February 23, 2014

I've been to Dante several times now, tried take-out (not recommended if you live East of 60th street) and experienced the majesty and envy that comes with booking their mobile pizza oven.

Dante is cool too. They'e into bocce ball, laser etched peroni glasses, giving kids dough to play with and the slow food movement.
peroni etched
While many restaurants probably work with local food providers, Dante highlights it on their menu and website. Some of the familiar names include:
And if they're paying that close of attention to their ingredients, you know the techniques in which the food is prepared are getting the same amount of rigorous attention to detail.

Speaking of which... Neapolitan pizza. What a treat.   

Would it surprise you to know that there is an organization (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana - Vera for short), headquartered in Naples, which certifies that pizzerias all over the world uphold the traditions of Neapolitan pizza making?

Three guesses which Omaha restaurant is the only one in the city, nay, state to be a member of Vera.

There are rules about the composition of the Ingredients (dough must be made with type 00 flour, the sauce from San Marzano tomatoes, and the cheese must be fresh buffalo- or cow-milk mozzarella), Oven (wood-burning at 800 degrees F) and Technique (dough kneaded by a low-speed mixer, crust stretched by hand, and pizzas are cooked in 90 seconds).
So given all that excitement about the pizza, I'm hard pressed to ever order anything else. 

Which is why last night's dinner was extra fun because it included one of my favorite food-pastimes... sharing!

This way the strategy is (supposedly) to experience a wide variety of foods without getting overly stuffed or over-ordering. And while it's a good plan in theory, I will say we were nearing the tipping point on both of those counts. In the best possible way, mind you.
Our Antipasti consisted of Greens and Mussels. (I feel like Dante used to do bread service, but maybe that went by the wayside, FYI.)

Greens were lemon & thyme, crisp prosciutto, pinenuts & grana padano. Basically each bite was permeated with meat, cheese and lemon flavor.

Mussels came with house pancetta, chili, white wine, tomato, garlic and some gloriously crusty bread (make a note to ask for more! Also, no joke, a spoon). I think it'd be totally acceptable to make a meal out of that dish alone if you were inclined. And the bread... can I just take a moment to remember that... oh yeah.
brussels sprouts
Primi included the Funghi pizza (roasted mushroom, garlic, rosemary, oregano, house ricotta &
mozzarella plus papa sausage added) with the Papardelle Bolognese (pork, beef, winter herbs, red wine & grana padano). This was a great option because I always must have pizza here, but their pastas are so darn good too. Wide noodles, hearty yet somehow light sauce full of meat, and plenty of herbs. These are earthy, comforting dishes.

Wrap up with a Contorni of burrsls sprouts with more pancetta and lemon - that was the theme of the evening - then it was on to Dessert!
funghi pizza with papa sausage
paparadelle bolognese
Luckily we shared dessert, a Butterscotch pudding with salted caramel and whip. A sweet finish to a nearly perfect meal. But oh, what's this? One of the best espresso's I've ever had also? Yes.

There were so many high notes in this meal, I hope I remembered to hit them all in this review.

It almost seems like every time I come back, I'm more and more pleased... If only you were closer I'd be unable to avoid the gravitational pull of fantastic, enticing, innovative, exciting food.
butterscotch pudding
hit the espresso!

Dante Ristorante Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

February 22, 2014

Just to clear up any preliminary confusion, Track's = Trackside. The neighborhood bar originally est. 1965 is back and better than ever. Though since this was a total dive before, that's not really saying much.
You know you've had some good times at a bar when you have the following conversation while sitting in the newly remodeled Track's sipping beers and checking out the renovation.

You:   I wonder if they fixed the bathroom door in the ladies room? Remember how you needed to always have someone hold it closed for you? 

Friend:    What? 

I rest my case. 

Trackside was just... that place. The place you go to when it's late at night, you're nearly home, but tying one on suddenly sounds like a better idea. 

My ultimate Trackside story happened years ago now, and is probably too racy for a food blog. Suffice to say there was some solicitation involved - which I politely declined. (Complimentary though it was).

