Archive for December, 2010
Lancaster is a cute little town in Eastern Pennsylvania that has a decided artistic bend. Filled with galleries and interesting shops, it might be easy to dismiss the city as a backwoods outpost, but Franklin and Marshall College seems to have raised the bar all around. It is actually a nice place to visit and Jeff needs to travel there periodically for work. Because of that, he has had the opportunity to sample some of the local food.
After two visits, a favorite is clear. Fenz Restaurant & Latenight is a cozy two-story bar and dining room with a menu full of comfortable food. During the last visit he enjoyed a wonderfully crisp, roasted chicken with sage, mushroom stuffing. Nothing but bare wing bones were left on the plate. This was preceded by a great potato leek soup and some delightful deviled eggs. The pot-du-crème dessert was rich and flavorful. This is place to dine if you have only one night in Lancaster.
Also intriguing is John J. Jeffries located in the Lancaster Arts Hotel (also very interesting) Based on the principal of supporting small organic local farms, the menu is filled with small and large plates. Jeff enjoyed a fresh salad topped with local goat cheese and a fabulous bowl of grass-fed beef chili topped with crème fraîche and local made white cheddar. They also have a nice Pennsylvania made (yes, Pennsylvania, USA) pinot noir wine. Try it! It is quite good. Bon Appetit Magazine recently dubbed this place as the center of a new trend, “Nouveau Dutch,” the blending of contemporary cooking and down-home Pennsylvania Dutch culinary sensibility. If it was earlier and if he needed more food, other things sounded tempting. The idea of sleeping on a full stomach quickly offset the temptation. The only menu downside was a bit too heavy reliance on beef. As the menu changes, here’s hoping for a wider variety. Past season menu samples indicate just that. Your timing may be better than Jeff’s.
Checkers Bistro offers a nice collection of bistro foods, well prepared and flavorful. The place seems to always be crowded and is likely due to the wide variety of soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and full meals. You can’t go wrong with most anything.
Less successful was Gibraltar. Jeff started with the Arugula and Endive Salad topped with candied walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. The vinaigrette was sweet-tart and promoted some plate scraping. Because of the cool evening, the Pappardelle Cassoulet sounded perfect. It was just a bit watery for his liking. The duck confit and cannelloni beans were tasty and worked well with the wide noodles, but the cubed bacon was fatty and a bit off-putting when scooped up. For a highly rated establishment that had a decent crowd mid-week, Jeff expected more. The guess is that this was a HOT restaurant five years ago and is living off past glories. Consider one of the other places.
It is always fun to have a small town surprise you with interesting and tasty food. Lancaster does just that. If you find yourself in eastern Pennsylvania, stop in Lancaster. You’ll enjoy the food!
http://www.fenzrestaurant.com/ 398 Harrisburg Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 717-735-6999
http://www.johnjjeffries.com/ 300 Harrisburg Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 717-431-3307
http://www.checkersbistro.com/ 300 West James Street Lancaster, PA 17603 717-509-1069
http://www.kearesrestaurants.com/gibraltar/ 931 Harrisburg Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 717-397-2790
When we go to the theatre, we typically attend a matinee performance. For years, a visit to Lola was derigueur. Lola was opened at 4:00PM, a full hour before most other places. This earlier hour fit perfectly into our schedule and the restaurant was empty, the wait staff was attentive and each meal was perfect. Alas, Lola was enticed onto East 4th, the 4:00 start time was abandoned and we now find ourselves searching for an after-theatre place after each show. The afternoon performance of “Billy Elliot” ended at 4:45, so as we rolled down the parking garage ramp, Michele called Lolita, perhaps out of memory for the former location. A 5:15 opening was not available. We started going down the list for an alternate. “Dante!” A table there was open.
We have been reluctant to dine at Dante. We went to the Independence version a few times. While it was good, it was clearly over-priced. The oblique location also made it a poor choice for “East-Siders” like us. We assumed another good, but wildly over-priced menu. We were wrong. This was a comparably-price dinner, but that would make little difference had the meal been substandard. Luckily, we had a wonderful meal.
Michele started with the Truffled Miso Chicken Soup, a gentle broth with rich flavors. For her entrée she enjoyed the Ruby Red Trout, so much, no leftovers went home! Two flaky fillets sandwiched mashed potato and onions. Jeff started with the rich and creamy polenta with perfectly grilled wild mushrooms and a dollop of goat cheese. This was a reminder of the thing we did like about Dante 1. There is great skill here creating RICH decedent flavors. Dinner was Lamb Chops, mustard crusted and served with grilled brussel sprouts. They were accompanied by pear fritters and pearl onions. It could not have been more perfect. We finished with a “lovely to look at” Citrus and Mango Napoleon. A woven patty was topped with julienne orange curd, citrus ice cream and another patty. Yummy!
We made a mistake based on preconceived notions. This was a big error in judgement. Because of this flaw, we missed-out on eating some very good food. Don’t do the same thing. Expand your culinary horizons. Save your money…buy good food!
http://restaurantdante.us 2247 Professor Avenue Cleveland, OH 44113 216-274-1200
Wow, what a difference a few months makes. During our last few visit to this cozy Shaker Heights Italian restaurant, we have enjoyed some modestly good food. At our last visit, the place hit an icy patch and appears to be careening toward a ditch.
The nicely sized salad of the past had turned into a 5” diameter pile of greens. Veal Marsala was chewy, separating and totally unappealing on the plate. The glazed salmon was…well, we don’t know what it was. It looked like they had five scrap pieces of fish left over from other meals and they were thrown on a plate, Tough, burnt ends and all. In addition, they had only one bottle of white wine in the whole place! This was Friday at 5:00PM!!
Be very cautious before going here. Something is changing and the result is not good for the diner.
http://www.viavanaken.com/ 20153 Van Aken Boulevard Shaker Heights, OH 44122 216-752-9994