Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [5,] Las Vegas NV

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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Short Rib n’ Grits – 18oz Bone-In Short Rib, Nora Mill Granary Corn Grits, Charred Corn, Haricot Vert, Sweet Garlic Bordelaise

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Buttermilk Biscuits – Honey Butter, Strawberry Jam

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Maple Glazed Bacon Brioche Donuts – Bacon Bits, Butterscotch Sauce

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Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce,  Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

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Hickory Smoked Coffee Cake – Coffee Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Apple Hand Pies – Pate Brisee, Vanilla Ice Cream and Graham Cracker Crumble

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Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Yardbird Banana Split – Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana Brulee, Banana Curd, Chocolate Sauce

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Crunch n Munch Bread Pudding – M&M Chocolate bread Pudding, Popcorn Ice Cream, Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel

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Chocolate Chess Pie – with Chocolate Chips, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, Citrus Marmalade, Chocolate Sauce

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pie – Red Velvet Cake, Fluffy Cream Cheese Mouse, Pistachio Ice Cream, Crushed Pistachios, Raspberry Sauce

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Blue and Black Cobbler – Blueberries, Blackberries, Oat Crumble, Honey Ice Cream

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Bourbon Vanilla Milk Shake – Vanilla Ice Cream, Maker’s Mark, Gingersnaps

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Bacon Butterscotch Cake – Pecan Filling, Bourbon Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce

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Admittedly a fan of Yardbird, having now visited the Las Vegas location four times in its first two months of opening with another visit upcoming soon, it was on the invite of Chef Todd Harrington that I stopped in on Saturday to explore the reinvented dessert menu, and although a few of the restaurants biscuits reconfirmed my opinion that there is no better buttermilk version being served anywhere I’ve traveled while the Chef’s newly added shortribs were nothing short of falling off the bone perfection atop a mountain of charred-corn dotted grits, the star of the show was instead Vivian Chang – the woman responsible for twelve sweet selections which frequently left me dumbfounded that they weren’t the result of some old recipe from a grandma down South.


Beginning first with brunch selections, suffice it to say that the retooled brioche donuts are a dramatic improvement on the longjohn of past and with each tender, maple-lacquered bite studded by crispy bacon the ante is further upped by a sidecar of butterscotch sauce, a gluttonous accoutrement I nonetheless found myself dipping into frequently and later adding to the buttery apple pies, one eaten by hand with the second cut up and mixed with ice cream, graham crackers, and the aforementioned caramel for one heck of a makeshift sundae.

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Continuing the morning-meal options, another re-imagined item from Todd and Vivian was presented in the form of ‘smoked’ coffee cake and although the young chef claims the moist bread is only stored in the smoker for two minutes the result is a substantial hint of hickory with chocolate chips and robust coffee ice cream adding just a bit of sweetness, a task completely unnecessary when enjoying the sorghum sweetened chess pie whose creamy texture atop an all-butter crust rivals the best I’ve experienced anywhere in Amish country or the Southeast.

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Transitioning to dinner desserts, both Yardbird’s signature Bacon Butterscotch Cake and Crunch n’ Munch Bread Pudding remain largely unchanged, the latter’s popcorn flavor scaled back a bit in order to let the dark chocolate notes better shine, but with six other desserts also available one would be hard pressed to decide which was ‘best,’ though large groups would be strongly encouraged to look into either the bubbling hot and simply delicious seasonal cobbler or rich Red Velvet Whoopie Pie as each are more than enough to share with the former currently featuring blueberries and blackberries while the silky cream cheese mousse of the whoopie pie is simply too much for even a hearty due of diners to tackle on their own…no matter how much they may wish to try.

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Decidedly not a place for ‘light’ desserts, but one where a few smaller portions can be found, chocaholics and those interested in a true Southern delicacy would be well suited to order the chocolate chess pie served with both the orange blossom ice cream and blood orange marmalade to help to balance out the cocoa’s substantial heft while those looking for something a bit more ‘fun’ should find exactly what they’re looking for in Chang’s inspired take on fried Oreos, the oft-oily ‘fair-food’ staple perfected by protecting the cookie’s texture with batter while rice crispies add texture to both the dough and as a chocolate covered topping to the ball of ice cream at the center of the plate.

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Consistently impressing with both the variety and quality of house-made ice creams it seems only logical that Chang opts to feature them in so many of the restaurant’s desserts, and rounding out the restaurant’s dozen offerings one would be well advised to consider either the upscale Banana Split or Bourbon Milk Shake to finish off their meal, the shake a drink best shared given its substantial portion even though the booze is very nicely balanced by both the vanilla ice cream and whip while the sundae is perhaps the most unexpected surprise on the menu as two types of ice cream along with banana pudding, caramel popcorn, chocolate sauce, graham crackers, and a torched banana provide a veritable ‘choose your own adventure’ of textures and flavors without a single underwhelming bite to be found.

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UNABLE TO RATE:  As the entirety of the meal was comped, with much of my time spent sitting and chatting with Chef Harrington, suffice it to say service was exemplary and with both savories as well as desserts this good played beneath a soundtrack including everything from old-school blues to Them Crooked Vultures preceding Thickfreakness-era Black Keys, Yardbird remains my favorite affordable restaurant on the Strip and a place which I recommend everyone check out for themselves.

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RECOMMENDED:  Biscuits (always,) Sorghum Chess Pie, Smoked Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, Deep Fried Oreos, Yardbird Banana Split, Bacon Butterscotch Cake.

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AVOID:  For single diners, or even duos, the Red Velvet Whoopie pie is simply ‘too rich,’ something that could perhaps be corrected through the use of a stonefruit or citrus ice cream…or perhaps berries such as those previously utilized in Yardbird’s excellent Red Velvet Trifle.

TIP:  With a talented and passionate team headed by Chefs Harrington and Chang making everything in house, those visiting should be aware that weekly specials as well as seasonal updates are planned and as such not all items listed here are guaranteed to be offered, the cobbler and pies in particular prone to frequent change.


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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Postrio, Las Vegas NV



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Double Espresso on Ice

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Fresh Pappardelle – Fennel Sausage, Bolognese, Italian Parsley

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Bucatini a la Carbonara – Pancetta, English Peas, Parmigiano Reggiano

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Breakfast Pizza – Egg, Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, Spinach, Vermont Cheddar

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Warm Brioche Doughnuts – Vanilla, Chocolate, Raspberry

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Monkey Bread – Caramel Toffee Sauce, Cream Cheese Sauce

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Buttermilk Pancakes – Cinnamon Spiced, Vermont Maple Syrup, Blueberries, Candied Lemon

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Pear Sticky Toffee Pudding – Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Spiced Pear Compote

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Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding – Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

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Often overlooking Wolfgang Puck restaurants given the Chef’s general ubiquity throughout the United States it was at the recommendation of a local writer and with the assistance of Ms. Stephanie Davis of Puck’s PR that a reservation was set for brunch at Postrio, and although some of the heavily praised plates from lunch and dinner were not available at brunch while dessert, originally stated as not available was, a noon meal beneath the pseudo-sky of St. Mark’s Square at The Venetian proved mostly impressive – the disorganized service and surprisingly loud ‘Carnivale’ performers aside.

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Themed as an informal indoor patio café with a menu covering a handful of WP classics as well as several Italian plates and California-style pizzas it was with complimentary Mimosas that the meal began and offering cheers to an old friend I’d not seen in some time the menu was perused with a three course order originally requested, a fourth only added at the end of the meal when it was revealed that the work of Kamel Guechida was indeed available, an offer I simply couldn’t resist.

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Joined by an interloping indoor pigeon who was almost as entertaining as the stilt walkers and singers to our side, it was after a long delay that the man who originally served our drinks was finally ‘assigned’ our table and with the lone special of steak and eggs declined it would not be long before two half-portions of pasta arrived, the wide pappardelle soft and smooth beneath bright tomatoes teaming with aromatic sausage while the al dente round noodles slicked with egg yolk and tossed simply with peas and pork was absolutely textbook, perhaps the best version of the dish served in a resort with no shortage of Italian options from which to choose.

