Thursday, August 30, 2012

Orlando, FL - Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar; I was surprised when the food was really good here that the place was empty. We did get there early for dinner, but I expected the place to be packed and it wasn't. The inside is very large and wide open, lots of space. It has some interesting decor with a Latin flare. It is trying to represent an outdoor cafe or alley seating style.

Guacamole is a staple at any Cuban restaurant right? Well then, lets start there. Their Guacamole Cubano is made with avocado, pineapple, lime juice and olive oil, served with plantain chips. The guac is very nice smooth and creamy, but still had some chunkiness from the remaining avocado and pineapple. The element in this appetizer that makes it a step above other restaurants are the plantain chips. They really are better than just getting standard tortilla or even house-made chips. The plantain adds the extra component of crunch and flavor.

We then tried the Frituras de Malanga, purple taro root, garlic and culantro fritters with a tamarindo ketchup. The fritters where nice and crispy on the outside while maintaining their softer consistency on the inside. The sauce has a nice tangy flavor to compliment the fritter.

The entree arrived, the Ropa Vieja, shredded beef brisket, stewed with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, red wine and served with maduros (fried plantains) and steamed white rice. The shredded beef was very tender and cooked well with the broth and vegetables. I was able to taste the flavor of the vegetables that were slowly cooked into the broth. I wanted to finish with the plantains and end with that flavor, since they were so good. The dish just needed some more texture, which is a very small criticism giving the good flavor of the dish, which I enjoyed. Since the beef was soft and tender, the plantains were soft, etc...However, the price of the dish isn't truly representative of what you get, it's slightly over priced but I expected that given the touristy location.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Orlando, FL - Taverna Opa; Taverna Opa is one of the few restaurants on the strip that you won't recognize because its not a national chain. Finally you can look at a menu and see some unique items and flavors. They do have some other locations throughout Florida, if your interested.

I think you'll like how the dinner starts, tableside handmade hummus. They bring out the mortar and pistol, begin crushing chickpeas, garlic, and olive oil. Within a minute or two, you have delicious handmade hummus. It is not as smooth as some of the processed blends, but I will be happy to take a little chunky version and have it taste freshly made.

For our appetizer, we tried the Spanikopita. It's fresh and HUGE. I'm not sure if it is supposed to be an appetizer or an entree. It has a nice phyllo dough layer, nice and crispy. The spinach is fresh and served warm. Also a pretty good appetizer, they are doing well so far, two for two.

I think they don't understand what it means to have a proper sized entree. I had the Panstitio, minced meat, layered similar to lasagna with an enormous layer of cheese. It is pretty good, nice favors, but the texture is one note, all pretty soft. It would have been nice to have some texture change on the top or throughout. It's HUGE, really HUGE. I think I only ate 1/3 of it and had to take it to-go.

The atmospher is nice, but can be loud inside. We opted to sit outside on a nice evening, where it was a much more tolerable noise level.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gross Pointe Farms, MI - Morning Glory Coffee & Pastries; From the outside, walking by, you may not appreciate the decor inside or the variety of wonderfully looking treats. After spending a lengthy evening at a near-by restaurant hanging out with a friend, then coming here for dessert, I wish we would have come here in the beginning.

When you walk in, you will appreciate their efforts in decor, old bookstore or library setting,  and making you feel relaxed immediately. It is a very nice and cute setting. I wanted to sit in here, drink my coffee, read a book or spend time with friends.

It is difficult to not order everything in their showcase, but finally decided on the mousse bomb and beignet with chocolate sauce . It is a very nice rich mousse filling with a dark chocolate ganache shell. It had a pleasant mousse texture, sweetness and taste. If I only had this and I would have given them four stars. However, they lost a star on their beignets. It wasn't the worst beignets I've had, but it wasn't the best either. You'll enjoy each bite, but it will not make your eyes roll back. They are not prepared to order so I think ours was made in the morning and had gone stale. The sauce saved it from it being a complete loss. I hope they are better in the morning.

I'm looking forward to trying more here or at least sitting inside and enjoying the environment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hamtramck, MI - Polish Village Cafe; When in Hamtramck, isn't it a sin not to try a polish place, especially one that was featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. This was an evening of food and left with probably 3000 more calories than when I came into the place.

The first to come out was the the PLACEK PO WEGIERSKU, or Hungarian Pancake. It is one large potato pancake covered in a pork and vegetable Goulash, with a kick of spice. It is a meal to its own, except when you are with my group, it is just the appetizer and split among all of us. The pancake is good and crispy like a potato pancake should be, while still soft in the middle. It does have a stronger potato flavor, which I'm use to some being a little more mild, so be prepared. The Goulash is hearty and thick with a wonderful pork flavor broth. The vegetables are stewed together with the meat so they're wonderfully soft, but still flavorful.

Excellent, we're off to a great start.

Now for the NALESNIKI Z GRZYBAMI, or Mushroom Crepe.  I didn't particularly think this was a home-run or even a triple.  It's good, crepe cooked well, but not sweetened enough. The mushrooms inside are not plentiful, but I can't help think they are canned mushrooms, I could be wrong, but they had that soaked canned texture that really is so common among canned goods. Ah, time to move onto the next dish that comes in front of me.

