Savory Saturday

Palmetto Olive Oil Co. and Bacon Brothers Public House have lingered on my list of places to check out. Thanks to some free time, a gift certificate, and indecision, we were able cross them both off the list on Saturday.

We started our day at Palmetto Olive Oil Co. on Augusta Street. The shop specializes in fresh olive oils and high-quality balsamic vinegar varieties. Upon entering the shop, one of the nice ladies who works there asked if we would like to sample. We said yes and were given a bowl of bread chunks and some general guidelines.

At first, we sampled the oils. The store stocks oils from both hemispheres depending on which area is harvesting. The oil we tasted was pressed from olives in November and December. Since this oil is very fresh, it contains antioxidants and other health benefits not found in grocery store oils. The flavor is also very different. The more robust oils take on the flavor on what grows around the olive trees. This can lead to a very fresh almost grassy flavor. I have to admit, this was not my favorite.

We moved into the flavored oil section. I found many things to like here. A few of my favorites were the spicy chipotle, a rich butter-flavored oil which would be great if you wanted to reap the health benefits of replacing butter with olive oil,  a delightful Herbes de Provence, and zesty blood orange. We wound up bringing home the blood orange olive oil. While I look forward to using it for entrees, I’m also interested in the idea of infusing brownies with a hint of orange by using this oil.

After sampling the oils, we moved to the white balsamics. A few of the highlights here were the fresh peach, Sicilian lemon, pineapple, and the original unflavored white balsamic.

We moved the the back of the store and exchanged our bread for a scoop of vanilla ice cream to use with the dark balsamic vinegar selections. Mr. McB loved the Tahitian vanilla and black cherry. We brought home bottles of both. I was a big fan of the maple, champagne, lavender, and raspberry. I selected a small bottle of maple and am looking forward to pairing that with the blood orange oil for what could be a delicious salad dressing.

After leaving the store, we decided to travel toward home and have lunch at Bacon Brothers Public House. This small farm-to-table establishment is located in a strip mall on Pelham Road. If Farmer Brown was a hipster, his house would look like the inside of Bacon Brothers. Functionally, there is a smoker behind the restaurant and a chamber inside the restaurant where their homemade meats and sausages are cured. Take the name as a clue, Bacon Brothers is not for vegetarians.

We both ordered the burger which is made from ground chuck, brisket, and bacon. Mr. McB had the traditional two-patty version and added a fried egg. I went with one patty and added a side of onion rings.

bacon brothers public houseLook at the size of that egg hanging off the side of the burger. After one bite, he had a pool of rich, egg yolk all over the plate. The burger became a fork-and-knife food at that moment. He doesn’t normally like messy foods but the unique flavor of this burger made it worthwhile.

photo 2Before I get to my review of the burger, let’s start with the onion rings. They weren’t the crispiest rings I’ve ever had but, they were far from soggy. They were fresh and featured a very light beer batter. The sweet onion was really allowed to standout instead of being overpowered by a mound of coating.

photo 4As you can see from this photo, the single burger is pretty substantial. The flavor is very different from a normal burger. Here you are getting the sinful smokiness of the bacon and brisket. It’s like a barbecued burger minus sauce. The leaf lettuce, American cheese, pickle, and special sauce all complimented the flavor very well. They balanced without muting. As a bread-lover, I have to take a minute to wax poetically about these delicious house-made buns. They are fluffy but still substantial enough to handle this burger.

We look forward to returning to both establishments and enjoying more of what they have to offer.

Advertisements

Paisano’s Italian Pizzeria and Restaurant

Last Friday night we were in the mood to try something new so I used Google map’s “nearby” feature to find restaurants close to us.

From this search we stumbled onto Paisano’s Italian Pizzeria and Restaurant, at the intersection of Rte 14 and Pelham Road in Greer. For all my adventurous eating, I am not a fan of “red sauce” Italian but this place had a full range of Italian items and a lot of Greek cuisine choices too. We began scanning the extensive menu and were in the car just as our mouths started to water and our bellies began rumbling.

Paisano’s is located in a strip mall. Mr. McB described the location as a culinary UN as there are Korean and Japanese groceries, a Thai restaurant, a BBQ joint, a deli, and this Italian-and-Greek establishment.

The restaurant itself will not win any design awards and the lighting is a little dim but it’s got a comfortable, family feel. While I appreciate good restaurant design and decor, it’s not a must for me. I have been in far too many fancy restaurants with substandard food. I go to art museums for my eyes and restaurants for my belly.

