Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fra-gil-e. Must be Italian.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season!  Christmas is one of my absolute favorite holidays (it's about equal on my list to Thanksgiving and St. Patrick's Day), so I've been reveling in the holiday spirit, starting well before I headed out of SC a few days before Christmas.  Believe it or not, I'm still trying to use up the rest of my giftcards that I won last January.  I discovered that one of them was going to expire before the advent of 2012, so I called up R and we headed to use that one up at Ristorante Divino.

As you might have gathered from the name, Ristorante Divino serves authentic Italian food.  And by "authentic," I mean that the chef / owner is from Italy.  Right on.  The restaurant is tiny - like maybe 15 tables in the entire place.  We didn't have a reservation - it was the middle of the week, so we didn't think we'd need one - but we probably should have.  I absolutely adored the atmosphere.  It was intimate without feeling crowded, dark without being overdone.  I personally wouldn't have gone to dinner wearing anything less formal than what I had on (I had come straight from work), but there were other people there in less formal attire.  I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post, but there was a sign at the hostess stand that asked that cell phones not be used in the dining room, a directive I was happy to comply with.

We were seated right away, and our server came over almost immediately to take our drink orders.  After perusing the menu, we each decided to start with soup.  R had the soup of the day, which was a wild mushroom dish.  It was incredible.  The flavors were spot on.  It was rich, creamy, and delicious.  This was probably one of the best things about our meal that night.  I had the lobster bisque, which was equally rich and creamy.  There were huge bits of lobster in it.  I very strongly considered a) licking the bowl and b) using the fresh bread on the table to sop up every last bit of soup.  In the end, I did neither, as I do, on occasion, have a wee bit of class and know how to behave properly.

The pace of dinner was great, as we had a few minutes to relax and chat before our entrees arrived.  I ordered the linguine ai fruitti di mare, or for those of us who don't speak Italian, seafood linguine.   It had shrimp (which I picked out and gave to R), scallops, calamari, tomatoes, and garlic in a pinot grigio sauce.  The entire plate was also ringed with mussels.  I really wish I could have taken a picture of this dish, because the presentation was beautiful.  It tasted as good as it looked.  The scallops were perfectly cooked, and the tomatoes and garlic created a great flavor.  The pasta was a perfect al dente, which is huge in my book, as I despise overcooked pasta.  It really was a deceptively simple dish.  Everything complemented everything else and tasted absolutely divine.

R ordered one of the specials that night, which I believe was trout.  It was served with mascarpone mashed potatoes and a red wine sauce.  R enjoyed it.  The fish was perfectly cooked, and the mashed potatoes were out of this world.  They were creamy and a little bit tart, as you would expect from potatoes made with mascarpone.

And of course, no meal would be complete without the perfect dessert.  I had the cheesecake (of course).  It was creamy and awesome.  It came with a drizzle of raspberry sauce and fresh berries.  It was a rather large portion after a huge dinner, but the berries were the perfect way to end the evening.  R had a grilled chocolate pound cake with whipped cream and berries.  It was a much lighter choice than my cheesecake, but again, for me, the berries were the standout.

Once again, I enjoyed a fantastic meal at a locally owned Columbia restaurant.  Anyone who tells you we don't have a food scene in this city must not be looking too hard.  Ristorante Divino is just another brillant gem that Columbia has to offer.  It's probably not much of an everyday spot, as it's a bit pricey, but I would definitely head there for a special occasion.

Final Rating

You can find Ristorante Divino on Facebook, or on the web

Ristorante Divino on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DRY Soda - Product Review

I'm officially the worst product reviewer in the world.  My sincere apologies to the lovely people at DRY Soda who sent me drinks to review almost three months ago.

Back at the beginning of October, the sweet people at DRY Soda emailed me to ask if I'd like to review their product.  DRY was just launching a new flavor, and were doing so while they were part of the Urban Outfitters Store on Tour. The first stop on the tour was Columbia, and while I didn't make it to the event because I was out of town, I was still on board to try out the new flavor of DRY Soda.

It may seem a little odd that I decided to review a line of sodas because I'm not a soda drinker.  I might have a soda five times a year.  I think most of them are way too sweet.  I stick to water, and not flavored water either.  Artificial flavoring just doesn't do it for me.  However, according to the press release that the DRY reps sent me, their product is all-natural, contains four ingredients, and is less sweet.  The soda also comes in a variety of flavors outside the norm - no Dr. Pepper or Coke knockoffs here.  DRY has flavors like rhubarb, vanilla, and lavender, as well as the slightly more normal wild lime and blood orange.

The 8 bottles that are still in my fridge.  Maybe I should move them to the front so I remember they're there.
I was sent 12 bottles of soda (sidenote: soda in bottles!  That require a bottle opener to open!  Love it!) in flavors including rhubarb, vanilla, lavender, cucumber, wild lime, and blood orange.  I was pretty excited to try the lime and orange sodas, as those were the closest to the types of "regular" sodas I drink on occasion.  

The blood orange was divine.  I think it's my favorite of all the ones I received.  This is a flavor that I could drink on a regular basis.  The wild lime was pretty good too.  It tasted almost like a flatter (in a good way) Sierra Mist.  That's the other thing - I really like that DRY Soda seems to have less carbonation.  It makes it easier to drink.  I enlisted the help of my roommate when trying these out, and she had the cucumber flavor.  She said it was like drinking cucumber water with a splash of seltzer.  That sounds lovely and refreshing.

To be honest, I still haven't tried the vanilla or lavender flavors yet.  In my defense, I'm so used to drinking water, that reaching for something else to drink doesn't even occur to me until it's too late.  I did try the rhubarb last week, and I was not a fan.  It still had the same basic qualities of the others - less fizz, more natural flavor - but I just don't like the flavor of rhubarb.  Of course, I'm pretty sure the only time I've ever had rhubarb was in a strawberry-rhubarb pie, which is definitely not the same thing.

Despite not yet trying the vanilla or lavender, I'm pretty confident that I can recommend DRY Soda to you.  The flavors I have tried are awesome.  I love that the actual flavors are the star of the show - that they aren't masked by carbonation or excessive sweeteners.  And, for all of you waistline conscious readers, each flavor is under 100 calories per bottle.  For those of you who like to drink mixed drinks with assorted sodas, I think that DRY would be a great mixer option.  The lack of sugar and carbonation would probably even help to keep the hangover to a minimum the next day.  Included in my case of soda was a handy little adult beverage guide, detailing which flavors paired best with which liquors.  Very thoughtful of the folks at DRY Soda.  Bottom line?  If you're looking for a more natural or healthier version of your favorite fizzy drink, I would give DRY Soda a shot.

