YAMP

Yet Another Mexican Place

The newest is Jose Jalapeno’s, by Lazer Lanes, which was an antique mall and has been a bunch of other stuff.

First thing I noticed, oddly, was no handicapped entrance. Don’t worry, there is one, inside the Lazer Lanes entrance. The inside is bright and clean, with lots of crazy painting and colors on tables and chairs.

jose jalapeno signchairsCrazy chairs

3 sauces Three sauces! I haven’t seen that since the place that was in the old motel where Stadium Grill sits closed. The verde is nice and bright. The other sauce seems to be Miracle-Whip based. Um. No.

guac  I got the Mole Poblano chicken. I liked that the cold/fresh ingredients came on their own plate so I could use as much or little as I wanted.moleThe dish was good. Was it mole sauce? Well it certainly did not resemble any mole I have ever had, in texture or flavor. It was not dark and rich and had no undertones of chocolate.

Overall I am decidedly undecided. I will have to come back and try again. Who else has been and what did you think?

Is Sophia’s Slipping?

Tonight after Iron Man 3, two friends and I went to Sophia’s for dinner. It’s been a general favorite for years, and we were anticipating a good meal.

The place was almost completely empty, which was a little surprising on a Sunday night. There seemed to be plenty of wait staff, yet it was well over 15 minutes before we got any attention at all; not even waters. Because it took so long, we went ahead and ordered. I started with a cup of their soup of the day, French Onion, plus a house salad. We also got bread and olive oil, which I noticed is now $5 (it used to be free). My friends got salads as well.

The starters arrived quickly, and as requested my soup arrived with the salad. But it was not French Onion soup. There was no bread. There was no cheese. And the soup itself just was not good. It was really sweet. Like sugary sweet. I ate about 3 bites. When she picked it up, she asked if I liked it and I said no, I really didn’t.

Next were our entrees. The filet porto has long been a huge favorite of mine and I got that with the broccoli with asaigo cheese sauce. Mine was to be Medium. One of my friends got the filet as well, medium rare. The other friend got their spicy chicken pasta.

Unfortunately not only was my meat very undercooked for me, but was very tough had a huge piece of silverskin/gristle running through it. I ate maybe 1/3 of it. I don’t think it was filet at all. My friend’s piece was okay, but not great. You know, if I pay $10 for a 4 oz piece of meat, I expect it to be a very nice piece of meat. This was not. My other friend’s pasta was okay, but not that flavorful.

When the waitress came back to the table, I showed her the gristle and the undercooked meat. She said she would “see what she could do.” When the bill came, one of my friends treated us. I didn’t realize until later that they had taken NOTHING off for the uneaten soup or the bad filet. Nothing. So for over $20, I got a salad, 2 bites of soup, 2 bites of meat, and some broccoli.

Maybe it was a very off night. But I sure won’t be anxious to go back any time in the near or distant future. Both service and food were inadquate to say the least.

The great $5 deals you are missing

Have you heard about them? The Babbo’s specials? I think maybe you haven’t, because I’ve been there twice in the past two weeks and it hasn’t been very crowded. And seriously. It should be crowded with these deals.

Last Monday, we just kind of stumbled into them. Decided to go there, and found out that on Mondays, pizza is $5. I mean seriously, their regular pizza price is already one of the best in town; $10 for a 12″ Neopolitan (thin, crisp) crust with up to four toppings. But on Monday, it’s $5. Exact same pizza. Exact same size. Exact same great flavor.

And get this. They have a $5 special every night Monday through Thursday. So tonight it was time for us to try the $5 lasagna. This photo does not do justice to how massive this thing is. It was like a freaking loaf of bread. It’s plenty for two or three meals; I brought enough home for two lunches. Two large lunches. And it was perfectly cooked. Tons of meat, firm but not too firm, noodles perfectly cooked.

lasagna

If I am remembering correctly, Wednesdays is chicken fettucini alfredo, and Thursdays is baked spaghetti.

Tonight the restaurant was almost empty. Seriously, this is really good food at a giveaway price. It’s definitely worth a try. I also love their salads; both the Del Pietro and the Caesar. I really have not had anything there I did not like. Go. Enjoy.

Babbo’s is off of Grindstone Parkway, at the Southeast end of the Walmart lot, close to Fuddruckers.

