30 October, 2013

Home Cookin' Away From Home

While we were in Palmyra, NY we were quite limited to food options outside of hotel breakfast being that I don't eat at chain restaurants.  Not that there were any of those in town either...

One good friend who has been to Palmyra a number of times clued me in to this little place down the road from the "main drag" of 21 called Yellow Mills Diner.

By the time we darkened the door step of this diner, it was about 8pm.  We still haven't mastered the fine art of "time management" when we travel with newborns.  We end up stopping for at least a half hour every time we stop to feed, change, and play with them.  The half hour more often than not turns into an hour...  This diner closes at 9pm so we didn't have much time to figure out what we wanted, order it, and get it into our tummies.  GO!  Right lol...

I went through their menu about 5 times front to back and always came back to the same thing.  Prime Rib.  I am a meat and potatoes gal from WAY back and I like my meat rare.  There is nothin' better than prime rib rare.  No, there isn't.  No.  You're wrong.  There isn't.

The meal came with dinner rolls, real mashed potatoes, real gravy, a side salad, and a cup of rib au jus.  I knew before I saw any of it that I wasn't going to be able to finish it, but I also knew I was going to try anyhow.  The order went in and in a flash...there were some lovely dinner rolls on the table with real butter.  Yay....I am not a fan of margarine.  In fact, if that's my only choice I eat whatever my food was dry...no spread whatsoever.  Margarine = plastic in my mind.  Yay for real butter!....moving on.

Dinner Rolls with Real Butter

I couldn't tell if these were homemade or store bought, and I didn't care.  They were soft, fresh, and just the right size.  What can I say??...they tasted like a good dinner roll and butter.  I think I ate two of them....one more than I honestly had room for.

In the latter end of roll #1 my side salad showed up to the table.

Side Salad with Caesar Dressing

This side salad looked pretty standard for what you get in any diner, but when you've been on the road all day and you're reduced to purse goodies (organic granola bars, organic fruit bars, or some other such equally preserved, not fresh something...) or gas station food (I'd rather starve...).  Not your finest fare...  I tore into this salad like it was my last meal.  Everything was fresh and crisp, sure...this wasn't the prettiest salad in the world but who cares?  It was all going to the same place.

I eventually pushed my salad off to the side when my main entree came to the table in all of its glory...

Prime Rib

The first thing that I tried was the mashed potatoes, I was hoping they were real mashed potatoes, and they were.  The gravy was somethin else!  It was so rich and had a great depth of flavor, I kind of wanted to ask if the sold it in jars...I'd have bought a vat of it to hoard in my basement for special occasions like...Wednesday or thunderstorms.  The prime rib was cooked just how I ordered, perfectly rare.  The au jus with this was just the icing on the cake.  I ate until I felt like I was going to explode...then I took a couple more bites.  It was about 5 minutes to nine...  It was time to pay our bill and press on to the hotel for the night.

I was glad I listened to my friend when she recommended this place.  I also wish that it hadn't been a Sunday morning the next day...we don't shop or eat out on Sundays.  If it had been any other morning I would have brought myself RIGHT back to the Yellow Mills Diner for breakfast.  The service was wonderful and weren't shy about having polite conversation.  I was glad to give them my business and I believe that you will be as well.  If you're ever in Palmyra, NY and lookin' for some great food at a fabulous price, stop in at the Yellow Mills Diner and have a plate of home away from home.

Yellow Mills Diner on Urbanspoon

23 October, 2013

Haupia Pie Anyone??

Coconut...  Just hearing the word makes me think of SO many things I love to eat.  Coconut rice with "peas" which is a Jamaican classic that I serve when we eat Jerk Chicken, macaroons enrobed in Green & Black's dark chocolate, and of course a classic that is one of my favorites....German Chocolate Cake.  I am ALWAYS on the lookout for fabulous recipes that bring coconut to my table.  Imagine my glee when my cousin, Meagan, over at Just Another Recipe Blog told me about this AH-MAZING coconut milk based pie recipe from Allrecipies.com she had just made for her family.  I couldn't resist trying it out because I KNEW it wouldn't be too hard to transform it into an organic, dairy free, gluten free masterpiece!  Two of the worst allergies on the planet...  This pie is FREE from them.  How liberating!!

