Restaurant Review: Maison

I’m sitting at my computer this morning looking out my window at the lack of snow and getting a bit annoyed. Anyone else with me?! Last night and all day yesterday the weather people were saying that we were in for some serious snow. I heard anywhere from 2-4 inches to 6-9 inches of heavy snow expected. At this late in the year, and considering the fact that we had exactly zero good snowfall this year, I was excited to see a bit of the white stuff before Spring is here in a matter of weeks. I’m a snow lover and if we’re going to get some, we might as well get enough to make travel difficult, thus making it perfectly acceptable to stay in sweats all day watching movies and drinking hot cocoa. I went to sleep last night dreaming of just such a day and woke up to…bupkiss. Drizzle, wind and definitely no snow. I think meteorologist is the only job in which you can be wrong most of the time and not get fired; maybe they’re all geniuses! I need to find a job like that.

Anyway, since there is no snow and no “good” excuse for me to sit on the couch watching movies all day, I guess I’ll catch you up on one of our latest meals at the local restaurant Maison. We actually went here for my birthday back in January and I’m finally getting around to telling you about it, but they deserve a great plug because it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long, long time.

Maison is located on Prince Street in downtown Lancaster City and used to be our other favorite restaurant, Effie Ophelia. When Effie Ophelia left, Eric and I wondered if the next restaurant would be able to take their place in our hearts and our stomachs and although Maison has been established for a while now, we just didn’t make it a priority to try them out. Perhaps we needed a grieving period. We started hearing that this place was good and even tried to make reservations once or twice but they’ve got the tiniest dining room and we could never get a reservation. My birthday was coming up and we decided to take a later reservation just so we could finally find out if this place was any good.

Maison is BYOB, a feature I happen to love because it saves you money and you can bring a special bottle of whatever you like with you! Eric brought a little something for himself and I stuck with my favorite beverage of the last 9 months, water. The first indication that this place was going to be right up our alley was when the waiter told us that the appetizer special was fois gras. (Anytime fois gras is mentioned, Eric gets a giddy look about him and a sparkle in his eyes. He absolutely loves the stuff.) Then the waiter mentioned a special entree of beef cheeks. I thought Eric might kiss him.

We made our selections and sat back to enjoy this special meal. First came the fois gras with caramelized shallots. Yum.

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The shallots added to the sweetness of the rich fois gras and each bite just melted in your mouth.

The fois gras was followed by my entree, rosemary rabbit ragu with home made pasta.

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I love rabbit. It’s not as common of a protein and whenever I see it on a menu, I get it. It has great flavor and is never dry. This ragu was perfect; it coated the pasta well and had so much flavor. It was paired with chanterelle mushrooms, another favorite of mine, and pancetta. I loved every bite!

Eric’s braised beef cheeks came out with my rabbit.

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Just looking at the picture makes me want to taste this dish again. The beef cheeks were perfectly braised, full of flavor and melted in your mouth; they even had a bit of horseradish to add another layer of flavor and spice. They were served over home made spaetzle which soaked up all the delicious sauce. Eric and I both loved it.

For dessert, we shared the Earl Grey creme brulee. And, yes, we were so busy eating it that I forgot to take a picture. Sorry! It looked like creme brulee but was the color of Early Grey tea. I’m not one to go for a flavored creme brulee normally. I like the traditional creme brulee, however this flavor intrigued me and I must admit it was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. In fact, I’ve been contemplating adding some Earl Grey flavor to my own creme brulee the next time I make it.

To sum the evening up, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the food. Maison has a warm and cozy atmosphere, excellent service and incredible food. They are BYOB so don’t forget to bring along your favorite drink and make sure you make reservations; they’re very cozy and can’t accommodate too many people in the dining room at once. If you’re a fan of local, fresh, farm to table food (if you’re not a fan of that, you’re nuts) go here. Plain and simple. Check out more about Maison, including their current menu, on their website: maisonlancaster.com.

Also, small plug, it’s restaurant week in Lancaster! From March 4-10 you can enjoy special menus and amazingly low prices from all your favorite Lancaster restaurants. Check out more information and restaurant specials on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LancasterCityRestaurantWeek  A word of advice, this is a great chance to try a restaurant that normally might be too expensive for a night out, try something new! Also, make reservations, especially if you want to go on a weekend night, these deals fill up fast. Take a night off from cooking and go on a date with your special someone or a group of friends!

**Check out the food section of the Lancaster Newspaper today! There’s a great article that mentions The Red Velvet Blog! Click here to read it online!

Colorado Getaway

As mentioned last week, we took a 5 day extended weekend out to Colorado. Eric was attending a conference for work and I choose to tag along. We stayed an extra 2 days after the conference to visit with some old college friends who live in the Denver area and had a great time catching up and exploring more of this great city.

