Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shorter Days/Cooler Nights - It's almost that time again


Not too much happening around here right now.

Family will take me to New England later this summer. Such a beautiful part of the country. I love visiting there.


Fall is right around the corner. Hard as that is to believe. Hopefully we'll be able to get back to the Smoky Mountains this fall. It's been a while since we last visited and fall is the perfect time to be there.



Speaking of fall. There is a town in Georgia (Helen) that has been hosting an Oktoberfest celebration for at least the last 45 years. It claims to be the longest running Oktoberfest in the US. I really want to check it out. The promise of beer and brats amid cries of Prost! What's not to love. Next best thing to being there.

So that's it for now. There'll be a few more patios to visit yet, a road trip here and there and another good burger to go in search of.

Before we know it the air will be filled with the scent of woodsmoke and apples, pumpkin spice lattes will be back at your local coffee shop and the clocks will swing back an hour.

Enjoy the rest of the summer. Grab a drink on your favorite patio and toast to the adventures ahead.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hemingway's Bar and Grill - Marietta, Georgia


A recent sunny weekend found our intrepid trio once again in search of a pleasant patio. Their search was helped again by BringFido. This time they found themselves at Hemingway's Bar and Grill on Marietta Square where we pick up our story...

Marietta Square surrounds Glover Park and is home to many dining and entertainment spots. Hemingway's Bar and Grill is one of them. Parking is located on the street as well as in public lots that dot the area but may be a challenge at peak times. Plan accordingly. We grabbed a spot not too far away and walked over. Well, not directly. Walking with the 4LB Wonder is always interesting. She has to investigate along the way which means stopping to SMELL ALL THE THINGS. We made it to the restaurant by and by.

Hemingway's patio is located in a bricked lined alleyway. Covered tables provide plenty of shade in this sunny spot.
 
It's a great spot and because we were there mid-afternoon it was pretty quiet. Except for the train. A train track crosses the alley on one side. As trains go through the crossing they blow their whistles. Loudly. And often. It's over fairly quickly though and quiet is restored but it was a bit of a surprise.
We were there at end of shift and in between lunch and dinner so things were a little slowed down. We waited a bit but were happy just to sit and enjoy the day.

With our drinks the 4LB Wonder received a bowl of water and a treat. A nice touch and a sure sign that Hemingway's is as pet friendly as we thought.
The human members of our party decided to split an order of Chili Tots and the Classic 1/2lb Burger.

Classic Burger - Served with Lettuce, Vine Ripened Tomato & Mayonnaise on a Toasted Kaiser Roll - The tots were perfect by the way

Chili Tots - Tater Tots Smothered with Chili, Topped with Jack & Cheddar Cheeses
Hemingway's makes a pretty good burger; well seasoned if not exactly to temperature. The tots though were prefect. The exact crispness that I enjoy and not at all greasy. I'd go back just for an order of tots and a beer. The chili tots benefited from having the perfect tots as a base. The chili was mild but flavorful and the whole thing worked well enough.

It's been a pleasure to find dining spots that provide not only a welcoming environment for out 4-legged friends but also good food and a nice place to enjoy it. We're more than happy to support these establishments and will definitely be returning to Hemingway's soon.

There are also several other places around the square that look interesting. We'll be back to check those out too.

Happy dining! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Moxie Burger - Marietta, Georgia



Over the past couple of weeks the Dining Companion and I have been scouting out dining spots where the 4LB Wonder would be welcome. With patio season in full swing that task has been fairly easy. As I've mentioned before I use the website BringFido to find dog friendly spots in any given area. Moxie Burger was a great find.

Moxie Burger is located in a picturesque business district made up of local, small businesses.
 



We made our way there for lunch a couple of weekends back. We got a nice tour of the business park thanks to the 4LB Wonder's desire to smell all the things. After a bit of a walk we found a seat on Moxie Burger's shady covered patio.

Although not visible in this photo water dishes are available for 4-legged visitors
Moxie Burger is a fast casual place. Most typified by the process of ordering at a counter and then having your order delivered to your table. We grabbed a menu to look over our choices and then I went inside to place our order.

Besides the traditional beef burgers, Moxie also offers a few other options. You can get a lamb burger, a black bean patty, a portobello cap or a turkey or buffalo burger. Something for most everyone. They also offer hotdogs, salads and a nice variety of sides that include things like brocolli salad and goat cheese fritters. A nice, well thought out menu.

