Filete de Pescado en Febrero

Continuing the February fish theme I made a snap decision at work one day to have Mexican and on the way there decided I’d get a fish dish. I’ve seen fish on Mexican menus before but never tried it, always sticking with the fan favorite combo plates and lunch deals. I have had fish and shrimp tacos from food trucks, I mean I’m not uncultured, but not a full on fish dish. Anyhow, I ran up to Monte Alban Mexican Grill a short trip from the office.

I was quickly seated and presented with the standard basket of chips and salsa while I perused the menu. One thing I noticed this time that I’d not see on their menu before was this semi-prominent note indicating you were only allowed 1 basket of chips per table. I didn’t read the whole thing because I didn’t feel like it applied but it did catch my eye. The perusal of the menu showed grilled fish or deep fried fish filets as options. Feeling like I should make the theoretically healthier choice I opted for the grilled. The Filete de Pescado is a tilapia filet with grilled vegetables and rice. Sounded good so that’s what I ordered.

While I was waiting of course I was chowing down on the chips and salsa and reading on the Kindle app. The server came around and from a little pitcher even refilled the salsa bowl. I’d put a serious dent in the chips and you could see the bottom of the basket. Another server walked by and asked “Do you want more chips?” I remembered the menu and immediately my brain threw up the image of Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!”. The scene played out in my head of me saying yes, the lights going dim, the server being lit from below with red light, laughing manically and saying “Only one basket per table fool! HaHa”. I shoved my overactive imagination back in his nook, just said “no thanks” and went back to reading. My food arrived.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this. The fish was a hair overcooked but the seasoning was delicious. I’m not sure what was in it aside from chili and paprika to make it that glowing reddish orange but I really liked it. The grilled vegetables were onions, peppers and mushrooms so technically the description was correct but I was disappointed at first. I was expecting something like zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and stuff like that, however these were flavorful and went well with the fish and rice. The rice was a good filler that dampened the strong flavors of the fish and vegetables. I would definitely have this again. Good job Monte Alban.

Next time I’ve decided to try another new thing for me and that’s fish for breakfast.

This Boy Wasn’t Feeling Po’ After A Good Lunch

It had been a while since I visited my great friends the McGehees in Columbia, SC. We planned to pick a spot to dine and catch up while also being different enough to be blog worthy. The option Andy suggested was Luzianna Purchase in Columbia. I’m always up for Cajun / Creole food so it was an easy sell. Unfortunately Melanie couldn’t join us so Andy, Ian and I jumped in the truck for a guys lunch.

Luzianna Purchase is in a big, busy strip mall with all manner of small businesses. Side note, if you’re looking to support local entrepreneurs this is exactly the kind of place to find them. Anyway back to the restaurant. They are open only for lunch / brunch and feature New Orleans inspired foods like Po-Boy sandwiches, gumbo, muffuletta, and such. Judging by the number of folks in line and full tables inside and out I had high expectations.

Our little group got a couple of po-boys and a bowl of gumbo. I was so focused on my sandwich I didn’t grab a shot of Andy or Ian’s dishes. Here’s a glamour shot of the Crawfish Po-Boy.

As you can see the crawfish portion was generous enough it was spilling from the Louisiana sourced bread. The lettuce & tomato were fresh, the pickle was dill, and the remoulade was tangy and lightly spiced. The bits of crawfish were battered lightly and deep fried to a crispy outside while keeping the crawfish tender and tasty. This was an excellent sandwich. They had 2 hot sauces on the table Crystal and one I hadn’t heard of so of course that’s the one I tried. As hot sauces go it was cute, barely hot but at least tangy. I wouldn’t pick it over the Crystal again. With the sandwich combo you get chips or fruit. The chips are a selection of Zapp’s New Orleans chips and Voodoo was a choice. If you haven’t had them before they are kettle cooked spicy chips and went well with the sandwich.

