Turquoise Room at the La Posada Hotel

La Posada HotelWinslow, Arizona

la-posada-hotel-0772Standin on the Corner……

You can’t drive west on I-40 in Arizona without stopping in Winslow, we were on our way to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon and of course the stop was mandatory.  We had planned only to stop for a couple of hours, but actually stayed several hours longer.  and Yes, before you ask, we stood on the corner.  There was a flat bed Ford, but unfortunately there was no girl in it taking a look at me.  But that didn’t make any difference, I had a girl standing close by taking a look at me, like she has for over twenty years.  Winslow capitalizes very well on the song “Take it Easy” recorded by The Eagles.  The song written by Jackson Browne and Delbert Mcclinton is a song everyone knows, loves, hums and sings.  The lyrics that made Winslow famous are;

Well, I’m a standing on a corner 
in Winslow, Arizona 
and such a fine sight to see 
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed 
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me 

(Writer(s): Jackson Browne, Delbert Ross Mcclinton Copyright: Music Corp. Of America Inc.)

So, we’ve stood on the corner, got a picture of it, and bought the tee shirt to prove it.

Finding La Posada

la-posada-hotel-2301After dropping a boat load of dollars in the Route 66 gift shops, we decided to ride around and look at the sleepy little town of Winslow.  There is a ton of history in the town with it having been a railroad town for so many years.  We drove around town looking at the old buildings and as we came back into the downtown area from the opposite end we left from there was this enormous adobe hotel sitting up on a small rise.  We had a “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” moment and I quickly turned the car around and pulled into the parking lot.  We had found the La Posada Hotel and oh my what a sight it was.  Grand in scale, grand in design and just a lovely place to be.  We parked our car and made our way inside the front door thinking that there would be someone there that would want to know if we were checking in.  There wasn’t anyone with in sight so we continued our exploration and went into the first lobby and started to look around, that’s when we discovered the Turquoise Room which is the hotel restaurant.
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There were people sitting at tables so we went in and inquired about having lunch.  The young lady told us that lunch service had not began yet and they were just finishing up the breakfast service and we would have to wait.  And, she suggested we enjoy looking around the hotel which were words of delight to my ears.  We looked at the lobby displayed and then I decided to go and do some further exploring, I went into different public areas, the art gallery and all around outside taking pictures as I went.  Never once did anyone ask what I was doing or if I was staying there, in fact the staff would ask how I liked the building and then suggest some area that I didn’t know about to visit.  They said they were photography friendly and encouraged people to take pictures and share with their friends.  Now that a great attitude to have.

The Turquoise Room

While I was out exploring, Debra had found a seat in the Lobby and when the young lady from the restaurant said our table was ready she called me and let me know to come back for lunch.  The Turquoise Room is a special place and according to their website 

Mary Jane Colter designed the private dining car for the Super Chief, a train that ran from Chicago to L.A. She dubbed the dining car The Turquoise Room, and the modern version of the restaurant, opened in 2000, replicated many of the original accents – green brocade booths and leather-and-wood chairs, to name a few. Just as elegant is The Turquoise Room’s menu. It features a variety of entrees that incorporate fresh ingredients flown in from as far away as Ninilchik, Alask, as well as plenty of homegrown items, among them piki bread made by local Hopi women.’(source: theturquoiseroom.net)

Ordering Lunchla-posada-hotel-2368

We asked for and received a window table that looked out across the rear lawn toward the train tracks and the once thriving Winslow Sante Fe passenger depot. Truly a spot that we will always remember being such a beautiful place to have lunch.la-posada-hotel-3

The waitress brought our menus, took our drink orders and we studied the menu for something unusual.  I decided on the The Box Car Burger (Harris Ranch Beef) ($10.00) which was a ½ LB of certified ground Angus chuck, fire grilled and served on a cornmeal Kaiser roll.  Topped with red onions, lettuce, tomato, and John’s special sauce, I also opted for the grilled Poblano Chile add on ( $.75 ).  Debra chose the The Arizona Reuben Sandwich, constructed with Lean pastrami, Swiss cheese, cooked sauerkraut and house-made chipotle aioli on caraway seed rye bread grilled and baked ($10.00)

The sandwiches didn’t take long to appear at the table in that we were ahead of the lunch crowd and the kitchen was cranking things out promptly.  My Box Car Burger was a sight to behold and it lived up to its name because it was box car size burger.  The the burger had been fire grilled as advertised on the menu and had just the right amount of crunch on the outside of the burger, while the inside remained full on juicy and well flavored.  Then with the added kick of the grilled Poblano Chile it was “da bomb”.  The Box Car Burger is definitely a signature burger for the Turquoise Room Restaurant.

Debra’s Arizona Reuben was a great take on the traditional Reuben sandwich.  While the overall taste was very good, it didn’t quite match up to the Reuben she had at Kenny & Ziggy’s in Houston, TX.  But, then again, it wasn’t suppose to since it was an Arizona Reuben.  Unfortunately, the images of her sandwich was on the compact flash(CF) card  that failed a couple of hours later and took some images with it.  I had taken a few of my burger with my small pocket Canon camera and used the big Canon 5DMKII to take additional images of the food.

Dessert…YUM!

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For dessert we went with the Crème Brule, which is rich and smooth egg custard topped with caramelized turbinado sugar, served with fresh raspberries and whipped cream. ($8.00)  It was one more magnificent dessert and we had dueling spoons to see who could dig in the quickest.  The Creme Brule was the best I had eaten since we were in New Orleans.

After we had finished our lunch we explored the hotel more and I even inquired about a room at the La Posada, their rates are actually within reason for a fine hotel.  We decided that if we ever go back that way again we will most certainly plan to spend a couple of nights at the La Posada.

The Brown Bag Review Recommends:

The Brown Bag Review recommends that you dine at the Turquoise Room inside the La Posada Hotel, it will be a unique experience for you and your dining dollars will be well spent.  We would even suggest that you stay at the La Posada because their breakfast is renown for it great variety and flavors.

Our Overall Rating – 4 Stars

Turquoise Room on Urbanspoon

Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available:
Recommendations: Box Car Burger
Suggestions: Go for breakfast
Alcohol: Yes
Ambiance: Resort casual
Service: Prompt & friendly
Vegetarian Friendly: Ask
Price Range: $$
Health Score: Unk
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Coke

AL Taglio Pizzeria – Music City Convention Center

AL Taglio Pizzeria at Music City Center – Nashville, Tennesseeal-taglio-

The Purpose

Recently a well-known photography guru held a seminar at Nashville’s Music City Center and a group of us attended along with 1496 of our other closest friends.  The facility is huge with 1.2 million square feet of public space as well as a three level garage with 1,800 parking spaces.

