Various vittles

I haven’t blogged in a while and haven’t created a restaurant review in months. I am making up for lost time with several mini reviews in a series of posts. This will focus on eateries located near Corvallis.

Breakfast

In both Columbus and Greenville we had a hard time selecting a breakfast location, but for completely different reasons. In Columbus, there were too many delicious choices and in Greenville, there were too few. With a dearth of tasty breakfast restaurants, I became quite skilled at making breakfast and while my abilities grew, so did my standards.

breakfast, yogurt, egg, fruitThis is the rushed weekday breakfast at our house. Any restaurant has to beat this, and offer excellent service, to get my breakfast business.

Corvallis has both an Elmer’s and Shari’s. These are comparable to Bob Evan’s or Cracker Barrel, well maybe not quite CB. They offer a number of options ranging from indulgent to reasonably healthy. Both can have long lines on the weekends but this is to be expected, especially in the fall.

Darrell’s used to be an option for breakfast, though we only ever took advantage of breakfast- all-day and ate there in the evening. I had cheese blintz with strawberries and home fries the last time I ate there. The food memories cause my mouth to water but alas, this is no longer an option.

Tommy’s 4th Street Bar & Grill is another local diner with a big breakfast menu.  Once again, we have only eaten there in the evening. I had the crunchy strawberry French toast. The portion was more than generous; the taste was quite satisfying though the berries weren’t fresh. Here are some photos from a visit in December when I ordered a patty melt with onion rings (delicious despite the grease) and M had a massive omelette.

tommy's patty melt corvallis, or tommy's breakfast

Tommy’s allows you to select a pancake as a “side” for your breakfast. M doesn’t like potatoes so this is a fine option for him.

Finally, Philomath brings us donuts from NutCakes. These things might as well be called “crack-cakes” since there must be an illegal substance in the batter; it is the only thing that explains the amazing flavor. I have enjoyed the maple bacon donut, a must for any good donut shop in Oregon, and the buttermilk bar. Both are delicious. The bear claw was the only disappointment since I wasn’t expecting to find chopped up apples inside.

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There are some good options here but we still eat breakfast at home most of the time. It’s a comfortable part of our routine.

Lunch and dinner

IMG_1007While it isn’t perfect, we have made Cibelli’s our go-to pizza parlor. Their flavorful pies are made with quality ingredients. This is some of the best pizza I’ve had in Oregon but it wouldn’t touch some of the good New York style shops in Greenville. The staff is friendly and the pickup estimates are always accurate. On one visit, they accidentally made a 24″ pizza for us instead of the 14″ we ordered. I took home a monstrous pizza (would only fit in the trunk) for the price of a much smaller pie.

There are a number of brewpubs and casual dining spots in Corvallis. I was not impressed with Flat Tail Brewing, the flavors and variety weren’t there. Squirrel’s Tavern is a decent option. The tots are delicious. After an undercooked burger, I will stick with the salad. Brew BBQ is really very good. If a Southerner tells you that your BBQ joint is good, that’s a big compliment. Downward Dog has phenomenal chicken fingers with an espresso stout BBQ sauce. At $4, this healthy appetizer is a steal. The chicken is so juicy and the light smoky flavor is a great balance for the tangy sauce.

Until a few weeks ago, I was a huge fan of Sky High Brewing. The oyster po’boy was my tried-and-true selection. I finally took Mr. McB a few weeks ago and found that the oysters had a strong, unpleasant flavor; I only ate about half of my sandwich because it was so noticeable. The tots arrived lukewarm which was another big disappointment. The Mister picked pizza. At first, he really liked it but as he ate a bit more, the story changed. I took a bite and immediately tasted cinnamon, making the whole pizza taste like Skyline Chili. Thanks, but no thanks.

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Two spots we really liked were Fireworks in Corvallis and The Woodsman in Philomath.
Fireworks showcases their wood fired oven with their sizable menu. Mr. McB ordered pizza. The crust was light and crispy with a zesty sauce and generous supply of peps and cheese. I had the Polynesian pulled pork. I love tangy food and this sandwich didn’t let me down. The handout fries are also made in the wood-fired oven. It’s a small place and the meals do take time so pack your patience.

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Woodsman in Philomath OregonThe Woodsman might not look like much on the outside but it is a stellar Thai restaurant. The massive portions are piled with fresh ingredients. I enjoy the pad Thai and also find the stir-fry dishes to be very flavorful. You can easily eat your fill at the restaurant and still bring home enough for a couple of lunches.

