Monday, December 15, 2014

Chef John Recipe Test: Smothered Pork Chops

I've been really lucky.  I try a lot of recipes, and I tend to be quite pleased with the results.  If you read my blog often, you probably think that I love every recipe I make.  This one left me feeling quite "meh," which is a surprise since I thought Chef John is god's gift to pork chops.  I crave his Pork Chops with Apple Cider Glaze all the time.  So here's this recipe.  Take it or leave it with my thoughts.  I don't think I'll make it again, but perhaps it's something that will look like your cup of tea.

You can find the original recipe here:
Smothered Pork Chops

It's all quite simple prep.  Only changes: I made two very thick chops instead of four.  I also omitted the buttermilk since I don't tend to feel so well after dairy.  Instead of buttermilk, I used the entire 14.5 oz. can of chicken broth and the gravy consistency was fine.  Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly.  Like the Pork Chops with Apple Cider Glaze, it took longer than anticipated to get the sauce to reduce enough.

The onions caramelized quickly and nicely.  At this point, I thought it was going to be a winner.

Took longer than expected to reduce.  

Chops in to coat and get warmed through while gravy finished reducing.  At this point, it didn't look so bad.

Enter "cat vomit" appearance with the translucent gravy.  See below.

This angle didn't make it look any tastier.  Nor did the sharpening in Instagram.
The final product was a bit "old person food"-ish.  I will say that the onion had mellowed quite nicely.  But otherwise, it was bland and unappealing looking.  When I instagram-ed the final products, one of my girlfriends said my dinner looked like cat vomit.  (Insert sad face here.)

Yes, my dinner was called "cat vomit."  She kind of has a point though.  This one isn't a looker.

For a juicy pork chop and some smooth tasting onions, this will do.  I'd punch it up with some more poultry seasoning and pepper if I had to make it again, and even consider dropping in a spring of herbs like thyme or a bay leaf.  Anything to amp up the taste.  The appearance of the plate won't change though.  Perhaps less gravy on the pork chop would help lessen the "cat vomit" look, with the remainder served on the side for ladling on as you go.  I served this with roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots, which were a nice accompaniment.  The crisp edges made a nice contrast against the softness of the onions in the gravy.

I'll post something else soon that's a bit better than this one, or show you what it's like to make the Pork Chops with Apple Cider Glaze.  That recipe's a winner.

Insider tip: if these are the flavors you like, make this alone.  Your date probably won't be impressed since this dish isn't a looker.  This wasn't an epic fail like the time I made cheeseburger soup (it was gross), but it left me disappointed.  Which is too bad since I have two other ways I make these giant pork chops that are almost $5 each, and both of those preparations are fantastic.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chicken Sausage Hash Recipe (just five ingredients!)

It's another five ingredient dinner!  If you have kale leftover from the copycat version of the Cheesecake Factory Fresh Kale Salad, here's a great way to use it up.  This is also a really economical dish that's great for lunch leftovers.  The added plus: this is another five ingredient meal!

I was inspired to make this by the Food and Wine magazine Instagram.  I saw this photo:

How easy and tasty does this look?

I've made this three times now, each time a little differently.  The first time, I bought six chicken sausage links from the deli case at Fresh Market.  They were on sale, so they were about $6.  This was the cheapest rendition.  The next time, my husband was headed to the grocery.  I told him we should make this again, so pick up some chicken sausage.  He came back with breakfast links.  Instead of criticizing (and the possibility he'd just not go to the grocery next time I asked), I just worked with it.  The recipe actually turned out fine, but a little "breakfast-y" tasting.  He remarked it wasn't as good as the time before, but I let it slide.  The last time, I was at Kroger and they didn't have sausages in the case like Fresh Market.  I used packaged sausage, I think it was Al Fresco brand.  If you want to have leftovers for lunch, use six to eight deli sausages, or two packs of packaged sausages.


The best option is to use deli chicken sausage.  If you can't find any at your grocer, note the difference between the breakfast sausage and the larger apple sausage links.

You're going to love how easy this is.  For four servings, all you're going to need is three strips of bacon, about eight ounces (half a package) of baby carrots, the sausage, a green apple, and as much kale as you'd like to add (at least two leaves!)

Seriously--all you need is five ingredients.  How simple is this?