I of course modified the original recipe quite a bit to match the allergy profiles I was trying to address.  The original recipe can be found on Allrecipes.com in its entirety.  

Dairy Free Gluten Free Haupia Pie
1 9 inch baked pie shell (baked with gluten free flour), cooled

1 c. unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk
1 14 ounce can of coconut milk (NOT light)
1 c. organic cane sugar
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. Enjoy Life! (dairy & gluten free) chocolate chips
1 box of "Healthy Top" non dairy, vegan whipped topping
unsweetened coconut toasted in the oven for garnish
(I used Bob's Red Mill coconut flakes for the gourmet look)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk and coconut milk.  In a medium sized bowl whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. When sugar and cornstarch are mixed well, whisk them into the pan with the milk.  Bring coconut mixture to a boil. Continue stirring mixture over low heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Divide the coconut pudding evenly into two bowls. Mix the chocolate into one portion, stirring until it is a smooth, chocolatey bowl of goodness. Spread the chocolate portion on the bottom of the pie crust first.

Pour the remaining portion of coconut pudding on top of the chocolate and spread smooth. Refrigerate for about an hour. 

*For people who are REALLY in love with coconut...go ahead and add a 1/2 c. to the coconut pudding before you put it on top of the chocolate.  It keeps the coconut pudding from getting gloopy by sucking up a bit of the moisture.

Follow the directions on the box of Healthy Top as to how to whip the contents.  When they are sufficiently whipped, spoon onto the top of the completely cooled guts of the pie.  

In the oven under the broiler set to lowest setting, brown/toast some unsweetened shredded coconut and sprinkle on top for a nice crisp garnish.


I suppose I don't need to tell you that this is one of the most awesome slices of pie I've ever had....do I?  Coconut, chocolate...more coconut...  *swoon*  The Mister and I polished this sucker off in 4 days.  Just the two of us...and he "doesn't like" coconut.  *giggles*  Men are so funny sometimes...

Give this pie a try for your next celebration, I promise you...people will ask you to make it for EVERYthing they invite you to!  I had one of these on the dessert menu for Canadian Thanksgiving last month with a Gluten Free Dairy Free Blueberry Crumble Pie.  Everyone loved them both!!  Happy baking!

***If you don't have any dairy allergies or gluten allergies in the house, you can make your pie shell with regular all purpose flour, use regular dairy milk for the milk in this recipe, standard semi-sweet chocolate chips, and you can make whipped cream out of heavy cream or use store bought "Cool Whip" for the top.***

To make whipped cream at home you will need 1 1/2 c. heavy cream and 1/4 c. sugar.  Whip the cream for 1 minute on medium and sprinkle in sugar 2 tablespoons at a time until you see stiff peaks form.

16 October, 2013


So, now that I am aware of that television show "You Gotta Eat Here" I watch every once in a while to see where this guy (who admits he's not a chef, but he knows good food when he eats it) has been eating.  I always wonder if any of the places are in my city...or somewhere close enough by that it isn't a stretch to check them out.  One episode I was watching featured a place here in town called Pressed.

Pressed makes one of my favorite things on the planet...Panini.  Yeah, I am quite the sucker for a toasted sandwich.  If given a choice, I will go somewhere that has a panini...ANY panini...on their menu rather than somewhere else.  I looked at their menu online because one of the last times I went to a place that I saw on that show it was PACKED and the wait staff are in a mad rush to serve and turn the tables...so I didn't want to be a bother.

Walking in there is a bit to take in...  A specials board, an events board and then there is the main menu board up on the wall.  It spanned the whole width of the restaurant.  Quite a menu...

Lunch Special Board

Dinner Special Board

Pressed Line-Up

From the outside looking in they seemed small, I wasn't sure how lunch for two adults and a car seat was going to work out.  Thankfully, only being a skotch past noon, there were plenty of tables available.  I didn't know the "system" of the place but you figure it out quickly.  You walk up, order your food, pay, take a number, and then find a place to sit.  In theory, someone is going to bring your food to the table.  My Mister and I were both eyein' up the same sandwiches.  Either the Beef Brisket or the Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper, so we split the difference.  He got the Beef and I got the chicken and agreed to give each other a half of of our own.  

