Day One: My First Impression of Nashville

The Listening Room

The Listening Room

My family has never really explored the southern part of our country, and I guess my parents made a decision that now was the time. So this summer, we’re taking a road trip of 4 states: Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

We left town on Dad’s birthday, a bright sunny day that reminded me of our trip to Maine last summer. Personally, I had my doubts that this vacation would be anywhere near as fun… Of course, I was looking forward to authentic Southern food, a Christmas hotel, pools, and cute towns.  But it didn’t sound like the relaxing vacation that Maine and St. John were, or the curious trips like New Orleans and Boston.

It sounded like a whole lot of driving.

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After a smooth three and a half hour flight, we got to Nashville at around 5pm.  We checked into our hotel, the Renaissance, and after taking a short rest, we headed down a few blocks to The Listening Room…and this is where the real fun kicks in and I know that I’m in Nashville.

I walked on the red and gray streets of Music City, and from every door came the sound of guitars and voices.  While every singer-songwriter venue may not be as well-known as The Listening Room, they each exhibited such talent and a fun night out!  It all felt like magic to walk the streets of Nashville and to hear a musician performing in front of a crowd.

An Artsy Duo

An Artsy Duo

The Listening Room’s atmosphere kept me smiling, with someone on the guitar and mic at every moment, great service, and a casual, positive vibe.  The artists’ songs were about everything from high school love to positivity to grudges between women.  It was very creative and a new experience for me because of how close I was to the performers.  In all, it had a nice, relaxed feel to it and I enjoyed every second of my time there.

A Satisfying Steak

A Satisfying Steak

 

For dinner, I ordered a pork steak with a house-made bourbon barbeque sauce.  It was really well cooked and had a pleasing texture.  The smoked pork ribs that my dad ordered clung to the bone a bit, but had a great flavor (almost a mix of sweet and spicy).  I was satisfied with dinner, but dessert upstaged it.

We ordered a slice of pecan pie with caramel sauce and whipped cream.  While it couldn’t help but make me feel stuffed, I couldn’t stop myself from practically shoving it in my mouth.  A thick caramel sauce was drizzled over the top of the pie and a sliced strawberry topped it off.  It was gooey and sweet and just pure perfection.

My mom told me something I hadn’t known before.  Pecan pie had been my grandpa’s favorite.  My papa passed away when I was eight and although I loved him very much, I never knew him well and it meant a lot to me to discover something that we had in common. I thought about him the whole way home, and a memory of him as strong as the smell of his old sweatshirt came back for the first time in a while.

We walked back to our hotel in the dark, but the streets of Nashville were hardly deserted.  Music still played at every corner, and I smiled the whole way home thinking of the adventures that would come tomorrow.  Maybe this trip will be better than I expected.

Day 6: Delectable Dining!

(I am continuing my series of blog posts on my summer trip to Camden, Maine.)

Having Fun at Megunticook Lake!

Having Fun at Megunticook Lake!

What did we do today?  First up, we went kayaking in Megunticook Lake and visited the tiny farmer’s market of Camden.  We also visited an expensive cooking store, but what I would really like to share is our dinner at Atlantica.  Highly recommended by our rental house owners, this restaurant is a favorite in town, and a favorite in our family.

 

Atlantica From the Outside

Atlantica From the Outside

First, let me tell you about our waitress.  Oana, from Romania, was nice and very sweet, and I would like to thank her for suggestions and friendliness in a new town.

We were seated in a table outside, right next to the water!  There, we sat and saw the beautiful sunset and enjoyed our dinner next to the calm horizon.  I also enjoyed the decor of the restaurant:  casual blues and yellows, but still formal and impressive.

Simply Stupendous!

Simply Stupendous!

For an appetizer, we ordered the seafood board:  crab sofrito, finnan haddie rillettes, and shrimp over cucumber kimchi.  The crab sofrito was by far my favorite part of dinner because it was creamy with a hint of spice.  This starter was fine crab, topped with a slice of radish and served over a cracker with red paste.  My mom and I tasted a little bit of something like horseradish in the mix, and we loved how it was crunchy but smooth, and definitely addictive.  The finnan caddie rillete was creamy and whipped, meant to be served on bread.  I don’t think I will ever want to eat bread differently again for the salty smokiness of the fish spread!  I gave my dad the last bite, though, because he loved it more than any of us.

The Maine shrimp with cucumber kimchi was unforgettable.  It had a spicy kick, and Mom said it was such a “dream” in her mouth, but she also said she thought it was better than any lobster roll — or anything — that we had tried in Maine!  “I would stop listening to her after that,” my dad said.  🙂

The seafood board was great, and MUCH better than the sweet onion, bacon, and fish chowder.  Everyone wanted to try it, so we ordered a bowl for the table, but the only flavors we could taste were the overpowering potato and too much salt.   Overall, the chowder was not our favorite dish, and my dad especially wished we had gotten something else.

As entrees were delivered to the table, I could smell each of their pungent fragrances.

Dad's Monkfish

Dad’s Monkfish

A smoky scent rose through the air above Dad’s monkfish on a bed of shrimp, couscous, peas, bacon, garlic, and asparagus. Mom’s salmon released the fragrance of thyme, and my  mussels in a yuzu broth scented the air with lime and ginger.  Tabitha’s hot and sour Maine shrimp and crab soup gave off a strong smell of crab, but not the unpleasant fishy kind you would imagine.

 

Mom's Salmon

Mom’s Salmon

But they didn’t taste as good as they smelled, I am disappointed to say.  Well, in my opinion. The rest of my family loved Atlantica, but I found it one of my least favorite of our dinners in Maine.  While Dad enjoyed his roasted monkfish, I found it fishy and overpowered by the couscous.  My mussels were good, and, yes, I enjoyed them very much, but they were not anything special, and I was not as impressed as I expected to be.  Tabitha’s soup was fine, but compared to The Golden Egg’s clam chowder, this shrimp and crab was unfortunately not what I expected from a well-reviewed, harbor-side, East Coast restaurant.  Mom’s salmon, however, wowed me!  This was off the charts, especially compared to the other dishes.  I loved the herbs that topped it off, and the chard sauté was extremely impressive.  Atlantica’s motto was “Locally sourced. Responsibly handled. Inspired kitchen.”  While I am sure Atlantica is all of these three, it was not as phenomenal as was expected.

