Sale & Pepe – London

For beautiful classic Italian fare in the heart of London’s shopping district, be sure to make your reservation at Sale & Pepe.  Among one of our busier days touring the city, we made a late reservation for dinner at this highly-rated eatery.  Tightly packed and slightly up upscale, the restaurant has a lovely interior decor with small tables and a lively atmosphere.  The maitre de was especially entertaining and made every person that walked through the door feel special and part of the family.  We were immediately thrilled to be there!

While the seating is tight and service a bit slow, we enjoyed the atmosphere while we reviewed the menu.  Sipping a great pinot grigio and nibbling on bread, we made selections from the ample menu filled with traditional dishes.  I loved that there were lots of seafood options to take advantage of the local bounty!  We started with a few basic salads and a very fresh melon and prosciutto starter.  All of them were well-prepared with as much local produce available.

We made our way to our mains where everything was equally as tasty.  The veal ravioli with fresh marinara we rich and decadent, but not heavy.  The linguini and clams was beautiful and a great rendition of the classic.  I opted for the mixed seafood grill which was a top-notch preparation of langoustine, scallops, fish and squid.

There was no doubt we were ordering cappuccino and dessert to round out our evening! Both the creme brûlée and chocolate semifreddo were outstanding.  If we only had more time to try more on the menu – we’ll have to make another trip!  You’ll have a wonderful dinner out with the famiglia or your sweetheart at Sale & Pepe.  Make sure you book a reservation!  Find out more on their website at saleepepe.co.uk.  Dig in!

Stoke House – London

Whether you’re playing tourist in the heart of London or just out for a day of shopping, a stop at Stoke House is the perfect recharge and refresh!  Located just off Victoria Street, this spacious and modern eatery celebrates the bounty of local produce and meats with inventive and straightforward preparation.  While the patio was crowded on a Saturday afternoon, there was ample seating inside the colorful combination of rustic and modern.  We were thrilled for a few craft beers and cocktails from their ample list while we perused the menu.

There’s a lovely selection of starters from a British cheese board to smoked bone marrow.  While it all looked delicious, we were ready to move right into sandwiches.  The smoked chicken salad with spicy mayo on a brioche bun was outstanding.  Moist, rich and super-satisfying, this is a must-have sandwich on any trip to Stoke House.  The rare cornish rump sandwich was tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Just the opposite of that was the short rib with chili rib jam and pickles.  As an avid BBQer and short rib fan, this was one well-done sammich!

While I love the locally sourced meats and great sandwiches, the star of the show was the selection of sides.  Smoked cauliflower cheese was a bubbling crock of cauliflower smothered in a rich cheese sauce.  There was a depth of flavor and warm spiciness that wouldn’t let you put your spoon down.  My favorite part of the meal is the fresh salads prepared daily.  There are always four or more colorful dishes that you can select three of as a shared plate for the table.  On this occasion, we fell in love with our choices:  peas, edamame & mint, watermelon, tomato, feta & basil and finally a tomato and pepper panzanella salad.  All of them were knock-your-socks-off fresh and well-seasoned – we couldn’t ask for a prettier selection either!

Whether a casual lunch or an evening out, Stoke House will profile a wonderful experience and a lively atmosphere.  It’s exciting to see smoked meats done well in the heart of London, we would have loved to come back at dinner for the lamb belly or beer can chicken.  Find out more and check out the menu at thestokehouse.com.  Dig in!

The Anglesea Arms – South Kensington, London

On the first night of our summer trip to the UK, we made reservations for dinner at The Anglesea Arms, a perfectly quaint British pub not far from out hotel in South Kensington.  This lively location was bustling with a huge crowd sipping pints and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes on a Friday night.  Despite all the people, the restaurant in the lower portion of the pub was quiet, comfortable an classically British.

Our friendly server offered some ideas while we perused the menu.  Settling on a scotch and a bottle of wine from the healthy selection, we also ordered the charcuterie board and baked camembert as starters.  The meat selection included salami, prosciutto, wild boar capicola, fresh vegetables and jam.  The camembert was luscious and warm topped with pecans and served with apricot jam and toast points.  Both were ample enough to be shared among the four of us.

