Gratuity for Basic 🍽


It could be the signs of the times, it could be that our awareness has been forever heightened to the fact that we are living in a world where we pay more and get less, where the consumer is no longer always right, and basic should be praised as if it is great. Long phrase short, we are living in a time where everyone gets a trophy, even if you are in 12th place.

With the world suffering from the 12th place syndrome, have we forgotten how to identify what is fundamentally basic? What is good, versus what is extraordinary? Patrons in every capacity are so used to only getting the fundamentally basic service, sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever be able to behold exceptional service ever again. Or it can be that the exceptional is slowly dying, because there is no incentive for being great, because you can still share in the bounty even if you are slipshod.

This weekend I visited Grain H2O in Bear, Delaware and in all of my eating experiences I had never encountered this question from a server, and that blatant question was, “why didn’t you tip me more?” Now I guess in retrospect I could have looked at this question in a multitude of ways, two of which was: she wanted feedback to improve her skills as she proceeded in this chosen vocation or she was being a person who had an entitled grievance who opted to take it out on me and my crew, unfortunately I choose the latter.

I had been wanting to try Grain H2O having passed it several times during my journey’s and each time I would read the sign I automatically assumed that it was a healthy restaurant, full of nuts, berries, and farro, not real food. I had no idea that it was actually a craft and bar restaurant, basically a place you went when you were tired of eating the nuts, berries, and farro. To commemorate summer my crew and I opted to sit outdoors where the sun was beaming and the music was bumping, and although this is a craft bar we opted not to make this dining experience full of gluttony, so we settled on appetizers only.

First up was the Fried Goat Cheese balls, and because I love goat cheese, I loved that they were perfectly fried and altogether creamy, altogether salty, and altogether balanced with the sweet sriracha honey drizzle, which made these goat balls altogether lovely.

Next up was the fried pickles; each time I go to a restaurant that has fried pickles I always feel compelled to try them, especially when the menu calls out that they are not just pickles, but they are house made pickles. 

I know from home experience that cooking fried pickles is easier said than executed, and that is because it must always be in the forefront of your mind that you are only cooking the batter not the pickle. When you forget the last-mentioned you may end up  with some dark looking crust and that was the case with some of these pickles. The slightly dark coloring fortunately didn’t hinder the taste, I didn’t lose any of the brininess, the crunchiness was not abandoned, but the kitchen did try to catch me with the okie doke by placing the house-made cilantro aioli on the particularly dark ones to cover it up as opposed to deeming those few not worthy to be served, and create some new ones just to ensure the patron that they are concerned with  presentation.

Last up, the Crab Nachos, with crispy wontons chips, with buttery lump crab meat, a warm cheese sauce, and a fresh pico de gallo. SItting near the water and so close to Maryland, this dish was everything my palate craved for. Fresh crab meat, no claws, and the perfect amount of flare beyond you run of the mill nachos and salsa.

So a fairly light menu, but one that I have deemed very good, even leaning toward will repeat, but the service, well by no means will I call it non-tippable, because we certainly did tip, but it certainly was fundamentally basic service. So basic in fact, if it had not been for that bold question of hers, I don’t think I would call it memorable at all, which means it wasn’t bad, it was great, but it stood in the middle and landed as neutral.

You see, I don’t know where you live, but where I live gas is almost $6.00/gallon, the supermarket is running out of M&M peanut constantly, and even when I think I am in the 10 items or less line at the grocery store, I am still paying over $60.00 and I have to weigh my own produce, and bring my own bags from home, and bag my own groceries. So yeah, my meter for fundamentally basic service versus extraordinary service meter is on all the time.

Nowadays when dining out everyone gets a check with the calculation for a 20% tip and so on, and so the concept of tipping is forever lost and most of these servers are operating under the everyone gets a trophy philosophy. It is a basic fundamentals to bring me my food with a smile, it’s absolutely basic to ask how what you brought to the table is tasting, and it is basic to see that when I am sitting out in the hot sun I may need more water when you see mine is gone, these are not extraordinary territories. What defines extraordinary service is really incumbent upon the server, it is really a predetermined mindset that they have settled on that says that they will go above basic, that their intention is to land on extraordinary experience each and every time.