Another fond memory included singing karaoke with our wedding party after a stop at the 20's club until the bartender bribed us to leave by selling us a case of bud light. 

Those were the kinds of things that happened at Trackside. 

But what now, when the idea of staying out past 10pm has suddenly lost its appeal to me? 

Has the new Tracks matured with us? In short... YES. 

I can't compare the food from before, because usually by the time we rolled in here the kitchen had long closed. According to their Yelp description, though, they have the "world's best chicken" and roast beef sandwiches.
 We started with some buffalo chicken balls. Basically just orbs of blue cheese and chicken fried up nice and crispy. These were definitely a winner. I wonder how many I could eat..? Unfortunately we were only allotted four. Next time maybe order more... or come for happy hour when they're just $2.99 for an order!

Speaking of which, HH is 3-6pm with $3 wells and beer. Also, pickle cards for all domestic beers!
buffalo chicken balls
beer battered side winder fries
Not sure what the difference is between fried chicken and broasted chicken, but either way it's delicious. Too hot to eat when it first arrived, I dug in anyway... nearly burning my fingers trying to get at that moist perfectly cooked chicken, stopping only to shove more fries in my face. 
broasted chicken platter, 4 piece. boom!
Then a Jolly Rancher appeared under my fries. Was it supposed to be there or did someone accidentally drop it on my plate? Who cares, it's blue and we all know that's a good flavor. I ate it and appear to be no worse for the wear because of it.

This isn't the kind of food you feel especially good about after eating, but it's enjoyable if you know what you're getting into. And I'll definitely be getting into it again. Just writing this gets me in the mood for bar food, actually.

Track's Lounge on Urbanspoon
This past Saturday I learned a very important life lesson... beers can come in a variety of sizes if you just ask! Who would've thought?! Well, one April R. that's who.

After arriving at Library Pub for the first time and wondering about the adorable half-pint glasses one table over, April made it clear that you just have to ask for them.

Think of all the new draft beers I can try now! Every bar can be my personal sampling haven!

This theme held true everywhere we went also - even Jerry's Bar!

If you can't tell from all the exclamation pints....... I mean POINTS, I'm still pretty jazzed about the idea.

But I wouldn't call it a 'tour' so much as a designated driver... though we quickly got off schedule as soon as darkness descended (irony?) and ended the day with a pointless bus ride from the Dell to the Fox & Hound, back to the Dell, and then to the Crescent Moon, and back again to the Dell.

The last ride was pretty hilarious because the bus went from quiet and dark (falling asleep, literally) to a true party bus with people hanging from the ceiling, dancing on poles, loud music and flashing lights.

That was definitely our cue to head home - right around 8pm I think. Enough time to grab dinner and be in bed by 10pm.

We started at Benson Brewery to incorporate lunch into things - I wasn't a fan of the highly vinegar-based chicken wings and still relatively full from my Le Quartier breakfast sandwich. There were a couple of unfortunate fish sandwich incidents, but we shrugged it off and moved forward with something guaranteed to please... Tasters!
BB beer tasters! 
After that, we caught the bus to the Library Pub. Where we first noticed those adorable little half pint glasses! Also, I couldn't help but notice a ton of scotch. This is a pretty cool place. Though I wish the game table had been Pac Man instead of Gattaca...
scotch galore at The Library Pub
And then, on to Jerry's Bar. On the outskirts of Benson it's also known as 'That Place with the Big Neon J'. There was already a pretty decent crowd of regulars at the bar - with some fringe beer-tourer's. I'm assuming there because of the large age gap between the crowds. But check out the lights in this place! Classic.
check out the lights - and regulars - at Jerry's Bar
And next up, a stop at Krug Park. Somehow my beer got spilled... it just vibrated right off the table. So disappointing I didn't order another, though speaking of ordering some of our group DID order food from Lot 2 at this juncture. Nice option.

