J. Gilbert’s Steak House

J. Gilbert’s Steak House

Back in October my husband celebrated his birthday and so we went out to dinner.  It was not a hard choice where to go because for his birthday Mr. D. had received a gift card from J. Gilbert’s and it just happens to be his favorite place to go for dinner out.  They are best known for their steaks, and that suits Mr. D. just fine as that is what he always orders.  I am more adventuresome in my choices, and have always been very well satisfied with whatever I have ordered there.

One of the things we like about J. Gilbert’s is the ambiance.  It has a “clubby” type of atmosphere with lots of wood furnishings.  Parties are seated in secluded booths with stained glass dividers, so there is a sense of privacy.

The ambiance is cozy and warm.

Even though the restaurant has a large interior, once seated you cannot see into other parts of the dining areas.

On this particular evening we were greeted at the door and escorted to our reserved table right near the massive stone fireplace where there was a gas-fire burning.

The hostess placed a “Happy Birthday” card on the table so all servers and wait staff would know that we were celebrating a birthday. Everyone who came to our table wished Mr. D. a “Happy Birthday”.  Even the couple sitting across the isle from us greeted us warmly and eventually offered to take our picture with my camera.

Everyone knew we were celebrating a birthday.

When our waiter arrived at the table to take our order he was well prepared to tell us about the evening’s special menu offerings, and to suggest an appropriate wine to complement our meal.   We began with wine and the bread offering which was a small loaf of sour dough bread accompanied by sweet butter, and also an herb butter.  We ordered our wine by the glass and I had a smooth, buttery  California Chardonnay, and Mr. D. had a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  Both lovely.

Next we had our appetizers.  Mine was the Caesar Salad, served with a crispy disc of Parmesan-Reggiano cheese that had been melted then allowed to become crisp.  The salad was  garnished with two anchovies on top.  All the traditional ingredients of a Caesar Salad but put together in a non-traditional way.  Delicious!

Caesar Salad, garnished with two anchovies and a crisp disc of cheese.

Mr. D. had the Chicken Tortilla Soup,  a spicy chicken broth base with bits of chicken, and vegetables, plus crispy tortilla strips and garnished with a scoop of guacamole on top.  He loves this soup and always orders it whenever we go there.

Chicken Tortilla Soup, garnished with guacamole.

For his entree my husband ordered the Kansas City Strip Steak, medium rare, and it was perfect.  Along with it he had Lobster Mac and Cheese and Green Beans with Almonds.  The amount of food was plentiful, and he took part of his meal home.

Kansas City Strip Steak served with Lobster Mac and Cheese and Green Beans with Almonds.

My entree was the Georges Banks Seared Scallops in a lemon butter sauce and served with Lobster Risotto.  The risotto was garnished with lightly sautéed onion rings. It was beautifully plated and outstanding in flavor. The quantity of food was such that I was able to finish my whole dinner, but with little room for dessert.

Georges Banks Seared Scallops with Lobster Risotto in Lemon Butter Sauce.

Our waiter allowed us to take our time with dinner, with no sense of being rushed.  At the completion of the main course, he presented us with a tray of dessert options from which to choose.  We decided to share one dessert and chose the Creme Brûlée.  When it was brought to the table, it was garnished with two raspberries one of which had a lighted birthday candle in it.

Creme Brûlée with a Birthday candle.

Eating this luscious dessert was like eating velvet, it was so smooth, custardy and creamy, with a layer of crisp caramelized sugar on top.  Along with dessert we had coffee.  It was a wonderful ending to a great dinner and Birthday celebration.

We tend to go to this restaurant on special occasions and we are never disappointed.  All the meats are from grain-fed animals, and no hormones are used; the seafood is from waters off the coast of New England, never farm-raised.  All produce is grown and sourced from nearby farms.  The chef is creative in his use of seasonal produce, and presents traditional offerings with a slight twist.

As you might expect for a restaurant of this caliber, the meals are pricy, with dinner for two costing not less than $100.00.  However, we  are always well-satisfied,  so when we want to enjoy a leisurely dinner for a special night out, the cost is justified.  I can whole-heartedly recommend this lovely restaurant to anyone living in the vicinity or to vacationers or travelers passing through the the central Connecticut area.