To get started, determine if your chicken sausage is pre-cooked or not.  If you get it from the deli case or a meat market, it probably isn't.  If it's pre-packaged from the cold cuts section at the grocery, the package will likely say that it's pre-cooked.  

If it isn't, use a skillet and a sautee pan.  If it is, you'll only need the skillet.

If not pre-cooked:
1) Chop your bacon into lardon-sized pieces (rough chop it into bites) and your carrots into small rounds.  Add the bacon to a hot sautee pan.

2) Place the sausages in the skillet and pop in the oven to bake at 350.

3) Once bacon is approaching crispy, add the carrot rounds.  While you're waiting, chop the apple into small pieces about the same size as your lardons.

4) Once the chicken sausage begins to brown, remove the pan from the oven and cut the sausage into rounds.  Return to the oven and switch to broil to speed the browning.  Once the pieces turn golden, add the carrot-bacon mix from the sautee pan.  

5) Once the carrots begin to brown on the edges (about five minutes), add the apple pieces.  While you wait, tear the kale into bite-sized pieces.

6) When the apple pieces are beginning to brown, and the carrots and sausage have deeply brown roasted edges, add the kale by sprinkling it over the top of the contents of the pan.  Spread out the kale so you don't see any of the contents underneath.  As it browns, it will shrink.  

7) Remove from oven once the edges of the kale are getting deeply brown and crispy.  Spoon into bowls and serve.

If pre-cooked;
1) Set oven to bake at 350.  Add bacon lardons to skillet.  Bake for about 10 minutes, check to see if they are golden.  Once golden, add the carrots.  Bake for about five more minutes.

2) Add the chicken sausage, already chopped into rounds.  Turn oven up to broil.

3) Once chicken sausage pieces are golden on edges, add chopped apple.  Broil for three to four minutes.  Chicken should have deeply brown edges.

4) Add the torn pieces of kale, spreading to cover all the contents beneath.  Remove from oven once the edges of the kale are getting deeply brown and crispy.  Spoon into bowls and serve.

Insider tip: have two plastic containers waiting by the stove.  When you take the skillet out of the oven, spoon equal servings into two bowls and the two tupperware.  This way, you've pre-measured two leftover containers and will resist the urge to go back to the skillet to get more to eat!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Copycat version of Cheesecake Factory's Fresh Kale Salad

Earlier this month, my husband and I had dinner at Cheesecake Factory at the Indianapolis Fashion Mall.  Instead of ordering a fattening appetizer or gorging on bread, we decided to split the Fresh Kale Salad from the Small Plates and Snacks section of the menu.  According to the description, the salad was going to contain apples, marcona almonds, golden raisins, and green beans tossed with buttermilk-black pepper dressing.  We were expecting a little side salad.  When it arrived, it was a mountain of kale and ingredients, although the apple was conspicuously absent.  As it turned out, the salad didn't need the apple--it was perfect as is.  The golden raisins gave the right amount of sweetness and the marcona almonds were pleasantly salty.  I like kale salads because the greens are firmer than spring mix.

My husband insisted that I make this salad for him at home.  I didn't mind because with five ingredients, and a little salt and/or pepper to taste, you have a nice light meal or a fantastic side dish.  And the best part?  This copycat version tastes just like the real thing.

All you're going to need:

fresh kale
green beans
marcona almonds
golden raisins
Ken's Steakhouse peppercorn ranch dressing

The marcona almonds will be the most difficult ingredient to locate.  They do not sell them at the two Marsh stores closest to my office, so I purchased a container of them for about $6 at Fresh Market.

Start by washing all the produce.  Trim the ends from the green beans.  Using kitchen shears, cut them into a microwave safe container in small rounds.  I used two handfuls of green beans for two salads.  Once green bean circles are sliced, top container with water and microwave for three minutes.  Taste the green beans.  They should be blanched but still firm.  If they are the desired firmness, immediately drain in colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Here's what the little green bean rounds look like.  The smaller the better.

While the green beans drain, tear the kale into small pieces.  I used about four huge leaves.  Omit out the ribs--just tear the leaf away from the center of each leaf and any coarse veins.  Add these to your colander of green beans.  Using the kitchen shears, give the kale a few chops to make sure all your pieces are really small.

Add one handful of golden raisins to your colander.

Transfer one handful of marcona almonds to a ziploc bag.  Cover with a towel and crush with mallet or back of a large spoon.