Then Jake's Bar for some Fruli and we discovered Bier Likor at Infusion Brewing Company! Luckily this is staying on the menu for the long term. We also confirmed - once again - that Infusion is just a loud place. Three times now we've been and it's been loud, it's been full, and it's been delicious. The eating continued too, with one of their spent grain pizzas. You can also order up cheese and crackers or Bavarian pretzels to satiate your hunger.
headed to Jake's after that
bier likor at Infusion
the sound levels at Infusion
Then it was time to get home via the Dell and let the dogs out, with plans to hook up on the connector express route to the Crescent Moon and do the downtown tour. I had plans for at least three more stops planned plus the Wilson & Washburn Reuben I've been craving. 

Unfortunately we missed our bus. So it seemed only appropriate - funny choice of words there - that we check out the Tunnel of Love at Love's Luxuries. It was pretty spinny. Hold on to the handles!
quick stop in the tunnel of love
Back in Dundee, we headed home and then back to get on the bus. But before that, there's always time for ice cream. eCreamery to the rescue! Note that if you check in on Yelp you can get a free topping or mix-in too. Bonus.
quick stop at eCreamery

February 21, 2014

Eat at Joe's.
As much as I love brunch sometimes we wake up early - even more so since we had a baby. On days like these, it's nice to have a list of standby breakfast spots. Some of these places have quick grab and go options, some require sitting down, but all are delicious.


7am, all week long. 
Probably my favorite breakfast in Omaha Bailey's has a variety of options from light / healthy to tex-mex, gourmet, traditional or just plain crazy (i.e. Porkasaurus). It's all good though. If you're into benedicts, this is your spot! The coffee flows freely here too.
7am Monday - Saturday, 8:00 am Sunday. 
Joe's does a more traditional diner style breakfast. Eggs feature prominently, as do pancakes. Great casual spot you can attend if your PJ's if you're so inclined.


6:30am Tuesday - Friday. 7am Saturday, Sunday. 
Triple berry ricotta pancakes, Italian breakfast sandwich (on Rotella's bread, of course) and miscellaneous coffee mugs. What more do you need? (Maybe some more ceiling tiles?) Amato's sometimes leaves a little too little to the imagination in terms of restaurant 'back of house'. But that's part of the charm... maybe? There's a reason this place was on DDD.

Gerda's Bakery

6am Monday - Saturday. 
Somewhat limited seating in the main area, but if you can score one you're in for a neighborhood's worth of fun. You'll probably run into someone you know too. Either way, make sure to get some donuts.
7am Monday - Friday, 8am Saturday & Sunday. 
Perhaps my favorite breakfast sandwich in town - though Culprit's Fritatta (see below) is also up there. Egg, cheese, cream cheese, meat (if you want) and their oh so magical bread. You can top that off with a cronut too and score some french macaroons for later all in one fell swoop! Be prepared to wait sometimes, though it's totally worth it.  
8am daily. 
If you're looking for some more amazing baked goods, you can't go wrong with Culprit. In addition to making a mean beignet, flavored or not, you can also score a wicked Frittata Sandwich or french toast to die for. To get your motor running, beignet flavors include brie + berry, lemon curd, creme anglaise + apple, chocolate hazelnut.
5am, all week. 
You need some bagels and don't want to settle for those two chains we have in town, this is your spot. Check out their Lox Bagel. And note the time, as this is so far the earliest option on our list. 
6am Monday - Saturday, 7am Sunday. 
Leo's food is really decent, if you're not afraid of a little grime in decor (or walls that look as if they may collapse). Greasy spoon is an accurate description.
6am Monday - Friday, 7am Saturday & Sunday. 
It'll be busy, but I probably won't be one of the diners... not really my thing the previous times I've been - but I'm including it here because people really seem to like it and afterwards, you can treat yourself to some Sweet Magnolia's (unless it's Sunday).

Keystone Kafe

6am Tuesday - Saturday. 7am on Sunday.
I generally abhore businesses that willingly choose to misspell their names. But I tolerate this place because it's just so gosh darn cute. It's traditional breakfast in a clean, welcoming atmosphere. Not dirty or divey like several other places on this list. 