We were seated quickly and began another scan of the menu. I had already decided to go Greek and picked the moussaka. McB decided on the tortellini with chicken.

Both of our meals came with a salad. We both selected the house (Greek) dressing. It was quite good and tangy. The salads were fresh and while they weren’t huge, they were a good start for the meal.

M’s pasta came out on what can only be described as a platter. He had a mountain of tri-colored tortellini and grilled chicken. The dish was served with an alfredo sauce and garlic bread. He was a big fan of the pasta and sauce. He said the chicken was nothing special and actually took away from the enjoyment of the pasta. He couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong with the chicken but it just didn’t measure up to the pasta. He’ll definitely order the tortellini again but won’t ask for the chicken to be added in the future.

I was a little apprehensive about the moussaka. I love Greek food and this is one of those areas where my travels work against me. I have consumed some of the most delicious food of my life in Greece and am often disappointed by what passes as Greek food here in the US. One bite of this moussaka but a big smile on my face. The beef was perfectly seasoned. The eggplant was not mushy or bitter. This was a big hit. My meal came with a side of pita (freshly made) with yogurt dip and Greek potatoes. I enjoyed the pita but found the yogurt dip to be too thick and a bit bland. The Greek potatoes were a little too lemony for my taste. The sides made the meal a great bargain but with the salad it was just too much food for me to handle. This is especially true since we were guided by our hunger and made an ill-advised choice to order the cheese stick appetizer.  The cheese sticks were good and they came with a wonderful homemade marinara but they were just unnecessary given the size of our entrees.

We are both looking forward to a return trip to Paisano’s and are so glad to have this gem in our area. It’s not often that the ubiquitous Italian/Greek combo restaurant does justice to both cuisines.  The service is wonderful and the prices are very reasonable. I highly recommend stopping in the next time you’ve got a rumble in your belly and no particular place to go.

Grill Marks

During our last trip to downtown Greenville, Mr. McB and I had lunch at Grill Marks, 209 S. Main Street.

Since Grill Marks is part of the Larkin’s family, we went in with high expectations.

interior_gmWe were promptly greeted by the hostess and seated at one of the tall tables near the bar. The restaurant is smaller than I expected and the layout is a little disjointed. Things seemed cramped and this was  exacerbated by the fact that one of the sections was closing and everyone had to be seated in either the main dining area or the tall tables near the bar.

The decor was also confusing to me. This is a grill, albeit modern and upscale, and a large part of the beverage menu is focused on the milkshakes and floats, including the spiked versions of these classic treats. Yet there are empty wine crates displayed on a loft above the bar. There is also a big focus on wine in the decor at the bar. It wasn’t very cohesive.

milkshake_gmEnough about the decor and seating, let’s get to our meal. Mr. McB had the Madagascar vanilla version of the $5 shake. Five bucks is a bargain for the high quality milkshake you’ll get from Grill Marks. First, it is served the way it should be with patrons receiving the main portion in a frosted glass and the remainder in the metal mixing cup. Second, this shake is made with premium ingredients. It reminded me that vanilla is indeed a flavor and not just a synonym for “plain.” McB was very happy with his milkshake. I will definitely indulge in a shake of my own (salted caramel? chocolate chili bacon?) during our next visit.

We both decided to get a burger and split an order of “fat” fries.

The fries are nothing special. They were not piping hot or crispy. I believe the restaurant puts most of its effort into the truffle fries and the other options (skinny, fat, and sweet potato) are not given as much care. I would probably order a side salad instead of fries on my next visit.

gm_angelaburgerIn this picture you see my burger, the left coast, and our basket of fries. The menu says that burgers will be cooked to medium unless otherwise specified. I ordered the burger medium and found it to be quite undercooked. The center was bright pink, barely warm, and had a consistency of raw meat. I sent the burger back and was quickly greeted with a fresh replacement. This one might have been a bit closer to medium-well but that was just fine with me. The manager said that they would rather undercook than overcook the meat but he agreed that my original burger was not medium. Keep this in mind when deciding how your burger should be prepared. I really enjoyed my second burger. The cheddar, avocado, and bacon added a nice element to this juicy burger.

gm_cheeseburger2Mr. McB ordered his burger well-done and it was served that way. More importantly, it was juicy. It’s almost impossible to get a juicy, well-done burger; he was very satisfied. He was also happy with the brioche bun.

Other than the fries, we enjoyed our meal and would recommend Grill Marks to others.

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.