Disclaimer: While these product samples were sent to me for free, the opinions above belong solely to me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Food and Music in the AVL

I may have just had the best weekend in the history of weekends.  Excellent company, spectacular music, and amazing food.  Pretty much the Hungry Lady trifecta of good things.  So where was I, that I enjoyed such a wealth of awesomeness?  I was in Asheville, N.C. for the Warren Haynes Xmas Jam. This magnificent event is a weekend-long festival of fun and music, put on solely to benefit Habitat for Humanity.  So not only was I having a blast, I was also upping my good karma by charitable giving (no really.  In addition to the concert itself, I donated a ton of winter clothes/blankets to the Grateful Bread clothing drive to benefit the homeless of Asheville).  I had such a good time, that I'm trying to figure out if it's too early to book a hotel for next year.

So on to the main event:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Time for Thai

Ever since I moved in to her house, not quite a year ago, my roommate  has been pestering me to go to Mai Thai. I'm a big fan of Thai food, so you would think I would easily cave to the pressure to eat it.  Except that every time J invited me to go to Mai Thai with her, I always had other plans.  So, when she finally told me, three weeks in advance, that she and her girlfriends were going to Mai Thai, and she hoped I would join them, I put stars on my calendar and blocked out any other potential activities.  Really really glad that I did.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Food Truck Update

I got a comment the other day about my post from a couple of weeks ago about Saving Columbia's Food Trucks.  Sorry for not relating this info sooner....this is why you should follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  Sometimes I update those and forget to update the blog.  Oops.

Anyway.  I ended up going to the City Council meeting that was dealing with this issue, after emailing my post about it to the Mayor and Council Members.  There was quite a crowd there to support our local trucks.  First the representative from the SC Hospitality Association spoke about his concerns.  After he finished, and the Council asked some questions, 5 or 6 people spoke on behalf of the trucks.  The Free Times ran a great article about this, so I suggest that you go read it here.  Their coverage is much more comprehensive than anything I'd be able to relate.

Bottom line, there were some positive results for our food trucks.  At one of the Council meetings in September 2012, the issue will be revisited to see how the trucks and restaurants are living in harmony.  In the meantime, keep on truckin'.  Sorry...couldn't resist.  But seriously, keep an eye on each truck's Twitter feed, as that's the best way to keep track of who is where on any given day.  And make sure to let the trucks know how much you enjoyed your meal.  Feedback is always a great thing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bone-In BBQ Buffet

Everyone's favorite local BBQ truck, Bone-In, has started a glorious weekly event: Thursday lunch buffets.  Yes that's right.  All of your Bone-In favorites in one meal for a measly $12.  Including dessert.  As soon as I heard about this, I started making plans to get there.  I rounded up a few friends and headed to the Big Apple to see what kind of delectable food I could stuff in my face.

Not a bad looking menu
This was only half of the buffet.
And the other half of the buffet.  Look at that plate of pork!
My plate and G's plate.  We could each only fit half of the food on each plate, so we had to go back for seconds to try out the rest of the food.
Overall, it was awesome.  I particularly enjoyed the brussels sprouts and the mac & cheese.  Odd, because brussels sprouts have never been on my list of foods that I enjoy eating.  But these were spectacular.  I really can't wait to try them again.

It's hard for me to go out for lunch during work, but I'm pretty sure this is going to become a monthly event for me.  As far as I know, this is a weekly event for Bone-In.  I suggest that y'all head that way this Thursday or the next Thursday so that we help make sure this is a weekly thing.  The Big Apple is at the corner of Park and Hampton Streets downtown, right behind the Main Branch of the Public Library.  No word set if the menu will change weekly, but knowing the geniuses behind Bone-In, I wouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey for me and Turkey for you...

I may have mentioned once or twice or 17 times how awesome my family is.  What I haven't mentioned nearly enough is that my friends rival my family in their awesomeness.  Maybe it's because I'm exceptionally lucky to count my friends as family.  When you live 700 miles away from your closest relative, an adoptive family becomes almost vital.  So this Thanksgiving season (and yes, it should be a season.  Why does Christmas get all the love starting in October?  I hereby declare November to be the "Thanksgiving Season."), I'm extra thankful for my second family. And for their concept of Friendsgiving, a fabulous evening that brought us all together for an amazing potluck style Thanksgiving dinner. Huge thanks to R, A, and baby E for hosting us, and huge thanks to everyone else for making some divinely inspired dishes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wine + Tapas = Fabulous downtown happy hour

Believe it or not, I am still trying to use up all of my gift cards from the restaurant week contest I won back in January.  You wouldn't think that it would be so hard to use up 27 gift cards, would you?  At any rate, I'm down to about 8 or 9 more places now, since L & I finally used my gift card to Gervais & Vine last Friday.

We met up after work, had a couple of glasses of wine, and split some food.  Very chill, relaxing happy hour to end the week.  The vibe in G&V is pretty laid back - simple, colorful, and comfortable.  As soon as the holidays are over (read: as soon as I have a discretionary income again), I want to make G&V a regular happy hour spot.

I may have forgotten to write down what kind of wine we were each drinking, but it was very good.  I had a pinot noir that was incredible.  It was exactly what I wanted, and tasted great with everything we ordered.  L had a cabernet that I didn't like as much, but it certainly wasn't bad.  I wish I could remember what kinds they were...

But let's move on to the part you really care about: the food.  G&V's menu doesn't seem huge, but good luck deciding what you want.  Everything sounded great, and it took us awhile to actually decide.  We ended up deciding to split a couple of tapas items and them to share the pizza of the day.  We figured that we could always order more if we were still hungry.

We ordered the garlic-parmesan fries with spicy aioli and the she crab spread to start.  The fries were incredibly well seasoned, and the spicy aioli lived up to its name.  It wasn't over the top, but there was a nice little kick to it.  I wouldn't have minded if the fries had been a little crispier, but that's just because I like crunchy fries.  They were certainly cooked well and covered in grated parmesan and garlic.  I would very strongly recommend these to anyone who goes to G&V.

You can actually see the parmesan that was sprinkled all over.
I don't think I really have words to describe the she crab spread.  Made with a mixture of crab, crab roe, garlic, sherry, cream cheese, and parmesan, it was so good, that both L & I contemplated licking the inside of the ramekin just to make sure we didn't miss anything.  It was creamy and seafood-y and served with crisp crackers and crusty bread.  As a nice complement, there were also red grapes and baby pickles alongside.  I will be hard pressed to order something other than this spread the next time I go to G&V.

