Restaurant Review: Torches On The Hudson

If you’re like me, you were unaware that the past two weeks were actually Restaurant Week in the Hudson River area. I found out on Thursday and was tasked with setting up a dinner for us and a few other couples. I did some looking around and decided on Torches On The Hudson, a place down on the Newburgh waterfront. The Restaurant Week menu looked interesting and everyone else was down, so I made reservations for Friday night.

The way Restaurant Week works is, there’s a set menu with a few choices for an appetizer, entree and desert. You pay a certain amount of money and get one of each. I decided to get the Fish Tacos, Country Bacon Rigatoni and the New York Cheese Cake as well as a few whiskey drinks called Honey Slams whose make-up I don’t quite remember, but were good. These are the Fish Tacos, which the menu describes as “Grilled Basa, Quick Sofrito, 3 Sauces (Salsa Roja, Lime infused sour cream and Avocado emulsion).” I’ve never had Basa before, but it was actually pretty tasty. It kind of looked like tuna when it’s shredded up. The fish itself was a bit spicy, but nothing compared to the Salsa Roja or the Avocado emulsion. I’m not the biggest fan of spice, so I mostly went with the sour cream. Even so, the tacos were tasty and juicy and I would get them again. The Country Bacon Rigatoni (“Crisp Hickory Smoked Bacon, Scallion, Cracked Pepper Cream and
Toasted Four Cheeses.”) was super tasty, but also very salty. The combination of the bacon and the four cheeses made the dish heavier than I realized when I ordered it. I guess I didn’t read the whole thing very well, just got excited when I saw bacon. Had this been the only thing I ordered, it would have been just fine, I believe, but between the Fish Tacos and the Cheese Cake, it was far too much. What I should have done was have my wife, who didn’t get food off the RW menu, pick a desert that she wanted and then I could have just passed it to her. Oh well.

Overall, the ambiance of the restaurant was great. It’s actually split between a bar/club and a restaurant that’ fairly well separated by a huge fish tank filled with some pretty gigantic fish. Lucy love that part. My only complaint is that, if you split the check between more than two parties, there’s an automatic 20% gratuity added to the check. Now, I don’t have any problem with this in theory, but the practice wound up not being so great for us. We got the definite impression that our waiter decided not to do his best with our table after he discovered this. Sure, we were asked if we wanted a second round of drinks, but our waters were never refilled and we were there for about an hour and a half. Overall, his service was very slow, which could have been because the place was busy, which it was, or he could have been putting his time in on other tables that weren’t automatic. Or, he might just be a crappy waiter. Had the tip been based on our experience, I defintely would not have gone with my usual 20%.

So, if and when we go to Torches again–like I said, it was a great place with tasty food and you really can’t beat eating with a view of the Hudson River–I will make sure not to have this particular person as a waiter. Otherwise, it was a good time.

Restaurant Review: Gordo’s Burritos & Tacos

Gordo’s Burritos & Tacos
64 Freetown Road
Raymond, NH 03077
(603) 244-3410

I don’t do a lot of Restaurant Reviews from outside of New York because, well, we don’t go a lot of places. But, we do travel to New Hampshire to see my wife’s parents quite a bit and they always know great restaurants to check out. Gordo’s in nearby Raymond, NH is a favorite of theirs–they go there once a week–and has quickly become a regular stop when we visit as well. I love huge burritos. It’s a love that goes back to college when I first discovered Chipotle and then to my Congers NY-based Wizard days when we frequented the Palisades Mall and I frequently got Qdoba for lunch. Unfortunately, neither of those chains are up where we live now, so I don’t get a lot of big burritos (which is probably for the best now that I think about it).

Anyway, that’s all a roundabout way to say that I like getting burritos and Gordo’s has excellent ones. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a picture because I figured it might be rude (we all met one of Em’s friends there for the holidays), but the last two times I’ve been there I had their Philly Cheesesteak burrito and IT IS AWESOME! The beef is great, the cheese is nice and creamy and the onions and peppers weren’t too hot and cafe just the right amount of goodness to complete the flavors. I know it’s not your traditional burrito filling, but it’s so tasty I have trouble getting anything else. My wife usually gets the nachos and those are great too.

