Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back in O-Town!

back in oberlin, set for another fine year of dining in north-east ohio and beyond!

tasks include farm visits, pig roasts, homemade ice cream, and drinks at the velvet tango room.

this weekend... it begins!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This is Rio Grande!

tonight i made a list of my, well, my bounty, after my last functional trip to the market and my last paycheck too :(

though probably infinitely more interesting to me, i still thought this was pretty cool:

3 pounds - pork loin chops
1 pound - grass-fed buffalo bratwurst sausage
1/2 pound - fresh goat's milk feta
Huge-ass delicious radishes
Potatoes (both store bought and tiny farmer's variety)
Baby Red and White Carrots
Japanese Eggplant
Assortment of Yellow Squash and Oddly Shaped Zucchinis
Fresh Basil, Sorrel, and Dill
Assorted Varieties of Peaches, Plums, and the first delicious apple of the season!

So a summer of foodish discovery comes to an end, with various lessons:

-how to find your way around a farmer's market and become an insider (favored food stands, sellers who recognize you, know what's good and when and perhaps even why!)'

-how to be cheap. i mean, in the best way. work the deals, stock up on the carrots and squash and fruit, etc.

-how not to be cheap. splurge on the fresh herbs, the cheese, cookies.

-well, over the summer i've gotten some decent cooking practice, half practical, trying out different techniques and recipes, and the other half sort of spontaneous, working with limited ingredients and limited time. its my weak point, but i'm getting better!

so, without further ado, some eats that you may have missed!

the perfect plum! every week a different variety? i think this is shiso...

butter-braised radishes with chopped sorrel alongside an omelet using fresh basil, just-picked onion, herbes de provence, and feta cheese.


roasted hatch pepper marinated skirt steak with grilled garlic-smothered japanese eggplant

fresh crepes filled with candied apricots and plums

once again, mmmm!

tex devours our bison burgers with a jalapeno-lime aioli

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Kitchen Invaders

Aspen poses dual challenges for my food-driven soul.

First, cook food, and cook it cheap! This has its advantages, encouraging jumbo purchases, so that in time I will familiarize and improve my technique with eggs (think poaching), pork chops, bone-in chicken thighs, random cuts of meat, and mangoes, which went on sale and are a hell of a lot of fun to eat!

Second, outings. This one I'm having a tougher time with. Sure, a few bars, the occasional trip to Hickory House, but when the first challenge is mildly successful, should I really consider it my journalistic calling to go explore the 8.95 "Best Philly Cheesesteak in Aspen" over at Zane's Tavern? 3 weeks in, the answer is no, but I can't deny the occasional pang of conscience. Perhaps I should try and order it "Wiz wit" and see what happens!

So without further do, some successes with a little help from Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything," polished up by yours truly.

The first is linguine with bacon and onions in a light tomato sauce. The catch? The onions and tomatoes are cooked in bacon fat. YESSSS! Topped with parsley and pecorino, this is about the closest I've ever come to a nice presentation.

Now for poached eggs. Extra bacon and tortillas lying around, so I go for it, bacon egg cheddar lettuce wrap. As much as I love BLT's, an exploding yolk puts mayo to shame. Now I just have to learn to not overstuff my wraps!


It might have just inspired me to cook it!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The test of the zilber

Behold, Aspen!

Beautiful recluse-town of celebrities, rich people, australian nature-seekers/shop owners, hippies, drunk fiddlers, other nature-seekers, and poor music students.

ok, its really beyond reason to complain about aspen. every day is beautiful, you are surrounded by mountains and green in every direction, almost everyone says hello, the whole place feels idyllic if a little manufactured, and really, who cares if its a little forced?

however, in addition to the occasional driver who doesn't realize that walker trumps SUV, the only thing i can complain about (and complain i will!) is that i am currently living a half-black from the food and wine festival, dreaming about it, reading about late-night poker/fried chicken contests with mario batali and tom colicchio, perhaps even thomas keller! oh the humanity.

in order to cheer myself up, i went to the public library and picked up "how to cook everything" by mark bittman, and am slowly marking up the pages so i can make my next shopping trip really count.

so the current reading list is:
haruki murakami - the elephant vanishes
michael ruhlman - the reach of a chef
Michael Dirda - Readings
training for the GRES

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

fresh zilberterie!

after a long break i have tons of food pictures (both of the elsewhere-eaten and home-made variety) waiting to be posted!

so i will try to post a bit each day, to catch up after this time of recital/finals/etc.