Before wrapping this up, let me cover two restaurants on Monroe near OSU. University Calzone, my tastebuds would visit weekly but my waistline won’t let me.

university calzone

Bombs Away Cafe, you gave me chips from the bottom of a bag and lukewarm queso. Your food was either bland or unappealing. For me, you are a one-and-done restaurant.

Bombs away cafe

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Mojo’s Famous Burgers & More

When McB and I decided to try a new restaurant, we headed over to Mojo’s Famous Burgers & More, 2541 N. Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville. There’s a good buzz about Mojo’s and after reviewing the menu, I was eager to try one of their very unique burgers.

Mojo's Famous Burgers & MoreThe food is made-to-order. There are free peanuts for hungry dine-in patrons to enjoy while they wait. McB selected the “chubby cheeseburger” with bacon and an order of fries. I had the “Texan” with onion rings. As you can see from the photo, the portions are quite large. Neither of us came close to finishing our meal but then, I didn’t really want to.

The Texan Let’s start with my burger which came with jalapenos, cream cheese, avocado, and salsa. I know it seems like a bit of an odd combination but it’s also the kind of thing that could work if the ingredients were combined in the right measure. It’s not the case with the Texan. There is a thick slab of cold cream cheese stuck on the top of this burger. It’s roughly half the thickness of the burger patty itself. I think the cream cheese is meant to add a tangy flavor and balance the heat of the jalapenos. What it succeeded in doing was adding a cold gelatinous mass to the burger. The bun was so puny that it couldn’t begin to stand up to the heavy-duty ingredients. It was a messy, greasy sandwich that cooled down far too quickly. The onion rings were large and fresh but they were fried a bit too hard. The onion on the inside of the breading was hardly recognizable as an onion. It became a tough, transparent circle of nothingness.

Chubby cheeseburger with baconMcB’s burger was really thick. Even before he took a bite, he regretted getting the double patties. His bun also disintegrated. He did not think the bacon’s sweet, hickory flavor tasted right when combined with the oddly spiced burger meat. He also found the fries to be under-salted and just a bit lackluster.

Despite how others feel about the place, we found it to be bad Mojo indeed.

Wild Ace

Last Saturday I was craving wings in the worst way. McB wanted pizza or maybe boneless wings. Given the foul weather, we decided to skip a trip downtown Greenville and instead set our sights on downtown Greer and The Wild Ace (109 Trade Street, Greer) as our destination for wings and pizza.

We arrived at The Wild Ace just after 2:15 p.m. The place was fairly crowded but not overwhelmingly so as there were still a number of empty tables.

The hostess stopped by our table to get our drink orders. After a short wait, our waiter brought the drinks and said that he would return to take our order as he had food waiting to come out to another table. We were both ready to order when he walked away but I was under the impression that he would be right back so I chatted with my husband and waited.

It turned out that I WAITED AND WAITED. After delivering food to the table in question and taking orders from patrons who had just walked in, our waiter stopped to help another staffer bus a table. That table wasn’t needed immediately or during the next hour that we were in the restaurant. At this point I started to fume. We were left sitting for at least 10 minutes at this point. If the decision were mine, we would have paid for our sodas and hit the road. McB reminded me that we weren’t in a hurry. In a compromise, we agreed until 2:45 and then cash out if the waiter had not returned. He made a few other stops and finally came back with about five minutes to spare.

The waiter did apologize for our wait and took our order. At this time I ordered wings and McB got a caesar salad and a 14″ pizza for us to split. He said “for us to split” when placing the order. McB’s salad came out (the croutons were quite good but the dressing came on the side and was so thick that he had to dip his lettuce into it) but my wings didn’t appear. The wings finally came about 25 minutes later when the pizza arrived with a single plate for McB. I had to ask for another plate.

The wings were reasonably good. It was a hot sauce, and I like heat, but it was also had a little of the hot-to-be-hot flavor that I’m not as fond of. I had a slice of the pizza and thought it was also tasty thought not any better than Mythos. McB agreed that the pie was good but not worth the hassle. At one point he was torn about whether to hope for good or bad pizza since he knew that no matter the flavor, there was little chance we’d be back again.

I do have to say that while he failed us in many ways, our waiter did do a good job of refilling our drinks. There is something to be said for that.

I don’t think we’ll be going back to The Wild Ace Pizza & Pub. I don’t mind a relaxed atmosphere but it shouldn’t involve this kind of service.

Lil Rebel 290

I passed the Lil Rebel 290 last December as I was making my way down route 290 to catch up to 25 and then on to Tennessee. It’s a nice looking building from the outside and on the day I passed, the parking lot was pretty full. I love small, local restaurants and immediately made a note to Google it at some point.