We were on the ground floor across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame so there were lots and lots of people in the area.  Not only that, but there was a Trade Show being held on the same level with one also being held up on the next level.

Lunch Break

We finally broke for lunch hour at 1:00 pm and the rush began with attendees looking for a place to grab a quick lunch.  We debated on walking up to Broadway and finding a restaurant but one of the ladies with us wanted to go back and watch a session on Mac Photoshop plug-ins.  Untimely we decided just to walk down to the Pizzeria and have lunch.  We we arrived at that end of the building, the line stretched out the door and into the hallway, so we queued up with everyone else and waited our turn.  AL Taglio’s employees were humping getting the orders filled but it still took about 20 minutes for us to get our orders.

Place the Order

al-taglio-2The menu was somewhat limited and I guess that’s a good thing.  There were pizza, panini sandwiches, soup and salads and combinations thereof.  I opted for the Turkey and Provolone which according to the menu consisted of “All-natural roasted breast of turkey, sharp provolone cheese, baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil and basil.” ($8.50)  I added a bag of chips and a bottled coke and with tax the total was $13.60.  A little on the expensive side for this old country boy, but I understand, it’s in downtown Nashville, it’s located in the new Music City Center and they have a captive audience.  So, I sure the rent is high and everyday is not as busy as a bank giving out free money samples.

Taste of Italy, er New York, I mean Chicago, maybe Red Baron, Oh well Taglio

We got our lunch and then went looking for a place to sit and dine because the pizzeria had limited seating, we found some outside seating in on the street level in the shade.  It was nice out and the temperature wasn’t terrible, in fact it was a nice spot to sit and after sitting in the air conditioned room all morning it felt kinda of good.

I took a bite of my sandwich and it was all right other than being overpowered by the basil.  After the first bite I removed the basil and it was somewhat better and I managed to get it al-taglio--2eaten.  I would have loved to had some Grey Poupon for it because it was begging for a touch of horseradish to spice it up.

My buddy got a square of the pizza and it looked really good also, but it was short on toppings and long on bread crust.  I think he was on a carb high for the rest of the afternoon.

Our Recommendations

The Brown Bag Review would recommend eating at the AL Taglio Pizzeria as a last resort much like we did.  If you are going to the Music City Center, then click on the links in this review and see what else is available in the area.  All of the restaurants within walking distance are going to be the typical tourist places like Hard Rock Cafe and other local restaurants that wants to get you in, get your money and get you the hell out of the door so the next sucker can get a seat.

Our Overall Rating = 2 Stars

Al Taglio on Urbanspoon

Ole Hickory BBQ Restaurant – 5 Reasons to Visit Soon

Ole Hickory BBQ - New Market, Alabama

 Recently when we were returning from our trip to Mary’s Pit Barbecue (read review HERE), we spotted another interesting looking barbecue joint named Ole Hickory BBQ on Maysville Road.  We tagged it on  our GPS so that we could return and sample their barbecue offerings.  After doing some reading on their website and reviews from their customers we decided that an immediate visit was in order.  First we made sure that the day we wanted to go was a day that they were open since they do have limited days and hours.  Luckily the Thursday we decided to visit was a day they were open, sometimes planning ahead does have its advantages I guess.

 

Reason #1 – Locally owned and operated

ole-hick-bbq-1362Ole Hickory BBQ is owned and operated by Drew and Denise Tyriver who purchased the Ole Hickory BBQ in 2005, however, Ole Hickory BBQ had been around for nearly 20 years prior to their taking over.  According to the Ole Hickory BBQ website they have a combined total of 50+ years of restaurant food industry experience.  Ole Hickory BBQ is a supporter of area schools and churches and offers custom catering for any size group.

Our Visit….

The first thing we noticed on the day we visited, was the building is located underneath a big oak tree and there were three picnic tables outside if you want to eat in the shade.   We had timed our arrival shortly after the noon rush hour and there were only a couple of customers dining inside, however,  as we pulled into the parking lot, three or four cars and trucks were leaving.  Before we went inside, we scoped out the building to see what was going on and were delighted to see some smoke coming out of the back, that meant something was cooking.  We went in and it is a order at the counter and then take a seat kind of place.  We studied the menu for a a few minutes and then placed our orders with the guy at the counter who was patient with us.

I ordered my usual, a large barbecue plate ($8.75) with no sauce on the meat, because I read where someone else had ordered a barbecue plate and that it came from the kitchen with the sauce pre-installed.  The barbecue plate also came standard with potato salad, slaw and beans and I didn’t see any reason to change my mind on any of it.  My buddy order the large brisket sandwich ($5.75) and we both got tea ($1.65 ea.) to drink.  We grabbed a table and looking around discovered the sauce stash on a hutch near the fountain drink machine.  I retrieved some of the hot and mild sauce and a couple of spoons for us to do a taste test while waiting for our lunch orders.

Reason #2 –  Great House-made Sauces

We started with the mild sauce, first of all, we could tell it was a house-made sauce because of the consistence of it.  The sauce had a light tomato background with a mixture of spices and a hint of cayenne mixed in.  We were impressed with the mild sauce.  Then it was on to the hot sauce, again, we could tell it was house-made, it also had a light tomato background with a healthy dose of vinegar and some whoop-ass spices and cayenne pepper.  It was hot and had a pleasant kick when it crossed your tongue but the spiciness didn’t hang around and keeping insisting to be noticed.  A great blend of ingredients in a barbecue sauce with a nifty kick to it, we liked it a lot and thought it was some of the best we’ve had recently.

Tell your friends about Old Hickory BBQ‘s sauce…

Reason #3 –   Slow Cooked Pork and Beef

Our opinions…..

ole-hick-bbq-1341
Just as we finished taste testing the sauce, the young man brought out our lunch orders.  My barbecue plate looked good pretty good and I first tasted of the naked barbecue, it was fairly moist, had a good texture but was light on the smokiness, adding a little more hickory smoke would have made this barbecue score better.  I then mixed the mild sauce with some of the meat and it complimented the meat very well and I can see why the customers might like it pre-installed and mixed thoroughly.  I then tried the meat with the hot sauce and in my opinion allowed just a tad bit to much vinegar taste to pop through.  I then blended both the hot and mild together on the meat and it produced a very enjoyable mixture with the meat while still giving a kick on the back of my tongue.  The barbecue with the sauce played well together and had the meat had a little more hickory smoke in it, then again, it would have rated very well in my opinion.

