Tasty Tuesday–A Magical Feast

Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

We had a special magical feast last week, based on recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. Since today is Harry Potter’s birthday, it seems like the perfect time to share our feast, which included pumpkin fizz, a new Irish soda bread recipe, creamy onion soup, beef stew with herbed dumplings, butterbeer, and an English strawberry trifle:

It was a delicious meal…we’re definitely looking forward to trying more recipes from the cookbook!

Tasty Tuesday–Gerard’s 1907 Tavern

We were in Bowling Green, KY, for my birthday last month, a town with restaurants that are mostly unfamiliar to me. I knew I wanted to try something different, so after some Googling, I found Gerard’s 1907 Tavern, which is located in a historic building right by Fountain Square Park, and just down the hill from Western Kentucky University. It turned out to be a great choice!

Both the outside and the inside of the building look really cool. I love the exposed brick, the light fixtures, and the ceiling beams…but I especially love the sense of history in the place!

The food was excellent. Since it was my birthday, we splurged a bit. We tried an appetizer of fried pickles and jalapeños with a homemade buttermilk sauce. They were delicious, and some of the jalapeños were amazingly spicy (for me, anyway…Ryan was unfazed). We also got drinks. Ryan had an old-fashioned (he approved), and I had a Paloma, which was quite tasty. We both ordered sandwiches for our entrées. Ryan had the Cuban, which he said was prepared just right, and I had the GT burger, which was topped with Henry Bain sauce, gouda, slaw, and tobacco onions. The burger wasn’t as rare as I prefer (unless I’m at Seamus, it never is), but the meat was good, and I loved the combination of toppings. We both had the hand-cut fries on the side, and they came with a great roasted red pepper ketchup.

I’m really glad we had the opportunity to try someplace new, and were rewarded with a great meal in the process!

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–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–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!

A Problem of Priorities

All this week (and this coming Monday), Moose has been taking the PARCC Assessment at his school, which is the standardized test our state has been using for grades 3-8. It’s a long six days of testing; something we dread all winter long.

The school tries to make the test days a little more fun by having color themes for each day. They also offer a free breakfast to each student who is involved in the testing. So Moose eats his breakfast at home like he does every morning, and then goes to school to eat “Second Breakfast” Hobbit-style. This amuses him, and anything that helps him get through these long days is quite welcome.

However.

There is another side to that story, and my amusement at Moose’s love of his bonus breakfast is tempered by my knowledge of the sad dichotomy at play here. Because if you stop to think about it, you realize why the school offers a free breakfast during the standardized testing period. It’s well-documented that children who have eaten perform better in school, and this should come as no surprise. Hunger, a growling stomach, thinking about your next meal (or sadly wondering where that meal is going to come from) all distract children from their primary task at school…learning. Children who are hungry don’t retain as much information, don’t perform as well, are less likely to succeed.

So, the school offers a free breakfast to the test-takers every morning. Why? Isn’t it obvious? It’s because the school wants good test scores. They want the students to reflect the institution well. They want to minimize as many distractions as possible so the students have good results. They know full bellies help children perform better.

And that right there pretty much sums up the problem with education in America…misplaced priorities.

The days of standardized testing should be the least of the schools’ concerns. If they’re truly worried about the well-being of their students, they should be offering a free breakfast every day, to make sure that on the regular old, normal instruction, ending in “y” days that make up the majority of the school year, the students are focused, as free from distractions as possible, so they can get down to the task of learning. Of absorbing as much information as possible. Of becoming critical thinkers.

But we’ve got it all backwards when it comes to education, and instead of placing the emphasis on the importance of learning, and supporting students as they do that, we instead focus primarily on the results. But if the students haven’t been supported in their learning all year-long, what kind of results can the school really except to achieve?

I understand that there are financial considerations to providing a free breakfast to any student who needs it all year-long. And I know that there are some programs in place that offer free or reduced-cost breakfasts to at least part of the student population already. But I also know that for many, that carries a stigma that free breakfast for everyone doesn’t, and so it’s possible that program isn’t being utilized to its fullest potential in the first place.

I’m glad that for six days, children who otherwise may not have been able to eat breakfast for whatever reason have a morning meal available to them in the school cafeteria. But what about the other 35 weeks of the school year? Until we can figure out how to straighten out the educational priorities in the country, not only are the test results going to continue to disappoint, the children in our school system are not going to receive the education they deserve.

One Last Korean Feast for the Closing Ceremonies

Just over two weeks ago, I shared the Korean dinner I made for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics…tonight I made another special meal for the Closing Ceremonies. I used the same cookbook, and we tried two new foods…Sundubu-jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew) and Gaji-namul (steamed eggplant). Once again, I got to work with some new ingredients and cooking methods.

One of the ingredients in the stew was kimchi, so we had that as a side dish again, along with short-grain rice. I even found Jinro, a brand of soju (a distilled beverage), for the adults in the house! I strained my stew because I wanted to make sure I found one of the eggs, but everybody else enjoyed it as soup like you’re supposed to.

I left the gold and silver table linens we used at our tea party on the table, to complete our Olympic look:

When I was researching Korean food and culture, I discovered that we know as Moon Pies in America are quite popular in Korea. I managed to find Choco-Pies made by the Orion Confectionary Company, a South Korean confectioner!

This meal was even more foreign to us than the one I made for the Opening Ceremonies. It was also quite popular, but I will confess…I didn’t like the stew! I’m glad the children enjoyed it, though, and I really liked the experience of making something new and special as we say goodbye to the Olympics!