I was also keenly interested in the two soups that were on the menu.  Carrot Ginger or Maple Bacon Apple....  I was leaning carrot the Mister was leaning towards the maple bacon apple.  I know, I know...me not want bacon??  It just didn't sound good to me.  I don't "do" maple as a rule.  It always seems to be overdone here in Ottawa.  I of course acquiesced to the Mister and we tried the Maple Bacon Apple soup.  I quickly scanned through the dessert case and....not a single thing that I don't already make at home and (from the looks of the stuff inside) make BETTER.  Blech...  Brownies, Vegan Peanut Butter Rice Crispie Bars, Apple Turnovers, etc.  I am not sure if this stuff is brought in or made in house, but if it is made in house they need to revamp their dessert selection to better reflect the rest of the menu.  At a place called pressed I would expect to see somethin' like a S'Mores Cookie Sandwich, whoopie pies, etc.  Things that are "pressed" together.  Hint, hint...  Moving on.

I didn't take photos of the inside because it was busy enough that it would have been annoying for the other patrons.  The best way I can describe it is to say nautical meets coffee shop meets....garage sale at a church.  There is no other way to say it.  There are benches along the walls that, no joke, have GOT to be old church pews.  The very wobbly tables and chairs (I was afraid to put our car seat on the chairs) looked like rejects from a 1970's grammar school.  For a place that was featured on television you'd think they'd have upped their game on the decor.  Imagine the coffee house from friends...remove the comfy couches and chairs and inject a bit of hipster pierced chic and BAM!....you've got pressed.  We weren't impressed.

I found myself wishing BEFORE our food made it to the table that we had come on a Saturday morning instead so we could try the waffle menu.  There are 5 different combos of that brunch menu I would have loved to try MORE than what we ended up having.

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese

To call this sandwich "pressed" is quite laughable.  It was falling apart.  I am not opposed to messy food, so this wasn't a tragedy.  But, c'mon...your name is "Pressed".  The only excuse I could find that was feasible was that the chunks of chicken were largish and they were actual CHUNKS, not strings like you might end up seeing if someone bought canned chicken from Costco.  That was a nice surprise.  The ciabatta was perfectly toasted and the combination of roasted red pepper and goat cheese with the chicken was a winner.

My TINY pile of sweet potato chips were much further down line of the "done" scale than I would have liked.  I was pleasantly surprised with the little kick of heat at the end of the added salt and the sweet from the potatoes themselves.  It was a great concept but executed with an amateur mistake...burning the chips.  Oopsy daisy.  Worst part was, one of the very last chips I picked up and tossed into my mouth was completely soggy.  Dunno how the hell that happened.  The spicy pickled bean wasn't even worth talking about.  I took one bite, spit it out and gave the rest to my Mister.  He ate his whole bean...

I'm sure you're wondering why I haven't talked about the soup course of our lunch yet...  Keep wondering...just like we kept waiting and waiting...and waiting for it to show up.  When you walk in, right THERE, large as life on the menu they ask you to "Please allow 15 minutes for your sandwich to be pressed" (not those exact words but that IS the amount of time).  I have at least ONE big problem with that concept.  The big one being...the sandwiches are already MADE, sitting in a glass case RIGHT in front of you when you walk in.  The only thing they have left to do IS to press the sucker.  I've never put a panini on at home and let it go 15 minutes.  I would be burnt beyond anyone's desire to eat it.  Again...moving on...

Beef Brisket with Caramelized Onion & Chipotle Aioli

Now...THAT is a pressed sandwich!  Like I said, this was my Mister's order but he split it with me.  Normally I don't flog what he eats but I ate half of what you see there, so I am going to critique this sandwich as well.  This sandwich was fabulous!  The meat was so tender, it just melted in my mouth.  The aioli was spot on with the level of heat and it was SO creamy.  The caramelized onion added an element of sweetness that really brought out the earthy flavor of the beef.  But my husband and I both looked at each other and thought out loud "Where is the au jus?".  We both felt like the sandwich could have used something to dip it into.  There wasn't enough aioli on there to keep it from feeling on the dry side.  Oh well...