To cut down on dishes, I did not move the contents of the colander to a bowl for the next step.  The holes in my colander are small enough that nothing fell through.  Next, this step is a matter of preference.  Add one to two tablespoons of the Ken's Steakhouse peppercorn ranch dressing to the colander and stir everything around so the dressing is distributed.  I do not like a wet salad, so about two tablespoons was just right.  You may want more.  Just remember to add dressing sparingly.  You can always add more, but once you put in too much, you have a soggy, ruined salad.

See--nothing is falling through the colander.

Last step, add the crushed marcona almonds and stir.  Again, they didn't fall through because they stuck to the dressing.  Taste a bite--if you really like the peppercorn flavor, add some fresh cracked black pepper to taste.  (I did.)  I usually salt salads lightly, but this one did not need it because of the almonds.  If you need a pinch of salt, add it now.

Serve by piling the salad into a high pyramid.  Enjoy!

My finished product!  It looks and tastes just like the Fresh Kale Salad from the  Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Copycat version of Chef Gerald Chin's apple salad

Early this fall, I saw the most beautiful salad on the Food and Wine magazine Instagram. Per the photo, it was an apple salad with endive, radicchio,toasted pecans, white cheddar, and a maple emulsion made by Chef Gerald Chin.  Chin is Executive Chef at Chef Michael Mina's Stripsteak at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Bliss in my Instagram feed.

I immediately knew that I wanted to try this with the apples in the overflowing bowl of produce on my kitchen counter.  My husband and I had just driven from Indianapolis to where he grew up in Evansville for the town's annual fall festival.  On the way, we stopped at Slater Farms Market, a cute farm stand alongside U.S. 41 outside of Terre Haute, Indiana.  Outside, there were rows of mums and bins of pumpkins for sale.  Inside, there were all kinds of fruits, vegetables, preserves, and cider.  I didn't even know there were so many types of Indiana apples!

Rows of mums and pumpkins greeted us at Slater Farms Market.  Stop by for a visit!  They're located at 15102 U.S. Hwy 41, Terre Haute, Indiana 47802.  Call for hours since they're open seasonally--(812) 696-5122.

Almost ten kinds of Indiana apples for sale at Slater Farms Market.

More Slater Farms Market scenery--mums and huge pumpkins.

Loads of pie pumpkins, just $.79 each at Slater Farms--last time I bought one, I paid about $3.00 at Kroger.

Huge pumpkins at Slater Farms Market.

We ended up buying a butternut squash, cooking pumpkin, a zucchini, big bag of Granny Smith apples, a tutti frutti candy stick (for me), and a root beer candy stick (for my horse) for less than $10.00.  In hindsight, I wonder if something was rung up incorrectly because that much produce would be more like $30.00 at Fresh Market.  The apples were begging to be transformed into the gorgeous apple salad, so I got to work on my imitation.  With more methodical cutting of the produce, I could have better mimicked Chef Chin's dish.  Regardless, mine tasted amazing.

I started by washing all produce, preheating the oven, and whisking together a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of maple syrup, and a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar.  I adjusted the proportions to taste slightly, then repeated to double the amount of dressing.  Last, I added a dash of salt and white pepper.  While my version of maple emulsion sat on the counter for the flavors to meld, I started on the salad.  I put a pan of crushed pecans in the oven to toast for about five minutes at 300 degrees.  After trimming away the bottom of the apple and stem, I sliced horizontally in thin slices.  The seeds and core were visible in the center of the slices.  With more patience, I should've tried for thinner slices.  I was hungry though!  Then I cut away the center of each slice to remove the core and seeds.  It looked like a donut of apple when I was done.

Next, I tore the endive and radicchio leaves into small pieces.  To the novice cook, here is an important note--don't substitute red cabbage for raddichio.  When I went to Marsh for ingredients, they didn't have radichio and endive, so I ended up making a stop at Fresh Market.  The difference matters.  Radichio has a clean but bitter-ish flavor and delicate texture.  Red cabbage is thick and waxy.  I added these to a bowl and chopped a few chives into the mix.  Then I grated some white cheddar--just a little bit--about one ounce.  Last, I added the pecans and two spoonfuls of the dressing and combined the ingredients to make sure the dressing was incorporated.  I diced up the little remnants of apple and a slice that went awry so they wouldn't go to waste and added them to the mix.