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Always amused by Puck’s Pizzas, at this point a prerequisite for dining at any of his restaurants, it was with brief consideration of both the mushroom iteration that we opted for the newly added breakfast pie and although I’d have preferred the egg to be served runny after the baking process the general balance of the pie was admirable, a hefty amount of sharp cheddar and bacon most detectable on first bite with the light char notes of crust and vegetal notes lingering on the palate thereafter.

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Choosing ‘one of each’ from the “Batter and Breads” section, suffice it to say that any disappointment regarding soups and sides available only at dinner were mostly forgotten and although the sticky bun was generally underwhelming both in size and in flavor while the stack of cinnamon dusted donuts was far less impressive than those served at Yardbird, the fluffy pancakes with pure maple syrup, blueberries, and candied lemon were absolutely excellent – the $13 price-tag notwithstanding.

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Acknowledging that less ‘batter’ would have been ordered had I known desserts were ready to go it was without batting an eye that two of five delectable sounding options were selected to compliment a double espresso over ice and having last experienced Chef Guechida’s work at Joel Robuchon it came as no surprise that the pastry chef’s work completely stole the afternoon’s spotlight with both the buttery brioche pudding loaded with chocolate beneath intense coconut ice cream and the pear-based sticky toffee cake with pecan studded ice cream the texture of silk absolutely mesmerizing, each elegantly presented and surprisingly restrained in a manner equally befitting the Grand Canal Shoppes or the MGM Grand’s 3* crown jewel of the Chef’s past.

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THREE STARS:  With prices similar to several of The Venetian and Palazzo’s alternative Brunch options, but portions far smaller and service that seemed disjointed throughout our stay, Postrio falls squarely in the middle of the road for on-strip upscale midday dining – the food likely familiar to those who know Wolfgang Puck while the desserts are every bit as good as one would expect from one of America’s best pastry chefs.

RECOMMENDED:  Desserts, Bucatini a la Carbonara.

AVOID:  Sticky Bun.

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TIP:  Currently offering Free Mimosas to all brunch-goers with a 20% discount available in the Grande Canal Shoppes/Fashion Show coupon book those interested in finding a deal are advise to investigate both, the later definitely softening the blow of “strip-side” pricing found up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pizza, Postrio

Grand Cafe at Red Rock, Las Vegas NV

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Grand Café Red Rock

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Sticky Bun

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Apple Fritter

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Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Pancakes

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Tableside Flambee Bananas Foster French Toast

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Kitchen Sink Cookie / Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Carrot Cake Bar

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Located within walking distance of my door, and visited frequently for movies as well as meals at Hearthstone, I’d admittedly not given much thought to Red Rocks Resort and Casino’s other dining options until I found out an old colleague was in town for a Bariatric Surgery conference and with her packed lecture schedule largely precluding lunch or dinner the decision was made to meet up at Grand Café for breakfast, the resulting meal anything but ‘physician approved’ but surprisingly delicious with service that outperformed nearly any of Las Vegas Boulevard’s 24/7 dining options by a country mile.

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Arriving just after 7:00am, but requiring a reprint of my Boarding Pass in order to collect on a $15 coupon, it was a few minutes later than anticipated that the two of us sat down in the large dining area overlooking an expectedly empty pool and deferring the order to me with the stipulation that we must try the pancakes a three-course meal was requested, a smiling Hispanic waitress effortlessly managing a half-dozen tables while keeping water brimming and the silver coffee pot of surprisingly balanced brew filled throughout the hour long stay.

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Starting off with two pastries, the chopped pecan topped sticky bun and house-made apple fritter both rewarmed at our request, it was much to my astonishment that Red Rocks’ in-house pastry team makes items throughout the day in order to replenish supplies and although the fritter was a touch too oily despite being jammed-packed with apples the nicely laminated bun unraveled as a textbook spiral, the exterior golden and crunchy while the interior featured a springy yeasted stretch packed with butter and cinnamon notes.

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Moving onward to entrees, the four-stack of chocolate chip studded buttermilk flapjacks taking no shortcuts and fluffy as can be despite the bargain basement price of $8.78, there was no way I was passing of the “house specialty” Bananas Foster French Toast and with an unexpected tableside show of liquor-laced caramel being lit ablaze as it was poured over thick egg-bread with whipped cream added afterward every single bite of the dish was well worth not only the $8.95 tab, but also the signature status – easily one of the best off-Strip French Toasts in town and the only one I know of that is delivered with such flair.

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Sitting, chatting, and sipping at third pot of coffee with my friend stating she couldn’t possibly eat another bite it was only here that I realized I’d not yet spent the requisite $30 to qualify for use of the coupon and leaving aside just how much of a bargain that indicates for the rest of what we ordered it also justified the purchase of a trio of desserts, the elegant carrot cake beneath crispy praline bark proving quite moist even before considering the rich cream cheese frosting while both of the cookies were admittedly quite sweet, though soft centered with a crispy rim that held up nicely for an afternoon snack later that day.

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FOUR STARS:  Using the coupon with a total bill after tax and tip ringing in at a mere $26 one would be hard pressed to name a better bargain for such a large amount of surprisingly well made food in any Southern Nevada casino and with service proving better than several places charging more than twice the price for food no better I’ve little doubt I’ll revisit Grand Café sooner rather than later, at the very least to sample some more of the extensive pastry case…though I can’t rule out another order of fiery French Toast, as well.

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RECOMMENDED:  Bananas Foster French Toast, Buttermilk Pancakes, Sticky Bun.

AVOID:  Apple Fritter, as there are simply better versions available elsewhere at less than the $1.25 cost.

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TIP:  Open 24/7, with everything but the Prime Rib and a few specials offered throughout the day and night, those looking for a bargain are encouraged to keep an eye on local mailers and papers, the $15 off $30 easily enough to feed a family of four for less than $20 if ordering right.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Grand Cafe, Grand Cafe at Red Rocks, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh NC


Poole’s Downtown Diner

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Hook’s 3-Year Pimento Cheese with Crostini

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Macaroni au Grautin

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Thyme

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Lobster & Dumplings – Potato Gnocchi, Stewed Tomatoes, Butter Beans, Ginger Butter

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Lime Madeline Cake with Roasted Pineapple and Coconut Cream


Exiting Beasley’s with full bellies and snow now blowing in the street it was much to my mother’s dismay that I suggested a visit to Poole’s Downtown Diner was non-negotiable considering our otherwise packed dining agenda, and although the roads were a bit slick while ordering was limited the visit turned out to be largely worth the effort – particularly as nearly every place in town was closed the following day causing us to miss out on two previously planned meals.

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Open since 2007, and consistently one of the city’s most jammed-packed and desirable dining destinations, it was just after 8pm that we stepped through the walk-in-only space’s doors and finding the Christmas-light strewn room no more than one-quarter filled a sizable four-top was offered halfway between bar and kitchen, our lovely young server briefly highlighting the chalkboard menu before leaving us to make tough decisions, an eventual order of one appetizer, two sides, and a main slowly trickling forth from the kitchen as per our request.

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Treated to sounds of the late 60s and 70s while we waited for our food and perused the room, suffice it to say that the ‘diner’ layout and lack of fanciful flatware is really the only indication that Poole’s is truly a ‘diner’ and with a menu decorated in several luxury ingredients the first bites of the evening were enjoyed in the form of Hook’s 3-year Cheddar converted to sharp pimento spread served alongside copious crostini, each bite offering plenty of spice and great texture with a portion easily sharable by a group of four, the ‘signature’ elbow macaroni baked to golden brown potentially capable of feeding even more considering both the size and richness as tender noodles teamed with several cheeses ranging from surprisingly-sharp to  milky-mild.


Largely underwhelmed by mains, the majority more ‘French brasserie’ than upscale southern, it was eventually on the Lobster & Dumplings that we decided and although the crustacean itself was a fine example the broth itself was far too tomato-y while gnocchi ‘dumplings’ were overcooked and rubbery, the ginger butter and beans helping to prop up an otherwise poorly executed plate outshined by a simple side of roasted sweet potatoes tinged in honey and thyme.


Equally uninspired by a dessert menu that struck both of us as far less fun than the quartet tasted at Beasley’s it was with good fortune our server immediately suggested the Madeline-cake I’d been eyeing when asked for her opinion and although not particularly “North Carolina” specific in the least both members of the table were taken aback by the warm almond flour base tinged with citrus atop key-lime curd and topped with pineapple chips plus a dollop of reference standard coconut cream – each bite a study in tropical balance, and particularly ironic given the brewing ice storm outside.


