Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

June 25, 2011

Mill St Bistro

Elk quesadilla

I went to retry this restaurant remembering how good it was last year.  There was no bartender to found, the chef from 2011 was no where to be found, and the owner of the restaurant was the only one in the kitchen.  He has no idea about kitchen and dish management. He was making all dishes ordered by each table in the order the tickets arrived in the kitchen.  That means all apps, soups, salads and entree per person arrives to the table at the same time.  He was was not preparing apps, soups or salads first.  So, I got there at about before 7 pm, and I was the 6th table to be seated.  There were  2 four-tops, and the rest two-tops.  I put my order in, and I waited over an hour for anything to arrive at my table.  I was hungry, barely got 1 cup of water, and was thirsty.  I asked for my salad.  The waitress said that my ticket was in the kitchen, and I was 3rd in line for food, with 2 other tables which waited longer than me.  The owner would not send out the salad because he was going to make all the dishes in my order at one time and send them out together.  The waitress went on to say that there were 2 other tables ahead of me (1 four-top and 1 two-top), and I will have to wait. Hell no, I wasn't going to wait.  Well looking at my wait so far, I think I  probably had over an hour wait for the 2 tables to get food before mine was going to be fired.  Well screw that, I walked out looking for a meal that would arrive at my table before 9 pm after waiting forever.

There is this hidden little gem of a restaurant in the middle of the North Coast of Ohio that I really dig, it is Mill Street Bisto. This place is located about 10 miles south of center point between Toledo and Cleveland in the small town of Norwalk, OH. The gig here is they serve up farmed game meats, local and local organic veggies when they can get them in. I was intrigued when I saw the menu online and it had farmed elk, buffalo and game hens.

It was over 20 years ago, in my Pennsylvania days, when I was at a game-night dinner, and I mean game meat, not playing board games. Tom, one from the country who grew up supplying venison protein for his house, he brought some venison tenderloin to the table. Steve, another one who grew up providing for his family, just had a trip out to the western mountains and he brought elk short ribs with him. Lynn and I, well we did not grow up with that tradition, so our big game offering came from the grocery store. I still recall my first taste of wild elk short ribs, and I remember thinking that this was the best meat I have ever tasted in my life. It was the 1st time I have ever had elk, and up this point, the last time I have had elk.

Elk tenderloin medallions, locally grown roasted beets, roasted potatoes

In Tennessee, elk population is so low or extinct, that it has been illegal to hunt elk for all the years I have lived here. There are signs up in Check-In stations showing photos and pictures of white tail deer which are legal with a license, and the elk which are not deer. Now, in 2011, elk populations are up, and there will be only 5 licenses for the take of 1 in all of TN. It is unlikely that I will know any of the 5 license holders, so I just thought it would be unlikely that I would ever taste elk again.

Then, there is Mill Street Bistro serving up locally farmed game meats including elk. I was thrilled. I have such fond memories of game-meat night back 20 years ago, and I still think about that meal and elk, that I was ready to try Mill Street Bistro and see if I still like elk.

We got a ground elk quesadilla to start and for my entree I got elk filet medallions in a mushroom demiglace accompanied with local roasted beets and new potatoes. The quesadilla was a spicy dish which was fun, but the spice covered up the flavor of the elk. The dish could have been ground chicken, turkey, beef, or soy protein globs, and I wouldn't know the difference through the spice. My entree was made with a lighter hand with regards to spices, so each component was able to be enjoyed without taste bud fatigue. The elk filet was really smooth and melted in my mouth. The variety of umami mushrooms in the demiglace was perfect with the elk. The demiglace was so good that at the end of the meal, I did take a spoonful of it, so I could have it as the last flavor of the evening. I love roasted fresh beets, simply served plain, no sauce or spice. The bonus for me is that the beets are locally and organically grown just up the road from Mill Street, and you know me, I love local organic foods. And who doesn't love a roasted potato? Huh, who? Well, I know I love roasted potatoes.

As we were leaving, we peeked at the back patio which was being transformed into a casual beer, wine, cigar and casual dining area this summer. That might be something fun for me to try in the coming summer months.

Mill Street Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

June 19, 2011

Delicious Underground - my 500th post!

Just a quick note, this is my 500th Blog Post! Wow! I was waiting to write about this dining experience for my 500th post, so here it is. Enjoy!

Clandestino Dining
Efrain and Lauren thinking about 7 Deadly Sins

Lauren and Efrain, the chefs and creative forces are from Chicago. They happened to be rolling through town after the Memphis in May BBQ Festival, and they decided to offer a pop-up dining experience called Seven Deadly Sins. There were 7 courses, each one representing one of the sins.