McB and I first tried the Lil Rebel (2608 Locust Hill Rd, Taylors) the day after Christmas. On that visit we both ordered burgers and were quite impressed by the portion size, speed of service, and friendliness of the waitstaff.

Lil Rebel has a large menu with lots of choices but I’m not sure I’ll ever fully appreciate them all because I’ve fallen for their Calabash chicken dinner. It’s unlike me to order the same entree but during our last two visits, it’s been the Calabash chicken. The only change up has been whether I order all fries or a fry-onion ring split. Again, this is not like me but look at this plate.

Calabash chicken - little rebelThe succulent chicken breast planks are surrounded by a light breading that is perfectly seasoned to provide just the right kick for the palate. I used very little dipping sauce because frankly, it wasn’t needed. The fries are hot, fresh, and plentiful.

regular chicken fingersOn this particular visit, McB ordered the regular chicken fingers. He liked the fingers but was eying my Calabash. He loves the fries at the Lil Rebel. He likes very few fries so I’m glad that these can help fill the void left by our departure from a Raising Cane’s city. On this visit, McB also tried the house BBQ sauce. It is a slightly watery sauce made with Greek sauces. I found it to be curiously delicious. McB liked it but regretted not choosing the more traditional hickory sauce.

The portions are large and the prices are low. The quality of the food can’t be beat. It’s not a gourmet meal but it’s good homey cooking. There are healthy items on the menu; I’m just too stuck on the Calabash to get to any of those. I’ve also been unable to order one of their many dessert options. It’s not that I don’t want to but we generally leave stuffed to the gills with a doggy bag in hand.

The staff is so nice and friendly. They are always willing to make recommendations. I also like that you typically don’t have to ask for a “to-go” cup and our instead are asked whether you want one or not. I think local restauranteurs just have a better understanding of the role good service plays in customer loyalty. It definitely shows at the Lil Rebel.

Oh and for the parting shot, our “clean” plates from this visit. You can see the corner of the box housing our leftover chicken planks. It’s important to note that this meal occurred after 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday when I didn’t prepare breakfast. We were famished and STILL couldn’t finish all the food.

Lil Rebel 290 is a great little local gem. I can’t wait to take visitors there.

Operation Biscuit – Week Two

For anyone who might be new to the blog, I’m trying in vain to find a biscuit recipe that my husband likes. He thinks biscuits are hot, bread-flavored hockey pucks and I’m determined to find the magic recipe that will change his mind.

As I mentioned in the first OPERATION BISCUIT post, McB prefers canned cinnamon rolls to homemade ones or even Cinnabon-made ones. I feared that the same might be true for biscuits so before going any further with homemade recipes, I decided to take a step back and buy canned biscuits.

canned biscuit

For my testing purposes, we had the Great Value version of butter-flavored, flaky Grands.

McB found them to be “bready.” I don’t really understand this critique. As I asked him, it is bread, so is that good or bad? Beefy cheeseburgers are good but I have come to understand that a bready biscuit is not.

I thought the canned biscuit was OK but as the day progressed, it began to sit like a little lead ball in my stomach.

I don’t think we’ll repeat this again.

 

Yes, he picked Indian food. No, he doesn’t have a fever.

Mr. McB is known for being a picky eater who doesn’t generally like to try things outside his comfort zone. This reputation is not entirely fair. He is pretty conservative in his choices but he has also become increasingly adventurous in recent years. That’s why I am so pleased that an office outing took him to Saffron Indian Cuisine; I know he would have never selected it on his own, but he gave into peer pressure and came to learn that he really did enjoy it.

After his visit, McB decided that he had to treat me to the lunch buffet. I enjoy Indian food and am always eager to try new things so I was pretty excited for our visit a few weeks ago. The restaurant, located at 1178 Woodruff Road in Greenville, is part of a small strip mall. While the exterior of the building might seem a bit bland, the inside is bright and welcoming. Inside you’ll find a relatively spacious dining area with Indian art and ample seating.

The buffet ($7.95 during the week, $9.95 on weekends) isn’t particularly massive but it still manages to feature a nice variety of choices in both vegetarian and chicken entrees as well as some salads and other specialties. Patrons pick up their own plates from the warming station and no one seemed to be bashful about making multiple trips to visit the buffet.

my plate from saffronMcB limited himself to chicken korma, naan, and basmati rice. I tried a small helping of almost every dish that was on the buffet including a lentil curry, lemon tofu, panir makhni and tandori chicken. I can’t complain about any of the dishes that I tried. They were flavorful and well cooked. I didn’t make a pig of myself but I did feel satisfied for the rest of the day.