I know you are asking yourself as you read this, what did I say to that question the server gave me, which was “why didn’t we tip more?” to be my most authentic self, I have to say, I stared at her with mouth open and mind stunned, and in the end delighted that I would have this opportunity to blog.

You see Grain H2O, I don’t know where you get your money, but I don’t have a money tree growing outside of my residence and I don’t know where you get your gas, but where I get my gas, it isn’t $.99/gallon. So yes, I am looking for the beyond basic, I am looking for the better than good, and I for darn sure aint looking for a server to question my tipping methods.

Grain H20 I am fair person, I am a wise enough foodie to know that the server I have next time, may not be the server I had this time, but I will give you a tip, teach your servers to be human, and to give the patrons the extraordinary service they themselves would want if they were sitting at the table, especially if they want a bigger tip. There is work to do Grain H2O, work to do🍽

Hand & Glove 🍽

There is an old southern saying called “fixin” at least I think it is southern, I mean I have never heard anyone southern say it, but I have heard senior citizens say the saying and I always assume that they are southern which could be right or it could be wrong, I am not completely sure. This saying also has a double meaning, it could mean that you are about to do something, for example “I am fixin to go to the store” and to translate that means “I am getting myself ready to go to the store” and the secondary example is “What fixin do you want on the side of that chicken,” and to translate that means “what sides do you want to accompany that main piece of meat,” the latter is the subject matter of this blog post.

 Fixins Soul Food Kitchen located in downtown Los Angeles, California where the sweet tea is actually sweet and they have opted to be nostalgic by offering Kool-Aid just to take you back to the days when your parents made Kool-Aid so sweet it gave you cavities.

First up on the menu was the fried deviled eggs, yes you read correctly and the concept kinda stumped me too. But it is exactly how it reads, it’s a deviled egg with the yolk beautifully seasoned, with a hint of hot sauce sitting atop a fried egg white, and to top that off a small piece of slab bacon. And let me share with you the shell was perfectly crispy with just enough crack to the first bite and not only did the unconventional concept bowl me over, the taste captivated me just as much.

Next up was the fried catfish, with fixins mac and cheese and collard greens. Now some people skirm at the thought of eating catfish, because of the name, and some are just to bougie because catfish are said to be a scavenger, and there may be some truth to that fact, but nonetheless catfish is a palatable fish, especially when it is fried with cornmeal. The batter was perfect, not too thick and not too thin, but just enough to create a crispy crust that didn’t interfere with the delicate fish. The fish was lightly seasoned so that with each bite you were very cognizant that you were eating the wondrous catfish. My fixin were the collards and they were tender and the pot liquor was a tad on the spicy side,  enough to make me need some water to douse the heat, the mac and cheese on first sight did not appear to be creamy nor cheesy, but the first bite made a complete fool outta of me, it was both of those things, it was actually pretty spot on.

The food was actually very good at Fixin, but the service lacked a whole lot of luster. It is something  about slipshod service, it has a way of diminishing the taste of your meal. It forces you to question going back, and query on whether or not you should get a dessert. It’s strange but I tend to believe that a waiter should be happy that guests who have their choice of so many restaurants have opted to choose them. The wait staff should be keenly aware that they too are a part of the dining experience, they are the precursor to how your palate receives, it seems strange but true. When the wait staff is unengaged, slightly wishing that the patron was anywhere but in front of them the palate can run the risk of being soured.

Fixins I thought the food was delicious, but the service ornery, I would love to come back, because it is certainly possible that this experience was a one-off, but in order to do so, I have to put on my tough skin, I have to be very conscientious not to treat others as they have treated me, and then also want a tip. So my suggestion would be to remember that dining is in fact an experience, not a partial experience either, not just an eating experience, but a full blown start to finish experience. One in which people will talk about not just what they ate but how they felt🍽

When an Appetizer will not be ignored🍽

I absolutely love it when an appetizer is so large and tasty it can serve as your main meal, however what I distaste is when the appetizer is so large, but your server doesn’t tell you, and by the time you realize it you have already ordered a main entree. It’s kinda like some sorta tasty trickery that doesn’t let you maximize your dollars until your next visit.

