Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dinner Report: John and Molly's in Mt. Holly, NJ...

On our first night in New Jersey, my daughter had scheduled dinner at one of her and Tyler's favorite local pubs, John & Molly's in Mount Holly.  It could not have been a better choice to get our week of overeating started.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures from the inside, but the place has a really nice bar on one side, and then a slightly smaller dining room on the other. There are the typical flat screen TV's strategically mounted throughout, allowing drinkers and diners alike to get a good view of whatever game happens to be on.  Both the bar and dining room were completely packed, and apparently, it stays that way most of the time.  Our wait was not long at all, maybe 10 minutes, though had we come in even a minute later than we did, I suspect we would have waited at least half an hour to get seated.
We talked about the fact that for the most part, bars, inns and pubs in the northeast have such a different cultural part of the society than they do in our part of Texas.  Making sweeping generalizations here, of course, I think in Texas, most people think of bars as a place you go to get liquored up or meet for a night of heavy partying hoping to find some drunk chick to take home.  For most people here, there is this negative association with the entire concept of someone who frequents a bar to the point that the bartenders know their name and drink order as soon as they walk in the door.  In the northeast, I think you are more likely to find a place like John & Molly's as more of a place to eat and hang out for an hour or two, and oh, by the way, you can have a beer while you are there.  In short, you wouldn't think twice about taking your parents or your kids to a neighborhood place like this.
   On to the important stuff.  Eva and Roxanne shared a Cuban sandwich.   Served with fries, Cole slaw and a pickle spear, there was easily enough for two.  The size of their servings are enormous, and unless you plan to take a box home, sharing is a good idea.  I love trying Cole slaw from various places, and for me, it is either a hit or a miss.  John & Molly's was a hit.  It is hard to compare Cuban sandwiches when for me, the standard is found in Tampa, but I would say this one was certainly good.  The bread was toasted, the pork was nicely seasoned and my small sample was enough to give it a thumbs up.
Tyler and I split the opened faced New York (or maybe it was Bronx style) Reuben sandwich.  I love the Reuben and whenever there is an opportunity, I'm getting one.  Served on thick toasted rye with a salad plopped in the middle, the melted cheese, dressing and sauerkraut really worked well with the corned beef.  That was some serious yummy in the tummy.
The wait was not long, the service was good and the food was great.  It is easy to see why the kids love this place.  On your next trip to Mt. Holly, stop on in to John & Molly's, grab a Yuengling on draft and prepare yourself for a Tasty Treat.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lunch Report: DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market...

During our visit to New Jersey, we made a few trips into Philadelphia which is just a short drive (20 - 25 minutes) from my daughter's condo.  We had talked about wanting to go walk around and see some sights (I'll post some pictures in another blog entry) as well as visiting Reading Terminal Market, which I had seen featured on some show or another.  Inside RTM is just this beautiful spread of produce shops, arts and crafts, bakeries and desserts, but most of all, it is full of food! 
Often when I find myself in downtown San Antonio, in side the farmers market - el mercado in market square, I imagine that the developers of the place had a vision that it might somehow become as robust and vibrant an experience as RTM.  San Antonio's market square is only robust when there is a reason to party and stages with bands playing loud music encourage beer soaked revelers to liven the place up.  Otherwise, and this is a place I like I should mention, the place is pretty quiet and the shopkeepers seem to spend their time checking their Facebook status, eager for the next big party. 
 When we first walked into RTM, it was like entering this magnificent air conditioned dream of a flea market, complete with beautiful smells of fresh bread, hand tossed pizza, and freshly picked produce. 
 The place was bustling but not so overcrowded that we were forced to go with the flow of the crowd.  My gut reaction was to want to walk up and down each and every aisle, to gander at every item on sale or take a whiff of every lunch being cooked. 
But hunger prevailed, and before long, we had weaved ourselves in and out of the crowds and at the end of a long line to try DiNic's.  I had seen the DiNic's piece on Adam Richman's show on The Travel Channel, and in fact, RTM has a huge banner up in the main area promoting this.
 DiNic's is packed into an area probably 20 X 20 with a all the sandwich making action taking place in the center, and eating bar with stools surrounding, and a line of hungry customers wrapped around waiting to order. 
 In all, we probably waited for maybe 15 minutes to make it from the back of the line with probably 35 to 40 people in front of us, order and receive our sandwiches.  Meanwhile, it was fun to watch how incredibly organized the staff was.  The guy taking the orders would first get the sandwich selection, then give that ticket to the guys making them, then grab drinks and eventually take payment.  The timing was such that, by the time you got to the very front of the line to pay, your order was ready to go.
 I did notice that the guy taking orders would occasionally make a move toward the back of the area and take orders from police and firemen, slipping their orders into the mix.  I didn't have a problem with this little cutting of the line, and from what I could see, none of the other people seemed to mind either.
So how was the sandwich?  The one Adam Richman chose as the best in America was the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and Provolone.  I had thought about ordering that, but honestly, I'm not even sure what broccoli rabe is.  Instead, for my order, I had the Italian style pulled pork with roasted sweet peppers and Provolone.  I'm guessing I should have gone with the one with broccoli rabe, because the sandwich was good, but really, nothing I would even consider close to the best of anything. 
The bread was wonderful, I really liked the Provolone and how it melted in with the meat, but the meat itself was extraordinarily bland.  Even the peppers didn't add to the taste of the meet.  Would I order one if I was there?  Sure.  But would I make a special trip.  No.  In fact, next door to DiNic's was a place called Hershel's east side deli that had a huge corned beef sandwich on display.  My son-in-law commented that he had wished we had tried that pace where there was no line at all.
Tyler did have the brisket which was good - better than the Italian pulled pork.  But even then, compared to brisket in Texas?  Fuhgeddaboudit! 
Eva and Roxanne shared the roast beef sandwich, and all of us agreed that as for taste, this was the one worth the trip.  That was some yummy roast beef right there. 
 Look, I don't want to slam the place.  I ate my entire sandwich and enjoyed it.  The experience of standing on line wrapped around the bar of locals eating lunch and fellow tourists posing with their sandwiches was worth the price of lunch. But the best sandwich in America?  It must be the broccoli rabe.

