Saturday, August 20, 2016

MYTHOS GRILL

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It sits on a small hill.  There are some trees blocking the view.  You can't see the parking lot from the street.  A road sign is the only indication of its existence. To say the least, the restaurant atop 2412 Battleground Avenue in Greensboro is a bit obscure.  

MYTHOS GRILL was Debbie's idea.  I was a bit reluctant.  I couldn't imagine eating a dinner of everything wrapped in grape leaves or drinking wine that tastes like Pine-Sol.

I was wrong.  Everything is not wrapped in grape leaves.  They offered a Pine-Sol wine, Kourtaki Retsina, but we didn't drink any alcohol.  I wanted to try the MYTHOS Greek beer, but I didn't.  We stuck with water.

We kicked things off with fried Zucchini sticks and Tzatziki sauce.  That's the Tzatziki sauce in front on the left - the white sauce.  The other on the right is Greek salad dressing.  We had to guess which sauce was which because there was no one to ask.

Debbie kinda wrinkled her nose when I ordered the Zucchini, but she was quickly won over on the first taste.  I feel funny writing about Zucchini, but here I am writing about it and loving the taste.  I guess you could fry anything and I would love it.

Here is my Greek salad.  I'm not sure what makes it a Greek salad.  It was lettuce, tomato, feta cheese, olives, green peppers, cucumbers, and of course the Greek salad dressing.  All the ingredients are fresh and crisp.  The Greek salad dressing was pink and it was slightly sweet and tart at the same time.  That's pretty much it for the salad.

This is Debbie's Authentic Gyro.  According to the menu, it is "three strips of our Gyro, cooked on our special gyro machine" - that's it.  As you can see, it's a bit more than "three strips of our gyro".  It was actually a sandwich made of pita bread stuffed with Gyro meat, lettuce, and some other stuff.  The menu was not of any help and there was no waiter to ask.

This is Debbie's Spanakopita.  There used to be two pieces on her plate, but she nearly demolished one.  Spanakopita is spinach pie.  The crust is pastry.   Debbie was not impressed with the Spanakopita.  She said she makes it better.  It's been some time since Debbie made Spanakopita, so I won't comment on her claim.

This is my Combination Platter.  From left to right is Spanakopita, Chicken Souvlaki , and Gyro.  Souvlaki is a meat on a stick.  In my case, it was chicken.  There are two pieces of pita bread under the Souvlaki and another small cup of Tzatziki for dipping the Souvlaki.

My Spanakopita was cooked several minutes more than Debbie's, but it still tasted fine.  The Souvlaki was a bit dry, but it was good with pita bread and a dab of Tzatziki. 

The Gyro meat could have been made of almost anything.  All I can say with certainty is that it was incredible.  Very, very nicely flavored and very tender.  If we go back, I will order a big pile of Gyro.

Here's Debbie stuffing her pie hole with Spanakopita.  She loves it when I snap photos of her with food in her mouth.

The MYTHOS GRILL team gave us a thumbs-up when they noticed they were being photographed.

Notice the Sanitation Grade on the right side of the photo.  It indicates a score of 97.5.

I point this out because, according to the MYTHOS web site, "At Mythos Grill we are very proud of the fact that we, in our 7 years in business, have not received a health rating score of less than 100"

Although the restaurant appeared really clean. that claim of a seven year perfect score is obviously not true.

Here is a view of the MYTHOS GRILL dinner crowd.  In the restaurant, there were probably twice as many people as you see in the photo.  This was a busy place.  A lot of customers came in to pick up to-go orders.

When we entered MYTHOS we were told to find a seat wherever he could.  We grabbed the first seats near the front door.  

A waiter took our order.  He returned a few minutes later with two cups of sauce, threw them down, and scurried away. No explanation, no nothing.

He returned a little later with the food, threw it down, and ran away.  I don't think we ever saw him again.

After dinner we waited and waited for the bill.  It never came to the table.  We gave up, stepped to the register, and paid what we owed.  Debbie noted the guy running the register seemed to have a good memory.  He knew what we had ordered.

I'm not sure whether the abrupt service is normal for a Greek grill or they were just too busy to be nice.  It was the type of service you might expect at a hamburger or hot dog stand.  Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am! 

The food was good.  The prices were reasonable.  Nobody was mean.  Nobody was nasty.  Just don't expect to be pampered or fussed over.  Ain't nobody got time for dat!

This is the dessert we ordered to-go.  It is two pieces of Baklava.  Debbie said it was too sweet.  I thought it was pretty tasty, although it was missing nuts.  We have ordered Baklava from Amazon and various other restaurants.  Baklava always contains walnuts or pistachios.

Our dinner for two was about $30, including the tip, which was pretty meager.

Next planned outing: Saffron

Sunday, August 7, 2016

BRIXX AND MAXIE B'S

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Debbie is standing at 1424 Westover Terrace in Greensboro.  That's the address for Brixx Wood Fired Pizza.  

It sounds marvelous, doesn't it?  Pizza cooked in a wood burning oven, all smokey and flavorful.  But, there's more to the story than smoke.  There is some disappointment, too.  And flies.  Yes, flies.

Brixx sounds classy.  It is nicely decorated.  It looks like somewhere that would serve a great pizza.