Profiteroles of Perfection!

Profiteroles of Perfection!

Dessert, however, took a turn.  I loved the profiterole special:  a sweet puff pastry stuffed with ice cream, topped with caramel and fudge.  It was addictive, unforgettable, and unable to be ignored.  “Yummers!” as we have heard here in Maine, and definitely “Yummy” where I come from. Dad received a dessert of his own, which is unusual.  A Genoise Chocolate Terrine, a rich layer cake, had never been heard of in our family, but it was fairly satisfying, and definitely worth a try!  Atlantica was not my favorite restaurant, but I am glad we tried it, and thank you to our homeowners for this suggestion.

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Atlantica Restaurant

9 Bayview Landing

Camden, ME 04843

Tel:  (207) 236-6011

Website:  www.atlanticarestaurant.com

Day 5: Friends and Fun

Today, we are driving back to Portland to see my mom’s college friend and his family. Sounds like another LONG, BORING car ride? Not at all! Actually, we found some pretty cool stops on the way, including a meat/cheese/souvenir shop, a local market, a lighthouse, and world-famous Red’s Eats!

The first stop was The Market Basket, a small, simple store that offered floury, homemade, whole-wheat breads, wine, a wide variety of coffee, and lunch. It was a cute local store, and we were glad we stopped in!

Following our visit to the Market Basket, we encountered another place worth stopping for! Or should I say places? Three different companies were connected, but the State of Maine Cheese Co. was the main attraction. When you first walked into the barn-like building, all you saw was CHEESE! But that’s not all the State of Maine Cheese Company has to offer.  Honeys, blueberry products, and much more line the shelves and stands of the main room.

And yes, there were other products, but cheese was the star.  In the center of the room, a sample table stood, with a wide variety of samples laid out in boxes.  I got to try 5 kinds of cheese!  Two cheeses I loved were a Garlic Lover’s spread and a fresh cheddar.  The garlic spread was flavorful, but not overpoweringly strong, which I liked.  The cheddar was sharp and tangy, and it appealed to both me and my dad.  The outcome and wonderful taste really reflected the hard work, time, and effort that the staff put into making the cheese. Another thing that I like about the State of Maine Cheese Co. is the owner, Cathe. Though running the entire business, she worked at the counter, offering free samples, and in the bakery, too! Plus, she was friendly and nice, not to mention generous! She let us try cheeses that weren’t on the sample table. A black olive cheese was hard, but not sharp, and yummy, but not as good as we expected. My mom’s favorite was a pungent, smooth garlic cheese with a strong punch. I enjoyed both flavors, but I think my favorite was the Black Pepper cheese. peppercorns were ingrained into the sharper cheese, and my tastebuds savored every last moment!

In this 3-in-1 store there was also a meat section. And if there is a meat section, you know I’ll be there! Bleecker & Flamm Maine Street Meats offered a variety of sausages, steaks, and cured meats. Their was even a Lamb Merguez sausage! The meat company is owned by Andrew S. Flamm and Sarah Greer, but we did not get to meet them. 🙂 Overall, seeing Maine Street Meats was worth it.

Lastly, the Rockport Market Place was a Maine souvenir shop. Inside, we found fur products, bottled goods, and clothing. There was even a Moxie shirt, and after yesterday, I definitely wanted it! The Rockport Market Place was a cute little shop and I am glad we swung by!

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The Rockland Breakwater Light

The Rockland Breakwater Light

 

 

 

After visiting The State of Maine Cheese Company and its companions, we drove up to the Rockland Breakwater Light, a small lighthouse open for visitors. To get to the lighthouse, we walked along a rocky, uneven granite breakwater that was almost one mile long (according to the Rockland Breakwater site warning sign).

On our way to the lighthouse, we saw two friendly people picking escargot, or snails. It was very interesting, because I have never done anything like that, and it looked like hard work!

Another enjoyable sight along the walk were the many lobster buoys lining the breakwater’s edge. My dad was overly obsessed with the lobster traps that were scattered along the ocean floor, just waiting to catch the next oblivious lobster. My mom told me how each fisherman has a different color buoy, and I watched as the buoys lit up the periwinkle ocean.

A Long Walk to a Lighthouse

Almost there!

When we finally got to this long-awaited lighthouse, I was disappointed that it wasn’t the tall, spirally, striped tower I had imagined. It was basically a tiny,white house with a light at the back. It was cool, though, to see the islands, not too far in the distance, and to look back at the long slab of granite and the calm rocky beach. I must say that, overall, my favorite part of our lighthouse stop was the seaside walk to and from it.

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Red's

Red’s

After our journey to the lighthouse, we had lunch at the famous Red’s Eats! Known for the best lobster roll in all of Maine, this place had lines down the block, we were lucky enough to get in line with less than a 30 minute wait, because we had heard it could be hours!

 

Dad, Mom and I all ordered their lobster roll, and Tabitha got the chicken nuggets. At Red’s Eats, you can get your lobster rolls with butter or mayo, which I like, and they were exploding with meat! I actually had to take out almost an entire lobster tail so I could eat it!  Plus, there was more than one lobster in EVERY SINGLE ROLL! Each roll was fresh and juicy, and we were so impressed with the perfection of Red’s roll! We were so happy with it that it was granted

Luscious Lobstah!

Luscious Lobstah!

 

 

5 of 5 shells! Go Red’s!

For a quick dessert, I tried my first Whoopie Pie! In between rich chocolate cookie crusts lied some sort of cream. I think it was supposed to be marshmallow, but I certainly didn’t taste it. However, it was still a delight and definitely worth trying!

Crazy Flavors!!

Crazy Flavors!!

Next, we just HAD to stop at Lears to try their eye-catching lobster ice cream! We got a small cup to share, and, truth to be told, we should have gotten samples! It was supposedly made with real lobster, but all it tasted like to Mom, Tabitha, and I was a disgusting mound of sea salt. My dad, however, enjoyed it. Whereas the girls in our family found the garlic ice cream WAY more pleasing than this lobster ice cream, Dad found this interesting flavor better than our Gilroy garlic favorite! I guess everyone has their opinions, though.

What are some crazy foods and flavors you have tried? What did you think of them? Comment to tell me all about it!

