Cruisers Grill: You won’t have to tell me twice to “eat more chicken” (chunks that is)

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So – I have been to two popular locations of this indescribably good local spot. Cruisers Grill is everything you want  – and more – from your local casual burger-and-fries-joint that is a step above fast food. Even though they are famous for their burger, which has been around long before the gourmet burger trend took hold in our lives, their chicken is stupefyingly good. Marinated chicken chunks. These three words are really all you need to know when ordering at Cruisers – in my opinion. Imagemy awesome lunch – marinated chicken chunks and ranch

OK – so I lied. There is one REALLY important word you also need to utter at Cruisers. I mean this word is almost as important to your well-being as the word Expelliarmus is to Harry Potter’s life. Are you ready for it…RANCH…and not just the Hidden Valley or Kraft mediocre chemical filled kind. Cruisers’ ranch dressing is homemade and is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted from ranch…which is alot. This buttermilk ranch will knock your socks off. You also will devour it quicker than Leo DiCaprio downs Quaaludes in The Wolf of Wall Street. Honestly it is some amazing ranch dressing. We all know Jonah Hill would drown all of his food in it…and then have Leo save his life when he chokes. Sorry for all the “Wolf of Wall Street” talk but that scene is just so incredible. 

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Anyways if you are ever in Northeast Florida,  specifically Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach or St. Augustine, you should do yourself a favor and go grab some marinated chicken chunks…and ranch and bask in all its glory. Be careful though, you might just addicted. And if you are a vegetarian – well I really don’t know what to tell you – oh wait – one more word: CHEESE FRIES. I think that says it all.  Also the Tootsie Pops they give you with your meal make our inner child happy. But only the red flavors since I’m 5 at heart. Image

The Mermaid Inn: Manhattan Staple…Only thing missing is a dinglehopper

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“Under the sea”…actually in a back-room-indoor-courtyard-oasis with dim lighting and filled with smiles. Happy customers at this East Village stronghold. Who knew Manhattanites could be this happy eating seafood on a freezing winter night.  

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My friends and I were a bit overwhelmed by the options. So cliche, a group of women who can’t decide on what to eat because everything on the menu looks good. We knew we wanted to start out with oysters, but we got into a debate over East vs. West Coast oysters. Can you say first world problems? Luckily we returned to our senses. 

So the waiter helped us create a beautiful combination of East and West Coast oysters, and let’s just say they looked pretty on the plate for a whole 3 minutes – before they were devoured.

If you don’t want to bug your waiter to help you order or you’re just so into the convenience of your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad, and want to use it at dinner, there is an Oysterpedia app that The Mermaid Inn created. OK so this is definitely a first world problem in more ways than one. But, I must say it is pretty genius and seems like it could be useful. 

The oysters were great, and even though I liked the East Coast ones A LOT –  my blog name is the EAST COAST food blogger after all – the West Coast oysters were incredible.

The true highlight of my meal was the main course. Even though I generally find all things to come out of New England a bit annoying – OK just the Patriots and Tom Brady – I ordered the lobster roll. It was pretty much everything and more than you can ask from a lobster roll. Oh and it came with Old Bay seasoned fries. #yesplease

photo-3 lobster roll at The Mermaid Inn – Photo Credit: Gotham Magazine’s best lobster rolls in NYC article 

This lobster roll was included on a list of the best lobster rolls in the city. The fact that this list exists makes me want to try all of them and see for myself. It will be hard to top this one from The Mermaid Inn.

I loved the company I was with, the ambience in the nautical indoor courtyard space, the lobster roll, and last-but-not-least the complimentary dessert. Literal “icing on the cake”.

They give you chocolate pudding cups (which they also give you at the sister restaurant Mermaid Oyster Bar which I have also dined at). In addition to these bite-sized, perfectly portioned pudding cups, you get a fish fortune. A plastic fish that moves when placed in your palm and tells you what you are feeling. According to my fish fortune I was feeling passionate, but one of my dining companions was feeling envious according to her fish. HMM. 