After taste testing the meat, I moved on to the sides.  First up was the beans, I was disappointed with them because they were just pork and beans with a little seasoning in them.  I added a good dollop of mild barbecue sauce and it did improve them 100% in my opinion.  Then I moved on to the slaw, it was the standard run of the mill vinegar, sugar and water mixed with chopped cabbage.  Nothing impressive about it but not bad by a long shot, just your average everyday North Alabama coleslaw.  The potato salad was what intrigued me before I tasted it with its almost bright white appearance.  Once I tasted it, I recognized it as being similar to the baked potato salad we use to serve in our barbecue restaurant.  It had that creaminess that came from the sour cream that was mixed into it.   I liked it well enough to eat all of it, so it wasn’t totally bad.

Fellow BBQ Judge weighs in…….

My dining partner, also tasted the pork and his verdict is below.  I tried a bite or two of his brisket and thought it was good, I could taste some smoke in it and the sauces blended well with it.

ole-hick-bbq-1343Here are the conclusions my friend had about his brisket sandwich:

I tasted the pulled pork and thought it needed more smoke flavor, other than that it was good.  

The brisket was chopped, not pulled like the menu states.  I prefer the chopped on a sandwich to the sliced that some barbecue places serve.  The brisket had a good smoke flavor and was tender and moist.  I had ordered sauce on the side and had the choices of hot, mild or white sauce.  In my opinion, both the hot and mild sauces were house-made and had a good taste.  I chose the hot sauce for my sandwich and thought it complimented the brisket very well.  The sweet tea was average and I was glad to see the ample supply of lemon slices available on the self service bar.  In fact the brisket sandwiches tasted good enough that I purchased two to-go for my wife and I to eat for dinner later on in the evening.

Reason #4 –  Something on menu for entire family

Ole Hickory BBQ has a very varied menu that includes not only pulled pork and chopped brisket, but smoked turkey, chicken tenders, catfish, hotdogs, stuffed taters and salads.  They also do a great job with desserts, all are made from scratch in house.  Ole Hickory even has Family Take-out packs with the trimmings.

Reason #5 – Customers share their opinions

Ole Hickory BBQ gets good reviews on the major review sites:  Yelp 4-1/2 Stars, Four Square 6.4, Trip Advisor 4.5 dots and Urbanspoon 93% favorable.  So lots of folks has tried Ole Hickory BBQ and came away with a smile on their face.

Our Recommendations

The Brown Bag Review recommends that if you’re ever in the area to stop by and see the folks at Ole Hickory BBQ.  As with all restaurants, there is always room for improvement as we have noted above, but that being said, overall Ole Hickory does a good job with barbecue.  So stop by and give their pulled pork and brisket your own taste test and be sure to let them know you read this review.  Their hours are Wednesday through Saturday 11 am – 7 pm and Sunday 11 am – 2 pm.   And remember, at Ole Hickory BBQ, they’re always doing something new, so give them a call and see what’s cooking.

Send a tweet to your friends and tell about this review…….

Ole Hickory BBQ on Urbanspoon

So, Let’s Do the Numbers:

piggie-rating-index

J#1-Brisket:6.0 Stars (6.0 / 9)
J#1-Barbecue-Pork:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#1-Slaw:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#1-Hot-Sauce:8 Stars (8 / 9)
J#1-Mild-Sauce:8 Stars (8 / 9)
J#1-Iced-tea:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#2-Brisket:6.0 Stars (6.0 / 9)
J#2-Barbecue-Pork:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#2-Slaw:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#2-Beans:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#2-Potato-Salad:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#2-Mild-Sauce:8 Stars (8 / 9)
J#2-Hot-Sauce:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Staff-Friendliness:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Atmosphere:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Cleanliness:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Value:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Average:6.8 Stars (6.8 / 9)

Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available: Yes
Recommendations: Desserts
Suggestions: BBQ Plate
Alcohol: No
Ambiance: Ole time Q-Shack
Service: Small town friendly
Vegetarian Friendly: Ugh – It’s a Q-joint
Price Range: $$
Health Score: 96
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Pepsi – Fountain

(Click on any image for larger view and the gallery)

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author and fellow judge, and whom are solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV!  All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review unless otherwise noted.

Owl Burger a Hoot at Albuquerque Owl Cafe

The Owl Cafe - Albuquerque, New Mexico

owl-cafe-2008
If you’ve ever been to Marietta, Georgia which is located just north of Atlanta and asked anyone for directions to a local business or residence, then chances are the directions included “When you see the Big Chicken, then go…..”.  In Albuquerque, NM it is much the same as most local folks say “When you see the Big Owl, then go….”; so it seems pretty much anywhere you travel folks tend to use unique buildings as landmarks.  The Owl Cafe has been such a landmark since 1986 when it was built.

The Owl Cafe Building is a Hoot

The building is a unique structure, an adobe building with a owl head sculpted on top of it.  Then you add the bright colors and you really have an eye-popping building.  Even at night it is a recognizable place because of all the neon that adorns the building.
Walking in the entry door is like stepping back into the 1950′s with all of the chrome, counter seats, jukebox and wait staff dressed like Mel’s Diner employees.  The fixtures are real throwbacks, with lots of faxu leather and Formica.  Then there is the counter, it’s just like one you would see in a 1950′s soda shop, with all of the handles, mixers,  and flavoring for milk shakes.  Another added touch is the jukebox remote players at intervals along the counter, where you can peruse the song titles, drop a coin in the slot and hear your favorite tunes play on the jukebox.

The Owl Cafe History

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Image courtesy of Kevin Baird (Flickr CC)

The original Owl Cafe started out in San Antonio, New Mexico and according to the Albuquerque Owl Cafe’s website, this is the history:

Frank and Dee Chavez of San Antonio New Mexico opened a little bar in the grocery store owned by Dee’s father, J.E. Miera.  J.E. had been in business there since the late 1930’s serving the needs of the local folks. At the request of the community and other patrons, Frank put a grill behind his bar and began cooking hamburgers. Thus, the birth of the world famous “OwlBurger” the green chili cheeseburger of which its recipe remains unchanged since 1948. The Owl bar in San Antonio is owned and operated by Adolph and Rowena Baca, the daughter of Frank and Dee Chavez. With the help of Adoph and Rowena Baca The Owl Café in Albuquerque was opened in 1986.

The Owl Cafe Menu

The Owl Cafe opens at 7:00 am for breakfast and their breakfast menu is loaded with the traditional breakfast fare, as well as New Mexico style  items.  Heck, they’ll even fix you a famous Owl Burger for breakfast if you want it.  The prices are so reasonable that Scrooge McDuck would love them, for example; 2 eggs cooked your way, bacon, sausage link or burger patti only $3.95.  Good cheap eats for the locals or tourist that will tide you over till lunch.