This was not our first time out to Denver. As a tween, I came out to Denver with my family for a wedding and then we rented a car and drove all over the state to see as much as we possibly could in the 2 weeks we had allotted for the trip. I remember this trip well because it was my first time on an airplane and it was the farthest West my family had ever been.

The first time Eric and I went to Denver together, was for our friends wedding (the ones we visited). We fly to Denver, rented a car and took a huge road trip the included stops at the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, LA and back to Denver.

This getaway was a great opportunity for us to eat some good food and just relax and that’s exactly what we did. The first 3 days of the trip were spent in Golden, Colorado, where the conference was. This is a VERY small town. I walked the main street the first day and that is about all there is. It’s nestled in a valley and has the quaint small town feel with a beautiful river running through the center of town.  The two claims to fame are the Colorado School of Mines and the Coors Brewery.

We stayed at the Golden Hotel while we were there, that’s mainly where Eric’s conference was held. We didn’t get many meals together but did happen upon one of the most amazing sandwich shops. It’s called D’Deli and serves up some of the best sandwiches you’ll ever eat.

Why are they so good? Well, the bread is fresh and delicious, there are endless combination possibilities and just check out their sandwich menu:

Yep, there aren’t just 5 or 7 sandwich choices, there are 30+ sandwiches on that board plus the option to make your own.

I ordered the Bellanini which included: Bellanini - Grilled Panini Style, Olive Tapenade, Pesto Aioli, Roasted Garlic, Mozzarella, Spinach, Red Onions, Roasted Red Peppers, Portabella Mushrooms, Fresh Basil, Artichoke Hearts, Feta, Balsamic Vinegar and it looked like this:

Between the mushrooms, artichokes, cheese, spinach and tomatoes, I don’t know what I liked best. It was outstanding.

Eric chose the Olympian sandwich which included: Olympian - Corned Buffalo, Muenster, BBQ Sauce, Chipotle Ranch, Fried Onions, Mixed Greens, Jalapenos, Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Portabella Mushrooms

He said that the corned buffalo was some of the best meat he’s ever had.

After 3 days in Golden, we moved over to Erie, Colorado. Erie is close to both Denver and Boulder and is also close to the airport. The first night there, we went to one of the best restaurants we’ve eaten at in a while. Linger is a restaurant whose menu is made up of elegant versions of street food and is housed in an old mortuary. Yep, you read that right I said mortuary. They take the theme far enough to make it cute but not far enough to make it disturbing. Your water is served out of a glass bottle that looks like it use to be filled with embalming chemicals

Your menu is on a steel clipboard. Your check comes on a toe tag and the whole place has an industrial feel to it.

The food is ordered in small plates and many dishes are meant to be eaten with your hands. Between the four of us I think we ordered about 8 dishes and if course some cocktails. I love small plates because then you get the chance to try many different things during one meal instead of only 1-2 things.

Eric and I shared the mushroom barley soup. The mushrooms were earthy and delicious and the soup was served over a doughy dumpling filled with cheese! (Forgive my extremely dark iPhone pictures!)

Next, we shared Mongolian BBQ suck buns, which were my favorite. The BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy.

Next we moved onto the Strongbow Cider Mussels with Garlic, Thyme, Celery,  Grain Mustard,  Maple  Drizzle  & Grilled Spicy Cheddar Bread. They were almost better than my mussels. I found myself really enjoying the maple and mustard flavors with mussels; flavors I had never before considered together.

Next came the sesame BBQ tacos which were made with Kobe short ribs. These looked great but something about the sauce on them didn’t sit well with Eric or I and neither of us finished ours.

Finally came glorious dessert. All of us were very full by this point in time and decided to split one dessert between all of us. We choose the Italian Coffee & Donuts, powdered sugared donut holes, served warm with expresso chocolate mousse that has some sort of lemony goodness on top. The lemon was a bit strange but also added a lightness to the mousse. Amazing.

These were the two best meals of our trip and we had a wonderful catching up with old friends. We already can’t wait for our next trip to Denver and the new food we’ll get to try!

Restaurant Review – The Blue Heron

I’m sure you’re wondering where I’ve been, the truth is I haven’t been cooking much in the last week so I actually ran out of new things to write about! Last week was our 5 year wedding anniversary and we ended up celebrating by going out to dinner several days in a row; that is the best celebration for us, good food.

Thursday was the actual day and I was planning the evening’s activities. We were married in a park located in York, PA, where I grew up, and we hadn’t been back to that spot since we were married. I thought it only fitting that we go back and reminisce. Of course we drove through an insane thunderstorm on the way there and I was afraid we would have to forego the park but things calmed down and we were still able to get out of the car. The place looked just the same and it was great to see it again.

Next on the agenda was dinner. When Eric and I were dating, we loved a French restaurant in York. The owner was from France and a really fun guy not to mention the food was outstanding. A few years ago he sold that restaurant and we were very sad, but to our delight he opened a new place that is much smaller but still has the same great food. I thought it would be the perfect place to go.