Food Network Restaurant Impossible Scouting CoMo

I got an email this morning from Food Network; they are scouting Columbia for the show Restaurant: Impossible, where chef Robert Irvine tries to help struggling/failing restaurants. So, if you are a restaurant interested, here’s the announcement:

THE SEARCH IS ON! RESTAURANT: IMPOSSIBLE IS ACCEPTING NEW APPLICATIONS!

Is your restaurant at risk of closing? Are you in need of a boost in customers, good reviews, overall revenue, and even morale? If you are looking to put some passion back into your restaurant and get a fresh start, this is your chance.

Chef Irvine and his team want to help you!

Fill out an application to be on Restaurant: Impossible online at www.restaurantimpossible.com

Applications are open to restaurants all across the continental US and Hawaii.

Help Spread the Word!

Who did you think of first? I know what my first thought was…..

A few CSA shares available for Chert Hollow

Eric Reuter of Chert Hollow Farms told me yesterday that he and Joanna still have a few shares open for this year’s CSA, so I asked him to write up a little blurb (below). It’s a great opportunity to get wonderful, carefully raised local produce at a great price. I know it’s not strictly restaurant related, but several restaurants do use Eric and Joanna’s produce.

Chert Hollow Farm CSA

Looking for convenient access to fresh produce that can benefit your
cooking, health, and quality of life? The 2013 Chert Hollow Farm CSA
program features certified organic produce grown exclusively on our
diversified farm in northern Boone County, predominantly vegetables &
culinary herbs with limited amounts of fruits and mushrooms. Members are,
in effect, hiring our services as professional farmers to produce a wide
variety of fresh, nutritious, tasty, local food for regular delivery to
their household, workplace, or other drop-off location. Membership also
includes access to on-farm events and educational opportunities related to
food, cooking, agriculture, nature observation, and more. Our core growing
season runs from May to November, but off-season shares are possible with
an expected total of 25-28 distribution weeks.

Visit our website at http://cherthollowfarm.com/2013-csa-details/ for full
information. Monday full shares are still available; Thursdays and single
shares are effectively full but please ask if these are your only options.

What, exactly, does ABC stand for?

It’s a new restaurant, in the same building off of I 70 Drive SE as Hong Kong Market. And I’ve decided it stands for Absolute Best Chinese in Columbia.

This is it. This is the Chinese restaurant we have been waiting for. The food is amazing, the menu is large and varied, and the decor is sophisticated, soothing, and simple. Their display of vases and artware is gorgeous; be sure to check out the beautifully stylized buddha.

As I have often said, I do not know what “real” Chinese food would be, but this menu appears to have authentic choices, some of which don’t sound appetizing to MY taste, but I’d love to hear back from any of you who might be adventurous enough to try the fish heads or pork intestine. Fortunately, I could try more commonly found American choices, such as Orange Beef. Billed as spicy, it really wasn’t. But the beef was fork tender and the breading so light as to be almost invisible, yet lending a satisfying crunchy edge to each piece. The flavor was deep and complex, well set off by a ring of lightly steamed broccoli. We had pot stickers as an appetizer, obviously home made and served with a light vinegar based sauce with tiny slices of ginger floating in it. We also did crab rangoon and, again, though these are Americanized of course, they were freshly prepared, using thin won-ton that fried to a light crisp finish and homemade sweet-sour sauce.

I also tasted shrimp with walnuts, dressed with a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce. It was excellent and served with a large number of huge prawns. The kung bo chicken was very tender with excellent flavor. One of my friends had a lamb dish that I did not try, but she said it was excellent.

Now, they’re new. The timing was a bit off on the delivery of our food, with some entrees coming out early, then another, then finally the last which they had actually forgotten. However, the server explained promptly and apologized several times, which removed a lot of the sting. She also had a little trouble splitting our ticket. But it was well worth a bit of inconvenience.

I hope they are ready for an influx because they will get one as soon as word gets out. As far as I’m concerned, there IS no other Chinese restaurant in Columbia. Not like this.

Pear Tree and Cheddars

I just heard that the Pear Tree burned. I actually only went there once, years ago. It was good, but I didn’t see why it had legendary status. However, I really do love the Pear Tree dressings and croutons for sale at HyVee. I’m sad to see it go, and feel bad for the citizens of Bevier.

