Monday, March 30, 2015

Product Review: Simply Asia's General Tso's Stir-Fry Sauce

I'm always looking for quick and easy dinner ideas - I was in Walmart the other day and came across Simply Asia's General Tso Stir-Fry Sauce. What I liked about this was it was a sauce packet - which means - even quicker meal prep! 

They have five flavors of stir-fry sauces: General Tso, Spicy Kung Pao, Sweet & Sour, Ginger Teriyaki and Mandarin Orange.

The packets are super easy - just stir fry your meat & veggies and then add the sauce. I had a couple of chicken breasts thawed out and a small head of broccoli in the fridge. So within 10-15 minutes - dinner is ready!

The General Tso's chicken was really good! I loved that it was so simple and then actually tasted good! I think the flavor profile was pretty true to what I've had in Chinese restaurants. There's a little bit of sweetness but then a little spice as well. I would say this has a low level of spiciness - you can taste a slight kick but it's not uncomfortable. I'm a spice wuss - if that helps understand my scale. :-)

All in all - I really liked it and will definitely buy this brand again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

RSVP for Marco's Pizza Twitter Party - Wednesday 2pm! (you can get free pizza!!)


On Thursday, March 26, Marco’s Pizza is celebrating National Spinach Day by offering customers a free medium Grilled Chicken Florentine pizza for bringing a can of spinach to the store.  
The Grilled Chicken Florentine is topped with baby spinach, roma tomatoes, grilled chicken, a blend of four cheeses and garlic Parmesan sauce. The offer is for carryout and dine-in orders only. Donated spinach will go to local food banks as part of the company’s efforts to fight hunger.
"This was a successful community event for us last year and it's a great way to share the love of spinach," said Cathy Hull, chief marketing officer at Marco's Pizza, in a statement. "Together, we can support our communities by helping stock the shelves of our local food banks, while delighting our customers with the delicious flavor of our Grilled Chicken Florentine pizza."
To celebrate the free pies - join their Twitter Party tomorrow at 2pm @marcospizza! Be sure to RSVP here - there will be $850 worth of prizes!!! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Disney Restaurant Reviews: California Grill, Trattoria al forno, Narcoossee's and much more! #foodblogforum

Recently I attended the Food Blog Forum at Disney World in Orlando. It was a conference for food bloggers and we got to go to Disney for 4 days - it was pretty awesome. While there - they TOTALLY spoiled us when it came to food. 

Saturday was the day of our conference and our lunch was a surprise - they took us upstairs at the Contemporary Resort to the California Grill for a chef's tasting. It was pretty amazing - we had 10 chefs from across all of the Disney properties lined up with their favorite dishes. Um #drooling.

The day we were there - it was POURING - which was kind of nice since we weren't missing any great weather. Unfortunately my pictures of the view from the California Grill suffered because of it. It's pretty awesome - you can see everything from there. Here is THE castle on the left and the Grand Floridian (where we stayed) on the right.

I also met new friends - my first buddy was Shannon from Cozy Country Living. She is dealing with feet and feet of snow up in Buffalo - so she was super excited to be in Floriday. We had so much fun throughout the weekend - please check out her blog and her recipe for Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Chip Cheesecake (um wow).

Once we were all introduced to the chefs - the eating frenzy began. The restaurants were set up in stations around the dining room. We started with Braised Beef Bolognese with house-made cavatelli from Trattoria al forno. This was a popular one at our table but not my favorite. It was fine - the beef was tender but the pasta was a little too al dente for my taste.

If you ever go to a tasting like this - pace yourself - we went four plates at a time and just took our time. Also - you're going to get full - so if you try a bite or two of something and don't love it - let it go. Save that belly space for the stuff you LOVE!

Next up was something amazing - Spicy Tuna Tartare with cucumber and radish salad, avocado Wasabi sauce and Lotus Root chips from the Hollywood Brown Derby. Okay - I had no idea what I was eating really with the Lotus Root chips but man were they delicious! The tartare was also fantastic - spicy but not too much so and so refreshing!