24/7 breakfast burritos [and everything else]. 
Not sure if you can count this as 'earlier' than Bagel Bin since Aberardo's never technically closes... but there it is. Breakfast burritos at your beck and call any hour of the day, at all locations.
6am Monday - Saturday, 7:30am Sunday. 
I haven't been to the Diner... ever. But have heard some good things since it's under new management. It's downtown, it's classic. It's a diner.
6am, all week. 
Another place I've been meaning to get to. People always seem to be running across Leavenworth to get here though so it's probably decent?

Harold's Koffee House

6am, all week.
Another I haven't been to. Anybody hungry for breakfast all of sudden?

February 19, 2014

I've been to Kitchen Table twice now, and thinking about that now - it doesn't seem like enough. Maybe Sunday brunch this week? (You know you're serious about food when you're planning Sunday brunch on a Wednesday). 

Though who am I kidding, I already have dinner planned for March 4th also (Doughnut Day at Stella's for FAT Tuesday!). 

Anyway, KT is pretty great. And on our second visit I had the pleasure of eating one of my Top Ten Eats here back in November. Assuming the brunch is once again great on Sunday, this is a 5-star place all the way. Check out their 1-2-3 Sunday Brunch menu here. No need to get coffee ahead of time either, their coffee is strong and legit.

Great food, tantalizing Facebook food pictures, and routine menu postings. If you haven't been here yet, what are you waiting for?

granola and yogurt
'chips' and dip
the whole bird (and pickle disguised as an apple)
My original Yelp review:
This might be my favorite sandwich in Omaha... which is saying a lot because I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the loving of sandwiches.
The offering I enjoyed today for lunch was entitled "The Whole Bird".
Honestly I didn't read the description but what business does a sandwich like this have being on the menu in a restaurant flaunting vegetarian and vegan offerings?
Not that I minded... But really this is the antithesis of both of those movements. Chicken with confit chicken cooked in chicken juices, served with crispy chicken skin and a chicken egg. 
But since I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan, I dug into this sandie with gusto.
The bread was fantastic as well. (Good bread makes all the difference in the world!) Whoever cultivated this levain starter is my new hero. And while April's review mentioned too much butter... I apparently think no such thing exists. 
The popcorn I could take or leave. It's not that I don't like popcorn, but it's never something I crave... If its around, I'll eat it. But i generally prefer popcorn when its hiding M&M's. 
I did however enjoy the pickle (which first I thought was an apple slice) once I realized my folly, I could've eaten about six more pickles... So I know what to ask for next time.

Kitchen Table on Urbanspoon

February 14, 2014

Periodically I try to update my reviews based on recent experiences but honestly each and every subsequent visit to The Grey Plume (or TGP as I affectionately dub it in acronym format) has lived up to the glowing feelings I had at my first visit. That's saying something to still have something be so consistently impressive, even after 18+ subsequent visits. 

Everything is lovely to behold, tasty to imbibe, and satisfying to the last drop / crumb / spoonful / sip. 

Dungeness Crab Agnolotti & Pacific Halibut
Duck Fat Fries
Everything I said originally still seems to hold true today. So here it in in all its glory, my original TGP dinner review from 2011. And to TGP team... Keep up the Great Work!

