Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mamasan's Noodle Cafe

We are big Mamasan's fans.  It's close by, cute, and always delicious with a waitstaff that is unfailingly friendly and prompt.  I'd say that next to Chen's, it's one of our main go-tos.

So, I was curious to try Mamasan's Noodle Cafe on a cold, rainy night after work and before an evening ceremony.  I should first share that I have a phobia about parallel parking, so I had avoided the Noodle Cafe since it opened.  But, as I headed out down Mt. Hope looking for a quick place to catch a cold-soothing dinner, I noticed the lot was empty, so I braved it.

The Noodle Cafe is teeny with about 8 tables; it is brightly colored inside with citrus painted walls and sunflowers decorating the tables and windows.  The cafe offers a limited version of Mamasan's menu with an emphasis (as the name suggests) on noodles.  One of my favs at the big Mamasan's is the Vietnamese Noodle Salad, but that night, I wanted something warm and soothing.  The clerk suggested Vietnamese Curry Chicken Soup, which sounded just right.  I also ordered chicken summer rolls to get my vermicelli fix :)

The soup was delicious:  a rich, deep curry flavor captured in a light broth that was filled with yellow noodles, sweet potatoes (not a fan, but I worked around them), carrots, and chunks of chicken--with a good sized sprig of cilantro on top.  The bowl was huge--so big that I only ate half and brought home the rest.  I could feel my head clearing as I ate.  What is it about curry that makes one feel so safe and good and happy?  It's like a magical elixir!!  Yay, curry!

All hail Mamasan's--big and small, it's fantastic!

Chen Garden

We love everything about Chen Garden!  The cool doorway, the dark 60s interior with deep red naugahyde banquettes, the Chinese astrology placemats, the delicious food, the fact that we always run into someone we know, the proximity to home ... so much so that we're even willing to put up with the inevitably impossible parking in the teeny Chen's lot.

We went to Chen's a couple weeks ago for a quick after lessons dinner, and to no surprise ran into neighbors.  I love that it is such a Brighton go-to place :)  We seized the prime banquette by the entrance, which allowed us to people watch and see the tv in the small bar--and immediately set upon the fried noodles and sweet sauce!

For dinner, we had some of our usual favs:  hot and sour soup, paper chicken and pork fried dumplings for appetizers; chicken with broccoli and General Tso's chicken w/ white meat only for dinner.  And, we added a new dish, Sizzling Beef with Chinese Satay Sauce.  

The hot and sour soup is thick and tangy--great to warm one up the first week in December.  The paper chicken always arrives insanely hot, and we burn our fingers opening the tin papers to get at the deliciously moist chicken inside, which has a teriyaki-like flavor.  The dumplings are always yummy and prized by the kids, and the soy ginger sauce that comes with them is fantastic on anything at the table.  

Chen's chicken with broccoli is in a light clear gravy, which makes it a favorite with my kids.  I skip the chicken and go for the broccoli--always cooked just right.  The General Tso's is made fresh when you request white meat only, so it arrives crispy and light in a deep brown sauce with the right amount of heat.

The whole table rated the Sizzling Beef a bust.  It wasn't horrible, it just tasted a lot like chicken fried steak--not really what we were looking for.  We typically order Beef with Ginger and Scallions in a Clay Pot, which is a real winner every time!  

What can I say about Chen's?  Since we moved here, it's become a family staple: the kind of place where when my husband or I say, "What about Chen's?"; the kids immediate response is, "Yes!"  And, in the summer, you can head right over to Abbott's for dessert :)


It was a rainy fall in ROC, so to no great surprise, it was a cold, wet, very dark night when we went as a family to Mex.  As far as I could tell, most of the folks at Mex that evening filled their ever-popular bar, and we were one of a handful of guests in the upstairs dining room.  Thus, we had our pick of tables and chose the super-cool corner banquette.

We quickly filled our corner with lots of food!!  We started with chips and salsa and queso blanco.  Mex's queso is quite good and amazingly addictive:  we could not stop eating it, and then when we told ourselves to stop--we had a whole meal coming, after all--we started right in again.

My son ordered his usual at any Mexican restaurant, a cheese quesadilla.  It was good, but seriously, can one ever mess up a cheese quesadilla?  For the record, he dipped it in the queso (that kid has very strong bones!).

