fighting the lack of good ideas

the julep cup

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a restaurant worth writing about. Last night I finally found one again.

To celebrate the two monthiversary of marrying my wife (since I had to miss the one month one with work travel), I decided to take her out to a nice place that wasn’t a chain (if possible).

After a coupe hours of searching food review in Lexington, perusing various websites like Google local results and Urbanspoon, I finally went to the old standby, OpenTable. OpenTable doesn’t have every possible restaurant listed, only ones that choose to participate. But it does allow you to look over user reviews, link to the restaurant’s menu, etc. (Yes, other sites do this, too, but OT adds the secret sauce.)

After finding The Julep Cup, less then 4 miles from our apartment, I decided that was where we should go. 111 Woodland Ave in Lexington is on the corner of E Main St, on the first floor of The Woodlands building (along with some other small shops, but we didn’t go in any of those).

For an appetizer, we ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and garden salads. For her main dish, my wife ordered the Linguine and Clams and I had their Ricotta and Pecorino Romano Raviolis. Our server, Truitt, was attentive without hovering (we also think he was new, because he was a little nervous, but he did an excellent job). Water and tea glasses were refilled, the courses of our meal arrived in a timely fashion, and we were able to enjoy our meal on their patio in the pleasant evening shade of a late summer day.

The linguine sauce was light but flavorful, and I’m not sure I’ve seen as many clams festooned across a dish that wasn’t just a pound of steamed clams before. My ravioli was fantastic, and the mushrooms and generous romano shavings on top added a nice contrast to the simple ricotta filling.

The Julep Cup (dinner menu) doesn’t require reservations, but they are suggested. Last night, they had plenty of seating available, but I would imagine that’s different seasonally, and on other nights of the week.

The outdoor seating was pleasant, and my wife and I are looking forward to dining there again soon.

ninja service

Saturday evening I took my fiancee to Cumberland Falls Park just a little way from where she grew up outside Corbin KY.

We decided to have a light dinner at the DuPont Lodge to enjoy the gorgeous view of the river on a picture-perfect spring evening.

The food was good – nothing amazing, but that’s not why you go to the Falls. You go for the views. The dinner buffet is a very reasonable price, and well-worth partaking-in to enjoy the trees budding-out.

What impressed me most about the restaurant was the completely unobtrusive service our waitress provided: she removed empty plates and refilled drinks with us barely noticing she had come by. Our glasses were never empty more than a minute, and plates sat on the table for what seemed like only seconds before they vanished.

If you have the chance to go, you absolutely should: not for the food, but for the view – and the service.

little vietnam

I’ve been enjoying a small restaurant near my apartment in Singapore. It’s a cash-only operation called Little Vietnam. They’re located at 511 Guillemard Road S.

They open at 1700, and close at 0100 Tuesday through Sunday.

I’ve now been there several times, trying different pho options, the spring rolls, and some other specialties that jump off the menu at me.

But what’s kept me going back is not merely the low prices on food (you can get full for ~S$6), but how polite and friendly the staff is. I have trouble pronouncing their names, and so far have only gotten one down: Thanh.

The staff is from all over Vietnam, and has been interested in talking to me – partially because I’m an American, but also because I go in by myself, and am willing to chat with them. And I don’t treat them like they’re servants or slaves the way a lot of waitstaff are treated here in Singapore.

Another benefit of the restaurant is they do not have a built-in service charge – so I can leave a tip for what I think the meal and service is worth rather than being forced to leave 10-15%.

This has definitely become my favorite restaurant in Singapore to go to.

the national museum of singapore

Saturday I went to the museum, as planned. It was pretty interesting, but I would not suggest it either for small kids (probably under 10 or 12, unless they’re really really interested in the history of Singapore) or as place to go if you want to talk about what you’re looking at with the folks you bring with you.

