Archive | July, 2010

Seasoned Pork Steak with Grilled Onion and Tomatillo Salsa

Before today, I have never eaten a pork steak.  To be honest, I didn’t even know that one existed.  When shopping at Wegman’s Grocery in Lakewood, NY I was checking out the packaged meats and came across a bone-in pork steak.  This thing is huge and only cost about four bucks.  It looked a bit fatty and I was concerned that the meat might be tough.  I was right on the fatty and wrong on the tough part.  I think that the fat made the meat incredibly juicy. 

I wouldn’t go out and get a bunch of these pork steaks to serve to company, however, because there is a little trimming that needs to be done when you are eating this giant hunk of meat.  It shouldn’t be describe it as sinew, but there are some parts that are a little tricky to eat.  The bone itself (at least on the two that we cooked) is in the shape of a wishbone at one end.  The meat between these bones was a bit on the rare side due to being between two bones.  To cook it longer might make the rest of the steak overdone.  It’s a tricky one to cook, to say the least.  But, being so cheap, I say toss it on the grill and see what happens.  Live and learn, right?

The steak itself doesn’t have a ton of flavor, so you need to add it.  You can smack this pig around with some big seasoning, so don’t be shy.  Since we made it in the summer, it was very simply prepared with a little lime, basic seasonings and some heat.  No need to go marinating forever on this cut, it is tender enough on its own.  After it is cooked, smother it in the tomatillo salsa and add in some of the grilled onions for a really good bite.  Here’s how to do it:

Makes 2 big ass steaks and fixens

Ingredients for the steak

2 bone-in pork steaks, brought to room temperature
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne powder
Chile powder
1 lime, juiced
Salt & Fresh cracked pepper

Ingredients for the grilled onions

4 bamboo skewers, soaked in water
2-3 sweet field onions or small vidalia onions

Make 1 recipe of Tomatillo Salsa

Turn your grill to high heat. 

After washing and drying the pork steaks, coat them with the lime juice.  Salt and pepper the steaks.  Next, season the pork steaks liberally with the onion, garlic and chile powders.  Sprinkle the cayenne powder on to your liking.  I spray the steaks with olive oil just before I toss them on the grill as well.

Cut the onion into 1/2 to 3/4 inch disks.  Put them on a skewer to prevent the onion from falling apart on the grill.  Spray with olive oil on both sides and add salt and pepper.  Put these on the grill now as they will take longer to cook than the pork steaks.  This is a great time to make the tomatillo salsa.

After about 10 minutes of cooking, it is time to add the pork steaks to the grill.  Cook them for a total of 12 minutes, flipping and turning every 2-3 minutes for nice grill marks.  Turn the onions every now and again as well.  When the pork is finished, make sure that it rests for about 5 minutes to unlock the juices.

Put the steak on a plate, top with the onions and tomatillo salsa for a really unique flavor experience.  This recipe would go great with some grilled corn on the cob or even some grilled zucchini.  We enjoyed it with a couple Tecate’s with lime because it is that kinda summer.  Hope that you enjoy it as well.

Smack this pig around with some serious flavor. Photo by Scott Groth

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Tomatillo Salsa

Here’s a quick post on how to make my version of tomatillo salsa.  This is an easy and delicious topping for pork, chicken or seafood.  Goes great on tacos or fajitas as well.  Play around with the ingredients to make it as hot as your palette will handle.  Keep in mind that a tomatillo is not just a green tomato.  It has a completely different consistency and a more tart flavor when used green.  If you let them ripen for a while, they will turn more sweet.  Remember that the papery casing should always be discarded prior to use.

For those of you who don’t like raw onion, have no fear with this recipe. The lime and tomatillo really cancel out the raw onion flavor. It is a well balanced salsa that just tastes fresh.  A couple variations to this recipe would be to add tomato, jalapeno, roasted red peppers or mango.  Each would give this salsa a different flavor profile that would go with different dishes.  Play around with it to find the one that you like the most.

Makes 1 cup of Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients

4 medium green tomatillos, papery skin removed
1/2 medium to large white or vidalia onion, chopped rough
1/4 bunch cilantro
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1 lime, juiced
lime zest
1 large or 2 medium poblano peppers, cored and seeded
Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste

Start by washing off the lime well and zesting 1/2 of it. Remove the core of the tomatillo and chop roughly. Add the tomatillo, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and zest to a food processor or blender. Process until finely chopped, but not liquid. There should be some texture here.

