Monday, October 27, 2014

Wounded Warriors Project At USS Yorktown

The Wounded Warrior Project is hosting a charity event on the USS Yorktown on the evening of November 7th.  You'll have a chance to mingle with the stars of the hit TV show Southern Charm.

All proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project so get your tickets today.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How Not To Treat Your Customers

Or How Bad Was Our Server At The Tattooed Moose?

For the past four years I have been a big fan of the Tattooed Moose, an out-of-the-way, eclectic restaurant with hands down, terrific food.

So much so that when a billion+ dollar restaurant group (yes, that's a b), reached out to me to find an "off the beaten path" venue for their executive chefs to try, one of my suggestions was the Tattooed Moose.

And when a company wanted a TV spot dedicated to late night places to eat, what did I suggest as one of the options? The Tattooed Moose. You get the picture.
We stopped at the Moose for a late lunch yesterday. We started with the pimento cheese served with chorizo something we hadn't tried before.  It was delicious. We carefully limited our sampling so that we would not ruin our much anticipated lunch.

My husband's Lucky#1 with a side of bleu cheese slaw was perfect as always.  My reuben, however, didn't look quite right and I quickly observed that it was barely toasted.  Fearing it might be undercooked I cut one half of the sandwich in half and tried to see if the middle of the sandwich was hot, which it wasn't. 

I put the 1/4 of the sandwich that I had tasted on a napkin and tried to get my server's attention to see if she could warm up the other 3 quarters.  After several attempts to get her attention I walked up to the bar with my 3/4 sandwich to see if someone could help me. I bumped into my server coming out of the kitchen and explained my dilemma.  She took the partial sandwich back to the kitchen without saying a word.

I insisted that my husband continue to finish his sandwich.  I was certain mine would be delivered quickly and that it would be great. I was wrong. Here's how this played out and how a customer should never be treated.

My 3/4 sandwich was returned and the server said, "I saw the hostess take your sandwich out of the window when it came off the grill. It shouldn't have been cold."  In other words, Ms. Customer, you were at fault here. "I had them grill one side of your sandwich but since you took a bite out of the other side (I didn't, I just cut the sandwich), they couldn't put that piece back on the grill." With that comment she turned and walked away. No apology, no "let me wait to see if this is any better", no "let me know if it's hot enough", nothing, zero, zippo, nada.  

I looked down at my basket.  There was my 1/2 re-grilled sandwich.  The other 1/4th just sat there cold and dead as a doornail. 

As I took a bite of the re-grilled portion I quickly noticed that something was off.  Somehow most of the contents of the reuben were no longer in the sandwich and I was left with almost empty grilled bread with a few pieces of corned beef on it.  Are you kidding me???

All in I was served a cold sandwich, a re-grilled 1/2 whose contents were MIA the other cold 1/4 sandwich which was inedible in the first place - now even more so. Do you think the server EVER came back to see how my recook was?  Never.  We asked for our check and she removed my still not eaten sandwich from the table without a word.  As she did so and gave us both attitude and a snarly look to boot.  I felt as though I had caused her a personal hardship.  More importantly, why am I getting the snarly looks?  I'm the customer that was served an inedible lunch and still hasn't eaten???  

Could they not have just made a new reuben rather than jigsaw puzzle my sandwich trying to rewarm it only to have it returned inedible? Common sense would have been the hero in this equation.

That was our last visit. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Long Island Cafe, Isle of Palms

Buy local and help a local restaurant out.

Spending time at the beautiful beaches of Isle of Palms we thankfully stumbled on an island staple, Long Island Cafe. Another hidden gem (and most recently, very hidden), in the Low Country.

Long Island Cafe has been an island institution for over 28 years and is currently struggling due to the development of the new Harris Teeter Grocery Store.   The store is not only taking over the lion's share of the strip center in which it will reside, but most, if not all of the parking spaces for Long Island Cafe are blocked during construction. It has become a challenge to see if the Long Island cafe is open (small banners announce this), and parking is almost, but NOT totally impossible.

Let's rally around this terrific family who has stayed faithful to the island and their customers by dining at their restaurant.  

Their hours and address are listed below: 
Long Island Café is located at 1515-A Palm Boulevard, Isle of Palms. For more information, call 886-8809. Long Island Café is open for lunch Monday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., dinner Saturday and Sunday, 5:30 – 9:30 p.m., and Sunday brunch, 11a.m. – 2 p.m.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Smashburger, Summerville, SC

Pre-opening Tasting Thoughts

I was recently invited to Smashburger's pre-opening tasting for their newest (#233) location in Summerville.  I didn't know too much about Smashburger other than the fact that they are known for great burgers whose cooking process includes taking a "ball of ground beef and smashing it on the grill to sear in the juices."  With a friend of mine in tow from NY we headed off to the event.