I carry a great deal of adulation for restaurants that allow their appetizers to give what it is supposed to give. Appetizers are supposed to be a tasty debut, that exordium speaks to how the service is going to be, how the food will be presented, and is the dish piquant enough to leave you longing for more.

LaScala’s Fire in Villanova, Pennsylvania has truly grabbed hold of one of my favorite phrases which is “simplistically profound.” When something is simplistically profound there is not a lot of pomp and hardly any circumstance, yet it is the building on those simple items that make the dish absolutely profound. First up was the LaScala Fries, see I told you it reads simple, but I tell you when they add old bay to those piping hot fries, some generously chopped bacon, jumbo lump crabmeat, you are entering into the territory of the profound, but they didn’t stop there, they took it a step further and added some long hots for a nasal opener, and some provolone cheese sauce, and now you have created something savory, spicy, a little briney from the crabmeat, and a little excessive with the creamy and warm cheese, and with the old bay seasoning just to serve as a reminder that old bay is the proper accompaniment to any seafood.

This appetizer was substantial in size, it was filling, simply put it was delicious. After eating this appetizer, I really did not need an entree, I could have gone home happy and full with no complaints, but because I was slightly duped as to what I was getting into, I had already ordered the Seafood Fra Diavolo Linguini with shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams, crabmeat, and spicy tomato sauce. This is a work for your food type of meal, I had to take the clams and mussels out of the shell, and remove the tails from the shrimp; the tomato sauce was thin, so there was no clinging to the linguini. The tomato sauce had the consistency of a broth, which is good for dipping bread, but not hefty. Yes they sprinkled some crabmeat atop, but inside of the brothy sauce the delicate crabmeat got lost and didn’t deliver the taste a crab has the potential to deliver, thank God I had that appetizer. The seafood was fresh, the linguini cooked to perfection, and the broth modest in taste. The portion was generous, so much so that I was able to take my leftovers home, which afforded me the opportunity to doctor it up with some of my own seasoning and parmesan cheese for nuttiness and thickness, so it moved that dish from modest to yummy.

LaScala’s Fire I have every intention on returning, but probably for appetizers only and possibly an entree to take home. The decor was sheik, the server was charming, and the atmosphere just allowed me to relax and for my palate to be gratified, well done LaScala’s Fire, well done🍽

Is the concept of brunch on life support or did it die?🍽

I love brunch, I mean just the concept of it brings me joy, its breakfast, but wait it’s lunch, but hold on as I get carried away, I can have both breakfast and lunch on one plate, I can have pork bacon and seafood ravioli all together, so basically I am taking my taste buds on a wild ride for the afternoon.

What I love most about brunch is the plenty, I mean what makes this life experience so awesome is the options. When you think about it, that is what we humans strive for, the ability to choose, what is right for me may not be right for you, and in this case what tantalizes your taste buds may also make my mouth water or it may not, and no matter what direction you choose its all ok, because it’s brunch.

However something in the world of brunch has changed tremendously, and since we are all blaming everything on the pandemic I guess brunch has fallen in that pot as well and I guess that makes sense. The traditional brunch has food open to everyone, with people staring and picking at the same food at the same time, which could’ve been hazardous in the eye of the Covid storm. But now that we are slow walking out of covid nation, brunch is endeavoring to make a comeback. But in the midst of the comeback, these establishments like the Christiana Hilton in Newark, Delaware really endeavored to hit the mark, and I believe they have seen what the mark looks like, but somehow when they shot their shot that dart moved a bit to the left and not to the center.

After not being to a brunch for over 3 years my level of furor was on high, I did what any self-respecting foodie would do, which is I did not eat until brunch, so that can I eat with no guilt and a slight amount of gluttony that is always acceptable for brunch. I had my eating system already planned out in my mind, because although I can have everything on one plate, I like to always start with breakfast items. For me breakfast items are omelets made to order which they had, waffles and pancakes made to order which they didn’t, and crepes and french toast which apparently was canceled and clearly left me baffled. I mean these foods are foundational, these foods are the building blocks to any phenomenal brunch, to leave them out is, I am just going to write it…a misstep.

