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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Yummy’ Category

Monday, December 20, 2010 @ 10:12 PM

101As I sit here all bundled up while the ice cold wind is whipping outside, I am fondly thinking back to our anniversary trip to Orlando and how wonderfully warm and sunny it was. I love how warm weather is great for so many things…sundresses, a tan, beers on the patio, and summery sweet treats; and what do I mean by summery sweet treats? Popsicles, ice cream, frozen yogurt… you name it.  And yes, I know these can all be enjoyed year round (believe me I DO) but they are a bit more enjoyable when it is not "bundle up" weather.  Still, I love ice cream and frozen yogurt, and if I’m being totally honest, I elevate them above most desserts.  I love its versatility, and Adam can attest at how I love just about any kind from McDonalds vanilla cones to the fancy-shmancy-trendy spots…which is the category our next feature definitely falls into.

Pinkberry took the frozen yogurt market by storm in 2005 and hasn’t looked back.  With more than 75 locations nationwide, it has introduced the public to what true yogurt SHOULD taste like, and in their words it’s “swirly goodness.”  What makes them stand out even more is that in the world of gluttony we live in, they have managed to introduce a hugely popular and tasty dish which is actually good for you.  Yes…a sweet treat that is good for you! This may be one of the few times we feature one 🙂 Their yogurt is all natural, with live cultures, 100 calories per 1/2 cup, and ALWAYS fat free!  And even better than that, you can add any amount of toppings you want and because most are super healthy and fresh too, the overall health of the dish does not increase much….Super! 

So, I pride myself on staying up on what is trendy and will be the first to admit that I read a lot of trashy magazines and what not…so I had definitely heard about this spot.  Because they started in L.A., it was only a matter of time until a smattering of celebrities jumped on the bandwagon; and it was not long before word spread, hence their growth to more than 75 locations.  Lucky for us, one of those locations is in Orlando and my keen senses spotted it while we were out driving one day.  I knew before our week was over that I would have to take the opportunity to try it while I could.  So when we had a free afternoon, we headed on over for a cool treat.

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When we walked in we were immediately greeted by a very friendly girl by the name Christine, who was super helpful, as I’m sure she could tell by our overwhelmed expressions that this was our first time.  Now they are known for their original yogurt, which is always available, but Pinkberry has come up with a wide variety of other flavors as well, all of which Christine was very willing to let us try before ordering. I finally settled upon chocolate with strawberries and dark chocolate bites, while Adam went with both their strawberry and original with crispy cereal and a yummy caramel sauce.

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Now in the past few years, many other yogurt joints that are very similar to the Pinkberry concept have also opened up, knowing a good concept when they see it no doubt, but we have tried a few ourselves and I can quote Adam when he says, “Pinkberry is where it is at.” I agree…I’m not sure this yogurt compares to anything I have ever had before…but in a good way!  Super creamy, yet light and still thick, which is always good.  I mean, how can you feel guilty about eating this?  It’s THAT good that you hardly can believe that it’s good for you.  Unfortunately this type of item would likely not do well in the marketplace we live in, but man…I wish it could because I would seriously go every day!

SIGNATURE DISH: One thing: Frozen Yogurt…Frozen Yogurt…Frozen Yogurt!  Lucky for us, they do that one thing very well and it is worth the visit for sure!

TASTE: I think it is safe to say that we enjoyed it immensely.  Typically we are reviewing whole meals, but this alone is SO good, it is worth a visit if you ever get the chance.  The yogurt is creamy and smooth without tasting funny or fake like a lot of frozen yogurt can.  It also has such a wide range of possibilities with a variety of fun flavors and what seems like endless toppings.

AMBIANCE: These yogurt spots are super trendy and very modern.  With the bold colors and simple shapes, it complements the whole "sweet treat" break.  For some it may feel stark, but I thought it fit well to the modern concept they are selling.

PRICE: It is a little more expensive than say a cone from McDonalds, but very reasonable and comparable to any other ice cream shop. I would say it is about the same as a sundae; and I think the price is well worth it in this case for the flavor and for the fresh ingredients you are being served.