I did go to Cheddars last night. I had the dijon chicken with baby carrots and the broccoli casserole, along with a side salad. I did not get the rice that comes with it, but I thought the carrots were quite good and the chicken and its sauce perfectly grilled on the outside and tender. The broccoli casserole was a disappointment; gluey with overcooked broccoli and a fake cheese taste.

The salad was decent sized and came with a hot croissant which was quite good. Portion sizes were plenty large (I brought one of my two chicken breasts home) and prices quite reasonable. They’ve done a good job decorating the old Chevys; I couldn’t even figure out where I would have been sitting in the old restaurant.

Warning though; go early! It’s absolutely jam packed every night. If you’ve tried it, let me know what you think.

And finally, I’m sorry for my long absense. Way too much to do and far too little time to do it in. I haven’t even been keeping up with most of the food news locally.  I do know I’m excited about the new Panera going in on the East side of town, complete with drive up window. It’s about time! I also heard a rumor that Trader Joes is coming in; anyone know if it’s true?

Lutz’s BBQ, the good and the weird

I got a chance to check out Lutz’s BBQ tonight. I haven’t ever been to the Jeff City location, so it was an entirely new experience for me.

Lutz's pulled pork with a salad

Lutz's pulled pork (1/3 pound) with a salad

First, the good. What I had was excellent. I did a 1/3 pound pulled pork sandwich with a salad. I also had a box of chips (more on that in the weird). The pork was probably the best I’ve ever had; and I say that as a huge Buckingham’s fan. it’s a little dry, in the sense that it’s not drenched in grease/juice. I actually far prefer that. it had a wonderful char on the outside and was gorgeously pink with a sweet smoky tang.

My salad was also very nice, far above the iceberg selection at Buckinghams, with parmesan, cauliflower, broccoli, grape tomatoes and red and yellow pepper strips.

I chose the vinegar and salt chips. Again, superb. Very thin, crisp and just the right amount of vinegar. I could see those chips getting addicting in a hurry.

I also tried a friend’s pork tenderloin and again, really nicely done. Service was pretty reasonable seeing as there was a big line; they were hoofing it.

Now the weird. The menu choices, in some cases lack of choices, and pricing.

What I really wanted was a pulled pork dinner. Guess what. There isn’t one. You can have chicken. You can have a pork steak. You can have burnt brisket ends, baby back or spare ribs, fish, and even a sampler dinner, but no pulled pork on the dinner menu. I’m not into buns/bread. So since I wanted pulled pork, I had to get a sandwich and discard the bread.

Fine. Okay, I’ll get the sandwich. But you are only allowed certain side choices. You get one set of choices for a single side, and a different set of choices for two sides. You can’t mix! What I wanted was a pulled pork sandwich (okay, a pulled pork dinner but that was already off the table) with a salad and a side of chips. That was flat not allowed. The salad was one of the single choices and the chips were on the “two sides” menu. I really didn’t get the explanation why, except that they refused to do it. My only choice if I wanted a salad was to get the salad as my side then buy an entire box of chips. Which frankly irked the crap out of me. Yes, the chips are good. I did not want or need an entire fricking box. To me it smelled of jacking prices. I was willing to pay a slight upcharge to mix; that’s what we do at Buckinghams. I was not prepared to be told no, I was not allowed to have the choices I wanted for dinner in a reasonable portion size.

I did buy the box and shared it with the table, but it still made me mad.

Oh and they have a whopping two salad dressings. Ranch or Poppyseed.

Finally, I am disappointed that if you want to buy just meat, you can only buy in 1# or more portions. I love to go to Buckinghams and get a half pound of turkey and a half pound of pork. I can get turkey as a meat at Lutz’s (but again, not available as a dinner…) but I’d have to buy a pound of each.

The food really is very good. I just wish the menu offered more and they were more adaptable.

 

Greetings Tiny Earthlings!

Okay, so you new and returning students aren’t exactly aliens… but I have to admit, sometimes we townies sort of wonder, what with all the gawking, and wandering into the road without looking, and driving like chipmunks on crack.

You’re back! We’re so…. um…. grateful for the economic well being you bring our lovely town (she says with a only slightly manic smile). Seriously, while the first few weeks are a little crazy, most of us enjoy the vibrance of student life in town.