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Posted in Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, Gnocchi, Lobster, Madeline, North Carolina, Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, Vacation

Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, Raleigh NC


Beasley’s Chicken and Honey

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Crispy Cheese Grit Fries with Chow Chow and Malt Aoili

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Fried Chicken and Waffles with Honey

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Chicken Pot Pie with Milk Gravy and Cornmeal Crust

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Ashe County Cheddar Pimento Mac & Cheese Custard

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Buttermilk Biscuits with Butter and Honey

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Shaker Lemon Pie

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Red Velvet Cake

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Spiced Apple Biscuit Bread Pudding

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Chocolate Chess Pie


With inclement weather shutting down much of Raleigh as early as 4:00pm and dinner at Stanbury cast aside before we even arrived by a sign in the window citing employee safety as a reason to keep doors closed it was with a quick re-route that part of Tuesday’s lunch plans became Monday’s first dinner and with the sort of snow that makes a native Ohioan chuckle despite slowing North Carolina traffic to a grind our arrival at Beasley’s Chicken and Honey was greeted by a near empty dining room and service that can only be described as fawning given the fact that for more than half of our meal we were the only persons in house.


Owned and operated by Ashley Christensen, a self-trained and Beard Awarded chef largely responsible for much of Downtown Raleigh’s recent culinary renaissance since opening Poole’s Diner in 2007, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey is the sort of place where upscale décor meets Deep South service to compliment the fare and with the entire menu published on three different chalk-boards our biggest difficulty was deciding where to draw the line, particularly with plans for Poole’s scheduled for later that same night.

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Happy to over-order, but using our hirsuit server as a sounding board to be sure we weren’t biting off far more than we could chew, it was with the statement of ‘it’s a lot, but not a ton’ that an appetizer, two entrees, and two sides were ordered…though the later addition of all four desserts did indeed elicit a “really?” despite the total bill tallying a mere $65 for what was indeed a whole lot of food.


Expedited in service as a result of the empty room it was just moments after ordering that a Jenga-stack of ‘fries’ arrived and although both chow-chow and aioli were nicely prepared neither was especially necessary, the sharp cheddar notes and creamy grits beneath a golden shell damn near perfect on their own, a similar sentiment applicable to the follow-up sides of glistening biscuits lacquered in honey butter and a slab of steaming pimento cheese custard that may have benefited from a bit more browning, though both the spice and smooth texture were quite pleasant served just as it was.


Speaking to the entrees, it was admittedly tough to take a pass on the pork shoulder meatloaf, but opting to instead to focus on the restaurant’s eponymous item the reward was two superlative plates of chicken, the crisply fried brined bird atop a supple waffle only improved by locally sourced honey while the cornmeal crusted pot pie was absolutely brimming with pulled meat and fresh vegetables bathed in thick gravy, each bite compelling another until I was wiping the bowl clean with the last bits of biscuit while wondering how such a ‘simple’ dish managed to be so much better than versions served elsewhere North or South.


Having already mentioned how our dessert indecision led to a ‘one of each’ order, it was thankfully after a fifteen minute respite that our sweet quartet arrived and beginning with the piping hot bread pudding I immediately swooned, the buttermilk biscuit base proving a perfect backdrop to freshly stewed apples while whipped cream and cinnamon caramel sauce added restrained sweetness, a similar ‘not too sugary’ situation found in the cocoa-rich, cream cheese frosted Red Velvet Cake as well as the intensely rich slice of Chocolate Chess while the lemon-rind spiked Shaker pie was almost unimaginably creamy and defiantly sour, the latter two both plates best shared…though considering the quality of the all-butter crust one may not want to, no matter how full.


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Posted in Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, Bread Pudding, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, Raleigh, Vacation, Waffles

Skylight Inn, Ayden NC

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Skylight Inn

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Chopped Pork

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Located in Ayden North Carolina, a town of just under 5000, and serving up what many have called the best North Carolina style whole pig barbecue since it was known as Pete Jones BBQ one could say that Skylight Inn is one of those places that needs to be experienced in order to be understood, and traveling to Raleigh from Virginia Beach “The Capital of Barbecue” turned out to be everything that was promised – all along a small residential roadside, beneath a white dome, with fields and a collard greens stand nearby.

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Small in size, with rickety tables and modest décor consisting largely of local photos and a few awards, our arrival at Skylight Inn occurred just steps behind a small party of locals as well as officers from the State Highway Patrol, and waiting our turn in line as country music was interrupted by the “chop, chop, chop” of cleavers behind the counter the ordering process was simple – one plate of chopped pork beneath a layer of slaw and savory cornbread, two unsweetened teas, and another wedge of cornbread bagged to go.

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Featuring Chicken on weekends, and ribs as well as porkrinds in limited quantities, but largely focused on the old adage “do one thing and do it right,” it should probably go without saying that with 50+ years in the business and crowds gathering for such a small menu the pork is indeed “destination worthy” meat and with light vinegar notes pleasantly balanced by the sweet slaw an ample amount of crispy skin adds plenty of crunch and brine to each bite while the protein itself is smooth, supple, and moist without being ‘wet,’ a similar statement applicable to the toothsome cornbread which features a slight flex before it breaks – a best bite made by a drizzle of Texas Pete, a bit of slaw, and plenty of meat eaten sandwich style between a halved slice.

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Posted in Ayden, Chapel Hill, Cornbread, Durham, Food, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, Skylight Inn, Vacation

Dough Joe’s, Virginia Beach VA


Dough Joe’s

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Red Velvet Cream Cheese

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Bavarian Cream

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Triple Chocolate

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Strawberry Sprinkle

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Apple Pie

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French Toast

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Sea Salted Caramel


Exiting Pocahontas Pancakes with a three hour drive to Ayden ahead it was just a short jaunt to a space I’d noticed when leaving Tautog’s two days prior that saw us gather provisions for the road, and although somewhat new and still finding their footing both locals and tourists should take notice as Dough Joe’s may just be not only the best hidden gem in the Virginia Beach, but also the best donut shop in whole area considering the mediocrity of Duck Donuts and closing of Paradise downtown.


Every bit a mom n’ pop operation, with limited parking an issue being worked out according to the young female owner who took my order and offered me a “baker’s half dozen” at the price of six for coming out in the cold, Dough Joe’s is currently a cake-only operation with several pre-made signatures as well as made-to-order options on offer to those willing to wait, and opting to sample only those items concocted by the team behind the fryers one would be hard pressed to name a single sub-par bite amongst the seven donuts sampled – a first bite ofrich Red Velvet topped with subtly sweet cream cheese proving moist yet virtually greaseless, accordingly making it difficult to hold off on sampling the rest until later in the day.


Eventually finding the willpower to resist further indulgence only after finishing off the sliced-and-filled Bavarian Cream in the car it was four hours later, after lunch at Skylight Inn in Ayden, that the other five donuts were enjoyed and with each still proving fresh baked in texture despite traveling across state the only questions were where to start and which was best – the French Toast a cinnamon dusted masterpiece while the Sprinkled Strawberry was perhaps the best “Simpson’s” style donut I’ve tasted to date beneath frosting that was surprisingly natural in flavor with sprinkles adding not only texture but their expected sugary spin.


Moving onward to heavier flavors, it was the Sea Salt sprinkled caramel that was sampled and with sweet and savory notes playing quite nicely on the tongue a followup of “Apple Pie” filled with cinnamon spiced apples was equally well balanced, a topping of soft streusel ample with butter serving as an ample foil to sucrose while the bittersweet “Triple Chocolate” required no such thing, each rich bite simply calling out for coffee or perhaps a tall glass of cold milk, to compliment the lightly fried ring.