Here's a look at Brixx's "wood fired" pizza oven.  It's not a good look, but it's the best we could do under the circumstances.  There's a glass panel separating the oven from the dining area, so there's a lot of glare in this photo.  That's the reflection off the glass you're mostly seeing.

In the background you see the flames rising from the oven, but there ain't no way it's a wood fired flame.  Brixx's "wood fired" pizza is almost guaranteed to be running on gas, like pretty much every other pizza oven.  If there's any wood anywhere near that oven, it's an amazing wood that never burns down or flickers or has to be fed more wood to keep burning.  And, it's doesn't produce any wood odor, none.  There's no smell of smoke inside the restaurant or outside on the sidewalk.

Debbie has an incredible "nose" for odors.  Her sense of smell is so good she can smell odors that are not even there.  She said she smelled the tiniest whiff of wood outside.  I didn't.  She may have been smelling the rafters inside the building.

More importantly there was not the slightest taste or smell of wood on the pizza.

We each ordered a salad.  Debbie had the Brixx Salad (left).  It was a "spring mix" (in the middle of summer) with pistachios, goat cheese, and croutons with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  At the top of the plate is a piece of focaccia bread.  I tried her focaccia.  It was flavorful, but it cried out for a little warmth.  It was stone cold.  Debbie liked her salad.  

I was less enthusiastic about my Spinach Salad (right) with roasted red peppers, feta cheese, pistachios and a honey-chipotle dressing.

Here's a closer look at my Spinach Salad.  It was pretty much like cramming giant, elephant-sized spinach into my mouth.  That's three leaves stuck on my fork.  The salad tasted like I had been to the grocery store and stuffed a brown paper bag with spinach and then served it in a bowl at Brixx.

We were given no choice of dressing.  All the salads on the menu came with house-selected dressing.

Here's the pizza we ordered.  It's a RUSTICA.  It's a 10-inch pie with prosciutto, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and roasted garlic.  All pizzas on the menu are 10-inch.

The crust was thin, but still chewy.  There was plenty of garlic, but I don't remember tasting any mushroom.  It looked very nice, but had absolutely no hint of smoke.  The flavor was good, but not extraordinary. 

I had expected extraordinary from BRIXX.  I don't why I had such a high expectation.  Maybe it was from all the Brixx advertising online.

When the pie was served, it came with a side order of two flies.  They immediately descended on our table as soon as the pizza was served.  You can see one perched on the side of the plate in the center of the photo.  The other one was hovering in the air above the plate, waiting for a signal to come in for a landing, I suppose.

I know it's hard to keep flies out of a restaurant without an airlock-style door, or an air curtain but damn...why did I have to get the flies?  

IT WAS FLIES.  IT WAS A RESTAURANT.   THERE WERE FLIES ON MY FOOD!   UGH!

Be sure to click this image to get a close-up view of one of our flies.

When a waitress was not busy waiting on her tables, she took a break to make up boxes for pizza-to-go.  I watched her for a few minutes.  She was not quite as quick as the guy in the Domino's commercial, but she managed to turn out a short stack in a couple of minutes.  Her time might have been better spent with a fly swatter,

At this point I'd like to make a confession - I eat my pizza like Donald Trump eats pizza.  No, not with Sarah Palin, but with a fork.  I am so ashamed. 

The Brixx Pizza tab was about $35 with tip.  That's a lot to pay for three small slices of pizza each and some greens.

I almost forgot - Debbie and I shared a Red Oak Amber Lager beer,

We stopped at Maxie B's for dessert on the way home.  We bought our dessert to-go.

Maxie B's is located at 2403 Battleground Avenue, which is just a mile or so down the street from Brixx.

Notice anything unusual about the photo?  No, I don't mean the woman emptying the trash.  There's no line out the door.  I've never been to Maxie B's when I didn't have to stand in a line out the door.  Of course I've never been to Maxie B's shortly after 5 PM, which is when we were there.  There was a short line in the shop, but we only waited for a minute or two to be served.

Here's a view of Maxie B's incredible dessert display.  We didn't see any flies ar Maxie B's

Debbie enjoys her half of a slice of Hummingbird cake from Maxie B's.  Hummingbird is made with m bananas, pineapple, and pecans.  It is also loaded with sugar.  The sugar will make your teeth hurt if you eat too fast.

The cake was a tad on the dry side. I suspect this was because we rode the cake around in a hot car and then let it sit on a table for a couple of hours before eating.  The cake was still delicious, as always.

Maxie B's tab was $5.60.

It's a changing world.  This is a bar.  In a grocery store.

This photo has nothing to do with our dining out experience.  I was just blown away by a bar in a grocery store.  This is Lowes on Church St, in Greensboro.  Apparently a lot of Lowes (not the Reidsville Lowes) have opened bars for tasting and drinking beer.  I didn't see any wine, but they definitely had beer by the glass.  

And, they were offering "growler" service.  "Growler" service is where you bring your jug in and they fill it with beer.  Until very recently state law forbid "growler" service unless you brewed the beer on premises.  There was no rhyme or reason behind the prohibition on "growler" service by a non-brewer.  It was just another ridiculous state alcohol law. 

This grocery store bar development was matched by a convenience store we saw on Battleground Ave.  On the outside of the store was a large sign that said "WINE BEER".  Nothing sounds odd about that unless you know state alcohol regulations forbids such signs.  