last week i made an astoundingly simple and ridiculously delicious pasta dish.
ever since dinner at carrie cerino's (with its pasta carbonara with two cooked yolks in the sauce and a raw yolk waiting to be broken on top, i've been fascinated by this idea of texture and sauce. specifically, creaminess without the cream! cream is great, but fettucine alfredo scares me, and i think always will.

so check out this recipe, care of nancy silverton and the nytimes
gimme the recipe, fool!
egg noodles and red cabbage(my substitution - unlimited supply at the dining halls, you know?) in an anchovy sauce topped with two over-easy eggs

oh, and mashing those eggs is fun.

read more about nancy silverton here : feed me pizza!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Philadelphia part 2!

Long overdue post on the rest of the week in Philadelphia!

a storm of eating and cooking!

tacos from la lupe - chorizo, queso, and pork al castor!!!!

we made a 2:30 am trip to pat's, for a half-decent cheesesteak and AMAZING entertainment. nothing like seeing drunk people lit up by neon scrambling for cheesesteaks at 2:30 in the morning.

assortment of hoagies from Lee's Hoagie Shack

The Entree from our dinner - Grilled Black Sea Bass with Parsnip Puree, Sauteed Spinach, and Saffron Vanilla Sauce (made with mussel stock)

The Mussels (from the stock) in a Sauce Gribiche

Green Beans in Red Wine Vinegar Cream Sauce atop a Tomato Tartare

Me and my mom chow down on sushi, udon, and amish-pretzel-dough-wrapped hot dogs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Philadelphia Showdown - Part 1

A quick review of eating in Philly in the past week, with just a pinch of comments.

Tonight a trip to Marc Vetri's harrowingly exciting and phenomenally fresh restaurant Osteria, at 640 North Broad Street. Our meal was the following.

  • Lombardo pizza with baked egg, bitto (homemade sausage), mozzarella, cotechino, tomato (wood fired and packed with flavor)
  • Salumi plate with prosciutto, lardo, porchetta (all house cured)
  • baccala mantecato with pane carasau ( a whipped salt cod dish with crackers)
  • tripe alla parmigiana (dannnng)
  • seasonal vegetable plate (the most moist tomato of my life, and one of the sweetest tangiest onions)
  • bucatini with testa ragu (testa is pig's head after some elaborate process with nutmeg and allspice)
  • prosciutto ravioli with peas and .... sauce ( ridiculous sauce, whatever it was)
  • rabbit casalinga with pancetta, sage, brown butter, polenta
  • braised pork ribs and sausage with cabbage and polenta
  • polenta budino with gianduia (sweet polenta with hazlenut chocolate mousse)
  • tangerine zuppa inglese (a tangerine layered dessert)
  • sorbettos (blood orange, pineapple, black grape)

almost everything was ridiculously outstanding. as i have been reading and thinking more about food these past months, i now know that what i am looking for are flavors that i haven't had before. as much as i enjoy food and attempt to be adventurous, there is still so much out there that is foreign to me, and that is a wonderful thing. the depth of the polenta, smoky and creamy, accompanying the fascinating spice-inflected sausage, was a revelation. as was the hollowed-out bucatina in that ridiculous testa sauce, whose every bite became more moist and intense. the prosciutto, both in and out of the ravioli, attaining a creaminess and smoothness beyond belief. the variation of textures and flavors with each bite, of each course, of each plate. the extreme care and vibrance of the food, from the delicate intensely fruity sorbetto to those elevated vegetables. a terrific meal. very few misses, beyond a good but not great salt cod (although all we ate otherwise was meat, perhaps it just didn't fit in) and a rabbit that was a bit tough, unless you wanted to really dig in around the bones (which I did in fact desire!) no pictures, this was a meal to enjoy and re-live afterwards...

A quick rehash in list forms

  • Tria at 18th and Sansom
Salice wine from Italy and Dogfish Head Aprihop Beer
Two Cheeses - Persille de Beajolais w/ pear bread and honey, and Gruyere w/ chunky tapenade (the persille was awesomely intense, incuding some finger/knife lickage)

  • Late-night Snack
New Orleans style Osso Bucco, Fresh Salad, and Portabellos in Balsamic Vinegar (damn my parents can cook!)

  • KC's Pastries in Chinatown
Sesame Ball, BBQ Pork Bun, Egg Custard (greasy and delicious, $1.80 total!)

