Grampa’s Bakery and Restaurant: Dania Beach

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If you enjoy not gaining weight then I suggest you stay far, far away from Grampa’s Bakery and Restaurant. A Paleo dieter may actually burst into flames if they dare step foot in this place. Actually, on second thought, it wouldn’t be such bad thing if a paleo preacher burst into flames. We get it already! You eat like a caveman! You spend hours preparing meals! No one gives a shit, Encino Man…WOW. That felt good.

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Clearly, I have no interest in dieting. I eat my complimentary Grampa pastries with no guilt whatsoever and I have been eating them long before Guy Fieri showed up there in his douchey car.
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That’s right, I said complimentary pastries. They are served with all breakfast and lunch orders. It’s like a bread basket on crack. Honestly,  I would come here just for the free pastries, but that’s frowned upon.

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As we were eating here on Monday my friend made a great point about the food. She said,  “It’s so good because it’s simple”. And she’s right. Everything is home cooked in the most simple way and it is this simplicity that makes the food so delicious and comforting.

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Example A: Grampa’s French Toast. Whoever says that everything is bigger in Texas has never been to Florida and eaten Grampa’s french toast. Our omelets paled in comparison to my husband’s gigantic slices of deliciousness. This dish is made the way we expect french toast to be made. The familiarity of the flavors makes the meal even more enjoyable than it already is.

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The restaurant itself could definitely use an update but an update would just be sad. The outdated decor is part of the charm of Grampa’s Bakery and Restaurant. It’s the type of place that you can always count on to look the same. I am confident that 20 years from now Grampa’s Bakery and Restaurant will still look the same and taste the same. This makes aging a little easier for me.

Tierras Colombianas: Astoria

Tierras Colombianas was a childhood staple of mine. My father would take my sister and I here for father-daughter dates and special occasions. For approximately 15 years I have been ordering the same item off the menu, #14-the seasoned, grilled chicken breast with beans, rice and sweet plantains. Now, I’m not saying you have to order this but… Yeah, okay. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Order this and order this now.

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On Friday I celebrated my 28th birthday at Tierras Colombianas and It should be no surprise that I ordered #14, the perfect birthday meal. The #14 chicken breast is pounded thin and this thickness allows the seasoning to permeate all the way through. Once you eat chicken like this you won’t want it any other way. Inspired by this dish, I tried to tenderize and flatten my own chicken with a hammer. In case you’re wondering,  it doesn’t work. Tenderizers are worth the investment. Hammers are messy.

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The Latin flavors of the chicken are further enhanced by the side dishes. The perfectly salted rice and beans are accompanied by your choice of sweet plantains or tostones. I used to order tostones but my first taste of sweet plantains was a game changer. The sweet plantains are soft and moist, where as the tostones are dry and salty.  It is a difficult decision for the indecisive because they are both delicious in different ways. For those of you who suffer from indecisiveness, just get both. You can always start your diet tomorrow. YOLO!

Tierras Colombianas is located at 33rd and Broadway. Go check it out!

The Brick Café: Astoria

“Well, that was disappointing”, said the soggy ravioli to the under seasoned soup.

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A couple of years ago I celebrated a friend’s birthday at the Brick Café on 31st Ave in Astoria, NY. The food, drinks and service were all excellent! So tonight, when we couldn’t find parking near the restaurant of our choice, my husband and I defaulted to the Brick. We thought it was a safe bet…Wrong-o!

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The dim lighting and dark wood of the Brick Cafe is welcoming and cozy. The restaurant is split into two sections, the formal dining area and the bar. Both sections serve the same food. Since we were dressed like hobos, we decided to sit in the bar section. The bar has a great atmosphere and the drink selection is wide and varied. It’s too bad the food sucked tonight because everything else grade A, including the rating from the health department.

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The husband and I weren’t in the mood for full meals tonight. So we each had a soup, french onion for me and pea for him, and shared an order of fries and fried ravioli. Let me clear the pink elephant in the post. Yes. We have an appetite for fried, unhealthy food. Whew, felt good to get that off my chest! Okay, moving on…

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Let’s start with the soups.

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Both soups were highly under seasoned, and the pea soup was actually cold! Have you ever tasted cold pea soup? It’s not fun. Not fun at all. A good french onion soup should be salty and oozing with cheese. This one just didn’t have enough of either. It was like biting into a joy bar, when expecting a snickers. Disappointing and not worth the calories.

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The fried ravioli were the saddest part of the meal. The little guys had so much potential. They could have been something! Instead, they were soggy, little pockets of cheese. The rich filling and spicy sauce were DElicious but these flavors could not save the dish. Ah, it’s so sad when good flavors are wasted on poor execution.

And a yadda, yadda, yadda…I will only eat at the Brick again if there is a zombie apocalypse and it is the only restaurant within a 50 mile radius that I can raid for survival. Too harsh?

Chicken Soup for the Passive Aggressive Person’s Soul

Every day for the past eight years I have had the same conversation with my husband. It goes a little like this:

“Want _______ for dinner?”

“No, not really.”