Envy: Baby lettuce, Cumberland cheese, goat cheese truffle, honey vinaigrette

What happened was that I was so lucky to be on the list for this event. I show up and I met by the most unbelievably beautiful host and hostess, a grand entryway with a swirling staircase up to the second floor, and the most beautiful art displayed in just the right places. I show up in my country bumpkin soccer mom attire including a "mom" skirt (thank goodness without too many wrinkles) and some sensible shoes that only my former elementary school teachers would love. Some of the other guests, I don't know where they came from, but they were certainly sporting the anti-soccer mom attire, light weight modern era Pucci style dresses, their hair were beautiful and flowing like those Tresemme commercials on TV, and their men looked like they are ready to step into Daniel NYC without being labeled the country bumpkin. I am not Envious of the beautiful guest, but perhaps I did Lust after some of the strappy summery shoes the women were wearing this evening.

Lust: Sopa, trout gravlax, Harissa crema, ramps, rhubarb and strawberries

The Clandestino crew had us start with a happy hour, so all the Tennessee Sinners aka pop-up guests could chat and get to know each other before being seated for dinner. Happy hour had a Tennessee Sinner libation made from a Tennessee bourbon, and accompanied by a guanciale wrapped local strawberry. The guanciale is a house cured free range organic salt cured pork jowl air dried in a Parma tradition. I behaved in a gluttonous manner by taking more than a few of these air dried pork jowl yummies trying to savor the fatty pork flavor.

Mustard green pasta waiting to be made into Wrath

The Sinners happy hour comes to an end, and we are all swept up to the ballroom where the white table cloth tables and chair are set up with candelabras set up as our main source of light. The transom windows were open over head to allow for a mid-spring breeze to flow through the room. The breeze caused the candle light to dance around casting lights and shadow from here to there, making me think I am at Wuthering Heights. When the chefs came in to introduce themselves and their dishes, the candle light danced around them making me see them in some sort of lusty slow motion dream state.

Wrath: Mustart green pappardelle, oxtail ragu, basil olive oil

As we made our way through the 7 deadly sins dinner, it became clear to me that I was sitting across from a male version of me when it comes to food and Oprah! We both like the same things to eat, from a humble grain of rice to something that Frank Stitt might make for us. He loves social dining experiences, as do I. He is also a big Oprah fan, as well as I am, and we chatted about what we are going to do after work when the show is off the air. Well, I need to call my male version of myself and find out what he is doing with and extra hour everyday. I find that I am more apt to go off to the gym rather than seeing what episode of Oprah I recorded, so that is a decent trade I think. I will still miss my Oprah fix (my cable lineup does not have OWN), but at least I am getting out there and not being slothy.

The kitchen where it all happens

The whole dining experience was dreamy and lustful. The ballroom, the candle light, the Pucci dressed guests, and of course the food was just over the top. It almost makes me wonder if this was all a dream or was it real. I am pretty sure it is real because I have the menu at my finger tips, and it is too intricate for me to have made up myself. Efrain and Lauren had to make it up. Here is the prideful, lusty and gluttonous menu of that evening:

Greed: Oyster po'boy with pickled green tomatoes in a soft pretzel roll
Sloth: Pork belly and pea soup
Envy: Baby lettuce with 2 local cheeses and a local honey vinaigrette
Lust: Sope, trout gravlax, and pickled ramps and rhubarb
Gluttony: Foie and French toast
Wrath: Mustard green pappardelle and oxtail ragu
Pride: Four desserts accompanied by a strawberry fizz

Darlings, please extend and invite to me again. I am lusting after the memories of this dinner.

June 13, 2011

Tweed, Bikes and Dogs

people in tweed with bikes at the park

Over one weekend in Cleveland, I was checking out a little neighborhood I haven't been in before, Tremont. Tremont is a little island inside Cleveland. Tremont is surrounded by two freeways, one large rail yard, and one river. You gotta know the few streets that can get into and out of the 'hood or else you aren't getting in or out. Inside the 'hood are a couple of CLE's signature restaurants Lolita and Fahrenheit, a CLE public library where kids still walk and ride bikes to, a bunch of locally owned art galleries, coffee shop, bars, etc. It is a really nice and chilled area to hang out.

I got to Tremont in the middle of the afternoon hoping to get into Lolita at 5 pm without a reservation. At one point Lolita had a year long waiting list, so it is a little risky showing up without a reservation. My only hope was to be the 1st seated and out of there before the rush, or late night, and be the last seated with the risk of the kitchen running out of certain dishes. I opted for the 5 pm choice. So, I had a couple hours to kill, and I walked around the 'hood looking at galleries, looking for a coffee shop, and seeing what I could see. Then, I stumbled upon the park where there were about 100 people all dressed in 1920s get-ups and riding bikes. I walk up and saw Austin (see photo below) and asked him what was going on. Well, it was the Annual Fantastic Tweed Ride of Cleveland!

remember bicyclist Austin from the summer?

