Phew, I’ve been hoarding quite the stash of food photos from the last few days, so brace yourself.
Let’s begin with Friday, when the hub and I decided to redeem one of our latest Real Deal coupons. I am becoming sliiiightly obsessed with this whole Groupon-movement! And by slightly, I mean extremely.
The deal I had purchased was $50 worth of food and drinks for $25 from The Quarter Bistro in Ann Arbor. While I had heard less-than-stellar reviews for this place, I had dined there for brunch one time and really enjoyed it (the best bacon!), so we decided to try it again.
After ordering, we were brought a basket of warm, soft herb bread with butter hummus. Kind of seems like an odd combo, amirite? I think I would have preferred butter (honey butter!?), but it worked. Didn’t stop us from devouring it.
Half-off appetizers and drink specials are available during Happy Hour (Mon-Fri 3-6:30 PM), but only in the tavern area. Slightly sad, as we had to pay full price for our crab cakes (well, before our coupon), since we were not seated in the tavern. These were very good – moist, sweet lump crab, savory cake – but not the best I’ve had. Crab cakes are my FAVORITE! I simply cannot pass them up when I see them on a menu. These were by far the best part of the meal, and were served with a roasted red pepper aioli, which I enjoyed.
For my entrée, I ordered the Seared Beef Tips Stroganoff: “Sautéed tenderloin tips with wild mushrooms, green onions, burgundy wine, lemon juice, fresh cream, and sour cream; Tossed with pappardelle pasta.” I’m sad to say the dish (shown below) just did not live up to my expectations.
1. Appearance – Blah; just did not appear very appetizing. I understand it’s difficult to make brown food pretty, but still. I think the bell pepper confetti on the sides of the plate just looks messy to me.
2. Taste – Bland. By no means bad, or even unpleasant, just covered in sauce that was lacking in flavor. The beef tips were also highly lacking in flavor.
3. Lack of variety – “Wild mushrooms” were supposed to be in the dish. All I found were some quartered button mushrooms, or maybe baby bellas, but I guess I was expecting slightly more exotic ‘shroomies as well as a greater variety. And where are the “green onions”? Maybe a few tiny pieces are sprinkled in there, but sheesh, bring ‘em on! Not only would they enhance the appearance of the dish, but also the flavor.
4. Overpriced – Luckily I had a coupon, so I didn’t mind the price, but without the coupon, I would not want to pay $17 for the dish.
So overall, I would say my dish was good, but by no means great. I kind of wished I had ordered the Butternut Squash ravioli after all!
Tom ordered the Louisiana Beef Brisket: “Beef brisket, slowly cooked to tenderness. Served with our house BBQ sauce, New Orleans Au Gratins, red beans with Andouille sausage, hush puppies, and our house-made coleslaw.” I definitely experience a bit of food-jealousy during this meal. Talk about variety here! I had a bite of brisket and it was oh-so-tender and delicious. The menu states that the BBQ sauce is their “house BBQ sauce,” so presumably that means it is homemade, but I must admit I was skeptical, because, while it was good, it did taste like a prepared sauce. But hey, I’m just a very skeptical person. I tried a bite of coleslaw too and it was alright. The hub enjoyed the red beans too.
For dessert, the hub was nice and let me choose the Key Lime Pie, even though it is not his favorite, though he does like it.
- Presentation – So cute! I love it!
- Key lime filling – While scant, the key lime pie filling was delicious and did not have that “fake” lime flavor you sometimes find with lower-quality pies. Luscious!
- Meringue – I’m not a big fan of meringue, but I would prefer meringue over whipped cream any day! It tasted good. ..But:
- Too much meringue! Not enough pie filling!
- Lime syrup – had that “fake” lime taste (unlike the delicious lime filling!). Oh well, that didn’t stop me from dipping meringue in it.
All in all, the food was just good, but not great at The Quarter Bistro. Our service was pretty good for most of our meal, but got a little slow toward the end of our meal, as the place was getting quite crowded (our poor server had SO many tables I saw her waiting on, so I think she was doing the best she could, but just assigned to serve too many tables). I felt our discounted price, including the coupon, would have been a fair price for the quality of the food, but if I had not had the coupon and had to pay full price I probably would not have felt very happy at all! Regardless of all this, it was enjoyable meal.
After dinner, we went to go see No Strings Attached at the movie theater. We tried to go last weekend (remember when it was 7 degrees [or less]?) but the line was 30+ people out the door when we arrived at the theater so we just said eff it and went to buy a DVD instead. Well, this Friday we had much better luck. No line at the theater when we arrived, and we got our tickets and good seats with no problem. After seeing Natalie Portman in Black Swan, when I saw the No Strings Attached trailer on TV, I was shocked (appalled!?) that this was her next film! However, I simply cannot miss a film with my beloved NatPort in it, so off we went. And you know what? I actually enjoyed the movie. It was quite funny and I was laughing pretty hard at a couple points throughout the movie. You can’t go in with the expectation that it is going to be some Golden Globe/Oscar-caliber film. But with the expectation that the movie would be a couple hours’ worth of humorous entertainment, I left satisfied.
Saturday it was time to resume our MBD-Tradish! Maize and Blue Deli was our destination, after a few-week hiatus. This week I tried a new sandwich: “#47. HAM-I-AM: Ham, smoked turkey, Switzerland Swiss, mayo & tomato on grilled sourdough pumpernickel.” The pumpernickel bread is off-the-chizzain! It is my favorite. My sandwich was wonderful. Probably not my favorite one I’ve tried, but right up there. The hub and I split a tub of Mustard Potato salad, and I enjoyed my half pickle. Definitely made two meals out of this feast! Oh how I love MBD!