The Christiana Hilton did have short rib with gnocchi on the brunch which was tender and really good, they also had chilled shrimp and mussels with cocktail sauce, the shrimp were a nice size, perfect for holding and dipping, the mussels were sweet and briney, and although I am not fond of chilled seafood, they were simply delightful. The brunch also included seafood ravioli, veggies, salmon and couscous, and a carving station with pork tenderloin, but no roast beef, nor a chef with a big tall hat carving the meat, which is essential.

I have a standard by which I measure all brunches and as I write this I think it may be an unfair standard, but nonetheless it is my standard all the same, and that standard is The Buffet at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Now I must confess that I haven’t been to The Buffet since the pandemic, but I am pretty confident that the experience has not been downgraded, I mean it is Vegas after all. The Buffet is the best brunch buffet hands down. The presentation of the food is layed out so beautifully, which is where the Christiana Hilton coud have taken notes, in Vegas they truly understand the eating of the eyes before tasting with the tongue.Everything you could ever want, from breakfast to lunch is there, the Chef with the tall top hat is even there, they have even tapped into my love language which I am fully convinced is pizza is there. There is never an instance at The Buffet where you leave with the statement, “I wish they had….” and more importantly you never feel short-changed.

Christiana Hilton you left me wanting, you left my palate teased and not fully pleased. Now don’t get me wrong, brunch was not bad by no stretch, but the brunch lived in a land of fair, and I am looking to visit the land of exceptional. I want my eyes to dance because there are so many options, I want to tell myself I have to eat in phases, because it so much to choose from, I want to top it off with dessert that is plentiful, slightly exotic, yet conservatively noticeable, but at the same time all together amazing.

Christiana Hilton come up higher, make your execution tighter, make your options more bountiful, and your dessert more delectable, here is some great advice I give to you Christiana Hilton at no charge…never let good be a replacement for great🍽

TV Food & Home Food 🍽

I don’t know if you knew this about me, but I love the Food Network, I mean I watch it on Saturday’s with the same giddiness that I watch a limited series on NetFlix. I watch it with such awe and intense inspiration to the degree that I’ve been known to duplicate what I have seen on tv during holidays or special occasions. What I think draws me to the Food Network is the passion, these people love food, they love every aspect of food, they smile when they speak about it, their hearts are filled with so much joy each time they utter a detail, and I am here to write to you these people are my tribe.

The Food Network hosts are friends in my mind who totally get my bliss when I am eating, but sadly there is a small shortfall when I am watching these hosts cook, especially when they cook a thick cut of beef. I often find myself thinking or saying out loud to the tv, “they know that meat aint seasoned enough.” I have totally rationalized that maybe they are consciously or unconsciously being mindful of my cholesterol or blood pressure, and that I need not to forget that this is tv food, not necessarily that tv’s host real life recipe. I mean I am completely confident that the meat Sunny Anderson makes is gonna be full of robust flavor, no salt or pepper needed on the table, because baby you aren’t gonna need it, because I totally have you covered kinda of meat.

I think it is totally plausible that the Redfire Grill & Steakhouse in Hockessin, Delaware has too been watching the Food Network, except that when they saw the host cook on the show and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and pepper on the meat, and then tasted it with pure ecstasy in their eyes as if they were be blown over by the flavor the Redfire Grill chef bought it hook, line, and sinker, and I can tell this is true by the taste of the Boneless Short Rib. 

I have a theory that whenever you go to a steakhouse, they are telling you upfront that  beef is their area of expertise, yes they may have a few seafood items on the menu to appease the non-carnivore, but their love language is cow. 