Somewhere along the line when I started to actually feel annoyed that the soup wasn't to our table yet, so the Mister went to find it.  And there it was...sitting in the pick up window.  Juuuuuussssst SITTING there.  As he was asking for it our waitress swooped by and flew to our table with it.  Too late, I was already pissed off.

Maple Bacon Apple Soup
I suppose I don't need to tell you there was WAAAAY too dang much cinnamon on our soup, do I?  I am not even sure what made them think that they NEEDED cinnamon with this soup.  Maple.  Bacon.  Apple.  That's three different flavors all competing in one dish.  Those three flavors also all happen to usually be dominant whenever they are in whatever dish they are in.  So adding cinnamon was a rookie move and totally unnecessary.  I took one bite, nearly gagged, and then passed the spoon to the Mister.  He tried some and wasn't impressed either.  He said the pieces of bacon hiding out in the bottom of the bowl were "slimy".  I don't know how accurate that is because I didn't happen to come across any bacon when I took my lone spoonful of it.  We both agree that it was overly sweet.  My Mister is so different than I am about food...if he pays for it, he is going to finish it whether he likes it or not.  If I don't like something, you can't pay me enough to finish it.  I don't know if a different spice being tossed all over the top of it would have saved it for me or not.  I racked my brain trying to think of something but the level of sweet just couldn't be overcome in my mind.

On my urbanspoon account I "liked" Pressed...not because I liked ALL of my food but because I liked MOST of my food.  The food I did like, I LOVED.  Which seems to be a common problem for me in this town.  Would I ever eat IN there again?  No.  I will not go back INTO Pressed, order food, and sit in there and eat.  Would I ever eat food from there again?  Sure.  I would call in my order and pick it up.  At least if I am taking it out, in theory, my order will be all together and ready to go at the same time when I come to pick it up rather than having parts of my meal streaming in whenever the heck someone feels like it.  

If you have the time to blow and are willing to chance being late getting back to work from your lunch, stop into Pressed, their food is pretty good.  If you don't have the time to blow and don't want to be late getting back to work...check out the menu online, call in your order, and pick it up and eat in the park or back in the lunch room at work.  

The more annoying part of eating at Pressed and flogging it for me has been that I know I am not the only customer that feels exactly like this.  Problem is, someone down there at Pressed is going to continue doing things just like they always have and may childishly categorize my critique of them as "uninformed" or may think me a "hater" because I think their service, philosophy on mode of delivery of their food, and very odd decor all need a serious makeover.  But, when a parent of small children goes into Pressed on the weekend specifically for waffle brunch and wants a child sized portion of the Nutty Monkey Waffles instead of the Little Guy choice which is pretty plain in comparison and they are told "Sure, you can get your kid a child sized portion of Nutty Monkey, but we're gonna charge you 12 loonies anyhow because that is how the boss wants it." you need a serious reality check.  Way to alienate half of your customer base on the weekend.  I wouldn't be SO annoyed if this place didn't have SO much more potential.  *sigh*

Pressed on Urbanspoon

09 October, 2013

Scotch Eggs

One of the things I've always found sort of funny about this food is that Scotch Eggs aren't Scottish at all.  They were invented (or so they claim) in London by Fortnum & Mason WAY back in the early 1700's.  They were made as a quick "all in one" sort of food to eat while you were on the go.  These days, they are considered a picnic food in the UK.  They are served in pretty much every corner of the world, even in Minnesota.  I've seen them pictured on a flyer for the Minnesota State Fair; except in TRUE MN style...they were being served on a stick.  Don't ask...

Most of the time they are served with a mustard sauce of sorts, which of course varies from region to region.  The ONE thing people can't seem to get right is that Brits don't over spice their food stuffs.  They like to keep things simple, so any recipe you find online or elsewhere that calls for anything but "pork mince" (ground pork) or "sausage mince" (ground pork sausage) is someone makin' something up themselves.  Americans and their spicing to death of perfectly wonderful foods really gets on my nerves sometimes.  Let the ingredients speak for themselves!  They do have a story to tell all their own.  Then there is the egg.  You can use chicken eggs or a now popular egg is a quail egg, which allows you to make more of an appetizer sized portion of Scotch Egg, rather than a meal sized portion.  The other ingredients are simple and include beaten egg, flour and bread crumbs.  Not seasoned bread crumbs...just bread crumbs. 

