Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Books for Cooks Review: The Kitchen Daughter

For several months now, I have been reading what I'll call "books for cooks". These aren't cookbooks, although they often include a handful of recipes. The key feature is that cooking must be an integral part of the story. 

The Kitchen Daughter

I just finished one such book called The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry.  The book begins when the main character of the book, Ginny, has just lost both her elderly parents. Ginny has Asperger's Syndrome and is uncomfortable with social interactions. As she learns to move on with her life she turns to her love of cooking to help her cope. Ginny discovers she can summon ghosts to her kitchen when she cooks from one of their hand-written recipes.

The book is a surprisingly quick read and yet is fulfilling on many levels.  I love a book that is fun to read and educational at the same time. This book taught me about Asperger's Syndrome.  One line I particularly loved is when Ginny tells her sister "I am socially awkward not retarded." Ginny is capable of living on her own, but she has some uncomfortable moments in getting there. Meanwhile, she copes by thinking of flavors and textures of food. 

With a kitchen lined with cookbooks, I can relate to Ginny. Cooking does put me in a some type of zone and thinking about food distracts me from the stresses of life. I would love to be in the kitchen with her while she's making Ribollita, an Italian bean and bread soup, or savoring Spicy hot chocolate spiced with Ancho chili for the first time.  I am not particularly inclined to follow any of the recipes in the book, but I do like that they are included. For some reason, reading the recipe helps me put myself in the story.

If you love to read and you love cooking, I highly recommend this book.  The author, Jael McHenry, also writes the Simmer blog at simmerblog.typepad.com.

Friday, August 5, 2011

John G's (3 Forks, $15-20pp)

A long time Lake Worth favorite breakfast and lunch spot, John G's, is relocating to Manalapan and it's going upscale. Directly across from the Ritz Carlton, located in a posh plaza, the new John G's loses its rustic sea captain decor in favor of a black-and-white-tiled bistro theme. Will John G's be the same without the irritating parking situation and the wait we came to expect at the old location? Only time will tell. The ample free parking and larger capacity of the new location holds some promise.
The New John G's
Scheduled to open in August, we are left to wonder when, already a week into August. Impatient, yes. My last visit to John G's was just before it closed its old location. And, sadly, the first time I had sampled their breakfast. I finally know why John G's has such a following! I had their famous Original Cinnamon Nut French Toast ($7.90) with a side of sausage links ($2.35).

Surprisingly savory with the sweet contrast of the maple syrup, this nutty french toast is hearty yet so delicious you will want to eat the whole thing. The sausages were flavorful and plump. A large fruit cup of mixed citrus, melon, and pineapple is a bit sour but a refreshing complement to the rest of the meal.  The coffee is also first-rate.

One thing that I love about John G's is the unique menu. While not robust, it offers interesting items that a food lover like me don't see very often. One such item is the Peameal Canadian Bacon, an import from Canada, which I believe is simply Canadian bacon rolled in cornmeal. 

Egg lovers will find a delicious array of "Ethnic Omelets" for $9-10, including Polish (kielbasa, pepper, onion, cheese sauce), Italian (sausage, pepperoni, pepper, mozzarella, onion,mushroom, Italian sauce), Greek (feta, pepper, onion, tomato), and Hawaiian (veggies, cheese sauce, pineapple garnish), to name a few. Corned beef hash, Eggs Casino (like Benedict), and huge fluffy pancakes are also one the menu for less than $10. 

While John G's is known for breakfast, lunch is also good. Known for their fresh, perfectly fried fish and chips ($13.75), they also offer a variety of sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, pastas, salads, and soups.  An excellent Seafood Bisque is available only on Fridays.  Lunches range in price from $6 to almost $20 a plate, with drinks extra.

When it reopens, I will be in line for breakfast to try the Raisin Cream Cheese French Toast and Peameal Canadian Bacon.  And, I will still be able to take a stroll across the road and walk off the calories on the beach.  If you go, bring cash. Credit is not accepted.

John G's is located at
Plaza Del Mar, 264 So. Ocean Blvd.
Manalapan, FL

John G's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Butterfields Southern Cafe (2 forks, $12-15pp)

I was on a blood-test fast the morning I discovered Butterfields Southern Cafe. Even in my starved state, though, I couldn't come close to finishing my breakfast.  It all started out innocently enough with a decent, though unremarkable cup of joe. I surely wouldn't be coming back for the coffee, but it also was drinkable, particularly in my current un-caffienated condition.  Then, ba ba bum...... the Southern Biscuits and gravy arrived.
I know this looks like a grayish glob of goo, but this blob was exactly what I was looking for when I walked into this so-called Southern Cafe.  Yum!! The biscuit was torn into big fluffy pieces and smothered in a peppery sausage gravy.  I gobbled it up and kept the plate, so I could use the rest of the gravy on the rest of my breakfast!  Now, let me assure you that this gravy isn't concealing a throw-away, hard, stale biscuit (yes I have seen other places try to pull that off).  I fortunately got a second biscuit along with the rest of my meal.  Look at how huge this thing is...... easily twice the size of any biscuit I have ever seen and light and fluffy.  A GREAT biscuit.

I was already full when I finished the B&G, but I kept eating.  The rest of my breakfast looked a lot better than it tasted. 

The eggs were fine for me, but I like them dry.  The sausages were plump but oddly tasteless and greasy. The home fries are confusing. They look fine, but they had that empty yet salty flavor of potatoes that were salted after cooking instead of before.  Just, ugh.

Now, what do I do? Is this an Urban Spoon up or down? Biscuits great, everything else yuck.  Well, let's look at the rest of the picture.

The outside is nice, clean, and inviting.
Someone greeted me the minute I came in a showed me to a seat. Very casually dressed servers in shorts and t-shirts kind of suit the casual feel of the place.  My server took my drink order before I even sat down. She was pleasant and efficient, so I had no complaints in that department. 

The dining area is well lit with natural lighting flowing in from a wall of windows.  The room has a casual and slightly rustic feel. The deer heads mounted on the walls didn't come as a surprise since this restaurant is a branch of the well-rated Gun Club Cafes. 

As long as you don't look down, the room looks presentable enough.  The carpet is disgustingly grimy, which to me is a bad sign.  If a restaurant is dirty in the front, I am suspicious of the kitchen's cleanliness. 

And then a child at another table started wailing uncontrollably. He was turning and pointing to the booth just in front of mine, squealing "it's right behind me" and "bug". Ah.  Well, this isn't so hard after all. While I am sure every restaurant has their share of issues, I can not recommend a place that has visible pests.  Nor, can I ever go back to the place.

But, if you are looking for a great biscuit and gravy, and you don't mind the other stuff, Butterfields is your place. 

Butterfields Southern Cafe is at
1145 Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
Royal Palm Beach, FL

Butterfields Southern Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Friendly Fork is Now on Technorati

We are activating membership in www.technorati.com which allows users to key word search across many blogs at once. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Starbucks RED Blend to be Discontinued

Ouch. My favorite coffee is being phased out by the end of August. (STARBUCKS) RED from Africa is a smooth bold brew without the tang or bite of some dark roasts. I love it. If you want to be heartbroken like me, try it before the end of the month and see what you'll be missing.  This particular blend comes in a red package. You can find it in your local Starbucks or purchase it through Amazon using this link.

By the way, for those of you that garden, Starbucks will give you a free bag of coffee grinds if you ask. Sprinkle grinds into or on top of the soil. Rose bushes and veggies seem particularly fond of it. And, no I don't work at Starbucks, but I am a fan and so is my garden!