Friday, September 28, 2007

Beach Eats: 1776 Restaurant

By Erin and Xani

On our last night at the Delaware shore, the BCD family went out for a fancy meal at 1776 Colonial Club Restaurant and Steakhouse in Rehoboth, DE to (belatedly) celebrate our parents' 35th wedding anniversary. Mom, Dad, and Xani had eaten there in summers before but this was Erin's first trip. Unfortunately, this visit would be our last: our waiter nonchalantly mentioned that our evening there was the last night the restaurant would be open, FOREVER! Oh no! The family is/was such a fan (and you'll see why below), and we are so sad that the restaurant had to close.

But anyway...1776 is another rare find in the sea (pardon the pun) of typical beach eats. It is an upscale steakhouse with traditional steakhouse sides and fancy desserts.

Of course, we started out with cocktails, and everyone got their "usual": Xani got a Dirty Grey Goose Martini, Erin got a Tom Collins, Mom got a Vodka Tonic, and Dad got his classic drink: Johnny Walker Black on the rocks with a twist.

Then we ordered our first courses:

  • Caesar Salad
  • Brie en Croute with crostini
  • Pumpkin and Crab Bisque

The Caesar salad was good, not amazing, but remember we have incredibly high standards because Mom's secret recipe is the best on the planet (not that we're biased or anything...).

The Brie en Croute (baked brie in puff pastry) was creamy and flavorful, and it was served with some delicious crostini (we wish there had been more on the plate!) and a lightly dressed salad. This dish was definitely a hit.

The bisque was also fantastic - very rich and creamy, with lots of crab (gotta love the eastern shore) and a nice pumpkin flavor. But let's be honest, I've never met a bisque I didn't like...

Then we each got our steaks. Xani got a version of Surf and Turf, with a small 7 oz filet mignon and a crab cake, which came with roasted potatoes. Erin got a strip steak, which came with veggies and mashed potatoes. Dad got a Delmonico steak, served au poivre, with veggies and roasted potatoes on the side. And Mom got the special, called Steak Stephanie, which was a thin steak filled with crab meat and rolled up in puff pastry.

Mom's Dish: Steak Stephanie

Erin's Dish: Strip Steak

Dad's Dish: Delmonico Steak Au Poivre

Xani's Dish: Surf and Turf

Before we discuss the dishes themselves, we must mention that the night before, during our Rosh Hashana dinner where we were eating brisket (of course), we got into a discussion about cuts of beef and where each cut comes from on the cow. Dad gave us all a lesson, using Erin as his model - she's such a good sport ;)

Anyway, each of our dishes was excellent, and it was fun to compare each cut of meat both in terms of flavor and texture. The au poivre sauce on Dad's steak was awesome, and Xani's crab cake was also delicious.

The potatoes and veggies that came with our dishes were rather boring. Ah well.

We couldn't resist ordering a few traditional steakhouse sides as well. We got the Sauteed Mushrooms and Creamed Spinach. The mushroom were absolutely fantastic - they had a light, well-seasoned sauce, and they had such an intense mushroom flavor. The creamed spinach, however, was weird - too liquidy and it had too much nutmeg in it. It's my understanding that you are supposed to add nutmeg when you are cooking dark leafy greens, but only to add that little "something," not to actually taste that spice in the dish. But maybe (probably) I'm just being a snob... (Sorry, no pics of the sides!)

After a (mostly) delicious meal, we got dessert and coffee. We ordered two desserts to share between the four of us. First we got a chocolate brownie with raspberry, chocolate sauce, and ice cream.

For our other dessert, we got the famous 1776 Cheesecake Brulee. The BCD family (minus EP) got this dessert last year and EP has been hearing about it ever since! So, we HAD to get it this time. Oh. My. Goodness. This dessert was so awesome!! It was a slice of cheesecake which was sprinkled with sugar and torched to form a caramelized sugary crust on the entire outside. So unique! (Well actually, it's a pretty simple idea if you think about it, but I had never heard of such a thing before!) The heat from the torch softened up the cheesecake a bit, and made the whole thing absolutely heavenly.

