Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fruit & Salad Company

We've driven past the Fruit & Salad Company in Bushnell's Basin dozens of times--because let's be honest, if you're in the Basin and you're hungry, it's hard to come up with a reason not to go to Tom Wahl's!  But, in the spirit of eating healthily after basketball, we passed up TW this once to try something new, and we were happy we did!

Fruit & Salad looks like a Pottery Barn inside and out.  Very Pittsford!  And, even on a grey Saturday afternoon, it was hopping.  We were surprised to see that the menu took up a full wall--everything from soups and salads to burgers and paninis.

My son, clearly not understanding that we didn't go to TW, ordered a bacon cheeseburger, but he did get a side salad instead of fries (Victory!).  My daughter stuck with her go-to, a chicken caesar wrap, and another on her hit list, chicken and rice soup.  Then, her eyes widened.  F&S carries Cheesy Eddies cakes, including her favorite, Carrot Cake.  Well, carrots are vegetables.

My husband ordered a salad and sandwich combo, Monterey Chop Salad and Harvest Turkey Sandwich (no mayo).  I got a salad and soup combo, regular Chop Salad and Cream of Chicken Soup.

The entire meal was a hit, with lots of cross plate eating.  While it was not inexpensive,  we certainly got our money's worth.  The half salads were massive and filled with chicken, veggies, croutons, and a lovely light balsamic vinaigrette.  The kids' burger was full-size with a hefty side salad (and a plentiful side of pickles, yum!).  The "cups" of soup were bowls, both delicious and large enough to share.

We'll definitely work F&S into our regular Saturday, post-basketball rotation.  Eating a yummy, vegged up salad periodically will help balance off those delicious TW Buffalo Chicken sandwiches, and the calming blue and white Cape Cod cottage interior of F&S is a lovely counterpoint to TW's Happy Days aesthetic.  Why, I think we've discovered the yin and yang of Bushnell's Basin!

New Cantonese

I had gone to New Cantonese for lunch once, so when we had more than the usual time on one of the kids' dance nights, I suggested we go for dinner.  It was right on the way, and service over lunch had been speedy.

When we arrived, we were the first dinner customers, so the server took a special interest in us.  She invited the kids to pick their own exotic Chinese juices out of the fridge, suggesting ones her own son liked, which turned out to be big hits with his American counterparts.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you can guess what we ordered:  fried pork dumplings and chicken soup with rice for appetizers; General Tso's chicken, pork fried rice for dinner.  We went for something new, though, too: Chicken Lo Mein.

The dumplings were delicious:  nicely round and meat, well browned from frying but not at all greasy.  Yum!  And, the soup hit the spot for my daughter, who kindly shared it with her brother.  Light broth with lots of plump rice.

And, we noticed that the restaurant was starting to fill up a bit, but we were the only non-Chinese customers.  We took it as a good sign.

We were right.  The General Tso's chicken was crispy with a sauce with a nice kick of smoky heat.  My son loved it.  My daughter's lo mein was outstanding--the noodles were firm and the sauce was grounded in garlic and soy.  Delicious!  (She was so taken with it, she's ordered it other places, only to be disappointed.)  And, I ate the lion's share of the fried rice, which was plentiful and yummy--with lots of roast pork and veggies.

Part way through the meal, my husband came by, drawn by the descriptions of the food I texted him.  He finished off all that was left and was similarly impressed!

New Cantonese has the atmosphere of a bare bones, strip mall Chinese restaurant, but all that is unimportant compared to the great service and food.  Look past the cafeteria tables and handwritten, cardboard "restroom"sign, you'll be delighted!

Han Noodle Bar

Han Noodle Bar advertises itself with the slogan, "No fusion. No gimmick."  It's a small restaurant located in a repurposed house, with a no-frills white interior and--on the night we stopped in--just one overworked server.  Almost all of the tables were filled though and most folks seemed to be regulars.

While it was listed as an entree, we started with the Asian Eggplant (a big fav in our family).  There was plenty to share, in a thick, deep, smoky sauce, and it all disappeared.

While it may not have any gimmicks, Han does have a child's menu.  The kids ordered Noodle and Dumpling and Fried Chicken with Sesame Sauce.  Since she always ordered dumplings, my daughter was a bit surprised to find that this meal's were a bit more like steamed buns, and the noodles were quite thick.  She was not a fan. Nor did my son enjoy his.  But both of them really liked what I had ordered--which came in a large enough portion to share.