We would have been skinned alive if we had put a "WINE BEER" sign on our shop in Reidsville.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

TASTE OF THAI

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We were headed to Luigi's Italian in Summerfield, but the parking lot was so crowded we took a long detour to TASTE OF THAI on Westover Terrace in Greensboro.  The address is actually 1500 Mill Street, but the restaurant is located in the Westover Gallery of Shops.  Click on the link and go to the contact page to get yourself oriented if you're not familiar with the area.  We were definitely familiar because we've been to TASTE OF THAI many times.  We've never been disappointed.  The food is always good.  They do a buffet at lunch and offer a regular but a frequently changing menu in the evening,

I don't remember seeing the Oriental Grill sign before.  Maybe it's new.  I'm not sure what it means.  Note: I did a Google search on Oriental Grill.  The results were not entirely clear, but seemed to indicate Oriental Grill was a separate restaurant operated by the TASTE OF THAI.  Oriental Grill is now permanently closed.

This is the salad served at TASTE OF THAI.  I know it doesn't look like much and it isn't much.  A few pieces of torn up lettuce and a couple of carrot slices.  But it is damned good when they throw some of their peanut sauce dressing on it.  I could drink the dressing with a straw if somebody put it in a glass.

Here's my entree.  I know it looks like a tangled, undefined mess, but it was actually quite good. It was go good I slopped it all over my shirt, before putting a napkin cover on.  Then I slopped it on the napkin.  It must be terribly embarrassing to eat a good meal with me.

At first I wanted the Nua Koong, which was some sort of beef dish with tamarind sauce, but since I couldn't pronounce it, I settled on my second choice - Green Gulf.  Green Gulf turned out to be napkin slopping good.

Green Gulf doesn't sound good or look good, but that was not the case.  The green liquid is Green Curry Sauce.  I know it looks like vomit, baby poop, or pea soup.  Fortunately it tasted nothing like vomit, baby poop, or pea soup.  

The green sauce was delicious after I got over the initial burn in my mouth.  It was not heat burn.  I was spicy burn.  I love spicy food, but the green curry sauce was a shock,  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to eat it.  After three or four bites, and the addition of a little white rice, everything settled down.  I wanted to lick the bowl after I was done.

Click here for information about green curry.

In the green curry sauce is mixed seafood - lobster, shrimp, scallops, squid, and unnamed fish.  I had to dig the lobster out of its shell, but it was worth the effort.  The squid sounded suspicious, but that was good too.  I normally only eat squid when it's served as Calamari.  Bread it and fry it up and the rubber bands become pretty tasty.  They are also tasty when served with green curry sauce.

The shrimp and scallops were of course delicious.  I don't know about the unnamed fish since I couldn't identify which part of the dish was the unnamed fish.

There were several vegetables in the dish which I could not identify.  They all tasted good with the green curry sauce on them.  I did recognize string beans, which I hate.  But, the green sauce worked its magic and the string bean flavor was not recognizable, unless I separated one bean out of the mixture and tasted it by itself.

The small dish at the upper left is Crab Rangoon with yet another spicy sauce.  The Rangoon appetizer was quite good.  Rangoon is a fried wanton stuffed with crab, cream cheese, green onions, and garlic.  The spicy sauce was entirely different from all the other spicy sauces we were served.  The Thais know their spicy sauces!

Here's Debbie's plate(s).  She decided to order a gaggle of appetizers rather than a single dish.  On the right is Nua Jim Jaew.  Nua Jew Jaew is grilled sliced Sirloin with a spicy sauce.  I tasted this one.  It was very good.  To the left are Spring Rolls stuffed with glass noodles and vegetables and another spicy sauce.  At the top is Blanket Shrimp.  These are shrimp wrapped with spring roll paper and yet more spicy sauce.  I have no idea what spring roll paper is, but it's crunchy and tasty. I've had the Spring Rolls and the Blanket Shrimp, so I know they are good.  The two red sauces were the same. 

Here's the complimentary dessert they served after the meal.  Debbie and I each got one.  Neither Debbie nor I could figure out what it was.  It had no real distinctive flavor.  It had a slight fruit taste, but nothing I could identify.  The texture was a bit waxy but soft.  It looks sweet, but it wasn't.  It wasn't bad, but I couldn't call it good either.  It just was.  I seem to recall TASTE OF THAI pulling the same mystery dessert trick every time we've eaten there.

I'm showing this guy in order to brag about how honest we are.  He had no idea his wallet fell out of his back pocket while eating.  I saw it happen, pointed it out to Debbie, and she picked it up and returned it to the man.  He was very grateful, but he didn't offer to pay for my dinner or anything.  Oh, well...

Dinner set us back about $48.00 with the tip.  The tip was pretty meager.  

The kid waiter seemed in a daze.  Maybe it was his first day on the job.  Maybe he had too many hits on the opium pipe.  Asking for water with no lemon confused the hell out of him.  I had to ask again later to have my water glass refilled.  I asked to see a menu after dinner to take a photo of the dishes we ordered, so I could write this review.  He brought me a fresh glass of water, but not the menu.  Debbie had to get up and ask the cashier for a menu.  Otherwise we never saw our waiter.  The restaurant was less than half full.  Busy was not an excuse.

This was the one time out of many visits to TASTE OF THAI that the service was lacking, but the food was really good.  Try it sometime, but be adventurous when you order.  Hopefully, you will be rewarded. 