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Flatbread PIzza

Flatbread PIzza

After all of our stops, we did eventually make it to Portland. There, we attended a dinner at a restaurant with many locations across the country: Flatbread Pizza. We met my mother’s college friend, Pete, and his family at a really cool table next to the harbor, and we had a great time!

For dinner, we all shared salad and three LARGE pizzas: a mushroom and pepperoni pizza, a Coevolution pizza, and a plain cheese pizza. I didn’t try the cheese pizza, but the homemade pepperoni and the warm mushrooms made a wonderful entree. The Coevolution pizza had goat cheese, olives, red peppers, mozzarella, and rosemary. Both of my parents loved it, and my mom described the goat cheese as creamy and she mentioned the many flavors of the pizza. Dad thought the veggies had great seasonings, and, overall, it was a great pizza that was enjoyed and wolfed down!

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My mouth froze over as I scooped a bite of chocolate ice cream into my mouth. Yum! A simple dessert, yes, but a favorite no matter where you go! But, ice cream is especially treasured on the East Coast, where there’s an ice cream shop around every corner!

Overall, I was happy with our dinner at Flatbread Pizza, and so was everyone else!

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The Market Basket

223 Commercial St.

Rockport, Maine 04856

Tel: (207) 236-4371

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The State of Maine Cheese Company

461 Commercial St.

Rockport, Maine 04856

Tel: (800) 762-8895

Website: http://cheese-me.com

Email: info@cheese-me.com

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Bleecker & Flamm Maine Street Meats

461 Commercial St.

Rockport, Maine 04856

Tel: (207) 236-MEAT

Email: mainemeat@gmail.com

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Rockport Market Place

461 Commercial St.

Rockport, Maine 04856

Tel: (800) 762-8895

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Rockland Breakwater Light

Website: http://www.newenglandlighthouses.net/rockland-breakwater.html

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Red’s Eats

41 Water St. 

Wiscasset, Maine 04578

Tel: (207) 882-6128

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Lears Old Fashioned Ice Cream

Water St.

Wiscasset, Maine 04578

 Tel: (207) 380-4811

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Flatbread Pizza

72 Commercial St.

Portland, Maine

Tel: (207) 772-8777 

Website: http://www.flatbreadcompany.com/

Email: bobbymorgan@flatbreadcompany.com

 

Day 4: Happy Hiking

On Top Of The World!

On Top Of The World!

We were at Camden Hills State Park, hiking as our activity of the day.  We chose a moderate trail called the Mount Megunticook Trail, which I think was perfect for the family!

 

A bit steep, wet, and slick, this hike had its challenges.  But high, adventurous, and exciting…that was one of the most fun hikes I had ever done!  We had so much fun and we were sad when it was over.

 

 

 

* * * * *

Go Mount Battie!

Go Mount Battie!

On our way back home, we stopped at Mount Battie’s Take Out and Ice Cream.  A small, locally owned shack, this place was friendly and yummy.  For lunch, Tabitha and I tried Mount Battie’s clam chowder, and Mom decided on our fourth New England lobster roll contestant.  Dad received fried clams and scallops, and we all got ice cream afterward!  Now, let’s explore the flavors of Day 4’s lunch…

 

The clam chowder was almost flawless.  The texture of the clams was perfect.  The taste was flavorful and competed with The Golden Egg’s clam chowder.  And, it was served in a good-sized cup with a decent amount of clams!  So, what could go wrong?

 

The temperature.  Tabitha and I both couldn’t eat it for a while due to the Styrofoam cups locking in the heat.  I like soup warm, of course, but this was searing hot.  If you get Mount Battie’s clam chowder, I suggest you get it cool for a while before you burn yourself.  But, eventually, I could eat it, and we were impressed with our lunch!

 

Good or bad? Lobster all the same! :)

Good or bad? Lobster all the same! 🙂

Mom’s lobster roll; not the best, but not bad either.  Chock full of meat, lobster tumbled out every time Mom took a bite.  But it was a small bun, so there appeared to be more lobster than there really was.  It was good and fresh lobster, and it filled your mouth with scrumptious juices, but unfortunately, mayo was dumped over the top of the roll so it was inconsistent.  Mom rated it

 

 

 

 

 

3 shells

because although we hoped to try better, she still enjoyed her lunch.

Dad’s fried seafood did not impress him very much.  The clams were soft and mushy and could not compete with Cappy’s in my dad’s opinion.  The batter would not stay on the scallops, but they were plump and tasty.

 

Memorable Moxie!

Memorable Moxie!

In addition, we also tried Maine’s famous state soda, Moxie.  I’d read on blogs about a horrible aftertaste, but we really enjoyed it.  Bitter than most sodas, we though it was similar to root beer and Dr. Pepper, and it was delicious!  We loved the bitter sourness and it was definitely worth a try.  Have you tried this memorable drink?

 

 

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Mount Battie’s ice cream was incredible!  Many unique and interesting flavors were listed on a green sign, and I chose the Maine Black Bear.  This was a vanilla ice cream with raspberry ribbons and raspberry-filled chocolate cups, and I very much appreciated my sweet dessert.  The raspberry melted into the chocolate and the cups gave the vanilla some crunchy bites.  It was memorable and addicting.  Tabitha got the rainbow sherbet, a fruity, refreshing cone.  Though creamy and sweet, it wasn’t the prettiest sherbet.  The purple looked brown, and the colors ended up being a murky gray from being melded together so well.  It also melted very quickly which displeased Tabitha.  But it was tasty and yummy, and Tabitha couldn’t have been happier that she ordered it.

 

Dad’s not usually a dessert guy, but I cannot blame him for wanting to try the Chocolate Rainforest Crunch.  This was dark chocolate ice cream, caramel swirls, chocolate chunks, and peanuts all assembled.  It was a delicious mix and an unforgettable one, too. Dad had a rich, chocolatey cone, where as Mom received an amazing blueberry ice cream.  It was flavorful and creamy, and Mom really enjoyed it.  She was happy with her little dessert, and to be honest, I think everyone else was as well.

