Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cattails Restaurant Brandon, VT.

While we were up in Vermont visiting Fran and Dora, they took us to one of their favorite restaurants which happens to be in Brandon. It was maybe a 15 or 20-minute drive. The exterior is simple, painted a colonial blue with a red roof. Inside it is quite spacious and there is a bar area, a dining room, and a screen porch. We came at an off time so it was very quiet. 

Fran and I had been discussing fish tacos which is why we came here. He loves the ones that they have. Since I am a fish taco fan, I was anxious to try theirs. 

The menu offers a lot of choices, I decided to order chicken wings to share among the four of us. They were perfectly done, crispy and well coated with sauce.  Then I ordered the fish tacos. Fran got the fish tacos as well. Dora got a wrap and Al got a steak smothered in a delicious gravy. 

All of the food was very good and the service was excellent. It was well worth the drive. I wanted to try the Thai chicken with peanut sauce, I will definitely have to return. lol

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Table 24 Rutland, VT

If you don't know about Table 24, you might never find it. It is tucked into a building in downtown Rutland, across the street from the Rutland Herald. Luckily for us, my brother Fran did know about the restaurant and took us there for a late lunch. 

According to their website, they feature " a unique menu with choices for all — from young families to sophisticated diners. Chef/Owner Stephen Sawyer prepares selected specialties on a wood-fired grill and rotisserie to create flavors unique to this region."   The restaurant is dedicated to excellence and their popularity with locals and visitors alike is legendary and they are dedicated to using as much locally sourced products as possible. 

The menu offers some many wonderful choices that it is hard to pick what you want to try. Fran has been here many times and he knows what he wants, he ordered the jerk chicken fondue. As you can see, it is served with homemade croutons and Granny Smith apple slices. It was not quite as thick as it usually is according to Fran but it seemed to taste good since he enjoyed it. 

I decided to have wings, they offer them with General Tso's sauce, who could resist. I added an arugula and spinach salad and a cup of Mom's shrimp chowder. I loved it all. I did change the salad which has a champagne vinaigrette to the citrus vinaigrette and it was a good option in my opinion. The soup was thick and delicious, sort of corn chowder with shrimp. 

Dora, my sister-in-law opted for the Wales Salad which obviously she has had before. It really is meal size and she had to take a good sized portion home. 
Al had a cheeseburger and the only complaint he had was that we had to cut it in half for him to manage it. It was a handful of burger and cheese. 
Our experience here was excellent. I had only one complaint. I ordered the soups and salad, granted I didn't order it together as the soup and salad and our waiter didn't price it as the soup and salad. When I questioned it, he said it was the same price, which of course it wasn't, the combo is $2 cheaper. In my opinion, a good waiter would have taken care of his customer and entered it that way rather than making me ask. But, he did check in on us and refill drinks etc. 

We were all pleased with our meals. I would not hesitate to come here again and actually, I look forward to trying some of the other wonderful things on the menu. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mazzeo Ristorante Pittsfield, Mass.

We wanted to choose a special restaurant for our anniversary dinner, we also wanted to be able to get back to the hotel early so that we could find a decent parking spot. Mazzeo is out on Route 7 and we had passed it several times in our travels, it opens at 4 p.m. so was a perfect choice. 

We got there a few minutes before they opened and were the second couple to walk in. Dining is actually on the second floor but there is an elevator that will take you there. We took advantage of it. We were seated quickly and had menus in our hands. I got to hear the specials when our server told the other couple what they were. 

Al ordered the Veal Parmesan and I ordered a Caprese and a half serving of Cavatelli Gabriella, sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, garlic and scallops. We were served two warm garlicky rolls which were delicious. 

Service was efficient but not warm, when I mentioned that it was our anniversary I got almost no response, certainly he didn't ask which anniversary or anything more. 

The food here was excellent, one of the best Italian meals that I have ever had, Al's veal was so tender and delicious. It was a very generous portion and honestly my half portion was the perfect size with the Caprese as an appetizer. It included 4 large perfectly cooked sea scallops. 

I had a Cappuccino as my dessert and was very well pleased. I guess there is not requirement for servers to be warm and friendly but it certainly adds a lot to the experience and I did feel that was missing. I would come back here for the food and hope for a different server. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

District Kitchen and Bar Pittsfield, Mass.

District Kitchen and bar is a small dining establishment that serves locally sourced ingredients in an ever changing seasonal menu.  It is not the place too go for an intimate conversation, the industrial feel with exposed pipes and and high ceiling makes it a bit noisy but who cares, the drinks are well priced and the food is delicious. It is directly across the street from the Crown Plaza Hotel and is well worth walking over to. 

I called the restaurant at about 7:45 on a Friday evening to see how busy they were, no point in walking over to find out there were no tables available. I was informed that they had a couple tables for two empty and when I inquired about how to dress I was told casual was fine, they were pretty much anything goes. 

We were seated immediately and give a carafe of iced water for our table. I knew in advance what Al would get, the hanger steak. I wasn't quite as sure what I wanted. I decided to create a vegetarian place with sides. I got asparagus, kale and fried rice. We enjoy the fresh, warm baguette that was brought for us to snack on.

We were both delighted with our food. Al's hanger steak was cooked perfectly medium rare and the potato pave with blue cheese was amazing. The steak had an apple cider sauce that Al really liked. My brown butter kale was luscious and we both had the grilled asparagus with shaved Parmesan cheese and lemon oil. My starch was ginger fried rice which was the perfect accompaniment. 