Andy got the oyster po-boy and Ian got the chicken andouille gumbo. They did not skimp on the fried oysters in Andy’s sandwich and Ian’s gumbo looked good. Reports from the field were both ended up being quite tasty. It was a good casual atmosphere to catch up with friends and enjoy some regionally inspired cuisine. I also have to say the folks we interacted with were another reason the place was busy. The young lady running the food was quick and efficient, as people finished they grabbed the trays without making you feel like they were rushing you. As we were wrapping up the visit and grabbing a treat for Miss Melanie we chatted with one of the owners a bit. Very friendly, personable and the kind of person that encourages regulars. As a small business they also support other local small businesses like Sakhar Jams . They are a small batch artisanal Jam company that I was aware of because of the McGehees and I’d considered ordering some of their product in the past. Here it was in person and available for sale.

I got these two to try and I will say they are both very nice. The apple chai is my favorite of the two and I will be looking forward to trying some of the others when I finish these.

Takeaways from the day – Cajun food is good (this was really just positive reinforcement), try local businesses and when they are good continue to support them, and finally lunch tastes better with people you like.

DC23: The Covidy One

I was going to title this TTWIHGFWPUC part 2 but that seemed awkward so an alternate had to be workshopped. I didn’t workshop it too hard as you can see. This is about food nominally anyway so let’s move on.

Most of my meals were from the usual suspects but I did manage to squeeze in a new place. First up was Amalfi Cucina & Mercato a nice little Neapolitan Pizzeria on the second floor of a downtown building. I’ve been there before so I knew they had great pizza. What I forgot was how big the pizza is and that I don’t eat quite as much as I used to.

As you can see they were not at all stingy with the pepperoni and the little char on the crust just made this such a nice slice. Or series of slices if I’m being honest. I didn’t eat it all but I did put a hurting on it. The sauce and cheese tasted fresh and the crust was reasonably thin. Adding to all this the Creature Comforts IPA that magically appeared (after I ordered it) and if I hadn’t been doing so much walking I’d have gone into a happy little food coma after this meal.

The next place I got something new was one of the usual spots, Pacific Rim Bistro. They are so convenient to the convention hotels and have great Asian food. I got a Dragon Roll, because DragonCon, and I’m at times a creature of habit. The new thing though was the soup of the day, a coconut chicken soup.

Wow was this good. It had some scallions and mushrooms as well but the coconut flavor bathing the little bites of chicken that was somehow both bold and yet subtle relegated them to a filler role . I would absolutely have this again. Fun fact, I have this same spoon at home. No, not because I stole the one in the photo but because I bought some years ago. I like the design.

The last place is the one new establishment within the con footprint I visited. I’ve walked by Cuts Steakhouse for I don’t know how many years without giving it a lot of consideration. Mostly because I figured a downtown steakhouse had to be a $$$ place. This time I figured I’d find out for sure and it wasn’t busy so I’d get away from the crowd. I was seated quickly in the bar area at a high top with a nice view out the window so I could see my fellow confolk but also enjoy quiet. I got the Manhattan steak sandwich and a cider to wash it down.

Holy Cow! Reference intended. That might not have been the best steak sandwich I’ve ever had but I don’t remember a better one. The steak was so tender I felt decadent eating it. There were just enough mushrooms and onions on the sandwich to enhance it without taking anything away from the flavor of the beef. The smoked gouda and warm semi-crusty roll just wrapped up the whole thing like a nice tie and matching pocket square set off a well fitting suit. I liked it is what I’m trying to get at. The cilantro garlic fries were ok but they were just an afterthought compared to the sandwich. Oh and that cider was crisp, mildly sweet and a little tart. Another fine accessory for that sandwich. It was the most expensive lunch of the weekend but dang it was worth doing the one time for sure. Maybe next year too. The menu had some other good looking options though so who knows.

From a culinary standpoint it was a good weekend at DragonCon and downtown Atlanta. On the positive front I did get my smell and taste back after just a couple of days so life is good.

It Was a Fair Weekend

It has been quite a while since the old passport was pulled out of the drawer for a culinary trip so it was time to remedy that. My sister Lynn alerted me to some new food items in her area so I knocked the dust off the passport and headed to the exotic east. To the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh to be precise.

