's one of the largest temperate rainforests in North America.  Extremely lush and populated with a variety of ferns, mosses and wildlife, it was a priority for us to visit.  While there we saw two Roosevelt Elk and a juvenile, confused Bobcat.  Seeing the bobcat was one of the highlights of the trip, because, unlike most of the wildlife sightings, it was close, it was unexpected, and I was not in a boat, bus or car.  The elk was also the same scenario, but not so rare as a bobcat.

Along the way we stopped for a second time at Ruby Beach to get another view at a different tidal period and time of day.  Afterward we went to the Galway Bay Irish Pub in Ocean Shores, WA.  I'll review them later since I think they deserve more time and space.  We also stopped at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino and negatively impacted the Indian economy (that means I won!)  They had a $2 craps table with 10x odds!

Anyway, pictures and video!

Bobcat running on road

Flowers at the Lodge

Ruby Beach with reflection

Tide pool at Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Waves at Ruby Beach

More waves...

Ruby Beach in the Mist

River entering Hoh

Roosevelt Elk right near the entrance station to Hoh.  There was a traffic jam of picture takers.

Same elk

Different elk.  despite being just off the road in a parking area, most people missed this one driving in.

First shot I had of bobcat

Just before he took off - across the road, then along it, then into woods.

Hoh forest trail

Hoh mushrooms.

Moss everywhere

and here...

Cute little baby ferns on a stump

More mushrooms

Downed trees.  There are fallen trees everywhere we went in the Olympics.

Alaska and Northwest Trip - Day 26

Today we left our wonderful cottage in Sequim and headed for the Lake Quineault Lodge.  On our way out (second way out since we left camera battery at the cottage and got a quick call from the manager to come back) we saw the tamest deer in the world.  They were on a cul-de-sac that had a sign right at the entrance: "No Hunting this Street by agreement of all owners."  I didn't realize deer could read, but I was clearly wrong.

Our road trip included Lake Crescent, a beautiful glacier-formed lake, Ruby Beach, Forks and Big Cedar.

Ruby Beach was amazing!  The rock formations, crashing waves and incredible beach were breathtaking.  I didn't include a picture of the dead sea lion that apparently met one of the rocks head on.

Forks - don't bother - unless you are, or know, a Twilight psycho.  Just be aware that the town has turned into a tourist trap for Twilight fans.  Also realize that the author had never even been there before writing the books, the movie was not filmed there, and even the character's houses were just assigned by the town.

Big Cedar is a nice quick stop.  The Cedar Tree is within 50 feet of the parking lot.  They also have a trail that goes further but it's blocked in several places.  We made it through the first blockage (not a good idea) but had to turn back at the second less than 100 feet further.  I heard that the park service is trying to clear tons of blocked trails from some storms.  I'm guessing Big Cedar is low on the priority list.

We arrived at the Lodge in the evening and had a nice meal in the Roosevelt Room.  The Salmon was good, but we've eaten too much incredible salmon to truly appreciate it.  The Wild Mushroom Ragout was extremely tasty.  The lodge has nice atmosphere music and Kari and I finally figured out what it was.  We decided it was the background music to a nature show.  We even made a game of guessing what scene was playing to the music: "A herd of wildebeest running across the plains", "an antelope being taken down by a lion", "the camera flying low over snow topped mountains and glaciers."

Also, several people we met recommended calling the Lodge to make reservations rather than doing it online.  We also upgraded to a fireplace room on their recommendation - a great idea!

To the pictures:
The Olympics as viewed from Sequim
Yes, they are in someone's driveway.
Isn't she cute


Clearly not concerned about people.

Lavender honey anyone?

Lavenders in bloom

Crescent Lake

Another natural, giant bonsai tree

Yep, we went there...dang niece.  Sent her a picture of some cute dude with pasty skin.

Ruby Beach

The picture doesn't capture the creek that breaks around the rock forming an almost perfect circular island.

Ruby Beach again.

and again

and again

Big Cedar

It really is big.

And funny looking

This is the first blockage we crawled through
Lake Quinault Lodge

Not the same deer from the first pictures, this one was in the Lodge

Sunset from the Lodge

View during dinner