By the way, the lunch buffet is great!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TONIGHT'S DINNER: LINGUINE WITH SHRIMP AND BABY SPINACH

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We've been on a roll this week!

Debbie really is a good sport whenever I point a camera in her direction.  Here she prepares to take a bite out of a Linguine with Shrimp and Baby Spinach dish she has just prepared.  It was another Graziani recommended recipe.

This was a quick and easy one and it was delicious.  And, I don't normally like Spinach, even if Popeye eats it all the time.


Here is the pasta Debbie used.  It was actually a Spaghetti rather than a Linguine, although I'm not nearly Italian enough to know the difference between Spaghetti and Linguine.  If you know, leave the answer in the comments.  All I know is the pasta boasted that it is Protein Plus.  I guess that's a good thing.

Below is a quick video of the recipe:

video

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

TONIGHT'S DINNER: GARLIC BUTTER SALMON


TONIGHT'S DINNER: GARLIC BUTTER SALMON
Debbie is a pretty good cook. Actually she is a great cook. We copies recipes accurately and makes a lot of tasty original dishes.
Occasionally we come across a recipe to try. One was recently posted on Facebook by Misti AndCarmine Graziani. The Grazianis post a lot of good recipes, but they often don't fit within our diet restrictions.
This new recipe is called GARLIC BUTTER SALMON and it fit nicely into our diet. Plus Debbie at least weekly cooks Salmon and Zucchini anyway. All she had to do was add a couple of ingredients and some paper.
Salmon is placed on Zucchini slices and baked with Italian seasoning, lemon, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. The dish is then baked in parchment paper.
Debbie served it with sweet kale salad, sliced cucumbers, and sliced tomatoes.
The Salmon was very tasty and the Zucchini was great. The Salmon could have used more garlic and more Parmesan, but everything benefits from more garlic and more Parmesan,
I'm told the Zucchini was picked fresh this morning from a local garden, which I suppose explains why it tasted exceptionally good.
The Salmon was good, but I have to say Debbie's normal Salmon preparation is better. Debbie usually says some Magic Words and then adds a little Panko bread crumb to the Salmon before baking. A dash of breading, like garlic and Parmesan, makes everything better.
Anyway that was tonight's dinner. Thanks to Misti and Carmine for the tip. 
A link to the recipe is below:



Saturday, July 2, 2016

PASTABILITIES

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Let me begin this review by telling you the restaurant is located at 1726 Battleground Ave. in Greensboro.  I believe it's called Lawndale Shopping Center.  There is a link to the restaurant below.  Click it to learn more.  

Note when you visit the PASTABILTIES web page the photos section.  There's lots of photos of the food, the customers, and the restaurant.  Unfortunately, all the photos are so tiny you can barely see them and there appears to be no way to enlarge them.  It's very frustrating.  It's definitely a missed marketing opportunity.

I've always wanted to try PASTABILITIES.  I can't say for sure why, but it's always been near the top of my list.  I guess a restaurant with the word "PASTA" in it's name is the trigger.   Everything with pasta is supposed to be better.

The GOOGLE reviews of PASTABILITIES are mixed.  Some diners felt the place was fabulous, while others said the service was poor, the food tasted "processed" and "microwaved."  Something was amiss.  How could one of Greensboro's best restaurants offer poor service and serve processed and microwaved food?

Then PASTABILITES appeared in Spoon University's list of Greensboro's top 15 restaurants.  It was time to visit PASTABILITIES and put all my anxiety and doubt to rest.

This sign greets you when you enter PASTABILITIES.  We arrived at around 6:30 PM and had no trouble finding a seat in a what I thought was a sweet spot.  We were expecting to stand in a line to wait for a table.  It didn't happen.  We were very quickly met by a smiling waitress ready to take our order.

Let me say PASTABILITIES is not nearly so large as it appears in the restaurant's web site.  That was a good thing.

Until the restaurant was filled it was a fairly quiet evening.  As customers continued to arrive, the noise level grew.  To get to the restroom, you had to weave your way around tables and dodge waitresses who were scurrying here and there 

Debbie said the place had the feel of a "community bistro".  I'm not sure what she meant by "community bistro".  Maybe her comment will help you.

I believe PASTABILTIES considers itself to be an Italian restaurant, but the menu had a bit of everything.  I had to take notes while I read the menu.  That's my notes you see on the left.

I counted sixteen different salads, eleven appetizers, ten sandwiches. five chicken dishes, five seafood dishes, three hamburgers, five Italian specialties, five meat entrees, four vegetarian dishes, three pizzas, five items on the kids menu, plus an almost infinite number of BUILD YOUR PASTA combinations.  Plus about a dozen different desserts.

It was hard not to be reminded of Alvin Toffler's FUTURE SHOCK - the book in which TOFFLER predicts the future will be "dazed and confused" by too many choices.  How the PASTABILITIES kitchen staff gets the orders right must be a trick unto itself.

I would have been happy with just BUILD YOUR PASTA, the wine, and a dessert list.

I forgot to mention the dozens and dozens of wines, beers, and cocktails that were available.  This view is but a partial selection of wines that were on the menu.  Of course, the wine Debbie ordered was sold out.  

So, we washed our dinner down with water and of course the waitress brought our waters with slices of lemon in the glass after being specifically asked not to put lemon in the water.  I normally pick the lemon out and lay it on the table.  This time I picked the two slices of lemon out of our glasses and handed them directly back to the waitress. 

