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!