After an extremely roundabout way to a parking place that was a hike from the fairgrounds and making said hike we came to edges of the fair. Fair warning, this post has more pics than normal.

It was beautiful day for being out and about so it shouldn’t have been a surprise the State Fair attracted a couple of folks.

We went into this knowing it was going to be an abbreviated, no rides, no games trip because there were afternoon football games to get back to the house to see but we did tour several of the buildings with exhibits. First was the one was a grist mill where they were giving out hushpuppy samples as well as selling varieties of cornmeal. Of course I decided to follow that up with a sample of Pepsi Zero and some new Mountain Dew sugar free orangey looking soda with a melonesque flavor. I didn’t bother to learn the real name. It was actually good.

My primary target for the day was a rattlesnake corndog but as pictured above there were a buttload of people there, all of them funneled through the food aisles, of which there were many. I was hungry and at one point we came to a dead stop for no reason apparent to any of my new close, I mean very close, friends. So we angled towards a vendor with some interesting wares.

You know it’s not a visit to the fair without something fried. I doubled down and got the deep fried country ham with the bourbon peach jam (middle picture above) plus the allegedly candied apple hushpuppies with Cheerwine glaze. They were hushpuppies and did have a sweet pinkish glaze that might have had some Cheerwine included however, there was not a hint of apple, candied or otherwise. Having said that though they were decent hushpuppies.

The deep fried country ham was much more pleasing to the palate. The ham was salty and tender which the bourbon peach jam complimented well and the greasy fried batter just guaranteed the whole thing slid down the gullet with ease. Quite tasty.

After much walking and exhibit viewing and a stop at a pizza seller so Lynn could get something to eat we were getting ready to head out when I spied the initial target of my quest to the east.

In addition to the rattlesnake corndog I was chasing they had an elk corndog and bison burger. I stayed on point though and got the rattlesnake corndog.

I can now say I’ve had rattlesnake sausage so I’ve got that going for me. The reality was, it was just OK. The cornbread outer was good but the sausage was a little chewy and didn’t have a lot of flavor on it’s own in spite of the visually apparent herbs in the mix. The avocado sauce drizzled on it was honestly the most flavorful aspect. Having accomplished this goal though it was time to make the hike back to the car which we both found quite the chore after lighting up our respective fitness devices with the steps we put in.

Turns out we like to eat. Dinner at an Irish pub and breakfast at place that was featuring some Bavarian dishes were the follow-up. I’ll hit those in the next entry. In the meantime if you’re in NC and the fair is still going on go have fun and even you don’t like the interesting foods you can still get funnel cake, hot dogs, burgers, cotton candy, deep fried deserts.

All the B’s

Saturday wasn’t a day for international food specifically but the base of both experiences is global in scope. I mean grilled meat and fermented beverages, what culture doesn’t have that? BTW this is going to be a longer than usual entry.

BBQ Barn

My first decision was to visit a meadery, Southern Origin Meadery, located in Canon, Georgia. Well that presented the opportunity to find a restaurant between here and there. After some searching I decided on BBQ Barn in Lavonia. It looked interesting and rustic sitting in the middle of town.

It was kind of weird, there was one window that served drive through and walk up. I’d thought about eating at one of the picnic tables but there was a line of cars and I didn’t want to go stand behind the last car and breath exhaust as the line moved. There was a walk up couple at the head of the line and whatever they ordered took forever. Once they were gone the line moved nicely. The young lady working the window was all smiley and moved with rapidity and determination. I admire that in a person getting my food. Since I was going to be car dining I selected the BBQ sandwich platter. This came with stew, coleslaw and chips.

