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Food from a guy's perspective

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New York

Bluestone Bistro

Delicious lunch at Bluestone BistroPan seared salmon was to die for as was the Crown Maple pot de creme dessert. Check them out in Poughkeepsie! 

Bluestone Bistro, Poughkeepsie, NY

Bluestone Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Restaurant: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – 59 Federal Road, Danbury, Connecticut and Multiple Locations

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana has quite a history and is easily one of the best-known pizzerias in Connecticut. Known locally as Pepe’s, it still stands in its original location in the Wooster Square neighborhood of New Haven, CT, as well as restaurants in various cities across the state.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

The Danbury location has a simple, green and white interior with an open kitchen. The centerpiece of the bustling kitchen is an enormous coal-fired oven. 

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana Kitchen
Kitchen at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Pies are placed table-side on an oversized tin baking sheet. From there, it’s help yourself as you dig in.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana Sausage and Mushroom Pizza
Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

chowed down on a pizza topped with sausage and mushrooms. While Pepe’s has a rich history, I was unfortunately unimpressed by their pizza. I found the crust to be floppy and the whole pie to be tasteless. 

Slice of Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana Sausage and Mushroom Pizza
Slice of Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

Other detractors are the silverware and plates. Pepe’s skips out on providing anything more than the basics – forks, knives and plastic plates. My biggest complaint is that the plastic plates are so tiny that a slice of pizza falls off the sides. Can’t you invest in some bigger plates?

The Verdict

I was excited to give Pepe’s a try, but unfortunately I left slightly disappointed. The pizza was pretty bland and the tiny plastic plates and lack of anything more than the basics had me thinking Pepe’s is trying to do whatever it can to save money and rein in the profits. Suggestion: buy some plates that at the very least fit a slice of pizza and invest in some silverware other than forks and knives. Maybe a serving utensil for the pizza? 

Frank Pepe Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Coals Grilled Pizza

Restaurant: Coals Grilled Pizza – 35 North Main Street, Port Chester, New York

Pizza can come in a bunch of varieties – from the famous Chicago deep dish to thin crust. Coals Grilled Pizza, with its original location in the Bronx and latest in Portchester, NY, serves up a unique variety of pizza, with a hand-stretched crust seemingly made of pita bread. I recently checked out the Portchester location.

Atmosphere

The interior of Coals is fairly plain, with a quirkiness to it. A bar lines one side of the long and narrow restaurant, opposite a solid red-painted wall. The restaurant is definitely bright. Ample sunlight is let in through skylights dotting the high ceilings. Aside from a few random paintings strewn across the wall, a chalkboard menu and Presidential placemats, there isn’t much to the place. From what I’ve been told, the interior is fairly similar to that of the previous tenants.

On a Sunday afternoon, Coals was empty. I’ve heard this place is packed at night – mainly because of its “no reservations” policy – leaving diners to show up early in hopes of snagging a table.

Food

For a pizza place, Coals has an extensive beer list, with beers on tap from across the country as well as from local breweries. I quickly ordered the sampler – a tasting a four beers of my choosing. This came out on a chalkboard-coated plank, allowing the bartender to transcribe the name of each beer. Nice presentation.

Beer Flight
Mmmm… beer

Up next was a pile of addictive Brussels sprouts, fried and tossed with some delicious sweet sauce (I wish I remembered what this was) as well as walnuts and raisins. These were delicious. They were very sweet, not too salty and had a nice crunch to them. For anyone that refuses to eat Brussels sprouts, I challenge them to try this dish and tell me they don’t like it. I need to figure out how to make this at home.

Brussels sprouts
Deep-fried Brussels Sprouts

A plate of fresh house-made mozzarella, arugula and roasted red peppers added a touch of color to our table. This was all equally delicious. Whenever someone puts a huge ball of fresh mozzarella in front of me I’m not going to complain. I was very impressed with the portion size. I’d order this to start off the meal every time.