  • Lunch on the George
Home-made Turkey Provolone Prosciutto Bacon Paninis

  • A stop at Capogiro for Gelato (20th and Sansom)
Sweet Milk, a combo of lemon/ginger and lime/cilantro, and pineapple/mint and Bitter Dark Chocolate

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Passing Bites: (Spicy, Thwarted, and Potato-y)

A week of accomplished eating, briefly re-told.

Phnom Penh
1929 25th Street

A delicious Cambodian meal, although I still am somewhat unclear as to what we ordered/ate. There was a roast pork coconut stew that we sprinkled on rice cakes, some sort of lemongrass-ginger-cumin noodle dish, with a serious kick (and this was the medium spice option, that is fucking awesome), and a sweet ginger-garlic-laced chicken, onion, pepper dish. Upon waking the day after, I found that the leftovers were every bit as good. So far, Asian food in Cleveland has not failed to impress, with food that is spicy, not overly sweet, and which combines some totally original and unabashed flavors. An odd garish place, completely abandoned at 5:30 on a Friday, but that had an undeniable charm. Any eatery whose website is ohiorestaurant.com and is run by a man claiming to be named "Mono Bun" has to have some charisma.

A Thwarted Bite - My miraculous jedi mind skills stopped a big ravenous white dog in his tracks while running! Aw shit!

Lucky's Cafe
777 Starkweather Ave.

A delicious simple corner coffeehouse/bakery with exquisite brunch options and atmosphere. The emphasis is definitely on sweet combos and slightly adventuresome baking. We split an order of sweet potato waffles with apple compote and honey whipped cream, sausage gravy with cheddar scallion biscuit and home fries, a Shipwreck of eggs, veggies, bacon, potatoes, fresh-made bagueette and homemade jelly, and a side order of pecan praline encrusted bacon. Totally delicious, totally fresh food, although bring your sweet tooth. Even the sweet potato waffles were just a hint of savory amidst a mountain of warm stewed apples and ice-cream like whipping! It was tough not to go crazy buying pastries after our meal, as the muffin selection put my muffin experiments to shame! One sign that this is a solid establishment: All the eggs I saw brought out were wet, juicy, fluffy. The emphasis was on flavors and sauces that mixed up in creamy goodness, a prerequisite for any truly great breakfast experience.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Review: El Diablo visits North Olmsted

Nuevo Acapulco
24409 Lorain Ave.
North Olmsted

I wanted to like the salsa, I truly did. It had a loose end of cilantro floating atop, it smelled sweet, looked spicy, perhaps chunky too! Yet when I dipped my first nacho into the bowl I met none of the resistance of tomatoes or onions or herbs I expected, and was left swirling my hand in a void of sauce! I tasted it. Then I re-tasted it, in disbelief. No! Why me?!

My long nightmarish journey into Mexican food in Ohio had begun a few years ago, but I was depending on Nuevo Acapulco in North Olmsted to perhaps prove me wrong and remind me of the glorious comfort of hot Mexican food, which holds many of the happiest moments of my life.

On first view, the place looked intensely promising. There was a grilled smell floating around the room, a raucous bar, lots of drunk Mexicans, and a 20 minute wait at 5:30 on a Friday. The dining room is gaudy beyond belief, with neon murals, strung-up paper mache parrots, and all the Mexican kitsch you could dream of. Yet my favorite Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia (La Lupe) has the same style of decorations and a repeating 10-minute tape of terrible Mariachi music, and so I have come to associate gaudiness with authenticity, a dangerous mistake on this night.

After the tepid salsa and the cold nacho chips, we dug into a cheese dip that tasted like it might have been emptied from a Tostito’s jar of salsa con queso, except even more plasticky and slimy. Supposedly flavored with cilantro, other herbs, and peppers, it had only a chemical spiciness without any flavor that could be deemed natural.

At this point the smiles at our table started to wain, and we all began to worry about the next course. I had ordered the chicken mole, because it is one of my favorite dishes and one of the most often varied at Mexican restaurants, due to the strange and unique flavors of its composition, a deep and robust combination of chocolate and peppers.

The mole at Nuevo Acapulco was an unattractive viscous light brown, unlike the dark and thick sauces I have usually encountered. As I prodded the chicken (sliced into tenders for my ease?) I noticed a film forming on top of the sauce. I secretly hoped this was a harbinger of promise, as the restaurant may have chosen to use more fat and not skimp on flavor. But as I took my first bite my face twinged in abject disappointment. This mole tasted like a cross between melted chocolate and motor oil. There was no glorious mixture of flavors, but instead an off-kilter sickliness that is still giving me shivers. After another try brought along a moment of nausea, I set about wiping dry the remaining pieces on my plate.

