Thursday, September 29, 2011

Westgate Lake's Smokehouse Grill

I've been living in the south for just over 3 years and haven't had any homestyle BBQ until yesterday! I ventured over to Westgate's Smokehouse Grill. As the name states it is located on the Westgate Resort property, but don't let that fool you-it's open to the public. First thing first, this place has a western decor so don't worry about getting dressed up (unless you want to wear your cowboy boots and hat).

So lets get down and dirty-let's discuss the food. First we split the loaded chips which are freshly cut everyday and soaked in apple juice! So the fresh chips are then covered with cheese and bacon topped with some sour cream.These were really tasty, something I might try to recreate at home. Its a large portion enough for a family of 4 to share as an appetizer. I definitely could not eat it all!

Smokehouse Grill has all of the traditional BBQ favorites. 

Now for the entree- we decided to have the BBQ sampler and all of the sides to go with it! We might have looked crazy, but this food was like it came from someone's home kitchen. The sampler plate had- smoked BBQ ribs, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork. Nick was in love with the brisket which just fell apart. We later learned the brisket is smoked overnight for 12 hours! The meat was so tender-no knife needed. My favorite were the ribs which had a smokey flavor. Don't forget we still had pulled pork and chicken to eat!

What about the side dishes!!! Macaroni n cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, and baked beans. Ok I have to talk about one dish at a time before I get too excited. The mac n cheese is prepared and baked for each order.

The green beans were fresh and still crispy. I hate when veggies sit and get soggy.

The mashed potatoes were creamy and topped with butter that you could see. (not that healthy, but that's home cooking for you)

Last, but not least the baked beans-(beans, beans the musical fruit-the more you eat...) Ok-I've never, I repeat never have ate baked beans before. So I figured it was just about that time. These beans at the smokehouse are a family recipe that included actual bourbon! I can't see a better opportunity to try baked beans. Not too bad-they were sweet, not at all how I imagined baked beans.

Even though I stuffed myself, I saved room for some dessert. Nick and I split a huge piece of cheesecake with strawberries on top. The cheesecake was nice and fluffy. Perfect ending to a perfect meal.

The Smokehouse Grill was good homestyle cooking. The hospitality of our server was just as good as a great family member hosting a meal. There was even an arcade inside the smokehouse to entertain any little ones, who can play for free! I cleaned my plate just as my grandmom (insert family member here) would ask.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Ranstead Room

Down a deep dark alley way in Philadelphia lies something, waiting, calm and collected, and as Leann and I started walking down Ranstead Street, I noticed her inching closer to me along with a feeling of uncertainty as to what exactly we were walking into.  We were searching for the Ranstead Room, a Philadelphia bar serving honest, good drinks, made be the honest hardworking man.  Someone had told us we were looking for a door, and that it would be hard to find, I glanced to our left and there was a door with a simple logo with two letters on it, and we found our destination. 

The first thing I noticed about Ranstead Room was how it looked, like it was out of a movie from the 1930’s, candles were everywhere, being about the only form of light, making the room seem alive.  Old-fashioned pictures hung on the wall, with two gentlemen behind the bar and a slew of ingredients lined in front of them, ready to put a drink together from scratch.  Leann and I loved this place before we even sat down to make our drink selection.  The menu is not to large and at first I was going to go with the bartender’s choice, but being a fan of bourbon, the Champ caught my eye. 

Leann ordered the bartenders choice and the two questions were what type of spirit, and if the drink were to be dry or sweet.  She chose vodka and sweet, and we watched him make both drinks right in front of us.  About ten minutes of crushing, pouring, mixing, shaking, and a taste test by the tender, led to two ridiculously good looking drinks.

After tasting my drink, I had to try Leann’s, which was called the Waterlily, and was just as delicious, it was mixed and put together perfectly.  The Ranstead Room has a full bar with wine, beer, and spirits, and also a few appetizers which actually come from the El Rey, which is the restaurant that Ranstead is behind, and was highly recommended by the staff.  If you are looking for a drink at your local pub, then go get it, but if you are looking to be transported back in time and order a damn good drink, then please go to Ranstead because you will not be disappointed, and you will possibly have the best drink of your life.  

Franklin Fountain

Walking the streets of historic Philadelphia is inspiring, just picturing our forefathers planning the future for us is exciting just  to think about (well maybe not for everyone). When I visit Philly and walk down the cobblestone roads I can just picture Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin's traveling on the roads beside me.

One food place that returns you to a simpler time is The Franklin Fountain, an old ice cream and soda parlor. I try to always stop here when I can. The ice cream is handmade and the whole place has a unique feel.

Ok-now what ice cream to choose from? The list from above is never ending!! The sundaes are mouth watering and after reviewing the menu we decided on the stock market crunch and the franklin mint!
 The stock market crunch is "ROCKY ROAD ice cream coated in thick peanut butter sauce and paved with crumbled salt pretzels. William Dreyer and Joseph Edy concocted the first batch of rocky road ice cream in 1929 following the great stock market crash to give consumers something to SMILE about during the impending Depression."
The franklin mint is "MINT CHIP and VANILLA ice creams striped in chocolate syrup, FLUFFY MARSHMALLOW glaze and Crème de Menthe finished with home-made whipped cream and
a mint green maraschino cherry.
Our own breath freshener!" 
In case you are wondering, there are embarrassing photos of me stuffing my face. I just can't post them!! You'll have to dream them up yourself!

Village Whiskey

I never mentioned it before, but my favorite Phillies player is Chase Utley. My mother's friend who lives in the city told her about this place called Village Whiskey and how she spotted Utley and his wife there. So without a doubt, Village Whiskey was a priority stop on my list, hoping to catch a glimpse of my favorite baseball player. (and try some amazing food).