House made fresh mozzarella with grilled red peppers, arugula and sea salt
House-made fresh mozzarella with grilled red peppers, arugula and sea salt

The pizza is where Coals really differentiates itself. We ordered two pizzas – margherita and smokey joe. The first thing I noticed was the crust. Coals uses hand-shaped grilled pita bread (if it wasn’t pita bread it sure looked and tasted like it) as its crust. This dough is rolled until it’s very thin and grilled over a coal fire so you can see the grill marks.

Margherita Grilled Pizza
Margherita

The pizzas seem to glow as they arrive at the table. The dough is clearly brushed with olive oil and this, along with the melted cheese, helps to give off this inviting sheen. They’re cut into long rectangular slices and are so thin I quickly over-indulged. So much so that I lost count as to how many slices I ate!

Smokey Joe Grilled Pizza
Smokey Joe

The pizza was incredible. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now. I can’t begin to tell you how good this crust was – the grilling gave it a nice charcoal flavor. The pizza is extremely light but packed with flavor. Loved it!

Service

Our waitress, Samantha, never left our glasses empty and was at the ready to make sure everything was up to par. Since the place was empty we had the opportunity to really take our time, hang out and relax. There was never any pressure to wrap- up and leave.

Value

Appetizers average around $10 and pizzas range from $11 to $15. The value is staring you right in the face. I would have expected the prices to be at least a solid $5 higher all around. Great value with extremely reasonable prices. Keep it up.

The Verdict

Coals takes pizza and gives it a twist with a unique version of your typical pizza crust. As I’m sure you can tell, I loved their version and thought it really helped allow you to taste all the ingredients of the pizza without having to chew on lots of dough. Kudos to Coals. I definitely will be back and recommend checking them out. I may just have to experiment in the kitchen and try to cook up some of this type of pizza myself.

Coals Pizza on Urbanspoon

Congrats Syracuse University Class of 2012 (Plus Some Restaurant Reviews)

This weekend I was up at Syracuse University to congratulate my brother, Stephen, as he graduated with a triple major in international relations, economics and Russian language, literature and culture. If a triple major wasn’t enough, he also was selected to deliver the undergraduate commencement speech, representing the more than 6,000 graduates.

Syracuse 2012 Graduation
Congratulations!

Allow me to continue to brag for a moment. Over the course of his four years at Syracuse, Stephen has been presented with numerous awards, recognitions and honors, culminating in this weekend’s commencement speech. And it won’t stop after graduation. Come September, he will be headed to Kazan, Russia on a Fulbright Scholarship. (Who says a $1,300 plane ticket will stop me from visiting?)

Ok, enough about him. Onto the Syracuse food scene! With my parents at graduation as well, meals were paid for this weekend (thank you Mom and Dad) and we took full advantage.

Blue Tusk

Hello Piggy at the Blue Tusk, Syracuse, NY
Hello Piggy and Red Pepper and Crab Chowder

A true gem in Syracuse’s Armory Square with 69 beers on tap. The interior is your typical nicer bar scene but the food is what separates it from your bar next door. I ordered:

  • Hello Piggy: pulled pork, kimchi, sprig of cilantro, red onion, mayo and a squirt of sriracha hot chile sauce on a round roll
  • Red Pepper and Crab Chowder

The soup was delicious and I could clearly taste the red peppers, giving the chowder a slight kick. The sandwich was equally as good (and spicy). The pulled pork had a great flavor. My one suggestion, ease up on the hot sauce next time. It overpowered a lot of the ingredients in the sandwich.

Boom Boom Mex Mex

Boom Boom Mex Mex
Boom Boom Mex Mex

After a 20 minute drive into the woods of Camillus, NY, we arrived at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. One of the owners, chef Lupe Bryan, is originally from Mexico and heads south of the border every year. Based on this, I had high hopes. Food here is served cafeteria style and it reminded me a lot of Chipotle. Unfortunately, the food reminded me of Chipotle as well. I wasn’t impressed with any of the dishes we ordered, ranging from tacos to nachos to various meats to quesadillas. The plus was the dirt cheap prices and BYOB policy. If you’re in the area, stop on by. If not, don’t go out of your way.

