10/03/2013

Sippin’ in Simpsonville Oktoberfest - October 5th

 
When: October 5, 2013 @ 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Where: Main Street Simpsonville
10 North Main Street
Simpsonville, SC 29681
Cost: $15.00
 
Enjoy a casual evening tasting craft beers at local Simpsonville Merchants - 14 tasting locations in all! This is an open event, please invite your friends!

Tickets available online here! http://www.discoversimpsonville.com/ai1ec_event/sippin-in-simpsonville-oktoberfest/?instance_id=3346

Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the event. Your ticket includes an adorable tasting pilsner glass, beer tastings paired with food bites, and admission to an Oktoberfest party which includes bratwurst and live music by After Five!

6 pm - Registration opens near P.Simpsons
6 - 9 pm - Beer tasting at area merchants
7:30 pm - Oktoberfest area opens

Tickets available at these participating Simpsonville Merchants
Emily Elizabeth Paper Boutique
I'm Sick of This
Bethany's
Carolina Olive Oil
Boutique of Dreams
Bennetts and Sons Antiques
Thai Cuisine
Eye Candy
Ice Cream Station
United Hospice
Southern Galleries
Over the Rainbow
Redline Loft
Event Decor and More
Chamber of Commerce

This event is organized by the Main Street Chapter of the Simpsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, call 963-3781 for more information

10/02/2013

Greer Station Oktoberfest: Saturday, October 5th

It's finally that time of year again...

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2013 12:00 noon-10:00pm
DOWNTOWN GREER, SOUTH CAROLINA


One of the most popular festivals in downtown Greer, the Greer State Bank Greer Station Oktoberfest presented by Warsteiner is coming up this fall! The festival features German oompah bands on two stages, lots of German foods, and of course, German beer and wine!

Festival goers should expect their mouths to melt from the array of German foods and desserts that will be served. Menu items include Bavarian white sausages, leberkaus, knackwurst, bratwursts, fresh baked pretzels, German funnel cakes, kettle korn, spaetzel, chipstix, glazed nuts, German chocolate cake, Black forest cake, and much more fantastic foods will be sold anywhere from $1 to $5.

Not only is the Greer State Bank Greer Station Oktoberfest centered around German themes, it is embracing local artists and celebrating their creative works. Local artists will be displaying their creative pieces all day in downtown Greer. Work on display includes everything from oil paintings, ceramics, photography, woodwork, jewelry and much more. Festival organizers are encouraging people to come and support these artists and delight in each unique piece.

The official festival beer is provided by Warsteiner, Germany's largest privately owned brewery. Warsteiner will be serving Verum, Dunkel, and Premium Fresh beers. Warsteiner will be featured at two locations within the festival – the corner of Randall and Trade Street and the corner of Victoria and Trade Street. The festival will also have Budweiser, Thomas Creek and Pepsi products.

3/21/2013

Huckleberry's Restaurant and Bakery - Lake Lure, NC

For all you haters out there, that bash a restaurant simply due to the utensils given to eat a quality home-cooked meal with, hate no more! Huckleberry's is changing and in big ways in 2013. You can see the original post here. For one reason or another, this little restaurant has quickly become a favorite of both my wife's and mine and we cannot wait to see what they have to offer in the future.

Michaila (owner and chef) has recently graduated from Johnson and Wales University Culinary Art Program as the youngest student to graduate from this program, just days after her 18th birthday. On March 18th after a very long wait and saving up every penny possible, Huckleberry's is proud to have a newly installed dishwasher. What does this mean? No more Styrofoam or plastic utensils. Fast forward to today, beautiful China has arrived and is waiting for you. Although for those who whined about this on my original post, I think you still deserve the old Styrofoam.

In other related news, while Michaila was on internship at an award winning restaurant in Florida, she met two Chefs, John and Steve, and the three of them, gelled extremely well and decided they all wanted to work with each other, so it was either she closed Huckleberry's and moved to Florida full time or they move to Lake Lure and renovate her restaurant- Okay you guessed it..., they are moving to Lake Lure. John will move in March 26th and Michaila and John are ready to take the Lake Lure Culinary Standards and bring them up a notch. They will be offering, casual, light dining for breakfast and lunch then flipping the restaurant in the evenings so guests can enjoy casual fireside European dining in the evenings (while still in your golf or lake cloths).

