Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

December 31, 2008
4 Comments

Since we are on the brink of 2009 (where 2008 went, I have no idea), and since many people will resolve to lose weight/eat healthier, I figured I’d end the hear with a recent recipe find that can help the dieters among us.  See, the key to healthier eating (which I’m sure you’ve heard a zillion times before) isn’t deprivation or voodoo or cutting out entire food groups.  It’s just plain old moderation and common sense.  Eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad.  In my case, no one’s ever gonna tell me I can’t have some pizza or a burger.  Unless they want to lose a limb, that is.  But if I eat pizza or burgers on one day, I try to balance that with some extra nutrition on another.

Another way to stay on the wagon is to amp up the flavor of your healthier dishes.  You can do this by adding spices and seasonings, which will kick up the volume without adding on the calories.  In this soup, lemon zest and juice help take a healthy classic to new heights, which made me less unhappy about eating it for lunch all week (to balance the damage I will no doubt do to my waistline tonight and tomorrow).  The orzo was also a nice change from the standard egg noodle, though you could certainly use whatever pasta you prefer.

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light to make it a little simpler, and to account for the fact that I already had chicken stock on hand (I always do, and you always should).  If you want to start from scratch and make the whole shebang all at once, you can buy a whole (uncooked) chicken, remove the giblets, and simmer in a Dutch oven with some mirepoix, garlic, bay leaves, and water (enough to cover everything) for about an hour.  Then, remove the chicken, get rid of the skin, and cut the meat into small pieces.  Strain the fat/solids from the liquid and start with the second paragraph of my recipe below.

  • 1  (4-pound) rotisserie chicken
  • White chicken stock
  • 1 1/3 cups  chopped carrot
  • 1 1/4 cups  chopped onion
  • 1  cup chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • Juice of one lemon

Remove skin from chicken and discard.  Remove chicken meat from bones (discard bones) and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.

Add enough water to stock to equal 9 cups; place mixture in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 1/3 cups carrot, 1 1/4 cups onion, 1 cup celery, and salt to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add reserved chicken, and simmer 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Keep warm.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add pasta to pan with chicken and broth mixture; stir in parsley, rind, and juice.  You can serve immediately, but I find that soups get better with each passing day, so this recipe is perfect for leftovers.  I like eating it either with crusty bread or a few oyster crackers.

chicken-orzo-soup-1chicken-orzo-soup-2


Recipe: Bacon Chipotle Twice-Baked Potatoes

December 30, 2008
8 Comments

When I was a kid, I would BEG my mother to make twice-baked potatoes.  Their soft, cheesy goodness was irresistable to me, and so much more decadent than a standard baker.  Because my mom only made them occasionally, I assumed that twice-baked potatoes must be incredibly difficult to prepare.

Now I know that my mom was just scamming me.  I made these twice-baked potatoes over the weekend, and they were as easy as can be.  They were a bit time consuming, but much of that time is inactive while the potatoes are baking.  You can certainly mix all of the ingredients in a regular bowl, but you will achieve a creamier, smoother end result if you use a Kitchen-Aid mixer (plus, it will shave some time off the total prep).  Also, even though I used the amount of chiles called for by the recipe, the taters were SUPER spicy, almost to the point of being too much.  If you’re sensative to spice, definitely cut that part of the recipe down.

Overall, these twice-baked potatoes, in addition to shattering childhood illusions about my mother, served as a simple yet impressive  side dish to both chicken and beef.  Enjoy!

  • 6  medium baking potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/4  cups  low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/4  cups  (5 ounces) shredded extrasharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/3  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (drained)

Preheat oven to 450°.

Pierce potatoes with a fork. Bake potatoes at 450° for 50 minutes or until done; cool slightly. Cut each potato in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Combine potato pulp, milk, 3/4 cup cheese and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Spoon potato mixture evenly into 10 shells; discarding remaining 2 shells. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over potatoes. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

twice-baked-potatoes


Recipe: Oyster and Wild Rice Bisque

December 29, 2008
8 Comments

While I hate cold weather and static electricity and dry skin and itchy sweaters, there is one thing about the winter months that I appreciate.  Oysters!  Whether raw on the halfshell or fried in a po’boy, whether Blue Point or Kumamoto, I love their briny flavor and the wonderful, refreshing way they feel on my tongue.