My only disappointment was that the samosa tray was empty when we arrived and was not refilled until just before we left. I could have helped myself but I was far too full by then. Thankfully, they were very diligent about replenishing the naan. I suspect Saffron goes through at least 100 pounds of naan daily. It was very popular with everyone who visited the buffet.

Whether you love Indian food or want to try it for the first time, I highly recommend Saffron. The very affordable buffet provides a nice mix of spicy and mild dishes that can please any palate. The staff is nice and helpful and the restaurant is clean and bright.

If you don’t take my word for it, you might be interested to learn that Saffron is also Greenville’s highest rated restaurant on Trip Advisor. It just goes to show that no matter the cuisine, good food is bound to be noticed and respected.

 

 

Cauliflower pizza crust

I try to prepare healthy meals. McB and I both exercise and eating a good diet is part of the equation for good health. The healthy meals also make us feel a tiny bit less guilty when we indulge at The Chocolate Moose.

I ran across this recipe for pizza with a cauliflower crust and decided to give it a go. McB is picky and doesn’t like cauliflower so I knew it was a gamble. It’s not his favorite pizza, I knew it wouldn’t be. As a Brooklynite he is pretty particular about which pies can even be called a pizza, so I knew this would not be a love story. It’s a “like” story with lots of veggies so I call it a victory.

You can view the original recipe at Eat. Drink. Smile. My version with little tweaks and notes is below.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the crust. You are on your own for the toppings.
– one head of cauliflower (You’ll need 1 cup of cooked, riced cauliflower for the final product. You should be able to get at least two crusts from a single head.)
– various dried Italian herbs (My mix consisted of 3 tbs basil, 1 tbs oregano, 1 tbs McCormick Italian blend from the grinder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp reduced fat Parmesan cheese, and a dash of black pepper. You might not need as much seasoning. I was trying to erase all traces of a cauliflower flavor.)
– one egg (beaten) or 1/4 cup of egg substitute/egg whites
– one cup reduced-fat, shredded, Italian cheese blend

Begin by removing the leaves from your cauliflower. Wash it and allow it to dry before breaking it apart.

Remove the stem pieces and keep the florets. It is best to go ahead and break up the cauliflower into small pieces at this stage. For me, ricing is easier if you are already working with smaller bits.

I used my Bullet (OK, the faux Black & Decker version) to rice the cauliflower. You want to mince it down to the consistency of rice (thus ricing) and you want to avoid pureeing. Since I am using a small device, I riced in four small batches. I ended up with 1.5 cups of uncooked, riced cauliflower. It loses some volume as it cooks so you’ll want to have more than one cup raw. I added half my seasoning to the cauliflower at this point. I wanted it to meld with the flavoring as soon as possible.

Riced cauliflowerThis is my very lovely riced cauliflower and seasoning.

At this point, you need to cook the cauliflower. The original recipe calls for microwaving the cauliflower for eight minutes. I took advice from one of the commenters and nuked the cauliflower for 90 seconds at a time, stirring in between each time.

When the cauliflower was done, I let it cool a bit before adding in the rest of the dry seasoning, the egg, and cup of shredded cheese.

cauliflower crust uncookedAfter everything was combined, I poured the mixture onto a sheet of parchment and made a circle. I decided a thin crust would crisp better.

The crust baked at 450 for 12 minutes. I then added my toppings – chicken breast with BBQ sauce and spinach. This was already cooked and warmed in the microwave. I then topped with cheese.

I baked the pizza for another five minutes at 450 and then when the cheese wasn’t browning, I decided to use the broiler. There was a broiler mishap (first use for the new oven’s broiler) so I had to scrape off all the cheese and put the pizza back in for five minutes. This time I used a cheddar/moz mix and had much better results.

Here’s our finished pizza.pizza done You can clearly see that the broiler mishap left a mark on the parchment. The edge of the dough looks black but it really isn’t burnt.

I put too much saucy topping on the pizza. I was able to pick it up (at least in parts) but it was just too heavy flavorwise.

I performed a correction-of-errors and removed the toppings from McB’s second piece. He saw it later the same night recycled as his snack. There is no sauce on this piece other than a bit of residual BBQ.

We’ll see this on the menu again. I have ideas for tweaks. I might try fresh basil and some crushed red pepper to season the cauliflower mixture.

For McB’s benefit, I promise this will never replace our every-other-Friday pizza.