Saturday, November 21, 2009

What makes a meal?

Yeah... I just ordered a pizza.

I'm neck deep in the home stretch on book 3 - yes I know I'm mixing metaphors. Quiet you. I'm also dog-tired from a full day of recording for the audio book version of DARKLIGHT yesterday with another full day in the studio tomorrow.

As far as food goes these days, pretty much anything I have time for - and somebody makes for me - is awesome. That somebody, of course, is usually John. But on the occasions when we do eat out, and eat out somewhere other than the place up the street, I do have a few faves. I'll tell you about two of them that, really know how to "make" a meal.

There is a steakhouse in town called Tom Jones. It is absolutely Old School. It's been around forever and the piano bar looks like it could have been a shooting location for Ocean's Eleven. The original one. This place has career waiters and - if you have ever experienced really high quality wait-staff service, you'll know what I mean when I say that they make all the difference in the world. These guys make the meal. They also, not coincidentally, make the salad. Ahhhh... the table-side caesar salad. I can taste the garlic just typing this. They will remember, for instance, even if I haven't been there in months, that I usually like a glass of Pinot Grigio before dinner. And seriously. I don't go there that often. That makes a meal.

Another place I'm ford of is the The Stonegrill on Winchester. These guys don't make your meal. They don't cook for you. Rather, they bring you your food uncooked, on a lava rock platter heated to - I dunno - a billion degrees, and they tell you to cook it. Just the way you like it. It is awesome. The ingredients are simple and straightforward - slab of meat, hot rock - and of exceptional quality. And you control the cooking time. It's delicious. And, of course there's that element of danger! And, in this case, that makes the meal.

And now I'm hungry. Where's my pizza?!??

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Eats

I’ve blogged before about my obsession with healthy foods, so the places I eat at most often are places that have healthy things. Okay, call me strange, but there’s nothing I like more than going to a restaurant and ordering an amazing salad – mainly because there’s so much work/cleaning up that goes into making one at home. My favorite salad place is Chopped – not only can you get basically any ingredient under the sun put in your salad, but also it’s a super-fast order at the counter kind of place, which is great for bringing little kids with you, which I always do. I also love Sauce, which has amazing flatbread pizzas, wine, and great salads, and a nice outside seating area that’s perfect for Arizona winters.

But I don’t always eat healthy when I go out, of course! On the rare occasions I get to go out alone with my husband, I like going to The Melting Pot. I love the fondue, and especially the dessert fondue. Plus I love the dark, romantic atmosphere for an evening without kids. (Although, no matter what my husband and I do, somehow whenever we get a night out to ourselves there always ends up being a screaming child at the table behind us.)

I also love Mexican & southwestern food, and Blanco has a good combination plus the best fresh squeezed margaritas I’ve ever had. (The pomegranate grapefruit is amazing!).

And my favorite reminds-me-of-my-roots restaurant is Frankie’s Philadelphia Cheesesteaks. Everyone who grows up in Philadelphia knows that you can’t get a real cheesesteak anywhere outside of Philly. But I think Frankie’s is the exception. In fact, I had a cheesesteak the last time I went back to Philly to visit my parents, and decided that Frankie’s is actually better.

I love eating out, but these days, I’m much more a fan of take-out and cooking at home than I used to be in my pre-kid days. Half the time when we decide to go out now, my husband and I try to think of the quickest and/or loudest option. Because, yeah not having to clean up or cook is great, but trying to keep a toddler from jumping out of his high chair/letting out high-pitched screams/throwing crayons makes restaurants seem not quite as fun as they used to.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tickle My Tastebuds

Since I eat out at more restaurants than I care to admit, picking just one that I love is nearly impossible. I love to eat out for all kinds of reasons but the chief reason is that eating out means I don't have to clean my kitchen. There. I've said it. I hate cleaning my kitchen.

But my ineptness at housework is not what we're discussing here.

Crab legs are my favorite food. And land-locked Tennessee is not the primo place to find them - let me tell you. So there is really nowhere in Nashville that I'm excited about eating crab legs. :-( Now take me to Florida and I'll stuff my face till I'm sick. One of my favorite places to dine is Bud and Alley's in Seaside, Florida. I've only tasted their crab cakes (for which they are infamous) and I thought I had reached an early nirvanna.

Check them out. You'll see what I mean. And if you've never been to Seaside, Florida - OMG, you have just been told about a little slice of heaven and one of the best kept secrets on the entire Florida Gulf Coast. It's 7 hours due south of Nashville and I had the good fortune of having a book signing at Sundog Books, smack dab in the middle of town.