Give the poblano peppers a fine chop. These will give the salsa some crunch, so don’t go too fine. In a bowl, combine the tomatillo mixture and the poblano peppers. Add salt and pepper. Mix. Up the ante with as much heat as you would like.

Serve this salsa just after you have made it for maximum freshness. Kool & The Gang would agree that this is fresh as a summer breeze. Eat it!

tomatillo cilantro salsa

A salsa showcasing the freshness of summer. Photo by Scott Groth

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Guppys Restaurant in Bemus Point, New York

I think that we passed by Guppy’s Tavern about a hundred times before we decided to give it a shot.  Not sure why, we were just trying other places around lake Chautauqua and really weren’t up near their restaurant too often.  When we moved, it is just a short distance from our house so we decided to give it a try.  We were really pleasantly surprised when we walked in the door. 

The interior is very cozy and we were greeted by Christy, one of the owners.  After the food was ready, Christy’s husband Doug brought it to our table.  We had a really good conversation about the restaurant as well as the area.  For those of you around the lake, it is important to know that Guppy’s is open year round.  Most of the restaurants close in October and don’t open again until April or May.  It’s nice to have someplace to go in the dead of winter after a long day of skiing.  This is a snowmobile haven as well.

This year, they opened a huge covered patio outside.  Although we have not yet sat out there, we have checked it out and it is really nice.  When it was being built, Doug said that in the winters they would have a fire pit out there for people to sit around which is a really nice touch as well.

The food is pretty good.  My favorite dish is the hog wings, which are pork shanks slow cooked and covered in a tangy barbecue sauce.  They are fall off the bone good and the flavor is just delicious.  We have had their BBQ chicken a couple times and it is hit or miss.  The days it is on it is juicy and the days it is off are dry.  The ribs are ok, not as tender as I would have thought, but still have good flavor.  Caroline has had the pulled pork sandwich many times.  I think that speaks for itself, but I will add that it is exactly how a pulled pork sandwich should taste if you are not from the South.  This is slow cooked, not smoked, so we love it.

Their marinara sauce is home made and is pretty good.  The meat lasagna is fantastic and just about all of the stromboli we have tried are really delicious.  The meatballs are off the hook, but they definitely give some indigestion to everyone who has eaten them.  We’ve had the chicken parm and it is cooked just right, has enough cheese to satisfy and the sauce keeps it lively.  On our last visit there with friends, Linda tried the Portabella & Cheese ravioli which she said were very good.  I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the dishes listed so far.

If you are into fried foods, the fish fry is pretty good as is the Whaler Sandwich.  I would avoid the french fries.  They taste like Ore-Ida Golden Crinkle frozen fries.  Just too much potato.  They would kill if they had a curly fry or a crisp house made french fry.  Instead of the fries, we order a double shot of the coleslaw.  It’s straightforward and tasty. 

Almost all of the appetizers are good with my favorite being the Crabby Dip.  It’s pretty tasty.  The cheesy garlic bread is the bomb.  We have not had their wings since we hold out for the crispy wings at Casino. 

There is a full bar and it is nice that they have some local brews on tap.  The Southern Tier beers are quite good and I have been enjoying them all summer.  They always have Yuengling beer on tap which suits me just fine if the seasonal brews sound a little too funky for my taste.  When you are at the bar or a table, expect that you will get your drinks fast and always correct.  That’s a hard find around the lake.

All told, this place is pretty good with very friendly staff.  The tables are always filled and it is nice to see the owners making sure that everything is running smoothly.  Most nights their specials are tasty and every night if you get there past 6:30, you will have to wait for a table.  I think that speaks the loudest for a restaurant that is off the beaten path: every night we pass by, the parking lot is packed full.  So, when you have had your fill of overpriced food at the Italian Fisherman or straight-up bar food at Casino, be sure to drive up 430 about 3/4 of a mile and check out Guppy’s Tavern.  You’ll be happy that you did.