SERVICE: Christine was an AWESOME part of our experience!  She was so sweet and bubbly and really helped us to appreciate the whole process.  She clearly loves the product and that really shown through. Thanks! 

I am always amazed at how things like cupcakes, frozen yogurt, burgers, etc. can go through trends, and these hot spots take off on a life of their own.  There have been some that I think are flops, but many of them (usually the starter of the trend) really take the time and effort to make a product they are proud of and one they know the public will enjoy.  As for Pinkberry, they are one of the latter and are definitely succeeding and doing a damn good job of it! For that reason, I award them 5 ‘Little Piggies’…Sweet!

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Friday, October 22, 2010 @ 01:10 PM

040It’s your lucky week folks…Because I was on vacation last week and unable to get a post out, this week you get to read up on two of pop culture’s culinary treasures.  And not only is there a double dose of PCC this week, but this next spot is straight from our very last whirlwind culinary adventure to and from Central Florida.

Knowing that we would be driving to Orlando, we figured it would be a great opportunity to incorporate some PCC worthy stops along the way.  So we studied our route and realized that we would be driving through Cincinnati right around lunch time on our first day, and if you lived in our household, you would know that Cincinnati holds something near and dear to Adam’s heart…chili!  But this ain’t your ordinary ol’ chili…no-no. This is Cincinnati chili, which is a VERY different concoction.  Not only does it differ in texture from a lot of chili out there, but it also has dramatically different tastes and is served in a unique way.  Standard Cincinnati chili has a variety of spices that are common to other chili recipes, but there are also a few key ingredients that truly change the flavor.  Although the exact amounts and types of ingredients are typically kept secret by the variety of restaurants that serve it, cinnamon and chocolate are well known key players. So to those of you who haven’t tried it, don’t go in thinking it is going to taste like “chili,” or you will be disappointed, because Cincinnati-chili just has such a different and amazing flavor.  The other thing that makes this chili stand apart is that it is most often served in a certain “way”…2-way, 3-way, 4-way, etc.  If you are unfamiliar, let me explain. This chili is most often served over spaghetti, making it a 2-way. Then a variety of ingredients can be added from beans to onions and most famously cheese.  A 3-way of chili, spaghetti, and cheese seems to be the most popular with the 4-way’s addition of onions coming in at a close second.  Coneys are also another very popular way to consume the chili…basically just an ultra flavorable and cheesy chili cheese dog.

Now Adam isn’t the only one who enjoys this dish in our family…I am a fan too thanks to my upbringing. My father is from Cincinnati and grew up eating it on a fairly regular basis. He actually even took my mom there when they first met to see if she liked it and would thus be a “keeper” :). Thus, I also grew up eating it on all of our visits back to my dad’s hometown, although I’m not sure I am quite as big of a fan as he is…at least I wasn’t. 😉

Growing up I had only ever heard of Skyline Chili.., a Cincinnati favorite and staple around the city, and what my dad lived off late nights in college.  Naturally when we would go back to visit, Skyline would be where we would stop.  Adam too had frequented the chain, having traveled a lot for work before he met me and had fallen in love with the stuff.  Lucky for us, you can buy cans of it at Kroger, and if I happen to be out of town you know what will be cooking at the Davis house. 🙂

That being said, I have to admit that I was not very open to trying other Cincinnati chili places. However, when we saw the following clip on Food Network’sDiner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives,” I knew I might have spoken to soon…

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Looks good don’t it?  This clip introduced us to Blue Ash Chili. Opened in 1969, they have been serving their famous though well-guarded Greek-style family made chili recipe to hungry locals non-stop (only two people know the recipe…the owners…and it was only passed down from owner to owner).  During our visit, we had the privilege of meeting Charlene, who now owns the popular restaurant with her husband.  She explained that when they bought Blue Ash a few years back, it had kind of been mistreated by its then owners. But not anymore…they have done a fantastic job bringing back the old regulars and new faithful followers alike; and with their amazing homemade chili and a million other delicious menu items, they are truly a contender for best Cincinnati-chili spot in the city.

