Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Hoagie Dip"

I recently hosted a wine tasting at my house.  We had lots of different munchies (and of course, lots of different wines).  The hands-down winner for best appetizer:  the "Hoagie Dip" from Andrea's Best of Italy on Ace Memorial Drive. This is the very small strip mall at the top of the hill when you leave Hockessin on Route 41 (just after the road becomes one lane, but before the PA line).  If you try this dip, you will join the fan club.  It is wonderful.  I served it with Andrea's Italian bread but also with Romaine leaves for a friend who is gluten-intolerant.  You know what, it was best with the Romaine leaves; they seemed to really compliment the dip flavor.

I have used Andrea's many times for prepared meals and subs when I have company.  They are always willing to accommodate special requests (eg, vegetarian meals) and just seem happy to help.  What a nice feeling!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Harry's Seafood Grill

On Thursday, June 17th the Divas had a wonderful evening at Harry’s Seafood Grill. ( This restaurant is located on the Wilmington Riverfront and we were lucky enough to score an outside table on a beautiful night with low humidity and light breezes.

The wine: Harry’s Seafood Grill, like its sister restaurant Harry’s Savoy Grill, has an extensive and well-chosen wine list with prices to please every budget. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass (with the exception of the chardonnays). This is perfect for us since it allows us to taste a number of different wines. Our selections were: 
Harry’s Private Label Chardonnay: pleasant and light, and a bargain at $5.95 a glass.
Murphy-Goode Chardonnay: lovely, with reasonable oak.
Alvarinho Vinho Verde: wonderful on a summery evening.
Leth “Steinagrund” Gruner Veltliner: excellent example of Austria’s most famous wine.

The appetizers: As we enjoyed our wine, we struggled with choosing from the appetizer menu; so many items sounded enticing. Our server James was a big help here, and we finally settled on the Grand Seafood Plateau, which included oysters, clams, shrimp and king crab, and the White Tuna and Strawberry Ceviche with Sweet Potato Chips. In addition, we shared a Baby Spinach Salad.

All of the items in the Grand Seafood Plateau were briny, fresh and delicious, although the clams were just a tad sandy. We found the mignonette sauce to be a little astringent for our taste. Linda especially loved one of the oysters, a small one she was not familiar with. Unfortunately, we forgot to ask immediately for its name; it seems the kitchen uses various oysters in the seafood plateaus over the course of the evening. As best we could determine later, it seemed to have been a Point Reyes, CA, oyster. Linda searched online to try to determine the exact type but was unsuccessful; she will just have to return to sample all the oysters until she can nail it down! Our server James had recommended the White Tuna and Strawberry Ceviche. We all loved it! The tuna was so flavorful and tender. The sweetness of the strawberries was cut by the addition of very thinly sliced pieces of jalapeno peppers. The Sweet Potato Chips served with the ceviche could become an addiction, they are so good, and James thoughtfully brought us a second plate of them. Be sure to try this ceviche dish if it is on the menu when you go there. The Baby Spinach Salad was served with spiced pecans, sundried cherries, red onion, Maytag blue cheese and a fig-walnut vinaigrette. It sounds so over-the-top, but it was a great combination and the fig-walnut vinaigrette was just lovely.

The entrees: After much deliberation (and a second glass of wine each), we finally made our selections: Oven Roasted Mahi-Mahi; Grilled Alaskan King Salmon; Rare Seared Big Eye Tuna; and Tangier Island Soft Shell Crabs. Never ones to shy away from going over the top, we added sides of Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Truffled Wild Mushrooms. All the main courses were expertly prepared and it was evident that the seafood was absolutely fresh. Here’s how the individual items stacked up:

Oven Roasted Mahi-Mahi, chosen by Nanzie, was served with applewood smoked bacon, brussels sprouts, broccoli rabe and watermelon pineapple salsa. This was an excellent preparation. The only negative about this dish was the brussel sprouts, which had been roasted and were still quite firm. Some vegetables really do need to be cooked through and brussels sprouts is one of them.

Grilled Alaskan King Salmon was Linda’s selection and it was all salmon should be. It tasted delicious. It was served with wasabi scallion sticky rice, white swiss chard and a yuzu dijon drizzle. Yuzu was new to us; it is a sour Japanese citrus fruit with an aromatic rind. I don’t think any of us could pick out its taste distinct from the other ingredients, but the overall effect was a pleasant one. The wasabi in the rice was not overpowering, it merely gave it a bit of zing, and the sticky rice was a great accompaniment to the salmon.