Naturally, when I saw this recipe, I was dead-set on trying it out.  Not only did it feature oysters, but it was a warm and comforting way to enjoy them.  It’s not a very pretty soup, but it is definitely delicious.  I used big, fat, Gulf oysters this time, and they certainly provided the right flavor, but they were a bit too large for a soup.  Next time, I’ll go for smaller bivalves.  Otherwise, I really wouldn’t change a thing.  Shockingly, this soup was really great left over, especially when sprinkled with a few oyster crackers or saltines for crunch.

Note: Obviously, your end result will be SO much better if you use good quality, fresh oysters and clam juice (rather than canned).  For Atlanta folks, you can definitely get both of those things at the Dekalb Farmers Market.  For others, try Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or your local fishmonger.  If, like me, you’re not confident in your shucking ability, ask someone at the store to do it for you.

  • 1 1/2  bacon slices, chopped
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 2  cups  shucked oysters, undrained
  • 1  cup  clam juice
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1 1/2  cups  cooked wild rice
  • 1 1/4  cups  whole milk
  • 3  tablespoons  half-and-half
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Cook bacon in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat 6 minutes or until crisp. Stir in onion; cover and cook 8 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally.

Strain oysters through a sieve over a bowl. Reserve oysters; add oyster liquid to pan. Combine clam juice and flour in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add clam juice mixture, broth, and bay leaf to pan. Increase heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a boil; cook until reduced to 2 cups (about 6 minutes).

Reduce heat to low. Discard bay leaf. Stir in rice, milk, half-and-half, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in reserved oysters; cook 5 minutes or until edges of oysters curl. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

oyster-bisque-1oyster-bisque-2


Recipe: Double Chocolate Biscotti

December 24, 2008
2 Comments

Lately, as I’ve stopped at Starbucks for my beverage of choice (usually just drip coffee, black, or a triple Venti sugar-free vanilla soy latte, if I’m in the mood for something froofy), I’ve also gotten into the habit of picking up a chocolate old-fashioned donut.  They’re surprisingly good, and somehow they don’t feel as artery-clogging as the local favorite, Krispy Kreme.

A donut is a donut, though, and I decided I needed a healthier way to satisfy my morning chocolate cravings.  Thus, I went out of my comfort zone and made these homemade biscotti.  As Miss Lemmonex can tell you, I panicked at every stage of their preparation; however, they actually turned out really well.  They were full of cocoa flavor, and they had that great crunchy outside with just a teensy bit of softness in the very middle.  They were quite good dunked in my black coffee for a breakfast treat, but they also paired well with milk as a dessert.  I still treat myself to a donut every once in a while, but it’s nice to have a more figure-friendly option.  Enjoy!

  • 6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 1/2  cup  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2  cup  semisweet chocolate minichips
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1  large egg white
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine vanilla, eggs, and egg white in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir until well blended. Divide dough in half. Turn dough out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. With floured hands, shape each dough half into a 12-inch-long roll; pat to 1/2-inch thickness.

Bake at 350° for 22 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 18 (1/2-inch) slices. Carefully stand slices upright on baking sheet. Bake biscotti an additional 15 minutes or until almost firm (biscotti will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove biscotti from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack.

* Sorry, no picture (the lighting just didn’t work).  They look like biscotti!


Recipe: Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Cilantro Lime Mayo

December 19, 2008
4 Comments

Whenever I get a new Cooking Light magazine, I tear out a bunch of recipes that look good.  Then, I hand the stack to Jason and ask him to pick his four or five favorites so I can shop for ingredients and make the selected dishes for that week’s meals.  This month, this recipe was the first one chosen, so I decided to tackle it first as well.

The verdict?  These are some tasty sandwiches.  The chicken marinade gives the meat some heat, and the crunchy tortilla chip coating is a nice change from the usual breadcrumbs.  The cilantro lime mayo has both a nice Southwestern kick and a great acidic finish, making it seem lighter than your average spread.  I thought about adding some sliced tomato to the list of toppings, but 1) tomatoes are not looking so yummy right now, and 2) the lettuce and onion were just enough to add some zing and crunch without overpowering the flavor or texture of the rest of the sandwich.

This is a great, quick, easy weeknight meal, and the leftover sandwiches were actually very good served cold the next day.  Of course, you could always prepare the corn-crusted chicken and use it in other dishes (tacos immediately come to mind as something that would work well).  Enjoy!