Imagefish fortune and chocolate pudding

A pleasant , happy, tasty meal. I mean anywhere with oysters + lobster + free dessert… can you say happiness?

Who’s kitchen? Hu Kitchen…Humans that is.

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Oh, New York. On a rainy, wintry-mix kind of Saturday morning, over the long MLK weekend, I had the pleasure of experiencing Hu Kitchen near Union Square. This ‘straunt , as one of my good friends likes to say, is located directly across from the rust-colored New School building (or in simpler terms 14th and 5th).

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In New York City one can encounter any cuisine they are searching for…you want some South African food for lunch? No problem you have multiple options…are you dying for Serbian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? I mean, honestly who isn’t? Are you over-the-moon about Barbadian food? You can get Barbadian or barbaric food, whatever you prefer, whenever you want in NYC. What I’m getting at is that you have so many options in New York City, and Hu Kitchen clearly demonstrates that eating in New York is like nowhere else, and other cities should start taking notes…yesterday. Hu Kitchen is a Paleo friendly, entirely Gluten-Free, mostly grain-free casual restaurant. You may be asking what is Paleo…just think about how Ross on Friends was a paleontologist…and the Paleolithic Period you studied in school…well if you don’t catch on yet, it is a back-to-the-roots diet focused on pre-industrial foods. I’m going to event a term to describe just how food-allergy friendly Hu Kitchen is…it is basically-everything-friendly.

I went to Hu Kitchen to grab brunch with some friends, and one of the friends just happened to be following the Paleo diet. I am so pleasantly surprised by my experience at Hu Kitchen. I was so pleased with my meal that I didn’t even notice that there was no cheese involved in my delicious breakfast bowl. That’s right…I didn’t even miss having cheese in this tasty concoction.Image

My breakfast bowl had a root vegetable mash base and a sunny side up egg  and vegetable medley on top. I also had some sweet potato hash which was incredible. In addition to the delectable breakfast bowl and sweet potato hash, my friend and I shared the freshest of the fresh carrot-apple-ginger juice. If i’m ever not really hungry (slim chance), I will come by Hu Kitchen just to grab a fresh juice. The fruits and veggies at the juice bar were of such good quality and were displayed attractively; it really made you want to order a juice. AND that is saying something…Image

They also have Paleo-friendly baked goods, packaged gluten-free granola and more…all of which looked incredibly (and surprisIngly) appetizing. 

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French Pantry: You are NOT what the French call les incompetents

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I lunched at French Pantry in Jacksonville, FL a few days ago. From the outside and parking lot surroundings this place looks like somewhere Carrie Mathison would look for Abu Nazir on an episode of Homeland. But when you arrive to the charming awning in front, often filled with a long line of hungry worker bees on lunch break, you know the delicious food is waiting inside.

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This place is usually packed. I mean people even wait in the piping heat with their umbrellas. Who knew people used umbrellas for heat…other than the occasional Malaysian tourists in Europe. I digress.

The food is incredible at French Pantry. On this particular occasion I decided to throw my caution to the wind and avoid just getting a salad. Went all in and pulled a Regina George carbo-load (sort of) – much better than Kalteen bar carbs though. My friend and I ordered two different types of the bruschetta dishes that are lunch entrees at the French Pantry. They have 4 types of entree-sized bruschetta. Who knew you could do so much with bruschetta? 

So I have to be honest here – I have never disliked any dish that involved prosciutto. The prosciutto – artichoke – buffalo mozzarella bruschetta dish was intoxicating.

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I am not done talking about bruschetta yet – I am at a loss for words at how tasty this next bruschetta dish was, and it was a vegetarian dish!

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The eggplant-red pepper-goat cheese bruschetta knocked it outta’ the park. I love eggplant, especially my mom’s homemade eggplant, but this was honestly one of the best preparations of eggplant around. It seemed as though they broiled the eggplant in magical olive oil. The combination of the eggplant, red peppers, and goat cheese was perfect, with a proportionate flavor distribution. Somebody back in the French Pantry kitchen knows their food fractions. Nerd alert. 