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Italian Fisherman in Bemus Point, NY

Caroline and I have eaten at the Italian Fisherman in Bemus Point, NY many times over the past eight years we have been coming to Chautauqua. Each time I am newly surprised by the poor quality of the food and astronomical pricing as we worked our way around the menu. I understand that it is a tourist trap, but they should have a little bit of pride in the food that they are serving.  The least expensive appetizer is $13 for 2 ravioli, which seems a bit steep.  They have a “little wedge” salad for $9.  Iceberg lettuce with some blue cheese dressing and crumbled egg.  You be the judge, but the prices are high for a little boating town.

This year, I stopped back at the Italian Fisherman with some friends of ours who were in from Boston. We did the walk around Bemus and stopped in at a few of the small shops. Since I was just feeling better from the salmonella bout, I thought it would be fun for us to have a couple drinks on the floating dock at Italian Fisherman. I had my diatribe all ready to go “we’ll just have drinks because the food here is terrible and super expensive for what you get.” Well, that ended when Justin and I walked in and witnessed quite possibly the largest plate of nachos we had ever seen. When you see a plate like that, it brings out the inner-caveman who needs a club to beat the table to let everyone else know that you have ordered such an undertaking. I knew that grunting would be appropriate when eating these nachos.

Justin and I ordered some beers and the giant plate of nachos while we waited for Linda to arrive from one of the shops in town. Jackson was keeping busy going through the pot of utensils and plates which was in the middle of the table. We both ordered Southern Tier’s Hop Sun. It is a seasonal beer made in Lakewood, NY which is about 20 minutes from where we were having lunch. The Hop Sun is a very refreshing, hoppy beer. The color is a very nice light gold and it has notes of citrus and wheat.  It is a really good summer beer.  If you find it, I would recommend picking up a sixer.

Linda arrived just before our nachos landed at the table. When they did, everyone was a little wide-eyed. The nacho’s are different than anything I had seen before, not just because of the size. The chips are made from Italian pasta. I am assuming that they cut triangles of pasta dough and fry them. Whatever they do, they are really tasty.  Crisp and light is hard to do when combined with the word “fried.” The chips are mounded high and smothered in the asiago cream cheese sauce. This sauce is rich, evenly applied throughout the pile and goes very well with the chips. Interspersed throughout the nacho mound is ground Italian sausage with black olives and green onion. What really stands out are the huge slices of banana pepper covered in shredded cheese. I could write a thousand words on this, but I think that in this case, a picture is just better. The nachos are almost as big as Jackson!

We thought that we would never make it through the pile of food, but after some serious grunting and belly rubbing we managed to get it down. Although I will not recommend Italian Fisherman overall to anyone going to Bemus Point or Chautauqua until I give the menu another shot, I can say that if you want a cold drink and some really delicious nachos, check out the floating bar at the Italian Fisherman. These nachos are sure to please.

Jack loves Italian Nachos from Italian Fisherman. Photo courtesy of Linda Peacock

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Sophia’s Restaurant in Buffalo, New York

About six months ago, I was watching the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network.  Although I really can’t stand Guy Fieri, the places that he visits on this show really appeal to me.  On the particular episode that I was watching they showed a five minute clip of a restaurant in Buffalo that caught my eye.  The restaurant is called Sophia’s and it specializes in Greek cuisine.  Check out the clip from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives:  Sophia’s Restaurant.

The first time I tried to stop at Sophia’s several months ago, it was closed.  It was a Monday and I should have known better.  My friend Jamie and I were in Buffalo scouting out some equipment at the time which happened to be in Buffalo.  While we were there, I suggested that we hit up Sophia’s.  Jamie checked it out and decided that there were enough vegetarian options to stop, so we did.  Sam, the restaurant owner, answered the door to let us know they were closed and sent us to his cousin’s restaurant.  That afternoon, we ate at Nick’s Restaurant, which was excellent, inexpensive and had huge portions.  We sat at the counter and enjoyed about six different dishes that we just had to order.  All-in-all, we had a really good time at Nick’s and I would suggest it to anyone looking for a good spot in Buffalo.

This past weekend, Caroline and I had her brother Alexi and some good friends in from Boston for the holiday weekend.  The closest major airport to Chautauqua is Buffalo, so I thought that perhaps it would be a good plan to try Sophia’s again while we were in the neighborhood.  Earlier that week, I sent through the link to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with the clip about Sophia’s to see if anybody had an interest in stopping here on the way home.  Everyone agreed and a plan was formed.  Unfortunately for me, on the way to pick everyone up the last stand of my salmonella decided that it would plague my gut, so I had to take it easy at the restaurant.  The group, however, did a pretty good job of sampling around the breakfast menu.