It was the 1st nice (it was overcast and cool, but at least not snowing or freezing) weekend in CLE, and bike enthusiasts came out to ride a total of about 30 miles from park to park, refreshment stop to refreshment stop, shenanigan to shenanigan stop, ending up at the Happy Dog for refreshments from the bar, hot dogs and tator tots. Austin said if I wanted some fun food, I should follow the Tweed Ride to Happy Dog, and blog about it. Hmmm, "OK, I'll go", I thought. Off went the Tweed Ride down the 40 blocks to Happy Dog. I walked to my car, got in, worked a plan to get out of the Tremont neighborhood, said goodbye to Michael Symon's Lolita restaurant which will have to wait for another day, and worked my way to W58th and Detroit to Happy Dog.

tweed bicyclist moving out to the Happy Dog

It took me a while to drive through the curvy, rutted roads of Cleveland to get to the Happy Dog, when I got there, the Tweed Ride had been there long enough for most to have 1 drink down, and another on order. This proves again, in the city, bicycling can be faster than getting in a car, driving, waiting at red lights, circling to find parking, parking, paying the meter and then walking into the joint.

Happy Dog is in the old well established Gordon Square District of CLE. Happy Dog used to be an "old man's bar". Before the bar became Happy Dog, it wasn't that crowded, and you could belly up to the old wooden bar and get a few shots of bottom shelf whiskey, and then call it an evening.

Bikes at the Happy Dog

Things have changed and somethings have not changed a bit since the bar became Happy Dog. What hasn't changed is that you can still belly up to the old wooden bar and get a few shots of bottom shelf whiskey. What has changed is the food and beer list. The beer list has all the good standards from Bud to PBR, but it has expanded with a bunch of microbrews too. Chef Eric Williams of Momocho fame came into Happy Dog and revamped the food menu to 3 items to be done very well. The food list has changed as well, from forgettable array of bad bar food, to a striped down hot dog, French fry and tator tot menu.

my hot dog with toppings I wanted

Before you roll your eyes at hot dog and fries, these are not just any hot dog and fries. The meat hot dogs are custom made from Eric William's own recipe of meats and spice made specifically and only for Happy Dog, and this is the only place where you can actually get a Happy Dog. Vegans fret not, their is a vegan dog option as well, and meat eaters all over CLE say the vegan dog is really darn good here too. The base dog is $5 and you can put as many toppings as you want on the dog as you want at no extra charge. The 50 or so toppings are mostly made in house like vodka sauerkraut, caramelized onions, Brazilian chimichurri, saffron aioli, pickled Italian veggies, fried egg, kim chi, baked beans, housemade ketchup, variety of cheeses, and a bunch more. It is a dizzying number of really awesome toppings.

This day I opted for really agressive flavors including Brazilian chimichurri, Italian pickled veggies, chorizo chili, and locally made and smoked bacon. My dog arrived, on a poppy seed bun with all the toppings on top. The hot dog is 1/4 lb, and has a soft texture without the casing snap. The meat in the hot dog doesn't have the same salt level as the industrially made counterparts, which I am happy about because it more about the hot dog and toppings rather than the added salt. As I was eating this dog and looking at the long list of toppings, I was wishing Nashville had a place like this in Nashville. The old bar, a couple of TVs with the game on, full bar service, a long list of microbrews, and this fantastic hot dog and toppings. If I had this in Nashville, I may never leave!

dipping sauces for the tator tots

Then I took time get to my tator tots, and I love tator tots. It is the same deal, an order of fries or tots, enough for 2 - 3 people to share at $2.50 an order, there are about a dozen dipping sauces you can get for the fries and tots without extra charge. I opted for saffron aioli, housemade ketchup, Sriracha hot sauce, and the Brazilian chimichurri. Oh, my favorites were the aioli and chimichurri. Next time I will ask for two shots of each, not just one.

the tots covered in cheese

The tots seem to be standard tots, and I asked for cheese on top. I think it was a bit of a waste to get the cheese as you can see. It is just shredded cheese that did not stick to the tots. I was hoping for some wiz or something, but this is how it showed up. Next time, no cheese to get in the way of the tot getting dipped into some dipping sauce.