All in all my friend and I were in heaven eating these two types of bruschetta. Dessert looked amazing and I think I will have to make a meal out of the pastries and cakes at French Pantry sometime soon.

STAY TUNED – the dessert-as-a-meal at French Pantry will happen. 

Photo Credit: Yelp and Urbanspoon

Ever Wonder…What Do They Eat at the Golden Globes?

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Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' Governors Awards - ArrivalsSo the Golden Globes took place tonight – the fun loving, alcoholic little sister to the Oscars. Do you ever wonder what the A-list film stars and B-list TV actor filled tables are filled with…do you have the burning desire to find out what Matthew McConaughey ate (or didn’t) as his Globes meal? Even if you don’t have these questions roaring in the back of your mind, I have the answers.

The Golden Globes menu featured some delectable goods – so delectable that I wonder just how many of the juice-diet-only and/or macrobiotic celebs actually ate at the fete. Here is what was on the menu at 2014 Golden Globe Awards, according to CBS News:

  •  appetizer trio of grilled eggplant with sundried tomato and pine nut hummus on seared tomato
  • mini sweet pepper with feta cheese, pomegranate, herbs and California olive oil on grilled pita
  • grilled artichoke on multigrain tabbouleh and tahini
  • Mediterranean spice-crusted braised beef short rib
  • sauteed smoked filet of Atlantic sea trout with spinach sweet corn ragout and light cream of tomato dill sauce
  •  mango dessert on almond sponge cake with creme anglaise

Bottles of Moet champagne were flowing but the crowd kept it classy and didn’t pull any champagne-filled Wolf of Wall Street style antics. That I know of. 

On a parting note – can we talk about how amazing the seat assignments were? Yes, we can. Meryl and Julia sitting next to each other is everything. Not to mention Bradley Cooper sitting next to J.Law yet again – no comment necessary…

I guess it’s fine that Christian Bale missed tonight’s meal, given that he had quite the santa stomach in American Hustle. Hopefully he has been bouncing into shape via cardio-dancing Newsies’ style. Wishful thinking. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

An East Coaster on Mountain Time

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Fellow foodies: All hail the food scene in Vail.

I just returned from a two-week trip in the mountains of Vail Valley in Colorado. Let me tell you, the food did not disappoint. 

A particular meal that markquinoa cupsed the closing of our trip really made our mouths water. Terra Bistro, a local favorite, located in the Vail Mountain Lodge, was a delight. I was pleasantly surprised by the gluten-free crisps and Indian lentil and split pea spread that came in place of bread of butter at the beginning of the meal. This spread was succulent. Yes. Succulent. You heard that right, a dip was succulent. I found a similar recipe for this dip online at Epicurious – see Indian Lentil and Split Pea Spread on their site. OK- back to Terra Bistro and the bombastic flavor attack of my meal in Vail.

The Georges Bank Diver Scallops – let me tell you about these diver scallops – there are diver scallops and then there are diver scallops. The scallops were porcini and chili crusted, and accompanied by an out-of-this-world bacon jam and a cinnamon, nutmeg, butternut squash puree.

Terra Bistro is a natural restaurant – blah blah – using 85% to 100% certified organic ingredients. Whatever – that is all fine and good – but the food rocks. Being a natural, humane, clean-eating restaurant and all, Terra Bistro has some wonderfully healthy dishes that are also tasty. Phew, thank the organic gods the food tastes good. So onto this healthy food emphasis…

An appetizer that stood out, especially for my pseudo-vegan-pescatarian-whatchamacallit dining companion, was the quinoa lettuce cup dish. This tasty appetizer included house sprouted quinoa with organic red butter head lettuce cups, avocado, balsamic macerated tomatoes, and basil aioli.

So, in summary, this East Coaster was pleased.

Instructions for eating here in Vail: Eat. Ski. Repeat.