When you pull up to The Blue Heron you don’t even realize what a great restaurant is on the inside. I’m not sure what the building used to be but Eric said it looked more like a real estate office and I think it looks like a drug store. Inside the dining room is only one room and very intimate seating only 34 people at a time.

David, the owner and head chef, seated us and served us and there was one waiter for the whole place. There is no bar but you can BYOB so we brought along a bottle of rosé. The best thing about BYOB is that you save money on the dinner bill; I can’t complain about that!

There was an incredible list of specials including frog legs which Eric ordered and I chose to start with the steamed mussels, a specialty of the restaurant. I didn’t snap a photo of Eric’s frog legs in time, but he said they were delicious. Here’s a shot of the mussels:

The broth at the bottom of the bowl was garlicky and creamy and I dipped about 4 slices if bread into it because it tasted so good.

Out came our main entrées Eric had the duck in a cherry brandy sauce:

I had the pork tenderloin:

Following the meals we spent about 10 minutes in silence except for the occasional yum, mmm and mmhmm noises. The meat was cooked perfectly and the sauces were the perfect representation of French food.

I purposely didn’t finish my meal because I knew dessert would be good and after bringing out a dessert tray to tempt us, I choose a chocolate royale; a cripsy wafer topped with chocolate mouse and encased in a ribbon of dark chocolate ganache  and topped with whipped cream and raspberries. I forgot about taking a photo until half way through dessert so here’s a photo of half of it.

Delicious doesn’t even do it justice. Needless to say, I finished all of my dessert, quickly.

I’d highly recommend The Blue Heron to anyone, we had a wonderful evening and can’t wait to go back and try new things from the menu.

Happy Anniversary to us! Here’s to 50 more years! (Boy do I need a better scanner…)

Ciro’s Italian Bistro – Restaurant Review

A few miles from my house there is a small Italian bistro that has become one of my favorite spots in Lancaster. At first it lured me in with it’s great cocktail menu (many of which contain St. Germain my absolute favorite liquor) and then I tasted the food and knew it was going to be a new favorite place.

Ciro’s Italian Bistro sits off of Fruitville Pike in the small and fairly new Richmond square community. It has both indoor and outdoor seating (weather permitting) and even has a take out gelato counter. When you walk in the door you get a feeling of comfort and class. Even better than the atmosphere is the menu. It contains a nice variety of traditional Italian favorites along with some more upscale Italian dishes. The plates come out with a beautiful presentation and taste even better.

As I mentioned before, the cocktail menu is great, especially for ladies, you’ll find a nice array of martinis and mixed drinks. During my latest trip there with a great friend, we both ordered a cocktail. I got the St. Germain cocktail and she got the rasberry martini. They were both light, refreshing and delicious!

I ordered the roasted tomato basil bisque to start. It comes in a HUGE bowl! But it’s delicious. Forgive my photo, my stomach took over my brain and I began to eat it before I could take the picture.

My soup was followed by the Mozarella di Casi: fresh homemade mozzarella served with marinated flame-roasted pepper coulis, fresh sliced tomato and basil, drizzled with virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The mozarella was creamy, the tomatoes fresh and flavorful but the best part which tied the dish together was the roasted red pepper coulis. It gave the salad a perfect something extra.

My friend ordered the Ravioli Quattro Fromaggi: four cheese ravioli with sautéed shrimp, garlic and broccoli rabe.

I did not taste it but she couldn’t stop raving about it while she ate and it looks like a work of art! I love the two toned ravioli. Food is always better when it looks as great as it tastes.

For dessert, your waiter tells you to go check out the dessert/gelato case and then make your selection (it’s a very clever technique, after seeing it in the case, its impossible not to get something). We split the chocolate layer cake and ate it so fast that we forgot to take a picture, but check out this picture of their gelato.

Other things I like about Ciro’s: the pizza is awesome (they even offer gluten free crust), I’ve never met a dish there I didn’t like, their prices are very reasonable and it’s close to my house! I can’t wait for the next excuse to go to Ciro’s, I hope it’s soon.

Note: If you’re headed to Ciro’s on a weekend, make reservations. Word has gotten out about this place and it’s usually packed!

Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub – Restaurant Review

If you’ve taken a look over at my restaurants page, then you know that I already love Annie Bailey’s but here is a more detailed review of our latest night out there. I decided to surprise Eric with dinner at his favorite Irish Pub after his engineering exam last Friday. I figured he’d need a beer or two after spending 8 hours using parts of his brain that I’m not even aware exist in my own brain. I was also craving some good pub food so I made a reservation for 8pm. (Be sure to make a reservation if you plan on going for dinner on a weekend, it will be a long wait if you don’t.)