Their sandwich is chopped pork, with lots of sauce well distributed. I got the “hot” sauce and to be fair it did have a noticeable pepper heat but it was not what I’d call hot. It was fine. The sauce was a little sweeter than I prefer, on the up side though the meat had a decent smokiness to it. The stew was tastier dish in spite of the consistency being not appealing. It too was sweet but the acid from the tomatoes helped cut that. The consistency issue was that it looked like they took the solids and threw them in a food processor until they were kind of mealy and then chunked it into the liquid. The end result was a bit mushy with particles of corn scattered throughout. I’m not going to be explicit about what it reminded me of but feel free to use your imagination. In my opinion it would have been better served over rice. The coleslaw was nondescript, so I won’t bother descripting it. From here I barreled on towards the Blue Haven Bee Company.

Blue Haven Bee Company / Southern Origin Meadery

But James, we thought you were going to the meadery. I did. The two share space in what I found out used to be a sewing factory. Jeans being a big part of the output. Apparently the Bee Company came first selling personal care products and honey from bees the owners kept. Well if you add some yeast and water to honey you can get alcohol. I guess with a supply of honey, plenty of room and some imagination the meadery was born.

Let me tell you, you are not finding this place just passing by because unless you’re going there you won’t be on the road it’s on. They have a large parking area and a covered outdoor seating area that looked nice. Inside there is a bar/counter area where a nice lady was doing the pouring. There is also a sitting area / show room for the products they sell and an alcove with the bottled meads and some cheeses and snacks.

I’d already scoped them out online and knew I was going to try a flight, which was 6 small pours selected from their menu of meads. A quick aside for those that know I make my own and wonder why I’m travelling 30 minutes and paying someone to try stuff I have probably 50 bottles of at home. I wanted to expand my sample size of other peoples product so I don’t get cellar palate. Besides it’s fun too. OK back to the meadery.

They have the meads categorized as Dry, Semi-Sweet, and Sweet. I’d already figured out I was going to try 2 of each and take home a bottle of whatever I enjoyed the most. The mead-tender suggested starting dry and moving to sweet which matched what I was thinking so we were already on the same page. I figured I start at the most basic level and go for the Culler, a traditional made with cotton blossom honey.

Side trip number 2. A group of 5 ladies were at the place when I got there. They were apparently having a day out with plans to enjoy themselves and they were. Turns out they were from the Anderson, SC area and drilling down a little more one was practically a neighbor (Hi Beth). They were going to hit another winery and more fun stuff. I was invited to join them and if I hadn’t had my day pretty well planned out I am quite sure it would have been a hoot judging by the short time I did share space with them.

Back to the bee juice. My next selection was a blend of a muscadine wine with the traditional mead. I don’t have a refined palate and subtle notes are lost on me so I prefer flavor and scent punches as a rule. This didn’t punch but the muscadine aroma and taste tapped hard enough to make me say “I see you”. Very enjoyable. Next I jumped to the semi-sweet and tried a cyser, which is a mead made with apples and a hibiscus mead. Both very enjoyable and the color on the hibiscus was a vibrant pink/red shade.

The sweets tend to be my, well, sweet spot. Here I was torn between the Cherry Berry and Black Currant because I knew I was going to finish with the Peach. I mean I was in Georgia so what else could I do. The ladies unanimously voted for the Cherry Berry and that was where I was leaning but the mead mistress said the Black Currant was their best seller and she thought I really should try it if I was having to choose between the two. I went with the pro suggestion, no offense ladies.

Look at that beautiful color. The smell was nice too, berryish with a whiff of honey. It was a delight to drink as well. The black currant flavor was bold and the tupelo honey it’s backsweetened with is literally a sweet addition. I did finish with the peach, after a palate cleansing glass of water and a change of glasses.

Aside number 3. The flight here isn’t like most places I’ve been where they bring you x number of small glasses with whatever your choices were on a tray or paddle. Nope, here it was a full sized wine glass with an eyeball pour of a good tasting of the mead of choice. Moving from dry to sweet it didn’t seem to matter and I drained the glasses pretty well so the only time the glass was switched was between the black currant and the peach because of the intensity of the black currant.

The peach was really nice too. The fragrance of the peaches was very much in evidence and the taste was prominent but the sweet honey flavor road along in the aftertaste. They also use some local peaches in the making so that’s kind of cool.