After a couple espressos and coffees, we were stuffed and content. But at the same time, sad to be leaving the beach, and very sad to hear our fancy beach steakhouse was coming to an end. It's unfortunate that such a great place just couldn't make it through the off-seasons and had to close its doors. We'll miss you, 1776 (especially your cheesecake!). (Note that last year for Hanukkah, Xani got a mini torch so we could try to make the cheesecake at home. Now that there's no more 1776, no more excuses!)

But anyway...Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! You are an inspiration to us, and we love you!!

Happy eating,

E & X

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Great Eats in the City by the Bay

by Xani

Finally a work trip took me somewhere decent! No offense Rutland VT, Albany, NY, or Lake Charles, LA, but, as far as dining and entertainment, San Francisco has you beat! I was lucky enough to spend four nights in downtown SF, and eat four yummy dinners, a fantastic lunch, and a breakfast (just before heading to the airport) that made me wish I never had to leave!

Night One, Sunday: After two long flights and an extended layover in Phoenix, we checked into the hotel and headed out to In N Out burger in Fisherman's Wharf. EP already gave a great rundown of In N Out and I'll just confirm everything she said! I also ordered the animal-style burger, well-done fries, and a Neapolitan shake (which was awesome!). It was a real treat to have In N Out as my first meal in SF-- I had not had it in over a year, since my last visit to the Fisherman's Wharf location!

Night Two, Monday: This was something I was very much looking forward to: The Slanted Door.

This place had been recommended to me by several friends and SF locals, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to go last summer when I was in the area. This time, I planned ahead. I made reservations almost a month in advance (and STILL I could only get an 8pm reservation on a Monday-- this place is in demand!). The Slanted Door is located in the Ferry Market Building, which was just a few blocks from our hotel and is a mecca for food-lovers. Full of adorable little gourmet/specialty shops (cheese, olive oil, bread, etc), and a few restaurants, it also hosts a farmers' market once a week (sadly this was during working hours, so we couldn't visit then). Walking by all those little shops really worked up an appetite (not to mention it was 8pm, or 11pm for those of us still on east coast time!), so we headed inside, ordered cocktails and/or tea, and lounged in the... um, lounge, for a few minutes while we waited for our table to be ready. I ordered "Summer on the Danube" described as: Prosecco with a splash of Nikolaihof biodynamic elderflower syrup. Now doesn't THAT sound fancy?! I'm a sucker for sparkling wine, and apparently for biodynamic elderflower syrup-- this was one good cocktail!

We were soon seated and after a quick discussion, we were ready to order. We got the following:

  • crispy imperial rolls with shrimp, pork, glass noodles and peanuts
  • daikon rice cakes with shiitake mushrooms and shallots
  • baby Mediterranean octopus with shishito peppers and lime-cilantro sauce
  • sweet corn and dungeness crab soup
  • Meyer Ranch shaking beef cubed filet mignon with garlic, watercress and red onions
  • Japanese eggplant (spicy) with green onions and coconut milk

The food started coming out right away (this was good news-- remember we were hungry!) beginning with the rolls, the rice cakes, and the octopus.

Crispy Imperial Rolls

Daikon Rice Cakes

Octopus Babies

All of these dishes were AWESOME. I was thrilled. I had forced my co-workers (yet again!) to come to some random restaurant that might or might not be any good, and this time, it paid off. First off, the rolls-- these were basically small sections of fully cooked spring roll, but they were served with a sweet/sour dipping sauce, rice noodles, basil leaves, and lettuce leaves. The waiter told us to dip each spring roll section in sauce, stick it in a lettuce leaf, add noodles and basil, wrap, and devour. And that is just what we did-- the whole table loved this dish and we thought it was a genius combination of two great tastes: spring rolls AND lettuce wraps.