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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Dough Joe's, Food, Norfolk, Vacation, Virginia, Virginia Beach

Pocahontas Pancakes, Virginia Beach VA


Pocahontas Pancakes

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Buttermilk Biscuits

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Three Layer French Toast – Original Recipe French Toast, Strawberries, Pecans, Bananas, Syrup, Cinnamon, Powdered Sugar, Whipped Cream

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Monte Cristo – Original Recipe French Toast, Turkey Breast, Smoked Virginia Ham, Melted Swiss, Jam with Hash Browns

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Pecan Buttermilk Pancakes

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Decidedly touristy with a theme of questionably good taste and a location on Atlantic Avenue just feet from the shore of Virginia Beach, it was on the way out of the State of Virginia en route to North Carolina that a stop at Pocahontas Pancakes was planned, and finding the restaurant only 1/8 full on a particularly chilly February day with snow in the forecast it was mere moments after entry that we were seated at a large four-top, the visage of Native Americans looking forth from the walls, tapestries, wooden figures, and even tables throughout the space.

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Themed to a fault, with a teepee serving as a waiting area and restrooms designated “Braves” and “Princesses” it was almost a surprise that waitresses were not decorated in feathers and face-paint but with branded cups filled frequently with piping hot coffee of surprisingly good quality one couldn’t help but smile at a menu featuring several personal favorites – the offering of ‘real’ butter and ‘100% Maple’ syrup at a surcharge an added bonus and something in which we gladly partook along with two blackboard specials as well as Pocahontas’ signature dish.

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Having already noted the uncharacteristically empty environs, and as such treated to an expedited order that arrived no more than fifteen minutes after sitting down, it was with a duo of biscuits that the meal began and with ‘buttery spread’ cast aside in favor of honey the toasty buttermilk discs were admirable if not memorable, our attention quickly turning to the Monte Cristo sandwich with both ham and turkey sandwiched between French Toast, the use of Swiss an interesting change of pace that paired surprisingly well with Strawberry Jam provided by Smucker’s – another area I’d have gladly upgraded if given a chance.

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Moving next to sweeter specialties and signatures it was with a triple stack of Texas Toast style French toast that our tasting progressed and with each thick slice of bread griddled golden beneath a mountain of fruit and whipped cream the aforementioned syrup was largely unnecessary, the sidecar instead saved for a stack of buttermilk pecans topped and studded with chopped pecans, the light sours of the batter proving a perfect backdrop to the toasty nuts while sweet Virginia Maple Syrup was every bit worth the upgrade and something one wishes every breakfast place would offer considering the long shelf-life and substantial improvement in taste.

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Norfolk, Pancakes, Pocahontas Pancakes, Pork, Vacation, Virginia, Virginia Beach

Terrapin, Virginia Beach VA



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Bread and Olive Oil

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Ricotta Gnudi – Wild Morel Mushrooms, Organic Peas, Black Truffle Butter Sauce

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Shrimp & Grits – Laughing Bird Shrimp, Carolina Gold Rice ‘grits,’ housemade chorizo, old bay butter

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Manchester Farms Quail – Honey and Lavender Glazed, Blood Orange Poached Medjool Dates, Anson Mills Farro

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White Marble Farm Pork Loin – House Cured Bacon, Brown Butter Cauliflower, Potato Gnocchi, Butter Beans, Roasted Radishes, Mustard demi-glace

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Bouquet of Flowers – White Chocolate Raspberry Bomb, Lychee Mousse, Rose Essence, Fresh Raspberries, White Chocolate Spiral

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Box of Chocolates – Dark Chocolate Terrine, Chocolate Cayenne Ganache, Fudge Brownie, Caramel, Hazelnut Crumbs, Dark Chocolate Spiced Ice Cream

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Valrhona Chocolate Pudding – Fleur de sel & Georgia Olive Oil




Toqued by Chef Rodney Einhorn, and located in a modernized space on Holly Road  just steps away from Virginia Beach, Terrapin has been noted by some to be perhaps the best restaurant in the state of Virginia, yet despite their ‘fine dining’ accolades and snooty behavior from nearly every staff member encountered during a two-hour dinner it should come as perhaps no surprise that the restaurant is actually just the benefactor of “big fish in a small pond” status, the food nicely prepared despite the kitchen using shortcuts such as truffle oil and out-of-season ingredients while the overall experience is merely paint-by-numbers upscale American, at best.


Immediately feeling judged on entry, the maitre d’ literally giving my mother a nasty look as though he disapproved of her outfit choice in the unexpectedly cold weather, it was not long before our reservation was confirmed and led to a small two top the ‘push’ for wine and cocktails was on – our choice to decline clearly robbing us of the caviar-egg amuse served to nearby tables, the most boring table-bread and flavorless olive oil I’ve experienced in ages instead serving as a veritable punishment for my asking questions about several plates including those featuring morels far earlier than most restaurants would dare as well as those mentioning the word ‘truffle’ in the description more than once.


Eventually asked if I was ‘some sort of critic’ by the snarky waiter moments after our three-course menu was ordered it was only after I explained I merely like to write and photograph my food that his attitude seemed to improve and with each course presented with very ample descriptions the first round of food proved quite impressive, the gnudi plump and supple with surprisingly subtle flavor despite obviously using preserved morels and truffle oil while the makeshift shrimp and grits was somewhat less inspiring, the tiny shrimp a touch overcooked while the rice porridge was too small in portion to help balance out the heft of old bay seasoning, let alone the spicy pork.


Thankfully still somewhat sated from the day’s earlier dining as portions at Terrapin trend small even to those familiar with multi-course tasting menus across the world our entrees arrived after a somewhat lengthy delay and with plating clearly one of the kitchen’s strong points both the lacquered quail and crispy-skinned pork arrived beautifully seated amidst several accoutrements, the former’s light funkiness well balanced by citrus-soaked grains while the loin’s vegetable mélange was bolstered by tender butter beans that served to offset briny bacon and potato dumplings that were gummy and undercooked.


Unfortunately lacking the duck pot pie, pancake stack, and several other items featured on the website menu it was onward to dessert that the evening progressed and still featuring several options from the previous night’s Valentine’s Day celebration it was in two seasonal sweets plus one ‘signature’ that we partook, the “Bouquet’s” frozen raspberry center serving to save the otherwise ‘safe’ presentation while both the “Box of Chocolates” and rich pudding were far more interesting, the former particularly well composed to show off the quality of the cocoa when paired to items featuring both sweet and heat while the later was simple, creamy indulgence with sea salt adding both texture and levity while the olive oil was much like that on the table and completely imperceptible aside from a slick feel on the tongue.



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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, Norfolk, Pork, Terrapin, Truffle, Vacation, Virginia, Virginia Beach

Astronomical Pancake House, Williamsburg VA


Astronomical Pancake House



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Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes with Pecans and Cream Cheese Frosting

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French Toast Melt – Egg & Cheese, Virginia Ham, Texas French Toast, Strawberry Jam with Grits

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Royal French Toast – Two pieces of Texas French Toast dipped in pancake batter, deep fried, drizzled with Cream Cheese Glaze

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Continuing a decidedly sweet day following a completely disappointing visit to Colonial Williamsburg, it was just past 1:00pm when we entered Astronomical Pancake House and with service apparently hampered by a “large group” that had just arrived suffice it to say first impressions were not the least bit favorable – a twenty-eight minute wait in the dingy lobby feeling something like purgatory considering the larger of two dining rooms sat 1/3 empty with dirty plates covering no less than five tables as servers brought out plate after plate with not a busser to be found.

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Eventually seated just moments before the pre-determined thirty-minute ‘walk-out’ mark, it was much to my annoyance that the table simultaneously placed next to us was greeted with smiling service moments later by an elderly African American waitress while our young male server scurried about essentially ignoring us until I called out, and requesting to at least receive a glass of coffee or water after the long wait an attempted simultaneous order was immediately shot down with the youngster apparently “out of tickets,” another long delay to follow with neither coffee nor water arriving until after the order was finally placed…and neither refilled with any sort of gusto throughout the course of our stay.

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Hoping at this point that the food would justify the hassle it was no surprise that the entirety of a large order arrived at once and immediately thankful for an empty table to be used as a sideboard it was not long before photos were taken and indulgence began, the hockey-puck hard biscuits a lone disappointment as two daily specials and the restaurant’s “signature” cinnamon swirl pancakes each proved well deserving of not only price and praise, but potentially even the wait.


