Category: Restaurant Review

Par-tea, Tapas, and Good Times!!!

My goodness does time sure fly. I haven’t posted at ALL  for the whole month of April and I’m just realizing this today!!! Wtf mate?! My apologies for the absence, but…

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I HAVE RETURNED!!!!

So where have I been, you ask?

Well, it’s been a busy month so far!

I spent the first weekend in Charleston visiting some of my hubby’s extended family. We had a super time!! We got to enjoy a street fair, some shrimp and grits (my first time! amazinggggggggg. so glad i don’t live where i could devour them every day!) and (my personal favorite part…) we got to visit the ONLY tea garden in the USA!

The Charleston Tea Plantation!!!

Goodness, gracious me I was so thrilled to get a chance to visit. Tea is, hands down, my favorite beverage. All kinds really – black, green, oolong, white. It doesn’t matter. I’ve hardly ever met a true tea I didn’t like.

*PREPARE FOR TEA SNOBBERY*

By true tea I am referring to only the leaves that comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant…which is the only plant that tea comes from. Any other “tea”  you may come across, like peppermint, roobios, or chamomile are herbal “teas”. These don’t contain caffeine naturally, like the Camellia Sinensis plant does. All black, green, oolong, and white teas contain caffeine naturally. There are various methods for decaffeinating tea that comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, though it will almost always still contain about 1% of its original caffeine content. Heh.

I became particularly passionate about tea while I was working as a Barista at Starbucks. When patrons used to come in and ask  if we had any decaffeinated green tea my store manger (who was the worst) would always respond “Yes! Our Refresh tea is a decaffeinated peppermint green tea!” LIESSSSSSSSSSSS! It’s peppermint tea. Period. In a green package. Ugh.

So now you know the difference between true “tea” and herbal tea!

*STEPS OFF OF SOAPBOX*

ANNNYYWWHHHOOOOO…It’s really wonderful to have an opportunity to see the way something you enjoy a daily basis is planted, grown, harvested, and processed. Here I am with some baby tea plants!!!!

And here are some tea plants growing in the fields!!!

tea!

Charleston was a great trip!!! Then last weekend, John and I had an AWESOME time with some awesome friends/family in Baltimore!!

We spent our first evening at home in Harrisburg at probably my favorite restaurant I’ve ever been to there…Manga Qui’s Suba Tapas Bar.

The first time I visited Suba was for my bachelorette party and we had an amazing time sharing lots of outrageously delicious tapas and cocktails!!  It’s a tiny place, seating maybe 30 people, but it’s totally worth waiting for! I’d have to say my personal favorites from their menu are the Pa amb Tomaquet (Catalan inspired grilled bread rubbed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and tomato) Suba Tacos (Fried crispy tilapia, salsa rosa, avocado,mango cilantro salsa, shredded cabbage) and Queso Flambeado (“flaming cheese” with chorizo and Bacardi 151). Here’s me and the Queso Flambeado and my bachelorette party (just in case the sash and silly veil didn’t give it away)!

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When it comes to cocktails, Suba’s Red Sangria is amazing and loaded with fresh black and blueberries!! It’s not too sweet or  too dry and dangerously delicious. I also tried their Firefly cocktail, which is made with House-made habenero infused tequila, mango, Bacardi Limon, Midori, lime and mint. It was insane!! Having an icy cold beverage set your mouth on fire is such a bizarre and fun experience! If you’re ever in the area, you MUST go to Suba.