I know that we cannot wait and will be one of the firsts to try them when things get up and going and also a chance to finally met the woman behind this operation.

Please check out their face book page and watch over the next few weeks for all they bring to the table.

http://www.facebook.com/?sk=welcome#!/HuckleberrysBakery


3/11/2013

Stella's Southern Bistro - Simpsonville, SC


Before I start to write this review, I have to get a few things off my chest. Reason # 139 why any blogger who accepts a free meal in return for a review should NOT and I repeat NOT be taken seriously. There has to be a reason why they are reaching out to you in the first place. With that said, I was contacted a few months ago (I get contacted often by local restaurants offering freebies in return for reviews) by a consultant of Stella's to enjoy a complementary dinner for two in return for a review on this very site. I regretfully turned down his offer due to the fact that no "honest" or "legitimate" review could ever possibly be written on a free outing.

With the above disclaimer over and off my chest, we have wanted to try Stella's ever since we have moved to this area, but never found ourselves ever trying it for several reasons. I have three small kids that are with us almost every time we dine out. Not knowing Stella's, no existence of a kids menu can be located anywhere, thus causing us to believe that this is not a kid friendly restaurant (up until about a month ago did I learn they indeed do have a kids menu from Facebook, but still do not know what they offer). And the biggest reason why we have never tried them is simply put, after looking at the online menu probably 50 some times in the past year, it is simply boring on paper (or in this case on screen). They are your stereotypical "Southern" menu downsized. They offer one option in all of your basic categories, Chicken, Steak, Pork, Fish, Crab, small game and your traditional overpriced Shrimp and Grits. Now I will say that they do offer some pretty amazing sounding and looking specials, but unless you follow them on Facebook, you will never know this. This brings up another point that irritates me about this place, who in the hell makes dinner plans at 6:30 on a week night? This is your average time that they mention dinner specials for that night. But I also learned after this experience that you shouldn't worry about missing it that night, it will still be on the menu the next day and possibly the next as they run specials, and soups until they run out (per our server).

Sorry, this is going to get long real quick, but onto our awkward night out with no kids in sight:

I'm not one who typically makes reservations, but this being the wife's birthday dinner and all plus we managed to pawn our kids off for the night, I figured I had better since this was the wife's direct request for dinner location. Upon arriving 5 minutes early to our reservations, we were quickly seated and that is where it all went downhill. I don't expect the best seat in the house just for making reservations, but I certainly do not expect the absolute worst possible seat imaginable. With nearly half the tables in the house still open at 7:10, I wasn't too thrilled in the least. Work with me here, imagine three tops for two, a shared bench on one side and those three tables spaced about 5"-6" apart (the wife had to physically move the table next to us with two people seated in order to get back to the bench). We both were so close to the other two tables on both sides of us that is was miserably uncomfortable. Oh, it gets better, when our waitress needs to get to the table in the corner, either I have to move about 3 feet in one direction or I get the top of my bald head rubbed like I did the day I turned 21 at the local gentleman's club. Before our drinks even arrived, I was already over this place and could not escape soon enough.
Onto the soups, Wife was excited to have the Low Country Shrimp Bisque, Old Bay spiced shrimp, scallions as described on the menu for $5.50 and I tried the soup of the day (and the next and the next days until it runs out) which was a German potato veggie soup. The shrimp bisque could have just been sent back to the kitchen as far as I was concerned as it was not a bisque at all, but the wife didn't mind it although was not satisfied by how it was more broth based rather than a creamy based traditional bisque. My soup however was the highlight of the entire evening. The veggie pure used to make this a cream soup was perfect with a very high level of acidity/citrus balance to cleanse the palette right before the main course arrived.
 One cool thing (well so I though) was how they cleverly marketed after dinner drinks (deserts would also be another great option) in place of the typical doilies under the soup cup until the wife showed me hers, last night's dinner specials! I guess they are just trying to use up old menus as a means of recycling.
 
Onto the real downer of the evening, the main course. Tonight's dinner special was a pan roasted Carolina flounder with a Sea Island red pea fritter, hominy, kohlrabi, sweet pepper and scallion saute and basil crab butter. The other dinner special also happened to be last night's dinner special, pan roasted duck breast and duck confit. The wife went with the Flounder special, even after my repeatedly discouragement. What sold her was our waitress offering up that "per the Chef, they are in the Prime of the season for taste". OK, if you say so, really. I left my dinner selection up to our server to choose and ended up with the grilled hanger steak and braised short ribs described on the menu as, root vegetable puree, Parson's Produce rappini, butter roasted mustard crumbs, red wine jus.