No matter what meal is inserted into this daily conversation, “No” is always his response. He has not yet figured out that this question is completely rhetorical and what I’m really saying is, “This is what your having for dinner…and YA GONNA LIKE IT!”

Nevertheless, we have this discussion every day and today was no different. Around two o’clock I asked him, “Do you want chicken soup for dinner?”, and he responded with his usual reply of a prompt and definitive “No”. So I countered this with my usual response of ignoring his response and went to work on the soup.

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I used a recipe that was featured in Better Homes and Gardens in December 2012. Did I mention that I hoard magazines? Well, suprise! I hoard magazines! Add that to my list of desirable personality traits. Anyway The actual name of this recipe is Chicken Pot Pie Soup but in our house we call it a Bowl O’Passive Aggression.

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I followed this recipe almost exactly. The key word being almost. I had used the last of my chili powder on the damn , so I had to improvise a little. I did a quick google search for “chili powder substitutes” and found that cumin mixed with oregano makes a similar flavor. This was a great solution! I have cumin and oreg…? Shit, I didn’t have oregano either (womp, womp). So I improvised some more and decided that italian seasoning would work just fine. Oregano-Italian Seasoning. Tom8o-Tomotto. Same-Same.

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This soup really bit me in the ass because I didn’t enjoy the curry flavor too much BUT my husband La-oved it! He was oooohing and aaaaahing. It was great. This sweet victory was enough to satisfy my hunger… No, not really, I’m starving.

The [Sullivan’s] Diner: Horseheads

Two years ago my husband and I were visiting family in Elmira, NY when our 1999 Ford Taurus shit the bed. Instead of making the 250 mile trip back home as planned, we were forced to spend an extra day in good ole Western New York. I was thrilled, and by thrilled I mean pissed. I was trying hard to make lemonade out of lemons, so I put a smile on my face and said, “lets get breakfast!”
Getting breakfast in Elmira is much easier to do when you have a car. Luckily, the car shop was right next door to Sullivan’s Diner. At the time, Sullivan’s Diner was a rusting tin box. I was very hesitant to try it out but, needless to say, I was not overwhelmed with options.
Sullivan’s Diner turned out to be a pleasant surprise! The food was average and greasy, but the comfortable atmosphere offered us a nice refuge from the stress of our car problems.The place was so small that there was almost no option but to talk to other diners. Like any typical New Yorker, I usually prefer to be left alone. On this day, however, friendly conversation is exactly what I needed!

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Since that rainy day in 2011 Sullivan’s Diner has changed hands and “Sullivan” has been dropped from the name. The new owners have cleaned the place up and it looks better than ever! The metal is nice and Shiny, and the wooden edging that outlines the booths have been refinished. I’m sure the old regulars could care less about these alterations, but we visitors like them lots! My favorite addition to the interior is the marker for the water level of the Elmira flood of 1972.

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So many residents were effected by this travesty, including my mother in law who was pregnant with her first son at the time. She lost many personal items in this flood and has many a story to tell about the event. This marker is a subtle reminder of the strength of the Elmira community.
The new menu is more sparse than the original, but you can still find all of the foods that you expect at a diner. My biggest critique is that there is no fruit on the menu. Nothing! Nada! Nein! But like I said before, the attraction of this diner is not the food. It is the experience of being welcomed into a community of friendly people (who don’t eat fruit).

Burger Heaven: NYC

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Burger Heaven is truly a little piece of heaven on the corner of Lexington and 62nd street. Here, you can get an omelet with toast and potatoes for $7.95! Usually this type of deal comes with a warning from the board of health, but this place is clean, the food is great, and they offer two floors of dining to avoid overcrowding. A rare find in Manhattan.

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Burger Heaven is a loner’s paradise. Right now,  as I write, I am sitting alone in Burger Heaven and I feel totally comfortable! No one is rushing me out and the booths are a nice small size. In other words, if you choose to eat in a booth alone then you will not be the ass hole preventing the family of four with the crying baby from sitting.

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Please know that even Burger Heaven cannot keep out the pompous, brownstone owners, nor can they prevent them from talking once they’re inside. In that regards it is more of a purgatory than a heaven, but such is NYC.

The Dirty Mind of a Bored Cook

While sifting through my Betty Crocker cookbook, a guilty pleasure of mine, I started to have some dirty thoughts about these so-called recipes. Each one is a cheap porno flick waiting to happen!

Take the snickerdoodles, for example:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and make sure it’s hot because that’s what mama likes. Take a hard, wooden spoon and mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, shortening and eggs. mix it hard, real hard. What’s that? You’re all wet? Well, here come your friends to make it all better. Welcome to the party flour, cream of tartar (he’s naughty), baking soda and salt. Once the party gets started there should be nothing but wet balls. Roll these balls around in your hands and cover them in cinnamon and sugar. Bake these balls until they are nice and firm. Let cool and eat like this:

Okay! Okay! So I added the last part but you have to admit that it is pretty easy to relate to the wet mess waiting for the dry ingredients to get to the party. Come on! We’ve all been there! No? Okay, so maybe it’s only me then.