My daughter ordered the Baja Fajitas with steak and chicken, which arrived on a fully stocked platter big enough for her to sled on!  She loved it all (as did my husband and I ... it was BIG!!), and made special mention of the guacamole.  Both the steak (which was arrived medium rare, as ordered) and the chicken were wonderfully seasoned and moist, and the onions were deliciously caramelized.

My husband ordered the Tequila Lime Chicken, which he professed was quite good and very moist, but "boring."  Clearly, he wished he had ordered the fajitas--and in the end, he got both.

I ordered the Baja Burrito with shredded beef, and it was massive (probably weighing more than my daughter at birth).  It was smoky and rich, with tender beef, smooth beans, and an aromatic sauce with just the right amount of heat.  I took home half of it, even after some bites were stolen around the table.

One off note, Mex serves Diet Rite, not Diet Coke.  Seriously, who drinks that stuff??

Mex has a funky, hipster vibe that would not be out of place in Austin (they love Dios del los Muertos decorating) and great food in huge portions.  Why aren't you there right now?


I'd eaten breakfast at Jine's multiple times (always good!) but never dinner--until a cold, rainy night when the kids got their hair cut at the Hair Zoo down the block, and we opted to check it out.  Given how crazily busy it is at breakfast (truly a see and be seen destination in ROC), it was weird to see it so quiet at dinner ... but it was peaceful and lovely as well.  There's no better view of Park Ave than that through Jine's huge glass windows, and the streets were shining with light reflected by the rain.

That night, I knew what I wanted straight away:  grilled cheese sandwich with chips and a pickle.  Yum!! Truly one of the world's best meals--so comforting.  My son immediately found his dinner among the specials, a Cowboy Burger: a burger on sourdough Texas toast with bacon, cheese, onion rings and barbeque sauce.  My husband elected a lobster ravioli special, and my daughter went for pasta in red sauce.

While the ravioli was declared "delicious," from the minute the Cowboy Burger hit the table, it was all my son could do to keep in on his own plate.  My husband repeated offered to "help him" with it, and my daughter ate half her pasta and then waited her brother out as well.  Thank goodness the burger was ridiculously huge!  I was perfectly satisfied with my grilled cheese (complemented with a rich and warming beef & veggie soup of the day).  We left with some pasta, half the ravioli, and stomachs full of Cowboy Burger!

There were maybe four full tables that night beyond ours.  A lovely older couple behind us found the kids particularly charming (it was a good night!), and the gentleman made them little boats out of dollar bills.  To thank them, we sent them a dessert, and then did the same for a friend who came in with her son.

Jine's is, in many ways, a perfect neighborhood spot in a fantastic ROC neighborhood.  If you've only been for breakfast, check it out for dinner (and, it goes without saying, if the now legendary Cowboy Burger is on the menu ... go for it!)


Wow, I've been busy!  And, I've been eating out around town a lot, just not blogging about it. Bad, blogger :(

So, I'll use the holiday week to catch up, and I'll start with a place we grabbed lunch at this afternoon, D'Mangu.  D'Mangu offers cuisine from the Dominican Republic on a stretch of East Henrietta that seems to have become a veritable international row.  I'll admit right off that it was delicious!!

The restaurant offers both menu and buffet.  My husband and I went for the buffet: two large (read LARGE) plates with salad and two cans of soda set us back about $25.

The buffet line is served by D'Mangu staff.  You start with a huge mound of rice, with a choice of white (me), yellow w pigeon peas (him), yellow w pork.  Then, top with black (both of us) or red beans.  Add a side of either fried (him) or mashed plantains.  And, choose two meats from roasted pork (both), stewed beef (him), stewed chicken (me), or stewed pork.  Plus, you get a side salad.

The rice was delicious--not sticky and just right to soak up the fantastic black bean liquid, which was spiced with cumin, bay leaf, and garlic.  This alone would have been a meal, but it wasn't.  My husband's stewed beef was okay; I'd give it a C+.  My stewed chicken far superior--moister with a great, warming, aromatic flavor.  Yum!!  (He agreed.)  We both had the roast pork and opted for some skin thrown in.  OMG!  And, if this wasn't enough, D'Mangu makes its own hot sauce, which offered a vinegary kick to the whole plate.  It was about 30 degrees out today, and eating the combo of this roast pork, ridiculously crispy & salty skin, deeply seasoned stewed chicken and rich & warm beans and rice--slathered in hot sauce--was like heaven!  My plate could have served 4, but I would have knocked them out of their chairs rather than share.  I left my salad for last, and it offered a nice palate cleansing finish to the lunch, with a great house oil and vinegar dressing.