The restaurant itself has a nice feel to it with lots of bright colors and hot sauce bottles around. They even have a stuffed monkey they hide throughout the place for kids to find. When they do, they get a treat of some kind (can’t remember what it is because I’m too old, even though I almost always find him;). The service is also great. Since my wife’s parents go there so often, they on a first name basis with the woman who works behind the counter who’s super nice. I think we’ve even met the owner a few times, though I don’t know for sure.

So, if you happen to be in New Hampshire (I have no idea where Raymond is, but you probably do if you’re from NH) do yourself a favor and check out Gordo’s. The food is spot on, the people are great and the margaritas are tasty too!

Restaurant Review: San Vito Pizzeria & Restaurant

San Vito Pizzeria & Restaurant
359 Windsor Highway
New Windsor, NY 12553
(845) 561-5211

When my wife and I first moved to New Windsor, NY we didn’t know much about the restaurants in the area, but soon found a favorite Italian place called Napoli’s. The folks who owned Napoli’s owned a diner-type place down the road called Gloria’s, but around a year or so ago, they combined and are doing great. Where Napoli’s used to be another Italian restaurant called San Vito moved in. We’ve only been there a couple times, but after our trip there last Sunday, I think we’ll be going back on a more regular basis.

The restaurant itself is a nice, big open room that’s separated by a small half-wall with a warm feeling. I think only two people were working that night and we were one of five or six tables, but everyone there seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Neither of us were feeling like pizza, which we had last time we ate there, so we went with pasta dishes. I decided on the Potato Gnocchi Vodka because I’ve had and liked gnocchi before and am also a big fan of Penne Alla Vodka, which my wife wound up getting.

It was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had and one of the top vodka sauces around. It was so buttery and creamy and had that essence of vodka. I tried explaining it to my wife the next day when I had the leftovers, I didn’t taste the liquor part of vodka, but whatever’s left over after that’s gone. By the way, the leftovers were even a little better. The flavors had time to mature and really tasted amazing.

So, I highly recommend checking out San Vito if you’re in the area. I still love Napoli’s and we’re still going to go there as well as all the other pizza places we frequent that have great pies, pasta and sandwiches, but it’s nice to have another option with such great eats.

Vacation Restaurant Review: Clams & Scallops From The Clam Box

The Clam Box
246 High Street
Ipswich, MA 01938
(978) 356-9707

I’ve gone to Ipswich, Massachusetts to visit my wife’s family for the last six or seven years. My wife’s grandmother grew up in the area and the high point of her year is renting a place for a month after summer ends and we usually go down to visit for a weekend. This year, though, we wound up renting the house for a week ourselves along with my wife’s parents to celebrate my mother in law’s birthday. It was a great vacation that I’ve documented over on The Monkee Diaries, but I saved the food posts for Monkeying Around The Kitchen, of course!Every year we go to Ipswich we wind up at the Clam Box, which any New Englander will tell you is world famous. They say that about a lot of things I’ve never heard of, but what are you gonna do? The Box is renowned for their fried seafood. If you’re only in town on the weekend, you’ll usually have to wait outside in a long line, so we thankfully went on a week day. I wound up getting the 2 Way Combo Plate which came with fried scallops, clams and onion rings as well as coleslaw. I honestly can’t remember what I’ve had there before because, since I’m nowhere near a seafood expert, one fried thing tends to look like the others, though I do believe their scallops are a recurring theme in my ordering. Like I said, I’m no fried seafood expert, but I like what I’ve had at the Box. The batter isn’t ultra distracting from the flavor or whatever you’re eating. The food is all local so you know it’s fresh and they actually close in the middle of the day to change out the oil, so it’s not one of those situations where the frying process makes things a little fishy. I even liked the slaw, which is a food I always want to like but tend to get disappointed by. It’s not too watery yet still has a nice tang to it.

Overall, I’d recommend heading over to the Clam Box if you’re in the area, but I’d honestly like to check out a few other places to compare and contrast. Just try to head over on a weekday so you can actually get a seat inside or outside, depending on the water.

Restaurant Review: Lititz Family Cupboard

Lititz Family Cupboard

Lititz Family Cupboard
12 West Newport Road
Lititz, PA 17543-8019
(717) 626-9102

As I chronicled over in my photo diary (here and here), we went down to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for our friends’ wedding this past weekend. We got in Friday night, hung out with some friends and then went to bed. On Saturday, we had some time before more friends and my parents got in town so we looked around on Urban Spoon for a place that might serve country/Amish food and came across Lititz Family Cupboard.