The Lunch & Dinner Menu at The Owl Cafe is as unique as the building with something for everyone on it.  Perhaps the most famous of all the menu items is the renown “Owl Burger,” it’s a 6 oz. freshly ground and hand-pattied patty topped with green chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle & mustard (add cheese 30¢ extra).  Or, you can get a plain hamburger or cheeseburger without the green chili, but who would want to do that.  There is also a good selection of other burgers on the menu as well.  The Owl Cafe also has a varied selection of Sandwiches, hotdogs, appetizers, soups and salads on the menu.

And, you’ll not be finished when the burger is gone, they have a Dessert Menu and a Milk Shake Menu.  The milk shakes and malts ($5.79) are a “must-do” when visiting The Owl Cafe, because they are so darn tasty.  In fact, they are so good you tongue will be slapping your eyebrows when you start eating it.  Be advised though, they are huge, one will feed a big hungry guy or two normal folks unless they really love milk shakes.

Our First Visit to The Owl Cafe

Well actually it was three visits to The Owl Cafe.  The second day in Albuquerque after an exhausting day of sightseeing and riding the Sandia Peak Tramway to the top of  Sandia Peak which is at 10,379 feet above sea level we were famished.  Since I had planned the trip knowing we would be eating at The Owl Cafe I had chosen a motel close to it.  For our first visit we arrived just before the dinner rush and managed to get a table without any problem.  However, withing fifteen minutes of our arrival there were folks waiting to get a seat inside and there were only a few table on the patio open.

I couldn’t resist and ordered the Famous Owl Burger with cheese, green chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mustard ($5.25).  Debra got the wimpy Cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle & mustard ($4.94) but without the green chili, just no sense of adventure I reckon.  We also ordered The “Owl” Onion Loaf ($4.95) which came with a horseradish dip to split.  It is a plate full of onion rings and there was more than enough for two people.

After the waitress had taken our orders and delivered the drinks to the table, she brought us a bowl of pinto beans topped with the spicy green peppers, along with a few packs of crackers.  I thought the green chili reallyowl-cafe-1 enhanced the taste of the pinto beans and gave it some kick to boot.  Not so for Debra, she at least tried the green chili but about gagged on them because of the heat and wound up sucking the bottom out of coke glass.  Didn’t make me mad though, cause I was gonna get to eat all of the beans and green chili, however, she did finally wind up nibbling around the edges of the green chili and eating just a few of the beans.  If I lived close by I would go just to order a full serving of the beans and green chili on a regular basis.

owl-cafe--3Our Owl Burgers and Owl Onion loaf were delivered to the table and I was delighted, they were a sight to behold because the folks at The Owl Cafe know how to build a burger.  They were a work of art and I couldn’t wait to dive in and give it a try.  One bite into that burger and a sigh of pure pleasure came from down deep in my stomach.  The patty itself had been cooked on a flat top grille and and had a crunchy exterior while still being moist and juicy inside.  You could tell by the taste that it wasn’t a frozen patty and from the shape that it had been hand crafted.  It still ranks in the top five of any burger I’ve eaten.

Debra sampled her burger and gave it a big thumbs up also, conversation at our table came to a stand still and all that could be heard from us was the hmmm’s and ahhhh’s of pleasurable eating.  The Owl Onion Loaf was also a bit hit with us, sliced thin, dipped in a exceptional tasty batter and then deep-fried to a golden brown they were everything we had hoped for when we ordered them.  I even tried the horseradish dipping sauce that came with them and it was good, but I really prefer to dip my onion rings in ketchup.

For desert of course we had to try the milkshakes, Debra ordered the Peanut Butter Shake ($5.79) and I got the “Holy Grail” that was a peanut butter & Oreo Shake ($5.79).  At the time we ordered the shakes we didn’t realize how big they where and I managed to finish my off after working on it for about 20 minutes, but Debra waived the white flag on hers and left some.  I can only say, that were DAMN good.

Our Second Visit to The Owl Cafe

The second visit we made to The Owl Cafe was on the morning of our departure from Albuquerque for breakfast.  After seeing the breakfast menu while we were dining the evening before it didn’t take us long to figure The Owl Cafe was the place to eat breakfast.  I ordered two eggs over easy, hashbrowns, link sausage (they don’t do sausage patties out west) and toast. ($3.95)  Debra ordered two eggs scrambled, bacon, hashbrowns and toast.($3.95)  The meals came out promptly, the plates were still warm to the touch and evidently had been heated prior to the food being put on them.  I thought that was a nice touch.  We both enjoyed the breakfast and owl-cafe--6decided on the return trip we would have to visit The Owl Cafe again.

Our Third Visit to The Owl Cafe

We made our third visit on our return trip heading home.  We stopped for lunch and again had the The Owl Burgers with both of us ordering the same identical items we’d ordered on ourowl-cafe-1327 first visit.  When we started to leave after paying the check I did purchase a couple of their thick coffee mugs.  For $5.00 each they were hard to pass up.  They are my favorite coffee mugs and I use them everyday to remind me of the great time we had while we were in Albuquerque and the wonderful meals we had The Owl Cafe.

The Brown Bag Review’s Recommendation

If you’re ever in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then be sure that you have at least one meal at The Owl Cafe.  The meals are valued priced and you can afford to feed the whole family at a reasonable cost.  And, remember, it a law that you have to order a Milk Shake before you leave, and if there isn’t a law like that, then there ought to be.

Our Overall Rating = 4 Stars

Owl Cafe on Urbanspoon

 So, Lets Do the Numbers

Green-Chili-Cheeseburger:7.0 Stars (7.0 / 9)
Regular-Cheeseburger:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Onion-Rings:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Pinto-Beans-Green-Chili:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Breakfast:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Milk-Shakes:9 Stars (9 / 9)
Staff-Friendliness:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Atmosphere:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Cleanliness:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Value:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Average:7.1 Stars (7.1 / 9)

Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available: Call
Recommendations: The Owl Burger
Suggestions: Go for breakfast
Alcohol: Yes
Ambiance: Chrome Diner
Service: Prompt
Vegetarian Friendly: Ask
Price Range: $$
Health Score: Unk
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Coke, Fountain


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author and his guest if present, and whom are solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV! All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review.com unless otherwise noted. Use by permission only.

YUMM WOWS Florence Foodies at June Event

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Florence Foodie Group

YUMM Thai – Sushi and Beyond - Florence, Alabama

On a somewhat humid spring evening in June, a group of hungry Florence Foodies took over the sidewalk dining area at YUMM Thai Sushi for an evening of fun, food, and drink.  The Foodie event had been sold out for several weeks and we were all speculating as to what Chef Paul Visuthikosol would prepare this time to surprise and tantalize our taste buds with.  The previous Foodie event held at YUMM was the talk of the town for several weeks, and everyone was raving on how creative and delicious the different courses were.  Could Chef Paul stand the heat in the kitchen and come through again?  We were anxious to find out.