  • 1/4  cup  reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1  teaspoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4  cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
  • 3  tablespoons  hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1  teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 1/2  ounces  baked tortilla chips (about 6 cups)
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 4  (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls, split
  • 12  (1/8-inch-thick) red onion slices
  • 4  lettuce leaves

To prepare mayo, combine the first 4 ingredients.

To prepare chicken, combine egg substitute, hot sauce, oregano, and salt in a large zip-top plastic bag. Cut chicken breast halves in half horizontally to form 4 cutlets. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Place tortilla chips in a food processor; process 1 minute or until ground. Place ground chips in a shallow dish.

Working with one cutlet at a time, remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken completely in chips. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and chips.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Spread mayo evenly over cut sides of rolls. Layer bottom half of each roll with 3 onion slices, 1 lettuce leaf, and 1 chicken cutlet; top with top halves of rolls.

tortilla-chicken-sandwichtortilla-chicken-sandwich-2


Special Pancakes

December 18, 2008
2 Comments

When I was a kid, breakfast was always a fun weekend tradition.  My dad was the omelette master, my grandmother made great home fries, and my mom…well, she made special pancakes.  The minute I smelled their sweetness wafting upstairs, I bolted out of bed and stood by the stove as she mixed batter and then formed thin, crepe-like cakes.  I loved that they developed delicious brown “craters” as they cooked through.  I loved trying to get away with putting just confectioners sugar inside the rolled treats (instead of the usual jams and jellies).  Most of all, I loved that the whole family spent time together in the kitchen while the pancakes were being flipped.

As an adult, I realize that the recipe is as simple as they come.  All you do is combine 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cold milk, 3 eggs, and a pinch of salt, mix until smooth, and then pour the batter into a large nonstick skillet (swirling to spread) over low-medium heat.  When the edges curl up, flip and cook a few minutes more.  Place some fruit or preserves atop the finished pancake, roll, and top with sugar.

As an adult, I also realize that the simplest gestures can convey the most complex feelings–like the love I shared with Jason when I made these special pancakes for him this past weekend, and the love my mother shared with me when she did the same throughout my childhood.

special-pancakes


Flip is No Flop

December 17, 2008
2 Comments

Ever since Top Chef runner-up Richard Blais left Home earlier this year, Atlanta has been abuzz, wondering what his next culinary move would be.  For now, at least, Chef Blais has landed as creative director of Flip, an upscale burger boutique off Howell Mill Road.  Having missed the burger boom in DC (which saw the opening of, among others, fellow Top Chef-er Spike’s joint in Capitol Hill), I was very excited to see and taste how Chef Blais would bring his unique food vision to an item as iconic as the hamburger.

Fiance and I visited on Friday night; the wait for a table at around 7 PM was only 15-20 minutes, but we snagged two seats at the bar almost immediately. Also almost immediately, we saw rB walking around and gladhandling. He needs a haircut.

The menu is divided into beef and non-beef burgers, and sides are a la carte.  The burgers aren’t mini, but they’re not full-sized either, so the idea is to get 1-2 per person (though one bartender confessed that she watched a guest devour 5 in one sitting).  We started with 2 burgers and 2 sides. The pork belly and cheese burger ($7.50), which was Flip’s play on a bacon cheeseburger, was tasty and perfectly cooked (which is funny, because the server didn’t ask how I’d like it done–but it came out rare to medium rare, which suits me just fine), but I really couldn’t taste the pork belly. The pickled cukes were a highlight of the toppings, which also included onion, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayo. The shrimp po boyger ($8.50) was amazing–the patty had great texture, and the fried lemon and Old Bay mayonnaise were lovely compliments. In terms of sides, the vodka-battered onion rings ($4) were wonderfully crunchy, with just the right proportion of batter to onion. The remoulade dipping sauce was nice, too. The sweet potato tots ($4.50), while tasty, were WAY WAY WAY oversalted. The portion was also fairly small for the price (I didn’t have either of those complaints with the onion rings).

We were still a little hungry, so we ordered the codfish burger ($8.50) and a Krispy Kreme shake ($7). Sadly, the shake came out first. Well, only the timing was sad–the shake was happy, happy, happy! I mean, it tasted EXACTLY like the iconic glazed donut. Except better, because it was frosty and creamy. Strange how Chef Blais took something so delicious when hot, and turned it into a fabulous chilly treat. Bravo.  The cod burger was very good, though I could have done with less tartar sauce and my fiance could have done with less of the pea shoot salad (personal tastes, what can I say).

