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Posts Tagged ‘USA’

One of our favourite restaurants in Burlington is one we’ve come back to several times. It’s comfortable, the service is friendly and helpful, the menu is always full of interesting and enticing things from the region, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating when the weather is nice. At this particular time, the street air smelled like wonderful tree flowers. This time, we deliberately drove about half and hour out of our way on our way back to Canada to stop by the restaurant, and then waited around for an hour until it opened for brunch at 11am. It was worth it.

On the warm summer afternoon, we savoured our ice teas, which tasted brewed rather than from a fountain. After agonizing over the delicious menu, I decided upon a simple bowl of chili with some extra cheddar. It was a little spicy, full of ingredients, and just as flavourful as I could have wanted. I tasted my husband’s cup of cheddar and beer soup, which was also good. For dessert, I got what sounded like a homemade strawberry and rhubarb crumble, and ended being a thick-crusted, cold almost store-bought-like pie. I still ate it, and all the ice cream, though.

Reservations are recommended for both lunch and dinner and the place can get pretty crowded. Once, we waited for an hour in their downstairs pub for a dinner seat.

160 Bank St  Burlington, VT 05401, United States

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Just a hop away from the Raleigh-Durham airport is a large red wooden barn that houses one of the most revered institutions in the NC Triangle. The Angus Barn is much more than a mere steak house, and around Christmas time can be seen bedecked in lights, trees, apples, santas, and crowded with local families carefully dressed in their Sunday best for family reunions, dinner with Grandma, and milling about with chummy business associates impressing each other with their largesse. Downright impossible to get a reservation for the main dining area during these times, it’s best to go frightfully early, around 4pm, and set up camp upstairs, past the gun collection, in the no-reservations Wild Turkey Lounge, which has enough presence and Southern charm to satisfy any diner. Actually, due to the popularity of the Wild Turkey Lounge, a satellite area has opened up by the main entrance under some tents, which is open year-round.

This time we went in late April, which has a different, more homey feel to it than the pageantry of Christmas. Thanks to a reservation, my party was able to secure a table in the upstairs dining area, where we were greeted with a basketful of crackers and two small (or too small) crocks of cheddar and blue cheese spreads, and upon request was given a relish tray piled high with cucumber pickles, olives, pickled peppers, and celery. Forget the yummy twice baked herbed potato with cheddar or the huge “side” of Caesar salad and perfectly cooked prime rib with horseradish sauce and juice – one could happily munch on bottomless cheddar spread, homemade pita chips, and pickles all night with a glass of sweet tea. Expect a constant battle of the frustrating confines of ones own stomach, but just keep in mind that the portions (and service) are pure Southern hospitality and each additional course is worth sacrificing the previous course for room.

Don’t worry – the cheese spread and crackers are also available for sale in the country store by the exit.

9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NC 27617, USA

See my December 2009 review here: https://rachelrecommends.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/angus-barn-a/

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Diners need to have either admission to the Biltmore Estate or a 12-month pass in order to dine here, but if you’re already in the area, it’s worth a visit to this laidback, almost California-style bistro. Don’t worry – the portions are East Coast-style. And it seemed family-friendly.

I was intrigued by the first appetizer on the menu, which was pickled shrimp with spring asparagus, green beans, tobiko caviar, and yuzu crème fraîche. It worked together, though the cold acidic shrimp had perhaps a tad too much vinegar acidity for my Northern taste buds. My main course of spring risotto with peas and mushrooms, tarragon oil and shaved parmesan was very good and something I might try to replicate at home; could not taste the tarragon, but didn’t miss it.

While I was full, I couldn’t resist the strawberry shortcake was mostly strawberry, with a very soft and somewhat spongey “shortcake,” topped with just the right amount of fancily swirled whipped cream; I enjoyed every last drop of it.

The Biltmore Estate, Antler Hill Village, Asheville, NC, USA

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We chose this restaurant because it’s just across the street from Lincoln Center. It even has a prix fixe pre-theater menu and the decor is modern and sophisticated with outdoor seating during warmer weather and a sexy bar – everything one could want in a NYC bistro with a famous name. Unfortunately, the experience was overpriced for what it was, and we were all a little disappointed, especially since this was to be our Christmas present to our family.

Menu items had French names – and the bistro’s name is pronounced in the French way which I unreasonably find even more pretentious – but none of it seemed particularly French. There was numerous hostesses, servers, and busboys, but service was not as attentive as one expects from a high class downtown NYC restaurant. Water glasses were not refilled without prompting and the food service was slow – despite arriving at 5:30pm for a 3-course dinner and being rather fast eaters, we had to rush dessert and coffee and then sprint across the street in order to catch our 7:30pm opera (yes, after literally running across the square and up three flights of stairs, we made it to our seats with less than a minute before the curtain rose).