Rare Seared Big Eye Tuna, Nancy’s entrée, is a species closely related to yellow fin tuna. This entrée, like the King Salmon, had a definite Asian flare. It included a yuzu glaze, pea shoots, soba noodles, scallion, shiitake mushrooms and a grilled lime emulsion. This got the vote for best entrée of the evening. Each of us thought it was outstanding.

Tangier Island Soft Shell Crabs, my choice, were somewhat of a disappointment. Since I am not fond of fried food, I asked that they be sautéed. The soft shells were served with mirliton slaw (mirliton, sometimes called chayote, is a member of the gourd family, like squash) and a horseradish-lemon aioli. We all felt the crabs were a little on the mushy side and lacking flavor. Perhaps they would have been better with the buttermilk batter called for on the menu.

Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Truffled Wild Mushrooms were our outrageously good side dishes. The potatoes had nice sized chunks of lobster meat and the mushrooms were wonderfully meaty and flavorful. Needless to say, we cleaned these plates. Of course, we didn’t leave any of the other items on our plates, either.

Dessert and Coffee: Since we had pretty much stuffed ourselves by this point (must have been the lobster mashed that did us in), we decided to split a dessert. The dessert menu is very enticing, so we were once again torn about a decision. We finally decided to go seasonal, and so chose a rhubarb and strawberry cake topped with ice cream. We all enjoyed it very much. Three of us opted for decaf cappuccino and one brave Diva had regular coffee.

In Summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our evening and our meal. Harry’s is not a bargain destination, that’s a fact. But the quality of the seafood was outstanding, we loved the creativity of the menu and the service was excellent. It is definitely a place to return to – once we rebuild our bank accounts.

Postscript: Since our meal, I have learned that Big Eye Tuna is considered endangered, so I don’t know that I would order this even though it was delicious. Of course, that is an individual choice.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Harry's Seafood at the Wilmington Riverfront

On this Thursday, we will be dining at Harry's at the Riverfront. We Divas have all been there before and have had mixed reactions. Stay tuned....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ed Oliver's Golf Course - Greenhill Pub

Am not quite sure if Greenhill Pub is the proper name of this restaurant but it is close enough, but I can tell you that this evening June 11, my hubby and I played 9 holes of golf and had the a wonderful light dinner at the "19th hole". The Greenhill Pub, has a light fare menu of nice sandwiches and salads. I had the roast beef and cheddar wrap and Fred had a hamburger with onions, mushrooms and peppers. Both were perfect, light and nicely prepared, and totally enjoyed on the new deck of the resturaunt overlooking the golf course. The menu is not fancy and is some what limiting but not in a negative way. They are trying to keep it simple and that is not a bad thing. If you go be sure to tell Chris White that Nanzie recommended the pub.The pub just opened early May and has not yet started to advertise, i have a feeling that once this place is discovered, it will become a favorite family place because its prices are so reasonable. It is located at the Old Porky Oliver's Golf Club in Wilmington. Stop by before the crowd discovers this place!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ristorante Marco in Greenville - Review

Ristorante Marco in Greenville Center on the lower level opened almost a year ago last June. Its sister location with the same name opened two years in the Sunset Station Shopping Center below Bear.

On May 13th, the Divas visited Ristorante Marco. Earlier excursions into ethnic cuisine included Spanish, Malaysian and Japanese. By contrast, nowadays Italian is often ho-hum - sort of mainstream - in American cooking. However, to decide whether to recommend the Divas visiting Marco, I had done a preliminary stop by and picked up the carryout menu. It included dishes I’ve never seen before and also new twists on traditional dishes. So I recommended it and we finally went on a Thursday evening.

The restaurant is cozy in size with handsome dark wood and furnishings. The bar is small and just inside the door. You go through it to get into the main dining room. It had no loud music and the acoustics allowed easy conversation. This Thursday evening the bar and dining room was not crowded.