In the Beginning

ffg-youmm-1305We were seated in the sidewalk dining area and once settled into our chairs, we looked forward to the dinner with great anticipation.  The waitress began taking drink orders and within a short while there were imported beers, Sake, wine and martini’s appearing on the tables.  YUMM’s drink menu is expansive and the bartender can mix any thing you might like.

Chef Paul opened the event by explaining the evenings menu items, he recited the ingredients he had used in of each of the dishes.  Then, he related how the different spices and flavor combinations wouldffg-youmm-1306 interact with each other and what he hoped our experience would be when we took our first bites.

Menu for YUMM Foodie Event

The four courses on the YUMM menu were:

  • Course One – Thai Beef Soup with Five spices – the ingredients were beef shoulder, carrot, cilantro, onions, celery and Thai Five Spice.
  • Course Two – Pacific Geviche – the ingredients were Seared Scallops, Tiger Shrimp, cilantro, red onions, avocado, fresh lime juice, garlic and sesame oil
  • Course Three – Roasted Pork Loin with Ginger Curry over white sticky rice – the ingredients were Pork loin, red curry, ginger, garlic tomatoes, rice
  • Course Four – Mango Sake, made with Sake and Mango Puree

Describing the Taste Sensations

ffg-youmm-1310Dinner service began with the first course, the YUMM Thai Beef Soup.  It had a light refreshing taste to it thanks to the cilantro with the beef and spices coming through on the back side.  I personally thought it was very good and definitely could eat it again.

For course two, the YUMM Pacific Geviche was a change of pace from anything I have tried before.  The scallops, shrimp, cilantro, red onions,and  avocado were coarsely chopped and ffg-youmm-1313drenched in the fresh garlic, sesame seed oil infused lime juice.  It was was served on a triangular crispy fried won ton.

Course three was presented to the diners with lots of oohs and ahhhs, the presentation was wonderful with the sliced pork loin placed on each side of the rice and then garnished with the red curry sauce.  The combinations were excellent, the pork loin had a very good taste to it and the curry sauce just added another layer of flavor sensations to it.  The rice was expertly cooked and combined with the red curry sauce was also excellent.  I didn’t leave a single bit on my plate, it was just that good.

ffg-youmm-1314For the fourth course, the glasses of Mango Sake, a YUMM creation were delivered to the table and everyone was delighted with it.  Just the smell of fresh mango makes you think you’re setting on the beach somewhere.  When I took my first sip, I could not taste the Sake in the background but on the second and subsequent sips I detected the Sake.  A very good combination and both flavors played well together.

Our Guest Speaker

At the end of the third course, our speaker, Betty Maloney,  began telling us about the The Limestone House Bed & Breakfast, which is located at 601 North Wood Ave. in Florence.  Betty is the owner and co-manager at the Limestone House and has worked hard to get it ready for guests.  Recently, she had her first guests to visit and they were from Ireland.  Limestone House also has a presence on Facebook  Their Twitter feed is @LimestoneHBnB

(Tell your friends on Twitter about The Limestone House Bed and Breakfast here in Florence....)

The house was constructed in 1915 and  has a long history, with many famous people including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, having stayed in the house.  In fact, the LImestone House was the first house in Florence to have electric lights installed.   It is located within the North Wood Avenue Historic District and is on the National Historic Register.ffg-youmm-1320

The evening at YUMM concluded just in time to get to our vehicles before a large thunderstorm moved into the area.  Had our program at YUMM ran another fifteen minutes we would have been drenched.  Luckily everyone made it home safely.  It was a grand evening of dining and entertainment at YUMM and we look forward to our next Florence Foodie event at Sperry’s on July 7th.

ffg-youmm-3The Brown Bag’s Recommendations

The Brown Bag Review recommends that you consider joining us for our Florence Foodie Group’s adventures.  Tickets are still available and and can be purchased electronically from Florence Main Street Foodie Group site.  Just click on this link  FLORENCE FOODIE GROUP TICKETS

Yumm Thai : Sushi and Beyond on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author who is solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV! All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review.com unless otherwise noted. Use by permission only.

Cajun Fever at PoBoys Cajun Grill

Poboys Cajun GrillFlorence, Alabama

PoBoys Cajun Grill Sign
PoBoys Cajun Grill Sign

Unless you live under a rock or not from around here, everyone knows that Florence, Alabama is a 7 hour drive from the Gulf Coast and good Cajun seafood restaurants.  Around here Catfish has always been king when anyone mentioned fish.  Oh sure, there are establishments that call themselves Seafood restaurants located in Florence, like that Red Langosta, the Captains fast food, and a few others.  But, most everything they serve was caught who knows when and have been in the freezer since coming off the factory ship.

Poboys Cajun Grill is an exception to the rule of seafood in these parts.  Poboys Cajun Grill has a chef that was formerly at the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans where they take Cajun and Creole cooking seriously.   His talents are on display with the many dishes that he prepares.  While these dishes aren’t near as elaborate as those he prepared in New Orleans, they are the high-water mark in this area for Cajun cooking and seafood.

Off the Beaten Path

Located on the backside of the local industrial park, Poboys Cajun Grill is not on the “beaten path,” in fact it would almost be classified as out in the boonies.  The building that houses Poboys Cajun Grill has been home to several other restaurants through the years and as the old adage goes “Many have tried, many have failed,” especially in this location.  The way the building is chopped up on the inside, I sort of think it was a house to begin with.  When you turn into the parking lot the first thing you will notice is that is a gravel lot so that adds some Cajun ambiance to it, all that is lacking is a bayou out back and gators wondering around in the grass.

Poboys Cajun Grill’s menu is loaded with Cajun dishes such as Gumbo’s, Red Beans & Rice, Rabbit N’ Dumplins, Alligator Etouffee, Jambalaya and Shrimp Creole, also they do different pastas with seafood.  Then they do a great job with their namesake, Nawlin’s Po’boys, offering shrimp, catfish, crawfish, alligator, oyster and Cajun Sausage po’boys.  Their menu also has lots of fried, grilled, blackened, boiled and various and sundry other dishes.

Our Visit to PoBoys Cajun Grill

When we visited recently, Debra ordered the fried oyster plate ($15.95) and I ordered the fried shrimp plate ($13.95), both of us got the fries and coleslaw as our sides.  It didn’t take long for our server to bring out our plates and they did look great.  Each plate had an ample serving of fries, about four ounce serving of coleslaw and two hushpuppies.

