Tasty Tuesday–Three Broomsticks

For the first time ever, I’m reviewing a restaurant in a theme park! This is very unusual for me, mostly because we haven’t really gone to a theme park before this summer (unless you count Six Flags, which I don’t). But while we were at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Fab Five and I ate lunch at Three Broomsticks, which is in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade area of the park, and we enjoyed our meal so much, I thought it deserved to be shared!

The atmosphere, like everything else in both Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas, is perfect. You really feel like you’re in one of the books or movies, eating in a restaurant in an actual village called Hogsmeade. The place was crowded, and we did have to wait in line, but it moved efficiently, the staff was very friendly, and we had so much fun looking around, it made the time pass quickly.

On to the food. I had assumed that theme park food would be only ok, and the portions would be small, but I was wrong about both. The fish and chips, which Bunny and I both ordered, were excellent…among the best I’ve ever had, and they even had malt vinegar on the tables, which made it even better. Turkey ordered a smoked turkey leg, which he really enjoyed. Ladybug felt the same about the chicken legs she ordered from the children’s menu. And Moose and Chickadee both liked the mac ‘n’ cheese, and the serving was so generous, I could hardly believe it…I can’t think of another restaurant I’ve been to (aside from Red Robin and their bottomless mac ‘n’ cheese refills), that dishes out such a large portion…and there were grapes and applesauce to go with it! The butterbeer, a staple in Harry’s world, was pictured at the Leaky Cauldron, but is also available at Three Broomsticks, and was delicious. Very sweet, but also quite refreshing…we’ve already figured out how to make a copycat recipe at home!

I won’t lie…the prices were pretty high for us. But I don’t think they were unreasonable, given the experience, the quality of the meal, and the amount of food we received. If we ever find ourselves back at Universal, I would happily eat another meal at Three Broomsticks!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: The Hawaiian

You would think that by now, Beast Craft BBQ would have run out of new combinations with which to tempt me.

You’d be wrong.

On Saturday, Beast introduced a new sandwich: The Hawaiian. It included pulled pork, smoked pineapple, and a jalapeño, cilantro, onion, and lime slaw. It sounded so good. But I was strong, and let it pass me by.

Until the next day, when it was on the menu again, and my resolve crumbled.

This sandwich is amazing. It’s even better than I thought it would be, and my expectations, because I know Beast so well, were high. The pulled pork, which I’ve had before, was as delicious as always. The slaw was just the right amount of spicy. And the smoked pineapple added the perfect extra something to the sandwich. I can only hope it appears on the menu again, because it was delicious!

Tasty Tuesday–The Original Rainbow Cone

Over the last few years, we’ve introduced the children at a lot of Chicago’s culinary specialties while we were up north. This year, I decided we should indulge in the famous “Rainbow Cone,” a well-known treat that I had never even had myself! I was relieved to see that the prices weren’t too bad, and the ice cream was delicious. They also get bonus points for offering an allergy option, which replaces the pistachio and Palmer House flavors with something nut free, so Moose could enjoy one, too!

This was a welcome treat on a hot day, and I think we might have to go back in the future, because everybody loved it!

Tasty Tuesday–Spinach-Artichoke Pasta

I wanted to make pasta on Mother’s Day, and I wanted that pasta to include artichokes somehow. This is what I came up with, and to my great surprise, it was a huge hit! You could also add some cooked, shredded chicken to the sauce if you want a heartier meal.

  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 14 oz. cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 oz. capers, drained
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 16 oz penne pasta with 1 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water to desired doneness.  Reserve 1 cup of the water and drain pasta.
In a large pot, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Once hot, add spinach and stir until slightly wilted. Transfer wilted spinach to a colander and drain.
Add 4 Tbsp. butter to the same pot along with 4 oz cream cheese, 8 oz. sour cream, and 1 cup parmesan and stir until everything melts and starts to bubble. Add minced garlic.
Stir in drained artichokes and capers and cook an additional 1-2 minutes, then add drained spinach, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook until hot then toss in the cooked, drained pasta. Stir in reserved pasta water to thin sauce if desired. Serve with additional shredded parmesan.