I’m really glad I took the time to drive out and try some new meads and will go back to try the others I didn’t hit this time. Maybe they’ll have the watermelon I heard they’re working on.

Oh yeah I did bring a bottle of the winner.

Sushi Burrito?

Is it Japanese? Is it Mexican? Why do I also have Korean chicken as a combo option? These are questions I got to answer this afternoon at Zen Ramen & Sushi Burrito.

I was contemplating driving to Greenville to find something on the ethnic spectrum but got lazy. Instead I chose to visit Zen Ramen & Sushi Burrito as it was on my “I have to see what this is about” list. I’d heard before going that they were quite good so I had high expectations going in.

Their whole menu looked good but I had nothing other than a sushi burrito on my mind. Turns out I had several to choose from.

I felt like I might as well start at the top with the Zen Sushi Burrito and made it a combo with the chicken karaage. I’m going to say right now that I could have brought something home. Really should have but it was good. If you like seeing your food made they have the kitchen behind glass so you can be a food voyeur.

I didn’t bother, I figured they knew what they were doing and just ordered and waited. Let me mention if you are a sake lover they have you covered plus they have some Japanese sodas. It was a bit early for me to hit the sake and the sugary looks of the soda made my diabetes twitch so I wimped out with a diet coke. When the food arrived though I was all about enjoying that.

The burrito had all kinds of sea food; spicy tuna, shrimp, salmon, and crab(ish) salad. It also had cucumber, edamame, and avocado for the green fans and some onion to give it a little kick. All that wrapped in a soy crepe with sesame seeds. A soy crepe, you say? Yes I do. It was relatively thin and didn’t have much taste of its own but it kept the whole thing from being a salad so job well done.

I enjoyed it. All the ingredients tasted fresh and the shrimp, salmon and tuna all got to star in their own bites while the crab salad took the place of rice and was liberally sown around it all. Really a nice dining experience.

The chicken karaage was also pretty good but I’d have been just as well off having the burrito and calling it lunch. Just so it doesn’t seem like I’m slighting it though. The chicken had a light batter with some seasoning. The sauce was the big flavor provider. It tasted like it had some sweet plum jam or something with chili sauce. I thought it should have been hotter based on the description but it was tasty.

Definitely will have to try them for some other dishes. The service was good and the staff was friendly, which always makes a difference. If you’re in Clemson and looking for something different check them out.

Swiss Miss

It’s been a month or so since the last blog entry and I haven’t been too motivated but I got a box from another country this month and as you might surmise from the title it was from Switzerland.

The Swiss Box comes in 3 varieties and I opted for the mid range box at $40. The cheaper one is all chocolate and the more expensive one you can pick items you want. Once I ordered the box there was a wait for shipping day and when it shipped I got an email notification but there was no tracking info only a message that it would take 2-4 weeks. It was right at 2 weeks for me. Here’s what I got in my box.

I have to admit I stirred up the packing peanuts looking to see if I was missing something because this didn’t look like much for my forty bucks. Alas, this was it and I started off disappointed from a perceived value standpoint. The only hope was that one or more of these food items would be such a home run (since we’re talking Switzerland I suppose a goal is more appropriate) that it would overcome that perception. First up was one of the raspberry hazelnut tarts.

The snack consisted of three parts; a crispy hazelnut ring, raspberry jam, and a biscuit, I mean cookie (watching too much British TV). I tried just the cookie first since it was the quite prominent base the other two sat on. It was so bland and at the edge of stale I almost didn’t bother with a real bite to get all three components. Fortunately I did. The hazelnut ring had a great taste and excellent crispness that started making up for the sad, sad cookie and then the delightfully sweet and tart raspberry jam joined the party and made this not just tolerable but delicious.

The next two items were also not bad but I wasn’t enthused enough to offer them their own photo opportunities. One was a fairly tasty bite sized chocolate covered malted milk morsel that was pleasant. The chocolate was a darkish and the malted center was crunchy and malty. The other was chocolate covered shortbread balls. They were enjoyable. The milk chocolate was of good quality and the shortbread had a good flavor and crumbly cookie texture. It wasn’t as buttery as an excellent shortbread would be but maybe the chocolate would have masked had it been. Both were well done snacks I’d happily have again.