 

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Mouthwatering; A Satisfying Special

Mouthwatering; A Satisfying Special

For a fantastic dinner, we went to Fresh, a restaurant supposedly inspired by Maine cuisine.  Mom and I shared a seared tuna entrée and a lentil and parsnip puree soup.  The incredible pink-to-perfection tuna was served over a bed of penne pasta, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, spinach, and lots of olive oil.  The best bites were the perfectly prepared bluefin tuna, the al dente penne pasta, and the fresh, yummy artichoke heart together.  The juicy, bold flavor of the artichoke heart, the smoothness of the penne, and the melt in your mouth tuna blended for an amazing concoction, and the tart kalamata olives and savory spinach had some factor that made you want more and more!  I am not a huge fan of the kalamata olive, but it was a great blend with the artichoke hearts. Not to mention the sundried tomatoes!  I had not had them in a long time, and I remembered disliking them, but I tried them and I couldn’t have liked them better.  My only regrets of this dish were that it was not, in fact, distinctly “Maine inspired”, and there were so many flavors in just one mouthful! Incredible flavors, yes, but maybe a little bit too many. Nevertheless, this dish pleased me beyond what I had expected, and  could not have been happier with my dinner choice; the tuna was outstanding and all of the flavors along with it just added to a blog-worthy entrée!

 

Superb and Splendid!

Superb and Splendid!

Our parsnip puree lentil soup was much better than it sounded.  Mom and I got it to share, but everyone at the table ate their fair share—especially Tabs.  We found yet another soup that she loved!  But it wasn’t just her, everyone liked it.  It was creamy parsnip, with a dollop of whipped lentils in the center.  It was delightful, flavorful, and creative, and I would highly recommend it.

 

For a rich, strong dessert, I chose a chocolate truffle with fresh berries and whipped cream.  It was chocolaty and sweet, and the fresh fruit dipped into the fluffy whipped cream made it a yummy dessert.  Overall, I was incredible happy with the fantastic dinner and dessert at Fresh.

 

Check in with you tomorrow on Day 5!

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Mount Battie’s Take Out and Ice Cream

254 Belfast Road

Camden, Maine 04843

Tel: (207) 236-6122

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Fine Foods @ Fresh

Fine Foods @ Fresh!

Fresh

1 Bay View Landing

Camden, ME 04843

Tel: (207) 236-7005

www.freshcamden.com/

 

 

Day 2…

Part 1: TERRIFIC TRAVEL

I awoke this morning and we immediately jumped into our rental car and started our road trip journey to Maine. Soon, we encountered a small town fit for breakfast: Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This cute town has been a part of New Hampshire since 1623! We were eager to explore, and we took many pictures along the drive.

Portsmouth is made of simple, Victorian-style homes and small shops. spending much of my time in super-modern Los Angeles, I was intrigued by the older, but attractive, architecture.

DSC03913Somewhere along Sagamore Avenue, my parents found “The Golden Egg”, an old-fashioned, red-checkered curtained cafe. Tabitha and I were hungry, and so we were glad to stop in!

“The Golden Egg” was exactly as you would imagine a small-town, local’s cafe. The sweet smell of real, fresh syrup filled the air, and the servers were friendly and courteous.

As a drink, Tabs and I both received hot cocoas. They were rich and yummy, and they tasted like chocolate cookies were crumbled into the warm milk. It was a pleasant treat and probably my favorite hot cocoa in a long time! Yum!

I ordered a combo, with French toast, a scrambled egg, and bacon. I immediately asked for hot sauce for my egg, and they gave me an incredible homemade hot sauce. I tried it and was surprised to find it was spicier than I expected! It had a tangy kick that I very much enjoyed! If you ever venture to the Golden Egg, I would suggest their homemade hot sauce!

C&C: Citrusy Clams

C&C: Citrus and Clams

Tabitha ordered New England clam chowder– yes, again! But unlike Connolly’s clam chowder, this one was outstanding and unlike any clam chowder I had ever tried! It was thin and broth, and full of spices and bacon. It also had a powerful, addictive citrus flavor that we could not identify. This citrus really made it fantastic, and we were impressed by this unique flavor. It was much better than FishBar’s, which says something, and I finished off Tabitha’s big bowl! That clam chowder was–no exaggeration– probably my favorite clam chowder ever! Then again, we are on the East Coast, and I will probably try many more clam chowders. I look forward to those!

A Mouthwatering Masterpiece

A Mouthwatering Masterpiece

Dad ordered the “Eggs Sagamore”, which was English muffins, two poached eggs, and lobster in a creamy remoulade sauce. Though I am not a fan of runny eggs, I tried a bite of lobster in the remoulade sauce and fell in love! Delicious, juicy, addictive, fresh! My family was undoubtedly happy with a fantastic brunch at “The Golden Egg”!

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The Golden Egg

960 Sagamore Avenue

Portsmouth, NH 03801

Tel: (603) 436-0519 

Website: http://www.goldeneggrestaurant.com

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Part 2: DISCOVERY DAY

After brunch, we continued along our route to Camden, Maine. Still on Sagamore, we stopped at Seaport Fish, a small seafood market. Dad and I got out of the car and decided to explore!

Splendid Seafood, Marvelous Market

Splendid Seafood, Marvelous Market!

Seaport fish was an incredible stop! The seafood was fresh, inexpensive, and ice cold. Raw fish slabs lined the refrigerated counter, and ice boxes were over-flowing with lobster, clams, oyster, and more! Prices were great: you could buy an entire lobster for $6.00! It was super cool and I was impressed by their many varieties!

In addition to a wide-range seafood selection, Seaport Fish offered cheese, meat, cocktail sauce, and fish rubs. Menus were posted on the walls and the decor was natural and nautically-themed. Cards were piled in baskets with interesting seafood recipes and inspirational ideas, and the workers were friendly and helpful. Overall, Seaport Fish was a great stop and a lucky opportunity!

* * * * *

After exploring the seafood market, we decided to stop in a cute bookstore in Kennebunk, Maine called Kennebooks. It was cute at first sight, and we stopped in without hesitation!

Kennebooks was brimming with books of all kinds, genres, shapes, and sizes! It was a reader’s heaven, and they even played P!nk, who is one of my favorite artists! Two young women worked at the counter, and they seemed fun and friendly. They were obviously locals, and I loved their casual, soothing bookstore. Tabitha was fully entranced in the Mad Libs rack, and she would NOT stop pleading for them! Mom was looking at books that took place in Maine, and Dad was looking at New England cookbooks. Everyone found their picks at Kennebooks, and my dad loved it so much that he bought a Kennebooks t-shirt!

