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🍽