As for the other items, the refried beans tasted like they were from a can, and cold as well. The rice was ordinary and bland. Enchiladas tasted like poor-quality ground beef smothered in canned tomato sauce with a splash of taco seasoning. The steak al chipolte was overcooked and tough, and the overpowering sauce bore an unseemly resemblance to a watered-down version of Campus Dining Services’ chipotle mayo. The margaritas tasted like they had come from a mix and delivered intensely skimpy amounts of alcohol for the price of more than five dollars.

To rub it in, Nuevo Acapulco served us a “fried” ice cream that was nothing more than a rock-hard ball of ice cream sprinkled with some sort of fried particles. At least they chose to include a few splashes of nutmeg, it was probably the first spice I had tasted all night.

Nuevo Acapulco was a terrible restaurant from start to finish. It left me and my friends feeling used and dirty, as we were delivered food that was clearly not fresh, not creative, and not authentic. Yet it is worth noting that people did genuinely seem to like the place. What did we miss? The grilled meats, perhaps? Or does this sort of flavorless bland reproduction of Mexican food somehow appeal to Ohios? Oh the humanity! The idea that you can somehow combine mere ingredients without any subtlety of flavor or care for freshness and call it “Mexican” is dangerous, offensive, and insulting.

As it came time to pay, I imagined what my 18 dollars could have purchased at La Lupe. Freshly-made corn tacos dripping with queso, or roasted pork al castor, barbaco goat with pineapple, staggeringly flavorful chorizo, fried plantains, chicken mole, and even a soda, and I probably wouldn’t even have made it to 15 dollars. And then, amidst my revery, I realized I was still in North Olmsted and started to cry.

0 MMMs
Nightmarishly bad food, that I am still trying to forget.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Passing Bites: #1 Pho / Banana-Pear-Pecan Crumble

#1 Pho
3120 Superior Ave.

A post-audition snack was attained in the form of Number One Pho, a synthesized-pop-music-playing wood-polished-pretending-to-be-upscale Vietnamese eatery on Superior Avenue, a block crowded with Just Like Mom's ( a Soul Food and Seafood restaurant) and Superior Pho, whose entrance is reached only by entering Just Like Mom's. Number One Pho seems like a promising place, and though I wish we could have tried the whole menu, since there were just two of us we decided on some Charbroiled Pork Rolls, a bowl of Pho with beef, brisket, and tendon, and a bowl of Beef Stew served with French Bread.

Deliciously spiced food! The highlight of the meals were the sauces, from the fish sauce-accented dipping liquid that elevated the char-broiled rolls, to the glorious Pho broth that beckoned to the tongue with waves of cinnamon, anise, ginger, and cloves! I always am a bit uncomfortable when they bring over the plate of sprouts, basil, jalapenos, and sauces, because as the meal progresses it becomes harder and harder not to just dump everything in, which , except for a smidgen of hot sauce, was my end result. In this liquid there is such a diversity of flavors and textures, a rich smoothness that sat on my tongue for the rest of the night, leaving me in a state of wonder and melancholy (there is no Pho in Oberlin, you know....)

Then yesterday night I was bemoaning once again the monetary necessities for cooking! Spices, meat, cooking pots! Its just close to impossible for a student to have a well-stocked kitchen on their own, and yet I am trying to be committed to learning and experimenting and fucking up lots of dishes in private so that I can get a handle on this cooking business. So I went for basic and took a recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini for a pear-banana-pecan crumble, which, lets face it, sounds pretty hard to screw up. And true enough, when I looked at the preparations, it hit me. Butter, sugar, fruit, and nuts heated for a long time - basic and delicious. Add some bran flakes and a little flour and you've got a little more crunch, et puis voila! Although I plan on making future crumbles with whatever assortment of fruits I can swipe from the dining halls, the combo of pear and banana is notable for the way the textures of the two meld together, the soft yet present flavor of each combining. I used very ripe pears, extra-soft, and so they had a near-banana-y mushiness. yum!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Review: Sausage Fest!

The Sausage Shoppe
4501 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44144

Pictures forthcoming, but for now enjoy this picture from their website with Tony Bourdain..

The first moments of entering a city are a magical thing. Coming into Chicago on Lakeshore Drive, your mind is awakened by the sudden appearance of the lake, the steadily heightening buildings, the new palette of colors and shapes that rule the landscape. You stare out each side of the car, flitting back and forth, eager to see what’s next as you race inward towards the heart of the city.