Starting savory before moving to sweet it was almost as if our visit was expected when I saw the Monte Cristo-esque “French Toast Melt” on the white-board specials and loaded with briny Virginia ham, fluffy eggs, and sharp cheddar the griddled Texas Toast sandwich was quite excellent even before the addition of a layer of Strawberry jam, the same to be said of a creamy bowl of grits from which my mother partook greedily leaving me to focus on a truly ‘astronomical’ stack of buttermilk pancakes ribboned with cinnamon streusel beneath a layer of melting butter and liberally applied frosting rich with the flavor of cream cheese.


Admittedly impressed by the aforementioned sandwich and stack, it was nonetheless a “save the best for last” scenario when we finally delved into the Royal French Toast, and definitely as decadent as the description would lead one to believe batter coated French toast can most reasonably be described as a breakfast “funnel cake,” the golden shell just a touch oily while the core was wispy and light, the addition of butter, cream cheese, and just a touch of pancake syrup pushing the plate into the realm of ‘best ever’ status, though even when divided by two persons the substantial richness was a bit much…though perhaps that has something to do with ordering two additional plates of food…or the cake, pancakes, French toast, and donuts already consumed earlier that day.



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Posted in Astronomical Pancake House, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Norfolk, Pancakes, Vacation, Virginia, Williamsburg Tagged

Duck Donuts, Williamsburg VA


Duck Donuts Williamsburg

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Vanilla with Sprinkles


Strawberry Glaze

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Lemon Glaze

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Maple Peanut

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Apparently part of a growing franchise with several locations located in Virginia and North Carolina, Duck Donuts was the first food-centric stop on arrival to Williamburg and with the donut machine cranking out piping hot pastries to the smiles of several families one only wonders why such places are not far more common given the current trend in artisan doughnutteries popping up across the United States.


Small in size and streamlined in format, the basic premise featuring a single wheat and corn flour base fried in soybean oil with several frostings and topping added to suit each customer’s taste, Duck Donuts lives by the promise of the “freshest donut anywhere,” and true to their word it was only after I placed a four part order that each ring marched down the conveyor-belt, flipped onto the drying rack, and received a quick pat before being dipped, topped, boxed, and placed into my hands – the whole process a mere three minutes from payment to first bite.


Obviously piping hot, something others should bear in mind when considering the three minute comment above as that first bite resulted in one of those ‘oh damn, chewing with mouth open to let it cool off’ moments, it was in four different varieties of toppings that our tasting progressed and although each base was expectedly consistent and downright delicious the frostings were unfortunately a bit one-note, the ‘vanilla’ unfortunately just the flavor of sugar with strawberry mostly the same while the lemon was slightly sour and the maple featured light syrup notes beneath the salted nuts.



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Posted in Dessert, Duck Donuts, Food, Norfolk, Vacation, Virginia, Williamsburg

Citrus, Virginia Beach VA





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Sweet Potato Biscuit

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Buttermilk Biscuit

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Dreamsicle Cake

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Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Pecan Praline Sauce

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry Croissant French Toast – chocolate ganache & cream cheese drizzle


With plans to visit Williamsburg during the low point of their tourist season an early morning run alongside the frigid beaches of Virginia started day two of the trip and more worn out than usual thanks to a strong headwind a 7:30am arrival at Citrus thankfully saw us beat the crowd – a throng of hungry Virginians soon filling the lobby with waits for two seats topping twenty minutes while larger parties were quoted delays of up to an hour.


Larger in size than one would guess from the outside, the ‘bar’ area pushed up against the back with endless mimosas flowing while a duo of large dining rooms buzzed with energy and smiles from the young, all-female staff, it was to one of the few remaining tables that our duo was sat moments after entering and with both water and bold, well-roasted coffee filled repeatedly throughout the course of a forty-five minute stay the only question was where best to invest our appetites – the answers coming in part for the extensive menu, but also from a list of daily specials still focused on the Valentine’s Day theme.


Assuredly one of the hottest tickets in town for breakfast, the weekend brunch even more popular with the after-mass crowd, it was at my suggestion that items were sent out as readied by the kitchen and with cakes and pies obviously pre-made the ‘Dreamsicle’ cake arrived merely a minute after our ticket was received, the orange juice imbued cake intensely moist with light sours from grated peel while bold vanilla frosting and whip provide a taste somewhat akin to the Hostess orange cupcakes I loved as a child, yet far more ‘grown up.’


Treated next to a duo of biscuits, both hot from the oven and served with butter as well as honey on request, suffice it to say that although not quite as impressive as those found at various spots in North Carolina or Handsome Biscuit just a few miles away both items were a worthy addition to anyone’s breakfast – the buttermilk trending a bit smaller and more dense while the sweet potato iteration was soft and supple with light sweetness, though a few more minutes in the oven would have been preferred in order to brown the top.


Moving onward to mains, and eschewing the restaurant’s ‘signature’ dish largely because far more interesting items caught our eyes, it was with three fluffy pancakes alongside two cross-cut croissants that our meal reached its peak and although the custard dredged and frosting drizzled French Toast was indeed delicious beneath fresh berries and dark chocolate it was the bright orange pancakes that undoubtedly stole the show, each fluffy disk rife with the flavor of pumpkin pie and all the better when doused in a sauce of liquefied pralines, the large cup more than enough for the pancakes with leftovers equally delicious when mixed into coffee…or spooned directly into one’s mouth.


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Posted in Breakfast, Citrus, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Norfolk, Pancakes, Vacation, Virginia, Virginia Beach

Tautog’s, Virginia Beach VA



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She Crab Soup – traditional preparation with lots of crab meat & sherry

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Oysters Rockefeller – Oven-Roasted Oysters topped with Spinach, Bacon & Parmesan

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Herb Encrusted Bread

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Corby’s Original Crab Dip – served piping hot with Tortilla Chips

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Crab Nachos – Chips topped with Cheese, Crab Meat, Lettuce, Olives, White Salsa & Tomato Salsa

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Pork Belly and Foie Gras – Braised Pork Belly, Pan Sauteed and topped with Seared Foie Gras over Olive Oil dressed Baby Arugula with Warm Maple Bacon Vinaigrette

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Shrimp & Grits – Large Shrimp sauteed & deglazed in house made Peach BBQ served over Jalapeno Cheddar Grits

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Bourbon Bread Pudding

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Key Lime Pie


Checked into a Virginia Beach hotel, the area almost barren in the 40-degree chill of February, it was to Tautog’s that we headed for Valentine’s Day dinner and with the long-standing local favorite offering its normal menu plus a few seasonal specials it would be hard to imagine a better spot to enjoy such an over-marketed holiday – the only indication of the event being a few small hearts printed on the menu and salutations from the hostess as no upcharge or cheesiness was otherwise evident in the old, renovated beach house.


Filled to perhaps 90% capacity, mostly with locals familiar to the staff, it was just after 7:00pm that we were seated at a snug two-top overlooking the restaurant’s heated patio and greeted by a somewhat gruff and silent server it would not be long before a four-course order was crafted – the majority of selections considered to be Tautog’s signature items while a seasonal appetizer was selected, foolishly, as my main course – the combination of foie gras, pork belly, bacon dressing, and olive oil every bit as overwhelmingly heavy and unbalanced as it seems, particularly at the end of an already substantial meal.


Speaking to the rest of the cuisine, as well as the restaurant itself, those thinking of Tautog’s as an ‘upscale’ restaurant are likely looking at it only in the context of Virginia Beach as the scene itself is actually quite laid back and with servers in T-shirts and a television playing NCAA Basketball behind the bar, and taking these caveats into account a menu featuring dips and nachos seems far more appropriate, as do prices with a meal for two unlikely to break seventy-five dollars without substantial alcohol consumption as not a single item from the menu crosses the Andrew Jackson mark while several are available for less than $10.


Beginning first with the $3 bread basket, a toasty composition buried in garlic and herbs, the first round of food consisted of a $4 bowl of creamy soup tinged in sherry and chock-a-block full of fresh crab alongside a bargain-basement half-dozen plump oysters prepared with butter, bacon, and spinach for a mere $9, the flavors far better than almost any preparation found back home at nearly twice the price with locally sourced seafood more than likely responsible for both.