Check out the bubbly crusty top of this spread.  So so good.
Finally, we ordered the pizza of the day.  On the day in question, the pizza (cooked in a stone pizza oven) had chicken, pesto, tomatoes, olives, and feta.  We devoured this thing.  The crust was crispy, but not burnt, and the ingredients were fresh.  The tomatoes were divine.  Like everything else we had that night, I would order this again in a heartbeat.

Look at the color on those tomatoes!
Because G&V's seating is so intimate, we also got the opportunity to see what everyone around us was ordering and eating.  The asparagus is definitely on my list of things to try.  I will be raving about G&V for weeks.  It was so good, so filling, and so comfortable.  I can't wait to go back again, and maybe sit at the bar this time so that I can watch all of the awesome food being prepared.

Final Rating

You can find Gervais & Vine on Facebook, Twitter, or on the web

Gervais & Vine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Help Save our Food Trucks!

My support for Columbia's food truck scene is well-documented.  I think that the 5 trucks we have - Bone-In BBQ, Alfresco Mobilista, 2 Fat 2 Fly Wings, Pawley's Mobile Eats, and NY's Famous Hot Dogs - have been a tremendous addition to Columbia's food scene.

The emergence of these trucks has caused some serious anxiety among Columbia's "brick & mortar" (their words, not mine) restaurant owners.  In an absolutely absurd move, the Columbia Restaurant Association is requesting that City Council tightens the regulations on food trucks.  You can read the proposed amendments to the existing law here.  But just in case you don't have the time, here are the highlights...or lowlights, depending on your viewpoint. There are a few items that I excluded, as I don't think they're nearly as asinine as these few (my comments in italics):
  • Food trucks may not locate within 1,500 feet of a lawfully established eating place selling the same or similar menu items.  How do you determine that?  Who determines that?  And how specific are you going to get?  If a truck sells sandwiches, does that mean they can't park near other places that serve sandwiches?  Or is it only for a specific type of sandwich?  What about drinks?  If a truck sells sweet tea, they pretty much can't park in Columbia, given the fact that every restaurant in town sells sweet tea. See the problem here?
  • If more than three (3) food trucks locate on the same property within 1,000 feet of each other, the following are required:
    • Each food truck will be required to have all of the appropriate licenses and zoning permits;
    • A minimum of one (1) portable toilet facility or access to toilet facilities for the public;
    • A minimum of three (3) picnic tables or something similar to accommodate at least eighteen (18) people.
This particular proposal is the one that irritates me.  The point of a food truck is to be highly mobile. It's food on the go.  They aren't designed for people to congregate, use the bathroom, or hang out.  While I fully support the option to have picnic tables or other seating, it shouldn't be required.  The people who patronize food trucks know and understand this.
  • Food truck vendors shall keep sidewalks, roadways, and other spaces in the immediate area clean and free from paper, peelings, and refuse of any kind, and shall provide a container for litter that shall be maintained and emptied when full. Public trash receptacles shall not be used forcompliance with this section. Food truck must obtain written permission or the use of any public or privately maintained trash receptacles and/or dumpsters and have that on the food truck.  Again, food trucks are mobile.  They are designed for on-the-go food.  Most patrons don't stick around long enough to actually eat and then find a place to dispose of their trash.  They take it with them because it is to-go food.
Things like this really make me wonder if the people protesting food trucks have ever eaten at one.  It's a really cool option for a quick bite to eat, but I doubt that trucks will ever replace traditional restaurants.  Trucks just bring in a bit of competition, and frankly, the Columbia Restaurant Association just needs to get over it.  You can't lobby to make the lives of fellow small-business owners miserable, just because they're creating competition for your business.  Rather, you should be supporting locally-owned and operated establishments because they are part of your community.  And sometimes they even bring publicity to our small city.  Bone-In was recently featured on Eat Street, a show on the Cooking Channel.  How many people are going to come to Columbia, check out some awesome BBQ for lunch, and then head to someplace a little more traditional for dinner?  Think about it.  Impeding the process of food trucks is a detriment to our city, our economy, and our competitiveness in the national food scene.  If the Columbia Restaurant Association wants to keep pace with major food cities, like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and, more locally, Charleston and Atlanta, they need to support the food truck scene.  If Columbia City Council wants to keep our city as a "Famously Hot" location, they would be wise to vote down these amendments, and support something that keeps our city unique.

More information can be found in today's issue of The State, The Free Times, and this particularly well-written blog. Columbia City Council meets tonight (11/15) at 6 p.m. to vote on this issue.  If you can't attend the meeting, contact information for the council members can be found here. Please email if you can't attend.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Team Carnivore! Or really, just a trip to Cowboy.

My birthday was a few weeks ago.  So was my friend G's.  In fact, our birthdays are a day apart, though he's a year older than I am.  We've been celebrating together for about eight years.  This year, as G's birthday fell on a Thursday, which in Hungry Lady land means Game Night with my group of friends, we decided that we would all go out for dinner.  There's a newish Brazilian Steak House in town, so we figured that two birthdays were a great reason to splurge and put ourselves into a meat coma.  G's wife made a reservation for 10 for 7:30 on a Thursday night at Cowboy.  I'm pretty sure we were all super excited about this as a) we love meat and b) all-you-can-eat meat makes it even better.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guest Review - Contest Winner and Henry's

Remember back in September when I sponsored a contest?  Well, the prize was a $50 gift card to the winner's restaurant of choice.  The winner, after much Facebook voting, was Polly, who also writes the blog La Cucina di Paulina. Her winning entry was a very tasty looking summer salad.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try it before all of the awesome summer fruits and veggies went out of season, but it's on my radar for next year.
Doesn't that look awesome?
After she won, Polly asked that the gift card be to Henry's on Devine Street.  I ran down there during lunch one day to pick up her prize, and to be honest, almost spent it while I was there.  Some of the food coming out of the kitchen looked incredible.  I'll have to get back there soon when I actually have time to eat.  I asked Polly if she would mind recapping her meal for us, and she happily obliged.

My parents and I along with one of our best friends had a fabulous time. As ALWAYS Henry's delivered super fast, super fresh and delicious food. My Mom and our friend Lynn each had the amazing BLT, I had half of a Bacon Burger with bleu cheese and my Dad played it "holy" with a grilled chicken sandwich (no cheese no bacon, why bother?). As always, he stole half my fries. If you haven't eaten at Henry's, do yourself the favor, the food is wonderful, affordable and the service is terrific. And oh, have the fries, and the bacon!