Then, of course, we finally got to Baltimore.  We visited the National Aquarium and got to see some fishies and sharks and turtles and tree frogs and puffins and sloths. I am such a little kid when it comes to visiting aquariums and zoos…I LOVE THEM!!!! Here’s the gang! (We did NOT plan our outfits out, btw. Just so happened to match … oopsies!)

thegangAfter the Aquarium, we hit up Fells Point. We wandered for a bit then grabbed some beer and dinner at Max’s Taphouse! An awesome bar and pub style establishment where you order your food and drinks at the bar! Such a cool place!! We all shared platefuls of guacamole, steamed mussels, buffalo chicken fingers, french fries, tortilla chips, and a crab quesadilla with chorizo. So much food!!! All delicious!!food

Finally, Sunday morning we grabbed brunch at Teavolve (can you tell I picked this place out?!). Everyone loved their food! We had wonderful service, too. My cousin, Bill, got their Funnel Cake French Toast which seriously looked straight from a carnival and it was super tasty, as he was kind enough to share! The hubby got a smoked salmon bagel and my gal Susan got a breakfast panini with chipotle sauce and avocado.  I had eggs benedict with crab and avocado and I can’t tell you the last time I enjoyed breakfast/brunch so much. It came with super delicious roasted potatoes and fresh fruit, which I shared with my hubby because I was so full!!! I enjoyed their house made tea infused white sangria, infused with a ginger peach white tea. It was lite and perfect. I had to enjoy the tea by itself, too, just for good measure. 🙂tea

So as you can see, I’ve been a pretty busy bee lately! But you’ll be getting some new recipes soon!!!! Until then. 🙂

 

Tröegs and My Hoppy Valentine’s Day

When I first moved to Central PA my only real complaint was that, well, there really wasn’t that much to do.

Growing up in New Jersey spoiled me, I guess. Although my home town wasn’t exactly a social mecca and most of my nights during high school were spent at the local diner or Applebess, I spent my first two years of college in and out of NYC.  My campus had it’s own train station, so it was SO convenient. I could just hop on a path train and spend my afternoon in SoHo before heading back to campus for my evening classes. My second two years of college were spent a mere 20 minutes from Philadelphia, South Street, and Cheese steak whenever I saw fit.

It’s definitely different in Central PA. The state capitol isn’t anything like New York or Philly, but there ARE (contrary to my original belief) things to do, places to go, and most importantly – places to eat!

Last Friday Johnny and I decided to have our belated Valentine’s Day celebration at one of our new favoribeerte places – Tröegs Brewing Company, located in Hershey, PA. Tröegs is a local favorite and currently distributes its microbrews in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Established in 1997 by brothers and Central PA natives Chris and John Trogner, Tröegs produces six year-round and five seasonal beers – all of which are available on tap in their Tasting Room (based, of course, on the season!).

Guided Brewery tours are available, but I’d advise you book in advance as they fill up quite quickly. Self guided tours are available during their operating hours and give a detailed description about the brewing process they use to create their fantastic microbrews.

When John and I arrived at Tröegs, we were greeted with a smile by several employees as we made our way through the tasting room. It’s a big open room with several long, family style tables; a giant bar, and loads of smaller tables scattered throughout the room. It was pretty jammed up when we arrived, but most people were gathered around the bar. Although they do not provide table service for food, we were immediately greeted by a server who opened a tab for us and took our drink order so we didn’t need to navigate through the crowded bar. Johnny’s favorite Tröegs brew is their Perpetual IPA, which he ordered and enjoyed (that’s the face of a man who enjoys beer way more than taking photos).

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I’m still finding my beer legs (ya know…like sea legs…I just made this up now…so it’s not a thing you should have known about…so if you didn’t no worries!) so I decided to order their sampler. I recieved a tray filled with six 4.5 oz samples of their year round brews placed in the order by which you should enjoy them – Dreamweaver Wheat, Tröges Pale Ale, Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, Trogenator Double Bock, Tröegs Javahead Stout, and Tröegs Perpetual IPA.

samplerNow,  I’m not a big drinker. I usually keep my drinks quite simple – I’m a glass of wine, vodka tonic kinda gal. I didn’t drink beer at all until quite recently and Tröegs beer has definitely helped make the “transition” a bit easier.