The Boneless Short Rib came with chipotle creamed corn and crispy onion straws. Now just so that we are on the same page, here is what you need to know: boneless short ribs are generally fork knife tender and this was, short ribs are commonly smooth on the tongue and this rib checked that box too, and short ribs are most definitely not skimpy on the meat, but where they were not very munificent was the seasoning. Maybe the chef at the Redfire Grill & Steakhouse worked from a school of thought that the meat in itself was the star, that he dare not have it compete with any other flavors, maybe the chef wanted to make sure that with every bite you took you never forgot that you were eating beef, and to that end, he succeeded. I absolutely felt like I was eating beef with every bite, but I was eating a beef that needed some more love, the chef’s infatuation with the cut of the meat was not translated in the taste and the potential that it carried to be sapid to a degree that could make all Food Network hosts blush from internal glee was an opportunity missed.

So what does one do when they find themselves in a food quandary? Do they send their food back? God forbid no, that ho-hum boneless short rib didn’t rise to that level of aggression at all, so the answer now becomes taste what else is on the plate. When I tasted the chipotle creamed corned I was beyond pleasantly surprised, this was not your grandmother’s creamed corn, no this was living in the neighborhood of mexican street corn, it wasn’t mushy, it had texture, it wasn’t completely creamed by no stretch, there was whole corn kernels in every bite, but the crushing of that corn released a sweet creaminess inside that was so delectable it created in me a solution to my flat short rib problem. I would take a piece of short rib, then before heading to my mouth a forkful of chipotle corn and top it off with crispy onion straw, and when I did that I experienced not an exquisite taste, but one that landed in the realm of satisfying. Yes, my palate mission was accomplished, but I was unable to carry out my long-established methodology of eating, one of which I may give in another blog post.

So you see there was a savior here and it was the corn, it rescued me from my tender, meaty, yet flavorless rib. That corn calmed me when my tongue egged me on to cry out preposterous, that creamed corn reminded me that the solution of the diner is not dead and it can be found in this meal too if I would just lean in just a little more, and the moment leaned into that corn, I left Redfire Grill not feeling like this was the Resurrection meal that Jesus would have have meant for me, but also not a meal that He would have condemned, but only because of the corn.

Redfire Grill & Steakhouse, let me give you a tip I learned by watching Food Network, and that is, tv cooking is not restaurant cooking and seasoning your food is important or dare I write essential, taste before you serve and if you would want more seasoning if you were home in your kitchen, then gosh darn it add more seasoning for the people, I am confident the patron will thank you. 🍽

Re-Gaining my Faith…In Restaurants that is 🍽

I don’t know if you have ever wondered if God hears only the serious prayers and ignores the rants (see my previous blog posting) that you make when a particular situation has gotten you so frustrated you can spit; well I am here to tell you He hears them all, and He is willing to send a friend to help restore your faith in the very thing that has caused you the greatest angst. 

The restaurant that has helped ignite the flame of my faith is Marzano Ristorante in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania an absolute beauty of an Italian restaurant and to boot it is BYOB (Bring Your Own Beer). As I write this you are asking why is this important, well I don’t mind sharing, its important because people can only drink what they bring themselves, and most likely patrons aren’t bringing in hard liquor, no one is mixing Hennessey and soda at their tables, and small opportunities for drunkenness or Will Smith moments happening at the table simply because someone had too much sweet juice and got a little slick with the lips has a high probability of being avoided.

Marzano Ristorante reminded me old school service, upon entering the hostess grabbed menus not an announcement of a qr code and walked us to our table, the waitress was more than delightful, inordinately pleasant, and I am totally convinced a restaurant savant. How do I draw the line from courteous and kind to savant, well let me share; she carried no pen, no paper and in a time-honored tradition of the dignified restaurant, she not only remembered the specials of the day without error, she committed to memory our menu orders without a misstep from start to finish.

First up on the table was the grilled octopus with arugula and plum tomatoes. No these were not calamari rings, this was the sliced octopus’ steak, charred to perfection allowing the sweetness and tenderness of the octopus to shine, and with drizzled olive oil sprinkled ever so slightly when taking a forkful of the octopus and arugula it was the lightest pre-cursor to the next item.

Second up, Barbaietola in layman’s terms a fancy salad, that included mixed greens with poached pears, walnuts, and goat cheese. Now prior to this I had never had a poached pear, I never even considered having a poached pear in my salad, but it was a fanciful thought that simply worked. The poaching liquid must have been either a red wine or a highly concentrated balsamic vingerette and it caused the taste of the pear to be very pungent and to be honest some bites were a bit overpowering for me, but when you got a taste of both the pear and the goat cheese, the creaminess of the cheese cut through some of that acidity to make the dish more balanced on my palate.