It was a lovely dinner with attentive service. We were too full to have dessert but I highly recommend that if you are going to be in Pittsfield, you give District Kitchen and Bar a try, you won't be disappointed. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Strawberry rhubarb upside down cake

I have been wanting to make a strawberry upside down cake for a while. I finally gave it a try yesterday. It is not perfect, actually, I  would call it a work in progress!!  I did learn some things, however. 

First, use fresh rhubarb if you can, I had frozen rhubarb from last year, I had cut it in large pieces. If you must freeze rhubarb, cut into pieces the size you plan to use. 

When you thaw rhubarb, a lot of the liquid comes out. I should have planned to use the liquid in the cake batter but I didn't. Also, make sure you have all the ingredients you need. My cake recipe called for sour cream and my sour cream was past its peak. I used my coconut yogurt in its place. 

Lastly, don't believe a recipe when it seems wrong. I followed a Food Network recipe that said cook the cake for an hour, that seemed way too long to me by about double but it was hot and I was lazy so I just put the oven on auto cook for an hour. The cake is much too dark but luckily still moist, just very dense.

Now for the recipe. 

1.5 cups of strawberries
1.5 cups rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs corn starch

Mix these ingredients together. Place in the bottom of a buttered cake pan. I used a 10-inch square stone pan and honestly, I think it was too big, I would use an 8 or 9-inch cake pan next time. 

1 3/4  cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar
1 stick soften butter
2 large eggs
1/4  cups sour cream
1 cup milk

Cream the sugar and butter and add the eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until fluffy. Pour over strawberries and rhubarb mixture. Cook in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, (note I changed the time to what I think it should be) check and if it needs more continue cooking. 

Run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen and turn face down onto a plate. Let it cool. Take away the pan and make any repairs that may be necessary. 

Eat with whipped cream or poured cream and enjoy. 

I will be posting updates when I try this again to let you know but feel free to let me know if you try it, how you change it to make it even better. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Simple and Delicious 4th of July dessert

For the Fourth of July, it is usual to have at least one dessert that has a red, white and blue patriotic look. Berries are perfect for accomplishing the red and blue and this recipe uses blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Here is a recipe for a mixed-berry shortcake with an alcoholic kick if you prefer. It is quite possibly the perfect 4th of July dessert.

Shopping list:

  • 3 quarts of berries to make 12 desserts (raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries)
  • 1 store bought angel food cake or pound cake
  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 quart orange juice
  • 1 half pint of Grand Marnier

Have on hand at home:

  • 4 teaspoons dried orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 12 clear plastic cups
Preparation time is less than half hour. Start by washing the fruit. Remove the hulls on the strawberries and cut them into quarters. Place them in a large bowl with the blueberries and raspberries. Reserve 12 pieces of each fruit on a separate plate. If there are going to be children or people who will want a non-alcoholic version, separate the fruit into two bowls. 

Bowl 1- Alcoholic

Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar in each bowl, add two shots of Grand Marnier and 1/4 cup of orange juice and mix. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

Bowl 2-Non-alcoholic

Pour a half cup of orange juice, one tablespoon sugar and two tsp. of dried orange peel onto the fruit and mix. This needs to sit for fifteen minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

Chill a bowl and the beaters for the whipped cream. Add the pint of heavy cream and beat until it forms soft peaks. Add 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar and 2 teaspoons of orange zest to the cream. You may also add a tsp. of Grand Marnier to the whipped creamed that will go on the adult desserts.

Slice the cake and place a piece in each of the clear plastic cups. Spoon a generous amount of the fruit and juice over the cake. Top with the whipped cream and 3 of the reserved berries. Serve and be prepared for the rave reviews that you will receive.

This may also be made in a glass bowl or dish with the cake being placed in the pan then topped by the fruit and whipped cream. You can place the reserved fruit on top and if you have red, white and blue jimmies this will add a great festive touch. You can then serve this in individual bowls.

What you have created is a lighter version of fruit shortcake.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Haven Cafe and Bakery Lennox, MA.

On the way to visit The Mount we drove down the main drag in historic Lennox, Ma. We hadn't had any breakfast and I spied Haven Cafe and Bakery. It was quite active even though it was between breakfast and lunch, about 11 a.m.

You order at the counter and are given a number to take with you to your seat. If you want water, there is an iced water station set up for your convenience. 

I ordered off the menu, I asked for an egg sandwich with cheese and bacon on a croissant. Al ordered a cheese omelet. I also ordered a large cappuccino. We then went to find our seats. Prices are what you would expect in the rather upscale town.  

It didn't take too long for our food to be delivered. I will say, the scrambled eggs in my sandwich were very tasty, they obviously add something to them they have a rich taste. The potatoes are really good as well. I personally don't need a salad on my breakfast plate but I ate it all!! lol It was lightly dressed. 

Al's omelet was perfect, no brown and it was served with the potatoes, salad and two slices of French bread. My cappuccino took a little longer to be delivered but was worth the wait. 

When we left we picked up a couple items from the bakery to enjoy later, a piece of apple cake for Al and a peanut butter cookie for me. It was a very good peanut butter cookie and Al really enjoyed the cake, it was dense and moist. 

This was a great little find and shares its parking lot with a bagel coffee shop if that is more to your taste. Next time we will try the bagel shop.