January 28, 2015

Funny, I'd always assumed Juice Stop was some kind of big chain conglomerate... until I actually went there today. It became obvious pretty quickly that this is just a good 'ol local business.

I couldn't even remember my order long enough to drive 5 seconds up to the window and ask for it. So, my bad, I ended up ordering the wrong thing.

What I wanted to order was the "Knock Out" - Apple, Bananas, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt. But when I approached the window all I could remember was... Power... something? (And I ended up with the "Power Play" - Watermelon, Raspberries, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Raspberry Sherbet. Raspberry sherbet isn't really something I'd normally eat at breakfast time, but it sure tastes good).

This, after reading through the 49 smoothie options available (not to mention the 12 nutrient blends and 10 add-ins) and then trying to remember which one I wanted.
Yes it's a bit overwhelming, but for a smoothie junkie like me this is also very exciting. So many combinations... and with a 16 oz size to compliment the behemoth 24 oz . Bonus points, Juice Stop includes all of their nutrition information on the website! juicestopsmoothies.com/m…
I did get some protein added in, but really I'm just drinking an sugar bomb for breakfast right now.
To avoid making that same mistake in the future, I did what any good blogger would do (started to analyze the menu in detail).

Turns out that sherbet is a staple in many of Juice Stop's smoothies. And since this isn't usually something I'm looking to add, it quickly eliminates many items off my 'to try' list. Yes, I'm sure they're all super tasty, but really I see it as an easy fix in the smoothie-making department. More of a treat than a meal substitute.

And since the menu wasn't really organized in any way, I've taken it on myself to do just that. This will allow me to explore in more of an organized fashion. (If you're a little OCD like me... you're welcome). 

Yogurt-Based Smoothies:

  1. Right Hook - Peach, Boysenberries, Peaches, Pineapple, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  2. Grand Slam - Orange, Strawberry, Bananas, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  3. Perfect 10 - Carrot and Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  4. Americas Cup - Strawberry, Bananas, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  5. Knock Out - Apple, Bananas, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  6. 1080 - Peach, Strawberry, Peaches, Strawberries, Mangos, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  7. Touchdown - Raspberry, Bananas, Raspberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  8. Volley - Boysenberry, Bananas, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  9. Shootout - Skim Milk and Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt (Choice of Vanilla or Chocolate)
  10. Freefall - Skim Milk, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt and Bananas (Choice of Vanilla or Chocolate)
  11. Bench Press - Skim Milk, Protein Powder, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt and Bananas (Choice of Vanilla, Chocolate, or Fruit)
  12. Coaches Choice - Skim Milk, Chocolate, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt and Cappuccino Mix
  13. Worlds Cup - Skim Milk, Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  14. Hang Ten - Skim Milk, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt and Choice of Fruit
  15. Cha Cha - Skim Milk, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt and Choice of Coffee (Mocha, Vanilla Latte, Spice Chai, Green Tea, Vanilla Chai or Raspberry Chai)
  16. 4X8 - Skim Milk, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Honey, Peanut Butter and Bananas

Sherbet-Based Smoothies:

  1. Slam Dunk - Orange, Pineapple, Blueberries, Strawberries, Pineapple Sherbet
  2. Penalty Flag - Strawberry, Peaches, Strawberries, Raspberry Sherbet
  3. Scissor Kick - Strawberry, Pineapple, Strawberries, Pineapples, Pineapple Sherbet
  4. Slalom - Orange, Pineapple, Bananas, Strawberries, Orange Sherbet
  5. Double Axle - Orange, Pineapple, Bananas, Strawberries, Raspberries, Boysenberries, Pineapple Sherbet
  6. Eagle - Orange, Raspberry, Cranberry, Strawberries, Bananas, Orange Sherbet
  7. Half Nelson - Raspberry, Bananas, Strawberries, Orange Sherbet
  8. Freestyle - Mango, Mangos, Peaches, Strawberries, Pineapple Sherbet
  9. Side Out - Apricot, Peaches, Bananas, Strawberries, Orange Sherbet
  10. Hat Trick - Papaya, Coconut, Bananas, Peaches, Orange Sherbet
  11. Round House - Peach, Bananas, Peaches, Orange Sherbet
  12. Cross Cage - Watermelon, Strawberries, Bananas, Orange Sherbet
  13. Strike 3 - Lemonade, Peaches, Pineapples, Mangos, Orange Sherbet
  14. Half Pipe - Guava, Bananas, Peaches, Pineapple Sherbet
  15. Sticky Wicket - Raspberry, Bananas, Raspberries, Strawberries, Lime Sherbet
  16. Tumble Turn - Lemonade, Strawberry, Bananas, Strawberries, Lime Sherbet
  17. Home Run - Lemonade, Strawberries, Orange Sherbet
  18. Butterfly - Lemonade, Strawberry, Strawberries, Raspberries, Raspberry Sherbet
  19. Triple Gainer - Lemonade, Peaches, Mangos, Pineapple Sherbet
  20. Triple Threat - Papaya, Boysenberries, Blueberries, Raspberry Sherbet
  21. Jab Step - Raspberry, Pineapple, Strawberries, Raspberry Sherbet