Sophia’s is not a good looking restaurant from the outside.  It is some shade of beat-up gray with a bruised red trim.  It’s got the Buffalo grime which is a result of hard winters with lots of salt.  The parking lot once was gravel but is mainly dirt now.  On our way in, Justin said “well, I can see now that it is a dive.”  Man, I just hope that the food is good.  Once you walk into the restaurant, it is a completely different story.  The interior is sparse with inexpensive diner booths and chairs but looks extremely clean.  The walls are covered in either pictures of Guy Fieri or gold-gilded pictures of religious figures who are unknown to me.  The air smells delicious with hints of sweet maple syrup, breakfast meats and fresh toast.  Yumm.

Sam was behind the counter cooking up a storm in his Got Breakfast t-shirt and latex glove covered hands.  His mother, Sophia, was assisting in the kitchen.  Everyone else working at the restaurant is sure to be family, but that is an unsubstantiated observation.  Just feels that way from being in the restaurant that everyone working there is related.  We choose a booth that looks out to an automotive repair shop surrounded by a chain link fence.  There is a hat tacked to the wall with a message from Guy Fieri written in silver ink on the brim with something like “Your restaurant is off da hook!”  A small picture of Sugar Ray Leonard is in a frame behind the ketchup bottle and Franks Red Hot.  This is a real American diner and I love it.  Reminds me of a lot of places I frequented with my grandfather as a kid. 

Let’s get into the food.  Justin ordered the corned beef has with a couple eggs.  Prior to ordering, we had a discussion on whether the hash would be home made or from a can.  I insisted that everything was scratch made, I mean the guy makes his own bread!  My optimism was met with some sceptical looks, but he ordered it anyhow.  The hash came out of a can, which was disappointing, especially to me.  It was somewhat disguised because it was mixed in with the home fries which are really delicious and have a crust on them like I have never seen before.  I am not sure how hard it is to make your own corned beef hash, but if Sam could figure that out, this would be a winning dish. 

Linda ordered the omelette with gryo meat, tomatoes and feta (as seen in the picture to this posting- thank you Linda for providing the shot.)  Should be called the Greek Delicious Omelette. She also received a side of the hash browns, which you can see have this really dark crust with a super crunch.  They are not burned, just really browned. The portion sizes are just huge, so you will not leave Sophia’s feeling hungry.  She loved her omelette and the home fries as well.  I had never seen gyro meat in an omelette before and it really appealed to me.  Mental note for the next time I encounter this combination on a menu.

Alexi decided on an omlette, I believe, but I don’t remember which one (sorry).  What I do remember is that he joined the clean plate club, so it had to be good.

My breakfast was just straightforward.  Two eggs over hard with cheddar, four slices of the home made toast and a side of the hash browns.  There were a couple orders of the home made toast at the table.  After watching the bread made fresh on the clip from Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives how could you not order it?  The one big disappointment with the home made toast was the size of the slice itself.  It was sliced thin like a Pepperidge Farm loaf.  Made it hard to contain the eggs and cheese when I made my breakfast sandwich.  Felt as though the bottom would fall right out.  We were all hoping for thick slices, toasted to the perfect brown and slathered in just enough real butter to make the first bite irresistible.  Don’t get me wrong here, the bread was good, but it could be so much better.  Like everyone else, I loved the hash browns. 

As we left Sophia’s the conversation ensued on the quality of the breakfast.  The high points were discussed and some of the disappointments were “hashed” through (sorry for the terrible pun, but it had to be done.)  Overall, we were glad that we stopped, but decided that it was not the best diner breakfast that any of us had experienced.  We did discuss that for lunch it might be a very good option to try again.  The fried bologna sandwiches look better in person than they do on the show (yes, people were ordering them at 9A on a Friday morning.)  If you live in Buffalo and have not tried this restaurant, you need to put it into the rotation.  The hash browns alone are worth the effort.  In my book, Sophia’s gets a solid B+ and would have been an A- if the bread was cut just a bit wider.

gyro omlette with home fries or hash browns

Sophia's Gyro Omelette and hash browns. Photo courtesy of Linda Peacock.

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