The daikon rice cakes were also great, and the big surprise of the evening. I mean, who expects much when they order rice cakes? But these were not the dry, flavorless disks you get in the grocery store. They were more like compressed blocks of sticky rice (and, I guess, daikon) served with this really awesome sauce. This might have been my favorite dish of the night... and it was just RICE. Wonders never cease.

Another great dish: the Mediterranean baby octopus. Very smoky and spicy-- the octopus was perfectly cooked and not chewy at all. The peppers and the sauce were also really tasty. First course was a big success.

Next came the soup, the beef stir-fry, and the eggplant. These were all SO good that I totally forgot to take pictures of them! In all honesty, the rest of the dishes were great. The soup had lots of fresh corn and pieces of crab, but was still not as good as the corn and crab chowder at The Bicycle, in Federal Hill. The beef was very tasty, and I thought it was interesting that they used filet mignon instead of the cheap, stringy beef that's usually in stir-fry. Great texture and taste in this dish. Finally, the eggplant, which was spicy and served in a creamy coconut milk sauce. Life would not be worth living without coconut milk-- I'm just putting that out there.

The big finale was definitely the desserts, which we were all looking forward to. We got the Dark chocolate Marquise, Nectarine Buttertart, trio of sorbets, and a summer berry pavlova.

Dark chocolate Marquise: tall= delicious!

Nectarine Butter Tart

Pavlova with summer berries and chocolate ginger ice cream

Wow! The perfect end to a delicious meal! But of course, we had more eating to do in the days to come...

We hit a couple places that, unfortunately, I didn't photograph. Sometimes I'm just too lazy/hungry/unwilling to get stabbed by the eager forks of my dining companions. But I still wanted to share my impressions of these places with you, dear Reader.

The next night, after working up an appetite on the Haunted Haight Walking Tour (which was totally fun, educational, and spooky!) we sat down to a lovely dinner at Kan Zaman, a really cool Middle Eastern Restaurant and Hookah Bar right in the Haight District. We lounged on pillows, ate our fill of hummus, dolmades, kibbeh, kabobs, and some of the best baba ganoush we had ever had! The cozy atmosphere, filling food, and sweet smell of the hookahs even led one of our dining companions to doze briefly at the table-- now that is a a sign of a satisfied customer!

After another day of work and a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to visit Muir Woods and see the giant Redwood trees ("Wow those are some big trees!" "How many toothpicks do you think you could get out of one of those?"), we met up with some local friends to have our last dinner in SF at Absinthe, which is a French Bistro-style place. I had a couple of people recommend this place to me, and after browsing their menu, it seemed like a great place to check out. I was not disappointed!

We met the rest of our party who had been seated at a corner table in the bar. After a few interesting cocktails, we ordered several plates to share: Spicy fried chickpeas; Heirloom tomatoes with roasted gypsy peppers, charred onion vinaigrette, burrata cheese, arugula, and balsamic syrup; Grilled eggplant pizza, Bellwether Farms crescenza, torpedo onions, and arugula; an Antipasti plate, with cured meats by Fra'Mani, Zoe's & La Quercia, pickled vegetables, olives, roasted peppers, and crostini; and French fries, served with Dijon, thyme infused-malt vinegar, and rouille. Everything was really delicious-- my favorites were the fried chickpeas (who knew a chickpea could be so good!?) and the heirloom tomato salad. Dessert was a mix of cheeses and sweet treats-- some people got cheeses (I got the Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill with strawberries, described as "double crème cow's milk cheese with a tangy creaminess." The sweet desserts at the table included “Peanut butter & jelly”: peanut butter parfait, concord grape sorbet and Indonesian long pepper scented crème caramel, Breton cookies. I tasted both and they were delicious! The grape sorbet was out of this world, and the crème caramel was really delicious with the pepper giving it such an unusual and unexpected taste! We left the restaurant, full of good food, but sad to know that we would soon be leaving this great town...