Yogurt and Sherbet-Based:

  1. Triple Crown - Orange, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt and Orange Sherbet
  2. Slap Shot - Cranberry, Blueberries, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Raspberry Sherbet
  3. Tour De France - Apple, Bananas, Blueberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Raspberry Sherbet
  4. Power Play - Watermelon, Raspberries, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Raspberry Sherbet
  5. Squeeze Play - Pineapple, Bananas, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Pineapple Sherbet
  6. Singletrack - Watermelon, Mango, Raspberries, Strawberries, Mangos, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Raspberry Sherbet
  7. Crosstrainer - Raspberry, Mango, Peaches, Strawberries, Mangos, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt, Pineapple Sherbet
  8. Finish Line - Raspberry, Lime Sherbet, Bananas, Strawberries, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  9. Personal Best - Pineapple, Mangos, Lime Sherbet, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt
  10. Double Dribble - Pineapple, Skim Milk, Coconut, Pineapples, Pineapple Sherbet, Vanilla Non-fat Yogurt

Other:

  1. Marathon - Orange, Bananas, Strawberries
  2. Off The Lip - Pineapple, Coconut, Honey, Bananas and Strawberries

Nutrient Blends:

Every smoothie receives one free nutrient (approx. 5 mg). Additional nutrients are $0.50 each.
  • Daily Blend - daily dose of vitamins and minerals. 51 vitamins, minerals and amino acids
  • Smart Blend - increases awareness. ginko biloba, ginseng, bilberry, L-glutamine, niacin and phosphatidylserine
  • Energy Blend - natural energizer. ginko, ginseng, gotu kola, sima, citrus, aurantium and kola nut
  • Vitality Blend - antioxidant to purify the body. selenium, vitamin c, bioflavan, grape seed and bilberry extracts
  • Wellness Blend - boosts the immune system. echinacea, goldenseal root, vitamin c, calcium citrate and zinc
  • Metabolic Blend - speeds metabolism. chromuim picolinate, L-carnitine, inulin IQ, phosphatidylserine and citrimax
  • Bran Blend - water soluble fiber. oat bran, rice bran and psyllium husks
  • Power Blend - muscle growth. soy protein, lacto albumin, inulin IQ and whey protein
  • Green Blend – superfoods. spiruuna, barley grass, alfalfa grass, chrrella and norwegian dulse
  • Intensity Blend - pre and post workout. creatine, chromium picolinate, inulin IQ, calcium, potassium and phosphrous
  • Calcium

Extra Add-ins (upon request):

  • Whey Protein (app. 20 grams) - Strawberry, Orange, Vanilla, and Chocolate Flavors
  • Soy Protein (app. 20 grams)
  • Creatine (app. 5 grams) - Muscle Hydrator and Cell Volumizer
  • Glutime (app. 5 grams) - Muscle Recovery and Fast Absorption
  • Flax Seed (app. 14 grams)
  • Octane - (1 scoop is app. 11.6 grams) The Ultimate All-In-One Energy & Sports Drink Mix
  • Soy Milk - (substitute in any smoothie)
  • Gatorade - (app. 15 grams) Thirst Quench Powder
  • Red Bull - (add a full can of red bull to any smoothie)
  • Acai Packets - (add this packet to any smoothie, app. 100 grams) From Brazilian rainforest fruit, most powerful antioxidant
Juice Stop on Urbanspoon

January 25, 2015

I had to read up on my waffle lore before writing this post.