For my Scotch eggs I picked a chicken egg, an organic breakfast pork sausage, regular AP flour and a plain bagel.  Yeah, you read it...a bagel.  I whizzed it through my food processor and used a lonely, little bagel for my bread crumbs when I made my eggs.  So here we go...this is what you'll need to make yourself some fabulous Scotch Eggs!

Scotch Eggs
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda
water for boiling
1 lb. pork mince or organic pork sausage, casings removed
3 eggs, scrambled
1 c. all purpose flour
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 bagel, broken down into crumbs
vegetable oil for frying
good, sturdy metal tongs!!  gotta have 'em!!

First things first...  Cook those eggs!  I like my egg yolks to still be runny when I crack my eggs open.  So I soft boil them.  I start them out on the stove in cold water with 1/2 tsp. baking soda mixed in (helps the shell come off without a fight, trust me) on medium high heat.  Let them cook just until the water begins to boil then remove them from the heat and let them sit for 2 minutes.  Then drain the water out straight away and shock them in a cold water bath to stop the cooking process.  Crack, then peel the eggs under cold running water.  Set aside and allow them to cool in the fridge until they are cold to the touch.

In a medium sized saucepan, bring 4 c. of oil to 350 F.  **Because cooking these properly requires you to maintain a steady temperature of 350 F during the cooking process, cook the Scotch Eggs ONE at a time once you begin to drop them in.

Prepare 3 bowls on your counter along with a couple sheets of waxed paper and a plate with waxed paper on it.  Now is the time to remove the casings from your pork mince/breakfast sausage and divide it into 4 equal portions.  Set the 4 balls of meat aside on a piece of the waxed paper.  On another sheet press a ball of meat into a 5 inch diameter circle...making sure it is pretty thin.  One of the biggest mistakes you can make when cooking these is to make your meat layer TOO thick.  It won't cook all the way through, and then your egg never warms up in the center again.  No bueno!

Prepare your bowls by adding the flour and some sea salt and pepper to the flour...just a small amount.  It helps to bring out the natural flavors of the egg.

In your second bowl, that's where you want your scrambled eggs.  In third bowl, as pictured, should be your bread crumbs.  

That is pretty thin, but don't freak out...you can do this!  Simply take one of your peeled eggs and roll it around in the seasoned flour first.  This helps bind the egg more securely in the meat, so when you cut it open the egg doesn't let loose from the meat.  Now comes the fun part.  Wrapping the flour covered egg in the meat.  Just realize you're gonna be a brilliant mess when this is over and move on...

Hold the round of meat, waxed paper and all, in the palm of your hand and holding the piece of wax paper, bend the meat towards the egg and press it lightly onto the egg.  Let go of the paper completely and find the corner.  In gentle spurts, tug the waxed paper off of the meat.  Repeat that at all four corners of the waxed paper.  Then, once the meat has been mostly secured onto the egg, smooth the meat, filling in any gaps...and removing extra if there seems to be too much in places...until you have a smooth surface and are holding what looks like a giant egg made out of meat.  Do this to all four of your eggs before you move onto dipping them into the beaten egg and bread crumbs.

Next roll your giant eggs of meat around in the beaten egg and then straight into the bread crumbs, making sure you cover them generously and pat it on if you have to.  Let the excess fall off.  Set each egg onto a plate covered in waxed paper as you bread them.  When you have breaded all four eggs, it is time to move onto the shortest and EASIEST part of the recipe...the FRYING!

Ready a plate with a couple thick paper towels to catch the oil when you set your cooked eggs on it.  Now, USING TONGS (NOT your hands), carefully place the breaded egg into the oil.  It will need to fry for about 4 minutes or so.  It will be medium to almost what *I* would call "dark" brown.  You might even be able to smell the cooked meat when you roll the egg around to check each side.  This will be closer to the time you need to remove it.