Our verdict ... how come we haven't been to D'Mangu before, and would it be possible to simply pull up to the buffet with a fork and a knife and dig in?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Max's at the Gallery

Tucked away in a corner of the Memorial Art Gallery, Max's location there is a hidden treasure.  The space is simply lovely, with clear, bright light flowing in on even the greyest of days, and the view from the front balcony seating area overlooks the Gallery's atrium, which makes it feel even more big city--as if the Met put a restaurant in mezzanine of the Temple of Dendur.  If you can find a more sophisticated yet comfy place to eat lunch in Rochester, good on you!

And, of course, the food is delicious.  I am a mega-fan of Max's Tomato Bisque.  I would have it delivered via IV if possible!  It is bright yet rich, chunky yet not rustic, with deep flavors all topped by a swirl of some kind of olive oil that you can stir into the bisque to make it even more ridiculously good.  Heaven in a cup -- or better yet, a bowl.

On a recent lunch, I paired a cup of the bisque with the oh-so-hip-dining Baby Frisee Salad: baby frisee with shitake mushrooms, bacon, poached egg, and a sherry vinaigrette.  Poached egg on a salad?  Oh, yes!!  It's a feast for the eyes and a magical trip for the taste buds.  When the yolk hits the bacon and the mushrooms, it's like a deconstructed omelette pulled together on a fork, with the lettuce adding a sharp taste and texture and the vinaigrette bringing a spark.  Seriously, try this salad!

Have I mentioned the popovers, yet?  No?  OMG!  Max's oh-so-lovely popovers accompany lunch--delivered piping hot on the inside and beautifully golden and crispy on the outside.

As an aside, I will also mention that I've eaten there with my daughter and a friend (both 9), and Max's was wonderful about getting the girls just want they wanted, which my friend and I ate more grown-up cuisine.  So, don't hesitate about doing a nice "kids' adventure out at the MAG" lunch on a cold, winter day.

So, you eat a fab, big city lunch overlooking one of Rochester's cultural treasures, get amazing service and easy parking.  Plus, you can zip into the MAG's fantastic gift shop on the way out ... just because, well, you're already there, right?

Friday, October 28, 2011


This is the time of year when the leaves fall, the temperatures fall faster, and the minds of all good people turn to warming, comforting, yummy stews and soups.  So, as luck would have it, Nathan's opened a new location this month at the Genessee Valley Regional Market, so I dropped in to pick up soup--lots of it--for the office.

Let's not bury the lead: Nathan's soup is delicious!  It's also affordable, local, and can be accompanied by the cutest little loaves of bread you've ever seen.  (Get the onion bread--it has yummy, creamy soft and sweet onions baked into the middle!)

I bought 4 quarts of soup and 6 loaves of bread for the office--and spent about $32.

Here's the run down:

Italian Wedding Soup--great chicken base with bite-sized meatballs, lots of spinach, cheese, tomatoes and carrots.  Those little pearly pastas float in it waiting to be slurped up.  I ate this soup twice in one week (bought it again between the end of a workday and a night meeting as I was fighting a head cold) and would take it to a desert island as my one soup if pressed.

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits--Nathan's variant on Chicken and Dumplings.  Creamy, rich, and hearty.  Biscuits come on the side so that they don't get too soggy in the soup.  Thick comfort in a bowl.  An "I've had a tough day and want a meal to hug me" soup!

Chicken Vegetable with Wild Rice--a lighter soup with lots of veggies and nice chunks of chicken.  Full of veggies and rice.  A good choice if you want a soup on the side with one of the many sandwich options.

Beer and Cheddar Chowder--this is a fall/winter soup!  Rich, cheesy with chunks of potatoes and a great finish of warming hops.  An "I'm starving and need to fill up fast and stay full" soup!