Tröegs provides a handy description of each beer under each sample including the percent alcohol and hop bitterness (IBU). One thing I learned from this super awesome sampler – I do not like hoppy beer! Since I started drinking beer I’ve determined that I’m quite fond of wheat beers and enjoy unfiltered ales and I am much less fond of beer with loads of hops. Their IBU scale helped to support my own personal observations so I was super excited! I love learning! (I’m a nerd…and I’m okay with it. )

I’m a huge fan of the Dreamweaver Wheat – which has 15 IBUs. It’s light and summery and actually taste kind of like bananas. My least favorite is the Perpetual IPA – which has 85 IBUs. (See…observation supported!)

meI was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Tröegs Javahead Stout – described as a recipe “based off our [Tröegs] original oatmeal stout. After the boil, the hot wort passes through our hopback vessel on it’s way to fermentation. Packed full of whole leaf hops and a bed of ground coffee beans, the hopback vessel is similar to using a huge French press, intensifying the coffee nose and releasing subtle hints of coffee flavor. The result is a lush oatmeal mouthfeel balanced with cocoa, roast, and subtle coffee flavors.” The Javahead is almost syrupy in consistency and surprisingly smooth to drink. It’s a totally bizarre combination of beer and coffee but it works so well.  I plan to play around with it this summer and turn it into an ice cream float…seriously… the summer can’t get here fast enough!

If you’re hungry, they have loads to eat at their Snack Bar. The menu consists of  what you might consider standard bar fare, but with some fancy foodie twists! They offer Small Plates – like their  Oktoberfest Giant Pretzel with Barley and Sea Salt, (which isn’t that small at all) Large Plates – including House Cured Charcuterie + Pickles, Mustard or Mad Elf Fondue with Baguette and Seasonal Fruit. They also offer Sandwiches, and Sweets.

You walk up to the Snack Bar to order and you get to see first hand what’s going on in the kitchen. Personally, I love having the opportunity to see exactly who’s handling my food. I was so surprised by the finesse I saw some of the men in the kitchen moving with. Food is such a labor of love and I love watching chef’s in action!

This time around Johnny and I both went for their tacos. Johnny got Ahi Tuna Tacos with Jicama-Cilantro Slaw, Pickled Black Beans, and Chili Aioli. We split an order of their Hand Cut Fries with Hop Oil and Spicy Ketchup.

ahitacos and friesI chose their Black Bean Tacos with Crispy Plantains, Pomegranate Salad, and Creme Fraiche.

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Johnny’s tacos – in his words – were “really good, but the slaw was kind of watery.”  The only part of his taco I got to try was the slaw and beans that fell off the tacos onto his plate (that’s my life, haha) and I thought it was pretty tasty – but I could see what he meant by “watery”.  Still, he was very happy with his meal and said he would have them again.

I absolutely loved my tacos. They were served with a lime wedge – and limes are my fave – so I doused them in it! I could eat these tacos every day and be so happy and never get sick of them. They were seasoned just right, the flavors were well balanced, and each bite had a little bit of everything in it which I think is key  in taco construction. The pomegranate added a little sweet and crunch to everything, the plantain was perfectly crispy, and the black beans and creme fraiche blended together into smokey, creamy, deliciousness.

The hand cut fries with hop oil and spicy ketchup were insaaaane. It’s hard to genuinely please my husband when it comes to french fries,  but he was spot on when he said these were “still potatoey enough but crispy enough, too. ”  So true. There are few things in life that I actually want to be salty but french fries are one of those things. They were super hot and salty and perfect. The spicy ketchup was the perfect accompaniment – although with the massive heap of fries we recieved we ran out of ketchup pretty fast and were scraping the tiny container for the last little bits.

Ultimately, Johnny and I had a fantastic experience at Tröegs and we’ll definitely be back again and again. You’ll be pleased to hear that I finished 3 whole sample sized beers and wasn’t even THAT drunk. Heh. My husband was sweet enough to finish the rest off. We still had time to kill after we finished our meal before we had to be to our next location that evening, so we indulged in a giant peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. It was crispy on the edges and gooey in the middle, just like a cookie should be. We split it right down the middle, but of course I gave Johnny some of my half, too.  After all, it was our Valentine’s Day.

