Friday, February 13, 2009

A Culinary Tour of Valentine's Day

I didn't just have a Valentine's Day. I had an awesome Valentine's Weekend. Oh what a tasty weekend it was.

Sir Pickypants and Lady Fussbudget (which I believe is what he would totally call me if he had a blog of his own and had to give his wife some kind of teasing nickname in it) celebrated Friday the 13th and the Chinese New Year (okay, a little late on that one) by having dinner At Sammy's Noodle House in New York City on 6th Ave and 11th street. We were joined by our good friends, who have made an appearance in this blog before as the Funnest People on Earth, Bryan and Jenny.

Sammy's is a crowded and bustling place, and it's crowded with good reason. It's a great value for the money. You can stuff yourself to bursting on a small budget.

The menu is long and detailed and includes every kind of Chinese food you could want. I had a hard time deciding because every single section of the menu had stuff that looked good, and there were a lot of sections. You could have dim sum, or traditional appetizers, or noodle dishes, or rice dishes, or tradtional Chinese menu dishes, or soups or roasted meats. You name it, they have it.

We started out with a range of appetizers.

Most of us love cold sesame noodles, so this was an obvious start. Bryan had to give them a stir prior to serving as shown here. Then we were good to go. I thought the sauce was a little too thick and peanut-buttery and could have used a little more kick, but they were still pretty good. Kevin had never had them before and he really enjoyed these.

Check out the size of this steamed bun. It was massive. The chicken and mushroom filling inside was delicious.

Dumplings are practically a required appetizer in aChinese restaurant. These were filled with chicken rather than the more traditional pork. The flavor of the chicken was sort of unexpected, but enjoyable once I got used to it.

Next was the greasy delight of scallion pancakes. I love snarfing these, even though my arteries beg for mercy.They certainly are a favorite of Kevin's.

Moving on to the entrees, we started with spare ribs, mostly for the benefit of Bryan and Jenny's somewhat picky son. This was one of the many offerings of roast meats. They ended up taking home some roast duck for one of their other sons as well. It was fun contrasting these with the ribs I ate at the Barnacle last week. These were way less meaty of course, but fun to eat with their sticky sauce and compact size. Come on. They're Chinese spare ribs. What's not to love?

Next up was chicken chow fun. I love chow fun noodles because I love the texture of them. These were way tastier than my favorite neighborhood takeout place (sorry Dragon City, I love you guys, but Sammy's does you one better on this one). I loved the addition of the black beans.

I wanted to try something a little spicy, so I went for this beef with hot pepper dish. Yep, all that green stuff is hot peppers. I think I'm the only one who really got into this dish. It was a little spicy for everyone else.

Service was quite attentive. Our courses arrived quickly and our water glasses were always filled.

You practically had to roll me out of there at the end of the evening but it was so worth it. Sammy's is like your favorite neighborhood Chinese restaurant on steroids. Whatever you like on a Chinese menu, you will find it here. The addition of the good company made it even better. This was a great start to a happy weekend.

Saturday night we had a very low key, but ultimately quite special dinner. I never know what to do about Valentine's Day anymore. I realized that we're better off not going to some fancy overcrowded restaurant, chowing down on some overpriced price fixe menu that tastes mass produced. On the other hand, I wasn't looking forward to cooking anything. After a long day of driving to New Jersey and back and riding all day, the last thing I want to do on a Saturday night is cook. Also, the last thing I want to do on Valentine's Day is clean up (which I did not enjoy last year). What should we do? Should we order takeout? Should we find a restaurant that's not typically considered romantic?

I got my answer last week. I was driving home from the stable Sunday afternoon when I spotted a sign in front of Granny's Pancake House advertising a 2 for $30 special on Valentine's Day. I think a beam of light was shining down from the heavens and a choir of angels was singing over this sign. What a perfect idea. It would be casual, fun, and probably really good.

Granny's is a very causal country restaurant. It has no ambience to speak of. It doesn't serve booze (although you're welcome to BYOB). It's the kind of place where Kevin and I can go in to eat after a ride. We can just change out of our riding clothes and no one cares if we smell a little horsey. Scratch that. We can walk in there in our riding clothes and no one would care. They serve breakfast all day with biscuits and gravy and french toast sticks to die for. All of the food is simple, but tasty and homemade. They have great homemade pie and friendly service. We have always loved this restaurant, but haven't been there lately. We decided we would make a stop on our way home from the barn and have our Valentine's Day dinner in this special spot.

We started our meal with homemade soup. Kevin had cream of carrot and I had beef barley.