And, then, the same night I went back for seconds on the Italian Wedding, I picked up the "Nathan's Choice" soup of the day:  Baked Potato with Chives and Bacon.  Yummy!!  Seemed like a chicken stock base with loads of potatoes both creamed and chunks, crisped bacon (lots of it), and just the right hint of onion from the chives.  My husband called this the best soup (but has not tried the Italian Wedding Soup--which deserves its own Facebook page, just sayin').

Unlike the Park Ave Nathan's, this one has lots of seats and parking.  So, what are you waiting for?  It was 29 degrees this morning ... go get some soup!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sol Burrito

For about 25 years before I moved to ROC, I had found cheap burrito heaven at Burrito Brothers.  The deliciousness of the food, the eternally punk rock/goth/possibly-on-parole vibe of the place was not even diminished when it moved from its hole-in-the-wall location just a few unsafe steps from the killer traffic at the corner of 13th and University.  The slightly gentrified location at the Presbyterian Student Center (really, a courtyard??) allowed an expanded menu but did not harm the cheap eats yummy-ness and the killer FrontPage website :)

Where in ROC, I wondered, could I ever find such a paean to college-food goodness?  Well, it's smack dab in the middle of Monroe Avenue, in a hole-in-the-wall location just a few unsafe steps from the killer traffic on that part of Monroe--and possibly other things, too, depending on the time of day.  The name of this temple of tacos, this nest of nachos, this burrow of burritos is--fittingly--Sol Burrito.

Sol has a menu that would suggest a place three times its size--and if that's not enough, I've never been there when there aren't additional specials.  The staff has an alterna-vibe but is ridiculously polite.  Back when they still had a fountain drink machine, my son once spilled his entire cup of soda.  They apologized for the uneven table and rushed out with a mop.  As this story suggests, Sol has a few tables, including one that doubles as an old-school Pac-Man machine, but it's largely a take-out place.

I stopped to pick up dinner this past week on a cold, rainy night as I rushed home from another Convention Center function.  The Sol gods were smiling on me as I somehow managed to grab a parking spot just steps from the door.  And, I beat a mad rush.  I was the sol(e) customer when I arrived, but when I picked up my order minutes later, there was a line out the door.

Here's what I got:  a Sol Burrito (shredded beef, suitable for 2 meals), 2 Sol Tacos (like the burrito but no rice or beans, and I opt out of the richly smoked chipotle sauce, too), 1 Cheese Quesadilla (fantastically rich cheddar, with salsa and sour cream), 1 order of Sol Rolls (kinda like chicken taquitos; my daughter LOVES them), 1 order of Chips and Salsa, and 1 bowl of Vegan Black Bean Chili (which was a special; it had a soft cinnamon scent in a lighter chili base chock full of pinto and black beans, onions, peppers, and tomatoes).  All of this cost me $28!

Everything we've ever ordered there is completely delicious, wonderfully fresh, and even on my longest days (see above), it brings me back to a time when my biggest worry in the world was passing QMB 3250 and scoring Police tickets.

Peppermints Family Restaurant

Last weekend was the final one of the season for the completely awesome Vintage Drive In, which has become one of my family's favorite summer places.  A) you get to watch movies outside--which makes even a dull movie more enjoyable (e.g., Cars II) and makes a fab movie super fantastic (e.g., Super 8); 2) it's always a double feature; 3) it's super cheap; and D) the food--which includes fried dough!--is good, also super cheap, and served by punk rock throwback hipsters.  Plus, this past weekend (Dolphin Tale and Contagion), everyone got massive free hot cocoas!!  So, next summer, GO.

Anyway, we decided to eat "real food" before heading over to the VDI and--given the purpose of this blog--wanted to try somewhere new in Avon.  Voila, Peppermints!  As its website suggests, Peppermints is, itself, a throwback diner-style family place--no ironic kitsch in sight--and we loved it.

First, it was completely done up for Halloween:  a life-size mummy hanging in one corner, a ghoul by the front door, orange and black garland all over.  My children were quite impressed and complimented them on the decor, and the Peppermints staff were so earnestly pleased.

Second, it has a perfect diner-style menu: breakfast all day, lots of "melts" and "clubs" and gravy-drenched open face sandwiches, and hearty-ness all around.  My son immediately ordered the chocolate chip pancake (so much for some substance to balance the sugar to come); my daughter ordered fettucini alfredo with chicken; my husband ordered a buffalo chicken wrap with sweet potato fries; and after switching between sandwiches multiple times, I settled on a turkey club with traditional fries.