The item I saved for last, because I hoped it was going to be the one that made me most nostalgic for Swiss snacks, was the chocolate bar.

My hopes were met as the Frigor bar by Cailler turned out to be the star of the box. It was an excellent milk chocolate bar with a hazelnut almond cream filling. The chocolate and the cream filling melded so well together it was hard to call it a filled chocolate. The whole had a silky texture that literally melted in the mouth, as well as hands if you held it longer than a second or two. This conjured memories of Geneva where I used to get a plain milk chocolate bar at a tobacco shop located by the central bus station whenever I took the train and bus home from school. That bar had the same silky consistency and meltiness that this bar had and while I can’t swear to it I believe it was made by Cailler as well.

As much as I loved the Frigor chocolate bar it didn’t totally overcome my issue of perceived value. So while all the elements included in the box were very much quality examples of Swiss snacks I didn’t feel like it was a $40 experience. If I was going to recommend Swiss Box I’d say try the smaller box and enjoy the Swiss chocolate experience at the lower price point.

Brazilian Yums

Universal Yums presented the first repeat country this month with a second box of snacks from Brazil. Fortunately there was only one actual duplicate among the goodies.

It was a good mix of sweet and savory so a little something for every taste. I did get something different this month in the form of cassava chips that wound up filling the “weird” snack spot. My favorite though was a white chocolate strawberry number.

Bib’s Morango Extreme bar was quite the surprise. As soon as the package was opened the strawberry smell leapt out and grabbed me by the nostrils.  The bar itself was decent white chocolate and the strawberry was in the form of crunchy little bits of concentrated flavor that made this a delight to eat. Number 2 for me was the 1891 bar.

Another white chocolate entry. I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate so having it be top two is something I’d consider unusual. I’m not even sure how to describe this. I didn’t feel like it was all that tropical but it was delicious. The banana was there but muted for me and the caramel was a nice addition. Somehow it all worked. Now for the weird.

The Mandioca Chips Cebola were thin sliced and fried cassava chips flavored with onion and garlic. I liked the flavor of these but the texture was what got it slotted as weird. It definitely had crunch but I wouldn’t call it crispy, unlike a potato chip. Basically it had more give before the snap of the crunch. Not sure how to describe it other than that. Flavored ok but just an odd crunch. Still head and shoulders over the worst snack.

These were the only ones I actually disliked. They were coconut and cheese flavored cookies. I’ll just wait a second while you process that.

The sleeve of cookies held a boatload of half dollar sized cookies.  The coconut was evident by smell and coconut was the prominent flavor to start.  Then a weird sour flavor surfaced that was apparently supposed to be cheese.  It was cheesy but also kind of stinky feety.  Not a fan.

Brazil 2 definitely suffered the sophomore slump from my perspective but still enjoyable on the whole.

The next box is filled with Scandinavian snacks. Fingers crossed there will be at least one good licorice treat.

Edit: Shortly after wrapping up the post the Scandinavian Yum box was delivered and there is some licorice now I just have to hope it’s good. From my quick perusal I think I’m going to enjoy this box a lot.

French Yums

The February box from Universal Yums was stocked with snacks from France. I was really hoping for the some fancy escargot flavored chips but alas things were not that exotic.

While I didn’t get to try my first snail in this box there were some other quite decent snacks to try. The oddest was also one of my favorites so I’ll save it for the Odd slot and promote another to the Silver Medal spot. In a fortunate situation the Worst one was really just disappointing rather that bad and I’ll start with that one to put it behind us.

The Sibell Tube a Grignater Fromage looked like it should have been great. I mean it’s a cheese snack from France how can it not be good? Well if you don’t really have enough cheese flavor that’ll do it. The tubes were mostly squashed flat rather than being a rounded tube. I guess that made packaging more efficient. The corn snack was crunchy and corny but the cheese element was disappointingly light.

