Friday, April 13, 2012


There's a scene in The Jerk in which Navin Johnson jumps for joy upon finding his name in the phonebook, shouting, "The new phonebook's here! The new phonebook's here!"  Substitute me for Navin and Yotality for the phonebook and you get the picture.

To explain why a fro-yo place triggers such joy, let me take you way back.  It's the mid 80s in Gainesville.  By day, my B-school study buddies and I lurk on the Plaza of the Americas, lunching on takeout from the original, old school Bageland and hole-in-the-wall Burrito Brothers while trying to make sense of our TI financial calculators.  By night, we swamp Library East, hogging tables on a permanent basis and take study breaks for a new taste sensation: frozen yogurt!  We'd run over to the first fro-yo place in Gainesville: Tropical Treats (which was next to Leo's) and then sneak it back into the Library.

Fast forward about a quarter of a century (OUCH!!! How did that happen?), and I'm now sitting in Shorty's with my husband and kids.  During a lull in the conversation, my eye is captured by a sign in Sanrio-style script across Dixie Hwy; it reads "Yogurtland."  "What could this be?" we all wonder, so we go exploring.  And, like Christopher Columbus, we find a new world full of taste sensations!

It turns out that throughout Miami, yogurt chains have multiplied like, well, yogurt cultures!  They are ALL pink and green, whether Yogurtland or Menchie's or Yuzu or any of the other dozen.  And, they're all delicious!  We somehow find a way to eat fro-yo each day while there and bid them a tearful goodbye when we head by to ROC.  Why, oh why, have we no Yogurtland?!  Isn't bad enough we're Chick-fil-A-less?!  That we have no Pollo Tropical providing all drive-thru customers with the delicious incentive necessary to build the skill set required to eat black beans and rice while driving 80MPH on I-95?!

And, then today, the sun shone upon Pittsford as Yotality opened its shiny white doors into its brightly colored interior: orange, green, blue, purple all aglow in the evening light streaming in the floor to ceiling windows overlooking picturesque Main Street.  Did I mention the spa-like slate stone wall?  The gorgeous wood floor?  The Sirius XM Coffee House soundtrack?  Yay!!!  My son and I went tonight, and it's all we could have hoped for and more!  The bank of yogurt machines with 2 flavors plus a cutely named swirl each :)  The Wegman's-worthy array of toppings:  a full cold bar and another for candies, chocolates, and fruity pebbles (!).

After taste testing his way through the machines, my son (hold the presses and your stomachs) chose chocolate topped with sour gummy worms, sweet gummy bears, Nerds, and Oreos.  (Ah, to be a decade less than a half century younger again!)  I chose the love of my fro-yo life, tart vanilla, and topped it with strawberries, raspberries and kiwi.  Together, we spent less than $4, ate oh-so-good for us (according to Yotality's wall sign) fro-yo, and sat in the window Pittsford-people watching on a spring-like Friday night.

Yotality, you had us at "yo"!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pizza Stop

We are a pizza family!  The kids could eat pizza for breakfast (cold), lunch (maybe warmish?), and dinner every day.  To be honest, I'm not that far behind.  It's just a perfect food--a slice has it all: grain, veggies, calcium, protein, essential oils (okay, A LOT of essential oils).  And, if you've got the time to scooch over to State Street and don't mind parking on the street (urgh!!), you need to eat ROC's best pizza, which comes from the humble looking but ridiculously great Pizza Stop.

You don't go to Pizza Stop for ambience.  If you eat there or wait on your pizza, you'll find an atmosphere akin to that at a DMV.  And, please DO NOT talk on your cell phone while ordering.  In case you're wondering why, refer to the photo of the Soup Nazi that hangs behind the counter and the many warning signs as you walk in.  

But, once you get past all that, what you'll find is simply delicious pizza.  We typically order the Meatball Parm pizza on thin crust, which is not only heart-stopping (potentially literally) good but also truly lovely.  Alternating circles of meatballs and mozzarella cheese rest on top of perfectly balanced pizza sauce--not too sweet, not too acidic, not too garlicky.  And, it all sits on top of a nicely crisped crust that still has just enough meaty doughiness in it.  This is, honestly, one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten!

This past week, in addition to the Meatball Parm, I picked up a Broccoli, Mushroom and Garlic pizza.  I didn't know it at the time I ordered, but it substitutes a base of garlic-rich olive oil for traditional red sauce.  The crust is then liberally covered with mozzarella and heaps of broccoli and mushrooms and more garlic.  My daughter agreed to try "just one bite" and went on to eat three pieces.  It's truly a keeper and a lighter pizza to offset the richness of the Meatball.

The only bad part about Pizza Stop is the drive home.  The pizzas come out piping hot and fill the car with intoxicating aromas within about 30 seconds.  I must have opened the Broccoli, Mushroom and Garlic box about 10 times on the 15 minute drive, each time forcing myself to close it back up again lest I burn my hand and mouth, and then crash the car.  At least I'd have a solid defense ...

"But, your honor, I was driving home from Pizza Stop."

"Case dismissed!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Next Door Bar and Grill

The kids were in activities til 8, so we decided to grab a grown-up dinner.  While we'll take our kids almost anywhere, Wegman's Next Door Bar and Grill is probably one restaurant I'd skip with them.  The menu is a bit out-there, the surfaces are hard and unforgiving (metal, antlers, highly polished wood), the dining rooms are loud, and the emphasis is really on the bar.  In many ways, it's one of just three ROC restaurants that wouldn't be out of place in Tribeca (I'd say 2Vine and Good Luck are the others).