The pancake came shaped like a non-trademark infringing Mickey Mouse and disappeared very quickly.  I thought my husband would get a fork in the hand for attempting to try a small bite.  Big, real chocolate chips dotted the pancake in all their melty glory.

My daughter's fettucini alfredo sauce was shimmering with olive oil and garlic goodness; it really was remarkably well-seasoned and yummy ... and the portion was huge!  Half of it made it home for her breakfast the next morning. (Seriously, she is completely ready for college at age 9: any food leftover from the previous night qualifies as daybreak sustenance.)

The Buffalo wrap balanced the addictive heat with creamy blue cheese in a soft, generous wrap.  It came with a side of pickles (I'll take those, thank you) and the sweet potato fries.  This is something I do not get at all:  sweet potatoes.  Yet, both my husband and son pronounced them perfect.  I'll take their word for it.

My club was traditional:  white toast, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss.  I eat my club's dry--no mayo--and the turkey on this one was moist enough to allow that.  It was cut into the cute little triangles with frizzy-topped toothpicks that make clubs so much fun.  What set this apart, though, was the fries.  I'm going out on a limb here and say that Peppermints' fries were among the best I've ever had:  light, super crisp, golden brown and hot with just the right amount of salt.  Fry nirvana!!

We ended the meal with a slice of banana cream pie and another of chocolate cream.  These were nothing to write home about.

I can't remember what this all cost, but it was not much at all.  If you're in Avon, drive past the Tom Wahl's this once and hit Peppermints.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

King and I

So, our second meal of the day was at a favorite: the King and I.  We actually set out for somewhere different, but it was too crowded, so we zipped one parking lot over for delicious Thai.

If you've been to the K&I, you know you don't really go for atmosphere; you go for fantastically quick service and super yummy food, in generous portions.

I walked in already in the mood for Tom Kar Kai (ginger coconut milk soup with chicken), so I ordered that as my appetizer.  It was perfect:  slightly sweet with lovely slices of ginger floating in the broth along with a bit of lemon grass and cilantro.  This is such a comforting soup.  For the main course, I chose Masamaun Chicken.  Show me someone who doesn't love Masamaun, and I'll show you the face of dining evil!  You mix deeply seasoned (but not hot) creamy coconut curry with peanuts, potatoes, and onion.  It's like a hug on a plate.  I elected brown rice over regular steamed rice, a slight upcharge but well worth it.

My husband went with Tom Yum Kai (spicy lemon grass soup with chicken), and even for him, it was quite spicy.  So, he went all "mix-master" at the table and stole some of my softer coconut milk base to add to his.  It was a match made in Thai food heaven, and even the server asked him about it.  He ordered the Evil Jungle Prince Chicken, happily admitting that he was doing it purely for the name.  It was quite good but nowhere near as spicy as advertised.  A solid, rich coconut curry layered with spices, including one I didn't like that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  He loved it but would have liked more heat.

As always, the service was stellar: waters refilled every other minute, food arriving at light speed.  As the Rogers and Hammerstein's King would say, it would be a "false lie" to say anything other than that the King and I is reliably and affordably delicious!

Highland Park Diner

Something amazing happened yesterday--I ate two meals out with my husband ... alone!  The first was breakfast.  I was on the way to an event at city hall, and he had a late morning meeting, so we found time to eat at a place we had yet to try:  Highland Park Diner.

First, let's go with the obvious:  this place just looks super cool.  It is a true diner with one wall of little booths and a counter in a train-car set up.  I don't know why we never made it there before, but it's worth going just for that!

Now, onto the food ...

In my growing years, I've become a breakfast basics girl when I eat out:  two eggs over easy, some meat, some potatoes (preferably hash browns, but so few places do them anymore :( this is the only thing I miss about Waffle House: crispy, crunchy, 3 am hash browns; I shall now stop before I launch into a Skeeter's reverie), and toast.  So, I ordered the Park Special with ham, wheat toast, and home fries (insert sigh to express once again my deep hash brown ennui).  The eggs were delicious and huge; the ham was perfectly salty and warm; the home fries has some crispy bits; the wheat toast was buttery.  Lovely.