I remember the days when if you asked for water, they brought you water without any useless fruit in the glass.  I'd like to know who started the lemon in the water thing many, many years ago.  If you know, please tell me so I can find him or her and throttle the life out of that person.  Now you must request "no lemon" in your water and you will probably still get the lemon about half the time

Here's a shot of the bar with the mandatory TV.  I don't think anyone was paying attention to the TV.  A second TV on the other end of the room was not even turned on.  Notice the large bouquet of flowers on the right. 

OK, now it's time to talk about the food.  This is an appetizer called "mozzaluna".  It's crescents of mozzarella cheese breaded with herbs, romano cheese, fried, and served with marinara sauce.  It sounds good, doesn't it?  It wasn't.

I was served three crescents in the contraption you see standing behind the plate. I could only eat two.  I don't usually waste restaurant food.  Debbie tasted one of mine and immediately pooh-poohed it.

It was several hours later before I made the connection between "luna" and the shape of the appetizer.  Mozza I had figured out pretty quickly.  I'm slow like that at times.

I now understand the Google reviews that called the food processed and microwaved.  Mozzaluna could have come out of a brightly colored box pulled from a Walmart freezer

Check out this mozzaluna after I've taken a bite out of it.  There was barely any mozza in the luna.  It was nearly a hollow shell.

This was Debbie's appetizer - Gotcha Foccacia   These weren't bad, especially after dipping them in the cream tomato sauce shown with them.  Gotcha Foccacia is fried bread covered in Parmesan cheese.  They were pretty tasty.

This is my BUILD YOUR PASTA dish.  It's whole wheat linguine with a cream sauce, romano cheese, pine nuts, and Cajun anduoille sausage.  It is spiced with garlic, black pepper and crushed red pepper.  I never tasted any pine nuts.  Maybe they were there, maybe they weren't.

I've eaten whole wheat pasta for many years.  I know what whole wheat pasta tastes like.  This pasta did not taste like whole wheat.  It had a rough and coarse texture.  Pasta should not be rough and coarse.  Somebody forgot to scale the fish before cooling.

The dish was not good, but I suppose I will have to take some of the blame - I ordered it that way.  All of the ingredients sound tasty, but when you put together - not so much.  One clue that it was not just my bizarre combination was the sausage.  I tasted it by itself.  It had no flavor.  Well, maybe the flavor of chewy moistened cardboard.  I went to college in Louisiana - I know my Cajun sausage.

If you decide to BUILD YOUR PASTA, I hope you have more success than I did.  It's the way to go at PASTABILITIES, but you've got to get it right.

This is Debbie's entree.  It's a FRIED OYSTER SALAD.  The oysters were large, crunchy, plump, and juicy.  They were served on spinach with mushrooms, carrots and a bacon vinegarette.  This was a good dish.  Why does Debbie always order the good stuff and I get the dregs?

As if the BUILD YOUR PASTA with mezzaluna and foccacia weren't enough carbohydrates, our entrees were served with dinner rolls and butter.

At the risk of exceeding our carbohydrate tolerance level, we declined dessert.

This is Cindy Essa.  She's the owner of PASTABILITIES.  Our camera drew her attention.  She wanted to know why we were taking pictures.  You would think with all the camera phones around no one would pay any attention to a camera anymore.  Debbie said I draw attention because I use an "old school" camera rather than a cell phone.   Debbie explained that I was a "food blogger" and PASTABILITIES was on a list of Greensboro's top 15 restaurants.  That answer seemed to pacify Cindy and she smiled for our camera. 

Cindy said a lot of other things, but I couldn't hear a word she was saying, even though she was only three feet away.  She was competing with the restaurant noise.

PASTABILTIES is good for carbo-loading, but I doubt we will ever return to PASTABILITIES.  Debbie's dishes were good, but mine weren't.  The service was fine.  

PASTABILITIES does not belong on a list of top 15 restaurants.  Somebody made a mistake by putting it on the list.

The tab was about $39.00 with a tip.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

VACATION DINING

We beat feet out of Reidsville for a few days to soak up some sunshine and wine, and eat great seafood.  This account is of our seafood adventure to Atlantic Beach, NC.

SUNDAY
Breakfast - A Disaster

You probably recognize this place.  It's in Mebane.  It's where we stopped for breakfast.   It was the worst breakfast we've ever tasted.  How hard is breakfast?  Apparently it's damn hard at the Mebane CRACKER BARREL.  We are not regular CRACKER BARREL diners, but we've eaten at CRACKER BARREL many times in the past.  It's always been adequate until we encountered the Mebane CRACKER BARREL. Debbie rarely complains about anything, but the Mebane CRACKER BARREL sent her into a tailspin.  She did plenty of complaining.  First she complained to the waitress and then to the cashier when we paid the bill.  They both got an earful of complaint.

I had my own complaint.  The Mebane CRACKER BARREL makes an absolutely terrible cup of coffee.  It was bitter and bitter was the best part, otherwise it would have been totally devoid of any flavor.    How do you make coffee taste so bad?   There are two kinds of coffee beans - arabica and robusta.  All decent coffee comes from the arabica bean.  Freeze dried coffee comes from the robusta bean.  The Mebane CRACKER BARREL must order a "special" blend of robusta beans to make its coffee.