There’s a variety of mains that utilize local fresh ingredients and celebrate British cuisine.  Two of us ordered the local bone-in pork chop.  It was beautifully pan-seared and served with potatoes, cabbage and scalloped apples.  It was both juicy and perfectly porky!  My wife had the grilled ribeye steak with herbed butter served with chips.  It was rich, juicy and expertly cooked.  Finally, I devoured the roast lamb served with fresh baby spinach and roasted fingerling potatoes.  You could taste the countryside in this dish, deftly prepared by the local chef.  I have not had a finer lamb dish!

The experience, location, food and service here was a warm welcome to the start of our holiday.  I recommend making the trip to South Kensington for a wonderful experience and a true taste of updated British pub fare.  While the menu is outdated online, you can find out more details at The Anglesea Arms.  Dig in!

Sausage & Pesto Campanelle

After a weekend on the road and eating out, it felt good to be back in the kitchen on a Monday evening!  Taking my recipe for Basic Pesto I created this delicious combination that’s perfect for summer night with a glass of wine and crusty bread.

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SAUSAGE & PESTO CAMPANELLE

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 Cups Basic Basil Pesto
  • 1 Lbs. Campanelle Pasta
  • 3 Links Sweet Italian Sausage, Casings Removed
  • 8 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Balls
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

  • Prepare pesto per my recipe and set aside.
  • Place pasta in boiling water and cook 10-11 minutes.
  • While pasta is cooking, brown Italian sausage in a pan until cooked through.  Don’t break it all up completed as the dish is better with small and large pieces both.
  • Drain pasta and place in a large bowl.  Add in sausage, mozzarella and 1 cup of pesto.
  • Stir together until combined.  You may need to add more pesto depending on taste and personal preference.
  • Serve immediately and top with parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste.

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The combination of crumbly sausage, bright pesto and slightly creamy mozzarella that gives this dish great balance.  No fuss and few dirty dishes for a simply tasty dinner.  Enjoy it with a glass of wine and good company.  Dig in!

Twiisted Burgers & Sushi – Medina, OH

You don’t exactly expect to find the unusual combination of burgers & sushi anywhere, but especially not 30 miles south of Cleveland in Medina, Ohio.  The surprise and delight were both there though when we settled on this spot this past weekend for dinner with my aunt and uncle.  A few miles north of the town square, this free-standing building has a modern, but causal decor split into a dining room and bar with high top tables.  We were greeted quickly on a Friday night and sat immediately at a dining table close to the sushi chefs.

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Our friendly server took our drink order as we settled on various martinis, wine and a Kentucky mule.  There’s a good selection of cocktails, wines and craft beers and the prices are all reasonable.  With drinks in hand, we looked over the large menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and of course their signature burgers and sushi.  While we didn’t get any starters, the duck wings and pulled pork egg rolls sounded and looked amazing.

Two in our group had burgers.  This Fun-Gi was a fresh burger patty topped with a marinated portobello mushroom, roasted garlic mayo, onion straws, melted swiss and a fried egg.  My uncle thought it was awesome and it looked delicious!  My wife had the Twiisted Classic with bacon, cheddar, pickled onion, lettuce and tomato and was equally pleased.  Both were served on fresh brioche buns and were topped with a “sushi pickle” – dill and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed.  Your choice of sweet potato waffle or regular fries were hot and crispy, the latter served with house made ketchup.

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My aunt and I sampled a few sushi rolls which were fresh and well-prepared.  The traditional spicy tuna and Philly rolls were good and prepared well, but nothing special.  The specialty rolls though were fantastic combinations, and frankly, gigantic!  The Embassy is shrimp tempura, smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese, tempura battered and fried, then topped with spicy crab, spicy mayo and eel sauce.  The Medina Bee (the high school mascot) is shrimp tempura, spicy crab, tuna and carrots topped with eel sauce, spicy mayo and wasabi mayo.  Equally tasty, both specialties were beautiful and expertly prepared.