My husband is more breakfast-adventurous.  He ordered off the specials menu:  Chicken Caprese Omelette.  It, too, came with home fries and toast. (Another second sigh, this one from behind me; he just started reading over my shoulder and is jumping on the hash browns bandwagon.  It's become clear that mon madeleine est George Webb's hash browns.)  This was quite some omelette:  huge fluffy eggs stuffed with grilled chicken, large leaves of fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, and topped with two thick slices of buffalo mozzarella.  If he had a complaint, it would be that the mozzarella was too thick; it stayed a bit chilly rather than melting wonderfully sloppily over this creation.  Somehow, he muddled through.

Of special mention at the HPD is the service, which was otherworldly.  My husband placed his full coffee cup ever-so-slightly off to the side so that he could dig in to his omelette, and literally within seconds, our server appeared to refill it.  Amazing!  And, the coffee was quite good--super hot, strong, and crisp.

We walked out having spent under $30, inclusive of an extra-large coffee-induced tip, and will definitely be back for dinner!  If you live in the ROC, you might be interested to know that--according to a sign that drew our attention--HPD has something going with the Cinema across the street:  buy dinner at HPD and get a free movie ticket.  We're in!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Wow, it's been a while.  In the time since my last post, I ate at several good places while traveling on business, including a surprisingly good Cuban sandwich with pitch perfect Roasted Tomato soup here and an absolutely sublime Butternut Squash soup and ridiculously good Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake here.  And, then there's the night my dinner was pretzels and Swedish fish in Philly's odious Terminal F, and the time I was so happy to find a half eaten bag of popcorn in my car while stuck in traffic for an hour that I actually said aloud, to no one, "Yay!"  Oh, and then one night I passed up dinner at Dinosaur with my family to drink water and meet members of my federal delegation.  Feast or famine.

Anyway ... last night, after other plans fell through, I scooped up the kids, and we headed over to Pomodoro on Monroe Ave.  We were supposed to meet up for dinner, but my husband was up against a deadline at work and kept texting his sliding ETA.  So, as we settled in to our cozy corner booth, we immediately filled the table with appetizers.

The kids love hummus and pita, and we ordered the hummus sampler (original, roasted red pepper, basil).  Pomodoro is owned by the Aladdin's folks, so their hummus is divine!  The plate was about the size of a turkey platter.  I love bruschetta, which was my choice.  Pomodoro's is served sort of dipping style, with the crostini in toast points around a lovely, bright red, fresh mini-mountain of tomatoes--all drizzled with sweet balsamic.  Very yummy!!  And, we also got their standard table delivery of bread with a small set of sides to mix-in the olive oil.  The cheese and roasted garlic cloves were a big hit at our table.

So, as we plowed through our apps, playing Hangman, Dr. Who alphabet, and other assorted games, it became evident from the ever-sadder texts that my husband was still a ways off.  I ordered the kids' dinners.  Pepperoni pizza off the children's menu for him and for her--my menu diva--I ordered off the menu totally:  penne pasta tossed with butter, olive oil, cheese, topped with chicken.  They took this request in complete stride.  Wonderful!!  And, then, about 10 minutes after I ordered their meals, my texted clearance to order our dinners came through:  penne pasta with roasted peppers and broccoli in vodka sauce for me; ahi tuni Cajun with fresh mango guacamole and pomegranate gastric over jasmine rice for him.  Timing is everything; he literally walked in the door as his plate was set down.

My daughter dug into her pasta and gave me a full-mouthed thumbs up, proclaiming, "This chicken is really, really good."  (She ate the leftovers for breakfast, of course.)  My son ate 3 pieces of pizza nonstop--always a good sign.  Before describing my meal, I'll share that the weather turned yesterday from a summer-like lead in to autumn to full on fall: cold, damp, dark.  What was set before me last night was a huge bowl of warmth:  perfectly cooked penne in a glistening, rich vodka sauce.  My guess is that the broccoli in the this dish may have actually been broccolini--since the penne was spiked with firm slices of thin stalks as well as crowns.  The broccoli(ni) was cooked just right and balanced the soft strips of roasted red peppers.  In comparison, my husband's plate looked minimalist.  I'm not a tuna fan (more of a tuna enemy).  He loved it, but after eating half of his, he ate two slices of pizza (joined by my daughter, who ate half of another) and some of my pasta.  I'm guessing the chill outside called for something more substantial.