To assemble the salad, I drizzled a spoonful of the maple emulsion on the plate.  You can't see it because our plates are red, but it was a very pale yellow.  Then I added some salad mix, topped with an apple slice, and built the salad using a smaller slice of apple each time.  Last, I added an extra sprinkling of chives over the top of the salad.  The presentation was pretty, architectural, but invitingly fresh.  Be sure to include a knife in your place setting so this is easier to deconstruct.

My husband was impressed.  We both enjoyed the light sweetness, punctuated with the flavor of chive or the white cheddar.  We enjoyed this so much that I made it again a few nights later, but with some butternut squash soup.  This is definitely a first course or snack, not an entree salad.

The finished product--my layered apple salad with maple emulsion.  Chef Chin's was definitely prettier.  How it could taste better is beyond my comprehension though since this was amazing, even with my non-chef touch.

Beautifully bright and fresh.  This would be beautiful on a white plate so you can appreciate the pale color of the maple emulsion.

The next time I made this, I served it with a big bowl of butternut squash soup.  It isn't enough for a meal.

Also of note, I tagged Chef Gerald Chin and Chef Michael Mina in my photograph of the imitation version of the salad.  I was a little worried they wouldn't take me trying to copy them at home so kindly, but it was quite the opposite.  They both responded with follows and kind words, which made me a little starstruck.  Yes, you can be chef starstruck!  It also made me happy that they took my imitation as flattery.  I bet they're really nice guys in person.  One of my new travel goals is to get back to Vegas so I can go eat at Stripsteak now.  

Insider tip: use your sharpest knife and cut the apple slowly, or you'll end up with slices that are too thick to be aesthetically appealing.  If you're having vegan guests, omit the white cheddar.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Simply Recipes Recipe Test: Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives

I wish I could recall how I came across this recipe.  I was online, and saw the thumbnail of the photo somewhere.  It may have been Facebook.  Anyway, the photo redirected to a site called "Yummly," where I clicked again to get the full recipe at Simply Recipes.  This isn't a new recipe--Elise Bauer posted it in 2006.

Here's the full recipe:

How can you resist a recipe with this photo in it?

I started by rounding up the ingredients.  I'd never cooked with preserved lemon, and I couldn't find it at Fresh Market.  I found an Epicurious recipe for fast, easy preserved lemon.  I just preserved one lemon using the recipe, but it worked out well.  All you do is slice the lemon thinly, place in baking dish in as close to a single layer as possible, douse with salt and lemon juice, and bake at 200 for three hours.

Here's the easy preserved lemon recipe from Epicurious:

About to put my lemons in the oven.

I made the lemons two days before, and also mixed the spices so the chicken could sit in the spice rub for two days.  I love bold flavors, so I wasn't afraid to really let the flavors develop.  I ended up doubling the spice rub, too, so I could get as much as possible on the chicken.

The recipe made this much spice rub--just enough to fill the corner of my Ziploc bag.  I didn't think this was enough to really coat the chicken, so I doubled it up.

Bag of chicken with spice rub ready to go into the fridge for two days.  Letting it sit in the spices for two days let the flavors, as well as an intense orange color, develop.

When it was time to prepare the chicken, I was excited.  It had developed a really deep orange color from all the spices.  I didn't have a tagine, so I used a deep pan and prepared according to the recipe.  I didn't make any substitutions.  I didn't keep close tabs on the time, instead, I made sure the chicken skin was browned and crispy before flipping it.  I like chicken skin to have a crisp texture instead of a floppy, slow cooked softness.

Onions in, ready to simmer.

The house smelled fantastic as the chicken cooked.  As the chicken cooked, I carefully removed the parsley and cilantro leaves from the stems to ensure no tough stem pieces or the weird little unappetizing hairs cilantro gets if pulled off the stem hastily.

Moments from serving...

At serving time, the dish was very pretty.  The yellow from the lemon and bright green of the parsley and cilantro popped against the red flesh of the chicken.  The skin was satisfyingly crispy and the inside was meaty and moist.  The whole dish was freshly aromatic.

The finished product!

I can't wait to make this one again!  Another winning recipe!

One note: after prepping this dish, I noticed that the white French tips of my manicure were stained yellow, presumably from the turmeric.  Insider tip: consider wearing gloves if you have a fresh or pastel-colored manicure.  Turmeric stains.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hellmann's Recipe Test: Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

This recipe from Hellmann's caught my eye when I was deciding what to do with the herbs leftover from the Green Pea and Fava Bean Salad with Sliced Speck.  I don't cook with sage often, so I was looking for good flavor combinations.  Sage and lemon came up together often.  I was also intrigued because while I've used compound butter in cooking, I've never thought to make "compound mayonnaise."