Not all of the museum requires an admission, just the history hall and the special display galleries downstairs. Which, I geuss is most of the museum, but you can get to the museum store and the restaurant with no admission 🙂

After paying my 10 SGD, I was directed to the second level to pick up my “companion” – one of those carry-with-you, dedicated, personal kiosk thingies like the Gugenheim in NY has. After picking up my companion, I followed the tour into a large, cylindrical theater where a short film documenting a day in the life of Singapore is on permanent loop.

Every chamber has a large decal on the floor indicating what number you should enter in your companion to find out more about what’s on display. There are a variety of audio, video, and text selections describing [almost] everything on the walls and floor.

I found some of it to be tedious, but I also wasn’t as specifically interested in some of the individuals for whom they had longer aural work, but overall my visit to be interesting, and at least somewhat enlightening.

While Singapore has been important to Western countries for a couple hundred years (especially afetr it became a British colony in 1819), it’s only been an independent country for 44 years. It’s also only the size of the 5 burroughs of New York, so it’s very tiny. That all adds up to there not being a “lot” of history of the country, compared to, say, Canada – which, while young, is ginormous (a technical term).

If you’re interested in the history of Singapore, and you happen to be here anyway, it’s a decent place to go for a couple-few hours. I don’t think I’d intentionally go back unless there was something of interest on display in the special exhibits gallery, or the film they were showing sounded intriguing, but it was a fun way to spend part of my Saturday afternoon.

tanner’s pub

As I write this post, I’m surrounded with the sounds of a live musician and dozens of patrons. The wooden floors, open-frame ceiling, bus lights, and comfortable chairs surrounding glass-topped tables adds to the ambiance. Chanda just refilled my dad’s iced tea. And my dessert (my favorite drink) is en route shortly.

Last night who would’ve guessed that clicking the “pubs” option on my GPS would put us at such a place. Usually the GPS options aren’t obviously good. (Certainly it can find places I already know of.)

After driving from Durham NC to Jacksonville FL Monday, and then to the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, my dad and I were looking for some place local. Some place with modest prices, and, hopefully, and interesting beer selection. So for kicks, while we were tolling across central Florida on I-4, I punched-up restaurants -> pubs -> Tanner’s on the GPS. It was simply the closest location to where we were when we decided we were hungry.

What a choice it has turned out to be. Tuesday night I ordered their chicken piccata. Let me warn you: they put crack in their sauce. They must. It’s the only reason I can come up with for wanting to finish what was obviously too much food!

My dad ordered pork chops. I don’t like chops at all, but I was tempted to steal a little off his plate. After dinner we split their chocolate lava cake – and should have passed. It is the richest dessert I’ve had in months!

While we sat letting dinner settle, I checked for where our hotel was, not knowing the town we were in (Winter Haven). Turns out that our reservations were just down the road – literally less than a mile from Tanner’s. How serendipitous.

After we started dinner, we independently decided we’d come back Wednesday after going to Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland – the whole reason we’re in Florida to start with.

So tonight we came back. And we’ve migrated to other menu choices – since the first two were so good, why not try something new? Tonight I was in a seafood mood, and ordered their blackened mahi mahi, while my dad got the tornadous oscar – angus slices with asparagus, hollandaise, and crab meat.

Two dinners in a row we couldn’t finish fast enough. An impressive feat indeed for a place we found off the GPS’ restaurant list.

It’ll be a little saddening when we have to leave 325 W Central Avenue tonight, because we’ll be heading back north tomorrow, and probably won’t be able to come back till we’re next in Florida – whenever that may be. But I know the next time I’m anywhere close, I’ll be back.

kielty’s emerald isle restaurant and pub

I love good pubs. Recently I discovered yet another Irish pub in Waterford NY. Kielty’s sits on the north side of Broad St a couple blocks from the Hudson River – number 41. My sister and I had been planning to grab a light lunch at Don and Paul’s (a coffee/sandwich shop she likes), but when we got out and saw this, we both decided to check it out.