When you're ready, slice into one and see how it looks.  I recommend doing that within 5 minutes of them being cooked.  When they stop crackling on the cooling plate, you're good to go!

Please excuse the quality of that shot.  I am not sure why but, I only took a picture with my cell for this egg.  But either way, that is the level of yolk runniness I was trying to achieve.  If you don't like your yolks being your "sauce" for the eggs, boil them longer in the boiling step at the beginning of the process.

But...I was home alone, so...what to do with the other 3 eggs??  Toss them in the fridge, that's what!  Now, to reheat uneaten eggs just preheat your oven to 425 F and wait 10 minutes.  Then pop them in there for 10 minutes, unless you are paranoid about the yolks not being warmed through...then do what you like; whatever makes you comfortable.  But, in the name of all that is Holy....do NOT microwave these.  What a waste that would be!

This is how the yolks look after being refrigerated a couple days and heated up again in the oven.

Perfectly fine, that's what!  Still a tad on the soft boiled side, which is how I love them, and more importantly they still taste like a slam bang way to tell your tummy to shut it!!

If you eat these for breakfast....whether you used regular pork mince or sausage mince, you can try having them with a healthy drizzle of some organic maple syrup.  For lunch or dinner, I totally recommend a nice Mustard Horseradish Sauce.  The recipe for that is SUPER easy...

Mustard Horseradish Sauce
1/3 c. mayo or veganaise
1/4 c. grain mustard
2 tsp. grated horseradish

Stir that all together with a spoon and get to dippin'!!  **I like my mustard BOLD.  If you don't like grain mustard, use whatever you like.  If you can't handle horseradish, skip it!  The world is your oyster....or in this case, your EGG!!  Enjoy!

02 October, 2013


It isn't very often I end up checking out a restaurant based on all of the BAD things I have heard about it...but, there comes a time when there is just nothin' in town left to try that you haven't done already.  In Duluth, MN there isn't much of a variety for authentic Italian food.  In fact, if you ask a random person in town where to get some good Italian, 9 times out of 10 you are gonna hear "Olive Garden.  They are up over the hill.".  Olive Garden...  *sigh*  I don't "do" chains.  I don't do them for a reason...one that I won't harp on in this post because I have explained it many, many times already.

One place that you do NOT hear named often is a little place down in the Canal Park area called Bellisio's.  Somehow, it has gotten a pretty bad rap in town for being over priced for what people get on the plate.  Even my own family members warned me away from the place.  Being a person that doesn't exactly like to "prejudge" when it comes to food, I decided to check it out anyhow.  We were only in town for a short amount of time and hadn't had a chance to hang out with our oldest nephew yet.  When I gave HIM the list of 3 places to choose from and he picked Bellisio's, I just about clapped with glee...my curiosity has been KILLIN' me over this place.  Finally, I was going to be able to check it off my "to eat" list.

It was FINALLY a day in Duluth that wasn't KILL you hot with humidity, so being down in Canal Park by big ol', beautiful Lake Superior was just FABulous that day.  While we stood outside waiting for our nephew to arrive we checked out the menu that was posted near the door.  I looked at each description and title carefully...and was confused.  None of the lunch menu *I* was staring at seemed overpriced, not at all.  The dinner menu was there as well so I checked that out as well.  Nothin' over priced from what I could tell.  But, I suppose my perception could be somewhat skewed in TWO ways.  

One, I don't consider Olive Garden to be "good" Italian food.  So, being that most people in Duluth DO consider it to good Italian, Olive Garden is exactly what they are using for a price comparison with Bellisio's.  That is really unfortunate.  Olive Garden doesn't even make their breadstick dough in house.  That isn't good Italian...that is "cookie cutter" Italian.  Secondly, we're currently stationed in Ontario.  Eating out in the city we live in costs a small FORTUNE, even for a couple without their children, during the lunch hour let alone the dinner hour.  The closer you get to the downtown core, the higher your bill is, even if the food totally sucks.  So, to me, what Bellisio's has to offer for the prices they are asking is spot on for quality and value.  Moving on...