Tasty Tuesday–Schnitzel and Spätzle and Strudel…Oh My!

It seemed like we waited over 400 years for the Belleville Hofbräuhaus to open, but they are finally fully operational. Of course, we had anxiously anticipated eating at this restaurant since the day we heard they were going to build it, and now we’ve been there twice in two weeks! That was kind of an anomaly, because of a birthday celebration, so I think it will be awhile before we go back, but I’m excited to share our experience(s)!

First of all, the restaurant is HUGE. It is billed as the largest Hofbräuhaus in America (30,000 square feet!!!), but you don’t really get just how big it is from driving by…you really have to go inside to  understand its grand scale!

In addition to seating for 450 in the restaurant (and that doesn’t even count the banquet room), there’s also an outdoor biergarten that can seat over 200, and the weather is finally nice enough for diners to enjoy it!

Both times we went, there was live music. Since they bring musicians in from Europe every month, we got to see two different bands (one in April and one in May), and both were great…I think we heard all of our German favorites, including “Edelweiss,” “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken,” and “Roll out the Barrel.” We also enjoyed the sounds of the alphorn the first time we visited.

The brewery is a big part of the operation, and they are always brewing several varieties of beer (according to the Reinheitsgebot), including a seasonal selection.

Of course, the main attraction is the food (ok, depending on who you ask, because some people are there for the beer!), and the menu is quite extensive:

We tried two different appetizers…Bayerischer Raditeller (shaved radishes and rye bread) and a jumbo pretzel with Obatzda cheese, sweet mustard, and onion mustard. Both were excellent!

We tried quite a few main courses over our two visits, as well. Pictured here is Schnitzel Wiener Art, Kartoffelpuffer, the special “sausage tower,” Sauerbraten, Schweinebraten, Bavarian potato salad, and my personal favorite, Paniertes Jägerschnitzel (with spätzle, of course!). Ryan said it’s the best schnitzel he’s had outside of Vienna!

We tried three beers over the two visits, as well…Märzen, Dunkel, and Maibock:

We even had a dessert, and let me tell you, the Apfelstrudel is AMAZING!!!

Did I mention that the servers wear German national dress?

There’s even a small gift shop, where they have a variety of beer glasses, imported candy, and other German novelties:

After waiting so long for the Hofbräuhaus to open, I was a little worried it might not live up to the hype, but in my opinion at least, it really does. It feels just like I imagine a real German bierhall does, and the atmosphere, with the music, the lederhosen, and the enthusiastic diners just reinforces that feeling. It’s a great experience, and I’m already looking forward to whenever we might get to go back!

Tasty Tuesday–Bow-tie Pasta with Sausage and Tomatoes in a Cream Sauce

  • 1 12 oz. box bow-tie pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lbs. ground pork sausage
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water  until al dente; drain.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage and pepper flakes until sausage is evenly brown. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Deglaze pan with white wine. Stir in tomatoes, cream, Italian seasoning, and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through.

Tasty Tuesday–Lamb Stew

I tried a new lamb stew recipe for Easter dinner, and even though I hadn’t made it before, I made some changes to it as I went along. We were all very happy with the results, so it’s going in the permanent file!

  • oz. bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
  • lbs. boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt for the lamb, plus 1 tsp. for stew
  • 1 tsp. black pepper for lamb, plus 1/2 tsp. for stew
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 2/3 cups red wine
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 4 cups beef broth or stock
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 1/2 lbs. small yellow potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lb. baby carrots, cut in half on the diagonal
  1. In a 5 qt. oven-safe dutch oven, saute chopped bacon over medium heat until browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a large plate.

  2. While bacon cooks, season lamb pieces with 1/2 Tbsp. salt and 1 tsp pepper. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup flour and toss to coat. Cook lamb in two batches in hot bacon grease over medium heat until browned then transfer to the plate with bacon.

  3. Add diced onion to the bacon grease and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 2/3 cups wine, scraping the bottom to deglaze. Add sliced mushrooms, bring to a simmer then cook uncovered 10 minutes. While mushrooms are simmering, preheat oven to 325.