Service at the bar was mostly good, though one bartender clearly outshone the other. Beer selection was decent, but I found the wines to be unvaried and overpriced. For example, there were only 5 red and 5 whites by the glass, and a glass of Hess chardonnay went for $12 (which is more than I’ve paid for a bottle of the same in some instances). I’ll stick with the suds until they start playing around with crazy cocktails.

I think this place is going to explode.  It’s an interesting concept.  Its price point is relatively reasonable. It’s family friendly. It’s going to be awesome in the warmer weather when they can open their patio. And, in all likelihood, it’s going in my regular rotation.


Great Balls of…Rice?

December 12, 2008
5 Comments

That’s right, Jerry Lee Lewis, eat your heart out.  Balls of risotto kick so much more ass than balls of fire.  Seriously, I may have to make risotto once a week just so I can have these arancini (“little oranges”), which is Italian for “cheese-filled risotto croquettes,” or “fried balls of mind-blowing deliciousness.”

I’ve seen risotto fritters (or some variation thereof) on a number of restaurant menus lately, so naturally I wondered: how hard could they be?  After all, I am a master of risotto.  Please, hold your applause.  Getting risotto to fritter or croquette status can’t be any more difficult than simple breading and frying, right?  Right!  No, really, if you can make risotto, you can make fried risotto.

This recipe is pretty straightforward, and it resulted in a really delicious meal.  You could certainly make the balls a little smaller and serve them as appetizers.  Just as with risotto, these croquettes have endless flavor possibilities; you can use any cheese you like, as long as it melts well (fontina was delicious, but I think mozzarella would have worked nicely, too), and you can sub out the basil for parsley, oregano, or your favorite herb of choice.

My fiance’s face lit up after his first bite, and he said that these risotto croquettes were one of the best things I’ve ever cooked.  If you’re ready for instant adoration and kitchen rock star status, I suggest adding this recipe to your repetoire.

  • 3 cups (approximately) leftover cooked risotto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 oz  Fontina cheese
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • Egg wash: 1 large egg whisked with 2 Tbsp cold water
  • Bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying (I used canola and peanut)
  • Tomato sauce

In a large bowl, combine the risotto with the Parmesan, cream, herbs, and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the cheese into 16 cubes. Scoop up about 3 Tbsp of the risotto mixture and pack it around a cube of cheese to make a croquette, a ball the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Repeat to form 16 croquettes.

Put the flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Dredge the croquettes in the flour, dip in the egg wash, and roll in the bread crumbs. Chill thoroughly, 2-24 hours (I confess, I couldn’t wait that long–I only chilled for about an hour).

Pour oil into a tall pot to a depth of 5 inches (note: I used my Cool Daddy fryer, and it worked beautifully). Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Deep-fry the croquettes in batches, without crowding, until they are evenly browned, 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly. Serve on a pool of warmed tomato sauce.

risotto-fritters-1


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Back to Basics: Risotto

December 11, 2008
5 Comments

Some people (who will remain nameless) have confessed to me their fear of risotto.  After eating numerous fantastic versions in restaurants, many with luxurious ingredients like lobster and truffles, I can understand why the dish might seem intimidating.  However, in Italy and in my house, knowing how to prepare risotto is as basic as knowing how to roast a chicken or reduce a sauce. 

The key to risotto is patience–and by patience, I don’t mean inactive patience where you sit on the couch and watch TV while your oven does all the work.  For risotto to come out perfectly every time, you have to be willing to stand at the stove and monitor its progress.  You also have to trust your taste buds, as there is no fool-proof standard for how long it takes or exactly how much liquid to use.  You want the rice to be creamy but still have a slight bite (and you want to see individual grains), but there’s no way to know if you’ve hit the mark other than to taste it and judge for yourself.  The only constants in risotto are Arborio rice, sauteed aromatics (usually shallots or onions), oil or butter (or both), dry white wine, and cooking liquid (usually some sort of broth or stock).

This recipe, which was adapted from Bon Appetit magazine and calls for peas and prosciutto as its main components, is just a guide.  Here’s another recipe that I really enjoy.  The possibilities are endless, as risotto is a wonderful canvas for many delicious ingredient and flavor combinations.  Good luck, and enjoy!

  • 4-8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Sauv Blanc)
  • 1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Bring broth to a simmer in a saucepan and keep at a bare simmer.

    Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute (this toasts the grains slightly, giving them a nice nutty flavor). Add wine and simmer, stirring, until absorbed.

    Stir in 1 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering risotto and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition become absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and creamy but still al dente.  Note: For me, this took 7 cups of broth and about 30 minutes.

    Stir in peas, prosciutto, zest, cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

    risotto-with-peas-and-prosciutto


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    Top Flr: Not Quite Top Notch

    December 4, 2008
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    After three days of Thanksgiving gluttony, I found myself back at home with my sister, her boyfriend, my fiance, and a bunch of leftovers in the fridge.  Despite the deliciousness of said leftovers, as dinner time approached, we were all a little wary of eating roast beef and/or turkey AGAIN.  So, we decided to go out and try Top Flr, a “small, romantic and with-it” 2 story restaurant/bar featuring “delicious bistro dishes, a wine list that rocks, and wonderfully affordable prices…” (in quotes because I stole it directly from the restaurant website).

    Located in a narrow little building near the intersection of Ponce and Myrtle, the restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived at about 6 PM on a Sunday night.  By the time we left at around 8, it was bustling quite a bit (though it wasn’t full).  We were led upstairs to the “Top Flr” and sis and I decided to start with an insanely reasonable $6/glass cava.  The boys ordered beers–well, they tried to, but sadly the bar was out of their first two choices.  Disappointing, as they had less than a dozen (if I remember correctly) on the menu.

    For appetizers, we chose the “White Bean Hummus, Flat Bread, Olives, Chili Oil” ($8) and the “Lamb Skewers, Daikon Taziki, Cauliflower Couscous” ($8).  The former was a large portion with good grilled pita and some grilled, marinated artichokes, and it was tasty, though a bit undersalted.  The latter consisted of three skewers of tender lamb with an INSANELY good yogurt sauce and some very flavorful couscous.  In both cases, I think the prices were very reasonable, given the ingredients and the amount of food.

    We tried both of the salads on the menu, the first being “Mixed Greens, Figs, Chevre, Pistachio Honey Lavender Dressing” ($8) and the second being “Arugula, Georgia Peach, Roasted Vidalia, Toasted Almonds, Perano Cheese, Citrus Vinaigrette” ($9).  Immediately, we noticed differences between the menu descriptions and the ingredients on the plates; there were blackberries instead of figs, and there were raw pears instead of peaches.  The salads were fresh and delicious–the honey lavender dressing with the chevre was a delightfully sweet treat, and the arugula had a great bite to it.  However, if you’re going to change key elements based on seasonal availability, you should probably spend the time and money to update your menus.

    For “entrees,” we ordered some main-esque dishes and a few sides that piqued our collective interests.  A pizza of “Duck Confit, Applewood Bacon, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Pesto” ($13) was well-received by the whole table, but I preferred the pizza with “Chorizo, Roasted Onions, Oaxca Cheese, Tomatillo Cilantro Relish” ($12).  Both had ample toppings and tasty flatbread crusts.  We tried a pasta with “Sauteed White Shrimp, Preserved Lemon, Chevre Ravioli, Fennel, Arugula” ($14), and while I found it to be WAY too heavy on the fennel, the rest of the table loved it and really enjoyed the way the lemon brought out the flavors of the shrimp and the cheese.  Sides of  “Purple Potato Hash, Corn, Scallions, Pancetta” ($6) and Mac ‘n cheese ($6) were quite good, though I wish the potatoes in the hash had been more…well…hash-like (they were cubed instead of shredded, so they weren’t all crispy).

    Sadly, desserts were not as successful as the rest of the meal.  My filo-wrapped chocolate dumplings were drowning in an overpowering orange brandy sauce, and my sister’s s’more featured non-melted chocolate and a marshmallow so burned that it was nearly impossible to chew (we did complain about that dish, so it was taken off our bill).  The winner of the bunch was a moist pumpkin ginger pound cake served with maple ice cream.  Coffee was good, and after-dinner drinks were reasonably priced (for example, fiance enjoyed a 20-year tawny port for $11).

    Service was friendly and knowledgeable, though a bit slow at times.  After all of the food and drinks, and with a nice tip, the total worked out to be about $100-$110 per couple.  You could definitely eat well for less, as we probably ordered more food than we should have (not that there was any left over, haha).  Given the enjoyable experience and how close it is to my place, I will definitely return to Top Flr.


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