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Seaport Fish                                                     

13 Sagamore Road

Rye, NH 03870

Tel: (603) 436-7286

Twitter: @SeaportFish

Website: http://www.seaportfish.com

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 KenneBooks

149 Port Road

Lower Village Kennebunk, ME 04043

Tel: (207) 967-6136

Website: http://www.kennebooks.com

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Part 3: EVENING EVENTS 

At last, we checked into our rental home and settled down. We decided to walk into town and pick a restaurant that looked good to eat at. Camden is a wonderful town, and the magnificent main street was full of shops, restaurants, and other businesses. We were sure we would find something to eat, so we explored!

The neighborhood we stayed in was very nice, safe, and not at all like LA. Pebbly roads, a calm harbor, and Victorian design everywhere distinguished Camden from what I was used to: a busy city life. Everyone knew each other, people walked the streets smiling, and you could always stop in and say hi in the cute shops. I realized the benefits of living in a relaxing small town, as opposed to a busy, frightening city. The bottom line: I loved it there!

After walking along the main street for a few minutes, we found Cappy’s Chowder House, a seafood restaurant that caught our eye. I must admit, Cappy’s was a bit touristy, but the ingredients were fresh and authentic all the same.

After our waiter, Cassady, seated us, we scanned the menu and found our interests: Dad and I shared Cappy’s three course, market price meal. The “Maine Seafood Bliss” consisted of three components: a starter, a main course/ entree, and a “sweet ending”. The starter was a cup of Cappy’s clam chowder. On the menu, it said, “Maine chowder law says white! … never red!” I liked this, and I knew that this would be one knock-your-socks-off chowder!

The entree, or main course, was a pot full of fresh steamed Maine shellfish: mussels, clams, and lobster. Lastly, for dessert, homemade blueberry pie was served, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. In addition to our seafood dinner, we ordered a clam roll to share. Fresh Maine whole-belly clams, fried to perfection and stuffed into a roll, sounded pretty darn good to me!

Outstanding Oysters

Outstanding Oysters

First, we ate an appetizer of fried oysters. These reminded me of the good old days of Ragin’ Cajun! They were served with a mild horseradish sauce, which was quickly gobbled up! With a kick, but not overpowering, the horseradish sauce was greatly appreciated at our table, along with the crispy, plump, fresh oysters.

 

Next, our clam chowder arrived. Boy, was I right about it being magnificent! Fresh, rich, and balanced, it was almost as impressive as The Golden Egg’s chowdah’. I was struck by it’s incredible spice, unique flavor, and flawless viscosity. My dad and I loved Cappy’s clam chowder!

 

Third, our second “New England Lobster Roll Challenge” contestant stepped up to the plate. “Cappy’s Maine Lobster Roll” was overflowing and delicious! My mom enjoyed the fact the it was meaty and just barely doused with mayo. I would rate this lobster roll:

four seashells

Four Shells!

 

 

 

Why? Because it was better than Connolly’s lobster roll, but it was still not the heaven I’m searching for. It was still very appealing, though, and I would suggest it!

Chewy Clams

Chewy Clams

Then, our clam roll arrived at the table. Placed directly in front of me, I could smell a satisfying aroma waft through the air. It was tempting, so… WE DUG IN! My dad loved them, and I will tell you right now that these were his favorite fried clams of the trip! The clams were huge and the roll was bursting with them, and they weren’t too fishy, which I liked. Unfortunately, they were a little too stringy and a bit hard to chew. However, they were crispy and juicy, so although not my favorite dish of the night, still passable.

A Perfect Way to End a Day!

A Perfect Way to End a Day!

Finally, our main course arrived: the shellfish pot! Steam rose from the pungent pot, and fresh seafood filled it up to the top. Dad handed me a clam, two mussels, and a humongous lobster claw. I tore off the pincher and sucked the juice from the shell. I cracked the claw in half, then I wolfed down the succulent meat. I remember thinking, “This is too good to be true!” But it wasn’t . It was juicy, fresh, and absolutely real!

The clams and mussels were terrific, not at all gritty, but locally caught and fresh as can be! I liked the clams, regardless of the bit of shell I had to pull out of it, because it was large and plump! Though the mussels were smaller and less moist, they had a great flavor! I found myself wanting more, but they were already gone! Delish! I guess the clams and mussels were a big hit in our family!

In addition to the lobster claw, I got part of the tail meat. The tail is probably my favorite part of the entire lobster, but it still couldn’t surpass the juiciness of the claw! Still, the delectable meat was tender, and I overall loved the buttery, scrumptious Camden lobster!

Our “sweet ending” was shared by Mom and Dad. I tried a bite, however, I am not a cooked blueberry person. I am sure that if you love blueberry pie you would really enjoy this! The ice cream was regular, nothing special, but still a yummy classic with the warm pie!

I received a chocolate bread pudding for my dessert. This luscious delicacy was served warm and quite perfect, and drizzled over it was a heavenly raspberry sauce. A mountain of whipped cream towered above the pudding, which I didn’t love, but once I got down to the rich, chocolaty goodness it was all worth it. Overall, I loved my dessert from Cappy’s!

In all, I would definitely suggest Cappy’s as a yummy place to eat! The servers are nice, the decor is bright, the food is great, and overall a wonderful atmosphere. Cappy’s was a great experience and an even better memory!

See you tomorrow on Day 3 of my East Coast extravaganza!

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Go Cappy's! Cappy’s Chowder House

1 Main Street, Camden ME 04843

Tel: (207) 236-2254

Website: http://cappyschowder.com

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Day 1…

A Tedious Time

A Tedious Time: A Plane Ride

Part 1: MORNING MADNESS

An exciting adventure? Not so much… yet. I awoke early this morning to my mom gently shaking me awake. Good thing I’m a morning person! I leapt out of bed and quickly got ready, and then my dad treated me and my sister with a sweet wake-up call: DONUTS!! Our destination, Best Donuts, is a locally-owned fresh donut shop in Hermosa Beach. I ordered a chocolate knot, Tabitha got a sugar twist, my dad received a crumble cake donut, and we brought a fresh, warm glazed donut back for my mom. Mmmm! Though Krispy Kreme reigns supreme, we are fans of Best Donuts.