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It was a surprising night out in Medina, but it won’t be anymore when we return again and again!  And there’s no doubt why the folks here have catered for the Indians, Cavs and many companies in the area.  Whether a weeknight, special night out or a group event, I suggest you add Twiisted to your list of places to visit.  You can find out more on their website at twiisted.com.  Dig in!

Sweet & Crunchy BBQ Potato Chips

I’ve always wanted to make my own potato chips!  And frankly, for as easy as they were, it’s silly that I haven’t up to this point.  Grilling steaks for Father’s Day made for a great excuse to come up with a BBQ potato chip recipe.  It took a little taste-testing, but the recipe below had the right amount of sweet, savory and salty to stand up to the bold flavor of a perfectly medium-rare NY strip!

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SWEET & CRUNCHY BBQ POTATO CHIPS

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs. Russet Potatoes
  • 1/4 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Salt
  • 2 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Onion Powder

Instructions

  • Peel and wash potatoes.  Slice about 1/8-inch thick using a sharp knife or mandolin (much easier).
  • Place potatoes in a large bowl and cover with cold water.  Toss with your hands, let sit for 10 minutes and then drain.
  • Pour vinegar over potatoes and then cover the rest of the way with cold water.  Allow to soak for 2 hours.
  • In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, paprika, pepper and onion powder.  You’ve created BBQ seasoning!!  Set aside for when potatoes are cooked.
  • Drain potatoes and dry thoroughly.
  • Fry in small batches in 300 degree vegetable or canola oil.  Stir occasionally for even frying until light golden brown.
  • Remove and allow to drain on wire racks or brown paper.  Sprinkle with BBQ seasoning mixture and then place in a large bowl.
  • Continue with this process until all potatoes are fried, dusted and cooled.
  • Finally, toss the remaining seasoning over the bowl of potatoes and serve.

This is a very simple process that turns out delicious results!  My family said we will absolutely have to make these again in the future.  It was definitely a treat and a great causal side dish to serve with steaks.  The recipe above was easily devoured by a group of 8 people.  You can probably double it and still not have much left over.  Make ’em for your next occasion or when you’re experimenting on a weekend.  Dig in!

Senate – Cincinnati, OH

Having a summer lunch with my nephew, we wanted to check out somewhere kinda funky – he appreciates different food!  In the new Summit Park in Blue Ash (a Cincinnati suburb) Senate opened a new spot.  Now my nephew had been to the downtown OTR location, but this was my first time at either location.  The new store is a beautiful spot with tons of seating, indoor and out.  There’s tables, bar seats, banquets and a private room for meetings.  It’s open, bright and looks out onto the new park so it was a perfect setting for sports talk and mowing down some serious food!

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Senate is known for their gourmet hot dog combinations, but the menu has a wonderful selection of salads, shareable plates and sandwiches.  There’s also a great beer, wine and craft cocktail menu, but we settled on a few sodas while we looked over the ridiculous combinations.  My nephew ordered the Korean – an all-beef hot dog on brioche bun covered with homemade kimchi, short rib, pickled cucumbers and sesame seeds.  The thing was huge and looked amazing!  He devoured it and I honestly don’t know where he put it all!

I settled on the Trailer Park – all-beef hot dog on brioche bun with bacon, american cheese, cole slaw and crushed Grippos BBQ potato chips (btw, they’re the best EVER!).  The flavor and texture combination was amazing, although you need to unhinge your jaws to get your mouth around it all!  Now, there’s a few selections of sides, including duck fat fries.  We figured it was a “guys lunch” though so we went a little nuts and split the poutine.  Duck fat fries are smothered in cheese curds, braised short rib and gravy.  They could just lay that plate on the table and drop the mic – they were the richest, potato-iest, gooiest pile of heaven you’ll ever eat.  We couldn’t even finish them and we both wanted to cry.