Our plates only had eight pieces of seafood (shrimp or oysters) on the them, we were a little disappointed with this small portion, since we were expecting a bit more. Oh, say at least a dozen of each for the price being charged.

Fried Shrimp Plate
Fried Shrimp Plate

My shrimp were lightly battered and fried to a golden brown with a very good tasting breading having been used.  The shrimp in my opinion were of the medium variety in size.  The fries were a good grade of the restaurant frozen variety, however, the coleslaw was very good and I really liked it.  It tasted like it had mustard seeds as well as a tad of mustard mixed in the slaw dressing that gave it a little tang in the background when you took a bite.  I’ll definitely get it again next time.  The hushpuppies were also quite tasty and I do believe they are made in house and are not of the frozen family.

Fried Oyster Plate
Fried Oyster Plate

The fried oysters were also lightly breaded with the same batter/breading as the shrimp.  They were also fried to a golden brown and when you bit into them they were still soft and tasty on the inside without a lot of moisture streaming out of them like the pre-shucked oysters other places serve.   In fact, from my seat I had a good line of sight to the kitchen and watched them bread and deep fry the various dishes being ordered.  And, I might add as a side note, all of the kitchen staff were wearing blue disposable gloves for food handling.  I like that!

Been there Before and Liked it

This particular visit was our third to Poboys Cajun Grill and both of the other times we went, we had ordered the Po-boy’s.  In fact, on our previous visit we had taken friends of ours with us that are originally from Louisiana and they were impressed with the food and said it tasted just like what they remember when they lived there.  So, that is a good recommendation when a transplanted Cajun said it was good.

The Brown Bag Review’s Recommendation

The Brown Bag Review would recommend giving Poboys Cajun Grill a try, the easiest way to get to them is take Helton Drive and stay on it through the industrial park.  Then take a left where Helton dead-ends into Church Road, go about half of a mile and Poboys Cajun Grill will be on the right.  Another route is to take Chisholm Road and hang a right onto Church Road and Poboys Cajun Grill will be on your left.

PoBoys Cajun Grill on Urbanspoon

Lets Do The Numbers…..

Fried-Shrimp:7.0 Stars (7.0 / 9)
Fried-Oyster:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Coleslaw:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Fries:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Fried-Oyster:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Ice-Tea:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Staff-Friendliness:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Atmosphere:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Cleanliness:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Value:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Average:6.9 Stars (6.9 / 9)

Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available: Call
Recommendations: Cajun Dishes
Suggestions: Shrimp Po-boys
Alcohol: No
Ambiance: Down home country
Service: Small town friendly
Vegetarian Friendly: Ask
Price Range: $$
Health Score: 96
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Pepsi, bottles

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author and fellow reviewer, and whom are solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV! All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review.com unless otherwise noted. Use by permission only.

Mary’s Pit Barbecue – Still Smokin after 56 Years

Mary’s Pit Barbecue, Maysville, Alabamamarys-bbq-1283

What was once a sleepy little unincorporated community in eastern Madison County that was know for its broad cotton and corn fields is now a bedroom community to Huntsville.  This was brought on by the high-tech boom created by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, the Missile Defense Agency and more recently the  BRAC initiatives. *(source: Wikipedia)  There are several large single family homes sub-divisions in the area with more being added.  However, Maysville has also been the home to Mary’s Pit Barbecue since 1958.

Mary’s Pit Barbecue History

Mary Toney, the Barbecue joint’s namesake, helped open it in 1958 along with her husband Clinton.  At the time the building was built by Brick-Mason Friday Woodard, it was hard to find a good barbecue restaurant in the Maysville area. Mary’s Pit Barbecue’s original pit was constructed in late 1957 and then the building was built around it.

Mary’s Pit Barbecue’s building having been built in the era of segregation had two front doors, the door on the left was for black folks and the one on the right for white folks.   On the right side, there were stoolsmarys-bbq-1268 installed for the white folks to sit on while waiting for their orders, and on the other side their black customers weren’t afforded that luxury.  But that was then and now all of their customers are welcome to come in the door on the right, place your order and have a seat on the stools.  This unique feature of two front entrances still remain today, with the left door going into the office area.

(source:  Huntsville Times news clippings on the wall)

If the Walls and Ceiling could Talk

The small waiting area is decorated with graffiti having been applied through the years by customers signing the ceilings and the walls or adding snarky comments while waiting on their order.  In addition, there are several framed newspaper articles that related a lot of the history of the place.

Our Visit to Mary’s Pit Barbecue

The day we visited Mary’s Pit Barbecue was on a Thursday and business was slow.  While we were waiting a couple of customers came in to pickup to-go orders they had called in, but traffic was light that day.  We placed our orders, I got my usual barbecue plate ($9.95) which came with potato salad, beans, and slaw, and my dining partner also ordered the same.  Since one of the recommendations I received was to try the ribs I ordered a half of a rack ($9.95) of those.marys-bbq-1281

It took a little while to get our orders, but we were in no hurry anyway.  When we opened the to-go trays, the first thing we noticed was the absence of barbecue sauce on the meat, which if you read some of my other blog posts on barbecue is a good thing.  The barbecue sauce was also absent from the entire to-go box and bag itself, however, when asked the young lady did offer two one ounce containers of a thick red sauce.  I asked for a couple of more since my buddy didn’t get any sauce either.

marys-bbq-1279Dreaded “Spork” Attack

I then unwrapped the ribs and found that the sauce had been pre-installed by the kitchen and that disappointed me.  I would have loved to judged the taste of the ribs without the thick syrupy overly sweet commercial sauce laddled heavily over them .  We were further disappointed when we tried to separate the ribs with the utensil that came with the meal which was a “Spork.”  I hate sporks and would love to meet the guy that invented them and give him a swift kick in the nether regions of his front lower body. It was near impossible to break them apart with that plastic aberration, but I finally manage to get part of them separated.

We then sampled the naked pork barbecue, notable absence was the presence of a smoky smell or taste.  While the meat was tender and somewhat moist, the absence of the smoke flavoring made it taste more like roast pork than barbecue.  It left us wondering if this hog meat had ever been exposed to any hickory smoke.  We then moved on to the sides items, the potato salad was a cheap commercial offering and tasted like it, the beans started life as Pork-n-Beans and should have been left that way, whatever Mary’s Pit Barbecue put into them they need to stop now.  The coleslaw was a coarsely ground cabbage with a vinegar/sugar/watery dressing mixed in, not my favorite kind of slaw.