This is my kind of bacon cheeseburger.
Even with nothing on it, that chicken sandwich looks good to me.
These look like some well-satisfied customers.

Thanks Polly for sharing your experience with us!  I've heard some marvelous things about Henry's, so I'll be checking it out soon!

You can find Henry's on Facebook or on the web

Henry's on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chipotle Halloween Fundraiser

Do y'all have dinner plans for Halloween yet?  If not, you might want to consider heading to your local Chipotle after 6 p.m. that day.  Why? Because October 31 is Boorito, a fundraiser for the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation and Farm Aid.  All you have to do is dress up in a costume inspired by the family farm.  Then, for a mere $2, you can get a burrito, bowl, salad, or order of tacos.  All proceeds, up to $1 million, go to the Chiptole Cultivate Foundation and Farm Aid.

In case you aren't aware, Chipotle makes a conscious effort to use local and sustainable ingredients.  You all know how awesome I think that is. A fundraiser to benefit those same family farms providing those awesome ingredients is pretty spectacular.  Plus they're partnering with Farm Aid, and anything with the Willie Nelson seal of approval automatically gets the Hungry Lady seal of approval.

You can read more about Boorito here. I would also recommend checking out the foundations that your $2 will be going to: The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation and Farm Aid.  

Pretty awesome cause, y'all.  Get out to your local Chipotle on Halloween and support your local farmers.  Besides, eating actual food before gorging yourself on Halloween candy can only be beneficial, right?

You can read the full press release after the jump.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Road Trip: London Grill in Philadelphia

I know I've been M.I.A. for awhile.  Real life has taken its toll lately, and between grad school, being sick, a huge work project, and being out of town to celebrate my birthday, I haven't really had time for much else.  But things are starting to get back to normal, and I have a few good  posts coming your way, including a guest blog about food in Buffalo, an awesome dinner in, all you can eat meat, and my trip to Asheville this coming weekend.  But first, let's talk about my amazing birthday dinner.

A few months back, I was feeling a bit on the homesick side, so I looked at my calendar and my budget to see when I could possibly take the time to make a trip up to my mom's house just outside of Philadelphia.  Between her schedule and mine, anything over the summer was out.  I was itching to get home, because, well...I really just missed my mom.  Then I happened to get an email about a concert that was coming up in her area - I fully credit my excellent taste for music to my parents, who always made sure I appreciated the classics - that happened to fall, conveniently, right around my birthday.  Perfect, I thought, as my sister's birthday, my birthday, and my mom's birthday all fall within a week of each other.  Plus the show featured two of my favorite bands, so it was bound to be awesome. Speaking of which, get yourself out to see Jackie Greene and/or Truth & Salvage Co. if you ever get the chance. Trust me, you won't regret it.  Right.  Back to the point.  I called my mom to run this trip by her, she jumped on board (apparently she missed me too), we made plans for to visit my sister while I was there, I booked my flight, and we were set.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quick & Easy Dinners - Homemade Pizza

Remember the 947 million times I've mentioned on this blog that I'm not much of a cook?  Well, make it 948 million now.  I don't cook very often.  How then, you ask, does The Hungry Lady eat?  I'm really good with pasta and things that go in the microwave.  I even have some frozen fish fillets in my freezer that I haven't managed to screw up yet.  And I can do canned soups, salads, and sandwiches.  Needless to say, I get by.  Maybe not in the most healthful of fashions, but I do manage to get three meals a day.

But I digress.  I have never been one of those  people who derives any pleasure from cooking - standing over a hot stove/oven, plus doing prep work, is just not how I want to spend my time.  From this, you can correctly assume that I'm definitely not one of those people who eat something and then are inspired to recreate the flavor profile in a totally different dish (see also: Top Chef).  So when my  roommate and I were eating some leftover lasagna one night and she mentioned that the flavors would be really good on a pizza, I was a little shocked to find myself nodding my head in agreement.  We both flipped through our mental calendars and managed to find a rare evening when we would both be home for dinner and decided to make it pizza night.  We divided up the ingredients onto our respective shopping lists, and five days later, we were standing in the kitchen making pizza crust, chopping vegetables, and browning sausage.  I'd be lying if I said that I did any of the actual cooking, but I did chop up the veggies pretty well.

Once we got everything assembled, we put a rather gigantic pizza in the oven and waited for the kitchen timer to go off.  The aroma of fennel and tomato sauce was heavy in the air.  You could probably hear our stomachs rumbling from a block away.  Finally, after 15 agonizing minutes, the timer dinged, and we ran into the kitchen to pull our mouthwateringly good dinner out of the oven.

This thing was delicious.  And was really good as leftovers the next day.
So how did we make it?
1 jar of pizza sauce (we used Ragu, because it was on sale)
2 Betty Crocker Just-Add-Water pizza crust mixes
1 large package of mozzarella (the kind that comes in a ball, not the pre-shredded kind)
2 large green peppers
1 8 oz package of mushrooms
1 can large, pitted, black olives
2 links of hot Italian sausage (the kind you buy in the fresh meat aisle, not the pre-cooked section)

J worked on putting the pizza crust together.  I added some garlic and basil to the pizza sauce because it was really sweet and needed something to make it less so.  We browned the sausage (and still had 4 large links left over, one of which I added to some spaghetti sauce later that week), then cut it into circles. I would have maybe used a few more mushrooms (and that's only because they weren't evenly distributed - J said she got plenty of them), but otherwise, this was perfect.  We're definitely talking about doing pizza night again soon.  Maybe next time, I can convince her to try this cauliflower crust pizza from my friend (no really, we've known each other since high school) Eric over at Eric Dishes.  Plus....making your own pizza is way cheaper (and way less greasy) than ordering from your local pizza joint.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

No, I don't mean Christmas.  I mean that it's football season.  A time for tailgates, cookouts, too many beers, good friends, and the agony or ecstasy that accompanies each game.  I live in SEC country (for those of you who don't do college football, SEC = Southeastern Conference), where football Saturdays are a religion.  I'm lucky to have a group of friends who are champion tailgaters, whether they are tailgating in a parking lot or at someone's house.

For the first game of the season, my fabulous friends decided to get things started in style.  We all headed over to Z & H's house with assorted cases of beer and food products.  Z spent all day grilling chicken and ribs.  We had salads and potatoes and veggies and baked beans and dessert.  And, to start the day, we made pancakes and sausage.  Plus we had three TVs set up, cornhole, flip cup, and tents to keep the heat at bay.  Throw in the 14 hours we spent devouring the first Saturday of college football, and you had some very happy campers.