A helpful wine steward helped select wines to our taste. We were started out with a basket of bread and butter and some tasty gougères. The appetizer of velouté de poisson was a small cup of a rich, cream-based broth with a couple mussels and tiny cubes of potato. I wish I had gotten the merlu as my main course, which was tender and delicious. My own moules à la “Moracain” were good, but not as special. The chocolate mousse cake was inexplicably drizzled with unattractive strings of mousse, which didn’t add anything at all to the experience – the tiny slivers of poached pears were the best part of it. My hot chocolate was watery and too-hot.

The restaurant isn’t completely hopeless, and it had an intriguing – and expensive – special pork menu and truffle specials which makes me think that perhaps our dining experience would have been better had we been willing to explore more of the à la carte and special menu rather than the prix fixe selection. And perhaps had we had a reservation a half hour or even an hour earlier.

1900 Broadway,  New York, NY 10023, USA

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There’s something about Southern food which suits the balmy summer as well as the chilly winter. Hattie’s is a pleasant family-friendly restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs, with just the right amount of pretension to avoid being a “value” restaurant. I’ve stopped here three times already during Montreal-New Jersey drives – it’s my favourite stop so far.

There’s a website, blog, and even little brochures about the restaurant’s history. An old stove was being used as a flower planter in the front. Two window unit air conditioners enforced by ceiling fans keep the dining area cool in the summer. There’s no hostess, so upon entering through the front, diners have to scout out a waiter by the bar to get them a table. Outdoor seating is available during warmer months. The past three times I’ve dined here, I’ve sat at the same table by the bar, under historical photographs of the restaurant’s founder, Hattie, and newspaper clippings.

The bread basket includes warm cornbread and biscuits. Service is friendly, but not overly attentive. Portions are generous. My excellent chicken and dumplings were hearty, spicy, well-seasoned, and just perfectly satisfying for the cold wintery evening. This was my first time eating chicken and dumplings, which, according to a novel I recently read, is a Southern panacea, and after eating as much of the huge bowl as I could, I felt revitalized and was ready to go forth and try making them myself.

Families and couples alike seem comfortable here. I’d recommend going early to avoid a crowd. The restaurant has an auxiliary “chicken shack” fastfood-style place where one can get Hattie’s fried chicken and sweet potato fries.

45 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA

See my July 2012 review here.

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Dynasty is easy to spot on Route-22 thanks to its tall sign with lobsters on it and the stone lions guarding the doors. The best to go is right when the restaurant opens at 11am to get a table for dimsum on the weekend, because this is a popular dimsum place with long waiting lines during peak hours. Newly renovated a couple of years ago, it now has a bar and a nicer, slightly more open dining area. Gone (unfortunately) are the big fish tanks by the door and the paper parasols that used to decorate the ceiling, but now part of the kitchen is visible through glass, which adds some entertainment value.

Carts are pushed around the dining area, but also sometimes waiters with trays of dishes will pass by. Service is usually quick, though during peak times it can be hard to get immediate attention. But the dishes are excellent. There’s hot and tender taro cake, plump chive dumplings, steaming and fragrant lotus rice, tender tripe, and those long steamed noodles wrapped around shrimp and basted with soy sauce. When we accidentally ordered a dish, thinking it was something else, they immediately took it back and crossed it off our bill without blinking. There’s a good variety of foods and they’re always hot and fresh.

100 U.S. 22  Green Brook, NJ 08812, USA

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Coppola’s will forever be Villascotta’s in my mind, the pizzeria at the end of a small strip mall where teams went after soccer matches to get tall sodas and huge pizzas dripping with oil and hot cheese. It’s busy for lunch and busy for dinner, even when the tiny town had one or two other pizzerias. Villascotta’s had the pizza to which all other pizzas were compared. But times change, and the pizzeria expanded and morphed into Coppola’s – pizzeria on one side, and nice sit-down Italian restaurant on the other side that’s often used for high school graduation dinners or a nice dinner out. It was a good renovation.

My husband is puzzled as to why I like NJ pizza so much. It’s not gourmet pizza, so what’s the big deal? I answer thusly: A good pizza is a combination of many factors. Coppola’s crust is thin, chewy, and firm and still soft enough to chew. The crust is never greasy or burned or soggy. The sauce is tasty, of the right quantity, and is spread to a good part of the crust. Next comes just the right amount of flavorful cheese, then generous toppings. When it comes out of the oven, the cheese is hot and stringy and the huge slices have to be at least half folded to keep the cheese from sliding off. Some pat their slices with paper napkins, or fold their slices completely in half to create a calzone, but I say that the oils are meant to be savored and if I wanted a calzone, I’d have ordered one.

And that is why NJ has the best pizzeria pizza.

590 Central Avenue, New Providence, NJ 07974, USA

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