Heirloom Watermelon
Plum Creek Farms Chicken
Summer Charcuterie
I try not to make generalizations like this, but there's no other way to state it. The Grey Plume is the best restaurant in Omaha. 
Even when my friend said it, I started to explain how I couldn't really get behind a statement like that. It was too broad, sweeping and generic for a restaurant like this (which is deserving of so many more lengthy descriptors). But also because what does 'best' really mean? It can mean different things to different people, and even vary to the same person depending on the day.  
The most accurate summation I can come up with for The Grey Plume is that this is a culinary experience too unique to describe. I should have known from oohing and aahing over the squash soup, salad and bread at my earlier lunch visit that a full meal would totally knock my socks off.
There are plenty of descriptions and adjectives I could throw at this review, and for those that love food get ready to appreciate the heck out of this, because ultimately "best" is the only way to sum it all up.
Quality over quantity rules here, with each item more perfectly cooked, plated and dancing on your taste-buds than the last. Things I'd never heard of and had to refer to their generously provided glossary to figure out, things so full of complex flavor that your palette can hardly keep up, things that keep your mind enthralled and leave you wanting more yet satisfied.  
Some might say that portions are small, some might say that prices are steep, and some might even say that the restaurant is a bit pretentious. But to those I would argue that perhaps they've missed the point. This isn't a place to come and stuff your craw, this food and experience is to be savored, bite by glorious bite. The Grey Plume beckons you to try a first plate before your second, then to go ahead and indulge in dessert. Every detail is perfectly in place, service is impeccable and the small space is unique to say the least. 
So while I still maintain that terms like "best" are highly subjective, it's strangely appropriate in this instance.

The Grey Plume on Urbanspoon

February 13, 2014

It's been nearly two years now since we originally talked our way into Lot 2 without a reservation. My how time flies... and I've had the opportunity to visit several times again (reservations still recommended). All meals were right up there in the fantastic category... though I can't warrant spending $3 for a slice of bacon (no matter how thickly cut it is or how much maple infusion it has going for it).

That's what I call a sidecar.
So, in short, skip the side of bacon... you'll need that $6 for your Bloody Mary and PBR sidecar. (Word of warning... sidecar here = tallboy can. So come thirsty!)

If you get tired of beer and bloodies, there are always mimosas of course. Or you could step it up a level and have your bourbon for breakfast like the good whiskey lover you are... I knew it couldn't just be me.

Behold. The Kentucky Breakfast cocktail.

Bourbon for Breakfast!

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
1/2 ounce egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon apricot preserves

Yep, that'll get the engine running for the day. Just enough to power through brunch and then make it all the way home and to the couch for a nice nap.

Oh... also there was food. Good food, and lots of it.

I wanted everything... smoked salmon, benny, poutine, breakfast burrito, biscuits and gravy and Ramen. Ramen for breakfast!

But settled on the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

Was it because the maple syrup was also made with bourbon? Or because the waffle had smoked cheddar cheese in it? We may never know... but what can be known is that this was the KING of chicken and waffle dishes.  All hail the supreme ruler of the breakfast domain.

Chicken & Waffles

Lot 2 Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon
Apparently I'm waffling here... (Mmm, waffles). Because on the topic of Pitch I've now gone from 4-stars to 3-stars and now back to 4-stars. Try not to get whiplash here...

Our most recent visit included pizza (obviously) and some of the lighter side options.

Ironically when I polled people on my Facebook page about what to order I got a ton of recommendations for Pitch's vegetable-heavy dishes... also the meatballs.

Having enjoyed the Arugula Salad a couple times previously, we branched out a bit and followed the recommendation for Coal Fired (of course) Long Stem Artichokes. And while the menu describes these as coming with 'lemon dipping sauce' it was really so much more. Yes the sauce was amazing, yes the artie's were nicely charred, but they arrived with a bed of lettuce and light dressing with tomatoes. Great dish for sharing.

I was still coming off of my summer goat cheese peppadew kick, so those were on order next. These were pretty much exactly as described, but I was disappointed that the salad overshadowed the dainty poppers, which gave the appearance of a sidecar rather than the main event. Still, delicious. Can't really complain too much about that.

Pizzas were pretty spot on also. We had the Marsala: figs, goat cheese, pears, arugula, truffle oil, mozzarella and the crowd-pleaser Mia (Willy's Favorite): tomato sauce, fennel sausage, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella.

None of my former qualms surfaced... plus it was $30 bottle and pie night, so who's complaining now?! I'm not really a big wine drinker, probably due to lack of education, but I do know that the Pitch Black red blend is really right in my wheelhouse.

And with so many more tantalizing items that I still haven't tried, I predict another trip back in the near future. Have things changed or is Pitch just growing on me?

Pitch Pizzeria on Urbanspoon