Dugger's Cafe has been open now officially all of about two weeks (I think, though a Dugger clued me into the space at the tail end of December), in the old Noodle Zoo space (RIP) next to Dundee Theater. Technically now it's the old Zephyr Lily Cafe space, but my point is, the interior is greatly unchanged, even from the NZ days. Same paint on the walls, same ceiling, lighting fixtures and even perhaps the floor.

It probably goes without saying that the location is a bit odd, with no street view from either Dodge or Capitol Ave, you really need to be looking for it as a destination, even once you come upon the front door.


There was something going on - or not - with the ventilation this morning, as the restaurant was actually warm and humid inside with condensation on the windows and door. But that's just me and my weird HVAC observations. There was also an 8-year old banging his silverware together over and over while his parents did nothing... the overall atmosphere reminded me more of a diner than a brunch-style cafe. But sometimes it's nice to keep it casual, eh?

According to the OWH article...
The owners, Jeanette Laitner, her son, Randy Dugger, and Dugger’s wife, Rhonda, have a long history in Omaha restaurants.
Jeanette and her former husband, Jim Dugger, opened Duggers Coffee Shop in 1965 at 84th and Center Streets. After 10 years, they moved the shop to 80th and Center, where they stayed for another 10 years before selling the business.

Randy Dugger, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, worked as a chef for 30 years with Marriott Hotels. In Omaha, he opened Farmhouse Cafe and worked there for eight years. Most recently, he worked with Patricia Catering in Bellevue.
The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch all day starting at 6am Monday-Friday and 6:30 am Saturday-Sunday. Closing time is 3pm every day. Their Facebook page is facebook.com/duggerscafe.

Now, what about the food?

Perusing the menu only one thing really jumped out at me... the Belgian Waffle. This prompted some serious research after the fact (and a whole separate blog post about Belgian Waffles), when I sat down to write this review. But the short version is that what showed up was not what we were hoping for. It an American Belgian waffle.

Soft, round, and served with one pad of warmed butter. Looking at it now makes me sad after writing about those other waffles.

American Belgian Waffle
The homemade 'maple' syrup was a bit confusing to me also, since it didn't appear to have any maple flavor. But this is comparing to what I'm used to at home (100% pure maple syrup). What showed up in the syrup dispenser reminded me more of corn syrup with a lot of caramel color, a la Aunt Jemima.

Bill had the 'Chris' Butcher Shop Omelette', with bacon, sausage, ham and jack cheese.

Chris' Butcher Shop Omelette
I went for the Breakfast Croissant, with scrambled eggs, diced ham, bacon, cheese all 'nestled' in a croissant.

Croissant Sandwich

Raspberry Muffin
The sandwich was okay, all the flavors were there but the whole thing was compressed a bit and pretty greasy. Flavor was very rich, and I only ate half. The fruit was probably the star of my plate, actually, with freakishly fresh strawberries taking center stage.

A raspberry muffin also made an appearance. It was slightly smaller than I anticipated, since they were touted as homemade I just assumed... that's it above on a salad plate. But don't let the size deceive you, as it was small but definitely mightily tasty. Sweet, with a crunchy top and a nice pop of raspberry. (Looks like they maybe found an experienced baker to crank these babies out.)

One of the reviews on Yelp / Urbanspoon cites poor waitstaff. That wasn't our experience at all, luckily. We were greeted immediately upon entering, and seated quickly. Service was friendly and prompt. There was a brief moment of muffin-memory-lapse, but it didn't affect the speedy pace of our meal.

Paying was a little confusing, as we weren't instructed to pay at the counter and just figured that out for ourselves in time. Then, the gentleman working the counter had to go get our server so we could pay her specifically. A procedure that seemed strange to me as I haven't seen it before. Maybe we were supposed to pay at the table after all?

Duggers Cafe on Urbanspoon
I started to hijack my own review of Dugger's this morning with this information, and then decided it was best to make a dedicated post.

Waffles are an interesting topic. And admittedly not one I've gone into detail researching before. As a kid, you know the difference between a waffle and pancake because waffles hold more syrup (and peanut butter).

But really, if you look into it, waffles can vary greatly depending on where you are in the world. And to make matters more complicated, apparently the types are somewhat open to interpretation. Plenty more waffle information is available on Wikipedia, if you're interested. Because this post is focusing on Belgian Waffles.

What we can apparently agree on, is that "a waffle is a leavened batter or dough cooked between two plates, with a specific 'waffled' look". So a waffle has to look like a waffle.