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I Miss BBQ

Holy beans! I feel like it’s been a century since I’ve posted!

I’m sorry if you’ve missed me , folks. Since I got back from my vacation, which I will go into more detail about in a moment, I’ve been working ALL night shifts. How lame is that??? Thanks to my awesome schedule I have had very little time to cook anything of interest. (I guess I did actually make myself an outstanding caramelized onion and mushroom risotto… but it was after my only shift where I was out before 10:30 pm last week and I was stressing big and needed some kitchen therapy. You didn’t miss much though, it’s exactly the same as my Spring Vegetable Risotto… just with caramelized onions and mushrooms instead of asparagus and peas. Yum.)

So anywho, I apologize for the delay in my return, but now I’m back and I get to tell you all about how much I miss BBQ!  Sure, I have a grill. I could technically “BBQ” things if so desired. But the outcome will not be the same on my puny little charcoal grill as it is in a gargantuan smoker out in the back of a dinky looking BBQ joint somewhere West of Knoxville, Tennessee. For you to truly understand what I mean you need to see this…

The image, well, it’s from my cell phone so it’s not the greatest quality. HOWEVER, what you’re seeing is an enormous baked potato stuffed to maximum capacity with nearly half a stick of salted butter, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh chives and a healthy portion of pulled pork all smothered in a delectable sweet and spicy bbq sauce from Big Boy’s BBQ in Crossville, Tennessee.

A family owned and operated business since 2000, Big Boy’s specializes in pulled pork and chicken, smoked fresh daily, as well as ribs and brisket (which I am sad to say I was unable to sample because they only serve it on Wednesdays). This “Big Stuffed Baked Potato”  will only set  you back $4.99 and is not only guaranteed to stuff you until dinner time, but is insanely delicious. So insanely delicious that in the six days Johnny and I spent in Tennessee we elected to get Big Boy’s not once, but twice. 🙂

I also think it needs to be said that Jennifer Romanchak DOES have will power…because she only ate hush puppies once the whole trip. My heavens I love those things. Heh.

Aside from eating, whichI did quite a bit of, my vacation was spent relaxing, hiking, paddle boating and spending some much needed alone time with my love and some awesome friends. And after our time in Tennessee, Johnny and I packed up the car and drove 10 hours to Pittsburgh!

Here I am in Pittsburgh!

After driving 10 hours Johnny and I met up with his parents and sister to explore the city for the day. I think it needs to be said that I think Pittsburgh is SO underrated!! I thought it was one of the niftiest cities I’ve been to in a really long time! Of course, while in Pittsburgh we stopped by a Primanti Brothers for their “almost famous” sandwich! In case you’ve never heard of them, these sandwhiches are a combination of your choice of meat (I opted for grilled cajun chicken breast) with provolone cheese, a sweet and sour vinegar based cole slaw, fresh sliced tomatoes and FRENCH FRIES all sandwiched between two slices of italian bread. I’m not sure there are words that can truly express what the experience of eating one of these sandwiches is like. The combination of flavors are extremely innovative, they hit every part of your taste buds. Sweet, sour, salty,spicy…all at once! You really need to find out for yourself!  Here is a photo from their web site of the glorious sandwich!

We ended our trip at PNC park. We tailgated with some subs that didn’t thrill me too much, un-thrilling enough that I don’t even remember the name of the place where we got them. Heh. No big deal really, because we also had mini bottles of White Zinfandel so it was still a fun time. It stinks to say that we watched the Mets lose to the Pirates.

Sigh.

My first ever baseball game where my team lost.

Sigh. Again.

Regardless of the loss, I really had an outstanding time getting away for a while! Traveling is a relatively new love of mine, but it’s one that I know won’t diminish anytime soon! Now that I’m home, though, I  can’t wait for my work schedule to get back to normal so I can get back in the kitchen!!