Besides being lured in because Chase was spotted there, I heard they had duck fat fries-that's right french fries deep fried in duck fat, like they aren't bad enough for you already. So that was the first thing I knew I wanted to try. We ordered the duck fat fries with sly fox cheddar cheese sauce. I can't even start to explain how good these were. You did taste a slight taste difference in the fry, but nothing drastic. 

Then I ordered a S'more shake-I loved s'mores as a child and always asked for "the thing that makes your face messy." This shake was like drinking an actually s'more through a straw-yes a little hard at first, but perfect!

Finally, Nick and I decided on a entree. He ordered the Village Burger and I ordered the BBQ Pork Sammy. When Nick's burger came out we were is awe-it looked like a steak on the bun! He did manage to finish the whole burger! I on the other hand did not finish my sandwich. First, they put coleslaw on top so I scrapped that off and it was plated with fried pickles. I am not a pickle fan. 

Village Whiskey is a small bar for drinks and bar food. The prices are a bit high, but you get what you pay for and you might even run into a local celeb or two. I'm still on the look out for Utley! 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Continental Mid-Town

So what else should you do after a victory lunch, have a victory dinner of course! I crashed in between meals. I got up at abut 5 am Sunday to eat before I ran which was around 8 am. I am always drawn to The Continental, another Starr Restaurant, because of their retro cocktails. I never had a chance to try their food before so this time I made sure of it.

Continental serves international tapas-so Nick and I ordered a few different plates to share. Let the list begin-lobster mac n cheese, cheesesteak eggrolls, open shrimp quesadillas, and korean pulled pork tacos.

Some how we managed to eat it all! I even saved room for a twizzler martini! So yummy. 

Continental Mid-Town is a fun place to go to relax with good company. The food and drinks are always exciting. This continental location even has a roof top bar if your just looking for a drink. Cheers!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cheese Steak State of Mind

Ah Philadelphia, how could I even say that I visited without eating a cheese steak or three without utter embarrassment, after all that is exactly what every person who knew I went asked me.  In the city of brotherly love, I saw cheese steaks being sold at just about every location, from sandwich shops to street vendors, leading me to believe it was a staple of Philadelphian nutrition.  Before I left Leann had mentioned something about “wiz”, essentially cheese wiz or nacho cheese being used as a topping on cheese steaks, and that being the way of most locals.  I found this to hit me a little strangely but wanted to try it to gather my own opinion.  Enter Geno's and Pat's.

 Within my first hour of touching ground in Philly, we were off to sample two of the biggest names in cheese steak goodness, Geno’s and Pat’s of Philadelphia.  Just across the street from each other, engaged in a war of epic proportions since the 1960’s.

 Coming through the Philadelphia streets I was getting anxious, and hungry, until at last I saw what looked like the Vegas of cheese steaks, the Geno’s Steaks sign and a crowd to match its awe.  We parked the car, split lines to make it quicker, and Leann and I ran over the Pat’s.  Now if you do not know how to order a cheese steak the Philly way, I recommend standing back and reading all the signs or listen to the other patrons orders.  The cashiers do not waste time, and every order must be very specific.  Within in minutes I was chomping down on my first bite of a real Philadelphia cheese steak (with wiz) and fried onions.  Delicious, greasy, cheesy, goodness.  I turned around and Leann was already running to Geno’s to get back in line, who has their own ordering instructions, with a sign posted. 

I did not want to break any peace treaties made between to the two and eat a Pat’s steak on Geno’s turf, but had no choice other than to eat it quickly.  By the time Leann had left Geno’s, the Pat’s steak was gone and after being yelled at for eating the entire cheese steak with only allowing her one bite, I was biting into Geno’s version of the sandwich.  Once again with wiz and onions.  Immediately I had to say that the Geno steak was better, it had better flavor, was not AS greasy, and came together nicely.  Here is a pic of me going to town. 

One cannot possibly go to Philadelphia without having a cheese steak or two, and that is exactly what I did.  While walking the city with Leann I came across numerous places which calimed to be number one and I am sure they are in someone’s book.  Out of Geno’s and Pat’s I have to stick with Geno’s, but regardless where you go, I am sure you will find a delicious sandwich.

Victory Meal at The Dandelion Pub

Where to eat after running 13.1 miles? That's a hard choice, there are so many great restaurants in Philadelphia. I decided The Dandelion Pub, a Starr Restaurant. The Starr Restaurant Organization is located on the East Coast mainly NY and PA, but they have started to expand to South Florida.

So why The Dandelion Pub? I'm a sucker for British food and culture. Ever since I studied abroad there I never want to leave. This pub makes you feel as if you are inside a British home, very cozy. Let's take a look at what I ate. First, a British cheese plate. 3 different cheeses, quince paste, grape chutney, and some savory biscuits (crackers). Delish. I love trying new cheeses!

Now there were many things on the menu to try for the entree, but I had to get their fish and chips to see if it tasted authentic. It did!!

My father had the Sunday roast, which is only served on Sunday's and bank holidays. Sunday roast is very traditional meal served usually on Sunday for a family meal. Meat, vegetables, potato, complete with Yorkshire pudding! (Not actually pudding to us Americans) I had a taste of his Yorkshire pudding because I love them, very flaky!

Time for tea-keeping with tradition my mother and I split a pot of tea. She ordered the scones and jam and I ordered the peach and blackberry cobbler. Both were good, but not extraordinary. I think I might skip dessert next time and head to a gelato stand or the Reading Terminal Market for dessert.

Overall, The Dandelion Pub was a great place to have a English meal. For my time spent there I felt like I was back in London except when I walked back on to the streets of Philadelphia reality sank in.