Novel Food

26 02 2008

Novel Food small logo This looks like a lot of fun…I just have to find a novel that inspires me to cook…Lord help us all! The only books I can think of that refer to food at all are The Thornbirds (Jam Roly-Poly), Harry Potter (pumpkin juice) and the Scarpetta series. Still…there’s a vast library here in this house, so surely there’s something! The sponsors of “Novel Food” are at “Brioche” and “Taste of Champaign” in my Blogroll if you want to check it out too. I’m feeling decidedly lousy tonight, so I’m out of here. Sanitize, please. I have an URI – blech.


Applebee’s Arrives

17 02 2008

Long awaited…Applebee’s has arrived.  Now, you have to know a town is food-challenged when Applebee’s makes the front page of the local paper.

We waited a week to try to get through the door.  My first experience was waiting for a friend on opening day, and waiting was the order of the day.  They were relatively quick to change tables up, but as the dinner hour approached, it got dicey.  I didn’t mind…I wasn’t staying that time.  When we finally gave it a shot, a week later, things hadn’t improved a lot.  We were seated quickly enough, but were ping-ponged between servers as shift change occurred.  We placed our order and prepared to wait…we’d both ordered a beer, and the super-size arrived.  I was a little disappointed in getting the super size without a choice, but we ended up waiting so long for our food that I was plenty glad I had it!  Halfway through our wait, someone tried to serve us food we hadn’t ordered, not once, but twice.  It made us wonder if our food went to the wrong table.  I should have been so lucky.  Yes, I’m spoiled. Yes, I’m particular. Yes, the food really wasn’t good.  Hubster opted for the fish and chips…way, way too salty.  I had some kind of bistro steak sandwich.  It was supposed to be sliced; it was hacked.  Big chunks of meat didn’t fit the ciabatta the way thinly sliced meat would have, so the whole thing fell apart.  Next time I’ll try a salad and see if they can do any better.

Without regard to the forementioned, this will still be the only game in town for a relatively decent meal following chorus on Tuesday nights.  Hopefully, the bartender will be nice because we can both see cooling our parched throats with a brew and having a bite to eat afterward.  There hasn’t been much of anywhere to grab a bite after 9 p.m.

For now…Applebee’s gets 2-1/2 whisks.

Dining in Fort Bragg, CA

1 02 2008

The Mendocino coast is such a beautiful place, and it’s full of excellent dining opportunities. Our favorite B & B is The Rendezvous Inn. Kim Badenhop is a 3 star chef, trained in the Alsace region of France, and he loves what he does. Food is a treasure to him, and it shows! We’ve been before, and will visit again and again.

Our first stop coming into town, however, was the North Coast Brewery. We were on a bit of a much needed short vacation, and they had Hog Island oysters on the menu…score! We each settled in with a pint of our favorite brew…I had Scrimshaw, I don’ t remember what hubby had…something a little more stout. We each ordered half a dozen oysters and he got a cup of clam chowder, while I opted for the bowl. From here it gets a little squeamish… The chowder was wallpaper paste in consistency. Oh yum – blech! Hubby was already fighting an unhappy stomach, so the chowder was immediately over for him. That wasn’t too bad…one plate of oysters arrived almost immediately. I toyed with the soup, and struggled through about half of it…which was really too bad. I should have sent the swill back, and if I’d realized I was about to pay $16 for the two things neither of us could eat, I might just have done that. My oysters arrived a full 15 minutes after the first ones… Why would you do that? People sitting at the same table, ordering the exact same food kind of want to dine…together. This was one highly over-priced lunch, but it put a lot of things into perspective for us. We were out the door for about $70 including a modest tip, because the service was as lousy as the chowder…maybe we should have tried to drink more beer…between us we didn’t drink the equivalent of a pitcher. Oh well. The oysters were excellent, by the way!  2 whisks…solely because they HAD Pt. Reyes oysters.

Dinner that night…we checked with the Rendezvous, and Kim said they were booked pretty close for the evening, so we made reservations for the next night, and opted for sushi for our first night. We went to Off The Hook Sushi the last time we were in Fort Bragg…and really enjoyed the food. Was it a fluke (no pun…)? Nope. We got a great server. It was chilly and cold, so we opted for hot sake and miso soup to start out. Our sushi came and the servings were liberal and very fresh. It was fabulous. They did have one server who wasn’t on his game at all. The folks at the table next to us had to continually ask for their miso soup, and he delivered a plate to me I knew I hadn’t ordered. I was good…I kept my chopsticks out of it. However…tako salad could be something I’d try in the future! After the lunch experience, this was a wonderful, satisfying meal…and was a mere $10 more, before tip. Go figure.  3 1/2 whisks

Breakfast at the Rendezvous is always an experience. We awoke to the the aroma of smoky bacon and freshly brewed coffee. It was heavenly. We could hardly wait to get downstairs to see what awaited us. Kim tries to vary the menu for his guests, and if you’ve been a guest before, he’ll try to make sure you don’t get the same dish that you had before. We’d had a frittata and scrambled eggs the first time around, so this time we had quiche one day and eggs benedict the following day. When you come down to the breakfast room, there’s a table set for you, and fresh squeezed OJ awaits you. Kim comes out with your freshly baked muffins and a carafe of their house blend coffee. Shortly after you finish that first cup of coffee, your breakfast entree arrives. Yum. Oh yum… The quiche was marvelous, and with the muffins, we were stuffed for the rest of the morning and well up toward dinner time. Day 2 brought a different kind of muffin, and glorious eggs, perfectly poached and sauced with made-to-order hollandaise…truly sumptuous.

Dinner at the Rendezvous is always an experience that’s enjoyable. We had kind of decided to try one of their seasonal “tasting” menus, but they’d already run out the night we were there. No worries…I doubt there’s anything NOT good there! We shared a foie gras napoleon, stacked with mini green onion crepes. It was a little pricey, but ever so rich and luscious, and the Hubster had never had foie gras before. We highly recommend the escargot in puff pastry if you get the chance…bring a bib…you’ll be drooling.

After the breakfast of quiche the morning of this day, and anticipating eggs benedict the following morning, we dined a little lighter than we sometimes do… Our first time there we did the whole shebang…aperitifs, amuse bouche, appetizers, entree and dessert. We laughed that there was nothing better than death by Rendezvous! This time we were a little more careful… Hubster elected to try the monkfish…and found it utterly delightful. I opted for the crab cakes, which were quite good. I just liked the Hubster’s choice better. That happens now and then! LOL! We had the Meyer Lemon souffle for dessert, and pretty much floated upstairs on the wafting aromas.

I admit to being just a little disappointed. I had gotten my mouth all ready for the Mushroom tasting menu, or their rack of lamb. The rack of lamb was off the menu just at the moment, and the short ribs also sell out incredibly fast – because they’re heavenly. It’s hard to stay disappointed for long though. I can’t imagine something being “bad” there. I also can’t imagine not going there as often as I can…it’s so worth it!  Dining…4 2/3 whisks.  Just barely short of nirvana!

The value of the B & B is extremely fair as well. Most hotels in Fort Bragg charge around $100 per night +/- . Then, you go out for breakfast. To get a breakfast that gets into the same ballpark as what Kim serves will cost you a quick $30 (or more) at Eggheads, and you’ll wait awhile for your table. When I consider the outstanding food, the excellent service (yes, even at breakfast when he’s on his own), and then the comfort of the Inn itself…there’s just no comparison!