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Cow Cafe

We had just parked the car along the street and were getting out when a woman walking by on the sidewalk said “have the Caramel Nut Pie a-la mode with Udder Pecan ice-cream,  it’s to die for.”  We looked at each other wondering what she was talking about, when we suddenly noticed we were standing in front of a window with a large black and white cow in it. A black and white Holstein awning shaded the window and the sign above the door said COW CAFE.

Holstein Cow in the window of Cow Cafe.

Realizing we were in front if an ice-cream shop, we held a mini-conference, took a vote, and unanimously decided to go inside for some ice cream.  I have to tell you that was one of the best decisions  we have ever made.

The overwhelming variety of flavors of ice-cream was mind-boggling, so I was very glad for the suggestion of the “woman on the street”, otherwise I might still be there trying to decide what to order.  Do you know how it is when you know you will only have one chance at something, and so you want desperately to get it right, and not be disappointed;  that it be the very best choice you could make?  That’s how it was.  So I took the woman’s advice, and ordered the “Caramel Nut Pie a-la Moo, with Udder Pecan Ice-cream.  My daughter ordered the same flavor of pie with Pumpkin Pie ice-cream.   We couldn’t have been more satisfied with our choices; it was indeed “to die for”.  Oh, and to the woman on the street, if you happen to be reading this, “thank-you, m’am”.

The pie was an apple pie with hugh chunks of nuts coated with crunchy caramel coating in a crust so flaky it fell apart on the fork. Caramel syrup was drizzled across the top.  The ice creams, both flavors, were  perfect accompaniments.

Caramel Nut Pie a-la Moo with Udder Pecan Ice-cream.

Caramel Nut Pie a-la Moo with Pumpkin Pie Ice-cream

As I sit here writing about it, my mouth is watering at the rememberance of it.  Reason enough to go back for another visit.   If I lived there I would want to go to this wonderful little spot, as often as possible, so its probably a good thing that I live so far away.

My husband, I don’t know how he can do this, but he ordered his usual  Hot Fudge Sundae with Vanilla Ice-cream.  He’s a “play-it-safe” kind of guy…however, he did request a taste of mine.:)

His Hot Fudge Sundae on the way to being devoured.

Our assessment of this little gem of an ice-cream shop?  It was an “utterly” unique experience.  Nestled in the cow country of New Bern, North Carolina ( or Moo Bern, as they say) Cow Cafe is the only “four-hoof restaurant ” in the world.  You will find it to be  a “mooving” experience.  They also serve sandwiches, wraps, salads and other light lunch items.  In addition, it includes a small gift boutique that features many bovine-inspired gifts.   You need not speak cow-language to enjoy a visit.

 

THE PLACE:       COW CAFE,  319 Middle Street, New Bern, N.C.

Atlantic Beach and the Crab’s Claw Restaurant

 

 

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

When you live in New England a day spent at the beach in October is a rare thing; the weather is usually too cool.  But in Eastern North Carolina it is not at all unusual.  So that is what we did on a beautiful sunny day, when the temperature was in the mid -70’s.  Driving a short distance from where we were staying, we took the Minisotte Ferry ( a free ride) to Morehead City and on to Atlantic Beach.

This whole area of the coast is made up of creeks, salt-water inlets,  sounds, and various other bodies of water which require that you drive  around them to get to the next town down the line.  These are all beach-oriented communities that have summer visitors who rent the cottages lining the beach, but by fall most have left the area, and the communities become quiet with only the local full-time residents left.  Surprisingly there were quite a few stores, restaurants and other business still open, so we drove around enjoying the sights of pastel cottages, quaint streets and very friendly people.

Pretty, pastel-colored beach cottages line the shoreline.

Atlantic Beach is located over a cause-way from Morehead City, and is comprised  of one street running parallel to the beach, along which you find many very pretty cottages, interspersed with beachy-type shops and restaurants.  At the very end of this road is Fort Macon State Park.