Now, I've been craving a particular type of waffle recently... The kind with a yeast-leavened dough and sugar baked right in, making them dense, caramelized, slightly chewy but still sweet and crunchy. The kind of waffle that can stand on its own and be eaten in-hand.

This is the Liege Waffle. (Waffle Window in Portland knows what I'm talking about here). The Liege is one of the two common types of waffle available in Belgium. And it is flipping fantastic!

The Waffle Window 'Liege Waffle'
Then there is the Brussels Waffle, the second common Belgium waffle type. They are allegedly always rectangular (where the Liege may not be) with a lighter, yet crispy texture and deeper pockets. Brussels waffles are prepared with an egg-white-leavened or yeast-leavened batter (or sometimes both). Sometimes dusted with powdered-sugar, whipped cream, fruit or chocolate spread. These and the Liege are both common 'street food' waffles.

Brussels vs Liege waffles. Photo credit: Otts World.
Neither of these waffle types is akin to the 'Belgian Waffle' which we really should call the 'American Belgian Waffle' since there is no such thing as a Belgian Waffle in Belgium.

The American Belgian Waffle is a simplified recipe of the Brussels waffle. It's probably leavened with baking powder, there are no specific shape criteria, and use a yeast batter (while 'regular' American waffles could just be pancake batter cooked into in a waffled shape). So really, if you're at a restaurant in the U.S. and see 'Belgian Waffle' on the menu, there's no telling what might show up. But it most certainly is NOT going to be a Liege or Brussels waffle.

Lesson learned. Let the hunt for Liege waffles in Omaha begin...

Well that was quick.


Cast Iron Waffles (Westroads Mall) looks like the most promising candidate since the words 'Belgian Liege Waffles' is right in the name!!! One of only 4 locations, it's a relatively new addition to our area, but one I'm excited to check out. Probably as soon as I'm done writing this post.

But who else can sling a decent waffle in town? 

When it comes to Chicken and Waffles, I know first-hand that both Lot 2 and Blatt Beer & Table can throw down on that topic. 

Where else are the waffles worth a try in town? I'm thinking... 
  • Taxi's: Their Gran Marnier dipped french toast might set an interesting precedent for their waffles, and I've been generally impressed with their other brunch items.
  • Pig & Finch: I haven't been for brunch, but they list a 'Belgian Style Waffle'...
  • Railcar: I know their brunch is stand-out delicious. Their chicken and waffle is probably worthy of praise as well. 
  • Le Boullion: Haven't been here yet, but their 'Sunday Waffle' sounds very promising. 
  • Bailey's: One of my favorite breakfast spots. They have a 'Belgian Waffle Plate' but I'm not really optimistic about it. 
Good luck waffle hunters. Honestly I almost never order waffles at restaurants for this reason. You hardly ever know what's going to show up (although I suppose you could say this about anything). Anyway, I'm off to Westroads for a Liege waffle! 

January 12, 2015

I've always loved fruitcake.

Maybe that's the English side of me, but I have nice childhood memories of Christmastime at my Grandma's house playing cards, sipping tea and eating fruitcake with hard sauce. (What can I say, I'm an old soul).

So for this year's Christmas baking project (after with last year's eggnog), I thought I'd try my hand at fruitcake. But first, some wisdom from comedian Jim Gaffigan on the topic of cake. If you're impatient, he gets to fruitcake around 4m 20s.



The fruitcake joke in this video stems from the opposite view of fruitcake I have. Namely, that it's a joke. And when I told some people I was making fruitcake this season, that's a bit of the reaction I got.

But for anyone who's ever had a really good fruitcake, I know you know better.

Now apparently, most American mass-produced fruit cakes are alcohol-free (lame... says the pregnant blogger).

So obviously mine had to have booze in it.

Unfortunately, buying alcohol - even for baking purposes - is much less fun when pregnant. (Though nobody at Hy-Vee batted an eye when I had to get a manager to pull the E&J brandy from the locked top shelf cabinet for me).

The recipe I used was Alton Brown's Freerange Fruitcake. Bonus, there's a video for that too if you follow the link! Okay, here are the ingredients.

The Goods are all ready!

Ingredients:

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup sun dried cranberries
1/2 cup sun dried blueberries
1/2 cup sun dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 cup gold rum
1 cup sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
4 whole cloves, ground
6 allspice berries, ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken
Brandy for basting and/or spritzing

Miscellaneous dried fruit.