Here's the recipe I found while Googling:

The original recipe is from the Hellman's website:

I used the following:

1 small free range whole chicken  (1.3 lbs.)
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 c. mayonnaise
3 T chopped parsley
2 tsp. chopped sage
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. thyme leaves
fresh ground black pepper

Prep was really easy.  I preheated the oven to 425 and sprayed a roasting pan with non-stick spray.  I removed the giblet bag from inside the chicken.  I roughly doubled the "compound mayonnaise" mixture so I'd have plenty to slather over the 1.3 lb. free range chicken I purchased at Meijer.  Rather than putting the lemon inside the cavity of the bird per the recipe, I sliced it thinly, used my fingers and a knife to loosen the bird's skin, and put the lemon slices under the skin.  This added more moisture and lemon flavor.

Chicken prepped with the lemon slices.

After sliding the lemons under the skin, I liberally salted the bird and then sprinkled it with fresh cracked black pepper.  What seems like too much salt is just right for getting crispy skin.  I mixed the herbs, garlic, mayo, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  I slathered the chicken with the mayo and tossed the two uneven ends of the lemon into the center cavity of the bird.  For a perfect presentation, I could have tied the legs, but I didn't worry with it.  I wasn't going to plate the bird and bring it to the table this time.

I put the bird in the oven at 425, but did not turn the temperature down after 10 minutes as the recipe suggests.  I find that cooking chicken at a higher temperature yields crispier skin.  For me, the crispy skin is key to a delicious roasted chicken.

While I waited, I sauteed the giblets in a tablespoon of butter and had a tasty snack.

At 40 minutes, I checked the bird at the thigh and it bled when I cut into it.  The surrounding meat was visibly pink.  Since the skin had a nice, crispy look, I tented the pan with foil for the last 25-30 minutes so the bird wouldn't burn.  I checked the bird again at about 1 hour and 10 minutes, and it was done.

I let the bird rest while finishing mashed potatoes.  I served an airline piece to my husband (breast and wing) and ate a leg and thigh.  The chicken was deliciously crispy on the outside, but tender and juicy inside.  The lemon flavor was very present...something you don't always get when cooking with a squeeze of lemon juice.  The slices against the meat allowed the flavor to infuse more deeply.

Chicken, fresh out of the oven.

A closer look at the crispy skin and lemons peeking out from underneath.

This recipe is a keeper--it's easy and flavorful, and the whole bird makes a pretty presentation with the golden skin and lemon rounds peeking out.  Just be mindful of the cooking time.  The original recipe calls for a 4-5 lb. bird, check for doneness at 50 minutes.  There's absolutely no way that a 4-5 lb. bird can cook in an hour.  I worry that an inexperienced home cook will read the recipe and think that they can have this on the table in an hour.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Restaurant Review: Nothing Glowing at Ember Urban Eatery

There’s a moral of this story…it’s to trust your instinct.  And to never tolerate being served an $85.00 dinner on plastic ware.  But anyway, on with the review…

Recently, it was my husband’s fantasy football draft.  We were looking for a casual place to grab a bite to eat and use free wireless for the draft.  We immediately thought of Ember, a little restaurant in our neighborhood.  According to Yelp, there’s free wireless.  The menu looked completely appropriate for bringing a laptop to dinner—wings, sandwiches, salads, beer.  There was even a patio.  It was the makings of an enjoyable, laid back night.

When we arrived, we were promptly seated on the busy patio.  Busy is a good sign, right?  But I was instantly confused.  The menu was just one page of prix fixe meals as part of Devour Downtown—not at all like the $8.75 barbecue pork sandwich I’d already eyed up online, or the $10.50 smoked in house wings that received a few nods on Yelp.  Instead, we were looking at $30 per person for a half portion of an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert.  When you go to Recess, you anticipate multiple courses selected for you.  You don’t expect that at your neighborhood casual eatery.  I asked the server for the regular menu and she said it wasn't offered during Devour Downtown.  Immediately, I was uncomfortable.  After all, I wanted a sandwich.  But the draft was starting in minutes so we needed wireless, we were hungry, and we wanted to support a local spot.  We stayed.  But instinct should’ve taken over to leave.