Seating is fairly limited – perhaps [legally] space for about 40 folks. Limited seating certainly doesn’t impact the quality of either the beverages (not a wide selection, but a few good ones to pick from), nor the excellence of the food. When we went for lunch, she got sweet potato fries (eww!) that she said were awesome (<shudder>) and a grilled cheese sandwich while I ordered a tuna melt with chips. Had I been more clever, I would’ve eaten the tuna melt first, then had some chips. But no, I wasn’t that clever, eating the small mountain of fried potatoy goodness then attacking the melt.

I couldn’t finish the sandwich – it was really good, but way more than I needed for lunch 🙂

The next evening my dad joined my sister and I in going back. He got a burger, and I tried their grilled cheese sandwich after ogling the one my sister had eaten the day before. By the time we left, some live music was getting ready to start, and the place was beginning to pack-in. It appeared that Kielty’s an active member of the local music scene in southern Saratoga and northwestern Rennselaer counties.

Having added yet another restaurant to my list of places to eat is great. Now the problem becomes which one to pick when I want to go out!

the pub and grille

My family moved into Cohoes in 1993. Shortly after moving in, we noticed a small pub up the road and have threatened to go eat there ever since.

Monday night we finally did. Admittedly, it wasn’t our first choice – we had been planning to hit-up another local place in Cohoes recommended to us by the Sunday bar tender at Uno’s in Latham, but The Pub and Grille was open – and we were hungry.

It’s gone a by a few names in the past, perhaps most famously “Maggie’s”. One surprising thing my parents, sister, and I noticed on entry was how small it is inside. Officially it can hold 35 people.

After taking a moderately long walk in the very windy and chilly weather to find Joe’s closed, and then walking back towards the house we arrived at 201 Columbia St around 8 in the evening. There were maybe five customers other than us – but it being a Monday night, that wasn’t surprising. We found a table in the back, and Kim scurried out from behind the bar to hand us menus, silverware, and take our drink orders.

The menu is simple – I like that in a pub. While it does use both sides of the laminated sheet of paper, the font is large, easily readable, and offers about a dozen items.

My sister ordered their mild wings, which she was very happy with. My mom, dad, and I all ordered burgers. We also got their smothered cheese fries to share, and I got an order of chicken tenders in their atomic sauce to both have there and bring home for later. The only goof in the order was with my dad’s burger, which didn’t have the cheese or bacon he’d requested, but did have onions which he hadn’t. However, Kim got that fixed in just a couple minutes, and we were back to enjoying our respective meals.

Currently their beer selection is pretty limited – Sam Adams, Bud, and something else on tap, and a couple in bottles. However, as good fortune would have it, Monday also saw a local beer distributor showing up for a small staff tasting and discussion of craft beers.

We sat around visiting, eating, and just generally enjoying the evening for about an hour and a half before my parents and sister decided to head the 4 blocks back to their house.

Meanwhile, because I wanted to stay and have a couple more drinks,  I introduced myself to the group sampling the various craft beers that had been brought by the distributor, and was invited to take part – yahoo! free beer!

Available for tasting for a strawberry brew (way too sweet in my book, but similar to a Lindeman’s Cassis or Framboise for consistency), various hoppy ales, a couple browns, and a black – among others I don’t recall now. The best part of trying small samples of the different beers brought wasn’t, in fact, that they were free, but that most were made in the general vicinity – ie, the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. I’m a sucker for local brews when they’re available.

The Pub and Grille doesn’t have a set closing time, per se. It might be as early as 11p, or as late 3:30a – it depends on how many folks are there wanting to buy beverages. A little before 11 Monday night, Kim was about to make a last call to the bar when three new folks sauntered-in. Never one to pass-up a customer, the place ended being open till nearly 1:30.

For beer heads, the Pub and Grille isn’t yet a place to go for a good selection of brews, but it will be in a couple weeks as they add a whole series of craft brews to the menu.

If you’re looking for a nice, small, friendly place to hang out, has good food, and good atmosphere (literally – this is NY state were talking about), especially if you want to be able to walk home if you’ve maybe had one too many, this place should make the list of anybody in Cohoes.