Beef Cubes & Gravy

Family Cupboard had a pretty sizable buffet that I scoped out, but because we were going to a wedding and reception later that day, I went with just one meal. I can get a little crazy when it comes to buffets. My wife doesn’t have the same problem, so she went for it and enjoyed everything she had, especially their homemade pies which she really dug. I went with Beef Cubes and Gravy because it sounded good, hearty and it came on mashed potatoes which I order whenever I can.

Mac & Cheese side

For my side, I kept things light by ordering macaroni and cheese, another food that I order pretty much every opportunity I get. So, how was everything? Pretty darn good. The mashed potatoes and gravy were top notch. Not as good as my mom’s, but that’s how it goes with such things. The beef was a little bland, but I added some salt and the world was good. The mac and cheese was great with the perfect amount of cheese. After eating a few bites of each, I decided to combine the mac and cheese with the potatoes and beef cubes. It was one of my better decisions as the cheese and gravy mixed together to make something pretty special.

I’d definitely recommend checking out Lititz Family Cupboard if you’re in the Lancaster, PA area. The people there were really nice, the buffet would have been my jam were we not going to a wedding and the overall atmosphere was pleasant. They also have a separate bakery where you can buy cookies, pies, cakes and the like. My wife got a whoopie pie that she really liked and I had a coffee that was rock solid. My only regret is not trying the pig stomach from the buffet as I’m trying to broaden by organ meet horizons.

Restaurant Review: Main Course

Main Course
175 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561
(845) 255 2600

By now we’ve eaten at most of the places of interest on New Paltz’s main drag. There’s a few we haven’t hit up yet, but they’re a little more upscale and we’re usually wearing T-shirts when we head out there (I absolutely hate being under-dressed). A few trips back we noticed a place a little bit closer to the highway called Main Course that we decided to check out tonight. As far as I can tell from the website, the business started off as a catering company and somewhat recently opened up a restaurant. They boast “Farm to table foods and catering” on their signs and menus. Seemed like an interesting enough concept and the building itself looks so nice that I was actually worried I would be under-dressed. As it turns out, the place while quite nice inside, actually sells sandwiches, salads, soup, bread, bakery, sides and a handful of daily specials of the dinner variety, so we were good to go. Even though it’s been pretty darn hot lately, I decided to start off with their Tomato Basil Soup With Goat Cheese. I’m a big fan of this soup and quite enjoyed Main Course’s version. The tomatoes tasted really fresh and while the basil wasn’t very prominent I think they put in lemon, lemon zest or possibly lemon grass to add some acidic pizzazz. There could have been more goat cheese, but overall, I really dug this and so did my wife. It was a departure from the usual flavor profile, but I liked that. For my main meal, I ordered the (deep breath) Grilled Northwind Farm Hanger Steak which the menu described as coming with melted Cabot cheddar, fire roasted onions and portobello mushroom hash. I also went with the potato salad side dish. I started off by tasting the potato salad because it looked the most intriguing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen on with the taters cut thin like that, potato chip-style. The dressing itself was tangy with the onions giving it all some kick. I still like my mom’s mustard covered potato salad best, but this was pretty good, another nice take on something familiar. I tried the pickle next which is made in house and came with a few clumps of soaked dill. They weren’t super sour like I usually like my pickles (the ones in NY tend to be pretty weak as far as I’m concerned), but these reminded me of a dill chip dip and almost tasted a little creamy. Really good stuff.

Then I finally tried my sandwich and it was just okay. The Cabot cheddar and roasted onions were great, but the meat didn’t really add much to the flavor and now that I think about it, I’m not sure if there was any portobello hash on mine. If so, I didn’t notice it whatsoever and only remembered it was supposed to be on the dish when reading the menu for this post. My wife let me taste her Smoked Turkey sandwich which just about made me fall of my chair it was so good. She only wound up eating half of hers, so she let me finish her avocado, roasted pepper, cheddar and chipotle aioli covered mound of awesomeness. After working for years in a bagel place back home in Toledo, I have a strong love of smoked and honey roast turkey, this being the best I’ve had since moving out here. All those wonderful flavors mixed together so well to make a really enjoyable sandwich eating experience, rivaling the one I had last weekend at The Cheese Plate even. I even decided to get dessert, something I rarely do. While my wife went with the huckleberry pie, I got a coconut macaroon. I generally like coconut and thought (maybe erroneously, like I said, I’m no dessert expert by any means) that it’s generally a light sugary delight. This one wound up being pretty big–like if one golf ball ate another or more succinctly a big lemon–and really citrusy. I really enjoyed the first few bites, but couldn’t finish because the flavors did not mix well and wound up tasting bitter by the end.