Directions

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, [or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit]. Obviously I let this stuff sit overnight. You know, to keep it traditional. It didn't really look a whole lot different before and after, honestly. But the fruits had definitely taken on a significantly boozy thickness.

Pre-alcohol soak
Post-alcohol
Other ingredients are all prepped and ready
Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

Simmering along nicely
Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture.

Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts.

This is when things got a little messy... literally.

Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.

Make sure the mixture fits in the loaf pan you use. I may have added a bit more fruit than the recipe called for, and as a result ended up with this look in a single loaf pan.

This is what too much batter looks like
The one thing I forgot from the baking classses I never took is that things expand while baking. So if you end up with something that looks like the above, I'd recommend distributing to two pans before you put in the over, it overflows, makes a huge mess and you have to correct while the oven is on full blast. Then your 'after' picture ends up looking like this...

Ended up with two fruitcakes! Twice the fun.
Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan. Then you seal up in an airtight container and keep spritzing every 2 - 3 days with brandy throughout the holidays. You can also freeze, but these babies didn't make it through New Year's.

But that's not all. There was also... The Hard Sauce.

If you haven't had the pleasure, hard sauce is really easy to make and keeps for months when refrigerated. Though it is called a sauce, it's not really a liquid and when refrigerated is actually a solid. So it's technically more of a spread when you let it come up to room temperature.

And it's also really tasty since it's also just sugar, butter and - yes - booze. Specifically bourbon. I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe, though you could probably half the alcohol if you're looking for less of a kick. ENJOY!
Hard Sauce. Aka Frosting.


December 19, 2014

Well, the moment has finally arrived. Heritage Food and Wine is now (softly) open in the old Zin Room space at 15th & Harney Streets. Tonight and tomorrow - Friday and Saturday - 11am to Midnight all food is 40% off as well. You can make reservations by calling 402.991.0660.

Now Open (albeit, softly)
I had the pleasure of attending last night - the very first evening - as part of a blogger group. That in and of itself was an interesting experience as I'm not used to sharing food-picture taking with so many people. But while we're on the topic of pictures, I was sad that the lighting level wasn't really conducive to the nice bright food pictures I crave (and I'm really resistant to flashes in dark spaces). C'est la vie.

But since people seem eager to hear more about this new addition to the downtown dining scene, I'll oblige now - shadowy pictures and all.

First impressions of the bar (and bartenders) was very good. As I took it all in, I pictured myself spending time here, sipping house cocktails and snacking on small plates before shows at the Orpheum. Unfortunately, I'm still off the alcohol until mid-March, but I'm sure the Heritage Bar will still be there waiting for me then.

If I had been imbibing, I'd have probably started with the 'His and Herbs' seasonal house cocktail - Dewar's White Label, house strawberry cordial, Yellow Chartreuse, Fino Sherry, herb blend and lemon.

As it was, I started with an artfully crafted mocktail of white tea, grenadine, lemon, soda water, and peach bitters. And I'm happy to report that went down nicely... even without booze.

Hints of boozy greatness
They boasted a very impressive selection of beers also, that I'm looking forward to perusing (drinking). Full menus for Dinner, Drinks, Happy Hour, Lunch, and Bar are all available on the Heritage website: http://heritagefoodandwine.com/menus/ 


Once we were seated, the food started flying. And it didn't stop until we were all stuffed to the brim. Still, somehow, we only made it 40% of the way through the menu. And the take-home message is that I am looking forward to trying other 60%.

There were some miscues, which you might expect as part of a soft open, and some hits. So considering the context, and the fact that I plan to make subsequent visits, I'll try to hit the highlights in this post.

The space and service were both spot on, which was impressive for a first night. There was a flurry of activity and excitement in the restaurant, which maintained a relaxing ambiance even when the space got a bit loud... though most of the noise was likely sourced from my table, I suspect.

Mood lighting (make sure to look up)
Menu-wise, Heritage is focusing on family style food. This means the dinner menu is organized into 5 sections: Garden, Sea, Coop, Pasture and Cave. Which kind of makes you feel like you're foraging for these foods yourself at first glance. So things aren't really arranged in 'courses' and are intended to be shared and ordered in phases. But I'll focus on each menu area separately here.

Hopefully it'll help give a little taste of what Heritage is offering up. I for one will be revisiting to and look forward to the refinements that surely will come with time.