We both ordered Momma's French Toast breakfasts.  Debbie had her eggs scrambled (sorta) and mine were over-easy.  Debbie had the bacon and I had country sausage.  That's my plate you see in the photo.  My eggs were barely edible, the French toast was passable, but the sausage was right on the border  of being burned.  Debbie was expecting fluffy scrambled eggs like she always gets at CRACKER BARREL  Her scrambled eggs were stiff and flat like they had been cooked and then steam-rolled.  Her French toast was also apparently steam-rolled to make it match her eggs.  It was mystery as to how the cook was able to achieve the steam-roller effect.

The highlight of any visit to a CRACKER BARREL is the maple syrup.  Here's our Mebane maple syrup.  I suppose it was the same as the maple syrup served at every CRACKER BARREL, but I swear it was missing something.  I kept one of the unused mini bottles we were served.  I'll find out later if it really tastes different from the regular CRACKER BARREL syrup.

We later tried the CRACKER BARREL syrup in some oatmeal.  Debbie said it tasted "less maplely" than the syrup we've previously had at all other CRACKER BARRELS.

Before we leave the Mebane CRACKER BARREL, I should mention the restrooms are extra special.  The public address system that announces when a table becomes available is so loud it will cause you to jump when it fires off.  I suppose the restroom PA volume is the same  as the volume in the gift  shop where you can buy funny coffee mugs and t-shirts.  The gift shop has a rumble just like the restaurant.  Imagine 200 people all talking at once.  That's the sound of every CRACKER BARREL. Mebane was no different.

 Between announcements of "Smith, party of five", the PA blasted a country music tune that had to be called "I Saw God Today", at least that's the phrase that was repeated over and over and over in the song.  "Smith, party of five"  "Smith, party of five"  "I Saw God Today"  "I Saw God Today"

That's all I have to say about our Mebane CRACKER BARREL experience.  Debbie was given the telephone number of the Mebane CRACKER BARREL General Manager.  She may or may not call him.  She was pretty pissed.

We headed to Atlantic Beach in hopes of finding something better..

The Shrine

We've just pulled into Atlantic Beach.  The first stop is the FOOD LION to pay our respects to the brave and noble employees who didn't know whom they were dealing with.  FOOD LION is where Reidsville Mayor James Festerman had an "incident" with law enforcement.  Festerman owns(ed) a palatial estate at Atlantic Beach.

We believe this to be (was) the palatial Festerman estate at Atlantic Beach.  Debbie believes the Mayor has upgraded his digs.

We're not entirely sure what happened, but we don't think Festerman is buying his groceries at the Atlantic Beach FOOD LION anymore.  Festerman is like Donald Trump...he could shoot a man in daylight in front of thousands of people in Times Square and he would still be elected Mayor.  The man (Festerman) is amazing.  Click here for a link to the News & Record's take on the Festerman "incident".

Our grandson displays his favorite Mayor Festerman card.  The card entitles the holder to do anything he wants, anywhere he wants to do it.  What a lucky little boy!

The Seafood Place

After thoughtfully reflecting for a few moments at shrine of the Atlantic Beach FOOD LION, we stopped by ATLANTIC BEACH SEAFOOD for Debbie to make a dinner selection.  Notice the signs says SPECIALTY FOOD ITEMS.  We didn't see any SPECIALTY FOOD ITEMS, but they have a pretty nice selection of flavored olive oils, some vinegar, and a small wine section.

Debbie checks out the olive oils.

And the small wine selection.  Debbie picked a bottle of 1000 STORIES BOURBON BARREL AGED zinfandel.

Oneill helps Debbie select tuna for dinner.  It was a meaty, red fish.  Thick and fresh.

Unfortunately, soon after buying the tuna, Debbie lost her debit card.  She went into panic mode and transferred online all funds out of her account to prevent theft.  After searching high and low, she found the card in her car an hour later.  The funds were transferred back and she breathed a sigh of relief.

On the down side, the tuna was never cooked for dinner and the wine was not tasted.  We ate leftover pork tenderloin with giant cheese stuffed mushrooms.  Very good, but not the fresh tuna fillets we hoped for..

MONDAY

This was the first we've ever seen of these signs.  The flags were flying yellow on our visit to the beach.

The pool was filled with kids and tubes.  There should have been a purple flag flying at the pool.  A couple days later the pool had to be shut down for 24 hours to be "shocked" with chlorine.  It seems someone decided to take a "dump" in the pool - like in the "Caddyshack" movie, only it wasn't a Baby Ruth bar.

Dinner Time - Tuna

It may look like Debbie is sending smoke signals, but in actuality Monday's dinner got off to an exciting start when Debbie set fire to a frying pan with coconut oil.  Thirty seconds sooner and a faster camera man and you would seen this pan blazing on top of the stove.  Debbie covered the pan and carried it outside where it continued to smoke for more than five minutes.  Lesson learned: coconut oil will flame up big time.  Watch your temperature very carefully.

Here are those beautiful tuna fillets we bought yesterday.

A new fry pan, some more coconut oil, and a lower temperature.set the stage for dinner.  These steaks were carefully cooked medium rare with nice pink centers.

Debbie whipped up a white wine, caper, butter and lemon sauce for the tuna.

And here's what dinner eventually turned into.  Notice the pink interior of the tuna with the capers piled on top.  It's almost a tuna sashimi.  The salad came from Lowe's Grocery.  We each made a composition at the salad bar.  Of course my salad had a lot of pasta, turkey, and ham with a little green on the side.  Cracker Barrel could not done a better job!