That was the Chicken and Broccoli with Fried Rice.  It was well prepared, with bright green nicely firm broccoli, and chicken that came in strands that the kids called "worms."  I requested brown sauce, and it was flavorful without be overwhelming.  The fried rice was okay.  I'd probably go with steamed rice in the future.

My husband ordered a special drink, coconut milk, which was literally "coconut milk" in a coconut.  He was not impressed with the flavor, but the presentation was cool.  He ordered the Five Spice Beef Shank Noodles--and quickly learned he does not like five spice.  Also, the beef was not really warm.  But he soldiered on ... and ate the kids' meals, which he enjoyed.

Overall, we would chalk this one up to a dining experiment--one that was incredibly affordable because of Han's low prices.  I guess we like gimmicks.  Lesson learned.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jeremiah's Tavern

This will be a short.  One goes to Jeremiah's Tavern for wings.  Period.  So we did.  I'll say up front that we were surprised at how small the wings were.  The ones I make at home from plain ol' wings from Wegman's are bigger.  But, they were flavorful.  We got mild & safe, medium, BBQ, garlic parm and Bee Sting.  All were good.  I'd say that, maybe because Jeremiah's has so many levels of heat, their wings are milder overall, so like a shoe that runs a bit small, you can go a size up.

Here was the big surprise at Jeremiah's: the tatter tots (their spelling).  I know, tatter tots? But, seriously, they are so, so good.  Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, with just the right amount of seasoning that clearly includes some kind of schedule 1 controlled substance since it's so addictive.

Overall, everyone needs to go to Jeremiah's.  Do they have the best wings in Rochester?  We'd say no, but they do have the best tatter tots on Planet Earth.  So, it's a fair trade!

India House

I have written previously of our love of Indian food--and of Rochester's surprisingly deep array of Indian restaurants.  One we had not tried was India House, in part because it suffers from the dreaded "on street parking syndrome" that is kryptonite to those of us with PTPPD (post-traumatic parallel parking disorder).  Yet, we pushed on to get there because we had heard many good things.

So, we were surprised to find ourselves the sole diners one weeknight.  There's nothing that instills confidence in what is to come more than an empty restaurant.  But, we had already parked the car (on the street), so there was no turning back--which was a good thing.

I can start this at the end, with my daughter repeatedly asking if we can eat there again.  For a girl who could probably live her whole life eating an alternating cycle of grilled steak, penne with olive oil and garlic, and mac and cheese, she has a surprisingly forceful love of Indian food.

We ordered our usual appetizers: Chicken Pakora, Garlic Naan, Samosas.  All delicious.  There was less chickpea batter on the pakora than I've seen at other local Indian places, so if that's your thing, be prepared; but, having said that, the chicken was moist and yummy.  I had had a headache inducing day, so soup seemed appealing as well.  I ordered the Ginger Cauliflower; it was just as described on the menu: silky and delicious plus comforting!

Around the table, our entrees were our standards as well: daughter/Chicken Tikka; son/Tandoori Chicken; me/Bharta.  My husband threw in the curve ball: Pepper Chicken. Add in more naan and some raita, and we were good to go.

She described the Chicken Tikka as having the "best sauce ever"!  And, it was good, with a sweetness that sat nicely on top of a mild heat.  The Tandoori was plentiful, and he like it--but I'd say it was a bit overcooked.  My Bharta was wonderful, rich and deeply flavored with a building heat perfectly cooled by the raita.  I also mixed in a bit of the Tikka sauce, which made it even better.  My husband liked his Pepper Chicken, but seemed to like the Tikka sauce more and spooned it over his, too.  (Subliminal message--order the Tikka!)

India House is a Rochester staple--with outposts in Victor and a new smaller one in the old Mamasan's Noodle Shop on Mount Hope in addition to the Clinton Ave original.  And, it's stuck around for a reason.  And, yes, dear daughter, we will go back!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


My travel schedule has been a bit loopy, so it seems fitting that my husband and I arranged our only date night in months while I was in Philadelphia and he was running the kids around town to their multiple lessons.  Pending an on time flight arrival, I suggested we try a new Rochester hot spot, TRATA (aka The Restaurant At The Armory) and see The Master.