Since that first weekend, no one's schedules have really meshed well enough to recreate that scene. There's still been some pretty good food involved though, most notably the lovely dishes that G and L made for us this past weekend when we watched the game at their house.  Kickoff was at 12:21, so of course, we had to show  up early enough to watch ESPN College Gameday before our game.  G decided to make beignets for the occasion.  I woke up late, and so didn't get to their house in time to get one hot out of the fryer, but even slightly cold, they were amazing.  I'm putting in a request that we do beignets again soon.

Just in time for the game, we had this plate of deliciousness (please note the Gamecock plate):
What is that, you ask?  That would be a large portion of bacon wrapped, beer boiled brats.  Say that 5 times fast.  Clearly if you're not a pork eater, these aren't for you.  But for the rest of us, these were utterly amazing.  To be totally honest, bacon wrapped anything is pretty amazing, but I could eat these non-stop.  What made these so special?  Each tooth-picked goodness was rubbed down with a combination of brown sugar and cayenne pepper.  It was an outstanding combination of sweet and spicy and it was filling.  For a nice variation, we spread some jalapeno pimento cheese on a few of them, and wow.  The flavor of the cheese just melted away, leaving the sweet and spicy taste of the pork.  I'm pretty much going to insist that these are served at every group function from now until the end of time.  Well done, G & L.  Well done.

Friday, October 7, 2011

DRY soda + Urban Outfitters = A Grand Time in Columbia

If you live in Columbia, you've probably heard through the grapevine that the Urban Outfitters Store on Tour has set up shop on Senate Street, right by the Tin Roof.  They'll be here until Sunday, October 9th, so if you get a chance, head to the Vista and check them out.

On tour with Urban Outfitters is DRY Soda. DRY is an all-natural, four ingredient soda, that by all accounts is not nearly as sweet as normal sodas.  The lovely PR people at DRY contacted this humble blogger to ask if I'd want to try a few samples.  As soon as they land on my doorstep, I'll be giving them a try and letting y'all know what I find.  Of course, if I find myself with some extra time this weekend, I may head over to Senate Street and try a sample beforehand.

If you're curious about DRY soda, check out their website, or read their press release below...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mmmm Mmmm Good....but not in a Campbell's type way.

This past weekend, the weather in Columbia started to change.  It went from being warm, slightly humid, and sunny to windy, chilly, and sunny.  In in the immortal words of the Grateful Dead, there was "not a chill to the winter, but a nip to the air."  I'm a hot weather person.  I would rather have days of 100 degree temperatures with humidity than ever have the mercury dip below about 65 degrees.  So you could say that I was a bit disgruntled when I was tailgating for the football game on Saturday and I had to pull a blanket out of the trunk of my car so that I could stop shivering.  Of course, with the change in the weather, my sinuses started acting up, so by the time Sunday rolled around, I could barely breathe, and the only thing on my mind was getting warm.  That afternoon, I had plans to go the Carolina Ale House and watch my heartbreakingly bad Philadelphia Eagles give up a 24 point lead to lose to a not-so-great 49ers team.  Let's run through this, shall we?  I was freezing, had a horrible cold, was bummed and angry about the Gamecocks losing on Saturday, and my Eagles were playing like a pee wee football team.  Clearly it was time for comfort food.  Or a lot of bourbon, but as I had to drive home, bourbon wasn't really an option.  Comfort food, it was.

Side note: I go to the Ale House every week for football. They have about a zillion TVs and show every game being  played.  Some games are featured downstairs, while others are upstairs.  The hostess usually has a list of what game will be where so that you can watch your favorite team.  The atmosphere is pretty chill, but at the same time, no one is going to give you a dirty look if you start yelling for or about your game.  Plus the food and beer selection are good.  It's something I would look into if you need a good Sunday football spot.

Back to the food.  I asked our fabulous server what the soup was that day.  When she said that it was chicken and sausage gumbo, I was sold.  It was everything I could have possibly wanted.  It was warm, fragrant, peppery, but not overly so, and it was FULL of chicken and sausage.  I'm not a huge okra fan, but even the okra in the gumbo was good.  I finished my cup and was debating just ordering more instead of getting a sandwich later.  I really hope they have this gumbo on the menu more often, now that the coldish weather is upon us.  The rest of my meal was good - I took a chance and ordered the "Classic Philly Cheesesteak," which is something I usually don't do if I'm outside of the Philadelphia area.  It wasn't bad, though the fact that I had to order it without lettuce and tomato kind of irritated me.  FYI, the addition of lettuce and tomato makes it a cheesesteak hoagie, NOT a cheesesteak.  But it was still pretty tasty.

After two demoralizing losses by my football teams, I really needed a pick-me-up.  Lucky for me, my hometown Phillies were hosting the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLDS on Sunday night.  After a disco nap and some reading for my grad class, I headed to Delaney's for some baseball.  I was still freezing and not feeling so hot (yes Mom, I know I should have stayed at home and rested, but I don't have a TV and really wanted to watch my team), so I asked the bartender what the soup of the day was.  I was a little disappointed when he told me it was Creamy Tomato Basil.  I've never been a fan of tomato soups.  I'm not sure why, but I'm just not a fan.  My dislike of tomato soup was warring with my desire for something to warm me up.  The bartender gave me a tiny sample to try, and I was very pleasantly surprised.  Tomato Basil soup and grilled cheese for dinner.  Yes, I'm really a 5 year old.  The soup was almost like eating vodka sauce.  It was creamy and flavorful with bits of cheese and basil.  I asked if I could get free refills on soup, but alas, was shot down.  

The colder weather has really gotten me thinking about soups in general.  I've even thought about learning how to make soup.  That may be a little ambitious, as we all know that I hate to cook, but we'll see.  I'd love if y'all would share your favorite soup recipes with me.  Maybe I'll try them out.  Of course, this is Columbia, so it could very well be in the mid-80s next week and you'll see this post again at the end of October......

Friday, September 16, 2011

OPA! Or why you should hurry up and get to the Greek Festival.

One of my absolute favorite events is in Columbia this weekend: The Greek Festival.  Every year for the past 25 years, the local Greek Orthodox Church runs a weekend long festival of all things Greek: food, folk dancing, music, shopping, etc.  They also have carnival rides for the kids, and this year, they are offering tours of their brand new church.  In spite of all that goes on, this is really a low key event.  It's a time to get together, eat some incredible food, absorb a little bit of a different culture, and, if you're me, thank God that your rather stubborn grandmother was never able to convince your parents to sign you up for traditional folk dancing lessons.