The ribs did fare a little better, again they would have gotten a better score if the sauce had been left off of them.  The half rack was a full half and the ribs were meaty.  I did notice that they had not removed the skirt on the back side of the ribs though and the ribs in this area reflected it.  While the first two or three bones on the rack came loose fairly easy, the ribs on the skirt end were under-cooked and tough.

The Other Certified Barbecue Judge Renders His Verdict

These are the conclusions from my dining partner who also is a certified barbecue judge:

“Ribs tasted very good and were not overcooked to my taste, definitely worth having again.  The pulled pork was about average but a lot light on smoke for my taste.  The slaw, beans and potato salad were really weak.  The beans appeared to be Pork and Beans with little added to them.  The slaw was chopped cabbage with vinegar and sugar added and the potato salad was of the bland institutional variety.  Sauce was weak and needed help also.”

The Brown Bag’s Recommendations

Our conclusions and recommendations about Mary’s Pit Barbecue is that if you decide to visit them, we would recommend you to carry your favorite barbecue sauce, order the sandwich and forget about the side items, they’re just not worth the $5.00 extra cost.  If you opt for the ribs, then tell them to hold the sauce and install your own sauce of preference.

Mary's Pit Bar Bq on Urbanspoon
So, let’s do the numbers:

 

J#1-Ribs:7.0 Stars (7.0 / 9)
J#1-Barbecue-Pork:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#1-Slaw:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#1-Beans:5 Stars (5 / 9)
J#1-Potato-Salad:5 Stars (5 / 9)
J#1-Sauce:6 Stars (6 / 9)
J#2-Ribs:6.0 Stars (6.0 / 9)
J#2-Barbecue-Pork:5 Stars (5 / 9)
J#2-Slaw:4 Stars (4 / 9)
J#2-Beans:5 Stars (5 / 9)
J#2-Potato-Salad:3 Stars (3 / 9)
J#2-Sauce:5 Stars (5 / 9)
Staff-Friendliness:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Atmosphere:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Cleanliness:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Value:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Average:5.5 Stars (5.5 / 9)

piggie-rating-index
Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available: Call
Recommendations: Ribs hold the sauce
Suggestions: BBQ sandwich
Alcohol: No
Ambiance: Ole time Q-Shack
Service: Small town friendly
Vegetarian Friendly: Ugh – It’s a Q-joint
Price Range: $$
Health Score: 94
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Coke, cans

(Click on any image for larger view and the gallery)

Barbecue in Carlsbad – Danny’s Place

Carlsbad, New Mexico - Several years ago when I first got into cooking barbecue commercially, one of my heroes was Danny Gaulden, who at the time ran a combination barbecue joint and Dairy Queen.  His Dairy Queen was one of the last DQ’s that wasn’t regulated under the franchise as to what foods he had to serve, in fact he had gotten in the food business long before Dairy Queen thought there was much of a profit in it.  Through my beginning years in the barbecue we corresponded via email and I always promised if I was ever out that way I would stop in and give his barbecue a try.

We stopped in Carlsbad for a couple of days to go to Carlsbad Caverns and wound eating at Danny’s Place twice.  These days Danny’s Place is just a regular restaurant that serves his famous barbecue as well as many other outstanding dishes.  Gone is the Dairy Queen franchise and signs but it hasn’t affected the quality of his food or his customer base.  He still packs the house most every night with both new and regular customers .  During both of our visits there was a good number of customers in the restaurant.

The first time we went to Danny’s Place I ordered the brisket plate since that is one of his signature dishes.  If you live in Texas, then brisket is just another fact of life, but further north into New Mexico not so much so.  The brisket plate that Debra and I both ordered came with fries, coleslaw, pickles, peppers, onion slice and a couple of rolls.  The serving of brisket on the plate was large, there had to be nearly 12 ounces of meat on the platter.  When we bit into the brisket it was packed with flavor, it had the right amount of smoke without being bitter.  There was a good smoke ring on it and a nice bit of bark on the outside edge.  The texture of the meat was excellent in that it was tender and had the right amount of stretch to it.  I have to hand it to Danny and his crew, they know their brisket cooking.

The second night we ate at Danny’s Place we both ordered the rib plate which consisted of a half of a rack of spareribs, two sides, the pickles,  peppers, onion slice and a couple of rolls.  For my two sides I got the coleslaw and fried okra and Debra go the mustard slaw and fries.  The spareribs were meaty with a good bark on the outside and were smoked to perfection.  The meat pulled loose from the rib bone with a slight tug and separated cleanly.  We both enjoyed the ribs and thought they could rival the ribs sold at some of the best barbecue joints in Alabama.

I tried both visits to talk with Danny, but he was not there and I was told that he was not scheduled to come in any of the days we were in town.  So I missed an opportunity to get to meet him in person, maybe next time.

If you ever are Carlsbad, NM, then be sure and check out Danny’s Place.
Danny's Place on Urbanspoon

Smoked-Brisket:8.0 Stars (8.0 / 9)
Spare-ribs:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Slaw:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Sauce:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Hot Sauce:6 Stars (6 / 9)
Staff-Friendliness:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Atmosphere:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Cleanliness:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Value:7 Stars (7 / 9)
Average:7.1 Stars (7.1 / 9)

 

Credit cards:   Yes
Catering Service Available:   Yes
Recommendations:   Brisket
Suggestions:   Two meat Combo Plate
Alcohol:   no
Ambiance:    Q-Joint
Service:   Small town friendly
Vegetarian Friendly:   Ugh, it’s a q-joint, you figure it out
Price Range:  $$
Health Score:   Unknown
Smoke Free:   Yes
Soft Drink Brand:   Coke

Click on image to see larger version

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author and fellow judge, and whom are solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV!  All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review.com unless otherwise noted.  Use by permission only.

Florence Foodie Event at The Pie Factory

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Florence Foodie Group
The Pie Factory on Urbanspoon

Florence, Alabama – This month’s Florence Foodie Group’s stop was at the Pie Factory which we had recently reviewed (check it out here).  The Pie Factory as always did a great job of coming up with some new items for the Foodies to try out that aren’t on the regular menu.  For this event the menu consisted of four courses:

  • Course One –  Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers and Pesto Bread-sticks
  • Course Two – Grilled Romaine Salad with Caesar Dressing
  • Course Three – Fettuccine Alfredo Chicken Pizza and Pork Tenderloin Pizza topped with Spinach, Feta Cheese, and Peaches
  • Course Four – Blackberry Cheesecake

The Jalapeno peppers were stuffed with a creamy cheddar cheese, wrapped in bacon and then charbroiled.  They were the first item that came to the table and everyone tried them and began to rave about how tasty they were, and I quickly agreed with them after tasting my first one.  The Presto Bread-sticks were served next, I took two on my plate because I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d like them.  I ate both of them and as far as Pesto goes they were good, just not something I would order as an appetizer I don’t think.