The Wines

We started the evening by perusing the extensive 10 page wine list heavy with wonderful Italian offerings and Californians, many available by the glass. Nancy had arrived early and ordered a Chianti Classico at the bar, which she liked and recommended. I ordered Montepulciano D’Abuzzo: Zaccagnini, which was very full bodied and smooth. Nanzie described her wine, the Valpolicello: Venturini, as smooth, fruity with an edge and very clear flavor notes that she could recognize. I mentioned that when wine’s written descriptions list these notes, I can never actually taste them. She said that had been her experience too- but this wine was different. We all tasted her glass, and decided it was very fine. For our second glasses Nancy and I switched to the Valpolicello. Lorraine had started off with a white chardonnay and then she switched to Nebbiolo: Veglio, which she said was very good and exactly what she expected. The wines here were a real adventure for us, not the ordinary French, Australian or Californian merlots etc. that one usually encounters. Both Lorraine and Nanzie said they hoped to find their wines locally and buy them for home use.

Service and Set-up

Casey, our waitress, was very pleasant, helpful and unobtrusive. Along with the basket of good bread she brought out a dish containing three vegetable spreads: tomato, mushroom and eggplant, which were very tasty. Our favorite was the tomato, then the eggplant.

The Menu, and our choices


From the Antipasti Caldi group (hot appetizers) we chose Cozze alla Marinara (cozze being mussels). The waitress said we could have it with a white wine sauce instead of the marinara sauce and we opted for that. Our second appetizer, from the cold selections was Antipasto Cilentano. It contained small portions of grilled eggplant and zucchini, roasted peppers, mushrooms, Parma prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. The menu promised mixed salami as well, but that was not on the dish.

The mussels were a clear favorite. A couple of us actually rate restaurants based on how well they prepare mussels. These mussels were perfectly cooked, tender and plump, with great flavor from the white wine, abundant garlic and fresh leafy parsley. The garlic was sliced rather than crushed, which Lorraine said produces a lighter taste, and is why it wasn’t overpowering even though very plentiful. The portion size was fine as an appetizer for the four of us, probably around two dozen mussels.

The Antipasto Cilentano was tasty. The grilled zucchini was far and away the favorite. The mushrooms and eggplant may have been marinated - this wasn’t mentioned but was suppositioned as we talked about the flavors. Again, there was a plentiful amount for small tastings for the four of us.

The Main Course

After our delicious experience with the mussels we figured, “this restaurant knows how to do seafood,” and Nanzie decided to order fish. She was disappointed to hear that only salmon and tilapia were on the menu. Neither of these were favorites, so she decided to choose something else. The restaurant does have as a specialty Bronzino al Sale- fresh Mediterranean bronzino encrusted in rock salt, baked and carved tableside. However, this wasn’t mentioned, and is an expensive dish.

Nanzie ordered the Ravioli all’ Aragosta (lobster filled ravioli) instead. This dish had several large raviolis, probably enough for 2 apiece. They were covered in crabmeat. The menu said, “…served in a cream sauce and crab meat.” I felt there wasn’t much sauce. Everyone felt the dish was too salty and rather dry. We didn’t finish it.

I was a contrarian and ordered a soup and salad instead of a main course. The two dishes I chose were completely new to me and part of the reason to try the restaurant. The soup, Ceci e Gamberi (Chick peas pureed with shrimp) was creamy with small chunks of shrimp and was redolent with rosemary. Three of the divas pronounced the rosemary flavor too strong, dominating the soup and diluting the shrimp flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and asked whether it was the invention of the chef. The waitress checked and told us that is a very typical soup of Campania in southern Italy where every household has its own version. An online search brought up about ten pages in Italian including a posting on You Tube. Here’s the link to the video. You don’t need Italian to understand it:

The salad, Insalata Arrosto, was one-half head of Romaine lettuce grilled and topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and bits of salty pancetta, then drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction was also a winner.

Nancy ordered the Pollo alla Marsala with mushrooms. There were several small thin perfectly cooked tender chicken breast cutlets. We also perceived the dish as too salty and without a pronounced Marsala flavor.

The last entree, ordered by Lorraine was the best of the main courses. Risotto alla Pescatore is listed as a specialty, and it came with more whole seafood than I have ever seen in a risotto dish. It was ringed with mussels and clams in the shell and topped with shrimp. The rice was perfectly cooked, a bit al dente. The mussels weren’t as good as those we had earlier, and this dish was also too salty- but less so.

Dessert- we shared the Tiramisu, which was good size and cake like. It lacked much coffee taste, and we didn’t finish it - perhaps because we had already eaten abundantly.

Bottom Line: We were disappointed in the main dishes because the cook has a heavy hand with the salt. There are some new and intriguing dishes on the menu, and a good wine list. The surroundings are classy and refined with good acoustics. Would we go back? For sure. But we would definitely request that less salt be used in the entrees.