Monday, February 28, 2011

Kicking off the Summer Cookout February.

I hate the winter.  Cold weather and I just do not mix.  I will never understand skiers or snowboarders or really anyone who participates in winter sports (except maybe curling, but that's just because it's fun to watch from the comfort of my heated house).  I'm lucky because of my location, I only have to deal with about 3 months of real winter (and no snow!) each year.  So when spring rolls around (in February), I look forward to participating in one of the quintessential American warm weather traditions: grilling.

I've mentioned before that I have many friends who love to cook.  Well, there are the ones who like to cook on the stove, and there are the ones who have made grilling an art form.  Saturday night, I got to be part of that art form. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as too many vegetables

Last week's meal choices were about as far from healthy as I could get. They involved Chinese food, pizza, breadsticks, lots of pasta, and three meals at Wild Wing Cafe. And even though on Chinese night, I ordered chicken & broccoli, vegetables were pretty scarce. I love vegetables. Honestly if I didn't also love chicken, fish, and steak, I'd happily become a vegetarian. And as much as I love foods that are bad for me, sometimes I just really need a vegetable.  Or six.

I knew I had hit the point of veggie deficiency (think scurvy, but with vegetables instead of fruit), when I was in Target on Saturday morning, and I felt an overwhelming urge to go to the food section and chug a V-8. My salad for dinner that night did nothing to curb my veggie cravings. On Sunday, I was set for my standing dinner with R. He suggested we go out, and I said "No. I need vegetables more than I need restaurant fare." So we made a stir fry.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weekends are made for eating.

I spent quite a lot of time eating out this weekend.  It happened to be opening weekend for college baseball, and my friends and I had plans to hit all three games.  Game one was on Friday at 3 p.m., so we all elected to take the afternoon off of work and grab some lunch and drinks before cheering on the team.  Convenience of location, and the fact that I still had some gift cards left from the SC Restaurant Week giveaway (courtesy of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau), we elected to go to Wild Wing Cafe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is there a better combination than cheeseburgers and beer?

When I was 15 or so, I went through a period when I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian.  My parents were very supportive of my decision, and my mom even went so far as to borrow some books about the veg lifestyle from a friend.  She was concerned that I wasn't going to get enough protein (a valid concern, as I'm not much of a fan of beans, and tofu was just not working out for me).  At any rate, Mom went as far as to buy a box of veggie burgers so I wouldn't feel left out while the rest of the family was eating nice juicy hamburgers.  Yeah...didn't so much work. My vegetarianism lasted about a week, until I was DYING for a cheeseburger.  So much for that experiment.  So why, you ask, did I relate this anecdote?  Because on Saturday night, I experienced the same sort of craving, and knew I absolutely had to have a cheeseburger.  So I did.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy Hour with a Side of Mushrooms and Bacon

One of my favorite things about living in SC is the weather.  Here it is, only the middle of February, and it's supposed to be 73 degrees and sunny today.  Part of the reason that I love the weather is because there are very few things I like more than enjoying a cold beer while sitting outside with friends.

Yesterday, I had planned to enjoy happy hour with a friend (L) at Delaney's since they have great outdoor seating, and it's a prime place for people watching.  The weather foiled our plans, and was a little colder than we had anticipated, so we ended up enjoying our beer and dinner inside at the bar.

As usual, my first question when I walked in was to ask if they had anything new on tap.  I lucked out, and the bartender recommended the Sierra Nevada Harvest.  It was delicious.  Very hoppy, but very smooth.  I don't think I've ever met a Sierra Nevada I didn't like, but I  would definitely recommend this one.  L got there shortly after I did, and ordered her customary Sweetwater IPA.  I'm a big fan of this one as well, but again, I tend to really like IPAs.