I adore Greek food.  Or at least most of it.  I still can't bring myself to eat dolmades.  Let me explain.  This Hungry Lady is half Armenian.  Yep.  Just like those irritating Kardashians.  I promise that my family is not that annoying.  Unfortunately, we aren't that wealthy either.  Anyway.  Aside from geography, there aren't really that many differences between Armenia and Greece.  Greek music tends to be a little more upbeat, but let's be honest.  Armenians are the depressed cousins of the Greeks.  When it comes to food, the flavors and types are pretty similar. Both are heavily influenced by dishes traditionally associated with the former Ottoman Empire and the Middle East.  Greek food tends to incorporate more Mediterranean flavors.  This may be why I prefer Greek food to Armenian.  Or it may just be that being forced to eat traditional Armenian food as a three-year old turned me off of it for life. At any rate, the flavor profile traditionally associated with Greek food is one that I've carried with me my entire life.  So when the Greek Festival rolled into town this year, I jumped on my chance to go.

I met a couple of friends during lunch to grab some gyros, Greek fries, and baklava.  There are plenty of other things on the menu, but as you know, I always seize the chance to eat a real gyro.  Let's be honest though.  I'm totally toying with the idea of going back for dinner tonight.  Or maybe for lunch tomorrow or Sunday.  The gyro was perfect.  A great blend of beef and lamb, topped with tomatoes, onions, and dressing.  Greek fries are really just french fries coated in a Greek seasoning blend.  I happened to get to the booth just as they were seasoning a fresh batch, so mine were awesome.

And then there's the real reason that everyone goes to the Greek festival: the baklava.  And I'm not talking about that weird pastry-like thing you get at most restaurants that is passed off as baklava.  This was warm and gooey, and so fragile it nearly fell apart in my hand.  The layers of filo were even thinner than normal, and the honey and nuts just oozed out the side.  It reminded me of being a little girl at my grandparents's house for Christmas Eve.  You see, way back in the day, back when my grandma was forcing me to eat weird Armenian food, she, her mother, and my aunt would do an awful lot of cooking and baking for the holidays.  Everything was from scratch.  They'd make all sorts of glorious food (at least for those who liked Armenian food), and on occasion, there would be baklava.  So good.  I may actually have to talk my aunt into making some this year....

But I digress.  The entire point of this post was to encourage you to get to the Greek Festival before it closes at 8 p.m. on Sunday.  It's a good time and very casual and laid back.  Parking is kind of a nightmare, so be prepared to drive around a little while before you find something.  Enjoy the food, drinks, and entertainment.    It's always a great time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rock, Blues, and Beer Gardens

A couple of weeks ago, M and I drove up to Charlotte to see Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at the Fillmore.  If you've never heard GPN, I suggest you check them out.  The show was awesome - excellent music, excellent vibe, and excellent crowd.  But since this is a food blog and not a music blog, we'll move on.

I think the Fillmore is a great place to see a show.  Partially because the venue itself is really nice, but also because of the surrounding area.  The Fillmore is part of the North Carolina Music Factory.  There are a handful of venues, both inside and out, clubs, and restaurants.  And - this might be the best part - FREE parking.  Right?!?!?  When was the last time you had free parking for a show?

At any rate, the restaurants were what interested me.  M and I met up with a few friends of ours who live in Charlotte (and who were kind enough to let us spend the weekend) for dinner before the show.  Since we were a little pressed for time, we decided to hit one of the restaurants near the Fillmore.  K, our resident Charlotte tour guide, took us to VBGB, a Beer Hall and Garden.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Voting Time!

I promise, as soon as this whole contest business is finished, I will return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.  But first, we have a winner to decide on!

Only four people emailed me contest entries, so the odds of winning are pretty good.  But ultimately, the winner will be crowned by y'all.  That's correct.  I, like normal, can't make up my mind, so I'm asking for input.  I will be posting all four entries - a photo with a caption describing the meal - on Facebook.  All you have to do is "like" the photo and caption that you think looks/sounds the best.  Make your decision carefully.....there is a $50 gift card at stake here!  Voting will end on September 14.  Then I'll contact the winner, and we can make arrangements for you to get your gift card.

Sound good?  Well, tell your friends to come vote.  This isn't going to work if only the people who entered vote.  I will NOT be voting, as I don't think that's really fair.  So let's get voting, yeah?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Food Truck Food Court Takes over Columbia...again.

Yesterday, Cromer's played host to the second Food Truck Food Court (FTFC) to hit Columbia.  I attended the inaugural event, and you can read about it here. I had a great time, so there wasn't any doubt in my mind that I would go to the second event.

So here's the rundown, before we get to one of the best lunches I've ever experienced in Columbia:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Contest Time!

Ok.  I've been thinking about this for quite some time.  I wanted to come up with a contest that somehow relates to the point of this blog, but that wasn't over the top or cheesy.  I think I've finally come up with something.  I hope y'all enjoy it.

Why am I hosting a contest?
I've finally made it to over 100 fans on Facebook, and I'm at 99 on Twitter. In my book, this is cause for celebration!

Who can participate?
Anyone.  Tell your friends.  Send them this way.  I certainly don't mind the extra readers.

How to Enter
I've thought long and hard about this and finally reached a decision.  I want to see your reviews.  Before you panic and decide that you're not a writer and thus cannot possibly come up with a review, I don't want anything complicated or in-depth.  I want to see about a paragraph about a meal or part of a meal.  It doesn't have to be from a restaurant - if you've cooked or someone else cooked for you, I want to hear about it.  And don't forget a picture!

So how's the winner picked?
There are two options here.  1) I can be boring and use to pick a winner out of everyone who submits a review.  2) I can post your reviews/pictures and let y'all vote on our winner.  I like option two better, but if anyone has a strong opinion one way or the other, please let me know.

What do I win?
How does a restaurant gift card sound?  I'm not going to specify a restaurant since I know there are people who aren't in the Columbia area.  But I can tell you that it will be for $50.  And that I absolutely refuse to make it to a chain restaurant.  Once the winner is chosen, he/she and I will discuss a restaurant.

What's the Deadline for Entering?
Ok.  You have one week to get your review/pictures submitted.  All entries must be in my inbox (thehungrylady at gmail dot com) by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7, 2011.  I'll post the entries here  on September 9, and let y'all vote.  Voting will close on September 14, and the winner will be announced on September 15.  When you enter, make sure to include your picture, review, contact info (name and email), and where you would like a gift card to.

Email me, Facebook me, or Tweet me.  And if you have any suggestions, I'll be happy to hear them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let's Talk Sushi.