Overall, I liked Main Course and would go back there, but they have a LOT of competition in New Paltz. It doesn’t help that they’re not among all the other restaurants. You’ve got to walk a little further or drive to get there, something that won’t help them when we’re trying to figure out what to eat after looking around the boutiques, book stores and record shops. But, like I said, good stuff for the most part and I like any place that mixes up their menu by tossing in specials, which Main Course definitely does.

Restaurant Review: King’s Pommes Frites

King’s Pommes Frites
255 Main Street
Cornwall, NY 12518
(845) 534-1500

One of the great things about living in the area we do is access to all kinds of different food. If you’re feeling like Mexican, Thai, Spanish or Chinese, you’re not too far away (though I do wish we had a Greek place in the neighborhood). Any time we see a new restaurant going in somewhere, we get really excited and we’re not the only ones. When a Chilis opened up in Newburgh, it took three to four weeks to actually get in without waiting 45 minutes or more. I wish I was joking, but I’m not.

So, when we saw a tiny place in Cornwall with pommes frites on the sign (French for French fries), we got jazzed. We’ve been to King’s probably a half dozen times since it opened in the last six months and every single time it has been a wonderful experience. Here’s the deal. Every day you can roll in and order varying sizes of fries accompanied by 31 different dipping sauces. In addition, they have daily specials that you can keep up with by liking them on Facebook. To let you know how much I like this place, they’re one of the handful of things I actually like on Facebook. Some days, I only use FB to see what King’s has on schedule for the day. I’m talking everything from barbecue ribs and bleu cheese burgers to fritatas and pot roast. I’ve never had anything bad at King’s and the best part is that the meals they cook would be perfectly at place on any menu in town, but they’re made even better by being placed on fries!

Speaking of restaurants, the place itself is actually pretty small with a few tables plus a bar type set-up looking out on Main Street Cornwall. The tables have these holes cut into them that allow you to very neatly place your cone of fries or even a dipping sauce in. The decor is nice without being too much, but the real focus is on the food.

Last week my wife had been keeping an eye on King’s FB page and was very excited about the burger specials. They had both cheese and bleu. We wound up ordering one of each for dinner and had a wonderful time sitting on our living room floor shoveling fries into our mouths. I hadn’t really been paying attention, so I didn’t realize that my cheeseburger special was actually ground beef and cheese sauce over a basket of fries with ketchup. It was wonderful. Not the kind of food you’d probably want to eat every day and still stay in a modicum of shape, but a delightful treat every now and then.

Overall, King’s is a great restaurant in its own right, but also makes a great addition to Cornwall’s already awesome selection of eateries like Woody’s, Painter’s Tavern, The River Bank, Fiddlestix and Prima’s. Do yourself a favor and get some fries!

Restaurant Review: Mina’s Spanish Kitchen

Originally published on UnitedMonkee, 8/9/11

NEW WINDSOR, NY 12553 (exact address unknown)

As I mentioned on my Twitter and Tumblr pages as well as in my Photo Diary for Sunday August 7th, my wife and I tried a new restaurant in our area called Mina’s Spanish Kitchen. From what I can tell, it’s an existing restaurant from a nearby town that’s branching out, but their website is down, so I can’t say for sure (that’s also why I don’t have an address or phone number). While driving over to get cat food this weekend, I noticed that the place that used to be a so-so/nothing-to-write-home-about Mexican place had finally opened and was now serving Spanish food. I was intrigued as, as far as I can remember, I’ve never actually had Spanish food. I’ve been watching a ton of No Reservations and have an itch to try all kinds of new food, so this seemed like the perfect place to get dinner Sunday night.

The interior of the restaurant is a nice, dark tone, though didn’t exactly scream “fresh” and “new.” The tables were scratched up and the floor a little sticky. Not a huge deal, but something I noticed. I also noticed that the area that seemed like a bar was without liquor. I’m sure it’s a matter of getting all the paperwork approved, but I don’t like that look. These are just aesthetics, though, and don’t say anything about the food.