Garden

On the topic of this section, though, I will throw out a word of warning for any vegetarians (or vegans). The menu does list several items as V-compliant, but they appear to be mislabeled currently. I'm sure this will be corrected on subsequent printings.  

House Pickles made with seasonal vegetables (carrots, onion and cauliflower in this case). Not really one to complain about pickles in any variety, these served nicely as a palette cleaner between items.

house pickles
Potatoes: described as frites on the menu, these giant wedges reminded me more of steakhouse fries. Aoili was a nice compliment. Could've been a little crispier on the outside and a little more cooked on the inside, for me, last night. But since Heritage is actively seeking this same goal, I'm sure they'll get perfected soon. (The process includes blanching in water, freezing, parboiling in oil, cooling and then frying to deliberately get that soft inside and crispy outside).

Potatoes
Sweet Potato: a big hit at our table, due mostly to the caramelized white chocolate and marshmallow toppers. When they say sweet on this dish, they mean it.

sweet potato
Broccoli: With cheddar fondue and chili pepper. I didn't get around to sampling this until it had cooled, so the impact was somewhat lost.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips: One of my favorites and a standout dish of the evening. Simply dressed with maple syrup, rosemary and walnuts. Very good.

carrots and parsnips
Kale Salad: Probably not for everyone, but I was also in love with this salad and the heavily dressed dill buttermilk vinaigrette and dried fruit. Bonus, there's pastrami at the bottom!

kale salad
Biscuits: House biscuits came with several items, but vegetarians take note at least some of these are made with lard. Just one of many potential vegetarian / vegan landmines to keep an eye out for.



Sea

Only one item was sourced from this section, the Smoked Salmon and Gravlox. With capers, pickled red onion, farm egg, dill and a black pepper meringue, it was a beautiful plate to behold and devour. Of course that also means I did not get a picture of it. 

Coop

Heritage Fried Chicken: What I feel is being touted as the premier item on the menu (it has brackets, after all) the chicken was probably my personal disappointment of the evening. I was hoping for a crispier, lighter breading. And all the spice appeared to be residing in the accompanying sauce. But I always like lots of spices... if you're not into that, maybe this would be your holy grail? I'll try this again, for sure, though since I suspect we didn't get a perfected version.
chicken!
Foie Gras: I'm not morally conflicted enough about this item to not eat it, but I was flavor conflicted as I didn't know what to think of this dish. Maybe I only like foie gras warm? This was served terrine-style (cold) with milk jam, & maraschino cherries. (They do have a seared option with the cabbage dish, which I'll be trying next time).

foie gras
Duck Breast: Medium-rare cook style wasn't really tempting to many of our diners, but I sampled several slices. Definitely a healthy portion if you know of any duck-meat lovers you want to impress. The creamed kale that came along with this was another big win.

duck breast

Pasture

Ham Hock and Beans: Keeping it simple here. Beans, greens, molasses (and the meaty ham hock noted in the heading). Beans were purposely presented al dente, but when I eat beans my preference is for the squishier variety.

ham hock and beans (oh, and greens)
Bone Marrow: The one item I specifically made a request for. Served 'out' of bone in beef stock, onions and parsley, with grilled bread. Mmmmmm.

marrowlicious

Cave

Meat and cheese charcuterie tray. I think we had a little of everything - a well-balanced array of both cheese and meats (almost a bit heavy on the meat?) with mustard, honeycomb, etc. I also learned a new word - nduja - a 'spicy, spreadable pork sausage'. Also, synonymous for delicious, in my book.

I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to meat and cheese, but I would ask for grilled bread only in the future (when I come back to eat more nduja). 

charcuterie

November 29, 2014

Lalibela is best enjoyed with friends. And if you're having trouble finding friends to go here, let me know, as I'm always up for a visit. My recommendation is to order several items and do a round robin sort of roulette dinner, rotating periodically until everyone is able to sample everything on the table.

But first thing's first... no utensils. That job is readily tackled by Injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a spongy texture. Traditionally made out of teff flour, it is a national dish in Ethiopia. And if just that description sounds off-putting then maybe this isn't the restaurant for you? But I always advocate trying something at least once before discounting it. And if you have any friends trying to avoid gluten, let them know they're safe here, as I understand teff to be one of the gluten-free grains. (Which is a good thing, because there's plenty of injera to be had here)!

You can also bring your vegetarian friends, as their Vegetarian Platter is to die for.