Hollywood Brown Derby on Urbanspoon

Next up - we lightened up with a Roasted Baby Beets with Pear, Goat's Milk Feta, Toasted Pistachio and Petite Greens from Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot. Shannon wasn't a beet fan so I she shared her beets with me. Beets are so funny - when I was a kid - I ate so many of them I overdosed. For years they repulsed me. Now - I'm finally ready for them again and these were great - but when you put cheese on them - how can they go wrong. Very springy!

Le Cellier Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

This dish doesn't look super appetizing but sounded great - it was Local Wild Ocean Shrimp with Risotto di Carnaroi alla Frutti de Mare from the Flying Fish Cafe on Disney's Boardwalk. I'm not a big risotto fan - I always expect pasta and get rice - just not my favorite. The shrimp and fruit were delicious.

Flying Fish Café on Urbanspoon

Next up - we visited Africa with Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Their dish was Lamb Potjie with basmati rice and a minted lemon pickle. This was my least favorite of the day. The lamb was cold and that pretty much killed it for me. Other folks liked it - but I think the temperature was a big barrier for me.

Sanaa on Urbanspoon

We were staying at the Grand Floridian and they have a beautiful restaurant on the lake called Narcoossee's. They served us Wild Striped Bass with tiny potatoes, sweet corn puree, romanesco, shitakes and warm tomato-pickled mustard seed vinaigrette. This was delicious on paper but it was just okay. I'd say top half of the menu (there was so much great food) - but not my favorite. I loved the freshness and the variety - so I would definitely check out the restaurant.

Narcoossee's on Urbanspoon

Next up was a dish I took a bite of - just for good measure. It was the Power Salad from Sunshine Seasons at Epcot. The Power Salad has kale, chard, chicory, radicchio, broccoli, brussel sprouts, quinoa, goat cheese, toasted sliced almonds and dried sour cherries witha  spiced honey vinaigrette. There was so much indulgent food that a power salad wasn't at the top of my list. But I will say this - for a salad - it was really good. If I was ordering dinner and this was my dinner salad - I would definitely be a happy camper!

Sunshine Seasons on Urbanspoon

Another dish I thought I would love was from Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom. Chef Norberg brought us Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in a puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce. I think the tasting hurt the temperature on this one too - I'm sure if it was hot - it would have been great. The scallop was cooked perfectly but the puff pastry was just a bit bland.

Be Our Guest Restaurant on Urbanspoon

It was time for dessert and the Contemporary Resort has a Bakery inside and brought us two delightful but very different desserts. Oh my Lord - this is why I only took a bite of the Power Salad and the Lamb - need. room. in. belly!

This was a Florida Strawberry-Orange Cake with Champagne Sorbet. Unfortunately we didn't love. it tasted like the desserts you get at a casino buffet. The cake and the gelatinous filling were all sort of a strange texture. It wasn't bad - it just wasn't really good either.

Then - there was their specialty Chocolate Pudding Cake with chocolate-hazelnut sauce and mint cream. When they said Chocolate Pudding Cake - this isn't what I was picturing - but wow - just WOW. It was so dense and so rich but still light in a way. It was thicker than mousse but not "cake" like I was expecting. There was a little homemade marshmallow with it as well. It was a big wow for sure. People were so full and I told them - just try a bite - you can fit in one bite. Then the plate was empty. :-)

There's one more dish that I saved for last - brought to us by the host restaurant California Grill. Chef Piasecki brought us a Braised Pork Belly with goat cheese polenta and country applesauce. I have to fess up - this is my 2nd picture - because I ate two of them. I was so full - but we were right next to their station and they had pork belly left - just staring at me - calling to me..."Heather - we're right here - don't leave us!"

The fun part was I had a little menu on my table and was making notes throughout the lunch so I would remember when I was writing this post. Chef Piasecki stopped by our table and saw my notes - his pork belly had a silver shooting star doodled next to it - so he was happy. He then picked up my list and started to walk to the other stations - but then just smiled and gave it back. Whew! 

