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22 July 2008

Ciao Osteria - A Fine Downtown Apex Restaurant

BOTTOM LINE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE:  Yes, we'll go back!!

My wife and I went to Ciao Osteria, the 4th restaurant to grace the downtown slot at 121 North Salem Street.  We arrived Friday evening around 6:30 to a mostly empty lower level.  I think a fairly large private party had recently arrived and was seated upstairs, but I didn't come to this conclusion until a bit later.

We were seated near the front window, our our server promptly took our drink and appetizer order, and brought out some tasty bread for us to munch on while we waited.  Our appetizer came out relatively quickly - we ordered a palte of Zucchini Fritti.  Though it was only my wife and myself this time, the appetizer was definately suitable for 4 people, and well priced.  The bread was also quite tasty.

The lower level started to fill up, and I noticed the others who arrived at the same time as us were also waiting for their food.  The waitress apologized for the wait (we did not complain), as it turned out the large party upstairs had put their order in a few minutes before us.  I didn't mind.

When the food did finally come out, it was excellent.  I ordered the crab cakes, which came with a piece of asparagus and was covered in two kinds of creme sauce and a black bean puree.  The crab cakes were very good.  Not quite up to The Channel Marker standards, but very good.   Adrienne ordered a seafood special, which consisted of perch and jumbo shrimp over a bed of risotto (I think).  The dish was also supposed to include clams and mussels, which Adrienne forgot about until near the end of the meal.  She asked the waitress, who double checked with the Chef, who had apparently forgotten to put those items on the dish.  The waitress was very apologetic, and the manager comped the dish for us.

We got desert for carryout - the Macademia White Chocolate ice cream and a slice of Belgian Dark Chocolate cheesecake.

Overall, the food was excellent, and I was very happy with the service our waitress provided.  We will absolutely return to Ciao Osteria

Posted by rickroot at 5:44 PM | Link | 1 comment
09 May 2007

Coney Island Comes to MY House!

I was talking on a message board today about how I'd like to go into the restaurant business, and if I did, I'd open a real Detroit style Coney Island, preferably one just like Uptown Coney Island on Jackson Road in Ann Arbor.  Good cheap food, and the best hot dogs ever.  Coney dogs, to be specific.

Michigan's most popular hot dog restaurants all contain the words "Coney Island" in the name.  The hot dogs are always natural casing beef hot dogs, with a certain kind of chili sauce.  Nobody owns the "rights" to Coney Island restaurants.  Most of them are individually owned, though I did find one company that franchises.   Ann Arbor has 7 or 8 Coney Island restaurants, and they all have different names.

Anyway, the best coney dogs are made with Koegel brand hot dogs from the Koegel Meat Company in Flint, Michigan.  A few years back I tried to find a place where I could buy them online but was unable to find anyplace.

But NO MORE! A place called Bud's Mail Shop sells them in partnership with the Koegel Meat Company.  Just head over to www.koegelmeats.com and order.  It's not inexpensive though.  I ordered 3 3 pound packages (24 dogs each, 72 total) and a 4 pound package of classic Flint coney sauce, and the total cost was $89.99 - which included shipping.

But I'm ready to have a serious cookout!

You want mustard and onions on that, don't you?  You know you do.

Posted by rickroot at 1:57 PM | Link | 1 comment
29 April 2007

Brian Vander Ark Meets the Best Ribs in Raleigh

This isn't really a restaurant review.  But Karen and I went to a place in Raleigh tonight called Hideaway BBQ to see one of my favorite musicians perform - Brian Vander Ark (myspace). 

But since I did have some food, and I was very impressed, I'll talk about it first.  I actually already haddinner this evening - cajun baked tilapia, steamed brocolli and a small serving of leftover macronia salad - so I wasn't real hungry.  But this was a cool looking restaurant that specializes in all things barbequed, and since I'm a lover of ribs, I couldn't resist.

Since I'm low-carbing, and I didn't want to totally blow it, I did manage to avoid the basket of fresh hushpuppies placed on our table shortly after we sat down.  I probably would've eaten all of them.  Anyway, I ordered an appetizer plate of ribs, and that was it.  Well, that and a couple shots of Patron Tequila).  The ribs were awesome - easily the best I've had around here!  I had some of Karen's cole slaw too, it was pretty good.  I look forward to eating at Hideaway BBQ sometime, although it's up on the north side of Raleigh off Capital, a good half hour drive, and we don't get up there much.

Now, onto the show.

As I said, Brian Vander Ark was performing, along with his musical friend Randy Sly on the digital piano.  His lovely wife Lux and his 20 month old daughter were there too, mostly hanging out in the Airstream parked outside.

The crowd was small, but the sound was fantastic.  I mean REALLY good.   Brian played a bunch of songs from his two studio albums, and at my request he played "Out Like A Lamb" from Pop Smear (The Verve Pipe's second album).  He also played "Whiter Shade of Pale" and Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road", which I personally think Brian sings better, but then I've never been a big Springsteen fan.  Thunder Road is a great song though.  He also played "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", and the original lyrical version of "Local Boys Done Good" from Underneath.  I can see why the record label made him change the lyrics, although when I asked him why they bothered to ask him to change the lyrics when they (the label) had no intention of marketing the album...well, Brian said "Good Question!"