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So we made it to Cincinnati and Blue Ash by lunch time on our first day of travel and after hitting the road bright and early at 6, we were definitely hungry.  It was definitely bustling inside the restaurant, but we were able to be seated right away and quickly attended to.  Of course we already knew what we would likely be ordering, but we still took a moment to peruse their very extensive menu; and although I knew what I wanted, from the looks of their gigantic and awesome looking club sandwiches (which they call ‘Double-Deckers’), I can tell you those items were not just on the menu as filler…plenty of people were ordering them and they looked delicious! (so I know what I’ll be ordering on my next visit ;))  Still, needing to test out the chili, Adam ordered a traditional 3-way and 2 cheese-coneys (his standard order) and I got a cheese-coney and cole slaw; and our waitress Anna had them out to us in a flash. It all looked almost too good to eat…almost ;)…

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That first bite sure took me back…as eating Cincinnati chili usually does, because until you have tried it, I can honestly say it’s unlike anything you have ever had before.  But there was definitely something different about this taste. Blue Ash’s chili is quite different than the Skyline I grew up eating, and the best way I can describe it is that is tasted…well….more homemade…fresh.  What stood out to me was how you could tell it was fresh and made in house, never frozen.  It was thicker and meatier than others I have tried, and you could taste the “chili” aspect, which I personally enjoyed a lot better.  I think this is because I typically eat coneys and I liked the fact that the chili was not as runny or messy.  Adam also greatly enjoyed it, and pretty much couldn’t stop thinking or talking about over the next week!

Maybe it was the mountain of cheese…maybe it was the REAL chili…maybe it was all of it together in a homemade way, but overall I was just so impressed with the environment and quality of the Blue Ash Chili product.  It truly felt like it was time honored and appreciated; and needless to say, by the end of our meal we were sufficiently stuffed!

SIGNATURE DISH: Definitely chiliI think the name of the restaurant speaks for itself…and chili they do have, from their coneys and Chili Philly (featured on Triple-D) to the 2-way through 6-way! They are even making lasagna with chili…come on!  I guess it clear to see that they aren’t afraid to tackle a dish with their signature chili. They know their chili is “where it’s at” and that means it can go on anything.

TASTE: I wish I could find the words to describe how much I liked this in better words than “I REALLY LIKE IT!  Of the two of us, I was just glowing after we left, because something about their chili was just better for me; and although I Adam really liked it…I LOVED it. You can’t beat the fresh, wholesome and good taste while still sticking to its good ol’ Cincinnati flavored roots.

AMBIANCE: I like the feel of this restaurant a lot. Typical of many of the other Cincinnati-chili staples in the area, Blue Ash felt like a diner would…but definitely updated.  Everything was clean, orderly, while still feeling like a good local hangout.  It was nice and buzzing at lunchtime, which added to the feeling of it being a place that people just want to frequent and hang, which I love.

PRICE: For 3 cheese-coneys, an order of cole slaw, a soda and a traditional 3-way…less than $15.00. That is AMAZING for two people for lunch!

SERVICE: I mentioned above that the service was very quick and very friendly.  Anna did a great job of answering our questions, checking in with us, and overall just being patient with the “out of town tourists.” We also had another server who was just as good, and Charlene was so sweet and just a joy to talk to.  It was great getting to know a bit about the restaurant straight from the source; and you could really tell just how much love she and her husband have for Blue Ash, and they convey that to their customers through providing a great product and working hard to please each and every person that comes through the door.

