Brunch Is Back! Town Hall – Lewiston NY

20130324-201513.jpgThis pretty and delicious drink is the perfect testimony that brunch has come a long way from the long silver chafing dishes filled with dry scrambled eggs, over cooked potatoes and bowls of fruit cocktail fresh from a can.

Town Hall, an upscale bistro in Lewiston, opened during the USA Today/Rand McNally Best of the Road mega food tour last June. Their addition gave us all yet another option for dining on Center Street. I love talking to folks from around Western New York talk about Center Street like they would talk about Chippewa or Hertel or Maple. People know that a drive over bridges and down a hill takes them to shops and restaurants like nowhere else in the area.

Lewiston may not have won best of the road but being named one of the 10 Best Small Towns in America was not a coincidence.

We made 11:30 AM reservations for Brunch and I’m really glad I did. When I arrived the bar was already busy with folks waiting for friends to arrive or to just hang out after church. The tables were filling up and we were seated at one of the booths along the side. The high backs made for a private dining experience although the room is not large and the noise level pretty high.

Brunch is back in a big way all across the country. My son and his friends go to brunch almost every weekend in New York City. Silly mommy thinks it’s for the delicious food at reasonable prices where, in reality, the fact he calls it “Drunk Brunch” should tell me that the reason is the inexpensive drink specials.

Town Hall brings that party theme to Lewiston. A friend of mine told me about the $1 Bloody Mary’s and Bloody Caesars so I was ready. Unfortunately, New York State does not allow beverage service until 12:00 PM.

What to do?

Sydnee, our capable, busy and very sweet server told us about their brunch specials so we decided to enjoy some sliced cinnamon rolls slathered with a not too sweet cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with a little powdered sugar and a cup of coffee while we waited to order our adult beverages. It’s the first time I have ever ordered an appetizer at brunch. Very civilized.

When noon rolled around Sydnee quickly visited all of her tables where the people were just as anxious as us to order one of the interesting beverage options. Check out their menu online to see their brunch offerings. We ordered a Bloody Mary and a drink called a Berries and Basil. It was a wine glass filled with lemon juice, sparkling wine and simple syrup with sliced strawberries and mulled basil. It was refreshing in a sort of wine mojito way. If you like mojito’s and basil you will enjoy this drink. The Bloody Mary was well made and the size you would expect for $1. Still, you could not drive if you spend $5 so it is a great value.

There are a lot of breakfast/brunch/lunch options on the menu and they are all reasonably priced. I also appreciated the portion sizes. They were perfect not just at noon but all day long. I had a hard time deciding what to have. I waffled (not on the menu and you won’t miss them) between the Lobster Frittata ($10) and the Eggs Benedict ($8) and eventually chose the Duck Hash ($9)

20130325-065152.jpgServed in a cast iron casserole dish, the combination of duck confit, potatoes, onions and a poached egg topped with a Tabasco hollandaise was the perfect choice. Duck confit? That takes two days to prepare and I thought the duck had good flavor. The dish had a great balance and the poached egg was cooked just right so that when I put my fork into the yoke it ran happily to over the spicy potatoes and onions.

We also had the Pulled Pork Quesadilla ($8). It was a crispy tortilla filled with slow roasted pork, Chipotle BBQ sauce, peppers and onions with Jack cheese I liked the crunch and flavor. It was not too spicy and I would not have minded more heat.

When we ate every last morsel on our plates we decided to order another beverage sampling. The BLT was surprisingly good. Usually when I get one of these funky drinks I love the first few sips, like the next few then regret the order. The flavor of bacon in a beverage is unusual and not unwelcome. It was a pretty presentation and good to the last drop.

20130325-070043.jpg I ordered the French 75 with vodka. Had I known the original was made with gin I would have had it that way. It was a light wine spritzer with vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and sparkling wine. It is the kind of drink I would enjoy on a summer day over ice.

If you go, be sure to make a reservation and remember that it may be noon somewhere but it’s not until 12:00 PM in Lewiston.

Have a yummy day!

Advertisements

Nothing Tastes Better Than The Food We Remember

A few weeks ago I posted this picture on my Jude The Foodie Facebook page.

My status:

IMG_0991

“Working from home…actually licked the dip off the plastic cover…is that wrong?”

Now, at the time I had 122 wonderful foodie friends following me. If 50% of them viewed this picture I would have been over the moon. Facebook does all of these cool analytics and they will tell you how many people saw each post. They give two numbers. The first group is described as organic (those folks who subscribe to my page). As of now, 74 or my followers have seen this post. That means that 60% of my foodie friends saw this post. Cool!

Here’s the cool kicker: 357 more people were viral viewers. This means they saw the post from a friend or a friend of a friend. Even cooler! In addition, 23 people “liked” it and there were 34 comments.

And this is all because I mentioned that I licked the dip off the plastic cover. Maybe I should not call it the cover but the removable film that protects the product from contamination. I would never lick the actual cover that you put on to store it in the refrigerator, not unless I knew I was going to eat the whole thing, like a yogurt.