Great service, perfect execution and a beautiful new store made this a really great afternoon with my buddy.  I highly recommend checking out any of their locations, but Blue Ash is a tough location to beat for atmosphere.  We are already planning our next trip for lunch or to dig into the Sunday brunch menu.  Stop by and have a pint and a dog, you’ll be hooked!  Find out more by visiting senatepub.com.  Dig in!

Crunchy Asian Slaw

BBQ season calls for coleslaw nearly every time, at least it does in our family!  I love traditional mayonnaise-y versions as well as vinegar-based slaws.  One of my very favorites is one my wife started making years and years ago.  This Asian-inspired version is tangy, crispy and nutty.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!

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CRUNCHY ASIAN SLAW

Ingredients

  • 1 Lbs. Bag Cabbage/Slaw Mix
  • 2 Packages Beef Ramen Noodles
  • I Cup Salted Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 Cup Slivered or Sliced Almonds, Toasted
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions, Chopped

Dressing

  • 3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Envelopes Beef Flavor Packets (from ramen)

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Instructions

  • In a dry frying pan, lightly toast almonds over low heat until slightly browned.  Remove from heat and cool.
  • In a large bowl, mix together slaw mix, almonds, sunflower seeds, green onions and crushed ramen noodles.
  • In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk together until dissolved and smooth.
  • Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss to combine.
  • Chill for 2-4 hours and serve.

This is an easy and delicious version that goes well with any grilled protein.  Try it as a perfect acidic side dish to fatty short ribs or pork shoulder!  Do you like thinks a little spicy?  A thinly-sliced or finely-diced jalapeño or serrano pepper would be great here.  I also like to add a little sriracha for a kick.  Either way, I hope you love it too.  Dig in!

Veggie Pizza

What a great Memorial Day weekend we had!  Perfect weather, swimming, grilling and fantastic food from friends and family made it a great three days.  One of the many dishes I made for one of the celebrations was veggie pizza.  A soft-baked crust, creamy ranch spread and fresh cut veggies, and a little optional bacon, make this a tasty grab-and-go snack.

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VEGGIE PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 2 Rolls Crescent Sheets
  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Envelope Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Cup Broccoli Florets, Chopped
  • 1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 Green Onions, Chopped
  • 6 Strips Crispy Bacon, Chopped (optional)

Instructions

  • Spread crescent sheets on a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake according to package instructions and allow to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and ranch dressing mix until smooth.
  • Spread mixture evenly over baked crescent crust.
  • Top the mixture evenly, and all the way to the edge, with each of the toppings.
  • Finish pizza by sprinkling bacon on top.  Of course, this is completely optional if you would rather it be meat-free.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve.  Do not make this a day ahead as the crust will get  soggy if it sits too long.

This recipe is delicious and versatile.  The crust and spread make a great base for any seasonal vegetables.  Think about using crispy radish slices or a variety of peppers.  Utilize your herb garden and sprinkle some fresh parsley or chives on as well.  I hope you give it a try and share any of your ideas with me.  Dig in!

Tangy Blue Cheese Dip

Prepping for more holiday festivities I decided to make a new dip to go with some fantastic spicy buffalo ranch nacho chips we found at the supermarket.  And what better accompaniment to spicy buffalo than blue cheese?  This creamy rich recipe provides the right combo of cool and tanginess that’ll keep you dipping all night long!

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TANGY BLUE CHEESE DIP

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Miracle Whip
  • 4 Ounces Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 1 Tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tsp. Celery Seed
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt

Instructions

  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together softened cream cheese, Miracle Whip and lemon juice until smooth.
  • Add Worcestershire, celery seed and salt and stir to combine.
  • Fold in blue cheese crumbles and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.  Serve with chips, vegetables or chicken wings.

Try finding Paqui Chips in your local grocer or super store as the Buffalo Ranch or Grilled Habanero are awesome with this dip!  Corn chips are also great at a crispy dipper.  You can thin this recipe out by adding whole milk until you get your desired consistency – this makes a tasty salad dressing too.  Dig in!