We had a wonderful visit at Blue Ash Chili and I really hope we can stop by for a visit again soon.  So if you’re looking for amazing food, wonderful service & hospitality, and a down-home yummy experience, I definitely recommend Blue Ash Chili.  I am happy to give Blue Ash Chili 4 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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Thursday, April 22, 2010 @ 08:04 AM

Jasper's

It’s no secret that I love ribs.  In fact, I’ve made it one of my life goals to try as many of the “best” ribs this world has to offer; and living in the DFW area, there is no shortage of BBQ joints to try, and even some non-BBQ places as it turns out.  Jasper’s in Plano, TX (North suberb of Dallas) is one of those places. 

My dad is also a bit of a foodie and is always on the lookout for great new spots to try, often based on reviews he’s read in various publications.  So when my parents moved to Plano a few years back, he instantly heard about Jasper’s, which literally happens to be just down the street from their home; and when Bon Appetit magazine released it’s “Top American Restaurants” list in 2008, and Jasper’s was #2 on their list of ‘Best BBQ Ribs (Pork),’ we all knew it was an instant must visit. 

It just happened that Adam’s birthday fell right in the midst of our own move to Plano two years ago, and Jasper’s instantly came to mind as a fitting birthday dinner.  Well, let’s just say that first visit surpassed expectations and we have since been back a few more times, our most recent coming a couple of weeks ago, and happens to be the only visit since the beginning of PCC.  Therefore, I’ve chosen to primarily feature that visit in my review of Jasper’s this week. 

Located at the ‘Shops at Legacy’ complex in Plano, Jasper’s is the creation of well known Dallas based chef Kent Rathbun, whose first restaurant, Abacus, is also a popular dining attraction in DFW.  Jasper’s (along with Rathbun’s other restaurants) is well known for it’s gourmet approach to “backyard” cuisine…basically your go to BBQ & backyard grill-out favorites kicked up a notch for presentation, flavor, and creativity.  It is because of that unique factor that Esquire Magazine named Jasper’s one of its “20 Best New Restaurants in America” in 2003 (along with, as previously mentioned, Bon Appetit’s distinction in 2008).  In addition to his food being featured in a variety of publications, Rathbun and his brother (a chef in Atlanta) have also been featured on a variety of television programs, including competing against Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America;” and HE WON….

HE BEAT BOBBY FLAY…CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT! 

Needless to say, I was pretty hyped up to try Jasper’s out the first time; and now after being there a time or two, and with it’s upscale location (Shops at Legacy), I always get excited when I get to dress up and go out for a “nice” meal.  This night was no exception, although I may have gone a bit overboard….whatcha think? 😉

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What brings such energy to Rathbun’s restaurants comes from his idea of how a meal should be enjoyed and his experienced background working for various high-end restaurants in and around Dallas; and having been there before, we both already had a sense of what to expect.  Being an extremely popular place, the only reservation I could get was at 9 p.m.! :(  Yes people…be prepared to wait or call ahead if you want to eat there during prime times, and you could be like us, make a reservation and STILL have to wait a bit for a table!  Oh well…gave us time to enjoy a little drinky-drink and do some people watching (which is ALWAYS a good time in Plano! :)). 

So by 9:30, we were one drink in (just look at my little Rico Suave :)), and getting a little impatient.  We were a little surprised that it was taking so long because in our past experiences, we had never had a problem getting seated on time, but they seemed especially chaotic that night.  Needless to say, although it was late, by the time we finally sat down to eat, I was really hungry; and after perusing the menu, I knew I wanted to start with Priscilla’s Sink Salad.  Also, luckily for Adam, they were featuring his favorite soup, Beer Cheese; and being a “special night,” we opted to order the Maytag Blue Cheese Potato Chips to share.

002 004 010 The salad was delicious!  It reminded me of a greek salad with a little more pizazz.  All the flavors came together so well, and I eagerly cleaned my plate.  Adam loved his soup, yet again, and was so happy that each time we have visited it just happens to be the feature soup.  Uniquely topped with popcorn, it is a rich, creamy, delicious cheesy goodness lovers dream!  And those blue cheese chips…I’m not typically a fan of bleu cheese, but these are down right yummy!  I sought out the ones not smothered in cheese, but they are salty, thin, crispy, chips with a hint of that bleu (feet) cheese flavor that is to die for…they didn’t stand a chance against us! 