The Clam Bar

Blue Crab Stuffed Sole
Blue Crab Stuffed Sole

This restaurant is your hole in the wall, local dive seafood joint. Prices are extremely inexpensive for what you get (around $15 for any piece of fish) and while not incredible, the food is good. I ordered the Blue Crab Stuffed Sole with Salt Potatoes. The fish was much thinner than I expected and the crab meat stuffing had way too many chunks of vegetables for my liking. The taste of this dish didn’t stand out to me. However, for the price, it was good and the potatoes were delicious.

What I think makes this place is the atmosphere. You can tell that inside everyone is having a good time. Whether it be at the bar or at one of the tightly packed tables, the customers are smiling and drinking, and the waiters/waitresses are having fun serving and joking around with the customers.

Asti Caffe

Extremely disappointed with this restaurant. Asti’s managers and hostesses don’t seem to know how to run a business. In fact, I never even got a chance to sample any of the food. We had 7:45 p.m. reservations here on Saturday and when we arrived, the people that had our table before us were just being served their food. The restaurant had no solution for us and we were told that we couldn’t take tables that were wide open because they were being held for people that had later reservations. Huh? Why don’t you bump them back as well? Next time, you have our number so at least give us a call next time to let us know the situation so we can come up with alternative plan. I won’t be coming back to this place next time I’m in Syracuse or recommending it.

Francesca’s Cucina

Luckily, Asti Caffe’s screw up was a blessing in disguise. We ended up at Francesca’s Cucina, a quick five minute walk down the street and a must try if you’re in Syracuse. We sat in the outdoor back patio area which had a fire pit lined with extra large comfy padded seats and about 10 tables underneath semi-dimmed outdoor lighting.

Francesca's Crab Stuffed Chicken Breast
Crab Stuffed Chicken Breast

This was an incredible meal with seemingly endless amounts of food being served to our table. Additionally, each dish was a work of art and the presentation was extremely well done. Below is just a sample of what was ordered:

  • Utica Style Greens: sautéed with prosciutto, hot peppers, garlic, and onions. Finished with toasted bread crumbs and Romano cheese
  • Cheese Ravioli: filled with fresh seasoned ricotta cheese with your choice; marinara sauce
  • Crab Stuffed Chicken Breast: packed full of fresh jumbo lump crab meat salad, wrapped in phyllo dough and baked to perfection. Served with a shrimp and lobster chive veloute, mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus

I ordered short ribs which were delicious, but I couldn’t get enough of the Utica Style Greens. The bread crumbs gave it a nice crunch and the prosciutto enhanced the flavor of each bite. (I’m sure all the butter it was cooked in didn’t hurt either.)

Definitely go here if you’re in the area.

A La Mode Cafe & Catering

Albakurkey Turkey
Albakurkey Turkey

A La Mode is your basic sandwich shop kicked up a notch. Its sandwiches are enormous to say the least and very tasty. The picture on the left is the Albakurkey Turkey, consisting of hot roasted turkey, bacon, avocado, melted cheddar cheese and homemade green chile mayo. I was glad to see a departure from your typical deli sandwiches and some unique combinations that had my taste buds happy.

The Verdicts

We all had some great food over the weekend, with the highlight being Francesca’s Cucina. Go to this restaurant. I’d recommend Blue Tusk if you’re in the mood for a bar scene with a seeming infinite amount of beers on tap and some tasty and unique bar food. The Clam Bar makes my recommendation list if you’re looking for a fun atmosphere, just don’t expect too much with the food. A La Mode is also worth visiting if you’re looking for a quick sandwich that is going to fill you up big time. You can skip Asti Caffe and Boom Boom Mex Mex.

All food aside, congratulations to Stephen, Steve, Scuba (whatever you call him) and the entire graduating class of 2012.

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