And the wine was excellent.  It was the 1000 Stories zinfandel purchased at Atlantic Beach Seafood.  The wine's bouquet was beautiful.  I sold wine for 20 years and never used the word "bouquet" to describe a wine's aroma until now.

Quote of the Day

Debbie: "That's a crazy sounding frog.  It sounds like a duck."

Me: "Remember that's not a Rockingham County frog, honey."

A single frog croaking would eventually turn into a chorus of thousands when the rain picked up,  It was so loud that it was uncomfortable to sit outside.  We came indoors...first me and then Debbie/  The noise was deafening outside.   I've never heard anything like it.

TUESDAY

Lunch - Shrimpburger

I've never believed ketchup should be put on anything other than a dab on meatloaf and a big dollop on french fries.  But, BIG OAKS DRIVEIN on Salter Path Rd near Atlantic Beach proved me wrong.  BIG OAKS only stays open until 3:30 PM.  We arrived around 2 PM and there was a waiting line at the window.  There was a line when he left after eating lunch in our car and I suspect there was a line long before we arrived.  This little walk-up is listed among the 10 best burger joints in North Carolina, which is why we were there.  Click here to read all about it.

BIG OAKS is famous for its Shrimpburger.  It's a steamed hamburger bun stuffed with fried shrimp, tartar sauce, slaw, and ketchup.  If you click on the Shrimpburger link, it will take you to the web site where you will see a page as fancy as the BIG OAKS building.  I ordered the classic Shrimpburger with the ketchup.  It was very good.  Debbie said the shrimp were not "excessively battered" and the meal was not greasy.  I agree.  It was very good, especially for dining in a car.

I went full Shrimpburger classic with onion rings and a vanilla milkshake.  I can't remember the last time I had a milkshake.  It was a long time ago.  Debbie had them hold the ketchup and drank bottled water.

BIG OAKS also makes a bottled Shrimpburger hot sauce, which you can see at its web site.  Oddly, our Shrimpburgers were served with little plastic pouches of Texas Pete, not the BIG OAKS Shrimpburger hot sauce.

Our Shrimpburger lunch cost about $31 including tax and a small tip.

At Another Seafood Shop

 Just down the street from BIG OAKS is WILLIS SEAFOOD MARKET.  We stopped by to see what was available as a dinner chaser to the Shrimpburger.

We picked a big slab of Grouper (on the right) as the evening meal.

Here's a list of some of Willis' offerings for the day.  I spotted some Red Snapper, some Soft Shell Crabs, and some Crab Meat for a later visit.  The Crab Meat will make crab cakes and be scrambled with our eggs for breakfast.

When Debbie first saw this bird she thought it was a statue.  It wasn't.  It was a real Giant Egret that was hanging around the seafood market, hoping for a handout.  The big bird moved very slowly and gracefully.  The shopkeeper brought out a half-pound of shelled shrimp and fed the bird in the parking lot.

After the seafood market, we made the required $27 visit to the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.  I'll spare you the pain of the photos except for this one:  Debbie said, "You gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince."   Hopefully, Debbie did not have to kiss many frogs before meeting her prince..

Dinner - Grouper

Here's the Grouper after a few minutes in the frying pan. That's a beautiful golden brown color.  The fish has been lightly floured and seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and Old Bay.  No flames and smoke this time.  Grouper is a firm fish like Tuna, but with an entirely different flavor.  Tuna is cooked medium rare while Grouper is cooked all the way through.  Grouper flesh is more moist than Tuna.  Grouper does not give off an unpleasant odor while cooking.  The kitchen did not smell "fishy".

And the finished plate,  Again with Debbie's caper sauce, Lowe's salad, and Tomato Spice Medley on goat cheese and French bread.  We served the fish with Toasted Head Merlot.  It was da bomb!

Dinner was accompanied by Pandora radio tuned to the Miracles (as in Smokey Robinson & the Miracles) Channel.  It was the perfect selection for dining at the beach.  The music made Debbie look at me with a twinkle in her eye and ask to take shag lessons.  Was she talking about dance lessons or Austin Powers shagging?  Hmm...

This is my plate after dinner.  Not much left for the dishwasher.  This is the reason we go to the beach every year.  It's a week of total gastronomic debauchery.

Tuesday was a very filling day.

WEDNESDAY

Dinner - Crab Cakes and Soft Shell Crab


Debbie shows off Chocolate Overload and Tiramisu - fresh from the grocery store and bound for dessert tonight.

Debbie has declared Zinfandel to be the Official Red Wine to accompany seafood.  Yes, red wine does go well with seafood.  This one is called Sin Zin.

On ice and waiting in the kitchen sink is tonight's and tomorrow's dinner and breakfast.

Debbie pulled Lump Crab Meat out of the magic bags .  The Crab was mixed with mayo, mustard, various chopped peppers, onions, and then coated with Panko bread crumbs.  We had crab cakes.

At first we planned to have cheese stuffed Portobello mushrooms with our crab cakes.  The plan shifted at the last minute and the mushrooms were stuffed with the crab cakes, and covered with cheese and jalapeno peppers.  The crab stuffed mushroom then went into the oven at 370 degrees for about 20 minutes.