Last up, the pan grilled bass fish with mixed vegetables; when I took my first bite my first thought was its Springtime. No the air outside didn’t feel like spring, as a matter of fact it was cold and raining simply because old man winter wanted to have a temper tantrum and not let Spring be great, but the taste of that fish was so light, so flaky, so delicate, so wistful during the mouth feel, I felt slightly transported to the month of April when the weather screamed October. The mixed vegetables were a good not great concomitant. You know mixed vegetables are difficult to make superb, in my opinion unless you are willing to make them live on the border of unhealthy and unfruitful, they will always remain in the land adequate. 

Nonetheless, the meal in its entirety was light, it was flavorful, the service carried it over to the next level, and I am looking forward to going back to try my next item. Well done Marzano Ristorante, well done! 🍽

I Rant

There was a time when going out to eat was a luxury, a big to do. I mean you planned the outing to the restaurant, settled on what to wear, and made sure you were extra cute. Now on the tail end of the pandemic…maybe, the onset of Uber Eats and DoorDash going out to eat has now been deemed common. Now when you go to a restaurant they are asking you to scan the qr code at your table to get your menu, like I just entered the drive thru line at Jack in the Box. How unrefined, how undignified, how common.

Restaurants are supposed to be environments of class, the place where we set aside our phones to be present in the moment, unless of course you are an on-call neuro-surgeon, but for the most part a place of sophistication, where the servers are attentive, they bring me water without asking, and they are acutely aware of the attention vs’ annoyance ratio.

Why do I rant? I rant because, the patron is not treated like a patron anymore, we are given sub-par service, below average experiences, and not hot food.

You see Mister or Mrs restaurant owner, dining is about more than just food, its about the ambiance, the service, the attention to detail, simply put dining out should be an experience and not treated like a stop over place we choose instead of choosing Chick-Fil-A. You are treating your patrons like their monies aren’t hard-earned, like the patron doesn’t deserve to be treated special and a acknowledgement that out of all the places the patron could eat, the patron chose you.

Its super funny, how service and experiences get downgraded, but the price is always upgraded, tell me how that is fair?

If for some reason you are not sure what the ultimate service and food experience is, I will implore you to follow the Las Vegas model. Every person is treated like the just won a purple chip at the table, take heed because its a game changer.

Do Better.We deserve it.

A Twix Between Two🍴

Fall is a special time of year, it’s like the prelude to hibernation season. It’s cool outside so you don’t quite want to be outside. It’s getting progressively darker earlier, and when you are hungry all you can think of is something reliable, something with substance, something comforting, and more importantly something familiar.

When you are looking for something familiar you start to focus on the desire of your tastebuds, once you locate that yearning, then you go to the next phase of finding where the yearnings of your tastebuds is within a five mile radius of where you are. Then this is where it gets tricky, once you have located your food desire the likelihood of that craving being within a five mile radius is almost nil. So you move on to the next best option, you begin to think on the following: what place kinda resembles what you are coveting, will this new place that is in close proximity have the same menu items, will it placate in you what is required on this cool fall evening?

Now is the time in the blog where I reminiscence just for a moment. There is a take out spot in West Philadelphia called Dwight’s BBQ. Dwight’s is a hole in the wall, the service is bad, the wait is long and horribly unacceptable, they run out of food constantly, but they have the best dang bbq, mac and cheese and collard greens ever. There is never a time that people aren’t waiting outside, complaining about the things they have run out of, but when you take a bite of those ribs, you forgive them each and every time, hence they are still open. So needless to write, when I tried this new place called Zoagies in Bear, DE I used my Dwight’s as my food frame of reference.

Zoagies is a food truck that was recommended to me by a neighbor and is quickly being recognized as an IG sensation. So first up on the dining menu for me is the half of slab rib platter with two sides. Now if you have been following me for a while you know I love a good system and my system for ordering ribs is to order pork, because if you gonna go in, go all the way in. Everyone knows that pork is the super meat, it has all of the feels, all of the flavor, all of the fat and all of the goodness, contingent upon if it’s done right.