I got down to the business of asking what they might recommend for a great lunch, funny enough one of the items recommended was exactly what I wanted to try, the Fennel Pork & Arugala Panini.  I love bread...I especially love it when it is toasted.  Put meat in the middle...I am yours!  Because we were overly hungry, we also tossed in an appetizer, the Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato platter.  After everyone else figured themselves out, I went on my usual look see photo frenzy of the place.  It is quite clean and slightly elegant...

The lighting in this place is just so inviting.  Compared to the Noon day sun beating down on you outside, this was just the right amount of warm and bright for my poor sun burnt eyes.  Our waitress brought us a little basket of focaccia pretty quickly.

Their bread was pretty good.  In retrospect I know that my Momma makes it better, but it didn't cross my mind when I was eating it so it MUST have been flavorful.  Our waitress gave us some special olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper to dip it in.  Spectacular...  The bread was soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.  Every little pore of the bread soaked up the oil like a thirsty horse in the desert.  Loved it...  Just wish she had brought more than one basket.  Three hungry adults and one Sprout that was ONLY eating bread...we sorta needed more.  I forgot to ask when she brought out the fried green tomatoes, and here is why....

See that???  The HUGE chunks of reddish brown all over the top of the crisp, fried tomatoes??  Yeah, that...  Bacon.  It's BACON, huge chunks of bacon!!  I'm in love...  *swoon*  I'm not an idiot, I was expecting bacon.  After all, they were named Bacon, Lettuce Fried Green Tomatoes for a reason.  But typically when you get something like this and it says "bacon"....it is tweency little snippets of what COULD be bacon and tastes like bacon, but couldn't positively be identified in a court of law AS "bacon".  But, these were DEFINITELY huge, beautious chunks of BACON.  Bless you Bellisio's...bless you...

The fried green tomatoes themselves were good.  I have been to THE Whistle Stop Cafe in Georgia JUST to have their fried green tomatoes...my Mister rolled his eyes when I told him I wanted to...  Those were the best fried green tomatoes I've ever had in my life, Bellisio's would most likely come in third place comparatively speaking.  Not bad, not bad...I've had quite a few duds when it came to FGTs.  Bellisio's tomatoes were crisp on the outside and the tomato was firm at the bite but melted in your mouth as you chewed.  Loverly...  The bleu cheese was a lovely, tart compliment to the fat content goin on on this plate and the only thing I wished to be different about the dish as a whole was MORE dipping sauce.  There is NO such thing as too much.  Ever.  As soon as my last bite of FGT went down the hatch my panini was set in front of me.

Oh.my.FLIPPIN.EMM.GEE!!  It SMELLED amazing!  I could smell the fennel pork RIGHT off the bat.  I was salivating beyond what is lady like when you're in public...seriously...  I SHOULD tell you that this menu item actually comes with french fries, but with the summer heat I asked for a Caesar salad instead.  They were happy to oblige and didn't hesitate to give me a substitute or say "I'll have to ask the chef." (heard that WAY too many times...so annoying), they just DID it.  I won't lie, the salad was a challenge to eat.  I had to use a knife with my fork but hell...it was worth it.  Their Caesar dressing was spot on.  I could clearly make out every ingredient, even the anchovy paste.  I liked that, most of the time you can't quite tell what it is in Caesar that makes it taste the way it does, but theirs showcased every ingredient quite nicely.

My panini was a thing of beauty.  Crispy on the outside and the fennel pork was tender and succulent.  It was a foodgasm in my mouth.  I didn't say much and I never looked up from my plate once I started eating my panini.  I am not sure if anyone noticed...  I was in my own little world with my sandwich.

So...my final verdict on this place is that people who don't like it have spent WAY too much time in Olive Garden or some other such Italian CHAIN that has nothing but crappy, overly processed PREPREPARED and frozen foods to offer their customers.  I suggest you get out more...as in OUT of town.  Head on down to the Twin Cities sometime or in the Little Italy section of Manhattan and try REAL Italian food with menus made BY real Italian people.  Then, go down to Bellisio's and try them again.  Cheap doesn't mean "good"...it just means cheap and I promise you, you get what you pay for.  I'd gladly pay to eat at Bellisio's again.  For three adults and one child having lunch we paid less than 50 including tip.  Need I say more?  Didn't think so.