Wow, this post got real long, real fast. I will wrap it up here but look forward to another post about our last great meal in San Francisco!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Beach Eats: Liquid Assets

By Erin and Xani

As Xani mentioned in her last post, last week/weekend, the BCD family spent some time on the Delaware shore for a little R&R (and plenty of SUNSHINE - Mom and Dad are currently a different race than us). Of course, part of vacationing is eating well, and that we did. Xani had heard about a restaurant called Liquid Assets in Ocean City, MD from her colleague, Josh, so we made the trek to OC to check it out.

Liquid Assets is both a liquor store and a restaurant - sounds classy, huh? Well actually, the dining area is separated and very comfortable, and pretty upscale (especially for Ocean City, infamous site of both of our Senior Weeks...not so classy! The hotel Xani stayed in for Senior Week caught fire one of the nights she was there. 'Nuff said.).

Anyway, we began the meal with cocktails. Erin got a Georgia Peach Martini (Absolut Peach, Peach Schnapps, Pineapple and Orange juice with a touch of grenadine), Xani got a Dirty Goose (Grey Goose and Olive Juice), Dad got a regular martini, and Mom got some wine.

Xani's Dirty Martini (minus the dirty - we had to send it back to get some...dirt)

Erin's Georgia Peach Martini

Then we got two appetizers: the calamari and "The Antipasto Board." The calamari was great - it was crispy and light, and was served with a chipotle horseradish dipping sauce.

The star of the show (not just the appetizer show, the WHOLE show), was the Antipasto Board. It was MAGNIFICENT. There was an incredible array of delicious things on that board: marinated fresh roasted peppers, seasonal salads, aged serrano ham, marinated anchovies, spanish chorizo, caper berries, cheese, roasted garlic, roasted cipollini onions, and toasted bread. OMG!

Caper Berries are the new olives?

One other thing that was interesting about this dish was that the board it was served on was a plank from a wine carton - cute!

Then it was on to the main dishes. Xani got the Deluxe Grilled Cheese, with cheese, bacon, arugula, and pane dolce. There were mixed reviews of this dish: some of us liked it, but Xani thought there was too much going on in the sandwich for it to really be grilled cheese. Give her two slices of melted American on white bread any day!

Erin got the Open Face, Slow Braised Carolina Pork BBQ, served with chipotle coleslaw and hand-cut fries. This dish was a hit! The pork was sweet and spicy and served hot, with the delicious chipotle coleslaw served very cold on top. Very nice dichotomy there. It was all served on top of toasted bread, with a side of hand cut french fries. The fries were okay - good but not amazing.

Dad got the Seared Ahi Tuna, served sesame-encrusted, with fingerling potatoes, roasted asparagus, and tomato jam. The tuna was served raw (as it should be) and the potatoes and salad served with it were great.

And finally, Mom got the Old Bay Rubbed Chicken Breast, which was served with red potatoes and a wild mushroom cream sauce. This dish was also very good and flavorful. The mushroom cream sauce was very intense and the chicken was cooked perfectly. The potatoes were kind of boring, but the sauce made up for them.

Now, apparently cheese is a big thing at Liquid Assets, and they had an entire cheese menu! Unfortunately, when it came time for dessert, a cheese plate just didn't feel right. We'll get cheese next time though!

We did end up getting two (sweet) desserts to share. The first was called L.A. Sorbet, which was a scoop of raspberry sorbet and a scoop of blood orange sorbet. These were delicious and refreshing. We also got the Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich. This was sort of like what Erin had at Diddy Riese in LA: two cookies with vanilla ice cream in between - YUM!

We also, of course, got coffee - what fancy meal would be complete without coffee at the end?

All in all, it was a delicious meal (in a sort of unlikely location), with great service and good decor, and we're so glad we ate there! We recommend it if you're looking for somewhere upscale in Ocean City with interesting, delicious food.

Happy eating,

E & X

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