Finally I get my calamari!

Nobody in my immediate circle likes calamari.  I love it but it has to be cooked just right, if not it is too chewy.  I had to drive over 800 miles from my home in Cayce, S.C. but I found the ultimate calamari at Gregorio’s in Massapequa, N.Y..  Gregorio’s is owned by Greg Cellucci. Gregoriospizzeria.com If I still lived on Long Island I’d be eating at his restaurant at least twice a week.  Donna’s step sister Donna and her husband Ritchie (Greg’s father) treated us to the most delicious lunch at Gregorio’s on Wednesday.

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We were started out with a basket of fresh bread on the table which consisted of garlic knots and sesame rolls.  The sesame rolls were crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, served hot so the butter melted as soon as it hit the bread.

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For appetizers we chose baked clams and of course, calamari.  The baked clams were served whole in their shell with minimal breading so you could really experience the flavor of the clam.  Drizzled over the baked clam was what tasted like a garlic and white wine reduction.  A squeeze of fresh lemon was the final touch prior to devouring these clams.  My mouth is watering while writing this because they were really JUST THAT GOOD!

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I was so tickled that Donna, Ritchie and even mom shared an order or calamari with me.  The batter used was not a heavy breading it was light, almost reminiscent of a tempura consistency.  The marinara sauce served with the calamari was the perfect accompaniment.  It wasn’t too heavy and didn’t mask the flavor of the calamari.

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For the main dish I asked Greg’s recommendation, in which he suggested the Fusilli Florentina and so that is what I ordered.  I am so glad I did.  The Fusilli Florentina consisted of corkscrew pasta with chicken, baby spinach in a pink cream sauce topped w/ fresh mozzarella.  Yes, fresh mozzarella!  It is made fresh on the premises and boy does it make a difference in every dish served at Gregorio’s.

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Mom chose the chicken francese off the menu.  There was no need for a knife to be part of the place setting being the chicken was so tender she cut through it with her fork.  The wine and lemon sauce was fragrant, smooth and unforgettable.

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Donna’s all time favorite pasta dish is linguini with clam sauce.  White clam sauce that is.  As soon as I saw that on the menu I knew that’s what she’d pick.  She absolutely loved it!

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I have yet to find an restaurant in South Carolina that serves italian food like this.  Actually, not many in N.Y. have lived up to Gregorio’s food.  I highly recommend you going if you haven’t already been.

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Philly Cheesesteak throw down at The Home Depot!

I work at The Home Depot as an Appliance Specialist and I love it (at least most of the time I do).  One of the things I really love about my job, specifically about my Home Depot store #1112, is the fact they are always trying to feed you.  From management bringing in food on holidays to employee appreciate days where you can find donuts and fruit in the break room.  But on select Fridays there are food sales where the employee committee raises money for our holiday party and other fun events by selling food that is made by the employees.  Sometimes it is a bake sale with deserts and other days they are selling hot dogs, tacos, mexican food, etc.  Employees volunteer to cook for the lunch/dinner sales.  One of my favorite Depot chef’s is Alex.

 

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Alex working that skillet like she’s a master chef at Benihana!

On this particular Friday it was Philly Cheesesteak day.  Now, before everybody gets all crazy about the dynamics of what a Philly Cheesesteak is and is not, remember one thing…  we are in a Home Depot break room working with what we have, that’s all.  This is OUR interpretation of a Philly Cheesesteak.  Now that I have gotten that disclaimer out-of-the-way, back to the food.

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I don’t care what’s in it, that looks good!

When you think of Philly Cheesesteak I know Steak-umms don’t come to mind but don’t knock it til you try it.  Try and have an open mind.  Alex cooked that meat, if you can call it that, until it was slightly charred and then added a pepper & onion mix to it until the flavors were thoroughly combined .  Then topped it off with a slice of provolone and melted it until perfection.  Oh yeah, she whipped up some fries too!  I forgot how much they were charging but it was every last penny!  Hats off to you Alex.  Whenever I see you manning the grill I will be the first to step up with money in hand to buy what your cooking ma’am.

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Alex proudly showing off her completed dish

Mustard base or tomato base? That is the question…

Tonight I went to Murray’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar in Cayce for the first time with Kelly and a bunch of her friends, now also my friends 🙂 .  This is odd that I have never been there being that I lived right around the corner from them for about 3 1/2 years.  I didn’t know what to expect but what I got was good food for a reasonable price with a laid back atmosphere.  I was also thrilled that the waitress refilled my water several times without me having to ask and she brought plenty of napkins to the table.  I don’t know what it is, but it pisses me off to no end if the waitress/waiter doesn’t refill my water.  I drink a lot of water and that’s all I drink when I go out to eat.  And if my glass never gets refilled that tip is going to suffer.  I guess I am just weird like that.  Regardless, our waitress was on top of the water situation all night.