The Grilled Romaine Salad was brought out next, again this is a new item they the Pie Factory was trying out.  While the taste was good on it, the presentation was not to some of the folks liking, with comments like burnt lettuce, etc.   I personally did like the taste of it and would consider ordering it if it makes the menu.

The next course was the pizza course with the first one to the table being the Fettuccine Alfredo Chicken Pizza.  This pizza was loaded with all of the great heart clogging cheese and Alfredo sauce.  I really liked it and would order it as a change up to my current favorite pizza at the Pie Factory.  The Pork tenderloin pizza topped with spinach, feta cheese and peaches was the next to the table.  It is hard to describe the flavor combinations that this pizza delivered to your taste buds.  The first taste is the pork tenderloin and the second flavor that comes through is the feta cheese giving it a hint of sourness and then your taste buds are smacked with the sweetness of the peaches and then in the background of it all is the taste of the spinach.  It is a unique combination of flavors to say the least.  I personally wasn’t a fan of it because I’m just not a big goat cheese lover I guess.

The entire meal was capped off with a delicious dessert, Blackberry Cheesecake.  I’ve eaten a lot of cheesecake through the years but this is the first time for the blackberry variety.  I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of it and would definitely order it from the menu.

During the meal a representative from Bacio Cheese, Jay Coshow, enlighten us about the cheese industry.  Jay stated that the cheese the Pie Factory uses is a  premium cheese product.  Jay went on to say that Bacio’s Master Cheese Makers had discovered that a Kiss of Buffalo Milk™ enhanced both the taste and performance of their pizza cheese—from its rich and creamy flavor to its distinctive stretch and return to life at reheat.  He also said that cheese is the biggest expense for a Pizza restaurant and that Bacio Cheese’s performed well and overall was cost effect.  So now we know The Pie Factory‘s secret, great premium cheese makes the best pizza.

It was a great evening and everyone we talked with enjoyed the outing.  This was the final Florence Foodie Group outing for the first half of the year.  The second half starts in August with both individual event tickets and season tickets still available.  Contact Florence Main Street at 256) 760-9648 or go by their office at 301 N Pine St, Florence, AL.  
The Pie Factory on Urbanspoon

Italian Cuisine at Luce Ristorante e Enoteca

Luce Ristorante e Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Authentic Italian Cuisine at Luce Ristorante e EnotecaSan Antonio, Texas

Our second day in San Antonio consisted of sight seeing all day long.  We toured the Alamo and then purchased Hopper passes for the Trolley bus which allows you to “Hop-on Hop-off” at any of the stops along the entire route.  We did stops at the Tower of America and all of the Missions around San Antonio.  It was a long fun filled day and by dinner time we were ready for a great meal.  I again consulted the online review sites and we decided to do Italian and not just any Italian but a locally owned authentic Italian restaurant.  When we read the detail of Luce Ristorante e Enoteca we knew it was the place to go to fulfull our Italian gravings .

First of all Luce Ristorante e Enoteca means Luce Restaurant Library in Italian.  When you enter the dining room the entire walls are covered with wine bottles like books in a library.  Luce has over 125 choices on their wine list and believes that the proper wine with each meal course makes the food more enjoyable.  Chef Joe Buonincontri opened Luce in 2005 and has been wowing the locals ever since with the family receipes and house made items such as Gnocchi, Italian rice balls and Mozzarella cheese.

We actually utilized their online reservation service through Open Table because we didn’t know what kind of evening crowd they would have.  Turned out that we probably wouldn’t have needed the reservations but I’d rather be save than sorry.

When we arrived at the Luce Ristorante e Enoteca we were given the choice of the dining room or the patio, we chose the dining room because it was still hot outside and we’d been outside all day long.  The hostess was very courteous to us and treated us like honored guest.  She took us to a table and ask was it OK and I asked could we sit next to the window and she changed us to the window seat without a problem.  Chef Buonincontri must stress customer service because immediately after we were seated our server appeared filled the water glasses and begin telling us the specials of the evening.  She was a very personable young lady with an easy laugh and with a working knowledge of the menu that came out when we asked questions about the various dishes.  Debra decide on Chicken Marsla which was Floured and sauteed breast of Chicken with mushrooms and Marsala Demi-Glace, Tomato Risotto and toasted garlic vegetables.($21.00)  After some discussions with our server she recommended I try the Pappardelle con Polpette e Salsiccia, which was homemade Meatballs, Spicy Italian Sausage, Pappardelle Pasta Marinara. ($19.00)

The server brought our salads and they were prepared with fresh ingredients and served with a homemade Italian dressing and that was extremely good.  As with all good Italian Restaurants, a good house-made bread was served along with the salad.  And, the server wasn’t hesitant about bringing an additional serving or two when she said the plate was empty.

Our entree arrived in due course and they were a feast for the eyes as well as our mouths.  Beautiful presented and garnished with a understated flair they screamed “Eat-Me Slowly and Enjoy.”  I took the first bite of my dish and my taste buds exploded with the complex bouquet of spices in the dish, it was spicy with a hint of tartness in the marinara sauce and then the garlic and other spices kicked in.  It was like a carnival of flavors being held in your mouth.  Debra was totally delighted with her Chicken Marsla had agreed that it was the best Italian we have ever experienced.

After we had finished our main course the server came back and brought us the dessert menu.  After careful consideration Debra ordered the Chocolate “Lava Torta” with Vanilla Gelato ($5.00) and I decided on the Tiramisu, which is Lady Fingers dredged in Espresso, layered with rum Mascarpone.   ($5.00)  Both the dessert were over the top and we were duly impressed with not only the presentation but the taste as well.  Truly a fitting end to a memorable meal.

So, when San Antonio and you want a change from Southwestern Tex-Mex and crave some Italian, give Luce Ristorante e Enoteca.

Luce Ristorante e Enoteca on Urbanspoon
Pappardelle:9 Stars (9 / 9)
Chicken Marsla:9 Stars (9 / 9)
Lava-Torta:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Tiramisu:9 Stars (9 / 9)
Service:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Value:8 Stars (8 / 9)
Average:8.5 Stars (8.5 / 9)

Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available: call
Outdoor dining: Yes
Recommendations: Tiramisu
Suggestions: Select Wines
Alcohol: Yes
Ambiance: White Table Cloth
Service: Friendly & Informative
Vegetarian: ask your server
Price Range: $$
Health Score: Unk
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Coke

(click on any image for larger view)

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author and/or guest writer, and whom are solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever unless noted. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV! (Your Mileage May Vary)  All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review.com unless otherwise noted