We love food. Food brings us back to memories of youth, to a simpler time, even if it was anything but simple.

People talked about that delicious Bison French Onion Dip like it could help them channel their youth. And for those few moments when they were engaged in the conversation they may have actually gone back in time. I had friends from around the country wax poetic about how they would buy it in Western New York when visiting and bring it back home to enjoy.

This past November when my son came home for his first Thanksgiving since moving to New York he posted a list on my personal Facebook wall. What was number one on his list?

Bison Dip

Number two was Molson Canadian (in bottles) and number three was DiCamillo’s bread.

There were as many comments about the “dip delivery system” as there were with the dip.

It was interesting having my dipping moxy challenged.

I had some multi-grain pita chips and decided that Crosby Stills and Nash were right when they crooned that you should “Love The One You’re With.” But Bison Dip purists would agree that Wavy Lays are the best chip to use because the need for “chip extraction” is reduced.

I laugh as I write about “dip delivery system” and “chip extraction” because these were part of a real conversation I had with my son and nephew who have thought way too much about this whole business.

Yes, we love food. We love to eat it, prepare it and talk about it. I asked my friends to talk about their favorite food memory and where they grew up. I delighted in their answers.

Jucy-lucy

Jucy-lucy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My cousin Sharyl, who has lived in Minnesota for many years, spoke about a burger called the Juicy Lucy.

Her description: yum!

I did some research and learned it is a cheese burger with the cheese on the inside. You have to wait a few moments before biting it because many people are burned by the melty cheesy goodness that squirts out.

There are two bars in Minneapolis that spell it differently. The 5-8 Club calls it the Juicy Lucy and while Matt’s Bar calls it a Jucy Lucy. The competition reminds me of Philadelphia and their cheesesteak where Pat’s and Geno’s duke it out every year.

We love food.

Karyn mentioned a pizzeria/bakery in Niagara Falls (it is now in Lewiston NY – a top 10 Small Town in the USA). I remember Trucello’s because it was not far from my grandmother’s house. Karyn says “it covered all five senses. A true food experience.” I just remember the oil dripping up my arm as I ate it. And, that was not a bad thing.

Mary, who grew up in Annapolis Maryland remembers Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs. There is nothing like eating seafood that was likely swimming the day before.

“My grandmothers cornbread made in little cob shaped cast iron molds. She served it with butter and honey! Yumm!” was posted by my friend Sandra who hails from Nashville, TN. My sister and I pass our grandmother’s molds back and forth because you cannot beat a well seasoned pan.

Terese remembers Rocco’s Pizzeria in Waterford Michigan. “My Mom and Dad took us every Friday on a pay week! Mr. Rocco was behind a glass window flipping the dough for your pizza!” I asked her what made it so special and she said “the sausage they used for a topping, and the wonderful show he put on for his customers! It was definitely a treat to go out for dinner!”

I’ll bet she hasn’t thought about Rocco for years but simply by the detailed description she went back to a simpler time, when dad got his paycheck and the family was together.

We love food.

Close your eyes and remember the one food that brings you back in time. What is it? Care to share?

Have a yummy week.

Last week: Setting The Table for 2013 JudeTheFoodie.com

Savannah Georgia On My Mind

3 Comments

20130118-111620.jpgI was driving from Western New York down to South Florida the other day when I spontaneously got off Interstate 95 (once saw a tee-shirt that said “I drove I95 and I survived”)onto I16 for Savannah Georgia. My intention was to drive in and walk around. The folks at Old Town Trolley Tours had their own idea when they waved their paddles wildly at my car and my friend Loretta’s advise to take a trolley rang in my head. Great call, Loretta!

Whenever I visit a town new to me I pose the same question: what is the one bite I should get if I never get back? She said shrimp and grits at the Cotton Exchange (trolley stop 11) and a lady on the tour also said Leopold’s for ice cream (trolley stop 8).

20130118-111831.jpg

Our first stop was City Market. It was a fun combo of food, pub and retail.City Market

20130118-124602.jpg

It was here I met Zach at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen.20130118-112032.jpg

He was my first tasting buddy of the day.

20130118-112107.jpgI asked about a candy I had always known as Turtles and he politely corrected my by describing them as Gophers. You cannot know how happy I was the day I discovered I’m not allergic to pecans…I did not taste them in Savannah and chose to bring them with me for the ride. They are a treat to behold.

I walked around that square taking in the local color including Paula Deen‘s Lady and Sons restaurant but chose to take the recommendation of the locals. 20130118-125950.jpgWhat a woman, that Paula Deen! She has a retail space connected to the restaurant that reminds me of the are you enter after you get off an attraction at Disney World.

I hopped back onto the trolley and saw the home of Juliette Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. I was only slightly disappointed the home was a creamy beige and not a soft green I imagined from my old uniform.
The trolley drivers are very informative, each with their own brand of shtick. I did get busted once for talking but, in my own defense, I was only answering someone’s question.

My next stop was number 6, to see the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.20130118-131151.jpg

It is a very beautiful church and well worth the stop.