As is customary, we ended up getting hungry while we were sitting there, so we ordered food.  L ordered spinach dip and a grilled cheese with bacon.  I had the French dip with mushrooms (yes, mushrooms are one of my favorite foods - they'll be mentioned a lot) and cheese fries.  Healthy?  Not in the slightest.  Tasty?  Extremely.  I may have mentioned Delaney's spinach dip earlier.  It's worth mentioning again.  My favorite part of the dip?  The huge chunks of artichoke hearts that are mixed in.  And the bacon that can be added upon request (I would suggest requesting it, unless you don't eat bacon).  I've also found that Delaney's makes an excellent grilled cheese.  It's made on rye bread, and it's melty and again, the bacon really adds something to it.  Of course, I like bacon about as much as I like mushrooms.  The grilled cheese is listed on the menu under the kids section, but have no fear.  It is definitely available for adults as well.  I really like to order it in the summer because it's not too heavy but still fills me up.

The French dip is one of the three or four things that are my go-tos when at Delaney's.  I also always order it with mushrooms.  The beef is tender, the au jus is flavored well, and it's not so big that I can't finish it.  It's normally served with fries.  I decided to spice things up a bit, and make mine cheese fries.  Because really, adding cheese and bacon to anything certainly makes it taste better.

Bonus for happy hour on Wednesday at Delaney's: Wednesday is Pint Night, so all draft beers are $2.00.  Cheap, filling, and tasty food paired with a cold, cheaply priced, tasty beer?    Pretty much the perfect combination.  Definitely make sure to check out Delaney's if you want a casual atmosphere with decent food and good drinks.  But make sure you get there early if you want to snag a table outside.

You can check out my other post on Delaney's here.

Delaney's Music Pub and Eatery on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 14, 2011

Having other people cook for me makes me happy. Especially when there's chocolate involved.

I think I've mentioned before that I have a standing weekend dinner with a friend.  Usually he cooks and I sit there and look pretty.  It turns out that he (R) had won a free whole chicken and mashed potatoes from Earth Fare, so we had a pretty much ready made dinner.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Favorite Local Watering Hole

I'm taking a break from my recent  upscale dining experiences (so out of the ordinary, by the way) to write about the grand time I had last night with my fabulous group of friends.  A little background for you: There are 10-12 of us who get together every week for Game Night.  We rotate houses, play a game, and whomever is hosting provides dinner.  Well, last night, our hosts were meant to be the same couple who had hosted the Super Bowl party on Sunday.  That was a huge affair, so we decided that rather than make them host two events in a row, we'd go out to Delaney's Music Pub. 

This was perfect for us, since Monday is Buy One, Get One Entree night at Delaney's.  Plus they have a pretty decent beer selection, both on tap and bottled.  We've also been going to Delaney's for a very long time (read: years and years), and so we know most of the staff.  We also tend to miss new things on the menu, because we are all so set in our ways that we know what we plan to order before we even walk in.  Last night, however, I learned that there's a BBQ sandwich on the menu.  Who knew?

When people from out of town ask me where they should go in Columbia, I first ask what it is they are looking for.  If they say that they want a good little Irish place, I always recommend Delaney's.  If you're looking for upscale bar food or a more family friendly atmosphere (after about 7 p.m.), go somewhere else.  If you're looking for a causal place to have a few drinks and food with your friends, go to Delaney's.

Most nights they feature live music, including a local singer/songwriter night on Tuesdays.  Wednesdays are the extremely popular $2 pint night.  Yes, that's correct.  Almost all of the beers on tap are $2, all day on Wednesdays.  As you might guess, Pint Night is pretty popular among the local college kids (and the no-longer-in-college kids who like good beer).  Live music on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and trivia on Sundays. 

I love going to Delaney's for happy hour during the spring, summer, and early fall, because they have outdoor seating.  Friends of mine have been known to bring their dogs and just sit outside with a pint and people watch.