We came to this narrow strip of land in search of a seafood restaurant in which to have lunch.  We were in luck to find the Crab’s Claw, an oceanfront Caribbean restaurant situated right on Atlantic Beach and featuring locally caught fish.  It was a warm, sunny day, so we chose to sit outside on one of two decks overlooking the sand and the water.  What a lovely spot!.  We relaxed and watched walkers and bikers on the boardwalk as well as a few folks out on the beach.

Looking up the boardwalk from where we had lunch.

A biker making use of the boardwalk.

Our waitress was knowledgable about the menu and the day’s special offerings.  Most lunch entrees were very moderately priced  ranging from $8.00 – 12.00.  The special offering for lunch was fresh sushi-grade tuna, lightly seared and then chunked for a tuna salad with added finely grated carrot, red onion, and a “bite” of chipotle. This was served “open-faced” with a melt of Swiss or American cheese   on the top, and accompanied by triangles of toasted flour tortillas.  Two of us chose this offering and we both loved it.  The tuna was cooked just right, tender and flavorful, not overwhelmed, but enhanced by the additional other ingredients.

Fresh Tuna Salad with Tortilla Points

My husband ordered the Cuban Sandwich on a Kaiser Roll.  This consisted of thinly sliced ham and pork with lettuce and tomato and melted cheese.  It was served with sweet potato fries.  He enjoyed his choice and said it was very good.

Cuban Sandwich on a Kaiser Roll with Sweet Potato Fries.

The other gentleman in our party ordered the Caribbean Barbecue Burger, also served with lettuce and tomato and french fries. He ordered his burger rare, which it was, and he really enjoyed it.  There were slices of hot peppers in amongst the lettuce and tomato, giving it that Caribbean kick.

Caribbean Barbecue Burger.

All of us were well-satisfied with our choices, and left this delightful place feeling that we had been well fed.

If I lived here I would be going to the Crab’s Claw frequently for lunch, so for anyone vacationing in this part of the country, be sure to make a visit.  Since the season is winding down, they will be closing on select days of the week, so call ahead to check about days they are open.

New Bern, North Carolina

During our trip to North Carolina we spent some time in the town of New Bern, a charming, historic town located on North Carolina’s central coast.  It is situated between the Neuse and the Trent rivers.  Because it is surrounded on two sides by water there are a number of marinas where boats of all kinds are docked.  The beautiful waterfront area is also where large hotels and the convention center are located.

Boats of every kind line the waterfront marinas.

Lovely buildings line the waterfront. Some are hotels, others include a visitor’s center, and convention center.

A fairly recent addition to the waterfront area is a sculpture of a Licoris Lily, a gift to the city by a pediatric dentist, well-known in the area for his love of art.

The beautiful and unusual sculpture, Licoris Lily.

The downtown area consists of a grid of only a few streets, so it is very walkable.   All the shops are unique and interesting and invite you to browse.  There is a street on the outskirts of New Bern where you will find the large recognizable stores and chain restaurants.

New Bern was first settled in the 1700’s by a group of Swiss and German settlers.  Bern is the Germanic word for bear, and since the settlers came from a city named Bern, their new home was named New Bern.  There are bears in many shapes and sizes located all over the town center as New Bern has adopted the bear as its symbol.

One of many bear statues located throughout the city

Tryon Palace

Located just a few streets outside this area  is Tryon Palace, the first permanent colonial and state capitol.  It was refurbished and redecorated in 1952-1959.  It is open for tours on given days.  The city of New Bern was celebrating Mum Fest while we were there, and the gardens of the Palace were open for viewing and a plant sale was taking place on the grounds.

Beautiful, healthy plants waiting for someone to take them home to their garden.

A turret in the wall surrounding the palace.

The color schemes used in the planting beds were breathtaking.

A view of the stately Latham Garden, blooming with white chrysanthemums.

Framed against the sky was a chestnut tree with unripe fruit hanging from its branches.

Mum Fest is a two-day event in October that attracts thousands of people to the downtown area where the streets are closed to traffic but the sidewalks are lined with vendors, live entertainment, food, amusements and more.