The Dill Pickle Soup arrives and surprises everyone, including myself.  I was expecting a slight dill flavor, but received a soup that you could have literally said, I think I'm eating a strong dill pickle. The dill immediately hit you and then the flavor finished with that vinegar pickle flavor. It also had a nice creamy consistency.

No one else wanted to try the CZARNINA, or Duck Blood Soup. I eventually did get one person to try it, after explaining the flavor, and we both really enjoyed it. I could easily order it again. I anticipated in tasting the iron and mineral flavor from the blood, but quite the contrary. There is a balance of sweet and sour, with both sugar and vinegar used with the blood to help mask the flavor. It also had chunks of plums in it to sweeten it up. It is traditionally, no exception in this case, prepared with small noodles similar to chicken noodle soup. I think this should be a definite inclusion in your order, worth trying.

If I wasn't full by now, I would continue eating, which I did. I warned you, it was an eating fest. The last of the appetizers arrived being the mixed pierogi plate. All are prepared right there in Hamtramck. It has a variety of fillings, I recommend all of them. Not a single one had an unfamiliar flavor, all prepared well with the crispy outside and delicious soft inside. Some are potato and cheese, others just cheese, and lastly some are sauerkraut. After all of us trying to figure out what kind of cheese it is, we finally asked turned out to be cottage cheese. Hmm, interesting.

Finally for dinner, which I can barely eat anything else, comes the SUROWA KIELBASA W SOUSIE PIWNYM or sausage in a beer sauce. The sausage has the wonderful natural casing allowing it to "snap" when you cut into it. The sauce was heavy, strong and rich, but not a strong and even a subtle beer flavor. That was unfortunate. What lacked in the sauce the sausage made up in flavor. It had a nice blend of spices, and thought it had a better flavor than the smoked sausage that someone else ordered. The mashed potatoes, were just mashed potatoes, nothing special or to die for. The corn can go along with the potatoes, it also was just basic corn. I could have done without both of them. The sauerkraut was traditional and authentic. It was slowly cooked and had a wonderful vinegar flavor and wasn't over cooked to take on that soggy texture. It still had the crunch it needed.

3000 calories reached, thank you Polish Village

Thursday, August 09, 2012

 Bloomfield Hills, MI - Moose Preserve Bar & Grill; People know I'm always looking for exotic food and wild game fits that appetite.  After several recommendations to try Moose Preserve for their exotic dishes, I had high expectations. I had to lower my standards throughout the meal to make sure I wasn't going to leave disappointed.

We started with the Wild Thang, an appetizer plate with spicy venison sausage, rabbit ravioli, duck tenders, whitefish pate, and BBQ buffalo balls. This should have enough wild game to satisfy Paul Bunyan and Big Blue.  Paul probably would have said, this is suppose to be what?  The only item that had a distinct flavor was the whitefish pate.  Everything else, it seems as though the dish is designed to be more of a gimmick so people can order it and say, wow, that meat didn't taste so bad at all....  The dish is not for the foodie who wants to taste rabbit, venison, buffalo, or duck.  The venison sausage was fine, but could I have said it had the nice rich flavor or venison, nope. How about the rabbit ravioli?  Well, I barely knew there was any meat in the ravioli, especially rabbit.  That was my biggest disappointment since I really wanted to taste what rabbit was like.  It's mixed with so many spices, that you really can't taste much of anything.  Duck usually has this nice rich greasy flavor that is very distinct to it's meat.  I almost could have been eating chicken tenders, I wouldn't have known the difference.  I guess it wasn't bad, but was it duck?  Lastly, the buffalo was better than the rest, I'll give them that.  They were tender and flavorful, sauce was nice and I'm glad I ended on that component of the dish rather the others.

Ordering the ribs was a bit of a cluster f...  I ordered a full slab so I could share them with others, but then the server came back and said sorry we're all out of full slabs, but I can give you two half slabs.  She explained at first the chef didn't want to combine them because he wanted to make sure he had enough for other orders.  After doing some calculus for the server and chef (adding how many bones are in a half times two compared to how many are in a full) since they equal the same....isn't it the same thing?  After this discussion, they finally agreed to put two half slabs together for one.  I didn't realize I needed my JD to convince a jury to order my food.

The ribs arrived and I was going to say, yabba dabba doooo!  They were the ribs from the Flintstones when they arrive at the window.  They really are very very large.  They were tender, not falling off the bone, but still tender.  I appreciate when they are not boiled so they fall off to retain some of their flavor.  It had a nice dry rub on them and combined with the sauce, they were decent.

The shepherds pie I also thought was decent. The mashed potatoes where nice on top and the minced meat underneath I thought was cooked well, seasoned well, and still juicy.  The pie had the size close to the ribs, so you'll be taking some of it home as well.  It's a large dish, so be prepared.