Sushi has been the fad for years.  Prior to last weekend, I had never had it.  Why, you ask?  Because I couldn't quite wrap my head around consuming raw fish.  The very thought of it weirded me out.  I have several friends who love sushi, so I had promised that I would eventually get over my mental block and we would use my gift card to SakiTumi. Last weekend, I had sufficiently prepared myself to give it a shot.  I took L with me, and was sure to ask for her input before I ordered anything.

After checking out the menu, we decided we'd each get a roll, and then order something else if we were still hungry.  So many things looked good to me, but since I can't eat shrimp, there were a few things that I was able to eliminate right off the bat.  As a side note, a shrimp allergy sucks.  Shrimp seems to be the go-to seafood for every restaurant, and sometimes it's really hard to find a dish that doesn't contain shrimp.  While I can technically order things with shrimp and then pick them out, that always seems to defeat the purpose. Plus I don't particularly relish the idea of missing a piece and ending up sick.

Anyway.  L decided to get her favorite, the Spicy Tuna Roll, and I went with the Charleston Roll (blue crab, avocado, green onion, and Japanese mayo).  Here's where it gets tricky.  Everything tasted good.  The fish was perfect.  The wasabi and ginger served with each roll were excellent.  But I'm still not a fan.  I just don't understand sushi.  In all honesty, I felt like I was eating a big ball of rice.  If I wanted to do that, I'd make rice and home and save myself some money.  The rice just overpowered everything.  L's roll was a little less like that, so maybe I just need a stronger fish, but still.  I could barely taste anything but rice.  And before anyone jumps on me, I tried it with soy sauce, without soy sauce, with wasabi, without wasabi, with ginger, without ginger, and with every combination thereof.  The meal just didn't excite me.  And, though I was pretty full after  I finished (we didn't end up ordering anything else), I was starving and rummaging through my kitchen looking for food about two hours later.

This is by no means a poor reflection on SakiTumi.  I actually loved the restaurant - the atmosphere was cool and laid back and our server was great.  I'd be happy to go back, but I'd probably skip the sushi and order something from the grill instead.

My guess is that I'm doing something wrong.  So many zillions of people love sushi, but I just don't understand the point.  Someone explain it to me.  Do I need to order something different, or do all sushi rolls have an overwhelming rice taste?  Would a stronger fish help?  I'd be willing to try again, but I'm going to need some guidance.  Tell me your thoughts - best places for sushi (and if anyone says Japan, he/she had better be willing to pay for my trip there), best things to try, proper way to eat it (with or without soy sauce/ginger/wasabi), etc.  Help this Hungry Lady out.

No actual rating for SakiTumi, because I don't think it's fair to judge them based on the fact that I don't understand the food.  If I go back and try again, I'll review.

In the meantime, you can check out SakiTumi on Facebook, Twitter, or on the web.

Saki Tumi Grill & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tombo grilled up a great meal.

I really used to be one of those people who gets stuck in a dining rut.  I'd go to the same places repeatedly.  I'd start to get bored, but I wouldn't bother to try a new place.  I don't know if that was because I was too lazy to look for a new place, or too afraid to step outside my comfort zone.  At any rate, this blog has forced me to try new places, and as a result, I've had some pretty fantastic experiences.  Once of the best I've had, by far, was Tombo Grille.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Moving makes me hungry

It's that time of year again.  The time when everyone with any sense stays away from downtown Columbia.  Yep.  It's move-in weekend at the University of South Carolina.

Way back in the day (read: 10 years ago) when I was a sweet and innocent freshman and coming to South Carolina for only the third time ever (the other two times had been for a college visit and then orientation), I was a little intimidated.  Probably because I was at a huge state school, in a city that is 700 miles away from home.  I was kept busy during move-in and the days that followed, as USC provides countless activities to welcome the masses to campus, but when my family and I first got to campus, it was a little rough.  We were definitely those easy to spot out-of-towners (and not because my dad was wearing socks with sandals or a Hawaiian shirt with a camera around his neck). Not only did our suburban Philadelphia accents betray us, but we also had no idea how to get around town and were totally lost.  We didn't even know where to start when we wanted to find something to eat.  If only we had had a fabulous food blogger who knew the ins and outs of the Columbia dining scene.  Lucky for all of you incoming Carolina students, you have me.

After polling the crowds on Facebook and Twitter (Huge thanks to all who helped me out!), I have put together a list of places for your dining pleasure.  Some I have been to, and so can attest to their awesomeness, while some are new to me, but you better believe I'll be trying them soon.  If any of you decide to take my suggestions, let me know how you liked it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Totally Rockin' Burgers (pun absolutely intended)

I've been a horrible blogger lately.  Apologies y'all, but sometimes my day job has to take precedence.

Right.  Back to the point of this blog: Food.  On Sunday night, M, L, and I were all set for our weekly True Blood fix.  We were all going to grab dinner on our own and then head to M's to watch this week's episode.  After spending an inordinate amount of time at the hospital welcoming some friends's new baby (congrats R &A!), L & I decided that we were going to grab dinner together before heading to M's (M wasn't hungry, otherwise I'm sure she would have joined us).  After the usual, "what in the world do we want to eat and what's close to M's house" conversation, we settled on the perfect hole-in the-wall for burgers and beer: Rockaway's.

Now, if you're local to Columbia, chances are you've been to Rockaway's (formally titled "Rockaway Athletic Club," but no one calls it that).  If you're not local, you should probably make your first trip there with a local so that you know where you're going - Rockaway's doesn't have any kind of outdoor signage.  If you think about it, that's kind of badass.  They're so well known, they don't need to announce themselves.  I dig it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Free Chipotle!

This weekend in Tax Free Weekend in Columbia.  That means that everyone I know who works in retail will spend the weekend being super stressed, while the general public gets to pretend they're in Delaware without actually having to go to Delaware.

To coincide with this money saving weekend experience, Chipotle Mexican Grill is running a special in Columbia.  And before you ask, no, I don't know if this promotion is being held in other areas.  I just know that it's happening here.  All you have to do is go to any Chipotle in Columbia on Tuesday or Wednesday (August 2 or 3), order some food, and keep your receipt.  Then bring your receipt back to the restaurant any time during tax free weekend (August 5 - 7) and get a free burrito, bowl, order of tacos, or a salad.  Totally and completely free. No tax, no charge, no nothing.  Just make sure you have your receipt.  Pretty awesome deal, yeah?