This dish was completely amazing - I was so full but so happy with all that pork belly in my belly. 

California Grill on Urbanspoon

So that was my lunch - omg - it was a total food coma when we got back to the conference but it was worth it. :-)

And never ever forget - the 3 rules of a food tasting:

1. pace yourself
2. don't eat it if you don't love it
3. always get seconds of pork belly. 




Thursday, March 19, 2015

Restaurant Review: Mad Mike's Burgers & Fries, Newport KY

Every once in a while - I just get a hankering for a good burger. A really good - juicy - unique burger. We'd driven by Mad Mike's in Newport numerous times and I'd heard rumors of their burgers - so finally - Dawn & I made it a point to go. 

It's up the street from the Levee on the corner where Graeters used to be. Once inside - there is a big menu on the wall and you order at the counter. They'll give you a number to take to your table. There was ample street parking nearby as well.

Dawn got a simple chicken breast sandwich ($6.99) - a chicken burger in their world. The burgers do not come with a side - just an fyi.
 
Dawn chose onion rings for her side. They just sounded delicious. Theirs are served with a spicy aioli sauce. Dawn was nice enough to let me try one. The batter was nice and crispy - done the right amount - a little salt on top. Good stuff. The aioli was okay but the onion rings are rich enough on their own.

I ordered the Pride of Zeus Burger ($6.49) - which is basically a gyro on top of a burger. It's got gyro meat, feta cheese, tzatziki sauce, lettuce & onions. I don't know for sure - but I don't think the gyro meat is from a spit (i.e. fresh) as it was a bit dry. The burger itself was pretty good. The gyro on top took it a bit over the top and was a bit dry. The tzatziki was good though - so I was happy about that.

I got fries for my side ($2.19) and they were pretty much Penn Station fries.

Why Should You Go? They have really creative burgers - I already said that next time I want the Look-Out Below - with cream cheese, jalapenos, mad sauce, fried egg & lettuce. Come on - that sounds delish! With what I got - it wasn't the best burger I've had - but definitely worth another shot with another combination.


Mad Mike's Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Restaurant - Todd English's bluezoo - Orlando, FL

Recently I went to Orlando for the Food Blog Forum and we had some time to ourselves so I decided to try out some of the Celebrity Chef fare on the Disney properties. I found out that Todd English has a restaurant at the Dolphin called bluezoo and they had a reservation open!

We were staying at the Grand Floridian - which is on the monorail. The nice thing about DisneyWorld is that it's really easy to get around. A quick monorail ride to Magic Kingdom and then a bus ride from there over to the Swan/Dolphin. When you realize it takes 20-30 min to get there - you realize just how big Disney is! 

The Dolphin resort has a beautiful fountain in the entryway - there are a few restaurants inside to choose from. 

The bluezoo is to the back and down the escalator - I tell you this because there are no signs - the concierge pointed me in the right direction.

Inside it has a very formal atmosphere - you definitely feel an aquatic vibe around the restaurant. I was seated against a wall - which was nice - it gave me something to look at while I was eating and I didn't feel like people were gawking at the girl dining alone!

First they served bread - there were a couple of different kinds served with a fennel butter. The bread was fine - not the best I've had - not the worst I've had. I'm not a big fennel fan either...but it was ok.

For the first course I chose the Teppan seared jumbo sea scallop with braised beef short rib and a cauliflower puree ($18). I'm a sucker for short rib - and then you pair that with a scallop - I pretty much figured this would be a sure thing.

And it was! It was DELICIOUS! The short rib melted in your mouth, the scallop was seared but not rubbery and the cauliflower puree had the texture of a creamy mashed potato. So delicious - I should have ordered two.