Lastly, to complete the meat trifecta, we saw boar sausage on the menu and were compelled to try it.  We thought it was good, on the sweet side which we didn't expect at all.  However, the surprise to us was when the manager came around to see how our meal was that evening.  We explained about the craziness in the beginning, but then we told him we enjoyed the boar sausage and asked the question, what was in it that made it sweet.  His reply, "Well I'm not sure, we don't make it here, so sorry. I'm glad you enjoyed it though."  Seriously? That's your reply? You don't know what's in it nor can you go and ask the chef what's in it? Really? That's not really the response I was looking for, but thank you.

Ann Arbor, MI - This is the real deal if you want it to be. You can get the American Chinese food if you wish but why when they offer real Chinese that allows you to experience the culture. I heard they offered pigs ears and knew I had to try that. I stopped in to JUST try the pigs ears and ended eating that, pigs intestines, and pork hock with jelly fish. I would have tried more except I already eaten dinner before stopping in for "desert". Lol.

This food will excite your eyes, challenge your imagination, and wow your taste buds. The pigs ears, I didn't even know what it would look like or how it's prepared, but learned quickly that it's sliced thinly and prepared in a delicious spicy Chinese sauce. They are a bit chewy, which is what I expected, but not as bad as I thought. It was much more tender than I imagined. It was a great start.

The pig intestines were prepared with the same marinate and spices as BBQ spare ribs. BBQ flavored, not really spicy at all, but also served with some salt to dip it in. The salty and sweet of the two work really well. It does have a gritty'ish flavor, I mean it is intestines, so expect that. It however was better tasting than other intestine dishes were I had them just sautéed or cooked in sauces.

Lastly was the pork hock and jelly fish. The pork hock was actually nothing special, great tasting, but not some crazy exotic flavor to shock you. It's like eating some pieces of pork. The jelly fish add some flavor and mostly texture to the pork. They are also marinated well, sweet, to help compliment the pork's heartiness.

The staff was amazing. They were so helpful in helping us pick some of the dishes, even though they were laughing at us the ehole time. Lol. I think they were so excited to see these non-Chinese patrons eating this food.

It's worth the drive to Ann arbor, I would easily do it again.

Detroit, MI - El Guapo food truck; El Guapo offers an assortment of tacos and burritos to try whether if you are an omnivore or a vegetarian. All the food is cooked to order and I usually have to wait 15-20 minutes for the food when I try their food at the Royal Oak Food Truck Rally. The line can get long there.

The tacos are small and cheap allowing you the opportunity to have a culinary tour in one spot. Almost all their tacos I think are good and a few are really good. After trying their chicken, chorizo, braised beef, Korean, tofu, pork belly, and specialty ones, I think my favorite are the chorizo, Korean, pork belly, and tofu.

All four tacos have complex flavors and none of them are one dimension. They contain fresh ingredients, moist and tender meat, well marinated, textured condiments, and their own distinct flavors. The only criticism is for their tacos shells. They use flour tortillas rather corn, more traditional approach. The corn gives the dish more flavor, texture, and sturdiness with the juices. However, corn tortillas can some times add Unintended flavors, which is what they may be trying to avoid.

Try these four to get hooked and then expand your interest.

Hamtramck, MI - Sheeba Restaurant; On my pursuit of the Bizarre Foods Detroit episode reenactment, Sheeba was on my list to try out their Lamb Kidney Sub. If you've ever been to the Middle East, well, save the plane ticket. When you walk in, you're transported to a small restaurant that could be easily mistaken for an Middle Eastern authentic place. It has the music, the tv shows, the clientele, and the FOOD.

I don't think there is any wasting of lamb in this place. If it's slaughtered for me to eat, why not eat it all right? We were not expecting to get Lamb Soup, just the Lamb Kidney Sub, but we easily were talked into soup by our server. How can I turn down Lamb Soup? It's one I've never tried nor heard. You can see that I can only imagine what parts of the Lamb are cooked in it, but it's definitely slowly simmered in the meat and bones. It has a deep meaty flavor of lamb, really to the point that you think you're cutting into a lamb shank. It's pretty oily, partly from the fat from the meat, but also I think olive oil. You can see from the picture, these wonderful pools of oil to add the heartiness of the soup.

We also couldn't resist the pita bread to dip into the soup. It's huge, really huge.  We had to include a hand in the picture just to get a point of comparison. It comes out HUGE and HOT. I'm not kidding on either point. It came directly out of the stone oven and almost burnt my fingers in trying to tear a piece off. Dip this right into your soup, oh so good.

The Lamb Kidney Sub arrived. The initial inspection looks like the kidneys are finely chopped and sauteed well done.  Not done well as it's perfect, but over cooked. It reminded me of when you cook bacon well done and break it up into bacon bits. They were very crunchy and some pieces were good presented this way, but most were too hard and tough to chew them. It's served on a nice toasted sub bun and mayo inside to elevate the sandwich a bit, but the star of the sandwich, the kidney, You only get a mediocre review.

I would stick with the bread and soup. I'm interested in trying several other options there. They have items on the menu that are not found in most places, so it's definitely worth another visit.