Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some like it hot; Taqueria Mercado 3:

I've never been a huge fan of love at first sight. At least not when it comes to serious relationships, anyway. I don't doubt that it could exist, but the best relationships that I've had developed over time. Take David and I, for example. We had a year and a half of awkward friendship before we started dating.
The situation with spicy foods and I 5 years ago was entirely different than it is now. I used to give David dirty looks when he attempted to season my food with black pepper.

"It's not spicy!" He would protest.
"Hmmmph." I would scowl at him and begrudgingly let him sprinkle the tiniest bit of pepper on my plate.

Now, forward to the present, David raising an eyebrow skeptically while I gleefully smother my pizza in Sriracha.

"More Sriracha?"
"Hmmmph!" I retort, adding an extra splash or two.

And I have Taqueria Mercado's salsas to thank for it. Since it opened, capsaicin and I have been getting serious about our relationship. While it wasn’t love at first taste, I found I couldn’t resist for long. We took it slow at first with the mildest salsa, then to the next hottest, and now have moved on to third base--copious amounts of the red-hot salsa.

I put it in an order of cheese dip. On my quesadilla. On my taco. On some nachos. Since Taqueria opened, I've been hoarding leftover salsa in the fridge because I simply don't want the experience to end.

Chori-queso ($4.50): cheese dip and chorizo.

The spicy salsa complements the dishes in a way I can’t exactly describe. You add it to your meal, so don't fear, most things from Taqueria are not spicy by default. Though they are not pictured, I can't quit the carnitas tacos--they are my favorite, with quesadillas running a close second.

small carnitas quesadilla ($2.50) and refritos

One of the few spicy by default: Camarones a la diabla ($10.99)

David likes to get the small steak burrito. Slowly we've been working our way through Taqueria's menu, and we've enjoyed everything we have ordered so far, with the exception of the tongue taco. That must be an acquired taste. I may be getting experimental with the salsa, but there are some things that I'm not quite willing to try…at least without a few margaritas first.

finish your meal with some tasty caramel flan ($3.50)

Taqueria Mercado 3 on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Rookwood:

I've got a competitive streak, but I really, really don't like contact sports.
My theory is that I took a soccer ball to the face one too many times in gradeschool P.E. I still shudder when I recall the horrific flag football quarter of '97.

I somehow managed to survive to 8th grade, mostly by learning to run really, really fast. At that point, I was also the volleyball player who crouched down in a panic, squeezing my eyes shut and covering my face to let the ball hit the floor around me instead of trying to bump it.

Which is probably why I always got a B or a C in P.E.. Duck and cover doesn’t really earn you a lot of points.

So when I heard about the BYOB (build your own burger) at the Rookwood in Mt. Adams, which includes a competition to build the best burger, I was all for it. No tackling, soccerballs or take-downs. Just you, your friends, and the burger menu. Construct your burger with care, and at the end of the night, the chef and staff choose their favorite and you get a free burger next time.

We arranged to go with 5chw4r7z and Ms.5chw4r7z. We loved the renovations to the Rookwood. The kilns have been converted to little mini rooms, which can be reserved for 6-9 people. We sat in the main dining area, but next time, we're getting one of the kilns. The place has a sort of steampunk-y feel which I liked. The entire restaurant is bathed in orange and red light, making photos a definite challenge.

The cocktail list is impressive and interesting. David chose a Com Tollins, with citrus vodka and juniper syrup ($8), and I chose a Cloud Nine cocktail ($9). 5chw4r7z opted for the Stone Pale, which was recommended by our server. Ms. 5chw4r7z went with a glass of white. The beer list isn't huge, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. 21st amendment, Dark Horse and Stone were all featured, as well as many other quality beers I'd have been happy to order.

cloud nine

Com Tollins

After much debate, we chose to get the chicken fried bacon to split as an appetizer. It was excellent, and served with a jalapeno honey that offset the saltiness of the bacon.

Appetizers and drink orders out of the way, we grasped our pencils, burger menus and prepared for competition. Bob chose to go the heart attack route, with bacon and fried baloney, as well as a fried egg. David chose goat cheeese, ranch dressing, mushroom, tomato and pickle. Ms. 5chw4r7z chose her toppings as well, among them white cheddar and fry sauce (a mixture of worcestershire, ketchup, sriracha and mayo).

I thought and thought about my burger, paralyzed by choice, circling and scribbling out toppings, and finally decided to go griddled, with a fried egg, chili, Velveeta and fry sauce. I labeled my burger "keepin' it classy" and sent it off to the kitchen.

When our burgers arrived, they were served on a plate with crispy fries. Except mine, which was a giant, chili covered burger monstrosity in a bowl. I happily started eating mine with a fork and knife. Everyone at the table abruptly stopped conversation as we dug into our burgers (after sufficient photography, of course).

I never thought that my burger would win. Though it was delicious, it wasn't pretty. It was sloppy and gloriously messy and it was by sheer luck I didn’t drop any chili in my lap. But, lo and behold, our server comes over to talk to us and lets me know that my combination had won best burger!

The chef came out to take my name for the free burger next time. I should have asked him why he picked it, but I didn’t. Maybe he respected the bold move that is ordering chili on a burger. Or, he like I can appreciate the virtues of Velveeta's melting powers.

We left the Rookwood planning our next visit--which is always a good sign. The burgers are of excellent quality and Wednesday night is a great value and a fun time. I thought the regular menu was also appealing, and the desserts --Brekenridge vanilla porter float with salty caramel ice cream? Wow-- were very tempting. Honestly, I think we all still felt guilty about the chicken fried bacon, so we skipped desserts this time for fear of keeling over in the parking lot.