The chocolate elements fared better and all three were very tasty, however the Cemoi Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Crystals was the top of the box for me.

I’d call it darkish rather than straight up dark chocolate that was nevertheless good quality and the salt crystals were a nice add. The whole had a slightly smokey flavor that was just delicious.

These little strawberry chews were a favorite also. They were a bit waxy and tough but I grabbed a handful and ate one at a time. Turned out the heat from my hand softened them a little and made them easier to chew. The flavor was absolutely artificial strawberry with a little sourness but they embraced it and poured it on. I know that doesn’t sound like it should be in the favorites but they were a treat to eat. The chews had that in common with the weirdest of lot.

The brown oblong blob on the left is a tart cola taffy that was probably the snack I enjoyed the most in a box that had good stuff. The chewy texture was like a taffy and the cola flavor was in your face from the start. It also had some added tartness that I could feel in the pucker glands (those exist, don’t doubt me).

I have to give the truffles honorable mention.

The first pic shows a pack that was about the size of standard candy bar and the 4 truffles in this pack, that looks like something you’d buy at the gas station or as you’re at the checkout line, were better quality than the fancy box ones. They were just plain old creamy cocoa dusted truffles but damn fine. The fancy box ones were almond flavored cocoa dusted truffles and were quite good as well. The flavor and texture gave it a marzipan-y taste and mouthfeel if marzipan brought a big chocolate friend. Good stuff.

So even if I didn’t have anything really new from a flavor profile there were some good snacks in the box. The next box is from Brazil so I hoping to get some new flavor from them.

Spaghetti Western

Italy

To be fair I didn’t have spaghetti but the restaurant was such a ghost town tumbleweeds were blowing through.

It occurred to me that I have really given Italian restaurants a short shrift for much the same reason I avoid the standard Chinese & Mexican restaurants in every shopping plaza in America. They tend to be generic and for all practical purposes share the same menus. Acknowledging that prejudice I decided to give a local Italian joint a chance.

Right around the corner from me I have two to chose from, located in adjacent shopping plazas, Mario’s & Luigi’s. It makes me chuckle every time I think about it, all we’re missing is a Princess Peach Ice Cream Parlor. I’ve eaten at both since moving to Rock Hill so I knew Mario’s had very little in the way of atmosphere and the menu was pretty standard. Luigi’s has the Italian restaurant aesthetic with pictures, vines, and wines.

When I got there the staff was already outnumbering the customers and the single table of 3 left shortly after I arrived so I was soon the lone diner. My server was very nice and attentive throughout the meal. The menu did have the staples of various noodles with red sauce or alfredo and various parmigianas plus of course pizzas. I decided on the Chicken ala Luigi as something that was a little different.

The Chicken ala Luigi was a couple of thin chicken breast pieces lightly floured and seasoned along with mushrooms and artichokes in a garlic, white wine sauce over fettuccine. It came with 3 little garlic bread sticks. The first bite was not impressive. The sauce was decent but it felt like it was missing something. I got a bite with some of the chicken and the blank was filled in, salt. The bit of salt from the seasoned chicken made the difference and the same for the bread that had garlic salt on it. It had the effect of making one appreciate the chicken and bread more than usual. Now lest you wonder why I didn’t just add some additional salt, I probably would have as a reflex except there was no salt or pepper on the table. I decided not bother requesting any and just enjoy the extra importance the chicken and bread assumed.

Honestly if I had to pick between this and Olive Garden the only reason I’d pick Luigi & Sons is because they were local and not a chain.

One bit of amusement I probably wouldn’t have gotten at the Olive Garden was my server talking with a co-worker about things going on in their lives and a subject came up that the one said to the other, “That’s probably not something to talk about out here”. They walked into the kitchen and because of the noise raised their voices so I heard the conversation even clearer than when they were standing in the dining area.

It was good enough I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it even if I’m not making it a regular on the “I’m too lazy to cook tonight” tour.