Wegmans: HEB for the Northeast...

So if you are not from San Antonio or pretty much south of Dallas, you don't have a real appreciation for my obsession with HEB, or even know what an HEB is.  HEB and their super store, HEB Plus is a grocery chain that pretty much dominates these parts.  Of course, a lot of local folks despise HEB not unlike many people despise Walmart.  But the reality is, not necessarily like Walmart, HEB stores are mostly well run, clean, full of friendly staff and offer good prices for the consumer. What's not to love about this place?
During our recent trip to visit our daughter and her husband in New Jersey (the southern part, close to the Penna state line), we were delighted to visit our very first Wegmans ever.  Wegmans is chain found in most of the northeastern states from Massachusetts and New York, down through New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Maryland and Virginia. 
I don't know if it is something about that area in particular, but as soon as we walked in the door, everything I love about HEB seemed to fall by the wayside.  HEB's are for the most part, very wide open and bright.  Walking into the Wegmans, I felt like I was walking into an upscale mall of freshly made baked goods, deli items and desserts.  Of course, our HEB Plus has all these things, but the atmosphere and presentation was just a bit more upscale.  I actually wondered if we were under dressed in our jeans, but of course, we weren't.
Not to say the place is uppity or anything.  As we walked up and down the aisles just looking more than shopping, I noticed the same products that we might find in Texas with an HEB brand on them having instead a Wegmans logo.  
Unfortunately, most of my pictures were too crappy, even for me to post, just due to the lighting and such.  My daughter cautioned me that the Wegmans people frown upon photos in the store, perhaps so competitors won't steal a particular display arrangement.  But what I can show you, taken discretely from my iPhone as if I were some secret agent casually walking by the Asian food section to make a dead drop in the General Tso chicken, is food pictures.
And there is this.  They have an entire liquor store connected to the food store.  You know how different states have different laws for the who, what, when, and where of liquor sales.  Here, they just put up a sign making it technically a different store, and all is good. 

Anyway, there you have it.  Wegmans.  Perhaps in one of my future travels I'll post about the exotic findings at the Albertson's or a Food Lion near you.  As you can see, it doesn't take much to entertain me.

My Daily Deer...

Que cute!
We came home from our trip to New Jersey and I checked my deer camera to find lots of good stuff, but this was really the kind of thing I like to see.
 I'm pretty sure these are the same deer I have seen in the lot just across the street from us in the afternoons when I come home from work.  That little one is really, really little.  If they would be nice enough to let Gracie go pose next to them, I think we would see that Gracie is the same size as the baby.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Daily Deer...

We had sort of a little adventure last night.  The deer are used to coming up when we are outside in the late evening, because unless one of the dogs notice them, we are pretty much oblivious to it.  Last night we were just going inside when I heard a vehicle coming up the street, so I stopped to see what was what.  Just in front of our house, one of the neighbors stopped their truck and let a family of deer cross the road into our lot next door.  My son is in town visiting, so we all walked out onto the patio to watch the scene unfold.

Three or four of the deer decided that they would not come close while we stood watching, but the one with the scratches on his coat was not about to pass up a free meal.  He came right up to where I have the camera mounted and sniffed around, occasionally looking up to make sure we weren't doing anything bad.
My son pulled out a flash light and that did not bother the deer at all, though it did help us see exactly where the rest of the family was standing off behind trees about 100 feet away.  I of course grabbed my Canon in hopes of getting some good pictures, but the truth is, I basically got a bunch of pictures with two dots for eyes and otherwise total darkness. 
 But there was this one picture, sort of a lucky shot you might take if you were trying to prove you saw a UFO or something.  In short, I have decided that we should leave the photography to the talented deer camera.

Yes, the same deer camera that picked up this gem.  This is what a deer eye looks like up really, really close.  Nice lashes. Maybe it's Maybelline.
All is not lost of course.  We hadn't seen the bucks in a while, and I discovered a few nice pictures while going through my SD card.
And a few more for good measure.  I do see these guys from time to time in the morning when I leave for work, usually crossing over from the older part of the sub-division heading off to the huge ranch beyond our street, but it has been a while since I got them on our property.
A little baby deer was here again for a snack.  That one is really not much bigger than Gracie.  I saw these two the other day when I was coming home from work, and she was small enough to squeeze through the goat fence.  No idea how that happens, but I saw it with my own eyes.
And a little daytime action.  I have to guess the rest of the family is hanging out in the thicker woods toward the back of the property.  Or this guy is a loner. 

Good times!