You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.

The Easton zoning board just granted some exceptions to permit the plans for the Victory Brew Pub slated for downtown Easton to proceed. Seems it’s considered a “food processing” facility due to the brewing. And they want to put up a few more signs than typically permitted. Also sounds like we’ll have a new grocery store on 3rd St in late June.

My mom’s birthday falls within a week of Mothers Day so I usually use that as an excuse to only give her one gift. Parents are impossible to shop for, so we tend to just go out for a nice “meal of food.” I’ve been raving about Bolete since last fall and finally had the perfect occasion to take her there. Bolete is in a great building with a strange location, at the intersection of Seidersville Rd and Emmaus Ave in the Fountain Hill section of Bethlehem. Frankly, the historic farmhouse looks like it was just plopped into its suburban neighborhood. That uniqueness is reflected in the food – an innovative (though short) menu utilizing as many locally sourced, seasonal ingredients as possible. Note: Take the menu on their website as an indication of Bolete’s typical range – not what they will be serving on a particular evening.

Saturday’s menu had a number of compelling choices. Tough to decide. For the first course, my wife went with the mixed green salad with goat cheese and blueberries, my mom chose the calamari (not local obviously, but it’s amazing), and i had to choose between the steak tartare and the roasted quail. Since I was leaning toward beef for my entrée, I went with the quail. Plus, I’d never had quail and I was curious to see what the dish would look like.

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We convinced my wife to go for the softshell crab with fingerling potatoes for her entrée. My mom chose the house-smoked pork chop with polenta cakes and I had the braised beef shank with grit croquettes and oyster mushrooms. I ended up eating the body of the crab. The guts freaked my wife out a little. Totally understandable. There’s no way I would eat that junk out of a steamed crab, but somehow i trusted that Bolete’s chefs wouldn’t feed me anything that would taste bad. Their smoked pork chop is great. You really gotta brine and smoke pork to keep it moist – farmers are breeding them way too lean nowadays. Bolete seems to offer the chop year-round. They just change the prep and the side dishes seasonally. My beef shank was tender and tasty. And i loved the grit croquettes – crispy and creamy and perfect for soaking up sauce.

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We were stuffed but i made a strong case that we absolutely needed dessert. Seeing the dessert menu sealed the deal. Some sharing was considered but quickly abandoned. Fresh doughnuts filled with lemon custard, coated with lemon sugar with a scoop of blueberry sorbet. Lime custard in a macadamia nut pastry shell with spearmint sorbet. Chocolate hazelnut ice cream with white chocolate cream and grapefruit. We appreciated the plating for about half a second before we attacked. Too good.

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Oh, and i forgot to mention the drinks. Bolete has an excellent wine list and some nice beer choices but we went with the mixed drink specials. My wife had the strawberry sangria and i went for the berry margarita with cucumber juice. My mom loves Corona but it wasn’t on the menu – at least not as a stand-alone drink. The Lehigh Valley Lemonade blended Corona, fresh squeezed lemonade and Ketel One vodka. It might be my mom’s new favorite drink.

Needless to say, we had a great time and my mom was really impressed with the food. Can’t wait to go back. Fathers Day is comin’ up right?

Installing a dishwasher isn’t the most fun way to spend a Saturday. The major headache (and legache and neckache) was getting the water pipe precisely lined up with the input on the bottom of the appliance. I had to pull the thing out from under the counter 9 or 10 times to readjust the pipe before it was perfectly lined up. And even then, attaching the compression fitting was beginning to feel impossible after a solid hour of twisting. The nut just would not catch onto the threads. All the while my wife kept asking about dinner. 6 o’clock. 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock. “I’m not going anywhere till i get this thing hooked up!” She came into the kitchen after 9 to inform me that Sogo was open until 11. I gave it one last effort with what little strength i had left. It seemed to catch. I kept pressure on the fitting and turned it a bit more. I finally had it! Since i could only turn the wrench about 5 degrees at a time, it took me till about 9:45 to get it about 95% tightened. I’d finish in the morning when i had my focus back. My new priority was food so i hopped in the shower and we got downtown to Sogo by 10:15.

I got a Sapporo immediately and we ordered an appetizer special, the “Summer Fusion” salad – a tasty blend of greens, avocado, mango, tomatoes and grilled black pepper tuna belly.

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I had to order another Sapporo by the time our entrées arrived. My wife ordered the “Sweetheart Roll” and I had the “Tiger Roll.” Tasty as usual. Forget the soy sauce and wasabi.

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It was too late for dessert so we just chilled for a few minutes before heading back up College Hill with my wife behind the wheel. I was out like a light as soon as i got in bed, but i got up bright and early (sore neck and all) and finished the dishwasher hookup. It’s glorious.