By this point, we had been there so long that the kids had fallen asleep on the warm, softly lit, cushy banquette.  So, my husband and I caught up on things and ordered take-out dessert: carrot cake and red velvet cake.  My daughter gives the red velvet a 10 on a 20 scale and a 7 for the carrot cake.  Dessert would not be their strong point, then.  My son has a 36 point scale, apparently, but got sent to his room when we got home for reasons unrelated to our dinner, so he still hasn't had any of the leftovers.  Mu husband dug into the Moonstruck truffles that were to be a gift for the party that got canceled.  Such is life, always a window opening when a door is closed by a broken hot water heater (long story).

With all that food, a diet coke, milk, orange juice, we walked out for about $118 including tip, and no one charged us for nap time!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jay's Diner

We set out for a full 9-5 day of back-to-school shopping and preparatory madness this morning and decided that we'd kick it off with breakfast out.  We knew Jay's Diner would be open because, let's be honest, when is it ever closed, and it was clear from the parking lot and the packed booths that everyone else in ROC had the same thought.

We love Jay's!  It is steeped in an aesthetic that might best be described as Miami Vice meets the Oriental Trading Catalog, and it offers great diner fare at reasonable prices pretty darn close to 24/7/365.

My son announced his intention to order chocolate chip pancakes the minute we hit the door, so that was easy.  He ripped into them with great zeal, leaving only the non-chocochipped border zone on his plate.  My daughter's idea of breakfast is increasingly yellow rice, cold pizza, caesar salad, or soup (no kidding!), so she was harder to pin down.  She first ordered coffee cake (nope), then added bacon (which her father and brother ate), then was convinced to order Canadian bacon.  This, she ate and pronounced her favorite new food.  Success!  Both children also ordered the massively whipped cream topped hot chocolates, which barely made it through the meal.

I am a Jay's Platter Special-girl all the way: always with French toast and eggs over-easy.  This place has fantastic French toast, light yet firm!  I swap out bacon with sausage every once in a while, but this was a bacon morning.  Two pieces of French toast, two eggs, two pieces of bacon, a crazy bargain at $5.29.

My husband had eggs benedict with nicely crisped home fries, yum!  He saved room for the aforementioned bacon left by his daughter, pancake scraps left by his son, and one bite of the piece of French toast left by his wife (I was showing remarkable restraint).

Add in an orange juice and two bottomless cups of Jay's surprisingly good and strong coffee, and we walked out for about $34 plus tip.  If you're not accompanied by an a la carte princess (see above), you can definitely get out a lot more cheaply.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thali of India

My husband and I have gone to Thali for the all you can eat buffet at lunch, which is super yummy, but tonight was our first time for dinner.  We met up as a family there because my daughter won a $50 gift certificate for Thali after I put her in charge of our raffle tickets at the Women Helping Girls auction while I emceed.  She put a great number of tickets in the box for an Indian-themed gift basket because she knows how much her father loves Indian food; I know, she's pretty awesome!

So, we had a lot of gift certificate to burn through, a delicious task.

My daughter started with chicken soup, which had a wonderfully warm spiciness to it with a slightly limey-tomato base with cilantro, onions, and good sized chunks of chicken.  She had the chicken tikka masala (mild).  Theirs is less tomato-y and slightly more creamy than I've had elsewhere, maybe a bit more like butter chicken.  Filled with chicken and lots of onions and green peppers; again, a really warm, spicy sweet taste.

My son had the longstanding Indian delicacy chicken tenders and fries.  He is not a fan of this cuisine, outside of garlic naan, which he could eat all day--as can his sister.  Thali's naan was a bit hit; we had 2 orders.

My husband ordered the tandoori mixed grill with chicken and lamb and more chicken subbed for shrimp (blech!).  It was a lot of food:  traditional tandoor chicken legs and a few yogurt marinated kabobs in chicken and lamb, all paired with onions and green peppers.  And, it came with a side of chicken curry.  He requested medium, but it seemed to be mild.  The curry was a bit sweet for me, though that didn't stop it from disappearing from his plate.