At this point already smiling, not only at the food but at the peculiarities of our waiter who never seemed to move his lips as he talked, it was with the second round of plates that we quickly realized the folly of our four-course approach and with both appetizers arriving in portions better suited for a group of four the only thing more impressive than the $8 and $10 pricetags for the dip and nachos, respectively, was the quantity of crab in each – the still bubbling dip ever so slightly sweet beneath the sharp cheddar topnotes while the crunchy nachos featured at least half-a-cup of picked crab meat dispersed amidst a mountain of chips topped with two types of salsa and plenty of fresh produce that left us each picking at the plate even as we acknowledge the fact that there was much yet to come.


Having already mentioned the foie, suffice it to say that Tautog’s Shrimp and Grits was a far superior choice for a main course and with eight plump shrimp atop a pile of sticky grits tinged in heat and topped with sweet one wonders how the restaurant even makes money on the $17 plate, each stick-to-your-ribs bite compelling you to say ‘just one more,’ no matter how full, and much like the rest of the menu a dish best shared.


Unable to resist dessert, the house-made list changing daily and recited tableside by our server, it was undoubtedly a gluttonous choice to select two plates as a finish, but thankfully far more forgiving in portion that the savories one would be hard pressed to decide on just one – the creamy key lime pie certainly not as tart as the versions served down in Florida, and at least for me all the better for it, while the flan-style bread pudding was dense with butter and custard beneath a mountain of whip, a spoonful of boozy pan sauce upgrading the plate to a whole different level  without pushing  things too far and making the dish ‘too’ rich.


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Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Norfolk, Pork, Tautog's, Vacation, Virginia, Virginia Beach

The Public House, Norfolk VA


The Public House



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Cinnamon Rolls – Made this morning, loaded with cinnamon, brown sugar and golden raisins, drizzled with tullamore dew icing

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White Cheddar Pimento Cheese – drizzled with spicy honey and served with crackers

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Sweet and Savory Corn Pancakes – loaded and served with salted honey butter

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Public House Chicken and Waffle – Belgian Waffle loaded with pulled southern fried chicken, a fried egg, house slaw and roasted poblano maple syrup


Originally targeting No Frill Bar and Grill, only to discover a 35 minute wait in the most cramped restaurant foyer I’ve seen in some time, it was with a quick reroute that our party of two found seating at The Public House, a new-ish gastro-pub in the Ghent district where a plethoric beer and spirits selection was eschewed in favor of hot, albeit slowly refilled, coffee and a menu of brunch options that proved far more impressive than one would have guessed – a duo of appetizers followed by two mains while college basketball played prominently behind the bar.

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Perhaps not a ‘typical’ choice on Valentine’s Day, and as such less than 1/4 full just after 1:00pm, it was mere seconds after arrival that seating was procured across from the LCD and with several hipsters, two families, and an elderly couple seated throughout the largest of three rooms the crowd was decidedly mixed – the menu showing similar diversity as items ranging from burgers and two styles of mac n’ cheese to pancakes and waffles all showed a surprising degree of creativity, the appetizers no less interesting with the chunky pimento cheese truly exemplary beneath spicy golden honey while the undersized cinnamon rolls proved a bit pricey considering the portion, though the flavor profile was quite memorable with light boozy notes and plenty of butter providing a nice foil to the sweetness poached raisins and bubbling cream cheese icing.

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Having already mentioned the pancakes and waffles it should be obvious to anyone familiar with my preferences and predilections that the chicken and waffles were a ‘must order’ and although the waffle was a tad too soft for my tastes the crispy brined bird, slaw, and berries all presented a beautiful balance of flavors, the mélange melded together by a lightly poached egg that helped temper the heat from poblano spiked syrup without making the plate too ‘heavy’ – an act not even attempted by the toothsome cornbread pancakes which, although nothing short of a belly bomb, proved absolutely irresistible beneath a lacquer of honey-tinged butter with additional honey requested in place of a sidecar of unfortunately artificial ‘maple’ syrup.

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Norfolk, Pancakes, The Public House, Vacation, Virginia, Waffles

Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue, Norfolk VA


Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue

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Pork Barbecue minced with slaw

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Pork Barbecue sliced with slaw

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Ringo Sundae – Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Fudge, Crushed Cone, Whip Cream and a Cherry

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Original hand-rolled pure food cone with one scoop Custom Made Butter Pecan Ice Cream

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Said by some to be Norfolk’s most famous spot, and targeted as part of a trip that would later include much of Eastern North Carolina’s celebrated Barbecue scene, it was just after noon when we approached Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue and with several cars taking advantage of the old-school curbside service it was instead indoors that we dined, the small counter entirely full on arrival but a four-top in back open for seating in a room decorated with trinkets and photos from Doumar’s storied past.

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Perhaps more celebrated for their ‘cones,’ the original machine used at the St. Louis World’s Fair still on display, than their ‘cue’ the menu at Doumar’s is a rather well-culled affair and mostly wanting to focus on the signatures it was only the slow, disjointed service that delayed our order – the eventual selection of two sandwiches and two desserts treated only to a grunted “no fries?” before being sent to the kitchen, a pair of bagged white buns arriving just a few minutes later along with a small sundae and one “Doumar’s” stamped cone topped with a small ball of Butter Pecan no better than what can be found from the likes any non-premium brand at the local grocery.

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Generally unimpressed by the “Ringo,” a few scoops of substandard vanilla ice cream mixed with crushed cone, good chocolate fudge, and Redi-Whip, it was onward to the sandwiches that the meal progressed and initially slapped in the face with a big hit of vinegar from the chopped pork that was far more evident that anything found throughout the rest of the trip, the sliced barbecue thankfully proved to be far more palatable, the unfortunate lack of crispy skin leaving the texture a bit ‘one note’ though the protein itself was exceedingly tender – easily the best bites of a meal where little proved compelling other than the history of the space itself.

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Posted in Dessert, Doumar’s, Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue, Doumar’s Cones And Barbecue, Food, Ice Cream, Norfolk, Pork, Vacation, Virginia

Handsome Biscuit, Norfolk VA


Handsome Biscuit

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PB&JB Peanut Butter, Mixed Berry Jam and Salted Butter

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Hella Fitzgerald Fried Chicken with bacon, cheddar, and red eye sausage gravy

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A.C. Slawter Pulled Pork BBQ, apple coleslaw and Lupo hot sauce

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Red Velvet Funfetti Whoopie Pie

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Lemon Bars bruléestyle

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Double Chocolate Sea Salt Pecan Cookies

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Biscuit Pudding with honey and sorghum molasses

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Located in a tiny standalone storefront on Colonial Avenue, Handsome Biscuit is perhaps the most written about restaurant in Norfolk, and with a succinct menu of Sweet Potato Biscuits with a variety of creative toppings alongside a few desserts and the occasional seasonal special the super-specialized space is perhaps the city’s only “can’t miss” dining destination, the frequent 20+ minute line a minor annoyance exclusively due to the size of the kitchen as the staff themselves are as friendly and efficient as can be.

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Truly a cozy space, seating for a dozen (at most) inside with an outdoor patio found to be quite chilly on a Valentine’s Day visit, it was to a mere ten minute wait that our arrival was met and perusing the menu board as we slowly approached the counter it was eventually on three biscuits and a quartet of desserts that we settled – the items prepped and plated in rapid-fire fashion with piping-hot biscuits soon steaming up the February air as we contemplated where to begin.

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Beginning first with the biscuit, each pumpkin-orange example a perfect balance of lightly tanned exterior and soft crumb, it would be an error in judgment to think that the use of sweet potatoes was any sort of gimmick as the smashed spuds added even more moisture to the already supple center and with all three toppings proving not only well conceptualized but exceedingly generous in portion one merely needs to decide where their interest lies when placing an order – the Peanut Butter and Jam incredibly rich when slathered on to the point of excess while equally overflowing piles of spicy pork and crispy chicken with a thick coat of country gravy were equally well apportioned, none of them ‘grab n’ go’ one bit, but instead a fork and knife affair entirely necessitating a plate and the diner’s full attention.