After being seated, Eric ordered a Guinness and I noticed that one the specials menu they had listed Chimay White on tap so I ordered one of those. I know you’re wondering why I didn’t order a Guinness in the Irish pub, especially considering the fact that I look like I was born there but to be honest with you, I’m still learning to like Guinness and all dark beers for that matter. I love the lighter “girly” beers and I’m happy with even a medium beer but the dark ones are still growing on me. Anyway, the Chimay White is really good and they only have it on tap from time to time so I decided to take advantage of it.

We ordered the beef brisket quesadilla to split then Eric orderd the Shepherd’s Pie and I ordered the Kobe Beef burger. The Shepherd’s Pie is a great recipe because they use both lamb and ground beef; when you use more than one kind of meat, it gives the dish alot of depth of flavor. If you don’t know what kobe beef is, you need to find out and try some. Here’s a little Wikipedia definition of Kobe Beef: “refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushibreed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture.” In short, it’s the champagne of beef if that makes sense; it’s magically delicious! And it was my burger, cue giant smile on my face.

Out came our appetizer first the beef brisket quesadilla with a tomato jam:

There was a cheesy sauce on top and the meat had great flavor, I also loved the tomato jam which you can kind of see on the left in the picture, sorry the plate was clear glass and the dark wood tables makes it hard to make out. But the quesadilla was tasty!

Next came dinner, Eric’s Shepherd’s Pie:

He finished the whole casserole himself. It was hot and comforting, perfect after a long day of testing, and it was raining outside so it warmed him up.

And here’s my burger:

The burger was topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and caramelized onions. One important thing to note is that I requested my burger to be cooked medium, which to me means a hearty pink color throughout the entire burger, and the burger was perfectly cooked. All too often I find myself ordering beef medium rare or even rare, whenI like it medium because many restaurants overcook meat. This burger was red and delicious!

Sidenote, please tell me, what is the point of eating gray beef? It is completely tasteless! If you’re going to pay for a nice steak or a burger, please don’t insult the cow by ordering anything more than medium. And no, you won’t get worms or food poisoning from rare meat, stop worrying.

We devoured our dinners, actually I left a quarter of the burger on my plate because I was saving room for dessert. Annie Bailey’s has a great dessert selection but in keeping with the traditional Irish flavors, I chose the Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake.

And yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Although, if one were to eat this dessert while drinking a Guinness, I think a Jameson sauce may be a nice touch. They could call it the Car Bomb Cheesecake…

We had a great meal at Annie Bailey’s and are looking for another excuse to go back soon.

Jennie’s Diner – Restaurant Review

A few weeks ago Eric and I were out on a Sunday morning and complaining to one another about being hungry. Both in the mood for a good breakfast we promptly agreed that Jennie’s Diner was the perfect place to satisfy.

Jennie’s is located on 2575 Lincoln Highway East, Ronks, PA just passed the famous Lancaster, outlets. It’s a tiny diner right out of the 1950s complete with a counter lined with delicious cakes and a case full of pies, yes a whole case! They have juke boxes on each table and only accept cash (but have installed an ATM for those who forget).

This was not our first trip to Jennie’s so we knew exactly what to expect, including the largest pancakes known to man. To me, pancakes are the greatest breakfast food. I’m always a sweet breakfast lover as opposed to a savory. Typically you’ll find me ordering pancakes and Eric ordering eggs or an omlette of some sort. Today turned out not to be a”typical” day. I chose the French toast with a side of sausage because I knew my stomach could not take attempting the Jennie’s pancake today. And then Eric did something that I still don’t understand; he ordered a stack of blueberry pancakes. Yes, that would be 3 GIANT pancakes. He assured me that he was hungry and thought he could manage it. I laughed and knew better. This is what came out of the kitchen:

It was so large that they served it on a platter! Eric immediately dug in while I gawked, took photos and laughed. Each time he poured syrup onto it, it completely soaked up and he needed more. Meanwhile, my normal sized French toast tasted great and my sausage was awesome (I think its got some maple in it).

Here’s another shot of Eric, pre-pancake:

He’s so optimistic! After about 20 minutes of eating and me telling him not to overdo it (I needed him awake for the afternoon, a pancake coma just wasn’t an option) he threw in the towel.

I like to call this next image the agony of defeat:

Yes, it appears he cut more of the pancake up to look like he actually ate more than he did. It was a good try, but the pancake won.

The good news, is that the pancakes only cost about $4 and Eric took them home and ate them about 3 more times the following week. The better news is that Jennie’s will sell you just one of these monstrous pancakes for about $1.50. I’ve never been able to finish one but maybe you can!

If you’re looking for a great place for breakfast, anytime of day, check out Jennie’s Diner. You won’t regret it. Has anyone out there been to Jennie’s and actually finished a pancake? I’d love to know!