Now you’re in Cleveland. The suburbs. As your minivan pulls off of 480 you are stunned to find yourself in a small town called Old Brooklyn. Brooklyn! In Ohio! This is mighty promising. That little pulse of excitement is awakened in your veins, as you pass a few tire shops and then drive past a gas station. Then another gas station. Then one more! Then a few shady bars, a pizza’n’ribs restaurant, and a donut monstrosity called the “donut connection” that looks like one of the hatches on Lost. The street names are exotic, sporting names such as “Memphis” and “Brooklyn” and you start to sense the presence of greatness. Here, in this sleepy town of gas stations, donuts, and grayness there is a revelation, a portal into another world of tastiness unimaginable and occasionally unpresentable. Welcome to the heart of sausage, my friends.

The Sausage Shoppe is easily missed, as it appears to be a mostly unadorned 2 room house with an enlarged parking lot. The store itself consists of one large lengthwise counter with the meat, a freezerful of homemade sodas and jerky, and a wall of cabinets with European-style rolls, an assortment of sauerkraut and sauces, and imported chocolates. Within this small confine, there is a glorious intoxicating smell, smoky, garlicky, and sweet. My nose erupted in sniffles as soon as I entered the door, as the smoked smell (the sausages are all made in the adjoining room) mixed with the smell of the loads of hickory smoked bacon sitting beautifully within the counter. There is probably no better way to convey the sheer magnitude of meat combinations than a list of some of the options. Seriously, the online catalog has 401 options of sausages, pates, hams, ground beef, and perogies. These include a huge and seasonal assortment of bratwurst, fresh and smoked kielbasa, Leberwurst Pate, Smoked Leberwurst, Proski, or Mettwurst, a glorified Sheffler Ham, Blood or Liver Ring, jerkies, hot dogs, and of course hickory smoked bacon.

Since this was our first visit, me and the Beer-Battered Brothers tried to get a wide but basic assortment of goodies, opting for the fresh kielbasa with garlic, and four kinds of Bratwurst: Old Brooklyn (flavored with crushed red pepper and cayenne), White (with milk, eggs, and chives), German (with mustard seed) and the self-explanatory Beer.

I have always been a mostly content fan of sausage, but this assortment was an eye-opening shock into the true depths of flavors, textures, and levels of moistness to which sausage might aspire. The Kielbasa was intensely herby and juicy, with each puncture of the casing releasing a smooth garlicky liquid. The White shared this juiciness, but added an element of soft meltiness and creaminess, so that the meat texture was merely a base for the chives and milk. The German brat was utterly different, a firm chewy sausage whose flavor is distinctive and deep, with the echoes of mustard and a smoky aftertaste. The Old Brooklyn was siiiiick. With the most potent smell of the bunch, we knew it had to be fucking good. Slightly less firm than the German, the Old Brooklyn captured the same meaty texture but had more juice, so that each bite released a new wave of intense and fiery pepper, still with the rich depth and smoothness of the softer sausages.

We had jerky as an appetizer to this delicious meal, and it was terrically smoky and chewy. The most remarkable and common observation I had about the sausage shoppe is that they seem to have perfected the art of packing a small piece of meat (any kind) with intense moistness and flavor, and this was clearly the case with the jerky.

The sausage shoppe is no restaurant, and unless you want to eat some jerky or drink a soda there is nothing you can eat without a fire. So go home and cook, you lazy bums! We prepared our sausages in a bit of water, browned to perfection, served plain or on European-style brat rolls with some Dijon mustard or Yellow Mustard, depending on the flavor combo of the sausage. This is an amazingly fun and easy food to prepare, not to mention inexpensive, and there is something wonderful about eating intensely gourmet and complex sausages while watching Sportscenter.

The Sausage Shoppe has done something incredible, in perfecting a single craft of food-making. Dedication, passion, purpose, its all contained in each link, if you just look (or bite) closely! As I imagine our next trip on 480, hurtling down the highway, I can feel the goosebumps start to grow!

4 MMMs (out of 5)
They just do sausage, but they re-define it!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Treat: Winter Doldrums

Here is a little something while you wait for a forthcoming entry on a trip to the Sausage Shoppe.....