I wanted to add a vegetable dish to the table, so I went with eggplant bhartha (medium)--a smoky eggplant mixed with grilled onions and tomatoes spiked with bright green peas.  It had a dense, rich curry flavor.  I'd never had it before and loved it, as did my husband.   It really packed a kick, so the heat had several layers.  Nice!

As always, I ordered raita.  Thali's is a bit thinner than I like my raita, but it was tasty.

So, an appetizer, three major entrees, a kiddie meal, two orders of naan, and a side of raita--plus a chai and a soft drink--and we left for about $55.  Or, as my daughter noted, dinner "cost" us $5 plus tip.  We walked away with a mini-Indian feast of leftovers for my husband's lunch, too.

The verdict:  "we need to come back for dinner more often," my daughter!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Gusto is in the lovely Medical Arts Building on Alexander.  It serves reasonably priced, homey Italian food in a cute, bistro-like setting.  We sat in the window, which let us watch the night begin to fall.

My husband met us there and was running late, and we were STARVING--so the kids and I ordered the bruschetta.  I know it's a tired starter, but I love it, who doesn't want to eat tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil and toasty bread.  If such a person is out there, don't join our table.  Gusto includes some solid chunks of mozzarella on theirs, which is presented well on a bread board, sprinkled with parmesan.  Super beginning!

I also ordered the small Mista salad--basic dinner salad with solid mixed greens base, chick peas, tomatoes, great red onions, more mozzarella, and homemade vinaigrette.  I nixed the black olives, ugh.  Very fresh.

The kids ordered gnocchi with meat sauce (her) and individual pepperoni pizza (him).  The gnocchi were lovely and plump with a dense meat sauce that balanced them nicely.  The "spicy" (their description) pepperoni pizza was on a deliciously crisp crust with a great sauce, rich cheese, a sprinkling of basil, and the perfect proportion of pepperoni--which didn't seem particularly spicy to us.  Both were big hits!  We took home half the gnocchi, after my husband and I sampled it liberally.  So, the portions were great.  The boy ate 3 of his 4 pizza slices, a true sign of success.

My husband ordered the half soup/half panini combo.  His soup was a creamy tomato basil; it was less creamy than I would have anticipated and might have been too little for a dinner--even with the panini--were it not for the surfeit of gnocchi.  Having said that, though, the soup was quite good; it had a nice bright taste that also had a smoky note, filled with chunks of tomato.  He got the prosciutto panini on whole grain bread.  I didn't try this one.  Well-smoked prosciutto, deliciously cripy, and a perfect sandwich to dunk in the soup is his description.

I ordered spaghetti with marinara and meatballs.  The spaghetti was perfectly cooked and topped with a dense, bright, chunky marinara and 2 ice cream scoop-sized meatballs.  The meatballs were just right--easily broken up with a fork and just the right consistency (not tough, not bready, not heavy).  I also took home about half of mine.

We left room for dessert.  My daughter, aka the queen of carrot cake, selected her favorite, which is made by Cheesy Eddies.  No  big surprise--it was ridiculously good.  The boys ordered a mocha cream/chocolate sponge cake dessert that came out looking like a dip cone on a plate.  Neither dessert made it out alive!

With various soft drinks and one coffee, we walked out the door having spent $71 plus tip for appetizers, dinner, and dessert for 4 (service was great; our server reminded me of Amy Adams, but I couldn't get anyone else to agree).  We also left with enough food for two lunches and a cold pizza breakfast.

Gusto definitely deserves a place on our ROCkin' Restaurants list!

let's eat out!

This started yesterday, when I met Patrick Giuliano at a local meeting.  We were introduced, and after we chatted for a while, he mentioned he owned Gusto, an Italian restaurant on Alexander.  I've probably driven past Gusto dozens of time, on the way to and from lunch meetings downtown, but never had eaten there.  When Patrick mentioned that it had free parking in back, I was in.

We ate there tonight with the kids.  It was delicious and reasonably priced, convenient, and local!  Over dinner, we decided to try a new Rochester (ROC) local restaurant every other week--and then to return to a favorite every other other week.  Sounded like a plan, because I do love to cook, too!

When I hunkered down to watch Top Chef: Just Desserts (see, love to cook), I realized I could blog about our meals, sharing our yummy experiences with a readership certain to number in the low single digits.

Here goes ... something.