Stopped by Diner 248 out on rt. 248 (duh) in Palmer last week. We were on our way to look at dishwashers at Sears cuz our old workhorse just crapped out on us and we needed a place for a quick bite. Diner 248 used to be the mediocre Jack Creek Steakhouse. We ate there once and there was nothing remarkable about the menu or décor, yet the place always looked packed on weekends. Not sure why they went out of business.

From what we remembered, the layout was pretty much unchanged. Apart from the dessert case just inside the door, there’s very little about the place that seems very diner-ish. There’s a large barroom on one side of the building and a fairly standard large dining room on the other side. The table spacing, lighting and lack of noise stands in contrast to the more hectic, informal vibe that we find so appealing in diners. The menu did have the range of options we love about places like Key City diner on rt. 22 in P-burg. (How can a kitchen offer 100 options including gyros, eggplant parm, roasted chicken and 6 kinds of soup? And prepare them equally well? Mindboggling.) Diner 248’s menu wasn’t quite that extensive but there was enough to fit any mood. One thing we noted was that they didn’t serve breakfast all day – so no late night short stacks with a side of sausage i guess. Bummer.

The liquor license was definitely a plus though. My wife ordered a Dark ‘n Stormy (they shoulda made it with Gosling’s) and I got a Sam Adams Belgian ale. We were in a bit of a hurry so we went straight to entrées. I went with the pork chops and filling smothered in cranberry chutney. I subbed a bowl of French onion soup for the side salad. My wife got the crab cakes and a salad. Overall, the food was good, the portions and prices were fine, but they could use a bit of plating finesse. Hell, most diners will at least throw down a sprig of parsley.

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The plan was to hit Valenca the other Friday night, but we pushed it to Saturday. Then the weather was so nice that we chose to hang in the yard and throw a couple burgers on the grill. Sunday would be it. But we sorta remembered Valenca being closed on Sundays? Sogo would be our fallback just in case.

Parked on 3rd near our old apartment and found Valenca to be open as we entered the square. The patio tables were tempting, but the sun was setting and the temp was already borderline too cold. We grabbed an indoor table by the window and stared at the menus for a while before our server showed up. The service has definitely been my biggest problem with Valenca. It’s easily the weakest of any of the better downtown restaurants. We’ve been there about 5 times, and obviously haven’t encountered every server, but there always seems to be something lacking. And it’s not like any of our visits have been during peak hours, so that excuse doesn’t apply.

Sunday was no different. Maybe 10-20% full. Our server took our drink order – had to get the red sangria– and then strangely asked us if we wanted any “entrées.” I figured he meant “appetizers” so I ordered the flambéed Portugese sausage. He paused and awaited more input. Umm…ok let’s just order our entrées too i guess. I got the salmon and my wife combined a salad with the steamed clams appetizer, asking to have them together as her entrée.

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The sangria took a while to arrive, but it was goooood. We noticed the table next to us ordered the sausage as well. Turned out it was mine and it went to the wrong table. It came our way after the brief confusion, joined by my wife’s salad – the one she wanted as her entrée. When all of the grappa burned off, the sausage was moved to a dish and sliced before coming my way. It was fantastic. Make sure you have some bread to soak up the juices. My wife didn’t mind having the salad early… but it was another one of those little things.

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The roasted salmon was served with crisp green beans and flavorful mashed potatoes – nothin fancy, but really good. The littlenecks’ white wine broth had “a lot of butter” – not sure if that was good or bad.

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I had half of my meal wrapped so i could save room for dessert. I’d wanted ice cream earlier that day but the coffee/gelato shop on College Hill was sand gelato for another week-and-a-half. WTF? It’s always killed me that people don’t think anyone eats ice cream between October and April… but i’ll save that rant for another day.

I ordered the dark chocolate cake with canoli filling, and i convinced my wife to get the chocolate hazelnut ice cream. Cake and ice cream is a perfect combo. We dug in so fast we forgot to take a pic. Oops.

We had 2 full glasses of sangria remaining even after dessert. I’d guess you get about 6 glasses in a $21 pitcher. Good deal. Definitely one of Valenca’s good points – in addition to the decor, the large patio area, free valet parking, and many unique menu options. They just need to take a few lessons from Ocean and Sette Luna on how to run a tighter ship.

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  • the red and black
    For many Junes, this was my favorite cocktail. Yes, I realize that I sound particularly like a weird food writer person and not a person who lives among other people because most normal, sane people do not have a favorite cocktail for each month of the year, even if you agree with me — you do, right? –that a Perfect Manhattan is the ideal way to warm up on t […]

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