The Wintry Doldrum Treat d'Oberlin

Prescribed for particularly slow and/or crappy weekends:
  • French Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Nutella
  • Banana
  • Joel Durand's Creme Caramel with salted butter and hazelnuts from Piemont

all right, that last ingredient might be hard to come by for some of you, but it is essential. if you must go to st. remy to get it, GO!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

when it snows be resourceful

so, when you awake to find yourself with this....pull yourself together
round up a few friends
prep your electric mixer
et puis voila!

ben's own homemade dark chocolate chip cranberry cookies,
with hints of cloves, allspice, and cinnamon

confession: i am learning how to bake. what are the baking properties of things like brown sugar, cranberries, allspice, butter, honey, or whatnot? I don't know. So my mission is to continue baking and to progressively extend my reach, trying out new bases and new ingredients. Failure is essential, though you won't see any of it! I am thinking the next cookie will contain honey, peanut butter, and banana (i.e. what I have lying around)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Review: I'm Melting!!!

The Melt Bar
14718 Detroit Avenue

Why has there never been a fast food restaurant based on grilled cheese, or a franchise place? When one sees grilled cheese on a menu, it almost always arrives as part of a kid's menu or packed in with the sides, a glaringly obvious placement for picky eaters and bland tastes. Grilled cheese, like Rodney Dangerfield, can't get respect. But does it really deserve it? As Oberlin proves every day of the week, grilled cheese CAN indeed be an oily mess of texture-less taste-less bread and plasticky cheese. I went to the Melt Bar hoping to be persuaded and perhaps moved, to re-attain my grilled cheese innocence.

The menu of the Melt Bar is a carefully constructed, yet audacious foray into the possibilities of the grilled cheese sandwich. Layered on top of thick-sliced and insanely crusty (that is the
complimentary crusty) Italian bread, one can get such variations as the home-cookin' revivalesque Porky Cheese (honey ham, crisp bacon, swiss), the ethnic fusion sandwich of Smokey Russian (smoked turkey, napa vodka kraut, smoked gouda), or the insanity of the North Coast Shores (crab cakes, garlic spinach, roasted red pepper, and cream cheese). I opted for the Cleveland-inspired "Parmageddon," a sandwich filled with potato and cheese perogies, napa vodka kraut, grilled onions, and sharp cheddar. See Figure 1 below... Upon the first bite my mouth was in heaven! The crust of the italian bread shattered in buttery flakes while the melted cheese merged with the perogie cheese to create an unbelievably smooth thick creamy bite. Heavy? Fuck yeah. The sandwich is intense, starchy, mind-numbingly cheesy, totally slimy. What impressed me the most about this sandwich was the wild textures contained, from the shattering crust to the spongy interior of the bread, with the melted cheese versus the harder perogie cheese, and the potato-y perogie dumpling against the sweet grilled onions. Every bite gave me a new chance to taste a different balance of flavors and items.

My friends (heretofore know as the Chew Crew) ordered the Hot Italian (grilled salami, honey ham, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted garlic, provolone) and the Westside Monte Cristo, a deep-fried grilled cheese with honey ham, smoked turkey, swiss, and american. The Hot Italian was a savory mix of deep flavors, expanding the cheese and bread bases with healthy heaps of meat and a tomato pesto that was a sour-sweet revelation. The Monte Cristo was AWESOME! Look at the bread! Deep fried and suddenly squishy soft, it was like a rich beignet-like donut, so that even the american cheese was richened, the whole thing a sweet almost-dessert decadent treat.

Plates are served with
old-school french fries, cut thick and still with a dense true potato texture, and some seriously sub-par slaw, lacking almost any creaminess (i mean, a grilled cheese restaurant should not slack on creamy items, should they?) Perhaps they were thinking people might want a break from the cheese, but everyone at my table avoided the slaw nearly completely.

Some other standouts about the place are an outstanding and ridiculously reasonable beer list (Delirium Tremens, Dogfish Head, and Rasputin Imperial Stout all on draft!), and menus placed on the back of old records. I got a Twisted Sister album featuring Dee Snider waving around a half-knawed bone. I thought it was pretty fitting for the place! And the atmosphere, which is sort of like slightly done-up neighborhood bar. There is a faux-stained glass with inset cutlery, soccer playing on the television, and lots of brick, and the whole place is comfortable if not intensely hip or interesting. As for other menu items, salads and soups looked great, and I will definitely order the goldfish-laden Chili, and Fried Twinkie dessert upon a second visit, when I perhaps forgo the Parmageddon, as a gesture of kindness to my stomach.

The Rating - For a Primer, This is out of 5 MMMs

3.5 MMMs