Some background…Devour Downtown happens twice a year in Indianapolis.  Restaurants entice new diners with special menus and discounts.  For example, St. Elmo’s offers a three-course menu for either $30 or $40, depending on entrée selections, and it includes choices like their signature shrimp, filet mignon, and crème brulee.  If you don’t want to eat off the Devour menu, every restaurant I’ve been to in Indy still offers the regular menu.  The point of Devour Downtown is usually to save money while trying something new.  Instead, this neighborhood spot’s menu had truly been devoured by trying to go all fancy pants and pricey.

The appetizer selections ranged from four wings to a salad.  We both chose the wings.  Outside, they had great color and inside they were tender and moist.  The doneness was spot on, but the seasoning was weak.  They didn’t have that deep smoky flavor or a smoke ring.  They needed to be spun in a dry rub or sauce to have any kind of flavor.  The peppercorn ranch they were served with was heavy handed on the peppercorns—it had so much black pepper it was gritty.  My husband liked the dressing, I would have preferred plain ranch. 

Wings and wireless at Ember.  The wrought iron table was nice and sturdy.  The plastic chairs were not.  Not all tables have metal chairs, some have cheap plastic chairs.  The wings had a nice exterior, but no telltale pink ring of authentic smoking process or smoky flavor.  The ranch is acceptable if you really like black pepper.

Our entrees came—we both ordered ribeye steaks.  Mine was far from medium rare, but it wasn’t worth sending back at that point, so I didn’t have a new steak fired.  Nothing special, just a ribeye on a plate.  It could’ve used some seasoned crust, searing on a grill, or something distinctive.  The broccolini was acceptable—a little oily—but plain broccolini.  These two offerings were pretty much what my husband is capable of making at home with a skillet.  The standout was a mashed potato puff.  It looked like a hush puppy but was mashed potatoes rolled in breadcrumbs.  There was side of lemon aioli for dipping.  The lemon aioli didn’t entirely make sense (it was fine on the broccolini, fine on the potato) but didn’t really go with anything in particular.  I’m still not sure if it was dipping sauce for the potato puff or meant to be something else.  The potato puff was satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  I probably would’ve been happier if I could’ve had a few of those as an appetizer and then gone home and made myself a sandwich.

Nothing special.  Steak, some broccolini, and the potato puffs.

Evidently, this is what Ember considers "medium rare."  It was tan all the way through when I cut into the steak's thickest part.

The next, and most substantial disappointment, was dessert.  I chose the amaretto cheesecake.  A small wedge came, served on a tiny plastic plate.  Plastic ware.  Not even the thick, sturdy Chinet kind.  It was heavy and gummy.  My husband chose something chocolate.  It was the tiniest 2x2 inch square of dessert in history, and was hard because part of it was frozen.  It was also on a flimsy black plastic plate.

Dessert--I hope you like plastic ware.  Unremarkable cheesecake and brick hard, mini-square of partially frozen chocolate "something" bar.  Really disappointing.  This was the nail in the coffin for me being able to give this neighborhood spot any love in the future.

So there we were, we’d drafted a decent (but not as fantastic as last year) fantasy football team, but without purchasing a single drink, racked up an $85.00 dinner at a neighborhood sandwich spot.  And eaten off plastic ware.  The pain of the realization that we could’ve gone to St. Elmo and had their Devour Downtown menu, which I guarantee would’ve been executed spot on and not include plastic ware, hurt.  I’ve never spent $85.00 on dinner and it included plastic ware.  Heck, I threw a birthday party out on the horse farm recently and paid $.42 per plate to rent china because people enjoy eating food off real plates.

I really wanted to like Ember—it’s local and the server was pleasant.  I could walk there from home.  But I just can’t.  A wings, sandwiches, and salad joint should KISS: keep it simple, stupid.  I’d rather eat a well-executed sandwich seven out of seven days a week (and twice on Sunday!) than something trying to be fancy, but just flat and overpriced.  Not to mention, they missed the point of Devour Downtown.  The Devour Downtown menus are an additional option at other restaurants, not the only option.  Even when Devour Downtown is over, I doubt I’ll return.  Even if I wanted to go back for the pork barbecue sandwich I set out for, there’s something inherently tacky about a place that uses plastic ware for a prix fixe dinner and serves dessert that’s partially frozen.  I simply can't support that.

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