Now onto the food.  Let's start with the appetizers.  My recommendations: Spinach dip (and make sure you get the bacon added) served with an edible bowl of multi-colored tortilla chips; Cheese fries (for a nice spin, add the chili - we tried that last night for the first time); Santa Fe dip (this one was also new for us last night, and I really liked it).  To be honest, it's pretty easy to make a meal out of any one of the appetizers.  Pair any of them with a cold beer, and you're good to go.  Delaney's also has a daily soup and chili.  The chili is pretty good (and I'm not a huge fan because beans weird me out), and I've never had a bad soup.  I would recommend getting the chicken bog if they have it that day.

Entrees: I usually get one of two things: Grilled cheese with bacon or Patty Melt with mushrooms & bacon.  Both are served with seasoned fries, but if you're not feeling fries, I would recommend the garlic mashys.  On the rare occasion that I order something else, it's usually the three medallions sandwich, french dip (with mushrooms), or the Irish whiskey steak sandwich.  I've also been dying to try the bangers & mash special for about 6 months, but I never seem to be there on a night that they have it. 

Bottom line?  Delaney's is a great place to go to hang out with your friends.  It's a great place for large groups - a couple of friends actually had their wedding rehearsal dinner at Delaney's - or just to meet a pal for happy hour.  The food is good, the staff are friendly, and the beer is always cold. 

Follow Delaney's on Facebook or Twitter.

Delaney's Music Pub and Eatery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This is why you should eat locally - at places that use local ingredients.

Last night I had the immense pleasure of going to Terra.  Last summer, I spent quite a lot of time walking past Terra on my way to visit a friend at his bar.  Every time I walked past, I stared, rather rudely I'm sure, at the diners sitting on the great outdoor patio.  I also tried to inhale as deeply as possible, hoping that the intense smells would allow me to almost taste the food that I would likely never get a chance to eat.  And then last night happened.  I finally entered the quiet and unassuming building and was thrown into a world of deliciousness.

My dinner partner (R) had thankfully had the foresight to call for reservations.  Good thing too, as our server told us that she had overheard the dinner manager on the phone telling someone that he had a 5:15 or a 9:15 reservation available.  I'm not sure how much a reservation is needed during the week, but I would say that it's a must on the weekends.  I would also recommend taking advantage of the complimentary valet service, because parking is brutal.  There is a small lot behind the restaurant, but it fills up quickly, and several of the spots are reserved for other businesses.

Friday, February 4, 2011

There's no such thing as a free lunch...except when you have gift cards.

I picked up my Restaurant Week prize package a couple of days ago, and the gift cards have been burning a hole in my pocket. I finally got to use my first one today: lunch at Wild Wing Cafe in the Vista.  I've to to various WWCs in the almost 10 years I've been in the southeast.  (Side note...I can't believe it's been 10 years since I started college!  Where does the time go?)  My problem with WWC is that I'm from the northeast.  We have OUTSTANDING wings in the NE.  And they only come in three flavors: medium, hot, and hot with all of the added hot sauce you want.  I have yet to find anything to really compare to those wings, but when in Rome.....At any rate, I generally don't order wings when I go to WWC, though they do have a wide array of flavors to appeal to people a little less judgmental than I am.

Today's challenge: Eat and view WWC as if I'd never been there before.  Any idea how hard that was?  I know what I like, so I had to force myself to try something new.  And I *may* have forced my lunch date (A) to try something new too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Reason this Blog Came into Being

I entered a contest on Twitter a few weeks ago, when I saw that the Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau was giving away a package to celebrate SC Restaurant Week.  The winner would receive one $50 gift card to each of the 27 participating restaurants.  Somehow, I got lucky, and won.

I picked up my prize pack this afternoon, and after looking through all of the gift cards/certificates, I cannot wait to start going to these places.  Some I have been to before, but the majority of them will be new to me. 

Here's where I'll be going:
1. Wild Wing Cafe (locations in the Vista, Sandhills, and Harbison)
4. Any of the restaurants at the Sheraton Columbia Downtown
15. The Great American Grill at the Hilton Garden Inn

I'm pretty excited.  I'll be starting on Friday for lunch at Wild Wing Cafe.  Stay tuned for my review....