Really enjoyed the show as always, and we might go see him Saturday (May 5) at The Laundro-Lounge in historic downtown Wilmington.  (Those of you who aren't familiar with the area, I think we're required by law to use the word "historic" whenever referring to downtown Wilm... er.. historic Downtown WIlmington)

Posted by rickroot at 9:29 PM | Link | 0 comments
05 April 2007

Tax Day = Free Ice Cream Day

Ben & Jerry's ice cream shops are doing their part to make tax day a little less stressful.

On Tuesday April 17th from 12pm until 8pm participating Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops around the world will be hosting Ben & Jerry’s Annual Free Cone Day.
Posted by rickroot at 2:34 PM | Link | 0 comments
20 January 2007

My first experiment with Thai food

I've never had "thai food" before, but when I go to the Capital City Chophouse, I always get the calimari, which is lightly breaded and tossed in what they called a "thai chili sauce".  I figured shrimp would probably be good that way, so I decided to try it.

A little googling found a Thai Shrimp recipe on the Food Network web site, which I modified slightly to server over a bed of spinach lettuce instead of rice noodles, and I used splenda instead of sugar.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup sugar (or Splenda)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp red curry paste
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

Combine lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce, and curry in a medium sized skillet and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Add shrimp, and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook 3-4 minutes, until shrimp is tender.

Now, if you pour the mixture over pasta or rice, you're going to get the "full calorie" value of the lime juice - which really isn't much, but it's pretty much all of the carbs in the recipe (about 20).  In our case, We just took the shrimp and put it on a a spinach salad, with enough sauce to flavor the spinach leaves.

Oh, I also accidentally bought cooked shrimp.  Oops!  It still tasted pretty good, but I only cooked it for about a minute before turning the heat off and letting the shrimp just soak up some of the sauce before using it.

At any rate, the flavor was fantastic.  It wasn't quite what I expected, but it still turned out really good.

Posted by rickroot at 6:49 AM | Link | 4 comments
15 January 2007

Two Buck Chuck - Not Terrible

A few years ago, my doctor told me I needed to get my cholesterol down.  Well, I haven't done a whole lot in that direction over the course of two years.  Since I'm currently in the diet and exercise mode, I decided to try some "alternative treatment".

Red wine.

You see, I'm not much of a wine drinker.  Okay, I'm *NOT* a wine drinker.  I haven't drank more than a few sips of wine since my days in college at Western Michigan University, when $5 would get you 3 bottles of Boones Farm white zin.  *shudder*  And I didn't do that unless I was REALLY REALLY desperate, which was almost never.

Tonight, on a trip to Trader Joe's,   If you haven't heard of Trader Joe's, click the link.  It's sort of a cheap hippie food mart.  Lots of organic and natural products - at prices more affordable than you'd find in your local whole foods store.  Near the front of the store, they had a wine display, and cases upon cases of Charles Shaw wine.  Every time I've been into Trader Joe's, I've seen people leaving with cases of this stuff.

It's $2.99 a bottle here in North Carolina.  Apparently, this is the famed "Two Buck Chuck".

If I'm going to drink red wine for the sole purpose of lower my cholesterol, I don't want it to be an expensive habit.  So I picked up a bottle of the Cabernet - a 2003 vintage.

I'll have to ask my wife, but it's pretty drinkable.  I can probably deal with a glass a day of this stuff.

Not that Adrienne would be much more of a real opinion.  She likes wine, but she'll drink just about anything.  I think her favorite wine is a Chilean wine whose bottle is wrapped in burlap, and only costs $8.99 a bottle.  That's probably the most expensive wine she usually gets.

Anyway... anyone out there have any opinions on Two Buck Chuck?

Posted by rickroot at 5:27 PM | Link | 1 comment
23 December 2006

Christmas Eve Dessert from the Guglhupf Bakery

A few weeks ago, I was going out to lunch with Mike (one of my coworkers) and he suggested we try out the Guglhupf Bakery over on 15-501 in Durham.  It sounded interesting, so we headed over there.

The place is really hidden in the back of a building and you wouldn't even know it was there when you drive by.  After finding a nice illegal parking spot because the lot was full, we walked in, and I was a little shocked by how "trendy" the place looked.  They'd apparently only recently added the "Guglhupf Cafe" portion - they'd always been just a bakery.  The restaurant was two stories, with the kitchen and ordering line on the first floor with some tables, and a stairway up to the second floor with more tables.  The second floor was open to the first floor as well, like a loft.

Guglhupf Bakery Fruit TartWhile in line to order lunch, I had the opportunity to see a few items in their dessert case, and there was a yummy looking fruit tart, which I've included a picture of for your viewing pleasure, right here.

Doesn't it look good?  I'll let you know.

It's certainly not low carb, nor any kind of healthy.  But for diets weren't made for holidays.

Posted by rickroot at 9:39 PM | Link | 0 comments