At 7:30 AM, our taxi cab arrived, we hauled our luggage into the car, and we rode to the LAX Airport. Wow, is LAX busy at 8:00 in the morning! We rushed through the several stations, and here we are on the plane. Our flight is inconveniently pilot-less, and we have been waiting in this plane for about a half an hour. I am incredibly hungry (like always), which makes the wait even more tedious! I cannot wait to be in lobster heaven, blueberry-mania, or just Maine, if you choose to put it that way…

But Maine is looking like the Bahamas compared to our slow, cramped United flight! I’ll report back to you in happier times.

*******

Best Donuts

2514 Pacific Coast Highway

Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Tel:  (310) 479-4335

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Part 2: EVENING ENDING

After our flight to Newark, New Jersey, we missed our connecting flight to Boston due to poor service from United and that pilot delay. Luckily, we caught the next flight to Boston, but I am still starving! From Boston, we will drive to Maine in the morning. I feel like I was at Disneyland today– TIRED and BEAT!

* * * * *

We checked into our hotel room at The Hilton, and we found ourselves right at home! Everyone was friendly and it was easy to find our way around. We dropped our luggage off at our room and headed downstairs to The Hilton’s restaurant: Connolly’s Publik House.

* * * * *

Connolly’s Publik House was nothing special, sad to say. Tabitha and I ordered their homemade New England Clam Chowder. Creamy and basic, FishBar’s chowder was much better (and probably a LOT cheaper!). Unfortunately, Tabs and I both expected better from Boston.

My family has created a challenge for our vacation: “The New England Lobster Roll Challenge”.  All over our destinations, we will find authentic lobster rolls and critique them. Our rating system will be in shells, just as our trip to St. John. Whichever lobster roll earns the most stars, or pleased us the most, will win our contest.

At Connolly’s, we ordered our first contestant: “a lobster roll with a sweet bun and Bibb lettuce” (according to Connolly’s Publik House menu). V-shaped and charred, this lobster roll was definitely traditional and authentic. I loved that it was chock full of lobster, but I was disappointed that it was mayonnaise-based, instead of butter-based. Mayo did make their roll creamy, but I sometimes have a weak spot for butter 🙂 .

I took a bite, and, I have to admit, it was not mind-blowing. Not even excellent. Not even great. But it was good, and I appreciated the full bun of lobster, so I rated it

Three of Five Shells

Three of Five Shells

 

 

 

 

For dessert, one thing popped out on the menu: Deep Dish Apple Pie with Cinnamon Ice Cream. Mom agreed, but when it arrived at the table, we were dismayed. For one thing, it was not deep-dish at all. Second, it was cold, like it was cheap, frozen pie. Lastly, while Tabitha got HUGE scoops of sorbet, we got a tiny sliver of pie for both of us to share. We were, however, happy with our cinnamon ice cream. It had a solid, fresh flavor, and it was a decent-sized scoop. Overall, though, Mom and I were not impressed by Connolly’s apple pie dessert.

Would we suggest Connolly’s Publik House? Probably not. But it did not displease us, and it was easy just to walk downstairs for dinner after such a LONG day.

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Connolly’s Publik House

1 Hotel Drive

Boston, MA 02128

Tel:  (617) 568-6700

 

 

 

 

An Outstanding Opening — for Free!

I’ll bet that no one had as great of a culinary kickoff to the week as I did.  I am happy to report that I was invited, as a food blogger, to the soft opening of Rita’s Ice.  I gladly accepted the invitation, and here I am at Rita’s Ice in Redondo Beach!

Wait a minute!  I want to make sure that you know the details of this thriving company.  Rita’s Ice is a superb dessert chain that is mainly on the East Coast, with over 500 locations, but in Arizona, Rita’s Ice is blowing away customers in only five locations.  In California, there are only two:  in Santa Clarita and here in our own Redondo Beach.

********

I do not have enough time to do a full write-up on this fantastic event tonight, but I’m taking many notes, and I promise I will soon.  But, for now, I am just posting a short notice to let my Southern California readers know that on Monday (April 8) and Tuesday (April 9), Rita’s Ice in Redondo Beach will be celebrating their opening by …

(DRUMROLL)

Get There Before This Beauty Melts!

… Giving away free Italian Ice!  So, go enjoy it!  You know you want to.  I am writing a Healthy Eating Habits post soon, but hey, we can all indulge once in a while, and going to Rita’s and having real fruit Italian ice might be one of the healthiest desserts possible.  So enjoy Rita’s Ice if you can and comment so those of us who can’t go can hear all about Rita’s Ice, Redondo-style!

*******

Rita’s Ice

403 N. Pacific Coast Highway, #101

Redondo Beach, California 90277

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ritasicesbla

How Does This Birthday Dinner Sound to You?

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  -James Beard

Just Getting Started

On January 21, my 11th birthday, I decided to go to MB Post for dinner.  As my early readers remember, I toured this restaurant at cooking camp, and I have been inspired to eat there ever since.  There was only one way to make it better, and it happened:  My grandma flew out to our house and surprised me on my birthday!  So, she joined my friend Angie, Dad and I on my birthday dinner experience.

MB Post is a unique restaurant in many ways, including seasonal harvest changes to the menu, the chef’s instinct of the day, and its family-style seating.  But something that stood out to me was the one-of-a-kind decor.  The entire restaurant is themed like a post office, because that is what MB Post’s building used to hold.

I think it is important to write about MB Post because it is “all the hype” in the South Bay right now.  As my dad said, “David LaFevre (MB Post’s chef) is practically a legend.”  So stay tuned for an extra special birthday post.  Let the culinary adventure begin…

*******

I walked into MB Post with high expectations.  I knew this place was great.  Legendary.  Unbelievable.  But what I didn’t know was that I would leave far more satisfied than I expected.

Thank You!

Our server hand-delivered an envelope addressed to us, containing the evening’s menu, which had “Happy Birthday” written across the top.  As we scanned through a menu like I have never seen before, they were already on my good side.  MB Post serves only small plates, so we could order many different dishes to try.

Yum, yum, yum!

 

 

First Parcel of the Night:  Bacon Biscuits.  I saw it on the menu and it screamed out my name!  Angie was with me – we just had to get them, so we did.  Our bacon biscuits were obviously concocted by an accomplished baker.  The biscuits were crunchy but flaky, melting but solid, with a perfect balance of all pastry textures.  The bacon was cooked to a crispy, dissolving state, and worked in unison with the crunchy dough to create what was probably the best biscuit I have ever had.