This dish was made specially for me.  I love soft-shelled crab.  Debbie does not.  She prepared a flour mixture with Italian seasoning and Old Bay.  The soft-shells were covered in the flour mix.

The crabs were popped into the frying pan with coconut oil and browned.  It's hard not to think of spiders when you see the crabs sprawled out.  They certainly don't taste like spiders.  I could eat these things at every meal.  They are that good!

Here's the finished plate.  On the left is part of a crab cake that did not go into a mushroom.  It was simply fried after the soft-shells were done.  Above the partial crab cake is a store bought kale salad.  A crab stuffed mushroom is at the very top.  On the bottom are my two soft-shells.  The dish was served with a Tarragon Aioli for the soft-shells and Sin Zin in the glass.  Magnificent!

Note: One leftover crab cake in mushroom was eaten the next day for lunch.  It was much, much better than the original.  It pays to let things mellow.

And dessert to finish the day.  Tiramisu on the bottom and Chocolate Overload on top.  I liked the Tiramisu.  Debbie preferred the Chocolate Overload.  These came from Lowe's Grocery.

THURSDAY

Breakfast - Eggs and Crab


We haven't mentioned breakfast, other than our experience at the Mebane CRACKER BARREL.  But, we did eat a good breakfast every morning.  This is leftover baguette slices being toasted on the stove top.

Leftover lump crab meat was mixed with eggs and tarragon.

The egg and crab mixture was cooked with chopped red and green peppers and Jalapeno peppers.

Here's the final result with sliced cantaloupe and the baguette toast.  The red and green peppers may been a bit much.  The eggs/crab were very good, but the pepper flavor was not as subtle as it should have been.  Still it was a breakfast worthy of champions.

Dinner - Red Snapper

Debbie whips up a blend of 11 secret herbs and spices to go on the Red Snapper purchased at Willis Seafood Market.  We wanted to make Blackened Red Snapper, but we were missing several of the essential seasonings and a cast iron skillet.  Cast iron is very important for Blackened Red Snapper.  You want a pan hot enough to ignite coconut oil, but we had to settle for kinda hot and a close imitation of the seasoning.

Debbie did manage to find a pair of scissors to cut up the Snapper.  Isn't that flesh gorgeous?

The seasoning gets sprinkled on the fillets.

And then they are placed skin side down in a pan that was close to an iron skillet that we had.  The fish cooks in a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of coconut oil.

Chef Debbie waits impatiently while the skin side cooks for five minutes and then two minutes on the opposite side.  Notice her homemade apron.

This is what the fillets look like as they near completion.  They weren't blackened, but they looked beautiful.

Now the finished plate with kale slaw (we ate a lot of kale slaw) and an ear of corn.  It was delicious.  This is what living at the beach gets you for dinner.  Click here for Mario Batali's Blackened Red Snapper recipe


FRIDAY

Dinner - Shrimp and Pasta


No beach trip is complete without purchasing a huge batch of shrimp.  These have been shelled (by me) and are ready for cooking.

Debbie prepares the ingredients for what she called Shrimp Scampi - parsley, lemon and garlic.

High protein pasta  noodles go into a pot of boiling water.

The shrimp are added to butter and two garlic cloves.

A squeeze of lemon is added to the shrimp that are quickly turning a nice pink color.

The parsley goes on top and it's all mixed together and cooked just a few minutes.

Boom!  Add a little Parmesan cheese on top of the shrimp and pasta, and dinner is served..


SATURDAY

Dinner - Seared Scallops and Whole Wheat Orzo


Orzo goes into a pot of boiling water.

Chef Debbie tests whether the orzo is done...nope.  It needs a couple of more minutes.

The scallops are seared in butter.   This was another quick dinner

The orzo is dusted with Parmesan cheese.

Here's the finished plate.  It was tasty.  The orzo was as good as the scallops which were sweet and succulent.  I've always wanted to use the word "succulent".  I think this is my first time using "succulent".

Dessert - Carrot Cake and Chocolate Eclair
This is half a chocolate eclair and half of a piece of carrot cake.  The were both bought the day before we ate them.  Maybe freshness is more important than I thought because they were both not good.  The leftover dessert went into the trash.


SUNDAY

Breakfast - Bojangles


It's Sunday and we're headed home.  This is our last meal at Atlantic Beach.  We stopped at Bojangles where we had to stand in line for more than 10 minutes to get Roasted Chicken Bites and coffee so damned hot that it burned the roof of my mouth.  It's 4-1/2 hours later and my mouth is still stinging.  All I can think about is that Granny woman who sued McDonald's for millions of dollars some years ago when coffee spilled in her lap.  Why do they serve the stuff so damned hot?  I had to add ice to my coffee to get it cool enough to slowly sip for more than an hour.   Despite the mouth burn, it was still better than the Mebane CRACKER BARREL coffee at beginning of our trip.

Almost as memorable as the coffee was a table of six senior citizens seated nearby.  One, who looked to be in her late seventies or early eighties, ran the "conversation" by talking on an endless loop about her mother - "Well, mama said...." and then "mama said..." and then "and mama said..."  Over and over and over while the five others looked like they were almost bored to an early grave with tales of what mama said.  Poor people.  Poor me.

It was a tasty vacation.  I suppose it was nice to have some motivation to come home to beautiful, scenic and historic Rockingham County.

And now a little beach news

Click images to enlarge