New to Mum Fest this year was SeaFair, a 228 foot mega yacht, one of the 10 largest, privately owned yachts in the U.S.  The vessel has three decks of 28 galleries filled with art, jewelry, and sculpture from artists all over the world.  The yacht was docked at the Hilton Marina for Mum Fest Weekend and open to the public by paid admission.

SEAFAIR, a mega-yacht, filled with many galleries of art treasures.

There are quite a number of “fun facts” relating to this town two of which I list here:  it is the  birthplace of Pepsi Cola, having been invented by a pharmacist who lived there.  Currently there is a small Pepsi museum where you can go in to look around and sample the beverage.  Another interesting fact is that New Bern was the first city to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, and George W. danced at Tryon Palace. I’ve read that George was quite a good dancer and many young ladies were anxious to be his partner.

We had a delightful visit to this very interesting city.  The weather threatened rain at times, thus the clouds you see in some of my photos, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying many sights, shops and restaurants while we were there .  The city offers many very good restaurants, a few of which I’ll be telling you about in the next week or so.

A Taste of Tuscany

Although our extended family got together to celebrate Father’s Day, I wanted to treat my husband to a special meal, one which I did not have a hand in preparing. So I presented him with a list of three restaurants from which to choose.  I had heard or read good reviews of all of them, so I was pretty sure we would enjoy our meal at any one of them.  The one he chose probably would not have been MY first choice,  but now I’m so very glad it was his first choice, because it was delightful in every way.

Called Brio Tuscan Grille, it is located at the Mall.  (See why it was not my first choice?)  On a busy Sunday afternoon, when there were families out and about at the Mall, cars and traffic nearby,  this little place was an oasis of calm and quiet tucked to one side away from all the hustle and bustle.  We were seated outside at an umbrella shaded table, on a patio/courtyard, and there we relaxed, sipped a glass of wine, and leisurely ordered and then enjoyed a wonderful meal.

The menu is extensive, and there were some additional chef’s specials for Father’s Day.   Also, every Sunday a pre-fixe menu of four different offerings is presented.   This is what got our attention, because for 19.99 a three course meal was available that included a soup or Caesar salad, the main entree and dessert.  Our waiter, a friendly and well informed young man,  was very familiar with the menu and able to answer questions, and make suggestions.  As soon as we placed our orders, he brought us a basket of wonderful crunchy bread, and our first course(s) arrived soon afterward.

My husband’s first course was Lobster Bisque, and mine was the Caesar salad.  We were both very satisfied with our choices.  His soup was served in a small tureen, a beautiful golden color with bits of lobster floating in the rich cream broth.  My salad was cold and crisp romaine lettuce and crunchy croutons with a well balanced dressing and topped with shaved Parmesan cheese.  Even though I brought my camera with me with the intention of taking pictures and writing about this outing,  I completely forgot to start at the beginning and get photos of the appetizers.  I must have been really hungry!

Mr. D’s entree was called Chicken Limon.  It consisted of two large chicken  breast fillets, dipped in an egg batter, then pan cooked in a lemon sauce with capers.  It was served with a mixture of grilled vegetables, and spaghetini, a fine pasta similar to angel hair.  It was attractively plated and garnished with sliced lemons.  The quantity was such that he was not able to finish all of it, and brought some home for enjoying at a later time.

My entree was called Shrimp Verduta.  It was served in a large, shallow dish, and consisted of a mixture of large shrimp, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and caramelized onions over a bed of angel hair pasta.  This was absolutely delicious.  The smell and taste of garlic was there, but not overpowering, and the blend of flavors seemed perfect to me.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but could not eat all of it, so I too brought a portion home.

We were very happy to have saved room for the desserts.  Our waiter brought to our table a sample display of six different desserts from which to choose.  They were all served in small glasses–not a large serving–but just enough to satisfy after a large meal.  Mr.D. chose the chocolate cake with caramel sauce and cream topping, (below, right); and mine was hazelnut pudding topped with sliced almonds,  whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  Oh, my!  it tasted like Nutella, and I was in heaven.  This is what they looked  like before we devoured them!

            Would we go back here again?   Absolutely!