After already being disturbed by the seating situation along with the noise level in the very echo ridden room, this had better be the best damn tasting food I have ever experienced in my life. It wasn't! The wife's Flounder was good, but certainly not worth the price tag for the 4-5oz portion that she received especially since everything else served with it was almost non-eatable in her opinion. The fish was extremely crispy on the outside, but was slightly overcooked on this inside.  The fritter was cold and bland, defiantly not cooked to order and the veggie mix was lacking almost everything.  
 

As for my meal, I was just confused. Hanger steak, absolutely my all-time favorite cut of beef when prepared properly (and that is hard to screw up). When you think hanger steak, you think of a very nice long, thin(er) cut of meat just waiting to be cut into, not a 4oz serving for $24 that looks like a broiled sirloin that is pitch black. Known as the "Butchers" cut, this one was one that the butcher happily threw out. Go ahead and guess, take a look above and tell me which one is the steak and which one are the ribs? You can't, I didn't even know until I cut into them. As for presentation of this dish, FAIL. For the short ribs, this was a first for me. Never in my life have I ever needed a steak knife to cut through them. The flavor of everything was overall decent, just completely an under-whelming meal for the price. One suggestion I'd like to offer, please do not try to cover up how old the meat is (IE: short ribs) with an over abundance of some sort of coarsely ground salt. I would prefer to salt and pepper my own meat, thanks.
Now onto desert, I was excited to see carrot cake as the desert special, but it was just a tiny portion accompanied by a sweet potato souffle and that ruined it for me, so I opted for the New Orleans Butter Pecan Bread Pudding described as, vanilla ice cream, bourbon brown sugar caramel (pictured above) and the wife went with the highly recommended Dark Chocolate and Creamy Peanut Butter Pie described as, caramel sauce, salted and roasted peanuts (pictured below). After the 25 minute wait, one fire truck, one ambulance and the most annoying experience anyone could have ever gone through in their life, they finally arrived. Very irritated by this time, desert didn't even appeal to me any longer. That "most annoying" experience mentioned above, image one of the water boys replacing the paper table topper and folding and creasing all 4 sides, wrinkling and folding and repeatedly over and over again like nails on a chalkboard, and I'm not exaggerating this, for 12 minutes, my ears were bleeding by this time.  The pie was simply amazing according to the wife (although much smaller than previous portions brought out to both tables we shared dinner with) and I would agree with her based on the tiny portion my lovely wife was so gracious to share with me, but the bread pudding, not doing it for me. It was like one large sponge cake sitting in a very flavorful caramel sauce that was completely dissolved and gone by the time the sponge cake was only a quarter gone. And for the Pecans, I enjoyed the five slivers that were present. These both were later comped by our server at no request of ours due to the time it took to arrive and the poor waitress was the most apologetic about it.
Bottom-line: I will repeat myself, the experience of dining out is more important than the food itself. Let's face it, if you own a restaurant, you obviously can cook or know what you should be doing in that department, but you need to bring the experience and this is where Stella's is simply lacking. Don't get me wrong, the food was all simple and taste wise, acceptable, but the circus of wait staff running nonstop through the black curtain over and over again, and the water boy asking my wife 20 times if she wanted a refill when she hadn't even touched it in the first place, was simply too much. The front of the house could use an overhaul in Management style as it is just complete out of control and very noticeable to the customers.  I cannot state this for fact, but if you cannot operate a banquet room and a front house out of one small kitchen, don't do it! Do not let your front house guests be deprived and neglected due to a few extra dollars running a small banquet room. For two cocktails each, two cups of soup and one entree each, (remember our deserts were comped) our total bill was still over $90. Now I get the whole Farm to Table and local produce and farmer's thing and I fully support these types of establishments and am willing to pay a premium, but it is really pushed way too much at Stella's on the menu and throughout the restaurant while under achieving the goal. For $90, I can think of much nicer places to spend this kind of money and be guaranteed a fantastic meal and even more memorable experience and not be dining in a tiny strip mall on Fairview RD in Simpsonville. However, they did end up packing the house so maybe I'm just the odd man out in my thoughts and feeling on this place and my experience.