For the main, I chose their Simply Fish selection ($35) which was a choice of 3 fish, grilled and served with a warm crabmeat dijon mustard sauce. This was served with marbled potatoes, vinegar, shaved hearts of palm and...truffle oil. (Oh the dreaded truffle oil.) I just hate it. It stinks and overpowers everything it touches. So the potatoes were basically inedible. :-(

For the fish - I chose the Corvina from Costa Rica. The server was very knowledgeable and said that it was a thick white fish - which I normally like. Unfortunately this tasted like dry turkey breast. You know when you have turkey at Thanksgiving and you get a piece of kinda dry turkey. I really didn't like it. Ugh - so disappointing. But there was one saving grace...

The warm crabmeat with a dijon mustard sauce was delicious! I actually just gave up on the fish and potatoes and just ate this with a spoon. I really wanted to ask for another little mini-pan of it!

I didn't go for dessert - none of them sounded that good - they all had something I don't like - rice pudding or caramel or whatever.

Why Should You Go? If you're staying at the Swan or Dolphin - then it's fine. But there are so many great places on the properties - I wouldn't go back.

Todd English's bluezoo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Recipe: Longhorn Steakhouse's Classic Beef Teriyaki Skewers

I recently went to a Food Blogging Conference in Orlando (posts about that to come soon - DISNEY!). While there I decided to shift my blog - just a bit. I've been doing restaurant reviews for YEARS now - and then I started adding recipes. To be honest - I've been a little burned out! 

The conference rejuvenated me - but also gave me an idea of how to tweak the blog to make it fit me a bit more - and be a little less overwhelming. So in addition to my restaurant reviews - I'm going to be focusing more on restaurant recipes! I'm hoping to get some secret recipes from local places - but to start with - the chains are easy to find. 

One of our favorite restaurants is Longhorn Steakhouse. It's up the street from us and the servers are great - we head up there at least twice/month. They have a whole section of their site for Recipes and one that jumped out to me was their Classic Beef Teriyaki Skewers.

For the Teriyaki Marinade - you whisk together five ingredients - super simple! You just mix together honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinaigrette dressing, hoisin sauce and Chinese 5 Spice. Oddly enough for me - I had everything except the 5 spice - usually I'm at least 3 ingredients short of every recipe I find! 

I also got to try out my new OXO Good Grips 7 piece liquid measuring set. It was in my swag bag from the conference. I have to say - I kinda love them. I'm pretty sure it's the rainbow colors - but I also like that they come in such a variety of sizes - and the cups overlap measures which is nice too.

The bigger ones are nice too because you can get a small spatula or spoon for sticky things like honey and hoisin sauce.

Once your marinade is all whisked together - you can prep your skewer ingredients. I got a Top Sirloin from the meat market up the street (pretty great looking). I cut this into 1" chunks and trimmed the fat off as I went.

I also prepped a red onion and pineapple. You can also add green pepper - I just didn't have one at home that day. Once you have all your ingredients in 1" chunks you can start putting together your skewers.

Brush all the skewers liberally with half of the marinade that you made. The skewers make it easy to turn them and get the other side.

Then refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Then you grill for 6-8 minutes - turning and basting - and dinner is served! I like to just cook it for 2-3 minutes on each side to get rare/medium-rare sirloin. The smaller chunks cook up quick - so watch them to be sure they're not dry! 

I really hope you enjoy this recipe and I hope you'll join me on this new path of restaurant recipes! 

Longhorn Steakhouse Classic Beef Teriyaki Skewers

Ingredients:

1 lb top sirloin
1 large red onion
1 large pepper
1 large fresh pineapple
skewers

Teriyaki Marinade:

1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
3 T soy sauce
3 T Hoisin sauce
3 T honey
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice seasoning

Instructions: 

  1. Cut steak, onion, pepper and pineapple into 1 inch chunks
  2. Whisk together marinade ingredients in a bowl. Reserve half marinade for later use. 
  3. Prepare the skewers - alternating between steak, onion, pepper & pineapple
  4. Place skewers on a tray and brush liberally with half of the marinade. Wrap & refrigerate between 2 hours and overnight.
  5. Place skewers on a hot oiled grill (or grill pan). Turn every 2-3 minutes - cooking for a total of 6-8 minutes based on desired doneness. 
  6. Serve with rice