As I was photographing my meal for my blog, Todd from the Tweed ride said that Michael Symon was in a few days earlier filming for the "Besting Thing I Ever Ate" talking about the hot dogs here. So, I may not have gotten to Michael Symon's Lolita this trip, but I did go where Michael Symon says there is the best hot dog he has ever eaten.

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

June 10, 2011

The Images of the South

fried chicken and mashed potatoes

A big group of us met in Atlanta, and we were deciding what we wanted to do for dinner. There was one of us who spoke about Pittypat's Porch located in central downtown Atlanta. Her dad had gone to Pittypat's porch 30 years ago, and talked about it saying he really liked it and it has stuck in his memory for all theses years. A little more about her dad, he is a sportsman, and he has mounted a deer head and has it hanging in the house she grew up in. Her dad is a southern man who is used to and likes things in a southern tradition. Once we got to the restaurant, we understood more why her dad remembers Pittypat's Porch fondly.

wall decoration #1

1st off, Atlanta is generally devoid of all things southern, and is basically a generic concrete city with a lot of generic strip malls and generic subdivision in the surrounding areas. There is nothing about downtown Atlanta that says southern. I have never seen a fruiting peach tree in Atlanta. Most of the people I know in Atlanta are not originally from Georgia. CNN headquarters might may be in Atlanta, but if you looked at it, you could be in Dallas, LA, NY, Chicago, it doesn't matter, because it doesn't say southern.

Because Atlanta lost its southern mojo many decades ago, the original owners of Pittypat's Porch decided 50 years ago to open a restaurant that represented the south. When you walk in, it is like walking into what Epcot would design for USA South, but built 50 years ago with some 50 years of wear and tear. The 1st floor looks like a southern plantation home porch with a wood railing and rocking chairs. The concept is to offer the illusion of Auntie Pittypat's southern home charm.

wall decorations #2

After entering Pittypat's porch, you have to go downstairs to the main dining room. As you walk down the stairs, you walk right by the bakery where there are pies, biscuits and muffins are being baked fresh for dinner. That smell is so good! I mean, the bakery smell was so scrumptious, all I wanted was to sink my teeth into a corn muffin, and I don't even like corn muffins.

Then we got our first view of the dining room. The dining room was designed like a hunting lodge. The walls are wood paneling, there are animal heads sticking out from every wall surface, and also hanging on the walls were period piece weapons that you would use to kill the animals that have heads hanging on the walls. The furniture looks like they came right out of the 1970s and the wagon wheel furniture catalog. The whole dining room is completely over the top southern hunting lodge kitchy.

The dining room is really big, and it looks like it can handle large groups and convention guests. The thought I had was that Atlanta downtown hotels near Pittypat's porch are set up for conventions, and some conventioners may not have ever been to the true south before, and they think Atlanta is the south. Atlanta is not really the south. So the conventioners who go to Pittypat's Porch can get a view of the over-the-top kitchy southern plantation home and hunting lodge restaurant. What an odd thing, going to conventions in generic hotels and contrast that with Pittypat's Porch, what must out of town guests think?

wall decoration #3

Looking at the menu, most of the recipes are southern standards like fried chicken, fried catfish, and shrimp and grits. The drink "special" is always the mint julep. So some at my table ordered the mint julep. They were a bit underwhelmed with a glass full of mostly ice, mint tea and probably less than a shot of bourbon. Ok, the cup of mostly ice was $17. Nobody at my table ordered a 2nd one, not worth it. My suggestion is, drink water, it is cheaper than the mint julep that was basically water.

The waiter claimed that Pittypat's Porch has the best fried chicken in all of Georgia, and possibly the south. Those are some war words, as there are some mighty fine southern fried chicken cooks in the Nashville area, I am sure there are some fine fried chicken cooks in Kentucky and Mississippi as well. I mean look at the Colonel from Corbin, KY, he was one dang good fried chicken cook when he was alive. So, I said to the waiter, bring on the chicken because there is some mighty fine fried chicken that I know of off of Dickerson Pike, 8th Ave, and Germantown. "Bring it!" I said. Yes, others at my table who grew up in Alabama and Tennessee also said, "Bring it on man!" And what showed up was some rather plain just edible fried chicken, and I can tell you, there are parts of Georgia where you can find some mighty fine fried chicken cooks that can do way better than Pittypat's Porch. The guy one seat over has a southern mom who puts so much love in her fried chicken that her food blows all others out of the water. What I am saying is, don't make a best fried chicken claim at a table of southerns, you can't win against a good southern mom's fried chicken. You just can't win that one.