Although this review sounds very negative, (as it mostly is) don't take it the wrong way. Everyone is different in what they are looking for in a restaurant and if you want average food with fancy names and ingredient lists that most people have no clue about or to impress someone with how much money you pay, Stella's will deliver that for most people. I was mostly just pissed off with the world after so much went wrong prior to even placing my order to be able to enjoy anything thrown at me. With all this said, ("said" someone will say I am being a Dick or am a Dick) I plan to be back myself, but not for dinner, ever. Rather, I will be checking out the Tuesday lunch special as Kentucky Hot Brown happens to be one of my all-time favorite meals after spending so much time in Louisville (no sure how this fits with the whole "Southern cuisine", but hey, I'll be back just for it). I just hope they haven't screwed this one up too much by adding personal (culinary "FANCY") flair to it.
Stella's Southern Bistro on Urbanspoon

12/06/2012

Bon Thai and Sushi Bar: Greenville, SC

Foodie beware: Groupon is just a marketplace (in most cases, not all) for struggling restaurants who are looking for an easy fix rather than addressing the real issue(s) head-on! If you see a restaurant offering 50% off through Groupon or one of the other 20 similar sites, no big deal but when you see the same restaurant on that site every single week, they have issues and please stay away! In other news, the sake was good (after we received something other than a pint glass).
Edamame has got to be one of the hardest things in the world to screw up, but for some reason I have encountered more restaurants in the Upstate that find it very easy to do. No salt and the inners are just floating in water making the whole impossible to eat. No snap or pop here, just soggy, under seasoned peas!
The tom yum goong was the best part to the whole evening. At some outrageous price for two bowls of soup with one lousy shrimp floating, it actually hit the spot and was spiced perfectly. I asked for one Thai hot and one to be just spicy and they nailed this part of the meal exactly. That is all I will say about that as I am trying to find one positive about this place.
Now for the biggest disappointment of the entire evening, the Panang Curry. The picture above doesn't even do justice on how disappointing this dish was. A dinner sized serving for $14 some odd dollars was literally three and a half spoon full's of actual curry. The beef was the fatty gristle part of the bottom round roast that most people would toss into the trash and was absolutely inedible! I asked my poor kid of a server who honestly had no clue what was happening to have the curry come out Thai hot just like the soup as it was spot on and I was told that he would have to check with the manager. My two year old son tried the curry and didn't think it was hot. Absolute train wreck on this dish.
The Wife wasn't feeling the Thai thing all that much so she opted for two of their sushi rolls. On a Thursday night at 5:30, we were honestly the only customers in the entire restaurant. We all had already received our food and the kids were already completed by the time the sushi arrived, 35 minutes later. As the server dude got closer and closer, we were overwhelmed by the foul odor of fish. I have never seen my wife turn away from sushi no matter the quality, but she actually left more than half of this on the table when we left. The seaweed wrap was so tough to chew that she had to spit it out on most pieces. Both rolls were covered inside and out with some house sauce that tasted like a smoked eel. Not good at all.

Bottom-line: You are better off testing your luck just about anywhere else but here. $95 later and I got nothing good to say other than the sake was delicious. They do however have some sort of lunch buffet that people seem to enjoy for a fair price, I just wish they wouldn't use all the left over's that have been man handled by 50 other people prior to being served for their over priced dinner food.
Bon Thai & Sushi Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

12/05/2012

Joey D's Chicago Style Eatery: Bradenton, FL

 This is exactly what the Upstate is missing in the restaurant scene.
Joey D's Chicago Style Eatery is a little out of place being located smack dab on 14 and Cortez in Bradenton, Florida, but boy am I glad they are there. Flash back a few years ago and any of the Minnesota readers may remember this place over in South Minneapolis on 42nd St that is now Chris and Rob's. The only place in Mpls to get an Italian Beef or Chicago Dog that was anything like the real thing. Then one day that little shop that imported all of the beef dogs in from Chicago daily was no more. Well, I found them and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The wife and I had the pizza from Joey D's about two month prior on a different visit to the Beaches of Bradenton/Sarasota, but it was delivered to our hotel room. This time, it was just the kids and I out searching for a place to dine and I knew exactly where I was headed. I wanted a Chicago Dog, an Italian Beef, Italian Sausage, a Chicago Combo, pizza of course and a cold draft. Realistically I stuck to three of the six. Let's start with the Chicago Dog. When it came out, I was a little disappointed. It didn't appear to be anything like a Chicago dog should. Way soggy and the toppings didn't appear to be the freshest selection around and my pickle looked like the cook got hungry and took a bite off it first. That entire aside, this thing is the real deal. It was exactly as I remembered a Chicago Dog tasting like from Portillo's and Superdawgs on my many visits to the Windy City.


