It may still feel and look like winter in a lot of locations across the US and Canada, but the calendar says spring has officially sprung and it is time to look forward to the fresh ingredients that early spring gardens will supply all of our favorite eateries as soon as the gardeners can get in the ground and plant their favorite herbs and fruits and veggies.
While waiting for these farm to table fresh ingredients to begin arriving, I will finish enjoying the comfort foods of winter that are beginning the cross-over into spring flavors. March into April is like a hybrid season for foodies – mix and match the hearty pastas, the substantial squash, the full-bodied red blend wines with a lightly blanched Kale salad, savory seasoned baked lake trout, and a crisp fruity sauvignon blanc.
To start off this months food review – is a comfort food review from my daughter and guest blogger, Allison:
For awhile, it has been trendy in the city (NYC) to add bacon to anything: cookies http://newyork.cbslocal.com/top-lists/nycs-4-best-bacon-desserts-2/, martinis http://newyork.cbslocal.com/top-lists/nycs-4-best-bacon-cocktails/, even a jar of artisanal salt http://www.baconery.com. But it was in New Jersey, and with a more traditional breakfast dish, that I became a bacon convert.
Anderson’s 1949 is a recent addition to Montclair’s robust food scene, an oddly playpen-shaped restaurant with oversized tables that are shared European-style by multiple parties. My formerly kosher friend ordered us two dishes to share: the cornbread-clad Chorizo Scramble ($10) http://www.andersons1949brooklyn.com/?page_id=217 and the Elvis Waffle ($10), a sturdy griddle-cake smothered with butter syrup and whipped peanut butter, piled high with bacon flakes, and—to stave off an Elvis heart attack—topped with thick slices of banana. The dish is an impeccable study in contrasts: salty and sweet, crunchy and creamy. We didn’t even bother trying to speak between peanut butter-gummy bites.
The Elvis Waffle at Anderson’s 1949 eatery in Montclair, New Jersey
My extra-crispy-bacon-loving mother had always wondered if there was perhaps some glitch in the genetic transfer, a mutation that predisposed me to sausage instead of fried pork fat. Now I can know that I just hadn’t yet met the right slab of bacon.
To continue on this comfort food eating experience, I return to last weeks blog on Glenmere Mansion, in Chester, NY where I indulged in some pretty hearty dishes. As my daughter made note of, I am a bit of a bacon-a-holic. If bacon is on the menu, it will find its way to my plate. “Bacon and eggs” may be the more recognized breakfast combo, but for me it was always pancakes and bacon. And one of my favorite cold weather flavors is pumpkin. So when perusing The Supper Club complimentary breakfast menu at the Glenmere Mansion my eyes immediately settled on “pumpkin pancakes smothered in an apple/cranberry/walnut compote served with a side of bacon” – it was a slam dunk decision.
Thick fluffy pumpkin pancakes smothered with spiced apple/cranberry/walnut compote served with a side of extra crispy bacon.
The relaxed atmosphere at the Frog’s End Tavern at Glenmere Mansion with its cozy, limited seating, fireplace setting is a perfect complement to the many comfort dishes on the menu. One of my favorite comfort foods is gnocchi – and their homemade gnocchi with shrimp and a light creamy dill sauce hit the spot, on a cool evening with fresh snow covering the property. The next day for lunch, my daughter and I shared a warm pastrami sandwich with a side of home cut fries, and an order of deviled eggs topped with crispy pancetta.
Gnocchi and shrimp dish served at the Frogs End Tavern at the Glenmere Mansion
A flavorful pastrami sandwich enjoyed at the Frog’s End Tavern, Glenmere Mansion
Back in NYC, we took in the quaint surroundings of Brooklyn’s Delaware and Hudson‘s prix fixe menu. The menu changes weekly, so it won’t help to share the specifics of what we ate, but come hungry. The sizes of the six appetizers and two first courses leaves you busy trying to figure out how to make room in your tummy for a choice of a main course and desserts – yes that would be plural.
Wild striped bass served on a bed of artichokes, roasted potatoes and onions.
Pork shank, so tender it fell off the bone and melted in your mouth.
Back in Arizona, where we were pushing temps into the mid-80’s the day spring arrived, I put the comfort foods of winter to rest for another year and focused on a slightly lighter fare. Last month I wrote about my son and his girlfriends visit to Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn in Phoenix. This month found my husband and I making a long overdue visit to this magical oasis in the desert.
The experience starts with complimentary valet parking. Next we were shown to an outdoor fireside table. Even though the temp gauge on the car showed 84 when we arrived, the arid Arizona air makes it feel much colder. The attitude of the entire staff, from hostess to servers, is knowledgeable and professional but relaxed. It is hard to decide which is the bigger pull – the ambience of the outdoor setting or the quality and flavors of the diverse unique menu.
I started with a Himalayan Salt Seared Ahi Tuna, served on a 400 degree heated block of Himalayan salt. The dish was served with the tuna raw and I was instructed to move the tuna on the salt block to arrive at my desired level of doneness. My husband started with a Foie Gras Tamale – a liver pate’ served with a chocolate cherry tamale, fla-vor-ful. For an entree I went with the Colorado Lamb Rack with four substantial chops done to a perfect medium rare. My husband had the seared Duck Breast served with roasted veggies, duck confit and mesquite gnocchi.
Himalayan Salt Seared Ahi Tuna at Lon’s
Foie Gras Tamale at Lon’s
Colorado Lamb Rack at Lon’s
Duck breast with veggies, duck confit and gnocchi
And if that wasn’t enough, we, okay I, decided after a bit of arm twisting by our server to try their signature dessert, “Lon’s Cowboy Candy Bar” – served with a complimentary Port. My husband passed on the dessert staying true to his New Year’s resolution of no treats, but had no problem indulging in the Port.
Lon’s signature dish, Lon’s Cowboy Candy bar – a milk chocolate and salted caramel ganache bar served with milk chocolate carmelito gelato
Complimentary shot of Port
Prior to taking in a National Geographic photo documentary at the Mesa Arts Center, my friend who invited me to the event first took me to a great Indian restaurant in Tempe – The Dhaba, serving authentic Punjabi food. The one thing I love about Indian food is it is served family style which allows you to enjoy so many dishes in one sitting. It’s also helpful to eat with someone who likes the same dishes you do. We ordered, Butter Chicken, with saffron rice, so we could dip our onion kulcha (a type of naan bread) into its flavorful sauce. We paired that with a spicy jumbo shrimp and washed it all down with a thick creamy mango lassi.
Other AZ eateries to check out:
DJ’s Bagel Cafe: a great place to grab a filling bagel sandwich for breakfast or lunch. They sure don’t skimp on their fillings and the bagels are made fresh on site. Fountain Hills.
Postino Wine Cafe: four locations in the valley serving a great selection of wine and filling tapas.
Euro Pizza Cafe: an extensive menu. Great value. Front row seat to the famous Fountain Hills fountain.