Most of the returning students have ferreted out many of the great places to eat in the area, especially downtown of course. Shakespeare’s, Flat Branch, etc. will be hitting peak. There are a few more downtown places you should check out: Bleu, Broadway Brewery, Taj Mahal, Ernie’s Diner, and Casablanca. But this post is mostly about places outside the downtown area and a little less well-known that newbies should definitely make an effort to find. I’m going to list a few, and hope the readers come up with other suggestions. These are in no particular order, just as I think of them.

Sophia’s, off of South Providence, on the right just after the intersection with Nifong. Casual upscale, with pastas and some small plates. Can’t really call it pure “Italian.” My favorite is the filet porto, an amazing 4 oz of filet mignon with a port wine reduction and blue cheese. I also love their chicken mudega; very lightly breaded chicken breast and prosciutto with mushrooms and a delectable sauce over angel hair pasta.

La Terraza, south off of Nifong, the best sit down Mexican in town (though the Pepe’s truck is the best truck Mexican and a must try as well). Try a Sopas al Pastor or the Deluxe Molcajete (which easily serves 2).

Oasis Cafe, on the East side in the Broadway shops. My new “go to” place for middle eastern food. I used to think Casablanca had the best hummus in town; no more. I love both their gyros salad and the chicken schwarma. Very inexpensive for a great amount of food, I usually have enough left over for another meal.

Okii Mama, off of Nifong near the south side Panera. I totally adore their coconut curry chicken and their green beans.

Buckingham’s, on Buttonwood, again South side of town. Try their pulled pork or smoked turkey or ribs… heck, it’s all good.

Abigails, in Rocheport, MO. A great little restaurant in the historic downtown. The menu changes every day, depending on what Todd comes up with and what’s fresh and local. Susan’s homemade desserts just have to be seen to be believed. It’s reservation only, but so worth the trip West. Take a bike ride on the Katy and enjoy Abigails for dinner; a perfect day.

That’s a start. Readers, weigh in, what am I missing?

ETA:

  1. Though it’s not a restaurant, be sure to explore the awesomeness that is World Harvest; most diverse and eclectic and amazing food supply store in town, plus the best cheese selection anywhere.
  2. Readers, when commenting please provide a link if possible, either to a website or map, so that our little college/university newbies can find their way.

 

World Harvest finds

I’ve been trying to go by World Harvest every week or so to get something, even if it’s something small, as a show of support for Shakir Harmoodi; I figure the best support is monetary support to the store.

Because I’ve been going more often, I’ve made some lovely finds. The store is a treasure of jewels and you really have to explore to find everything it has to offer. I don’t think I’ve really even touched the depth of the variety of goods, but I do have a few favorites.

I love their baked/crisped veggies. They come in a simple plastic baggie with a twist tie; potato slices, but also green beans, carrots, and more. Fabulous as a salad topper.

I also have started buying pecans from them; excellent quality, look for them in the refrigerated aisle.

How have I made it through 52 years without Labna? A very thick middle eastern yogurt with the consistency of cream cheese (even thicker than greek yogurt). I love it just plain, but the family informed me that they serve it swirled on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and olives.

Of course their cheese selection is eclectic and superb. My favorite may be a Pyrenean sheep cheese from France; smooth, buttery, with just the right tang. Or maybe it’s the Fromager, so rich you can almost see the pounds float onto your hips. Or the Pecorino Romano; dry, dry, dry but a superb topping for pasta, satisfying my cheese urge with very few calories.

World Harvest has a very good range of the Lucini brand of sauces and oils. My favorite of these is their Sicilian Olive and Wild Caper sauce; amazing.

Tonight I was getting ready to leave when I saw huge rounds of flatbread sitting next to the register. I didn’t ask, but they looked very homemade. I got a taste, then took a package of four home; only $4. They range in size from 12-14″ each. Excellent as a pizza crust, Mr. Harmoodi said he uses them for spreads and as his lunch. My dinner was one of the flatbreads, with mushrooms, authentic Kalamata olives (from WH of course), summer tomatoes, and chicken/pork Italian sausage.

If any of you have suggestions of other great foods to try from WH, I’d love to hear them.