The ribs came perfectly slathered with what I assume was homegrown barbeque sauce, because it was completely balanced with flavor, delicately sweet, gracefully tangy, and loose in texture which did not resemble any type of bottled barbeque sauce. Visually the ribs had the proper amount of char on each rib, when I bit into my first rib I thought….not bad, I took another bite and reckoned pretty tender, not falling off the bone, but totally acceptable, on the third bite I asked myself where is the smoke, I was kinda counting on the smokiness to coat the inside of my mouth, but it didn’t. On my next rib, I concluded this is not in the neighborhood of Dwight’s, could Zoagies live on the same block as Dwight’? probably not, but maybe in the vicinity thereof. To write plainly the ribs were fair, they weren’t bad at all, if someone brought me some ribs from Zoagies as a wonderful gesture because they knew I didn’t feel like going out, I wouldn’t be mad, I may not have not been thrilled, but I certainly wouldn’t be sullen either.

Next up was the mac and cheese which is the only fitting accompaniment to a rib platter. The mac and cheese was cheesy, but not moist. It is some type of magic that happens with excellent mac and cheese, the wizardry happens when there is a slew of cheese, yet the mac and cheese is moist, the cheese is not tight, but its not loose either, again its landing in the realm of perfection and only a few have the goods to produce that type of goodness. This mac and cheese was undistinguished, it was on the dry side, not so much on the unflavorful side, but not on the creamy side either. Basically it was living in the land of take or leave it. I will take it if there are no other suitable sides, but I may leave it if something else strikes my fancy.

Last up was the string beans, the best way I can describe these veggies is to write is was the kindest slow burn, let me elaborate. On the first bite, I asked Jesus how could something be so bland. But endeavoring to follow the federal guidelines that states that a healthy adult should have two to three cups of veggies a day and coming to terms that I was extremely deficient in following that guidance, I continued to eat. As I continued to eat it was almost like I was eating time released flavored string beans. With each new bite, I started to get something new, the vinegar was coming through, the sweetness of the white onion slices they added was giving me life, the minced garlic was packing a small punch, and then with each passing chew, I found myself feeling very amiable toward those string beans, they gave my tongue a graze of goodness, that was subtly delightful.

If I had to give Zoagies a report card, I would give them a “C” and to be clear I am giving my menu choice a “C,” you see the ribs are not Zoagie’s signature food, their signature food is the fried hoagie, you read it correctly it’s a hoagie yet somehow the bread is fried. I cannot give details because I have never had it. I also want to write that a “C” is also known as space and room to improve and the potential is definitely there. A small tweak in this or that can make those rib platters a game changer. So keep striving Zoagies I have faith in you🍴

Tenderness over Everything 🍴

Whenever I have heard the phraseology, “I am going to place this on the back burner” I have always concluded that whatever was going on the back burner required less attention, that its ranking in the list of importance was low on the list. In life there are some things that are indeed worthy of going on the back burner, but I am not quite sure that short ribs are one of them, but “The Back Burner Restaurant” in Hockessin, Delaware sure does think so.

If you have been reading my blogs for awhile, you know that I have my own thought process for most things. Some of them make sense to only me and some I truly believe the world should adopt in an effort to make the world a better place. One of my thought processes is that whenever you go to a restaurant and you ask the waitstaff, “how is the short rib?” the first response should never be that it is super tender. Why is this important? It’s important, because when you go to a restaurant, tenderness should be a given, not a selling point. It should stand to reason that as a Chef your basic 101 training for meat such as short rib, that tenderness is essential. an absolute non-negotiable, a statement that should not be uttered, because it is as commonplace as having a fork and knife on the table. The proper response should be surrounded all around the taste, the flavor, and the wallop of seasoning that should inevitably explode in your mouth on every bite.

