Archive for the ‘Tapas’ Category

Sky High at the Garden

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Location: The Olive Garden, 83 City Line Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA

Cost of the Meal: $38

Hippie Male Waiters named “Sky”: 1

The Olive Garden is one of those love-it or hate-it chains, where the breadsticks are plentiful and the house wine free…sometimes. Luckily, this was one of those occasions. Okay, maybe it was only a sip of gratis libation, but who passes up free liquor (except Cook Chris)? This was my second trip to the place, believe it or not, and while I still prefer Maggiano’s or Bertucci’s as my Italian-chain-restaurant-of-dubious-authenticity, The Garden hasn’t done me wrong yet.

Dining at 5:00 or so on a sunny Saturday, my date and I arrived to a fairly empty house, yet were still seated next to a gigantic family of screaming kids who set off emergency alarms (okay, maybe just one, and it was silent, but still..). Our waiter was a tall, long-haired fellow, named Sky (I had to read his nametag to make sure I’d heard him right), whom I like to imagine had just smoked a bowl of peyote before coming to serve us. He pour our complimentary house wine, a blush, fruity zinfandel, which was pretty good. I guess (It tasted exactly like the last wine I had). Water was not brought out to us automatically, which is a no-no, especially if he wasn’t stoned.

Come time to order, the Lady had the Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto and a peach iced tea, while I ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara and a raspberry lemonade. Our house salad and breadsticks were brought out promptly, though the ‘sticks were a little tough. The Lady barely touched the ‘sticks, though she had raved about them beforehand, so maybe we received a bad batch. The variety (not to mention the fresh olive oil) served at Maggiano’s trumps this, in my mind.  The salad had way too few olives, but otherwise was fresh and tasty.

Our entrees arrived in a fair amount of time for such a sparsely populated place, and were the highlight of the meal. The risotto was more than satisfactory, the creamy parmesan sauce adding flavor to both the prawns and green stalks of veggie. Or so I must assume, since I forgot to get an opinion on the Lady’s meal (I hadn’t brought my camera, so I wasn’t planning on writing up a review. Being the gentleman I am, I should’ve asked what she thought anyway). The shrimp were well prepared and cooked, in both the risotto and my carbonara.

The Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara was a taste sensation, I must admit. Tender shrimp and chicken, noodles that were to the muthaf’in teeth, and a creamy sauce flavored with bacon (which was a surprise to me since I stopped reading the description after I saw the words ‘shrimp’ ‘chicken’ and ‘parmesan’). The chicken was surprisingly juicy and flavorful, and meshed well with the seafood, bacon, and cheese it sat alongside. It was like a party of taste, and everyone was invited, except for me who had to pay a $16 cover charge.

When it’s all said said and done (we skipped dessert), the damage was contained to 38 dollars. A good value for good food and a kind, prompt waiter….who smelled of patchouli.

3.5 out of 5 Shef’s Spatulas

The Fox and the Hound

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Location: 15th and Spruce Sts, Philadelphia, PA

Price per meal: $5.99 – $22

Other Locations: 160 N. Gulph Rd in King of Prussia

The Fox & Hound is a sports bar at 15th and Spruce with a very, um, upscale-yet-sporty motif, $2 draft beer on Tuesday nights, and a rather wide selection of eatables (for a bar with huge tvs all over, anyways).

Alongside the standard Lager (I mean, this is Philly we’re talking about here!), I had a burger, creatively titled The Ranch Hand ($8.99 w/steak fries). It was, surprisingly, covered in ranch dressing, but also was topped with applewood smoked bacon (who would’ve thought the rest of the apple tree would be so delicious?) and cheddar cheese. And of course all the fixins. Cooked medium well, the burger was still juicy yet flavorful, while letting the ranch and cheddar flavors peek through.

My date for the evening, had the Taco Salad ($8.99) alongside a Purple Viper (I don’t think any male porn stars were hurt in it’s creation, but you never know…), which is black raspberry liquor, cranberry juice, and curacao. The salad was served in an edible tortilla, which is always a plus, not to mention mandated by international law, I’m pretty sure. Both were deemed tasty, though I’m not sure how one could mess up a taco salad or anything with curacao in it…

If you’re down in the city and you want to catch the Phillies game, or want to catch the Eagles on a stray Sunday, and don’t mind paying restaurant prices at a bar, then I’d recommend The Fox and Hound to anyone…who drinks. The drink menu is pretty expansive, and being a sports bar obviously has a wide variety of beer on tap (including their own microbrew), but nothing I’ve had there is worth the trip if you’re a teetotaler/recovering alcoholic.

Update: I made a second visit Thursday evening, and rediscovered the strange-in-concept-but-smooth-in-taste Guinness blends. The Stout/Blue Moon Ale combo is pretty good, and for $2, a steal. The Stout/XX is a better blend, but come on, it’s Dos Equis.

3.75 out of 5 Shef’s Spatulas