My husband was running late, so I immediately ordered an appetizer--chicken meatballs--and began researching brisket recipes on Epicurous (Easter dinner).  The meatballs arrived just as he was sitting down (perfect wife timing!) and I was emailing myself the recipe that featured 36 cloves of garlic ("We are a garlic family," my son declared today).  They were well seasoned ground chicken topped with a dollop of nicely acidic and smoky marinara and served over a bed of yummy crisped spinach.

We both ordered soup.  He chose the seasonal Spring Pea Bisque, which was poured tableside over charred ramps, ham, and a lavender churro.  I hate peas (blech!), but he loved it!  I ordered the Miso.  The broth and mushrooms were delicious, but I'd say it had too much tofu.  Big puffy pillows of it; more than I would ever want.

When it came to the entree, we decided to share.  I chose the Grilled Organic Teriyaki Salmon.  It was supposed to be accompanied by bibb lettuce and radicchio salad, red radish, oven dried tomatoes, charred eggplant, lemon caper vinaigrette.  I did not notice the vinaigrette, and the charred eggplant was actually pureed as a base sauce for the salmon (which was perfectly cooked: tender, fork friendly, moist).  I had really wanted un-pureed eggplant and was disappointed. There also seemed to be too much lettuce for the plate, and the radishes just seemed to sit there looking for a purpose.  This dish could be reworked to better set off the ridiculously good salmon without so much fluff--and with real eggplant! (And maybe a roasted Meyer lemon or Blood orange, either of which would be delicious with the salmon.)

My husband ordered three Robata grilled skewers:  Trumpet Mushroom, Steak, and Chicken.  I know, "What is Robata?"  Here's an explanation.  Here's another one:  who cares?  Anything that comes off the Robata is straight up delicious.  The mushrooms were meaty and dense, sauced with a deep teriyaki glaze.  The steak was perfectly done and melt in the mouth smooth; the chicken was moist inside and crisp outside.  All skewers (which come two to an order) include scallions.  Grilling scallions does something magical to them, making them so sweet and smoky and yet still pungently green.  I could each a whole skewer of them.  Yum!!

By trading, we each got the full spectrum of main courses: steak, chicken, fish and veggies.  One of the minor benefits of marriage--that and the ability to share snarky observations about aggressively social salesman next to us while barely saying a word.

The one downside to the meal was that our service fell off a cliff after dinner.  After handing us the dessert menus, our server simply disappeared.  By the time she reappeared, I had already left.  Weird and very un-Wegman's.

Still, Next Door Bar and Grill is a must-do (where else will you see a wall of green apples, a ceiling of antlers, and a non-Amityville Horror red room?).

Dinosaur BBQ

My son's favorite restaurant is Dinosaur BBQ.  Thanks to his activity schedule, he eats there almost weekly after he gets dropped off at the library to wait while his dad finishes work.  As it happens, Dinosaur is right across from the library, so both men of the house have become mega rib-eaters.

I picked up the kids from Y-care early enough to get to the restaurant, get parking, and get a table ... that overlooked the falls.  If you know Dinosaur, you know this is less likely than winning Mega-Millions!  Must have been birthday power.

We started out with fried green tomatoes and some wings, both BBQ and sesame hoisin.  It's hard for me to admit this, but I've never had better fried green tomatoes than I've had in ROC.  Both Dinosaur and it's frenemy Sticky Lips have absolutely wonderfully seasoned, perfectly crisp versions.  They come in orders of three, but our hyperactively personable waiter brought us four :)  I'd call the wings a bit overcooked, but my son was undeterred and left only the bones.  My daughter is the FGT queen and demanded another order ... another four!

The three of them--husband, daughter and birthday boy--decided to split the Sweetheart Deal for Two: a full rack of ribs and four sides.  My kids love their Mac and Cheese ("the best" according to the boy), so their sides were two mac and cheeses, black beans and rice (her), BBQ beans (both) and an extra side of tomato cucumber salad (dad).  Even with all three eating the ribs, we brought home about six!  Over the years, I've lost my taste for ribs, but would say Dinosaur's are quite good.  Moist with a deeply flavored dry rub that forms a great fairly spicy crust over the smokiness of the rib meat.  The meal also comes with Dinosaur's cornbread, which is sweet and moist with a nice top crust and a good flake to it.

I love BBQ chicken!  I ordered mine with mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh salad greens with bar-b-blues dressing.  These are my two favorite Dinosaur sides.  Their gravy is rich, flavorful, and delicious, and as the menu states, the mashed potatoes are "real."  Yum!!  The secret to the salad is the dressing, a unique concoction of bleu cheese mixed with BBQ sauce--spicy yet creamy.  I cover my chicken with the Dinosaur Slathering Sauce.  I have to share that I prefer Sticky Lips chicken.  It's typically moister and more flavorful, but then again, it wasn't my birthday.

My son got his dessert for free as his birthday gift from our waiter :)  He selected Chocolate Ice Box pie, a chilled and rich chocolate pudding pie in an oreo crust.  Definitely worth a glass of milk!  It disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle formed by my three before even hitting the table.  I ordered the Key Lime Pie.  Dinosaur has an absolutely note perfect version (it's the recipe I use at home!), hitting the delicate balance necessary between tart and sweet.  Somehow, half of this pie made it into someone else's stomach (glancing in my husband's direction).

Our service was top flight, too.  Plates cleared, glasses refilled, cute banter with the kids.  Yay!

While it actually started in Syracuse, Dinosaur is truly a ROC landmark.  So, hop on your hog and head downtown for a great view and even greater food.