We arrived a bit after 7:00 and were quickly escorted to a reserved area of the restaurant. Team members stopped and welcomed us, and there we sat. What I didn't know was that we were to wait for other attendees (other bloggers/writers, etc.),  to arrive and we would be addressed as a group. 

Prior to everyone else arriving, we were served a basket of Smashburgers' Smash Fries.  These are tasty french fries that are fried in olive oil and topped with a hint of salt and a bit of rosemary.  While tasty, I still prefer regular fries over these.
Smash Fries
Once everyone arrived we were presented the "Tasting Menu".  We would be tasting the following:
  • Classic Smash (Burger)
  • BBQ, Bacon, Cheddar Burger
  • Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger
  • Regional Burger - This is a recipe "designed specifically to represent the unique flavors exclusive to your part of the country and is available only in your market".
  • Spicy Veggie Black Bean (Burger)
  • Classic Chicken
  • Avocado Club Chicken
How we were to get through all seven of these items was beyond me, but I was up for the challenge.

I have to say that the team at Smashburger handled this tasting very well.  Their SVP of Marketing (from their Colorado home office) was the MC of the event. One by one the burgers to be tasted were presented to the SVP. He described what Smashburger was all about - "a great tasting burger in a reasonably cool atmosphere" and then talked about what we were about to taste. Team members then presented a quartered burger to each of us to sample.  Amen!  This allowed us to taste the items as they were presented and not get full by chomping on our favorites.

The first burger, the Classic Smash, could have been my favorite of the evening, although the Regional creation was right up there.  The Smashburger was topped with American cheese, smash sauce (a "secret"), ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion on an egg bun. We quickly declared that the "smashing" process was a win.  The burger was tender, juicy, tasty and we anxiously awaited our next sample. 
Classic Smash
As we waited another Smashburger side was served.  The Veggie Frites were a green beens and julienne carrots quickly deep fried and lightly seasoned. Although this might not sound that appetizing, they could become my new favorite side dish.  They were crispy, not greasy and very lightly seasoned. They were also served with a ranch dressing for dipping, that easily could be skipped. When I asked the SVP what calories were also locked into this delicacy he said that he wasn't sure and it was probably "around 180-200 calories, or something".  
Veggie Frites
This could have been a great PR win for him, had he known the info.  While their Smash fries top the charts at 520 calories per serving and the French fries slightly behind at 460 calories, the Veggie Frites barely tipped the charts at 110 calories.  Bring on the Frites!

The BBQ, Bacon, Cheddar Burger was also very good, and it was with this burger that I took a bit of time to really taste the bun. Most of their burgers are served on an egg bun. What was clearly noticeable was that Smashburger takes their time to get things "just right".  
BBQ Burger
We were warned that the Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger might be a bit "overpowering", and we weren't led astray.  Not that it wasn't good, just something that I personally wouldn't order. 
Mushroom Swiss Burger
The Regional Burger was worth the wait.  It was topped with Carolina Chili, Duke's mayo, coleslaw, diced onion, American cheese on a pretzel bun. The Regional Burgers are based on market flavors and are only available in the market where they are served.  If there's one burger you should run to try, this is it.
Regional Carolina Burger

The Spicy Veggie Black Bean Burger was next.  We were cautioned that this one would be a "bit spicy".  It was topped with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo, fresh jalapenos and served on a spicy chipotle bun.  Chipotle seeds are crushed and added to the dough of the bun - yikes! 
Veggie Black Bean Burger
I like spicy dishes and love a lot of heat.  That being said, the bun for this item was so overpowering that I could barely eat it. It is not for the feint of heart. The black bean burger by itself, was terrific but it got lost a tad in the bun. 

The next two chicken sandwiches (Classic Chicken and Avocado Club Chicken) were good, but it was the cooking method of the chicken that was most intriguing.  We were told that it was made "piccata style".  The chicken was marinated, pounded out, lightly seasoned and more than topped the bun. These were some of their "Signature Sandwiches" and were served on either an egg or multigrain bun. Both were very good, but even with only "1/4" samples, I didn't know how much more I could taste. And then... out came the samples of the hand scooped, Haagen-Dazs milkshakes.  
Classic Chicken Sandwich
I only sampled two, the Oreo and the chocolate. I wished we had started with them!