Next I had a delicious, artery-clogging fried chicken cutlet with country gravy and mashed potatoes.

Tired and disheveled, I happily dig in.

The only complaint is that the veggies were way overcooked and bit heavy on the garlic (even for a garlic lover like me). As I don't like brussels sprouts anyway, I didn't care. Besides, I don't go to Granny's to eat vegetables!

Kevin ate a more sensible shrimp-stuffed flounder with a baked potato.
On to Granny's famous homemade desserts. Chocolate cream pie for me and strwaberry shortcake for Kevin.
I decided that Valentine's Day shouldn't end after Saturday night. I try to bake or do something special for the day, but the timing wasn't working for me. I decided that instead of making him dessert, I would make him a special breakfast. We both love chocolate. I happened to have some leftover bread sitting in the freezer from last week's birthday party. I would make some chocolate french toast.

This is just French bread soaked in a chocolate custard and sauteed and baked and topped with raspberry syrup. It was simple and delicious.

Much love to my sweet husband. Thanks for a wonderful weekend!

Chocolate French Toast
8 slices sturdy bread
1 cup milk
3 eggs
2 Tbl cocoa powder
1 cup sugar (divided)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp coffee granules
Pinch of cinnamon
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Framboise
Butter for frying and dish
Powdered sugar for dusting

Mix together milk, eggs, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, coffee and cinnamon. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a baking dish that's big enough to hold all of your slices without overlapping.

Soak bread slices in milk mixture, making sure it sinks in well. If you're using something like French or Italian bread, really soak it well. You can be a little briefer with challah or brioche.
Heat some butter in a skillet and fry until outside is brown. Place on buttered baking dish.

When all of the pieces are fried up, place in oven for 10 minutes. (NOTE: It cant' hurt to spoon a little Nutella on top of the slices at this point)

Meanwhile puree raspberries and strain out the seeds. Place liquid in small saucepan with sugar, water and Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil and get it nice and syrupy.

When toast is out of the oven, serve dusted with powdered sugar and topped with raspberry syrup.


Sara said...

Looks like a fun time! French toast is my favorite breakfast food.

noble pig said...

gained 10 pounds here, OMG what a weekend...abslutely wonderful.

Happy Valentine's weekend.

Bellini Valli said...

Sounds like the perfect weekend to me.

melissa said...

What a great weekend. Granny's was definitely a good choice for your Saturday night.

And I totally would have mauled that spicy dish at Sammy's. :)

The Blonde Duck said...

It looks like you had a great time!

Dee said...

Glad you had a great Valentine's Day, and thanks for the French Toast recipe. It's one of our favourite weekend brekkie's. The Chinese looked scrummy - I'm drooling over the spare ribs. Yum!

Sue said...

Sammy's sounds amazing. That was a good idea for V-Day, but how could you pass up the pancakes?

Emily said...

Wow, I don't know where to begin. You had a fantastic Valentine's Day weekend! Everything sounds delicious.

I would love to try the noodle house.
And that fried chicken and mashed potatoes looks to die for.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Dee - Enjoy the recipe. Hope you try it.

Sue - I know it's probably blaspheme to say this, but I am not all that into pancakes. I'm more into hearty french toast or a belgian waffle. Pancakes area little heavy for me.

Melissa - It took a brave woman to eat that dish, but it was so worth it!

The Duo Dishes said...

Someone ate really well this weekend. What a great way to celebrate. The French toast sounds divine.

Heather said...

You had two different kinds of gravy on that plate. I just got a little girl-crush on you.

Bunny said...

I would totally love Granny's Place, that chocolate cream pie looked like a slice of heaven and that strawberry shortcake!! I've never made chocolate french toast, the kids will love it!

Not Another Omnivore said...

I have to say that I think The Short (dis)Order Cook is absolutely hands down one of my favorite food puns I've found while blogging.


Complaint Department Manager said...

Two things make or break deals with me when it comes to Chinese food. They have to pass the General's chicken and Sesame chicken if they want a return visit from me. Also, good wontons or crab rangoons. I will say this, the spare ribs looked good.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Heather - Yes, the dual gravies was a pleasant surprise and a little pool of Heaven.

NAOmni - Thanks. Standing just under 5' tall and completely bumbling in the kitchen, it suits me well.

CDM - I'm a big fan of the General too. I should have thought to order him there. I think this place would have met with your approval.

Not Another Omnivore said...

I know right! I was floored when I saw how delicious those cookies looked!


Maria said...

Glad you had a good V-day!! I love french toast, it is my favorite!

Grace said...

wow this is epic.dont know what to eat first. all looks perfect!