So the ending of this story is not really about the food or drink, but about the atmosphere. It is about bringing in the southern charm and southern pie and biscuit smell to your nose. It is about sitting in a rocking chair on the upper level "porch" at Pittypat's Porch. It is about suspending time and place for a moment and being in at a sunny and breezy porch where grandma is baking pies for later, grandkids are running around the yard playing with the dogs, and the parents are sitting in rocking chairs on the porch watching the kids while sipping on a cold lemonade. It is about having all the best images of the happy South in your mind. Perhaps this is what one's dad is thinking of when thinking about Pittypat's Porch - a warm, pie scent filled, happy place where you can spend time enjoying a rocking chair and deer trophy heads.

Pittypat's Porch on Urbanspoon

June 7, 2011

Give me a Slice

pepperoni pie
(sorry so blurry, this is from an iPod camera)

I hate Mall and Sprawl where this NY Pie is located, but it is worth the trip. To find NY Pie is not easy, so here are the directions. Go to the Nashville West Shopping Center on Charlotte Pike. The closest exit is I40 exit 201 take a left at to bottom of the ramp onto Charlotte Pike. Make a left into the Nashville West Mall and Sprawl 1st entrance. Make a right on the Mall and Sprawl parking lot road. There is the big building with the Target, Dicks, Marshall's etc to the left. NY Pie is NOT in that big building, it will be on the right. There is a Red Robin's in the middle of the Mall and Sprawl parking lot. When you see the Red Robin's, make a right into the small parking lot in the small strip mall. In the back left corner is NY Pie, next to Blue Coast Burrito and an tanning shop. When you look out of the NY Pie window, you see the side of Red Robin's.

pepperoni and sausage slice
(photo from regular point and shoot camera)

I have heard it a zillion times in this town, "You gotta try this pizza, it is so good!" And I go, and it is usually mediocre pizza that makes me frown. I never blog about those mediocre places because they are not worthy of my time and effort, and I am not wasting my money to return to those places. So, again, I heard over and over, "You gotta try NY Pie! It is so good!" It took me a while to try NY Pie because I have heard it so many times before for other places and was sadly disappointed, and NY Pie is in the heart of the new Mall and Sprawl of West Nashville, and I hate Mall and Sprawl. To my surprise, NY Pie is really good, the toppings are really good, and there is someone there who knows how to make pizza crust. The only thing that I wrestle with now about going to NY Pie is the 10 miles of highway driving, the traffic down the road to Mall and Sprawl, and then fighting for a parking space against all the SUVs in the parking lot which are always parked over the line. I have gone multiple times to NY Pie because the pizza and calzones are that good, and I am willing to make that huge compromise to get there.


The gig here is that this pizza isn't like NY pizza (which is a giant floppy slice from Rays and Famous Rays), but it is a very good pizza by the slice place. NY Pie is a long time coming, and reminds me of my favorite pizza joint in Massachusetts (from 20 years ago) Antonios. 20 years ago, Antonio's offered taco pizza, chicken parm pizza, Buffalo chicken pizza, Greek style pizza, etc by the slice. There wasn't anywhere in Nashville that does that until now, and that is NY Pie. NY Pie has all sorts of pizzas like chicken parm, taco and Greek by the slice for when supplies last. When they are out, they are out, and if you want that type of pie, you will have to order a whole pie.

Everything we tried so far has been delicious. The pepperoni, sausage, feta, basil etc toppings are good, appropriate and enhances the pizza or calzone. I say this because there are two places in Nashville with low quality toppings that actually detract from the pizza. Not all toppings are created equally, and NY Pie seems to have the right suppliers.

Over time NY Pie has really caught on and is now quite busy. Be patient when you go because the whole pies and calzones are made to order and are worth the wait.

NY Pie on Urbanspoon

June 5, 2011

Scotch Egg

Scottish Egg with mustard sauce and arugula

opened Scottish Egg

There is a first time for everything, and this was my 1st Scotch Egg, or Scottish Egg. The traditional Scottish egg is a hard boiled egg, covered in sausage, covered in bread crumbs, all deep fried and then ready to eat at any temperature. I read that Scottish eggs are picnic food, so they are meant to be eaten cold like sandwiches, cold chicken, potato salad etc.

This one at the Sunset Grill deviates to make the traditional Scottish Egg better. Yes, you read it, Better. The Sunset Grill dish is a soft boiled farm fresh egg covered in house made chicken sausage and bread crumbs then deep fried, and served in a Dijon mustard cream sauce. This one at the Sunset Grill was really fun and tasty.

June 3, 2011

I Scream for Ice Cream!

Miss Martha' Ice Cream Crankin' 2011 is on June 12, 2011 3 - 5 pm at the 1st Presbyterian Church on Franklin Rd. For more info check out