We already knew that the ribs were legendary, but having ordered them on other occasions, I felt compelled to try something new (bad idea Katie!)…Texas Peach Barbecued Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Creamed Sweet Corn.  Adam was not in the mood for changing up a good thing, so he went with the award winning Barbecued Baby Back Ribs and “Baked Potato” Salad.

016014 I have to admit that when they sat Adam’s ribs in front of him, I knew I was going to be disappointed. :(  There is just something about how they are presented and that potato salad…just plain awesome.  I just knew that nothing was going to come close to beating that for me.  Still, not one to judge before I take a bite, I happily dug into my meal; but being after 10 at this point and having devoured my salad and those chips, I have to say I was no longer all that hungry.  I did take a few bits of the pork, but as I feared…I was disappointed.  I was expecting more of a peach flavor, and frankly I had a really hard time finding any.  Also, the pork was a bit spicy for my tastes and I think actually distracted from the overall flavor.  Finally, the creamed corn was like no creamed corn I had ever had.  I’m not sure there was any cream in it at all (although once I told my mind what it really was, I actually really enjoyed it.  It is a whole melding of sweet and spicy and salty tastes that came together quite well).  I may have snuck a few bites of Adam’s Potato Salad too :), which he was actually disappointed with this time around. :(  Having had them before, I am not going to take away from the good review I have had of them, but I would agree with him that this time they were a bit overcooked. 

Now I mentioned that they seemed a bit overwhelmed that evening, and although I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, I won’t completely fault them for how the food was this time around.  Because as I’ve eluded to, the ribs have been fantastic every other time.  I’m talking about “fall off the bone” good, but still with that slight pull you want so they are not complete mush.  They are excellently seasoned and the sauce complements them perfectly.  I have tried a lot of ribs and so far I must admit, in my lifetime…Jasper’s have been my favorite!  So although we were disappointed with our meal that evening, I know we would go back again in an instant. 

Regardless, the main courses didn’t totally ruin our evening.  I still enjoyed my company tremendously (Wink, Wink), and the night ended on a very happy note…with the BEST chocolate martini I have ever had!  It is a work of art and dessert in a glass…

020022 I want to be fair for my review of Jasper’s, because it is truly a great restaurant that I’ve enjoyed on multiple occasions; and having worked in the restaurant industry, I know there are sometimes “off” nights.  Therefore, I chalk our last visit up to one of those. 

So for those of you wanting to visit Jasper’s and are looking for their signature dish, I would say it is definitely the ribs.  Even talking to people around town, these ribs are well known and well worth it.   Outside of the lone pork dish (which ultimately made an out-of-this-world Cuban sandwich the next day :)), their food is outstanding.  Between the ribs, sides, and starters, I am totally won over by their food. 

The ambiance….well, it’s superb.  Being an upscale restaurant, they’ve definitely put some effort into the decor, and it shows.  Most of the restaurant has a dark sultry feeling that is flanked by wonderful dim mood lighting for the seating areas.  There is a wonderful mix of at home comfort and high-end appeal; and for you ladies like me who like to get all dolled up and make the scene, this is the place to do it.  Their service is typically above and beyond and they make sure you are always taken care of.  That evening our server was sub par (a little TOO formal as well) and I would again chalk that up to them being swamped and possibly understaffed.  Still, typically be prepared to be totally taken care of. 

Finally…their prices (EEEKK!).  This is honestly where I think most people are thrown by Jaspers.  To say that It is a bit pricey is an understatement!  Their entrees, (although fitting for its location, the type of crowd it draws, and its ambiance) typically run between $20-30.  Definitely a little salty, huh?  That being said, I think for a special occasion where you still want a decent amount of food for your dollar, this is a great spot.  Also, there are special nights during the week where they offer some of their signature items at a reduced price…definitely something to look out for. 

So looking at Jasper’s as a whole for all our visits…I love this place!…and give them 4 1/2 Little Piggies.

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