Friday, July 13, 2007

Eating well in Bucks County, PA

by Xani

I was back on the road this week, this time to Bucks County, PA, near Philadelphia. I had two blog-worthy dinners (and one meal at the WORST Bennigan's ever, and that's saying something!) while in PA. One was a recommendation from a dear friend, Jenny, who lived in the area until recently, and the other was a recommendation I found on the ever-useful ChowHound.

So the first meal (based on Jenny's recommendation) was at Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille. Oh yes, that does say "vegetarian!" I was worried this place was going to have lots of fake meat and other weird soy products, but I trust Jenny's taste so I dragged co-worker Mike to find out what it was all about. The place was cozy and really cute, although the dim lighting made it difficult to take good pictures (as you will soon see). The menu had flavors from many different cuisines: Indian, Mediterranean, Latin American. And there was no "faux-meat" in sight! For starters, I had a bowl of the the soup of the day, which was a smoked tomato gazpacho. It was excellent- rich, smoky, and garlicky. Mike got the Green Curry BBQ Summer Rolls, described as: rice paper roll encases baby spinach, Thai barbeque glazed vegetables, smoked red onion, fresh ginger & basil. Served with soy syrup, dipping oils, side of jicama slaw. This was an AWESOME dish. I'm a big fan of traditional Vietnamese summer rolls, and Mike and I both agreed this was our favorite dish of the night.

For main dishes I had the Cubano Supper (Flaky plantain pastries stuffed with sunflower seed-smoked red pepper pesto surround tower of yellow tomatoes & avocado corn salsa. Served with chipotle jicama slaw & mango-papaya relish) and Mike had the Khorma (Indian-inspired khorma of red lentils, butternut squash & leeks in a mild house curry. Topped with savory sweet corn fritters & fresh mango-papaya relish). Both dishes were huge, and mine was especially pretty and TALL:

The plantain pastries on mine were GREAT-- they had a flaky crust that made me think of empanadas. Of course, traditional empanada dough is made with lard, and so it was especially impressive that they made their completely meat-free! The avocado corn salsa was creamy and flavorful. The only thing that was disappointing was chipotle-jicama slaw, which somehow was missing both the heat of chipotle and the crunch of jicama. Too bad... Mike's dish was awesome comfort-style food. His only complaint is that the dish was "mild," therefore not spicy enough. I have to agree, although it plainly said mild in the description of the dish, so I can't fault them too much. Overall, apps and entrees, very good.

Unfortunately during dessert things didn't work quite as planned. Mike was craving ice cream and he ordered the Picnic Sundae (Scoops of vanilla & nutella mousse with homemade granola, fresh berries, vanilla berry sauce) which, if you read closely, actually has no ice cream, only mousse! I was pretty full from dinner and just wanted something light and fruity-- you would think a vegetarian place would have a fruit plate, or sorbet, or something, but no, ever dessert sounded sticky and rich. I got the Hazelnut Toffee Basket (Filled with rich chocolate buttercream mousse, caramelized bananas & toasted hazelnuts) and it was SO SWEET that i literally ate one bite and had to stop. It was unreal. I ate the bananas which were good but left the rest uneaten. We stopped at DQ on the way home so Mike could get a proper ICE CREAM treat!

My dessert-- tall and super-sweet

Blurry pic of Mike's "sundae"-- my hands must have been shaking after eating one bite of the Hazelnut toffee thing!

The next day i spent some time browsing ChowHound and ended up choosing The Drafting Room in Spring House, PA (about 15 minutes from our hotel). This place was highly recommended for solid food and an awesome beer list. They weren't kidding:

They must have had over 50 beers to choose from, including a selection of seasonal beers that that rotate frequently (weekly, I think). I chose the Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale. It was intense-- really strong and hoppy, and came in this lovely glass:

For a starter I had a cup of the Crab and Corn Chowder, which had a bacon garnish, fresh corn, and some decent sized pieces of crab floating in a rich, velvety chowder. It was excellent. For my entree I ordered the BBQ special. You chose your meat from a list of four (chicken, pork ribs, pulled pork, or brisket- um, yeah, I had veggies last night, remember??) and then you picked which sauce you wanted (Memphis Maple, Texas sweet and spicy, North Carolina, or orange chipotle). I got the pulled pork with orange chipotle. All plates were served with cheddar chive mashed potatoes and sweet paprika corn.

I enjoyed the entree as well. However, I think I picked the wrong sauce-- the orange chipotle was a little too sweet and not quite spicy enough for me. But the meat was tender and the potatoes and corn were awesome! Having learned a lesson from the night before, I skipped dessert. And because I was driving our very large, very YELLOW rental SUV, I only had the one beer.

I wish we had been able to go into Center City (about 30 minutes away) for a meal but it just didn't make much sense, especially since I was driving the giant SUV and all (wasn't looking forward to parallel parking that thing!). I was happy we managed to find a couple great meals out in the 'burbs. Thank you ChowHound and especially thank you Jenny! The East Coast will miss you!


Monday, July 9, 2007

Not Quite Food? Heather and Dan's Wedding Weekend

by Xani

I was so lucky to spend the weekend at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay Resort for the wedding of a close friend. The weekend involved much eating, drinking, and general merriment! I didn't take that many pictures (they had a professional photographer for most of the weekend, not to mention lots and lots of other folks snapping pics) but the few I did take I wanted to post here. Between the rehearsal dinner, the catered lunch at the salon (where I was playing makeup artist for the Bride and bridesmaids), the fabulous cocktail hour after the ceremony and then the stationed dinner reception (four words: Mashed Potato Martini Bar!?!), AND a lovely brunch the morning after, I may never eat again.

OK, who am I kidding. I'm on my way to Philadelphia and I see cheese steaks in my future!!

Enjoy the photo album everyone!


P.S. Any other wedding guests who want to send along their pictures, please do! Especially any of the post-wedding pool jump!

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