I decided on the eponymous Moxie Burger and the Dining Companion had The Entrepreneur burger which is Moxie's build-your-own-burger option.

The Moxie Burger - Bacon, fried green tomato, pimento cheese & Moxie sauce


The Entrepreneur Burger - Lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo
The burgers were good; perfectly cooked, sturdy but soft buns and plenty of tasty toppings. You can get beer or wine to go with your burger as well as the usual soft drinks.

Overall we were happy with Moxie Burger and plan to get back there soon. The fact that the 4LB Wonder is welcome is a nice perk that we really appreciate. 


 Happy dining!

NOTE: In our search for pet friendly dining spots we found a couple more that made the cut for return visits.  


The Rib Ranch in Marietta serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and welcomes furry family members on their patio. All this from a BBQ place that also serves a really decent bowl of Texas chili.


Pisano's Pizza in Kennesaw, GA A great Antipasto Salad as well as pizza by the slice, strombolis, pasta and sandwiches.








Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Room with a View

Lowes, New Orleans
Lowes, New Orleans
A cityscape as day turns to night, the ocean as it slaps against the shore, a tumble of buildings that house the day to day of a place. Things we see through our changing window on the world.

Marriott, Houston
Marriott Plaza, San Antonio

Residence Inn, Austin, TX

Hotel El Convento, San Juan, PR
Hyatt Resort, Key West

Enterprise Hotel, Milan - Laundry and the occasional cat

Marriott, Sioux Falls, SD
Hotel Sofitel, Chicago
Marriott, Providence, RI
We while away the time sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping a cup of coffee, staring out the window.

The cities change, the views change but the wonder and excitement of a new adventure never changes.

Happy travels!



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How would you like that prepared?

I can't think of, what usually turns out to be, a more useless phrase uttered by a server than "how would you like that prepared". It's usually asked with regard to burgers or steaks although some restaurants have been inquiring about temperature preference for pork too.

My question is why do they bother to ask? My experience, for the most part, is that the temperature you request, rare, medium, etc., bears little resemblance to what is actually served. Not everywhere of course but in most places, sadly.

More like this please...
My favorite is the fake choice between medium-well and well done. You mean the choice between dry and even drier and inedible? Why are you even asking for a preference at that point?

There are some places where I have no expectation of getting a burger or other item cooked the way I prefer; fast food places, lots of chain restaurants. Knowing this going in I can set my expectations accordingly.

That said, I won't excuse any place that prides itself on its burgers and steaks and charges me a premium to enjoy them. When I'm ordering a steak in a high end steakhouse I expect to get exactly what I ask for. To me, there is almost nothing more disappointing food wise, than being served an overcooked steak or burger.

The Dining Companion and I went out this past weekend to a highly regarded local steakhouse. I was looking forward to dining there after hearing a lot of good things about it. It's the kind of place where you make a reservation weeks in advance.

STEAK TEMPERATURES  Blue                                        Very Red, Cold Center
Rare                                       Red, Cool Center
Medium Rare                       Red, Warm Center
Medium                                 Pink, Hot Center
Medium Well                        Dull Pink Center
Well Done                             Not Recommended
- See more at: http://www.kevinrathbunsteak.com/menu.html#sthash.m3b25yWT.dpuf
STEAK TEMPERATURES  Blue                                        Very Red, Cold Center
Rare                                       Red, Cool Center
Medium Rare                       Red, Warm Center
Medium                                 Pink, Hot Center
Medium Well                        Dull Pink Center
Well Done                             Not Recommended
- See more at: http://www.kevinrathbunsteak.com/menu.html#sthash.m3b25yWT.dpuf
You know where this is going. In this fancy steakhouse, in the lovely dining room with the attentive servers, I was served an overcooked steak. It was replaced quickly and the second steak was near perfect. But, really? I was disappointed. In a restaurant that has steak in its name they should do better. 

I'll confess, my steak preference is picky. I like my filet served with a cold, red (read raw) center. I get that it's probably not easy to achieve. I don't expect it to be done correctly UNLESS that option is clearly stated on the menu, as it was at the place we visited.

STEAK TEMPERATURES 

Blue                                      Very Red, Cold Center
Rare                                       Red, Cool Center
Medium Rare                        Red, Warm Center
Medium                                 Pink, Hot Center
Medium Well                        Dull Pink Center
Well Done                             Not Recommended 


STEAK TEMPERATURES  Blue                                        Very Red, Cold Center
Rare                                       Red, Cool Center
Medium Rare                       Red, Warm Center
Medium                                 Pink, Hot Center
Medium Well                        Dull Pink Center
Well Done                             Not Recommended
- See more at: http://www.kevinrathbunsteak.com/menu.html#sthash.m3b25yWT.dpuf
I don't think it was too much to expect that the kitchen could pull this off. To be honest I would bet that the first steak came off the grill prefect. Then it was put on a hot plate(!) and maybe sat for a minute in the pass. Combine that with the time to deliver it to the table and poof, overcooked.

Like I said, the second steak was near perfect in that it was off the grill and onto the table pronto. But again, on a hot plate which guaranteed it would be perfect for at least the first few bites.

The good news is that the company was lovely, my old fashioned and the Dining Companion's caipirinha were good, and our server was attentive but not intrusive.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel on the perfect steak just yet. There is a steakhouse in San Antonio that gets it absolutely perfect. Bohanan's hasn't disappointed. The service, from the hostess, to the sommelier and the servers is spot on. They take customer service to the next level. I can't wait to have a reason to get back there.

The next time I'm asked how I want that burger or steak or whatever prepared I'll answer and then prepare to be surprised, for good or bad, when the food hits the table.

Happy dining!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

La Carreta Hispanic Grocery and Taqueria - Marietta, GA


 
A few weekends ago the Dining Companion and I had lunch at La Carreta.

I loved these lights
 
The dining space is nice. It has a rustic feel. 

I liked the distressed wood on the tables
 La Carreta lists itself as Latin American. The menu features Mexican and Colombian food. Several different things are represented on the menu. Some familiar, some not. There are the usual tacos and burritos. Then there are also three different styles of tamales available and tortas too. We decided to start with the Guacamole Fresco. It was fresh just as the name states and very tasty.
 
Being as how this is primarily a Mexican restaurant you may be surprised by the fact that chips and salsa are not free. I don't think that's a huge deal, at all. But if it's what you're looking for in your Mexican dining experience be forewarned.

After looking over all the delicious sounding options I decided on the tacos al pastor.

Wow is all I can say. Everything on the plate was delicious. Including that unassuming scoop of white rice. The pork was tender with great flavor of adobo and pineapple. There are a lot of great sounding tacos on the menu but I would be hard pressed to select something different.

The Dining Companion ordered one of the Colombian options on offer. This was a dish similar to one we had at Sacha's Cafe in Greenville, SC.
There was a lot going on and all of it was good. I was lucky enough to taste some of the chicharron and beans. Both were great as were the plantains. The fried egg, which may seem unusual, is typical for this type of cuisine. I wonder if i could get a stack of arepas with cheese and a bowl of beans? I might just have to ask next time we visit.

If you're in the mood for something a little different than your typical Mexican restaurant give La Carreta a try. The food is great and the variety just can't be beat.

Happy dining!

Note: Sacha's Cafe, Greenville, SC

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Carlito's Mexican Bar and Grill - Savannah, Georgia

Carlito's was another of the restaurants we visited on our recent trip to Savannah. I continue to be really happy with the location we stayed in. We were within walking distance of local attractions, restaurants and bars. Like I mentioned before, we parked the car and didn't move it all weekend. That's a big plus in my opinion and one I give high marks for when thinking about a place to stay.
On one of our many walks in the neighborhood we spotted Carlito's. The Dining Companion and I both like Mexican food so we stopped in for dinner.

You walk into a bright, colorful dining room hung with lots of cheerful artwork. And hey, check out that floor. 
 
 

We ordered drinks and looked over the menu.
Our waiter made a couple of suggestions. Based on his recommendation I ordered an off the menu vegetarian dish. The dish consisted of grilled vegetables with a very tasty sauce served in a molcajete. A molcajete is basically the mortar part of a large mortar and pestle. It's a preparation we've had before. It turned out to be a good choice and I really enjoyed it.

 The Dining Companion ordered the Carnitas.
Everything we tried was flavorful and the prices were reasonable.

Oh and one other thing. If you like your salsas hot and spicy you're in luck. I asked for something a bit hotter than the usual salsa and boy did I get it. Our waiter dropped off a bowl of some of the hottest, best tasting salsa I've had in a long time. I was so glad I asked.

There are a few more locations on my list of places to visit in Savannah. Hopefully we get back there so I can check them out.

Savannah is an old city with a young vibe. The mix of tourist, college students and residents feels vital and inviting. An old Southern charmer with a very vibrant spirit.

Happy travels!