Moving on to desserts and beginning with the restaurant’s signature ‘bruléestyle’ lemon bar, suffice it to say that these tangy triangles are decidedly deceptive in their small size and with each bite laced in creamy curd tinged with lemon rind a puckered face is almost guaranteed, the rich chewy cookie no less impactful in its utilization of chocolate while the daily special whoopie pie and ‘not available every day’ biscuit bread pudding were far more subtle in their approach, the later teeming with butter beneath a dusting of cinnamon-sugar that harkened the flavor of chess pie with a texture that was sometimes crunchy, other times creamy, and undeniably worth seeking out.


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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Handsome Biscuit, Norfolk, Pork, Vacation, Virginia

Yorgo’s Bageldashery, Norfolk VA


Yorgo’s Bageldashery

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Toasted Sesame Bagel with Cream Cheese

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Toasted Blueberry Bagel with Blueberry Cream Cheese

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Peanut Butter Cookie

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Challah Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

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Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich

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Located in Norfolk’s historic Ghent district and owned by Greg Peterman since 2006, Yorgo’s Bageldashery is considered by many to be the best Bagel Shop in all of Virginia and although it was indeed the only bagel shop visited during a prolonged stay in the state of my birth I can attest that the bagels were indeed quite excellent, as was nearly everything else sampled as part of Valentine’s Day breakfast following a redeye out of Las Vegas.


Small in size and friendly in service, the sort of place where even first timers are likely to be welcomed like old friends, ordering at Yorgo’s follows a grab-and-go or counter-side order format and with several items available at each the most onerous part of the process is deciding which items sound best, a “bakers’ half-dozen” providing plenty of carbs for our party of two…and likely several more.

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Beginning first with the restaurant’s signature item, suffice it to say that each hand crafted and housemade ring proves a substantial upgrade on the doughy pseudo-desserts at Panera or the flavorless prefabrications at Einstein or Great American and with several house-blended schmears only serving to upgrade the crunchy exterior overlying a soft, stretchy core the best bet is to simply follow one’s gut – the sesame seed iteration eggy and pronouncedly nutty while the blueberry bagel was only lightly sweetened by fresh berries, the berry-imbued cream cheese slightly less subtle with the combination conveying a lovely balance of savory and sweet.


Moving from breakfast to things trending far closer to dessert it was perhaps an effect of the early hour and questionable ‘day-old’ status that saw a carrot cake sandwich cookie trend far too soggy to be properly enjoyed but moving onward to three other cookies, all confirmed as fresh baked, one would be hard pressed to decide which of the trio was best but at only $1.80 each one would be best advised to explore the options for themselves, though certainly not at the expense of the house-made Challah Bread Pudding – a rich, eggy block, heated to order, and doused with boozy caramel sauce that proved to be not only the highlight of the meal but also one of the best deli-style bread puddings experienced to date.



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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Norfolk, Vacation, Virginia, Yorgo’s Bageldashery

Tender Steak & Seafood, Las Vegas NV


Tender Steak & Seafood

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White, Wheat, Parmesan Cheese Bread with Olive Oil and Pesto

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Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras – Pistachio Risotto Dirty Rice Cake with Hibiscus Port Wine Reduction and Red Currant Sauce


Oxtail & Onion Soup Gratinee – Oxtail Beef Broth, Caramelized Onions, Rosemary Focaccia, Gruyere


Deep Fried Potatoes – Pancetta, Parmesan, Smoked Sea Salt, Rosemary


Lobster Risotto – Steamed Maine Lobster with Mascarpone and Parmesan Cheeses in Risotto Rice


Smoked Hudson Valley Duck Bacon


Roasted Beef Bone Marrow


20 Oz Dry-Aged Black Angus Beef Ribeye from Double R Ranch Washington with Port Wine Jus

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Game Tasting Trio – Venison Osso Buco, Rocky Mountain Elk Medallion, Wild Boar Rack Chop with Farro, Fig Chutney, and Red Currant Venison Reduction


Seafood Tasting Platter – Sea Scallop & Quinoa, Hawaiian Blue Prawns & Sea Asparagus, Whitefish & Wild Rice, Salmon and Farro Pilaf

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Bananas Foster’s Bread Pudding – Cinnamon Banana Brioche Bread Pudding, Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream and Banana Rum Sauce


Campfire “more-than-a” s’more – Fire roasted homemade marshmallows on a warm chocolate fudge cake with Graham Cracker Cookie and Peanut butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


Milk Chocolate and Coconut Soufflé with Mango Compote


Republic Of Tea Service with lemon juice, candied orange, candied lemon


Double Espresso on ice with dark and milk chocolate shavings


Located in Luxor with nearly three-hundred seats and the sort of pandering service that describes everything as ‘beautiful’ or ‘amazing,’ despite evidencing zero knowledge of the province or preparation technique involved in the cuisine, it was finally on Saturday that myself and two friends sat down at Tender – the combination of a gift certificate and one of the few menus in Las Vegas to offer wild game making up for everything service and the humid, stagnant space lacked.


Heralded by some as a hidden gem, while others find the entire Luxor property almost entirely irrelevant to Sin City’s culinary landscape, it was just after 5:30 that our trio sat down in one of several dining rooms and with heavy wood speckled with rustic décor beneath low lighting the upsale specials were largely ignored, a focus on the cheese menu showing far less unique options than those suggested online (and described, oddly, as only available ‘at the bar’,) leading to a three course menu – one friend’s Oysters Rockefeller completely forgotten when the waiter tried to push ‘outstanding’ tuna tartare while the rest of the order trickled out slowly with minimal description, but excellent execution from the men and women behind the grills.


Having reached out through social media in order to understand how the wild game menu had come to be in such an unexpected space it was not long after warm bread and aromatic pesto arrived that GM James Clare stopped by to say hello and subsequently fetching Chef K.C. Fazel, a gracious man with obvious passion for his products and preparation, the story of Tender’s relationship with farmers up north as well as the Chef’s Midwestern upbringing soon had me all the more interested in what was to come – not even the frequently empty water glasses, 80F+ temperature, or ongoing “beautiful,” “wonderful,” “excellent” verbiage being fed to each and every table around enough to bring me down.


With the aforementioned oysters forgotten, course one began with two appetizers, and as one friend was treated to a rich broth teaming with tender oxtail, caramelized onions, grilled bread, and cheese that ranks amongst the best I have ever tasted my $19 slice of duck liver a true first glimpse of things to come – the foie gras’ sapor more intense than generally seen amongst steakhouse fare with the crispy rice cake providing a texture-rich base more than amicable to sopping up both the offal’s residual oils and a drizzle of port wine and juicy red fruit.


Moving on to mains and sides, it was after some delay that seven plates arrived tableside and although presentations were sorely lacking, save for the young man who described the seafood tasting, it would be nearly impossible to find fault in anything save for mundane potatoes – the smoky bone marrow portion exceedingly generous given the $6 tab while both the crispy duck bacon and thick, cheese-imbued rice were equally well prepared, all of them dishes best shared.


Speaking to entrees, for myself the beef was a bit humdrum, though the sear and center were both on-point medium rare, while both tastings were every bit as good as the quality of sourcing, the whitefish admittedly a touch fishy thus allowing both salmon and scallops to steal the spotlight while each constituent of the wild game trio was peerless, the Osso Buco tender and full of funk while both elk and boar delivered on the chef’s promise that even his leaner cuts were bound to impress, the latter particularly impressive as smoky saline notes met a perfect foil in housemade chutney.At this point feeling the effects of a full stomach combined with the restaurant’s toasty temperature it was in an elegant iced coffee presentation that I indulged while my tablemate fancied tea and genuinely unable to resist dessert the team at Tender had me at the words “Bread Pudding,” the sizable round swimming in a pool of boozed up bananas beneath slowly melting ice cream – an excellent dish its own right but certainly no match for the torched s’mores cake, an absolute stunner that was neither too sweet nor too heavy, something I only wish could have been said for a fallen-on-arrival soufflé that was worth neither the twenty minute preparation nor the calories involved.


THREE AND A HALF STARS: Flying well below the radar given its gaming-floor adjacent location in Luxor, Tender is at once the sort of ‘big meat’ place that many envision when thinking of the typical Vegas steakhouse AND the sort of place where a largely unheralded chef has been allowed to carve out a niche that few would expect – if only the front of house could be brought up to speed with the team in the kitchen there is little doubt that this diamond in the rough could shine amongst the city’s best.