While my flight did land on time, we had questions about whether we'd find a parking space at the Armory.  It was clear TRATA was hopping.  After a couple miscues about our seating, we had a table we were happy with and were ready to assume the personae of daters-about-town.  And, from this perspective, TRATA had it going on:  three architecturally striking floors that evoke a very artsy barn, a massive center bar surrounded by seating and dining catwalks and balconies, varied sculptural lighting, a unisex bathroom, a welcoming rooftop bar, and lots of earphone-equipped staff.

Right up front, I need to share one thing we did not anticipate about TRATA--for non-drinkers, it is crazy reasonable in terms of prices!  My one table trick is that I can typically guess a dinner bill within $2-3 dollars, but because I was tired from two full days of meetings during which I was also trying somehow to manage several late breaking events back home, I hadn't even bothered to scan TRATA's menu for prices.  So, I overbid our bill by about $25!

Here's what we got: 2 small plates, a salad, an entree, and a dessert.  The term "small plates" is misleading--these are serious portions, easily shared among 2-4.  Can I go a week without some wings? No! So, we ordered the wings, which were from chickens on mega-steroids and were full wings, not wingettes.  These were tender and moist with a mild sauce.  To balance the wings, we got the lettuce wraps.  The chicken stir fry had a yummy sauce on the side and was served with two lettuce wedges that you broke up to make the wraps.  Messy to be sure but also delicious!

I had heard about the fried chicken from a colleague, so we split that entree, which was a wise move.  After the "small" appetizers, two entrees would have been too much.  Instead, I ordered the house salad, which was also quite large; in addition, it was crisp and cool with a clean and slightly acidic vinaigrette.  At this point, an attentive reader would guess that I might say the fried chicken portion was generous; she'd be right.  It was also moist inside with a softer fry rather than a crunchy fry finish.  The potatoes were dense with a flour-based gravy--all topped with a fluffy biscuit.  Perfect to split.

We finished with the rootbeer float.  My husband took the float, I took the cookie, and we were both happy!

I've heard mixed things from others about TRATA.  We loved it!  The service was great, the food was yummy, the prices were more than reasonable, and the space is really cool.  Go!

The Wokery

No, we did not stop eating or eating out.  But, now that it's once again freezing outside and I have to spend about two hours each Saturday sitting against the wall on the hardwoods watching both my kids play Y basketball ... I once again have time to update the world on our dining adventures.  And, I shall begin with last night at the Wokery.

We ate at the Wokery for a pragmatic reason--it was near the IMAX theatre where we were headed to see Frankenweenie and folks seemed to like it on Urban Spoon and Yelp.  Apparently it has been around forever, but as we approached, things were not promising: the Wokery occupies a spot in a nearly empty strip mall right next to the Pioneer Bingo Hall.  However, as soon as we opened the door, our spirits lifted, and we knew awesomeness awaited!

The decor of the Wokery is straight out of the late 70s, and the menus with taped up black covers had a print date of 1983.  When our super friendly waiter took our order, he opened with "talk to me" and tempted my children with "kiddie cocktails."  (My daughter loved hers so much, she stood at the table finishing it as the rest of us walked out the door.  She's requested we make them at home.)  We sat next to the official "Wokery," a glass walled room in the corner with a pass through window to the kitchen: ingredients are passed through in aluminum tins, cooked in gigantic flaming woks by a single chef, who took time to wave at the kids as they stood at the windows watching him cook their meals.

We started with a Chinese restaurant staple for my family: pork fried dumplings.  They were firm and crisp with lots of pork filling and a nice soy/ginger sauce.  As my daughter exclaimed, "they are so good!" She also got the chicken soup with rice, which she proclaimed as "fine."  My husband and I split a Tom Kha Gai soup, which was a bit too sweet and not very spicy.

The Wokery has a kids' menu.  My son ordered the sweet and sour chicken and my daughter the pork low mein off that menu.  He liked the chicken but not the sauce; she liked his more than hers.  She also really liked the pork fried rice we ordered for the table (another family staple).

My husband ordered the garlic chicken.  It had a nicely spiced red sauce with firm yet tender broccoli.  I ordered pork with vegetables: large slices of roast pork, mushrooms, broccoli, corn, onion, and more in a lightly seasoned sauce.

Was it the best Chinese food we've had in Rochester? No.  Would we go back next time we went to the IMAX theatre? You bet. The service was wonderful; the ambience, perfectly funky; the wok room, on fire; the kiddie cocktails, addictive!