Kelly ordered the “Murray’s Signature Sub” which consisted of steak, sautéed onions, melted swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, oil & vinegar, parmesan cheese and Murray’s special sauce.

 

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Murray’s Signature Sub with a baked potato

 

I was torn between the French dip and the North Carolina BBQ platter.  Eeenie, meenie, miney, mo…..  I chose BBQ.  Now I like a mustard base sauce myself.  Tomato base is a little too sweet for my liking.  I actually once made some pulled pork at home in a crock pot.  Yes, this Yankee transplant whipped up some BBQ herself and let me tell you something, it was good.  I didn’t know the first thing about making BBQ.  Yuri told me that I needed a pork butt to make it.  I put that butt in the crock pot and cooked it all day long (I don’t remember exactly how long, I just followed the recipe).  With the use of 2 forks, I shredded that boston butt into oblivion and then added Bi Lo store brand mustard base BBQ sauce to the mix.  Voila!  BBQ!  Now, back to Murray’s and my sandwich.

 

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North Carolina BBQ platter with grilled vegetables

The grilled vegetables that I chose as a side were delicious.  The char on them brought out such flavor in the zucchini, squash and broccoli.  The garden salad I substituted my coleslaw for was filled with yummy extras like a hardboiled egg and the thousand island dressing was definitely house made.  Now as for the pulled pork sandwich,  I though that was a little bland.  Even after I added the BBQ sauce to it, which was served on the side I didn’t find myself devouring it.  Actually, I got so full eating the amazing beer battered onion rings that we had as an appetizer I didn’t have enough room to finish my dinner.  I would definitely go back but I am going to try the French dip instead.

 

Garlic cheese bread with a side of pot roast please…

So let me tell you about my day.  As I walked into work today, I was met by my assistant manager who handed me an egg & sausage McMuffin, out of appreciate for all of my hard work.  How can you not have a good day when it starts out like that. Right?  Then while I was working at my desk, one of my co-workers Gordon (the guy that gave me the venison that was featured in a previous blog) drops me off a doughnut.  What the heck is going on?  It’s like I am wearing a sign that says “Feed Me”.  Then while I am sitting at Jiffy Lube waiting for my car after work my dad calls.  He asks me if I want to come over for diner, being that Yuri made pot roast and scratch made cheesy garlic bread.  Can Barbra Streisand sing?  Heck yeah I’ll come over!  I though to myself that I should go buy a lottery ticket because how lucky can a girl get.  Needless to say I didn’t go buy a ticket for the mega millions but I did accept that invite for dinner!

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Home made pot roast with potatoes, carrots, onions & celery

The pot roast was so tender you could cut it with a fork.  Yuri made it in the crock pot.  I’m not sure for how long or if it was on high or low, but it was delish.  Now, for the star of the show….the bread.

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Scratch made cheesy garlic bread.  OMG!!!

Have you ever had the cheddar bay biscuits at Red Lobster?  This tastes like those but A MILLION times better!  The bread itself is very light, it isn’t incredibly dense.  The garlic permeates every inch of the bread but is not too overpowering, it’s just right.  And the cheese.  The glorious cheese.  It is melted throughout the loaf and on the bottom where it is slightly burnt but not charred is where the best flavor is.  While I was eating I used the bread to soak up the juice from the pot roast and it made it taste that much better.  I think I just made myself hungry all over again.  Yuri, I have to give you props.  You are an amazing cook and I appreciate every meal that you serve.  Most of the time after Yuri makes something she always says “This could have been better” or “The crust should have been firmer” or “This turned out to watery”.  Yuri, just stop it.  You are awesome.  Everything you cook is delicious.  The proof of that is that me, Kelly and dad are not skinny.  We eat all that you make because it tastes very good.  Thank you for feeding us, we love you for it.

 

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Here’s the bread recipe if you would like to give it a whirl

 

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You can see how the cheese is strewn throughout and the bubbles from the butter and garlic surfacing.  Also you can see the airiness of the bread.
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This is the delicious surprise at the bottom of the bread!

 

Chicken pot pie….the ultimate comfort food

On my way home from work I got a phone call from my dad asking how my day went.  I decided to stop by his house for a cup of coffee and on my way I called him to see if they wanted Zesto for dinner.  If you don’t know Zesto then you don’t know fried chicken, but that is for another blog.  Anywho, no need for take out because Yuri’s diner is open!

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Home made chicken pot pie with a side of asparagus.  Soooo delish!  Yuri makes her crust from scratch, of course.  It is so very flaky, you can just about peel apart the layers.  I could just eat the crust by itself!