All the details you need about this weekend.
So why should you go to Chipotle instead of some other chain Mexican restaurant?  Chipotle has the Food with Integrity mission.  You can check out the website for full details, but here's the gist: they use local, sustainable methods of food gathering.  That means using meat that hasn't had hormones or antibiotics added, using local and organic produce, and supporting family farmers.  That's a pretty awesome thing to do.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been to a Chipotle.  But when they contacted me to see if I would plug their tax free deal, I read up on the company.  There are some pretty cool things happening behind the scenes.  I may just take my first trip to Chipotle in the next couple of days.  Plus, this looks really good.

That looks pretty awesome.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Welcome to Food Truck Food Court

Yesterday afternoon, Cromer's hosted Columbia's very first Food Truck Food Court (FTFC).  What is this magical sounding event, you ask?  It was a glorious gathering of Columbia's four food trucks - Bone-In Artisan BBQ, Alfresco Mobilista Bistro, Pawley's Front Porch Mobile Eats, and 2 Fat 2 Fly Wings - in the Cromer's parking lot.  It was certainly a popular event - the crowds were huge, the lines were long, and a couple of trucks even started running out of some of their menu items.  I'd say it was pretty successful.  I believe that there is talk of making this a monthly event, an idea that I fully support.  According to Facebook, the next FTFC is planned for August 31, so make sure you come and see what you missed!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In which The Hungry Lady makes étouffée

I don't know about y'all, but my friends and I are pretty big True Blood fans.  L, M, and I get together just about every Sunday for dinner and Alexander Skarsgaard vampires.  This season, we've somehow managed to make food that relates to the show - for the premiere, we pretended we were at Merlotte's, and made a bunch of fried things.  We've also had jambalaya.  This past Sunday it was my turn to cook.  As my usual cooking repertoire includes pasta or anything that can go in the microwave, I figured I had to expand a little bit.  I decided to make étouffée.  And I also made sure to put the number of the nearest Chinese restaurant on speed dial.

So what is étouffée, you ask?  Think gumbo, only a little thicker.  Peppers, onions, spices, and some kind of protein mixed together and served over rice.  Usually the protein is some kind of seafood - shrimp and/or crawfish being the most common.  Clearly my étouffée wasn't going to involve either of those as I wouldn't have been able to eat it.  I decided to use chicken and sausage instead.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Food Trucks and TV and Hungry Ladies, OH MY!

Y' looks like Columbia is finally going to get itself on the national radar for something other than a delinquent quarterback, a national championship winning baseball team, or for it's "famously hot" weather.  This time around, the city will be talked about because of it's food scene.  As this blog can attest, Columbia certainly has some top-notch restaurants that focus on tasty food and local sustainability.  But this post isn't about all of those awesome places.  It's about slightly more unlikely candidates: Food Trucks.

Despite the raging debate over whether or not DER Tacos could open a food truck on Main Street (by the way, that has finally been approved, and the last I heard, the truck should be open for business in September), Columbia has a budding food truck scene.  First, we have the Pawley's Front Porch truck - basically an offshoot of the 5 Points restaurant - that has been seen mostly around Lake Murray Marina.  Second, we have 2 Fat 2 Fly Wings, a truck specializing in stuffed chicken wings.  Finally, we have Hungry Lady favorite Bone-In Artisan BBQ on Wheels, which has gained a pretty large following since taking to the streets in March.  The latter two trucks caught the attention of Eat Street, a show on the Cooking Channel in the US and on the Food Network in Canada.  The whole show focuses on the best street food available.  As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I adore street food, so I'm fully on board with this show (I don't have cable, so I've never actually seen it, but if someone could point me to an internet location where I can watch it, I'd appreciate it).   At any rate, the Eat Street crew was in town this past weekend to film both 2 Fat 2 Fly and Bone-In for an episode that should be airing sometime in September.  This Hungry Lady was contacted by the show and asked to participate in the Bone-In BBQ taping, so guess how I spent my weekend?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friendly staff and friendly on the wallet. It appears that Mr. Friendly's is aptly named.

A few weeks ago, my very small, three-person office, hosted a farewell lunch for one of our staff.  R and I were trying to find a place to take M.  Our criteria?  Relatively close to the office, good food, reasonable prices, and relatively low-key.  We settled on Mr. Friendly's.  I love Mr. Friendly's.  I've been there several times over the years, though never for dinner...maybe I should remedy that.  At any rate.  The same geniuses behind Cellar on Greene and Solstice are the masterminds behind Mr. Friendly's.  That should tell you right away that you should expect an excellent dining experience.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Children and Restaurants

The locals of Monroeville, PA are in an uproar.  Why?  Because McDain's Restaurant has banned children under the age of 6 from dining.  This is not an unprecedented move - Olde Salty Restaurant in North Carolina banned screaming children from its premises late last year.

Disclaimer: I am not a parent, nor do I particularly like children.  I do, however, realize that children are people and, as such, I have to tolerate their presence.  At least in certain situations.

Personally, I don't understand why some people are so upset about it.  McDain's styles itself as upscale casual.  To me, the word "upscale," when referring to a restaurant means don't show up in jeans and know how to behave yourself.  You don't treat an upscale (no matter how casual) establishment like you would your local dive bar or McDonald's.  There's a difference.  Parents should realize that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Breaking in the new grill

It's not a secret that I love food.  I'm happiest when I have a good meal and good company (and really that's only because I haven't yet found a way to buy an old van, live in it, travel the country, and still pay my bills).  If you add another component to a good meal and good company, say, for example, live music or a highly anticipated sporting event, the only thing that will possibly bring me down is if the beer isn't cold enough.

I'm a HUGE baseball fan in general, and I adore college baseball.  The month of post-season play leading up to the College World Series (CWS) is my equivalent of March Madness.  I make brackets, enter pools, watch every single game, and basically drive my friends crazy because I eat, sleep, and breathe baseball for a month.  I've had the good fortune for the past two CWS tournaments to watch my alma mater play in the championship round.  I say good fortune, but what I really mean is heart-stopping excitement and a sure need for blood pressure medication.  For Game 2 of the championship series, A decided to test out his brand new grill by having a couple friends over for dinner and the game.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Hungry Lady's Travels: Hilton Head, part 2

A few weeks ago, I took a quick trip down to Hilton Head to catch up with some old friends.  Thankfully, I had the opportunity to enjoy two meals in their company.  I've already blogged about the first place we went to (you can read about it here).  This post is all about spot number 2, which is where we had dinner.

We went to the Smokehouse, which, as the name suggest, specializes in assorted smoked meats.  As such, there was not, at least in my book, a thing that could possibly go wrong with this meal.