The Rookwood Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jean Robert's Table:

We've been watching the evolution of Table for months now. Only recently in the past few weeks were the doors and shutters slightly opened so we could peer inside as we walked past.

the menu boards appeared to be jig-sawed by hand

Once the long awaited opening of Table was announced for dinner service, we made plans to check it out for dinner the second week it was open. We made our reservations (which are highly advised) and headed over to vine street. We even bought our camera--and our readers, by extension--a present.

house sparkling water

I'd never visited Buddakan, or for that matter, the longhorn steakhouse that the restaurant apparently originally was, so I can't say how much it has changed. The feel is classy, yet casual, with higher ceilings, some exposed duct work, and pretty chandeliers. There's not a lot of clutter around, so it feels very open in the restaurant, despite it being crowded that evening. Different dining spaces are on different levels, which I thought was a nice use of the space.
The bar is to your right as you walk in. It was very busy, with lots of patrons sipping wine. There is a rose and a white on the menu that are both $5 a glass---a pretty good deal.

We saw Jean Robert wandering around talking to tables, but we didn't get the chance to talk to him. The kitchen is in the back of the restaurant, open enough to see chefs and staff moving around inside.

By the bar, separated by a half-wall and raised a few feet, are a few tables, which is where we were seated. To our left, a lowered section of the restaurant has the communal tables--where couples and groups can be seated together. I'm not sure how I feel about that--I saw one uncomfortable looking couple on what I presume was a date, trying to have a conversation while the solitary stranger next to them chowed down on a burger. Awwwkward.

Farthest to the left is the highest area of the restaurant, with additional tables bordered by windows.

Now that I've described the restaurant sufficiently, I'll get down to it and talk about the food. And the drinks. The beer list was a pleasant surprise. LaChouffe, Southern Tier Unearthly IPA, Hudy Delight, and some Unibroue stood out to us. My friend Janelle and I both ordered the French chateau burger, ($13) served on brioche with a little french flag stuck in the top accompanied by fries, and cooked to medium.

David chose to be more adventurous. He ordered one of the specials of the night, the heirloom tomato salad, as well as the surf and turf tartar ($10) (half tuna and half steak, topped with radish and cucumber and garnished with a smear of pureed avocado) and the sweetbreads.
As we waited for our orders, we were served the house bread--crunchy on the outside and hot and chewy on the inside.

As for the burger, it was a very good burger, and I think that anyone ordering it would be pleased. The sauce that came with the fries was excellent, a little tangy and sweet. The burger was served with tomato, lettuce and a mayonnaise sauce. The patty itself is more of a meatloaf (if you have ever had Mayberry's burger, you know what I mean) I could see bits of bacon, as well as some carrot and other vegetables mixed in. I liked the bacon addition particularly. It was just enough, and not too much.

David devoured his tomato salad, as well as the tartare. The sweetbreads were served atop a bleu cheese and mushroom quiche, which was excellent. The port sauce the sweetbreads were served with was, as David put it, “straight up concentrated deliciousness”. As for the quality of the sweetbreads themselves, David found that they were slightly overcooked, which was unexpected.

surf and turf tartar


We decided to go for dessert, and ordered the crème brulee ($7). Apparently it has lavender in it, however, I mostly picked up on a nice cinnamon flavor. I was very happy with our dessert choice. I took half of my burger home, and I thought it was nice that the server kept my little flag from my burger in the box.

We'd definitely return to Table, maybe after the hype dies down a little. The service was pleasant, and the food was well prepared, but the our table was a little noisy, being right next to the bustling bar.

Jean-Robert's Table on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flipdaddy's Burgers and Beers:

We rarely make it out this far on Wooster pike, but we made a special trip to check out Flipdaddy's.

Burgers? Craft beers? Can't go wrong with those two.

Flipdaddy's has a a wide, nicely varied selection of beers on tap, and the specials they rotate are featured at a great price--$2.00. When we went, the specials were Stone's levitation and Founder's Red's Rye, both respectable and quality choices. They also have this handy list detailing the beers type, hop level, and price.

light lager, 0 hops. sounds about right.

They have a lot of burgers. There's also the build your own burger option, which is appealing. Salads and wraps are also available. David chose to get the mushroom burger, named "monster mush"--a portabello mushroom topped with with even more sauteed mushrooms and cheese. $9.00. David said it was good, but $9 seemed a little overpriced for what it was. The other burgers featured are all between $8-9, which I thought was fair.

I chose to get the "Chuck Norris" burger, also $9--named, I guess, because it's supposed to kick your hiney. Pickled jalepeno, pepper jack, chipotle mayo and spicy seasoning.

We had heard that the burgers at Flipdaddy's were usually one level more "done" than what you asked for. I was fully prepared to use that advice, however, I was not asked how I liked my burger--and on our receipt, both my burger and David's non burger are marked as "well done".

Our guess is that Flipdaddy's is playing it safe, and if you do not specify a done-ness, they won't ask. You are going to end up with a well done burger whether you like it or not if you don't speak up. That said, despite the fact my burger came out well done, it was still very juicy. And messy. The pickled jalapenos made it a very difficult to eat the burger without getting juice all over the table and my lap. I only had one teeny, skimpy napkin, which made it more of a challenge. My burger was quite large, so I ate half and took half home.

The sweet potato fries were excellent and super crunchy. The staff was friendly, and there is trivia on Wednesday nights. Overall, we'd go back to Flipdaddy's if we were out that way…unfortunately it means driving right past the Dilly Deli Café, which is difficult for us to do.

Flipdaddy's Burgers and Beer on Urbanspoon