After visiting the church I walked across Lafayette Square to Clary’s, famous for its role in a movie called Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil and for their eclairs as big as my head.20130118-112303.jpg

It was delicious (I had about a quarter of it this morning as breakfast-glad I had a cooler with me).

20130118-112437.jpgBack on for a few stops and jumped off at stop #8 for their famous soda bar called Leopold’s.
My tour guide said it was voted best ice cream in the south…the country…the world! Wow, I felt like Buddy in Elf and just wanted to go in and congratulate them. Worlds best? Fabulous!!

20130118-112523.jpg 20130118-112908.jpgI ordered the Lemon Custard and found it to be very smooth and almost buttery. There was a hint of lemon peel in it and  I ate a good deal of  my single scoop.

I originally set out to stay for three hours and get three good bites. By this time three hours had passed and I had already eaten or purchased for later enjoyment pecan pralines, peanut brittle, milk chocolate and dark chocolate gophers, a ginormous eclair and world famous ice cream.

But what the heck…the seven hour drive down to South Florida could wait a few more hours! I enjoyed meeting up with the same folks who began the tour with me. They were really nice and they expressed both shock and awe at the fact I was doing this alone, sandwiched into my 22 hour drive. If any of you are reading this, please let me know. Did you go back for the shrimp and grits?

Well, back on the trolley for me, this time getting off at stop number 11, Bay Street.

20130118-112746.jpg20130118-112714.jpg The end of this cobblestone street was the Cotton Exchange.

20130118-112352.jpgHere is my new best friend Brandon, as fine a mixologist as you will find, serving me a most beautiful Bloody Mary. And, it was as tasty as it looked. Even the salty seasoning on the glass rim was pretty. The Absolute Peppar gave it a kick without being too spicy.

I love eating at the bar. You learn so much about the local customs, dishes and folklore. Brandon did not disappoint. I explained I do not eat much but wanted to sample the local fare. We agreed that shrimp and grits was a must but he also recommended the Tybee Crab Chowder

20130118-134209.jpgI enjoyed the slight kick from this creamy chowder with corn and potatoes. He also brought over a tasting of German Potato Salad, different from the warm version I am used to. It is a red skin potato salad made with celery, mayonnaise and sour cream. Then it struck me…that’s my mother-in-law’s recipe…raised by a German couple…wow!

20130118-111943.jpgMy journey was almost over. It was only me and the shrimp and grits. The big taste was everything it was built up to be and more. The first surprise were the grits. I was expecting a creamy polenta like mixture. Instead they were more like a creamy biscuit shaped disk. The menu describes the dish as a bowl of organic stone ground grits lightly fried topped with roasted red peppers, onions, jumbo shrimp, andouille sausage (delicious all on their own) and smothered in a sherry cream sauce. I will remember this dish for a long time. It was the perfect balance of cream and heat.

This five and a half hour tasting was a most welcome diversion in a long and boring trip south. Best of all? I have some leftover shrimp and grits in my refrigerator right now!

Have a yummy day!

Second chance at Pub was world-class

20120611-082440.jpg

I had a great dinner this past Sunday at the Lewiston Village Pub (linked here).
This came as a considerable surprise to me because the one and only time I was there previously ordering off the menu was completely and totally forgettable.

As owner Ken Scibetta told me, our last visit was before he took the kitchen over.

When they first bought the Pub in January 2008 they sublet the kitchen out.

It was just Ken and his partner back then. Now they have a staff of 25. Back then it was 80 percent bar business and 20 percent food.

Now it’s 65 percent food and 35 percent bar which is a testament to how good the food is. When they started out the bulk of their profit came from the bar business.

They have this Mug Club where you get a personalized mug for $8 which is waiting for you when you return. The beer offerings are very extensive and he would like to expand the wine menu sometime in the future.

Ken has slowly and surely created a menu that has regular customers come back often. He likes to change up the specials frequently using as many local ingredients as possible.

He gets a great deal of his produce from Tom Tower and other Niagara County growers. He is quick to explain he is a self taught chef.

His previous experience was in “the front of the house” serving at higher end WNY establishments such as the Buffalo Chop House and Left Bank.
He told me he learned about food from the daily specials he had shared with diners. If he did not know an ingredient or cooking style he had to learn about it before the customers asked about it.

To start we ordered calamari served with the house tomato sauce.

20120611-082433.jpg I liked the sauce very much, not to salty and almost sweet. The rings were described as “jumbo” and they certainly were.

We had a Rex-Goliath Merlot, a great value at $20 a bottle. We took advantage of the Sunday special, steak for two. I got a salad with cucumber wasabi dressing which had heat without pain. It was delicious.

20120611-082426.jpgThe steak was cooked exactly to order and it was served over buttery mashed potatoes. There is always room for dessert and we ordered a slice of cheesecake.

20120611-082419.jpg
When I see the website and the pictures of the food I’m very impressed he taught himself to cook. He tries to create his menu so that when a diner reads it they cannot decide what to have. I can say that worked for me.

I look forward to going back and having the crab legs or maybe the Kona crusted sirloin … I cannot decide!

Have a yummy week!