Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill – Leith, Scotland

On the way back to Edinburgh from playing golf, we asked our driver for recommendations for dinner.  He said we absolutely needed to eat down by the water in Leith so we made a reservation for Loch Fyne.  A small UK chain, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but read lots of great reviews.  We were welcomed to a beautiful store on the pier with modern nautical-themed interior.  It was open, comfortable and casual.  It also wasn’t too busy on a weeknight, which was fine by us.

Our server was swamped and a little slow, but she was charming and super-sweet.  After running through specials and recommendations, we settled on a bottle of wine and a couple starters.  The king prawns were sweet and firm and fresh.  The smoked ham hock terrine was surprisingly light and a tasty combination of salty and fresh pops of sweet peas.  I also had to have a few of their signature oysters.  From the brackish waters of Loch Fyne, they were beautiful mouthfuls of sweet ocean candy.  There is NOTHING like them!!

The selection of mains celebrates all that the area has to offer in fresh seafood.  The seafood pasta in a light cream sauce was rich and full of perfectly-cooked scallops, mussels and shrimp.  The seared cod with fresh pesto was simple, but well done too.  My father couldn’t pass up the ridiculously-huge platter of steamed seafood.  A hubcap-sized plate piled with prawns, clams, oysters and mussels was enough to keep my dad quiet for the next 30 minutes.  While nothing was unusual about the preparation, everything was exactly as you hope such local fare would be.

Cappuccino and a mixed-berry crumble rounded out our evening and a delightful dinner  on the water.  Given the number of locations, you should be able to find one near you while in and around the UK.  It’ll be tough to beat the experience and location of the Leith store however.  Find a spot and for God’s sake have some of those oysters!!  You can take a look at their menu and particulars at lochfyneseafoodandgrill.co.uk.  Dig in!

The Gourmet Mash Bar Company – Edinburgh

I expected a hearty dose of good food when we spent some time recently in Scotland.  And nothing could’ve been more satisfying than our first night’s dinner at the highly recommended Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar Company.  Sitting atop The Mound between Old Town and New Town, this cozy spot gives you beautiful views of the city, especially at sunset.  The GMB fulfills all of my checklist items in a new eatery:  craft beer/cocktails, locally sourced ingredients, regional cuisine, great service and an un-fussy atmosphere.

Seating no more than 50 people, this shotgun-style eatery was busy on a Tuesday evening.  Our attentive server shared a few recommendations and quickly took orders for our local beer and wine selections.  We perused the menu of inventive combinations of rosti’s (a potato fritter stacked with meat and vegetables) and mains with varying selections of mash.  The aromas wafting in the dining room had our heads turning every time a new dish was brought out!  Given the wide selection of delicious mashes, we all settled on one combination.

The confit duck with orange marmalade glaze on traditional butter/cream mash was crispy, tender and just sweet enough.  The wild boar sausages were some of the finest I’ve ever had.  Robust with herbs and spices, I still could appreciate the perkiness of the boar.  These guys are experts at braising!  The ox cheek and lamb shank were rich, tender and decadent like a holiday dinner at your grandmother’s house.  All of these we ordered with the Scottish cheddar/chive mash which was over-the-top indulgent.

We honestly couldn’t have chosen a better place or felt more welcomed on our first night in Edinburgh.  I highly recommend making this a stop on your next trip to the area – and make a reservation for their busy dining room!  Take a look at their menu, suppliers and story at gourmet-mash-bar.com.  Dig in!

Fettuccine Pomodoro

I’ve been traveling way too much lately and haven’t really been in the kitchen.  Even though I was short on time tonight, I was determined to cook!  With a glut of fresh tomatoes, it was a no-brainer to make pomodoro sauce tonight with fettuccine.  Simple, flavorful and ready in less than 30 minutes, you have to add this to your weekly meal planning.

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FETTUCCINE POMODORO

Ingredients

  • 8 Ounces Fettuccine, Cooked al dente
  • 8 Ripe Campari Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium White Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp. Dried Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

  • Finely dice onion and set aside.
  • Cut top off of each tomato.  Gently squeeze and roll tomato with cut side down to drain out most seeds.  Do this for all tomatoes and discard seeds.  Cut into 1/4 inch dice.
  • In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
  • Add tomatoes to pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients to tomato sauce.  Stir and continue to simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and pour over cooked fettuccine.
  • Toss and serve immediately.  Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.

Yes, it really is that easy!  This is a delicious pasta on it’s own or is delicious with marinated grilled chicken breast or a pan-seared white fish.  You’ll love making this light pasta sauce, especially when tomato season is in full swing.  Dig in!

Burger & Lobster – London

When you’re looking for surf-n-turf, but want to dispense with the maitre de and suit you find a Burger & Lobster location and get after it!  Friends of ours recommended this spot from their recent visit to London as did a few books and websites.  My dad was also obsessed with the idea of this narrow menu done very well.  While there are plenty of locations in London, Bangkok, New York, Dubai and others, we settled into the location on the top floor of Harvey Nichols.

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A casual, but refined interior was a lively place filled with shoppers, date-nighters and all manner of guests.  Our common bond?  Devour the delicious choices of surf and turf in front of us.  We ordered a few cocktails and a particularly tasty watermelon iced tea concoction and reviewed the small, but delicious menu.  The Nebraska beef burger was thick and juicy topped appropriately with bacon and cheese.  It was served with crispy salty french fries and their signature salad.  While not the best burger we’ve had, it was a top-notch sandwich for sure.

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Our lobster rolls were some of the best we’ve had!  The traditional buttery toasted bun, lightly-dressed sweet lobster and touch of chives came together for a Cape Cod-worthy sandwich.  Add those fries and salad and you will be one happy customer.  My father tried the lobster burger (think of the two dishes above combined on a single sandwich) and raved about how much he loved it.

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Whether you want the burger, a whole lobster or some variant in between, you’ll want to  make this a priority if anywhere close to one.  Functionally descriptive, calorically excessive and potentially addictive, Burger & Lobster will quickly become a favorite.  Find out more and view their locations at burgerandlobster.com.  Dig in!

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!