I though I was getting a cup of coffee but instead I was presented with a plate of utter deliciousness.  Yep, I hit the motherload tonight folks.

Vincent Andreolli

On October 15th 2017 at 5:16 a.m. Donna’s step father Vinnie passed away.  I was in Vinnie’s life for the past 9 years.  He called me “Ginny” instead of Jenn, which was kind of cute.  That sounds strange because cute isn’t the word that would come to mind when you think of Vinnie.  He’d make me laugh when he’d use the word “buck” in place of another word that sounds exactly the same.  For example:  “What the buck is wrong with the t.v.”  Get it?  That’s Vinnie.  Everytime we’d come to visit from S.C. he’d go get us buttered rolls and coffee from the deli for breakfast.  He loved his dog Sadie and John Wayne movies.  He was not always the easiest person to get along with but he was ours and we loved him.  Rest easy Vin, you will be missed…xo

Cooking without carbs…

Tonight I decided to make myself a healthy meal of ham steak, a cauliflower risotto medley with asparagus and a spring mix salad.  20171023_190152

My sister introduced me to riced cauliflower this past weekend when she made me the most delicious flat iron steak for dinner (I am kicking my self that I didn’t take a picture of that!).  She added brown sugar and butter to the riced cauliflower but I just ate mine with salt and pepper.  I love the fact that this has very little carbs and sugars and is only 20 calories per serving.  If you ate the whole bag that’s only 80 calories!

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Who needs rice?  This is an absolutely delicious alternative.  I have also made smashed cauliflower in leui of mashed potatoes when I was looking to watcheck my carb intake.  After adding a little butter, salt and pepper you can hardly tell the difference if you prepare them right!

Lake Wallenpaupack

Yesterday before going going to Alyssa’s tennis match we had some time to kill, so Donna wanted to check out the lake.  With the fall foliage upon Pennsylvania in full force it looks like a Bob Ross painting has come to life.

20171010_143937Lake Wallenpaupack is man-made and was built in 1927 for hydroelectric power, similar to our Lake Murray in South Carolina.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  We plan to come back in the summer when the kids are on break so we can take advantage of the boat tours.

 

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Self checkout is okay for a supermarket, not a restaurant

When I go out to eat I want to be catered to, that is why I am going OUT to eat.  Wether I am going to a fast food joint or a chain restaurant the last thing I want to be doing is placing my order myself on a computer and then ringing up the bill and swiping my credit card myself.  There was a table side digital menu with a credit card swipe at a Chili’s that we went to once.  I hated it.  Then we ran into a similar situation today at a McDonald’s in Milford PA.  The ordering kiosk was confusing to me and I would consider myself pretty computer savvy.  All I thought of was if my dad or Donna’s mom stopped in to that McDonald’s to order lunch.  They both would have left frustrated and hungry.  I’m all for self check out, I use it all the time at the supermarket but not at a restaurant.  In the end I guess I should be leaving myself a partial tip being I am part of the wait staff.

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There’s no ailment that a clam boat and sundae can’t cure

Friendly’s restaurant was an institution for me growing up.  After concerts, school plays and softball games Friendly’s was the destination to hang out with classmates and eat ice cream.  Being I went to North Babylon Senior High School the location on Deer Park Avenue was our go to.  They closed all the locations near my home on Long Island and there aren’t any in South Carolina where we live now so you could imagine my delight when I saw an ad for Friendly’s in the “things to do” book given to us at our timeshare in PA.

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Donna with her sister Suzanne and her niece Alyssa.

On the ride over we taked about what what kind of ice cream we were going to get.  Suzanne didn’t even need to look at the menu as far as food goes, she was getting the “clam boat”.  She loves that clam boat!  The kids got hamburgers, Donna got a turkey melt and I also got the clam boat.

 

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The famous “clam boat”

 

Now for the ice cream.  Oh, the glorious ice cream.  My favorite is a reese’s pieces sundae with black raspberry, mint chocolate chip and hunka chunka pb fudge ice cream.  I went with the 3 scoop being I can not longer put away the monster 5 scoop sundae.

 

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Is this heaven?  No, it’s Friendly’s.

 

I barely got it all down but in the end I was victorious!

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All gone!

 

Alyssa actually put down her sundae at one point then picked it up again and finished it like a champ.

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Alyssa proud of her accomplishment.

Donna was the first to devour hers!  She got a 2 scoop mint chocolate chip sundae with hot fudge and strawberry topping.

 

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My Donna 🙂

 

All in all we had a great time.  The food was just as we remembered it, the ice cream was delish but being there with Suzanne and her girls was definitely the best part of lunch.  We couldn’t ask for anything more and are grateful for the memories made today.

 

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Me, Suzanne, Alyssa, Amber & Donna.