Friday, January 16, 2015

Bella Milano $25 Giftcard Sweepstakes!

I just entered to win a giftcard for $25 from one of my favorite restaurants!  Locations in Edwardsville, Shiloh and Springfield Illinos.

Here's the link if  you are interested: Bella Milano Giftcard Sweepstakes!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sugo's Spaghetteria - I like it!

We decided to give Sugo's a try. Not a big fan of chain restaurants but this is a smaller chain - the Michael Del Pietro Restaurant Group with its original flagship - Del Pietro's located on the Hill. Although Sugo's Spaghetteria in Edwardsville has been around since October of 2012, it took us a while to get there - the location in a strip mall certainly wasn't a draw for us.

However, we were pleasantly surprised - the ambiance and the food were fantastic!  You walk in and it is full of rustic looking wooden tables. On the walls hang chalkboards featuring menu items.  Although there is no bar, the staff offers drinks while you wait and there is one high top table near the window to sit while you wait for your table.

We went on a Friday and it was fairly crowded, however in less than 20 minutes we were seated. 

As for dinner, I had the Field Greens salad and Pasta Funghi.  Both were very good. The salad was a combination of greens topped with gorgonzola and red onions in balsamic vinaigrette. A refreshing change from the typical Caesar's and "house" salads many Italian restaurants serve.

The Pasta Funghi featured mushrooms obviously, and spinach in a mushroom broth. Shaved parmesan topped this dish.  The presentation was fantastic as you can see. The only flaw was a limited variety of mushrooms... it seemed to be comprised of button and possibly baby portabella's. 

Another high spot is Spaghetti and Meatballs.  This generous portion of pasta is served in a traditional tomato sauce and comes with two huge meatballs. This could feed an army.

A  notable entree served at our table was a special Tortellini in Cream Sauce.  Although I'm not a huge fan of tortellini, this rendition was presented in a light, yet very good cream sauce. 

I also had the opportunity to try Tutto Mare, which is traditional seafood pasta in broth.  It was excellent! Lots of sizable pieces of shrimp, clams and crab.

Unfortunately the only photos I have of these two entrees are tad blurry or they would be right here!

Overall, I recommend Sugo's!!!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bagna Cauda

Over the years I have cooked sporadically and when I do it is mostly on the grill. There are exceptions of course and one of them is Bagna Cauda.  Loosely translated it means "hot dip".

This Italian is often made two ways - oil or cream based. My grandmother made cream based Bagna Cauda since I was a small child.  It historically was served on New Year's Day. The old Italian superstition stated that by eating Bagna Cauda, you would have good luck all year. I guess so far it has worked pretty good for us!

Anyway, over the years I have slowly moved away from the cream version and have been cooking the oil based recipe.  During this time I have tweaked the recipe with the help of my friend Jack Leckel. Jack has written several cookbooks among his many other talents.

This recipe is quick and easy to make

Bagna Cauda - Oil Based Recipe

1 stick butter
1 can flat anchovies with oil
6-10 cloves of garlic (depending on size.... I usually go heavy on garlic)
1 loaf Italian bread
Small leafy vegetable like bokchoy

Melt one stick of butter in a small pan on med- hi heat.
Chop garlic
When butter is sizzling add garlic and sauté
After garlic has cooked several minutes add anchovies and drain oil from can into pan (DO NOT CUT UP ANCHOVIES)
As it continues to sauté use a rubber spatula to break up anchovies.
Once the anchovies are more or less broken up and thicken the butter transfer to a serving dish.
Serve with Italian bread and small pieces of bokchoy

Friday, January 2, 2015

My favorite dining experiences of 2014

Great ambiance for a family dinner or a date.  I love the Milano salad and the meatballs. Check out the family special – available Sunday or as take out any day.

Milano Salad

Hands down the best bloody Mary I’ve ever had.  It is thick and zesty and served with olives and a slice of bacon.

Bloody Mary on the left

Expect a wait as it is packed most nights.  The bar has a wide variety of eclectic drinks. I recommend the chop chop salad.  Beef tongue and pork porterhouse are two memorable entrees

Chop Chop Salad

I make a point to dine at the Dandelion Market every visit to Charlotte. Exposed brick and chalkboards along with an ever-changing tapas style menu make it the bomb.

Sauteed' Mushrooms

At Home in Our Kitchen
Fresh from the Goshen Market are oyster mushrooms and tomatoes. This quickly becomes an open-face tomato melt with sautéed mushrooms.

Tomato Melt with Sauteed' Oyster Mushrooms

Took me a while to get over the name. Try the fried oysters with blue cheese served on a bed of lettuce and the thick mushroom bisque!

Fried Oysters

Mushroom Bisque

Eaten at lots of great restaurants in La Jolla, but nothing beats dining on the beach.  Throw some steaks on the grill, uncork a bottle of Cabernet and watch the sunset over the Pacific.... Bon Appetit!

Beachside Dining!

Several locations in the St. Louis area, including Soulard.  So many tacos to choose from.  Also try to the carna asada fries – a meal in itself!

Variety of Tacos

This is old school BBQ.  Went on a Monday at lunch and the line was out the door. That tells you something.  Great ribs and atmosphere!

Inside and Outside Jack's BBQ

Very eclectic pizzas coupled with a great craft beer selection.  But three of my favorites are not pizzas: the tomato bisque, gnocchi and the involtini.

Tomato Bisque

I like the patio in the fall more than anything – have a few drinks in front of the fire.  Add an appetizer or two. 

The Patio at Mike Shannon's Edwardsville

This newcomer hit the scene late in 2014. Great interpretations of street tacos and a fried bologna sandwich. Need to soften the lights though....

Friend Bologne Sandwich

Street Tacos

The best sushi bar in the St. Louis area.  Be sure to order bluefin, which is available sporadically.

Sushi Boat

This cool downtown hot dog bar is not too far from Coors Field and perfect for lunch.  You will find rattlesnake, duck and several other eclectic dogs.

Biker Jim's