  4. Return bacon and lamb to pot and add 4 cups broth, 1 Tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. dried tarragon, and 2 bay leaves. Stir in potatoes and carrots, making sure potatoes are submerged in liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover and transfer to preheated oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. When done, potatoes and lamb will be very tender.

Tasty Tuesday–Shogun

Last week I took Turkey out for an early birthday dinner at a restaurant he’s really been wanting to eat at…Shogun!

Shogun is a Japanese restaurant that has a traditional dining room, a sushi bar, and a teppanyaki menu. The interior of the restaurant looked exactly like I hoped it would, with lots of cherry blossoms, bamboo, and even a fountain:

We started off with a sashimi plate, and all of the varieties of fish on it were excellent. I liked the salmon best, and Turkey liked the white fish (we’re not entirely sure what it was) the most, but they were all so good!

Our dinners came with soup and salad, and while I don’t know exactly what kind of soup it was, or what variety of salad dressing we were served, I know that they were both delicious. So was the drink I tried (the Buddha)…it was very tropical!

The best part of the experience was watching the chef prepare our meal. Not only was he a great cook, he was also funny, and a great showman. He even tried to flip pieces of food into Turkey’s mouth while he was cooking!

Turkey ordered the filet and lobster tail, and I had the filet and scallops. We both also got vegetables, fried rice, and shrimp with our meals. It was a lot of food! Everything was cooked just right, and seasoned well.

Even though we were full, and had to get takeout boxes to bring home part of our dinners, we had to try the mochi ice cream for dessert. Turkey had the green tea variety, and I had the red bean. They were both fantastic!

This was a really fun, unique, and delicious experience, and a great way to celebrate Turkey’s birthday!

Tasty Tuesday–The Best of Beast!

I’m still super excited that Beast Craft BBQ made the top 20 of Ian Froeb’s “STL 100” restaurant list, and was named the “best barbecue restaurant in the St. Louis area” on that list! I thought today, it would be fun to take a look back at all of the amazing meals I’ve had at Beast over the last three-plus years:

Some of the items pictured are from when Beast was just starting out, and don’t really appear on the menu anymore. Some are rather new addition’s to Beast’s menu, and are available regularly. And a few have been there from the beginning, and are such favorites that they’re menu staples. They all have one thing in common, though, and that’s how delicious they are!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Wagyu Beef Eater

Last Saturday morning, I woke up to discover that the St. Louis-Post Dispatch had published Ian Froeb’s “STL 100” restaurant list online, a day ahead of the print version coming out in the paper. I always look forward to this list, because I like to see what food in St. Louis is good. In general, the top spots are taken up by fancy restaurants that I just can’t afford to eat at. This year, however, I can actually say that I’ve eaten at a “Top 20” restaurant…frequently!!!…because Beast Craft BBQ right here in Belleville made the cut, and was also named the “best barbecue restaurant in the St. Louis area!” This of course came as no surprise to me, because I’ve know about Beast’s awesomeness for over three years now, but it’s still exciting every time they receive another accolade!

Anyway, in honor of that, Ryan decided that I should try something new from Beast for lunch that day. I’ve heard so much good buzz about the Wagyu beef that I knew I had to try the Wagyu Beef Eater, which almost seems like it was custom-made for me, because it has all my favorites: beer braised beef, grilled onions, horsey sauce, and Swiss cheese, all served on Beast’s amazing Texas toast:

I am not exaggerating when I say the beef just melted in my mouth…Wagyu definitely lives up to the hype! The sauce was perfect, and gave the sandwich just the right kick. And of course, grilled onions and Swiss always make a beef-based sandwich even more delicious!

I also tried the loaded fries (I know…I’m just as shocked as you are that I didn’t get the fried Brussel sprouts, because they’re my favorite, but I wanted to try something new!). Beast makes great fries, and these were topped with sauced pork, white cheddar jalapeño cheese, and green onions. This, too, was delicious, and the cheese was just the right amount of spicy.

On a side note, you currently have the opportunity to reserve your Easter ham from Beast…a beautiful, Compart Family Farms Duroc cherry-smoked ham at that. They’re 8-9 pounds (bone-in) and they look amazing. If you’re looking for something new for your Easter table, you can’t go wrong with Beast!