…Especially when it is paired with red wine. And vampire movies. For the record, I refuse to see or have anything to do with the Twilight series. But last night, we watched the vampire movie that came out in 1994, before vampires were cool: Interview with the Vampire, with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise (and Kirsten Dunst as a child!). We own this DVD (I inherited it when I married the hub), but I don’t think I had watched it before, until last night. It was good but I had the weirdest dreams last night. For some reason, I ALWAYS have dreams that it is the end of the world. Yeah, I don’t know. And last night in my dream, it was the end of the world, and the earth had imploded upon itself, and everyone who was still alive was living in the core of the earth, but we were running out of oxygen. Also, the only food left to eat was smoked salmon. Weird, right!? Who knows. I was also listening to a lot of Ke$ha yesterday (…”this place about to blo-oooww”) so that may also have had something to do with it?
Sunday was nice and sunny, despite the hideous snow. I found this MONSTER-CICLE growing on the back of our house. I named him Hugh Jass.
Today I decided to make homemade bread to go with the soup I planned to make for dinner. I haven’t made homemade yeast bread in, oh, I don’t know… maybe a decade!? I did used to be quite the baker though! I followed a recipe for Rosemary Focaccia Bread from my Taste of Home cookbook.
Yeast-activation, kneading, and rising were involved. Look at that sucker double in size! I didn’t know what “warm place” to let my bread rise in, since there really aren’t many “warm places” in my house in January. However, I microwaved a small bowl of water for about one minute, removed it, and then placed my bowl of covered dough in the closed, slightly-warmed (and powered OFF) microwave for 40 minutes to rise. It worked!
Oh, and I should add that the bread dough contains two chopped sweet onions that were sautéed until soft in a skillet, as well as rosemary, at this point.
Then I got to punch that sucker. Take that you b.. bread! Yay – free anger management.
After a good dose of pummeling, the dough was divided in two, shaped into two flat, round loaves and left to rise for another 40 minutes. After that it was FINALLY time to bake. These items were all brushed and/or sprinkled on the bread before baking: extra virgin olive oil, sea salt crystals, chopped fresh rosemary.
After baking for 28 minutes:
While the bread was baking, I kept randomly shouting out things like, “oh my gawd!!” and “oh, I can’t handle this!” because it smelled so freaking amazing in the house. Luckily the hub is used to this type of behavior, living with a food blogger, so it didn’t seem to phase him.
Bean and Barley Soup
While my bread was baking, I started making Bean and Barley Soup, using this recipe from Cooking Light – a new meatless entrée in my kitchen. I started by chopping up the good stuff: carrots, celery, parsley, and a LOT of red onion.
The above veggies were sautéed in EVOO for a few minutes, before adding vegetable broth, water, pearled barley, basil (calls for fresh – I used dried), dried oregano (my own addition), and two bay leaves.
The recipe calls for dried beans, but I used canned, so I had to change up the cooking method a bit. Nine cups of water is what the recipe calls for, but I used two (in addition to the two cups of veggie broth). I almost feel like “9 cups” is a typo – that just seems ridiculous! I let this soup simmer, uncovered for around 40 minutes, and then added in one can of drained and rinsed pinto beans. I pureed about 1/3 of the can of beans with my immersion blender before adding to the soup, to add a creaminess to the broth.
Last but not least – I added in the essential ingredient: Frank’s Hot Sauce! I added far more than the recipe suggests, and it really made the soup. When I first tasted the soup, it was a tad bland so I added in a TON more black pepper, and lots more hot sauce, and it vastly improved the soup. This soup really grew on me – the first few bites I couldn’t decide if I liked it all that much, but soon after, I was scarfing it down and loving it. If you are a veggie lover and have an open mind to meatless meals, you will enjoy this highly nutritious soup. The Rosemary Focaccia was a delicious accompaniment!
Bean and Barley Soup Rating: 7.5/10
Mango-Raspberry-Banana Spinach Smoothies
Tonight we had another set of green smoothies for dessert. This weekend at the grocery store I picked up more smoothie supplies – including a second giant 1 lb. container of organic baby spinach leaves. We definitely have a Spinach Situation at my house right now. Spinach is taking up a highly significant proportion of my fridge – and I am okay with that. Tonight’s smoothie was the best I’ve tried so far. This recipe made two smoothies:
- Two big handfuls of baby spinach
- 3/4 cup fat-free vanilla Stonyfield yogurt
- 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
- 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
- 1 big, ripe banana
- a few handfuls of ice cubes
Oh-so-good! No additional sweetener was needed in this batch. Loved this! Pure nutrition.
Breaking Foodie News
Oh! And I have to tell you! Guess what I signed up for today!?! A half-share of a summer CSA from a local farm. I am ridiculously excited, but sad I have to wait a few months until it starts. Stay tuned for more on this!
What is a CSA? Here is a brief description from localharvest.org: “Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.”
From where did you order your CSA share? I went with Two Creeks Organics, a local family farm based in Manchester, MI. The Summer 2011 CSA will be 20 weeks long.
Can’t wait for the veggie goodness!
Currently listening to: Blow – Ke$ha.