The close of our tasting was a trip the kitchen to see exactly how the burger were made.  "Ben" the trainer walked us through the process.  A small amount of butter was added to the flat top and heated. The ball o' beef was then added and using their "proprietary" smasher, Ben pushed the meat down to become a thin burger.  He then waited a few minutes, flipped and seasoned (with proprietary seasoning, of course), the burger.  He cut it into small samples for each of us to taste.  It was even better than what we had tasted throughout the evening.

Smashburger also offers a line of salads, but the burgers and chicken sandwiches are not to be missed. Thanks for the invite Smashburger Team, we'll definitely be back. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Indaco, Charlestion, SC

Indigo Road Ads Another Jewel To Their Crown On King Street.

Rounding out "Indigo Road's" pentagram of culinary experiences here in the Low Country (Oak Steakhouse, Cocktail Club, The Macintosh, O-ku) is Indaco, the newest player in the thriving restaurant scene on Upper King Street.  We recently visited Indaco early on a bustling Saturday night.  If you haven't been, it's a long, shotgun restaurant with wood burning oven scents that welcomes you as soon as you enter. 

Indaco's wood and stainless lighting elements are simple enough for you to clearly see that the "food is the star". Quickly escorted to our table upon arrival, we began to peruse the 'Rustic' Italian menu. Our server quickly approached to take our beverage order and explain the menu.  As she did so, a gentleman also stopped by.  He said that he was the manager and he pointed out the wine list to us.  He said he was part of the team that helped to put the list together and if we had any questions he would be happy to help. Nice touch.

The menu offers affordable prices and although easy to read (5 sections - Piatti, large plates, Antipasti, Pizza, Pasta and Contorni, sides), the selections seemed so interesting that it was hard to decide what to order.  

We started with the Castelvetrano Olives, a must try for olive fans and 24-month aged American Iberico Prosciutto, which, in the end could have been fought over had we not ordered two. We also tried the Wood-Roasted Squid Salad.  This was my selection and it was served with arugula, pickled peppers, potatoes, olives, capers aioli, chickpeas and radicchio. It was exceptional!  
Castelvetrano Olives

24-month aged American Iberico Prosciutto
Wood-Roasted Squid Salad
The last in the line of appetizers were the Pumpkin Blossoms.  For those of you (like myself), who may not be familiar with what a pumpkin blossom is, it's a delicacy made with the flowers of a pumpkin plant.  These were delicately wrapped and served with baccala (salt cod, by-the-by), pickled peppers, lemon and aioli. 
Pumpkin Blossoms
Here's a bit of a fun fact regarding Indaco's Pumpkin Blossoms. This was Indaco's James Beard Foundation Local Dish Challenge Entree.  If you take a picture and upload it to Instagram with #charlestonSC and #jbftasteamerica it may help Charleston win $10,000 for Feed the Need.

The entrees we ordered were as delicious as the appetizers.  My husband and I ordered the two specials of the evening.   Their ingredients demonstrate the creative offerings that Chef Robert Berry can come up with.

Special #1 was Porchetta - Pork shoulder slow roasted for three hours and served medium with tomato braised runner beans, topped with Castlovetrano olives and calaibrian chilies.  The pork was fork tender and won wave reviews.  
Special #2 was The Casonce - pasta filled with mousolini (sic) of quail, foegras, chanterel mushrooms then sauteed with parmesan and butter topped with chanterels.  Butter soft pasta pillows graced my bowl.  The flavor was out of this world.  Although I downplayed them a bit so I wouldn't have to share them, a few still got away from me.  If this dish is an option during your visit, I’d highly recommend you indulge yourself and order this treat.
The Casonce
At first glance, the "pasta" section of the menu seems simple enough, but each dish is an exquisite assembly of ingredients.  The Camera D'Aria - Shrimp, scallop, blue crab and green onion were rolled and resembled sushi. The Eggplant Lasagnette was served with a quick tomato sauce, capers, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. Both were as beautiful as they were tasty.
 Camera D'Aria 

Eggplant Lasagnette
Our friends ordered 2 of the pizza choices.  I remember our friends said, "If it's too much, we can take it home to the kids." Enter the Cerigonola Olives Pizza - with mozzarella, Calabrian chili (#hot) and basil; and the Pork Sausage Pizza - with braised mustard greens, farm egg and pecorino. The thin, crispy crust with just enough toppings was a fan favorite.  
Cerigonola Olives Pizza

Pork Sausage Pizza
Taking "them home to the kids"….. not so much.  As the server was picking up the last of the dishes our friend was not going to give up the few slices left...

Indaco is one of those restaurants that you hate to say too many good things about for fear that it will become to difficult to get a reservation in the future.  Never the less, you should add this to your list of Charleston restaurants to try.

Indaco on Urbanspoon

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