For some reason I feel like serving me a heaping pile of bread is a personal challenge (one I'm happy to accept). The meals are plated on top of injera, and baskets of the stuff are also served on the side, typically one per dish.

I don't think I've tried everything on the menu yet, but the Vegetarian Plate is always a good choice, with several varieties of lentils, greens, and cabbage. Combination plate with doro wot and cheese is another good way to get a thorough sampling of the flavors and to ease yourself into.

The process goes down pretty much like this... You just grab some injera, tear off a piece, and use it to pick up some food, then stuff the food in your mouth. There's not a lot of grace to it, but I suppose it does take some practice.

Most of the meats are small enough to pick up easily in a single handful, and those that aren't can easily be dismantled with fingers.

As for the food, mixing is allowed. And there is no particular order to the meal. Eat whatever, whenever and have a good time. We don't tend to enforce the feeding each-other rule shown in the video, though that could make for some fun dining too.

For those of you unconvinced, check out this video primer:




Here's my rundown of some favorites - which it turns out is most of the menu.

Combination Plate: A variety of meat and vegetarian dishes including tibs, doro wot, salad, cabbage, cheese and lentils. Great place to start if this is your first foray into Ethiopian.

Combination Plate
Vegetarian Platter: A combination of salad, cabbage, lentils and cheese.

Vegetarian Platter
Kuanta Fir Fir: Beef sauteed in spices, butter and onion, mixed with pieces of injera.

Kuanta Fir Fir
Key Wot: A spicy beef stew prepared with a clarified butter sauce, cheese on the side.

Key Wot
Gored Gored: Lean beef mixed with spicy butter sauce and a paste of hot peppers with garlic, ginger and spices.
Gored Gored
Zil Zil: Stir fried beef strips, onions and peppers.

Zil Zil
Ethiopian Coffee: Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Strong and delicious.

Ethiopian Coffee
Ethiopian Spiced Tea: I think this used to be complimentary, but now they charge for it. You can probably blame me for this since I like to drink 2-3 cups... or, in other words, as many as they'll bring me. It's spiced, it's sweet, it's so good I'll even order tea in the summer.
Injera: The star of the show in more ways than one. Injera serves as plate, utensil and meal all in one. They'll always bring a basket per entree, so don't feel compelled to sacrifice your platter bread at first. Then, after you've eaten your fill you can roll up all the leftovers for later.
And that, my friends, is how you over-eat. Sharing an entrée is probably your best bet to leave in a comfortable state of affairs.

Lalibelia does not have a liquor license, so if you're feeling like a brew you'll have to go elsewhere. What they do have is bottled water, Ethopian coffee, and some wonderfully sweet spiced tea (see above).

Service is very friendly, but don't expect a detailed menu primer or rundown on what all the items are. You need to tap your sense of adventure here a bit.  The restaurant is warm and inviting, decorations made it feel cozy, and the food is fantastic. Bring on the injera!


Lalibela Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

October 14, 2014

As of December 2013, Dolce has switched ownership. Not sure if this change is immediately apparent to some, but for me two of my favorite things about the restaurant were apparently closely tied to the previous ownership.

Gina Sterns (of pastry fame), originally opened the restaurant in summer of 2011, and during this time, I frequented Dolce for lunch due to convenience, yes. But also because they had my favorite sandwich in town...the Goat Cheese Chicken Panini. And, yes, the cupcakes were also to die for.

The restaurant was sold to Jason Kuhr and Tyler Mohr, owners of J.T.K. Cuisine and Cocktails in Lincoln. And it took me a really long time to return. Under Stern's ownership, I visited Dolce around a dozen times. Never did I visit for dinner. My previous review was based on all those successful lunch visits, plus a birthday cupcake special order.

I will agree that the location is kind of awkward compared to where I'd expect to find a cafe like this... but this area of town is severely under-served for this type of fare and I think it's a welcome addition.

Hopefully it's here to stay because Dolce is 5 minutes from my office and I've been the past two days for lunch (which I think is saying something as well).

Yesterday I had the Zucchini & Asparagus salad with added Salmon for a $3 up-charge. Today was the Goat Cheese Chicken Panini. Both were delicious, well presented, and light with underlying healthful sneakiness. They were also both accompanied by their house focaccia bread and what I'd describe as rosemary chips with balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a complementary appetizer. Both times the owner came by to greet our table, chat a bit, etc as well.