Heaven Times A Million

Next on the list was the Salumi Cutting Board.  A wooden cutting board supporting piles of cheese and cured meats, this was perhaps the most impressive selection of meats I have ever laid eyes on.  Cabacero, also known as “Literally The World’s Best Pork!”, was “literally” unbelievable.  Served like salami, it surprised me the way it was prepared, but I loved it anyway.  It was not too fatty, but was still moist and well-loved at our table.

We also ordered Speck on our Salumi Cutting Board, which was prepared with a little bit more fat than some other cured meats.  In my opinion, it truly tasted like heaven.  Cold and smooth, it melted in my mouth and brought immense joy to my taste buds.  I would definitely suggest the Speck — and the entire cutting board — from MB Post.

Also for our cutting board, I chose a delicious cheese called Challerhocker.  It was on verge of SHARP, but that is how I like it!  It wasn’t too firm, but it wasn’t creamy either.  I enjoyed it, and it was a good choice.  Also, on the side of the cutting board was a cup of pickled grapes and selection of luscious honey.  I wasn’t so sure about the pickled  grapes, but I tried them and fell in love.  I guess it was an acquired taste, one that I enjoyed though.  I was so sad when the cup was through, and I would suggest to you to try the pickled grapes if you order a cutting board.

The honey assortment was excellent.  There was chestnut honey, truffle honey, and honeycomb, and it ALL blew me away.  Who knew honey could be so darn delicious?

*******

Shrimp Starter

Next we drifted into the real dinner course.  We started by ordering Thai Marinated Shrimp Ceviche.  The shrimp were, unfortunately, lacking much flavor, but the acidity of the limes made up for most of that.  It was not the best ceviche I have ever had, but it was not bad either.  I cannot say I would order this item again, but I would not disapprove of it either.

Scrumptious Scallops

 

The Diver Scallops, on the other hand, were incredible.  The seared goodness was placed directly in front of me, as if they were intentionally meant to be.  The scallops had a perfect crust, and they were moist and well-seasoned.  I hate scallops that are seared to perfection, but tasteless or fishy inside.  This, however, was not the case at MB Post.  They were rather large, but I ate my share gladly.  The cabbage and bacon butter on the side were tasty and approved of.

Our Veggie Delight

Next, Romanesco took flight to our table, or “Broccoflower,” as they called it.  I practically shoveled it in my mouth, savoring each splendid bite.  The Broccoflower was perfectly cooked, well-seasoned, and about as good as veggies can get!  Yum, yum.  The Broccoflower definitely earned our stamp of approval!

 

Luscious Linguini

 

Then we had the sausage linguini.  it was delicious in every way possible, and the sausages’ kick flavored the entire concoction.  It was not unbelievable, but nonetheless enjoyable and always welcome in my stomach!

Ready for some mussels?  Angie and I ordered the steamed mussels, with green curry, Chinese sausage, and coriander rice.  They were perfectly cooked and the chef who created these obviously had some good taste and contrasting flavors.  The mussels were exceptional in combination with the bacon, and I would definitely order it again.

Saucy! Saucy!

Last for the dinner course were the pork ribs, smothered in a pungent mahogany sauce.  These were pretty good ribs, but could definitely be beaten.  I was not head-over-heels for this entree, but it was not bad.

********

NOW … for dessert!  We ordered panna cotta and “The Elvis”.   “The Elvis” is “a wonderful mess of chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse, and bacon brittle,” as described on the menu.  It was wonderful, yet it was a bit too rich for me.  Me, can you believe it?!?  (Thank you to MB Post, for making this dessert their birthday present to me.)

Music in My Mouth

The chocolate pudding was like taking a bite out of heaven.  Just perfect.  But the heavenly chocolate, luscious thick peanut butter mousse, and crunchy bacon brittle were a little too much.  Individually, they were all amazing flavors, but together they overpowered each other.  Overall, it was a so-so dessert, but filled with spectacular flavors.

The panna cotta was really good.  It was the first time I had ever tried panna cotta.  The fruit was sweet, and the cream was a bit tart.  They matched together, and it was a unique flavor that my taste buds had not yet been introduced to.  When they finally met, my taste buds were pleased, but I don’t think they will be meeting again very soon.

Our Destination

Overall, my experience at MB Post was exceptional, fantastic, and very memorable.  Thank you so much to Angie, Dad, and Grandma for such a great night!

Go MB Post!

 

*******

MB Post

1142 Manhattan Avenue

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Tel:  (310) 545-5405

www.eatmbpost.com

Twitter:  @eatMBPost

 

 

Push-Up Pop Throwdown!

The Assembled Contestants

On Saturday, January 19, my dad and I froze some homemade push-up pops!  My dad and I have made these before with Cutie clementine juice, pudding, etc., but as we made a variety on that day, I decided to blog about it.

But this post isn’t just a blog… it’s a throwdown!  Which of the following dessert pops sound best to you?  Comment or email me (megan@southbayfood.com) with your vote.

 

Split Decision

Flavor #1:  Banana Split

//Layers//

Bottom:  Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Ice Cream

Middle:   Homemade Banana Ice Cream (using fresh fruit, of course!)

Top:  Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

//Other//

Whipped Cream

Maraschino Cherry

//Review//

Critic:  Me!

“Creamy and rich like a dream!  The pop held together really well, and the flavors melted together!  I would definitely suggest this dessert.”

 

Smoothies!

Flavor #2:  Sun and Moon (A Light and Dark Smoothie Pop)

//Layers//

Alternating layers of …

Light smoothie (including strawberries, raspberries, and clementine juice), and

Dark smoothie (including blueberries, banana, and mixed fruit juice)

//Review//

Critic:  Tabitha

“I like that there are two different fruity smoothies.   I like the light smoothie better.  It’s a good one to vote for.”

 

Supreme Slurping

Flavor #3:  Brownie Supreme

//Layers//

Bottom:  Ghiradelli Brownie

Next:  Homemade Banana Ice Cream

Next:  Ghiradelli Brownie

Top:  Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

//Review//

Critic:  Dad

“I especially loved the brownie and banana layers.  I thought the brownie would be too frozen, but it was great!”

//Other//

This was much like the banana split, but not as good in my opinion.