So by now I assume you must have guessed it. The first and only thing up for today is The Back Buner’s Short rib, that was merlot braised, accompanied with a side of gorgonzola smashed red potatoes, and roasted asparagus. So right off the bat, the short rib was fork tender, no knife required, the color was so chocolatey brown and dreamy that hesitation to take my first bite was not even a consideration. However, upon the first bite I tasted nothing, almost to the degree that I thought my tastebuds were betraying me, so being the respectable and gracious blogger that I am, I immediately assumed it is me and definitely not the food, so I take a second bite and again repetition of the banal short rib ensued. Needless to write my vivacity for this short rib began to wane. Using my lightning fast mind, the thought to dive into the mashed potatoes took hold of me, so I dove in, but again the ho hum lack of flavor continued. Where was the saltiness from the gorgonzola, where was the slight pungentness from the cow’s milk cheese, where was that earthiness? I don’t know where it was, but it certainly was not in those mashed potatoes. Whenever a restaurant opts to tell you that they are using red potatoes, it would seem that a bit of the peel of the red would be in the potato, if for no other reason than aesthetics.

Still not fully convinced that my gustatory cells were working to their optimum levels I go back to the short rib, and with the next bite disappointment engulfed me yet again, reiterating that The Back Burner restaurant had truly treated this short rib like Baby in Dirty Dancing; they left this short rib in the corner and ignored it. They forgot that tenderness should not be exchanged for flavor, that the two should dance together in harmony. They ran away from the prime opportunity to showcase flavors on another level, they left a space open for greatness to overtake the short rib, all because they ranked tenderness over everything. It was clear that this meat was left on the back burner, it was disregarded, it was treated like a third-rate food, as opposed to the star it could have been.

I will mention the asparagus, because it was on the plate, but to keep it frank it had no place here either. It was another missed moment, it could have been an asparagus where young children begged their mother for more, but instead it was another vegetable a child will continue to ignore until well into their 50’s and only then, because it’s green and it’s the responsible thing to do.

Back Burner Restaurant from reading this it may seem like this was a complete fail, but it wasn’t, the potential is there, I am sure there is a dynamic flavor profile in the Chef that is eager to come out, I believe that you have a freak flag that wants to show that short rib who is boss if you would just let it fly and stop putting everything on the back burner🍴

Fair Finds🍴

State, county, and neighborhood fairs is one of the favorite American pastimes similar to baseball. It is a time for the community to come together to hang, to shop, and to eat, and the annual Arden Fair in Wilmington, Delaware is one of the best. Arden is an eclectic community, full of artisanal and artistic finds, and a time where dilettante is celebrated for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

When people go to fairs, they look for the standard fair foods, snow cones, ice cream, funnel cake, and hot dogs. But the Arden fair opted to slightly up their game just a smidgen this year. They decided to give the community foods with a bit more brio, foods that packed a punch, and was sure to be illustrious. So this year, they made a fine choice by bringing in food truck, “Krys Soul Kreations” based in Newark, Delaware.

First and the only thing up for this tasting was the seafood eggroll. Whenever I see eggrolls advertised, I think of small gulf shrimp, a ton of cabbage, a requirement to eat quickly or it will taste stale, and no flavor. So needless to write I was skeptical and mistrustful. Despite my contrary inclination, my tendencies for seeing something that looked wrong and my ability to make it seem right prevailed, so I ordered.

The fried eggroll with large shrimp, salmon, and crab, was positively perfection. Made to order, the shrimp were large, sweet, and cooked impeccably, the crab had a consistency of a creamy and cheesy crab dip, had me in a tizzy to get to the next bite. Yes you read, that the seafood eggroll also had salmon, but in my continued efforts to always keep it a buck with my readers, I have to scribe that the salmon got lost. I couldn’t taste it, yet I never got the feeling that I missed it. If you are a salmon eater like me, you know salmon has a tough time competing with other seafood, sauces, and cheesiness. The delicacy of the salmon is designed to be a party of one in order for it to be the star of the show.

Despite the absentee taste of salmon, this eggroll was decadent, it was mouth warming, it was fried with a nicety that caused me to smile, and caused me to develop a desire to have Krys Soul Kreations at my next personal event, well done Krys Soul Kreations, well done🍴