Now onto the pizza! You can argue all you like on who has the best pizza, NY or Chicago or in South Carolina, the Greeks. To me, pizza isn't pizza unless it is a Chicago style pizza. My house is divided, the Wife is a New York style girl, but she wasn't here so I got my way for once. Plain cheese for the kids and Sausage/Pepperoni for me along with another beer. I just cannot put words to how wonderful this pizza was. It was something so beautiful that brings tears to my eyes knowing that I cannot get this kind of pizza where I live. In order for me to get this again I would have to drive 8 hours to Florida or 10 hours to Chicago.

Bottom-line: Joey D's is doing something different in an area that you wouldn't think of Chicago. They have a cult like following with their regulars and have some of the best service with a personal touch along with some dang good authentic food. They have been family owned and operating since 1984 with the freshest quality ingredients to bring true Chicago to Central Florida. Check out their website to find a touching family story that is the passion behind what they are doing each and every day.
Joey D's Chicago Style Eatery on Urbanspoon

12/04/2012

Sandbar Restaurant: Anna Maria Island, FL

Not a bad view at all for lunch with family. The Sandbar Restaurant, located on the north end of Anna Maria Island, has for decades been a favorite of locals and tourists alike for its fresh Florida seafood and the amazing views. It is also popular for weddings etc. with white sand beach and crystal clear blue water. This particular restaurant happens to be my families' favorite in the area and has been before I was alive. It is, how can I say this politely, a geriatrics convention on steroids. With a view like this and white sand below your feet, you kind of forget about how crappy the food is and just enjoy life a little more while spending time with family.

Pictured above is the COCONUT SHRIMP SALAD – Mixed Greens, Mango, Gorgonzola Cheese and Walnuts topped with Coconut Crusted Shrimp and served with their own Passion Fruit Dressing - $12.99. This was probably the highlight at the table of 10, nothing special, just a simple salad with the ever popular coconut fried shrimp.

I went with the two specials of the day, shrimp and grits (above) and the fresh seafood bowl (below). I often find myself ordering the "special" of the day in hopes that the reason it is on special is because it should be good. And when I assume this, I find myself wrong about 75% of the time and realize that the reason it is on special is simply because they need to move that food today before it goes bad! This shrimp and grits were simply uneatable. I played with it for awhile, but just could not stomach anymore. The shrimp were already cut for me (weird) and the grits and sauce just killed the dish from its first appearance. I'll be the first to admit I don't know a ton about grits other than I love them. I love them when they are covered in gravy and accompanied by large jumbo shrimp. In my short 5 years or so of eating grits, I have never had grits that were this large and sandy tasting. It almost had the consistency of an undercooked risotto or lumpy mashed potatoes. As for the fresh seafood bowl, eh. It was good, not sure how fresh it was. It was fun to play with the large shrimp with the heads still on and scare the kids and gross them out while I sucked on the heads. The clams and mussels were over cooked, but the shrimp were delicious.
OK, sometimes it isn't about the food or the service, it is more about 33 years of memories at this particular restaurant with family and hearing grandma tell stories and seeing a smile on her face from ear to ear. The cousins digging in the sand literally right below our table and finding seashells and trying to out-do one another. Ironically, this was my first visit to The Sandbar as my entire childhood, I had to stay at home while just the adults went to the sandbar for a kiddless evening and I was forced to eat my mom's burnt pigs in a blanket out on the front porch of my grandmother's house.

Bottom-line: You are not going to The Sandbar for the food unless you are one of the geriatrics who are easy to please with under seasoned and tasteless food. You are here for the view and the popularity of this place and the history that dates back to 1911 when this island was only accessible by boat. You go here because this is where grandma wants to go and that is just what you do.

Sandbar Restaurant on Urbanspoon