 

Perfect Pudding

Flavor #4:  Stripe-O-Rama

//Layers//

Alternating layers of …

Vanilla pudding, and

Chocolate fudge pudding.

//Review//

Critic:  Mom

“It’s refreshingly delicious.  I like the alternating flavors and creamy texture of the pudding.”

Which one fits your liking?  We are all eager to hear!  Please tell us your opinion.

Pouring the Pops!

(Now that we love to make push-up pops, we are always searching for new recipes. Do you have any suggestions?)

 

 

The Teetering Tower: I’m Undecided

Heaven

Heaven

Have you ever been to Tower 42? Tower 42 is a seaside restaurant in Playa Del Ray. I recently went with my mom, dad, sister, and another family. I’ll tell you what I thought…

Tower 42 was pretty good; I didn’t think it was spectacular, and it was too pricey to become a regular there. I’m not sure if I will ask to return. Some dishes were made note of in my mind, yet some were not pleasing. I will have to think on it.

When I first stepped into Tower 42, I admired it. There is really no other way to say it; the décor was subtle and soothing, and an icebox full of oysters glowed 10 ft. in front of me. A fire crackled in the otherwise dim dining room, the flickering flames reflecting off of my sea blue eyes. It was calming, quiet —I liked it.

I Love Lunas!

I Love Luna!

I shuffled towards the oyster chest, my 4-year-old friend Tyler gripping my hand. “Don’t touch anything,” I whispered to him.

“Hello! Would you like to look at the oysters?” the friendly man behind the icebox asked.

“Sure!” I replied immediately, tugging Tyler over to the icebox.

“These smaller, brinier oysters are Luna oysters, and the ones to the left are bigger and creamier,” he told me.  I smiled.  I had tried Luna oysters before, and I liked the small, salty ones, so I knew which oysters I would order tonight.

“Thanks!”  I smiled brightly and walked back toward my dad with Tyler.

**********

Choices, choices!

Choices, choices!

“4 kids?”  The hostess forced a smile on her face and added, “We’ll get you into a private room.”  I smirked at the floor and thought, “Families get lucky here!”

Our table was huge!  And it literally was in its own room.  Two cushy chairs were placed on either side of a larger-than-life flat screen TV.  I took a seat and scanned the menu.  It looked pretty good.  My mouth watered at the sight of Espresso Bean-Crusted Sirloin Steak with Lobster Risotto, but it was $32!  I glanced over at my dad, laughing at something Angie just said.  No way.  Not happening tonight.  Too expensive.

“What are you getting, Meg?” my dad asked about a second later.

“No idea,” I murmured, but thinking of the Luna oysters.  “Though I know I’d like some oysters.”

“How about the gumbo?” Dad asked, pointing to the Soup and Salad section of Tower 42’s menu.

“Perfect!”

***********

Priceless

Priceless

This is what I ordered:  Fried Oysters, Luna Oysters on the Half Shell, and Gumbo (with oysters in it).  I was in for one heck of an oystery night.

My mom ordered some delicious Salmon Tartar!  The avocado and icy-cold salmon blended perfectly together, and the wasabi gave it a hint of spice that my mom really enjoyed.  A ring of fried potato held the dish together, and I thought it could not have been much better.

My dad, on the other hand, got a crudo that I didn’t particularly enjoy.  Raw Hamachi was surrounded by pickled watermelon and radish.  The watermelon was mediocre, and the watery radish didn’t taste like much, but I didn’t care for the fish at all.  It carried a stench and taste that was way too fishy for me, but to other perspectives, it was a tasty dish.  It probably didn’t help that I don’t like hamachi very much.

Meanwhile, I was enjoying my fried oysters.  They were perfectly fried, with the right amount of seasoning.  Crunchy crispiness coated the outside of the briny oyster, and I gulped them down like I hadn’t eaten in weeks!

Next, we received our raw oysters.  I had only two of the irresistable Luna oysters;  I guess I wasn’t in the mood like I thought I was.  Mignonette (an onion and vinegar drizzle) and a cocktail sauce were served with our oysters.  I used some of both! 🙂  Overall, our oysters were incredible!

**********

Not Quite Gumbo

“Entrees, entrees, coming right up!” I whispered to Luke as a bowl was placed in front of me.  My smile faded and frown lines appeared above my nose.  “I ordered gumbo, right?” I thought to myself.  The bowl in front of me was filled halfway with rice, and vegetables, only two shrimp, and only two oysters filled the rest of the bowl.  No broth, no moisture. I was disappointed.  The meats were dry, and there was too much rice.  I would not recommend the gumbo at Tower 42.  Luke, to my right, savored a fancy sirloin steak, pink and juicy, like we like it, and Tyler, to my left, ordered the kid’s chicken tenders.

My dad chose the — What do you know? – Espresso-Bean Crusted Sirloin Steak with Lobster Risotto.  I smiled regretfully, but I did get to try it!  The espresso beans gave the steak a deep, alluring flavor that you just couldn’t get tired of … but my dad disagreed.  It was medium-rare, pink and juicy, just like my dad and I cook ours at home.  I say, if it tastes like shoe leather, it ain’t proper steak!   Killer Shrimp, watch out!  Tower 42’s steak could kill!

For dessert, I selected “The King”.  A banana cream pie covered in peanut butter cream and chocolate ganache, this dessert was unbelievable!  I truly thought it was irresistable, unforgettable, and addictive.  The sweet

Obvious Royalty

banana cream filling was wrapped up in a Captain Crunch crust (crazy, right?!) and it blended together with the heavenly peanut butter cream like two peas in a pod!  (It reminded me of my Aunt Jayne’s Heath Bar, Peanut Butter, and Banana pie masterpiece from Thanksgiving!)  The chocolate ganache worked magic with the strawberries on the side, and I felt like singing by the time I had devoured the sweet treat.  Angie was practically in love, and she downed her slice like the world was ending.  My mom was the only one who didn’t love it.  She thought it was a little rich, but she liked it for one bite.  Overall, “The King” was a huge hit in the second private dining room.

In all, I loved some things, and I didn’t love others.  But now that I have written it all down, I know I would gladly take a trip back to Tower 42.

*********

Tower 42

119 Culver Boulevard

Playa Del Rey, California 90293

Tel:  (310) 823-6800

tower-42.com

Facebook.com/tower42