They have one of the most amazing bookstores I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. Linda and her staff are amazing. Please tell her I sent you next time you're there!

But if I had to choose just one favorite restaurant I think my all-time-favorite is the Hula Grill in Hawaii. They have one on Waikiki Beach and one on Kaanapali Beach in Maui.

FAB-U-LOUS is all I can say. Imagine a tropical breeze blowing through your hair, cooling your sunburned skin, as you gaze out onto the most luscious sunset you've ever feasted your eyes upon. The decor is an old Hawaiian plantation home with old fans lazily moving with the tradewinds. The food is to die for but then again seafood is the kind of food that tickles my taste buds.

I've got one problem with the Hula Grill. Every time I think about it I start salivating. Inevitably that drooling turns into starvation - like right now - and I feel the need to run up to the seafood market and settle for a poor substitute. I'm just praying that one day I'll find my way back to the Hula Grill, but for now I'll just have to be happy with my HG tee-shirt.

By the way, if any of our NG Followers live in Dallas I'll be at the Chi Omega Christmas Market at the Dallas Convention Center tonight as well as in the morning. I'd love to meet you so please stop by the Barnes and Noble booth!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now I'm Starving...

This topic is a tough one for me, because as I've mentioned before, I LOVE to eat! And I love a wide variety of cuisines--from French to Mexican to Korean to just plain old burgers. It's going to be hard for me to narrow it down to one specific restaurant, so I'll just cheat a little and name a few.

1. Russell's Barbecue With wood-paneled walls, picnic tables and plastic silverware, Russell's is about as down home as you can get. They also happen to have some of the best barbecue sauce and ribs I've ever had. It's been around forever--my grandparents used to go on dates here. They even used to have those little jukeboxes at each booth, which was just about the coolest thing ever when I was little.

2. The Sushi House. My family has been going here for sushi since I was a little kid. I always start my meal off with a serving of their miso soup and their goma ae salad--essentially spinach leaves with a peanut dressing. We usually all order a variety of sushi rolls and split it--anything from shrimp tempura rolls to california roll to tuna. The one pitfall of eating sushi (for me anyway), is that it adds up quickly! Each piece is priced pretty reasonably, but by the end of the meal, I always jolt a little at the total. But so, so worth it!

3. Lou Malnati's Pizza. This is my pick for best pizza in Chicago, mainly due to their awesome sauce. They top their deep dish pizza with a combination of stewed and crushed tomatoes and fresh garlic. It's hard to 100% accurately describe, but I've never had pizza that tasted more fresh and homemade.

4. Moto My husband and I recently ate here for my thirtieth birthday. We had a ten course, pre-fixed meal that was simply outstanding. Each course had a fun twist to it, starting with the presentation of menu, which was presented on an edible wafer. One of the courses is a "Cuban Cigar," which is basically a pork sandwich wrapped in grape leaves served in an ash tray. It sounds disgusting, and looked it, but it was amazing to eat something that your brain said, "NO!" but your palate screamed, "YES!"

I could go on and on, but I have to stop somewhere. So there you have it. Are you guys as hungry as I am? :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Favorite Restaurants...and then some!

I'm not really sure if I have one favorite restaurant. You see, I love going out to eat, and as long as the place has decent food, I'm just not that picky. Besides, it's not so much about the food for me, but the activity. Oh, and not having to cook or clean up, naturally.

My family doesn't go out to eat all that often, so when we do, it's a real treat. And while I don't have actual favorites, I do have preferences. If we're heading out for breakfast or brunch, my two top chocies are going to be either Bob Evans (they're not exactly local, but not exactly national, either. They have locations in 18 states), or Scrambler Maries, which only has locations in Ohio. Awesome breakfasts to be had, and prices that work for a family with four kids!

When it comes to lunch or dinner, though, my restaurant choice will be based more on the type of food we want than the actual place. For Italian, a favorite is Biaggi's. I love their lobster and black fettucini! For steak, Mancy's Steakhouse (a Toledo favorite for 85 years) heads the list in a big way. And if we're in the mood for seafood, and we have some extra money, we'll go to the Bluewater Grille.

Family-favorites, though, tend to fall into the national chains, such as Olive Garden, Applebees, and such. Places with enough choices on the menu to make everyone happy and prices that won't make my hands shake as I pay the bill!

I'm also a real fan of ordering out and having food brought to my door. I still don't have to cook, clean up is minimal, and um...yeah, I can dress for dinner in my PJs if I want. :)

So, what about you? What are your favorite restaurants?