RECOMMENDED: Wild Game, Onion Soup, Lobster Risotto, S’mores.


AVOID: Deep Fried Potatoes, Souffle, Wearing Warm Clothing, Asking Questions That Require An Educated Response.


TIP: Occasionally offering $75-off-$150 deals via MyVegas to Out-of-Towners, those looking for a deal would be well advised to read the fine print – like most deals on the popular application locals are excluded and not even able to see the deal when browsing offers in the 702.


WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Tender Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Pork, Souffle, Tender, Tender Steak & Seafood

Donut Mania, Las Vegas NV


Donut Mania

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Buttermilk Bar

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The King – Peanut Butter and Bacon Filling, Peanut Butter Frosting, Caramelized Banana

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Peanut Butter and Jelly

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Apple Fritter

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Cherry Fritter

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Rocky Road Bar – Chocolate Icing, Marshmallow, Walnuts, Chocolate Chips, Chocolate Whip Filling


Owned and operated by a former employee of Pink Box with a counter manned by his own flesh and blood it was just after 2:00pm that I noticed Donut Mania’s “Grand Opening” sign when driving down South Durango, and first scolded by the middle-aged owner for snapping a few photos for fear of me being a “spy” for his former employers it would be difficult to say that first impressions were favorable, though after brief conversation the smoky smelling man’s tune slowly changed.

Purportedly opening the new space simply out of his longterm love of donuts, first honing his skills at mom n’ pop spots before working at Winchell’s and then helping to establish Pinkbox, it was with faint praise tinged with disdain that conversation was held regarding other local donut purveyors and stating his total agreement with my assessment of Pinkbox’s cronut as an oily mess a free sample of the Donut Mania version was procured free-of-charge, the exterior glistening with glaze with well separated layers incredibly light, though not as texturally compelling as that of Ace, Coco, America, or Press.


Amused by creations contained in a duo of glass cases it was eventually on a half-dozen that a decision was made and offered 20% off the $6.80 total was admittedly a bargain, though the young woman who haphazardly slopped donuts atop one another inside the pink box could stand to learn a thing or two about presentation and the use of wax paper – the flavors of peanut butter and jelly all over the bottom of a rocky road bar not particularly desired, nor particularly fanciful for those wanting to take pictures of Donut Mania’s wares.

Getting into the flavors and textures, it perhaps goes without saying that the man who helped set-up Pink Box features a base quite similar to the slowly expanding chain and with the same bready consistency pervasive in all three filled options it was all the more unfortunate that toppings as well as fillings were extremely heavy handed – the cocoa cream inside the rocky road a lone exception while both the King and artificial grape PB&J were so heavily strewn with peanut butter that neither proved edible beyond a few bites.


Frankly appalled by the dryness of a buttermilk bar, perhaps an effect of ordering it so late in the day, it was onward to Fritters that the tasting progressed and although certainly not ‘typical’ with large bubbles of yeasted dough wrapped around a decent amount of fruit it was finally here that Donut Mania found its groove, both apple and cherry iterations decidedly delicious – though perhaps better termed a ‘pull-apart’ rather than fritter, the later achieving near-perfection at Ace Donuts, just up the street.

TWO AND A HALF STARS:  Happy to see another mom n’ pop donut shop attempting to do interesting things it is unfortunate that thus far Donut Mania only seems to be another Pink Box outpost with a few small tweaks.  Interesting for their take on the fritter, and offering a fairly interesting selection of daily specials as well as enormous ‘party donuts’ there is no doubt I’ll be back to reevaluate in a few months – hopefully finding service issues and paranoia to be remedied, or at least scaled back.


RECOMMENDED:  Fritters, nontraditional but delicious none the less – cherry moreso than apple.

AVOID:  Anything featuring Peanut Butter and a worst-in-city candidate buttermilk bar.


TIP:  Currently offering 10% with Social Media Check-Ins and early morning hours 7-days a week, those looking for a good deal and best selections are advised to arrive early with Smartphone in hand.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Donut Mania on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Donut Mania, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Dumpling King, Las Vegas NV


Dumpling King



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Vinegar Slips Away Potato Silk

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Fried Lamb with Cumin

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Crystal Beef Grilled Dumplings

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Juicy Beef Soup Dumplings

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Lamb Boiled Dumplings

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Boiled Shrimp Egg and Leek Dumplings

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Baked Yolk Coated Pumpkin

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Steamed Venison Dumplings

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Spicy Laoganma Sauced Eggplant

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Leek Pancake

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Roasted Peking Duck

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Toffee Taro


Largely unaware of the prevalence of a Buddhist or Muslim beliefs in China, let alone the latters particular contributions to the country’s culinary diversity, it was with great curiosity that five friends and I sat down amidst the colorful confines of Dumpling King and with friendly service paired to one of the most cleanly spaces on Spring Mountain Road the dozen plates that followed were every bit as surprising as the relative lack of praise the space has received since opening its doors nearly one year ago.

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Truly a decorative space, with red florals covering each seat and several shining ornaments arranged in the foyer as well as alongside the bar, it was at one of the large turnstile tables that the group was sat and with full view afforded of each dumpling being made by hand suffice it to say that the surprisingly low priced menu is an even bigger bargain when taking into account the painstaking effort involved in each piece, a single order of ten broth-soaked beef soup dumplings taking the team of three nearly five minutes to mix, roll out, fill, and twist fourteen times before arranging to steam.

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Treated to tea, as well as water that unfortunately required frequent prompting to be refilled, it was in a pair of items considered to be Northern Chinese specialties that the tasting began and with tender potatoes sliced like noodles beneath a drizzle of vinegar presented alongside richly spiced lamb mixed with shoots, onions, and peppers the opening volley traversed the palate adeptly, the light heat of dried peppers occasionally peaking through with a touch of unexpected sweetness lingering on the end.
Moving onward to the dumplings it was largely at the discretion of our server that the table placed its faith, and opting to see what could be done in a variety of fillings and styles one would be hard pressed to say which presentation was ‘best’ as not a single one lacked – the steamed beef “XLB” more meaty than most with an intensely flavorful broth while both the ‘stone dumplings’ amidst their golden lattice and the rich venison variant were chockablock full of flavor, the later almost as juicy as the soup dumplings with more than enough aromatic nuance to help even the most timid palates conquer their fear of game.

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Personally impressed by the soft pumpkin fried beneath salty egg yolk, while others felt the flavors too mundane, it was again a ‘vegetarian special’ that wowed in the next round of plates and although the robust heat was an early challenge to my somewhat timid tongue subsequent bites of the Laoganma eggplant proved more and more accessible, a mild numbing effect perhaps contributing to somewhat off-putting ‘oily’ flavor prevalent in sizzling leek pancakes that were otherwise lightly fried and creamy beneath the exterior crunch.

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Admittedly taking a chance on Peking Duck, considering the heritage of the space in which we dined, suffice it to say that neither tepid flesh nor flaccid skin was well received yet with eyes at this point glazing over from the sheer volume of delicious food it was the final plate of the afternoon that proved the most interesting of all; a pile of chopped taro boiled soft beneath a shattering lacquer of caramelized sugar that necessitated a quick bath in iced water in order to avoid severe burns, each cube harkening a creamy one-bite crème brûlée.


FOUR STARS: Undoubtedly unique, not only in its heritage but also with regard to the cleanliness and friendliness of the staff, Dumpling King is perhaps the very definition of ‘hidden gem,’ the dumplings themselves undoubtedly on par with the best in the city while other unique plates such as the potatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, and taro are the sort of things I’ve not seen since trips to Toronto and Richmond, BC.


RECOMMENDED: Toffee Taro, Fried Lamb with Cumin, Crystal Beef Grilled Dumplings, Steamed Venison Dumplings, Spicy Laoganma Sauced Eggplant.


AVOID: Roasted Peking Duck, Leek Pancake.


TIP: Absolutely Pork-free due to their religious beliefs but with more than enough menu items, as well as specials, to please any palate those interested in visiting Dumpling King are advised to do so with a large group as portions trend quite large – a ‘two plate’ per person approach deemed “too much” by our server, though by the end of the meal everything was indeed (just barely) consumed.


WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Dumpling King on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Dumpling King, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada