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!






Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Crystal Beer Parlor - Savannah, Georgia


I figured by the time the Dining Companion and I got to Savannah we'd both be ready for lunch. I was right. Once we got checked into our hotel and got the 4LB Wonder settled it was just lunchtime. Fortunately I had planned ahead and had our lunch spot picked out, Crystal Beer Parlor.
I didn't know much about this place other than the fact that it was within short walking distance to the hotel and they had burgers and beer. If it turned out to be a bust we weren't out more than a nice walk on a beautiful day.



Fortunately it turned out to be a great place for lunch. Many others knew this too and they all got there before us. We walked into the Crystal Beer Parlor to a pretty much packed house. We headed past the busy bar to the back of the room to find the hostess. We found her, and a throng of people waiting to be seated. A little disappointed we headed back the way we came. By some miracle there were now two empty seats, side by side, waiting for us at the bar. Score.

We ordered a couple of beers and looked over the menu. We decided on the Fried Stuffed 'Shrooms and a Classic Crystal Burger with a side of onion rings.

FRIED STUFFED ‘SHROOMS - Four Big White Mushroom Caps Stuffed with Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Fennel, Garlic, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil, Panko Coated, Served with Sweet Red Pepper Remoulade Sauce
THE CLASSIC CRYSTAL BURGER -  Half a Pound of Griddled Ground Chuck with
Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Mayo & Pickle
According to the locals that were sitting next to us, we made a good choice. The stuffed mushrooms, with all that cheese and tasty remoulade sauce, were a great start. The burger was perfectly cooked and the onion rings were light and crisp.




The Crystal is located in what was a family grocery store in the early 1900's. It became a restaurant and bar in the 1930's. Pictures around the bar depict scenes from Savannah's past. The building and interior are little changed since the original restaurant was turning out burgers back in the '30s.

With a name like Crystal Beer Parlor you would expect there to be a decent beer selection. You would be right. There are lots of choices here. Local and visitor beers on tap, a whole selection of Beers of Our Fathers and a selection of Rare, Unique and Tasty Big Bottles. Beer, they have it.

The menu is pretty diverse. Not in the mood for a burger? No problem, there are salads and sandwiches. As well as seafood and grilled lamb. No problem with everyone in your party finding something good to eat.

The Crystal was a good find. It's on my list of go to's when visiting Savannah. Put it on your list too. There are so many great places to eat in Savannah and this is definitely one of them.

Happy Dining!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Boomys Bar - Savannah, Georgia

Taking a stroll through Savannah's Historic District the Dining Companion and I almost walked right past Boomys Bar. Almost. The DC noticed a beer special so we stopped in.
Boomys Bock
The bar was pretty empty when we were there. I have a feeling that calm state doesn't last very long. Our plan was to grab a go-cup of beer and continue our walk. That was the plan but you know what they say about plans. We took a seat and a look around.

While we were sitting there enjoying our beer the Dining Companion pointed out the slushy machines behind the bar. Jameson and Ginger Slushee's? Yes, yes, yes! I love a good slushy machine drink. Everything from a daiquiri to a frozen Rum Runner to a frozen Jack and Coke. This Jameson and Ginger was perfect. I immediately ordered one.

Jameson and Ginger Slushee
Good beer at a great price AND awesome slushy drinks? How could it get better? Thai food. The answer is Thai food and Boomys has it.

So to recap, Boomys has awesome drinks, good beer, a great happy hour, Thai food and live music. Did I mention the live music before? No, well, they have that too.

I know I don't need to say it but I will. If I lived anywhere near this place it would be my go to bar. No question. All I can do right now is plot my return and I am. I so am.

Happy travels!




Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Residence Inn Savannah Downtown/Historic District - Savannah, GA

 
On our recent trip to Savannah we stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in the Downtown/Historic District. A truly pet friendly hotel located within walking distance of restaurants and attractions. The area around the hotel is peaceful and very pleasant.


Once inside a beautiful lobby area greets you as you enter the main building, the Charlton House.



We got our keys and the 4 Pound Wonder got a welcome gift. Nice touch and unexpected.



The property consists of the main building and several guest cottages. The architecture reminded me of beautiful row houses.


Each of the cottages has a lovely brick sidewalk leading to the entrance.

The buildings that make up the property surround a beautiful courtyard; swimming pool, fire pit and several places to sit and enjoy the grounds.


 
 


This was one of the most uniquely styled chain hotels that we've visited. The fact that it's truly pet friendly was a nice bonus. We've stayed at hotels that are listed as pet friendly but are only pet tolerant at best. The Residence Inn Savannah Downtown is actually pet friendly and the accommodations reflect that. Directly across the street is a park for dog walking and romping. A welcome perk.

Dog walking and play area
There are some nice people perks as well. A hot breakfast is served every morning and there is a bar in the lobby where you can grab a quick drink.  

If your travel plans take you to Savannah, and they should, check out this beautiful hotel. You're a short walk from good food, unique bars and lots of Southern charm.

Happy travels!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Savannah, Georgia - Third Time's a Charm

City Market
The Dining Companion and I spent a recent weekend in Savannah. This was our third visit to this charming city and the best one so far. It felt like the welcome mat had been rolled out for us. The weather was just about perfect. The city was alive with crowds of people; some celebrating graduations and weddings and, some like us, just happy being there.

I saw a lot of bicycles over the weekend. It seems a popular way to get around the city

There are a lot of places to get outdoors and enjoy the city
This visit we stayed in the Downtown/Historic District. After our last visit I wanted to stay where we could park the car for the weekend and get around on foot.

We were very near the Georgia State Railroad Museum. Which, sadly, I didn't make time to see but is on my list for a future visit. I did manage to grab a couple of pictures.

What better than to spend a lovely weekend in an equally lovely city? We stayed at a beautiful property, ate good food and truly relaxed. 

If coming to Savannah isn't on your travel list it should be. A beautiful city steeped in history but with a young heart. There's something interesting around every corner. I can tell you that after three visits we've barely made a dent.

Street art
Happy travels!

NOTE: Stay tuned for a great, pet friendly property, a lucky find in a small bar and some really good food.