Thankfully, the food was good. We started off with crispy empanadas stuffed with chicken and they were wonderful. For our main course we both decided on pork mofongo, which is pork in and around a mound of plantains. My wife got fried while I got roasted pork and we got one of each of the available gravies: chicken and beef. I was glad to have my new phone because it allowed me to look the various dishes up on Wiki. Overall, I was pleased with the meal. The pork and gravy were packed with flavor, so much so that I kept shoveling in the plantains as well, but soon found myself fit to burst. It’s a very filling meal.

It wasn’t perfect though. While both gravies were amazing, I thought the few bites of fried pork I had from my wife’s plate were super fatty. I’ve gotten much more used to that texture over the years (used to cut it off and pass to my dad), but the last piece I ate made me gag a little. It was nearly all fat and way too chewy for me to stomach. I also thought that the plantains were fairly bland. I don’t know if that’s just the style or how they taste, but without the gravy there wasn’t a lot going on there.

As I mentioned, I am a complete novice when it comes to this food, so if fried pork is supposed to be fatty and plantains bland, I can accept that. I do know what I like to see in a restaurant, though, and Mina’s didn’t impress. Like I said, the dining room wasn’t much to look at. The empty bar didn’t help and the fact that soda was served out of a can or bottle also didn’t sit well. This place is supposed to be a legit restaurant, not a quick one to stop in at. I can assume that the idea is to get the place open to start making money while waiting for the liquor license and Coke machine to come in, but I wonder if it’s damaging to the place in the minds of people to come in and see a half-done establishment. It’s the king of thing that doesn’t sit well with me, though my wife didn’t seem to care.

I’m not completely perturbed though. Like I said, I’m interested in Spanish food and I liked what I had there. I’m curious to see what else I like from their kitchen, though I do hope they get a little more going on in the restaurant itself. You also can’t beat the prices which were far more reasonable than the former Mexican occupants who charged way too much for tortillas, rice and beans in one form or another. Next time, I might even try the mondongo, a soup made out of tripe. Hey, I’ve heard good things…on TV. Overall, I’d give the place a C+ with definite room for improvement.

Restaurant Review: Billy Joe’s Ribworks

Originally posted UnitedMonkee, 1/21/11

26 Front Street
Newburgh, NY 12550-5622
(845) 565-1560

I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing some restaurant reviews here on the blog. I realize they won’t be as interesting for folks who don’t live in my immediate area, but I’m looking to broaden my writing horizons and I happened to have an amazing meal last night that I really want to tell the world about (plus, maybe I’ll get more hits from local folks). Last night, the missus, the inlaws and I went to a place called Billy Joe’s Ribworks down on the Newburgh Waterfront. The newly opened barbecue joint sits in one of the many old buildings right on the Hudson River.

The place is huge, but was pretty well packed for a Thursday night. Going in I was a little worried that it would be pretty expensive or overly fancy because places on the Waterfront tend to be, but I was glad to find that neither was the case. The wait staff wore basic T-shirts and everyone seemed really nice and friendly. It wasn’t until we opened the menus though that things got really interesting. Sure they’ve got the usual BBQ stuff like smoked meats and ribs, but two sections of the menu that really grabbed my attention were the macaroni and cheese mixed with meats and vegetables and baked potatoes packed with similar ingredients.

Even as intriguing as those items were, I had to go with something classic and got “Ribs and Meat” with St. Louis ribs and brisket with sides of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Before that, though, we started with a dozen smoked wings that were amazing. They fell right off the bone and tasted like angel wings. A great start to a great meal. Once the main courses came, I dove right in. Like the wings, the ribs fell off the bone with a great rub and sauce and the brisket was cooked perfectly, but the real star of the show was the mac and cheese side. It was so rich and creamy, possibly the best I’ve ever had. The missus got the Porky Mac which I sampled and was also amazing (basically my side but covering an entire plate and infused with pulled pork and bacon). I didn’t try the baked potato or other ribs the inlaws got, but everyone walked away happy and full. Heck there was so much Porky Mac left over that the missus will be eating it for the next three days.

Best of all is that the prices are very reasonable. All that food I ordered was only $16.99. I want to go back every week and try something new from the menu every time. I’ve got my eye on those potatoes and the mac, plus the series of sandwiches. Everything on the menu sounded interesting and everything seems reasonable price wise. All that mixed with a fun environment (crazy crap on the walls and everything) make Billy Joe’s Ribworks a new favorite restaurant in the area. I want to go to there all day long!