Today was also the first time I got to sample one of their cupcakes (also the almond sour cream cupcake that Dennis had). I thought the frosting quantity was perfect, but some might say I'm a frosting fiend so take that for what you will. The best part about the cupcake was that it was only $2! Much cheaper than I could say for some other cupcake places around town... and, yes, tastier.

I don't think I'll be driving over here during non-workdays, but this will be my go-to lunch spot from here on out. Strong statement, I know, but I really appreciate the concept and the mission statement, which ends with 'The Art of Eating."

Under the new ownership, I've only been twice. Part of this is because they stopped serving lunch on the ownership change. And only in 2014 (I think) did that start up again). 

But now it's time to update my review. 

The Yelp reviews really tell an interesting story. Of the 46 current reviews, 25 were under the previous ownership and 21 are under current ownership. Starting with just an average, pre-sale average rating was 4.4 stars, with a post-sale average of 3.7 stars.

Pre-sale ratings break down like this: 
  • 5-stars - 19  (73%)
  • 4-stars - 2  (8%)
  • 3-stars - 3  (12%)
  • 2-stars - 1  (4%)
  • 1-star - 1  (4%)
Post-sale numbers: 
  • 5-stars - 9  (43%)
  • 4-stars - 3  (14%)
  • 3-stars - 5  (24%)
  • 2-stars - 1  (5%)
  • 1-star - 3  (14%)
Anyway, enough with the data. 

I recently bought a Groupon for a Prix Fixe dinner at Dolce since I was apparently feeling nostalgic and on doing, noticed they're open for lunch again!

Squash Soup for lunch
Sadly, the menu has totally changed. Gone is my favorite goat cheese and chicken panini and other lunch staple salads (not to mention mac & cheese with the option for meatballs), replaced with a warm goat cheese salad (with option to add chicken) and/or sandwich options of Muffaletta or Annunziata ... And a $25 lunch, including tax and tip.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad w Chicken
The food was still good though, I really liked the soup, but the salad showed up... differently... than I'd imagined. Unlikely I'd order it again.

I'm used to feeling cheated when it comes to beets and salad, but not lettuce. The goat cheese croquettes were placed on sliced roasted beets, with a sprinkling of arugula. (In case you're wondering, the chicken is the piece in the middle).

... and yes, we also split a bread pudding for the table. That was delicious.

Bread pudding with caramel and ice cream
The new bar back is a classy touch, but I still think the hostess stand is somewhat awkwardly placed. Not sure if there's even a better place for it, actually. I wonder if not having one is an option. 

Anyway, on to our trip for dinner. I last-minute realized the Groupon was going to expire soon, and we headed out west on a Tuesday evening to sample the 'Date Night' menu. (Tuesday, Wednesday or Monday... I can't remember now). I hate the looks you sometimes get at nice places when using Groupons, so I like to announce that I have one right away and get that out of the way. Who knows if it effects the service or not, but I know we'd all like to think 'not'.

In this case, our server was attentive and friendly. Not too much, not too little. Good, I'd say.

We started our meal with the 'Taste of the Moment', a salmon tartar concoction I forget the name of now. Whatever it was, the moment was fleeting because we polished it off pretty handily.

Starter, Taste of the Moment
Next up, Soup du Jour, a smoked tomato. Really pretty special with a bold smoky flavor. All it needed was some bread... which we asked for (and received). I have no idea if the rolls are made in house, but they really didn't do it for me - this coming from an admitted carbaholic. (Don't get me wrong, I still slathered it with butter and ate it all).

Next up for entrees were the Tuscan Steak (a tender 6 oz. kobe flatiron) and the Pan Roasted Chicken. Both dishes were presented very well, and had solid, hearty flavors indicative of the fall to come. I preferred the meat in the steak dish and the sides in the chicken, personally. What I originally wanted to try, the Kobe Ragu, took a back seat to an either-or recommendation request in which the chicken won out when I asked the server.

Tuscan Steak
Pan Roasted Chicken
Dessert was, once again, the star of the show. Dark Chocolate Mousse with rosemary toffee, gluhwein syrup and fresh berries. (And to save you on the Googling, 'gluhwein' is a German mulled wine). It all went down very nicely to round out the experience.



The new Dolce is something unique and one of the better restaurants in West Omaha. Unfortunately my recent meals here haven't lived up to what I loved about the original, but they're forging their own path, and I think it's a welcome one.


Dolce on Urbanspoon